Humming Coming at Ya

16 12 2008

From Haaretz:

Shoes hold a special place in the Arab lexicon of insults as a show of contempt – effectively saying, you’re lower than the dirt on my shoes. Even sitting with the sole of a shoe pointed at another person is seen as disrespectful.

The hurling of shoes at Bush on his last visit to Iraq as president made an ironic bookend to one of the first images after the 2003 U.S. invasion, when Iraqi opponents of deposed leader Saddam Hussein toppled one of his statues in Baghdad and hit it with their shoes.

Al-Zaidi attained instant hero status around the Arab world. At one Baghdad elementary school, a geography teacher asked her students if they had seen the footage of the shoe-throwing, then told them, All Iraqis should be proud of this Iraqi brave man, Muntadhar. History will remember him forever.

In Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City, thousands of supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burned American flags to protest against Bush and called for the release of al-Zaidi, a 28-year-old Shiite who works for the private Iraqi TV station Al-Baghdadia


“I’ve watched the video over a dozen times on You Tube and was excited very time I see him [al-Zaidi] standing up and calling Bush a dog,” said Tamer Ismail, 23-year-old art student in Cairo. “But I felt so bitter when he missed.”

Among other things, al Zaidi will be charged with “insulting the Iraqi state” even as he is celebrated as a hero in Iraq and throughout the region. But another irony here involves the fact that such laws continues to exits in what Bush insists on calling a democratic and free Iraq.

On a slightly related note, a friend of mine noted in an email recently that al Zaidi “has excellent aim.  I can’t imagine that this was a spontaneous because he was throwing the shoe from 15 feet away with many heads obstructing his view, and got so close to Bush’s head both times.  He must have practiced with various size shoes for years on end for this one moment with various distractions in the background. ”

Its all worth another look.


We Fight on that Lie

9 10 2008

Ta-Nehisi Coates sums up John McCain’s posture on Iraq in very stark terms.

There is no sense here that one may have other reasons, short of cowardice, for wanting out of Iraq. But this is like being back on the block. Your man tells you that he got jumped by some cats from across the tracks, so you and him go to war. The beef lasts for months, and then you find out he never got jumped to begin with. But when you pull out, he calls you a chump.

This reminds me of a scene in The Wire when Slim Charles shares some of his wisdom on the Art of War with Avon Barksdale. Charles wanted to retaliate against a rival gangster Marlo Stansfield for the latter’s presumed involvement in murdering a close associate of the Barksdale set.  Even when Barksdale the righleader informs him Marlo had nothing to do with the murder Charles still presses the point. “It don’t matter who did what to who at this point. And now there ain’t no going back. Once you in it you in it. If its a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight,” implores Charles.

Check it.

Pew: Jesse Jackson Beats Phil Gram for Top Campaign Storyline

17 07 2008

I suppose I am more annoyed than surprised that media coverage of former Senator Phil Gram calling American’s a bunch of whiners was outdone by Rev. Jesse Jackson remarking on how he wanted to cut Senator Barack Obama “nuts off.”

Interestingly enough, stories about the candidates courting Hispanic voters was reported on just as much as Iran was, while Iraq did not make the list of top campaign stories at all. Of course, neither did Afghanistan either. This strikes me as rather odd considering Obama has held consistent 30 point lead over McCain among Hispanic voters for months, and no war is being waged in Iran at the moment, whereas the U.S. currently has two failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the Pew analysis of top campaign media story lines of last week here.

Latinos and the Electorate

9 06 2008

Bush’s Not Too Thinly Attack on Obama’s Approach to Iran

15 05 2008

In a speech today before the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem today, President Bush leveled a baseless not too thinly attack on Obama’s call for measured diplomatic engagement with Iran. The Great Decider told Israelis

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.”


Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

The fact that Dubya still thinks its useful to frame mid-East political affairs with WWII thinking is as telling as it is astounding. First of all, it suggests that the conventional state based lumbering armies of the last century with the nimble and roaming non-state terrorist organizations of the 21st century are parallel in scope or similar in nature. Of course, we now know that terrorist organizations finance, recruit, propagate their message very differently than states do and are probably much more effectively, albeit not exclusively, deterred and contained by intelligence driven law enforcement strategies.

Second of all, applying this WWII thinking to mid-east affairs is problematic because it also suggests that countries in the region with frosty relations with Israel or those critical of its treatment of Arab Israelis and Palestinians are surely be equated with the Nazi campaign to exterminate all Jews. Whatever you think about anti-Israeli sentiment in the middle east or elsewhere, this is not exactly the way to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world.

Thirdly, if Dubya is implying that since Obama is willing to engage Iran diplomatically, he is somehow betraying American interests, its just absurd on its face, considering how American and Iranian diplomats sat down together to craft a key agreement after the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan. The Bonn agreement as it provided for a reconstruction plan and offer financial aid to Afghanistan, a known irritant to the Iranians since the Taliban took over the Central Asian country.

In fact, Ambassador James Dobbins, one of the U.S. representative carryout out the negotiations, said:

On two occasions Iranian representatives made particularly memorable contributions. The original version of the Bonn agreement, drafted by the United Nations and amended by the Afghans who were present, neglected to mention either democracy or the war on terrorism. It was the Iranian representative who spotted these omissions and successfully urged that the newly emerging Afghan government be required to commit to both.

Too bad the Bush turned his back on the Iranians by placing them in the so-called Axis of Evil. Another instance of a flawed WWII analogy at work.

Fourthly, our own intelligence reporting confirms that the Iranians have disbanded their own nuclear weapons program in 2003. And, according to the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, they did so “primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”

In other words, diplomacy.

The same type of diplomacy that President Bush decries as appeasement.

With respect to national security, the GOP are going to run on fear this election cycle.

Fear of Obama because of his name.

Fear of Obama because wanting to talk to adversaries is tantamount to outright betrayal.

Fear of Obama because he is an unknown quantity and seemingly foreign.

Fear of making a black man Commander-in-Chief.

I don’t think its going to work on enough of the electorate to make it a viable strategy, but we’ll see.

Bush on Sacrifice and Golf

14 05 2008

When asked in an interview with Politico and Yahoo! News about what personal sacrifices he has made since the war in Iraq began, President Bush said he gave up playing golf. You just can’t make this stuff up.

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families.

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

Way to take one for the team Mr. Great Decider.

Sidenote: I wonder if this counts as elitist and out of touch?

Madame Obliterator?

22 04 2008

When asked whether or not the United States should treat an attack on Israel by Iran as an attack against Americans at the ABC News Democratic debate last Wednesday, Senator Clinton gave a fairly well thought out answer even if it was a bit too hawkish for my liking. She began by saying, “Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.”

At these proforma debates you have to get the tough talk out there first to avoid being tagged as a dovish liberal eager to coddle dictators, especially if you are a Democrat.

Fine. I get that.

But to her credit she went on to note what can be achieved through isolating Iran with aggressive diplomacy. Clinton emphasized the need to create what she called an “umbrella” security agreement vis-visa Iran. She claim it would afford the U.S., under her administration, three tools. First, is it would provide leverage if we ever choose to negotiate Iran directly. Secondly, it would send the message that the U.S. is serious about containing the spread of nuclear arms in the region, since a nuclear Iran may ignite an arms race in the Middle East.

And thirdly, it would presumably send a message to states elsewhere that the U.S. is serious about restoring the non-proliferation regime that the Bush administration tore asunder with the one very notable exception of North Korea.

She concluded:

Therefore we have got to have this process that reaches out, beyond even who we would put under the security umbrella, to get the rest of the world on our side to try to impose the kind of sanctions and diplomatic efforts that might prevent this from occurring.

That’s a solid answer in the context of these sound bite driven debates, and quite frankly much better than the bungled response by Obama where he understandably tried to side step the premise of the question altogether. Our Middle East foreign policy is done a real disservice by presuming that U.S. and Israeli security interests should be tightly aligned. In other words, the U.S. should not operate as a guarantor of Israel’s security. It is after all, the sole nuclear power in the region, the most dominant force there, and has been the victor in virtually every war its fought since its inception.

As for the merits of Clinton’s answer, I doubt that what Clinton recommended in terms of a security umbrella is achievable. I suspect other countries in the region are interested in containing Iranian influence, but not necessarily to align themselves with Israeli security interests. And it would be difficult to make that distinction with a U.S. led region wide security initiative intended to knee cap a nuclear armed Iran. Driving a wedge between Iran and Syria, containing Iranian influence among Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon, i.e. Hezbollah, may be more of an immediate concern for other nations in the region.

But whatever. I never served on the National Security Council to any president or on some fancy Iraq Study group with luminaries from the national security establishment. So what do I know?

One thing I do know, however, is that the the National Intelligence Estimate, a document representing the definitive judgements of all the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies, in December stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and unlikely to resume them in the next decade. The Bush administration has done its best to dismiss the findings of the NIE and exaggerate the threat posed by Iran by citing its incidenary anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric and support to various insurgent Shiite factions in Iraq.

And during the debate I was eager for either Clinton or Obama to mention something about this. I was hoping that it would be Obama, since he has continuously said he will end the mindset that got us into the war in Iraq. But alas neither he nor Clinton even mentioned the letters NIE in one breath.

After gaining some measure of confidence in Clinton’s response that she put to bed the bizarre hawkishness that lead her to vote for the Kyle-Liberman amendment, a measure that Senator Webb called “Cheney’s Fondest Pipe Dream” Madame Inevitable heads to Good Morning America and turns into Ms. Obliterator.

Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” Clinton said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

Huh? Well, I suppose I spoke to soon.