winter & spring, 2003

    More hornblowing.  How long ago did I write that the looting was being done by Saddamites?  How long ago did I write that letter to Rumsfeld?  Now the "boss" in Baghdad, Paul Whoosy? is parrotting my line.  Those guys are  s      o       s      l     o    w.
    I will jump the gun and rename the country now.  Iraqnam.  Watch em send another 50k troops around labor day if not sooner.  Just before or just after the 100th post"war" American dead soldier.
    My question is: will Colin Powell resign before Rumsfeld goes over the top and has to fall on his sword or after?
    If you will scroll down and read things that I wrote in April or March you will find that everything I said has come to be seen as correct a month later.  My letter to Rumsfeld has now become the government line.  The looting and sabotage in Iraq is being conducted by Ba'athists and suddenly the war there "isn't over."  The next thing that will happen is that we will put an obviously puppet government there that will be totally impotent.  The thing that will happen after that is that a guerilla war will start.  Individual acts of armed defiance will be succeeded by group acts.  At that point it will make sense to start calling the country Iraq Nam.
    My method of examining human activity in the world is to look for the obvious discrepancies between what is said, what is done, and what is.  I don't do too much digging for hidden motives, grand conspiracies, etc.  Usually the stupidity and corruption is right there on the surface where it can be easily seen.  I got an email recently building a case that SARS is actually American bio-warfare against China, performed to set them back a few years and keep them from shining during an (American) election year.  Supposedly SARS was developed in Fort Detrick, MD, same place that AIDS was supposedly developed.  I pointed out to the guy (word to be taken in a gender-neutral sense, and did you know that "girl" is derived from "churl" and originally meant "boy"?) who sent the email that the AIDS-is-germ-warfare story is 20 years old and no whistle blower has emerged or anything else to advance the story.  Developing and spreading a new disease is not a job for a single cell of conspirators, a disease that will eventually kill 100s of millions cannot be launched without someone leaking something.  Among the Nazis, some were proud of what they did and they leaked.  Others protested and leaked.  Even those who think of AIDS as a vacuum cleaner sucking the "dirt" out of the human gene pool, or who think that it is a kind of "solution" to overpopulation, will eventually tell someone because they will be proud of what they've done.  But in 20 years the AIDS-Ft. Detrick story has not advanced.
    Far more likely that SARS and AIDS developed "naturally" because of so many people on the planet, eating everything in sight, not washing their hands.  Similarly, it can be seen from the tragic farce that the "war on terrorism" is becoming that any possible conspiracy to build an American empire or remove all of our liberties and make us slaves is being run by incompetents who substitute slogans for thinking, who hire other people to think for them and then ignore the conclusions of the thinkers because they don't line up with the slogans.  Success under such a regime can only be due to luck or accident.
    The cut in veteran's benefits mentioned below - the budget has been signed and I cannot find out in a few minutes of web searching what happened.  I do know about the star stupidity of the tax cut - that the enhanced child deduction refund is not available to the bottom level of earners, ostensibly because they won't pay taxes.  This is a lie of course - they will pay taxes, and they need that money more than any of the people who will get it.  The president said he wouldn't have minded if they had gotten that money, just a drop in the bucket, but he didn't put in any last minute calls to the conference committee on that subject.  This is front page stuff - all of the sordid details are right there.
    A little closer to the heart of the matter for people who might be interested in the things for sale on this site is the issue of HR2009.  This is a close-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-is-gone bill in the House to halt trade in Iraqi antiquities in the wake of the PR debacle of the looting of the Iraq National Museum.  Essentially the bill will prohibit the import of anything from Iraq, or that can be construed as possibly having come from Iraq, that was made before 1900, unless a paper trail accompanies it that demonstrates that it had left Iraq before 1990.  I have heard stories of parcels siezed by customs from places like Lebanon, other stories of things removed by federal agents from dealer cases at shows in advance of enactment.  "Draconian" is not the correct word.  "Stupid" is the correct word.  Sledgehammer used to stop a river from flowing.  Artifact registration is the correct remedy.  Letters to your congresspersons outlining more sane policies might be useful.
    Well, I could go on, couldn't I, like for about a decade.  But must go fight the weeds.  Please enjoy the rest of your day and consider buying something in the commerce section.

ON THE REPLACEMENT OF GARNER - This is what I meant about Attention Deficit Disorder.  The policy overwhelmed the planning, which didn't get done.  ADD people are capable of big pushes but they fail on the follow through because they lose interest.  With kids you give them medication, which sometimes works.  Here though, we have "grownups" running critical operations.  I suspect that as time goes on and we see a continuation of stagnation and degradation of the situation in both Afghanistan and Iraq - inevitable now because the momentum is on the downside - we will see the emergence of a more serious diagnosis amongst the policy people - bipolar disorder - what we used to call manic-depressive syndrome.  In that form of mental illness they fly high and can do no wrong until they hit a wall, then everything is terrible.
    Well, could be worse.  We could have paranoid schizophrenics running the show.  Has happened in other places at other times, the memories fresh in the minds of still living survivors.

OK, we've had our fun, now back to work.

We Americans cannot let our hubris get in the way of business.  We're "mad" at Russia, but we can't let our pique get in the way of cooperation on the space station.  They need some crumbs of cash to make the rockets that we need to bring the junk up there.  No mean "bureaucratic delays" please.  Similarly, it turns out that the French and the Germans have been more efficiently proactive in the "war on terrorism" than we have been.  And it is about to become obvious to all that the cost of reconstruction of Iraq will be higher than any of us can even begin to think about paying and we will have to have those countries in there with us digging the black gold amidst the bones and guts.  Our relation with Europe is kind of like the couple had a fight about something convenient like the color they're going to paint the bathroom or some personal habit.  All through dinner there's strained silence.  Pretty soon comes the hugging, etc.  "Hate you," says Europe, smiling coyly.  "Hate you too," says America, turning off the light.

Beware the ideologists who act on their ideology, for they are only pretending to think things through.  First comes the desire, then comes the justification, not the other way around.

I have a "doable" idea.  I want the basic scientific information written on stones in English and Chinese and put various places around the world so that people can find it 50,000 years from now.  Why?  Our technology hangs by threads and hope.  It is in no way durable.  Previous civilizations that did not leave records carved on stone did not leave records.  We have stuff from Egypt and Rome ("someone" has the Sumerian stuff at the moment), but not much from the Scythians because if they wrote stuff down they wrote on skins or something and their messages did not survive.  Our stuff is written on paper, coded on tape and discs and will not last.  Is there a single periodic table carved in stone?  Instructions on how to make steel?  Produce electricity?
Want to do this with me?

Some thoughts on the burning of the library and the destruction of the instruments.

You've heard that "someone" burned the Iraq National Library.  Someone else invaded the office of the Iraq Symphony Orchestra, opened up all of the instrument cases, broke every instrument, and carefully closed the cases again.

Easy to say it was Taliban types, for whom the only permissible music is vocal devotional.  Harder to understand perhaps is that Iraq is the oldest country in the world and all sorts of hidden human organizations have been sleeping there for thousands of years biding their time.  We have no idea what they are.  One can get glimpses of some of them through the wierd writings of Gurdjieff, but only glimpses.  We have stirred up some very deep sediments - things that Saddam, that hick, knew nothing about.  Some very strange things are going on in Iraq, will continue to do so.  People will make moves that we don't understand, people will rise to the surface of whom we've never heard.

I predict that within six months the story we tell about Iraq will bear no relation to reality.  The government that we set up will not be the controlling power.  The actual power may remain hidden.

I also predict that the political killings that started with the assassination of that young Shi'i guy last week will really get going in the next month and will end up wasting more lives than the actual war.  Please let me be wrong.

I am not a horn blowing type and do not readily call attention to myself BUT I continue to write things here and several days later the thoughts pop out of someone else's mouth on the radio.  The latest was the quote by correspondant Charles Sennott: "Right war for the wrong reasons."  See below for the original quote.  I also pointed out that some of the looting was being orchestrated by Saddamites and people are gradually coming around to this point of view.  I am right right right about all this.  How come?  And if I'm so smart how come I ain't rich?

What am I supposed to do with this situation?  Someone hire me to give ideas to some talking head?

Praise for the Iraqis: at least they're not killing each other by the thousands.  Yet

We'd better get the utilities back on and get the hell out of there quick.  It's all downhill from here.

Here comes Syria.  They will win.  Then comes Iran.  They will lose.  Are they nuts?  You tell me.

The histories of this war will certainly contain a phrase like: "American troops stood by and watched as the priceless heritage of 7000 years of Mesopotamian history was looted from the National Museum, the National Library burned, the government archives destroyed."  A thousand years from now this aspect will be remembered like the burning of the library of Alexandria is remembered.  I hear opinions in Iraq are divided as to whether this vandalism is Saddam's revenge or a plot by America to turn Iraq into a cultureless gas station.


See what I mean about unplanned occupation?
A letter I sent to Rumsfeld:
Perhaps something is being overlooked in the analysis of the looting in Iraq. Consider the following points:
1. The looting is being conducted on a scale not seen before anywhere. The systematic dismantling of hospitals, electrical and water plants, factories, etc. is most unusual.
2. There is systematic destruction of the very complete Ba’ath record system. Who is and who is not a war criminal can no longer be determined from primary sources.
3. Where has the army, the Republican Guard, the Saddam Fedayeen, etc. gone, not to mention the Mukhabarat?
An obvious conclusion that can be drawn is that the looting and destruction is being organized and led by elements of the enemy forces dispersed back into the general population. They are conducting a campaign of preemptive sabotage. Whether these actions are being conducted on orders from Ba’ath central or spring from ideological committment is immaterial. The net effect is to undermine the conduct of the occupation and pacification. It has been rather successful. Damage from the looting is said to equal or exceed that caused by the actual campaign.
In past wars looting was generally equated with sabotage, was considered an act of war, and was typically dealt with by summary arrest or execution. Such a view of the current situation should be considered.

I was no fan of this war, but now its done.  Needs to be done right.  If they don't fix this quick the damage will become more than we CAN pay let alone if we're willing to.

This is what I meant a couple of months ago when I described the plan as reminiscent of Attention Deficit Disorder.  Our excellent luck was that we picked on a psycopathic country.

The excellently planned and extremely lucky military offensive against an unbelievably incompetent enemy is about to be succeeded by a COMPLETELY UNPLANNED OCCUPATION.  They didn't tell us what they were going to do BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO.  I can now indulge my hobby of making extrapolations.
1. This time next year we will not be pleased (duh!)
2. See if you can keep your eyes on the price of heroin.

Rereading my notes below I find that I do not need to eat any of my words.  Whew!
1. Utter humility is appropriate for the victors.
2. Now for the hard part.
3. Mr. Bush, now will you pick up the broken pieces in Afghanistan?
4. What's happening with those veteran's benefits?

The problem with this war is that success may convince the nut cases who advise our cardboard cutout president that they should try it again.  They will go after either Syria (less likely because no oil) or Iran.  If they go after Syria they will win again but they will have to thwart attempted coups in Jordan and possibly Saudi Arabia.  If they go after Iran they will run into Russia and possibly start World War III.  If anyone reading this knows any of them please let them know that Iran is not Iraq.

The best way to support the troops is to get the $25 billion cut in the budget for the Department of Veterans' Affairs restored.  This cut was proposed by the president and passed by the House.  Instead of yellow ribbons and bottles of sun screen you should get into gadfly mode with your reps and senators.  This kind of move is typical of the cynical jerks we elected and their loony handlers-I-mean-advisors: make more veterans and then screw them.

Immediately of interest - why do you suppose Bush totted up John Edwards 3/3/03 by having him at his side during his NC rah-rah speech?  Edwards is a boob who can't possibly win an election but leads in the Democratic campaign money grub.  Standing next to Bush has to diminish his shine in the primaries, increasing the possibility that the Dems might somehow come up with a real candidate.  Do you suppose the thought process is that Edwards will be tapped as the token Dem in the postwar oversight board, whatever it will be called, giving him added prominence and permitting his popularity to rise to the point that he might actually become the Dem candidate, in which case he will lose, because he's a boob?

Nah, too complicated.  What's your take?

switchmail.com doesn't do anything and then sends spam.  I recommend you avoid them.

I am cleaning my hindsight lenses and hoping that my friends in Iraq and my neighbors' children are still around when it's over.

I will be in New York visiting my aged parents March 15-20.  The scuttlebut on the radio is that “the war” may begin while I’m there and I may miss the opportunity to update my dyspeptic editorializing during that possibly eventful week.  So I will do it now.

1. I’ve said before that this could have been a noble venture.  That it manifestly is not is due to the megalomanic egocentrism, myopic nationalism, irritable impatience, and limited imaginations of the instigators.  No more than the most perfunctory gestures have been made in the field of diplomacy, purely to gain the rhetorical point that they “tried.”  They have not put together a coherent story, which could have been easily done had their motives been pure.  Their track record shows their game to be breaking things and walking away.  Their words display evidence of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Their actions display evidence of hyperactivity attention deficit disorder.  Good cause, bad people.  Bad result inevitable.

2. They will win the war easily except for two possible caveats.  The first is that Saddam actually has a nuke or two.  He might pyrrhically blow up Baghdad.  The blame would fall on the Americans.  No denials would be wholeheartedly accepted.  America would be thoroughly isolated, more or less forevermore.  This caveat would be moot if Saddam’s second putative nuke were used on Tel Aviv.  Then it would be obvious whose nuke it was and America would win the propaganda war as well as the shooting war.  The thought that America would be so devious as to drop two such bombs itself, the one
to provide deniability for the other, is not credible to me at this time.  Neither is the announcement by some guy claiming to speak for al-Qaida that they have no less than seven suitcase nukes hidden in select American cities waiting for the proper time (Arabic release by al-Jazira late last year, English translation not picked up by the English bureaus).
    The other possible scenario for a military loss is that Saddam really is intelligent and has set his geek corps the task of blowing American military communications, which are said to be breathtakingly vulnerable in a number of modes.  Fortunately for the American military there is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam is intelligent.  Clever yes, intelligent no, and suffering from all of the disabilities that attend those who possess absolute power within their limited realm.  How wonderfully fortunate that this remarkably unintelligent American president and his remarkably small minded handlers have found an enemy even more limited than themselves.
3. On the other hand, should the al-Qaida puff be true New York would certainly be on their list, in which case I take this opportunity, should the cookie crumble that way, to say “So long, it’s been good to know you.”  Hopefully I’ll be back next week to wade through the 300 emails and the 150 letters, fill the 50 orders, write the World Coin News article, prepare the April pricelist, do my taxes, finish the insulation...  I will write “Sorry for the delay” about 500 times.

Want to know why Turkey turned down the warmongers (and I mean the term to be taken in its literal sense with no cultural perjorative baggage - they monger war as others monger fish)?  Because Washington wouldn't come across with the money.  Turkey was supposed to get $6 billion in cash up front, a sensible condition given what happened to Afghanistan, whose promised money still has not been delivered a year later.  But it turned out that the money wasn't really exactly there.  It was "soon" money, not "now" money.  So the Turks left the table, seeing that this particular administration won't even spend money on homeland security, medical care, the space program, WANTS TO CUT VETERAN'S BENEFITS.  They are walking out the door.  We are supposed to run after them, offer another cup of tea, get out the box of sweets, coax them back into the shop, maybe give them a dozen helicopters, just for nice.  But our guys don't know how to negotiate.  Besides, if they paid off Turkey they'd have to pay off everybody, pretty soon it gets into real money.  And all the money is supposed to belong to them.

They don't even have a PLAN for how to pay for the war.  They're going to sell bonds or something.  Raise interest rates, who cares?  National debt?  Who cares?  That's what taxpayers are for.

We could have bought Russia.  Russia would have been cheap.  But we didn't even make an offer.  Could have bought France too.  Didn't put anything on the table for them either.  Now we're working on deals for Cameroun and Angola and maybe we can't even get them.  They know we don't pay up.  They know we don't keep our promises.

This has to be about the most inept "diplomacy" I've ever seen.

From my March 2003 snailmail price list:

EVENTS OF THE DAY - It is or will be a just war perpetrated in an unjust manner for an unjust reason.

We know (at least I know, don’t you?) that friends of the administration will be personally profiting from the exercise.  They’re profiting now from the rise in gas prices.

We know that their economic policies are designed to steal money from the “outs” and to give it to the “ins.”  They lie about this, and when things don’t turn out they way they promised they do the “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” routine.

We know that they have not been helping with the reconstruction of Afghanistan.  True, they didn’t exactly say they would.  It was more like “Don’t worry about it, everything will be fine.”  But they promised money and they never delivered.  “Grow more opium,” they whisper (while Ashcroft busies his agency with the shutting down of websites that peddle bongs and lighters with cannabis leaf decoration).  The canny Turks demanded their bribe up front.

We know that they have no serious plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.  The best they’ve been able to come up with is “Don’t worry, they have oil to pay for it.”

Their propaganda campaign has been perfunctory and inept.  Their “diplomacy” has been a joke.  Jerry Lewis-like.  Adam Sandler-like.  Kick, scream, break things - gotta love em.

Unfortunately for everyone Mr. Saddam is even more limited in his behavioral repertoire than the current Washington crowd.  Bush’s folks can’t play the rest of the world but they can play Saddam.  He only knows how to play his one game, which
evidently does not include quitting.  Too bad about the several millions of hostages.

But my main concern, since I am after all an American, is that America do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons.  Getting rid of Saddam is a right thing, massive air strikes is a wrong way, the reasons they give are not the real reasons,
which are not noble.

I believe I am beginning to get a handle on what this "Bush" administration is about.  The guy is not dumb.  He is sharp in a narrow range involving political maneuvering and triangulation.  He is shallow and disinterested in specific aspects of policy.  He likes to have the final say but he relies, I think, completely on assistants to present him with the options from which he will choose.  The overall configuration of the assistants is "right and righter," roughly polarized between "deregulators" whose goal is to use a "free trade" ideology to craft legislation that will make them and their friends more money, and America first millennialist imperialists who want to make their move before China becomes #1 later in the century.

To the millennialists the Iraq situation is a test case to see if they can get away with something.  If they can they will want to do it again somewhere else.  World supremacy/domination is their goal, they care not what it costs.  They suppose that if they can pull it off on the whole world they can make it work.

The deregulators just want money.  The imperialist plan will bankrupt the nation as it bankrupted every other imperial attempt in the past unless it "works."  Thus the money guys are at bottom opposed to adventurism and their method is to starve the imperialists.  I think in the end they have the upper hand.  You need a charismatic demigod like Napoleon or Hitler to pull off an imperialist push, and there is none on the scene.  There is also a big hole in the imperialist plan named "China," about which nothing can be done.  The only possible world imperialism would be a collaboration between USA & China, but both countries are in the grip of xenophobic racist supremacists so that's off the table for the time being.

Therefore Iraq or anything else this gang does is in the nature of an experiment.  Given that the stakes are really rather low my guess continues to be that they will not actually go through with an invasion.  The logistics are wrong, the cost is very high.  If there's anything it will be an air war.  I'd say 50/50 on that.