It’s Giuliani Time

My latest column — hopefully funny and biting — [is up at]( Here’s a sample:

Looking at the U.S. Presidential contest from afar, I can only shake my head with disbelief. Sure, all of the candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, compete to see who can be a better bootlicker to Israel, but only one makes Israel and its defense — as well as the Global War on whatever — the centerpiece of his campaign. And only this one is truly, profoundly dangerous.
Rudy Giuliani’s bellicosity and [Big Man style of governance]( is a threat to domestic politics, yes. For those of us overseas who have covered our eyes at the cascades of screw-ups that has been the Bush presidency, there is only one frightening thought. If Giuliani wins the nomination and the Oval Office, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Because his foreign policy can be summed up in six words: “Verily, I will kick Muslim ass.”

It was a fun column to write.
In blog news, I *still* don’t have comments working thanks to a lack of time to dig into the code. Sorry about that. I will get it fixed at some point.

Some thoughts on Iraq coverage today

Jim Michaels of USA Today reports that airstrikes in Iraq are on the rise this year, with 1,140 airstrikes launched in the first nine months of 2007 compared to 229 in all of last year. Airstrikes are up in Afghanistan, too, with 2,764 bombing runs this year, up from 1,770 last year. Helicopter gunship attacks aren’t included in those numbers. The increase in American troops in Iraq — and their more frequent enemy engagement — has led to the need for more close air support, the Air Force said, and with more insurgents pushed out into the countryside, they’re easier to spot and hit. In both wars, air power is being used in lieu of extensive ground forces, admits Air Force Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center. The downside, given only brief mention in Michael’s story, is that these air strikes are more likely to kill civilians, despite the increased smartness of smart bombs, and that turns the Air Force into a recruitment tool for al Qaeda.

Plus, and just as important, they kill civilians, the moral wrongness of which seems to be lost in this story. Yes, it’s good to decrease reasons for locals to hate America, but not killing innocent people is a good unto itself, no? Am I the only one getting tired of seeing civilian casualties as something to be avoided for tactical reasons and not that it’s supposed to be wrong to kill innocent people?

Secondly, O’Brien Browne, who teaches Middle Eastern history and politics at Schiller International University and intercultural communication at Heidelberg University, argues that the reason for Iraq’s problems are those damn colonial straight-edges, wielded by the likes of Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill after World War I. So what’s the big deal if Iraq splits up?, he asks. Furthermore, the three new regions in the country formerly known as Iraq should not even be called Iraq, because it’s a made up country anyway, he says. It’s full of people who don’t want to live together, and the Ottomans had it right. Oddly, he present Ottoman rule as one of benign neglect, letting the … whatever the people of the region should be called … run their own affairs as three provinces in the empire.

Well, that may have been true, but a large majority of Iraqis today don’t want the country to be split up. Arabs across the region see any attempt to do so as Zionist plot to divide and conquer the Arabs, and he ignores the thousands of families who are mixed Arab-Kurdish or Sunni-Shi’ite, as well as the ethnically diverse areas of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Basra and the like. Simplistic answers are often emotionally satisfying, but they usually involve body counts. Where does the *Monitor* get these guys?

Turkey’s Game of Chicken

My latest column for Spot-on is up, [and it’s available here]( A sample:

So. The Turks voted on Wednesday to invade northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) militants. What now? Probably nothing more than more border skirmishes, a bit of diplomatic posturing and more confusion – as if there could be more – over Iraq.

But it would be unwise to dismiss the Turks’ saber-rattling as nothing more than a school-yard test of nerves. This is a very serious problem for the U.S. since 70 percent of all American air cargo bound for Iraq passes through Turkey, mainly through the Incirlik Air Base, a crucial logistical hub for U.S. forces.

And the Turks clearly know who their friends are. Or at least they’re saying they do. Ankara has said that just because Wednesday’s vote in parliament authorizes cross-border incursions, they’re not imminent. All the big players involved – Iraq, Turkey and the United States went to great pains to play down an immediate invasion. “I sincerely wish that this motion will never be applied,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Passage of this motion does not mean an immediate incursion will follow, but we will act at the right time and under the right conditions. This is about self-defense.”

Still, there’s little doubt that Turkey is royally pissed off and resentful of the United States and have decided to warn the Americans with what they see as a legitimate security measure to protect their borders. More than two dozen Turkish soldiers have been killed by PKK rebels in the last two weeks. “Those who criticize us in regards with the motion, should explain what they’re looking for in Afghanistan,” said Mehmet Ali Sahin, the Turkish justice minister.

“Turkey applies the same international law that granted the right and authority to those who entered in Afghanistan in connection with some organizations with which they had linked the attacks on twin towers. Therefore, nobody has the right to say anything.”

[Please check out the whole thing](

Iranian Hegemony: What’s Not to Like?

This week’s kerfuffle over Iranian President Ahmadinjad’s speech to Columbia University and his request to go to Ground Zero indicates that we, as a country, have indeed bought tickets to absurdistan. I was in New York City for the dustup, rousting editors from their desks and pitching stories, so I got to see the crazy headlines and massive mediagasm.

“The Evil Has Landed” screamed the New York Daily News. “NYers In Rage over ‘Tehran’ting Lunatic” exclaimed the New York Post. (Why not “‘Iran’ting Lunatic”?) Overall, it was a week of ugly intolerance for even the idea of discussion. Apparently some things are out of bounds even to talk about, and allowing the Iranian president to present his views was well beyond the pale.

Which is a shame, considering how necessary Iran is to the United States’ plans in the Middle East. Iran is a major power that has its own interests which could be brought in line — a little, at least — with America’s. So, just to be a little bit naughtier than the New York tabloids, let’s talk about an idea that’s probably beyond discussion. Given the charges that Iran is on the march across the Middle East, is looking to “take it over” and drive the United States back into its own hemisphere what’s so bad about Iranian hegemony?

Continue reading “Iranian Hegemony: What’s Not to Like?”

Stop the propaganda, Jim

For God’s sake, when will this end? Jim Michaels of *USA Today* reports that the U.S. has captured at least six *Al Qaeda* media centers in Iraq and arrested 20 suspected propagandists for the organization. Michaels quotes military sources as saying they’ve cut down on the amount of AQI propaganda coming out of Iraq, but Rita Katz of the [SITE Institute](, which monitors terrorist web sites, said the five- to six-week dip seen in the production has ended. Distribution of AQI material is back on track.
Let’s take a moment to chide Michaels. Even if the military constantly refers to “al Qaeda,” it’s not the same organization that did the 9/11 attacks, and to repeat that line of, well, propaganda creates a misleading impression for USA Today‘s readers. Repeat after me: It’s Al Qaeda *in Iraq*, not big, bad al Qaeda in Pakistan. They’re two different, but affiliated, organizations. It may be politically expedient for the White House and the Pentagon to create the impression that there’s no difference between al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, but Michaels has been covering the war long enough to know better. (Let’s also note the irony of this cropping up in a story about jihadist propaganda.) The Times and the Post have made the distinction after some public critiques from their own ombudsmen and this blog, among others. It’s high time USA Today stopped parroting the line.