blogorrhoea
Saturday, April 12, 2003
 
Who broke my lovely blog?

Apologies in advance for a series of tests and sobs ...

UPDATE: Heartfelt thanks to Zem, Tom and Bill Horn for their kind offers of assistance. Which I was able gratefully to decline, because Tim Dunlop had already surfed to the rescue. Thanks mate.
 
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
 
SIGH

PNACer John Bolton is bent on grabbing the moment: "We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest."

Erm, how would THAT be the 'appropriate' lesson? They might learn the lesson that if Unca Sam wants you, he's gonna come and get you whether you have 'WMDs' or not. Others might conclude that had Saddam had a coupla nukes, the US military would still be at home and gawd-knows-how-many-thousand Iraqis would be coming home from work right now rather than rotting in rubble ...

"Bolton emphasized that the United States considered Iraq a distinct case because attempts to eliminate its weapons have gone on for 12 years. 'This is a wonderful opportunity for Syria to forswear the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and, as with other governments in the region, to see if there are not new possibilities in the Middle East peace process,' Bolton said."

If you translate that into Arabic, and then translate that into Strine, the above reads, 'Disarm before we come to get you and then the survivors can have peace at gun-point.'

UPDATE: More here and here. 'War In Context' has been keeping a close eye on the Great Game so far, and is well worth following on this.

 
 
THE GRAND TOPPLING

I'm watching the toppling of the big Saddam statue in central Baghdad. With luck it'll denote the end of the mega-killing phase of this war. It's down now, and a few hundred Iraqis are taking out the pent-up rage of decades on the big fella. There's something symmmetrical about having Americans topple the bastard their efforts once put and kept there.

Anyway; good stuff.

That marines should not possess the symbol-manipulation skills of their political leaders is only to be expected, I suppose. A few locals had been trying for ages to do the job themselves, but the statue was a whopper, and it would have taken them hours, if not days (they'd taken to hacking at a four-metre base with a large hammer). The Marines either saw an opportunity to make instant friends or felt that the quicker the image of the toppling Saddam spread throughout Iraq the better, and moved a dirty great demolition vehicle in to do the job.

The Iraqis weren't even going to get to do the symbolic bits ...

So anyway - a Marine fashioned a hood for the condemned statue out of a large Stars'n'Stripes. You could hear a subtle change in tone emanating from the baying hundreds assembled, and a lieutenant must've remembered the fuss about that flag at Basra, because back up went the Marine to remove the flag. Eventually an Iraqi flag was found, and up the Marine went again. The flag wasn't big enough (perhaps the US just make their flags bigger than anyone else makes theirs) and the Marine was obliged to afix the flag in the manner of a tie before climbing back down to safety. I could almost here the officer shouting "Ya sure ya wanna drape Saddam in the nation's colours, Chuck? Ya sure ya wanna be seen by about a billion people tearing down the Iraqi flag with a US demolition vehicle, Chuck? Ya sure ya wanna be court-martialled, Chuck?" So up went Chuck again. And off came the flag. Then Saddam hung on grimly for a bit. Then he fell. And then the baying hundreds were upon him.

It's always nice to see a bastard symbolically undone (no matter how much you doubt the intentions and wisdom of the conquerer; no matter how much you fear for the future) and I do remember thinking it'd be nice to be there to feel the moment. Then I remember thinking, gee, a few hundred isn't a big crowd for a city of five million at such a time, is it? Still, the Grand Toppling was taking place in an area inhabited by the well-connected and the wealthy, and many suburbs remain ensnared in the grip of war, so I'll reserve my judgement as to what the decisive sentiment in Baghdad will show itself to be over the coming weeks (I remain most dismarrhoeaic about the months and the years).

Whatever. At least they're not dying in their hundreds or thousands today, and at least it's a statue being demolished and not their infrastructure and their homes. We could be forgiven for forgetting that, as the media typically doesn't dwell too eloquently on what's not happening.

The media does thrive on symbolism, though, and it must have been nice to discourse on the meaning of what they were showing us for a change. Especially after three weeks of having to show us miles of footage of explosions, plumes and tracer patterns without being able to say a dickie-bird about the meaning behind - or rather, beneath - those.









 
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
 
"INFORMATION WAR"

23 April 1999: US bombs hit the Radio Television Serbia (RTS) Building in Belgrade.

Casualties: 16 low-level employees.

Context: On April 8th, on the Larry King live show, King asked Miodrag Ilic, a former news anchor for the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation and a former talk show host who has worked on and off of the Serb network for over 20 years: "Mr. Ilic, can you tell us your reaction to the warning that we have learned tonight from NATO: that unless Serb television stations allow Western broadcast during two to three hour periods everyday, they would be bombed?"


12 November 2001: US bombs hit the al-Jazeera office in Kabul.

Casualties: Office empty at the time. No casualties.

Context: Ibrahim Hilal, the chief editor of the Arabic language network, said it had given the location of its office in Kabul to the authorities in Washington - yet on Monday night, its office was destroyed by a bomb that almost wrecked the nearby BBC bureau.

American officials have criticized Al-Jazeera's coverage of the bombing campaign as inflammatory propaganda. But the 24-hour station reaches more than 35 million Arabs, including 150,000 in the United States, and the Bush administration has acknowledged its significance lately.


7 April 2003: US bombs hit the al-Jazeera office in Baghdad.

Casualties: Journalist Taraq Ayyoub dead; cameraman Zuhair al-Iraq seriously wounded.

Context: An unrepentant Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most widely watched television channel, has enraged coalition commanders with its mix of aggressive reportage, dramatic and shocking images, and sharp commentary.

Explanation: Nabil Khoury, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Doha, said the strike on the Arab satellite TV network's office was a mistake, and he called upon al
-Jazeera not to jump to conclusions.



UPDATE: More good stuff on this from the ever-reliable Tim Dunlop.


 
Sunday, April 06, 2003
 
JAMIE GALBRAITH: DISMARRHOEAIC

Lovely to have the estimable Jamie Galbraith among the ranks. I just caught him on Radio National (I'm sure I caught a little of his dad in his precise way of speaking - not quite as gifted an orator, perhaps, but able to wield learned authority without rubbing the punter's nose in it). He reckons excess capacity remains such that no upturn in investment may be expected. He reckons residential debt in the US is such that the consoomer may not be expected to drive the numbers much further (another reason not to invest). And he reckons states are in fiscal crisis. In short, he reckons what blogorrhoea's been reckoning.

Clever bloke, Jamie.

 
 
PAVING THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

I note with much sadness that the Neocons seem unbowed, and that the apparent success of the invasion of Iraq has emboldened them to go to phase two ('apparent' because (a) one still knows not wheat from chaff in all the war's gigabytage (b) the immediate goal of wresting formal control from Saddam and decimating his army was never likely to be the hardest part of the undertaking; and (c) whether a success can be made of the political dimension - of which organised killing is but a subset - shall be beyond determination for many months yet.)

The Agonist's records for today tell us that at 10:31 (US EST) CNN reported that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had just said that Syria would be held 'accountable' for helping Iraq. At 4:44 PM (US EST), several of the major media outlets reported Washington politicians as saying that "they were positive that Iraq had relocated its weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Outlets included CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Sen. Warner was one of them."

Agonist avers that 'it will be interesting to see how these claims develop in the days ahead'. I aver that they'll develop plenty. They'll have to, as any absence of 'weapons of mass destruction' shall need to be explained forthwith. Anyway, it'd be a pity to waste all that expensively concocted pro-war sentiment, wouldn't it? Sentiment is a perishable good, after all.

And then there's all those 'assets' ('units', 'formations', 'kit', 'ordnance', 'deconfliction materiel' and the like) 'in theatre' and primed to 'invest' any damn place the minute they find out where it is (who was it who averred that 'war is how Americans learn geography?').

Yep, lots of humanitarian liberation yet to come, I suspect.

If they're quick, they might get most of it done before they learn they shouldn't have done it. If we're quick, we might yet pull the planet back from the abyss.






 
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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