Saturday, March 01, 2003


Wo Es war, soll Ich werden -- Freud,

Charles Krauthammer attends, so we are told, at all the high tables in D.C., and is one of the muskateers of The Project for the New American Century, which plays a role in today's politics similar to the role played by Committee on the Present Danger played in the good old days of Ronald Reagan.

Krauthammer presently plays the Id to the Bush court. While Paul Wolfowitz has been forced to straight-jacket his thoughts into the super-ego of officialdom, Krauthammer is free to express the desires that really roil the inner circle. This is important. Where the Id is, with the Bushes, the super-ego will surely follow, and trail in its wake the whole set of opinion makers, rationalizing madly. It's Freudian law applied to the Hof. Just look at tax policy. In 2000, only the wildest ideologues of plutocracy would have come out solidly against the Income Tax and in favor of sales taxes to finance the state. Slowly, though, it has dawned on even the NY Times business page that this is precisely Bush's strategy, as was remarked in this article on Bush's bizarre pension tax plan:

"Many analysts say the retirement proposals mesh with what appears to be Mr. Bush's long-term goal of removing most taxes on investment income and toward a system that essentially taxes only consumption."

So -- the rule should be, pay attention when the Id speaks. And thus spake Krauthammer in his latest. First, in typical Id style, he cannot believe -- he cannot believe at length, he cannot believe from his head to his boots -- that all of these, these obstacles have been thrown in the way of our desire. The pack desire. The desire that has sharpened his teeth. Well, it all has to come out somehow. And -- by the merest coincidence -- it comes out first in the form of rather mocking the fact that the U.S., at this crucial juncture, is being asked to take black nations seriously. The incredulity infects his writing. He trembles. Angola, Guinea, the Congo -- places that, eventually, we will have to recivilize with might and main, and here we are, bending over for them.

"The entire exercise is ridiculous, but for unfathomable reasons it matters to many, both at home and around the world, that the United States should have the permission of Guinea to risk the lives of American soldiers to rid the world -- and the long-suffering Iraqi people -- of a particularly vicious and dangerous tyrant."

To get permission of a black nation like Guinea -- does this upset the master-slave order of the world (the imperialist epoch now looked back upon so nostalgically) or what? And it can even become habit forming. We know how quickly the bully can deliquesce into the masochist. We know where that leads. It leads to perversity, and perversity leads to France. For who, really, is the problem here? Who stands between our virility and its consummation? A dozen times France. France, as Krauthammer says, which "pretends to great power status." A fake, then -- and, as all fakes to desire, a fetish, a deviation into sexual energies that we really don't want to go into in this post. Family reading, you know.

So, the Id, the loud mouth at the end of every canal and the beginning of every orifice, it wants to know -- how will we hurt this deviant? Krauthammer comes up with the appropriate answer:

"First, as soon as the dust settles in Iraq, we should push for an expansion of the Security Council -- with India and Japan as new permanent members -- to dilute France's disproportionate and anachronistic influence.

Second, there should be no role for France in Iraq, either during the war, should France change its mind, or after it. No peacekeeping. No oil contracts. And France should be last in line for loan repayment, after Russia. Russia, after all, simply has opposed our policy. It did not try to mobilize the world against us."

To exterminate them -- it is an old wet dream of the Ids. Bullied, he lies in bed, and dreams of torturing his enemies. Older, his aggressions somewhat under control, he merely verbalizes. Althought the thought of France "in line" -- LI believes that this is an image out of the Id's subconscious repertoire. You line up the prisoners to be executed. You line up the soldiers that you will order into battle. Lines are at once the preferred sexual position of power and the geometry of death in which power annihilates itself, and all within its graps. Scorched earth, death marches. That line, France at the end of it, humiliated as we were humiliated, bowing to Guinea.

Alas, meanwhile the super-ego is trying to tiptoe around those oil contracts. After all, the superego keeps telling everyone, this isn't a blood for oil transaction -- this is about democracy! Yet the question of the spoils rather begs the question of democracy. As in, isn't a force that dictates who the spoils belong to exercizing -- to put it at its most delicate, to put a Blair-ite fuzz on it -- a rather non-representative force? Because, of course, the great crusade for democracy -- a crusade in so many ways -- is confronted, at the outset, with the paradox that the people it democratizes might just operate in radically un-American ways. The people might not be sufficiently appreciative of the American libido, and we just don't like that. We cherish our Id.

Regrettably, this will require postponing democracy until political maturity can be expected among the Iraqi peoples such that they, too, can cherish the American Id. It sits on top of us all.

Friday, February 28, 2003



Which should be the headline to the NYT piece on the hearing held to determine the 'price' of our beautiful occupation of Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz is the lead administration meretrician on the case (hey, shouldn't there be such a word? Meretrician -- it is an apt description for the present administration's way with figures). He comes a day after Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army let the cat out of the bag "that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq." Wolfowitz, a man who has made a vast study of war -- why, he's read several books on the subject by various Kagans -- is, of course, shocked that we would ever listen to some old no doubt senile duffer sitting on the Joint Chiefs of Staff who actually served in the military -- a service devoutly to be avoided by the key members of this administration when they were in their machine gun bearing primes. Here are a few grafs:

"Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

"We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. "Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion ."

And, from the end of the article, the ever more Rumsfeldian Rumsfeld:

"Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables.

Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld said the factors influencing cost estimates made even ranges imperfect. Asked whether he would release such ranges to permit a useful public debate on the subject, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "I've already decided that. It's not useful."

The word fascist is over-used, mainly to describe theocrats of Osama bin Laden's pursuasion -- but surely the blending of bullying and rhetoric, here, the overtness of the lie and the incorrigibility to shame when the lie is found out, carries delicious hints of Mussolini.

Now, to wake up the Dems about this kind of thing, you have to creep up behind them and say Boo. You have to do that for about three years. They are the party of Rip Van Winkle, Li'l Abner, and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.

David Corn, doing the wrap up about the intellectual corruption rampant among the Dem establishment that lead up to the fatal vote last year allowing Bush to assume war powers as he will, drew up the painful chronicle of the business, killing the softly with their own quotes, these Dem senatorial types who voted Bush while claiming they were voting for, oh, the UN or something. And he put his finger on the reason the Dems failed in the midyear elections:

"My apologies. I should realize that war -- or pre-war -- does not always adhere to logic. But the meta-message of the Dems also is grounded in a fallacy. They argue Bush cannot be trusted to oversee the U.S. economy. Yet, at the same time, the Democrats -- meaning almost every national elected Democratic leader and 60 percent of the Democratic Senators and 40 percent of the House Democrats -- maintain Bush can indeed be trusted to precipitate and carry out a war. An insensitive, country-club-hanging corporate-lackey who will say anything and screw the middle-class to help out his rich pals, on one hand. But a wise and outstanding (moderate and deliberative, as Biden would say) defender of the nation who deserves loyalty and support, on the other. Can Democrats spell "disconnect"?"


We've been reading a book by the Washington Post correspondant, Nathan C. Randall, about the Kurds: After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness? Randall writes about the refugee rush after the last war and reminds us that the end of the Kurd disaster came when the French -- the French -- came out and pressed upon the reluctant Bush administration the decision to push back Saddam H. from the three provinces of Northern Iraq. Kouchner,Mitterand's junior minister for humanitarian affairs, did the groundwork to prepare this with Ankara.

What strikes us about this is that if the Bush administration had really wanted international support for a war against Iraq, it would have been very easy to build on this history. France would have had a much more difficult time opposing an action that incorporated a strong French precedent. History is woven out of gaps: and we think this gap is significant. Since it has been universally un-recalled, we wonder if this isn't motivated -- a piece of the unconscious floating behind a piece of amnesia. One of the goals, it seems, of the Bush people is to wean the country from the naive trust in such organizations as the UN -- which has been the object of rightwing vituperation since its founding by Roosevelt and various covert communists in his administration oh so long ago. If the Bush's really wanted to build a case that would convince France, the obvious move would be to cite precedents to which the French were not only party, but prime mover. But the more general Bush objective has obviously been to squelch any precedent for buffering American hegemony. When Aznar, Spain's prime minister and Bush's only friend in Spain, asks that Donald Rumsfeld be stifled, he is obviously thinking that the rulebook says, hey, we listen to our allies because, uh, they are our allies.
That rulebook was written by Walter Lippman and Emily Post.
The Bush's rulebook was written by Mario Puzo.

Thursday, February 27, 2003


"10 � Then Hanani'ah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it.

11 And Hanani'ah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnez'zar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

12 � Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hanani'ah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

13 Go and tell Hanani'ah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.

14 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnez'zar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also.

15 Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hanani'ah the prophet, Hear now, Hanani'ah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie."

Jeremiah, of course, lived in a primitive time, before mass produced protest signs. Limited Inc, however, enjoys all the fruits of modern technology, including the aforesaid mass produced protest signs, one of which we spotted yesterday, going into Book People. It said American for Peace, white caps on a red background. It was stapled to a stake, and intended for the good b�rger with the lawn and all the trimmings -- which we would be, Lord thou knowest, if only we had a weekly salary, a decent career, a future and a past, sex, kids, a car. Having none of those and two dollars on us, one buck in quarters, one buck in paper, we approached the Peace guy, who said the signs were three bucks. Dilemma! We wanted to spend our paper dollar, and one or two of our quarters, on getting a cup of java from the coffee shop inside Book People. So here it was, at last -- the social comforts or the stirn prompting of the moral law within us. The choice. And then, suddenly, the guy standing next to us bought us the sign, just dished out three bucks as pretty as you please.

Jeremiah's sign would no doubt have been a little more glorious -- something like "peace, peace, but there is no peace," written in letters of blood -- but ours looks pretty spiffy, wedged into our apartment window.

Prophecy is a dangerous business. You go around breaking yokes, thinking you are speaking God's own truth, and then God makes a yoke out of you. As per Hanani'ah, one of history's also runs. No book in the bible named for him. The visionary poets from Dante to Ginsburg, do they look back, do they instance Hanani'ah? Nope. Jeremiah even got to be a bullfrog in the days of my youth -- there he was, mentioned in a pop song. Hanani'ah however remains in the dustbin of history. And you'll notice why he is in the dustbin of history. He predicts an easy victory over Babylon. That just wasn't smart.

As we can see from this startling article in the City Journal by Stanley Kurtz, After the War. City Journal is put out by the Manhattan Institute, another rightwing think tank. We came upon it in a sour mood, after reading the extremely silly report on the protest in London by Julia Magnet (whose thesis, popular right now on the right, is that anti-semitism can be compressed into anti-Israel-ism, which can be further compressed into anti-Sharon-ism -- so that any objection to Israel's foreign policy is just a matter of Jew-hating). Magnet, while priding herself on being pro-Israel (and thus, by her convoluted logic, philo-semitic), makes no bones about having contempt for all Moslems. Through these blinders, the million people who turned out in London are transformed into some future brown-shirt army. This is a pandering hysteria that will, we prophesy (yoke on back) eventually haunt those who condone it.

The Kurtz thing surprised us. Kurtz is a thinker at another rightwing think tank -- as Jeremiah said, in another context, according to the number of thy cities were they think tanks, oh America, and according to the number of the streets of D.C. have ye set up telegenic wonks to that shameful thing, tax free foundation money -- and so we would have written him off. At the moment, even though, in their heart of hearts, real conservatives know that there is something screwy in the Wilsonian enthusiasm they are all supposed to be experiencing at the thought of America's infinite involvement in imposing democracy around the world, real conservatives are not going to be expressing that thought and getting those looks from their comrades. This is a world of groupthink.

Well, Kurtz's essay treads on my territory -- he actually goes back to the analogy all the rightwingers love, the British empire, and asks Hobson's question: is it really the case that the British government, defying all the rules of governments ever known, extended itself with suffering and tax dollars in order to bring democracy to the heathen? The answer is no. Although we aren't absolutely happy with Kurtz's reasoning, we do think that this is a step in the right direction .... besides which, it is what we've been trying to write an essay about ourselves. Kurtz doesn't quite go all the way -- he doesn't mention the dreaded word, famine -- but he does hint that the golden picture of the British Raj painted by people like Robert Kagan has more to do with PBS costume dramas than reality.

Kurtz is, first, cautious about the idea that democracy can be imposed from above. Well he should be. If there is anything that binds together Anglo conservativism for the past two hundred twenty some years, it is that revolutions from the top impose an arbitrary order, the order of the abstract thinker, on the natural order of society. This is the lesson of Burke, who applied it not less to India than to France. Here's Kurtz's grafs on the subject:

"...If Iraq currently lacks a modernizing, democratizing class, like Japan�s samurai bureaucrats, might it not be possible to create a sector of Iraqi society that embraces liberal principles�a new, modern bureaucratic class that could then spark a liberalization of the larger society and the government, just as the samurai did in Japan?

In fact, there is a good historical precedent for just such a development: that is precisely what happened when the British ruled India. British rule in the subcontinent, let it be said at once, is a highly imperfect model of democratization. The Raj was often cruel and exploitative. And though a few British thinkers and bureaucrats may have understood the Raj�s 150-year imperium as the midwife of Indian self-rule, for the most part the British brought democracy to the Indians more or less by accident, in fits and starts. But by educating and training�and employing�English-speaking Indians to assist them in administering the empire, the British ended up forging a liberal-minded indigenous class that eventually could run a modern nation on its own.

A pivotal figure in this development is Ram Mohan Roy (1772�1833), the so-called father of modern India. Broadly educated in Indian languages, he went on to master English and work for the British East India Company, where he developed ideas that led to the first modernizing movement within Hinduism�a crucial stage on India�s path to modern democracy. Roy shows how it is possible to take an ancient, nonmodern tradition (like Islam, say) and�without seeming to violate it, and indeed while cherishing much that is valuable in it�to transform it substantially and adapt it to the modern condition. Roy used the philosophical ideas found in the earliest Hindu scriptures to criticize the polytheism and some of the practices of popular Hinduism, such as sati�widow burning. Yet he indignantly rejected the disdain for Hinduism that Christian missionaries and British liberals so casually showed. Immersed in Hinduism�s rich philosophical tradition, Roy defended Hindu pride against British prejudice and simultaneously argued for liberalizing change within the Hindu tradition. The surest route to modern life for Muslim societies may be just such an internal reformation of their Islamic tradition rather than a forcible extirpation of it. If democracy is to succeed in the Middle East, an Islamic Roy may have to arise."

Now that Kurtz has broached the subject, he boldly ventures out a little more.

"While Indian cultural values remain strong in India, Macaulay in a sense got his way, as well. Macaulay�s Minute began the process of relative Anglicization and accelerated the cultural transformation that Roy had begun, a transformation that pushed India into the modern world.

Before the new indigenous elite arose, however, at least one early-nineteenth-century British modernizing effort failed disastrously, proving that it is not enough to blow up existing social structures and assume that, when the dust settles, the fragments will re-form into something recognizably modern. Liberal British administrators wanted to shatter the power of traditional village landlord elites and give individual farmers control over their own land. Like famed Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto today, they believed that once the right property relations were in place, an explosion of free enterprise and productivity would follow. It didn�t happen. The British destroyed the traditional Indian system of village rule and created a market in land, but the Indians showed no signs of developing a liberal, capitalist ethos. Private ownership by itself was insufficient to bring deeper cultural change. So British administrators had to step in, at great and ultimately unsupportable expense to the British Treasury."

Of course, the last sentence is nonsense -- Indians paid for the administration of India, as Kurtz surely knows. He doesn't get into the details of exactly how the modernizing effort failed -- but it is the heart of our perhaps never to be completed essay on James Fitzjames Stephen that the 20th century conservative myth -- that central planning is confined to socialism -- ignores its roots, which are just here, in India. The Benthamite/Laissez faire idea was to "modernize" India along approved capitalist lines with centrally planned laws that would re-do the whole village economy, monetize the place, and bring about relationships of exchange among the happy farmers. Kurtz delicately skirts around the fact that this planning is directly implicated in the worst famines of the nineteenth century. But that he even ventures out far enough to cast doubt on the neo-colonialist projects a-bornin' in D.C. cocktail parties is pretty brave, as far as it goes.

So hallelujah, intelligent life on the right! But I'm not going to break my yoke quite yet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Notwithstanding the difference of their characters, the two emperors maintained, on the throne, that friendship which they had contracted in a private station. The haughty, turbulent spirit of Maximian, so fatal afterwards to himself and to the public peace, was accustomed to respect the genius of Diocletian, and confessed the ascendant of reason over brutal violence. From a motive either of pride or superstition, the two emperors assumed the titles, the one of Jovius, the other of Herculius. Whilst the motion of the world (such was the language of their venal orators) was maintained by the all-seeing wisdom of Jupiter, the invincible arm of Hercules purged the earth from monsters and tyrants. - Edward Gibbon,

LI imagines that the War has been a godsend for the British papers -- right now, you have to go to the Guardian, the Independent, even the Telegraph to find out what is going on. Except for the LA Times, American papers seem to have aligned themselves unilaterally with the unipolar power in a uni-fiesta.

This, we think, is not really due to media enthusiasm for the war -- that does exist, but outside of the WashPost it doesn't govern the way the papers are working on this issue. It is due to the vacuum which goes by the name of the Democratic Party. One of the oddities of the two party system is that the papers, and the news, can't comprehend the world beyond it. And if they can't comprehend it, they can't report on it, they can't analyze it, they can't spoon feed it to their readers -- they can't do anything the Press is supposed to do.

This mutually corrupting interdependence is naturally effected by the decline of one of those parties. And if ever there were a party in decline, it is the Democratic Party. Bested by Bush in a coup, bested again in the elections last year, bested as a money machine, bribed in the nineties by the corporate interests to taking positions directly contrary to their grass-roots base, unable to represent that base or replace it, led by non-entities who range from the truly unctuous (Joseph Lieberman) to the truly obnoxious (John Kerry), it is hard to see how this party is going to survive as an opposition, or as a real pole of power.

As a sign of this, consider that in D.C., attention is riveted as much on the Oxley grift as on Iraq.

Apparently, Democratic relics are being denied the milk and honey that flows to the defeated and to the suckers-up in the form of lobbyist sinecures. The Republicans are pursuing unilateral power on all fronts, apparently, and at warp speed. Is this going to be good for democracy or what? It upsets Dems politicos. The consolation prizes in politics are sweet. No matter how repulsive your personality, no matter how badly you've been battered by the folks back home, or how you've spent your career shitting on them, you and your little court of aides can still lick up the gravy in D.C. by using your contacts for private good. The P.R. firms, the pseudo think tanks, the boards of directors, the lobbying groups! It's Pinocchio at the fair. Well, big bad wolf Tom DeLay wants there to be only Republicans at the fair, and not utterly corrupt Democratic marrionettes and he's doing his best to Republicanize the place. Its rather like Richard Nixon's Vietnamization -- there are a few collateral casualties along the way.

The Dems, of course, are up in arms. Not to have their fair share of treats at the fair is intolerable! They might roll over about Iraq. They might roll over about the nutty tax cuts. They might allow Ashcroft to burn the Bill of Rights in his office fireplace. They might act in utterly dishonorable ways that are leading the country to disaster. But not to have a position with decent pay (say, +200,000) when you've ended your brilliant career voting for the wealthy and venal, or working for one of those geezers who did same -- why, that's cause for a revolt!

The WashPost (which has a relationship to the business of politics much like the Variety's relationship to the entertainment industry) has been featuring the machinations of Representative Oxley, who is the Representative from Anderson Accounting -- a man honorably engaged in making peculation safe for the stock option set.

Oxley, genius that he is, strongarmed the Mutual Funds lobbying group to fire the Democrat they hired. Here are the grafs on the grift:

"The K Street Project, which involves top Republican lawmakers and party officials, was designed to track the party affiliation and political contribution of hundreds of lobbyists in Washington. The data are made available to lawmakers -- so they can deny access to Democrats if they so choose -- and to top party officials so they can lobby companies and trade associations to hire Republicans for top-paying jobs. The ethics committee in 1998 admonished then-Majority Whip DeLay for pressuring the Electronic Industry Association not to hire former Rep. David McCurdy (D-Okla.) to run the group.

Democrats said they would base their call for an investigation of Oxley on a Feb. 15 report in The Washington Post that detailed how Oxley and his staff have leaned on the Investment Company Institute -- the mutual fund industry's main lobbying arm -- to oust Democratic lobbyist Julie Domenick. Six sources, Republicans among them, told The Post that two of Oxley's top aides told industry officials that a House investigation of the industry was linked to ICI's strong ties to Democrats. Oxley spokeswoman Peggy Peterson said, "Rumors of some quid pro quo are exactly that: rumors."

We urge our readers to email their congressmen in support of Project K street. It is probably the best chance we have for reforming politics as it now stands.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


One of the oddities of the upcoming war (may Popeye avert it!) is that those opposing it are accused of having no "solution" to the situation in Iraq. Usually this accusation is made by supporters of the war, like Salman Rushdie , who support an entirely different war than the one justified by Bush and Blair. LI thinks it is fair to assume that Bush and Blair will not invite Rushdie, or Hitchens, or any of the rest of them, into their counsels of war when the invasion begins. So arguing about the Rushdie/Hitchens war is a pointless exercise: that war is neither contemplated nor likely to be fought.

However, the idea that we, who speak no Arabic, or Kurnamji, who have no stake in Iraq, and who have no sense of the fabric of the culture, come up with "solutions" to how Iraq should be governed is... curious. It is one of those problems that remind me of why, in spite of my overall disagreement with Hayek, I am sympathetic to some of his grander themes. Hayek's objection to centrally planned economies was that planning diverges from reality at just that key point where reality is lived -- because that is the point of accident, of emergence, of unexpected outcomes, of intangible knowledge, of everything that falls in the domain of acquaintance, as William James puts it, rather than propositional knowledge. The history of the No Fly Zone in Northern Iraq is a case in point. It is also a case that should receive more attention. If we want a picture of the forces with which the American occupiers of Iraq would be contending, it is a good idea to look at a genuine slice of the post-Saddam countryside.

Susan Graham-Brown gives us a nice potted history of the decisions that led to the No Fly Zone on the globalpolicy site There was no consideration of the the need for democracy in Bush the first's order that American aircraft purge Northern Iraq of Saddam Hussein's military. It was, rather, a response to the refugee problem:

The original northern no-fly zone was first declared by President George Bush in early April 1991 to protect coalition aircraft during the airdrops of aid to Kurdish refugees on the Turkish border and then to protect coalition ground troops advancing into northern Iraq as part of Operation Provide Comfort. This action, Britain, France and the US asserted, was taken under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 688, which called on Iraq to cease repression of its civilian population. However no explicit endorsement in the form of a Security Council resolution was obtained for either Operation Provide Comfort, or the no-fly zone.

"When coalition ground troops were withdrawn, the no-fly zone was left in place, ostensibly to "protect"
the Kurds and the international humanitarian workers based in the north. After the Iraqi government decided, in October 1991, to withdraw its ground troops -- and all funding -- from the three northern governorates, the region came under Kurdish control but had no formalized status. It was part of Iraq but not under government control. The no-fly zone and the presence of international humanitarian staff may have deterred the Iraqi regime from trying to retake the northern region, but as a protection mechanism it has had considerable limitations."

So, a decision in one context, of military and political action, leads to a situation that was not planned -- the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein's power from the three northern governorates. For the first time since the end of World War I, the inhabitants of Northern Iraq are liberated from the governance of the Arabic south. What happened?

There's a nice story of democracy, free markets, and prosperity that is commonly retailed in the media. However, the real story is more complicated, and involves armed factions, smuggling, and unsavory alliances. In 1996, when the Free Fly Zone suddenly hit the news again, this is how David Plotz summarized the recent history of Northern Iraq:

"The United States, France, Britain, and Turkey delivered humanitarian aid, established a no-fly zone, and pressured Hussein to withdraw from Kurdish territory. With Western help, the Kurds elected a Parliament in 1992. Based in Irbil, the Parliament split evenly between the KDP and the PUK.

Democracy didn't last. With no Iraqis to fight, the Kurds turned on each other. Civil war broke out in 1994, and more than 2,000 Kurds were killed before the United States brokered a peace in 1995. That peace collapsed this summer. The PUK helped Iran conduct an incursion into northern Iraq. Barzani's KDP, in turn, asked for Hussein's help (even though Hussein had slaughtered thousands of Barzani's supporters during the 1980s). Hussein accepted the invitation. On Aug. 31, 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of KDP fighters drove the PUK from Irbil. This raid inspired United States cruise-missile strikes on southern Iraq. After securing Irbil, Barzani's men quickly routed the PUK from its other strongholds. Talabani fled to the Iran border, and the PUK is all but defunct. Barzani insists that he's not Hussein's puppet, and that Iraqi troops have withdrawn to the south. But Hussein's secret police have settled in; the Kurdish Parliament has collapsed; and experts doubt that the KDP can resist Iraqi bullying."

Well, experts were wrong. Not only did the KDP and the PUK resist Hussein's bullying -- with a little help from their friends in the sky, raining down bombs -- but the fighting between them trickled off. Which isn't to say that there isn't still a great deal of factional struggle. For the latest news on Kurdistan, in fact, there's no better place to go than to Kurdistan Observer, and even a glance at its contents tells you that fraternity has made considerable inroads on hostility since 1996. But our point is that the supposed moral front, which is aglow with the idea of a democratic Iraq growing under the benign eye of an American governor, is fantastically different from the patchwork of conflict and compromise that appears in the only post-Saddam Iraq we know. And that is going to only increase when the Ba'athist structure collapses. The best "solution" is for the Iraqi peoples to have control over that collapse, rather than have it micro or macromanaged by Americans. This will turn out not to be a solution at all -- it is LI's idea that all solutions are Final Solutions. Solutions are about death -- in living societies, they just don't happen.

Monday, February 24, 2003


An assembly, an association, a crowd or a sect has no idea other than that which is whispered to it by someone; and that idea, that indication more or less intelligent of a purpose to pursue, or a means to employ, however much it propagates itself in the brain of an individual or the brains of a group, it remains the same. The whisperer is thus responsible for its direct effects. But the emotion joined to that idea which propagates with it does not remain the same in growing, it intensifies by a sort of mathematical progression... The heads of a gang or of a riot can reasonably be called to account for the shrewdness and the craft by which they have executed massacres, pillages, arsons, etc., but not always for the violence and extensiveness of injuries caused by criminal contagions. � Gabriel Tarde, L�opinion et la foule

In our last post, we made reference to reputation � a seemingly forgotten element in the cool analysis of social action. The defenders of the Iraq war, having failed to find any reason for the war in matters of state, or any reason that would convince civilized people, have recently fallen back on moral reasons for the war. Indeed, who could argue that Saddam Hussein is a moral ruler? He�s a tyrant who employs torture and imposes mortal hardships on his people while wasting their wealth on himself, his army, and his family.

But what of his accusers? What of the cabal of the eager, the Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzes and Bushes? And what of the Blairs?

Before we accept what they whisper to us like their syncophants and servants � like, that is, America�s corporate media � we might want to inquire into whether, in the very country, Iraq, which has provoked such moral dudgeon, the United States and Britain haven�t encouraged tyranny � haven�t, in fact, aided in the mass murder of dissidents and the setting up of the structure that Saddam Hussein has utilized to his own purpose.

Today�s sermon, kids, will come from Said Aburish, the journalist I mentioned yesterday. It concerns a very convoluted coup. The coup occurred in February, 1963. Its object was an Iraqi strongman, General Abdel Karim Kassem, or Qasim. Kassem had staged a coup himself, overthrowing Iraq�s king. Kassem proved to be that Western nightmare, a populist with a leaning to communism. Or at least so he was interpreted both by the CIA and by Nasser. Nasser was anti-Western, in his way, too, but he was definitely hostile to Communism. So as Kassem started redistributing land, got the British controlled Iraqi Petroleum Company to hand over a bigger share of the wealth to the state, and he stood, for a while, in the way of Arab nationalism. For the latter virtue, he was initially supported by the Brits. But by 1963, he had made it clear that he was getting cozier with Iraqi commies, and he was also not so necessary to stopping Nasser.

What ensued was a plot with multiple aspects. Nasser agreed to let the CIA train some military men in Cairo for the eventual overthrow of Kassem. Bagman for the CIA was none other than a young officer, Saddam Hussein. A CIA man named Critchfield oversaw the operation, supported by a military attach� in Baghdad, William Lakeland. The coup successfully implemented Ba�athist military power in the state. After it was over, it was purge time. A mini Phoenix program ensued, avant la lettre. Lists of leftist were compiled, with the CIA�s help, and maybe five thousand people were variously tortured and murdered. Among the makers of the lists, Aburish claims, was the friendly Time Magazine reporter on the spot, William McHale. Not himself a CIA officer, he did have friends in the agency, including his brother, Donald. Now, we have some doubts about this point, since according to the NewsMuseum, William McHale died in a plane wreck in 1962. In fact, due to the wondrous internet, we even have an account of how McHale died. The plane was sabotaged. The sabateur's name was Laurent, the target was an Italian petro-official named Mattei, and McHale was definitely not around to compile lists. That account is here, in French. Given this discrepancy of fact, I am a little wary of Aburish's account. Other accounts have been collected on the Center for Research on Globalization site. Whether Aburish is over-reaching with his McHale story or not, the upshot is, Americans contrived the very structure of tyranny they now seek, with freshfaced virtue, to overthrow.

The idea of an American occupation of Iraq has to evoke some horror in those who are familiar with this history. There�s a wonderful phrase of Rebecca West�s. She is reading the papers in the hospital, and she reads that the King of Yugoslavia has been assassinated, and she thinks of the assassination that started World War I, and other assassinations. And she writes: �I was really frightened, for all these earlier killings had either hastened doom towards me or prefigured it.�

Speaking of hastening doom, here's a story from the Guardian:

�In a meeting with American congressmen last week, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, nominated three countries to be tackled after Iraq: Iran, Libya and Syria.
Mr Sharon also met John Bolton, the US under secretary of state, who reportedly told him that it will be "necessary" to deal with Syria, Iran and North Korea after an attack on Iraq. That puts Syria and Iran into the lead with two votes each, followed by Libya and North Korea, with only one.
The attraction of this approach is easy to see. After Afghanistan and Iraq, conquering Syria and Iran would create an unbroken chain of puppet regimes stretching from the Mediterranean to China.�

Sunday, February 23, 2003


Hawks have my head, Doves have my heart, reads the headline of Ian McEwan's essay about the Iraq war. On the evidence of the article, the hawks are getting screwed.

Of course, McEwan's heart seems to be standard issue fare. While his Id no doubt bubbles away, consciously he does not want men, women and children to be eviscerated by bombs, or perforated by bullets, or just plain fragmented by the soldiery's everyday explosives, or so he presents himself. Isn't that nice?

But his head makes your standard belligerent knock down arguments - which are more knock em down than reason. He tells us that Saddam Hussein is evil. Thus, eliminating that evil is good. Q.E.D., here's your red hot reason for a war.

McEwan, like so many belligerents, suffers from the delusion that he gets to make up the reasons for fighting the war. This is very convenient: it allows him never to confront the official reasons for fighting the war. That's because the official reasons are so weak that they wouldn't convince a child. Although McEwan writes that Hussein "has obsessively produced chemical and biological weapons on an industrial scale, and has a history of bloody territorial ambition," this is a partial truth at best. Hussein's history of chemical and biological weapons is not one of him "producing them" by himself - no, he was given vast and crucial help by Western governments, corporations, and scientists. Since the end of the Gulf War, in fact, the threat from Hussein, which we are supposed to think reaches to London and New York City, hasn't even reached to Erbil, the headquarters of the Kurdish government that, in effect, runs most of Northern Iraq. Bloody territorial ambition has been, effectively, crushed for ten years. In the last war, the American military faked reports of a vast assembling of Iraqi troops on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; in this one, they don't even bother with evidence that Saddam Hussein is planning an incursion, well, anywhere.

However, it is part of the fraudulent logic of bellicosity to evoke principles in order to attack Saddam Hussein and then, quietly, dismiss those same principles when it comes to judging the U.S. and Britain. McEwan is quick to dismiss the idea that the Anglo allies previous history in the area has anything to do with what is happening now:

"To the waverer, some of the reasoning from the doves seems to emerge from a warm fug of illogic. That the U.S. has been friendly to dictators before, that it cynically supported Saddam in his war against Iran, that there are vast oil reserves in the region-none of this helps us decide what specifically we are to do about Saddam now.'

Really? The only past that counts, apparently, is Hussein's past. The warm fug of illogic is the manufacture of McEwan's self-vaunted brain. If McEwan hired a lawyer who defrauded him, or a plumber who flooded his house, would he go to that same lawyer when he needed to defend himself in court, or that same plumber when his drains clogged? Of course not. Reputation isn't a phantom. One of the oddest aspects of the colonial mentality is the expectation that sub-altern people have no memory. They can't remember that the CIA sold them out to be slaughtered. They can't remember that the Western oil companies did their best to monopolize the one natural resource they possess that is of value. They blink, and they forget. So when the master comes around again and finds, among his native bearers, a certain resistance �. It must be on account of some immoral passage in the Koran, or in Lenin. Or something.

LI's been reading two books this week: Jonathan Kwitny's Endless Enemies, a page turner when it came out in 84, and A Brutal Friendship by Said Aburish , a Palestinian journalist. Both have their problems. Aburish is anti-Israeli in that way that makes me a little suspicious. Kwitny is vain, and, as fits a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, a little too confident of the absolute rightness of capitalism. However, they make very seasonable reading.

Kwitny devotes a nice chapter or two to the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. This is an often told story. Kermit Roosevelt, a CIA man, and various military and political advisors (among whom there was one H. Norman Schwarzkopf, military advisor at that time to the Iranian gendarmerie) managed the overthrow of Mossadegh, an Iranian nationalist who inconvenienced the West by being the Shah's prime minister. Mossadegh was determined to make the monarchy constitutional, and had wrested executive power from the Shah. The CIA paid for thugs to riot in Teheran for the Royalist side, and resurrected one Fazlollah Zahedi to be the new prime minister. The recent talk about how the left is allying itself with Islamofascists, popular with the Hitchens set, is rather inflected here, since Zahedi, who was imprisoned for pro-Nazi activities in the war, was propped up by Americans who were quite forgiving - being masters of dispersing mental fugs, apparently - of that faux pas.

As Kwitny writes, this story has been told before, notably by Barry Rubin's Paved with Good Intentions. However, as Kwitny is quick to point out, Rubin's book didn't even have an index entry for Standard Oil. The oil companies were completely left out of a story that begins when a nationalist nationalizes oil fields claimed by the Anglo-Iran Oil Company (aka B.P.) As Kwitny says, Rubin, like most foreign policy analysts, shows a world in which ideology, embodied by diplomats, military men, spies, and politicians is the sole motivation for political action. No lucre here. But in fact the men who overthrew Mossadegh benefited enormously, starting with Kermit Roosevelt himself, who went on to sell the Shah arms on behalf of Northrup, a weapons manufacturer, and who claimed, in the first version of his autobiography, that the coup was suggested by B.P. Kwitny also got hold of a report written by the New York Times reporter on the scene, Kennet Love. The report didn't go into the paper, though - it went to Alan Dulles, head of the CIA. It recounted Love's patriotic cooperation with the CIA operatives, including his humorous recount of how Love "accidentally" precipitated the final assault on Mossadegh's compound. For the McEwan's of the world, this is so much old, old news. However, for those of us whose heads aren't stuck up some hawk's unmentionable orifice, this bears a deadly relevance to the machinations of the belligerent cabal. We want to talk about the CIA's role in a lesser known coup, staged in Iraq, that is detailed by Aburish - we will get to this in the next post. However, given the background of the Iran coup story, one can't read the Washington Post's report of the Bush "plan" for a post Saddam Hussein Iraq without dread. Here's a few grafs:

"Officials said other governments are being recruited to participate in relief and reconstruction tasks under U.S. supervision at a time to be decided by Franks and officials in Washington. Although initial food supplies are to be provided by the United States, negotiations are underway with the U.N. World Food Program to administer a nationwide distribution network Opposition leaders were informed this week that the United States will not recognize an Iraqi provisional government being discussed by some expatriate groups. Some 20 to 25 Iraqis would assist U.S. authorities in a U.S.-appointed "consultative council," with no governing responsibility. Under a decision finalized last week, Iraqi government officials would be subjected to "de-Baathification," a reference to Hussein's ruling Baath Party, under a program that borrows from the "de-Nazification" program established in Germany after World War II.
Criteria by which officials would be designated as too tainted to keep their jobs are still being worked on, although they would likely be based more on complicity with the human rights and weapons abuses of the Hussein government than corruption, officials said. A large number of current officials would be retained."

And this, we are told, is the way Bush people think Iraq is going to be ruled for an indefinite period. Vietnam be damned; this is imperialism raw. The no blood for oil slogan, we are told repeatedly told, makes no sense - because American taxpayers will be forking over hundreds of billions of dollars for oil that will bring in maybe half that amount. That's an argument for those who are either terminally na�ve or have the brains of McEwan. The coincidence of interest between the taxpayer and the D.C. poobahs is limited to what the poobahs can abstract from the taxpayers pocket - but the friends of those poobahs have every interest in the fifty billion or so bucks, diverted, no doubt in the interest of democracy, towards their own patriotic bank accounts.

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