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Empire Notes

September 30, 7:07 pm. Another slaughter of innocents in Iraq. There was a car
bombing (involving two cars) of a U.S. convoy at the inauguration of new sewage plant just as children flocked around it to get candy. 35 children were killed.

This is an absolutely appalling act. It's not clear yet whether children were deliberately targeted, as in Beslan. Zarqawi's Tawhid wal Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it involved
"martyrdom operations," but officials on the scene refused to confirm or deny reports that suicide bombers were involved (as opposed to just cars loaded down with bombs). This makes a difference because, of course, if actual suicide bombers were involved then it's clear that the presence of the children did not dissuade them from attacking.

This is not more barbaric than the U.S. missile attack on a crowd gathered around a destroyed Bradley Fighting Vehicle on Haifa Street on September 12. The crowd also contained numerous children and the excuse of protecting U.S. equipment -- well, what do you need to say?

But it is also not less barbaric. Tawhid wal Jihad has committed many acts that are deliberate in their grotesqueness, so this is in a sense nothing new -- unless children were deliberately targeted, in which case it's a new height even for them. Either way, Zarqawi has emerged
as primary de facto PR person for the United States in Iraq.

September 30, 6:38 pm. And some bad news. Israel has begun Phase 2 of the Gaza
withdrawal plan (for a little context, see a previous post).

Billed as a retaliation for the Qassam rocket killing of two children in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the offensive, which includes an invasion of Jabaliya refugee camp, has already resulted in the killing of at least 24 Palestinians, and three Israelis.

An entire brigade of the IDF has moved into northern Gaza. It's the 12th IDF operation in northern Gaza alone in the past three months. The operation has been code-named "Days of Penitence," named for the first ten days of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah started on sundown of September 15 this year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on sundown of September 24). It's hard to
think of a more inflammatory name this side of "Infinite Justice."

Amira Hass's column in Ha'aretz yesterday, What does the Turk have against us?, is very definitely worth reading.

Here's the beginning:

"Kill a Turk and rest" - a popular Israeli saying meaning "don't rush" - is not only a statement of doubtful political correctness. It is also the middle of a Jewish joke. But only the middle. In Israel it has a separate existence, which distorts the spirit of the original Jewish anecdote.

And here is the story, which was passed on by a Yiddishist father from the old country to his Israeli-born daughter: A Jewish mother says farewell to her son, who has been drafted into the
Czar's army and goes to fight against Turkey in 1877. She is of course very worried about her son's welfare. While she is packing his knapsack, she says to him: "Listen, when you get to the front, kill a Turk, and rest. Kill a Turk, and rest."

"But Mother," replies the son, "what happens if while I'm resting, the Turk kills me?"

"Good God," says the mother, horrified, "what does the Turk have
against you?"

A contemporary echo to the view of that same Jewish mother can be found in the reports in the Israeli media last weekend. They unquestioningly adopted the label "terrorists" applied by IDF commanders and spokesmen to the three young Palestinians who last Thursday killed three Israeli soldiers of their own age at the Morag outpost in the Gaza Strip.

Of course, this story also perfectly encapsulates the attitude of most Americans to the violence in Iraq.

September 30, 5:35 pm. An actual piece of good news, for once. Russia has finally
stopped dithering and decided
to ratify
the Kyoto Protocol.

The Protocol calls for the so-called "Annex 1" industrialized countries in aggregate to make sure that by 2012 their emissions of a basket of six greenhouse gases (excluding ozone and water vapor) are 5% below their 1990 levels. The emissions of the six gases are combined by an agreed formula into a
"carbon dioxide emission equivalent" and it is this number that is to be reduced by 5%. The cuts are not spread evenly across Annex 1 countries; for example, the United States is mandated to reduced its emissions by 7% by 2012.

The Protocol was planned to go into effect once at least 55 countries representing 55% of the Annex 1 countries' combined emissions signed it. When the United States pulled out, the Protocol would have been effectively dead in the water had Russia not signed. But Russia's
signing now puts Kyoto over the threshold and so it is scheduled to go into effect.

The Protocol is obviously just a band-aid. The goal is to stabilize the atmospheric level of greenhouse gases, not to stabilize emissions. In order to do so at reasonable levels, the emissions level per year has to be reduced significantly (how much precisely is complicated and depends on many things, including what you think is a reasonable level). And thus some on the left dismiss it as too little, too late.

But, viewed as a stepping-stone on the way to genuine control of greenhouse gases, Kyoto is extremely important. Had it not been rescued, it's hard to imagine that more significant action would have been taken in its stead, at least not for many years.

Expect more from me on Kyoto and global climate change. Paradoxically, this most difficult issue is also one on which a way forward has opened -- at least if developments in the United States can be brought to heel.