"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Long, Hot Summer

It's going to be a long, long hot summer.

Yesterday I attended a little talk/discussion about theater and war, hosted by my old teacher and friend Steve Wangh, luminary director Andre Gregory and the youthful and energetic Josh Fox of THAW (THeaters Against War). Energizing discussion, and it got me thinking about the long haul and the idea that events currently in motion could spark a movement that might even outlive this war. It also got me thinking about the importance of specifics.

If we're to have a successful peace movement -- which is a lot more than an anti-war movement -- we're going to have to start getting specific, articulating a persuasive and alternative vision for the future of the world. Shining in all this darkness are many gems of opportunity, seemingly still a real chance to spark some meaningful global community, developments for the better management of Spaceship Earth.

With the thinking of specifics comes some downer thoughts. War specifics. Depressing war specifics. If you're interested, here's the situation as I see it:

War is hell. The worst case scenarios are looking more and more like reality. We're fighting against a guerilla enemy in the territory we've "taken" and facing a real ugly seige situation in Baghdad. "Smash mouth football," as one Marine officer put it. Syria and Iran (and maybe even Russia) seem to be supporting and supplying the Iraqis. Ex-patriots, mujahadeen, terrorists and other irregulars are filtering back into the country to fight against us, and most of the "Arab street" is inflamed with both anti-US sentiment and pride that we're being so vociferously resisted.

Here's an unsettling thought: wars against enemies using guerilla tactics are un-winnable in any strategic sense. The only way to achieve a military victory is to have total annihilation of the non-combatant population, which is a huge looser in the bigger picture. The PNAC "we'll be welcomed as liberators" crew seem to be holding out hope that one Saddam is dead or otherwise neutralized (if we can find him and prove it), the resistance will collapse. For everyone's sake I hope it is true, but it doesn't seem to be very realistic strategic thinking. This conflict is quickly becoming about more than Saddam, whether we like it or not. I'd say "I told you so" if it wasn't such a complete tragedy.

There's a large battle shaping up South of Baghdad which could prove decisive. If our forces smash the Republican Guard and sweep through the city, there's a chance the momentum might just carry over and the war itself come to a blessedly quick conclusion. If we're repulsed, it's going to set the stage for a lengthy seige. In either case, at the end of formal hostilities there looms only the prospect of an increasingly ugly-looking period of occupation.

Let's face it: this war was a mistake. This became apparent in the first week of combat. It's obvious that the plan we are executing -- the strategic decision to invade/liberate/occupy/disarm Iraq -- was devised on faulty assumptions and put forth with dubious rationales. We are now stuck between the mother of all rocks and a very hard place. If we go forward and crush any resistance militarily we will decimate the Iraqi population, embitter world opinion against us, be forced into a lengthy and hostile occupation period (think the West Bank, but the size of California), sowing the seeds for a more robust wave of terrorists to attack America in future generations. If we withdraw, we will embolden future military resistance to our interests and may expose ourselves to more danger because enemies of America perceive us to be "on the run." We have no exit strategy, no endgame to angle for. We are on the loosing end of this deal.

It's about to get very hot in Iraq. Not just in terms of the fighting for Baghdad, but in terms of temperature as well. Militarily, it looks more and more like things are going to start bogging down. It took 10 days to take Umm Qasr, a port city of 45,000 far from the heart of Iraq and defended mostly by regular army and militia. How long will it take to seize Basra, a metropolis of more than 1,000,000, or Baghdad, with its sprawling suburbs and well-equipped Republican Guard defenders? Even if we gain control of the cities, what kind of resistance are we looking at having to suppress?

In all my thoughts of specifics, I can't even come up with one way we can get out of this without a lot of unpleasentless. Pandora's box is open, and it's going to take a lot of hard, thankless, sweaty, beastial work to close it again.

That work begins with more people trying to imagine how to bring the current conflict to a close. Do we try and make some more gains the better to parlay for a cease-fire? Do we back off and occupy just a portion of Iraq, proving out the model of a benevolent and temporary American dictatorship and then letting the rest of the country join of its own will? Do we walk away and go back to containment? Try and implement a "hug of death"? The situation is awful, but not impossible. 30 years later, Vietnam is a friendly place for Americans, so there's no need to be apolplectic, but these ideas need to be thought through. If we don't change the direction we're headed, we're liable to end up where we are going.

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NPR Interview

Well shoot! What a thing to wake up to. I was just on NPR. Come noon (9am PST) you can stream the audio. Even sounded half-way intelligent, to boot. The piece is about the blogs of war, and the reporter asked me about back-to-iraq.com. I'm near the end of the segment.

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Catching up on comments around the web on the war I'm demoralized by the state of the discourse. I foment more polemic as response. Blurt blurt blurt. Maybe it's time for me to back up and get some perspective. Here are three quick hits for the interested.



Hate to say I told you so...

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Shades of Gibson

Just saw this today on the BBCs reporter-blog:

The port of Umm Qasr is being de-mined by dolphins attached to cameras. Apparently they go down and see something suspicious, then come back and tell their handler there's something suspicious. He then gives them an explosive charge, they take it down, put it next to the suspicious object, come back, it blows up, and then they go down and look at it again!

It sounds implausible, but the Australians are using them, and everyone around here - including a very senior American commander - says it works. I hope to see it for myself when the Sir Galahad gets to Umm Qasr.

Shades of William Gibson and Jones, the smack-addicted navy-hardware-augmented dolphin in Johnny Mnemnonic. Conflict brings about all sorts of strange innovaion. Remember the remote-control rats? Once again the truth proves stranger than fiction.

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Albritton In Ankara

The correspondent I part-own has sent in his first dispatch from the field.

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Frank recently wrote me:

I knew I should have freaking printed it out! Ok, when I checked out the link earlier today there was a graphic depicting an outline of the United states that was filled in with the American flag. On the bottom of that graphic it said something like "This site has been hacked by the Clear Patriot (something something, it was like a five word patriotic sounding name)" And below that in big letters it said "God Bless Our Troops!" Scary. Really scary.

Josh, could you please explain to me what root is? Additionally, could you tell me what a "dos" attack is and/or put it on your site. I understand that it's important, I just don't know what it means.

Well, he wasn't seeing things. As per requested, here's a first draft of my explanation: information warfare for dummies. Please follow up with me on this anyone. What is unclear, what else do you want to know, what is good? Send me an email or post a comment.

Also, the Yellow Times (who contacted me in January for the purposes of having me re-publish some of their articles) have been shut down by their ISP for posting objectionable pictures, in particular the American POWs. This is just plain old pirivate-company censorship. This is the equivalent of a network refusing to run an ad; not an intrusive act of government but chilling nontheless.

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Coverage Redux

I was just phone-interviewed by a reporter from NPR doing a story about back-to-iraq.com, asking why I supported the site. Chris should be in Turkey by now, by the way. She said the piece would most likely be on all things considered tomorrow. I'm a little excited.

Also, Frank and I have been emailing about what's going on with aljzeera.net. Since I know I have a number of non-technical readers, I'll be posting a primer on internet hacking/information warfare shortly.

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Taking Action

Am I signaling my choice of tactics here? Today there is some pretty large civil disobedience going in Midtown, but I didn't go. Instead I threw $25 on the plastic towards Howard Dean. He's the Democratic candidate that appeals to me, and the main thing that they're worried about is being outspent in the primaries, so instead of blocking traffic I kicked his campaign some dough and told them I'd voulenteer. Dean's platform is pretty basic center/left -- health care, multilateral foreign policy, balanced budget -- but seeing him via CSPAN at the California Democratic Convention (you need broadband for this... Dean starts about the 24 minute mark) kind of turned me on. He concludes his speech with "I want my country back," which I've been saying quite a lot lately. It resonated.

Here's perhaps the most tragic solder's story I've yet seen. The whole thing about planning to move back home and get together with his childhood sweetheart really hits me in the heart. I'm afraid there will be a lot more of these in the coming weeks and months.

Last night I met up with the crew from The Quick Fix, which was really really a good feeling. It's more than three years since we started working together, and it had been more than four months since we'd last gathered as a group. We talked for about three hours about our lives and about the state of the world. While the project that originally brought us together has run its course, we still have a lot to say to one another. We're going to continue meeting to work for peace. More on that meeting later... it's a whole thing I want to write up.

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Ugly Business

Well, this is very bad news:

[The Marines] have new orders to treat Iraqi civilians, including women and children, as hostile until proven otherwise.

Best response I've heard is from the comments over on The Agonist: Who knew it might come to this? Pretty much everyone outside the White House, I think.

I haven't said it yet today, so here it is: these people have got to go. Team Bush needs to be benched. The current administration must not be allowed to steer the course of this nation for four more years.

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Outlandish Josh is Going Soft

As some of my friends have had the dubious honor of witnessing, I've been engaging in nausiatingly saccharine public behavior with this really lovely woman lately. Just to warn you, I don't think this is going to let up any time soon. She writes me this in an email, "i'm smiling like a kid who just got her first big wheel and am at the top of a big hill!" I dance a little jig in my living room. We're talking about artistic collaboration and traveling around together. Heady talk, unconscious and honest, the naggling bounds of doubt strain, snapping free as the protective armor of urbanity crashes useless to the floor. I'm becoming a softie.

Also, humor! The onion has done it again: Everyone. Must. Read. This. They really are america's finest news source.

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