Abu Aardvark

The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer - where do we go from here?

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Friday, May 02, 2003
Road map to peace: "Hours after receiving a new plan for peace in the Middle East, Israel on Thursday sent its forces into the Gaza Strip and West Bank in a day of bloody confrontation that left at least 14 Palestinians dead, including a 2-year-old boy." I think you were supposed to turn left at that intersection, Arik. Arik? Arik! Are you listening? If you don't turn left right now, I'm going to issue a stern declaration of concern, but don't worry I still love you. Could you, um, turn left now? The roadmap clearly says "left" Arik. Look, Arik, everybody is watching, and I'm starting to look a little bit silly - I helped pay for this car too, you know. Mister Sharon, would you please turn left immediately or else I will be very angry with you and send you to your room without supper **wink, wink - don't worry, I'll have a pizza delivered later tonight** Arik?

Gee, this is strange: "The State Department, National Security Council, CIA and the U.S. Central Command, which ran the war, have become increasingly frustrated with exile leader Ahmad Chalabi and his Free Iraqi Forces, the U.S. sources said. ...The Free Iraqi Forces had lately begun setting up roadblocks in defiance of U.S. military orders and even confronted American troops when ordered to take them down. Some of the U.S.-trained forces were also linked with looting, the sources said."Centcom decided these guys were becoming a threat to law and order as well as U.S. security," said an administration official who requested anonymity." Chalabi causing problems? That's surprising. Ineffective? Sure. Irrelevant? Of course. The creature of the neocons? Indubitably. But actually causing problems? That's surprising... I always thought of him as completely irrelevant and here he seems to be actually making a difference. Golly.

Our President continues to build his Dream Team to run Iraq - Jay Garner, Bechtel contractors, and now Paul Bremer! Who can forget Paul Bremer, sinking the last shot in the 94 finals, and... oh wait, sorry. Different guy, but no dreamier than Paul Bremer. No, you remember - Bremer is the "hard-nosed hawk who is close to the neoconservative wing of the Pentagon" and an expert in counterterrorism, which will come very much in handy dealing with those Iraqis who attacked the United States on 9/11. And no doubt all those years heading up Kissinger's business operations have deeply imbued him with democratic values. Yes, all we need now is Zal Khalilzad - the George Washington of today's prosperous democracy of Afghanistan - to take on his much-anticipated role as chief political architect for the Dream Team to be complete.

Oh, our President: "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got." Um, Sir, that was great with the landing on an aircraft carrier and everything, but, um, Iraq didn't attack the US on 9/11, that was al-Qaeda. Remember?

Wow, I feel completely differently now. After seeing President Bush land on an aircraft carrier, I suddenly realize what a brave, heroic, leaderly leader he really is. Can you imagine a democrat taking an unnecessary, stupid risk purely for the sake of a temporary political advantage and a photo op? No sir - and I do mean Sir - this President is the kind that I want - stupid risks for empty propaganda benefit is, for me, the very definition of leadership. Thank you, oh fearless leader!

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Thanks to reader Jason for clip from the Daily Show of Bush v Bush. Very funny. When I took that "political personality test" that was all the rage a few months ago (no link, sorry), I was, in fact, a Jon Stewart Cynical Liberal. Go figure.

The aardvark wrote a while ago about Robert Lieber's highly disappointing essay in Commentary about the war. Now, Lieber has written in the Chronicle of Higher Education attacking the critics of the neocons. The essay is a tedious rehearsal of tired arguments - just like the Commentary piece - with some of its sentences seeming awfully familiar. "A small band of neoconservative (read, Jewish) defense intellectuals," Lieber begins - isn't that the exact wording of several other hatchet jobs by Lawrence Kaplan and company? It's funny - you would think that a professor of international relations and foreign policy would be excited by the opportunity to explore and explain the rise of a marginal but coherent set of foreign policy ideas to become the centerpiece of American grand strategy. That's unusual, exciting, and puzzling, and exactly the sort of thing that International Relations theorists would be inexcusably remiss if they didn't try to explain. How did these ideas rather than others take center stage, especially given Candidate Bush's very different ideas about the world? What explains the success of their advocates? What are those ideas? How sound are they as an explanation of international politics or as a prescription for foreign policy? But Lieber wants none of that - it's all a conspiracy theory, and manifestly anti-Semitic, so all discussion of it should be shut down. His absence of curiosity - "reasoned shift in grand strategy that the Bush administration has adopted in responding to an ominous form of external threat." - would be a damning indictment of the field of IR if this were really the best that it could do. Luckily, it isn't... right?

Not going to say much about the road map to Israeli-Palestinian peace. It doesn't look to me like Bush is taking it very seriously, the situation on the ground offers little reason to expect any progress, and the ideological orientation of Team Bush makes me very, very skeptical that any tough choices will be made. But hey - prove me wrong.

The occupation proceeds apace: "Attackers lobbed two grenades into a U.S. Army compound Thursday, wounding seven soldiers just hours after the Americans had fired on Iraqi protesters in the street outside, a U.S. intelligence officer reported." These kinds of things don't on their own tell us much about Iraqi public opinion - it is always easy for spoilers to use violence in these kinds of situations. That violence is often meant to provoke the occupier into using repressive force against the population, alienating and angering fence-sitters and potential moderates. What really matters is what happens after the violence - does the public reject the violence or celebrate it? How does the occupying power respond - with more repression or with some kind of effective public outreach? The failure to quickly provide order was bad, but excusable perhaps given the sudden collapse of Baghdad (why is the aardvark being so generous today? I dunno.. lack of sleep maybe. But see Kanan Makiya's essay in TNR, not available on line, for a scathing take on the absence of serious American preparation for the aftermath of the war). But the repeated firing on crowds of protestors suggests that the US is rapidly falling into the action-reaction trap so familiar from ETA, the FLN, and so many other places. There was and is no reason to think that the American occupation of Iraq would be qualitatively different from any other occupation, no matter how many times the neocons try to tell us that America is somehow different.

Tony Blair says that those of us criticizing the US-UK about their failure to find WMD will "eat their words." Really? Most of the critics have accepted as given that the WMD exist in some form, just not in the quantities claimed or in any way which posed a threat which UNMOVIC could not have handled. Finding a few remnants won't make for much of a lunch - the US-UK have already failed, because they claimed to have specific information about massive amounts of WMD, and then failed to produce any evidence.

Meanwhile, the same BBC piece offers this bizarre quote from Vladimir Putin: "We do not know whether perhaps Saddam is still hiding somewhere underground in a bunker sitting on cases containing weapons of mass destruction, and is preparing for blowing the whole thing up and bringing down with him the lives of hundreds of thousands of people." Does the Russian leader know something that we don't, or is he just speculating for dramatic effect? I suspect the latter, but with this guy you never know... former KGB and all that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
A typically reprehensible piece in the NRO, this one by Bibi Netanyahu's old aide Michael Freund, raises some interesting questions for the neocons, though I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for answers. Freund's point is that Arabs were shocked by American military power in Iraq, but that this shock translates into more anger, not more respect - "they still hate us." Now, Freund is incredibly simplistic, polemical, and largely ignorant of Arab public opinion, but let's assume for the sake of argument that he is right. Wouldn't that pose something of a problem for the National Review/Weekly Standard/Fouad Ajami/Wall Street Journal/Bernard Lewis (etcetera) line that "Muslims hate us because we look weak, and will respect us if we look strong"? Didn't the neocons cite Osama bin Laden approvingly on "people follow a strong horse, not a weak horse"? So if Freund were correct that Arabs only resent America more after its show of military strength in Iraq, wouldn't this be a disconfirmation of a major neocon hypothesis (translation from political science-speak: doesn't this prove them wrong)?

Hey, let's play that game again - Which of these is more disheartening?
(a) US Troops Fire on Iraq Protestors Again

(b) Top Iraqi Prisoners Are Uniformly Denying Saddam Had WMDs."

(c) The aardvark cub began her day this morning at 2:30, after beginning yesterday morning at 3:30, and aardvark senior has many, many termites to eat today. Another light blogging day, I fear.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
A note to overly enthusiastic Buffy fans... Abu Aardvark is a totally spoiler-free site. I swore off spoilers some time last season, because I realized that I don't want to know what's going to happen. I prefer the suspense. I couldn't avoid knowing that Tara was going to die late last season, and that really spoiled the shock. So this season I have been totally spoiler free, except for some big stuff like Faith coming back. So please, please, please don't email me anything which involves Buffy spoilers!! I don't want to know!

The Road to Surfdom asks a good question: anyone heard from Ken Pollack lately? I mean, as the guy outside the Bush administration most responsible for winning public support for the war against Iraq, and the guy who seems to have been proven most thoroughly and completely wrong, it seems fair to wonder if he has revised his arguments at all. I've always maintained that Pollack is a smart guy and a powerful presence, and a nice person to boot, but that his arguments about Iraq were wildly overblown and unsubstantiated. His arguments won the day, of course - he convinced even smart skeptics like Josh Marshall to support the war on the grounds that Iraqi WMD posed such an urgent and existential threat that we had no choice but war now rather than war later. And of course now we know that Iraq didn't use any WMD - was Saddam deterred, which Pollack said he wouldn't be, or were there no WMD? - and that the US-UK can't seem to find any WMD, that they don't seem to care much to look for them, and that the WMD never really mattered much to them in the first place. I don't doubt that he has thought about this and has an answer forthcoming - I look forward to reading it. But I wonder - iIs Pollack bitter at being used by a cynical adminstration, or is he happy that the invasion he demanded went ahead? Has he faced any skeptical media questioning since the war? His latest essay for Brookings doesn't display much humility - it focuses primarily upon the military conduct of the war, and speculates that Iraq didn't use WMD because it overestimated the success of its irregulars outside of Baghdad. Doesn't answer the question.

Monday, April 28, 2003
Everyone is jumping on the curiously sourced Telegraph article about George Galloway. Did he take money from Saddam? I have no idea. I tend to doubt it - the documents were just too convenient, and the man has too many enemies. I have talked to him on the phone a few times, but never met him - but when he told me about the financial problems which plagued the Mariam Appeal, it didn't seem like a mysteriously financed operation. At any rate, people like the ever-egregious Stephen Hayes (link above) are now trying to extend the original, dubious story into a wider condemnation of the whole peace movement. That this is absurd goes without saying... but remember a while ago the aardvark blogged on how "Saddam's files" might be used? Well, one way - given total secrecy and the inability to check anything - is to produce documents damning pretty much anyone that the relevant goverments don't like.. who can check them? Not to say that Galloway is innocent, because I really don't know - but this represents a disturbing escalation in the "dissent is treason" camp. Anyone who believes that Team Bush would not sink to such depths, raise your hand. Bueller? Bueller?

United States Institute of Peace nominee and rabid Islam and Arab hater Daniel Pipes has some thoughts on postwar Iraq. Says the Peace Master, "However delighted they are to be rid of the Saddamite nightmare, Iraqis mentally live in a world of conspiracy theories, causing many to harbor deep suspicions of coalition intentions." Because only mentally unstable conspiracy theorists could doubt Team Bush's (coalition? what is this coalition you speak of, mister?) intentions. We should stay in Iraq for a few decades at least, says Mister Peace, Love and Understanding, because that's how long it will take for us to consume all of their oil, I mean *ahem* to build functioning institutions. How to do so? By "installing the right strongman." No, seriously: "Unless the coalition appoints a strongman very soon, it will not achieve its ambitious goals." This strongman will be committed to building democracy because, um, well that's what right wing strongmen backed by the US always do. Right, Jeanne Kirkpatrick? And the punchline? "[For a satirical version of what I have in mind, see "New Fox Reality TV Show to Determine Ruler of Iraq," The Onion, April 23, 2003]. Yes, our enlightened scholar is drawing on... The Onion.
(thanks to the ever eagle-eyed Reader X for the tip)

The Independent: "The case for invading Iraq to remove its weapons of mass destruction was based on selective use of intelligence, exaggeration, use of sources known to be discredited and outright fabrication, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. A high-level UK source said last night that intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political leaders were distorted in the rush to war with Iraq. "They ignored intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a threat," the source said."

The LA Times: "David Kay, a former U.N. weapons inspector, was critical of the initial U.S. effort. "Unity of command is not present," said Kay, who is now a senior fellow at the nonprofit Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. "There's not even unity of effort.... My impression is this has been a very low priority so far, and they've put very little effort into it.".... Gen. Amir Saadi, who ran Iraq's chemical weapons program for years and was Iraq's chief liaison to U.N. inspectors before the war, waited at his Baghdad home for a week after U.S. forces entered the capital before his German-born wife arranged his surrender. "He wasn't on the lam, he wasn't in a bunker, he wasn't in Syria," said Steve Black, a former U.N. inspector. "He just got tired of waiting for someone to knock on his door." Similarly, it took a week for the CIA and DIA to send a three-member interrogation team from Washington to debrief Jafar Jafar, the founder and former chief of Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program, who gave himself up in the United Arab Emirates. A third senior scientist, Emad Ani, who directed Iraq's 1980s program to produce deadly VX nerve gas, also has turned himself in to U.S. authorities. So far, according to a U.S. intelligence official, the top scientists are all "sticking to the party line, that Saddam destroyed all his WMD [weapons of mass destruction] long ago." A junior Iraqi scientist who surrendered has told U.S. interrogators that Iraq burned or destroyed chemical weapons and germ warfare equipment shortly before the war began, U.S. officials said. But the scientist joined the weapons program only in the 1990s, and "his depth and breadth of knowledge is very limited," said an official familiar with his debriefing."

These guys don't even bother to lie anymore.

Sorry - busy day. Ever bring a five week old aardvark cub up to your office and try to get anything done? Other than gaze at her adoringly and desperately try to keep her from crying, that is? Perhaps blogging will resume tomorrow!

Sunday, April 27, 2003
How cool is it, by the way, that the big bad in 24 is an evil Vice President who pushes America into war against the entire Middle East by manufacturing evidence?

Headline: "U.S. Says Turks Are Smuggling Arms Into Northern Iraq City"

Solution: Invade Turkey! It's the only way - that's how we could have won the Vietnam war, according to Jay Garner, American grand poobah of Iraq, which would have happened if George Bush had been president. Check the roster card - we've got Syria, Iran.. could we pencil Turkey in for next October? Oh, and someone figure out what to do if Turkey invokes that pesky NATO charter for collective defense...

Judith "Sure, Take My Professional Ethics If It Will Give Me a Scoop That Makes Iraq Look Bad" Miller reports that senior Iraqi biological weapons scientist Nissar Hindawi now admits that he lied to inspectors in the past. He's telling the truth now, of course, when he has nothing to gain by telling the Americans what they want to hear. Miller notes without explanation that his involvement in and knowledge of the program ends around 1995. Which is, purely by coincidence, about the time that UNSCOM made its major breakthroughs on the biological and chemical programs - not that UNSCOM could possibly achieve anything. Oh, and on the more important question of whether Iraqi WMD programs presented a threat which required war? "Even so, he added, there is little need for concern if American military teams hunting for unconventional weapons stumble across such stockpiles. The arsenals would have degraded quickly, he maintains. "Even if it's all kept until now, don't worry about it," he said.