Friday, October 18, 2002

One of the things Noam Chomsky said in response to Shrubya's 'they hate our freedoms' speech was that most of the world did in fact not hate them at all. What they actually wanted was some of those freedoms for themselves. Too often have too many of those people struggled and bled for them, only to see the US drop 'em back in the mire. Just ask the (surviving) fifty-year-old democrats of Chile, Angola or Pakistan. Or go ask in Venezuela today.

Or - if I may restate my prediction of yesterday - the Iraq of 2003, where the explicitly democratic Iraqi National Congress is at sadly long odds to get Washington's nod ahead of yet another gun-barrel despot. If Iraq is nought but a way of getting at Saudi Arabia, the latter option is a shoe-in in Baghdad.

All this puppet-governments-and-B52s 'strategy' strikes me much as does a drunk's reach for the bottle at breakfast. It solves the hangover for the moment, but the underlying problem just gets worse. America needs the world's democrats on its side, and the world's democrats need the moral and material support of a democratic America. Yet Washington's dressing up of a grand imperial stategy (replete with the usual sledgehammer tactics) as the pursuit of the perpetrators of terror threatens not only to make terrorists of thousands of newly bereaved poor, but also the disillusionment and antipathy of hundreds of millions of the very people in whose name they purport to act. A half-hour's Google across the world's papers tells you that on any given day.

Me, I'm with David Anderson, a former Strategic Air Command Headquarters analyst, who wrote some sensible words for The (Florida) Ledger of October 16th:

"Unlike the superpower standoff, there has been no showing of a need to react swiftly to any threat from Iraq should one ever arise, which is extremely unlikely. Given that that is the case and will remain so indefinitely, there is no justification for prior approval to be asked for or to be granted. Saddam Hussein is a petty tyrant -- not a doctrinaire zealot who will commit his nation to guaranteed national suicide by attacking the United States even indirectly. Any Abomb (or fission-based weapons) he acquires in the next 10 years will be puny compared to an Hbomb, and he will have less than 0.0001 of the number of weapons the Soviets commanded.

The difference in power between an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb is as great as the difference between chemical explosives and an atomic bomb, and Saddam Hussein can very safely be deterred. Israel alone, with its ample and sophisticated thermonuclear arsenal, will be hundreds and probably thousands of times more powerful than Iraq. In time, Saddam and any supposed threat he may pose shall pass just as did the Warsaw Pact.

The risks of inflaming the Islamic world and fomenting greater instability to vast wavering regions far outweigh any possible gain. We have had no provocation from Iraq to justify such a move. Meanwhile, Afghanistan teeters between democracy and anarchy, Pakistan has major terrorist elements, Iran, which has supported terrorists, is inching toward more freedom and Saudia Arabia is ever a concern. We desperately need to increase stability -- not shake things up.

Attacking Iraq will be seen by the Islamic world, much of the Third World and even many advanced nations as an unprovoked grab for Iraq's oil reserves. In that event, we should expect a new spate of terrorist attacks that will be long, bloody and costly. No gain will accrue to repay such a reckless adventure, rather it will only complicate and distract us from the real job of seeking out and destroying terrorists and their bases."

In short, if the brief is to find and bring to justice the WTC and Kuta murderers, then it's a job for police. That's what police are for and, to the degree terrorists have been apprehended, it's been cooperative policing that's done the job. If military support is necessary, let it be in the form of a UN-sponsored and supervised police action, with eyes set firmly on the job and nothing but the job. Anything else simply belies itself imho.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Er, I left a 'not' out of "I don't think I'm out of order suggesting that a large, sustained, visible occupying infidel presence on Islamic soil is the way to go."

Ken Parish speculates, reasonably enough, that Unca Sam might want to grab control of Iraqi oil fields so that it no longer has its bloody mits tied by dependence on the oil of a problematic Saudi Arabia. Controlling oil has other advantages, controlling a strategic (the supply of which may possibly already peaked, just as demand projections are set to spiral) resource is generally considered good strategy; keeping the Russkis, Europeans and Japanese in their respective places would be a bonus (as per the Rumsfeld et al plan - scroll down for details); ensuring that people keep paying for oil in greenbacks is pretty useful while the greenback is teetering on the edge, too. And so's plain ol' sucking up a heap of wealth, of course.

But yeah, Ken could be on to something.

Saudi Arabia's ruling house is in disorder - half of it is committed to
the latest manifestation of the Wahhabist ideology to which the house
owes its genesis, and half of it is running shit-scared in a country
made rebelliously indignant by its charity-begins-at-the-palace approach
to budgeting. As ruling classes would do well to remember everywhere,
poor people get shitty. Demagogues like shitty people.

Unfortunately, Ken goes on: "If Iraq were liberated and governed by a
western-friendly (and hopefully democratic) government, so that
availability of its oil on ordinary commercial terms was assured,
America's hands would be freed to insist much more aggressively that the
Saudi Arabian government take effective measures against its own
citizens who are the REAL sponsors of most international terrorism."

"Liberated", mind. Ask the only democratic Iraqi entity there is, the Iraqi National Congress (INC) what they reckon the chances are of a liberated Iraq.

"The INC is yet another CIA invention which has spooked its creators," reported The Observer's Nick Cohen back in April. "It was formed in 1992 after the US insisted that all the Iraqi opposition factions established a united front. The US provided money, but as one INC leader said, wanted 'it to be a talking shop which would produce propaganda and give cover to America' as it arranged the installation of a more compliant version of Saddam. What was required was a Sunni hard man who would
repress the Kurds in the north and the Shia Muslims in the south, but leave Kuwait and Israel alone."

Apparently, the man Rumsfeld's Marauders want in the chair is one General Nizar al-Khazraji. Sure, he was Chief-of-Staff when Iraq popped into Kuwait for a bit (Observer, July 28 2002), and, yeah, he is under investigation for some unpleasantness concerning a few thousand Kurds back in '88 (but hey, everyone was doing it back then, and it's not as if Unca Sam minded ...), but he's now a sworn enemy of Saddam, a man who knows how to run an army (the INC persist in the daft notion the army, the only realistic medium of projected power, should be subject to democratic control), and not the sort of bloke who'd let the Kurds upset Ankara too much (the INC has some silly notion of affording the Kurds, concentrated near the Turkish border, a degree of autonomy that the Ankara elite - America's best friend from London to Tel Aviv - would find unsettling). And if al-Khazraji doesn't get the jumper, there are a dozen more where he came from.

And as for the merits of wasting thousands of Iraqis (not an inevitable consequence of invading Iraq, perhaps, but likely enough to render the invader culpable, imho) to get at a few nasty Saudis is (a) morally dodgy and, I suggest, (b) pragmatically dodgy. That Riyadh has the clout to sort the domestic problem (or even the inclination, depending on which palace faction prevails) is moot - the more western-friendly faction has been wetting the bed about the neo-Wahhabist zealots for years). That the goal of (possibly) eliminating (read 'martyring' if you're one of the indignant poor I mentioned earlier) a few hundred nasties is worth the risk of (probably) infuriating a few thousand unto effective nastiness is also moot. As speculation is thick in the air (Ozplogistan has, as Rob Corr says, gone off half-cocked on the Bali massacre), I don't think I'm out of order suggesting that a large, sustained, visible occupying infidel presence on Islamic soil is the way to go (it doesn't seem to be settling Afghanistan down for a start). If Rumsfeld's Marauders are even slightly less arrogantly blind than they seem, they'll have realised this. And that means Saddam's replacement, should Unca Sam succeed with the 'regime change' bit, would have to be the sort of bloke who can project and protect US hegemony for 'em while they quietly do their thing viz Saudi Arabia. I predict a uniform, a moustache, lots of shiny boots on lots of scrawny throats and the odd dodgy referendum ...

He'll probably need to be sanctioned a few years down the track, too, and another multitude of Iraqis incinerated or starved to make the point. But we'll have forgotten all this by then, no doubt.
Monday, October 14, 2002
PATRICK O'BRIAN - good physic indeed for blogorrheaic dismarrhoea

I am uncommon gratified to find the ever discerning Tim Dunlop blogging a hymn to He Who Must Be Read Forever By Everybody. HWMBRFBE (as I like to call him) was surely Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, and Charles Dickens come back to earth in more compact form. His mighty Aubreiad traverses the Napoleonic age to the strains of Locatelli, the bubble and hiss of unfathomed waters rushing by the taff-rail, and the insistent thunder of perfidious Albion's eighteen-pounders. Delighting at every sensuous shudder and sway of His Majesty's (purloined) Frigate Surprise, voluptuates the vessel's slave and master, Jack Aubrey (who is surely Horatio Nelson, Lord Wellington, Matthew Flinders, Marco Polo and Peter Pan come to earth in expansive form). Negotiating his return, with customary clumsiness, from a precarious perch at the futtock shrouds, whence had closely been studied a passing nondescript booby, stumbles Ship's Surgeon, natural philosopher, particular friend to the captain - and spy - Stephen Maturin, whose preoccupation with a binomial nomenclature which might do the bird justice will send him head-first down the companion-way for the second time that day. Maturin - clearly Joseph Banks, Watkin Tench, George Byron, GK Chesterton, Tom Paine, Ian Fleming and Thomas Bell brought to earth in uncommon scrawny form - will doubtless recover in time to afford his particular friend's artless spontaneity the counterweighing measure of reflection and finesse it requires successfully to execute the Admiralty's will.

As for the film, I should not hesitate but send it back was it not to
feature the Plum Duff and the Drowned Baby.

I should be uncommon sore tried, too, should they serve up a creation devoid of
(a) Stephen clumsily making his way through some beast-infested jungle, (b)
Stephen banging his head or falling overboard, (c) Stephen putting a
waister's brain to rights [I must see a trepanner before I die], (d) Jack
discoursing on women or promotion, (e) Jack going at it, toe to toe, with a
froward froggie, (f) a duet from the Great Cabin, (g) a crewman caught in
the 18-pounder's recoil, (h) Diana deploying the decolletage with malice
aforethought, and (i) the Reading of the Articles of War. These seem
relatively inexpensive must-haves to me.

Beyond that, I shall be most happy with many a wide shot of Surprise
sailing large and the odd rippling broadside. I should like to have
Spartacus as the theme (not merely because I'm a Godless Owenite, nor just
because it listens uncommon well, but rather because The Onedin Line proved
that Nothing Else Will Do).
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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