Monday, August 20

War jumble

Just Life Happening
Finally, finally, Anthony Bourdain's documentary for the Travel Channel aired last night about his being stranded in Beirut, along with his film crew, during the Israeli bombings last summer.

There's just no way to describe the documentary without shorting it; so much was packed into the hour but it was also very simple: cook goes to Beirut to film show on restaurants, and ends up in the Royal Hotel watching Lebanon get bombed. Of course, not just any old cook; it's Bourdain and his sharp eyes.

One thing I'll mention; his surprising and moving tribute to the Marines who evacuated people from Beirut.

Also, disturbingly, Bourdain said that a flim clip of President Bush eating a buttered roll "while Tony Blair tried to get his attention" aired over and over again on Beirut TV during the bombings. I know the Lebanese felt abandoned and betrayed by the US but the anecdote brings the feelings home.

One caveat: A hip young Lebanese tells Bourdain, who knows nothing about the politics of the region, that Beirut residents have moved beyond sectarianism. Only in that young man's class.

But the documentary shows Christians and Muslims mourning together at the memorial shrine to Rafik Hariri.

Okay, one more: For those who know about Bourdain's role as an acid-tongued food critic, the footage of him happily scarfing tuna noodle casserole aboard the USS Nashville is priceless.

Now They Tell Us
CNN Friday report on the Iraq war -- a reporter explaining that al Qaeda had been dug into Diyala province "for years;" that they were operating very openly, and even had their own government.

Why weren't we hearing years ago about the extent of al Qaeda's presence in Iraq, when US commanders kept assuring Congress that they didn't need more troops? Sometimes I fear that trying to see through the fog of this war from a Washington vantage point is driving me mad.

Stop Eating your Buttered Roll, Mr Bush, and Act
The biggest complaint about Ayad Allawi is that he spends too much time in Jordan. If Allawi sees signs that the US government will get behind him, he'll spend less time in Jordan.
Lack of alternative means Maliki remains: [...] Iraqi politicians complain that they are not able to replace Maliki until the Americans signal their own opposition and identify a replacement. There is a strong sense among the Iraqi political class that it would be better to wait to see who could be the likely victor, then jump on board.

Qasim Dawood, a Shiite lawmaker, said the Americans' refusal to act was becoming increasingly frustrating as the political deadlock continued.

"From one side, they interfere in everything they want," he said. "Then on the other side, they say, 'Sorry, you are a sovereign country, you have to do it yourself.' "
A Great Team
"We don't hear as much about [US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker] as about Petraeus (although they seem to get along, and do PT together), but Crocker deserves the same amount of respect; together, the general and the ambassador seem, for the first time in this war, to have both the military and the political sides well in hand and closely integrated."
-- from Wes Morgan's account of his day making the rounds with General Petraeus in Iraq

How tragic that it took years to get cooperation between Defense and State in Iraq.

What Is This Man Saying?

Baghdad, Aug 18,(VOI)- Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani on Saturday said the Arab countries had showed no desire to establish diplomatic relations with Iraq. [...]

The Iraqi President also said, "Iraq has been making efforts to enhance relations with the Arab countries as we recognize the importance of such ties for Iraq. [...] He is a mistaken who thinks that Iraq is a weak country. We do not want to be involved in hostilities with the states anemically act towards us but we will not sit idle for good," Talabani added.

The Iraqi President noted that if problems with theses states were not settled through dialogue, they should know that "Iraq is a strong country and not weak as they miscalculate."

I wonder if it will occur to Mr Talabani that if you threaten your neighbors you can't expect them to invite you to their barbeques.

Thank You, President Sarkozy
French FM pays unannounced, highly symbolic visit to Baghdad
[Bernard Kouchner] The French foreign minister arrived in Baghdad on Sunday in a highly symbolic gesture to the United States effort in Iraq after years of icy relations over the American-led invasion. [...] Kouchner said he was not in Iraq to offer initiatives or proposals but to listen to ideas on how his country might help stop the devastating violence.

"Now we are turning the page. There is a new perspective. We want to talk about the future, democracy, integrity, sovereignty, reconciliation and stopping the killings. That's my deep aim," Kouchner said in English after meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari. [...]

He also gave a nod to calls to have the UN play a more active role in Iraq's future. "I believe that part of the solution, part of the beginning of the whispering of a drop of solution might be going through the UN system and we are ready for that," he said.

Asked at a news conference if France was now ready to help the Americans who are mired in Iraq, the top French diplomat demurred and said he was on a fact-finding mission.

"We are ready to be useful, but the solution is in the Iraqis' hands, not in French hands," he said, adding "I'm not frightened of the perspective of talking to the Americans." [...]

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