Sunday, April 27, 2003

From Chingagook to 'Comical Ali' - A Giant leap for Stupidity!

Long before the advent of TV, computer games or the Internet, American cultural icons that we lapped up were Wild West comic books. Generations grew up reading them from cover to cover and this was a global cultural phenomenon before the word 'global' became fashionable. In retrospect I am nonetheless convinced that George W Bush Jr, will beat 'hands down' the worst of the villains of yore that these innocent thrillers conjured up in our imagination, and influenced our thoughts to love, adore, despise or HATE!

'Hate' then was a despicable connotation and one we used sparingly - yet what we have today is a self-afflicted full-blown pandemic of a worldwide media driven 'hate syndrome' and as yet we haven't quite figured out who the REAL villain is. No fault of the Wild West or the comic strips - or our children yet to find out? Bush the hero? 'Naw - who ya kiddin!'

Our intangible sixth sense - or 'sensory communicative extelligence' routinely sieves through the spectrum of our knowledge base driven by information overloads, and leads us on to infinite nuggets of radiance, that are strewn worldwide, is ideally 'world culture' as many a definition suggest. Its 'illuminative appreciation' - are what we had thought all along and rightly so - the way forward. More bridges were expected to be built than destroyed in mans relations in acculturative exercises.

The lofty ideals we inherited resulted in Chingagook becoming our flipside 'unwilling hero' then - as much as 'Comical Ali' is to our children today in on the Internet!

Lessons in Culture under "The New World Order"

What fine thought those - yet in their obsessive pathological megalomania it eludes the likes of Bush and Blair, who least of all have lost their faculty to 'reason', (their bullheaded myopia notwithstanding) - and ironically 'cultural inheritances' painfully inculcated over the years are what they are out to destroy systematically - once and for all? While war is no child's play - neither is an unjust and unfeeling war any more than a hypocritical and historical deceit of an infinite magnitude.

Therefore whoever it may have been that voted them to power, or whatever may be the reasons for their preeminence in the world arena today, man's history if written before or after the duo disappears from the face of the earth will not easily forgive them for the sin they have committed on fellow man - on mother earth, all in the name of that elusive word FREEDOM.

A 'regime change' in Washington or Britain seems well out of question at the moment, but the sheer arrogance the two men display is destined to elicit those that have voted them in - to someday question their conscience. I may be proven wrong and a case of 'every country deserves the leader they have' may be in order - so be it. However 'the world', if at all there is any such thing left - is yet to learn more lessons than one, and when injustice wins battle - but justice the war, mans destiny surely does not elude mankind, are fine lessons history tends to remind us. Lessons that may not be overlooked.

For now the so called 'civilized globalized world' is a firmly shut entity, and freedom is no more than a misnomer, no more than a perverse ability of a handful to determine and dictate 'conditions' to our freedom while espousing the skewered notions of 'unconditional freedom'. A freedom of the 'select few' -- to bludgeon everybody into willing submission to a grotesque status quo of 'perform as dictated or perish' - whether you like it or not. And we had thought all along that this would be such a peaceful millennium - how more wrong could we have been?

The new culture of 'global thinking' championed by this penultimate Hitleristic thug of a red necked semi educated and ignorant Texan 'global cowboy' and his suave Transatlantic 'shopkeeper sidekick' buddy - post Iraq, is cultural illiteracy of the worst kind, and one that seeks to wreck havoc to our collective aspirations for a beautiful tomorrow. Peace in the world has never been fraught with more risks than now - and to think of it - its two 'mere mortals' with their agenda for a Free Masonic 'New World Order' against all of us in the FREE WORLD - and we cant do a damn thing about it

Whatever positive American or Western cultural connotations might have been upheld by us for well over two centuries, have taken a steep nose dive, and try as we may, the 'value system' of this so-called 'democratic free and secular world' we grew up in and thought inherited - is no longer what it used to be. Deviants far deadlier than Damocles sword hang on the horizon to chop our heads off - to decapitate?

The world's only superpower has thus been reduced to the world's preeminent cultural annihilator. What we are witnessing today in Iraq are roll backs to the British grand art of loot, thievery and plunder that saw the Peacock throne of India among other treasures, in museums in London. This time around, booties from Iraq surely will find its 'honorable' place at U.S Museums to Historical Stupidity - but for how long will anybody cherish these artifacts are a wild guess. Not to forget the limitless booty in 'black gold' meant to power our eco-unfriendly gas-guzzlers.

Freedom: 'Uprisings' and 'Precision Loot'?

On the looting in Baghdad, which the 'right Honorable Gentlemen's' in the House of Common 'quite rightly' stated were 'actions of a people to retake wealth - that were initially stolen by Saddam Hussein' to Rumsfeld's 'expression of freedom by the Iraqi people ' or the exasperating: 'things happen after a war' - we are starkly reminded of 'freedom' in Afghanistan last year where loot and plunder was not within the purview of the generous 'freedom' on offer.

In Baghdad the apparently powerful and brave American's could do anything and everything - from the air, from the ground, from within and without -- but stop the looting and restore power and water supplies.

All said and done this inaction's appears to have stemmed from a secret agenda of organized anarchy and mayhem with blessings from warlords. Allowing civilians to loot was mere eyewash - in reality the systematic and selective sack of the Baghdad museum was then ongoing as the precinct housed the earliest relics of MANKIND - not necessarily that of Iraq - its value as yet incalculable. Somebody out there has quite sinisterly decided to tamper and desecrate MANS cumulative inheritance - and for whatever purpose, I am not convinced that profit mongering was the issue.

There were things much more dark and dangerous in these 'precision loot' than meets the eye, because among other cultural targets attacked and defiled and were yet under reported by the media was the Baghdad Philharmonic Orchestra. Not only the equipment's and instrument were destroyed - despite pleading from musicians, notations and scores from centuries were systematically burnt.

The unknown and uncharted strength of 'Iraqi culture' and social order was in foreplay for despite Rumsfeld incitement to the Shiite community for an 'uprising' rang out -- we saw not one instance of condemnation, warning or reprimand to looters from leaders of the 'free West' up until the Baghdad Museum sack was complete.

Yet it only had to take a fatwa from a Shiite cleric to the effect that 'loot of public property is not sanctioned in Islam' that resulted in returned booties overfilling the yards of a mosque from where the fatwa emanated. Therefore who controls Iraq 'street', its 'popular culture' in such troubled times is anybody's guess.

'Precision Deaths' - and 'Friendly Radiation'

For George Bush Inc and in his 'it's me or no other way' (the globalization of domestic American electoral propaganda) aura, we reel in horror in a realization that billions of American and millions others across the globe tend to support, believe and 'respect' him for just that 'precise' reason. As 'precise' if we may as the 'precision bombs' that killed thousand's in 'Eye-raq' and will kill and maim millions before too long all across the globe - the question is will it not kill Americans as well? Are fatality numbers restricted only to 'non-Americans'?

What has not been bargained for is depleted uranium leads on to protracted, painful radiation deaths - and spares no innocent Iraqis, as much as it will not spare the Anglo-American combatants on the ground far away from home, far away from the safety of video or laser guided realities of those that perpetrate the war ensconced in the safety of Pentagon, the White House, 10 Downing Street, or Centcomm, in Qatar - have I missed out any?

At a later date - 'friendly fire' will be replaced by 'friendly radiation' but for the moment the Gulf War Syndrome of 1991 has taken the backbench and has been replaced by 'scares' of the SARS virus - in all likelihood a man made contagion from an American biological laboratory - aimed at enemies: China and Canada. Americans in the meantime have already forgotten about Agent Orange from Vietnam - or am I likely to be proved wrong?

Whether or not the war in Iraq is over or has it only commenced is not in question here - what is important to ponder is whether the experience has left us any wiser. Merely debating that Mr.Bush was wrong and 'we were right', or better both Bush/Saddam combine were wrong - but 'we were right', or that the world's premier debating society the United Nations has been rendered incapacitated and thus irrelevant will not make things any better- neither will this endless speculation of whether Saddam Hussein is 'dead or alive' - something the Wild west comics taught us never to take too seriously: 'Zeroes' have a uncanny knack at rebounding back to 'Heroes' and vice versa!

When 'Crescent' crosses swords with the 'Cross'

What is extremely tragic in the Iraq war is the systematic and barbaric use of the health services for political leverage. While the US routinely taunted the fallen Iraqi dictator for using ambulances to ferry combatants or hospitals used for 'military command and control centers', no one has questioned why medical supplies waiting across the border in Jordan or Kuwait have not reached Baghdad to what is falsely attributed as 'a lack of security'.

That suppressing medical aid to affected civilians was part of the coalition war efforts to punish the Iraqi people is well evident when almost two weeks since 'liberation' - following a threat of legal action by a Belgian medic - reports were received by no one else but General Myers - of 'American soldiers been led to a store house where there was more than enough medicine to serve all of Iraq for 12 months - by the previous regime'! To imagine that the US did not even have intelligence on 'regime medical supplies' - is carrying stupidity a bit too far. Naiveté-y for all practical purpose should be made defunct from etymological usage!

Meanwhile the goody-goody stories of a child whose hands were blown off and yet another caught in a crossfire (Teddy bear, roses and all)- only to be saved by a Marine evacuation made its round. As of now we still do not know have a clue of what other crimes are been perpetrated in the name of 'humanity' in Iraq.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent had erected millions of tent at vast cost for the explicit purpose of accommodating 'escapees' from Iraq into neighboring countries - they ironically lay unutilized and barren save for a handful of Asians and African who transited through. Yet in the merciless bombing and demonization of a 'leader only' as opposed to the 'people' - as has been played about, indicates only the shallowness of American cultural inadequacies i.e., they have not taken into cognizance that the Iraqi people as such have a history of never being humbled by threats or coercion. Rarely if ever, they flee cities or their homes. Brave, cowards or suicidal - are quite different and debatable matters, the truth is - desert as such offers no refuge, no mercy! A home is were the heart is and home is where the Iraqi people belong.

'Demonized Islam' - From Mullah Omar to Rageh Omar

Now when those same Iraqi people, fed up with Saddam and equally so with the occupying 'Coalition Liberation Army' is today demanding an 'Islamic Republic' as opposed to a Westernized 'Democratic' state - and when Donald Rumsfeld grumbles, fumbles and rumbles in his vulture like cannibalistic disposition, that 'the U.S will not tolerate a theocracy in Eye-Raq' - little did anybody realize that American cultural inadequacies were/are responsible for this sharp and surprising change of perceptions among hard lined Islamist and the Iraqi people at large.

The word 'Islamist' is a case in point here.

As much as Colin Powell makes of Pakistan an example of 'Islamist democracy' to emulate, or Rumsfeld wants 'nothing of the like in Iran' - the sordid tale not told is that of Saudi Arabia which the US shamelessly backs and one that enforces the harshest Islamic sharia laws seen anywhere in the world.

The US makes a big deal out of the fact that demonstrations in Baghdad represent alternative views - some 'fundamentalist' views if we may (ofcourse the US is democratic and tolerant to 'opposing views') yet as of date we have seen no mass demonstrations welcoming the 'liberator's or even for 'democracy' of the western mould - which brings me to the 'understanding' or 'appreciation' of what 'Islamic culture' is all about. Never in my life have I been more thoroughly confused.

When the Taliban's for instance demolished the Buddha's statue in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in March 2001, because of what they considered the 'object' being an 'un-Islamic cultural symbol' - the shock waves were felt all across the world, and we were unsparing in dubbing the action as those of 'uncivilized, uncultured barbarians'. Some people actually believe the incident over the Buddha statue was the last straw in US-Taliban relation.

Yet on the same token none would have been more pleased than 'hard line fundamentalist Islamist' in witnessing Saddam Hussein's statue being desecrated and pulled down by US Marines in the center of Baghdad? In those blatantly exuberant upbeat moments the whole episode of raising an American flag and bringing Saddam's statue down (by the neck) beamed LIVE to our TV sets - perhaps sent a reverse signal that the U.S were 'more Islamist' (read fundamentalist Talibanist!) than the Iraq's former ruler?

Mullah Omar in his caves in Kandahar is surely having the last laugh! As for Mullah Rageh Omar of the BBC? He did not bat an eyelid - so consumed was he with the outpouring of 'Islamist celebrations' in Paradise Square, Bamiyan and the Buddha statue did not figure in parallels in his LIVE analysis of 'historical events'.

I am in no way not suggesting that the Iraqi people are stupid - however cut off from the rest of the world for decades it would not be misplaced for them to construe, or for me to comprehend, that Saddam's continuous exhortation of American being 'kafirs' (infidels) indeed were lies and propaganda? The U.S after all had not spared any effort to convince the Iraqis that Saddam was the greatest LIAR the world ever produced? Remember the WMD's - remember the chemical and biological weapons - remember?

As day advances the U.S will have hopefully learnt a lesson or two in the long-term effects of destroying cultural symbols - which they had initially confused as 'political symbols' or 'symbols of the regimes power'. They might have found out by now that in secular Iraq - (the only such country that was so in the Middle East), Saddam personified secularism to the hilt. By law, no men in Iraq, other than clerics - could wear the standard Islamic size beard!

From the 'Islamic world' at large we have witnessed even more perplex cultural signals.

It does seem to me rather mystifying that there was no 'congratulatory words' to the US from any Arab or Muslim leader (hard or soft line!) on the destruction of statues and portraits of Saddam Hussein - which albeit proves how ill advised the U.S was on the level of tolerance prevailing amongst Muslims worldwide.

The destruction of statues actually drew more sympathy from Muslims all across the globe that it did from the apparently 'secular, democratic, free world', whose unrepressed salivating of the 'cultural triumph' was disdainful and replete with evidence to the level of barbarians they have thus been reduced to. The secular possibilities in Islam were never explored then and will never be hence. Whether it is Bin-Laden or Saddam - the run up to Baghdad has the mullahs a clear and distinct upper hand.

Are we witnessing here lessons in 'practical Talibanization of the world' courtesy of the U.S? Perhaps we are - as the shocking reverse cultural signals that the US sent in the breaking of statutes, burning of portrait and lot of cultural artifacts in sum total: Iraq is no place for sculptor or painters - and therefore entire discipline of arts and culture are therefore targeted for an eventual demise. 'Freedom' as we know it - goes OUT hand in hand.

I weep for the state of the world today, a world when stupidity is the ultimate capital of the fearfully powerful.

Title "A Giant Leap for Stupidity" inspired by a recent cartoon in Le Monde, Paris.

First Published 27th of April 2003

Friday, April 11, 2003

IRAQ: Images - Capitulating to Decapitation

"America leads the world in shock. Unfortunately America does not lead the world in deciphering the cause of shock."

It was to be the world's first 'humane war'. Yet, the 'shock and awe' campaign promised by Rumsfeld started with an opportunistic 'decapitation strike' by the US aimed directly at the person/head of Saddam Hussein. The strike had to be ostensibly 'rushed' because 'credible and reliable ground intelligence' suggested that the Iraqi dictator, his sons and some members of his ruling Ba'ath party were 'sleeping' in the compound. Had they hit the target - as the US would have us believe 'the war' would have been over well before it even started, without a 'war' per se!

Yet the irony of it all is, consequent to the failure in 'execution' of this grandiose 'super plan', nobody has questioned that had the missile 'succeeded', it would have also amounted to the first known case of a ?high tech assassination? of a world leader in peace time in this new millennium by the world's 'only superpower'.

All of this with quixotic disregard for the fact that the US$ 1.5 million Cruise missile which hit Baghdad takes upwards of 10 hours to be prepared for a 'precise mission', and more than an hour to fly in and hit its target ? some 40 odd minutes before the 48 hour 'deadline' set by Bush for Saddam to leave his country and go into exile was due to expire. In other words, giving 'time' enough for the wily Iraqi 'dictator' to have indulged in the luxury of a hearty sleep, if at all he was in the compound, wake up fit as a fiddle and move elsewhere, are 'ground realities' that the US administration or its allies had not bargained for as the first 'salvo' of its 'shock and awe' propaganda campaign was 'fired' not at Iraq, but at the sensibilities of the 'rest of us' in the unsuspecting 'civilised' world.

There has been no turning back, and America continues to lead the world in 'shocks'.

Americans were 'shocked' out of their wits at this 'missed opportunity', while we in the bombastically termed 'subcontinent' shifted our gaze from another explicit yet peaceful 'non-event' the World Cup Cricket '03 games stupor to the possibility of a 'World War III hoopla' breaking in on our TV screens LIVE.

Nothing prepared us for the 'awe' of in our newfound sense of dumbfounded-ness and neither were we less disappointed! After all, we had been coerced into believing that 'taking out' the Iraqi leader would be a 'piece of cake' and we had all but stopped short of speculating on any winner more worthy than our cricketing heroes.

By that time, the word 'decapitation' seems to have entered 'easy-speak' with acceptable relish worldwide, as much as the 'war' enters its second week thanks to the BBC and CNN. It matters very little that over the days the word has also acquired an element of 'necessary notoriety and brutality' when Saddam Hussein graphically exhorted his countrymen in his second speech since hostilities broke out to 'cut the throat and lob off the heads of the aggressors'!

Saddam may not have acquired any missile worthy of combating George Bush, but he certainly has an impressive dictionary that he can use with a beguiling sense of impunity that he couldn't otherwise with his now junked Samoods, and so who is 'winning' the propaganda 'shock' campaign is therefore anybody's guess! We sit back with 'shock and awe' as the word 'decapitation' becomes 'benign' when used by a 'superpower' yet 'hostile' when used by those under unprovoked attack and who have every right to defend their country.

With merciless bombing and shameless 'air supremacy' over Iraq, and the 'airwaves' worldwide in total 'capitulation' to the 'Coalition of the Willing' as it executes its yet unknown 'plan', and the semblance of an Iraqi Army and Republican Guard in 'coherent military offensive' not evident thus far, the quick and justifiable move to guerrilla tactics is the only option for fighting a 'superpower' adversary when your hands are tied unevenly behind the backs, are 'ground realities'.

Whether this surgically 'precise' campaign has the makings of carnage of civilians, we have yet to find out, but then will the 'coalition of the willing' be willing to admit it?

"The military and the monetary, Get together whenever they think its necessary, They have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, They are turning our planet into a cemetery, They use the media as intermediaries, They are determined to keep the citizens secondary, They make so many decisions that seem arbitrary."

The 'precision bombings' are apparently 'accurate to within a few feet', as compared to 1991 when they hit sometimes yards or miles away, and have a 'success rating' of some 92 per cent. 'Gun port camera evidence' even suggests that while the bombs blow up military compounds and kill those inside, they are 'smart' enough not to damage the perimeters walls! Virtual 'civilian proof precision' if we may!

The 'capitulated' media in the meantime would have us believe via Rumsfeld that this is a 'benign and humane campaign' and that if you are a citizen of Baghdad, you could theoretically 'rest in peace' as long as you are not sleeping in a military compound! Nobody has, however, tried to find out what the terrifying sound, or shattering glass, splinters or debris can do to innocent civilians 'men, women, children, the sick and the elderly' whom the 'superpower' is set on 'liberating'. 'Psychological damage' has not even been discussed at this stage.

The memories of similar destruction on 9/11/01, of which Iraq was no part, have somehow been erased from the collective 'free world' psyche. The 'wounded' Iraqis that are shown in the images provided by the BBC or CNN are usually 'what is described by the Iraqis as civilians' or are 'apparently civilian'. One is therefore left to speculate whether the voices following the images in the background of the two cornerstones of the 'world media' are also 'embedded', and whether or not they have eyes and mind of their own is also in doubt.

It was only 'proper' for Iraqis to die in 1991, yet in 2003 its impropriety' seems all too obvious for having a will to stand up in defiance of US arrogance. The planet is a cemetery - for those that dare the US? Do we have a 'benign' replacement for the word 'dare'?

While 'images' of Iraqi POW's lying face down on the sand with shivering and bruised hands 'flexi-cuffed' behind their backs, or made to kneel at gunpoint at 'frisk and arrest' operations, are passe, images of captured US servicemen, on the other hand, sitting comfortably in sofas and interviewed by the Iraqis, become a 'breach of the Geneva Convention' and the media that relay those images are the 'new enemy' in a war that has chillingly no legality in the first place.

The 'decapitation' and butchering of our minds into ?willing submission? seems to have been carefully planned, orchestrated and is now being 'executed' by the 'coalition of the willing'.

Though woefully inadequate, it yet seems to be working, so for the moment rest your mind easy on the US-held 'prisoners' in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whose 'caged' images, out in the elements, unable to walk due to inhuman torture meted to them, and in shackles and chains and stretchers, is only an aberration. There is no such place on God's earth called Geneva, and 'conventions' are not meant for 'unconventional wars', are they?

"War in the desert sometimes sure could seem scary, But they beamed out the war to all of their subsidiaries, Tried making 'so damn insane' (Saddam Hussein) a worthy adversary, Keeping all its citizens secondary, Scaring old folks into coronaries. Making all of us wonder if this was really, truly necessary."

While 'embedded' journalist are part of the propaganda machine who are only more than 'willing' to improve the 'ratings' of their channels by providing 'video loops' of 'desert advances', we have no way of saying if these are LIVE as 'reported'. When challenged by the Iraqis, Rodger Walters and the camera person from CNN could have at least waved their hands in front of the so-called 'images' of the 'heroic advance of US forces' to prove their point? The lies continue in wild abandon.

For all practical purpose those 'loops' could have well been made for use at an 'opportune time' (much as Saddam has reportedly made many videos in advance), and they could have easily been done in military exercises in the desert, or anywhere. Deserts are deserts and are 'deserted', whether the locale is Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or the Mojave in the US?. There is absolutely no 'heroism' in a 'freeway' ride in a desert, with refuelling breaks from mobile fuel tankers!

All this is fair game, but can anybody out there let me know if the US or its 'coalition' formally declared WAR on Iraq or, on the flip side, has even a minuscule section of the Iraqi population declared a 'war of liberation' that the US now seems hell bent to 'support'?

"Nostalgia - That's what America wants. The good old days. When we gave em hell!? When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it! To a time when movies were black and white and so was everything else."

'Images' that we were prepared for are images that have not been forthcoming 'of the Iraqi army's surrendering without a fight, of the Iraqi population up in 'popular revolt', of 'coalition' soldiers receiving a 'heroes welcome' - indeed we have been 'dumfounded' into seeing 'images' of half-filled hour glasses thus far.

We hear of Iraqis 'melting away' without a fight to wear civilian clothing and 'going home' only to reappear and attack our 'heroes' rear flank! As the coalition 'presses on' to Baghdad we are also hearing rumblings from Rumsfeld of how 'unfair' the Iraqis have been by conducting themselves in such a fashion! It simply isn't black and white - I mean an 'enemy' that does not wear uniforms.

Umm Qasr on the other hand has seen the use of the much-abused term 'captured' to be replaced with 'secure' which is not necessarily 'safe', and as I write this the image of whether or not it has been 'liberated' is one as vague as a desert mirage.

We have for instance not yet seen the 'liberated' people of the city in the promised rapturous celebration, and while Basra was 'bypassed' and initially not considered a 'military objective', by Day 4 the momentum slowed down, and by Day 5 there were 'reports' of an 'ongoing popular uprising' among its civilians and that the Brits have lobbed 'precise civilian-proof artillery fire' in support of the so-called uprising!

Other than 'driving a wedge' (read dividing and ruling) between the Republican Guards, the Fedayeens and the civilian population, the Brits have set an opportune objective of dividing the Shiite and Sunni population, made all the more hazardous by its admitted betrayal of 1991 which neither the Basraite nor the US will ever forget.

However the move on Basra has a 'money side' to it after all.

In the US$ 75 billion asked by Bush from his Cabinet, there was a sizeable allocation for 'humanitarian assistance' (the goody goody factor), and while ships were loaded and ready to move out, the port of Umm Qasr was not 'safe' but 'secure'! Then somebody realised that reports of a true 'humanitarian crisis' lay in Basra, and not Umm Qasr. While there was no shortage of food, there was however no electricity or drinking water in the city, and who cut them off is yet unknown. 'Reality' therefore dawned through the thick of the propaganda fog - 'Heck, even if we reach the port with all that water, where is it going out to, Basra'?

The latest command was, 'Enter Basra one way or the other.'

Morning of Day 6: Abu Dhabi TV shows us 'images' of civilians in Basra lining up peacefully and in disciplined fashion to collect 'water' from tankers. Since there were no 'images' of a 'popular uprising', Iraq had scored yet another 'propaganda victory'.

If the 'coalition' want to enter the city they have to fight it out, mile for mile, inch for inch, but whether they like getting 'sucked into' urban warfare is quite another matter. The resilience of the Iraqi people has been grossly underestimated, and it is time for the US administration to recalculate its 'actual' war budget.

For now, the report of 'popular uprising' in Basra has 'de-escalated' to 'civilians may have revolted'. Lies breed lies.

"They took the honour from the honorary, they took the dignity from the dignitaries, they took the secrets from the secretaries, but they left the 'bitch' in 'obituary'."

Millions of anti-war demonstrators do not represent 'popular sentiment', and the 'loyalties' of 'such elements' have been always in question, as it most certainly is now - therefore neither Bush nor Blair seemed pushed! Yet when the erudite Tariq Aziz promised that the 'war is going to be no picnic', the seriousness of it all seemed not to have overwhelmed either the US's or UK's 'popular sentiments', until of course ?images? of dead US soldiers appeared, and the agonising thought that of the 20 dead Brits, 18 died through what is reported as 'accidents and friendly fire'.

With more than 60 per cent of the Iraqis being Shiite and ruled for so many years by Sunnis, with the Al-Qaeda at loggerheads with Iraq's 'secular status' yet openly in support of war with the US, and with Arab volunteers pouring in from the region to form suicide squads, the real danger would be the involvement of the Iranians (targeted for the next disarmament by the US) as the conflict spirals out of control, if only against the atrocities on the Shiite majority at the outset by either the Iraqis or the Coalition. It would not be out of line to suggest that the Arabian peninsula is on the brink of a major human crisis. Let us also not forget that in one of the most bizarre episodes in the 1991 conflict, the entire Iraqi Air force survived intact 'by escaping to Iran or Syria'.

To sum it up, the Arabs could not have bargained for more in an 'opportunity' to engage a quarter of a million enemies in the 'home ground', and the 'Coalition' could not have been more wrong in thinking that the 'outcome' would be decided by relying on technological innovations or 'propaganda', not by the 'ground realities' of hand-to-hand combat in the doomed days ahead.

Yes, Baghdad will fall, Saddam will be gone, yet we are not entirely sure if the US can make a Karzai out of whoever they have lined up in the list of 'willing coalition of buffoons' to hold the reins of power in the 'post-Saddam' days ahead. Nor can one be sure that Iraq will not turn out to be another Vietnam. The US may have bitten off more than it can chew.

HOLIDAY 11th April 2003