Monday, April 7

Keeping the Kurds out of Kirkuk

According to a senior Turkish government official, US Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged during a visit to Ankara last week that the Kurds would not be allowed to advance "beyond a certain line" around Mosul and Kirkuk.

Two accounts of Basra:

from the Guardian


the NYTimes

Capsule: the first describes a scene of total peace and tranquility and understandable joy at the apparent routing of the Fedayeen (while wondering where they went) without even alluding to the looting that's been going on, which the Times does mention, as well as some negativity:

At the city's main hospital, the director, Dr. Moslim Mahdi, met a foreign reporter with weary anger."A colleague of mine lost 10 members of his family in the bombing," he said. As of four days ago, he said, the hospital had treated 1,200 people wounded in the invasion and counted 400 dead, the majority civilians. He said the number of dead and wounded had jumped to around 50 a day since then but that administrators had been too busy to keep count.

An interesting contrast in reporting...

From Nick Denton:

No use blaming the plight of Arab states entirely on evil dictators. These are nations gripped by collective delusion, from top to bottom. They still believe Saddam is holding off the US invasion, and will undoubtedly blame the Jews rather than take responsibility for their own failure. .... Most Arab journalists, and the public they serve, show symptoms of the same delirium from which the Iraqi information minister is suffering. It's good there's a prohibition in Islam against alcohol; even a sip of rhetoric is enough to get the Arab street drunk

A Chicago Tribune article on sandstorms and such in which a very wise expert is cited:

Sandstorms, dust storms, whirlwinds: All suggest more than a hint of an angry deity's wrath, of the earth itself being turned against its disobedient inhabitants. Little wonder, then, that some observers in the Arab world hailed last week's sandstorm as evidence of God's displeasure with the invaders.

No matter what one's political or religious perspective, however, a sandstorm must evoke awe at the wind's magnificent sculpting power, its relentless sweep and scoop and spin and push, turning day into night and night into chaos.

"It obliterates everything, creating darkness," says Michael Dubruiel, a Christian writer based in Ft. Wayne, Ind. "Sandstorms certainly make one think of a simpler faith where nothing happens without God willing it or allowing it. The `whirlwind' idea is standard not only in the Islamic faith, but in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well."

Shocking news:

The Boston Globe just won the public service Pulitzer for their reporting of know.

My response to some comments in the civilian casualties thread:

Ed Graham wonders:

perhaps I misunderstood you but you seem to dismiss any discussion of the "moral calculus" as an empty, perhaps even cynical exercise but then you ask why "accidential civilian casualties are not an argument against war." Well, because such casualties are one consideration but not the only consideration. They are one variable in the "moral calculus..

I'm not dismissive. I really don't understand what the value the variable called "civilian casualties" holds in this calculus. And I'm not being flip here. I really don't. No one gets specific about it except to say: "good (or just) cause" = civilian casualties are acceptable.

That just doesn't do it for me. It doesn't clarify.

After all, was this not the thinking of those who did this? (LA Times LRR)

At high noon on March 12, 1945, just eight weeks before the capitulation of Germany to the Allied forces, 1,000 American planes attacked the city of Swinemuende on the Baltic coast of Germany. The city, crammed with refugees from eastern Germany who had been ethnically cleansed and systematically raped by the Red Army, was bombed mercilessly and sprayed by machine gun fire from American dive bombers, which chased people through the city.

Of the city's 25,000 civilians, 23,000 were killed that night.

A similar fate befell the city of Wurzburg just four days later, when 225 Lancaster bombers dispatched by British bomber command dropped 1,100 tons of bombs. The city -- a bishop's seat in southern Germany, one of the jewels of European rococo style -- was destroyed by flames in 17 minutes. Although the end of the war was imminent, 6,000 civilians were killed that night.

This was more than "shock and awe": This was the final months of the relentless, five-year Allied bombing campaign that took civilian deaths to their apex -- bombing, burning, incinerating the cities of Germany in a round-the-clock effort to destroy morale, foment insurrection and weaken the industrial heart and soul of Adolf Hitler's war machine.

This was no Iraq. Despite comparisons made in recent days between the bombing of German cities and the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad, this was actually the opposite. Instead of seeking to avoid civilian casualties as they are doing today, the Americans and British in the 1940s sought to maximize them.

Forty-five thousand people were killed in Hamburg during the air attacks; 50,000 in Dresden, 12,000 in Berlin, 10,000 in Kassel, 5,500 in Frankfurt and so on. In Pforzheim, a city of 63,000, one-third of the population was incinerated in one night in February 1945, even as the war was coming to a close.

Night after night after night, entire cities were lighted on fire, like a nonnuclear version of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Never before in modern history had a civilian population endured such a military assault. One and a half million bombs were dropped on 161 German cities and 800 villages over five years, leaving half a million civilians dead, including 75,000 children. An additional 78,000 of Hitler's slave workers and prisoners of war were killed.

So, does any "just cause" justify anything in the name of that "just cause?" And quite seriously - as I have said three times this morning, and as the LA Times article points the intention today is different. But in terms of real human life and real human suffering - even of one child injured and orphaned by accidental-yet-acceptable-according-to-the-equation-ordinance-fallout-to-insure-that-his-parents-(or-maybe-even-he-himself)-won't-be-tortured-and-killed-by-the-brutal-regime - how do work this equation?

Serious discussion welcome.

John Allen on last week's "secret" meeting on abuse

Experts on sexual disorders told a private Vatican symposium this week, attended by officials charged with handling the abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, that homosexuality is a risk factor but not a cause of the sexual abuse of minors.One Vatican official who attended parts of the four-day symposium on pedophilia told NCR that this message came through “loud and clear” and predicted that it might help delay, or even derail, a much-anticipated document on the admission of homosexuals to Catholic seminaries. The same official said Vatican observers were struck by questions raised by the experts about “zero tolerance” policies, suggesting that it may lead to guidelines about support of priests after they are removed from ministry.

A MASH unit south of Baghdad:

A walk through the intensive care tents offered snapshots of the battle for Baghdad. One American tank driver lost his pinkie to a secondary explosion in an abandoned Iraqi tank he had just blasted. He was grateful to be alive. A soldier who lost three comrades in an accident at the airport was mentally replaying the event, wracked with guilt. A 21-year-old Iraqi student with a broken arm and swollen, bloody feet choked back tears as he recalled his parents and two sisters, who he said were killed when a U.S. tank ran over the car carrying the fleeing family. "Why did God let me live?" the student, Ali Adel Odha, asked through an interpreter.

In Baghdad:

The United States says it is taking precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but Baghdad's hospitals are packed to overflowing with wounded residents of the capital. One of them is Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12, who was fast asleep when a missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned and missing both his arms. "Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?" Abbas asked. "If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide," he said with tears spilling down his cheeks.

And may I save you the trouble?

Ah, yes, civilian casualties, part of the "moral calculus" of war. Of course.

And there is no question that there is a profound difference between the Coalition view of these matters and that of the Iraqi: We try to minimize civilian casualties, and we treat, not only the wounded civilians, but the Iraqi POW's as well. They threaten civilians into combat roles, torture and kill POW's, and are fighting in a support of a regime in which dissident civilians would be deliberately tortured, dismembered or have their families members killed one way or another. There is also no doubt that for the West, the waging of war has "progressed" far beyond what is was fifty years ago, when the Allies purposefully killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, not only in Japan, but in Europe as well.

But the answer to this is not to ignore the civilian casualties (as every one of the supposedly "liberal media" television news outlets are doing) or reason human suffering away in our blasted "moral calculus." The answer is to never forget the reality of human suffering - the reality of human suffering under Saddam, and the reality of the human suffering that occurs in this process called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Too many antiwar activists ignore the former, and too many war proponents, even of the Catholic variety, refuse to seriously engage the reality of the latter.

Prove me wrong.

Domenico Bettinelli reports on an interesting Alan Keyes presentation he attended:

Keyes’ talk was the most challenging for me. He talked about the war, how it is the most serious thing a country can do, and that before we take up the sword we must go through a moral crisis of sorts as we decide whether it is the right action. He didn’t say he was opposed to the war. He just said we must not make the decision lightly. He said he is proud of America because we are so reluctant to take up the sword. He also cautioned against embracing this war too closely, because war—even if necessary—is dangerous, most especially to our soldiers. And not primarily because it threatens their physical lives, but their eternal souls. Every time you take a life, even if justified, you take a drastic step that can lead you into darkness, if you don’t consciously walk back into the light. Killing another person cannot be taken lightly, and especially on the battlefield where it is too easy sometimes for the killing not to end with the justified killing of an enemy soldier, but can progress to murder, when you kill a civilian or helpless or surrendering soldier.

He also spoke about the amazing happenstance that after 9/11 we were united as a country—and almost as a world—in rejecting relativism as we could all agree that the act of terrorism on that day was evil. No one (or hardly anyone) said, well it’s not evil in a certain context, or that it’s only our judgment that it’s evil or anything like that. And, for a time, everyone stood up and invoked the name of God without fear of being labeled a fundamentalist or a cornball. As Keyes pointed out, even during that Hollywood artists’ tribute concert after 9/11, they all stood together at the end singing “God Bless America.” Amazing.

But... and you knew there was a but.. we should not be too sure of our complete moral superiority. What was the evil that the terrorists perpetrated? Not that they knocked down buildings—we do that even now in Baghdad. Knocking down buildings is not in and of itself evil. That 3,000 people died? If a tidal wave struck New York and killed 3,000 people would we call the tidal wave evil? Tragic certainly, but not evil. What was evil about the terrorists’ actions is that they completely disregarded the individual human dignity of the 3,000 people they killed. That is the crime of murder: to disregard the divine image imprinted on us through our human nature, a divine image that imparts dignity and demands respect.

Yet through the laws of our land, we also ignore and trample upon the human dignity of the weakest, most innocent of lives. Abortion is a monstrous evil, maybe even more monstrous than the acts of 9/11 because it is carried out against, not just the helpless, but our own children, and not for a religious ideal or a political ideology, but for simple convenience and selfishness. you like what Keyes says? Agree with him? If so, what do you think of the Pope when he says the same thing? Do you agree, or simply declare that the guy must be in the grip of the evil talons of an irrationally anti-American Curial Kabal?

Josh Marshall says it best about the Iraqi Information Minister, who is either plain nuts or has an invisible gun at his head, trigger poised in case he stumbles and speaks the truth:

One almost expects before too long to see Al-Sahaf -- with some embedded reporter's videophone in hand -- broadcasting from an American POW camp, telling listeners that reports of Iraqi battlefield reverses are vastly overstated.


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