Mr. Please Please rest in peace

If there could have been a divine source of musical inspiration walking amongst us, it was James Brown. Now he's left us for greener pastures. Thank you James, for all the good times past and good times to come.

I'm gonna tell you the story of when I saw him live in concert, on accident, sometime.


They lied their way into Iraq. Now they are trying to lie their way out: Gary Younge

Bush and Blair will blame anyone but themselves for the consequences of their disastrous war - even its victims

Gary Younge
Monday November 27, 2006
The Guardian

'In the endgame," said one of the world's best-ever chess players, José Raúl Capablanca, "don't think in terms of moves but in terms of plans." The situation in Iraq is now unravelling into the bloodiest endgame imaginable. Both popular and official support for the war in those countries that ordered the invasion is already at a low and will only get lower. Whatever mandate the occupiers may have once had from their own electorates - in Britain it was none, in the US it was precarious - has now eroded. They can no longer conduct this war as they have been doing.
Simultaneously, the Iraqis are no longer able to live under occupation as they have been doing. According to a UN report released last week, 3,709 Iraqi civilians died in October - the highest number since the invasion began. And the cycle of religious and ethnic violence has escalated over the past week.

The living flee. Every day up to 2,000 Iraqis go to Syria and another 1,000 to Jordan, according to the UN's high commissioner for refugees. Since the bombing of Samarra's Shia shrine in February more than 1,000 Iraqis a day have been internally displaced, a recent report by the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Migration found last month.

Those in the west who fear that withdrawal will lead to civil war are too late - it is already here. Those who fear that pulling out will make matters worse have to ask themselves: how much worse can it get? Since yesterday American troops have been in Iraq longer than they were in the second world war. When the people you have "liberated" by force are no longer keen on the "freedom" you have in store for them, it is time to go.

To finish reading article...clickity clack.

Republican shit finally hits the fan



Praise be...

And Americans aren't as dumb as we/you thought they were. Sure, it took long enough, but we ain't that stupid after all. Ha. This is the most important part of this victory. It's a signal to the world...
The giant has awaken and quickly destroyed the hubris of Cheney and Co.

We will see what practical implications this victory has in the coming months, but there has been a notable shift in rhetoric already I think.

Perhaps more later...

CNN surprise: "But I think there is a big possibility ... for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the US"

Let me put that up here again...because I simply don't believe CNN has regarded this as news.

Alberto Fernandez, director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, made his comments on Saturday to the Qatar-based network.

Shouldn't he be charged with inciting violence? or is he actually quelling it by stating the plain truth?

Here's exactly what was said:

"But I think there is a big possibility ... for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq," the diplomat told Al Jazeera.

Straight talking to the Al Jazeera crowd? WOW....talk about change of tactic. It is the appropriate course of action on the PR psyops campaign. Save some soldiers by being real. So, I commend State for cleaning up some of the mess Defense and WH precipitated. See here for more on that.

But of course, this is a drop in the bucket. It won't change the actual course of this war on its own. There needs to be more creative ways to connect people with one another on a human level. There needs to be intelligent people who actually know something about Iraq handling the situation. Not ignorant morons with moral blindfolds...

Small victories are still victories, though. And this is a bit of a watershed moment to me. So we'll see if this is a drop or if it will really rain.

Keith Olberman shlon qawi!

The guy I used to spend endless hours watching on Sportscenter growing up as a kid....
is now tearing a new asshole in many a person through his 'special comment' feature during the past several months.

I'd like to collect a list of them in this post, but we'll start with the most recent one.

I'll add more later.

The truth about Pat Tillman

Let his untimely and unfortunate death not go in vain. Learn the truth.

A sidenote: When I was growing up, I watched NFL football. And I watched Pat Tillman play. What a great player...

So, my heart goes out to his family. They've been treated cruelly and deserve some better answers.



Published on Friday, October 20, 2006 by Truthdig
After Pat’s Birthday
Kevin Tillman Honors Late Brother's Birthday with Plea to Speak up for Democracy
by Kevin Tillman

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin was discharged in 2005.

Senator Lindsey Graham makes the argument for the Geneva Convention

Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, makes the argument.

Chalabi's INC are first grade con artists or mere vehicles of delusion?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al Qaeda associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.

The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

read more

I told you those INC assholes were crooks...chalabi and the other con artists (or vehicles for delusion...depending on how you look at the situation). Meaning--- Were INC doing the con?...or was the WH and Pentagon doing the believing just because the ends would justify the means? Or was it a little of both? That's my question.


The administration's version was based in part on intelligence that White House officials knew was flawed, according to Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing newly declassified documents released by the panel.

If they knew the intel was flawed, then surely they were willfully deluding themselves.

And this whole Armitage expose stinks to high hell...
who's to say he's not just another foot soldier of the WH. I've been hearing all this talk that he was very independent-minded at State...and that's not what I remember whatsoever.

Chomsky on Lebanon

To not fully acknowledge the following would be an error. Here's Chomsky's latest piece published in the Guardian.

In Lebanon, a little-honoured truce remains in effect - yet another in a decades-long series of ceasefires between Israel and its adversaries in a cycle that, as if inevitably, returns to warfare, carnage and human misery. Let's describe the current crisis for what it is: a US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon, with only a cynical pretence to legitimacy. Amid all the charges and counter-charges, the most immediate factor behind the assault is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is hardly the first time that Israel has invaded Lebanon to eliminate an alleged threat. The most important of the US-backed Israeli invasions of Lebanon, in 1982, was widely described in Israel as a war for the West Bank. It was undertaken to end the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's annoying calls for a diplomatic settlement. Despite many different circumstances, the July invasion falls into the same pattern.

What would break the cycle? The basic outlines of a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict have been supported by a broad international consensus for 30 years: a two-state settlement on the international border, perhaps with minor and mutual adjustments.

The Arab states formally accepted this proposal in 2002, as the Palestinians had long before. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear that though this solution is not Hizbullah's preference, they will not disrupt it. Iran's "supreme leader" Ayatollah Khamenei recently reaffirmed that Iran too supports this settlement. Hamas has indicated clearly that it is prepared to negotiate for a settlement in these terms as well.

The US and Israel continue to block this political settlement, as they have done for 30 years, with brief and inconsequential exceptions. Denial may be preferred at home, but the victims do not enjoy that luxury.

US-Israeli rejectionism is not only in words but, more importantly, in actions. With decisive US backing, Israel has been formalising its programme of annexation, dismemberment of shrinking Palestinian territories and imprisonment of what remains by taking over the Jordan valley - the "convergence" programme that is, astonishingly, called "courageous withdrawal" in the US.

In consequence, the Palestinians are facing national destruction. The most meaningful support for Palestine is from Hizbullah, which was formed in reaction to the 1982 invasion. It won considerable prestige by leading the effort to force Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000. Also, like other Islamic movements including Hamas, Hizbullah has gained popular support by providing social services to the poor.

To US and Israeli planners it therefore follows that Hizbullah must be severely weakened or destroyed, just as the PLO had to be evicted from Lebanon in 1982. But Hizbullah is so deeply embedded in society that it cannot be eradicated without destroying much of Lebanon as well. Hence the scale of the attack on the country's population and infrastructure.

In keeping with a familiar pattern, the aggression is sharply increasing the support for Hizbullah, not only in the Arab and Muslim worlds beyond, but also in Lebanon itself. Late last month, polls revealed that 87% of Lebanese support Hizbullah's resistance against the invasion, including 80% of Christians and Druze. Even the Maronite Catholic patriarch, the spiritual leader of the most pro-western sector in Lebanon, joined Sunni and Shia religious leaders in a statement condemning the "aggression" and hailing "the resistance, mainly led by Hizbullah". The poll also found that 90% of Lebanese regard the US as "complicit in Israel's war crimes against the Lebanese people".

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Lebanon's leading academic scholar on Hizbullah, observes that "these findings are all the more significant when compared to the results of a similar survey conducted just five months ago, which showed that only 58% of all Lebanese believed Hizbullah had the right to remain armed, and hence continue its resistance activity".

The dynamics are familiar. Rami Khouri, an editor of Lebanon's Daily Star, writes that "the Lebanese and Palestinians have responded to Israel's persistent and increasingly savage attacks against entire civilian populations by creating parallel or alternative leaderships that can protect them and deliver essential services".

Such popular forces will only gain in power and become more extremist if the US and Israel persist in demolishing any hope of Palestinian national rights, and in destroying Lebanon.

Even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Washington's oldest ally in the region, was compelled to say: "If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance, then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire."

It is no secret that Israel has helped to destroy secular Arab nationalism and to create Hizbullah and Hamas, just as US violence has expedited the rise of extremist Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi terror. The latest adventure is likely to create new generations of bitter and angry jihadis, just as the invasion of Iraq did.

Israeli writer Uri Avnery observed that the Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz, a former air force commander, "views the world below through a bombsight". Much the same is true of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and other top Bush administration planners. As history reveals, that view of the world is not uncommon among those who wield most of the means of violence.

Saad-Ghorayeb describes the current violence in "apocalyptic terms", warning that possibly "all hell would be let loose" if the outcome of the US-Israel campaign leaves a situation in which "the Shia community is seething with resentment at Israel, the US and the government that it perceives as its betrayer".

The core issue - the Israel-Palestine conflict - can be settled by diplomacy, if the US and Israel abandon their rejectionist commitments. Other outstanding problems in the region are also susceptible to negotiation and diplomacy. Their success can never be guaranteed. But we can be reasonably confident that viewing the world through a bombsight will bring further misery and suffering, perhaps even in "apocalyptic terms".

· Noam Chomsky's most recent book is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy; he is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology www.chomsky.info

And the opening salvo is...

Sy comin' atch ya with some new investagative report. This one doesn't have pictures, but it's pretty revealing. Adds up...told you so about it being a pretext, but it makes sense that they'd want to take out Hezzie positions before striking Iran. It's tactically sound preparation for the new war. Don'tch ya think ;?

UPdate: Here's Hersh's original article in full.

Published on Monday, August 14, 2006 by the Independent / UK
Bush 'Viewed War in Lebanon as a Curtain-Raiser for Attack on Iran'
by Andrew Buncombe

The Bush administration was informed in advance and gave the "green light" to Israel's military strikes against Hizbollah with plans drawn up months before two Israeli soldiers were seized it has been claimed.

The US reportedly considered Israel's actions as a necessary prerequisite for a possible strike against Iran. A report by a leading investigative reporter says that earlier this summer Israeli officials visited Washington to brief the government on its plan to respond to any Hizbollah provocation and to "find out how much the US would bear".

The officials apparently started their inquiries with Vice-President Dick Cheney, knowing that if they secured his support, obtaining the backing of President Bush and Condoleezza Rice would be easier.

The report by Seymour Hersh quotes an unidentified US government consultant with close ties to the Israelis who says: "The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."

A former intelligence officer, also quoted, says: "We told Israel,'Look, if you guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office'."

Both Israeli and US officials say that the Israeli military operation against Hizbollah was triggered by the seizing of two Israeli soldiers, apparently to be bargained with for a possible prisoner swap. But Hersh's report, published in today's issue of The New Yorker, adds to evidence that Israel had been anticipating a Hizbollah provocation for some time and planning its response a response that was widely condemned for being disproportionate.

Last month the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hizbollah militants was unfolding according to a plan finalised more than a year ago". The report said that a senior Israeli army officer had been briefing diplomats, journalists and think-tanks for more than a year about the plan and it quoted Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at [Israel's] Bar-Ilan University, who said: "Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared." Last week the New Statesman magazine reported that Britain had also been informed in advance of the military preparations and that the Prime Minister had chosen not to try to stop them "because he did not want to".

This latest report is the first to tie the Israeli operation to a broader framework that includes a possible US strike against Iran.

Unidentified officials said a strike could "ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American pre-emptive attack". Shabtai Shavit, a national security adviser to the Knesset, said: "We do what we think is best for us, and if it happens to meet America's requirements, that's just part of a relationship between two friends. Hizbollah is armed to the teeth and trained in the most advanced technology of guerrilla warfare. It was just a matter of time."

An anonymous Middle East expert claimed that while the State Department supported the plan because it believed it would help the Lebanese government assert control over the south, the White House was focussed on stripping Hizbollah of its missiles.

The expert added: "If there was to be a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hizbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the 'axis of evil', and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hizbollah as part of his interest in democratisation."

Last night the White House denied the allegations contained in Hersh's piece with a brief statement from the President describing it as "patently untrue". Mr Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, added: " The suggestion that the US and Israel planned and co-ordinated an attack on Hizbollah ­ and did so as a prelude to an attack on Iran is just flat wrong."

Neocon Democrat Leiberman loses grace and the CT primary

Or is it the CT primary and grace?

This is a semi-watershed moment in the circus that is American politics.

Dick Cheney's favorite son has been vanquished...washed ashore, found out, and pegged by CT voters. Sore Loserman will run as an independent. But this will serve as a commercial to the failure of America's Iraq policy. So, as Senor Bush once said so famously, bring it on Bodies-man.

Whether or not people will be as smart as CT voters elsewhere is highly unlikely. I believe, if I'm not mistaken,
Connecticut has a higher ratio per capita of advanced degrees than any other state in the union.
Stupid America, in other words, could still yet not figure out the Iraq-con. But lets just hope this snowballs into an informing avalanche. And now that Hillary has called for Rummy's resignation, all bets are off.

On other fronts, the terror plot that was foiled so remarkably by the diligence of Met Police of London shall change the equation for midterm elections. The problem for GOPers now is that they can't really claim to having a good track-record on national security issues. They haven't made the world any safer. And now that 60 percent of Americans are against the Iraq war, their platform just became a bit more shaky...as evidenced and indicative by Loserman's loss.

A veritable feed-back loop of HALLELUJAHs!

Sitting on the bluff while bluffing

How can we save Israeli face? This is the million dollar question now.
Olmert has a 7 & 2 off-suit and is betting before the flop.

The bluff has arrived. The threat has been issued.
If you don't figure it out soon, we will make Lebanon dark for a few years. The sequence of events in the last day or so cannot be clearer as to what the situation is developing as.

The cabinet has approved a 30 day escalation of violence. Therefore the Abyss-simulator has been presented to the Lebanese and the world. I know for sure Lebanese won't buy this. The world, on the other hand, always buys Israeli BS. Israel then quickly said it could wait to the weekend for a diplomatic solution. Does the mixed message remind you of any tactic that, say, the US used when prosecuting the war on Iraq initally? The pressure of the psychological mix-up waiting-game is upon us. Plainly, Israel is bluffing on the bluff.

When you're already in the Abyss, it's hard to convince others that you have a bigger Abyss to put them in...isn't it?

I'm only afraid of what will happen when the Hezzies call Israel's bluff. It would be the equivalent of Israel getting up from the poker table and leaving while refusing to pay up. We didn't win...so we're not going to play by anybody's rules. And we remember the last time that happened on the world stage (hint hint, Iraq). And look at the intractable mess we're in Iraq because of the mere attittude put on by the neocons. Admitting failure is not an option. Pffff...

So, if you see somebody sitting on a bluff while bluffing...please give him or her a compliment and some assurances.
As you can see, I don't mind saving Israeli face as long as we can save lives in both Lebanon and Israel.
And now that Lebanon is all but destroyed and having its true spirit sucked out of it by extremists both within and without, there's really nothing else left worth saving but lives.

What can I say, I'm a pragmatist peace-mongerer. If the Hezzies call Israel's bluff without any sort of agreement, all parties will be dreading the following months and years to come. This much I'm sure of...

Advice to Israel: Settle the Chebaa Farms issue and Hizbollah will have no other legitimate reason to be armed to the tooth. Thus you will undermine them best by giving back this land to Lebanon. Don't continue the war regardless. Because even once you occupy southern Lebanon again, the Hezzies will have taken over the rest of Lebanon and you will just be targeted from there. It will be another endless cycle of violence, which I know you are such experts at propelling. Though most would agree that expertise in such matters is as futile as a castrated man trying to father a child.

Advice to Hezzies: Don't call the bluff, because it will only mean more innocent civilians will die on both sides. Take the hard-ons you get from firing missles randomly at Israel and put them to better use. And anyway, you've shown the world that you're a formidable force that cannot be defeated and earned the respect of your enemy. You don't need to save face, but they do. I venture to say that it wasn't worth the destruction of Lebanon, but parts of me believe that the Israeli response was always going to be as brutal and indiscriminate as it was.

All parties engaged in this conflict have the maturity of a bean sprout with none of the nutrition.
And thus, there will never be a real solution.
I'm fed-up.
Bye bye,

More (updated) maps of Lebanon

Go here for them.

There's one for Locations bombed and Transport and Vital Sites bombed.

Wow George, u really drove the point home. + rant

Norm, thanks again...

Just go here and watch this 9 minute interview...where Georgey Galloway rips a new you-know-what in the interviewer.

One thing that rang in my ear loudest was the last thing he said to the Sky News reporter.

"You believe, whether you know it or not, that Israeli blood is more valuable than the blood of Lebanese or Palestinians. That's the truth."

And yes, indeed I agree, racism is what a lot of this boils down to...but honestly, I really am in no mood to get to that right now. This is a flaw of the most basic part of human nature. Racism is a scourge that will never ever be lifted from the human family no matter how many million WO/man marches are held. The saddest thing now for Lebanon is that their million man march was instigated by Israeli terrorism. That's right. Now approximately 1 million Lebanese are homeless, marching into the unknown. Fitting, I guess, since this situation looks like it is also marching in that direction. And after the most recent emergency Security Council meeting...it is safe to say Israel has no intention of stopping.

Oh, but now I'm going on...and I'm really in no mood to speak my mind here.
Simply because it's all so depressing. I feel like the spirit of Lebanon is being murdered...not just its innocent women and children. And I know the peace and security of Israelis are now in danger as well, and I'm not happy about that because; one, I value all human life equally...and two, I don't want perpetual war. All any progressive/moderate Lebanese want is peace. But these dinosaurs and their warmongering ways and plans are still alive and kicking. Instead of nurturing the moderate voice, the Israeli and American governments have allowed for the nurturing of terrorists through their insane knee-jerk reactions (or excuses) to carry out their "master plan" for the "new middle east". It almost appears as if they wish to create more terrorists, doesn't it?

When will these animals just die-out so that the younger generation can absolve the region of this situation. That's the other thing, because of this latest episode of death I believe this possibility is less likely. Essentially, we're Fucked with a capital F.

The longer this thing goes on, the more obvious all this will become.
I believe we are now in the Abyss.

Hezzie Coup d'Etat: Michael Young

I ran across this on the WaPo blog.
It's very disconcerting to me because I agree with it.
If this is what the future really might hold for Lebanon, then I'm one sad puppy.
Regression never disgusted me more.

Hezbollah's Coup d'Etat

Beirut, Lebanon - There is real danger today that Hezbollah will inherit Lebanon after the war. If it does, an uncontainable civil war will probably ensue.

Militarily, Israel has not scored a decisive victory that would compel the militia to disarm. Hezbollah will use this "triumph" to defeat its adversaries inside Lebanon who want it to surrender its weapons.

At the same time, the Israelis have devastated the Shiite community. They have broken down any Lebanese consensus around the party and have neutralized Hezbollah's military deterrence capability (there to serve Iran) since the party cannot possibly put its coreligionists through another catastrophe similar to the one faced today. These setbacks, in turn, will encourage the party to go on the offensive domestically to refocus the anger of its supporters away from its own responsibility for the disaster and toward its domestic foes.

What will this mean for the Middle East? It will be a severe setback for a rare liberal outpost in the region and may carry Lebanon into a new civil war since no one will longer accept Hezbollah's hegemony. It will heighten Sunni-Shiite tension in the country and the region. It will be another nail in the coffin of the Bush administration's ambition to create a democratic Arab world. It could transform Lebanon into a new version of Gaza, proving that Israel is remarkably adept at ensuring that its worst foes inherit power on its borders. And it will mean the death of a country that, for all its faults, nonetheless tried to recreate a formula for peaceful coexistence between its religious communities in 1990 when that Lebanese civil war ended.

Looks like they have their pretext for the Iran war

And it goes a little something like this...

Two birds, one stone?

Hizbullah is still being armed and re-supplied by Iran and Syria, so we (America) have to address the root causes of this cancer on Lebanese and global society by attacking these two countries and enforcing our (oft-used) policy of regime change in the "New Middle East." Democracy by the barrel of a gun. We will either kill them or democratize them, whichever comes first.

It seems to me they're going to have their war with Iran in 6 months (if not less) whether the world likes it or not.

Of course, this is insane...and could precipitate in the collapse of the global economy when Iran blocks all oil from leaving the gulf. But I wouldn't get this one past them for a moment. And now they're realizing that the Maliki "government" are on the side of the Hezzies and they've lost it. They wonder, is it too late to switch sides and support the Sunni Iraqis?

What a pickle.

I'm looking at the situation now...and I'm both saddened and pessimistic for all parties involved.

This thing is only beginning. It could get much much worse. And I mean much much worse.

When I think of it, Israel is quickly uniting a people that could never in a million years have been united otherwise. They have done what millions of Lebanese could not do themselves under any circumstance. They have created the circumstance where unification was not a choice, but the only possibility.

And it looks like the counter-attack to Qana was the rocket attack on Haifa, which has struck an Arab neighborhood (in Haifa). Killing three innocent people, wounding 120 more. Talk about ignoble fate...Imagine being the Arab family in Israel, explaining to your children what happened when your Arab brothers in Lebanon have delivered such a fate to you.

Welcome to the "New Middle East"...
We like our irony thick.

And poor poor Lebanon is still dying. For what? For their pretext? For their war.
Is this how it's going to go down?

I still find it hard to believe, but it's clear as day. They'll have their war if they want it.
They always will.

So sad, so so sad...

I have one wish today.
And that is, I hope peace will prevail over the minds of warmongerers in this eleventh hour. The killing of innocents must stop. All parties that conduct their war in this dispicable way are enemies of peace. The parties that kill more innocents are more guilty. This is logic. But as long as innocents are killed, the cycle of violence will not end. So, I implore upon Bush and Co to think twice about what they are doing to their childrens' future if and when they begin the new war.

If only B&Co took the high road, valued all human life equally, and tried they're best to prevent all innocents from dying immediately. Instead, they send more bombs to Israel to drop on Lebanon each day. How are America's friends in Lebanon in the New Middle East, supposed to react? React by saying thank you for destroying our country that was just getting on our feet from a decade of civil war?

Have I made my point?
Stop ushering in this apocalyptic moment, you freaks of war.
Stop now.

Half of Americans are still Idiots

Half of U.S. Still Believes Iraq Had WMD

People tend to become ``independent of reality'' in these circumstances, says opinion analyst Steven Kull.

The reality in this case is that after a 16-month, $900-million-plus investigation, the U.S. weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight. That finding in 2004 reaffirmed the work of U.N. inspectors who in 2002-03 found no trace of banned arsenals in Iraq.

Despite this, a Harris Poll released July 21 found that a full 50 percent of U.S. respondents - up from 36 percent last year - said they believe Iraq did have the forbidden arms when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003, an attack whose stated purpose was elimination of supposed WMD. Other polls also have found an enduring American faith in the WMD story.

``I'm flabbergasted,'' said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03.

``This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence,'' Massing said.

..to read more

UPDATE: Related to the previous story is this Krugman piece in the Times.

Paul Krugman: Reign of Error

Reign of Error
Published: July 28, 2006

Amid everything else that's going wrong in the world, here's one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.

At one level, this shouldn't be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don't like have been established, whether it's the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.

But it's dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.

Here's how the process works.

First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue - stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq - officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Sometimes the officials simply lie. "The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality," Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.

Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice's response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, "as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11." (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it's still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) "But," she went on, "that's a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11."

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It's hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)

Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.

And what about the perceptions of those who get their news from sources that aren't de facto branches of the Republican National Committee?

The climate of media intimidation that prevailed for several years after 9/11, which made news organizations very cautious about reporting facts that put the administration in a bad light, has abated. But it's not entirely gone. Just a few months ago major news organizations were under fierce attack from the right over their supposed failure to report the 'good news' from Iraq - and my sense is that this attack did lead to a temporary softening of news coverage, until the extent of the carnage became undeniable. And the conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, under which lies and truth get equal billing, continue to work in the administration's favor.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that the Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. For example, Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn't let U.N. inspectors in. His most recent statement to that effect was only a few weeks ago. And he gets away with it. If there have been reports by major news organizations pointing out that thatss not at all what happened, I've missed them.

It's all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of 'a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,' he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

He doesn't want the killing to stop, until he's sure it will stop. So there will be more killing until the President is convinced that there will...

...be no more killing.

God bless Jon Stewart over and over and over and over...

How does General Abizaid feel about what's happening in Lebanon?

I woke up today thinking about this question.

As America's most influential General, Commander of U.S. Central Command, and a Lebanese-American...I wonder how he really feels about the mass destruction being layed upon the land of his parents and grandparents.

Visitors to this site may speculate, but I want to hear from the General himself.

Would he respond if I wrote him a letter asking him this?
Would he even respond truthfully? Could he respond truthfully?
Or would his job depend on his response?

And it makes me wonder...(hat tip to Led Zepplin)

Monbiot: The king of fairyland will never grasp the realities of the Middle East

U.S. President George W. Bush gathers with the top nine American Idol 2006 finalists in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 28, 2006.


A US leader in his second term should have the power to rein in Israel. But George Bush is no ordinary president

George Monbiot
Tuesday August 1, 2006
The Guardian

Of all the curious things that have been written about Israel's assault on Lebanon, surely the oddest is contained in Paddy Ashdown's article on these pages last Saturday. "There is only one solution to this crisis, and it is the same solution we have to find in Iraq: to go for a wider Middle East settlement and to do it urgently. The US cannot do this. But Europe can."

The US cannot do this? What on earth does he mean? At first sight his contention seems plain wrong. While Israel intends to sustain its occupation of Palestinian territory, a wider settlement is impossible. It surely follows that the country that has the greatest potential leverage over Israel is the country with the greatest power to broker peace. Israel's foreign policy and military strategy is dependent on the approval of the United States.

Though Israel ranks 23rd on the global development index - above Greece, Singapore, Portugal and Brunei - it remains the world's largest recipient of US aid. The US government dispensed $11bn of civil foreign assistance in 2004. Of this, Israel received $555m; the three poorest nations on earth - Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Niger - were given a total of $69m. More importantly, last year Israel also received $2.2bn of military aid.

It does not depend economically on this assistance. Its gross domestic product amounts to $155bn, and its military budget to $9.5bn. It manufactures many of its own weapons and buys components from all over the world, including - as the Guardian revealed last week - the United Kingdom. Rather, it depends upon it diplomatically. Most of the money given by the US foreign military financing programme - in common with all US aid disbursements - is spent in the United States. Israel uses it to obtain F-15 and F-16 jets; Apache, Cobra and Blackhawk helicopters; AGM, AIM and Patriot missiles, M-16 rifles, M-204 grenade launchers and M-2 machine guns. As the Prestwick scandal revealed, laser-guided bombs, even now, are being sent to Israel from the United States.

Many of these weapons have been used to kill Palestinian civilians and are being used in Lebanon today. The US arms export control act states that "no defence article or defence service shall be sold or leased by the United States government" unless its provision "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace". Weapons may be sold "to friendly countries solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defence [or for] maintaining or restoring international peace and security".

By giving these weapons to Israel, the US government is, in effect, stating that all its military actions are being pursued in the cause of legitimate self-defence, American interests and world peace. The US also becomes morally complicit in Israel's murder of civilians. The diplomatic cover this provides is indispensable.

Since 1972 the US has used its veto in the UN security council on 40 occasions to prevent the passage of resolutions that sought either to defend the rights of the Palestinians or to condemn the excesses of Israel's government. This is a greater number of vetoes than all the other permanent members have deployed in the same period. The most recent instance, on July 13, was the squashing of a motion condemning both the Israeli assault on Gaza and the firing of rockets and abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian groups. Over the past few days, the United States, supported by Britain, has blocked all international attempts to introduce an immediate ceasefire, giving Israel the clear impression that it has a mandate to continue its assault on Lebanon.

It is plain to anyone - and this must include Paddy Ashdown - that Israel could not behave as it does without the diplomatic protection of the United States. If the US government announced that it would cease to offer military and diplomatic support if Israel refused to hand back the occupied territories, Israel would have to negotiate. The US government has power over that country. But can it be used?

A paper published in March by the US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt documents the extraordinary influence the "Israel lobby" exercises in Washington. They argue that the combined forces of evangelical Christian groups and Jewish American organisations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee ensure that "Israel is virtually immune from criticism" in Congress and "also has significant leverage over the executive branch". Politicians who support the Israeli government are showered with funds, the paper contends, while those who contest it are cowed by letter-writing campaigns and vilification in the media. If all else fails, the"great silencer" is deployed: the charge of anti-semitism. Those who oppose the policies of the Israeli government are accused of hating Jews.

All this makes an even-handed policy difficult, but not impossible. Standing up to bullies is surely the key test of leadership. A US president in his second term is in a powerful position to demand that Israel pulls back and negotiates.

But if Ashdown meant that it is impossible psychologically and intellectually for the US government to act, he might have a point. At his press conference with Tony Blair last Friday, George Bush laid out his usual fairy tale about the conflict in the Middle East. "There's a lot of suffering in Lebanon," he explained, "because Hizbullah attacked Israel. There's a lot of suffering in the Palestinian territory because militant Hamas is trying to stop the advance of democracy. There is suffering in Iraq because terrorists are trying to spread sectarian violence and stop the spread of democracy." The current conflict in Lebanon "started, out of the blue, with two Israeli soldiers kidnapped and rockets being fired across the border".

I agree that Hizbullah fired the first shots. But out of the blue? Israel's earlier occupation of southern Lebanon; its continued occupation of the Golan Heights; its occupation and partial settlement of the West Bank and gradual clearance of Jerusalem; its shelling of civilians, power plants, bridges and pipelines in Gaza; its beating and shooting of children; its imprisonment or assassination of Palestinian political leaders; its bulldozing of homes; its humiliating and often lethal checkpoints: all these are, in Bush's mind, either fictional or carry no political consequences. The same goes for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and the constant threats Bush issues to Syria and Iran. There is only one set of agents at work - the terrorists - and their motivation arises autochthonously from the evil in their hearts.

Israel is not solely to blame for this crisis. The firing of rockets into its cities is an intolerable act of terrorism. But to understand why the people assaulting that country will not put down their arms, the king of fairyland would be forced to come to terms with the consequences of Israel's occupation of other people's lands and of its murder of civilians; of his own invasion of Iraq and of his failure, across the past six years, to treat the Palestinians fairly. And this he seems incapable of doing. Instead, his answers last Friday suggested, Bush is constructing a millenarian narrative of escalating conflict leading to the final triumph of freedom and democracy.

So I fear that Paddy Ashdown may be right. The United States cannot pursue a wider settlement in the Middle East, for it is led by a man who lives in a world of his own.

Comic relief


Monsters: Democracy by Massacre

Qana Massacre video
Warning: Strong images

Let the Israeli and American government save face, but this war must be over right now.
It cannot continue after Qana. We'll really know the idiots and psychopaths have come home to roost on Capitol Hill, if after 48 hours there is resumption of air attacks on Lebanon.

Robert Fisk: The Empire Leaves Beirut tp Burn...again

The Empire Leaves Beirut to Burn
by Robert Fisk

In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus -- headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet -- was struck by a massive earthquake. Then, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors, ancestors of the present-day Lebanese, walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive.

Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered everyone in the city. In World War I, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine; the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain, and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of sticklike children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads ... "

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and rise from the grave and die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.

They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-colored skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis -- in some of their cruelest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside -- tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties -- 240 in all of Lebanon at the start of last week -- with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hezbollah.

I walked through the deserted city center of Beirut last week and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly colored that it blinded its own people. This part of the city -- once a Dresden of ruins -- was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered a mile away last year.

The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his inheritance is being vandalized by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last U.N. investigator to look for clues.

At the empty Etoile restaurant -- where Hariri once dined with Jacques Chirac -- I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the facade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate, and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejeweled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few meters away.

Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah, Robert, come over here," he roared and turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"

Now it is being unbuilt. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked several times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. This small jewel of a restaurant in the center of Beirut has been spared. So far.

It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been leveled and "rubble-ized" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shiite Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hezbollah, another of those "centers of world terror" that the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man; and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics; and many of Hezbollah's top military planners -- including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers 10 days ago.

But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pinpoint accuracy -- a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue -- what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?

In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well-known and prominent Hezbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or ... " And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis -- much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."

I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.

As for the huddled masses from the bombed-out southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.

Across the Mediterranean, two helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke toward the U.S. embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.

Across them all has spread a dark gray smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who
Did not perish from starvation was
Butchered with the sword;
They perished from hunger
In a land rich with milk and honey.
They died because the vipers and
Sons of vipers spat out poison into
The space where the Holy Cedars and
The roses and the jasmine breathe
Their fragrance.

And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.

I knew one of them. "Hello, Robert. Be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again, but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around to protect me.

A few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.

And why? Be sure -- the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? Then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those men had to be liquidated.

Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pajamas, her eyes -- beneath long, soft hair -- closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in 1982 while Israeli troops, as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry, watched the killings. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.

Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver, Abed, a week before last, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.

I am back on the seacoast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care," she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.

Then, on my balcony -- a glance to check the location of the Israeli gunboat far out in the sea-smog -- I find older clippings. This is from an English paper in 1840, when Beirut was a great Ottoman city. "Beyrouth" was the dateline. "Anarchy is now the order of the day, our properties and personal safety are endangered, no satisfaction can be obtained, and crimes are committed with impunity. Several Europeans have quitted their houses and suspended their affairs, in order to find protection in more peaceable countries."

On my dining-room wall, I remember, there is a hand-painted lithograph of French troops arriving in Beirut in 1842 to protect the Christian Maronites from the Druze. They are camping in the Jardin des Pins, which will later become the site of the French embassy where, only a few hours ago, I saw French men and women registering for their evacuation. Outside the window, I hear again the whisper of Israeli jets, hidden behind the smoke that drifts 20 miles out to sea.

Fairouz, the most popular Lebanese singer, was to perform at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled like all Lebanon's festivals. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:

To Beirut -- peace to Beirut with all my heart
And kisses -- to the sea and clouds,
To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.
From the soul of her people she makes wine,
From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.
So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?

Robert Fisk, who writes for The Independent of Britain, has lived in Beirut 30 years.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Billmon: Bush and Cheney help fill the fresh mass graves of Lebanon

This is another really important jab at American collusion with Israel in filling the fresh mass graves in Lebanon. Thanks again B.

I suppose we can call this the cradle-to-grave approach to Middle East diplomacy:

As Toll Rises, Lebanese Resort to Mass Graves

This what I don't like about President Bush -- the way he flip flops. First he was against mass graves, and now he's helping fill them:

The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, U.S. officials said Friday.

No doubt for use in "precision" strikes such as this one:

I mean, where's the clarity here?

Billmon: Spot-on analysis

Twelve days in, and even Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

"Israel is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that's a painful thing to write. But it's true. And the situation's worsening each day."


it's clear from many other sources that things aren't going so well with Operation Midwife:

The Israeli Army -- which dashed across the Sinai in two days in 1967, and surrounded an entire Egyptian army in 1973, has spent the past three days trying to secure Maroun al-Ras, a village about 500 meters inside Lebanon.
Securing that modest objective (and it may not be secure even yet) has cost the Israelis at least 20 soldiers KIA.

The number of rockets falling on northern Israel has been reduced only minimally, if at all, and Israeli civilians are still dying, despite 11 days of bombing and round-the-clock Israeli air cover over southern Lebanon.

U.S. military sources say that IDF claims to have destroyed a significant percentage of Hizbollah's missiles are significantly "overstated."

Jane's Weekly reports that Hizbollah has emulated the Viet Cong and honeycombed the border area with underground tunnels and command posts that are virtually impervious to artillery fire and the Israeli Air Force's existing stock of bombs. (It looks like those "precision" munitions the Pentagon is rushing to the front may be bunker busters.)


It hardly matters at this point. The main thing is that yet another bold neocon gambit seems to have fallen flat on its face -- leaving the realist cleaning crew to sweep up the pieces.

The problem is that a cease fire agreement that doesn't result in the complete, verifiable disarming of Hizbollah (which hardly seems likely at this point) would give a truly enormous boost to the group's status and prestige. It would amount to a virtual recognition of Hizbollah as a sovereign entity. (A prisoner swap to retrieve the two Israeli POWs would give it an even bigger boost.) A cease fire deal without disarmament would also leave Israel vulnerable to the group's rockets, if and when a bigger war with Iran and/or Syria breaks out.

To read a complete version of this concise entry, click here.

Big up yo'self Billmon!

Uri Avnery: The real aim

Install an Israeli puppet in Lebanon? Perhaps perhaps...but there is no way this could become a reality now. Right now it's sex with sandpaper condoms...not gonna work and don't feel good at all. Lube it up ye gentlemen of war!

THE REAL aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government.

That was the aim of Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it.

As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the U.S.

As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite.

That's the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda.

ON THE eve of the 1982 invasion, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Ariel Sharon that, before starting it, it was necessary to have a "clear provocation," which would be accepted by the world.

The provocation indeed took place--exactly at the appropriate time--when Abu-Nidal's terror gang tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London . This had no connection with Lebanon , and even less with the PLO (the enemy of Abu-Nidal), but it served its purpose.

This time, the necessary provocation has been provided by the capture of the two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. Everyone knows that they cannot be freed except through an exchange of prisoners. But the huge military campaign that has been ready to go for months was sold to the Israeli and international public as a rescue operation.

(Strangely enough, the very same thing happened two weeks earlier in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its partners captured a soldier, which provided the excuse for a massive operation that had been prepared for a long time and whose aim is to destroy the Palestinian government.)

THE DECLARED aim of the Lebanon operation is to push Hizbullah away from the border, so as to make it impossible for them to capture more soldiers and to launch rockets at Israeli towns. The invasion of the Gaza strip is also officially aimed at getting Ashkelon and Sderot out of the range of the Qassams.

That resembles the 1982 "Operation Peace for Gallilee." Then, the public and the Knesset were told that the aim of the war was to "push the Katyushas 40 km away from the border."

That was a deliberate lie. For 11 months before the war, not a single Katyusha rocket (nor a single shot) had been fired over the border. From the beginning, the aim of the operation was to reach Beirut and install a Quisling dictator. As I have recounted more than once, Sharon himself told me so nine months before the war, and I duly published it at the time, with his consent (but unattributed).

Of course, the present operation also has several secondary aims, which do not include the freeing of the prisoners. Everybody understands that that cannot be achieved by military means. But it is probably possible to destroy some of the thousands of missiles that Hizbullah has accumulated over the years. For this end, the army chiefs are ready to endanger the inhabitants of the Israeli towns that are exposed to the rockets. They believe that that is worthwhile, like an exchange of chess figures.

Another secondary aim is to rehabilitate the "deterrent power" of the army. That is a codeword for the restoration of the army's injured pride that has suffered a severe blow from the daring military actions of Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north.

OFFICIALLY, THE Israeli government demands that the Government of Lebanon disarm Hizbullah and remove it from the border region.

That is clearly impossible under the present Lebanese regime, a delicate fabric of ethno-religious communities. The slightest shock can bring the whole structure crashing down and throw the state into total anarchy--especially after the Americans succeeded in driving out the Syrian army, the only element that has for years provided some stability.

The idea of installing a Quisling in Lebanon is nothing new. In 1955, David Ben-Gurion proposed taking a "Christian officer" and installing him as dictator. Moshe Sharet showed that this idea was based on complete ignorance of Lebanese affairs and torpedoed it. But 27 years later, Ariel Sharon tried to put it into effect nevertheless. Bashir Gemayel was indeed installed as president, only to be murdered soon afterwards. His brother, Amin, succeeded him and signed a peace agreement with Israel , but was driven out of office. (The same brother is now publicly supporting the Israeli operation.)

The calculation now is that if the Israeli Air Force rains heavy enough blows on the Lebanese population--paralysing the sea--and airports, destroying the infrastructure, bombarding residential neighborhoods, cutting the Beirut-Damascus highroad, etc., the public will get furious with Hizbullah and pressure the Lebanese government into fulfilling Israel 's demands. Since the present government cannot even dream of doing so, a dictatorship will be set up with Israel 's support.

That is the military logic. I have my doubts. It can be assumed that most Lebanese will react as any other people on earth would: with fury and hatred towards the invader. That happened in 1982, when the Shiites in the south of Lebanon , until then as docile as a doormat, stood up against the Israeli occupiers and created the Hizbullah, which has become the strongest force in the country. If the Lebanese elite now becomes tainted as collaborators with Israel , it will be swept off the map. (By the way, have the Qassams and Katyushas caused the Israeli population to exert pressure on our government to give up? Quite the contrary.)

The American policy is full of contradictions. President Bush wants "regime change" in the Middle East , but the present Lebanese regime has only recently been set up by under American pressure. In the meantime, Bush has succeeded only in breaking up Iraq and causing a civil war (as foretold here). He may get the same in Lebanon , if he does not stop the Israeli army in time. Moreover, a devastating blow against Hizbullah may arouse fury not only in Iran , but also among the Shiites in Iraq , on whose support all of Bush's plans for a pro-American regime are built.

So what's the answer? Not by accident, Hizbullah has carried out its soldier-snatching raid at a time when the Palestinians are crying out for succor. The Palestinian cause is popular all over the Arab word. By showing that they are a friend in need, when all other Arabs are failing dismally, Hizbullah hopes to increase its popularity. If an Israeli-Palestinian agreement had been achieved by now, Hizbullah would be no more than a local Lebanese phenomenon, irrelevant to our situation.

LESS THAN three months after its formation, the Olmert-Peretz government has succeeded in plunging Israel into a two-front war, whose aims are unrealistic and whose results cannot be foreseen.

If Olmert hopes to be seen as Mister Macho-Macho, a Sharon # 2, he will be disappointed. The same goes for the desperate attempts of Peretz to be taken seriously as an imposing Mister Security. Everybody understands that this campaign--both in Gaza and in Lebanon --has been planned by the army and dictated by the army. The man who makes the decisions in Israel now is Dan Halutz. It is no accident that the job in Lebanon has been turned over to the Air Force.

The public is not enthusiastic about the war. It is resigned to it, in stoic fatalism, because it is being told that there is no alternative. And indeed, who can be against it? Who does not want to liberate the "kidnapped soldiers"? Who does not want to remove the Katyushas and rehabilitate deterrence? No politician dares to criticize the operation (except the Arab MKs, who are ignored by the Jewish public). In the media, the generals reign supreme, and not only those in uniform. There is almost no former general who is not being invited by the media to comment, explain and justify, all speaking in one voice.

(As an illustration: Israel 's most popular TV channel invited me to an interview about the war, after hearing that I had taken part in an anti-war demonstration. I was quite surprised. But not for long--an hour before the broadcast, an apologetic talk-show host called and said that there had been a terrible mistake--they really meant to invite Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former Director General of the Foreign Office who can be counted on to justify any act of the government, whatever it may be, in lofty academic language.)

"Inter arma silent Musae"--when the weapons speak, the muses fall silent. Or, rather: when the guns roar, the brain ceases to function.

AND JUST a small thought: when the State of Israel was founded in the middle of a cruel war, a poster was plastered on the walls: "All the country--a front! All the people--an army!"

Fifty-eight years have passed, and the same slogan is still as valid as it was then. What does that say about generations of statesmen and generals?

July 21, 2006

Gideon Levy: The cracks are opening

The cracks are opening

Israel can gain nothing more from this war than a bloody reputation. It is the right time to stop

Gideon Levy
Monday July 24, 2006
The Guardian

This war must be stopped immediately. From the start it was unnecessary, even if its excuse was justified. Every day raises its price, taking a toll in blood that gives Israel nothing in return. This is a good time to stop because both sides can claim they won: Israel harmed Hizbullah and Hizbullah harmed Israel. History shows that no situation is better for reaching an arrangement.
Israel went into the campaign on justified grounds and foul means. It claims it has declared war on Hizbullah but, in practice, it is destroying Lebanon. It has got most of what it could have out of this war. The aerial "target bank" has mostly been covered. The airforce could continue to sow destruction in the residential neighbourhoods and empty offices, dropping bombs on real or imagined bunkers, and kill innocent Lebanese, but nothing good will come of it.
Those who want to restore Israel's deterrent capabilities have succeeded. Hizbullah and the rest of its enemies now know that Israel reacts with enormous force to any provocation. An international agreement could be achieved now, and it won't be possible to achieve a better deal in the future.
Israel's other goals - returning the captured soldiers and the elimination of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah - will be more difficult to achieve if the war goes on for weeks and months. The Israeli Defence Force is asking for "two more weeks"; in two weeks it will ask for "another two weeks". A decisive victory is not in the offing.
On the other hand, the price is skyrocketing. Every day increases international criticism of Israel - not only in the streets of the Arab world, but also in the west. Not only hundreds of thousands of Lebanese but tens of thousands of westerners fleeing from Lebanon are contributing to the depiction of Israel as a violent, crude and destructive state.
The fact that George Bush and Tony Blair are cheering Israel might be consolation for Ehud Olmert and the media in Israel, but it is not enough to persuade millions of TV viewers who see the destruction and devastation, most of which are not shown in Israel. The world sees entire neighbourhoods destroyed, thousands of refugees fleeing in panic, and hundreds of civilians dead and wounded, including many children. A lethal summer will exact a much greater price. Slowly, the cracks will open and Israel's citizens will begin to ask why we are dying and what we are killing for.
We've been here before, more than once. Wars began with national approval and ended with a great crisis. When it becomes apparent that the airforce is not enough, the ground invasion will intensify. The cliche about the Lebanese quagmire will be revalidated, and when soldiers are killed, the protests will rise and divide society.
Now Israel is hoping for the elimination of Nasrallah. It is worth reminding ourselves of the dozens of people Israel assassinated in Lebanon and the territories, from Sheikh Abbas Musawi to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, each replaced by someone new - usually more talented and dangerous than the predecessor. The goals of war should not be dictated by dark impulses, even if they come in response to the wishes and demands of the mob. The other desired goal, the return of the prisoners, will only be achieved through negotiations. Israel could have done that before the war.
Continuing the war guarantees a heavy price without any guarantee of reward. Israel must cease and desist. The president of the US can push us to continue the war, the prime minister of Britain can cheer us, but in Israel and Lebanon the blood is being spilt, the horror is intensifying, the price is rising, and it is all for naught.

· Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz; this is an edited version of his latest article

Cracking Lebanon

Jon Stewart explains the logic behind Israeli attacks.

Thanks Norm

And here's some pictures of what's going on, thanks Chris.

Democracy flowering in Lebanon


Shooting Bruce Lee down with an F16

Destroying Lebanon like they are doing (and sanctioning), is like shooting Bruce Lee down with an F16. Don'tch ya think? There's no honor in it. No honor at all...for making all Lebanese people suffer for the crimes of few.

View this Bruce Lee interview.

Democracy Flowering in Lebanon


Democracy flowering in Lebanon


The Cowards of Assymetric Warfare

Got bombs? Drop em'
Got guns and planes? Fly em' crash em'
kill kill kill, make the meditterranean ill

What is the meaning of assymetric warfare?
Who are the cowards participating in these crimes?

First, I am not a fan of Hizbullah. But lets examine the laws of assymetric warfare.

Hizbullah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese-Israel border.
Of course, then, Lebanon deserves to be destroyed...the entire population
must suffer. It's only a natural reaction, right?

No! That's a perfect example of assymetric warfare.

When you're sittin real pretty, and you know you'll be winning
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you're bombin' the city, and you kill fifty or sixty
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you have no soul, and blindly bomb buildings whole
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you blame an entire population for something they didn't do
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you destroy a country again, for no reason...only to sin.
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you bomb a minibus, filled with civilians
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

When you bomb Lebanon, while Bush roots you on
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]
assymetric warfare [clap, clap]

That was fun

The cowards of assymetric warfare will limp with damaged souls for destroying Lebanon again and for driving Lebanon back into Syria's hands.

Bush you're just an idiot for standing by like you are.
So, many regrets...you should have.

And once again, Lebanon is the arena for the battles of others.

Leave Eskimo-Americans alone

Stop the destruction of rural Eskimo-America!

Eskimos Face Hard Times After Iraq Call-Up

Monday June 19, 2006 7:31 PM


Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Military families across America often endure hardship when a loved one ships out. But there are not many places in the U.S. where those left behind have to chop ice out of the tundra for drinking water and make sure the freezer is well-stocked with walrus and seal meat.

The first major call-up of National Guard reservists from rural Alaska since World War II could mean sacrifice and upheaval for Eskimo villages that practice subsistence hunting and gathering in some of the most remote and unforgiving spots in the nation.

Eric Phillip's job in the small Yup'ik Eskimo village of Kongiganak in southwestern Alaska is to hunt walrus, seal, mink, otter, geese, ducks and other animals to provide food for his immediate family and other relatives. With Phillip shipping out, his wife and their two young sons will be moving to the city of Bethel, about 70 miles away.

``Out here it is harder for them to live alone,'' Phillip said. ``In the village we don't have water. We have to go to the tundra and chop ice for water and melt it, and we don't have flush toilets. It is hard for a single parent to live around here in the village.''

Similar stories are being told in Eskimo villages across the vast state, in places with names like Alakanuk, Emmonak and Manokotak, as 670 soldiers from some of the most hard-to-reach places in the nation head to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Six men headed to Iraq are from Scammon Bay, a Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 520 people in western Alaska where residents rely mostly on subsistence hunting and fishing. Families left behind will now rely more on each other, another time-honored tradition in rural Alaska. The village will take care of them.

``Everybody shares food really well out here. It is a custom,'' said Darlene Cholok, whose husband, Thomas, is one of those going to Iraq. ``Our community is so close-knit and everyone is practically related in some way that there is a lot of support.''

While Alaska's National Guard does an excellent job of helping its military families, it will be particularly tough for these soldiers and their families, because they live in such inaccessible areas, said Pete Mulcahy, executive director of Armed Services YMCA of Alaska. That makes it more difficult to arrange help for them, he said.

``These guys have a bigger challenge,'' he said. ``Even a remote village in Texas is still on the road grid.''

Amy Chikigak of the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Alakanuk is preparing to say goodbye to her husband, Vernon. She said she is not worried about food. Their freezers are full of seal, whale, fish, geese, swans and berries. The village store also is pretty well-stocked.

``We have vegetables and stuff like that, mashed potatoes for our fried moose,'' she said. ``We have macaroni and cheese, and that always helps, too.''

She and the three children, ages 12, 9 and 7, are going to remain in the village. If she runs short of anything, her mother and father and brothers will provide, she said.

Chikigak is more concerned about learning how to use the chainsaw to cut wood to heat the steam bath. She also wants to be able to run the boat so she can take the children on summer picnics: ``I will have to force myself to learn and I will still panic.''

Before leaving for Iraq and Afghanistan, the troops will get three months of training, which will include getting used to hot weather at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

Maj. Stephen Wilson, who returned from a one-year stint in Iraq in 2005 and is overseeing the deployment of seven soldiers from Barrow, 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle, said the Alaskans should do well once they adjust to the 120-degree heat in Iraq. In Barrow - the northernmost city in the United States - the temperature doesn't get much higher than the low 50s in the summer, and often drops below freezing at night.

Maj. Mike Haller, a Guard spokesman in Anchorage, said about 35 percent of the approximately 4,000 National Guard members in Alaska are Native, well above their 19 percent share of the state's population.

Being in the National Guard is a rite of passage for many young Alaska Natives, Haller said, a tradition that started during World War II when Alaska was still a territory. In that war, the state's National Guard troops fought in both Europe and the Pacific, and some were stationed in Alaska's Aleutian Islands to guard against the Japanese.

Besides honor and tradition, service in the Guard brings in money that comes in handy in the villages, where jobs are hard to come by and food and other goods are expensive.

As for the dangers that await the troops in the Mideast, Staff Sgt. William F. Brown, the leader of the Barrow troop and 29-year guard veteran, said he has faced fear before and beaten it.

Brown recounted a whaling trip about 10 years ago when a polar bear came within about 30 feet. Brown was about to grab his gun when the whaling captain told him to relax.

``He said, `Don't show no fear, don't be scared. They're like dogs, they pick up your scent and take advantage of your fear,''' Brown said. The polar bear ``just stood up, sniffed and walked away. Ever since then I've been teaching myself not to be scared, to show no fear.''

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead! Rejoice!

Whether or not he's a ghost, I am hella-happy that Zarqawi has finally reached the burning cinders of hell. And I don't venture far in saying that who ever pulled the trigger that made this a reality is a hero just as much as Watada. He's a symbol that deserved to perish. For he caused the misery of thousands of innocent Iraqis and their families. That this current illegal war is what brought Zarqawi and his ilk into Iraq in the first place...many people will choose to omit in their proclamations of success regarding this matter. I'm just happy he's dead. Please understand this exception I make...because I'm not one to wish death on many.

Also, the fact that it came on the heels of the announcement (or rumorS) that the defense and interior ministry posts had been filled does not seem to be a coincidence. It's similar in scope as what happened in Italy a few months back when Bernardo Provenzano (notorious mob boss) was captured just when Prodi's center left government wrestled power from the clutches of the most legitimate mob boss in history, Silvio Berlusconi.

Sure, it's not quite the most precise and prescient analogy, but it's damn close.

I am in agreement with Chris Allbritton's assessment that there must have been some back room maneuvering which could be cause of celebration.

Anyway, I just wanted to shout-out these few words and go along my way.

Ehren Watada: American Hero

Exactly where is the protest against the war coming from these days?

Yes, from a commissioned officer himself...

I salute you Lt. Watada for standing up for what you believe in. You are an American Hero.


Professor Juan Cole: Critique of US Policy in Iraq

Sometimes, you read something and agree with it so much that you yourself could have said it. This is the case with Professor Cole's latest installment at Informed Comment. Here it is quoted in full...

Critique of US Policy in Iraq

Bush Administration policies in Iraq have largely been a failure. It has created a failed state in that country, which is in flames and seething with new religious and ethnic nationalist passions of a sort never before seen on this scale in modern Iraqi history. The severe instability in Iraq threatens the peace and security of the entire region, and could easily ignite a regional guerrilla war that might well affect petroleum exports from the Oil Gulf and hence the health of the world economy.

The relatively small number of US fighting troops that the US has in Iraq, some 60,000 to 70,000, cannot possibly hope to provide security to a country of 26 million under such conditions of ethnic and political civil war. The much smaller British presence in Basra appears not to have been effective in halting that city's spiral down into insecurity, with tribal and militia grudge fights and assassinations having become common.

The inauguration of a new Iraqi government was marred by the enormous amount of time it took to form it (5 months!), by open US imperial intervention in the choice of prime minister and in other negotiations, by the walk-out of over two dozen parliamentarians from both the Shiite (Virtue Party) and Sunni (National Dialogue Front and Iraqi Accord Front) parties, and by the failure of the new prime minister to name three key cabinet ministers central to the country's security-- Defense, Interior, and National Security. The Iraqi government is among the more corrupt in the world, working by bribes and a party spoils system.

The new parliament is virtually hung, and Prime Minister al-Maliki governs as a minority prime minister, being able to count on less than 115 MPs from his own party, in a parliament with 275 members. He is therefore hostage to the Kurds, who want to move Iraq in the direction of having a very weak central government, a degree of provincial autonomy unknown in any other country in the world, and who want to unilaterally annex a fourth province, oil-rich Kirkuk, to their regional confederacy, despite the violent opposition of Kirkuk's Turkmen and Arab populations to being Kurdicized.

The Bush administration reconstruction project in Iraq has largely failed. In part, it was foiled by sophisticated guerrilla sabotage, so that billions have had to be diverted from actual reconstruction to security. And nor has security been achieved. In part, it was foiled by a degree of corruption, cupidity, embezzlement, lawlessness and fraud that is unparalleled in US history since the Gilded Age. And in part is has been foiled by a US insistence on making most often unqualified US corporations the immediate recipient and major beneficiary of funds, so that Iraqi concerns get much less lucrative sub-contracts and relatively little of the money benefitted the Iraqi economy directly.

Military engagements between Sunni Arab guerrillas and US troops of some seriousness have been fought at Ramadi in the past week, though little noticed by the mainstream US press. Fallujah is dangerous again. Neighborhoods of the capital, Baghdad are blown up every day. A nighttime hot civil war produces some number of corpses daily, sometimes dozens, to the extent that morning corpse patrol has become a central duty of Iraqi police. A lot of us suspect that some units of the police themselves are involved in these kidnappings and killings, so that often they know just where to look for the corpses.

The main US military tactic still appears to be search and destroy, a way of proceeding guaranteed to extend the scope and popularity of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. The guerrillas appear more well-organized, determined, and effective than ever, and no lasting and effective progress appears to have been made in counter-insurgency anywhere in the Sunni Arab heartland. The human toll of the war has been deeply depressing. The number of Iraqi dead in the war and its aftermath (killed in political violence by any side) cannot be estimated, but certainly is over 100,000 and could easily be more. The 30,000 figure often cited comes from counts of reports of deaths in Western wire services, which are demonstrably a fraction of the true total. None of the nearly 1,000 Iraqis assassinated in Basra during the past month, possibly with police involvement, appears in such statistics.

The US has lost over 2400 troops dead, and the number of wounded in action is over 17,000, some significant proportion of them seriously wounded, with long-term disabilities. Some Iraq War vets are suffering mental problems and were discharged because of them under circumstances that make it difficult for them to get VA care. Some Iraq War vets are showing up homeless in US cities already. Meanwhile, Halliburton is back from the brink of bankruptcy. US troops have fought bravely in unfamiliar terrain, and have often done unheralded community developoment work. Their enemies have included ex-Baathist serial murderers and Salafi Jihadi terrorists. Their sacrifices for the sake of removing Saddam and his regime, and attempting to stabilize Iraq, must be honored. But some of their enemies have been honorable resistance fighters, as recognized by the present Iraqi government itself, and US troops have had the profound misfortune of being ordered into an illegal war and then becoming caught up in a series of guerrilla wars for local autonomy, of a sort that no imperial power has been able to win since about 1960.

There is no evidence of the new Iraqi army and security forces proving themselves effective against the guerrillas. The security forces with the possible exception of the new army are heavily infiltrated by partisan militias. A recent news article quoted an approving US officer as saying that Iraqi troops in Baqubah fought a guerrilla attack right down to the point where the troops ran out of ammunition. These were almost certainly Shiite and/or Kurdish troops fighting Sunni guerrillas, so this was actually another battle in the Civil War. No wonder they fought to the bitter end. But what I take away from this anecdote is that the guerrillas have more ammunition than do the poor s.o.b.'s in the Iraqi army, and I don't see that as a good sign. A unified military is almost impossible to achieve in conditions of civil war, in any case. Lebanon had an army when the civil war broke out there in the mid-1970s, but President Elias Sarkis was unable to commit it, for fear it would split along ethnic lines. The same problems now exist in Iraq, and are unlikely to be resolved for some years, if ever.

Iraq cannot be stabilized without the active help of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the neighboring countries. But the Bush administration has actively attempted to alienate Iran and Syria, threatening them with regime change or military attack, and guaranteeing that they would be hostile to US success and continued presence in Iraq. The US has also alienated Turkey by allowing the violent leftist Kurdish guerrilla movement, the PKK, to base itself in northern Iraq and to attack Turkey and Iran from that safe haven. The US has alienated Saudi Arabia in a whole host of ways, from insinuations that the Wahhabi form of Islam is in an unqualified way a source of terrorism, to US insensitivity to Saudi fears of the rise of a Shiite Crescent.

Bush administration ineptitude, ignorance, and often stupidity is matched by some regional players. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud El Faisal came to the US in fall of 2005 and castigated the US for allowing Iraq to fall into the hands of the Iranians (i.e. pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites), provoking a severe diplomatic tiff between Baghdad and Riyadh. Instead of being helpful to a fellow Arab country, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt alienated the Shiite south of Iraq by saying that Arab Shiites are more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. After these incidents, which enraged the Iraqi Shiites, the prospect for a fruitful role in Iraq for the Arab League have receded substantially, since Shiite Iraqis cannot see it as an honest broker.

The Bush Administration trumpets that a defeat of "al-Qaeda" in Iraq would be decisive for defeating terrorism in the world at large. But Bush and his policies led to there being anything like an effective Islamic radical terrorism in Iraq in the first place. The tiny Ansar al-Islam group that operated in the north before 2003 had been hunted by the Baath security and only survived because of the US no-fly zone that prevented Iraqi armor from being deployed against it. Bush has not shown any particular ability to put this genie, which he unleashed, back in the bottle. His war in Iraq has been an enormous boon to the international Salafi Jihadi movement, encouraging angry youths from all over the world to join it to fight to the US. Bush by his aggressive and inept policies is creating the phenomenon he says he is fighting, and so can never defeat it.

The prospect lies before us of years, perhaps decades of instability in the Gulf and eastern reaches of the Middle East. There is a danger of it doubling and tripling our gasoline prices. There is a danger of it forming a matrix and a school for anti-US terrorism for years to come. Are people in Fallujah, Tal Afar and Ramadi really ever going to forgive us? And there is no guarantee of the Shiites remaining US allies for very long, either. Many, of course, already have conceived a new hatred of America as a result of over-reaction of green National Guardsmen, who often have killed innocent civilians in the south, and as a result of iron fist policies when US troops were fighting the Mahdi Army.

The Bush administration has pushed us all out onto a tightrope in Iraq, 60 feet up and without a net.

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