Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Old Hickory's Weblog has moved to Blogger/Blogspot!!!

I've switched Old Hickory's Weblog's location from AOL Journals to Blogger (Blogspot).

Please come over to the new spot and check out the new version, still called
Old Hickory's Weblog.

I'm still working on the template, like adding a mail-notification feature. So the template will be changing its appearance some over the next few weeks.

I feel a tad nostalgic about the AOL location since I've been posting here for almost four years now.

AOL has improved their features a lot. But after two years posting at the group blog The Blue Voice, I find that Blogspot is more user-friendly overall. In particular, it's easier to leave comments without having to go get an AIM ID through AOL.

I'm not taking down the AOL version. I'll leave it hear as long as AOL allows. I am putting copies of the old posts at the Blogspot location - being able to designate the date of the post is another advantage at Blogspot - but it will be a while before I get the full archive copied there. But all the AOL posts from 2007 are already there.

I thought it would be nice to let
my last post in this location (except for this one) be a fun one, on the Zorro telenovela in this case.

For my goobye-to-AOL-Journals link, check out this YouTube video of
Bring'em Home Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions Band.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Zorro: Capítulos 88-92 (June 18-22): Amazons and witches and poisons, oh my!

"Machala, Esmeralda": Vanya and Asalaya, Los Angeles hippies Amazons, circa 1810

Zorro moved along briskly during this week's segments. By the end of the week, Esmeralda had gone from months confined in a basement to almost being murdered to being sold to slave traders to being in a ship that sinks to discovering buried treasure in what looks like a tropical jungle at a spot a few feet away from what looks like a swamp to joining up with a ferocious tribe of Amazon warriors in the jungle. All of it taking place with in a few miles of Los Angeles.

You didn't realize there were swampy jungles near Los Angeles? That's why you need to be watching Zorro.

Esmeralda Sanchez de Xena has apparently become queen of the Amazons and is intent on revenge against everybody who's hurt her

Altogether, it was an exceptionally exciting week for Esmeralda. At orders from el Comandante Montero, Capitán Pizarro took her out into the woods to kill her, but Sargento García saved her, as I related in
my last Zorro post. Olmos then showed up with two pistols and persuaded Pizarro to leave Esmeralda and García with him. He promptly sold them to slave-traders, while Kamba back at the gitano camp got captured by his former fight promoters and sold to the slave-traders, too.

They were all put on a boat, where the crew leered menacingly at Esmeralda. The boat capital was name Gluck,played by Falvio Peniche, the brother of Arturo Peniche, the actor who plays el Governador Fernando. Esmeralda's amulet that her mother Sara Kalí had given her got a lot of attention this week, too. El Comandante ripped it off her neck just before he sent her out into the woods to be murdered. But Pizarro, who has faint remnants of a heart, gave it to her to comfort her in the minutes before he was going to shoot her.

Ouch, that's gotta hurt! Esmeralda's hand is branded with the map to her grandmother's royal treasure

On the boat, one of the crew ripped it off her neck, too, which kick-started Kamba's demon and so Kamba ripped off his steel manacles and starting strangling the crewman with the amulet. While doing this, he started a fire - to complicate matters on what's still a dark and stormy night - and the ship sank. But before they swam for their lives, Esmeralda grabbed the amulet, which had been heated by the fire and it branded its image into her palm but the burn caused her to drop it. When the ship sank, one of the crew saw it clinging to a piece of driftwood as he was swimming for his life in the stormy waters at night, and grabbed it. When he staggered into town, Diego was there and recognized the amulet. Diego took the amulet.

Back on shore that same morning, Esmeralda wakes up amidst the driftwood and finds García and Kamba still alive, as well. Thus they set off for a jungle adventure that is part Nancy Drew, part Blue Lagoon, part Treasure Island and part Xena the Warrior Princess. They plan to go find the gitanos but Esmeralda discovers Capitán Gluck, also still alive but immobile because of a broken leg and assorted other injuries. He was apparently washed or blown way out into the jungle.

Esmeralda nurses him a bit and he tells her a sob story about how he's not really a slave trader, he just needed a job and that's the only ship where he could get hired. He sees the brand in her palm and recognizes it as a star map. He offers to lead our jungle heroes to the spot. So Kamba and García carry him through the jungle, where he leads them to the indicated spot and they dig up a chest full of treasure. It's not pirates' treasure, it's Sara Kalí's mother's treasure, but it's buried treasure all the same. Esmeralda vows she's going to use it to avenge herself on everyone who's hurt her: el Comandante, Pizarro, el Gobernador her beloved stepfather, and, of course, Mariángel (Mangle).

In the jungle, no one can see you when your top falls down. At least that's what Esmeralda must have hoped when one of his biggest struggles in the jungle was to remain fully clothed

The captain gasps out his last breath to Esmeralda, who's staying with him while Kamba and García go to stash the treasure and get a cart to bring back the unfortunate captain, who warns Esmeralda that this part of the forest is muy peligroso beause Amazons live there. I thought when I heard this, it was too good to be true.

But, sure enough, Esmeralda soon spies a loin-cloth-clad woman being assaulted by a couple of Spanish low-lifes. Determined not to take any crap from anyone any more, she grabs a log and clobbers one guy in the head. The Amazon then escaptes the other guy, who then wrestles Esmeralda to the ground and tries to rape her. But the one Amazon has quickly been joined by several of her tribal sisters who promptly kill the assailant with several well-deserved arrows in the back.

I'm not sure if the Amazons are supposed to be Indians, or whether they are directly descended from Greek Amazons. Or maybe they are descended from refugees fleeing Carthage after Rome destroyed it, or possibly one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In any case, they all have the remarkably healthy bodies one might expect from the air in pre-industrial Los Angeles and the presumed abundance of food and other good things in the tropical jungle that apparently was there around 1810. Or so it looks on the show, anyway.

One of the Amazons introduces herself as Asalaya. She summons another one, Vanya, to the front and puts her arm around her and says, "Machala". Then Vanya says to our heroine, "Machala, Esmeralda". I'm guessing this means "sister" in ancient Carthaginian. Then the Amazons bow deeply to her, and Esmeralda does the same in return. Apparently this cleavage-exposing gesture is a polite greeting ritual among the Los Angeles Amazons. At the end of Friday's episode, Esmeralda seems to have become their queen, or something, because she seems to be leading a hunting party that comes upon Kamba and García. Esmeralda looks at them with an enigmatic smile, perhaps hinting that the two of them are destined to become breeding stock for her newfound friends.

I have to say, this whole jungle adventure culminating with Esmeralda hooking up with the jungle Amazon tribe has been the coolest thing they've done in the whole telenovela so far. (That is, aside from introducing Valentina Acosta's the One the Only the Great Selenia, who as far as I'm concerned instantly became one of the top TV witches of all time.) With the Amazons on board, I'm thinking Zorro is going to be high on my list of Quality TV standards, along with such classics as
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The way this is going, we could wind up with a final showdown, with General Alejandro's army facing off against Montero and Pizarro and they regular and hired-thug forces, with Zorro fighting on Alejandro's side at the head of an army of peasants, Indians, gitanos, the secret brotherhood of cowled democratic revolutionaries, and Amazons. Heck, Zorro might even persude those cannibals who almost made a human sacrifice out of Esmeralda in an early episode to join in!

"Loco por Olmos": Mangle only has eyes for him (until they do the Wild Thang, that is)

First, though, General Alejandro will have to smooth things out on the home front, where his Big Love arrangement has hit a  snag. Almudena was down with the bigamy arrangement, even grooming Yumalai/Guadalupe to move into the wife #1 role after Almudena dies. But she had to process it in Spanish-lady style as Alejandro having an affair, which means he was supposed to be discreet about it. But Alejandro forgot that in telenovelas there's always someone hiding around the corner to evesdrop, and he talked to Yumalai about their little trist on his and Almudena's wedding night, and Almudena heard.

Now she has to be an outraged wife for a while. And she demands that Alejandro kick Yumalai off the hacienda. To complicate matters, Mangle has been putting small amounts of arsenic into the medicine Yumalai has been giving Almudena, and now Agapito the doctor/dentist/undertaker has found that out and told Almudena. Almudena thinks it's Yumalai and/or Alejandro that is poisoning her. Quite a sticky situation for all involved.

Even more exciting than Esmerada's adventures was the fact that Mangle now has the hots for Olmos thanks to Selenia's love potion and/or her hypnosis. Mangle is obsessed with with the little guy now. What Olmos doesn't know is that the spell is temporary. After Mangle makes love to him the first time, the hypnosis will wear off immediately.

Selenia is planning to leave town because after Olmos threatened to kill her. Olmos blames her for cursing him in his mother's womb and making him a hunchback. We learn from a conversation Selenia has with her magic dwarf Tasisio that it was Selenia's mother that cursed Olmos. Aha! Selenia's not on the Elixir of Eternal Youth. And to carry on the family tradition, she needs to have a baby. And Aaron the Exorcist may just be ready for a new gig ...

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who the coolest witch of all? Selenia visits Mangle's mirror (that's Mangle's red hair on the left)

On Friday, Selenia showed up in Mangle's mirror, telling Mangle how Olmos is just the right guy for her and looking pretty spooky, but also giving Valentina Acosta  the chance to show off her talent for facial expression. Seriously, some actors just have a special ability to convey a lot with facial expression and motions alone. Clint Eastwood is one. Lena Olin on Alias is another. From what I've seen so far, Valentina Acosta also has a special gift for that.

Speaking of my man Aaron, he showed up just in the nick of time to save el Governador Fernando after Fernando hung himself.

Aaron the Exorcist earnestly strives to save Fernando's life and his soul

Sometimes having an exorcist stalking you comes in handy. Fernando was depressed because Don Alfonso proposed to María Pía and she accepted. This was after Fernando beat Alfonso to within an inch of his life. Even with the remarkable recuperative powers of everyone in this show - except poor Miguel the gitano after Pizarro beheaded him - Alfonso still had a bruise and a scratch on his face for two days or so, though it seemed to be completely healed by Friday. The fight scene where Fernando won but María Pía was even more committed to Alfonso afterward reminded me of a song from the Eagles' one album that rose about the level of catchy pop, Desperado. In the song, "Saturday Night", the lyrics say:

Whatever happened to Saturday night?
Finding a sweetheart and losing a fight
She'd say, "Tell me, oh tell me, are you all right?
Whatever happened to Saturday night?

After rescusing Fernando, Aaron the Exorcist persuaded Fernando to put on a white robe and let Aaron baptize him in a pond. When they came out of the water, Aaron put a brown robe and cowl onto Fernando, and we don't see Fernando's face. This could be the makeover Fernando mentioned once before. Probably he figures María Pía would really go for him in a monk's robe.

There was plenty of action on the political front this week, too. Zorro returned to the Queen's bedchamber to visit with her. El Duque Jacobo was there and el Comandante Montero charged in with his sword and a bunchofsoldiers. Zorro knocked a dozen or so soldiers unconscious and escaped, with a little help from Padre Tomás. Tomás set a wagon full of straw on fire and then hid behind a building and laughed in delight. He really enjoyed getting in on the Zorro action.

Padre Tomás conspires with the Queen under cover of the confessional

It turns out that the Queen already suspected that some funny business was going on, which is why she wanted to come to Los Angeles. Thanks to intercepting a confidential letter of the Queen's, el Duque knows that she's close to discovering his plot, which includes having murdered her husband the king. On Friday, the Queen goes to confession with Padre Tomás, who then lets her in on what he knows about the conspiracy and promises to help her. He also lets her know that he's in league with Zorro.

On the gitano front, Sara Kalí is unable to reconstruct the amulet map from memory. So they plan to attend a citywide masquerade ball that the Queen is putting on in order to talk to the Queen. Zorro is also planning to attend for the same purpose. Plus, Diego and Bernardo have also deciphered the map. Will Esmeralda's Amazon sisters be as impressed with him as she is? Inquiring minds want to know.

Also, on the gitano front, Ana Camila/Sor Suplicios and cute-but-useless Renzo become officially engaged. This makes everyone happy but eternally-brooding Laisha, who's always had a thing for Renzo.

, ,

Robert Fisk on the idea of Tony Blair as special envoy for the Middle East

British journalist Robert Fisk gives his caustic view of President Bush's suggestion that outgoing British premier Tony Blair be appointed the Quartet envoy to work on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement: How can Blair possibly be given this job? Independent 06/23/07. Fisk consistently refers to Blair sarcastically as "Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara", referring to a city in eastern Iraq where British forces were defeated and 10,000 British soldiers compelled to surrender to the Ottoman army during the First World War. Blair hasn't actually been knighted yet, though it's customary for former prime ministers to receive knighthood soon after they leave office, so he probably will be knighted in the near future.
I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date - no, it was not 1 April - but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemplating being "our" Middle East envoy.

Can this really be true? I had always assumed that Balfour, Sykes and Picot were the epitome of Middle Eastern hubris. But Blair? That this ex-prime minister, this man who took his country into the sands of Iraq, should actually believe that he has a role in the region - he whose own preposterous envoy, Lord Levy, made so many secret trips there to absolutely no avail - is now going to sully his hands (and, I fear, our lives) in the world's last colonial war is simply overwhelming.
By "the world's last colonial war", Fisk means the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the conflict over them now entering its fifth decade.

The Independent also has an article on three Catholics on Blair's Downing Street staff who left their posts because of their religious objections to the Iraq War:
PM's Iraq war 'helped drive Catholics out of Downing Street' by Andrew Grice and Andy McSmith 06/23/07.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Soldiers and strategy

One thing that the Congress needs to avoid is to simply add more troops based simply on the reality that troop shortages quickly developed in the Iraq War. The armed forces should be "right-sized" (to use a corporate clichee of a few years back) based on a long-term strategy of what kind of conflicts are expected. We already see how both parties can agree on "more" without any decision - or even discussion - on the longer-term assumptions.

Andrew Bacevich recently addressed this issue in
More troops, more troubles Los Angeles Times 06/18/07. Citing the broad bipartisan support for increasing the number of active-duty Army and Marine soldiers, he writes:
In fact, this enthusiasm for putting more Americans in uniform (and for increasing overall military spending) reflects the persistence of a second consensus to which leading Democrats and Republicans alike stubbornly subscribe.

This second consensus consists of two elements. According to the first element, the only way to win the so-called global war on terrorism, thereby precluding another 9/11, is to "fix" whatever ails the Islamic world. According to the second element, the United States possesses the wherewithal to effect just such a transformation. In essence, by employing American power, beginning with military power, to ameliorate the ills afflicting Islam, we will ensure our own safety.
Increasing the number of troops is not right or wrong in itself. But it should be based on clear strategic decisions about the role the United States intends to play in the world. And continuing to pursue the neocon-inspired Bush Doctrine is not an acceptable option. Certainly Bacevich does not think it is:
The underlying problem is that the basic orientation of U.S. policy since 9/11 has been flat wrong. Bush's conception of waging an open-ended global "war" to eliminate terrorism has failed, disastrously and irredeemably. Simply trying harder — no matter how many more soldiers we recruit and no matter how many more Muslim countries we invade and "liberate" — will not reverse that failure.
Robert Dreyfuss recently wrote (Financing the Imperial Armed Forces TomDispatch.com 06/05/07):
[P]residential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are, at present, competing with each other in their calls for the expansion of the Armed Forces. Both are supporting manpower increases in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 troops, mostly for the Army and the Marines. (The current, Bush-backed authorization for fiscal year 2008 calls for the addition of 65,000 more Army recruits and 27,000 Marines by 2012.)
The armed forces in 2001 were optimized for conventional warfare with heavy reliance on high-tech airpower. Rumsfeld's goal for military "transformation" was to continue and increase such reliance, further minimizing the number of troops required for wars.

If that's the direction the Congress and the country want to continue, it may not make much sense to be expanding the size of the Army and Marines. But if the direction needs to change to optimize the services for expected counterinsurgency operations, then the need for the current level of investment in aircraft and missiles is too high. (The Star Wars "missile defense" program is a question of a different order; only if the goal is to optimize the military for boondoggle projects does that system make sense.)

, ,

Friday, June 22, 2007

When hippies trash the military

Here's another dang dirty hippie attacking the Defense Department (DOD), accusing it failure in The Surge, saying that the Iraqi don't have any security or sound infrastructure, that they could be there fighting 10 years or more at the current rate and of lacking integrity in their reporting! He even says we likely to lose in Iraq and that our worst enemy in the war has been ourselves.

This particular dirty hippie would be Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the countries most respected independent military analysts who specializes in Middle Eastern issues.

He's evaluating the Pentagon's official June report on conditions in Iraq in his paper, Still Losing? The June 2007 Edition of "Measuring Stability in Iraq" 06/20/07. Check it out. Cordesman's analysis is 12 pages of mostly grim accounts of how bad the current military, political and economic situation in Iraq is.

I don't want to give a wrong impression of Cordesman's argument in the paper. Cordesman supports the war but, unlike so many frivolous war boosters, he has consistently tried to be realistic about the challenges - and even then he may be over-optimistic. He even echoes Republican rhetoric in the following passage when he suggests that Congress could accelerate defeat by forcing a withdrawal. Yet he also says what Republicans consider heresy, that we are losing in Iraq - although it could be debated whether the transitive form "are losing" or the present perfect form "have lost" or the simple past tense "lost" is more accurate. Cordesman writes:

Finally, the June 2007 report may not openly say so, or try to deny the fact, but the US is now losing in Iraq. The pace of this defeat can easily be accelerated over the next six months by continued Iraqi failures at conciliation and growing unwillingness to sustain the war by the US Congress and American people. The facts on the ground can change to the point where the US may be forced into a rushed withdrawal, have to try to ameliorate displacement and separation and/or sectarian and ethnic cleansing, or deal with a level of humanitarian disaster it can now say it will ignore but not be able to ignore if it actually occurs. (my emphasis)
But there seems to be little hope that the Cheney-Bush administration is going to take seriously Cordesman's optimistic-but-hard-headed-realist approach seriously. Cordesman says of the DOD report:

The latest Department of Defense report on "Measuring Stability in Iraq" attempts to put a bad situation in a favorable light. It does not disguise many of the problems involved, but it does attempt to defend the strategy presented by President Bush in January 2007 in ways that sometimes present serious problems. More broadly, it reveals that the President’s strategy is not working in any critical dimension. (my emphasis)
He calls attention to an increasingly troubled area, one which is likely to become much more so as this year goes on, the city of Kirkuk:

A Kurdish struggle for autonomy and control of the north, displacing Iraqi Arabs, Turcomans, and other minorities, and seeking control of Kirkuk, Iraq’s northern oil resources, and the territory along the ethnic fault line in the north extending westward towards Mosul. Increased violence by displaced Sunni insurgents – including Al Qaeda - against Iraqi Kurdish civilians and politicians, concentrated in Mosul.
He doesn't expand on it here. But in this paper, he argues that "counterinsurgency" is the wrong approach, and that what is needed instead is "armed nation-building":

Victory [sic] in Iraq requires success in armed nation-buildinga process that can extend over a decade or more – not simply the defeat of the most violent elements in an insurgency. In fact, efforts to bring local security in a narrow area like Baghdad have almost certainly done more harm than good. They have focused toomany resources on one limited task and created a "center of gravity" that cannot have major importance without a far more effective national government and progress towards national conciliation. (my emphasis)
He harshes on the administration for bad reporting. In the world of Serious Military Analysis, this is really a strong criticism:

The US is often the first to call for transparency and integrity in the reporting of other governments. It has never provided transparency or integrity in its reporting on the war in Iraq. It has downplayed the growth of the insurgency and other civil conflicts. It exaggerated progress in the development of Iraqi forces, and has reported meaningless macroecomic figures claiming "progress" in the face of steadily deteriorating economic conditions for most Iraqis outside the Kurdish security zone, and does so in the face of almost incredible incompetence by USAID and the Corps of Engineers.

Perhaps most significantly, the US government has never openly discussed or analyzed its failures in not planning for stability operations or conflict termination, in creating an electoral process that polarized Iraqi politics around inexperienced sectarian and ethnic leaders and parties, and in creating a constitution that helped divide the nation without resolving any of the key issues it attempted to address. The same is true of US actions that blocked local and regional elections, allowed de-Ba’athification to remove many of the nation’s most competent secular and nationalist leaders and professionals from power, and failed to act on plans to disband the militias before transferring power from the CPA. (my emphasis)
Cordesman argues that this dishonest reporting in effect eleveated short-term public-relations/propaganda considerations above long- and medium-term effectiveness:

It seems likely that, in retrospect, this lack of transparency and integrity will come back to haunt the US. More honesty, objective self-criticism, serious effort to develop credible strategies and operational plans might well have prevented all of Iraq’s current civil conflicts and problems from reaching anything like their current scale. In fact, if the US loses in Iraq – as seems all too possible – its primary enemy will not have been Al Qa’ida, but the US government. (my emphasis)
The fact that some of the most serious criticism of the Cheney-Bush administration's Iraq War policies, and some of the strongest, is appearing in military journals and Web sites and is coming from military-oriented consulting groups like CSIS shouldn't be surprising. Debate over results and a self-critical attitude are necessary elements of getting things right. And its a good thing we're seeing such work from sources like this.

But not so much of this information seeps through to our mainstream press. They're too busy pursuing John Edwards' haircuts. Cordesman does get quoted a fair amount in the press. But CSIS is providing a large volume of material like this, easily accessible on their Web site and each normally containing far more meaningful information than ever emerages from one of Tony Snow's White House press gaggles. (I realize that's setting the bar very low.) These are good resources. If bloggers can find them, so can regular reporters.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The analogy that never dies

A conference has been going on this week in Virginia Beach called, Transformation WARFARE 07 whose theme is "Reconstituting and Reinventing the Force".

Toni Guagenti summarized the speech by former US Iraq commander Gen. John Abizaid, now retired, in
General Abizaid Outlines Iraq War Strategy Focused on Unified Network at the Naval Institute Web page 06/20/07. Among other things, Abizaid used guess-which-analogy:
He emphasized the need to defeat the enemy before the extremist views are thrust upon the majority Middle Easterners, and the world is thrust into another world war. He compared it to Hitler taking over Germany before World War II, even though the majority of Germans didn't support Hitler's politics or his fascist ideologies.
Apparently, in the Long War we're always going to be fighting Hitler and it will always be 1938 and the West - or at least the United States - will always be on the verge of capitulating at the Munich Conference, unless our far-sighted Churchills can keep us alert to the danger.

This is what's known as "threat inflation". The companies there looking to promote their products, i.e., high-tech weapons of various sorts, presumably don't feel an incentive to contest such threat inflation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pravda and Izvestia, aka, the *Washington Post* and the *New York Times*

Up until 10 years ago or so, maybe even later, a title like that would almost certainly be announcing some rightwing rant about the Jew Commie Liberal Press! Liberal Press! Liberal Press!

No more. After Whitewater, the Iraq War,
Judith Miller, the Scooter Libby case and various and sundry other illustrations of the dysfunction of our "press corps", that's no longer true. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post still do have responsibile reporters, of course. Even some of their columnists are worth reading most of the time. David Broder the Dean Of All The Pundits from the Post is not one of them.

But it really has reached the point where the news consumer needs to pay close attention to which reporter's byline is on the article to tell whether you're more likely to be looking at real reporting or simple dictation. Sometimes that gets tricky. At the Post, for instance, you have to remember that it's Dana Priest who does solid reporting on foreign affairs but Dana Milbank who vigorously pimps lazy press corps scripts about politicians.

Gene Lyons, who was one of the first to perceive how badly the mainstream print press was going off the tracks over the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, who compares the Times and the Post to the old Soviet-era paper Pravda (News) and Izvestian (Truth):
'Act of madness' gains allies in complacent media Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 06/20/07. He quotes the cynical old Soviet joke, "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and no Izvestia in Pravda".

The "act of madness" to which he refers is a military attack on Iran. He focuses in particular on a Washington Post story,
Iran Curtails Freedom In Throwback to 1979 by Robin Wright 06/16/07, that passes on Chenyist/neocon propaganda about Iran as though it were something other than war propaganda. Pointing out something in the story that doesn't make sense in context, he observes, "Editors are least apt to notice contradictionslike that when they’re taking dictation."

Today's New York Times offers another example, this one related to our ever-expanding victory in Iraq,
U.S. Seeks to Block Exits for Iraq Insurgents by Michael Gordon 06/20/07.

Now, pretty much all you need to know about Michael Gordon is that he shared Judith Miller's byline on some of her phony stories about the non-existent Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction", phony articles which played an important role in starting the Cheney-Bush administration's unnecessary invasion of Iraq. So you can pretty much count on his articles being straight dictation from some official or other. Which can be interesting to see what the administration prefers to have us think is the true story.

This piece reads pretty much like a Pentagon press release. For example:
In the first hours of the American military assault, after midnight early Monday, helicopters flew two teams of American troops and a platoon of Iraqi scouts so they could block the southern escape routes from the city. Stryker armored vehicles moved along the western outskirts of Baquba and then down a main north-south route that cuts through the center of the city.

By the time dawn broke on Tuesday, the insurgent sanctuary in western Baquba had been cordoned off. Then, the American forces established footholds on the periphery of the section and slowly pressed in. "Rather than let the problem export to some other place and then have to fight them again, my goal is to isolate this thing and cordon it off," said Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division.
That last paragraph is the article's first reference to a source. But not only those two paragraphs but the whole article read like something straight from a military PR page.

Gordon's dictation tells us that the foe is "Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia". Of course. All the Terrorists in Iraq seem to be "Al Qaida" these days.

Another piece of evidence that Gordon took dictation straight from some Pentagon PR hack:
Officers are hoping that local residents and even former insurgents who have splitwith Al Qaeda may quietly help the American troops pick out insurgents. American troops have already begun to work with more than 100 Iraqis on the eastern side of the city — a group American soldiers have nicknamed the "Kit Carson scouts." (my emphasis)
Kit Carson scouts? What can you say about that? The PR guy thinks they're huntin' Injuns out there? Good grief!

Far down near the end of the article, there is a noteworthy fact, if you happen to get that far and are still paying attention, about how Gen. Petraus' forces is fighting an urban counterinsurgency war in the city of Baquba:
This American counterinsurgency operation has some of the firepower associated with conventional war. American forces have already fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba. Apache helicopters have attacked enemy fighters.

Warplanes have also dropped satellite-guided bombs on suspected roadside bombs and a weapons cache, which produced spectacular secondary explosions after it was struck. M1 tanks have maneuvered through the narrow city lanes. The Americans have responded to insurgent attacks with mortar fire. (my emphasis)
But if there happen to be any civilians killed - you think that will happen with firing rockets and dropping bombs into a populated urban area? - it's their own fault:
American helicopters dropped leaflets last night urging the residents to stay in their homes. The hope was to keep civilians off the streets while American forces began to close in on the insurgents. The appeal appeared to have little effect, though, as large groups of civilians mingled on the streets Tuesday and some students even sought to go to the local university.

The presence of so many civilians on an urban battlefield affords the operatives from Al Qaeda another possible means to elude their American pursuers. If the insurgents do not manage to sneak out, some may hide their weapons and try to blend with the city’s residents. (my emphasis)
Hopefully the leaflets were in Arabic, at least. But they got fair warning. And if some of them get killed, it's their own dang fault. Because whatever bomb or rocket kills them was precision-aimed at "Al Qaida". You know, "Al Qaida" withoutweapons. Blending in to look just like regular noncombatants. But our bombs and rockets can tell the difference.

But there is a mushroom cloud involved. These two paragraphs end Gordon's transcription:
On Tuesday afternoon, a Stryker company tried to blaze a path through the road believed to be full of buried bombs by firing a line-charge, a cable festooned with explosions. The hope was that the explosion would cut the wires that the Qaeda fighters use to set off the blasts.

After a delay in getting the line-charge to detonate, the weapon went off. There was a resounding thud and the skies over Baquba were smeared by a spiraling mushroom cloud.
Now let me understand this. This means laying a string of explosive along an urban street for, what, a block? five blocks? ten blocks? And then you set off the explosives all along the street.

Well, I guess since it's only "Al Qaida" we're fighting, we don't have to worry about any of that "hearts and minds" nonsense, do we?

But I wonder if the people who live along the street will flock to the Americans and the Iraqi government forces to inform on "Al Qaida" afterwards.

Gordon's dictation transcript doesn't both to mention that Baquba is mostly a Sunni city and that the Iraqi government forces with the Americans are probably all or mostly Shi'a. I guess taking all that dictation from the Pentagon PR guy and typing it up - or did he just have to cut-and-paste from an e-mail - poor Michael Gordon was too tired out to call, say, Juan Cole, who might have told him something like this (
Everyday Apocolypse in Iraq Informed Comment blog post 06/20/07):
The US offensive in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, is intended to root out Salafi Jihadi forces among the Sunnis that have come to dominate entire neighborhoods and entire towns in the province, which lies between Baghdad and Iran. But most of the forces involved seem to be American and Shiite (the 2,000 'paramilitary police' mentioned are surely from the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council [SIIC], the leading Shiite party with links to Iran). Diyala has a Sunni majority, and a lot of the problems in thatprovince began politically in the first place because SIIC has dominated it politically. In the short term, this operation may 'pacify' Baquba. But likely it will inflict tremendous damage on the city, will cause a lot of the 300,000 or so inhabitants to flee and become refugees, and will likely not change the political situation, which is Shiite dominance of Sunnis along with some Kurdish separatist plans for parts of the province. Falluja had 2/3s of its buildings destroyed and tens of thousands of its former inhabitants are living in tent cities in the desert with bad water, and Falluja is still not secure--kidnappings, shootings, mortar attacks, even car bombings are all still taking place there and in its environs. (my emphasis)
That's our "press corps", well into the fifth year of this war.

, , ,