Topic: Couldn't be so...
Thursday, July 13, the Firemen's Balls are on in Paris - these Bals des Sapeurs-Pompiers are held each year on the eve of Bastille Day in every arrondissement. Drop by any caserne (fire station) in Paris and dance to live music and eat a lot of good stuff - odd sausages on the grill in some places, odder stuff in the Marais and there's something or other on a barge on the Seine. These can go on all night, and you might miss the parade on the Champs Elysées the next day - tanks rumbling by and Mirage fighter jets flying over trailing their red, white and blue (yep, same colors in their flag), and every military branch marching in rank. It's very impressive, even with a hangover. The Bastille Day after the events in America on September 11, 2001, the parade included units from the New York Fire Department. Ah, those were the days.
But the world has changed since then. We got mad at the French for opposing our invasion and occupation of Iraq, and are even more angry now that it seems that de Villepin was right about everything back in March of 2003. You can read exactly what he said here, with this comment -
Not that it matters now. There are other fires to put out now, real ones. The French have nothing to do to with what we have gotten ourselves into now, as in this exclusive from the online "magazine" SALON -
This speech shows the remarkably accurate observations made by someone able to detach from the emotional context of a tense situation, which is what a skilled chief executive is able to do. Our friend, Mr. De Villepin, was calm and reserved, and able to think with disciplined restraint. The American chief executive, on the other hand, was, for whatever reason, unable to grasp the same evidence seen by others. The results speak for themselves. The point now is not to ask how anyone could have missed the evidence that others could see, nor is it to insist that America should have known. The point is, how can anyone today, with the advantage of retrospection, still deny what was evident on March 7, 2003?
This is followed by the rather disheartening documents that these folks got their journalistic hands on - cooperate or the wife and kids die and such. There's lots of detail, with names. And it ends with this -
Congress has demanded that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hand over a raft of documents to Congress that could substantiate allegations that U.S. forces have tried to break terror suspects by kidnapping and mistreating their family members. Rumsfeld has until 5 p.m. Friday to comply.
It now appears that kidnapping, scarcely covered by the media, and absent in the major military investigations of detainee abuse, may have been systematically employed by U.S. troops. Salon has obtained Army documents that show several cases where U.S. forces abducted terror suspects' families. After he was thrown in prison, Cpl. Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader at Abu Ghraib, told investigators the military routinely kidnapped family members to force suspects to turn themselves in.
A House subcommittee led by Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays took the unusual step last month of issuing Rumsfeld a subpoena for the documents after months of stonewalling by the Pentagon. Shays had requested the documents in a March 7 letter. "There was no response" to the letter, a frustrated Shays told Salon. "We are not going to back off this."
Yeah, this would be recognized as one of those war crimes - you don't go after family members for leverage. That sort of thing - kidnapping the wife and kids -is for Tony Soprano and the like. And we agreed to the rules - we signed the treaty and everything.
... There is no paper trail that shows that kidnapping or abusing the family of suspects might have been official Department of Justice or Pentagon policy. It is not mentioned in any of the Bush administration interrogation memos that have so far surfaced in the press. In late 2002, commanders at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay did request authority, during interrogations, for "the use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequence are imminent for him and/or his family."
In a December 2002 memorandum, Rumsfeld rejected a "blanket approval" of that interrogation technique, but did not rule it out completely.
It doesn't matter. The documents will be classified a few steps higher. And that's that. And that's really a minor fire. Tim Grieve here provides a nice, compact summary of all the fires raging as the Bals des Sapeurs-Pompiers began -
So do you think we now have a regional war, with Hamas and Hezbollah representing Iran and Israel as our proxy? We've been saying Iran stirred all this up, and have been setting things up diplomatically so that they are given conditions they just cannot meet on the enriched uranium business This may be the start of the war we want, to remove them from the Axis of Evil. The American public has no great desire for another war, but this is about the survival of our ally Israel. It's kind of a back door to get there.
What the hell is happening here?
When we were in grade school, we were taught that the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand led to the start of World War I. It wasn't quite as simple as that, but how did it feel when events were unfolding then? Did people know what was coming? Did it feel like it does this morning - like too many things are going too wrong in too many places for something worse not to happen?
In Lebanon overnight, Israeli aircraft attacked the runways at the Beirut airport and imposed an air and naval blockade. Israel increased pressure on Hezbollah to free two of its soldiers captured in a cross-border raid earlier this week. The chief of Israel's army, Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz, warns that "nothing is safe" in Lebanon until the soldiers are returned and Hezbollah stops attacking northern Israel. "We are not at war, but we are in a very high volume crisis," he says.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to news that his nation has been referred to the U.N. Security Council by making threats against Europe. "The people of Iran will not give up their right to exploit peaceful nuclear technology," Ahmadinejad said. "We are interested in seeing this issue resolved peacefully. But if they (the West) create tension, then the outcome would affect the Europeans. The tension would primarily harm them."
In India, officials have detained as many as 350 "known thugs, gangsters and troublemakers who might have information" about this week's train bombings. A man claiming to speak for al-Qaida in Kashmir has praised the attacks - a sign that the terrorist group may have spread to India, the Associated Press says.
The U.N. seems headed for a confrontation over North Korea's nuclear program as the U.S. says that China is running out of time to make its own diplomatic efforts work. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said the North Koreans, who fired a test missile in the direction of the United States earlier this month, "don't seem to be interested in listening, much less doing anything to address the situation."
In Iraq, British and Australian troops handed over control of the Muthanna province to Iraqi forces, but violence continued elsewhere, claiming the lives of at least 18 Iraqis. In a village near Baquba, a bicycle bomber - that's a new one for us - blew up a government building, killing at least four members of the local town council. The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he may need to move more U.S. troops into Baghdad to quell sectarian fighting there.
In Sudan, a top U.N. official said that rapes, murders and other crimes are on the rise as tribal tensions increase in Darfur. Describing reports of a recent attack on a group of female refugees, U.N. envoy Jan Pronk said: "They were tied to a tree, beaten, forced to eat donkey dung, raped in turn for three days by 30 men who had accused the women of espionage because they were married to Zaghawa men."
At a joint press conference in Germany this morning, George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the "disturbing situation" in the Middle East "fills us with concern," and they appealed to "the powers in the region to see to it that further escalation is warded off." But as Merkel acknowledged, it's more than just the Middle East now. "Just now, in our talks, we talked at great length about international issues," Merkel said. "Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of problems that we need to deal with and for whose solution we feel responsible."
And Iran, and Syria, want this - they may have engineered the capture of the Israeli soldiers. Let's see what happens when Israel and its sole ally, the United States, leads a grand war again the Shiite Hamas and Hezbollah folks. Kill a few Shiite leaders and that will drive a wedge between the United States and the new Shiite government in our new Iraq. It's very clever.
You want a war? You've got one. But it will be you and Israel against the Shiites - Iran, Syria, Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Jordan - and not some dispute about having enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon in 2011 or so. They've done it. The war is on, and they've defined the terms. At least that what David Twersky, director of international affairs at the American Jewish Congress, says here in the New York Sun, writing from Tel-Aviv -
Why does that business in Sarajevo so long ago keep coming up? Archduke Ferdinand is long gone. But there is that air of something familiar here. And there's this editorial in the Boston Globe -
The war with Iran has begun.
Just last Friday, Iranian President Ahmadinejad warned that Israel's return to Gaza could lead to an "explosion" in the Islamic world that would target Israel and its supporters in the West. "They should not let things reach a point where an explosion occurs in the Islamic world," he said.
"If an explosion occurs, then it won't be limited to geographical boundaries. It will also burn all those who created [Israel] over the past 60 years," he said, implicitly referring to America and other Western nations who support Israel.
Years from now, the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit will be regarded like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Against the backdrop of Kassam rocket fire on Israelis living within range of the Gaza Strip, it was the fate of Corporal Shalit that triggered the Israeli return to Gaza, which in turn brought the Hezbollah forces into the game.
Israel is fighting two Iranian proxies on two fronts. It may, or may not, open a third front against a third Iranian proxy, Syria.
Well, it's too late now. That's underway. Arthur Silber, often quoted here, has been saying forever that the administration is really serous about attacking Iran in some massive way - the same thing Seymour Hersh has been reporting in the New Yorker - the guys in the White House are serious about this. And on the 13th Matt Drudge reported this - "Israel has information that Lebanese guerrillas who captured two Israeli soldiers are trying to transfer them to Iran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Spokesman Mark Regev did not disclose the source of his information."
... by having Hezbollah strike now at Israel, the Iranian regime clearly means to neutralize Arab regimes that are fearful of Iran's spreading influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had just disclosed publicly that he had worked out a prisoner swap with Israel and Hamas, but that "other parties" he would not name forced Hamas to sabotage the deal. It can be assumed that Syria and Iran are the other parties, the two countries having signed a military cooperation agreement last month that Syria's defense minister described as establishing "a joint front against Israel."
Knowing that Iran is behind Hezbollah's act of war, Israeli leaders - who are openly warning of devastating strikes on Lebanon's infrastructure - would be well advised to avoid a reflexive military response that lands Israel in an Iranian trap. If the regime in Tehran wants to provoke Israel to bomb Lebanese power plants, roads, and bridges, maybe this kind of military retaliation is not such a good idea.
Silber says this -
So they want war, and so do we. Everything falls in place. We seem to be sitting on the sidelines just saying "this is regrettable" when we've set it up too. Maybe. But note this -
I do not have adequate tin foil today to comprehend the full spectrum of issues. But let me just say that I would not find it surprising for the Bush administration hard liners to work in concert with the Israeli hard-liners to gin up a crisis that ends up "requiring" action against Iran. It is to the political advantage of both groups to do so. I certainly don't know that this has happened but from watching this administration operate for the past six years I do know that it could happen. And that's scary enough.
And Digby at Hullabaloo adds - "It's always likely that this sort of thing is just typical Bushian incompetence. But I would never discount the idea that there is a wrongheaded Cheneyesque plot behind it as well. There often is." And here Matthew Yglesias cites a Yossi Klein Halevi essay that claims this is all part of a plan for Israel to finally destroy Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Yglesias comments - "Let me just go on the record as saying that as bad an idea as bombing Iran may be, doing so as part of a wildly impractical scheme for Israel to launch a general Middle Eastern war is significantly less appealing."
"The combination of our own diplomatic disengagement, our blaming Syria and Iran, and our giving the Israelis a green light [for their military campaign] has inflamed the entire region," according to Clay Swisher, a former State Department Middle East expert and author of the Truth About Camp David, who just returned from Lebanon last week.
But that's what's up. James Wolcott explains why - "One of the tragic follies of the age is the unexamined, bedrock consensus of our political and media establishment that the interests of the US and Israel aren't merely conjoined, but identical. That Israel is such an intimate extension of American influence, muscle, and will that they share the same nervous system and optic view." And he cites Ray Close, a former CIA analyst who writes at No Quarter, saying we're getting sucked in "while Bush autopilots the same monotonal clichés about terrorism, peace-loving people, and Israel's right to defend itself (which no one disputes--it's the scale of the retaliation that's at issue)." Close says this -
But what if what is best for American is one final war in the Middle East, Armageddon and the End Times, with some time with the antichrist followed by The Rapture, where the good guys rise and Jesus has returned? No, even Cheney isn't that nutty, or devout, if you prefer. This is more like bullies making it up as the go along, bullies on all sides. The fireman in Paris shouldn't be hosting balls. They should be putting out fires. Someone should. Too many people in power rather like fires.
The interests of my country, the United States, do not coincide with those of Israel in many important respects today. Let me mention just two of those ways. It is very important to the United States that the independence and national sovereignty of a democratic Lebanon be preserved. That means absolutely nothing to the Government of Israel, despite what they may say to the contrary. Israeli actions going back many years, demonstrated most graphically in the 1980's, clearly prove that point. Current Israeli actions in Lebanon are belligerently challenging the continued viability of the fragile coalition government that is struggling to achieve credibility and legitimacy at a critical period in Lebanon's history. Israeli actions are, even more importantly, threatening to revive the deep sectarian divisions and inter-communal tensions that led to fifteen years of tragic civil war from 1975-1980. American national interests will suffer much more than Israel's if chaos results. Secondly, we Americans have other critical interests to worry about. If we take a position supporting Israel's demand that Hezbollah must be totally defeated and disarmed (a futile objective in any case), and especially if Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the revered spiritual leader of Hezbollah, is physically harmed, the Shiite populations of Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East will be inflamed - greatly undermining American prospects of working cooperatively and constructively with the Shiite religious parties in Iraq that control the overwhelmingly majority of political power in that country.
Open confrontation of Hezbollah by the United States, allied with Israel, will have a powerful impact on the Iranian people, as well. Argue, if you will, that Iran is a known supporter of Hezbollah and Hamas, and thus of international terrorism. That is a reality that none can deny. But let's prioritize our national interests here. It is the people of Iraq and Iran on whom we depend not just for "regime change" in the short term, but for peace and stability (and resistance to terrorism) throughout the region in the decades ahead. It is the people of those countries whose trust and respect we must win. It is the trust and respect of those people that we have lost to a significant extent because we are identified in their minds with the narrow interests of Israel. Why is that so difficult for Americans to understand?
Encouraging and supporting Israel in a bloody confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon may seem to be a justified and reasonable action in the shortest of terms and from the narrowest of perspectives, but the United States of America is not Israel, and we have regional and global interests and responsibilities that far surpass those of this one small ally. Just for once, let's think first of what's best for America.