an example of how supra-national government organizations are prone to abuse for purely inter-national politial reasons: Blair is being sued as a war criminal under the ICC. Thank god we didn't sign that treaty.

UPDATE: Jonathan writes in the comments:

ICC prosecutions are controlled by the prosecutorial staff rather than private parties. Anyone can file a complaint with the ICC, just as anyone can walk into a police station in the United States and report a crime, but the complaint won't be pursued unless it's deemed worthy by professional prosecutors.

fair enough, but I'm still leery. My gut feeling is that the President should be ultimately held accountable to the American people, and not any external body.

Personally, I would favor an ICC that was limited to jurisdiction over governments that are not democratic only. Also, I think that the jurisdiction should be limited to government officials only, NOT military enlisted personnel.


save Liberia

Nicholas Kristof has an eloquent appeal about why we need to go into Liberia. It's essentially the anti-Iraq:

Military interventions are always risky, but success looks relatively promising in Liberia. All Liberian factions say they want us on the ground, and ordinary Liberians have been pleading for Mr. Bush to send troops.

Would anybody shoot at us? Probably, but in neighboring Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, local fighters melted away rather than take on European troops. The ragtag Liberian militias, bereft of popular support, would probably collapse even more quickly.

I argued against invading Iraq, but Liberia presents a much more compelling case for intervention. The difference is not that Saddam slaughtered at most 1 percent of his population over the last 14 years, while Liberian warfare has killed more than 6 percent of its population so far. Nor is it that rescuing Liberia would bolster our international stature rather than devastate it.

No, the crucial differences lie elsewhere. First, Liberia has an urgency to it that Iraq did not: people are being hacked apart daily in Liberia, and if we do nothing, the conflict may spread across West Africa. Second, success can be more easily accomplished in Liberia, using just 1 or 2 percent of the number of troops we have in Iraq, mostly because Liberians desperately want us to intervene.

Liberia's warfare has already infected Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast, costing perhaps a half-million lives in all since Charles Taylor grabbed Liberia in 1989. Just as the Rwandan crisis (and Mr. Clinton's failure to respond decisively) led to a catastrophe across central Africa that has cost more than four million lives so far, Liberia's civil war could lead to upheaval across West Africa.

Is U.S. national security at stake in Liberia? Indirectly, yes, for failed states anywhere can threaten us.

A collapsed West Africa could become, like the Taliban's Afghanistan, a haven for terrorists and narcotics, as well as a sanctuary for infectious diseases. Illegal immigrants would pour by the millions out of West Africa into Europe and America. In today's world, as John Donne never wrote, no nation is an island.

Given that Africa is becoming the next breeding ground for religious fanaticism, Liberia and the rest of Africa make as good a case study for the neo-con domino theory as the Middle East.

response to The Strategic Overview: root causes

I'll go through Steven Den Beste's Strategic Overview of the War on Terror point by point. I agree with some, disagree with some. I ended up being against teh war, because I didn't believe that there was an imminent WMD threat (I feel vindicated on that score). I curently believe we need more troops in Iraq, because now that we are in the briar patch we are committed to success for our own security (greatly weakened by invading Iraq in the first place). Billmon describes how the inherent circular logic entombs us in Iraq for the forseeable future:

In the end, policy mistakes -- particularly big ones -- tend to produce a kind of circular reasoning -- in which those in charge try to justify the policy by citing the need to avoid, at all costs, the failure of the policy. So it was in Vietnam. So, too, with our latest misadventure in Iraq.

If Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terrorism, it's because America is there -- or rather, because Wolfowitz and his crew put it there, in pursuit of their dream of a domesticated Arab world, reconciled to Western hegemony and living in peace and harmony with Israel and its soon-to-be-born Palestinian bantustan.

And so the circle is closed: Because America in Iraq, it must fight the "terrorists." And because it must fight the terrorists, America has to be in Iraq.

The bottom line for me is that to suceed in Iraq, we need more troops, and the best way to do that is to get foreign help. It's obvious that the Bush Administration isn't going to be inspire our allies to help.

On to Steven Den Beste. Note that I will directly respond to first- (I) and second- (A) level points only. Trying to incorporate third- (1) level points would take too much time, I need to draw the line somewhere. I'll be happy to address third-level points separately, email me if you have a specific one you'd like to see addressed.

I. Root cause of the war

A. Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area which is predominately Arab and/or Islamic.

If SDB had phrased the root cause as "widespread tyranny and oppression of the people in the middle east by their rulers." then I would have absolutely no disagreement. However, SDB has explicitly laid te blame for this at the feet of the people of the Middle East themselves. This is like blaming the citizens of the colonies for King George's taxation.

The "root cause" of the Terror is indeed tyranny in the Middle East. But the "root cause" of teh Tyranny is the post-colonial and imperialist dissection of the region by the great powers after WWII - especially Britain and America. Every authoritarian nation in the region is the product of lines in the sand drawn to secure natural resources and strategic positioning for the victorious powers of WWII - the spoils of war.

In order to secure these spoils, the basic infrastructure of tyranny was installed and supported by the West. Saddam, Mubarak, Hussein, Assad, and the rest were all beneficiaries of this policy. The oppression of theor people became a means to justify the end. There was a notable lack of rhetoric about democracy, instead an emphasis on "stability" - the kind that an iron fist can provide.

B. Since this is a "face" culture, shame about this this has led to rising but unfocused discontent, anger and resentment.

This is nonsense. The Arab world is no more or less a "face" culture than any other human society. SDB and most of the others who detect a "shame" are speaking from zero experience with the actual Arab world - this is a convenient stereotype that has no basis in reality, but serves to rationalize the "blame the Arabs collectively" meme.

C. Some governments in the region have tried to focus it elsewhere so as to deflect it away from themselves. (The "Zionist Entity" is a favorite target.)

Completely agree. The oppression of the people by their leaders has of course led to discontent and the leaders of the Arab nations have used propaganda to deflect the public anger towards external threats. This is straight from the Orwell-1984 playbook. This is one of the tools in the dictator's toolbox.

D. Ambitious leaders of various kinds of tried to use it [collective failure of Arab world] for their own purposes.

The same could be said of ambitious leaders in the West - after all, Project for a New American Century has been advocating American military intervention in the Middle East since well before September 11th - in fact well before the present Bush Administration.

More importantly, this point again demonstrates a selective approach to history (and a sloppiness with regards to facts). SDB writes, "Khomeinei and the Taliban used it to support revolutions respectively in Iran and Afghanistan." But neither Iran nor Afghanistan are Arab or have anything to do with Arab culture. They are Persian (which has been an indepenedent civilization in its own right since well before the rise of Christ, let alone Islam), and Asian. Tying them into the "collective failure of Arab nations" imakes no factual sense (and none of SDB's third-level bullet points A1 - A5 apply).

And the historical background of the revolutions in Iran and Afghanistan have also been papered over. Iran had a democratically elected legislature, the Majlis, and a popular Prime Minister, Muhammad Musaddiq, in 1949. Musaddiq was the leader of the National Front party, whose platform was freedom of the press, free and honest elections, and the promotion of social justice. Musaddiq led the drive to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which put him at odds with Britain and America and their Iranian proxy, the Shah. The result was a coup, partly funded by the CIA, which deposed Musaddiq and installed the Shah to power.

The Shah created the dreaded SAVAK (secret police) and ruled Iran with an iron fist (sound familiar?). Television was nationalized to become a state-controlled propaganda organ (sound familiar?). The Shah implemented a "land ownership reform" that undermined large landowners and resulted in declining agricultural output (sound familiar?). The old two-party system was replaced with a one-party system to which all peope were expected to register and support (sound familiar?). A radical Islamic party was founded in opposition to the Shah's regime (sound familiar?). And the Shah was finally overthrown by Khomeini, with vast popular support.

To characterize this recorded history as "Khomeini used the failure of Arab cilivlization to seize political power" approaches satire.

As for Afghanistan, it played out in a similar way, the root cause again being America, this time in the context of the Cold War. Afghanistan was the proxy battleground between the USSR and the US, with America funding the brutal mujahideen fighters against the Soviet military (without our support, the fabled mujahideen would have been crushed). Reagan publicly praised the mujahideen as freedom fighters.

Once the Soviets were driven out, America did not tarry in Afghanistan, leaving Kabuk and environs to the predation of the mujahideen, who renamed themselves the Northern Front. Their brutality was severe, and thus again the rise of a religious-based group, The Taliban, promising to restore justice and morality.

What strikes me most about this is how reapolitik , a foreign policy ideology that advocated a simple solution (proxy nations) to solve a large problem (Soviet threat), directly generated the problems of today. And in response, we have yet another foreign policy ideology (neo-conservatism). Steven has been routinely dismissive of the suggestion that today's actions might have similiar long-term inforseen consequences, but I for one disagree with the short-term-centric view that is en vogue with the current Bush Administration.

In summary, I disagree with Steven about his root cause for terror. I don't think it has anythin to do with collective failure of Arabs. It has everything to do with American foreign policy decisions, both as a post-WWII spoils, and as a strategic response to the threat of Soviet Russia. By our concious decision to support tyrants (the Shah, Saddam, Mubarak) and thugs (the mujahideen) instead of encouraging local democratic institutions, we planted the seeds for the tyranny in the middle east. And that tyranny which we sowed is the cause of Arab discontent, not any sense of cultural shame.

I'll have to tackle Section II and subsequent sections in later posts.


I'm frankly quite disturbed by the apologentsia who rationalize and spin away every aspect of our Iraq campaign. Looking at the comments in Tacitus' thread on the topic of hostage-taking by American troops of civilians, we find plenty of representative examples:

There's a certain amount of irony in the (IMO) almost certainty that the general surrendered upon receiving the note not because of any factually based conclusion that the US military would harm his family if he failed to comply, but because he knew how he would have behaved in a similar situation.

Without contorting too much, I think that the detaining of the wife and kid was actually for their safety. We were out to capture or kill the general and if the wife and kid were nearby it is likely that they could have been killed or injured. By detaining them, we were actually insuring the absolute safety of his family until he turned himself in.

Iraq can and has taken hostages among their own population, and has killed, maimed, and assaulted them. This is the reason that a general working for Saddam Hussein, and who has been listening to propaganda about the United States, would find it perfectly credible that US forces would kill his family if he did not surrender. Call me unsympathetic, but delusional ignorance is an inherent drawback for working for a sadistic dictator--I'm not inclined to feel too apologetic about the fact that Saddam's little minions can be tricked into coming in out of the cold in this manner.

The sheer ludicrousness of these arguments, which are transparently apologist, masks the extreme danger of such a polemical approach to our Iraq policy, which is that by papering over the mistakes, there is no process of review and improvement.

If our efforts to rebuild Iraq as a free society are to suceed, we must avoid all appearance of impropriety. We must never even appear to have strayed from the high ground.

Forget the Geneva convention. At the bare minimum, this showed poor judgement. And it ultimately harms what we are trying to do there. And for that reason alone we should all condemn it strongly.

There's a lot more analysis of this by Matthew, Jim, and Kevin:

At first we're led to believe that we're gaining ground in Iraq due to a simple shift in tactics, but a few days later we learn that what this really means is that we're kidnapping families and holding them hostage in order to increase the "quality and quantity of intelligence."

mark my words - the means will influence the ends. The Shi'a are watching.

UPDATE: Phil Carter weighs in along the same lines, but does so with a solid understanding of military law:

Of course, that's just a legal footnote about Protocol I. The U.S. did sign the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, and it explicitly precludes hostage taking in armed conflict:

Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited.

There is also a norm of international law known as "distinction" -- which literally means distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants. This principle would probably preclude the kind of conduct conducted by COL Hogg in Iraq, since the Iraqi Lt. Gen.'s family members are unquestionably non-combatants.

Doing what's unlawful is one thing; doing something which is counter-productive is quite another. We're trying to rebuild Iraq as a kinder, gentler place -- a nation that contributes to regional stability, economic growth, personal liberty, etc. To accomplish our mission, we need to win the Iraqis' hearts and minds. Kidnapping the wives and daughters of our adversaries is not a way to win hearts and minds -- it's a way to squeeze their private parts. This is the kind of tactic that can backfire, bigtime.

Meanwhile. Zack weighs in over at Tacitus' original comment thread:

Tacitus is right; this tactic does seem to work in Iraq. I know that it also works in crimial cases in a number of countries. And we all know what kind of scumbags some criminals can be. So we should go ahead and promote this policy against criminals here in the US. If a criminal has disappeared and cannot be found by law enforcement, we take his family into custody until he gives himself up. If the scumbag then doesn't confess, we threaten him about his family.

I can assure you that this will have a chilling effect on crime.


The legitimacy of the UN

George Will points out with discomfort that the Bush Administration has unwittingly legitimized the UN, even as it's neo-con hawks argue it's irrelevance:

Today a conservative administration is close to asserting that whatever the facts turn out to be regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the enforcement of U.N. resolutions was a sufficient reason for war. If so, war was waged to strengthen the United Nations as author and enforcer of international norms of behavior. The administration also intimates that ending a tyranny was a sufficient justification for war. Foreign policy conservatism has become colored by triumphalism and crusading zeal. That may be one reason why consideration is being given to a quite optional intervention -- regime change, actually -- in Liberia.

This in the context of a larger article that addresses domestic policy anti-conservatism by Bush as well. It's intriguing to see how ideology gets trumped by ideology - wheels within wheels...

Safire is uncharacteristically honest about Bush being on the wrong side of FCC deregulation, as well:

The Bush veto threat would deny funding to the Commerce, State and Justice Departments, not to mention the federal judiciary. It would discombobulate Congress and disserve the public for months.

And to what end? To turn what we used to call "public airwaves" into private fiefs, to undermine diversity of opinion and � in its anti-federalist homogenization of our varied culture � to sweep aside local interests and community standards of taste.

This would be Bush's first veto. Is this the misbegotten principle on which he wants to take a stand?

I used to think that the only way the Bush Administration's own ideological allies would dare to disagree with him would be when Bush had total command over government. But when he achieved that in Nov. 2002, the critiques from within the GOP were still non-existent. Now that Bush is weakened by his foreign policy missteps and the SotU, conservatives are suddenly emboldened.. to criticize him. It's an interestingly counter-intuitive development.

not exactly a meritocracy

Eric Alterman's guest blogger David Sirota demonstrates what Lexis Nexis is for:

On May 16th, 2002, Rice said �I don�t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon. [No one predicted] that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile,�[CBS News, 5/17/02]. But according to the bipartisan 9/11 commission report, �intelligence reports from December 1998 until the attacks said followers of bin Laden were planning to strike U.S. targets, hijack U.S. planes, and two individuals had successfully evaded checkpoints in a dry run at a New York airport,� [Reuters, 7/24/03]. More specifically, �White House officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden�s terrorist network might try to hijack American planes.� [ABC News, 5/16/03]

Throughout 2002 and early 2003, Rice repeatedly insisted that the Administration sought a peaceful solution to the Iraq conflict and that war was only a last resort. In October of 2002, she said, �We�re going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think that one is possible� [CBS, 10/20/02]. Then in November of 2002, she said, �We all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way� [Briefing, 11/21/02]. In March of 2003, she claimed �we are still in a diplomatic phase here� [ABC, 3/9/03]. However, according to Richard Haas, Bush�s director of policy planning at the State Department, the decision had already been made by July of 2002. When asked exactly when he learned war in Iraq was definite, Haas said, �The moment was the first week of July (2002), when I had a meeting with Condi. I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision�s been made, don�t waste your breath. And that was early July. So then when Powell had his famous dinner with the President, in early August, 2002 [in which Powell persuaded Bush to take the question to the U.N.] the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how� [New Yorker, 3/31/03]

When questioned about why she did not raise objections to the bogus Iraq-nuclear claim in Bush�s State of the Union speech, Rice said on July 8 that �no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery� [AP, 7/23/03] However, 15 days later, the White House acknowledged that �the CIA sent two memos to the White House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa� [Washington Post, 7/23/03].

Rice told reporters on July 11th that the CIA �cleared the speech in its entirety.� As AP reported, �if Tenet, the CIA director, had any misgivings, he never shared them with the White House,� she said. However, �Stephen Hadley, Rice�s top aide, said on July 23 that in fact he received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from Tenet last October warning him that evidence that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium in Africa was not reliable. One memo was also directed to Rice.� [AP, 7/23/03]

Facing questions over Rice�s changing stories, the White House then attempted to deflect criticism by claiming that Rice and Bush both failed to even fully read the intelligence documents they were given - as if negligence obviates responsibility for misleading the nation. As the Washington Post reported, on the eve of war, �President Bush and his national security adviser did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was �highly dubious,� White House officials said.� That assessment, called the National Intelligence Estimate, is considered the U.S. government�s most important intelligence document and contained �a classified, 90-page summary that was the definitive assessment of Iraq�s weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies� [Washington Post, 7/19/03]. When asked about Rice�s new claim to not have read critical CIA memos sent directly to her that debunked the Iraq-nuclear claim, Stephen Hadley, Rice�s top aide, admitted �I can�t tell you she read it. But in some sense, it doesn�t matter. Memo sent, we�re on notice.� [AP, 7/23/03]

Condi is one of the Loyal Liars - which is why she gets to keep her job.


Saudi Arabia will still dominate

Saudi Arabia controls 25% of the world's proven oil reserves. There's a great article in Fortune Magazine (only available online to subscribers) that makes the point that Saudi Arabia has always wielded enormous power over the oil market. Saudi Arabia need only increase production by a trivial (to them) amount and the price of oil drops through the floor.

It doesn't matter how well America runs Iraq's oil industry. Saudi Arabia, by sheer volume of production and reserves, has far more control. And America is not even Saudi Arabia's biggest customer. They are well insulated from any of our actions and any idea that we can use Iraq as an oil leverage on them is simply wrong.

UPDATE: The reason I'm making this point is because I think that there is a red herring inherent in trying to portray Iraq oil policy as a counter-measure to Saudi funding of fanatical Islam. Saudi Arabia has a simple advantage in terms of raw volume, an economic reality that is totally insulated from political reality. So in order to have any effect, we must pursue political and social initiatives towards the Saudis rather than an economic one - its a simple matter of playing the field on which we have an edge.

That means that we need to reveal our knowledge of Saudi terror financing. The Bush Administration's refusal to do so has drawn mild criticism from principled conservatives and Bush-apologists. But more than criticism is needed - especially since the Saudis are able to play the same issue in victim-mode.

Given this Administration's propensity towards loyalty to itself rather than the good of the country, I'm not holding my breath.

delusional fantasy

I shall reproduce, without further comment, Israpundit's Ssh! Super Secret! What's Really Going On bullet points:

1. Israel had a significant role in the Iraq war.

2. US delivered Apachi helicopters to Israel prior to the war ostensibly for Israel�s own needs. Israeli pilots flew these Apachis to a base in eastern Jordan where there flew many missions at night with US special units.

3. Israeli drones were used extensively in Iraq because they looked like US missiles on Iraqi radar. When the radar honed in the US was able to locate every radar installation and then knock them out. This was huge help in war. One drone was shot down but Iraq never figured out how US knew the location of the radar.

4. Russia told Hussein one month before the war to remove all WMD to Syria and told Hussein to make many tapes to be played after. Iraq transported all the WMDs to Syria to be buried in Beka Valley in Lebanon. They did it at night so as not to be detected by Israeli or US satellites. It didn�t help. The satellites were able to detect where soil had been disturbed and put back so the exact location is know. It will come out during elections in the US. Debka first called it.

5. Syria has been given their marching orders. Syria has withdrawn all troops from Lebanon except for the Beka Valley where they have been ordered by the US to protect the WMD. Later they will be taken back to Iraq where they will be destroyed in the appropriate way.

6. Hezbollah has been ordered to withdraw from the Israel border and to get in line. They are complying for the same reason Syria is, namely, the jig is up.

7. In Iran there will be a revolution in the fall when the students come back to school. The US is beaming in all kinds of radio and television to Iranians in their own language and telling them the truth. The Mullahs are on the run. They overreacted with the Canadian Reporter.

8. Europe and Russia are now coming down on Iran and are expected to levy a trade embargo in the fall, which will start the revolution. We see signs of that starting now.

9. No US troops will be involved until the presidential elections are over.

10. Now that Hussein�s sons are dead, it is all over. This source says that Hussein is also dead.

11. Ben Laden is also dead or at least very sick and Al Qaeda is mostly finished.

12. The Roadmap is not expected to lead anywhere. Even now it is not being followed. Mainly, it is a diversion while all these other things are going on. Most Palestinians over 30 long for the days before Oslo when they had it better than ever. Over time they will shift to the policies of Mazen away from Arafat.

13. The fence will soon be finished. The Palestinians are very worried about it because they know to survive economically they must work in Israel. The fence prevents that.

14. The final settlement is very unclear at the moment.

15. It may be that Jordan will merge with Iraq and King Hussein will reign. This is good because the Palestinians in Jordan will no longer be in majority and both Iraq and Jordan will be stable with the fall of Iran and with Syria changing its stripes.

16. The territories may go over to this new entity so that it will be self-sufficient with Iraqi oil supporting Jordan, the territories and Iraq.

17. Iraq will greatly increase oil production, which will lower the price of oil to $16.00 per barrel. This will bankrupt Saudi Arabia. Surprised?

18. The US is planning on buying more oil from West Africa thereby lessening their dependence on Saudi oil. That�s why Africa is now of interest to the US.

19. The report that is being released on Thursday July 24th on 9/11 will blow the lid off Saudi support for terror even with the key parts are blacked out. The full story will slowly come out. The Saudis are the biggest backers of terrorism in the world and the US knows it. Many influential people are in bed with the Saudis starting with Bush Sr.. The State Department is corrupted and continually protects the Saudis but all that will change over the next year. This is a huge story, which will spawn many books.

20. The Saudis are now being sued for one trillion dollars and the Saudi royal family is very worried about the lawsuit because the plaintiff has enough facts to sink them. The State Department is try to protect them.

21. And Israel is sitting pretty.

well, one comment. #21 certainly fits with my characterization of the guiding philosophy of neo-conservativism, ie. pursue Israel's self interests to the exception of all else. Thus we extend our hegemony over the region by proxy (a very Cold War-inspired idea). The list above reads likeit was taken straight from a neo-con texxtbook on the domino effect, where all major players are so cowed by American power that they all fall into line - behind Israel.

UPDATE: I should have clarified that I think the entire thing above is abject nonsense by Israpundit. I respect but strongly disagree with neo-conservative theory, which sees Israel (and soon, Iraq) as a regional proxy for American hegemony. What Israpundit has concocted above is, though superficially similar, completely insane.

hooray for Ann Coulter

thus spake Slate:

But the indelicate Coulter has crossed the line, stating openly the message others push subliminally. Consider her notorious comment, following 9/11, that the solution to radical Islamists was for the United States to "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." This met with an outcry that was, again, loudest from the right. Within days, National Review online dropped her column. (And Horowitz, to his credit, picked it up for FrontPage.) But no one, to my knowledge, has bothered to point out that her formulation was prescient�right up to the eerie moment in April when Ari Fleischer was dodging questions about the evangelicals camped on the Iraqi border, poised to Christianize the Muslim infidels.

Ann Coulter may have committed "treason" against conservative good taste. But she's done the rest of us a favor. She has exposed the often empty semantic difference between the "responsible" right and its supposed "fringe."

sister suffragette

via Barry, Meryl Yourish is absolutely right. But then again, do we expect any better than reflexive, defensive sexism and outright denial from supporters of a publication that calls itself "right-wing news" ?

I understand that feminism and liberalism are not synonymous, so its possible to have a Right Wing feminist. But just like conservative advocates of gay rights, their continued self-subjugation to an ideology that systematically denies their own principles is counter-productive, and they'll never achieve change from within.


"your overconfidence is your weakness."

Palpatine retorts to Luke, "your faith in your friends is yours." well, not friends per se in this case but leaders, specifically Our Noble Father George W Bush, whose infallibility is accepted as a Revelation unto the Chosen Tribe of America.

Steven Den Beste's analogy between the necessary and critical deception of the public by FDR during WWII and the "marketing" of the Iraq war to the American people strains credulity and is a transparent attempt to rationalize the behavior of Bush according to a historical precedent. People who argued along similar lines during the Clinton era were called "apologists."

What's more, the fact that the Grand Neocon Plan to Remake The World (otherwise known as the Project for a New American Century / PNAC) is hardly secret. Steven has been repeatedly writing about it. Perle and Wolfowitz have been going on television boating about it. Laurent Murawiec gave a 24-slide presentation to the Defense Policy Board in the Pentagon which echoed Fareed Zakaria's boilerplate neocon explanantion of Arab anger at the US, which ends with a slide titled "Grand strategy for the Middle East", calling Iraq the "tactical pivot", Saudi Arabia the "strategic pivot", and most bizarrely Egypt "the prize". There's a full writeup in Slate.

So we have the Secret Plan reprinted in Newsweek, MSNBC, Slate, on television, on radio, on USS Clueless. Not to mention its emphastic support by conservative magazines like The Weekly Standard and National Review. In fact you can't go a single day without being browbeaten by the (shhh!) Secret Plan from somewhere within the media universe.

Steven lays out a grim tale of how, had the Big Secret Plan been revealed, that we wouldn't have had staging areas for our Iraq buildup. It seems highly selective to suggest that Kuwait and Qatar were falling all over themselves to help us remove the psychotic Saddam threat because they were completely Clueless about our real intentions. And had Bush spilled the beans, they'd have shut the door?

The bottom line is that there is no justifiable and defensible rationale for secrecy about the NOT VERY SECRET ANYWAY Plan to remake the Middle East.

And suggesting that its just about yellowcake is disingenious. The 9-11 commission report will show that there was ZERO evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, another lodestone of the President's case for war on Iraq.

The reason the yellowcake story is significant is because it's part of a larger pattern, where the Administration deliberately misled the public about why we went to war. Joshua Marshall puts it all into context:

But over time after 9/11 one overriding theory of the war did take shape: it was to get America irrevocably on the ground in the center of the Middle East (thus fundamentally reordering the strategic balance in the region), bring to a head the country's simmering conflict with its enemies in the region, and kick off a democratic transformation of the region which would over time dissipate the root causes of anti-American terrorism and violence: autocracy, poverty and fanaticism.

That is why we are in Iraq today. That is the theory of this war. I have little doubt that many in the administration and in certain think-tanks in DC who really don't like much of what they've been reading on this website recently will have little to disagree with in that description.
It's much more complicated, much more complex, and vastly more difficult to achieve. It's not that the main war-hawks didn't believe there were WMD or that rooting them out wouldn't have been a great coup for US national security. But it is almost as if administration war-hawks told the public a vastly simplified, fairy-tale version of the Iraq war's connection to stopping terrorism and justified this benign deception because the story contained a deeper truth, almost in the way we tell children similar stories because their minds aren't advanced enough to grasp or process all the factual details connected to the lessons or messages we're trying to convey. Got all that? Good.

Of course, one might also say that the public might have intuited that fighting this sort of war was too risky, improbable and costly than anything it wanted to get involved in.

(also see Marshall's article from early March and the first week of the war)

I disagree with Steven - I think the American Public should have been leveled with. I think that we the public have a right to decide whether or not we will embark upon a risky THEORY that will take decades to play out. I don't think that the Administration has the right to pretend that their plan is a Big Secret for the good of the dumb masses. And ultimately I agree with Marshall:

So, why is this little matter of the uranium statements such a big deal? Because it is a concrete, demonstrable example of the administration's bad faith in how it led the country to war. To date that bad-faith has been all too apparent on many fronts. But the administration has cowed much of the press into remaining silent or simply not scrutinizing various of the administration's arguments for the war. And success makes up for many sins. No doubt it's painful for the president's partisans to see this stuff dug into. And it produces glee for Democrats who think -- rightly or wrongly -- that it gives them a potent issue to use against the president in the 2004 elections. But quite apart from partisan considerations on either side, we're never going to figure out what we're doing in Iraq, do it well, or accomplish anything good for the future security of the United States unless and until we start talking straight about why we're there, what we need to accomplish, and how we're going to do it.

testing Quicktopic

Discuss unmedia


a common thread

Some of my recent Google searches, undertaken after having read the astonishing book, The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown (which I will review later):

The Last Supper dagger [1]
Council of Nicaea
Gospel of Philip Thomas Mary

Another wierd coincidence. While writing this post, this article in the WaPo just came online, summarizing the DaVinci Code, as well as directly addressing some of the threads above. This is a fantastic article!

I think what really intrigues me is the Leonardo connection. His paintings are indeed full of code. Look for recurring images of the "pointing finger", which appears in Adoration of the Magi, The Last Supper, and Madonna on the Rocks. As well other symbols like a claw-like hand, a slashing hand, and deliberate obfuscations of gender (the most prominent example of which, is his most famous painting of all time).

[1] Yes, there is a dagger in the Last Supper. Varying interpretations of the painting claim it is held by "Simon the Zealot" or by Peter. But I've gone over high-resolution photos of the painting, and the hand holding the dagger is disembodied. It does not correspond to any human at the table. Though, it would certainly make sense if it was held by Peter... see the Gospels of Philip Thomas and Mary search above.

And is the figure at the right of Jesus really John? John seems to have a very ... fair demeanour. And long red hair. Remember Leonardo daVinci was a master, and knew how to portray the difference between the sexes. I can't look at that figure and see it any other way, but then again I am free of the pre-concieved notions that may dominate some orthodox Christian viewers of the painting.

game over for Qusai and Ebay

Steven has a roundup of less than enthusiastic reactions[1] to the Big News.

I have to admit that my opinion on the deaths of Qusai and Ebay [2] pretty much are in line with local Houston radio conservative, Chris Baker. We should drag the bodies through the streets to prove they are dead to the Iraqi populace. I mean its fine for we Americans to believe verbatim what our Holy Media say (remember both times Saddam died previously?) but we need to leverage the deaths of the Twins Prime Evil right away for the benefit of the Iraqi audience.

Damn good news, though. It will have an effect on the guerilla war, as Tacitus points out (see this WaPo article for more), and might encourage any fearful Iraqi scientists with some info on those fabled WMDs to speak out at last[3].

[1] I wonder if Bush will confirm it using 16 words?
[2] well, I thought it was funny. thpbt.
[3] they'll probably just confirm that Clinton ridded Iraqof them back in Operation Desert Fox:

MISSION: To strike military and security targets in Iraq that contribute to Iraq's ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction.

MISSION GOALS: To degrade Saddam Hussein's ability to make and to use weapons of mass destruction. To diminish Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war against his neighbors. To demonstrate to Saddam Hussein the consequences of violating international obligations.

PRIMARY MISSION ASSETS: The operation employs U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft flying from the decks of the USS ENTERPRISE; U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force aircraft operating from land bases in the region; and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from U.S. Navy ships at sea and United States Air Force B-52s.

seems like Desert Fox was a success, according to the British (whose word the current Adminstration takes very highly. Blair was in charge back then, too).


yes, comments are hosed.

Looks like comments from today have been hosed. I paid Enetation for this? If there's any impetus that ever dislodges me from Blogger, it will be the desire for a robust copmments system built-in.

better off

We've gotten rid of Saddam. Yay!

but, we'll bring back his version of the SS, The Mukhabarat (Ba'ath Party Intelligence).

I am sure that recruiting cold-blooded murdering thugs who were instrumental in torturing and crushing the civil liberties of the Iraqi people, in order to spy on Iran and Shi'a in Iraq who may be sympathetic to Iran, will go over well among the Shi'a community who often bore the brunt of the Mukhabarat's tender mercies.

Billmon has more.

UPDATE: Tacitus declares my dark cloud to be a silver lining, then finds a dark cloud within it.


too late!

an admirable sentiment by Wolfowitz, but comes a little too late.

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq," said Wolfowitz, who is touring the country to meet U.S. troops and Iraqi officials.

"Those who want to come and help are welcome," he said. "Those who come to interfere and destroy are not."

whether foreign troops are "interfering" or "helping" largely depends on your point of view, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Atrios brilliantly refers to it as "the End of Irony." I wish I'd thought of that tagline first.

the libertarians fiddled...

It's no longer safe for you fellow bearded men to read left-wing articles while standing in line for coffee. The FBI might just pay you a visit.

losing the peace

This comprehensive LAT article on how the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq has gone wrong for want of planning is worthy of being a reference document unto itself. It goes into amazing detail about the contrast between the immense planning spent on preparing for war, and the utter lack of any attention paid to the peace.

But the real kicker is the ending:

"It's not true there wasn't adequate planning. There was a volume of planning. More than the Clinton administration did for any of its interventions," said Rand's Dobbins.

"They planned on an unrealistic set of assumptions," he said. "Clearly, in retrospect, they should have anticipated that when the old regime collapsed, there would be a period of disorder, a vacuum of power They should have anticipated extremist elements would seek to fill this vacuum of power. All of these in one form or another have been replicated in previous such experiences, and it was reasonable to plan for them."

Looking back from the third floor of the Pentagon, Feith dismissed such criticism as "simplistic." Despite initial problems, he said, progress is being made, with order returning to most of the country and a new Iraqi governing council in place.

Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely � to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.

"We're going to get better over time," promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase" distinct from combat, he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."


India: the wrong kind of democracy

at least according to the Bush Imperium, which sees any nation that carries out the wishes of its own people, rather than those of the Department of Defense, as traitorous and perfidous. First it was Turkey, not India that refuses to do the Pentagon's bidding. The people of India were against war on Iraq, and Prime Minister Vajpayee is accountable to them, not Bush. So in complying with the wishes of the people of India that troops NOT be sent to Iraq unless it be under a UN mandate, Vajpayee is doing his duty, as the principle of democracy demands.

A principle that the US apparently has abrogated:

As analyst Seema Sirohi put it: "Hell hath no fury like the US scorned." State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher expressed his concerns more diplomatically: "I am not predicting any particular problems. However, we hoped the troops would have been able to go, I think in our interests and what we perceive as their interests as well."

The Bush administration is known to have a vindictive streak. It reacts strongly to countries that don't cooperate in its imperialist ventures. Even before India's decision to reject the US request, William Triplett, former Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "A 'No' from India will have an impact although no one will say so in public. The adults in the administration are thought to be more than a bit put out by the Indian parliament's resolution on Iraq, especially its timing. Showing that the Indian army are rolling up their sleeves to help out now will pay dividends with the Americans later."

George Perkovich, vice-president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes with other analysts that this administration does not forget easily. He commented earlier: "The administration would be angry or at least disappointed, and if India sends troops, it would be bailing out the Republicans from a growing crisis of occupation without international partners."

So much for the stick. What about the carrots? Has India lost out on them by its decision? Hani Shukrallah, the managing editor of the Arab world's largest-circulated Al-Ahram Weekly, published from Cairo, warned: "Certainly, one can remind the Indian government of the many examples - not least that of Egypt - of American imperial ingratitude." Perkovich appears to agree: "The question Indians should then ask is whether and how the US has 'thanked' those who help it and how long the thanks last." He goes on to predict: "It might help with some high-tech trade issues but others such as nuclear cooperation are constrained by agreements and regimes that the US does not control unilaterally."

Laughably, US officials said that UN Resolution 1483 provided the UN mandate that the Indian people demand. This is absolute nonsense. The UN Resolution had to do with Saddam - what India needs is about the occupation of Iraq. There is no other way to ensure that post-Saddam Iraq becomes a truly free country rather than a vassal of Imperial America (as India and Turkey pointedly refuse to be).

America prefers dictators and tyrants like Mubarak and the monarhs of Saudi Arabia, it seems, to democratic states like India and Turkey... What image shall Iraq be cast in?

UPDATE: The Hindustan Times editorializes:

"Any displeasure which American officials may have voiced privately over India's refusal to send troops to Iraq is unwarranted... If they'd only paid heed to what their military commanders in Iraq were saying, they would have understood the reason for India�s decision... So, it may not have been so much for stabilization and reconstruction that the Americans were eager to have the Indian troops as for fighting the war on their behalf. This is clearly out of the question. In fact, unless there are definitive signs that the war is really and truly over, the Indian troops cannot be expected to go to Iraq... It is India which has a greater reason to voice displeasure because of the manner in which it was sought to be dragged into a quagmire of the Americans' own creation."

And the Guardian points out that the very request for "foreign" troops to act as bullet sponges is arrogant and condescending to the core:

Reports speak of "calls" from congressional committees - shocked by rising estimates of occupation - for "more international sharing" of those costs. Such calls are made as if international help was available on tap whenever the US should choose to turn the faucet. There seems to be scant understanding, despite everything, of the way in which American resistance to cooperation with others, not only on Iraq, might induce in them a reluctance to cooperate with America. Senator Edward Kennedy would not make this mistake, and yet even he can speak of the "best trained troops in the world" tied down in policing in Iraq as if it was self-evident, first, that they are in fact well trained, and, second, that others, not so well trained and more disposable, should take their place. As for Donald Rumsfeld, he is reduced to bizarre musings that the US, which recently closed its peacekeeping centre, might take the lead in training and gathering together an international corps of peacekeepers for use in emergencies.

Our highly trained troops ARE being wasted though. They should be here at home building our econopmy and working our jobs, instead of in Iraq. But to the Republicans, soldiers are just a resource to be freed in Iraq so they can be allocated once again somewhere else:

Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely � to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.

"We're going to get better over time," promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase" distinct from combat, he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."

why it matters

Matthew's perspective always drills to the bone:

The war cannot be unfought and everyone, hawk or dove, needs to deal with that reality. The questions then become, on the one hand, what should we do with postwar Iraq, and on the other hand, what should we do with president Bush. It seems to me that if Bush is the sort of president who you think has a tendency to lead the country into wars based on fraudulent evidence, then your answer to that second question should be "get rid of him."

If, by some remarkable coincidence, Bush's fraudulent evidence happened to point toward the invasion of some country that you � for entirely different reasons � also wanted to see invaded, then I think you should consider yourself lucky indeed. Still, you have to wonder whether the next bogus war is going to be one you approve of.

I should point out, via Billmon, that the next bogus war already seemed to have started (albeit briefly).


federalism is a two-state solution

I've learned a great deal by discussing the middle east conflict with Jonathan - and he and I have developed a delicate dance around the issue of whether a two-state solution or a binational union is more beneficial to the long term interests of the Jews and the Palestinians. Jonathan wrote a long series on why he thinks a binational union would not work, (parts I and II) which are also essential reading as a precursor to the discussion.

I think that a lot of the disagreement might stem from a different idea of what a binational union might look like. Seeing as the model is based on the federalist vision of sovereign and separate "states' united under a federal umbrella, I am beginning to think that the two-state solution as favored by Jonathan is not that different from the binational union after all - the Proposal itself characterizes the United States of Israel and Palestine as such:

This proposal outlines the political and territorial configuration of two sovereign states, but in one political and economic union, namely the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel. This reconfiguration is based on the current demographic distribution of both populations and the need to accommodate the returnees from the exiled Palestinian population.

Under this arrangement, areas predominantly inhabited by Palestinian are recommended to be included in a Palestinian state and areas predominantly inhabited by Israelis are recommended to be included in an Israeli state. Areas that are lightly populated and can sustain population are recommended to be included in the Palestinian state in order to accommodate Palestinian refugees. Jerusalem would fall under a separate shared district and would constitute the capital of the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel.

The Palestinian state would include the population of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Galilee (al Jalil) in the north, the centrally located areas known as the Triangle, and the Bir es Saba� region in the south. The Palestinian state would absorb the bulk of exiled Palestinians based on a new territorial configuration that reflects the current demographic distribution of Israelis and Palestinians. Similarly, the Israeli state would comprise those areas where Israelis compose the majority population. Each of the states would have sovereignty over its territories and have its own legislative council. Residents of each state would fall under the jurisdiction of that state regardless of their ethnicity.

Note that the Jewish State in the United States of I-P would still be the true Jewish homeland (to address Uri Averny's main concern). And that the existence of the State of Palestine would also serve to defuse the Right of Return as Jonathan pointed out. But the one facet of the plan that I find the most compelling is how the binational union addresses the question of Israeli security - both internal and external, in a way that the two-state solution does not.

The most immediate threat to the average Israeli is internal. The Proposal tackles the issue head on:

Once the issue of sovereignty and Palestinian national and civil rights have been addressed and resolved, and equitable relations between Israelis and Palestinians have been achieved, the real threats to peace will have been removed and the remainder of the security concerns will be the normal work of the Israeli and Palestinian police departments.

One of the first to define the concept of law was the great Arab philosopher Ibin Khaldun in the fourteenth century. In his definition, the law is the set of measures to be enforced for the protection of man. When the laws in the country are in this spirit, the application of the law and maintaining order is feasible.

This is essentially a restating of the great axiom, "without justice there is no peace." - and part of ensuring the security of the citizens is to ensure that the citizens see justice. Can anyone doubt that a Palestinian state that is totally separate from Israel, with its borders controlled by the IDF, its land encroached by the
Apartheid Wall, and the territory cris-crossed by Israeli highways feeding Israeli settlements, would not perceive any true sovereignity? That there would be no sense of justice? Creating cantons is not the answer - from the Israeli security perspective - because it only boxes the injustice and hatred and allows it to continue to fester.

The only way to ensure that the Palestinian state is not a bantustan in all but name - and to ensure that the primary national goal of New Palestine is not revenge upon its dominating neighbor, is to join the Israeli and Palestinian concerns and aspirations. All parties in teh conflict are rational actors - therefore the solution must equate the self-interests of both parties.

Once this is achieved, then internal security becomes more a matter of police action rather than a military response. The Proposal describes the internal security arrangements that would be needed:

Israeli Police Force: An Israeli police force in the Israeli state would handle all security matters at the state level and be responsible to enforce the law and maintain order in the Israeli state.

Palestinian Police Force: A Palestinian police force would be formed in the Palestinian state and recruit members from residents in the state of Palestine. This department would handle all security matters at the state level in the Palestinian state and be responsible for law enforcement and maintaining order in the state.

District of Jerusalem Police Force: A District of Jerusalem police force would be formed and recruit its members from the District of Jerusalem and be responsible for all security matters in the district.

Bi-state Police Bureau: A Bi-state Police Bureau would be formed and recruit its members from citizens of both states as well as from the residents of the District of Jerusalem and would handle security matters that have a bi-state dimension. The Bureau would also serve as a channel of coordination between the three police departments mentioned above. This Bureau would be formed, administered, and funded by the Federal Union.

Bear Arms: The bearing of arms would be prohibited for residents of both states and as well as the District of Jerusalem with no exceptions.

Note that the Bi-State Police Bureau is key here. Serving the interests of both states, and staffed by members of both communities, it will have a real unifying effect on the political cast of the regional police forces.

And what bout external security threats?

Federal Army: The federal union would maintain an army that is unified and recruit its members from both the Israeli and Palestinian state as well as the district of Jerusalem. The army would defend the international borders of the country against any external threat.

Bi-state Intelligence Service: The federal bureau would maintain a bi-state intelligence service and recruit its members from residents of both states and the District of Jerusalem. This service would monitor and provide information on any external party that poses a threat to the country or either state. This service would be formed, administered, and funded by the Federal Union.

Unified Army: Under this format, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) would be merged with a Palestinian force in one army. This army will not be perceived as a threat to the security of the nations of the region and will not be the target of hostilities by the regional countries, nor can this army be used to terrorize its citizens.

Again, note the deliberate mixing of the power structures. By joining the identities of both Palestinians and Israelis into a new federal identity, it achieves a great deal of unity without detracting an iota from the separate cultural and religious identities. And that is the glue that holds a society together. All of this joint identity maneuvering is absent from the pure two-state solution, and that is why it would fail.

ties of blood

Jonathan continues his excellent series on analyzing the right of return and how it is not the bogeyman that it has been made out to be. He looks at an analogy between the Palestinians and the thenic German refugees expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II:

The status of the Palestinians as long-term refugees - with some refugee families now in their third or fourth generation - is without doubt one of the factors that makes the right of return such a contentious issue. The Volksdeutsch of Eastern Europe, who have been allowed to build new lives in Germany, have no pressing need to return to their countries of origin, and therefore have far less desire to do so. The Jews who became refugees from Arab countries after the creation of Israel have been absorbed in a similar manner; I'm not aware of any studies of their attitudes toward their homelands, but I suspect that very few would return if given the choice.

In contrast, many of the Palestinian refugees see return as their only way out of statelessness. It is no accident that only 5 percent of Palestinians living in Jordan - who are full citizens of a mostly-Palestinian country - expressed the desire to return to Israel as compared to 23 percent of those living in Lebanon. And even in Jordan, the condition of the Palestinian refugees is not truly comparable to that of the Germans, because refugee camps still exist. Unlike the Volksdeutsch, they have not been completely absorbed and have not entirely left their refugee status behind.

The Palestinians' status is anomalous in the history of refugee problems. Most long-term refugee problems are resolved through resettlement rather than repatriation - refugees either return to their homeland within a few years or never return at all. The Volksdeutsch, the postwar Jewish refugee problem and the 1947 exchange of populations between India and Pakistan all ended this way. Eventually, long-term refugees stop being refugees and become citizens of their host countries.

I might add that the reason that the Palestinian situation is anamolous is solely because of the lack of open societies in the surrounding Arab states. A large influx of Palestinians permitted to settle and assimilate would have threatened the grasp on power of the various regional dictators - and the denial of the refugees the right to settle was tacitly approved by the post-WWII colonial powers (Britain and the US), because after all the regional dictatorships were set up by them in the first place.

Ultimately the Palestinian refugee problem has its roots firmly planted in post-WWII colonialism and modulated by Cold War realpolitik. Only in the Middle East did both of these vast forces intersect.

Jonathan suggests that the fact that refugees want to be assimilated does not threaten the peace process:

Does this mean that Dr. Shikaki's poll results are wrong, and that Israel would experience a similar influx of Palestinian refugees if it conceded a right of return? I don't believe so. ... Palestinians returning to Israel would become residents of what most, in all likelihood, view as someone else's country. In addition, while there is only one Rwanda, a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians will result in the Mandate of Palestine being divided into two independent states. Given the choice, most Palestinians - as reflected in the Shikaki poll - will return and rebuild the part of the Mandate that they rule rather than the part the Israelis do. The experience of the Tutsi refugees is more likely to be repeated through a mass repatriation of Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaza, not to Israel.

An interview that Dr. Shikaki gave to National Public Radio shortly after the poll results were released lends further weight to this conclusion. During that interview, he stated that if Israeli citizenship were required as a condition of return, only 1 percent rather than 10 percent of refugees would exercise that option. In other words, 99 percent of Palestinian refugees were unwilling to become citizens of a country they perceived as belonging to someone else. This suggests that, even if Israel conceded an unlimited right of return, fewer than 40,000 refugees would come - a number even less than the 150,000 to 250,000 that I discussed during my initial analysis of the poll. It is likely, moreover, that most of these would be older people with family ties in Israel who would be at very low risk of committing terrorist activity, although it would still be wise for Israel to require all applicants for return to undergo a security check.

Jonathan has been successfully eroding my idealism (but not my pragmatism!) about the binational state solution - and clearly the comparison he draws with Rwanda (read his entire post for the details) seems to suggest that a single state would indeed pose problems that are circumvented with the two-state approach. However, I still believe that the scenario outlined above woudl still work under a binational state framework, because the binational idea has never been about a single unified federal entity whose provinces exist as administrative regions only.

The true binational state solution is based on the federalist model - in fact, I should stop calling it a binational state, and refer to it henceforth as a binational union. The "states" in such a construct are as sovereign as the states in the American Union (sadly less so under Republican rule nowadays). This distinction is completely and totally ignored in most critiques of the binational union idea, such as this Uri Averny piece (courtesy Jonathan) which bases much of its analysis on the utterly false assumption that a binational union would somehow undermine the idea of the Jewishness of the Jewish homeland. Averny is tilting at the non-federal windmill.

In fact Jonathan has suggested to me that I should support the two-state solution as a necessary step towards the binational ideal. It's quite an alluring idea, but I think that it's ultimately unworkable. The basic point of the binational union is to tie the destinies of the two people of Palestine-Israel together in a positive way, to replace the negative death-grip. To suggest that these two peoples, whose blood has mingled on the holiest soil, can somehow erect a wall and go their separate ways is to deny the "facts on the ground" - both the literal ones and the metaphorical ones.


Abizaid tells it straight

Abizaid doesnt have a political agenda. He's just blisteringly competent and qualified.

I believe there's mid- level Ba'athist, Iraqi intelligence service people, Special Security Organization people, Special Republican Guard people that have organized at the regional level in cellular structure and are conducting what I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us.

Gen. John Abizaid, Centcom Commander
Pentagon Press Conference
July 16, 2003

see Billmon for quotes from Rumsfeld. Its obvious wwho has the integrity.

the buck stops anywhere but here

via Josh Marshall, this exchange between White House Press Secretary and the press corps:

QUESTION: Regardless of whether or not there was pressure from the White House for that line, I'm wondering where does the buck stop in this White House? Does it stop at the CIA, or does it stop in the Oval Office?

Scott McClellan: Again, this issue has been discussed. You're talking about some of the comments that -- some that are --

QUESTION: I'm not talking about anybody else's comments. I'm asking the question, is responsibility for what was in the President's own State of the Union ultimately with the President, or with somebody else?

Scott McClellan: This has been discussed.

QUESTION: So you won't say that the President is responsible for his own State of the Union speech?

Scott McClellan: It's been addressed.

QUESTION: Well, that's an excellent question. That is an excellent question. (Laughter.) Isn't the President responsible for the words that come out of his own mouth?

Scott McClellan: We've already acknowledged, Terry, that it should not have been included in there. I think that the American people appreciate that recognition.

QUESTION: You acknowledge that, but you blame somebody else for it. Is the President responsible for the things that he said in the State of the Union?

Scott McClellan: Well, the intelligence -- you're talking about intelligence that -- sometimes you later learn more information about intelligence that you didn't have previously. But when we're clearing a speech like that, it goes through the various agencies to look at that information and --

QUESTION: And so when there's intelligence in a speech, the President is not responsible for that?

Scott McClellan: We appreciate Director Tenet saying that he should have said, take it out.

QUESTION: But it's the President's fault.

Scott McClellan: In fact, if you look back at it, I mean, we did take out a different reference, a reference based on different sources in a previous speech because it was said -- the CIA Director said, take it out.


QUESTION: Scott, on Keith's question, why can't we just expect, basically what would be a non-answer, which is, of course the President is responsible for everything that comes out of his mouth. I mean, that's a non-answer. Why can't you just say that?

Scott McClellan: This issue has been addressed over the last several days.

QUESTION: Why won't you say that, though, that's, like, so innocuous and benign.

Scott McClellan: The issue has been addressed.

(here's the entire transcript)

LGF parodies itself

I've long been giving LGF the benefit of the doubt. The comments sections are filled with rabid anti- muslimists, but I always looked at Charles' comments as satirizing the fanatic muslim extremists only, not the average muslim in America (like myself) who loves their country and believes in their faith. Charles and I might have disagreed on virtually all aspects of the Palestiian struggle, the role of CAIR, etc. - but I honestly thought that these differences of opinion were based on consistent principles.

Until now. via Tacitus, LGF has reached a low that shatters my desperate rationalizations.

The topic? a beautiful article in Voice of America about Muslims honoring and celebrating the 4th of July in Philadelphia:

As a crowd gathered on the lawn in front of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell Pavilion, a group of young Muslims kicked off the annual convention. Their ceremony began with a reading from the Koran, followed by a chorus of children singing the National anthem, then a recitation of the Constitution's first ten amendments.

Twenty-five-year-old Azra Awan from New Jersey says she chose to read the Bill of Rights because the document is symbolic to her.

I've been proud to call America the greatest Islamic country in the world, because only here are the principles freedom of speech and religion that are outlined in the Qur'an so beautifully realized and implemented. Far more so than any Abbasid dynasty could ever have attained.

In the context of this muslim perspective on freedom (which is, I gather, also the point of our Iraq adventure which the LGF groupthink so emphatically supports) there are some insiights into balancing the religious responsibilities with the real world:

Ms. Awan felt uncomfortable at first when she decided to "cover," or wear a hijab, at the age of 12.

"It was the Gulf War and I started covering the same day that the war started," she said. "It kind of worked against me in that sense because I had a lot more people teasing me, making fun of me and I remember it being very difficult. I came home the first day and cried. I didn't want to do it again. But I kept motivated and my friends and I, they continued with me, and from then on we just continued growing."

In contrast, 22-year-old New Yorker Sobia Ahmab says there was no conflict between her religious life and her secular life while she and her group of friends were in high school or college.

"We were born and raised here so we don't feel like we are from a foreign country or anything, you know," she said. "But our religion because it takes a precedent in our lives, it goes in hand in hand. Sisters, we cover, everyday going to school covering, but still keeping our identity. We're still hanging out with the girls [non-Muslim friends], doing the projects, doing everything. Lunchtime, whatever, sports, gym, I mean we take part in everything but within the boundaries of Islam - being modest and things like that. So it's not that hard if you are strong in your identity. It's really not that hard to do it."

As the book about my own community, Mullahs on the Mainframe, illustrates, it is no small feat to exist in a wildly diverse and multicultural society such as America and still retain your own culture's values and practices. Identity is the foundation of community.

What is Charles' take on the passage above? "Case in point�an approving article on Muslims in Philadelphia spreading the intolerance and misogyny of fundamentalist Islam over the Fourth of July holiday."

The irony of Charles' attitude towards the successful assimilation of Muslims into the fabric of American culture - which would slove the threat from fnaatic extremism - is clear. And profoundly disappointing.


Option to Return

Jonathan has some absolutely solid analysis of the minor riot in Ramallah today. The real story is that a respected and independent pollster, Khalil Shikaki, is about to release a new poll of the Palestinian public that reveals that although 95 percent of Palestinians residing in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the occupied territories want the right of return to be recognized in a final peace treaty, far fewer of them would actually exercise it. In fact, only 10 percent of the 4500 households that took part in the survey intended to reside permanently in Israel, and the proportion decreased even further "if the refugees were told that they would have to take Israeli citizenship or that their old homes were gone." In contrast, 54 percent were willing to accept compensation and the right of return to a Palestinian state in lieu of Israel, and 23 percent expressed the desire to move to other countries or stay where they were. (I've just cut and pasted Jonathan's summary).

Jonathan finds great optimism in this poll, and reflects on how it might mean that Right of Return is not nearly the Sword of Damocles over the Peace Process that everyone had imagined:

Perhaps most importantly, these poll numbers indicate that it may be possible for Israel to allow a conditional right of return at little risk to its integrity. Of the four million Palestinians who claim descent from the 1948 refugees, it is likely that fewer than 250,000 would insist on returning to Israel, particularly if they were required to become Israeli citizens. If a peace accord included an assurance that Palestinians could become citizens of the countries where they now live, this number would be even smaller. The 250,000 figure, assuming its accuracy, is approximately equal to the number of Palestinians who are currently living illegally - and, for the most part, peacefully - in Israel.

This suggests a possible compromise on one of the most contentious issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians. The broad outline of such a compromise would involve Israel symbolically recognizing that it is the homeland of the 1948 refugees, but limiting the actual number of returnees to 250,000 - a limit that is unlikely to be tested. Returnees would be required to accept Israeli citizenship and undergo a security check, with Israel having the right to exclude all persons associated with terrorist groups. Those exercising their right of return would be admitted over a five-year period, which would ease the strain of absorbing them into Israeli society and would allow the project to be reviewed or canceled if any returnees engaged in terrorist activity. Priority would be given to refugees with family in Israel, who would at once be the most compelling humanitarian cases and the least likely to commit terrorist acts.

Those not returning to Israel - the vast majority - would have the choice of returning to Palestine or becoming naturalized citizens of their host countries, with full civil rights. "Full civil rights" is admittedly a relative term in countries like Lebanon or Syria, but it would result in the refugees obtaining passports and being freed of property, educational and occupational restrictions. In addition, both returnees and those who remained elsewhere would receive compensation in lieu of their former property - a solution that has been adopted by Eastern European countries with respect to property that was confiscated by Communist governments. Ideally, a final settlement would also provide for compensation for those Jews who became refugees after the establishment of Israel, but this would require the agreement of many more countries. Possibly these refugees could be compensated indirectly by placing most of the burden of repaying the Palestinian refugees upon the international community rather than upon Israel.

I see the pelting with eggs of Shikaki by a Arafat-loyalist mob as a great sign - because it is a clear sign of a dissonance bweteen a political elite and the people the nominally purport to represent.

The average Palestinian is quite aware of cause and effect. Assertions that the bulk of the P population support violent terror attacks directly contradict the common sense axiom that all people are rational actors - and therefore the assertion that the majority support terror that is clearly detrimental to their efforts at survival is clearly flawed.

So I'm not surprised either, and in fact the Binational State solution is way ahead of Jonathan, as they explicitly deal with the Right of Return is a way much as he describes. In fact one of the major critiques that I encountered when last I blogged about the binational state was that its solution regarding Right of Return was too optimistic (cue the menacing Palestinam Demographic Majority and the instant destruction of Israel theme music). This poll does a lot in my mind to think that a federal system implemented in I-P with demographically-derived borders would NOT be derailed by the Right of Return issue at all.


roadmap to murderville, indeed

via LGF, come the alternative peace plan by Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon. I'm interested in discussing this plan in a context removed from the bile of LGF's forum denizens:

The PA
Immediate dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, a non-viable entity whose existence precludes the termination of the conflict.

Israel will uproot the Palestinian terror infrastructure. All arms will be collected, incitement will be stopped and all the refugee camps, which serve as incubators for terror, will be dismantled. Terrorists and their direct supporters will be deported.

Israel, the US and the international community will recognize the Kingdom of Jordan as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Jordan will once again recognize itself as the Palestinian nation-state.

In the context of a regional development program, Israel, the US and the international community will put forth a concerted effort for the long-term development of Jordan, to rehabilitate its economy and enable it to absorb a limited number of refugees within its borders.

The territories
Israeli sovereignty will be asserted over Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Arab residents of these areas will become citizens of the Palestinian state in Jordan. The status of these citizens, their connection to the two states and the manner of administration of their communal lives will be decided in an agreement between the governments of Israel and Jordan (Palestine).

Israel, the US and the international community will allocate resources for the completion of the exchange of populations that began in 1948, as well as the full rehabilitation of the refugees and their absorption and naturalization in various countries.

After implementation of the above stages, Israel and Jordan (Palestine) will declare the conflict terminated. Both sides will work to normalize peaceful relations between all parties in the region.

my personal opinion is, that as a psychological treatise on the mindset within Likud, it speaks volumes. But for the purposes of civil debate, I intend to take it absolutely seriously. I think that this plan might actually be an interesting catalyst. I've invited some other bloggers interested in the PI conflict to comment, I hope that some of them take me up on the offer.

Would Elon's plan work in reducing violence? bringing peace to the region? ensuring Israel's subsequent security? From the perspective of Israeli self-interest, I think these questions are worth asking.

response to yourish about burkas and bikinis

I have to object to Yourish's characterization of my burka and bikini post as "all american women are just as oppressed as Saudi women."

first of all, not all women in America wear a bikini 24-7.

second, of those who do, not all are FORCED to wear the bikini by a man. Some do so because they like to.

The essay I wrote took great pains (which Meryl ignored, apparently) to focus its analysis on the articles of clothing, not the women underneath. The burka is often used as a tool of misogynistic oppression. This is enforced with violence and social stigma.

But the burka is also a symbol - when willingly adopted - of modesty and control over how the woman interacts with society. Many women who wear the veil or similar modest dress do so because they perceive a great benefit to it (including my wife).

Likewise, the bikini can for some be a symbol of female liberation or simple vanity or any other perfectly reasonable expression of a woman's free will and pride and independence.

However, there are some cases where women wear a bikini solely in order to comply with a male-driven social expectation by society. That is the subject of my post, because the simple fact that such social coercion exists means that the bikini can no longer be considered a truly neutral article of clothing.

Many Muslim writers try to make a case for the burka as a symbol of freedom alone, ie ascribe a purely positive value to it. They ignore the negative side of the coin (whether it is pos or neg. depends entirely on the rationale behind why the woman chooses to wear it).

In the same vein, most people like Steven Den Beste who ascribe to the bikini a symbolism of absolute American liberty are also assigning a purely positive value without acknowledgeing that there is also a negative coercive aspect.

The burka and the bikini - when embraced of free will - are equal symbols of freedom, and that is why I have referred to America as the greatest Islamic country in the world many times on my blog. The concept of persona liberty and choice is essential to both American society and Islamic theology regarding the value of religious action.

The impetus to write the burka and the bikini post was solely to counter the simplistic claim that bikinis are American and Free and burkas are totalitarian and slaved. In actual fact, they are both just pieces of cloth. What truly matters is the freedom of the woman wearing it.

I also refer you to Jeanna D'Arc's insightful piece about patriarchal oppression. Also, Jane Galt had some related perspectives about cultural imperialism that are must-reads.

UPDATE: Meryl responds. I concede that she had not used the word "all" in characterizing my post (ie, all american women who wear the bikini are oppressed). However I can be forgiven for thinking she meant the generalization, given the surrounding context of her post that quoted me. In that post, she used me at the tail end of an argument building a systematic case that muslims are ass-backwards about their perceptions of women and freedom (I even got tagged with "even"). I'm glad to hear that I was kmistaken in my inference and that she really does not believe that I consider all American women who wear the bikini to be oppressed. We seem to be in total agreement.

In fact, the agreement continues about those (few, not all) bikini-wearing American women who I do consider to be oppressed! Meryl writes:

Yes, it can be all of those things, and more. But let's face it: The bikini is, for the most part, a symbol of "Look at me! Aren't I sexy?" I seriously doubt that little Brittany-on-the-beach is thinking of anything remotely resembling female liberation, no matter how many articles in Ms. (or posts by Steven Den Beste) to the contrary. More likely they're thinking, "Is that hottie is looking at me?"

As a teenager, I never even considered one-piece bathing suits. Same for when I was in my twenties. It wasn't until I hit my mid-thirties (and picked up a bit of flab) that the desire to show off my body that way cooled down.

The fact that Meryl portrays this absolute validation of my point as a disagreement suggests that she's more interested in disagreement for its own sake than any meaningful dialouge. However, there's a deeper reason than mere personal antagonism - she lets this litle sentence slip by:

The bikini was not invented to become a symbol of social coercion.

In other words, the burka was. she suggests that the burka was created for the express and sole purpose of ubjugation of women. The religious requirement of modesty, and the testimony of many women who wear various forms of hijab, burka, ridah, etc is at one stroke rendered meaningless. In a sense, she is just repeating exactly one-half of my argument (two fourths, actually, the bikini = good and the burka = bad parts). The remaining two, bikini = bad and burka = good, are simply inconceivable - and if an educated Western woman can't see the dogma inherent in that, ie simply cannot see the burka and the bikini as simple pieces of cloth, then I wonder what hope there is for true understanding. I've been shouting into the vacuum all along after all.

strange bedfellows

I knew that there was something different about the situation when the terror groups adopted the language of the hudna for their cease-fire. Even as comitted a partisan as Yourish has acknowleged that there are tangible results.

But there certainly is a dark cloud to the silver linings. An article in Ha'retz raises some important cautionary points in its analysis:

... the present hudna has given these [terror] organizations a similar political clout that the suicide bombings gave them - a lever to dictate policy. Joining the Palestinian Authority may deprive them of this power.

This new power balance puts both Israel and the PA in a position they tried to avoid in the present and previous intifada. Israel is conducting negotiations with the PA although the terrorist attacks are continuing, while the PA is forced to give in to organizations it regards as an ideological enemy.

The struggle is therefore for time and achievements. In less than three months, the organizations will consider themselves exempt from the hudna and the PA will have to decide if it is fighting them or joining the Palestinian public that supports them.

Israel's objective is to make the PA's decision unbearably difficult. This will not be accomplished by tight-fisted negotiations over the release of prisoners, staging fake evacuations of mock outposts, the bluff of easing up on the traffic restrictions or dragging out the talks. Israel and the PA are now engaged in a tug-of-war with the opposition
groups for Palestinian public opinion.

This is the time for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to demonstrate leadership and turn the "painful concessions" into real acts. Otherwise the hudna will be merely a brief interval for cleaning weapons.