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  Saturday   April 10   2004

more of the iraqi intifada — vietnam, lebanon, and the west bank on internet time

There has been discussion of whether this is more like Lebanon or the West Bank, rather than Vietnam. I'm going for all of the above. I'm changing the subject heading accordingly.

Urgently needed: Big shift in U.S. policies in Iraq
by Helena Cobban

I'm guessing the U.S. military leadership has finally understood the scope of the problems their people face in Iraq, and the stunning depth of the failure of Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the man appointed by the suits in the Pentagon to run the "political" side of the occupation?

On the ground, the military has reportedly pulled out of Sadr City--just a mile or so from the Green Zone!-- and is suing for a ceasefire in Fallujah. Meanwhile the quasi-puppet IGC is collapsing and there are many, many reports of U.S.-"trained" Iraqi security units defecting en masse to the insurgents.

Evidently, a massive, top-level shift in the politics of running this occupation is the only thing that can save the 120,000 highly over-exposed and over-stretched American troops in Iraq from a total and humiliating disaster.


Somehow I don't think we can expect that kind of shift. One of the things that has been unique about this whole war is the availability of first hand accounts. Here are several. From Fallujah...

URGENT Update on the Massacre in Falluja - eyewitness accounts

There has been a massacre in Falluga. Falluga is under siege. 470 people have been killed, and 1700 injured. There has been no ceasefire. They (Americans) told people to leave, said they have 8 hours to leave and people began to leave but they’re trapped in the Desert. The Americans have been bombing with B52s (Confirmed also by Leigh in an email three days ago). Bridges to Baghdad are pulling out. We have flights booked out of Amman. Tomorow a team will go to Sadr City to deliver medicines. 50 people have been killed there. ?? (Forgotten name) the 'elastic' shiekh in Sadr City (I’ve met him, young, brilliant guy, describes himself as 'elastic' because he is so flexible when it comes to his interpretations of Islam and moral conduct definitions etc, he's pretty liberal) he has told me I should leave. He says that even he can't control his people. Foreigners are going to be targeted. 6 new foreigners have been taken hostage. Four of them are Italian security firm employees - they were kidnapped from their car, which was found to be full of weapons, and there were black uniforms. Baghdad was quiet today except for Abu Ghraib (West Baghdad, where a vast prison is located and is bursting at the seams with 12,000 prisoners) an American convoy was attacked there and 9 soldiers were injured and 27 were kidnapped. That’s right 27. None of the newswires are reporting it though. And I heard this from (*name best not to supply without permission). Its really really bad. They (Americans) have been firing on Ambulances, snipers are following the ambulances, they cannot get in.

Falluga, there are people in the Desert, they've left Falluga but they're not being allowed into Baghdad, they're trapped in the Dessert, they're like refugees, its terrible but the people, Iraqi people are giving all they can; they’re bringing supplies, everybody is giving all their help and support to Falluga.

I want to stay but I have to go, if I want to come back and be useful, you know I think its best to leave, Bridges to Baghdad has decided this. It’s getting really dangerous for Italians. We feel like we’re being targeted now. (Italy has a 2500+ force including Carabinieri occupying Nassiriyah which has been subject to a number of resistance attacks including the devastating attack on the Police station which claimed the lives of 4 soldiers, one civilian, one documentary film maker, 12 Carabinieri police and 8 Iraqis).

(…) and Leigh have been great. They’ve been driving into Falluga and bringing out people, going back and forth. They know what’s going on, really they have been great. They want more people to help them but we couldn’t from here. It’s getting much much worse.


  thanks to Yolanda Flanagan

From a security contractor in Iraq...

Talking Points Memo

The fighting two nights ago was loud and widespread throughout the northern and northwestern parts of Baghdad ... areas such as Yarmouk, Sadr City had almost continuous gunfights and rocket attacks. When we heard US forces using the main gun on M-1 tanks at 1 AM we knew it was serious insurgency at hand. The night is no longer the refuge and domain of the Americans. I have to tell you although the wide open areas of Iraq give a false sense of security. Even though much of this is unseen to most people the situation has gone from bad to really bad to unbelievably bad! Westerners are getting hit everywhere. Security companies escorting CPA, themselves and other Westerners are now on the menu for all the armed resistance groups. There was a report of a massive ambush by one security firm that tried to drive in from Amman. Reports have 25-40 gunmen opening up on them. They lost all of their vehicles and had to be given a mercy lift by a passing Iraqi minivan. Several other firms lost western security personnel killed this week in drive-by ambushes and even a seige by the Sadr Militia. Several NGOs, security firms and military bases were literally under siege for days in Kut, Nasiriyah and Baghdad. The boldness and sophistication of the attacks is staggering and it is clear that every one of the resistance fighters and Islamic militiamen have taken heart at the ease of inflicting damage on the Westerners. The abductions of the Japanese hostages is a sign that we have entered a new phase of bad as abduction requires a permissive environment for the hostage taker.

I suspect we will have a cool down period in the next few days or within a week but it will be simply to "re-arm and re-fuel for re-strike and re-venge." A true sustained explosion of violence has yet to be coordinated by the myriad of resistance teams but as the independent or semi-centralized resistance groups form, choose leadership and communicate at the internet cafes, you can be pretty sure the second wave of violence is going to come and it will be equally, if not more, dramatic. This time it won't be men in black uniforms, they have learned that lesson in Najaf ... They will shift to urban terrorism and un-uniformed attacks. God forbid if Sadr is killed or captured ... then we have an entire second front that won't give up until we leave.


A Marine writes home (POTUS = President of the United States)...

How Much Trouble Are We in?

Things have been busy here. You know I can't say much about it. However, I do know two things. One, POTUS has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on terrorism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of innocent folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah). There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. I'm hoping they stay and fight...


There has been a lull at Fallujah and talk of cease fire. While the US is talking cease fire they have moved another Marine division to add to the two already there. The Iraqis aren't going to put there guns down. It looks like we will see a blood bath in the next day or two.

Hardliner Made New Interior Minister in Iraq

On the outside, with Coalition critic Ghazi al-Yawir being sent to Fallujah to negotiate a cease fire, it might seem that the US policy in Iraq has softened. However, the substansive actions of the last 24 hours point to a planned crack down, with a new Interior Minister noted for his "law and order" views, and the announcement by the Pentagon that Iraq's forces will remain under US control after the hand over. With the lifting of the arms embargo to Iraq, the ground is set for an escalation of conflict should the Intifada not back down to US demands.


U.S. Preparing Long Iraq Drive to Quell Unrest

American commanders are preparing for a prolonged campaign to quell the twin uprisings in Iraq, issuing orders to attack any members of a rebellious Shiite militia in southern cities relentlessly while moving methodically to squeeze Sunni fighters west of Baghdad until they lay down their arms.


Here are some interesting comments on the privatization of of war...


But it absolutely screams when it turns out that these companies, and others, are responsible for some of the most vital work that's being done in Iraq. We're not just talking about security consultants; we're also talking about weapons systems maintenance; about central supply warehouses; and about the feeding and housing of soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

I have no problem with having the free market provide many solutions to our problems. But the market cannot be the only provider of those solutions. Especially not when we're at war, and especially not in a war zone.

You may not be aware of this, but many--if not, indeed, most or all--of these contractors have exit clauses that allow them to leave the area of operations if they feel they're in danger. By definition, a war zone is hazardous duty (after all, that is why they give us the rifles.

What are we going to do if these contractors start leaving in droves--which, given how badly the situation in Iraq has deteriotated in the past week, they well may?

In the Army, for example, we use several highly critical systems that the operators cannot troubleshoot beyond a very basic level; hence, the presence of civilian consultants and "supergrades" who actually do the vast majority of the repairs and troubleshooting. What do we do if these systems fail, and the repairmen aren't present to fix them?

And I haven't even addressed the feeding and housing of the troops. How would we handle that, should the cooks and others leave?


  thanks to The Agonist

We may not even be able to keep our puppets in line. How ungrateful of them. They want to go back to their homes in London.

US fights to keep its Iraqi allies on board

The US-led administration in Baghdad was on Friday night fighting to keep Iraq's Governing Council intact after two ministers quit in protest at the US crackdown on Shia and Sunni unrest. The interior minister, Nouri Badran, and the human rights minister, Abdul-Basit Turki, stepped down, as others among the US-appointed representatives threatened to resign unless occupation forces reined in their assault.

"There will be many resignations," said Haider Abbadi, communications minister, before an emergency session of ministers and the Governing Council - Iraq's representative body handpicked by the US governor, Paul Bremer, to discuss their future.


  thanks to Political Animal

Amid observations of the efforts to shut up the truth, Robert Fisk sees disturbing parallels with the tactics the Israelis use against the Palestinians...

War Lords to Their Critics: "Just Shut Up"
Bush's War and the Lapdog Press Corps

It seems that as long as you say "war on terror", you are safe from all criticism. For not a single American journalist has investigated the links between the Israeli army's "rules of engagement"--so blithely handed over to US forces on Sharon's orders--and the behaviour of the US military in Iraq. The destruction of houses of "suspects", the wholesale detention of thousands of Iraqis without trial, the cordoning off of "hostile" villages with razor wire, the bombardment of civilian areas by Apache helicopter gunships and tanks on the hunt for "terrorists" are all part of the Israeli military lexicon.

In besieging cities--when they were taking casualties or the number of civilians killed was becoming too shameful to sustain--the Israeli army would call a "unilateral suspension of offensive operations". They did this 11 times after they surrounded Beirut in 1982. And yesterday, the American army declared a "unilateral suspension of offensive operations" around Fallujah.

Not a word on this mysterious parallel by America's reporters, no questions about the even more mysterious use of identical language. And in the coming days, we shall--perhaps--find out how many of the estimated 300 dead of Fallujah were Sunni gunmen and how many were women and children. Following Israel's rules is going to lead the Americans into the same disaster those rules have led the Israelis. But I guess we'll shut up about it.


Newsweek has a good overiew of the mess we are in. And they are calling it an Intifada, too.

The Iraqi Intifada
Suddenly the insurgency is much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian philosopher who is required reading for all military officers, talked about the "culminating point" in a war, when an army's resources are outstripped by the demands placed upon it. That point may be approaching now in Iraq. "There are several million young men in Iraq who are now seeing us in a whole new light," says Pat Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. "We have something like 130,000 troops in Iraq.We probably do not have more than 60 thousand or 70 thousand fighters in that force. They are spread across a vast area." In Lang’s view, the United States must either shift that tipping point by bringing in more troops, or we withdraw. "To back away from the hostiles will enormously encourage our enemies. We have no choice but to fight it out and defeat the growing revolt in Iraq,” he says. "Once you drive your car off the cliff, there's not much you can do to affect the outcome."


  thanks to The Agonist

"Much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become"? Are they serious? I think most of those opposing the war imagined it quite well, thank you very much. Billmon has another raft of excellent observations. Pay attention to those about the French in Vietnam for, if the upcoming assaults fail, the Army will be withdrawing to their enclaves. They won't have much choice.


And I do mean, beyond all recognition. In fact it's becoming increasingly difficult to have any clear idea of what's going on in Iraq -- other than that things still appear to be getting worse, not better.

But, if it is true that Centcom has temporarily backed away from the fight, and is preparing to hunker down in fortified bases in hopes the intifada will eventually start to cool down, then this really would start to resemble the first Vietnam War -- in which the French Army, knowing it was too weak to pacify the entire country, tried to rely on a system of block houses and other strong points to maintain some semblance of control.

Stratfor -- another web site with less-than-sterling credibility -- recently argued that the adoption of such an "enclave" strategy would signal the endgame for the Coalition in Iraq. I guess I can risk reprinting a couple of paragraphs from their subscriber-only analysis, in hopes they won't decide to sue me:

Even the current geography of the rising is beyond the capabilities of existing forces or any practicable amount of additional forces that might be made available. The United States is already withdrawing from some cities. The logical outcome of all of this would be an enclave strategy, in which the United States concentrates its forces in a series of fortified enclaves -- perhaps excluding Iraqi nationals -- and leaves the rest of the country to the guerrillas...

That would force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The consequences of such a withdrawal would be catastrophic for the U.S. grand strategy in the war against militant Islamists. One of the purposes of the war was to disprove al Qaeda's assertion that the United States was actually militarily weak and that it could not engage in close combat in the Islamist world, certainly not in the face of a mass uprising. An American withdrawal would prove al Qaeda's claims and would energize Islamists not only with hatred of the United States, but also -- and worse -- with contempt for American power. It would create the worst of all possible worlds for the United States. It doesn't get worse than this scenario for the United States.

Cyanide capsules, anyone?


Here's a tip: The comments on Billmon's posts, at Whiskey Bar are worth checking out.

It's now 4:56 in the morning in Iraq. A new day. Not something to look forward too.

 05:56 PM - link


Creswell's Cairo: Then and Now


 04:32 PM - link

the iraqi intifada — vietnam on internet time

It's a short one today. The military is out of control. The Iraq Governing Council is starting to disentegrate. Pretty soon there won't be anyone to turn the government over to, symbolic or otherwise, in Iraq. There is a mad dog loose on the world. Someone please shoot it. Put it out if it's misery and spare the world.

Here are some excellent sources for keeping up with the events in Iraq and for analysis...

The Agonist
This is a must read for it's multitude of ever new links on what is happening in Iraq. Sean-Paul did the same a year ago.

Juan Cole
Go read Juan right now.

Whiskey Bar


daily KOS

The Blogging of the President:2004

Steve Gilliard's News Blog

Those should keep you busy. I was going to say more and post more until I read Billmon's most recent post. He cover's it better than I could.

Countdown to Failure

It's hard at this point for an outsider to judge how big of a military problem the Iraq intifada poses for the Coalition -- and I'm not sure the Centcom insiders know either. Politically, however, the situation appears to be have gone from bad to disastrous to downright catastrophic. And, as predicted, the effort to solve the military problem is only making the political problem worse.

Recent reports on the military situation paint a mixed picture. Insurgents are active on the western outskirts of Baghdad, and blew up a fuel convoy by the airport today. Agency France Presse reports that Coalition forces have abandoned the Shi'ite slums of Sadr City -- essentially handing control back to the Mahdi Army.

On the plus side (from a Coalition point of view, I mean) Centcom claims it has recaptured the city of Kut, which was abandoned by its Ukranian overseers on Wednesday. And it has reportedly has sent helicopter gunships to the aid of the Bulgarian garrison in Karbala, which is largely under the control of the Sadrists. Who controls what in the city of Nasiriya (scene of a particularly nasty battle between the Marines and Saddam's feyadeen last year) is unclear, but fighting is reported to be "light." Basra seems to be quiet.

But Centcom's biggest worry appears to be logistical, as one of the ubiquitous TV generals told the New York Times yesterday:

“We absolutely must regain control of Baghdad and open the lines of communication to the south, to Kuwait and down to the sea, or the position will become untenable,” said Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general and the commander of the 24th Mechanized Division in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. “We have got to get back the road through Najaf and through Al Kut, and Rick Sanchez has the combat power to do it.”

This has a distinctly deja vu sound to it, given that an over-extended and easily interdicted supply line was also Centcom's most serious vulnerability during last year's "major combat operations." As long as the Mahdi Army holds Najaf, and remains within striking distance of the alternate road through Kut and Basra, the insurgents would appear to have at least a couple of fingers around the Coalition's windpipe.

But the clearest sign that the Coalition's political position has crumbled is the nearing collapse of the egregiously mislabeled "Governing Council." Even our puppets -- already almost universally despised by their own people -- can't take the heat any more:

The collapse of the Governing Council would destroy whatever faint hopes the Bush administration nurses of achieving a purely symbolic transfer of sovereignty to a docile interim government on June 30. There wouldn't be anyone on the other end to catch the hot potato. This, in turn, would make it virtually impossible for the remaining members of the Coalition to remain in Iraq -- except, I suppose, for our ever faithful British poodle dog, Tony Blair. (And I'm not so sure about him, either. Even Jack Straw is finally admitting the magnitude of the calamity.)

The collapse of the Governing Council would also strip away the last remaining buffer between occupiers and the occupied -- leaving the Americans even worse off than the Israelis, who at least have the Palestinian Authority to pick up the garbage for them in their Arab bantustans. The RNC's office on the Tigris would be stuck administering 20 million seething colonial subjects -- indefinitely. At which point Centcom might well rename the Green Zone "Fort Apache."

More to the point: If Centcom and/or the Pentagon does insist on putting military objectives first -- as it has in Fallujah -- will anyone in the administration have the power, or the will, to overrule them?

Probably not, which is why the events of the past week have probably doomed whatever slender chance existed for stabilizing Iraq in the post-June 30 period. It looks like the Coalition is on a countdown to political failure. And political failure will eventually mean military failure as well, since it's hard to see how public support for an indefinite occupation can be maintained indefinitely.

The only remaining question, it seems, is how much more blood will have to be spilled -- in Iraq, and maybe in America as well -- before the price of that failure has been paid in full.


 01:15 AM - link

  Friday   April 9   2004

more iraq — vietnam on internet time

More links. I can't say how terrible this is for the Iraqis and our soldiers.

US occupation of Iraq: the last act?
by Helena Cobban

The director of the main hospital in Fallujah is reporting that 450 Iraqis have been killed there during this week's fighting, and more than 1,000 wounded. If this is anywhere close to an accurate tally, then one way or another this marks the beginning of the endgame for the US occupation of Iraq.

Even if the US forces stopped operations in Fallujah and nationwide right now, these kinds of losses inflicted on the indigenous population mean that the US has lost all its credibility as the governing force in Iraq, as well as much of its ability to dictate the timing and other modalities of its by-now inevitable exit from the country.

How many people in the Bush administration have even heard of the Amritsar massacre?

The circumstances of that April 1919 atrocity, in which British forces mowed down 400 unarmed Indian protesters on a single day were, I admit, very different. But just as the Amritsar Massacre signaled the beginning of the end of the Brits' "thousand-year Raj" in India, so too does the Fallujah Massacre of April 2004 signal the beginning of the precipitous crumbling of the US occupation of Iraq.

History moves a lot faster nowadays than it did in the early 20th century. It took the Brits a further 28 years after Amritsar to bring their colonial rule over India to an end, though after that fateful day the writing was very evidently on the wall for them.

At the rate the US military is currently going, I doubt that its presence in Iraq will last even a further 28 weeks. One way or another, the Fallujah Massacre will certainly be in every history book in every Muslim country from here on out.


Steve Gillard has a great post. The page link doesn't work so well so scroll to the post heading if he has posted something else. Or, just read it all. He's good.

Friday, April 09, 2004

The sad fact about Iraq is that no one gets the scale of the tragedy. Not only are the theocrats going to win, but the scale of killing is vast. Over 40 Americans and 300 Iraqis have been killed in fighting.

There is this arrogant idea that all the US has to do is kill enough people and the resistance will end. Dan Barlett, the White House spokesman making the rounds of the morning shows, said "we're fighting evil".

When I heard that, my mouth fell open. Hasn't anyone in the White House noticed most Iraqis are on the fence, and many more have decided to oppose the occupation. They are not supporting us. They are not taking our side, except when we pay them. There isn't one pro-american group native to Iraq. No one cares about Chalabi's henchmen.

I heard a Lt. Col say "we're winning every firefight." So? Why are you in firefights? Why are people killing your Marines? Doesn't that speak of a massive policy failure. Now, I know he has to win a battle, but the idea that we're fighting in Iraq is insane. We were supposed to liberate these people, not have them turn on us.

The US started a fight with people who don't quit. CENTCOM says "we control Iraq", well no, you don't and can't. So what if you took back Kut, the Al Mahdi boys just went home. They will be back. Maybe at night, when a convoy comes by. Maybe on the rail lines. They may back down from gun battles in the street, but we've just started the Shia insurgency. Shias have always opposed Americans, some joined the insurgency from day one. Now, the masses are deciding it's time to kick the Americans out.

What amazes me is that most Americans don't understand a simple point: not since March 21, 2003 have Americans in Iraq not been under fire. There has not been a single day where US troops have not been shot at or attacked in some way in some part of the country. While most Iraqis have sat on the fence, there have always been enough who so resented the occupation, they have sought to kill Americans and those who collaborated with them.


Knowing the enemy
Wounded U.S. soldiers give an inside look at the Iraq insurgency

Countering the insurgency, Stayskal said, has been difficult for Marines on the ground. In his case, his unit was chronically short of ammunition, and his support unit got pinned down at the same time across town. The two units couldn't help each other.

"They weren't giving us nearly enough ammunition for the situations out there. Everyone was running out. Everyone was grabbing each other's ammunition."

Lance Cpl.Miguel Martinez said the precision of the enemy clearly showed the insurgency was not launched by "civilians or anything like that."

"We don't really know who our enemy is," the 21-year-old from Simi Valley, Calif., said. "The only way we know to shoot them is they have an AK-47 and they pretty much point it at us."


They're running out of ammunition?! They don't know who they're fighting? It gets worse. I missed this in my earlier post of Juan Cole...

Fighting Rages in Fallujah, Najaf, Karbala; 6 US Troops Dead, Hundreds of Iraqis

In a CNN interview retired General Barry MacCaffrey said that the task of the US is to regain control of Baghdad and restore its lines of communication in the South. He gave away a great deal. One may conclude that a) the US has lost control of Baghdad and b) the US communications and supply lines in the South have been cut. That is, a year after the fall of Saddam, the US faces the task of reconquering the country.


The supply lines are cut?! I hope and hope that my pessimistic vision doesn't come true. As bad as I think it is, I keep finding out it's worse.

At the Sharp Edge

We just got back on base. For a while there, I didn’t think that would happen. We got ambushed yesterday, except it was a twenty-one hour ambush.

At about four AM the other day, the coalition force rode out the gate and took back the town. At nine thirty we rolled out, arrived at our usual destination, and by ten thirty, we were under fire. We were in a compound of five or six major buildings, large enough to be hotels, not quite large enough to be palaces, that had once been owned by Chemical Ali.

We started out on the roofs, looking for snipers. But RPGs and mortar fire forced us down and as we retreated, the shooters started hitting the building more often because they were walking their weapons closer. Eventually, our safe area was reduced to just one hallway in a central building.

I have never been so scared in my life. Scared doesn’t cover it: terrified doesn’t, either. I'd never known it was possible to be terrified and be totally calm. I’d look around, seeing the trails of weapons, seeing the F-16s overhead---they never dropped bombs, they just flew around------and then look down and see the chameleons running in the grass. And then you’d hear the thump of another mortar round, but you don’t really hear those---you feel them, somehow. They’re loud enough to make you flinch, and these were all close----I saw one land in front of me at about three thirty AM, no more than fifty meters away.

My captain didn’t know I heard him say what he just said. “Honestly, last night, I think every one of us thought that was it, that we weren’t going to make it back. It was that bad.”


Experts, officials concerned about growing violence, unrest in Iraq

Meanwhile, intelligence experts outside government caution that the U.S. has much work to do to regain control of the security situation and prevent a widespread rebellion.

Milt Bearden, who retired after 30 years with the CIA's directorate of operations, notes that in the last 100 years any insurgency that has taken on a nationalist character -- for instance, a shared goal of getting rid of Americans -- has succeeded.

Other former intelligence officials familiar with the region caution that outside Shiite groups, acting more covertly than the Sadr militia, could prove to be formidable problems.

Bob Baer, a former CIA officer who spent 21 years in the Middle East, said he met with Islamic fighters in Lebanon just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq who told him they were preparing to fight a long-term war with the West in Iraq. They included members of Hezbollah and Hamas, he said.

Baer said the resistance groups warned then that a Shiite uprising in Iraq would come in April, and promised kidnappings and bombings in southern Iraq. Then, he dismissed the timing, but "it indeed happened in April."

"I think we are facing the possibility of a Shiite insurrection," said Baer, who has been critical of the U.S. government since he left the agency in 1997. "Muhab al-Sadr is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Shiite."


Bring them on, indeed.

 03:48 PM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

Fewer Iraq links today. Not a whole lot to add to the last two day's posts here and here. Kut has been retaken but the Marines are stalled at Fallujah. People continue to die, American and Iraqi, while Bush is on vacation. There are a lot of sites with information and pontification on Iraq. There is one that stands out. It's written by a young woman in Baghdad. She goes by Riverbend. Her eloquence is heart rending...

One Year Later - April 9, 2004

Today, the day the Iraqi Puppets hail "National Day", will mark the day of the "Falloojeh Massacre"… Bremer has called for a truce and ceasefire in Falloojeh very recently and claimed that the bombing will stop, but the bombing continues as I write this. Over 300 are dead in Falloojeh and they have taken to burying the dead in the town football field because they aren't allowed near the cemetery. The bodies are decomposing in the heat and the people are struggling to bury them as quickly as they arrive. The football field that once supported running, youthful feet and cheering fans has turned into a mass grave holding men, women and children.

The people in Falloojeh have been trying to get the women and children out of the town for the last 48 hours but all the roads out of the city are closed by the Americans and refugees are being shot at and bombed on a regular basis… we're watching the television and crying. The hospital is overflowing with victims… those who have lost arms and legs… those who have lost loved ones. There isn't enough medicine or bandages… what are the Americans doing?! This is collective punishment … is this the solution to the chaos we're living in? Is this the 'hearts and minds' part of the campaign?

A convoy carrying food, medication, blood and doctors left for Falloojeh yesterday, hoping to get in and help the people in there. Some people from our neighborhood were gathering bags of flour and rice to take into the town. E. and I rummaged the house from top to bottom and came up with a big sack of flour, a couple of smaller bags of rice, a few kilos of assorted dry lentil, chickpeas, etc. We were really hoping the trucks could get through to help out in the city. Unfortunately, I just spoke with an Iraqi doctor who told me that the whole convoy was denied entry... it seems that now they are trying to get the women and children out or at least the very sick and wounded.

The south isn't much better… the casualties are rising and there's looting and chaos. There's an almost palpable anger in Baghdad. The faces are grim and sad all at once and there's a feeling of helplessness that can't be described in words. It's like being held under water and struggling for the unattainable surface- seeing all this destruction and devastation.

The American and European news stations don't show the dying Iraqis… they don't show the women and children bandaged and bleeding- the mother looking for some sign of her son in the middle of a puddle of blood and dismembered arms and legs… they don't show you the hospitals overflowing with the dead and dying because they don't want to hurt American feelings… but people *should* see it. You should see the price of your war and occupation- it's unfair that the Americans are fighting a war thousands of kilometers from home. They get their dead in neat, tidy caskets draped with a flag and we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification…

One year later, and Bush has achieved what he wanted- this day will go down in history and in the memory of all Iraqis as one of the bloodiest days ever...


Occupation Day - April 9, 2003

The last few days, I've been sorely trying to avoid a trip down memory lane. I flip the channel every time they show shots of Baghdad up in flames, I turn off the radio as they begin to talk about the first few days of occupation, and I quietly leave the room as family members begin, "Remember how…" No, I don't *want* to remember some of the worst days of my life. I wish there was some way one could selectively delete certain memories as one does files on a computer… however, that's impossible.


The convoy Riverbend mentions was one of the most amazing things that happened yesterday. The signs of a country coming together. Too bad it was against us.


Iraqi men shout during a rally, as thousands of people in Ghazalia's Umm al-Qura mosque prepared supplies destined for the besieged residents of Falluja Thursday 8 April. The poster reads in Arabic, 'No occupation'.


Building a nation-state -- the bloody way

One of the things that distinguishes nations from states, and both from nation-states, is the assimilation and shared identification among ethnic and/or religious factions. Nations typically transcend state borders (e.g., the Kurds), and almost every state is nationally pluralistic (e.g., The United States). Only in the rarest of cases (e.g., Iceland) are the Ven Diagram circles of nation and state virtually identical and overlapping. Hence the inevitable bloodshed in Africa, or the Balkans, where colonialists imposed often-arbitrary state borders on disparate, even rival nations.

Iraq's colonial path to its modern history is, of course, no different. The formerly ruling, Hussein-led Sunnis dominated the majority Shiites mostly south of their central "triangle," while oppressing with more ruthless methods the Kurdish minority to their north.

And thus it is simply stunning to read this piece, entitled Shiites Rally to Sunni 'Brothers', by Karl Vick in Friday's Washington Post. Vick reports the details of Shiites donating supplies and even blood to support insurgent elements of the once-ruling Sunni class now fighting in Fallujah:


Thousands of Iraqis March to Fallujah


U.S. Forces Fire At Aid Convoys To Fallujah

The U.S. soldiers opened fire on aid convoys taking relief supplies to Fallujah, sealed off by occupation forces for the fourth consecutive day, eyewitnesses said.


Here are links on what is happening and some analysis...

Fighting Rages in Fallujah, Najaf, Karbala; 6 US Troops Dead, Hundreds of Iraqis

US commander will not take blame for unrest

America's top commander in Iraq has warned Washington that he will not be "the fall guy" if violence in the country worsens, it emerged yesterday, as word leaked out that US generals are "outraged" by their lack of soldiers.



Now it is America that desperately needs rescuing
The limits of raw military power are being learned again in Iraq

Castles made of sand
Hunkered down inside their massive Baghdad fortress, U.S. officials have no idea why the Iraq occupation has turned into a nightmare.

 11:38 AM - link

the only rational reaction to the complete and utter incompetence of our fearful leader

  thanks to my surfer friend drew kampion

 10:58 AM - link

peak oil

Have we reached peak oil production? Articles like this aren't very encouraging. What is disturbing is the capitalist's goal of sucking out as much profit in the shortest amount of time instead of making these finite resources last as long as possible. In the long term, this means less oil. What else is being hidden?

Oman's Oil Yield Long in Decline, Shell Data Show

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group's oil production in Oman has been declining for years, belying the company's optimistic reports and raising doubts about a vital question in the Middle East: whether new technology can extend the life of huge but mature oil fields.

Internal company documents and technical papers show that the Yibal field, Oman's largest, began to decline rapidly in 1997. Yet Sir Philip Watts, Shell's former chairman, said in an upbeat public report in 2000 that "major advances in drilling" were enabling the company "to extract more from such mature fields." The internal Shell documents suggest that the figure for proven oil reserves in Oman was mistakenly increased in 2000, resulting in a 40 percent overstatement.

The company's falling production and reduced reserves in Oman are part of a broader problem facing Shell, the British-Dutch oil giant that earlier this year lowered its estimate of worldwide reserves, a crucial financial indicator, by 20 percent, or 3.9 billion barrels.

Documents show that senior executives were told the calculations of reserves were too high in 2002, at least two years before the company downgraded its estimate this January.

While Oman represents a small part of Shell's reserves, oil industry experts say the company's experience there highlights broader questions about the future role of Western oil companies and their technology in the Persian Gulf, which has most of the world's oil reserves.


 10:50 AM - link

commie art

Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina:
Photography and Montage After Constructivism


  thanks to gmtPlus9

 10:42 AM - link

military poverty

Bush's Odd Warfare State

Here's one way our President proposes to "support our troops": According to his 2005 budget, the extra pay our soldiers receive for serving in combat zones--about $150 a month--will no longer count against their food stamp eligibility. This budget provision, if approved, should bring true peace of mind to our men and women on the front lines. From now on, they can dodge bullets in Iraq with the happy assurance that their loved ones will not starve as a result of their bravery.

Military families on food stamps? It's not an urban myth. About 25,000 families of servicemen and women are eligible, and this may be an underestimate, since the most recent Defense Department report on the financial condition of the armed forces--from 1999--found that 40 percent of lower-ranking soldiers face "substantial financial difficulties." Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, reports hearing from constituents that the Army now includes applications for food stamps in its orientation packet for new recruits.

The poverty of the mightiest military machine on Earth is no secret to the many charities that have sprung up to help families on U.S. military bases, like the church-based Feed the Children, which delivers free food and personal items to families at twelve bases. Before 9/11, trucks bearing free food from a variety of food pantries used to be able to drive right on to the bases. Now they have to stop outside the gates, making the spectacle of military poverty visible to any passerby.


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

 10:20 AM - link

mud mosques

Mud Mosques of Mali

As a photography student, traveling by bicycle for several months in 1996 and 1997 through the inlands of Mali, I was working on a series of portraits. On my way, the beauty of small adobe mosques in remote villages astonished me as they revealed themselves as the living tissue of an age-old architecture.


Mud Mosques: The B&W Prints

This selection of images accompanies and enhances the complete Mud Mosques of Mali collection. Dramatically photographed in black and white by Belgian photographer Sebastian Schutyser between 1998-2002, these stark images present the mosque as object. These black and white prints -- also presented in the larger collection -- stand on their own, commanding a special view.


 10:17 AM - link


Belgian minister in genocide row

The Belgian defence minister, Andre Flahaut, came under fire yesterday for approving an official document asserting that the biggest genocide of the past 500 years occurred in North America.

The 16-page report, entitled Genocides, was released to mark the 10th anniversary of the 1994 massacre in Rwanda in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists.

The document put North America at the top of a list of genocides, saying an ongoing genocide of Native Americans had claimed 15 million lives since 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas.

"This publication puts our relations with all North and South American countries at risk," De Standaard said in an editorial, calling Mr Flahaut "unfit or incompetent".

The report ranked South America second, with 14 million deaths of indigenous people since 1500. It suggested both genocides were continuing.


People need to understand that this is what the phrase "how the west was won" means. It never fails to amaze me how people get so upset over the truth.

 10:06 AM - link


Inside a wind tunnel

ONERA’s S1Ch Wind Tunnel was the biggest until the end of WWII. The tunnel is not used anymore and it was recently saved from destruction and is now classified as an historic building. This wind tunnel was built between 1932 and 1934 and it made possible the testing of a real plane of 12m, with ignited engine and pilot on board. The wind tunnel is 120m in length and 25m high.


Wind tunnels are amazing places. One of the best jobs I ever had was as a wind tunnel model designer at Boeing, from 1976 to 1983, and at Northrop, from 1983 to 1987. I had a chance to work in wind tunnels in Seattle, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Essington (outside of Philadelphia), and Tullahoma, Tenn. The smallest tunnel was one of Boeing's minor tunnels (they had four or five) in Seattle. It was an open tunnel powered by an engine off a Lockheed Electra. The largest was the Air Force 16T transonic pressurized tunnel in Tullahoma.

A quick google shows that they still build them the same way. A wing and model for Boeing's new 7E7...

The Wind Tunnel

 09:59 AM - link

depleted uranium

Shocking report reveals local troops may be victims of america's high-tech weapons

Four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard company serving in Iraq are contaminated with radiation likely caused by dust from depleted uranium shells fired by U.S. troops, a Daily News investigation has found.

They are among several members of the same company, the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been battling persistent physical ailments that began last summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah.

"I got sick instantly in June," said Staff Sgt. Ray Ramos, a Brooklyn housing cop. "My health kept going downhill with daily headaches, constant numbness in my hands and rashes on my stomach."

A nuclear medicine expert who examined and tested nine soldiers from the company says that four "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded American shells manufactured with depleted uranium.

Laboratory tests conducted at the request of The News revealed traces of two manmade forms of uranium in urine samples from four of the soldiers.


  thanks to Undernews

 03:13 AM - link


I've been without a 35mm camera for a long time. I used a litlle Rollei 35 during the late 70s and 80s. It got doused with salt water in 1992, repaired, and then dropped, causing the rear lens element to fall off. Since then I have been shooting medium format and, since 1998, digital. I've been wanting a 35mm street shooter and finally have one — an Olympus XA2.

I really wanted an XA, which is a fully coupled rangefinder with aperture priority. But they were running between $50 and $60 on eBay. I got the XA2 for $18. Most go for under $20. Someday I will get an XA but, until then, the XA2 is a hoot! I love the little sucker. A true shirt pocket camera that is *quiet*. Here are some pictures. I used Fuji Superia X-Tra 400.

That's my son Robby, playing with his head, his girlfriend,
Hannah, an old friend of Robby's, Alex, and Zoe.

My living room during the last TestingTesting.

 03:08 AM - link


A mash note to the blogosphere
Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene.
By Arianna Huffington

I've got a confession to make. I've got a big-time crush. I'm talking weak-in-the-knees infatuation. But it's not Brad or Orlando or Colin or any of the cinematic hunks du jour who have set my heart aflutter. No, it's Atrios and Kos and Josh Micah Marshall and Kausfiles and Kevin Drum and Wonkette. Bloggers all. Yes, when it comes to the blogosphere, I'm a regular cyberslut. And I don't care who knows it. Bring on the fines, Michael Powell!

Although I've only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I've been a fan -- and an advocate -- ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leaderinto the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene.


  thanks to Eschaton

 02:48 AM - link

  Thursday   April 8   2004

iraq — vietnam on internet time

There a lot of links to Iraq in this post. Links to what is going on and, more important, links that try to answer why. But first I want to share three pictures that show what this is really about — people.

People dying...

people killing...

people terrified.

The picture of the three soldiers made me cry. They are as scared as anyone else. They are just kids. The don't belong where they are. They should not be doing what they are doing. They probably know that. May those that sent them there rot in a special hell. And may all those kids come home.

Here are some links to check on what is happening.

The Agonist

Juan Cole

Whiskey Bar


Senator Byrd's comments are a must read.

A Call for an Exit Door from Iraq
by Sen. Robert Byrd

During the past weekend, the death toll among America's military personnel in Iraq topped 600 – including as many as 20 American soldiers killed in one three-day period of fierce fighting. Many of the dead, most perhaps, were mere youngsters, just starting out on the great adventure of life. But before they could realize their dreams, they were called into battle by their Commander in Chief, a battle that we now know was predicated on faulty intelligence and wildly exaggerated claims of looming danger.

As I watch events unfold in Iraq, I cannot help but be reminded of another battle at another place and another time that hurtled more than 600 soldiers into the maws of death because of a foolish decision on the part of their commander. The occasion was the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1864, during the Crimean War, a battle that was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

When speaking of Iraq, the President maintains that his resolve is firm, and indeed the stakes for him are enormous. But the stakes are also enormous for the men and women who are serving in Iraq, and who are waiting and praying for the day that they will be able to return home to their families, their ranks painfully diminished but their mission fulfilled with honor and dignity. The President sent these men and women into Iraq, and it is his responsibility to develop a strategy to extricate them from that troubled country before their losses become intolerable.

It is staggeringly clear that the Administration did not understand the consequences of invading Iraq a year ago, and it is staggeringly clear that the Administration has no effective plan to cope with the aftermath of the war and the functional collapse of Iraq. It is time – past time – for the President to remedy that omission and to level with the American people about the magnitude of mistakes made and lessons learned. America needs a roadmap out of Iraq, one that is orderly and astute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow the fate of Tennyson's doomed Light Brigade.


Here is what is happening...


Gunbattles Rage in Many Iraqi Cities on Wednesday

Urban warfare grips Iraq

US loses control of two cities
Up to 300 dead in Falluja
Three Japanese 'taken hostage'
Iraqi interior minister resigns

Battles rage from north to south
Dozens die in bomb and missile attack near mosque
Militia leader warns: Iraq will be new Vietnam
Blow to US as ayatollah fails to condemn uprising

US Bombs Fallujah Mosque; More Than 40 Worshippers Killed
Revolutionary violence engulfs Iraq

Mosques will be targeted: US

Here are some looks at the larger picture...

Fleeing Baghdad
I didn't want to leave the nation my country tore apart. But then came warnings that our house was targeted. A farewell portrait of a place on the edge of the abyss.

Hell in a handbasket

Steve Gilliard has been saying it for over a year. I have been saying it for as long. What's happening is not a surprise -- it was to be expected.

It took Saddam nearly a million men under arms and brutal repressive tactics to keep the country under control. And even then, there was near perpetual insurgency against his rule.

For the US to think they could control the country, as outside occupiers, with a shade over 100,000 troops (and, according to Rumsfeld, about a third of that at this point in the calendar) bordered on insanity. But as we have seen again and again in this administration, ideology trumps reality.

And the reality on the ground is sickening. We are facing a well-armed, well-trained, and coordinated enemy. Remember -- we never defeated these guys in combat. The US bought off Republican Guard commanders sparing our troops heavy combat on the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere across the country.


Volley and Thunder, Shot and Shell

It is clear that the rationalizations that worked the day before yesterday will not work today, nor on any day henceforward. The rapid deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the realization that we are up against an inflamed population whose ferocious hatred confounds us, and the fecklessness of our "leaders" in the face of this untoward consequence of our invasion follies all lead to the same conclusion John Burns dolefully expressed on PBS tonight: that we are, in effect, damned and doomed no matter what our course of action


Kut evacuated, Poll numbers hit

Tet broke the will of the political leadership in the US to pursue victory in Vietnam, at the same time it destroyed the credibility of the US political leadership in the eyes of a significant proportion of the population. Core to this was the contrast between rosy reports by the military, and clear images from the ground that the war was not going as well as had been stated. Similar mistakes are being made in Iraq, with the signs in the polls being that yesterday represented a measurable hit in the credibility of the executive branch that has staked its tenure on Iraq.


Here are four pieces from The Asia Times. A good source for analysis.

One year on: From liberation to jihad

So this is the Bush administration-sponsored "free Iraq" people identify not only in the Sunni triangle but in the Shi'ite south: an occupying power maybe not formally occupying the country any more, but installed in 14 military bases and able to exercise full control on security, the economy and the whole infrastructure. In plain English: a US colony. This is the reason the mob in Fallujah rejoiced in the burning of those American bodies. This is the reason Sunnis and Shi'ites have for now united in anger. And this is the reason the "liberation" has finally turned into a jihad.


The Shi'ite voice that will be heard

The coalition believes that arresting Muqtada will end the resistance. But arresting or killing him will make no difference. Muqtada is seeking martyrdom and has been seeking an apocalypse. The problem is not a single individual. The problem is the occupation, and this week things got much worse for the Iraqi people and their occupiers. In Iran before the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters condemned the hated Shah as Yazid, the murderer of Husein, the leader of the Shi'ites whom they mourned during Ashura.

In Lebanon, the Shi'ite resistance called the Israeli occupier Yazid. During Ashura, banners in Karbala declared that America was the new Yazid. Other banners warned of Husein's revenge that would soon remove the Americans. Iraq's Shi'ites were expected by the planners of the war to rejoice at their liberation. The rejection of the Koran as the main source of the constitution began a process of alienation leading to the current fighting. But one must ask, how could the Americans be so stupid to provoke the Shi'ite majority three months before the planned handover of sovereignty back to the Iraqi people?


Iraq revolt: Tactics of diversion

The substantive extent of the present gamble which the Bush administration appears to be undertaking cannot be exaggerated, providing a measure of the perceived severity of US political imperatives, or administration blindness.

Providing commentary on Iraq's reality, Democratic senator Ted Kennedy just charged that Iraq is "Bush's Vietnam". But on October 28, former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brezinski provided what may be a more accurate analogy to another country, where France battled insurgents. Brezinski described a movie "which deals with a reality which is very similar to that we confront today in Baghdad ... The Battle For Algiers".

In Algeria, the French lost, and some observers believe that France itself was nearly plunged into civil war because of it.


When fear turns to anger

In the beginning of the occupation a taxi driver was asked what he thought of the events in Iraq. He looked away and started crying. Asked if somebody in his family had died, he replied: "We all died." Now taxi drivers talk only of the latest explosion, and how much they hate the Americans and want to kill them. One taxi driver drove by a mosque and saw Americans in the courtyard. "Look what they're doing!" he shouted hysterically, "they even enter inside mosques! They are dirty Jews, I swear if I had an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] now I would shoot them!"

Only the fools are optimistic in Iraq. If the Americans stay, more innocent Iraqis will be killed by them and more Iraqis will die fighting them. More American boys will die for nothing far away from home, where there is even talk of the draft being reinstated to compensate for a military stretched thin. Should the Americans withdraw, Iraqis will not rejoice for long before they turn on each other in the competition for power, but the American retreat will be viewed by radical Islam as a success akin to the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, giving their movement a fillip in the "clash of civilizations", a theory with no basis made real thanks to Osama bin Laden and Bush. Americans should have learned on September 11 that they are not immune to the consequences of their government's irresponsibility.


Report from Baghdad -- Opening the Gates of Hell

Shaykh Sadun al-Shemary, a former member of the Iraqi army who participated in the 1991 uprising and now a spokesman for the al-Sadr organization in Shuala, told me, "Things are exactly the same as in Saddam's time -- maybe worse."

That is all you need to know about the occupation of Iraq.


Death of a Dream

Whether that's due to an irrational hatred of Jews and all their works, or understandable anguish over the suffering of the Palestinian people, is irrelevant, at least at the moment. Either way, it means the "wet" neocon strategy for making the Middle East safe for a Greater Israel though democratic liberation has been revealed as an utter failure. This leaves only the "dry" alternative of military force -- applied relentlessly and, when necessary, overwhelmingly.

Somewhere in the background I think I can hear Ariel Sharon, muttering: "Hell, I could have told you that."


The Twenty Minute President

But Iraq isn't the West Bank, and the Iraqi intifada isn't going to be put down by beating the crap out of a few unarmed demonstrators -- as the Marines found out yesterday. "Shutting them down" is probably going to require the U.S. military to deal out death and devastation on a fairly massive scale, to insurgent and civilian alike.

If so, then it would seem the unforgiving minute has come and gone -- and we have not been forgiven. We may be over the edge of the cliff now, heading for the bottom, accelerating at 32 feet per second per second.


Talking Points Memo

One might argue that that was a proper strategy. Sometimes a looming crisis needs to be brought to a head. But if that's so, we seem to have done little to prepare for the reaction. Where's the White House's strategy? Where is it now, three days later?

All we seem to be hearing are hollow assertions of a vacant will.

From the White House's advocates we hear logic puzzles about appeasement in which the fall-out from the president's screw ups become the prime argument for continuing to support them.

At the critical moment the president has the toxic mix of the bulldog will of a Winston Churchill and the strategic insights and imagination of a Neville Chamberlain.

He has no plan. And will without policy just equals death.

The gap between the reality in Iraq and the White House's Potemkin village version of it is closing rapidly, like an upper and lower jaw about to shut tight. And the White House's penchant for denial is being squeezed between the two.


 01:32 PM - link


After all the despair coming from the Middle East, sometimes we need to take a break and go outside and remember it's spring.

tsuchiya koitsu


  thanks to plep

 12:21 PM - link

  Wednesday   April 7   2004

iraq — vietnam on internet time

Sorry, but there is no eye candy today. I'm afraid the last few days have been focused on Iraq. If you haven't been focused on Iraq the last few days, you don't understand how serious the situation is. The occupation has been successful, and I use that term very loosely, because the Iraqis, by and large, have gone along with the program. If there is a tipping point and 26 million Iraqis decide that 150,000 foreign troops aren't going tell them how to run their lives anymore, well, there isn't much the foreigners, that's us, can do.

The question is: Are we at that tipping point? Our military has no equal when it comes to set piece battles and toppling governments. That is not what it is now up against. This misadventure has had its proponents and opponents use analogies to other wars. BushCo likes to hold up Pearl Harbor and WWII. Opponents have looked at how easy the world slid into a world war during WWI. Here is another war we can look at, as mentioned in a link below: the American Revolution. A people's war. And these people are heavily armed.

Israeli tactics aren't going to work against the Iraqis. Tanks aren't going to work against people willing to throw themselves under the tracks. How desperate and how stupid are our fearful leaders? How bad can this get? What happens if the Marines can't control Fallujah? What happens if the Coalition can't retake the holy city of Najaf? If this becomes a religious war, and the CPA seems to be doing everything it can to make it one, what chances do 150,000 coalition troops have? If this people's war pushes the CPA troops back into their enclaves, will our fearful leaders go nuclear? Don't forget that there were many at high levels pushing for a nuclear option in Vietnam. How bad can this get?

There is the potential for us to have to pull out of Iraq. How bad can that be? There seems to be an assumption that, if we should decide to leave, that we will just put all our troops on the first flight out. Or the last flight out.

This isn't Vietnam where we had years to draw down our troops. This is happening much faster. The Pentagon is going to meet force with force until the end. This is where Gordy Coale's Third Law of Political Dynamics (with all apologies to Newton) comes in: For every action there MUST be an equal and opposite reaction. At this point Iraqis are willing to let the coalition troops withdraw. Their goal is to get the troops out of the country. If the Pentagon escalates the violence to a high enough level, the Iraqis will no longer be willing to let the troops withdraw. If the Pentagon escalates to a total destruction mode, so will the Iraqis. How bad can it get?

So, what happens if the coalition troops are surrounded in their enclaves in a hostile country, with their supply lines cut off? Lets look at another war where this happened.

Death of an Army


How bad can it get? The US Army will take heavy casualties if it has to withdraw under fire — if it escalates to that point. How many casualties will it take to destroy the Army? I don't think it will take that many. This is a volunteer army. How many would stay in after a debacle like that? Or is the Army already mortally wounded? And what happens if there are no reenlistments, when this is over? What happens when the world finds out we don't have a functioning army? How bad can this get?

On this happy note, let's take a look at how well things are going.

Where is Raed ?

Dear US administration,
Welcome to the next level. Please don't act surprised and what sort of timing is that it: planning to go on a huge attack on the west of Iraq and provoking a group you know very well (I pray to god you knew) that they are trouble makers.

by Salam Pax

Teapots and Kettles...
by Riverbend

Now it seems we are almost literally reliving the first few days of occupation… I woke up to the sound of explosions and gunfire last night and for one terrible moment I thought someone had warped me back a whole year and we would have to relive this last year of our life over and over again…

We haven't sent the kids to school for 3 days. The atmosphere is charged and the day before yesterday, Baghdad was quiet and empty, almost… the calm before the storm. The area of A'adhamiya in Baghdad is seeing street fighting: the resistance and Americans are fighting out in the streets and Al-Sadr city was bombed by the troops. They say that dozens were killed and others wounded. They're bringing them in to hospitals in the center of the city.

Falloojeh has been cut off from the rest of Iraq for the last three days. It's terrible. They've been bombing it constantly and there are dozens dead. Yesterday they said that the only functioning hospital in the city was hit by the Americans and there's no where to take the wounded except a meager clinic that can hold up to 10 patients at a time. There are over a hundred wounded and dying and there's nowhere to bury the dead because the Americans control the area surrounding the only graveyard in Falloojeh; the bodies are beginning to decompose in the April heat. The troops won't let anyone out of Falloojeh and they won't let anyone into it either- the people are going to go hungry in a matter of days because most of the fresh produce is brought from outside of the city. We've been trying to call a friend who lives there for three days and we can't contact him.

This is crazy. This is supposed to be punishment for violence but it's only going to result in more bloodshed on both sides… people are outraged everywhere- Sunnis and Shi'a alike. This constant bombing is only going to make things worse for everyone. Why do Americans think that people in Baghdad or the south or north aren’t going care what happens in Falloojeh or Ramadi or Nassriyah or Najaf? Would Americans in New York disregard bombing and killing in California?

And now Muqtada Al-Sadr's people are also fighting it out in parts of Baghdad and the south. If the situation weren't so frightening, it would almost be amusing to see Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom describe Al-Sadr as an 'extremist' and a 'threat'. Muqtada Al-Sadr is no better and no worse than several extremists we have sitting on the Governing Council. He's just as willing to ingratiate himself to Bremer as Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom. The only difference is that he wasn't given the opportunity, so now he's a revolutionary. Apparently, someone didn't give Bremer the memo about how when you pander to one extremist, you have to pander to them all. Hearing Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom claim that Al-Sadr is a threat to security and stability brings about visions of the teapot and the kettle…

Then Bremer makes an appearance on tv and says that armed militias will *not* be a part of the New Iraq… where has that declaration been the last 12 months while Badir's Brigade has been wreaking havoc all over the country? Why not just solve the problem of Al-Sadr's armed militia by having them join the police force and army, like the Bayshmarga and Badir's Brigade?! Al-Sadr's militia is old news. No one was bothering them while they were terrorizing civilians in the south. They wore badges, carried Klashnikovs and roamed the streets freely… now that they've become a threat to the 'Coalition', they suddenly become 'terrorists' and 'agitators'.

And as I blog this, all the mosques, Sunni and Shi’a alike, are calling for Jihad...


The Second Front: Multi-City Sadrist Uprising Continues

The difficulty the United States and its allies are having in regaining control of the major cities of the Shiite south is breathtaking in its implications. There is little doubt that they can prevail eventually in a military sense. But if the Sadrist uprising were a minor affair of a few thousand ragtag militiamen, it is difficult to understand how they could survive the onslaught of 150,000 well-armed and well-trained European and North American troops for more than a day. Rather, it is clear that urban crowds are supporting the uprising in some numbers. Even when the Coalition puts the uprising down, it may well incur the wrath of many persons who had earlier viewed it with favor. And if the US cannot control Iraq now, when it has its hands directly on all the levers of power, how will it do so in the coming year, as it loses its grip on those levers?

The tired CPA refrain that lots of schools have been painted and the markets are bustling is shockingly inept even as propaganda. I lived in Beirut in the early years of the civil war there. I'd like to report that people shop during wars and heavy civil disturbances. The economy does not disappear in such situations. It is just that the value of currency drops, foreign investment dries up, and hoarding is widespread. People rush out to buy stocks in case there are curfews. Bustling bazaars mean nothing in themelves--they have to be interpreted in context. But major fighting in most Shiiite urban areas is unambiguous in its significance. It means that the Bush administration rule of Iraq is FUBAR. It seems inevitable to me that the US military will pursue a war to the death with the Army of the Mahdi, the Sadrist movement, and Muqtada al-Sadr himself. They will of course win this struggle on the surface and in the short term, because of their massive firepower. But the Sadrists will simply go underground and mount a longterm guerrilla insurgency similar to that in the Sunni areas.

The United States has managed to create a failed state, similar to Somalia and Haiti, in Iraq.

Let's look at the major battles on Tuesday:


W's Iraq debacle unfolds

Baghdad Sunnis, Shi'ites unite

  thanks to Information Clearing House

Bloodbath a bad omen for coalition forces
by Robert Fisk

Reaping the Whirlwind
Iraq on the Brink of Anarchy
by Robert Fisk

US general Abizaid considers sending more troops to Iraq : CNN

  thanks to The Agonist

Coalition forces fight a losing battle to win the peace
With each twist of the spiral, it becomes more difficult to be optimistic for the future

The battle the US wants to provoke
by Naomi Klein in Baghdad

Uprising in Iraq could derail Bush
As US forces suffer another bloody day, Republicans turn on president

Christopher Layne: Deeper into the abyss

  thanks to Antiwar.com

Iraq: The “People’s War” is Just Beginning

  thanks to Antiwar.com

Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home

  thanks to BuzzFlash

Helping Bob...
...uncover Victoria's Secret
A Blogger's History of the Iraqi Occupation
by Mike Golby

"...a wave of anti-American rage so intense that it now extends not only to US troops, occupation officials and their contractors but also to foreign journalists, aid workers, their translators and pretty much anyone else associated with the Americans."

Yeah, chew on that one. I wonder why? Mind you, anybody but the Americans can see these things. Just the other day, after the mercenary grill, I predicted the arrival of the cavalry. Today, some 1,200 Marines and two battalions of Iraqi security personnel are poised to enter Fallujah. The fool Bremer's declared al-Sadr an outlaw, American tanks have been squashing Iraqis in Baghdad, and Apache helicopters are hitting police stations and government buildings occupied by al-Sadr supporters.

Actually, on TV it all looks rather good. It reminds me of the mid-80s in South Africa. Watching crowds of AK-wielding zealots always stirs the armchair warrior in me. In the context of the violence confronting them, these Iraqi resistance fighters epitomize Democracy in Action. The Yanks say "Yes" with big guns; and Iraqis say "No" with big bombs. I prefer hyenas myself but, either way, it's a win-win situation. Blackwater Democracy has arrived. Like Victoria's Secret. Gad, imagine coming home to a couple of these after a hard day on the battlefield. Bremer should pack his bags tonight and catch the early morning flight to Tel Aviv; leaving the troops behind to be slaughtered, of course. Democracy must, when all is said, done, signed, sealed and delivered by June 30, be sustainable.


The Thousand-Yard Stare

Now, we Kossacks support the troops, and I knew that this was not the place for politics. These soldiers are pawns, and of course they do not set policy. As much as I wanted them to get drunk and bash their Commander-in-Chief, I just couldn't disrespect them like that.

Throughout the course of the night, I'd find myself chatting with each of them. I'd offer my hand and thank them for their service. I'd ask them what it was like over there (a unanimous "fucked up") and then I'd wish them luck.

Now, you can say that they asked for it. You can say that no one forced them to join. But really, those recruiting commercials make it look pretty fun for your average hormone-addled boy, and when they hand you your diploma and a bowl of soup at commencement, you've gotta start thinking about all of your options.

By the time last call was signaled by the flashing lights, I'd heard some pretty scary shit. I'd also come to know them well enough that they no longer averted their eyes as though afraid I'd come upon a dark secret. Now they looked at me. Or, well... through me, somewhat. I thought of the stories I'd read about Viet Nam, and I thought about the thousand-yard stare. I don't know if this was the same look or not, but I can tell you this for sure, something inside of each of them was very, very dead. Something was taken away... forever. They suddenly didn't look so very young anymore, though for the life of me, I couldn't picture them carrying rifles as they walked the streets of Baghdad.

It may have been the beer talking, or maybe I thought they might get some very minor, fleeting satisfaction from it, but as we shook hands one last time, I told them that they had done some good over there. This was met with spontaneous laughter, and their leader shook his head and told me that no one had done any good over there... that nothing good had happened... that it was all bad. I tried to smile along with them, but couldn't, so I wished them luck.

"Thanks," he added. "We're gonna need it, 'cause we're going back in four months."

Good luck, guys.


 09:50 AM - link

  Monday   April 5   2004

iraq — vietnam on internet time

My first reaction is that I can't believe the CPA would be so stupid to do this. Then I remember who we are dealing with. We are screwed. Here is the entire post from Juan Cole.

Arrest Warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr

Dan Senor in a briefing in Baghdad on Monday revealed that an arrest warrant had been issued months ago "by an Iraqi judge" and implied that it would now be served.

US television cable news is doing its best to obscure the real issues here.

1. They keep asking where Muqtada is and calling him a "fugitive." Muqtada announced that he is in his father's mosque in Kufa, and there is no reason to doubt this. He hasn't fled and his whereabouts are well known.

2. Talking heads both from Iraq and from the ranks of the US retired officers keep attempting to maintain that Muqtada's movement is small and marginal. One speaker claimed that Muqtada has only 10,000 men.

In fact that is the size of his formal militia. Muqtada's movement is like the layers of an onion. You have 10,000 militiamen. But then you have tens of thousands of cadres able to mobilize neighborhoods. Then you have hundreds of thousands of Sadrists, followers of Muqtada and other heirs of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Then you have maybe 5 million Shiite theocrats who sympathize with Muqtada's goals and rhetoric, about a third of the Shiite community. The Sadrists will now try to shift everything so that the 5 million become followers, the hundreds of thousands become cadres, and the tens of thousands become militiamen.

3. That an "Iraqi judge" issued a warrant is just misdirection. The Coalition Provisional Authority appointed the judges, who are not independent actors. The CPA clearly decided if and when such a warrant would actually be used. For some reason the CPA decided to move against Muqtada on Saturday, provoking his reaction. Since we now know there was a warrant for his arrest, it is not even clear that it was an over-reaction. If the CPA was going to arrest him and execute him for murder, what would he have to lose by demonstrating that he would not go quietly? Journalists kept asking me today why Muqtada chose to act now, why he didn't just wait for the Americans to leave. The answer is that the CPA had clearly targetted him, and forced his hand.


Cleric: Iraq's Sadr Turns Down Elders' Peace Appeal

Radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has turned down an appeal by Iraq's powerful Shi'ite Muslim establishment to renounce violence, a leading cleric said Monday.


Here is a comment from Sean-Paul, at The Agonist, that puts this uprising in perspective.

"If the brewing unrest gets out of hand, it could derail the planned transfer of sovereignty on June 30, but more importantly, it could make the U.S. position in Iraq untenable. Coalition forces cannot simultaneously deal with the Sunni insurgency and a Shiite uprising." via Stratfor

Chew on that for a while.

If, and it is still an if at this point, the Shi'ites do rise up, Operation Iraqi Freedom becomes completely untenable. Our entire position in the Middle East gets rolled up because there is no objective way our military can deal with it. How is the Bush Administration going to respond to that?

You think politics are nasty now in Washington. Just wait. This ain't over yet.

 03:14 PM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

It appears the excrement is now hitting the whirling device. The Shiites have been biding their time. Some seem to have stopped biding. If they all stop biding, its game, set, and match. Fuck!

The best place to keep up on this is Juan Cole. No doubt.

Shiite Clashes in with Coalition in Najaf Baghdad: Phase II of the Anti-Occupation Struggle Begins
Nine Coalition Troops Killed, Dozens wounded in Confronting Uprising

The always tense relationship between the Sadrist movement among Iraqi Shiites and the US and its Coalition partners has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Perhaps a third of Iraqi Shiites are sympathetic to the radical, Khomeini-like ideology of Sadrism, and some analysts with long experience in Iraq put it at 50%. Earlier Muqtada Al-Sadr, the movement leader, had called on his forces to avoid violence against Coalition forces. As of Saturday and Sunday, he appeared to have feared that the Coalition meant permanently to exclude his group from power, and had decided to launch an uprising. This uprising involved taking over police stations in Kufa, Najaf, Baghdad and possibly elsehwere. The Sadrist militia now controls Kufa, according to the New York Times, and probably controls much of Sadr City or the slums of East Baghdad, as well, though it has been expelled from the police stations it had occupied there. Muqtada seemed to back off later on Sunday, calling on his followers to cease fighting, and vowing to protest by withdrawing to his mosque for a lengthy retreat with his followers. It is too soon to tell if this retreat (in both senses) will satisfy the Bush administration, or whether they will now feel impelled to arrest Muqtada. If they do, it seems likely to me that it will cause no end of trouble in coming months.


Muqtada Under Siege, US Helicopters Patrol Skies above East Baghdad
Sistani calls for calm

Muqtada's words before he went into retreat in his mosque: "Make your enemy afraid, for it is impossible to remain quiet about their moral offenses; otherwise we have arrived at consequences that will not be praiseworthy. I am with you, and shall not forsake you to face hardships alone. I fear for you, for no benefit will come from demonstrations. Your enemy loves terrorism, and despises peoples, and all Arabs, and muzzles opinions. I beg you not to resort to demonstrations, for they have become nothing but burned paper. It is necessary to resort to other measures, which you take in your own provinces. As for me, I am with you, and I hope I will be able to join you and then we shall ascend into exalted heavens. I will go into an inviolable retreat in Kufa. Help me by whatever you are pleased to do in your provinces. "

The bit about going into a retreat (i`tis.am) and hoping to join his followers later so that they could ascend to the heavens shows an apocalyptic imagination at work. The US is facing another Waco, and what we know is that military sorts of force are the worst way to deal with apocalyptic groups like the Branch Dravidians and the Sadrists. That approach only confirms their conviction that the forces of this world are attempting to prevent them from attaining paradise.


From Riverbend...

Riots, Star Gazing and Cricket Choirs...

These last couple of weeks have been somewhat depressing for most people. You know how sometimes you look back at the past year and think to yourself, “What was I doing last year, on this same day?” Well we’ve been playing that game constantly lately. What was I doing last year, this very moment? I was listening for the sirens, listening for the planes and listening to the bombs fall. Now we just listen for the explosions- it’s not the same thing.

I haven’t been sleeping very well either. I’ve been having disturbing dreams lately... Dreams of being stuck under rubble or feeling the earth shudder beneath me as the windows rattle ominously. I know it has to do with the fact that every day we relive a little bit of the war- on television, on the radio, on the internet. I’m seeing some of the images for the very first time because we didn’t have electricity last year during the war and it really is painful. It’s hard to believe that we lived through so much...


Billmon also has good coverage and comments...

The Unforgiving Minute

So, thanks in part to the dueling paranoias of Jerry Bremer and Moqtada al-Sadr, the crisis everyone has been dreading has finally arrived. The next few days could very well be the most critical since the fall of Baghdad.

Bremer, and his masters in Washington, now have to make some very quick, very momentous decisions. Should they accept the gauntlet that Sadr has thrown down, and try to crush the revolt with brute force? Or should they back down, and let their Shi'a partners-of-convenience try to stabilize the situation? Should the transfer of nominal sovereignty be delayed, or would that further inflame the Shi'a street and cause all the delicately negotiated compromises on and with the Governing Council to fall apart?

Shi'a Iraq also has choices to make -- choices which are, if anything, even more profound than the ones facing the masters of war in Washington. If the masses side with Sadr, our erstwhile Shi'a allies will have little choice but to move to the sidelines -- or even worse, join the rebellion. On the other hand, if the Shi'a majority rejects his appeal, Sadr will either have to flee into exile, die fighting, or accept imprisonment and the destruction of his movement.

At best, the latter alternatives would still leave the Coalition caught between a violent, destabilized Shi'a south and an enraged, ungovernable Sunni center. At worst, the former scenario -- in which the Shi'a masses and the other Shi'a militias join in the fighting -- could produce news photos and video footage that make Fallujah look like a high school prom.

In war, military historians sometimes talk about the "unforgiving minute" -- the moment when a battle is either won or lost, when every decision is potentially the deciding one, and bad decisions can't be made good later. I've got a feeling we've reached the unforgiving minute in the Iraq occupation -- both for the coalition and for the country's Shi'a majority.


Remember Fallujah? With everything else going on it appears we can't leave well enough alone.

U.S., Iraqi soldiers surround Fallujah

Hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi troops in tanks, trucks and other vehicles surrounded the turbulent city of Fallujah on Monday ahead of a major operation against insurgents following the grisly slayings of four American security contractors last week.


Billmon again...

Fallujah Follies

You'd think that with all hell breaking loose in the supposedly pacified parts of Iraq, Centcom would have better things to do with its time than staging the purely symbolic punishment of a single rebellious city. Because unless the Marines have suddenly developed the absolute ruthlessness of a Saddam or an Assad -- or even a Sharon -- this little demonstration of "claws and teeth" isn't likely to impress the natives very much. They're too familiar with the genuine article.


Update 11:25 AM:

Now they want to arrest Moqtada al-Sadr. Good luck!

US faces Iraqi revolt
Warrant issued for Shia cleric
US seals off Falluja
Worst unrest since Saddam fell

An Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for the Shia leader blamed for violent demonstrations against coalition control, it was announced today.

Of Mr Sadr, Mr Bremer said: "He is attempting to establish his authority in the place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate this ... We will reassert the law and order that the Iraqi people expect."

In a statement read out in a mosque in Kufa, near Najaf, where he is staging a sit-in with supporters, Mr Sadr said: "I'm accused by one of the leaders of evil, Bremer, of being an outlaw ... if that means breaking the law of the American tyranny and its filthy constitution, I'm proud of that and that is why I'm in revolt."


Impossible situation, Part II

A martyred Sadr is the last thing the occupation needs. A jailed Sadr is the second-last thing the US needs. A renegade Sadr is the third-last thing the US needs.

Again, there is no good option. But we already knew that before Bush went in. It took the chickenhawks a little longer to figure it out. You don't hear the Neocons talk about a pro-Israel Iraqi democracy any more.


 10:29 AM - link


Achim Pohl – Photojournalism

Pashupatinath-Temple, Nepal


  thanks to Conscientious

 09:54 AM - link

have gun, will travel

The four "civilians" that were killed at Fallujah were hardly civilians. They were mercenaries hired by the Department of Defense. This is more than worrisome. Here are several posts looking at this. The potential for really bad things to come of this are way too great.

Contractors in Iraq: the convergence
by Helena Cobban

This use by the U.S. military of private U.S. contractors for security duty in Iraq is something fairly new and very unsettling in international affairs and international law.

I mean, how weird is it that Paul Bremer, who's the top representative of the U.S. military's top civil-affairs unit, gets protected by contract soldiers, not by the U.S. military itself?

What is the status of all these guys under the Geneva Conventions? They are not acting directly in the military chain of command.

Does that make them "unlawful combatants", I wonder? Or, if taken prisoner, would they be considered to be regular POWs?

Anyway, I learned from ABC News tonight that there are around 15,000 of them there in Iraq now. Many more fighters than even the Brits have in Iraq!


This is a very good look at this travesty.

Iraq: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

I started this post -- concerning the role of private military companies and mercenaries in Iraq yesterday. But I was so shocked at what I was finding that I had to sleep on it before I could continue.


Shine a light from Body and Soul

And Kos has first hand experience with mercenaries...

Mercenaries, war, and my childhood

Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone. I witnessed communist guerillas execute students accused of being government collaborators. I was 8 years old, and I remember stepping over a dead body, warm blood flowing from a fresh wound. Dodging bullets while at market. I lived in the midsts of hate the likes of which most of you will never understand (Clinton and Bush hatred is nothing compared to that generated when people kill each other for politics or race or nationality). There's no way I could ever describe the ways this experience colors my worldview.

Back to Iraq, our men and women in uniform are there under orders, trying to make the best of an impossible situation. The war is not their fault, and I will always defend their honor and bravery to the end of my days. But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good. They answer to no one except their CEO. They are dangerous, hence international efforts (however fruitless they may be) to ban their use.

So not only was I wrong to say I felt nothing over their deaths, I was lying. I felt way too much. Nobody deserves to die. But in the greater scheme of things, there are a lot of greater tragedies going on in Iraq (51 last month, plus countless civilians and Iraqi police). That those tragedies are essentially ignored these days is, ultimately, the greatest tragedy of all.


And here come the bad things...

Bodyguards in Iraq turn to 'massive firepower' after attack

American bodyguards in Iraq want to strengthen their weaponry with hand grenades and high-powered machineguns after four private security consultants were murdered in Fallujah last week.

Only coalition soldiers are allowed to carry explosives under existing regulations, leaving up to 20,000 civilian contractors working as guards outgunned by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and belt-fed machineguns.

The Coalition Provisional Authority is horrified by the contractors' plans to flout the rules, believing that such action could lead to a serious escalation in violence as the June deadline approaches for power to be transferred to the Iraqis.

On Saturday, however, Malcolm Nance, a former adviser to the CIA and the U.S. National Security Agency who has spent 10 months in Iraq supervising security for businesses and charities, warned that firms would "go heavy" to prevent a repeat of last week's murders.


 09:44 AM - link

billboard art

Billboards of the Past


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 09:17 AM - link

The key word is 'bizonal'

Talks between Turkish and Greek leaders on the reunification of Cyprus are on a tight schedule, just the way it's taught in conflict resolution courses. Rule No. 1: Set a hard and fast deadline, to create the sense of urgency and the concern over missing a chance that won't return. The local leaders are prompted by a sense of extreme urgency: If they don't reach an agreement within a month, Greece and Turkey - the "guarantor nations" - will intervene. And if that doesn't help either, Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, will put his plan to unite the island to a referendum to be held within the two Cypriot communities on April 21.

The key word here is "bizonal," with the borders between the Turkish and Greek zones (after certain changes) left open, and all fences, walls and obstacles removed.

The comparison between Cyprus and the situation here almost begs to be made: What is the difference between the physical and geopolitical separation here and the two-nation federation in Cyprus? How is it that international peace-seekers mobilize the prospect of membership in the European Union to achieve unification in Cyprus, and here they offer membership in the European Union to Israel as an incentive for dividing the land into two states?

Are not the values in the Annan Plan of a common home, recognition of separate identities and the obligation to prevent the tragic past from ever repeating itself, applicable in Israel/Palestine, with only the separation fence serving as a symbol of the refusal to dream of a "bizonal" partnership?

There may be a message in the fact that the enlightened world (after Bosnia and Northern Ireland) is united again around a plan that negates fences and ethnic separation, and resolves to create a federated structure as a solution to intercommunal conflict. And don't tell us that the Turkish-Greek conflict is less serious than the Israeli-Palestinian one.


Twilight zone / Social studies lesson
By Gideon Levy

A holiday excursion to the hidden side of the Land of Israel - the ruins of lost villages in the Galilee - led by a guide from Hurfish.

Look at this prickly pear plant. It's covering a mound of stones. This mound of stones was once a house, or a shed, or a sheep pen, or a school, or a stone fence. Once - until 56 years ago, a generation and a half ago - not that long ago. The cactus separated the houses and one lot from another, a living fence that is now also the only monument to the life that once was here. Take a look at the grove of pines around the prickly pear as well. Beneath it there was once a village. All of its 405 houses were destroyed in one day in 1948 and its 2,350 inhabitants scattered all over. No one ever told us about this. The pines were planted right afterward by the Jewish National Fund, to which we contributed in our childhood, every Friday, in order to cover the ruins, to cover the possibility of return and maybe also a little of the shame and the guilt.


Bush to reassure PM: Israel won't have to retreat to Green Line

The United States will assure Israel that it will not have to withdraw to the Green Line in a future permanent settlement with the Palestinians.


Hmmm. I thought future negotiations would be between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Apparently not. I wonder how the Palestinians feel about this? I wonder if the entire Arab world knows this? And they wonder why they hate us.

This is an interesting interview with the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It's written by Amira Hass who wrote Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. Amira's book is a must read.

Balance of pain
By Amira Hass

Don't you think that a struggle along the lines of the one conducted by Gandhi in India would bring you more achievements?

"Are those with the weapons, who occupy my land, the ones who will order me to abandon my weapon and decide for me what means I am obliged and entitled to adopt in order to struggle? The Palestinian people has reached this situation because of its suffering, because all the doors of the future have been closed to them. If I plant flowers, I am barred from exporting them. If I want to import cheap cement, the Israelis don't allow it. We must look for the cause in order to deal with the problem."

But it's also necessary to examine the means of struggle, isn't it?

"That is also a question for the Israelis, for whom everything is permitted. Tanks, planes, all the military and economic means. Did they use humane means but were stopped by someone? Is the occupation humane or aggressive?"

How do you see the future of the Palestinian children, those who are now 8 years old?

"Our people is suffering from Israeli aggression and force. The Israelis are using the height of the strength they possess. But I emphasize that the future, in the long term, will be on the side of the Palestinian people."


Three Generals, One Martyr
by Uri Avnery

  thanks to Aron's Israel Peace Weblog

New documentary takes Israeli-Palestinian conflict coverage to task

 09:07 AM - link


In pictures: Remembering the genocide

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda photo-journalist Nick Danziger visited the country with the BBC's Panorama team:

These pictures and the individuals will haunt me forever. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the victims.

Flora Mukampore says she lay unconscious for weeks under dead bodies until some children found her. Here, she stands in between two of her dead sister's children. Seventeen members of her family were killed in the genocide.


 08:27 AM - link

the new big kid on the block

This is another sign that the American First crowd is more than a little out of touch with reality. It doesn't pay to piss off the big guy. If they could only figure out who the big guy is.

Euro Brash
Why George W. Bush takes orders from Pascal Lamy.

Pascal Lamy, the European Union Trade Commissioner, is a 57-year-old Frenchman, a graduate of Paris' elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration, and a longtime member of the French Socialist Party. He smokes cheroots, works tirelessly on behalf of France and Europe, and his aggressive--some would say ruthless--personal style has earned him the nickname "Exocet," after a French-built missile. He is not exactly George W. Bush's or Tom DeLay's kind of guy.

In late February, Lamy paid a visit to Washington to meet with senior members of Congress and delivered an audacious demand: If Congress did not eliminate a large tax break for American exporters by March 1, the European Union would slap $4 billion in retaliatory trade sanctions against the United States. When it comes to taxes, President Bush hasn't been swayed by angry Democrats, a burgeoning federal deficit, worried economists, a stagnant job market, or moderates of his own party. But faced with Lamy's threat, he caved. A few days after the Exocet's visit, the president called upon Congress to quickly bring America's tax code in line with the E.U. Commissioner's demands. House Speaker Dennis Hastert summed up his reaction to the pressured legislative changes at an earlier news conference: "My gut feeling about this is we fought a revolution 230 years ago to stop Europeans from telling us how we have to tax in this country, and it puts the hair up on the back of my neck that we have to consider this at all. But we have to do it."


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

 08:19 AM - link


A Piano Is Born, Needing Practice

Over 10 months, it had been shaped, spray-painted, polished, worked on, tuned and worked on some more. In three minutes on its last day at the Steinway & Sons factory in Queens, grand piano No. K0862 got a new identity.

It became No. 565700 when a worker named Davendra Viran stenciled that number onto its cast-iron plate, a few inches above the keyboard, the 565,700th Steinway ever made.

A couple hours later, after bouncing over the Queensboro Bridge in a truck, it got another new identity.

Steinway had chosen No. 565700 to be one of the 300 or so grands in its concert fleet, a bank of pianos the company lends out for concerts, recitals, recording sessions and television programs. Steinway assigns those pianos yet another number, beginning with the letter C, for concert.

So No. 565700 became CD-60 - the D stands for the model - after it was dropped off at Steinway's store in Manhattan. Not in the first-floor showroom, with the wide window looking out on West 57th Street, but in the basement.

Among pianists, the Steinway basement is a storied destination, one that confers status. There, beneath fluorescent lights that hum and steam pipes that hiss, is what may be Steinway's most important asset, a roomful of long black pianos (except for the long white one that went to Billy Joel for a recording project some years ago). Their almost identical looks belie the basement's importance: every one of the pianos there is different. And everyone from Moriz Rosenthal -one of the last pupils of Liszt - to Glenn Gould to Mitsuko Uchida to Alfred Brendel has gone there to pick the perfect one to play.


 08:03 AM - link

co-president cheney

'The Wizard of Oz Letter'
Bush pulls back the curtain on who really runs the White House

This was the week the curtain got pulled back on the Bush presidency. In exchange for allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath, President Bush gets to bring along his vice president when he appears privately before the commission.

A top Republican strategist dubbed the legal document striking the unusual deal “the Wizard of Oz letter” because it strips away the myth that Bush is in charge. Until now, it’s been all speculation about Vice President Cheney’s influence. With the revelation of the tandem testimony, nobody with a straight face can deny Cheney is a co-president or worse, the puppeteer who pulls Bush’s strings.

Aside from being fodder for the late-night comics, the arrangement confirms Bush’s inability to articulate anything without a script--or a tutor by his side. There’s a reason lawyers don’t take testimony in groups. The whole idea is to get individual recollections and then compare stories to uncover contradictions. Try thinking about it this way: can anyone imagine Bush’s father in a similar situation bringing his vice president? (For those who need a refresher course, the elder Bush was a rocket scientist compared to his son, and the vice president was Dan Quayle.)


  thanks to Angry Bear

 01:13 AM - link

pretty paper

All things to do with Paper Marbling

Paper marbling is a mono-printing technique where colours are deposited onto a gelatinous size. By using a stylus, rakes and combs the pattern is made on the surface of the size. Paper treated with alum is then carefully laid onto the surface of the size. A few seconds later, the paper is removed from the size and the pattern is transferred onto the paper. The surface of the size is then skimmed with a strip of paper to remove the remaining colours. The process is repeated for the next pattern. Each pattern made is therefore unique.


  thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!

Marbling Start Page

 01:07 AM - link


Sean-Paul finally got his review of The Sorrows of Empire up. I've mentioned this book before. I will keep mentioning it until everyone has read it. So stop resisting. It's too important.

Sorrows Of Empire

I’ve been struggling for several days trying to find a suitable introduction to Chalmers Johnson’s new book “The Sorrows Of Empire”. Every time I sit down to write about the book I find myself either distracted or disgusted. The book is that hard to read. There is nothing pleasant or easy about it. Take, for example, his first sentence: “As distinct from other peoples on this earth, most Americans don’t recognize—or do not want to recognize—that the United States dominates the world through its military power.” One could write a thousand words of exegesis on that sentence alone. Now imagine what the next 312 pages were like, for Johnson tells us everything we never wanted to know about our country. I almost threw the book across the room several times.

"No, that's a crock," I found myself mumbling. Then I would go to the endnotes (yeah, I'm a nerd that way) and Johnson would be citing a DOD memo or some other unimpeachable source.

Strangely, I found the book more of an emotional challenge than a factual one. Reading it I felt like a visit to a cruel psychotherapist who proceeds to point out every character flaw of my personality. I realized about halfway through the book that I had to pause and listen carefully to that deep, instinctive feeling we all have when we know the truth. A wise man once said: "The truth will set you free." He forgot to add, "it ain't easy." No one likes to look into a mirror like this, yet we must.


 12:57 AM - link

fixie fork

I finished painting the front fork for the fixie project.

The fork crown is somewhat ornate so the burnisher helped force the masking tape down and then I trimmed it with the xacto knife.

I have a couple of eye hooks in the ceiling that are used to hang the fork. I will use the same setup to paint the frame.

I sprayed two coats of Ace Hardware's finest rattle-can red around 30 minutes apart.

I pulled all the tape off after about 30 minutes. Viola!

The front fork. The black is Rustoleum rattle-can semi-gloss black enamel. The frame will be painted the same way — semi-gloss black with glossy red on the frame lugs, bottom bracket shell, and dropouts. There is still a lot of sanding to do on the frame. It's wonderful physical therapy.

 12:48 AM - link