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June 28, 2005

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What color is tow exactly?

Blond, I think. Sort of white or wheat-colored blond.

Actually, I just looked it up, and it's the color of flax, which seems to be what linen is made of. So it is a wheat-y light color. Also: who knew that linseed oil is made from flax seeds?

French titles!

Just what you would expect from a liberal.

Watching the Bush speech, when he gave his standard line on "we will provide the generals whatever force levels they request" I noticed a change in body language and expression.

It was the same body language and expression he had when saying "We hate leaks in this WH. Whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name will be searched for, and if found, dealt with most severely." To paraphrase.

It is the "I'm bullshitting, you know I am, and I know you know, and it doesn't matter cause you can't do anything about it, punk." It was the part of tonight's speech he enjoyed the most. Telling the troops to their faces that he was screwing them, the generals were screwing them, everybody knows it, and Bush not only doesn't care, but actually enjoys it.

He is a tough guy. Really.

I wrote about the same sort of contradiction a while back (and I doubt I'd be the first)...how people get shouted down for observing, expressing, and investigating truth when it doesn't conform to the needs of those who use the rhetoric of spreading freedom to advance/protect their power. Found it kind of ironic...

I wonder how linseed oil and flaxseed oil are different. I know the one primarily as a finish for wood, and the other primarily as a nutritional supplement.

(We avoided the speech and watched Pinocchio, chez Osner.)

"tow" is the color of the hair of small children with that intensely white/blonde hair.

Hence, they are called "tow-headed".

I missed most of the speech, because I was called by a pollster. I always answer those, since I used to be one of those unfortunates who did the phone calls for polls, and it's awful work, since no one wants to take the stupid things. This time, though, I only realized after quite a while that it was a push poll, my first ever. Hmm.

The push poll was probably a better use of your time.

Two quotes from Trevino...

"...and the crackpot point that we don't need more troops in Iraq anyway"

(I think Josh blames the generals. Or Rumsfeld. The President of course would do the right thing if the people under him would give him good info. Of course)

Tonight.

"...Against this, the President, with all his faults and flaws and failures of concept, stands tonight and finds his measure of greatness in a single command: we stay."

Criticize leadership? When a good Republican is in the White House, "Le roi, c'est France". And Trevino is an honourable man.

Oh, for god's sake. Was Tac expecting Bush to say "We're outta there"?

I didn't listen to the speech; I read the transcript. Lots of 9/11 references and the usual platitudes.

A few numbers were interesting: 16,000 "trained and equipped" Iraqi security forces. 16,000 fully trained, fully equipped, and who stay put? That's a higher number than I've seen elsewhere; anybody know how reliable it is? He didn't say anything about how well recruiting was going, or if the 2000 who've been killed were killed while fighting or while waiting to go to work.

I expect the speech to go over well, generally. Americans wanted reassurance; he gave that. It'll take a while for people to realize he didn't say anything new, and very little that was specific.

I wanted him to come out in a white flowing robe, extend his hand outward, and say, "Iraq, by the power of Magykal Jeebus, you are healed!" Sort of like in Fletch II. But no such luck.

(I think Josh blames the generals. Or Rumsfeld. The President of course would do the right thing if the people under him would give him good info. Of course)

As DeLong says, "If only the Tsar knew, he would do something."

CaseyL, the NY Times transcript says 160,000 troops.

The DoD support-the-troops website he directed us to just made my computer crash once but worked the second time.

there's a tired old antiwar bumper sticker out there about how it will be a great day when our schools are fully funded and the air force has to hold a bake sale. I must say, when the private defense contractors are fully funded, the tax cuts keep on coming, and the DoD is telling us to hold bake sales, it is not such a great day. Though the lyrics to "Bumper of My SUV" are a nice touch.

This isn't to say that pitching in isn't a good idea, of course--there are some good concrete ideas there, and I absolutely should do more--donate phone cards or whatnot--even if it's ridiculous that the DoD thinks the best way to support the troops is to post musical tributes on a website. I'm just bitter tonight, after reading George Packer's article on Chris and Kurt Frosheiser in the New Yorker. (The article's not online; there's a Q & A with the author here).

Well, the speech could have been worse.

You're right; I rechecked Think Progress' transcript: 160,000.

Here's a site with a very good rundown of the Iraqi security force numbers:

Global Security: Iraq Corps

Missed the speech as well, but I was thinking of ObWi as I met with my Kant reading group and then had friends over for bridge.

Here's a novel take on the insurgency: according to Dan Balz in the WaPo, "It was 13 months ago, at a time of grizzly beheadings and mounting U.S. casualties..."

Who knew that people were beheading bears in Iraq?

bad copy desk! that's a doozy. Haven't fixed it yet, either.

I used to be able to spot occasional typos in the New Yorker back when I was proofreading newspapers every week--couldn't get out of the habit. Now I barely do it in my own posts I'm afraid.

Bob, I was looking at Tac's (sorry, Trevino's thing) and my initial reaction was: what the hell did you expect? He thinks Vietnam was going a-okay until marauding liberals led by John Kerry stabbed their country in the back and sapped our will.

In general he tends to say: western powers only lose these counter-insurgency wars through failure of will. He cites Algeria as an example.

I am inclined to say to this: ridiculous, showing a complete ignorance of history. We were already losing and we would never have won.

But, actually, in a way, it's true. Guerilla insurgencies against superpowers can't make it impossible for us to continue fighting. We won't run out of weapons, we won't run out of money, we won't run out of men as long as there's a draft. So if we leave, we will have made a political choice to leave. And since this is a democracy, it will have been a choice influenced by public opinion. So the option is always open to you, to blame the war's opponents, the media, all the rest.

To do this though, you have to believe one of two things: you have to discount the possibility that a war may be impossible to lose in the sense of it becoming physically impossible to fight on, but also impossible to win. Or you have to say: it is always better to be fighting--regardless of the number of dead and maimed American soldiers and foreign civilians, regardless of the complete hopelessness of victory, regardless of the geopolitical consequences of staying or going--than to admit defeat.

One of my favorite pieces on Vietnam is by a reporter named Bernard Fall, a French journalist who had been covering Indochina since before Dienbienphu, who tries to make just this point: that not losing doesn't mean you can win or that you're not tearing people apart for no good purpose. My copy of it is in storage right now, unfortunately, but he begins with two quotations. The first is from a piece of his where Fall says basically that: given the power, population, wealth and military strength of the two sides, the United States cannot lose the war on Vietnam--it can keep up this bombing campaign indefinitely. The second is that famous line from Tacitus: "They made a desert and called it peace."

The article is written in response to some general or defense secretary or administration official citing Fall's statement as proof that we are winning or will winning. Fall says, far more eloquently and effectively than I am summarizing it: no. I said you could not lose, that is not the same thing as winning at all, it is not even the same thing as not making it worse.

This was a piece written relatively early in the war as far as the U.S. side--Fall was killed in Vietnam in 1967, I think this was one of his last stories.

I'm not actually convinced that Iraq is hopeless, and I don't know how close I am to being convinced. I'm just saying: for you and me, there are prices we aren't hopeful enough to be willing to pay even now (I am simply not willing to entrust my husband's life to this crowd for this war and neither is he, simple as that and I don't really care whether anyone thinks that makes me cowardly or unpatriotic). And there could come a point when we conclude that it is hopeless, that our presence is doing more harm than good and there's no way to make it better, or that we need our military somewhere else. For Josh Trevino, I tend to suspect that neither of those things--the price he's not willing to pay, the events that leads him to conclude that it's hopeless--exists.

It's a pretty unbridgeable gap in worldviews. And given that gap, I don't think he's ever going to stop supporting Bush.

(sorry to talk about you as if you're not here Tac. If you do happen to read this I am NOT trying to caricature--as I said, you are willing to make sacrifices that I am not for yourself as well as others--and am willing to be corrected on any point about what you think.

Not so interested in getting into a long back and forth on the history of Vietnam, however.)

One of my favorite pieces on Vietnam is by a reporter named Bernard Fall

This is from _The Street without Joy_. I know this is on the net someplace else, but I found it here, among a lot of other things, some interesting, some not. This is a looong-ass excerpt, but I can't figure out what to excerpt, and this gives a taste of Fall, who if anyone hasn't read, they really should.

Sometimes, there occurs an almost irrelevant incident which, in the light of later developments, seems to have been a sign of the gods, a dreamlike warning which, if heeded, could have changed fate—or so it seems.

One such incident occurred to me in October 1953 in Cambodia, at Siem-Reap, nor far away from the fabulous temples of Angkor-Wat. I had been in the field with the 4th Cambodian Autonomous Infantry Company and was now in need of transportation back to Phnom-Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Siem-Reap, a quiet and pleasant little place with two hotels catering to the tourist trade and a few French archeologists working around the ruins of Angkor, might as well have been a small garrison town in southern France, such as Avignon or Nimes.

A few French officers were still around, mainly as advisors to the newly-independent Cambodian Army. Their chores were light: there were no communists in the area and the handful of obsolescent "Renault" trucks and World War II-type weapons needed a minimum of maintenance and care. An assignment to Siem-Reap was as good a sinecure as could be found in Indochina in October 1953 and the officers made the most of it.

When I went to the transportation officer that afternoon at 1530, the Cambodian orderly told me apologetically that "Le Lieutenant est alle au mess jouer au tennis avec le Capitaine," and that they might well stay there for the rest of the afternoon. Since a convoy which I expected to catch was supposed to leave at dawn, I decided to stroll over to the mess in order to get my travel documents signed there.

The Siem-Reap Officers' Mess was a pleasant and well-kept place; with its wide Cambodian-type verandas, its parasol-shaded tables and the well-manicured lawns and beautifully red-sanded tennis court, it was an exact replica of all the other colonial officers' messes from Port Said to Singapore, Saigon or even Manila, wherever the white man had set foot in the course of building his ephemeral empires.

I found the officers at the tennis court, in gleaming white French square-bottomed shorts (no one in Europe would be caught dead in the ungainly Bermuda pants called 'shorts' in the United States), matching Lacoste tennis shorts and knee-long socks. Their skins had lost the unhealthy pallor of the jungle and taken on the handsome bronze of the vacationer engaging in outdoor sports; their wives, seated at a neighboring table, were beautifully groomed and wore deceptively simple (but, oh so expensive!) cotton summer dresses clearly showing the hand of a Paris designer. Both officers player in the easy style of men who knew each other's game and were bent less on winning than on getting the fun and exercise of it. Three Cambodian servants, clad in impeccable white slacks and shirts, stood respectfully in the shadow of the veranda, awaiting the call of one of the officers or women for a new cool drink.

Since the men were in the midst of a set and I had little else to do, I sat down at a neighboring table after a courteous bow to the ladies and watched the game, gladly enjoying the atmosphere of genteel civility and forgetting for a moment the war. At the next table, the two women kept up the rapid-fire chatter which French women are prone to use when men are present. The two men also kept up a conversation of sorts, interrupted regularly by the "plop- plop" of the tennis ball.

Then emerged from the veranda a soldier in French uniform. His small stature, brown skin and western-type features showed him to be a Cambodian. He wore the blue field cap with the golden anchor of the Troupes Coloniales—the French 'marines,' and the three golden chevrons of a master sergeant. On his chest above the left breast pocket of his suntan regulation shirt were three rows of multi-colored ribbons: Croix de Guerre with four citations, Campaign ribbons with the clasps of France's every colonial campaign since the Moroccan Pacification of 1926; the Italian Campaign of 1943 and the Drive to the Rhine of 1945. In his left hand, he carried several papers crossed diagonally with a tri-colored ribbon; travel orders, like mine, which also as awaited the signature of one of the officers.

He remained in the shadow of the veranda's awnings until the officers had interrupted their game and had joined the two women with their drinks, then strode over in a measured military step, came stiffly to attention in a military salute, and handed the orders for himself and his squad to the captain. The captain looked up in surprise, still with a half-smile on his face from the remark he had made previously. His eyes narrowed suddenly as he understood that he was being interrupted. Obviously, he was annoyed but not really furious.

"Sergeant, you can see that I'm busy. Please wait until I have time to deal with your travel orders. Don't worry. You will have them in time for the convoy."

The sergeant stood stiffly at attention, some of his almost white hair glistening in the sun where it peeked from under the cap, his wizened face betraying no emotion whatsoever. "A vos orders, mon capitaine." A sharp salute, a snappy about face. The incident was closed, the officers had had their drink and now resumed their game.

The sergeant resumed his watch near where the Cambodian messboys were following the game, but this time he had squatted down on his haunches, a favorite Cambodian position of repose which would leave most Europeans with partial paralysis for several hours afterwards. Almost without moving his head, he attentively followed the tennis game, his travel orders still tightly clutched in his left hand.

The sun began to settle behind the trees of the garden and a slight cooling breeze rose from the nearby Lake Tonle-Sap, Cambodian's inland sea. It was 1700.

All of a sudden, there rose behind the trees, from the nearby French camp, the beautiful bell-clear sounds of a bugle playing 'Lower the Flag'—the signal which, in the French Army, marks the end of the working day as the colors are struck.

Nothing changed at the tennis court; the two officers continued to play their set, the women continued their chatter, and the messboys their silent vigil.

Only the old sergeant had moved. He was now standing stiffly at attention, his right hand raised to the cap in the flat-palmed salute of the French Army, facing in the direction from which the bugle tones came; saluting, as pre regulations, France's tricolor hidden behind the trees. The rays of ht setting sun shone upon the immobile brown figure, catching the gold o the anchor and of the chevrons and of one of the tiny metal stars of his ribbons.

Something very warm welled up in me. I felt like running over to the little Cambodian who had fought all his life for my country, and apologizing to him for my countrymen here who didn't care about him, and for my countrymen in France who didn't even care about their countrymen fighting in Indochina…

And in one single blinding flash, I knew that we were going to lose the war.

I wonder what, if anything, will make some people realize that we are going to lose this one.

"We were already losing and we would never have won."

Katherine, thanks for your comment. I have often said that a theoretical "victory" in Iraq is easy. If victory is defined as a unified independent Iraq, it is going to happen, because all the alternatives are simply impossible. A Sunni or Shia supremacy, or a division into three nations, simply will not work. But the same reasons a divided Iraq is unviable are the reasons a peaceful united Iraq will be very difficult. Imagine a Yugoslavia where all the little nations had major external support and where there were huge economic and religious gains to be had in domination.

All the substance I can come up with right now. A note that Tacitus.org is in transition, and I read the entirety of Edward's crosspost thread with great interest. There are commenters there, like luisalegria and Ken White, whom I read with both disagreement and respect.

(Evidently Chuck Hagel has the ability to sway huge numbers of people with a few interviews, while our President can't sway them even when he spends months talking about his Social Security plan.

Well, in fairness, Bush only talks to people who already agree with him, so is task is mitigated somewhat by the fact that he never speaks to people he needs to sway.

What's on my mind lately is the famous scene from The Godfather, Part II:

Michael Corleone: I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren't.
Hyman Roth: What does that tell you?
Michael Corleone: It means they could win.

Thanks very much, lj. It's been thirty years since I read any Fall; too long.

You know things are going badly for Bush when he loses the headline writers at the Wall Street Journal.

This is what the put on their front page, middle column:

"Bush sought to allay public misgivings about the Iraq war's course. Asking for patience but offering no new initiatives,,.the president chose words intended to cinch ties he has long suggested between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, saying wavering in the face of a brutal insurgency would "yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden." Critics contend that while there was no evidence of strong prewar Iraq-al Qaeda links, administration missteps since have indeed turned the nation into a terror training ground."

Yup. No new ideas, still lying about 9/11, and misstep after misstep.

Don't the editors of the WSJ realize that their headline writers are doing Zarqawi's dirty work for him?

Re: criticism of the government:

Riding down the length of Mississippi yesterday with my good-natured but very conservative boss, I listened to him complain about the critics of Gitmo, the Iraq war, etc. His theory is that we should trust the gov't to know what it's doing.

Having good cause to be diplomatic, I mused aloud, "why is it that the same political crowd that thinks the gov't is utterly incompetent, needs to be just about closed down, privatized, etc., suddenly thinks that, when it comes to military and security matters, the very same government is omniscient and infallible?"

The subject changed shortly thereafter.

when it comes to military and security matters, the very same government is omniscient and infallible?

have had that same conversation. always ends up the same way, too.

don't forget what else bush is spending to avoid having any culpability in iraq: hundred of billions of dollars.

thanks for not succumbing to the rise of liberals-are-to-blameism.

Sully links to a very nice bit of satire about Bush finding a new rationale for the war:
http://swiftreport.blogs.com/news/2005/06/bush_we_will_de.html

Here's one good line to give you a taste:

"But even Mr. Bush's most ardent supporters—and the loudest defenders of his decision to use force to defend traditional marriage in Iraq—warn that the road ahead is likely to be a long one. For one thing, the transition from a secular culture to a theocracy is proving no easier in Iraq than it is here at home."

Anyone trying to blow up the earth who trusts that 2.24 X 10^ 32 Joule figure is going to be sadly disappointed when the vaporized mass falls back together again--that 3/5 G M^2/R equation is the energy it takes to blow up a sphere of uniform density and the earth gets denser as you head down towards the core, making it harder to blow up. But it's in the right ballpark--just a little low.

I didn't hear Bush's speech. Doesn't sound like I needed to.

Re the title:

If this isn't a post, is it a pipe? Certain pipes make good posts, but I doubt that many posts can be used as pipes.

(sorry, just couldn't resist.)

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