Meanwhile, in our other crusade…

For a look at the fighting in Afghanistan, check out this story in the Canadian media.

A caution is important. The stories related here supposedly come in e-mail messages from soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. These stories are horrific and have the effect of demonizing the Taliban; they have greater credibility because

they are not coming through official channels, nor through the newspaper reports and television broadcasts of the Canadian, British and U.S. forces who fight under the NATO banner in the war-torn country.

Those reports are governed by a contract that restricts the movements of journalists and the types of information that can be reported from Afghanistan. Unlike the official accounts, those from soldiers are the descriptions that the government does not want Canadians to see. They come directly from the soldiers in the field who have relayed the grisly details of combat through Internet postings and e-mails to friends and family back home.

Observe that the claim that these “are the descriptions that the government does not want Canadians to see” goes unchallenged; it is supported from a National Defence spokeswoman who says (paraphrased) “the July account of fighting by the Canadian officer is the type of material the military would rather not see widely circulated.”

Spinning Dannatt

I’ve been on the edge of my chair waiting to find out what happened as a result of British Army Chief of Staff Sir Richard Dannatt’s remarks a couple days ago. Finally, in the New York Times:

At a news conference after the Northern Ireland political settlement talks here in Scotland, Mr. Blair was asked whether Sir Richard had been opposing government policy. Mr. Blair insisted that, having read transcripts of the general’s interviews on Friday, he was echoing official policy. “In terms of what he was saying about Britain, he was saying exactly the same as we have all said,” Mr. Blair said, though he has never used the general’s words. “We will stay and get the job done.”

Mr. Blair also said, “The reason that we have been able to give up two provinces now to Iraqi control is precisely because the job has been done there.”

The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, also tried to dull the remarks, saying, “His general point was that, you know, when your work is done you hand over authority to the Iraqis.”

Talk about spin. The New York Times story also observes that the original comments generally drew positive feedback from anti-war British lawmakers and military bloggers. I don’t quite see how all this leads to a shift in policy I forecast earlier, but there are two things to note: First, Dannatt apparently still has his job. Second, Tony Blair’s government has neither condemned the remarks nor seen widespread condemnation from elsewhere. There is little support in Britain for the war in Iraq: “Opposition to the war led two members of Mr. Blair’s cabinet to resign in protest to the invasion, and the war has greatly diminished Mr. Blair’s popularity.”

It all leads to a deeper question. Why is it, when the British clearly should have known better and certainly had the information to know better, that they joined in this adventure in the first place? How could it be that Blair ever saw advantage in being Bush’s poodle? After all, when the shoe was on the other foot in the Falklands, the Americans under Ronald Reagan remained officially neutral. Why is it that the British felt a need to be at America’s beck and call when this is so clearly a one-way relationship?

British foreign secretary condemns Guantanamo

According to a story in Aljazeera, “The British foreign secretary has launched one of her government’s sharpest attacks on the Guantanamo Bay prison, saying the US camp is ineffective and damaging.” Beckett said:

The continuing detention without fair trial of prisoners is unacceptable in terms of human rights. But it is also ineffective in terms of counter-terrorism.

It is widely argued now that the existence of the camp is as much a radicalising and discrediting influence as it is a safeguard to security.

I’m trying to make sense of this statement in combination with the remarks of the Army Chief of Staff published yesterday. My best guess right now is that Tony Blair’s government is laying the groundwork for a major shift in policy regarding its relationship with the United States. I’m guessing that the days of British prime ministers as American presidential poodles is now over.

Tony Blair survived a party revolt recently by promising to step down within a year. As the futility of American policy in Iraq becomes ever more manifest, Blair may be concerned about his legacy as Bush’s poodle, his record of participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as America’s most enthusiastic and committed ally. Despite the foolishness of this, one only has to watch Blair in question time at Parliament to realize he is no fool. He is at least as articulate as Bill Clinton, and probably as smart. He must surely recognize that his record now stands as one of participation in a mass killing of horrific dimensions. And one question that remains for Blair in the year or less he has left is how to frame that legacy. Another question is the dilemma in Iraq he would leave for his successor, if he remains loyal to the Labor Party and wishes it to remain in power.

An obvious answer is to change course, to claim he was, in essence, misled by the Americans, and to leave the mess where it should have been from the beginning, in Bush’s lap.

British General says British exacerbating Iraq security problems

[Updated] According to an article in the BBC, Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said in an interview in the Daily Mail that British forces should “get out some time soon.”

In his interview, Sir Richard added that any initial [Iraqi] tolerance [for the British presence] “has largely turned to intolerance. That is a fact.”

The Times also has the story:

Although other senior figures in the Army have privately expressed concern about strategy in Iraq and, in particular, the lack of proper planning after the invasion had taken place in March 2003, no one as senior as Sir Richard has made such a personal attack on the Government’s strategy.

If Sir Richard has spoken out without consultation with or the approval of the other Service chiefs, and, in particular, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, it will place him in an isolated position and make him vulnerable to demands that he should resign. Traditionally, Service chiefs who oppose government policy would be expected to step down. However, Sir Richard, in his outspoken interview with the Daily Mail, has clearly decided to make a bold stand because of his serious concerns both for the safety of British troops in Iraq and for the deteriorating security situation in the country where sectarian violence has erupted in the past 18 months.

Nothing is being said about the American leadership of the “coalition forces” or their presence in Iraq in all of this. But surely the implications are clear. Said Dannatt:

We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner you can be welcomed by being invited in a country but we weren’t invited, certainly by those in Iraq at the time. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.

And just as surely as would be the case in America, the government likely aims to shoot the messenger: “Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, last night ordered Sir Richard to report for a meeting at the ministry this morning where his future will be discussed.”

Sir Richard said: “I am going to stand up for what is right for the Army. Honesty is what it is about. The truth will out. We have got to speak the truth.”

Last night Dr Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said that Sir Richard’s comments came at a time when the Prime Minister’s authority was already “badly damaged and ebbing away”. He added:

“It has always been the case that our presence has been a recruiting tool for extremists. We have always known that our presence on the ground will be used by fundamentalists and men of violence to recruit people into their ways.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, said that government policy on Iraq was “collapsing”. He said: “Senior military figures who were always doubtful about action in Iraq and its aftermath are becoming increasingly anxious about our role and the risks involved.”

Major-General Patrick Cordingly, who commanded the Desert Rats during the 1991 Gulf War, said that Sir Richard’s comments were “very brave”.

He added that the Army chief’s opinion was “enormously pragmatic” and may be “welcomed by some soldiers who have served several tours of duty in Iraq”.

Bush administration has killed 655,000 in Iraq

An article in the British medical journal Lancet blames the American-led occupation for 655,000 “excess” Iraqi deaths, of which “around 601,000 would have been due to violent causes,” according to a report on the Inter Press Service. “The new study estimates the deaths from March 2003 to June 2006, and compares them with the deaths in the pre-invasion period January 2002 to March 2003 in 47 randomly selected sites across Iraq.”

The survey covered 1,849 households and 12,801 household members. Each household was surveyed about births, deaths, in-migration and out-migration in May and June this year. Wherever there was a death, surveyors asked for a death certificate, which was produced in 92 percent of the cases.

Coalition forces are directly responsible for about 31% of the deaths.

Gee Thanks

Mark Foley may have cost the Republicans control of both houses of Congress. Says Lawrence Nuccio, a 78-year-old from Glen Cove, New York, “You have elected officials who are running the country and you assume are doing the right thing, but they’re not.” I guess Iraq didn’t do it for him. A problem is that Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, failed to take action on the matter despite “a number of other Congressmen and their aides [having] said they informed the Speaker’s office of their concerns months before” the scandal broke, and now refuses to resign.

The perversion here is wrapped up inside of more perversion. First, we have people, perverts by their own publicly stated standards, engaging in the very conduct they condemn, and telling the rest of us what we should believe about sexuality, just like the Roman Catholic Church. Second, you have people in the higher echelons of the hierarchy covering up these misdeeds instead of taking the very action that they claim anyone should take, just like the Roman Catholic Church, and hence an Associated Press poll saying the affair has convinced many Americans that Democrats can better tackle corruption. Third, as a radio talk show host previously commented, and now some Republicans are complaining (particularly as it threatens their re-election hopes), this affair diverts attention from other issues, like the ones Republicans would prefer to talk about, and like an increasingly hopeless situation in Iraq, and the CIA’s secret prisons, where detainees are sexually and otherwise abused, and the repeal of civil liberties.

But what I really can’t wrap my head around is the apparent concept that it is okay to kill so many people as we have in Iraq, but not okay to bugger them. Just like with television, violence is okay, but sex is not, even if we are talking about sexual hypocrisy and even if we are talking about sex with minors.

But we invaded Iraq and we’re arguing with Iran

New Scientist has the first report reaching me confirming that North Korea’s claim to have successfully conducted a nuclear test. The predictable international outrage has ensued, with little recognition that the North Koreans have said for a long time, and even “brought in … a group of U.S. scientists, and … actually showed them that they had made plutonium” as part of an ongoing effort to open bilateral talks with the United States. In response to all this, the Cato Institute is urging the U.S. “to encourage China to oust Kim Jong-il’s regime” by promising to withdraw U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula in exchange; however, the Chinese might see this as freeing up forces to reinforce Taiwan.

Sexual hypocrisy

An article in the Orlando Sentinel begins:

At the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a young Republican congressman from Florida did something that seemed ordinary at the time: He condemned President Clinton on moral grounds for having a relationship with the White House intern.

“It’s vile,” Mark Foley, R-Jupiter, told the St. Petersburg Times. “It’s more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction.”

Mark Foley is known to naturists for having drawn “nationwide press when he urged Florida officials to investigate a Tampa nudist camp for 11- to 18-year-olds, run by the American Association for Nude Recreation. Foley expressed concern that the children could be exposed to pedophiles.”

Now we see what Mark Foley himself has been up to:

Florida Republicans and Foley allies recoiled in anger and disgust Saturday, a day after the six-term congressman known for crusading against sexual predators and Internet pornography resigned because of reports that he exchanged sex-laced e-mails and instant messages with teenagers who had served as congressional pages.

But only liberals will notice that it is the very people who are most repressive about sex who keep getting caught up in these torrid scandals.

And only a (must have been liberal) radio talk show commentator would notice that the Foley story was serving as a distraction from a warning reported in the New York Times “that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda,” prior to the 9/11 attacks. “Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats.” At the time Rice was National Security Advisor. “Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about intelligence pointing to an impending attack by Al Qaeda that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.” As the talk show host asked, “Did they want 9/11?” But we focus on Foley instead.