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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Boston ? What to do with the apolitical majority?

Anne Applebaum has a long, meandering column in the Post today that finally gets to the core issue with these political conventions. No one cares.

The Politicized And the Apolitical
Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post, Wednesday, July 28, 2004; Page A19

Here?s the key nugget -
But simply by virtue of being in Boston, the delegates to this convention and the Republican convention next month in New York really are oddballs. Not only do they know which party the president belongs to, they also know what his party, and their party, are supposed to stand for. And not only that, they feel very strongly about it. What they cannot seem to do is transmit those strong feelings to the rest of the country, and, in particular, to the sort of person who isn't quite sure whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. Much is made of how "radical" delegates, left or right, find it difficult to appeal to "moderates" in the rest of the country. But the far knottier problem is how the politicized can appeal to the apolitical. Offstage, a frequent theme of Democratic officials here is the knotty question of how to "break through," how to "get out the message" about the budget deficit, or the remoter fields of foreign policy. One Kerry policy aide said they'd been talking about maybe spending less time with the "coastal" media, the Washington/New York/Los Angeles reporters, and concentrating harder on those places in between, where news coverage was a lot slimmer. Another wistfully reminisced about the time in 1992 when "two out of three networks" carried news of then-candidate Bill Clinton's manufacturing policy. Ah, those halcyon days.

Onstage, as at most recent conventions, the solution has been to make the proceedings look like something else. Old-timers always complain that "nothing happens" at conventions, but something is happening: A bunch of unusually politically motivated people have come together to present their candidate and his policies to the rest of the country -- and why not? Yet, instead of portraying that reality, the convention -- or at least, again, the parts on TV -- is at times made to seem like a rock concert, with cheering groupies, loud music and even cigarette lighters in the dark. At other times, it is made to look like a late-night talk show. Speakers walk on stage to a blast of canned music -- "New York State of Mind" for Hillary, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" for Bill -- and often get a Hollywood hug from the presenter, who is Glenn Close or someone of her ilk. At still other times, it feels like a one-sided sporting event, with chanting and a scoreboard-style video screen showing individual members of the crowd, who scream and wave when they see themselves screaming and waving.

It's a formula that may have outlived its usefulness.
I think she has it right. There are passionate conservatives who will appear in New York next month in support of endless war, occupation of uppity foreign nations and a Christian theocracy now. And the folks in Boston are equally passionate for ?social justice? and all the rest. But a whole lot of folks are just going to work and taking care of the kids and don?t care much one way or the other.

The conventions are not for them ? but whether Scott Peterson or Michael Jackson or Kobe Bryant goes to jail is for them. A just what will Martha Stewart be doing with her time in that minimum security Federal Prison?

Tim Rutten has a piece in the Los Angeles Times that touches on some of this. His issue is with how the media feed this apolitical world in which we live. The big three networks - ABC, a Disney property, CBS, which belongs to Viacom, and NBC, a division of General Electric ? are hardly covering the Boston convention at all. And the New York convention will be much that same in late August. He attributes this to, on their part, a ?growing inability to distinguish between the public's interest ? fascination with entertainment and celebrity ? and the public interest ? a deference to the common good.?

Maybe so.

What about serving the public interest?
? Unlike newspapers, magazines or cable channels, the networks ? and all local television stations, for that matter ? transmit their signals over airwaves owned by the people of the United States. Their licenses, in fact, require them to operate in the public interest. In recent years, timid federal regulators have more or less construed that requirement as a tedious formality. But it remains on the books, and flouting it in so flagrant a fashion is, at the very least, in poor taste. Taste, as we know, is very much on the networks' minds these days, though the corporate conscience ? does not extend to questions of responsibility.
But these are corporate entities. They make money on ? and their survival depends upon ? giving people what they want, so they can insert commercial advertisements in whatever it is they want, and thus be able to continue to do what it is they do, at a reasonable profit.

Skipping the political is the only choice.

Those who care about such things are the oddballs, or at least they are not the demographic that will have advertisers bidding furiously for thirty-second spots for their products. Those who may want to hear what Al Sharpton has to say Wednesday night are not the kind of folks who are going to plunk down 105,000 dollars for one of the many pristine, new Hummer H1 beauties that are cluttering dealerships across America. No one is buying those much these days. And this is about moving the product.

So, if most folks have a fascination with entertainment and celebrity, shows of such is where you spend your advertising budget. And you don?t tell corporations to take a loss for the public interest and try to sell airtime for something folks are just not watching. That makes no sense. And thus you air shows that make enough money to keep your network viable.

That?s just the way it is.

Posted by Alan at 10:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

Election Notes: Events NOT Occurring in Boston


Coburn Wins Nomination for Oklahoma Senate Seat
Ron Jenkins - The Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 10:28 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Former three-term Rep. Tom Coburn won the Republican nomination Tuesday for the seat of GOP Sen. Don Nickles, trouncing a popular Oklahoma politician after a bruising and expensive campaign marked by allegations of backstabbing and shady land deals.
And the AP story gives more detail.

So what?

Amy Sullivan?s analysis in the Washington Monthly -
Campaign observers widely believed that Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who was one of two Republicans challenging Coburn for the spot, has much broader appeal for swing voters and would have been a formidable opponent in November. Coburn, on the other hand, has the backing and financial resources of a number of conservative groups, but also the baggage of a right-wing reputation. He only made things worse for himself a few weeks ago when he remarked that doctors who perform abortions should get the death penalty. And then clarified that while there isn't yet a law that would allow capital punishment for such doctors, he would support the passage of one. Nice.
She goes on to say Oklahoma isn?t like this at all ? they have a Democratic governor, after all. Coburn may or may not win, but she says he?s an aberration. Maybe he is.

And maybe many family planning doctors should be executed for murder. Or maybe not.


Lost Record '02 Florida Vote Raises '04 Concern
Abby Goodnough, The New York Times, July 28, 2004
Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

A county official said a new backup system would prevent electronic voting data from being lost in the future. But members of the citizens group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, said the malfunction underscored the vulnerability of electronic voting records and wiped out data that might have shed light on what problems, if any, still existed with touch-screen machines here. The group supplied the results of its request to The New York Times.

"This shows that unless we do something now - or it may very well be too late - Florida is headed toward being the next Florida," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the coalition.

After the disputed 2000 presidential election eroded confidence in voting machines nationwide, and in South Florida in particular, the state moved quickly to adopt new technology, and in many places touch-screen machines. Voters in 15 Florida counties - covering more than half the state's electorate - will use the machines in November, but reports of mishaps and lost votes in smaller elections over the last two years have cast doubt on their reliability.
The item goes on to explain how ?event logs? in the systems aren?t very reliable ? and this is not Diebold. This is Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Nebraska. Crashes. Lost data. No possible recovery. Oh well.

A comment from ?Holden? at Eschaton -
Florida May Be the Next Florida

Hey, Florida - ever hear of backing your data up on CD? Coupled with Jeb's new law prohibiting manual recounts of electronic votes and his continued attempts to disenfranchise non-Hispanic felons and - well, I think you can see where this is going.
Yep. The answer to the question of the upcoming presidential election ? how to make it fair - is to forget Florida. Win enough votes elsewhere so that it doesn?t matter who ?wins? in Florida.

Write it off. It?s a lost cause.

What about things out here in California?

See Fear of Fraud, Paul Krugman in the New York Times on July 27, 2004 explained what happened here -
It's election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger's campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software.

When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records.

This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel's full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election.
Yep, and down that way many precincts recorded quite a few more votes than they had registered voters, a new twist on the old Chicago theme of vote early and vote often. Now you don?t even have to show up.

These sorts of things in Florida and California, and one presumes elsewhere, cannot possibly be fixed by November. It?s over. We won?t need the Supreme Court this time around.

Posted by Alan at 09:21 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Topic: World View

The Brits Look at America Again ? Using the law to keep delusions under control, and another stab at why we had to have this war?.

Some of the more interesting commentary often comes from the outside. And the left-of-center Guardian is always amusing.

Wednesday?s edition carries on.

Here?s one. It tangentially refers to the case of Maher Arar discussed in Just Above Sunset here ? December 21, 2003- Bitter Brits. Arar was the Canadian citizen we secretly deported to Syria. We don?t do torture. They do. Torture is not US policy. And we thought he was a bad guy. We picked him up at the Newark airport. But, damn, is seems he wasn?t as bad guy. We had bad information. As this item points out, his crime was that his mother's cousin had joined the Muslim Brotherhood long after Maher moved to Canada. And after ten months of torture and incarceration in a quite tiny cell in Syria, he was allowed to return to his home in Canada. Oops. Now he is suing the US government. He is not happy.

Well, we were just being careful, and a bit overly enthusiastic. Understandable, of course.

The larger issue is covered in this ?

The 800lb gorilla in American foreign policy
Alleged terror suspects are held incommunicado all over the world
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday July 28, 2004

After a nod to the ongoing Democratic Party Convention in Boston, Hilton lays out the issue ? and that is respect for the law.
The delusion that officeholders know better than the law is an occupational hazard of the powerful and one to which those of an imperial cast of mind are especially prone. Checks and balances - the constitutional underpinning of the democratic idea that no one individual can be trusted with unlimited power - are there to keep such delusions under control.

The Abu Ghraib photographs awakened many in the US to the abuses that lie beneath the rhetoric of the global war on terror but the institutions responsible have not taken the message on board. On the day the Congressional report into 9/11 was published, another document was quietly released - a military report that exonerated the high command for the Abu Ghraib abuses. The implications go beyond Abu Ghraib: without a repudiation of the administration's actions, there will be no remedy for the even more sinister treatment of the unknown number of prisoners not captured on camera - those who have been kidnapped and disappeared by US forces across the world.

Under military order No 1, issued by President Bush in November 2001, the president gave himself the right, in defiance of national and international law, to detain indefinitely any non-US citizen anywhere in the world. Many ended up in Guantanamo where at least some of their names were discovered. Others simply vanished. They became in the US euphemism, "ghost prisoners", an unrecorded host held in secret, their detention denied, hidden from the Red Cross, legal or family access barred, their fate in the hands of unaccountable and unnamed US personnel.

When disappearance became state practice across Latin America in the 70s it aroused revulsion in democratic countries where it is a fundamental tenet of legitimate government that no state actor may detain - or kill - another human being without having to answer to the law. Not only has President Bush discarded that principle, he even brags about it. In his state of the union address in February 2003, he said: "More than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Put it this way, they're no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."

What are we to understand by this? That they have been murdered? That they are rotting in some torture cell in Jordan, or Egypt, or Diego Garcia? And, given the US record on "suspected terrorists" - who have included taxi drivers and their passengers, boys of 13, old men who could hardly walk and migrants whose crime was to overstay a visa - how can we trust a practice that disposes of people first and asks questions afterwards?
Well, I guess the answer is you just have to trust your leaders.

More detail?
Beyond the Iraqi jails, others - including, but not limited to, the dozen or so high-profile al-Qaida detainees captured since the war in Afghanistan - have disappeared into the international ghost prison system, detained in one country and secretly transferred to another in what the official euphemism describes as "extraordinary rendition".

Extraordinary rendition was codified in the Clinton administration. Under Bush it has been hugely expanded. As the US co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, Cofer Black, acknowledged in April 2003, "a large number of terrorist suspects were not able to launch an attack last year because they are in prison. More than 3,000 of them are al-Qaida terrorists and they were arrested in over 100 countries."

Congressman Edward Markey, who last month introduced a bill to make extraordinary rendition illegal in US law, has noted that in the year after 9/11, George Tenet, then director of the CIA, admitted to the rendition of 70 people, describing them all as terrorists.
Markey is a Democrat from Massachusetts (Seventh District) ? first elected in 1976 and probably in Boston at the moment. (A profile here if you are at all interested?)

His bill, to make extraordinary rendition illegal, is going nowhere. No one wants to be seen as soft on these terrorist folks. But Hilton points out he is not a happy camper ? and quote him - "Extraordinary rendition is the 800 pound gorilla in our foreign and military policymaking that nobody wants to talk about. It involves our country out-sourcing interrogations to countries that are known to practice torture, something that erodes America's moral credibility."

Will his fellow Democrats to support him? Probably not. And it wouldn?t matter anyway. Both houses of congress are firmly in control of the president?s party. Why bother?

Is the problem big? Hilton notes this -
Some indication of the scale of the network of detention centres can be gleaned from a recent report by Human Rights First, formerly the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights. In Afghanistan, they say, in addition to the Bagram and Kandahar bases, the US acknowledges 20 other centres. In Iraq, there are three official centres, including Abu Ghraib, and an additional nine US military facilities. In Pakistan, a prison at Kohat, near the Afghan border, is under US control. In Jordan, the al-Jafr prison in the southern desert is used as a CIA detention centre. Human Rights First suspects that prisoners are held on US military ships and in bases such as Diego Garcia. Other prisoners have been "rendered" to Egypt and, as in the Arar case, to Syria, both countries in which torture is well established.

Torture is illegal in the US. Facilitating torture elsewhere is also illegal under the convention against torture, to which the US is a signatory. "I think it's time," said Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch, "that we began to recognise that ghost prisoners are the new disappeared. And disappearance is almost invariably associated with mistreatment and torture."
Yeah, yeah.

Let them complain. We do what we want. And Markey is tilting at windmills.

Markey?s bill won?t come up as an issue at the convention is Boston. It would only give the Republicans one more way to say the Democrats hate America and are soft on terror.

The bill will die.


The second item of interest is this ?

The real reasons Bush went to war
WMD was the rationale for invading Iraq. But what was really driving the US were fears over oil and the future of the dollar
John Chapman. The Guardian (UK), Wednesday July 28, 2004

Chapman makes these points -
There were only two credible reasons for invading Iraq: control over oil and preservation of the dollar as the world's reserve currency.

? In the 70s, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that OPEC oil should be traded in dollars. American governments have since been able to print dollars to cover huge trading deficits, with the further benefit of those dollars being placed in the US money markets. In return, the US allowed the OPEC countries to operate a production and pricing cartel.
And this is followed by along economic analysis.

And he calls for replacing the dollar with the euro for all oil trading. The euro then becomes the world's reserve currency. This would be a BIG deal.

It would likely devastate the US economy. We?d go third-world ? maybe.

But it?s not like this is news. A month before I launched Just Above Sunset - and many months before the web log As seen from Just Above Sunset first hit the net ? my friends and I were discussing this in ? in April of 2003 ? an analysis from Farrukh Saleem in The News International, Pakistan: Saddam falls, dollar rules

Here?s his opening -
Americans have now guaranteed America's continued global economic domination for another 25 years. The "liberation" of Baghdad has done it all. The American dollar shall continue to reign supreme as the planet's second largest oil reserves will only be available in exchange for dollars printed in the US.

Eleven OPEC-member countries hold 78.7 percent of world proven crude oil reserves. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, UAE and Kuwait are 80 percent of OPEC. As long as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE and Kuwait demand US dollars for their oil some 200 countries and territories are bound to keep US dollar reserves to meet their oil imports. As long as the dollar remains the premier reserve currency America rules.

Saddam Hussein al Takrti tried to play it smart. In 1997, Saddam Hussein recruited three permanent members of the Security Council. Russia's Lukoil was contracted to extract 5 billion barrels of oil from Iraq's West Qurna field. France's TotalFinaElf was to develop Nahr bin Umar and the Majnoon field with 20 billion barrels of oil. The same year, China's National Petroleum Corporation signed a deal to develop the Adhab oilfield and the North Rumailah reservoir.

On 6 November 2000, Saddam played his second ace by instructing the United Nations to convert all his dollars accumulated through the UN 'food-for-oil' program into euros (the euro was launched on 1 January 1999 as an electronic currency and became legal tender on 1 January 2002). In November 2000, Saddam began switching his oil and non-oil international transactions from the dollar to the euro. If major OPEC producers move away from the dollar, the dollar falls in value and America looses the game.

On 31 December 2001, Iran announced that it "sees euro as a way to free itself from the US dollar." On 12 August 2002, Iran's Bank Markazi issued the country's first Eurobond raising Euro 625 million. Iran also converted 50 percent of its foreign exchange reserves to euros. More recently, North Korea has also announced that it will soon shift to euro. Saddam's disease was becoming contagious. After all, Iraq has common borders with Saudi Arabia (814km), Iran (1,458km) and Kuwait (240km). The disease had to be contained.
Hey, we had to take care of this.

According to OPEC's World Energy Model (OWNM), total world oil demand has been put at 76 million barrels a day. Of the total oil demand, OPEC produces around 27 million to 28 million barrels per day. If all of OPEC's oil was to be traded in dollars then central banks of oil importers need to hoard anywhere between $100 billion to $200 billion at any given point in time. If central banks were obliged to keep high dollar reserves for their essential imports of oil then they might as well trade other goods in dollars as well. Imagine, just one producer of dollars and hundreds who are out piling it. One supplier, a thousand users. Now, that's injecting real value into paper.
For decades Americans have been importing a whole lot more than they exported. It's like having fun at someone else's expense (and a whole lot of fun). In January 2003, American exports amounted to $81.9 billion while imports stood at $123 billion for a monthly deficit of $41.1 billion (if Pakistan runs an annual deficit of a couple of billions the IMF, the World Bank and the ADB begin calling us all sorts of names). America's goods and services deficit averages a colossal $350 billion a year or a billion dollars a day. By 2005, the current account deficit is projected to grow to about $600 billion a year or $1.5 billion a day.

How do Americans manage to have fun at others' expense? In America it's called 'OPM', 'other people's money'. As long as the dollar remains the premier reserve currency hoarders of dollars outside of America are bound to invest their dollars in dollar-denominated financial assets. According to the IMF, banks outside the Untied States have invested $2.5 trillion into the US by buying dollar denominated bonds issued by the US Treasury (where are our own $10 billion worth of reserves if not with the US Treasury?). In effect, America's huge surplus on the capital account covers her massive deficits on the trade account and that's how Americans manage to extend their picnic year in year out.
Got it?

It is pretty obvious that the whole American way of life actually depends on the strength of the dollar. And the secret lies in a strong, unchallenged dollar. And OPEC must conduct its trade in dollars. And the central banks of the world must be forced to keep heaps of dollars. The secret lies in keeping the dollar as the world's reserve currency.

Saddam and North Korea were moving toward the euro. They were starting a trend that could destroy us. And we nipped that in the bud.

So? And we have reason number six for why the war had be launched, and won. Last weekend the British government admitted the stories of the mass graves of those who Saddam killed was, well, over-reported. Try 5000 dead, not 400,000 or more. Oops.
? it does seem the reasons we said we had to got to war, against the advice of the UN and most of our traditional allies ? not to mention most world opinion - were not supported by the facts of the matter.

Of course since then we?ve said the original reason ? that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was an immediate and grave threat to this country ? wasn?t the REAL reason. It was the ties to al-Qaeda ? Iraq was in league with those guys to bring us down. Seems the facts don?t support that either.

We?ll that wasn?t the REAL reason. We went to war to liberate the Iraqi people. But they don?t seem to like our version of liberation and things are a bit difficult on the ground there. They don?t want this kind of liberation?

Well, that wasn?t the REAL reason we went war. It was set up a representative democracy there, with voting and a free press, and open, utterly deregulated markets ? and the nations in the area would then get the idea and toss out their monarchies or theocracies or tribal confederations and jump on the Jeffersonian bandwagon. The Iraq example would transform the region.

Well, that doesn?t seem to be working out as planned ? we?re selling this idea and not many folks are buying it, even with our armed troops in their streets and with many, many local folks in prison being treated, to put it mildly, shabbily, and we won?t tell them why they are in prison because we don?t have to. Guess they just get this democracy thing. They think we?re bullies and fools? Doesn?t matter.

That wasn?t the REAL reason we went to war. It was humanitarian - Saddam was a bad man. Yes he was. Did horrible things to his own people. He did. Things are better with him gone. Probably.

And now this. We were kind of exaggerating. We do that.

As someone else said, Stalin probably killed more people than this on any given Thursday in 1931, and if you amortize the executions Bush signed off on in his few years as the governor of Texas, versus the five thousand executions Saddam pulled off in twenty-five years, well, I wonder who?s ahead? Some wise-ass is probably doing the math right now.

I guess we may need a new reason why we did this war. Number six, if you?re keeping count.
And now reason number six has come up, a reason that actually defines a serious threat, and one that is hard to explain to the man in the street. But it was a real threat.

We took care of it.

Posted by Alan at 21:08 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 27 July 2004 21:15 PDT home

Monday, 26 July 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!"
King Lear - Act I, Scene 4

But Chalabi PROMISED this - and Wolfowitz and Perle told us Iraq would, first thing, recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations. For many neoconservatives, that was the WHOLE POINT of this war ? to change things. Peace in the Middle East depended upon this ? ?The road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.? That was what we knew. So it seems we?ve been betrayed by this ex-CIA agent we installed to run Iraq. There is no justice in the world.

Iraqi PM: No Normalized Relations with Israel Before Mideast Settlement
Voice of America (VOA) News - 26 Jul 2004, 16:32 UTC
Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi says his government will not normalize relations with Israel before other Arab states do as part of a Middle East settlement.

Speaking during a visit to Lebanon Monday, Mr. Allawi said Iraq's future relations with Israel will be determined by two issues, "international resolutions and a just and comprehensive peace."

Mr. Allawi also rejected as "totally false" reports that Israeli intelligence agents were operating out of Iraq.

The Iraqi prime minister said his country and its territory will not be a base for any action hostile to any Arab nation.
Richard Perle, for so many years the head of the Defense Advisory Board, the man who told Rumsfeld what to do, the man who for years ran Conrad Black?s Jerusalem Post, the man who was the key advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu and told him to be tough with the Palistineans and kill them all if possible ? well, tonight Perle is probabaly contacting Guido from Detroit to arrange a hit on this man who embarassed him. Iyad Allawi is toast.


Background from Just Above Sunset -

On Richard Perle and just how important he is, or was, see November 23, 2003: Why We Fight

On Conrad Black and his press empire and how it fell apart, see December 28, 2003 - Lord Black and his pearl...

Perle and Henry Kissinger and the rest are all involved.

Posted by Alan at 18:53 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

Also in Boston this week ? Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice
And one of them explains the history of Iraq?

It seems everyone is linking to this ?

Iraq: What Went Wrong?
Stephen Soldz, Z Magazine (Znet), July 26, 2004

Soldz is identified here as a psychoanalyst and a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice, and maintains their Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page.

One shouldn?t confuse Soldz with Juan Cole, the professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who travels down to Washington to testify before congess now and then, and pops up on the PBS ?News Hour? every month or two. Cole?s site is called Informed Comment.

Cole is an expert on Iraq ? its politics and history ? and fluent in Arabic. Soldz is an expert is how people think ? although he?s not an expert in fixing how people think. He is, after all, a psychoanalyst, not a psychotherapist. Big difference.

The Soldz piece here - A Short History of 21st Century Iraq - isn?t short. If you glance at it you?ll see seventy-two footnotes. Soldz is either thorough, or obsessive. Or the history of Iraq is complex.

Don?t worry. Soldz ends with the basics. In clear prose anyone can understand ? absent of any psychobabble -
To conclude, imagine yourself an Iraqi. You've suffered terribly under a ruthless dictator. The Americans invade your country under false pretenses. They promise democracy but don't organize elections. They appoint exiles to rule you, exiles who spend most of their time out of the country and the rest in a few highly protected areas. The occupiers break into your homes in the middle of the night and arrest your men, who then disappear, with no accountability. They shoot Iraqis at roadblocks and from convoys. They declare war on the second most popular man in the country, announcing his death in advance. They open the economy to US corporations and give them sweetheart contracts, ignoring local business. Then they write hundreds of laws and establish commissions limiting any future government. They build permanent military bases on your soil. Then they turn your country over to a former associate of Saddam Hussein, also a former CIA agent, known for his ruthless brutality. Imagine that was your country. What would you do?
Well, that certainly ?reframes? our heroic efforts to free Iraq.

What we have done, seen from the point of view of the locals, doesn?t look so heroic.

The counterargument, the one that has been made to me, is that the Iraqi populace, even with their sorry national history weighing on their minds, doesn?t see the bigger global picture ? and that would be the Global War or Terror and Evildoers and how they fit in. They have also seemly forgotten how bad a fellow Saddam Hussein was to them, and should thus be, as Wolfowitz and Chalabi and all the rest said should happen, tossing flowers at us and welcoming us with open arms. But they toss bombs. And those arms aren?t exactly open.

Wolfowitz and Chalabi and all the rest said what one would logically expect is scenes reminiscent of the Liberation of Paris, but in Baghdad, with the flowers and cheering in the streets. Now they don?t know just what is wrong with these people.

Soldz says, given our actions, one should not be surprised that we get something more like Algiers in 1954, not Paris in 1944. And there is nothing at all wrong with these people.

So, who is a better judge of what is logical to expect from human nature ? a cabal of neoconservative theorists who have been thinking about this stuff since their days at the University of Chicago and their years at the Rand Corporation ? or a psychoanalyst musing in his office in Boston, far from the corridors of power in Washington?

And the larger question hangs in the air ? one that has been around long before we actually rolled into Baghdad. Should we care at all what these people think? Are there not more important issues? Don?t we have to do? well, what we have to do?

Maybe so. But expecting folks to like us for it was a bit of a miscalculation.

Posted by Alan at 13:48 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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