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{Wednesday, October 15, 2003}

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
- Ambrose Bierce

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

For What?
Three Americans have been murdered in Gaza, killed by a remote-controlled roadside bomb. The Americans were traveling in a convoy escorted by Palestinian police.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the attacks. The groups have policies of limiting their attacks to Israeli targets, which is not to say there is any concern for who might be caught in the cross-fire. About forty Americans (most with dual US-Israeli citizenship) have died in attacks targeting Israelis over the past three years. But there is clearly a qualitative difference between those deaths and the deliberate targeting of a convoy of Americans.

Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad is shy about claiming responsibility for death, and this attack is the first on American targets in many many years, so it is plausible that the denials are honest.

But why are three more people dead?

Update: Even here on this blog it takes news of American deaths to prompt a report on the continuing oppression of the Palestinians. It is so routine it isn't news, but Israel has killed at least 8 Palestinians in Gaza, in the Rafah refugee camp, over the past week. One was eight years old and one fifteen. Over 100 houses have been demolished, leaving perhaps ten times that many people without a place to live.

Update 2: This is from a report in Arabic on al-Jazeera TV, so I can't provide a link, but they interviewed a member of the PLO who claimed that after the Rafah incursions, Condoleezza Rice invited Palestinians and Israelis to discuss the presence of a 300-person American observer force in the occupied territory. The theory of this PLO member (possibly it was Nabil Shaath, I can't remember), is that the attack was committed by Israel to discourage the arrival of such a force. Israel has long opposed, and the Palestinians have long requested, a force of international observers.

Obviously, this is a self-serving theory for Shaath to propose, but similar acts are not unheard of in the long and troubled history of this conflict. The same broadcast had a list of four Palestinian terror groups that have all denied responsibility for the bombing.

Update 3: The original article now mentions that the three murdered Americans worked for the infamous defense contractor DynCorp. Maybe the company's crimes shouldn't reach into the grave to tarnish three men who may have had nothing whatever to do with what happened in Bosnia, but whenever I see the name, ominous bells ring.

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{Monday, October 13, 2003}

The Mind-Machine Reunion is Only a Motion Away
Scientists at Duke have succeeded in implanting electrodes in Monkeys' brains that allow them to control a robotic arm remotely. Read about it at the Washington Post, the New York Times, or Duke University itself.

Then, boggle.
"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet."
- William Gibson

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It is as if someone cut off my hands
In Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad, soldiers of the United States of America razed the olive and citrus groves of 32 Iraqi farmers.

According to the farmers, 25,000 square meters of trees, which had been feeding 500 people, were demolished. The Iraqis were not offered any recourse to due process. When they appealed to the army, they were told that the destruction was a response to a series of ambushes against U.S. forces in the previous weeks. "They say resistance fighters could hide in the fields," a farmer named Khudeir Khalil told Agence France Presse.
Master Sergeant Robert Cargie, of the 4th Infantry Division controlling the area, said "we cannot get specific on these operations.

"But if an area is determined to be useful as an ambush point, we will seek to eliminate that as a threat."


Mubarak Saleh, another farmer from the area, explained that a delegation of farmers and municipality officials held meetings with the top U.S. officer in town in a bid to settle the spiraling dispute.

"We tried to make them stop destroying our fields or at least ask for compensation," he said.

"But all they said was: 'When the resistance will stop, we will stop destroying the fields,'" said Saleh.

A separate report on the same incident suggests that the fields were not destroyed solely for their possible tactical value as ambush points for guerrillas, but also as retribution on the town for not informing against the militants.
Iraq Today ... quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: "We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us."


Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'."
Dhuluaya is just an hour's drive North of Baghdad, in the Sunni Triangle where the most die-hard of Saddam's loyalists are located. There have been many attacks in the region. It is at least plausible that some of the attackers took cover amidst the plantations and their trees. Armed, they would not need the permission of the farmers to do so. The strategy is textbook. Use of civilian infrastructure is almost inevitable in a guerrilla war, and when retribution for guerrilla attacks is dealt collectively to the population, it plays into the hands of the militants -- the people's willingness to accommodate the occupier is strangled.

The logic of occupation is difficult to break out of. An army must pursue its own security first, and that pursuit almost always results in the abuse of the occupied people's liberty. Sometimes the occupying forces themselves realize this and regret it. One account mentions an American soldier who "broke down and cried during the operation." But other soldiers dealt with the situation differently;
When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it.
Though the army's legitimate concern for the security of its soldiers makes operations like Dhuluaya seem necessary, the conduct of the US army in this case was inexcusable. Something is clearly wrong when our soldiers are behaving in such a way that they are ashamed to be photographed.

If the real issue was that the trees provided potential cover for militants, the army should have consulted with the town in advance and negotiated a compensation in return for the removal of the trees. The army's legitimate security concerns would have been met, and a city in the Sunni Triangle would have been given an example of the US government's fair dealing.

Instead, farmers lost their livelihoods and learned that to the US, there is no difference between guilt and innocence if you are Iraqi. We have done little to win them over and much to alienate them.
Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth."


A tall man standing behind the crowd suddenly raises a warning finger and says: "Some people who lost their fields are begging, others are stealing cars, but now that we have nothing to do, maybe we will join the resistance.

"Is this what the Americans want?"

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{Friday, October 10, 2003}

Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching on one candy bar after another. After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him said, "Son, you know eating all that candy isn't good for you. It will give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat."

Little Tony replied, "My grandfather lived to be 107 years old."

The man asked, "Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?"

Little Tony answered, "No, he minded his own fucking business."

In other words, science fiction author Robert Anton Wilson ran for Governor of California and, sadly, lost (via lindsey at Reenhead).

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

"I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords."
- B.A. in the comments to this Reenhead post

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Antoine was no fool. You can’t be an idiot and raise a tiger. He would have known that he was in too deep, that something had to give, and he surely considered moving the tiger somewhere where it could run free. But how do you take a tiger out of a high rise apartment complex?

No, the tiger could not be moved, so Antoine did what people always do when faced with irrational love–he braced himself and held on. He would stand just inside the door and throw raw chickens into the apartment and watch as the big cat tore them to shreds before returning to its place next to the stove. Eventually they settled into a routine. He would pick up the meat in the morning and feed the beast twice every day. The situation was untenable, but it happened so gradually–one bad choice after another, one raw chicken at a time, each obstacle made bearable by love. Did the tiger know how fearsome it had become? Did Antoine still see the kitten that he had nursed on the couch?
Brokentype, via The Kicker.

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{Thursday, October 09, 2003}

To the people who don't reply to my e-mails:

If I didn't want you to like me so much, I'd hate you.

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{Wednesday, October 01, 2003}

What Megan McArdle Has Been Waiting For
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Lies and the lying liars...
No, I don't mean my promise to return before the end of summer (I posted once, dammit). I mean this:
[I]n testimony before Congress, L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz both cited a recent Gallup Poll that found that almost two-thirds of those polled in Baghdad said it was worth the hardships suffered since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein. Bremer also told Congress that 67 percent thought that in five years they would be better off, and only 11 percent thought they would be worse off.

That same poll, however, found that, countrywide, only 33 percent thought they were better off than they were before the invasion and 47 percent said they were worse off. And 94 percent said that Baghdad was a more dangerous place for them to live, a finding the administration officials did not discuss.

OK. Politicians engaging in spin is not news. Don't blame me, blame Eve Tushnet.

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