Monday, February 28, 2005

How modern politicians don't rise to Machiavellan morality. posted by Richard Seymour

Populism, then? No. I am not bashing politicians as such; everyone has to have a job, and administration is important. We need stationery and things. I wanted to actually talk a bit about Machiavelli since, like Richard III, he is much maligned and misunderstood.

Machiavelli favoured direct democracy. He was a civil republican, who favoured the rule of the masses by the masses, as he explained in The Discourses and The Histories. That said, he did write some bloody book called 'The Prince' (or Il Principe) which, although it was often presumed to be a satire, later emerged in published letters from Niccolo to be a deadly serious text designed to ingratiate himself with the Medicis.

Meet the new boss

Let's back-track. The Medicis were an extraordinarily powerful merchant family in Renaissance Italy, who tried and often succeeded in finding establishment religio-political support. They had ruled Florence since 1434, but were briefly interrupted by a powerful reform movement in 1494 that included the renovation of ancient-style democracy (as with so much else, Renaissance political ideas merely recuperated and updated the ancients). During this time, Machiavelli was a diplomat and was sent on missions to other city-states, which caused him to conclude that some societies (corrupt and effete) need a smack of tough government. The Medicis regained power in 1512 with the help of Spanish troops, and Machiavelli was deposed from his public office, imprisoned and tortured with the strappado (a technique recently revived in Guantanamo ).

In his youth, Machiavelli had watched Savonarola from afar; the great religious charismatic was both anti-Renaissance and opposed to the new merchant class that was emerging. Lorenzo de Medici was to become the target of his preaching, and it was Savonarola's students who would collect mirrors, 'pagan' books, gaming tables, dresses etc and burn them in "The Bonfire of Vanities". Machiavelli later developed, like Hobbes, a comprehensive disdain for religion. Hobbes said:

If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it, prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which, crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple people, men would be much more fitted than they are for simple disobedience. (Leviathan, chapter 3, page 15).

We know what Hobbes thought of civil disobedience, and we also know what he thought of fear, whether inspired by goblins or external enemies: "it is impossible to approve any virtues that do not arise from fear, fear of violent death, and whose essence consists in the conquest and denial of fear". (Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis, 1952). Fear enjoins us to prudence, and Machiavelli was not immune to it, hence Il Principe. Machiavelli says in it: "men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared because love is held together by a chain of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken on every occasion".

Morals and morons

During Machiavelli's life-time, Italy was a loose collection of city-states, sometimes ruled by Princes, otherwise ruled on a republican democratic basis. These states were extremely small, powerless, and therefore vulnerable to being overrun by the King of France or the Holy Roman Emperor. As far as Machiavelli was concerned, republican liberty was not even possible unless the ruler of the country or state was adequate to the situation: that is, adequate to repelling a foreign invasion. For this reason, he argued that a certain code of ethics applied to rulers that didn't necessarily apply more generally to people. To a large extent, this position derived from his hostility to religious morality. He could believe that individuals had their private morality to pursue, if they must, but insisted that a different morality applied to the rulers of states since, without their success, one's private morality would not be possible. So, what would be immoral in a private citizen may be mandatory for a ruler. (See Isaiah Berlin, The Originality of Machiavelli, 1998, pp. 269-325; also this 1971 article for the New York Review of Books ). Machiavelli puts it thus:

You must realise this: that a prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all those things which give men a reputation for virtue, because in order to maintain his state he is often forced to act in defiance of good faith, of charity, of kindness, of religion. And so he should have a flexible disposition, varying as fortune and circumstances dictate. (Il Principe, 2003, p 57).

The kernel of liberalism resides here: while the Christian political tradition venerated humility, self-abnegation and so on, Machiavelli argued that the state's primary obligation was to provide a framework of civil peace, and therefore that rulers were answerable to different standards of behaviour. Rulers must be bold, power-hungry, cunning and brutal, particularly in order to withstand threats from without. Hobbes would have rejected these as virtues as such, since they pertain only to a state of nature which is, for him, a state of war. Initially a fan of aristocratic virtue, he later dismissed it as so much strutting. Nevertheless, the similarity in Hobbes' and Machiavelli's view of human nature and the necessary safeguards against it is striking.

But while Hobbes was a rationalist, Machiavelli was an historicist. Since, he maintained, human beings shared essential, common features, "animated by the same desires and passions", it should possible to study historical parralels and draw relevant conclusions. For any political problem one might encounter, there was a historical database that would suggest solutions. Hence, much of Il Principe is given over to mining historical episodes like the Alexandrian conquest of Darius III, the last Achaemenid King of Persia for career lessons. Similarly, "I know no better precepts to give a new prince than the ones derived from Cesare [Borgia]'s actions". But the main repository of historical comparison for Niccolo is, obviously enough, ancient Rome, and he read the first printed edition of Livy's works when the enterprising Petrarch collated the dispersed manuscripts into a single text.

Courage, skill and women.

The conclusions he drew from that included the idea that a ruler's task is structured around three inter-playing factors: necessita, fortuna and virtu. The first is more or less what it sounds like, physical and practical necessity. Not a believer in Christian telos or divine necessity, he means simply that array of very probable circumstances that any ruler has to face. From historical example, he draws prescriptive generalisations that he says should guide a ruler (the necessity, for instance, of the "faculty of accusation" for "the maintenance of liberty").

Fortuna is - well, as he put it, la fortuna e donna: fortune is a woman. Impetuous, uncontrollable, unpredictable and dangerous, fortune is more readily wooed by a man who is himself impetuous, and siezes the opportunity, than one who makes "cold advances". Fortune "is the arbiter of one half of our actions", so any ruler had better make sure to recognise where fortune was heading, sieze chances, and act impetuously. Men, being set in their ways, do not respond adequately to fortune's alterations. Pope Julius II, for instance, fared well on account of being impetuous when the time was apt for it, but would not have done so well if fortune had altered significantly in his lifetime. So, fortuna entails flexibility of strategy in response to changing times.

Virtu refers to manliness and valour, but also skill, cunning and prowess. Chutzpah is close to its sense. How quickly does one see the opportunities and react to them? How readily does one spot similarities with past situations, but also important differences? It involves a "politics of the will" in which a person's capacities and proclivities are at the fore.

Republican virtue

But these are skills required of a ruler who must protect his territory from some perpetual outside threat. How can Machiavelli square that with his belief in republicanism and the active involvement of the citizenry in government? Although Machiavelli was an essentialist about human nature, he was aware that skills were unevenly distributed among the public. Some were suited for leadership, others to making hats and farming. Even in a civil republic, leaders would emerge who had the quality of virtu, who could negotiate with fortune, and who understood political necessity.

This is all very well. A new political morality compatible both with direct democracy and the rule of the ruthless and conniving. "That's very Leninist", I hear some of you titter. Shut up. But what is interesting is the conclusions some liberal theorists draw from this: Of course our governments lie, of course we don't expect to be told the truth about weapons of mass destruction or the overthrow of democracy in Chile. Rulers are obliged to lie, and we expect them to. Frankly, I think that's bollocks. Machiavelli devised a narrow political science to help leaders achieve an end that might otherwise be relinquished to failure. But this is for rulers of states whose invasion or extinction is a genuine possibility, not venal mass murdering bastards who simply want to extend their reach in the world. And, at any rate, until we have our direct democracy and genuine republican liberty, we are doomed to be at the mercy of those who do not have our best interests at heart.

Therefore, channelling the spirit of Machiavelli, I suggest we undertake to throw off our rulers by whatever means necessary and choose for ourselves a polity, economy and popular music industry in which the masses are directly involved and those who hold any office or power whatsoever are directly accountable to them. A suggestion, like I say, no more than that.

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Israel Shamir is an anti-Semite, not an anti-Zionist. posted by Richard Seymour

I first heard of Israel Shamir through an acquaintance who had read something of his on the internet. He was, so I was told, a compelling critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. A good number of people who are generally on the left and don't harbour any racist animus against Jews also believe he is a reputable defender of the Palestinians, a humanist anti-Zionist and so on. He is purported to be a Russian-Israeli who has turned against what he describes as 'Jewish supremacism'.

He is not. Israel Shamir is a Swedish neo-Nazi whose criticisms of Israel are rooted in the thesis that it is the Jewish religion that is behind Israel's crimes. His new name, for anyone who insists on quoting his recent work, is Joran Jermas.

Jermas associates himself with several anti-Semitic publications. The first of the anti-Semitic publications he writes for and links to on his website is a filthy Christian anti-Semitic journal called 'the Jewish Tribal Review' (the 'tribe' again) and the second is (published by White Politics Inc.).

There is a very good summary of the background info here . In particular, see the letter written by Ali Abuminah and Hussein Ibish. Abuminah is a media critic for Electronic Intifada , a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and opponent of anti-Arab racism. But he is not taken in by Jermas.

To put it as mildly as I possibly can, anyone who thinks that 'Israel Shamir' is a defender of the Palestinians and a sensible critic of Zionism needs to urgently reconsider.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Generative grammar. posted by Richard Seymour

Oliver Kamm move over - I've just discovered that Noam Chomsky is a plagiarist! I quote from the late Mr Thomas Hobbes work Leviathan:

The first author of speech was God himself, that instructed Adam how to name such creatures as he presented to his sight; for the Scripture goeth no further in this matter. But this was sufficient to direct him to add more names, as the experience and use of the creatures should give him occasion; and to join them in such manner by degrees, as to make himself understood; and so by succession of time, so much language might be gotten, as he had found use for; though not so copious, as an orator or philosopher has need of. For I do not find anything in the Scripture, out of which, directly or by consequence can be gathered, that Adam was taught the names of all figures, numbers, measures, colours, sounds, fancies, relations; much less the names of words and speech, as general, special, affirmative, negative, interrogative, optative, infinitive, all which are useful; and least of all, of entity, intentionality, quiddity, and other insignificant words of the School.

As a Militant Liberal, I am disgusted by Chomsky's reactionary obscurantism. My fellow left-winger Stephen Pollard recently noted that Chomksy had ripped Hobbes' conclusions from their mechanist-monarchist background in order to support his anarcho-syndicalist precepts. Hobbes' sensible conclusions about the necessity of strong government, particularly in order to combat the disruptive effects of terror on the market, are belittled and disfigured by Noam Chomsky's pathetic diminutions and depredations. Chomsky imagines that an essentialist view of human nature which sees it as generative and creative is somehow compatible with 'workers control of industry'. He once again proves the dictum, which I passed on to my uncle Martin Bell, that...

Sorry, for a second I turned into Oliver Kampf .

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Death goes to Ramadi. posted by Richard Seymour

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Apparently a major offensive is on the way to Ramadi:

Residents of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province some 100 km east of Baghdad, have started to flee the city following the latest offensive launched by US Marines and the Iraqi army.

The military have carried out raids in the province over the past few days in an attempt to crack down on insurgents, with the main focus of operations eing Ramadi, a rebel stronghold.

Worried that the offensive could proceed as it did in nearby Fallujah, where he majority of the city's population was forced to flee during a near hree-month long campaign, many Ramadi families are taking personal effects and food supplies and heading to relatives' houses in the capital, or to the same camps where residents from Fallujah fled.

More here and here .

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Who's afraid of Galloway? posted by Richard Seymour

New Labour are :

Labour's general election managers are treating Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's normally rock-solid constituency as a marginal, according to the party's official list of its most vulnerable seats leaked to the Evening Standard.


The list, showing the 106 "key seats" Labour considers most at risk, includes the constituencies of three Cabinet ministers.


In London, the list includes the East End seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, where the pro-war Labour MP, Oona King, faces a challenge from Respect's George Galloway.

Ms King's seat is theoretically one of the safest in London with a majority of more than 26 per cent. But Bethnal Green's Bangladeshi voters, who make up half the electorate, are expected to desert Labour in droves.

An ICM poll this week showed Labour's overall lead cut to three per cent, with a Mori survey in the Financial Times showing a two per cent lead.

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Protecting the Khmer Rouge genocidaires. posted by Richard Seymour

I've written at some length before about Western complicity with the Khmer Rouge , and about the attempts by politicians like Sam Rainsy to exploit discontent in Cambodia about the increasingly authoritarian trends in the Hun Sen government.

Now, as there are attempts to prosecute those responsible for the Cambodian genocide, signed into law by the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia on 6th June 2003, some are naturally very worried. For instance, in the same month, Colin Powell took a brief trip to Cambodia to persuade Prime Minister Hun Sen to sign an Article 98 agreement. An Article 98 agreement is one in which nations that are party to the International Criminal Court agree to exempt US personnel from prosecution. The agreement was signed and endorsed by the Cambodian government on 3rd October 2003. No one will stand trial for the criminal bombardment of Cambodia in the years 1969 to 1973, which killed hundreds of thousands of people; no one, Chinese, British, American or Australian, will stand trial for aiding and abetting the Khmer killers when they were attempting to retake the country during the 1980s; no British or American government figure from the time will stand trial for attempting to block NGO assistance to a struggling post-Pol Pot country. The trials will be temporally limited to the period of Democratic Kampuchea, 1975-9, in which between 1.5 and 2 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

No reason to be purist about it: those who were involved in that grotesque regime deserve to be tried, even if it is only a partial victory, even if the other criminals are left out of it for reasons of geopolitics. However, the arduousness of this process, and the attempts to block it by governments who legitimise their actions with the language of human rights, should not be forgotten.

Pol Pot with Chinese ambassador Sun Hao at Phnom Penh airport.

Aiding and abetting.

China was initially the only regime to give the Khmer Rouge regime aid. In 1979, however, Jimmy Carter approved aid to the recently deposed regime, and gave the green light for continuing recognition of the KR at the UN. Although the Whitehouse and the CIA knew the locations of the KR in Thailand, although they knew of the whereabouts of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, there was no interest in arresting them or trying them. (To this day, the KR member and delegate to the UN, lives at Mount Vernon, New York, untouched and untouchable, like so many of the US' former war criminal proteges). Indeed, Zbigniew Brzezinski later admitted that even when Carter's official policy was to disapprove of the Khmer Rouge regime, he was secretly backing the Chinese policy:

I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. I encouraged the Thai to help the DK [Democratic Kampuchea] ... Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him but China could.

Well, Carter emoted when Pol Pot finally kicked the bucket, before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Gregory Stanton took leave from his studies of International Law at Yale in 1980 to direct the CARE field office in Phnom Penh. He realised that Cambodia was state-party to the Genocide Convention, and the Khmer Rouge still officially held Cambodia's seat at the UN. This meant that there was a good case for taking Cambodia to the World Court for breach of the Genocide Convention. He himself had been present, along Ben Kiernan, at the exhumation of a mass grave where 7,000 people had recently been buried. So, he approached the Chairman of the American Association of the International Commission of Jurists. Nothing doing. The Chairman, a lawyer named William Butler, discussed the idea with the State Department and came back saying that he could not assist and that he did not know whether the killings even constituted genocide.

Similarly, when David Hawk, the chairman of the Cambodian Documentation Committee, tried to get Australian backing for such a case, he found a receptive ear in the Labour government's foreign minister Bill Hayden, but the government eventually declined the case. It transpired that the Australians had been in contact with the State Department, who remained opposed to any prosecution on the grounds that it would risk breaking up the coalition (composed mainly of Khmer Rouge and Norodum Sihanouk's 'non-communist resistance') it was supporting in Cambodia to oust the Vietnamese. The State Department had gone behind Hayden's back to warn Prime Minister Bob Hawke that such moves would put serious strains on US-Aussie relations.

When in 1987 the Cambodian Documentation Commission mounted a public and vociferous campaign, involving 200 survivors of the KR regime, there was much air-kissing and arse-kissing from the world's governments. A lowly figure from the Reagan administration called David Lamberton expressed sympathy, but said that invoking the Genocide Convention was fraught with political complexities, and could be precipitous. It could indeed, for the US had only ratified the convention in 1986 after 40 years of stalling, and its implementation was only to be approved by Senate in 1988, with a cluster of 'sovereignty' protections which reduced it to a symbolic gesture. Bob Hawke was 'deeply moved', but worried about the possible implications of trying Khmer Rouge members on the Genocide Convention (especially since his ally, the Indonesian junta, was barking similar pleas at the time). Those states that supported the KR politically and militarily were not about to challenge them legally; those states that did not pretended that they couldn't support a legal challenge, since that would de facto 'recognise' the KR as the natural government of Cambodia (red herring, since the Genocide Convention applies to states not specific governments). Under Article 8 of the Genocide Convention, the UN itself was allowed to take action: it, typically, ignored that suggestion, and shelved any reports referred to them on the matter.

Inviting the tiger into the tent.

One thing that would certainly have put a stop to any trial attempts would have been the inclusion of the KR in government. Yet, when the Hun Sen regime started serenading for peace negotiations, the one thing that was insisted upon by Western and Eastern governments was that the KR would have to be part of any future government. This was first articulated by the US ambassador in Bangkok in response to Thai initiatives to secure a peace between the warring factions that would have excluded Pol Pot's men. China also insisted that no government could be formed without the KR, and the majority of the UN Security Council, including France, the UK and America would, sided with them. They even went as far as to insist that in the negotiations (at the Paris Peace Conference, see passim), Hun Sen be seated next to the KR representative. When the talks broke down, the US Secretary of State James Baker accused the Hun Sen regime of being 'stubborn' because they insisted on the exclusion of Pol Pot's men.

The USSR agreed with Hun Sen - a four-party government that would legitimise 20,000 KR militants, leaving them free to roam Phnom Penh, would have dangerous implications. When, in October 1989, the last of the Vietnamese troops left Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk urged a general uprising, and the KR launched an initiative that eventually took Pailin. Meanwhile, back at the negotiating table, Sihanouk was still trying to blot out the word 'genocide' from discussions, while Khieu Samphan indignantly rejected such language on behalf of the KR. Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans regretted that the talks had broken down over 'atmospherics'. As the KR continued its offensive, ambushing several trains and killing the civilians in them, there were angry grumblings from the US Senate about cutting off support for the KR-dominated 'coalition'. James Baker announced in July 1990 that it was no longer the position of the US to support the CGDK's filling of Cambodia's seat at the UN.

The KR continued to be represented at talks, in particular by Khieu Samphan and the former interior minister responsible for the secret police Son Sen. Pol Pot was also present at the talks in Pattaya (a seaside resort in Thailand largely known to US navy men for furnishing unlimited sexual satisfaction at low prices), although his presence was a closely guarded secret until the journalist Nayan Chanda and the photographer Nhem Eng reported it. The proposed deal that emerged was one largely based on China's terms, fully backed by Washington. The USSR and Vietnam, though unhappy, urged the Cambodian government to accept. When the Japanese proposed a commission to investigate crimes by the KR in early 1991, US diplomat Richard Solomon shot it down, saying it would 'confuse' the international peace settlement. At the second Pattaya meeting in October 1991, it was agreed that Pol Pot and his men would enjoy the same rights as any other citizen. Although they themselves would not stand for election in any future poll, they would be allowed to campaign for their men. There was to be no sanction, no trial, no reference to genocide in the final text. Full and unequivocal legitimation of the KR was entailed.

Pol Pot with Ieng Sary, (left) and Son Sen (right).

Khieu Samphan and Son Sen returned to Phnom Penh, free men, legitimised by an international consensus supported by America, Britain, France, Australia and China. Angry protesters confronted the two men, and Khieu Samphan had to take refuge in a wardrobe until rescued by security forces, by then bleeding from his skull and ignominiously bandaged with a pair of Y-fronts.

KR-controlled Pailin and Anlong Ven continued to experience the brutality of Pol Pot's men, even as UN Human Rights Day was celebrated in Phnom Penh. The UN's press-release on the day made no reference, even euphemistically, to the genocide. UNTAC, which was to supervise the elections for a new government, could not enter KR controlled territories. Not one of the pledges made by the KR at Paris was adhered to, they refused to disarm and continued their campaign of terror in several parts of the country, killing many of ethnic Vietnamese origin. Even UNTAC sustained many casualties, with 20 of its personnel being killed in attacks. The Thai military did not bother adhering to its agreement to cease arming the KR, and the two parties did profitable business in rubies from Pailin. UN military observers and peacekeepers on the Thai border were shelled and kidnapped.

Through all of this, UNTAC never called the KR to account, and it was the KR in the end who decided to close down their legally sanctioned headquarters in Phnom Penh and escalated attacks on the UN, threatening to sabotage the forthcoming elections. Had they not done so, it is probable that some of Pol Pot's henchmen would have joined the new government, sanctioned and approved by the 'international community'.

Changing alliances, permanent interests

Campaigning groups like the Campaign to Oppose the Return of the Khmer Rouge (CORKR), which involved Cambodian activists as well as Gregory Stanton, David Munro, Ben Kiernan and John Pilger, could begin to claim some success by 1994, however. It had gained backing from over 100 NGOs and, pressing for a Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, several Senators. The Act was finally passed into law by Congress, and Bill Clinton signed it off in May 1994. Naturally, the Act's temporal applicability was limited to the period from 17th April 1975 to 7th January 1979. It did, however, lead to US government funding for the Cambodian Genocide Program headed by Ben Kiernan. It also saw the Office of Cambodian Genocide Investigations launched.

At the same time, the UN's outlook had dramatically changed. The International Criminal Tribunals set up in response to crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda had set legal precedent, however selectively applied. The new Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights was Thomas Hammarberg, a former executive director of Amnesty International in London. On the geopolitical side, the policy of bleeding Vietnam white had been largely successful, and the Khmer Rouge were no longer essential allies of the West. Many tourists were kidnapped and executed by the KR, including a British de-miner called Christopher Howes in 1998. This brought Derek Fatchett of the Foreign Office into the situation, and he demanded that certain men, including the murderous Ta Mok, be brought to justice. This proved difficult, since those responsible were part-time residents in Thailand, with whom Britain enjoys a cosy relationship. No significant pressure was placed on the Thai authorities, and no one has been charged with Howes' murder.

Ta Mok.

At the same time, factions which had been involved in the CGDK movement in the 1980s began to have severe differences with Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The two sides fought it out on the streets, and the CPP side won, forcing Prince Ranarridh (son of then King Sihanouk) into exile. 70 civilians were killed, and several military officers from Sihanouk's Funcinpec movement were executed. Ranarridh and Sam Rainsy, both formerly in coalition with the KR, protested before the UN, and the Credentials Committee voted to keep Cambodia's seat vacant.

The Khmer Rouge was simultaneously disintegrating into inner schisms, and this was evidenced by Pol Pot ordering the assassination of his former ally, Son Sen, and the subsequent 'trial' in which Pot was 'convicted' of crimes of leadership, none of which had to do with the genocide against the Cambodian people. Pot kicked the bucket in 1998, just as the US finally reversed years of support for him and decided to support moves for an international criminal tribunal. Negotiations did begin between the UN and Cambodia, although it was clear throughout that China was adamantly opposed to any trial.

Sam Rainsy, a former CGDK spokesperson, reactionary anti-Semite, viciously anti-Vietnamese demagogue, and failed finance minister, did his best to exploit fears about any possible trial by telling the lower ranking KR members in Pailin and elsewhere that the only way to avoid trial was to vote for him in the 2003 elections. In those elections, he gained 22% of the vote. His party's candidate for governor in Pailin had been Ta Mok's neice, Ven Dara.

Nevertheless, and inter an awful lot of alia, the negotiations continued and finally produced an agreement between the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2003, which was then ratified by the UN General Assembly. A tribunal is now supported by Britain and America. Although most KR officials remain at large and are ageing (they are now mostly in their seventies, and the notorious torturer Kang Kek Iue has recently been admitted to hospital), negotiations are continuing as to the possible framework for trying them.

It would be ridiculous to oppose the trials, but no amount of sanctimony from our own governments, and no amount of belated attention to Khmer Rouge atrocities, should endear us to them. If there was to be a proper tribunal in Cambodia, many British, US and Chinese personnel would be among those standing in the docks.

(Some references: Tom Fawthrop and Helen Jarvis, Getting Away with Genocide? Elusive Justice and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, 2005; John Pilger, Heroes, 1986; Pilger, Hidden Agendas, 1998; Pilger, The New Rulers of the World, 2000; ; ; ; Yale Cambodia Genocide Project ).

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Killer Fact. posted by Richard Seymour

Jim Carrey has a chef for his pet iguana . True, this is an old story, but I still think I could do Harry Hutton's job for free.

Tomorrow, I want to talk about the attempt to try genocidairres in Cambodia again. I may also try a review of Paul Foot's excellent new book on The Vote: How it was won and how it was undermined. A revolutionary classic.

But for now, just know this: Jim Carrey has a chef for his fucking iguana. That has to be wrong.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Links and comments. posted by Richard Seymour

A few days ago I linked to a short missive by the redoubtable Andrew Bacevich, a conservative US International Relations theorist. isn't my favourite site, but it does carry an excellent riposte/complement to Bacevich here . Specifically, Michael Gaddy says, the US is not merely failing to win, but it never intended to win:

This war was, from the very get-go, designed to be a war of occupation and not a war for any other purpose. The constantly changing "goals," like the rabbit running ahead of the greyhounds, is proof positive. It was not deposing Saddam, eliminating the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, or implementing democracy: the true goal was establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. Had any of the aforementioned causus belli been the real purpose of this war, our troops would have been brought home when the stated goals were reached. If Bush or these Neocons had a simple cursory knowledge of history, they would know that wars of occupation always develop into a quagmire.

The author cites the Project for the New American Century and generally does the paleoconservative hatchet job on the neocons. But he goes one further, and this is a stroke of genius. He gets Larry Diamond, former senior adviser to Paul Bremer of the late CPA in Iraq, to corroborate him:

While first speaking as a supporter of the Neocon/Bush program, Diamond stated, "First of all, let me say that this election on Sunday, from everything I have read and heard, was a profoundly moving and historic experience; for Iraq, for the Middle East, and potentially for the world." This he later counters with a truth nugget, "…it was a very superficial election and in some ways a very unfair election. There were more than one hundred parties in lists. Most of them had no money, no access to the media, and no ability, obviously, in the state the country was in, to campaign."


"…there is something that could help now on the part of the United States which tragically is not going to happen…. One of the things that is necessary to wind down the insurgency and create a much more hopeful, enabling environment for the development of democracy and even political stability in Iraq is for Iraqis, and particularly those Iraqis who are involved with or sympathizing with the insurgency, to become convinced that we really are going to leave. That the American military occupation of Iraq is going to end and that they are going to get their country back. I urged the administration to declare when I left Iraq in April of 2004, that we have no permanent military designs on Iraq and we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. This one statement would do an enormous amount to undermine the suspicion that we have permanent imperial intentions in Iraq. We aren't going to do that. And the reason we're not going to do that is because we are building permanent military basis in Iraq." (emphasis added) Here a man on the inside confirms Bush intends for our soldiers to have a permanent presence in Iraq. How many lives and how many trillions will this cost?

Meanwhile, Doug Ireland sends me a brilliant but flawed essay on Isaac Deutscher's Trotsky trilogy .

Brian Cook of In These Times has a chuckle at the expense of David Horowitz and his whacky new 'Discover the Network' Project', casually slipping a knife or two between the right-wing troll's shoulder-blades as he does so.

Devizes Melting Point is a great blog that will find its way onto my blog roll before being categorised somehow. The post on the Renaissance is particularly interesting, and worthy of some expansion.

Finally, I'm sure I must have mentioned it before, but I feel compelled to point out again that Alphonse is splendid. The careful montage of philosophical and classical citation expertly punctuated by Aesopian reference is accentuated by a sharp political analysis. And 'he' can be pungent too. When Susan Sontag died, all the lefties cried - but not Alphonse, who laid a few brutal kicks into her handsome corpse.

Finally, I never thought it would last . Abbas can't deliver peace to the Israelis because he has no mandate to do so, and if Al Aqsa* - which is part of the Fatah movement that Abbas heads - will not adhere to his strictures no other group will. Israel has to fulfil its obligations in international law, stop murdering Palestinians, offer generous compensation, and make arrangements for the refugees displaced by its disgusting policies. At least, if it has any concern for its citizens, it will do that.

*Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade claims responsibility for the attack, on a beach club in Tel Aviv, but is rivaled by Islamic Jihad.

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Lay off asylum seekers. posted by Richard Seymour

I'm sick of the dickheads that are fortunate enough to share a land-mass with me bleating about immigrants. If any of you pompous, self-pitying arse-wipes happen to be reading, there's a few things I want to tell you.

First, asylum seekers aren't taking your jobs. They aren't allowed to work until they cease being asylum seekers and become human beings. Or perhaps they are, secretly, on the down-low. But if a guy who's weak from malnutrition and torture, and who has English as his second language, can make a better pitch for a job than you can, you have some serious fucking questions you better start asking yourself. Like: "why am I such a dingbat?"

Second, asylum seekers aren't taking your money. If they didn't give asylum seekers £40 a week, they'd only spend it on a new Trident or some other stupid bloody thing. The government gives millions to companies like Fujitsu and those fuckwits who keep crashing the trains, and you never say shit - so shut it. Home Office research shows that immigrants give back in tax more than they ever take in benefits. Yes, that's 're-search', two syllables, shouldn't be that fucking difficult.

Third, asylum seekers aren't flooding into this country. They are trickling. Despite being (arguably) the fourth largest economy in the world, Britain still only takes 0.05% of the world's total refugee population. In June 2001, the top four countries of origin were Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Sri Lanka. Most refugees int the world still travel to the nearest country on foot, which means they move around between poor countries.

Fourth, we need immigrants, just to keep the things we use like the NHS and the fire service running. The Chancellor's budget forecasts show that we need an increase in the labour force due to immigration of at least 0.5% a year. This is due to the falling birth rate and the falling death rate, which is leaving us with a higher dependent population and fewer people entering the labour market. To put it bluntly, we are in need of loot and they can provide it.

Oh. You still aren't convinced are you. I can here your gnat-like whining from fucking miles away. "They get child support, healthcare, free housing, they drive BMWs, stay in the top hotels..." Yeah yeah yeah. Shut it, you feral shit-merchants. I've encountered piles more intelligent than you.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

The X Factor revisited. posted by Richard Seymour

Several months back, I made fun of some countryfucks who stormed parliament, evidently expecting to find the polestar of human evil residing there:

[I]sn't it strange how protest seems to have involved a lot of penetrating this enclosed space, this theatre of power-struggle that is represented to us on the news but never disclosed in the flesh. Even if you want to see it in real time from the gallery, you have to go through an intensive search, give up all items from your pockets, surrender your coat etc. And you must agree not to make a noise, pick your nose, make any rude hand gestures etc. (I went there myself once, and had the pleasure of being eyed suspiciously by Brian Mawhinney MP). However, to get into that phantasmatic space, irupt into its core - you'd actually think you were busting right into the centre of power. The hidden assumption is that power has some final stopping point, some person or persons at the end of a chain of command whom one can demand to see and shoot if necessary.

But even in terms of private companies, this is no longer the case. Ownership is usually diffuse, managers are responsible to shareholders, and power is delegated down and out in increasingly specialised ways. It isn't that there is a capitalist who controls the levers and dispenses orders. Similarly, there is no chain of power leading up to parliament, and no hidden 'X' of authority once you get there. Far from encountering the human face of power etc., you discover the human faces of over-worked, cynical, seasoned politicians with only a limited and minor say in how the country is actually run. It is a failure in cognitive mapping, an inability to see power as anything but an open or concealed conspiracy, a direct organisation of people into structures and roles. Hence, the pathos of the spectacle in which angry, militant furry-bangers can only scamper around the chambers for a few seconds before realising that there's nothing going on there, and the real problem they face is in the wider society.

Would that I had the words for this . The totalising apparatus of Marxist thought is stood properly on its head, given a malicious twist, vulgarised into conspiratorial constructions. The left are everywhere, osmotically channeling their subversive energies into the pockets of mainstream liberalism. You just have to follow the network .

Incidentally, the little-known tabloid journalist Oliver Kamm links to the site approvingly because it reproduces some of his myopic anti-Chomsky screeds. He says he will link to the site and cross-post his Bloggerel there. So, aside from being an assiduous stalker, a dishonest debater who likes to cite or criticise texts he has never read and a humourless, pompous buffoon, he is also an active supporter of paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists.

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Credulous twits. posted by Richard Seymour

Harry's Place are all excited by the prospect of the war on Iraq spreading democracy to Syria & Lebanon:

Now comes news of a remarkable conversation David Ignatius of The Washington Post had with Walid Jumblatt, a leader of Lebanon's Druze community.

Jumblatt dresses like an ex-hippie, in jeans and loafers, but he maintains the exquisite manners of a Lebanese aristocrat. Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel [that's putting it mildly], but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it

This would be Walid Jumblatt, the anti-Semite and anti-American conspiracy theorist ?

For example :

"The Lebanese MP is also known for espousing conspiracy theories against America. On April 28, 2004, he gave an interview to Al Arabiyya TV, in which he detailed how America was really behind September 11: 'Who invented Osama bin Laden?! The Americans, the CIA invented him so they could fight the Soviets in Afghanistan together with some of the Arab regimes. Osama bin Laden is like a ghost, popping up when needed. This is my opinion.'"

The National Review continues:

"In addition to hating America, Mr. Jumblatt has also spoke against the countries that support America. Lebanon's Daily Star published a February 3, 2003, article quoting him as saying that the true axis of evil is one of 'oil and Jews' ... The oil axis is present in most of the U.S. administration, beginning with its president, vice-president, and top advisers, including [Condoleezza] Rice, who is oil-colored, while the axis of Jews is present with Paul Wolfowitz.'"

For a serious, non-whacko commentary on the situation in Lebanon, have a read of Lebanese socialist Bassem Chit's article for Socialist Worker. For anyone who wants to follow this story and the left reaction to it in Lebanon, see Beirut Indymedia .

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Iraqi National Foundation Congress: "The Iraqi resistance is a popular resistance". posted by Richard Seymour

Interviewed by ZNet, the Iraqi National Foundation Congress continue to espouse secularism, national unity and support the resistance:

The show of unity was organized by groups behind the Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC), a broad coalition of Iraqi political forces, which some see as a possible nucleus for the emergence of a united front against the occupation. Founded in May this year, the INFC is an umbrella group that includes leftists, nationalists, and Islamists from various tendencies who opposed Saddam’s regime and who refused to be part of any US-installed political body. Membership in the Congress is open to all who subscribe to its minimum bases of unity: an unequivocal call for the withdrawal of occupation troops and opposition to any possible division of Iraq’s territory and people on religious or sectarian basis.

Among its members include Dr Muthana Harith al Dhari from the Association of Muslim Scholars, Iraq’s largest network of Sunni clerics, Najaf-based Shia religious leader Ayatollah Ahmad al Baghdadi, and Wamid Nadhmi, an academic at the Baghdad University who also serves as the group’s spokesman. The al-Sadr movement has a representative in the general secretariat.

Conscious of the occupiers’ strategy of fomenting sectarian strife, the INFC is a deliberate project to bring together Sunni and Shia Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Turcomen, Assyrians and other minorities. The INFC condemned both the US-led offensive against the mainly Shi’ite city of Najaf as well as against the mainly Sunni city of Fallujah. It has also been instrumental in defusing sectarian tension in highly charged Kirkuk and Mosul.


What are the Conference’s main political demands?

We have elaborated a political program and everyone who wants to join has to accept the points of the program declaration. First, we demand an immediate retreat of the occupation forces and a complete return of sovereignty to Iraq. Second, we insist on the unity of the Iraqi territory. Third, we support the legitimacy of resisting occupation by any means necessary. Fourth, we refuse any division of the Iraqi people on religious or sectarian basis.

You call for an immediate withdrawal of occupation forces. What do you say to those who argue that the troops should not be withdrawn yet because there will be chaos if the troops leave?

We are also afraid of a political vacuum in Iraq. When we say “immediate retreat of occupation,” we know that this will not happen in one day. But it’s necessary to set a timetable. During the intervening period, the Iraqi police and army can be built up. In any case, we don’t expect things can get much worse when the occupation troops leave Iraq than what’s happening today. What’s happening today is so bad that after the retreat of the occupation forces, the situation could not be worse.

What about those who are saying there will be civil war when the troops leave?

They are trying to legitimise a long occupation by the United States. They are puppets of the Americans.

US officials always say that those who are fighting the occupation forces are “anti-Iraqi” forces” or “Baathist dead-enders” or…

According to the US military, in Fallujah they captured 1,065 people. Among them. They found only 25 non-Iraqis. All the others were Iraqis. The resistance is an Iraqi resistance – a popular resistance -- which is spreading now. Among the resistance groups, there are former officers of the army who are using their expertise to help the resistance. But the main ideological current inside the resistance is a popular and moderate Islamic current – not a Baathist one. It is popular, patriotic, and Islamic ...

There are people in the anti-war movement, in the left, and even those in the right who also oppose the occupation who say that we shouldn’t support the resistance because they’re being led by either Baathists and “fundamentalists” and we shouldn’t allow them to take over Iraq in case the US leaves.

It is the occupation forces who are spreading this line. As one French deputy said a few months ago, the Iraqi resistance was like the French resistance: one day it will defeat the occupation forces and take power in Iraq.

When I say “Islamic current” inside the resistance, I mean moderate Islamic current. It is not the Islamic current portrayed in the media. It is an Islamic current that is defending it’s own culture and nation but which is not hostile to other cultures and other nations. It is not hostile to the American people but it is opposed to the project of American domination of our region and the world.

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Johann Hari for post-Zionism; wrong about Zionism. posted by Richard Seymour

I am glad to see that Johann Hari has embraced the ideas of post-Zionism in an article about anti-Semitism today. However, he offers a stupendous and frankly unbelievable hostage to fortune in the process:

So let’s get this straight: Zionism was created by a desperate people – many of them still emaciated from the camps – fleeing genocide.

I'm afraid this is a standard myth. True, most of the inhabitants of Israel when it was founded in 1948 were shipped in directly from Europe. But let's get this straight: Zionism was created by a minority of Jewish leaders who had initially little support from most European Jews, who supported socialist organisations like the Bund. Nor was the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians which Johann refers to merely a reaction to the Nazi holocaust. Plan Dalet, the Zionist plan for the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what would become the State of Israel, undercuts the mythology that Haganah and the Irgun were compelled by war to expel the Arabs and commit the massacres that they did. (Uri Milstein, an authoritative Israeli military historian, suggests that "every skirmish" in the 1948 war "ended in a massacre of Arabs"). And the reasons for this are reasonably well known - both Labour and Revisionist wings of Zionism were committed to the Greater Israel which would have fluid, biblical borders rather than be contained in a defined land mass. The Zionists had never any intention of accepting even the unfair division of Palestine proffered by either the Peel Commission or, later, the UN. Ben Gurion explained in 1937 that "Transfer [of Palestinians] is what will make possible a comprehensive Jewish settlement programme. Jewish power will increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale." Later, he told the Zionist Congress, "we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine" (quoted in Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 24. See, for more on this, Avi Shlaim's The Iron Wall, 2004, particularly pp 16-19, or Ilan Pappe's The Making of the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1947-1951).

Johann goes on to say in the comments box:

Herzl first realised the Jews would need a state after witnessing the naked Jew-hating Deryfus Trial.

Herzl did indeed draw that conclusion, but he drew many others besides. For example, he was convinced that anti-Semitism was natural and not a lot could be done about it. Jews could not live with non-Jews. He would be scandalised by contemporary New York. He was also convinced that an influx of interlopers into Palestine would "end badly...unless based on assured supremacy", which could only come through statehood. (Theodor Herzl, "The Jewish State", page 29). Herzl told his diaries that to this end, the Zionists would have to acquire the land of their choice by force. He himself was indifferent to where that land should be, but the prevalent opinion among Zionists was that Palestine was the homeland to which centripetal forces would drive the Jewish people. (Herzl, "Besammelte, Zionistiche Schriften", Volume I, page 114).

He also 'portrayed the prospective Jewish state as Europe's "wall of defense against Asia", and an "outpost of civilisation against barbarism".' (Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Verso, 1995, pp 100-1).

Johann goes on to say:

Many people believe Zionism would never have come to fruition - e.g. gained the support of President Truman - had it not been for the Holocaust

It didn't need the support of President Truman. The British were crumbling in Palestine, the Haganah and associated Zionist groups were successfully preparing capture, and the UN Special Committee on Palestine were all but suckers for the Zionist lobby when they got there and found that the Arab Higher Committee wouldn't talk to them. The Nazi holocaust did not provide the impetus for Zionism, nor did it necessarily prompt the foundation of Israel. The project was well under-way.

And the attempted extermination of the Jews did not even provide a particularly good alibi for the Zionists. Need we recall Ben Gurion's position on the Nazi holocaust?

"If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative."

We might also remember the President of the World Zionist Organisation telling the world as far back as 1912: "each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews … Germany has already too many Jews". Or the Zionist Federation of Germany and their grovelling letter to Hitler with whom, so they said, they shared so much in common.

The Zionist movement does not have the moral authority, therefore, to preach about anti-Semitism. In terms of accomodation with anti-Jewish racism and fascism, in terms of disregard for Jewish lives, some of its most outstanding leaders and most prominent exponents have behaved and spoken contemptibly. Zionism is not a movement of Jewish liberation, but of chauvanism and nationalism. It is not unique in this regard, but what is unique is that it has legions of defenders across the world. It was initially a reaction to anti-Semitism, but just happened to be the worst possible reaction.

Finally, Johann is right that many anti-Semites use anti-Zionism as a cover for their filthy prejudices. But let's not go down the 'why do you always talk about Israel' route. Who would have said this of the anti-apartheid campaign in the Eighties but apologists and reactionaries? So, let's not descend to such pedantries now.

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Dr Adnan Siddiqui on Malcolm X. posted by Richard Seymour

This week's Socialist Worker is particularly strong, with a good article by an ActionAid campaigner on the British sale of arms to warring and repressive regimes in Africa. Complimenting this is a supplement on Malcolm X , in which the best article is by Dr Adnan Siddiqui of Stop Political Terror . Siddiqui was the GP who examined Babar Ahmad after Inspector Knacker kicked the shit out of him.

He writes:

Malcolm X fought for the rights of 22 million African-Americans, but he articulated this struggle in a global framework by arguing for universal human rights and an end to imperialism. His statement that “the only way we will get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world” encapsulates this vision. It is a message that Muslims everywhere need to grasp urgently.

Currently the Muslim world consists of a motley array of autocrats, dictators and kings whose only commonality is that they are not representative of the people and are strongly tied to Western interests.

In addition Muslims in Europe number about 15 million and have all the worst social indicators in terms of housing, health and education. We are effectively “economic slaves” in Fortress Europe.

Malcolm was fighting a similar situation at his time and because of his irrepressible nature he was labelled an “extremist” and a “militant”. If he had been alive today he would have been called a “terrorist” and would probably have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay or at “her majesty’s pleasure” in Belmarsh or Woodhill.

More: "Show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker" .

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Kurdish Attacks on Assyrians, Turkmen. posted by Richard Seymour

It is one of the under-covered angles of the current war in Iraq, but a column in today's Guardian provides the occasion to talk a bit about it. I mentioned yesterday the fact that Kurdish peshmergas had been used by the US to attack Shia Turkmen in Tal Afar. It is totally hypocritical of Turkey to be angry at what is being done here, given its murderous policies toward the Kurds both in Turkey and in Northern Iraq. But that hardly exonerates the peshmergas and the Kurdish leadership.

It was Kurdish paramilitaries tied to Massoud Barzani's KDP that launched a wave of attacks against Assyrians before the election. Dr Odisho Malko of the Assyrian National Assembly in Iraq protests:

Since the fall of Saddam, systematic low-level ethnic cleansing has driven thousands of Assyrian Christians from their homes. Our churches have been firebombed and our women forced to wear the hijab. In northern Iraq much of this intimidation has come from the Kurdish militias. It reached a climax on election day, when ballot boxes were prevented from reaching between 200,000 and 400,000 people. On the Nineveh Plains, the last area in Iraq where our people live in sizeable numbers, six Assyrian towns, Baghdeda, Bartilla, Karemlesh, Shekhan, Ain Sifne and Bahzan were prevented from going to the polls. The western media have made much of people in the Sunni heartlands being intimidated into not voting, or refusing to vote. It does not report that the Assyrian people and other minorities wanted to vote, but were stopped from doing so.

Reluctantly, many of our people believe that Kurdish political leaders want to exclude minorities such as the Assyrians and the Turkmen. The treatment of the Turkmen has so enraged Turkey that the leader of the opposition, Bulent Ecevit, has called for action to protect them. But no one is speaking up for us. No one has reported that tens of thousands took to the streets to protest at the great vote robbery.

This was a worry long before the war began :

"They started calling us 'Kurdish Christian,'" says Odisho. "Then we should call them 'Assyrian Muslims.'"

The politics of this are straightforward enough. Since Iraq was carved out of Mesopotamia, the drive has been to make it an exclusively or overwhelmingly Arab country. When the Iraqi Kingdom was declared sovereign (even though it was a puppet government - historical repetition; first tragedy, then farce) in 1933, one of the first things the monarch did was issue an ultimatum toward Assyrians. Either they could be dispersed among the Muslim population or beat it out of the country. When many Assyrians decided to take off to Syria, the government dispatched troops. Unable to beat the armed Assyrians, the retreating troops attacked fleeing civilians, killing 3,000 of them. This was the beginning of years of repression, particularly under the Ba'athist regime, which refused to recognise such an identity (they were either Nestorians, Chaldeans or Suryan as far as the regime was concerned). Assyrian schools were closed, leading artists and singers were arrested, and many Assyrian families were deported (particularly during the Iran-Iraq war). Assyrian nationalists were detained, beaten and tortured. The Anfal campaign 0f 1988 was primarily against the Kurds, but also targeted Assyrians.

Now, the Turkmen. Scott Taylor, the US journalist who was captured by some mujahiden in Iraq then released after 5 days, has written a book precisely on this topic. In it, he reports an encounter with a British journalist who, asked about the Turkmen's fate, replied "What's a Turkman?" Taylor explained that the Turkmen were the third largest ethnic group in Iraq, approximately 2 million strong (although Juan Cole says this is a massive over-estimate, the true figure being closer to 700,000), and the majority population in Kirkuk, where some of the most ferocious battles with Kurds have taken place. The British journalist eyed him suspiciously and said "Can you prove any of what you are telling me?"

The Turkmen arrived in Iraq principally through the Ottoman conquest of Iraq in 1535, but were marginalised under Ottoman rule, then the British and finally under the Ba'athists. The 'Arabization' policies of the Ba'athist regime involved Kirkuk particularly. 300,000 Arabs were encouraged to migrate to the city, Kurds and Turkmen were not allowed to buy houses in the city, while those who insisted on retaining a non-Arab identity were deported, their farmlands confiscated and given to Arab families. The forced expulsion of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk, Khaniqin, Makhmour, Sinjar, Tuz Khormatu, and other districts as part of its `Arabization' program should have, you would think, created solidarity between the two. But as soon as the Kurds gained their autonomous region in the north, there was competition. In particular, the KDP and PUK began attack members of the Iraqi Turkomen Front, while the PUK targeted the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. Turkmen schools were required to raise the Kurdish flag, even though they did not consider themselves Kurdish. When Saddam's regime fell, there was immediate competition between the two factions as to who would control Kirkuk. Fights broke out over the control of specific properties. The Kurds announced that they intended to annexe Kirkuk into a specifically Kurdish canton, leading to strikes by the city's Turkmen which were supported by al-Sadr's militias.

Forgive me if I slip into the obvious now, but I'm just setting the scene. The Kurds see themselves as a nation, and want a state to represent their interests. They too have suffered enormously under Ba'athism in ways some of which are now widely understood. The 'Arabization' of Kurdish areas began in 1960 under the Qassim regime, but continued after the CIA-sponsored Ba'athist coup of 1963. This included armed warfare, the destruction of villages and the deportation of Kurds. The Kurds began to resist, and in the 1970s began to receive help from Iran, just as Hussein was gaining control of the Ba'ath party. They were subjected to several massacres, most notably the Anfal campaign. They, along with thousands of Shi'ites, were subjected to a massive campaign of slaughter for their part in the 1991 uprising against Saddam's rule. This uprising, encouraged by Bush, was blocked with the assistance of US troops, and we later learned that what Bush actually wanted was for the military to instigate a coup. John Major famously seethed:

"I don't recall asking the Kurds to mount this particular insurrection. We hope very much that the military in Iraq will remove Saddam Hussein." (John Major on ITN, 4 April 1991)

Brent Scowcroft admitted:

"We clearly would have preferred a coup. There's no question about that." (Interview
on ABC news 26 June 1997 quoted in Sarah Graham-Brown, Sanctioning Saddam: The Politics of Intervention in Iraq, 1999, p. 19.)

Anyway, autonomous zones in the north and south were initially enforced as a result of international pressure under Operation Provide Comfort, although the southern zone was quickly re-taken. With control over the autonomous north, the two main Kurdish parties began quickly to compete both with each other and with other groups for control. The repression of the Turkmen and communist groups mentioned above was accompanied by some appalling sell-outs. In particular, Jalal Talabani's PUK invited the Iranian military into its controlled area to fight Barzani's men. The PUK turned a blind eye to the capture and massacre of Iranian Kurds hiding there. Meanwhile, Barzani invited Saddam's military to re-enter the north and crush the PUK. Hussein, in return, was allowed to capture and kill Kurdish dissidents loyal to Talabani.

Now, both the KDP and PUK are working together, but their years of conflict have spawned an Islamist opposition which al-Zarqawi is supposed to have been associated with. At the same time, they have been engaging in attacks on Turkmen and Assyrians, as reported above, in their drive to create an autonomous Kurdish region with the possible foundations of a state in mind. This process, which has been called 'Kurdification' by its victims, is fast becoming another tragic example of the oppressed becoming oppressor.

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British establishment vs war on Iraq. posted by Richard Seymour

There was some derisory snorting in some quarters when Bat speculated that disgust at the war on Iraq had percolated up into some parts of the establishment, particularly the legal establishment in light of the unequivocal ruling in Galloway's favour. No ruling class stitch-up a la Hutton. No sophistical m'lud caveats:

"This raises the intriguing possibility that disgust at the conduct of this war – and in particular, at the warmongers' contemptuous attitude to legality, civil rights and truthfulness – has penetrated deeply into the heart of the legal establishment itself."

It was suggested by others that the difficulty the government had in getting legal backing for the war was one symptom of this. Difficulty, chortled HP Sauce, what difficulty?

Only this :

The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned less than two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that military action could be ruled illegal.

The government was so concerned that it might be prosecuted it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court.

And a parliamentary answer issued days before the war in the name of Lord Goldsmith - but presented by ministers as his official opinion before the crucial Commons vote - was drawn up in Downing Street, not in the attorney general's chambers.


Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office, described the planned invasion of Iraq as a "crime of aggression".

She said she could not agree to military action in circumstances she described as "so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law".

Her uncompromising comments, and disclosures about Lord Goldsmith's relations with ministers in the run-up to war, appear in a book by Philippe Sands, a QC in Cherie Booth's Matrix chambers and professor of international law at University College London.

Vipers in the nest of the establishment. The Guardian goes on:

Separately, the Guardian has learned that Lord Goldsmith told the inquiry into the use of intelligence in the run-up to war that his meeting with Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan was an informal one. He did not know whether it was officially minuted.

Lord Goldsmith also made clear he did not draw up the March 17 written parliamentary answer. They "set out my view", he told the Butler inquiry, referring to Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

Yet the following day, March 18, that answer was described in the Commons order paper as the attorney general's "opinion". During the debate, influential Labour backbenchers and the Conservative frontbench said it was an important factor behind their decision to vote for war.

This government? Liars? Who would have thought that?

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Credit Cards for the poor: 70% interest rates. posted by Richard Seymour

Loan sharks wish they had this much sophistication. A company called Vanquis has launched a new financial service for the poor :

A new credit card aimed at millions of low-income families is to charge interest at up to 70% - the highest ever charged by a credit card company.

Marketed under the slogan: "Stay in control of your budgeting", the typical interest rate on the new Vanquis card will be 49.9%, but for some customers the company judge as high risk, it will be 69.5%. MPs and debt campaigners yesterday condemned the rate, which is 15 times the Bank of England base rate and triple the standard rate on other cards. The card also has an annual fee of £19.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, who recently completed a Treasury select committee investigation into credit cards, called the rate "staggeringly high". He added: "People on a low income tempted by it need to be given a clear financial health warning." Debt on our Doorstep, an umbrella group that includes Oxfam, credit unions and Church Action on Poverty, said: "It's an absolute disgrace that Vanquis should even be suggesting people borrow money on a credit card at that rate."

I've been in dire enough straits to get cheques cashed at those dodgy shops which charge exorbitant rates and seem to take an overwhelming interest in any jewellery you might have. I have even sold household goods down the Woolwich flea market (the traders love that: "oh, back again are we? Let's see what I wanna give yer for this loada crap here."). But you'd have to be thicker than shit to take a card that charged this much interest. Loan sharks can charge up to 150% interest (its three per cent a week, so its about 150% 'vig' per annum) on the illegal side. Vanquis can, at the moment, quite legally extract almost half that amount without breaking any legs or 'reposessing' any videos or wedding rings.

As Brecht once remarked, "what is robbing a bank compared to founding one?"

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Congestion charging works; but it's the wrong policy. posted by Richard Seymour

There is no doubt about it. The traffic chaos in central London has been greatly eased. Overall traffic on the affected roads (which are enclosed in a ring road circling Marylebone, Westminster, the City and Southwark) is down 18%, which must make bus travel much easier. Main roads like Oxford Street are strangely calm compared to a couple of years ago. The leaves on the bare-forked shrubs that the council provide are still blackened, but may well be offering up a bit more oxygen these days.

But it was still the wrong policy, and voters in Edinburgh's referendum were right to dismiss the scheme for their area. Flat charges tend to be regressive in their impact. Workers who might otherwise use the roads find they can no longer afford it, so they pack themselves into some decrepit object of rolling stock that should be in the London Transport museum, commit involuntary frottage with their fellow passengers, take occasional breaths and hope not to pass out. When the morning train pulls into its final destination and spills its contents onto the concourse, you could swear it was like Dr Who's TARDIS - cubically bigger on the inside. In this way, the roads are freed up for the wealthy as well as for cabbies who still manage to whinge their fucking arses off about it.

People need cars, and it is a utopian fantasty to imagine we can do away with them. If there must be a charge, why not ration car use on the basis of need? True, some exemptions are allowed for the disabled and for those who miraculously own an electrically-propelled car. So, why not extend that logic and give free permits for essential workers, (nurses, teachers, other hallowed public sector types), and for those whose income is below a certain threshold?

The most obvious solution to our transport problems is to make the car a less necessary beast. There is more than enough money in this country, and especially in London, to pay for a better, more efficient and cheaper transport system. Come on, Ken. Instead of whacking more on council tax, why not put a tax on some of those obscene mega-profits sloshing around the city? I hear tell that the total financial value of fraud in the City is greater than the total cost of all other economic crime in Britain. Send the police in there, make them do their fucking jobs, nick some stock-brokers . As Mark Steel suggests, isn't it time we saw some bobbies breaking down the great oak doors and yelling "Alright you shareholding bastards, we've got you now!" If the police won't do their job (and they won't), put a tax on them. Windfall them. Reclaim some of those ill-gotten gains and build that bloody Crossrail at long last. Also, as you're in a particular mood, ban those fuckers who scream "EeeeninStannnaard!!" at every tube and train stop in the goddam city.

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Hunter and prey. posted by Richard Seymour

He who lived by the gun died by it. Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most gifted (if erratic) voices in journalism appears to have shot his filthy, perceptive, drug-addled, humorous, seething mind out yesterday. There's no point in pretending otherwise: he was probably pissed, tripping and gripped in a knot of self-hatred at the time. It wasn't a heroic death, but at least he left life on his own terms. My guess is that this is a belated reaction to Bush's victory. The government which he so despised, and which he characterised more than once as Fascist, being re-elected by his compatriots must have driven him crazy. So, he decided that the world was fucked and he wasn't waiting for the final orgasmic show-down. Pity that some newspapers can't work out what age he was when he snuffed it (he was 67).

I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1997, and it insults pedantry to note that I was shaken, stirred, rocked by a series of lexical explosions, foul-mouthed insults and hallucinatory landscapes. High on cocaine, ether, mescaline, LSD, marijuana and tequila, he still saw more truth about the American dream than most serious authors did in sober tomes (it was violent, frigid, electrically obsessed with money and status, sexually perverted and stale). Similarly, his book on the Hells Angels, although a more sober account, was still highly involved and involving. He exposed press lies about the group, showed how they revelled in their outsider status, yet were oddly closer to their cop enemies than they imagined, inasmuch as they were violent, anti-intellectual, contemptuous of the effete, elitist and infinitely corruptible.

Aside from his published books, he wrote articles which bristled with wit. Forget the stupid films about him (Bill Murray should be so ashamed), read some of his work. An epigrammatist with a penchant for obscene, he produced a number of memorable phrases and passages which should be plagiarised, often. I present a few of them here, and casually piss on his bones as he would have wished:

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores for power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts."

"If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin."

"So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms."

"Why bother with newspapers, if this is all they offer? Agnew was right. The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage."

"Avoid being seized by the police. The cops are not your friends. Don't tell them anything."

Bush "is a weak-minded frat boy who cracks under pressure in front of 60 million voters."

"I watch three or four frantic network-news bulletins about Iraq every day, and it is all just fraudulent Pentagon propaganda, the absolute opposite of what it says: u.s. transfers sovereignty to iraqi interim "government." Hot damn! Iraq is finally Free, and just in time for the election! It is a deliberate cowardly lie. We are no more giving power back to the Iraqi people than we are about to stop killing them."

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Livingstone tells em to fuck off. posted by Richard Seymour

Or something not dissimilar to it .

I haven't said much about this, because it is a total non-issue. What Ken Livingstone said was not anti-Semitic. No, he should not apologise, and I'm glad to see he's come out fighting again.

I do think it interesting that the ferocity of Ken's counter-attack belies earlier reports that he would 'express regret' and make "a carefully pitched appeal to critics". What's the first thing out of Ken's mouth?:

A week ago I said it was not my intention to apologise to the journalist from Daily Mail group or his employers. Upon a further week of reflection in which I have read everything written in the press about this controversy and after considerable debate with many Londoners I have decided to stand by that position. There will therefore be no apology or expression of regret to the Daily Mail group.


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More on US-insurgent negotiations. posted by Richard Seymour

Patrick Cockburn brings the tale to Independent readers:

The Sunni guerrillas want a timetable for a US withdrawal, first from Iraqi cities and then from the country as a whole. American officials aim to see if they can drive a wedge between nationalist guerrillas and fanatical Islamist groups.

Abu Marwan, a resistance commander, is quoted as saying that the insurgents want to "fight and negotiate". They are modelling their strategy on that of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. This means creating a united political organisation with a programme opposed to the US occupation.

US military commanders are now dubious about the chances of winning an outright military victory over the Sunni rebels who have a firm core of supporters among the five million-strong Sunni Muslim community. The US military has lost 1,479 dead and 10,740 wounded in Iraq since the invasion began in March 2003.

The talks so far are tentative but they indicate a recognition on the part of the US that it will need a political solution. Those willing to sit down with US diplomats and officials are "nationalists" composed primarily of former military and security officers from Saddam's Hussein's government.

The Iraqi resistance is highly fragmented and regionalised. Groups often only exist in a single city. In guerrilla warfare this may be an advantage since no command structure can be penetrated or disrupted.

The schismatic and regionalised development of the resistance has been its greatest weakness to date. Without a defined political programme that enables it to make a broad appeal, it has been calumniated by every vicious attack on civilians mounted by the likes of Tawhid wal Jihad. There is a slight analogy with the anticapitalist movement here, in which the majority were slandered because of the actions of the Black Bloc, which many in the movement believe is packed with far rightists and police provocateurs anyway. Because fragmented, without any unifying structure, any group of idiots calling themselves anti-capitalist can ruin a decent protest. Similarly, although TwJ are a sectarian group whose main aim is to start a Sunni-Shia war, although its attacks constitute a tiny fragment of the total; although most resistance attacks have targeted troops, Bradley tanks and so on - it has been possible because of the disgusting acts of these tiny outlying groups to impugn the whole resistance.

The fact that a bunch of former Ba'athist military officers are trying to place themselves at the fore-front of a regionalised grass-roots resistance is another symptom of this. True, there does need to be a unified nationalist resistance with a defined political programme: but if it is seen as a vehicle for the re-emergence of Ba'athism, it can never win. Similarly, it is unsurprising that those most eager to chat with the US are their former allies, the ones who must have mourned Reagan's death and still wonder why Rumsfeld is no longer picking up the phone.

As it is, the grass-roots resistance has shown itself capable both of independence from the mukhabarat thugs who wish to hegemonise it, and of overcoming sectarian divisions. In Tel Afar, for instance, Sunni guerillas worked with Shi'a Turkmen against the US and the Kurdish peshmergas deputising on its behalf. During the April 2004 assault on Fallujah, the beseiged Sunni city was assisted by Shi'ites and Sunnis from across Iraq, who brought medical and food aid for their compatriots. They chanted, "No no Sunni, No no Shia, Yes yes Islam". In Baghdad, Sunnis and Shias filled the Sunni Amm al-Qura mosque, while 200,000 gathered in Baghdad for a demonstration against the assault.

However, while the election boycott in Sunni areas seriously damaged the credibility of the vote, it also exposed the possibility of a Sunni-Shia rift. Now, some Sunni leaders see participation in the political process, along with Shi'ites as their best hope for ending the occupation. If they succeed in forcing a US withdrawal from key cities, they may have won half that battle already, but that is a massive 'if'. It is also doubtful whether the participation of a section of the Ba'athist elite in government, locally or nationally, will stop the resistance when the occupying troops provide such ample grist for its mill every day. Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that the bulk of the resistance is Islamist-nationalist rather than Ba'athist, composed of those who would have opposed Saddam. Just as it was an Islamist movement that kicked the US and then Israel out of Lebanon, it is probably just such groups who will continue to come to the fore in militarily opposing the occupation.

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Monday, February 21, 2005

"Cult classic, not best-seller". posted by Richard Seymour

Thus The Streets, and thus also the SF novelist and blogger known as Ken MacLeod (known as such, because that is his name). I just wanted to draw attention to this classic post :

The great scandal of Lenin was that he taught realpolitik to the lower classes and backward peoples. If the working class was ever to become a ruling class it had better start thinking like one, and for a ruling class there are no rules. There is only the struggle to get and keep power. This is not to say that the Leninists and the imperialists are without moral feelings. Individually they are for the most part perfectly normal. Their compassion for their enemies' victims is absolutely genuine. So is their outrage at their enemies' moral failings and blind spots. In the 1980s I found it very difficult to regard supporters of the Chinese Communists' consistently anti-Soviet international policies as anything but scoundrels and scabs; but they were merely applying the same criteria as I was, to a different analysis of the world; and their indignation at my callous calculations and selective sympathies was just as real. I had the same sort of arguments with Trotskyists who supported the muj.

'How can you ...?' 'How can you ...?'

Morality has very little to do with choosing sides. It can tell us that a given act is dreadful, but it can't tell us whether to say, 'This is dreadful, therefore ...' or 'This is dreadful, but ...' We still often believe that we oppose our enemies because of their crimes, and support our allies despite their crimes. I wouldn't be surprised if Margaret Thatcher was quite sincere in condemning ZAPU as a terrorist organization because it shot down a civilian airliner, and in supporting one of the mujahedin factions, despite the fact that it had deliberately blown up a civilian airliner. Sometimes our moral justifications can blunt our moral sense. Think of the incendiary bombings of Germany and Japan. Suppose they were a military necessity. If so, better to accept that what 'our side' is doing is wrong and do it anyway than to persuade ourselves it is right because it is in a just cause.

(The writings of a great amoralist - a de Sade, a Stirner, a Nietzsche - can inspire a handful of murders in two centuries. Over the same period, the writings of a great moral philosopher - an Aquinas, a Kant, a Bentham, a Mill - can justify, if not indeed incite, the deaths of millions in just wars and just revolutions. Morality is an immensely dangerous and destructive force, which must be restrained by the strongest human passions and sympathies if it is not to break all the bonds of society.)

Morality is real. Morality is ideology. It is the heat given off by the workings of quite different machinery. In measuring the heat while ignoring the mechanism - in making a moral case for or against a particular war, for example - the moral philosopher reasons 'consciously indeed, but with a false consciousness'. The screams of those caught in the machinery continue unabated. They cry to heaven. It is only in what Locke called the 'appeal to heaven' - the clash of arms - that anyone (apart from, of course, 'pacifists, Quakers and other bourgeois fools' as someone said, who indulge in 'pacifist-Quaker-vegetarian prattle about the sanctity of human life', as someone else said) sees a hope that some day the machinery can be made to stop, and the screams to cease. That hope itself is the machines' fuel.

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Bacevich: US isn't fighting to win. posted by Richard Seymour

I've often enjoyed Andrew Bacevich's smooth, premonitory dispatches about US foreign policy. As a moderate, pro-American conservative, he has a suppleness and flexibility in his approach that few of his compatriots can, or are willing to, match. The virtues and vices of conservatism are always present, as in his excellent book American Empire: The realities and consequences of US diplomacy (2002). There isn't a terrific concern for the other guys, the victims of US power, but there is a devastating analytical edge, one that subverts expectations on almost every page. That is by way of introducing the author of a tiny piece for today's LA Times which - because is is tiny - I reproduce in full here:

We Aren't Fighting to Win Anymore
U.S. troops in Iraq are only trying to buy time.
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of international relations at Boston University and author of "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War" (Oxford University Press, 2005).

February 20, 2005

Americans of a certain age will recall Douglas MacArthur's pithy aphorism: "There is no substitute for victory." The remark captures an essential element of our military tradition. When the United States goes to war, it fights to win, to force the enemy to do our will. To sacrifice our soldiers' lives for anything less — as MacArthur charged was the case in Korea and later unambiguously became the case in Vietnam — smacks of being somehow un-American.

But among the various official statements being issued to explain events in Iraq, any mention of military victory has become notable by its absence. Tacitly — unnoticed even by the war's critics — the Bush administration has all but given up any expectation of defeating the enemy with whom we are engaged.

In the early days of the insurgency, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez vowed to use "whatever combat power is necessary to win," displaying all the pugnacity of a George Patton or Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf. "That's what America expects of me," declared Sanchez in December 2003, "and that's what I'm going to accomplish." Senior commanders no longer make such bold promises. Nor do senior civilian officials in Washington.

Indeed, today the Bush administration's aim is not to win but to relieve itself of responsibility for waging a war that it began but cannot finish. Debate in national security circles focuses not on deploying war-winning technologies or fielding innovative tactics that might turn the tide, but on how we can extricate ourselves before our overstretched forces suffer irreparable damage.

Optimists are placing their hopes on a crash program to create a new Iraqi security force that just might permit us in a year or so to begin reducing the size of our garrison. Pessimists have their doubts. But virtually no one is predicting we will be even remotely close to crushing the insurgency. The decisive victory promised by the war's advocates back in March 2003 — remember all the talk of "shock and awe"? — has now slipped beyond our grasp.

Of course, following the heady assault on Baghdad, the conflict took an unexpected turn — precisely as wars throughout history have tended to do. As a consequence, today a low-tech enemy force estimated at about 10,000 fighters has stymied the mightiest military establishment the world has ever seen. To be sure, the adversary cannot defeat us militarily. But neither can we defeat it. In short, U.S. troops today are no longer fighting to win, but simply to buy time: This has become the Bush administration's substitute for victory. Worse, in a war such as in Iraq, time is more likely to work in the other guy's favor.

Whether this reality has yet to fully sink in with the majority of the American people is unclear. No doubt President Bush hopes the citizenry will continue to snooze. Better to talk about Social Security reform and banning gay marriage than to call attention to the unhappy fact that we are spending several billion dollars per month and losing, on average, two soldiers per day — not to prevail but simply to prolong the stalemate. Moreover, if the administration gets its way, we can expect that expenditure of blood and treasure to continue for many months, until there emerges an Iraqi government able to fend for itself or Iraq descends into chaos.

Pending the final judgment of President Bush's war, this much we can say for sure: Two years after the dash on Baghdad seemingly affirmed the invincibility of the U.S. armed forces, the actual limits of American power now lay exposed for all to see. Our adversaries, real and potential, are no doubt busy contemplating the implications of those limits.

So too must we. Our effort to do so should begin with the admission that the idea, promoted during the heady spring of 2003, that through the aggressive use of military power the United States might transform the Islamic world and cement U.S. global preeminence was a dangerous delusion. It remains a delusion today.

In a short article, Bacevich says more than many others can compress into a lengthy review. It isn't a moral argument but, invaluably, it cuts the new imperialism down to size. It deflates the pretty ideas with which neoconservative fanatics legitimise their present disposition, and does so convincingly. I strongly recommend that you check this man's writing out.

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US talking to insurgents. posted by Richard Seymour

Apostate Windbag floated it , now Time magazine confirms it. The US is conducting secret negotiations with insurgents in Iraq:

Pentagon officials say the secret contacts with insurgent leaders are being conducted mainly by U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers. A Western observer close to the discussions says that "there is no authorized dialogue with the insurgents" but that the U.S. has joined "back-channel" communications with rebels. Says the observer: "There's a lot bubbling under the surface today."

Over the course of the war in Iraq, as the anti-U.S. resistance has grown in size and intensity, Administration officials have been steadfast in their refusal to negotiate with enemy fighters. But in recent months, the persistence of the fighting and signs of division in the ranks of the insurgency have prompted some U.S. officials to seek a political solution. And Pentagon and intelligence officials hope the high voter turnout in last month's election will deflate the morale of the insurgents and persuade more of them to come in from the cold.

Apostate Windbag speculates that it could now be strategy to reincorporate elements of the old Ba'athist regime or indeed just reinstate a more moderate Ba'athism, as is suggested in a document publicised by Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation. I sort of doubt that. Although US policy has previously been inclined to prefer a Saddam-like ruler who was not called Saddam, they no longer control the trajectory of Iraq as they'd like to. Certainly, deciphering US policy at the moment is difficult, and it would seem to be characterised by some contradictory impulses. On the one hand, we hear that the US is arming certain Sunni groups to disrupt Shia rule; on the other, they are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to crush the insurgency, including the destruction of an entire city. Now, we hear they are negotiating. It looks like a balancing act. The US is caught between two anti-occupation forces in Iraq right now: one largely peaceful, Shi'ite, but pro-Iranian; the other violent, Sunni, but desperate not to be sidelined under Shi'ite rule. Hence, a strategy of playing one off against the other.

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