Friday, March 06, 2009

The never-ending illegal war, drones, PKK, etc.

Layoff notices, bank failures and plummeting stock markets seem to fill every minute of our newscasts and every corner of our consciences.
What a time to be selling a book with this cheery thesis: The disastrous war in Iraq probably must continue to prevent further disaster.
You'd have to be hopelessly out of touch, a tad delusional -- or a crackerjack journalist on a mission -- to come out with a winner like that, as Thomas E. Ricks has.
In "
The Gamble," the veteran Washington Post correspondent looks at how the U.S. troop "surge" brought a measure of stability to Iraq -- gains he describes as so fragile that they almost certainly will disappear if the U.S. pulls out too precipitously.
In interviews he has been giving in recent days, Ricks provides little solace to those who want to believe an American victory in Iraq is at hand. But those who want to pull out now won't find much comfort either.
Ricks calls the Iraq war the "biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy." But unlike some Americans, whether journalists or regular citizens, he has devoted considerable thought to the morality of leaving a country torn apart by our grand misadventure.

The above is the opening to James Rainey's "Refusing to forget the Iraq war" (Los Angeles Times) and Rainey notes the broadcast networks running from Iraq with 2008 offering 1/10 the coverage of Iraq on the evening news that could be found the year prior and the "less than a dozen stories," ABC, CBS and NBC have done on Iraq so far this year. Thomas E. Ricks currently writes at Foreign Policy.

From Iraq, a McClatchy Iraqi correspondent files "A picture of corruption. Zen is not Zen at all" (Inside Iraq) about the cell phone company Zen which services mot of Iraq or mis-services since you must dial numbers multiple times and may or may not get connected and may or may not be able to hear the party you've called.

The company has a contract with the ministry of finance. One of the main points that had been mentioned in the joint press conference of the company with the ministry, the general director of the company confirmed that the company will provide the best quality of services to Iraqis. It looks that the man meant (the best worse services). People complain always and many TV channels made many reports about the services of the company. The ministry of finance announced it had fined the company and informed it to improve its services but the services got even worse.

Zen can't hook you up but Turkey's claiming their services have 'results.' China's Xinhau reports:

Turkish army said that the casualties of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in air operations and artillery fires in northern Iraq reached nearly 375 since October 2008, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Friday.
The PKK has suffered heavy loss as a result of effective operations by Turkish Security Forces, the report quoted Gen. Metin Gurak, head of the communication department of the General Staff, as saying at the weekly press briefing.

Meanwhile Nathan Hodge (Wired) stumbled across the M-NF press release Thursday evening about a drone being used for combat. We noted it Tuesday morning and in Tuesday's snapshot -- and we weren't drooling. We called it out. But Nate's all about the gadgets. Since he can't call it out and he can't add anything and he's basically just rewritten the military press release, we probably shouldn't even bother with a link; however, consider the huge number of outlets that have continued to ignore the press release. Keith Rogers offers "Demand for Predator spy planes continues: Air Force officer predicts additional need for unmanned aircraft systems" (Las Vegas Review-Journal) which is apparently supposed to reassure:

With plans by President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. ground forces in Iraq and end their combat operations by August 2010, air support from remotely piloted Predator spy planes controlled from Creech Air Force Base probably will continue, a Nevada-based commander said this week.
"The last three months, we've seen no change in the number of hours and number of CAPs (combat air patrols) that we've flown," said Lt. Col. Rob Kiebler, commander of the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
"Obviously, the civilian authorities and the political administration will make determinations on troop levels, how much we're going to commit to both Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "But what we see forward is both Iraq and Afghanistan continuing operations and actually increasing our Predator and Reaper CAPs flying over both theaters."

That's great news . . . if you believe the only deaths that matter are US ones. You also have to believe that the drones are as 'effective' as the Patriot missiles. (Translation, not effective or fool proof at all.) But, by all means, gust over their "laser-guided missiles" and their killing capacity. It's all about the kill, right? Satisfying the blood lust? Never has the sport of the kill, the hunt of humans been more obvious than in Rogers' article. A truly advanced civilization would take great offense but it'll probably just sail right over everyone's heads because (a) it's not US deaths and (b) it is, after all, Las Vegas.

Amanda asks that we note this from Media Lens again:

But Obama's lies matter little to much of the public, anti-war activists among them. 'You don't understand,' they tell us. 'Obama +has+ to say all this stuff - it's not what he believes. He's out to change all this, but he has to say it.'

This involves a kind of treble-think. Politicians typically hide their ruthlessness behind compassionate verbiage. Obama, we are to believe, is hiding his compassion behind ruthless verbiage - Machiavellianism in reverse.

Which is exactly what was said of Clinton and Blair in the 1990s. Of course it could be the case now. But should we not aim to be a little more socially scientific in our political analysis?

We can observe that, in a way that mirrors Newtonian physics, enormous political forces tend to act unimpeded unless challenged by powerful oppositional forces. We can observe, further, that there is no reason whatever to believe that the greed and violence that have become entrenched in American politics over decades and centuries have simply gone away. Certainly they have not been countered by mass democratic movements rooted in compassion rather than greed. There are no new, mass-based parties rooted in progressive values; no city-stopping protests erupting out of a transformational political process.

If a brand new, benevolent face now fronts the system in which traditionally ruthless forces dominate, rationality demands that we assume it to be a makeover, a brand alteration, an attempt precisely to reduce pressure on the system to change.

The Bush-Blair crimes contaminated the American brand with Iraqi and Afghan blood products - we have to assume that the same ferocious system is now in the process of rehabilitating, not revolutionising, that brand. Greed, ignorance and hatred do not miraculously transform into compassion, wisdom and peacefulness, in individuals or in superpowers. Call it Newtonian political physics. Call it Buddhist psychology. Call it common sense.

Turning to public broadcasting. NOW on PBS examines a murder from 2005 this week:

How could a struggle over land lead to the brutal murder of an American nun?
This week, David Brancaccio interviews award-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge on his latest film "They Killed Sister Dorothy." The documentary focuses on Sister Dorothy Stang, a Catholic nun from Dayton, Ohio, who in 2005 was killed on a muddy road in the Brazilian Amazon she worked tirelessly to save. But it's also the story of peasant farmers hoping to preserve their way of life in the face of powerful industry interests. Who will dare stand up in the battle between the haves and the have nots, and will our world's ecosystem pay the biggest price?
"Peasant people...don't have a chance to share in the riches that the planet can offer because some people are taking off so much of the pleasures of this world, and there's only so much to go around," Sister Dorothy said before her death.

On Washington Week, which also begins airing Friday on many PBS stations, Gwen sits down with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), James Barnes (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine) -- the latter of whom is working on her Bette Davis "stars" speech from Now Voyager in an attempt to incorporate into the sham discussions on health care that Barack is leading currently. "Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon, we have the stars."

Moving over to broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, on 60 Minutes:

Bank Failure
Scott Pelley has an exclusive look as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation takes control of a failed bank.
Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson. (This is a double-length segment.) | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

notes an NYT blog post by Eric Etheridge which quotes Andrew Bacevich on counterinsurgency:

If counterinsurgency is useful chiefly for digging ourselves out of holes we shouldn't be in, then why not simply avoid the holes? Why play al-Qaeda's game? Why persist in waging the Long War when that war makes no sense?
When it comes to dealing with Islamism, containment rather than transformation should provide the cornerstone of U.S. (and Western) strategy. Ours is the far stronger hand. The jihadist project is entirely negative. Apart from offering an outlet for anger and resentment, Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk have nothing on offer. Time is our ally. With time, our adversary will wither and die--unless through our own folly we choose to destroy ourselves first.

Andrew Bacevich is a conservative who has frequently spoken out against neocon foreign policy aims this decade. He has been an Iraq War critic. (More so after his own loss.) He also endorsed Barack (and his reasons for it were laughable then and now -- especially when you strip Iraq out of the endorsement). For more on Bacevich, you can see this interview Bill Moyers did with him last year.

Lastly, ETAN notes:

Power plant information now available
Media Release from La'o Hamutuk, 3 March 2009

Until now, technical information regarding the $375 million project to build heavy oil electric generating stations and a national distribution grid in Timor-Leste has been a closely kept secret. Government officials are proud of what they hope to achieve with this project. However, they have consistently refused to provide concrete documents or information about technical, contractual, physical, environmental or other aspects of this project.

In order to help Timor-Leste’s people and leaders to better understand this huge project, the NGO La’o Hamutuk has obtained a copy of the proposal made last June to the Government of Timor-Leste by Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company, which was awarded the contract for the project in October.

Although there have been some changes in the project since the proposal was written, including the addition of a third generating site in Hera, it provides far more information than has been available previously. The company argues strongly for using old, heavy oil generators as the cheapest and quickest route to electrification, while providing some information, often unclear and inconsistent, about plans to reduce their environmental damage.

However, the proposal and other information we have obtained from interviews and rumors raise as many questions as they answer. La'o Hamutuk will continue to collect, analyze and publish information regarding this project, and we welcome material from all sources. For it is only based on factual information -- not on promises, rumors or partisan accusations -- that Timor-Leste’s people and leaders will be able to make the wisest decisions for our nation’s development.

La’o Hamutuk's analysis, links and entry page to information on this project is [here] (English and Tetum). The proposal from the company can be downloaded from [here, PDF format warning] (English only).

People in Dili without internet access can visit La'o Hamutuk's office behind the HAK Association in Farol to obtain these and other materials.

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas e. ricks

60 minutes
 washington week
now on pbs