Minutiae
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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Monday, March 24, 2003
Picture: Bush and Saddam: Friends 4 Ever
(Warning: that website is not safe for work... possibly not home either.)

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
I'm posting huge excerpts in consideration for a certain reader with a connection roughly the speed of molasses. In case you were wondering.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Oh it is to
LAUGH. Of course you have to understand a little British WWI history to get the joke.
"COWARDLY French sailors are enjoying a holiday on the Thames — while our brave boys and girls risk their lives to topple Saddam.

Crew of the coastal patrol vessel FS Flamant are unashamedly flying a Tricolour while moored in central London.

So The Sun steamed into action yesterday by blitzing them with white feathers — the coward’s symbol.

We hired a 38ft yacht for our daring assault on the 150ft ship, which is moored next to Tower Bridge.

First, we hoisted up the Red Ensign flag as we left St Katharine’s dock.

Then we circled the ship and shouted to the crew: “We have le feather blanc for you grands poulets.”

We sounded our horn and then moved into position.

As the rattled French seamen looked on in amazement, we bombarded them with the feathers — which showered their deck.

Sailors ran for a hose and sounded the ship’s booming horn to warn us off.

A senior officer wagged his finger and shouted “No, no”.

Then the wet blankets rang the police and asked them to deal with us.

One amused officer told us: “We’ve had a complaint about you from the French warship. Take this as a friendly warning.

“They’re very edgy about all this.”

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Oooh
that's cool. (magic words: laexaminer, laexaminer)
"As Iraqi Americans reach out to their relatives in Baghdad and Basra, in Kirkuk and Irbil, some are hearing words they never thought possible: Iraqis are speaking ill of Saddam Hussein.

They're criticizing him out loud, on the telephone, seemingly undeterred by fear of the Iraqi intelligence service and its tactics of torture for those disloyal to the Baath Party regime.
   
"I was shocked," said Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass., that promotes interfaith and interethnic understanding. "It's very dangerous. All the phones are tapped. But they are so excited."
...

As war unfolds, Iraqis who came to the United States in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are glued to the news, some staying up until nearly dawn to watch the latest developments. Some are thinking about returning to Baghdad to help in the country's reconstruction.

Others are upset by antiwar protesters they believe have been duped by Iraqi propaganda. They are eager to celebrate the end of a regime whose abuses they recount with personal grief and pained memories.

Tamara Darweesh, 30, is a lawyer with the Los Angeles firm of Kegel, Tobin & Truce. Her parents were leftists, and university scientists, when the Baath Party came to power in 1968.
...
"I'm so disappointed with the left," said Darweesh, who considers herself a liberal. "They are in complete denial because it doesn't fit into their equation of the Mideast. But Saddam is an Arab leader who has killed more Arabs than Israel ever has."

The antiwar protesters, she added, are "very condescending. They are supposed to be for human rights, but the suffering of the Iraqi people just doesn't exist for them. They deny us our stories."

There's more.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Mini-Evil 1. Part b.
Mini-Evil 2.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Oh good. Finally a prominent democrat who
gets it. I hope he runs for the big cheese next time around. I could vote for him. I don't like voting republican; I only do it because the democrats keep nominating idiots.

Ah I didn't read closely enough. He is running for the big cheese. Well we'll have to see but that may actually be the first election where I can vote for the best candidate rather than the lesser evil. {fingers crossed}

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Here's the place to sign up for Minnesota's Do Not Call list if you haven't already.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Andrew Sullivan explains who's really responsible for this war so well that I'm just going to post the whole thing. (Remember this man voted for Clinton and Gore.)
"Whose war is this? If it succeeds, it will have many authors, as victories always do. If it fails in any measurable way, its architects will be strikingly few, restricted to the handful of leaders who are required to take responsibility regardless of merit or cause. So perhaps now is the best moment for proposing the true orchestrators of this, the first full-scale invasion of the twenty-first century - while wet fingers are still thrust nervously upwards in the air. And, for all the easy judgments about this being "Bush's war," it seems to me that the picture is immensely more complicated than that. History is rarely so free of irony that the actual initiator of hostilities is the real force behind them. Others lie behind him, and others still behind them. And this war, perhaps more than many others, is laden with irony.

It is, first and foremost, the United Nations' war. Without the U.N., it would never have happened. Indeed, without the U.N., it wouldn't have even been necessary. Back in 1991, U.S. and U.K. forces were only a few hundred miles behind the positions they advanced to in the middle of last week. Saddam was reeling, after a coalition invasion to repel his aggression against Kuwait. Both the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Shi'a in the South, emboldened by the war in Kuwait and encouraged by Washington, launched an uprising against the same tyrant we are still battling today. With American air-cover, they could have succeeded. But the Americans, in the greatest military miscalculation of the last few decades, hung back. Then-president George H.W. Bush insisted that his war aims did not include the removal of Saddam Hussein, but were limited to the liberation of a small oil company known as Kuwait.

Why, after sending hundreds of thousands of troops halfway around the globe, did Bush suddenly turn modest? Because the United Nations was the rubric under which he fought the war; the terms of his enormous coalition were dictated by the U.N.; and those terms were strictly limited to the reversal of Iraq's invasion, and nothing more. In one of the loveliest paradoxes of this battle, the U.N. therefore laid the groundwork for its subsequent self-destruction twelve years later. Without the U.N.'s restrictions on American force twelve years ago, Saddam would not be around today. Any non-U.N., American-led coalition with any sense of military opportunity, would have finished off the old Stalinist more than a decade ago. 1991 was therefore, in one sense, the U.N.'s post-Cold War high-point. Too bad it guaranteed its future nadir.

In the second place, this is Bill Clinton's war. Next to Saddam, Clinton was the biggest and most surprising beneficiary of the 1991 defeat-from-victory. Then-president Bush never acquired the full-bore victory Saddam's fall would have guaranteed; and as the economy worsened, the prudent president got blamed for excessive concern with foreign affairs. Clinton popped up as a natural foil in American politics, dedicated to the economy before foreign policy, a passionate but nervous multilateralist, a believer in soft rather than hard power, a man the Europhiles could suddenly warm to, if only because he could be relied upon to do as little in foreign policy as Europe's elites were comfortable with. But Saddam, menacingly, endured. And Clinton, like many domestically-oriented Democrats, couldn't afford the appearance of military weakness.

So we had the sanctions regime and the inspections regime. We had abrupt clashes, long somewhat successful police work under U.N. inspections, but no real breakthrough with regard to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Worse, precisely because Saddam remained in power - thanks to the United Nations - American troops were required to stay in the region in large numbers to maintain some sort of deterrence. Where did they stay? Saudi Arabia. Who noticed this? One religious fanatic, Osama bin Laden. What was the result? The forces of Islamist fundamentalism shifted their focus from the corrupt regimes in their own region to the super-power thousands of miles away. If you want a direct, irrefutable link between Saddam and 9/11, you have to look no further than the consequences of the first Gulf War. If there had been no U.N.-mandated half-victory, Osama would never have had his direct provocation. And in one of those perfect circles of historical irony, Osama's revenge has led just as directly to Saddam's final come-uppance.

That twist, however, didn't come as a consequence of September 11, 2001. It came as a result of the final Iraqi-U.N. impasse in 1998, when the inspections regime collapsed in the face of Saddamite deception and intransigence. In response, president Clinton formally shifted U.S. policy from containment to regime change. Yes, this was Clinton's policy. It is still Clinton's policy. Which is why, at some level, this is also Clinton's war. The subsequent U.S. and U.K. bombing helped reduce the immediate threat of Saddam's weapons, but deferred once again the real day of reckoning, as the Americans and British cast about for ways to be rid of Saddam short of full-scale invasion.

And at the same time, the Clinton administration also created the clear precedent for the war we are witnessing today: Kosovo. In retrospect, the Kosovo campaign was the first and last test of a bizarre new world coalition, the coalition that collapsed in the first two months of 2003. A military hyper-power agreed to fight a war under terms in part dictated by European allies whose military capacity was negligible. Unequals had to pretend to be partners. The goal was not just to prevent genocide in Europe, but to save an alliance strained by sheer military imbalance to the point of absurdity. The result, as Robert Kagan has memorably argued, was the American and European realization that this imbalance was bound to strain the alliance almost to breaking point. General Wesley Clark, the commander of NATO forces in Kosovo, ruefully recalled later that the need to maintain a constant consensus between Europeans and Americans hampered the ability to send a direct message to Milosevic, prolonged the war and protected the enemy. This didn't matter in a case where America's own security interests were irrelevant. But it was a dark omen for future conflicts when real interests might collide.

In Kosovo, the U.N.'s failure to get consensus - Russian threatened to veto the military operation in the Security Council - showed that universal agreement could not be achieved even in the face of European genocide. And even within NATO, Europe's obsession with means collided brusquely with America's practical attempt to achieve clear military ends. "It was always the Americans who pushed for the escalation to new, more sensitive targets ... and always the Allies who expressed doubts and reservations," Clark later wrote. At a meeting of allied military officials a few months after the war, one NATO minister summed up the consensus by saying simply "we never want to do this again." "No one laughed," Clark recalls. It was a prophetic moment, the essential Clintonian precedent for the breach that France and Germany turned into a chasm in the winter of 2002 and 2003.

And yes, this is also the neoconservatives' war. By this I don't mean the alleged cabal of Likudniks infiltrating American foreign policy and directing the might of the superpower to serve the interests of a tiny, oil-free strip of land at the east end of the Mediterranean. By this, I mean simply that this war represents the winning of a long argument among Washington's policy elites about the future of American interests in the Middle East. I witnessed much of this debate first-hand, editing the critical neoconservative-neoliberal Washington weekly, the New Republic, for five years in the early 1990s. When George H. W. Bush and James Baker pulled back from the brink of victory in 1991, I heard a long, loud and tenacious wail go up among a whole bevy of Washington neocon intellectuals. When then-president Bush leveraged his half-victory in Kuwait into the Madrid conference and followed the European script that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the real source of instability in the Middle East, that wail got even louder. And it slowly morphed into arch-skepticism as the Rabin and Barak governments vested so much effort in the Oslo peace process. When Rabin and Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, millions felt a sense of promise and hope, but in Washington, a hundred neocon eye-brows arched.

None of this will work, the neoconservatives harrumphed. Their argument went roughly as follows: Our hesitation in Iraq emboldened Israel's and the West's enemies, and made a real peace less, not more, available. Our abrupt retreat from Somalia under Clinton, our weak response to Islamist terrorism in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and our recourse to weak and porous sanctions against Saddam - all these moves simply galvanized those elements in the Arab world that didn't want peace with Israel, but desired Israel's destruction and the West's humiliation. My view at the time was sympathetic to the neoconservative analysis but still skeptical. Like anyone else, I wanted the Oslo process to work. Like most others, I wanted to believe that al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas were reasonable political entities, people you could at some point negotiate with, not murderous, implacable, anti-Semitic fanatics. Even though al Qaeda's attacks increased slowly in ambition and scale, I saw no reason to believe that they were quite the menace that many neocons insisted they were.

Two things shifted the balance to the neoconservatives in Washington more than anything else. The first was Yassir Arafat's refusal at Camp David and Taba to accept the sweeping deal Barak offered for West Bank autonomy. Or to be more accurate, it wasn't Arafat's refusal to accept it that turned the tide. It was his refusal to offer any alternative whatsoever, except a return to the Intifada, and this time with suicide bombing as his main negotiating tool. And the second event, of course, was September 11 itself. For anyone who had hoped to arrive at some kind of negotiated settlement with the forces of Arab and Islamist jihad, 9/11 was an epiphany. Everything those crazy old neocons had been saying suddenly had new-found credibility. Maybe they were right after all - and only force and power could deter the Islamist fanatics and bring about a Middle East peace.

When George W. Bush looked around him in the ashes of the World Trade Center for an analysis of what had gone wrong and a comprehensive strategy to put it right, the neoconservatives were the only credible advocates who had an actual plan. They weren't a cabal. And they weren't natural Bush allies. Men like the Pentagon's Richard Perle or Douglas Feith or Paul Wolfowitz or the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer and Bob Kagan, or the New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan or the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol: all these had been bitter foes of Bush's father, brutal critics of his foreign policy. The Washington Post and New Republic had endorsed Al Gore for president. The Weekly Standard had backed John McCain in the primaries. The reason they rallied behind Bush in the wake of 9/11 was simply because he was the president. And the reason Bush reached out to these theorists was because history had proved them right and disaster had proved them prescient.

So it's not surprising that the first White House meetings after 9/11 brought up Iraq as a target for counter-attack almost immediately. This was not because Saddam was directly implicated. It was because war had broken out. In a war against Islamist terrorism, the neocons persuasively argued, you had to look at the bigger picture if you wanted victory rather than half-measures and semi-success. If this was war, going after the mere perpetrators of one calamity was not enough. That was the hallmark of mere police work, not warfare. It was Clintonism and Clintonism had catastrophically failed. What you had to do was survey the whole network of terror, its state sponsors, and, in particular, the relationship between all this and weapons of mass destruction. You had to think deep and you had to think big. Saddam was by no means the only link in this chain. But he was a brittle link. And there was already an international legal case that legitimized direct action. If you wanted to remake the entire region, Iraq was an obvious place to start.

Of course, the Taliban came first. But there was never any question that Saddam would have to be dealt with next. And the precedents laid down by Bill Clinton and the U.N. always made the universal, Security Council-backed route a deeply perilous and dubious one. Dick Cheney never bought the case. But Powell and Blair insisted on trying, and the president, much more pragmatic than his critics are prepared to concede, went for the U.N. route. Was he wrong to have had war in mind from the outset? After the experience of the 1990s, surely not. In his view, war had already been brought to the United States. And this humble, instinctually modest president in foreign affairs, demanded a comprehensive strategy to grapple with the gravest attack on American soil in American history. The neocons had such an analysis. Their rivals - the multilateral purists - had nothing but piece-meal initiatives and they also had recent history against them. Critically, Bush also remembered his father's experience. Again, Bush's critics get it half right and therefore completely wrong. Bush isn't out to avenge his father. He's out not to repeat his father's mistakes. This war will therefore not end with Saddam's survival. Not this time. No premature withdrawals now.

Lastly, this is Tony Blair's war. Watching his presence from the American side of the Atlantic is to be amazed by the way in which he has framed the terms of this conflict, its timing and its public meaning - in America as well as Britain. I know of no other recent precedent in which a British prime minister has had such an influence on American discourse, and therefore on the course of world events. Yes, Thatcher was and is revered among Americans, but primarily on the right and center. Blair commands respect on the American left and now something approaching shock and awe, to purloin a phrase, on the American right. This - along with a personal rapport with Bush and public loyalty and private consistency, two qualities deeply valued by the Bush family - has given the British premier unprecedented leverage over American power. Because of Blair, the world's sole hyper-power delayed its war for two months in a fruitless effort to paper over trans-Atlantic cracks that had been widening for a decade. Because of Blair, the realists in the Bush administration - Cheney and Rumsfeld - have seen their arguments complemented and sometimes superseded by the rhetoric of liberal internationalism. Partly because of Blair, the Democrats, still controlled by the Blair-friendly Clinton mafia, have failed to resist this war as fiercely as its left wing would like. And because of Blair, president Bush laid out the "roadmap" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians before, and not after, the war to depose Saddam.

Poodle? You have to be kidding. But Blair's leverage was all the more serious because it wasn't wielded for transparent reasons of British world influence. It seemed to Americans to come from obvious conviction about the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and from a genuine and perhaps unique understanding of what Americans went through on September 11. Maybe it was coming to the United States immediately after the massacre that did it. Maybe it was attending the Congress for Bush's historic September 20 address. But Blair convinced Americans that his sympathy wasn't restricted to human sentiment in the wake of tragedy, but also included analysis and policy that could turn such a tragedy toward good. And his ability to articulate those reasons, in ways that Bush couldn't, reassured the American centre and made 70 percent American public support for this war a possibility.

And, yes, this is also, in the last resort, president Bush's war. To read the scathing accounts of his diplomacy in the European press, the caricature of his character that has become universal, the disparagement of his intellect, and the contempt for his strategy, is to experience a certain amount of cognitive dissonance these past few months. This simply isn't the president I've observed for the past two years or so, and I started as a skeptic of Bush and a supporter of John McCain. In fact, it's hard not to feel that the personal demonization of this man is less an accurate portrayal of his role at this moment of history than a way for others to vent their own feelings of impotence, or irrelevance, or frustration.

But one thing I can relay from Washington. The closer you get to people who actually know him, who deal with him, who observe him, the greater the respect you hear. In a cabinet of heavy-weights, you'd expect in these tense circumstances a certain amount of grandstanding, of leaks to the press about who is really running the country, a buzz of rivalry and condescension and personal spin that is actually the norm in most administrations. But instead, you hear something rather different: that Bush really is in charge, that he has earned the deepest respect of those with far more experience than he has, that he is as steady as he is calm, as determined as he is pragmatic. It's far too early to make judgments about this president's place in history, but I suspect the future will hold him in far higher regard than the present. He enters this new phase of the war with majorities in both Houses of Congress, with more public support than his father had in the first Gulf War, and with a military more expert and relatively powerful than any in the annals of world conflict. From being barely elected just over two years ago, that's some transformation, as impressive as Blair's. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs in the days and weeks and months ahead. But no one should doubt either this president's resolve or his ambition. For him this war is not a few days old but already a year and a half in duration. This campaign for Saddam is neither as dramatic as his critics charge nor as central as some of his supporters believe. It is just one part of an unfolding strategy to remake the world's security. That's why, at a deep level, this war is not one that Bush created or devised or laid the groundwork for. But it is a war whose course he has indelibly shaped and whose successful resolution he is determined to achieve. I wouldn't bet against him succeeding."

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
This time of year always feels faintly unreal. Now it's 60+ degrees outside the sun is shining and I feel like a mole emerging from hibernation {blink} {blink}. Then back inside it's war 24-7 on the tv. Too strange.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Hmmmm. I look forward to seeing what happens to the UN.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
One of the
human shields speaks:
"I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention. It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views - much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple - you get on the bus and you represent yourself.

So that is exactly what I did on the morning of Saturday, January 25. I am a 23-year-old Jewish-American photographer living in Islington, north London. I had travelled in the Middle East before: as a student, I went to the Palestinian West Bank during the intifada. I also went to Afghanistan as a photographer for Newsweek.

The human shields appealed to my anti-war stance, but by the time I had left Baghdad five weeks later my views had changed drastically. I wouldn't say that I was exactly pro-war - no, I am ambivalent - but I have a strong desire to see Saddam removed.

We on the bus felt that we were sympathetic to the views of the Iraqi civilians, even though we didn't actually know any. The group was less interested in standing up for their rights than protesting against the US and UK governments.

I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good". He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you."

Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face. I told a few journalists who I knew. They said that this sort of thing often happened - spontaneous, emotional, and secretive outbursts imploring visitors to free them from Saddam's tyrannical Iraq.

I became increasingly concerned about the way the Iraqi regime was restricting the movement of the shields, so a few days later I left Baghdad for Jordan by taxi with five others. Once over the border we felt comfortable enough to ask our driver what he felt about the regime and the threat of an aerial bombardment.

"Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio?" he said. "Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam."

We just sat, listening, our mouths open wide. Jake, one of the others, just kept saying, "Oh my God" as the driver described the horrors of the regime. Jake was so shocked at how naive he had been. We all were. It hadn't occurred to anyone that the Iraqis might actually be pro-war.

The driver's most emphatic statement was: "All Iraqi people want this war." He seemed convinced that civilian casualties would be small; he had such enormous faith in the American war machine to follow through on its promises. Certainly more faith than any of us had.

Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: "Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?"

It hit me on visceral and emotional levels: this was a real portrayal of Iraq life. After the first conversation, I completely rethought my view of the Iraqi situation. My understanding changed on intellectual, emotional, psychological levels. I remembered the experience of seeing Saddam's egomaniacal portraits everywhere for the past two weeks and tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who had been subjected to seeing them every day for the last 20 or so years.

Last Thursday night I went to photograph the anti-war rally in Parliament Square. Thousands of people were shouting "No war" but without thinking about the implications for Iraqis. Some of them were drinking, dancing to Samba music and sparring with the police. It was as if the protesters were talking about a different country where the ruling government is perfectly acceptable. It really upset me.

Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom."

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
A
good blog with up to the minute war links and commentary.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Instapundit had a good comment:
"WHEN YOU HEAR CLAIMS OF "CIVILIAN DEATHS" keep in mind this post from the BBC Warblog:
One of the problems in the fighting in Umm Qasr has been that some of the conscript army appeared to surrender, but then disappeared.
It's thought they then took off their uniforms, became civilians, but kept their guns. And so they were effectively acting as a guerrilla force which makes it very hard for conventional armies to fight that because they don't want to risk killing civilians.

Soldiers out of uniform, of course, are war criminals. I eagerly await the European protest marches regarding this practice.
UPDATE: CNN is now reporting that Iraqis have executed American prisoners of war. I eagerly await the demonstrations over that, too."

Let me reinforce that. Fighting out of uniform is a WAR CRIME. It's been against the rules of war for centuries because it endangers noncombatants. Keep this in mind when you hear shrill denunciations of civilian casualties.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
. . .
Shit. The
asshole is apparently still alive. In that case we are not yet anywhere near the mopup phase of operations as I was hoping. I really hope we don't have to go root him out of Baghdad. That's gonna be really ugly.
Update: Hmm. FOX and MSNBC say that the tape is inconclusive. That's what I get for listening to Christiane Amanpour.

posted by Rachel 3/24/2003
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