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Between the Lines

December 10, 2003

Dealing with allies the neocon way

The trouble with allies is that you have to have relationships with them. And relationships are difficult to sustain when your position is that “you’re with us or against us.” But that’s our guiding policy these days. We’re right. You’re wrong. Shut up.

Hence, the pronouncement by Paul Wolfowitz, the Defense Department’s policy genius, that bars countries that didn’t support our march to Baghdad from bidding on $18 billion worth of postwar contracts. Among the banned: France, Germany, Russia and Canada. It had long been hinted that this would happen, so we can’t call it surprising. But we can call it stupid. These are the same countries we keep asking to chip in money or troops to help rebuild Iraq. So whatever our impulses to get even with folks who didn’t back us, this is incompetently counterproductive.

Now let’s consider how we treat allies who did support us in Iraq. Japan, for example, which has decided to send a couple of thousand noncombatants despite enormous domestic opposition.

Last Sunday, Dec. 7, a date which will live in infamy, President Bush for the first time in history issued a presidential proclamation commemorating the Pearl Harbor attack without saying who did it. I’m no Japan basher. Besides, the country that produced Ichiro can be forgiven a lot (yes, I’m being flip here). But isn’t it just a wee bit depressing that we’ll retell history for the sake of a few warm, foreign bodies?

I wonder what we’d do if France and Germany did decide to contribute money and troops. Would Bush congratulate the French on their valiant defense of the homeland in War 2? Would he visit a German cemetery containing the graves of Waffen SS troops as one former president did?

Somewhere between the ridiculous extremes of totally cutting off our European allies and rewriting history to soothe Toyko there's room for a policy. Will we ever find it?

Stay tuned.

Posted by tbrown at 01:30 PM


Speaking of contracts: Is Halliburton profiteering in Iraq?

The company – which, by the way, still pays its former CEO, Vice President Dick Cheney, more than $100,000 a year -- is charging U.S. taxpayers $2.64 a gallon to buy gasoline in Kuwait and truck it into Iraq for distribution. That’s more than twice what other distributors get. Halliburton whines that it’s expensive and dangerous to operate in Iraq. No doubt.

However, Phil Verleger, a California oil economist and president of a consulting firm, says: "I have never seen anything like this in my life. That's a monopoly premium — that's the only term to describe it. Every logistical firm or oil subsidiary in the United States and Europe would salivate to have that sort of contract." I guess it just pays to be a FOB (Friend of Bush).

The New York Times has the documents and the story (free registration required).

Posted by tbrown at 01:26 PM


There’s good reading today

-- Joshua Marshall on how the race for the Democratic presidential nomination may play out following Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean.

It's likely, Marshall argues, that we’re probably looking at a two-man race: Dean vs. Wesley Clark. Some of the others are not toast yet. “But they're in the toaster. Snuggly.”

-- R.W. Apple on problems that Dean may face now that the insurgent outsider is the de facto front runner.

-- Billmon on how the sorry state of our domestic political discourse coupled with the forgotten lessons of Vietnam is opening the door to a possible victory by Islamic fanatics:

“Something at the core of the American spirit has been corrupted -- by wealth and power and the steady commercialization of just about everything. And we're a nation divided, more so than at any time since the Civil War, split into mutually hostile camps, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, casually cosmopolitan and reflexively, if not rabidly, nationalist. So the war on terrorism has become just another skirmish in the war between the cultures. And the causes and consequences of failures -- like 9/11 -- get swept under the rug by the party in power, while the party out of power is either silenced by its own ineffectuality, or simply tries to score points of its own in the endless PR game."

Sad – but we see it daily.

-- Seymour Hersh on how we’re adopting the failed Israeli policy of assassinating opposition leaders – with secret help from the Israelis.

“The only way we can win is to go unconventional," Hersh quotes one adviser to coalition forces as saying. "http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031215fa_factWe’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”

War crimes soon. Wonderful.

Posted by tbrown at 01:24 PM


How Ozzy Osbourne is different from Rush Limbaugh

Now for some important news. The prescription drug problems of rocker and TV star Ozzy Osbourne and radio talking head Rush Limbaugh have been much reported. Until now, though, no one has bothered to point out the differences. So here are some ways Ozzy and Rush are not alike:

-- Ozzy is not under investigation for felony drug offenses.

-- Ozzy is not whining that his problems are “politically inspired.”

-- Ozzy didn’t buy drugs illegally from his maid. (1)

-- Ozzy didn’t launder money. (1)

-- Ozzy had one doctor prescribing too many pills; Rush had several. (1)

-- Ozzy didn’t describe Jerry Garcia as “just one more dead doper.”

-- Ozzy never claimed he wasn’t a hypocrite.

-- Ozzy realized he had a drug problem.

-- Ozzy knows (or at least knew) the words to “Paranoid.” (2)

-- Ozzy may be big, fat and an idiot, but no one's ever called him that in a book title. (3)

-- Rush never snorted a line of red ants. (4)

-- Rush never bit off the head of a bat. At least as far as I know. (5)

Which one has better hair? Ozzy? Or Rush? You decide.

Have other comparisons? E-mail me at tbrown@seattltimes.com

(1) Attention dittoheads: Yes, I know these are allegations, not proved facts, as they relate to Rush.

(2) Hat tip to blogger Tom Bogg for this one.

(3) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague Mark Deichmiller.

(4) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague James Blethen.

(5) Hat tip to seattletimes.com colleague Joy Jernigan.

Posted by tbrown at 01:19 PM




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Dealing with allies the neocon way
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There’s good reading today
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