October Surprise?

My admiration for Ed Fitzgerald’s political commentary grows the more I read his unfutz. He was an early commenter to FmH and after 9-11 invited me onto a small mailing list where he and similarly thoughtful friends conducted always high-quality considerations of the urgent events of the day. Regrettably, largely because of the energy I devote to FmH, I was more of a lurker than a contributor to his mailing list.

I particularly like his dissection of the possibilities of an ‘October surprise’ from the administration. He is not talking about the often-mentioned theory that they have bin Laden in custody already and will trot him out to the world just in time to influence the vote; Ed thinks the evidence is pretty good that bin Laden is already dead (I have more doubts). What Ed considers are reports in recent weeks that the US has been stealthily shipping long-range missile parts into southern Iraq. At least some of the weapons are of the vintage of the ’80’s armaments the US supplied to Iraq during its conflict with Iran. The obvious implication is that the administration plans some dramatic revelation in the face of mounting criticism about the absence of WMD in Iraq and the upcoming trial of Saddam Hussein.

How reliable the source of this report is remains to be seen but, as Ed notes, it pays to keep our collective eyes open for corroboration. Ed argues that the bump in public approval from such a ‘discovery’ would be small and ephemeral. I hope this is the case, given that it is an entirely plausible thing to expect of the Bush administration. However, the calculus Ed uses to reach the conclusion that the ‘WMD putsch’ would be a bust for the Bush Leaguers is anything but a sure bet. He relies on an analysis of the sequentially smaller bumps in public approval Bush has gotten from each of the recent milestones in the WoT®, against a baseline of mounting public disapproval. My answer is that you can’t handicap the whims of the electorate and that the vagaries of the next seven months could well prime the pump for such a potential coup. So I join Fitzgerald in suggesting the Democrats be very very prepared for the potential ‘discovery’ of WMD around Basra after Labor Day.

By the way, since admiration is often transitive, I should mention that Billmon, of whom Ed Fitzgerald is very fond, has apparently gotten too popular for his own good. His ISP has just informed him, he lets readers know, that he will have to start paying for his bandwidth, presumably because of how much he uses these days; [That’s why I keep FmH under the radar (grin). — ed.] he estimates it is going to run him $3,000/year, which could force him out of the business, to our great loss. He has put up a tip jar on his site and is probably among those most deserving of some assistance from inquiring minds among the weblog-reading public. He’s right; this may indeed be the future of weblogging.




And then
there’s all the breathless reporting on the possibility that Pakistani forces fighting al Qaeda in the autonomous tribal region may have surrounded Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s number-two man and arguably more important to al Qaeda strategizing than its figurehead. In any case, claims that al-Zawahiri was close to capture appear to be so much hot air. Josh Marshall discusses how much egg this all leaves on CNN’s face. Marshall thinks it is too big a coincidence that the Pakistani engagement came right after Colin Powell’s visit to Islamabad, proposing that that would make Pakistan anxious to show the US what a good job they are doing rooting out al Qaeda from its refuges. If so, Powell’s visit was the icing on the cake rather than the cause. It is more likely this action is Pakistani payment of the debt they owe the US after getting a ‘bye’ on their nuclear proliferation activities from the Bush administration. We allowed Musharraf to blame it on a ‘straw man’ (whom, moreover, he pardoned) when all the evidence says it was a widespread conspiracy within upper-echelon Pakistani circles. I wrote a couple of months ago about speculation that the price the US would exact from Pakistan would be to allow a US military operation to look for bin Laden’s forces, which would be a high price indeed in terms of threatening Musharraf’s shaky hold on power by inflaming Pakistani nationalist sentiments. Pehaps he has lobbied hard to have us let him do it instead; if so, how long will we let the Pakistani charade that they are on the verge of hard-fought dramatic success go on? Or perhaps this is an agreed-upon prelude to the US operation.

All the Fixins’

Country Joe McDonald proudly collects on his website adaptations of his “Fixin’ to Die Rag” for just about every political crisis since Vietnam. For example:

“And it’s one, two, three,

What are we searching for?

George said it, it must be true.

I believe in W.

And it’s five, six, seven,

Tell me who I should hate.

There’s no need to wonder why,

‘Cause Presidents never lie.”

Refresh your memory; here’s the original (in RealAudio).

1:

D

Come on all of you big strong men,

G

Uncle Sam needs your help again.

D

He’s got himself in a terrible jam

G

Way down yonder in Vietnam

E7 A

So put down your books and pick up a gun,

D G

We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

Chorus:

A7 A#7 D

And it’s one, two, three,

D7 G

What are we fighting for?

D

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

G

Next stop is Vietnam;

A7 A#7 D

And it’s five, six, seven,

D7 G

Open up the pearly gates,

E A

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

D G

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

2:

D

Come on generals, let’s move fast;

G

Your big chance has come at last.

D

Gotta go out and get those reds —

G

The only good commie is the one that’s dead

E7 A

You know that peace can only be won

D G

When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.

[Chorus]

3:

D

Come on Wall Street, don’t move slow,

G

Why man, this is war au-go-go.

D

There’s plenty good money to be made

G

Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,

E7 A

Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,

D G

They drop it on the Viet Cong.

[Chorus]

4:

D

Come on mothers throughout the land,

G

Pack your boys off to Vietnam.

D

Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,

G

Send your sons off before it’s too late.

E7 A

You can be the first one on your block

D G

To have your boy come home in a box.

[Chorus]

And: ‘In 1970, Pete Seeger recorded a ‘lost’ version of “Fixin’ to Die Rag” for a 45 release. At least a few advance DJ copies were produced; McDonald reproduces one on his website. “But something went wrong. The details are unclear, but Pete did mention once that the distributors refused to handle it. It was never released, and shortly afterward Pete left Columbia, his longtime label.

Now for the first time since the 70s, you can hear this lost recording (RealAudio too) .”

And: Country Joe was sued by the daughter of the late New Orleans jazz trombonist Kid Ory after she obtained the rights to her father’s famous “Muskrat Ramble” in the late ’90’s; she claimed “Fixin’ to Die” was an infringement on her father’s song. ‘Kid Ory died in 1973 but Babette says his dying request was that she “nail that bastard, McDonald” because he hated the song’s anti-war stance and profane lyrics.’ Until the suit was resolved, Joe stopped performing the song on stage after being warned that doing so could subject him to a $150,000 fine. He eventually prevailed, largely on the basis of the doctrine of laches, which I understand as the legal principle that it is negligent to wait too long to assert a legal right. Not to mention the dubious musicological proposition of Ory’s rights to the song, a New Orleans jazz staple, in the first place, as well as the doctrine of fair use, as well as the arguable lack of similarity of the two songs (even though McDonald has acknowledged “Muskrat Ramble” as an influence on “FtDR”).

More Private Forces Eyed for Iraq

“The U.S.-led authority in Iraq plans to spend as much as $100 million over 14 months to hire private security forces to protect the Green Zone, the four-square-mile area in Baghdad that houses most U.S. government employees and some of the private contractors working there.

The Green Zone is now guarded primarily by U.S. military forces, but the Coalition Provisional Authority wants to turn much of that work over to contractors to free more U.S. forces to confront a violent insurgency. The companies would employ former military personnel and be responsible for safeguarding the area for the first year after political authority is transferred to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.” —Washington Post

In other words, the US administration is paying the CPA to hire mercenaries to take the place of US troops in guarding our interests in Baghdad. I doubt it has as much to do with freeing up US forces to fight the insurgency elsewhere in Iraq as it does with facilitating the extrication of the US military from the quagmire in advance of the US presidential election. Not only will the administration be able to claim that the country had been pacified enough to allow withdrawals but the deaths of hired guns, some of them non-American, would be more palatable to the American electorate than ongoing troop losses. I also wonder if it also has something to do with the US not being accountable if the foreign fighters do not respect the same rules of engagement by which the US military is supposedly bound. Given plummeting morale and enthusiasm among US occupation forces, the mecenaries might be, shall we say, abit more vociferous against the rebels. [Do merciless and mercenary have the same etymological roots?

Related? I am sure you have seen the reports that the Bush campaign is essentially hiring mercenaries for domestic work as well [via Daily Kos]