Quote of the Day: Literalizing a Metaphor

by matttbastard

To me, one of the problems of the paradigm of global war is that it has not signified war in the metaphorical sense, like war on AIDS, war on drugs, and war on poverty. It has signified war in a literal sense that the employment of military power, on a large scale, in pursuit of very large ambitions—like the liberation or dominance or transformation of Iraq—ought to really be the principle instrument in order to achieve our purposes. I think that takes us down the wrong road. I think, and others have argued, that a new version of containment actually provides the basis to begin thinking about how to prevent another 9/11. Not a new war, not a global war, not a protracted war. The answer to the problem is not to invade and occupy countries, which we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but relying on other instruments of power to try to prevent Islamic radicalism from increasing its reach and its influence in the world.

I’ve reviewed [Robert] Kagan’s new book [The Return of History and the End of Dreams] in the most recent issue [of Foreign Affairs], and I was very critical of the book. I really didn’t like it, but the one thing that really bowled me over, and that I emphatically agree with, is that what the Islamists have on offer cannot win. The plan that they have, the concept for how people should live, is simply not responsive to what ordinary folk want for their lives. I mean, they are fighting against modernity, and as Robert Kagan says, that is a fight that they cannot win.

Almost everything on this struggle is on our side, and therefore we should approach it with the confidence and patience, and shouldn’t run pell-mell into these military adventures that the Bush administration has approached. Our adversaries are contemptible. Our adversaries are criminals. Our adversaries are murderers. We ought not to dignify their cause as if it were the equivalent of Marxism or Leninism or National Socialism or something of the last century, because they don’t deserve that type of status.

– Andrew Bacevich, from a recent interview with Greg Bruno of the Council on Foreign Relations

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“Accountability…is not, in every case, a virtue”

by matttbastard

Mike Allen of The Politico quotes from Ron Suskind’s new book, The Way of the World:

“After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn’t know – things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

“They key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something he’d authorized. The whole point of Cheney’s model is to make a president less accountable for his action. Cheney’s view is that accountability – a bedrock feature of representative democracy – is not, in every case, a virtue.

Just remember, kids: impeachment is off the table.

Update: Suskind on NBC News:

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Reuters: Iraq Parliament Delays Vote On Provincial Elections Law

by matttbastard

The elusive magical success pony in Iraq just got scared away (again):

Iraqi parliamentarians failed on Sunday to pass a law on provincial elections, putting the date of important polls in doubt and leaving unresolved a political standoff that has stoked ethnic tensions.

After struggling for hours to reach a quorum, lawmakers indefinitely postponed a special session they had called to pass the law, which has come unstuck over plans for the disputed northern city of Kirkuk and angered minority Kurds.

The delay may mean the elections, originally planned for October 1, could be put off until next year. Electoral officials have said they need months to plan once the law is passed.

So much for all those defiant assertions about how us dirty fucking hippies simply must admit that teh surge is TOO working!

Related: More from Elizabeth Ferris of The Brookings Institution on Kirkuk, “the next ‘powder keg’ in Iraq” (PDF).

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Bill Moyers Pwns O’Reilly Factor Producer Porter Barry

by matttbastard

Ambush FAIL:

As Nicole Belle says, “watch it again and again, it just gets better.”

Related:

Legendary journalist Bill Moyers address the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis, June 7, 2008. Presented by FreePress.net. For more speakers, press coverage, and info, visit: http://www.freepress.net/conference

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Out of Sight…

by matttbastard

The NY Times:

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September.

The.

Surge.

Is.

Working.

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Clapton May Be God, But Pierce is Jesus (Sorry, Obama)

by matttbastard

(video: The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis, by Bill Moyers [86 minutes])

Charles Pierce abso-flippin’-lutely knocks it out of the park:

More than anything else, the presidential election ongoing is — or, as a right, ought to be — about ending an era of complicity. There is no point anymore in blaming George Bush or the men he hired or the party he represented or the conservative movement that energized that party for what has happened to this country in the past seven years. They were all merely the vehicles through whom the fear and the lassitude and the neglect and the dry rot that had been afflicting the democratic structures for decades came to a dramatic and disastrous crescendo. The Bill of Rights had been rendered a nullity by degrees long before a passel of apparatchik hired lawyers found in its text enough gray space to allow a fecklessly incompetent president to command that torture be carried out in the country’s name. The war powers of the Congress had been deeded wholesale to the executive long before Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and a passel of think-tank cowboys found within them the right of a fecklessly incompetent president to make war unilaterally on anyone, anywhere, forever. The war in Iraq is the powerful bastard child of the Iran-Contra scandal, which went unpunished.

The ownership of the people over their politics — and, therefore, over their government — had been placed in quitclaim long before the towers fell, and the president told the people to be just afraid enough to let him take them to war and just afraid enough to reelect him, but not to be so afraid that they stayed out of the malls.

It had been happening, bit by bit, over nearly forty years. Ronald Reagan sold the idea that “government” was something alien. The notion of a political commonwealth fell into a desuetude so profound that even Bill Clinton said, “The era of Big Government is over” and was cheered across the political spectrum, so that when an American city drowned and the president didn’t care enough to leave a birthday party, and the disgraced former luxury-horse executive who’d been placed in charge of disaster relief behaved pretty much the way a disgraced former luxury-horse executive could be expected to behave in that situation, it could not have come as any kind of surprise to anyone honest enough to have watched the country steadily abandon self-government over the previous four decades. The catastrophe that is the administration of George W. Bush is not unprecedented. It was merely inevitable. The people of the United States have been accessorial in the murder of their country

Read the whole goddamn thing.

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Kathleen Frydl – Is Iraq Another Vietnam?

by matttbastard

Dr. Kathleen Frydl, Assistant Professor of History at U.C. Berkeley, draws parallels between the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq.

Related: Der Spiegel interview with Lawrence F. Kaplan: “Before the war, Iraq was an abstraction, an idea. Once you have seen the place you can’t help but be much more cautious with the ideas that you put on the table.”

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PSA: The Humanitarian Void in Iraq

by matttbastrard

From Refugees International:

Uprooted and Unstable in Iraq

“We are getting tired,” an Iraqi mother told Refugees International on our recent mission inside Iraq. “We just need a decent house to live in and decent food to live off of…” This woman and her family live rent-free in a house provided by the Sadrist movement after being forced from their home. Refugees International found that Iraqi militias are the main providers of food, clothing, oil and other basic resources to 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis, because the Iraqi government and international community are failing to assist them. Our report, Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq, cautions that if this problem is not addressed, it will have dire consequences for the humanitarian and security situation in Iraq. The report recommends that aid organizations, including the UN, partner with local groups inside Iraq, and discourages refugee returns until more effective aid channels are established.

Also read Five Years Later, A Hidden Crisis, a new report issued by the International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Iraqi Refugees.

Related: via Feminist Peace Network, IRIN press release:

A study published in March by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the mental state of Iraqis in Jordan and Lebanon has pointed to mounting social and economic problems as the cause of increased domestic violence.

[…]

“Most families prefer to sweep their problems under the carpet because [to them] reputation matters more than anything else,” said Shankul Kader from the Jordanian-Iraqi Brotherhood Society, a non-governmental organisation trying to help the Iraqi community in Jordan.

“The fact that most men are forced to stay at home due to the lack of jobs, and the lack of social interaction among the refugees, has heightened tension in households,” the study said. It revealed that 15 percent of women interviewed in female-only focus groups reported an increase in family violence.

“A well-raised Iraqi woman should tolerate everything in silence… My husband has no other way to get rid of his anger,” one woman told researchers.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, over half a million Iraqis have moved to Jordan, hoping to return home when things improve.

Most Iraqis in Jordan are middle class, but over the years their savings have run down, and there are few jobs. Only about 22 percent of Iraqi adults in Jordan work; the rest are jobless, according to a recent study by the Norway-based FAFO Institute for Applied International Studies.

A large number of Iraqis rely on financial aid from relatives outside the Middle East, mostly in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, while others rely on temporary jobs, as immigration rules prevent them from holding permanent jobs.

“Men resort to violence because of social and economic pressures. Iraqis in Jordan are living in constant worry about their future,” Shankul said.

Activists involved in helping Jordanian women survive domestic violence say their doors are open to Iraqi women. Asma Khader, a women’s rights activist and lawyer, said the Jordan Federation for Women is engaged in activities to help abused Iraqi women. “Social barriers remain the biggest challenge in tackling domestic problems,” she told IRIN.

Also see “Terrible things happened to me”: Violence against Iraqi women and girls and Voices of Iraqi Refugee Women and Girls in Jordan, both from the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, which also produced the following video on gender-based violence against Iraqi women and girls in Jordan:

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