Thursday, February 27, 2003

We are going to Rome for a week so Beyond the Wasteland will be back in operation on Thursday, March 6th.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Here is the latest from Debkafile. This is an Israeli cross between the Drudge Report and Jane’s. They are very sensationalist and feed lots of pro-Likud disinformation but every now and again they are in front of the curve. Now that you have been warned, check this out.

DEBKAfile’s most exclusive sources accessed the Putin proposal for Iraq and reveals its high points:

1. Acceptance of the plan by Saddam and Washington – with UN endorsement – will result in the United States calling off its war offensive against Iraq.

2. Saddam will be required to immediately dismantle and destroy all his weapons of mass destruction, that arsenal being checked against Russia’s lists and compared with American data. (DEBKAfile notes incidentally that Russian generals and intelligence chiefs have consistently claimed until now that Saddam does not possess a single WMD!)

3. Saddam stays on as president for approximately one year.

4. In the course of the disarmament process, a transitional government will be established in Baghdad with no affinity to the ruling Baath or Saddam’s ruling circle. It will officiate one year under international oversight, draft a new Iraqi constitution and arrange a general election.

5. The election over, Saddam will retire and make way for the newly-elected regime.

6. He and his family, together with his top political and military circle, will move out of Baghdad and take up residence at an internationally protected palace compound near Tharthar Lake north of Tikrit. He will be allowed to move in and out of this palace under certain restrictions.
It’s all starting to fall apart. Below are extended quotes from Newsweek.

Hussein Kamel, the highest- ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.

Kamel was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs. Kamel told his Western interrogators that he hoped his revelations would trigger Saddam’s overthrow. But after six months in exile in Jordan, Kamel realized the United States would not support his dream of becoming Iraq’s ruler after Saddam’s demise. He chose to return to Iraq—where he was promptly killed.

Kamel’s revelations about the destruction of Iraq’s WMD stocks were hushed up by the U.N. inspectors, sources say, for two reasons. Saddam did not know how much Kamel had revealed, and the inspectors hoped to bluff Saddam into disclosing still more. And Iraq has never shown the documentation to support Kamel’s story. Still, the defector’s tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.

Again we find the brave warrior George W. Bush hiding behind the UN’s skirt, getting Iraq to give up all of its WMD’s and invading anyway!
The following are quotes from the Agonist about the visit by former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov:

Stratfor says 'reliable sources' in the Russian "government say Hussein indeed has promised to cooperate with the inspectors' demands -- including that Baghdad scrap its al Samoud 2 missile program by March 1, an announcement that sources expect to be forthcoming within days."

Moreover, the Franco-German-Russian plan for more peacekeepers has been accepted by Hussein and that Baghdad will formally invite them within the next ten days.

Stratfor is also indicating that "Hussein has asked Putin to deliver a secret offer to U.S. and British energy giants, inviting them back to Iraq as major industry players roughly 30 years after they were ousted from the country. The companies could return to Iraq immediately if Washington calls off its planned invasion." Stratfor also indicates that Blair received the idea favorably.
Body and Soul takes a look at the situation in Afghanistan.

Monday, February 24, 2003

The never–ending crisis in Iraq seems to be coming to a head. There are two processes ongoing, Iraq has been ordered to destroy its ”Al Samoud 2 short-range missiles by March 1” and ”the United States, Britain and Spain are planning to jointly introduce a United Nations resolution later this afternoon saying that Iraq is in violation of requirements that it disarm” (both quotes from the NY Times). The early signs are that Iraq will comply with the missile order and that the US has no chance in hell of getting a second resolution out of the UN.

If I am correct we will be set up for a total nightmare scenario. Iraq, which is being disarmed by the UN, could be subject to an invasion by US and UK armed forces. These two countries have been the chief proponents of the process to weaken Iraq’s military capabilities. The question is: is it legal, moral or even remotely good policy for a country to hide behind the skirt of the UN and disarm a country enough so that an invasion, against the wishes of the UN Security Council, becomes relatively easy?

It is clear by the way I framed the question that the answer is no. Once a process has begun, the UN must remain in control and not only continue to try to disarm the country in question but to also protect it from predators on the prowl looking for easy prey. In this case the prey is sitting on top of billions of dollars of oil reserves. It is cowardly in the extreme to launch an attack on such a country.

The US military will live in shame for years to come if they follow orders and invade Iraq under these conditions. This conflict would already basically be a replay of the Indian slaughters of the 19th century with the US military spending 100 times that of the Iraqi’s. After giving up one of its last pathetic means of self-defense against a vastly superior enemy, an invasion of Iraq would be extremely close to a war crime. I would not be surprised to see US military officers refuse orders under these conditions. Never again would a country submit to a UN disarmament process if the expected result would be its annihilation.

Anti-Americans all across the globe are praying feverishly tonight for just such a scenario. This would clearly mark an end of a century of America’s reign of decency and usher in a scary new period of American insanity. At some point the world collectively will have to rise up to confront this new monster. I am still hopeful that this will not be necessary, and that Americans themselves and wake up and stop this before it is too late.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Wow, it looks like the two sides are really close to a deal. From the NY Times:

Without referring to the missile demand directly, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today that if President Saddam Hussein of Iraq "complies" with weapons inspectors' requests "or leaves the country tomorrow, there will be no war."

This morning in the Times:

SADDAM HUSSEIN plans to “disappear” once America attacks Iraq and has told his generals to fight without him, according to an Arabic daily.

The Iraqi leader instructed his military commanders this month that when war broke out they should take their orders from his son Qusay, who alone will know of Saddam’s whereabouts, according to the London- based al-Hayat.

Such an order underlines America’s fears that their troops will be unable to catch their man. US officials could not confirm that Saddam’s order had been given, but the assumption in Washington is that he will make himself scarce when hostilities begin. “The biggest worry is that we don’t get him early,” one official said.

US officials are concerned that Saddam’s system of doubles and constant moving could enable him to evade capture in the way that Osama bin Laden did in Afghanistan.

So it seems that all Saddam has to do is “disappear” before the war starts—and stay disappeared through the entire election cycle of 2004—and there will be no war! Gee, Tony Blair gets to keep his job, lots of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians get to keep their lives, and the Cheney Administration gets to claim a great victory. And best of all, I can start writing about stuff I care about instead of this stupid war.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Oh my, it looks like Colin Powell is lying to someone. This is from a UPI story, you better hurry because they are likely to edit this real soon.

At stake for the Turks is economic aid and military and political issues. Although there have been reports of as much as $26 billion of assistance for Turkey's troubled economy, well-informed sources in Ankara said Washington would not raise its final offer of $4 billion in grants and $2 billion in military debt write-offs as well as $1 billion in shares from Iraqi oil revenues after the war.

Compare that promise the the Turks with this one from two months ago:

Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, told NBC's Meet the Press: "The oilfields are the property of the Iraqi people. And if the coalition of forces goes into those oil fields, we would want to protect those fields and make sure they are used to benefit the people of Iraq and are not destroyed or damaged by the failing regime on the way out the door."

Mr Powell said that revenue generated from the oilfields would be used "in accordance with international law and to benefit the people of Iraq".

So we have taken it upon ourselves to give one billion dollars worth of “the property of the Iraqi people” to the Turkish people. Do you think General Franks will call for a referendum so the Iraqi people can decide this one?
Isn’t the New York Times supposed to be for intelligent people? Check out this statement in a story about how Turkey is not allowing (for the time being) US troops to be stationed there:

The support of Turkey, a Muslim country, would be in sharp contrast to repeated statements by France, Germany and other NATO allies that further U.N. inspections -- not war -- are the best remedy.

Am I missing something here or is there not a big argument going on about how many billions of dollars the US is going to pay Turkey to use its country to launch an invasion against Iraq? If Turkey finally gets enough US taxpayer money then they would pretty much agree to anything. This is not a sign of supporting the US position. And why is the NY Times speculating about something that has not happened. Why don’t they stick to the facts as of today, that Turkey is saying no to $26 BILLION dollars! That’s how much they support the Bush Administration.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

More bad diplomatic news from the NY Times:

Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who has been one of President Bush's strongest supporters, said today that he had recently spoken to Mr. Bush "with candor and loyalty, as real friends do" and had "invited him not to cultivate isolationism." As many as three million antiwar protesters marched in Rome on Saturday. Afterward, Mr. Berlusconi insisted that military action against Iraq must be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations.

Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, has been pushing for a second resolution for weeks. And since 750,000 people rallied against war in Hyde Park on Saturday, Mr. Blair has become even more insistent.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that President Jiang Zemin of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia spoke by phone today and agreed that conditions for the weapons inspectors in Iraq had improved, and that the Iraq situation should be resolved by peaceful means.

Switzerland announced that it had turned down an American request for military overflights in coming months, saying the request could not be approved unless military action was authorized by the United Nations.

And lets not forget this:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged Germany and other Security Council members opposing war — notably France, Russia and China — not to be "afraid" to take responsibility for enforcing the United Nations resolutions that call on Iraq to disarm.

Is Colin Powell secretly sabotaging the war effort by acting like a Bushian thug? Things started going south about the same time Powell started getting tough. Surely he can’t believe that the French are going to change their minds because he calls them a bunch of wussies.
We are where we are, and not where we would like to be. But Mr Blair has got us somewhere we should not have been in the first place. The responsibility for that lies largely at Mr Bush's door. Getting out of this will not be cost free or pleasant. But it is not anti-Americanism to insist things cannot continue this way. The transatlantic alliance is vital, but we cannot allow our interests to be held permanent hostage to the American president's Zap the Bad Guy of the Month approach to foreign policy. The issues of terrorism, arms proliferation and unstable states are real, but they are better dealt with globally, by cooperation, through proper UN processes, not at Mr Bush's peremptory whim. It is not acceptable for our national interest to be sublet to the Bush administration, many of whom are all too happy for a centre-left British government to be hung out to dry. It is no more acceptable than having to stand humiliatingly alongside Silvio Berlusconi rather than Gerhard Schröder in European affairs. However the Iraq issue is resolved in the end, a line needs to be drawn under such misjudged tactics. But Mr Blair needs to see it that way too - and the real fear is that he simply does not do so.

Such an editorial in today’s Guardian would have been unthinkable six months ago. The Guardian is the semi-official newspaper of the Labour Party, the political party which, until a few months ago, was thought of as invincible and likely to rule for at least eight more years. This is clear and obvious evidence of the horrible damage that Bush the braindead is doing to our country.

Turkey (it seems, one never knows however) has rejected basing US troops there for an invasion of Iraq. Can you imagine that? Every time we offered them billions of dollars they kept asking for more. They did not want to say no directly. But “no” it is(at least at this point). Can you imagine the uproar that would have occurred if a Democratic President had caused this much damage to the US?

The media is barely reporting the Turkey story. It is still early, Turkey may change its mind, but if it does not, this will cost many American soldiers their lives in the event of a war. This can be directly blamed on the utter incompetence of George W. Bush and his mal-Administration.

Many other nations will be watching. First North Korea stood up to Bush, then Europe got brave, and now poor little Turkey has turned down $24 billion.

I am starting to fear for those troops that we have in the Persian Gulf. With no UN resolution, anyone (including Iran) could launch a surprise attack on them. All these troops concentrated in such a small area. Does Bush have any idea what he is doing?
The Guardian asked ten prominent historians for there views of the various historical analogies that have been tossed around in the current Iraq crisis. I found this one most interesting:

Norman Davies
I belong to the school that doesn't put much trust in historical precedents. They only show that no precedent ever fits exactly and that history never quite repeats itself.

None the less, it is fascinating to see how many politicians, from Rumsfeld upwards, are using their views on history to justify policies towards Iraq. Rumsfeld seems to think that Churchill advocated a pre-emptive war against Germany. And no doubt some Iraqi professor, at this very minute, is polishing his thesis about Iraq being the "poor little Poland" waiting to be attacked by the new Hitler and Mussolini.

I don't like the comparisons with 1939. The Third Reich was potentially a top-class industrial and military power, that was in a phase of dynamic expansion. If it had defeated the Soviet Union it would have been the strongest state in the world. Iraq is incapable of mounting a comparable threat. It is a third-rate power which has already been badly defeated and which does not possess the means to attack Europe or the US. Saddam is under suspicion because he may try to attack Israel, which has already attacked him.

Nineteen fifty six fits the present stand-off better than 1939 does. An upstart Arab dictator, who was likened by a British prime minister to Hitler, was threatening to destabilise the region by nationalising the Suez Canal. And a "Coalition of the Willing" made up of Britain, France and Israel decided to teach him a lesson. But there the parallel ends. In 1956, one of the two superpowers of the day refused to support the adventure and promptly put an end to it. In 2003, by contrast, it is the world's only superpower that looks hell-bent on leading the coalition; and there is little chance of it being stopped by a third party.

So what about 1914? The strongest military power in sight is made to feel insecure by a terrorist outrage. Instead of confining its response to the known source of the terrorism (Serbia), it lashed out at one country, which it suspected of abetting the terrorists (Russia), and then at another country (France), which was linked to the first. Then it lost the plot. Worst of all, it calculated that the war would be won by Christmas.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

George W. Bush is quickly blowing the considerable fortune of political capital that the United States of America has built up over the past century. Like the proverbial heir to the family fortune who gambles, drinks, and wastes away, in a fraction of the time it took to amass, all the hard won fortune of his forefathers, all the good will we have built up with great American successes like World War II, the Cold War and a productive economy will soon be distant memories.

Soon after the Soviet Union destroyed the German Sixth Army at the battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43, America was able to open up a western front, and after finally meeting the Soviets in Berlin, had managed to capture half of Europe at the cost of at least 150,000 brave, hardworking, patriotic Americans,. More importantly than liberating Western Europe from Nazi Germany (since the USSR would have done this anyway after the collapse of Berlin) the US saved half of Europe from falling into Soviet hands. Europe has never forgotten this.

George W Bush, instead of making an intelligent (or for that matter, even slightly coherent) case for invading Iraq, has taken it for granted that Europe would fall into step behind him, and when it didn’t, resorted to insults while the NY Post, by showing rows of crosses in an American cemetery in Normandy, made a not-so-subtle reference to the debt Europe “owes” us.

Unfortunately, political capital does not work like that, it functions in a much more subtle way. If Bush had just ignored, or been polite to the Europeans, the capital would still be there, but by making explicate reference to it, Bush and the neo-conservatives have now lost it, Europe will now feel as if it the debt has been cashed in and will be not need to take it into consideration the next time there is a difference of opinion with the US.

During the 1990’s, when I regularly traveled to Europe, being an American was an honour, people often mentioned their admiration for my country and would proudly mention that they had a relative living in the States. On September 12, 2001, I went to a pub after work with some colleagues, the barman heard my accent, and he interrupted me to say that no matter what, Britain would be there to help my country in what ever way it could. According to Paul Krugman in the NY Times today, “But distrust of the U.S. overseas has reached such a level, even among our British allies, that a recent British poll ranked the U.S. as the world's most dangerous nation — ahead of North Korea and Iraq.” I would hate to think what that barman is saying today to any Americans that happen to be in his pub.

In the print edition of Libération on Saturday, 15-2-2003, there is a graphic showing the latest polls (before the protest marches) taken in a number of European countries regarding support for a war in Iraq. Here are the results: The first percentage is those against the war in all situations. The second percentage represents those who are against the war without a second UN resolution and the final percentage shows those who support the US position that war is necessary with or without a UN resolution. If there are only two percentages then it is a simple against war – for war.

Austria, 93%, 2%
Belgium, 68%, 29%, 10%
Denmark, 45%, 38%, 10%
Finland, 44%, 37%, 6%
France, 60%, 27%, 7%
Germany, 50%, 39%, 9%
Ireland, 50%, 39%, 10%
Luxembourg, 59%, 34%, 5%
The Netherlands, 51%, 38%, 7%
Portugal, 53%, 29%, 10%
Spain, 74%, 13%, 4%
United Kingdom, 45%, 39%, 10%
Italy, 64%, 30%, 5%
Norway, 64%, 26%, 4%
Russia, 59%, 23%, 7%
Turkey, 94%, 4%,
Bulgaria, 59%, 28%, 5%
Romania, 42%, 38%, 11%
Slovenia, 90%, 10%,
Hungary, 82%, 12%, 6%
Slovakia, 57%, 37%, 3%
Czech Republic, 67%, 24%, 13%
Poland, 62%, 29%
Estonia, 64%, 20%, 9%

It is clear that less than 10% of Europeans, regardless of what their governments may think, agree with the US position.

So just like he has used up the budget surpluses that were left for him by others, and is now flirting with third world level deficit percentages, Bush has destroyed the good will that generations of Americans have built up in Europe, all for his petty, politically inspired war of distraction against Iraq.
In today’s Guardian, a British General states that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal:

An attack on Iraq designed to topple Saddam Hussein would breach international law and the UN charter, a British former senior military officer warns today.

The warning, from General Sir David Ramsbotham, former commander of one of the army's armoured divisions, reflects widespread disquiet among serving military officers over the lack of clarity about the objectives of an invasion of Iraq.

Writing in the Guardian, he questions the military aims of an attack on Iraq which would involve a "deliberate breach of international law" - a reference to a pre-emptive strike.

"Who is being threatened?" he asks. "Not the United States or the United Kingdom directly. Israel? Israel has already demonstrated that if it feels itself threatened it takes unilateral action, at once and without question, to eliminate that threat."

The threat posed by Iraq falls a long way below that posed by al- Qaida-linked terrorism, North Korea, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Indo-Pakistan arms race, conflict in southern Africa, international crime - including the drug trade - and conservation of the environment, he says, adding: "Iraq is by no means the only potential supplier of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] to terrorists, and has no proven link with the most dangerous of them.

"Furthermore Iraq has been subjected to such a degree of international scrutiny since 1991 that it would be difficult for the Iraqis to take any action that was not almost instantly detected."

The question is, what would the penalties be for engaging in an illegal war? Is waging an illegal war the same as committing a war crime? Britain has signed the International Criminal Court treaty so in theory, Tony Blair could be shipped over to the Hague for a possible trial if he ever travels to the continent after participating in an illegal war.

The United States has not joined this court but it is still highly unlikely that Bush could ever again come to Europe for fear that he would be arrested. US Presidents do not enjoy immunity from crimes.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

We are witnessing a geo-political seismic event of an equivalent scale to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. In fact, we are finally seeing the end of World War II. It seems to me that this is no longer reversible, we will all be living in a different geo-political world soon.

The Bush Administration is horribly overextended and is now being routed by a European counterattack that the US is unable to resist. I am, thankfully, speaking of a diplomatic conflict, not a military one.

It appears that the Bush Administration is going to try to punish Germany for its intransigence (via Steve Den Beste). This is a fair enough response, the question is however, will it be effective?

I would answer no for a number of reason. Almost every German I know talks about growing up seeing foreign tanks and troops on the roads, near their villages, on the autobahns, in the airports, and they say that although they understood why they were there, and that the troops were as polite and respectful as possible, that Germans saw those foreign troops as a symbol of the past failures (quite correctly) of Germany. My suspicion is that the German people will welcome the departure of American troops despite the financial loses. The German government actually has to pay for housing and feeding these troops, I have no idea if this matches the amount of money these troops bring into the country, I suspect not, but it will not be a total loss in any sense. The Pentagon taking this approach makes me wonder if they are not really treating the German government like a wayward congressman, removing some pork from his district. Is this an intelligent approach to take to foreign policy, or is it a sign that Americans have become so dense that they see the whole world through a blindly American perspective. Has there been any thought about the long-term effects of such a move? To the Germans, this signals the end of the post-war period, Germany will be no longer under the benign occupation of America. I am sure they will welcome this, Mr Schroeder will be seen as the leader who made Germany German again.

America economic retaliation is dangerous in any case because, with our globalized economy, America is as totally dependant on the rest of the world as the rest of the world is dependant on America. With a trade deficit of $400 billion a year, American relies on foreigners to send that amount of money back in the form of investments each year in order to keep the value of the dollar steady. A lot of that money comes from the Old Continent. The rest of the world depends on America to buy its products. If America strikes out economically against Europe, German and French investors will stop sending money to the States, the value of the dollar will skyrocket, sending the world into recession, which means less money will be invested in America, sending the dollar even higher, making America an even less attractive place to invest, making it almost impossible to export anything to America, meaning world depression. What we have here is the 21st century version of M.A.D. Mutual Assured Depression.

(It’s late here, I will continue this tomorrow)

The Final Days

Tony Blair’s time is running out. For the last few months, the British press has spoken only in the quietest of whispers about what has been obvious for some time. Now they are shouting it out. From The Observer:

Tony Blair laid his political future on the line yesterday as he spelt out the moral case for waging war on Iraq, warning peace marchers that there would be 'consequences paid in blood' for showing weakness now.

For the first time he admitted his premiership was in danger if he was unable to ride out the storm, implying that to back down now in the face of the terrorist threat could spell the end of the New Labour project.

But as hundreds of thousands of peace protesters marched through Britain's cities in opposition to military action against Iraq, the Prime Minister insisted he had a 'moral purpose' equalling theirs, shifting the argument decisively away from the United Nations inspections process towards the humanitarian case for ridding Iraq of a tyrant.

Why is Blair in such trouble. Despite the fact that military action taken in Kosovo in 1999 was popular, in 2000 a Labour Party select committee ruled it to be illegal.

The overwhelming mass of academic evidence given to the committee ruled that the bombing of Kosovo was illegal under international law. Emyr Jones Parry, the Foreign Office political director, insisted the action was legal, but admitted in evidence to the committee that normally a country has one of three legal justifications for action - "one, United Nations Security Council resolution specifically authorising it; two, being invited in to do it; three, in self-defence. None of those actually pertained in this case".

None of these pertain in the case of Iraq either.

Tony Blair’s only chance to escape with his job if Bush decides to invade Iraq, is to hold his troops back and not take part in the initial military operations, but to keep them in the theatre as a reserve force, to come to the rescue of American troops if they should get into trouble. This would be popular in Britain as well as America. We will have to see if this happens, the signs now look like it will not, and that he will go in along side Bush.

Tony Blair is following a line of great political institutions that have stood by George W. Bush’s side, only to have whatever political capitol they possessed quickly sucked away, leaving an empty and useless shell. Alan Greenspan, Colin Powell, the US Supreme Court, and the Democratic Party are all examples of what happens if you support Bush.

Jacques Chirac, who recently became the leader of the free world, shows what happens when you stand up to Bush.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Here are some excerpts from a powerful commentary by Seumas Milne in today’s Guardian:

Hitler analogies have long been the stock-in-trade of Anglo- American war propaganda - perhaps not surprisingly, since the second world war still retains near-universal legitimacy, just as Nazi Germany remains the archetype of an aggressive, genocidal state. Nasser was the first to be branded the new Hitler in the 1950s, while those who opposed the Suez war were damned as appeasers. But there have been a string of others, from Ho Chi Minh to Gaddafi, Milosevic to Mullah Omar. All were compared to Hitler while British or US bombs rained down on their countries. Just how devalued this currency has become was on show this week when the Tory historian Andrew Roberts argued that the Iraqi regime should be equated with the Nazis because both had "gassed their racial and political enemies" and Iraq fires at British and US aircraft patrolling the illegal no-fly zones over its territory.

It would be tempting to put these latest invocations of the second world war down to ignorance if it wasn't that those making them clearly know better. What they are in fact engaged in is a crude attempt to rewrite 20th century European history to justify a war of aggression in the Middle East. The parallel between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Nazi Germany is transparently ridiculous. In the late 1930s, Hitler's Germany was the world's second largest industrial economy and commanded its most powerful military machine. It openly espoused an ideology of territorial expansion, had annexed the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia in rapid succession and posed a direct threat to its neighbours. It would go on to enslave most of Europe and carry out an industrial genocide unparallelled in human history.

Iraq is, by contrast, a broken-backed developing country, with a single commodity economy and a devastated infrastructure, which doesn't even control all its own territory and has posed no credible threat to its neighbours, let alone Britain or the US, for more than a decade. Whatever residual chemical or biological weapons Iraq may retain, they are clearly no deterrent, its armed forces have been massively weakened and face the most powerful military force in history - Iraq's military spending is estimated to be about one per cent of the US's $380bn budget. The attempt to equate the Iraqis' horrific gas attacks on Kurds and Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war with the Nazi holocaust is particularly grotesque - a better analogy would be the British gassing of Iraqi Kurds in the 20s or the US use of chemical weapons in Vietnam.
Kevin Drum, who has lots of great posts from yesterday, discusses the missile system that the Iraqis have declared to the UN inspectors to be in violation of the 150 kilometer range limit, as a possible precursor to war. The British press is saying the same thing. In today’s Times:

The chief United Nations weapons inspector will report tomorrow that Iraq has been developing a ballistic missile that is in clear violation of UN restrictions.

The discovery of a banned weapons system on the eve of Hans Blix’s crucial presentation is tantamount to the inspectors finding a “smoking gun” — even though it was declared by Iraq to the UN as a legal programme.

The finding is also certain to provoke a confrontation when inspectors ask the Iraqi armed forces to surrender the banned missiles for destruction just as the country is preparing for an American attack.

This does appear to be serious, but I have a question. What happens if Saddam Hussein actually decides to follow the demands of the UN Security Council, and he destroys these weapons? Can the US and Britain then continue to demand an immediate invasion of a country that just destroyed one of its primary means of self-defense? Can the US and Britain continue to claim the inspection process isn’t working? If Saddam destroys those missiles, Bush will have to call off the invasion.

Will Saddam destroy them? If he chooses to “keep” them he will certainly lose them a week or two later when the invasion starts. If he destroys them, he then gets to keep his job (and perhaps his life). I think he will leap at the chance to humiliate the US in this way. He can declare victory, by saying he stood up to the US, while at the same working with UN.

Bush will then “reluctantly” stand down. He will also claim some sort of victory. There will be lots of video footage of the missiles being destroyed. He avoids the huge political risks that this war could entail. The neo-conservatives will be disappointed, but not dangerously so (for Bush). And if, later on down the road, things start getting politically rough for him, he can always start sable rattling again during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Everybody can claim to be winners in fact. Germany and France, who have led the diplomatic effort to avert war, will look good. All the American soldiers and Iraqi civilians who were about to become casualties will certainly benefit. Tony Blair can escape from the tightest jam he has ever faced as a leader.

Remember, the Iraqis declared this missile system themselves. It has no offensive capability. By destroying it, it will have proven its value to the defense of Iraq (strategically at least, tactically it is next to useless in the face of superior American firepower). The question for Saddam is, do you want your country or this missile system?

People have been comparing Colin Powell’s appearance before the UN Security Council as reminiscent of Adlai Stevenson’s during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. That crisis ended peacefully with the removal of Russia’s missiles. For Iraq, it will be an easy enough storyline to feed to the American public.
From the Independent:

The majority of European Union and Nato governments agree with the United States. Does that put France out on some cynical, self-serving, cowardly, anti- Semitic, cheese-eating limb? Hardly.

The French viewpoint is shared by the vast majority of public opinion in all European countries, including Britain. It is endorsed by the majority on the UN Security Council. It is shared, almost word for word, by the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan. It is even accepted by 40 to 50 per cent of public opinion in the US itself. The French may be wrong. They may be right. The point is that they have a rational and valid argument, which deserves to be heard, not vilified.

However, it is not the French alone who have been – or should be – alarmed by the "Dubya doctrine" of America's proper role in the world post-11 September. President Bush does not argue that might is right. He argues that America has overwhelming might and that it is always right, because it is America. If the UN Security Council is to survive at all, it must survive in the post 9/11 world, as a kind of international supreme soviet, whose duty is to endorse the American view.

Germany and France must be enjoying their new-found independence. Yesterday, Germany criticized Colin Powell’s juvenile attempts to link the right wing religious fundamentalist Osama bin Laden to socialist and atheist Saddam Hussein. That’s like saying Jerry Falwell and Michael Moore have an intellectual alliance. Meanwhile in Britian, Tony Blair not only had to back Powell on this fantasy, he also had to send tanks to Heathrow airport in order to scare the crap out of the British public, and in doing so he was getting with the American war program. Despite the BBC’s half-hearted attempts to get Foxified, the British public is having none of this nonsense. They are far more cynical than their American counterparts. There may very well be some intelligence of a threat, but what the hell good are light tanks in the taxi drop off areas? Tony Blair is no bozo. You know he is just sitting there in Number 10 Downing Street rueing the day he decided to become George W’s “girlfriend”.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Steven Den Beste should cruise the web a bit more. I think he is a very sharp guy, but as I have said before, his ideological straightjacket sometimes gets the better of him. He thinks Reuters is some sort of anti-American, anti-Israeli, surrender monkey-loving news organization, and nothing is going to shake him from this belief.

Today he contrasts an AP report to a Reuters story on a Belgian courts decision about the Arial Sharon case. The Reuters story seems to imply that the ruling is a defeat for Israel and a victory for the Palestinians.

If Mr. Den Beste would have checked a few Israeli sites for threir reaction, he would have seen this:

Israel's ambassador to Belgium, Yehudi Kinar, has been called back to Israel Wednesday evening by Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for "consultations", the minister said.

Netanyahu's move followed the ruling of a Belgian court that IDF officers could be indicted following charges of war crimes lodged with the court by Lebanese-Palestinian survivors of a series of massacres perpetrated by Israeli-backed Christian militiamen at the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps near Beirut, Lebanon, in 1982.

Netanyahu called the ruling "scandalous." He has also set up a meeting Thursday with Belgium's ambassador to Israel over it.

It seems to me that Reuters got this one right.
At least someone agrees with me. From today’s Washington Post:

CIA Director George J. Tenet warned yesterday that the "desire for nuclear weapons is on the upsurge" among small countries, confronting the world with a new nuclear arms race that threatens to dismantle more than three decades of nonproliferation efforts.

"The 'domino theory' of the 21st century may well be nuclear," Tenet said in reference to the doctrine that led the United States militarily into Vietnam in the 1960s to try to prevent a communist takeover of Southeast Asia. "We have entered a new world of proliferation."

Over the past 12 months, Tenet said, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya have all moved to obtain equipment to produce weapons-grade nuclear materials and the ability to deliver them as nuclear bombs. There also has been ongoing concern about Pakistan's and India's maturing nuclear programs, as well as growing alarm that nuclear materials could fall -- or have already spread -- into the hands of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda for production of radioactive "dirty" bombs.

This what I had to say about it on January 12th:

With that statement, George W. Bush set in motion an Axis of Evil Effect, whereby, with domino-like predictability, rogue (and rogue clair) states around the globe will begin to scramble to acquire nuclear weapons. The resulting nuclear proliferation will in turn lead to a drastic increase in the political price of going to war, in effect neutralizing the United State’s huge conventional military advantage, which in ten to fifteen years will relegate it to regional power status. In other words, with a nuclear-armed Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen; our aircraft carriers will no longer be welcome in the Persian Gulf. The type of no-good-options stand off we are currently seeing with North Korea will become the norm in international relations.
Fox has the entire bin Laden tape on it web site here.

In the first two minutes of the tape, bin Laden calls on the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein, in other words, he agrees with George W. Bush and wants regime change in Iraq.

“We want you to believe in God, the one and only God.”

“We, we want you to get rid of the, uh of the government that you have, the unjust non-islamic governement.”

“We want you to fight for the cause of God.”

“Fight the tyrants and fight the agents of the devil.”

MSNBC originally reported that Osama had called for Saddam’s overthrow but then later retracted this and claimed it was a translation error.

What is going on over there in America? This is starting to get serious.

Plan B

The headline in Le nouvel Observateur Irak : face aux USA, l'axe Paris-Berlin-Moscou-Pékin pretty much says it all. There will be no UN resolution authorizing force being used against Iraq. The Belgian national news has been reporting all day that it is 11-4 against force among the countries currently seated in the Security Council. It takes nine votes for a resolution to pass. A veto is not necessary, France, China, and Russia could all abstain and the resolution would still not pass.

Jacques Chirac has been hitting the phones and his Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has been jumping from capital to capital, to line up support against a UN resolution. Meanwhile, Colin Powell has stopped being Colin Powell, he has turned himself into a little Bush, mastering the art of tabloid trash talking, while forgetting that his job description mentions diplomacy, not the NY Post.

When I watched the 8:00pm news on France 1 this evening, the first story described America being in an uproar about eminent terrorist attacks and tanks were shown on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport, it became apparent that Plan B was being launched. Supposedly Osama bin Laden has released a tape calling on Muslims to support Iraq. I doubt that the tape is real, although I am sure that Al-Qaida has been getting worried in the past couple of days that the war may be delayed for a while. It’s funny how what’s good for Osama is good for George W.

Bush has decided that after all his talking, he can’t face the voters in 2004 with Saddam still in office. He always expected the Europeans to cave in, just like the Democrats did, and support the war. Europe has learned well the lessons America taught her back when America had good lessons to teach the world, and did not cave in.

The world is about to become a very dangerous place.

Update: The “bin Laden” tape calls on Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein. So now we can add Al-Qaida to the list along with the US, Britain, Spain, Israel, and some Eastern European countries calling for Saddam’s removal. Maybe Powell has been hitting those phones after all. It was not clear if Osama was insisting on a UN resolution before acting.

Update: MSNBC reported that bin Laden called for Saddam’s overthrow, but later they changed their minds. The message boards at Eschaton have all the latest. It looks like Osama only went so far as to call Saddam an infidel and a socialist.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Here’s what happens when you take a Stalinist approach to foreign policy. From today’s Independent:

Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, whose speech immediately followed Mr Rumsfeld's at the security conference, was noticeably taken back as he reached the podium. "Why now?" he asked of the Defence Secretary's thunderous insistence. "Are we in a situation where we should resort to violence?" In a moment of genuine theatre, he then turned to the US delegation, switched from German to English and answered his own question: "Excuse me. I am not convinced."

Commentators in the German media – as well as more than 20,000 demonstrators in the nearby Marienplatz protesting against the US call for military action – were angered by what they considered America's arrogance.

The Welt am Sonntag newspaper said: "Rumsfeld ... has not only insulted the Chancellor but the Germans in general. There can be no excuse for such behaviour.

"By making these stupid comparisons, Rumsfeld has achieved something that he certainly did not intend to. The American Defence Secretary has succeeded in helping the Chancellor [Gerhard Schröder]. Many Germans who were initially put off by Schröder's electorally motivated manoeuvres over Iraq are now fully behind him as a result of Rumsfeld's insults."

The Bush Adminstration is re-fighting the Cold War, from the Soviet side this time.
I would like to welcome Progressive Gold, the Best of the Left to the web log list. He has a very interesting article from a Norwegian newpaper that states:

An Iraqi refugee in Norway, former nuclear scientist, 52 year-old Jamil Aziz Slewa, says that Powell’s recording of two Iraqi officers discussing the movement of weapons is probably pre-1998, if not false. (I cleaned up some spelling.)

In light of the British fiasco with the plagiarized “intelligence” report, if true, this will be huge!
The Iraq Bush will Build, from yesterday’s Guardian.

The plan is in three stages: first, US-led military rule; second, a transitional phase with an American military governor ruling alongside a civilian leader appointed by (or at least acceptable to) the international community; and, finally, handover to a regime sympathetic to and nurtured by Washington.

Many pundits have been commenting on how an occupation of Iraq will be similar those of Japan and Germany in the late 1940’s. Under Harry Truman, the US, in a display of respect and dignity, allowed these defeated people to build representative democracies, knowing that we could count on their gratitude (at least for the medium term) for having implemented such a far-sighted policy. These people prospered, and American was rewarded with steady allies (for fifty eight years at least).

Contrast this with the Stalinist approach, used in the areas of Eastern Europe that were liberated and occupied by the Red Army. When the Red Army marched in they were cheered for liberating the people from Hitler’s rule. The Soviets then declared military rule; next came a transitional phase in which hand picked Soviet puppets were allowed to rule alongside the Soviet generals; and finally the puppet that had proved himself to be the most sycophantic was chosen to be leader and to be nurtured by Moscow in the ways of socialist dictatorship. The goal was to create pro-Soviet states in countries that were anything but pro-Soviet. The people of Eastern Europe quickly turned against their Soviet liberators and fought against them for close to fifty years.

It is clear from the Guardian article that the current regime in Washington feels much more comfortable with Stalin than Truman.

A Democratic government and a pro-American government are mutually exclusive in the Middle East, except in Israel. American policies towards Israel and our continued support for and propping up dictators, has created a lot of hostile feelings towards the US. Despite this, there are many pro-American Muslim governments in a region where the US is anything but popular. There are so many that it is easier to count the ones that are not pro-American. Outside of Libya, Iraq, and Iran, all other Muslim countries are both undemocratic and at least friendly to the United States.

The last Muslim democracy was in Iran and led by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, which was overthrown in 1953 by the US and Britain when he had the audacity to give control of the Iranian oil fields to the Iranian people. (for more see this). The last fair election in a Muslim state was attempted in Algeria in 1992 and was cancelled when it became clear that the Islamic Salvation Front would claim victory.

In French author Emmanuel Todd’s, Après l'Empire, he states that the US is becoming more and more similar to the former Soviet Union. He cites the fake economic numbers, emulating from corporate America, which he finds similar to the fake harvest statistics provided by the Soviets. He asks how much of the stated US economic growth, from the late nineties onward, is fake. He mentions the Pravdatized US media that is terrified to question the wisdom of its leaders. The draconian homeland security laws, such as TIPS, which encourages Americans to spy on each other, and the Total Information Awareness program run by Admiral John Poindexter, which is an attempt at complete government surveillance of its own citizens are also cited.

Whether there is going to be an invasion of Iraq or not, there is a serious problem with the lack of democracy in the Middle East. Without an invasion, we can tell the current Middle East dictators that they have three years to become democracies. As for Iraq, we need to ask ourselves, why are we not using the US model of building democracy. We need to reject the old Soviet model, and do as we did in Germany and Japan, which is to give democracy a chance in the Middle East. There will be short-term hiccups but long-term success.

(I cleaned up my messy post and reconfigured some arguments.)
This one is making the rounds on the old continent:

George W. Bush on a visit to an elementary school, decided to take a few questions from the students.

A fifth grader named Johnny stood up and said, “Mr. President I have three questions. Why did we invade Vietnam when they never attacked us? Why do you want to attack Iraq when there is no proof that they are a threat to us? And why have you done nothing about North Korea when they practically declared war on us last week?

Bush looked around for a second but before he could answer the recess bell rang. The children stared at themselves in disbelief since the scheduled recess was at least thirty minutes away.

In any case, the teachers ushered the children out to the playground.

When they had reassembled in the classroom after recess, the President again announced that he would take some questions from the students.

Lucas stood up and said, “Mr. President I also have three questions. Why do you want to attack Iraq when there is no proof that they are a threat to us? Why have you done nothing about North Korea when they practically declared war on us last week? And why has Johnny not returned from recess.

Sunday, February 9, 2003

Steven Den Beste has an excellent analysis of a possible French-German proposal to deploy peacekeeping troops to Iraq. He doesn’t like the proposal, which is his choice of course, but nevertheless he breaks down the geo-political fall-out from it in a very clever way. The French are sneaky little bastards. There is an excellent chance that this will delay the war indefinitely. The only part that is really in error, in my opinion, is that he states that his readers in Britain tell him there is no obvious choice to replace Tony Blair. His readers are wrong. The obvious choice is named Gordon Brown the current Chancellor of the exchequer, who, as rumor has it, is scheduled to take over for Blair in a year of two anyway.

I always felt the Bush’s main motivation in Iraq was domestic political gain. With all the risks that are associated with this war, I thought it unlikely that he would actually go through with the invasion, at least not yet. He benefited handsomely during the 2002 mid-terms but lately Iraq has not seemed to do him all that much good. The only benefit he really gets from it now is that the Iraq story overshadows other, less Bush-positive stories that would be getting more attention. If the best case scenario, a one week war, had actually happened, the voters would have totally forgot about Iraq a month later and the bad economy, growing deficit, and North Korea would become the top stories.

His only real political danger was from the right, but the neo-conservatives have France to blame for all this, so they will go fairly easily on Bush. You will hear a grumble of two but that should be the extent of it.

Iraq is not over though. This time next year we may go through the whole thing again, in the run-up to the 2004 election.
I’ve decided to tone it down a little on the weekends. It is important for me to step back a little and reflect on different issues. I’m currently working out a posting on GM foods and doing research (actually Google-search) into the conflict in the Cote d’Ivoire and African politics in general. I don’t feel comfortable writing about things unless I have a pretty clear view of what is going on. When it comes to Iraq or North Korea, I have absolutely no hesitations, but other subjects my knowledge base is less deep so I need to do the background work in order to feel confident about what I am writing.

I think it will be of some interest, especially to the Americans out there, to briefly describe an expat’s life in Brussels. My wife is a translator for the European Union, she is Swedish, and it is because of her job that we are here. As an architect, it is much easier for me to work internationally. I worked for a number of years in London for a large American firm—the commuting was a nightmare-- I was on the eurostar more than in the office. We had a son, Jonathan, three years ago. About a year ago it became obvious that I could not continue being away so much so I accepted a job in Brussels. Without going into too much detail, my new work does not interest me, ergo the blog.

My son is trilingual, he speaks English, Swedish, and French. His English comes only from me so we have been looking for ways to expand on this. We found an English language library for children, not far from where we live, which has storytelling sessions once a month. This morning we went there, it was in a villa set in a small park. On the first (second in the US) floor was the book library, across the hall however, was a toy library. This was an unfortunate arrangement as Jonathan was far more interested in the shelves full of toys than he was in the books. A lady came and read a few books to the group of children, but Jonathan was fidgety and kept trying to escape to the room full of toys. We ended up borrowing a pretty cool Cat in the Hat book, as well as a book about a new baby (we are expecting twins), so it was not a total loss.

Saturdays tend to be shopping days in Brussels. Most shops are closed on Sundays and in the evenings. If you want to buy something, Saturday is the day. Luckily, food shopping does not mean going to the supermarket. There are numerous street markets and small shops to choose from. We went to Stockel, which is on the outskirts of Brussels, because there is an organic shop called Sequoia that we like. We bought lots of juice, fruit, and grains there today. Every two weeks I get a delivery of fresh vegetables from a farm in the Ardennes Mountains (they are barely hills in reality). Today was a delivery day so there was no point buying any vegetables.

Saturday evening we went to a Swedish diplomat’s impressive apartment for a dinner party. My wife is a colleague of his wife. In fact it was six Swedes and myself. I lived in Sweden for two years so I used to speak Swedish fairly well. I’ve been concentrating on French for the past few years (which is twenty times harder) so my Swedish is horrible now, I say two or three words, and I involuntarily switch to French. I can still understand Swedish perfectly so, for the most part, they all spoke Swedish and I spoke at first a mixture of French and Swedish but as the night wore it became all about English for me.

My hobby (although it’s suffering as of late because of blogging) is cooking. I spent a lot of time in North Berkeley, within walking distance to the high temple of California (and therefore American) cuisine, Chez Panisse. Over the years I have developed my skills, basing everything on the simple proposition that you must buy the highest quality raw materials, cook them in a simple way, and you can’t go wrong. In other words, shopping is 70% of cooking.

There is one ultimate test for home cooks. Expats here know better than anyone about this challenge. The magazines and web pages that cater to us are full of advise on how to best survive this ordeal. It’s the Olympics, Super Bowl, and World Series all rolled into one. The Holy Grail of home cooking is to have a dinner party, and invite French guests.

I was pretty damn confident of my skills so I decided to climb the culinary Everest about a year ago. I had more Escoffier, Robuchon, and Bocuse cookbooks than any French person could ever imagine. I knew all the best shops in Brussels. I had Elizabeth David, Julia Child and Alice Waters books in reserve. There was no way I could fail.

I had read somewhere that a proper French meal consists of a fish, poultry and meat course. With an amuse-bouche, cheese and dessert, along with a salad somewhere in the middle I was up to seven courses. I could not fail. In fact whenever I felt the least bit of doubt, I added another course.

I have no idea what the amuse-bouche was but for the fish course I served a dorade (I think it’s called that now also in the States and England) baked in a saffron tomato sauce with mussels (from Elizabeth David). Next came quail with a reduced balsamic-pear sauce (from Joel Robuchon, it rocked by the way). Since I only have one oven and my next dish was a leg of lamb I needed something to fill in some time so I made a roulade with eggplant and goat cheese and served it with a salad. It came from an American cookbook that my mother had bought for me. Her way of checking out whether I would like it or not was to look through the recipes to see if there was anything in there that she found interesting. Only after my mom was certain that there was not one recipe in the book that she would ever attempt did she decided that it was perfect for me.

That roulade was my downfall. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great. The problem was that it was like inserting a brick into my guest’s stomachs. They thought (hoped) the meal was done but afterwards (it was midnight by then) I pulled out the roasted leg of lamb with puree de pommes de terre and some vegetables. It was like assaulting them with food, total overkill. My dinner party (in my eyes at least) was a failure.

I had the tactics correct, each dish was impeccably prepared, but I failed miserably on strategy. In my attempt to show that an American could cook as well (if not better) than a French person, I lost sight of the big picture and totally overdid it. In this case, more was not better. My guests left feeling bloated.

My point is that tonight the tactics and strategy were perfect. We started with oysters ever so lightly baked in a hollandaise sauce, topped with caviar. The temperature of the oysters must have been a little less than body temperature, they were hovering between being cooked and raw, which allowed all the sea flavors to mingle with the Hollandaise sauce. Next we had fillet of lamb (nice and red) in a mustard sauce with al dente haricot vertes and just the right amount of puree de pommes de terre. When I saw the potatoes, I was reminded of my previous mistakes and how I would have instinctively piled more on. We had some beautiful cheeses (a camembert au calvados was my favorite) followed by a tiny chevre cake. The amount of food was perfect, I did not feel the least bit uncomfortable. We had a clean and dry Pouilly-Fume with the oysters and a not-too-big Bordeaux that matched the lamb nicely. A1955 Armagnac closed things off as the digestif.

It was a perfect evening, the subject of Iraq was not mentioned once through out the entire meal.

Friday, February 7, 2003

From today’s Guardian:

Downing Street was last night plunged into acute international embarrassment after it emerged that large parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old.

Amid charges of "scandalous" plagiarism on the night when Tony Blair attempted to rally support for the US-led campaign against Saddam Hussein, Whitehall's dismay was compounded by the knowledge that the disputed document was singled out for praise by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN security council on Wednesday.

Citing the British dossier, entitled Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation in front of a worldwide television audience Mr Powell said: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

But on Channel 4 News last night it was revealed that four of the report's 19 pages had been copied - with only minor editing and a few insertions - from the internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September.

Remember when conservatives were preaching about how you can’t trust the governement? I’m starting to think they may have had a valid point. The Right, of course, would now disagree however.

I wonder from where Colin Powell cribbed his presentation?
The Right Honourable Member for Texas North

American Presidents don’t get this treatment primarily because they are (which is quite uncommon for a democracy) Head of State as well as Head of Government. Another reason is that most Presidents would just look like complete idiots when subjected to this type of questioning, the obvious exception being the right honourable gentleman from Arkansas. Actually, Jeremy Paxman went pretty lightly on Blair, I have seen him destroy politicians before. If he finds a weak point, Paxman exploits it for all it is worth, with the victim (politician) digging a deeper and deeper hole with every attempt to escape it. They have training sessions at Labour Party headquarters on how to deal with Paxman.

Heads of States are traditionally treated with exaggerated respect. You would have not seen the Queen interviewed in this way, I can’t help but wonder though, how bonny Prince Charles would have held up. In Sweden, one never uses the pronoun “you”, even the polite form, to address a member of the Royal Family. It is avoided either by structuring the sentence to avoid ever hitting a you, or to replace it with “the King”, as in “Did the King enjoy the visit to Monaco?”, when talking to the King.

As eagerly as chicken hawk neo-conservatives are looking forward to 24-7 coverage of a possible invasion of Iraq with bowls of popcorn and lots of petroleum-based lubricants, (funny, they don’t seem to get as excited about North Korea), the Left would do absolutely anything to see Jeremy Paxman have twenty minutes with George W.

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Steven Den Beste is obviously an intelligent guy, his problem is the intellectual straight jacket of rigid, right-wing orthodoxy that he is normally required to wear. It reminds me of intellectuals in Soviet Russia, being reduced to producing crass propaganda for their politburo masters and resulting in so much wasted talent. Well today, the straight jacket got loosened a bit and, Den Beste actually dusted the ol’ brain off and took it for a spin.

In trying to analysis the options open to France, he did what is practically unheard of in American discourse, he placed himself in the other guys shoes! Check out this paragraph:

The same is true of the UN. From the French point of view, a dead UN and one which is still twitching where France has little practical influence are essentially the same. If despite everything the UN now rubberstamps American plans, then it means that it has ceased to be a place where France can still attempt to wield substantial influence and where its pronouncements can't easily be ignored. The UN only is useful to France if it gives France the ability to prevent America from doing things; once that is not possible the UN no longer has any value to France. The damage has already been done there, too.

For months we have been hearing that France had better agree to everything the US wants or else the UN and France will become irrelevant. Well France is still saying no, and Colin Powell spent hours at the UN yesterday jumping through hoops. The only thing that is going to make France irrelevant is to say yes. I could make some cheesy dating analogy here now, but I think we all get the picture.

Den Beste is good at tactics, but he often misses the big picture, i.e. strategy. The North Koreans have begun threatening a first strike against any build-up of American forces. These Koreans are no dummies, if they sit on their fat asses and let the strongest military power in the history of the world move hundreds of thousands of troops, slowly but surely, into a bordering country…. It doesn’t take a total military genius to figure that one out. It is far better, if war is unavoidable, for the weaker country to start the war on its terms, before the strong, distant country gets up to full strength.

I have, of course, just described the situation in Kuwait and Iraq. The US is pouring troops into this tiny country, while Saddam is playing grab-ass with the UN inspectors. Surely, Saddam learned his lesson in 1991, why is he not attacking the US troops before they get up to full strength or blowing up his oil wells? It’s because he believes the war may still be avoidable, with France vetoing a UN resolution, and Bush deciding not to take the political risks this would entail. If France had signed on back in November, there would have been no way the US could have gotten so many troops into the region with out coming under Iraqi attack. The US is probably still not up to invasion strength, and Turkey has been lagging with allowing US troops to base there. The US needs more time.

I have no idea whether this “disagreement” is orchestrated or real, either way, France’s refusal to sign on to the invasion of Iraq has been a huge strategic victory for the US as it has allowed its soldiers to get into position.

As for predictions, when the US is ready, Hans Blix will give a damning report on Iraq and France will not veto a second UN resolution.
Here’s another story that may not see much airtime in the States, from the Independent:

Israeli bulldozers crush woman, 65, in her house

An elderly woman was killed yesterday when the Israeli army demolished her house while she was still inside, according to Palestinian witnesses and officials.

Kamla Said, 65, was found dead in the rubble of her family home after Israeli army sappers dynamited it during a raid on the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said. Doctors at nearby Al-Aqsa hospital, where she was taken, said she died of a crushed chest.

The Israeli army said it was checking the reports of Ms Said's death, and claimed soldiers had carefully checked the building before demolishing it. One of her stepsons, Khaled Said, said: "Israeli troops were acting in a brutal way. They got us all out of the house so fast and in an aggressive manner, they gave no chance for us to see who was out and who was in." He said Ms Said was partially deaf and could not hear warnings from the soldiers to leave the house.

The Israeli army demolished the house because it used to be the home of another of Ms Said's stepsons, Baha Said, who killed two Israelis in an attack on the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in September 2000, before being shot dead.
It looks almost certain that the war will begin within weeks. According to the Guardian:

North Korea is entitled to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US rather than wait until the American military have finished with Iraq, the North's foreign ministry told the Guardian yesterday.

Warning that the current nuclear crisis is worse than that in 1994, when the peninsula stood on the brink of oblivion, a ministry spokesman called on Britain to use its influence with Washington to avert war.

"The United States says that after Iraq, we are next", said the deputy director Ri Pyong-gap, "but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."

Anxiety in North Korea has been rising since Washington announced plans in the past week to beef up its military strength in the area. Additional bombers will be sent to the region, along with 2,000 extra troops who will serve alongside the 17,000 already stationed on the North-South border. USS Carl Vinson may also be deployed.

Will the American press dare to go off-message and report this? Eventually, but not today, they are oh so close to having the American people (at least the ones who respond to polls) hook, line, and sinker on Iraq.

What to do? Here’s one solution.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

This is a must see over at Tom Tomorrow’s web page. Unbelievable!
I missed Colin Powell’s power point presentation, but I caught a few of the other speeches on CNN International. I doubt the American audience is being allowed to see these, (I could be very wrong about that of course) because one speaker after another came out against the war and demanded more time for inspections. It contradicts the current lie circulating in the States that it is only France against the war. Last week, of the fifteen member states of the UNSC, it was 11-4 against war. Here, the EuroNews channel has it at: nine wanting more time for inspections, four ready and willing to get the war on, and two waiting for more bribes from Bush before saying yes. The Syrian diplomat asked why Israel was allowed weapons of mass destruction, why they were allowed to occupy Syrian territory (you just knew he was going to bring that one up), and why Israel was allowed to be in violation of twenty-two UN Security Council resolutions without being threatened with war.

Can you imagine the uproar if the French foreign minister had been pushing for war against Israel, to enforce those aforementioned UNSC resolutions, and had come up with some lame-ass security guards caught mouthing off on tape. The world would have a good collective laugh. Unfortunately the stakes are too high for that now, but the presentation--in light of the fact that numerous public relations firms were hired and worked flat out to prepare it--was weak.

The sudden switch to Al-Qaida is interesting. Where in the hell does it say in UNSC Resolution 1441 that having links to Al-Qaida is a cause for war? I agree that if those allegations were true, and that if Iraq actively played a part in Sept. 11th, then the US would certainly have a cause for war, but it has nothing to do with UNSC 1441 and was therefore irrelevant to today’s proceedings. This switch to Al-Qaida means the Administration is not sure that Iraq actually has any more WMD’s, or (to be more precise) that anyone will be able to find them.

It all comes down to Hans Blix (poor guy). If he gives the green light, most of the security council will vote for war, if he wants more time, he will get it.
The Guardian describes the lies that lead to the 1990 Gulf War:

In 1990 as the US prepared for its first war with Iraq there was heavy reliance on the use of "classified" satellite photographs purporting to show that in September 1990 - a month after the invasion of Kuwait - 265,000 Iraqi soldiers and 1,500 tanks were massing on the border to gear up to invade Saudi Arabia. The threat of Saddam aggressively expanding his empire to Saudi Arabia was crucial to the decision to go to war, but the satellite pictures were never made public.

Jean Heller, an investigative reporter on the St Petersburg Times, has been nominated for a Pulitzer prize five times and come second twice, so when she asked permission to spend $3,200 (£1,950) on two satellite pictures, the newspaper backed her.

'We could see clearly the main road leading right through Kuwait, south to Saudi Arabia, but it was covered with sand banks from the wind and it was clear that no army had moved over it. We could see empty barracks where you would have expected these thousands of troops to be billeted, but they were deserted as well."

A year later, [Colin] Powell would admit to getting the numbers wrong. There was no massive build-up. But by then, the war had been fought.

Keep this in mind while watching today’s public relations event.
If you are an American who plans on being around for the next twenty years or so, you need to immediately go see this from Brad DeLong.
Via CalPundit
There has been a lot of talk recently about taking away the right to veto from the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Since people have extremely short memories on the subject, here is a list (compiled by Miftah) of some of the proposed Security Council resolutions vetoed by the US:

1. 24 Jul. 1973. S/10974

Vote: 13 in favor, 1 veto (US), 1 abstention.
The resolution strongly deplored Israel's occupation of the Arab territories since 1967, and expressed serious concern with the Israeli authorities' lack of cooperation with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General.

2. 23 Jan. 1976. S/11940

Vote: 9 in favor, 1 veto (US), 3 abstentions.
The resolution called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories since 1967, and deplored Israel's refusal to implement relevant UN resolutions. It furthermore reaffirmed the Palestinian people's right to self determination and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

3. 24 Mar. 1976. S/12022

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
In the draft, the Security Council expressed deep concern over Israeli measures to change the character of the occupied territories, in particular Jerusalem, the establishment of Israeli settlements, and human rights violations, and called for an end of such measures.

4. 29 Jun. 1976. S/12119

Vote: 10 in favor, 1 veto (US), 4 abstentions.
The resolution affirmed the Palestinian people's right to self determination, the right of return, and the right to national independence.

5. 30 Apr. 1980. S/13911

Vote: 10 in favor, 1 veto (US), 4 abstentions.
The resolution affirmed the Palestinian right to establish an independent state, the right of return or compensation for loss of property for refugees not wishing to return, and Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories since 1967.

6. 1 Apr. 1982. S/14943

Vote: 13 in favor, 1 veto (US), 1 abstention.
In the draft, the Security Council denounced Israeli interference with local governance in the West Bank, and its violations of the rights and liberties of the population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The resolution furthermore called on Israel to end all activities in breach of the Forth Geneva Convention.

7. 20 Apr. 1982. S/14985

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The draft strongly condemned the shooting of worshipers at Haram Al-Sharif on 11 April, 1982, and called on Israel to observe and apply the provisions of the Forth Geneva Convention, and other international laws.

8. 8 Jun. 1982 S/15185

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution draft condemned the Israeli non-compliance with resolutions 508 and 509, urged the parties to comply with the Hague Convention of 1907, and restated the Security Council's demands of Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

9. 25 Jun. 1982 S/15255/Rev. 2

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli and Palestinian forces from areas in and around Beirut, and that the parties would comply with resolution 508. It furthermore requested that the Secretary General would station UN military observers to supervise the ceasefire and disengagement in and around Beirut, and that the Secretary General would make proposals for the installation of a UN force to take up positions beside the Lebanese interposition force.

10. 6 Aug. 1982 S/15347/Rev. 1

Vote: 11 in favor, 1 veto, 3 abstentions.
The resolution strongly condemned Israel for not implementing resolutions 516 and 517, called for their immediate implementation, and decided that all UN member-states would refrain from providing Israel with weapons or other military aid until Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory.

11. 1 Aug. 1983. S/15895

Vote: 13 in favor, 1 veto (US), 1 abstention.
The resolution called upon Israel to discontinue the establishment of new settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, to dismantle existing settlements, and to adhere to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The resolution furthermore rejected Israeli deportations and transfers of Palestinian civilians, and condemned attacks against the Arab civilian population. The Security Council also called upon other states to refrain from giving Israel any assistance related to the settlements, and stated its intention to examine ways of securing the implementation of the resolution, in the event of Israeli non- compliance.

12. 12 Sep. 1985. S/17459

Vote: 10 in favor, 1 veto (US), 4 abstentions.
The resolution draft deplored the repressive measures applied by the Israeli authorities against the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, and called upon Israel to immediately cease the use of repressive measures, including the use of curfews, deportations, and detentions.

13. 29 Jan. 1986. S/17769

Vote: 13 in favor, 1 veto (US), 1 abstention.
The resolution strongly deplored Israeli refusal to abide earlier Security Council resolutions, and called upon Israel to comply with these resolutions, as well as, the norms of international law governing military occupation such as the Forth Geneva Convention. The Security Council also expressed deep concern with violations of the sanctity of the Haram Al-Sharif, and with Israeli measures aimed at altering the character of the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

14. 29 Jan. 1988. S/19466

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution called upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War to the territories occupied since 1967, and to conform to the Convention. The resolution moreover called upon Israel to refrain from practices violating the human rights of the Palestinian people.

15. 14 Apr. 1988. S/19780

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution expressed grave concerned with the Israeli use of collective punishment, including house demolitions. It condemned the policies and practices utilized by the Israeli authorities violating the human rights of the Palestinian People, especially the killing and wounding of defenseless Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army. Called on Israel to abide to the Forth Geneva Convention, and urged it to desist from deporting Palestinians.

16. 17 Feb. 1989. S/20463

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution strongly deplored Israeli persistence in violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, in particular the shooting of Palestinian civilians, including children. It also deplored Israel's disregard of Security Council decisions, and called upon Israel to act in accordance with the Forth Geneva Convention and relevant Security Council resolutions.

17. 9 Jun. 1989. S/20677

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution deplored the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, demanded that Israel would abstain from deporting Palestinian civilians for the occupied territories, and that it would ensure the safe return of those already deported. It also called upon Israel to comply with the Forth Geneva Convention, and requested that the Secretary General would give recommendations on measures guaranteeing compliance with the Convention, and the protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories.

18. 6 Nov. 1989. S/20945/Rev. 1

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution deplored the Israeli violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the siege of towns, ransacking of homes, and confiscation of property. It called upon Israel to abide to the Forth Geneva Convention, to lift the siege, and to return confiscated property to its owners. The resolution requested that the Secretary General would conduct on-site monitoring of the situation in the occupied territories.

19. 30 May 1990. S/21326

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The draft resolution established a commission to examine the situation related to Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

20. 17 May 1995. S/1995/394

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution confirmed that the Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem was invalid, and called upon Israel to refrain from such actions. It also expressed its support for the Middle East peace process and urged the parties to adhere to the accord agreed upon.

21. 7 Mar. 1997. S/1997/199

Vote: 14 in favor, 1 veto (US).
The resolution expressed deep concern with the Israeli plans to build new settlements in East Jerusalem, and called upon Israel to desist from measures, including the building of settlements, that would pre- empt the final status negotiations. The resolution once again called on Israel to abide to the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

22. 21 Mar. 1997. S/1997/241

Vote: 13 in favor, 1 veto (US), 1 abstention.
The resolution demanded an end to the Israeli construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement in East Jerusalem, and to all other measures related to settlements in the occupied territories.

23. 26 Mar. 2001. S/2001/270

Vote: 9 in favor, 1 veto (US), 4 abstentions.
The resolution called for a total and immediate stop of all acts of violence, provocation, and collective punishment, as well as a complete cessation of Israeli settlement activities, and an end of the closures of the occupied territories. The resolution furthermore called for the implementation of the Sharm El-Sheikh agreement, and expressed the Security Council's willingness to set up mechanisms to protect the Palestinian civilians, including the establishment of a UN observer force.

24. 14 Dec. 2001. S/2001/1199

Vote: 12 in favor, 1 veto (US) 2 abstentions.
In the resolution, the Security Council condemned all acts of terror, extrajudiciary executions, excessive use of force and destruction of properties, and demanded an end of all acts of violence, destruction and provocation. The resolution called on the parties to resume negotiations, and to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report. It also encouraged the establishment of a monitoring apparatus for the above mentioned implementation.
No one’s going to fool those clever chaps in the Bush Administration. From the New York Times:

A senior Bush administration official warned today that North Korea, if allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods, could sell some of that fissile material to terrorists and other enemies of the United States who are seeking to build nuclear weapons.

The official, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, told senators on Capitol Hill that North Korea's recent moves toward restarting a plutonium reprocessing facility could enable the country to build four to six new nuclear weapons within months.

But Mr. Armitage also predicted that North Korea, which is struggling to feed its people, would have sufficient bomb-grade plutonium to sell or trade to "a nonstate actor or a rogue state."

So now, they actually admit the obvious, North Korea is twenty times more of an immediate and long-term threat to the United States than Iraq is. Oh, but the clever Mr. Armitage has all that covered:

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, asked whether North Korea's potential capacity to sell raw materials for nuclear bombs to terrorists made it "far more dangerous" than Iraq.

Mr. Armitage replied that "it's quite a different situation in Iraq," saying that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, wanted to "intimidate, dominate and attack" his neighbors.

You know, do you think it’s possible that someone could pull this lunatic Armitage aside and gently whisper into his ear, that yeah, we are really concerned about Iraq’s neighbors feeling a bit uncomfortable, but do you realize what those terrorist plan to do with the nuclear bombs they get from North Korea? They are going to attack America with them, you idiot!

We need an Administration which concerns itself with the safety of Americans first, not one that is falling over itself to protect the good people of Saudi Arabia.
Here is a random sample of public opinion on France and Germany deciding not to support an invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Tax-cut and Spend.

George W. Bush is throwing money around like a drunken, AWOL, Texas National Guard pilot who just got access to his trust fund. According to the New York Times:

President Bush sent Congress a $2.23 trillion budget today — with record deficits — that would speed up billions of dollars in income tax cuts, provide huge increases for the Pentagon and offer a modest jump in spending for NASA.

Mr. Bush's budget forecasts a deficit of $304 billion in the current fiscal year, and projects a deficit of $307 billion for the 2004 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Over the next five years the total projected deficit would be more than $1 trillion, a potentially problematic number for Mr. Bush, who as a presidential candidate vowed that he could both cut taxes and eliminate the national debt.

This is NOT including the cost of the possible invasion and occupation of Iraq! What the hell is going on over there in America? Bush is literally destroying the place. Is he a Soviet plant? Has he been programmed by Al-Qaida to put an end to America once and for all?

After Bill Clinton’s election, his main constituents, the poor and working poor, were told that they would have to put their expectations on hold because the budget deficit was in such a crisis. Clinton spent his whole presidency paying the bills and cleaning up the mess that the Reagan/Bush spending spree left behind. Now “beer-bong” Bush is wilding on the federal budget again, and we are left with the spectacle of seven servile Democrats fighting over the honour to mop up the political puke left behind by the Bush binge.
I am not alone! I have located (or rather one of them has located me) two other expat bloggers here in Belgium. They are Silt (Vaara) and Pedantry. Please check them out, they are full of interesting stuff.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Does the New York Times actually pay money for this rubbish from Thomas Friedman:

Last week I went to lunch at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Davos, Switzerland, and discovered why America and Europe are at odds. At the bottom of the lunch menu was a list of the countries that the lamb, beef and chicken came from. But next to the meat imported from the U.S. was a tiny asterisk, which warned that it might contain genetically modified organisms — G.M.O.'s.

Perhaps he is unaware that there is a law in the European Union requiring the labeling of G.M.O.’s. According to True Food Now:

Labeling of GE food has been in force since September 1998. In April 2000, legislation was passed to broaden the labeling requirements by including GE food additives as products that must be labeled. Regulations on labeling GE animal feed and products from animals fed GE material have been proposed. There is currently a de facto moratorium on approvals of any new GE products during the EU process

In America there is no such law:

The United States may soon be the only country in the world that does NOT require labeling of genetically engineered food.

Not only that, it is almost impossible to claim to be G.M.O.-free:

Meanwhile, the FDA seems poised to make it as difficult as possible for companies who have eliminated GE ingredients to add "NON-GE" labels. These responsible companies will face burdensome regulations, while the FDA lets other companies continue to use GE ingredients in secret.

Friedman continues:

My initial patriotic instinct was to order the U.S. beef and ask for it "tartare," just for spite. But then I and my lunch guest just looked at each other and had a good laugh. How quaint! we said. Europeans, out of some romantic rebellion against America and high technology, were shunning U.S.-grown food containing G.M.O.'s — even though there is no scientific evidence that these are harmful. But practically everywhere we went in Davos, Europeans were smoking cigarettes — with their meals, coffee or conversation — even though there is indisputable scientific evidence that smoking can kill you. In fact, I got enough secondhand smoke just dining in Europe last week to make me want to have a chest X-ray

I am not sure which trailer park this guy climbed out from under, but surely he knows that Europeans consume vast amounts of beef tartare, mostly on sandwiches at lunch. Somehow, I think they would have been slightly less than offended by his ordering raw meat, in fact, they might even have taken this as a sign that he was one “with-it” American.

More importantly however, is his equation of labeling with a “romantic rebellion against America” and “shunning of U.S.-grown food”. Huh? Where the hell did that come from? Labeling = Rejection? Does that mean Americans are rejecting nutrition because it is labeled on their canned foods?

Then the always-clever Friedman follows up this “rejection” of America with a discussion about the amount of European cigarette smoke in the air. The anger that our super-patriot felt at this second dissing of America surely cut off the flow of oxygen to his brain, otherwise, he would have realized that a large percentage of the tobacco that Europeans smoke is grown in, you guessed it, the United States.

So where are we? Europeans label G.M.O.’s; therefore they hate America. Europeans smoke too many Marlboros; therefore they hate America. I just hope to God this guy doesn’t come across any of these swarthy Euro-types speaking non-English.

Thomas Friedman is a difficult man to please. However, over the years, he has never hid his love for the state of Israel. In fact, the good people of Israel are in the process of receiving ten billions dollars of loan guarantees from American taxpayers. This is in addition to the four billions dollars a year that we don’t ask them to pay back. Certainly the American-loving Israeli public would never do anything so blatantly anti-American as to label G.M.O.’s in their foods.

True Food Now says:

Israel is preparing regulations for the labeling of GE food, based on EU regulations.

Oh my Thomas, oh my indeed, they ALL hate us.

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