Friday, April 07, 2006

But the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein

Well, maybe not this guy.

Or these people.

At least
50 killed in attack on Baghdad mosque; U.S. Envoy warns of sectarianism

Update: Death toll up to 74.

And while we're on the subject of Iraq, here's what I wanna know. What I wanna know is, if war supporters insist that the networks, newspapers and cable stations need to report "positive" news out of Iraq, why don't they call for deconstructing the Green Zone? That would be a sign of progress, right?

Next time you hear a war supporter or war booster complaining on cable TV about the coverage of the war ask them when we can expect the Green Zone to be torn down.

Update II: This latest bombing leaves the freepers at Slave Republic with mixed emotions. Let's read a few: (note: estimated translations in brackets)

I don't mind in the least there [their] blowing theirselves [themselves] up but really hate it that they take innoncents [innocents] along with themselves...

This to me is like the eastern front in WW2. The Nazis and the Communists were killing each other off. Muslims killing muslims. Let them fight...

Someone PLEASE turn the USMC loose on the insurgents!...

Who loves to talk smack about using suicide terrorism as a primary weapon of war? Iran's leadership, that's who. One more reason they have to go...

I don't get it. Islam is the religion of piece [peace] and love. They, in their way of thinking is that the faith of Mohamed is perfect. So why is life so cheap to them?...

If the Sunni or any other "trouble maker" REALLY wanted to ignite an all out "Civil War" in Iraq, wouldn't they have murdered the #1 leader of the Shi'ite militants - fat Sadr? So long as fat Sadr lives, the killing is simply the area lunatics acting out...

Ah, yes, this from the group that has a special "pro-life" section on its website.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What's Happened to Judge Roy Moore?

I thought he'd be a shoo-in down in Alabama, challenging a Republican governor who tried to raise taxes. Then he could run for Prez in 2008 or 2012 promising to bust down the wall of separation between church and state. I figured everyone down there loved him. And they did, apparently at first.

But he's dropped in the polls, big-time.

Feb 2006 Moore 28% Riley 56%

Oct 2005 Moore 25% Riley 44%

Jan 2005 Moore 43% Riley 35%

Guess his act has worn thin even down there.

The primary is June 6.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Howling Chaos"

From Newsweek's Michael Hirsh:

April 3, 2006 - There's nothing like roaring into Baghdad aboard a Rhino. A Rhino is a giant, heavily-armored bus that can withstand IEDs (small ones), and it is now the favored means of keeping Western visitors from getting blown to bits by these homemade bombs on the dangerous road between Baghdad International Airport and the secure Green Zone at the city's center. "Rhino" is an appropriately Disney-ish name for these wheeled monstrosities, adding to the surreal feeling one gets in moving from the howling chaos outside the Green Zone into the theme park-like confines within. You drive through several checkpoints, leaving behind tracts of litter and rubble and the desperate, dark faces of ordinary Iraqis trying to earn a few dinars. There, behind high concrete blast walls and razor wire, you find quiet streets and the heart of the American occupation: a double-sized Olympic pool with a palm-fretted patio restaurant, food courts and a giant coffee lounge where lessons in belly dancing and martial arts are offered. All these are huge improvements from the last time I was in Baghdad, two years ago. And all are intended for the Westerners who dwell in increasing comfort here.

The Green Zone, a vast secure, American area plunked down in the heart of the Baghdad (imagine foreign occupiers taking over the Mall in Washington, D. C.), was supposed to have been temporary. Like the occupation itself, it was an interim phase, a set of training wheels for the New Iraq. But as those of us who accompanied Condoleezza Rice on her surprise visit to Iraq learned this week, the lines between the real and surreal in Iraq--between what's happening outside the Green Zone and within--are only hardening. They are getting bolder and clearer, rather than more blurred. Outside the Green Zone the sectarian violence is worsening--ensuring future dysfunction, if perhaps not outright civil war or breakup of the country. Inside the Green Zone a few Iraqi politicians live in splendor and permanent American structures are going up--including a new U.S. embassy that did not await the OK of the new government-to-come--and it's hard to find an ordinary Iraqi anywhere. In fact, several people remarked that speaking Spanish is more useful than Arabic when making one's way through the palatial embassy grounds.

Secretary of State Rice came here to bring the surreal and the real closer into contact. Acting on the orders of an increasingly anxious George W. Bush (so she admitted under questioning), she and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spent a day reading the riot act to the bickering Iraqi politicians and telling them to "get governing," as Bush put it. She and Straw, sensing like everyone that their historical reputations are on the line (as are those of Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair), are hoping to break the stalemate that has kept the leading Iraqi political parties from forming a unity government for nearly four months. But again, reflecting the Green Zone prism, Rice and Straw seemed not to understand that a genteel coalition government, as designed by U.S. authorities, may not be what Iraq needs right now. What Iraq needs is strong leadership.

For Washington, the biggest problem is that despite increasing American desperation to pull out, the U.S. presence is gradually getting woven into the very fabric of the new Iraq, much as the Green Zone (now euphemistically called the "international zone") is getting a permanent look. Picture NATO troops in Bosnia--there more than a decade and counting--and then multiply that pathological dependence several times over. So terrified are most Shia leaders of Sunni insurgents that they regularly blanch when faced with the prospect of U.S. withdrawal. So terrified are the Sunnis of Shiite militias that they insist on having Americans accompany any Iraqi military units that move into their towns. Absent U.S. guidance and advisors, the Iraqi army will become a Shiite Army, and the Sunni community will become a sea for the insurgency to swim in once again. When the war started, some observers worried that Iraq might become America's "51st state," a virtual protectorate of Washington's. Today the worry is that America has become Iraq's 19th province--and the most important one in the country.

Again, the Americans don't seem to fully understand this. A Western intelligence expert who recently sat in on briefings by U.S. and Iraqi military officers in Baghdad described a disconnect between U.S. occupation authorities and Iraqi officials that was just as wide as what lies between the Green Zone and the rest of Iraq. The American officers, he said, spent an hour triumphantly describing how they had finally gotten the better of the insurgency while the Iraqis present doodled on their pads, their eyes glazing over. Then the Iraqis got up and described their nation's growing sectarian conflict in urgent terms while the Americans barely paid attention. The two teams, nominally allies, were simply talking past each other, he said.

Let us not forget that the great planner of this war, Donald Rumsfeld, once warned us about all this. (It was one of the few things he managed to anticipate.) In February of 2003--a month before the Iraq invasion—the Defense secretary outlined his theory of occupation. "When foreigners come in with international solutions to local problems, it can create a dependency," he said in a speech called "Beyond Nation Building." His remarks were scornful of previous United Nations efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. "A long-term foreign presence in a country can be unnatural. It is much like a broken bone. If it is not set properly at the outset, eventually, the muscles and tendons will grow around the break, and the body will adjust to the abnormal condition. This is what has happened in a number of places with a large foreign presence. Economies remain unreformed, distorted and dependent. Educated young people make more money as drivers for foreign workers, than as doctors or civil servants."

This describes Iraq today. Rumsfeld, through fecklessness and arrogance, created the very problem that he criticized. Perhaps he doesn't really mind. One idea behind the war, it is clear, was to give America a big say in the future of this oil-flush nation. And, after all, we've never completely pulled our troops out of Germany or Japan either. Sixty years after occupation, that has worked fairly well for international peace. Rice, in a speech in Britain last week, laid out an eloquent vision of how she and Bush see their legacy. "Someday, people in Baghdad and Beirut and Cairo and, yes, in Tehran...will wonder how anyone could ever have doubted the future of liberal democracy in their countries. But most of all, they will remember fondly those fellow democracies, like Britain and the United States...who stood with them in their time of need."

Whether fondly or not, the Iraqis won't have too much trouble remembering that the Americans were there. Why? Probably because the Americans won't have left yet.

Wow. Wait'll the wingnuts get a load of this. Pretty hard-hitting. Some might call it hyperbole. But unless the Green Zone walls come down and unless a large portion of U.S. troops come home and stay home, this will be the reality transcribed by journalists who stick around to cover our dignitaries' "surprise" visits.

Tracking the Radical Religious Right

The Carpetbagger Report links to two important pieces on the Christian Right: The most recent is a commentary on the "War on Christians" conference sponsored by Rick Scarborough of Vision America, recently held in Washington, D.C. and a link to the People For the American Way's coverage of the "event". The PFAW link is a very good read. The War on Christians meme has been flogged by the right wing media establishment over the last couple of years and many of the actors active in it are probably familiar to you.

But an earlier posting deserves even more attention. It concerns a leading demogogue on the Christian right who has largely flown under the radar, but who I suspect may prove to be an influential figure in the days and months to come. For reasons that I think will be apparent in the Carpetbagger's link to the New Republic article, conservative Roman Catholic "Father" Richard John Neuhaus may be, if possible, the scariest of the theocons. The New Republic article is long, and you will have to register for it on the magazine's website (the registration is free), but it is well worth a thoughtful read.

In addition to his work at the conservative journal First Things, Neuhaus also appears on the conservative Roman Catholic cable television station EWTN. Neuhaus, along with another RC theocon, George Weigel, is a regular on EWTN's The World Over, a "700 Club"-like survey of "world news" shown every Friday night. So Neuhaus's influence extends beyond the fishbowl of conservative think tanks and into the world of something approaching regular media. On a side note, First Things was the host of a 2002 gathering on Christianity and the public square that included none other than Justice Scalia, who basically argued that applying the death penalty is a society's right and obligation BECAUSE all governments derive their sovereignty from God and serve as the Arm of the Lord on earth. Americans who think that the U.S. Constitution reflects popular sovereignty might be curious and alarmed about this reasoning.

Neuhaus, a former Lutheran, has also reached across the denominational divide to partner with former Watergate felon, Charles Colson, in bringing likeminded Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians together for the cause of purging the country of "secularism". They formed an association and put out a book entitled Evanglicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission, a document which is pretty much the "other" bible among cultural warriors.

Ultimately, Neuhaus is important because as the New Republic article author points out, he is apparently a believer in, and has attempted to fuse together, a theory of religious-political domination, based not on the relatively narrower realms of conservative evangelicalism, but rather on 13th century Natural Law constructs. For Neuhaus, his society's patron saint isn't Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson. It is rather, the 13th century saint-philosopher, Thomas Acquinas. In the words of Ving Rhames' character in Pulp Fiction, Neuhaus wants to get Medieval on us. As The Rogue Progressive might say, Neuhaus is a leading Feudalist-regressive among us.

Anyway, Senator Bulworth says read both pieces by the PFAW and the New Republic. And thanks to the Carpetbagger Report for the links.