Sunday, August 20, 2006


BAGHDAD — Curling through the desert, wind rattling its marshes, the Tigris once brought so much life to this city, where spices and silks were loaded on wooden boats bound for Basra and beyond. Shiites lived with Sunnis, Christians and Jews, but today, as in other times, unity splinters in bloodshed.

The river's bridges have turned into escape routes for families fleeing sectarian death squads. Some head one way, others go the opposite direction, and many fear that if full-scale civil war erupts, the Tigris will act as a green line, separating Sunni-dominated west Baghdad from the Shiite-controlled east.

The shoes of Akram Mustafa tell the story of a dividing city; the orange dust from the clay tennis courts is fading on them. One of his country's top-ranked tennis players, Mustafa seldom plays these days. Getting to his club along the Tigris would mean crossing from his eastern neighborhood of Sadr City into streets guarded by Sunnis.

"I haven't been out of Sadr City in five or six months," Mustafa said. "Each day we stand in the same place talking the same talk to the same people. We have nothing."

Travel west across the river to the Sunni neighborhood of Amiriya and listen to Fatima Omar: "I have a best friend who's leaving the country in six or seven weeks, and I can't go visit her because she lives in a Shiite neighborhood."

With each explosion, with each firefight, Omar's geography shrinks.

Conditions that lead Pentagon generals to say civil war is close are already polarizing many neighborhoods. Although Shiites and Sunnis still live side by side in some places, about 200,000 Iraqis, most of them from Baghdad, have left their mixed neighborhoods and taken refuge in communities where they can live among their own. In July, the Baghdad morgue reported more than 1,800 violent deaths.

But but but, not so fast America hating LA Times, I have it on good authority that there is no civil war in Iraq.

O'REILLY: OK, but this war has gone on longer than World War II now. And see, I'm -- I think the American people, you know the polls show 60 percent oppose now the action in Iraq. I think the American people — a lot of them have given up hope. They don't think that anybody can control the civil war between the Iraqis. No outside power could do that. I'll give you the last word on it.

SNOW: Not a civil war. Civil war is something where you divide up into sections and factions, and say OK, we're going to go after each other.

What you have -- you've got gangs, you got militias, you have groups that are trying to foment acts of violence within Baghdad.

What you don't have is somebody seceding from the elected parliament, saying OK, everybody go with me. All our states are going to secede. And we're going to form a different union. And we're going to go to war.

Yeah see, there are no states seceding so there is no civil war. Also, there is no Jefferson Davis, no Robert E. Lee, no Lincoln, no slavery, so there can't be a civil war. Also, there was never a civil war in the Balkans for that matter, but unfortunately we didn't have a sharp Presidential spokesperson like Tony Snow at that time to set us straight.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Do you feel safer now?

The whole basis of the Republican claim to power is that their actions have made us safer; the world is safer place now than it was before they were in control. The reality, however, is quite different. The Republicans have, on an incredibly vast array of fronts, made radical foreign policy decisions, based on ignorance and arrogance, the repercussions of which have been disastrous in the immediate term, and with which we will have to contend for decades.

As the Democrats challenge the Republican's control of Congress this November (and more in 2008), a vital part of any winning strategy will be to make Republican incompetence a key theme. Americans, if they didn't already know before, got a pretty good idea of the manifest incompetence of the Bush administration in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, but many Americans follow foreign policy less closely than domestic affairs, and public polls continue to show somewhat greater (although significantly reduced from what it once was) confidence in the Bush administration on the security/foreign policy front than the domestic front.

We know that the fact, however, is that the Bush administration's policies on all fronts have been an unmitigated disaster. After five years of screaming to Americans that they are the only ones who can keep us safe, and the only ones who will not sign peace treaties with bin Laden and turn over the keys to the Oval Office to Saddam, political gravity is catching up with the Republicans. You can only scream: "We will keep you safe if you keep us in power" for so long before people begin to wonder what you have actually done to keep them safe. Now would seem an apt time to take advantage of the shift of the political winds, and make a conscienscious effort to move the dialogue yet further in our favor, by reminding voters of this key question, and reminding them of the key relevant facts.

In the pre-September 11th era, to use the phraseology of which the Republicans are so fond, politicians were expected to explain how the country had improved from their leadership, the main focus being areas such as the environment, education, the economy, health care. Bush has largely avoided such scrutiny, to his benefit, by claiming that after September 11th security trumps everything.

So here we will discuss the Republicans record on foreign-affairs, security, and hopefully, some lighter stuff.

So, do you feel safer now?