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Candide’s Latest: December 7, 2006

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Iraq Study Group
Give Us This Day Our Daily Delusion

It’s all about the Iraq Study Group today, with the usual divide between the perspective in the American press and the rest of the world. American papers take an almost reverential tone toward James Baker and his clan of ten, relaying every word of the group’s “findings” but questioning little (The Times calls it “a blueprint for Iraq,” as if what we’re experiencing there isn’t already an American blueprint gone to pot: what makes the Times think that more of the same, by different authors, can fix the problem? The problem is the blueprinting of Iraq by Americans). The Washington Post had the good sense to reflect Iraqis’ own incredulity at the report: “They said the report is a recipe, backed by threats and disincentives, that neither addresses nor understands the complex forces that fuel Iraq's woes. They described it as a strategy largely to help U.S. troops return home and resurrect America's frayed influence in the Middle East. […]"It is a report to solve American problems, and not to solve Iraq's problems," said Ayad al-Sammarai, an influential Sunni Muslim politician.” The British press shows little reverence, opting instead for impatience and even dismay.

Patrick Cockburn in the Independent: “The cautious words of the Baker-Hamilton report stand in sharp contrast to the savagery and terror that dominate everyday life in Baghdad. Many of the terrible disasters it fears may occur in future are in fact already happening. It states that there is a risk of "a slide towards chaos", but with almost 4,000 Iraqis being killed every month, the chaos is already here. "Ethnic cleansing could escalate," the report warns but, in reality, it does not have to for Iraq to fragment into three hostile homelands for Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Baghdad and central Iraq has already broken up into heavily armed and hostile Sunni and Shia townships. Some 170 individuals spoke to the Iraqi Study Group, including Tony Blair, President George Bush, Iraqi leaders and numerous ambassadors and senior officials. But the conclusions of the report at times give the alarming impression that Republicans and Democrats on the panel never really understood Iraqi politics. The report says: "The United States should work closely with Iraq's leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives - or milestones - on national reconciliation, security and governance." The problem here is that Iraq has already fallen apart as a political entity. Supposedly national institutions such as the police, army and government ministries have been divided up between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.” The full piece…

Like Bonzo, Like Bush

Robert Fisk: “The Roman Empire is falling. That, in a phrase, is what the Baker report says. The legions cannot impose their rule on Mesopotamia. Just as Crassus lost his legions' banners in the deserts of Syria-Iraq, so has George W Bush. There is no Mark Antony to retrieve the honour of the empire. The policy "is not working". "Collapse" and "catastrophe" - words heard in the Roman senate many a time - were embedded in the text of the Baker report. Et tu, James? This is also the language of the Arab world, always waiting for the collapse of empire, for the destruction of the safe Western world which has provided it with money, weapons, political support. First, the Arabs trusted the British Empire and Winston Churchill, and then they trusted the American Empire and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Truman and Eisenhower administrations and all the other men who would give guns to the Israelis and billions to the Arabs - Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Bush... And now they are told that the Americans are not winning the war; that they are losing. If you were an Arab, what would you do? Be sure, they are not asking this question in Washington. The Middle East - so all-important (supposedly) in the "war on terror" - in itself, a myth - doesn't really matter in the White House. It is a district, a map, a region, every bit as amorphous as the crescent of "crisis" which the Clinton administration invented when it wanted to land its troops in Somalia. How to get out, how to save face, that's the question. To hell with the people who live there: the Arabs, the Iraqis, the men, women and children whom we kill - and whom the Iraqis kill - every day.” The full column…

The Guardian’s editorial: “With a lot of luck and even more resolve, yesterday's report of the Iraq Study Group may eventually be seen as a pivotal moment in the reassertion of a realistic American role in Iraq and the world, and not remembered as the well-intentioned but failed political rescue mission that it risks becoming, given the all too seriously worsening situation in Iraq. The report is not merely a repudiation of the disastrous United States policy in Iraq - though it is certainly that too. It is also something larger and more strategically potent in the history of the early 21st century - an implicit repudiation of the entire divisive international and domestic political project that President George Bush has pursued since 9/11, with the unfailing and dismaying public support of Tony Blair.” See the full editorial…

Another Swiftboating?
Jimmy Carter’s Apartheid Trouble

From the Post: “A veteran Middle East scholar affiliated with the Carter Center in Atlanta resigned his position there Monday in an escalating controversy over former president Jimmy Carter's bestselling book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," traces the ups and downs of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process beginning with Carter's 1977-1980 presidency and the historic peace accord he negotiated between Israel and Egypt and continuing to the present. Although it apportions blame to Israel, the Palestinians and outside parties -- including the United States -- for the failure of decades of peace efforts, it is sharply critical of Israeli policy and concludes that " Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land." Kenneth W. Stein, a professor at Emory University, accused Carter of factual errors, omissions and plagiarism in the book. "Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information," Stein wrote in a harshly worded e-mail to friends and colleagues explaining his resignation as the center's Middle East fellow. Stein offered no specifics in his e-mail to back up the charges, writing only that "in due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins."” The full article…

What Would Jesus Fuck?

From the L.A. Times: "THE strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape. Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man — one profanity at a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches Stine, 46. A moment later he adds a fervent: "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!" It's an apt anthem for a contrarian movement gaining momentum on the fringes of Christianity. In daybreak fraternity meetings and weekend paintball wars, in wilderness retreats and X-rated chats about lust, thousands of Christian men are reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith.” See the full story…

The Next Next Next Dumb
To the Moon, Alice

Is this really what the United States ought to be focusing its mega-exploratory energies right now? Seeding the moon with a mission to nowhere? Apparently, yes. “ After years of drift, simply fixing up shuttles and a space station, NASA this week rolled out that old Apollo magic. It staked a time (2020) and a place (south pole) for a moon base to create the first human habitation off Earth,” A Christian Science Monitor editorial has it. “And that's just the warm-up. The agency's specific lunar goal, which builds on a 2004 Bush vision to use the moon as a practice step to a Mars settlement, hardly stirred the American public, though, as did John Kennedy's man-on-the-moon speech 45 years ago. And therein lies this lofty venture's prime obstacle: Keeping up enthusiasm in Congress for space spending, or rather for America's traditional culture of exploration (ignited by Columbus), its striving to find new frontiers (as Lewis and Clark did), and its need to keep breaking material and human barriers (with genius like that of the Wright brothers).” The full editorial... 

The Other Debacle
Israel Study Group

With attention all focused on the Iraqi version of blame and mea culpas over Arab bashing, there's a risk this story would get missed: There are those, in the United States especially, who still insist that somehow the Israeli military pulled it off against Hezbollah, that it won its war last summer in Lebanon. An eminence of the Israeli military would disagree. “In the harshest criticism of the IDF since the end of the war in Lebanon, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amiram Levine, former head of the Northern Command, accused Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz in a probe he conducted for the military, of direct responsibility for the IDF's poor performance in its fight against Hizbullah. "The IDF failed in achieving its goals," said Levine,” according to a Jerusalem Post report. “"The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the chief of staff," Levine concluded in a report he was asked to compile on the performance of the Northern Command during the month-long war this past summer. Levine presented his findings to the General Staff earlier this week. "You erred in your management of forces, based on the principle of giving priority to land forces," Levine told Halutz. One military source called Levine's probe, "the harshest criticism yet of the IDF."” The full story…

Yes, Virginia, There Is Good News

The Jerusalem Post also reports that a breakthrough is a matter time on the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Hamas operatives kidnapped him last June, triggering what has since been a rolling onslaught of Israeli assaults and Hamas bombings, in Gaza. Negotiations for the soldier's release "are in their final stage, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak said Wednesday," the Post reports. Now if only Israel can be impressed on to open the doors to its own little gulag of Arab prisoners. "Speaking about Shalit, who was captured by Hamas-linked terror operatives in June, Mubarak said "negotiations on releasing him are in their final stage and waiting for Hamas' approval." Egypt had made considerable effort to resolve the crisis, Mubarak said, "but it seems that there other parties who are intervening against the interest of the Palestinian people." Mubarak did not say who the "other parties" were, but he appeared to mean Syria, where Hamas' top leader Khaled Mashaal lives. He did not give additional details about the negotiations. The semi-official Al Gomhouria published the comments in an edition of Thursday's newspaper distributed Wednesday night. Mubarak spoke to newspaper editors accompanying him on his European tour." The full story...

Interlude: Bruce Hornsby Throw-Back


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