Sunday, February 04, 2007

Don Williams

Middle East: An Omelet Face Down on the Kitchen Floor

by Don Williams

Our president doesn’t see Iraq as a broken egg. No, he prefers to think of the egg as cracked, he said recently. At the risk of trivializing deadly serious issues--the egg is scrambled, at least. But then, our Mid-east policies generally are about as coherent as, say, our nuclear energy policies, our environmental policies or anything else touched by our current chefs. In other words, they aren't coherent at all. They’ve managed to make everyone in the Middle East mad at us.

By putting Shiites in charge of Iraq, they angered Sunni majorities in most every other Mid-eastern country, including allies like Saudi Arabia. By shaking a big stick at Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, they’ve managed to alienate the Shiite majority there and inside Iraq.

Face it: The current round of ethnic cleansing took off under our occupation. Deliberately or not, we did the heavy lifting for Iraqi Shiites when we laid siege to Fallujah and other Sunni strongholds the Shiites couldn’t touch. Even if you give Bush the benefit of assuming he wanted democracy in Iraq, the lack of a Plan B has been disastrous. Kurds want to break away, which makes nearby Turkey uneasy, while Shiites and Sunnis are slaughtering one another in Baghdad and elsewhere. The Shiites have the upper hand because we trained many of them in the army now controlled, sort of, by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and because of a huge Shiite population, including a militia, devoted to Iraqi cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

Now our self-declared enemies in Iran—also under control of radical Shiites--seek to make common cause with Iraq. This is a cracked egg? Unh-unh, this is a broken omelet face down on the kitchen floor.

To hear Chris Matthews, Pat Buchanan and several others talking Wednesday evening on MSNBC, Bush is poised to change the subject by bombing Iran. He’s stationed aircraft carriers and missile launchers in the Persian Gulf, placed a Navy man in charge of Central Command for Iraq and Afghanistan, appointed one Cheney protégé to represent us at the United Nations and another Cheney associate in charge of overall U.S. intelligence, while moving that old Iran-Contra player, John Negroponte, to the State Department, where he’s railing against Iran.

Seymour Hersh and other journalists report we intend to massively bomb Iran--or else cover for Israelis while they do it--and wipe out nuclear facilities--even though experts say they're years away from getting a bomb and our attack will likely kill the Reform Movement in Iran.

Buchanan said Wednesday he’s heard from military insiders that we plan to strike at least 600 targets in Iran, the only Mideast nation to hold large demonstrations on our behalf after 9/11, and one of a few oil-rich nations with a real potential for democracy, despite insane pronouncements against us and Israel by Iran's unpopular president. In response, you hear the drumbeat for war in nearly every speech Bush and Cheney give. US forces have prompted skirmishes with Iranians on at least two occasions in recent weeks. Watch for these to escalate.

By fostering fear and a state-of-war mentality, we’ve done more damage to our own democracy than Saddam Hussein ever could. The argument Bush and others make that we must give up certain freedoms to defend ourselves against an ever-growing list of enemies becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our own National Intelligence Estimate stated last fall that the war in Iraq has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists worldwide.

It should be obvious by now that Bush, Cheney, and the Neocons are isolated and delusional. They will drive the planet to ruin if not stopped. Look at everything they've touched. From covering up global warming--as Congressional hearings dramatized just this week--to record deficit spending, to shooting holes in the Constitution, to exposing Valerie Plame, to planting lies in the media, to spreading nuclear technology in this country and abroad, to making a phony case for war in Iraq, they’ve been a disaster for this world.

Rather than passing non-binding resolutions against Bush-Cheney policies, Congress should confront them forcefully at every turn and demand that they listen to the majority of Americans before it’s too late. Further, Congress should investigate their invasions of our privacy, lies about the war, covering up global warming, war-profiteering by the likes of Halliburton, the waste of billions of dollars and much more.

Congress won't, but it should, for our nation’s integrity. We’ve been set back 50 years on the road to making a more peaceful and sustainable world. These are years we cannot get back. But we'll only lose more precious time, harmony and resources by giving Bush ever more power and money to further his disastrous policies. It's time for grown-ups to take charge.


Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary writing. His awards include a National

Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, “Red State Blues,” set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, “Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People” by Don Williams, is now available for ordering. For more information, email him at Or visit the NMW website at


Anonymous said...

Coherent is in the eye of the beholder. Our National Foreign policy has been all wrong for so long that I think anyone that thinks Bush 43 is "the bad" just has been asleep. Bill bombed an asprin factory. Get real. MUD aka

DEN said...

Yup! it's been screwed up since Nixon and Ford and Reagan and Bush41.

Clinton was a minor blip on the radar compared to the Repug slime before and since.

DEN said...

It's supposed to be 66 degrees here today in Sacramento, WooHoo!

Bike needs ridin.

Carey said...

Happy Super Bowl Day!

Been so busy with son's homework and studying for tests, haven't had time to be on the computer at all.

That Don Williams! Wow, does he put things in a concise nutshell. I'll be cutting and pasting his column again to send off to friends and family.

Our foreign policy has always reflected vast greed and self-interest. It took a hard turn to the selfish right around 1947, the Cold War and the establishment of the C.I.A.

McCain spoke out against the nonbinding resolution being pushed through Congresss, calling it a virtual "vote of no confidence". Whatever McCain says from now on will be maddening and annoying trash, you can count on that. Same is true for most of the presidential candidates in the ring. This campaign has become way too long and will so damage any efforts to get out of Iraq or Iran.

Here's Tim Rutten's take on the Libby trial this week and an overall contention that blame goes all around in the debacle. Well-written.

Breeding Ground For a New Cynicism

Gerald said...

Another great article from Don Williams! Iran will be history and Nazi America will torment in hell.

Gerald said...

It's also planetary common knowledge that the foreign policy of the United States of America became a tail wagged by the dog of the neocon lobby in the year 2000 when our illegal "president" George W. Bush sold America's soul to Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and company, i.e., the neocon lobby.

Gerald said...

But Never the Israeli Right

Gerald said...

So what's the deal? Why is the neocon lobby getting a free pass? And why don't we widely acknowledge the self evident fact that Israel, like every other country on the planet, has a virulent right wing?

Ironically, just like America, their right wing (a.) doesn't represent the majority of the country, but (b.) currently has the country by the throat.

Gerald said...

The real issue, however, isn't the internal dynamics of another sovereign nation. We have enough to worry about with our own lunatic fringe without being overly concerned with Israel's. We can, however, wish Godspeed to Israeli progressives and moderates, as they are almost surely wishing Godspeed to us.

No the issue here, is why and how does the neocon lobby have such limitless power and influence in OUR country? And what can American citizens realistically do about it?

We should be very, very clear that taking our country back means MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, taking our country back from the incestuous marriage between the un American neocon lobby and our pinhead, fascist/fundamentalist president.

Gerald said...

Praying Each Day: February 4

David B. Benson said...

Den --- GLobal warming...

Carey said...


From yesterday's thread, thank-you for the Frank Rich column. That could serve somewhat as a summary of Hubris with extra thoughts added. What a superb thinker Rich is. I've cut and pasted that column also and sent it off to everyone.

Potterville? How did you come up with this blog? It's wonderful. Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, this is marvelous.


Also from yesterday's thread. You have a son in Iraq???

Carey said...

I haven't gone all the way back yet to all of the days I missed, but before I move on with the day's events I wanted to ensure that all of you have seen this.

From The Nation:

Remembering Molly

David B. Benson said...

Omlette? Better Humpty-Dumpty...

Carey said...

Micki's post from Friday is to die for. I've already written to tell her how thoroughly I enjoyed it. That must have been a hard piece with all the differing elements to combine.

Read this yesterday, thought some of you would find it interesting. It's thought-provoking to say the least.

Meghan Daum:

What Hillary's humor reveals

Her flat-footed attempts at being funny expose a double standard for ambitious women.
February 3, 2007

THIS WEEK, Hillary Clinton tried out a joke in Iowa. "We face a lot of evil men," she told voters in Davenport. "People like Osama bin Laden come to mind. And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?" Clinton then smiled big and chortled, cueing the audience that this was not an oral presentation in a women's studies class but, indeed, a joke.

Questioned later by reporters, who weren't sure if they got it, Clinton said: "You guys keep telling me, 'Lighten up! Be funny!' I get a little funny and now I'm being psychoanalyzed."

The clip made the expected blogospheric rounds and wound up on "The Daily Show," but I think the only psychoanalysis this incident warrants is an examination of just why Clinton's search for a sense of humor has been tougher than locating a lost contact lens in the Dead Sea.

Surely it shouldn't be this hard. Just about every profile ever written about her has quoted friends and colleagues who point out her sense of humor, frequently prefaced with the word "wicked." Where's all that cutting hilarity when the world is telling her to "lighten up?"

It's possible, I suppose, that Clinton's friends' taste in humor is such that coy jabs at her husband (or could it be Newt? Or Kenneth Starr? Or President Bush himself?) passes for biting wit. But it's more likely that her flat footedness is a symptom of a double standard that rarely comes up in conversations about the challenges faced by powerful women. If there's anything that can hinder a woman's credibility faster than becoming visibly pregnant or getting caught watching Lifetime, it's revealing the ability to be genuinely funny.

Of course, in politics, men have never exactly given Oscar Wilde a run for his money either. Considering that, in 1996, Bob Dole was the wryest guy on the national campaign trail since, well, all the other times he ran for president or vice president, we should know better than to expect constant knee-slappers from these folks, at least intentional ones. But Clinton's problems have been thrown into high relief because her chief competitor for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, appears to be as charismatic as she is stiff.

Obama has yet to let his handlers drive him into poll-driven blandness; so far, he looks like a natural. And although we don't know whether he has the chops to sell himself as president, his body language suggests that he's not working quite as hard as Clinton is. Stoop-shouldered and never quite sure what to do with his hands, Obama resembles the goofy math geek whom the girls had secret crushes on in high school because he made them laugh.

Clinton, hyper-focused wonk that she is, has a personality that has long appeared to be the product of focus groups and advisors from the Professor Henry Higgins Finishing School for Formerly Radical Broads. She has been so ravaged by the media, the public and, it would seem, her own perfectionism that she comes across less as a human being than as a historical figure whose legacy depends on keeping her humanity out of the equation.

It's possible she's right about that. But the fact that we're seeing a black candidate who seems infinitely more relaxed with himself than his female competitor speaks volumes about just how much we're likely to punish women who step outside the bounds of corporate-flavored gravitas.

Part of this is Clinton's own fault — the very act of saying "you keep telling me to be funny" is depressing evidence of her burdensome self-consciousness. But then again, female humor is easily bent into the worst cliches about women. Funny men, after all, are considered smart, confident and sexy. But wisecracking chicks risk accusations of bitterness, hormonal instability and the assumption (no matter what they look like) that they're using wit to compensate for physical unattractiveness.

As a result, a lot of ambitious women have been conditioned not only to tone the comedy down (remember the old dating adage, "Laugh at his jokes, but don't be funnier than him"?) but to resist witty self-deprecation, a genre that some old-school feminists were too tin-eared to interpret as anything other than a sign of low self-esteem. What's left is stridency, earnestness and painstakingly rehearsed jokes ripe for reducing to male-bashing sound bites. The effect: the Cathy comic strip character with a campaign bus. Ouch.

Is Clinton funny deep down? I'm willing to bet she is, only because I doubt she could have survived the last 15 years without either a sense of humor or a serious Quaalude habit. But I'd also bet most of us will never see it, no matter how hard she tries. Even if she learns how to tell a joke, the colluding forces of media savagery, Washington banality and a culture in which female power is not yet entirely compatible with having a real personality will render her something less than human. Will it cost her the nomination? Who knows. But it's already cost her much more than that.

David B. Benson said...

It seems that The Nation has an environment editor now. In the 2007 Jan 29 issue he writes about the sad state of the oceans.

Another example of Garret Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons...

Jeanne said...

I agree with Don Williams. This administration needs to be stripped of its power...NOW.

Jeanne said...

You guys are watching the super bowl while we are enjoying another American pasttime. Taxes. Always sure to provide a few good arguments. But they are almost done. And on we go to the FAFSA site.

Micki said...

The Tragedy of the Commons

13 December 1968

Micki said...

Jeanne -- We aren't watching the game...just returned from a lecture on the geologic history of Mt. Baker (snooze) and a long walk in the misty rain by Squalicum Bay. Mt. Baker is one of the youngest volcanoes in the Cascade Range.

David B. Benson said...

"Conscience is self-eliminating" --- from Micki's link.

Certainly seems to apply to White House occupants...

Micki said...

I'm not a fortune teller, a soothsayer, pundit, prognosticator, or smarter than the average bear...I'm none of those things. HOWEVER! I did know we'd eventually hear that those helicopters were SHOT DOWN.

The four U.S. helicopters that have crashed in Iraq since Jan. 20 were apparently shot down, the chief American military spokesman said Sunday - the first time the U.S. command has publicly acknowledged that the aircraft were lost to enemy fire.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters that the investigations into the crashes of three Army and one private helicopters are incomplete but "it does appear they were all the result of some kind of anti-Iraqi ground fire that did bring those helicopters down."

 "There's been an ongoing effort since we've been here to target our helicopters," Caldwell said. "Based on what we have seen, we're already making adjustments in our tactics and techniques and procedures as to how we employ our helicopters."

On Friday, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that insurgent ground fire in Iraq "has been more effective against our helicopters in the last couple of weeks."

But Pace said it was unclear whether "this is some kind of new tactics or techniques that we need to adjust to."
I swear! Sometimes I feel like I'm reading The Onion -- it was unclear whether "this is some kind of new tactics or techniques that we need to adjust to."

Helloooooooo! You idiots! The best "adjustment" is to get your asses out of there.

Micki said...

...and how convenient, making this enemy fire "development" public on Super Bowl Sunday.

David B. Benson said...

"some kind of anti-Iraqi ground fire"

When Iragi's are doing? Kummon... it's anti-American ground fire.

All troops out now.
All troops out now!

David B. Benson said...


"When Iraqis are doing it?"

Anyway, which is better?

Dancing with Fools
Dancing with Bears?

Micki said...

...or foolish bears?

Good point about the anti American ground fire!

DEN said...

Volcano Central is HERE for the Cascade Range.

Mega-bits of info! USGS is a good source of info about earth science.

I'm a wannabe Geologist, rocks in the head you know.

Micki said...

So, which team made the most baskets? ;-)

Alan said...

I must be living right. The UFC card last night went my way, and today's Super Bowl went the way I wanted as well. I'm fullllll from the barbecue and got a good buzzzzz from the extras... go me! Go Peyton Manning, he earned this.

*and I'm home safe

Alan said...

Den, I linkedya... didja get the Saturday funneees? I emailed 'em to the rest of you guys, but linked you to 'em... so if you dint get 'em lemme know.

Alan said...

uh huh... me too, but she'll never admit it
it don't matter

erling krange said...

Norway has climate responsibility.
Norwegian researchers who took part in the United Nations climate report held a press conference in Oslo on the panel's conclusions, and said Norway must take a prominent role in emission reductions. A halving of man-made CO2 emissions is necessary to avert a climate change catastrophe, and the increasing warming of the planet set in motion will continue to some degree no matter what. "There is a danger that in the course of this century we start a process that cannot be stopped. If we are to stabilize the consequences of the greenhouse gases we must at least halve global greenhouse gas emissions and perhaps reduce them by 80 percent," said climate researcher Eystein Jansen at the Bjerknes Center. After the presentation Minister of Environment Helen Bjørnøy called the report "the most important climate document I have seen" and said it was full of unpleasant truths. Both Jansen and director Pål Prestrud at the Cicero Center for Climate Research emphasized that time was short. "Calculations have been made based on what happens to the climate if we stop all man-made emissions now. Then the temperature will continue to climb for several decades, but significantly less than if we don't do something about emissions," Jansen said. The effects of change will first begin to be felt in 2030, and Jansen believes Norway has a greater moral responsibility than most other nations. "We are a rich country because we export oil and gas that is burned and changes the climate. Norway should spearhead action, both by reducing our own emissions and by trying to achieve global agreements," Jansen said.
Norway can expect to see higher sea levels, more storms and floods and milder winters in coming years. Minister Bjørnøy was particularly disturbed by the reports description of the self-strengthening effect of climate change, but after recent government disagreement about promising precise emission reduction targets she would not specify the size of Norway's cuts until there was a formal resolution.

(Aftenposten English Web Desk/NTB)


Will this help at all? Norway has a population of only 4,6 million people, but then again, we contribute a hell of a lot to global warming, just by being one of the largest oil and gas exporters in the world. Hopefully this report will open the eyes of other leaders around the world. One can only hope.

erling krange said...

This might sound simple. But I have come to terms that, if all the money spent on the present wars in Iraq and Afganistan had been put to a different use, like mending human suffering around the world, nobody would hate the West the way they do today. But then the weapon industries will go bankrupt. (what a sweet dream!)
Damned the corporate evil!

erling krange said...

If you're interested, here's some information about my hometown!