What
 · The World
 · · Places
 · · · Middle East
 · · · · · · Lebanon (1 fragment)

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 ...
[1 comment]  
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“ ...
[17 comments]  
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 ...
[1 comment]  
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 ...
[13 comments]  
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.]
 ...
[8 comments]  
Tab Sweep — The World · Small, but good: Charley Parker, Bradley Burston, Paul Monday, and Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (again) ...
[3 comments]  
Tab Sweep — World · Welcome to the 2008 dispatches-from-the-front flow ...
[7 comments]  
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 ...
[8 comments]  
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 ...
[4 comments]  
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 ...
[3 comments]  
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.
[5 comments]  
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.
[4 comments]  
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!]
[16 comments]  
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 ...
 
author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
Random image, linked to its containing fragment

By

I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.