OF UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR
in the recesses of the Pentagon is some sub-department charged
with coining these monikers, and, naturally, they have the
aid of a specially-designed computer program: the Code Word,
Nickname and Exercise Term System. "Basically what happens,"
according to a Pentagon source, "is that each of the commanders
is given a database of words. A name is randomly selected
normally a word that is pertinent to that region like
desert in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The commanders
are then presented with a new database of words. They choose
another word they like and pair it with the first. They are
given some leeway, but they are instructed about which two
letters to use first. In 1983, for instance, when the United
States invaded Grenada, the Atlantic Command was asked to
come up with a name whose first two letters were U and R,
for complex reasons of cyber-military protocol. The result:
THE CULTURE FRONT
knows what mysteries of "cyber-military protocol"
dictated the creation of "Operation Infinite Justice"?
In any case, they had to ditch that one pretty fast because
it's offensive to Muslims. According to a
report in the Daily Mail, secretary of defense Donald
Rumsfeld was informed at a press conference that several Islamic
scholars objected to the name on the grounds that "only
God, or Allah, can mete out infinite justice." That our
own theologians didn't catch this, or raise any objections,
and left it to the ayatollahs to point out the obvious, underscores
our cultural as well as military vulnerability to the terrorist
THE NAME OF GOD
so they've nixed "Operation Infinite Justice," and
I guess they're up for suggestions. My first choice is "Operation
Infinite Arrogance," with first runner up "Operation
Infinite Hubris." On reading the following news item,
however, "Operation Unlimited Chutzpah" also comes
to mind. Today [September 24] we had the US State Department
back from yesterday's announcement that evidence of Osama
bin Laden's culpability would soon be forthcoming. That information,
we were told, is "classified," and disclosing it
would "make the war more difficult to win." But why even bother
with evidence? Surely an entity capable of dispensing "infinite
justice" needn't bother with such trivial amenities.
For such power is truly godlike, and God doesn't need evidence:
He knows all, sees all, and His knowledge, like His sense
of justice, is infinite.
CITIZEN A COMBATANT'
what Senator Joe Lieberman had
to say on Jim Lehrer's News Hour on PBS last night
[September 23], I have a fourth choice: "Operation Dump-the-Constitution."
Lieberman struck an Orwellian note as he intoned:
do think there's a new role for the individual citizen in
America though in this new era of our history. In some ways
the terrorists have made every citizen a combatant, including
civilians. I think now it's the opportunity and responsibility
of individual citizens to act that way. When they see things
that bother them, that look suspicious, to call up their local
police department or the FBI or hit the Internet for the appropriate
web site to convey that information and be alert and be prepared."
yes, everything's "different" now: America, they
tell us, will never be the same. It's a "new era,"
a "new war," and we'll just have to ditch such anachronistic
ideas as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A comprehensive
"anti-terrorism package" has been delivered to the
Congress, and it is a ticking time-bomb designed to blow up
the remnants of our old Republic. They'll be monitoring our
email, our snail-mail, our web-surfing, and other extracurricular
activities, all in the name of the "war effort."
Anyone who opposes such measures will, of course, be singled
out as a traitor, and perhaps even prosecuted. Dissenters
have always been labeled "fifth columnists" in wartime
America, and this war is certainly going to be no exception.
Every citizen a combatant, every American a soldier and
a soldier follows orders, or else….
THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES
Senator Lieberman is recommending that we report anything
"suspicious" to the proper authorities, what about
the recent spate of incidents involving Americans of Arab
descent and certain airlines? When four of them tried to board
a recent Northwest Airlines flight, they
were told that a vote had been taken among the passengers
and they would have to find other accommodations. Northwest
defended its atrocious behavior on the dubious grounds that
arcane FAA regulations somehow require them to eject those
who, for any reason, makes other passengers "uncomfortable."
In two other separate incidents, it was the pilots who refused
to take off until all those damn rag-heads were out of there.
And here's some news: a typically deranged American went out
and shot a Sikh, whose turban had him convinced that the wearer
was an Arab.
it's getting ugly. Antiwar.com recently ran a
story reporting that a third of all New Yorkers believe internment
camps have to be set up for Arabs and other "subversive"
elements. The President, much to his credit, has made a point
of condemning in advance the wave of anti-Arab hatred and
violence we all knew was coming. But that has not, apparently,
been enough: what the perpetrators of this hate cry out for
is some real punishment, starting with a boycott of
Northwest Airlines by decent people everywhere. Hit the haters
where it really hurts in the pocketbook.
note two aspects of the President's [September 20] speech
that struck a rather ominous note. The first is that, in listing
the ideological scourges of our times, he mentioned "fascism,
Nazism and totalitarianism" but not communism. This
is due to the possibility that the US can woo China into supporting
our anti-terrorist campaign, at least to the extent of neutralizing
a potential veto in the United Nations Security Council when
the time comes for military action.
Bush's proclamation that "from this day forward, any
nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will
be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime"
and, presumably, subject to attack. This means that
virtually all the nations of the Middle East are on
the list of potential targets. Echoing Lenin's famous dictum,
"those who are not with us are against us," the President
put these nations on notice submit or live in fear
AVIV TARGETS IRAQ
on the list is Afghanistan, but Israel's amen-corner in the
US is frantically trying to finger Iraq as the real
power behind Osama bin Laden. (Never mind the bin Laden and
his sympathizers volunteered to fight on behalf of Kuwait
when Saddam tried to reclaim Iraq's "nineteenth province.")
take a more expansive view of the problem. The dust had not
yet cleared from the battered Manhattan skyline when Bill
Kristol and his "Project for a New American Century"
sponsored a full-page newspaper ad in the form of a
letter to the President, demanding that Bush invade not
only Iraq, but also Syria and Iran if they don't comply with
all our demands. The letter is signed by every neoconservative
known to man. But at least they are consistent: they always
opt for war, the bigger the better, a view embraced by Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz,
who are arguing for a broad assault on the Arab world.
the other hand, the Bush administration and its British ally
are playing a very strange double game. The
arrival of British foreign secretary Jack Straw in Teheran
illuminated, with awful clarity, what the "allies"
are up to in the Middle East. The West has been tilting toward
Iran for years, with great store being put in the Iranian
"moderates" led by Iranian President Khatami. The
Taliban is anathema to the Iranians, whose position as the
epicenter of Islamic radicalism has been challenged by the
mullahs in Kabul. At this point, Iran is more than happy to
let Uncle Sam take up the cause of the Northern Alliance,
as Teheran has been footing the bill lo
these many years and with not much to show for it.
new allies in the anti-Taliban "Northern Alliance"
are a motley crew of ethnic separatists and Iranian-trained
Shi'ite fundamentalists whose only quarrel with the Taliban
is that each claims its own version of Islam is purer, fiercer
than the other. The disparate elements of this alliance were
in power before the Taliban seized control, and their fall
can be traced to the inability to keep any kind of order.
Post-Soviet Afghanistan bore a distinct resemblance to post-Communist
Albania, with the country essentially descending into anarchy
a condition that seems natural to the Afghanis, who have
successfully resisted the rule of law, or any sort of order,
for most of their turbulent history. The Taliban, at least,
stopped the brigands from taking over, a respite for which
ordinary Afghans were no doubt grateful, albeit temporarily.
Now the US, the great champion of "democracy" and
international goodness, wants to restore these same warlords
to power. Could a more addled strategy, one practically designed
for defeat, be imagined?
we aren't declaring a war on Islam, or on terrorism:
we are interfering in a civil war between rival Muslim factions.
The US has backed the fiercely secular Turks, who have taken
up with the Israelis, but the rule of Turkey's generals is
perpetually in doubt and their control of the country is tenuous.
Likewise, the US is naturally intent on propping up the House
of Saud in order to ensure that all those oil profits flow
freely to US companies, but their rule is even more brittle.
It was Bill Clinton who first struck out in a new direction,
engineering a rapprochement with Iranian "moderates"
and setting up an alliance with Balkan Muslims: Bush is backing
their progeny in Macedonia. But an alliance with Iran
the taker of American hostages, the nation identified by the
State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism"
as "the most active sponsor of terrorism in 2000,"
a country whose legislators openly list appropriations for
the overseas "jihad" in the national budget
is a different story altogether. The State Department goes
on to report:
has long provided Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian rejectionist
groups notably Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and
Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC with varying amounts of funding,
safe haven, training, and weapons. . . . Iran also provided
a lower level of support including funding, training, and
logistics assistance to extremist groups in the Gulf, Africa,
Turkey and Central Asia. Hezbollah has been credibly linked
to the bombing of U.S. military barracks at the Khobar Towers
in Saudi Arabia."
Iranians have eagerly signed on to Bush's "war on terrorism,"
a move of such breathtaking hypocrisy that it boggles the
mind. But none
of this bothers the War Street Journal, which admits
the above but muses vaguely that "Iran will have to decide
which side it's on. At this stage in the war on terror, it
can't hurt the US to give it a chance to make the right choice."
I realize everybody over at the Journal is in shock
right now, but clearly the horrific events of September 11
have unbalanced at least one editorialist. For all we know,
Iran could be the real perpetrator and/or sponsor of
the Twin Towers atrocity a possibility made more prominent
by the American unwillingness to release the alleged evidence
against bin Laden & Co. Oh, but war, the Journal
assures us, "makes for some strange alliances."
Any war against terrorism that numbers Iran among the good
guys is far too strange for my taste, and, I suspect, for
the average American.
Lieberman was insistent that we report anything "suspicious":
it is necessary, he intoned, to keep up a high level of "vigilance"
against anything out of the ordinary. Well, certainly it is
unusual that a so-called war on terrorism should have
us working hand-in-glove with some of the principal terrorists
in the world. If anything excites the suspicion of the American
people, then surely it must be this sinister anomaly one
that gives the lie to the assertion by our leaders that this
is a war for "justice" or even for something so
ordinary and human as vengeance.
George W. Bush won the White House, narrowly averting a Democratic
party coup, I
warned: "Desert Storm II, here we come!" Now,
I averred, was the time to really start worrying, and
in retrospect the following has an eerie ring to it:
at last, is something Republicans and Democrats can agree
on: the necessity of going to war for the profits of Big Oil.
For President Bush, it would be a diversion away from political
divisions at home that could give him much-needed legitimacy.
He didn't quite win it at the polls: perhaps he can win it
on the battlefield. In this way, a new precedent will be set,
and the analogy with the old Roman Empire will be complete.
On account of his conquests, Dubya, like Caesar, could win
the crown and the accolades of the people. Few would notice
what had been lost."
complete failure of our government to protect us against terrorism
is underscored by George Bush's alliance with one of the biggest
terrorist centers on earth. If this is World War III, then
the Anglo-American-Iranian alliance brings to mind Roosevelt's
rapprochement with Soviet Russia against the Nazis a strategy
that led to another fifty years of "cold" war and
the death of millions. In both cases, the US built up its
own enemies, creating a Frankenstein monster that could only
have gotten out of control. The history of Osama bin Laden
as a CIA-sponsored "freedom
fighter" in Afghanistan, where he fought the Soviets,
underscores how this Frankenstein Syndrome operates. We support
a "lesser evil" against a purportedly greater evil,
and, before you know it, two airliners packed with American
citizens are being rammed into the twin towers of the World
Trade Center and our whole world comes crashing down…
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