“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, June 22, 2003


First, the casualties:

A fuel pipeline exploded and caught fire west of Baghdad, a possible act of sabotage that sent flames high into the sky, as Iraq returned to world oil markets Sunday with its first crude oil exports since the U.S.-led invasion.

Meanwhile, a grenade attack Sunday killed an American soldier and wounded another just outside the capital, the latest violence to plague U.S. forces, who have launched a large crackdown aimed at putting down persistent resistance."

The NYT also reports that it is all the work of foreign agitators. That is, the Pentagon says it is all the result of foreign (by which they don't mean American -- Americans in Iraq are officially not considered foreigners) agitators. If it is good enough for the Pentagon, who have proven to be a fount of true stories over the last two months, it is true enough for the Times. There's no report, as there is in the excellent Asia Times, about the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades" -- here is Pepe Escobar's story about that group:

"This Tuesday, the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades", an unknown group, has even claimed the authorship of "all combat operations" against the Americans - at the same time dismissing that they are working in tandem with Saddam Hussein: as Asia Times Online reported on May 28 (The Saddam intifada), Saddam has set the official beginning of an anti-American intifada for July 27. In a communique broadcast by Qatar television station al-Jazeera, the Brigades qualify Saddam and his followers as "enemies who have contributed to the loss of the motherland". The Brigades refuse to be regarded as Islamist extremists, and describe themselves as "a group of young Iraqis and Arabs who believe in the unity, freedom and Arabness of Iraq"."

Now, LI hardly has the resources or the Wizard of Oz cerebellum to clear up these matters; but we do suspect that something like the Iraqi Resistance Brigade will emerge as the American occupation continues. Everything in Iraq's past history points to it. Bremer has been regularly slathered with praise in the American press, even though every story carries, as a casual bit of information, the fact that Bremer seems to know nothing about Iraqi history. But like some CEO from Nabisco taking over Oracle, we are to believe that what's to know? Oreos or Chips, Americans or Iraqis, it is all the same product.

Here is Bremer revealing the wonders of the deeps in the NYT yesterday:

"As for the economy, he said his interim administration had begun paying pensions and financing emergency construction projects. "This is at least the beginning," he said.The priority, Mr. Bremer said, is to shift resources from the state industries to the private sector. But shutting down money-losing state industries - or keeping ones shut that have stopped functioning because of the war - poses a problem for the United States.Iraqis will have to choose, he said, which of the "several score" state enterprises that run the country's economy - from oil to food to supplying commodities - could become profitable, and which would be hard to shut because of the hardship for their employees.

"Whatever happens, he said, employees cannot suddenly be thrown out of their jobs without some sort of safety net. He is soliciting Iraqi experts to make decisions like these."

In a country with a fifty percent unemployment rate, the idea of shutting down various government enterprises borders on the ludicrous. Bremer should look across the ocean, at the US, where the current administration is going to run 400 billion to 500 billion dollars in debt this year. The application of an economic regime that wrecked Argentina, Turkey, and many, many other countries in a time of reconstruction is about the dumbest idea that a conservative think tanker has come up with since the old privatizing the social security idea -- now, of course, called reforming social security. But there it is.

This is playing well in the American press, of course, which salivates at the very word, privatization. Time magazine gives us the funniest pro-Bremer article of the week. Although LI stoutly maintains that America is no empire, that doesn't mean that imperial rhetoric is not all around us. Time drags out that old standby -- the Wog as child. It worked for the American Indians, didn't it? So we get such delightful quotes as this one:

"Freedom can be a frightening thing. The end of the Saddam regime means Iraqis like Kheithem are facing a future they never anticipated or prepared for. During more than two decades of totalitarian rule, a great many aspects of Iraqi public life - from politics and commerce to education and the arts - were twisted and corrupted. Now the people who filled those roles are trying to learn new ones. "Iraqis are like children with abusive parents," says Professor Behnam Abu al-Soof, an archaeologist and politician in Baghdad. "They beat us and starved us and they didn't teach us anything. Now we have to learn how to be a normal society. We have to go back to what I call the kindergarten of life."

Of course, this being an age in which therapy masks racism, it isn't that we are saying that the Iraqis have the mental capacity of children ... oh no, they are abused children, you see? And as we've witnessed in this country, where there are abused children, Satanic ritual cults must be not far behind. That role is being played by Saddam -- although there's also the fundamentalist Islamicists, too. It's a rather incoherent compound, but that's how it goes. The great thing about the abused child metaphor is that it precludes having to listen to Iraqis, or pay attention to their behavior. Poor things just don't know what they are saying. So why consult them? We know you expect charity, not the rigors of Daddy's capitalism -- I mean, shockingly, that's even true for people in Old Europe. Only the World's Adults -- the Rumsfelds, the Bushes -- have peered into the real thing and come back to tell us that it can only come to life with massive tax cuts and/or massive bombings.

Ah -- now on, as they say in Wolfowitz's circle, to Iran.

L'humanite runs an article about the recent "rafle" in Paris. The most interesting graf, to our mind, is this one --

The Iranian Association for the defense of political prisoners and prisoners of opinion in Iran -- a structure without a tie to the Association for the support of the OMPI [Moudjahidin], which has just been created in Paris -- says it regrets these arrests, while underlining the antidemocratic character of the organization based in Auvers-sur-Oise. It's president, Bijan Rastegar, is sorry for the hardening of the attitudes of French authorities. "If the Mudjahidin had been called in by the police, they would have gone to explain themselves..." According to him, "it has been a long time since France was considered a secure land of refuge." Bijan Rastegar evokes the loss of confidence of Iranian opposition groups vis-a-vis Paris, who remember the assassination of the ex prime minister of the Shah, Chapour Bakhtiar, in 1991. At that time, certain members of the community didn't hesitate to accuse France of passive complicity in the affair."

Well, this reference intrigued us. What happended to Bakhtiar? The Iranian published a comprehensive article on the the shadowy policy of assassination followed by the Iranian state by Cyrus Kadivar, which summarizes the Bakhtiar affair like this:

On a stormy night, August 6, 1991, in one of the most shameful acts of terrorism a three-man commando team sent from Tehran and posing as his supporters brutally murdered the 77 year old Dr Bakhtiar and his secretary, Soroush Katibeh. Both men were stabbed to death under the very noses of their French security.Bakhtiar's corpse was found the next morning at his villa in Suresnes. He was lying on his leather couch, his throat and wrists cut by a kitchen knife. In the sensational trial that followed in Paris in late 1994, it became clear that Bakhtiar's assassination was planned and carried out with Tehran's direct involvement.

Two of the killers fled to Iran, another was extradited from Geneva but was later acquitted. Many Iranians, including the families of the victims, blamed France's diplomatic rapprochement with Tehran for the deaths.

Two years earlier, in February 1989, Roland Dumas had visited Iran to discuss trade opportunities and on July 27, 1990 President Mitterand had ordered the release of the Lebanese terrorist, Anis Naccache, who had led the first attempt on Bakhtiar's life in 1980."

As for the present state of discontent in Iran: we have always, around here, ardently hoped for the downfall of all theocracies, and Iran's is one of the worst. Much as Bush would like to make Iraq a staging ground for the invasion of Iran, we don't think this is going to happen. It might -- on a rational basis, who would have guessed that Bush would value the taking of Iraq more than the preservation of the Atlantic alliances? But in our personal opinion, for what it is worth, the amount of money needed to invade Iran would come out of very popular programs in the US in 2004 -- not something Karl Rove would approve of. Besides which, the military has already stretched itself to its limits.

Of course, these limits on American intervention can change.
The main thing is that the left in this country, justly suspicious of the belligerents, not confound their shabby goals with the goal of getting rid of the clique of rapacious religious men that run Iran. However, we don't hold out much hope for that.

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