Big up to the thoughtful and crazy Farris Hassan

It's all very poetic, even though crazy. I mean, you're 16 dude. Chill.

Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare. But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

Immanuel Wallerstein: The U.S. has lost the Iraq war

Yale geopolitical guru, Immanuel Wallerstein, registered this opinion back in August of this year. I missed it completely, so I'm posting it in its entirety now. Following his August opinion is another short commentary piece from a couple weeks ago.

Commentary No. 167, Aug. 15, 2005

"The U.S. Has Lost the Iraq War"

It's over. For the U.S. to win the Iraq war requires three things: defeating the Iraqi resistance; establishing a stable government in Iraq that is friendly to the U.S.; maintaining the support of the American people while the first two are being done. None of these three seem any longer possible. First, the U.S. military itself no longer believes it can defeat the resistance. Secondly, the likelihood that the Iraqi politicians can agree on a constitution is almost nil, and therefore the likelihood of a minimally stable central government is almost nil. Thirdly, the U.S. public is turning against the war because it sees no "light at the end of the tunnel."

As a result, the Bush regime is in an impossible position. It would like to withdraw in a dignified manner, asserting some semblance of victory. But, if it tries to do this, it will face ferocious anger and deception on the part of the war party at home. And if it does not, it will face ferocious anger on the part of the withdrawal party. It will end up satisfying neither, lose face precipitously, and be remembered in ignominy.

Let us see what is happening. This month, Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commanding general in Iraq, suggested that it may be possible to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq next year by 30,000, given improvements in the ability of the Iraqi government's armed forces to handle the situation. Almost immediately, this position came under attack from the war party, and the Pentagon amended this statement to suggest that maybe this wouldn't happen, since maybe the Iraqi forces were not yet ready to handle the situation, which is surely so. At the same time, stories appeared in the leading newspapers suggesting that the level of military sophistication of the insurgent forces has been growing steadily and remarkably. And the increased rate of killings of U.S. soldiers certainly bears this out.

In the debate on the Iraqi constitution, there are two major problems. One is the degree to which the constitution will institutionalize Islamic law. It is conceivable that, given enough time and trust, there could be a compromise on this issue that would more or less satisfy most sides. But the second issue is more intractable. The Kurds, who still really want an independent state, will not settle for less than a federal structure that will guarantee their autonomy, the maintenance of their militia, and control of Kirkuk as their capital and its oil resources as their booty. The Shiites are currently divided between those who feel like the Kurds and want a federal structure, and those who prefer a strong central government provided they can control it and its resources, and provided that it will have an Islamic flavor. And the Sunnis are desperate to maintain a united state, one in which they will minimally get their fair share, and certainly don't want a state governed by Shia interpretations of Islam.

The U.S. has been trying to encourage some compromise, but it is hard to see what this might be. So, two possibilities are before us right now. The Iraqis paper over the differences in some way that will not last long. Or there is a more immediate breakdown in negotiations. Neither of these meets the needs of the U.S. Of course, there is one solution that might end the deadlock. The Iraqi politicians could join the resisters in a nationalist anti-American thrust, and thereby unite at least the non-Kurd part of the population. This development is not to be ruled out, and of course is a nightmare from the U.S. point of view.

But, for the Bush regime, the worst picture of all is on the home front. Approval rating of Bush for the conduct of the Iraqi war has gone down to 36 percent. The figures have been going steadily down for some time and should continue to do so. For poor George Bush is now faced with the vigil of Cindy Sheehan. She is a 48-year-old mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq a year ago. Incensed by Bush's statement that the U.S. soldiers died in a "noble cause," she decided to go to Crawford, Texas, and ask to see the president so that he could explain to her for what "noble cause" her son died.

Of course, George W. Bush hasn't had the courage to see her. He sent out emissaries. She said this wasn't enough, that she wanted to see Bush personally. She has now said that she will maintain a vigil outside Bush's home until either he sees her or she is arrested. At first, the press ignored her. But now, other mothers of soldiers in Iraq have come to join her. She is getting moral support from more and more people who had previously supported the war. And the national press now has turned her into a major celebrity, some comparing her to Rosa Parks, the Black woman whose refusal to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama a half-century ago was the spark that transformed the struggle for Black rights into a mainstream cause.

Bush won't see her because he knows there is nothing that he can say to her. Seeing her is a losing proposition. But so is not seeing her. The pressure to withdraw from Iraq is now becoming mainstream. It is not because the U.S. public shares the view that the U.S. is an imperialist power in Iraq. It is because there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Or rather there is a light, the light an acerbic Canadian cartoonist for the Calgary Sun drew recently. He shows a U.S. soldier in a dark tunnel approaching someone to whose body is attached an array of explosives. The light comes from the match he is holding to the wick that will cause them to explode. In the month following the attacks in London and the high level of U.S. deaths in Iraq, this is the light that the U.S. public is beginning to see. They want out. Bush is caught in an insoluble dilemma. The war is lost.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically or e-mail to others and to post this text on non-commercial community Internet sites, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To translate this text, publish it in printed and/or other forms, including commercial Internet sites and excerpts, contact the author at immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu; fax: 1-203-432-6976.

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Here's the more recent commentary from Wallerstein. You can find many other short pieces written by him in the last 7 years right here. They are translated into 31, yes thirty one, languages.

Commentary No. 175, Dec. 15, 2005

"Losing One's Nerve in Iraq"

In response to the ever-growing sense that the United States is doing poorly in Iraq, indeed in the view of many is actually losing the war, the U.S. government has launched a campaign to persuade everyone that this is not so. In November, 2005, the U.S. National Security Council published, with great fanfare, a document entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." And President Bush has been pushing its line vociferously in public speeches.

What this document argues is that victory is occurring, but occurring in stages, that victory is a vital U.S. interest, that the U.S. has a quite clear strategy for victory, but that this victory will take time. The key sentence in this wordy document, which evades all concrete analysis of what is actually going on, is a quote from President Bush's speech on Oct. 6, 2005: "In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will keep our nerve, and we will win that victory."

We will keep our nerve, says Bush. But his Rasputin, Vice-President Cheney, is not so sure, since he constantly asserts that U.S. critics of the Bush administration, however mild their criticism, are undermining this "nerve" and risk making the U.S. lose its resolve. The number of Republican Congressmen and Senators who are worried that the voters have already lost their "nerve" and might vote against them seems to be increasing at a very rapid pace, and seems to be having a great impact on the "nerve" of these Republican politicians.

When Rep. John Murtha, ex-Marine and longtime stalwart hawk, called for pulling out of Iraq, most commentators felt he was the unofficial voice of large numbers of senior military officers who were unable to voice their concerns publicly. Is this loss of their nerve? Neither Murtha nor the hidden senior military officers would define it this way. They see a situation in which the U.S. will not at all be able to win the kind of victory Bush is talking about, and by staying in Iraq they believe that the U.S. armed forces are being weakened as a military force able to do its work elsewhere in the world. They want to cut their losses before the U.S. armed forces lose even more.

It seems clear now that virtually every member of the U.S. coalition that has military forces in Iraq intends to reduce its number, if not fully withdraw them, in 2006. It seems fairly clear that the U.S. itself will do this. Nobody of course admits to losing their nerve, but public opinion at home and impending elections are taking their toll.

What about the Iraqis? There are two main groups of Iraqis - those who are energetically fighting the U.S. forces and any Iraqis thought to be cooperating with them, and the others. Those who are energetically fighting the U.S. are said, in this U.S. document, to be composed of three groups: rejectionists (Sunni Arabs who have not "embraced" the changes); Saddamists (who wish to restore the old regime), and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaeda. The U.S., according to this document, has more or less given up on the latter two categories but hopes to persuade "many" of the first group to reduce their opposition. There does not however seem to be much evidence that this is happening. In short, those whom the U.S. calls its "enemies" do not seem to have lost their nerve, or their competence in fighting.

But what about the other Iraqis? Here the U.S. seems to be counting on the new Iraqi security forces, presumably under the authority of the new Iraqi government. I say presumably because it is obvious that these security forces are deeply infiltrated both by the "enemies" of the U.S. and by various militias - two kinds of Kurdish militias, and at least three kinds of Shi'a militias - who are pursuing their own objectives under the cover of being the national army. The U.S. says it is counting on these security forces to take over its task of fighting the "enemy" - that is, those who reject all legitimacy to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

But is the objective of those who control various parts of the new security forces really the same as those of the Bush regime? Do they intend to be "a full partner in the global war on terrorism" - the longer-term goal of the U.S. according to this document? Is this credible over the longer run? Even if those who are in the new government now are still there two years from now (itself a dubious proposition), why would they want to play this role when it can only make it more difficult to create even a moderately stable political situation in Iraq?

And finally, among winners and losers, more attention is being paid by observers today to the possibility that the big winner will be Iran. It is not that even a Shia-dominated government in Iraq will be in any sense a stooge of the Iranians. It is simply that they will not in any way want to play a role of being hostile to Iran, and therefore could not, will not, be sympathetic to U.S. objectives vis-a-vis Iran.

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls in Iraq. They toll for George W. Bush, and the United States. Bush claimed the U.S. went into Iraq so that it would not have to fight this "war" on U.S. soil. But the contrary is happening. The turmoil is coming to U.S. soil with a vengeance. One of the claims as to why the U.S. should not immediately withdraw from Iraq is that it might result in an Iraqi civil war. But no one discusses what kind of civil war might be in the process of developing in the United States.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact: rights@agenceglobal.com, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu.

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Another Christmas...and Jesus is stifled once more.

Merry Christmas to you!

IF you celebrate it for the right reasons! Some of the wrong reasons are illustrated in this video quite eloquently. I left town and forgot my charger, so I couldn't send my well wishes on time.

Not that I'm an authority on anything religious, but I think there needs to be a movement to focus Christianity on the humanity of Jesus. This is the essence of the Nestorian faith, which my family follows. And on that note, sometimes I wish even members of my family would re-calibrate their focus on this exact thing...so I'm not just complaining aboutsome lunatic evangelicals.

Hallelujah Links:

Wizard of Oil: a short play-spoof with pictures
Best of the Chappelle Show & another place to find the videos.
Black Bush: my favorite Chappelle Show skit
Shock, awe and Hobbes have backfired on America's neocons

But seriously...

The alarm is sounding. The game is over. Iraq is disintegrating.

Iraq a religious state...or for you'z who are caught up in details, Iraq as a state run by de facto religious edict. Iraq has become ironically like America. And America more like Iraq, one could argue.

So, Iraq as a religious state...for a while at least. How depressing.

And imagine, I was hoping Allawi the Unjust would win. But King George has indeed lost his grip on Iraq...which is why he has renounced defeating nationalist Iraqis having nothing to do with terrorists. What he's done is become a self-fulfilling prophecy by making Iraq into this hellish fundamentalist nightmare. And that's all he seems to know, fundamentalism. Like I said many times before...these two groups supposidly fighting each other, are really just helping one another radicalize their respective populations.

Bush will only be remembered in history for creating the second Islamic republic in the region. The Islamic Republic of Iraq.

I voted for Charles Darwin

That's right. In America I voted for Charles Darwin and in Iraq's election I did the same.

Why? Because here's a list of the Iraqi academics murdered in frigid blood since the war began.

Who said it? "Darwin was the most important person to live on earth."

Who said it? "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator."

Who said it? "I take an oath of office to the Constitution. I don't take an oath of office to the vice president, a president or a political party. My obligation and responsibility are to the people I represent and the country I serve. I do what I think is right for the people I represent and the country I serve." [user id/password= dailykos/dailykos]

Who wrote it?
"While U.S. President George W. Bush continued to claim a strategy for "victory" in Iraq in recent speeches, his administration has quietly renounced the goal of defeating the non-al Qaeda Sunni armed organisations there.

The administration is evidently preparing for serious negotiations with the Sunni insurgents, whom it has started referring to as "nationalists", emphasising their opposition to al Qaeda's objectives.

The new policy has thus far gone unnoticed in the media, partly because it has only been articulated by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the spokesman for the U.S. command in Baghdad.

The White House clearly recognises that the shift could cause serious political problems if and when it becomes widely understood. The Republican Party has just unveiled a new television ad attacking Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean for suggesting that the war in Iraq cannot be won.

Renouncing victory over the Sunni insurgents therefore undercuts the president's political strategy of portraying his policy as one of "staying the course" and attacking the democrats for "cutting and running".

good website: http://www.infidels.org/

read charles darwin online now

and vote for him in your next election.

darwin help us all.

King George, we want some congressional hearings. Your attendance is required.

We thought you had changed for a split second by admitting the Iraq war was based on faulty intelligence (well, not really). But you hadn't. What's more, you summoned the editor and publisher of the NY Times (pictured below) to the Oval Office to try to talk them out of running the NSA spying program story! And why oh why were those punks at the Times holding on to this story for a whole year?

How can you claim to be establishing a constitutional democracy in Iraq when you do not even respect the constitutional democracy of which you are supposidly the commander-in-chief of?

Why do you reject the fact you have circumvented the constitution and claimed such supreme authority over all Americans by virtue of your NSA spying program?

You are operating above the lawKing George. This is why Arlen Specter and I want some congressional hearings. You cannot camoflauge this any longer with your script writers at the Times and the Post. BTW have you ever even read 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillence Act? Get somebody to make you an mp3 and stick it in your rotation of the Geneva Convention and the Bill of Rights...right there on your iPOD.

Update: Now there are reports that a member of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court resigns amid worry that Bush-authorized domestic surveillance program would taint court's efforts. I bet you anything he's immensely pissed off.

Listen to this in an article just published by the Post (by a journalist who is presumably not a Woodward. Because Bobby "Big Bucks" would never write hurtfully about our Great King).

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Ok, any person with at least, and i mean at least, three brain cells would know that"...privately expressed deep concern..." are code words for "furious with the rage of everything that is holy"...or something to that effect. If you have only two, I'm afraid this will make no sense to you.

Chomsky on Iraq: An interview by Andy Clark

A very good way to spend an hour receiving a reality-check.

Iraq on the Record: Cataloguing the lies...

...on the quest to control the world's energy sources.

Iraq on the Record is exactly the starting point one needs to bring greater perspective on most (if not all) the bald-faced lies told by members of the current administration to America and the world.

Thanks to Keld and LBird for the link.

TUrkish gENocIDe = ARmeNiaN HoLocAUsT: learn history punks

oh ok sure so you say something which is historic fact, that one and a half million armenians and thousands of others from various ethnic groups were killed and dont forget scores of thousands more persecuted out of modern turkey into various periphery areas (including northern iraq), and you're told you're going to jail. animals. this by a turkish government whose human rights record rivals the worst of modern man...and this by a turkish government who wants to enter the EU. GRRRRR, free up your speech and make us think you really want it baby. get fit with the right to say whatever you like you bloody wankers. speech crime in the EU? what are we in frickin saddam's iraq? mubarak's egypt? america circa 2003?

this is a future nobel peace prize winner to boot. yea, go for the gold ottoman kumquats for brains.

The Dick is defeated: torture legislation passed

It's hard to believe, but Dick Cheney and his underlings have been soundly defeated as John McCain's torture legislation banning the use of torture passed in the US Congress. Bush obviously can't afford to thumb his nose at the world any more. He ran out of that specific sort of "political capital" a while back.

What I don't like is when they had the press conference to confirm its passage, McCain was behaving as if the ban was in place since the war on a concept (which is terror) began. So lets be clear as McCain says:

We've sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists

Ok. If we believe Senator McCain, before today the United States was precisely like the terrorists because they did, in fact, torture people. Don't get me wrong, though, this is a necessary step and I commend Mr. Captured and Tortured in Vietnam While Bush and Cheney Chickened-out for forcing the Cheney hand. Thankfully the political climate allowed for an easy passage of the measure.

You GOT, No where to run to...No where to hide....lalala

On a more collectively locked-down note, the elections appear to be going swimmingly. And people have been able to walk down their street for the first time since the last couple votes. But seriously, I suggest we have one election per week to give Iraqis one sorely deserved break per week while living-in and dealing-with the daily violence. Also, I'll find out how my family voted, but I suspect they have laid it down for Allawi or some secular party that won't win. You know, an Iraqi Ralph Nader I guess. I wonder who the equivalent would be. I've been unable to read up on the more obscure candidates because of my studies.

I will have a longer post on the elections l8r on.


Bush to his base: "You might not have a job or insurance, but I'll make sure those gay people don't marry for you. Because I am the conduit of God."

...the Bush version, the rich again provide the cash and religious conservatives provide the votes. The wealthy have been rewarded with tax cuts, the evangelicals with hard-line conservative policies on abortion, gay rights and a school prayer.

Because the universe of Bush the younger would not be possible without evangelicals. Then we may conclude the fact that some people are so ignorant and narrow-minded in America is the reason why Bush/Cheney are still in power. How everybody, the rich industrialist and the usually poor evangelical, thinks they are really being rewarded in this is beyond me.

This is why I am suspect as to whether it is indeed true that Bush is left in a separate religious world as some people associated with the white house have claimed. But if the previous conclusion is true, then Bush gets the best of both worlds. He gets to be ignorant and make money.

And that's simply unacceptable for any commander in chief to use his clout to enrich himself and his friends while spreading ignorance. Is that what the so inextricably honorable office of the White House is for? And Bush wanted to bring values back into the WH? All he's brought is an unhealthy dose of CRAZY to the world while proving the White House is only a mechanism by which to make his friends richer and the poor poorer through spreading intolerance and ignorance.

Here are some others' thoughts about his first 5 years.

Richard Pryor RIP

One of my absolute favorite comics of all times...


Leiberman founds new political party

Some rumors have been floating around since Ariel Sharon split off from the Likud Party to form a more centrist party in the 51st state of Israel. They're having to do with Joseph Leiberman splitting off the Democratic Party to form a more hardline conservative party. Sources say he wants to call it the Bushkud Party. The only prerequisite will be that you must agree with everything Bush says about Iraq. Famous for doing this, Leiberman is finding himself isolated with about 99.9 percent of his current party. Many of these members think he already switched sides and was (and perhaps still is) actually a spy for the influential Neoconservative cult, in the off-chance they would not have been able to steal the 2000 elections. And most inside the beltway know that the Neocons are all spys for Likud. So, it's a curious step creating the new Bushkud party.

Nobel Prize acceptance video: Harold Pinter speaketh

Must see/read: Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture on December 7, 2005 given in Börssalen at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. Click for high bandwidth, low bandwidth.

Update: This link works if you want to watch the video now! Thanks Merry!

Various articles of interest and some rumination

Of course the bombshell is Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker that US Commanders in Iraq believe the insurgency is spinning hopelessly out of control and will slowly disintegrate into the inevitable violence of an air campaign. This is the cue that the White House has its tail between its legs. And you need not look too closely, but they're cutting and running. Of course, few might say, "No they aren't. They're gonna bomb the hell out of Iraq from 30,000 feet once the troops begin to withdraw. That's not cutting and running." But the plain truth is that this WH, this incompetent government has lost this one miserably. And it seems more and more apparent that there's collusion between American and Iranian interests to tame the flames ignited by the occupation. There is no other choice. This was a war of choice...and now notice the irony of there being no choice on the part of the Crazies' cabal but accept the fundementalists in Iran (and elsewhere) taking control of most if not all Iraqi institutions. It makes me wonder, though, isn't that what they wanted all along? To remove Saddam, set up a confrontation with Iran, and try to pressure Syria into reducing itself to a Chalabified hallucination/vision of the currently secular regime of Bashar Al-Assad (who I'm not a fan of) which happens to support groups like Hizbullah and has close connections with Iran. I mean it seems as though the planning for the Iran war has continued. Because imagine once America acheives a posture whereby they know most in the world realize that A) Iraq has become a proxy for the Ayatollahs in Iran B) Iran is closer than it already is to getting a nuclear weapon...they can then possibly try to start another war with Iran by saying (or hearing) all the same or similar lies that Chalabi and Co. funnelled to the mentally challenged in the WH in the lead-up to the most recent war. And the signal and perhaps even the synthesis of Americans and Iranians working together to set out on this path might be seen if and when Chalabi joins the Allawi coalition before the December 15 elections. Previously, Chalabi and Allawi have been bitter rival puppets. THE irony thickens quickly, don't it?

And this is only one of many possibilities I've pondered. I am sometimes operating under the assumption that the chaos is so unexhaustably terrible it can't be random.

And screw irony...I've had enough of it, really. I'm sick of seeing all these scenarios in my head which could possibly play out. I'm a lot more optimistic than some, though. But I'm still hung up on matters like the constitution granting women and minorities too few rights to pay to close attention to other shocking discoveries of videos of private contractors shooting civilians for fun, WMDs used by Americans, and the unabating violence caused by the confrontations between disparate sides. All this blood for nothing as we head back towards the dark ages

Moving on and on a related note... Professor Cole writes on related matters in his recent article at a new website TruthDig: How Bush created a theocracy in Iraq. It's a clever little rundown about the history of this event. Go check it out if your facts are fuzzy.

On a different note, here's a concise article about the commercialization of all things Shaolin. Bad or good? I believe adaptation and its role in advancing innovation and wisdom was roundly ignored in eons past and that it is vitally important to rescue certain art forms from extinction. And if using modern tools of communication is what it takes to accomplish this, then so be it!

I've had some very bad news from back in Lebanon recently. And I'm yet again behind in school. It's so cold outside. And I don't feel like doing anything.

Iraqi Rebel: Taxi Conversation somewhere in Iraq

Thanks to Najma for getting me familiar with another interesting new blog: Iraqi Rebel.

Taxi driver: Wow. Look at all these posters. They must have spent fortunes on all this
Me: (Thinking *Oh, not again*)
Taxi driver: What do they get in return once they're in?
Me: (resigning to my fate) Well, the pension is more than worth it. A retired parliament
member gets $5000 a month for the rest of his life.
T.d.: (whistles) That's a lot of money.
M: It is.

*long pause*

T.d: So you're gonna vote or what?
M: depends.
T.d: Oh, I see.

*another pause*

T.d: So who do you think would be best?
M: (not falling for it) depends on how you see things.
T.d.: I know. I think we should vote for the secular lists.
M (shrugging)
T.d: (Probably thinking I might get him wrong) Look, I have all the respect for sayyids but
I don't think that's what we need at this moment.
M (nod)
T.d: (gesturing at a nearby poster) You know. I think Mithal al Alusi is a good choice. I
mean he has the courage to say the truth. No complimenting and all that.
M: (more interested in reading car registration numbers than the conversation) true.

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