Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Tuesday, March 12, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Weapons of mass distraction

French Intellectuals to be Deployed in Afghanistan

The ground war in Afghanistan hotted up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taleban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

[via nettime]

What's happening

Now Here's What's Happening in Your World (Even As We Speak): McKenzie Wark on the history of art and culture in Australia.

On the great blue-black ball of the planet, with Antarctica its icy pupil, the Australian landmass is a mote in the eye. Space is the thing. Australian culture is a problem of space. Finding a place in space -- that perhaps is the great Australian desire -- and anxiety.

For starters, Australia is very big. About two-thirds the size of the continental United States. But it has only about as many people in it as the state of Illinois. It is a bit like a very big Illinois --with an army and a navy.

It is also a very, very long way from most other places that speak English. England, which some old folks still call the 'mother country', is about 20 hours from Sydney. New York, which many younger Australian types think of as the capital of the English speaking world, is also about 20 hours away.

Since it appears this is a temporary site, the essay can also be read from the nettime archives. [via nettime]

20 years after TRON

TRON: 20 Years Later and Still Unbelievably Weird

Almost two years in the making, Walt Disney's Tron (1982) was a bona fide media event, complete with Disney's usual array of commemorative posters, lunch boxes, action figures, T-shirts, and a promise that you would be transported to a world unlike any you'd ever seen.

The difference this time around was that the promise was true-- Tron WAS different. The only problem was that nobody seemed to care. Tron jumped out of the gate and landed with a thud. For the first time, Disney found themselves on the difficult "avant-guard" side of the coin as they watched Steven Spielberg's cuddly, Disney-esque E.T. The Extra Terrestrial rake in the money. Even Tron's hope for Oscar vindication was denied when the confused Academy said that Tron "cheated" by using computers to achieve their special effects. It was only years later that the film began to attain cult status, with young people asking each other, "Remember Tron? Wasn't that COOL?"

Thomas links

This set of examples of how to link to a Thomas document should prove quite useful, since the URLs returned from many of their searches are transient. [via Boing Boing]

NPR reactions

Clumsy: on the timing of the Nuclear Posture Review leak.

Is it really a coincidence that a Pentagon document passed to the U.S. Congress in January is just now attracting so much attention? The question being raised again is as old as the atomic bomb itself. Are nuclear weapons only deterrents, in other words, weapons with no meaningful military use? Or does the use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield have to remain an option if they are to remain a plausible deterrent?

It looks very much like political management and the deliberate development of a threat scenario that this question is being revived just when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is on a tour of Europe and the Persian Gulf states, while President George W. Bush himself is promising Americans -- and his allies in the battle against terrorism -- further information about how Washington proposes to destroy the "axis of evil" Mr. Bush described in his State of the Union address in January. Whether it is good political management is another question.

America as Nuclear Rogue

If another country were planning to develop a new nuclear weapon and contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, Washington would rightly label that nation a dangerous rogue state. Yet such is the course recommended to President Bush by a new Pentagon planning paper that became public last weekend. Mr. Bush needs to send that document back to its authors and ask for a new version less menacing to the security of future American generations.

Bush's six month speech

Bush marked the six-month mark past 9/11 with a speech highlighting some of the countries helping in Afghanistan and layout out the next phase. I don't think there's any real news here.

I have set a clear policy in the second stage of the war on terror: America encourages and expects governments everywhere to help remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and peace of the world. If governments need training, or resources to meet this commitment, America will help.

We are helping right now in the Philippines, where terrorists with links to al Qaeda are trying to seize the southern part of the country to establish a militant regime. They are oppressing local peoples, and have kidnapped both American and Filipino citizens. America has sent more than 500 troops to train Philippine forces. We stand with President Arroyo, who is courageously opposing the threat of terror.

In the Republic of Georgia, terrorists working closely with al Qaeda operate in the Pankisi Gorge near the Russian border. At President Shevardnadze's request, the United States is planning to send up to 150 military trainers to prepare Georgian soldiers to reestablish control in this lawless region. This temporary assistance serves the interests of both our countries.

In Yemen, we are working to avert the possibility of another Afghanistan. Many al Qaeda recruits come from near the Yemen-Saudi Arabian border, and al Qaeda may try to reconstitute itself in remote corners of that region. President Saleh has assured me that he is committed to confronting this danger. We will help Yemeni forces with both training and equipment to prevent that land from becoming a haven for terrorists.

In the current stage of the war, our coalition is opposing not a nation, but a network. Victory will come over time, as that network is patiently and steadily dismantled. This will require international cooperation on a number of fronts: diplomatic, financial and military. We will not send American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead. This mission will end when the work is finished -- when terror networks of global reach have been defeated. The havens and training camps of terror are a threat to our lives and to our way of life, and they will be destroyed.

At the same time, every nation in our coalition must take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale -- terror armed with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. America is now consulting with friends and allies about this greatest of dangers, and we're determined to confront it.

Here is what we already know: some states that sponsor terror are seeking or already possess weapons of mass destruction; terrorist groups are hungry for these weapons, and would use them without a hint of conscience. And we know that these weapons, in the hands of terrorists, would unleash blackmail and genocide and chaos.

These facts cannot be denied, and must be confronted. In preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, there is no margin for error, and no chance to learn from mistakes. Our coalition must act deliberately, but inaction is not an option. Men with no respect for life must never be allowed to control the ultimate instruments of death.

A couple of reactions so far:

Behind the warm words of President Bush lurk some dangerous thoughts

Tone counts for little, however, if the substance does not match. And beneath the more emollient language of Mr Bush lurked several worrying themes. One was the assumed desirability of US "help" for countries with their own terrorist - or insurgency - problems. Another was the startling pledge that: "We will not send American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead." Mr Bush has long had a tendency to see foreign countries as would-be Americas, suffering from American problems that are amenable only to American solutions. In six months, he has adjusted his view of the world a little, but not nearly far enough .

Coalition politics

This was hardly a recklessly "unilateralist" speech nor one that displayed an arrogance born of rapid success in ejecting the Taleban from power and pushing al-Qaeda deep into the mountains. It was in stark contrast to the hysterical coverage that a Defence Department study -- which the Administration is mandated by law to present to Congress -- has received since it was first leaked at the weekend. Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, dealt neatly with that document at his press conference alongside Tony Blair in Downing Street. He observed that America does not target nuclear weapons on a day-to-day basis against any nation at present. The notion of a plan for multiple pre-emptive missile strikes was, he noted dryly, therefore "a bit over the top".

The other Afghan problem

Afghanistan's Environmental Casualties

Amid the ongoing US-led campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, little has been said about Afghanistan's environment. That is a critical oversight, because the landlocked country of 25 million is facing a crippling environmental disaster, one greatly exacerbated by 23 years of war. At this point, another round of civil war could wipe out the country's forests as well as several endangered species.

"Losses of natural resources are beyond estimation," says Abdul Wajid Adil, of the Peshawar, Pakistan-based Society for Afghanistan's Viable Environment (SAVE). "Damage to the environment is second only to human loss."

Zimbabwe voting closes

Votes are being counted in Zimbabwe, with results expected tomorrow. The BBC is posting stories from voters.

March 2002
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley