Vacation beckons…

My family and I will be away, and I will not be adding anything here, for a week. Please follow me back here on the 5th or the 6th. My best to all my readers until then.

Smallpox Vaccination Is Linked to 2nd Death:

“A second health care worker has died of a heart attack after receiving a smallpox vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday…

She was among seven health workers to suffer heart problems 4 to 18 days after receiving the vaccine voluntarily, as part of the United States’ effort to prepare medical teams to cope with bioterror attacks. Three volunteers had heart attacks, including another woman who died; two had chest pain; and two had heart inflammation.

In addition, 10 military recruits had heart inflammation after being vaccinated for the first time; all recovered, said Col. John D. Grabenstein, the Army’s deputy director for vaccines…” NY Times

Shades of grey:

Could Hans Blix have done anything to stop the war? An interview with The Guardian:

His office, on the 31st floor of the United Nations, with a striking view of the Chrysler building, is decorated with aerial pictures of Baghdad. “A lot of these buildings have probably been bombed now,” says his press spokesman, dashing his pen across vast swathes of the city, pointing out the government ministries.

Blix believes there was nothing he could have said that would have convinced the Americans not to go to war at this time. “They would have wanted a clear-cut guarantee that [the Iraqis] did not have weapons of mass destruction,” he says. “I could not have given them a guarantee that if they had waited a few months more there would have been results.”

Could anyone have given them a guarantee?

“Not at this stage. Now we’ll see if occupation does it. If we had come out and said on the basis of what we had and said, ‘We can solve this in three months,’ they would have said, ‘You’re not credible.’ “

Two Movements:

The new alliance between anti-war protesters and foreign-policy realists: “What does an antiwar movement do with a war likely to be over in a matter of weeks? Plenty, it turns out.

The antiwar movement is actually two rather different movements that partly overlap. One movement is in the streets and on the internet — often led by radicals, sometimes joined uneasily by liberals. The other is pragmatic and mainstream. Both were nonplussed but only temporarily by the outbreak of war, and neither has gone away.” — Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect

Perle Out.

Rumsfeld Adviser Resigns as Head of Pentagon Panel: Richard N. Perle has resigned as chairman of an influential Pentagon advisory board following disclosures of business dealings that included his meeting with a Saudi arms dealer and a contract with a bankrupt telecommunications company seeking Defense Department permission to be sold to Chinese investors. NY Times Is this another news event driven by webloggers’ revelations and hounding?

War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general:

The biggest war game in US military history, staged this month at a cost of £165m with 13,000 troops, was rigged to ensure that the Americans beat their “Middle Eastern” adversaries, according to one of the main participants. General Paul Van Riper, a retired marine lieutenant-general, told the Army Times that the sprawling three-week millennium challenge exercises, were “almost entirely scripted to ensure a [US] win”. Guardian/UK I was pointed back to this August, 2002 article by someone who speculates that this might have something to do with the hard time the invading forces are having this week. The current war is scripted too, only they failed to persuade the majority of the players.

US defeat in Iraq ‘inevitable’ — Ritter

The United States does not have the military means to take over Baghdad and will lose the war against Iraq, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter said.

“The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated. It is a war we can not win,” he told private radio TSF in an interview broadcast here on Tuesday evening.


“Every time we confront Iraqi troops we may win some tactical battles, as we did for ten years in Vietnam, but we will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost,” Ritter added. (South Africa)

To clarify:

Rebecca Blood wrote in response to my ‘conscientious objector’ post below to point out, quite rightly, that ‘conscientious objector’ status requires a military draft, and doubted the appropriateness of the word in an all-volunteer military. To which I would reply that this is true legalistically, but I was using the term conscientious objector more figuratively — no, really more literally — to indicate any who come to have objections as a matter of conscience. It is also worth pointing out that a volunteer army does not necessarily fill up with people in ethical agreement with their country’s military policy. More typically, enlistees, especially in peacetime, have not troubled themselves about the morality of joining the military in the face of the opportunity it represents. Rebecca comments, “But I have difficulty seeing military enlistees as unwilling victims in a terribly unfair scheme: a willingness to fight when called is an important–and obvious–part of the deal, not a hidden clause in the contract.” I beg to differ. Recruitment ads emphasize all sorts of fun and exciting things one will experience as a member of the military, and none of them are warfighting. And, even without conscription, many joining the military do not experience themselves as having much choice in the matter. Lives are being wasted tragically for misguided and devious reasons, and it is a comforting illusion to tell ourselves that dying soldiers knowingly assumed the risk. In that sense, developing and acting on conscientious objections is an opportunity waiting to happen. Rebecca: “…if you are in the military and have suddenly come to the conclusion that killing other people isn’t the career you had hoped for, is interested in helping you.” (And don’t forget, parents, while we’re on the topic, that the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act requires schools to give military recruiters and the Selective Service access to the names of all students unless the parents specifically notify the school that sharing their child’s name is prohibited.)

As Rebecca points out, the Selective Service has always recognized the moral validity of objecting to war on the grounds that it is wrong — with several important constraints. It is fairly easy if you are a devout member of an established religious church or sect with well-defined pacifist doctrine. But if you come by your war objection through a less conventional route, the burden is upon you to justify it. During the Vietnam era, when I registered as a C.O., I had to jump through hoops to make the argument on the basis of my homegrown and eclectic theology, not exactly Jewish, not exactly Christian, Buddhist or animistic, nor secular humanist… (These days, as a mental health professional, I might also construct an objector’s position based on my familiarity with the core tenet of post-traumatic stress disorder, that something unutterable is done to the essence of being human by exposure to experiences outside the bounds of what it is equipped to endure, but that’s for a different conversation…) . And the Selective Service has always been inflexible about the requirement of absolute pacifism, i.e. objection to all war rather than a specific war. To make an intellectually honest assertion that one deserved C.O. status, one would have to search one’s soul for a position of conscience on challenging but predictable questions like the one about intervening against Hitler. Again, in asking here where the conscientious objectors are, I am broadening the term to encompass the plausible position of objecting specifically to this illegitimate ill-intentioned ill-advised morally compromised dirty little war. But, Rebecca, you’re right, it is probably more confusing than it is worth to have called them ‘conscientious objectors.’

Ill Logic?

Rafe Colburn:

“I have complete faith that the US military, along with the help our allies are providing, will wind up dislodging Saddam Hussein from power, hopefully sooner rather than later. When that happens, the aspirants to American empire who have sunk their claws into the current administration will no doubt crow about their general brilliance. Before it’s too late, let’s be sure to remember that they’re the same people who thought that no ground invasion was needed to overthrow Iraq’s government — that we could just send a few guns over and provide air support and the Iraqi opposition would take care of these things themselves. It was the military that demanded that the invasion be an all out effort involving lots of troops on the ground. Of all the things the Bush administration has gotten wrong, listening to the military on this one is one thing they got right.” rc3

Colburn, whose levelheaded clarity I usually appreciate, goes on to make a ‘lesser of evils’ argument I find insidious. Bringing down the Iraqi regime with a proxy war or airstrikes would be far worse for the Iraqi people than the status quo invasion scenario, he suggests, since the ground forces are taking such measures to prevent civilian casualties. Is this war a lesser of evils? Only if you buy into many questionable assumptions about inevitability or necessity. And then there’s the one about how long we are going to be able to afford the luxury of preventing civilian casualties. Although we’re denying that we targeted them (which isn’t really the point, is it?) and suggesting that it might have been an Iraqi missile rather than one of ours (will we go on to say they did it deliberately to frame the US and reap the propaganda benefits?), at least fifteen were killed in an errant missile strike today on a Baghdad marketplace. CNN

It also may be a fiction to assume that the efforts to avoid civilian casualties come from our commanders’ humanitarian scruples. I think the policy is more likely to be a function of our efforts to preserve the last tattered vestiges of the goodwill of the civilized world we used to have as our allies. In other words, a function of the Bush administration’s utter failure at diplomacy leaving the military in the untenable position of not being able to defend themselves adequately because of stringent PR restraints. As such, our calculation of the profit-risk balance of maintaining that effort may be very volatile. Prepare yourself to see the Pentagon quietly ignoring such constraints when it is expedient or necessary; and, of course, taking no responsibility for the consequences to the Iraqi populace.

Not Our Fight: William Saletan enters a plea that we continue to fight a different war than the Iraqis in this sense. This would be a morally determinative choice to differentiate us from the terrorists, he feels. He is not so naive as to believe the unsubstantiated (and ludicrous) claims of direct links between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, but follow his logic. I’m not sure, however, we haven’t definitively lost the battle to be any better than the terrorists we claim to oppose already.

(I)n 1991 we and the Iraqis were waging the same war: They were trying to destroy us, and we were trying to destroy them. Now we’re waging two different wars: Saddam Hussein wants a war of destruction while we want a war of decapitation that leaves Iraq intact. The current “war” is really a struggle between those two wars. If we fight a war of destruction — even if we “win” it — we lose.

Remember this as you’re reading the latest news or watching the latest video from Iraq. Many developments that look like gains are really losses, and many that look like losses are really gains. When U.S. or British troops go into Basra, Umm Qasr, or Nasiriyah to finish off Fedayeen fighters, that’s a loss, not a gain. Every shot we fire in a city, and every bomb we drop, increases the probability of civilian casualties, which in turn raise the level of civilian anger against us and make it harder to separate Saddam from his people. Every day we spend hunting snipers in outlying cities, even if we kill them all, is a day in which we’re stalled on the way to Baghdad while U.S.-friendly regimes in the Muslim world grow more unstable


The killers of Sept. 11 exploited the fact that they were willing to shed the blood of civilians and we weren’t. The killers of Basra, An Nasiriyah, and Baghdad are exploiting the same difference. While ruthlessness in attack is worse than ruthlessness in defense, the logic of asymmetry binds them together. I don’t know whether Saddam’s henchmen should go to The Hague for sponsoring terrorism. But they certainly ought to go there for using human shields.. Slate

Off Target:

“(The charges in) William Safire’s recent two part series “The French Connection” in The New York Times, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune… have been relayed around the globe, in newspapers, magazines and Web sites, fueling the rising storm of outrage against the French.

But Safire’s double broadside is more Francophobia than fact. He is way off beam; his articles are filled with error and innuendo. What makes matters worse is that editors at both The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune knew there were serious questions about Safire’s charges, yet the papers went ahead and published the second part of his series.” TomPaine Are people finding any serious Francophobia out there? Even the most pro-Bush pro-war people I brush elbows with seem disdainful of the ‘Freedom fries’ jingoism, and I’m hearing about all sorts of corporate lobbying on behalf of the preservation of the trans-Atlantic alliance, since European subsidiaries of American firms are usually a significant contributor to their gross.

I’m trying

a commenting system here again, using Enetation. I played around with several of these when they first started appearing several years ago and they seemed to slow down the loading of the weblog page intolerably for me and at least some of FmH’s readers. There was also a question of the intermittent overload of the comments server making the comments system unavailable. Recently, I woke up to the possibility that these systems have matured; they’re being used broadly and I don’t hear any griping. I don’t know how Enetation compares with some of the other tools out there; perhaps, if you have one to recommend, mention it in a comment to this post? I’m particularly interested in knowing if you have found a system to be stable, reliable and perennially accessible. In any case, can at least a few people try to post test comments to this post to be sure that Enetation works for everyone?

I won’t know if this is slowing down page loads for some of you with a slower net connection unless you tell me either. Please do. For now, I’ll keep the little ‘speech balloon’ icon which lets you send me an email comment on a post too, but if Enetation or something similar works out, expect that to go away. I much prefer the potential for cross-conversation among my readers. So please try out the system…

R.I.P. Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

Former Senator dies at 76: “The lanky, pink-faced lawmaker, who preferred bow ties and professorial tweeds to the Senate uniform of lawyer-like pinstripes, reveled in speaking his mind and defying conventional labels.

Known for his ability to spot emerging issues and trends, Moynihan was a leader in welfare reform and transportation initiatives, and an authority on Social Security and foreign policy.” The Nando Times