Friday, March 28, 2003

Iraq Rock
Here's a tidbit of war news that does not include a mention of "Fedayeen".

Armed with $10,000 (7,000 pounds) in hard cash and a booklet of U.S. government IOUs, the 535th Engineers Company headed off to acquire a couple of basic items -- clay and rock. They need the materials to help build a desert airstrip capable of handling large C-130 transport aircraft, planes the army will use to bring food, parts and ammunition to forward units on the long southwestern Iraq front. Fortunately for the 535th, there's a lot of rock and clay in this part of southern Iraq. The problem is finding who owns it and then getting them to sell it.
That was lucky for Hussan, who owns a rock quarry close to where the airstrip is being built and whose grey, clay-brick home was the first stop on the shopping trip. Unused to visitors, Hussan's pack of dogs was alarmed to see three camouflaged U.S. army Humvees loaded with soldiers pulling up to their owner's crumbling house. As Hussan peered from his front step at the approaching vehicles, the 535th's only Arabic speaker leapt out and went to introduce himself. "Can we have some of your rock?" asked Sergeant Dan Osborne. "Sure, take all you want," was Hussan's reply. "Well, we want to compensate you for what we take," said Osborne. "Oh no, you don't need to do that," replied the Iraqi, perhaps unsettled by the presence of seven well-armed Americans. The rock was taken and no money changed hands. But later in the day the commander of the 535th and his Arabic-speaking sergeant came back to make sure Hussan was reimbursed.......Hussan was offered a few hundred dollars. He took the money warily, although he could barely control the smile on his face. The sum represented more than 100 times an average Iraqi's monthly wage

His alacrity with the home row grew ever more useless.
asdf jkl; asdf jkl; asdf jkl; asdf jkl;
Words per minute waned rapidly. 100, 80, 50, 20.
Arthritis, paralysis, psychosis.

The Inbox tallied higher and higher. Spam: Herbal Viagara, Debt Consolidation, Lowest Mortgage Rates Ever, Printer Ink Cartridges. Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete, DELETE He typed as best he could. Replies merited responses. Quid Pro Quo. Is it rude to just end a conversation by not replying? Would you do that to someone if you were speaking to them? Nah. You'd always have to say the obligatory, "Anywaaaaay......". What is it with these pixilated words? Click send and your words get sped away. Hey look, there's a piece of mail with my name on it. Better be good, afterall it has my name on it. Maybe I should've Blind CC'd my soul in on that one. Would have been the only bit of introspection I am capable of. Inbox: (50). Inbox: (76). Inbox: (143). Business email piled up. "I need a quote for 'x' pieces.", "Can you send me info on 'y' product?" But it was impossible to respond. This is the same stuff as last week, as the week before that, and before that! And the responses piled on. What can be said for that one? Damn, this is way too involved. They All Want.

He looked at what was being asked of him. Personal and Business and Spam. Each one with its own required response. All left up to his fingers to communicate. Who has conversations like this? Maybe the deaf. They have to sign in order to know. But in his case the arthritis was setting in. The Louder I Type - The More I Can't Read - The Less I Can Understand. There's a lot of gray area screwed if you don't pick the right word usage. Can't rely on a smile or a shrug or a smirk to fill in the unsaid but nonetheless understood gaps. Would a dictionary of Emoticons be useful to have? All the while the Inbox piled higher and the less he had to say. What was said before was said again. Maybe it wasn't. But how can I be made understood? More clear? Transparent like glass? Everything rides on the fingers. And the brain in control. But it's a conversation in silence - punctured only by the tip-tap of the keyboard. A monotone musical melody of meaning. Again, everything rides on the fingers. Arthritis, paralysis, psychosis. Click Send?

He pulled his hands away from the keys. The first Mute in history to have become so all because he shut down his fingers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Table Scraps
I saw an interesting aerial photo this morning showing Iraqi artillery positioned next to an ancient archeological site. No doubt the Saddamites are daring the US to bomb this equipment and risk torching the pyramid. Oh well, you know what they say about Ziggurat smoking.......
Also, I just received spam email from a "Frank Rizzo" advertising credit counseling services. For all those who don't recall the most obscure of cultural minutiae, Frank Rizzo was the name used in one of the Jerky Boys' more infamous crank call vignettes.

Monday, March 24, 2003

The Hours (in the Makeup Chair)
Now that Nicole Kidman has won an Oscar for a role that required the clever attachment of latex rubber, Graniterants asks will other Hollywood starlets be seeking out roles that require the addition of prosthetic enhancements? I wouldn't be surprised if in the future we see Julia Roberts offer up a riveting portrayal of a female Quasimodo in order to gain the accolades of the Academy.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Uday Hussein's Brain
Some Middle East press rumors have circulated that Saddam's son Uday may have suffered a brain hemorrhage. Oddly, the timing of this incident appears to have happened at the moment the US conducted its surgical strike on Saddam's bunker. So was Uday's brain pain caused by an insubordinate Iraqi soldier (as the originating column suggests), or by some accurately targeted cruise missiles? What ever the case, corroboration that something happened to a particular Hussein brain comes from Salam Pax via fellow blogger Diane. Diane reports of an email she received from Salam Pax that provides interesting details:

look, the absolute biggest best most wanted brain-stuff-specialist (i am sure it has a name can't think of it now) is a neighbor of my cousin. he has been called and taken to a location outside baghdad, he called his family and said he can't come back tonight.
something has happened to someone.

Question to be answered is, does the Brain of Hussein Fall Mainly on the Plain?

Iranians Get It
Some comments from people in Iran:

Families who lost their sons and fathers will be looking forward to Baghdad's defeat, she (Leila) said. "Saddam has killed more Muslims than any western or Christian country ever has. That's something we cannot forgive."
"It will be a good thing to have American troops in Iraq. Perhaps that will bring change to Iran," said Namin, a lanky engineering student strolling to class.
"I think only about the consequences of a war. If the war has good consequences, let it be," said another student, Mohammad. "We're not protesting like European students. We don't have a democratic government like they do. We're not acting like them because we're not in European shoes."

Very true, Mohammad, very true. Let us hope that in the coming years you and all Iranians enjoy the peace, prosperity, and freedoms that Europeans today currently enjoy...

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Let's Hope Saddam Doesn't Have VOLTRON Fighting for Him
It just gets worse and worse for Saddam. In what happens to be the most amazing convergence of reality and the surreal, Saddam will have to defend against Optimus Prime himself. In what can only be understood by shaking one's head vigorously from side to side, it appears that a National Guardsman callup had legally changed his name to that of the famous leader of the Autobots. I tell you, the US arsenal is limitless....

Liberation All Around
Iranian expats gathered at a festival in California express their hope that the US frees Iran after they are done in Iraq.

Instructions for Anti-War Protester: Disconnect Neural Pathways, Remove Brain from Skull, Begin Speaking
John Parrish, an enlightened protester, floats a rhetorical smart bomb:

'Making a pre-emptive strike sets a bad example to the rest of the world, said Parrish. 'What if Pakistan did a pre-emptive strike against India? They can say, the United States does it, why cant we?’

To which the answer would be that Pakistan gets nuked in return. So what benefit does Pakistan get by going pre-emptive? Zilch. Hence, they will not go pre-emptive.

Here is an interesting article about the less than worrisome realities of our policy of pre-emption.

Interesting interview (Real Audio) with NYTimes reporter John Burns on PBS' The NewsHour regarding the views of Iraqis in Baghdad.

Along with all of this apprehension I think America should know that there is also a good deal of anticipation. Iraqis have suffered beyond, I think, the common understanding of the United States from the repression of the past 30 years here. And many, many Iraqis are telling us now, not always in the whispers we have heard in the past but now in quite candid conversations, that they are waiting for America to come and bring them liberty
All I can tell you is that as every reporter who has come over here will attest to this, there is the most extraordinary experience of the last few days has been a sudden breaking of the ice here, with people in every corner of life coming forward to tell us that they understand what America is about in this. They are very, very fearful of course of the bombing, of damage to Iraq's infrastructure. They are very concerned about the kind of governance, the American military governance, that they will come under afterward. Can I just say that there is also no doubt -- no doubt -- that there are many, many Iraqis who see what is about to happen here as the moment of liberation.

And Now Over to Our Man in Baghdad
This Iraqi blog will be indispensable now that things are starting to happen in Iraq. I encourage all readers of GraniteRants to make frequent visits to Dear Raed - the blog updated by Baghdad resident Salam Pax. Already, Salam is posting interesting information that contradicts reports from the BBC. Get the inside scoop and stay informed. I will bookmark Salam's blog to the left of this column.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

A 'peace' activist gets skewered by an Iraqi caller on a talk radio exchange.

Friday, March 14, 2003

War Pigs
Interesting data here detailing arms sales to Iraq from specific countries between 1973-1991. Some highlights on the top providers:
USSR: Accounted for 57% share of sales
France: Accounted for 13% share of sales
China: Accounted for 12% share of sales
Former Soviet Bloc (Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania): Accounted for 12% share of sales

Brazil: Accounted for 2% share of sales

USA: Accounted for 1% share of sales

How interesting it is that the three countries who lead the Opposition to confrontation with Iraq are also the main suppliers of arms and weaponry for Saddam's war machine. How very interesting.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

On War and France
I've noticed quite often in criticism offered by anti-war types that America has turned war into a "video game". That we fight in such a way as to prevent having to put substantial numbers of US soldiers in harms way. This is bizarre criticism in that it blames us for fighting wars in the manner that guarantees our success. War is won by limiting your side's casualties while maximizing your enemy's. And 'casualties' does not explicitly mean killed and/or wounded. It also means destroying your enemy's will to fight. Indeed, battlefield surrender by the enemy is as effective as having to fight them because it further erodes the will to fight and reduces from action the threat faced.

Because the US has maximized methods and tactics that preserve its own will to fight while being able to quickly dissolve the enemy's will to fight, it ensures military success with few US casualties. This is important because for many in the anti-war camp, this threshold of relative wartime safety is in fact criminal. To those pacifists and others against US military force, they abhor the fact that the US is able to fight wars that bear little blood cost for itself. Historically, they saw the US get beaten up during Vietnam and believed this was a good thing because it spawned a period of national soul-searching. It is not by coincidence that current anti-war marches delve deep to mimic and exhume that same sense of self-loathing and self-doubt and furthermore, to put it on display - what with all the messages about racist and imperial motives the US is guided by regarding Iraq. To these people, the last thing they want to see is the US military come out again relatively unscathed and unbloodied as it has in the past few recent conflicts. They believe that so long as we remain bloodless in our fights, the more often we will fight when looking to solve international crisis.

This is truly important to realize, for its the same underlying reason that drives French obstructionism. France, as one of the leading powers of the European Union, envisions for itself and for the EU in general as a counterweight to the US. A counterweight in the economic sphere, in the trading sphere, and in the foreign policy sphere. So long as the US remains emboldened economically and militarily, France will always remain in the shadows as an also-ran. This is tremendously humiliating to the former world (and imperial) power. France prides itself on the strength of its culture, its history, and its worldview. It is specific in its attempts to thwart the US hyperpower (a word coined by a French politician to describe the US). France knows that it cannot compete with the US economically or diplomatically by itself. Hence, it must use collective instruments to size up and confront the US where it can - either through the development of a EU economic/political entity, through the UN Security Council assisted by its granted veto power, or by additional trans-national treaties and binding policies such as Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, and the International Criminal Court for example. For France, many of these instruments can be used for dual effect - to build up its own global influence while at the same time attempt to handcuff US power and influence (economic & military).

And yet, the French action regarding the Iraq issue exposes perhaps a more nefarious attempt to check American power. For while France continues to obstruct, France buys more time for Saddam to prepare for the coming US invasion. This means more time to place troops and defensive perimeters, weapons systems and contingencies. Time for Saddam means more time to prepare defenses and offenses which means a greater chance that US forces will be killed when the fighting starts. And that's precisely what France wants to see happen. They want the costs of fighting Iraq to be greater for the US than what the US plans or intends. They want the US to be beaten up while doing this. They want the US to be bloodied because if it does get bloodied then maybe that touches off another round of national soul-searching in America, just like it did after Vietnam. For France, this is desired because in their calculation a bloodied US will be far more reluctant to pursue military recourse in the future. It will be weakened, it will be hobbled, and it will be far less likely to act as the 'hyperpower'. A chastened and humbled US elevates France and to an equal extent its pet project the EU. To that effect, all that is required is for France's (and Jacques Chirac's) longtime friend Saddam Hussein to do his part militarily against the US. And to help buy as much time for Saddam to strengthen, France does its part by continuing to obstruct.

Is this the behavior you expect from an "ally"?

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Toys in the Attic
It's official, Gov. Craig Benson is obsessed with his furniture. This past week, the Governor unveiled his "Kitchen Table" Budget. No doubt he crafted this plan while seated at his famed 3-legged office desk he brought to Concord with him from his days as head of Cabletron. What more can we expect from his apparent willingness to include his furniture in the various facets and functions of government?

Universal Remote Control: All decrees and functions of government will be enacted by a touch of the button. The Universal Remote will attempt to "learn" the various operations of each governmental department "Hi-Fi Component". If the Universal Remote does not recognize the signal from any said department then it will be automatically excised and replaced with a DVD player or TiVo machine - the money for which will come from expanded gambling.
Bedside End Table: The End Table will signify the location to which all important legislation will be placed. The Governor will pick up such legislation and absorb a few paragraphs before dozing off to sleep.
Medicine Cabinet: The Medicine Cabinet is where all drugs, personal hygiene products, and Health and Human Services will be stored. Generics will take the place of the items with the fancy logos. Once closed, the Governor will be able to stare back at his appearance and marvel at himself in the mirror.
Living Room Couch: The Living Room Couch will signify that compelling and mysterious place where unknown and surplus money will be found to close up any gaps in the NH Budget. All that is required is the courage to rummage around underneath the cushions!

A Confederacy of Dunces
Here is a most superb collection of street interviews with anti-war protesters during a recent demonstation in NYC (available in Quicktime, Real Audio, Windows Media). Needless to say the anti-war effort is not helped by these educated advocates.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Question of the Day
Europeans express the viewpoint that Palestinians are rightly justified in their hatred of America because Israel uses American military technology against the Palestinians. If that is the case, then will Europeans be equally understanding of our anger towards them if US soldiers die from German and French weapons technology employed by Saddam?

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Leaflets: Better than 2-Ply, Though Not as Soft
Imagine if local politics was influenced by leaflet drops. Not done by volunteers stuffing mailboxes or under car windshield wipers, though. Imagine if you were showered with propaganda leaflets by airplane!

Dover City Council Says Separate Your Recyclables!
Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalks!
Come and Attend Cocheco Arts Festival! You'll be Sorry if You Don't!

Yeah, your yard, the roads, children's playgrounds would be covered with leaflets. Would you pay attention?

Here's a look at the leaflet litter showering the Iraqi countryside (desertside?).