Tuesday, September 10, 2002
BLOGORRHOEIC DISMALISM: Of Blogistan, S11, and The Aftermath

Nowhere is Blogistan more passionately split than on the matter of S11 and the apparent links between that, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the one scheduled for Iraq. At the marked risk of stating the bleeding obvious, I shall try to elaborate.

One side says S11 was brutal mass murder, committed by vicious enemies of all we hold dear, whose slaughtered, maimed and bereaved victims were intended to be as numerous as possible, regardless of their demonstrable innocence. Such acts warrant a concerted response, violent where necessary, to bring the perpetrators to book and to minimise the chance of their like ever trying such a terrible outrage again.

The other side stresses that the ensuing attack on Afghanistan killed more innocents than terrorists (perhaps more innocents than were killed on S11, I do not presume to have a clue on that); was always likely to culminate in that way (given locally particular intelligence-gathering problems and the expected reliance on high-altitude bombing); evinced a typical neglect of the 'what then?' question; has probably not effectively killed off either al Qa'eda or its recruitment capacity; ignored the materially much more significant links between al Qa'eda with undemocratically-ruled Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (maybe we could add Egypt, Kosovo and even the US itself as significant links, too); and, just possibly, was exactly the kind of massive US response the al Qa'eda leadership was hoping to elicit in its campaign to raise the stocks of its strain of neo-Wahhabism in the Islamic world. This side also stresses that Iraq's (admittedly tyrannical) secular Ba'ath regime is as axiomatically opposed to neo-Wahhabism as liberal capitalist democracy, probably had absolutely nothing to do with S11, and constitutes no threat to the 'West' other than through its control of significant energy reserves (Iraq is hardly the most potent strategic power in the region these days, for a start).

Now, I can't find a word in either of those positions with which I disagree. As they're not mutually exclusive, that's not a problem, is it?

Furthermore, as something of a fan of lefty journalism, I followed Hitchens's attack on Chomsky quite closely at the time, and again found myself agreeing with the substance of both positions. Hitchens saw barbarism at work and said so. Chomskyites argue that US foreign policy was such as to elicit belligerent responses. Chalmers Johnson (no red-ragger himself) had been warning us of 'blowback' (itself of US-intelligence-community coinage) for years. Chomsky is clearly as passionately opposed to mass murder as any civilised being; all he did was broach the forbidden 'why' question. After all, 'why?' is one of the questions a detective must ask at the scene of a murder, because it helps identify the perpetrator and might help stop murder being done again. The detective does not legitimate the murder or blame the victim in asking it, surely?

S11 was a brutal and criminal slaughter of innocents - and brutal and criminal slaughter is the most awful and significant thing there is. But as *symbolism* it was an attack on *structures* (transnational finance and the executive, legislative and military apparatus of the hegemonic state). By itself, I do not think the slaughter of S11 and its designed symbolism would have carried the weight to strengthen the al Qa'eda cause. Most people do not tolerate mass murder, and are happy to oblige the forces of retribution and self-protection as they do what they must.

I think al Qa'eda was hoping Washington would react differently; that it would do more, even other, than it must. That it would go in mob-handed, too indiscriminately scorch earth and humanity alike, say silly things (eg. 'crusade'), attempt to pursue other policy ends in the name of the shattered victims of S11, antagonise millions, give apparent physical expression to that world-splitting old 'Clash of Civilsations' trope, and, ultimately, force potentially useful cleavages between secular and moderate Islamic leaderships and their constituencies.

Mebbe Washington is doing just that ...
Sunday, September 08, 2002

You're a very special person.

(translation: hardly anyone reads this blog).

People have told me they enjoyed yesterday's serve of quotes.

(trans: a very few people, rendered significant in number only by the miniscule population of which they are part, would rather I shut the fuck up for at least another day, and serve up another dollop of quotarrhoea).

So here goes. Today's theme is the one that exercises so many bloggers du jour: Iraq ...

Let's start at the beginning of chapter two: This from CBS News (4 September)

"With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.

Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld.

'Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not.' "


From which point we naturally move on to the definition of 'chickenhawk', provided for us here by indignant US veteran Allan Bazar:

"The issue with 'chickenhawks' ... is not their lack of military experience per se, nor the intellectual or moral authority of the military per se, but the hypocrisy of the 'chickenhawks!'. The issue is that these persons, in order to advance their personal ambitions, avoided participation in a war which they themselves advocated (either at the time or later) and that now, for the advancement of their personal ambitions, they are very willing to concoct one argument after another ... the end of which is the endangerment of others."

Another buzzflash reader elucidates:

"As for the case of George W. Bush, he did not simply serve "with the Air National Guard in Houston during Vietnam," as you so blithely put it; he was AWOL from that same Texas Air National Guard for a year. In fact, as I understand it, one is AWOL only for a month; after that, if one is still "gone," it is DESERTION."

And the good people at Buzzflash

editorialise by way of the following rhetorical question:

"Message to the White House: We would welcome a list of sons, daughters, nieces or nephews -- of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, or any member of the Bush cabinet -- who are currently on active military duty and are in units that might be in active combat against Iraq."


On to a quick reminder what this 'War On Terror' thingy is ostensibly all about from one William Jefferson Clinton, quoted in the September 5 San Francisco Chronicle

"Saddam Hussein didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden did, and as far as we know he's still alive ... I also believe we might do more good for American security in the short run at far less cost by beefing up our efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere to flush out the entire network ... We know they still have a terrorist network around the world, and we're already kind of changing the subject, looking at Saddam Hussein."

'Kind of', Bill? But I interrupt ... "He has maximum incentive not to use this stuff (the fabled weapons of mass destruction - ed). If we go, he has maximum incentive to use it because he knows he's going to lose ... What does this do to our standing in the world, if people think we just get up and take a notion to do it without going to the United Nations and trying to work with other countries? Do you want to run the world of the 21st century or do you want to lead it?"

A tad imperial at the end, perhaps, but a coupla good points made, I thought.


The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman in a 3 September Baltimore Sun column

"So why does Mr. Hussein want weapons of mass destruction? For their only real function - deterring other countries from attacking him. If he had nuclear
weapons, the United States would have to drop the idea of invading Iraq to overthrow its government. But if the only value of an Iraqi bomb is Mr. Hussein's
self-preservation, it's hardly worth going to war over.

For months, we've been wondering why the administration has been so reluctant to make the case for invading Iraq. Now we have the answer: Because there
isn't one."


And, finally, this rather poignant note, struck by MSNBC's 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews, in his final column for the San Francisco Chronicle on 1 September

"I hate this war that's coming in Iraq. I don't think we'll be proud of it. Oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred and the suicidal terrorism that comes with it. You talk about Bush trying to avenge his father. What about the tens of millions of Arab sons who will want to finish a fight we start next spring in Baghdad?"
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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