mr. zilla goes to town

Saturday, August 27, 2005

situating the appreciation

In the context of looking at some parallels between aid agencies’ responses to refugee crises in Cambodia (from 1979) and Rwanda (from 1994), I felt parallels and concerns between the turmoil of south east Asia and Mesopotamia jumping out of the page.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the US has its testicles in the wringer on this one in a very similar fashion to the way it did in Vietnam. To be blunt, the only fortunate difference for the people of the US is that in the absence of a massive Cold War era conscript army, the US military is going to reach the breaking point of its capability to project itself after about 3 years and ten thousand casualties (that is, deaths and injuries) instead of the Vietnam War’s 10+ years and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

So despite President Bush’s broken-record rhetoric to stay the course, I’ve no doubt the push behind the scenes in DC is growing stronger every day to figure out just how to go about getting the hell out of dodge without bringing the US (and global) economy to its knees in the event of an oil-disrupting, protracted civil war.

What went on in Vietnam aside, the US engaged in some fairly indiscriminate bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973, dropping something like half a million tonnes of bombs in the final six months alone. (I’d stop and footnote here, but I’m sorry I just can’t be arsed.) Since the Cambodian government was turning a blind eye, this pushed a lot of Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge; and we all know where that ended up - fifteen more years of metastasized mayhem and genocide for the region.

The lesson for any region in the world, is that when a gigantic superpower comes to visit, the good china tends to get broken even if they’re trying to play nice. And not just yours, but your neighbours’ too. And in the case of Iraq, US policy has been one of deliberate destabilization – radical democratization – rather than the Vietnam War’s ham-handed attempts to maintain non-communist stability in the South.

There was a very brief period I was back in Canberra before the shit-storm hit in early 2003. I recall nights in late summer around balcony tables with beer, lit only by distant streetlights and the glow of cigarettes, trying to grapple with the idea that the US was going down this course and that Australia was meekly following. I always felt I could make a far less coherent projection of events than many people around me with a much greater appreciation of the problems and the region, but there was one clear thought in my mind even then: this is going to get fucked up in ways that we haven’t even dreamed about yet.

Fast forward to 2005 and despite two years of utter chaos in Iraq, that feeling remains stronger than even before. So with Vietnam, such is the problem once more of US withdrawal from Iraq. The magnitude of the mission means that a casual overstay of 10 years or so, like in Bosnia, is not possible. Therefore substantial withdrawal has to come, be it within 12 months or at most 3 years. And with this vacuum, Iraq has we know it will cease to exist.

The strongest, most coherent elements of the "Iraqi armed forces" are the Kurdish peshmerga. In the south of the country the "Iraqi armed forces" are probably divided in loyalty amongst the anti-Iranian Sistani, the more radical al-Sadr (who, incidentally, just put 100,000 people on the streets to protest against the cobbled-up constitution), and any Sunni elements of the "Iraqi armed forces" are thoroughly penetrated by the insurgency.

The only ones whose primary commitment to the continued existence nation-state of Iraq are the Baathist elements of the insurgency who think they can get back on top, and the factions of the Shi’a (ie SCIRI) who want to keep it together long enough to establish a Iranian style (and Iranian-aligned) Islamic theocracy and incidentally do over the Sunnis once and for all if they can.

At the end of the day, there is no way there is sufficient political intent, or police or military force, both powerful and inclusively nationalist enough that will slow or reverse the descent into fratricidal civil war.

With that in mind, isn't it a good thing the US is making sure that all sides are armed to the hilt before they leave?

Via Billmon, I read this Wall Street Journal article that refers to some of the metrics of the “As the Iraqis stand up, so the US will stand down” Iraqification programme:

Each month, U.S. officers in Iraq compile a five-inch thick book of data measuring the development of Iraqi security forces. With remarkable precision, commanders can say how many assault rifles (177,000), helmets (135,000) and rounds of ammunition (328 million) the Iraqis have received in the past year.

But Gen. McCaffrey also worries that the Pentagon's plan to equip Iraqi forces won't give them enough punch to survive on their own in the long term. He estimated in a post-visit report to Congress that the Iraqi Army needed 120 Black Hawk helicopters, 2,000 armored humvees and 2,000 M113 armored personnel carriers to be effective without U.S. support. "If we want to get out of there we have to make that kind of commitment," Gen. McCaffrey says.

The ethnic and religious factions in Iraq might be about to kick off one of the worst civil wars we’ve seen in a decade, but at least they’ll all be doing it with shiny new guns.

And with such instability (and likely loss of two million barrels at day to the world’s oil supply) within two to five years the US will have to be right back where it has been since 1991: with a huge military garrison presence in Saudi Arabia. To our eyes this is the ultimate guarantor of Saudi stability and with it global oil supply. To other eyes, it’s an infidel military presence in the land of two shrines that, along with the Palestinian issue, gave fuckers like Bin Laden and his associates the blinding fury to carry them across the world and into the lives and bodies of innocent people at six hundred miles an hour.

Look, I am consistently clueless about making calls on way ahead. I don’t bet on sport cos I’m the worst tipper in history. I put my feet on the desk and grinned after Australia thrashed the poms in the first test. If I say (X) is going down then the most likely result in mathematical terms is: not(X). Well we would be in a blessed world if through the actions of a sustained blog rant I could put the bloody mockers on a bloody disaster that has us staring deeper into the hellmouth with each passing day. That would be great and I would love to be wrong.

Nonetheless - or is it therefore? - to sum up all the above:

If you think shit is fucked up now, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

carpentry, again

As you can see, there are people out there - admittedly, creative people - whose passion for their browser goes a little too far. Nonetheless, could some of you silly people still browsing with internet explorer instead of firefox tell me if the blog is looking all OK and stuff? cheers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

eV Listening download

Despite the assistance of swarms of wee spiders keen to crawl into the mixer, and onto any record left lying still on the platter for a few moments, over the two days of V I played a good number of hours in the Oxfam-sponsored chill out venue - which is the main reason I missed The Roots, Robert Plant, the Polyphonic Spree, and so on.

Still, I braved the spiders and plugged in the recording gizmo in the back of the mixer for about an hour so as to share the vibe with you all. A more lazy laid back mix you haven't heard from these parts before... so grab 70 minutes of eV listening (tres witty, no?) for your Sunday afternoons, your post-clubbing, your last-train-home ride, your snoozing on the lounge with a book when the TV has nothing but shite again.

How good is it? Well starting with some comatose calypso dub before moving into some soulful dnb and beyond, its, um, really good. Check the old Propellerheads remix in particular, its a gem, as is Jazztronik's arrangement of The Piano. But don't take my word for it. A bunch of people lounging about on a summer's day (while down the back I've disappeared behind the decks in search of a record) can't be wrong!

Tracklist (Artist - Track - Label)

1. G Corp - Peace Time - Different Drummer
2. The Shanti-ites – Jericho Walls – Blue Note
3. Boozou Bajou – Take it Slow – Studio K7
4. Propellerheads – History Repeating (Hip Length Remix) – Dreamworks Records
5. Coolie Coolie Spooners – Cool Spoon – Talkin’ Loud
6. Puracane – Things You Should Leave Alone (Underwolves Remix) – Ubiquity Records
7. Thunderball – Sirocco – ESL Music
8. Alex Reece – Feel The Sunshine – Blunted
9. Intelligent Jazz – Bionics (Jimpster’s Jazz Mix) – Freerange Records
10. Jazztronik – The Piano – Flower Records
11. Cold Cut – Onamission - Ninja Tune
12. Monday Michiru – Fading Beauty (Chillin’ Winter Mix) – Kitty
13. Herbaliser – Sensual Woman – Ninja Tune
14. Bebel Gilberto – Cada Beijo [trans. "each kiss"] (Thievery Corporation Remix) – Six Degrees Records
15. Minako Okuyama – Hana no Yooni [trans. "like a flower"] – Flower Records


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

V festival phlogging

Saturday morning and we almost didn't make it to the V festival outside Wolverhampton, as an early start and a minimal breakfast made following this blue siren with her truck loaded full of curry quite tempting. But make it we did, and so did the almost several dozen people you can count in front of the main stage below.

This pic does a great job of summarizing the crowd at V. Lots of lazing about in the sun - yes, half decent English sunshine! praise be! - lots of stuffing chips into gobs, and more than the occasional musclebound lobster pom being brought towards a state of high excitement by the fun on stage.

Speaking of which, Oasis: ehhh, yeah yeah; Chemical Brothers: yeah yeah!!; Scissors Sisters: mmmmm yeah kay I spose...; Franz Ferdinand: yeah, alright, yeah!; Goldie-Lookin "If You Leave Me Now, Can I Fuck Yer Sister" Chain: heh heh yeah but damn these pisstake welsh gits made me miss TISM; The Zutons: oh yeah! (observe response of muscle monkey above); The Roots, Prodigy, Robert Plant, Ian Brown: ah shit! missed em...

... and...

The "where has this woman been all my life apart from in Moloko" moment goes to Roisin Murphy. I'd only heard one of her solo tunes and that was only just mid week, but that was enough to make sure we trooped off to the small back corner venue to catch her. If there's any justice she won't be riding the back of the bus for long, within the first 3 minutes of her set had turned the Volvic stage into a freakin' volcano of show-woahhh-man-ship. Absolutely ripping tunes with all kinds of dub, rock, jazz and reggae undertones, demonic band, and a wildly intense stage presence even before she disrobed mid-set into a foot-high feather headdress and cyborg caberet silver jumpsuit.

Class, talent, brilliant. Highlight of the weekend.

(All pics courtesy of Ms Z.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Blog A

I see the bloke who lives down the street a bit is kinda blogging too:

personally it has taken me a long time to get my CONFIDENCE BACK.

after getting a kicking although it wasnt a kicking. was it? commercial suicide.
and proud of it. but it wasnt. just a little stink bomb at a lousy party.
and why does it matter.

Look's like he's up to something too.

PS. Do you know how hard it was to not call this post "OK Computer"?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

on government

Governments, in the main, are enormous, sprawling, multidimensional entities. They exist because of the enormous amount of work by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or in the case of leviathans like the United States, literally millions of civilian and military federal employees. The point of telling you this deafeningly obvious fact is to remind us all that any government worth its salt, can and should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Indeed the much more difficult problem for behemoth bureaucracies that constitute the modern state to figure out is not how to do both simultaneously, but how to develop a knowledge within the legs – focussed intently upon their measurable, budgeted objective of walking just as far, fast, efficiently and effectively as they can – that there exists this other section/division/agency/portfolio called the jaw, which is similarly intent upon its mastication metrics.

The very idea that the two of them, engaged from their particular parochial perspectives might wish to coordinate their activity can seem laughably alien. “We are the Ministry of Silly Walks! You want us to waste how many FTE supporting the secretariat of the interdepartmental committee on Walking and Chewing Gum? Do you realise how much time we would spend in Estimates Committee dealing with that? Preposterous!”

While these schizophrenic bureaucracies can certainly hold more than one idea in their head, the dozen or so cabinet members sitting atop the hive are far less likely to be able to do so. And once you account for the 94% of strategic thinking and cognitive conniving that these beings are capable of which is taken up by the pavlovian reflex to the flashing lights, bells and cocaine-laced dog food that surrounds the perpetually blinking neon priority to GET RE-ELECTED!!!, I think it becomes clear that even the most powerful government on earth can struggle to overcome its own inertia, diffusion, complexity, limitations (and strengths), to zero in like a laser on a world-shaping task ten thousand miles away and accomplish it at the highest levels of competence.

Like, say, rooting out every last vestige of the supporting networks and culture for transnational terror in Afghanistan and bringing home the head of its murderous mastermind on a pike. Or a plate. Perhaps with some fresh greens and a nice salad.

So why the fuck did the US State Department begin to set wheels in motion to assess what was required for a post-Saddam Iraq in OCTOBER 2001, when the dust had barely settled over lower Manhattan?

It boggles the mind that the lidless eye of power was already shifting away from the battle for Afghanistan and search for Osama before it began, and that with even more planning lead-time than previously known, the Bush administration still managed to turn its efforts in Iraq into the mother of all cock-ups.

It’s moments like these you need Minties. So long as you wash them down with a valium or two.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

choose your own adventure

shit. you haven't even fixed the britches of your blog, and along comes one of those "can you still rock so hard, or will you deal with reality and sign up for grandpa school" moments in the twilight of your twenties.

so, read along kids, and tell me which page you'd turn to:

It's August the 17th and you've just found out you have about 3 weeks to find a new place to live. Do you:

(a) spend the next few weekends actually, you know, finding a new roof over your head?

(b) take up the invitation you've got to go DJ at the V festival and the Leeds festival over the next two weekends, and just chance the whole "roof" thing to mojo, and fate, and what you can squeeze into the diminishing hours between work and masters degree and the pillow, and shit?


Geez, you set about a bit of hammering and plastering on the template and you think the drapes are closed, but then Blogger (the little scamp!) goes and loads it up anyway. Kind of like when you're doing a spot of nude yoga and the wind shifts unexpectedly around to the south. In all conscience I can't leave you with that image in mind while you wait for us to finish the guttering here so here's another one. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, August 12, 2005

bits and bieces

mr. zilla is

a) Back from Prague
b) on a self imposed Beer Ban after guzzling buckets of cheap and free Czech beers lately and feeling a bit over lubricated of late
c) Busy as a really busy thing
d) Bery excited about becoming an uncle zilla around 3:45AM yesterday, welcome young miss Charlotte Elissa!
e) Back Blogging Before too much longer...