Fly Me to the Moon
Fly Me to the Moon
Fly me to Iraq
Eight American soldiers have died (AFP, 1/25/04) and a number more have been wounded in the last 24 hours while, as I write, the news is coming in that the second helicopter to go down in 72 hours has just dropped into the Tigris River with two American soldiers aboard. In the carnage of the last couple of days in the Sunni Triangle and Baghdad, numerous Iraqi passersby have died or been wounded while a bus of cleaning women heading for an American base was attacked by gunmen who murdered four cleaning ladies, a grim, cruel warning to Iraqis in any way associated with the occupation, even those needing to do so to make the most modest of livings. Though it's been little written about, I've heard estimates of somewhere upwards of 600 Iraqi policemen, caught between the occupation and the ragtag insurgency, who have been killed over the last months.
In some sense, as the situation in
Last week, according to the reliable Knight-Ridder team of Warren Stroebel and Jonathan Landay (1/21/04), the CIA issued a warning: "[T]he country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said Wednesday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address." (Do I detect a tad of payback politics here as well?)
In Sunday's New York Times "Week in Review" section in a piece by Elisabeth Bumiller (who is so far inside the White House she's practically on staff), I noted the following telling little sentence ("The President Makes Danger His Campaign Theme," 1/25): "It is no surprise that the biggest fear of the current White House, short of another terrorist attack, is that Iraq will implode before the election."
And so, while David Kay resigns his leadership of the team in Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction and announces that they are undoubtedly nonexistent, L. Paul Bremer and the Bush foreign policy team rush to the UN, reconsider their plans for handing over sovereignty in Iraq, and generally twist madly in the breeze, trying to figure out how to deal with Shiite Ayatollah Sistani's call for actual democratic elections in Iraq, while still somehow securing an agreement to keep American troops in Iraq for years, ensuring that the economy remains "open" to the Halliburtons of our world, and installing someone in Baghdad not likely to abrogate all this. Stay tuned, folks...
As Jonathan Steele wrote in the Guardian last week ("Why the US is running scared of elections in
"At least in
Ehsan Ahrari of the Asia Times asks ("When Sistani speaks, Bush listens," 1/17):
"Who is the most powerful man in
"Hojatul Islam Ali Abdulhakim Alsafi, the second most senior cleric of Iraq, in a letter to President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has adopted a threatening tone by stating that their refusal to let the Iraqis chose their own institutions would drag their countries into a battle they would lose. Needless to say, Alsafi was saying what Sistani wasn't saying directly and explicitly, but really meant to say."
The Washington Post's superb correspondent in
"The confrontation between the Bush administration and Sistani, who has not appeared in public in nearly a year, has created an enduring irony for the
The Sistani veto. We're certainly seeing the formation of a new system in
The most vivid description of this administration's idea of "democracy" and its elaborate plan for caucuses meant to put its own Iraqis in power for 17 months before any election even theoretically need occur, can be found in a piece by the remarkable Naomi Klein in the Toronto Globe and Mail in which she writes in part (but do read the whole piece, posted on ZNet):
"Iraqi sovereignty will be established by appointees appointing appointees to select appointees to select appointees. Add to that the fact that Mr. Bremer was appointed to his post by President Bush and that Mr. Bush was appointed to his by the U.S. Supreme Court, and you have the glorious new democratic tradition of the appointocracy: rule by appointee's appointee's appointees' appointees' appointees' selectees."
By the way, while considering the present carnage in
So it's true that
Oh yes, and in the overstretched-military category, about a week ago I mentioned rumors I had seen about retired reservists being called up. The following interesting e-letter came in from a reader:
"RE: your comment 'and according to the Albany Times Union, rumors are circulating that the military may soon start calling up retired reservists.' I am a retired medical corps reservist and am in the process of being called up. The paper work is done and I am waiting for the time to leave."
If this isn't a limited and unfair "draft" for a desperately overstretched military, I don't know what is.
Fly me to my stomach
Is there a UN program the Bush administration wouldn't like to eliminate, an international effort it wouldn't like to shoot down, or a treaty it wouldn't like to ditch? I think not. This administration has given new meaning to former First Lady Nancy Reagan's "just say no" anti-drug campaign. At the very moment that the administration has turned to the UN for some help in salvaging its Iraq wreck (but not too much help please, just get that Ayatollah off our back), it managed this week to toss a monkey wrench into the works on the least controversial of international efforts -- not a curb on global warming or biological weapons or land mines, but an attempt to cut down on one of the great international killers, sugar.
According to Reuters, "The United States, where two-thirds of adults are overweight, succeeded Tuesday in stalling a global plan [by the World Health Organization] to fight an obesity epidemic." WHO was about to launch a global campaign against sugar's role in obesity, but it hardly had turned the key in the motor when the American Hummer crushed it (with the help of a couple of sugar-producing islands, Russia, South Korea and India).
Why? Well, after pointing out that we are the globe's major sugar junkies ("Americans, who comprise only 5% of the world's population, account for a whopping 33% of total global sugar consumption - over 10 million tons annually. According to the WHO, over half of Americans are overweight and 31% -- 38.8 million people -- are obese. Obesity rates in children have risen 50% in recent years"), Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis explains not just how overconsumption of sugar leads to cardiovascular disorders and diabetes, but why the WHO campaign was put on hold ("Overweight America is hooked on sugar," 1/25):
"The real reason for the administration's preposterous position is that the powerful
"The result: the federal government subsidizes
Sugar in outer space anyone?
Pardoning the turkeys
Just because I can't help it, let me end by recommending a new piece by Arundhati Roy, who has been one of the freshest voices on planet Earth since 9/11. She's got an essay in the
"The best allegory for New Racism is the tradition of 'turkey pardoning' in the
"That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys--the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself)--are given absolution and a pass to
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]