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Candide's Latest: Thursday, August 17, 2006
England, My England

But is it news?

It's official: “Bush Is Crap”: Tony Blair is too much of a dachshund to say it, or even think it, but his deputy prime minister isn’t: John Prescott has given vent to his private feelings about the Bush presidency, summing up George Bush's administration in a single word: crap. “The Deputy Prime Minister's condemnation of President Bush and his approach to the Middle East could cause a diplomatic row but it will please Labour MPs who are furious about Tony Blair's backing of the United States over the bombing of Lebanon,” The UK Independent reports. “The remark is said to have been made at a private meeting in Mr Prescott's Whitehall office on Tuesday with Muslim MPs and other Labour MPs with constituencies representing large Muslim communities. Muslim MPs wanted to press home their objections to British foreign policy and discuss ways of improving relations with the Muslim communities.” The paper also notes in a separate piece how “John Prescott's use of the C-word about the Bush administration will remind Tony Blair that before he headed for the beach, he faced a cabinet revolt over his support for George Bush on the Middle East.”

Banning mercenaries: A great, necessary idea that should apply to the United States, but won’t: The South African government “is pressing ahead with a law to ban mercenaries, clouding the prospects of thousands of South Africans now fighting for foreign armies or working for security companies in Iraq,” the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reports. “The government wants to stop civilians and former soldiers from fighting or offering security in armed conflicts after South Africans were involved in several attempted coups and conflicts in African states.” The same reasoning could apply to American mercenaries, but banning them is necessary for more immediate reasons. The story of the Iraq war, if and when it’s told, will reveal (among its rich troves of atrocities) that while the Pentagon had its few rogue soldiers, as all armies do, the barbarians were the mercenaries, the so-called “private security” guards and agencies, the men who washed out of the military, couldn’t abide by its strictures and codes, couldn’t keep their guts inside their belts and their brutality unchecked, because they didn’t need to. But the other half-secret is that the Pentagon relies on these goons too much, just as central American governments relied on their para-military death squads in the 1980s, just as the Iraqi government, such as it is, relies on its black-clothes militias for the dirty work. For the United States, why dismantle a mercenary structure that provides the perfect escape hatch from the rules of war and official US government policy?

Our daily “meanwhile in Iraq” set of horrors: Zarqawi’s bones have only further fertilized the insurgency: “The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” says the Times. “Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.” Bush really is crap. But we knew that.

The fire next time—in Pakistan: Here’s what should be of hysterical worry to Americans: Pakistan’s disintegration: “A U.S.-backed plan to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas has backfired badly, and the Bush administration is working with Pakistan to come up with a new strategy to defuse the insurrection,” McClatchy (the only newspaper chain that seems to pay attention to certain things) reports. “Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf "sees that what he was doing wasn't working," said one U.S. official who's familiar with the new plan. "He really has a mess."

Could it be? Lebanon Army starts moving south: “ Israel 's military said it had passed control of half of its positions in the south to the current UN force there. It indicated that a full withdrawal from what was a stronghold of Hezbollah could take weeks or even months. Dozens of Lebanese army trucks, armoured personnel carriers and jeeps are on the move across the Litani using temporary bridges set up to bypass bridges damaged by Israeli shelling. The vanguard crossed at 0600 local time (0300 GMT).” Any word on who and what makes up these Lebanese army units? In any case, Hezbollah is keeping its weapons, and forbidding the army from searching its caches. Meanwhile, there’s finally some talk about what to do about the massive oil spill in the Mediterranean , along Lebanon ’s shore, caused, as we well know (but not so much in the United States ) by Israeli strikes at oil depots.

Roger Scruton in the Wall Street Journal on “Islamofascism”: “The term "Islamofascism" was introduced by the French writer Maxine Rodinson (1915-2004) to describe the Iranian Revolution of 1978. Rodinson was a Marxist, who described as "fascist" any movement of which he disapproved. But we should be grateful to him for coining a word that enables people on the left to denounce our common enemy. After all, other French leftists -- Michel Foucault, for example -- had welcomed the revolution as an amusing threat to Western interests. It is only now that people on the left can acknowledge that they are just as much a target as the rest of us, in a war that has global chaos as its goal. The word has therefore caught on, not least because it provides a convenient way of announcing that you are not against Islam but only against its perversion by the terrorists. But this prompts the question whether terrorism is really as alien to Islam as we should all like to believe.” Did you catch that last line? We now have the Wall Street Journal’s eminence giving credence to the Americanofascist notion, so prominent from its Sunday pulpits and daily radio and television shout shows, that Islam is inherently friendly to terrorism—or any differently so than Catholicism and Protestantism were for the better part of their bloody history. Scruton carries on with lines like this: “The majority of European Muslims do not approve of terrorism. But there are majorities and majorities.” Lovely. At any rate, see the full drippy column here…

In Other Worlds

They’re going hysterical in the air. First the double-fighter-jet escort of a United flight back to Logan Airport in Boston when a woman got claustrophobic. Then an evacuation of a flight in Sydney, because someone made an empty threat.

How the embedding of reporters in US soldiers’ units worked like a propagandistic charm, as far as the army and the suppression of real news is concerned: “A Penn State study shows that the use of embedded reporters by major newspapers did affect the number and the type of stories published, resulting in more articles about the U.S. soldiers' personal lives and fewer articles about the impact of the war on Iraqi civilians."The majority of war coverage in the study heavily emphasized the soldier's experiences, of the war while downplaying the effects of the invasion on the Iraqi people," said Andrew M. Lindner, a graduate student in sociology at Penn State.

Bond prices rise, inflation still on the upswing, recession’s advance scouts come calling.

JonBenet’s killer found? The Sydney Morning herald, among other leerers, revels in a few pictures.

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