Trenchant Lemmings
Pointed missives thrown blindly into the void, there to pass unnoticed and unloved.
Taking a leaf out of the book of Richard Herring, I've started blogging again as an exercise in improving my written English, this time with a less counter-intuitive URL. As I'm also trying to wean myself off political commentary, on the very sensible ground that I suck at it, don't come looking for topical material unless you're ready to click through to the best of snark as listed in my huuuuge blogroll.

The new stuff's here.

As I write this, there's not much to see yet, but hopefully...

Pynchon on Orwell

Just a brief note, for those of you still bothering to drop by, drawing your attention to this extract [Update 30-06-03: That link is dead, try here], published in the Grauniad, from Thomas Pynchon's introduction to a new edition of 1984. An excellent piece, sez I. Those interested in Orwell (or prefaces) might wish also to stroll by this page from my li'l ol' pre-blog website, if you haven't already. (Mirror here if the other one is down.)


What with having no home PC at present - and the unexpected discovery that I have a work ethic, albeit feeble - posts here will be noticeably thin in the short- to medium-term future, if not absent entirely. Such a hiatus will allow me the opportunity to consider if I can be bothered continuing with this vicarious (now there's a euphemism) endeavour. Which doesn't mean I'm starting to think this blog is, in its triviality, unworthy of my time: complaining that a weblog is trivial is like saying someone's stamp collection lacks geopolitical depth. But I have neither the time nor the surfing skills to construct the link-resplendent posts that mark the best webloggers - nor for that matter, the burning desire to be a human ricochet - and, more to the point, if people wanted to read unreasonable, poorly researched rants largely devoted to bitching about the opinions of others, there are any number of professional pundits that can fill that need. And so I retire, more or less, from the voluntary panopticon. Pax vobiscum.

Which probably means I'll be posting tomorrow.

The Pledge

I had toyed with the idea of composing a pledge that US leaders and their hangers-on can take now that they've apparently sworn off supporting dictators. Perhaps a twelve step program for the more weak-willed recidivists. However, Fox pundit Col. David Hackworth seems to express my views adequately, while giving a detailed rundown on how "we" got into this mess in the first place, thereby saving me the trouble. Hackworth's no peacenik, as his presence amongst the demented lib'ral-hatin' hacks of the World Net Daily site attests, but I found this via Tom Tomorrow who found it via Cursor, which makes you wonder if Hackworth is playing for the right team.

Update: Of course, if denying past US support for military coups is State Department policy, Hackworth may be hoping in vain for change from America's thug-supporting habits.


Just in case you were worried about Syria:
The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon...
Not a surprise to me, I gotta say. I doubt even Rummy is so deranged as to think Americans will cheer for perpetual war. Of course, they might try it on after Bush is re-elected, which means, of course, never.

Wha? You're not implying Bush might lose, are you, Rob? Why, he just won a war! That's gotta make him a shoe-in. Why, his Dad won a war, and he was - oh, wait, now I see.

Nothing of Interest Here

First, an epigram:
At the same time, I learnt that you always lose. Only the bastards think they win.
Jean-Paul Sartre*
"Yeah but what would that commo surrender-monkey know about it?"

Trawling through various newspapers' letters pages on Friday, I couldn't help noticing that only a few of the pro-war writers could celebrate the fall of Saddam without turning such into a gloating attack on the anti-war movement. This approach to jubilation gives the impression that the liberation itself occurs some way down the list of what these people are actually celebrating. Let's hope that's a false impression. The opportunities pro-war commentators are taking to settle ideological scores entirely unconnected to the situation in Iraq contrasts neatly with their scorn for anyone on the anti-war side who devotes even a skerrick of attention to anything other than triumphant proclamations of Iraqi liberation.

I'm not complaining though. I've been taught a salutary lesson about assessing the potential costs of war - a lesson that will save me a lot of time spent needlessly reading and thinking for myself. The next time we decide to liberate someone, I'll know to ignore the assessments of humanitarian agencies, military experts, veteran war reporters, public officials and intelligence agencies, and open myself, innocent and accepting, to the soothing words of those who know best, and hope that they're right. Because there's no reason to believe they won't ever, ever be wrong, regardless of how many, many opportunities they pursue to be so.

Here's Peter Preston in the Observer talking about the "I told you so" position in the UK.

I notice in passing that on Friday (3:26 PM post) Tim Blair was still trying to nail Media Watch for Insect Metaphor Hypocrisy. Let it go, Tim.

If you're into conspiracy theories (and old news), this is a beauty.
Saddam Hussein's secret archives could already be in Moscow despite American Central Intelligence Agency's bid to block their evacuation by firing at the Russian diplomatic convoy near Baghdad on Sunday...
From the Times of India, found via William Gibson's collection of web bric-a-brac (scroll down).

* I hasten to point out that I discovered that in a book of quotes while looking for something else, not wanting to give an impression of well-read intellectualism.
† Those of you who have anything of value to do should probably skip this. As for the rest of us, let's find our pin head, line up those angels and watch 'em dance.
Mr Blair notes that Paul McGeough used the term "locusts" to describe the actions of looters in Baghdad and expects therefore that David Marr will serve Mr McGeough up with the same benign scolding MW gave Miranda Devine for her description of non-Iraqi volunteers as "cockroaches". Well, let's see -
A cockroach is generally understood as the verminous insect infesting domestic living areas. As a metaphor, it is a general pejorative, or a more specific pejorative enfolding the concepts of "unhygienic things" and "unpleasant things hidden or about to hidden from view". It is always an insult, and has no other metaphorical usage with the possible exception of "things capable of surviving a nuclear war".
A locust is a type of grasshopper, best known for migrating in voracious swarms. As a metaphor, the term is used to refer to the kind of fast and/or massive resource stripping associated with the swarm. It can be pejorative: "They're like locusts. They're moving from planet to planet...their whole civilization. After they've consumed every natural resource they move on...and we're next." Or not: "Those children went through that table of cupcakes like a swarm of locusts!"
So, kids, here's your starter for ten: you're a deadline-pressed foreign correspondent looking for a pithy figure of speech that clearly conveys the speed and completeness with which a group of people have stripped a building of everything in it. What word do you choose? Careful now, you'll lose marks for mentioning arthropods!
A-a-nd we're done.

Saudis and Syrians Say: "Let the People Speak!"

I wasn't going to post again for a while but this was too good to leave alone.

From AFP via the SMH:
Arab heavyweights Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria in unison called for allowing the Iraqi people chose its government as quickly as possible.
What, no endorsement from the Ultra-Democrats in Kuwait?

Tom Lehrer was right. Satire is dead.

Mmmmm, It's Good to Be Wrong

As we all know, Iraqi civilians took to the streets yesterday and gosh darn it was great to see 'em. I'll go out on a three-millimetre long limb here and say that Hussein's regime has indeed collapsed and won't be troubling anybody any longer. This watershed this early in the Baghdad end-game means those of us who believed there would be a bloody and protracted finale to this bullshit war were wrong. Not wrong to fear it; but dead wrong to expect it. I don't know how other pessimists feel about this failure of prediction, but I was simpering with glee as I watched BBC footage of Saddam city residents ripping off Ba'ath Party office supplies and pelting Saddam's visage with shoes. When you fear the worst, it's good to be wrong. Pro-war visitors are now encouraged to view my post of 19 March and hoot with derision. Hoot away, it's music to my ears.

I do realise that even our leaders are sounding the obligatory note of caution. There is still some fighting to do - not all of it "mopping up". I guess those tossers at FoxNews will be disappointed they never got to see the MOAB used - maybe the Air Force will drop it on Tikrit for them. That said, I've been worried to bits for four weeks now and I'm bored with it. Let's just watch people dance on bad art and hope everything's plain sailing right up until the moment Dubya tries to install some pampered quisling in Saddam's place.

Those of us peaceniks who never bought the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" casus belli du jour are now better placed than our pro-war colleagues in embracing such optimism. Intelligence experts have been covering themselves by suggesting the possibility of dire surprises to come, but I don't see much chance of same. If Saddam had the WMD option, he's left it very late to use. I think we all know what the reason for that is, and it's not because he's a big fan of The Wrath of Khan. Perhaps he's a chronic hoarder. In any case, I'd rather believe the best, than hedge my bets in hope of the paltry consolation prize of being right when something godawful comes down.

Now the Iraqi people have - pretty much - risen en masse, we can welcome not only the end of Saddam but also the end of the worst of the bombing campaign. It's probably a toss-up as to which the Iraqis are happier to see the back of - yes, fair enough, I can't say I've seen footage of anyone beating the crap out of a Raytheon logo. Perhaps they should send over a few catalogues to give the revelers that opportunity, y'know, in the interest of balance.

Of course, if the Iraqis stay in the streets proclaiming their liberation, it's going to be that much harder to take it away from them again. Then again, if they stay pro-US, perhaps nobody will try. They certainly seem keen to emulate the American way, if yesterday's widespread looting is anything to go by. (Nyuk, nyuk.) And let's have none of this racist cant about the Iraqi people not being ready for democracy. Everyone is ready for democracy - it's not touch-typing, no training is required. Even if you don't hold with that overarching political philosophy, you can be sure that anyone who thinks the problems the Iraqis face in rebuilding civil society are going to be diminished by leaving the government in the hands of some US selected proconsul hasn't been paying attention. A political structure designed to lessen local resentment will be the better option, I would suggest.

So, we'll see. The BBC commentator describing the crowd scenes - no, I didn't catch his name, I was too busy chortling - did briefly mention that some Iraqis had explained they didn't want the Americans there, as much as they were happy to see Saddam go. Must have been historians. That's not ingratitude, by the way, I think you'll find it's called freedom. If that word means anything, it means at least the right to tell your liberators to bugger off once they've worn out their welcome. Well, perhaps not "bugger off". That would be rude.

Probably I don't mean there's definitely a free and democratic Iraq coming around the corner. Almost certainly I mean there'd bloody better be a free and democratic Iraq coming around the corner. I know why I opposed this war and I stand by it: I'm a bleeding heart worry-wart who gets pissed off watching people being bombed. Oh, yeah, and there was that whole "international law" thing. And hopefully, my merry band of doves will now buckle down to the campaign of keeping the liberators honest. Freedom and democracy, and using Iraqi oil revenues to rebuild Iraq, were the offers on the table, if memory serves. Those who supported the war might like to consider what they'll be doing to ensure things turn out the way they were presented in the brochure. Like I say, I know what I am; but if our warbuff brethren, having got their rolling victory, now lose interest in the fate of Iraq's people and retire to their buttgroove in front of Fox, there to wait numbly for the next episode of "America Kicks Ass!" - well, I don't think the dictionary has a word for what they are. As for the architects of Operation Iraqi Freedom themselves, if they don't come good on their promises, may they spend eternity speared daily on the Dark Lord's hard, scaly and behorned todger.

Good Lord, what a long and windy post, I think I might take a week off. I was going to rip into Imre Saluszinksy today but under the circumstances it didn't seem that important. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.


Good Old Rummy

"Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, [Vladimir] Lenin and [Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed, brutal dictators," Rumsfeld declared.
He might be light-headed but, as far as the Stalin reference goes, it never struck me that keeping an iron grip on power right up until you die of natural causes amounts to much of a failure, at least on the standards brutal dictators usually apply to themselves. Unless he means in comparison to those immortal dictators we knew and loved in the past. And present, and future, I suppose.

Don't you love the way AFP assumes we don't know who Ceaucescu and Lenin are? I assume the "Vladimir" is for the benefit of the people now exclaiming "Oh, that Lenin!"

And here's another example of our prominence on the world stage. Yeah, I know, you read that two hours ago.

Oh, and I sent this to the Tele yesterday, but they didn't have room for it what with all the people praising Greenpeace's recent PR coup.
I notice a lot of your letter writers have been suggesting that recent reports of atrocities in Iraq "prove" the anti-war movement was wrong. Let's skip the fact that the main atrocity claim - hundreds of bones of torture victims - turned out to be false. After all, no-one is now or has ever denied that Saddam is/was a brutal dictator. It beggars belief that pro-war types think peace protestors were unaware of the savage nature of his regime. What shall be their next revelation: the 2002 election in which Saddam got 99.96% of the vote was rigged?

The fact of the matter is that Saddam's brutality has never been a revelation to the "peaceniks" and "bleeding hearts". They always knew, even during the 1980s when Saddam and the US were as cozy as lice. It's the pro-US crowd, including those spruiking for this war, that changed their minds about Saddam. Hours after he invaded Kuwait in 1990, threatening US interests, it came to them in a blinding flash: this so-called friend is an evil dictator. So don't waste your time lecturing those whose opposition to oppression and violence has been consistent, rather than convenient.
You'll notice I refer to those who have been consistently anti-Saddam as "they". This is because, as for most who passed through the Eighties in an intoxicant-addled haze, the events of that decade are a bit of a blur to me, so in the unlikely event I was straight enough to denounce Halabja and other such atrocities at the time, I can't say I recall doing so.

Never Mind the Details

Let's compare and contrast some reports of yesterday's assassination attempt of Hussein. First, from Paul McGeough of The Age and the SMH, from Baghdad:
Four or five houses have disappeared and in their place is a crater maybe 30-40 metres wide and 15-20 metres deep.

Some of the photographers use a chilling term they picked up from the US military in Afghanistan to describe what might have happened to a dozen or more people thought to have died in this missile attack. They have become "pink mist".

The smouldering crater is littered with the artefacts of ordinary middle-class life in Baghdad - a crunched Passat sedan, a wrought-iron front gate, the armrest of a chair upholstered in green brocade and a broken bedhead.

The top floors of surrounding buildings are sheared off. Mud thrown by the force of the blast cakes what is left of them, and the nearby date palms are decapitated. Bulldozers and rescue crews work frantically, peeling back the rubble in the hope of finding survivors.

Neighbours and relatives of the home-owners weep openly in the street, some embracing to ease the pain and all of them wondering why such a powerful missile was dumped on them after the US has stated its heavy bombing campaign is over.

But this is an opportunistic strike. Four bunker-busters - 2000-pound JDAM bombs - are dropped on the house in which the US "believes" Saddam, his sons and other top officials "might" have been meeting.

Anonymous US officials are quoted saying that on Monday they had received intelligence of a high-level meeting in Mansour of Iraqi intelligence officials and, "possibly", Saddam and his two sons, Qusay and Uday.

But that cuts no ice with the neighbours. The nearest house has stood for 43 years but now it is on the verge of collapse and the adult children of the blood-splattered engineer Fadel al-Imam, aged 75, are working to convince him he must leave.

With his back to the door of his wrecked library, where floor-to-ceiling shelves bulge with a lifetime's collection of engineering texts and there is a shattered photo of his policeman father in the service of the last Western occupiers of Iraq, the British, he says: "I reserve the right not to obey any government.

"This will create more enemies for the Americans. Even those who were feeling good about the arrival of the Americans will want to fight now."
There's also this.

Next, Murdoch broadsheet The Australian:
Monday's swoop on Hussein and his cronies, with four 900kg "bunker-buster" bombs delivered by a US B1 bomber, was believed to be based on information that the regime's leadership was deliberately meeting in a residential area to avoid being targeted.

The Washington Times reported that the meeting was under the al-Saa restaurant block in the Mansur district, in the city's inner west, between 2pm and 3pm local time on Monday.

The operation's success was unclear. While the building was destroyed, and US officials were optimistic, they were not certain whether the Iraqi leader was present.

The Washington Times reported that the site was used by the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the Mukhabarat, and was in the same neighbourhood in which Hussein made a filmed street walk on Friday, greeting supporters.

Pictures yesterday showed a massive crater in Mansur, where a building apparently had stood.
And lastly, The Daily Telegraph:
AMERICAN generals were last night hoping they had killed Saddam Hussein and his sons by dropping four giant bombs on a Baghdad restaurant.

The 900kg satellite-guided JDAM bombs reduced the building, in up-market Mansur, to a cavern of rubble.

"Whoever was in there is dead," one US official last night said.

The raid was launched after military chiefs received "extremely reliable information" that Saddam and sons Qusay and Uday were meeting senior party and intelligence officials beneath the al Saa restaurant block on Monday afternoon, Baghdad time.

US intelligence identified the neighbourhood from the film footage and the tip-off came from an informant in Baghdad.

The restaurant was in the neighbourhood where Saddam, or a lookalike, was filmed on the weekend walking and greeting people.

Sources said: "We are certain he [Saddam] went in and we did not see him leave. There's a strong chance we got Saddam and both sons."

Forensic experts will be sent to the scene as soon as it is secured to determine if Saddam was killed. They will use the same technology that helped identify victims of the World Trade Centre attack.

Sources said they believed those at the meeting were discussing how to flee the city.

It is understood up to 30 military chiefs, intelligence officials and party leaders had joined Saddam and his sons at the meeting.

Witnesses said two houses were flattened and four others badly damaged in the raid. Nine Iraqis were killed and four wounded.
Full marks to the Tele for bothering to mention how many were killed.

Tim Flannery: Tree-huggin' Whale-hater

This is interesting. Stephen Romei belatedly brings to my attention that Tim Flannery, author of The Future Eaters, will be the latest contributor to Quarterly Essay and his piece, Beautiful Lies, while painting a grim picture of future environmental problems, contra Lomberg, will also say, in passing, that there's not much point in saving whales. See what you miss when you're focussed on some useless bloody war? You miss useless bloody trivia like this.

Well, It Looked Like a Baby On a Bayonet to Us

So much for the main atrocity story in yesterday's Tele:
More than 400 sets of human remains discovered in a barracks outside of Basra are of soldiers killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the leader of a U.S. military team that examined them said Sunday.

Forensics experts sent to southern Iraq to analyze the makeshift coffins and plastic bags in which the human body parts were found said all the injuries appeared consistent with combat, contrary to initial reports from an Iranian news agency some showed signs of torture.
From CNN - more.
But in just a few hours, Chief Warrant Officer Dan Walters, the leader of the task force's Criminal Investigation Division unit, said a preliminary examination of the remains and some of the thousands of pages of documents that were abandoned in a building next to the warehouse suggested that atrocities had probably not occurred here. Rather, he said, Iraqis had apparently been processing the remains and preparing to exchange them with Iran.
From the New York Times - more.

In case you missed the Tele's original report, check out the room for doubt here:
Something terrible happened here. Something murderous. Something evil.

The proof lies in a cargo container nearby. Its metal door hangs open and inside are pages and pages of files.
The Murdoch mouthpieces will probably claim that they did include quotes from a spokesman that "We can't speculate on what this is until an investigation." Of course, the very next paragraph states:
But one officer, speaking privately and looking on in shock was more blunt. "Just look at those photos. Look at this place. People were being tortured and executed here," he said.
The real foolishness here is that Hussein is demonstrably a vicious thug, and the head of a vicious thug regime; and other reports of torture and mistreatment, particularly to force loyalty to the regime during this invasion, could be very relevant to understanding how quickly this war is going to end, and how the post-invasion reconstruction should go. But what credibility can we give claims that issued from a source as unreliable as these craven Murdoch whores? What use are they as a news source?

Update: I got those two links from an SMH article by Margot Kingston, not my favourite source. Intellectual giant Tim Blair takes Ms Kingston to task for referring to the Telegraph story as a "scoop" invented by Newscorp - which given it was featured on all the television media over last weekend, it wasn't. Sadly, this isn't the first occasion Ms Kingston has lobbed Mr Blair a slow, high one through her sloppy use of the English language. That said, it was nice of Mr Blair to provide links to earlier reporting of the story from the Independent and the BBC to allow us to compare the cautious balanced journalism of these news outlets with the yenta-fest the Tele ran from the Observer. (And, before you ask, I don't believe those effete small-l liberal wankers at the Observer would know any better.) So Murdoch's myrmidons didn't write this trash themselves, they just borrowed the most inflammatory op-ed they could find and ran it on page one - I stand corrected. (Mr Blair's permalinks don't seem to be working so if you want to read his piece try April 8 2003 at 2:42AM. His 1:10PM post is also a hoot. In the Media Watch episode I mentioned below, David Marr complained about Miranda Devine's use of the word "cockroach" to describe people we were about to bomb. Timmy trumps him with a quote from previous Media Watch host Richard Ackland describing people who were about to face a judicial enquiry. Touché, O Champion of Logic!)

Update to Update [9-4-03]: Mr Blair pointed out in a most congenial e-mail that Ackland's "cockroaches" were to be taken before a public enquiry of the ABA, not a "judicial enquiry" as I slapdashedly referred to it. I'd do obeisance for the error, but after reading it again I think leaving my lame-ass "O Champion of Logic" insult there for all to see and mock will be punishment enough.

No Atheists in FoxNews

Another excellent performance from Media Watch last night, comparing Fox News and Al Jazeera.
"I pray for our President. I pray God will give him wisdom. I pray for our military commanders. And I watched Olly, and I watched the other reporters tonight on your program give their reports. I pray for these men who bring us the news, whose lives are on the line. I just say God bless these men, keep them safe, keep them all safe and bring them home safely."
- Fox News, 29 March 2003
"Should they have used more? Should they, you know, use the MOAB, the Mother of All Bombs and a few Daisy Cutters. You know, lets not just stop at a couple of Cruise Missiles."
"Only 40, huh?"
"I want to see them use that MOAB. We all want to see them use that MOAB."
- Fox News, 25 March 2003
Fox downplayed that carnage in Baghdad but when an Iraqi missile landed near an almost deserted shopping mall in Kuwait city, the network went into hyperdrive.

Reporter: "This happened about 1.30 to 1.45am local time and only two injuries. Sean and Alan -"

"Adam just a quick question if I can my friend - great reporting tonight - we have no doubt, obviously, this is from the Iraqis. Now I wanted to ask - and now obviously they're attacking malls where there are civilian populations - I hope the French take note..."
- Fox News, 29 March 2003

No one, thank God, was killed and hardly anything was damaged, but Fox made it sound like a king hit.

"This is where at any other time of the day hundreds of people might have been walking. Thankfully it was the early hours of the morning, but take a look at the front of the shopping mall there. That's the kind of damage it did."
- Fox News, 29 March 2003

Meanwhile, Aljazeera took it's viewers to see the carnage Fox wasn't keen to show.

Translation: "Aljazeera travelled from the village to the town hospital. This family of eight was injured. This physical and psychological injury perhaps explained the absence of expression on the father's face...
This woman who lived in Baghdad moved with her husband to escape the American and British bombardment in this very remote village.
They said it would be a clean war.
They said they would not target infrastructure.
They said they were not the enemy of the Iraqi people. They said, they said, they said.
Faiza Alizzy, Aljazeera, from the village of Manar, in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad."
- Aljazeera, 29 March 2003

And that was an NBC reporter I saw two weeks ago bugging Iraqi POWs while they were trying to sleep.

Marr also took a serve at the Tele for its ludicrous war-spruiking so he should be getting a fulminating counterspray in a day or two from Akerman or another of Rupert's happy little elves. I can't wait.

Septic Tanks in the Suburbs

Hmmm, it appears I was a little testy on the fourth. I wonder why.

The weekend long story - not blogging from home any more, the PC is dead, dead, dead - was the tank incursion the Seppos made into "the center of Baghdad". Looking at the map of the route in the Herald this morning, I assume this must be a technical military usage of the word "center". As the last Australian journo in Baghdad (Arnett's a Kiwi) mentions in another report, this is like saying Parramatta is the Sydney CBD. Here's a similar article (on the lies from both sides) by Fisky in The Independent.

Today, of course, the Telegraph is full of atrocity stories. Circa 1914 the Tele's front page would have undoubtedly been adorned with "babies on bayonets" cartoons. They're such troupers. The mind boggles as to what their stories would have been if Murdoch had decided he was against the war: "Saddam rescues drowning kitten", perhaps.

Excellent article from the Age on not knowing what to root for. Most of the anti-war crowd I know are much less precious about this. They want - or say they want, this place is up to the rafters in bellicose gallows humour - to see the Americans get their arses kicked. I don't - that'll just make things worse for the Iraqis. That's not the only reason: why wish death or injury on some working-class schmoe or some panicky farmboy from Iowa who are only there because they were told to be? Okay, point a camera at some of these jarheads and stupidity flows out of them like a recently unblocked drain. But hoping for significant US casualties because it will give Washington a salutary lesson is the kind of cold-blooded sociopathic armchair wargaming that we see from the types who have been favourably comparing this invasion to chemotherapy. As we despise it in them, so we should despise it everywhere.

Speaking of the "Save Iraq With Bombs" crowd, here's the elder Cockburn brother talking about the humanitarian fiasco in Umm Qasr, among other things.

Correction [14.4.03]: This post referred to Paul McGeough of the Herald as the last Australian journo in Baghdad. Actually, he was the last Australian journalist reporting from Baghdad, as Peter Wilson and photographer John Feder, both from News Ltd, were in the Iraqi capital, but under house arrest. My admittedly twitchy memory recalls that Tony Jones spoke to Peter Wilson on the Thursday (10/4) edition of Lateline about lawlessness in the city, but they don't seem to have posted a transcript. Full list of Aussie Second Gulf War correspondents here.

(Note also that Alexander Cockburn is not a member of the "Save Iraq With Bombs" crowd, as that badly written last sentence implies, but a critic of them. Perhaps I need ESL classes. )

Note to correction [30.4.03]: Peter Wilson e-mailed me about the above correction to point out that he and Mr Feder had been reporting from Baghdad throughout the war but, as he says, "[o]ur material was deliberately kept off the net because we had been ordered by the Iraqis not to file." I would hope that nothing above gives the impression Paul McGeough was the only Australian journalist in Baghdad for the whole of the war - after all, apart from Mr Wilson and Mr Feder, Ian McPhedran of the Daily Telegraph was also there until being expelled by the Iraqi authorities - but I've added this note just to make things clear.

So Very, Very Tired

Okay, Rob, we know what you hope will happen; but what do you think will happen?

I don't know. I have no fecking idea, and neither do you, so why don't we all just shut our yaps until this lunacy is over.

(Can't help thinking I should have posted this on the 20th and taken a month off.)


That erudite bastard Guy Rundle once again plagiarises my thoughts before I've even expressed them. Does he have any idea how annoying that is?

I might take mild issue with him over his concern that a swift victory in Baghdad will increase American enthusiasm for future unilateral acts of this sort. I'm not entirely convinced of that, both in terms of cause and of effect. Firstly, the US military got its ass kicked in Vietnam* and the pause before the next major overt armed intervention was only eight years - Vietnam to "Urgent Fury", the invasion of Grenada (a brave endeavour to protect the world from the evil Grenadians and their Nutmeg of Mass Destruction). Leaving aside the covert ops, the minor interventions, and the funding and training of proxies, "Vietnam Syndrome" lasted less than a decade. Or, more accurately, the American antipathy to wars occasioning large numbers of American casualties has never really gone away. All American military ops since Vietnam have been small scale, against opponents who are easy - or seemingly easy - to defeat. Gulf Wars I and II are not exceptions. Either way, whether the US government is eager to act in its self-appointed role as world cop, or, like a veldt predator, gingerly seeking out the weak and infirm to attack and avoiding serious fights, this mentality has been well-established for some years and it is unlikely the results of this war will be any cause for it to change, unless it goes extraordinarily badly - which would require at least a US defeat - and that seems unlikely.

Even if the city of Baghdad falls tomorrow, it is most unlikely the US will be pulling another imperial stunt like this for a while. One obvious reason is that the spoils of attacking other countries are measly in comparison to those gained by conquering Iraq. Also, the unpleasant consequences are greater for other possible military adventures - the two other countries in Dubya's absurd "Axis of Evil" are either well-armed with powerful friends (North Korea), or well-armed with a nascent democratic structure (Iran), meaning that any attack would face even greater indigenous opposition and world-wide protest than encountered in this war, if that's possible. So I'm not worried that the US government will emerge any more arrogant from victory in Iraq than it would have been in "defeat" (after all, in defeat there would always be the peaceniks and French to blame) and there's little chance that the next US agenda item will be anything on this scale. I doubt they will even try to take down Chavez. It'll be the usual covert ops and propping up of friendly dictators that we've seen for decades. I don't see the modus operandi changing, whatever happens in the Gulf.

Of course, a relatively quick and bloodless end to the war from here on will make the war-buffs, neo-cons, George W., Blair, Howard and the Murdoch media all look good, but is massive carnage a supportable price to pay to see them with egg on their faces? Of course not, and I can't begin to comprehend the sort of demented insularity that would think it was. The only real worry I have is: well, yes, I say that, but do I really think it?

* Actually, by any sensible standards the US won in Vietnam. They destroyed both halves of the country (and two others) and turned Vietnam into an economic basketcase for two decades and a salient example of what happens to Third World countries that don't do what they are told. Specifically, they completely destroyed the National Liberation Front with the post-Tet counterattack and ensuing death squad operation (the "Phoenix program") and the NLF were the enemy � let's have no right-wing fantasies about the US being there to defend South Vietnam from an invasion from the North. The US victory in the South allowed the North to completely supplant the NLF when the North did invade in force in 1975. Many of the surviving NLF leaders ended up in re-education camps.

No Rest for the Willing

In the back of Gore Vidal's The Last Empire, he includes a table of US military operations since the Second World War. As PR awareness increased, the titles of these operations have become more and more bumptious; so the list makes for amusing reading, in a gallows humour way. Vidal extracted the list from that provided by the Federation of American Scientists; the original is here. The table below has been sorted chronologically.

NamePlaceFromToUS Forces
King William's War16891697
Queen Anne's War17021702
War of Jenkins' Ear17391742
King George's War17441748
French and Indian WarNorth America17541763
Revolutionary WarUnited States19 Apr 177519 Oct 1781~200,000
Shays' Rebellion17861787
Indian WarsUnited States17901891
Whiskey Rebellion 1794
Quasi-War with FranceUnited States17981801
Barbary WarsLibya18011805
War of 1812Worldwide18 Jun 181217 Feb 1815286,730
Barbary WarsLibya18151815
African Slave Trade PatrolAtlantic Ocean18201861
Patriot's WarCanada18371840
Aroostock WarCanada18381839
Mexican WarTexas8 May 184613 Sep 184778,718
Walker's ExpeditionsNicaragua18551860
Utah (Morman) War ExpeditionUtah18571858
Civil WarSouthern States12 Apr 18619 Apr 18652,213,363
Controversy of 1889Samoa1889
War with SpainCuba, Phillipines22 Jun 189813 Aug 1898306,760
Philippine InsurrectionPhilippines4 Feb 189915-Jun-13
China Relief ExpeditionChina13-Jul-0005-Aug-00
Safe BorderPeru / Ecuador199530-Jun-99
Latin American CampaignsCuba19061909
World War IEurope01-Aug-1411-Nov-184,734,991
Latin American CampaignsHaiti19151920
Latin American CampaignsDominican Republic19161924
Mexican ExpeditionMexico14-Mar-1607-Feb-17
Russian RevolutionRussia12-Nov-1801-Apr-20
Yangtze ServiceChina19261927
Yangtze ServiceChina19301932
China ServiceChina19371939
World War IIWorldwide07-Dec-4114-Aug-4516,112,566
China ServiceChina19451957
Cold War Worldwide28-Feb-4625-Dec-91
Berlin AirliftBerlin26-Jun-4830-Sep-49
Korean WarKorea27-Jun-5027-Jul-53
Taiwan StraitsTaiwan Straits11-Aug-5401-May-55
Suez CrisisEgypt26-Jul-5615-Nov-56
Blue BatLebanon15-Jul-5820-Oct-58
Taiwan StraitsTaiwan Straits23-Aug-5801-Jan-59
Taiwan StraitsQuemoy and Matsu Islands23-Aug-5801-Jun-63
Operation Ranch HandVietnamJan-621971
Vietnam WarVietnam15-Mar-6228-Jan-73
Cuban Missile CrisisCuba, Worldwide24-Oct-6201-Jun-63
[NONE]Chinese nuclear facilities15-Oct-63Oct-64
Red DragonCongo23-Nov-6427-Nov-64
Operation Rolling ThunderVietnam24-Feb-65Oct-68
PowerpackDominican Republic28-Apr-6521-Sep-66
Operation Arc LightSoutheast Asia18-Jun-65Apr-70
Six Day WarMideast13-May-6710-Jun-67
Red Fox [Pueblo incident]Korea theater23-Jan-6805-Feb-69
Graphic HandUS Domestic19701970
Operation TailwindLaos19701970
Ivory Coast / KingpinSon Tay, Vietnam20-Nov-7021-Nov-70
Operation Ivory Coast / KingpinNorth Vietnam21-Nov-7021-Nov-70
Red HatJohnston IslandJan-71Sep-71
Operation EndsweepNorth Vietnam27-Jan-7227-Jul-73
Operation Freedom TrainNorth Vietnam06-Apr-7210-May-72
Garden PlotUSA Domestic30-Apr-7204-May-72
Operation Pocket MoneyNorth Vietnam09-May-7223-Oct-72
Operation Linebacker INorth Vietnam10-May-7223-Oct-72
Operation Linebacker IINorth Vietnam18-Dec-7229-Dec-72
Nickel GrassMideast06-Oct-7317-Nov-73
New LifeVietnam NEOApr-75
Eagle PullCambodia11-Apr-7513-Apr-75
Frequent WindEvacuation of Saigon29-Apr-7530-Apr-75
Mayaguez OperationCambodia15-May-75
Paul Bunyan / Tree IncidentKorea18-Aug-7621-Aug-76
Coronet OakCentral/South AmericaOct-7717-Feb-99
SETCON IColorado19781978
Ogaden CrisisSomalia / EthiopiaFeb-7823-Mar-78
Red BeanZaireMay-78Jun-78
YemenIran/Yemen/Indian Ocean06-Dec-7806-Jan-79
Elf OneSaudi ArabiaMar-7915-Apr-89
ROK Park Succession CrisisKorea26-Oct-7928-Jun-80
EAGLE CLAW / Desert OneIran25-Apr-80
SETCON IIColoradoMay-80Jun-80
Creek SentryPolandDec-801981
Central AmericaEl Salvador / Nicaragua01-Jan-8101-Feb-92
RMT (Rocky Mountain Transfer)ColoradoAug-81Sep-81
Gulf of SidraLibya / Mediterranean18-Aug-8118-Aug-81
Bright StarEgypt06-Oct-81Nov-81
US Multinational Force [USMNF]Lebanon25-Aug-8201-Dec-87
Early CallEgypt / Sudan18-Mar-83Aug-83
Arid FarmerChad / SudanAug-83Aug-83
URGENT FURYGrenada23-Oct-8321-Nov-83
Intense LookRed Sea / Gulf of SuezJul-84Jul-84
Achille LauroMediteranean07-Oct-8511-Oct-85
AllianceUS Southern border1986Present
Attain DocumentLibya26-Jan-8629-Mar-86
EL DORADO CANYONLibya12-Apr-8617-Apr-86
Blast FurnaceBoliviaJul-86Nov-86
ERNEST WILLPersian Gulf24-Jul-8702-Aug-90
Golden PheasantHondurasMar-88Present
PRAYING MANTISPersian Gulf17-Apr-8819-Apr-88
Agate PathCONUS1989???
Nimrod DancerPanamaMay-8920-Dec-89
HawkeyeSt. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands20-Sep-8917-Nov-89
Classic ResolvePhilippinesNov-89Dec-89
JUST CAUSEPanama20-Dec-8931-Jan-90
New HorizonsCentral America1990?ongoing
Ghost DancerOregon1990Present?
Promote LibertyPanama31-Jan-90??
Ghost ZoneBoliviaMar-901993?
Sharp EdgeLiberiaMay-9008-Jan-91
Steel Box / Golden PythonJohnston Island26-Jul-9018-Nov-90
Desert ShieldSouthwest Asia02-Aug-9017-Jan-91
Imminent ThunderSouthwest AsiaNov-90Nov-90
Southern Watch Southwest Asia / Iraq1991present14,000
Desert FalconSaudi Arabia1991present
Coronet NighthawkCentral/South America1991present
Support JusticeSouth America19911994
Eastern ExitSomalia02-Jan-9111-Jan-91
Proven ForceSouthwest Asia17-Jan-9128-Feb-91550,000
DESERT STORMSouthwest Asia17-Jan-9128-Feb-91
DESERT SWORD / DESERT SABRESouthwest Asia17-Jan-9128-Feb-91
Desert CalmSouthwest Asia24-Feb-9128-Feb-91
Desert FarewellSouthwest Asia01-Mar-9101-Jan-92
Provide ComfortKurdistan05-Apr-91Dec-9442,500
Productive Effort / Sea AngelBangladeshMay-91Jun-91
Fiery VigilPhilippines NEOJun-91
Provide Comfort IIKurdistan24-Jul-9131-Dec-96??
Victor SquaredHaiti NEOSep-91
Quick LiftZaire24-Sep-9107-Oct-91
GTMOHaiti > Guantanamo, Cuba23-Nov-91
Safe HarborHaiti > Guantanamo, Cuba1992
Desert FarewellSouthwest Asia01-Jan-921992?
Provide Hope IFormer Soviet Union10-Feb-9226-Feb-92
Provide Hope IIFormer Soviet Union15-Apr-9229-Jul-92
Garden PlotLos Angeles, CAMay-924,500
Silver AnvilSierra Leone NEO02-May-9205-May-92
Provide PromiseBosnia03-Jul-92Mar-961,000
Maritime MonitorAdriatic Sea16-Jul-9222-Nov-92??
Provide TransitionAngola03-Aug-9209-Oct-92
Provide ReliefSomalia14-Aug-9208-Dec-92??
Sky MonitorBosnia-Herzegovina16-Oct-92present
[none]Liberian NEO22-Oct-9225-Oct-92
Maritime GuardAdriatic Sea22-Nov-9215-Jun-93??
Restore Hope Somalia04-Dec-9204-May-9326,000
Iris GoldSW Asia?? 1993present
Provide Hope IIIFormer Soviet Union1993?1993?
[none] (cruise missile strike)Iraq13-Jan-9317-Jan-93
[none] (cruise missile strike)Iraq17-Jan-9326-Jun-93
Korean Nuclear CrisisNorth Korea10-Feb-93Jun-94
Deny FlightBosnia-Herzegovina12-Apr-9320-Dec-952,000
Continue HopeSomalia04-May-93Dec-93??
Sharp GuardAdriatic Sea15-Jun-93Dec-9511,700
[none] (air strike)Iraq26-Jun-9313-Jan-93
Steady StateSouth America1994Apr-96
Provide Hope IVFormer Soviet Union10-Jan-9419-Dec-94
Distant RunnerRwanda NEO09-Apr-9415-Apr-94
Sea Signal / JTF-160Haiti > Guantanamo, Cuba18-May-94Feb-96
Able SentrySerbia-Macedonia05-Jul-94present
Quiet Resolve / Support HopeRwanda22-Jul-9430-Sep-942,592
Safe Haven / Safe PassageCuba > Panama06-Sep-9401-Mar-95
Uphold/Restore DemocracyHaiti19-Sep-9431-Mar-9521,000
Vigilant WarriorKuwaitOct-94Nov-94
Selva VerdeColombia1995present
Constant VigilBolivia199???
Green CloverSouth America199?199?
United ShieldSomalia03-Jan-9525-Mar-954,000
Determined EffortBosnia-HerzegovinaJul-95Dec-956,900
Nomad VigilAlbania01-Jul-9505-Nov-96
Quick LiftCroatia03-Jul-9511-Aug-95
Third Taiwan Straits CrisisTaiwan Strait21-Jul-9523-Mar-96
Vigilant SentinelKuwaitAug-9515-Feb-97
DELIBERATE FORCEBosnian Serbs29-Aug-9521-Sep-95
Joint EndeavorBosnia-HerzegovinaDec-95Dec-966,900
Decisive EnhancementAdriatic SeaDec-9519-Jun-96??
Intrinsic ActionKuwait01-Dec-9501-Oct-99
Zorro IIMexicoDec-9502-May-96
Decisive Endeavor / Decisive EdgeBosnia-HerzegovinaJan-96Dec-96??
Nomad EndeavorTaszar, HungaryMar-96Present
Laser StrikeSouth AmericaApr-96Present
Assured ResponseLiberiaApr-96Aug-96
Quick ResponseCentral African RepublicMay-96Aug-96
Desert FocusSaudi ArabiaJul-96present
DESERT STRIKEIraq03-Sep-9604-Sep-96
Pacific Haven / Quick TransitIraq > Guam15-Sep-9616-Dec-96
Guardian AssistanceZaire/Rwanda/Uganda15-Nov-9627-Dec-96
Assurance / Phoenix TuskZaire/Rwanda/Uganda15-Nov-9627-Dec-96
Joint GuardBosnia-HerzegovinaDec-9620-Jun-986,900
Decisive Guard / Deliberate GuardBosnia-HerzegovinaDec-9620-Jun-98??
Determined GuardAdriatic SeaDec-96Present??
Northern Watch Kurdistan31-Dec-96Present1,100
Guardian RetrievalCongo (formerly Zaire)Mar-97Jun-97
Silver WakeAlbania14-Mar-9726-Mar-97
Noble ObeliskSierra LeoneMay-97Jun-97
Bevel EdgeCambodiaJul-97Jul-97
Phoenix Scorpion IIraqNov-97Nov-97
Noble ResponseKenya21-Jan-9825-Mar-98
DESERT THUNDERIraqFeb-9816-Dec-98
Phoenix Scorpion IIIraqFeb-98Feb-98
[none]Asmara, Eritrea NEO05-Jun-9806-Jun-98130
Shepherd VentureGuinea-Bissau10-Jun-9817-Jun-98130
Determined FalconKosovo & Albania15-Jun-9816-Jun-98
Joint ForgeBosnia-Herzegovina20-Jun-98Present6,900
Deliberate ForgeBosnia-Herzegovina20-Jun-98Present
Resolute ResponseAfricaAug-98Present
Infinite ReachSudan / Afganistan20-Aug-9820-Aug-98
Strong Support [Fuerte Apoyo]Central AmericaOct-9810-Feb-995,700
Determined ForceKosovo08-Oct-9823-Mar-99
Cobalt FlashKosovo08-Oct-9823-Mar-99
Eagle EyeKosovo16-Oct-9824-Mar-99
Phoenix Scorpion IIIIraqNov-98Nov-98
Provide Hope V Former Soviet Union06-Nov-9810-May-99
Shining PresenceIsraelDec-98Dec-98
Phoenix Scorpion IVIraqDec-98Dec-98
DESERT FOXIraq16-Dec-9820-Dec-98
Allied Force / Noble AnvilKosovo23-Mar-9910-Jun-99
Shining HopeKosovo05-Apr-99Fall 1999
Sustain Hope / Allied HarbourKosovo05-Apr-99Fall 1999
Provide RefugeKosovo05-Apr-99Fall 1999
Open Arms Kosovo05-Apr-99Fall 1999
Joint GuardianKosovo11-Jun-99TDB 200?
Avid ResponseTurkey18-Aug-99Sep-99
Desert SpringKuwait01-Oct-99present
Fundamental ResponseVenezuela20-Dec-99early 2000
Enhanced OpsCONUS???Present
MONUC [UN PKO]DR CongoFeb-00ongoing
Silent PromiseMozambique / South AfricaFeb-00? Apr 2000
Sierra Leone NEOSierra LeoneMay-00
Operation Enduring FreedomAfghanistanOct - 2001ongoing
Operation Iraqi FreedomIraqMar - 2003ongoing

Sheer poetry, n'est ce pas?

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