March 07, 2003

more exciting pre-possible-war verbiage. (in the form of notes to myself from which to some day Write Something of Actual Note. or maybe just make a few bux writing for a late-night comic. who knows)

questions I predict the media will be asking in three months:

Where is Hussein?
Where are the WMDs?
Where is the democracy?
How many died?
How much does this cost?
What's happening to the Kurds?
Why do we have to attack Iran and Syria, again, exactly?

On Bush's press conference:
Bush's message is he's basically putting the UN on the spot to veto or "fail to live up to their responsibilities"-- he's giving them a chance to get on board 'cos unless Hussein leaves the country and his generals immediately hand over the tons of material we insist they have, we're goin' in.

He repeated over and over Saddam is an imminent threat to the US, has ties to terrorism, and he must have brought up how Sept. 11 changed everything about 5 times. The British, having needed a second resolution, are now left holding the bag, since Bush won't withdraw it, so apparently the British Secretary's statement today that they would be amendable to changing its language is a desperate bid to show their public that they "really really tried" to compromise. Apparently they'd be willing to put in like a 3-day deadline or something, which is quite meaningless tactically and to allies who prefer diplomacy. It's all quite a mess.

Quite fascinating how dismissive Bush is of N. Korea. There's a country that IS GETTING nuclear weapons and he said "it's a regional problem." Instead, we're prepared to alienate the world and bankrupt the country for this idiot who can't account for his anthrax and mustard gas, but who doesn't even have a nukes program. He was also dismissive of the demonstrators, saying "as you recall, we had some demonstrations around free trade. There are always demonstrators. I took an oath to protect this country and that's what I have to do, and the American public understands that." It was very much pitched to god-and-country Americans and it used fear and anxiety.

What was most interesting to me was how everything he said about America's agenda and responsibility could be turned neatly on us. "A man who flouts international will, who will use evil weapons, who doesn't care about his own people or liberty. We are going to keep the world safe from these people." Sounds like he was calling for a revolution. Or maybe someone to disarm us before we kill again.

Diplomatic Insights from Me, who they should invite to the negotiations. I mean really, guys, get some bodywork, take a deep breath, take a full day of rest and get some perspective. When people talk about a "rush to war" and you guys say "He's had 12 years to disarm!" like rabid chipmunks, what they mean is this adrenalized, frenzied, number-one-most-evil-and-threatening-ever personification stuff, and the total lack of anything that shows imminent threat:

It doesn't at all help national security or safety to be seen as a power that won't abide by international law; that vetos anything not in its interest, but won't respect others' vetos (if that should happen). It makes us a target for so many kinds of anger.

The Bush administration seems so intent on vilifying Saddam they fail to see his rule as systemic. There will be other Saddams, and we need excellent international precendent and policy for keeping weapons of mass destruction from zealots who'll use them, whether state leaders (of whatever legitimacy) or rebels or terrorists, as well as for human rights advocacy. This policy we're pursuing will lead to more proliferation, not less. Because cooperation with inspectors or resolutions will be seen as pointless; the US will attack if it wants anyway.

Our allies understand what's at stake here. If there is no international body of negotiation and restraint (except as a rubberstamping or empty paper-producing council), we are in a world of individual nations policing their enemies' weapons, preemptively declaring threats, preemting the preemptions, an infinite regress. This is complicated by the historical fact, as we've all seen, that today's friends are tomorrow's enemies. Selling arms to people and then taking them away when the ruler is no longer amenable to American control is an unsustainable foreign policy.

The world has such destructive technology and materials, so many unaccounted for, and so many political and monetary opportunists who will trade and sell secrets and materials, that there will be many other Saddams. What we do now has profound implications for how the world can deal with the monsters it has unleashed. I'm afraid our policy will just create more monsters. It's like cutting off the head of the hydra.

The US could have parlayed international empathy and cooperation in the wake of 9/11 into a truly effective, cooperative diplomatic, military, and intelligence effort. On that model, we could now have a fully international group of military personnel lending muscle to inspections on a clear timetable with clear objectives, and that international force would have acted in concert when and if inspections failed as defined by their requirements.

Instead, we have the UN signing off on a disarmament resolution merely to give a nod to our then-unstated goal of remaking the Middle East. They've been bait-and-switched and are now being told they'd better go along with the switch if not to become irrelevent. And we've put the inspectors in a position of being complicitous in a plan to de-fang our chosen enemy before invading it. The added elements of extremely high-pressure diplomacy tactics involving economic blackmail and bribes, as well as political promises (as well as spying on our allies to exploit their doubts and fissures) make our diplomacy very costly both in real and symbolic terms.

good Slate article on diplomacy

random thoughts:

Enforcing disarmament with massive ordnance seems bizarre. Doesn't it just show it's better to have weapons?

Watch for N. Korea to liberate the U.S. from an outlaw regime

Taking immense comfort from the Pope's absolute stance that preventive war is "stupid" and this is wrong and dangerous. Apparently he hasn't felt so strongly since Solidarity. go Pope! pray for peace, envision peace, use your power for peace.

re: Turkey. we'll just use their bases anyway. what're they gonna do, have a war with us?

our problems: overkill, crying wolf, courting disaster, reducing resources and effectiveness for real threats, and if S has wmd, wouldn't he give them to terrorists or use them NOW? overestimating our enemy. creating our enemy. spooking at shadows. tripping over ourselves, truncating rights, throwing lives and money in all directions.What if this guy just wants to stay in power at home, like lots of communist nations did?

Fox's new reality show: "American Warplan." YOU vote on policy. should we kill this guy? bomb this house? vote now!

Winning is not winning. winning in the administration's terms is still a huge loss for our society, karmically, there will be an effect.

Anyone feel like we're in the movie "Mars Attacks"? The Martians keep saying "We come in peace" before they blow everyone to kingdom come. The earthlings are perplexed; we seem to have a failure to communicate.

I never thought "inspections work; war doesn't" was a good slogan; cos it was never about disarmament.

I'm also upset about the abdication of Congress form its duty to represent the people and claim its right to declare war. They got the first bill through on that same post-9/11 fervor that swept the Patriot Act through. In fact, I believe the Bush administration was strongly hinting to Congress that they had intelligence that Iraq was involved in 9/11. That would have made it the sort of reprisal attack we had in Afghanistan. Absent the proof, however, they went the U.N. route, looking to put teeth in old resolutions and thus get a nod for war. It's turned into quite a quagmire for Bush, and, as I watch the rhetoric change day to day, I feel pleased that the questions Congress should have asked are now being asked by the U.N. Nonetheless, I simply don't understand how a president who was only technically elected can act as though he has this unanimous mandate.

We start an easy war against a weakened enemy. eviscerate them using the UN, then punish them preeemptively via the same. We thereby rid the world of this proclaimed great evil, liberate people, and, by the way, get a toehold in the Middle East and access to huge oil reserves. We leave aside scarier, murkier moral conundrums like N Korea and Pakistan and Iran. The president gets his domestic agenda passed, takes the wind out of the sales of Dem candidates, and declares us safer, tying it (racially, at least) to the war on terror, which is clueless, disorganized, bureaucratically bogged, and most Americans have no more clue now than before 9/11/ what actually to do in various cases.

what Bush is doing to the U.N. it's being turned into a war rubberstamper after we strongarm sanctions and then press them more than so many other violators or threats. we turn it into for us or against us tribunal, make our agenda its. even if they get a majority, that doens' tmean it was ever or is "world will" or "world priority" it means we politicked 'em. saying everyone has to sign on to give the UN teeth, and show S we mean business, creates a political consensus when the real unified will is absent.

3/2 (before it seemed we might withdraw the resolution)

I'm thinking now that there may be only one thing that prevents this war. We've already basically started it, bombing more frequently, dropping "Surrender, Dorothy!" leaflets, and calling top Iraq military personnel on their private cell phones to tell them we know where they are and they'd better come quietly.

I think we may well get the 9 votes needed in the Security Council. But..what if ALL of the other permanent members abstained? In other words, we get a "coalition" of the powerless, broke, and bribed. Countries who won't be able to contribute materially to a war, nor with whom we'd want to be obligated to share the spoils. All the important allies, the ones with money, with whom we trade, whose expertise and capital we need, would abstain. Germany, China, Russia, and France, by all abstaining, would send a powerful message without just one of them bearing the brunt of U.S. vilification and reprisals, as would happen with a veto. The veto is not likely to stop a war, merely create a huge diplomatic rift. But if the U.S. chooses to go to war with only allies whom we'll now owe billions of bux and political favors, and the first world nations make clear their united disapproval of our actions, it may well spell political disaster for Blair and Bush.

So I will not feel it more legitimate if the UN signs on. Nor if we "win" easily. I'll consider it very very dangerous.

precedent for deposing/killing sitting leaders? for "regime change" from outside? what does the Constitution say about just wars? (it says Congress should frigging step up to the plate and represent, y'all).

Idea of a responsible consumer guide. It's no longer about buying eco-detergent, recycling paper, unbleached tp and boycotting Coors. it takes research. Who owns what, where are the sweatshops, who pays the lobbyists? Stop sending 50 bux to the Wildlife Federation while buying products from companies who are destoying habitats.

idea that only power of the people is economic. voting w/ your purchases. every dish liquid bottle is a vote for parent company sweatshops, lobbyists, and pollution. that Marx was right. capitalism is the new government. forget the diplomats, we need new markets, new labor, new resources, and we're gonna democratize the world so the people can be free to buy CDs and plastic novelty items.

libertarians tilt at old windmills. it's not your government who's limiting your freedoms, invading your privacy, it's Time-warner-AOL. Or hadn't you noticed? go in and make the world safe for multinationals.

new world order is lumbering nation-states combatting guerilla warfare against multinational globalization.

new rhetoric: the dangers of inaction. anyone who says that Iraq can't sustain a democracy is racist. (priceless). war for peace.

new world order isn't "special interests" getting the ear of legislators, but multinationals installing them and telling them what to do.

notes for a musical about this period of time:

We know what's good for the Turks
those intransigient jerks
We know what's good for France and the Palestinians, too
And we know what's good for you

Signs that your country is slouching toward Armaggedon:

You get spam headed "Prepare for war." Inside it says "Let our lovely ladies kiss your ass goodbye."

Your president gives a speech explaining why war is good and how all the Palestinian children will run free, and you realize he ripped the whole thing off from last year's Miss America runner-up.

Conservatives keep saying, when asked about protests, "I fully support their exercising their right to free speech; we would like to afford the same opportunity to the oppressed Iraqis," and it sounds like the protesters are out there doing leg lifts for freedom and soon the Iraqis can join in.

The justifications for war start to sound like the justifications for tax cuts or drilling in Alaska: they're an all-purpose cure-all, good for what ails the country.

You walk down a mild winter evening sidewalk, run into some old friends, have some Indian food. And it feels as though there are parallel universes. The one where you follow every motion in this tragedy, and the real world, where none of it has to happen at all, where it's all some sort of manufactured bogeyman nightmare. And you realize that, thousands of miles away, people just like you are feeling the same duality. And that destruction will rain on them. And you can't seem to stop it. But it hasn't happened yet, and right now they're alive, not really believing it has come to this, either.