Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Devastated and angered by the news of the truck-bomb in Nasiriyah that killed 14 Italians, mainly Carabinieri. These deaths are on Berlusconi's head, for having involved our country and its men in an illegal and unjust war, in support of the aggressor's occupation armies. The Carabinieri are a fine force with a long-established reputation for honesty and courage - which I can personally attest - and like other Italian troops, are experienced and highly-regarded as peacekeepers on UN and Nato missions. They should NEVER have been deployed to back the illegal occupation of Iraq. My heart bleeds for these men and their families. We as a nation should NEVER have compromised our principles and values in this manner, hoping - at the most - for commercial gain from American favour. Berlusconi, with his P2, CIA and Mafia ties, is a TRAITOR to his country and must fall.

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Monday, November 03, 2003

After the weekend's fearsome deathtoll, one of the most spin-prone questions is of course just WHO is fighting the insurgent war against the US occupation of Iraq. This is Tariq Ali's take from the Guardian:

One of the more comical sights in recent months was Paul Wolfowitz on one of his many visits informing a press conference in Baghdad that the "main problem was that there were too many foreigners in Iraq". Most Iraqis see the occupation armies as the real "foreign terrorists". Why? Because once you occupy a country, you have to behave in colonial fashion. This happens even where there is no resistance, as in the protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo. Where there is resistance, as in Iraq, the only model on offer is a mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo.

Nor does it behove western commentators whose countries are occupying Iraq to lay down conditions for those opposing it. It is an ugly occupation, and this determines the response. According to Iraqi opposition sources, there are more than 40 different resistance organisations. They consist of Ba'athists, dissident communists, disgusted by the treachery of the Iraqi Communist party in backing the occupation, nationalists, groups of Iraqi soldiers and officers disbanded by the occupation, and Sunni and Shia religious groups.

The great poets of Iraq - Saadi Youssef and Mudhaffar al-Nawab - once brutally persecuted by Saddam, but still in exile, are the consciences of their nation. Their angry poems denouncing the occupation and heaping scorn on the jackals - or quislings - help to sustain the spirit of resistance and renewal.

Youssef writes: I'll spit in the jackals' faces/ I'll spit on their lists/ I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq/ We are the ancestral trees of this land.

And Nawwab: And never trust a freedom fighter/ Who turns up with no arms/ Believe me, I got burnt in that crematorium/ Truth is, you're only as big as your cannons/ While those who wave knives and forks/ Simply have eyes for their stomachs.

In other words, the resistance is predominantly Iraqi - though I would not be surprised if other Arabs are crossing the borders to help. If there are Poles and Ukrainians in Baghdad and Najaf, why should Arabs not help each other? The key fact of the resistance is that it is decentralised - the classic first stage of guerrilla warfare against an occupying army. Yesterday's downing of a US Chinook helicopter follows that same pattern. Whether these groups will move to the second stage and establish an Iraqi National Liberation Front remains to be seen.

As for the UN acting as an "honest broker", forget it - especially in Iraq, where it is part of the problem. Leaving aside its previous record (as the administrator of the killer sanctions, and the backer of weekly Anglo-American bombing raids for 12 years), on October 16 the security council disgraced itself again by welcoming "the positive response of the international community... to the broadly representative governing council... [and] supports the governing council's efforts to mobilise the people of Iraq..." Meanwhile a beaming fraudster, Ahmed Chalabi, was given the Iraqi seat at the UN. One can't help recalling how the US and Britain insisted on Pol Pot retaining his seat for over a decade after being toppled by the Vietnamese. The only norm recognised by the security council is brute force, and today there is only one power with the capacity to deploy it. That is why, for many in the southern hemisphere and elsewhere, the UN is the US.

The Arab east is today the venue of a dual occupation: the US-Israeli occupation of Palestine and Iraq. If initially the Palestinians were demoralised by the fall of Baghdad, the emergence of a resistance movement has encouraged them. After Baghdad fell, the Israeli war leader, Ariel Sharon, told the Palestinians to "come to your senses now that your protector has gone". As if the Palestinian struggle was dependent on Saddam or any other individual. This old colonial notion that the Arabs are lost without a headman is being contested in Gaza and Baghdad. And were Saddam to drop dead tomorrow, the resistance would increase rather than die down.

Sooner or later, all foreign troops will have to leave Iraq. If they do not do so voluntarily, they will be driven out. Their continuing presence is a spur to violence. When Iraq's people regain control of their own destiny they will decide the internal structures and the external policies of their country. One can hope that this will combine democracy and social justice, a formula that has set Latin America alight but is greatly resented by the Empire. Meanwhile, Iraqis have one thing of which they can be proud and of which British and US citizens should be envious: an opposition.


I have a hunch that Tariq Ali's sources are more accurate than Rumsfeld's.

And am moved to note that Iraq still has poets....

I'll spit in the jackals' faces/ I'll spit on their lists/ I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq/ We are the ancestral trees of this land.

.... still in exile.

Yeah... so who are we now "supposed" to believe is fighting the US occupation ?? Al Quaeda? Saddam?? Black Pete???


Meanwhile, American troops battled guerrillas and residents of Abu Ghraib, a suburb of Baghdad, for the second time in three days. Helicopters and tanks patrolled the town, and soldiers fired on a photographer trying to cover the fighting and barred reporters from viewing the scene.

Residents of Abu Ghraib said that at least one American soldier had been killed, and many Iraqis wounded, in the clash. The fight began when guerrillas threw a grenade at an American Humvee, wounding several soldiers and killing at least one, they said. The military said it could not comment on the incident today.

Since Friday morning, when the clashes began, soldiers and Iraqi police have essentially destroyed Abu Ghraib's market, the residents said. Guerrillas have used the market as cover to fire on American patrols in Abu Ghraib for months, American soldiers have said.

"Yesterday, we went to the market and we found that many stores have been looted," Daham Ali said. Mr. Ali accused Iraqi police of stealing from the stores after American soldiers opened them.

Adel Abd, a taxi driver in Abu Ghraib, said residents would continue to attack soldiers"The market is going to be a battlefield for us," Mr. Abd said. "The people are angry they have destroyed the shops, they have destroyed our income."

At least four Iraqis were killed, and dozens more wounded, in the clash on Friday, several residents of Abu Ghraib said today. They said tanks had deliberately run over cars and set fire to several stores. Their reports could not be independently confirmed, because tanks and armored fighting vehicles blocked access to the market


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Saturday, November 01, 2003

Summing it all up .... /1

I have come to the conclusion that Bush's US foreign policy offensive of the last few years, which implemented the doctrines of the right-wing US think-tanks PNAC (Project for the New American Century - Kagan, Kristol et al.) and AEI (American Enterprise Institute - whose members include Lynne Cheney, Perle, Ledeen, Kristol etc, and partially overlap those of the PNAC) and came to a head with the US/UK invasion of Iraq against the will of the UN Security Council, has misfired. Instead of asserting America's solo super-power capabilities and consequent leadership, it has in fact pitilessly revealed the limits and weaknesses of America's militaristic "globocop" vision of itself in the context of today's world, when actually put to the test.

Why? Because it was based essentially - whether deliberately (due to the think-tanks' strong pro-Israel bias) or otherwise it is hard to tell - on a series of misconceptions... an American "mindframe" problem.

Instances of the kind of severe miscalculation and wishful thinking that preceded the war include the following:

1) During the pre-invasion crisis in the UN, the Americans frequently expressed the expectation that the countries opposing its drive for invasion would quickly "come to heel" and/or could be easily "bought off" - which did NOT happen. The opposition of France, Germany, Russia etc did not give rise to an actual nuclear standoff as the principles, national interests etc. involved were not sufficiently "vital" to them to justify such a dramatic step, but these countries have all continued to remain firm in their anti-invasion stance, and have cooperated significantly together in all Iraq-linked diplomatic contexts since then.

2) The Americans seem to have believed that once they had "defeated" the Iraqi armed forces' opposition to the invasion (which in fact seemed more to have "melted away" than engaged in an all-out struggle - possibly with a view to regrouping later on to fight a Vietnam-style "guerrilla war" of attrition against the occupying armies) the Iraqi people "as such" would welcome the invaders with the same attitude of heartfelt joy and trustfulness that America had experienced in WW2 when the French welcomed the Allied forces' overthrow of the Nazi occupation. But of course this did not happen, as the chief reason why the French had so joyously welcomed the Allies' foreign armies onto their soil was because these armies were ejecting a hated previous foreign invader/occupier, which was certainly not the case in Iraq.

The Iraqis' initial attitude, except in overwhelmingly Sunni areas - ("strangely enough", prior to the invasion the Western/US media did NOT provide adequate information on Iraq's complex ethnic and religious structure - the Sunni/Shia aspects and their relationship to Saddam's Ba'ath Party rule were either ignored or glossed over) seems in fact to have been more "wait and see" in the face of an overwhelming "force majeure" event than actively hostile, but it is hard to understand how the US could have so gravely underestimated the instinctive dislike all peoples instinctively feel for the presence of foreign troops of ANY nationality in a blatantly dominant role on their soil. And of course, the deaths of thousands of Iraqi nationals, both in the armed forces and amongst the civilian population, could hardly be expected to make the US/UK forces appear particularly "lovable" to the relatives and neighbours of those killed. And the chaos that developed in the wake of the invasion, the measures taken to repress it, the arrogantly colonialist mindframe of the US proconsuls, and the totally "alien" nature of the American/UK forces in relation to Iraqi society have steeply increased the level of hostility.

3) Both the cost of the war to American taxpayers, and the number of troops that are required to maintain even very limited American control over Iraq and its resources, were either grossly underestimated or deliberately underplayed, at a time when America's economy was "in reality" particularly fragile due to several years' recession, a spiralling national debt and - in particular - a huge and constantly increasing foreign debt (6 trillion plus) and disastrous trade balance-of-payments situation. The overall result of all this, in both military and economic terms is summed up by the (slightly sinister) word "overstretch", whose popularity in current political discourse has now overtaken that of "hegemonism" ... as of course an "overstretched hegemone" is more likely to lose its balance and fall flat on its face than to maintain its upright posture for any significant length of time, so whatever antics it may temporarily attempt to engage in can be largely discounted as inevitably short-lived.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I've been around this planet for just over half a century now... mostly absorbed in living and observing my own life and the other lives around me, trying to understand what kind of meaning can or should be attached to everyday words and phrases such as "I", "you", "we", "them" - "here", "now", "the world" "history", "civilization", "the past", "the future" ...but sometimes something happens in the - call it collective, call it political? - sphere that rocks my sleepy soul to its normally-lazy foundations.

The crisis in the United Nations preceding the invasion of Iraq, and the actual bombing, invasion and occupation of that country was one of these shocking, cataclysmic events.

Since then I have been obsessively observing, with much sorrow, anger and horror - but also a touch of intellectual fascination - the complex chain of events that the invasion has triggered off, closely following not just the actual occurrences but the manner in which they are reported in the US and world press.

During these months I have also started to explore the fast-growing world of internet information, weblogs, blogs and newsgroups, and have thrown myself head over heels - heart and mind - into the debate on quite a few web forums, and particularly the MSN international politics forum linked to the 9/11 investigation and current events site WhatReallyHappened.

Now that almost a year has passed, I have decided to start jotting down here, as spontaneously as possible, my various thoughts and wandering reflections about what has been happening, and what - if anything - I/we have learned from it all, in a manner both more personal and more ..."general"... than is possible on a debate forum.

All I can say is that I'll try to write readably. I do not guarantee I won't indulge in just-plain-venting... I do not undertake to avoid more or less screwy attempts at philosophizing.. and I do not promise to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.