Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fun & Games After the Election

I'm not a regular over at Treacher's, but this deserves a look. Here's a brief taste (from the comments, no less - it's all good!):
I am pretty surprised myself. I thought we were supposed to be running a highly efficient fascist regime here. And now, we can't even win an election? I mean, I've read all the research. What happened with suspending the electoral process? Why is constitution still in effect? What about our plans to declare martial law? Suspend Congress? We are doing none of it. And I was looking forward to coronation, too. :( Bummer.

Then there's A Large Regular, where we get an interview with ol' Don Rumsfeld:
Rummy: I always have time for my friends Chris. As far as feeling bitter towards the President - goodness no. I serve at the pleasure of the President and have offered my resignation a number of times. If truth be told - I'm a little bit in awe. I mean I don't think I've seen such a fine piece of political Jujitsu in my whole time in public service.

ALR: Political Jujitsu? I'm sorry Mr. Secretary but I don't follow you.
(Read the rest, as they say.)

Ace of Spades has a thread with more than 1200 comments. Amazing. Here's how it starts:
I just bought a huge solar panel. Casey/Pisslousy/Kennedy promised 2 years of sunshine. Stock up on these now people, no clouds for two years ...
Lots of funny stuff, also lots of mediocre/bad/just plain foul stuff, but a good percentage of laughs. (Really, serious foul language alert.)

This is the right attitude after a loss, folks. No conspiracy theories, immediate recognition that our guys messed up, and lots of humor. As for my experience on November 8, well, I woke up to rainbows, bunny rabbits were playing in the yard, someone left a pot o' gold on the doorstep, I won a lifetime supply of Guinness, and that cute Korean girl I've had my eye on slipped me her phone number. Thanks, Nancy!

Update: And then, of course, we have ... Ted Rall:
As ugly secrets surface, Bushists will turn desperate. Democracy has failed their grand schemes; token resignations like Rumsfeld's come too little, too late. Only tyranny can save their skins. Will the beleaguered neocons led by Cheney and Bush, cornered like rats, unleash their brand-new police state on their political opponents? Or will they tough it out and suck up the fines and prison sentences to come? The next year or two could go either way.

The nightmare is not over.

Yep, the literary version of the suicide bomber. Stand back folks, auto-parody ain't pretty.

Reality, or Alternate Reality?

In contrast to my Nov. 4 post, Iraq vet Austin Bay states we've pretty much won in Iraq:
I know, the NY Times and John Kerry have told us Iraq is a disaster. No. The US has already gotten about 90 percent of what it needed on September 12, 2001. There’s a democratically elected government in the potentially most powerful (predominantly) Arab Muslim nation, a government trying to learn to crawl under the most trying conditions. It’s a government that is learning by doing — and learning often by failure. However, as long as the US and coalition remain around to coach, train, and respond to crisis, Iraqi failures will be controlled failures.

Yup. Fostering the development of choice in the Middle East — a choice other than tyranny or terror– is a tough process.

As I see it, we can win in two ways.

The quick way, which is obliterating cities or sections of cities where resistance is high -- Yes, carpetbomb them, take out everything, man-woman-and-child, in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan. I don't advocate choice number one. We don't need to do this to win, and doing it without it being a dire necessity is mass murder.

Or, number two, the long way. Outlast them, in the same way the British outlasted the IRA. It took 30+ years for the IRA to get tired of fighting and not getting anywhere before they negotiated a real peace. Iraq will work the same way.

The wild card is WMDs -- if the j-team nukes a US city while we're trying to outlast them, what do we do?

[Note: This post was edited for clarity after its initial posting.]

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What About the Iraq War Now?

This is a lo-o-ong post, but one I need to do. It is more a gathering, a juxtaposition, than it is an analysis. If you want to know what I think ... I'm in grad school, and I haven't been paying attention to much beyond that. It's strange, feeling this disconnected. Many disturbing opinions, many changes ...

Zeyad, at Healing Iraq:
Monday, October 16, 2006
Another close friend of mine has been killed in Baghdad. We had lunch together in Baghdad just days before I left.

I can't concentrate on anything any more. I should not be here in New York running around a stupid neighbourhood, asking people about their 'issues'.

I now officially regret supporting this war back in 2003. The guilt is too much for me to handle.

New Sisyphus:
As a regular reader over at The Corner, one of the darker pleasures of the past year has been to watch how the regular commentators there have approached the obvious failure of our war policy in Iraq. It seems to me the responses there have divided the Cornerites into three distinct camps.

For the first camp, led by NR editor Rich Lowry, the response has been to argue the Administration's corner more loudly, though peppered with disclaimers like "if the idea here is to [insert highly improbable "secret" policy goal here] this may have the effect of stabilizing Baghdad, an important first step towards...." This ever more desperate posing is an outgrowth of the early years in the war when 85% of conservative commentators dismissed obvious signs of Bush's weakness in war matters by referring to a "secret plan," combined with an appeal to partisanship.


The second camp are the Second Thoughters, led by Jonah Goldberg. These are the Cornerites who supported the war from the beginning but now realize that it is objectively a failure. Thus, they are in favor of publicly saying so. However, goes the *brilliant* analysis, since we are already in theatre in force we have no choice but to see it though, for to do otherwise would be to admit defeat.


The third camp are the To Hell With Them Hawks, led by John Derbyshire. This group doesn't give a goddamn about Islamic democracy; they want to win. They know who the enemy is and the only response they have to him is to put him up against a wall and shoot him, preferably in full view of the cameras.


What is the significance of all this?

Precisely this: That was once a minority tendency in the conservative movement is now gaining more and more adherents, as the reality we face becomes ever more clear. As it dawns on more people that the very method by which we are fighting this war is fatally wrong-headed, those people will begin to demand a change in strategy.

And Mr. Sisyphus links to an interesting article by Ralph Peters in USA Today:
Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast. The country's prime minister has thrown in his lot with al-Sadr, our mortal enemy. He has his eye on the future, and he's betting that we won't last. The police are less accountable than they were under Saddam. Our extensive investment in Iraqi law enforcement only produced death squads. Government ministers loot the country to strengthen their own factions. Even Iraq's elections — a worthy experiment — further divided Iraq along confessional and ethnic lines. Iraq still exists on the maps, but in reality it's gone. Only a military coup — which might come in the next few years — could hold the artificial country together.

This chaos wasn't inevitable. While in Iraq late last winter, I remained soberly hopeful. Since then, the strength of will of our opponents — their readiness to pay any price and go to any length to win — has eclipsed our own. The valor of our enemies never surpassed that of our troops, but it far exceeded the fair-weather courage of the Bush administration.

Yet, for all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption. It appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it. And people get the government they deserve.

Omar, at Iraq the Model:
The situation is bad in Iraq, it's bad for both Iraqis and Americans alike and looking at the way the war is being managed right now makes me extremely worried about the future of our world. I am that worried that I feel I, or the next generations of my people, won't be safe in this world even if we were born and lived elsewhere.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Iraq might turn into a second Somalia within a year if the situation is allowed to keep descending the way it's doing now.
The Islamic Sharia courts are ruling now in Somalia while in Iraq they function undercover and it's still in our hands to stop them from extending their influence and from becoming the rule instead of the exception they are today.

Let's call the battle for middle east, and I think politicians do not need anyone to explain to them what this part of the world means…the outcome of war in Iraq does not affect Iraq alone, a victory means disrupting the ring of terror and extremism the enemies are trying to establish while failure would be equal to allowing them to establish that huge ring, or should I say that gigantic octopus of terrorists and terror-supporting regimes that would extend from Afghanistan in the east to Libya in the west and from Iraq in the north to Sudan and Somalia in the south.

Victor Davis Hanson:
Not long ago, abdication — from Rwanda or Haiti, or from the Balkans for a decade — not intervention, was the supposed sin. There were dozens of Darfurs in the 1990s, when charges flew of moral indifference. The supposition then — as now — was that those who called for boots on the ground to stop a genocide would not unlikely be the first to abdicate responsibility once the coffins came home and the military was left fighting an orphaned war.

Apparently all the high-minded talk of reform — Aristotle rightly scoffed about morality being easy in one’s sleep — was predicated only on cost-free war from 30,000 feet. Now the wisdom is that Colin Powell — the supposed sole sane and moral voice of the present administration — was drowned out by shrill neocon chicken hawks. But that was not the consensus of the 1990s. In both books and journalism, he was a Hamlet-like figure who paused before striking the needed blow, and so was pilloried by the likes of a Michael Gordon or Madeline Albright for not using the full force of the American military to intervene for moral purposes. That was then, and this is now, and in-between we have a costly war in Iraq that has taken the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans.

Finally, Dan Gordon tells us about our new, vicious pet:
I know you don’t like Bush. I don’t like Bush. Nobody likes Bush. Fair enough. He lied to you. He mangles the language. You can’t trust him. He’s in hock to Haliburton. He has some weird daddy complex. Whatever you want to believe about him, believe it. Fair enough. You win. No arguments.

And you don’t like the war. You were lied to. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Bush and the neocons made it all up. They duped us. They duped you. They duped me. They duped Hillary and Kerry. They duped us all. Dupe, dupe, dupe, dupe, dupe. Done deal. Not only did they dupe us, but they dicked it up, made every mistake in the book.

Pick whatever argument you like. They should have had more troops. They should have had less troops. They should have listend to Chalabi. They shouldn’t have listened to Chalibi. Bremer was right. Bremer was wrong. Rumsfeld’s a bozo. Bozo could have done a better job. I’ll sign on to any part of it you like. They said this is a part of the war on terror, and of course that’s a lie too.


What do you mean, oops?

Well, what I mean is that part is actually true.

What part?

The part about Iraq being a part of the war on terror.

You’ve got to be kidding. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11! There was no connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda!

Maybe not, but there is now.

Well, who’s fault is that?

Doesn’t matter.

What do you mean it doesn’t matter?

I mean, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how we got there. It doesn’t matter how you think you were lied to. It doesn’t matter if you think there was a connection between Sadam and Al-Qaeda. The only thing that matters now is that both Al-Qaeda and Iran and the terrorist groups they back and inspire believe that Iraq is their decisive battle. They have chosen it as the place where they will defeat America, and unlike the Viet Cong, they will not stay put. They will follow us home.

Shalash Al-Iraqi

Zeyad gives us some interesting stories from Shalash the Iraqi, who lives in Sadr City:
His columns first appeared on the Iraqi online opinion website Kitabat in December 2005. They were written from the perspective of an everyday Iraqi living in Sadr City - or Al-Thawra, as he calls it, using the pre-Saddam name of the district. Shalash’s style was gritty, streetwise, brutally honest but extremely humourous. He uses colloquial and slang terms in his writing, which appealed to a wide section of Iraqi readers who identified with him.

The characters of his short stories ranged from his opportunistic uncle, Haji Shnawa, who danced for both Saddam in the past and now Sadr; the former sergeant in the Iraqi army on his street who became a corrupt Sadrist cleric; Khanjar, the local troublemaker; Khadija, the young teacher that he often daydreams about her paying attention to his romantic moves; the old lady who sells groceries and campaigns for the Shi’ite electoral list; pickpockets; porters; Mahdi Army thugs; and so on.

No one is spared of his sharp criticism. He persistently jabs Iraqi governmental officials, revered clerics, insurgents, militias, Arab leaders and Americans. Even Madonna has been a subject for one of his recent stories, in which he asks her to adopt him so he can be saved from the Mahdi Army and instead become neighbours with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz.

Translations of some of Shalash's stories follow that.