Bush at UN: it might be time for a bathroom break; Tal Afar as Ethnic Civil War; Iraqi Super Provinces; Gazans visit Egypt
Colin Kennedy emailed me this excellent Reuters photo. Apparently Bush noted to Condi Rice at the UN World Summit, "I think I may need a bathroom break?" Not exactly decisive sounding leadership for going to the Pot. But either way I think it sets the tone.
HongPong.com enters Google Blog Search, and finds out the site is enmeshed in other people's conspiracy theories... It seems to update pretty quickly too. Oddly enough, the first "hongpong.com" hit turns up a link to a story on freedomforyou.blogspot.com... the paragraph that follows is certainly a weird enough thing to say. Oh the places that link to me...
Israel, Mossad, Iran and a Nuclear False Flag Attack...
...Since the US Army War College already acknowledges that the Mossad "has capability to target US forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act," it may well be that the FBI has finally realized how dangerous the Israeli Fifth Column is, having begun to tighten the noose around the legendary Israeli spying operation in America by arresting Larry Franklin, Doug Feith's deputy in the Office of Special Plans, origin of the fraudulent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction intelligence. Not yet indicted, but identified as Co-Conspirator 1 and 2 along with Franklin are the two top AIPAC operatives to whom he passed higly classified intel: Steven Rosen, head of Policy and Keith Weissman, Iran specialist. Israeli sources expect Weissman and Rosen to be indicted for espionage in the coming weeks. [<--- that one is my link - Dan ]
Perhaps the two largest factions of the New World Order, Skull and Bones and the Zionists are now going into open warfare, as the Bush Administration attempts to clean out the neoconservatives, discipline the Israeli military and enforce the two state solution.
Uhm, for the record, I really disagree that Skull and Bones and "the Zionists" are the two major factions of anything at all... I keep looking around for this New World Order and all I seem to find are crazy people. Damn! :-) Nonetheless freedomforyou has a fairly classic conspiracy tale about Mohammed Atta, the "Able Danger" intelligence project that supposedly uncovered some of the 9/11 hijackers, and why not, a massive heroin smuggling operation being covered up by the government. Like I said, classic. Keep on going, Starfish Prime!
Katrina klusterfuck: Billmon tries to find enough Pepto-Bismol to swallow the nasty slime of spin and madness. As always Atrios is holding it down on the matter along with Josh Marshall, who is putting together a Katrina Timeline. William Rivers Pitt on "Washing Away the Conservative Movement" is very worth reading. In a nutshell his point is that the Grover Norquist "Starve the Beast" philosophy is dead because the first task of government is to look after the citizens, and it just don't work when you've starved it. Also "Wake of the Flood" is damn good. I liked this bit from Stirling Newberry:
The Days of Death and the Wings of Victory:
Every age buries the last, but the old age digs its own grave. And that is what Bush is doing, digging the grave of the 20th Century. It was a gleaming century that launched itself into space, it was a brutal century that killed millions. It was the century that fed more people, and cured more diseases than all the others. It was a century that saw more die in famines than in all the others.
The waste of that century has killed New Orleans. It is not the flooding, but the toxic wastes of decades that makes it uneconomical to rebuild the shattered streets of the Crescent City. It is not colonialism, but oil that drew us into Iraq. And we need not point out that Saddam came to power because of the Cold War realpolitick. But it is ours to bury the past, not to blame it. There are those who refuse to deal with reality, and think that simply distancing themselves from what was is enough - and there are many millions more who simply do not understand that the era of extraction, the era of oil and the era of a small closed affluent world surrounded by an ocean of dictatorships, deprivation and destitution is over.
........The coming weeks will strain the faith of those who have watched and waited so long. It will seem that so little of what needs to be done will be done. It will seem that the ponderous waith of putainous politics, and apathetic public opinion, will lumber only slowly in the direction of change. But the end is coming, and it will come with that shocking swiftness that the first wave of rain in a thunderstorm.
We should expect over the course of the next year, not a decline, but a crescendo of the corruption and cronyism that has marked this era and marred its politics. The thieves will be intent on throwing the last bags of loot before the robbery is over. Expect that the billions spent on Katrina's aftermath will leave Haliburton above the water, and hundreds of thousands below the poverty line. Piratization is the ethos of these last days of untrammelled and unchecked power.
And it is this that will overthrow them. The naked greed will shock a jaded public, one that will turn elsewhere, any where, for leadership and vision. They will recall in previous, even darker, hours, how the nation came together, and in that unity found achievement. They will ask why this time there was such a failure. They will not blame themselves - for in the minds of the public, they did what they were asked. Instead, they will blame the leadership to whom power was given.
Now, today, this instant, it is time to answer the call to arms. Some will protest, but more important is to contest. In 14 months time America will have a new revolution. Do not waste another minute, lest you be forced to admit that you were not there. The relief effort needs aid and comfort now. Candidates across the country need volunteers now. These two projects - to relieve the suffering and then to end it - must occupy every spare moment and ounce of energy. For it is the will of the people, that drives the wings to victory. And from victory to vindication of that which we have so long believed: that an America reborn, is an America redeemed.
Ah so then a few more links. Katrina, an economic tipping point. Good ideas for Principles of Reconstruction. Why is Blackwater there?! "Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans." The major media picks over the spin between federal and state officials about command of troops and the various chaotic snags. A million dumb things FEMA did. DomeBlog carries the news of evacuees at the Astrodome and George Brown Convention Center. Morgan Stanley on the Shoestring Economy. They seem to be starting to block the media. "The Thin Veneer of Civilization." Disturbing. As noted earlier:
Police in Suburbs Blocked Evacuees, Witnesses Report
By GARDINER HARRIS
Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two paramedics who were in the crowd said.
The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.
Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.
"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.
What does an ethnic war in the Middle East look like? "Revenge Killings Fuel Fear of Escalation in Iraq." A relevant question these days. Anthony Shadid of the WaPo has an feature with TPMCafe about his new book on Iraq. The newspaper might tell you that the insurgents in Tal Afar are inscrutable evildoers, but a different moral frame (one where the Shiites and Kurds are not a bunch of Clark Kent do-gooders) suggests that the Tal Afar campaign is merely another episode in the splintering of Iraq. Prof. Juan Cole conceptualizes Tal Afar as Ethnic Civil War:
Much of the American press has reported the Tal Afar campaign as a strike by the new Iraqi Army, supported by US troops, against foreign infiltrators in the largely Turkmen city of 200,000.
As Jonathan Finer makes clear in the Washington Post, however, the operation looks different if we know some details. The "Iraqi Army" leading the assault turns out to be mainly the Peshmerga or Kurdish ethnic militia. Along for the ride are local Turkmen Shiites who are being used as informers and for the purpose of identifying Sunni Turkmen they think are involved in the guerrilla movement (apparently they sometimes make false charges to settle scores). Tal Afar was 70 percent Sunni Turkmen and 30 percent Shiite Turkmen. The Sunni Turkmen had thrown in with Saddam, and some more recently had turned to radical Islam. The Shiite Turkmen lived in fear of their lives.
So Kurds and Shiites are beating up on Sunni Turkmen allies of Sunni Arabs. That is what is really going on. The number of foreign fighters appears to be small, and US troops that had been guarding against infiltration on the Syrian border were actually moved to Tal Afar for this operation. It is mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas. That the attack came in part in response to the pleas of local Shiite Turkmen helps explain why Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (Shiite leader of the fundamentalist Dawa Party) authorized it, and went to Tal Afar on Tuesday for a photo op.
The US will never get stability in Iraq if it is merely an adjunct to a Kurdish-Shiite alliance against the Sunni Arabs and their Turkmen supporters.
As far as Iraq breaking into pieces is concerned, well the spooky new Constitution seems to have been finally tacked down, and there are key provisions that allow "super-provinces" to be organized. Probably Kurdistan and Sumer in the south would be organized to have federal-style power over many affairs, possibly including the all-important oil revenues. Again at juancole.com, guest writer Roger Myerson, a professor of economics who analyzes democratic structures interacting with economics, finds that the super-provinces would not help efficiency, but instead increase the likelihood of secession and breakup of Iraq:
Merging provinces into larger regions cannot increase the ability of local governments to adapt to local conditions. In the American federal system with its 50 states, the leaders of southern and northern states already have the ability to adapt their local administrative practices to their local variations of our southern and northern subcultures. Merging our state governments into larger regional mega-states could only decrease local adaptability. But such mergers could also seriously increase the possibility of secession. The leader of a regional mega-state that included a large fraction of America's population and resources would perceive more benefits and fewer risks in contemplating secession from the Union than any state governor would today.
In a well-designed federal system, the existence of small autonomous local governments can improve the performance of national democracy, because politicians in a federal democracy can prove their credentials for national leadership by serving successfully as leaders of autonomous local governments. Americans have regularly found strong candidates for president among our state governors. This effect of federalism on national elections may be particularly important for new democracies, where candidates with good reputations for responsible democratic service are likely to be scarce. For example, the PRI's long grip on national power in Mexico was broken by an independent state governor.
From this perspective, an ideal federal system would grant substantial autonomous power to local governments that are relatively small but are just large enough that successful management of a local government can demonstrate strong qualifications for national leadership. Given provinces that have this minimal size, the effects of merging provinces would be to decrease the number of such independent local leaders and to increase the chances of regional secession. So the principal beneficiaries of such mergers would be the politicians who expect to become leaders of the separate regions.
Israel business: Things are very wrapped up in Gaza and Palestinians are free to wander between Egyptian Rafah and Gazan Rafah (how did the line get down the middle of that city anyway?).
In New York where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he expected Egypt to bring the Egypt-Gaza border under control. "I imagine the Egyptians will get a grip," he said. "There is heavy American pressure on Egypt and the Palestinians on this issue." Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa on Wednesday blamed Israel for chaos at the border, as the frontier remained open for the third consecutive day and hundreds of people streamed freely from one side to the other. Addressing the GA, al-Kidwa said that the situation had been of Israel's making as it had insisted on a unilateral withdrawal from the area. Gaza's future, al-Kidwa added, would be determined by Israel's actions in the West Bank. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday that the government is going to make investing resources in developing the West Bank settlement blocs a top priority. Israel pulled the last of its troops from Gaza early Monday morning, marking the end of 38 years of miltiary rule in the area. Egypt initially said it was allowing free passage across the border as a humanitarian gesture, and pledged to restore order within days. On Wednesday, however, Hamas members blew a hole in the concrete fence that runs along the border, having cleared the area to prevent casualties. Palestinian police did not intervene. Egypt on Wednesday warned Palestinians crossing the frontier to return by sunset when passport controls were to be reimposed, and said it had found an arms-smuggling tunnel under the border. By nightfall, the border was still wide open.
So the Palestinians came in and whooped it up. There is even a bit of paranoia in Israel that Egypt is perhaps planning another war:
The Philadelphi route and the next war
There are quite a few policy makers in Jerusalem who believe that deploying several hundred Egyptian soldiers along the Philadelphi route is a strategic mistake, which will lead to disaster. .... Even 26 years after the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, many believe, as does Steinitz, that the peace is temporary, and that Israel must prepare for the next war with Egypt. The strongest proof of Egypt's true intentions is its massive military armament. Why does Egypt need such a large and advanced army, they ask, if it has no intention of fighting Israel in the future? After all, Egypt has no other enemies whose military power justifies such extensive armament. And if Egypt is in fact planning war, why should Israel help it prepare, by allowing the deployment of an Egyptian military force on the border of the Gaza Strip?
......However, the reason for the military strengthening of Egypt is not the desire to wage war on Israel, but rather fear of Israel. It is hard for Israelis to believe that anyone is liable to consider their peace-loving country a military threat. But as is written in the annual report on the balance of power in the Middle East recently published by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Egypt sees Israel as a genuine threat, for several reasons.
The first is that the Israel Defense Forces is stronger than Egypt's army. The Egyptian regime sees Israel as an unstable factor, which tends to use force to resolve political problems. Egypt believes that Israel has extremist forces, whose rise to power is liable to lead to belligerence. In Cairo they have not forgotten the declaration by Avigdor Lieberman, who as minister of national infrastructure in 2001 warned that the IDF could destroy the Aswan Dam. Egypt regards the building of a modern military force as a factor that will deter Israel and ensure the stability of the peace treaty.
A third reason involves Egypt's low self-image in relation to Israel. Israeli economic, military, scientific and technological superiority intensifies Egyptian frustration, and this gap spurs Egypt to compete with Israel in the area of arming itself.
The final withdrawal after all these decade prompts some reminiscing from Haaretz about why the hell the Israeli government tried to dominate it in the first place:
The nearly 40 years of Israeli rule in the Gaza Strip that have now come to an end leave behind a terrible heritage of oppression, bereavement and hostility. The occupation destroyed a number of the fundamental values of Israeli society. The cheap laborers that came from Gaza helped to heap wealth on some of their employers; but from many aspects, they also damaged the Israeli economy.
Many Israelis warned this would happen. Here's a story that requires a psychologist more than a historian.
On the eve of the Six-Day War, Israel Defense Forces officials debated the question of whether or not to conquer the Gaza Strip. Then chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin was opposed to the idea, commenting, "We can forgo the Strip." And then, "There's no point in getting involved with the Strip." At most, Rabin believed that the Strip could be conquered as a bargaining chip, with his idea being that immediately after its occupation, the area would be returned to Egypt in the framework of an agreement that would ensure free sailing in the Tiran Straits, and other terms too perhaps.
A number of the officers who participated in the discussions tried to persuade Rabin "to take" Gaza. "Brigade 60 will not have any trouble with the Strip mission," said then GOC Southern Command Yeshayahu Gavish, while deputy chief of staff at the time, Haim Bar-Lev, promising that "the cleansing" of the Strip would take no more than four hours.
At some stage during the discussions, then newly appointed defense minister Moshe Dayan joined the fray. He opposed occupying the Strip because of the Palestinian refugees who had settled there after fleeing and being evicted from their homes in 1948 and thereafter. According to Dayan, Israel had no interest in taking responsibility for looking after them. "Let others worry about them," he said, deciding that during the first stage of the war, at least, the IDF would not move into Gaza.
However, the minutes of the discussions (kept at the IDF archives) include an argument in favor of occupying the Strip, and it is an eye-opener because of its irrational nature. "It's a shame to forgo the headline: 'Gaza is in our hands,'" was Rehavam Ze'evi's contribution, which expresses the essence of most of the decisions that led to the occupation of the territories in the Six-Day War.
As long as the alternatives facing the state ahead of the Six-Day War were considered in a level-headed manner, most of the decision-makers agreed that most of the territory that Israel was likely to occupy shouldn't be occupied. Nevertheless, the territory was occupied, because when the battles began, the decision-makers acted on gut feelings and from the heart, and not from the head.
Also there was a story about Ehud Barak and the various rumblings of an Israeli Left trying to pull itself together, figure out whether or not is worth supporting Sharon if he leaves another couple West Bank settlements or not. This is the first I've heard in a while of Ami Ayalon, the pro-peace advocate who used to be the director of Israel's Shin Bet internal security service - the only director of a security agency I've ever met, save the time I saw Porter Goss in the Ft. Myers airport.
Along the far edges of Israeli politics, in a side alley far from the central stage, the Israeli left is trying to resurrect itself, to signal that it has not fled, that it still has something to say. In the view of some, this is a heroic struggle; in the view of others, a pathetic attempt. Who's got the strength for all this talk about a permanent settlement, about a Palestinian partner, about a Geneva agreement, about "peace," when everything is focused on Ariel Sharon and his battle for survival against Bibi.
The demonstration scheduled by the left for Saturday night, September 24, the day before the Likud Central Committee convenes, was planned to be the great show of unity of all of the bodies, organizations, and individuals with good intentions. But less than two weeks before the date, first cracks are already showing in the wall. Officials from Ami Ayalon's "People's Voice" announced a few days ago that they were pulling out of the joint committee organizing the demonstration. Its message - a permanent settlement, now - seems wrong to them. Even though the whole essence of the People's Voice is a permanent settlement. People's Voice representatives had other suggestions that were rejected by the Geneva agreement and Peace Now; for instance, declared support for Sharon, a call on Sharon to continue the evacuation of isolated settlements.
There is no way we could accept that, say the Geneva folks; if Sharon evacuates another three settlements in his next term, that is something for which we should support him? Besides which, say Yossi Beilin's people, who decided that the people are against a permanent settlement? As evidence, they present a poll conducted last week by the New Wave polling institute, in which the following question was asked: Are you for or against a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinians that would include the evacuation of most of the settlements in Judea and Samaria? Forty-seven percent said they backed the statement, and 42 percent said they were opposed.
It was a disturbing episode to see photographs of torched synagogues in the old Gaza settlements. Historically, no positive situations have followed from torched synagogues, but on the other hand, they were generally ugly, heavy concrete structures designed to withstand mortar attacks, more aesthetically bunkers than temples. it is easy to understand why the Israelis could not bring themselves to destroy the structures, (as the chief rabbi of Moscow reflects) but they really set up the Palestinians, who would obviously want to pick apart every settlement building. And now the Israeli police fear revenge attacks by right-wing Israelis against mosques in Israel.
Severance just messaged me to say hi from London. She added "never buy batteries in shepherd's bush." Not sure why. But there you go.
Randy Kelly got whomped in the St Paul mayoral primary, shocking as it is. They were gloating at the DailyKos about how his Bush endorsement bit him on the ass in a town like this. I added what I know firsthand of Kelly's self-justification for endorsing Bush last year:
Let me relate a funny story about Mayor Randy Kelly. Earlier this year he came to talk to students at Macalester College (where i just graduated from) and there were a lot of annoyed Mac Dems wearing signs that said something like "I support real Democrats". So finally the question came, why the hell did you endorse Bush?
Well he said basically that he did it because he believed it would be the best for St. Paul, apart from his personal preferences. How would it be best? Well, he said, it makes it easier to get things out of Washington. So when the Department of Homeland Security was abruptly going to cut St. Paul out of a whole bunch of funding (it was probably for first responders, as someone noted above), he proudly said that he was able to go to Washington DC and get the money back - in other words, endorsing Bush made it easier to get back the patronage cash that is apparently being funnelled in the most political way possible through the damned Department that is supposed to keep all Americans safe.
I was taken back by the abrupt cynicism of this - it hadn't occurred to me that DHS money was being used to reward local politicians in such a way. Kelly was very matter-of-fact about this. I guess this is what federal-city realpolitik is all about, but his glib and direct statement on it shocked me.
(it is a little reminiscent of how FEMA seems to have been used to funnel cash into Florida in 2004 to warp the election)
This post is hyper long, but why not toss in a bit about "Lost at Tora Bora", published four years after 9/11? A fine account of how we surrounded Bin Laden in the cave complex with 36 Special Forces, and tried to buy off a bunch of goofy heroin-laden warlords without realizing that Bin Laden had paid many off already. I would quote this but really you should read about this critical opening episode of the War on Terror, the whole thing. Tom Watson reflects on it. it's never The End.