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Tuesday, November 22

Haunting images

When the 9:00-10:00 PM segment of John Batchelor's program started last night, I made a face. I chafed at listening to the latest installment in the Joseph Wilson soap opera and was impatient to hear Yossef Bodansky's report. I turned down the sound then restlessly turned on PBS to see what was showing.

PBS was showing "Perilous Flight: World War II in Color." The documentary featured color footage of the war shot by Hitler's filmographers, the US military and Hollywood filmmakers such as George Stevens.

The footage had not been shown before to the public. I fiddled with the TV mute button when Alireza Jafarzadeh started to give his report to Batchelor's audience about Iran's deep tunnels; the news was about North Korea's involvement in the tunnel building. But I couldn't stop watching the war footage. I tried, then, with limited success to listen to both the program announcer and Alireza.

I am not sure how far to carry the parallels between Germany's war buildup in the 1930s and the Iran-North Korean cooperation to build a nuclear weapons program. Yet parallels exist, and evoke Bush's Axis of Evil warning. So it was eerie to listen to Alireza's discussion while watching images of the US liberation of France from Hitler's forces.

The Germans massacred French patriots ahead of the invading Allied army, explained the announcer. Images of rotting corpses pulled from mass graves....

Images of weary French soldiers in trucks after being released from POW camps....

Image after image of the horrific devastation left by the Allied bombings. The French were amazingly philosophical about this. ("The French understood that modern war does not distinguish between civilian and military targets.")

A Frenchman recounts that he chastised his wife for weeping about prized armoires destroyed along with everything else in their house during a bombing. "We are all alive; why cry over furniture?"

Pretty farm girls mugging for the camera. A smiling French farmer serving wine from a cooking pot to a US soldier....

"Color renders the images of war unbearable," intoned the announcer.

Yes. I switched off the TV when the title "Dachau 1945" flashed on the screen.

Seffy reported that Assad is trying to cook up diversions rather than fulfilling the demands of the UN resolution. Assad has about three weeks before Mehlis wraps up his investigation into the Hariri assassination, which is a deadline, of sorts, for Syria.

And because Assad won't cooperate with the Mehlis investigation, the challenge returns to the UN Security Council. Assad and his handlers in Tehran are betting that no one wants a showdown.

Things went on too long in that part of the world for there to be an easy resolution. Yet I wonder if Assad and Tehran haven't miscalculated, as they miscalculated about Iraq.

The law of unintended consequences worked in favor of the Iraqis in a way no one could have predicted. The US did so much stumbling around during the first year of the occupation that this left many Iraqis at the mercy of Muqta al-Sadr and the reign of terror his Iranian-style brand of Islamic justice created.

"By God these are monsters!" cried one Iraqi woman. Soon, Iraqis were telling the Americans to bomb their houses to get rid of Mookie's henchmen camped there.

I remember Chalabi and Sistani finally managed to talk a grain of sense into Mookie (weeks of house arrest also helped). But by that time the Iraqi Shiites (who had dreamed of an Islamic government) had seen the pattern to Iranian style Islamic justice.

The Iraqis wouldn't have see the truth so soon, if the Coalition military had imposed the blanket martial order that I had prayed for in vain.

Then, once Allawi took over from Bremer, reality TV came to Iraq. Soon the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians masquerading as Iraqi insurgents were singing like a bird on Iraqi national TV.

After a few months of watching the Iraqis were wised up: neighbors were trying to create a civil war in Iraq. So then, the Iraqis dug in their heels.

People everywhere are like that: fool me once, fool me twice, but not a third time. The more the pattern of Iranian scheming became evident, the more the Iraqis said, "Ah ha!"

I am not getting my hopes up, but it could be the same will happen with Assad's machinations to provoke civil war in Lebanon and start a war with Israel.

From Bodansky's report, it seems Assad is trying anything to stir up a mess that will keep his crew in power. His gamble is that short of a march on Damascus he wins whether or not Syria loses a war with Israel. The catch is that Assad's machinations are by now forming a pattern.

They didn't have satphones, satellite radio, Internet, and television in the 1930s. So, despots in those days could get away with trotting out the same bag of tricks over and over again. Few people could readily see the repeating patterns of behavior.

That is something the French need to keep in mind while warning the US to be cautious about provoking Tehran to make moves. An aggressor is always making moves. The trick is to spot the patterns made by the moves.

Caution is always needed. Yet the other side of caution is a refusal to make reasonable demands in the face of aggression. That gives an open road to aggressors. In the 1930s, the road led to the haunting images of a war recorded on color film.
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