Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, March 6th, 2006.


An Uncivil War

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

Jake Tapper reports for ABC News that Iraq is already in a civil war, and we’d all better accept this fact and adjust.

As Pentagon generals offered optimistic assessments that the sectarian violence in Iraq had dissipated this weekend, other military experts told ABC News that Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq already are engaged in a civil war, and that the Iraqi government and U.S. military had better accept that fact and adapt accordingly.

“We’re in a civil war now; it’s just that not everybody’s joined in,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, a former military commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina. “The failure to understand that the civil war is already taking place, just not necessarily at the maximum level, means that our counter measures are inadequate and therefore dangerous to our long-term interest.

“It’s our failure to understand reality that has caused us to be late throughout this experience of the last three years in Iraq,” added Nash, who is an ABC News consultant.

Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC News, “If you talk to U.S. intelligence officers and military people privately, they’d say we’ve been involved in low level civil war with very slowly increasing intensity since the transfer of power in June 2004.”

From here let’s skip over to today’s Dan Froomkin column:

… even as the public increasingly sees the situation in Iraq headed toward all-out civil war, Bush’s official position is denial.

Just last week, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas tried repeatedly to get Bush to address the issue. “What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues?” she asked. “Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?

Bush’s reply: “I don’t buy your premise that there’s going to be a civil war.”

Good thing Bush wasn’t president in 1861, huh?

Froomkin provides more links to commentary about the essential Bushie world view, which is a mix of ignorance and denial. See especially this Fareed Zakaria column. The Bushies have made one blunder after another in Iraq, and most of these blunders came about because the Bush Administration viewed Iraq through a prism of fantasy. Even now, the Administration remains unable to understand what’s happening in Iraq from an Iraqi point of view. For that reason the Bushies do not understand how their policy decisions actually impact Iraqis, and for this reason they misjudge Iraqi actions and reactions.

But Bush cannot learn from mistakes, because he won’t even admit mistakes. Zakaria writes,

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush took a swipe at critics. “Hindsight alone is not wisdom,” he said. In fact, the tragedy of Iraq is that most of these critiques were made—by several people—at the time the policies were announced, often before. It’s the president who needs to look back and learn from his mistakes. Hindsight may not be the only wisdom, but it is a lot better than operating in the dark.

Intelligent people may disagree whether Iraq is engaged in civil war now or is just on the edge of one. But the White House position is that there is not now and never will be a civil war. Ronald Brownstein wrote in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

… the president gave no hint he’d considered how the widening gulf between Sunni and Shiite might alter America’s strategy. Instead, he summoned old sound bites, as if cueing them on tape. “The troops are chasing down terrorists,” he told Vargas. And: “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

In other words, if there is a civil war in Iraq Bush will be the last to know. And for that reason our response is doomed to be a day late and a few billion dollars short.

I learned a long time ago never to say “it can’t get any worse.” Truly, there are no limits to how bad “it” can get. Hang on to your butts.

Sorta related: Interesting article by Niall Ferguson in today’s Los Angeles Times.

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Avocado?

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entertainment and popular culture

I know you’re all waiting for my Oscar commentary. I really did stay up and watch the show, even though I didn’t much care who won what this year. My observations:

Nobody else is saying this, so I’m saying it. J-Lo’s dress was ugly. It was an ugly color — reminded me of overripe avocado. Back in the 1960s they used to make appliances that color, and it was ugly then, too. And the way the fabric draped made her hips look bigger. Also, she needs to find a happy medium between Big Hair and Old Schoolteacher Bun.

Blondes should not wear nude-color gowns. They end up looking sort of monotone. Naomi Watts’s dress was an especially bad choice for that reason. It might be a pretty dress but the cameras weren’t picking up detail, and the effect was, unfortunately, unfortunate. She looked better in King Kong.

Charlize Theron’s dress was odd, but she overcame the handicap with sheer force of beautiousness.

I didn’t have a favorite gown this year, but other than the above-mentioned J-Lo and Watts, nobody I saw was a real disaster, either.

Also: Everybody in Hollywood should take personality lessons from George Clooney.

I thought Jon Stewart was fine. Andy Dehnart is right — the audience didn’t “get” him.

Well, that’s about it.

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Wolf! Wolf!

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Bush Administration, Middle East

The monumental waste of human protoplasm known as “John Bolton” is threatening a military action against Iran, according to Julian Borger of The Guardian.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has told British MPs that military action could bring Iran’s nuclear programme to a halt if all diplomatic efforts fail. The warning came ahead of a meeting today of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which will forward a report on Iran’s nuclear activities to the UN security council. …

…According to Eric Illsley, a Labour committee member, the envoy told the MPs: “They must know everything is on the table and they must understand what that means. We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down.”

It is unusual for an administration official to go into detail about possible military action against Iran. To produce significant amounts of enriched uranium, Iran would have to set up a self-sustaining cycle of processes. Mr Bolton appeared to be suggesting that cycle could be hit at its most vulnerable point.

Elaine Shannon of Time magazine says that the Bushies are preparing a security briefing on Iran for the UN Security Council.

It will rely mainly on circumstantial evidence, much of it from documents found on a laptop purportedly purloined from an Iranian nuclear engineer and obtained by the CIA in 2004. U.S. officials insist the material is strong but concede they have no smoking gun.

They do, however, have diagrams that they believe show components of a nuclear bomb. According to a Western diplomat familiar with the U.S. intel brief, a Farsi-language PowerPoint presentation on the laptop has “catchy graphics,” including diagrams of a hollow metallic sphere 2 ft. in diameter and weighing about 440 lbs. Other documents show a sphere-shaped array of tiny detonators. No file specifically refers to a nuclear bomb, but U.S. officials say the design of the sphere–an outer shell studded with small chemical-explosive charges meant to detonate inward, which would squeeze an inner core of material into a critical mass–is akin to that of classic devices like Fat Man, the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. “Because of the size and weight and the power source going into it and height-of-burst requirements,” says the diplomat, Western experts have concluded that the design “is only intended to contain a nuclear weapon. There’s no other munition which would work.”

Iran claims much of the laptop evidence is fabricated. Let it be noted I don’t trust Iran, either.

Yesterday the London Times reported that NATO would help US airstrikes on Iran, which suggests to me that the plans for such airstrikes are complete and are just waiting for implementation. You might remember that over a year ago Seymour Hersh said plans for U.S. airstrikes in Iran were in the works.

The Guardian article says that the CIA and the U.S. State Department do not appear to support airstrikes, but favor a diplomatic approach. The fact that the Bush Administration is not speaking with one voice brings us back to the question of who’s in charge? Condi takes her orders from Bush. Is Bolton getting orders from Cheney? Or is he a loose cannon?

Today the IAEA is meeting to determine if Iran should be reported to the UN Security Council. Not that anything the IAEA or the UN Security Council decide really matters to the Bushies.

Unlike Iraq, Iran really does have the capability to process uranium. It is engaged in small-scale processing right now. The question is, is the processing resulting in weapons-grade uranium? Iran says it needs nuclear reactors for energy. The U.S. says this is just a front for making bombs. Over the past several years most of the rest of the world has been trying to work with Iran to allow it to have energy-producing reactors but preventing Iran from engaging in the additional refinement of uranium required to produce weapons. A Russian-built power-generating reactor in Iran is scheduled to go online later this year.

So now a race is on — not only to resolve the situation before Iran has bombs, but to resolve it before the Bush Administration charges ahead with airstrikes that would further destabilize the Middle East. Good luck, planet Earth.

Both Tehran and Washington are playing this issue for political leverage at home. In the VRWC echo chamber the Bushies portray themselves as the only people on the planet with the wisdom and guts to stand up to Iran. The UN, the IAEA, Europe — all a pack of girly wusses who aren’t smart enough to see how dangerous Iran is. So the Lone Ranger and Tonto (probably Israel this time, not Britain) must go in alone to shoot it out with the bad guys while the tenderfeet hide out in the saloon.

Meanwhile, as this New York Times editorial explains, Bush is Iran’s best friend.

At the rate that President Bush is going, Iran will be a global superpower before too long. For all of the axis-of-evil rhetoric that has come out of the White House, the reality is that the Bush administration has done more to empower Iran than its most ambitious ayatollah could have dared to imagine. Tehran will be able to look back at the Bush years as a golden era full of boosts from America, its unlikely ally.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Update: Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami says that Islam is the enemy the West needs.

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