Well, things have slowly returned to normal after dispatching our Israeli guests back to the land of milk and honey-in order to allow them to celebrate Pesach.
You know it as Passover.
And Holy Week.
Nonetheless it was a productive week if at the same time a very frustrating one. Israelis can be very difficult especially when you have to tell them no-several times.
Like spoiled children, however, you still have to love them-even if you don't always like them.
We got a lot done-and now I am in the middle of "meeting cleanup"-producing notes, sending out PPT's and wishing I was on a plane to Israel. ( Or anywhere else for that matter). Damn you sequester!
While I was out, Britain passed a new press law. This, in reaction to the clear cut crossing of the line that the Rupert Murdoch controlled print media accomplished through the phone hacking scandal. One of the most interesting phenomena was the complete over-reaction to the news by uber conservatives and their designated
propaganda outlets.Particularly telling was the depth of the over reaction by those who are the worst offenders when it comes to media responsibility and their supporters in the blogosphere. To say that kind of reaction is overwrought, is slightly something of an understatement..
For starters, there are limits beyond which a responsible media should not go. The principle enforcers of that are supposed to be libel laws that demand irresponsible media players ( such as Murdoch and his clone Fox News) pay a pecuniary price for their irresponsibility. That is what Britain is trying to accomplish- with a media that is far less constrained than American media ( although the Americans are doing their best to be just like their British counterparts). The paranoid amongst us-decided to maintain that it was threat to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. In reality neither was the case -and British media coverage ( which I get through my satellite coverage) was much less hysterical. When it was pointed out that there was a large number of folks in the UK who had decided that enough was enough-and that it was time to put a halt to London's being the libel capitol of the world-the responses in general represented the basic level of American stupidity. The "Oh yea! What about MSNBC?" line of thinking gets really tiresome and old. And validates for me, again, the basic stupidity of a large segment of the US population.
For one thing-it ignores the fundamental illogic of Phibians argument. When someone tries to defend the British government and point out that something, somewhere has to be done about the increasing inability of the news media to police themselves-the contrarian arguments come out. "What about Dan Rather?" " What about Andrea Mitchell?" "MSNBC is liberal"…and so on and so forth. "Its impinging on free speech". They completely miss the point. Which is, that they are in effect arguing in favor of those shameful media practices-for the sole purpose of avoiding detailed scrutiny of equally egregious conduct by their darlings: Fox News and the right wing blogosphere. That's crazy.
There is no impingement of free speech. There is a recognition however, when you just tell out right lies, or publish recklessly-there is a price to be paid. I have been following most of the British coverage of the debate leading up to this law-and the previous 18 months that led up to it. The simple truth is that the Murdoch organizations crossed a line-going into an area they had no business going into, and ruined a lot of good people in the process. There is a difference between printing a dissenting opinion, and publishing an blatant lie with malice aforethought. All they are trying to do is put teeth into their libel laws-something that used to be present in the United States. If we enforced our libel laws it would put slime like Hinderaker and Malkin out of business. Besides, it may not survive a court challenge in the UK, something that "fair and balanced" news outlets in the US neglected to report.
It is always interesting the things our Galtian overlords get bent out of shape about. They are perfectly OK with strangling rights to live one's life in peace, have access to decent health care, the right to have sex as much as they want-and not be told what to do with their own bodies vis a vis reproduction. But take away the non existent right of the Breitbart children or Michelle Malkin or Hindrocket to lie with impunity? That gets their panties in a bunch.
And finally I think its important to recognize the anniversary that occurred this week, the 10 th anniversary of the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in the last 40 years. No Phib, on this issue you are completely wrong again. You can cling to your flawed beliefs and be a surgeaholic-but the war was not worth it, it created more problems for the United States than it solved and most importantly-needlessly sacrificed thousands of American lives.
Lets turn it over to some more objective observers shall we?
This, obviously, was all a fever dream. There were no biological or nuclear weapons; there may have been a few rusty chemical shells lying around, just as there had been for decades. Iraq was not an important sponsor of Islamicist terrorism. Islamicist terrorism was fueled not by fascist dictatorships such as Iraq, but by non-state actors in failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia; and our invasion of Iraq promptly turned it into precisely the sort of failed-state sectarian war zone that does fuel terrorism. Thousands of American soldiers died in a war in Iraq that only exacerbated the danger of anti-American terrorism. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers died as well, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died in the resulting civil war, most killed by the Iraqi militias who emerged in the power vacuum the US invasion created, but many killed by US armed forces themselves. In the name of pre-empting a non-existent threat, America killed tens of thousands of people and turned Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorism. And we spent a trillion dollars to do it.
How did America's policymaking community ever commit itself to such a catastrophic delusion? I don't truly understand it now, and I didn't understand it then. ( SS note-emphasis added). I found the developing consensus for an unprovoked attack on Iraq in late 2002 absurd. But I had an advantage: I wasn't living in America at the time. Viewed from the defamiliarising distance of West Africa, the American polity's effort to talk itself into invading a country that hadn't attacked it was baffling and disturbing. That reaction was widely shared in the country where I was living among locals and expats, Americans included.
My opposition to the war began the day I was shown plans for the deployment of five carriers to the Gulf in 2002. Among many others we asked two specific questions: "Why do we need 5 CV's especially since it will force you to keep 2 of them on cruise for over 9 months?" ( The Lincoln was kept on Cruise for 11 months-all to ensure the F-18 E's and F's she carried did not miss the conflict). That was an irresponsible decision then-and I remain so convinced today. And the second question was, "Why now?" Why not finish one war before starting a second one?" That too, is still a pertinent question to ask.
Being still in the Navy at the time-I got a first hand view of the cascading effects of that one mistake over and over again. I have written about my disdain for the war, and the American military's pursuit of it a lot since I started this blog in 2005. It was NOT "the right war, fought imperfectly through three of four phases. No one can see alternative presents, but my bet is that both we and Iraq are better because of it. ". No-it was a colossal mistake, a huge waste of time , resources and lives and it was built on a foundation of lies and deception.. To paraphrase Herman Wouk, victory only has meaning in its effects on the politics that occur after the war-and more importantly should be waged with an eye towards what is solely in the national interest. US interests-not those of Arabs living in Iraq.
There is a new book out, by Toby Dodge called "Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism".
Iraq was Chinatown, an unknowable entity where it was unwise to linger. As a result, contemporary Iraq, a very different creation from what America’s occupation had intended, has been poorly chronicled. The best recent books in English have been military histories, aimed at showing how America’s generals performed. Few have explained what happened to Iraq itself.
Toby Dodge, who teaches at the London School of Economics, does much to fill that gap in his new book, published under the auspices of the nearby International Institute for Strategic Studies. It is a short academic work and makes no effort to present the human side of a generally bleak picture. But Mr Dodge is clear, concise and unsparing about the country’s ongoing agony. For anyone who wants to know how Iraq arrived at its current state, and wonders what might happen next, this is an excellent place to begin.
Mr. Dodge helps set to rest this myth that neo-conservatives continue to believe that we "won the war"-and all it took was new leadership. The facts simply do not support that assertion-and the surge in both foresight and hindsight was as much of a mistake as starting the war was. By its own benchmarks the surge failed-because whatever time it bought the Iraqis to solve its political differences, the Iraqis simply screwed away.
When people say it was worth it, they have to force themselves to dance around some annoying facts. There will of course, be some inconvenient truths that will need to be danced around:
Annoying fact #1: The Iraqi government is still worthless.
Annoying fact #2: Violence in all of Iraq is not reduced as it is supposed to be.
What is clear to any objective observer is that the only winners were the Chinese and the Iranians. By any objective standard-from the standpoint of advancing US interests in the world-Iraq was a complete and total failure.
Just about all of the current economic troubles-particularly the size of the deficit can be laid at the feet of the war. The inability of the US to influence events in other lands-e.g., get Europeans to pay more for their own defense-due to the war. The rise of the Chinese in Africa-due to the war. Higher energy prices-due to the war.
It was all a colossal waste.