FRED HALLIDAY MISINFORMED? Is this

FRED HALLIDAY MISINFORMED? Is this another example of transatlantic differences in perspective? In Salon.com earlier this week, the veteran British Middle East specialist and prof at the London School of economics Fred Halliday was quoted as having said that, “Anyone who wants a just Palestinian solution should be supporting a war in Iraq… It would be good for Palestinian aspirations.”
His reasoning on this was that, “We are far more likely to see real progress on Palestine if there is a war in Iraq… The Americans will push on it and compromised Arab leaders will probably try to revive the Saudi proposals that came through the Arab League last year and have since been on ice.” He pointed to a notable precedent: the fact that the aftermath of the last Gulf War in 1991 led to the convening of the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference. “There was this positive linkage,” he said…
I strongly demur.
In fact, if Halliday really said what he was quoted as saying, I would wonder what planet he’s been living on over the past two years?? Has he left his LSE ivory tower recently and ventured across either the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea to see what the true situation regarding W’s Middle East “policy” has become since January 2001?
What I’ve been reading in Ha’Aretz pretty consistently over the past few months, what I certainly found out in numerous places during my two trips to Israel/Palestine since last April, and what I continually read and encounter all the time here in the United States is that this administration ain’t at all your father’s Bush administration when it comes to Arab-Israeli peacemaking.
Egged on by his friends in both the U.S. evangelical-Christian-Zionist movement and in the strongly pro-Likud branch of the Jewish-American community, W has aligned his agenda almost totally with Sharon’s. He has given Sharon carte blanche to do what he wants in the occupied territories (which Rumsfeld even once described as “the so-called occuped territories”). The much-awaited speech of last June 24 in which W laid out his approach to Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking was greeted with huge delight by Sharon and his aides– not surprising, since they practically wrote it themselves.
And W has even, disgracefully, incorporated many aspects of Sharon’s ultra-tough-guy policies on dealing with perceived opponents into the practice of the U.S. government: extrajudicial killings, disregard for international humanitarian law, use of massively escalatory policies, contempt for broad alliances, etc etc.
None of which policies, as applied by Sharon on behalf of the Israelis, has brought them even one whit closer to the security and wellbeing for which they long. And nor can such policies be expected to work any better for W…
But what I’d love to hear from Fred Halliday– if he really did utter those quotes cited above– is where on earth can he find any evidence at all that Bush may be headed in the direction of moving, post-Iraq, toward the kind of serious and fairminded engagement in Arab-Israeli peacemaking that might help meet the Palestinians’ aspirations?
I certainly haven’t found any such evidence. And with the likes of Elliot Abrams, Doug Feith, Richard Perle, etc running Washington’s Middle East policy it is highly unlikely that anyone could do so.
I can understand that maybe from London things might look a little different. Tony Blair has been rushing around trying to reassure the Palestinians, the other Arabs, and the Europeans that he, at least, is serious about getting the Palestinian-Israeli “road map” moving well forward both before and after the war against Saddam.
Poor Tony. He believes he can make a difference! He believes he can help steer the juggernaut of Bushian militarism in a direction where it might do some good.
Maybe he’s sincere in believing all that. But the rest of us, who have seen the reality and strength of the organic link between Sharon and the Bush administration from close up, also need to make our own judgments.
Fred Halliday, who I’m assuming is not totally Blair’s lapdog (can a lapdog have his own lapdog, I wonder?) should make his own informed judgment on this too.

‘SHOCK AND AWE’: I’ve been

‘SHOCK AND AWE’: I’ve been doing a little research on the hottest strategic concept being talked up by the Washington hawks these days. ‘Shock & Awe’ is a strategic concept advocated most ardently and publicly by former naval commander Harlan Ullman. It involves throwing large numbers of allegedly “smart” cruise missiles into Baghdad in the first two days of a war, with the goal of causing total psychological collapse in “the enemy”.
Ullman recently told CBS News that, “We want them to quit. We want them not to fight… So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes.” He invited his listeners to engage in a thought exercize: “You’re sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you’re the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out.” Apparently switching sides to then talk about the Americans, he added, “You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted.”
How much do we need to unpack these statements? Like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima? … You get rid of their power, water?
We could just dismiss Ullman as a sad old blowhard, a swaggering schoolyard bully. And yes, it is evident that a lot of the Pentagon’s “information policy” these days is aimed at trying to intimidate potential Iraqi opponents. So we could perhaps say that Ullman’s utterances are in themselves “just another example” of this effort at psy-war.
But I also think we should take people’s statements seriously. Actually advocating perpetrating something like another Hiroshima, or the intentional disabling of the power and water systems for an entire city is a serious business. In fact, the latter kind of an action clearly qualifies as a crime against humanity under the definition agreed on in Article 6 of the Charter for the Nuremberg Tribunal. (Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war…)
I cite the Nuremberg Tribunal definition because it was developed mainly by the Pentagon’s own lawyers. Since then, the Nuremberg Principles, including its definitions of these kinds of crime, have been adopted by the entire international community. Cutting of power and water to an entire city would, I think, count by anyone’s definition as an “inhumane act” committed against a “civilian population.”
Ullman’s words must be held to have weight. And inasmuch as many people in the Pentagon claim that Shock&Awe is their doctrine of the day, I think we need to get the official word from the Pentagon and the White House as to whether the U.S. government will disavow these statements from Ullman, or whether they actually plan to go ahead and implement these inhumane threats.
I’ve been trying to get hold of a copy of the 199-page book, published by the National Defense University in 1996, in which Ullman and six colleagues first laid out the S&A concept. The book is called Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. The work on it was sponsored by NDU’s “Advanced Concepts, Technologies, and Information Strategies group”. (So yes, my fellow-Amurrcans, your tax dollars have been generously at work here.)
I think I can get to a microfiche copy of the text in the next couple of days. But in the mean-time, I found a review of it, published in the Naval War College Review in 1998 that makes some intriguing points.
The author of the review, an Air Force Major called Mark Conversino, clearly didn’t like the way the book was written. “Unfortunately, it is the reader who is ‘shocked’,” he huffed. “While the authors are all eminently qualified to expound on military affairs and strategy, the text is rambling, repetitious, and at times incoherent.” Moreover, “a number of egregious errors call its credibility into question.” He goes on to list a few of those.
A little later comes the really tanatalizing part: “The authors make a strong case for Germany’s blitzkrieg campaigns as an example of shock and awe… As in blitzkrieg, rapid dominance produces shock and awe through four elements, including ‘rapidity.'” [Well yes, Mark, rapid dominance might indeed seem to be endowed with that quality.] Then, he has this to say about Ullman et al’s study: “In an incomprehensible leap of logic, the Nazi Holocaust is classified a ‘state policy of Shock and Awe.'”
So let’s hear it for ‘Shock and Awe’, shall we? A strategic concept that, its authors claim, promises us not only all the fine qualities of Hiroshima, but also those of the blitzkrieg and the Holocaust.
Who on earth are these people?
I did notice that if you go to the CSIS website, you can find a bio for Harlan Ullman that includes a phone number and an e-address. Maybe tomorrow I’ll give him a call.

WHAT IF DUBYA had to

WHAT IF DUBYA had to shovel his own sidewalks?
Thoughts of civic virtue were flying around in my head at 9:30 this morning as I struggled to shovel a path along the 100 ft or so of sidewalk that fronts our property. As someone who jogs, I certainly appreciate the civic virtues of those of our neighbors who work to keep a path along their sidewalks. On ours, today, the snow was 10-18 inches deep, with some driftsnow having come in and of course those unmanageable chunks of ice thrown up by the city’s plows over the past two days.
So what if the Prez had to– either literally or metaphorically– shovel his own sidewalks in life? Clean up his own messes? Make his own appropriate contribution to the wellbeing of the global community?
In so many places, he just acts unilaterally and expects someone else to shovel out the resulting mess. In both foreign policy and domestic policy. For starters, our kids and grandkids are going to be struggling for decades into the future to clean up after Dubya’s blitzkrieg on the federal budget. And then, this war????? Who on earth is going to be able to clean up after that?
Well, I guess we briefly lived in the same neighborhood as W and Laura back in DC. Our kids all went to Horace Mann Elementary together. I confess I never saw him out there shoveling his walk. (Back then, we didn’t have one. To be quite fair, I don’t recall if they had one either.)
Anyway,my own little commitment to civic virtue today received an unexpected and welcome reward. A very pleasant guy walking by offered to help. Taken aback, I said Yes, and went off to find a spare shovel. We then spent half an hour finishing the job together. When I thanked him he said he walks along here nearly every day, so he will be one of the beneficiaries.
Wow! Random hunks coming at me from all directions, it feels like. (And here’s me, a happily married woman.) Last week on Tuesday, when I was driving to New York through horrible weather, at one of those very expensive toll-booths along the way, as I shivered to roll down the window and fumble for the required number of dollar bills, the attendant waved me on. “The guy in front of you paid for you,” she said. “He did? Goodness, why?” “Oh, he just said he wanted to do a good for someone– and he was kinda cute-looking, too…”
So here’s a thought, dear Presidente: How about a few significant acts of random kindness from you?
Or even better, a serious commitment to global civic virtue?

Iraq Democrats Disappointed

Back last summer, I got into a heartfelt exchange with a friend of mine who’s an Iraqi democrat. His name is Siyamend Othman. He’s a wise and good person, an Iraqi Kurd who’s lived in exile for many, many years, and who worked for a bunch of them as a researcher for Amnesty International in London.
Understandably, he loathes Saddam Hussein. In our exchange last August or so, I was commenting critically on articles he was writing about how an American military victory over Saddam could usher in an era of democratization in Iraq.
I wrote to him, based on my experience of having lived in a war-zone–in Lebanon–for six years back in the 1970s: “I have never believed that democracy can be brought to any country on the tips of bayonets (or the nose-cones of cruise missiles, come to that). I guess for me it is also, to a major degree a human-rights question, since I consider that war itself constitutes a massive assault on people’s rights, and always, always, brings in its train conditions that constitute a continuing assault on human rights for a very, very long time after…”
He wrote back, “I understand where you are coming from and respect the proposition that ‘war (I presume you mean any war) itself constitutes a massive assault on people’s rights’. However, would you hold the same position regarding World War II – the bloodiest confrontation in the history of Mankind? But that was different, I am repeatedly told. Hitler was a menace to humanity; Saddam is a small-time Third World tyrant who has been effectively ‘contained’… Needless to say that establishing the foundations of democracy in post-Saddam Iraq is by no means a foregone conclusion. In all likelihood, it would be a long and painful process with no guaranteed outcome. In my opinion, much will depend on American attitudes. That is why I keep repeating that winning the ‘Battle of Washington’ is as important as winning that of Baghdad. In this endeavour, Iraqi democrats are in dire need of all the help they can get from their Western counterparts, yourself included.”
As I said, Siyamend is a wise and good person. We agreed to disagree– but not before I warned him that putting any faith in the idea that this U.S. administration might have any commitment to democratization or democrats seemed an improbably long bet.
The most recent message I got from Siyamend indicated that he and his Iraqi-democratic friends feel they may now have lost the ‘Battle of Washington’. It included an article his friend Kanan Makiya wrote in the London Observer on Sunday, as well as an Observer article about the growing disillusionment of Kanan and Iraqi opposition boss Ahmed Chalabi over Washington’s recent pronouncements for their plans for a post-Saddam Iraq.
“The United States,” Kanan wrote, “is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities. The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government. The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition… ”
This whole business is truly tragic. It is true that the “Iraqi opposition” is a diverse conglomeration of people. Ahmed Chalabi has been on the lam from Jordan for years for bankrupting thousands of Jordanians through the collapse of his Petra Bank more than 15 years ago. Kanan Makiya got catapulted to fame and fortune in August-September 1990 after he published–under the pseudonym Samir Khalil–a lengthy indictment of Saddam’s misrule that was a tad short on documentation if very long on emotion. In addition, there are ayatollahs-in-waiting massed in their hundreds in exile in Iran. There are Kurdish tribal leaders who wouldn’t even speak to each other for most of the past decade… And then, there are also among the opposition many serious people who are sincerely committed to building a real democracy in their country.
Why on earth did the Iraqi democrats ever put any faith in George Bush?
Makiya, for his part, may well have grown to love the attention he got from being lionized by some segments of the administration. In his Observer piece, he asks coyly, “Is the President who so graciously invited me to his Oval Office only a few weeks ago to discuss democracy, about to have his wishes subverted by advisers… ?”
Well yes, Kanan, maybe the Prez had any “wishes” he ever had for “democracy” subverted a long time ago.
But seriously: discussing democracy— with George W. Bush??

New York Demonstration

I was one of the lucky ones yesterday, at the anti-war demonstration in NYC. That is, New York’s finest (the cops) actually graciously allowed my daughter, her fiance, and me to join the stationary “rally” for which a permit had been given… That is, after the courts had denied a permit for an anti-war march.
We wanted to join a small “feeder march” being assembled by the Quakers at 53d St & 2nd Ave. We arrived on the V-line subway from Brooklyn, got out at 51st and 3d Ave, hoped to cross easily to 2nd Avenue to find the Quakers. (“We’ll just listen carefully for where there’s a big silence,” I told the future son-in-law.)
Fat chance. The cops were not letting anyone cross to 2nd Ave, even. (The rally was in 1st Ave.) At every intersection they had closely guarded barriers, and they funneled us ever further north with promises that we could cross eastward one or two blocks further up… Thousands of anti-war demonstrators from many parts of NYC and elsewhere were being herded north– away from the rally–but moving along good-naturedly. We became quite a large group of people moving north along the broad sidewalks. Why, it even looked like a march!
At 59th St, they finally let us cross east. By then, it was too late to join the Quaker group, so we walked right on over to 1st Ave and walked a couple of blocks south to join the main body of the rally between 56th and 57th Sts. We “arrived” there at just about noon, the time the event was scheduled to begin. We could not see the head of the rally at all, but watched the whole event on a large screen half a block ahead of us.
The prayers and invocations at the beginning were very moving: a black Baptist Bishop, a Muslim imam, a woman rabbi, a Hispanic Catholic, and the keening prayer of the Chief of the Lakota Sioux. Then, there was an amazing constellation of speakers, including my old favorite Archbishop Tutu. Pete Seeger came out, despite the intense cold and his advancing years, and led a song. The crowd around us stamped their feet or jogged in place to try to get warm. Some notable signs I saw: “Stop mad cowboy disease”, “Duct and cover!” and even a quote from Ovid pinned to someone’s backpack.
Shortly after 2 p.m., I needed to leave. Getting out of the pens the police had made for us was almost as hard as getting in. When I did make it back to 2nd Ave, and then again at 3d Ave– each time, there were barricades up with the police still preventing people from moving east to 1st Ave. Some of those people had been trying to get through for the past two hours. Mostly, the police just seemed businesslike and very firm, stamping their feet and exchanging grimaces about the dire cold.
At one of the intersections I passed on my way out, however, the police were all in riot gear, unlike all the others I’d seen. They were standing around seemingly just spoiling for a fight. Nearby were parked coaches from the prison department, ready, I surmised, to be loaded with arrestees. I didn’t have time to stop and make a clear assessment, however.
And just about all the way over to where I got on the F train at 63rd and Lexington, the traffic was at a complete standstill
The effect of the court order banning a march, and of the way the police then played their role, was that a lot of people who had come to join the event, including some who’d come hundreds of miles to do so, were prevented from exercising their right to assemble peacefully. Probably, the effects on traffic and on non-demonstrating New Yorkers, were just as bad or worse than what would have been caused by allowing a well-planned march. The police ended up making a hundred or fewer arrests. But they certainly cleaned up on their overtime.
* * *
DRIVING HOME WITH GARRISON KEILLOR: After the rally I drove south. I had dinner with a family friend at Haverford College, in Philly; drove some more; got in late to the home of another friend in DC; left the car outside; went to bed totally knackered
This morning, I found DC magically blanketed in 7 inches of fresh snow, and more coming all the time. I was eager to get back to my hearth and home here in Charlottesville, Va., and figured the going would only get worse for the next couple of days.
It took 40 mins to dig the car out. I knew the drive would be tough but I had warm clothes, food, water, a cellphone, and set off around the beltway to I-66.
The first couple of hours, I had “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio. Garrison Keillor was hilarious. I really haven’t listened much to him recently.
The most hilarious parts were when he was skewering the Bush administration. Lots of jokes about duct tape– of course. And then, a great riff when they were talking about reports that the “Rapture” long awaited by the evangelicals had just taken place. (Asked whether this was true, the ‘President’ said, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?”) I shouldn’t spoil the suspense, in case you’re waiting for the re-runs. But I will just reveal that most of the truly righteous souls taken to glory in the Rapture turned out to be Lutherans…
Here’s the thing, though. If even fairly mainstream entertainers like Garrison Keillor are so openly mocking of the Bushies’ present war preparations and scaremongering, shouldn’t the Bushies be paying a lot more attention to that?
Here’s another thing. I wasn’t around in the US during the Vietnam war. And I know the American involvement there grew up differently from the assembling and possibly imminent activation of a massive invasion force that we see around Iraq today.
But it strikes me that the kind of coalition that I saw firsthand in New York– labor unions, black and Latino organizations, churches and other faith groups, public intellectuals, members of the US Congress, etc etc– is a pretty impressive anti-war force to have assembled already… and thus far, the “really big” phase of the war hasn’t even been launched.
Plus, the international dimension of the peace movement is very evident, and very important. We were trying to rally near the U.N., where just the day before French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin received unprecedented applause for his plea to try to avoid war. We were rallying, too, on the same day as millions of other folks from all round the world…
This is not the 1960s. The worldwide anti-war forces are, I firmly believe, in far stronger shape today.
And then, duct tape??? These guys simply can’t be serious.

FROM NEW YORK, Valentine’s Day

I’ve had a busy couple of days of work here, talking to some really interesting folks about my ‘Violence and its Legacies’ project, and starting to make plans for the research trip I’m planning to Africa in April, as part of the project.
From time to time, the idea of going to Africa in April seems weird. Shouldn’t I be concentrating more on this terrible Bush War in (and around) Iraq??
But I think its important not to become too, too distracted by the Bush War. Other parts of the world do still matter– a lot. And this project I’m working on, which looks at how effective three countries in Africa–Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda–ended up being when they sought, eight to ten years ago, to deal with legacies of atrocious violence, is certainly one with lessons that will have relevance everywhere. Including Iraq.
Yesterday, I talked to Alex Boraine, who worked with Archbishop Tutu as Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. He’s now head of an organization called the International Center for Transitional Justice, that seeks to advise countries in transition on setting up their own TRCs.  Well, since I was focusing on my African research, we didn’t specifically talk about the idea of a TRC for Iraq.  But it’s not a bad idea.
What the S. African TRC did was significant because it helped to allow the white-minority regime to give up power to the democratic will of the (non-white) majority–and to be reintegrated into the new S. Africa as part of Mandela’s new ‘Rainbow Nation’.
In Iraq and in Syria, we also have the problem of minority-based regimes hanging onto power– with one great motivation for them to do so being their fear of how the majority might treat them if the majority were given a democratic order.
In South Africa, the TRC, and the broader black-white negotiation of which it was a part, allowed the white South Africans to cede power to the majority without fear of bloody retribution…
Wednesday, I talked for the first time to Andrea Bartolli, an Italian national now at Columbia who first came to NYC in the 1980s as the representative at the UN for a Catholic lay-based social-justice organization called Sant’ Egidio.  In that role, Bartolli played a significant behind-the scenes role with the rest of the Sant’ Egidio team who were helping to bring an end to Mozambique’s long-running civil war.  They succeeded in 1992.
Talking to Bartolli was fascinating.  One of the key factors he mentioned that allowed the negotiations between the two sides to the Mozambique war to succeed was the fact that they proceeded largely out of the public eyeof the world’s media, big governments, etc.  Another factor was that at that time, “No-one was even thinking that criminal prosecutions for past atrocities should be part of a peace negotiation– unlike today.”
So instead of criminal prosecutions etc (which became the international flavor-of-the-decade just a few months after Mozambique’s October 1992 agreement), what the Mozambicans did at both the national and local levels, was to state clearly that “the era of war and violence is past”, and to get on with the job of healing and rebuilding.
Bartolli told me he thought it was really important to have a consciously transformative event like the one where the leaders of the two sides there made a joint announcement that the war had ended.  He also noted that while most Westerners have a view of war that is purely instrumental– that “man uses war for his own purposes, a la Clausewitz”– in Mozambique the most common view is that war and violence are forces that themselves take hold of and use people.
Hey, George W, are you listening??
* * *
UNCLE VANYA:  We went to a great production of Brian Friel’s version of the play last night at BAM’s Harvey Lichtenstein Theater.  It seemed as though friel had cut/adapted the play well.  It moved right along.  A wrenching performance by Emily Watson as Sonya; and both Friel and Sam Mendes, who directed, had really succeeded in keeping/capturing Chekhov’s general gestalt of inescapable social decline.
Of course, New York is exhilarating and fun!!!  I guess the anti-war gathering tomorrow is not getting a permit to move, so we’ll be standing around freezingat the rally, listening to Tutu and others speak.
Yesterday, walking around the financial district, we passed a vast, slowly-moving convoy of fully-filled police vans.  The police presence on the subways was not as heavy as the NYT seemed to have portrayed.  In general, the security measures around the city seem to have settled back somewhat from when I was doing similar kinds of meetings here in March ’02.
* * *
NOTES OF 2/13 (but posted a day late):  In New York.  Front pages of most tabloids screaming about Bin Laden’s latest tape.  Audio-tape, that is.  Then, there’s the issue of duct tape: photos of people cleaning out the store shelves of this item which will– Tom Ridge assures us– save our lives in the event of chemical attack.
Mainly, though, New Yorkers seem to be stayng indoors because of the icy grip of winter here.
Today, my latest column in The Christian Science Monitor.  A challenging one indeed.  I wrote it Monday, seeing as how Tuesday I would be driving here to NYC.  The main argument I was making was that in his Feb 5 speech to the UN Colin Powell definitely did NOT establish w/ any credibility that there is a ‘nexus’ between OBL and Saddam (see my previous musings on this, below.)
So the drive here from Virginia was a toughie: swirling snows etc etc.  I heard a few scattered news reports on the car radio, but mainly listened to some Hemingway stories on CD.  I was focusing 100% on driving safely.  Got in maybe 10:30 p.m.
Wed. morning my editor at the CSM calls early, in a panic about the piece. She was right, my careful argumentation did look a little OBE (overtaken by events) in light of the new Osama tape, and the use Colin and his friends were making of it.  (Did you see Maureen Dowd’s great column on that in Wednesday’s NYT? Fabulous!)
So I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to write a new head-and-foot for the piece.  It probaby wasn’t the greatest piece of work I’ve ever done.  But I was under a very tough deadline at that point
The arguments I was making in the piece are little complex.  But duh!  The world is complex!  It cannot be reduced to the war hawks’ simple Manichean view of things.  Jerking the American public into this quite avoidable war on the basis of the administration’s phony argumentation about an OBL-Saddam nexus is still
a really dangerous path to follow.
Plus, as I wrote in the column, by talking up the alleged OBL-Saddam nexus so much, the Bushies seem to have ended up virtually daring OBL to try to make it a reality. A challenge which– surprise, surprise– he seemed eager to take up.
Except he never shook his utter distaste for Saddam and Baathist socialism…

Off to NYC

So much to write, so little time… This afternoon, I’m driving from my home in Charlottesville, Virginia, up to NYC. Going to do some interviews for my continuing research project on “Violence and its Legacies”; also, to see my daughter who’s just moved to Brooklyn. I’ll make a quick foray into DC on the way up. Not sure if I’ll need a gas-mask to protect against the swirling miasma of toxicity in which the city seems to have become gripped.
Yes, yes, I know there are many good people there. Anyway, being on the road will be my test of the Blogger system… The next post will come to you from the Big Apple.

Dangers of Occupation: Taking a lesson from post-war Japan

BOSTON REVIEW: The paper copy of the latest (Feb/March) issue of BR dropped into my mailbox today. Hey, there’s still something special about hard copy– like the way you can mark it up with a real red pen or read it in the bathroom. Anyway, this one is a Special issue on the theme of “War and Democracy”.
Okay yes, I draw it to your attention because there’s a piece by me in it: a fairly long piece of reporting about my December trip to Damascus, and some info about the imprisonment of my Syrian friend and colleague Ibrahim Hamidi.
But in addition, there’s a lot more good stuff, including a piece by John Dower, an excellent, wise historian of modern Japan. Dower directly takes on the arguments heard from some members of the current pro-war crowd, to the effect that “General” Rumsfeld’s war can end up having the same salutary effects for Iraqis as the post-WW2 occupation of Japan had for the Japanese.
(Talking of Rummy, where’s Cheney these days? Back to the secure location?)
Anyway, Dower’s warning for the gung-ho crowd is dire. “The lessons we can draw from the occupation of Japan all become warnings where Iraq is concerned,” he writes, noting the many, many differences between the two cases.
Well, obviously you should read it. (And mine! And mine!)
Trouble is, BR don’t seem to have updated their website yet. So maybe wait a couple of days. Either that, or call ’em and start subscribing to the paper edition…
Someone else who should maybe read Dower’s piece is Rend Rahim Francke, the longtime head of the DC-based Iraq Foundation. January 13, the Washington Post ran an interesting, human-interest-y story by former Middle East reporter Caryle Murphy, who had trailed around Greater DC’s Iraqi-opposition community with her notebook at the ready.
One of her interviewees was Francke, who joked that she would be “on the first U.S. tank” going into Baghdad. Francke confessed to Murphy that she had recently picked up a book at Second Story bookstore about the history of the U.S. occupation of Japan, to learn as much as she could from it.
Maybe that was one of Dower’s excellent books on the subject? Maybe she should talk to Dower as well?
* * *
Also significant in Murphy’s piece was her report that, “Of more than a dozen Iraqi [exiles] recently interviewed, none said they plan to permanently return to Iraq if Hussein is removed.”
And yet, these people are taken seriously as they sit around in their comfy georgetown exile making plans for how Iraq will be governed in the future? Does something smell funny here?
Even Francke told Murphy that she planned to establish only part-time residence in Baghdad after she’d gotten there on her tank.

Blogging in Baghdad

Yesterday, I wrote about how amazing it is to get news from all round the world via the internet. (I won’t mention that the i-net was first brought to the grateful public by DARPA, the Pentagon shop that most recently won fame by sponsoring the Return of John Poindexter and Total Information Awareness. I put that fact in the category of “unintended consequences”, aka “collateral benefits”.)
But here’s an even more amazing thing: blogs from Baghdad. And in the lead-up to this terrible juggernaut of a war…
The one I’ve been reading is ‘Where is Raed? by Raid Jarrar. What I like about Raid’s blog is how immediate, how quotidien, yet how vivid some of his writing is.
I guess some people up to 120 yrs or so had ham radios they could use to communicate across front-lines in a war. When I lived in Lebanon in the 1970s, many people would speak by ground-line phone across that front-line. (My husband at the time, a Lebanese national, had family on both sides of the “Green Line”.) I also remember at the beginning of the Very First Gulf War– the one that started when Saddam invaded Iran, back in 1980– that my then-spouse was covering the Iran side and I was covering the Iraq side, and we would occasionally communicate by telex, through a helpful operator in Kuwait who would re-key our messages from one machine to another. (Kids today don’t even know what a telex is??) Cumbersome click-clacking that was, too.
But now, with cyber-comms, we can get almost real-time communications, multi-media, that cross “front-lines” even halfway around the globe… And in the run-up to such a potentially disastrous war…
What does this mean about the human condition? I’m still trying to figure this out. All help appreciated.
If you don’t have time to go to Raid’s blog, here’s a small excerpt from a Jan 31 posting that for some reason I found very poignant:
“a car ride to al-mansour to get sandwiches, late at night.
10 new sandbag protected trenches seen on the way. appetite totally ruined by thoughts of who will use them and what will happen along these roads.
maybe exploration journey tomorrow to see what else is being done to baghdad.
I am either angry or scared i can’t make up my mind.

Burden of Proof

I guess it’s Sunday in Japan already… Sun quite high in the sky already over that magnificent semicircle of hills that surrounds Hiroshima…
So Ramesh Thakur, a wise Indian scholar who’s the vice-rector of the U.N. University, headquartered in Japan, has a piece in Sunday’s Japan Times that’s worth reading. “Time was when those threatening to go to war had to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt,” he writes. “Today we are asked to prove to the powerful, to their satisfaction, why they should not go to war… There is a sense of helpless anger about hurtling toward a war no one wants. In Canada, Europe and Asia, the depth of alienation from U.S. policy on Iraq is quite striking. In India, people dub it ‘dadagiri’: bullying by the neighborhood tough in a global neighborhood.”
I get so much great email from around the world. What an incredible thing. (And by the way, thanks, Ramesh, for sending me that piece.)
Couple of weeks ago, I got a couple of emails from a Kenyan Quaker pastor called Malesi Kinaro . One of them expressed his real excitement at the results of his country’s mid-January elections. The next one had more about President Bush’s almost unstoppable push toward war against Iraq.
“As I have listened to these tough pro war utterances by Bush I have felt a deep sadness,” Pastor Malesi wrote.
He also wrote about a young woman called Doreen Mayaka, whom his family helped to finish raising after her mother died in the Qaeda bomb attack against the U.S. Embassy (and surrounding buildings) in Nairobi, back in 1998. Doreen was 18 when her mother died, and Pastor Malesi let her write some of her own feelings into his email. Here’s what she said about Bush’s war plans:
“The war between American and Iraq is really scaring me because of the implications it will have on innocent human beings. I refer to my own experience of angered revenge by terrorists toward Americans that left us without our mother who worked for the American Embassy during the 1998 Nairobi Bomb. She was the sole breadwinner of our family. Life without her has been very traumatizing to my brother two sisters and me. Being the first born, I had to immediately take up the role of a mother without any preparations or anything. My sister Debra was only four when our mother died. She never had a chance to know what having a mother means… When I can’t take it any more, the pain of her death becomes too heavy to bear and I always wonder if we really deserved this.
“I don’t understand why innocent Kenyans had to die! Especially my mother who had nothing at all to do with Americans apart from the work she had been given. When it finally hit the Americans, they were now able to understand what we in Africa
had experienced and decided to take action, but their move this round is dangerous. Does it not mean anything to Bush when innocent human beings die? Do we want more deaths when we can choose a different path to get the same needed results? Do we need to prove to the world that we can hit harder than the terrorist or is it better to seek peace and pursue it?
“Yes the terrorists killed my mother and I have forgiven them. I can never be any better if I revenge by involving myself in violence with them… I strongly believe President Bush can [better] seek peace and bring reconciliation than revenge, which will cost more innocent lives.”
So if you’re reading this on a Sunday, give a thought or a prayer to Doreen and everyone else who’s had to struggle with losing a family member to political violence. Come to that, you don’t even have to wait till Sunday…
And then, give a thought to how it is that though a vast majority of people around the world– people like Doreen, Pastor Malesi, Ramesh, or literally billions more like them–are strongly opposed to this war, somehow Prez Bush thinks it’s going to be good for humanity???