Call Me Irresponsible Time to finish the second of two op-eds written in a single afternoon. May I just state, for the record, that procrastination can really, really come back to bite you on the kiester? Thank you very much.
There's Your Trouble, Mr. Bush Everybody knows that country artists are just a bunch of mush-headed liberals, right? That must explain this:
And they don't know when to stop. "Just so you know," says [Dixie Chicks] singer Natalie Maines, "we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." It gets the audience cheering — at a time when country stars are rushing to release pro-war anthems, this is practically punk rock.
How to Lose a Game of Chicken with the Turks Speaking of the Ottomans: the bit about the new Turkish government rolling over for a U.S. troop deployment doesn't seem to be working out so well. Funny, that — apparently, alternating blasts of browbeating and condescension haven't exactly won us the Turks' trust. Imagine that.
The Bush administration, of course, has yet to take a lesson from any of this:
If Turkey does not offer its full cooperation before President Bush orders an attack, [administration officials] warned, it risks losing the billions of dollars in aid that the United States has offered and damaging relations with a key ally.
"There's a concern that their measurements of Washington's thinking are not accurate," said a diplomat in Ankara, the capital. "The hope is that Turkey joins the coalition, but time is slipping. The world is moving, and if the world moves to the next stage while Turkey is still waiting, that means Turkey is out."
U.S. officials have expressed frustration with Turkey's requests for further assurances, saying they have repeatedly stated U.S. opposition to a Kurdish state and that there is almost complete agreement on the language of a memorandum of understanding between the two nations about the future of Iraq.
Sedat Ergin, a political analyst and newspaper columnist, said Turkish officials are worried about the U.S. commitment to the agreement. Opposition by Iraqi Kurds to Turkish troops entering northern Iraq, statements from some Kurdish leaders about taking control of critical oil fields in northern Iraq and images of Kurdish protesters burning Turkish flags have led many Turks to ask whether the United States will hold the Kurds in check, he said.
"The United States and Turkey have reached an agreement, but the missing piece is a counterpart agreement between the United States and the Iraqi Kurds," he said. "Turkey says it wants assurances from Washington, but what would really help are assurances from the Iraqi Kurds."
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman foreshadowed all this about two weeks ago. In an op-ed that looks even more relevant today than it did then, he spelled out just what made the Turks feel queasy about settling for a presidential handshake:
So it seems that Turkey wasn't really haggling about the price, it just wouldn't accept payment by check or credit card. In return for support of an Iraq invasion, Turkey wanted — and got — immediate aid, cash on the barrelhead, rather than mere assurances about future help. You'd almost think President Bush had a credibility problem.
And he does.
. . . [C]redibility isn't just about punishing people who cross you. It's also about honoring promises, and telling the truth. And those are areas where the Bush administration has problems.
Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America's favor. Given Mexico's close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox's onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America's column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush — a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters — in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.
Mr. Fox is not alone. In fact, I can't think of anyone other than the hard right and corporate lobbyists who has done a deal with Mr. Bush and not come away feeling betrayed. New York's elected representatives stood side by side with him a few days after Sept. 11 in return for a promise of generous aid. A few months later, as they started to question the administration's commitment, the budget director, Mitch Daniels, accused them of "money-grubbing games." Firefighters and policemen applauded Mr. Bush's promise, more than a year ago, of $3.5 billion for "first responders"; so far, not a penny has been delivered.
The whole spectacle is enough to make me wish I'd been a fly on the wall in the White House operator's office for the phone call between Bush and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incoming Turkish premier, just to see the expression on the translator's face when he translated what Erdogan must have said after hearing Bush ask for a Turkish committment for the umpteenth time: "Mr. President, money talks — bu--sh-- walks."
Speaking for myself, and perhaps for some other internationalists who feel as I do, part of our frustrated anger over the current impasse is watching the present administration traduce and plow under the work of half a century and seeing the administration's acolytes greet every new disaster and *&$#-up as a grand confirmation of their beliefs and principles. It's like we've been transported into some alternative reality where the debate about international relations is some awful mix of The McLaughlin Group and Lord of the Flies. As these folks should be starting to realize about now, months of this arrogant mumbo-jumbo eventually draws a response — at home and abroad.
As I told a colleague yesterday: if this orgy of overreaching — on matters foreign and domestic — doesn't end up marking the apex of the modern conservative movement, I'll eat my shorts.
A Tuba Solo?! Hey, um, have you heard about the new Strokes album? I don't think I have either — but when I realized it I hit the floor laughing 'til it hurt. Read it yourselves; I guarantee it's the best fake album review you'll have seen in many an age.
Going Extracurricular I got into a mood somewhere between nostalgia and whimsy tonight, and you can see the results at Art of the Mix — where I've posted some notes about what I still consider the best mixed tape I've ever made. Follow the link and enjoy.
I'll See You a Freedom Chocolate Cake and Raise You a Justice Coffee— Tapped | The People's Work:
The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings will change the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries," a culinary rebuke of France, stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.
Ditto for "french toast," which will be known as "freedom toast."
The name changes were spearheaded by two Republican lawmakers who held a news conference Tuesday to make the name changes official on the menus.
Across the country, some private restaurants have done the same.
"This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
Boy, it's a good thing Rep. Ney isn't a complete idiot. But why stop there? There are so many countries opposing the war that still have foods and drinks named after them, including some, presumably, that are still on the House menu from time to time. German mashed potatoes. Belgian waffles. Dutch chocolate. Swedish meatballs. White Russians. Black Russians. Irish coffee.
And, of course, Turkey. It is a crime against our men and women in uniform -- ney, against Americans everywhere -- that, come November, they will be forced to celebrate their day of Thanksgiving by dining on this foul bird, no less treacherous than the country after which it is named.
. . . and after I sat down for my morning constitutional — constitutional bacon, freedom toast and a hard-boiled egg with a cup of justice coffee — I took my newspaper, walked through the living room across the brand-new democracy rug, and propped my feet up on the Ottom— er, liberty footstool, feeling the sun on my face and my wife beside me. I gaze into her eyes, she surprises me with a freedom kiss — and life is good.
The Book Concept that Changed the World I spied a review of a book called Coal in the New York Times yesterday, and it produced a thought — this steady stream of social histories about overlooked staples is starting to get a little clichéd. There's Mark Kurlansky with his exhaustive tomes on salt and cod; there's a history of how the potato rescued the Western world; then there's this book exploring the world-changing powers of tobacco. And that's not to mention the works on how various Celticpeoples saved civilization.
I want in on this racket — considering its longevity so far, it must be a gold mine. I've thought of a staple that everyone uses, that we could hardly contemplate life being the same without — I think I can safely say it changed the world.
What is it? Dirt.
Just imagine the book title: Dirt: How Modest Silicon and Nitrogen-based Molecules Shaped Our Lives. It's pure genius, I tell you.
All I need now is the book deal. I'll keep you apprised.
Pentagon: 'Dirty Bombs are A-Okay'? Depleted uranium is a bit like recycled sewage sludge — safer than the full-bore variety, but you still wouldn't want a faceful of it. The Pentagon puts spent uranium to use in a variety of munitions thanks to the armor-piercing power that its density lends it, though — and from the looks of it, its applications are growing broader all the time.
As evidence that the United States is expanding its use of depleted uranium weapons beyond the relatively small 30-millimeter to 120-millimeter armor-piercing bullets and shells used by tanks and tank-killer aircraft in the Gulf and Balkans, weapons watchdogs cite the so-called "bunker-buster" bombs and missiles unleashed on Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has not confirmed the use of uranium or depleted uranium in the bunker-busters, and it has refused to identify the composition of the dense-metal warheads that enable the missiles to penetrate structures deeply buried under earth, steel and reinforced concrete.
But critics such as British researcher Dai Williams contend that only uranium -- in one form or another -- possesses the density and other characteristics necessary to achieve the penetration levels attributed to such weapons as the 2,000-pound AGM 130C air-to-ground cruise missile, and the guided bomb unit, or GBU, series of laser-guided hard-target penetrators intended to pierce bunkers and other reinforced structures.
Williams and others also claim that patents covering conversion or modification of earlier generation bombs for use as bunker-busters indicate that depleted uranium is being used in these weapons.
For example, the patent application for a narrow-profile version of the BLU-109B bomb (which is delivered by a GBU-24) specifically refers to penetrating bodies made of tungsten or depleted uranium.
"If they're really using tungsten, why keep it classified?" Williams said. . . .
Depleted uranium has a few drawbacks. It is 40 percent as radioactive as pure uranium and has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. In addition, the very volatility that makes it blaze like an atomic furnace upon impact converts a large percentage of the spent projectile into microscopic radioactive oxides that, when borne by the wind, may be inhaled by civilians miles from the battlefield.
Now, I know that terrorists would use radioactive material to poison and sow panic among Americans, while we would employ depleted uranium to speed the liberation of the fair people of Iraq. Still, one has to ask: what would the functional difference be between setting off a dirty bomb in Foggy Bottom and leaving the towns and countryside of Iraq strewn with radioactive dust? And how do the people we're about to liberate feel about the possibility of our spewing bunker-busting toxins into their air?
Sure, Saddam gasses his own people. But I would think we'd reflect for a moment before launching a war that could incidentally produce hazards almost as deadly.
A Perle of Questionable Wisdom Richard Perle is the closest thing the Bush administration has to a senseless twit, frankly.
Do I go overboard? Well, perhaps. One can feel secure in viewing playground insults like that as dimly as the barnyard epithets and trash talk that sound more at home on a wrestling broadcast than in, say, the Oxford Union. One might expect a relatively senior government official to understand that as well — right?
I say that in jest, of course. But I say this with deadly seriousness: come off it, Richard. Having someone write a nasty article about you no more makes that person a terrorist than your statement to the contrary makes you an investigative journalist. Draping yourself in the rhetorical garb of the most wronged victims of our time — those who've taken the brunt of real terrorism, the sort that, you know, kills people — is a stunt requiring narcissism and self-pity in such abundant quantities that they probably merit a referral to a psychologist.
I recall that Blitzer looked truly stunned and didn't really know what to say. Eventually he came up with this:
BLITZER: Well, on the basis of — why do you say that? A terrorist?
PERLE: Because he's widely irresponsible. If you read the article, it's first of all, impossible to find any consistent theme in it. But the suggestion that my views are somehow related for the potential for investments in homeland defense is complete nonsense.
BLITZER: But I don't understand. Why do you accuse him of being a terrorist?
PERLE: Because he sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever innuendo, whatever distortion he can — look, he hasn't written a serious piece since My Lai.
Given that Perle managed to spin out a response remarkably free of any substance to hang a counterargument on, I'll have to improvise. But that's not hard. Having spent time in the Fourth Estate trenches myself, I know that what Perle characterizes as "innuendo" and "distortion" sound remarkably like the time-honored journalistic arts of investigation and interpretation. Investigative journalists such as Hersh have to fall back on them all the time.
Practicing those skills adeptly makes one a terrorist? Please — if that be terrorism, then let us make the most of it. With people like Perle at the center of government, after all, we may need plenty more journalists like Hersh before long.
Hankerin' for a Sammich Tim kicked off reminiscences about "great sammiches of all time" on Friday — and really, who can pass up a topic like that? Who among us can't remember a sandwich we'd love to be able to walk around the corner and get right this second?
These are the greats in my hall of fame:
Turkey with house dressing on whole-wheat bread at — yep, I cribbed this from Tim — Take It Away in Charlottesville;
Chicken souvlaki — or, when I'm feeling like a million bucks, chicken with brie, sliced apple, and honey mustard on a croissant — at Café Europa in Charlottesville;
The Ednam — maple-smoked turkey with avocado, bacon, and mayonnaise — at the Bellair Market, in — guess? — Charlottesville;
Turkey on a toasted roll with everything at the Potbelly on W. Webster, Chicago;
The falafel sandwich — sans tobasco sauce — at the Oasis Cafe, stashed in the back of the Wabash Jewelers' Mall in the shadow of the Chicago Loop el track;