Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Begin To Win

Click. Watch.

Russ Feingold (D-WI) represents our best chance for Congress to get control of an unending Global War on Terra. He recognizes that taking funding away from the war is the way to stop it. He's on the Judiciary Committee, and is holding hearings this week on how Congress should best go about it. He's promising to introduce legislation which sets a deadline, after which Iraq gets de-funded. In 1971, Congress did not approve a Nixon request for additional Vietnam war financing. It was that Congressional vote, not any brilliant statesmanship by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which effectively ended American troop presence in Vietnam. "We will not take funds away from our troops," a frequent Dimocrat talking point, should instead be changed to, "We're approving funds to bring them home." That's where he's going with his hearings.

I realize Feingold probably won't get meaningful legislation passed fast enough, and only a miracle can stop Cheney and the Ziocons from blowing up the world as soon as they swallow their last Space Cakes. If you want to try and stop it anyway, as I assume you do, then the Progressive Patriot's Fund is the best place I know of to support.

Go. Give. At least you'll be on the record for doing the right thing. And you never know. It just might work:

(Hat tip to the esteemed Hope at Deep Confusion for surfacing this Feingold vid.)

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
packed up and ready to go
Heard of some gravesites, out by the highway
a place where nobody knows
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, lived in the ghetto
I've lived all over this town

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
this ain't no foolin' around
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C.B.G.B.
I ain't got time for that now

Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"

USS Reagan Assigned To Persian Gulf

C.B.G.B. I never new what it stood for. Since the venerable Manhattan punk club by that name has closed its doors, henceforth it stands in my lexicon for "Carrier Battle Group Blues." The USS Dwight Eisenhower is in the Persian Gulf, off Somalia near the Horn of Africa. The USS John C. Stennis should arrive to join it on station in mid-February. The USS Ronald Reagan should arrive in the region at the beginning of March, right after Admiral William Fallon is confirmed as CENTCOM commander. There is no need for 3 aircraft carriers there, except for an attack on Iran; this ain't no party, this ain't no disco.

It is possible the USS Dwight Eisenhower will rotate back, and the Reagan is sent to relieve it. This could go either way, and may be intentionally provisional, but very few people in the world know it, if so. Two of them are Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who are absolutely determined to attack Iran, which they see as "unfinished business." And by the way, despite his resignation, Donald Rumsfeld still goes to his office in the Pentagon every day, and has a staff of seven people. Ain't retirement fun?

The same techniques of demonization are being used by the same suspects, going off the same old Project for A New American Century, Draft Defense Planning Guidance style sheets. "We have no plans to attack Iran," say the mouthpieces. Right. Cheney's staff wrote the plans in 1992. The US is escalating all over the region. Opposition groups are newly funded in Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. US troops are in Somalia and Pakistan (and troops have been kidnapped in Somalia, google it if you care to), and Special Forces teams are in Iran.

As the last steps before a bombing campaign on Iran, Patriot missile defense systems will be put into Israel. B-2 bombers will be shifted to somewhere in the Mediterranean (Bulgaria is a strong candidate), and support ships and planes carrying lots of "jet puke" (JP-8 grade fuel) will appear nearby. These are small, specific, easy-to-miss signals, but should they occur, they'll provide 99% certainty of an attack on Iran. The web is a big place, so I'm asking you to watch for these signs; if I miss them, I'd really appreciate it if you let me know. There will probably be a propaganda push or a trumped-up atrocity to sell the war to the American public. But they're getting careless and disdainful of the public, so they may not bother to do this until after the fact. Watch the B-2 bombers and their logistics support. They're more reliable indicators.

(A big Hat-Tip to Bruce at The River Blog for catching the Reagan's assignment, and to Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story and At Largely for her ongoing coverage.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Dance Of The Seven Realignments

To know, know, know her is to love, love, love her. Condi Rice just laid out the most transparent, nakedly comprehensive foreign policy since Andrew Jackson told Kit Carson to go West and kill every Indian he saw.* Writer David Ignatius has a chat with her and surfaces some quotes from it. Not to put too fine a point on it, Ignatius is a transmission device for national intelligence, and in "Rice's Strategic Reset," he gives her room to unwind and bask in the effects of her recent policy efforts. Bottom line, Condi is feeling pretty good about how the Mid-East is shaping up, and is ready for her Nobel Peace Prize.

There does appear to be progress at first glance. The US has been breathlessly explaining the threat posed by Iran to nations in the region, and has pimped the benefits of forming a coalition of NATO, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Israel to contain Khomeini's Islamic Revolution. Choosing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the primary battering ram is natural, since it has been expanding membership steadily eastwards over the last decade to keep Russia in its place. Now NATO is conducting joint operations with Israel and Pakistan, and the US wants to induct both as full knights of the realm, even though they're a looong way from the North Atlantic. NATO as the security apparatus explains why there are British and German naval vessels presently patrolling off Beirut backing a Christian politician in Lebanon. Here is why Condi finally had a good hair day:

The administration's tougher stance against Iran arguably has already produced some results. Iran's firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be in political trouble with the ruling mullahs, in part because his reckless talk alienated other Muslims. But the strongest leverage against Iran appears to be the West's unified diplomatic coalition. "The Security Council resolution [condemning Iran's nuclear program and mandating mild sanctions] has had more of an effect than I thought it would," Rice said.
The UN Security Council Resolution against Iran's nuclear ambitions was a Dance of the Seven Veils, useful for amusement and distraction. Much as I love Condi, if she thinks China or Russia will enforce any of the Resolution's specifics, her head's not right. Iran has reined in the rhetoric of its President because it wins by waiting. Allow me to translate Condi's Miss Universe acceptance speech: by promising to maintain the status quo and apportioning future slices of the oil pie, the US feels it can move natural enemies to rapprochement and contain the Persian Plague they all hate. The State Department took the basic building block defined by the Iraq Study Group and started off by saying, "We can all agree that the specter of Iran with nukes is a bad idea, right?" The "we" in question can't agree, not even on that. This realignment, reset, whatever you want to call it (regurgitation?) is built on flimsy, flammable gauze because it ignores one key ISG recommendation, one uncomfortable reality, and one looming, incredibly telling and stupid contradiction.

First, the ISG recommendation it ignores is the necessity to engage Syria and Iran. Here is Her Bad Self on the subject:

The Bush administration's thinking about realignment helps explain why it has resisted engaging Syria and Iran, as recommended by the Baker-Hamilton report. As Rice put it, "You have a 'pan' movement, across the region. The war in Lebanon crystallized it for everyone. You can't just leave it there. . . . If you concentrate on engaging Syria and Iran, you may lose the chance to do the realignment."

In other words, the US blames Iran and Syria for Israel's defeat in Lebanon. This is funny-ha-ha. Didn't Israel first invade Lebanon, then get its ass kicked? It's not like Iran gave Hezbollah fighter planes to bomb Tel Aviv. Condi's plan assumes that Sunnis hate Shiites enough to be divided and conquered along an Iranian fault line. But the US is supporting Sunnis against Shiites, and vice-versa. Pitting tribal peoples against one another is a proven method for disuniting them, true, but the US is supporting Sunnis against Shiites in Lebanon and Afghanistan, then simultaneously supporting Shiites against Sunnis in Iraq. If I can notice the forked tongue flicking, the Saudis and the Pakis can, too. The "Reset" also ignores the fundamentally important fact that Iranian-style self-determination offers a better political solution to the peoples of the Mid-east than we do. It offers a way to balance Islam, parliamentary nationalism, and social modernism. They've got a better formula. That's why they're winning.

Second, the uncomfortable reality of Israel pollutes everything in the Mid-east. As the article states, the plan relies on peace between Palestine and Israel...later. Israel isn't getting out of Palestine. There is not even the slightest demonstration of an Israeli quid pro quo, and from
Detroit to Jakarta, Palestine is a potent symbol for the West's oppression of Arabs and muslims. So you have to wonder where the optimism...oh, right...there is civil war blossoming amongst "the natives" in Lebanon and Palestine, and Condi can pat herself on the back for just having given billions of dollars to sow them (Sinoria and the Sunnis vs. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas vs. Fatah in Palestine). So there's the old colonial divide-and-conquer fallback, but there are limits to how much to rely on that tendency. If I recall correctly, Saudis and Pakis were dancing in the streets when Israel was beaten in Lebanon. Of course, I could be wrong, because staunch allies would never do that.

Finally, there is an internal contradiction which shoots this plan through the head like a 7.62mm AK-47 bullet: if democracy spreads in the region any further, the administration might have to turn it into a parking lot to make it cooperate. When Islamic people vote, they elect Islamic democracies. Get it, Condi? That's where the trouble is coming from in Lebanon, and Palestine, and Iraq! It's BECAUSE they held elections, you preposterous fools!!

And elsewhere, where Islamic people can't vote, they're losing patience faster than they would've if the region had remained democracy-free. Getting very grumpy, in fact. For example, the Musharraf regime in Pakistan will be lucky to last another year before it falls to the generals, whose troops are largely Taliban sympathizers. When Taliban fighters cross the Pakistan border and head into Afghanistan to make attacks, they go through the border checkpoints manned by Pakistani soldiers, and these soldiers lift the gates and say, "Happy hunting, brothers! Bring us the head of an English-man!" Inviting Pakistan into NATO makes about as much sense as inviting Osama bin Laden to sleep in Lincoln's Bedroom. But then maybe that would make sense, because if Pakistan or Saudi Arabia have democratic elections, they'd both elect Osama as President.

Honestly, I think Condi is doing pretty well with a bad hand and doing a glorious job (as usual) of lying her ass off. The Realignment makes perfect sense within the philosophically institutional straitjacket of the Bush Administration. All the US can do is forestall its eclipse in the region for an intermission. The Faisal royal family will soon retreat from Saudi Arabia into cushioned exile, and the Bin Laden family will openly rule what it already runs: a pan-Arabic Islamic coalition. And then Iran, because its social revolution offers a better template for livable, prosperous compromise between Islam and modernism, will become dominant in the region over Saudi wahabism, which, socially, represents a return to medieval feudalism. Iran has already won politically, and the US would be far more effective in its diplomacy and its wars if it recognized that fact. Apparently, it would rather back unsteady allies propped athwart failing regimes, give them a make-over, strut, and hope for the best.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Hills Are Alive

We are off to the mountains today, and to snow play. Lord Wife will be attending the baby shower of her cousin-in-law, which means Lord Baby will be in the company of his cousin and closest friend, "Pee-Dee," a jolly young bruiser a few weeks apart from him in age. They will be in their natural element, and Pee-Dee's father and I will watch our sons bounce off the trees which line trails like pinballs, throw rocks into streams, threaten to topple off of a low bridge, shoving each other into thickets of blackberry bush thorns, and sliding down snow chutes on slippery-thingies.

We've thought about leashes. We've thought about the strollers more and more people seem to be strapping their children into, wheeling them around until they're 8 or 9 years old, and god help us, but we've thought about cages, too. But the only leash I will bring is for the poor dog, a Jack Russell with missing teeth, whose dotage includes the travail of being yanked and bellowed at by insistent little doggie drill-masters who are still only two years old. The same forebearing animal who, on Christmas day, was gleefully chased by these same boys, reinforced by a four-year old, around the house with a rectal thermometer, and whose name will be withheld to protect her from further humiliation.

As for me? I'm taking my pain pill, and will bring along an extra.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

No Oil Favoritism To US? Why Not, Goddammit?

If what Iraq's VP says is true, it is an outrage. And it made me spill the battery acid I was about to drink. I mean, can't the US even plunder a country it has conquered and holds in its powerful grasp?? What's all this crap about "unitary executive this" and "dictatorial powers that" if it's not about beating up third world countries and taking stuff they're too poor to appreciate? And if Iraq wasn't invaded to steal its oil, so I can keep my car running, my Amazon deliveries coming, and doing my job as a corporate by consuming like an obsessive-compulsive nymphomaniac strung out on benzedrine, then...what good was it?
DAVOS, Switzerland -(Dow Jones)- Iraq's Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi Saturday rejected rumors that its thorny and long-delayed oil law guaranteed the U.S. access to a share of its oil, adding implementation of the law will happen after it had spent "some weeks" being discussed among Iraq's lawmakers.

"It's absolutely not true" that the U.S. or any other named country had preferential treatment under the proposed law, Abdul-Mahdi said, which is seen as essential to develop Iraq's battle-torn oil industry.
Oh. I see. It's not a law yet. It's "proposed." Ok, heart rate going down. Breathing. Breathing. But geez, now that I think about it, "proposed" could mean trouble.
The official declined to comment on areas where disagreements continue in the law.

The federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have clashed over the drafting of the law. The Kurds want control of oil resources in their territories and a big share of oil revenue.

Big foreign energy firms are eager to know what form contracts will take in the hydrocarbons law and how much, for example, of a given oil block or field will be owned by the Iraqi government and what level of cost recovery they can expect from the government for investing billions of dollars.
I know, I know. This sounds like a job for Batman. And Robin. And especially Cat-Woman. But there's really no problem with uppity Iraqis passing this law to screw us out of our oil. The Iraqi Parliament hasn't been able to gather enough representatives to vote on a damned thing in over three months. They're all waiting it out in Dubai, Jordan, and London. Let's hear what one of the refugees from parliament, neocon chum Adnan Al-Pachachi, has to say:

“People are totally disenchanted,” Mr. Pachachi said in a telephone interview from Abu Dhabi. “There has been no improvement in the security situation. The government seems to be incapable of doing anything despite all the promises.”

Though the Constitution grants Iraq’s only elected body wide powers to pass laws and investigate, sectarian divisions and the need for a two-thirds majority in some cases have often led to deadlock. Sunni and Shiite power brokers have blocked efforts to scrutinize violence connected to their own sects.

“Parliament is the heart of the political process,” Mr. Mashhadani said in an interview at his office, offering more hope than reality. “It is the center of everything. If the heart is not working, it all fails.”

That's right, Radar. If the heart is not working, it all fails. Just ask Dick Cheney. I don't think we have to worry about Iraqis giving our oil away for a long time. At least not legally.

(Hat-tip to Jesus del Norte over at Church and Empire for catching this story from the excellent Healing Iraq blog. And to the New Yawk Times for doing some reporting once in a while.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

CBS Wouldn't Air This Story

Because it was deemed too graphic. But, they were dumb enough to leave it up on their web site. Lara Logan's report is entitled, "The Battle for Haifa Street."

Quadrillage & The New "Gated Communities" Pt. I

The Bush Administration actually does have a plan for taming Iraq. They, and I, have just been too scared to tell you what it is. The creation of "Gated Communities" (euphemism du jour) is an updated, Americanized translation of "Quadrillage," a tactic the French employed heavily in Algeria and had begun to employ in Indochina. Pat Lang over at Sic Semper Tyrannis has a community of high-quality commenters hotly discussing this topic. A quicker boil-down on counterinsurgency "best practices" follows below.

Occupations provoke insurgencies, and an insurgency is an invisible army, or a defeated army which has become so, melted almost inseperably into a civilian population. Regardless of counter-insurgency tactics applied in the last century, and there were a wide variety of them, insurgents won almost every time against foreign occupation forces: 147 out of 149 times, as calculated by Israeli Defense Forces instructor Martin van Creveld. I would probably dispute the 149th instance (the British in post-WWII Malaysia) if I knew more about it, as others have. Yet there were many successful counter-insurgency efforts before the modern age, and if you care to include domestic dictators as counter-insurgents,
there were many successful efforts in the 20th century as well. Interestingly, van Creveld doesn't count Israel's occupation of Palestine in his calculation.

The 148th case is an example of successful employment of population removal, which just barely made it into the 20th century count. In the late 1800s, the Boers (white farmers) in the Transvaal (South Africa) rebelled against England. The British sent troops, which were beaten senseless by the farmers. These actions are known as The Boer Wars. England was defeated in the First Boer War, but then gold was found at Johannesburg in 1885, and the conflict got hot again. Regime change was tried, it failed, and war was declared. It devolved into guerilla warfare. Tired of getting killed and run ragged by farmers who were excellent shots, well-supplied and horse-mounted on their home territory, the British devised a few simple, brutal expedients. Whatever prisoners they captured, they sent to camps overseas. They followed a "Scorched Earth" policy, systematically burning the farms. Then they took the wives and children of the farmers, put them into concentration camps, and starved them. Rumors of routine rape were widespread. 25% of the women and children died. The farmers surrendured, South Africa became part of the British Empire, and London was draped in diamonds and gold. The British would also intern a large, sympathetic population in "The Malayan Emergency," Kreveld's 149th example, but did so for the purpose of bribing and not brutalizing them. Possibly the purest example of population-removal was applied by US forces in the late nineteenth century against tribes in the American West, which proved to be a nearly permanent solution.

Now, let's combine the concept of population removal with quadrillage. Quadrillage, or quartering, is to divide an insurgency into sections, allocate a garrison in each section and back it with domestic troops. The section is closed off and swept for insurgents with an overwhelming number of home-grown troops. Combat-age males are killed or forcibly removed, as is anyone who shows support for them. If they cannot be dislodged or be made to surrendur, the buildings which shelter them are levelled to the ground. All villages and neighborhoods in the section are turned into ghettos, and residents who enter or leave must show the required papers. Bribes are given in return for reporting suspiscious activities, and transgressors are "turned" into spies. The idea is for indigenous forces to provide the muscle, to "stand up so we can stand down," and for the occupying forces to provide the firepower. Should an insurgency re-emerge which threatens to overwhelm the garrison, a central strike force is called in to crush it. The houses of suspected of harboring insurgents are blown up. The French used this method all over Algieria in the late 50's, and managed to temporarily quiet insurgent activity and largely secure its border with Morocco, which had supported the FLN (National Liberation Front). Roughly a million Algerians died in five years, the vast majority non-combatants who never touched a weapon.

So in Iraq, as the now-promoted and congressionally confirmed ground commander General Petraeus states in his new field manual FM 3-24 DRAFT, insurgent-supporting population will be selectively removed as necessary, either eliminated or held in distant, secure locations. Areas of garrison responsibility will be assigned to insurgent quarters until security is established in each, rebuilding projects will be undertaken to employ local residents and jump-start the economy, and the path to pacification will be ensured. The video above provides an idea of what the policy will look like on a routine, daylight basis.

In Part II, I'll outline why Petraeus is not the genius he is thought to be , and why his plan probably isn't going to work.

Let's Bomb Iran, Sung To The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"

You absolutely must watch this agit-pop mash-up. It's wizzard-prang.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Diary Of An Islamo-Terrier: Psycho Bitches From Hell

You think it's fun being stalked? Then take a look at what came in my e-mail every day last week. I got no interest, baby. Nada, comprende? You ain't my type. Unlike some people I could name, I get what I need--and more--from Laura, thank you very much.

Hillary's Got It Locked Up (Not)

Pop Quiz Update I
: how many Democratic Senators have ever won the Presidency?

Answer: One. JFK in 1960.

Pop Quiz Update II: who was the first of two sitting US Senators to win the Presidency?

Answer: Republican Warren G. Harding, in 1920.

Somewhere this past week, quietly, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced his candidate for the Presidency, labeling himself an "underdog." Given that Hillary Clinton is probably going to raise nearly a billion dollars for her campaign just from her, ah, "home" (adopted? rented? catered?) state of New York, Richardson's being written off. True, you can buy a lot of parties for delegates with a cool billion, but Richardson and others would be wise to keep showing up and shooting their mouths off. The Triangulatrix is the Status Quo candidate, so she'll get the darling treatment from the media. Her campaign is about protecting the one-tenth of one percent of this country which is fabulously rich, so keep an open mind and a closed pocket book for now. Two things are for sure: she won't be needing donations from you, and 99.9% of people are looking for a better alternative.

I don't like Hillary, and it's not that she's a woman. It's high time for a woman to be President, but I think others would be better. (Look, if Meryl Streep ran, I'd vote for her.) My problem with Hillary is simple: she's hubristic and ineffective. Recall the first issues she pushed, back when she moved into the White House as "Co-President," as she defined her role. Issue #1 was gays in the military, raised two days after taking office. Bad idea. The military doesn't need to be told they need to explicitly welcome gays. Gay men have been in armies for 10,000+ years--the military has figured out how to handle it...the US Navy with particular distinction. Issue #2 was health care reform. That worked out well, didn't it?

As Co-President, Hillary failed to close any issue she opened. She made messes, got huffy when they didn't clean themselves up, and the Democrats got voted out of Congress largely because of over-reaching on her pet agendas. Along the way she generally made the lives of staffers a living hell when she was in the White House. One of them was Vince Foster, Bill Clinton's best friend since he was in kindergarten, and he was found dead with his brains blown out. Why does anyone think her leadership style will be different now? Having asked the question, I'll answer it: wishful thinking.

Back to Richardson.
I think his plan is to hang around, and he's got some powerful factors in his favor. I'm not keen on him as President, either, for reasons I'll explain in a minute. But let's tot up his virtues first and do a little comparison calculation. OK: he's experienced, having been both in congress as a Rep and a state governor. Former UN Ambassador. Tough negotiator. Great record of foreign policy successes. Former Energy Secretary under Clinton. He's three-quarters Hispanic and from the Southwest. Doesn't excite anyone, but is likeable, has poise and some charm. Most importantly, he's "folksy." He can speak without sounding like an Andover-educated dyslexic delinquent with an IQ of 90, but doesn't come across as "too smart" or fake. But he was educated in Massachusetts. He won two landslides for governor in a traditionally Republican state, 56-39 and 68-32. Sounds pretty good, right?

Now for some rough calculations. Polls consistently show 45% of people won't vote for Mrs. Clinton under any circumstances. But that stat is not separated by state or region. Let's take a closer look there. How would Hillary win a state like, say, Arizona? Or Nevada? Or Texas? I think it's safe to say much would need to change in the external world for such propositions to be realized.
Cyborgs from Skynet would have to be roaming the earth, fighting replicants unleashed from the Tyrell Corporation, with the citizenry in the thrall of Yoyo-Dyne.

Richardson, on the other hand, is three-quarters Hispanic, which gives him a huge demographic advantage in many states Democrats don't dominate. He would likely sweep California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, probably Texas and Idaho, and oh, yeah...Florida. Even Utah would be up for grabs. Hillary is not a lock for any of those states against a decent Republican candidate (yes I'm assuming it won't be McCain), and in most she would get blown out. Like Kerry (buh-bye!), she could only count on the Northeast, and she'd probably have more trouble roping in the West Coast states than he did because of minority voting trends alone.

I'm not keen on Richardson because he's got some character problems. Mark my words: he is going to be faced with sexual harrassment allegations, he's going to be confronted with making demeaning comments about women, and he's probably got some corruption dirt to dredge up. He'll have to make it past that, and the Clinton campaign has already hired the best opposition research talent. There's more to elections than math (they seem to be about fear, emotional resonance, and perceived needs) and there are almost two years to go. A lot could happen. But of the Republicans who have announced so far, Kansas Senator Brownback, a credible "I've Seen the Light" Christian anti-war candidate with a conservative voting record, would very likely beat Hillary Clinton because of religious demography and the way this country's Electrical (nee "Electoral") College works. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican cross-over candidate and a Mormon, would probably trash her on sheer numbers. Yet Richardson would trounce both of them nationally.

The Triangulatress turns me on as much as the next person who's hoping for something less incompetent than what we've got, but unless something changes big-time, a Hillary nomination practically hands the election to the Republicans. And at this point, not even most Republicans really want to see that happen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Police In Tijuana Issued Sling Shots

Cryptogon surfaced this story before Yahoo posted it tonight. Seems the police were a little too open about collusion with the drug cartels, so they had their guns taken away, and given sling-shots instead.

Giving sling-shots to police is a very bad idea. I've been through Tijuana, and many businesses and houses there have glass windows.

Barney Comes Clean: Book Deals

I've been helping Laura out on her forthcoming book about successful child-rearing. For a title, she's leaning towards "It Takes a Suburb." And I'm putting the finishing touches on mine. It's pretty predictable, I guess. But we're excited.

And speaking of children, Jenna has hired a big-shot lawyer to shop her book around. She doesn't know what it'll be about yet. But I do.

I even know the title: "Freakin' Free in 2008."

The State of the Nature

Take up a leaf, look at its centerline, and you'll see it's the same on both sides. Nature loves symmetry, and rewards balance. It encourages fractal variations, minor asymmetries as a matter of course, but where it encounters major breaks, it seeks to heal them. The healing processes can appear very harsh to our eyes, and swift.

Taking my son home last night after our play time, I turned on the radio, having forgotten that the Tin Chief was giving another speech. "Where is the thunderous applause coming from?," I wondered, as he flatly read and paused so that we could digest the wisdom of statements like, "We will conquer Mars, end entitlements, meet our energy needs by drilling into the earth's core, and give every deserving family a free Chevy Malibu LS." Those may not be exact quotes, but the gist is about right. We've departed from normal variation in human events, and listening to the radio was like hearing tribal elders dance with delusion, and humiliate themselves ,and us, by cheering it further on.

A few days earlier, the Tin Chief said, "I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude." This man violates not just the state of nature, but the laws which make it. He upsets the spirits. I don't know the day or the hour of our tribe's demise, or by which of the many possible means it will come. I know nothing for a fact. The big party has gone on much longer than I thought it could, I felt these people would take us to bad places, and I don't know how to get rid of them without making things worse. They're as criminal as any thing which has ever lived, and nature will heal them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Helo Again

Royal Marines of 45 Commando strapped themselves to an Apache gunship to retrieve the body of a Lance Corporal who had been killed during a night assault. His body lay in a free-fire zone. As Christ put it, "Greater love hath no man than this, but to lay down his life for his friends," and this was an outstanding act of bravery. As I watched the video, I imagined myself strapped outside a helicopter. Then I imagined hundreds of bullets being shot at me while there. Finally, I imagined myself not volunteering to do that. Every one of those marines deserves a medal.

Now, you'll once again see why this blog is named "Adored By Hordes," because I'm going to ask an uncomfortable question: umm...why the hell do four soldiers have to strap themselves onto the outside of a gunship in order to retrieve a body? I realize that part of being a Marine is to never leave one of yours behind, whether alive or dead. Basic tactics, however, would call for something less heroic, like using an Apache (or two, or three) to secure a landing zone with ample applications and threats of firepower, then safely land a light helicopter with an extraction team. Oh, wait. As the BBC story states, the British forces have no light helicopters. They're thinking of getting some. In 7 years (!?).

Right. This says volumes about Britain's ability to continue its role as Globo-Cop's favorite deputy. Of course, maybe they could buy some technically advanced light transports from elsewhere before then. Like from any number of former colonies.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Barack Obama: Muslim Suicide Bomber

And so, it begins...I predicted the Barack Hussein Obama attacks that would come from the Reich Wing, but the speed and stridency surprised me a little. Seems Fox News is pretty convinced Obama went to a madrassah in Indonesia, became glassy-eyed during his religious brainwashing, and is the muslim Manchurian Candidate. Later in the day, Fox News changed its tune slightly to attempt a two-fer, identifying the Hillary Clinton campaign as the source of their madrassah rumor. CNN's Wolf Blitzer does a fine job of clarifying Fox's motives at the Crooks and Liars link here, but I put up the original Fox story from this morning instead. Because it's more bizarre. And chilling. Observe the casual, matter-of-fact way in which these air-heads discuss the muslim infiltration of the US political system. Of course, they might also be aware that their boss (Rupert Murdoch) is Jewish.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Guest Post: Barney Comes Clean

This picture was taken just after I peed on the coat of His Gaseousness. It wasn't a temporary loss of bladder control, either, not like they made me claim in the press conference. It was a long, satisfying surge.

See that sadistic grin on his face? He's digging his thumbs into my ribs, I can't breathe, and have gone rigid with excruciating pain. And that was nothing compared to what he did later with the couch cushions, suffocating me and shouting, "Enemy combatant! Islamo-terrier!"

I beseech you, America; I'm calling out from Dogmo. Free me from this sick example of your species.
Re-post From Chris Floyd's "Empire Burlesque"

{This is encouraging; it indicates spines are re-growing at the margins of Congress, they've taken up whips and chairs and are starting to back the bureau-whores into a corner. I wanted to do a post on this, but Chris already did a better job than I could've, and so here you go.}

Rising From Their Knees: New Bill Strikes Blow at Oil Barons PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 January 2007
Excerpts: House Democrats easily passed legislation on Thursday that would rescind $14 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for oil drillers and reserve the money to develop alternative energy projects and conservation technologies.

The measure passed 264 to 163, with many Republicans joining a bloc of Democrats...The bill will rescind $7.6 billion in tax breaks for oil drillers that Congress passed in 2004 and 2005 and will add $6.3 billion in royalties from companies that pump oil and gas in publicly owned waters of the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska...

“Big Oil is hitting the taxpayer not once, not twice, but three times,” Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “They are hitting them at the pump. They are hitting them at the Treasury through the tax code. And they are hitting them with royalty holidays.”

This is good news, although it faces a certain Bush veto -- if, that is, it gets by the Senate in any strong form, as it's easier for Big Oil to pick off a few "moderates" in the smaller body than a passel of pol
s in the House. Still, the real importance of such bills lies in the fact that they force Republicans and "moderate" Democrats to take a public stand for their corporate paymasters. It smokes them out and puts them on record as voting for big tax breaks for oil companies who are now making not just record profits but world-historical rakeoffs unseen since the loot of the Caesars. We fight wars for these people -- we die by the thousands and we kill by the hundreds of thousands; they can at least pay a little more chump change (for that's all the amounts involved are to the oil barons) for the blood and treasure we've given them.

With the thin Democratic majorities in both houses -- majorities that are riddled with spineless timeservers, bagmen and Bush-coddlers -- it is not likely that any strong legislation proposed by Democrats to rectify some of the monstrous imbalances and perversities of the Bush years will pass. Very few, if any, such bills will command enough support to be veto-proof. But again, the Democrats should be relentless in sending this kind of legislation (and even stronger bills) to the White House, over and over and over. Force Bush to veto every week some bill that would benefit the vast majority of Americans. Force him to veto a bill that would strip away some of the overwhelming bias toward the richest and most powerful that now distorts and corrupts the Republic. Make sure that all those -- Republican or Democrat -- who stand with Bush in perpetuating this immoral bias are put on the record as doing so. And then hang this record around their necks at election time.

Enough already of this bullshit bowing and scraping to the rich. Let's take the country back.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sunnis Raise Ante--With SAMs

One of my pet hobbies on this blog has been to warn almost incessantly that the Saudis and the Iranians, if Iraqi Sunnis or Shi'ite groups were squeezed hard enough, would both start to supply surface-to-air missiles to their favored cousins, and that these missiles would drastically drive up US troop losses to an entirely new level. It appears to be happening, and the Sunnis aren't getting shoulder-fired SAMs from our the islamo-fascists in Iran. They're getting them from our islamo-friends in Saudi Arabia. Here's the story:

The United States military has confirmed that all 13 U.S. soldiers aboard a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter military helicopter were killed when it crashed near Baghdad, Iraq.

"A U.S. forces helicopter went down northeast of Baghdad ... Emergency Coalition Forces responded and secured the scene. Thirteen passengers and crew members were aboard the aircraft and all were killed," said a statement issued by the U.S. military.

The cause of the crash is not known and an investigation has been launched, but witnesses near the crash have stated that the helicopter was hit with a "rocket" or another form of a "projectile" and was in flames while flying in the air, before it crashed.

"I'm not sure if it was a rocket or other projectiles. After the helicopter was fired upon it was obvious that it was losing control. Then it crashed with an explosion and the smoke started," said a farmer who witnessed the crash. He also stated that he and other witnesses refused to go near the downed helicopter to attempt a rescue of survivors, but was concerned that if he had done so, soldiers would have begun to fire shots at him.

I was against the Iraq War because it wasn't hard to see this kind of thing coming. It is reason to mourn, not cause for celebration. No good comes of it. Well, not unless you're an arms manufacturer. Then go ahead and pop the cork on another bottle of top-shelf bubbly. You get another $100 million to build another helicopter. And unless someone stops Dubya's next doubled-down long-shot bet, whoever makes helicopters for the US Army is going to be as happy as Britney Spears hopped up on cocaine and vicodin.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Prince Of The Marshes

Rory Stewart, a former soldier, diplomat, and compulsive adventurer, took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad in early 2004, looking for a job and thinking he could make a difference. Pictured at right for his Washington Post interview last August, he has probably written the definitive, adamantinely enduring account of the fall of Iraq.

It's a journal of his efforts on behalf of the Coalition and Western traditions to establish a functioning, stable democracy. He worked not in Baghdad, but in the impoverished Shi'ite southern part of Iraq; most other books which have emerged from there focus foremost on the Green Zone's hocus-pocus:
Imperial Life in the Emerald City, The Assassin's Gate, Blind into Baghdad, Hubris, and Fiasco are the stuff of key actors, dicta, and grand strategies. The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq is different. It's a journal of how average post-Saddam people refused to swallow the hubristic, undigestible, and hypocritically half-stuffed haggis which the US and returning British baked; how some of them tried, how all of them retched, and how so many of them have died.

A couple months back I read Rory's other little cocktail-napkin masterpiece, The Places in Between, about his envigorating, self-appointed 600-mile hike across Afghanistan while war rained down on the Taliban in the winter of 2002. He claimed to be a historian re-tracing the route the Emperor Babur, conqueror of India, took with his small band of exiled followers on their way to take power in Kabul. Immediately after hearing of its existence, I went and got it. While briefer than one of Sir Richard Burton's adventures, it was no less dangerous, no less abrading, and no less, for lack of a better term, adventurous. His prose is honest and spare, his reverence for the regional history and poetry at once geeky, deep, and profound.

Having finished The Prince of the Marshes last night in my quest to appraise the effects of the bodkin plunged deep in my nation's back, I believe i
t's the kind of book which cannot be well distilled into a few paragraphs in a blog post, odd since the thing itself naturally consists of words, albeit 400 or so pages of them. I have the distinct impression a painting, a quilt, or something like a Bayeux Tapestry would be better suited to convey the force and complexity of the devastation, the poignant, roiling, reckless tragedy of what of late has happened in Iraq, in concert to the conflicts reaching back, gyrating all the way back, in fact, to the very terrarium of our origins.

This young man, a Scot born in Britain's last remaining colony (Hong Kong), educated at Oxford, keenly fluent in history, a Foreign Office veteran of Malaysia and Kosovo, was the West's factotum, the governor of the two provinces which lay in the lap of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers...Maysan and Nasiriyah, which were Saddam's own unruly bete noirs and the cradles of civilization. In Nasiriyah stands the Ziggurat of Ur, and bandits loot 7,000 year old pottery there along with the copper wire of high-tension power lines. Rory's story of governing is a travelogue which doles out history human being by human being, observing each from the tawdry ground level.

When people in the future wish to examine where not one, but two, Empires went in all probability terminally wrong, they will reach first for this book, much like they do for Lawrence's 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' when they seek to read of the Ottoman Empire's fall in Arabia. It trumps all other accounts with its understanding, or at least its abiding contemplation, of the human condition.
I will be quoting from it with some regularity. Both books reduce the world to a human scale, using their art, foibles, sacrifices, principles, aspirations, and needs as rich holographs for the abstractions of princes, states, rulers, and Machiavellian crafts.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Breathing Room: A Handy Mid-East Metric

{Note: There are two carrier battle groups allocated to the Persian Gulf right now. The USS Eisenhower is off Somalia. The USS John C. Stennis left its home port of Bremerton, which I knew because it's local, as in uncomfortably close to my family, on rotation to the Gulf. If you hear from me or anyone else that there are about to be three carrier battle groups (CBGs) in the Gulf, look to confirm it because that is your signal for the imminent commencement of a sustained, 24-hour bombing campaign on Iran. The US military will not put three CBGs in the Gulf unless it's going to attack Iran pronto. A little Googling turned up a copy of Tuesday's "The Nelson Report," which lobbyists, congressional staffers, and companies subscribe to for upwards of $25k per year (and not available on the web). Esteemed blogger Steve Clemons at The Washington Note had it up, bless him. He gave us the definitive inside scoop, and for once it's positive.}

The Nelson Report, 16 January 2007

IRAN. . .recent news stories out of the Middle East seem to be generating a sense that Iran is closer to a successful nuclear weapons capability than had previously been thought, and that the risk to Israel is rising to the point where Israel is moving closer to a decision to "take out" the Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.

Balderdash, our informed sources continue to maintain.

Yes, it does seem to be true that Iran has accelerated its program to bring on line the 3,000 centrifuges required to generate nuclear fuel. . .but it also seems true (and not Iranian disinformation) that of the 50 centrifuges recently hooked up, all 50 blew up.

An informed friend speculates:

Could be sabotage. Or it just could be the temperamental character of the devices. Especially if they're rushing production. Supposedly they solved an earlier problem by making technicians wear gloves when assembling the devices. The grease on their fingerprints was apparently causing the rotors to tip and crash once they got spinning in earnest. That is how sensitive these things are.

OK, but what about all the neo-con noises here in the US about meeting militarily the "accelerating threat" from Iran? Our source offers this perspective:

The change is in atmospherics. So far as I know, the technical developments are correctly described here.
The real story is that Iran is going to go right ahead defying the UN, the Russians will protect them from being squeezed too hard, the Israelis will fret, the Sunday Times of London will make up alarming tales, the State Dept will temporize, and despite all this, the Iranians will not have the wherewithal for a Bomb until the next Administration takes office.

By then, they will be closer, of course. Nobody knows what's going to happen when they get there, including whether they will try to take advantage of having the wherewithal. It's an unwelcome development, but it's going to happen, subject only to the identity and inclinations of the next president of the U.S.

So don't panic. There's no point.

Last but not least for tonite, what's the strategic implication of the recent US Navy carrier deployment announcements to all this? Obviously, as we have been reporting, the professionals have been warning the White House and associated neo-cons that any actual military action against Iran itself runs a huge risk of effective Iranian retaliation against US interests, allied shipping, and oil.

We asked a friend out on the West Coast for his assessment of the new deployments, which confirms the actions ARE aimed at Iran, but in a balanced way, all things considered. For something really "up", he warns, watch to see a change in deploying the Nimitz:

Carrier USS John C. Stennis today (16 Jan 07) departs home port Bremerton, Washington, en route to San Diego to pick up its carrier air wing before sailing west to the Persian Gulf.

There, the Stennis strike group will join the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group. The Eisenhower recently has been operating off Somalia.

(Stennis strike group had been scheduled to cover routinely for USS Kitty Hawk in the western Pacific this spring while the Yokohama-based carrier underwent repairs. The Pentagon announced 20 Dec 2006 that Stennis strike group would sail early, deploying instead to the Gulf. The Pentagon announced 11 Jan 07 USS Ronald Reagan would skip normal work-up phases and deploy within several weeks to provide the routine coverage in western Pacific during Kitty Hawk's repairs.)

Last week the Pentagon also announced deployment to the Persian Gulf region of a Patriot battalion of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which is primarily suited for defense against short-range ballistic missile attack. The primary ballistic missile threat in theater is Iran. UK will contribute two minesweepers and a frigate. what does this mean?

The deployments are aimed primarily at Iran. USG cites Iranian material support for attacks on US personnel and states concern that Iran and other opponents may view U.S. as vulnerable. As the new strategy unfolds to clear and hold Baghdad neighborhoods, protecting both Shi'a and Sunni populations while jump-starting economic and political recovery, and as US clears Iranian networks providing material support for attacks on US forces, USG is rational to have theoretical concern for possible retaliatory strikes.

This concern is amplified at the margins by tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Scenarios could include opposition strikes on US assets and Persian Gulf shipping.

Isn't this going to spur on the crazies in the Amadinejad camp?

This deployment is carefully calibrated. It could have been larger. Increasing to two carrier strike groups in the AOR serves as a firm signal and deterrent, reminding everyone US has bench strength; the US also still can "reach out and touch someone."

Along with announced deployments of two UK minesweepers and the Patriot battery, it is also an actual contingency force that has significant defensive and offensive capability (e.g. ., could initiate heavy 24 hour air ops if necessary).

OK. . .what to watch for if the US really thinks bad things are about to happen?

On the other hand, increasing to three carrier strike groups would be noticeably more 'robust', belligerent and suggestive of intending or anticipating attack. The difference between two and three strike groups is huge. Two ='s strong and capable, but existing offensive intent is less probable; three ='s 'we don't care about provocation, we're preparing to fight in this new dimension'.

(An indicator would be to watch for announcements about Nimitz strike group; Nimitz reportedly has completed the routine pre-deployment work-up and is in San Diego.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Raise High The Rooftops, Carpenters, And Read The Instruction Manuals
Taking the initiative in introducing a new form of government is very difficult and dangerous, and unlikely to succeed. The reason is that all those who profit from the old order will be opposed to the innovator, whereas all chose who might benefit from the new order are, at best, tepid supporters of him. This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws on their side, partly from the skeptical temper of men, who do not really believe in new things unless they have been seen to work well. The result is that whenever those who are opposed to change attack the innovator, they do it with much vigor, whereas his supporters act only half-heartedly; so that the innovator and his supporters find themselves in great danger.

Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter 6

We will find our best helpers not in our former most obedient subjects, but among those who are now most active in agitating against us, for it will be the intellectual leaders of the people who will serve the purpose, and these are not the philosophers or the rich but the demagogues and politicians.

- T E. Lawrence, The Changing East
Opening up the oil fields and sharing the revenues in Iraq, which should've been done almost four years ago and was passed into law this week, won't work. The key to winning Iraq lay in quickly recognizing the Sadrists who were the long-suppressed majority writhing like connected cobras in a basket. They are the demagogues and politicians who count, and as with all successful US efforts to set up repressive but stable regimes, they had to be bought richly. Satisfy them, and then Iran could be satisfied, the Baathists could be sequestered and protected, the tribes mollified with enough seats at the table. The Coalition went about it bass-ackwards with their "Year Zero" free market ideology, which might as well have been called 'Chaos,' and now it's too late to fix.

US Rep. Ron Paul Cites "False Flag" Concerns

Ron Paul is a liberterian Republican. A few days ago, he stood up on the House floor and cited his concerns for a Gulf-of-Tonkin, false-flag incident, a fake strike on a US or Israeli vessel so a war could be launched on Iran. I've been voicing this concern for awhile, and didn't expect a Republican in Congress to echo my sentiments. There was no media coverage, of course. But it's on YouTube.

(H/T to Cryptogon. Adding Cryptogon to "Caravan Palaces" list.)

New Saddam Morgue Video

Yeek. Shows some interesting post-execution anatomical defects.

(h/t to Howie at Wonkette.)

He Brings The Spunk, They Bring The Junk: Obama Announces

Technically, he only announced the formation of an Exploratory Committee. Practically, he's running. Here are the high-profile Senator candidates for the next purported Presidency: Hillary Clinton. John Edwards. Barack Obama. And Joseph Biden, too! Don't dare forget him.

Hillary Clinton is already tabbed as the candidate the elite can work with, as in, "No problem." She's Machiavellian enough, has patents pending on the co-developed Clintonian Triangulation Calculator, has blood of the Iraq War on her hands from her enthusiastic vote for it, and is a woman. (Thanks to the Patriarchal Puke-Fest we've been treated to for the past 6 years, being a woman has become a marketable political quality.) Edwards is tagged as a lightweight, a white economic populist who might be dangerous if he weren't so fiberglass, un-folksy, and un-electable.

And what would an election year be without the Pagliacci of Presidential politics, Joe Biden? It just wouldn't feel right without him, one of the most reliable sideshow geeks in the circus, always ready to get kinky, thoughtfully masticating chicken heads on Press the Meat. He's from the demi-state of Delaware. Oh, yeah, and I forgot John Kerry. And that. Was on. Purpose.

Obama is seen as unelectable because he's black and new. Yeah. Except when he opens his mouth, he says things he actually believes in, and you can tell. His book, The Audacity of Hope, has been on the New York Times best-seller list since it came out. Its current overall Amazon sales rank is #6. And he's too "new?" Sometimes I wonder why Senators bother to run for the Presidency in the first place, because they have records to attack. Like, the last Democratic Senator to be elected was, let's see, also a first-termer. That would be John Fitzgerald Kennedy, upon whom Oliver Stone supposedly based the motion picture "JFK."

Obama is unelectable only in the sense that he's been tabbed as big trouble for the elite--which he most certainly is. Rich people see him, and their lips start to tremble, their mouths start to work trying to make sounds of panic, and their sphincters start opening and closing like butterfly valves. Then they hear him talk, and the insulation shielding their minds starts to tear away as they scream, "Oh my gaaad! It's Hugo Fuck-ing Chavez!! Right here on our sacred shoorrrres!!!" Of course, that's partly why I like him. At best, the powers that be might see him as an acceptable running mate for Hillary. He's assassination protection, too, kind of like a Clintonian Dan Quayle or a BushCo Cheney. Off a woman president, and you get a black one. Ha! How you like them apples, Homelanders?

Obama is the thoroughbred in this election. The more he's on TV in front of live crowds, the better he'll get. When he speaks his mind, he doesn't need to guard what comes out. Because of this factor alone, if he got Hillary into a debate, he'd beat her so bad she'd morph into John Kerry, right onstage. Here's another little sound bite:
"I cannot in good conscience support this plan. As I first said two months ago, we should not be sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, we should begin redeploying them to let the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever and to pressure the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds to finally reach a political settlement," the popular Democratic Senator said.

He believed that "It now falls on Congress to find a way to support our troops in the field while still preventing the President from multiplying his previous mistakes." For this reason, he expressed his support for capping the number U.S. troops in Iraq, and added that "it’s imperative that we begin the phased redeployment I called for two months ago, and [I] intend to introduce legislation that does just that.”

Nothing much. Direct, spare rhetoric, not parsing words. Effortless, and he means it. They'll probably find a way to smear Obama, even if they have to manufacture a scream using Cool-Edit Pro to take out the background noise. Like they did with Howard Dean. But even then, I'd not be quick to write Obama off. He has far more resilience and natural political ability than Dean ever did. You check him out, and it keeps coming up. He was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was the most popular law professor at the University of Chicago. He was drafted to run by regular people. And what did he teach at Chicago? Oh...only Constitutional Law (I'm guessing that's something we kinda need?).

Presidential politics are tough to predict, and are subject to the fickle whims of prejudice, opinion, back-room deals and tune-able voting machines and judges. And the prototypical smart, folksy Democratic govervnor has yet to emerge from the South...such as Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. But just watch Obama run, because it'll be a thing of beauty. He has a soaring quality of greatness, a unique ability which simply cannot be faked and which inspires. When watching Dubya or Hillary speak, how many people in their right minds think, "Geez, I wish I could be like that?" When Obama speaks, it's like watching Muhammad Ali fight. It's like watching Seabiscuit attack the back stretch. It's like watching Michael Jordan take over a game. Trust me. You'll see. He brings the Spunk; they bring the Junk.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Unquestioned Orthodoxy

Bruce over at The River Blog (yes, it's that Bruce and that River) posted a contemplation of capitalism's effects, written by Ob Fusc from the Deobfuscation Zone. Bruce is a very capable filter and often catches high-blogsphere things of this nature. Here's an excerpt:
We're all coopted into reproducing this logic, this linear motion, which irrupts into contexts; this mode of working, which is linear, which converts nature and earth goods into commodities, and thence into capital. To which living rainforest is fodder; and the people who cultivate it an obstruction. this drive which knows no end, and which cannot be reasonable; irrupting into modes far wiser and richer, and overpowering them. How that must feel; the terrible merciless pulsing of an alien force.

And we are its living vectors, people at the centre; alive, anesthetised and comatose in a time of unimaginable drama. To be alive, let alone relatively young, relatively healthy, to have time to contribute, to have anthropophile energy to enact. To have integrity to practise. What a gift in spite of it all. The price of a reflex ego insurance is greater than people imagine; may the latter crack and run bankrupt, painfully so, ever.
Oddly, this imagery is very close to how George Soros describes the system of capital creation and flow in The Alchemy of Finance. Capitalist orthodoxy first began to really annoy me when I listened to a member of the Young Republicans get up in church about twenty years ago and deliver a sermon on how God Almighty wanted us to get rich through speculation and cheap labor. That may well be. But isn't capitalism is the same system which makes neighbors ignore your presence? And if it's so great, why hasn't it delivered the SUV I've been waiting for? As I said in Bruce's comment section, "I'm not buying it until one comes with Kevlar armor, front and side flame-throwers, and a turret ring to mount the optional .32 or .50 cal machine gun on it. It should be a biodiesel hybrid, and it should be called the Bitch-Master."
Embracing The Long Suck

{Note: Friend and Hordie regular Al C. sent this link on and said, "this is the single most realistic assessment I've read." I'm inclined to agree, even though it's written by a former NSA Director. Despite its length, I re-post in full. This guy has his head screwed on straight, and knows how to talk the same way. As for the "Long Suck," I'm not sure who came up with the term, but it's winning in the blogosphere as a short-hand way of describing what faces our hollowing empire, and signifies a long period of recovery. The longer we stay in Iraq, the longer it'll suck.}


by Michael Hammerschlag


Full Audio (realplayer) 52 min

My Questions (real, winmedia) 7 min
OpedNews, Scoop + 69,000 venues
Providence, RI: April 8

Former National Security Agency Director Lt. General William Odom dissected the strategic folly of the Iraq invasion and Bush Administration policies in a major policy speech- America’s Strategic Paralysis, at Brown University for the Watson Institute for International Studies. "The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history. In a mere 18 months we went from unprecedented levels of support after being one of the most hated countries…Turkey used to be one of strongest pro-US regimes, now we’re so unpopular, there’s a movie playing there- Metal Storm, about a war between US and Turkey. In addition to producing faulty intel and ties to Al Qaida, Bush made preposterous claim that toppling Saddam would open the way for liberal democracy in a very short time... Misunderstanding the character of American power, he dismissed the allies as a nuisance and failed to get the UN Security Council’s sanction… We must reinforce international law, not reject and ridicule it.”

Odom, now a Yale professor and Hudson Institute senior fellow, was director of the sprawling NSA (which monitors all communications) from 1985-88 under Reagan, and previously was Zbigniew Brzezinski’s assistant under Carter. His latest 2004 book is America’s Inadvertent Empire.

Even if the invasion had gone well, Odom says it wouldn’t have mattered: “The invasion wasn’t in our interests, it was in Iran’s interest, Al Qaida’s interest. Seeing America invade must have made Iranian leaders ecstatic. Iran’s hostility to Saddam was hard to exaggerate.. Iraq is now open to Al Qaida, which it never was before- it’s easier for terrorists to kill Americans there than in the US.. Neither our leaders or the mainstream media recognize the perversity of key US policies now begetting outcomes they were designed to prevent… 3 years later the US is bogged down in Iraq, pretending a Constitution has been put in place, while the civil war rages, Iran meddles, and Al Qaida swells its ranks with new recruits. The US Army is stretched to the breaking point and the majority of Americans have deep doubts. We have lost our capacity to lead and are in a state of crisis- diplomatic and military.”

Odom believes in an immediate phased withdrawal. “There isn’t anything we can do by staying there longer that will make this come out better. Every day we stay in, it gets worse and the price gets higher.”

He decried the “sophomoric and silly” titled war on terrorism. “Terrorism cannot be defeated because it’s not an enemy, it’s a tactic. A war against Al Qaida is sensible and supportable, but a war against a tactic is ludicrous and hurtful… a propaganda ploy to swindle others into supporting one’s own terrorism ... and encourages prejudices against Muslims everywhere. What if we said, ‘Catholic Christian IRA hitmen’? ”

“The hypocrisy is deeper than this. By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism- in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.”

He said the fixation on spreading democracy was wrongheaded. “Holding elections is easy, creating stable constitutional orders is difficult. Only 8-9 of 50 new democracies created since the 40’s have a constitutional system. Voting only ratifies the constitutional deal that has been agreed to by elites- people or groups with enough power- that is guns and money, to violate the rules with impunity… Voting does not cause a breakthrough… One group will win out and take them off the path to a liberal breakthrough .. Spreading illiberal democracy without Constitutionalism is a very bad idea, if we care about civil liberties. We are getting that lesson again in Hamas.”

Odom called for a “great reduction in US oil consumption” and pilloried our “energy policy of no energy policy. As long as large sums of money roll into the coffers of a few Middle East states, a lot of it will leak into the hands of radical political activists. A “$2-3 a gallon tax could fund massive R+D programs for alternative fuels and generate a strong demand for greater fuel efficiency … Getting serious about nuclear power could also lessen our oil dependency.

“No government that believes radical terrorist groups in Middle East are serious threat to us would do any less on energy policy.”

Withdrawing our troops from Europe and NE Asia was also dangerous, he said. “Large US land forces in Europe and East Asia have been important in keeping the peace among our allies… allowing businessmen to lower transaction costs… and account for unparalleled economic growth.” President Clinton reduced the Army by about half, but Bush’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan “will leave the US unprepared to meet any other significant military contingency… leaving only one brigade in Germany and one in Italy, and eroding troop levels in Korea and Japan. Army units and NATO were cut at such a high level, that most NCO's and officers were away 2 or 3 quarters of the year.” Rumsfeld’s plans threaten to “hollow out NATO, ensuring the failure of military transformations of its new members.” (10 states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic.)

The adult crowd was wowed by the extraordinary density of strategic wisdom and expertise in the hour lecture and Q+A. Asked about the current NSA spying controversy, Odom said, “Well he just invited you to invite me to commit a felony. 18 US Code798 says ‘to disclose anything about how signal intelligence is done is a felony.’ ” “Oh come on, Bill,” joshed a professor to a round of laughter. “After 9-11 Congress was willing to do anything. It’s inconceivable to me that they would not have cooperated to find a legal way to do this (warrantless spying).”

Most radically, Odom sees the hallowed US concern over non-proliferation of nukes as damaging. "Over the past decade the pursuit of non-proliferation has contributed to instability and the loss of American influence. It dictated the invasion of Iraq, and now inspires calls for invading Iran. At the same time we ignore Israeli nukes, we embrace Pakistan and India, in spite of their nukes. This policy is not only perverse, but downright absurd. We will have more proliferation and we better get used to it.

A reporter’s question about the benefits of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities provoked a fervent response. “I think we could have a rapprochement with Iran. You do that and you put it off for another 20 years. You want to be at war with all the Muslims forever?” Regarding a nuclear terrorist attack on a US city, “It’s gonna be bad. But they won’t kill us with one nuke. We can track a nuke back to the country where it came from (at least the fissile material, if there is a recorded elemental signature). These people know that! If we deterred the Soviet Union, think we can’t deter these pipsqueaks? We’re talking ourselves into hysteria. Now we have the incentives so structured that we cause proliferation.. If we bomb, good God man, that tells everyone in the world, get a nuke. We won’t bomb you if you have a nuke.”

He agreed that a catastrophic 10 year Iraq civil war like Lebanon was “a pretty realistic view”. “Iran has told the Shiites, ‘don’t fight, do what the Americans tell you- the electoral process will put you in power, meanwhile we’re arming you and building up your militias. The Sunni insurgency is trying to provoke the civil war while we’re still there so they’re not left to face these militias after we’ve leave.” The Kurds “will get as much autonomy as they can and back out of the system. An independent Kurdistan is likely, but the two factions of Kurdish Peshmerga militias might fight. Al Qaida can’t operate up there, so that will be a stable little island.” But Kurdish independence “won’t please Iran, Syria, or Turkey- a NATO ally.”

The victory of the numerically dominant Shiites (4 to 1) isn’t assured. “Odds look better for the Shiites right now. But the organizational capacity of the Baathists remain sufficient to be a serious contender. How much confidence and capability are these Iranian trained Shiite militias developing? They could fragment among themselves. The clerics may or may not be good organizers of the troops and police. The Baathist Party was modeled after the Soviet system- their ability to implement and impose and compel is pretty impressive. Syria is a pretty stable regime; Iraq was a stable regime.” The civil war could spread the Shiite-Sunni conflict among Arabs in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, maybe Bahrain.

Iraq will have some sort of dictatorship- either a highly disciplined party or military organization. We just don’t have fragmented societies with such deep sectarian and ethnic divisions that are also nice stable liberal systems. Look at Canada with just two ethnic groups, that teeters occasionally. Where is Saddam when you need him?”

On escaping Iraq: “Once it became obvious I was getting out, I would go to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, and Iran and say, ‘I invite you to this meeting to handle stabilization issues as I get out.’ I would have a secret chamber with Iran and say, ‘You hate the Taliban, we hate the Taliban; you want to sell oil, we need to buy oil; your alliance with Russia is very unnatural; if you want to discuss the West Bank- I’ll talk about it but won’t give anything away.’

‘Oh, and by the way, I’m taking the nuclear issue off the table. You want nukes, have them. You live in a bad neighborhood.’ There’s no single diplomatic move that would so revolutionize our position up there.”

In North Korea Odom “anticipates a collapse. That regime is very much like the Soviet regime, they do not transform, they degenerate. When the leadership loses capacity or will to blood or terrorize the population, it collapses.” He sees a sudden reunification of the now nuclear Koreas, followed by tensions with ancient overseer Japan. “Those 2 countries don’t like each other.”

The Koreans say, ‘The Americans are crazy.’- just look at the public opinion polls and attitude of the South Korean government. Kim Jong Il knows just what to do to get the US to spin up in the air 3 times and bribe him on the way down. I see us on autopilot on a self-destructive path. China’s slowly replacing us. They’re becoming the peacemaker- they’re the ones who use their hegemony to settle things constructively.”

The American Empire was different from others in that, "It is ideological, not territorial; it's a money-making empire, not money losing; countries fight to get into this empire, not out; and it provides economic, legal and miltary guidance through supranational organizations."

Odom sees in Iraq ominous parallels with Vietnam. “How did we get in the (Vietnam) war? Phony intelligence over the Tonkin Gulf affair. Once we got in, it was not legitimate to go back and talk about strategic purpose, we were only allowed to talk about how we were doing- the tactics. We would not go back and ask whetherthis was in our interests. I see the pattern so clearly here. We have Iraqization- if they stand up, we’ll stand down. Training troops is not the problem. Political consolidation, not military consolidation, is the issue. Unless troops know to whom they should be loyal, they’ll fight some days, not others (and maybe against the wrong side).”“If they (military power) get ahead of political consolidation, we know what happens then- a military coup.”

“This was imminently foreseeable by my poly sci colleagues who did not stand up and speak out loudly enough at the absurdity of spreading democracy when we’re really talking about Constitutionalism. Creating Constitutions- we don’t know how to do that! (at least not for 220 years) We are essentially paralyzed and can’t do much in the world cause we are bogged down in Iraq.”

"My message of decline is grim, but let us not despair. The declinists wake us up, so that we avoid decline; but the endists urge us to celebrate as we drift towards disaster. Those who urged us to invade Iraq are endists; I’m a declinist…. but only to revive my strategic optimism.”

Michael Hammerschlag's commentary and articles ( have appeared in Seattle Times, Providence. Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Honolulu Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel; and Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian. He spent 2 years in Russia from 1991-94, while the Empire collapsed and multiple wars raged in the Islamic southern republics.

NSA Director Gen. William Odom -new (REALAUDIO) Dissects strategic blunders of Iraq, escape strategies, geopolitical consequences, civil war, Iran attack, Korea- April 7 - 52 min- Brown Univ., Watson Institute INFO

QUESTIONS on IRAN BOMBING (realaudio) + @ 2:03
HANDICAPPING IRAQ CIVIL WAR - 7:14 min total WindowsMedia