Saturday, March 29, 2003

A little bit of silliness?

I read in The Weekend Australian (no link) that Brendan Nelson, the federal Minister of Education, has been privately telling state governments to rigorously inspect teaching at Islamic schools fearing that anti-Western feeling was being promoted. Publicly the Minister is saying that the allegations are unfounded.

After reading that bit of news I decided to immediately affirm the Muslim custom of drinking a strong black coffee.

Oh, I know its a silly middle class response to the paranoia of the national security state. But then I am no-hoper ---newly marginalised is my new life condition.

In a multicultural liberal society that Australia proclaims itself to be, the federal Minister of education would have also been privately telling state governments to rigorously inspect teaching at Christian and Jewish schools fearing that anti-Islam feeling was being promoted. He didn't.

He didn't, did he? The perception of threat to the security of the nation was onesided. So much for multiculturalism.

Do you get the sense that our national culture is becoming claustrophobic and our public spaces full of fear?

Paraniod nationalism. That is the culture of the national security state.
Historical shudders

The ongong shock and awe tactics, coupled with the urban battle for Baghdad, look like razing Iraq. How many wounds can the Iraqi people take from the blowtorch of the militarized enlightenment? I shudder to think what the country will look like after the war. I shudder at the extent of the suffering of the Iraqi people. I shudder at the leagacy of this conflict in Iraq.
Boredom

I find the blanket coverage of war provided by the TV network's news services is boring and mind numbing. Matt Price sums up the experience well. He says:

'Last weekend I watched John Howard give a televised press conference where he declared the war was going "better than expected". Moments later the caption – "Howard: War going better than expected" – appeared at the bottom of the screen. When Howard finished, the newsreader summed up that the PM thought the war was "going better than expected". They crossed to a correspondent in Canberra who agreed that, yes indeed, Howard thought things were "going better than expected".It's inane and mind-numbing, yet perversely hypnotic. Amid the dross there has been brave and informative reporting, although many correspondents embedded with US and British forces appear to be going native.'

Its not hypnotic. Its boring. That's why my energies are concentrated in renovating the inner city cottage and increasing household debt.

Renovating is boring as well. But at least I have a sense of achieving something at the end of the day. Watching blanket coverage of war by the TV networks leaves me with a feeling of ennui.
Says it well

Paul Dibb, an Australian defence analyist, sums up the previous post about the e- military types on the ABC's 7.30 Report in one pithy sentence:

"The mistake military analysts make is to think this is a military operation with a military end."

Its not. The military operation to overthrow a tyrant is an instrument of the political goal to contain and roll back a militant Islam.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Descriptions
I have given up watching the ABC's 7.30 Report on the war with Iraq. Its pretty poor stuff. Those two ex-military types, JIM WALLACE & PETER NICHOLSON, are a pretty poor show. They are advocates of “a new kind of war”, based on the combination of high-precision airpower and a few elite units on the ground. Their view of things is summed up in this prediction:

"When the long-anticipated fight against Iraq begins, it may not last long. A reasonably optimistic timeline might look like this: simultaneous airstrikes, Shia revolts and manoeuvres of the coalition ground force on the first day; by Day Four, substantial allied ground forces are near Baghdad; by Day Seven the defences around the capital have fallen; by Day 14 most organised resistance has been defeated, except for isolated elements in the city."

The two resident ex-military types on the 7.30 Report continue to see success just around the corner.

What they say is that things are great, victories are being won, and there are only minor hiccups. They do not take into account judgements that Rumsfeld sent too few troops, say retired generals. They have no feel for the political side of the war at all. based on Arab media portray a bloody conquest. No attempt is made by them to analyse Iraqi military tactics and strategies based on reports like this Because everything is viewed from the Anglo American military perspective we get no sense of how the battle is being waged across the country. The Iraqi's are almost seen as incompetent goons instead of the Anglo-American military having significantly underestimated the enemy, the psych.ops strategy based around shock and awe being a failure.

The Major General on SBS's World News Iraqi Special cuts them for dead.

The only person on the 7.30 Report talking any sense is Hugh White. He is the only one with a broad perspective.The others should be pensioned off and let Hugh White take over. He is the only one with a sense that the perception of war is shifting----from one of welcome liberation to one of a war of conquest. Since the ABC won't pension the others of, then we are best reading war analysis accounts here. Much more sophisticated and informed.

And ABC Watch has been running a pretty poor show in criticism of the ABC. He just points the finger at Kerry O'Brien's pessimism. He should be burning along with his watchdog role.

The only person on the 7.30 Report talking any sense is Hugh White. He is the only one with a broad perspective.The others should be pensioned off and let Hugh White take over. He is the only one with sense that the perception of war is shifting --from welcome liberation to a war of conquest and a sense of what the battle for Baghdad will be like.

This contains some plain accounts from westerners in Baghdad about the impact of bombing on ordinary Iraqi's.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Libertarian.org

The guys over at Libertarian.org contacted me the other day and asked me to both link to them and to give them a plug. The link to their weblog is up ---at this weblog its all and sundry.

As for the plug? Well that's a bit harder cos it depends on what they write. Rob over at Blogorrhoea gives them a bemusing plug. He thinks they are okay.

Me? I came across this sentence from a post that is a quote by one P.J. O'Rourke. It is posted by 24601. This caught my eye.

"There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please".

My my. Not even the US constitution says that. And their old mate Hayek doesn't hold to that either, as he recognizes that the self-organizing makert is in institution that can only function properly if liberty is constrained by rules. Even free market capitalists accept the need for contracts to restrain their desire to do what they please.

So where is 24601 living then? Alone on a desert island. He must be ending his posts by wireless to the guys and girls at libertarian.org. Note the org. bit. They too have rules. So do weblogs to ensure that the stuff that comes down the line can get posted.

So 24601 cannot do as he pleases.

Thats the plug guys.
An individual Iraqi voice

I came across this interview Gazwan Al Muktar, a retired engineer, living in Baghdad. It was conducted just moments after reports emerged that US/UK forces had bombed Iraqi television and a market place in a residential neighborhood in Baghdad. Link via mark at pinappletown.

Some points made. Civilians are targeted:

"I took a tour in Baghdad. I went to Mansour, I went to Adhamiya, I went to Karrada. There are very few people on the road because again yesterday the US said that any vehicle moving on the road is a target, a legitimate target .. and that was coming out of the Centcom in Bahrain, in the briefing. So even right now civilians traveling on the road are being targeted according to the US Central Command..."

There is no escape:

"Every other town is being targeted. Every other town is being targeted It’s not only Baghdad that’s being targeted. Baccuba is being targeted, Mosul is being targeted, Tikrit is being targeted, Hilla is being targeted. God, the whole country is being targeted. What you are hearing is only that Baghdad is being targeted and Basra is being targeted. No, it’s Mosul and Basra, Kirkuk, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Samawa, Nasriya, the whole place is being targeted. Ramadi has been targeted on the western part of the country. So where do you go? You leave your house, where do you go? "

And there is resistance to the Anglo-American war machine:

"And you saw what happened in Um Qasr, Al Fao and Basra and Nassiriya. Those are the Shi’ite places where you think they should have welcomed the revolt against the government. But they did not. So it’s about time, you people open up your eyes and see what’s happening and understand the message and forget about the rhetoric."

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Photojournalism

via Tim Porter's First Draft. An essay in the Boston Review by Susie Linfield examines the role of photography in today's world of corporate media.
Bored, Derrida, Iraqi War

I didn't even turn the tv on tonight to saturate myself in media flows. I'm bored with war as reality tv. I want some Derridean difference with the Iraq war. The US media net works are all about identity and sameness:---- their view of war is free of all difference. Difference is repressed and forgotten. Arabs are the Other. There is no outside to their triumphal representations of war as short, swift and clean based on precision bombing and a light run up the highway to Baghdad.

Confronted by the eclipse of difference I"m hungry for the play of difference:----I want to hear some grieving Arabic voices. I would like to hear what the mothers in Basra are thinking and feeling about the brutal tragedy they are living. Because of my need for some good old fashioned Derridean difference in the war with Iraq, my daily read is Al-Muhajabah's Islamic Pages. At the moment I am exploring the links ---have a look at this one for Afghanistan; or this one about representations of Arabs in the Australian media. After 9/11 the Arab migrant community is seen as a threat to the security of the nation state; they are branded a security risk; target for surveillance by the security forces.

So let us celebrate difference with Derrida and work to put it into play in the war with Iraq. Lets liberate difference as a counter to the effacing of difference by the Anglo-American media networks.
War hackers

I have been trying to access Al-Jazeera's newly-released English language site all day with no luck. I suspect that it has been attacked by US hackers and is currently out of commission. It has So was Al-Jazeera's Arabic language site.

So I will just have to wait for the site go back up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Oscars
So our Nicole won their Oscar in a glitzy event. Everyone wore black, the mood was sombre, there were tears all round and the presenter parodied the show. Cosmopolitian Sydney is delighted. Hollywood understands postmodernism and art.

All that was missing was a gig by the Dixie Chicks

And those dresses. I had to look a second time. They look like so many references to the formal fashions favoured by British Royalty.Hollywood is not saying we are the royality of the New Order of Things?

Oh, and Mike Moore ruffled some peacock feathers as he charmed the pants off everyone. I love his line, 'We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times.' Hollywood is a great place to deliver that line.

This is a better kind of nationalism than that currently embodied by the Australian Cricket team.

Sport and Art. Australia is sitting on top of the world?
War madness

I came across this comment by Ken Parish in a post by Wayne Wood at Troppo Armadillo. The post is about about Middle East strategy---to do with taking out Iran after the Anglo-Americans have finished with Iraq. Basically its an anti-left rave:

"...when the US and Britain implement an intelligence-led effort to undermine the evil terror-dealing ayatollahs and reinforce existing liberal democratic forces in Iran (as they will and should), the left will be screaming just as long and loud as they have about Iraq."

What can you say to that? I do remember Ken, people saying something about the UN at the time. Have you forgotten already?

Ken continues in the same angry vein:

"Sadly the left, which was once a voice of conscience and morality in the days of Vietnam and Pinochet, has now been reduced to a state of utter moral bankruptcy, where it mostly seeks to defend the supposed sovereign rights of bloodthirsty, corrupt dictators to continue persecuting their own people and exporting terror without let or hindrance."

Not so. The policy of national self-determination of a nation state was over-ridden through the UN ---what else was containment and weapons inspections? Ther were rules and conventions to meet when it came to over-riding the foundational principle. Otherwise it was might=right.

Ken gives an indication why none of this is taken seriously:

"This pathetic state of affairs seems to have been reached because of the left's tunnel vision hatred of American capitalism and belief in a mythical international order. There is a desperate need for the left to re-invent itself in a principled way, because there remain many negative aspects to unrestrained capitalism and unrestrained US hegemony. At present, however, there is no sign of any sensible analysis from anywhere on the left that I've seen."

Now it becomes clear. The UN stands for a mythical international order. One of the illusions of an epoch. Because they are ensnarred in illusions the left are incapable of anything more than hatred of America. Ken, of course, is speaking in the name of an enlightened reason that exposes myths. The left has given up reason is the inference. Hence they have nothing to say about human goodness.

This junk---and that's what it is---reads like a neo-con attack on the Left---Miranda Devine style---- by someone who says that they are a centrist in politics. The war does funny things to people. All sorts of emotional stuff comes bubbling to the surface. Alas, the madness has got to Ken. Sad really.

Maybe its just a settling of accounts with past lives. Making a clean break by working through painful and tragic emotions.

Just thought you might be interested in the psychological impact of the war.

Monday, March 24, 2003

On the road to Adelaide

Yesterday, when I drove back to Adelaide from Victor Harbor around lunchtime I wondered about the possibilities of a bio-terror attack --the plague or anthrax being let loose in Australia. I couldn't cope with that line of thought.

I got this far though. Do the health authorities have the vaccine readily available in Adelaide? They should, shouldn't they? After all we don't have this vaccine stuff ready to hand in our medicine cabinets. And the PM has been warning us for weeks now about all this stuff. Its why we at war isn't it. So all the disease tracking, crowd control, communication and local vaccine delivery mechanisms should be in place.

Oh, I know. There's nothing. So what does that say? It was all too difficult. So I stopped wondering about it.

Then I pondered why I had given up watching the live feeds from the war zone by the US television networks late at night. One night of live coverage (and flickering chanels) was enough for me. I could cope with that.

Fox Television sickened me-----so gungho war (not just this war but war in general ) and the thrills of it all. The commentary from the tank by the embedded reporter sounded as if he had a hard on from all the high tech stuff + the thrills and spills. War = big desire. War is sexy. He was almost masturbating as the mobile and lightly armed forces of the Militarized Enlightenment dashed to Baghdad.

As a viewer watching from a beach house with a backdrop of waves and wind it was like being in a video-game. No that's not quite right---I'm groping for the visual form here. It was more like reality television. Well, not quite because it hadn't quite got there. It had the form of not the content reality television----that was the marketing of war.

But there was another side to all this. The US military have ensured that the US networks are their lapdogs in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They have become the psych-ops arm of the US military, which is trying to scare the Iraqi soldiers to give up in the face of overwhelming power racing up the highway. That's the tactics of shock and awe. The thesis is simple. Iraq as a nation state only holds together because of fear of the evil dictator. Create another fear ---death from bombardment--cos these peopel only understand fear. So now's your chance to give up. Take it while you can and side with the forces of liberation. Its Saddam we are after, not you or the Iraqi people. We have a common enemy. So get out now because we are going to pummel Baghdad good and proper. You haven't got a chance.

So the Iraqi resistance is downplayed and the forward momentum is played up. Resistance is also unexplainable in the high tech discourse---sporadic resistance is encountered. Why are they resisting? Where are the flowers and kisses and smiles from a grateful people? It is not rational to resist. Sandstorms yes. Stiff resistance no.

Then it dawned on me. The psych.-ops boys had forgotten to factor in patriotism---Iraqi patriotism--into their equations. Of course, the psych.ops boys had overlooked that because there was no such thing as Iraqi patriotism in their high-tech discourse.

Maybe the Iraqi people wanted to see Saddam go and the tyranny end, but they weren't too happy with the Americans occupying their country. Maybe they wanted to govern the country for themselves. After all Iraq is their homeland. It's a bit arrogant to say Iraqis do not know what democracy is until the Americans bring it to them.

What has been rejected as irrelevant by the Militarized Enlightenment is what is most important.

Thats what happened on the road to Adelaide.

Then I read this personal account by Nate Thayer of a day's experiences as an American journalist in Baghdad. (Link courtesy of Tim Dunlop, who is doing a great job at Road to Surfdom.) And this personal voice from April Hurley, an American working in a Baghdad Emergency room.
This ain't pretty

More war casuality pictures from Al Jazeerah. This will not play well in the Arab street.

The Arab street will be watching both CNN and Al Jazeerah. We in Australian street have the BBC and CNN---its not the same thing though, is it?
Baghdad Blogger

Salem Pax in Baghdad has not posted since Friday.

Update: He's back. Salem had no internet access for a couple of days. He says the images:

"...we saw on TV last night (not Iraqi, jazeera-BBC-Arabiya) were terrible. The whole city looked as if it were on fire. The only thing I could think of was “why does this have to happen to Baghdad”. As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion I was close to tears. Today my father and brother went out to see what happening in the city, they say that it does look that the hits were very precise but when the missiles and bombs explode they wreck havoc in the neighborhood where they fall."
He adds that:

"The images Al-jazeera is broadcasting are beyond any description. First was the attack on (Ansar el Islam) camp in the north of Iraq. Then the images of civilian casualties in Basra city. What was most disturbing are the images from the hospitals. They are simply not prepared to deal with these things. People were lying on the floor with bandages and blood all over. If this is what “urban warfare” is going to look like we’re in for disaster."

Yes, I suspect that Basra is an indication of what will happen in Baghdad. Of course, the American war machine will say that its all going to plan--its all been figured and calculated in the equations in the computer. We know the script after listening to a couple of briefings from the Big General. It says trust instrumental reason.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Collateral damage

The horrible side of war is the death and destruction of civilians. US and British war planes began their attacks on Basra around 11.30 am (0830 GMT) on Saturday, initially bombing the outskirts, but then began targeting objectives in the city.

US airstrikes on the southern Iraqi city of Basra are not as clean and surgical as is being made out by the publicists for the militarised Enlightenment machine. These are photos of the civilian dead and the injured And there is more, since battles have raged around the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Nassiriya on the road to Baghdad. So charred Iraqi bodies will litter the landscape on the road to Baghdad.

Will we see lots of images like these on our television channels to counter the beautiful violent images of the spectacle of Baghdad exploding and burning at night? Will the media shake off their role of being lap dogs?
Cricket

My hopes that Australia would be knocked off its perch as world champions by India have been dashed. Such is the way of the world.
A mother's lament

Personal experience provides a different perspective to the violently beautiful spectacle of shock and aweand the ignorant commentary provided by the media networks, such as CNN. Burning flesh and twisted bodies highlights the gap between dream and reality It provides away to counter the bad history used by conservative politicians to justify an unpopular war.