An interpretation of the Surge

Juan Cole takes a nuanced, balanced approach to analyzing the effects of the troop surge in Iraq:

For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra US troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.

Too bad the majority of the electorate won’t. Also some good comments over there.

Breaking The Silence

(The links in this post are via this Metafilter post.) Some of these testimonies from Israeli soldiers are just stunning:

So they blew up two huge buildings and a police station. Because they blew up two buildings of 15-20 stories with a ton of explosives, so the whole nieghborhood had to be evacuated.The whole nieghborhood, it was an upscale neighborhood, and in the rich Palestinian neighborhoods there is one rule, they don’t shoot. Because if they shoot, then their home will be destroyed.Palestinians, Arabs are like Arabs, worry about their own ass. It was a nieghborhood of all the corrupt Palestinian Authority people. It was a nieghborhood, what can say, if you’ve ever been in north Tel Aviv, it’s the same.Villas and new cars.It wasn’t Gaza at all, I should only have such things. Huge houses, Villas, ofcourse they didn’t shoot at us even one bullet from there.

They blew up that area?

Yes, it was exploded. The story is that we had to evacuate 4000 people. Did you see Shindler’s list? When they evacuated the ghetto? although you have to make a thousand distinctions, it was an amazing picture. Really amazing, you see thousands of people. They pass in amored vehicles and big loud speakers shouting at them in Arabic,passing out leaflets, a special unit passes almost house to house and evacuates everybody, without shooting, nothing. But 4000 people, you can imagine. Those were very big buildings simply, the first thing that comes into your head is Shindler’s list. You see thousands of people with small children.

How were they evacuated?

How were they evacuated? They simply told them to go east. Just take everything and go east. 4000 people. In the middle of the night. You just see children, old people, women, all crammed into cars…on foot. Nothing, nothing an amazing sight….it just gives you the chills…as if, I just couldn’t…I just…I just….you can’t compare, but it was just like in the movie…ofcourse, you know it isn’t the same thing because you’re not a Nazi and you’re not killing them out of hatred or something. You’re even doing it for their own good, so that they don’t get hurt from the explosives, you understand. But I can’t help but not compare and not think about it.

One wonders if Nazi testimonials would sound much the same. This is from a new site called Breaking the Silence, which aims to reveal through soldier testimony the abuses suffered by the Palestinian people, “in order to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created.”

More discussion can be found in this Independent article:

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The Greatest Silence

tgs-poster.jpgI missed this last night, both because I don’t have HBO, and because I was playing my last soccer game. If you have HBO, record and torrent it, because I can’t find it anywhere yet. This year’s Special Jury Prize at Sundance went to The Greatest Silence:

Since 1998 a brutal war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 4 million people have died. And there are the uncountable casualties: the many tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army.

The world knows nothing of these women. Their stories have never been told. They suffer and die in silence. In The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo these brave women finally speak.

The HBO page for the film is here, if you want to find the schedule. If any of my friends with cable and a DVR want to record it for me, I’d be grateful. There’s an interview with the director here. The HBO trailer:

Inside the Black Budget with Arm Patches


The NYT has a pretty interesting article on secret divisions within the US armed services – and their boy scout badges. The patches go from mysterious to creepy to almost whimsical in nature, and they offer a small glimpse into a world of shadowy military dealings.

It is, according to a new book, part of the hidden reality behind the Pentagon’s classified, or “black,” budget that delivers billions of dollars to stealthy armies of high-tech warriors. The book offers a glimpse of this dark world through a revealing lens — patches — the kind worn on military uniforms.

“It’s a fresh approach to secret government,” Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said in an interview. “It shows that these secret programs have their own culture, vocabulary and even sense of humor.”

One patch shows a space alien with huge eyes holding a stealth bomber near its mouth. “To Serve Man” reads the text above, a reference to a classic “Twilight Zone” episode in which man is the entree, not the customer. “Gustatus Similis Pullus” reads the caption below, dog Latin for “Tastes Like Chicken.”

Bush’s War

feh_bor_rou_sha.jpgPBS FRONTLINE has their new special available for viewing online in its entirety:

Veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk draws on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism — more than 40 FRONTLINE reports on Iraq and the war on terror. Combined with fresh reporting and new interviews, Bush’s War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation’s history.

“Parts of this history have been told before,” Kirk says. “But no one has laid out the entire narrative to reveal in one epic story the scope and detail of how this war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government.”

Frontline is pretty much the last bastion of serious news documentaries in America, so it’s probably worth a look.

The Gaza Bombshell

Recently uncovered evidence shows that at the highest level of American leadership there were plans to spark Palestinian civil war. Read more in Vanity Fair’s The Gaza Bombshell: Politics & Power:

po01x_gaza0804.jpg After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

If we expect leaders of other nations to be held to international law, we should expect the same scrutiny for our own leaders. I would love to see the lot of them facing a tribunal in The Hague; there must be some kind of consequences for these types of actions, some kind of justice.