26 April 2003

Howard in hot water
According to the US ABC:

To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war ? a global show of American power and democracy.

Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans. "We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."

Officials now say they may not find hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve agents and maybe not thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins. But U.S. forces will find some, they say. On Thursday, President Bush raised the possibility for the first time that any such Iraqi weapons were destroyed before or during the war.

From the London Times

WHY have American and British Forces not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The most plausible answer is that there are none, in the true sense of the word, even though forces are likely eventually to come across some very unpleasant weapons created by Saddam Hussein.

But Tony Blair and President Bush cannot give this answer, as they asserted unambiguously that these weapons existed in justifying the war. So members of Blair?s Cabinet and Bush?s Administration have felt obliged to offer less plausible accounts of where the elusive weapons might be.

The most ambitious so far were put forward yesterday by Geoff Hoon, the Defense Secretary, in a fabulously implausible narrative which contradicted earlier statements by his Prime Minister, his colleagues and himself.

It is an understatement to say that the failure to find such weapons is an embarrassment for the British and American governments. Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, was always very careful to say that he was looking for weapons which were ?unaccounted for?, discrepancies between what Iraq could have produced and what it had declared.

Blix never said they definitely existed. But Blair, Bush and their henchmen stepped repeatedly over that line, particularly in the frenetic and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to secure the backing of a second UN resolution.

This raises a crucial constitutional principle. A minister who misleads the House must resign. On 18 March the prime minister told the House of Representatives:

For 12 years, Saddam Hussein has forced his nation to endure stringent economic sanctions and pariah status rather than give up his weapons of mass destruction. The presence of weapons inspectors has hindered and irritated him but has never stopped his weapons programs. Even during the first four years of weapons inspections, when the inspectors perceived they were making real progress, Iraq continued to develop and successfully conceal biological weapons. Luckily, a series of defectors blew the whistle on some of Iraq's prohibited weapons programs, forcing the Iraqi regime to reveal one of the most sophisticated and expansive offensive biological programs in the world; but we cannot expect always to be so lucky. Inspectors were ordered out of Iraq before they could finish dismantling it. The available intelligence indicates that, since the departure of inspectors in 1998, Saddam has continued to work on his chemical and biological capabilities and has maintained his nuclear aspirations.

Even under the threat of force he has only engaged reluctantly in token, piecemeal destruction of weapons and continues to deny the existence of weapons programs. Even with over 200,000 coalition troops massed at his borders he quibbles about how interviews are to be conducted with his scientists and how many of the reconnaissance aircraft supporting the inspectors can fly at any one time. After 12 years, he does not believe that the international community has the will to act. In that he has made a terrible error of judgement.

The prime minister of Australia has mislead the parliament in relation to a matter of war and peace. In the alternative the prime minister could argue that the government of the United States deliberately caused him to mislead the house. He has no choice. He must go.

Link to US ABC report courtesy of Atrios.
Howard and the missing WMDs
From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The Prime Minister yesterday told sceptics questioning the existence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to be patient as they clamour for evidence.

This week the chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said "so much" of the intelligence the US and Britain relied upon to justify their attack on Iraq "seemed to have been shaky".

But John Howard said he remained convinced the intelligence the US, British and Australian governments relied upon was "correct" and "very credible". Commentators had to be "a little more patient" as they waited for the coalition to uncover the weapons of mass destruction Saddam had allegedly hidden.

Of course ordinary Australians know what's happened to the missing arsenal. The fiendish Saddamites threw them in the water.
saeeding Santorum?
Robert Fisk, the eponymous hero of fisking has now been joined by al-Sahhaf, the eponymous hero of saeeding.

If Rick Santorum let former Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf do his talking, this is what the irrepressible propaganda man might say

"The American press is all about lies!

"Chairman Santorum will tolerate nothing but truthfulness, as he is a wise man of great honor and integrity. Be assured, his enemies are distorting his words. They are a gang of sodomites who wish to desecrate our home like wild donkeys. These infidels will force you to slaughter your wife and defile your sister. Cowards! They are desperate and stupid. God will roast their stomachs in hell! I triple guarantee you!

"Praise Rick!"

Link courtesy of Jumping to Conclusions via the Volokh Conspiracy

Rick Santorum is a US senator with some deeply-weird opinions on homosexuality.

Australia actually disproves his claim. Here homosexual law reform was always a legislative, not constitutional issue, because we do not have a bill of rights. With the exception of Vermont's civil unions law arguably the statutory rights enjoyed by Australian GLBT people (and won state-by-state) are somewhat greater than the constitutional rights enjoyed in the US.

Not only has there been no move to abolish the separate crimes of incest and child sexual assault since homosexual conduct was decriminalised, but arguably those offences have been strengthened in most Australian jurisdictions. There is a lot of friction on the slippery slope.

25 April 2003

Chalabi's Shi'a credentials
Zachary Meares gives Ahmed Chalabi the comprehensive bagging he deserves as the Pentagon's candidate for head of their wholly-owned and -operated Iraq subsidiary. Chalabi's religious credentials are dubious.

He describes himself as a 'secular Shi'ite' although the term is incomprehensible in Shi'a thought and practice. There is no record of Chalabi observing any Shi'a practices or beliefs. he did not, for example, attend the recent Karbala pilgrimage. Chalabi's family were in the highest circles of the old royal dictatorship during the 1950s, when the Sunni monopolised public office.

The Asian Times reports:

Writing the same day in the New York Times, Dilip Hiro, a veteran journalist and commentator on the region wrote, "But contrary to his Pentagon backers, the CIA's longtime assessment of him remains solid: although he is a Shi'ite, he lacks any constituency inside Iraq. Nor is he likely to inspire new followers. Had he joined the hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites who made the pilgrimage to Karbala this week, he might have enhanced his standing. But apparently he couldn't be bothered."

Chalabi calls himself a "secular Shi'ite". But his father was a Sunni, and he is not known for any particular religious devotion in the 45 years that he has spent living outside Iraq. Such subdued religiosity goes down well in the US, but won't win him any popularity with the masses of Shi'ites beginning to emerge on the streets of Iraq after decades of repression under the Sunni-dominated Ba'ath Party.

The only conclusion is that Chalabi's Shi'ite credentials are about as genuine as the twice-discovered and twice disavowed massive terrorist facility in Iraqi Kurdistan.
eurozone wars
At risk of getting derivative John Quiggan has picked this up:

The real issues are subtler and relate to the complex relationship between military power, economic power and the ?soft power? of cultural and diplomatic influence. A successful outcome in Iraq may be seen as reinforcing US hegemony and therefore increasing the willingness of market participants, including central banks, to take actions that reduce their own returns but bolster the status of the dollar as a reserve currency.

Taken as a whole, I would argue the Iraqi war has done the opposite. The effect has been to make the US appear dangerous and unpredictable and to increase the desire of most people and governments to constrain its hegemonic power. Moreover, Bush?s willingness to spend vast amounts on war while making yet more dramatic cuts in taxes has strengthened the perception that US debts will sooner or later be repudiated either directly or through inflation.

However, this is not the view in Washington, where military and economic power are still seen as going hand in hand. It?s clear that, in the minds of those formulating US policy, military victories achieved in the face of European opposition will pave the way for continued US economic dominance.

Thus far, the foreign exchange markets don?t seem to agree. Although the $US is still well above its fundamental value, it has declined steadily during the Iraq war, with little regard for whether the war news is good or bad.

It will be interesting over the next few months to watch what happens to the 'hegemonic premium', the difference between the market value and the fundamental value of the US dollar.
gone to the blogs
From William Burroughs' Baboon:

IRAQI REGIME BANS UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS INSPECTORS The Baghdad-Washington axis of Iraqi occupation has refused to allow UN weapons inspectors to enter Iraq. Either the fish in the Euphrates are giving off a nasty odour or something is amiss with Iraq's attitude to its alleged WMD. Mullah George Bushemite, leader of the neocon sect, speaking through senior cleric Hairy Fleischer from their religious home on the Potomac issued a fatwa condemning UN inspections
Operation Desert Snipe
A must read. Link courtesy of DailyKOS. About the only item in the Great Missing WMD debate that Cogent Provocateur misses is the massive terrorist facility in Iraqi Kurdistan which Powell alleged to the UN on 5 February, was disproved by British journalists on 7 February and then recycled by Bush on 27 March.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
I found this while I prowled the net trying to find an URl for the Han Gaozu incident. The Three Kingdoms is a great book and the online version is worth reading. To quote the website:

A Korean saying goes: "You can discuss life after reading Romance of Three Kingdoms." And the most famous Chinese commentator, Mao Zonggang, who lived in the 17th century at the start of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), had chosen "Seven Beautiful Books", and he ranked Romance of Three Kingdoms the first among them.
from Austin to Alexandria Eschate and back
The Asian Times has had a rush of blood to the head with historical analogies. In two interesting articles here and here, they set up an analogy between Bush and Alexander the Great and between Afghanistan and Agincourt.

In The war nobody won Henry Liu writes:

In Gaddis acknowledges that these plans depend critically, however, on Americans' being welcomed in Baghdad if they invaded, as they were in Kabul. If they aren't, the whole strategy collapses, because it's premised on the belief that ordinary Iraqis will prefer a US occupation over the current conditions in which they live. There's no evidence that the Bush administration is planning the kind of military commitments the United States made in either of the two world wars, or even in Korea and Vietnam. This strategy relies on getting cheered, not shot at.

The trouble with Agincourts - even those that happen in Afghanistan - is the arrogance they can encourage, along with the illusion that victory itself is enough and that no follow-up is required. It's worth remembering that, despite Henry V, the French never became English. And the war went on for a hundred years.

The United States has already lost the moral high ground by resorting to a coalition of the willing. Gaddis makes a perfect point: A nation that sets itself up as an example to the world in most things will not achieve that purpose by telling the rest of the world, in some things, to shove it.

Terrorists fully anticipated a hardening of reaction from the US to the horrors they perpetrated on September 11, 2001, as embodied in the NSSUSA, for it is this hardening of reaction that will produce more terrorists.

Liu further argues for the safqua story that Baghdad was surrendered, not conquered, in return for bribes and concessions to the RG/SRG high command and to certain regime figures. I do not know what to make of the safqua theory although it is rife in the Arab media and has been quoted elsewhere.

Mark M Miller's piece is much shorter and in ways more interesting.

Alexander's non-Greek empire covered all of the Middle East; from modern Turkey in the northwest, down the Mediterranean coast to Egypt, and everything eastward including Afghanistan and Pakistan. The White House has already conquered Afghanistan, Iraq (ancient Babylon and Mesopotamia) has succumbed, and others have been put on notice that they must adopt the American way (as prescribed by the Bushites) or else.

Consider that Iran (Persia), a member of the "axis-of-evil", lies between the military protectorates of Afghanistan and Iraq, with the brutal dictatorship of the Assads in Syria just to the west. To the Bushite way of thinking, the application of American influence, bribes and threats just may cause a wished for domino-effect, changing all of the region to states of joyous vassals of a benevolent and righteous hegemony. This scenario is unlikely in the extreme; instead of calming and advancing the Islamic societies with Western values, it may start a conflagration that will consume all societies.

Peace, order and good government cannot be imposed on developing nations by unilateral imposition of philosophy or force of arms; it needs to be encouraged and engendered through multilateral organizations and civil discourse. The Afghan conflict was a just cause, deserving and receiving the approval of the world for the ousting of a regime that was directly implicated with the devastating events of September 11, 2001 by harboring and nurturing the group that carried out the heinous acts. Regime change for calculated opportunity and possible imperial expansion should not be conciliated by announced rhetoric of immediate necessity. Many regimes in this world are despotic and tyrannical, with the potential to threaten neighbors and create major weapons of destruction. Who or what should forcibly change them?

Alexander either had a god-king complex, or was deluded by others; let's hope George W does not, and is not, prodded into an un-American imperial stance by the sarissas of the neo-Companions.

I am much too restrained to mutter into my latt� that God must have elected George Bush because the American people certainly did not. So I won't. It is nevertheless deeply disturbing to watch the continued disorder in Iraq, the lack of basic security and basic services, and the total lack of any sense of any duty by the occupation government to provide those services. Baghdad and other cities have now been in US hands for some time. When will the lights be turned back on?

Lastly, since I am as addicted to historical allusion as anyone else, Proconsul Garner should read an incident early in the reign of Gaozu, the first Han emperor. Gaozu emerged from the chaos and warlordism that followed the collapse of the Qin dynasty. The Confucian gentry who advised him told him on one famous occasion: 'You can conquer China from the saddle, but you must govern from the throne.' Bush needs to start governing Iraq, and thus far has shown no sign of understanding that.

23 April 2003

From the Los Angeles Times:

As Joseph Cirincione, a top weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment, put it, the purported existence of those weapons "was the core reason for going to war with Iraq and the reason we had to go now If we don't find fairly large stockpiles of these weapons, in quantities large enough to pose a strategic threat to the United States, the president's credibility will be seriously undermined and the legitimacy of the war repudiated."

That concern is largely absent in the U.S. media, where "liberation" is now a code word that smoothes over any irritating questions one may ask when a Christian superpower invades the heart of the Muslim world. Its partner phrase, "the building of democracy," is also all the rage, as if real democracy was something you could create with Legos or SimCity software.

At this point, though, we can only hope it will all turn out for the best, and that a retired U.S. general will figure out how to use the country's natural resources to end poverty, build excellent schools and provide crime-free streets and an electoral system where positions of power don't go to the highest bidder. Then he can come back and apply this genius at home, where we've got plenty of unwelcome violence, poverty and on-the-take politicians.

However, in the unlikely case this fantasy comes true, albeit at an untold price in money, lives and human suffering, it should be remembered that this was not the justification for war given to the American people.

And, in a more sober mood, one must still ask the embarrassing yet essential question: Did our president knowingly deceive us in his rush to war?

If he did, and we are truly concerned about our own democracy, we would have to acknowledge that such an egregious abuse of power rises to the status of an impeachable offense.

I think this is the first time I've seen the i-word in relation to Bush's own adventure. I notice elsewhere that 'Garner of Arabia' is developing some traction. It's an obvious and shameless steal from Mike Carlton's 'Lord Downer of Baghdad'.
how to do regime change VII
From the Asia Times

BAGHDAD On Friday it took a fiery sermon by the Sunni cleric Dr Ahmad Al Qubaisee to unleash Baghdad's full-throated Muslim religious fury at US occupation forces.

On Monday, they didn't need a cleric at all.

Or, make that, rather, that they did need a cleric. To be precise, they needed the Shi'ite Ayatollah Muhammed Al Fartuzi - and they needed him now.

Trouble was, nobody seemed to know where he was.

In what is quickly becoming a recurring metaphor for the multi-layered political and religious paradox in which the United States finds itself deeply immersed in Iraq, Monday and Tuesday afternoon witnessed an angry throng of chanting Muslims facing down a badly outnumbered US military contingent in Baghdad, with the poor soldiers sitting there in harm's way having not the least clue as to why this was happening or what to do about it.

This is the sort of disaster that happens when an administration ignores any history except its own spin. Someone in the Bush administration should read up on the First Anglo-Afghan War. In the unlikely event they bother they should read with special care the words of Lord Auckland, the Viceroy of India:

...the whole thing was unintelligible to me...

It is what happens when imperial adventurers occupy a foreign nation without any political understanding of what the people of that nation might wish. And those who the pay the cost are the Iraqis suffering the white man's burden and young soldiers deprived of political intelligence trying to deal with an angry people.

22 April 2003

a question that needs asking
From the Independent:
So where are they? In case we forget, distracted by the thought of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, looted museums and gathering political chaos, the proclaimed purpose of this war, vainly pursued by Britain and the US through the United Nations, was to disarm Saddam Hussein and to destroy weapons of mass destruction deemed a menace to the entire world.

But, Mr Blair, where are they? A month has passed since American and British troops entered Iraq, more than a week since the fall of Baghdad. But thus far not even a sniff. Not a drum of VX or mustard gas, not a phial of botulin or anthrax, not a shred of evidence that Iraq was assembling a nuclear weapons programme.

The other question, of course, is where is the occupation government? When will the power be back? When will the hospitals be functioning? And why did the occupation have time to take down a mosaic of Bush the Elder but not protect the museum or the library? Evidently not all artistic questions are without significance...
eurozone wars
From the Guardian
Almost 70% of the world's currency reserves - the money that nations use to finance international trade and protect themselves against financial speculators - takes the form of US dollars. The dollar is used for this purpose because it is relatively stable, it is produced by a nation with a major share of world trade, and certain commodities, in particular oil, are denominated in it, which means that dollars are required to buy them.

The US does very well from this arrangement. In order to earn dollars, other nations must provide goods and services to the US. When commodities are valued in dollars, the US needs do no more than print pieces of green paper to obtain them: it acquires them, in effect, for free. Once earned, other nations' dollar reserves must be invested back into the American economy. This inflow of money helps the US to finance its massive deficit.

The only serious threat to the dollar's international dominance at the moment is the euro. Next year, when the European Union acquires 10 new members, its gross domestic product will be roughly the same as that of the US, and its population 60% bigger. If the euro is adopted by all the members of the union, which suffers from none of the major underlying crises afflicting the US economy, it will begin to look like a more stable and more attractive investment than the dollar. Only one further development would then be required to unseat the dollar as the pre-eminent global currency: nations would need to start trading oil in euros.

I think there are problems with the eurozone explanation of the war, although I do not put it past the economic folly of the war party to invade Iraq for this reason. It should be remembered that the British empire was once known as the sterling area and that for some time after 1945 a series of British governments fought desperately (if unsuccessfully) to maintain the pound sterling as a global currency. That effort failed because the British economy was not strong enough to maintain itsindependence of the US dollar.

And that's the final imperial folly. The first province of the American imperium is not Iraq, but the United States.