Krugman on Bremer's money woes

Krugman continues his lone-voice-in-the-big-media act. When will the grown-ups be coming back, anyway?

One quick, unrelated comment: liberals and others like to feel smug and superior because they are smart and their president, George W. Bush, is an imbecile. But I wonder how they feel now that their favorite golden boy, Howard Dean, has revealed his own extreme ignorance of the Middle East. Tom Tomorrow links to a WaPo article in which Dean expresses his the-US-must-stay-in-Iraq sentiments. A big reason for this, Dean thinks, is because the US must teach the Iraqis about "laws" and "institutions":
"You've got to have institutions and the rule of law, and in a country that hasn't had that in 3,000 years, it's unlikely to suddenly develop by having elections and getting the heck out."
I'm sure that the emperors of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia (not to mention the Parthians, Sassanians, and Abassid caliphs) would be quite surprised to find out that their empires did not enjoy the "rule of the law". But, then again, they would have been more likely to chop off Dean's head than vote for him. Dean's ignorance of non-Western civilizations is, unfortunately, not surprising, but in his moment of cultural superiority, he overlooked a period in which Iraq was ruled by Western (i.e., "law"- and "institution"-friendly) types - the Seleucid period following the conquests of Alexander the Great (after ca. 325 BCE - well within Dean's timeline). In fact, the capital of the Hellenistic Seleucids was at a little place called Selecuia-on-the-Tigris, not too far from Baghdad (NOTE: Tom Tomorrow recognized Dean's mistake; no slight to Mr. Tomorrow).

If it seems like I am focusing a little too much on the ignorance of important people when it comes to the Middle East, it is because this ignorance is getting people killed every day.

Dead people everywhere

Remember those glory days, when the US could go into a Third World country, depose the ruler it put there in the first place, and then return home, high on the feeling of kicking butt, American style? Certainly you remember those triumphs of American military intervention in places like Panama, where rock n' roll played a part in getting rid of the evil, twisted Manuel Noriega? And who could ever forget Grenada, the key to the entire "free world" back in 1983?

Well, those good old days are over. Now we are in the bad new days, thanks to the president of the United States, George W. Bush, and his ideological masters Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfie. The US continues to get one bloody nose after another in Iraq, due in large part to the absolute ignorance of the criminals - listed conveniently above, for any law enforcement officials who may be reading this page - who "planned" this disaster. The car bomb in Najaf, which killed over 80 people, including SCIRI leader Al Hakim, follows earlier thrashings administered at the Jordanian embassy and the UN headquarters. Noticeably lacking are feathers in the hat - except for those worn by the CEOs of companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, which continue to pull in money hand over fist while Iraq burns, thanks to a little thing called nepotism.

But the worse thing is that ordinary Iraqis - yes, the same ones the US was supposedly rushing over to save - are dying at an ever increasing rate. This is in addition to ordinary US soldiers, nearly 300 of whom have now died in Iraq. The US either cannot or will not do anything to protect a) its allies in the region (Jordan); b) the international community (represented by the UN) the Bush administration is so fond of talking about when it suits their purposes; and now c) Iraqi political figures who would form the backbone of any kind of civil society that would take shape in Iraq. Bush's yokel pledge to "provide security against those who try to spread chaos, or settle scores, or threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq" might now be laughable, if it were he and his cronies - or the members of the American Enterprise Institute, who happily and self-contentedly applauded this garbage - who were the ones at risk of being blown to bits in car bomb or being shot in the head by a sniper. Meanwhile, US soldiers keep guard at Iraq's central bank and oil ministry, ensuring that no harm will befall these important insitutions, even if the rest of the country slides all the way into hell.

One thing that needs to be said is this: the US's adventure in Iraq should be recognized as a failure of the Israeli approach to dealing with the Middle East. As I and other people pointed out earlier, the government of Israel was a leading proponent of US military action against Iraq. Many members of the Bush administration - not coincidentally the same ones pressing most for the war - have very, very close ties to the Likud party and Sharon. They are more than fellow travellers with Israel's project in the Middle East - they are active, ideologically committed participants. Israel's approach to solving problems has not made anything better in Palestine and it did not make anything better in Lebanon, a big part of which it occupied from 1978 until 1999. Now that the US has adopted the Israeli approach to dealing with the Middle East, things are getting even worse (which is saying something). Recognition of this fact would be the first step in bringing peace to the region.


Hot damn I'm good.

From turningtables, a US soldiers blog.
the militants/terrorists/freedom fighters are using all kinds of methods that are quite ingenious...good ideas that will end in american death...they are using kids to stop convoys...they set up fake bombs to make convoys stop far from the supposed bomb...only to detonate other hidden bombs where you have stopped...the use pot holes filled with bombs and dirt...and coke cans filled with c-4...it's a crazy mad freighting world out there...and tomarrow...i get to convoy...i'll take my camera...
What did I tell you? Here's what I told you, a month ago. You can't "vigilance" your way out of this one, soldiers.

Dick, energy policy, and obstruction of justice

See Dick. See Dick run. See Dick obstruct justice and block inquiries into Bush administration connivance with corporate manipulation of the US energy market.



Lately I find myself daydreaming about telling Tom Friedman to his face what a useless asshole he is. By the looks of the blogosphere, lots of people are having the same fantasies. But today's New York Observer also gives him a well deserved skewering:
He writes dismissively of "the wall in the Arab mind." It's one thing when George W. Bush and the right-wingers demonstrate blanket insensitivity to Arab societies. They would be that way. They would, after all, heedlessly cause the destruction of the Iraqi museum, the dispersal and erasure of its cultural treasures. But Thomas Friedman's constituency is liberals, the museum audience. This makes his point of view more significant.

Sure, the venue ain't exactly a newspaper of record, but unlike lefty blogs, he might actually read this one. You should too.

Stone on Bush

Oliver Stone comparing Bush to Castro: "I see George Bush as a synthetic person. He's a C student at Yale, an ex-alcoholic who believes in Jesus - what could be more dangerous?"

Children's book on intifada under fire

Pro-Israel pressure groups are demanding that Macmillan publishing house withdraw a fictional children's book about a boy growing up during the intifada.

The logic behind this demand for censorship is clear: every effort must be made to persuade the world that people in the Middle East, and especially Palestinians, do not share "our" standards of justice and fairness; the experiences of Palestinians - including childhood and the transition to adulthood - cannot be comprehended by people coming from a "Western" perspective (and those who try are, clearly, "terrorist sympathizers" or the like); in fact, Palestinian children are qualitatively different from other (e.g., Israeli) children, in that their sufferings are not important or real enough to merit any kind of attention; and anything which portrays Palestinians as human beings, with the same thoughts, feelings, and struggles as other people in the world, must be suppressed at all costs.


US recruiting ex-Saddam regime spies

Could there be any better way for the US to express its appreciation of the Iraqis' human rights, than to recruit the very same spies whose informing sent thousands to Saddam's torture chambers and mass graves? The principle of the Bush regime's war for the Iraqi people is clear in the statement of one of the officials in charge of the recruitment drive:
"Pragmatically, those are people who are potentially very useful because they have access to information, so you have to compromise on that," he said. "What we need to do is make sure they are indeed aware of the error of their ways."
Right... such high moral and ethical standards can only be admired. According to this kind of thinking, why shouldn't the US just reappoint Saddam himself as Iraqi leader - as long as he shows enough contrition, maybe a tear or two, and a promise never to do it again?

As usual, the latest American effort shows how far the Bush administration has its collective head up its collective ass. Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle and the rest of these pricks were wonderful at sitting around during the Clinton years and coming up with bullshit pipedream plans about reshaping the Middle East. But it's clear that their talents did not extend to planning for the most rudimentary post-war necessities - like water and electricty. Most painfully clear is how little they understand the Middle East and the people living there.

Just a few points to keep in mind while waiting for this newest "plan" to go down in flames: How will the US know that their new informing mercernaries won't use the US and supply intelligence to guerillas? How will the occupation forces know that they are not being "played" or fed false information by these experienced intelligence officers whose jobs entailed lying, deception, and violation of trust?

If the US is so in the dark about what is going on in Iraq that they have to recruit these type of people to work for them, how do they intend to vet their recruits? By hiring other spies to spy on the spies?

And how will Bremer and his lackeys know that these ex-spies won't be spending their US-taypayer-funded-check to buy crack cocaine - or more and better weapons for their guerilla colleagues/friends/relatives/co-religionists/fellow pan-Arabists?



Daniel Pipes is appointed to the United States Institute of Peace. Peace!? You've got to be fucking kidding! Folks, we're really through the looking glass now. Pipes is one of the most bilious, racist, hate mongers of our times. He wouldn't know peace if it kicked him in the nuts and stole his wallet.


Report: 43% of Palestinian residents of downtown Hebron forced out

Ha'aretz article citing a B'Tselem report which found that 43% of the Palestinian residents of downtown Hebron have been forced out of their homes:
In addition, at least 2,000 businesses in the West Bank flashpoint city of Hebron have closed, and three schools, which served 1,835 students, were taken over by the Israel Defense Forces and closed, B’Tselem found.

The report cites the primary reasons for the Palestinian flight as being violence committed by the Jewish residents of Hebron and by security forces, the hundreds of days curfew imposed on the area over the last three years, and the closing of businesses.
Ethnic cleansing, slow but steady.


Corrected Ha'aretz editorial

Reading Ha'aretz's editorial today, entitled "There is no right of return", I noticed that there were a few problems in the honesty, moral integrity, and not-being-incredibly-hypocritical departments. Below are revised passages from the editorial that rectify these shortcomings (corrections/additions in italics):

Palestinian Authority External Affairs Minister Nabil Sha'ath chose Lebanon, an Arab state that denies the most fundamental human rights to a myriad of Palestinian refugees, as a base from which to unleash a provocative declaration regarding the right of 1948 refugees to return to Haifa. It is understandable that Sha'ath chose Lebanon, though, since Israel - the state that denies the same fundamental rights to the same exact refugees and is, in fact, responsible for their predicament - would never let the Palestinian minister speak any of these words from his native land, much less let him live there.
Speakers [at a recent rally]... attacked Dr. Khalil Shikaki, head of the public opinion research institute in Ramallah, who released a comprehensive survey showing that only a minority of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and the territories want to redeem a right of return to Israel. Of course, we at Ha'aretz would never recommend that the Palestinians' right of return be recognized and Dr. Shikaki's findings be tested. We simply like to trot this research out for propagandistic reasons and validation of Israel's barbaric policies.
The Palestinian leadership would be well advised to take very seriously the united front in Israel that opposes a right of return. This is especially important for them to do so that they can sign a peace treaty before the apartheid nature of Israeli society becomes impossible to hide behind a 10-year-old sham of a "peace process". The most committed supporters of the Oslo Accords believe that a concession of refugees' right of return to Haifa can be traded fairly for a concession of Jews' right of return to Hebron. Oh, wait - we fucked up. We entitled our piece "There is no right of return". But now we are conceding that the Palestinians do have a "right" and that it does involve a "return". How did that make it into the paper? Where are our ideological commissars? Are we losing the ability to continue the mental and moral gymnastics that make both uncritical support of Israel and the carefree trampling of an entire people possible? Israel, just like the PA and Arab states, should have an interest in the search for a just solution for hundreds of thousands of stateless, disenfranchised people who live in, and outside, refugee camps. We had tears in our eyes thinking while writing these sentiments about their situation - really. But this solution cannot include a return of refugees to the State of Israel; instead, the return should be to the Palestinian state that will arise alongside Israel. We at Ha'aretz don't believe in the concept of countries taking responsibility for their crimes, nor in the idea of justice, nor in the idea of people being able to live their lives without facing the prospect of ethnic cleansing.


US used napalm in Iraq

When is napalm not napalm? Apparently when the US army says it isn't:
The Pentagon said it had not tried to deceive. It drew a distinction between traditional napalm, first invented in 1942, and the weapons dropped in Iraq, which it calls Mark 77 firebombs....Officials said that if journalists had asked about the firebombs their use would have been confirmed. A spokesman admitted they were "remarkably similar" to napalm but said they caused less environmental damage.
Makes one wonder why they don't call it "Super-Happy-Fun-Ball" or something like that.


Long live the king

AFP photo

For a bit of an explanation, see below.

At least 11 killed in car bombing at Jordanian embassy in Baghdad

Another feather in the cap of the US occupying force in Iraq - at least 11 killed in a car bombing at the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad (AFP article adds bits on Chalabi and some possible motivations for the attack).

I know that Mano Negra will have things to say, but here are a few bits to consider while forming ideas about this incident:

1) Something I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere - this car bombing of an embassy happens 5 years to the day after the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Draw your own conclusions.

2) Many people are pointing to Jordan's recent decision to grant asylum to Saddam's daughters as a possible motive for the attack. In my opinion, this could be part of it or something like the "final straw" - but it doesn't explain everything. There is a long history of uneasy relations between Iraq and Jordan. The fact that Jordan is increasingly being seen as the US's best "Arab ally" probably also played a part in the targetting of the embassy.

Half-assed US-Iraq media effort fails

For all the US administration's bitching about Al Jazeera and its responsibility for all the misfortunes that the US is now facing in Iraq, its efforts to provide an alternative are simply laughable:
Last April Mr Rikabi, who had been head-hunted by the Americans, announced the overthrow of the Iraqi regime from a tent near Baghdad airport.... He then helped to recruit a team of journalists that started TV transmissions lasting up to 16 hours a day. But the channel was dogged by a lack of money and resources.

The station was provided with only three studio cameras and five portable cameras, Mr Rikabi said. For the five portable cameras, they were allowed only 10 rechargeable batteries lasting 15 minutes each.

There was also a clothing allowance for newsreaders, but only to clothe the visible top half of their bodies.
It's like the Bush administration is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole while banging its head against the wall.


FUCK! ...tell me you didn't lose bayonets... my battleaxes? .... the swords too? You moron! We're finished!

Acting on a tip, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division raided the Baghdad house of a former Saddam Hussein loyalist and seized items including two AK-47s, 11 bayonets, more than 550 rounds of ammunition, two protective masks, 31 protective mask canisters, three swords, two axes and documents, according to Central Command. Four people also were arrested, the command said.


Is this for real?

Am I dreaming? Could this story be true? I know it's really just another one of the administration's trial balloons (so the whole idea will run afoul of AIPAC and be retracted within a week), and I hate sounding like Mr. Optimist, but if Bush really were to threaten Israel's funding, then let me be the first to say it's about fucking time!

And there's this choice morsel from the article:

An Israeli official said tonight that word of the administration's move, which was first disclosed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, had not been transmitted to Mr. Sharon's government. "This takes us by surprise."

Heh. Nothing like using surprise to cut off terrorist groups from their cash supply.

Update: Now the administration is denying that this is on the table. Looks like I was right about the "trial balloon" thingy.


Who am I? What's my job again? Ashcroft steals Greenspan's schtick.

Ashcroft held a press conference. I note a striking similarity between Ashcroft and Greenspan soundbites. It's all a part of the post-information age (I'm coining that phrase - heh heh!). Words do indeed come out, but its difficult to say whether, taken together, they convey any information.
"We continue to develop information that leads us to believe that al Qaeda wants to continue to strike the United States," Ashcroft said Sunday.

... "The kinds of efforts that we're making, the kinds of information we're sharing with the American people, signal that we believe that there is such a potential -- but that we minimize the potential whenever we're alert."

... "I feel confident that more than 100 activities on the part of al Qaeda have been disrupted and interrupted around the world," Ashcroft said. "I don't know if I would say they are all al Qaeda. The network of terror has a changing face and there are different aspects of it and different players."

Note to self: fix time machine before typing press release from future.

Enjoy a blast of fresh air from Iraq, courtesy of morons at Associated Press and picked up by bigger morons at the SF Chronicle:
U.S. military reports second straight day with no American combat deaths: For a second straight day, the U.S. military reported no fatal attacks Sunday on American soldiers in Iraq.
Now, enjoy a blast of hot air from the memory hole as it swallows up the words of another moron. The sentence is flat out wrong, as you can see by this NYT piece, printed BEFORE the chronicle picked up the AP newswire. It is also potentially troubling (depending on how you read this jibberish -- we're probably taking more time to read it than this Blair wannabe at AP took to write it) if you note that it is sunday TODAY -- so 2 days haven't passed yet. You can also note that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between the US military reporting two days without deaths, and the us military NOT reporting combat deaths for two days. I'd like to see the PRESS RELEASE the US military produced, or a source the AP is willing to quote as saying there were no American combat deaths. Probably a different military source than the one used in the NYT piece which produced this information:
A homemade bomb exploded under a convoy this morning, killing two American soldiers and their interpreter, and a grenade attack Friday night left another American dead, military officials said today.
The astute reporter might note that the US military is delaying reports of their casualties and messing with the causes of death and doing other sketchy things (A GOOD READ), possibly preparing to phase out the casualty reports all together. They are also doing creative things to minimize the reports of wounded soldiers.

Update: So I called the good people at the AP. They say that they spoke to the military, which insists the Times is wrong. Then again, the Times piece cites the US military. My money is on the NYT. The story stinks anyway. Even according to CENTCOM, there was an RPG casualty Fri 10:30 PM. The article talks about 2 days. Wieners! That's not a story. Watch the CENTCOM releases, we'll see if they change the story.


Saddam: too hot to handle?

Bushies are trying to figure out if they can get away with telling the public they are just, flat out, not going to take him alive. This is getting really interesting.


A kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid

If the Americans are to be believed, Iraqi tipsters are on the increase. If this article is to be believed, American protection for them is not.

Problems masquerading as solutions, pt II.

This reuters article quotes Col. David Teeples, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment:
Over the past two weeks, his forces have witnessed an escalation in attacks by improvised explosive devices -- TNT, plastic explosive and propane cylinders hooked to electrical wires triggered by remote control devices.

U.S. troops have responded by stepping up highway patrols in an effort to stop the bloodshed.

"Any piles of sand, bags, garbage, tires, anything that may be close to the road is going to be taken very cautiously," Teeples told Reuters in an interview in his command center in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces on the edge of Ramadi.

"It is going to be cleared with a bulldozer or there will be action by the convoy against those that may be close enough to command detonate that."
This is where it gets interesting, folks. Any Iraqi, armed with only a shoebox or a discarded tire, can stop an entire American military convoy at will and cause chaos. The US may as well start travelling in bulldozer convoys rather than humvees. This is "militarily impractical". Either the US will get sloppy about trash in the street, and keep getting blown up once in a while, or Iraqis will be able to begin the intifada of trash-in-the-streets.

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