The sand trap Archives

January 30, 2007

Love that quagmire

Got an e-mail from my older brother JS:

Heavens to Betsy, baby O -- I come back from dumpin' off the domestic partner at the airport, well past two AM, her designer luggage filled with leg irons, her Valley Of The Dolls daughter and a doped-up dog that feels like a warm loaf of bread in his pooch pouch... where was I? Oh yeah, I've just no more than returned to her stately cape by the sea, and hit the rack and -- there's the phone! Ringing like sleep's sleeve-unraveller supreme.

Naturally, it's my shadowy source, Mr Y from Foggy Bottom, that dissolute scion of four generations of FSOs, each nuttier than the last.

"Jaybo!" he shrieks, "now you're no longer there to guide the proceedings past the obvious traps, I see the holy father's site is gleefully making mountains out of stage props!"

He went on in that vein for quite a while -- cocaine, you know, is still considered quite hip in Washington -- but here's the gist:

"The Iraq occ has two, maybe three year legs... It just ain't that costly in blood weight, and to the backers -- well, it's win/win by lose/lose. Like Korea after the Chicoms entered screaming... it's a very swell ongoing demo of our limits. Message to the rube-iat: take these fuckers seriously.

"It feeds the brass hats' plans -- helps 'em consolidate a permanent surge, a real $100 bil per annum surge in Uncle's two ground services. Shows we need a jump-up in our full-time, ready-to-hop boot strength?

"Kim and Hug and that dude in the turban, with the black beard -- they're all laughin' at Uncle, stuck in that sand trap. And meanwhile, on the dark side, it keeps Iran turning on the spit: yer 'it' in the schoolyard, bub.

"And the tens of billions per quarter down the rathole over there? Come on, big big plus side item, global manna for the trans-nats -- contracts get let to dig holes, contracts get let to fill holes. Oil price stabilize at 50 not 25 dollars per -- and with the earth-wide capital glut, this is better use of surplus funds than all that crazy-ass hedge-funding. Hell, that's like a trillion pounds of nitro movin' around the planet at internet speed."

Okay, little O, I grant you he's crazy as a bedbug, and lord knows what illicit substances are flowing in his veins -- but give the bastard credit. He's always walkin' on the big-picture side of life.

February 26, 2007

Tiger by the tail

So what's the new biparty bipolar Orthrian Iraqupation mission?

Frankly, I don't give a shit. Whatever it morphs to, it won't be anti-empire. It won't be "away all bases and boats away" globally. It won't be "yankee go home and stay home and sin with explosives no more."

But because I owe you some gossip, here's an update from Foggy Bottom. Yes, it's from the source-n-a-tor himself, Comrade Y of le service etranger pousse-gateau. He'd been at one of those embassy parties sucking down the Martinis, and he called me up last night, full of prepster bonhomie. "Fort Kurd ain't enough, Paine!"

"I see."

"No you don't, Paine. The position a la mode last summer -- you know, fall back under a cloud of red white and blue bluster to bases in Kurdistan and let the sectarian arab civil war sort itself out -- not lookin' so swell now, mon vieux."

"Y! Were you at the French embassy?"

"How'd you know? Anyway, the Shia can't be allowed to win the "lower Iraq" gig any more than they can in Lebanon -- in fact, call Arab Iraq Lebanon times eight. Uncle has a long term area problem containing Iran, and that problem looks far worse now, after the Hezi-wezis made the Tel Aviv catamounts look like pussycats.

"The present nightmare -- a brutal core of Shia runing amok from the Gulf up past Basra and past Baghdad to the oily skirts of Kurdistan itself. Yikes! We got a dog in the hunt after all. Far from attacking Iran, Uncle's having trouble figuring out how to defend the gulf!

"Oddly, the building boom underway along the Arab littoral dwarfs even Chinese efforts. Example: for one sheikville, more office space completed this coming year than all -- that's right, all -- the office space in existence in downtown San Francisco.

"War zone -- boom zone -- war zone -- boom zone -- the trans-nats are at this stuff 24/7.

"Oh, and by the way, there will be no hot war with the Iranians. It's all just hot air. You can take that to the bank, Paine. I got a little spool of micro film here you'd just love to see, buddy."

"Y! Watch it, will ya? Not on the phone!"

"Nemmine, Paine, nemmine... I'm not scared... I've got insurance... I know where the bodies are buried, bro."

I worry about the guy sometimes.

June 18, 2009

My other man!

From Le Monde:

Venezuela supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and condemns "campaign of discreditation"

Caracas took a stand in favor of Tehran in connection with the contested re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Venezuela expresses its firm rejection of the capaign of discreditation, ferocious and without foundation, which has been unleashed abroad against the institutions of the Islamic Republic, in order to disturb the political climate of this brother country"....

The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, had "congratulated Ahmadinejad...." [and] considers his Iranian counterpart a "courageous fighter for the Islamic revolution and against capitalism." Chavez referred to the "spokesmen for capitalism" who are questioning the vote....

When he assumed the presidency, Ahmadinejad benefited from Chavez' help in breaking the isolation of Iran, fostering relations with Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.... And Venezuela supported Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency which sought in vain for transparency in the Iranian nuclear program, suspected of including a military aspect.

Third and fourth largest oil producers in OPEC, Iran and Venezuela have always been advocates of reducing production in order to increase the price of crude oil.

June 20, 2009

Those damn poor people

Here's an interesting item, brutally redacted with scholarly ellipses mostly omitted, from James Petras:

“Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation... Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.” --Financial Times

Western leaders rejected the results because they ‘knew’ that their reformist candidate could not lose.

For months they published daily interviews, editorials and reports from the field ‘detailing’ the failures of Ahmadinejad’s administration; they cited the support from clerics, former officials, merchants in the bazaar and above all women and young urbanites fluent in English, to prove that Mousavi was headed for a landslide victory. A victory for Mousavi was described as a victory for the ‘voices of moderation’, at least the White House’s version of that vacuous cliché.

What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count.

As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an immanent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive....

... the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.

.... over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds “comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups” (Washington Post June 15, 2009).

The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class.

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

That about says it all, but the whole piece is well worth reading, in particular for its dissection of the Azeri Gambit.

June 22, 2009

Sede vacante

File under Too Good To Be True:

Fighting tears, shah's son calls crisis a 'moment of truth'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The son of the former shah of Iran called Monday for solidarity against Iran's Islamic regime, warning that the democratic movement born out of the election crisis might not succeed without international support.

"The moment of truth has arrived," Reza Shah Pahlavi said at Washington's National Press Club. "The people of Iran need to know who stands with them."

Pahlavi has lived in exile since 1979, when his father, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution....

The son now lives in the United States with his family, where he spends much of his time talking about the Islamic regime in Iran.

During his remarks, he broke into tears when he spoke of "bullets piercing our beloved Neda," a woman killed Saturday by Iranian police at a protest in Tehran, whose death has become a rallying cry among demonstrators in Iran.

Those Pahlevis, well known for their tearful devotion to the Plain People Of Iran.

June 30, 2009

Juan Cole, laptop bombardier

Juan Cole's blog recently carried an extraordinary carpet-chewing piece by one Mansoor Moaddel, who I presume from his name is a member of the Iranian diaspora:

Iran’s Crisis and the U.S. Option:
Support Mousavi now or fight Ahmadinejad tomorrow

The current civil uprising in Iran reflects not just a protest against a rigged election. Nor is it primarily a symptom of contentions for power or clashes between opposing perspectives on the nature of the Islamic regime. It is, rather, resistance against a political coup, whose engineers plan to impose a Taliban-style Islamic government on Iran....

Ahmadinejad’s deeds are Islamic extremism in action. He has already restricted the freedom of Iranian citizens, expanded men’s authority over women, increased political persecution, undermined the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and supported terrorism and political adventurism abroad....

At this point, the regime cannot secure its rule without unleashing a reign of terror. And if this coup succeeds, the regime will forge ahead with its expressed plans for nuclear development and support for religious extremism abroad....

The option that is left for the United States is either to effectively support Mousavi’s camp today or risk a military confrontation with Ahmadinejad tomorrow.

One wonders just what that ominous phrase "effective support" might mean. Sounds like regime change to me.

July 4, 2009

There are jobs, and there are jobs

We should all be grateful to M. IOZ for drawing our attention to a recent loathesome lucubration by the repellent Matthew Yglesias, shown above. Matthew's truculent suety phiz always reminds me of a college acquaintance of mine, who my then-girlfriend once said "looks like the inside of a hash pipe."

Here's the hash pipe himself:

...[W]hen you look back at the things liberals like me said about Iraq back in 2007 and thereabouts, you can find a lot of stuff that doesn’t look so much. General Petraeus’ post-midterms revamp of the tactical approach in Iraq achieved gains in security that look a lot more durable than I would have thought possible. At the same point, I think the overarching point I’ve been making about the US presence in Iraq since late 2004 remains incredibly valid...

It seems to me that if we’d begun to implement a phased withdrawal back in early 2005 when Iraq first got an elected government, we could have had a much better outcome than the one we got.... Today in 2009 we’re in a lot of ways back to where we were four years ago—able for American forces to start leaving on a high note, confident that they performed their job with skill....

The Hairy Hashpipe seems to have omitted a clause somewhere in there -- "doesn't look so much" like what? But you can follow his drift, and indeed you could follow it if he left out half the words at random.

The surge worked; mission accomplished; but even so, "liberals like me" weren't wrong back in 2004, though they might have been "not so much" in 2007. Well, hey, to err is human. Postmature anti-imperialism. Fortunately they have learned from their 2007 mistakes and now recognize what a benefactor of mankind General Petraeus is. But still! They weren't wrong in 2004!

Note the trope about the military's "job". I would like to point out that this locution started ringing alarm bells in my head in 1966 or so. "It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it." "Just doin' my job, man."

The military were "tasked" -- as they say in the military, and in the corporate world, which loves military figures of speech -- with a "job". Apparently Matthew doesn't think the job was a bad job, since he's now happy that the soldier-boys and soldier-girls have supposedly completed it. But his pessimism about the prospect of a successful completion was justified in 2004, though perhaps a little over-pessimistic in 2007.

Presumably his only mistake was in underestimating Petraeus, Proconsul Mesopotamiae.

Well, life is full of wonderful surprises, if you're a liberal with a mission-civilatrice. Credit where it's due. You can make the towelheads see reason. But you have to be really smart about which corpses you pile up, and where. Army strong. Petraeus smart. All those intelligently-piled corpses have contributed to the Hashpipe's education. The people those corpses used to be would surely rejoice to know that their terminations were not in vain.

And if you want a capsule "job" description for the soldier boys and girls -- "piling up the corpses" has the merit of being compact and truthful. Well done, boys and girls! You can "leave on a high note" -- and let the dead bury their dead.

September 29, 2009


The New York Times captioned this picture as follows:

Iran showed new defiance Sunday by test-firing three short-range missiles near the city of Qum.
The article to which this image was attached explained how Obie was going to improve on his predecessor by adopting a more aggressive attitude toward Iran. I suppose that counts as change, though it doesn't give me, personally, much hope.

But let's return to this trope of "defiance".

France has missiles. England has missiles. The US and China and Russia and India have missiles, and Israel has more missiles than a beggar has fleas. Having armed forces -- and missiles -- seems to be a privilege of sovereign nations. So how, exactly, is it "defiance" on Iran's part to have what other countries have?

This is what is known as "logic", but just try explaining it to an enlightened liberal American Obamaphile. You'll get a pitying smile, and perhaps your interlocutor will condescend to explain to you that you're being a silly head-in-the-clouds pedant. Everybody knows that Iran can't be compared to France, or England, or China or India because... because... because, well, just because. If you read the New York Times sedulously enough, it will all begin to make sense.

The "crackpot" is an important part of crackpot realism. The propaganda system requires not only adherence to certain beliefs and prejudices, it also requires downright unreason, the renunciation of the syllogism: countries have missiles, Iran is a country, therefore -- no no no, don't go there.

This aspect of the propaganda system is insufficiently appreciated. Social control requires not only that we be misled and misinformed, it requires us to embrace a thought disorder, and congratulate ourselves on having done so.

And of course the great thought-disorderers are our media megalotheria, the Times prominent among them. Daily they serve up a mile-long buffet of bare-faced illogic and unreason -- but they serve it with such bland assurance, such calm gravitas, such marmoreal magisterial confidence, that only a stubborn poorly-socialized person can resist getting sleepier, sleepier....

They are the gatekeepers of reality itself, and if they say that two plus two equals five, you better believe it.

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.

January 16, 2011

Tearin' up the chickpea patch

Sorry to say that I'm as ignorant as a rat about Tunisia and the recent events there -- though usually I love to see people running wild in the streets, and it's very encouraging that the Egyptian regime and the Israelis are worried about it.

Comments sought: is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? The real deal, or just another dreary Color Revolution? And why?

January 28, 2011

Outside agitators

The New York Times is predictably dyspeptic about my friends and role models at Al-Jazeera.

Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration

... The channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago.

This piece is disgraceful, even by the Times' admittedly low standards. Read the whole thing; it's a lab study in information-free propaganda disguised as reportage.

Bill Keller and I used to wait at the same bus stop to take our kids to the same school. We struck up a typical urban acquaintanceship -- swapped stories, exchanged jokes, never got into anything very personal. He never mentioned the Sulzbergers, I never mentioned Karl Marx.

Keller didn't seem like a bad guy at all, and compared with some of his mad-dog predecessors, like Mike Rosenthal, he seemed, in fact, like a pretty decent human being.

An item like this shows how little the personal equation matters. It's the institution that counts. My decent and no doubt well-meaning old busmate Bill rides, or at least bestrides, a tiger that has its own purposes. The scrupulous Times, when the times call for it, can and must descend to citing "many" unnamed "critics" and "Arabs." And then of course there's the irrefutable impersonal passive -- "widely considered" and the like.

Bill, Bill. Bail out, old buddy. Administering this shit is not good for your soul.

Ye know neither the day nor the hour

... or, as another distinguished Jewish gentleman vividly observed:

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
I am deeply and uncomplicatedly and un-ironically happy about events in Egypt, and of course in Tunisia as well, as most of us here probably are. It's a truly marvelous, glorious moment; the sort of thing we live for, really.

I tend to be a pessimist by nature, and yet it's never seemed realistic to me, even at the very bottom of the Slough of Despond, to imagine that history is over. So I've always found myself in the odd position of freely acknowledging, in one breath, that things are going from bad to worse and are likely to continue doing so, and indeed accelerating, for the foreseeable future; and then in the next breath insisting that the operative word is "foreseeable". An optimist and a pessimist coexist in my brain, and have learned to get along.

Tonight, however, even the pessimist is happy.

Of course I hope the Egyptians succeed, and send Mubarak packing at the very least. But even -- God forbid -- if they don't, the fact that this wonderful thing is happening at all makes my inner optimist feel justified in his faith.

All day I've been following the live video stream from Al-Jazeera -- which I heartily recommend, by the way. One of the things which has deeply impressed and moved me is the way Egyptian people, interviewed on the channel, are talking and comporting themselves.

There's a kind of wonderful inspiration in a moment like this; it transmutes our base human metal into something much finer. Touched by such events, we can take on a kind of heroic stature for a splendid interval; we can speak clearly, directly, eloquently, insightfully; the hidden glories and powers of our strange muddled nature shine through the quotidian tarnish. It's as if this were the thing we were meant to do; the thing in which our deepest dignity and honor as men and women consists -- to break the yoke of our burden, and the rod of our oppressor, as on the day of Midian.

* * * * *
To descend, for a moment, from the sublime to the proverbial terminus therefrom:

Emperor Obie the First (and Last, let's hope) has, unsurprisingly, been spared the aforementioned exaltation. His comments on the "situation" tonight were the usual gruel of overcooked platitudes, delivered in the usual barking scolding schoolmasterish voice. He has become a stupider, coarser, more inept man in the last two years -- though no more dishonest, of course -- than he was before his election; he as much as said that he called Mubarak up and gave him his instructions. The graceful basketball dude's quick footwork -- fake left, go right, as they say -- has given way to a plodding, punch-drunk palooka's lethargic, robotic roundhouse swings.

January 29, 2011

Favorite image...

... from Cairo so far. One of a very fine set at

January 30, 2011

Worth a thousand words

From the indispensable Angry Arab:

The first two are the new "vice-president" of Egypt, har de har; the last is the recently parachuted-in El-Baradei.

Pictures are so revealing, aren't they? These all tell the same story. Just look at the body language; the poor suppliant Arab drawing the Godfather's plenipotent fist close to his groin; the Ubermensch keeping his distance, distaste and contempt for the grovelling gowk before him etched in every crease of his jowly criminal face.

January 31, 2011

Pitiful helpless giant

Thus the immortal Dick Nixon, back in April 1970 -- oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday:

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.
Totalitarianism and anarchy! There speaks a man of vision.

Old Dick must be spinning like a uranium centrifuge, out in his Underground White House in Yorba Linda. One of the most remarkable and wonderful things about the Egyptian uprising -- a conjuncture full of wonderful and remarkable things -- is the apparently empty-handed bystandership of the global hegemon. All the usual blustering gangsters in Washington, from Obie Himself down through Hillary and even into the yapping ranks of congressional Wilmers...

... are acting and speaking as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. A strange spirit of modesty and restraint has taken up residence in their heads. They're all like, wait and see, democracy is a good thing, on the one hand on the other hand....

Maybe they've got something frightful up their collective sleeve. But actually, I doubt it. What can they do? Nuke the place? Send the Marines?

Events in Egypt, I think, resoundingly confirm the More Of Us Than Them principle. Pulling Egypt into "our" orbit was perhaps the greatest foreign-policy achievement of the Imperium in my lifetime; and now the God-Emperor and the Gorgon Medusa and all the soup-hounds have to stand by, inconspicuously wringing their hands and trying to keep the dismay from their faces, as the jewel in the Mideast crown rolls inexorably toward what is, from their point of view, a sewer grate.

It's amazing how flimsy a thing Empires really are seen to be, when lit from the right angle -- how deeply they depend, like Oz the Great And Terrible, upon the manipulation of perceptions; and how rapidly thirty or forty million perceivers can suddenly agree to view matters in a different way.

February 1, 2011

Making the mummies dance

Good gray NPR had this interesting item:

Plan To Replace Hosni Mubarak May Be In The Works

Two of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's closest allies, his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, and his defense minister, Hussein Tantawi, are quietly working on a plan under which Mubarak would step down from power, according to a U.S. scholar who has been staying in regular touch with the Egyptian political and military leadership.

"They want to be sure that Mubarak is going to cooperate," said Stephen P. Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development and a longtime confidant of Egyptian and Israeli leaders.

The two-part plan, according to Cohen, would involve the immediate removal of 100 members of the Egyptian Parliament whose election this past fall was seen as illegitimate. They would be replaced by 100 candidates who were barred from running in the election or who were defeated because of government meddling in the election process.

A second possible step would be the organization of new parliamentary and presidential elections. The plan, according to Cohen, "requires [Mubarak] to give up his office." Asked whether Mubarak would do that, Cohen answered, "He is getting ready to do so."

This Stephen Cohen (not to be confused with the isonomous Brookings Institution South Asia guy) is an interesting character, a sleek plump catfish at home in some fairly murky waters. Obviously well seen in Israel, and among the neighboring stoogery -- just the sort of sketchy entrepreneurial figure that NPR would go to for "analysis." But even so, perhaps he actually knows whereof he speaks.

It makes a certain amount of sense. The Egyptian uprising seems very focused, so far, on the person of Mubarak. Suppose Mubarak gone; the army still intact -- no conflict between the high command and the mid-level officers, much less the rankers. Does the steam then go out of the uprising? Do people go home and settle down to the status quo under new -- or almost-new, gently-used -- management?

The situation is like Iran in 1979, in some ways but not in others. Like Iran, it's a genuine mass movement. Like Iran, there's not a blessed thing the US can do about it if it really gets the bit between its teeth. Unlike Iran, there's no Khomeini, and no organizational network like his -- as far as I know. The somewhat geriatric Muslim Brotherhood doesn't seem like quite the same breed of cat, and it's been reported, accurately or not I don't know, that they're behind El-Baradei, hardly a transformative figure unless he turns out to be full of surprises.

I'm hedging against disappointment here, obviously.

But a few minutes ago I was watching the Al-Jazeera live feed from Cairo. It was about 7 AM there, and people were already assembling in Tahrir Square for the planned march to the presidential bunker. The fresh dawn light on the homely apartment buildings; the people already up and milling around in the square, wondering what comes next, and realizing that anything could come next; that the old rules don't apply; that the cops are gone, melted into the woodwork, and the streets are theirs, to do with as they will; that what does come next might depend on me or the stranger next to me or somebody who is still on his way after a hurried breakfast. Sunrise, and the freedom of the streets, and the future utterly unknown.

To borrow a phrase from Philip Sidney, I felt my battered sclerotic old heart stirred as with the sound of a trumpet.

February 2, 2011

The plot thickens

Mubarak's foolish gestures -- the appointment of Suleiman, the promise not to "run" again -- have entirely failed to pacify the crowds in Cairo. It appears that the last-ditchers in the regime have rallied round him and decided to try repression, rather than attempting the experiment of bundling La Vache's sorry ass onto an airplane.

It's hard to see why; business as usual could quite easily go on without Mubarak, surely, if only those pesky people in the street would just go home. And maybe they would go home, if Mubarak retired to Jiddah -- or Kiryat Shemona.

But for whatever reason, the decision to repress has clearly been taken. Hence the flying squads of goons and cops -- sorry for the tautology -- unleashed against the demonstrators today.

Looks like a hinge of fate to me. The possibility of pacifying the crowds, after today, looks a lot more remote, even if Mubarak did take off. The regime has committed itself to a trial of force.

What happens next, it seems, crucially depends on the army, which stayed on the fence today -- though many of the protestors felt very strongly that the troops should have intervened against the goons; further fence-sitting could easily erode the army's reportedly considerable prestige among the public.

No doubt the high command is thoroughly compromised, thoroughly Mubarak-ite, thoroughly dependent on Uncle Hegemon's billions to line its collective pockets. If they were all on the same page and determined to ditch Mubarak, he would have been gone long since. Evidently they're not, then.

What about the colonels, the majors, the captains? The troops themselves are out on the street in their tanks and APCs , in actual contact with the demonstrators. They must be experiencing some seriously conflicted loyalties.

How far up the chain of command do those conflicts percolate?

Damn. I wish I knew more about Egypt.

February 3, 2011

Another dawn in Cairo...

.. and the stubborn Cairenes are still in the street, after a day and a night that would have sent most of us home long since.

Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows...

... as the poet says.

Every dawn is a miracle, of course, but these Cairo dawns, the last few days, seem especially so.

Whistling past the graveyard

Some fascinating developments here in the land of the free, etc., consequent upon the developments in Egypt:

Mubarak splits Israel from neocons

As Israeli leaders worriedly eye the protests and street battles in neighboring Egypt, they’ve been dismayed to find that the neoconservatives and hawkish Democrats who are usually their most reliable American advocates are cheering for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fall.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear in a cautious speech to the Knesset Wednesday, Israel is deeply worried what will happen to that relationship when Mubarak departs....

“You should have also thought about Israel before hurrying to call upon Mubarak to go,” Dov Weissglass, a former advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote, addressing the Obama administration. “It is difficult to think of more serious harm to Israel’s security than the collapse of the peace accord with Egypt.”

But while a few American conservatives like former U.N Ambassador John Bolton share the same qualms as Weissglass, many of Israel’s most prominent supporters - some of whom are regularly accused of putting Israel’s interests before those of the U.S. - dismiss those worries.

In particular, neoconservatives such as Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Bush National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, and scholar Robert Kagan are essentially saying good riddance to Mubarak and chiding Obama mainly for not making the same sporadic push for democracy as President George W. Bush.

(I snipped the bit where Politico refers to Mubarak as an "autocrat." What on earth do they think that word means? Was Ferdinand Marcos an "autocrat"? Fulgencio Batista? Anastasio Somaza? Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi? Catherine the Great was an autocrat. But all these other murderous clowns -- were they not in fact just... stooges?)

But I digress.

Sharing the "qualms" of a Weissglass is an unenviable job, and almost makes me feel sorry for Bolton. A dose of salts couldn't hurt. But beyond all the rich personal humor of the thing: What's going on here? Splits Israel from neocons? What does that even mean? Splits lizards from reptiles?

Have the cisatlantic neocons been smoking their own propaganda dope? Do they really think that a more "democratic" Egypt -- whatever that means -- would be better for their project? Oh, I know, they've been saying that kind of thing for years. But do they really believe it? Surely not. These people went to good schools, right?

Perhaps there is a kind of sense to made of all this, though. The appropriate model for practical, facts-on-the-ground Zionism is, of course, the Mafia. In that kind of world, personal loyalty to a fellow-gangster matters. Mubarak has been a good soldier for Israel lo, these thirty years, and so the Israelis feel obliged to pay lip service -- if nothing more -- to him.

But the Abramses and Kaganses are, after all, Americans, in the last analysis -- which is to say, they take a de-haut-en-bas imperial view of stooges like Mubarak, and are quite willing to replace an embarrassing stooge with a new one, not yet so badly compromised, whenever needed.

The Kaganses' and Abramses' complacency indicates their read of the likely outcome in Egypt, once Mubarak gets on that airplane -- namely, status quo with a fresh-faced management team.

They could be right. It could work out that way. More likely than not, perhaps.

Still, though, the corridors of power they tread are located in the malarial, mephitic town of Washington. No matter what happens in Egypt, Washington will still be Washington, for the foreseeable future.

Netanyahu & Co., however, bestride a small, precarious and improbable settler colony, surrounded by countries where the ordinary citizenry hate the settlers' guts. Things could go badly wrong for Israel in ictu oculi; and if they did, Netanyahu & Co. could end up like Mubarak.

Keep the Learjet warmed up on the tarmac, there.

February 4, 2011

Compare and contrast

So which one is Tehran 2009, which one is Cairo yesterday? Anybody who can actually read Arabic and/or Farsi is disqualified from the competition.

Okay, okay, so I cherrypicked a bit. So shoot me.

It's a little surprising how few comparisons have been made -- though there have been some -- between Tehran two years ago and Egypt now. You'd think it would be a liberal-schmiberal's dream: the masses everywhere want Democracy, like we have here.

There actually are some points of similarity, I think. The Tehranis, or some of them, were bothered, among other things, by corruption and cronyism in the government, and by economic stagnation -- golly, I hate slinging these hollow booming abstractions around; I sound like Yggy Wiggles:

The Egyptians are bothered by these things too, by all accounts. Not the abstractions, or Yggy, of whom they have blessedly never heard, but by the concrete realities of making a living and buying food and shelter in the early 21st century, after the neoliberals put an end to history. Or thought they did.

Still, it seems difficult to escape the conclusion that what we're seeing in Egypt has a considerably broader social base than what we saw in Iran.

One obvious point of dissimilarity is that the Iranian regime still has considerable (though of course not universal) popular support; whereas nobody who isn't actually on the payroll has a good word to say for Mubarak & Co.

I also wonder whether perhaps neoliberalism has actually hit Egypt harder, since its regime is so much more integrated into the world the central banks made. Oh sure, Iran certainly hasn't escaped, and there are plenty of people there -- including a good many of the 2009 enragés -- who would like to see it brought even more into that Friedmanite world. (I mean Tom, not Milton, though Milton would be proud.)

I'm such a shallow person -- browsing through Google Images for the tendentious two I showed above, I was very struck by how much better dressed the rock-throwing Iranians were two years ago, than their Egyptian (putative) counterparts are today; and the Persians' haircuts were to die for, which the Egyptians' mostly are not.

I've never had a good haircut in my life, so naturally I identify more with the Egyptians. I just got the usual bad haircut today, so this is a sore spot. I look like a cross between Ahmadinejad and Samuel Beckett.

Surely there are readers here better informed than I am about this topic -- economics in Iran and Egypt, I mean, not haircuts. If so, let's hear from you.

Of course, comments about the haircuts are welcome too.

February 5, 2011

Putting that degree to work

Cairo, of course. Almost certainly a group of unemployed engineering graduates, I'd say. This image is part of a fine set at

The photog's name is David Degner.

The people in arms?

When armies rise up and overthrow their regimes, usually the poor souls have been put through a wringer, often for years, and decidedly with bad results on the field of battle.

Take Portugal's army in 1974, a topic of the great and testy Mr Blum.

They'd fought a multi-colony liberation war for decades by then, and after enough nowhere and bloody shirts, they fetched up and shitcanned that moldering midget of an empire's epigonian masters.

Egypt's army has no such context today, except for the drubbing in '67; and that was so sudden and total that something beyond fury reigned, namely humiliation. That's an emotion that cries out for revenge, not revolt.

One could go on here, but the outcome is the same with 10 examples as with one: the Egyptian military is intact, and what's more, its officer corps, at its base and middle senior ranks, like captain and major and colonel, appear not to smolder with resentment against the system, even if the squalid little clique of horned toads at the top might look better to them in shorts and sun glasses on a beach chair on the Persian Gulf.

The question really is, why the army hasn't yet restored order?

My guess: the officers are smart enough not to want to test their rank and file against determined martyrs if they don't have to. Of course there are units and there are units; the right elite troopers will do anything you ask -- at least once.

So what's their game -- I mean the layers that produced Nasser in '52? For now, wait. Why not? They have nothing to lose. The people still want the army -- the whole army, more or less intact -- on their side, not just the rank and file plus whatever there is of young turks among the officers. They want the whole damn operation, "pro-western" though it be.

On the revolutionary to-do list is to dissolve this monolith or apparent monolith; take off the general staff's figleaf; start blaming certain obviously corrupted Jabbah types; name names, not just the torture coach Suleiman the mephitic, but that field marshal that showed up in the square on friday. Get a buzz going about these sluggos of the cow prez.

This army officer corps is not the people in arms; it's still strictly a wolf in Grandma's head scarf -- albeit not too toothy; but still a howler at the moon of chaos.

Redeunt Saturnia regna

This passing reference, and photo, left me speechless:

Coptic Christians show solidarity by forming a human chain around Islamic protesters during Friday prayers in Tehrir Square on Feb. 4.

Strange days indeed -- strange, and wonderful.

February 8, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe....

Comrade Mike Flugennock is on the case:

I like the mean determined expression Mike gives the girls. It's like a grin and a scowl at the same time. Irresistible. And then of course if the actual statue of liberty, which I sail past from time to time in my little boat, were to actually start throwing Molotovs -- well, Wall Street is the nearest target. Just talkin' geography here.

February 11, 2011

Iron Sheik stays in the ring

Mooby not stepping down -- cliging to his title -- is absolutely the best news possible. Now the army must either blow off its top or turn on the people. No Sneaky-Ali moves here -- throwing the mob Mooby's head and hoping they'll go home.

Now the inner circle has failed to budge their Issimo, the whole rotten crew either gets bounced and prolly arrested by junior officers, or the bastards test the resolve of their rank and file by giving the shoot to kill orders to the elite units they can trust -- or think they can trust.

I doubt we'll see another ride of the goons here. For the moment, at least, the security covert outfits and assorted thugs lugs mugs and jugs are as useless as Mooby's tits, and will remain so -- err until or unless the masses subside.

Pirate chief walks plank

La Vache is gone. Wow.

Al-Jazeera did a nice thig: The commentators shut up for a solid ten minutes and just broadcast the crowd noise from Tahrir Square. Extremely moving. It's quite a moment.

Of course, now comes the hard part....

February 13, 2011

Sites of metastasis

The Egyptian Supreme Copuncil of the Armed Forces needs a purge in the worst way. A look at the some of these brass hats oughta make any Egyptian democrat's blood boil.

It's festering with Mooby hacks, stooges, and clubfoots -- starting with those two compradore beauts, Suleiman and Tantawi (the latter shown above).

February 14, 2011

Turn a bad thing into a good thing...

... or, Your Tax Dollars At Work, in Iran:

The coiffure, the maquillage, the manicure, the rather polished professional-looking(*) poster with its English text and globalized semiotics.... all very fishy, if you ask me.

Of course it's over-determined, like everything else. There are plenty of people in the Islamic Republic who have every good reason to be unhappy with the existing order there. It doesn't seem likely that the CIA all by itself could get any appreciable number of people in the streets just by sending a well-placed tweet, or a few million well-placed greenbacks. But if the Langley reptile fund is not a big part of the events today in Tehran, I'm a lizard.

You've gotta admire 'em, really, the gold-braid gang on the bridge of the imperial Death Star. The last couple of weeks in Egypt have really shaken their world. They may yet come out on top again, even there; but they weren't expecting it, and it scared 'em. Poor Obie looked like a deer in the headlights.

Nevertheless, they haven't entirely lost the ability to learn from experience, and hats off to 'em for figuring out how to co-opt, for their own purposes, the technical elements (like Twitter) and the thematic elements (Death to Dictators) of the Egyptian insurrection for their own wicked purposes.

Despise 'em strategically, respect 'em tactically -- it still seems like good advice.


(*) Okay, it's pretty low-end. But maybe that's the idea? -- I know this is starting to sound like an English-department thesis about Measure for Measure.

February 15, 2011

Phase Two

If politics is simply concentrated economics, then economics is diffuse politics.

With the Egyptian SCAF now brushing aside "the old legitimacy" to rule with naked gun barrels (with or without flowers) until the day when ballots decide... it's high time the uprising spread out in this new protracted phase of the struggle and immediately challenge the new power -- not with a few mighty but symbolic points of mass focus, but at ten thousand points of sweat: work sites, civil service offices, cop beats, tenant fields... you name it.

Obviously the challenge has been thrown down by the combover gang in the SCAF. So probe 'em, find the limits of this raw preemptive show of power over the people, this presumption that civil order trumps civil liberty.

It's a moment of some danger. I hope the Egyptians go on to manifest the people's right of unfettered public speech, public assembly, demand political amnesty, close the torture chambers and sandbox gulags, and most of all, assert by deeds the right to organize on the job and strike for living wages, decent conditions, full employment; demand food and utlities, shelter for all, occupy the vacant lots, open the storehouses on the authority of the people's right to live.

Sure, the SCAF can clear Liberation Square. But can it make the people produce against their will? Can it demand the people go hungry and jobless as they wait for their day -- someday -- to exercise their "right " to vote in a "free and fair" election.

If repression is going to come, better it come now while the people have the taste of power still in their mouths.

February 25, 2011

If Egyptians were Democrats...

Nice item from an occasional participant here:

If the Egyptian protesters were Democrats, they would have accepted Mubarak’s proposed reforms—not because those reforms were good, but because Democrats are accustomed to settling for empty rhetoric. They would have accepted Mubarak’s handpicked successor, the infamous torturer Omar Suleiman—not because they like him, but because he would presumably be less evil than his predecessor. They would have accepted the inevitability of defeat—not because they wanted to lose, but because losing would be both pragmatic and realistic. The actual Egyptian protesters, however, would only accept freedom.

February 28, 2011

Oh fuck. Here come the humanitarians.

Another exercise in compare-and-contrast: Egypt and Libya.

When the Egyptian public rose up and kicked Mubarak out, the EU and the US were remarkably quiet and diplomatic. But Libya is another story. Ghadafi -- or Qaddafi or whatever his name is -- is getting the full Milosevic treatment: sanctimonious condemnations from every other bloody-handed government criminal in the world, including Hillary The Ripper(*) and the gangsterish skinhead Brit foreign secretary William Hague; threats of being haled off to an international kangaroo court in Geneva or the Netherlands or some other Ruritanian theme park in the more orderly and well-swept arrondissements of the global empire; and of course calls for humanitarian intervention by those Pecksniffian creeps at Human Rights Watch.

My heroine Yoshie Furuhashi had a nice piece on a related topic at MRzine recently:

As the fate of Libya was being discussed by the powers represented in the NATO and the UN Security Council yesterday, among those most fervently calling for no-fly zones were Libya's own UN ambassadors turned defectors, Abdurrahman Mohammed Shalgham and Ibrahim Dabbashi, making the same demand as the National Conference of Libyan Opposition (NCLO), an umbrella group of major Libyan exile organizations including the Libyan Constitutional Union (led by the so-called "Crown Prince" of Libya) and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL, a tool of the CIA and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War).

Thus it fell to a few good Latin American socialists to do what they could to argue the case of Libya and defend its right to self-determination -- that is, the right of the Libyan people, those who are for, against, or indifferent to the soon-to-be former Libyan regime, to sort out their own affairs, free from NATO or any other foreign troops ... And they tried, knowing that their efforts would be met with not only attacks from the Right but also total incomprehension on the part of not a few leftists.

It's an interesting development. Qaddafi and the Empire buried the hatchet some years ago, and Q. seemed to be quite willing to carry out the neoliberal program in Libya. But perhaps the managers of empire never really thought he was quite reliable. Or perhaps they simply have their eyes on the oil: big, big country, very thinly populated, and oodles and oodles of lovely oil. Do they dream, perhaps, of a Maghrebian Saudi Arabia, ruled by a stooge more reliable than Qaddafi?

I hear Hosni Mubarak is in the job market.


(*) What fun it is to see Hillary so tenderly concerned about the Arab masses -- anywhere but Gaza and the West Bank.

March 2, 2011

There's democracy, and then there's democracy

I'm quite surprised so many folks seem to feel O'Barry and the rest of the global security clique "fear" democracy, and tremble as Uncle's local stooges tumble over the side like so many wooden dummies.

I guess one can describe a form of democratic rule that might perturb the NS boys and gals -- like Father Smiff's bloody-minded understanding of the word -- but certainly that form of democracy is not the democracy our White House and corporate media have in mind.

Thesis: In fact the overlapping of these three meme sets -- pluralism, liberal democracy, open society -- i.e. the establishment's definition of democracy -- is an ideal custom-made for transnational corporations.

To the extent that, say, Turkey emerges into full pluralism, the NSers rejoice. Odious thugs like Pinochet are regrettably necessary SOBs in the cycle of social "management" of national development.

Second thesis:

Peaceful pluralistic liberal open "democratic revolutions" play directly into the hands of corporate hegemony.

Third thesis:

It's a naked bloody violent forced overthrow, and/or direct seizure of power by a popular bottom-up armed rebellion that can get dicey for the global free-range limited-liability mandarins.

Libya has more of those high-pedigree earmarks than, say, Egypt or Tunisia... unfortunately.

March 8, 2011

Scylla & Charybdis

boink asks:

"What if the rebellion in Libya is shown to be heavily CIA backed and promoted? Would/should that alter one's attitude about Qaddafi?"

My answer: No.

Doc Johnson, I think, compares a choice between those two as that between a flea and a tick.

But history has need of its fleas and ticks, and even the plagues they bear; history uses many agencies to advance human society, in whatever sense human society can be said to advance. They include, often in turn, both Qaddafis and trans-nat Langley stooges.

In fact, one soul, one party, one institution, can play several conflicting roles over time, as has Senor Qaddafi, it would seem -- if not the Langley rangers. Many a task facing Clio if She is to guide us through the flux and flex requires turning agents into their opposites. If it takes CIA agencies and not a thousand villages to smash Mr Q's little pig sty, so be it.

In the end, one sees the outcomes of history as damnedly random or equally damnedly determinate. But this is to split the complex contradiction that is "reality" itself, always massively chaotic but determinate. Do not despair; we are going somewhere, even if all these mutually independent "wills" colliding with each other seems to suggest a Hobbesian "otherwise".

The notion of an overarching Providence pops into the head, as if by itself, as if an original creation, because each of us is a creature of our own intending mind.

Shortage of hatred

Shown above, the gloriously pseudonymous "Brigitte Gabriel". That name! Sheer genius. Brigitte: a touch of Sixties erotica, a touch of Catholicism. Gabriel: a touch of American Protestantism, and perhaps even a whiff of Judaism. Talk about covering the waterfront.

"Brigitte" has got quite a lovely anti-Muslim scam going:

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.
What I want to know is, why can't we can't do hate as well as these people can? Why can't we hate AIPAC as much as they hate -- or claim to hate -- Al-Qaeda? The former is at least as deadly and destructive; maybe more so.

There's a lot to be said for hatred, and there are a lot of people who richly deserve it. Why are we so shy?

March 9, 2011

Libysticae fabulae

This is the product of an eagerly cerebrating pinko stinko meme refinery -- to wit, one of those Lefty mailing lists that Father S is always fuming about -- so I can't link to it:

"I have been wondering in my paranoid way...if the subtext for what is happening around intervention in Libya is that some of the Imperialists would like to use it as a trial run for what would happen if Saudi Arabia should fall to a revolution.

If the House of Saud were to lose control, I would expect a fraction (large?) of the American ruling class to argue for an invasion and the capture of the oil fields, which they would endeavour to hold against all comers."

Lefty types often suffer from an overly deterministic -- shall I say mechanistic -- notion of what constitutes imperial "market earth" steerage. It's not all about occupation and gunmanship.

The Saud's oil fields in the hands of a color revolution hardly threatens the Yankee hegemony, inasmuch as that new improved liberalized cosmo-state has to sell its oil somewhere, and protect itself from the Shiite menace across the Gulf, eh?

Of course a Shiite splintering along the east coast of the penisula that by stages became part of a greater Shiite co-prosperity sphere HQed in Teheran... well, that would be quite another matter.

But by the the looks of it so far, this libyan insurgency -- if it succeeds -- oughta prove to be a fairly harmless semi-secular and even colorish operation, a setup more unlikely to choose to share its oil revenue with Egypt and Tunisia then with say Exxon and Shell.

What makes matters uncertain then? and most definitely more promising?

Well, God love 'em, the stout-hearted bastards are in arms, not bearing peace, equality, freedom, and love candles. They might just fight a humanist intervention, not just demo agin it. They might shoot at Uncle's (or even the baby-blue-hat) liberation legionnaires.

March 13, 2011

So... back to business as usual?

Will there be a second act in Libya?

Forget the no-fly zone BS. I suspect Uncle's technical experts have determined Q's "forces" have sufficient stand-off bombardment capability from the ground alone. Add in some helicopter mobility...

So far it seems the opposition looks to win on spirit. But events suggest they will lose if they hope to hold Benghazi with that alone.

I also suspect this will come down to Egypt as safe rear area for any people's gubmint and to fitful raiding actions into Libyan territory.

Will the new "revolutionary" Egypt play host? The arab league seems unwilling to form its own relief legion, eh? Imagine a Nasser brigade like the lanky-Link brigade made up of "volunteers" from egypt's military: part Korea, fall '50, and part Spain, fall '36.

It would be surprising if this clearly possible outcome of the asymmetric conflict underway doesn't get talked up by the herd of independent chatter monkeys fairly soon.

Oh yeah -- then there's the west side. Tunisia, a second safe zone? Since the dashingly brave souls that rose in western rebellion seem to have disintegrated before Q's minions, at least as a coherent city/town holding operation. Maybe talk of Tunisian "tacit support" for cross-border fighting units might arise before Egyptian side options set the liberal western press to gabbling.

The actions so far seem very brutish and bloody but comparatively light and brief, for both strokes and counterstrokes. We will see what any second act will bring after the fall of free Benghazi. If there is a fall of free Benghazi. If the great powers permit that to happen. If the brave spirits there -- Allah preserve them -- can't find some way to counter the bastard Q's big guns.

Awful awful awful.... so lopsided.

Don't tell me you aren't torn up by all this. I certainly am.

March 16, 2011

Radio Free Cyrenaica

We have a nice contrast: On the one hand, Egypt's "democratic revolution" and its supreme military council vis-a-vis Libya; on the other, the Saud dynasty vis-a-vis Bahrain.

Where are the covert warnings out of Cairo: "Stop, Colonel Q; go no deeper into Cyrenaica. If you advance on Benghazi, we will intervene massively."

If this were happening, Cairo right now would be declaring a refugee emergency and using it as cover for a massive military buildup on the Libyan border. There would be numerous violations of Libyan air space by Egyptian air force units, etc. etc.

But nope.

Whereas... ah, the great whereas... the Saud tyrany has in essence invaded the island of Bahrain and occupied it, securing it for the Sunni royal ruling clique.

The White House?

Egypt is obeying and the Saud fuckers defying... that's my take.

March 19, 2011

Partition: Not what it used to be

Glen Ford beat me to it -- as usual.

Owen's reference, a few days back, to Cyrenaica got me thinking -- thinking, but not as fast as Glen thinks: Maybe, thinks I, the imperial response to the uprising and repression in Libya hasn't been as incoherent as it appeared. Maybe a period of wait-and-see has given way to a widening imperial consensus that partition is the way to go.

They like that sort of thing -- especially the Israelis. Israel is very keen on partitioning Sudan, for example, and now that the South is taken care of, presumably Darfur is next. But doubtless Israel isn't the only party with an interest in carving Sudan up, and while Israel may also be happy to see Libya carved up, it seems quite likely that the Euros and Washington would be equally so. After all, not even I can blame Israel for what happened to Yugoslavia -- though everybody else, from Berlin to the Vatican, seems to have had a hand in that particular crime. It's like Murder On The Orient Express -- all the suspects dunnit. (Sorry if I just spoiled the book for anybody.)

And of course, although the neocons, those pilotless drones run out of the Israeli propaganda ministry, were making a lot of noise a few years back about partitioning Iraq, that plan seems to have gone nowhere -- partly, perhaps, because the Turk would presumably take a dim view of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan on his border.

Modern imperial partitions don't much resemble the picturesque scenario shown up top; it's no longer a way of managing contention among great powers. Rather, it more often reflects the collusion of great powers. China probably doesn't much like the partition of Sudan; but everybody else apparently does. And even China may not be much bothered by the partition of Libya, judging from its abstention in the Security Council the other day.

March 24, 2011

QUITE contrary

As a former whitewasher for this jungle statesman, way back there, long before auto-genocide was cool, last night I had a very sudden and profound recrudesence of that stoutly contrary spirit.

It occurred to me "enough is enough", after a particularly hyped BBC broadcast of an interview by phone with an innocent insurgent cooped up inside one of those besieged liberated towns in west Libya.

I've taken as my immediate task to step up and apply the same bleach to Col Q's record till humiliated by hard facts to run for cover.

Let's look at the bulletins that have rolled our way since the beginning of this uprising against his tyranny. My considered and boldly presumptuous conclusion:

There is very little third-party evidence of much beyond the usual autocrat's rough stuff and pot shots. In fact since the rebels "came after him" in Toyota trucks armed like an ad hoc mobilization of Somali irregulars, the colonel's forces have adhered pretty consistently to rules of armed engagement worthy of, say, the LA SWAT teams.

It's an asymmetrical conflict, after all...

Hey, states -- those coagulations of force and nasty action -- have a right, a well recognized right, or rather a duty, to defend themselves and due process against irregular bands of armed would-be topplers, don't they?

March 28, 2011


Father Smiff has got me haunting the lefty lists. Here's a recent exchange. Comrade A writes:

The thought I've been pondering is this: Assuming NATO is successful in overthrowing Gaddafi, what kind of legitimacy could the new gov't claim considering it was put into power only because of NATO? Any new gov't has to improve the standard of living and material position of Libyans very quickly, because it will be marked as illegitimate just because it was de facto installed by imperial powers.
And Comrade B responds:
I expect they're very conscious of the new regime being perceived as illegitimate, and will try very hard to disguise it. My guess is they'll try to create the appearance of legitimacy by stopping short of Tripoli, declaring a ceasefire, and arranging for stage managed talks between regime and opposition representatives mediated by Turkey, the Arab League, the African Union, the UN or some combination thereof, leading to an interim "national unity" government pending new elections
"Pending new elections." It occurs to me: why should Uncle fear free and fair elections in the Arab world? Toppled henchmen of empire, big deal. What's all this stuff about imperials trembling in their boots? "Oh no, not the briar patch!"

The record since 1946 suggests Uncle wins nearly as often as he draws and hardly ever loses big enough to sweat over any one or even a string of three or four -- let alone tremble.

Look at Latin America. The naughty elections come and go -- Arbenz, Allende Ortega, Chavez.... do you see anything to shake 'em up there? Nothin' a little diddle-diddle can't cure, with patience and a few swift kicks in the nuts.

Black Africa? Give me a break. South Asia? Exhibit A: the "world's largest democracy," the center of Pax Hindia. Could Uncle really have a better counterpart than New Delhi?

Someone has to convince me that free and fair multi-party Queensberry-rules elections are ipso facto good, really good for the little people out there. I'm ready to listen, believe me. My own Jeffersonian streak runs bone-deep.

So sock it to me, gang. Uphold the hallowed liberal rights of citizenship. The ghost of John Milton is listening too.

April 3, 2011

The missing mass problem

Tower of proletarian vigilance Alex Cockburn has, by means satiric, drawn a clear question out of the ramshackle hugger-mugger we call the Libyan civil war: where in hell's bells has the bulk of the Libyan armed forces got themselves off to?

They're certainly not slugging it out along the coast with the fearless freedom fighters from the east. Footage from the various fronts makes it all look like random outtakes from one of those poorly staged tv movies like "Hellhole in Somalia".

Brother Alex, using a heretofore unsuspected keen tv eye, claims "...the mighty armies contending along the highway west of Benghazi would melt into the bleachers at a college baseball game."

I've gotta agree. Speaking of college -- Christ, in my day I've seen beer riots that looked better organized and a darn sight more dangerous than what the networks have been showing us us from Libya. And yet, as AC puts it, "News stories" that run under these pictures "suggest mobile warfare on the scale of the epic dramas of the Kursk salient."

Speaking as one who often carps at the guy, it's gotta be said that this time we have Alex in peak form. If the god of mirth has any pull in Rhadamanthus' courthouse, Alex will be forgiven a lot. This is the best:

".. most of the action revolves around one tank. I’ve seen it in hundreds of video feeds. Like the tooth passed from witch to witch in Greek myth, this tank performs many functions and to judge from the graffiti on its turret, it’s always the same vehicle."
So where's the 50,000-strong modern fighting force col Q has assembled over 40 years with his oil riches? Where are his armor columns? Where's his artillary lined to the horizon?

Granted, a chunk has defected (though the defectors appear to be AWOL too) -- but where's the rest of it?

Obviously, by mutual agreement, they're all sitting this out, watching col Q's relative handful of picked personal security thugs take on the Toyota tigers of Benghazi.

Updates suggest these loyalists are skulking about the neighborhoods of a few midcoast oil towns, perhaps cutting innocent gay throats out of sheer frustration. Imagine it -- hunkered down, sweating like a pitcher of spring water hiding from NATO's flying apes overhead. Not very glorious, but prudent nonetheless, especially after a few of their palace motor pool tanks (not seen on CNN by AC) got summarily knocked out by supersonic angels in the early hours of emperor Barry 's horrific UN-sanctioned Walpurgistnacht.

Note from the Paine family AU (analytic unit): a cross calculation by my nephew Ballameer Paine: Taking the total reported daily NATO sorties, and dividing that number by the number of in-theater officially sanctioned targets of opportunity, suggests there might be a flyover every couple-three hours in any one hotspot, by a flight of three fighters. So keep your heads down, you brave sons and daughters of the Green Book. And you rebel gals and guys -- you look out, too. Seems smart weapons don't insure perfect targeting. And now that the col Q loyalists are using Toyotas too there's bound to be more friendly-fire kills like today's deadly blooper that killed 10 rebel fighters.

April 5, 2011

Λερναία Ὕδρα

From Mike Flugennock.

Jaundiced view

Topic of the day: the colorless secret soul of people-powered revolutions.

Much to ponder these days, with all the tyrant topples going on in sand-dune country, eh? And yet scepticism about these affairs pervades the now miserably eclectic left of our era (see Flug's cartoon in the previous post).

Hell, we've come to doubt whether any of these dazzlingly quick upheavels, these sudden bright happenings, have a spontaneous but self-sustaining society-sublating oversoul to 'em. We get to figuring enough, and digging, and well... there you have it...just another goddamn sordid little imperial magic trick.

Apropos of just this, at the latest postings at Counterslap, I found a link through to a nice blog by one Mark Almond, a man with a keen sense of Clio's ironic pranking. He has a few erudite tie-ins and mordant refections on this recent spate of unruliness.

I'll sample a little for ya:

"Now the spontaneity of the events is being called into question. The New York Times has a track record of raining on the People Power parade - when it is all done and dusted - and setting the record straight, but only once its editorial line has won. Until the object of popular derision, who happens also to have outlived his usefulness to the White House, has been toppled, the New York Times leads the pack of sententious insistence that only the People are involved. No suggestion of external political forces or internal power-plays is allowed to detract from the purity of the morality play on the streets of captal city X. From Belgrade to Tbilisi with a sidestep to Bishkek, the Times has always told the full story only once the telling cannot influence events.

Already it has begun to name the people forming international links with training centres and cash and technical aid from outside Egypt. Before long as with the Serbs or Georgians who thought they had played the decisive role, the celebration of the backroom cadre of People Power veterans who guide the spontaneous steps of each infant democracy will be "all the news that's fit to print." Instead of Arabic names, our old favourites, Colonel Gene Sharp, the "Clausewitz of People Power," George Soros, "the Paymaster-General of People Power," and the various goatee-bearded NGO activists will get their commendations from the very media which decried any suggestion that a foreign hand might be in play."

A parallel from the annus-mirabilis anti-campus-Sovieticus 1989:
"Just as Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu offended Communist sensitivities and the ambitions of better-qualified apparatchiks by promoting his son, Nicu, as well as his wife, Elena, so Mubarak - an old friend, by the way of the Ceausescus - offended key elements in his regime by letting his son, Gamel, and other family members and cronies not only look set to succeed to the most prestigious job, but also he let them get too much of the economic pie... The people who go out on the streets - however well-justified their grievances and whatever their courage in risking the first steps of public defiance - in practice seem to act as stage extras while a coup d'etat is carried through while the world watches their defiance, not realising it is a popular pageant rather than People Power."
Romantic panels of history long past and today's daily cartoons as swept up together by Mr Almond:
"Back in France in 1789, Louis XVI's government was dispersed long before he was decapitated in 1793: none of his ministers or provincial governors were in office six months after the fall of the Bastille. Real revolutions tend to become more radical, and that it is not necessarily a good thing, but they are more than one-act teasers like our post-modern dramas. Nowadays, revolution seems to be an inverted fairy story with a happy ending at the beginning: it is all over so quickly that most of the old regime's loyal servants hardly have time to turn their coats before they resume work in the same office."

April 9, 2011

What news from the front?

Seems the Egyptian people's revolt is now wavering between harmless color revolution and satanic darkness, as the uppity people keep raising objections and demands that the military brass -- and, one has to assume, Washington -- don't buy into.

The armed guardians of the revolution have a fairly simple message: "Listen you assholes: political evolution and social progress have strict limits." Answer, by at least a serious fraction of the people: "Fuck you..we say hang the brass-hats."

The rebellion has life in its legs, yet comrades. Praise the sharpness of real contradictions, eh?

However, on the far side of the land of power pyramid schemes, and camels tall and jerky, lie the sands where Col Q remains standing. What can we say about the humanitarian war aims of empire after the recent and unapologetic nailing of a small column of rebel armor by the sky knights from NATO? Does this mean we have before us what amounts to a formally even-handed "no tanks zone" policy laid down here by the powers of the sivilized church universal?

Yikes. What will they come up with next to torture the people of that small nation?

April 30, 2011

The Crusades continue

Breaking news:

Son of Qaddafi Killed in NATO Airstrike

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi survived a NATO airstrike on Saturday night that killed his youngest son Saif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren, a Libyan government spokesman said.

Mussa Ibrahim said Saif al-Arab was a civilian and a student who had studied in Germany. He was 29 years old.

Libyan officials took journalists to the house, which had been hit by at least three missiles. The roof had completely caved in in some areas, leaving strings of reinforcing steel hanging down among chunks of concrete.

A table football machine stood outside in the garden of the house, which was in a wealthy residential area of Tripoli.

So nice to see the progress that Democracy is making.

The bit about the table football machine in a "wealthy area of Tripoli" is consummate. You mean -- a place like Scarsdale? Oh well, nuke 'em then, the pukes.

June 2, 2011

I hope this is true...

Libyan rebels will recognise Israel, Bernard-Henri Lévy tells Netanyahu

Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) is ready to recognise Israel, according to French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who says he has passed the message on to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu....

Netanyahu's office confirmed the meeting with Lévy but did not comment on the discussion. "The prime minister likes to meet intellectuals," a spokesperson said.

Of course, if it is true, it will be something of a first for BHL, shown above in the initial phase of a lycanthropic metamorphosis in front of an al-Jazeera microphone.

Still, as I so often say, you can't make this stuff up.

It all leads me to ponder, not for the first time, that wise old axiom that politics makes strange bedfellows. (This has happened to me once or twice in a literal sense, with mixed results.) I have to wonder about all my sanctimonious moralizing universalizing Leftie friends -- how do they feel about being in bed with BHL and Sarko?

To be sure, I'm in bed with Ahmadinejad, have been for years, and I guess I'm now in bed with Colonel Q, by implication anyway. Neither of them is a bedmate I would have chosen out of all the people on earth, but I'll sleep sounder than I would with BHL's head on the neighboring pillow.

Incidentally, isn't that a nice line about how Netanyahu "likes to meet intellectuals?" If that isn't straight off the cutting-room floor for The Godfather, I'm a lizard.

About The sand trap

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the The sand trap category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

The ratchet effect is the previous category.

The sorrows of the Left is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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