Sunday, February 26, 2006
A gallimaufry of notable items we happened to spy while slaloming down the slopes of Bloggerino, and would certainly have commended to your attention before now had not our chronic, well-documented apres-ski lassitude intervened:
- From our venerated colleague the Heretik: President Bush is fond of saying that when the Iraqi forces are ready to stand up, we will stand down. Unfortunately, it seems the Iraqi forces have fallen, and they can't get up.
- From our BARBARic colleague Swopa, of Needlenose: the Samarra shrine bombing appears to have been the work of demolition experts, which leads us to the unavoidable question: was it also an inside job?
See also this:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that those who committed the attack on the Golden Mosque “have only one motive: to create a violent sedition between the Sunnis and the Shiites in order to derail the Iraqi rising democracy from its path.”And see also-also this, which Jane Hamsher tells us has been scrubbed from the Washington Post site:
Well said Mr. Blair, particularly when we keep in mind the fact that less than a year ago in Basra, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi security forces whilst traveling in a car full of bombs and remote detonators.
Jailed and accused by Muqtada al-Sadr and others of attempting to generate sectarian conflict by planting bombs in mosques, they were broken out of the Iraqi jail by the British military before they could be tried.
In Samarra, witnesses said that Interior Ministry commandos and Iraqi police were cordoning the shrine before the explosions took place.
- From our erudite colleague Juan Cole of Informed Comment comes news that, as Iraq descends even further into chaos, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani may form a tribal militia to protect holy sites from further attacks:
In some of the best reporting on the role of the Shiite clerics in this crisis, Robert Worth and Ed Wong of the NYT reveal that the Americans in Iraq initially were powerless when the crisis broke out on Wednesday, and could only hope that the Shiite clerics would calm people down. They only gradually realized that the clerics were equally capable of stirring people up, and that the clerics themselves were under enormous pressure from enraged followers to do something.Prof. Cole also fears the prospect of a hung government in Iraq, "with no group able to form a government, forcing new elections and further political gridlock."
This last point is why it is so dangerous for Sistani to form his tribal levies into a militia. He will be hostage in some ways to their enthusiasms . . . .
NPR reported eyewitness accounts, corroborated by other reports, that the Mahdi Army took over several Sunni mosques in Baghdad and hung black banners from them. These banners signify the Twelfth Imam, who is associated with the tomb destroyed at Samarra. That is, the Mahdi Army took over Sunni mosques and rededicated them to the messiah of the Shiite branch of Islam, which is highly provocative.
Young Shiite nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr reached an agreement with a hard line Sunni organization to work to tamp down the communal violence.
- From our acidulous colleague James Wolcott, a brace of items relating to the neoconservative vision of Iraq's future. First, from Robert Dreyfuss:
For the most radical-right neoconservative Jacobins amongst the Bush-Cheney team, the possibility that Iraq might fall apart wasn’t even alarming: they just didn’t care, and in their obsessive zeal to overthrow Saddam Hussein they were more than willing to take the risk . . . .And, from Mark Danner:
In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous 'Clean Break' paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997: 'The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state.' After Saddam, Iraq would 'be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families,' he wrote. 'Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition.' Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to 'expedite' such a collapse. 'The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.'
Such black neoconservative fantasies—which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will—have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real.
Napoleon had this wonderful line that you can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it. Military power is good for blowing things up; it's good for destroying things. It's not good for building a new order. It takes a great deal more power, skill, and patience to construct an enduring order in Iraq. The United States doesn't have sufficient power; it doesn't have the skill; and we know it doesn't have the patience. One part of the Axis of Evil has been occupied -- you can think of it as the part of the Axis that has sacrificed itself to make way for the greater freedom (freedom from attack, freedom perhaps to build nuclear weapons) of North Korea and Iran.
- From our percipient colleague Arthur Silber of Once upon a Time: Do you find yourself dwelling morbidly upon the current instability in Iraq? Allow us to suggest a mild distraction -- namely, the current instability in Pakistan, where our putative ally Gen. Pervez (never-nervez) Musharraf finds his regime threatened by escalating daily riots:
Not surprisingly, America's popularity among Pakistanis was not helped by our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban was largely a Pakistani creation, and its fall was not welcomed in Pakistan, especially when Afghanistan's American-installed President, Mr. Karzai, quickly cozied up to India.
Then, the strong American response to Pakistan's disastrous earthquake turned Pakistani opinion around. Only America really came through for the tens of thousands of people de-housed by the catastrophe, and other people noticed; when mullahs in radical mosques denounced the Americans, their congregations told them they were wrong.
Of course, America blew it in classic American fashion, with the Predator strike on homes in a Pakistani border town. As always, the target wasn't there, because, as always, we depended on intelligence from "systems" when only humint can do the job. The resulting Pakistani civilian deaths threw away all the good will we earned from the earthquake response and made America the Great Satan once more. Musharraf paid the political price.
If the riots continue and grow, the Pakistani security forces responsible for containing them will at some point go over and join the rioters. Musharraf will try to get the last plane out; perhaps he will find Texas a congenial place of exile. If he doesn't make that plane, his head will serve as a football, not just of the political variety.
A new Pakistani government, in quest of legitimacy, will understand that comes from opposing Bush's America, not getting in bed with it. Osama will be the new honorary President of Pakistan, de facto if not de jure. Our, and NATO's operation in Afghanistan will become strategically unsustainable overnight. That nice Mr. Karzai will, one hopes, find a seat on a C-17.
- From our illustrious colleague Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, a ribtickling lede buried so deep you practically have to blast for it:
The [Scooter Libby] defense was told that the White House had recently located and turned over about 250 pages of e-mails from the vice president’s office. Fitzgerald, in a letter last month to the defense, had cautioned Libby’s lawyers that some e-mails might be missing because the White House’s archiving system had failed.
- From our relentless colleage Brad Friedman of BradBlog, a timely reminder that it ain't just Diebold:
BlackBoxVoting.org, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group, said it found 70,000 instances in Palm Beach County of cards getting stuck in the paperless ATM-like machines and that the computers logged about 100,000 errors, including memory failures.
Also, the hard drives crashed on some of the machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, some machines apparently had to be rebooted over and over, and 1,475 re-calibrations were performed on Election Day on more than 4,300 units, Harris said. Re-calibrations are done when a machine is malfunctioning, she said.
- From our valiant colleague the Fixer at Alternate Brain: the IRS has been investigating reports that tax-exempt churches and charities were engaging in prohibited campaign activities, such as distributing printed material and/or using the pulpit to endorse a specific candidate. So far the revenooers have sent formal warnings to 55 organizations, slapped one with a penalty tax, and recommended that three have their tax-exempt status revoked. 28 cases remain open.
- And last but not -- well, okay, last and least: we know that Jefferson and John Adams did it, but what are the chances of Carl Kolchak and Barney Fife kicking the bucket in one 24-hour span?