Oatmeal as Foreign Policy

There are so many reasons to read NYCO’s blog, but every once in a while, she really surprises you with her gift for metaphor.  Below, she discusses the curious divisions within the American public on the Iraq War:

NYCO?s Blog ? Origin of the species

What?s worse is that there isn?t even any real partisan divide on it ? just lumps of people here and there who disagree with other lumps of people. America is beginning to resemble not so much a house divided but a poorly stirred bowl of lumpy oatmeal that can?t stick together. No one is eating it (if foreign citizen opinion polls about the U.S. are to be believed) and it?s growing cold. And what could be more irrelevant than cold cereal?

It is an interesting (if cinnamon flavoured) observation.  She is right at least in saying that the American people no longer appear to be uniformly divided by “Red and Blue” partisan lines, though I don’t know that the mess is as universal as she makes it out to be.

Really, I would say that the American political dialogue which has been so carefully wrought by so many Conservative think tanks over so many decades has just flat-out hit a wall, and the rest of us don’t really know what to do when they’re not bitching at us.  Whatever you might think of Conservatives, they have been carefully, patiently planning and working towards the day when they would have a majority in Congress and the White House at the same time.  I don’t think they expected to have hired a dolt for a president who would turn just about their every single aspiration into a sad farce once they got what they wanted.

So now, you have Joe Scarborough doing segments entitled “Holly-Weird,” utterly lost without an enemy to scorn, without cronies he can endorse, without vision of any kind.  In case of emergency, blame Hollywood.  Conservatives cannot even garner the support of the voters they once thought were their eternal friends (the poor, silly fools!), and they don’t have anything to talk about.

The net affect is that cold-oatmeal feeling NYCO is getting.  The feeling that everything’s just sloshing together in one barely-differentiated soup.  Democrats have three different visions of where to go from here in Iraq, Republicans have none.  The Dems’ only really strong statement so far has been on minimum wage.  Not for Iraqis, for us.

But at the risk of sounding patronizing, that’s life, man.  It’s got lots of angles.  We’ve been under the spell for the past six years of a “perfect Republican storm,” where the Republicans had but one message and anyone who disagreed with the Party Bosses was crucified.  Those of us on the Left have decried the Republican policies ~ and having already succumed succumbed to the biggest part of their game ~ insisted on offering but one contrary idea.

Situations like Iraq are going to require a lot more than one simple solution.  This time, all options really do need to be put on the table.  And used.  The whole problem is that Bush and his cronies have insisted on viewing the situation in entirely too-narrow a viewpoint with no contingency plans and no subtlety.

Frankly, a confusing reality is just what the American public needs right now, even if its the last thing we all want.

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Litvinenko’s Poisoning Pinpointed

It appears that Scotland Yard believes it has pinpointed the moment of Litvinenko’s poisoning, which did indeed occur at the hotel with his buddy Lugovoi.  Does this mean a double-cross or a convenient moment for some other attacker?:

Scotland Yard ascertains route of Litvinenko?s poisoner – Politics – REGNUM

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard managed to ascertain where exactly ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned. Under the most recent theory, it happened at the lobby of the Millennium Hotel in central London, where on November 1 Litvinenko met Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun.

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Chechen Islam Flexes Some Muscle at Litvinenko Funeral

Funny the details that get missed in a headline, particularly when so much happens in a case.  In this artcile in the Metro, a discussion of the top developments in the Litvinenko case brings us this little peach whilst discussing the funeral:

Litvinenko buried as key witness goes into coma | Metro.co.uk

However, the burial service was overshadowed by an unscheduled interruption by an Islamic imam – specifically against the wishes of Mr Litvinenko’s widow. The burial service was supposed to be a strictly non-denominational ceremony. After Mr Litvinenko’s father had spoken at his graveside, an Islamic associate of his Chechen friend Ahmed Zakayev interrupted and performed a Muslim prayer.

Not the slightest whiff of subtlety in this message.  There is a rumor spreading around that Alexander Litvinenko may in fact have converted to Islam on his deathbed.  Certainly at the moment, this appears to be nothing more than speculation started by who knows whom, but of Litvinenko’s familiarity with the Chechen resistance there is no doubt.

And thus the message is quite clear: to the Imam, this as a Muslim friend of Chechnia and a warrior that has fallen at the hands of Russia.  And Vladimir Putin.

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Neil Bush: Russian Mobster?

In doing research for an upcoming article on the Russian spy poisoning, I’ve discovered something interesting and saddly unsurprising: the House of Bush is not just involved with sleaze-bags of the Arab variety, they’re also involved with the Russian Mafia as much as anyone could be in their position.? Meet Boris Berezovsky, one of the people Livinenko met with on the day of his poisoning, and Russian business man who’s survived several Russian Mafia assasination attempts:

Boris Berezovsky – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In recent years, Berezovsky has gone into business with Neil Bush, the younger brother of US President George W. Bush. Berezovsky has been an investor in Bush’s Ignite! Learning, an educational software corporation, since at least 2003. [2] In 2005, Bush met with Berezovsky in Latvia. The meeting caused tension between that country and Russia due to Berezovsky’s fugitive status. [3] Bush has also been seen in Berezovsky’s box at the Emirates Stadium, a British soccer stadium, for a game. [4] There has been speculation in the English language Moscow Times that the relationship may cause tension in Russo-American bilateral relations, “especially since Putin has taken pains to build a personal relationship with the U.S. president.”

Well, now. Don’t that just figure?? People who don’t deal with mobsters rarely get the hit put on them, do they?
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Dude. Castro Totally Bums on Birthday Celebration

Dude man, Fidel Castro has changed, man.  He used to totally be up for a good birthday celebration with his Cuban brothers, but now he’s all like “phshaw!  Whatever.”:

Castro fails to appear at birthday rally | World | The Observer

The Cuban people came to their leader’s spectacular birthday parade yesterday waving hand-made banners proclaiming ‘Viva Fidel – 80 more’.

But Fidel Castro was too sick to attend his own party, which drove home to many Cubans the extent of their charismatic revolutionary leader’s illness.

Dude, I totally used that excuse to get out of my neice’s birthday party once when the guys from the football team wanted me to smoke pot with them.  That’s so lame, man.

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What’s Going on in Russia?

I’m in the midst of compiling what should prove to be a very enlightening timeline of the current polonium-210 poisoning controversy happening in Europe. Very interesting, indeed, and not a recent story at all. Everyone involved in this case is a spook or a politician and they all know each other.

But if you want to know about what is going on with this whole case, perhaps you’d be best off to ask Mr. Boris Berezovsky. He seems like the man to ask. (note the guy right in the middle of that namebase?)

Hmm. . . Polonium Production Contradictions?

Media types the world over are trying to ferret out the identity of the “Mr. Big” in this spy ring case, and in doing so, are discovering Russian political appointees with conflicting information:

Russia no longer producing polonium-210

Russia’s nuclear agency said the country is no longer producing radioactive polonium-210, the substance that killed a former KGB spy in Britain.

An unidentified spokesman for the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power in Moscow said Monday that the only facility capable of producing the isotope was closed two years ago, the Novosti news agency reported.

Then this from Interfax:

Polonium-210 production under tight control in Russia – Rosatom || Interfax > Politics

Russia produces eight grams of polonium- 210 a month, a high-ranking official of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told journalists.

“This production proceeds under the tightest control. It [polonium-210] cannot go missing in Russia,” he said.

Polonium-210 has been sold to the United Kingdom and the United States, the official said. “We cannot control what happens to it later,” he said.

The official declined to offer any theories as to how former Russian Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko could have been poisoned by this radioactive substance in London.

So, which is it?  Well, don’t point fingers at the Krasnoyarsk Territory of Siberia (oh, you anti-Krasnoyarskists!  Why do you plague America so?):

RIA Novosti – Russia – Russian experts deny polonium-210 in UK has Siberian origin

Siberian scientists have dismissed the idea that a radioactive isotope allegedly used to poison a Russian ex-FSB officer in the UK could have originated in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Friday.

Still working on stitching together the human side of this (the “why”), will update on this later.

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Awe, Shucks! No More Bolton!

I guess it’s time to polish up another Presidential Medal of Honour:

Controversial U.N. ambassador to step down – CNN.com

Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his recess appointment expires soon, the White House said Monday. Bolton’s nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. President Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. But the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January.

But if you need to get your “Bolton Fix,” by all means, look for him here.

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In the Persuit of Hearts and Minds. . . .

The WTF Editorial of the Week

I have considered this article for some time, trying to figure out what to do with it.  I could try the “just ignore it and it will go away,” route.  Perhaps that is best; at least, it’s probably the one that displays the most dignity.

I, on the other hand, don’t care so much for dignity that I’m above a good smearing, which is precisely what this hateful woman deserves:

Lexington Herald-Leader | 11/12/2006 | Hippies still trying to ruin the country

They still want utopia, and it wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that their naivet? has aged into a persistent denial of reality that may have devastating consequences.

For example, consider their continued belief that America’s armed forces are neo-Nazi stormtroopers who delight in burning babies to further the aims of imperialistic corporations.

Such nonsense, now treated as legitimate by the left-leaning media, denigrates the patriotic values and sincerity of half the nation. It undermines the war effort, insults the dead and the survivors of battle and their families, and supports the aims of the enemy. Translated into immigration or national defense policy, it is an invitation to the world to destroy our country.

Well, Jenean Mcbrearty, contributing columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, I for one am thankful that you recognize your premise as “nonsense.” No one has yet accused the American military of any such thing. But the question I have for you is this: what, if not a Utopia, do George Bush and folks such as yourself insist that we fight for? A Utopia in which there are no more dangerous places and in which America can go on about her way without the interruptions of the world. The entire campaign into Iraq was paved with the fears of Americans, nothing more, nothing less. It is not we, the Liberals, who told you to be afraid, it was George Bush.

You yourself plainly say, “The truth is that there is no way out of our modern warfare dilemmas.” Just so. And bogging our military down in conventional wars will not help. Modern warfare, at least where terrorists are concerned is a vastly different thing than WWII, but George Bush, Dick Cheney and apparently you don’t seem to be getting that yet. Who is holding on to delusions, here?

Further down the line in this charming little screed, you raise some interesting rhetorical questions. The best of them has to be this one:

Whose life is more important: the 12-year-old Iraqi firing an Uzi or a soldier from Kentucky?

Dare I bore you by pointing out how incredibly racist it would be to respond that the soldier from Kentucky is more important?  No, the fact that the soldier is from Kentucky does not mean he is of one race or another, but clearly, you regard the Iraqi with a singular lack of respect for human life.

Oh, and BTW?  Let’s not let images of Good Morning Vietnam cloud our understanding of the current situation.  Where have you ever heard of such a thing as a 12-year-old Iraqi sniper?  Wouldn’t want to appear to be an aging partisan holding onto faded memories, would we?

I would attempt to address the utter obsurdity of going to war with Iran and North Korea at the same time as Iraq and Afghanistan, but this at least seems pointless.  Even your chicken-hawk boys in the White House know better than to think that we can deal with North Korea militarily, and most rational people recognize the difference between bravado and suicidal tendencies.

I find this an amusing window into your psyche, as well:

For aging hippies, it’s easier to keep blaming old enemies than to confront new ones, especially the young and ruthless. Hating a military-industrial complex is safer and less tiring. It’s less complicated — and less dangerous

Your recommendation: hate the young. The important thing to remember is, you must hate somebody, and it’s better if they aren’t white. A 12-year-old carrying a fictitious Uzi will do nicely. Or perhaps you could find someone who is, in fact, somehow associated with this “BAWL (Buddha-Allah-Wicca-Lenin)” of which you speak? Is that a religion or a knick-knack shop in the mall like Lock, Stock and Barrel?

Luckily, no one lives forever. Luckily, there is Generation Jones to take up their slack. America is too great to go down without a fight.

What in the hell are you talking about? Are the other members of this “Generation Jones” group aware that you are speaking for them? Are you sure?

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Does This Read Like America?

From Harper’s Magazine, transcripts of Afgani prisoners’ testimony in the questioning at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Tell me, does this sound like the United States you know, or does it sound like something out of a movie about Russia? 

I’m Still Here (Harpers.org)

Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006. From combatant-status review tribunals held over the past two years for prisoners at Guant?namo Bay. More than 5,000 pages of transcripts were released in March by the Defense Department in response to a lawsuit brought by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. Originally from Harper’s Magazine, May 2006.

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The Saddam Verdict: A Rorschach Test

The verdict is in, and all we need to do is wait for the chaos to arrive. Ultimately, though, I don’t think things are necessarily going to that much worse that much sooner because of the Saddam trial. In the short term at least, I don’t suspect it will have any particularly measurable impact. I think we’re already on a pretty steady curve that’s unlikely to change (for better or worse) in the first place.

But the trial is, ultimately, something of a Rorschach Test for Iraq’s political landscape at the moment. Each faction sees the trial as they choose to, and there is precious little about the actual trial that seems to verify one opinion over the other:

First trial of Hussein is ending amid doubts – Los Angeles Times

“This was the Iraqi judiciary system,” said lead defense attorney Khalil Dulaimi. “This trial has been a humiliation.” Significant segments of the Iraqi population as well as international legal experts have cast doubt on the trial’s political neutrality. Two of the defense lawyers have been assassinated during the trial, gunned down in Baghdad under mysterious circumstances. The defense has argued that Iraq’s security situation makes it an inappropriate venue for the trial. Iraqi and international legal experts have long argued that the trial should have been held in another country.

Assassinated defense lawyers, outrageous courtroom outburts, judges acting as prosecution, judges being dismissed. . . The list goes on and on. That’s what happens when you rush things, particularly in a country at war where you are trying to build an entirely new government and where don’t trust the judiciary system any more than the army you so recently disbanded. Things can get a bit hectic. . .

At least as interesting is what opinions in Iraq tell us about the way they think of elections: many in the country suspect that the Bush Administration put off the verdict for political gain here at home. I’m all for blaming the Bush Administration for anything I can think of, but this isn’t one of them. The reason is that in fledgling democracies and unstable countries, such things might have a huge impact close to an election, but in long-standing and stable democracies such as ours, much though we on the Left worry about Karl Rove’s next political stunt, that doesn’t usually happen. I’m currently reading The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall, which is a book that presents an interesting framework in which to understand this difference.

And Iraq is both an unstable country and (nominally, at least) a fledgling democracy. What happens in this country is unlikely to be much-swayed by the verdict – one might even make an argument that the vedict is a bad thing for Republicans so close to the election – it is going to have a long-term affect on the situation in Iraq. What the Saddam verdict does is grant a certain legitimacy to the insurgency on both sides of the Sunni/Shi’a divide. Indeed, it never had any real chance to do anything better or worse than this. They could not ever have found the man innocent, not only because he’s pretty obviously guilty, but also because too many Iraqis would have demanded nothing less.

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