Better living through war Archives

December 27, 2006

Non-intervention, Truman style...?!

File this under "almost, pal, but no cigar": this bright young spark Micah Zenko, a grad student at Brandeis and "research associate" in Harvard's Kennedy School, calls for a "no occupations anywhere" policy:
.. by making the opposition to military occupation a principle of US foreign policy it would end a vital rallying cry of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.... Nothing further unites and expands the international jihadist movement more than the prospect of opposing a perceived foreign occupation of Islamic lands.... outside military forces that control a foreign territory end up tarnishing the political character of that country. They employ violence to achieve their goals retard social and economic development and inevitably incite armed resistance....

And while he's at it Uncle oughta end other guys' occupations too, like

... India in Kashmir, Morocco in Western Sahara, Turkey in Northern Cyprus, and Israel in Palestine....[with a] full array of diplomatic incentives.
That last bit is a little queasy-making -- it sounds a lot like trying to suppress the Mafia by the force of moral exhortation. A US commitment to ending occupations everywhere would certainly require something a little more muscular than "diplomatic incentives" -- and just what is a diplomatic incentive anyway? A second helping of petits-fours?

In fact it does turn out that Micah is not quite ready to renounce the big stick; he just wants to keep it in ready reserve:

There should, of course, be exceptions to a non occupation doctrine: international peacekeepers or foreign militaries authorized by the UN Security Council, peacekeeping or stability operations recognized by the consensus of international organizations such as NATO, short-term humanitarian interventions intended to prevent future mass killings.... and deployments welcomed by the recognized government of a state.
Oh Micah, Micah. You had me going for a minute there. But each one of these loopholes is big enough to fit Bill Clinton's brass ass through. And sniff this telltale twist of phrase -- he's calling this "a commitment to the Truman Doctrine." Father Smiff would no doubt have seen the cloven hoof right up top, when the guy used the word "jihadist."

On second thought, let's go ahead and hand the guy a cigar -- just make it an exploder.

Bush channels Feingold?

One war, two wars, three wars, more.... The latest US proxy war, in Somalia, appears, as usual, to be a thoroughly bipartisan affair. Here's Man of Peace Russ Feingold earlier this month:
Feingold faults Bush on Somalia policy
Coleman argues 'robust strategy' needed
Associated Press

Returning from a recent trip to Africa, Sen. Russ Feingold faulted the Bush administration for what he called a failure to develop a policy on Somalia....

Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who will lead the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs subcommittee next year, visited Ethiopia and Kenya, two countries that neighbor Somalia, during a weeklong trip. An Islamic militia has taken over much of Somalia, including the capital, and the country's prime minister said this week his troops were bracing for war.

"The stakes are very high for us," Feingold said in a telephone interview....

Feingold warned that the militants could have an impact not just in Somalia but in the entire region....

"So this is just the kind of situation that we should be paying real attention to, instead of only obsessing about Iraq," Feingold said. "Our failure to have a policy in this area is a threat to the American people...."

Feingold seems to gotten what he asked for from Bush: a "policy", and a suitably assertive one. I only wish those Ethiopian troops were marching into Feingold's office and showing him first hand just what kind of "attention" they pay to these "threats."

My prediction: not one single Democrat in Congress will have a bad word to say for this US-sponsored bloodbath. And indeed, why should they start now?

December 29, 2006

Darfur du jour

Mike Flugennock writes:

Darfur: the issue for liberal activists who don't want to run a chance of ending up at Club Gitmo. Here's a note I received from Africa Focus:

-------- Original Message --------
To: flugennock
Subject: Sudan: Why Doesn't Bush Act on Darfur?
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 07:18:27 -0800

Sudan: Why Doesn't Bush Act on Darfur?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 29, 2006 (061229)

"The crisis in Sudan's Darfur region is intensifying without a meaningful response from the White House [despite President Bush's promise not to allow genocide 'on his watch']...

Why doesn't Bush act?

Jayzus, AF, give the Chimp a break. He's trying to gin up a pretext to bomb the living piss out of the Sudan and take the oil -- uhh, that is, 'save Darfur' as fast as he can:
'Save Darfur? Not So Fast', by Joshua Frank in CounterPunch, 05.11.06
You've seen it, you know it, you love it, 05.17.06

Oh, and just a quick rundown of some of the reasons why Darfur is a distractive, bullshit 'crisis':

  1. The US media are all over it like it was Terry Schiavo. Anne Curry of NBC's 'Today' show has done several live remotes from Darfur -- in true 'embed' style, sitting in the back of a jeep hauling ass across the desert. George Clooney of NBC's 'ER' has also done several live remotes from Darfur that aren't so much journalistic segments as knock-offs of 'Save The Children' ads.
  2. The US media are fighting tooth and nail to avoid mentioning US genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when it comes to Darfur, you'll hear them blurting out the G-word more times than you've had hot dinners. (see no.1)
  3. They've got their own goddamn' TV commercial now, f'cripesake, airing heavily during NBC 'Today' and 'Meet The Press'. Anyone here remember what happened to MoveOn and assorted other outfits who raised the cash to shoot and buy time for pro-peace PSAs and 'issue ads' against the US genocide in Iraq?
"Ah res' mah case." --H. Ross Perot

January 13, 2007

Belated Christmas for the generals

Not telling most of you anything by noticing this but....
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday proposed adding 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine Corps, initiating the biggest increase in U.S. ground forces since the 1960s to shore up a military that top officers warn is on the verge of breaking from prolonged fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This I think is the backstage deal behind Bush's phoney surge: "go along with this tits-on-a-bull 20k new buffalo roam, Gen'rul, sir, and you'll get those new brigades you've been wanting so bad."

Cheney actually knocked serveral balls into their assigned pockets here, but none with so steep a long-run price tag as this: more than $10 billion annually. Multiplying back in the standard Pentagon "prospective discount", I make that prolly 30 billion per year, when all is said and done.

But hey, Dick needed to help the brass hats

underscore the Pentagon's conviction that today's wars and anti-terrorism operations will endure for many years. "We call those 'long war' forces," a senior military official said.
My frugal heart wonders, does this spell the end for the late unlamented Rummy's Robo-boots vision? That would be bad news for the high-living high-tech arms sector. Or are these new brigades a pure add-on -- belt and suspenders?

January 23, 2007

The Sawicki loophole

A comment by the Max man himself set me off. My thoughts are a bit disorganized and seriously incomplete, but it's a moment, I think, that needs a marker.

At his own site -- from the Max Factor's fingertips to your screen -- comes evidence of the fatal fault line in the anti-empire edifice:

"I supported the Kosovo intervention because I feared a genocide was in prospect, though I said there should be less indiscriminate bombing and more U.S. boots on the ground. I will be less inclined to be supportive of any such thing in the future.
This sez it all, don't it? Here in this one shaggy good soul resides the intervention demon at its stealthy best, for a moment exposed, even inside our guy who's against empire -- our guy ready willing and able to challenge the Kosa Volkstra on their skin-deep anti-war shallowness.

Here's Max admitting he sinned, too, over Kosovo. His closing pledge -- "I will be less inclined to be supportive of any such thing in the future" -- is wonderfully sly, instinctively counter-pompous in its understatement; but ultimately not enough, not nearly enough.

We are all sinners! We all betray our beliefs! Our loyalty is fragile! St Peter before the cock crew.

No, this is not excusable. It's even a weasel in its implied premise: NATO should -- of course! -- make an armed response to... genocide.

In the future. Max tells us, I'll not be duped by the corporate press's rush to intervention, with every cry of genocide.

Really? Does Max think that NATO might actually move because of a genocide -- not as pretext, but as prime mover?

While you're lingering over this conundrum, notice the boots-over-bombs bit. The ultimate smart weapon : a redneck with a rifle. This boots-over bombs theory, combined with the loophole for moral intervention -- how many steps is this from an enlarged, standing, intervention-ready ground force? Maybe an increase in the speed and size of the fast response forces might prevent the next Pol Pot!

And then, of course, to avoid surprise -- "more intelligence assets are needed," so we can know when to respond, to stop the next Rwanda. And the warning has to come soon enough. Not when it's just about to happen. Not like the "Lost In Space" robot crying "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!" -- that poor tin can can only twigged when it was too late to head off the danger.

Max, I fear you are an interventionist on first principles. There is a point, for you, where you believe good intentions will lead bad people to do good things.

Of ocurse we all have in the back of our heads the Holocaust paradigm: surely something could have been done, should have been done, about Hitler.

Well, what? A preemptive strike in 1936, which would have been about the right time? To ask the question is to answer it: it's sheer fantasy to imagine that the Powers would have acted then, and for that reason. Does Max think the world has changed? And if so, why?

If war should come come between great powers again -- then yeah, we should all do what we can to make genocide prevention into War Aim #1. That's a reasonable lesson to learn from the anti-Nazi war. What's not a reasonable lesson is to use genocide prevention as a pretext for any future intervention. Such attacks are not do-overs for the missed opportunities of the Thirties.

Just like "no more Munichs!", "No more holocausts!" has a twisted ring these days. The Great Satan's lips are never far from mouthing either one or the other -- or both.

February 11, 2007

Enough, already

Here's a new outfit to put on the watch list:

according to the Washpost's big character booster, this new group, calling itself Enough, aims

to tap into the grass-roots awareness and sense of rage generated by the Darfur crisis and create a social and political network that can identify potential wide-scale atrocities, particularly in Africa, and stop them before they occur.
A pre-emptive humanitarian strike force! How many divisions? Zero, of course -- but it does include some seriously expert personhoods from the Clintonian NSC, now itching spare tires wanting to be on the wheels of the goodness juggernaut once more.

Questions, questions, questions. Which role will they play? Will it be...

1) Long range intervention precursors?


2) Last-minute bums-rushers?

Place your bets. I'm puttin' all I got on number 2. What the GWOT needs now is another "last chance for salvation" good-guy, hair-trigger, gun-play Greek chorus.

April 5, 2007

Man with a mission

Why is this man so wild to shame China over Darfur? Who's backing him?

One wiki click threw this up: he gets grant money from Ebay founder, billionaire and "Franco-Iranian" wizard Pierre Omidyar's eponymous Omidyar Network.

Seems our man has been beating this Darfur/Sudan drum for the biblical 7 years required to be a certifiable monofocal prophet -- but why this cause? Why this when his own government is deep in the short stroke phase of fucking Iraq? Why does the world humanitarian community need a self-righteous new england lit prof's quixotic knight errantry? Are there not Scandinavians enough to get the word out on this?

I don't know or care whether he's just another useful idiot --- I doubt it --- or a sly Ivy-chafed geef out for some spotlight self-aggrandizement, and smart enough to know what humane causes pay well. What he's actually doing either way is aiding and abetting the Yankee Doodle imperial project -- that and precious little else. This whole people-who-love-people, groupies-for-humanity grapple is about China's countering Uncle's containment policies across the southern half of the planet -- in this case specifically, oil-rich, well-located Sudan: the Iraq of the Horn!

May 29, 2007


Mike Flugennock passes along this item:

President of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organization that has worked in Darfur since 2004, Jennings said today: "President Bush doesn't understand Sudan any better than he did Iraq. The U.S. is behind the curve by making policy decisions based on ethnic cleansing that happened in 2004, and is jumping the gun by circumventing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's already negotiated joint African Union/United Nations solution. By trying to trump the UN Security Council through unilateral action, Bush is likely to make the situation in Darfur worse, as he did in Iraq. The new sanctions on Sudan are a blunt instrument that will hurt the refugees and may lead to a larger war, rather than stopping it. If embracing a more forceful policy on Darfur is the administration's way of enlarging the so-called 'War on Terror,' it will backfire and create more terrorists, as it did in Iraq."
More Information
Mike comments:
...naa-aawwwww, you're kidding. No shit, Red Ryder. But, still the Africa Action folks and the "Call To Conscience" folks and the Working Assets sign-toters should be just thrilled to the teeth that George W. Chimp is finally doing something to Save Darfur!

July 4, 2007

If genocide didn't exist, empire would have to invent it

My favorite LBO-talk contributor, Yoshie Furuhashi -- who wastes altogether too much of her fragrance on that desert air, I fear -- has once more hit the nail on the head in connection with the recent revelations (in Le Monde here, and Anglo-masticated by The Independent here) of great-power involvement in the Rwanda massacres. (As far as I can tell the US media have maintained perfect radio silence on this story.) Here's Yoshie:


According to the dominant ideology, Rwanda was about nothing but an ethnic genocide, Yugoslavia was about nothing but an ethnic genocide, Darfur in Sudan is about nothing but an ethnic genocide, etc. Imperialism first helps ethnicize politics in reality halfway (by simplifying and hardening formerly fluid tribal formations into often racialized ethnic groups and using one to govern the rest) and then ethnicizes people's understanding of it totally in ideology. If what's happening is an ethnic genocide, there are "good victims" -- the ethnic group subjected to genocide -- and "bad guys" -- the government in the Third World committing genocide. You go in by declaring that what you are doing is to save "good victims" from "bad guys" and end by deposing the government and setting up the "good guys" who say they represent "good victims" in power. The "good guys" then run the country for you. In the process you help sentimentalize and dumb down politics in your own country: realpolitik, the ruling class think, should be reserved for closed meetings of the power elite, for masses don't and shouldn't understand it.

Realpolitik [is what] the French socialist power elite around Mitterand discussed in closed meetings, a glimpse of which is available in the newly declassified documents.... [T]he way they saw it, Rwanda was about a proxy war between the French-backed Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (MRND) government, its Forces armées rwandaises (FAR), and peasant militias loyal to the MRND on one hand and the Front patriotique rwandais (FPR) of Paul Kagame, which was backed by Uganda and the USA, on the other hand. The French understanding of realpolitik is closer to reality than the sentimental ideology of an ethnic genocide, but the French socialist imperialists lost, so they lost the ability to control the narrative, too, which they had already all but lost to the American and Americanized media favoring US imperialists even before their actual defeat.

The Le Monde article that the Independent cites not only claims that what was happening in Rwanda was nothing but an ethnic genocide and but also that the French socialist imperialists should have gotten hints by late 1990 that a genocide was being prepared and should have certainly recognized that a specific plan for it was hatched _between_ the Arusha accords and the assassination of the then Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana.*

Notice, however, that the only source of the plan was an anonymous informant, uncorroborated by others. The media, generally devotees of humanitarian imperialism, find it useful, though, because the Arusha accords and the Habyarimana assassination might disrupt their narrative without it for they both might remind some of the reality of the civil war that was an inter-imperialist proxy war.

That said, the Le Monde article has bits that felicitously reveal the line of thinking common to all imperialists when they confront a looming defeat. Here's one from February 1993.

The next day, general Christian Quesnot, Mitterand's own chief of staff, and the number 2 of the Africa group in the [President's office], Dominique Pin, presented different options to [Mitterrand].

The first was to evacuate the French and pull back the Noroit mission. The authors rejected this option out of hand: "It would be checkmate for our presence and policy in Rwanda. Our credibility on the continent would be impaired."

That's how they think -- French imperialists regarding Rwanda and US imperialists regarding Iraq and Iran. So they soldier on . . . till the bitter end that is, alas, bitterer to natives than colonizers.

June 19, 2008

Killing for kindness

Generalissimo Mia Farrow wants to send in the mercenaries:

Activists turn to Blackwater over Darfur

Mia Farrow, the actress and activist, has asked Blackwater, the US private security company active in Iraq, for help in Darfur....

Ms Farrow said she had approached Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, to discuss whether a military role was either feasible or desirable.

She acknowledged that many people might have reservations about Blackwater being involved in Darfur – the company’s men were involved in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last September – but said the threat of violence to refugees meant all options had to be explored....

Mr Prince has raised the possibility of a role in Darfur for security companies.

Ms Farrow, who represents Dream for Darfur, a human rights group, and other lobbyists this week lambasted the UN Security Council for its “shameful” failure to halt killings in the Sudanese province....

“How long will you continue to allow the government of Sudan to manipulate this body?” Ms Farrow asked council members. “Did Adolf Hitler get to choose which troops should be deployed to end his genocide?”

It's a fascinating exercise in the sociology of military humanism to explore the tangled web of nested and interlocking committees, coalitions, front groups, and so on that branch out and return to this "Dream for Darfur" outfit. Ex-Clintonites and various tentacles of the Israel Lobby octopus(*) are conspicuous, but there are some wonderful free-lance eccentrics too; DfD itself lists at the head of its advisory board one "Bob Arnot," whose occupation is described as "Humanitarian". I think this must be the same Bob Arnot who used to be an NBC News correspondent, but was fired because his cheerleading for the Iraq war was too over-the-top even for NBC.


(*) Including that ubiquitous old stager Ruth Messinger, a short-period comet in my sky since I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan thirty years ago.

January 17, 2009

Clinton Antagonizes Stooge Government

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton's use of the term "narco state" to describe Afghanistan in a recent Senate testimony has caught the attention of her Afghan counterpart.

Foreign Ministry Rangin Dadfar Spanta said Saturday that it is "absolutely wrong" to classify Afghanistan as such, though the minister readily admitted that Afghanistan is a major producer of drugs.


I can appreciate the stooge minister's concerns. President-in-all-but-Oval Office-occupancy, Barack Obama, had promised to send more soldiers to Afghanistan as part of what looks increasingly like a CYA mission. The next station on the Change We Can Believe In express is minatory hand wringing and dark complaints that the stooge government is incapable of making effective use of the assistance because, you know, they're so corrupt and incompetent. After that, regime change, with hopes that better stooges can manage to stand up so we can stand down.

I think they're missing a trick. What they need is a Carl Levin-style demand that the stooge government give them some of the opium money to help fund the occupation.

March 9, 2009

Reach-y kisses

My friend Bruno (mentioned here before), the ultra-revolutionary by night and Obama cheerleader by day, recently wrote:

It's hard not to start going into a "rah-rah" list again, but I'm sort of impressed by in only 40 days passing the pay equity law, proposing a budget that has the Wall Street crowd really pissed off, coming out strong for the EFCA,  and a few other things. I don't like the bank bailouts, super ugh.   I guess I have my fingers crossed that he's trying to let it go so far that he's forced into something better....

  What he's done so far could be read as signalling  a willingness to go a further left if he gets support "from the bottom up". Today there's a headline that he wants to talk to the Taliban....

Here's the story about Obie and the Taliban:
Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban

WASHINGTON — President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.

Mr. Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of American forces with turning the war around in the last two years. “There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region,” he said....

[Obama] signaled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative, mirroring the strategy used by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq.

“If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us...."

Here's how I read this: Obama acknowledges that Bush's recent strategy in Iraq has been a "success" -- in a sense we need to explore and will return to -- and he's thinking maybe he should also try the Bush strategy in Afghanistan. (Of course I don't need to point out here that "moderate elements" is the standard Orwellian imperial code for "locals who can be bought.")

But for Bruno, this validation and embrace of the Bush approach constitutes a very hopeful sign. It would be interesting to see the world through Bruno's eyes for a little while, as long as one could be sure that the derangement was temporary.

There's more. Obie acknowledges that the Bush/Petraeus approach of buying up the local militias has been a "success." Now the success or failure of an undertaking can only be assessed by reference to its goals. Doesn't the acknowledgement of "success" imply agreement about the goals?

Is this what all those pwoggies had in mind when they were going all weak in the knees with Obiemania? Was their animus against Bush based only on the idea that he was doing a bad job? Did they agree with his goals, and reprehend him only for not attaining them?

Obie has pulled off a rather breathtaking bait-and-switch here. He has very smoothly repositioned the discourse about Iraq and Afghanistan into a discussion of means -- means to an end which is never explicitly stated but is implicitly agreed upon by all: namely, conquest.

March 26, 2009

So many wars, so little money

War is an expensive hobby. This just in, from the New York Times:

White House to Keep Agencies’ Focus on Terrorism

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving to solidify one of the most significant shifts of resources put into place under President George W. Bush: the transformation of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into agencies where the top priority is counterterrorism rather than conventional law enforcement.

...[T]he shift of agents to counterterrorism and intelligence duties after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has seriously complicated other efforts. Those include demands for resources to combat corporate and financial fraud and a deadly drug war across the border with Mexico.

“The logical consequence of cannibalizing our criminal program to augment our national security efforts is that we have reduced the ability to surge resources within our criminal branch,” Mr. Mueller said.

He added, in response to lawmakers’ questions, that the bureau needed more agents to address financial fraud and crime related to drug trafficking.

When, exactly, has the bureau not needed "more agents"? When did the cops ever want less money spent on cops?
The administration’s position underscores the extent to which Mr. Obama’s legal team has found itself following many of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies, even as Mr. Holder has asserted that the Justice Department will differ markedly by being more respectful of civil liberties and constitutional limits.
"Respect," in this context, means that they'll stop saying they're going to fuck us. They'll still fuck us, of course, but they'll call it love.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat... has questioned whether enough money has been allocated to fight the spillover of crime along the Mexican border...
My war! -- No! MY war!

The Booboisie

I've been lounging around the house the last couple of days, laid low by a vile cold. It's been so boring that I've actually sat down, for the first time in I-dunno-how-long, and read through a paper copy of the New York Times. I had forgotten what an entertaining publication it can be. For example:

There’s Safety in Military Contracts

Like so many small businesses in this weak economy, Kaos Worldwide, a sports apparel company just outside Houston, has been struggling. But it has managed to survive while its competitors have folded because it won a five-year, $1.5 million contract last year to supply sports bras to the United States military.

Owen, I'm sure, will want to know just how many of these garments you can buy for one and a half mil, and what is the distribution of cup sizes the US military requires. Are many of them... really... large? How many?

But then, Owen is an economist. The metric fetish comes naturally to him.

I on the other hand am kind of a novelist manque, and the back story interests me:

Mr. Emanuel [the bra man from Kaos] said he was lucky that, through personal connections, a general in Iraq had learned of his product. The general ordered 10,000 bras for his female soldiers by credit card in 2005.
Personal connections? Ten thousand bras on his credit card? Oh man oh man, it's good to be the general.
While it may seem that only large corporations like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin would have a shot at lucrative military contracts, the Defense Department actually awards more than half, or $55 billion, to small businesses. And the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus plan promises to make even more money available.
Now that is what I call a stimulus plan.

April 8, 2009

The wagging finger writes

I heard on the radio today that it was "Genocide Prevention Month." I almost died laughing.

We're big into prevention, aren't we? Suicide prevention, crime prevention, AIDS prevention...

These bad actors need talking-to!

There's a better way.

What are you thinking of, you poor benighted little people?

Listen up, or you'll regret it!

Genocide is bad, bad, bad.

Unless you happen to be...

... one of us.

April 23, 2009

World Savers, Inc.

(That's the infamous Dick Holbrooke, world traveller to the world's sorrow, shown above.)

Here's a nice item from one of my favorite groups, the Communist Party Of India (Marxist-Leninist):

Holbrooke stalks South Asia

With mediaeval Sheikhdoms as the US role models for a moderate Muslim states, none gets a prize for guessing the precise nature of the assignment given to Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whatever else he does on his new beat, ushering liberal democracy in the land of the jirgas, or the greatly discussed objective of sending the girl child to school, is not the priority that the American people and with them the rest of the world are being made to believe to be the purpose of the assignment.

So what is Holbrooke’s mission?

Pakistani analysts, skeptical of US role in the region since decades, say Holbrooke’s mission may not be different from his contributions in Yugoslavia, a country he helped break into several smaller “manageable” pieces along religious and ethnic lines. By that measure Afghanistan and Pakistan offer a rich haul not to speak of India when its turn comes.

Our CPIML comrades have got this one right, as they often do. Partition! That's the ticket! And dear dapper humanitarian Dick Holbrooke is just the guy to do it -- if anybody can.

The whole story is well worth reading, though the comrades need a Web designer.

But then, so do I.

October 12, 2009

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God

I happened to be listening to NPR this afternoon, and there was a discussion of whether Obie "deserved" the Nobel Peace Prize, with screened callers-in and emailers-in, the usual contrived corporate-media pantomime of conversation.

I would like to think that there were a few truth-tellers who were screened out; but really, who knows? At any rate, the range of post-screening opinion ran from enthusiasm (Obie will save -- no, has already saved us all) to timorous reservation (perhaps the prize was a bit premature, since Obie hasn't really, erm, done anything yet.)

Of course the fact is that the prize isn't premature at all: it's postmature. Obie's done plenty. He has plunged con brio into the management of one war, the expansion of another, and the threat of a third. He could lean on Israel, but he hasn't, and he won't.

He may very well be the least eligible human being on earth, right now, for a "peace prize", since he has the actual power to make a difference, and to the extent he has exercised that power, it has been in the wrong direction. And big-time, too; as a murderer, he makes John Gotti look like St Francis. Figures don't lie.

But NPR was able to find plenty of callers and emailers who have kept the faith. Some of them really seemed to think he had ended the Iraq occupation. Others were a bit better informed but opined that he deserves a lot of credit for making us feel "hopeful".

This hopefulness thing interests me. Does anybody else remember Laetrile? That gave people hope too -- while it poisoned them, and kept them from seeking other solutions to their problem.

Hope is not always a virtue. It depends on what you're hoping in -- and for. I hope to resell my house at a huge profit. I hope to win the lottery. I hope the slave-driving little startup where I toil for seventy ill-paid hours a week will go public.

Better no hope at all than hopes like these.

Hoping in Obama is not quite as vile as hoping in the real-estate lottery, of course. In fact it's not vile at all. But I am tempted to say that it's stupid.

The time for hope -- if there ever was such a time -- is past with this guy. He has shown us what and who he is.

Wake up, hope addicts, and find something better to hope for.

November 1, 2009

Mad bomber honored

The triumphant secessionists of Kosovo have rewarded, pro virili, their imperial patron by erecting a remarkably ugly eleven-foot statue of Bill Clinton, spray-painted gold. The cheesy spray paint is nice and appropriate, I think -- just the thing for Bill Clinton.

The effigy follows the normal eastern European iconographical convention -- "Great Leader Hails Taxicab. Hail Great Leader!" One somewhat original touch is that Great Leader's non-hailing hand is holding a binder or folder or something inscribed with the date that he started the bombs falling. The Albanian chauvinists of Kosovo have little talent for hypocrisy, it seems. Another people might have chosen not to emphasize the fact that they were celebrating a campaign of slaughter.

Ole Bill is very popular there, along with Tony Blair and Madeleine "We'll kill any number of children and enjoy it" Albright. People in Kosovo apparently name their kids after this trio of bloodthirsty fiends.

By chance I recently passed by the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans, commemorating another Southern friend to imperially-sponsored secessionism and pride of race.

It's a more accomplished piece of work than Clinton's clunky memorial. Ole Jeff has a lifted arm too but his gesture is graceful and oddly airy. His expression is solemn and elevated, very much in the usual pompous style of American civic art, but at least he doesn't have that look of slitty-eyed low cunning and false bonhomie that Clinton's does.

That look, on spray-paint Clinton's face, is another touch, probably unintended, of veracity. The earnest but unskilled -- and, I fear, untalented -- Kosovar sculptor didn't quite know how to read an Arkansas con artist's facial expression, so he just... rendered it.

November 24, 2009

Folly marches on

From AP:

Obama to unveil plan to add troops in Afghanistan
By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON – War-weary Americans will support more fighting in Afghanistan once they understand the perils of losing, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday, announcing he was ready to spell out war plans virtually sure to include tens of thousands more U.S. troops... "I intend to finish the job," he said.

Meaning, of course, that he intends to plunge ever deeper into the quagmire. Nixon made the same mistake. Will Obie have Nixon's opportunity to realize his blunder, and correct it?

I doubt it, and frankly I hope he doesn't get his second-term opportunity. I hope his Beatlemaniacs desert him in droves -- I love it when people learn from experience -- and I don't give a shit, frankly, whether Sarah Palin or some such clown is our next president. The more the office is brought into disrepute, the better I like it. Simplicissimus for President!

Obie's statesmanlike compromise was the null hypothesis as soon as General McHruska or McChrisis or McChimaera, or however he spells his eccentric name, called for the entire under-fifty population of the United States to be sent to Helmand province. Field Marshal Mad-Eye Mooney demands something crazy, and Obie gets to split the difference between sane and crazy.

It's the old joke, with all its many variants: A lunatic thinks the moon is made of green cheese. An astronomer thinks the moon is not made of green cheese. A liberal thinks the moon is only partly made of green cheese.

It's funny. I knew it was going to happen, and yet there's some gormless corner of my mind that's still -- well, not surprised, exactly. It's more that I can't quite put the two things together: my human impression of the guy -- hell, I'd trust him to carpool my kids, if I lived in his world -- and the patent fact that he's a soulless bloodthirsty robotic warmongering mass-murdering monster.

Obie's obviously a smart guy -- not as smart as Nixon, to be sure; Obie doesn't have that wonderful germ of madness and resentful fury that made Nixon so insightful. He's an earnest pedestrian Good Student -- a "programmed stooge," to borrow a phrase from Owen. But even so, there's something about him that makes me think he would like to be a decent guy.

I've concluded that this impression on my part is utterly illusory. It just proves that I haven't quite shed my capacity for identifying with other members of the merit class.

Now I've tried very hard. But brainwashing is hard to un-wash. Perhaps we should be a little more generous to the hapless merit-class Obamaniacs who haven't grasped what a menace their class is.

-- Naaah, the hell with it. Fuck 'em.

November 30, 2009

On the crazy side of sane vs. crazy

A few days ago I observed -- rather optimistically as it turns out -- that Obie had set things up for himself so that he could split the difference between sane and crazy on Afghanistan.

Never have I been more pleased to be mistaken. In fact, as we all now know, Obie has come roundly down on the side of crazy. General McChraqhpot asked for 40,000 new troops, and Obie is going to send 35,000 -- which will increase by 50% the count of hapless American soldier-boy and soldier-girl boots on the ground in that unfortunate land.

Apparently he's going to announce this bit of Kennedyesque "vigah" in a speech at West Point. Icing on the cake.

I happened to be talking, the other day, with an old friend of mine who, though normally a highly intelligent and worldly-wise person, somehow got utterly bowled over by Obamania -- wept on election night, went to the inauguration and befriended strangers, the whole gamut. She still won't admit to any faintest shred of disillusionment.

Unkindly enough, I couldn't resist razzing her about the upcoming surge in Afghanistan. Her response was that McCain and Palin "would have killed a lot more people."

In fact, it's hard to see how. We only have so many soldier boys and girls, after all, and they're pretty much stretched to the limit -- though the New Depression has apparently been a shot in the arm for the recruiting officers.

I guess McCain/Palin could have actually nuked the place -- it's theoretically possible -- though if bedbug-crazies like Dick Nixon and George W Bush never got quite that crazy, there seems to be little basis for believing that Jowl-Man or Moose-Girl would or could have broken their records. But of course anything is possible.

Believing that the possible is certain might be taken as a working definition for one kind, at least, of religious faith. (Some possibilities, naturally, are more certain than others.)

Everybody's religion, of course, always looks weird to everybody else, as a rather wise rabbi of my acquaintance once observed: "We've got the dead chicken and the penis-trimming, you've got the Trinity and the ritual cannibalism."

Still, it has to be said that venerating Moses or Jesus or Muhammad or Buddha is by any rational standard a lot less crazy than reposing any hope in... a Chicago Democrat.

December 25, 2009

So hallowed and so gracious

Some say that ever 'gainst the season comes,
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, or witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
I couldn't leave the image in the previous post at the top of the page for Christmas. So what we have instead, above, is the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when German and French and British soldiers spontaneously climbed out of their trenches -- the first man to emerge must have been a very brave guy -- and fraternized "all night long", as the poet says, in No Man's Land.

It's a story that makes you think: maybe people aren't, in fact, just no damn good.

Apparently the truce drove the generals and the politicians crazy. They couldn't wait to get the men killing each other again. Perhaps this is why Dick Nixon, and Ehud Olmert, and the New York Times, have all felt it's necessary to keep us braced up and mindful of our homicidal duty at this time of year.

Do they worry that all this talk of peace of earth -- good will towards men -- the shepherds who heard angels singing -- the wise men from Persia, who came to do the polite thing, and realized very quickly that Herod, with his royal purple and gaudy court, was a bad lot -- do they worry, our masters, that we might start to take this stuff seriously?

I wish they had more to worry about.

But perhaps they know their business better than I do; and if they're worried, perhaps they have reason.

On that hopeful note, I wish us all as merry a Christmas as we can manage, and a New Year better than the last.

January 29, 2010

The discreet charm of the Borg-oisie

Does his mighty armada drain Uncle's long run staying power?

I contend this much-footballed "pwog living paradox", like chicken soup for colds, confuses comfort with cure. Yes, 'twould be nice if uncle's hegemonic world class sky fleet, with their trillion-dollar price tags, these hideous instruments of global oppression, were also the slow but sure means of Uncle's eventual decline and fall.

But it ain't so, alas.

Example at hand of this folly meme-laying? I call world citizen Petras to the stand, with a recent installment of the goo-goo death wish upon Uncle's death star:

Perry Paine: Senor Petras, would you please tell the jury what's with this article anyway? I mean, you've titled it 'The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning'. Can you tell the jury who's who here? And why who is losing?

Citizen Petras: Uncle Sam's losing. And why else -- because Uncle, as I write here in the piece, 'pursues a strategy of military-driven empire building.'

PP: Wrong! I see... ignorance!

Mr Justice Smiff: Out of order!

PP: Perhaps so, Yer Honor, but not incorrect! [turns to the jury] Over the course of this hearing I will prove to you conclusively that Uncle Sam, your uncle and mine, gains handsomely from his armada. And foidahmore, I shall show uncle is not "losing". Nor is he foolhardy nor is his guardian class, our guardian class, foolhardy for designing hi-fi hi-tech "surplus value" snares vs. useful everyday products!

Mr Justice Smiff: [yawns] It's time for my nap. Court is adjourned until 10 AM tomorrow.

PP: But Yer Honor...!

MJS: Write up a brief and file it with the court clerk, Mr Paine. Ad-journed! [bangs gavel with unnecessary emphasis, gathers voluminous silken robe, sweeps majestically from the bench]

The bailiff: [belatedly] All rise!

April 13, 2010

In the salvationist crosshairs

For a while there, it seemed like the people of Sudan might have dodged a well-intentioned bullet from high-minded salvationists here in the Global Victim Services Center. The "Save Darfur" banner on my local synagogue came down -- I believe it was replaced by something expressing disapproval of torture.

But the drumbeat seems to be starting again. A couple of weeks ago the following landed in my inbox:

Sudan: On the Path to Peace or Crisis?

A panel discussion featuring:

John Prendergast, Co-Founder, The Enough Project
Dr. J. Peter Pham, Senior Fellow and Africa Project Director, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and Vice President, Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA)
Ambassador Herman J. Cohen, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Ambassador David Shinn (moderator), Former Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso

Despite some signs of progress in Sudan, other indications suggest a growing potential for conflict surrounding the elections scheduled for early April. Census and registration issues have not been resolved, raising serious doubts about the legitimacy of the election results...

The panel will address the complicated dynamics at play in Sudan, discuss U.S. policy options, and analyze regional implications as well as the influence of foreign actors, such as Egypt, China, and Iran.

About FPI

FPI seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America's global economic competitiveness. The organization is led by Executive Director Jamie Fly. FPI was founded in 2009 by Robert Kagan, William Kristol, and Dan Senor. Visit our website at for more information.

"US policy options"! If that phrase doesn't send a chill down your spine, you must be Dexter.

Today the useful idiots at Alternet chimed in on cue, following the Kaganite lead. Here's the left shoe dropping, or rather, the left boot hitting the ground:

From: AlterNet
Subject: Tell Obama: Don't Legitimize Sudan's Brutal Dictator
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 13:34:29 -0400 (EDT)

Dear Reader, In the lead up to this week's elections in Sudan, current President Omar al-Bashir has used government troops to attack journalists and activists. Join the Save Darfur Coalition in urging President Obama to not recognize the results of this sham election. [ ]

Don Hazen
Executive Editor,

It seems pretty obvious to me that this "Save Darfur" campaign has Israel Lobby thumbprints all over it. Has anybody ever really researched this?

June 25, 2010

Hiking in Iran; or, pwog dawgs of war

The Nation (yes, The Nation) seems to have hit the big time with its recent report -- after a "five month investigation", no less -- that the three hikers arrested last July by the Iranians in the border area with Iraq were in fact on the Iraqi side of the border when the Iranians grabbed 'em. Those fiendish Iranians! Needless to say, the story, written by one "Babak Sarfaraz", which the mag notes is "a pseudonym for a journalist in Iran", has been gleefully picked up by all the major media war-drummers.

Sarfaraz relies, rather uncritically, on mostly Kurdish sources, some of them very fishy indeed; these need to be sifted very carefully for obvious reasons. But there's nothing intrinsically far-fetched about the narrative in itself (though doubts have been raised).

As Sarfaraz mentions, the rugged and remote region, with its "porous" and poorly-demarcated border, is full of smugglers, not to mention the

... Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK)... affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish separatist organization that engages in armed conflict within Turkey and has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and other governments. Since 2005 PJAK, based in the mountains in Kurdish Iraq, has been in open conflict with Tehran and has claimed responsibility for killing dozens of Revolutionary Guards soldiers in cross-border raids on Iranian military bases, as well as for the February 2007 downing of an Iranian military helicopter by a shoulder-launched missile in Khoy, in Western Azerbaijan province, which killed thirteen Iranian soldiers....

Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that "Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of [PJAK] and that a government consultant told him that the Israeli government had provided "equipment and training" to PJAK.

Sarfaraz theorizes that the hikers' original capture and remand to Tehran was a local initiative by a rogue Revolutionary Guards commander in the area, on whose checkered career the magazine expends a good deal of somewhat wasted ink. But here again, the narrative, though quite hypothetical, doesn't strain credulity.

What The Nation doesn't discuss is the reasons why the authorities in Tehran might have decided to hang tough on three footloose, adventurous American expats, who really do seem unlikely to be spies or any other variety of American spooktown assets. KvdH and Sarfaraz seem content to leave us thinking that those Iranian madmen are either paranoid or gratuitously cruel or both.

But the unmentioned elephant in the Heuvel Hoffice is a long-standing American/Israeli practice of kidnapping and even assassinating Iranians -- scientists like Shahram Amiri, a particularly weird story with some juicy recent twists(*), or Ardeshire Hassanpour, and government functionaries like Amir Ardebili.

It's likely enough, as the Nation article suggests, that the capture of the three hikers was a fortuitous event, not an action of centrally-directed policy. But once they were in Tehran, at least some of the country's contending influential elements may have seen an opportunity to make a point, which can be concisely stated: "Two can play at that game."


(*) Amiri was kidnapped last year, while on pilgrimage in Mecca, a few weeks before the three hikers were captured.

About Better living through war

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Better living through war category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Be afraid is the previous category.

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