of this weblog file:
This index is chronological (earliest is first), while the the postings are in reverse chronology (most recent is first).Weblog, 2004-08-14, Saturn's Day
Oil prices, trade deficits, interest rates, and inflation - facts and fictions (Link) revised.Weblog, 2004-08-15, Sun Day
Najaf & Fallujah Update
Prior postings on Najaf & Fallujah (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10)
Weblog, 2004-08-16, Moon Day
Weblog, 2004-09-04, Saturn's Day
Weblog, 2004-09-08, Wodin's Day
Are we better off because Saddam Hussein was captured?
Weblog, 2004-09-28, Tiw's Day
Weblog, 2004-09-29, Wodin's Day
Weblog, 2004-09-30, Thor's Day
Weblog, 2004-10-01, Freya's Day
Weblog, 2004-10-08, Freya's Day
Weblog, 2004-10-11, Moon Day
When will people catch on? Job Growth Slows
When will people catch on? In September the reported unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.4% At the same time Labor Secretary Elaine Chao . . . "told CNNfn that all the critics of the job market were actually contributing to the economy's problems." I imagine she was referring to reaction to the September report of new jobs, which came in at only 50 to 75 percent of the expected level - 96,000 jobs instead of 200,000. If job growth is so low we ordinarily expect that the growth in the labor market - about 158,000 per month - will exceed it, raising the unemployment rate.
This chart is from CNNmoney at http://money.cnn.com/2004/10/08/news/economy/jobless_september/index.htm
But during long periods of unemployment, workers become 'discouraged' or lose unemployment benefits because they have been unemployed too long. That actually decreases the reported unemployment rate! I have not found the official numbers for people dropped from the count of the unemployed in September - they may not be out yet. But apparently they are high enough to offset any difference between the growth in the labor force and the growth in the number of jobs.
As if that is not indicator enough, Rex Nutting at CBS MarketWatch notes that planned layoffs announced in September jumped 45%, to nearly 108,000. The year to year increase for September is 41%. While September through December is the heaviest layoff announcement season, the size of the year to year increase is jolting. Mr. Nutting quotes John Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger Grey & Christmas: "The return to six-figure job-cut levels paints a grim picture for ongoing economic growth, as such activity is generally considered a measure of how companies view future business conditions."
Since January, 2001, the labor force - excluding people dropped from the unemployment statistics - has increased about 5.5 million people. In the same period total employment has increased about 3.5 million. That would leave a "job gap" of 2 million jobs. Unemployment has increased from 5.9 m to 8.0 m - an increase of over 2 million persons counted as unemployed The potential workforce "not in the labor force" has increased by 7.5 million people in that time! One wonders why that many people have decided not to enter the job market, or left it.
That time period, January 2001 to September, 2004, is 45 months. If the average growth in the labor force were 158,000, then 7 million new jobs would have to be created to employ the new job seekers - compared to 5.5 actually created. The half a million or so extra people unemployed may result from an increase in "labor force participation" rates - the percentage of potential workers actually in the market for work - in that period.
But it is more likely a result of the estimates for growth of the labor force being greatly understated. With the percent participation increasing at the same time the number not participating is increasing by 7.5 million, the total potential labor force - participating and non participating - must have increased very significantly.
My conclusion is that the official statistics very significantly understate the difficulty that people have in finding jobs, and the extent to which this is forcing people out of the job market as it is measured by those statistics. Which might result in, and account for a large discrepancy between the "official reality presented by the statistics and the more direct, personal experiences and perceptions of the job market by real people.
The chart above shows that the hiring and economic growth last Spring that so panics the Fed was a "pop" and not a long run recovery. Greenspan's "soft spot" is in fact the dominant trend. And far from "critics of the job market actually contributing to the economy's problems", the official statistics are distorting the reality of the job market, leaving people wondering why, if things are so good, don't they see people around them able to get jobs. The economy, especially the job market, is not that good. It is downright depressed.
When will people catch on? This is starting to get ugly. Reading tells me that it takes 90 days, minimum, before the public achieves awareness of changes, shifts in the economy. So I don't expect what is happening to affect the election. Expecially since we are only seeing the initial stages of what looks like a major problem developing - which will show up starkly after the election.
Iraq Debacle: Tonight I expect Rove-Bush will be trying to persuade us yet again that the choice in Iraq is between 'stay the course' and 'cut and run'. That line seems to have sold well in Kansas - the idea that since we have invaded Iraq and are responsible for the consequences, we must buy into Bush's game plan accross the board. The alternative is foolishly viewed as to 'cut and run'. As good an example of bone headedness as is current these days.
I know of no one this side of a few loonies who advocate abandoning Iraq to civil strife, criminal violence, and would be theocratic dictators of the Fallwell, Robertson, Khomeini, Sadre stripe. That is not what is being offered as the alternative to Shrubbyist misdirection, lies and imcompetance at all. What is advocated is a policy and strategy, supported by clear, direct, and strong tactics on the ground, which abandons the overreaching grasping for power in the Arab MidEast of the Shrub and his henchmen, and instead is focused on achieving goals which have the support of the Iraqi people (other than Baathist and theocratic extremists).
The problem in Iraq may be so severe at this point as to have made creation of the pluralist, federal, democratic government there which was once envisioned by the Shia of Iraq, the Kurds, and many Sunni Iraqis unachievable at any acceptable cost. But we do not know that yet, and cannot yet assume it. We must still strive toward that goal.
But while doing so, we must recognize that that is not, nor ever has been, the goal of the Bush regime. That fact, the duplicitous nature of the Shrub and his minion - their goals, strategies, plans and tactics devised to achieve them - is not accicental. It is not happenstance resulting from bad intelligence, incompetance, or poor planning. It is the result of their devious character, their essential hatred of democracy and their utter lack of respect for the people they pretended to want to liberate.
The problem we face in Iraq is a product of the Shrub and his dispensationalist and neo conservative driven agenda. The solution being offered by Senator Kerry is not to 'cut and run', but to rather to recover whatcan be recovered from the disaster the power drunken Bush regime has created. We can do that by knowing, as Senator Kerry does, that the United States is strong enough, and has courage enough, to show respect to the rest of the world, and need not lie, cheat, bully, or pillage to prove our strength.
- People who cared, in any way at all, about the people they were liberating from a tyranny such as Saddam's would never have used them and their nation as an experiment in new methods of war, with no consideration of the consequences and aftermath.
- They would never have left the population of the nation at the mercy of members of a defeated, leaderless and anarchic army and militarized political apparatus.
- They would never have placed primary emphasis on the establishment of 14 new, permanent US military bases and the world's largest Embassy complex in the conquered nation, without regard to the effects of those actions on achievement of strategic goals for securing the acceptance and support of the people of that nation.
- They never would never have permitted the importation into a largely secular Islamic nation, impoverished by a decade of embargo, of methods and tactics of interrogation developed - at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan - to deal with AlQaeda terrorists who had attacked the United States directly.
- They would never have attempted to use that nation and its people as a "demonstration project" for perverse and novel experiments in social and economic engineering having no basis in or compatibility with Arab and Islamic sulture - experiments born in Europe of 19th century anti enlightenment proto fascist philosophies and were defeated there in the mid 20th century.
Once we make that truth the core of our policy and strategy, and demonstrate our commitment with bold tactical implementations on the ground in Iraq and in diplomacy with our allies, we will be able to secure much needed moral, financial and logistical support, and to regain the faith and friendship of the Iraqi's - as the vast majority of the people of the US so earnestly desire.
Mission Accomplished[NOT]: 2368 Iraqi attacks by Iraqi resistance in September are displayed by location and type of attack in this "Flash" presentation from Guardian Unlimited Special Reports. Run the mouse over the buttons below the text on the left, and the map displays the information.
Never believe for a second that the objectives of this war could not have been accomplished, at 1% of the cost, by U.N. inspections and the use of other means for deposing Saddam. We might still be involved in the process - but we are still involved in the process, and the way this outfit has managed things has endangered our lives and security immeasurably more than was necessary to our objectives.
The motivation for the choice of path taken is described plainly by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) as being to create a US hegemony, world-wide, and to restore the psychological willingness of the people of this country to engage in warfare against other countries. [March 12, 2003] [Perpetual War!] [Other LINKS]
The warpath itself is fixed by electoral politics, the desire to create a "war presidency" and elect Bush. The details of our Republic's stumbling down this road to medieval chaos have been determined by the political goals of Bush's NeoCon and Dispensationalist agents (Rove, Feith, Wolfowitz and company, Chicken Hawks all) and implemented by political deception and subversion of the processes of government - under the guidance of the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense..
When will people catch on?
Stocks Surge on Strong Economic Data ". . .economic data showed strength in manufacturing and construction." (A shift in the wind? Watch inventory levels, but this is hopeful.)
Russian Oil: "ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) won Wednesday's auction for a 7.6% stake in longtime Russian oil partner Lukoil. . . .the No. 2 world oil company, Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), has just 10% more in proven reserves (22 billion barrel equivalents) than Lukoil, but sells for $310 billion, or about 10 times Lukoil's market cap. Sounds like somebody got themselves a bargain on Russian oil yesterday." (Rich Smith at "The Motley Fool")
Putin's Russia is working hard to reassure the investment world that Russia is a safe place to put major money. The position is that the Yukos Flap is a one off event, resulting from a Yeltsin hangover on the part of Khodokorvski that required correction before a stable environment for investment in Russia could be established. The Yukos flap is is reported as having resulted in the flight of more than $5 billion in North Atlantic capital from Russia since May, and a dramatic decline in the value of shares in the nascent Russian stock markets.
Other quick steps toward the rehabilitation of the Russian investment climate:
- Finding a way to remove a 20% limit on foreign ownership of the gas giant, Gazprom, by exchanging Gazprom shares for the government owned oil company, Rosneft.
- Announcing plans for government divestment of its share of the Magnetogorsk Iron and Steel Works - this one complete with consulting advice from Rudy Giuliani, by golly!
- Reorganization of OAO "Mosenergo" the energy combine, to split generation from distribution facilities - hopefully to strengthen both energy markets and regularize the ownership of energy companies.
When will people catch on?
economic data showed strength in manufacturing and construction.
Consumer Spending Flat, Jobless Claims Up
Consumer Spending Remains Flat in August
Economy Grows at Weakest Rate in Over Year (AP)
Oil supplies are finite. But finite does not mean gone. For instance, we have just doubled Western Siberia's probable reserves, to 200 billion barrels. Though proven reserves under SPE rules are still only 66 billion barrels, with changes in technology improving recovery rates it appears the region could produce 10 million barrels a day for 50 years and more. For perspective, Russia this year is so far the worlds largest producer, at 9.1 million barrels per day. Six of that from Western Siberia. [Moscow Times]
That's Western Siberia. We have yet to fully characterize Eastern Siberia, except to know there is one heck of a lot of natural gas there. Caspian, schmaspian. Siberia, the new Texas. Now wonder George and his cronies are nervous. Better get their hooks into it before the natives get some benefit, eh? But how? Maybe an occupied North Korea would come in handy for that project.
So while the boys are playing around in Iraq and waiting for the trans Caucasus pipeline to carry Kazakh and Azeri oil to the Black Sea, Kazakhstan and China have begun work on a trans Altai pipeline. It's not inconceivable that Turkmen, Uzbeck, Azeri, and Kazakh oil all could flow East to the Pacific, instead of to Europe and the Atlantic.
Iraq: This does not quite qualify as news - not new news anyway - but it's another nail in the coffin of any pretense to sanity by the Shrubbyists:
"While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.
People at the CIA "are mad at the policy in Iraq because it's a disaster, and they're digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper," said one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."
"Things are definitely not improving," said one U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq.
"It is getting worse," agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. "It just seems there is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago."
When will people catch on?
At this point it is impossible to say whether the primary Shrubbyist intention in starting the war on Iraq was
U.S. leading indicators off 0.3% in August By Greg Robb
WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- The U.S. index of leading economic indicators fell 0.3 percent in August, the Conference Board said Thursday. This is the third straight monthly decline, the longest string since early 2003. The fall was slightly larger than the consensus forecast of Wall Street economists, who had expected a 0.2 percent fall. The coincident index rose 0.2 percent, while the lagging index fell 0.1 percent.
Details can be had [HERE]
Initial claims for unemployement are up also (week of Aug 21; half due to hurricanes). [HERE] & [NYTimes]
U.S. existing-home sales down 2.7% in August
U.S. durable-goods orders fall 0.5% in August
Oil surges $3.29 in week, ends at record high (August 24)
Crude oil trades at new all-time high in N.Y. (August 27)
U.S. new-home sales jump 9.4% in August Hey! The median price of a new home sold in August fell from $214,400 to $208,900, the lowest in eight months. The median price has increased 9.7 percent in the past year. I guess that's good news - for some folks.
Crude tops $50 for first time ever in N.Y. (August 27)
Consumer Confidence Dips on Job Worries
Crude closes under $50, but still at a fresh record (August 28)
Although oil is at an all-time high, prices are not at record levels when inflation is taken into account. Adjusting for inflation, today's prices are still more than $30 below the level reached in 1981 after the Iranian revolution. (Wall Street Journal)The Forbes 400 includes a record 313 billionaires. [HERE]
All three have happened - and they are having a hard time keeping a straight face in public, they are enjoying it so much.
- to distract US voters from the real issues of terrorism and domestic policies, for domestic political gain, or
- to gain access to Iraqi oil and shut out Iraq's long term, traditional trading partners, or
- to cut off the supply of Iraqi oil and increase the value of the oil companies which they control.
The extent of the problems, with both Iraq and the economy, will not be clear until after the election - but I'd second the statement by one Wall Street analyst that Mr. Greenspan has it backwards when he refers to a "soft patch" - there was a hard patch last Spring, but the softness in the economy we have seen since then is no patch, it is a long road.
The Internet Bubble:
Remember the internet bubble? It was a term for a brief time of inflated expectations of growth in internet related companies, which was reflected in their valuation by the stock market, and more seriously by their capital expenditures. The latter both created a credit crunch and pulled money out of other sectors of the economy. Some writers have failed to distinguish, or even confused the internet bubble with the Clinton Boom. They are not only different, they are antithetical, and the internet bubble's cannibalization of capital, coupled with the Greenspan Federal Reserve's panicked raising of interest rates were responsible for the end of the boom. Had it not been for Greenspan's over reaction, we might have escaped much of the pain of the disinflation of the bubble.
Here is a picture of the bubble, a 10 year chart, which I find rather instructive. The green 'iix' line for the Internet Index shows the bubble itself, and the effects of the bubble on the larger economyare illustrated by the other lines on the chart, expecially the red Agco 'AG' line. This chart does not include a broad index, such as the S&P 500, because those indexes were themselves distorted by the bubble, and because the website I used to make the chart only allows the use of one index at a time. If you chart the S&P 500 and Deere 'DE' on this site, you will see that Deere has been a good stand in for the index over the last 10 years. The chart is [HERE] but you may have to register to see and play with it.
With a little imagination, you can visualize the immense misallocation of capital which is represented by the area under that green line, and the loss of value represented by the collapse of the bubble. And consider that Enron, an energy company, and Worldcom, a communicatins company, are not even included there.
It would be good to construct an index of all the companies which were a part of the Enron/Worldcom/etc. generation, whose employes and shareholders have lost everything and who have executives under criminal indictment or civil action. It might even more effectively illustrate how much productive capital was diverted and destroyed by their activities.
But even more relevant today would be an index showing the capitalization of the war on Iraq, and the resources being destroyed in that pathetic exercise in deceipt, manipulation, and hubris. It really could have been done right, you know. At possibly 1/100 of the cost. And with less damage to our own security, as is clear to all now that Cheney & company's lies are totally exposed.
The United States destroyed the Soviet Union by drawing it into an arms race which it could not afford, draining its economy and depriving its people until the system could no longer maintain itself. Now, a generation of manhood challenged Chicken Hawk neocons and religious throwbacks has driven US into a mega arms race against a movement of impoverished suicides, for the sake of their dreams of Armageddon and a restoration of a simple world in which their silly posturing is accepted as manly. And somehow half of our nation seems to believe in, to be willing to accept, this phantasmagorical spasm.
It is very strange, and very difficult to imagine a positive outcome.
Late last year, Governor Dean took flak for indicating he had some doubt about whether Saddam's capture meant we were "better off" in some way. His sense was that whatever the virtues of having the bird in hand might be, it would not likely make a positive difference in the progress of the war on Iraq. I think the statistics since then have vindicated him, and should shame his critics:
Yesterday, September 7, 2004, was an inflection day for the Iraq War -- an identical period before Saddam Hussein was captured and after he was captured.
There were a total of 269 days from the war's start date of March 19, 2003, and Hussein's capture on December 13, 2003; there were 269 days since to the day of September 7, 2004.The question, of course, is: Are we better off because Saddam Hussein was captured, as GWB would have you believe?For comparative purposes:Before capture: 459 American fatalities (1.71 per day)After capture: 539 American fatalities (2.00 per day
From Don Jones in Wisconsin, via Carl Jensen
We have now suffered 1000 deaths in this war. Without implying that removing Saddam, in a carefully planned and measured fashion, would not have been a good thing it is fair to ask some questions.
Someday, Iraq will be a better place because Saadam is gone - if what eventually replaces him is not worse. The point is not that he should not have been removed. The point is that he could have been removed by other means, with adequate planning and the support and cooperation of the international community. If that course had been followed, instesd of the Shrubbyist's unilateral war of agression, the United States would be saver, not less safe. We would not have lost 1,000 dead and thousands maimed by war. The Iraqi people would be better off, and achieve a stable, democratic, pluralistic, federal form of government sooner.
- Is the US safer from terrorist attacks because of the Shrubbyist attack in Iraq? No, the US is in more danger because of this ill advised, poorly planned, politically motivated, and disastrously executed (except for the invasion campaign itself) attack.
- Are the Iraqi people safer from violent death, sicness, starvation and deprivation than before the attack? No, not yet. The Iraqi educated and middle class has been systematically decimated by assassinations and communitarian violence since we entered Iraq. The Shrubbyists have killed more Iraqi's than would have died under Saddam's brutal regime. The US has tortured fewer, most likely, and tortured less violently with fewer fatalities among the tortured - the Shrubbyists would have us believe that is a positive mark on the ledger of their criminal record. Food, medicine, health care, potable water, and electricity are no more accessible than under Sadaam.
For unconscienable, political motives, the Shrubbists have plunged the United States into a war which leaves it less safe, its government distrusted and detested across most of the world, its budget disastrously out of balance, and the people it was supposedly liberating learning very quickly to hate us as they hated Saadam, and as the Shrubbists always secretly felt they hated us. Not for liberating them, but for killing them. Not for our freedoms, but for our arrogance, racism, and religious intolerance and insensitivity.
The people in the Defense Department and White House who are responsible for this are just short of, if they are short of, treasonous in their disregard for the values of the American Republic, and for the normal, orderly, lawful processes of governance which we have created to guarantee those values. They must be removed from power, their regime must go, their agression cannot be permitted to continue.
Terrorism's next attack - a likely methodology
Or: "Is the new (fill in your choice) a ticking bomb?"
From reports on the North Ossetian school hostage taking and bombing the week of 29 August:
"Andreyev said Saturday that investigators were looking into whether militants had smuggled the explosives and weapons into the school and hidden them during a renovation this summer."From reports of the assassination of the Chechnyan government in May, 2004:
A landmine, planted in the Dinamo stadium during construction, exploded. Among the dead - Chechnya's President Akhmad Kadyrov, who'd been the target of previous assassination attempts.Unless authorities in charge of outside contractors' work at public places take full and agressive responsibility for security oversight of the contreactors and their workers, we will see more such time delayed terrorist attacks.
The blast left a gaping hole in the centre of the stadium stands where Kadyrov and Russia's top general in Chechnya had been standing. Col.-Gen. Valery Baranov, was badly wounded. It's reported he lost one of his legs in the explosion. . . . Investigators say the bomb appears to have been cemented right into the stadium which underwent renovations recently. The police suspect one or more of the construction workers may have planted the bomb months ago.
This method has been employed in Chechnya and North Ossetia within the last 12 months. It is probably not new as an AlQaeda tactic, and may have been deployed and executed prematurely there by the AlQaeda trained terrorist diaspora. It may already have been adopted, and put in place for future use by the US's home grown rightist terrorists.
My recommendation: do not attend events at public venues which have employed outside contractors with access to areas which are nominally secure (structurally inaccessible, such as utility closets, HVAC conduits, resodding, landscaping, foundation work, walls, roofs, etc., and procedurally secure, such as kitchens, administrative areas, loading docks, utility closets, HVAC control rooms) unless and until the DOHS, FBI, or equivalent authorities have certified the work done by the contractors as free of security risk. This kind of work, done without supervision by security agencies, is inherently subject to high security risks, and venues subject to this risk must be either certified as secure or avoided.
In the US, likely targets (as in the case of the Anthrax terrorism) will be public officials, organizations, and news media viewed as liberal by the axis of nativist fascist and racist terrorist groups including the Aryan Nations, the Klan, and violent anti-Abortion groups. The Aryan Nation inspired bombings in Oklahoma City, and the Atlanta and Birmingham bombings by Eric Rudolph, suggest the range of targets, their motives, and their origin in the US.
Another Sadr heard from: This from a must read Washington Post report on Sunday and Monday activities at the political conference of more than 1,100 Iraqis which has been convened to select a national assembly:
On Monday, the conference took the next step, sending a delegation to Sadr insisting that he transform his militia into a political organization and vacate the shrine. The conference authorized the delegation to invite Sadr to join the political process and to give him safe passage out of Najaf to do so.
Hussein Mohammed Hadi Sadr, a Shiite cleric and a distant relative of Moqtada Sadr, read to the conference a communique prepared for delivery to the rebellious cleric.
Calling mediation a "holy mission," the communique urged Sadr to "respond to the urgent national request to change the Mahdi Army into a legitimate political entity . . . and to give the holy shrine of Najaf to the Iraqi people with the assurance of non-judicial pursuit of all those who withdraw from there."
No "advanced country should allow armed militias to be roaming in it," Hussein Mohammed Hadi Sadr told the conference, stating the "principles" behind the mission. He was interrupted eight times by applause and received a standing ovation at the conclusion.
The Al-Sadr family is large and has a long history in Iraqi politics. It descends from the Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet, husband of his daughter Fatima, father of Hassan and Hussein and the second person ever to embrace Islam. (The term Shia or Shi'ite derives from a shortening of Shiat Ali or partisans of Ali.) Al-Sadr family members from recent Iraqi history include:
- Sayed Mohammed Al-Sadr was prime minister of Iraq in 1948 and served in the Iraqi senate until his death in 1954.
- Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr's uncle, was a conservative Grand Ayatollah who supported the theocratic form of government imposed by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, and was executed by Saadam Hussein in 1980.
- Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr's father, was murdered by Saadam's government in 1999. The Sadr City portion of Baghdad is named so in his honor.
Muqtada's al Sadr's spiritual guide and the source of his authority is a protege of Baqir al-Sadr, Grand Ayatollah Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, who lives in the city of Qum, in Iran, and who has said that Muqtada"is our deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs," or religious matters. According to the Post article "there is little doubt that it is Ayatollah Haeri who decides what position Mr. Sadr should take regarding the United States troops and the interim Iraqi government they are supporting."Weblog, 2004-08-15, Sun Day
In sharp contrast, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is Iranian but has lived in Najaf for many years. He may be the most influential of living Grand Ayatollahs in Iraq, and does not share the activist, theocratic views of the current rulers of Iran, or of Ayatollah al-Haeri and Muqtada's father and uncle. Grand Ayatollah Sistani "was a student of Grand Ayatollah Abu Gharib al-Qassim al-Khoei, whose son, Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei, was killed outside the Imam Ali mosque by a mob of Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters in April 2003." (Sources: 1, 2,)
In other developments, oil prices have fallen and stocks risen today, after Hugo Chavez won the recall referendum in Venezuela, and fear of civil strife and instability there which was expected if the recall had suceeded began to subside. Hmmmm. I wonder what the probability of a Chavez win would have been, had the US elections not been so near, and the price of oil and the condition of the US stock market and economy not been such juicy campaign issues.
Among other things, the news is full of the Sadr militia's takeover of the Holy City of Najaf (apparently influenced by a cadre of 'foreign' agents, possibly Iranian). I am relieved that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has left Najaf, for health reasons, during this siezure. The press has given extensive, though misdirected, coverage to the mental, strategic, and tactical confusion of the interim Iraqi government and the US military in dealing with the takeover. Judging from their reports, the people in charge have lost their way. (Which may account for today's order ejecting the press from the city.)
Here's the deal, as outlined at length in my postings here March 11 through May8. (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10) Investiture of the city of Fallujah is necessary, due to the presence there of foreign agents provocateur. But US incursions must be selective, targeted, and supported by Iraqi intelligence and command structure organizations. So far, that model has been adopted and used in Fallujah, and appears to be applied to other cities, such as Samarra, as well. That is a good thing.
Repeating myself, it has always been and is still clear that US forces should steer clear of the hearts of the Holy Cities in Najaf and Karbala, and make it very, very clear to the Shia and all Iraqi's that Sadr, long term, is a danger to them, their lives, and their nation, and that they must take responsibility for dealing with him. The recent involvement of US forces in direct actions against Sadr's militia does not conform to that rule, and approaches, if it does not attain the status of a strategic disaster.
Tactically, the ancient cemetary, with its rabbit's warren of nooks, crannies, and passages, is no longer a haven for the militia. The militia lost 400 or so troops, and have been largely forced back into the old, and most sacred part of the city. Was that tactical gain worth the strategic loss? The Shia uprisings precipitated by US military presence in Najaf have done more than shut down oil pipelines and some production in the South, they have once again, as last spring, raised the possibility of an otherwise almost impossible to imagine alliance of the worst of Shia theocratic radicals with Sunni Saadamists and AlQaeda sympathizers.
Last spring the US had the good sense to accept a truce in Najaf rather than be suckered into military action there. Last week, somebody really screwed up, and they should be disciplined for it, by letting the US become identified with the military action there. If US forces were attacked while relieving a police station, they should have repelled the attack, relieved the police station, secured the area, and stood down - until the situation could be dealt with by Iraqi troops.
Finally, Saturday and Sunday, responsibility for the situation in Najaf has been returned to Iraq and its own forces. I hope it is not too late, or the action too identified with US allied Sunni influences in the interim government, to allay the concerns of Iraqi Shia. They are the largest group in the country, long oppressed by coalitions of foreigners and the Sunni minority. They will not accept outside political control again easily, and disrespect of their heritage and cultural centers will not help in building a stable and pluralistic democracy in Iraq.
This week one thousand representatives of Iraq's communities are meeting to select 100 members of an interim national assembly which is to have nominal responsibility for oversight of the interim Iraqi government. Already charges have been laid by some Shia and Sunni clerics that the proceedings are corrupted by deals which will deprive most Iraqis of influence, and enthrone the US selected group around the interim government. The outcome of the conference, and the acceptability to the Shia and other parts of Iraqi society of the new assembly will be critical to future progress. If the new government is acceptable, then the consequences of moving against Sadr and his militia may be favorable.
As has been clear from the beginning, Sadr, long term, is a danger to everyone in the country except the most extreme theocratic fundamentalists. That danger extends to other Shia clerics - he is already a wanted man for the murder of one of them. In power he would be much worse than Sadaam, not only to the US because of his alliance with the worst of fundamentalists in Iran, but because of the institution of theocratic rabble driven communitarian violence against the best part of Iraqi society. His removal from the picture as leader of an armed military faction is essential to any kind of civilized society in Iraq.
The problem is that, in Iraq today, US involvement in and identification with military action in the holiest cities of Shia Islam is utterly self defeating and must be forbidden, no matter what the supposed goal may be. If that is too damned "sensitive" an approach to suit the Black Vulture of Wyoming, Cheney, he can take it and do with it what Theresa Heinz Kerry might advise.
Oil prices, trade deficits, interest rates, and inflation - facts and fictions (Link) revised and reposted.
The "West Wing" Scenario: The Language of Politics and the 2004 Campaign (Link) reposted.
of prior weblog file:
This index is chronological (earliest is first), while the the postings are in reverse chronology (most recent is first).Weblog, 2004-04-20, Tiw's Day
Challenge: Minimizing Win XP for security and speed.Weblog, 2004-04-21, Wodin's Day
Weblog, 2004-04-24, Saturn's Day
Fallujah - The Iron Wall SyndromeWeblog, 2004-04-30, Freya's Day
Alarm growing over bot softwareWeblog, 2004-05-01, Saturn's Day
Fallujah Command ChaosWeblog, 2004-05-04, Tiw's Day
Fundamentalism - "The battle for God" (aka "the dustup over God") by Karen ArmstrongWeblog, 2004-05-13, Wodin's Day
Fundamentalism - The "dispensational" view of historyWeblog, 2004-05-18, Tiw's Day
Challenging Christian Zionism - from SojournersPermanent and Draft Materials
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