29 April 2003

Channel 9 interview this morning:


Prime Minister, just on a final question, at the end of this week you're flying to Texas for another meeting with President Bush. Still no weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam Hussein, no irrefutable link between Iraq and international terrorism. Don't some people have the right to say we were conned?


No they don't. It's unrealistic to expect that all of the evidence of weapons of mass destruction would have been discovered within...


They haven't found any.


No, well I think there is a lot of circumstantial evidence around and a lot of inspections are being undertaken. I didn't think for a moment that you'd find it under a sign on the road side saying weapons of mass destruction look here. I mean they were hiding the stuff from the United Nations inspectors and you remember the great lengths they went to. The question of whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, I don't know whether he's dead or alive, what I know is he's no more the president and dictator of Iraq and that is a very good thing. And in the long run whether he's dead or alive I don't know, I think as far as links are concerned there's more evidence that's become available over the past few days that I was aware of, that suggestion of the visit to Baghdad by the al-Qaeda representative is not something that I, or to my knowledge President Bush or Mr Blair had been aware of prior to the commencement of the invasion. So I don't believe people would feel conned, I think they feel very happy that Iraq now has the opportunity of building a democratic future.

The road sign metaphor has been around for a while. It was meaningless when first used and it's meaningless now. The coalition leaders told us they knew of WMDs in Iraq. They did not tell us they had a fair idea and they'd look for street signs after the war. They gave us the aluminium tubes and that was untrue. They gave us the African uranium and that was untrue. Now John Howard is giving us street signs.

Before the war they spoke about knowledge from intelligence sources. Now they are talking about guesswork. I know Australians are into gambling but making war on another country because the chances are good that the country has weapons of mass distruction seems a bit too much of a punt to me.

The motion put to the House of Representatives at the outset of war reads in part:

2. recognises:
(a)that Iraq?s continued possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, in defiance of its mandatory obligations under numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, represents a real and unacceptable threat to international peace and security;
(b)that Iraq?s behaviour weakens the global prohibitions on the spread of weapons of mass-destruction, with the potential to damage Australia?s security; and
(c) that, as more rogue states acquire them, the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists multiplies, thereby presenting a real and direct threat to the security of Australia and the entire international community;

I can't see any references to street signs there. I also can't see anything about an each way bet.

In his address the prime minister said:

Intelligence analysis tells us that Saddam Hussein considers these weapons programs to be essential both for internal repression and to fulfil his regional ambitions. No doubt he looks to a time when the world will be distracted by other events and he can use his arsenal to bully and coerce his neighbours and to dominate the Middle East. Iraq?s continued defiance represents a threat to the delicate balance which supports nonproliferation. It is no idle speculation that other countries in the region, perceiving this threat, might decide that their own security requires that they develop a significant chemical, biological or even possibly nuclear arsenal to deter attack from Iraq. Moreover, other rogue states would be tempted to ignore the international conventions on arms control, which Australia and others have so painstakingly built up over the last 30 years, and would feel that they could get away with developing similar weapons programs. This is proliferation. We know the lessons of history: the more nations that have these weapons, the more likely they are to be used. That is why we fear proliferation, and we are very concerned about the potential for the proliferation of these weapons in our own region.

Nothing in there about searching under street signs either. John Howard said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. None have been found. The frequent announcements that fizzle out 48 hours later have now been running since early February. None has ever proved true. Why is that?
gone to the blogs
I've always admired good snark, what can I say? While, like most other Australians, I am bemused and bored by the Santorum brouhaha on the other side of the pond that does not stop me linking to a nice piece of vitriolic writing when I see it.
gone to the blogs
DailyKOS examines, in some detail, the quest for the missing WMDs.

The prewar claims that posting some information would endanger the lives of agents in Iraq is especially telling. Either the agents are no longer in Iraq or (just possible) the occupation government is performing so badly they have not yet found their own agents. That of course, would not prevent the coalition publishing the reports of these agents. I do not recommend you hold your breath while waiting for that to happen.

28 April 2003

up a tree with GWB - the downside
The US Agriculture Secretary has appointed one Don Amstutz as agriculture coordinator in Iraq. let's not look at the official bumpf, let's cut to the chase with US Wheat's attitude:

Amstutz has a wide familiarity with markets, international commerce and government programs facilitating economic development. In addition to his private experience, he was USDA Under Secretary for International Affairs and Commodity Programs from 1983 to 1987 and Ambassador and chief negotiator for agriculture during the Uruguay Round General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks in 1987-1989.

The Australian government appointed Trevor Flugge, the former Australian Wheat Board Chairman, to head Australia?s reconstruction effort. A consummate monopolist, ?Flugge?s first priority will be to protect the billion-dollar-a-year wheat market for Australian wheat,? according to a story in Melbourne?s Herald Sun newspaper.

But Amstutz has a different view. ?I view the role of Trevor and me to be facilitators,? he told USW, ?to work with leaders in Iraq?s food and agriculture industry and provide assistance where needed and desired to help rebuild and reconstitute their industry. We will try to be helpful in all areas from production through post harvest functions including processing, distribution and trade. Our desire is to assist in revitalizing Iraq?s agriculture economy so that it can reach a healthy, expanding mode.?

At a press briefing last Monday, World Food Programme spokesman Khaled Mansour reported that by May the WFP needs to be shipping enough food aid into Iraq to feed the entire 27 million population. However, he said, ?the network of mills, silos and warehouses which make up the Public Distribution System, is still not ffully functioning.? So WFP has hired 10 milling experts to conduct countrywide assessments over the next 30 days.

Australia's Minister of Trade Mark Vaile speaking on 24 April about his May trip to Washington:

"I will stress to secretaries Veneman and Evans Australia's commitment to playing a central role in helping Iraq rehabilitate its agricultural sector.� The Government's appointment of eminent agribusiness figure Trevor Flugge and his team of experts earlier this week will spearhead this endeavour," Mr Vaile said.

"Australia has a longstanding agricultural relationship with Iraq, including as a provider of quality wheat and technical assistance in dryland farming and other fields.� It is important that we work together to revitalise Iraq's agriculture sector both to improve food production and to provide much-needed income and employment opportunities."

The NGO attitude to the Amstutz appointment seems quite clear:

Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's policy director, said Mr Amstutz would "arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric", and was more likely to try to dump cheap US grain on the potentially lucrative Iraqi market than encourage the country to rebuild its once-successful agricultural sector.

"Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," Mr Watkins said.

"This guy is uniquely well-placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market - but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country."

I wonder was Australia consulted in any way about the Amstutz appointment? I wonder if Downer of Baghdad even asked before making his speeches about Australia's future role in agricultural reconstruction in Iraq? I wonder if Australia's involvement in the coalition will actually mean very much when it comes to reconstructing Iraqi agriculture. US Wheat seems not to think so.
running off America
From the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs

The new Saudi terms of reference, by demanding a territorial withdrawal beyond the requirements of 242, would thus erode Israel's right to defensible borders that was enshrined in UN Resolution 242. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London, Ghazi al-Qussaibi, has verified that this, in fact, is Riyadh's intent ( Al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 19, 2002; MEMRI, March 1, 2002). The Saudi formula, additionally, creates an equivalence between an irreversible concession on Israel's defense lines in exchange for a reversible concession on normalization (ambassadors can be withdrawn, trade frozen). Were Saudi Arabia more serious about ending its hostility to the State of Israel, it could make discreet direct contact with Israel, as other Arab states have done. Real negotiations are based on mutual compromise, and not on a take-it-or-leave-it offer in an op-ed article of a foreign newspaper.

It's worth the recalling the text of 242 (boldface mine):

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East, Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security, Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter, 1/ Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2/ Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement for the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3/ Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4/ Requests the Secretary General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Adopted unanimously by the Security Council at the 1382nd meeting.

22 November 1967

I think it's stark that the JCPA article alters 242 from a demand for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and makes it a guarantee of Israel's pre-1967 borders without any further action on Israel's part. israel has been in breach of 242 since 1967 but has not attracted the Iraq treatment. The US is about to launch yet another campaign of public diplomacy to try and lift it's image in the Arab world. I suggest the image problem runs much wider than the Arab world and much deeper than just the Israel/Palestine question.

Al-Ahram reports:

The campaign appears to emanate from an egocentric world view which makes the American way of life the substance of its message despite the fact that, as most US observers who follow the Middle East acknowledge, this is not what the Arab or Muslim populations of the region take issue with. At the same time, the primary cause for the antagonism harboured in Arab and Islamic countries towards the US -- which is America's position on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict -- is deliberately skirted and ignored.

The campaign, moreover, chooses to address its audience as a nebulous and homogenised Muslim mass instead of specific peoples living within certain political contexts, be they Iraqis, Palestinians or Egyptians. As such, it does not formulate solutions or devise policies to redress any current grievances that they might entertain. The pattern makes sense when one views the current US media campaign for what it is: a form of "information warfare" that the Bush administration is working to incorporate as an integral part of its foreign policy. As such, it obscures issues and underscores others in a manner which is consistent with the administration's agenda.

In a 21 January interview broadcast on the PBS television programme "NewsHour, with Jim Lehrer", Charlotte Beers, the US State Department's undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs, who is in charge of the media campaign to win over the Muslim world, said: "I completely disagree with people that the number one issue is the Israeli-Palestinian issue although it is crucial." Beers instead spoke at length about the importance of containing "anti-American" sentiment within the Muslim world by means of sustained messages on how America embraces Muslims and how, contrary to "Muslims' beliefs", America does not embrace decadent lifestyles.

Finally, in another part of the world, as Jon Jeter writes in today's Washington Post:

At the heart of the election is an economic crisis that rivals the Great Depression era in the United States. Once Latin America's wealthiest economy, Argentina is in the midst of a five-year recession that hit bottom 16 months ago, when the government that succeeded Menem's ended his policy of linking the value of the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar.

That policy had curbed hyperinflation, but many economists say it also destroyed local industries and jobs, which could not compete with the influx of foreign goods made suddenly competitive by the strong peso. Menem also accumulated unprecedented levels of foreign debt and privatized virtually all state-owned industries, efforts that don't sit well with many Argentines who have seen unemployment, poverty and crime soar to unprecedented levels.

Opinion polls show eight in 10 Argentines opposed the U.S. war against Iraq. During the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago, when Menem was president, Argentina and Honduras sent troops to fight alongside American forces -- the only Latin American countries to do so.

"There is this creeping anti-Americanism at play here," said Graciela Coatz-Romer Gil, a pollster and political consultant. "Our research shows that it's everywhere in Latin America but it's particularly strong here in Argentina. It's not only because of the war in Iraq but there is also this disappointment that the policies promoted by the United States since the end of the Cold War -- privatization, an open economy -- didn't produce here, and in fact, for the middle class . . . had disastrous consequences. They're the ones who lost their jobs."

Similar feelings hold among the European public, the Korean public, the Japanese public...

Perhaps the marketing geniuses in the State Department might consider that if a campaign is crashing in all markets it may be the product, not the advertising, that is at fault. They would probably be horrified to be accused of being the most postmodern White House on record but their insistence that message is all and reality is nothing is pomo gone mad.
El oro de los tigres
Jorge Luis Borges

Hasta la hora del ocaso amarillo
Cu�ntas veces habr� mirado
Al poderoso tigre de Bengala
Ir y venir por el predestinado camino
Detr�s de los barrotes de hierro,
Sin sospechar que eran su c�rcel.
Despu�s vendr�an otros tigres,
El tigre de fuego de Blake;
Despu�s vendr�an otros oros,
El metal amoroso que era Zeus,
El anillo que cada nueve noches
Engendra nueve anillos y �stos, nueve,
Y no hay un fin.
Con los a�os fueron dej�ndome
Los otros hermosos colores
Y ahora s�lo me quedan
La vaga luz, la inextricable sombra
Y el oro del principio.
Oh ponientes, oh tigres, oh fulgores
Del mito y de la �pica,
Oh un oro m�s precioso, tu cabello
Que ans�an estas manos.
Pressgang at Stone Moat Village
Du Fu

At dusk, I stopped for the night at stone moat village,
An officer came that night to capture men.
The old man escaped by climbing over the wall,
The old wife went to look outside the door.
How angrily the officer now shouted,
How bitterly the wife did weep out loud!
I heard the words the wife was sending forth:
"Three sons of mine have gone to defend Ye city.
From one of my sons, a letter has arrived,
The other two have recently died in battle.
The one who survived has kept alive for now,
The dead ones though have met their final end.
Inside this house, there are no people left,
There's just a grandson suckling on the breast.
The grandson's mother also cannot go,
She goes about without a skirt intact.
Although I am an old woman with failing strength,
I beg to follow you into the night.
Please just let me work in the camp at Heyang,
And to prepare the morning meal for you."
Her voice then died away into the night,
I seemed to hear her sob and whimper still.
At dawn, before I set upon the road,
It's only from the old man that I part.
heavy fighting reported in Ozblogistan
There seems to be an outbreak of blog versus blog versus blog. I bagged Yobbo. Ken Parish bagged me. Ken bagged Tim Dunlop and Rob Schaap. Rob counterbagged. Ken promoted me from 'cosy prejudice' to 'considered reply'. There's almost a case for a coblog so we could escape from the godawful comments interface.

Alternately we could engage in mayhem by arguing whether the Iraq exercise meets the standards for international humanitarian intervention laid out by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

Their final report The responsibility to protect identifies a number of requirements.

(1) The Just Cause Threshold
Military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure. To be warranted, there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, of the following kind:
A. large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or
B. large scale 'ethnic cleansing', actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.

(2) The Precautionary Principles
A. Right intention: The primary purpose of the intervention, whatever other motives intervening states may have, must be to halt or avert human suffering. Right intention is better assured with multilateral operations, clearly supported by regional opinion and the victims concerned.
B. Last resort: Military intervention can only be justified when every non-military option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis has been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing lesser measures would not have succeeded.
C. Proportional means: The scale, duration and intensity of the planned military intervention should be the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective.
D. Reasonable prospects: There must be a reasonable chance of success in halting or averting the suffering which has justified the intervention, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction.

(3) Right Authority
A. There is no better or more appropriate body than the United Nations Security Council to authorize military intervention for human protection purposes. The task is not to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority, but to make the Security Council work better than it has.
B. Security Council authorization should in all cases be sought prior to any military intervention action being carried out. Those calling for an intervention should formally request such authorization, or have the Council raise the matter on its own initiative, or have the Secretary-General raise it under Article 99 of the UN Charter.
C. The Security Council should deal promptly with any request for authority to intervene where there are allegations of large scale loss of human life or ethnic cleansing. It should in this context seek adequate verification of facts or conditions on the ground that might support a military intervention.
D. The Permanent Five members of the Security Council should agree not to apply their veto power, in matters where their vital state interests are not involved, to obstruct the passage of resolutions authorizing military intervention for human protection purposes for which there is otherwise majority support.
E. If the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time, alternative options are:
I. consideration of the matter by the General Assembly in Emergency Special Session under the ?Uniting for Peace? procedure; and
II. action within area of jurisdiction by regional or sub-regional organizations under Chapter VIII of the Charter, subject to their seeking subsequent authorization from the Security Council.
F. The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation - and that the stature and credibility of the United Nations may suffer thereby.

(4) Operational Principles
A. Clear objectives; clear and unambiguous mandate at all times; and resources to match.
B. Common military approach among involved partners; unity of command; clear and unequivocal communications and chain of command.
C. Acceptance of limitations, incrementalism and gradualism in the application of force, the objective being protection of a population, not defeat of a state.
D. Rules of engagement which fit the operational concept; are precise; reflect the principle of proportionality; and involve total adherence to international humanitarian law.
E. Acceptance that force protection cannot become the principal objective.
F. Maximum possible coordination with humanitarian organizations.

I think that's a reasonable set of standards to argue about.

27 April 2003

Polygamists angry at gay link
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The leader of one of Utah's largest polygamist sects has objected to Sen. Rick Santorum's comment lumping plural marriage with other practices the Pennsylvania Republican considers to be antifamily.

Santorum has been under fire for comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

But Owen Allred, 89, head of the United Apostolic Brethen, based in the Salt Lake City suburb of Bluffdale, agreed with Santorum in part.

"He is absolutely right. The people of the United States are doing whatever they can to do away with the sacred rights of marriage," Allred told The Salt Lake Tribune.

But Allred said Santorum's inclusion of polygamy in his list tarnishes a religious tradition whose roots are traced to biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Moses -- defiling them as "immoral and dirty."

While I doubt either the evil elites or ordinary Australians care much about the furorum Santorum this is so breathtaking it just has to be shared.

Link courtesy of OxBlog