Work and Days

From Gaza to Guantanamo

A Strange Contrast

If one can endure the creepy, multifarious Hamas recruiting videos of Gazan children with suicide belts, camouflage uniforms, and toy AK-47s shouting to “kill the Jews”, and then collates all that with the images of young Hamas males with hoods and masks, RPGs and rocket launchers, screaming about the death to come to Israel with the now boilerplate “Day of Death” and “Day of Punishment”—with all the bizarre use of the vocative (“O Israel, you will see your rivers of blood” or “O Olmert, we will cut your head off!”)—then it is hard to comprehend the switch to a sudden victimization mode, in which weeping Hamas operatives appeal to Europeans, the news agencies, and other Arabs for relief from the suddenly militarily competent and fierce Jews.

Tribal War

This is all very tribal—the radical turn-about from the praising the law of the jungle and fighting to the death to appealing to the guilt of the stronger power for exemption. It reminds me of Bernal Diaz Del Castillo’s description of the Spanish-Aztec confrontation. The Japanese, as I mentioned, never in extremis asked for quarter on Iwo or appealed to the League of Nations, whose laws they violated.

Fair and Balanced

It is also terribly depressing to see the coverage. Each time I watch the melodramatic dispatches of a CNN reporter or read a Reuters dispatch, I ask, “Where were you when the Russians blew apart 40,000 plus Muslims from the center of Grozny? Are you upset about the Turkish Muslim occupation of Cyprus now in its fourth decade? Didn’t Israel give more up of southern Lebanon and Gaza and the West Bank than China ever did in occupied Tibet? And were there more Palestinians lost in Gaza or recently in Zimbabwe, Congo —or fill in the blanks in Africa? Is Russia now occupying parts of Georgia?

What Was Israel Thinking?
For all the talk of Israeli failure, they are doing to Hamas what they did to Hezbollah in 2006 and Fatah in 2002. And in each of these respective cases there was a cessation in offensive attacks following an incredible degree of material damage. Israeli goals? Risks? (1) They are gambling that the IDF can show Hamas to be weak, isolated, and largely a costly puppet of Iran without a lot of sympathy from, or indeed covert support from, either the Arab capitals or Fatah/PA or both; (2) They are gambling that they can establish another quid-pro-quid protocol in which a Hamas or Hezbollah understands that every time they wish to start another round of killing and fighting, they will kill only a few Israelis at a cost of hundreds of their own and billions in material losses; (3) They are gambling that they can so discredit and humiliate Hamas that the Palestinian Authority gains in stature and shows a greater willingness to negotiate; (4) They are gambling that they can kill enough Hamas leadership and blow up enough caches to reduce the rocket attacks, or at least convince the Egyptians to shut down the tunnel accesses; (5) They are gambling that if the world and the UN and the EU all choose to side with a terrorist entity like Hamas, then they have lost all leverage with the Israelis, and, thereby, are shown to be bankrupt and impotent in their ability to change conditions on the ground.


Unconventional Wisdom

We were told for 7 years that Iran was in the driver’s seat and we had only empowered it by invading Iraq, but consider. Oil prices have crashed, depriving it of tens of billions of dollars. Iraq looks like it made it, and its free media will prove more destabilizing to a censored society in Iran than Iranian agents were to democratic Iraq. The tab to clean up for Hezbollah after 2006 was reported in the billions. Replacing the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza won’t be cheap. All of Iran’s surrogates “win” only by getting pounded and requiring billions in terrorist replacement subsidies. The Arab world is in near lockstep against Iran. So why the conventional wisdom that it is ascendant? (And why talk to a foul murderous regime when it is tottering?)

Advice to Obama:

If you do cut back on the Bush anti-terrorism policies (and, rhetoric aside, I doubt you will to any great degree [see below]), and we suffer any sort of 9/11 attack, in the national clamor afterwards, expect those aides who lobbied you the hardest for repeal, will be just those sure to court the press and explain why and how their insightful advice about keeping the Bush era statutes was ignored—by you.

The Other Foot

A year from now, say January 2010, will we read an AP headline like “Obama wrestles with Guantanamo”? It will be followed by a lede-in like, “In yet another pernicious legacy from the Bush administration, President Obama is perplexed by the problems of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, given that some deadly terrorists still reside there, and yet there is as no adequate solution in either trying them or releasing detainees to their parent countries.”

But wait, why imagine a year from now?—Obama has already done that! Cf. the latest in which we suddenly learn that Bush the Law Shredder was, well, facing tough choices. Here’s the most recent ABC interview transcript:

“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” the President-elect explained. “Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

Was That Bush or Obama?

Yes, that was Barack Obama you just heard—not George Bush circa 2002.(Perhaps his only escape line will be that he has to keep Gitmo open since Bush “tortured” three terrorists by waterboarding, and ensured that they will get off on a technicality in a court trial. So they have to stay there for now. [But most others were not water-boarded, so why not just let the vast majority go?] And are we to believe that the campaign rhetoric of Bush “trampling over habeas corpus” is now inoperative given “people who are intent on blowing us up?”)

And then, in reaction to the leftwing outrage, the latest tonight that Obama may now in fact really of course by all means shut down Gauntanamo.

Citing Darth Vader:

OBAMA: I’m not going to lay out a particular program because again, I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good, which is let’s make sure we know everything that’s being done. But the interesting thing George was that during the campaign, although John McCain and I had a lot of differences on a lot of issues, this is one where we didn’t have a difference, which is that it is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals and that’s what I intend to carry forward in my administration.

Speaking of which…

I was in the airport this weekend and saw a cover story in Vanity Fair about just these sins of the Bush administration. Before opening the magazine I thought ‘Hmm, no doubt there will be a few loyalists quoted, but mostly it will be interviews with either (a) those who screwed up, or (b) those who jumped ship, or (c) those who hate Bush’s guts.’

Then I turned to the article and, surprise, surprise, there was the old reliables–the UN, International Court, EU guys balanced by? Yes, former Bushies like Scott McClellan, Richard Clarke, Ken Adelman, Lawrence Wilkerson, Matthew Dowd, “Brownie” from FEMA—all offering their postfacto infinite wisdom how the nebulous “they” in the White House had not heeded their own brilliance.

Oddly, hearing Wilkerson, Richard Clark, and Germany’s Joschka Fischer damn Bush has the opposite effect of what they intended, especially an allegation offered by Wilkerson that Bush, according to the German Foreign Minister’s allegation, used a swear word or two to insult Fischer’s boss Gerhard Schroeder, the oily ex-Chancellor now at work under a multimillion-Euro contract for Gazprom as it cuts off gas to his own German people. If Bush really said what Fischer said to Wilkerson that he did say, Bravo (I remember the orange-haired Schroeder’s anti-American ‘we don’t click our heels to anyone’ braggadocio, with all its scary talk of the “German way.”)

In the interest of fairness I would suggest Vanity Fair could now do a post-election essay on Obama’s recent career—with ‘insider’ testimonies about the “real” Obama from a fair sampling that included Rev. Wright, Blago, Tony Rezko, Blair Hull, Jack Ryan, Jesse Jackson, Alice Palmer, Bobbie Rush…I don’t think any of these Obama supporters would give a fair appraisal…

I’ve been reading more about Colin Powell’s sudden involvement in the Inauguration and his utopian appeals to a new brotherhood on the horizon. And for some reason, something is not right about this, odd, weird, troubling…

Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on the flawed WMD intelligence did great damage to the country. His assistant Richard Armitage paid no price, legal or moral, for leaking the whatever status of Valerie Plame, working out some sort of deal with the Special Prosecutor, while keeping quiet about the concurrent legal pursuit of Scooter Libby for that very “crime” he committed. Powell’s character testimony for the crook Ted Stevens was just the sort of DC-insider old politics that Powell decried when he declared his 11th-hour allegiance to the post-meltdown surging Obama. Go figure all this, I cannot.

You First…

I think in the past month I have read a half-dozen op-eds by white-male, insider journalists pontificating that the Republicans just didn’t get it—that poor old Sarah Palin and the decrepit white guy John McCain were dinosaurs. Hip multiracial Barack Obama was now the wave of the future, and the clueless calcified conservatives better get with the new face of America. It was a plausible enough thesis given demographic trends—if one believes in rigid and fossilized tribal and racial fault lines.

But two observations: why do privileged, entrenched white elites in the NY-DC axis always give soap-box lectures about the beauty of diversity while never (?) stepping aside themselves from their jobs to jump-start the up and coming careers of the other? (For 21 years I watched tenured senior white male professors lecture their departments on affirmative action, then hire by race and gender, and turn away young white male candidates by rote, who usually were far stronger applicants than these diversity prophets ever had been, who were mostly hired by old boy networks in the 1960s and 1970s.)

I think we surely could use more diversity at the New Republic, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Nation, Time, Newsweek (its managing editors are mostly white guys), etc. in editing, publishing, and advertising. And why are we to assume that a non-white citizen won’t intermarry out of their race, or won’t get tired of paying 50% of his income in taxes to the federal and state government for redistribution schemes that make things worse rather than better? What we have here is a lot of easy pronouncement and very little actual diversity in practice. Ms. Kennedy seems the emblem of all this for our times: Is the price for privilege going up to Harlem once in your life to have lunch with Al Sharpton—and, then, presto, you’re a woman of the people (rather than say, having five kids in Wasilla?) Surely, she should have been out lobbying for some very hard-working African-American or female New York state or federal legislators who all paid their dues, and, to be considered for a Senate seat, simply need a boost to overcome the old money-status-insider firewall.

Oh well, this transition is getting very interesting…

Note: I thank everyone for suggestions and edits. For those who still drive American, I may try one last time, as I said last post. For Obama supporters: it does our new President very little good (cf. the recent softball press conferences) when no one compares his rhetoric to his record. Our adversaries surely will do that, and he needs to be careful what he says, so he doesn’t find himself in the proverbial corner without options. [For now he also needs to have a moratorium on Chicago appointments.])