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Jerusalem Cartooned · I just read Jerusalem: Chron­i­cles from the Holy Ci­ty by Guy Delisle; it’s a “graphic novel” which would be a com­ic book if it weren’t a hard­cov­er and weren’t about one of the world’s Great Big Prob­lem­s. I rec­om­mend it to­tal­ly ...
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No Iran War Please · Back in 2002, this crazy idea of re­spond­ing to 9/11 by at­tack­ing Iraq first start­ed be­ing float­ed. And now we’re get­ting stronger and stronger whiffs of Dorky Mid­dle East War, the Se­quel: Iran. Can the sen­si­ble peo­ple of the world please stand up and say ”Please, let’s not do that“ ...
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No Peace Soon · In the Mid­dle East, I mean. As of May 2011, the decades-old main­stream vi­sion of how peace might play out is stone cold dead. The sta­tus quo is al­so ap­par­ent­ly the fu­ture ...
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Plan B for the Middle East · The name of the lead­er of Libya, معمر القذافي (which I am not gonna try to ren­der in English be­cause there are about eleven op­tion­s, none of them cor­rec­t), ap­peared as the au­thor of The One-State So­lu­tion, an op-ed in the New York Times this week. I don’t be­lieve that he ac­tu­al­ly wrote it, be­cause he’s a well-known moon­bat and the piece is ac­tu­al­ly sort of co­her­en­t. The ghost-writer says: Give up on the idea of a two-state so­lu­tion for the Is­rael/Pales­tine co­nun­drum; there’s one coun­try there and they’re all cit­i­zen­s ...
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Gaza Truce · No, there isn’t one as I write this. But with­in the last few week­s, Ha­mas of­fered a ten-year truce cov­er­ing the whole re­gion and (sep­a­rate­ly it seem­s) a six-month truce cov­er­ing just Gaza. The next sto­ry af­ter that’s head­line is “Girl killed in fresh Gaza clashes”, sigh. Seems to me it might be worth a try.
[Up­date: I got a cou­ple of hor­rid racist com­ments, which I re­spond­ed to, but then lost some­how. I’ll have to get in and clean up the com­ment sta­tus by hand; sor­ry.]
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Tab Sweep — The World · Smal­l, but good: Charley Park­er, Bradley Burston, Paul Mon­day, and Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (a­gain) ...
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Tab Sweep — World · Wel­come to the 2008 dispatches-from-the-front flow ...
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Stopping Terror · To­day, the an­niver­sary of 9/11 (here’s my 9/14/2001 take), the me­dia and the Net are full of look-backs, ap­pro­pri­ate­ly. I’d like to in­vest a mo­ment in think­ing about the bad guys and how we’re do­ing at pre­vent­ing a re-run ...
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Tab Sweep — The World · Tonight we have the great Au­dio Con­flict of In­ter­est, eBay Pain, Ira­ni­an pol­i­tic­s, Chi­nese macroe­co­nomic­s, new Is­rael/Pales­tine hor­ror, men vs. wom­en, and the big debt prob­lem. Uni­fy­ing themes are for weak­lings; the world’s not like that ...
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Watching the Mideast · There are glim­mers of good news amidst the wreck­age; at least in the Israel-Palestine sec­tor. The shape of the even­tu­al set­tle­ment has been so clear for so long, and the costs of let­ting ei­ther side’s dimwit ma­ni­acs block it are be­com­ing in­creas­ing­ly un­bear­able. Hopes have been dashed so many times, and I’m as cyn­i­cal an ob­serv­er as you’ll find any­where, but I’m hav­ing trou­ble sup­press­ing lit­tle surges of op­ti­mis­m ...
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Mideast Roundup · In re­cent months the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the Is­rael/Pales­tine fron­t, has man­aged to get con­tin­u­ous­ly worse. For the or­di­nary peo­ple there who are en­gaged in try­ing to have de­cent lives, this is an ap­palling and it seems end­less tragedy. One small sil­ver lin­ing is that the des­per­a­tion has pro­voked some com­men­tary from in­sid­ers on all sides that seems bet­ter, more ur­gen­t, less pack­aged, than usu­al. Quite a bit of this will prob­a­bly van­ish be­hind one pay­wall or an­oth­er, but if you want to be dis­turbed, de­pressed, and ed­u­cat­ed here are a few voic­es worth read­ing ...
 
June 5, 1967 · I missed the an­niver­sary. Forty years ago yes­ter­day, I was in “First Secondary” i.e. 7th Grade, at In­ter­na­tion­al Col­lege, in Beirut, Le­banon. My Dad was a Pro­fes­sor of Agri­cul­ture at the Amer­i­can Univer­si­ty of Beirut; that spring, the fam­i­ly was liv­ing at the Univer­si­ty Ex­per­i­men­tal Farm while I stayed with friends in Beirut. In June it was get­ting war­m, so Phys Ed class was held at the AUB Beach; it was to­wards the end of the school year and they pret­ty well just turned us loose to have fun. Ex­cept for Mon­day June 5th, sud­den­ly the gym teach­er was hol­ler­ing for us to get out of the wa­ter, get show­ered and dressed double-quick, and back to class. On­ly there were no class­es, just sit down and shut up. No­body told us any­thing, but pret­ty soon we all found out the war had start­ed. One by one our par­ents showed up to get us. Later that morn­ing there was Dad’s face pok­ing in the class­room door, he’d had to drive an hour and a half in from the far­m. A few days lat­er we were evac­u­at­ed, just to be safe, for a few very pleas­ant weeks in Greece. I’ll nev­er for­get it. The whole re­gion still has a nasty hang­over from that war, which set­tled, re­al­ly, noth­ing.
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Pray · The news is not all bad. Take a minute-really, even if you’re busy—and watch Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, built around pho­tographs by Ed Kashi; it’s beau­ti­ful. There’s at least one part of Iraq where peo­ple are get­ting on with liv­ing their lives. One of the first pieces I ev­er wrote here was called Kurds; it’s come out bet­ter than I pre­dict­ed. Enough good news. I think Fa­reed Zakaria has it about right in The Next Step? Think Viet­nam; Iraq is slip­ping in­to sec­tar­i­an war, and the mur­der­ers on both sides would like the US to leave be­cause they think they can win the blood­bath that comes nex­t. Even The Economist (in their ex­cel­lent new Democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca blog) says “In the end we’re go­ing to have to ac­cept the frag­men­ta­tion of Iraq”. If I were re­li­gious I’d be pray­ing for the Iraqis; no­body de­serves this. Those, like me, who thought the war wasn’t in­sane were guilty of fail­ing to ap­ply Occam’s ra­zor. The sim­plest ex­pla­na­tion in 2003 was that the war-starters were in­com­pe­tent ly­ing scum and that no good re­sult could be ex­pect­ed from their ac­tion­s. And the sim­plest ex­pla­na­tion was true. Oh well, it doesn’t help the peo­ple in the Mid­dle East, but for those of us who re­al­ly want to know what’s go­ing on, both Ha’aretz and Al-Jazeera now have de­cent feed­s; Al-Jazeera’s is here and Ha’aretz lists a bunch. Thanks to Dave Win­er for the Al-Jazeera link; I wasn’t sure what to ex­pect from them, but they’re use­ful. So far noth­ing has been of­fen­sive and oc­ca­sion­al­ly there’s a sur­pris­ing out­burst of hu­mor: they were the first with the no iPod for Kim Jong-Il sto­ry. It’s TV-depth rather than Ha’aretz’s newspaper-depth, but stil­l, the more voic­es the bet­ter. Hm­m, maybe pray­ing works even if you don’t be­lieve? Let’s hope.
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On Attacking Iran · There’s a term in Po­lit­i­cal Science that I’m look­ing for (and if the LazyWeb speaks up, I’ll re-write this to ac­com­mo­date it). It’s the tech­nique of grad­u­al­ly shift­ing the cen­ter of a de­bate, first by in­tro­duc­ing no­tions pre­vi­ous­ly un­think­able at the edge, then grad­u­al­ly mov­ing them to­wards plau­si­bil­i­ty. It seems to be hap­pen­ing right now, with the ob­jec­tive of drag­ging ag­gres­sive war against Iran to stage cen­ter. Just this last week­end, the LA Times ran an opin­ion piece with the admirably-straightforward ti­tle Bomb Iran, and Ha’aretz was right be­hind them in line with Bush: I would un­der­stand if Is­rael chose to at­tack Iran. There’s even a sched­ule: In re­cent talks with their Is­raeli coun­ter­part­s, French gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials es­ti­mat­ed that Iran would reach the “point of no return” in its nu­cle­ar pro­gram by spring 2007, in ap­prox­i­mate­ly five month­s. I am no lover of the cor­rupt the­o­fas­cist op­pres­sors in Tehran; and I sus­pect that near­ly ev­ery­one agrees that we lose ev­ery time nu­cle­ar weapons cross an­oth­er bor­der. But stil­l, are we so blind to his­to­ry that any­body be­lieves that such an at­tempt will suc­ceed; or, whether suc­ceed­ing or fail­ing, im­prove the sit­u­a­tion? [Up­date: The term I was look­ing for was Over­ton Win­dow; check the com­ments for a point­er to Mark Pil­grim us­ing it. Thanks LazyWe­b!]
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Ceasefire · Wel­l, the cease­fire seems to be hold­ing, thank good­ness. What a stupid, stupid, stupid war. Nev­er as­cribe to mal­ice, they say, that which can be ex­plained by in­com­pe­tence. Juan Cole of­fers a well-deserved ex­tend­ed bitterly-funny sneer at all the play­ers on the stage. Al­so, he has a let­ter from Pa­trick McGreevy that seems to sa­vor of truth. We owe sym­pa­thy to the vic­tims on both sides. And I can’t help feel­ing some for the grunts, on both sides bad­ly led, on one side march­ing in­to rough ter­ri­to­ry where the oth­er side’s had years to dig in and get ready for you, on the oth­er liv­ing in caves and get­ting ham­mered by the best mod­ern Western mil­i­tary tech­nol­o­gy. The Hez boys think that hav­ing lived through it, they won. I don’t think any­one did.
 
Totten Under Fire · The re­mark­able Michael Tot­ten, whose on-the-spot Mid­dle East re­portage I’ve rec­om­mend­ed be­fore, spent a day driv­ing around the mid­dle of the cur­rent war, and took lots of pic­tures. This is re­mark­able re­port­ing; why isn’t the main­stream me­dia do­ing it? Any­how, con­sid­er hit­ting his tip jar.
 
Unending War · I should re­al­ly not write about Le­banon, but I can’t stop. I’d like to draw your at­ten­tion to Hizbul­lah at­tacks along Israel's north­ern bor­der May 2000 - June 2006, a June 2006 doc­u­ment from Israel’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, who are pre­sum­ably ex­perts on the sub­jec­t. Go read it your­self. I’d like to write some more on truce-breaking, on killing civil­ians and hid­ing among them, and about whom it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to be an­gry at. If you don’t feel like read­ing what I have to say (and it’s not very cheer­ful), go have a look at the Cease­fire Now pe­ti­tion and con­sid­er sign­ing it. [Up­date: Thank you world! I have a mail­box full of peo­ple say­ing things like “wanted to in­ject a pos­i­tive note in­to what’s prob­a­bly a flood of hate”; and not one war­mon­ger. I’m tru­ly moved, and who knows, maybe there’s hope.] ...
 
Lebanon Roundup · The com­men­tary is vo­lu­mi­nous and I don’t think I have much to ad­d, so I’ll keep my con­tri­bu­tion short. Direct­ing mil­i­tary force in such a way that it kills hun­dreds of civil­ians is un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior, and any group, tribe, or na­tion that does so los­es all moral stand­ing. Those who are de­fend­ing this be­hav­ior need to have a close look at the ax­ioms and ar­gu­ments that lead them to such a deeply bro­ken con­clu­sion. Once again: Mil­i­tary vi­o­lence against civil­ians is wrong. If you want more ed­i­to­ri­al­iz­ing, my broth­er Rob does it well. Item: Ze’ev Schiff has some in­sights in­to Is­raeli strat­e­gy. Item: Last year, Michael Tot­ten went up-close and per­son­al with Hezbol­lah. Item: BBC video from the scene. Item: CNN on the scene, with a pic­ture of a pret­ty lit­tle girl. I salute the pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal­ists who go to these places and take these pic­tures and write these sto­ries; we are all in their debt. “The truth will make you free” they say, which is too strong, it’s a nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient con­di­tion. Item: From the Guardian, a little-girl pic­ture of a dif­fer­ent kind, with in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion. Item: A let­ter from the Amer­i­can Univer­si­ty of Beirut cam­pus, where I used to live, which makes some in­ter­est­ing points about what “victory” might mean. Item: Speak­ing of vic­to­ry, check out Why the Strong Lose, by a pro­fes­sion­al Amer­i­can mil­i­tary the­o­rist. It’s made me think a lot about the shape of the fu­ture.
 
War in Lebanon · I lived in Le­banon for eleven years. To some ex­ten­t, it’s where I’m from. I find that I can­not ex­press my feel­ings at any length in a tone I care to share with the world. But I can re­lay things. Item: An Is­raeli an­a­lyst gives the par­ty line (I as­sume) as to what they’re try­ing to ac­com­plish. Are you con­vinced? Item: The facts of the mat­ter, via the BBC, yes­ter­day and to­day. Item: Beautifully-written eru­dite pes­simis­m; Failed States, The Guns of Ju­ly, Punch­ing Above Its Weight, and Mil­i­tary Hubris. Item: Let­ter From Beirut. Item: A def­i­ni­tion of in­san­i­ty: per­form­ing the same ac­tion re­peat­ed­ly in the ex­pec­ta­tion that it will start pro­duc­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult. Item: On Ter­ror. Item: Michael J. Totten’s Friend is a Refugee and on com­ments.
That last one struck home; one of the rea­sons I haven’t been writ­ing is be­cause of what shows up in oth­er people’s com­ments. Doubt­less the same kind of email I will get now. To those peo­ple, and to any­one who wants to write me to de­fend, at any lev­el or for any rea­son, the ac­tions of an ag­gres­sor, here’s my an­swer: Want to know the rea­son chil­dren are dy­ing in the Mid­dle East? Look in the mir­ror.

 
Totten’s Trip · Michael J. Tot­ten is a jour­nal­ist and blog­ger who’s back and forth to the Mid­dle East and writes about it, quite well in my opin­ion; he sup­ports this by free­lanc­ing and with his blog’s tip jar. He gets lots of link love from the right-wing bl­o­go­sphere, which is puz­zling be­cause Tot­ten is bal­anced and clear-eyed and doesn’t seem to have any par­tic­u­lar axe to grind. Re­cent­ly, he and a friend were hav­ing fun in Is­tan­bul and, on a ran­dom drive out in­to the coun­try, de­cid­ed on im­pulse to keep go­ing, all the way across Turkey and in­to Iraq; in­to the Kur­dish mini-state in Iraq’s north, to be pre­cise. It makes a heck of a sto­ry, with lots of pic­tures, in six part­s: I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.
 
Political Wisdom · Like I’ve said be­fore, I was in fa­vor of tak­ing down Sad­dam. But the crum­bling tow­er of stink­ing lies used to sell the war, then the nau­se­at­ing in­com­pe­tent bru­tal­i­ty with which it’s been pur­sued, have pushed the cost/ben­e­fit equa­tion way neg­a­tive. To­day, on one of the TV shows, US Rep. John Murtha said: “The on­ly so­lu­tion to this is to re­de­ploy. Let me tell you, the on­ly peo­ple who want us in Iraq is Iran and al-Qaeda. I’ve talked to a top-level com­man­der the oth­er day, it was about two weeks ago, and he said Chi­na wants us there al­so. Why? Be­cause we’re de­plet­ing our re­sources, our troop re­sources and our fis­cal resources.” Sounds con­vinc­ing to me.
 
Hamas Won · Good news: Fatah (cor­rup­t, in­com­pe­ten­t, abu­sive) lost. Good news: Clean elec­tion (a­mus­ing de­tails here); the losers are ex­it­ing grace­ful­ly, which is huge, Arabs in re­cent times have rarely en­joyed the priv­i­lege of peace­ful­ly fir­ing their ruler­s. Now, as for the win­ner­s... They don’t seem to have an English web site so any­thing we say about them is on second-hand au­thor­i­ty, but un­less a lot of re­porters are ly­ing, they’re more or less Wahhabi-style beards-for-men veils-for-women fun-for-nobody Is­lamist­s, and what ap­pears to be their man­i­festo refers to the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion, demon­strat­ing that they’re not just racist­s, they’re gullible racist­s. Al­so, Ha­mas has en­gaged in ter­ror­is­m. Now, lots of move­ments once re­gard­ed as ter­ror­ist have end­ed up evolv­ing in­to re­spectable po­lit­i­cal par­ties, but it’s hard to imag­ine or­ga­nized re­li­gious fa­nati­cism grow­ing in­to the ba­sis for a civ­i­lized gov­ern­men­t. Hamas’ win al­so means that ma­ni­acs like Netenyahu can claim that there’s no point talk­ing to Pales­tini­an­s, but then he’d say that even if Mother There­sa had just won the elec­tion. In fac­t, the Is­raelis to­day say­ing “the peace pro­cess is over” are, by and large, the ones who nev­er want­ed it to start. On the oth­er hand, as Br’er Rob points out, if you want peace you have to talk to your en­e­mies, and yep, these are def­i­nite­ly Israel’s re­al en­e­mies. The best pos­si­ble out­come is that Ha­mas cleans up some of the cor­rup­tion, out­grows ter­ror­is­m, and re­al­izes that most of the Pales­tini­ans aren’t go­ing to go for the beard­s, veil­s, and so on. The worst is what we’re more like­ly to get, the Mid­dle East be­ing what it is. Any­how, there’s good on­line cov­er­age at Al-Jazeera (here and here), Ha’aretz (here and in their elec­tion blog), and from Leila El-Haddad. In the in­ter­im, the mind­less dai­ly blood­shed grinds on. I picked that by go­ing to Ha’aretz and find­ing the first sto­ry about some­one be­ing killed, there’s one of those al­most ev­ery day. When nine-year-olds are shot, it doesn’t mat­ter which side they’re from.
 
Sheikh Saad · One of the best ways to stay on top of Mid­dle East news is to read Ha’aretz, an Is­raeli centre-left news­pa­per with a good web site. Right now both of Israel’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties are turn­ing them­selves in­side out, so it’s a good time to be watch­ing Ha’aretz. This is proof that it’s pos­si­ble to cov­er both sides of the sto­ry in a pas­sion­ate but even-handed voice. Pas­sion as well as fair­ness is nec­es­sary to the cov­er­age, be­cause re­main­ing calm in the face of these events is not sane be­hav­ior. What pro­vokes this lit­tle out­burst to­day is A house in the coun­try, a lit­tle Jerusalem sto­ry that has no vi­o­lence or bru­tal­i­ty or ex­plo­sion­s, just sheer gib­ber­ing in­san­i­ty.
 
War Marketing · To­day Mr. Bush has ex­co­ri­at­ed his op­po­nents for claim­ing that he lied them in­to war. The Pres­i­dent said: “Some Democrats and anti-war crit­ics are now claim­ing we ma­nip­u­lat­ed the in­tel­li­gence and mis­led the Amer­i­can peo­ple about why we went to war.” Well I’m nei­ther a Demo­crat nor re­al­ly anti-war, but yep, that’s the claim. (By the way, he’s be­ing fact-checked.) That claim is pret­ty con­vinc­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly to any­one who’s ac­tu­al­ly read the 521-page Se­nate Re­port on In­tel­li­gence Fail­ures (high­lights here), or the Down­ing Street Me­mo. If you want a more schol­ar­ly ver­sion of Mr. Bush’s com­plain­t, check out Nor­man Pod­horetz in Com­men­tary; he is con­vinc­ing­ly de­mol­ished by Kevin Drum. Why am I so up­set about this? Be­cause I thought that tak­ing out Sad­dam was a moral ac­t, some­thing worth do­ing for its own sake, a chance to prove that Arabs don’t have to live in dic­ta­tor­ships where there are tor­tur­ers in the jail­s, that Western Civ­i­liza­tion is ca­pa­ble of moral ac­tion. In­stead, the war was sold based on con­ven­tion­al mar­ket­ing wis­dom: pick a cou­ple of sim­ple mes­sages and stay on them. I was watch­ing TV and read­ing the pa­per­s, and all the war mar­keters were say­ing, over and over, was “He’ll have nukes soon!” and “He’s Osama’s buddy!” Both false; and there are still tor­tur­ers in the jail­s. I’m suf­fi­cient­ly ir­ri­tat­ed that I don’t mind say­ing “I told you so”, which I did in Fe­bru­ary and March of 2003. Fe­h. I hate lies.
 
Two Iraq Ideas · Back in the first heat of the Iraq con­flic­t, I wrote quite a bit about it, but I’ve fall­en silent be­cause, like many oth­er­s, I don’t see a good way for­ward. Re­cent­ly, I’ve come across two in­ter­est­ing pro­pos­als for how we might get a rea­son­ably good out­come. Here is a de­tailed ten-point plan from Juan Cole which sounds plau­si­ble if not cheery, more than you can say for the cur­ren­t, uh, I guess they call it a “strategy”. Se­cond, the Van­cou­ver Sun’s ex­cel­lent In­ter­na­tion­al Af­fairs colum­nist Jonathan Man­thor­pe sug­gests bit­ing the bul­let and giv­ing up on hold­ing Iraq to­geth­er. I don’t have a de­cent point­er to his piece, but you can read it here any­how ...
 
Malice and Incompetence · Nev­er as­cribe to the for­mer, the say­ing goes, that which can be ex­plained by the lat­ter. Wel­l, I stayed up most of last night read­ing all 521 pages of the US Se­nate Re­port on the U.S. In­tel­li­gence Community’s Pre­war In­tel­li­gence Assess­ments on Iraq, and there is plen­ty of mal­ice and in­com­pe­tence to go around. I didn’t mean to read it al­l, but it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­men­t, with fla­vors rang­ing from Solzhen­it­syn to Catch-22, and I’ve en­joyed brows­ing around the news sto­ries to­day that say what it said (for ex­am­ple, here Josh Mar­shall skew­ers a Wash­ing­ton Post re­porter who wrote with­out read­ing). I’d rec­om­mend that any­one who cares about war, peace, and truth take a look at it first-hand; here­with a few notes on what I found, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of things that don’t seem to have been cov­ered that much else­where; some as­ton­ish­ing and some fun­ny ...
 
The Language of Force · By now, ev­ery news­read­ing sen­tient be­ing on the plan­et has heard of the New York­er piece on how the tor­ture hap­pened. Part of it, that hasn’t been writ­ten up much, got me mad, red-faced sleep-stealing mad. It seems that a lot of the plan­ning was based on am­a­teur­ish racist loony-science. Every­where you look around this sto­ry there is filth, filth ...
 
Torture · I’m one of the small mi­nor­i­ty of Cana­di­ans who thought in­vad­ing Iraq was a good idea. But if I’d had to write a one-liner as to why, it would have been some­thing along the lines of “to stop the tor­ture and bru­tal­i­ty in the Bagh­dad hellholes.” Wel­l, so much for that ...
 
B.D.’s Leg · I’m sur­prised there hasn’t been more buzz about Gar­ry Trudeau hav­ing blown off B.D.’s leg to­day (but, mer­ci­ful­ly, ap­par­ent­ly he’s go­ing to live). It hit me kind of hard; this is the first time that the Iraq war has in­jured a “person I know” and I’ve known B.D. for go­ing on thir­ty years now. I don’t sup­pose it’ll change the po­lit­i­cal land­scape any, but you have to ad­mire Trudeau for tak­ing this on head-on. Plus, on the up­side, he al­so took B.D.’s dorky hel­met of­f, and it was get­ting kind of tired af­ter all these years.
 
Draft Permanent Status Agreement · I took this text from Ha’aretz with thanks; please re­port any er­rors ...
 
On the Draft Geneva Accord · This past week, a copy of this recently-drafted doc­u­ment has been mailed to ev­ery Is­raeli home, and tens of thou­sands of copies are be­ing dis­tribut­ed by ma­jor Pales­tini­an news­pa­per­s. It has to me the smell of hope, and so I’ve tak­en the lib­er­ty of do­ing some code cleanup and pub­lish­ing it here at on­go­ing, in the in­ter­ests of hav­ing a publicly-available ver­sion that is marked up in good clean HTML and you don’t have to read sur­round­ed by ad­ver­tis­ing. For con­tex­t, see the write-up in Ha’aretz. Up­dat­ed De­cem­ber 1: The Ac­cord is be­ing signed to­day in Gene­va by those who be­lieve in it, in the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple No­bel Peace Prize Win­ner­s. The au­thors have pub­lished a piece on it that’s worth a read. If you were in­clined to do a lit­tle tiny bit in the cause of Mid­dle East Peace, you might want to bang the drum a lit­tle and link to the agree­ment and/or the cov­er­age and pass the word. Shame, shame, shame on those who stand in the way ...
 
No More Road Map · Hus­sein Agha and Robert Mal­ley (nei­ther of whom I know any­thing about), pro­pose an in­no­va­tive path to Mid­dle East peace. If the U.S. and the rest of the world had the po­lit­i­cal will to do it I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Their one-paragraph ex­pla­na­tion of why the cur­rent Road Map is prob­a­bly doomed is al­so very good.
 
Friedman’s “Longtitudes and Attitudes” · I just fin­ished read­ing this lat­est book from Thomas L. Fried­man, for­eign af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent for the New York Times. Every­one who fol­lows Mid­dle East news close­ly al­ready knows about Fried­man and has pos­si­bly al­ready read this. If you care about that part of the world you owe it to your­self to do the same ...
 
Danny · There are few things as de­press­ing as the end­less Is­rael/Pales­tine sto­ry. It’s the old­est kind of strug­gle in the world, eth­nic groups spilling blood over re­al es­tate, and some­times it’s easy to be­lieve that it’ll still be go­ing on when my grand­chil­dren are my age. Then you read about some­thing like this, and you can en­joy a few min­utes of hope. That Dan­ny Baren­boim, he’s a men­sch.
 
Names of the Dead · In an eerie echo from Wil­liam Gib­son's Count Zero, the New York Times syn­di­ca­tion feed keeps chant­ing at me: “Names of the Dead, Names of the Dead.” (Up­date: The day af­ter I pub­lished this piece, the Times changed the way they run these sto­ries!) ...
 
Patriot Games · The ti­tle of this note is copied from that of a fea­ture ar­ti­cle in the mag­a­zine of Ha’aretz, an Is­raeli news­pa­per. I have a spe­cial in­ter­est in the Mid­dle East, as a re­sult of hav­ing lived there be­tween the ages of sev­en and eigh­teen. I have strong opin­ions which by and large I pre­fer not shar­ing, as they have some­times pro­voked trib­al big­otry in peo­ple whom I like and re­spect as long as this sub­ject is avoid­ed. Ha’aretz in my opin­ion hosts prob­a­bly the best—sometimes the only—discourse about the Is­rael/Pales­tine co­nun­drum where the norm is nu­ance, bal­ance, and hu­man­i­ty. The fact that the cra­zies on both sides sneer at it (as they do the cur­rent Roadmap) is ev­i­dence that Truth lives there. Enough of that. This ar­ti­cle has a whole lot of that nu­ance and hu­man fla­vor, and wide un­cloud­ed eyes fo­cused on peo­ple, at least most­ly, and most­ly not on God or land or ide­ol­o­gy or mythol­o­gy or vengeance. Worth read­ing.
 
Retroactive Moral Conundrum · The fog of war hav­ing some­what cleared in Iraq, it seems like­ly that this one should pro­vide decades’ worth of en­joy­able his­tor­i­cal ca­su­istry. Name­ly, what is the moral bal­ance be­tween all the un­truths used to start the war and the com­mend­able re­sult of de­pos­ing a mur­der­ous tyran­t? ...
 
The Road Map · This has start­ed pop­ping up all over on a va­ri­ety of Mid­dle Eastern sites; I can't guar­an­tee that it's au­then­tic but it reads about as de­scribed. This ver­sion is from Al-Bawaba. I de­cid­ed the world de­served to have one copy in nice clean read­able HTML ...
 
Mish-Mish · Mish-mish is Ara­bic (col­lo­qui­al Le­banese Ara­bic, any­how) for apri­cot. When I was a kid there, it was al­so the ex­pres­sion for what health food stores here call “apricot leather” (il­lus­trat­ed be­low). It al­so has an amus­ing sec­ond mean­ing hav­ing to do with a dis­tant to­mor­row ...
 
Sweet Memories Die · I'm not sure whether it's be­cause I'm a geek, or a bib­lio­phile, or an am­a­teur stu­dent of his­to­ry, but I've had my heart wrenched severe­ly by the cov­er­age of the loot­ing and de­struc­tion at the Iraqi Na­tion­al mu­se­um and li­brary. I'm try­ing re­al­ly hard to avoid the knee-jerk re­ac­tion to the troops hav­ing guard­ed the Oil Min­istry while the trea­sures of mem­o­ry were van­ish­ing from the com­mon ground, I re­al­ly hope it isn't as bad as it look­s. Some re­marks on In­for­ma­tion, Destruc­tion, and the val­ue of mem­o­ries and of lives ...
 
WMD Ping-Pong · I've been fol­low­ing the war most­ly via we­blogs and colum­nist­s, and the back-and-forth be­tween right and left, pro and an­ti, on Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” has de­scend­ed to the lev­el of low farce. Re­mem­ber, the rea­son for launch­ing the war was to take out the Iraqi WMDs be­fore they were used on us. The ping-pong isn't sym­met­ri­cal though, and how the WMD is­sue is go­ing to play out down the road is very in­ter­est­ing ...
 
Tribal Meta-Warfare · I have no pre­dic­tions on the war, but I'm smelling a fright­en­ing trend in the cul­tur­al forces that are build­ing up around it, back here in the West. I'm get­ting a strong sniff of the late six­ties here, and not a pleas­ant one ...
 
The Beeb Gets a Clue · A few days back, I com­plained that the ex­cel­lent BBC war correspondents' col­lec­tive we­blog got a new URI ev­ery mid­night GMT. It now has a fixed ad­dress (and some­body @b­bc.­co.uk even sent me a note); good on ya! There is al­so now a scraped RSS feed avail­able from News is Free, if I get around to sub­scrib­ing I'll re­port. I should note that I have a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with the BBC ...
 
How to Pay for a Good Read · Some blog­ger some­where point­ed at an in­ter­view with John Brady Kies­ling, on­line at Salon. Sound­ed in­ter­est­ing - all I knew was that he was a US diplo­mat who had quit over the run-up to the war, and in­deed it was in­ter­est­ing, I rec­om­mend read­ing it, but I hadn't been to Salon re­cent­ly and was al­so in­ter­est­ed in their “payment options”, which maybe point the way to the fu­ture of on­line pub­lish­ing ...
 
The Peace Movement's Worst Nightmare · 
In the town of Safwan, Iraqi civil­ians ea­ger­ly greet­ed the 1st Marine Divi­sion.
One lit­tle boy, who had choco­late melt­ed all over his face af­ter a sol­dier gave him some treats from his ra­tion kit, kept point­ing at the sky, say­ing “Ameriki, Ameriki.”

This is the “peace” movement's worst night­mare, isn't it? (post­ed at 02:50 PM by Glenn Reynold­s)
No, the peace movement's worst night­mare is that the Unit­ed States ex­trap­o­lates from Iraq and de­cides that uni­lat­er­al ag­gres­sion is an easy, re­ward­ing and fun way to solve the world's prob­lem­s
 ...
 
Good Morning, Baghdad · I was work­ing away with the MSNBC Bagh­dad Cam parked in a cor­ner of the screen (they've im­proved it, it stays synced ro­bust­ly up but on­ly lets you watch for 20 min­utes with­out restart­ing, which seems fair). Bagh­dad by night, when bomb­ing isn't go­ing on, is pret­ty qui­et, oc­ca­sion­al car drive-by and horn-honk sound­s. Then at 5 PM Paci­fic, the morn­ing birds start­ed singing, and at 5:40, the pre-dawn call to prayer. This is mov­ing stuff in wartime, check it out ...
 
On the Small Small Screen · I was at work dur­ing Mr. Bush's ad­dress, and man­aged to get a stream­ing video feed from MSNBC to stay live (bar one break­down) dur­ing his fif­teen min­utes - will Web video stream­ing ev­er be­come not-lame? The MSNBC feed was like 240x180 pix­el­s, and as ad­dress­es to the na­tion go, I thought the lit­tle win­dow was about the right size. There was one sur­prise, though, in that the boxing-match anal­o­gy broke down ...
 
Last Weekend Before the War · This morn­ing we had run out of cof­fee, so I strolled four blocks to the cor­ner and back with bean­s. On that trip I saw two hous­es dis­play­ing an­ti­war signs and some graf­fi­ti on the main drag; pix be­low. On the ev­i­dence, we're at a turn­ing point, how­ev­er this plays out. (Warn­ing: lengthy me­an­der through the ex­pe­ri­ence of luck and non-life-threatening in­jury, with a dip in­to Sinéad O'Connor.) ...
 
Kurds · I spent most of my youth (ages 7-18) in Beirut, Le­banon, and might have stayed were it not for war. Kurds there were a vivid part of the hu­man land­scape. Many of the men had jobs in the Suq (bazaar) as porter­s; most­ly wiry and com­pact, they car­ried as­tound­ing loads on their back­s, for ex­am­ple full-size re­frig­er­a­tors, us­ing a sort of har­ness with a fore­head strap. This looked kind of me­dieval, but in some of these al­leys there was hard­ly room to turn around let alone bring in a truck, so I wouldn't be sur­prised if it's still go­ing on. The Kur­dish wom­en stood out in the crowd in their beau­ti­ful dress­es in many bright colours, their heads sparkling with sil­ver coin-spangled jew­el­ry. His­tor­i­cal­ly, the Kurds have got a raw deal for some cen­turies - just pos­si­bly they may ben­e­fit from the cur­rent cri­sis ...
 
Fifteen Times Scarier than Saddam · Messrs. Bush and Rums­feld and Wol­fowitz rant on ev­ery TV screen about how dan­ger­ous Sad­dam is, and that's why we need to launch this war soon­est. I'm sor­ry but I don't buy it, even if (today's hot news) the Iraqis may have a drone with a wider wingspan than they're sup­posed to. I ful­ly be­lieve they've got some chemo/bio weapons salt­ed away some­where, but I still don't see them as any­where near the world's or even America's biggest prob­lem. (Doesn't mean that it mightn't be a good idea to take Sad­dam out, just that all these ridicu­lous lies about how dan­ger­ous he is are re­al­ly get­ting old.) In fac­t, I thought it might be help­ful to make a list of things that are scari­er than Sad­dam ...
 
Iraq: Blame it on Lawrence's Bosses · I saw the pic­ture be­low in some on­line pub­li­ca­tion, and it struck me that quite like­ly, very few peo­ple know where Iraq came from. The pic­ture shows the del­e­ga­tion of Emir Feisal at the Ver­sailles con­fer­ence post-Great-War; the fel­low just over Feisal's left shoul­der, with two bands around his kaf­fiye­h, is T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Ara­bi­a. And there­in hangs a hell of a tale ...
 
Iraq Rant · A friend of 10 years' stand­ing whom I've met on­ly once (ain't the Net won­der­ful?) took me to task in email over my "Saddam isn't scary but maybe tak­ing him out is moral anyhow" thought­s. This guy needs a blog but doesn't have one; he writes: ...
 
Good News on Iraq! · Some­how I missed it this last week­end, but Pres­i­dent Bush de­clined Sad­dam Hussein's of­fer of a tele­vised pub­lic de­bate. The en­tire television-watching pop­u­la­tion of the world owes the Commander-In-Chief sin­cere thanks for for scotch­ing this pro­found­ly bad idea ...
 
Iraq, Again · Like ev­ery­body, I've been read­ing a lot about Iraq in re­cent days. One point keeps com­ing up over and over again: Iraq is aw­ful­ly weak at the mo­men­t, crip­pled by the af­ter­math of los­ing a cou­ple of wars, of decades of cor­rupt dic­ta­tor­ship, and by the sanc­tions their gov­ern­ment brought on them. I think the US is giv­ing ex­act­ly the wrong rea­son for go­ing to war. The right rea­son to go in and take out Sad­dam right now is not be­cause he's strong and dan­ger­ous, but be­cause he's weak; now is an ef­fi­cient and cheap time to make the world a bet­ter place by re­mov­ing one par­tic­u­lar­ly nasty regime from it ...
 
Please Lock Up Condoleezza Rice · To­day the BBC re­ports that Ms Rice has warned the Unit­ed Na­tions against al­low­ing Iraq more time. A se­lec­tion of her ut­ter­ances: "The world needs to pull it­self together"; "The Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil can­not con­tin­ue on this path for much longer"; "It is time for this to end, enough is enough". How can some­one ap­par­ent­ly so smart be so bone-dumb about ba­sic hu­man na­ture? ...
 
Iraq · To­day, mil­lions march against war, and in my morn­ing pa­per a right-wing com­men­ta­tor says that they are in ef­fect march­ing for Sad­dam. Here's my op­ti­mistic in­ter­pre­ta­tion: I think the mil­lions are march­ing for truth, and out of nau­sea and re­vul­sion at all those lies be­ing told by the U.S. Ad­min­is­tra­tion ...
 
Terror · Ter­ror is Sym­met­ric One side sends a kid with a bomb in­to a crowd­ed street to blow him­self to Hell with the hope of killing in­no­cents. The oth­er side mor­tars a res­i­dence and kills in­no­cents in the hope of tak­ing out an en­e­my big­wig. Th­ese are per­haps dis­tin­guished in the un­der­ly­ing hope, but that bears no moral weight ...
 
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