Tremendous response

A while back a friend of mine who owns a venture capital firm asked me if the people on the “angel investor” list on the right got some ownership, like in a real business. I told him that no, “investors” was just a term that I used. But after the notes and the support from all of you, I realize that everyone who donates really is a stakeholder and you do have some kind of ownership. The dividends aren’t checks for your bank account, but the creation of something new, a journalism that owes its sole allegiance to the readers.

smallme.jpgA while back a friend of mine who owns a venture capital firm asked me if the people on the “angel investor” list on the right got some ownership, like in a real business. I told him that no, “investors” was just a term that I used. But after the notes and the support from all of you, I realize that everyone who donates really is a stakeholder and you do have some kind of ownership. The dividends aren’t checks for your bank account, but the creation of something new, a journalism that owes its sole allegiance to the readers. While I may be the guy in the field, it’s you, the readers, donors and supporters, who are building a new, new journalism (apologies to Tom Wolfe) through your patronage and readership. If this adventure is successful, I sincerely hope more journalists take this route and begin to see the Web, and especially blogs, as a primary outlet instead of an adjunct or a marketing tool for their “real” work. Their credibility will derive from the trust of the readers and a bubbling, robust and independent medium will be the result, as professional as anything that came before it, if not more so.
Yesterday, Wired.com featured Back to Iraq on its front page with just these ideas in mind. The response was tremendous, with more than 3,300 unique visitors, almost $875 raised in a single day and interview requests from some major news media. The more attention the better, but I’ll admit to being a little uncomfortable being the story instead of reporting on it. The outpouring of support has been just incredible, and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has donated. Thank you. Total donations are up to $3,879.80.
Today, I’m busy updating the donor database and setting up the listserv that will carry the bonus updates and allow in-the-field interaction. Some of you will notice I’ve dropped the Amazon payment method on the right. While it was very convenient and accounted for $708 in donations, it never gave me any email addresses and if you used Amazon to let me know you donated, I never got a single note telling me. So I’m dropping it and hoping that people who donated will contact me directly. If you donated yesterday via Amazon and you have one of the following confirmation numbers, please send me your email so I can add you to the list.

700105350544
700101310504
700103389454
700107339414
700106309464
700107378474
700104348434
700102318474
700100387484
700105367484
700100376474

Thanks, everyone, for your support and advice and well wishes. This whole endeavor is looking more promising by the day, and it appears that late March or early April will be my departure date. The current plan is a month in the field and then back to New York. Of course, that could change with the circumstances, and I’m hoping to stay longer. But for the moment, that’s where it stands.

From the department of Newspeak

The U.S. twists the right of Iraq to self-defense to say it can strike first; Bush, Blair and Aznar meet for a war council; and the Navy dislikes pesky reporters.

OK. See if you can follow me here: The United States is concerned that Saddam Hussein could launch a first strike against the troops in the region — or Israel — once Bush signals that war is imminent, so the United States may have to strike first. But officials are concerned that if America strikes first, it will appear the _United States has started a war._
_38959027_tomcatap203.jpgDid I wake up in some weird alternate universe or something? After months of massing troops, threatening Iraq, bullying the United Nations, admitting that Saddam has not attacked the United States nor was it involved in Sept. 11, 2001, _now_ officials are worried they might look like they’re starting a war?
I thought Iraq was part of President Bush’s doctrine of “preëmptive self-defense,” which sounds an awful lot like “best defense is a good offense.” Which means, by definition, that starting a war is _kind of the whole point._
Most likely, this is some bonehead official talking smack to an ABC reporter. But it does highlight the problems facing the United States: namely, that this is a war of choice, not necessity. And that if it’s prosecuted without the aegis of the United Nations Security Council, it will be an aggressive war, which is _highly_ illegal under the U.N. charter.
The irony of all this is that if the United States doesn’t have a resolution, Iraq would be perfectly justified in attacking first, both under the logic of the Bush Doctrine and Article 51 of the the U.N. charter, which states, “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” (George over at Warblogging has a nice take on this.)
This is just getting twistier by the moment. And now that war is looming ever closer, America is twisting Iraq’s legitimate right to self-defense to justify a first strike. I love America, I really do, but this is going beyond all reasonable standards for how a democratic country founded on some of humanity’s best ideals is supposed to act. To say the rhetoric coming from Washington is Orwellian is now to understate the case rather than blow it up into hyperbole. There seems to be no attempt to hide the propaganda, indicating a supreme contempt for the discerning facilities of the American people and other peoples of the world.
Meanwhile, Bush, Blair and Aznar are meeting in the Azores (say that three times fast) to work out some last minute diplomacy. This is interesting since it means Bush will have to get off the phone and actually spend some face time with his buddies. But wouldn’t it be better to have some face-time with countries like Freedom (neé France) and Russia who don’t support him? Back in 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker was ubiquitous and the coalition was a big success. When was the last time Colin Powell went out of the country? Bush? I know it’s not a good time to fly, but still…
By not inviting representatives from France, etc., this loos like a war council aimed at getting a successful UNSC vote instead of a summit looking for common ground and a compromise out of the diplomatic marshlands. But this is just more down-the-rabbit-hole insanity, with U.S. foreign policy used to make possible a war on Iraq. Clausewitz once said, “War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means.” But as I said once before, this war is no longer a tool for state policy, but instead state policy has become a tool for war.
Stupid.
No Love Boat
In other news, the marriage between the media and the military is looking as rocky as Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger’s from Fox’s “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” At least on the USS Abraham Lincoln. The “embedded” journalists on the Lincoln are monitored, minded and accompanied by escorts everywhere they go. Once, when mistakenly wandering into a meeting, two cameramen were confronted by armed guards.
Now, I know there are restrictions in war time; journalists need to understand that. And most of the time friction between reporters and the military is caused by misunderstandings rather than hostility. But I was pretty sure the Pentagon’s new policy for embedding journalists with the troops was a propaganda ploy, and if the events on the _Abraham Lincoln_ are indicative of how the press will be treated, I’m not confident this war will as aggressively covered as people think it will be.

B2I in Wired.com

Well, I’m pleased as all get out. Wired.com’s lead story is about B2I and headlined, “Reporter Takes His Weblog to War.”

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Well, I’m pleased as all get out. Wired.com’s lead story is about B2I and headlined, “Reporter Takes His Weblog to War.” It tends to focus on my technology plans — sat-phones, laptops, etc. — more so than my plans for an independent journalism, but overall a decent story. I hope this sends my traffic up and there have already been some new donations. Let’s see if this attention helps out.
Stay tuned.

War — What’s this one good for?

Following the news this week has been confusing to say the least. Did the United States have 11 votes on the Security Council? Eight? Nine? Four? The vote is going to happen Friday. Or maybe next week. The March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm is firm, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe the United States will just say, “to hell with it,” and launch the bombers. Or maybe it will continue to go “the extra mile” for diplomacy. Who the hell knows?

cpe_baghdad_tigris_01.jpgFollowing the news this week has been confusing to say the least. Did the United States have 11 votes on the Security Council? Eight? Nine? Four? The vote is going to happen Friday. Or maybe next week. The March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm is firm, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe the United States will just say, “to hell with it,” and launch the bombers. Or maybe it will continue to go “the extra mile” for diplomacy. Who the hell knows?
victorybonds.jpgIt’s safe to say that reading the current Security Council is like trying to read tea leaves in a still-swirling cup. No one knows where the votes will come down until the last moment.
The U.S., for geo-strategic reasons, wants to go to war, very badly. France and Germany, for their own reasons, want to stop a war, very badly. Tony Blair may want to go to war, but I doubt he wants to very badly. If he does, in fact, take the U.K. into battle, he needs a new resolution very badly, or he might see his own regime changed before Baghdad’s. The rest of the Council — Russia, China, Syria, Angola, Pakistan, Guinea, Bulgaria, Spain, Mexico, Chile and Cameroon — is basically for sale.
As Stratfor points out, this is now a bidding war and being in between the U.S.-U.K. and France-Germany teams is the best place to be. Angola, Guinea et al., can sit back, keep the game going for as long as possible, get the bids (for aid, investment, military cooperation, state dinners or whatever) as high as possible and not let anyone know their prices until the very last moment. Why is it so hard to count noses on the Council on the issue of Iraq? Because the courted countries don’t know how they’ll vote until the gavel comes down and all bids are in.
And then we’ll have Mr. Bush’s splendid little war.
Ironic, isn’t it? I thought the point of diplomacy was to avoid war, but this bizarro diplomacy is intended (by the United States) to bless a war — and to keep the appearance of a coalition by keeping Britain in the game. France knows that whatever its actions, it can’t stop this train wreck — George W. Bush has already said the United States doesn’t need the U.N.’s permission — so Jacques Chirac’s intransigence is intended to …. what? Cement France’s position as the leader of the European counterweight to America? Keep the United Nations relevant, as though the dominant member’s ignoring the Security Council doesn’t render it irrelevant anyway?
bhun.jpgThis kerfluffle stopped being about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, national interests and the efficacy of the United Nations long ago. Oh, national leaders say these are the reasons, but so many have refused to bend or compromise that everyone is painted into a diplomatic or military corner. Bush can’t back down because America will look weak and encourage more terrorist attacks. Of course, by waging an aggressive war against Iraq, that will encourage more terrorist attacks, too. Tony Blair can’t back down because he’ll be just as dead politically as he will be if he takes Britain to war without a resolution, so he might as well go forward and hope for a quick victory. France can’t back down because Chirac has committed France to opposing America’s hegemony. Iraq can’t back down because the United States will accuse it of more delaying tactics and deceptions and attack anyway. There’s no longer a good reason for any of this.
This isn’t the start of World War III, it’s the start of World War I — a very stupid war, started thanks to a tangle of alliances, national pride and personal egos involved. It never had to happen. And — again with the irony — WWI is the war that brought the world to this point, spawning the League of Nations, the failure of which led to World War II and the later creation of the United Nations and the Security Council. It also saw the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Kingdom of Iraq. And let’s not forget the use of chemical weapons — allegedly the reason for the great big army in the desert. It was a war that embodied the Law of Unintended Consequences.
I promised I wouldn’t make predictions about the start of the war, so perhaps I can make one about the end of it. When it’s over and the dust has settled, the United States will stand supreme in the world, powerful but hated, its boot on the throat of Iraq. The international frameworks built over the last 50 years, including the United Nations, will lie in ruins or will be about to collapse. Resentful young men, hearts full of fear, hate and Allah will find refuge and a raison d’etre as explosive martyrs. The world will be less safe — for everyone. And thousands of people — soldiers, civilians, innocent or not — will be dead. And for no good reason at all.