“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

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Bollettino

LI has been in a long and winding correspondance with an ardent supporter of the Iraq War. We spent a lot of time proposing and dissing each others analogies. Is the occupation of Iraq like the occupation of Germany and Japan, after WWII? Or is it like Vietnam? Etc.

Now, LI has a rule about history: there are no lessons in history. This is a rule we violate, for rhetorical reasons, all of the time. However, in calmer moments, we realize that the lesson metaphor is horribly overdetermined, and structurally suspect. For one thing, it implies a control, both conceptual and organizational, over history that doesn't and can't exist. Or at least it requires a belief in a trans-historical agency that needs to be established first. Such an agency could make history as a form of lesson, although it is unclear what that lesson would be about. A lesson is made around a subject, while history is made as history -- as the synthesis of the variously satisfactory enactments of human intentions with the contingency of natural events or countering intentions. This doesn't sound like lesson-making. For another thing, the metaphor downplays the complexity of the agents and systems at play within history. The lesson implies the class room, the teacher, the student. It follows a definite communicative channel, one determined by the social organization that allocates the teacher and the student positions. The odd thing about the lessons of history metaphor is that the teacher becomes the subject -- history teaches itself. The student of history reads the lessons of history from history itself. The triple relationship -- teacher, subject, student -- is collapsed into a double relationship -- teacher, student. The student's reception of the lesson requires a temporal and spatial location - a certain retirement -- while history, teaching itself, becomes a kind of confession. This is one of the attractions of the metaphor for the politician: such retirement is consonant with an old pattern, within Western culture, of making the values of the ascetic ideal superior to the practical one. It's the ruse of the priest, in a sense, to create the order for which the warrior fights. It's the ruse of the warrior to claim the priest's position -- that key retirement, that key distance. As Weber has remarked, somewhere, the artist and the politician emerge at the same time in the West, both of them signs of a certain form of modernity, both of them related in the peculiar individuality of their endeavors -- both of them throwing off the system of patronage as a sort of constitutive gesture. Which is just a way of saying, to paraphrase Marx, all insights into social science appear twice, once in poetry and once in Weber. Shelley's dictum that poets are the rulers of the world comes to much the same insight as Weber's, except that Shelley is sublime, Weber mundane.
However -- stepping back, here -- if history doesn't teach itself, and if, consequently, there are no students of history, how is one to take any practical action in the world? We do recognize a certain sense in saying that the occupation of Iraq is like that of Japan -- even if we disagree with it.

We're going to discuss this in our next post. In the meantime, we recommend this link to a book on metaphor in science.

As for our own embattled position -- we have now been running on an empty checking account since last Friday. The milk will be gone by the end of the day. We have four dollars, and we are trying to figure out how to spend it most wisely. There's bread and cheese and some cans of soup. There are some eggs too. Alas, no mail tomorrow, so -- if we aren't paid today, we will have to go into next week like this.

Hard times.

Bollettino


CNN has a very confusing report on casualties this morning. Bush's wish for "them" to "bring em on" was granted, to the extent of a number of attacks that wounded 10 American troops. A marine was killed clearing mines, and a soldier died of the wounds received from the attack yesterday that injured six. Or so we presume -- the soldier's death is extremely under-reported.

On another front -- LI wrote a post last week about the suspicious nature of the "accidents" that are killing American soldiers in Iraq. Here's a story from Maine that will get no play in the national press, which goes along, and goes along:

"ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE -- Sen. Susan Collins says the army has assured her it will conduct a full investigation into the death of First Sergeant Christopher Coffin, a reservist from Kennebunk.

The senator just returned from a tour of Iraq herself and spoke with NewsRadio WMTW's Bob Dyk. In the interview, Collins said, "My heart just goes out to the family. It's gotta be so difficult, and the conflicting stories on how he died need to be cleared up."

Coffin was 51.

The army initially told his family that he died in a vehicle accident, but his family says news reports indicate he may have, in fact, died under enemy fire."

Here's the AP report:

An Army reservist whose retirement request was denied because of Operation Iraqi Freedom became the fifth soldier with Maine ties to be killed in the conflict, possibly when his convoy came under attack.

First Sgt. Christopher Coffin, 51, of Kennebunk, was a member of 352nd Civil Affairs Command assisting convoys traveling between Baghdad and Kuwait when he died Tuesday, his sister-in-law, Candy Barr Heimbach, said Wednesday.

The Army initially told the family Tuesday night that Coffin was driving a vehicle crashed after swerving to avoid an Iraqi civilian vehicle."

The family is not going to let that story go without questioning. Here's another piece in Coffin's story:

"Coffin, who was deployed overseas four months ago, was part of a unit based in Riverdale, Md., that was assisting in rebuilding efforts and was not supposed to be involved in active combat."

Interesting contrast: on the one side, Coffin, an honest guy working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, did his best for his family, gets not only killed in combat in Iraq, but the Army that sends him there tries to disguise the death for political reasons; on the other side, you have a man who skipped his war in Vietnam, not because he opposed it, but because he could; the son of a rich man who officially acted to pipe poor black and white kids to Vietnam while making sure his own son didn't put his foot in that meat grinder; a boy who rose like a queer dollar from one failure to the next, until he has a job in which his evident limits, mental and personal, will have the maximum deleterious effect.

And so they "bring em on." Every day in every way.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Bollettino


We have to recommend this fascinating article on Qaddafi's daughter, the Libyan "Claudia Shiffer" Aisha al Qaddafi. It asks questions that Middle Eastern journalists are eager to ask, but can't in the press. As, for instance, where does Qaddafi's daughter come up with the dough to afford perpetual stays in elite London Hotels, where the going rate is $2200 a night?

Not surprisingly, as Aisha subsists on ye olde service and the best scotches Claridge's can come up with, she is also a great one for expressing solidarity with the downtrodden. She nearly bleeds -- or at least sweats -- for the Palestinian people, to whom she has recommended jihad. I'm sure they are much obliged.

And now for the Casualty report: here's the insufferable W. rallying the home troops, and incidentally supplying just the rationale that insurgents will use to kill American soldiers:

``There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on,'' Bush said. ``We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.'' Bush said he would welcome assistance from other countries willing to send troops to help restore peace. ``Anybody who wants to help, we'll welcome,'' Bush said. ``But we got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure."

Bring them on? There's a phrase for a double take. Luckily, the President is in such disconnect from his tongue that we can dismiss the idea that he views grenade attacks on a US army vehicle in the light of a elementary school yard fight. He simply doesn't think.

Reuters is reporting that of the six wounded yesterday, one soldier has died:

"A U.S. soldier hurt in an attack on his convoy a day earlier died of his wounds, bringing to at least 23 the number of American servicemen killed by hostile fire since major combat operations were declared over for the U.S. forces and their British allies on May 1."

Ten have supposedly died from the explosion in Falujah. We are curious about an AP think piece last week, which outlined the dreamy peacefulness of Falujah, contrasting it with the wild hyperboles of violence thrown about by the Western press. We are eager to see AP reporter Mark Fitz's follow up. He will doubtless point to the lack of grafitti in the town, once again. Winning hearts and minds one covered up slogan at a time.
Bollettino

When LI lived in Santa Fe, we attended a number of parties organized by an art dealer. Actually, in Santa Fe, it is almost impossible to avoid parties organized by an art dealer of some type. You will be walking along, innocently enough, and suddenly you will be engulfed by rich Texas couples and amply funded California divorcees clamoring for a "purplish" picture to hang in the solarium. It is that kind of town.

These parties had a debilitating effect on my morale. I had hung with the wealthy before; I'd read Architectural Digest in their bathrooms; I'd talked to their almost always ancient maids, although I can't say I talked to them much. The maids eyed me with justified suspicion. No matter - I liked em. In my experience, wealth had had a gentle, softening effect upon people -- like some purling current of water, gradually brightening and shaping a bed of pebbles.

That was my feeling until I encountered the the crowds that gathered, like some species of vulture even the Audobon Society couldn't love, to drink white wine and eat Southwestern canapes in the rooms of this art dealer. They were a whole other order of philistine.

I was reminded of the type by this story about the Barnes Institute.

The Barnes has always stuck out because it was founded by a wealthy screwball. One of the things about art is that it demands a response. One of the things about money is that it doesn't. It is a contradiction that makes the true artist grit his or her teeth, when encountering the true client.

Not so for the founder of the Barnes, about which the Times article has this rather unhelpful bio:

"The collection was amassed by Albert C. Barnes, a patent-medicine millionaire who installed it in the 1920's on his estate in the Main Line suburb of Merion."

Barnes (unlike the vultures) not only amassed his collection, he formed definite opinions about it. Opinions that were not about its potential exchange value. He wrote pamphlets. He sought out intellectuals who had similar beliefs. And he decided to reveal his collection only to those who were able to see it in the right way -- as if, indeed, he'd done the work himself.

Since Albert's time, the foundation has had a pretty colorful career. LI saw an exhibit of some of the Barnes pieces years ago -- we remember being struck particularly by the Soutines. That exhibit was a rarity. Now the Barnes board is trying to find to build a museum to house the pieces, which means significantly re-structuring Albert's explicit instructions -- Albert was not a man who wanted the hoi polloi to wash up before his pictures. The board contracted for an audit, and it is being published today. The audit says a lot about a former president of the institute, Richard Glanton. Glanton is not amused.

"Mr. Glanton, 56, a former partner at the law firm of Reed Smith Shaw & McClay, was forced off the Barnes board in 1998 and left Philadelphia in May to become a senior vice president at the Exelon Corporation, a utilities conglomerate in Chicago. Under a section titled "Conflicts of Interest," the audit outlined a series of Barnes transactions that it said Mr. Glanton engaged in with outside business partners, without informing the foundation's board. It said he ran up more than $225,000 in travel and entertainment expenses; tried to barter the foundation's banking business for support on the board; and let two women live in Barnes properties under unusual circumstances.

Mr. Glanton dismissed the findings today as "a waste of money" and an act of "vengeance" by his enemies."

The Times is our last Victorian institution. The two women living under "unusual circumstances" -- unusual for what? The implication is that Mr. Glanton is, as well as being a man of the arts, a man of parts -- un homme moyen sensual -- and those parts needed some action from time to time.

"In another episode the audit cited, a woman working for a party and event planner, Cheryl Beck, said Mr. Glanton had arranged for her to move into a vacant Barnes-owned single-family residence in Merion around November 1996. There was no agreement to pay rent or utilities and Ms. Beck, who moved in with a roommate, Theresa Sentel, called the arrangement "like house sitting." Neighbors later complained of parties there."

The art world, man. Wyndham Lewis, who was voted the most perceptive fascist of 1926, was on to its unique seediness in The Art of Being Ruled. Like almost everything by Lewis, it is one of those proofs that genius can go out of its way to be unpleasant -- the reason Lewis never wrote a great novel. There's an old Guardian review of a bio of Lewis's life by David Trotter wonderfully sums up his problems:

"If having sex with Lewis seems to have been a thankless task, then lending him money was about as much fun as amputation. Sometimes the same person was required to fulfil both functions. Ida Vendel, the mistress acquired as a lifestyle accessory in Paris in April 1905, he thought of as his 'German allotment'. Ida's father had been a wealthy merchant, and Lewis was soon, and thereafter almost as a matter of policy, in debt to her. Indeed, the difficulty he found in extricating himself from the relationship had as much to do with its monetary as with its sexual arrangements, and he didn't really feel free of it until his mother had paid Ida what he owed her. Its termination, in the summer of 1907, meant that he now required alternative sources of revenue, as his friends and relations were soon to discover. "He's a cool card with other people's money," Augustus John complained in January 1908: "I don't know how much of mine he's calmly appropriated, without so much as a 'thank you'."

"The one thing even less likely to meet with gratitude than a loan was an outright gift. At the end of 1923, a group of well-wishers established a joint fund to provide Lewis with a stipend of �16 a month for as long as he might remain in need of it. The result was the usual mayhem, as dark suspicions flourished, and lifelong friends fell out. On one occasion, a delay in the dispatch of the monthly cheque elicited an unforgiving response: "WHERE'S THE FUCKING STIPEND? LEWIS." O'Keeffe dismisses this story as apocryphal, but he does not seem in much doubt as to the brutality with which Lewis often treated those who sought to help him. Earlier that year, Lewis had spent some time in France with one of the people who was to contribute generously to the fund, the painter Richard Wyndham. Sitting outside a caf� in Toulon, he told Wyndham that he was a 'Narcissus' and probably a 'bugger'. People, Wyndham remembered him saying, are only friends insofar as they are of use to you. Lewis, it seems, did not so much bite the hand that fed him as mistake it for the main meal."

Lewis -- to resume after that enjoyable hiatus -- had this to say about such as Glanton: "In the millionaire society defined in Part III [of Art of Being Ruled] those fortunate enough to possess the means were shown as enjoying the revolutionary joys of a communist millenium. They are naturally impatient of the slowness of revolution. They consequently decide to forestall the paradise to come, on a small scale, themselves. A painting, writing, acting, cultural paradise ensues, in which everyone is equal (that is, equally a 'genius') and every one is free -- at the expense, naturally, of the great majority, who have to wait for their revolutionary paradise."

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

LI, the loafs and the fishes

Well, it is day five. LI went and sold fifty dollars worth of books on Thursday. We've been living on it since. We are now down to five dollars. What do you get for five dollars? We went to the grocery store and looked around. The meat was out of the question. What about cheese? Cheese would take up half of the sum. Now, you can nibble on cheese and survive several days, supposedly. Haven't we read that in the journal of some South Pole explorer? But our mouth revolted at the all cheese regime.

Hmm. So we chose two dollars worth of coffee, and a dollar forty loaf of bread. Extravagant, that bread.

Tonight, we are going to face up to the loss of alcohol -- although I can hear our friend David urging the beer. And tomorrow, maybe there will be a check in the mail.
Although at this point, we've rather lost hope.

Our bet -- another notice for electric bill due tomorrow. That will be the killer. This is going to be the worst summer of our life -- hey, and we thought that was LAST summer.

Bollettino

Casualty report: The sweeps in Iraq have been so successful that the Americans have arrested a colonel. At this rate, in another, say, one hundred years we might imprison the whole of the Iraqi officer corps. That has the advantage of giving us a political corps, since Americans are also appointing former Ba'athist military guys to ruling positions in Iraqi cities, and blocking elections.

The NYT (AP) issues this report: "Rocket-propelled grenades slammed into U.S. military vehicles in two attacks in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, and an explosion at a mosque in the town of Fallujah killed 10 Iraqis and injured four others. Meanwhile, unidentified assailants in a pickup truck gunned down the head of Saddam Hussein's tribe while he was riding in a car in the former dictator's hometown of Tikrit, the local governor said Tuesday. "


According to the Middle East news, the attack in Baghdad is worse than Cencom is yet willing to affirm:


"BAGHDAD, YUSUFIYEH & FALLUJAH, Iraq - Four US soldiers were killed and two others wounded Tuesday in a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack on their vehicle by unknown assailants in central Baghdad, witnesses said.The attack occurred at 10:00 am (0600 GMT) when assailants fired an RPG on a US Humvee light multi-wheeled vehicle near a gas station in the al-Mustansiriya neighborhood, they said.Four US troops were killed and two others wounded, they said. The casualties were immediately removed from the scene.An Iraqi civilian was also wounded and taken to hospital, said the witnesses, confirming that his 18-seat transport bus parked by the gas station was completely burnt."

Recently, Bremer cancelled elections in Najaf. This had the effect of prolonging the rule of Abu Haydar Abdul Mun'im, who had been placed in the position of governor in Najaf by the Military. Today he was arrested by the military for a few petty crimes: theft, kidnapping, graft. The NYT story explains:



"...Abu Haydar Abdul Mun'im, who had been put in place by a Marine lieutenant colonel in April, comes on the heels of the cancellation of Najaf's first general election about two weeks ago by allied officials. At the time, they asserted that conditions in Najaf were not suitable yet for an election.
Today, Charles Heatley, a spokesman for the occupation authority, said an investigation of Mr. Mun'im over the past few weeks had been based on a "large amount of evidence from a number of people.""We've always said we would make mistakes," Mr. Heatley said."

That's big of 'em.

We knew why, approximately, we were in Vietnam. But it is becoming unclear why we are in Iraq. Are we there to structure an autonomous Iraqi government, or are we there to exploit the place for our own convenience? It looks increasingly like the D.C. plan was to do the latter, thinking that it was in perfect concord with the former. Unbelievable as it seems, nobody seems to have asked if US interest and Iraq interest could, just possibly, conflict. In American Outlook, a conservative mag from the Hudson Institute, there is a cynical article by Irwin Stelzer, a rightwinger pur et dur.

"Bremer�s vision for the [oil] industry, indeed for Iraq�s economy, is worthy of Margaret Thatcher at her free-market best. He sees an economy in which state-owned and supported industries are starved of the subsidies that sustained them under the Saddam regime, in which domestic markets are open to free trade, and in which prices, exchange rates, and other variables are set by market forces. The oil industry would be operated for the benefit of the Iraqi people. And the new Iraq would set an example so irresistible that other Middle East oil producers would be forced to adopt the new model.

Why Bremer and Washington�s policymakers think that the seeds of free enterprise will bear fruit in the desert soil of Iraq is something of a mystery�a triumph of hope over experience. After all, no oil-producing country in the region has shown the slightest interest in such a model, the young protesters in Iran being a possible exception."

Stelzer goes on to analyze American plans to use Iraq as a pressure point on OPEC, and he is quite clear about who benefits in this scenario:

"The one ray of hope is that Iraq�s skilled technicians will ramp up production more rapidly than now seems likely, and that the nation�s need for cash will force it to violate OPEC quotas, pushing prices down. America and other consuming countries would benefit from cheaper oil, an economic stimulant equivalent to a tax cut, but with none of the long-term adverse effects on interest rates and investment that the Bush cuts are likely to produce."

Stelzer mentions a commonly mentioned plan: the split up of Iraq's nationalized oil company into six private companies, which would be sold to American or British companies. The cynicism of this vision is breathtaking. It is hard to believe that the American occupation, after having experienced the deaths and looting and disarray and Iraqi impatience for self government on the ground, would actually be heading in this direction. This really would be making true the protest in the anti-war chant, no blood for oil.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Bollettino

Various

A little self-promoting here: LI has a review of Houellebecq's latest novel at the Chicago Sun-Times site, and a review of a Robert E. Lee biography at the San Antonio News Express site.

Casualty report:

"An Australian working as a sound man for NBC News was injured in Iraq when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a US military vehicle in the restive town of Fallujah. Three Iraqis were killed in the incident when their pick-up truck slammed into a vehicle helping to evacuate the sound man, the US military said yesterday."


And this, from Reuters: "At least 30 Iraqis were killed and scores injured on Saturday when an ammunition dump they were looting blew up, residents said on Monday.They said U.S. forces arrested several looters after the blast at the ammunition dump in a desert area north of the town of Haditha, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad."

LI has never lived in a neighborhood with an ammunition dump. So it is hard for us to viscerally understand exactly what the phrase means, although Reuters apparently knows all about it.

The unstoppable market

New Zealand did a rather wonderful thing last week. It decriminalized prostitution -- a position that Jesse Ventura was ridiculed for. This is the kind of debate you won't find in the US House of Representatives:
"GILLIAN BRADFORD: It was one of the most passionate speeches Parliament had ever heard, Labour MP, Georgina Beyer, herself a former prostitute, relating a harrowing tale of a knife point encounter

GEORGINA BEYER: And yes I'm a prostitute and no it was not right that I should have been raped because I said no. It would have been nice to have known that instead of having to deal out the justice myself afterwards to that person I may have been able to approach the authorities, the police in this case, and say I was raped.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: That speech swung at least one vote, leading to a final vote of 60 for reform, 59 against and 1 abstention."

The politics of prostitution -- or the politics of the control of vice in general -- is shaped in ways that aren't wholly predictable from the perspective of the left/right divide. There is a strong reformist element in feminism -- stemming from its New England religious roots -- which is very supportive of the most repressive state action in favor of banning vice. This is the 'it takes a village" politics, the politics of liberal coercion, that, LI must admit, drives us nuts. Partly this is because it sacrifices liberty to a symbol of virtue. This is the most dangerous tendency of the left.

Cops, as we've said before, should not be the regulators of first resort -- which they become when prostitution is banned. Or drugs. The bans don't repress the market, but they do shape it -- banning, here, aggravates mechanisms of monopoly and violence that are always latent in market structures. Power devolves to those willing to use that power which exists outside the civil sphere -- sheer violence. This is why we are so totally against the banning of guns -- that goal towards which the gun control people tend. But we do believe in the regulation of guns. Those who argue these issues from the top down -- arguing from the theory of rights to its application -- are, we think, mistaken. The real arguments should be from the bottom up -- from the practical harms inflicted by banning. Our position does involve a little "begging of the question," since among those practical harms is the restriction of liberties defined by rights. But we don't believe that rights without pragmatic embodiment -- without some kind of embedding in the social order -- makes sense.

One of those 'pragmatic embodiments" is the extraordinary chance of violence that is the prostitute's fate. Georgina Beyer is absolutely correct. We wrote a little review, a long time ago, in the Austin Chronicle about a book that profiled a serial killer, Kevin McDuff. The author of the book, Gary Lavigne, refers to our "incompetence" in reviewing his book on his site (without naming us, or the paper in which the review appeared), which we find rather amusing. One of the more interesting parts of that creepy little account was the feeling, rampant among the cops, that prostitutes did not deserve protection. As one of them said, approximately, if they go into somebody's car to do their business, what can we do? Which is true for bible salesman and mechanics who answer towing calls at two o'clock at night, too; prostitutes, however, were clearly considered scum. The inequality in enforcing the law breeds lawlessness. A killer like McDuff is a school book example: when he began to kill prostitutes, the cops were scandalously uninterested -- which of course aggravated his sense of immunity. Then he started taking out middle class women, and the cops got interested right away.

We think there is a correlation between unequal enforcement of the law -- by which we don't just mean arrests and punishments, but the act of investigation itself, from its initiation to its conclusion -- and violence. This is our theory about the consistently high crime rate in the South -- callousness towards crimes committed against one class of persons breeds violence that spreads out among all sectors. The pseudo-science of FBI 'profilers" has always struck us as pointless -- the profile the FBI really needs is sociological. It is no surprise that a psycho of a certain type will kill -- the interesting thing is how he creates a sense of immunity for himself about the killing. And that sense is best constructed when his victims are treated as scum by the cops.

So, three cheers for New Zealand.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Bollettino

If this report is true, it would certainly cause a minor meltdown in D.C. According to the Asia Times, the US is seeking to negotiate with the Taleban. The report claims that the US has even tried to find acceptable Taleban leadership:


"The hard truth is that US intelligence simply does not really know what is going on in the Taliban and al-Qaeda camps. This is evidenced by the countless raids that have been launched in recent times, none of which have resulted in the capture of anyone in Afghanistan.

In an effort to find a breakthrough, US authorities recently made two initiatives involving the Taliban. (See US turns to the Taliban, June 14) In the first, they tried to establish a new Taliban leadership through Mullah Ghous and other Taliban leaders who were expelled during Taliban rule from 1996-2001. This failed virtually before it was born. A second attempt was then made to forge contacts with "real" Taliban, with the idea being that they provide any acceptable leadership (ie, not Mullah Omar) to take a significant part in the running of the country so that peace could be established. This, too was rejected.

Another attempt to give Afghan clerics an important role in power politics is in the US cards in Afghanistan, but like the other attempts, this, too, looks like another shot in the dark."

There is a crooked sense in this, if it is true. The Bush-ites have decided, for their own reasons, to turn a blind eye to Pakistan. So the country that supplied North Korea with nuclear materials and know how is getting 3 billion dollars in aid. This might not cause any collateral political damage in the US, but it is bound to let other countries know that the US has no real standard when it comes to nuclear proliferation. And at some point, this will impinge on the pressure being brought upon Iran.

We wonder, though, at the complete contrast between reporting on Afghanistan elsewhere and that in the Asia Times. Wilder things have happened, but really -- it would simply destroy the legitimacy of the Karzai regime even to think of negotiating with the Taleban.
Bollettino

The hawks have been saying, for months, that reconstruction is on schedule. That it is moving forward. That things are getting better in Iraq.

What we need to test these propositions is some comparison. A nice one is with the reconstruction that happened after 1991.

In 1991, the Iraqi infrastructure was much more damaged than it was this last April. Yet, as has been pointed out by Iraqis, the electricity came on-line quicker under Saddam:


"After security, one of the most common complaints of postwar Baghdad residents has been unreliable electricity.

"Why is the electricity only on eight hours a day?" one resident asked last week. "In 1991, Saddam had the electricity on sooner than this, and all the power stations were bombed."

Another two enlightening grafs from the same article:

"In 1991, the damage was much greater because the damage was concentrated not only on the substations but the power stations," said Adnan Wadi Bashir, who worked as a power generation and transmission engineer for the government for 24 years. "Most of the attacks were on the transmission lines, and the repair of these is much easier. We restored part of the power in 1991 within six weeks of the ceasefire and we supplied the whole Iraqi system without any shortage in five months. The job now could have been finished within a month" of April 12.

Starting literally from scratch, engineers in 1991 managed to generate about 1000 MW of power six weeks after the war ended, Bashir said. Last week, nearly eight weeks after the American effort began, about 3450 MW were available countrywide, 1000 MW less than were available before the invasion."

Admittedly, tyrants are always reputed to make the trains run on time. But we suspect that the real difference is that in 1991, the Iraqis weren't being second guessed by a bunch of advisors largely shipped over from a foreign country and possessing, among them, skills in basic Arabic that a five year old Iraqi could easily overshadow. There's an incalculable advantage in having on-site people do on-site work. And if advice is necessary, the people giving the advice should have something at stake.

We've often gone on, and on, about letting Iraqis run Iraq. Here's a corollary to that position: if we have advisors in place in government agencies, or actual order givers, those people should be paid out of the same funds, and using the same scale, as their Iraqi colleagues.

This would be the simplest way to align the interests of the Americans with the interests of the Iraqis.