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Monday, June 03, 2002


Where's it all going to end, I ask of Lileks's impossibly hypocritical gym buddy. In linking to a "fantastic column" by Peter Hitchens's brother. Hitchens the Elder closes that column by referencing "a ridiculous recent book titled The Clash of Fundamentalisms" in which author "Tariq Ali begins by saying that 'there exists no exact, incontrovertible evidence about who ordered the hits on New York and Washington,' and then goes on to state, exactly and incontrovertibly enough, that with these hits, 'the subjects of the Empire had struck back.' Wrong. Wrong twice. As wrong as could be. These attacks came from the servants and satraps of the Empire, and the Empire's managers are culpable for a little bit more than their failure to foresee them." Putting aside the fact that Hitchens here states some of the very same things he so loudly took the "Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein quarter" to task for last autumn when he was of the belief that "murder was their only motive," you can say what you will about or against Hitchens (his simian appearance and fondess for rain coats more often seen on exhibitionists and child molesters, his numerous attempts at drinking dry well-stocked taverns, etc.), but the man's appetite for work must be acknoledged as colossal, and any opinion he puts forward, no matter how contentious, is thoroughly informed. Sadly, this cannot be said for his barebacking compatriot.

The Hitchens piece that enthuses Sullivan the Magnificent (in his own self-conception, anyway) so merely points out the venality and incompetence of two of our nominal allies, as well as our leadership's refusal to acknowledge the same publicly. And what does Sully take away from it? He asks the crazily worded question, "Is there a consensus building that we cannot win the war on terror until we have secured regime change in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?" and then to proceeds to answer it in the affirmative: "Not before Iraq, but surely after." I'm sure many Pakistanis and Saudis are thirsting for a regime change in their respective lands, though I doubt they would endorse the means Sully has in mind to effect it. His appetite for war rival's Hitchens's for work.

Musharraf may not be the wunderkind that you'd like him to be, Andy, but you seem to have an understanding of his Pakistan that is tending toward nil. In being refashioned as a marionette in The War Against Terror, Musharraf had to unceremoniously betray the extreme Islamist element, which we ourselves supported when convenient to our heroic war on global communism. The Islamists are now resentful in the extreme and Musharraf is reduced insane games of appearance management to demonstrate his (actually non-existent) independence. You may certainly get your regime change, Sully, and it might come at the expense of several hundred thousand Pakistanis - which probably wouldn't trouble you all that much. And with regard to Saudi Arabia, only fringe loons have advocated war (what Sullivan means by his "regime change" euphemism) against the land of Mecca and Medina, though after Sharon's siege of the Church of the Nativity, the world seems more receptive to the idea of using someone else's holy land as a war theater.

Sullivan would do good to acknowledge the complete and total failure of the war(s) to date. As the news trickles out (much like the urine trickles down James Lileks's pasty leg when he contemplates Saddam Hussein) that the violence perpetrated against America on September 11 was due to massive systemic failures in our own intelligence services, conscientious onlookers will be forced to conclude our brave President - focused on harvesting campaign dollars and abetting fraud down Houston way - is unable to protect his constituency from terror. At least as long as he keeps fighting the war with the limited and antiquated weaponry he insists upon.

The bombing in Afghanistan was successful in killing dozens of shepherds, many of whom, if pressed, would likely have voiced some sort of anti-American sentiment, thus justifying their slaughter. An undetermined number of civilians lie - blown apart, actually - dead. Bin Laden is nowhere in evidence. Ayman al-Zawahri similarly found non est when troops searched caves after first bombing the area. Nearly all the bigger names still unaccounted for, and the bulk of the foot soldiers dispersed into surrounding countries. Orange alerts, increased anxiety, and Bono assuring us of our righteousness during halftime back at home. Innumerable warbloggers knelt in reverence before a Daisy Cutter. Frenchmen insulting us with impunity. With such success in our present operations, Andy, why not expand this thing endlessly!

What is the biggest victory in The War Against Terror to date? Probably the thus far prevention of additional attacks, a victory most attributable to heightened awareness and better policing. Similarly, the biggest victory abroad was a police action on the part of the Pakistanis, the capture and capitulation of Abu Zubaydah, later named a Time person of the week for spilling the beans in so satisfactory a manner. Understandably, many here wanted a campaign of vengeance fought against someone; less understandably they simultaneously ridiculed lawful police actions abroad to mitigate the terrorist threat. The bombs that fell failed objectively, and the mundane and maligned police action triumphed. We won't bother waiting for an apology from Sullivan and his allied mimics, as that would presuppose a revelation on their part, namely that decreeing the slaughter of untold persons was ineffective and is likely to be ineffective in the future. They seem unlikely to achieve it any time soon.

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