PICTURES AT A LIBERATION
"This war has been advanced on lie upon lie. Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for any role al-Qaeda may have had in 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attacks on this country. Iraq did not tried to acquire nuclear weapons technology from Niger. This war is built on falsehood." Rep. Dennis Kucinich, April 1, 2003
But then, we knew that. That's why the invasion of Iraq suddenly became a war to liberate the Iraqis - from the mob Washington put in charge after orchestrating the removal of the civilised and popular Qasim government and from the man whom they (and, yes, the French, too) armed and nurtured, whom they encouraged in his assault on Iran, to whom they gave their poisons, whose deployment of those poisons they approved against Iranians and tolerated against Kurdish civilians, and whose hand they smilingly shook ...
That last-minute 'liberation' ploy has hitherto been a winner. It becomes harder to sustain, though, as the slaughter done in its name mounts and intensifies. There are, for instance, ever more snaps
to suppress in America and expiate in Iraq. I know they're well up to the former challenge. The latter might test them a tad, though ...
"IRAQ AS THE TACTICAL PIVOT,
SAUDI ARABIA AS THE STRATEGIC PIVOT,
EGYPT AS THE PRIZE"
[Power Point Slide in presentation to erstwhile Defense Policy Chair Richard Perle, August 2002 - reported by *Washington Post*)
It's amazing how Colin Powell keeps going, doncha reckon?
Had he resigned but a couple of months ago, he could have kept his dignity and reserved his options. I mean, the guy couldabeen a contender! Now he's soiled goods - ungraciously marginalised by graceless idealogues at home and politely spurned by erstwhile friends abroad.
His awareness that, even after the demise of the Soviet Union, the USA's hegemony would be seriously and durably undermined if Washington did not observe international conventions and nurture its natural allies, was shared by neither White House nor Pentagon. Even senior subordinates in his own State Department were against him. His stunning military career and unrivalled military experience would've assured him status and respect in any other administration, especially one as short on military nouse as this one, but no dice. He still thinks the UN is essential to the fraught business of orchestrating a relatively peaceful and regionally acceptable 'transition' process. But he needs friends on the UN and supporters in the White House to make that happen, and he has neither. So now he's tried his very hardest to come up with a list of the best possible people to head a post-war bureaucracy of occupation in Iraq. Making the best of a bad job, so to speak.
True to form, Rummy's Pentagon has told him to file his list where only a proctologist with a pencil-light might read it. *The Independent*'s Rupert Cornwell
reports that Col's list, replete with the names of diplomats rich in high-level experience in the region, was deemed 'too bureaucratic' by the head of the world's very largest military bureaucracy. Rummy thinks Gung-ho Garner would be much more ably assisted in his mission to befriend the Iraqis and reassure the region by the likes of Ahmed Chalabi (whose resume may be found under 'Fugitives From Jordanian Justice' or 'Great PR Inventions Of The Twentieth Century'), and James Woolsey (look under 'Erstwhile Company Head-Spooks' or 'Members of PNAC's Committee for the Liberation of Iraq'
So Woolsey is part of the PNAC mob. Want to know more? Well, he's just promulgated his Plan For Peace, and it really is boilerplate PNAC fantasia. Some choice cuts follow, lifted from a CNN piece
by Charles Feldman and Stan Wilson (Thursday, April 3):
"Former CIA Director James Woolsey said Wednesday the United States is engaged in World War IV, and that it could continue for years ... 'This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War' ... He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the 'fascists' of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda ... 'As we move toward a new Middle East,' Woolsey said, 'over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous' ... Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, he said, 'We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you -- the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family -- most fear: We're on the side of your own people.'
I'm not sure a diplomat rich in high-level experience in the region would've expressed those sentiments; at least not quite in those words. And I'm not at all sure a few diplomats rich in high-level experience in the region wouldn't be a rather better idea ...
I also note that those amongst Mubarak's and Saud's 'own people' who hate their rulers most remember fondly a couple of blokes the rest of us seem to have forgotten: al Qa'ida's Zawahiri is from Egypt and al Qa'ida's bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia, each a sworn enemy of both regimes. Unless I miss my guess, these blokes have been laughing like drains for a fortnight.
Rummy seems bent on keeping the laughs coming.
It may be, dear reader, that the cure for blogorrhoea is at hand. If a war is tragically pointless enough, if the most strenuous flights of the imagination can not conjure a better future in consequence, if the society and the mediascape one inhabits do not allow a moment's succour, and all one hears invites bemused disbelief - why, then the blogorrhoeaic must admit that he is left without premises for his reason and without hope for his affect. And dismarrhoeaic blaryngitis prevails.
So to self-medication. A tub of port, a wall of Duane Eddy and the revitalising spark that is Hannah Arendt's 'Truth and Politics' seems indicated. And the telly OFF.
Back when my default pathology reasserts itself.
Here's some flotsam thrown up by an evening's surf:
"… The captive Iraqi boy who was asked why he fought so overwhelming a foe merely muttered: "It’s my country."
(Lifted from Simon Jenkins' 28 March *London Times* article 'Baghdad will be near impossible to conquer'
"The Defense Department claims an accuracy rate of 95 percent for the 'precision-guided munitions.' That means if you throw a thousand 'smart bombs,' fifty of them turn out to be idiots."
(Lifted from the inimitable Max Sawicky
"I mean does anyone doubt that, if their war takes a bad turn, however briefly, Rummy and Paul and Dickie Perle would hesitate to throw the professional military under a bus to cover themselves?"
( Eric Alterman
reading Tommy Franks' mind?)
"A saving-short US economy has had to import surplus saving from abroad - mainly from Asia but also from Europe -- in order to sustain economic growth. And the US has had to run a massive balance-of-payments deficit in order to attract that capital. America’s current-account deficit surged to an annualized $548 billion in the fourth quarter of 2002, a record 5.2% of GDP. The financing of such a shortfall requires $2.2 billion of capital inflows each business day -- hardly a trivial consideration for a low-return, post-bubble US economy. Nor is this a stable situation. As America’s federal budget goes deeper into deficit, the country’s net national saving rate -- consumers, businesses, and the government sector, combined -- could easily plunge from a record low of 1.6% hit in late 2002 toward "zero." If that occurs, the US current-account deficit could approach 7% of GDP -- requiring about $3 billion of foreign financing each business day. History is pretty clear on what happens next -- a classic current account adjustment. This will entail a very different macro outcomefor the United States -- namely, a weaker dollar, higher real interest rates, and a slowdown in domestic demand. That’s precisely the scenario that a dysfunctional world is completely unprepared for."
( Morgan and Stanley's Stephen Roach
, giving the lie to the refrain of the unbowed Street Hacks that the world's equity markets - and the economies they purport at once to drive and reflect - would be going an absolute treat but for the war.)
Oh, and one for the lest-we-forget files, lifted from Les Dabney's fine blog
"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
(US Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, Chief US Prosecutor at the Nuremburg Tribunals, saying the sort of thing people actually used to agree with on 12 August 1945.)
ONE LAST MISERABILISM BEFORE SEEING IF I CAN'T BLOG ABOUT SOMETHING THE HELL ELSE
The all-night news tells you nothing and repeats it every ten minutes. And every hour or so we're treated to a president or a prime minister, waxing indignant about the tactics of defenders who are merely doing what defenders always do in circumstances of such profoundly asymmetrical warfare.
I did discern two meaningful interruptions to the crass hype, earnest repetition and dreadfully significant distant plumes.
The first was provided by Al Jazeera, whose presence at the pointy end of war allows them to assail the blogoshed with footage of little kids, their brows creased with pain and confusion, their tummies wrapped in bandages, their parents pale with anguish.
The second came from the Beeb herself. I heard and saw soldiers being impatient, disenchanted aggressive, bemused and indignant. Pretty typical of humans at war, you might say, but the thought occurs that the professional soldiers of liberal democracies are a peculiar lot. I've spent more than my drinking allowance with a fair few in my time and what I observed across the froth was typically pride in the profession, an almost anachronistic (but impressive) preoccupation with honour, and a suspicion that civvies weren't inclined to extend them the credit their professionalism and code were due (not in times of peace, anyway).
Such people would be hurt indeed were they to discover that most on the ground did not see them as the virtuous saviours they wanted to be ... would be frustrated at not being able to express their virtue because friend cannot be distinguished from foe ... would be disappointed at having to risk their lives in a war becoming ever dirtier towards an end ever less likely ... and would be fearful those at home might parlay outrage at the unfolding tragedy into an unwarranted loathing of the services.
Guerilla warfare exacts an appalling emotional and moral toll. Economic and temporal, too. Whilst recent history doesn't evince too many instances of outright victory going to the guerillas (although Algeria and Cuba have proven that it's not impossible), it does teach us that such insurgencies can go on for economically devastating years upon brutalising years. And that, it seems to me, is what the coalition has spawned in Iraq. I don't know how powerful coalition PR is, but I dare say even now some of 'em are dreaming up scenarios under which an invasion-validating qualified victory may be claimed and a quagmire avoided. I don't think we should expect such circumstances though. If the House of Hussein survives, a substantially united Middle East (as Hitler said, it's easier to unite a people against something than for something) will have a new focus for a pan-Arabic inspiration of martial disposition. If Saddam is killed, he's already likely to become a world-historic martyr to many, and the eagreness of anglo populations to bring their lads and lasses home will culminate in the imposition of exactly the same sort of 'hard-man' comprador Saddam was when the CIA helped him and his Ba'ath Party to overthrow Qasim and his lefty nationalists. And if the neocons manage somehow to stick to the script, the coalition will exploit their tenuous foothold in Iraq to extend this hopeless nightmare to Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. If it's not too late now, it will be then.
More immediate is the risk that some young soldiers - risking their lives, as far as they are concerned, for the good of others - might eventually submit to the fear and indignation guerilla warfare perpetuates so well. If everyone you hoped to liberate glares their contempt and suspicion, and if you're losing friends to snipers and bombers who look just like everyone else - *and these are precisely the circumstances of insurgency against which many Vietnam veterans had warned* - well, I wouldn't like to answer for how I'd behave after a few weeks. I can't help feeling that somewhere down this awful road we're on is either a Beirut truck bomb or a My Lai. If Basra and Baghdad don't fold quickly, it could be both, and on an awful scale.
It's probably already too late to hope for a post-invasion peace (Professor Des Ball of the ANU seems to think so: "the political objectives, and those are the reasons for going to war, are probably lost," he said today - perhaps Don Rusmfeld thinks so, too; he was certainly quick to put General Franks' name in the frame, anyway).
If too late it is, the rest of this hopeless war - in all probability the bulk of it - assumes a truly tragic aspect.