Great post by Ted Barlow on the futility of angry aggressive rhetoric.
You're Right, but...
It's understandable that a lot of people are supporting President Bush right now and for people who by nature try to be fair and see both sides, it may be getting a little hazy just how limited he is as a leader. I think he's right about Iraq and he even may be the right man to do the job, given his stubbornness and disdain for those who disagree with him. But just watch Tony Blair taking on Parliament or see him giving this recorded address and you can't help but think that if Tony Blair were making the case here as well as in Britain, even San Franciscans would be lining up to liberate Iraq.
The Word, I Believe, is Jeebus
Via the lovely and charming Freakgirl, who kindly linked to Unfogged today, we find news of this proposed resolution to
request that the Dixie Chicks apologize to the military families in the State of South Carolina and the United States for the unpatriotic and unnecessary comments made by their lead singer before they begin their United States tour on May 1, 2003, in Greenville, South Carolina, and request that they perform a free concert for troops and military families in South Carolina as an expression of their sincerity.
This courtesy of Representative Catherine Ceips of South Carolina (please be polite if you contact her). I'm not a lawyer, but I think the "request" language keeps this from being unconstitutional (or from having any legal force) but of all the wacky things both sides have done during this debate/war, this evinces the most disdain for constitutional democracy.
Oh, So this is Analysis
Here's a transcript (PDF) of a Brookings Institution conference featuring Ken Pollack, Martin Indyk, and John Sigler discussing Iraqi military strategy and the broader implications of the war and developments in the Palestinian Authority. Much better than anything else I've come across. Found on this new and very helpful page.
France, Happy to Help
I like France. I like the French. But this, this is chutzpah.
Apparently unaware that the great Al Capone is a figure of myth and legend, Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saaed Sahaf called the US "a superpower of Al Capone." Better Al than Lex Luthor, we can all agree.
More seriously, this is how he was quoted by CNN.
They targeted the residence of the family of Saddam Hussein. God had protected them. They targeted the houses of his family. But they are safe. They are safe.
Granted there's not much incentive for him to be weasely at this point, but isn't that a strange way of putting it? Are the houses safe? And if it's not the houses, but the family, is "safe" the same as "alive?"
This is Your Brain in a Bush
I'll mention it again: everyone should thank (and tip) Sean-Paul over at the Agonist for what he did today. There was no better source of breaking news anywhere.
And the quote of the day, I think, from Gary Farber, about the tendency of Fox anchors to, well, strain one's credulity: "I'm, extremely uneasily, a supporter of this war -- but that doesn't mean my brain has melted."
It's only a matter of time...
Yesterday, there was some serious perturbation about this article in which a Code Red terrorist alert was made to sound a lot like martial law. But I noticed when I read the article that the reporter's gloss on the official's language was pretty alarmist. So I contacted my local ACLU chapter, forwarded them the story and asked them what they thought about it and about Code Red. After looking into the matter, what they've told me is that Code Red is reserved for a "real imminent attack," not simply a heightened alert. And they also think the article is misleading. Certainly nothing in the Department of Homeland Security guidelines implies that the imposition of martial law will accompany a Code Red alert. So, in the great tradition of "trust but verify" and "trust in Allah but tie your camel," relax, and become a member of the ACLU.
This is an amazing list from Reporters without Borders, ranking nations with respect to freedom of the press. A quick look turns up a couple of striking things. Out of 139 nations, the US ranks 17th. Israel ranks 92nd, while the Palestinian Authority is 82nd.
Spoke to a colleague this morning who is "working from home." Here's roughly how the conversation went:
:: discussion of confidential lawyer stuff ::
me: so, you watching any TV?
wfh: no, not really. why?
me: to catch the latest news on the war.
wfh: dude, if I were watching TV, I'd be watching the basketball.
The Agonist has all the breaking news you need. If you're interested, just go there. I'll post something if I think it's been missed or is potentially significant.
This report that Uday Hussein has suffered a brain hemorrhage, apparently after being attacked by a bodyguard after Uday gave "indecent" orders, looks quite sketchy, but worth keeping an eye on.
Was it Saddam?
CNN TV is reporting speculation that the speech given last night from Baghdad was given by one of Saddam's doubles. More if I find it.
UPDATE: This report seems to be the basis for speculation.
Just about right
These words capture, almost exactly, my own position on the war:
I fail to see the point in doing the UN's job on the other side of the world while getting booed...[However, T]he way representative democracy works is that the people we elect are, at the very, very least, supposed to know more about their job then I do, so when they're right and I'm wrong I'm happy. So I hope they know what they're doing, and I hope this war is as painless as possible for everyone, except Saddam, who can suck my ass.
The rest of the post is definitely worth reading.
Something else to think about now that the war is about to start, is how difficult it may be to find Saddam. As this very helpful piece in Slate explains
The U.S. commanders' biggest fear is that Saddam will stay holed up in Baghdad, a city of 5 million people, forcing our troops to go door to door, blasting through multiple rings of Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard divisions, then fending off snipers and suicide bombers once inside the city.
I think Saddam pulling an Osama would be disastrous, keeping troops occupied with combat and putting civilians in danger. Everyone should be hoping for an internal revolt against Saddam.
What War Is
I've argued here in favor of an invasion of Iraq and I still think that's the right decision. But there's a danger that those of us in favor of "liberation" will think of the war itself simply as a necessary means to a noble end, some interim that must elapse before Iraqis are free and thankful. That's dangerous because while the war "passes" for us, other people, real people with families and aspirations, will be dying horribly. Of course we all know that, but when I looked at this (EXTREMELY GRAPHIC) picture yesterday, it still gave me pause. This is what war is. Peace activists aren't stupid and they have no sympathy for Saddam, they just can't get past images like that, and it shouldn't be hard to see why.
Note: Apparently, Ogrish doesn't allow deep linking. The link now takes you to the front page of their site, but you can find this picture under the unsentimentally named "Miscellaneous Bomb Victims" of 3-18-03 (date posted, not date taken).
Amygdala points to this post by Brad Delong about the way linking works (and should work) in the blogosphere. Delong's idea is a good one, although I don't have an economist's bent for introducing variables that I then have to figure out how to define and measure. Let's just say that occasionally on Unfogged.com, you'll see a post about a blog you may not have seen that we think is worth some of your time. The first selection is Languagehat, a blog about languages. Duh. Seems an appropriate stop for the verbal blogging community.
God, Brainwashing, or Puberty?
This page of photos of Elizabeth Smart is striking in the contrast between Elizabeth before her kidnapping and after her return. She hasn't simply gotten older, she now has a serene and adult presence. It's hard to let oneself think that she owes part of what makes her compelling to the man who kidnapped her. But what if she does? Is it because being kidnapped removed her from an infantilizing suburban life? Because brainwashing has certain salutary effects (and what is brainwashing anyway)? That she's in fact a more religious person now? It may be that this is premature and she's shattered and will soon fall apart. But if that doesn't happen, here's the question, provocatively put: kidnapping did her some good, what can we learn from Brian David Mitchell?
*This being the Internet, populated by the incessantly outraged, let me say unequivocally that kidnapping is horrible, kidnapping children inexcusable and that Brian Mitchell deserves severe punishment for what he did. But there are the pictures, and they raise a question.
UPDATE: Just saw that Mitchell and his accomplice have been charged with sexual assault as well. If I had seen this report before I posted, I wouldn't have posted the same thing.
Rob Gifford at NPR
Most people are focused on Iraq, but NPR's Rob Gifford has been doing a heck of a job, consistently filing informative and interesting reports from the Far East. We'll all soon need to know more about what's going on there; don't overlook him when you go searching for news of the region.
What's a Country to do?
This article has been getting a lot of good notices lately, including from the estimable Josh Marshall. I find it a very cogent statement of what Bush could have done differently in the run-up to war and in the conduct of his foreign policy more generally. However, here's one thing that sticks in my craw. Zakaria writes:
What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country—the United States. And they have come to be deeply suspicious and fearful of us.
No matter how lightly we step, we will, for the forseeable future, be far more powerful (economically and militarily) than any one state or any number of states put together. So unless we unilaterally disarm or take a national vow of poverty (both I think are rather unlikely), the rest of the world is going to be wary about us no matter how lovey-dovey we act. Which limits what criticism one can, in good faith, lob at the Bush Administration.
Josh Marshall provides what can only be called an ominous link to a Yahoo! story about the Administration's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war is over. The article doesn't say much, but does suggest that the US government will lean heavily on U.S. firms (to the exclusion of the UN and NGOs) for much of the reconstruction work. Matthew Yglesias suggests a nefarious corporate welfare scheme at work.
Two thoughts come to mind. First, I question how this can be described as corporate welfare. Of course, there is no accepted definition of what corporate welfare is, but I tend to think of it as a government conferring a benefit on a firm that it could not otherwise attain in a reasonably competitive market. Direct subsidies (think of the grants to the airline industry post Sept. 11th) come to mind, as well as various tax schemes (foreign sales corporations) and other measures (tariffs on textiles). Where is the undeserved benefit here? No one questions the need to spend money to rebuild Iraq. The question thus becomes who does the rebuilding. I don't see any reason to favor the government over private firms and as long as there is competitive bidding, we'll all be getting what we're paying for.
Second, if the US chooses US firms to do the rebuilding work instead of NGOs and the UN, so what? Halliburton, Bechtel, et al. are awfully good at things like building roads, power plants, water treatment plants, etc. So doesn't it make sense to hire them, assuming they'll do the job at the right price?
There are many things to criticize the Bush Administration for, but these posts strike me as mostly just piling on. Unless you accept the (unstated) premise in these posts that the less private enterprise, the better.
Gets It Right
Will everyone please stop using the locutions "x gets it" and "x has it (about) right?" Phrases appropriate to questions of fact and logical inference are just insulting and pompous in discussions of matters that don't admit of the same precision.
Rachel Corrie was the American student and activist killed on March 16 while she was in Rafah, in the Occupied Territories. It's been impossible to find an obituary that doesn't treat her either as a martyr or a naif, but here you can read her own words.
I just got back from seeing Irreversible, the brutal French film by Gaspar Noe that has so many critics screeching "pseudo" and "exploitation." Which all goes to show, now that I've seen the film, that people don't really see movies, they just see preconceptions. For those charges to stick, you'd have to think that the character who says "there are no bad deeds, only deeds" is speaking for the director and that the rape is titillating and the violence exciting. I've seen titillating rape scenes but this isn't one of them. I've seen exciting scenes of violence, but not in this movie. This is the first movie I've seen where the brutality is so complete that it is, finally, an effective argument against violence. It completely vitiates the patter of the first scene: to "there are no bad deeds" it responds with deeds so clearly and viscerally bad that nothing more needs to be said. What makes the movie not just effective, but brilliant, is that the violence is perfectly human. Revenge is a "human impulse" and so, I think Noe shows, is rape, but they are not made a whit more acceptable by virtue of being so. In fact, Noe implicates the audience by casting the gorgeous Monica Bellucci and dressing her in cleavage. I suspect most men look forward to seeing Bellucci raped in the movie, but not many feel good about that impulse afterward. And, by arranging the scenes in reverse chronological order, no justification exists for the scene of horrifically violent revenge in the beginning of the movie (I've only seen scenes this gruesome on the death and violence documentary site Ogrish). So, even after we see what happens to Bellucci, the violence of the revenge still resonates as violence, not as justice. (Good old Roger Ebert is more perceptive than any other critic I've read on this point.) While most movies show violence either as monstrous, an anomaly outside discourse, or as justified or glamorous, for Noe, it's completely normal and absolutely horrible. That's not pseudo, that's life.
My cold has not abated. I now pray only for the relief of sweet death.
On the plus side, I have to fly tomorrow night, so I'll get to share my infection with 100+ strangers and so get revenge (of a sort) on whatever stranger passed it on to me.
Missy suggests injecting saltwater directly into your sinuses. This seems like an attractive therapy. My only question is how you do it.
I think I woke up with this illness this morning. Every time I cough, it feels like someone is sticking a flamethrower down my throat. I was in NYC this week - maybe I ran into that doctor from Singapore.
Until further notice, I suggest you only visit this blog while wearing a respirator. I may be contagious.
The French Plan
As I've noted earlier, we in the US often find other countries' actions irrational because we're ignorant of things that are reported in the foreign press. And even if some small fraction of people makes an effort to read widely and become informed, there remains the fact that, for most people, unless one of the major news outlets carries the story, it passes unnoticed. I thought of that recently after Matthew Yglesias posted about alternatives to war. This article ran in the National Review Online, which, to a news junkie, counts as a mainstream source, but, to the average person, may as well be Al Bawaba. That's a shame, because it lays out quite clearly what the French envision as an alternative to the Bush plan. You may think it's a rotten idea, but shouldn't we be discussing it rather than thinking the French are threatening vetoes just because they're petulant?