Archive for December, 2006


Poetry archive 4

December 19, 2006

In which I continue to inflict my old poems on my readers.

This impertinent snippet never had a title, but if it had, it would probably have been “Entire Sanctification”.

The rain is always incomplete.
It sweeps the dust from off my feet;
It leaves the jam between my toes,
And what will cure it, heaven knows.


A revelation at dawn

December 17, 2006

And lo, I dreamed, and in my dream I beheld in my hands the organizational chart of the command structure of the U.S.A. in Iraq. Thereon were displayed the faces, together with both the public and private job descriptions, of each of the principal players.

In the middle were a pair of defense secretaries, one (Don Rumsfeld) flickering out, and one (Robert Gates) flickering in. The former bearing the title “The Derider”, having served for many years as an effective sneerer-in-chief at all critics of the war and the occupation. While the latter, protected from any scrutiny by the contempt universally showered upon the former, was seen to hold the refashioned position of “The Freerider.”

Reporting to these worthies was General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, here simply designated “The Topfighter”. Below him, Nouri al Maliki, somewhat prematurely – but then dreams are allowed a little slippage into the future – named as “The Pushed Asider.”, and further down, a tiny image of a crowd of bearded fellows whose smudged legend might or might not have been “The Suiciders”.

Above Rummy, of course, was George Junior, “The Decider”. But the chart didn’t stop there. Dubya’s boss was a winding path of digestive organs, “The Insider”, none other than the renowned and infinitely wise Gut of the Emperor.

And at the very top of the command chain, ruling the sacred Gut, too ineffable to be pinned down to any name, appeard the brains of the entire operation: a thriving colony of Escherischia coli.

And it came to pass, when I awoke, that I spoke unto the wife of my bosom, saying, “You know, dear, that explains an awful lot.”


Bush’s ponder heart

December 17, 2006


In his cowboy boots and Santa hat, Bush promised us all first row tickets to the premiere of his New Way Forward before Christmas. Then he changed his mind. It’ll be sometime after the first of the year. Because although presidenting is hard, wouldn’t you know it? Deciderating is even harder.

And stalling for two whole years, dragging the armed forces down into utter decomposition, just so that his successor will take part of the blame for his own titanic mistakes – that’s going to be hardest of all. Even though the press, the remorseful yet somehow unrepentant flock of liberal hawks, the Wise Men of the Baker-Hamilton commission (none of whom, oddly, were wise enough to advise against the Excellent Baghdad Adventure before it started), and the Pottery Barn centrists (“You break it, you own it. And that means you’ve got to stay until you’ve broken every last Hummel figurine in the shop”) will all join hands to help him stall.

So we shall be treated to the spectacle of George W. Bush “thinking”. Which is to say, diving so deep into his own gut, the place he has always assured us is the sole source of all his thoughts, that he’ll need a bathysphere for the journey. And then we’ll all need a firehouse crew to hose down the smell of the prize with which he emerges from the depths.

[Cartoon by Nick Anderson, Washington Post]


Tortured until proven innocent

December 16, 2006

It’s nice to see the press doing its job. Josh Marshall reports that the AP has done the legwork to track down as many former detainees at Guantanamo as it could. We always release these guys with the declaration that they were vicious terrorists when we caught them, but they don’t pose a danger any longer; and we’re turning them over to other countries, usually their country of origin. In most cases we’ve requested that they be held there in ordinary jails for their (always nameless) crimes.

Of 245 released detainees that AP was able to find, 205 were released by their host countries without ever being charged, or were cleared of charges. A grand total of 14 have actually gone to trial. Eight of those were found not guilty; none have been found guilty.

Meanwhile, back at Gitmo, the brass has announced that they’re through with coddling their prisoners. According to today’s New York Times, they have dropped the long established programs of extending privileges for good behavior. It is, of course, a pure coincidence that the “no more Mr. Nice Guy” policy is being put into place just after the last, shameful Congress passed the Torture Act, providing that no court will ever be allowed to consider whether prisoners at Gitmo are being or have been mistreated – unless the President chooses to place the prisoner on trial.

You just don’t allow the prisoners who you torture to go before a tribunal. The same Torture Act (no, of course they didn’t call it that, you goose) provides that the President can just keep them forever without bothering with any tribunals. When he finds it politically useful to have a show trial, he can have a show trial. Otherwise, he can just throw ’em down the hole and forget ’em.

Every one of them, after all, is a guaranteed vicious killer. Just like the broken hundreds that our allies have decided were innocent all along.


The Baker-Hamilton report: the dead-enders speak

December 15, 2006

Being on the road during the week of the Unveiling of the long awaited report, I must confess that even now I have not sat down and read the thing. I’ve had to piece my impressions together from newspapers, and bloggers left and right.

Nevertheless, I feel confident in submitting this Tomgram by Michael Schwartz as recommended reading on the topic. It places the BH report in the context of the real reasons for invading Iraq – a program and a set of goals (namely, a perpetual military presence in the heart of the world’s Oil Alley, together with the privatization of Iraq’s oil fields) which Baker-Hamilton continues to line up squarely behind.

Schwartz is particularly good at homing in on the qualifications and weasel words missed by the press. Attentively read, they imply that the commission has not in fact recommended anything like a substantial drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq in the near term. Nor has it suggested that the threat of withdrawal be used to light a fire under the feet of the Maliki government. The actual threat, no doubt read clearly by Maliki and friends, has been obscured by press coverage here.

Most striking is the report’s twenty-first (of seventy-nine) recommendations, aimed at describing what the United States should do if the Iraqis fail to satisfactorily fulfill the many tasks that the ISG has set for them. “If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.”

This could be interpreted as a threat that the United States will withdraw — and the mainstream media has chosen to interpret it just that way. But why then did Baker and his colleagues not word this statement differently? (“… the United States should reduce, and ultimately withdraw, its forces from Iraq.”) The phrase “reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government” is probably better interpreted literally: that if that government fails to satisfy ISG demands, the U.S. should transfer its “political, military, or economic support” to a new leadership within Iraq that it feels would be more capable of making “substantial progress toward” the milestones it has set. In other words, this passage is more likely a threat of a coup d’état than a withdrawal strategy — a threat that the façade of democracy would be stripped away and a “strong man” (or a government of “national salvation”) installed, one that the Bush administration or the ISG believes could bring the Sunni rebellion to heel.