Saturday, April 28, 2007

Everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned

I can't leave Iraq alone, I just can't. The Iraq War is the greatest crime of our age. There is so much I would forgive George W. Bush but for the appalling, monstrous and casual manner in which he has laid waste to a country, to American soldiers' lives, squandering this country's reputation and credit in the process, and now that he's heading into the final stretch of his second term, more or less admitting that the whole mad adventure in Iraq is a failure:

"The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.

In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year."

The most convincing explanation for why this President invaded and occupied Iraq is one that I first heard mentioned a year ago. Once in the White House, Bush proved to be a medicore president at best, and — horror of horrors! — may have been doomed to last only one term like his dad. After September 11th, re-election may not have seemed guaranteed to the traditionally paranoid inhabitants of the White House, and the war in Afghanistan, though an initial success, must not have seemed anything like the grand gesture that was needed to make Bush's re-election and legend.

... and so I read somewhere that White House strategists were at one point obsessed with the British general election of 1983, which put Margaret Thatcher back in power for her second term, riding never higher on the jingoistic wave of the Falklands War. Is power so addictive and so important, that it is worth telling and selling the biggest lie of the era in order to keep holding on to it? I guess it must be. Even in the hectic 18 months after 9/11, Bob Woodward said that the Republicans in power were at least 50 percent of the time interested not in governing, but in using their power to shaft the Democrats.

Watching the Iraq lie rise and build before my eyes caused me huge distress. Things like hearing Saddam Hussein being made out to be as dangerous as Hitler, and hearing this accepted as true, as opposed to silly verbiage, makes one think that the world is going awry.

Friday, April 27, 2007

After my recent repetitive and boring Iraq War rant (complete with appalling photo of man with hjead blown off!) I feel the need to lay off being serious. So, here's a fun alternative project to killing each other down here on earth... looking for life elsewhere in the universe, and not killing or enslaving it...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- European astronomers have spotted what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system, with balmy temperatures that could support water and, potentially, life.

They have not directly seen the planet, orbiting a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. But measurements of the star suggest that a planet not much larger than the Earth is pulling on it, the researchers say in a letter to the editor of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"This one is the first one that is at the same time probably rocky, with water, and in a zone close to the star where the water could exist in liquid form," said Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who led the study.

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hendrik Hertzberg

Hendrik Hertzberg writes about American politics for the New Yorker. This recent interview with him is worth a glance.

Quote: "Bush II is just a twerp. He’s a bundle of resentment. He’s never had any real interest in political ideology. It’s all an Oedipal drama. And ultimately that’s how it will be understood. I don’t think it’s comprehensible in any other way. His dad raised taxes, so he’s not going to raise taxes. Dad didn’t go to Baghdad, so he’s going to Baghdad. Dad hated Rumsfeld so he made Rumsfeld secretary of defense."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Crossraguel Abbey, Ayrshire

Crossraguel Abbey, Ayrshire, originally uploaded by Stephen10031.

And memories of Ayrshire...

Blue doors

Blue doors, originally uploaded by Stephen10031.

Memories of Edinburgh...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

War is good for business

Who else shares my six-year-old feeling that we've entered the 21st century at the mercy of a gang of greedy, power-hungry amoral thugs, who have their blood-soaked hands firmly gripped around the levers of American, and world, power?

Last week I said this to a friend who agreed, and added that coupled with the sense of anger he has at a world gone wrong, is the feeling of helplessness that comes with the knowledge that few or none of the outlaws in control will ever be brought to justice.

Note for a moment in the above photo, the dress sense of L. Paul Bremer, former Iraq governor on behalf of George W. Bush. Nothing encapsulates the age in which we now live better than the business-suit-and-army-boots: if the Iraq War has made some American corporations richer, it's because their power and influence has been helpfully extended by co-opting a new security service known as the United States Military.

And note for a moment also, the inevitable outcome, in the photo below.

Bremer has been criticized for many things during his time as Iraq boss in the immediate 'post-war' period, but what few media outlets reported was his unusual attention to an unusual area of Iraqi governance: the corporate tax laws:

"In September [2003], to entice foreign investors to come to Iraq, [Bremer] enacted a radical set of laws unprecedented in their generosity to multinational corporations. There was Order 37, which lowered Iraq's corporate tax rate from roughly 40 percent to a flat 15 percent. There was Order 39, which allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets outside of the natural-resource sector. Even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in Iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. Under Order 39, they could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years." [Harper's Magazine, September 2004]

All American pronouncements on freeing the Iraqi people from the yoke of Saddam Hussein were and are mere empty words. Iraq was "open for business," Bremer also said two weeks after arriving in Baghdad, and around the world (again, barely reported by any media outlets) Iraq trade fairs hung out banners inviting multinationals to an unprecedented capitalist feast: not just a new market, but an entire country up for grabs, with no restrictions on corporations' actions.

The people who put this policy into action can be admired for one thing: the sheer vast scale of this enterprise, unprecedented since perhaps the first British imperialists gazed upon their rudimentary world maps and saw, not other people's lands, but stuff to be grabbed.

But sometimes people, mere people, get in the way of the most ambtious of plans. Bremer's first action as governor of Iraq was this: "he fired 500,000 state workers, most of them soldiers, but also doctors, nurses, teachers, publishers, and printers." [Harper's Magazine, September 2004]

Imagine how state or federal employees in this country would react if suddenly relieved of their jobs, income, pensions, well-being, sense of pride in their work, source of economic provision for their families, and then imagine if the lay-offs came at the behest of a foreign military occupation. American soldiers are dying in Iraq not because of some shady group of America-hating, beyond-the-pale 'terrorists.' They are being killed by the people who had the misfortune to get in the way of the biggest American corporate business opportunity since the West was won.

This is crime of monstrous proportions. No one who is really and truly responsible for it will ever be brought to justice. Have a nice day.

You fools, your stupid war is lost

"The Sunni extremists held to be responsible for these attacks seem to be making a mockery of the US and Iraqi security plan, which is now into its third month.

So far, their surge seems to be having more effect than the American one.

Last month alone there were more than 100 car bombings, and the number of attacks has continued at a similar rate so far this month. This indicates a high level of organisation." — BBC.