View from the Loft 

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Friday, January 10, 2003

Today I'd like to start out with a few items that point to a rising resistance to the aggression of the U.S. and its headlong rush to an unjustifiable, groundless war. Or rather, I'll start with yet another round of reasons why resistance is mounting. Much of it is due to UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's assertion that there is no smoking gun. He did say, however, that the document provided by the Iraqis is incomplete and leaves many questions unanswered. If the Bush administration is telling the truth--admittedly a long shot for a group of people for whom lying is de rigueur--about the "certainty" of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, then surely providing the inspectors with evidence would aid them in their search and eventually lead to some answers. Colin Powell says that some data has been shared with UN inspectors, but that the U.S. is holding back "sensitive" information while waiting to see if inspectors "are able to handle ... and exploit" the meager information doled out. Rumsfeld has said that Washington may present little or no evidence of Iraq’s quest for banned weapons even if Bush decides to go to war (as if that decision has not already been made!).

The refusal of the U.S. to provide such evidence is likely to hamper the passage of a second UN resolution, which some nations insist is necessary before military action is taken against Iraq. No matter. Bush does not feel bound by such nuisances as the UN and, according to Richard Perle, is prepared to invade Iraq without UN backing. I know--you're shocked!

In light of the lack of a smoking gun thus far, plus anti-war sentiment at home, on Thursday Britain urged the U.S. to delay war for several months, possibly until as late as autumn, to give the inspectors time. The hawkish Mr. Perle, as noted above, rejected such a notion out of hand. War just can't happen soon enough for these folks.

The Labor Party in Britain is growing cantankerous, with predictions that up to 100 MPs could rebel. Rumors also abound that junior ministers might resign over Britain's role in the war on Iraq.

In the first anti-war revolt by industrial workers in Britain in decades, train drivers refused to to move a freight train carrying ammunition thought to be destined for the Gulf.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined the growing number of religious leaders condemning the proposed war on Iraq. He called Tony Blair's support for Bush's plans "mind-boggling." I'll say.

According to a poll released on Wednesday, anti-war sentiment in France is hardening; two-thirds of the French people are against war with Iraq.

Turkey's reluctance to permit the deployment of U.S. troops has Washington worried. Because it would permit an attack from the north, Turkey is strategically important to a U.S. invasion.

Director Martin Scorsese has added his name to the growing list of celebrities speaking out against war in Iraq.

British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion's anti-war poem, "Causa Belli":

They read good books, and
quote, but never learn
a language other than the
scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk
is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money,
empire, oil and Dad.

Four American women who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks are spending 6 days in Baghdad to plead for peace. They are holding a press conference at the site of the Amariya shelter, where 400 civilian Iraqis were killed in the 1991 Gulf War when U.S. forces dropped bunker-busting bombs in the mistaken belief that senior Iraqi officials had taken shelter there.

This is truly amazing: peace activists around the world are heading to Iraq to act in solidarity with the Iraqi people--and to act as human shields when the bombs start falling. Are they naive and/or crazy, as some say? Or incredibly committed and courageous?

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Hard to know where to start. Just for a brief moment, let's go back in time to Daddy Bush's Gulf War. Remember the babies-in-incubators hoax? The one that convinced Congress that only military force would stop a people so vile that they'd remove helpless infants from their incubators? The story that turned out to be a piece of propaganda spouted by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador? HBO's movie Live from Baghdad revived this story and implied that it was true. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog) strenuously objected, as did many others, and HBO finally added a disclaimer. But as FAIR notes, the disclaimer is too little and too late.

Back to the present. B-1 bombers have now been sent to the Gulf, probably to be based in Oman. The army has also alerted over 10,000 reservists to prepare for active duty as early as this week. There are now 65,000 troops in the region, with 25,000 additional troops being told to be ready to go.

Key planners who would coordinate an attack on Iraq have been sent to Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar.

French President Jacques Chirac has called on troops to be ready for deployment. Although the context was that of the civil unrest in the Ivory Coast, he also referred to Iraq. Reportedly, French support is likely to be "qualified and reluctant."

Britain has mobilized reservists and ordered a task force of ships and 3,000 Royal Marines to the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, in Iraq itself, a two-layer defense ring is being planned around Baghdad in anticipation of an attack. The inner ring is to be made up of the elite Special Republican Guard, assigned to protect the leadership. Things could get ugly.

One of the unknowns in the administration's war planning is the behavior of the roughly 150 tribes in Iraq. While in Afghanistan the tribes were bribed into cooperation, no one expects it to be quite so simple in Iraq.

Turkey is said to be "cool" toward the idea of any massive deployment of troops in the country in the event of war. Anti-war sentiment is running high in Turkey, and the government there faces the tough task of keeping Washington happy without infuriating Turkish citizens.

Moving on to the near future, make yourself familiar with the "robo-assassin"hardware to be used for the first time in Iraq. Predator drones and their weapons can be guided from a long, safe distance away. The weapons they carry may well be "directed energy" weapons, high-powered microwave devices. According to military affairs analyst William M. Arkin, "Microwave weapons work by producing an intense surge of energy, like a lightning bolt, that short-circuits electrical connections, interferes with computer motherboards, destroys memory chips and damages other electrical components. They send a narrow beam of energy that penetrates about th of an inch into [human] skin, to where nerves that cause pain are located." They are intended to be extremely "smart," precisely hitting narrow targets. There are also new weapons called "agent defeat" weapons, new cluster bombs that would release 4000 titanium rods to cut through chemical and biological bunkers with explosive force, and a new incendiary device which would create a firestorm so intense that water would not extinguish it. Who is it that has weapons of mass destruction? These terrifying weapons may be in violation of some of the conventions agreed to by the international community.

And now for a glimpse into the possible future. The UN fears that an estimated 500,000 Iraqis could need medical treatment as a result of injuries inflicted during the early stages of war. That total includes "100,000 expected to be injured as a direct result of combat and a further 400,000 wounded as an indirect result of the devastation, according to estimates prepared by the World Health Organization." Read the document itself, posted by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (takes a while to load).

Latest administration plans for post-war Iraq (but remember! war isn't inevitable!) include a civilian administrator that would work alongside a military commander and wield equal authority (yeah, that'll work ...). The plan calls for a heavy military presence in Iraq for at least 18 months (why does this seem an impracticably short time?) and simultaneous establishment of democratic institutions.

This is one of the favorite arguments of the War Party: that we will bring democracy to Iraq. I find the idea questionable and smacking of condescension, frankly. Certainly I'd like to see a democracy (I'd like to see one in my own country, for heaven's sake), but I don't see it happening just because we try to force it down the Iraqis' throats. On Stand Down, Matthew Hogan presents a necessary dose of reality as regards democratizing Iraq. Read it here.

Monday, January 06, 2003

When will the war against Iraq begin?

According to one view, the war has already started: "About 100 United States special forces personnel and more than 50 CIA officers have been inside Iraq for at least four months, looking for missile-launchers, monitoring oil fields, marking minefields and helping their pilots target air-defence systems. The operations, which are said to have included some Australian, Jordanian and British commandos, are seen as part of the opening phase of a war, intelligence officials and military analysts say." The article goes on to note both that "this is despite the Bush Administration agreeing to the schedule of United Nations weapons inspections" and that such action "breaches international law because it is not sanctioned by the UN." Talk about a material breach!

The U.S. is also training 5,000 anti-Hussein Iraqis in combat practice at an old military base in Hungary.

In any case, many predict that the invasion will occur soon after the UN inspectors file their report on January 27. According to Reuters, "most United Nations diplomats" believe that the war can come in "record time" after the weapons inspectors' report is presented to the U.N. "Not coincidentally," reports Reuters, "the date is an approximate time when the U.S. military would be ready to attack."

The U.S. hopes to have 200,000 troops in the Gulf by the end of February. But the U.S. is prepared to fight in the summer--at night, when temperatures are cooler and the most advanced night-vision equipment in the world will give the U.S. an edge.

Bush's people are also putting together the final plans for post-war Iraq, plans that reportedly include "a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction."

It's little wonder that UN inspectors fear that they'll be ignored--and worse, that their work will be used as an excuse for war. So far the inspectors have found nothing (as of January 5), but as we've often heard from the Bush administration, for the hawks, absence of a smoking gun is itself a smoking gun.

Any chance for peace?

Given the buildup in the Gulf, the covert war already in place, and the apparent determination of the administration to wage war for any reason or none, is there any chance? I doubt it, but that's not stopping diplomats, anti-war activists, and ordinary people from trying to make their plea for peace heard.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has now put the odds of war at 60-40 against. I'm not that optimistic.

The Pope is said to be "deeply worried" about the situation with Iraq.

Iraq's neighbors, including Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, are pressing Hussein to step down voluntarily and avoid war. Qatar has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League, with the question of Hussein's exile said to be at the top of the agenda.

Various peace demonstrations and marches are scheduled to take place on January 18.

Yes, I've finally changed the URL and the name of the blog to reflect its content. Originally I had envisioned the blog as more of a personal journal--although, given my interests, it would undoubtedly have contained comments on politics, international events, domestic policy, and so on--but it evolved into an anti-war (and anti-Bush) blog. Without further ado, then:

Women of the world, unite! Sign a petition for peace, sponsored by Women United for Peace.

Coming soon! If you haven't yet seen this bit of satire, you're missing out.

Many thanks to good friend Mark Pugliese for alerting me to this article on the Total Information Awareness program and just how it could be used to compile data and a personal profile on each and every one of us. TIA is not directly connected to the drive for war in Iraq, but there's no denying that it is a symptom of what's wrong with the world view of the Bushies. It's just more of the insanity we've come to expect from this dangerous administration.

Warblogging also carries some interesting commentary on TIA, especially about how the Information Awareness Office has altered its website in response to public outcry about Total Information Awareness. Check out Warblogging's archives on this topic.

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