Saturday, April 07, 2007

Media, Giuliani begin prolonged ritual of human sacrifice 

Two news phenomena in need of interpretation.

First, ripped from Atrios for purposes of dramatic juxtaposition:

Ah, we remember it well. The EFPs which COULD ONLY HAVE BEEN MADE IN IRAN. Much like the anthrax which COULD HAVE ONLY BEEN MADE IN IRAQ

Front page NYT story, 2/20/07:

"The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran."

Except, you know, not. [In today's Washington Post, briefly]:

"Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory [in Iraq] that produced 'explosively formed penetrators' (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches."

Burrrp burrp! Does not compute! Does not compute! Washington Post version of the story, as captured by Google News "1 hour ago."

That paragraph is now missing from that WaPo version of the story. But you do have this:

"The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers died in separate roadside bombings in the east and west of Baghdad on Friday.... One of the bombs was an explosively formed projectile, a particularly deadly type of device which Washington accuses Iran of supplying Iraqi militants."


From today's New York Times article, entitled "Giuliani says nation at war requires him":

...“What they say in Washington is not going to affect the fact that there are terrorists around the world that are planning to come here and kill us,” he said in Iowa, in the most spirited part of his newly honed stump speech.

Pointing his finger and bouncing up and down on his toes, he declared, “It is something I understand better than anyone else running for president.”

...It was the Iraq war and efforts against terrorism on which he was most impassioned.

Until this week, Mr. Giuliani’s views on Iraq were not well known. But on this trip he made clear, though never mentioning President Bush by name, that he firmly supported the administration’s current strategy, including Mr. Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 additional combat troops there.

In an interview, Mr. Giuliani did say there had been mistakes in the execution of the war, including what he described as failure to send enough troops initially and the decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army that had served Saddam Hussein. He also said there had not been the effective communication and leadership needed to convince Americans that the war was crucial to their security.

But the criticism ended there. At a house party in New Hampshire on Monday, he said the United States would most likely be fighting in Iraq for a long time, “unless there is some kind of miracle.” He attacked the “dangerous and irresponsible” Democratic effort for a withdrawal timetable.

And speaking at a high school in St. Petersburg, Fla., he maintained that the struggle would be over only “when they stop planning to come here and kill us.”

The crowd loved it. “Go get ’em, Rudy!” one man shouted....

What are his qualifications for dealing with foreign policy matters? He cited his experience as mayor of an international city, and recalled that he had once kicked Yasir Arafat out of a United Nations celebration at Lincoln Center on the ground that he was a terrorist....

As for Iran, Mr. Giuliani said that “in the long term,” it might be “more dangerous than Iraq.”

He then casually lumped Iran with Al Qaeda. “Their movement has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he said.

Mr. Giuliani was asked in an interview to clarify that, inasmuch as Iran had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Further, most of its people are Shiites, whereas Al Qaeda is an organization of Sunnis.

“They have a similar objective,” he replied, “in their anger at the modern world.”

In other words, he said, they hate America.

What conclusions should we draw from these two articles?

I submit: Rudy will run as the pro-murder candidate. The media will praise and celebrate his candidacy, and make themselves his murderous accomplices. A significant portion of the "values" voters will not vote for Rudy. But a significant portion of them, for whom "values" just means hating the right people, will happily leave the gays alone in exchange for the promise of more dead Arabs, and for the possibility of more televised terrorist attacks sanctifying "American soil." These promises will also attract a number of independent voters who will warm to Rudy's status as a "maverick," non-partisan murderer for all Americans. Hillary will try to match Rudy's bloodlust and, being residually human, she will not come across as believable. The media will make fun of her humanity. Rudy will win and begin murdering at an accelerated rate.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hersh reveals neoliberal ontological conundrum 

"America has no memory." That is a truism.

But does this mean that "we" (whoever we are) forget the past? Or does this mean that there is, quite literally, no past to be remembered?

In an utterly nihilistic, self-perpetuating system, devoted to no goals whatsoever beyond its own perpetuation, what can change? And if nothing changes, what can pass so as to become past? Is the problem, then, amnesia, an inability to remember, or is the problem a perfect memory of what looks and feels exactly like the unchanging present?

At the end of a frank and fascinating interview with Matt Taibbi about Iran, Bush, Nixon, and the press, Seymour Hersh makes the important point:

Q: What's the main lesson you take, looking back at America's history the last forty years?

A: There's nothing to look back to. We're dealing with the same problems now that we did then. We know from the Pentagon Papers -- and to me they were the most important documents ever written -- that from 1963 on, Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon lied to us systematically about the war. I remember how shocked I was when I read them. So . . . duh! Nothing's changed. They've just gotten better at dealing with the press. Nothing's changed at all.


George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Another truism.

What Hersh's answer ("There's nothing to look back to") suggests is something more sinister: when politics is reduced to blind inertia punctuated by episodes of murderous self-defense; when public discourse is reduced to a haze of equally meaningless but ostensibly contradictory "perspectives" offered by televised face-images; when the neoliberal system becomes an end in itself and thus without end; when, in other words, we repeat the past without even the awareness that we are repeating it--at that point, memory is no longer an option.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. But those who repeat the past for too long soon have no past to remember. And then there is no way out.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis" 

by Patrick Cockburn (the best reporter on the ground in Iraq) in the London Independent.

A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf. The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.

The two men were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and later saw Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his mountain headquarters overlooking Arbil.

"They were after Jafari," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent. He confirmed that the Iranian office had been established in Arbil for a long time and was often visited by Kurds obtaining documents to visit Iran. "The Americans thought he [Jafari] was there," said Mr Hussein.

Mr Jafari was accompanied by a second, high-ranking Iranian official. "His name was General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Pasdaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guard]," said Sadi Ahmed Pire, now head of the Diwan (office) of President Talabani in Baghdad. Mr Pire previously lived in Arbil, where he headed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Mr Talabani's political party.

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Iran believes that Mr Jafari and Mr Frouzanda were targeted by the Americans. Mr Jafari confirmed to the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, that he was in Arbil at the time of the raid.

In a little-noticed remark, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told IRNA: "The objective of the Americans was to arrest Iranian security officials who had gone to Iraq to develop co-operation in the area of bilateral security."

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces". This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there....

a day at the market 

Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) on his tour of Baghdad with McCain:

"I, too, find myself leaving my day at the market in Baghdad with a new sense of cautious optimism that freedom might just work for these people," said Pence.

Mike Pence is clearly a bigger man than I. It's hard to admit to such pettiness publicly, but I can't imagine feeling anything like cautious optimism that freedom might just work for, say, these people:

If only I could achieve the magnanimity and lack of contempt for these people that Mike Pence so effortlessly displays toward Iraqis, I would finally be able to sleep at night. Or, maybe, look in the mirror.

What do mirrors look like these days? Does anyone know?

By the way, can anyone describe that particular feeling of horror, emptiness, violation and squalid wretchedness that one has after watching that video? Seriously, I've never felt anything like it. My brother described it as "visual rape". A friend told me it made him want to "ram pickles up his ass and push out a green tarbaby". I think those are admirable attempts at limning the true character of this experience, but somehow they miss the mark. Can anyone help?


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