Friday, January 19, 2007
In a what's good for the goose is good for the gander statement, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that recent Bush administration negative statements about his government would help the terrorists. He also complained about his army not receiving good equipment from the U.S. and claimed that if the U.S. supplied that equipment, our troops could come home sooner.
While some speculate that this only shows that the U.S. doesn't really trust what the Iraqi army would do with more sophisticated firepower, retired General Barry R. McCaffrey--in an interview on Countdown-- seemed to agree wth Maliki that the Iraqi army is not properly equipped, and would benefit if it were. (McCaffrey also told Congress he thought Bush's escalation plan is "nonsensical.")
Whatever the truth of the claim about Iraqi army equipment, it does suggest other questions that few have asked and nobody has really answered about the U.S. in Iraq---questions that may not be very sophisticated, but are basic and important. The first one is this: where did all the money go?
We've heard about U.S. troops not having body armor, and more recently about troops not being provided the proper armored vehicles. If the money isn't going to equipping the Iraqi army or the U.S. forces, where is it going?
It doesn't seem to be going towards rebuilding the country, or fixing the electricity and water systems, which remain in desperate condition. Baghdad apparently hasn't had electricity fully restored since the first American bombing well over three years ago. It still functions only a few hours a day. So if the money went to rebuild Iraq, it was wasted.
One answer is the 14 or so U.S. military bases built in Iraq, each the size of a large town or perhaps a small city. Why?
This is a question that Congress must finally answer: where did all the money go? Because we're going to be paying for whatever it was spent on for generations.
The second question is related. Before the U.S. invasion, Iraq was a functioning society. It had cities where people worked, and which had electricity and water, bridges and highways, power plants and so on. Presumably Iraqis built and maintained all these things. Iraq had an army that was powerful enough to fight Iran to a standstill, and police that kept the domestic peace, apart from the political repression and crimes of Saddam. In fact, Iraq managed to hold itself together through the privations of the trade embargo, even though many died, mostly children we're told.
So how in less than four years, did Iraqi become helpless? The U.S. apparently made no effort from the beginning to involve Iraqis in a meaningful way in the reconstruction of their own country. Why not? Even before armed violence got out of control, unemployment was rampant. Why? Lots of stuff to rebuild would seem to mean lots of jobs, from top to bottom.
Why is the Iraqi army so helpless now? We think we know why the police can't keep order--they're not trying to. The police allegedly are little more than tribal militias in uniform. How did that happen?
Now the U.S. has been training the Iraqi army for several years, with almost no success. Why? And apparently the Iraqis are not only terrible soldiers, they can't fix the stuff they built, and they can't rebuild the stuff they built that the U.S. bombed. Now the U.S. has total responsibility for a dependent society that four years ago was a functioning society of adults, including professionals in everything from architecture to computers.
So what happened to that Iraq? If somebody can answer that question, we might be long way to understanding why Iraq is in the middle of a civil war.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I've heard a couple of commentators today mention that the Bulliten of Atomic Scientists has moved the hands on the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight, but those commentators neglected to say why.
The escalation in Iraq, growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, even the rumors of a new atomic bomb test in North Korea, would seem the chief candidates. But that's not the reason.
It's the Climate Crisis.
Among those backing the move and making statements today were scientist Stephen Hawking and Sir Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal. "Humankind's collective impacts on the biosphere, climate and oceans are unprecedented," said Sir Martin. "These environmentally driven threats - 'threats without enemies' - should loom as large in the political perspective as did the East/West political divide during the Cold War era."
As to whether the Climate Crisis poses the same threat to humanity as nuclear war is beside the point, said Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton geoscientist. "The important point is that this organisation, which for 60 years has been monitoring and warning us about the nuclear threat, now recognises climate change as a threat that deserves the same level of attention," he said.
Or as a review of several climate related books in the Times Literary Supplement concludes: "Harding, is right, however, to look towards the only future available to humanity, one in which new ways of living cooperatively with the Earth will have been found. It would be an achievement unprecedented in the whole of human history, and, as Tim Flannery reminds us in the closing pages of his book, ours is the generation fated to begin to take responsibility, “for we are now the weather makers, and the future of biodiversity and civilisation hangs on our actions”.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I finally got through all the labelling on this site--it still needs to be tweaked, but it's functional. I also pretty much learned how to work the new template features, so I converted this site and added all those links to the left, and the labels list way down the page. Just click on a label and you get all the posts on that topic... A lot of work to get there, and more sites to go, but it's a useful function.
I decided to do it partly because the function of my blogs seems more for reference rather than daily reading. There are a few of you who read it every day, and that's great. I'll probably keep posting nearly every day. But according to the site meter stats, the majority of hits come from topic searches.
The links reflect the emphasis that's settled in here. I believe that the Climate Crisis is going to dominate the forseeable future, and practically all issues are going to arise in that context. We're not noticing that yet, but within the decade, it's going to be clearer. So that's becoming the central issue on this site.
Much of the armed conflict in the world can be traced back, sooner or later, to resource issues, but a lot of violence and conflict arises from what we don't know about ourselves and each other, and from the ways we think, communicate and relate. There are issues specific to war and peace, conflict and resolution, that have to be addressed, no matter the reason for conflict. So I'm gradually building another blogsite dedicated to Skills of Peace. Again, I hope it will be useful simply for the links, and eventually the accumulation of pieces here and elsewhere that bear on the topic, and the central ideas: that making peace requires skills just as making war does, and that the range of skills required include what I categorize as inner, outer and interface skills.
I'm also inaugurating a blog as a companion to my North Coast Journal column, both called Stage Matters. I've been writing about theatre on other blogs, but I hope a dedicated site will make it easier to find.
The long list of my blogs makes me a little uncomfortable, as well as pretty tired. Some seem to be fading away, while others have a future if not much of a present. In some of them--nearly all of them--I intend to have fun, as well as be hopefully useful.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
If Dr. King could speak today he would tell us to stop this madness and bring our troops home. He would say that war is an obsolete, ineffective tool of our foreign policy. He would say that we must struggle against injustice, we must stand up for what we believe, but if peace is our goal, then peaceful ends can only be secured by peaceful means. He would say as a nation and as a people we can do better; we must do better. We must find a way to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish as fools.
John Lewis today.
“We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem,” said an American military official in Baghdad involved in talks over the plan. “We are being played like a pawn.”
This is just one devastating quote from a New York Times story that says the most telling opposition to the Bush escalation plan is in the Iraqi government that is supposed to lead it. We're in the final act of this tragedy of imperial hubris, and it's not going to be pretty.