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Candide’s Latest: Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Korea Nukes: Shock and Yawn

Not yet reading Lolita in Pyongyang

What does North Korea want? “A North Korean official said Tuesday that the United States should agree to hold direct talks with his government on security guarantees to avert a situation in which Pyongyang would feel compelled to launch nuclear-tipped missiles, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. “We want this situation to be concluded before the unhappy situation arises in which we fire nuclear missiles, and this depends on how the United States acts,'' the official was quoted as saying in Beijing on condition of anonymity. The North Korean official reportedly also said his country is “willing to abandon nuclear weapons and return to the six-party talks at any time if the United States take corresponding measures.” What do America’s reactionaries want? Why, if necessary, war! Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take this morning: “What to do now? South Korea and especially China should rethink appeasement. It has failed. A full cut-off of energy supplies and foreign aid would help pressure Kim Jong Il. Opening the Chinese border to North Korean refugees would do so as well. Most important, the world should tighten the screws it already has in place, with success, on the North's external financial accounts. No dictator can run a rogue state without money. Kim might give up the nukes if the alternative was regime collapse. And to encourage the world's actors to get real about North Korea, the U.S. should make clear that a military response is not off the table.” The Washington Post sheds blame: “North Korea's neighbors, and not the United States, bear the burden of the North's decision to proceed with what it said was a nuclear explosion -- the small yield raised questions yesterday about whether the test could have been a flop or a fake…. In the absence of workable military options, the United States probably cannot force North Korea to give up its bomb, nor can the United States overturn the regime. The real leverage lies with South Korea and China.” Columnists aren’t that much more imaginative. Jon Wolfsthal, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wants Korea to be given “a spot at the top of Washington's list of nuclear targets,” he writes in the LATimes. “Although it's true that North Korea has sold missiles to Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Yemen, it's unlikely Kim would be rash enough to sell his nuclear jewels to the highest bidder, knowing that the world could trace any nuclear bomb back to him by its radioactive signature. Just in case, however, the envoy should make clear that any export of nuclear weapons or materials would force the United States to reevaluate whether attacking North Korea, however horrific, would be preferable to allowing it to proliferate.”


Torture Pro and Con

Joel Stein asks: If blasting people to bits on the battlefield is OK, then why isn't electrocuting genitals? “I AM PRO-TORTURE. And I don't mean just the music-blaring, sleep-deprivation, forced-standing kind. I'm for tearing out lamp wires, wetting a guy down and shocking his nipples while staring at him with your one crazy blue eye and one crazy green eye and screaming, "I am not going to ask you again! Where is the bomb?!" Admittedly, most of what I know about interrogation is from the TV show “24,” he writes in the LATimes. Although we have killed more than 50,000 Iraqis for reasons that no one is able to explain other than that letting crazy, anti-Western, death-cult Arabs vote for their own crazy, anti-Western, death-cult Arab leaders is awesome, we have decided that we cannot accept mistreating captured enemies. Apparently we are under the impression that countries fond of using "shock and awe" are actually judged on how many Michelin stars their prisons get. Compared to murder, maiming or the firebombing of entire cities, torturing for information is clearly the lesser moral crime.”

In case you missed it: Naomi Klein on torture, from 2005 in The Guardian and The Nation: “This is torture's true purpose: to terrorise - not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more importantly, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist - the individual prisoner's will and the collective will. … As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture.”


The difference between wars of choice and wars of necessity: “Wars of choice cannot sustain public support if things go badly, as in war they often do, whereas wars that are begun defensively and from necessity fortify public support behind a regime and its cause,” David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker write in The National Interest. “It is not a contradiction, but a reflection of the character of contemporary warfare, to insist that a war of aggression undertaken by Iran would risk the fall of the regime, whereas a war of aggression undertaken by the United States against Iran would strengthen it.

Reading Lolita in Teheran as a neocon first strike on Iran? The book by Azar Nafisi has been a best-seller. But “Gazing at the book through the lens of literary theory and politics, [Hamid] Dabashi had a much less favorable reaction to it,” Richard Byrne writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “His blistering essay cast Ms. Nafisi as a collaborator in the Bush administration's plans for regime change in Iran. He drew heavily on the late scholar Edward Said's ideas about the relationship between Western literature and empire and the fetishization of the "Orient" to attack Reading Lolita in Tehran as a prop for American imperialism. He also pilloried Ms. Nafisi personally for what he described as her cozy relationship with prominent American neoconservatives.”

Moderate Lebanese Sunnis fear rise of extremists: “As criticism continues over the weak performance of Lebanon's Sunni-led government during this summer's 34-day conflict between Israel and the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah, radical Sunnis are finding new support for their cause among a fragmented sect that composes an estimated quarter of Lebanon's population. Their efforts are aided by frustration among Sunnis at the rising prominence of Hezbollah. […] In the Arab world, Lebanon has been among the countries least affected by the rise of the Islamist movement, particularly when compared with Egypt, Syria and Jordan, where Islamist factions have strong followings. Al-Qaida appeared to be interested in Lebanon primarily as a banking center and as a place to recruit men to send to Iraq to fight U.S. forces, according to Lebanese who monitor the presence of extremist groups. But when the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict brought an enemy to their doorstep, Sunni extremists were angry to find themselves sidelined from battle. They watched resentfully as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah became one of the most popular figures in the Arab world. … Radical leaders have sought to fill the void.”

The Latest Polls

How voters are migrating to House Democrats [USA Today]

From Ohdave: Brief thought on the chart showing a drift to the Democrats: I've read a couple of places where various pundits and bloggers are exasperated that some on the right still support Hastert and the rest of the house leadership (and by the way, how in the world does my fellow Ohioan John Boehner get a free pass? He had to have known at least as much as Hastert). But the fact that the support for the right is still there should not shock anyone. Bush's polls are stuck at about 33-40% and they will stay there. I think a similar rating of support for the House leadership is as low as can be expected. In the school levy biz we talk about having about a third of the voters always with you, and a third always against you. Some will vote yes for any levy no matter what. Some will vote no for any levy. We are always playing to the middle. I think the same is true in national politics. Bush's support is right now only with his core believers, and probably won't get any lower. The question is, are they disheartened enough to stay home on Nov. 7? So I think the swing in congressional polling is pretty significant. The part of the voting public that everyone is after is now drifting to the Dems' side. That's pretty important, even if the numbskull 30% of hardcore believers still cling to the fantasy that the GOP is the party of goodness and light. Now consider in light of what I've just said that in Ohio our current governor has approvals in the teens, and has for some time. It's a lot for the GOP to overcome in Ohio. Unfortunately their organization is far superior to the Dems.


How Australians want out of Iraq [From oz politics]


"I was walking through the city today and passed a homeless man coming the other way. He seemed to be having fun in his own little world, and as I watched him coming towards me he turned around so he was still walking in the same direction but was walking backwards down the street. The two 17-ish boys walking in front of me found this hilarious and exclaimed to each other in incredulous tones while trying to keep watching the man and keep walking on their way. And it struck me that these boys, in so excitedly pointing out and laughing at the unusual behaviour of the homeless man, were inadvertently mimicking his behaviour. Score one for the bum."
—from “Irony,” in Industrial Dollhouse, an Australian blog.

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