Friday, September 20, 2002

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TIPS for the DICTATORIALLY INCLINED

This is just a funny post from a great blog put together by Daniel Davies:

The Nukes of Yesteryear

I read in my evening newspaper that Saddam is definitely on the threshold of developing suitcase nukes, and that all he currently lacks is the necessary uranium ... takes me back to my own schooldays. Readers may be interested or reassured to know that, based on my own adolescent attempts to build a nuclear device in my parents' shed, the "getting hold of uranium" stage was the difficult bit for me too.

Go and check out the rest of Daniel's excellent work.
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Their turn-ons are good books, long walks on the beach and a free market economy

For Jason, in case he is over his Ann "Thrax" Coulter infatuation.
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WHO is the JOKE ON?

If George Bush is a joke as many on the left claim, then who is the joke on?

I, for one, can't come at this sort of assessment. Nor can I accept the milder account that he is bumbling amateur who just happens to get lucky. Such an argument is expressed here, on Electrolite's comments box by Iain Coleman:

I think the fundamental problem is the amateurishness, rather than the dishonesty. Tony Blair's government has become notorious for spin, media manipulation, and stretching the truth until it snaps. Nonetheless, I trust Blair in matters of war much more than I trust Bush. This is because, whatever his other faults, Blair is a highly able politician who will put a lot of hard graft and determination into achieving his goals. Bush, by contrast, is a lazy amateur with the attention span of a small houseplant. With Blair, there's always the chance that the foreign policy will be wrong: with Bush, there's the certainty that it will be half-assed.

Far be it from me to agree with the likes of Patio Pundit, but I'm afraid I agree with Patio Pundit:

Similarly, the "Bush is stupid" story has taken hold among the left, and it won't be shaken. When "W" comes on TV they see the James Brolin caricature. Heck, just read the comments about Bush left by otherwise intelligent lefties in my comments sections and you'll see what I mean.

George W. Bush has learned how to take advantage of people who underestimate him. Just look at his dealings with Congress. For whatever reason, Tom Daschle has changed tack and now wants to get the vote on Iraq done as quickly as possible so he can get back to domestic issues before the elections. This alone should be considered a major political victory for George W. Bush since it was considered a long shot just one month ago. But Bush is an excellent negotiator. Now that he got his "minimum price" from Daschle, he is pushing it to see how much more he can get.


As I wrote in the Electrolite comment's box:

I disagree with Iain, respectfully. I think Bush is determined, focused and relentless - like any good fundamentalist with a born-to-rule background. Sure he's dumb in one sense, but determination is far more important in this game. The "carefree indifference to truth" is also certainly true, but it arises not from amateurishness and opportunism, but from having to say one thing for public consumption while pursuing completely different policies in reality, the most obvious recent example being the attempt to hide unabashed unilateralism behind a call for multilateral support for an invasion of Iraq.

But the need for double-speak is gradually abating as he gets exactly what he wants.

Look at what is starting to emerge: a war on Iraq; a major change in foreign policy from containment to pre-emption, that is, an open-ended commitment to attack whoever whenever; a bunch of allies--including my home country Australia--gradually being pulled into line; the ongoing development of space weapons; a unilateral stance on matters such as environmental and weapons control; a domestic agenda of tax cuts for the buddies and political handouts as needed (steel and agriculture); and all this on the back high polls.

Seems to me this is the work of neither a fool nor an amateur.


In short, the Empire of the Son is taking shape very nicely, and if all the left has to offer is more "George is dumb" put-downs then it will be George who continues to laugh all the way to a second term.
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EMPIRE of the SON

America, let me be the first to officially inform you: you are now the proud owners of a brand new, sparkling empire. The official documentation has just been delivered to the rest of us. George Herbert's little boy has done good:

The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a
decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success:
freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a
commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic
freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity.
People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they
please; educate their children—male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their
labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society—and the
duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving
people across the globe and across the ages.

Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic
and political influence. In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength
to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human
freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards
and challenges of political and economic liberty. In a world that is safe, people will be able to
make their own lives better. We will defend the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants. We will
preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace
by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.


You can read the rest of the empire's founding document here.
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RATTLING SABRES: NOT

In the usual game of media make believe, The Age reports:

John Howard is stepping up his efforts to win public favour for action against Iraq, arguing Australia could not escape terrorist threats by disengaging from the international war against terror.

Yeah, right: that's the reason. It's got nothing to do with the fact that Australia is a small country who is in no position to piss off the hegemon du century. I mean, I can really see America signing up for a free-trade agreement, for instance--much coveted by the Australian government--if we didn't cough up a few troops and maybe the odd ship to help apply the fig-leaf of multilateralism to America's unilateral removal of Saddam.

So why the bullshit? Why doesn't he just tell the truth? We, like most countries, are in no position to say no to the elephant in the room who also happens to be our number-one trading partner.
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WHO REALLY WROTE THE NEW BUSH DOCTRINE?

The Washington Post reports today that the Bush Administration is about to release its new defence strategy:

The United States should maintain forever its global military superiority and defeat terrorism by "destroying the threat before it reaches our borders," the Bush administration said on Friday in a new strategy document...."As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against
such emerging threats before they are fully formed," said Bush.


What they don't mention is that the doctrine has its origins in the work a venerable British think tank called Monty Python's Flying Circus. Many years ago, this institution produced a document that exactly pre-figures the guiding principles of what we will forever know as the Bush Doctrine. For Python it was called Llap Goch and its basic tenets were as follows:

It is an ANCIENT Welsh ART based on a BRILLIANTLY simple I-D-E-A, which is a SECRET. The best form of DEFENCE is ATTACK (Clausewitz) and the most VITAL element of ATTACK is SURPRISE (Oscar HAMMERstein). Therefore, the BEST way to protect yourself AGAINST any ASSAILANT is to ATTACK him before he attacks YOU... Or BETTER... BEFORE the THOUGHT of doing so has EVEN OCCURRED TO HIM!!! SO YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RENDER YOUR ASSAILANT UNCONSCIOUS BEFORE he is EVEN aware of your very existence!

No longer need you feel WEAK, helpless, INDECISIVE, NOT fascinating and ASHAMED of your genital dimensions. No more need you be out-manoeuvred in political debate!! GOOD BYE HUMILIATION, wisecracking bullies, Karate experts, boxing champions, sarcastic vicars, traffic wardens; entire panzer divisions will melt to pulp as you master every situation without INADEQUACY. PROTECT YOUR LOVED ONES. You will no longer look pitiful and spotty to your GIRL FRIENDS when you leave some unsuspecting passerby looking like four tins of cat food! They will admire your MASTERY and DECISIVENESS and LACK OF INADEQUACY and will almost certainly let you put your HAND inside their BLOUSE out of sheer ADMIRATION. And after seeing more of your expert disabling they'll almost definately go to bed with you, although obviously we can't ABSOLUTELY guarantee this, still it's extremely likely and would make learning LLAP-GOCH really worthwhile al- though legally we can't PROMISE anything.

The similarites are extraordinary as you will see when you read the entire document. Tell everyone.
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PRESS ADMITS THEY are IDIOTS EASILY BLUFFED by the IDIOTS in the WHITE HOUSE

People talk about the "disconnect" between the political elites who work "inside the Beltway" (figuratively and literally) and the rest of the people in the country (and we might add, the world). I'd suggest the toenail is more ingrown than people generally realise.

For instance, The Washington Post has a story today, listed under the heading of "analysis", that purports to explain why the Bush Administration is so successful in "pushing its agenda":

The pattern goes something like this: Bush finds himself in a jam, with heavy opposition to the position he advocates. After a sometimes painful period of stumbling, he casts aside all other issues so that he can focus his administration's attention -- and the public's -- on just one topic. Then, he hammers away at the issue, using the bully pulpit with numbing repetition and marshaling all arguments to make his case. When one rationale doesn't sell, he drops it and adopts a new one.

"It happens again and again: People on Bush's own side worry and get antsy, while critics become euphoric and think these guys aren't that bright," said GOP strategist Jeffrey Bell. "Once the tactical situation is clear to Bush, they start pounding and won't let up."

A Bush adviser concurred with that sequence. "You have a policy imperative, and then it becomes, how do we sell it," the adviser said. Once Bush settles on his rationale, "he starts drilling in on it."


The writer goes on to say:

Accidental or not, the hallmark of Bush's style is an ability to shift justifications for a set policy. On the subject of deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the administration at first sought, after Sept. 11, 2001, to link Iraq to al Qaeda and the attacks. Later, Bush's rationale shifted to a policy of "preempting" those who would use weapons of mass destruction. But two weeks ago, the White House decided to downplay the preemption argument. Just days before Bush made his U.N. speech on Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote a defense of preemption in a commentary submitted to The Washington Post. The administration withdrew Rumsfeld's article prior to publication, and Bush came out six days later with an additional argument that confronting Hussein was necessary to preserve U.N. integrity.

....The pattern was familiar. In the 2000 campaign, Bush spoke of the need for a tax cut as an "insurance policy" against an economic downturn. Once the downturn came, he continued to argue for the same tax cut as the best way to stimulate an ailing economy -- even though it would be years before most of the cuts took effect. He also argued for the tax cut philosophically, as a way to keep government from growing and morally, as a way to return money to those who earned it.


What is so stupid about this "analysis"? Consider: the journalist is laying out in some detail the technique that Bush and co. use to get their agenda through, noticing that it includes techniques such as arguing one thing one day and another, perhaps contradictory, thing the next day.

But, duh, who is it that let's them get away with it? Who is it who is supposed to be able, on behalf of a grateful nation, to use their access, their insider status, their vast resources, their contacts, their experience and hold the White House, or whomever else, accountable? It will probably only come as a shock to journalists when I reveal that this is the job of journalists. The only reason the techniques outlined here work is because the press compliantly reports them and goes along with the shifts and feints and contradictions.

And so oblivious are they to life outside the charmed circle that they can even take up valuable disk-space and column-inches to outline their own failures, pass it off as "analysis" and think that they are doing their job. This isn't a disconnect: it borders on retardation. Think about it: this guy just wrote an article about how the White House fools the media, and his bosses let him publish it!

Instead of writing this meta-journalism and actually praising the Administration for their ingenious strategies, why aren't they out there saying, hey, yesterday you said the tax cuts were for insurance against a recession, now you're saying it is stimulate a recovery: which is it?

No wonder blogs are booming: give me Josh Marshall, Rittenhouse Review, John Quiggin, Skippy, Talk Left, Brad de Long, Max Sawicky, etc etc etc any day of the week. These guys, by and large, do it part-time, for no money and with only publicly available material but they make the so-called professionals look like a bunch of school kids.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

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RIGHT ROUND the BEND

The notion that the media in general is part of a vast leftwing conspiracy is stupid enough at the best of times, but Mark Harrison at the Catallaxy Collective takes the idea to new levels of absurdity:

I’d forgotten about the classic use by the media of disgruntled family members to attack right wing politicians – the interviews with John Hewson’s bitter wife and kids on 60 Minutes after he had left them. I guess those on the left are such paragons of virtue it is just not worth the media’s effort to dig up and publicise family problems and criticisms by disgruntled family members.

Australian 60 Minutes left wing? The Packer family a hotbed of leftist insurgency? If only!

If such shows have a bias it is more likely to be towards sensationalism: easy bums-on-seats TV. Mark might have to find another lettuce with which to flail the unforgivable left.
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MISS INFORMATION

The Congressional report released yesterday into the events leading up to September 11 shows that the various unintelligence agencies were well aware of the possibility of al Qaeda using planes as weapons, though it is interesting to note that Condaleeza Rice told us something different. At a press conference on May 16 she was asked these questions and replied as follows:

Q -- any specific information just prior to August 6th that raised concerns about hijacking of U.S. planes?

DR. RICE: Again, this was generalized information that put together the fact that there were terrorist groups who were unhappy about things that were going on in the Middle East, as well as al Qaeda operatives, which we'd been watching for a long time -- that there was more chatter than usual, and that we knew that they were people who might try a hijacking. But, you know, again, that terrorism and hijacking might be associated is not rocket science.

Q Why shouldn't this be seen as an intelligence failure, that you were unable to predict something happening here?

DR. RICE: Steve, I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile. All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking. You take a plane -- people were worried they might blow one up, but they were mostly worried that they might try to take a plane and use it for release of the blind Sheikh or some of their own people.

Apparently they could have predicted the notion, Miss Information. In fact they did.
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PAYING the PIPER, or any SMOKER in GENERAL

Apparently people are paying to watch others smoke online. No Lewinsky jokes, just sites where oppressed smokers can take a virtual puff in the privacy of their own computer:

"As New York and other cities try to ban smoking in public places like parks and beaches, there may be few places but the Web for smokers to congregate."

Sounds like it mightn't be the smoking some are tuning in for though:

On a normal Tuesday, Taimie Hannum, a 33-year-old former Playboy model ("Say I'm 29") wakes up just before noon, has her nails and toes trimmed, shops for watermelon or microwave pizza, comes home to her Hollywood apartment, and flips on her "spy" webcam, finally ready to perform her labor: She lights up a Marlboro Light 100. People pay to watch her, among other things, smoke.

"It's much easier for me to smoke in the privacy of my own home," Hannum says while live recently from her Web site, Taimie.com. "Especially while it's being broadcast to the world!" she adds, gingerly blowing smoke rings at her webcam.


Check out the links the story provides.
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A NEW STRATEGY

While the righties and the White House and other members of the axis of inadequacy are constantly explaining to us how irrational Saddam Hussein is, it emerges that the Administration has been having some secret chats with Saddam, asking him nicely not to use his WMD. John Major explained it all in The Sun (via Kevin Raybould at Lean Left):

Saddam was privately warned his capital would be obliterated if he used weapons of mass destruction against allied troops or Middle East targets — including Israel. And senior security sources last night confirmed Saddam has been warned AGAIN of the consequences if he breaks the ban on using terror weapons.

Mr Major wrote of the Gulf War: “In private, Saddam Hussein received an unmistakable warning about the immediate and catastrophic consequences for Iraq of any such attack on civilians.

“I knew that if he did use these diabolical weapons we would have to escalate our response to bring the war to a speedy and conclusive end before too many of our troops were exposed to them.”

Mr Major yesterday supported renewed action but raised questions about the way a cornered Saddam might lash out.

He said: “On this occasion we will specifically be going to war in order to replace the Iraqi regime. Saddam will be gone.

“He will be dead, he will be in prison, or he will be in exile. Would he try to create maximum chaos? Would he seek to use weapons of mass destruction?

“Would he use them on oil fields in the Middle East to create economic chaos? Would he pass them to terrorist groups, would he — perhaps the worst nightmare of all — try to use them on an adjacent capital?

“We can largely protect against that, do not press me on how, we can protect against that.”


I'm sure you can all see the rationality in this well-thought out explanation. And as Lean Left points out, doesn't this suggest rather strongly that deterrence is possible?

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NEW STUFF ABOUT WHAT THEY KNEW STUFF ABOUT

It seems the Bush--and probably the Clinton--Administrations had more information about possible al Qaeda attacks on the US than has previously been admitted. It has even become known that they had some intelligence about the use of passenger planes as weapons:

U.S. intelligence agencies received many more indications than previously disclosed that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was planning imminent "spectacular" attacks in the summer of 2001 aimed at inflicting mass casualties, according to the preliminary findings of a joint congressional intelligence panel report released yesterday....The report suggests that al Qaeda's fascination with using airplanes as terror weapons was more widely known within intelligence circles than Bush administration officials have acknowledged. While administration officials have previously stressed that much of the intelligence in the months leading up to Sept. 11 was focused on threats overseas, the new report also documents repeated indications that bin Laden and his network were especially interested in carrying out attacks on U.S. soil.

You don't have to be too cynical to suspect that there is direct link between the Bush Administration's failures in the lead up to September 11 and their over-reaction now to the threats posed by Saddam Hussein. People talk about a "wag-the-dog" war, with an attack on Iraq being used as a distraction from domestic issues such as Enron and Haliburton. It seems just as likely that Bush wants us all to look ahead to getting rid of Saddam rather than look back to see the hints he and the Administration failed to pick up pre-911. This helps explain why the White House won't cough up all the documents the investigating committee has asked for.

The White House refused the panel's request to put on the public record what Bush had been told about bin Laden and possible attacks prior to Sept. 11, according to the committee staff. Bush receives a daily intelligence briefing which included some of the most serious threat reporting....White House spokesman Sean McCormick said last night that "in the interest of protecting the confidentiality of information and advice provided to the president and his senior advisers, White House lawyers asked that references to specific information that was provided to the president be removed from the report."

On the latter point, there is more information here.

You can read the Intelligence Committee report in full here.
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SPECIAL SUBJECT: the BLEEDING OBVIOUS

British journalist Jonathon Freedland (how's that for an apt name?) offers us a little thought experiment: Are the Americans the new Romans? Has the US built, or is it building, an empire?

In following weeks, Jonathon will be wondering aloud whether the sky is blue and whether bears shit in the woods.
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NAME that HIT

With the big day drawing nearer and plans already underway to casually change the regime in Iraq, I was wondering if the boys and girls in the PR department have come up with a name for the operation yet? I mean, it's not really a war these days unless it has a name . Given the propensity of the Administration to employ Hollywood to promote their causes, I guess the obvious choices are something like, Gulf War II, or Desert Storm: The Return. If he hadn't already retired, General Norman Schwarzkopfennegger could've even used the line, "I'll be back," and he would be. Too bad.

I kinda like the idea of Operation Founding Father, given the democratic theme the whole show has been given, or how about Operation Because It Was There?

Suggestions please, all of which will be passed along to my contacts at the Pentagon.
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CUTTING IT FINE

Just in time for the upcoming weapons' trade show in the Middle East (also known as Iraqi regime change), where the US will get to show off its latest wonders of not-quite-mass destruction (WNQMD), the Australian Defence Minister has announced that it will be okay for woman to serve in a "frontline" capacity:

Senator Hill said he philosophically supported the move. "If women want to serve in the front line, I don't think they should be excluded simply because they are women," he said.

"There aren't too many areas where women aren't serving. In terms of the front line, they are certainly serving on ships in the Gulf, women are playing a critical part."


You go, girls. No really. Go.
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NEXT CAB OFF the RANK

With an attack on Iraq imminent, I figure G.W. (that's Gulf War to you) Bush has time for one more quick regime change before he's up for re-election in 2004. North Korea anyone? Iran? Syria? All have got WMD. All are a bit nasty. Who'll draw the short straw?
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AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE from the HIGH COMMAND of the ROAD to SURFDOM

My fellow bloggers,

After nearly 48 hours of obfuscation, promises, backdowns and tireless negotiation, I have received a letter from the management of Haloscan saying they will allow unconditional commenting on my website at any time. I accept this notification with great caution. In fact, I think it would be foolish to take these people at their word given their recent performance: these are people who have launched unwarranted commenting withdrawals on many users, and who have even withdrawn commenting from their own website. I have considered a series of sanctions, but these people clearly are beyond such threats. I have even considered paying them for their service, but I fear they will simply use the money to buy food. Perhaps drink. I was going to consult the United Nations of Blog, but time is of the essence. I have therefore decided, effective immediately, to instigate unilaterally a complete regime change. In place of Haloscan I have installed the puppet facility known as Enetation. But let them and all other commenting facilities of the free world take careful note: The Road to Surfdom will be employing a team of armed comments' inspectors, and we will not hesitate to launch pre-emptive action against Enatation should they fail to comply with all relevant resolutions. This is not a drill. Please feel free to click the link below to register your comments. Goodbye, and God bless the commenting facilities on all weblogs.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

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WHAT does SELF-DETERMINATION MEAN?

This Iraqi expat asks a pertinent question and gives a pointed answer:

So how do I now find myself standing by Iraq's dictatorial regime, while Tony Blair presents himself as the defender of both democracy and the Iraqi people? For decades, it was the other way around. Iraqis were not only resisting the oppressive regime, they were sacrificing their lives for change long before the occupation of Kuwait. They appealed for help from western governments. Their request was: stop supplying the Ba'ath regime with weapons. Nobody listened.

She then puts a view that will no doubt be ridiculed:

You are "either with us or against us", they say. As an Iraqi that means choosing between war and the dictator. To be on the side of the oppressed does not mean we are unaware of the complexity of the situation. To campaign for the lifting of sanctions, for an end to the paralysing bombardment and daily threat of war is to stand by the Iraqi people; it is that policy which will help them to change the oppressive regime. Any change should be initiated from within Iraq, not imposed by Bush or Blair.

She seems to be suffering under the illusion that the Iraqi people have a say in all this.
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THE RIGHT gets its SUV MOJO BACK

As if the world isn't confusing enough, we went through a little period there where certain rightwingers were deriding the SUV (4x4) as the devil's steed. Thank god the planets are back in alignment: the very rightwing Citizens for a Sound Economy has provided this sterling defence (complete with an epigram from Edmund Burke!) of the vehicle that is singlehandedly responsible for the fall of western civilsation:

Disdain for conspicuous consumption is a recurring cultural theme in America. To some extent, the anti-SUV ethos is driven by resentment and condescension. In this way, opposition to SUVs is a perfectly understandable human reaction, and if people do not damage any lives or property in their crusade, they have every right to go about their SUV-bashing ways. But when these activists lobby Congress to impose new fuel efficiency standards or to ban these popular vehicles altogether, they have gone too far.

...Whatever one’s thoughts about SUVs and their owners, they are a sensationally popular vehicle for which their exists much demand. If the spike in SUV sales (200,000 in 1982 to over 3 million in 2000) represents a trend in consumer taste, like any trend, it will probably be discarded once the next “thing” comes along. But unlike disco, crimped hair, and acid-washed jeans, SUVs have a practicality that will provide staying power for years to come. This might anger some, but considering the significant costs of depriving consumers of such choices in terms of lives and livelihood, it would be better to “risk congratulations” and allow them to determine if they “need” an SUV themselves.


Ah, that's better! James, bring round the Hummer.
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REMOVING the WEDGE

Labor front bencher, Lindsay Tanner, recently attacked the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) for being elitist and undemocratic. ARM members Jim Terrie and Greg Barns hit back pointing out that Tanner got a number of basic facts wrong. A few bloggers (Rob Corr, for example) have gone on to endorse the view that Tanner's real target was former ARM president and now Liberal Party treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull.

I have no doubt that that is in part correct; however, I suspect there is more to it and a recent article by Tony Blair brown-noser, Mark Latham, gives us a hint.

In one of his frequent forays onto the op-ed pages, Latham argues that to be re-elected, Labor has to win the "culture wars" (yawn):

John Howard won last year's election campaigning on values: border protection, national security and social order. His refugee policy divided the Labor constituency, setting inner-city activists against the suburban working class. More campaigns of this kind are certain to follow....This is the political equivalent of a declaration of war, a culture war against the ALP. The last election was not a one-off. It was merely the first round in a new form of partisan debate. Australia has entered an era of post-material politics where increasingly, the electoral contest will be determined by social values....Left-of-centre politics is yet to engage in the language and issues of the culture war. Whether it is May Day protesters trashing a McDonald's outlet or politicians complaining about the tax-transfer system, we are missing the main game. It's social values, stupid.

For mine, the analysis is pretty bogus--or at least partial--and not a good sign for Labor if this is what their best and brightest are thinking. Although it's a step up on the other leftist argument that people voted for John Howard because "Australians are racist," it still leaves untouched the fact that people were basically pretty happy with the way the economy was going. With or without Tampa and asylum seekers, Howard could have won on his economic record. So Latham is off track if he really thinks we have "entered an era of post-material politics where increasingly, the electoral contest will be determined by social values." It's still about the economy, stupid.

However, the point I'm making is that Tanner's ARM attack is therefore better seen as a sally in this so-called "culture war" that Latham has signed the Labor Party up for. I have previously argued that the loss of the republican referendum was the point at which Howard asserted his dominance over the Australian left. Attacking the ARM, the organisation the right was able to paint as a bunch of elitists in their populist campaign against constitutional change, is therefore a logical way for Labor to enter Latham's culture wars and maybe gain some populist brownie points. On its own terms it makes perfect sense: it is an attempt to remove one of the wedges that have been making Labor walk funny for the past six years. I just doubt that it's the main game.

BTW: one of the things Latham argues is the need to find a language that will re-engage punters with a progressive agenda. If he thinks he's anywhere near it with the quoted article then I think he's in for a rude shock. Still, it is nice to notice that the term "third way" is not used at all, just one tiny reference at the end to "a third choice". I think we can pronounce "the" third way dead on non-arrival. (Note: this is an edited version of a longer speech, so maybe he gives it air in the bits I haven't read.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

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GEORGE W'S SANCTUARY COVE

(Please note: for some reason, the links to these resolutions don't seem to be working: has the UN taken them down?)

For those interested in some background reading on the UN resolutions and the associated sanctions that currently apply to Iraq, there is some interesting stuff at this site.

AS it says on the UN site: Under Article 41 of the UN Charter, the Security Council may call upon Member States to apply measures not involving the use of armed force in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures are commonly referred to as sanctions.

The resolutions themselves, all 22 of them (16 substantive), are outlined below, with appropriate links.

Resolution 661 (1990) of 6 August 1990 imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, including a full trade embargo barring all imports from and exports to Iraq, excepting only medical supplies, foodstuffs, and other items of humanitarian need, as determined by the Security Council sanctions committee, which was also established by Resolution 661. The sanctions committee is chaired by the Ambassador of Norway, with the delegations of Mauritius and Bulgaria providing vice chairmen. (Note: All 15 Council Members sit on the sanctions committee).

Resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991, the cease-fire resolution, declared that the full trade embargo against Iraq would remain in place, pending periodic reviews every 60 days (para. 21) and every 120 days (para. 28) of Iraqi compliance with the obligations imposed under Resolution 687.

Resolution 712 (1991) of 19 September 1991 allowed for a partial lifting of the embargo, which would have enabled Iraq to sell some oil to use the proceeds for humanitarian purposes. In return, Iraq would have been subject to strict UN monitoring of the contracts and distribution of humanitarian goods bought with the oil revenues.

Resolution 986 (1995) of 14 April 1995 enables Iraq to sell up to $1 billion of oil every 90 days and use the proceeds for humanitarian supplies to the country. On 20 May 1996, the UN and the Government of Iraq concluded the Memorandum of Understanding that codified the practical arrangements for the implementation of the oil-for-food agreement. The sanctions committee subsequently adopted on 8 August 1996 the Procedures for the implementation of Resolution 986. On 9 December 1996, the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council (S/1996/1015) that all the steps necessary to ensure the effective implementation of Resolution 986 had been concluded. As a result, Resolution 986 went into effect at 00.01 hours Eastern Standard Time on 10 December 1996. The first food shipment arrived in Iraq on 20 March 1997.

Resolution 1051 (1996) of 27 March 1996 established the export/import monitoring system for Iraq. Iraq and countries exporting to Iraq must notify UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) regarding the supply of "dual-use" items to Iraq. Such items are subject to inspection upon their arrival in Iraq as well as at the site where the items will be used.

Resolution 1111 (1997) of 4 June 1997 decided that the provisions of Resolution 986, except those contained in paragraphs 4,11 and 12, shall remain in force for another period of 180 days beginning at 00.01 hours, Eastern Daylight Time, on 8 June 1997; further decided to conduct a thorough review of all aspects of the implementation of this resolution 90 days after the entry into force of paragraph 1 and again prior to the end of the 180 day period, on receipt of the reports referred to in paragraphs 3 and 4, and expressed its intention, prior to the end of the 180 day period, to consider favourably renewal of the provisions of this resolution, provided that the reports referred to in paragraphs 3 and 4 indicate that those provisions are being satisfactorily implemented.

Resolution 1115 (1997) of 21 June 1997 decided not to conduct the reviews provided for in paragraphs 21 and 28 of resolution 687 (1991) until after the Special Commission submits its next consolidated progress report due on 11 October 1997, after which time those reviews will resume in accordance with Resolution 687.

Resolution 1129 (1997) of 12 September 1997 decided that the provisions of Resolution 1111 should remain in force, except that States are authorized to permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq, including financial and other essential transactions directly relating thereto, sufficient to produce a sum not exceeding a total of one billion United States dollars within a period of 120 days from 00.01 hours, Eastern Daylight Time, on 8 June 1997 and, thereafter, a sum not exceeding a total of one billion United States dollars within a period of 60 days from 00.01 hours, Eastern Daylight Time, on 4 October 1997; and decided further that the provisions of paragraph 1 shall apply only to the period of implementation of Resolution 1111.

Resolution 1134 (1997) dated 23 October 1997 expressed the firm intention, if Iraq does not comply with paragraphs 2 and 3 of Resolution 1115, to adopt measures which would oblige all States to prevent without delay the entry into or transit through their territories of all Iraqi officials and members of the Iraqi armed forces who are responsible for or participate in the instances of non-compliance of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Resolution 1115. It decided not to conduct the reviews provided for in paragraphs 21 and 28 of Resolution 687 until after the next consolidated progress report of the Special Commission, due on 11 April 1998, after which those reviews will resume in accordance with Resolution 687, beginning on 26 April 1998.

Resolution 1137 (1997) dated 12 November 1997 imposed travel restrictions on all Iraqi officials and members of the Iraqi armed forces who were responsible for or participated in the instances of non-compliance including the denial of entry to Iraq to Special Commission officials on the grounds of their nationality and the denial of entry to sites designated by the Special Commission for inspection to Special Commission inspectors on the grounds of their nationality. The resolution decided that the review provided in paragraphs 21 and 28 of Resolution 687 shall resume in April 1998 in accordance with paragraph 8 of Resolution 1134, provided that the Government of Iraq shall have rescinded its decision of 29 October 1997 to impose conditions on cooperation with the Special Commission.

By Resolution 1143 (1997) of 4 December 1997 the Security Council decided that the provisions of Resolution 986, except those contained in paragraphs 4, 11 and 12, shall remain in force for another period of 180 days beginning at 00.01 hours, Eastern Standard Time, on 5 December 1997.

By Resolution 1153 (1998) of 20 February 1998 the Security Council decided that the provisions of Resolution 986, except those contained in paragraphs 4, 11 and 12, shall remain in force for a new period of 180 days beginning at 00.01 hours, Eastern Standard Time, on the day after the President of the Council has informed the members of the Council that he has received the report of the Secretary-General requested in paragraph 5 of Resolution 1153, on which date the provisions of Resolution 1143, if still in force, shall terminate, except as regards sums already produced pursuant to that resolution prior to that date.

Also by Resolution 1153, the Security Council decided that the authorization given to States by paragraph 1 of Resolution 986 shall permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq, including financial and other essential transactions directly relating thereto, sufficient to produce a sum, in the 180-day period referred to in paragraph 1 of Resolution 1153, not exceeding a total of 5.256 billion United States dollars, of which the amounts recommended by the Secretary-General for the food/nutrition and health sectors should be allocated on a priority basis, and of which between 682 million United States dollars and 788 million United States dollars shall be used for the purpose referred to in paragraph 8 (b) of Resolution 986, except that if less than 5.256 billion United States dollars worth of petroleum or petroleum products is sold during the 180 days period, particular attention will be paid to meeting the urgent humanitarian needs in the food/nutrition and health sectors and the Secretary-General may provide a proportionately smaller amount for the purpose referred to in paragraph 8 (b) of Resolution 986.

By Resolution 1158 (1998) of 25 March 1998 the Security Council decided that the provisions of Resolution 1143 shall remain in force, subject to the provisions of Resolution 1153, except that States are authorized to permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq, including financial and other essential transactions directly relating thereto, sufficient to produce a sum not exceeding a total of 1.4 billion United States dollars within the period of 90 days from 00.01 hours, Eastern Standard Time, on 5 March 1998.

Resolution 1175 (1998) of 19 June 1998 authorized States, subject to the provisions of paragraph 2 of the resolution, to permit, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 3 (c) of Resolution 661, the export to Iraq of the necessary parts and equipment to enable Iraq to increase the export of petroleum and petroleum products, in quantities sufficient to produce the sum established in paragraph 2 of Resolution 1153.

By the same resolution, the Committee established by Resolution 661, or a panel of experts appointed by that Committee may approve contracts for the parts and equipment and up to a total of 300 million United States dollars may be used for that purpose.

Resolution 1175 also noted that the distribution plan approved by the Secretary-General on 29 May 1998, or any new distribution plan agreed by the Government of Iraq and the Secretary-General, will remain in effect, as required, for each subsequent periodic renewal of the temporary humanitarian arrangements for Iraq and that, for this purpose, the plan will be kept under constant review and amended as necessary through the agreement of the Secretary-General and the Government of Iraq and in a manner consistent with Resolution 1153.

Resolution 1194 (1998) of 9 September 1998 decided not to conduct the review scheduled for October 1998 provided for in paragraphs 21 and 28 of Resolution 687, and not to conduct any further such reviews until Iraq rescinds its above-mentioned decision of 5 August 1998 and the Special Commission and the IAEA report to the Council that they are satisfied that they have been able to exercise the full range of activities provided for in their mandates, including inspections.

By Resolution 1194, the Security Council also reaffirmed its intention to act in accordance with the relevant provisions of Resolution 687 on the duration of the prohibitions referred to in that resolution and notes that by its failure so far to comply with its relevant obligations Iraq has delayed the moment when the Council can do so.

By Resolution 1210 (1998) of 24 November 1998, the Security Council decided that the provisions of Resolution 986, except those contained in paragraphs 4, 11 and 12, shall remain in force for a new period of 180 days beginning at 00.01 hours, Eastern Standard Time, on 26 November 1998. The resolution also decided that paragraph 2 of Resolution 1153 shall remain in force and shall apply to the above-mentioned 180-day period.

In January 1999, the Security Council decided to establish three panels on disarmament, humanitarian issues and prisoners of war and Kuwaiti property to discuss options that would lead to the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq. Ambassador Amorim (Brazil) chaired all three panels. He submitted the panels' reports in the spring of 1999 (S/1999/356), and the Council considered the recommendations contained therein.

Resolution 1242 (1999) of 21 May 1999, extended the oil-for-food programme for a further 180 days starting on 25 May 1999.

Resolution 1266 (1999) of 4 October 1999 decided that paragraph 2 of Resolution 1153, as extended by Resolution 1242, shall be modified to the extent necessary to authorize States to permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq, including financial and other essential transactions directly related thereto, sufficient to produce an additional sum, beyond that provided for by Resolution 1242, equivalent to the total shortfall of revenues authorized but not generated under Resolutions 1210 and 1153, 3.04 billion United States dollars, within the period of 180 days from 00.01 hours, eastern standard time, on 25 May 1999.

Resolution 1281 (1999) of 10 December 1999, extended the oil-for-food programme for a further 180 days starting on 12 December 1999 (phase VII).

On 17 December 1999, after several months of intensive consultations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1284 (1999), stressing the need for a comprehensive approach to the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions and Iraq compliance with these resolutions. The resolution established the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to undertake the responsibilities of the former UNSCOM, which was charged with monitoring the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The resolution also removed the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports and provided for additional specific arrangements for facilitating humanitarian supplies to Iraq, including the conditional suspension of the sanctions regime.

On 8 June 2000, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1302 (2000) by which it extended the "oil for food" programme for a further 180-day period beginning 9 June 2000. The Council repeatedly extended the programme for 180-day periods over the following years.

Then, on 14 May 2002, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1409 (2002), which adopted a revised Goods Review List of military-related goods or commodities, which was to enter into effect on 30 May 2002. From that date onward, States are authorised to sell or supply any commodities not included on the Goods Review List, while the Council would regularly conduct thorough reviews of the Goods Review List.
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NOBODY EXPECTS the IRAQI WEAPONS INSPECTIONS

REGIME change, folks, that's what it is all about. All the Iraqi offer of unconditional weapons' inspections has done is to confirm that the Bush Administration isn't interested in negotiations, the elimination of weapons or anything else. They want Saddam out--forget the reasons, we can talk about that later--and there is not a goddam thing anyone can do about it, least of all Saddam. Oh, I guess he could top himself on CNN: that might prevent a war.

The excellent Jeff Cooper has this to say on the recent Iraqi offer and US response:

The White House statement implies (though it does not explicitly state) that Iraq cannot adequately comply with Security Council resolutions as long as Hussein is in power. That may well be true. Certainly, the administration's hawks believe it to be true, to the limited extent they care at all about Security Council resolutions. But the case against Iraq would be significantly stronger if we were to demand a in inspections regime in which Iraq had no say over who the inspectors were, where they went and when, what they saw, and how long they took. If Iraq balked at such a regime, as I suspect they would in short order, the case for firm action would be strong. By not even allowing a limited period of time for an inspection demand to be made, the administration risks losing the support that had begun to gather.

I think this is right as far as it goes, but I think it also ultimately misses the point: the Bush Administration doesn't care about "losing the support that had begun to gather." That was all fig leaf anyway. GW said as much in his UN speech: "By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well."

In other words, unilateralism and you can come along for the ride if you like.

Repeat after me: regime change, regime change, regime change. Coming soon to a theatre of war near you.

Or near me, actually, as I live in Washington DC, surely a likely target of the limited sort of retaliation Iraq is capable of. George Bush warned the world not to take this bet:

The history, the logic and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble, and this is a risk we must not take.

But he is perfectly willing to take another bet, namely, that it is a full-scale attack against Saddam that will likely provoke a terrorist response. By what logic is the former bet unacceptable but the latter is okay?

Repeat after me: regime change, regime change, regime change.

Monday, September 16, 2002

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THE MORE THINGS REGIME CHANGE the MORE THEY STAY the SAME

I've just spent the last few hours (Monday night) watching various news and comment programs on the telly and it is amazing the extent to which the tone has changed. Beginning with Koffi Anan's announcement that he had received confirmation from Iraq (see full text immediately below), most reports were relatively neutral, simply reporting the fact, and showing over and over the footage of Annan making the announcement. Once the White House had responded (full text immediately below) the focus very quickly shifted to matters to do with "what does unconditional really mean?" (um, without conditions), "can we trust Saddam?", "this is just a ploy", "he's playing for time", and other such comments. In other words, they are already doing the job of preparing us for a complete White House rejection of the unconditional offer.

Still, it is going to be interesting to see how they go about this (though go about it they will, given this is and always has been about "regime change" and nothing less).

Regardless, they are going to have to come up with something more convincing than this:

"This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions."

given that the Iraqi letter says this:

The Government of the Republic of Iraq has based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire to complete the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Perhaps the pundits are right and Saddam will start fudging if and when the details of inspections begin to be discussed. But perhaps, also, Saddam is merely acting like the rational being we have been told to believe he isn't and, realising he is about to bombed, is making a last-ditch effort to avoid atomisation.

I suspect the White House will be unmoved by anything Iraq says or does, but it will be interesting to see how various allies react. I've already quoted the British govt. indicating that unconditional inspections are acceptable to them, and now even the Australian government has come out and said that this looks like a promising development.

But we all know who is really running this show, so I don't think I'd be sleeping any easier tonight if I were Saddam Hussein.
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TWO LETTERS

Here's what the letter from Iraq to the UN says, followed by the first response from the White House, who, surpise surprise, aren't accepting the unconditional offer:

Dear Secretary-General,

I have the honor to refer to the series of discussions held between Your Excellency and the Government of the Republic of Iraq on the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions on the question of Iraq which took place in New York on 7 March and 2 May and in Vienna on 4 July 2002, as well as the talks which were held in your office in New York on 14 and 15 September 2002, with the participation of the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

I am pleased to inform you of the decision of the Government of the Republic of Iraq to allow the return of the United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq without conditions.

The Government of the Republic of Iraq has responded, by this decision, to your appeal, to the appeal of the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, as well as those of Arab, Islamic and other friendly countries.

The Government of the Republic of Iraq has based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire to complete the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. This decision is also based on your statement to the General Assembly on 12 September 2002 that the decision by the Government of the Republic of Iraq is the indispensable first step towards an assurance that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and, equally importantly, towards a comprehensive solution that includes the lifting of sanctions imposed in Iraq and the timely implementation of other provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 687(1991). T this end, the Government of the Republic of Iraq is ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the immediate resumption of inspections.

In this context, the Government of the Republic of Iraq reiterates the importance of the commitment of all Member States of the Security Council and the United Nations to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq, as stipulated in the relevant Security Council resolutions and article (II) of the Charter of the United Nations.

I would be grateful if you would bring this letter to the attention of the Security Council members.

Please accept, Mr. Secretary-General the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Naji Sabri

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Republic of Iraq


The text of a statement by the White House in response to Iraq's offer for the unconditional return of weapons inspectors:
As the president said, the U.N. Security Council needs to decide how to enforce its own resolutions, which the Iraqi regime has defied for more than a decade.

This will require a new, effective U.N. Security Council resolution that will actually deal with the threat Saddam Hussein poses to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to the world. That is the course the Security Council is on, and the United States is engaged in consultations with Council members and other partners in New York at this time.

This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions.

This is a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong U.N. Security Council action. As such, it is a tactic that will fail.

It is time for the Security Council to act.





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WITH US OR AGAINST US

This is how one source (scroll to box about half way down) sums up world support for an invasion of Iraq:

With the US

Israel: A firm supporter of the U.S. policy to oust Saddam Hussein, the government has urged President Bush not to delay military action. Meantime, the Israeli public is being prepared for retaliatory Iraqi missile attacks in the event of an American attack.
Britain: Prime Minister Tony Blair has emerged as Washington's strongest U.S. ally in Europe. Despite skepticism among the British public and within his own Labor Party about his pro-U.S. advocacy, Blair has warned that Saddam Hussein faces military action if he continues to defy U.N. demands for the return of weapons inspectors.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
May support the US

Australia: The government has promised to give “serious consideration” to a request for military help from the United States.
Bahrain: Headquarters of the Navy’s 5th fleet, the tiny Persian Gulf island is already home to more than 4,000 U.S. troops. The government, while officially opposed to military action against Iraq, is expected to allow the U.S. to operate from its bases in the country.
Kuwait: No friend of Saddam Hussein, Kuwait has expressed reservations about a U.S. attack but would likely help in the event of military action. There already are thousands U.S. Army soldiers are based in Camp Doha near Kuwait City.
Qatar: Although officially opposed to an attack, the government has permitted the United States to rapidly upgrade its al Udeid air base over the past year. Commander of U.S. Central Command Tommy Franks has said the base is being developed for "times of crisis."
Saudi Arabia: A key ally during the Gulf War, the kingdom has indicated it will support a new campaign if it authorized by the United Nations. The stance, articulated in mid September, is a switch from a policy of outright rejection that Saudi Arabia had initially expressed.
Turkey: NATO member and Iraq neighbor, the government is worried about the fallout from a “regime change” in Baghdad, especially when it comes to the separatist aspirations of restless Kurds in northern Iraq and Turkey.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arab Opposition
Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak says there is not enough evidence to justify military action.
Jordan: King Abdullah has campaigned against a military strike and said Jordan will not allow U.S. troops to operate from its territory.
Syria: Damascus, while no friend of Saddam Hussein, is opposed to U.S. action.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other Opposition

Canada: “Unlikely” to join a U.S.-led invasion unless proof emerges that Saddam Hussein plans to attack the Western world.
China: Opposes military action, demands the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq.
Germany: The government, in the midst of an election battle, has been loudest among the European allies in criticizing U.S. plans.
India: Opposes armed action against any country, “more particularly with the avowed purpose of changing a regime.”
Iran: Tehran is strongly opposed to U.S. plans.
Russia: Moscow staunchly opposes U.S. action and has recently improved its own relations with the Iraqi government.
United Nations: Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the United States to resist attacking Iraq.
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WANT TO AVOID A WAR IN IRAQ? INTRODUCE CONSCRIPTION

The US has already mobilised National Guard Troops and Reserve Units, but there has been a little bit of talk around about the reintroduction of conscription. If you want to see the exact point where free market self-interest meets the rhetoric of patriotism, I would suggest it is at precisley the point where the patriot is forced to join the army.

In fact, it is the libertarians who have been doing most of the talking.
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WAS THIS PART OF THE PLAN?

Of course it is way too early to know what to make of the apparent offer by Iraq to allow unconditional inspections of its weapons facilities, but it does throw up some interesting speculation. William Saffire suggested today that Bush was relying on Saddam not letting inspectors in:

But the quadruple-ultimata strategy adopted by Bush, while it wins praise for uncowboyesque caution from multilateralist media and relieved U.N. officials, depends entirely on the dependability of Saddam.

For this approach to succeed in overthrowing the dangerous dictatorship, the White House is relying on Baghdad to show not merely consistency in recalcitrance, but an insufferable, infuriating intractability in intransigence. Bush is betting that Saddam will (a) reject the U.N resolutions as humiliating or (b) accept the final-final warning and then negotiate endlessly with the inspectors so as to make their mission impossible.

The basis for this gamble is Bush's certainty, based on the logical extrapolation of past and present intelligence reports, that Saddam has evidence of mass-murder weaponry to hide. The Iraqi dictator cannot accede to coercive inspection, enforced by U.N. troops, without blowing up what has cost him more than $100 billion in a decade's oil revenues to build.

That would not be like Saddam. And on that presumed defiance rests Bush's diplomatic strategy.


If that is the case, this latest development, if it pans out, means it's back to the drawing board. What outs has Bush left himself in the light of such a development? My early guess is that it will have something to do with this soon-to-released British report which allegedly shows a link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Or maybe Bush will just settle for inspections. Wadderyareckon the chances of that?

Don't forget though, the Brits have been saying that Saddam can avert war if he lets inspectors in. Over to you Tony Blair.
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MORE ON INSPECTIONS

Here's the main bits of the MSNBC story about Iraq's announcement to allow weapon inspections (there's more here, but it's mainly padding):

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 16 — U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced Monday evening that Iraq had agreed to accept a new round of weapons inspections without condition. The news came as the United States pressed key U.N. members to draft a resolution setting a deadline for Baghdad to comply with its previous commitments to disarm and prove that it had destroyed all biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

“I CAN CONFIRM to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying their decision to allow the return of the inspectors without conditions,” Annan told reporters.

“There is good news,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said moments earlier.

Sabri and Arab League chief Amr Moussa met late with Annan and transmitted a letter from the Iraqi government on the inspectors’ return.
Under Security Council resolutions, sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that its weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed. Inspectors left the country four years ago ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes to punish Iraq for not cooperating with inspections.

Since then, Iraq has refused to allow inspectors to return, and the stalemate has split the United States, Britain, Russian, France and China — the five powerful members of the U.N. Security Council.

Earlier in the day, the United States appeared to be making strides toward garnering international support for its Iraq policy as Secretary of State Colin Powell held talks with key Security Council members. One U.S. official told NBC News that the Bush administration was optimistic that a new U.N. resolution calling on Baghdad to comply with long-standing U.N. resolutions would be drafted by the end of the week.

The turnabout in Iraq, after four years of stalemate, came days after President Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly debate and said that Iraq must comply with Security Council resolutions or face the consequences.

Annan credited Bush late Monday. “I believe the president’s speech galvanized the international community,” he said.

There was no immediate response from the White House. Top Bush aides huddled after Annan’s announcement, preparing a response.


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THE PRICE of EVERYTHING, the VALUE OF NOTHING

And while we're thinking about that little piece of fast breaking news and waiting for more info, consider this:

President Bush’s chief economic adviser estimates that the U.S. may have to spend between $100 billion and $200 billion to wage a war in Iraq, but doubts that the hostilities would push the nation into recession or a sustained period of inflation.

This is reported by the subscription-only Wall Street Journal, but you can get the whole story here, for some reason.

In an interview in his White House office, Mr. Lindsey dismissed the economic consequences of such spending, saying it wouldn’t have an appreciable effect on interest rates or add much to the federal debt, which is already about $3.6 trillion. “One year” of additional spending? he said. “That’s nothing.”

Taxpayers will be thrilled with this assessment, I'm sure. No wonder the guys over at Cato are anti-war.
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INSPECTIONS ALLOWED

Just watching MSNBC and Koffi Anan has come on saying that he has been contacted by Iraq and they will let in weapons' inspectors, unconditionally. And so begins phase two.
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VICARIOUS WARMONGERING

If you've been all revved up by George W. and co and just want to kick nasty, foreign butt, but don't really have the time or inclination to join the actual armed forces, then this is the site for you. As it says:

America is ANGRY, and we're here to help! Newgrounds fans have been submitting tons of anti-Osama games and movies, so we have picked out the best (?) ones to showcase here! Also be sure to check out the crazy Osama shirts and other merchandise! They rock!

You might like some of these games:

WAR ON TERRORISM II - Four new missions to blow away terrorist scum bags!
AL QUAIDAMON - Your very own war prisoner! How will you treat him?
TALIBAN WOMEN'S REVOLT - The Taliban women are pissed! Plenty of comic nudity, violence and oddball gags in this one!

There's plenty more games. There are also links to pictures of lesbians.

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NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER JOINS BEAUTY BOYCOTT

Following in the wake of Miss Switzerland's decision to boycott the Miss World pageant to be held in Nigeria, New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, has called on her country's entrant to also withdraw from the event as a form of protest against the proposed stoning of a Nigerian woman convicted of adultery.

Doesn't look like the PM has a lot of support from those involved in the pageant in the land of the long white cloud. The organisers of Miss New Zealand have said "they will not buckle to growing pressure to boycott the pageant":

Miss New Zealand organiser Mark Taylor said last week the situation in Nigeria was being monitored by Miss World organisers.

"There is still a couple of months to go before the event and a lot can happen before then," he said.

"In a lot of ways, more can be done by being there and having something to say. And from what I can tell reading about it, nobody has ever actually been stoned."


The New Zealand entrant herself, Rachel Huljich, according to news reports thought that, "Nigerian court decisions to execute women convicted of adultery were disgraceful but she still hoped the pageant went ahead."

In slightly more encouraging news, the paper reports that "France, Belgium, Ivory Coast, Norway and Kenya have boycotted the event, while The Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Togo, Bulgaria and Poland are all considering a boycott."

And Australia? The US? Are they even in it?

Next year's final will be held in Iraq.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

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THANK GOD WE don't have a HI-TECH INDUSTRY in AUSTRALIA

Via Brad de Long, a Wall Street Journal article that argues that most of the gains to be had in cost-saving through the use of IT tend to accrue to the user and not the producer of said IT. It uses Australia as its main example:

...Ireland is proudly turning itself into the Silicon Isle. The Philippines and Thailand boast of their electronics exports. But one of the biggest beneficiaries from information technology is Australia, which hasn't any high-tech industry at all. Yet it is one of the few economies to have enjoyed a 1990s surge in productivity (or output for each hour of work) as impressive as the one the U.S. has seen. Its secret: import high-tech gear that others make. As in the U.S., the spread of bar-coding, scanning and inventory-management systems is making Australian wholesalers much more efficient, and that is paying economywide dividends. Compared to its population, Australia has more secure servers, the sort used in e-commerce, than anyone else besides the U.S. and Iceland (that is another story).

"Australia is far better off being an importer of information- and communications-technology equipment than a producer," says Dean Parnham, an economist at the government's Productivity Commission. "We take advantage of the productivity gains that are generated by the producing countries through lower prices." Each pound of Australian beef exports buys ever-more powerful computers. Because of falling prices for high-tech gear, Southeast Asian chip-making countries have to make ever-more powerful computers to buy a pound of that Australian beef.

High-tech producers get pretty plants, some high-wage jobs and lots of glory, but as the prices of their exports fall, more of the benefits accrue to consumers elsewhere, International Monetary Fund economists Tamim Bayoumi and Markus Haacker observe...


David Ricardo would be thrilled, though one wonders if Silicon Valley would have been better off staying a cannery.
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GO MISS SWITZERLAND

Apart from enjoying water skiing, macrame and meeting people, Miss Switzerland, Nadine Vinzens, has also made the best feminist gesture of the last little while. She is refusing to take part in the Miss World beauty contest, due to be held in Nigeria in November, in protest at the scheduled stoning to death of Nigerian woman for having a child out of wedlock:

"If I went there (to Nigeria), I would be seen as supporting all that," 19-year-old Miss Switzerland, Nadine Vinzens, told the mass-circulation Blick newspaper, referring to the sentence of death by stoning handed down by an Islamic court in northern Nigeria against Amina Lawal, a single mother.

Good on her. I don't know if it will do any good, but full marks for effort in the face of this unforgivable act of barbarity. But can someone tell me why the organisers of this event thought Nigeria was a good location in the first place?
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OOGA BOOGA

A brief report in The Sydney Morning Herald anticipates a British report that will apparently show an Osama/Saddam link:

The British Government's long-awaited dossier on Iraq will reveal what it claims is the first definitive evidence that Saddam Hussein trained some of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants as terrorists.

Be interesting to see what is made of this. (Didn't American flight schools train the guys who flew the 911 planes?) Actually it won't be interesting at all. The article already states the blindingly obvious outcome:

The United States and Britain will use the information to back their case for an attack on Iraq as the United Nations drafts a resolution calling on Saddam to allow in weapons inspectors.
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HUBRIS WATCH - a continuing series

Robert Corr links to this story by Alan Ramsey of The Sydney Morning Herald and extracts this poignant, precise quote:

I am not anti-American and I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-bullshit. And what I do resent, deeply, is that so many Americans think and behave as if nothing ever happens unless it happens to their country, and then, when it does happen to them, that somehow it is uniquely their experience.

Of course, the hubris goes further, in the constant, unthinking recitation (by figures within the American media particularly) of a creed where all that is good in the world is either only possible in, or because of, America. All that is good in the world is subsumed under the adjective "American" and the rest of us are asked to realise (poor fools that we are) that those goods that are available to us are there only at the behest of American munificence. To whit, Thomas Friedman spouting, apparently seriously, in today's NY Times:

First, for all the noise out there about rising anti-Americanism, America remains the unrivaled leader of the world — the big power, which makes its share of mistakes, but without which nothing good happens.

But, second, while our leadership requires American valor, it is ultimately based on American values. That is, what gives America its unprecedented power and influence today is the fact that, more than at any time in history, the world has come to accept the Western values of peace, democracy and free markets — around which American society is organized. That is the truly significant trend in the world today — not terrorism or anti-Americanism.


I look forward to hearing from all the knee-jerking rightwing dickheads who now wish to sear "anti-American" across my forehead.
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SELECTIVE MEMORY

The New York Times today has a fantastic photo of then-Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac of France (now President) showing Saddam Hussein around a French nuclear power plant in 1975 (the photo looks better in the paper than on the website--they all look so youthful and normal--but use your zoom-in function to enlarge the electronic version). The accompanying article points out that:

PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRAC no longer thinks the way he did 27 years ago when, as France's Prime Minister, he welcomed an up-and-coming young leader named Saddam Hussein to Paris, invited him home for the weekend, showed him around a French nuclear installation, called him a "personal friend" and offered his "esteem" and his "affection."

The entire article is devoted to showing what an awkward position the French are now in given that Saddam is well and truly back on the "people we don't care" list just updated by the Bush Administration. Journalist Elaine Sciolino takes great delight in pointing out, to use a pun that is much in fashion at the moment, that France is between Iraq and a hard place:

So, after years of antagonizing, criticizing, baiting and disdaining its ally, there are strong signs that France is groping for a new, more openly cooperative, relationship.

You get the picture: those bloody pansy Europeans only have their own vile hypocrisy to blame for their current discomfort. If only they had our moral certitude. Unbelievably, the article fails to mention once that the US also supported Saddam Hussein, supplied him with cash and weapons and had their very own little love affair with today's Great Satan.

Little note to the American press: next time you feel compelled to ask yourself questions like why do they hate us? in those hurt, injured tones of innocence that you reserve for such moments, you might want to look up steaming hypocritical bullshit in a dictionary.

Interestingly, the article has a great quote attributed to "senior French official" (which, given that Chirac is also interviewed, I would take to mean Jacques himself) that is starting to get close to the real politik of the situation:

"In a sense we're trapped," said a senior French official. "On the one side there are the Americans and the British. On the other side are the Russians and the Chinese. We have to choose our camp. Ultimately, we will want to re-engage in Iraq. We built a strategic relationship there. We have a market. We want the oil and we want to be in the game of rebuilding the country. If there were a new regime and we have not been with the Americans, where will we be?"

When Rome wants regime change, it is as well to remember that no-one can be exempt.
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AN EYE for an EYE and WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME FOR THAT AIRBASE?

The once and future ruler of the known universe, George W. Bush, made this comment during his speech to the UN on Thursday:

"Many nations represented here have joined in the fight against global terror and the people of the United States are grateful."

No doubt many were grateful you're grateful, George. Lickspittle's like John Howard and his lickspittle supporters in the press and on the blogs only seem to want the good graces of the American demi-god in order to suit up (or more accurately, insist that others suit up) and go off to bomb the crap out of this week's bogeyman. Former lickspittle Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, actually rang up the other George Bush at the time of the other Gulf War (do I detect a pattern?) and asked to be asked to commit Australian troops. But as this article points out, others quite sensibly demand rather more material rewards for their loyalty and support:

U.S. officials expect the Turks to ask for weapons and debt relief, the Russians and French for access to Iraqi oilfield business, the Qataris for cash to build an air base, and the Jordanians for guarantees of oil and trade. Officials expect many other countries to join the horse trading, and predict that they won't be shy.

Why should they be shy? If the hegemon du jour requires this and that in order to maintain and expand their empire, why shouldn't the others get in for their cut? This is the logic of the system we are forced to deal with, in and through, so the article mentioned and some of the US officials and commentators quoted in it would do well to drop the superior-and-slightly-disgusted tone they employ. Don't mock the fleas on others when you are the dog from which they caught them, as the old saying doesn't quite say.
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COMING SOON to a LUNG NEAR YOU: PRIVATISED AIR

Not really, but plans are well under way to bring that other essential ingredient of earthly life under corporate control with the privatisation of the world's water. Excuse my common sense, but if the neo-liberal geniuses who promote this sort of thing can't manage to make a success of something as relatively simply as British Rail, you'll excuse my scepticism about their chances of success with the world's water. As this Guardian article points out, even with everything going for them, from willing financiers to compliant governments, many of the privatiation projects instigated in Britain over the past thirty years have been failures or are failures waiting to happen. But still the ideologues continue to push forward with their bleak plans, taking us down the road of the battle of the few against the many, all in the name of freedom of course, releasing us from the dead hand of governemnt (and into the iron grip of corporate control). So while it might be okay to be asked not to use a particular train for a week while the latest system failure is dealt with, my self-maximising, homo economicus self just can't see the advantages to my liberty encoded in a request not to have a drink of water for the next week. This article (part of a series) will bring you up to date with the latest criminal machinations of the Enrons of H2O.

Incidentally, the aforementioned Guardian article begins with this teaser quote. See if you can guess who said it before clicking the link:

"Public utilities like telecom and gas and essential industries such as British Airways were sold off by the Tories in the closest thing, post war, to legalised political corruption. What we all owned was taken away from us, flogged off at a cheap price to win votes and the proceeds used to fund tax cuts. In fact it was a unique form of corruption since we were bribed with our own money."
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THE WAR PRAYER

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering;

So begins Mark Twain's short story, The War Prayer, "Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere." It was written in response to the proposed US/Phillipine War, 1899-1902, and I was reminded of it by the editorial in the current edition of Harpers (no link). The whole thing is pretty brief but the relevant portion is the prayer itself, recited by a stranger who walks into a church hwere the congregations has been listening to sermons on the excellence of the proposed invasion:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.


See Jim Zwick's "Mark Twain Page" for more of Twain's writings on the subject.