Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zimbabwe, Iraq, and the WWW 

Wretchard has written a short but sobering post over at The Belmont Club which juxtaposes the death toll from Operation Iraqi Freedom with the numbers dying as a result of corrupt and brutal governance in Zimbabwe (and other crisis points in Africa). He cites staggering death rates from Catholic News Service article, which maintains that 3,500 die each week.
Zimbabwe represents the kind of death by benign neglect which descended on Rwanda, Darfur and the Congo. A kind of silent catastrophe that was largely left to the AID agencies, the UN and the NGOs to solve. Iraq represents something different; the challenge of asymmetrical warfare to West. Bishop Ncube thinks the "international community" has already withdrawn as far as it possible to go from Zimbabwe. So far we don't even think about it any more. That's how far we've gone. But he rightly points out that simply because we don't hear the tree fall in the forest doesn't mean it doesn't fall. And the question is why it should be any different with a problem like Iraq. The challenge of terrorism forming within the chaos of the Third World will remain with us until we learn to meet it. We haven't learned how to yet. And it's not clear that solving this problem is optional.

The point here is well taken. Much as some would like to believe it, simply packing up and withdrawing from Iraq will likely solve very few problems. What it will do is get Iraq off our TV screens, which for some seems to be the primary objective. The problems themselves will not be solved in our absence, and more likely will proliferate once the troops (and the media) have gone home. Just because relentless talk about the crisis no longer serves a political agenda (on any political spectrum) does not mean the crisis has ended. Take the case of Zimbabwe. Numbers like 3,500 dead a week don't mean a lot in the abstract. Out of sight, out of mind.

But the world has changed these last few years. Communication channels now exist that were inconceivable a decade ago, and for those who care to delve deeper into problems like Zimbabwe, or Iraq, you now just need to find the right channel. Case in point, Cathy Buckle's "The Truth About Zimbabwe," which chronicles the decline of the nation in real, daily life terms that are not abstract in the slightest. From her most recent dispatch:

The prolonged effects of trying to survive the highest inflation in the world are grinding us down. When you ask people how they are, I mean how they really are, they say they are tired, they can't sleep, the worries just go round and round and there is no relief in sight.

Almost every day the propaganda machine here cranks out the usual rant and rave about how private companies and businesses are putting their prices up. The state media say that these people are "sabotaging the economy" and "fuelling inflation" and they keenly name names of who has been arrested or fined that day. No sensible or even rational explanations are given as to how a businessman can stay afloat when he is ordered by the state to sell goods for a lower price than he paid for them. Blind adherence to government stipulated prices is dictated and common sense does not seem to enter into it. The state media says nothing, however, about the price rises and complete lack of ethics and fair trading in government organizations and companies. It seems they are exempt from obeying their own rules

You don't ever post a letter here now without first checking how much postage rates are. They change - every month! Last month it cost 60 dollars to post a local letter, this month that same stamp costs 100 dollars and no one arrests the Postmaster! (And please remember that you have to add three zeroes onto every price in order to get the real costs - before the convenient removal of digits a couple of months ago ) Postage rates now go up so often that it is very rare to buy a local stamp which actually has a price printed on it. Local stamps these days just bear the words: 'Standard Postage.' It is not clear what standard is at hand, so we just take it to mean 'inflation standard.'
The bloggers are out there, and the news will continue to come whether our soldiers are in the thick of it or not. A lot of it may end up being worse than what we hear today. But it remains to be seen whether anyone will care to turn to those channels once our own newsmen have packed up their things and left.


By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Wed Nov 29, 02:50:00 PM:

What it will do is get Iraq off our TV screens

The left is already agitating for military action in Darfur and already blaming anti-terror efforts for our not doing anything.

The Palm Beach Post (even harder left than the NYT or LAT if you can believe that) was pimping a high profile Sunday opinion section piece last week about this.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 29, 04:29:00 PM:

The extent to which the debacle now unfolding in Iraq is attributed to nebulous third world forces and supposed deficiencies in Iraqi character and society is not so much borderline pathological as borderline Ted Bundy. The divorced-from-reality right, (as contrasted with the Scowcroft right), has turned unabashed sociopath probably as a result of the theodicy that the Bush presidency has represented to its most closely held beliefs. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that what has happened in Iraq was an entirely predictable, (and, as it happened in the intelligence apparatus, predicted), result of a foolhardy and perversely quixotic exercise in empire. Lost is that Iraq was unambiguously not a threat to this country before the same brain trust that would have us "stay the course" made it the single biggest liability to our safety and interests since Nazi Germany. Lost is the extent to which unambiguously the worst foreign policy fiasco in the entire history of the United States was sold to its citizenry on the back of misinformation and downright lies.

So the right has come to this- withdrawal is no panacea and Zimbabwe is in dire straights. I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that. Perhaps it would behoove you to articulate how after three years of overseeing the transformation of Iraq into a terrorist paradise at the cost to our nation of hundreds of billions of dollars and many thousands of our soldiers dead and maimed that our presence there is going to better the situation. Maliki called off talks today because Moqtada al-Sadr ordered him to, make no mistake about it. Allow me to translate- the head of the State we're supposed to be saving is taking his orders from a rabidly anti-US friend of Iran. This follows on a leaked memo from a Marine colonel whose assessment was that Al-Anbar province- where most of the Sunni population is situated- is beyond our saving, largely because we are far less popular there among the masses then is Al Qaeda (itself quite an accomplishment!). But take heart, we still haven't lost the Kurds- we may need Turkish help there.

So, aside from arguing the semantics of civil war, deriding the political opposition for acknowledging the reality of the very large pachyderm on/in front of our TV set and generally skirting the entirety of our/your complicity in this moral failure- please the court- has the right an argument, plan or leg to stand on? Clearly I'm not above rhetorical questions.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Wed Nov 29, 05:25:00 PM:

I guess I touched a nerve somewhere with you anon. Not sure exactly what question you want me to answer, so I guess I'll respond by saying that I don't accept many of the premises you present as truth.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 29, 06:57:00 PM:

Not to worry charlott, your response is in no way a surprise. Cognitive dissonance is legendary amongst the conservative grandstand and I don't imagine facts as plausibly deniable as the nose on a right-winger's face could force any undesirable reconciliation. What tends to be a little less difficult to duck are logical fallacies, of which, you should know that arguing for staying in Iraq because leaving wouldn't fix the problem is a non sequitur. The appropriate counter-factual is the effect of staying in Iraq, and it's difficult to see what this would fix other than the air pressure inside the Presidential bubble.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Nov 29, 06:59:00 PM:

Your opening sentences demonstrated that you completely lack understanding of the words 'theocracy,' 'empire,' and 'sociopath.' I stopped after that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 29, 09:03:00 PM:

Anonymous if Iraq was not of any consequence before the war, why was it so important for the NY Times only a few weeks ago to request the shut down of a website that has been publishing recovered Iraqi documents. Please read the top story of the NY Times Friday November 10th edition and explain how Iraq's development of a nuclear bomb in their estimation was only 12 - 18 months away in 2001? Talk about Cognitive Dissonance? The left lives in such a blissful world, where even in that article this little morsel of a fact was revealed on the second page of the article..? Whether it was hubris of the Iraqi's who were in the position to write the documents it did not matter because they had the "cookbook" (NY Times definition)for what it takes to develop a nuke. But I guess it probably would have been Bush's fault had he let them develop the bomb on his watch...?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 29, 10:30:00 PM:

Quaker you're delusional. One problem with the curveball-esque testimonial is that it lacks even the notion of evidence. Another is the dodgy dossier reminiscent time-frame on the nuke. Never mind Iraq had no fissile material except what was under IAEA lock and key, (until the invasion that is). No doubt that there eyrab was going to up an sh*t himself an atom bomb- after all, they had the plans. Thank you for the timely illustration of prior point regarding facts and rivers in Egypt.

Dawn, you'll also notice that I've misspelled theocracy. Keep up the good work.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 30, 01:23:00 PM:

Anonymous you are absolutely dead-on with your 20/20 retrospection. Now that we know the Iraqi's did not have the capability to build a nuke, but that only happens because we went into Iraq and tore the place up, to find just that tiny little detail called proof. Prior to that we were making guesses and we were banking on the IAEA and the UN for guidance. And since those same organizations did such a good job in the early 80's of determining how far Saddam was from developing a nuke it was probably a good bet to trust them again...? (not!)

Let's not forget that many a great man including your St. Bill Clinton at the time (circa 2002) thought that Saddam was dangerous and needed to be taken out. He of course, like the rest of the revisionist Left seems to forget both their stances and their votes for this war...



By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 30, 05:38:00 PM:

Holy hypnosis, they sure have done a thorough job on you Quaker. The Hussein regime's dearth of fissile material was for all intensive purposes known before we went and "tore the place up". It simply isn't easy to acquire this stuff without people taking notice- nobody had (hence the overtones of desperation in the phantom Niger transaction). Also known was the potential of our tearing it up to turn Iraq into a diabolical terrorist nirvana and dire threat to our peace and prosperity. Thanks to the Dear Leader, we can dispense with the probabilistic modifier of that statement now too.

Think about it- even the most blood thirsty of your brethren, e.g. Richard Perle, have come to recognize that invasion was totally unnecessary for dealing with whatever threat was Saddam. Now consider the extent to which organizations that sponsor/own the Republican party have and continue to profit from our self-inflicted gunshot wound to the scrotum. Allow that to linger for a second- perhaps osmosis will assert itself and liberate you from enclosed places such as these where such deranged arguments can fester.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Nov 30, 07:11:00 PM:

Repetition of impassioned rhetoric will not sway here. Why don't you try again later with facts and reason? Registering a name might help, too.

"It simply isn't easy to acquire this stuff without people taking notice"

Bull. The amounts of nuclear material that has gone missing from the states of the former USSR is relatively astronomical.

Like these.


Or these.


Al Qaeda has already obtained nuclear material and constructed a radiological bomb and sent it towards the continental US (but was intercepted and neutralized, courtesy of the CIA and US Navy) in 2001.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 01, 11:38:00 AM:

Well, I can't say I didn't ask for it.

Dawn, this represents the second time in as many posts that you've showcased your ignorance like so much bling. This time I'll do you the courtesy of pointing it out in an obvious way so that you won't miss it. Fissile and radioactive are not synonyms. In fact, not even all isotopes of uranium are fissile. So, thanks for the update on the state of aging Soviet era power plants, but my last post stands (not to mention the degree to which it is difficult to conceal enrichment activity).  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Dec 01, 09:58:00 PM:

I know the difference between radiological and fissile. I don't, apparently, know how to read carefully.

Your witty arrogance (and my mistake) does not make you right, however.

"The Hussein regime's dearth of fissile material was for all intensive purposes known before we went and "tore the place up". It simply isn't easy to acquire this stuff without people taking notice- nobody had"

Which is how Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, and, if you want to dig through some dusty history, Brazil and South Africa did it?

Your belief in the omnipotence of the world's security services is a charming counterpart to your belief in the evil, bloodthirty, self-aggrandizing conspiracy popularly known as the Republican Party. How naive.

Your smarmy attitude has irritated me enough to go up and painfully read your original post.

Wow. I mean, that's impressive. It's rare that I've seen so many assumptions and incorrect grandiose statements put together with mostly correct grammar. You must be quite proud, the way you bravely put forth how keeping troops in Iraq is the biggest liability since Nazi Germany, outstripping Korea, Cuba, the civil disorders of the 60s, the USSR, the oil embargo, the Contras and other counter-Communist brushfire wars, and Vietnam, and how it's the worst foreign policy disaster in our history. Did your world begin in 2000?

Or how everything that has happened in the last 4 years was entirely predictable (by you, no doubt), and thereby seeming to imply that anyone who didn't see this coming is a fool.

The 'terrorist paradise' phrase was a stroke of genius; does it mean a place where terrorists go to relax, sun bathe, and chat about jihad? Or is it a devestated wasteland where they can go to wreak the destruction their sick hearts crave? Or is it a hostile environment where even the people they claim to represent are killing them, and therefore ushering them into the paradise in the afterlife? The way that you can read the mind of the Iraqi Prime Minister is astounding as well. It's all so mysterious and impressive.

And please don't use the bodycount of our troops for grandstanding. We don't like it, and the record re-enlistment rates and enthusiasm for deploying would suggest that most of us wouldn't agree with your intent anyway. But who cares, right? The wishes and well being of the troops aren't important... they're just a propaganda tool to tug at the heart strings of the public.

Now what you've done is cherry-picked topics and delivered them in a lop-sided and unrealistically dramatic manner to make your ideas look strong, while quasi-subtly demonizing your ideological opposition. I'm sure that probably works in whatever forums you're used to. I can do that too.

Saddam was the largest and most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism ever, unless you count the Democrats' continued and consistent support of the PLO/PA throughout the years. He maintained hoards of chemical weapons and was testing sinister delivery methods for them right up to the invasion, with the collusion and possibly the help of the corrupt, anti-American UN bureacracy and foreign politicians through the Oil for Food program. He attempted to assassinate a US President and the Kuwaiti head of state. He personally ordered hundreds of attacks against our airmen conducting Operations Northern and Southern Watch (which, by the way, invalidated the cease fire which ended the Gulf War), something that President "Cigars" Clinton never really seemed to care too much about. (neither did he seem to care to do much about the '93 Trade Center bombing, or said assassination attempt, or pretty much anything else that would require a spine) He explored the idea of working against us with Al Qaeda, and the Czechs still swear that they did. He was actively seeking fissile material which, given the fact that the Iraqis had the 'blueprints' for atomic weapons, would have completely and dramatically altered the entire regional balance of power in the Middle East. And let's not forget the incredible cruelty with which he maintained his rule. Those Iraqi 'death squads' who like to use power tools to torture people learned it from somewhere.

But he wasn't a threat, and the invasion was a terrible crime. All those millions of people celebrating the fall of a bloody police state were just pawns. It's really all about corporate profits and feeding bloodlust, all the while deliberately misleading the poor, simple American people, so that the Dear Leader and his minions can get their kicks. You've figured it out, you fucking genius, and now we're going to have to have you killed. (which is of course how a Dear Leader deals with dissidents)

"So, aside from... has the right an argument, plan or leg to stand on?"

You're not here for legitimate questions and answers or reasonable discussion. Your smarmy, arrogant attitude demonstrates that. You're here to parade around your pre-determined conclusions and mock people who disagree to feed your ego and pretend like you're crusading against 'the Man' and his conspiracy.

I recommend a visit to Daily KOS. You might feel more at home there.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Dec 02, 04:13:00 PM:

Dawn, I'm impressed you were able to get that out without eating your keyboard. You should know it was not my intent to show you up, but a grace period can be only so gracious. Speaking of, the careless reading spin on your prior post is a pretty weak kneed exercise in face saving. Surely you were alluding to the ease with which Saddam could've built a bomb under our noses and surely you are aware given your professed understanding of such things that this requires fissile, not simply radioactive, material. As that goes, your list of nations with nuclear weapons or 'weapons-program-related-activities' is proof only of the right's fondness for meaningless sloganeering. It was in fact the success of India and Pakistan in obtaining and testing nuclear weapons, not to mention the discovery of Iraq's advanced nuclear weapons program after the first Gulf War that made the international community recognize the need to strengthen anti-proliferation safeguards. All I have echoed is the informed view that these make it exceedingly difficult to traffic in the kinds of materials needed to build a bomb without attracting attention.

Importantly, this is no news flash to people with a greater interest in facts than ideology. Had you the gumption to do a little of your own investigative work instead of taking what's been spoon-fed you out here in conservative la-la-land, you might be aware that not one agency- not the DIA or CIA, the IAEA, UN weapons inspectors, Mossad, MI6, nor any other foreign intelligence service- not one- took the view that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted a nuclear weapons program by 2003, cherry-picked Congress-requested NIA notwithstanding. The reason? Because they hadn't. And speaking of our intelligence community, one wonders if you are aware that the CIA's National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq has had this to say about the justification for invading Iraq:

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.

This one comes on top of the not intended for public consumption memorandum leak that revealed the 'facts' required to justify the policy of invasion were being 'fitted'. And you think my questioning the motives of the Dear Leader is naive? What's your explanation- altruism? I wonder if there a word exists for that breathtaking level of naivete. In any case, the fact that such shocking revelations are insufficient to straighten your antennae no longer surprises me. I wouldn't be surprised if gravity didn't work in this backward, cloistered place.

As regards the main of your rant, I'm not going to untangle it for you. Consider it homework. I will however in the spirit of charity point out for the second time in this thread that "keeping troops in Iraq" is not the problem (well, at least not the colossal part of the folly)- it was putting them there in the first place. As to where that folly fits in the short history of the United States, it's questionably debatable (a more interesting discussion would require a more ample solution set- the history of world civilization might due). I know of no other foreign policy initiative that so brazenly disregarded our own interests, so injuriously malappropriated our resources, or so maladroitly misunderstood its consequences. Vietnam was prosecuted poorly, but at least we had a reason to be there (not to mention significant involuntary entanglements). MacArthur screwed up something awful in Korea, but that was certainly less problematic than Vietnam. The Spanish American war was questionably justifiable, but hardly calamitous. Nothing else I can think of even begins to approach the scale of the blunder (which also according to the CIA has thus far increased the global terrorist threat- before we are forced to withdraw and leave a terrorist-breeding failed state in our wake).

In closing, one last fyi to the woefully underinformed. The troop casualties are a factual cost of this war. Don't think you have some proprietary claim to speak for hundreds of thousands of men in the military, or that citing these factual costs somehow qualifies as grandstanding. Rather, those that would attempt to declare certain facts off-limits by weight of their self-righteousness are the ones who ought to consider stepping of their perch.  

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