Thursday, June 22, 2006

A young Iraqi woman writes a blog....

I ran across this blog today, and highly recommend reading it. Her recent posts give a vivid and heartbreaking picture of exactly how "Freedom is on the March" in Shrub's Pottery Barn Iraq.

Her take on the death of Zarkawi: (June 10, 2006)

How do I feel? To hell with Zarqawi (or Zayrkawi as Bush calls him). He was an American creation- he came along with them- they don't need him anymore, apparently. His influence was greatly exaggerated but he was the justification for every single family they killed through military strikes and troops. It was WMD at first, then it was Saddam, then it was Zarqawi. Who will it be now? Who will be the new excuse for killing and detaining Iraqis? Or is it that an excuse is no longer needed- they have freedom to do what they want. The slaughter in Haditha months ago proved that. "They don't need him anymore," our elderly neighbor waved the news away like he was shooing flies, "They have fifty Zarqawis in government."

So now that Zarqawi is dead, and because according to Bush and our Iraqi puppets he was behind so much of Iraq's misery- things should get better, right? The car bombs should lessen, the ethnic cleansing will come to a halt, military strikes and sieges will die down… That's what we were promised, wasn't it? That sounds good to me. Now- who do they have to kill to stop the Ministry of Interior death squads, and trigger-happy foreign troops?

Monday, June 19, 2006



A 1907 portrait by Gustav Klimt has been purchased by cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million, the highest amount ever paid for a painting, The New York Times reported.

The price tops the $104.1 million paid for Picasso's 1905 "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)" in an auction at Sotheby's in 2004, the paper said in its Monday edition.

The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist, is considered one of Klimt's masterpieces.

The Mandarin has a set of drink coasters with Klimt's most famous paintings (bought at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna a few years ago), and he is going to be extra careful with this one from now on.

Original photo caption: The 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt. The portrait has been purchased for $135 million, the highest amount ever paid for a painting, The New York Times reported. (Handout/Reuters)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Too bad they didn't point the camera at Shrub

It could have been another of those watershed "Dukakis in the tank" moments.

For the Mandarin's younger loyal reader(s), Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 Presidential election to Shrub's dad (a/k/a "President Bush").

Here's a snippet from Wikipedia about "Dukakis in the tank."

In September 1988 Dukakis visited the General Dynamics plant in Michigan to take part in a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank... Filmed wearing a safety helmet that seemed too large for his head, Dukakis looked awkward, out of place, and decidedly uncomfortable in a military setting. Footage of Dukakis was used by the Bush campaign as evidence he would not make a good commander-in-chief, and "Dukakis in the tank" remains shorthand for backfired public relations outings.

To see killer "tank" photo, the one that came to the Mandarin's mind when he saw the shot above, click here.

Original photo caption: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, left, and White House Counselor Dan Barlett, ride in a military helicopter wearing helmets and flak jackets for a trip from Baghdad International Airport to U.S. Embassy in the Greenzone Tuesday, June 13, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. Snow and Bartlett traveled with President Bush who made a surprise visit to Baghdad. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Inconvenient, but true

No joke: see this movie. As soon as you can. Take your friends and family. Go to the web site.

As the Mandarin was watching this film today, the phrase, "tanned, rested, and ready" came to mind. Except Al Gore isn't rested. He's tireless. Think how different things would be with a Democratic Congress and Al in the White House where he belongs (eight years late, but who's counting).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Shrub, al-Zarqawi, and the Legend of the Hydra

Shrub’s crowing over the killing of al-Zarqawi (another “Mission Accomplished”?) shows how deeply he still misunderstands the rifts in Iraq, not only among the Shia, Sunni and Kurds, but also among various factions of the Iraqi insurgency and the wider Islamic fundamentalist movement.

Bin Ladin and al-Zarqawi were never allies, and often rivals. Bin Ladin strongly condemned al-Zarqawi for killing Muslims. While al-Zarqawi claimed the use of the “Al Qaeda” brand in Iraq, he never submitted to Bin Ladin’s leadership or attained Bin Ladin’s stature in the Muslim world.

An early informed view of the impact of his death (Juan Cole, Ivo Daalder, Juliet Kayyem, among others) is that the US has cut off one of the hydra’s heads in Iraq. Another one will certainly grow in its place.

The Mandarin was particularly struck by this expression of that fundamental idea by Mary Anne Weaver in The Atlantic:

Before leaving Amman, I had asked the high-level Jordanian intelligence official with whom I met whether al-Zarqawi, in his view, was a potential challenger to Osama bin Laden.

“Not at all,” he replied. “Zarqawi had the ambition to become what he has, but whatever happens, even if he becomes the most popular figure in Iraq, he can never go against the symbolism that bin Laden represents. If Zarqawi is captured or killed tomorrow, the Iraqi insurgency will go on. There is no such thing as ‘Zarqawism.’ What Zarqawi is will die with him. Bin Laden, on the other hand, is an ideological thinker. He created the concept of al-Qaeda and all of its offshoots. He feels he’s achieved his goal.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Osama bin Laden is like Karl Marx. Both created an ideology. Marxism still flourished well after Marx’s death. And whether bin Laden is killed, or simply dies of natural causes, al-Qaedaism will survive him.”

Until they understand who our enemy is and why they fight us, the Mandarin is hard pressed to have much confidence in Shrub and his Generals.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Déjà vu

The Mandarin was having déjà vu recently, reading about the military’s investigation into the incident at Haditha where a few Marines may have murdered a number of innocent civilians. The investigation is being led by an Army General named Bargewell.

The Bargewell investigation is likely to be explosive on Capitol Hill, because it focuses on questions that have haunted the Bush administration and the U.S. military since the scandal over abuse at Abu Ghraib prison emerged two years ago: How do U.S. military leaders in Iraq react to allegations of wrongdoing by their troops? And is the military prepared to carry out the long and arduous process of putting down an insurgency as part of the first U.S. occupation of an Arab nation?

One of Bargewell's conclusions is that the training of troops for Iraq has been flawed, the official said, with too much emphasis on traditional war-fighting skills and insufficient focus on how to wage a counterinsurgency campaign. Currently the director of operations for a top headquarters in Iraq, Bargewell is a career Special Operations officer and therefore more familiar than most regular Army officers with the precepts of counterinsurgency, such as using the minimum amount of force necessary to succeed. Also, as an Army staff sergeant in Vietnam in 1971, Bargewell received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest honor, for actions in combat while a member of long-range reconnaissance team operating deep behind enemy lines.

In the Mandarin's eyes, Bargewell's "cred" is immmesurably enhanced by his having worn the Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol, or "Lurp" badge.

While then-Sgt. Bargewell was earning his DSC, the Mandarin was an Army Lieutenant at Ft. Sill, OK, teaching “Stability Operations” in the Tactics Department of the Field Artillery School.

“Stability Operations” was Army slang for the process of dealing with the local people in an area where US forces were occupying or conducting military operations. More broadly, as the Mandarin taught it, it concerned investigating the reasons some locals supported indigenous resistance movements, such as the Viet Cong at that time. The Mandarin also taught his Captains cases dating back to the Maoist guerrilla war in China in the 1930s and 1940s as well as lessons learned from the French occupation of Vietnam -- ending in their magnificent (or disastrous, depending on your point of view) defeat at Điện Biên Phủ at the hands of the brilliant General Võ Nguyên Giáp.

Even back in 1971, Stab Ops was only a two-week elective for Captains in residence at a nine-month course to prepare them to command units at the Battalion level and higher. But the Mandarin felt that those Captains who stayed awake in his two-week introduction to guerrilla warfare -- from the guerrilla (a/k/a “insurgent”) point of view -- went away at the very least with the impression that Stab Ops was something complex and difficult, needing forethought and planning.

Too Bad 1LT Shrub, Texas Air National Guard wasn’t cracking his gum in the back row of the Mandarin’s class when we were analyzing General Giáp’s approach to insurgency, or perhaps something might have stuck. Besides Shrub’s gum to the bottom of one of the Mandarin’s chairs, of course….

P.S. The head shot is General Giáp, who is apparently still alive and kicking at age 96. The Mandarin wonders what he would make of our latest adventure?

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking President

Someone forgot to bring the three phone books he usually stands on when he uses the "grown-up" podium....

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks about immigration reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington June 1, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)