Just Above Sunset Archives
July 27, 2003 Opinion
This week: Two Weeks of Odd Reversals
There was no issue of Just Above Sunset last week. As was shown on the home page and sent to subscribers, the computer I use to build the magazine just up and died. In technical terms, the motherboard failed. But other parts were also failing or working badly. So I replaced the whole thing. It took a few days to get the new computer set up and all the software loaded and all the old files back to where they belong. But that leaves me with two weeks worth of commentary to organize in some fashion.
In the last two weeks, the current administration in Washington admitted that the assertions about Iraq being an immediate nuclear threat, particularly about whether the Brits or our CIA could find evidence of Iraq seeking to purchase processed uranium ore (yellowcake) in Niger or anywhere else in Africa should not have been in the State of the Union address. The CIA took the blame, George Tenet said it was his fault, and then he didn't. And then in one single day, Jessica Lynch returned to West Virginia, we found and killed the two sons of Saddam Hussein we had been seeking, someone else took the blame for the problem in the State of the Union address. Lots of things happened.
Take last Tuesday, the 22nd.
One of the things any government does is try to control the release of news to manage the publics mood and wavering opinions. The "feel good" story that day was supposed to be the return of the sweet young Army PFC to her hometown after months in the hospital. This had been scheduled for some time and planned for. She seems like a nice kid, and she has been in hospital a long time recovering from all the war damage. Seeing her return to the little town of three hundred folks in West Virginia and hug her family perhaps would have made us all feel that whether she was rescued heroically or not, whether she fought valiantly until her ammunition ran out or was just banged up bad when her Hummer hit the truck in front - well, that would all be forgotten. Let her have her homecoming and parade. She seems like a good sort who has been through a lot of crap. It was just good she got home. Good for her.
But then the "feel good" story of the day turned out much different. We cornered and killed two really bad guys. The ace of hearts and the ace of clubs if you're using the deck. Daddy is the ace of spades, by the way. This was "a victory" and will, we are told, get us two-thirds of the way to ending all the potshots at our guys.
I heard a news anchor ask why, if we had these guys cornered, we didn't just sit there surrounding the place and starve them out. Then we'd get to interrogate them, and have them walking around in handcuffs all humiliated on camera, then be able to turn them over to the new Iraqi council for trial and let the Iraqi folks have their way with these guys. This would show the world it's not just us who have a Jones about that family.
The retired general who replied - there are so many of them I missed which one it was this time - said that while that might have been good, it was better to show our strength and resolve and show that folks who mess with us will pay the ultimate price.
So it all comes down to which message you want to send. And is it not more satisfying to us to see them dead, whatever the new Iraqi council might want?
One thinks of the photos of Mussolini strung up, and the shots on the news of Nikolai Ceaucescu and his wife dead and rotting in their fancy garden. Feel good images. Such things please people.
I expect none of my readers are the kind of total pacifist I am, thinking that killing folks solves very few things ever. So you all may feel really good about this, except for a few sensing there something a bit coldly bloodthirsty going on here. Oh well. It doesnt matter much.
But given these two big stories, it was the day for the White House to drop a big one late in the afternoon. The kind of thing that is supposed to get passed over because of all the other chatter. Stephen Hadley, President Bush's deputy national security adviser - second in command to that Rice woman - became the second administration official to apologize for allowing a tainted intelligence report on Iraqs nuclear ambitions into Bushs State of the Union address. He admitted he received detailed memos from the CIA in October, four months before the State of the Union speech, giving all the minutiae on why reports here and in the UK about Iraq buying uranium ore in Africa were almost certainly false. He claimed he "forget about" these memos. Oops. He offered his resignation. Bush refused to accept it and said he had total confidence in Hadley, Rice and in George Tenet over at the CIA.
Okay. Fine. But it was a good news day to have Hadley fess up.
But I'm not cynical. Nope. Not me.
And that's how the news went.
Since that day there has been more and more commentary on the death of Hussein's two sons, but not so much about whether we should have just hung around and starved them out of the place and made them captives... then put them on trial and humiliated them.
Yes, folks are arguing that still. And you will find commentary in the Syrian press and elsewhere in the Middle-East suggesting we had to kill them because they knew too much about how we supported Iraq in the 1980-1988 war they had with Iran, looking the other way at the time when the used some pretty awful weapons. It was too dangerous to take them alive because of what they knew about us. That seems far-fetched.
No, most of the commentary seems to center on the wisdom of displaying the mangled bodies, releasing the photos in JPG format on a CD to all the news services, and then inviting the reporters with their cameras to document the "fixed up" corpses. It did seem a tad gruesome. The Guardian in the UK called the business head-on-a-pike propaganda. It does make one consider what we're trying to send as a message to the rest of the world.
As Les Payne writes in Newsday today, the 27th -
Two other commentaries from the left further illustrate the objections.
Heres Douglas Valentine on the 24th in counterpunch.com -
Heres Rhett Redelings-MacDermott writing for informationclearinghouse.org -
And these were excerpts from quite detailed arguments.
Of course, on the Fox News website today, and on their discussions shows, there is general agreement that the deaths of Husseins sons and the photos of the bodies will kill any effort by any Democrat to attack Bush and the Republicans, because Bush and the Republicans are getting the job done.
And there is no room here to review all the items about whether we were sold a bill of goods, generally, that war NOW was necessary. Things could NOT wait. The UN was wrong. France, Germany, Russia and China were wrong. We had proof.
Well, all that chemical and biological weaponry has not turned up. It's becoming pretty obvious there was no Iraqi nuclear program since 1992 or so. Those two trailers we found seem to be British-made units for inflating weather and artillery balloons. Those aluminum tubes were most likely not for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. The two drones that could deliver biotoxins or deadly germs on out cities within forty-five minutes turned out to be two model airplanes, one of which couldn't fly. And so on and so forth.
Its been a bad few weeks for the administration.
Well, Lance Armstrong came through.
There is, of course, the madness about the recall election out here in California see "I live in Hollywood. Don't we all?" in July 27, 2003 Reviews about that.
And there is the economy. We're in this "jobless recovery" and IBM announced this week that they will be outsourcing many jobs to India.
It seems IBM has been watching what CSC and Perot Systems has been up to and will follow suit. I've been a "senior system manager" for those last two organizations. If what I used to do can been done by someone in India for fifteen grand a year, and done well, it really is time to move on. Systems management has moved off-shore. Done.
The quality of the work done in India these days is flat-out excellent. The folks there are superbly educated and inventive. And what I did, or used to do, for a fat salary here and in Canada, will cost Perot or CSC fifteen grand there. I feel like the fellow who got stuck with a warehouse full of eight-track tapes of disco hits. Time to learn a new trade.
I don't think any turn-around in the economy will change matters at all in the systems world. Things have changed structurally. There's no going back. So one adapts.
And I feel no anger about this at all. Nor should any of my colleagues laid off or soon to be.
One thinks about all those folks pissed at losing their jobs shoeing horses or making buggy-whips when everyone started buying automobiles. Same thing. These folks offshore offer better products and services at a sixth of the current domestic cost? Fine. Deal with it.
This actually is good in a "macro" sort of way. I guess I do come down on the side of free and open trade. I was pissed when Bush raised tariffs on foreign steel to keep prices high and protect our producers - after the European producers dropped their subsidies to play fair. The WTO just found those tariffs illegal, last week, but we'll fight for them tooth and claw. Damn.
And I'm not happy Bush goes to Africa and gets all sanctimonious when he still uses millions our tax dollars to pay direct subsidies to American cotton farmers, allowing them to undercut all the African producers even if the real cost of production here is hundreds of times higher. Why are we destroying their cotton industry to prop up inefficient producers?
If I understand why folks like me are not finding work in systems management then why can't the conservative Republican "business-friendly" party understand that rigging the marketplace to protect the increasingly incompetent is bad business, and even worse geopolitics?
Oh well. Just a rant there.
You see, I missed a week of commentary. There's too much happening.
Oh yeah, one other thing. On Tuesday, July 22, I came across Welcome to the Big Darkness by Hunter S. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" Thompson - an essay containing this -
That didn't cheer me up. But this week will be better.
Other Current Topics:
These are a continuation of several "open forum" pages. I will not add to them myself. Send your comments to be posted to these topics, or suggest additional topics.