Thursday, November 30, 2006


Kevin Drum, on the right's forthcoming effort to airbrush history:
The whole wingnut universe is preparing for another decades-long rerun of Vietnam, in which they pretend that we could have won in Iraq if only liberals and Democrats hadn't poisoned the American will to win.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Richard Haass

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations talks about whether it matters whether or not Iraq is in a "civil war":

It's not simply a semantic issue. If Iraq is seen as in a civil war by the administration, it has all sorts of policy consequences, and it will more than anything accelerate tremendously the drive or the push to get U.S. forces largely out of Iraq. It's not clear U.S. forces have any useful role if, in fact, you think there's a civil war. This is actually a distinction with a difference.

It may not be an all-out civil war, but it sure looks like one. And I would say that Iraq right now is something of a cross or a blend between a civil war and a failed state. What you do not have is effective central authority. You have the growing war between and among militias.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Naomi Klein, on the postwar plan for Iraq

2+ years later, this is still the best insight on why things went so wrong in Iraq:

The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war's ideological architects: that greed is good. Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush's Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.

To see the pervasiveness of this laissez-faire thinking, check out this article on gasoline smuggling in Iraq.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kissinger on Iraq

Henry Kissinger, on the prospects for military victory in Iraq:
If you mean by "military victory" an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible.
Kissinger always was a charter member of the real[politik]ity-based community, after all.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Welfare "reform" results, ten years on: more hungry Americans

With the usual GOP-administrator's Orwellian touch:

The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.... The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times.

Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.... Three years ago, the USDA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies "to ensure that the measurement methods USDA uses to assess households' access -- or lack of access -- to adequate food and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound." Among several recommendations, the panel suggested that the USDA scrap the word hunger, which "should refer to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation."

Emphasis added.

Optimistically, maybe the fact that the Republicans have decided to redefine hunger as a "security issue" means that they actually intend to do something about it, rather than merely regarding hunger as a bracing incentive for the morally feckless to pull themselves together.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Baby Chalabis

From Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman's wonderful Ethical Realism:

Among the enormous numbers of analysts in Washington still employed in the study of Russia, the number who are actually capable of placing themselves in the skins of most Russians can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They themselves, of course, sincerely believe otherwise. But that is because the Russians whom they know well, and feel they understand, have been selected and self-selected to confirm American attitudes and prejudices. Those Russians who disagree just do not get Western grants and jobs, and are not interviewed as "serious" and "objective" sources of analysis by Western journalists.

Mostly, the copulation of illusions is just designed to secure financial and career benefits for the West's local informants. But it also continually lays the U.S. establishment open to manipulation by the likes of Iraqi opportunist and neoconservative darling Ahmed Chalabi for their own political ends. Indeed, several leading Washington think tanks are virtual nurseries for flocks of Baby Chalabis, all mewling into the doting ears of their foster parents about how the freedom-loving people of Ubangi-Gangi or Khakistan love America, support American policies, want America to intervene in their countries to "restore democracy"--and above all, want their beloved Ahmed Junior to get back his old job as minister for corruption. You think we exaggerate? Look at Benazir Bhutto's record in office, and then ask how large parts of the U.S. establishment can possibly believe that her return to power would be good for Pakistan.

From p. 76-77. Read the whole thing.


Redmond, making all the right moves with Zune:
"I've never seen a business so blatantly screw its business partners," says Peter Sealey, a professor at Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Friday, November 10, 2006

To Wilfred Owen

Tomorrow it will be 88 years since the end of World War One. Wilfred Owen died in combat one week before the end of the war, just eight months after completing the greatest poetic ode to twentieth century warfare:
Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"A little list"

From the Daily Telegraph, good news:

"As the Lord High Executioner said in The Mikado, 'I have a little list'," John Dingell, the veteran Michigan Democrat, said recently.

Mr Dingell, who was first elected to Congress in 1955, earned a reputation as an aggressive chairman of the Commerce Committee during Ronald Reagans's administration. It is a role he intends to play again. Mr Dingell has announced that he plans investigations into everything from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina to energy policy by way of environmental policy, the Food and Drug Administration, port security, nuclear waste management and trade policy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Choice": not the same thing as "opportunity"

Tony Woodiwiss:
"Choice" has today replaced "opportunity" at the core of official discourse: "choice," however, merely simulates "opportunity." Although it is spoken of as if it means the same thing, it does not; "choice" is socially safer than "opportunity" in that it carries no implication that anything needs to be equalized and therefore nothing need change as regards the disposition of power or resources; and "choice" is better than "opportunity" in that it is impossible to improve on freedom.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Quote of the day: Reagan

Ronald Reagan, acceptance speech, RNC, 1980:
Can anyone look at the record of this administration and say, "Well done"? Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Administration took office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work"? Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, "Let's have four more years of this"?

Friday, November 03, 2006


The Economist, on Pelosi: "It's like listening to a cross between a Stepford wife and Jesse Jackson." The article blithely assumes the Dems are taking control. I'm not counting my chicken yet.