Candide’s Latest: August 26-27, 2006
Katrina's Cakewalk Conquerors
Pierre Tristam/Candide's Notebooks
New Orleans? Baghdad? Beirut? Take your pick of Bush's New World Order.
To call it an “anniversary” is a bit of a misnomer. It rings of celebration. But there’s nothing to celebrate about the Katrina Massacre a year later. New Orleans as we knew it was demolished, more by intentional neglect at the time and subsequent indifference since, than by the hurricane itself. The city is being bleached of its history and demographics. Blacks need not apply except in the French Quarter, where their traditional role as servants to whitish leisure will stand out as sharply as those fake floodlights did, in the middle of a blacked out city, the night President Bush delivered his Jackson Square “mission accomplished” speech. New Orleans is being turned over to the now banal rapacity of real estate speculators and home builders who can smell the biggest gentrification program in the nation. That’s on the “redevelopment” end, the end that will justify the transformation of New Orleans into another re-modeled Cleveland—you know the kind of city that means: its heart replaced by something plastic, sporty and Disneyesque for the entertainment of the suburban and touristy crowds that’ll drive in, indulge, then leave. They’ll call it reborn, remade, returned. But it’ll be a robotic recreation that has as much to do with its authentic past as Epcot Center has to do with the culture it allegedly puts on display. Then there’s the governmental end. The Bush administration’s catastrophic incompetence has been documented adequately enough, if still with gloves on when it matters most: Bush has not, in the end, be held to account. As in Iraq. And as in Iraq, what money was allocated for reconstruction has been wasted on splurges of corruption. But Bush will travel to the Gulf and deliver his speeches, make himself look like a conquering hero once again, make it all seem like another one of his bubbly successes—and get away with it. A president who should have been shamed out of office even by a semi-literate public in 2004 manages still to use the very events that brim up his mendacity and his self-righteous idiocy—his wars, Katrina, his economic non-management—to ride his way to modestly higher ratings. The Katrina commemorations will have the taste of campaign rallies and booster-club meetings. And a week from now they’ll be as good as forgotten, as New Orleans was the very week of its doom a year ago: From dust to dust.
Who’s been the Muhammad Ali of Bush’s “war on terror”? Iran, with the United States as its chief bitch and executioner. A study from Britain’s Chatham House, the think tank: “The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran's regional rival governments — the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in April 2003 — but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures. The outbreak of conflict on two fronts in June –July 2006 between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon has added to the regional dimensions of this instability. Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.” Meanwhile, Irantest-fires a sub-to-surface missile in large-scale military exercises in the Persian Gulf.
Hezbollah is playing the high-road card: “ Israel Radio on Sunday quoted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as saying that there would not be a second round of fighting with Israel , and that Hezbollah would adhere to the cease-fire despite what he said was Israeli provocation,” says Haaretz. “Speaking in an interview to Lebanese television station New TV, Nasrallah said that negotiations on the release of the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted by Hezbollah have already begun. […] Germany negotiated an exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hezbollah in 2004, which included the remains of three Israeli soldiers captured on the border.”
The morale of Israel’s “supertroops” is shattered, their competence in doubt: “As the war unfolded, [the military’s] optimism was brought crashing down to earth — and with it the invincible reputation of the Israeli armed forces,” the UK Times writes. “In five weeks, their critics charge, they displayed tactical incompetence and strategic short-sightedness. Their much-vaunted intelligence was found wanting. Their political leadership was shown to vacillate. Their commanders proved fractious. In many cases the training of their men was poor and their equipment inadequate. Despite many individual acts of bravery, some of the men of the IDF were pushed to the point of mutiny.”
Remember when even Margaret Thatcher branded Nelson Mandela’s ANC a “terrorist” organization? David Cameron, the conservatives’ new leader in Britain, writes about how his party got the ANC all wrong.
Don’t look now, but a civil war is raging in Pakistan’s west, and no one is paying attention. It’s the fire next time, as far as American foreign policy challenges are concerned. “Challenge” is an understatement.
The United States bailing out of South Korea? Not quite, but the transformation of the United States military into a full-fledged mercenary force carries on. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has reportedly sent a letter to his South Korean counterpart Yoon Kwang-ung saying that the United States would like to return the wartime operational control of South Korea's armed forces by as early as 2009,” the Korea Herald reports. “Rumsfeld also proposed that South Korea shoulder more of the cost of keeping 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country, raising its stake from 40 to 50 percent.” Speaking of bailing out: Stars & Stripes is running a three-part series on the Army’s 1 st Infantry Division, known as The Big Red One’s leaving Europe for good, after first being deployed there in World War I.
In Other Worlds
Chevron booted out of Chad: It isn’t enough that America’s biggest companies rob their own Treasury of taxes by off-shoring their profits and retaining battalions of thieves with lawyers’ degrees to find every possible way to avoid paying their tax obligations. They’re doing it abroad, too. Chad has tired of the shell game, and getting crumbs while oil giants gorge on its crude.
The sexualization of “Tweens”: Children as young as nine are using internet chatrooms to talk about their sexual encounters, and, in most cases, their parents have no idea what they are up to, a study of pre-teen girls shows,” UK’s Independent reports. “There is growing concern about sexualisation of "tweenies" - youngsters between childhood and the teenage years - via the internet, magazines, clothes, music, TV and cosmetic products. The five-year study, the first of its kind, looked into the sexual behaviour of 1,300 pre-teens, and revealed that, on the internet at least, young girls' lives are "filled with sexual behaviour of one sort or another". It concludes that almost all parents are "virtually clueless" about what their daughters are up to.” It allegedly doesn’t get better in later years. Switzerland’s Tribune de Genève reports that 20 percent of girls 13 to 17 are sexually abused. But there may be a problem with the reporting: The paper acknowledges that there aren’t recent studies on the matter, but that one study conducted in Genevan schools in 1996 showed that 20 percent of girls in that age group had been sexually victimized. (“On ne dispose pas d'étude récente, mais celle réalisée, en 1996 dans les écoles genevoises, révélait déjà que 20% des filles de 13 à 17 ans avaient subi des abus sexuels.”) A more pointed observation: There’s a new tendency, or rather a return, to machismo, but the paper (taking a reactionary approach), amazingly, blames these “collective rapes” on the empowerment of girls: “When society gives women more power, boys lose themselves. Our society that puts a premium on competition in every aspect pushes them to be higher performing. They (boys) can become more violent in order to reclaim their dominating place and counter the rise of egalitarian powers.” («Quand la société donne plus de pouvoir aux femmes, les jeunes garçons ne s'y retrouvent plus. Notre société qui prône la compétition dans tous les domaines, les pousse à être plus performants. Ils peuvent devenir plus violents afin de reprendre la domination pour contrer l'émergence d'un pouvoir égalitaire.»)
AIDS medicine in gold? South African scientists think so.
“Old age is a massacre.” Der Spiegel’s interview with Philip Roth.
- For Proust, it was the madeleine. For some of us Lebanese, it's the jam. Sophia explains.