Follow up: The coalition of the willing to be paid minus two

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…and other bits and pieces of news that might not leap out of our media environment

The coalition of the willing to be paid redux: Ditditdit word just in from the Solomon Islands! No one bothered to notify them of their willingness, and now they’re not willing, as the New Zealand Herald reported yesterday.

,Coalition of the Willing? Not us, say Solomon islanders
By Alan Perrott
The New Zealand Herald
March 27, 2003

Sorry, President Bush, but if you are counting on the Solomon Islands National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force to watch your back in Iraq, you’re out of luck.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza yesterday said “thanks but no thanks” after hearing his nation had been shanghaied into the US-led Coalition of the Willing.

“The Government is completely unaware of such statements being made, therefore wishes to disassociate itself from the report,” said Mr Kemakeza.

The Solomon Islands has no military capability, but according to the CIA World Factbook they do boast the above mentioned reconnaissance and surveillance unit and a Royal Police Force.

Sorry, President Bush, but if you are counting on the Solomon Islands National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force to watch your back in Iraq, you’re out of luck.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza yesterday said “thanks but no thanks” after hearing his nation had been shanghaied into the US-led Coalition of the Willing.

“The Government is completely unaware of such statements being made, therefore wishes to disassociate itself from the report,” said Mr Kemakeza.

The Solomon Islands has no military capability, but according to the CIA World Factbook they do boast the above mentioned reconnaissance and surveillance unit and a Royal Police Force.

To read more of this New Zealand Herald piece click here

Of course, the Solomons are small and far, far away. It coulda just been a diplomatic snafu. Oops, it turns out that, in its recent budget request for the war, according to a tiny New York Times report (“In a Slip, U.S. Lists Slovenia as a Partner”), the Bush administration included an unwilling Slovenia, sending “hundreds” of Slovenians into the streets to protest. The Prime Minister stated unequivocally, “We are a part of no such coalition,” thus rejecting $4.5 million dollars in unasked for aid. Amazing actually.

It occurs to me that some of the administration’s diplomatic problems might be solved if we just changed our terminology a little. The problem, it appears, is the word “coalition,” which implies agreement and possibly something like equality. How about if we all just started talking about the “alition of the willing”? That would be accurate.

Here, by the way, is a letter Dave Gilson, a young journalist (and former student) cooked up that seems to catch the situation all too well — and quite hilariously:


This message has been sent to you for good luck. It has been around the
world dozens of times. Now it has come to you. You will receive good luck
within a week of receiving this message — provided that you sign it
immediately and send it on to 7 friends. By signing this message, you are
agreeing to join the growing number of nations known as the “coalition of
the willing,” which are undertaking the valiant struggle to liberate Iraq.

Good luck will really come to you if you sign now. Here are some true
stories of what happened to lucky signers. After Micronesia signed this
letter, it received 20 million dollars in loan guarantees from the US
government. Eritrea signed the letter and soon got its own American
military base. The Dominican Republic met the woman of its dreams and is
now happily married. Latvia got the big promotion it had hoped for.
Mongolia received a stylish “USA #1” baseball cap.

Failing to sign and circulate this letter will bring you many years of bad
luck. France failed to sign this letter. It became the butt of cruel jokes
told by late-night talk-show hosts and its sole contribution to Western
Civilization was renamed “Freedom Fries.” Two weeks after it ignored this
letter, Germany had a terrible car accident. Kiribati threw this message
away and soon got an incurable disease. Paraguay lost its girlfriend, its
job, its apartment and its dog — all in one week. This is not a joke —
all of these things really happened.

Do not tempt fate. This is your only chance to reap the untold rewards that
will come your way if you join the “coalition of the willing.” Sign this
message immediately and forward to seven (preferably Middle Eastern)
friends. If you are the 25th, 50th, 75th, etc. recipient, please forward a
copy to [email protected]. Good luck.

A Friend”

(A list of the “coalition” nations follows]

You might also look at Stephen Shalom’s sardonic Iraq War Quiz (too difficult for me to format here) at the ZNET website.

The Dominican Republic redux: Yesterday, I noted a paragraph-long New York Times report on the resignation of the Dominican Foreign Minister after the country joined the “coalition.” I promptly received the following e-mail from Dave Brotherton, visiting professor of law and political science at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. As he explains:

“I am resident in the Dominican Republic, on sabbatical from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. The resignation of Dr. Hugo Tolentino Dipp, the former Rector of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (the first university in the Americas), is very significant and has led to a large split in the government party (called the PRD). The party rank-and-file and its organizational leadership has come out almost unanimously against the war but the government leadership of the party (much like the Labor Party in Britain), under direct pressure from the U.S. Ambassador, suddenly announced its support of Bush’s position last week.

“However, the resignation statement of the former Secretary of Foreign Relations is unequivocal and worth repeating. He said the pro-war position of the Dominican President was “dangerous” for a small country like the Dominican Republic that had been invaded on two occasions by that country (i.e. the United States)[Listin Diario, 3/27/03, page 7A).

“Every night here in Santo Domingo and in Santiago there are demonstrations against the war and on Saturday a mass mobilization will be organized, converging on the U.S. Embassy. I am reminded repeatedly by my colleagues that more than 180 marines died here in the invasion of 1965. This was the last time the U.S. military tried to bring “freedom” here and in so doing effectively destroyed all efforts to form a constitutional government.”

Vietnam redux redux: Yesterday, I wrote about how quickly the never fully addressed, endlessly festering wound of Vietnam rose to meet the present war. Brotherton’s e-mail reminded me of something else. To the extent that the violence of the Vietnam War was in any way limited (and from the point of view of a Southern Vietnamese peasant it wasn’t), the reason was the Cold War. The Vietnamese in the north and the southern rebels had “sanctuaries” along the Laotian and Cambodian borders, heavily and secretly bombed and then invaded by us, but also the great “rear areas” of China and Russia. The very existence of the communist “superpower” (and the memory of the Korean War) limited President Johnson, who micromanaged America’s bombing campaigns because he feared starting a Third World War, and this was no less true of the Nixon/Kissinger duo.

Now, of course, we’re in a single hyperpower world — or so it seems. So what limits the Bush administration’s war against Iraq? I would argue that we do — not just we antiwar protesters in the U.S. but the global we, including those protesters in the Dominican Republic. We are, in fact, the only limitation, still admittedly a limited one, on the potentially unlimited violence of this American war. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the Bush administration could win the war in Iraq and lose the world in the process. In that sense, we seem to be in the midst of an unprecedented imperial moment. While there have previously been empires with dreams of global domination, never before have such dreams faced no balancing imperial dreams. On the other hand, never before have the peoples of the globe turned so quickly on a superpower’s imperial dreams. I suspect that our dreams will turn out to count, too — more than we imagine.

In the meantime, no group is more enmeshed in the Vietnam mentality than the men at the top in Washington. The President has already — we’re just a week and two days in here — indirectly expressed his first public anger against the media. According to CNN today (“White House: Bush frustrated with media coverage of war, Officials fault reporters’ expectations”)

“President Bush has ‘some level of frustration with the press corps’ for accounts questioning the U.S. and coalition war plan in Iraq, and he finds it ‘silly’ that such skepticism and questions were being raised just days into a conflict he says is going quite well, according to a senior administration official.”

Just imagine what we’ll hear if things don’t get better in a week or two. The first embedded journalist, a Christian Science Monitor reporter, has just been unembedded and quickstepped out of the war for supposedly mentioning locations and units in a CNN interview — clearly a warning.

In the meantime, Thomas E. Ricks (War Could Last Months, Officers Say) of the Washington Post has done some fine front-page reporting on the military’s instant reassessment of the situation (with built-in recriminations) and he offers the first (how’s this for familiar?) where’s-that-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel quote not from some protester, but from a military official no less.

“Despite the rapid advance of over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday.

“The combination of wretched weather, long and insecure supply lines, and an enemy that has refused to be supine in the face of American military might has led to a broad reassessment by some top generals of U.S. military expectations and timelines. Some of them see even the potential threat of a drawn-out fight that sucks in more and more U.S. forces. Both on the battlefield in Iraq and in Pentagon conference rooms, military commanders were talking yesterday about a longer, harder war than had been expected just a week ago, the officials said.

“‘Tell me how this ends,’ one senior officer said yesterday.”

Two other pieces worth looking at, by the way, are British Reporter Robert Fisk’s fascinating interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now:

“The strange thing is that the intensity of the attacks on Baghdad changes quite extraordinarilyAs if no one really planning the things, it’s like someone wakes up in the morning and says, “Let’s target this on the map today”, and it’s something which sort of characterizes the whole adventure because if you actually look at what’s happening on the ground, you’ll see that the American and British armies started off in the border. They started off at Um Qasr and got stuck, carried on up the road through the desert, took another right turn and tried to get into Basra, got stuck, took another right at Nasiriya, got stuck-it’s almost as if they keep on saying, ‘Well let’s try the next road on the right’, and it has kind of a lack of planning to it. There will be those who say that, ‘No it’s been meticulously planned,’ but it doesn’t feel like it to be here.'”

Another fascinating account — of what the war looks like elsewhere — comes from Faisal Bodi, an Al-Jazeera editor (Al-Jazeera tells the truth about war) in the Guardian:

“Last Tuesday, while western channels were celebrating a Basra “uprising” which none of them could have witnessed since they don’t have reporters in the city, our correspondent in the Sheraton there returned a rather flat verdict of “uneventful” – a view confirmed shortly afterwards by a spokesman for the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. By reporting propaganda as fact, the mainstream media had simply mirrored the Blair/Bush fantasy that the people who have been starved by UN sanctions and deformed by depleted uranium since 1991 will greet them as saviours.

“Only hours before the Basra non-event, one of Iraq’s most esteemed Shia authorities, Ayatollah Sistani, had dented coalition hopes of a southern uprising by reiterating a fatwa calling on all Muslims to resist the US-led forces. This real, and highly significant, event went unreported in the west.”

Occupation of Iraq, whenever, redux: Here’s another sign (or do I mean an omen?) of a surefire smooth American occupation of Iraq — a small piece about our future “civilian” proconsul, retired Lieutenant-General Jay Garner:

US general with Iraq role linked to hardline Israelis
The Independent
26 March 2003

The retired general named as civilian governor of occupied Iraq has visited Israel on a trip paid for by a right-wing group that strongly backs an American military presence in the Middle East.

Lieutenant-General Jay Garner, the co-ordinator for civilian administration in Iraq, put his name in October 2000 to a statement blaming Palestinians for the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence and saying that a strong Israel was an important security asset to the United States.

The statement was sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa), which pays for retired US military officers to visit Israel for security briefings by Israeli officials and politicians. Richard Perle, one of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq, is a member of the institute’s board of advisers, as was Vice-President Dick Cheney before he took office in 2001.

To read more of this Independent piece click here

War in Afghanistan as a precursor to the occupation of Iraq, redux, redux: Remember the successful war in Afghanistan, the triumphant precursor to the present war? Well, you’d have to look hard to notice in our media, but it’s still on. Yesterday, the New York Times had a modest, buried piece, Militants in Afghanistan Fire Rockets at 2 American Bases by Carlotta Gall. More than a dozen rockets, all ill-aimed, and a grenade attack — no casualties, but a sign of the times. In unreconstructed, warlord-ridden, poppy-growing Afghanistan, despite some modest post-Taliban improvements, a low-intensity war continues and American forces continue to launch operations.

War in Colombia, war in South Asia, war in Korea, war in the Philippines redux, redux, redux. And then there was that plane that went down a day or so ago in the jungles of southern Colombia as its three-man crew, “employees of California Microwave Systems,” a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp. which in turn is under contract to the Pentagon (but if they’re not intelligence operatives, I’ll be shocked), looked for three other American kidnapped a month or so ago by rebel forces — another hardly noticed low-intensity war.

And let’s not forget, South Asia where tensions, hardly recorded here, are once again ratcheting up between India and Pakistan, or the Philippines where — I’ve lost track — several thousand American troops may or may not have landed to fight bandit-terrorists in the southern islands, or, well let’s not waste time on North Korea, where Kim Il-Jong’s regime is still trying to rivet the Bush administration’s attention, as preparation for one-on-one negotiations that look like they’re never going to happen. Don’t be surprised if the next love tap involves something like shots at an American reconnaissance plane.

Unfortunately, the North Koreans actually have the attention of Washington, the only kind of attention Washington seems capable of offering these days. For this, you might look at John Feffer’s Is North Korea next? at the Foreign Policy in Focus website. He says, in part:

“A serial invader is always looking over the horizon for the next target.Meanwhile the heavy machinery is in place. Twenty-four long-range U.S. bombers are now in Guam. As part of a recent computer-based command training drill, the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, six F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters, and an Aegis warship have arrived in South Korea for the first time in a decade. The U.S. army has even made noises about moving U.S. troops in South Korea further from the Demilitarized Zone so that they wouldn’t be held hostage by a U.S. military strike.

The most frightening development is that the Pentagon is playing with the idea that if it acts soon, it can take out North Korea’s nuclear reactor without contaminating the region with radiation. According to such a scenario, a second, more comprehensive and devastating nuclear strike would then deter North Korea from retaliating with missile attacks on Seoul or Tokyo.”