mr. zilla goes to town

Saturday, May 22, 2004

no nipples please, we're British

From The Guardian:

For free-loving Eurocrats, an image of a breastfeeding baby seemed the perfect way to promote the joy of voting in the European elections. But a glimpse of an exposed nipple in the soft-focus advertisement has proved too much for flustered British censors to bear: the image has been cut from the production before it could outrage cinemagoers across the UK.


Rock The Vote really should take a leaf...

It's interesting to observe the way that voluntary voting, and the presidential primary system, tweak the expecations of the non-incumbent candidate. The US system presents no singular Opposition Leader to the public as a foil to the aura of the office of the President. There are key democratic voices - like Congressional Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and her analogue in the Senate, Tom Daschle - but as the Congress in particular rolls over every two years, there is no personal magnet for opposition.

As a result, compared to the sitting president, the non-incumbent has an uphill race in the six to nine months between winning the primaries and the November poll to get his or her supporters to recoginize their face and their platform, let alone get excited enough about to shift off the couch and vote for on a Tuesday night.

By contrast I think Opposition leaders in the Australian system have a much easier run. With voting compulsory and usually 18 months to 3 years in the job before the poll, someone like Latham seems to merely cross a threshold of plausibility - something Crean never did - rather than having to "energize the base" the way a Kerry does.

Nonetheless, I think the key choice dynamic is that voters in both countries vote out a president/government more than voting in a particular replacement. And bless him, Dubya is now marking his lowest approval rating ever.

fight of the brumblebee

I think today is the one day of the year I sorely regret not having a TV (and the right cable package) within arm's reach at 5am, as I've woken to a swarm of text messages revelling in the ACT Brumbies 47-38 victory in the Super 12 final. Shout outs to Ange Seb Kim Giles Nick Jar Sean and Dan... at least I know I was there in spirit in my eastern bowl front row 22-yard-line season ticket seat... which I'll get back to one of these years!

Got to have a slight chuckle at poor Crusaders' fullback Ben Blair...

Crusaders fullback Ben Blair is ready to erase painful memories of his only visit to Canberra Stadium.

Blair has played just once at the home of the ACT Brumbies and hopes Saturday's Super 12 final will be the chance to implant a better result in his memory bank.

"I haven't got great memories of the place. I've played there once and we got biffed," he said of the 16-51 loss suffered in 2001.


... as the young man appears to have had a bit of early nerves...

After the Crusaders lost possession shortly after the kick-off, ACT five-eighth Stephen Larkham went through an easy gap before kicking towards the far corner. Crusaders fullback Ben Blair should have covered Larkham's kick easily, but instead made a hair-brained air swing at it with his boot, trying to kick it over the sideline.

In a moment more fitting of a World's Funniest Home Video show, Blair missed the ball completely, and Roff had no trouble picking it up and scoring.

The stupidity continued a few minutes later, when Blair threw a whacky pass to no one in midfield, and again the Brumbies were handed possession they did not deserve. You can't give the Brumbies any chances, as they are the masters of seizing on any opportunity, and only seconds after Blair's silly pass, the Brumbies were away, with flanker George Smith putting winger Mark Gerrard away.


Heh. Go the bees. 'ray!

Friday, May 21, 2004

image, capture

Even today, sometimes pictures can just be cool pictures.



Sometimes pictures go a little further and really capture a moment well.



Sometimes pictures are witness to history: somehow finding a way to cross vast boundaries and ineffably capture the divergent motivations in one's life. (Disclaimer: this image has been edited to protect the guilty).



Also as promised, now you can download an Adam Freeland vs Plump DJs we want your soul (cynan's supersized mcmash) or whatever you want to call it. Cheers very much to JB for hosting. (I hope he doesn't get arrested or something...)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Here's a truck stop

instead of Saint Peter's... yeah yeah yeah yeah...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

WSD found

Every day I go on the internet and read the news on all sorts of items of world import such as medicare and Glofish and military blimp development and Glofish rights and Iraq. And every day I see stories about Iraq bein unstable and I yell at Iraq, "Stupid Iraq! Be more stable!"

"It is like a willful child," says Giblets. "It will do just the opposite of what you say, until you stick it in a big bag and swing it around for a while."

"You are a bad bad parent," says me.

"I know," says Giblets. "Good thing I have no idea where my children are."


From the whole world's only source of fafblog.

It is a good blog.

t h e x f l i e s

With the degree of image manipulation going on lately concerning this war, and others, I guess it should hardly come as a surprise that questions, doubts, and conspiracy theories are the next stage of the cycle surrounding the death of Nick Berg.

I don't want to spend much time on this. Whether the video is real and make by terrorists, or staged and made by the US, we're not learning anything fundamentally new.
I'm skeptical that shady parts of the US government apparatus pumped out the video for international standing or domestic political gain. Not because that's utterly implausible, as we've seen they're prepared to sanction some pretty disturbing activity.
Moreso because it's an extremely high risk gambit. Would the public's response be horror and rage at the terrorist enemy, or horror and despair at yet another ghastly story out of Iraq? In terms of domestic public support for the war, I think its a lose-lose. In terms of sympathy or support in the arab world, its a no win.

While on the subject of the integrity of the US military, keep in mind that Sy Hersh's work notwithstanding (and if you're not reading his New Yorker articles every week, you bloody well should be), there was no hardcore investigative action that tore the lid off this story. The leak of the Abu Ghraib photos came from somewhere within the US Army itself. Taguba's damning investigation was complete before the media sniffed the wind. Reporters in Iraq completely failed to jump down the throat of a bland news release on the matter back in February. No, these images were professionally leaked from the Pentagon to multiple reputable sources: CBS' sixty minutes II, the Washington Post, and Hersh. Maybe everything is spin Gra; fat black wax platters of perceptive process you have to spiral inwards through to reach the white labelled fact. But in this town, its good to know that some days not just the devils know how to dance to it.

Still if you think all conspiracy theories are fanciful, have you heard the one about Brood X - the billions strong swarm of insects that has lain in wait since Reagan was President to once again emerge this week and plague the houses of Washington DC and parts of the eastern United States?

Well, it's all too true. I've got the photos to prove it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

number one, with a knife

The mainstream US media have been very reticent to touch the video of Nick Berg's murder. That hasn't stopped the video -- and demand for it -- rampaging its way across the internet.

The Lycos 50 discovered that queries for Nick Berg, the US contractor who was brutally beheaded in Iraq, have grown 1000 percent each day since the story broke on May 11th.

Nick Berg-related searches are so prevalent that they dwarf all other searches, including the consistent pop-culture leaders. Over the past 48 hours, Nick Berg was 38 times higher than Britney Spears. It was 60 times higher than Paris Hilton, and 63 times higher than Clay Aiken.


Keep an eye out for the weekly google zeitgeist which should be updated shortly too and take account of this. This humble blog hasn't been immune from the effect, with last week's traffic, while still super modest, nonetheless doubling.

Interestingly you can find the video in question available for download on the staunchly liberal Salon.com, albeit deeply linked, as well as several pages of reader responses to their decision to make the video available.

Last I checked it's also available over at the nutbag rightwing Little Green Footballs, who are up in arms about the librul media's evident bias because (with the exception of the judiciously editing CBS) no networks have shown the video beheading of Nick Berg. A recent post frowningly cites the Media Research Center, who state:

To illustrate a fraction of the bias problem, we counted the number of prisoner-abuse stories on NBC’s evening and morning news programs (NBC Nightly News and Today) from April 29, when the story emerged, through May 11. There were 58 morning and evening stories. Using the Nexis news-data retrieval system, we counted the number of stories on mass graves found in Iraq from the reign of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and 2004. The number of evening and morning news stories on those grim discoveries? Five.


Newsflash for the LGF and MRC folks: news, particularly morning and evening bulletins, are about new stories -- presenting viewers with the day's information that's new. Are they suggesting that after the past couple of years of Bush administration sales pitch there was a single person left in America without the knowledge that Saddam Hussein is a completely evil fcuker? That cycle is done. And after flying fully loaded planes into skyscrapers in New York and killing 3,000 people in 2001, is anyone in doubt that sociopathic and deranged fundamentalist Islamist are capable of acts of extreme barbarism?

What's news to the American public however, and shocking news to most, is the torturous/abusive actions of American personnel. It's jarring cognitive dissonance to an imagined community who genuinely believe they are the world's good guys, standing at the commanding heights of the moral high ground. To have to face up to not just the six morons who lost the war, but the mounting evidence pointing to decisions at the highest level that allowed these actions, that's gripping.

Myself, I've been unable to bring myself to watch the video, or find it necessary to do so. Staring at the TV like a rabbit in the headlights until 5am on the night of September 11, or standing at Victoria station amongst a thousand silent faces in London a couple of days after the Madrid bombing was all the emotional and cognitive perspective I need. The curse of a good imagination. But you might want to read Tim Dunlop's response to watching the video and comparative perspective of Abu Ghraib.

The truth is: such actions set a standard by which we judge ourselves. And we have to ask ourselves, just how close to their side of the ledger do we want to get?


The starbucks is closing. My bike-bottle of cleverly smuggled in Grolsch is empty, but the remainder of the 5L minikeg in the fridge at home from Saturday night's party isn't. Good night. Stay safe.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Responses to 'horrible click'

I'd like to thank the people who emailed me responses with their thoughts on yesterday's post of the video of Nick Berg. I think the comments boxes are working again so please also feel free to use them.

In particular thanks to Graham, who in a very thoughtful blog response said a lot of things I couldn't, as at the time I felt quite overwhelmed by the thought of having this kind of horror in my hand, a hand that could through volition or choice propel the images upon me. There could be no passive potato-like acceptance of a TV grab, just full culpability and responsibility.

Never has surfing the web made me break into a sweat before.

Still, I think you are wrong Gra on one fundamental point. I don't have any experience in the military but as you know have had some close exposure to them for a good number of years. I'm not aware of any inculcation that goes on (in Western militaries, anyway) to engender disgust at one's enemy. Dehumanisation in a combat context, yes. But axiomatic disrespect and disgust, no. Look throughout history, across cultures, and you will find the concept of the honoured enemy. Honoured in battle, honoured when fallen, honoured when captured - though perhaps less of the latter in the Japanese/Samurai tradition.

Therefore the actions in the Iraq prisons are not excusable, or natural, or inescapable, consequences of engaging in this war. Conversely, I think the disgust and dehumanisation in the US prisons in Iraq occured because the Bush administration since 9/11 has not deemed any of the adversaries encountered to be of the honourable kind, or treated in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Geneva conventions -- whether a suspected Al Queda terrorist in Guantanamo Bay; or an Iraqi/Afghani soldier defending his country; or a suspect grabbed off the street in Baghdad, desparately named at random by a neighbour to end a tortured confession session.

If there is disgust it is because the lack of WMD has turned the rhetoric justifying this American war from justifiable (albeit pre-emptive) self-defence into one of god-given righteous neo-colonialism, bringing the beacon of democracy to the uncivilized. No, its because they are civilians, the ciphers, the unmentionable, and the untouchable. Watch out for any human who is utterly convinced they are right. Particularly ones with tomohawk missiles or black box prisons.

[I've obviously got my own conflicts to work through in my worldview yet -- I for one also believe that democracy and human rights are shithot things to have, and everyone should get to take a swing at them. There are fights worth having, and genocidal murderers that need killing, and sometimes -- like Rwanda in '94 -- you can't and shouldn't wait. When I have ALL the answers, I'll get back to you. With a book.]

I also basically agree with Graham's final few paragraphs, worth reprinting here:

...Instead I'm saying that, by making these events and images public, the true price of war and it's associated violence has become more of a reality for many of us. For that I am actually grateful. The more we understand the price of violence, the harder we'll think before we resort to using it. This may be one of the true gifts of the internet. If nobody is prepared to pay the price of violence, then violence will not occur.

As much as I am disgusted by the images I have been exposed to over the last few weeks, I am glad that some of my personal illusions have been shattered. I hope that we'll all continue to be shown the reality of violence, because it's only once we're fully aware of it's price that we'll be truly able (as an entire race) to decide whether or not it's a price we're prepared to pay.


I wonder though if this 'gift' of the internet will be fleeting. Will the broadbanderati teenagers of five years from now (generation Z?) be numbed to the violence they can view with a click, the same way that child soldiers in West Africa become horrifically numb to the violence they not only watch, but commit? Won't not just exposure, but overexposure, to the worst violence of the world decrease its ability to shock us into a sensible, sensitive decisions of state? Or is human anguish over atrocity inalienable?

not-the-Tiesto-remix

Yours truly holds Adam Freeland down and feeds him big macs for a month till he burps like a plump ass dj?

Laughable! Amateurish!

DJ Dangermouse mashes the Beatles' White Album into Jay-Z's Black Album and makes a Grey Album?

Hah! Infantile! Derivative!

This is quite possibly the greatest mashup ever made since (RJ Zog The Caveman accidentally got some wheat grains stuck between his proto-turntables (ok, rocks) back in 14,000BC and accidentally invented flour, which is of course a necessary precursor to) sliced bread.

You don't even have to hear it to know how good it is. How many times can you say that about any kind of music? What am I saying? This isn't music. This transcends music. This is like avant garde young Yves Klein presenting his final monochromal works back in '56 and his art school professors knuckledusting over whether they constituted art. No no, this goes further. Come on, forty years later and hailed guru smartypants Dangermouse still hasn't twigged beyond the multitonal the way Yves did! Call that progressive culture? Crumbs, chief!

Nah, this is perhaps the fourth independent invention of zero in human history. This is copyright's event horizon. This is the intangible intellectual property. This is the null patent. This is the asymptote when you're infinitely closer to the edit; this is the xen, cut: this is the sound of no beats mashing!

This is witnessing a singular moment in history!


(Or not. But after yesterday, have a chuckle!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

the most horrible click

Mutaz, a Syrian taxi driver Mutaz working in the United Arab Emirates:

The Americans deserve even more than this for what they are doing in Iraq. Every American should watch this tape to see what is coming to them, or are they the only ones allowed to kill?


Jon Gales at Iheartmena does just that:

I strongly believe in an open and free press. I don't want Brokaw or O'Reilly deciding what I see. On a news day like today when a video that is "too grisly" to be shown comes out, the public doesn't see what the news room does. Everyone in Washington sees it. They have decided that you can't handle it. Some times it takes a video like this to make you remember what our country is fighting for... If you believe George Bush is satan, I beg you to watch it. If you forget how the two towers looked moments before they fell, I beg you to watch it.


DC blogger Alex Payne responds quite differently:
The video is quite possibly the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen... I can’t see in this video what we’re fighting for, nor what they’re fighting for. I can’t hear the American dream dying in the lacerated throat of Nicholas Berg, just as he can’t comprehend the jihadist tract read to him before his death. All I can hear is that he can’t cease screaming even as his vocal chords are cut because in that last brief world of pain it is only instinct, not politics and values, that consumes. All I see is brutal, tragic, animalistic death.

Acts like this are removed from the context of politics through sheer horror.


You can view the 5MB windows media file of the beheading of Nick Berg here. I've downloaded it. I haven't watched it. I haven't decided whether I need to -- or even am able to -- watch it.

The unmediated horrors of the world are more and more ours to behold. Look to the right. There, beneath your hand. This one is quite literally at your fingertips. Would you? Will you? Do actions like this need witness, the way abuse and torture in Abu Ghraib needs witness? Where is the line when there is no news organ mediating towards a safest denominator?

Violence generates violence. The region is in this infernal cycle. I reject these visions of horror. But to stop the violence is the responsibility of the strongest.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

coming soon

to lounges near me.dc, and three capital cities near you.au

Sunday, May 09, 2004

home of the brave, land of the adam

K, so mashing is to serious producing as limericks are to poetry, but here's a first foray into the format.

I'm not sure if this is working properly, but give it a go, right click here and Save As...

Update. Well that didn't work. Seems the general free-hosting services won't let you sling up mp3s, or something. Stay tuned, a fix is in the pipeline.


Friday, May 07, 2004

and now for something complete

Recent posts may have indicated that current events -- mostly the responsibility of the famous fived sided building just across the Potomac -- have me doing little else than gesticulating wildly, banging both fists upon the bar counter till the beer ends up on the floor, and swearing at the f&*king newspaper.

That's more or less true, but sometimes I've got half a pair of headphones on while I'm doing it. Here's the tracklist for the often melodic cold fusion jazz altitude lounge demo that Sean and I have just banged into shape and are about to drop on a few people around town.

1 Spam Allstars - Descarga Gusano
2 Dizzy Gillespie – Mantecha [funky low lives remix]
3 Jazzanova – Another New Day
4 Soul Bossa Trio – Words of Love [Re-loved by Jazzanova]
5 Moloko – Time Is Now
6 Soul Central – The Outsiders [live dub]
7 Overtone – Big Mutha [Patillo de la Risa]
8 Sona Mi Areru Ec Sancitu [Ron Trent Instrumental]
9 Index Id – Schlafphase
10 Jazzanova & Ovasoul7 – Another Fine Day [Docktor Rockit’s Vocal Itch Mix]
11 Tea Dancers – Cosmic Dance Percapella
12 Joshua Collins – Feel It In The Air [Switch Vs McGuyver’s Jackin Mix]
13 Marzebian – Let It Ride
14 Rinocerose – Sublimior
15 Loop Guru – Yayli
16 Simon – Troubled Soul
17 Beanfield – The Season [Swag’s Vocal Mix]

Pretty happy with the output -- this one has slightly less of the warty 'live' cut of the jib than the previous cd that crossed the pacific (in each direction). Probably half the mixes are something to be happy about, almost the other half are passable, and there's one recording glitch in there that had us elbow deep in grease and kilobits for a while.

Each focussed recording session is an invaluable acceleration around the learning curve. What do you call that, centribeatal force? Anyway I'm sure the odd copy of this will make its way over to a few people and places in oz too in the near future.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to mop up the spilt beer, bandage my knuckles, and go and drink a bunch of $2 TEDs.

Update. The $2 beers revolved onwards down to Nation where for the marvellous guest list price of $10, Adam Freeland and Rennie Pilgrem rocked the place hard. Counting the bottle of water and a wind-down vodka late in the night, all up we're talking $17, surely set a new high water mark in fabulousness for the "$20 night out".

Late in the night, Adam Freeland banged out an absolute killer of a track - We Want Your Soul - which if you check out the lyrics you will understand why it just about started a riot there was such a yawping response --

Go back to bed, America - your government is in control again!
Here, watch this, shut up!
You are free to do as we tell you.
You are free to do as we tell you!
I'm sure it goes over well in London too but here it goes ballistic. Plus coming home to find that I had it sitting on my computer on a new as-let unlistened to album of his (Now & Them), I was reminded of a comment by DJ Sean Cusick brought to my attention by Lunch, about the power of contextual experience of music:

"[The cult of the mix CD] deflates the power those tracks would have had if people experienced them the way they were suppose to be experienced first; in a dark club, on drugs, surrounded by naked midgets marching in unison and bathed in lavender scented baby oil... "
Heh. Well while it may not be strictly in the spirit of Mr Cusick's intent, out of sheer and unbridled day long contextual excitement I've mashed up a 5 minute piece of work called Fatty Freeland - We Push Your Soul. Now if I can just figure out how to score a couple of dozen megs of free web data hosting to get it straight to the breakbeat broadbanderati back in oz...

this is why they hate us (now)

SEYMOUR HERSH, interviewed on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor:

[Taguba] said upwards of 60 percent of the people in the prison had nothing to do with, no bad feelings toward America whatsoever. They simply were caught in a random roadside check or they were snatched off the street. They should have been processed under the Geneva Convention. -- Taguba said they should have been processed. We should have gotten rid of the good guys from the bad guys. There was no control, no paperwork. They had all sorts of problems...

"...it's going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems. There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse."


Sidney Blumenthal explains:

Bush has created what is in effect a gulag. It stretches from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world. There are perhaps 10,000 people being held in Iraq, 1,000 in Afghanistan and almost 700 in Guantánamo, but no one knows the exact numbers. The law as it applies to them is whatever the executive deems necessary. There has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US military embraced the Geneva conventions after the second world war, because applying them to prisoners of war protects American soldiers. But the Bush administration, in an internal fight, trumped its argument by designating those at Guantánamo "enemy combatants". Rumsfeld extended this system - "a legal black hole", according to Human Rights Watch - to Afghanistan and then Iraq, openly rejecting the conventions.

Mr. Zilla rants:

All preposterous bullshit about hatred-of-freedom aside, the terrorist attacks of September 11 and those that preceeded it such as on the USS Cole, were driven by two straightforward motivations. One, the massive US troop presence that persisted in Islam's holy land (Saudi Arabia) throughout the 1990s. Two, the to-the-hilt US support for Israel in the burning blister of Palestine.

Ten years on, and Bush/America/the West is providing hellfire missiles to Israel who launches them at quadriplegic exremists, and supporting Sharon's unilateral decisions about the future of Gaza - something Israel's Likud wouldn't even do. What a bloody-handed egg-faced farce. And there are 140,000 US troops in Iraq for the indefinite future, some of whom have spent the last month beseigeing one of Shia Islam's holy cities, some of whom have been committing (apparently literally, according to Hersh) indescribable torture upon Iraqis pulled off the street.

How do "we" look now?

I'm sure Chris could put this in a more definitive manner, but these perceptions ARE reality, because perspective influences action. This is why "they" hate us, now. This is what makes the US - and its supporting anglosphere - radioactive to moderates and moderate governments throughout the world. Again, there are sober commentators out there like Hugh White reflecting on the potential strategic consequences of the current crisis:

US failure in Iraq could - probably would - weaken the US. We do not and should not rely on America to defend Australia. But we do rely on it to keep the peace between China, Japan and others in the Asia-Pacific. That is what this alliance is really all about.

Of course Australia does have direct and important interests of its own in American success in Iraq. US failure and withdrawal from Iraq could - probably would - unleash a geopolitical maelstrom in the wider Gulf that would endanger oil exports. Sorry to sound mercenary, but without Gulf oil, North-East Asia stops, and so do we.
The road to hell is paved with the good intentions of something that sounds suspiciously like Christian jihad:

"I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom."

This is Bush saying that he is doing God's work in Iraq. That is a particularly inappropriate claim to make, leaving aside the obvious leaping of the church/state wall. Given that Bush has chosen to wage war in an Islamic country, it is unlikely that there are many Iraqis who are anxious to hear Bush's theological justifications.

Bush's rhetoric is proof once again that the government of the United States is in the hands of a crude and deluded leader, whose war policy in Iraq promises more disasters to come.
Say what you want about the similarities of the two major parties in the US, but its hard to imagine a Gore administration would have invaded Iraq after 9/11. Food for thought.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

getting away from it all

So with the world currently shrinkwrapped in with a tiny wicker basket (and, no doubt, some flyers for amazon.com) and enroute via fedex to Mr. Lucifer T. Fallen, just to get away from it all I was out on a work trip on a jolly spring day, to some lovely rolling fields out in the wilds of Maryland.

Where over 20,000 soldiers killed each other in a single day back in September 1862.

Yep, nothing like the great outdoors to set your mind at ease!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

who will tell the president?

From President Bush's radio address on Saturday:
"One year later, despite many challenges, life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime. At the most basic level of justice, people are no longer disappearing into political prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves..."
"...but two out of three ain't bad", Major General Antonio M. Taguba might have interjected, since he wrote a damning report on the Abu Ghraib prison complex back in February. Which, incidentally, neither General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs nor Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have bothered to read, even since this issue exploded a week ago.

Now it might seem a little tough to hold Bush and Rumsfeld immediately accountable for the stunning stupidity of military personnel about 42 rungs down the ladder. But the evidence seems to indicate that the disastrous actions were systemic, and calculated, rather than out of line. And from Day 1 of this mess, the view from the top down, the organisational culture if you will, has basically been that the old rules (international treaties, geneva conventions and the like) don't apply anymore. Sow the wind: reap the casual brutality.

For me this is so sadly evident in the decision by some f*#king idiots amongst these boneheads decided to mess about with their digital cameras while sexually humiliating the Iraqi prisoners. No one but no one is writing this off, but Joseph Nye's article in the latest Foreign Affairs delves into the crucial strategic implications of events such as this:

Soft power, therefore, is not just a matter of ephemeral popularity; it is a means of obtaining outcomes the United States wants. When Washington discounts the importance of its attractiveness abroad, it pays a steep price. When the United States becomes so unpopular that being pro-American is a kiss of death in other countries' domestic politics, foreign political leaders are unlikely to make helpful concessions (witness the defiance of Chile, Mexico, and Turkey in March 2003). And when U.S. policies lose their legitimacy in the eyes of others, distrust grows, reducing U.S. leverage in international affairs.
I think this mess shows the dangers and vulnerabilities for the US's course in this digital, netcentric era. More than ever before, the US's critical "hearts and minds" mission in Iraq -- and thereby the fulcrum of the neo-conservative approach to the Middle East - is exactly, and only, as strong as its forces' most twisted heart, and feeble mind.

Monday, May 03, 2004

in other news, recruiting rates skyrocket

"There is some much societal pressure on getting a job, getting married, you know, getting ahead. I think there are a lot of gals out there that want to do something for the country, they may or may not support some aspects of foreign policy, but they want to feel like they contribute or make a difference. And this is a fun way to do it, . . . so to speak".
If you think Americans aren't behind (or perhaps beneath) the war effort, then you haven't heard about Operation Take One For The Country. Sure, other rogue powers have their ideological exhortations in this regard (via JB), but surely not this degree of grass-roots support, ha ha.

Meanwhile, women in Iraq have something else on their minds:
Seeing those naked, helpless, hooded men was like being slapped in the face with an ice cold hand. I felt ashamed looking at them- like I was seeing something I shouldn’t be seeing and all I could think was, “I might know one of those faceless men...” I might have passed him in the street or worked with him. I might have bought groceries from one of them or sat through a lecture they gave in college... any of them might be a teacher, gas station attendant or engineer... any one of them might be a father or grandfather... each and every one of them is a son and possibly a brother. And people wonder at what happened in Falloojeh a few weeks ago when those Americans were killed and dragged through the streets...

All anyone can talk about today are those pictures... those terrible pictures. There is so much rage and frustration.
Looks like the recruiters on both sides of the conflict just had their jobs made a whole lot easier.

And its not like the insurgents in Iraq have been having any trouble in that regard. Take a look at the Brookings Institute's Iraq Index, which uses predominantly US government data to attempt to quantify activity in Iraq. Every month, since November, Coalition forces have supposedly killed or captured about 1,000 insurgents. From an estimate of 5,000 active anti-US combatants in December 03, this number had dropped by March 04 to... an estimated 5,000 active anti-US combatants. Meanwhile the average number of attacks on US forces per day doubled, not including the April fracas in Fallujah and Najaf.

Yep. War's goin reeeeal well. Is it time for the US to apply the patented Vietnam-victory solution: declare victory (again) and leave?