"Plenty of cities have water problems. Few have water problems to rival Karachi's. One scientist here tied Karachi water a few years ago to 50 separate ailments. A second recent analysis by government water experts found at least 70 percent of all Karachi water samples fouled by microbes, chemical pollutants, or both." -- from "Karachi Journal: For a Sickening Encounter, Just Turn on the Tap" by Michael Wines.
COGENT SENTENCE OF THE WEEK AWARD: yes, it's back and this week we have a three-way tie. coincidentally, all three sentences came in sequence from benjamin ben-eliezer, as-of-tomorrow-former israeli defense minister. from the same article in the times, when asked if he thought sharon could offer the palestinians a "diplomatic horizon":
"There is no chance, with the makeup of this government. It's an illusion. It's a joke."
SKIPPING AHEAD: there is a TON of back matter to attend to, but in the meantime this moment forward will contain a few shorts. please look at previous dates because i will omnipotently finneagle with the date and time of posts -- they will be placed at the chronological point at which they should have been done. this is so that later people won't be able to tell i'm a deadbeat blogger.
from today's times, on the new israeli defense minister, shaul mofaz: "As the head of the armed forces, General Mofaz put the greater part of Israel's arsenal, from fighter jets to wire-guided missiles, into the fight against Palestinian militants. He also tightened military restrictions on Palestinian society in hopes of ending the current conflict, which began roughly halfway through his four-year term."
he also tightened restrictions on his daughter's clothing, make-up and curfew in hopes of ending her desire for sex with boys.
SORRY: both authors took off for a long weekend, one in boston, one in washington. coming soon in this space: a reivew of the mcsweeney's vs. they might be giants show to justify the trip to washington, fire-breathing about college tuition, and red china's president eating rib-eye at the crawford ranch.
THE NOT-SO-FAKE NEWS: the less-boring way to make the point we've been making here about the war with iraq can be found in this week's onion cover story: "Amid growing concerns about the faltering stock market and deepening recession, President Bush vowed to tackle the nation's economic woes head-on Tuesday, assuring the American people that he 'will not rest' until Saddam Hussein is removed from power."
also very clickworthy is the article on the 1980 presidential election in the "the onion in history" section: "Public-opinion polls show a 76 percent approval rating for Reagan's 'Kill the Bastards' plan, compared to only 11 percent for Carter's 'Better Mileage' platform. The 'Kill the Bastards' plan rates even higher in polls than Reagan's highly popular policies while governor of California, including his 'Nuke the Bastards' plan, his 'Kill the Foreigners' plan and his recent 'Just Kill 'Em All' plan."
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, GEORGE ALLEN?: un-repentant senate junkies, we must recommend the new republic piece by michael crowley on the iraq debate in that body. some of the great reporting to emerge: "This insipid oratory set the tone for what was to follow. Typical was the Monday speech of Republican George Allen from Virginia. Despite having served a term as Virginia's governor, Allen read uncomprehendingly from a prepared text like a high school jock running for class president. 'The history of military action shows there are frequently unintended consequences and unseen dangers whenever the military is utilized,' Allen droned. 'Can one imagine a nuclear weapon in the hands of Saddam Hussein? Let's not forget this is a head of state who has demonstrated his willingness to use chemical weapons on other nations and his own citizens with little or no reservation,' Allen continued, adding exactly nothing to anyone's understanding of the issue. But that was par for the course."
what ever happened to that beet-red, sweaty governor shouting to the VA GOP convention in 1994 that they would collectively "enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whiny throats" (the democrats, that is)? he's gone from brutal to -- just brutal.
more from the crowley piece: "But for sheer entertainment value, no one could compete with Byrd's theatrical efforts to delay a vote. The octogenarian, who believes the Iraq resolution amounts to an unconstitutional 'blank check' for the president, may be driving his colleagues crazy with his endless filibustering speeches. But he was a delight to watch in action, a whirlwind of historical references and rhetorical devices. Byrd waved the printed text of the resolution furiously in the air and referred to it as 'a rag' and a 'vast waste of verbiage.' He shouted that if Congress passed the resolution, its members should hang a 'gone fishing' sign atop the Capitol and quit their jobs. He pulled a dog-eared copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket and flapped it about, as if taunting his colleagues, whom he accused of having 'rubber spines.' He quoted James Madison, saying, 'The trust and the temptation' to wage war 'are too great for any one man.' 'Hear his voice,' Byrd thundered, 'as it rolls across the decades of history!'"
COGENT SENTENCE OF THE WEEK AWARD: goes to james traub in sunday's times magazineon al gore's populism: "And his target was not 'the rich,' or even 'the superrich,' as much as the nexus between wealth and political power -- the subordination of politics to money, the cynical use of a free-market ideology as the stalking horse for self-interest."
i wish anyone reading this blog would read this article and comment. i'd like to post a digest of what people say about this short piece. this paragraph will self-destruct in one week when no one will have replied.
OCTOBER SURPRISES: with the fortieth anniversary of the cuban missile crisis this month, news outlets have chosen to focus on the supposedly similar threat of weapons of mass destruction then and now. while disappointed that the utter failure of our cuba policy since then wasn't the tie-in -- it could even have been three-pronged, with carter's foto con castro running with all of the nobel coverage -- the similarities and differences between 1962 and 2002 merit discussion.
the missiles in cuba constituted a "crisis" and the threat of war with iraq constitutes an election ploy. why? the nuclear missiles in cuba were put there by the soviet union to be fired at the american mainland. iraq, by the bush administration's own admission, has neither nuclear weapon technology nor the ability to deliver it anywhere near the united states. but let us place that aside and say that the concern of circuitously delivered bio- or chemical-weapons is enough for the US to feel "threatened." even this does not compare.
the USSR had ICBMs on its own soil sufficient to destroy the US many times over. the cuban missiles constituted a "deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country," as president kennedy said in his speech of 22 october 1962. the iraqi threat does not meet his standard. that fact, the utter failure to link iraq to september 11 by any means other than innuendo, and the just-too-perfect timing of this campaign for war by the administration with the mid-term elections all add up to game, set, and match for cynics who just don't trust this president.
saddam hussein needs to go, but i resent the way we're going about it. he absolutely needs to pay for the crimes against humanity he committed against the kurds in northern iraq (an amazing piece by jeffrey goldberg in the 25 march 2002 issue of the new yorker can be read in poached form online). while i agree with the ends, i do not support the present dodgy war mongering any more than i would endless sodomy as punishment for chemical weapons attacks on civilians. we sully the goal with ignoble means.
todd purdum makes a few nice points in his the "week in review" of sunday's paper. but he does not emphasize enough the one point that nags at me most about the new US intention to militarily "pre-empt" any threats to our security. was the rationale used by the soviets in hungary in 1956 and czechoslovakia in 1968 any different? shall we pre-empt recidivist criminals by just never letting them out of prison? bobby kennedy had it right. an unprovoked attack is simply un-american.
we can get past this in the case of iraq by looking to the gulf war ceasefire agreements (violated) and UN security council resolutions (unheeded). but we cannot proceed as we have with only lip-serve to these sources of legitimacy for the action we might take there. without them, we are left with a policy of pre-emption that if applied will have dangerous consequences for the idea of america in the world and our idea of ourselves.
WILLIAM K.: it takes a fair measure of outrage for jen to rear her head on this site, bill kristol's disturbing op-ed in yesterday's post apparently having done it. in addition to jen (and myself, shortly) look for commentary on his piece by dr. oliver sacks, neurologist and author of a collection of case-studies called the man who mistook his wife for a hat -- amazon.com: "brilliant tales" of "individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations" -- in an upcoming essay in JAMA.
the premise of kristol's piece is the challenging question of our day: "Has anyone had a better six weeks than George W. Bush?" thanks to jen for bringing this article to everyone's attention. many, like me, surely would not have finished a piece that began so forgettably.
and so with minimal consideration of what "success" constitutes vis-a-vis iraq policy ("The country now supports him."), we arrive at a second question: "What accounts for the president's success?" again, thanks jen. if not for jen we would have missed these classics: "Primarily it's the clarity, toughness and straightforwardness with which he has marshaled his arguments. There have been impressively serious and high-minded speeches...." and later: "He has benefited, in making the case for war, from an impressive clarity of presentation and lucidity of argument." was the "fool me once..." speech the clear part or the lucid part?
the reason for the president's success -- if a ho-hum debate and lopsided majorities for his resolution are success and somehow not indifference and a desire to move on -- during this six-week period is that it has brought us six weeks closer to the mid-term elections. why does kristol sound so pleasantly surprised? from a 7 september times piece on why the administration wasn't talking about iraq while virtually everyone else was: "'From a marketing point of view,' said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, 'you don't introduce new products in August.'" and let's not forget karl rove in january: "President Bush's top political adviser said today that Republicans will make the president's handling of the war on terrorism the centerpiece of their strategy to win back the Senate and keep control of the House in this year's midterm elections. 'We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America,' Karl Rove said at the Republican National Committee meeting..." (washington post, 19 january 2002).
kristol spends the last four paragraphs of his piece comforting anyone who might have been disappointed by recent peace-talk and explaining why it is acceptable and right that the president lie about the inevitability of invasion and negotiate in bad faith. here's kristol with the jittery earnestness of the true believer: "So when the president seems to equivocate about whether war is inevitable, when he holds out hope for inspections, when he talks about giving peace one last chance, when he seems to invite coups and rebellions while implying this might prevent an American occupation, supporters of the president's policy shouldn't worry that he is losing focus or retreating from the moral and strategic clarity of the past six weeks." is it all right if the rest of us worry?
BASEBALL BEING GENETIC, APPARENTLY: in a follow-up to the piece in the times revealing our occupation plans for iraq (which was discussed in this space), david e. sanger writes in saturday's times: "White House officials seemed particularly unhappy today about the report ... that the occupation would be led by a commander whose role would be parallel to that of General MacArthur, who ruled Japan essentially as a potentate who could issue directives on any subject."
same article: "President Bush offered assurances today that the United States would 'never seek to impose our culture or our form of government' on another nation." a careful reader of history, mr. bush is well aware that imposing a regime on another country goes much more smoothly when you go with the "brutally repressive dictatorship" form of government.
and yes, you knew it was coming; again, same article: "Mr. Bush made his comments about his goals during a White House event to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by the American-led coalition, without specific reference to Iraq. He celebrated the successes of the interim Afghan government — and introduced American military personnel who gave medical care to injured Afghans and taught Afghan children to play baseball."
"From Truth to Deception": W. Post 10/12/02:
At first glance of the title, I thought maybe this article would mention something about the deception of the American public concerning the underworld of Bush's "he tried to kill my daddy" Iraq policy...but NO...then I remembered that the media would never allow such a thing to occur. Kristol instead speaks of the need for Bush to go from speaking the truth about weapons of mass destruction, etc. to being deceptive in order to keep Hussein "off balance, wishful and confused" via "using the fog of war -- creating that fog." So is the main goal here to keep Hussein in the fog, or the people? I don't think that I am the only person in the world that thinks this whole turn on Iraq deal whenever it's convenient for Pappy Bush's son to avenge the original loss is just a tad off the country's agenda. But we could talk about that for days...instead, let's point out a few more aspects of this ridiculous editorial....
Kristol describes that Bush has had the best past 6 weeks ever. He changed everyone over to his side. Well, how in political hell did he accomplish that? "Primarily it's the clarity, toughness and straightforwardness with which he has marshaled his arguments....So the president has succeeded in explaining why Hussein must go, why time is not on our side, why deterrence can't be counted on, and why war is necessary." Are we talking about the same man that could not identify the Balkan region? Bush took over the political agenda, which is pretty easy to do when your party runs the House and there are midterm elections coming up--what self-serving Democrat (in their right mind) who is in any sort of jeopardy of losing their race go against the grain on this one? And here we are, fighting battles that many Americans and their reps have said they DON'T want.
Another note: "The president's audience is no longer the American public, or even our allies." I'm sorry, did I miss a few weeks here while caught in the time warp known as the Biosphere? When has the President ever considered the public or the allies as his audience?
Ok, last one I promise...but this one is the best. "He will have to demonstrate the skills described in his summer reading: Eliot Cohen's "Supreme Command" -- the ability to shape grand strategy and execute precise tactics in the fog of war." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. More like his summer story time from Uncle D. Cheney (the D standing for Defense)...again, this is the man who said his favorite childhood book was one that wasn't published until the mid 70s when he was already in his mid 30s. Last time I checked a favorite childhood book was one you read as a child, i.e. before you were 10. I don't think that mental capacity counts as a requirement for a proper answer there.
"THEM, NOT HIM": from the new york times, 4 december 1999, page A12:
"At the Republican debate here on Thursday and at a news conference in nearby Bedford this morning, George W. Bush said that if he was commander in chief, any discovery that Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, was building weapons of mass destruction would touch off a swift and punishing response.
But whether the goal of that action would be the elimination of the weapons -- or of Mr. Hussein himself -- was a matter of some haziness, dispute and, above all, dropped consonants. On both occasions, Mr. Bush seemed to say he would 'take him out,' indicating that he would forcibly remove Mr. Hussein from power or worse. But Mr. Bush said in a telephone interview this afternoon that the phrase, easily misinterpreted because of his Texas drawl, was 'take 'em out,' meaning the weapons.
'I'm sorry,' Mr. Bush said in the interview. 'Them. Them. I wasn't speaking very clearly. It was early in the morning.'
'What I was referring to with Saddam Hussein,' Mr. Bush explained, 'is if we find he is building weapons of mass destruction, I'll take them out.' This time, all four letters of the word were sharp and resonant.
'My intent was the weapons -- them, not him,' Mr. Bush said."
"The plan also calls for war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government..." So my question is....how can Bush rightfully call for war-crime trials against Iraqi leaders when HE doesn't believe in supporting the International Criminial Court because of the possible fallout against US military leaders?
INSOMNIAC INSIGHT: we don't follow the news here, we lead it. let us humbly call everyone's attention to the piece that appeared after our carter post at nytimes.com: "Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Carter With Criticism of Bush". that other blog was on top of the story even before the comments by the norwegian nobel committee's chairman:
"In remarks to reporters after the announcement, Mr. Berge said that Mr. Carter had been nominated for the peace prize 'many, many times' but that a major reason that he was finally selected was that he represented a counterpoint to the militancy of President Bush.
'I hope it will help strengthen what Carter has to say,' said Mr. Berge. 'He has a more moderate point of view than the sitting administration.'
Mr. Berge said the Bush administration seemed all too willing to act unilaterally against Iraq. 'They should be sticking more to principles of mediation and international cooperation,' he said."
that other blog promises to use its power to shape news for good and not evil.
ISOLATION WAS LESS SCARY: here's candidate bush in the second presidential debate with al gore: "I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, 'This is the way it's got to be.'" and in the same debate: "If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us." (new york times, 30 october 2000, front page)
CHAFEE WATCH: sen. lincoln chafee, soon-to-be-(D-R.I.), was the only republican to vote against the iraq resolution in the senate last night. sen. jim jeffords (I-VT), a close friend of chafee's father who served in the senate until his death in 1999, joined him. all indications are that it will be a significant upset if the democrats lose control of the senate. but if it goes 50-50 again, look for mr. chafee to pull a jeffords. and if it's 51-49, the next candidate for the switch is john mccain. he doesn't have to become a democrat, he just has to play one on c-span; he only needs to caucus with the democrats. mr. jeffords provides a perfect model. in fact, if it does go 50-50, mr. mccain might seize the opportunity to leave the republicans before the swearing in of the new congress in january. sen. chafee would probably wait until majority leader trent lott did something particularly egregious before mustering the courage to walk away (in the springtime, probably, if the similarly-constituted sen. jeffords is any model). also favoring a sooner-rather-than-later mccain switch: the two months between the mid-term elections and the new year are the traditional time to begin a presidential bid.
a closer look at the senate roll call also reveals presidential politics at work. predictably, voting YEA along with the republicans are the usual DLC suspects and those democrats up for reelection in less than a month. this time they were joined by every single possible democratic presidential candidate in the senate: Bayh (D-IN), Biden (D-DE), Clinton (D-NY), Daschle (D-SD), Dodd (D-CT), Edwards (D-NC), Kerry (D-MA), and Lieberman (D-CT). they left the democratic heavy-lifting to people like Byrd (D-WV), Corzine (D-NJ), Kennedy (D-MA), and Wellstone (D-MN) (and of course sens. jeffords and chafee).
there is actually one possible presidential aspirant whose vote would probably be the same regardless of this intentions about 2004. if he decides to run, sen. russ feingold (D-WI) will be the only one in the crowded democratic field to have distinguished himself on this vote.
they're playing baaaaaase-ball
on the tigris and euphrates
they're playing baaaaaase-ball
the shi'ites and the sunnis
and don't forget the kurds....
david e. sanger and eric schmitt report in the times today that "The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein." in what was clearly a failure of will, "The plan also calls for war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government..." -- expect that sop to the liberal special interests to cost mr. bush votes from his conservative base in 2004.
this piece in the times also provides occasion for the SOBER DECLARATIVE SENTENCE OF THE WEEK AWARD: "'I am viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country,' said the former secretary of state, Henry A. Kissinger."
the obvious differences between iraq and imperial japan notwithstanding (expansionist regional power having conquered dozens of its neighbors vs. backwater thug; ambition to invade the american mainland vs. ambition to cling to power; destruction of our pacific fleet vs. destruction BY our persian gulf fleet), there is a speck of hope that we may not have to invade: "Asked what would happen if American pressure prompted a coup against Mr. Hussein, a senior official said, 'That would be nice.'" but not so fast -- "the official suggested that the American military might enter and secure the country anyway, not only to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but also to ensure against anarchy."
both of the following are phrases from the story, but are not placed together there. but let's just put them near each other here and see what happens:
phrase A: "Officials say they want to avoid the chaos and in-fighting that have plagued Afghanistan since the defeat of the Taliban. Mr. Bush's aides say they also want full control over Iraq while American-led forces carry out their principal mission: finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction."
phrase B: "For as long as the coalition partners administered Iraq, they would essentially control the second largest proven reserves of oil in the world, nearly 11 percent of the total."
if we're moving away from the afghanistan-model for vanquished evil-doing countries, does that mean our efforts in afghanistan are failing? or is it it just that afghanistan has no proven energy resources and so needs less attention?
RELIEVED: back in august i said to myself, "i'm not posting again until jimmy carter gets his due." lucky for me (and you) that he goes and wins the nobel peace prize. (i was thinking more of a nostalgic puff piece on headliners and legends with matt lauer, but a nobel will do.)
in their citation, the norwegian nobel people take a less-than-subtle dig at president bush: "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation...." and in case he missed that one, they waft some nobel stink in mr. bush's direction: "Carter's mediation was a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, in itself a great enough achievement to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize." and in case he missed that too, scandinavian diplomats in washington will be wearing ISRAEL + ANY GROUP OF ARABS + PEACE = BUSH NOBEL buttons for the next several weeks.