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03/17/2004 Archived Entry: ""

A bit of a break from cartoons for once. Here's a trio of fun sites that are so utterly unrelated to each other that I cannot come up with integrating comments beyond "Enjoy!" 1) The For Food site allows you to customize text on a sign being held up by a homeless man by using periods for spaces, as long as the text always ends in forfood.org. E.g.: You can make the sign read Will Kiss Andrea Dworkin for Food. 2) The Top 11 Reasons to outsource IT to Mars; and, 3) for your audio pleasure, here's a link to some of the best songs from Marx Brothers' movies. I especially recommend "These are the Laws of My Administration" from Duck Soup, performed by...Groucho, of course!

Yesterday I mentioned a "glut" of silence from the White House regarding Spain's announced intention to withdraw its troop from Iraq by the end of June if military operations there were not placed under UN command. The silence has ended.

Predictably, the Bush administration proclaims that "Spain would be sending out a `terrible message' if it let terrorists influence its policies." First, terrorists have profoundly influenced policies in Spain, in America and worldwide. The question is merely, "in what way will that influence be manifested?" The Bush people prefer the reactive path they've taken to the path chosen by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Second, by an overwhelming majority, the Spanish people want their soldiers out of Iraq; they never wanted to become part of the occupation in the first place. Why should Zapatero be so influenced by terrorists that he dismisses the clear and collective voice of the Spaniards who just elected him? Some leaders take the idea of representing "the people" seriously. Third, the implication is that Zapatero should show machismo and say "Damn the will of the people! Let's kick some sandy Butt!" This may well reflect Bush's own attitude. For the rest of the world, however, machismo resides in standing up to the current foreign policy juggernaut of the United States. Zapatero is actually displaying maraca-sized balls. Fourth, Zapatero is a raging socialist, who heads a nation that has some familiarity with colonialism. To him - and it is a fair analysis -- the occupation of Iraq is nothing more than 21st century colonialism driven by oil and Haliburtonian cronyism. He thinks it is morally wrong. Why should he grant terrorists so much influence that he does what is wrong instead of what is right?

I could run on...but the most interesting aspect of The White House's announcement was the hint that it might propose a fresh resolution on Iraq to the United Nations, thus answering one of Zapatero's major demands. (Hmmm...would the US be sending out a `terrible message' if it let a dissenting foreign leader influence its policies?) Officially, the Bush people are maintaining their SOP bluster with General Sanchez -- the top US general in Iraq - declaring that the lack of the 1,300 Spanish troops would not hurt the coalition. He's right: if you consider the coalition to be solely defined as the physical occupying forces in Iraq, then the absence of Spaniards will not be noticed. If you consider the coalition to consist even partially of international support and goodwill, then Spain's withdrawal could be devastating. Why else is Bush rushing to prop up support from others within the coalition. The New York Times reports, "With the prime minister of the Netherlands beside him, President Bush said today that it was essential that Dutch troops remain in Iraq, both to ensure peace there and to press the campaign against terrorism....Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was cautious in his remarks, about troop commitments and other issues."

An open question: "how angry is the UN at the US?" The answer is important because the level of hostility will impact how co-operative and generous the UN is during negotiations on a new resolution. (And, whatever The White House says, negotiations are underway right now. Bush will not go to the UN without reason to believe he will not be coldly rejected and internationally/domestically embarrassed.) Around the globe, public regard for the US seems to be at low tide. But I do not know if this is an indication of how the UN would respond to Bush. The UN is a political body of non-elected elitists.. Even Tony Blair - who has the corrective feedback mechanism of popular elections - has flaunted the will of those he "represents." It is not clear that the UN will reflect global opinion as opposed to its own perceived interests. The UN has been pushing Bush hard on a number of non-Iraq issues, such as US support for its campaigns on AIDS and "women's reproductive health." Some interesting backroom deals may be on the horizon.

Best to all, and more later,

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