'The fight on Main Street'
It's hardly surprising that we've seen no updates from Raed in Baghdad since the "shock and awe" campaign began yesterday. Still, I keep checking, hoping for word that he and his family are still OK.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Buckner, must have been particularly interested in journalism. At least one of her students went into that line of work, and so did her daughter. Jennie Buckner is now not only executive editor of the Charlotte Observer, but a leader in the civic journalism movement and one of the most respected executives in the field. We're about the same age, but I didn't meet Jennie until about 20 years ago, when she was assistant managing editor for features at the San Jose Mercury-News and I was interviewing for a job there. She didn't hire me — and I thank her for that now — but we had a very nice talk — I thank her for that, too — two people who grew up in the same small but extraordinary town, both professional interviewers and chronic if not compulsive question-askers. I was reminded of that conversation with Jennie when the B-52s began dropping their gee-whiz-guided loads over Baghdad yesterday and all the world's attention was drawn to that lethal fireworks display.
"What about television?" I asked Jennie that day. CNN was just a pup then, and people were still in the habit of looking to newspapers for their news. Did she see that as a threat?
"It's the fight on Main Street," she said, and I apologize for the direct quotes here, as I took no notes and have no recording of that conversation, except for the intense imprint it made in my brain. "Imagine a town with no newspapers, no TV, no news or entertainment media at all," she said. "Now imagine that a fight breaks out one night on that town's Main street. That's what gets everybody's attention; that's what they're all talking about. For us, television isn't a competitor. It's the fight on Main Street."
In a more complex world, of course, the fight on Main Street is only one of many news stories to watch. But when most of most news organizations' resources are deployed along with the troops in war, some of those other stories get overlooked.
One of those was the death of Lenore Gould Breslauer, peace activist during the Vietnam War and one of the founders of the activist group Another Mother for Peace, best known for its logo and slogan, "War is not healthy for children and other living things". Her daughter, Nancy Chuda, and her son, Jon Gould, also dedicated their lives to peace and social causes.
Another underplayed news item was the passage of the Bush budget, including tax cut but with no mention of any spending for the war now under way, by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Meanwhile, in the other side of our nation's bicameral legislature, our Senator and neighbor Jon Corzine, who as you may have heard had quite a bit of experience, and success, in the world of finance before he decided to try his hand at government work, was absolutely appalled by the budget. "This is not speculation," Corzine said in a TV interview. "We know we have this expense, but there's no provision for it in the budget. That kind of accounting makes even Enron look responsible." As you may have heard if you've watched any Ari Fleisher briefing in the past few months, we'll find out how much the war will cost only in "supplementals," requests tacked onto the budget after the fact. In these briefings, the White House press corps plays the part of the Greek chorus, asking "How much is this going to cost?" "When are you going to tell us?" "Don't you think the American people have a right to know now?" "You've got to have some estimates somewhere. Somebody has to have done the math on this. So why not share it with us?" and a cacaphony of related questions, while Fleisher says something like this: "the administration would send up a supplemental appropriation bill to the Congress. And so Congress will then have at its disposal all the relevant facts and figures to make the determinations for their budget issues;" or "War cost -- in terms of the supplemental, the President has said that after hostilities begin, a supplemental will be sent to the Hill. That remains operative." Corzine led the successful 52-47 Democratic charge to trim the Republican tax cut to put $100 billion in reserve for war costs, i.e., support our troops.
That was just an amendment; the Senate has yet to pass the budget. Republicans are hoping to get the full tax cut restored, with no reserve for war costs, when the House/Senate conference committee works to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget later this month.
In other news, as our favorite clothing store, Eddie Bauer, goes bankrupt, and more and more companies, especially airlines, are facing the same fate, the House has passed an anti-bankruptcy bill that gives big business everything it asked for, and if passed by the Senate, would make it even closer to impossible for people who've lost jobs to get health insurance, or for parents who are owed back child support to get anything from their delinquent ex-spouses.
And in case anyone was wondering just how ignorant, childish, and cruel some people can be, consider the poor Lebanese immigrant in Fresno, California, who chose the name "French Cleaners" for his business on a whim, using the Eiffel Tower as its logo. All three branches of French cleaners were vandalized in what police are calling a hate crime, with a fire causing more than $500,000 in damage, obscenities scrawled on the wall and bullet holes in the windows.
This just in from The New York Times: 28 baby girls, all under 3 months old, were discovered in suitcases on a bus in southern China, "apparently being smuggled for sale." One has already died.
We now return you to the fight on Main Street, already in progress.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:10 AM
B-52s over Baghdad
But no U.S. flag over captured Iraqi port
"A U.S. official has confirmed that a major air war has begun," — ITV news anchor, informing the network's Baghdad correspondent, Ian Glover-James, who was surprised to hear that because all was calm as far as he could see.
"The Pentagon confirms that 'shock and awe' has begun. — CNN
Blogspot's unofficial Baghdad correspondent, Raed, checked in with another brief dispatch this morning, just after the U.S. Air Force B-52s took off from British airfields on their way to bomb Iraq. Raed's bloggings have a growing readership, thanks to recommendations not only from The Dagley Dagley Daily, but from Newsday, ZDNet, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Online Journalism Review, and MSNBC, among others. There's even one called The Blogs of War. Here in New Jersey, NJ.com's Jeff Jarvis is blogging the war.
Yes, they've taken down the flag raised by invading U.S. Marines over the captured port of Umm Qasr. The British Sky News report says "no reason was given for the decision, but Washington has consistently stressed that invading forces want to liberate Iraq, not occupy it."
The destruction we're watching, and hearing, will eventually lead to rebuilding, which is big business, especially for the handful of American companies, including Halliburton (which Vice President Dick Cheney headed before he went back into government work), that have already received contracts (flag or no flag) from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Here are a few of many headlines about that from:
The Charlotte Observer: War to Profit U.S. Firms
The Dallas Business Journal: Texas oil industry set to profit from Iraq war
The Boston Globe: U.S. is accused of hoarding contracts to rebuild
The Guardian, UK: U.S. firms get $1.5 billln deal to rebuild Iraq
An excerpt from the Guardian article: "A subsidiary of Halliburton, the firm formerly headed by the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, is a member of one of four consortia whose bids were invited in a secret process last month. Several of the firms are major Republican party donors."
The BBC: The business of rebuilding war zones
("I just want to make sure our viewers know what's going on," Wolf Blitzer just said. Similarly, I just want to make sure my readers know what's going on, so we now return you to the list of articles about the business of rebuilding.)
The Scotsman: US offers to rebuild post-war Iraq greeted with scorn by rebels
McClatchy News Service: Senators feel out of the loop of postwar plans
Dow Jones: Bush Has Audacious Plan to Rebuild Iraq Within Year
Washington Post: U.S. Set to Award 7 Contracts for Rebuilding of Iraq, Initial Work Will Go to American Firms
The Tallahassee Democrat: Corporate America divvies up the post-Saddam spoils
Forbes: Senators bash Pentagon for postwar Iraq secrecy
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada: U.S. firms to lead rebuilding effort
The New York Times/International Herald Tribune: As U.S. firms poise to reap Iraq spoils, British rivals worry, U.S. business to reap most of the profit in rebuilding
SmartMoney.com: Oil-Services Firms May Hit Jackpot in Post-War Iraq
The Denver Post: GOP-linked firms already lining up to rebuild Iraq
The Palm Beach Post: Might might make right. Right?
Molly Ivins, Creators Syndicate, in The Salt Lake Tribune: Bush Would Have Well-Connected American Firms Overhaul Iraqi Society
The Age, Australia: Corporate US to rebuild Iraq
The Independent, UK: First deals to rebuild Iraq will go only to US firms
The Nation: Military Globalism
Guess we've got no reason to worry, then, about what effect the attack on Iraq, and the terrorism and further wars that are almost sure to follow, will have on our economy. Maybe we oughta update that 20th-century cliche, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," as there are some who obviously believe that what's good for Halliburton is good for the world.
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non- Westerners never do."
Samuel P. Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @2:12 PM
War! Good God, y'all!
Armies of analysts all over the world are putting on their makeup and going on the air to tell us what we're seeing in what is expected to be the most-watched event in world history. If you'd rather just watch and figure out for yourself what it all means, Reuters is offering a raw video feed, without narration, play-by-play, or color commentary, free online at Reuters.feedroom.com.
And for the perspective of an Iraqi citizen there in Baghdad, check out the bloggings of my Blogspot neighbor Raed. I don't know Raed, but I found his blog this morning via Daypop, a dandy search engine for news that sorts through more than 17,000 web news sites and weblogs. The better-known, more popular News Google only distills its news items from about 4,500 sources. Neither uses human editors, and the programs that sort through the news are oblivious to both nationality and proximity. If you're looking at stories about something happening in Chicago, for example, the top item in that category may be from a newspaper in Australia or India.
Raed was still posting after the initial attack, and follow-up, on his city, which means he still had electricity as of 10:33 p.m, his time, today. I'll be checking his blog often in the coming days, hoping for more updates.
Meanwhile, from the world of radio, an unusual programming note from Israeli radio:
<<"Quiet Radio" to begin broadcasting on Radio 1 tonight (19 March 2003)
Israel Radio announced that starting tonight "quiet radio" will begin
broadcasting on Radio 1(Reshet Aleph) starting tonight at 10:00 PM.
The station will broadcast a clear silence (so that it is possible to
sleep with it on, etc.). In the event of an alert, Radio 1 will
broadcast a siren and then instructions.>>
I hope that nothing but the sounds of silence comes from that station tonight, and every night. Meanwhile, I hope Raed's blog doesn't fall silent. In both cases, I fear otherwise.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @6:13 AM
Somebody else's words, part two
From The Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus:
<<"... I am bent upon this war; and I see likewise therewith united no few advantages. Once let us subdue this people, and those neighbours of theirs who hold the land of Pelops the Phrygian, and we shall extend the Persian territory as far as God's heaven reaches. The sun will then shine on no land beyond our borders; for I will pass through Europe from one end to the other, and with your aid make of all the lands which it contains one country. For thus, if what I hear be true, affairs stand: the nations whereof I have spoken, once swept away, there is no city, no country left in all the world, which will venture so much as to withstand us in arms. By this course then we shall bring all mankind under our yoke, alike those who are guilty and those who are innocent of doing us wrong. For yourselves, if you wish to please me, do as follows: when I announce the time for the army to meet together, hasten to the muster with a good will, every one of you; and know that to the man who brings with him the most gallant array I will give the gifts which our people consider the most honourable. This then is what ye have to do. But to show that I am not self-willed in this matter, I lay the business before you, and give you full leave to speak your minds upon it openly."
[— King Xerxes of Persia, son of King Darius, before he invaded Greece to avenge his father's defeat 10 years earlier ]
Xerxes, having so spoken, held his peace.
... The other Persians were silent; all feared to raise their voice against the plan proposed to them. But Artabanus, the son of Hystaspes, and uncle of Xerxes, trusting to his relationship, was bold to speak: — "O king!" he said, "it is impossible, if no more than one opinion is uttered, to make choice of the best: a man is forced then to follow whatever advice may have been given him; but if opposite speeches are delivered, then choice can be exercised. In like manner pure gold is not recognised by itself; but when we test it along with baser ore, we perceive which is the better. ">>
Those words were spoken in 480 B.C.
These were spoken two days ago:
"I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."
— Sen. Tom Daschle
And these, yesterday:
"Fermez la bouche [shut your mouth], Monsieur Daschle."
— Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay
These were written in 1789:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. "
— U.S. Constitution, First Amendment
These were spoken and/or published nine months ago:
"An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken."
— Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to President George H. W. Bush (in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece August 15, 2002)
"[Unless Saddam Hussein] has his hand on a trigger that is for a weapon of mass destruction, and our intelligence is clear, I don't know why we have to do it now, when all our allies are opposed to it."
— Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush, in an August, 2002, interview with ABC News.
"The new approach is revolutionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which established the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other states. Also, the notion of justified pre- emption runs counter to modern international law, which sanctions the use of force in self-defense only against actual — not potential — threats."
— Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, former Secretary of State under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, in a Washington Post op-ed piece, August 9, 2002
And these words came today from White House Spokesman Ari Fleisher:
"Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life," he said.
Not just Americans, Mr. Fleisher. While politicians and TV talking heads alike tend to talk about Iraq as if it were a single person, Saddam Hussein, there are actually more than 25 million people in Iraq, 5.7 million of them in Baghdad. Only a small minority of those people have the means to put up any resistance whatsoever, to Hussein or to U.S. military might, or even to get out of the way. Those people have not attacked us. They have not threatened us. For the first time in history, the United States of America is initiating a conflict.
Like Mr. Daschle, I'm saddened.
"As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards."
— Former President Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, March 9, 2003.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @3:05 PM
Somebody else's words
"We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
— Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief US Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal August 12, 1945
"These documents are here to study, to learn
but especially to ensure that we never, never forget."
From the main page of The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials Collection of The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @1:54 PM
Gefilte THIS, the Queen’s ace in the hole, and candles in the wind
When Tom Wolfe — as opposed to Thomas Wolfe — was about halfway through his first novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, he had to go on a somewhat inconvenient book tour to promote his first foray into fiction, which was then being serialized in Rolling Stone magazine. It was inconvenient because Wolfe, a veteran journalist used to working on deadline, was still writing the novel and was just weeks, sometimes only days ahead of his readers. "I really don't know what's going to happen next," he told me over lunch at Chapman University in Orange, California, and he seemed a bit stressed over that.
"Was this a challenge you set up for yourself?" I asked him. "Why not just write the whole thing and then serialize it?
Wolfe's answer was the same one Charles Dickens surely gave to the reporters of his day when they asked about his serialized novels.
"I have bills to pay," Wolfe said.
Although he was wound up to talk about his current project, I asked him about another of his experiments, one that was already 14 years out of print back then (1987): an anthology of nonfiction writing that was far more exciting than its somewhat boring title, The New Journalism. Wolfe used the work of such writers as Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Eszterhas, Joan Didion, , Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Truman Capote and others to demonstrate that nonfiction writing could be every bit as literary as fiction.
So why, then, had Wolfe gone over to the other side years later with Bonfire of the Vanities? Turns out it was partly a challenge he set up for himself, and partly those ubiquitous bills. And it was partly because even though Wolfe had earned widespread acclaim and success with his nonfiction, and even though he'd made his case so well with "The New Journalism," somewhere inside even he still felt incomplete as a writer if he hadn't created a story from scratch, characters, setting, plot, and all. So he did just that, and before the book was even finished, a real-life character similar to his protagonist started making headlines in a story that bore a family resemblance to Wolfe's fictional tale. So even as he wrote fiction, Wolfe found himself not only following current events, but trying to outrun them. Whether or not journalism can outdo fiction, real life certainly can.
That is to say, you can't make this stuff up, and why would you want to?
In a small town just north of New York City, a fishmonger and his assistant were busy turning live carp into gefilte fish a few weeks ago when one of the fish started talking. Actually, the head fishmonger was in his office on the phone when the fish spoke up. The assistant, a Catholic, could not understand what the fish was saying. He ran to get the boss, a Hasidic Jew, who listened to the fish and did understand, because the fish was speaking Hebrew. The New York Times reports that the fish said "`Tzaruch shemirah' and `Hasof bah,' ... "which essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near."
OK, so what would you do if you were one of those two guys? Well, if you were one of these guys, you would do exactly what your job description called for, period. After listening to what the fish had to say, the boss went back to trying to turn it into gefilte fish. He lifted his hatchet, but by the time it came down the fish had squirmed out of the way. Unfortunately the boss's thumb ended up in the way. After the ambulance came to take him to the hospital, the assistant finished off the fish.
In a related development, an Israeli newspaper reports that a gefilte fish, speaking from its jar, has called for Saddam Hussein to disarm.
The fish didn't say "or else," but George W. Bush did, and as you might have noticed, he's a-rarin to go. His loyal sidekick Tony Blair, however, can't join in without first asking permission from the Queen to send Her Majesty's troops into battle. Elizabeth II had been planning a trip to Belgium this week, but Blair asked her to cancel it, just in case he needs to ask her permission. Or maybe he just didn't think it was a good time for the Queen to be visiting the birthplace of french fries. If I were the Pope (and I'm neither male nor Catholic), I would be on the phone right now to urge the British monarch to use her veto power.
If I thought she'd take my calls, I might suggest that strategy myself. Or maybe...I wonder if Her Majesty might be having fish for dinner sometime soon?
Rather than cursing the darkness of war, last night Michael and I decided to light a couple of candles and join some of our neighbors for a candlelight peace vigil, one of more than 6,000 such vigils worldwide. As more than 100 of us stood there in the park with our candles, nobody was really sure what else we should be doing, and some of the more senior candle-holders tried to get the crowd to sing along with some songs from their youth. Maybe it would have worked better if the people leading the singing knew the lyrics. Or maybe it was hard for most of us to see what "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" has to do with any of this.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @6:05 PM
We took some time off today to go out and enjoy the almost-spring weather. Hope it was just as nice where you are, and hope you took some time off, too.
posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @5:28 PM