Sunday, August 06, 2006

Condi on first steps (good), the status quo ante (bad), and hypothetical questions (no comment)

Sgt. Milton Ortiz, Jr. of the Penn. National Guard plead guilty to obstructing justice by planting an AK-47 near an unarmed Iraqi, Gani Ahmed Zaben, killed by his buddy in Ramadi in February because he was believed to be walking in a “tactical” manner and carrying a gun, which he wasn’t. Charges were dropped against the shooter last month. Ortiz also faced a separate charge of beating up another Iraqi. He was reduced in rank. Not even discharged from the military.

The US is pressing forward on getting a UN Security Council vote, because if there’s one thing that’s influential in the Middle East, it’s a UN Security Council resolution. But while the US and Israel keep talking about the need for the Lebanese government to displace Hezbollah from what they like to call a power vacuum (how can it be a vacuum when Hezbollah is there? In the vacuum of space, no one can hear you scream “Death to Israel”), they’re treating the rejection of their resolution by the Lebanese government as irrelevant. Condi said today that they may not like it now, but “I suspect that after this resolution is passed that you will see an understanding on the part of both parties that the time to have an abatement in this violence is now.” She’s a great one for telling people that it’s “time for” this or that.

And what a busy Condi she was today, appearing on ABC and NBC, and holding a press conference. I’ll take them together.

When did “that’s a hypothetical question” become an acceptable reason not to answer it? Lieberman refused to answer a question about running as an independent on that ground, and Condi refused to talk about the possibility of civil war in Iraq: “I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical.” Yes, heaven forbid we plan for stuff before it happens; worked so well for us in Iraq up until now. She did, however, say that “The Iraqi people and the Iraqi government have not made a choice for civil war.” Did Bosnia hold a referendum first, “Civil war: yea or nay”? Or any other country? Imagine what the campaign ads would be like. I mean I’ve heard of attack ads... Condi admitted that sectarian violence is at its height, but she offered a helpful solution: “The Iraqis need to get a handle on that.” Yeah, they should really get to work on that.

After all the talk about how a ceasefire only made sense if it were lasting, enduring, permanent, stable, eternal, etc., she does rather seem to be trying to lower expectations, saying “these things take a while to wind down” and “there could be skirmishes of some kind for some time to come.” However, “The violence that we are all seeing every day on our screens has simply got to stop” – oh, won’t someone think of the real victims in this: Americans watching CNN – “so that the Lebanese people have an opportunity to begin to return to a normal life.” Under Israeli military occupation, living as refugees amidst piles of rubble, without food, shelter or electricity. Normal for Lebanon, I suppose.

And while at times she treated the UN resolution as a magical incantation, at others she downplayed it. She called it a “first step” 3 times on NBC, 5 times on ABC, and 7 times in the press conference, including, “a good first step,” “a very good first step,” “the best first step,” “the right first step.” Beyond moving in international forces, she was a little unclear about what the second step would be, but that’s probably one of those – how you say? – hypothetical questions.

Her other favorite phrase, all this week, has been “status quo ante,” (5 times on ABC, 6 times on NBC, 4 times in the press conference) the thing to which we cannot return.

Replying to a question from Russert about the rise in support for Hezbollah in Lebanon in reaction to the invasion, she said, “Well, first of all, it is quite understandable that there is a lot of emotion in Lebanon about what is going on there.” Oh, thank you for being so very understanding.

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