A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Okay, Here We Go Again

Another round of my good friends on the right making damn fools of themselves, this time over Operation Swarmer. It started with good ol' Baroness Alexandra, who is developing quite a rep as a well-illustrated linkfest for every right-wing tempest in a teapot which comes along.

As always, I feel a little guilty burdening you with this, since it appears somewhere else, but by God if I have to spend some of my best writing and my precious time to knock down this kind of nonsense and pop these foolish balloons, I have a right to reprint the dialog, edited for clarity:

Baroness Alexandra: A show of strength was a very much needed move by the coalition forces at this time: Somehow I think the President is trying to tell us something, launching the largest air attack on Iraq in three years, on the same day and almost simultaneously giving the zero tolerance message in the national security report, following along the lines of Israel, against terrorism. Obviously undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, he reaffirmed today his strike-first policy against terrorists and enemy nations saying that Iran may pose the biggest challenge for America.

UPDATE III: Speculations are rife on CNN that the air raid today could have involved a high level target, presumably al-Zarqawi, which makes a lot of sense.

IMPORTANT UPDATE IV: It all starts making sense: from The Counterterrorism Blog via The Anchoress:

The level of “chatter” by al Qaeda operatives is currently as high or higher than in the months prior to 9-11, and the question in many parts of the U.S. and European intelligence communities is not if al Qaeda will strike again, but when. Much of the thinking centers on the near-term. This is also reflected in current corporate security alerts being circulated among elite business establishments.

Make sure you check out Joe Katzman @ The Winds Of Change for the most comprehensive power packed briefing update on the global situation thus far. The ongoing post is called Winds Of War. I love that site it's brilliant.

IMPORTANT UPDATE V: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has created a website where it will post documents captured in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq. The website is hosted by the Foreign Military Studies Office Joint Reserve Intelligence Center at Fort Leavenworth and will be updated continuously with new documents. Thank you to Hugh Hewitt, who also points to John Hinderaker's analysis.

And of course there is Iran, and the increased chatter of al-Qaeda, and the fact that rumor has it that they were after a high value target in the raid today, which we can only assume to be al-Zarqawi.

Out of Iraq and into Iran. Ahem. Iran expresses their wish TODAY to hold face to face talks with the US on Iraq. The master manipulators are preparing to make their next move.

Get the picture? Master international chess player George W. Bush, excecutes a brilliant combination to plow under all resistance to the spread of Democracy and Freedom abroad and the thwarting of Terrorism at home. We have front row seats and the popcorn vendor is coming.

David Byron: I used to think the fear-mongering was some sort of running joke. Black humour - well the British are used to that. After a while I began to realise it was quite serious. American people apparently really were afraid of these gnats. Terrified of the terrorists. The media and the government actively encouraging this fear. I honestly just didn't believe Americans were on the level about being so irratioanlly afraid for several years after 9-11.

What is America so afraid of? I'd rather be bombed than live like that.

How can anyone sane call these attacks by America "self defence" as if America was actually in any danger? Europeans shake their heads in disbelief as this Elephant shrieks and panics over a mouse....

And don't think I believe America has no real threats. Your economy is going down the toilet. That's a real threat. Your Republican senate just voted along strict party lines to raise the national debt to nine trillion dollars. and you're worried about guys armed with box cutters?!

I don't understand the comment about international (ie American) law banning these attacks. I thought Republicans wanted a president who was above the law? Isn't that the whole point? The great leader canot be tied down by petty concerns such as legality when your very lives hang in the balance?

Despite David Byron's pertinant questions, from this point forward, most of my good friends, having been called cowards, went off onto an incredible set of irrelevant rants on the United Nations and International Law. I've cut it away. Irrelevant arguments are routinely one of the ways in which they talk themselves into such obviously nitwitted head spaces. The Anchoress, is having none of this, and, of course, keeps Alexandra's point alive:

The Anchoress: Yes, that's pretty much what I've been thinking all day.

1) release Iraqi documents 2) reiterate commitment 3) air assault on insurgents

My prediction: we'll be out of Iraq sooner than anyone thinks, and the press has been sort of rope-a-doped today. Instead of reporting on Iraqi documents, his commitment and the air assault, they are fixating on...polls. He's making the press look very, very bad.

Which paves the way for the wonderful entry of gringoman.

gringoman: Chief critique of "Swarmer" is that it should have happened two years ago, when they "celebrated" by stringing up those four American civilians. The Hate Americanos are so lucky that Bush is so pc and often media-incompetent. Otherwise the Marines and the rest of the U.S. military would have "disciplined" the Sunni Triangle AND Mooky---Tehran's favorite little Shia rabble rouser--long ago, rather than let the thugs fester and thrive so long.

So this is where we come in:

Joe Claus: My prediction: we'll be out of Iraq sooner than anyone thinks, and the press has been sort of rope-a-doped today.

How often have we heard the same prediction? Did no one learn anything from the last "major offensive", in Fallujah, Operation "Big Thud", which was supposed to "break the back" of the insurgency?

Another few million dollars will be wasted to destroy some real estate, make us a few more enemies in the neighborhood, and capture a few weapons caches, all of which will be replaced within weeks from Syria or Iran. A thin screen of insurgents will be shot at, and some killed, but the bulk of the "anti-Iraqi forces" will have moved somewhere else, because this thing has been telegraphed for weeks over there and for days over here. That's how an insurgency works. That's why an insurgency is possible.

The only way to really defeat it is to overwhelmingly control, all at once, all the possible places it can develop, and truly secure the international borders to inhibit the import of weapons.

We have never had this. We will never have this. We have mere 150,000 or so deployed soldiers trying to secure an area the size of New Jersey. And, under the current terms of military readiness with an all-volunteer army, we will never have more than about 200,000 soldiers deployable anywhere even if all the Americans in Iraq were magically withdrawn tomorrow.

Speculations are rife on CNN that the air raid today could have involved a high level target, presumably al-Zarqawi, which makes a lot of sense.

It is amazing how utterly porous to recent history minds can be. Virtually every week of the Iraq invasion there were air strikes to "take out" Saddam Hussein. In case you haven't noticed, he is still alive and blustering before the news cameras in his trial. And before that there were air strikes to "take out" Osama Bin Laden throughout the Afghan conflict. Great job, Jackson! You've cut him down to merely making videotapes and generating "chatter"!

We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.

Well, at the very least, Iran is weak enough as a military power that we can actually consider attacking the nuclear facilities. But you notice you haven't heard a peep about the Bush Doctrine vis-a-vis North Korea. Or about "great challenge" mentioned in the same breath with China.

Does it violate International or Domestic Law? Maybe. But that's not truly important. The President has always had the capacity to pick a fight. He still retains this. The serious question is whether he has the capacity to finish the fights he starts.

He hasn't finished the one he started in 2003, and, despite the sanguinity of the Anchoress, I don't think he will finish it anytime soon. And, until he finishes that one, he really won't have much capacity to finish another one whether he can start it or no.

Hence this fan dance:

The United States has joined with our EU partners and Russia to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations and provide objective guarantees that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided.

Of course gringoman can't resist.

gringoman: Attention all Islamo-Fascisti, neo-coms, progressives, lawyerly ACLU-niks, subscribers to BBC and Canadian Broadcasting Company, socialistas, subjects of Eurabia and all other members of the World Anti-Us. Imperialista Front: Here is an extract from CENTCOM's "posture statement for 2006."

The enemy’s vision of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, basic liberties banished, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy, the more its bankrupt ideology will become known. But more important, the more that regional leaders talk about and act against this enemy, the less attractive it will be. Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam...

Then Joe Katzman from Winds Of Change follows Alexandra's link over and likes what he sees:

Joe Katzman: Thanks, Alexa, we think a lot of your site, too. The fusion of posts with art is more than aesthetic, it's a reminder every day of the civilization that some of us seek to defend.

I read guys like David, and all I hear in my head is "whaddaya expect, they got all the money." There is no argument that will ever convince such people. But it is worthwhile to respond. Not for people like David, on whom such words are ever and always wasted. We do it for ourselves, as we remind ourselves of the things we stand for.

And as often, we also receive an education in the intrinsic nature of those we stand against.

Joe Claus: Well, I won't go into the issue of exactly what posture CENTCOM is displaying in the above quotation, but it is one that I think would be well-nigh impossible even for an accomplished Hatha Yogi, but which perfectly ordinary Americans are capable of assuming with astonishing ease.

I see a lot of posturing just like this in my travels on blogs.

I hardly think it likely than anyone in the Islamic world is unaware of the program proposed by radical Islamics or would be surprised by what a traditional application of Islamic Law would mean. The notion that talking to CENTCOM [maybe down at the BX when off duty] would enlighten them further is charmingly naive.

Even more charmingly naive is CENTCOM's blanket assertion of absolute knowledge of popular desires everywhere [I presume] from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Indo-Pakistani border.
Much of what they do would be charmingly naive were they not in control of lethal weaponry. As it is, I would not trust the author of the above passage to have the least clue about who he should be shooting at, should fate plop him down into the middle of the Sunni Triangle. But in that matter I really have nothing on him, except for the fact that I know I would be clueless, and he doesn't.

But, then, I'm stiff in the joints and exaggerated postures are hard for me.

By then, of course the real fact about Operation Swarmer were starting to come in and Alexandra restarted the post elsewhere without the embarrasing nuisance it presented:

Joe Claus: And, just for the record, here we have the end to this whole ridiculous episode:

Operation Swarmer Fizzled

Mar. 17, 2006

Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer....

In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, [i.e., there were only 1500 people there in the first place!] was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces.

Can you imagine anything more idotic? When I said "not trust the author of the above passage to have the least clue about who he should be shooting at" I meant what I said. And what I can add to it is that the entire command of CENTCOM can't even tell if there is anybody to shoot at in the Sunni Triangle at all.

Unfortunately, I can imagine something more idiotic. A bunch of bloggers taken in by this nonsense and arguing about the United Nations Charter, while our beautiful hostess promises constant updates on this whole new phase of our glorious war.

Thank you Captain Bunnypants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. And best wishes to the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, particularly my good friend and sometime correspondent Joe Katzman, who always has such mature and considered military views, combined this time with such gallant courtesy toward our fine hostess.

Yeah, Joe, you bet it reminds me of the civilization we seek to defend, if only from itself.

And, finally, this woke up the International Law set, one of which went through the usual rigamarole of waving my Buddhism at me. The sterotype of Buddhists as love, peace, and light ex-hippies dies hard.

North By Northwest: So, let's not have any more of the cheap digs and snides, when addressing our genuinely held opinions, but share with us how you would consolidate the Buddhist objectives with those of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood--we've had an extensive debate how Christian teachings should be applied, so having an insight into the Buddhist's approach would teach all of us something new.

Here are some key Buddhist objectives to start you off: 1. To unfold the wisdom of humanity 2. To promote a blissful culture for humanity 3. To purify the mind of humanity 4. To manifest compassion and loving-kindness 5. To benefit society in deeds 6. To help establish a pure world 7. To advance world peace 8. To create a beautiful world 9. To cultivate supreme enlightenment

Joe Claus: Well, N by NW, I think I've fairly well addressed the issues of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in the post which follows this, but, to recap: Hamas is in no position to do anything nastier than they already have been doing without controlling the Palestinian parliament.

In fact, they are much more exposed now to Israeli retaliation by doing so. Sharon's retrenchment and separating wall merely needs to be fully implemented. After that Hamas will be on a perfectly pullable choke chain called keeping money from them.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been around for fifty years. Support the nation states already in place, even the bad ones, just like we did throughout the 20th Century, and they will be around for another 50 years without making much headway. Start knocking over some more nation states indiscriminately, without being prepared to put anything in their place, and you just might advance their cause.

As far as Buddhism goes, I'll repeat what I said on another post down the roll: Buddhism is not about "making nice". Buddhism is about "getting real". My commentary here is tart and thorny because I think many here have a lot of catching up to do in the getting real department.

This post started with a great and overarching fantasy about George Bush being "finally gonna show 'em" with a grand Operation Smasher that was going to strike to the heart of the Iraqi insurgency and magically make all the other nation building problems disappear.

He was also "finally gonna show 'em" with a re-affirmed declaration that we will make war any where we want and any time we want, particularly in that pesky Iran if they didn't watch out.

Furthermore, he was "finally gonna show 'em" by dragging out tons of Saddam's archives to justify the three years and nearly $250 billion dollars he's spent failing the straighten out the mess he made in Iraq.

All of this is a fantasy. Period. It is also a dangerous fantasy in a world where virtually all our available ground troops are committed to rotating through Iraq and failing to straighten out the mess. Sabre rattling under those conditions is ill-advised.

If the President finally finishes the fight he started exactly three years ago, then we can look at "first strikes". But right now waving them around as some prophylactic without the troops to back them up is senseless.

We have a world of real dangers to face but dangers are best met by fact rather than fantasy. Operation Smasher was mere theater and no one who gave the matter serious and considered judgment would have expected much more. I certainly didn't, and for exactly the reasons I gave in the comments above.

As a Buddhist who has made certain explicit religious vows, I have an obligation to treat all beings with compassion and loving kindness. But my teachers are very clear about the difference between real compassion and "idiot compassion" [this is precisely the words they use] which consists of not stepping forward to disperse dangerous nonsense merely because in doing so you might fail to look properly "buddhist" and "compassionate".

It is not particularly compassionate to let your fellow citizens wallow in fantasy when we must all face real dangers.

And sometimes the most compassionate course of action starts with a good, rude, Bronx cheer.


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