The Road to Surgedom

Standing in front of a full bookcase, of all things, our Prince President tonight (a curse upon the timestamp – it’s still 11:43 p.m. here in al-Abama) made many annoying remarks. Here are some of them:

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together – and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

Who is this “we” who had such sanguine hopes for the Iraqi elections? There were plenty of people around at the time explaining why such optimism was ill-founded.

Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

In otherwise, Sunnis became insurgents because Iraqi democracy posed a threat to the Sunni insurgency. The point of this circular logic is to prevent us from recognising that it was not qua Sunni insurgents but simply qua Sunnis that they were placed in “mortal danger” by Bush’s pseudo-democratic majoritarian scheme.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people – and it is unacceptable to me.


Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

Ah! an empty, consequenceless accepting of responsibility! Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, Janet Reno.

Kate Bush and Mary Cheney The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. … we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.

Since all these developments were the result of the U.S.’s entering Iraq, the thought that they would also result from the U.S.’leaving creates a pleasing symmetry.

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq’s sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital.

There’s reason to think that figure is exaggerated; but I’ll readily admit that there’s probably a lot more violence near the capital than elsewhere. The reason for that, however, is that the existence of a central government to seize is one of the chief causes of the civil strife in Iraq, so it’s no surprise that the melee is most pronounced nearest the prize. Here Bush’s policy of propping up majoritarian centralism in Iraq is the problem, not the solution.

In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods

Oh goody. Can they juggle nitroglycerine while they’re doing that?

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. … The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. … Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue – and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties.

Oh, I guess the answer to my previous question is yes.

To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

Its own money! Cool! How did the Iraqi government earn 10 billion dollars of its own money?

And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws

Oh yes, those wretched de-Baathification laws! What looney-tune suggested them to begin with?

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity – and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. … We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.

Ohhh yeah, there’s the de-escalation we were hoping for.

It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent

And Bush is on which of those sides?

Our new approach comes after consultations with Congress

Post hoc, sed non propter hoc.

Such a scenario [= withdrawal] would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer

I could let you live, but then I’d have to kill you.

We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas – where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

I wish he’d use a less ominous word than “mobilize.”.

These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary – and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time. … And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed.


We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours.

What? Benjamin Tucker?

Signs in the Heavens

Starbuck Click here for some MAJOR SPOILERS about the upcoming season of Battlestar Galactica. (Conical hat tip to AICN.) 

The following paragraph contains speculation about those same spoilers, so if you want to stay spoiler-free, STOP READING NOW:

I’m guessing that the development with Starbuck has something to do with her having previously been told by both Leoben and the Cylon doctor on Caprica that she is “special.”  

Also, the new Galactica has frequently reprised episodes from the original series, including unproduced episodes (the arc on New Caprica) as well as Galactica 1980 episodes (human-looking Cylons, Starbuck’s being marooned, arguably Dr. Zee). It’s not impossible that they might do a twofer and seek to reprise an unproduced Galactica 1980 episode. And so it’s worth remembering what arc had originally been in store for Starbuck on G80 before it was cancelled.     


Brother Eye is Watching

Here’s the hotel where I stayed on my last trip to Paris. Notice the red awnings over the main entrance and the smaller red awnings over each window. (The flowers in the window boxes are usually red too, though you can’t see that here.)

Hotel Vendome St. Germain, 8 Rue d'Arras

And here is a satellite photo of the same hotel, courtesy of Google Earth:

Hotel Vendome St. Germain, 8 Rue d'Arras -- from space

Yes, those little awnings (maybe the flowers too) are visible from space.

And yet the U.S. military can’t find Osama bin Laden’s camp?

See also this related story (conical hat tip to Chris Morris). (A few of their coordinates are wrong, however.)

My Country ’Tis of Me

As Stephen Colbert has said: “My country ’tis of me, sweet man of liberty!”

Actually he was right. I’ve argued that the idea of democracy – the idea of self-government, of the people ruling themselves – logically leads to the idea of individual self-government, to anarchy; that mere majority rule, the government of the many over the few, is precisely not any form of self-government and does not deserve the term “democracy.”

In the following passage Mark Twain seems to be working his way toward the same idea:

For in a republic, who is “the Country”? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant – merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Mark Twain Who, then, is “the Country”? Is it the newspaper? is it the pulpit? is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t.

Who are the thousand – that is to say, who are “the Country”? In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country – hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.

(Mark Twain, Papers of the Adam Family.)

(Conical hat tip to J. Michael Straczynski, in the latest issue of Amazing Spider-man – though I then looked it up to make sure it was a genuine quotation.)

No, Twain hadn’t gotten all the way yet. Individual self-government and collective self-government were still blurred together in his mind. But the seeds were there.

Saucer Speak

News coverage of the recent O’Hare UFO – this sighting with the added frisson of multiple credible witnesses and FOIA-extracted proof of a government cover-up – has fallen into a predictable pattern. The story is always introduced with a chuckle, as though to suggest “don’t worry, we’re not actually taking this seriously,” and the assumption is always made that whatever was seen must either be

  • a) some perfectly familiar and ordinary phenomenon misidentified, or
  • b) an alien spaceship.

Hence all the jokes: “Who would fly a million light-years just to land at O’Hare?” 

These are not UFOs Indeed the term “UFO” has virtually come to mean “extraterrestrial spacecraft” (as when people ask “do you believe in UFOs?” or inquire of some anomalous sighting “was it a UFO?” – clearly the term is well on its way to becoming a dead acronym, in a sense analogous to a dead metaphor); thus language is once more pressed into the service of foreclosing alternatives.

Yet alternatives of course there are. Just to name three, UFOs might be:

  • c) some unfamiliar natural phenomenon not yet understood, perhaps electromagnetic in nature;
  • d) parapsychological phenomena along the lines suggested by Jacques Vallee and Kenneth Ring (and earlier, Carl Jung);
  • e) secret experimental military aircraft.

And probably there are more possibilities. I hold no particular brief for any of (c), (d), and (e); nor do I claim they’re especially likely. Then again, (a) and (b) aren’t especially likely either – indeed, those two strike me as the least likely of the five. 

But I don’t have any particular UFO theory. As long, however, as the prevailing attitude toward UFOs remains a mix of embarrassed titters on the one hand and fantastic visions of space invaders on the other – as long as the aliens-or-nothing paradigm prevails – serious investigation of the UFO phenomenon will continue to be minimal.

Which might be just the way our rulers want it, especially if something like (e) is the truth. (Indeed, cynical-minded folks have suggested that some UFO sightings may be deliberate hoaxes perpetrated by the government to discredit the actual sightings. But then, we all know that the Illuminati are a front for the Illuminati ….) In any case, the media seem remarkably uninterested in the government cover-up, despite the fact that in this case the FAA was caught red-handed and basically had to admit it had lied. But what news agency is going to risk its credibility by investigating Saucermen from Sagittarius?

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