Road maps and flight maps

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Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat had a road map, though we don’t know much about it. A twenty-nine year-old lawyer on the verge of setting up her own practice, she left the Jenin office where she was interning and made her way to Haifa. Somewhere on her route (or perhaps before she left), she turned herself into a bomb. She arrived at lunchtime on the Jewish Sabbath at the entrance to Maxim’s restaurant. It was a day, according to the Washington Post, “when the Israeli military had imposed its highest levels of closures on the West Bank.” She “wore her thick black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Dark, wide-set eyes peered out from a striking, heart-shaped face. Her lips turned up at the corners, giving her the appearance of having a perpetual smile.” She made her way past a single guard and into the dining room where Jewish families were eating lunch.

As a business, Maxim’s itself was a decades-old partnership between Israeli Jews and Arabs. Whether Jaradat chose the restaurant because of that or by happenstance we don’t know. We do know that she was, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, “the older sister of Fadi Jaradat, an Islamic Jihad militant who was killed in June along with his cousin, Salah Jaradat, a senior figure in the military wing of the ‘Jerusalem Brigades’ organization,” by Israeli Border Police.

Armed and wired, the only weapon she had quite literally at hand, she blew herself up, murdering nineteen people, including young children, and wounding scores more.

The next day, the Post piece adds, “Israeli military demolition forces turned the Jaradats’ tiny concrete block house to rubble and uprooted their prized lemon tree from the front yard.

“Her parents — who have been given lodging in a neighbor’s home — refused to accept the condolences of relatives, neighbors and friends. ‘They want congratulations’ that their daughter is a martyr, Assad Zarour said. He paused, shaking his head at his own words. ‘They are trying to show they are happy. But on the inside they are completely wrecked. They have lost the provider for the family and a sister in the space of four months.'”

Yesterday, in “response,” as we all know, Ariel Sharon took a page out of George Bush’s playbook and launched an air attack on a supposed Islamic Jihad base-camp near Damascus, the capital of Syria. Our neocon Likudniks in Washington like Richard Perle are undoubtedly thrilled. (Perle, by the way, just won the first Annual Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Award at the Inaugural Jerusalem Summit whose goals are: “Israel is the moral alternative to Totalitarianism of the East and Moral Relativism of the West; Israel is the ‘Ground Zero’ for the crucial battle of our civilization for its survival; and Israel can be saved — and the rest of the West with it.”)

We know Perle is thrilled. Here’s what he said to the Washington Post:

Yesterday, in “response,” as we all know, Ariel Sharon took a page out of George Bush’s playbook and launched an air attack on a supposed Islamic Jihad base-camp near Damascus, the capital of Syria. Our neocon Likudniks in Washington like Richard Perle are undoubtedly thrilled. (Perle, by the way, just won the first Annual Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Award at the Inaugural Jerusalem Summit whose goals are: “Israel is the moral alternative to Totalitarianism of the East and Moral Relativism of the West; Israel is the ‘Ground Zero’ for the crucial battle of our civilization for its survival; and Israel can be saved — and the rest of the West with it.”)

We know Perle is thrilled. Here’s what he said to the Washington Post:

“Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory committee, who is close to leading conservatives in the [Bush] administration, applauded Israel’s attack. ‘It will help the peace process,’ he said, because terrorism has been hindering peace efforts and Syria is a leading sponsor of terrorism. He said he hadn’t understood why the Israelis were reluctant to attack the Syrian camps, because ‘to go after terrorists and not after their bases makes no sense.'”

The “camp” may not have been a camp, but it doesn’t matter. The crucial thing was that it be relatively close to Damascus, a striking Israeli escalation of regional conflict against a regime Sharon would love to take out and that is not likely to strike back directly (but watch out for the Lebanese border reports the Christian Science Monitor).

Maxim’s was, of course, the very opposite of a “Jewish settlement.” But wasn’t that the point? Jaradat’s choice, whether purposeful or not, could not help but be deeply symbolic. She went for the soft underbelly of Israeli society, one of the increasingly rare places where Jews and Arabs were still connected to each other, where they had not ceased to recognize each other as human beings. Her act caught in microcosm, it seems to me, a longer term process by which everyone in the region is being driven ever deeper into despair, ever deeper into extreme positions. Even without the actual Wall that Sharon is building, an ever wider wall is being driven into the heart of this world. It’s truly a case where the center cannot hold.

Each act is — and is meant to be — a polarizing act. The murder of her brother, her mass murder of Israeli families, the demolition of her parents’ house, the air attack on Syria. Each act is a truer “road map,” or flight path, than anything the Bush administration has been able to imagine. In Syria, the effect is the same. Sharon’s act of provocation, according to David Hirst, veteran Middle Eastern correspondent for the Guardian, only leaves the Syrian “old guard,” the hard-liners there in a stronger position. (The painful truths that now confront Syria’s reformists).

One has the feeling of watching so many sleepwalkers immersed in some nightmare whose beginning is long forgotten and whose end is not yet in sight. It’s unbearably sad, murderous, and unbelievable. The power to effect events is ever more in the hands of the ever more extreme and, while some in Washington like Perle may applaud these developments, I can’t but believe that many in the Bush administration are staggered, and yet incapable of acting. Given the Christian right’s fervent backing of Sharon, nothing he does can be challenged for long or seriously. At this moment to lose such Republican base support is politically inconceivable. So yet one more out of control piece in an ever expanding puzzle in a region spinning wildly in place.

The Guardian wrote the following in a lead editorial today (Sliding toward chaos):

“It is unlikely that the assault on the alleged Islamic Jihad training camp north of Damascus will curb future terrorist attacks; quite the opposite, in fact. The Maxim restaurant atrocity will meanwhile convince ever more Israelis that a peace settlement is impossible. Between the two of them, Hanadi Jaradat, the Haifa bomber, and Mr Sharon, have in effect conspired to guarantee that there will be more victims and more violence, now perhaps increasingly acted out on a regional scale. That this escalatory cycle of attack and counter-attack is bitterly familiar does not make it any more acceptable or sane

“As for George Bush, he certainly needs to think again — and act quickly. US pressure on Syria and Iran has been intense of late. Far from reining in Mr Sharon, Washington’s effete, partial policy seems to have emboldened him to attack, to escalate, to spread the conflict in the much-abused name of the “war on terror”, while actively subverting the road map. This is no Bush-ian vision of a transformed, peaceful Middle East. This is a vision of hell, of a Haifa every day.”

Tony Judt has a grim and eloquent piece in the New York Review of Books, Israel: the Alternative, that argues, “The problem with Israel, in short, is not — as is sometimes suggested — that it is a European ‘enclave’ in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late,” that its 19th century form of nationalism is a dysfunctional “anachronism.” He argues that the time for a two-state solution is past; that whatever the “road map” might call for, the actual map of the region now denies the two-state possibility and that the only palatable alternative is a binational state. The piece begins:

“The Middle East peace process is finished. It did not die: it was killed. Mahmoud Abbas was undermined by the President of the Palestinian Authority and humiliated by the Prime Minister of Israel. His successor awaits a similar fate. Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the ‘road map.’ The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: ‘It’s all Arafat’s fault.’ Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber. Palestinian Arabs, corralled into shrinking Bantustans, subsist on EU handouts. On the corpse-strewn landscape of the Fertile Crescent, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and a handful of terrorists can all claim victory, and they do. Have we reached the end of the road? What is to be done?”

(Note: A number of the pieces above were first posted at the always useful site, including the notice of the award to Perle.)

Road maps in Iraq: oil on the windshield:

Today, David Sanger in my hometown paper reported an “overhaul,” of the “Iraq and Afghan Missions.” Though put exceedingly politely in the Times, it looks like a modest attempt is finally being made to shift some power out of the hands of the neocon dreamers in the Pentagon (who until recently seem to have imagined themselves stars in a new Jerry Bruckheimer-style film, “Dominatrix Globe”) and into the all-too-shaky and unimpressive hands of National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. “‘The president knows his legacy, and maybe his reelection, depends on getting this right,’ another administration official said. ‘This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it’s not working.'”

What a shock? No? Only yesterday, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth had a front page piece in the same Times (Report Offered Bleak Outlook About Iraq Oil) that began:

“The Bush administration’s optimistic statements earlier this year that Iraq’s oil wealth, not American taxpayers, would cover most of the cost of rebuilding Iraq were at odds with a bleaker assessment of a government task force secretly established last fall to study Iraq’s oil industry, according to public records and government officials.”

It seems there was nothing they did not know about — or could not have known about — before the war and yet they ignored it all. The real question is: Were the Bush administration neocons right about anything? The string of misperceptions, misconclusions, misstatements, and mistakes by these guys — taken in their own terms, not ours — is nothing short of staggering. They may turn out to have been the most dangerous bunglers in history, the gang that simply couldn’t think straight.

Of course, all that “black gold” out there in the “arc of instability,” in those crucial oil lands of our planet, is likely to cloud your vision a bit. Smear a little of it on your mental windshield and maybe you wouldn’t drive straight either. Of course, the one thing they did know was their oil estimates. They knew there was only so much of it, and that significant amounts of that lay just under the sand right next door to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Recently, the British Independent reported that a fossil fuel energy crunch was bearing down on us far more quickly than anybody had previously imagined (Charles Arthur, Oil and gas running out much faster than expected, says study):

“World oil and gas supplies are heading for a ‘production crunch’ sometime between 2010 and 2020 when they cannot meet supply, because global reserves are 80% smaller than had been thought, new forecasts suggest. Research presented this week claims that oil supplies will peak soon after 2010, and gas supplies not long afterwards, making the price of petrol and other fuels rocket, with potentially disastrous economic consequences unless people have moved to alternatives to fossil fuels.

“While forecasters have always known that such a date lies ahead, they have previously put it around 2050 Dr James McKenzie at the World Resources Institute said: ‘We won’t run out of oil — but what will happen is that production will decline, and that’s when all hell will break loose.’

“The Gulf countries produce about 25 per cent of the world’s oil at the moment, and hold 65 per cent of the world’s oil reserves. ‘That’s why we went to war in Iraq,’ said Dr McKenzie.”

Robert Fisk, in his latest piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (included below), indicates that, whatever the crunch elsewhere, there may in fact be far more oil in Iraq than previously estimated. He writes a scathing account of what our leaders should have known about Iraqi oil before invading the country and how they’ve cooked the oil books since. He concludes: “But [the occupation administration] can’t make the oil flow. The cost of doing that could produce an economic crisis in the United States. And it is this — rather than the daily killing of young U.S. soldiers — that lies behind the administration’s growing sense of panic. Washington has got its hands on the biggest treasure chest in the world but it can’t open the lid. No wonder they are cooking the books in Baghdad.”

If their hands are stuck in that oil-filled cookie jar, their one great ongoing success so far is in creating a new American military base structure in Iraq, while no one pays the slightest attention. That’s one thing the men in the Pentagon (and undoubtedly the vice-president’s office) were focused on while they managed to blow everything else. Four bases evidently, in almost total media silence. Isn’t there a reporter out there somewhere even curious about basing policy in a region armed to the teeth in a country where we openly plan to recreate only a lightly armed force of 40,000 men and no air force? Doesn’t something ring strange there?

If, as Chalmers Johnson claims in his upcoming book, The Sorrows of Empire, we are an empire of bases, then the bases being built in Iraq are crucial to Washington’s plans to control the oil spigot of the world. They are what, I assure you, these men will never agree to give up. Long after they’ve ceded other things to the UN and god knows who else, they’ll hang onto the new military structure of the country unilaterally and for dear life. This is one of those stories that is simply bound to surface sooner or later. And then everyone will wonder why it took so long.

The administration takes a leak:

Over the weekend, there was a wash of what looks distinctly like spin on good, old George Tenet from people “close to him.” Sunday, Elisabeth Bumiller offered up a charming lob on the front page of the New York Times on the CIA director, replete with little anecdotes about how the spy chief and our President, George and George, are really Alphonse and Gaston. (No, you first George. No, you first, George. But isn’t that a plank just ahead of us…?) Her piece was based on genuine White House interviews as well as comments from “friends of Mr. Tenet’s.” Even as their lesser associates pummel, stab and gore (not Al, mind you) each other, they – so it is claimed — chat about George’s (the President’s) favorite topic, baseball.

Entitled CIA Chief Is Caught in the Middle on Leak Inquiry, it might as well have been headlined “Tea with George.” Talk about civility, according to Bumiller’s sources, they didn’t even mention the Wilson case when last they met. Perhaps instead they focused on the terrible strain George (the director) was under. “Mr. Tenet finds himself at one of the most difficult points in his tenure, caught between his loyalty to the president and defending an agency enraged at the White House. Although the leak investigation that is consuming Washington’s political class has not, by all accounts, affected the chummy personal ties between the president and the director, it has still taken its toll on Mr. Tenet.”

It gets you right in the heart, doesn’t it? Poor guy. Here’s how the piece ended:

“Last week, Mr. Card [Bush’s Chief of Staff] said, the director took time out from the grimness of the intelligence reports to talk about a subject dear to the president. ‘Baseball,’ Mr. Card said.

“As the former C.I.A. official summed up Mr. Tenet: ‘He’s not liked by everybody in the administration, but the president loves him.'”

I suppose we can’t blame Bumiller for only running into Shallow Throat in that underground garage, especially since Walter Pincus and Dana Priest of the Washington Post piled on with some of the same (The Focus On Tenet Sharpens After Leak):

“But as those close to Tenet tell it, the CIA director is not spoiling for a fight — or to leave anytime soon National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the president continues to believe Tenet ‘is doing an excellent job.’ In a statement, she said he has ‘upheld the best traditions of the U.S. intelligence community while leading the transformation of our intelligence services to meet the most grave challenges . . . fighting the war on global terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.'”

It must have been some other Condolezza Rice who tried to stick Tenet with the 16-word Niger uranium disaster in the State of the Union and then tip him overboard early in July.

Still, at least the last paragraph of the Post piece (oh those final paragraphs!) makes things a tad clearer:

“The feeling inside the agency, summed up by one veteran officer, is that Tenet ‘became bulletproof [from being fired by the president] after taking the spear for the State of the Union speech this year, and he is not going anywhere until maybe after the election.'”

Far tougher on the subject are Eric Margolis in his Toronto Sun column (“So far, CIA chief George Tenet has refused public comment over the attacks, but agency sources report him furious with the White House and its neo-conservative Pentagon allies. CIA staffers are waiting for Tenet to go public and take on the neo-cons who are trying to blame the agency for the fiasco they created.”) and Jim Lobe in his latest for Inter Press News Service (“And cheering them on, albeit more discreetly, are thousands of professional U.S. diplomats, intelligence officers, and Army officers – past and present – who see in the White House’s treatment of Plame and Wilson metaphors for the ideological zeal and ruthlessness of the Bush administration. Those national-security professionals, who tend to vote Republican, are angry. For them, in Valerie Plame, they have found their Joan of Arc, and she’s definitely not for burning.”) Both pieces are included below. As Chris Kaiser, a reader of these dispatches, wrote me, “These disgruntled diplomats, intelligence officers, and Army officers can now thumb their noses to the Bushes and say, ‘Let them eat yellowcake.'”

In the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section, by the way, Ted Gup made an interesting point about all those in Washington calling for that special prosecutor (Do We Really Want to Stop the Leaks):

“It seems clear that many Democrats are thinking that what goes around has finally come around, but, to twist another cliché, what’s bad for the goose may be good for the gander. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice President Cheney will likely see past the current scandal to the political license it grants them in further managing the release of information and squelching opposition. I am not suggesting for a moment that if the identification of Plame constitutes a crime, it should go unpunished, only that those who pursue such a call temper their enthusiasm and partisan ardor, recognize the need for nuance and remember the larger canvas — that today’s indignation may be used to justify tomorrow’s intimidation. Whatever prescription the opposition writes it will inevitably have to swallow itself, probably sooner rather than later.”

Gup is right that the issue of squashing leaks is ready made for the right — this administration has been fierce on the subject as long as they weren’t the leakers — but I’m not convinced that Cheney and Ashcroft can see “past” much right now. They’re in a blizzard of attacks and probably wondering what hit them. Only the other day, for instance, William Kristol, not exactly an enemy of this administration, wrote in the Weekly Standard (Reality Check):

“The leak controversy has revealed an administration at war with itself, a war intensified by the difficult aftermath of the war in Iraq. The CIA is in open revolt against the White House. The State Department and the Defense Department aren’t working together at all. We are way beyond ‘fruitful tension’ and all the other normal excuses for bureaucratic conflict President Bush has problems with his White House, his administration’s execution of his policy, and its internal decision-making ability. He should fix them sooner rather than later. Time is not on his side.”

Time is not on his side — left, right or center, I think that’s on the mark.

Josh Marshall of, who has been following the Wilson affair as closely as anybody in Washington points out that even if the President didn’t know about Plame’s outing by one or more of his aides in July, he certainly knew by September 27th, and asks what’s he’s done since. His answer:

“Nothing. All mumbo-jumbo to the contrary, the universe of possible culprits is quite small. I suspect the identity of the two is already well-known in the White House. But even if that’s not the case, the president could quickly figure out who they are — probably by demanding that they come forward, and certainly by reviewing phone logs and emails. Yet he has done neither.

“We now have the farcical spectacle of the Justice Department initiating a massive investigation — with the net thrown almost comically wide — in order to find out what the president could find out in a few hours, tops. That’s the whole story right there The president’s lieutenants did this. Rather than trying to punish them, he’s trying to protect them. The only thing the White House has been aggressive about is attacking the victims of its own bad-acts: Wilson and Plame.

“In the end, I strongly suspect that Bush will rue the day he didn’t do the right thing on day one.”

Paul Harris in the Guardian offers this summary of leak responsibility (Bush under fire)

“It was members of Cheney’s staff, including top aide Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, who pushed the Niger uranium story long after Wilson had investigated the matter. Cheney and Libby are both said to have been furious with Wilson’s decision to go public. ‘I think the signal could have come from the Vice-President to go after Wilson, to make sure that no one else speaks out,’ Mel Goodman said.

“But whoever was responsible for the leak, it certainly came from somewhere near the top. In an operation as tightly controlled as the Bush administration, it is unthinkable that this was a junior staff member working ‘freelance’. ‘This is not a normal leak, this is scorched-earth politics,’ said Larry Haas, a White House communications aide under Bill Clinton

“At the moment, Bush’s team is reeling It knows it now has a fight on its hands. But if there is one thing the Bush administration knows how to do, it is how to fight.”

We can certainly take some small pleasure from the administration’s travails, but I suspect Harris is right. As you know, I’ve long thought these guys would be going down, but I’ve also worried that they would go down shooting, whatever that might mean. It’s a dangerous enough prospect without even imagining the hole they’ve dug for us or who will be around to help us climb out. Tom

Dubious intelligence
By Eric Margolis, Contributing Foreign Editor
The Toronto Sun
October 4, 2003

Washington, D.C. — For the Bush administration, which has wrapped itself in faux patriotism, accusations that it revealed the identity of a serving CIA agent are a huge political embarrassment and another blow to its sinking credibility.

Last July, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV contradicted President George Bush’s assertions that Iraq had imported uranium ore from Niger.

Wilson said his investigations in Niger found the whole story was a fake, based on forged documents.

Bush nevertheless suggested Iraq was importing uranium in his keynote state of the union address.

Wilson’s patriotic act ruined his career and made him the target of a vicious smear campaign.

To read more Margolis click here

Washington Aplame, or the Lady’s Not for Burning
By Jim Lobe
October 6, 2003

One has to feel sorry for Republicans. Although they control both houses of the U.S. Congress and the White House, they must think they’re living through a bad dream. Consider Republicans on Capitol Hill in particular:

After campaigning for a constitutional amendment that would require the federal government to balance its budget, they’re forced to defend the biggest deficits in U.S. history, all requested by their president.

After electing a president who promised never to engage in “nation-building” overseas, he’s demanding that they finance the biggest nation-building exercise since Vietnam.

To read more Lobe click here

U.S. can’t hide concern for Iraq’s oil
By Robert Fisk
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
October 2, 2003

Oil is slippery stuff but not as slippery as the figures being peddled by Iraq’s U.S. occupiers. Up around Kirkuk, the authorities are keeping the sabotage figures secret — because they can’t stop their pipelines to Turkey from blowing up. Down in Baghdad, where the men who produce Iraq’s oil production figures are beginning to look like the occupants of Plato’s cave — drawing conclusions from shadows on their wall — the statistics are being cooked.

To read more Fisk click here