A crucial week in DC, for Iraq

Has Bush’s ability to undertake anything like coherent governance of the US started to implode? In a column in today’s WaPo, Bob Novak writes that several weeks ago, Sen. Chuck Hagel had sent a private letter to Bush advocating the appointment of an international mediator for Iraq under UN Security Council auspices.
Then, according to Novak,

    Instead of the president responding to [that] overture from a longtime critic, Hagel was answered in routine fashion by a third-level bureaucrat (Jeffrey Bergner, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs).

Last week, Hagel therefore spelled out the content of his proposal in public, in this opinion piece in the Financial Times.
So one intriguing question is, who on earth in the President’s entourage made the stupid decision to blow Sen. Hagel off with such disrespect? Bush’s behavior there looks eerily like the rank arrogance displayed by Ehud Barak during his brief stint in the PM’s office in Israel, 1999-2000, when he assumed he was “so smart” he didn’t need to take any real account of the Labor Party’s partners in the ruling coalition– or indeed, of most of the other leaders of the Labor Party itself, most of whom had considerably more experience in governing than he did.
As a result, Barak’s coalition quickly collapsed paving the way for Sharon’s arrival into power and the continuing collapse of Labor as a coherent political entity.
Okay, I understand that the US’s governing system is very different from Israel’s (much more responsive) parliamentary system. But still, who in the White House is so arrogant that he would simply blow off Sen., Hagel? Only one, vice-presidential name comes to mind…
Anyway, clearly some people in the President’s entourage are finally getting the message that they need to be more politically agile and less stubborn on Iraq. David Sanger reports in today’s NYT that:

    White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.
    Mr. Bush and his aides once thought they could wait to begin those discussions until after Sept. 15… But suddenly, some of Mr. Bush’s aides acknowledge, it appears that forces are combining against him just as the Senate prepares this week to begin what promises to be a contentious debate on the war’s future and financing.
    Four more Republican senators have recently declared that they can no longer support Mr. Bush’s strategy, including senior lawmakers who until now had expressed their doubts only privately. As a result, some aides are now telling Mr. Bush that if he wants to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
    “When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.

Both Sanger and the WaPo’s Shankar Vedantam reports that Secdef Robert Gates has cancelled a planned visit to Latin America this week so that he can work on the “interim report” on the surge that the administration needs to present to Congress before July 15.
I am really glad that Gates has decided to hang around in Washington this week in person. If he weren’t physically there, then Cheney could much more easily dominate and distort the discussion.
Here, by the way, are more details of what Hagel wrote in the FT last week, and a short commentary from on that text:

About the international mediator, he wrote:

    An international mediator, under the auspices of the UN Security Council and with the full support of the Iraqi government, should be established. The mediator should have the authority of the international community to engage Iraq’s political, religious, ethnic and tribal leaders in an inclusive political process. In letters last month to President George W. Bush and the UN secretary-general I urged them urgently to consider this initiative.
    Special envoys have been instrumental in helping bring political reconciliation to other recent conflicts – Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Northern Ireland – adapted to the conditions in each country. Iraq needs the international community’s help and support if it is to turn away fromsectarian violence. If there is Iraqi resistance, we should be clear with all Iraq’s leaders that this initiative is a condition of continued US support.
    This approach would help begin to take the American face off Iraq’s political process. The US is seen as the occupier. Our ability to influence the outcome in Iraq has been seriously eroded.
    This approach would further invest the region and the rest of the world in helping to stabilise Iraq. Reversing Iraq’s slide into chaos is a goal shared by nations around the world. Creating an international mediator would build on this common interest.
    To succeed, this initiative must be complemented by other elements of a new regional US strategy. Stability in Iraq requires a sustainable and constructive comprehensive regional security framework, one that includes engaging Syria and Iran. We cannot allow last month’s regional ministerial conference on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh to be a “one-off” event. The US must also announce a renewed commitment to address the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a Middle East special envoy who has the authority effectively to work the day-to-day political reconciliation effort. The appointment of Tony Blair is welcome. He has the stature, standing and experience that will be required. To succeed, he must also have the mandate and authority to address all issues, including the political issues that must be resolved to achieve the two-state solution.
    Ultimately, the future of Iraq will depend on choices made by the Iraqi people. America’s role will also remain critically important. But finding a responsible way forward in Iraq will require broader support. Creating an international mediator could help. For stability in Iraq, the world community must be engaged in support of a new political and diplomatic strategy.

I should note that Hagel also argued that,

    We are dangerously close to the moment when the American people will demand that we leave Iraq and pull back from the Middle East, risking a wider regional conflagration. This is not in the US’s interest or the world’s.

I agree with the first judgment expressed there– about the rising pro-withdrawal sentiment inside the US. I agree, too, that this “risks” a wider regional conflagration, though I assess the probability of this occurring at somewhat less than most US commentators. My informed analysis is that the countries of the region (except perhaps Israel) do already have enough good means of communication, and enough understanding both of the real balances of power and of each other’s intentions and interests, that they have a considerable– though of course not foolproof– ability to contain and de-escalate any tensions arising out of a US withdrawal from Iraq, and perhaps also from the whole Middle East.
The argument that the US “needs” to stay in the region to prevent a regional conflagration is just about as ill-founded and self-self-serving as the argument that the US “needs” to stay in Iraq to contain the internal tensions there– tensions that the US’s presence and policies have done a tremendous amount to stoke up over the past 4.5 years.
However, I do believe that it is strongly in the interests of the US citizenry– including the 170,000 service-members now put into imminent harm’s way by the architects of the ‘surge’, and all their families back home– that the US withdrawal from Iraq be orderly, and not catastrophic. Therefore, the US needs to negotiate its way out… A fact that I think Hagel also clearly understands.
Anyway, here is the important bottom line that Hagel expressed in his FT piece:

    In September, our military and diplomatic leaders in Iraq will provide Congress with a report on the situation. We cannot afford simply to wait until September to consider what must be done.

By the way, Novak also wrote that, after publishing that piece on July 3, “Hagel feared the worst when he returned home to conservative Nebraska for Fourth of July parades. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised by cheers and calls for the troops to be brought home.” (I’d noted the ovation but not Hagel’s antecedent fears about how his views would be received, here.)

28 thoughts on “A crucial week in DC, for Iraq”

  1. Quote of the day: “Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight,” Mohammed Sidique Khan declared. (London suicide bomber of 2005, convicted today of conspiracy to commit murder – WHEN ARE THE ONES WHO STARTED THIS SLAUGHTER GOING TO HAVE THEIR DAY IN COURT? THEY ARE INVOLVED IN CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT GENOCIDE AND OTHER SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES!!!)

  2. What is interesting about folks such as Mr. Khan is their megalomania…who appointed him Guardian of ALL MUSLIMS? Who decided, just like the folks who carried out the Air India bombing, that it was up to them to exact justice as they determined it to be?
    This is the pivotal question…and if we are going to stop Islamist terror in the west, we better start addressing this question. Yes, root causes matter, without question-however, understanding the likes of these folks, whose vile form of self-prescribed retalliation is targeted mercilessly at civillian targets, presents the most compelling question we must take up…

  3. kdj, perhaps whoever appointed Mr Khan as guardian of all Muslims is the same one who appointed Mr. Bush guardian of “our way of life” or “our freedoms” or however you want to put it, such that he feels compelled to send his armed forces rampaging around the world destroying countries and killing people by the hundreds of thousands.
    Perhaps the two of them should be consigned to the same hell for all eternity – together.

    Do not call it war. It is an illegal invasion.
    Call in the united nations
    Pay fine and damages of min. 1 trillion. (two years money from the army)
    Get out.
    Make it up to the world.

  5. boindub, I am confident that if you read the 117 page report that came out last month from Global Policy Forum, as I have been doing the last few days, you will agree that someone more is needed – like extensive war crimes trials for Bush et al., military leaders, and many, many of the commanders and troops.
    You can see and print out the report here.
    And, not surprisingly, I have not seen a syllable about this report in the U.S. mainstream media. Has anyone?

  6. PS boindub, if for nothing else they need to be tried for the crime of actively and passively being responsible for the destruction of much of the record of the history of human civilization. They built bases at Babylon and Ur, and bombed and otherwise destroyed numerous historical sites and buildings.
    And then there is the way they allowed and continue to allow the looting and destruction of so many invaluable sites.

  7. “Perhaps the two of them should be consigned to the same hell for all eternity – together.”
    And in the meantime – the same stinky jail cell.
    “Who decided, just like the folks who carried out the Air India bombing, that it was up to them to exact justice as they determined it to be?
    This is the pivotal question…”
    You are right it is the pivotal question, but you are directing it to the wrong subject – a 2 bit incompetent bomber is not what we need to worry about – instead, we need to worry about the Military-industrial complex here in the USA and our congress critters in their pockets. They are the ones who are successfully killing off close to a million people.
    And, I suspect, that you need to recognize that we will ALWAYS have crazy people among us – we need to get them off the streets when we see them, not elect them to high public office.
    A crazy person killed a friend of mine in 1997. He was just insane, and had no prior history of being violent. But these are not the people we need to spend time worrying about – it is the mass killers, almost all white men, who we need to worry about.

  8. Yes, there are signs that things may change in the Iraq war. But there are still a lot of nonsense said ; Chuck Hagel for instance said :
    The US must also announce a renewed commitment to address the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a Middle East special envoy who has the authority effectively to work the day-to-day political reconciliation effort. The appointment of Tony Blair is welcome. He has the stature, standing and experience that will be required. To succeed, he must also have the mandate and authority to address all issues, including the political issues that must be resolved to achieve the two-state solution.
    Pff.. The appointment of Tony Blair as a mediator !! He from the only country who marched with the US during the Iraq invasion. It is a slap in the face of the Arab to choose such a person.

  9. Shirin,
    I agree that the chief American perpetrators of the Iraq invasion and occupation debacle — as well as of the increasing “collateral carnage” of indiscriminate air bombardments of civilians in Afghanistan — require summary sacking and then trial for war crimes. Nothing less will demonstrate that America ever does anything but lavishly reward the psycopathic predators who over-populate the nation’s social stratosphere of class privilege and impunity.
    For myself, though, I’d like to start the accountability ball rolling with the cashiering of ticket-punching generals Petraeus, Odierno, and Lynch: three self-promoting parasites who keep failing upwards through the ranks doing nothing but offering excuses and demanding further future decades to do what they have shown conclusively — for years — that they cannot. The charge: “If you knew what to do, you would have done it already. If you could have you would have; but since you didn’t, you can’t. Get lost, and don’t let the doorknob hit you on your dumb ass on the way out the door.”
    Parkinson’s Law states that “in a bureaucracy, work will expand to fill the time alloted for its completion” and that (empire building) “managers tend to multiply subordinates.” The Peter Principle states that “in a hierarchy, people tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” In the American political/military hierarchy, though, the worst of both iron laws of bureaucratic growth obtain, such that the “work” that our military cannot even define, much less accomplish, goes on inflating itself indefinitely due to the importunate demands of careerist officers who not only rise quickly to their level of incompetence, but continue rising in rank and perks long after reaching and passing that bureaucratic “benchmark.”
    Thus, for example, “lightning sprints” across the empty desert into the trap of Baghdad quickly morph into ambiguous “long war” glacier-race “counter insurgencies” (of minimal ten-year duration) promoted by self-interested “lifetime beginners” who always promise future “signs” of “progress” while delivering only ever-escalating budgets, casualty lists, and Collateral Carnage. To say that America doesn’t get its top generals from the deep end of the nation’s intellectual gene pool does a comparative disservice to the brainpower nominally present in the typical primordial swamp.
    As Wellington (or Nelson?) reportedly remarked when looking over his roster of officers before Waterloo (Trafalgar?): “I only hope that when the enemy reads the list of their names, that he trembles as I do.” Or, as Bruce Hornsby sang in his bitterly ironic Defenders of the Flag: “If these guys are the good ones, I don’t want to know the bad.” In going-on-five years now of bloody, inconclusive bungling by America’s bloated blowhards, the so-called “bad guys” in Iraq and Afghanistan do not appear to tremble much at the military line up America has deployed against them. Quite to the contrary: the more “training” we give them in how to kill Americans, the better they get at their job and the worse we get at ours.
    In summary formula: Parkinson’s Law + the Peter Principle = Lunatic Leviathan. From “the Best and the Brighest” of bunglers in Southeast Asia to “the Worst and the Dullest” of knaves in the Middle East — and all in only one generation. Imperial collapse that rapid and complete could only happen in America: the Land that Forgot Time — a deadbeat Titanic in a tidepool, where “entertainment consumption” has almost exclusively replaced education and “career advancement” has become the chief substitute for real achievement. So let us by all means see to another round of golden parachutes and medals of freedom for the pathetic perps who have collectively “led” us to what Dr. Lawrence Peter creatively called “a pretty pass.”

  10. Well, Michael it is perfectly OK with me if you start with Larry, Moe, and Curly (aka Petraeus, Odierno, and whatsisname). They seem like as good a place as any to begin, for the reasons you mentioned.
    I believe I mentioned this here already, but it bears repeating. On another blog – one much more America-centric than this one – I pointed out that Petraeus had no compunctions about the “surge” because after all he is nothing but an ambitious f*** who would do anything to advance his career, and doesn’t really care how many of his own troops he kills to accomplish it. One of his colleagues at West Point has described him as the kind of guy who would marry the commandant’s daughter to get ahead. A few days later I got an e-mail from an army officer congratulating me on my excellent analysis of “King David”, as he is secretly known. He is NOT well thought of either for his competence or his character.

  11. By the way, Michael, the only difference between the “collateral carnage” in Afghanistan, which you did mention, and the certainly far, far greater “collateral carnage” in Iraq, other than the magnitude of it, is that in Iraq they have so far succeeded in concealing it behind the “sectarian violence”.

  12. Senator Richard Lugar
    “The Senator expressed frustration over fighting among Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites and the fact that the Iraqi Parliament is actually preparing for vacation in August.”
    Yes Sir, the Iraqi Parliament members should send you a Holiday Forms to be singed by your administration simply they are employee by you.
    You right to ask for this Sir.

  13. he is nothing but an ambitious f*** who would do anything to advance his career,
    Iraqis call him the “Doors Kicker” that’s what he did first time when he deployed in Iraq most of the Iraqi house damaged and broken because of this US gangster

  14. Oh boy, what a lovefest between like minded posters. Is it that hard to realize that the hatred and tensions of the Arab and moslem world are carried on when individuals move to or reside in the West? Why would one think that sectarian killers in Iraq would somehow reform when they move to the UK?
    One of the Glasgow bombers was presumably incensed because of the Shiite dominance post US/UK invasion and took action just like many Sunnis do in Iraq.
    That is true for a new arrival, but google people like Safa Alkateb in the US. He has been here for decades, a rich enterpreneur, but still lives and breathes the sectarian battles of Iraq and celebrated Saddam’s hanging. Read him.

  15. “Is it that hard to realize that the hatred and tensions of the Arab and moslem world are carried on when individuals move to or reside in the West?”
    Is it that hard to realize that the hatred and tensions of Christian terrorists like Timothy MacVeigh are carried on when the individuals move to or reside in the West?
    answer: NO

  16. I’ll try to keep this comment germane to yet another “crucial” week in Washington, D.C., while at the same time trying to gain a little leverage off the Timothy McVeigh home-grown terrorist episode mentioned — not without relevance — by Susan. Here goes …
    A few years ago, I had the good fortune to take some classes in Buddhism and Sanskrit from a former South Asian ambassador to both France and the United States. Over lunch at school one day he regaled me with the story of how the United States trade representative had called him up to complain of his country’s embargo against importing fertilizer from America. When he told the American lady that his government had to deal with indigenous terrorists and that scientists in his country said that people could make bombs out of petroleum-based fertilzer, she arrogantly upbraided him with: “Well, if you had real scientists like we have in America, then you wouldn’t believe such nonsense.” A few weeks later, naturally, Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City by cleverly using an explosive truck-load of fertilizer. My professor, the former Ambassador, then told me that he called up the American lady trade rep and said to her (with not a little implied schadenfreude): “What do you think of our scientists now?”
    I relate this little tale as part of a larger theme, of course, because it demonstrates the utter arrogance and disrespect for the intelligence of others that so animates America’s “governing elites” (short on governing and long on elitism) even as this asinine attitude simultaneously renders them unfit for a responsible position in any country’s government. Not to put too fine a point on it, the relevance of this vignette to the current “crucial” week in Washington, D.C. has to do with clueless, incompetent, and irresponsible Americans setting “benchmarks” for the “sovereign” Iraqi “government” presently held captive in the Baghdad Green Zone Castle.
    About two years ago, if I recall correctly, America “transferred” the Orwellian euphemism “sovereignty” to an Iraq which America nonetheless went on militarily occupying. Most of the American press and public supinely swallowed this glaring oxymoron of “occupied sovereignty” although Newsweek‘s Christopher Dickey, for one, didn’t. He refused to parrot the official American Newspeak and correctly pointed out that the American government had in fact only transferred “the blame” for its own bloody bungling in Iraq onto the hapless Iraqis themselves. The current “benchmark” thing in Washington D.C. constitutes nothing more than yet another bald-faced festival of “blaming” by America’s inept political/military “leadership.” How completely ludicrous — if not just downright disgusting.
    Just as Timothy McViegh improvised and used fertilizer for his lethal weapon, fifteen Saudis, three Egyptians, and one Yemeni improvised and used four commercial jet airliners full of gasoline to bomb three American buildings on 9/11/2001. How ironic that the two worst terrorist incidents in recent American history should have in common the use of simple, petroleum-derived products as their chief explosive ingredient. And to make matters even more embarrassing for America’s bloated and irrelevant “national security” establishment, both destructive episodes required only twenty ordinary people — “nobodies,” really — to effectively plan and execute them practically at no material economic cost to the “terrorists” themselves.
    So why the enormous and completely fabricated farce about “weapons of mass destruction” supposedly harbored with deadly intent by the Taliban heroin-suppressors in Afghanistan and the toothless tinpot dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq? Did the two governments of Afghanistan and Iraq possess alarming quantities of fertilizer and aviation gasoline — on a scale even remotely approximating the stores of such “massively destructive” commerical chemicals in America itself? I mean, like, what happened to, you know, “thinking” and “perspective” — let alone science — in America? Stop laughing and crying at the same time! I have a serious point to make here.
    The “crucial” events now taking place in Washington D.C., this week as in every other week for the past five years, involve nothing more difficult to understand than the orgy of fear and opportunism that normally grips and consumes America’s “governing elites,” both civilian and military. They now rightly fear that if held accountable for their crimes then they would lose their future opportunities to defraud the American people — and a considerable number of Afghans and Iraqis as well — of what little they haven’t stolen already. They have nothing to sell but fear itself, and that mercilessly marketed commodity has about exhausted even the famed credulity of the Nation of Sheep. Blaming the “sovereign” Iraqis and Afghans for not making America’s millitary occupation of them more pleasant and profitable for the occupying Americans — particularly the American “governing elites” who set all the slaughter in motion — has become the chief survival business of those American officials who haven’t even the cynical honesty of Madame de Pompadour who said of her own culpable French aristocracy following Louis XIV’s ruinous reign: “After us, the deluge.”
    This “crucial week” in Washington D.C. marked only another incremental incident of irresolute infamy in America. True, given enough cumulative weeks of moonwalking backwards towards “something or other” America might even get “somewhere.” As Thomas Friedman said in justifying America’s “unprovoked and dastardly attack” (in FDR’s famous phrase) on Iraq: “We had to hit somebody.” How American “elites” do love their indefinite pronouns! So, we found somebody we thought we could hit with impunity and we “hit” them with “shock and awe.” Pure, unfocused, atavistic rage for “vengeance.” And the American military establishment only too eagerly jumped at the chance to voluntarily carry out the vicious “shocking” — even if it awed no one but Americans far removed from what really transpired in the exploding and collapsing buildings half a world away. Nothing more enlightened or dificult to comprehend than that. A tawdry travesty and a demoralizing disgrace to the honor of the nation.
    Unfortunately for those incapable of understanding historical blowback, now that those we hit have hit back at us so unexpectedly and for so long, we find ourselves trapped and bankrupting our country for no other reason than to permit our own culpable perpetrators to tap-dance backwards out of the spotlight and hopefully towards an unnoticed exit from their own panic-stricken perfidy.
    Yes, I read the New York Times editorial in question as well as approving commentary on it by Helena Cobban here and Colonel W. Patrick Lang on his own blog (from which he has banned me for making irreverent comments about the Pope and military officers). I find it welcome and “encouraging,” of course, but only in that it marginally manages to catch up with a little reality, even as the article mostly seeks to justify the formerly great newspaper’s record of spineless sycophancy and cheerleading for an American government unworthy of even what little trust Americans can now manage to still place in it. Sure. Welcome aboard, and all that. Why, in a few more years, who knows but that this same newspaper may even reprint the same editorial, almost verbatim, only needing to change the name of the “pitiful helpless giant” of an American President and “commander in chief” so afraid of the reactionary “loser” label that he or she jumps right into the trap of “thinking” in the same flawed figures of speech that currently pass for “analysis” and “strategy” in Washington, D.C. today. When the New York Times comes out in favor of impeachment and war-crimes trials for those American officials who demanded and got their big chance to play at war for their own political and career aggrandizement, then I will again take the New York Times seriously as a serious newspaper.
    In summary, damage to America from exploding fertilizer and aviation gasoline: four big buildings and about three thousand dead people; damage to America from non-existent nuclear weapons: zero; damage to America and the world caused by America’s inept and corrupt Lunatic Leviathan of a political/military/corporate oligarchy: too vast and unimaginable an amount to even begin to calculate — this week in Washingon, D.C.

  17. Michael has way higher standards for the NYT than I do. I just want them to understand and explain the concept of “international law” – THAT would be a huge improvement.
    I guess that is off-topic, too – sorry.

  18. Susan:
    There is a difference-we must not conflate the invasion of Iraq with events such as Air India, the Tube Bombing (again, they warnings how could they fail to stop it)…etc…In my view, this is where the left becomes non-sensical and reactive…

  19. kdj, can we just for once forget about those mythical constructs known as “the left” and “the right” and just deal with fact, logic, and reason?

  20. “Susan:
    There is a difference-we must not conflate the invasion of Iraq with events such as Air India, the Tube Bombing ”
    I absolutely agree – the illegal war of aggression has killed about a million people, so there is no comparison – the war on Iraq is much, much worse. And we should all focus on stopping the massive killings first, because that will save the most lives.

  21. The somewhat lame rejoinder that disaffected and sporadic Muslim attacks on Western nations have no cause-and-effect relationship to the invasions, occupations, destruction, and looting of Muslim countries by the West simply has no merit. The threadbare canard “conflation” does not — by virtue of its mere assertion — displace or refute the more generally accepted understanding of “blowback” or the Law of Unintended Consequences. We hit “somebody” (as Thomas Friedman wrote that we had to do) or “we have to humiliate them” (as Henry Kissinger advised) and the nobody “somebodies” respond in whatever asymmetric way they can manage. This sometimes results in creative improvisation such as “tube bombings” in jingoistic European countries that follow like trained poodles and join with adolescent American adventurers like Deputy Dubya Bush in “shocking” and “awe-ing” Muslim countries that never attacked or threatened to attack either America or England.
    Gee whiz. We “unjustly attacked innocents” just can’t figure out why those mean Middle Eastern peoples keep getting so upset at our periodic — if not continuous now — Western crusades against them. I mean, don’t they just intuitively grasp that we only destroy their villages in order to save them? Don’t ther “bad weddings” and “safe houses” deserve blunderbuss blitzing from bombers cruising three miles above harm’s way? Don’t their males “of military age” deserve summary arrest and indefinite incarceration for the heinous crime of, well, “being of military age”? Doesn’t our self-proclaimed and pompously propagated “innocence” render us immune to any sort of retaliation for the reckless devastation we strew in our wanton wake wherever we witlessly wander?
    That erstwhile cynic Graham Greene only thought he had it right about America when he wrote that “Innocence is like a blind leper who has lost his bell; wandering through the world, intending no harm.” In fact, America and its leper leaders very much intended to inflict very much harm on Afghanistan and Iraq — and did so. We only now seem a bit nonplussed to learn that it hasn’t gone well at all and that in fact the pooch that we screwed turns out to in many ways to look like us. At any rate, as James Carroll wrote in a Boston Globe article called “The Habit of Revenge” (8/5/2003): “When we want our revenge, we take it. And, even as the flimsy rationales with which we cloak it are stripped away, we fervently deny that vengeance, not justice, defines our purpose.”
    “Beware a nation announcing its innocence en route to war,” Carroll also wrote a few months earlier (2/18/2003). I would add that we have even more reason for hostile suspicion when the “innocent” invader and occupier continues to spread chaos and death abroad while complaining that he cannot stop making matters worse by his unnecessary presence because that would only result in a situation where matters get even worse. Nothing but tired, tendentious tautology. Nothing but the same sloppy solipsistic siren song. As Carroll also wrote way back at the bogus beginning of this butchery: “Only a fool defines a problem in such a way that he cannot solve it,” and by ceaselessly reiterating our “resolve” to remain in Iraq — for purposes never explained or justified — we Americans have once again shown ourselves fools for the ages, completely incapable of solving problems because we find the problems so much more self-serving and satisfactory than any sane — and therefore hopelessly embarrassing — solution to them.

  22. Michael, on further reflection, I must insist that you include the swaggering little popinjay (as Helena use to call him), L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer III along with Petraeus et al. as the first group to go before the Iraq War Crimes Tribunal. At the moment, I have two books and a major report “working” in which he figures rather prominently, and no one is more deserving than he of a good old fashioned Nuremberg style trial, conviction, and – well, I don’t believe in capital punishment, and anyway that would put him out of his misery to quickly and easily.
    By the way, former CIA guy (and classmate/colleague of Valerie Plame Wilson, Larry Johnson, has made a couple of recent blog entries on what he calls the “terrorist crock of crap”. The first one is a reaction to the recent “car bomb” (which were, in fact, at best not bombs but wannabe incendiary devices) incidents, and the second is a response to Chertoff’s oh, so transparent “gut feeling” that Al Qa`eda is gonna get us this summer (looks like fighting them there is not keeping them from coming here, if you can believe Chertoff’s intestinal prognostications).

  23. I agree about Bremer, Shrin. As a former office manager for Henry Kissinger’s influence-peddling operation, he’s had lots of opportunities to practice plundering down-and-out countries: in Russia, for example, even before Henry the Horrible got him the insider gig in Iraq. Although I favor simply firing most of our incompetent military brass for, well, incompetence above and beyond the call of career sycophancy, the war-crimes trials should surely focus on the main political perps, first. That long list would include, at a bare minimum: Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Powell, Rice, Tenet, and — as you say — Bremer. The Joint Chiefs and senior military brass in Iraq should get at least forced retirement at reduced rank and forfiture of all benefits and allowances. Stuff like that.
    And then I woke up from my fantastical dream of justice triumphing after all …

  24. chaps
    Michael Murray and the Vietnam vets will recognise these accounts of how it is.
    “A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that if they don’t speak English and they have darker skin, they’re not as human as us, so we can do what we want.”
    Specialist Josh Middleton, 23, of New York City, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Four-month tour in Baghdad and Mosul beginning December 2004

  25. Michael, Frank, et al.,
    I strongly urge you to take a good look at this report from Global Policy Forum titled War and Occupation in Iraq. I have been going through it for the last several days – it is 117 pages in length, and comprehensive, covering everything from Destruction of Cultural Heritage (all of it due to inaction of the invaders/occupiers, much of it due to direct actions by the invaders/occupiers), Corruption, Fraud, and Gross Malfeasance (most of it either on the part or with the complicity of the Americans), Killing Civilians, Murder, and Atrocities on the part of occupation forces, to the incontrovertible evidence that the U.S. is in the process of establishing a permanent military and controlling economic and political presence in Iraq.
    There is nothing in this report that would constitute a major revelation to those of us who have carefully followed events and conditions in Iraq, but I have never seen it all spelled out so completely and comprehensively in one source.
    And I am not sure what makes me more angry, the incredible collection of crimes the report lays out or the fact that I have not seen one syllable about this report anywhere in the mainstream media.

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