Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 31, 2006

On The New Year

As several barflies, MoA and Whiskey Bar commentators, join with me today for some new years eve celebration, there'll be no time left to put up an elaborate piece.

But let me say thanks to all of you, dear readers and commentators, for the thoughts, ideas and links you have given here over the past year.

My very best wishes to you and the world for the new year.

---

Fate now allows us,
'Twixt the departing
And the upstarting,
Happy to be;
And at the call of
Memory cherish'd,
Future and perish'd
Moments we see.

Seasons of anguish,--
Ah, they must ever
Truth from woe sever,
Love and joy part;
Days still more worthy
Soon will unite us,
Fairer songs light us,
Strength'ning the heart.

We, thus united,
Think of, with gladness,
Rapture and sadness,
Sorrow now flies.
Oh, how mysterious
Fortune's direction!
Old the connection,
New-born the prize!

Thank, for this, Fortune,
Wavering blindly!
Thank all that kindly
Fate may bestow!
Revel in change's
Impulses clearer,
Love far sincerer,
More heartfelt glow!

Over the old one,
Wrinkles collected,
Sad and dejected,
Others may view;
But, on us gently
Shineth a true one,
And to the new one
We, too, are new.

As a fond couple
'Midst the dance veering,
First disappearing,
Then reappear,
So let affection
Guide thro' life's mazy
Pathways so hazy
Into the year!

J.W.v.Goethe
"On the new year"
1802

Posted by b on December 31, 2006 at 04:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (68)

December 30, 2006

Hanged

Saddam Hussein was hanged. There are no tears left for him.

Let's see if justice is available for others too. It's time for this headline:

Posted by b on December 30, 2006 at 12:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (63)

December 29, 2006

Keep'em Coming

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 29, 2006 at 02:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (80)

December 28, 2006

Another Mission Accomplished

After some fifteen years of internal fighting with various external support for this or that side, the Somali people had just had enough of it. Some folks came up with a uniting idea. They proposed some strong measures, banning drugs, banning usury and banning internal fighting and they implemented those by quite strict measures. They found followers and soon the CIA financed warlords in the underdeveloped but resource rich country were in retreat and very likely to lose.

But immediately these successful uniters were accused of harbouring and supporting terrorism. To corner them, someone came up with the idea of installing a new "unitary government" - consisting of some exiles, financed by the U.S. and supported through some disinterested UN security council resolutions. When that government failed to get anything done but filling its own pockets and annoying the population, the U.S. decided to finance a neighbored dictatorship with (at least) some $80 million per year to prepare an invasion and to solve the problem.

The now finished invasion by the neighbor army was done quite easily - there was essentially no real resistance.

But somehow the press reviews of this invasion echo the one on another invasion done only a few years ago:

Triumphant Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies marched into Mogadishu after their Islamist rivals abandoned the city.
[...]
Some Mogadishu residents greeted the arriving government troops, while others hid.

Parts of the city shook with the sound of gunfire and there were outbreaks of looting after leaders of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) fled its base early in the morning.
[...]
One former fighter told the Reuters news agency: "We have been defeated. I have removed my uniform. Most of my comrades have also changed into civilian clothes. Most of our leaders have fled."

Surely these folks have been defeated, they fled. The mission is accomplished. The bad guys took off their uniform (where are their weapons?), melted into the population and now - are ... whatever, whereever.

Meanwhile looting is destroying the bit of infrastructure that is left after fifteen years of warfare.

Are there any doubts that this successful U.S. intervention will follow just the same track the one in Iraq took?

There will be less dead U.S. GI's in this war - for now at least - but the track will be essentially the same as the war took in Iraq. The travel down the road to hell will be much faster though as the knowledge that had been developed bit by bit by the resistance in Iraq over the last three years will be immediately be implemented in Somalia.

So what can be achieved by this intervention? I have no idea.

But if sterring another caldron was the idea, then the mission has been accomplished.

Posted by b on December 28, 2006 at 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

WB: "That's all Folks!"

Billmon:

"That's all Folks!"

Posted by b on December 28, 2006 at 05:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

December 27, 2006

Saddam Words

J. Keane and F. Kagan think at least 30,000 troops for at least 18 month "or so" should do the job in Iraq that can not be done.

Pat Lang says 4 Army brigades and 2-3 Marine regiments - some 15,000 troops will evntually be send - a drop of water into hell.

Meanwhile a careful selective translation of a  letter by Saddam Hussein got published and is distributed through the US press. So what did he say? Here is the media interpretation:

Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to embrace ''brotherly coexistence'' and not to hate U.S.-led foreign troops in a goodbye letter.

This followed by the quote that is supposed to support that interpretation:

''I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking," 
...
''I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us,''

My interpretation of those quotes is: "Keep a cool head and don't fight the home base of those troops, but concentrate on the troops themselves"
That does not sound to me like a call to NOT to fight and hate U.S.-led foreign troops.

But then - the interpretation of news editors is following the party line much more than the facts on the ground or a realistic interpretation of Saddam's words (if those are his at all).

Could anybody please provide a real translation of the whole letter?

Thanks.

Posted by b on December 27, 2006 at 05:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

December 26, 2006

the chicken and the egg iii

by slothrop

What interests me, though, are the structural causes (if any) of the steady decline in savings and investment rates in the industrialized countries – and why those trends have saddled the global economy with such enormous imbalances. So that will be the subject of the next installment in this series.
billmon: the chicken and the egg ii

what follows is my own contribution to the political economy of capitalist globalization., invited by billmon’s failure to answer his own question in the unwritten third installment of his “chicken and egg” entries.

now, i’m basically an english major who has read a few macro-econ books. this is not so much a proviso needed to excuse a bad analysis, but a defiance that any social science can be accounted for by those of us willing to step into the rhetoric the dismal science uses to justify itself.

a prolegomenon to subsequent tendentious oversimplifications

right off the bat, there are structural reasons for the decline of savings and investment in the g-7 economies. secondly, these “imbalances” in the global economy (really, the “global market for goods, services, and finance”) are both usual effects of the ebb and flow of the business cycle made analytically complex by the shifting social relations created by the mobility of a global capitalist class unfettered by vestigially national barriers on investment and accumulation. the product of this shift is nothing special from what has gone on throughout the postwar period. typically, the core/periphery paradigm of comprador ripoff in which “third-world” vassal states exported capital and imported finished goods from the industrialized north, has been complicated for a handful of newly industrializing zones: coastal china, southern india, coastal brazil, moscow and st. petersburg, etc. – complicated because the core/periphery relation is fragmented by globalization so that economic growth occurs in eruptions in places in which the return on investment is assured by low variable costs of production (labor, transaction costs). rather than the core nations absorbing capital created by cheap labor elsewhere, more and more, the flows of surplus are captured by a semi-stateless capitalist class. the “core” is a virtual power of financiers. the “periphery” is the globalizing workforce. the tradeoff for the industrialized core is painful: underemployment, inflation, stagnant and falling wages, crumbling healthcare and infrastructure. but the ostensible benefits to these industrializing zones (not countries, but zones) is uneven and precarious for reasons explained in more detail below. thus, “the structural reasons for the decline of investment” are better understood as the effects of the usual contradictions of capitalist accumulation expressed by the virtual formation of a global capitalist class.

an english major’s take on the business cycle

the fundamental contradiction of capitalist development is the problem of excessive production. because the capitalist mode of production (MoP: generalized commodity production, generalized wage-labor, generalized competition among many capitals) unfairly distributes productive factors and surpluses, production of commodities exceeds the ability of consumers  to consume. the result of this overaccumulation of surpluses is declining profits, declining wages, and recession. the business cycle recovers when the surplus is finally depleted, and surviving companies can then invest what surplus is needed to begin another cycle. it seems there’s no way to manage the prevailing MoP to avert recession.

the division of the social product between consumption (wages+benefits) and investment (profits) has historically been 65% wages, 35% profit. one obvious way to smooth the turbulence of the cycle is to fairly distribute wages and profits. this would help to stabilize aggregate expenditures and demand, while more rationally directing investment. but this is not what capitalists do, of course. rather, in order to avert painful adjustment needed to jumpstart the cycle, including creative destruction of independent capitals (no fun there), capitalists have tried all kinds of tricks: increasing government expenditure and aggregate demand (Keynesianism), militarism as a way to boost expenditure (bushism), theft (another bushism), bubble economy in which “correction” militates favorably to capitalists, austerity policies (good old fashioned capitalism for the “developing world”).

this last form of recovery is the most efficient. but in the (de)industrialized world, austerity is political suicide, and socially destabilizing, as recent experience in argentina shows. so, savvy politicians have turned to policies prolonging the inevitable: permanent inflation. in the effort to sustain profits and expansion of markets, capitalists resort to expansion of credit needed for investment and consumption. for monetarists, this leads to inflation: prices move up and down depending of the quantity of money. too much money increases demand and supply of commodities beyond what people can pay. inflation is bad because the value of holding money decreases. savings decline, and because of uncertainty about the future, fewer investments are made to resume robust growth. the result for workers is stagnant wages and rising prices, and for capital a decline in profits. things are made still worse by growing trade deficit spurred by the inflationary induced demand for commodities. indeed, for capital, the rate of profit among the 500 largest tncs has plummeted from nearly three times what it was in the early 50s (tendential fall in the rate of profit, comrades). inflation-inducing policies detain recession, but the cost of doing so is overaccumulation, lack of investment, and underconsumption solved only by more inflation-inducing debt. sound familiar?

an old wine in a new bottle: neoliberal globalization

but prolonging the inevitable only makes things worse. and such prolongation of gain, without too much pain, is the sine qua non of the latest trick: globalization. the interrelation of national northern economies was defined in the postwar period by american dominance. as the defacto creditor for Europe, the u.s. remained the dejure center of economic power via pegging the value of the dollar to a fixed price on gold and use of the dollar as a global reserve currency (the bretton woods agreement). this arrangement worked well until the sixties when the costs of vietnam and increasing international competition from revived production in europe and japan made the dollar a less desirable asset. the system collapsed in ’71. from then on, most currencies are valued according to a floating exchange rate, effectively removing control of valuation from single countries and removing the regime of cooperation that to a large extent managed the usual crises of overproduction and underconsumption. in this arrangement, the rest of the capitalist world would have to absorb u.s. debt by holding the fiat currency of the dollar. needless to say, this often resulted in capital flight as wealth circulated through the u.s. bond market and wall street rather than domestic investment into struggling economies—a winning solution for a burgeoning international capitalist class retaining excellent lawyers and brokers.

this shift opened up the financialization of global capital. by “finance” is meant the ways in which the value is created from already existing value, via speculative investment. the solution to stagnating investment in productive capital has since especially the clinton era to create “instruments” of investment (all those “derivatives”) which expand liquidity used for speculation. this “whorehouse capitalism” was further accommodated by “liberalization” of foreign economies—multilateral trade agreements like gatt and later the wto—which opened up member economies to foreign direct investment and ownership. the explosion of finance capital penetrated new markets in especially the far east, but the surfeit of investment proved to be unsustainable. the crash of the mexican peso followed by the collapse of asian economies were owed in large part to imf elimination of capital control needed to open economies to investment. the great swindle was also manifested in the market capitalization of information technologies culminating in the bubble burst of 2000-01 and $7 trillion of “paper” wealth gone, just like that.

so, financialization of global capital has made matters worse. and the extraordinary growth of credit continues, as any read through one of prudentbear’s mitonic screeds will prove. all that investment poured into asian production, and still more credit needed to absorb the surfeit of commodities in the west. a fool’s pursuit because investment only leads to mountains of goods consumed at lower prices strangling profits, and foolish because in places like china, the surplus cannot be absorbed by domestic market whose growth depends on low wage labor not expanded consumption. the global economy is plagued by the usual contradiction of overinvestment—overproduction—underconsumption—recession. and waylaying the needed adjustments painful recession brings is the inflationary expansion of credit needed to induce more consumption. what a trap.

Posted by b on December 26, 2006 at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

OT 06-121

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 26, 2006 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (65)

December 25, 2006

Excommunication

Just got back from my brother's. So what's the news of the day?

Checking World News headlines on Yahoo I find these:

AFP:

  1. Christmas sermons urge peace but Mideast violence rages on
  2. Ethiopia to use 'any appropriate means' against Somali Islamists

Reuters:

  1. Worship God not technology, Pope says on Christmas
  2. Ethiopian jets strike Somali airports

AP:

  1. Pope offers Christmas prayers for peace
  2. British troops kill 7 gunmen in Iraq
  3. Ethiopian jets bomb Mogadishu airport

So who did the Pope threaten with excommunication today? Did I miss something?

Posted by b on December 25, 2006 at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

December 24, 2006

Stupid Times

by Monolycus
lifted from a comment

We live in some stupid times. I'm not saying there haven't been other stupid times in the course of human history... countless witnesses have attested to that. I'm just saying that the present times have their own peculiar flavour of stupid, and human beings are, by and large, products of their culture and environment (if you'll forgive me for taking such a dreaded... *shudder*... anthropological viewpoint).

That is my lens, though, and while a society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, those individuals are shaped and guided by their physical and social environments in exactly the same way that a squid or a whale is shaped and constrained by the ocean they live in. A steady diet of absurdity will produce only a more or less absurd creature. This has been amply demonstrated to us over and over again, however, like a bottom feeding catfish feeling its way through the murky silt of its home, we are unable to see the obvious through what it is that surrounds us.

It is natural, then, that when we are not simply engaged in groping our way through this sea of stupidity, we are justifying our entirely reflexive behaviour as being the only rational way to behave. It isn't, of course, but we will go to amazing lengths to deny that we are every bit as constrained by our own physical and social environment as that poor, silly, bottom-feeding catfish. These rationalisations contribute to the culture of absurdity and perpetuate it until it becomes legitimate to ask if the times have made the stupidity or if the stupidity have made the times.

When the individual observes the larger culture, it is extremely easy to become contemptuous of others. They do, after all, respond to the stupidity in profoundly stupid ways. On the other hand, there are mitigating factors at work... a human being who ingests lead or mercury doesn't just fall over dead; their psyche as well as their body is profoundly affected. They behave stupidly and erratically because our minds and our bodies are inseparable... a physical toxin will produce a psychological pathology. Is it not rational to assume that psychological toxins provided by this culture of violence and avarice will just as surely produce erratic and stupid behaviour? The laboratory that is the world around us seems to be validating that hypothesis.

A recent fluffy retrospective OpEd about the year in US scandals poses an interesting question. While acknowledging that we live in a culture in which it is increasingly easy to don the mantle of victimization while being a perpetrator, the author observes

"... the 2006 Hall of Shamers benefit from the Oprah dividend - the public's desire to seek reasons to reprieve bad behavior.

You may have been able to preach, appraise legislation, invent off the book partnerships or address a radio audience, goes the logic, but you weren't really responsible because of addiction and/or childhood abuse.

And while the forgiven get another chance by this reasoning and forgivers get to think they're Oliver Wendell Holmes, no one brings up the fact that almost everyone behind bars suffered childhood abuse and substance addiction. That's practically the definition of a criminal.

The author is concluding here that forgiveness, at least the selective forgiveness that we practice in our culture, is unwarranted. I believe that I am beginning to form rather the opposite view. Forgiving selectively is, of course, silly... but rather than becoming less compassionate as a result of this obviously unfair situation, I think it would be healthier to extend our compassion to include more than the rich and successful "victims" of a bestial culture.

Some seem to be taking that approach, however cynically they might do it. Consider Barry Cooper, a former drug enforcement officer from Texas. Apparently appalled by the vast numbers of non-violent offenders filling up US prisons, he has apparently planned to release a video to instruct people in the technique of not being arrested. (The article is an extremely interesting read, but doesn't seem to want to let me cut 'n' paste any excerpts... please take a look). Those sitting on the "less compassion, more vengeance" side of the equation are appalled by Cooper's actions.

This polarisation of "compassion for all" vs. "compassion for none" seems to me to be at the heart of most of the cultural stupidity I am seeing these days. It's a classic dichotomy, really, that has been discussed here many times in various forms. Of course, it's been discussed throughout history in various forms, so this should surprise nobody.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the "compassion for none" position is the more harmful of the two. It seems to have at its root a degree of pride and hubris that not only results in the obvious degradation of civil liberties that we are seeing, but by its nature plants the seeds for all manner of absurd intolerances and cruelties such as Dr. Rice's cold-hearted endorsements for murder or U.S. Rep Virgil Goode's conclusion that a US citizen who has converted to Islam represents an immigration problem. Without the pride of the authoritarian mentality, these positions are baldly and patently absurd, however both Rice and Goode are like the bottom-feeding catfish groping through impenetrably murky water and can not see what should be obvious if there weren't so much silt (in this case, emotional and cultural baggage) in the way.

As trite as it might sound, I'd like to take the opportunity on this Christmas Eve to suggest that a little goodwill toward humans might actually go a long way towards actualising that peace on Earth we keep hearing about. At least I don't see how it could make the times much more stupid than they have already are.

Posted by b on December 24, 2006 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

December 23, 2006

OT 06-120

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 23, 2006 at 02:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

December 22, 2006

WB: Rates of Return

Billmon:

Does Condi understand how many deaths, mutilations and wrecked lives lie behind her "investments" and "birth pangs"? Undoubtedly. Does she care?

Rates of Return

Posted by b on December 22, 2006 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

Barfly Meeting - Last Call

The Moonbat Sonata or Whiskey Barflies Retreat is about to take place next week.

Some eight to ten Moon of Alabama commentators will meet in Hamburg on the 31st. Anyone who wants to join anonymously you can meet us at the Cafè Buenos Aires on the evening of January the 3rd, or in Berlin on the 4th and 5th.

You can still join! For traveling and accomodation details please contact me via MoonofA _at_ aol _dot_ com (Hamburger & ASKOD please contact me in any case.)

Currently females are a bit overrepresentated in the event. So I would appreciate if any of the gents care to get off their asses and help me out.

No, nononono, not what you are thinking. Global orgasm day is today. Next week the task is to look after drunk and hangovered ladies ...

Posted by b on December 22, 2006 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

WB: Winners and Losers

Billmon:

Winners and Losers

Posted by b on December 22, 2006 at 12:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 21, 2006

Shopping

THE PRESIDENT: A recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country -- and I encourage you all to go shopping more.
Press Conference by the President, December 20, 2006

Posted by b on December 21, 2006 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

WB: An Iraq Retrospective

Billmon:

If nothing else, though, the Whiskey Bar archives prove to my satisfaction that it was possible, even for a nonspecialist (which is all I'll ever be in the fields of foreign policy or military affairs) to see at least an outline of the disaster as it started to unfold. What was lacking in the corporate media was not the opportunity, but rather the insight, the courage and the independence to say what needed to be said -- at a time when the both the powers that be and the paying audience were unwilling to listen.

An Iraq Retrospective

Posted by b on December 21, 2006 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Remembering

by b real

At counterpunch on wednesday is a piece that fits in w/ what our compañero r'giap reminds us is one of the primary functions of this site - remembering.

the article is a remembrance of & rumination on the recent passing over of the seneca activist scholar john mohawk, John Mohawk and the Power to Make Peace. mohawk was an editor & reporter at akwesasne notes, the largest native american newspaper at the time & which was right there to capture & contribute to much of the revived american indian activism in the late-60's thru the 1970's. he was later a columnist at indian country today. he also contributed a lot to the seminal volume basic call to consciousness, a classic work, part of which can be read  here. (indian country today's obit)

the counterpunch article brings up the role of the peacemaker & the parallel to today's sitch, which is a connection i made in the autumn whispers thread. and it also reaffirms one of the themes of the text that i laid out there.

At his 60th birthday party we were talking about what it was like to look back. I mentioned that I had seen his name that day in an encyclopedia article as an ideologue of the American Indian Movement. He talked about changes he had seen in radicalism. 'What,' I asked him, 'is an aspiring radical to do today?' 'Change their stories,' he told me."

tuesday's democracynow played a brief excerpt from a talk that mohawk gave in november at the teach-in 'Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization: a Celebration of Victories, Rights and Cultures." it's short, so i'll quote it in full so you don't need to follow the link.

Racism has historically been a thing experienced by non-white people, but let's be clear about this, two things about this. One is that ideology that it’s proposing is an ideology. It’s basically saying essentially that all the non-white peoples in the world are not entitled to own whatever it is they have. And it also is making the corollary kind of  proposition that the group that's in the aggressive position has a right and that this right is undeniable. Notice that the right also has an implementation form to it, that the right has the requiremento: we're going to use military force to enforce this right.

And that when we think of as racism, which has always been the sort of scornful denigration of people of a different race, has its roots in but is distinct from white supremacy. I point that out because white supremacy is an ideology that can be embraced by people of color. People of color -- I think we already know there are people of color in the world who agree with it. Some of them are pretty big important Americans, as a matter of fact.

OK, so a lot of things are going to happen after this. I mean, we're going to have -- when we get to the United States, we're going to have a claim of something which is called American civilization, and American civilization is going to claim to have a right to all the lands of the Indians in the United States. And, of course, the American civilization has a rationalization for a lot of bad things, things like the removal policy and things like the Indian war thing, and things like the forced assimilation policy.

All of those flow from an ideology of white supremacy, which was the dominant ideology of race theory in the United States in the 19th century. I point this out, because it seems to me that the moment we're looking at is a proposal that peoples of the world, distinct peoples of the world have a right to a continued existence as distinct peoples. And I point to you that the white supremacy argument offers no such rights. It doesn't offer any rights to a distinct existence -- a continued existence of other species, of birds, animals, plants and whatever, fishes. It is a theory that says that one group has the absolute unhindered right to do what they need to do to get what they want.

What do they want? They want the wealth of the world. The other thing is that the requiremento is still there. In fact, the requiremento is embodied in the rules and thinking that gave rise to the World Trade Organization. It's not that there’s simply an ideology. There’s an enforcement mechanism for the ideology. This is a compulsive ideology. It says that you must comply. You have to belong to this thing. Everything that you have has to come into our purvey. You have to join our system of domination and actually extinction.

requiremento = "The conquistadores approached many of the indigenous communities with a priest who read a document called the Requiremento, a demand that the people come forth with their bodies and souls and all their property and offer these to the service of the Spanish crown or the Spanish would attack. It was read in Latin as prelude to an orgy of rape, plunder, and genocide. source

and a good many of those who did submit were still wiped out. it may just as well have been read in kiswahili ... the presuppositions of cultural & racial superiority have hardly changed though.

peering into the past - going back to the original anti-americans! - i recently spent some time reading on events in late 18th century north america in which i more than once stopped to say "man, does that ever sound familiar" and which i'd like to share, as they fit in very well w/ the stories we tell ourselves about globalization & imperialism, and, perhaps, events in iraq. here's the context - the book: a spirited resistance: the north american indian struggle for unity, 1745-1815, by gregory evans dowd.

the setting: the trans-appalachian borderlands circa the 1790s up to the war of 1812, beginning in the immediate period after the defeat of an earlier wave of pan-indianism, as north american influence was gaining strength, in part due to the diminishing presence of the british & spanish, being pulled away by wars back home. w/i the indian communities, divisions between militant and  accomodationist factions ebbed back toward those neutralists who sought ways to appease the encroaching americans following the devestating loss by the nativist pan-indian forces at fallen timbers.

As European power in Indian country ebbed through diplomatic channels, American power flowed aggressively to replace it. It flowed directly into Indian councils, where it found considerable Native American tolerance, if not support.

Indians believing in the need for the conscious adaptation of European ways, many of whom had once, when armed from Europe, willing to league with nativists against the United States, now sought to come to terms with the republic. American agents, paid by the federal government, worked closely with these Indian leaders. Their combined efforts promoted a mission of "civilization." Rapidly among the Cherokees but with less success among Creeks, Shawnees, and Delawares, the "plan of civilization," supported by the federal government and by several churches, became rooted in tribal government.

Among all the involved peoples, however, including the republic's citizens, the civilizing mission met a thicket of difficulties. ... An essential motivation of the mission, the assumed superiority of Anglo-American culture, entangled it from the start, for the missionaries' conviction of their religious and cultural superiority alienated the targeted peoples. This was as true of non-religious agents as it was of the religious missionaries.
...
Once they undertook the mission, they never adequately reconciled their aims with their methods. In what one scholar calls a "lapse in logic," these Americans sought to make good citizens out of the Indians, but employed coercion, cajolery, and deception to do so. The agents were under great pressure from American governments - territorial, state, and federal - to accomplish their task, with the understanding that it would increase the land available to the republic. Governments and missionaries alike claimed that if Indian men abandoned hunting and took up they plow, they could live well, and on less land. The surplus lands would then come up for grabs. In practice, the process inverted. Pressured by their land-hungry countryment, American agents among the Indians obtained land cessions from impoverished Indians even before the successful conversion of Indian men into yeomen farmers. To justify the inversion, the mission's proponents came to argue that by restricting Indian land they restricted Indian hunting and thereby compelled Indian men to farm. The American acquisition of Indian land perversely took on a philanthropic guise: taking became giving.

As early a professional historian of the era as Henry Adams noticed the moral contradictions within the civilizing mission. Adams discovered that although President Thomas Jefferson had advocated the establishment of an Indian farming class, he had sought to do so through the manipulation of Indian debt. In Adam's words, Jefferson "deliberately ordered his Indian agents to tempt the tribal chiefs into debt in order to oblige them to sell the tribal lands, which did not belong to them, but to their tribes."

Jefferson, that indebted foe of debt, attempted to create an independent Indian yeomanry by driving Indian leaders into the red. This contradiction, between Federal efforts to "improve" Indian economies on the one hand, while both increasing Indian indebtedness and decreasing Indian landholding on the other, placed the civilizing mission precariously upon a badly fissured foundation. The contradiction, with the others, had to be sustained; the federal government had to meet world opinion with a policy of benevolence while also meeting its citizens' desire for land.

in jefferson's own words, here's an excerpt from a letter he wrote to william henry harrison, governor of indiana territory at the time (taken from allan w. eckert's that dark and bloody river: chronicles of the ohio river valley) 

When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are the extensive forests and will be willing to pare them off in exchange for the necessaries for their farms and families. To promote this, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them in debt, because we observe when these debts go beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands. But should any tribe refuse the proffered hand and take up the hatchet, it will be driven across the Mississippi and the whole of its lands confiscated.

well, the indians could see exactly what was going on - the long knives wanted their lands - so the power struggle between indian factions started to build again, kindled by a new wave of prophetic nativism.  again, dowd:

Between 1795 and 1835, individual prophets and groups of Indians claiming supernatural inspiration posed direct challenges to those leaders who advocated political and even cultural accomdations to the power of the United States. Insurgent nativists drew upon their histories of intertribal cooperation. They looked  to shared beliefs in the ritual demands of power. Turning to the spirits as well as to their intertribal comrades, they attempted to rally support against those tribal leaders who ceded land to the Americans. Prophetic parties of Shawness, Delawares, Creeks, and many others actually broke with their accomodating countryment to prepare an intertribal, Indian union against the expansion of the United States, an effort that eventually merged with the War of 1812.

The federal agents and their fellow citizens were loath to recognize the power of prophetic nativism. They had a different explanation for Indian activity in these decades. They explained the nativists' successes by asserting, on slender evidence, that the British manipulated the prophets. So pervasive was this thesis that one ex-president and two future presidents held to it during the decade that ended in 1815. Viewed against the background of the civilizing mission, the thesis has curious ramifications.

Thomas Jefferson, writing John Adams from Monticello on the eve of the War of 1812, described the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa, as "more rogue than fool, if to be a rogue is not the greatest folly of all follies." Jefferson did not reveal to Adams that in 1807 he had ordered Indiana's territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, to "gain over the prophet, who no doubt is a scoundrel and only needs his price." Instead, and inexactly, Jefferson recalled to Adams that his administration left the Shawnee alone, "till the English though him worth corruption, and found him corruptible."

In Jefferson's view, which was not uncommon, Indians could be bought. Among some of Jefferson's contemporaries the belief stemmed from the notion that "savages," residing outside of civil society, could not be expected to possess public spirit, or civic virtue; among others, it was a more general understanding of human fraility in the face of monarchical power. Indian nations, in either case, without the requisite virtue, were thus subject to bribery by greater powers like Britian. The notion litters the correspondence of two prominent young republicans, soon to emerge as national heroes and later as presidents from opposing parties. William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson.
...
The origins of the prophetic movement that would later complicate the War of 1812 lay not, despite contemporary republican declarations, in British conspiracy. They lay instead in the history of eighteenth-century militant nativism, in the intratribal conflicts that followed the collapse of general militancy in 1794, and in the continued American pressure for Native American land. The prophetic movement grew out of a religious tradition, a tradition fertilized by the Indians' discontent over their dependence upon an encroaching power. The movement grew around an established lattice of intertribal relations, and though it never achieved the breadth or complexity of earlier militancy, it raised estatic hopes during the last, broadly intertribal armed struggle in the Eastern Woodlands.

meanwhile

As Indian indebtedness to traders and federal agencies grew, official urged tribal leaders to sell their lands, both to remove the debt and to purchase the stock and the agricultural implements necessary for a transition to civility.
...
[Harrison] linked land cessions to the civilizing mission, but with less benevolent intent. He reported to the secretary of war that, with Jefferson, he though intensified American colonization north of the Ohio was the "best and cheapest mode of controuling the tribes, who were most exposed to the intrigues of the British." To achieve that end, "the extinguishment of the Indian Title was pushed to the extent it has been, ... so to curtail their hunting grounds, as to force them to change their mode of life, and thereby to render them less warlike, and entirely dependent upon us." So much, then, for the development of an independent Indian yeomanry.

Indian dependency - the American control of the Indian tribes through conscious economic manipulation - had become the manifest goal of the government's civilizing mission, a goal Americans justified in view of the threat posed by the Indians' dependence upon Britain. Unfortunately for the orderly vision of management conceived by the likes of Jefferson, Harrison, [agent Benjamain] Hawkins, and a host of others, the Indians did not conform to the republican vision. Instead, they discovered American intentions to deprive them of land and libery; so Harrison, at any rate, believed as he regretted that American goals has not "been so secretly kept as to escape their own or the sagacity of their British friends."

Posted by b on December 21, 2006 at 06:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

December 20, 2006

OT 06-119

If you don't comment, ... well, guess what ...

Posted by b on December 20, 2006 at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (67)

WB: A Problem With Pronouns

Billmon:

Split personality disorder can be a terrible thing.

A Problem With Pronouns

Posted by b on December 20, 2006 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

December 19, 2006

WB: Total War

Billmon:

[O]ver the years I've become progressively less certain what the ultimate decision would be -- and whether and when the American military would flinch from the implications of that choice.

Total War

Posted by b on December 19, 2006 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (59)

Weekly Attacks in Iraq: 11,343

"Weekly attacks in Iraq are now at an average of 11,343."

No, that is not from a major newspapers, though it should be.

Those all have top-pieces today about a DoD report to Congress and highlight that report's numbers of recorded attacks in Iraq. As stenographed by the fishwraps and according to the DOD report there were on average 959 attacks per week during the last three month.

But only two weeks ago the Iraq Study Group explained that these DoD numbers are systematically skewed to reflect only some 8.5% of the real number of attacks in Iraq. Still none of the papers reports puts any doubts on the DoD numbers or relates them to the ISG findings.

But they inform the public.

Quotes:

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.
Pentagon Cites Success Of Anti-U.S. Forces in Iraq, WaPo, Dec. 19, 2006

For this report, the term “attacks” refers to specific incidents reported in the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) Significant Activities Database. It includes known attacks on Coalition forces, the ISF, the civilian population, and infrastructure. Attacks typically consist of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), small arms fire, and indirect fire weapons.
Defense Department quarterly report to Congress: Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq
(PDF), Dec. 18, 2006

In addition, there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.
IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORT (PDF), Dec. 6, 2006

For journos and editors: 959 * 1,100 / 93 = 11,343

Posted by b on December 19, 2006 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

December 18, 2006

Roach on Localization

Stephan Roach with some thoughts on a changing economy frame:

From Globalization to Localization

[I]n 2006, cross-border trade as a share of world GDP pierced the 30% threshold for the first time ever -- almost three times the portion prevailing during the last global boom over 30 years ago.  What a great testament to the stunning successes of globalization!

On another level, however, there are increasingly disquieting signs.  That’s because of a striking asymmetry in the benefits of globalization.  While living standards have improved in many segments of the developing world, a new set of pressures is bearing down on the rich countries of the developed world.  Most notably, an extraordinary squeeze on labor incomes has occurred in the industrial world -- an outcome that challenges the fundamental premises of the “win-win” models of globalization.

It is a great theory -- but it’s not working as advertised.

The first win -- that going to the developing world -- is hard to dispute.
[...]
The problem lies with the second win -- the supposed benefits accruing to the rich countries of the developed world.  And that’s where the going has gotten especially tough.  In recent years, the benefits of the second win have accrued primarily to the owners of capital at the expense of the providers of labor.
[...]
This asymmetry in the second win is not without very important consequences.  In days of yore -- when labor and its organized unions actually had bargaining power -- the current squeeze on labor income in the developed world would have undoubtedly resulted in some form of a “worker backlash.”  In today’s increasingly globalized world, however, workers have no such power.  But their elected political representatives most certainly do.  And there can be no mistaking the important shift that has recently occurred in the political alignment of the industrial world -- with the majority shifting from the pro-capital right to the pro-labor left.  Not only is that the case in the United States, but such a tendency is also evident in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and possibly even Australia.
[...]
I am not heralding the demise of globalization.  What I suspect is that a partial backtracking is probably now at hand, as a leftward tilt of the body politic in the industrial world voices a strong protest over the extraordinary disparity that has opened up between the returns to capital and the rewards of labor.  [..]
[...]
As the self-interests of nation-states become increasingly prominent, the pendulum of political power should swing from globalization to “localization.”  That would imply very different characteristics to the macro climate.  The most obvious -- wages could go up and corporate profits could come under pressure.  But it also seems reasonable to expect pro-labor politicians to direct regulatory scrutiny at excess returns on capital -- focusing, in particular, on the perceptions of excess returns in financial markets (..) as well as on the inequities of rewards at the upper end of the income distribution (..).  Moreover, localization taken to its extreme could also spell heightened risks of protectionism -- especially if the global economy slows and unemployment starts to rise in 2007, as we anticipate.  Under those circumstances, inflation could accelerate, leading to higher interest rates, greater volatility in financial markets, and a potentially vicious unwinding of an over-extended credit cycle.  [..]
[...]
An era of localization will undoubtedly have more frictions than the unfettered strain of capitalism and globalization that has been so dominant over the past decade.  The big question, in my view, pertains mainly to degree -- how far the pendulum swings from globalization to localization.  The answer rests with the body politic.  The repercussions lie in economics and financial markets.

The most important repercussions lies in the standard of living of workers. And that is exactly where the focus should be and should always have been. Globalization has turned out to be less a developing and developed world win-win and more a capital vs. labor win-lose model.

And that is even without considering the consequences and costs of globalization through higher energy consumption and environment damages - consequences and costs that will inevitably be socialised.

Posted by b on December 18, 2006 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

OT 06-118

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 18, 2006 at 06:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

December 17, 2006

Quite a Coincidence

The Iraqi Red Crescent accused U.S. forces on Friday of carrying out a spate of attacks on its offices over the last three years during operations to flush out suspected militants.
[...]
"The main difficulties we are facing, first of all, is the presence of MNF, the multinational forces, which sometimes gives us a hard time. They are attacking some offices and detaining some volunteers," Karbouli told a news conference in Geneva.

"The last example was about seven days ago in Falluja. We had our offices attacked by American forces, they detained the volunteers and staff more than two hours and they burned the cars and even the building which belonged to us," he added.
[...]
"Fortunately we have a good reputation with Iraqis on both sides. Both of them respect us and trust us as a neutral organisation," Karbouli said.
Iraqi Red Crescent accuses U.S. forces of attacks, December 15, 2006

---

Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms burst into Red Crescent offices on Sunday and kidnapped more than two dozen people at the humanitarian organization in the latest sign of the country's growing lawlessness.
[...]
[G]unmen in five pickup trucks pulled up at the office of the Iraqi Red Crescent in downtown Baghdad and abducted 25 employees, police said. A Red Crescent official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said the gunmen left women behind.
[...]
"We don't know who they are. We don't know why they did this," said Antonella Notari, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Geneva.
28 kidnapped from aid office in Baghdad, December 17, 2006

Posted by b on December 17, 2006 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

December 16, 2006

More Palestine

In Murder Context I tried to give a bit of an overview over the situation in Palestine.

There is a standoff between President Abbas on the Fatah side, and Prime Minister Haniyeh, his cabinet and his majority in Parliament on the Hamas side. Abbas is supported by Israel, the U.S. and the E.U. while Hamas gets some support from Syria, Iran and others.

As soon as Hamas had formed its government, all flow of money into the Palestinian territories was stopped. Israel bombed the Gaza strip and closed off nearly all traffic with it. Gaza and its 1.5 million people are nearly completly isolated.

Though Hamas had a clear majority, pressure was put on it to form a "unity government" where Abbas again would have the upper hand. Hamas declined to give away what its voters had voted for.

The U.S. and Israel have allowed weapons and additional personal from outside the West Bank and Gaza to flow in to beef up Abbas' Presidential Guard, his private army in this conflict.

When Haniyeh returned from a recent visit to Iran and other countries with some cash to help the Palestinians, he was held up by Israeli forces from crossing the Egyptian boarder to Gaza, even though that border is not supposed to be under Israeli control. Only after some hours of stand off, Haniyeh left the money with friends and was allowed to cross the border.

Immediately after Haniyeh crossed the border some fightings started between Hamas and Fatah forces. One of his body guards was killed and one of his sons was wounded. Haniyeh accused Abbas of an assessination attempt on him. Protests by Hamas members followed in Gaza and in the West Bank. In Ramallah members of Abbas' Presidential Guard shot into a Hamas demonstration and injuried some 32 people.

Today President Abbas "ordered"  early presidential and parliamentary elections, without having a basis to do so in the Palestinian basic law.

It is not clear what will happen now. Most likely there will be more fruitless negotiations and more clashes.  Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Rice is seeking additional money to "support the security reform [of Abbas's forces]", i.e. to build up one side of an imminent civil war. Meanwhile the people in Gaza are hungry.

The NYT has a quote from one Diana Buttu, who was a spokesperson for Arafat, that seems to capture the situation pretty well:

Mr. Abbas “sees the problem from the lens of international pressure, but that’s not how the Palestinian street will perceive it,” Ms. Buttu said. Mr. Abbas wants to end the international boycott through a unity government or a technocratic government, or failing that, if necessary, getting rid of Hamas entirely. But, she said, “the Palestinians want to get rid of the boycott and think that Hamas never had a chance to rule and that Abu Mazen could have worked with Hamas to lift the boycott.”

A strategy for Hamas could be to further expose Abbas as what he has become, a tool of Israel and the U.S. against the democratic will of the Palestinian people. Then they could allow new elections which might very well end with a President Haniyeh and another Hamas government.

But after that?

Posted by b on December 16, 2006 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Weekend OT

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 16, 2006 at 03:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

December 15, 2006

A Competent Welder

Okay, now here it is: The NEW STRATEGY FORWARD because 'Victory is still an option'.

No, this is not a rerun of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, that would be soooo 2005-ish.

Fred Kagan reveals the AEI blueprint of President Bush's Plan for Success in Iraq.

Some critics will hager around the details, like a missing definition of success or victory, but don't let that deceive you from the pure geniality of this plan.

The main points are easy to implement. These four points are 'the way to do it':

We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.

Yes, let's stop this f****** training business and let's secure the Iraqi population. Let's stop those mortars from falling down on them.

The population so very distinct form those idiotic sectarian forces, the lunatic anti-occupation powers, the criminal criminals and it definitely does not care about those damned anti-American clerics. In short, the population are those carrying the flowers to be dropped on the troops. So if they ain't carrying flowers ...

We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.

Here the last point, sufficentness, is the really important one. These seven brigades will be sufficient - for ever and whatever. Also notice the distinguished difference of 'clear-and-hold' to the 2005 strategy which had the very 'sufficient' chapter titled: The Security Track (Clear, Hold, Build).

These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.

Who cares for the east side anyway  - only a few Sadr folks hanging out there ... Their mortar shooting distance to the Green Zone is across the river, a few lousy hundred yards, but they don't know how to use them anyway. Then, what are a few hundred mortars against an English-Arab embassy translator force of 16 anyway.

After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.

Being and remaining left behind may suit some. But I wonder who has trained those Iraqis inbetween as point one made sure that this pesky training business will not be done by U.S. forces.

As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government

And fifty two ugly and inconsistent layouted powerpoint pages later, there will be flowers and cookies for the U.S. troops.

If this guy is a competent military historian - I am a competent welder.

That hole in your car's gas tank will be closed in a minute. Just stand by and take a look.

Posted by b on December 15, 2006 at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Reaching to Pluck the Flowers


by beq
20"x20" pastel on paper
(bigger view)

---

I gathered myself a large nosegay and was going home when I noticed in a ditch, in full bloom, a beautiful thistle plant of the crimson variety, which in our neighborhood they call “Tartar” and carefully avoid when mowing — or, if they do happen to cut it down, throw out from among the grass for fear of pricking their hands. Thinking to pick this thistle and put it in the center of my nosegay, I climbed down into the ditch, and after driving away a velvety bumble-bee that had penetrated deep into one of the flowers and had there fallen sweetly asleep, I set to work to pluck the flower. But this proved a very difficult task. Not only did the stalk prick on every side — even through the handkerchief I wrapped round my hand — but it was so tough that I had to struggle with it for nearly five minutes, breaking the fibers one by one; and when I had at last plucked it, the stalk was all frayed and the flower itself no longer seemed so fresh and beautiful. Moreover, owing to a coarseness and stiffness, it did not seem in place among the delicate blossoms of my nosegay. I threw it away feeling sorry to have vainly destroyed a flower that looked beautiful in its proper place.
Leo Tolstoy - Hadji Murad (wikipeda on Hadji Murad)

(Text added by b)

Posted by b on December 15, 2006 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

The Purpose Of Life

The majority (79 percent) of freshmen in 1970 had an important personal objective of “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” By 2005, the majority of freshmen (75 percent) said their primary objective was “being very well off financially.” (Table 274)
Census Bureau: 126th Statistical Abstract

Posted by b on December 15, 2006 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

December 14, 2006

A Scenario

by anna missed
lifted from a comment

I can imagine a scenario. In which the U.S.was invaded by an alien and stronger military force. Its not clear exactly why this force descended upon America, because several underlying reasons appear to be masked by the justifications made public by the invading force.

Many here, prior to the invasion, would have agreed with the invaders, that America had become a rogue nation personified by feckless leadership and foreign adventurism. Indeed, many here distraught over this degenerative state of affairs, and disheartened over their own impotence to effect change, came to in secret, a willing desire for invasion, if only it would topple the leadership.

But, the invaders were more clever than that, and so came to capitalize on that frustration and use it to for their own mysterious ends. First to scuttle resistance to the invasion itself, and then later to fashon wedges of influence to divide the people and formulate an enduring occupation.

Knowing that America was a religious country, the invaders made a calculated decision, and chose to engender support for one religious group at the expense of the others. In retrospect it was an obvious choice, not only because the Cathloic Church was the largest religious sect in America, it promoted certain values the invader could appreciate. Like for instance anti-individualism. Not to mention the clear association the other large religious sect, the Baptists, had in supporting and enabling the former regime, particularly its hapless but brutal leader.

Prior to the invasion, many would have argued that religious divides in America were a thing of the past, and made irrelevant ever since the election of J.F.Kennedy, intermarrage, and practical political accomidation.

But it was apparently not so, at least since the invasion, whereby the invaders disparaged and demonized the Baptists as militant rum running religious fanatic individualists drunk with fascist power. And at the same time enshrined and empowered the Catholics with key military and government interm appointments that would secure in long delayed elections, demographic , financial, and political control. The Baptists have of course, in response have lived up to their name and splintered into several "party of God" incarnations attacking the Catholics as "un-American commie sellouts".

Over the years the situation has degenerated with a vengence. From the early Baptist bear trap and hunting rifle attacks on the invasion force itself, through to the steady escalation of attacks on the Catholic "collaborators". That presumably, have disenfranchized the baptists back into their worst stereo-typed white trash forced trailer park nightmare into a fractured militancy where even the KKK has reemerged as one of the most feared insurgent factions, attacking both the invader and collaborator alike.

But now too, the Catholics have also become suspicious and alarmed at the level of Baptist reprisal attacks, have begun to reconsider some of their "Catholic City" legislation aimed at pushing the Baptist factions still residing in the city back into the rural areas, as a matter of national security. And the occupiers too, seem to have changed sides, increasing the pressure to accomodate new Baptist demands for autonomy. And so it goes, and still no one is quite sure what the ultimate goal of the occupation really is, unless they did it, because they could. I guess we'll never know, maybe something good will ultimately come of it anyway.

---

Update (12:15 pm, Bernhard): Imagine the by then dissolved U.S. military in the above scenario.

Posted by b on December 14, 2006 at 04:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

December 13, 2006

"We are coming in harder"

There is lots of smoke and mirrors about the future strategy in Iraq. For now the Baker/Hamilton report's suggestion to draw down troops will not be followed. Unless the Dems decide to use budget power to enforce it which, for now, looks unlikely.

Today there is quite a media charge for additional troops in Iraq. It is hard to find out who is driving this spin, but it seems to be the White House and Rumsfeld allies in uniform using his last days in the Pentagon to advance some general goals.

Also interesting is a split showing within the military leadership (Page versus Abizadh?) which might have some consequences when Gates, the wild card in this game, takes over as DoD boss.

The LA Times: Pentagon's plan: More U.S. troops in Iraq

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
...
The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.

Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush's demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement.

Forget the job program - it is three and a half years to late for that. The long term increase in military strength is, of course, always the demand of any military hierarchy. Al Anbar is lost and the Marines have declared that to be so some time ago. Which leaves as the only serious point the fight with Al-Sadr.

The media build up against him was visible for some month already. He was portrayed as "radical" and "anti-American" in about any Iraq piece one could find. Compare that with the media's quiet fondness for al-Hakim, the boss of SCIRI. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is not a radical organisation? Al-Hakim, the decades long Iran resident and cleric, is pro-American?

The difference between al-Sadr and al-Hakim is: a. the former is an Iraqi nationalist, while the later wants to split Iraq and b. al-Sadr is a real "social compassionate conservative", while al-Hakim is a "bazaari", a ruling class deal maker. Both differences make al-Hakim preferable to the U.S. administration. Now al-Hakim has to be brought to power.

"I think it is worth trying," a defense official said. "But you can't have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down"

Such a proposal, military officials and experts caution, would be a gamble. Any chance of success probably would require major changes in the Iraqi government, they said. U.S. Embassy officials would have to help usher into power a new coalition in Baghdad that was willing to confront the militias.
[...]
The size of the troop increase the Pentagon will recommend is unclear. One officer suggested an increase of about 40,000 forces would be required, but other officials said such a number was unrealistic.
[...]
An increase in U.S. forces is not universally popular in the military. Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, has long argued that increasing the size of the force would be counterproductive, angering the very people the U.S. was trying to help.
[...]
Military officers believe a confrontation with Sadr is inevitable. Bob Killebrew, a retired colonel and defense strategist, said the U.S. military had four to six months to take on Sadr, whose Al Mahdi militia is growing faster than the Iraqi army.

"We have to deal somehow with the militias, and Sadr in particular; he is rapidly becoming the armed power in Iraq," Killebrew said.

But the resources are not only troops. Khalizad is leaving his position as ambassador in Iraq at the end of this year. Can a pale career diplomat like Ryan Crocker get an emergency political deal in Baghdad done? That very important question is currently avoided.

An AP piece extends the military/political  questions:

Abizaid has told the Senate Armed Services Committee that troop levels in Iraq need to stay fairly stable and the use of military adviser teams expanded. About 140,000 U.S. troops and about 5,000 advisers are in Iraq.

The message to Bush, the defense specialist said, is that the U.S. cannot withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by early 2008, as suggested by an independent, bipartisan commission on Iraq, because the Iraqis will not be ready to assume control of their country.
[...]
Bush's discussions across Iraq's ethnic and religious lines come as major partners in the country's governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to form a new parliamentary bloc and sideline supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence and the main patron of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. There is discontent in Iraq and within the Bush administration over al-Maliki's failure to rein in Shiite militias and quell raging violence.

The White House has tried to maintain distance from the political storm brewing inside Iraq. [Is the AP writer joking here? b.]

Iraqi leaders have different ideas anyway:

Iraq has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year. American troops would be shifted to the periphery of the capital.
[...]
In response to the Iraqi demands for control, the American military command in Baghdad has also been developing its own plan, which comes with conditions that must be met before control is handed over, according to American officials in Baghdad who asked to remain unidentified because the plan is not final.

So the Iraqi plan goes nowhere - the U.S. will firmly stay the course and, even better, double down and seek the confrontation with al-Sadr.

This is not going to be a fair match. It is going to be a desaster.

Al-Sadr will play it like Hizbullah, lay low, take your time, be patient, very patient and exploit any weakness your enemy might show. Even if the U.S. tears down Sadr city - those 2.5 million people will not give up but fight - all of them. At the same time the Sadr folks sitting on the U.S. lines-of-communication will not stay idle either. The 40,000 additional troops one officer above requested would not be sufficient to seriously dent al-Sadr's force. The more realistic available 20,000 additional troops will hardly be a drop in the bucket if the fighting really starts.

But this does not matter - it is not about that at all. LAT cites one of the Pentagon's perfumed princes who has clearly shared the kool-aid with Bush himself:

"I've come to the realization we need to go in, in a big way," said an Army officer. "You have to have an increase in troops…. We have to convince the enemy we are serious and we are coming in harder."

It is really time for someone to cut that guy's Dick off.

Posted by b on December 13, 2006 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

December 12, 2006

Did Bin Laden Come Home To Rule?

Do the Saudi's think they got screwed? Or did Bin Laden come home to rule? Recent Saudi action, especially today resignation, may tell the tale.

There had been a series of warnings from Saudi Arabia over U.S. policy in Iraq. The most explicit one, which also includes a carrot offer of cheap oil, came in a November 29 OpEd which we did discuss here. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was summoned by the king to receive an official down-dressing.

Given that the Saudi-U.S. relations have deep roots and are usually very good, these public warnings were serious, but they seem to have been disregarded.

Additionally, the Iraq Study Group report, delivered by longtime Saudi consultant James Baker has been deep-sixed by Bush/Cheney.

Today the Washington Post buries this sensation on page A23: Saudi Ambassador Abruptly Resigns, Leaves Washington. The ambassador, Prince Turki al-Faisal, is the former head of the Saudi intelligence services, a serious player in the Saudi power game.

The usual "to spend time with his family" is given as official reason for the sudden resignation but that is of course bullshit. As is WaPo's speculation about illness of Prince Turki's brother. Steve Clemons' explanation of backstabbing in Riyadh does not sound credible to me either. So why is the ambassador being recalled?

The relations beween Washington and Riyadh are now tanking fast.

As was just published, in the first half of this year (newer numbers are not yet available) Saudi Arabia has moved further away from the Dollar and put a bigger share of its reserves into Euros.

Today the Saudi Arabia's National Air Services annouced to spend $2 billion on new planes, mostly European Airbuses, no Boeings.

While the Saudi "offer" for cheaper oil was on the table earlier, the Saudi Arabian oil minister now calls for serious production cuts by OPEC.

Also today 30 prominent Saudi clerics have called for Sunnis worldwide to mobilize against Iraqi Shiites.

The last issue can be seen as an open declaration of war against U.S. troops in Iraq and their allies in the mostly Shia Iraqi army. Such a call to the weapons could never have happend without the explicite agreement of the highest authorities in Rihyad.

All these issues are related. So what has happened? Did Cheney rebuke all Saudi recommendations? Did Bin Laden come home to rule? Why isn't the U.S. media all over this issue?

Posted by b on December 12, 2006 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

OT 06-116

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 12, 2006 at 07:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (87)

December 11, 2006

Murder Context

This morning three children were killed in the Gaza strip. The incident sounds mysterious. This was not a stray IDF artillery shoot, but "unknown gunmen" who did kill exactly those they wanted to kill.

We will have to go back a bit to set this murder into context.

In 2005 the Palestinians had a presidential election. Mahmoud Abbas was a Fatah candidate as was Marwan Barghouti, who at that time was imprisoned by Israel. Both had about equal chances. After pressure, Marwan Barghouti, who polled at least equal to Abbas, retracted his candidacy.

Hamas, the second relevent party, boycotted the election. There were several other candidates from smaller parties. Abbas did win the election, heavily obstructed by Israel, with 62% of the votes. Some of the circumstances looked dubious, but the result was respected.

In January 2006, the parliament elections took place. Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats and offered Fatah to form a coalition government. Fatah concided defeat and choosed not to take part in the government.

Israel, with support of the EU and the the U.S., launched a "destabilization plan". It cut off tax funds owned to the new Palestinian Hamas government and all help payments were stopped.

In May some reports pointed to the arming of Abbas' Fatah by the EU, the U.S. and some Arabian U.S. client states. BBC reported:

Israel says it will allow security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to be supplied with weapons from third countries.

Another report said:

While European Union countries like Spain would provide non-lethal equipment, senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said that Egypt and Jordan were pledging guns and ammunition.

Western countries want to ensure Abbas emerges victorious in any power struggle with the militant group Hamas, which now controls the Palestinian government.

Diplomats said Abbas’s presidential guard, once fully expanded and equipped, could be deployed to hunt down militants that Hamas won’t rein in and to step in if fighting breaks out among Palestinian factions.

In July some 1,000 to 3,000 M16 guns and millions of bullets were delivered to Abbas' Fatah groups.

Over the summer there was a lot of pressure on Hamas to form a "unity government" with Fatah. In effect, Hamas would have to surrened their election victory to get the collective punishment stopped. Hamas would also have to reject its basic principal stance versus Israel. So far it rejected and the negotiations are ongoing, but seem to be near breakdown.

Meanwhile the Gaza ghetto gets suffocated and there were reports of civil unrest over unpayed government wages.

A month ago new reports about U.S. support for additional weapon for Abbas' Fatah surfaced. This time the Europeans took a stand against the proposal:

Fatah officials have asked for more than 1,000 reinforcements from the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Badr Brigades, in exile in Jordan.

One Western official said that non-American quartet members emerged from one meeting convinced that the US wanted President Abbas to dismiss the Hamas Government, and to use his security forces to “confront Hamas politically and militarily, having confronted it economically”.

“There was effectively a stand-off. As far as we are concerned, what the Americans are proposing to do is back one side in an emerging civil war,” said a western official familiar with the discussions.

The U.S. procedes undeterred:

The United States would also support letting about 1,000 members of the Badr Brigade, a Fatah-dominated force based in Jordan, into Palestinian territories to reinforce Abbas's guard.

"The decision would have to be made by the governments of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. But the idea is a logical one both militarily and politically," Dayton said.

U.S. plans call for expanding the force initially to around 4,700 members, up from 3,500 today. But Palestinian officials estimated the force could eventually grow to 10,000 members. The U.S. programme includes funds for training the force.

At the same time, Hamas is also building up forces, but given the strict boarder closing, it is doubtable that it can get hands on a significant numbers of weapons.

Like in Iraq and Lebanon, the U.S. is involved in formenting a civil war. Here undoubtedly supporting one side with weapons against the elected government.

Abbas is now trying to dismiss the Hamas government and to call for new elections but this appears to be obviously illegal and unsuccessful.

It is in this context today's murder in the Gaza strip has to be seen:

Unidentified gunmen killed three sons of a Palestinian intelligence official loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza on Monday, firing at a car as it dropped the boys at school, police and hospital officials said.
...
The car taking the children to school was peppered with bullet holes and blood stains covered the seats. Two school bags, one green and the other blue, lay inside.

Several other schools line the street, which was crowded with children at the time of the shooting.

Residents said the gunmen fled with Hamas policemen in pursuit.

Killing the children of a Fatah "intelligence official", i.e. of an officer of Abbas' U.S. funded  atah army, is a level of violence that was not seen before in Gaza or the West Bank.

Someone may just have tried to start a huge clash, if not a civil war here.

Who could that be?

Posted by b on December 11, 2006 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

December 10, 2006

Undecided

Can't make up my mind what to write about, I am currently fixtured somehow to this Middle East stuff and it's history happening on steroids.

Hizbullah doing the biggest ever rally in Lebanon to get universal suffrage?

"This is a sea of demonstrators unprecedented in the history of Lebanon," an army spokesman said

Mahmoud Abbas', selected Palestinian president, illegal attempt to do away with the elected Palestinian government?

The dissing of the ISG-Report?

The breakdown of Karzai?

With his lips quivering and voice breaking, a tearful President Hamid Karzai on Sunday lamented that Afghan children are being killed by NATO and U.S. bombs and by terrorists from Pakistan — a portrait of helplessness in the face of spiraling chaos.
[...]
"We can't prevent the terrorists from coming from Pakistan, and we can't prevent the coalition from bombing the terrorists, and our children are dying because of this," he said.

May be I just should just write a post asking to you to submit some something I can put up here for discussion.

Posted by b on December 10, 2006 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

December 09, 2006

Another Weekend OT

Whatever :-)

Posted by b on December 9, 2006 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

December 08, 2006

Apples From China

The market at the corner now has apples from China. Not any special variant, just normal Golden Delicious, but from China.

Why mention that?

A typical bicycle tour here is down to the river and then across by ferry. Some 20 minutes ride after that, one is in the middle of Europes biggest connected fruit growing area, Altes Land. There are some 700,000 acres of plantation, most of them with apple trees.

If you zoom into this picture you can see row over row over row of apple trees.

The local organic farmer market sells some 20 variants of apples. Average shops have five or so variants available, usually all from Germany. It is the cheepest fruit around.

So why sell apples from China?

Posted by b on December 8, 2006 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

December 07, 2006

OT 06-114

A fresh one ...

Posted by b on December 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

Illegal PsyOp? No.

Yesterday one Maj. Gen. Caldwell had an OpEd on the pages of the Washington Post: Why We Persevere. It did not get a lot of attention as the ISG report took the day's headlines.

But it is a helluva piece about all the good things that are happening in Iraq. It deserves some recognition.

As his column was released at the same date (not unintentionally I bet) as the ISG report, I will just contrast both efforts (page numbers for the ISG report (pdf) are along the pdf pagecount).

CALDWELL: I don't see a civil war in Iraq. I don't see a constituency for civil war.

ISG (p29): Iraqis may become so sobered by the prospect of an unfolding civil war and intervention by their regional neighbors that they take the steps necessary to avert catastrophe. But at the moment, such a scenario seems implausible because the Iraqi people and their leaders have been slow to demonstrate the capacity or will to act.

---

CALDWELL: A poll conducted in June by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan group that promotes democracy, found 89 percent of Iraqis supporting a unity government representing all sects and ethnic communities.

ISG (p29): Recent polling indicates that only 36 percent of Iraqis feel their country is heading in the right direction, and 79 percent of Iraqis have a “mostly negative” view of the influence that the United States has in their country. Sixty-one percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.

---

CALDWELL: After decades in which the armed services were tools of oppression, Iraq is taking time to build an army and national police force loyal to all.

ISG (p12+13): Significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi [army] units—specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda.
...
Iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture, and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians. The police are organized under the Ministry of the Interior, which is confronted by corruption and militia infiltration and lacks control over police in the provinces.

---

CALDWELL: I see a representative government exercising control over the sole legitimate armed authority in Iraq, the Iraqi Security Force.

ISG (p12): Iraqis have operational control over roughly one-third of Iraqi security forces; the U.S. has operational control over most of the rest.

(BTW: Are the U.S. forces an illegitimate armed authority in Iraq?)

---

CALDWELL: I don't see terrorist and criminal elements mounting campaigns for territory.

ISG (p11): Mahdi fighters patrol certain Shia enclaves, notably northeast Baghdad’s teeming neighborhood of 2.5 million known as “Sadr City.”

---

CALDWELL: I don't see a struggle between armies and aligned political parties competing to rule.

ISG (p11): Badr fighters have also clashed with the Mahdi Army, particularly in southern Iraq.

---

CALDWELL: As the Iraqi people labor to build a country based on human rights and respect for all citizens, they are moving from the law of the gun to the rule of law.

ISG (p20): Third, corruption is rampant. ... There are still no examples of senior officials who have been brought before a court of law and convicted on corruption charges.

---

CALDWELL: Regardless of what academics and pundits decide to label this conflict, hundreds of thousands of brave Iraqi soldiers, police officers and civil servants will continue to go to work building a free, prosperous and united Iraq.

ISG (p13): Soldiers are given leave liberally and face no penalties for absence without leave. Unit readiness rates are low, often at 50 percent or less. ... There are ample reports of Iraqi police officers participating in training in order to obtain a weapon, uniform, and ammunition for use in sectarian violence. Some are on the payroll but don’t show up for work.

---

CALDWELL: And every day more than 137,000 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen will lace up their boots, strap on their body armor and drive ahead with our mission to support these courageous Iraqis.

ISG (p15): U.S. forces can “clear” any neighborhood, but there are neither enough U.S. troops present nor enough support from Iraqi security forces to “hold” neighborhoods so cleared. The same holds true for the rest of Iraq. Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.

Caldwell is introduced in WaPo as "the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq." Major General is quite a rank for a spokesman. In reality Caldwell is Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects, Multinational Forces Iraq.

Col. Pat Lang thinks the piece is information warfare, an illegal psychological operation (PsyOp) on the U.S. public. But unlike real PsyOp Caldwell's piece does not contain any basic truth around which the spin is spun - it is pure phantasy. To write and to publish such is thereby not illegal - just dumb.

Posted by b on December 7, 2006 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

December 06, 2006

ISG Report - Flowers And Sweets

Some random thoughts while reading through the Iraq Study Group Report (pdf) (all following page numbers refer to the PDF pagecount). I'll probably try to come up with some less random thoughts later, but don't want to miss to communicate the first impressions.

The situations is a terrible mess in all dimensions. At this blog we have in the past picked together pieces of the picture from various press accounts and blogs. But the public has had no overview of the situation and a comprehensive listing like available in the report will help to open some eyes.

As an example of how underreported the situation really is the report notes on page 13:

The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.

The report does call for more unity in the government and blames a lot on Maliki and sectarian forces within the government (p19).

Iraqi people have a democratically elected government that is broadly representative of Iraq’s population, yet the government is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services.

There is this note that obviously is in conflict with recent press reports (p25):

There are roughly 5,000 civilian contractors in the country.

The Washington Post reported yesterday: Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq. So what is it???

How not to spend money effectivly (p26):

Congress has been generous in funding requests for U.S. troops, but it has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.

As for outsite medling in Iraq, the Iranian influence, according to the report clearly runs through al-Hakim's Badr corps, while the Sadr-movement is described as nationalistic. Also noteable (p47):

Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, even as those governments help facilitate U.S. military operations in Iraq by providing basing and overflight rights and by cooperating on intelligence issues.

While the report notes the total number of Iraqis that have fled the country (1.8 million plus 1.6 internally displaced) and talks about the burdon this has put on Jordan (700,000 refugees), when talking about Syria, neither the numbers of refugees there nor any burden is mentioned.

Sovereign Iraq shall only have command over its own forces if it behaves as the U.S. tells it behave (p78).

The transfer of command and control over Iraqi security forces units from the United States to Iraq should be influenced by Iraq’s performance on milestones.

The report calls for much more embedded U.S. troops within Iraqi forces (p89)

Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role.

At the same time it notes the problem that I have pointed out a few days ago. (p110)

All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language– proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission.

There simply are not enough translators to embed so many U.S. troops into Iraqi forces. How can you expect them to teach each other and/or fight together if they simply can not talk to each other?

One also wonders what 1,000 embassy personal are doing all day when they only have six reliable interfaces with Iraqis. But maybe the number is wrong here (see "missing" contractors above).

The report names some conditions that would have to be met for including Iran and Syria into talks. The attitude is roughly the same than Bush/Cheney have shown all along (p70).

Our limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.
Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks.

There is no word of taking back "regime change", but the Iranians are "rejectionists"?

On Syria there are mostly threats but also the recommendation of negotiation over the the Golan heights and of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. But each time the Palestinians are named as negotiating partner the wording includes a caveat (p72):

This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria

This caveat obviously exludes the elected Palestinian government and will be used to sabotage any negotiation attempt even before it starts.

The most important recommendation is on page 104:

RECOMMENDATION 63:
• The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
• The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
• To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
• The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing, and reviewing audits.

"The Study Group has been assured that the Iraqi government and population will great the help of Mr. Wolfowitz in managing their oil contracts with flowers and sweets."

Posted by b on December 6, 2006 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (89)

December 05, 2006

What a Diff'rence a Day Makes

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday that Iraq will call for a regional conference on ending the rampant violence in his country ...
Al-Maliki says Iraq will call for regional conference on stabilizing country

Only yesterday Maliki and other Iraqi pols sounded quite different. Over night somebody taught them a new tune:

My yesterday was blue, dear
Today I'm part of you, dear
My lonely nights are through, dear
Since you said you were mine

Any guess what kind of teaching method was used to get Maliki into tune here?  Carrots? Sticks? Money? A bullet shown to him? Or was it his own ambition?

Yesterday's quotes are below the fold:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also rejected Annan's suggestion that an international conference could help the country resolve its sectarian divides and deadly insurgency.

"His call for an international conference on Iraq is a denial of the will of the Iraqi people," al-Maliki's office said in a statement.
Premier rejects Iraq conference

---

Iraqi politicians appeared divided on Sunday over a suggestion for an international conference on Iraq, with the president joining a powerful Shia politician in rejecting it and a former prime minister welcoming it.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, rejected the proposal.
[...]
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also questioned the aim of the suggestion by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
[...]
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s top Shia politicians, also rejected the conference Saturday in Amman, Jordan, saying it would be “unrealistic” to debate Iraq’s future outside the country and Iraq’s government was the only party qualified to find a solution to Iraq’s conflict.

But former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia with close Washington links, disagreed, saying Iraq could not solve its problems alone.
Iraqi politicians divided over int’l conference on Iraq

---

Mr. Hakim, for his part, flatly rejected one of the recommendations that the bipartisan Iraq Study Group is expected to make this week: a call for an international conference or regional peace initiative.

“We believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis with the help of friends everywhere,” Mr. Hakim said, speaking through an interpreter. “But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process.”
Bush Meets With Rival of Iraqi Leader

Posted by b on December 5, 2006 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

OT 06-113

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 5, 2006 at 03:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

December 04, 2006

Drilled Brains

I have had a serious date with my dentist today and now I'm in no mood to write something up myself.

But Bea points to a dark juicy piece at Middle East Online by Ahmed Amr, editor of nileMedia:

Mister Death Squad Goes to Washington

No one in his right mind is suggesting that exiting Iraq was ever going to be a tidy business. But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore that the man invited to sip tea with the president is holding a common household drill dripping with blood and brain tissue. Hakim keeps trying to wipe it off with his clerical robes to the amusement of the President – who has no clothes to help out his guest. Snickering in the corner, the assembled media dignitaries mind their manners and pretend not to notice.

Bush is now allying with the Persian puppet Hakim and his torturer gangs against Iraqi Sunni and nationalist Iraqi (Sadr) Shia. At the same time he is allying with lots of Sunni dictators against a (halfway) democratic Shia Iran. Maybe only a drilled brain can understand that strategy.

PS: Another recommendable piece by Amr: Get Feith and Exit Iraq without Bush

Posted by b on December 4, 2006 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

December 03, 2006

Barfly Meeting - Second Call

As announced a month ago, some Moon of Alabama folks will meet in Hamburg, Germany on new years eve and throughout the following week.

We'll watch the fireworks over the harbour docks, we'll party and maybe tango here on January, 3rd and we'll roam Berlin on the 4th and 5th.

Anybody reading this is invited to join. Interesting people, lots of silly fun and decent drinks are guaranteed.

For local info/support please feel free to contact me at MoonofA - at - aol  - dot - com.

(Did anyone think of a slogan for this desaster yet?)

Posted by b on December 3, 2006 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

Lost Because Of Translation

The war on Iraq that is.

Rumsfeld's last memo (leaked to hit Bush by whom? Rumsfeld? Cambone?) includes as one point a "reverse embed" program. Iraqi soldiers would embed with US troops so help U.S. troops learn Arabic and culture. But how would those embedded Iraqis learn English?

The Baker/Hamilton plan will demand an increase in US troops embedded in Iraqi forces. How will these embeds talk to the Iraqis?

The decisive but missing ingredient of the war are translators. Without translation there is no intelligence, without translation there is no training Iraqi troops, without translation there can not be any decent relationship. Without translation the war is lost.

The lack of translators was discussed in the media as problematic in 2003, 2004, 2005 and in 2006 is of course still the problem.

Training troops to a decent language level takes a lot of time:

"It's easier to train someone to fly an F-14 than it is to speak Arabic," said Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association.

One would have expected the DoD to start a program for this obviously needed capability immediately after 9/11 or at least when the first problems occurred.

But as Fred Kaplan documented, the Department of Defense has yet not even started to train very, very basic Arabic to its guys on the ground.

In August 2004, nearly three years after 9/11, the DoD released a Defense Language Transformation Roadmap (pdf). The roadmap included deadlines for certain Arab language training projects. To "Establish 'crash' or 'survival' courses for deploying forces" the planed date is September 2007.

The troops deployed now and throughout the next year will hardly be able to understand, or say, "yes", "no" or "thank you" in Arabic. Until this year, even U.S. officers were not demanded to take any foreign language course at all.

Missing the capability itself, the military awarded huge contracts to private contractors to provide translators. Titan, now bought by L-3, did so exclusively over the first years and it currently bills some $70 million per month for translators in Iraq. U.S. civilian linguists are payed up to $15,000 per month now. That price is up from $7,000 a year ago. Their job is mostly base bound intelligence translation.

Iraqi civilian translators do get $1,000 per month now and they are those who go out into the field and take real risk. Of Titan employees alone at least 216 have died in Iraq, more than 600 were wounded. They and their families get attacked and when they get wounded the trouble only starts.

But of course there is the ever high believe in technology and the DoD has tried several products that claim to translate English to Arabic and vice versa. So far, with many millions spend, nothing really works and even the better stuff is pretty useless:

"If you ask, 'What color was the car?' it will be looking for something like blue or red," he said. But if the person responds by asking which car or says he didn't see a car, the system will not be able to translate, McCunne said. "It's a fairly limited type of communication," he added.

The language problem will not go away and I find no sign that there are any real attempts to solve it.

The militray is stuck in a bureaucracy fight about language training management and has not even started any broad basic training. The contracters certainly know how to bilk the public, but they were not and will not be able to provide linguists in sufficiant numbers and with sufficiant capabilities. Technology solutions sound fine but are useless in a dynamic and dangerous environment.

As former Marine Colonel Thommas X. Hammers said:

Insurgencies like that in Iraq are defeated not on the battlefield but by good governance and effective police work. The United States will not achieve either if it can't understand what its allies are saying, much less what its enemies are saying.

But then, if one has another ten years to get the job done ... their just may be some chance of success.

Posted by b on December 3, 2006 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (82)

December 02, 2006

Cookie Points

Not that I agree with everything Carter says. There obviously is apartheid within Israel too, not only in the occupied territories.

But anyhow, I'll give him a serious bunch of cookie points for speaking some truth in his new book: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Carter via Democracy Now:

The alternative to peace is apartheid, not inside Israel, to repeat myself, but in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian territory. And there, apartheid exists in its more despicable forms, that Palestinians are deprived of basic human rights. Their land has been occupied and then confiscated and then colonized by the Israeli settlers. And they have now more than 205 settlements in the West Bank itself. And what has happened is, over a period of years, the Israelis have connected settlements with highways, and those highways make the West Bank look like a honeycomb and maybe a spider web. You can envision it. And in many cases, most cases, the Palestinians are prevented from using the highways at all, and in many cases, even from crossing the highways.
[..]
[I]n Israel and in Europe, these kind of issues are debated every day, in a most vehement way, particularly in Israel. Pros and cons, arguing back and forth, in the news media, television, radio, the major newspapers. Never, in this country, do you hear any of these issues proposed publicly by an elected member of the House or the Senate or in the White House or NBC or ABC or CBS, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times. Never. And I think it's time for Americans to start looking at the facts about the Mid-East situation.

Posted by b on December 2, 2006 at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

December 01, 2006

Sit-In

In Lebanon a big sit-in has started. Some 800,000 to 1,000,000 people, a quarter of the total population, came to today's initial demonstration and they will set up camps in the street and many will stay there until the government steps down.

This is about real democracy.

Some 60 to 70% of the Lebanese population are Muslim. But the parliament system is based on ethnic and religious shares. Muslims are only allowed 50% of the parliament seats. The Muslim Lebanese are primarily Shia, but the Shia only get 27 of the 128 total seats. A Shia vote only counts a third of other votes.

This system of quotas and disfranchisement, a relict of French colonial rule, reaches into all government functions. If you want a job at the Univerisity it is not enough to be the most qualified person. If the quota for your religious association is already filled you are out of luck. Somebody from another sect will get the position. 

Naturally in such a political system, the underrepresented majority gets the least spoils from the state. Over the years the overrepresented minorities systematically evolve into social winners while the majority loses and ends up poor.

Hizbullah's power and support lies in its ability to deliver those social service to the poor majority that the government does not deliver.

A smart long term strategy to undermine Hizbullah's power is to give the people their fair share of the vote. Through the mechanisms of a real democracy they then could reach the appropriate share of govenment attention. Hizbullah's social services would not be needed anymore and over time the basis of their power would erode.

The Taif agreement of 1989 whcih ended the Lebanese civil war stated as one point that Syria should leave Lebanon. It also demanded to abolish the system of political sectarianism and parliament quotas.

U.S. sanctions against Syria were implemented because Syria's presence in Lebanon was "inconsistent with the spirit of the 1989 Taif Accords." I am still waiting for U.S. sanctions against the current Lebanese parliament and government for being "inconsistent with the spirit of the 1989 Taif Accords."

Posted by b on December 1, 2006 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

OT 06-112

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 1, 2006 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

 
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