Steven Chapman counts his bin Ladens:
War in Afghanistan was supposed to yield "1,000 bin Ladens." Now Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak claims the war in Iraq will yield "100 bin Ladens." That's a total of 1,100 bin Ladens - but the fact that Iraq will yield one-tenth the number of bin Ladens that Afghanistan yielded must be a crushing blow to the self-esteem of Ba'athists everywhere. Following the logic of this equation we can conclude that an attack on a further two Middle Eastern countries would yield eleven new bin Ladens, bringing the total to 1,111. It's possible that an attack on a third Middle East country could yield one-tenth of a bin Laden - but I think, all things being equal, that's unlikely.
The attack, I mean.
A simple recommendation
Whatever your position on or feelings about Gulf War II, you owe it to yourself to take the time to read this long, thoughtful, beautiful essay by Bill Whittle.
Hallowed be thy name
Julie Burchill accuses the NIONists (as Steyn has been calling them) of self-indulgence. It's been done before, but this one is particularly scrappy and perfectly calibrated to irritate every single reader who doesn't immediately say "amen" and try to push it across the table towards his or her disinterested significant other:
Does the most hardened peacenik really believe that Iraqis currently enjoy more liberty and delight than they would if Saddam were brought down? If so, fair enough; if not, then they are marching about one thing - themselves. That's why so many luvvies are involved; this is simply showing off on a grand scale.
I've just heard a snippet of the most disgustingly me-me-me anti-war advert by Susan Sarandon, in which she intones, "Before our kids start coming home from Iraq in body bags, and women and children start dying in Baghdad, I need to know - what did Iraq do to us?" Well, if you mean what did Saddam do to America The Beautiful, not an awful lot - but to millions of his own people, torture and murder for a start. Don't they count?
Surely this is the most self-obsessed anti-war protest ever. NOT IN MY NAME! That's the giveaway. Who gives a stuff about their wet, white, western names? See how they write them so solemnly in a list on the bottom of the letters they send to the papers. And the ones that add their brats' names are the worst - a grotesque spin on Baby On Board, except they think that this gives them extra humanity points not just on the motorway, but in the whole wide weeping, striving, yearning world. We don't know the precious names of the countless numbers Saddam has killed. We're talking about a people - lots of them parents - subjected to an endless vista of death and torture, a country in which freedom can never be won without help from outside.
Contrasting British servicemen and women with the appeasers, it is hard not to laugh. Are these two sides even the same species, let alone the same nationality? On one hand the selflessness and internationalism of the soldiers; on the other the Whites-First isolationism of the protesters. Excuse me, who are the idealists here? And is it a total coincidence that those stars most prominent in the anti-war movement are the most notoriously "difficult"and vain - Streisand, Albarn, Michael, Madonna, Sean Penn? And Robin Cook! Why might anyone believe world peace can be secured by this motley bunch?
I mean, I'd say "Not in My Name" is one of those irredeemably parochial rhetorical constructions, like "family values," "a kinder, gentler nation," or "just say no;" or like the "baby on board" signs Burchill mentions (or even indeed, like "axis of evil"): stirring, uplifting, clever, even beautiful to those already on the team or in agreement; facile, vacuous, irritating beyond measure and deserving only of ridicule to absolutely everyone else. Neither of the groups on either side of this aesthetic divide can fathom why their favorite phrase elicits only giggles and ridicule from those to whom they broadcast it-- what's wrong with these people, that they can't see the beauty I behold? But that's just how it is. Some hear Susan S. say "not in my name," and nod vigorously: "yes, yes, not in brave Susan's name!" Some think "ick, what an idiot." It's a matter of taste rather than substance. That is, it is possible to imagine arguments or events persuading a supporter of military action to decide that this war is a bad idea, or an anti-war type reaching the conclusion that they may have had it wrong about this one. But I simply cannot imagine anyone, whatever the circumstances, whatever they think about whatever issue may be at hand, crossing the NIONist/anti-NIONist line.
Weird and/or disturbing recent google searches that brought people to this site. Each one implies an intriguing, unarticulated story:
i want to stay up to date on the war in iraq now sine me up today
where can i find disguises for Carlos the Jackal?
filipino internal cream pie
bikini models from winnipeg
contact of sea foods producers in UK
jews in punk rock
diagram of a suitcase nuclear bomb (uh-oh-- ed.)
how the war effecting those that have illiteracy
What San Francisco might look like if the lunatics were really running the asylum:
It's too bad the cops felt they had to arrest 2,400 people and clear the streets-- better the city saved all the money that's going to police overtime, and just let people protest. No traffic was getting downtown anyway. Most of the actions were peaceful. Why weren't the mayor and all the supervisors and all the rest of the people who run this town joining the activists in the streets, saying to the rest of the world that in San Francisco, we're not going to act as if Bush's war is acceptable behavior?
Yet more clever silliness from Mark Steyn, on the media quagmire:
After little more than a week, is this war coverage in trouble? Already questions are being raised about whether the media's plan was fatally flawed. Several analysts are surprised that, despite overwhelming dominance of the air, television and radio divisions have so quickly repeated the mistakes of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, on the ground, rapidly advancing columns become stalled in Vietnam-style quagmires around the second paragraph...
Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery (Retd) agrees that the media are in trouble, but blames it mostly on a confusion of war aims. "The problem is they relied on this two-pronged 'shock and awe' business. On the one hand, you'd have these reporter chappies embedded with your Royal Marines and so forth, 'awed' at how absolutely ripping it is to be in a tank. On the other hand, you'd have your crack columnists in Baghdad, 'shocked' at the scale of Anglo-American carnage, with hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, smart bombs landing on every hospital, nursery schools blown to kingdom come, etc.
"Well, the bally carnage never showed up, so it was a week of awe and no shock. The editors assumed that, by the weekend, they'd have Bush and Blair on the run. Instead, we now stand on the brink of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe: even as I speak, George Galloway, John Pilger and thousands of others are being systematically starved of material.
William Kristol cheers on the Gephardt liberals, vs. the "Dominique de Villepin left":
The Gephardt liberals are patriots. They supported the president in the run-up to this war, and strongly support the war now that it has begun. It would be misleading to call this group the Joe Lieberman liberals, because he was already too much of a hawk to be representative, but the group certainly includes Lieberman. It also includes Hillary Rodham Clinton, probably a majority of Senate Democrats, less than half of the House Democrats, Democratic foreign policy experts at places like the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, and a smaller number of liberal commentators and opinion leaders--most notably the Washington Post editorial page.
The other group includes the Teddy Kennedy wing of the Senate Democrats, the Nancy Pelosi faction of the House Democrats, a large majority of Democratic grass-roots activists, the bulk of liberal columnists, the New York Times editorial page, and Hollywood. These liberals--better, leftists--hate George W. Bush so much they can barely bring themselves to hope America wins the war to which, in their view, the president has illegitimately committed the nation. They hate Don Rumsfeld so much they can't bear to see his military strategy vindicated. They hate John Ashcroft so much they relish the thought of his Justice Department flubbing the war on terrorism. They hate conservatives with a passion that seems to burn brighter than their love of America, and so, like M. de Villepin, they can barely bring themselves to call for an American victory.
It would be bad for America if this wing of American liberalism were to prevail. Parts of the Republican party, and of the conservative movement, fell into a similar trap in the late 1990s, hating Bill Clinton more than Slobodan Milosevic. But this wing of the GOP and conservatism lost in an intra-party and intra-movement struggle, and has now been marginalized--Pat Buchanan is no longer a Republican, and his magazine these days makes common cause with Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. The fight over the future of liberalism is not one conservatives can really join. But we can wholeheartedly cheer from the sidelines for the Gephardt liberals against their anti-American leftist rivals, hoping that they succeed in saving the (mostly) good name of liberalism.
Despite the famous ineptitude of the Gore campaign, Bush the candidate was a hard sell in the 2000 election, as the divided results indicate. Yet there's little doubt that, had Karl Rove allowed the campaign to dwell too prominently on the still-smoldering over-the-top hatred of Clinton obsessively cultivated by many in the GOP, it would have tipped the scales against him, Florida or no. It's extremely difficult to make a wholly negative case in a likable, electable way. Bitterness doesn't sell. The Democrats have often benefited from Republican blunders in this regard. But the GOP appears to have learned from their mistakes, while many Democrats have not.
"Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton", UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday.
"He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr", said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr.
Another added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."
A Moroccan publication accused the government Monday of providing unusual assistance to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq by offering them 2,000 monkeys trained in detonating land mines.
The weekly al-Usbu' al-Siyassi reported that Morocco offered the U.S. forces a large number of monkeys, some from Morocco's Atlas Mountains and others imported, to use them for detonating land mines planted by the Iraqis.
The publication quoted a highly-informed source as saying, "that is not a scientific illusion but a well-known military tactic."
Here's an interesting rundown of claims and counter-claims about incidents in the war. Predictable result: no one really knows what's going on, and every report should be regarded with skepticism. Many see this as a "bias" issue (that is, it enables people focus on the news items which coincide with their expectations or agenda and ignore contradictory information) and there may be something in that. But all in all, I prefer the current situation (a surfeit of instantaneous reports, relatively unvetted, some of which end up verified, some of which do not) to some imaginary alternative where nothing is reported without iron-clad verification. Sifting through it all is tough and time consuming, and skepticism is well-advised, but the public ends up better-informed rather than worse.
One of the items mentioned in the Guardian piece is the Camp Penn. "fragging" incident, which was first reported as a "traditional" attack by Arab terrorists, but turned out to be the work of a disgruntled American Muslim convert. Would the interests of an informed public have been better served if the correspondent had failed to file the first report, or held back the sketchy details, or if news agencies hadn't picked it up and commentators hadn't speculated upon it? I don't think so. For one thing, the fact that the process is transparent enough to enable media critics to write articles like this is a good in itself. But more importantly, it's an unavoidable and essential part of on-the-ground real-time "embedded" war reporting, which, despite its flaws is a vast improvement on previous models (as to data, at any rate.) I'd guess the fragging incident would never have come out as a major story if there hadn't been a reporter there to report the first sign of it, or if the TV news had been reticent about talking it up. The army would have tried to downplay it, certainly; the subsequent details about the soldier's background would have been less salient and unremarked upon if they hadn't come out as part of the correction of the previous inaccurate details. It's messy, to be sure, and the fear is that inaccurate reports might linger in the public consciousness uncorrected, as they always have done, yet more worrisome owing to their vastly increased volume and speed. Like it or not, though, we're in a situation where the news-gathering and transmission process is itself an inextricable part of the story itself, something we as news consumers are obliged to consider seriously to an unprecedented degree. I say that's good.
Steven Chapman watches Question Time, freaks out, makes a couple of good points, captures the moment for posterity.
You'll inspect our weapons when you pry them out of the cold, dead hands of our terrorized conscripts...
Lord knows, he's preaching to the choir, but Andrew Sullivan "gets it," as he might put it:
One lesson of the ferocity of the Saddamite resistance is surely this: who now could possibly, conceivably believe that this brutal police state would ever, ever have voluntarily disarmed? Would a regime that is forcing conscripts to fight at gun-point have caved to the terrifying figure of Hans Blix, supported by the even more intimidating vision of Dominique de Villepin? I'd say that one clear lesson of the first week is that war was and is the only mechanism that could have effectively disarmed Saddam. If true disarmament was your goal, it seems to me that the inspections regime has been revealed, however well-intentioned, as hopelessly unsuited to staring down a vicious totalitarian system.
Stats on French anti-Semitism
"Violent racist attacks quadrupled in France in 2002 to the highest level in a decade, and more than half of the assaults were aimed at Jews, a national report said Thursday..."
Leaders of the anti-war movement announced Tuesday that as the war progressed in Iraq, the movement was headed into a "dangerous quagmire". Angela Hassle-Moore, leader of a recent protest march stated, "We have lost our focus. What are we really trying to accomplish here? Are we fighting for the U.S. to stop the war after it has already started? Are we trying to get another recount of the 2000 election? Are we just bitching and moaning?" Angela added, "If we don't know what our goals are, how will we know if we've won? How many more of our best and brightest youth must throw away their free afternoons and weekends on this hopeless cause?"
Near Basra, Iraq: British military interrogators claim captured Iraqi soldiers have told them that al-Qaeda terrorists are fighting on the side of Saddam Hussein's forces against allied troops near Basra.
At least a dozen members of Osama bin Laden's network are in the town of Az Zubayr where they are coordinating grenade and gun attacks on coalition positions, according to the Iraqi prisoners of war.
Peter Beinart comments, approvingly I believe, on the kinder, gentler war. He's right about the irony implied in his subtitle-- in the war as in much else, Bush's Clintonian streak is something few of his critics, and hardly any of his fans, seem willing to recognize. And he's right about what has turned out to be the biggest and most welcome surprise for those who have harbored suspicions about the bona fides of administration's decreasingly sporadic humanitarian and pro-democracy rhetoric:
In the north, too, the Bush administration has shown surprising humanitarianism. For weeks now, cynics have assumed the United States would prioritize its strategic alliance with Turkey over its moral commitment to the Kurds and let Ankara send its troops into northern Iraq, thus sparking a humanitarian catastrophe and snuffing out hopes of Kurdish autonomy in a post-Saddam Iraq. But, ever since Ankara's refusal to allow American troops to operate from Turkish soil, the Bush administration has been surprisingly outspoken on the Kurds' behalf. America's refusal to bless Ankara's incursion led Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to delay by a crucial 24 hours the opening of Turkey's airspace to U.S. warplanes. On Sunday, President Bush said, "We're making it very clear that we expect [Turkey] not to come into northern Iraq." The Bush administration even seems to have implied that large-scale Turkish intervention will threaten U.S. foreign aid. It is too early to tell whether the Bush administration's efforts to prevent Turkey from crushing Kurdish aspirations will succeed, but, so far, the United States has made a much greater effort than most commentators expected.
What we're dealing with here
According to this Sky News report, the distribution of food and water in the southern town of Al Zubayr had to be halted because Iraqi forces fired into the crowd:
Reporter Ian Bruce, who is travelling with Scots unit Black Watch, said troops had established a strong but not yet secure foothold in the town - a known Iraqi militia base - and were to begin distributing aid to its people.
The troops were greeted by cheering crowds of several hundred people as they arrived western edge of the town, he said.
But before any food or water could be handed out, snipers opened fire and two mortars shells fell into the crowd.
The civilians scattered to escape a hail of bullets and mortar rounds which followed in quick succession and the relief effort was abandoned.
Also from al Zubayr, comes this report of treason and war crimes:
A British man has reportedly handed himself in to the Desert Rats in Iraq after travelling there to fight for Saddam Hussein.
He surrendered to the Irish Guards near the southern city of Basra on Sunday telling them he had had enough and wanted to go home to his family in Manchester.
The unidentified man, who is in his 20s, was born in Iraq but speaks with a Mancunian accent.
He is being held in a prisoner of war camp south west of al Zubayr, according to Scotland's Daily Record newspaper.
The man handed himself in after joining Iraqi militia in civilian clothing in an attack on UK forces.
On the subject of treason: I happened to be in England in the aftermath of the John Walker controversy, when the subject of British citizens who had joined the Taliban was in the news. The subject of treason is touchy in the US, and people tend to shrink from it, don't have the stomach to apply it to anyone without multiple qualifications, if at all. Many people don't regard treason as a legitimate, reasonable, practicable category of human wrongdoing; and usually, as a practical if not essential matter, they turn out to be right. Nothing new about that.
Still, I was astonished at the prevailing attitude among my British acquaintances, right-thinking left-liberals all, who seemed to regard the ethnic background of the turncoats in question as the defining, deal-breaking mitigating factor. John Walker's actions, they may have been willing to concede, might have been treasonable, but the situation in Britain is different: you can hardly expect the same loyalty from non-Anglo Brits as you do from "ordinary English boys." (The fact that this is said in a slightly mocking tone, distancing the speaker from the sentiment, doesn't entirely change the fact that the sentiment is essentially being agreed with.) "It's not treason," said one. "It's understandable." Perhaps it is, if you try hard enough. I suppose the attitude stems from the multicultural impulse, the desire to err on the side of understanding when it comes to The Other, as recompense and acknowledgment, in part, for Britain's past imperial misdeeds (for which the Brits seem genuinely ashamed.) But it also sounds, just a bit, like a kind of racism. Are there supposed to be two types of British citizenship, one for non-Anglos, one for everyone else? I couldn't get my mind around it, and they didn't seem able to get their minds around the fact that I couldn't get my mind around it.
Who will boo the booers?
Michael Moore says the people who booed his Oscar speech weren't booing him, but rather booing the other people who were booing. But what if the people who were applauding were actually applauding the ones who were booing? And what if some of the booers were booing the booers who were booing the ones who applauded the booers of the applauders?
That's too complicated for me. All I know is, next time I get booed, I'm using it.
(via Tim Blair.)
The perspicuous in pursuit of the depraved
"You are obviously trying to get around the fact that you are Canadian."
eBay seller refuses to ship to countries that don't support the Anglo-American war effort; hijinks and amusing quotations ensue.
(via Angela Gunn.)
Steven den Beste makes a point about the embedded reporters that I've never seen raised before:
There's been a lot of speculation about why the government decided to embed reporters in major military formations. Probably there were a lot of reasons why. First and foremost, when the reporters spend weeks with the same unit, the soldiers will cease to be remorseless baby killers and start being Joe and Ted and Fred. Embedded reporters would be expected to be less antagonistic.
But I do wonder if maybe there's also some misdirection going on. With reporters embedded in Marine units, and the 3rd Infantry Division, and with the British, there's a natural tendency for the news organizations to report on those formations, and a natural tendency on the part of nearly everyone to think that this is the entire war.
In fact, it's the tip of the iceberg. It's big, and showy, and damned important, and the men and women of those units have accomplished a lot so far and will accomplish a lot more before it's over; and some of them will pay a stiff price for it. It is proper that we should watch them, and be concerned for them, and mourn for them if they die.
That said, there seems to be a lot going on which we aren't seeing, and it's becoming revealed not by what's happened, but by what has not.
Hey, thanks to the kind souls who have been hitting the paypal button, and particularly the anonymous tip jar donors whom I can't email directly! Wow. Much appreciated.
Why go for 'Not in my name' rather than something shorter and to the point - like, for example 'No war'? Possibly because, as we have argued before on spiked, many of those proclaiming themselves to be against the war on Iraq are not really against it at all. What they are against is an aggressive war fought by the USA and the UK. What they would have been more comfortable with is coercion by diplomacy, and a safe war fought under the auspices of the UN.
'Not in my name' reconciles both these positions, in a way that is utterly unprincipled. A war led by the UK and the USA is opposed because they don't agree with it. On the other hand, a war waged under the auspices of the UN would be acceptable because they would need to take no responsibility for it.
This is the first indication of how 'Not in my name' refers not to war, but to democracy. The British electorate holds some power over how the British government acts - we vote for politicians to represent us, and we can vote them out of office. 'Not in my name' sloganises powerlessness, and turns this formal process of democracy on its head. It encapsulates the notion that whatever our government might do about the war, it has nothing to do with us...
Ask yourself why, exactly, a war waged under the auspices of the UN is better than one waged by Britain and America alone. Would the outcome be any different, the consequences any less bloody? No. The difference is that, if the UN goes to war, it is tantamount to the wrath of God. We have no control over the UN, and therefore we have no responsibility for it. The UN, like the EU, is a supra-national body without accountability to any demos to give it even a formal sense of democracy. Nothing can be done 'in our name', because our views and interests count for nothing.
Excellent, original take on the media war from Tim Cavanaugh. When it's CNN vs. Al Jazeera, Jazeera wins.
Jim Henley provides a good, thoughtful summation of where the war stands as he sees it, focusing on the nexus between psychology, politics and tactics.
I think he's probably right about this: the Iraqi regime doesn't realize it's doomed. I don't think it's at all implausible that their actions are guided, in part, by a desire to conserve as much of their forces as possible for an imagined post-war period. They still think they can ride it out, wait till the invasion becomes politically untenable for the invaders, emerge when it's all over and declare "victory" based on the fact that they're still walking around in the rubble. That has worked for them every time so far. The coalition's current self-imposed, restrictive rules of engagement are a sign of strength and confidence, but I'm sure they contribute to the impression that the US is no more serious than they were the last time about seeing this through to the end. Could such restraint also, paradoxically, be sending a similar message to the justifiably skeptical Iraqi people who, we are assured, are poised to rise up in revolt once they are convinced of US resolve? Does the still-uncertain reputed Basra uprising indicate that the message has got through despite the "kinder, gentler war"? And if not, how much extra damage is the US willing to absorb in the interests of postwar goodwill before they decide to revise the strategy? Paradoxes abound.
The US has based this novel policy on a combination of genuine morality, public relations, and plausible tactical praxis; the Saddamites have responded, unsurprisingly, with a strategy based on immorality, public relations, and plausible tactical praxis. Strange war.
UPDATE: Bill Quick comments, expressing skepticism about the validity of the "poisoning the well of goodwill" meme. But it hasn't been dreamed up out of thin air. It's clearly based on deliberate, manifest US strategy; the Bush administration is firmly behind it (in both senses), so far, as Bill points out. There are a lot of reasons I can think of-- and doubtless some that I can't fathom-- for the strategy. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, there's something to be said, practically as well as morally, for winning with minimal damage to infrastructure, to the degree it's possible (though there's also a great deal to be said, again practically as well as morally, for using every means to win as quickly and decisively as possible.) And to the extent that public relations play a role, the Iraqis themselves are plainly not the only, nor even, perhaps, the most important, audience. At any rate, it's hard to imagine these rules of engagement surviving too many more cases of summary executions of American POWs and the like.
With friends like these...
The bombs have begun to fall on Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers have shot their officers and are giving themselves up to the Americans and the British in droves. Others, as in Nasiriyah and Umm Qasr, are fighting back, and civilians have already come under fire. Yet I find myself dismissing contemptuously all the e-mails and phone calls I get from antiwar friends who think they are commiserating with me because "their" country is bombing "mine." To be sure, I am worried. Like every other Iraqi I know, I have friends and relatives in Baghdad. I am nauseous with anxiety for their safety. But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp. One is not supposed to say such things in the kind of liberal, pacifist, and deeply anti-American circles of academia, in which I normally live and work. The truth is jarring even to my own ears...Thus begins the latest, characteristically provocative entry in Kanan Makiya's powerful weblog. As always, worth reading in entirety.
What's the matter? Afraid of a little competition?
When the familiar keeps reminding you of the abominable
Sheila Astray explains, at length and with eloquence, why New York and America won't "get over" 9/11.
Media-wars in Old Blighty
The Guardian reports that "the BBC's coverage of the war has come under fire from one of its own correspondents in the Gulf":
Paul Adams, the BBC's defence correspondent... accused the BBC's coverage of exaggerating the military impact of casualties suffered by UK forces and downplaying their achievements on the battlefield during the first few days of the conflict.
"I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering 'significant casualties'. This is simply not true," Adams said in the memo.
"Nor is it true to say - as the same intro stated - that coalition forces are fighting 'guerrillas'. It may be guerrilla warfare, but they are not guerrillas," he stormed.
"Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?' The truth is exactly the opposite. The gains are huge and costs still relatively low. This is real warfare, however one-sided, and losses are to be expected," Adams continued.
(via Harry's Place.)
Harry has changed his nom-de-html from Steele to Hatchet. He's got a bee in his bonnet about the term "warblogger," which is fair enough-- a lot of webloggers don't like the term. I don't care about the term one way or the other, but I think Harry's definition of warblogging (trying to log "every detail of the military campaign" and eschewing "opinion") would exclude a great many warblogs. Most of them, in fact. Matt Welch's blog, which Hurry up, Harry resembles in many ways, is in a sense the quintessential warblog, and the origin of the term (hence the name). It is great, and it is all opinion, no military details, and in fact rather often has nothing to do with the war.
I think he sees "warblogger" as a pejorative he'd like to duck out of. Maybe it is at that. You can call yourself anything you want. For the same reasons, people used to say "I'm not punk, I'm new wave"; then "I'm not punk, I'm hardcore"; then "I'm not hardcore, I'm post-punk"; then "I'm not post-punk, I'm alternative," etc. The main result of this process is that it's almost impossible to find anything at a British record store if you've missed more than four issues of the NME. Many came back to "punk" after the ride on the category-go-round-- the few that cared; they were all a bunch of punks anyway, however, though they were arguably at their best before the complex taxonomy set in.
Anyway, it's all good, as the kids say. And I did learn, from Harry's post, of Angela Gunn's USA Today warblog, which seems grand, in a post-psych pre-hardcore anti-mod neo-eclectic retro-journo garage-synth drum-n-bass faux-surf emo skate-core butt-rock sort of way.
The Basra uprising appears to be for real. Fox News says the information comes from British central command as well as embedded Sky reporters. Fox is also reporting that Fedayeen are posing as US soldiers, firing on Iraqi regular troops when they try to surrender; here's a summary of an MSNBC interview with British Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Peter Wall:
The population is being held at bay by a relatively small force of "activists" who are holding hostage the families of Iraqi soldiers who have dropped their weapons in the field and returned home, in order to force them to fight against allied forces in the city.
Two can play at that game
Now don't choke on your freedom fries or anything, but "a growing number of restaurants in Germany are taking everything American off their menus to protest the war in Iraq."
There follows a list of examples of anti-coca cola or Starbucks activism, and the usual catalog of MacDonald's-oriented civil disobedience.
This is neither here nor there, but something about this sentence, cracks me up a litte:
The conflict has struck a raw nerve in a country that became decidedly anti-war after the devastation of World War II, which it initiated.
David Aaronovitch tries to puzzle out why the anti-war movement in Britain, even at its low ebb, has been "so bloody big." As he says, it's not at all obvious. He has this observation along with an anecdote about a familiar line of argument:
Post-September 11 insecurity plays a part. There is quite a widespread belief that the US brought the disaster upon itself, and that Britain is now busily inviting the same kind of treatment. These days, routine security announcements can clear major mainline stations in seconds.
This is linked to the question of Palestine. You can't help noticing how, among many anti-war people, the issue of Israel and Palestine has stopped being one of those complex and drearily intractable problems, and morphed into being one of those straightforward "whose side are you on?" questions. Jennifer Johnson from Cornwall tells me that I am "pro-Israeli" because I acknowledge the right of Israel to exist. "Is it because some Jews wrote in their holy books that God had promised them the land of Israel?" she asks. "Is it because of the Holocaust? But that had nothing to do with the Palestinians." And she concludes, "The main reason for this war is to make the world safe for Israel." Jennifer doesn't say where she thinks the Jews should have gone after 1945, but that is yesterday's problem, I guess.
An interesting observation from Jonathon Marcus on the BBC warblog:
I think British forces are very reluctant to move into Basra, after all this is a largely Shia city they believed they would be welcomed in.
But the British force is not a particularly armour-heavy force, there lots of specialised infantry, the Paratroops, the Royal Marines, and so on. All of these units have massive experience, from Northern Ireland, and from the Balkans. They are very well versed in urban combat.
In a funny sort of way, the way the Marines are operating looks very similar to Northern Ireland. If you take the buildings away and change the architecture - you see small groups going in, one man at the back covering the rear, all the windows and openings of buildings covered, and so on.
It's a sort of warfare that these British infantry forces are very experienced in, probably a great deal more experienced than American forces in the region.
British troops have replaced American marines in the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.
The past 24 hours has been generally quiet. Whether that's a measure of the different tactics employed by the British forces rather than the Americans, it's hard to tell.
The Royal Marines are very experienced at urban conflict, patrolling street to street and zoning off areas. And they have a much more 'hearts and minds' approach than the Americans.
The Americans tended to be much more confrontational. If they saw problems they tended to retreat and open fire if necessary. Whereas the British approach certainly has been to move in with a small squad, surround the area, and detain a few people. It seems to be working on the face of it.
By and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement. One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia. To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here.
Déjà vu all over again
Merde in France reports on French war coverage:
The pro-Saddam press coverage in France has gone way over the top. Televised news on TF1 and France2 (state TV) are all but openly rooting for Iraqi victory. A GI resting on a roadside is depicted as being 'in despair'. An imam being escorted by US soldiers is 'being used as a human shield'. Absence of slaughter by American troops is interpreted as a sign of weakness. Iraqi atrocities are depicted as acts of heroic resistance. Rejigging war plans is depicted as lack of preparation.
French and German television were having an even harder time in underpinning their inclinations to describe things in a way that neatly fit their governments' insistence that all this would not end well.
Where is Raed? was featured on CNN Headline News today, and they even mention Diane's blog by name. I was skiving at my neighborhood bar today and I was rather taken aback when it came on the screen. The blogosphere is everywhere. Angie Schultz has more details.
Michael Moore at the Oscars
You know, I was just as surprised as anyone else that Michael Moore's speech about fictitious-ification or whatever at the Oscars was received with less than total enthusiasm. I'm sure many, maybe even most of those present were in agreement with the sentiments.
As many describe it, Moore was "booed off the stage." Now I've been booed off stages before, and believe me: he wasn't booed off the stage. He got the kind of reaction you get when you tell a joke that contains a heavy-handed pun-- some laugh, some groan, some get mad, some may throw a bottle or something, as though to say "I wasted ten bucks on this idiot?" Being "booed off the stage" means the hostility of the audience is so intense and monolithic that they drown out the public address system or seem poised to swell outside their corral, requiring you to take cover or risk making the ultimate sacrifice. The swells didn't swell, though they may have squirmed a bit. A roomful of squirming movie stars in evening dress isn't a pretty sight, to be sure, but it hardly constitutes a threatening presence.
Moore committed a breach of decorum. The audience gagged and went "oh really, Michael." The stage manager cued the music and waved on the next act, like he would have done anyway. He didn't even cut the mic.
The whole thing has an air of "fictition" about it. Steve Martin's follow-up joke was funny and flowed beautifully, as though it had all been planned out. Maybe it was.
Salam Pax had no internet access for a few days, but he continued his amazing journal and has now been able to post the material. Powerful stuff:
Today's (and last night's) shock attacks didn't come from airplanes but rather from the airwaves. The images Al-jazeera is broadcasting are beyond any description. First was the attack on (Ansar el Islam) camp in the north of Iraq. Then the images of civilian casualties in Basra city. What was most disturbing are the images from the hospitals. They are simply not prepared to deal with these things. People were lying on the floor with bandages and blood all over. If this is what "urban warefare" is going to look like we're in for disaster. And just now the images of US/UK prisoners and dead, we saw these on Iraqi TV earlier. This war is starting to show its ugly ugly face to the world.
The media wars have also started, Al-jazeera accusing the pentagon of not showing how horrific this war is turning out to be and Rumsfeld saying that it is regrettable that some TV stations have shown the images.
Today before noon I went out with my cousin to take a look at the city. Two things. 1) the attacks are precise. 2) they are attacking targets which are just too close to civilian areas in Baghdad. Looked at the Salam palace and the houses around it. Quite scary near it and you can see widows with broken glass till very far off. At another neighborhood I saw a very unexpected "target" it is an officers' club of some sorts smack in the middle of [ÖÖÖ] district. I guess it was not severely hit because it was still standing but the houses around it, and this is next door and across the street, were damaged. One of them is rubble the rest are clearing away glass and rubble. A garbage car stands near the most damaged houses and help with the cleaning up...
If Um Qasar is so difficult to control what will happen when they get to Baghdad? It will turn uglier and this is very worrying. People (and I bet "allied forces") were expecting things to be mush easier.
Those Insidious Papists
The country's at war, there's unrest in the streets, the threat of mass-casualty terrorism looms, the economy is rocky-- but some folks still have time to worry over whether St. Patrick's Day violates the Establishment Clause.
(via Scott Norvell.)
Jonah Goldberg posts an interesting letter from an army judge on the subject of SGT Akbar, capital punishment and field court martials, and the 101st.
Want to see Ken Layne's running commentary on Saddam's latest speech as it was broadcast? Start here and work your way up. Want to read his commentary on Michael Moore's Oscar appearance? Of course you do. Start here and... Oh hell, just read the whole page.
No matter how dubious and fake-looking Saddam's TV appearances may seem to us, they're working in Iraq, sending the message that it's not yet safe to oppose Saddam from within. According John Simpson on the BBC warblog, anyway:
Ordinary Iraqis watching Saddam Hussein's latest television appearance will have drawn one essential message from it - Saddam is still in control and it's much too soon for anyone to turn against him.
As long as he can continue to make these highly effective appearances on television, the coalition forces are going to have a serious problem.
And unless they can drive him off the screen and out of Baghdad they are likely to have real problems taking the city.
Half an hour's air time on television has done more for his cause than the relatively small numbers of loyal soldiers who have been holding up the coalition's advance.
Wish I could do that...
the reporter wanted to flip a particular switch that makes right-thinking people nod sagely: the “passionate idealist” cliché. It’s one of the interminable resonances of the class of ‘68, an echo that pings forever around their dusty skulls: passion and conviction are the hallmarks of the anti-establishment conscience, its most potent source of moral authority.
on Saturday, the Beeb ran a clip from a Brit spokesman describing a battle, then ran the Iraqi blabberjaw insisting that Iraqi forces were still engaged in battle, killing the enemy, and that the Loser Zionist Rumsfeld tongue should be accursed and struck with shoes, and we should all hope that monkeys defecate in his moustache, etc. Then came a guest from Warshington, and the presenter said “so who should we believe, then?” A charitable listener would ascribe the brief, stunned pause that followed to the natural lapse in transatlantic communications.
There's another smart update on "the Trots," nihilism, the SWP, etc. over at Harry's Place. Excerpt:
I find the psychology of this interesting. These people will deny they have taken sides in this war but they are lapping up Al-Jazeera coverage and gleefully posting pictures of US POW's. There may be no comment of delight to accompany the photos but it says everything that the news being posted in excitement is that of allied casualties and setbacks along with silly suggestions of war crimes being committed by Tony Blair.
There may only be a nutcase minority prepared to march under the slogan 'Victory to Iraq' but sadly the 'nasty wing' of the anti-war movement is much more visible now that Middle England appears to have abandoned them.
There is a style of blogging (and of blurb journalism in print) that might be described as "pull-quoting with ironic caption." It's most satisfying when the person being quoted is humorless and self-important, the quote banal and vapid. At this game, Matt Welch has no equal. Added bonus: "a typically open-minded quote from Eric Alterman." Good for a chuckle.
There is a private elementary school in my neighborhood, the gates of which are currently festooned with adorable hand-made anti-war posters. I happened to be walking by last week when they were being put up. It was clearly a school activity, along the lines of "draw a pilgrim for Thanksgiving", or "make your dad a paper-weight for Father's Day". They were having grand old time, and many of the signs were quite cute. My favorite went something like this:
$1,000000000000000000 for Tanks
Trying to get your mind around the irony of a school-sanctioned or -mandated protest is like trying to visualize a Mobius strip. For me, anyway.
So we're walking by today and the Lottery Guy (a kindly, nutty old man who tramps around the neighborhood with a walker, telling everyone "the Lotto is hard to win") is sitting on one of the schoolyard benches.
I expected him to say "the Lotto is hard to win" as usual. Instead he said, in the same exact tone, "the kids sure are mad at the government."
I can't remember having been more surprised in my life.
UPDATE: I went by the school yesterday and I realized I had the sign wrong. It's:
$1,000000000000000000 for Tanks
good president priceless
In case you haven't caught it yet, the Command Post is now here.
The chem-weapons factory discovered near An Najaf is "huge," according to a senior Pentagon official, via Fox.
Poseurs for Fragging
Steven Den Beste posts a photo of a demo sign which reads: "We Support our Troops when they SHOOT their officers," and has some pointed comments.
"Don't they understand," asks Den Beste, "what their own sign really means?" I'm sure they understand, but I wonder if they take it seriously enough to believe that it is of any consequence. I doubt it; and in a way they are quite right about that, though it does nothing but damage to their cause. The connection between this repellent slogan and the actual case of a soldier trying to murder his fellow soldiers is entirely coincidental, of course; still, it ought to shame them, or at least give them pause. And of course, it won't. I've known a fair few of such weekend class warriors, and I'd say very few of them experience their activities or "ideas" as connected to reality in any way. Their notional world is entirely contained within itself, quite incapable of being communicated to anyone outside their own circle. Which is just as well, since hardly anyone outside this circle ever comes in contact with it except as fashion accessory iconography. They mean to shock and provoke, of course, but they don't truly grasp the nature of the revulsion experienced by people outside of the subculture when exposed to their more extreme stunts. It's all of a piece, the silly with the repugnant. So at bottom it is indeed something of a failure of understanding, of the sign as of much else.
The photo comes via LGF from this page of photos of the "breakaway" "anarchist" march in San Francisco, posted with obvious approval and enthusiasm on SF Indymedia. Another blast from the past in this series says "no war but the class war." These people are enacting a sick, self-indulgent let's-dress-up-like-anarchists fantasy, of no consequence whatsoever except insofar as it alienates and discredits the work of any good and decent folks who may happen to share their opposition to the war. And it's doubtful whether they're sincere about even that opposition in any serious way-- indeed, it is unserious in every respect except as an affront to taste and common decency. (It reminds me of a felicitous phrase in the Monty Python cheese shop sketch. Say what you want about this division of the Peace Movement: it certainly seems to be "uncontaminated by peace.") It is a disgrace to the peace movement and to the many sincere and conscientious protesters who have the misfortune of sharing the street with them. It bears out the worst slurs against them.
Would you fancy the chances of these class warriors were they ever to come in contact with any actual "workers"? Me neither. The masks are, perhaps, well-advised.
A Soldier Gone Postal?
The word on the US soldier who perpetrated the Camp Penn. grenade attack is that he is an American Muslim convert. Jim Lacey, the Time Magazine reporter at the camp, offered this speculation during a phone interview with Fox news:
"I do not think it's a chain of command problem. I don't think this is a soldier disgruntled with the military. I think this was someone striking out because of a misguided interpretation of his Muslim faith."
Bill says it would be more disheartening if he turns out to have been an ideology-addled traitor rather than a terrorist mole. I agree. But couldn't he be both? Is he just a soldier who happened to be a Muslim convert, and who simply snapped? Or is he another John Walker Lind or Richard Reid? That is, had he, like Walker, been recruited by Saudi-funded Wahhabi extremists in the US? Was this merely a spontaneous expression of lethal hostility, as everyone is assuming, or a pre-planned mission?
Is it preposterous or paranoid to wonder whether this might have been part of a deliberate plan to infiltrate the US military, to plant saboteurs among the troops? Could it be that some true believers, like Walker, were sent to fight in Afghanistan, while others were instructed to apply at the nearest armed forces recruiting office and bide their time till activated? Could this have worked? And how likely is it that such an agent would pass undetected? If it was a deliberate "operation" what might have been the goal? Was it a botched attempt to take out the commander, as some TV talking heads have speculated?
Few details are available and it's all idle speculation. I don't know how plausible it is. It would require a significant degree of long-term planning and patience to attempt such a scheme; but we know our enemies are capable of that. They like to use our own machinery and institutions against us, for symbolic reasons as well as in order to further pragmatic goals. Don't they?
Personal theory: somebody snapped and took out a personal (not political or religious) grudge. Out of a quarter-million heavily-armed folks under stress in-theater, it isn't too strange to think there's a nut or a criminal here or there. The alternative (that it is more ideological and also rationally planned) is almost too disturbing to contemplate.
Here's my impression of Aaron Brown conducting a live interview:
Um, now, hmm, well I hesitate to, to, you know, ask, but you understand, um, I'm just ah doing my job, and you're doing yours, of course, we both know what's going on, and it's so, ooh, so ah difficult, but my question, I guess my question, and you don't have to answer if you don't want to of course, but just in case you do, or if you can, would you be able to tell me, or us rather, tell us what, what, what... um, sorry I lost my train of thought, oh right, my question is, and don't answer if you can't, but can you tell us what's ah, what's going on over there? Or, or, or, ah not? What? Um, I didn't catch the answer because I was writing something down. It's so, ooh so so difficult because we both have a job to ah do...
I can't find anything on the web yet, but Fox and CNN are reporting that an American soldier is suspected in the Camp Penn. attack.
UPDATE: According to this, "a soldier assigned to the brigade is in custody".
Say what you want about Robert Fisk: the man certainly can write. This report from the center the Baghdad assault is about as gripping and powerful as gripping and powerful get. Example:
Along the streets a few Iraqis could be seen staring from balconies, shards of broken glass around them. Each time one of the great golden bubbles of fire burst across the city, they ducked inside before the blast wave reached them. At one point, as I stood beneath the trees on the corniche, a wave of cruise missiles passed low overhead, the shriek of their passage almost as devastating as the explosions that were
How, I ask myself, does one describe this outside the language of a military report, the definition of the colour, the decibels of the explosions? When the cruise missiles came in it sounded as if someone was ripping to pieces huge curtains of silk in the sky and the blast waves became a kind of frightening counterpoint to the flames.
Kanan Makiya's letter to Iraqi "friends in Europe and the United States" on the challenges facing Iraqi democracy (included in the latest post to his TNR-hosted weblog) is as compelling and sobering as everyone says it is. Too powerful to excerpt: read the whole thing.
Yet more supercilious Bush-whacking blather from Richard Dawkins. As Jeff Jarvis points out, Dawkins appears to be putting his own sentiments in the mouth of Osama bin Laden. Bush is bin Laden's ally, and the most formidable weapon in Osama's arsenal is the Constitution. Right...
Popshot.net turns up this snippet from an interview with Robbie Williams:
Any embarassing celebrity run-ins of note?
I was at a party and completely and totally off my face -- mushrooms, Ectasy, all sorts of shit. And I was staring at this painting for ages. I was just mesmerized by it. And Bono comes up and asks, "Robbie, what are you doing?" And I said, "Bono, man, this painting is incredible." And he went, "Robbie, that's a window."
It's not funny anymore
Never mind the kryptonite locks: they found an abandoned backpack containing twelve molotov cocktails amidst the post-demonstration debris on 11th and Howard.
Late to every party
I keep meaning to mention Jeff Jarvis's excellent breaking news warblog-- probably the best one out there. And the Michele-sparked Command Post group warblog is quite a buzzmachine itself. Check 'em out.
Confused is the word
"Saddam is a very confused and mixed up man," said activist Elise Bontrager. "And I think maybe that he hurts his people more than he needs to."
"A nation of moaning sissies..."
"Whoever is the British Prime Minister is tied to America. It's been that way ever since the Second World War, and even Tony Blair can't change that. Politics is like football for me. Labour is my team and even if you don't like a striker you don't give up supporting the whole team. Labour is the lesser of two evils. What else should we have? Anarchy? Someone has to be responsible."
He then went on to criticise the British nation, saying, "We are a nation of moaning sissies, regardless of who governs. The British get on my nerves. They moan about the weather, the French, about the Germans. They moan about cricket, football-- they should just keep their mouths shut."
I just heard David Brooks mention Where is Raed? on the News Hour.
"The commander of Iraq's 51st division and his top deputy surrendered to United States Marine forces today, according to American military officials..."
Stephen Schwartz fires an erudite and withering rhetorical volley against the blogophere's most notorious Buchananite, Justin anti-war.com Raimondo-- "America's most exquisite Jew-baiter." Schwartz excoriates Raimondo for anti-Semitism, Stalinist tactics, admiration of Japanese militarism, feeble intellect, poor understanding of Zen Buddhism, poor communications skills, and poor understanding of the collected works of Philip K. Dick. Pretty much in that order.
This poseur dreams of waking up in an America prostrate, segregated, and from which all Jews have been removed, in which he can play the role he must have imagined from about the time he decided it was better to be “Justin” than “Dennis:” that of a collaborationist functionary in a fascist occupation regime. Thank God war was waged to prevent such a nightmare from descending upon us. Thank God war will be waged anew to prevent its realization by other fascists, and that while Dennis is still talking only a handful of misguided American conservatives and communists are listening to him.
I'm with US Marines who have been sent in here, along with British Marines, to secure oil wells. They are close to completing that mission.
This is the region which produces more than a half of Iraq's oil.
I've seen quite a few prisoners of war. I've seen several dozen being looked after by American soldiers and given food to eat.
A lot of people here are very pleased that Saddam Hussein has been attacked in this way.
One group of Iraqis waved at the American soldiers I was with and said "down with Saddam Hussein".
Speaking of news networks and so forth, I find myself straying rather more often than I'd ever imagined to MTV. I find it fascinating, both for the novelty and for the call-ins and interviews with young viewers: a major theme is the fact that the demographics of the MTV audience coincide, when it comes to age at any rate, with that of large numbers of US troops. They have some kind of deal with CBS news for the actualities, and the commentary can be basic, but often no more vacuous than the major network version.
The format pioneered by Behind the Music and perfected in the endless series of butt documentaries-- quick cuts of footage, interspersed with sound bites from celeb commentators and journalists, backed with a soundtrack of whatever's on the charts with occasional thematic relevance to what's on-screen, accompanied by a simple, bland narration-- works at least as well when it comes to war as it does in re: butts or Britney, as it turns out. If the slant is anti-war, it's, surprisingly, only moderately so, compared to what you might expect: and it does reflect the concerns of the target audience. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with that. I've seen some interviews with pro-war kids, though there are fewer of them. Hey, maybe this is the "liberal" alternative to Fox that so many lefties are dreaming of...
Mostly, though, I enjoy the sheer weirdness of it: "stay tuned for more war updates this afternoon on TRL." Unbelievable.
A disturbing report from David Pryce-Jones, via Rich Lowry:
"The Turks have moved their forces to the border, and there are the first reports that they've crossed the border. They've claimed it is a humitarian mission. The Kurds will fire on them, and certianly lose. Then we will have found a Turkish occupation of the north, which will be very difficult for the administration to confront. We'll have very little leverage to get them out. It could be a very nasty situation indeed. We'll have hideous fighting with very leverage to control it. This could throw the whole plan out. It ceases to be a liberation of Iraq. It becomes a cannibilization of it. The rumour that I'm catching--which is only a rumour--is that there is a blazing row between Colin Powell and the Turks, because he feels he's been lied to and cheated. That they always intedned to occupy Norhtern Iraq."
Gigglechick caught a pretty good Rumsfeld crack:
a reporter asked why "we strayed from the warplan"
Rumsfeld responded "the last I checked, YOU don't have the warplan... and I find comfort in that."
Don't let that mask fool you
ABCNEWS has learned that witnesses at the site of a Baghdad suburban residential complex have told U.S. intelligence officials that Saddam was observed being taken from the bombed complex on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask over his face on Thursday before dawn local time.
William Saletan has been watching the United Nations Security Council on C-SPAN:
The council was meeting to discuss the latest update from weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix was downcast because, having been forced to leave Iraq a few days ago so that the United States could start bombing it, his inspection report now seems a bit pointless. Not so, said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. They praised Blix's work and assured him that the war was only an unpleasant interlude in the inspection process.
Do rabbits do that?
"How embarrassing for Blair, Prime Minister of that once great country, to be yapping like a rabbit in support of our war," said Vidal to yells of support.
To be pitied or censured?
Life imitates Simpsons, once again
Welch says CNN is "the early loser of the media war," and it's hard to argue with that:
When I turn to Fox -- which I am not normally inclined toward -- I might see "The O'Reilly Factor" listed, but instead there are live anchors and reporters, doing their thing. On CNN, it says "Connie Chung" or "Larry King"-- and sure enough, the goofy old gizzards are out there, interviewing Bob Woodward and otherwise straining to act serious.
My British wife, used to the clipped detachment of Channel 4's John Snow, can't get over how the news presenters speak as though they're actually fighting the war themselves. Whereas Snow might say, solemnly, that "British and American forces took Basra today," Sheppard Smith, with the explosive vigor of a guy trying to sell you a direct marketing method on an infomercial, exclaims "We took Basra! Yes we did! With our awesome firepower!" (There's nothing wrong with the "military we," I suppose, but it's clearly a deliberate policy like those I noted in that old post: they all do it, though some of them, Greta for example, seem a bit uncomfortable. It can seem awkward and, well, lacking in gravitas: but it by God gets the job done, as they might put it.) And why are they always shouting, my wife will ask? But then she'll ask that about everyone speaking above a whisper.
I prefer the British model because it has more content. But there is no content-heavy option on the American news menu, and Fox is marginally better than the others on offer. For better or worse, the Fox people realize now, as they did during the Afghanistan campaign and as CNN has yet to figure out, that the newswatching public wants all war, all the time, and wants our side to win, and that no amount of pandering to sentiment will alienate them. For better or worse.
In a unique form of opposition, some protesters at the Federal Building staged a "vomit in,'' by heaving on the sidewalks and plaza areas in the back and front of the building to show that the war in Iraq made them sick, according to a spokesman.
Tim Blair heard this call on an Australian radio talk show:
The [call] came from an older woman named Jill. Her family had migrated to Australia after WWII. "I wish we'd had politicians in the 1930s with the guts of Tony Blair and John Howard," she said, her voice catching slightly. "Why?" asked the host.
She answered through a rush of tears. "Because then I'd have a lot more relatives."
The International Divorce Court
Andrew Marr, posting on the BBC warblog, writes that the European Summit in Brussels "could not have been worse":
Tony Blair and President Chirac have at least briefly shaken hands but they spent most of the time on the opposite sides of a very large room and the way they are regarding one another at the moment, it's probably a good thing.
Great post from Matt Welch stepping off from this American Prospect article, wondering whether bought and paid-for Saudiphiliacs are "leading the charge" against the "cabal" of neocons in the government. A trend worth tracking, indeed.
I finally got around to watching this Insta-linked docu-clip by Evan Coyne Maloney. The strange thing about this montage depicting the loony extremes of the San Francisco protest milieu is that it barely scratches the surface of SF bay area looniness, which is palpable even at those increasingly rare moments when there doesn't happen to be an antiwar protest going on.
The documentary focuses on the loopy, the obsolescent, the eccentric, the vacuous, the borderline schizophrenic and the unequivocally schizophrenic wings of the antiwar protest movement. I'm sure it would have been possible to find at least as many among the protesters who might have come off as relatively sane (though that documentary wouldn't have been nearly as amusing.) Still, the signs reflecting cluelessly retrograde revolutionary socialist boilerplate, hinting at a fledgling 9/11 denial movement, and glorying in the ever-present draw-a-mustache-on-the-president school of political argument-- all the signs speak for themselves really. No wonder they lost the argument.
Partially Obscured by Wings
Doc Searls comments on the Heritage Foundation's canny spambiguous bulk mail (I got one) and the dearth of peace-bloggers. A lot of folks expressed irritation at what has been seen as an attempt to co-opt the party, but I agree with the Doc, who thinks "The Heritage Foundation deserves kudos for its gracious combination of permission- and gonzo marketing." I've never been at a party which wouldn't have benefited from a little gracious co-option.
Searls also has this to add:
conservative thinkers are far more clueful about the Web and its authority structure than their liberal counterparts... Liberalism may not be absent from the blogging world, but it's certainly impotent.
At any rate, the most interesting writing tends to come from those who strive to be less ideological, or to subvert conventional ideological categories from within, to swim against streams within streams. Glenn Reynolds continually denies that he's a conservative; if he doesn't convince too many people of this, he's certainly an extremely effective example of how a "conservative" can, and should, be able to swing both ways as the situation requires. Reynolds is particularly adept at expressing clearly this tension between imaginary ideological types and the reality on the ground, which is one of the things that makes his writing more interesting and useful than that of those who appear to strive to embody every ideological cliche. Similarly, Andrew Sullivan is a walking, living, breathing and quite deliberate contradiction in terms, when it comes to ideology and identity politics. Searls doesn't mention Matt Welch, but he's another example of how powerful writing and thinking can be a valuable by-product of sincere, intelligent attempts to squirm free of ideological pigeon-holes. On the other hand, perhaps the most prominent antiwar web commentator, whom Searls also does not mention, is Justin Raimondo, a certified/certifiable right winger by any definition.
Self-defined champions of "liberalism" as such tend to have a comparatively rigid ideological posture that deliberately weeds out the interesting writers among them. The lefty who swims against the stream (e.g. Welch) is denounced as a closet rightwinger or an errant lunatic, vilified and kicked out of the club rather than engaged in debate; when a "conservative" manifests ideological cross-pollination (a la Reynolds) it is dismissed as insincere, deluded, or irrelevant. So whom would you rather read? Paradoxical as it may be, dissenters, whatever the context, are always more interesting than puritans.
"What we need is a bloodbath..."
Peter Cuthbertson quotes a sampling of some of the uglier sentiments from this Guardian message board's discussion of whether Britons ought to "support the troops." I have to say, I've heard worse; and the ones which seem to express a genuine, despicable, eagerness for mass-scale casualties are, mercifully, in the minority. But they are out there.
(via Harry Steele, who mailed the pro-democracy Johann Hari article to the Trots and received the expected response. From a perceptive Harry's Place commenter: "I suspect that for the SWP, the failure of the Stop the War Coalition is a feature, not a bug." If you're a communist in 2003, failure is pretty much all you've got going for you.)
Like everyone is saying, there's not much to say. Watching CNN is like watching water evaporate. The blather of news network talking heads evokes the meandering inanity of a PBS pledge drive: "...to show your support for the fine programming, as I think it is, and I assume you do as well, otherwise you would probably be switching the channel now, which I really hope you're not doing, especially now that we so desperately need your support, because I'm sure you agree we perform a valuable service to the community, keeping you informed, enlightened, and, yes, entertained, though entertainment, important as that is to you and me and our families and friends after a long day, is only a small fraction of what we do here, bringing you Miss Marple, who is just amazing, how she always manages to figure out who the murderer is..."
The Saddam video was so fake-looking it had to be real, right? I thought it was obviously a fake when it came on; but I thought that "press conference" of generals looked pretty fake, too. I've seen samples of Iraqi TV before, and it all looks phony. It's like an SCTV sketch ("shiekhs and shiekettes, it's time for Good Morning Baghdad," says a turbaned Joe Flaherty, dropping his sword and stage-whispering to John Candy-as-script-boy to get out, get out, out of the frame, out of the frame...) The audio track rarely seems completely synched up with the video. If they were going to fake a triumphant Osama-esque "I'm still alive suckers" video in advance, you'd think, as Andrew Sullivan does, they could have done a more convincing job.
Maybe not, though. You'd think CNN could do a better job, too: talk about phony...
I've got no answers, but one recommendation: go over and read Ken Layne, who manages to cover the dearth of material amusingly.
Maybe it would have been funnier if he'd been wearing a dress...
Another feeble attempt at humor by notoriously unfunny Independent columnist Mark Steel:
As mothers reach out to touch their dying children they'll be thinking, "Thank God Clare [Short]'s still in the Cabinet, so at least this site can be converted into a pedestrian precinct." If only Bin Laden had thought of this excuse. He could have said to Bush, "I know I've knocked your towers over, but I promise I'll help to rebuild them," and the two of them would now be the best of friends.
Is it possible to be insipid and offensive, hyperbolic and trivial, all at the same time? I hadn't thought so, but it turns out I was wrong.
"George Bush is a mo-o-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-o..."
An anti-war protester, trying to hang a banner, has fallen off the Golden Gate Bridge.
UPDATE: According to this, it was an intentional, rather than merely effective, suicide. He gave the police a statement, the contents of which have not been disclosed.
Le fiasco, c'est moi
In Berlin, a reporter talking to a German official heard that the Schroeder government initially believed Iraq was a one-issue crisis, narrowly confinable to disagreement on the military undertaking and the painful although surmountable problem (in the middle term) of Germany's nonparticipation.
But reacting in fear of isolation, the official suggested, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's willingness to subordinate Germany to a French view of confrontation with the United States on many wider fronts has brought the government to a position it now finds an awkward fit with Germany's long-term interests, and to a place outside the realm of the two men's anticipation when they ran for re-election on a pacifist platform last September.
In very less specific terms, this notion of things having gone too far appeared to suffuse remarks on Monday by Fischer that American policy was absolutely nonimperial in nature, that the United States was the irreplacable element of global and regional security, that there was no alternative to good trans-Atlantic relationships and that he well understood how the new East European membership of the European Union could have a "very different view" of their security than this or that EU founding member.
These concerns have made for the first real breach in the French media's amen chorus that has punctuated their president's breakaway run since January from the last half-century's Western notions of international order.
For the first time, French publications, reporting on the disarray of political analysts, are now asking: Who are we against, Saddam or Bush? Or: Where was the sense in Chirac's promising a veto of a new UN resolution when such a gesture was not an absolute necessity? And even: How did France manage to reject British revisions to its draft resolution last week hours before Iraq did?
(via Iain Murray.)
Three men of "Western European origin" have been found with home-made bombs in a Sussex flat near Gatwick.
Local residents said they thought the men worked at Gatwick Airport.
Pinakin Patel, the owner of Kandies Sweets in Langley Parade, said: "They often came back wearing airport-style clothes as if they were cleaners or something."
"THE first shots of the war have been fired," according to the Times.
Harry Steele examines the future prospects of the Stop the War movement, now that the war has, at long last, lumbered into the category "situation: unstoppable." Excellent observations as usual.
The springboard consists of Eve of War columns by three well-blogged British lefty columnists: aged socialist irrelevancy Paul Foot, sometime Road to Damascus visitor Jonathon Freedland, and the invaluable Johann Hari. Hari, of course, has the right idea: they should devote the tremendous energy once dedicated to spreading the word that Bush is a Moron to the cause of promoting democracy in Iraq.
Will they? Perhaps I have too jaundiced a view, but I can't see it. At its core the current anti-war "movement," despite many decent and sincere elements among the moved, has always seemed to me to be more concerned with aesthetics than politics. I doubt many in the Socialist Workers Popular Judean Peoples Front (or whatever they may be calling themselves) will be able summon much enthusiasm for an endeavor that doesn't involve drawing little mustaches on portraits of Bush, Blair, et al. Especially if, as Hari urges, it means supporting the position of Paul Wolfowitz. Go neocon? Erase the mustaches? Not bloody likely.
I hope I'm wrong. And if I am, maybe I'd even join up.
Podhoretz's Weird World, continued:
AN hour after President Bush announced the United Nations had only one day to agree to the enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1441, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix blithely announced he was considering a trip to Baghdad. "I didn't hear there was an ultimatum," said Blix.
Note to Blix: Welcome to history's footnotes.
All signs point to this time being the lucky one, when the proverbial stopped clock turns out to be right, when the "ultimatum" will turn out actually to have been an ultimatum. But really, at this point, who knows?
Isn't that just like a man?
Madeleine Bunting psychoanalyzes notorious male Tony Blair, and the commentators who misunderestimated him:
Could it be that a largely male commentariat has such a gendered perception of emotions (broadly summed up as "women have them, men have grown out of them") that they fail to see the subterfuge and displacement that men typically use for emotions which they can't control or even recognise?
Shoe the Children
From this report on accused kidnapper/weirdo/maniac Brian David Mitchell:
Mitchell was described by his stepson, Derrick Thompson, as a "weird" man who had talked to God in the desert after taking 10 hits of LSD. "They said they weren't on drugs," Thompson told the Deseret News of his stepfather and his mother, adding:
"But we think that was a lie. We think that's how they communicated with God, that and listen(ing) to the Steve Miller band."
This impassioned op-ed by Kurdistan Prime Minister Barham Salih, pleading to the British Left to support the invasion of Iraq should be required reading:
Regrettably, many are denouncing a war that would liberate Iraq. Like those who shunned us in the Eighties, some of our former friends find the martyrdom of the Iraqi people to be an irritant. They avert their eyes from the grisly truth of our suffering, while claiming concern at the human cost of war.
The cost to Iraqis of sparing the Baathist dictatorship is rarely calculated. Iraqis are overlooked by an anti-Americanism that does not understand why we need military action to break our shackles. Some call for civil disobedience to impede the bid to free Iraq. In Iraq, civil disobedience is a death sentence....
This regime needs to be brought to account for genocide.
At this critical moment, you must not fail the twin tests of history and morality. On 2 September, 1939, Neville Chamberlain advocated to a shocked House of Commons yet more appeasement, despite the evidence of Nazi aggression. As Arthur Greenwood stood up to respond for the Labour Party, Leo Amery, a Conservative, cried out: 'Speak for England!' Today it is Tony Blair who speaks for England, for the fundamental values of the Left and, most honourably, for enslaved Iraqis.
Finally, Harry's right: the lack of coverage of the pro-war protests by Iraqi exiles in London "says it all."
He quotes this, a mere footnote at the bottom of a round-up of "anti-war" marches and so-forth:
Hundreds of people from Britain's Iraqi community were today protesting outside the Houses of Parliament in support of an attack on Iraq, and a petition was being delivered to the French embassy in central London to register opposition to the stance of the French president, Jacquest Chirac.
The protest coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Halabja massacre, where 5,000 Kurds were killed after the Iraqi government ordered a chemical weapons attack.
Gary is keeping tabs on all the blogoshperic commentary on the neocon/anti-Semitism debate-- just go to his page and follow the links that look interesting.
Max Sawicky has a good discussion of the matter. I think this sums up a major part of the complex issue with admirable clarity:
All NCs are pro-Israel or Zionist, but not all NCs (or pro-Israel persons) are Jewish... Jewishness is incidental to their politics. Nor does the NCs' influence have anything to do with their Jewish origins. Israel's importance to the U.S. (and its influence) originates in Americans' views of the U.S. interest, not in some kind of tail-wagging-dog process that originates in Israel.
Discourse that is anti-semitic in effect (if not in intent) then consists of the following: Gratuitous identification of individuals (or explaining their motivations) as Jewish, Zionist, or pro-Israel in political commentary. Imputation of extraordinary manipulative political power on the part of Jews, Zionists, or Israel. Identification of some (but not all) U.S. policies as purely in Jewish/zionist/Israeli interests. (I say some because if we sent Israel $3 billion, that is clearly in their interest.)
I make a distinction about effect here because it is very easy for people to fall prey to anti-semitic notions without any personal animus towards Jews as individuals or as a group. It is always possible to err out of rhetorical carelessness, ignorance, or paranoia. I'm sure I'm guilty myself (but don't go out of your way to prove I'm right). For instance, an in-law with a high regard for me, but without much formal education, told me once that Hitler (whom she recognized as totally evil) took over in Germany 'because the Jews got all the money.' I think Moran's statement fell into the first of these categories.
We should also recognize that for political reasons, people are quick to translate or distort ineptitude in handling these issues into anti-semitism. This is intellectual corruption and can come to have the same diluting effect on the charge of "anti-semitism" that now afflicts the charge of racism in the U.S.
It is a sad commentary on contemporary political discourse and historical awareness that people can, with the best of intentions, parrot the arguments of those who seem to channel Nazi propagandists without the slightest clue of what they're saying, or what their "hear, hear" implies. Gary Farber, commenting on the Buchanan article, says: "what's distressing is how much of this platform some of the anti-war left has adopted. Some of it more or less word for word." It is indeed distressing, and it ought to be even more worrying amongst those who style themselves anti-war activists than amongst those who do not: at minimum, it would be in the interest of their cause to expunge or at least distance themselves from a line of reasoning and a manner of speaking that is so easily and devastatingly discredited.
While it's true that unscrupulous polemicists too often attempt to use the charge of anti-Semitism for political reasons against comparative innocents, it's also just as true that genuine anti-Semites often cite this unfortunate tendency on the part of their opponents as a way of excusing or deflecting attention from the substance of their own unsavory agenda. Both tacks are regrettable, but only one, I'd venture to say, is truly poisonous.
More on anti-Semitism
It's simply not possible to take into account every possible connotation of every word you write, and insisting on superhuman precision of language is just not reasonable. These kinds of issues become impossible to even discuss if this is the kind of reaction it generates.
But vocabulary is really beside the point, which I think Kevin Drum may have missed. The conspiracy theory that has people so up in arms is this: that a sinister cabal of Jews, who go by the seemingly innocuous name "neoconservatives", are lurking in the halls of power, have infiltrated the government, taken over the Pentagon, and hijacked American foreign policy, receiving their marching orders directly from Ariel Sharon; these Jews have cleverly arranged it so that the poor, befuddled president and his poor befuddled public are completely unaware that the strings are being pulled by a hateful Jewish prince in a far-off land (or alternately, the president is aware of it, making him all the more culpable); if only people knew what the Jews were up to, they would put a stop to it; but the brave, wise souls who see through the conspiracy are silenced at every turn by the outrageous charge of anti-Semitism-- indeed, that's one of the Jews' most clever tactics.
Can anyone doubt that that is what Pat Buchanan is getting at, in only slightly less extreme terms? It is no great exaggeration to compare this to the Nazi propaganda of the '30s. Back then, inflammatory language intended to touch the anti-Semitic nerve of the mass public was the express intent of such propaganda; the more inflammatory, the better, the more successful it would prove to be. We are now in the paradoxical situation where the effectiveness of such propaganda depends on the propagandist's skill at spinning rhetoric that sounds less inflammatory. But whether it is cast in the even more extreme language of the Elders of Zion-invoking Arab press, the only slightly less inflammatory rhetoric of the Buchanan passage so often quoted, or the watered-down version purveyed in much more reasonable-sounding terms by Chris Matthews or Jim Moran, we're talking about the same theory here. Right?
Nick Denton seems to think that it is just the concluding paragraphs, and particularly the word "cabal," that "ruins" Buchanan's otherwise fine exploration of the Jewish conspiracy. Why is it that no one seems to be able to articulate this theory without, consciously or unwittingly, echoing the language of "classic" anti-Semitism, no matter how hard they try? Is it only because, as Buchanan et al. claim, Jews and their defenders are so prone to "cry anti-Semitism" at every opportunity that there are no longer any acceptable terms to use for the purpose of criticizing Jews, that the entire subject has been deliberately rendered forbidden? I submit that, on the contrary, it may be because there is something wrong with the theory itself.
And there is.
Denton says "it's healthy to discuss Jewish influence of American policy, and the underlying reasons for war in Iraq," and he's right, despite his having arguably undercut his own case for healthiness by citing Buchanan as an authority; and there's no doubt that people are unfairly accused of anti-Semitism, through good-faith over-zealousness as well as by disingenuous tactic. There are Jewish lobbying groups, and they are successful at influencing policy, for good or ill. Surely unreasonable charges of anti-Semitism shouldn't deter such discussion. Discuss away.
As for the neocons, criticizing them on the merits of their views, the accuracy of their assessment of the geo-strategic situation, the wisdom of the courses of action they advocate; questioning their motivations, and questioning the motivations of those, in and out of government, who adopt their arguments and outlook; even attacking the neocons for purely partisan reasons, by virtue of their position as an intellectual force currently in the camp of the other party-- there's nothing wrong with any of that. Asking whether or in what ways the experiences of the Jews among them might contribute to their views on war, peace, Israel, etc., is also legitimate. And finally, questioning whether the Bush administration's relatively dependable support for many of Sharon's most controversial policies is in the best interests of the US or the middle east, wondering about the motivation of such a stance-- I can see nothing wrong with that. I wonder about it myself. But when those attempting to make such arguments veer towards the Buchananite conspiracy theory, when indeed they seem unable to broach the subject without echoing, however distantly or unconsciously, the dark rhetoric of "classic" anti-Semitism, it's not hard to see why some tend to question their motivations. And maybe they should question them themselves.
By way of conclusion, here's a little piece of Angua's First Blog's take on the necon/anti-Semitism issue, which, I believe, requires no comment:
Look, Jews are very touchy about this whole anti-Semitism bit because of our history in the last century. We have learned just how far anti-Semitism goes. All sorts of groups are hated for all sorts of reasons, but we feel we are pretty unique. (And when I say "we," I am thinking the Royal we. As a Jew, I speak for myself and myself only. "We" just sounds better here.) And here is why. People who hate us don't want us to shut up and stop asking for the vote. They don't want us to shut up and not marry their daughters. They don't want us to shut up and resign ourselves to a certain position in society. They don't want us to shut up and move out. They don't want us to shut up and pay extra taxes. They don't want us to shut up and stop speaking a certain language. They don't want us to shut up and stop worshiping our God. They don't want us to shut up and accept the new leadership. They want us to shut up and die.
Spot the Fictional Character
Thomas Nephew, still reluctantly hawkish, responds to some of the "balking hawks" who have been driven back over the fence by the recent diplomatic meltdown. I recommend reading the whole post, which is a smart and, I think, pretty accurate assessment, particularly here:
It's true, we might have been able to finesse things better: Rummie could have shut up more often, Powell could have made a few more visits to European capitals. But what comes through, at least from the German media and blogs I read, is a fundamental difference of views, of "Weltanschauung." It's one I think is grounded in the belief -- possibly well-founded -- that Germany and Europe are too valuable as economic engines for anyone in their right mind to attack them -- and that's all they worry about. It's Europe as a super-Switzerland, and it's an interesting point of view. But it's not one I think will stand the test of Europe's own ambitions for itself. To be a "player," you need a real military, not the toy varieties that Europe fields, on average; but once you have a "real" military, you will acquire suspicious neighbors as if by magic -- especially in Europe. And the days of being a player without an army and a navy are waning, and will probably be over by Tuesday or Wednesday or whenever that vote is.
This doesn't mean we can't work with these countries ever again; we need to right now, and it will behoove us to be polite about it. But it also doesn't mean that we've lost some pearl of great price: the unconditional loyalty of other nations. We may have had something resembling that for a fleeting moment in world history. Now it's back to the usual situation: everyone looking out for number one. That's no more tragic than most periods in human history, and a good deal less tragic than some. Get over it.
Clark more Creep than Comic
Harry Steele has some apt comments on the Neil Clark hatchet-job on Djindjic which I mentioned below. Having googled Clark and found the "Milosevic: Prisoner of Conscience" essay, Steele quotes the bit about the ecstasy-inducing display of Tony Benn's Arguments for Socialism, and adds:
And there was I thinking it was all those murdered civilians, the siege of Sarajevo, Srbenica and the slaughter in Kosovo that landed Slobo in jail, when really it was all because Tony Benn books were on sale in Belgrade.
All this would be funny if Clark wasn't being given a platform in national newspaper to insult the thousands of victims of Milosevic's policies and at the same time piss on the memory of a man who provided at least some hope of an escape to a better future.
Tim Blair exposes some stong rehotric.
The Independent's Terence Blacker on Anti-War Chic:
Unlike many protests in the past, from Vietnam to fox-hunting, the current campaign has the huge advantage of not involving the slightest risk to your person or your reputation. Marches are happy social events, populated by our favourite soap stars and comedians. Activism simply involves adding one's name to a few busy, concerned e-mails drawn up by other couch-protesters and then sending them on to your friends, content in the knowledge that one has played one's part.
To be anti-war means being shoulder to shoulder with the stars, buying a copy of George Michael's protest single, being seen in public with a smart "NOT IN MY NAME" T-shirt, which depicts you as both concerned and on fashion's cutting edge.
Of course, as tends to be the case in great popular movements, the trick of thinking things through or recognising complexity has been lost in the excitement and emotion. It is a perfect reversal of what has happened in the past when nations, urged on by their leaders, have rushed with blind enthusiasm into conflict.
Intoxicated by our sense of virtue, we have reduced debate about the war to a feel-good fest, full of celebrities, warm words and a fuzzy sense of generalised concern.
CalPundit Kevin Drum wonders how to distinguish "legitimate criticism" of Jewish neoconservatives from anti-Semitism.
The redoubtable Gary Farber offers a sensible answer.
Drum distills the "relevant facts" into five statements that he appears to regard as self-evident, neutral, and beyond dispute. I think there's something wrong with at least three, perhaps four, of them:
1) "Lots of neocons are Jewish."
As Gary points out, lots of liberals are Jews, too; and there are many who describe themselves as neocons (plus many more who are swayed by their arguments on occasion) who are not Jews. Many of the founders and leading lights of the neocons as a "movement" (to the extent that there is such a thing) were indeed former communists or leftists who "switched sides." Many of them were and are Jews. There is nothing anti-Semitic about pondering how their experiences as Jews might have contributed to this ideological evolution, and how it may influence their views of contemporary global-strategic politics. It's an interesting question.
Yet consider the similar statements "lots of communists are Jews," or "lots of Bolsheviks are Jews," which are strictly just as true (and just as misleading): if you think that this "relevant fact" tells you something essential about either Jewishness or communism, you're treading on rather thin ice. Especially since this line of "reasoning" formed part of the platform upon which perpetrators of and apologists for the most notorious and devastating ethnic persecution of all time once stood. Have some of those who have feared that contemporary critics of the Likudnik Menace might be standing upon a similar sort of platform been guilty of over-reaction or exaggeration? Quite possibly. But the issue is hardly a frivolous or absurd one, as it is often painted.
2) "Neo-conservatives are rabidly pro-Israel."
Rabidly? Like mad dogs, foaming at the mouth, unaccountably vicious, out of control, beyond reason, seeking to infect innocent victims with a poisonous disease by means of merciless fangs? Whose side are you on, anyway?
As Gary points out, "pro-Israel" can mean many things, just as opposition to Israel's policies can have many degrees, varieties, and motivations. Once again, if, even with the best of intentions, you're subjecting the political opinions of an entire group of people, sub-categorized by race, to a "rabidity" test, you're on fairly thin ice.
Of course, it's just a facon de parler, innit? By "rabid" is meant "determined," "unwavering," "uncompromising," "unequivocal," "implacable," "strong;" or maybe "rigid," "blind," "recalcitrant," "resistant to reason;" surely not "diseased," "evil," "demented," "depraved," "infectious," "not yet having been shot by the proper authorities."
3) "It is reasonable to infer that they are pro-Israel largely because they are Jewish."
I don't think this is a reasonable inference at all. Lots of non-Jews (like me, and like, I must assume, Kevin) are pro-Israel to the degree that, at minimum, they believe that Israel has a right to existence. Being "anti-Israel" isn't necessarily anti-Semitic, but at its most extreme-- Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, the Jews driven into the sea-- there is no appreciable difference. Do Jews tend to be more assiduous than non-Jews in their concern for the welfare of the Jews in Israel, more alive to the peril faced by those surrounded by hostile forces dreaming of their destruction? Very possibly. Are the neo-cons particularly strident in this support, and are they willing to countenance means and methods that go beyond what many of their honorable fellow supporters of Israel would be comfortable with? I'd say so. Does it follow that such "rabid" support for Israel arises because of Jewishness qua Jewishness? I think not. There are too many counter-examples, both among Jews and non-Jews.
There is another possibility: the Jewish neocons, like the non-Jewish neocons, believe sincerely and without ulterior motives that the security of Israel and the program of attempting to replace middle eastern dictatorships with western-style liberal democracies are worthy goals on their merits, and that these goals are in the interests of the US and the West. It is certainly possible to make a case that they are wrong about this. It is even possible to wonder, creditably, whether they are sincere, whether they might indeed have ulterior motives that they have failed to disclose; or to point to perhaps unconscious motives that cloud their judgment. But, once again, when you begin the case by using arguments or language suggesting that the Jewishness of some of them is an important factor in your reasoning, you're on thin ice.
Drum's fourth ("they have a strong influence in the current administration") is true enough, but "they" is a bit vague. Neoconservatives? Jews? Neocons as a rule, but particularly the Jews among them? Since the thrust of the previous points is that Jewishness itself somehow generates or abets neoconservative positions, the ice is thin once again, though I'm sure he didn't mean to imply that Jews (as Jews) are inordinately influential string-pullers behind the scenes in Washington. Blacks, as individuals, are also influential in the administration; no one (it is to be hoped) would complain, on this basis, about sinister "black influence" in the White House however. Yet how often one reads, as a focal point of articles attacking the administration's middle east policy, a little list of "known Jews" close to the halls of power, and the complaint that this situation has not been sufficiently investigated or exposed by the press and the proper authorities?
(This is, admittedly, a skewed and inflammatory way of describing such analytical endeavors, which are often, no doubt, creditably motivated: yet why do critics of the "Jewish agenda" consistently choose to express themselves on such touchy issues in a way that is so easily mocked and open to the historically-evocative charge of "classic" anti-Semitism? If the real issue is the agenda itself, rather than the ethnic-religious background of the whisperers in the darkness, why make an issue of Jewishness at all? Presumably, such critics would disagree with the policies even if they were advanced by non-Jews. As many of those who advance them, in fact, are. Could it be that they believe that such criticism will get a more sympathetic hearing in some circles if it is framed in such a way as to allow it to be understood as anti-Semitic by those who think that way, while preserving barely plausible deniability among those who do not, or who shrink from leaving the impression that they do? That explains Buchanan, I have no doubt. Otherwise, it's a mystery.)
Kevin's fifth proposition ("lots of people have a strong distaste for the whole neocon agenda of remaking the Middle East in America's image") is indisputable. I believe Kevin Drum's dilemma is: how to express this distaste without running the risk of sounding anti-Semitic? It certainly should be possible to mount such a critique while scrupulously avoiding (if only as an inoculation against unwarranted accusations) making a major issue of Jewishness qua Jewishness. Strangely, that's a course very few critics of the neocons seem willing or able to take: often, the best they can manage is to excoriate, in advance, those who might respond as being too "sensitive." While they may be right about the sensitivity, it doesn't make the ice any thicker.
Kevin Drum is a smart guy and all around fine fellow, and I'm confident that there is not an anti-Semitic molecule in his body: yet even he, trying as hard as he could, couldn't manage to come up with five unequivocally neutral-sounding points on the issue. I'm not sure what to make of that, but it's fascinating.
Pinter or Ali?
The New Statesman now charges for 100% of its content on the web, so I rarely encounter the writing of Neil Clark when I'm not in England.
Clark is a genuine puzzle. If his determinedly perverse contrarian take on contemporary politics has a theme beyond contrariness/perversity for its own sake, it is defending the modern inheritors and practitioners of the Stalinist ethos. His "Milosevic, Prisoner of Conscience," upon which I commented last year, is no longer available on the New Statesman site, but here's the the Pravda version-- sub-head: "Neil Clark raises a lone voice for a man whose worst crime was to carry on being a socialist." And here's a nice piece where, as I pointed out here, Clark comes rather close to arguing that British interests would best be served by forming an anti-American alliance with Iraq and other "Ba'athist governments." (Fortunately, Britain has not taken Clark's advice; that is, Britain has not become France.)
Is he Harold Pinter, or Ali G.? That is: kook or satirist? I still can't decide.
But here, for what it's worth, is exhibit "C": a piece in today's Guardian denouncing assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as "The Quisling of Belgrade." Noting with disdain the western eulogies to Djindjic, Clark urges the reader to look "beyond the CNN version of history," and to see this assassination in the context of the unjust, perfidious desire on the part of western "serial regime changers" to topple benevolent and virtuous Stalin-esque strongmen like Slobo and Saddam.
In this article, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the tragedy of the erosion of "social ownership" of Yugoslav assets and enterprise; there is not one word about the "social murders" of thousands upon thousands of innocents under the genteel auspices of Slobo's Workers' Paradise. So it goes.
Clark predicts, and arguably appears to relish the prospect of, further assassinations of imperialist stooges by downtrodden Serbs, Afghans and Iraqis who have been deprived of their cherished leaders:
The lesson from Serbia for today's serial regime changers is a simple one. You can try to subjugate a people by sanctions, subversion and bombs. You can, if you wish, overthrow governments you dislike and seek to impose your will by installing a Hamid Karzai, General Tommy Franks or a Zoran Djindjic to act as imperial consul. But do not imagine that you can then force a humiliated people to pay homage to them.
Capping French glory was the news yesterday that babies in the Arab world were being named "Chirac," in tribute to the "peace-warrior President." In 1990, they were being called Saddam, and more recently Osama.
Beautiful Sore Losers
Jonah Goldberg's new column is about Moran and his fellow conspiracy-theorists:
that's why Moran, Buchanan, Matthews, Novak — and more leftists than I can count — should be ashamed. They've lost an argument. They lost it on the merits and they don't like it. In their arrogance or bitterness, they assume they couldn't have lost the fight fairly, and so they look for whispering neocons and clever Jews (or, in other contexts, nefarious oil traders). This is an ugly, ugly way to argue because it forces the opposition to prove a negative and it questions the patriotism of people who've never said an unpatriotic thing. In short, they are sore losers, and the farthest thing from beautiful.
The "argument" he's talking about is the one over whether Saddam Hussein should be deposed. But have "they", in fact, lost this argument? On points, they have, certainly. Long ago. But Saddam's still in power. Axis-funded terror campaigns continue apace. The danger of a future WMD-fortified attack on the West still looms, as yet unchallenged.
Meanwhile, our president is still on the phone pleading for Angola's permission (the wizard having unaccountably granted the gift of Courage to Mr. Blair instead.) I'm sure if he could figure out a way to duck out of the whole mess, he would jump on it. It's not just stubborn journalists with their own agendas who wish he would: the mass populations of entire nations, their leaders no less stubborn, no more agenda-free, share Buchanan's dream that he will do so; and in such nations, mirabile dictu, there is also a broad tendency to blame the Jews.
That blaming the Jews is wrong, practically as well as morally, is easily demonstrated. The G-file practically writes itself. Despite this rhetoric of desperation, the American public, still reeling from 9/11's trauma and having learned lessons from it that have eluded much of the rest of the world, will by all accounts support action, once their leaders finally get around to it. As they will, no doubt, eventually do. But if the "argument" about Saddam has been settled definitively, I must have missed it. Where's the kaboom?
UPDATE: A reader emails this quote from Andrew Sullivan's blog, which I had somehow missed:
I'm left with the conclusion that we will only get such a consensus in favor of pre-emption after the destruction of a major Western city, or a chemical or biological catastrophe. In this sense, Blair and Bush may simply be ahead of their time. And what they see as the potential threat is so depressing and terrifying that it's perhaps only understandable that the world for a while will wish to look the other way. The truth is and we may as well admit it: we have failed to convince the world, just as Churchill failed to convince the world in the 1930s. And as 9/11 recedes a little, we are even tempted to falter in this dreadful analysis ourselves.
Yesterday I noted a call-in to NPR's Talk of the Nation that seemed bogus. A couple of readers who also heard it have written to say that it sounded fishy to them as well. One suggested that these themes (the Kid-killing Military Dad, the Soul-searching Reluctant Cadet at the peace march) sounded as though they might have been taken from "talking points" provided by groups like Moveon.org. I did a cursory search, and found nothing that specific. Anybody?
Oriana Fallaci livens up the WSJ with indiscriminate blasts from her formidable rhetorical pepper-pot. You don't have to agree with all of it to take the meaning of her main point:
I do not believe in vile acquittals, phony appeasements, easy forgiveness. Even less, in the exploitation or the blackmail of the word Peace. When peace stands for surrender, fear, loss of dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. It's suicide.
By way of commenting on l'affaire Moran, Michael Kinsley has written one of those clever turn-the-tables columns at which he excels. Pro-Israel groups and lobbyists like AIPAC have power and influence, and aren't shy about proclaiming it, talking it up, even exaggerating it. Says Kinsley:
you shouldn't brag about how influential you are if you want to get hysterically indignant when someone suggests that government policy is affected by your influence
But Moran didn't just claim that pro-Israel groups were influential. He said that Jews (qua Jews) were responsible for the US's war policy which he found so objectionable; that, if they so chose, they could call the whole thing off; and that they really ought to abandon their sinister plans and do so. Kinsley's observations about AIPAC and other groups are true, unobjectionable, and unremarkable, ironic perhaps, but only in the current context. Without being hysterical, nor being particularly indignant, I can't help noticing that Moran's comments went a bit further than that.
Sleeping at Night
Feminists around the world had been screaming about the plight of the Afghan women under the Taliban for years. I had been one of those people. And now that the Afghan women are liberated, and the Taliban gone ... where are the feminists? They're taking their clothes off and spelling out "No to War", or holding up signs saying "Masturbate for Peace" at anti-war rallies. How do these women sleep at night, how do they reconcile this? Can they not at least acknowledge the success? Would they be jumping up and down with joy if a Democratic President had been in charge of making the Taliban disappear? If that is true, then again I ask: how do they sleep at night?
From Merde in France:
Towards the end of a televised debate on 'American Hyperpower' (Monday night, France2) with special guest Hubert Vedrine during which every hateful stereotype and slanderous insinuation were used to depict American policy, Robert Kagan summed up by stating that, if the show was itself representative of how the French media portrays America and George Bush, he was not at all surprised at the poor state of relations between the two countries.
Bush has become Bushy the Clown, wandering the halls of international diplomacy in big floppy clown shoes, humiliatingly begging for a crust of condescension from a circus audience that despises him, all the while beating himself in the head with a limp bladder.
God damn it, doesn't the man have any shame? Even Billy Jeff would never have groveled like this!
So is Krauthammer:
Why are we dallying and deferring at the United Nations? In your news conference last week, you said you were going to have people put their cards on the table. I thought it a lousy idea to call a vote we were sure to lose. But having made your decision, you are making it worse by waffling. The world knows you as a cards-on-the-table man. Now you're asking for an extension of time and a reshuffle of the deck.
If, for Blair's sake, you must have a second resolution, why include an ultimatum that Blix will obfuscate and the French will veto? If you must have a second resolution, it should consist of a single sentence: "The Security Council finds Iraq in violation of Resolution 1441, which demanded 'full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions.' "
The new resolution should be a statement not of policy but of fact. The fact is undeniable. You invite the French to cast what will be seen around the world as the most cynical veto in the history of the council, which is saying a lot. They may cast it nonetheless. They are, after all, French. But then they -- not you -- will have to do the explaining.
That's all you need. No need for elaborate compromises, stretching the timetable, or a tortuous checklist for Hussein to dance around. One sentence. One line. Cards on the table.
I just heard a peculiar call-in on NPR's Talk of the Nation. The topic was military families and the challenges they face in the current situation.
There's no transcript available yet, I'm not sure if I heard it right, but here's how I remember it:
The caller, whose incidental statements made it clear that she was something of an anti-war activist, referred to a couple of cousins who were in the military and who had small children. She said that one of the most difficult situations was the dilemma faced by parents who had to explain to their children that they were heading off to Iraq where they might have to kill kids just like them. Neal Conen, the host, asked, a bit dubiously, how the issue came up. The caller said "I asked them about it." It soon became clear that this wasn't a question raised by the children, nor a quandary faced by the parents, but rather a concern projected upon them by the caller. And not simply projected, but also foisted upon them.
Imagine that conversation. "Betty, have you told little Timmy that Bill is a child murderer engaged in acts of third world genocide yet?" "No, Carol. I'm waiting for the right moment..."
For all I know, this may really be a concern a concern of small children in military families, But the scenario didn't quite ring true, and the call may well have been bogus. She also mentioned a conversation with an "undercover" young member of the armed services at a peace rally, who raised similar concerns. That didn't ring true either.
Covering the Entire Market
Andrew Sullivan gets some pretty good letters, like this:
I'm out on the street smoking a cigarette and this black dude, wearing a "No War Against Iraq" T-shirt and a bag on his shoulder, comes up to me and asks, "Sir, are you against the war or for the war?" "For the war," I say, at which point he pulls a T-shirt out of his bag that says, "Kick Saddam's Ass!," and tries to sell it to me. I said, "No thanks," and he moved on. Is this a great country or what?
Married to the Blogosphere
Had this conversation with the wife today:
wife: What's the matter?
self: Just wondering about what's going to happen to Tony Blair and when the war is going to start.
wife: Oh, you and your war...
This Washington Post leader zeroes in on the Jim Moran situation:
Mr. Moran's comment will be used to concentrate the poison of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world where it remains virulent and dangerous.
Jews in fact are far from unified in their opinion of President Bush's Iraq policy. Nonetheless many people argue, often in more sophisticated ways than Mr. Moran, that the Bush policy is being engineered by and on behalf of Jews or Israel. At its most conspiratorial, the theory goes like this: A small group of Jews (sometimes referred to, in a kind of code, as "neoconservatives" or "neocons") decided years ago that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown to improve Israeli security. Evidence is contained in a memo that some of them wrote in 1996 for Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu. These "neocons" then insinuated themselves into the Bush administration and seized on 9/11 as the pretext to put their plan into motion. Mr. Bush and his top foreign-policy team -- Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet -- are presumably too weak and gullible to evade the manipulations of these Jews.
I agree with Bill Quick, that hounding Moran from office isn't the solution; depose the messenger and the message remains. Rather: criticize the message. Tease out the implications. Map out its ideological antecedents, place it in a historical context, identify its contemporary champions, etc. (If that process causes his constituents and his party to seek a better class of politico to represent them, so much the better.)
A correspondent or two has taken issue with my previous post that places Moran's statement in the Jewish Conspiracy Theory category. I think it does belong there, but I'll concede that Moran, universally acknowledged to be something of a nitwit, may not have really known what he was saying. But he ought to have known.
Eat Sand, Tree-hugger
Fritz Schrank has a lengthy and balanced post on the many-levelled ironies revealed by this NYT article on a controversial plan to "restore" Presidio Park's "original" sand dunes by chopping down a small number of non-native eucalyptus and cypress trees (a.k.a "wind obstacles.")
Apparently there's a species of flower that can only survive in cleared away, "restored" Presidio dunes and on a "hillside below a housing development" in Daly City.
That's pretty funny, as only something containing the words "Daly City" can be. But the funniest bit is the quotation from an angry editorial in a community newspaper by then-supervisor Leeland "the Lorax" Yee, who identified a bit too closely, perhaps, with the defenseless trees: "How many of us are `invasive exotics' who have taken root in the San Francisco soil, have thrived and flourished?" This isn't land management, it's genocide!
Here's another priceless quotable quote from a UC Berkeley professor of forest ecology: "Historic vegetation is another way of informing people about the past." Historic vegetation. Indeed.
For those whose work requires frequent contact with environmental regulators and/or activists, the self-righteous attitudes on both sides of this controversy will seem all too familiar. The irony is that in this case both tree-huggers and sand-lovers are smarting from being subjected to the superior tone they so often display to others, who may not share their sense of proportion about matters environmental compared to other social issues.
The other intriguing irony about this controversy is that it illustrates the all-too-human resistance to change. These folks seem to forget, however, that a seaside environment left to its own devices changes constantly.
Fritz asked me to comment as a Bay Arean on the raging controversy, which I confess I only found out about just now. Still, deep within my soul, as befits a true Bay Arean, there is nothing but bitter, divisive conflict. On the one hand, I really like all the eucalyptus trees, whatever their merits as "historic vegetation." I always have. They may be an "invasive species" but they're a comfortable, homey, welcoming invasive species, the kind of invasive species I can really get into. They've been a familiar, characteristic feature of the northern California landscape for my whole life. I can't imagine this part of the world without them. And even though they're not strictly "native," they're at least as native as I am. I'm not going anywhere, and I suspect that by and large, neither are they.
On the other hand, a whole mess of sand dunes down Presidio way would be hell of cool, to use a quasi-native East Bay expression. Way cool. So I'm pretty sure I'll be okay with whatever they decide, either way. Let me know when it's finished and I'll go over and check it out. Like it or not, that's pretty much kind of the just-about-native California way, dude.
Moran-gate vs. Lott-o-gate
Why isn't it a "Trent Lott Moment," as Glenn Reynolds described it? In the Lott case, virtually the entire right-leaning punditocracy came out with eloquent, often passionate denunciations of Lott and the deplorable views that appeared to be embodied in his remarks. Why hasn't that happened here?
As a matter of pure politics, it's obvious that Republican partisans had far more to gain by making an issue of Lott. Right or wrong, there was a real danger that the customary oblique hints that the GOP amounted to a "party of racism" would start sticking to the pan a bit more tenaciously in the wake of the Lott scandal. By mounting a high horse of moral outrage, and refusing to accept Lott's series of hole-digging "apologies," conservative commentators could neutralize the accusation, demonstrate a surprising (to some) sensitivity and depth of understanding of civil rights issues, undercut a persistent slur against them. They had little to lose (a sub-mediocre public figure who routinely did their cause more harm than good) and much to gain by seeking these brownie points. Perhaps one or two might have justifiably been accused of having protested too much, and there were those who doubted the anti-Lottists' sincerity. Overall, though, it worked; I think part of why it worked is that much of the outrage was bona fide, though some may disagree about how much. In any case, moral outrage is always more striking and effective when it comes "out of the wrong box." Trent Lott provided Charles Krauthammer and countless others with an opportunity for the journalistic equivalent of a kind of Sista Soulja moment in reverse. They took the opportunity, brought down their own Majority Leader, and emerged the better for it.
The Democrats are in a different situation. There is no lingering slur that they are a "party of anti-Semitism." They don't, as a rule, have an especially pressing need to reach out to Jewish voters. They have every reason to issue bland admonishments, accept Moran's rote cookie cutter "apology" and get on with their lives. While Moran-gate might grow into something more significant, I doubt Democratic operatives are losing any sleep over it.
Politics aside, though, I'd venture to posit another reason: many in the Democrat-boosting commentariat seem to share, at least to a degree, Moran's apparent worries about sinister Jewish influence upon the administration's Iraq policy. It's a familiar accusation. The organs of Arab governments and the European leftist press will come right out and say it: an enclave of Jews in the White House have hijacked American foreign policy, effectively substituting the interests of Israel's security for American national interests; there is no outcry about these American Likudniks because the Jew-dominated American media keeps a lid on it, refusing to expose them. American commentators rarely speak in such extreme or heavy-handed terms, of course, but the complaint is still very much in the air. Eric Alterman routinely refers to the "Likudization of US foreign policy" as the phenomenon "that dare not speak its name." (Mickey Kaus, has covered this extensively, here, here, and elsewhere.)
It's not, of course, that discussion of the effects of the pro-Israel point of view upon US policy is automatically illegitimate. Perhaps those who sympathize with the Israeli right are indeed more prone than others to believe that, when it comes to Iraq, the security interests of Israel and the US coincide and to seek military rather than diplomatic solutions. They may be wrong about this, and it's perfectly legitimate to raise the issue. (I think it's pretty hard to argue that they're wrong when it comes to Saddam Hussein and his quest to acquire nuclear weapons. Those whose interests coincide with Saddam and those whose interests coincide with us are as near to mutually exclusive as any geopolitical groupings can get. It should be noted, also, that this cuts both ways: one certainly gets the impression that some who oppose war in Iraq do so at least in part because they are dismayed at the prospect of a strengthened and more secure Israel.)
At any rate, there is a difference between on the one hand, saying that Paul Wolfowitz is wrong because he is mistaken and, on the other, saying that he is wrong because he is a Jew. In the hands of some, wittingly or wittingly, the line gets blurred. The worry is that such criticism can appeal to, and is inarguably sometimes intended to touch, much darker impulses. The recourse to the language of conspiracy theory ("cabals," "enclaves," etc.) may merely be a manner of speaking, but it's telling that those who indulge in it often fail so utterly to grasp that such words can have sinister implications. You'd think a politician like Moran would have the sense to realize that "blaming the war" on the Jews was, at minimum, going to sound "wrong" to many ears, just as you'd think that even a dullard like Lott would have thought better of praising Jim Crow.
Is this an indication of an anti-semitic tendency on the part of the Democratic Party? Of course not. Not even slightly. Nevertheless: I doubt that the left-leaning commentariat will come down on Moran the way the conservative commentariat came down on Lott because I doubt they can agree nearly as emphatically on what, if anything, was wrong with his words, or even indeed with his views.
The Portuguese Foreign Minister tells it like it is:
"Let us suppose Portugal, proper or its archipelagos, faced a threat, who would come to our rescue? The European Commission, France, Germany?
"I think it would be NATO who would come to our rescue, in other words, it would be the U.S., no one else would defend us. For instance, during the 1996 mission in Bosnia, operations took place with the support of 20 satellites, of which only one was European," and the remainder belonged to the U.S.
"If we were attacked, is that what they would offer to defend us? How curious is this: in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.
"Is this how we are supposed to project our forces in Europe? Are they planning to defend us with ferry boats?"
Tony Benn recently participated in an on-line chat Q&A session with Guardian readers. As British Spin points out, he simply avoided questions that challenged his point of view, which is what generally happens in celeb-chats. However, he also avoided many of the putative softball questions from ardent admirers. For instance, I would have liked to hear his answer to this one, from a questioner who calls him "one of the few credible and inspirational figures left in UK politics":
How democratic do you think the electoral system is in this country? and is there any other system that you have preference towards? what do you think about the Cuban electoral system?
I missed this point by point challenge to conventional anti-war propositions from Nick Cohen in last week's Observer. Is being "stuck with cold war slogans" a barrier to understanding as well as to effective argument? You bet it is.
Here's a good bit:
'There must be a better way.'
The imaginative failure of an anti-war movement which includes nearly every artiste in the country is a symptom of Britain's cultural impoverishment. My favourite protesters were the Royal Shakespeare Company actors who informed the world that their forthcoming performances of the Merry Wives of Windsor in Michigan would in no way imply that they supported war. Perhaps they will be able to imagine the desperation of Iraqis when they come to play Macbeth.
Did you hear Lawrence O'Donnell's fascinating description of the Clinton White House on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday? Susanna over at Cut on the Bias has transcribed that section of the interview. It's something else, far more effectively damning for its understatement than reams of histrionic partisan boilerplate:
Andy Card has run the most stable West Wing we have seen since possibly they built the West Wing. And he's a completely ego-less White House Chief of Staff who does a tremendous job and knows how to do it. I would have loved to have come into that kind of White House to do business instead of coming into a White House where people feared, who is going to tell this bad news about this vote count to the President's wife? Because no one wants to do that, because if they do they will be perceived by various people as an enemy, you know, it was madness, it was just madness, and unprofessional, and rampantly so... It was as bad as any Hollywood studio I ever had to deal with.
A Sign of the Times
Saddam's Secret Life!
Hussein's a transvestite!
His X-rated gay movies!
He Hates Hummus!
Spot the "conservative"
Richard Bennett, former hippie, responds to a trapped-in-amber "dude" from his college days:
"Maybe the question is how come your politics are the same as they were in 1970, not why mine have evolved with all my life experience since then..."
Hate Mail Revisited
A while back I noted with some puzzlement the fact that almost all of the hate mail I receive tends to feature slurs against homosexuals. I don't get it very often, but when I do get it, it's almost always along the lines of "you support the war? you must be some kind of sick homo." More elaborate and graphic than that of course, but that's the gist. I think that's pretty ironic, because the stereotypical "liberal" is supposed to look down on that sort of thing. I know I do.
Apparently, sfgate wack-ed writer Mark Morford gets the same kind of mail from "conservatives" in response to his anti-war columns. These letters are:
filled with flaming bile, with a rabid pro-military lust, homophobia like a calling card, aimed at me, at S.F, at progressives, at gays -- anyone, really, who is not in blind lockstep support of everything ShrubCo spins their way.
Here are the conclusions I draw: there is a certain sort of disagreeable person who, regardless of ideological posture or self-identification, believes that the most satisfying or effective way to express anger and opprobrium is to slather on the derogatory homoerotic language and imagery; and these types make up the vast majority of those who are inclined to express anger and opprobrium by sending hate mail to columnists or bloggers. All ideological persuasions are represented in this Venn diagram of kook discourse, though it may be that some of the circles are larger than some of the others. The intersection is assuredly a pretty ugly one. But then, we already knew that. Morford, however, has his own diagram: take a sheet of paper and draw a single vertical line around an inch from the left-hand side, which you label "us.") I wonder if he would be surprised to learn that his diagram is wrong. I know I was.
Here's another quote:
I get this a lot, too, in response to columns about, say, alternative religion, or spirituality, or progressive politics, or sex, or open mindedness or anything that rubs conservatives the wrong way, which is, of course, just about anything
On the other hand, if I were to judge solely on the basis of the hate mail I have received on the subject, I'd have to assume that antipathy towards homosexuals was an essential component of the anti-war position, that everyone who disagreed with me on the war had to be some kind of fag-bashing weirdo, and that this disagreement was of a piece with such base, anti-social, objectionable comportment, only to be expected of such horrid people, really. I'd be wrong about that of course.
I think Mark Morford should probably "read out" more often.
Don't be a Joey
I read the first chunk of this Rod Liddle column on torture of terrorists a couple of days ago, but I must not have made it to the end. As Natalie Solent points out this correction at the end is by far the best part:
The following correction appeared in the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column, Thursday March 6 2003
A description of the mole, in a column, G2, yesterday, referred to its "weird, spazzy, claws". The use of "spazzy" is totally contrary to the Guardian's approach to disability.
Iranian expatriate journalist Amir Taheri on the origins of the first Peace Movement:
today marks the 50th anniversary of Josef Stalin's death.
The Soviet dictator was the father of the first "peace movement," which for years served as an instrument of the Kremlin's global policy.
Stalin's "peace movement" was launched in 1946 at a time when he had not yet developed a nuclear arsenal and was thus vulnerable to a U.S. nuclear attack. Stalin also needed time to consolidate his hold on his newly conquered empire in eastern and central Europe while snatching chunks of territory in Iran.
Pablo Picasso, a "fellow traveler" with the French Communist Party, designed the famous dove of peace as the emblem of the movement. French poet Paul Eluard, another fellow traveler, composed an ode inspired by Stalin. The "peaceniks" were told to wear white shirts, release white doves during their demonstrations and shake their clenched fists against "imperialists and revanchistes."
Soon it became clear that the "peace movement" was not opposed to all wars, but only to those that threatened the U.S.S.R., its allies and its satellites.
Round up the customary bedfellows
Look who's writing op-eds for the Guardian now. Dark corners, indeed.
UPDATE: Tim fisks Fidel.
FURTHER UPDATE: Cinderella B.F. is on the case as well.
Sparks flew at an emergency Islamic summit today, with Saddam Hussain's deputy branding Kuwait's junior foreign minister a "monkey".
The virulent exchange began when Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Sabah, Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs, rose to interrupt , Izzat Ibrahim, vice-president of Iraq's Revolution Command Council, during an anti-US and Kuwait speech.
The Iraqi then unleashed a volley of abuse, aired live on Arab television: "Shut up you monkey. Curse be upon your honour, you traitor."
[LibDem leader Charles Kennedy] rejected Mr Blair's earlier comparison between those opposed to military action in Iraq and the people who appeased Hitler in the 1930s.
Mr Kennedy said: "I don't think that using words like appeasement in this context is appropriate. They just inflame the situation unnecessarily."
Are we really arguing at this stage... that the best thing to do is to start slaughtering people in their thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands...?
You can do what you want with me, but let the dictator go...
A Hawke's Bay woman has written a letter to US President George W Bush, offering herself for crucifixion in exchange for calling off the invasion of Iraq.
Mary Grierson, of Waipukurau, sent her challenge by e-mail to the White House and as an open letter to US newspapers.
She called on President Bush to send to his troops home and take her instead.
Ms Grierson says she would not make it easy for the US leader, as he would have to personally hammer in the nails.
Each little Stalin does the other ones' will
Johann Hari marks the fiftieth anniversary of Stalin's death with a superb column on contemporary Stalinists and their apologists:
I don't raise this only in order to provide a diverting history lesson. I raise it because Stalinism lives. Nazism is now a movement confined to the outer fringes of politics, yet Stalinists still control several countries and rule over a greater population than Tony Blair. Even after 50 years, the malign ideology of "Uncle Joe" has yet to join him in the grave...
Not only are there Stalinists in power today; there are apologists for them here in Britain.
For evidence of this, we only have to look at the most popular Stalinist nation on earth: Cuba. Every time I write about this, I am inundated with letters from enraged (and no doubt perfectly nice) hippies explaining that Cuban communism is all about being nice to children and cuddling small puppies who resemble Lassie.
Yet Fidel Castro recently, for the billionth time, explained his beliefs, and they are not so benevolent. Stalin "showed great wisdom", explains the billionaire leader of a bitingly poor nation. He continues: "Stalin established unity in the Soviet Union [by suppressing ruthlessly all the surrounding nations, and, for example, deporting the entire population of Chechnya to Siberia, as Fidel doesn't add]. He consolidated what Lenin had begun: party unity [by butchering all his opponents]. He gave the international revolutionary movement a new impetus. The USSR's industrialisation [through forced labour] was one of Stalin's wisest actions."
Fidel runs his country on precisely the same lines as his hero.
The far lefties who assume you agree with them, the really angry ones who are somehow also into good karma, the ones who simply cannot understand why any intelligent person doesn't believe that the U.S. is obviously a tool for corporate genocide or some such atrocity - here is one small part of their id.
The Americanization of Britain, continued
Stephen Pollard reports on academic standards and university admissions policy in Britain, which seems to be steering itself towards following the disastrous American model. The "flexible targets" are not identity politics-based, as in America, but rather are based on "class." The goal is an acceptable "social mix," to be encouraged by punitive funding sanctions leveled against institutions which don't meet the targets. The intended effect ("intended" because it is both means and end) will be to discriminate against students who have attended "good schools" in favor of those who have attended "bad schools," regardless of achievement or ability. Sound familiar?
Why not improve the bad schools? Easier asked than done, apparently. And "bad" is relative. Unlike in Britain, American high schools regularly turn out barely-literate graduates. The first year or two at an American university must be devoted to remedial education. Being able to read and write a coherent sentence puts you miles and miles ahead of most of your classmates. Ask any British exchange student: he or she will tell you that American undergraduate coursework is the easiest thing they have ever had to do, far less demanding than what had been expected of them in high school back home. The Brits have no idea how bad subliteracy can get when the educational system is set up to encourage it; but it looks as though they're going to find out.
Every Bit of Clothing Ought to Make You Pretty
Tony Blair gave a brief interview to the Guardian yesterday, described, with a several quotable quotes, here. "At various points in the interview, he betrayed his irritation with his party's left and with what he referred to as 'Guardian readers'." Hah.
Here's his response to a question about whether he is a true hawk or just a poodle in hawk's clothing:
"It's worse than you think. I believe in it. I am truly committed to dealing with this, irrespective of the position of America," he said.
"If the Americans were not doing this, I would be pressing for them to be doing so."
Meanwhile, LibDem leader Charles Kennedy (a sheep in sheep's clothing, indeed) can't even bring himself to say whether or not he'll "support the troops," as the saying goes, once the war gets underway. Whether or not it's true, as Iain Murray says, that courting the "Guardianista lecturers" in such a manner risks alienating the entire working class, one thing is clear: with an opposition like that, who needs sandals and muesli?
Are you tired of watching Steven Den Beste run circles around straw man-wielding, otherwise ill-equipped, opponents and demolishing them bit by bit, at a stately pace, with relentless logic and cold hard common sense? Me neither. Here's a fine example. Rather brilliant.