Saturday, October 09, 2004
Friday, October 08, 2004
The blogosphere is positively brilliant today:
How Halliburton under Dick Cheney made bucks subverting U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
Blistering sarcasm regarding Paul Bremer's punishment, after speaking truthfully for once, plus this phony election-season Breslan panic regarding terrorists and U.S. schools.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
I just read the fine article in Sunday's New York Times regarding how the White House and the CIA embraced the centrifuge theory, not the rocket theory, as the end-use for Iraqi anodized aluminum tubes seized in Jordan in 2001, even though all the American centrifuge experts at the Energy Department rejected the centrifuge hypothesis outright.
Like the Space Shuttle engineers worried about foam-impact damage to the Columbia, or O-ring problems on the Challenger, the Energy Department experts were thrust, by the CIA, into the position of having to prove a negative proposition, that the tubes couldn't be used for centrifuges, an inherently difficult, even impossible argument to make, especially when no one wanted to hear it.
Of course, all the CIA was doing was whipping the bureaucracies into line to support war-making rationales they knew the Bush Administration wanted to hear (even though their job isn't to whip anybody, but to analyze intelligence). It didn't help, of course, that Iraqi expatriate nuclear engineers like Dr. Hamza were beating the war drum with congressional testimony televised on C-SPAN.
Andrew Sullivan is polling his readership regarding two perplexities of the Iraqi War:
Why did the administration leave weapons sites unguarded for so long? Why did they not send enough troops to secure the borders? I'm still baffled. And rattled. Can anyone explain?
It is an interesting analytical challenge. Here is my response:
My answer to your 'simple' question is that the invasion wasn't about WMD and it wasn't about international terrorism. After all, you never invade countries that may have nuclear arms, for obvious reasons (e.g., N. Korea). Iraq didn't have nuclear arms, and the Bush Administration knew it in advance. Thus, there were no nuclear weapons sites to secure worth making it a top priority of the U.S. military.
Regarding less fearsome chemical and biological weapons, the Administration expected our military to decapitate the Baathist leadership and thus paralyze use of the weapons until they could be secured, along with the nuclear materials, at leisure. Compared to the rest of the Arab world, Iraq's totalitarian past and unusual disconnect from international jihadist movements, plus Sadam's paranoia, made transfer of weapons to terrorists seem a rather remote possibility. And we didn't anticipate anarchy, so rampant theft wasn't anticipated either. We feared cooperation between Baathists and terrorists, but those links didn't get forged until after our invasion.
After the war, securing Iraq's borders would have meant interfering with the Najaf pilgrimage and coffin trade, principally with Iran, which would have been injurious to the interests of our favored ex-patriot, Ahmad Chalabi. Besides, cross-border traffic has always served as a subversive anti-Baathist influence in Iraqi politics, and we favor free movement after decades of dictatorship. So the borders remain unpatrolled.
So why did we invade? A grateful Iraqi population would assist the U.S.:
- secure physical control of large oil fields (more important than ever as we reach peak worldwide pumping capacity);
- serve as an experimental laboratory to introduce democracy and make the region safe for international business;
- defang destabilizing Arab anti-Westernism and anti-Semitism with a successful example of U.S./Arab cooperation;
- serve as a geographic base for the U.S. military.
All worthwhile objectives, very daring, but completely at odds with the ancient and modern history of Iraq and the region, and thus with no possibility of success. Americans have a blind spot in this regard: we think that fortune will favor effort, but 'tain't always so. Plus it doesn't address international jihadism at all: September 11th hardly factors in at all, except as a providential opportunity. It was Woodrow Wilson all over again, but with Pottery Barn rules in effect. What Pandora's Box have we broken?
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Before too much goes by, I'd like to recommend the cover story in the Sept. 19th New York Times Magazine concerning Oklahoma lawyer Fern Holland and her crusade to empower Iraqi women. Her feminist vision was a latter-day echo of Woodrow Wilson, and she attacked her project with robust energy, but she was an idealistic all-American in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I just couldn't keep my composure last night at "Ola Na Iwi" rehearsal at the Eagle Theater in Old Sacramento. I was wearing a felt flat-brim hat, under a shroud, beneath a donkey's-head mask. I couldn't see damned thing. Then I announced, "Here we are!" The absurdity of each word, individually and as a phrase, struck me as hysterical - I felt like Stevie Wonder headlining the Super Bowl halftime show - and from me, the giggles spread to the rest of the cast. Thank goodness opening isn't till Saturday!
It is entirely plausible that a draft will be reinstated after the election, provided George W. Bush wins. Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska recently called for exactly that.
In late-April or early-May, just as the Abu Ghraib mess was taking hold, I heard Rush Limbaugh himself suggest the desirability of a draft (can't yet locate a transcript, however). I had a creepy, hair-raising feeling I was listening to a White-House-approved trial balloon, a GOP talking point for the future. The creepiness was heightened by murky darkness: I was listening to the rebroadcast of Rush's earlier daytime show, on KFBK-1510 AM, at about 10 p.m., as I drove from Davis to Sacramento across the I-80 Yolo causeway.
Despite the recent House vote to kill New York Democrat Chuck Rangel's fairness-inspired draft bill (which had been sidelined for over a year until the GOP saw its partisan attack value and rushed it to the floor, forcing even Rangel himself to vote against it), a re-elected Bush administration will likely bring the draft back at the first politically opportune moment.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
My conservative Catholic friend clarified his position regarding the upcoming national election, and what he sees as unwarranted arrogance in matters of Catholic opinion by the political parties (in this election, the Republicans in particular).
I support Kerry because he is the right man for the position to effectively deal with foreign policy. That is what the Constitution stipulates. I do not believe that Bush is the best man for the position of representing our country to other nations, particularly in regards on matters of war and peace. Kerry, because he is conservative, will keep things as they are and may slow down conflicts that seem to be inevitable. That is my hope, but I have already seen Kerry utilizing Bush's "pre-emptive strike" doctrine, which bothers me greatly.
I would like to say that my support of Kerry does not arise singularly from the Republicans specifically attacking him for being wrong for a Catholic to support. It is the confirmation of what I have seen festering all along for the past few years, and, now that I realize it, long before that. I saw this occuring when I noticed that when the President declared war on Iraq, what is now known as the pre-emptive strike, it directly contradicts the very notion of a just war (if there could ever be one, and we will eventually find out). I have a strong concern regarding our nation's commitment to justice, particularly how the President dispenses it from his office, and how our elected representatives represent every one of our citizens: be they standing upright; in the womb; in a jail cell; homeless on the street and riverbank; or comatose in a bed, near death. The Republicans have far too long played with those of us who have a commitment toward those who are voiceless (the Democrats have too, but in different ways) and I should have recognized that sooner, if not at the very outset of my first registration back in 1986.
The day I really decided to leave the Grand Old Party was when I found that in New York there was a special event for Catholics at the Republican Convention. Oh, sure, these type of things probably happen all the time, but there was something that was too overt, too showy, and too exclusive about this event that occured that week for me not to notice.
Your line, "[t]hus is born another Kerry supporter," reminded me of "Easter, 1916," a poem by Yeats (see the lines in bold below). Can too long a sacrifice make a stone of the heart? (my question).
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights is argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born.
Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone's in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
September 25, 1916
Monday, October 04, 2004
From well-spoken 'Publius' at "Legal Fiction" :
But still, Bush can't blame his perceived failure on style alone (which was pretty horrible). As American debates go, this is the most substantive one I had ever seen. And it was almost entirely about Iraq and national security. As I said last night, I thought the debate was a success for democratic deliberation - I mean, this is what the election is all about. And on that substantive front, Kerry laid out and defended his central argument - Iraq was a diversion, and we can do better in fighting terrorism. Bush invoked "freedom" and attacked Kerry's flip-flops. In doing so, he failed to respond to Kerry's attacks on him, and it showed.
Regarding recent Republican efforts to turn out conservative Catholics for President Bush on Election Day, and in particular, the mere existence of this Kerry Wrong for Catholics Web Site sponsored by the Republican National Committee, a friend simply says:
It's wrong for any political party, including the Republicans, to speak on behalf of Catholics.An agnostic like myself takes issues of right and wrong a bit lightly, of course, but when a devout conservative Catholic says something is wrong, he means it. It grates on him, that as an Irish Republican Catholic, for generations he and his family's political opinions were denigrated by the assumption that they had to toe the Democratic Party line with other Irish Catholics. Now the offense is coming from the other direction.
Thus is born another Kerry supporter.
Frank Rich at the New York Times has an interesting review (unfortunately requiring login) of a new DVD called "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House". Frank Rich states the DVD...
must be seen because it shows how someone like General Boykin (the general in charge of tracking down Osama bin Laden) can stay in his job even in failure and why Mr. Bush feels divinely entitled to keep his job even as we stand on the cusp of an abyss in Iraq. In this pious but not humble worldview, faith, or at least a certain brand of it, counts more than competence, and a biblical mission, or at least a simplistic, blunderbuss facsimile of one, counts more than the secular goal of waging an effective, focused battle against an enemy as elusive and cunning as terrorists. That no one in this documentary, including its hero, acknowledges any constitutional boundaries between church and state is hardly a surprise. To them, America is a "Christian nation," period, with no need even for the fig-leaf prefix of "Judeo-."
Far more startling is the inability of a president or his acolytes to acknowledge any boundary that might separate Mr. Bush's flawed actions battling "against the forces of evil" from the righteous dictates of God. What that level of hubris might bring in a second term is left to the imagination, and "Faith in the White House" gives the imagination room to run riot about what a 21st-century crusade might look like in the flesh. A documentary conceived as a rebuke to "Fahrenheit 9/11" is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
About 1:15 this afternoon, after ballet, I walked into the AM/PM quick market for my usual, healthy post-terpsichorean treat, a giant diet soda and a bag of candy. Walking out of the market towards the back parking lot, on the pavement, I found an assortment of credit cards, ATM cards, and various ID cards belonging to two unknown women. Given the heavy foot traffic in the area, the cards must have been dropped there just seconds before I came upon them.
I took the cards to work, and after a little digging, I located the women, who had their purses stolen from their cars at a nearby cemetery that morning, while each was laying flowers upon the graves of deceased relatives. One woman came to pick her cards up, and I delivered the second woman her cards in the late afternoon. By then, the antique store at 21st and X Streets, just one block from the quick market, had found each of the women's purses. So, by the end of the day, each woman had recovered most of their stolen belongings (not the cash, though). Together, the antique store and I had set things as aright as was possible under the circumstances.
Moral: lock your car doors, even if you are standing just feet away from the car!