As bullets clawed the air around us and screams echoed down the rubble-strewn tarmac, I felt almost peaceful.
It was a simple mission, they had told me – get in, shake a few hands and mouth a few platitudes, get out. Simple. Yeah.
Things had started going wrong while we were still in the air and only gotten worse from there. So here we were, pinned down, choking on the acrid tang of cordite and the heady scent of human blood. The mission was even simpler now: survive. Whatever the cost, survive.
There was a grunt and a clatter of equipment as Sinbad threw himself down at my side. Sweat glistened on his bare arms, and I could see tendons contracting and relaxing as he squeezed off bursts from his M14. The motion was hypnotic, like a snake about to strike. Perhaps, when all this was over-
No. Concentrate. Focus on the mission. Survive.
A shout from my left drew my head around. Sheryl Crow, guitar still strapped to her back, had taken cover behind a haphazard pile of decaying corpses. Her hair, once lustrous, now lank and greasy, was held back from her eyes by a dirty red headband. Her slim nostrils flared in the dirt-smeared oval of her face, seeking air free of the funeral taint shrouding the airfield. Still, I saw a fierce exultation in her expression that I knew mirrored my own.
Her lithe, nimble fingers stroked the top of an M67 frag grenade, strumming a chord of impending doom. With one quick, economical movement, she plucked the pin free and sent the deadly payload sailing toward the ridge concealing our enemies. My eyes traced the arc, willing it to fly true, to rain death on-
“There!” Sinbad shouted. “The convoy!”
This isn’t an especially big deal, but Clinton’s account of the trip to Bosnia was bizarre. In its way, it’s encouraging that Clinton’s actual trivial farcical resume-padding has received comparatively little coverage, while Gore’s entirely fictitious resume-padding dominated coverage of his campaign. And this certainly isn’t because of any pro-Clinton bias; on balance, she still receives egregiously unfair coverage (cf. the recent “blue dress” thigh-rubbing). The War On Gore was really suigeneris. And while I agree that Clinton’s fibbing about Bosnia can serve as a synecdoche for the fact that her central claims about superior foreign policy experience are highly underwhelming, the job of reporters is provide voters with the information to make this judgement for themselves, not to let that judgment slant all the coverage of a candidate.
Following up on Scott’s post about today’s outbursts in Baghdad and Basra — which suggest a possible collapse of the Shia cease-fire — here’s Marc Lynch on the other half of the walnut, the Awakenings movement:
I’ve been banging the drum for many long months trying to draw attention to the growing signs that the Awakenings program was jumping the tracks. These problems have been getting more attention of late, what with the alleged accidental bombing of an Awakenings checkpoint; the Anbar Salvation Council’s threat to use force to expel their elected Islamic Party rivals from Anbar (the first deadline passed without incident last week after US mediation, the second deadline is today); the campaign of attacks against the Awakenings forces (blamed, at various times, on AQI, the government, and Iranian-back Shia militias); and their widespread threats to go on strike over late payments and insufficient support from the US . . . . And there’s much, much more across multiple Iraqi neighborhoods and regions that I’ve been tracking in detail over the last few months. Arab and Iraqi media coverage of the Awakenings over the last few months has been dominated by their escalating complaints about the Iraqi government and about the Americans, their fulminations against the “Iranian occupation” of Iraq, and their warnings to return to the insurgency or allow AQI back in.
In which case, the obvious incapacity of the surge to accomplish its primary strategic objective — i.e., the creation of “breathing room” for sectarian reconciliation — will allow the Hundred Year War Caucus to argue once again on behalf of the flypaper theory, as the collapse of the Awakenings councils enables a revival of AQI. Failure is not merely an option — it’s the key to success!
The latest in arbitrary ex post facto means of determining the legitimate Democratic nominee. And this doesn’t even address the crucial point that Clinton has carried the states of the most recent World Series, Stanley Cup, and Super Bowl winner! I think the superdelegates will know what to do.
Last night in the middle of a lecture on inter-service rivalry in the United States Armed Forces, I bite down on a Sweet Tart that is atop a pile of candy that a student has brought to class. The Sweet Tart cracks, as does my molar. I continue for about a minute before saying “Excuse me; I think that I broke a tooth”, at which point I retreat to the bathroom to investigate the situation. The tooth is, in fact, broken; splintered, nothing missing, the whole thing still basically in the socket.
I return to class, ask if anyone knows a dentist available for emergencies, and proceed to finish my lecture. This morning the tooth was extracted; the damage and the fact that it was one of my two remaining “baby” teeth meant that there was little point in trying to save it. In about two hours I get on a plane for San Francisco and the International Studies Association conference, with a bottle of groovy Vicodin to keep me company.
In summation, without planning to do so I managed to catch the opening game of the 2008 Major League Baseball season, and we can probably expect light posting on my part for the rest of the week.
An Idaho U.S. Senate candidate has changed his name to Pro-Life. Really.
Apparently, he attempted to get on the ballot in 2006 when he ran a losing race for governor as “Marvin Pro-Life Richardson” but was rejected because the state does not allow campaign slogans to appear on the ballot (makes sense). The Secretary of State has said that she has no choice but to allow him to appear on the ballot as Pro-Life now, since it’s his name. In the meantime, the state senate has passed a bill that would require a qualifier to appear after his name, disclaiming that he was “formerly known as”. Seriously.
The best part: he’s running to fill Larry Craig’s seat.
A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.
Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr’s Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr’s followers that they’ll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.
The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that’s erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.
As the U.S. military recorded its 4,000th death in Iraq, U.S. officials in Baghdad warned again Monday that drawing down troops too quickly could collapse Iraq’s fragile security situation.
The apparent defection of Sadr’s militias illustrates the fundamental problem: the lack of a legitimate state with sufficient coercive capacity. Iraq still doesn’t have one, becuase the temporary security improvements of the surge haven’t led to substantial political progress. The U.S. military simply can’t create an effective state out of thin air. And this is reflected by the assertions of “U.S. officials” that we’ll need to give it some more Freidmans. Given the strategic objectives, “successes” that require the indefinite presence of high levels of U.S. troops to sustain aren’t “successes” at all. Vince Lombardi, unlike Michael O’Hanlon, would understand this.
I’d been meaning to write about Emily Yoffe’s hectoring of single mothers, but was delayed by a massive pile of Real Work and a bad flu. Fortunately for all of you, Lauren beat me to it. To add a couple quick points:
Comparisons of how children fare in existing two-parent and single-parent households have an obvious selection bias problem. Even if in the average case a stable, two-parent household is preferable, to study relationships among couples that stay together is obviously to bias the study toward people who want long-term relationships and are compatible. It doesn’t follow from this that staying in a crappy relationship or being married although it isn’t what you want would provide an equally good environment for children.
I’m reminded of Laura Kipnis‘s point that in the U.S. “sentimentality about children’s welfare comes and goes apparently: highest when there’s a chance to moralize about adult behavior, lowest when it comes to resource allocation.” There’s nothing inevitable about the dire financial circumstances and tough choices that many single parents face.
Over at Slate, Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick consider why Hillary Clinton won’t get a speech on gender akin to the one Obama gave on race (and imagine what her speech would sound like if she did).
Their answer on why we won’t be hearing a speech like that from Hill C.: “Because as much as Hillary Clinton the wife and the woman and the mom no doubt hates it, Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband’s extracurricular activities. That’s because—and this is the tragic part—America seems to like her best when she’s being victimized—by Bill or Rick Lazio or the media. In that sense, her husband is a useful prop who reminds us of the extent of her suffering. She won’t give that speech because the whole narrative of her candidacy—and more broadly, her life—is as rooted in grievance as Obama’s is in getting past grievance.”
I’d agree that this state of affairs — if it is in fact the case — is indeed tragic. But I’m not sure how it jibes with their later suggestion that: “She won’t give that speech because she has been on the wrong side of gender bias. OK, there is no right side, but she consistently relates to and protects and stands with the oppressors in the gender wars, not the victims. It isn’t only that she stayed with Bill Clinton, but that she invariably sees him as the victim, preyed upon by a series of female aggressors.”
How can (the former) HRC be both the popular victim and the behind-the-scenes Oz, friend of oppressors? I sympathize with Lithwick and Henneberger’s desire to highlight how Obama consistently rises above the victimization, even when victimization might be politically expedient. But syllogistic arguments aren’t going to do Obama any favors…and just help HRC seem even more like a victim if she wants to be seen that way.
The U.S. plans to urge Britain to launch a “surge” in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror newspaper reported.
Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said….
But unnamed senior British civil service sources told the Sunday Mirror that Britain would be highly reluctant to go back into Basra because of pressure at home to pull troops out.
“We do not have enough troops for a surge ourselves. The hope is that we can train enough Iraqi army recruits in the next year to cope with the inter-tribal warfare going on in Basra,” one source quoted by the paper said.
A couple of observations:
I’m glad that the Surge is going so well that we require additional British troops; typically when we are “winning” we require fewer, rather than more, troops over time.
I’m hardly surprised that the British are sounding reluctant on this. While we were surging last year they were downsizing, and I can’t imagine that the Brown government is too terribly excited about stepping more deeply into the mess that Blair made.