Friday, April 16, 2004

Catch up

Here's a condensation of some of the things I've recently found interesting or relevant.

* So the hawks got their way in Fallujah. In a stunning display of arrogance and incompetence, the occupational authority in Iraq has ignited a resistance amongst a broad swath of Shiites and even united Shiites and Sunnis. That's what will happen with a brutal occupation. The logic, as Thomas Wheeler notes, is obvious: "when you push people around and brutalize them, some of these people will push back."

* An ever growing number of US military deaths; the killing of hundreds of Iraqis, some buried in mass graves; civilians beaten to death; snipers firing at ambulances; the taking of hostages; the use of heavy-handed, Israeli-like tactics; the shelling of Mosques -- these are just the most egregious examples of the horrors of the past two weeks. Perhaps most significantly, these recent developments have likely signalled the death of any positive conclusion to an extended American occupation. The plain truth is that foreign occupiers are not wanted.

* The response to these events by the US has been two-pronged. On one hand, US officials admit, almost painfully, that, yes, things aren't quite going as planned; on the other, the CPA denigrates any media outlet that dares to publicize the brutality of events in country and Arab media outlets, particularly Al Jazeera, are excoriated for parroting baseless propaganda.

* On the home front, it's quite obvious, according to Danny Schechter, that the American people are "not being told what's really going on," as first hand accounts from people like Rahul Majahan, Jo Wilding, Naomi Klein, Andrea Schmidt, and Dahr Jamail fly in the face of the dominant image being portrayed in mainstream US outlets. Likewise, Baghdad Burning suggests that the "western news networks are far too tame. They show the Hollywood version of war -- strong troops in uniform, hostile Iraqis being captured and made to face 'justice' and the White House turkey posing with the Thanksgiving turkey...which is just fine. But what about the destruction that comes with war and occupation? What about the death? I don't mean just the images of dead Iraqis scattered all over, but dead Americans too. People should have to see those images. Why is it not ok to show dead Iraqis and American troops in Iraq, but it's fine to show the catastrophe of September 11 over and over again?"

* What to expect in the near to distant future in Iraq? As Pepe Escobar says, the "only card left" for the Americans is the use of overwhelming military force to "pacify" the country. Sounds like 'Nam, eh? Of course, action like this will likely provoke further revulsion, stronger unity amongst the disparate elements in Iraq, and the adoption of more desperate tactics by the resistance. Luckily, Rami G. Khouri has a solution to this seemingly intractable situation: "The United States should learn the lessons of the past year in Iraq, bask in the glory of its liberating Iraqis from a killer regime, take a bow before the world for its noble deed, and go home with dignity, leaving behind a credible international and Iraqi mechanism by which Iraqis can ensure their security and define their own future condition." Drawing a page from America past, Khouri concludes, "Things turned out OK in Concorde and Lexington when the British troops left, and things will turn out OK in restive Iraqi towns when the 'natives' can control their own lives as well."

* Tony Karon identifies what's missing from the 9/11 Commission: an investigation into the US' late Cold War policy of outsourcing terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan.

* The controversial August 6th PDB has finally been declassified. Larry Johnson decodes it and the Washington Post reports that by the time Bush received that particular PDB "the president had seen a stream of alarming reports on al Qaeda's intentions. So had Vice President Cheney and Bush's top national security team, according to newly declassified information released yesterday by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." But, as the Post reports in another article, a glance at Bush during his August 2001 vacation did not betray any sense of concern. The administration, via testimony before the commission and in recent press conferences, has more or less admitted that it didn't do anything extraordinary in response to mounting threats, stressing that the FBI and CIA were doing plenty from their point of view.

* The Bush administration has hedged a good portion of its defense of not having made substantial moves in the months leading up to the attacks on 9/11 on the fact that CIA Director George Tenet was briefing the President each day, something that Bush's predecessors had not even done. In testimony before the 9/11 commission, however, Tenet revealed that he didn't speak with Bush during his August 2001 vacation. As Fred Kaplan of Slate puts it, "at the peak moment of threat, the two didn't talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed."

* In its bid to beat back charges that it failed to act, the Bush administration declassified parts of a plan to attack Afghanistan that were drawn up prior to 9/11. In so doing, it has admitted that the war on Afghanistan was not merely a response to 9/11. Benedict Spinoza explains what this probably means. And, no, it doesn't mean that the administration awoke to the threat of Al Qaeda just prior to 9/11.

* Oh, and have you gotten the 9/11 script? The right-wing pundits seem to all be on cue.

* Following some of the revelations from the 9/11 investigation and in an effort to score political points against Republicans, Mickey Z. observes that "some on the Left are actually attacking Bush from the right. This beautiful mindset makes it possible for purported progressives to hate Bush for going overboard after 9/11 and hate him for not going overboard before 9/11."

* What is all the fuss about the Sharon and Bush press conference? asks Ali Abunimah. The provisions from "Sharon's coup" come as no surprise, since they mirror almost precisely what Barak's government was dangling before Arafat during the Oslo period. Nonetheless, Bush's assurances represent a further blow to any just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict by annointing Sharon's master plan and deferring a Palestinian state until the situation swings irrevocably in Israel's favor. It also will allow Sharon to "halt the Palestinian dream of returning to the 1967 borders and flooding Israel with refugees," as he promised to do in a statement just prior to his departure for Washington, at a large settlement east of Jerusalem.

* Considering domestic politics in the US, Sharon's endorsement confirms Bush's total capitulation to neoconservatives and also promises to win over some Jewish voters with the 2004 election on the horizon.

* An interesting question: Why does Kerry sound like Bush on Iraq? And on Israel, too?

* Paul Farmer revisits Aristide's ouster from Haiti in the London Review of Books. While many questions remain unanswered, there's little doubt that the US played a crucial role in displacing the former Haitian President from power, and that most of Aristide's claims are true.

* "In a democratic society," Robert Jensen observes in an excerpt from his new book Citizens of the Empire, "the question should not be whether one supports the troops. The relevant question is whether one supports the policy. The demand that war opponents must 'support the troops' is nothing more than a way of demanding that we drop our opposition to the policy."

* Picking up where Richard Hofstadter left off, Werther examines the rise of "pseudoconservative dogma" in the US -- "a grab-bag of popular delusions which seem almost anarchic in their contradictoriness. Anti-state rhetoric sits adjacent to authoritarian ukase, free market dogma jostles with corporate state plutocracy, and so on: religious devotion with militarist fervor, rugged individualism with leader worship, 'family values' with plutocratic decadence, America first with global messianism."

* Stan Goff has some provocative remarks concerning the situation of the world right now: "The ultimate liberal hypocrisy is the one that shuns the soldier as if the soldier lives in a parallel system, not recognizing that militarism doesn't float over history any more than the make and model of your automobile. If you turn on your lights with a wall switch and drink clean water from your tap, if you walk in the park, if you wear a stitch of manufactured clothing, if you've shopped on a vacation overseas, if you so much as breathe in the United States of America, you are as much a part of the body of actually-existing imperialism as any nervous, trigger-happy Marine killing a family at a Baghdad roadblock."

* If progressives want to gain a substantial footing in American politics, says Laurie Spivak, they better "start fighting fire with fire and thinking strategically like conservatives in terms of marketing" their ideas to a broader public.