Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lest we forget

Now that George W Bush is leading the quiet life of a wealthy and distinguished retiree, we must not fail to recall constantly the extent and ongoing consequences of his acts.

The association named Iraq Body Count [click the banner to visit their web site] has been maintaining plausible statistics concerning violent civilian deaths in Iraq during and since the 2003 invasion. I have placed an IBC counter in the right-hand column of this blog.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Final days of a man of sadness

Theoretically, George W Bush will of course continue to be the US president until the investiture of a new man—who, I hope, will be Barack Obama—next January. In a week's time, Bush will descend politically, however, from his present lame duck status to a dying duck level. After that, good riddance to bad rubbish. The world, at last, will be able to look forward to talking about this grotesque individual in the past tense.

He has been here. And I see no bravery.

[Click the photo to hear James Blunt's moving lament.]

The Bush years started at that 9/11 moment. Between the attack in Manhattan and the turmoil in Wall Street, seven years later, there was the bloody fiasco in Iraq and then, at home, the Katrina catastrophe. These Bush years will have been some of the darkest in US history.

The departing president will nevertheless be able to look back on certain rare moments of tenderness when special friends provided him with an illusion of endless love [display].

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Morbid mosaic

The New York Times proposes an impressive compendium of US war casualties, presenting—as they say—"faces of the dead".

This young American happened to die on the same day that I became a citizen of France, which opposed the American intervention in Iraq. So, for what it's worth in symbolic moral terms, I wish to dedicate solemnly my French naturalization to the memory of this slain US soldier.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thou art Petraeus

Upon this rock, George W Bush has decided to pursue his war in Iraq. But the gates of hell could well prevail against this bright and confident soldier, who has just been offered Bush's war on a silver plate, like the head of John the Baptist.

The great French statesman Georges Clemenceau [1841-1929] once said cynically that "war is too serious an affair to be placed in the hands of generals". Clearly, the US president has no such qualms about handing over the Iraq fiasco to David Petraeus. Meanwhile, some of Bush's supporters take pleasure in pointing out that the four-star general is a bright guy, with a doctorate in international relations from Princeton, who surely knows what must be done in Iraq. Ah, if only Bush had obtained a doctorate or two from a distinguished US university, everything would be going so much more smoothly today!

There's an amusing expression in French slang: filer le bébé, literally "to hand over the baby", particularly in contexts where the metaphorical baby has just dirtied its diapers, and needs to be cleaned up. In transferring the Iraq baby to Petraeus, Bush is no doubt warming up for the inevitable forthcoming moment when he'll be secretly delighted to hand over the whole shitty mess to the next US president.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Iraq and Vietnam

My post of 28 January 2007, Memories of Vietnam [display], evoked the tenebrous precedent of the USA's defeat in Vietnam.

Today, there's something distinctly indecent in the recent allusions to this defeat expressed by George W Bush: "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid for by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, reeducation camps and killing fields." Then he asked rhetorically: "Will today's generation of Americans resist the deceptive allure of retreat?"

The aftermath of the US "withdrawal" [defeat] in Vietnam was indeed a ghastly mess. But Bush is cheating blatantly with both history and logic when he insinuates that it would be an error for the US to "retreat" for the second time, in today's bloody Iraqi quagmire. He seems to be saying that the only way of avoiding a repeat phenomenon in Iraq of "millions of innocent citizens" is for the US to "resist the deceptive allure of retreat". Now, this kind of pseudo-thinking is idiotically erroneous, to the point of being criminal, since there is no common measure to the dangerousness of the respective situations in Vietnam 1975 and Iraq 2007. I have the impression that Bush is a total moron in the historical and geopolitical domains. Comparing the potential consequences of his Iraq fiasco with the sad but relatively inconsequential [short-lived] US defeat in Vietnam is stupid, to say the least. But suggesting that the only way of avoiding similar negative consequences is to remain firm in Iraq is frankly grotesque. The truth of the matter, as everybody knows (except Bush), is that Iraq is an infinitely more lethal context than Vietnam.

Ever since Biblical times, the Middle East is potential Hell! Because of its territorial and religious conflicts, not to mention its oil, it's a constantly festering wound that could erupt at any instant into turmoil of planetary dimensions. Since Bush's invasion, Iraq has already discovered massive daily terrorism of the worst kind, which could rapidly infect other parts of this Old World.

Alas, the damage has been done [by Bush] and it is already too late to imagine that everything would revert to normal if US troops were to abandon Iraq overnight. As implied in my posts concerning the Baghdad visit of Bernard Kouchner, entitled French doctor in Iraq [display] and Kouchner on al-Maliki: He must be replaced [display], the leaders of the planet must enter into a subtle world of diplomacy, in the time-honored French traditions, to see what can be done about Iraq. The time of Texan cowboy politics is definitely over. And when the cowboy decides to see himself as a geopolitical historian, he must be diplomatically gagged... for the safety of the planet.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kouchner on al-Maliki: He must be replaced

A positive aspect of Bernard Kouchner's background as a medical doctor is that he's not afraid of pronouncing a fatal diagnosis, even though he has barely left the patient's home. The patient in question, judged by Dr Kouchner to be in terminal decline, is Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Kouchner's words to Condoleezza Rice, repeated in Newsweek, are blunt: "He must be replaced."

As for George W Bush, he recently described Nouri al-Maliki as "a good man with a difficult job". Another man who does not dare to cast aspersions upon al-Maliki is Australia's Alexander Downer, minister of Foreign Affairs, who declared: "His leadership is a matter for the Iraqis. It is not a matter for us. I don’t think we should be—after they’ve had a free and fair, democratic election—be telling the Iraqis who they should appoint as their prime minister. I could get into comments about different prime ministers and presidents around the world, but if they are democratically elected, let’s just respect the process and deal with the people who are there." Downer talks of Iraq as if it were just another ordinary democratic nation.

Meanwhile, an influential Republican senator, John Warner, claims that Bush will in fact announce, in his scheduled September 15 declarations, an initial troop withdrawal, of the order of 5000 men.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

French doctor in Iraq

On French TV this evening, it was interesting to hear the recently-appointed minister of Foreign Affairs, the former "French doctor" Bernard Kouchner, talking of his visit to Baghdad a few days ago. He considers that a solution for Iraq would necessarily involve the UN, but that it's still too early to envisage a conference on this question.

"France would be ready to support this approach," said Kouchner, "but not at the present moment. Besides, I didn't propose such a conference. I evoked the possibility of our participating in such a dialog. France has a right to be there. That's our place."

These remarks go in the same direction as Kouchner's assertion in Baghdad that the US, on its own, would not be capable of solving the problems of Iraq.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Woman who has paid the price

Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq over three years ago. Since then, this lady has become known as an anti-war activist both in the USA and overseas. Her most-publicized action consisted of setting up a protest base, known as Camp Casey, near George Bush's famous ranch in Texas. Two months ago, Cindy Sheehan gave the impression that she was throwing in the sponge, and returning to her ordinary life as a mother. But her pause from militancy did not last long, since she has just announced a challenge to the Democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi. Basically, if Pelosi does not launch impeachment proceedings against Bush within the next fortnight, 50-year-old Sheehan threatens to move into the political arena by attempting to unseat Pelosi in next year's elections.

Cindy Sheehan considered that Bush should be impeached for two major reasons:

— He misled Americans with false justifications for attacking Iraq.

— He condoned the use of torture: a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The incident that brought Sheehan back into the activist arena was Bush's decision to commute the jail sentence imposed upon "Scooter" Libby, whose conviction had been linked to a mediocre affair resulting in the identity of a female CIA agent being leaked deliberately by the Bush administration to the press.

Retrospectively, we cannot compare the pain of a mother who lost her son in a senseless war with the professional harm endured by a woman who has lost her job as a spy. But there's a common denominator in many of the acts perpetrated by Bush and his men. To put it bluntly, they've hurt many people. Does the president himself realize this? Maybe. Be that as it may, Bush doesn't like the idea of his buddy Libby getting hurt by time in the pen. Whatever else we might say about the US president, we have to admit that he's kind to his friends.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Business as usual

There's an everyday expression in French, fond de commerce, whose literal meaning is "business assets". But it's often used in the case of small shopkeepers to designate the particular commercial setting and customers that enable them to earn their living. For example, I recall the prolific and popular French novelist Frédéric Dard [1921-2000] talking about his childhood on a radio program. At one stage, his mother had a small shop that sold merchandise designated in French as farces-attrapes, which means trivial objects used for practical jokes, tricks and party gags. [I'm not sure I ever saw such a shop back in Australia... or anywhere outside of France, for that matter.] Well, Frédéric Dard explained with glee that his mother's commercial operations meant, for example, that she had to stock an assortment of the finest imitation dog turds made out of rubber. In other words, her fond de commerce included these objects and, by the same token, the people who buy such stuff. She therefore had to maintain constant contacts with the wholesalers who produced these objects. So, whenever a manufacturer's representative called in at her shop, she would ask to be brought up to date: "Please show me a few samples of this year's creations in the field of dog shit."

In a totally different domain, I've always felt that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is like a small shopkeeper whose constant business preoccupation is terrorism.

As a consequence of September 11, 2001, Rudy nows knows more about how to deal with terrorists than anyone else in the world... including Bill Clinton, of course, and maybe even George W Bush. Rudy is a specialist in terrorist threats just like the mother of Frédéric Dard was a specialist in imitation dog turds. It's Giuliani's business, and nobody should dare to tell him how to run his business, particularly if they're Democrats. Above all, Rudy doesn't want to listen to anybody talking about bringing the troops home from Iraq.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee made it clear, tersely, that Rudy's establishment is not at all the best little shop in town: "Rudy's arrogance has gotten the best of him. How can a man who failed to prepare New York City for a second attack after the first one, who sent firefighters and emergency workers into Ground Zero without respirators and quit the Iraq Study Group to raise money keep America safe?"

Will those negative remarks slow down Rudy's operations? Not at all. Business as usual.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Circular thinking

I've always been amused by a silly little joke about a road worker erecting a pile of rocks in the middle of a street and placing a red warning lamp on top.

Passerby [to road worker]: "Why have put that pile of rocks in the middle of the street?"

Road worker: "To support the flashing red lamp."

Passerby: "And why have you put a flashing red lamp in the middle of the street?"

Road worker: "To let people know there's a pile of rocks there."

George W Bush is reasoning in this absurd circular way about the situation in Iraq. He invaded the country because invalid intelligence (lies) caused him to believe that Osama bin Laden might be intent upon transforming Iraq into a terrorist haven enabling Al Qaeda to prepare attacks against the United States. Today, Bush acknowledges that Iraq has indeed been transformed into a terrorist haven, and he now argues that this is a justification for pursuing the war.

While it would be asking too much to suppose that the intellectual capacities of Dubya might enable him to recognize the existence of circular thinking, other smart observers see things this way. The New York Times quotes Richard A Clarke, former presidential security adviser, as saying: “One day, Bush tells us we are fighting in Iraq so that terrorists won’t come here [to the US]. Then he releases intelligence that says terrorists trained in Iraq are coming here. Which is it?” The New York Times also quotes Thomas Sanderson, terrorism specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as declaring: “We created the biggest terrorism training ground known, which is Iraq.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in London yesterday, Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, launched their 2007 report. Basing her speech upon a central theme that she called "the politics of fear", Irene Khan said:

"Five years after 9/11, new evidence came to light in 2006 of the way in which the US administration treated the world as one giant battlefield for its 'war on terror', kidnapping, arresting, arbitrarily detaining, torturing and transferring suspects from one secret prison to another across the world with impunity, in what the US termed 'extraordinary renditions'. Nothing more aptly portrayed the globalization of human rights violations than the US-led 'war on terror' and its program of 'extraordinary renditions' which implicated governments in countries as far apart as Italy and Pakistan, Germany and Kenya. Ill-conceived counter-terrorism strategies have done little to reduce the threat of violence or ensure justice for victims of terrorism but much to damage human rights and the rule of law globally."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Appalling legacy

In comparing George Bush and Tony Blair, a wag [no pun intended] said recently that Bush has done everything wrong, with one exception: his success in getting Blair to back him up over Iraq. Inversely, Blair has done everything right, with one exception: his decision to back up Bush over Iraq.

The name Chatham House might not mean much to you. You'll know what I'm talking about as soon as I point out that, up until September 2004, this London-based think tank was known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs. [Click the banner to visit their website.] Here's how they describe themselves:

Chatham House is one of the world's leading organizations for the analysis of international issues. It is membership-based and aims to help individuals and organizations to be at the forefront of developments in an ever-changing and increasingly complex world.

This organization has just published a 12-page report, Accepting Realities in Iraq, which describes the appalling legacy which Bush and Blair—and let's not forget Howard, too—have left there. [Click here to obtain a copy of this so-called briefing paper.]

The report reads like an exercise in conjugating the verb fail, and declining the concept of failure. A spine-chilling extract [page 2]:

It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation.

The report quotes [page 3] the words of Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based think tank called CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies]:

It is more than possible that a failed president [Bush] and a failed administration will preside over a failed war for the second time since Vietnam.

Observers have been pointing out constantly that the Bush/Blair/Howard legacy in Iraq can only be described as civil war. The Chatham House paper is far more scathing [summary on page 1]:

There is not 'a' civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organizations struggling for power.

How many more deaths and how much more destruction will it take until the diabolical and stubborn Bush/Blair/Howard trio wakes up to an obvious fact? They have only one option left: Get the fucking hell out of Iraq as soon as possible...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter blasts Bush and Blair

Never before in recent political history has a former US president spoken so harshly about both the current president and the British prime minister. Jimmy Carter claims that the current presidency is "the worst in history". The 2002 Nobel laureate said that the Bush approach represented "the overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations". He added: "We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered."

Carter was particularly outspoken in his criticism of Tony Blair's relationship with Bush: "Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient." He explained: "I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq has been a major tragedy for the world."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Losing a war

Some time ago, when I first voiced my belief in French opposition to a US invasion of Iraq, I recall the sarcastic words of a fellow in Australia who asked rhetorically, as if it were an intelligent and relevant question: "How long is it since France won a war?" He believed idiotically that Humanity is still keeping a count of wars won and wars lost, as in Napoleonic times, with a view to declaring an emerging winner, as if it were a global game of golf.

Today, the words hurt, but they will soon have to be pronounced. America has lost the war in Iraq. Australia, too.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Howard speaks out on brutality

I don't usually see Australian PM John Howard as a positive leader on the world scene, but I must admit that I liked his rough style of talking about Zimbabwe and its president Robert Mugabe:

"Frankly, I've run out of patience. Most people have run out of patience about what's happening in Zimbabwe. We pussyfoot around far too much using diplomatic language. This man is a disaster. His country is just a total heap of misery."

Above all, we must applaud the courage and pragmatism of Australia's consul in Zimbabwe, Mark Lynch, who protected Sekai Holland—a female member of the MDC opposition party (Movement for Democratic Change) whose husband is Australian—by driving her to the airport and putting her on a plane to Johannesburg.

Howard described the context in which Holland had been bashed:

"The police are using brutal tactics. They're bashing up opposition politicians. They're fracturing skulls. They're behaving in a totally unacceptable fashion."

What a pity that Howard didn't use this kind of direct language in describing the treatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. [Click here for further photos.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

War effort

This famous photo shows Princess Elizabeth changing a lorry wheel during World War II. The 19-year-old heiress to the throne had joined the Auxiliary Territorial Services with the same rank as a second lieutenant. By the end of the conflict, she had become a Junior Commander capable of driving military vehicles. And today, it's quite possible that Prince Harry will soon be serving in Iraq.

In the Los Angeles Times, the Bush family biographer Kitty Kelley has just written a scathing article whose provocative title is indeed an excellent rhetorical question: Why aren't the Bush daughters in Iraq? [Click here to read the article.] In other words, why aren't they setting a moral example of patriotic service by playing some kind of meaningful role in the allegedly "noble" war being conducted by their father?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fourth anniversary













On Friday, the French PM Dominique de Villepin visited Harvard University, invited by the political science professor Stanley Hoffmann. Four years ago, that same Frenchman spoke to the United Nations in New York about the dangers of a US invasion of Iraq. A major American newspaper said that, over recent years, everything has changed except Bush's conviction that he can win the war in Iraq. Something else that has not changed during the last four years is France's conviction that this terrible and costly fiasco is not a war that can be won. By terrorists, maybe, but certainly not by Bush.

In the realms of international diplomacy, no politically-correct head of state or his ministers would ever refer to their foreign counterparts by means of derogatory personal remarks or judgments. The representatives of the Republic express themselves with a quality known in French as réserve. Besides, they avoid any remarks that might be interpreted as interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. For those reasons, it would be unthinkable for Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin to react in the way as Australian PM John Howard when he recently blasted the US presidential candidate Barack Obama. But the fact that no French leaders refer to Bush explicitly as an idiot doesn't prevent onlookers from reading between the lines and guessing that this is what they think. One has the impression that nobody in France is keen to talk to Bush any more, or even talk about him. He seems to have become a kind of international nonentity, and people are simply waiting for him to go away, or be chased away.

Getting back to Dominique de Villepin, it's hard to guess what he's going to do with himself after the departure of Chirac in a month or so, because this man has never been an elected politician, and it would be funny seeing a former PM striving to pick up votes in a provincial electorate. During his American visit, somebody asked him whether he felt like becoming an expatriate... maybe in the USA. "No, " replied de Villepin curtly, "I'm too French."