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April 4, 2004 - You and me against the world....

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Why do they come to hate us so?
What exactly have we done?
Didn’t they beg us to come rescue them from Saddam Hussein?
Doesn’t everyone really, secretly, admire us for getting rid of the big bully – even the French?
Shouldn’t they be proud to be occupied by a loving and just Christian nation?
It is not just Fallujah…



Well, in the Weekly Standard cover story of April 5 Fred Barnes says democracy and capitalism are blossoming in Iraq.  Really.  Honest.  Don’t look at those charred body parts hanging from that bridge, and the cheering crowd.  Not to worry.  Fred’s argument is that these Iraqi folks just need "attitude adjustment."  His words.  The Marines are now vowing that the folks in Fallujah had better watch out.  We’ve had enough.  We’re now going to PACIFY that city, big time, whether they like it or not.  That’s a curious threat, linguistically speaking, of course. 

Well, put Iraq aside for a moment. 


Yes, folks seem also to resent us for pulling out of treaties – Kyoto, The International Tribunal, that set of conventions on limiting land mines, the ABM Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Control Conventions and so on and so forth – griping that we expect THEM to comply with all this but WE don’t have to. 


Well, that’s a pretty haughty way of saying we’re the bad guys.


Wouldn’t any of them do the same if any of these nations were the most powerful nation on earth?  As the conservatives say – it’s sour grapes.  They have a bad attitude.  They just envy us our power to do exactly what we want.

Just a note – they called us on this business again.  Picky, picky, picky…. 

See World Court Rules U.S.  Should Review 51 Death Sentences
MARLISE SIMONS and TIM WEINER, The New York Times, Published: April 1, 2004

Basically we hold, now, fifty-one foreign nationals in various states, and plan to execute a good number of them when all the paperwork and appeals are cleared up.  We’re not talking terrorism or Guantánamo Bay or any of that.  This is basic Class One felony stuff – murder, kidnapping and that sort of thing.  Crime, not war. 

The problem is we agreed to international conventions that say these folks have the right to chat with their own governments, and we kind of forgot to let them speak to their own embassy folks.  Imagine you get locked up in, say, Portugal, and ask to speak with someone at the American embassy to have your country come to bat for you.  The idea is they would let you do that, and if the American embassy folks thought there was something wrong going on, they’d lodge a diplomatic protest and make a fuss and help you out. 


Actually, it does work that way.  Or should.  We do insist on our right to visit any American arrested abroad.

The problem here is that in these fifty-one local cases we decided (or forgot) to allow these foreign folks that right.  Oops.  Well, all fifty-one are Mexicans. 


And the International Court of Justice called us on it. 

So what do we do?  No telling quite yet – as the Times reports:


It is unclear whether American courts will heed the ruling, and federal officials reacted cautiously, saying they needed time to study the list of decisions.  "It's a very complex ruling," said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman.  "We'll decide, based on studying it, how we can go about implementing it."


Hey, what’s so complicated? 

Well, maybe we never really recognized the authority of this World Court? 


No.  That’s not it.  The Times reports that we do acknowledge the jurisdiction of this court “to resolve disputes between nations arising under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.”  That allows people arrested abroad to meet with representatives of their governments and explicitly says detainees must be advised of this right.  Way back in the sixties we agreed to that.  Honest.  And the Times notes that we regularly invoke this 1963 convention to visit Americans in foreign jails. 

So what’s the problem?  Well, there’s the matter of state's rights:


Although the laws of an international treaty should prevail over national law, the Bush administration has often criticized the application of international law.  Even if it bows to the ruling, federal officials may not be able to compel states to heed the court.  Gov. Rick Perry, who succeeded President Bush in Texas, has said that "the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in Texas."


Ah.  Texas. 

All this does not make us look good.  And folks do get angry.  Do we seem arrogant – a bit high-handed?  Well, our usual response – Go pound sand, Frenchy (or "wetback" in this case)!  – is not impressing these International Court of Justice people. 

Should we worry?  Many on the right would say no.  So people hate and resent us – that bad attitude thing.  Can that really ever hurt us? 
We report.  You decide. 

But back to Iraq and events in Fallujah …

The Best Rant of The Week Award goes to Eric Alterman at Altercation for this opening paragraph to his daily column…


Those awful pictures from Fallujah are a necessary part of Americans’ education and must be shown to them just as frequently as the deliberate deceptions the media so gullibly passed along when the president was misleading us into war.  As horrific and inhuman as these actions may be, Bush asked for this.  He invaded another country in near complete ignorance of its history and traditions, in defiance of world opinion, and on the basis of dishonest and trumped-up arguments.  What’s more, he and Cheney ensured the failure of the post-war plans by refusing even to consult with experts who knew something about the region, even those in our own government.  The result has been an unending series of easily predictable catastrophes that are worsening by the day.  Knowing the ways of the all-powerful Karl Rove, I predict he will instruct Bush to cut and run before Election Day.  The question is, will Cheney second the motion?  Will the media allow them to get away with it? 


Wow.  Talk about needing an attitude adjustment!  I wish I didn’t agree with him. 

For a more nuanced view you might check out this:
Iraq Hawks Down: Is Fallujah Iraq's Mogadishu?
Fred Kaplan, SLATE.COM - Updated Thursday, April 1, 2004, at 4:11 PM PT

Kaplan opens with this -


Pentagon officials view Wednesday's horror in Fallujah as the Iraq war's Mogadishu incident: a disaster that may be a turning point for American policy.  We will not flee, as we did in Somalia, but Fallujah should teach even the administration's most die-hard optimists that the mission is deeper and muddier than they'd imagined, that the country they have conquered is far uglier and far less pliant than they hoped, and that a new course of policy is necessary if we want to sustain the occupation. 

Many are wondering how President Bush will retaliate for the brutal slayings of the four American contractors who were shot, beaten, dismembered, dragged down the street, and strung up on bridge poles.  The universal feeling is that some response is necessary to let the insurgents know they can't get away with this.  The question is what kind of response?


Well, that’s good question. 

As Kaplan asks -


So, what do we do?  Bomb the place till the rubble bounces?  The U.S. Air Force briefly tried this approach last November with Operation Iron Hammer, in which we bombed buildings that the insurgents had been using, to no effect.  The Israelis have been raining missiles and bombs on their own local terrorists for years, also to no effect.  The danger of massive bombardment is that it kills the wrong people, angers their friends and relatives, and sires new insurgents as a result. 

Do we cordon off Fallujah?  To what end?  To keep terrorists from entering?  That assumes that the insurgents come from elsewhere, when most of them seem to be natives.  Fallujah has long been the hot point of the Sunni Triangle, a stronghold of pro-Saddam sentiment.  At least since last April, when U.S.  soldiers killed 15 Fallujah residents in a demonstration, the city has been bitterly, hatefully anti-American.  Besides, we don't have enough troops to close off the borders.  

Do we send in more troops to "pacify" the Sunni Triangle?  From where?  As several Army generals warned before this war started (prompting ridicule and, in one case, the dismissal of the truth-telling commander), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's battle plan did not provide enough troops.  As it turned out, there were enough troops to defeat the Iraqi army and occupy Baghdad—but not enough to accomplish the war's strategic goals.  One year later, American forces are stretched thin throughout Iraq, throughout the world for that matter. 


Well, that’s a dismal list of non-options. 

Perhaps there are other, non-military options, and you can read Kaplan on that. 

I’m not sure we do those any longer – that political, diplomatic stuff.  We don’t believe in that any longer, or at least our government doesn’t believe in such things any longer.  Just as Ariel Sharon has brought peace to the West Bank and Gaza, and made the Palestinians love and respect him and leave Israel safe, so we will do the same in Iraq. 


George Paine comments:


The LA Times reports that the US is preparing for a "forceful return to Fallujah," noting that while the military says that any attack on the city "will be precise", it will also be "overwhelming".  The Times reports that multiple battalions of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are now arrayed outside Fallujah, preparing to retake the city.


... Residents of Fallujah are promising that their city will not be retaken without a fight.  They are promising to fight the Marines on the street, possibly house-to-house.  They are promising to shed the blood of the Americans, telling reporters that they relish the opportunity to engage the Americans once again.


So I must ask: why "retake" Fallujah at all?  Why not simply cordon off the city, allowing only food and medical supplies to pass through the cordon sanitaire?  Such an action would accomplish several goals: it would prevent residents of Fallujah from leaving the city to attack occupation troops or engage in acts of terror while also minimizing casualties among both Marines and Iraqis.  Why must we retake the city?  What military necessity is there in retaking the city?


Well, I did come across a letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times (not available on the web) that argued that we incinerated hundreds of thousands of civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and we fire-bombed Tokyo killing maybe even more civilians that we did with the nuclear weapons, and we fire-bombed Dresden, and, well, aftre all, we WON.  Why not do the same to Fallujah?


These are options?  The first – the cordon sanitaire – won’t satisfy our need for closure, as it is often put.  Closure?  Vengeance?  Whatever.  The second, suggested by that fellow from Santa Monica in the Times seems a bit over-the-top.  And there might be, with that apocalyptic response, some diplomatic fallout (no kidding!) and further calls for revenge from the bad guys.


And would this second response say about us?


Reggie Rivers in the Denver Post nails it -


Despite the best efforts of war reporters to shape our view of the battlefield, it seems clear that leaders on both sides are motivated by the same set of beliefs.  They apparently believe that if they kill enough of us, we'll pack up and go home.  Isn't that what we believe, too?  Like them, we believe force is the only way to accomplish anything in this battle, and that we need only kill enough people in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere to dissuade the terrorists from messing with us.


Let’s see…. 


Mao famously observed that all power comes from the barrel of a gun, and Ariel Sharon lets everyone know that true peace comes from targeted assassinations, and we of course know that Jeffersonian democracy comes from the belly of a B-52 (The BIG Pacifier) - whether you want it right now or not. 


So what will happen?

Well, perhaps these angry Iraqis will have an attitude adjustment.  It could happen, but I doubt it. 


These folks didn’t ask us to come in and occupy their country, or at least I don’t remember any pleas for intervention – not like from the population of Hungary in the mid-fifties when the Russian tanks rolled into Bucharest (we stayed out), or like calls for a little help from the Czechs and Slovaks in August of 1968 when the Russian tanks rolled into Prague (we stayed out).  No one asked this time.


So I don’t see an attitude adjustment.  It is, of course, a reflection of my own bad attitude that I’m skeptical about such a change of heart. 

But at the White House they have faith this could, maybe, possibly, perhaps might happen.  I guess you do have to admire their optimism. 


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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