Archive for the ‘Iraq’ category

Halberstam

April 24, 2007

David Halberstam is dead. Killed in a car accident at the age of 73. Over at the Commentary magazine blog Contentions, Gabriel Schoenfeld has a post that dwells on Halberstam’s anguish over the thought of America pulling out of Vietnam.

Quoting Halberstam via Schoenfeld:

[T]hose Vietnamese who committed themselves fully to the United States will suffer the most under a Communist government, while we lucky few with blue passports retire unharmed; it means a drab, lifeless, and controlled society for a people who deserve better. Withdrawal also means that the United States’s prestige will be lowered throughout the world, and it means that the pressure of Communism on the rest of Southeast Asia will intensify. Lastly, withdrawal means that throughout the world the enemies of the West will be encouraged to try insurgencies like the one in Vietnam.

Schoenfeld does not draw the link explicitly, but can anyone read that excerpt and not think of Iraq?

“Brothers in Humanity and in Pursuing Knowledge.”

April 24, 2007

Students at Baghdad’s Technology University know something about the horrors of random violence. Concrete barriers ring the campus to keep suicide bombers out. Students are searched when they enter campus. Cell phones are banned because they can be used to trigger explosives remotely. Across Iraq, more than 200 university professors have been killed in the past few years, and thousands have fled the country.

So when news came to Technology University that a crazed student at Virginia Tech rampaged through the campus killing 32 of his fellow Hokies it is easy to assume that the tragedy would barely register to these besieged Baghdadis.  You would be wrong. Earlier this week students unfurled a giant banner on campus, it read: “We, the students of Technology University, denounce the attack at Virginia Tech. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims who faced a situation as bad as Iraq’s universities do. The sanctity of campuses must be protected around the world.”

And in this moving gesture they remind all of us of the meaning of solidarity.

The Limits of Imagination

April 18, 2007

Everyone is rightfully horrified by what transpired on the Virginia Tech campus earlier this week. The shootings there have understandably dominated American media. But please consider that buried underneath the latest revelations about  Cho Seung-Hui a series of bombings tore through Baghdad today killing at least 146 people (predominantly Shiites).

It is crude to compare tragedies. This is not my intention. Rather, my point is that perhaps the horror of Blacksburg allows Americans a new perspective on what is going on in Iraq. We have become numb to the reality over there. I confess that I have. Every morning it seems I arise to the radio telling me another blast has cut through a crowd of civilians, or police recruits, or the parliament (!). It is fatiguing. And it is natural that we empathize more easily with the pained faces in Blacksburg than in Baghdad. But just imagine for a moment if that sort of violence were a daily occurrence.

I can’t.

Trenchant Political Commentary

April 16, 2007

‘Mr. Bush has said he will veto any bill that has a withdrawal date. He also prodded Congress anew today to remove spending items he regards as frivolous — “peanut storage,” for instance.“I haven’t analyzed the peanut-storage issue,” he said, to accompanying laughter from relatives of servicemen gathering around him in the East Room of the White House.’

-From the New York Times.

Peanut storage? What does this callous smirking cocksucker* have in store for us next? Forgive me, but isn’t peanut storage just about the only thing this fucker would be able to analyze? That is unless he choked on one of his subjects.

No, no, of course Incurious George** hasn’t pondered the peanut storage issue. One wonders, though, whether he’s ever taken the time to ponder the corpse storage issue:

Enough said?

* In the recent spirit of watching what we say, I should clarify that I use the term “cocksucker” on impulse as a general pejorative with a good ring to it. I don’t doubt that some of this word’s social force comes from deep homophobia but I certainly don’t intend any debasement of homosexuals by its use. Quite the contrary, I know many literal cocksuckers who are exponentially more worthy of drawing breath on this earth than the aforementioned cocksucker. In fact, calling him a cocksucker is an insult to real cocksuckers, for which I apologize. But man is this guy a cocksucker.

** I am thoroughly convinced that one Mik R. Moore came up with this appellation and has never gotten any credit for it. So there you have it, Mik, for what it’s worth. (Actually, I hope Mik isn’t reading ’cause I think he’d be pretty offended by the use of the word ‘cocksucker.’)

“She’s not my special lady, she’s my fucking lady friend”

April 13, 2007

“I made a mistake, for which I am sorry.”

-World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, apologizing for intervening to give girlfriend and World Bank employee Shaha Riza a raise.

One wonders whether Wolfowitz would be willing to say the same regarding the following:

“There has been a good deal of comment – some of it quite outlandish – about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army – hard to imagine.”
(Paul Wolfowitz to the House Budget Committee, February 27, 2003.)

Not Going Well

April 12, 2007

The whole world is wincing. The surge isn’t working. Iraqi insurgents can blow up the country’s heavily-fortified parliament at will.

Bush talks of standing with a “fledgling democracy,” and it’s hard to argue with that sentiment when the attacks on it are so brutal. But supporting and defending a constitutional democratic order from outside attack is one thing. What do you do, though, when the attacks come from inside and the new constitutional order is fundamentally disputed? And what do you do when the agents of that constitutional order have long ago adopted tactics as brutal as its opponents, and seem to care more about sectarian supremacy than liberal democracy?

“Betrayed”

April 10, 2007

Perhaps you have noticed that the New Yorker has recently revamped its online presence and is offering much more substantial fare. Of particular note is a Q&A George Packer conducted recently about his stirring April 2 article about the plight of Iraqis who bought into the promise of a democratic Iraqi future. One reader asked Packer what accounts for the incompetence of the American administration of postwar Iraq.

This is an excellent question, and a huge one. It might require a book to answer. On every trip to Iraq, I have met remarkable American individuals in military and civilian ranks, but, like most people I have talked to about Iraq, I am stunned by the level of general American incompetence there. It obviously has to do with leadership. Richard Armitage, when I interviewed him, placed the blame on a complete lack of accountability at the highest levels. But I have also come to believe that Iraq represents a larger failure than just that of individuals in the Bush Administration or the Administration as a whole. Across the board, American institutions have failed. A war on this scale puts a whole country to the test, like a human body that’s been slack for a while and then is suddenly exerted to the limits of its strength. In Iraq, we’ve failed as a country.

Go read the whole thing.