Category Archives: Iraq

Friday, July 3, 2009

I admit it, when I heard the Children of Liberty announce a General Strike for this week I didn’t think it would do much.  People need their paychecks and the Fed Powers-That-Be don’t need much from Boston that they are going to miss in a week.

But something is definitely going on.  The mercs have been pushing hard.  They’ve handed-off most of the static jobs (checkpoints, guarding facilities and people, show-the-flag patrols) to the National Guardsmen and instead are doing honest-to-God anti-insurgent raids.  I’ve read a enough of Gen. Petraeus’s Counter-Insurgency Manual to figure that this is one of the “sweep and hold” plans like they used in Iraq a few years ago.  Backwater sweeps; the Guardsmen hold.

OK, maybe I’m extrapolating from rumor on the street and announcements from the radio.  One of the Guard in Davis was a bit too loud in his theorizing while I was at the local food swap this morning.  But that’s what it look like from the cheap seats.

We’re hunkered down and hoping that when the sweeps come to our neighborhood they don’t break too much or kill too many.  I’ve got the rest of this manual to get read.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

You have to admire the audacity of the Israelis. News is coming out about the extent of their air-strikes in Iran, but it looks like they hit every nuclear facility that anybody has ever heard of: Arak, Isfahan, Natanz, Bushehr. I thought everyone agreed Bushehr (the plant being run by the Russians), was civilian.

There are two big issues that I don’t think the news is doing enough to cover about this: 1) The reports of civilian casualties in Isfahan. It sounds like the Israelis hit something they weren’t expecting or released something that wasn’t supposed to be there. Unlike FOX News, I’m not writing off BBC reports of radiation poisoning. Isfahan is a big city and a pretty big cultural center. I don’t think the Israelis nuked the place (even a little bunker buster), but it sure doesn’t look good.
2) What was the US involvement in this. Nobody has said it yet, but there is no way that several flights of Israeli jets made it to Iran and back without going though effectively US-controlled airspace in Iraq and/or the Gulf. We knew this was coming. Which means Bush greenlighted it. Which means we will be blamed as much as the Israelis.

There hasn’t been a reaction from Iran yet except a lot of yelling. Others are more expert in Mid-East predicting, but Iran’s options as I see them are:
Sit-down and take it – not likely
Proportional attacks on Israel – missiles? boats in the Med? Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon? Terrorist attacks?
Open war on Israel – See above, but all at once without an end or breathing space.
Proportional attacks on the US in Afghanistan and Iraq – ’nuff said.
Economic war on the US – shutting down the Gulf and straits of Hormuz to oil tankers.
Terrorist attacks on Israeli (and US) interests outside the Mid-East – Embassies and airliners and ships and businesses.

None of this is good ladies and gentlemen. And you thought $6.60 a gallon for gas was high.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I almost never actually interact with the homeless. That time I had to pick up kids and drive them to emergency shelters was an exception. I make blankets and I cook and I do other things, but I rarely actually talk with them. Or even see them.

Mostly this is a factor of April. I’m a stay-at-home mom and toddlers and homeless people usually don’t mix. Especially not around Somerville, which has a non-trivial drug problem.  And I don’t have tons of time to spend getting to know the “clients”, learning the politics and tricks of dealing with such a varied population.

And, as Hal, one of my friends at the local shelter, said, “Neve, you’re a bit… much.”

But I got a call last night asking for my help — not with money or food or anything, but to actually serve food. The flu wiped out the staff altogether and they had huge gaps in their coverage. So I dropped April off at Vicki’s for a few hours, donned an apron, and served pasta and bean soup with bread and salad to the homeless for lunch today. Cupcakes for dessert. I’ve done this a handful of times before and I really have to admit, I didn’t like it. There’s a reason I only lasted one afternoon as a waitress at A.C. Peterson’s.

Today was no exception. I didn’t like it. But I noticed something today.

Took me a while to get over my general crankiness to notice it, but finally it dawned on me, after the tenth guy younger than me came through the line, that we had a different demographic than I was used to. The guy who made me sort of sit up was pointing at the soup and said “rope” a couple of times. I frowned and gave him some soup — it was good soup, I made it myself, cannelini beans and hot sausage make it really good — and then he pointed at the bread and said “money.”

“Oh, aphasia,” I blinked. I know about aphasia from Doonesbury and that episode of House with the bipolar guy.  He was about 25, I’d guess, with a patch of white hair on the side of his head that made him look older. I guessed, but didn’t ask, that he had a head trauma.

He nodded and we managed to figure out that he wanted tea, not coffee with his dinner and I sort of startled myself out of a funk and started noticing the unusual folks coming through the lines. Youngish guys without hands or legs. Several with stammering or halting speech. A couple that just looked really stoned, even though it was the early shift.

I asked Hal about it. He told me that apparently the veteran’s system just got massive cuts last fall and a lot of these guys were in various hospitals until then. Then the gov’t kicked ’em out. Somehow I totally missed this in the news — apparently it was right before the Halloween attacks and the reporting got lost in that tidal wave. Still, there were a lot of them.

Hal said that apparently there’s a guy — The Colonel, they call him — who is organizing the vets and he’s doing it here in Boston. There’s been a slow but significant increase in homeless and marginal vets — mostly with disabilities — showing up around the city. Which, of course, has put even more of a strain on the soup kitchens. But it explains why they didn’t need to hit me up for cash again this week — the local VFW has donated some serious cash and some food, too.

I don’t know how I missed all of this. I guess I’ve been wrapped up in April and Paul. But it’s really astounding that these men (and women, there were two women, but they wouldn’t talk to anyone but each other) have sacrificed for our country and then gotten tossed out on their ears. If they have ears. I know that’s trite, but it’s still depressing.

Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

This is Neve.

Why is this blog called “Nothing Is One Thing”? One of my (three or so) friends reading the blog asked me that the other day.

Well, the sentiment itself isn’t original. I suggested it to Paul. I actually got it from reading Spenser books of all things. You remember Spenser for Hire, the TV series? It was based on a series of fabulous hard-boiled detective novels by Boston native Robert B. Parker. I’m a huge fan, not just of his books (well, except the Sunny Randall series… ick), but of the man. He built the shelves at my favorite bookstore, Kate’s Mystery Bookshop. Gotta love any best selling author willing to wield a hammer.

Anyway, Spenser is a philosophical thug, like all great noir heroes. And one of the things he says a lot is “Nothing is just one thing.” And I love that sentiment.

For instance, the current investigation into Paul Bremmer has been decried by GOP types as political theater on the part of the Dems, trying to stir up long-dead dirt in advance of the elections. Well, yes, of course.

But that fact doesn’t make the guy’s guilt any less damning. He disbanded the Iraqi army without any authority. More than $9 billion went missing under his watch as ‘Iraqi proconsul’ or whatever the hell banana republic title he adopted. He’s a bad man, a scummy little bantam rooster out looking to make money for himself and Bushie buddies. He clearly should be investigated. Prosecuted. Jailed for a very long time. Hell, if I had my druthers, he’d be infested with anal fleas for the rest of his life.

The fact that it makes great political theater is true. It doesn’t negate the other facts of the matter. Nothing is just one thing.

Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008

Neve has a point from the last post. The campaign ads have been getting pretty nasty. The meme that I was surprised to see surface again this week was the tried and true GOP standard “If you vote for the Democrats, we will have another 9/11.” What a crock!

First-off, I thought the 9/11 allusions would finally die-down once Guliani dropped out. More the fool me. Guliani was certainly not the only one playing this one-note symphony. Cheney had it the best back in ’04 when he predicted a Dem congressional victory would lead to “mushroom clouds over New York”. The meme is not just with the candidates — its true home is in the minds of the political consultants. And while a candidate can drop out and fade away, the same consultants are in the campaigns, round after round.

The meme is at least marginally effective (or it would have died by now). People can be motivated by images of the Two Towers burning. It plays well into the idea that Republicans are decisive and strong on foreign policy and Dems are emotional flip-floppers who are focused only on the domestic sphere. That’s an argument the GOP can win, so they like to frame it that way.

But what about the idea itself? Does al Qaida care whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House? I sincerely doubt it. Is al Qaida planning to hit the domestic US again? Everybody says yes, but why should they? Think about it, they got exactly what they wanted from us. The US is embroiled in a guerrilla war against not just al Qaida, but nationalistic secular Sunnis, theocratic Shiites, and just off-the-street Muslim civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every day we remain occupying these countries, we prove al Qaida’s point that the West (and the US in particular) are a threat to the Arab and Islamic world.

And here’s the kicker. Osama and company don’t really care about the threat that the West poses to Islam. All the attacks, all the rhetoric against the ‘Great Satan’, and our insidious creeping culture, all the bluster is not aimed at us. The messages are aimed at the Muslim world. Sure, it would be good for al Qaida if all US troops left any lands inhabited by Muslims, but only if they get the credit! The true conflict is between the Wahabbist Sunni fundamentalists and the various secular dictatorships, royal families, and Shiite dictatorships through out the Middle East. By attacking the West, al Qaida is looking to ‘fire-up’ their base (al Qaida means ‘the base’ in Arabic).

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this, after all, the meme that al Qaida will attack the US again isn’t really about al Qaida; it is about impressing and motivating the Republican base.

Friday, Oct. 3, 2008

What should Hillary address in her first hundred days? (Yes I know people might think I’m jumping the gun, but I’m saving all my superstition for the Sox playoff games)

The man-on-the street Dems are of course focused on the war. The Bush/Petraeus draw-down is done and things in Iraq don’t look too much different than at the height of the “surge”. The summer’s Turkish incursions in the north have basically put a stake through the heart of the idea of a ‘hard’ partition since it’s clear that Turkey is willing to destroy an independent Kurdistan by force.

The only option I see is for Hill to go before NATO and the UN and the EU and ask for a big do-over. We probably can’t get combat troops, but we may be able to get engineers and money. We may even be able to free up some troops by handing Afghanistan off to NATO full-time.

The next issue is the whole war-on-terror and PATRIOT Act mess. Personally, I’d like to see Gitmo shut down on January 20th, but I’m not betting on it. A Clinton Administration is almost certain to (quietly) tone-down the domestic surveillance and intelligence-gathering debacles of the post 9/11 Bush era.

The big opportunity is probably domestic. Hillary Care II from the campaign looked a lot like the command-and-control insurance reform Romney put in place here in MA. With a clearer mandate, I think our Madame President (that still sounds weird) may be able to sneak in something a bit stronger. Toss in reforming the crony-laden DoJ, FDA, Interior, and several other cabinet-level departments, and maybe we can actually get some work done!