Scorcese made the brilliant decision, in Goodfellas, to impose the action of the movie against the signs of the sixties and seventies, using the music, the décor, the sex, the clothes, the drugs, everything, and simply eliminating the politics. Not one mention of the Vietnam war, for instance. This gives the viewer two feelings. One is the feeling that this Mafia enclave is truly living in its own world, even as it receives its inputs from the outside. And the second is that the American imperium is truly vast, because the Mafia is living like average Americans.

So: I go out to breakfast, typical Austin joint, migas for me, tables around buzzing, here’s two guys talking about their kids and the marvels of speech their kids are inventing out of the stitching of neurons and the world, here’s a table around which construction chiefs have gathered as the GC lays out the plans for building a number of restaurants in Texas, from bonding agent to the architectural drawing to the specs, and over here two women are having an animated discussion about the passage of Amendment 2 this Tuesday, and how one of them voted against it, and the people who are against it are going to wake up. Etc. Another day in America.

One gets the feeling that nobody there is particularly eager to bath in Iraqi blood.

So: Condeleeza Rice feels she must meet with Chalabi, the embezzler who is also the target of an FBI investigation who is also the great Iraqi patriot feted by the same AEI that proclaimed, in its journal last May, that the war was over and we won – news of course that keeps on being new to corpse after Iraqi and American corpse. The Rice flies to Iraq in a surprise visit to Mosul to tell us that our strategy against the insurgents is working. It is working like gangbusters. And the NYT files its report saying, first graf:

“MOSUL, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 11 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise stop on Friday in this violent, Sunni-dominated city in northern Iraq , declaring that it had recently become a success story for the strategy of using Iraqi forces to quell the insurgency.”

This turns out to be a lie, as the story goes on to report that she did not make a stop in the city at all:

“But the visit also reflected the delicate situation in Mosul as Ms. Rice - making her second trip to Iraq as secretary of state and her first trip to a Sunni-dominated area outside Baghdad - flew from Bahrain directly to a heavily fortified military base north of the Tigris River, surrounding an old palace of Saddam Hussein's on the city's northern outskirts. The area is now known as Camp Courage.

A month ago, four State Department security officers were killed in Mosul by a roadside bomb, and the city, Iraq's third largest, was not deemed safe enough for her to visit.”

The Bush strategy and the NYT strategy on the whole truth vs. lie thing are, as so often, in tandem. As a measure of the trendline for Mosul and our great adventure there, the story gives us a canned history – the invasion, the relative peacefulness of the first year of the occupation, the explosion as the U.S. committed atrocities on a Chechnyan scale in Falluja, the impossibility since for any American unaccompanied by armed guard to hustle down the Mosul streets. Your usual win win situation.

So: The same Washington Post story that gingerly prodded the return of Iraq’s odd choice of a convicted criminal for minister of oil mentioned the meeting between another of America’s Iraqi sweethearts, Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's vice president, and Donald Rumsfeld, conferring over the ever denied and now undeniable desire of the U.S. to put a big fat military presence in Iraq forever:
“In an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, the economist said a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops would leave a "very dangerous" vacuum. In talks with Rumsfeld, Mahdi said he had made clear he is "not averse" to a permanent base for U.S. troops in Iraq.”

Bob Dreyfus at Tom Paine, whose reporting about Iraq should be taken with a big dose of salt, mentions something interesting about this week’s spate of Chalabi redux: a lot of money seems to be going into Chalabi’s campaign for the December 15th election. To find out the sources of Chalabi money always requires a spelunking expedition down a rathole: did he get his pockets stuffed by the Americans or the Iranian or is this money he stole from the Oil Ministry, from the CIA, from the bank in Jordan, or from kidnapping and burglary in Iraq itself?

No doubt a big reason Chalabi is in D.C. and Rice is/isn’t in Mosul is that the Arab League is inviting all sides to a conference in Egypt. The U.S. has a great fear of all sides reaching some agreement behind our back, one that might well be “averse” to a permanent base for U.S. troops in Iraq.

So: The spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, Fareed Sabri, gives an interview in the Asian Times. The IIP, as the Asian Times reporter explains, is essentially an offshoot of the Moslem Brotherhood. Since the Moslem Brotherhood and the Ba’athists have been blood enemies for decades, the IIP is in the strange position in this insurgency of cooperating with its enemy, insofar as Ba’athists are involved in the resistance to the occupation, or cooperating with its Shi’ite enemies, DAWA and SCIRI. The IIP solution to the first horn of the dilemma is to indignantly deny it is happening. That is, that Ba’ath members are at all involved in the resistance. As for the future:

“MA [the Asian Times reporter]: Is the insurgency creating a new form of political identity, namely an Iraqi nationalist-Islamic identity?

FS: Yes, and this predates the occupation. It goes back to the early 1990s when the former Iraqi government launched Hamla Imaniyah, or Faith Campaign. But the resistance is adding flesh to that legacy and in the process is not only creating a new political identity, but a new Iraq as well. I can tell you that many people in the resistance are looking beyond the occupation and are anxious to implement true Islam in Iraq.

MA: Do you think this new ideology can be a suitable replacement for Ba'athism, insofar as ensuring Iraqi unity is concerned?

FS: It is difficult to say at the moment. But as far as the Iraqi Islamic Party is concerned, we call people to Islam through dialogue. And at this point in time we strive to promote democracy and an atmosphere of toleration inside the country. It is too early to be talking about an Islamic state. We need to gradually prepare the people for this.”


Interestingly, the IIP is looking beyond the occupation. But they are not seeing, as Chalabi is, American oil companies as far as the eye can see, and the infinite chances for graft therein. They are seeing an economic community, like the Europeans, between Turkey and Iraq and Iran.

So: the manic investigation of how we got into Iraq seems to have taken the air out of the question, what is our goal in Iraq? The short answer is that we still hope to treat Iraq as we once treated, say, Guatamala, finding figureheads that would cover massive American pilfering. This is what stay the course is about. Or as Powell's aide de camp, Wilkerson, put it:

“The other thing that no one ever likes to talk about is SUVs and oil and consumption,” the retired Army colonel said in a speech on Oct. 19.

While bemoaning the administration’s incompetence in implementing the war strategy, Wilkerson said the U.S. government now had no choice but to succeed in Iraq or face the necessity of conquering the Middle East within the next 10 years to ensure access to the region’s oil supplies.

“We had a discussion in (the State Department’s Office of) Policy Planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields of the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of U.N. trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly,” Wilkerson said. “That’s how serious we thought about it.”

Now that is a planning session whose minutes should be leaked.