The Command Post
May 31, 2003
freedom v. weapons

I tried to read Sean Penn's whole screed. I really tried. I kept falling asleep.

Perhaps our administration did declare that weapons of mass destruction were the reason for going into Iraq. I never declared it as my reason for wanting this war. Yes, it was one reason, but not all of it.

I have not, as someone in a comment on an older post said last night, been used like a cheap hooker. Those of us still defending this war and its outcome have other things in mind. Like freedom.

Did you really expect that within a month of the war, Iraq would be some sort of carbon copy of the United States, filled with open markets and democratic elections and prospering people? Are you so naive to believe that freedom can come in a week, a month, even a year?

There are signs of a new life in Iraq. An internet cafe has opened. There are more newspapers now than there have ever been in that country. There are people walking free in the streets, admitting their loathing of the former regime. There are children who have been freed from prisons, mother reunited with their sons who they had assumed to be dead.

Uday is no longer raping young women at whim. Heads are not being chopped off in public view. People do not cower in fear in their own homes, afraid that at any moment Saddam's people will rush in and kill them for some imagined slight.

The torture chambers are dismantled. The prisons are empty. The acid baths are gone.

Is that not enough for you? Will it always be for you an argument over weapons? I question anyone who claims this war was unjust because we have yet to find definitive proof of Saddam's weapon making escapades. How can you tell a person sitting in an internet cafe in Baghdad, reading news that he had never been able to view before that he does not deserve that?

How can you tell a child that he does not deserve to be back home with his parents after being freed from a prison because there were no WoMD to be found?

The end does justify the means. It takes time for freedom to flourish. It takes time for democracy to be installed. It takes time for wrongs to be righted and reapirs to be made and for the stench of a rotten regime to dissipate.

Yes, there will always be factions that want to rule in their own way, with violence or threats or an iron fist. We have that here right in our own country. We have domestic terrorists. We have extreme minorities on both sides of politics. We have cross-burners and gay bashers and groups that condone the destruction of private property to get their way. It's the nature of man to oppose, whether that opposition is just or not. It's the nature of man to want a society to be ruled in his own way, according to his own views. Fortunately, in our country, we have a system that enables the people to speak out against those who want to use tyranny to express their views. We have a system where majority rules, where the extreme among us are kept in check, where we don't allow illegal entities to rule our people.

That will come in Iraq. The free United States was not built in a day or even a month. Freedom takes time.

Personally, I don't care if they never find a weapon of mass destruction. What I care about is the people of Iraq. I care that good things have happened because of this war and it makes me angry that there are people who refuse to see that or acknowledge it, that they are so wrapped up in their hatred for Bush that they would deny a tortured Iraqi woman her freedom just to laugh in the face of the president's supporters.

Would you be happier, Sean Penn, if we never went into Iraq? I'm sure you would be.

Would the Iraqi people be happier? I doubt that.

If we have our right to live free, why would you deny that to others? Is freedom only viable when it is attained by an administration you admire?

This is not about Iraq for Penn and his kind. It is about their selfish hatred for George Bush. It is about the craving they have to be able to say I told you so, about their need to be right, always right and to prove everyone else in the free world wrong. They care about nothing but themselves and their self-centered ideology.

I have not been used by this administration like a cheap hooker. But most of you who oppose this war on the grounds of lack of WoMD have been used by the anti-Bush movement, by Scott Ritter and Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore and Robert Fisk. Your slogan should not be "Not in My Name," it should be "No Freedom for Iraq." That's what your ideology comes down to.

May 30, 2003

Manny Howard reveals a dark secret about our prisoners at Gauntanamo: they're gaining weight and getting free blue jeans. Oh, the horror!

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Bring 'em back home

The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow provides some excellent analysis in his "Bring the Troops Home: Ending the Obsolete Korean Commitment." As Bandow summarizes:

The U.S. alliance with the Republic of Korea has been America's most consistently dangerous commitment since the end of World War II. Yet South Korea is beginning to look away from the United States for its defense. Newly elected President Roh Moo-hyun campaigned on a plat-form of revisiting the security relationship, and he has attempted to adopt the role of mediator between America and North Korea.

Recently attention has been focused on events in North Korea, but the North Korean nuclear controversy must be considered within the context of the U.S.-ROK security relationship. The future of America's relations with South Korea is complicated by Washington's unnatural military presence on the Korean peninsula, and no solution is likely until that unnatural presence is removed. The 37,000 U.S. troops in the South are a Cold War artifact, and the U.S.-ROK alliance— once considered valuable—must be reconsidered. It is time to restructure that relationship, and the United States and the ROK should begin planning for removal of all American forces from the Korean peninsula.

You are highly encouraged to read Mr. Bandow's analysis in full.

Posted By at 11:32 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack
May 29, 2003
Iraq Info

Central Comman issues a press release every day titled "COALITION EFFORTS AID IRAQ'S RECOVERY". They also issue one titled "COALITION AND IRAQI POLICE WORK TO MAKE IRAQ SECURE". I'm trying to blog both on a regular basis because you don't see this stuff in the news media. The second one is an old fashioned police blotter such as used to appear in the newspaper.

See for yourself at Central Command

Posted By at 08:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Bob Hope at 100

Bob Hope, by all accounts, leads a quiet life at home with his wife of 75 years. Slower in movement, a little trouble with hearing and sight, but still Bob Hope.

I watched two separate specials about Mr. Hope in the past week. Two things stuck in my mind more than anything else. Christmas after Christmas he and his troupe were out there, entertaining the troops. He was there for literally generations for our young men and women, far from home, risking their lives to keep us, and uncounted strangers free.

Members of his troupe talked about the missed Christmases, and how their families dealt with it. The looks on their faces, the tone of their voices; there was something special about this. They looked upon it as a mission, a mitzvah, a holy work. These were true believers, in the good that is America's troops and what they do, and in Bob Hope.

I saw men and women cry as they recalled visiting hospitals. Decades later, their experiences moved them beyond words. One woman told of crying and being pulled aside by Mr. Hope and told that she needed to be stronger because they weren't there to cry for these boys but to make them laugh. Boys without limbs or faces. Boys dying, but one of their last memories would be of pretty girls and laughing with Bob Hope.

Other people have done what he did, too. But, I maintain that none have done it as well. Certainly not as long, or with as much dedication.

On this, Bob Hope's 100th birthday, let's take a moment to remember who the real man from "Hope" is and it's not a former President. Bob Hope is the man who brought "hope" to millions. We honor and thank him for that.

Further thoughts

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Oh, For God's Sake

This takes the cake. Some Ranger trainees complained to a General about having to do pushups for punishment and sleep deprivation and now the Ranger Instructors are walking on eggshells for fear of offending their trainees' delicate ears with cuss words. Give me a f*cking break.

It sounds to me like a few Ranger trainees need to switch professions. People whose job it is to go to war have no business complaining about sleep deprivation and pushups. Especially not RANGERS who, as light infantry, represent the future of our military as we are transformed from heavy and light to drones and light infantry.

Rangers are supposed to be among the best and be able to tolerate among the worst and this bunch of pussies at Fort Benning would undo that. Do you really think a competent enemy will care about your self-esteem or how much sleep you've had? No, he'll kill you at the first sign of weakness. This is not a good sign and that General should be sent for duty elsewhere rather than screwing up America's finest.

Since the Korean War, the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., has been training individual Rangers at the conventional Army’s most demanding course. Upon completion, these proud Ranger graduates have always infused the rest of the Army with the high standards of professionalism required to prepare men for battle and to make it through the horror of combat.

Ranger training has never been easy. Darby set the standard in 1942 while forging the first U.S. Ranger battalion. “We trained from early morning till late at night, seven days a week,” he wrote. Ironman physical conditioning, speed marches, difficult obstacles and exacting discipline were just part of the drill. And there was always that infamous in-your-face stress created by the Ranger Instructors (RI) and designed to weed out those who would fall apart in a firefight.

About half of Darby’s highly motivated initial volunteers didn’t make it. In the years since, this 50-percent attrition mark has continued to be the norm.

While the rest of the U.S. Army has lowered its standards to the point where seasoned war vets find today’s combat training a joke and the crusty salts who fought at Anzio, Osan and Dak To refer to what passes for most training as “an invitation to get killed,” Rangers have fought lowering the training bar and have consistently turned out hardened studs whom commanders in the field would fight to get.

That is until Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, the guy who runs Fort Benning today, was told by a few recent Ranger graduates that they were turned off by Ranger School because some of their RIs were meanies and actually yelled and cursed at them and even made them do pushups when they goofed up. Others complained in writing that they'd been sleep-deprived and that the training was too difficult.

For the record, the RIs – hardened vets who know what it takes to win and walk away alive – were merely following the battle-tested Darby practices of creating maximum stress, teaching attention to detail and passing on the proven tactics and techniques that have worked so splendidly for our Rangers in a bunch of bad scraps.

But serving Rangers say Eaton went ballistic. He assembled the RIs and gave these tough, dedicated warriors – most with 12 to 15 years of service – a tongue-lashing they’ll never forget.

About the time this general-officer temper tantrum occurred, an investigation was launched. Magnificent soldiers such as Command Sgt. Maj. Bobby Lane, a combat Ranger with 23 years of superior service, were relieved, and other equally fine soldiers’ careers went down the toilet.


Because clueless Generation Xers with a few months in the Army ratted out these heroes to a general who then overreacted.

The effect?

* RIs are now no longer allowed to swear in the presence of a student. Nor can they raise their voices or use pushups as punishment. Students wear sneakers instead of boots and are coddled as if they were at a Boy Scout Jamboree instead of preparing for a kill-or-be-killed rendezvous on a hillside in Afghanistan or a patch of desert in Iraq.

* When an RI complained to his boss that today's training environment is like “walking on eggshells,” the colonel – who caved for those potential stars flickering in the breeze along with the rest of the Ranger colonels who didn't come to their fine Ris’ defense – said, “Good, that's the way I want it.”

* When Ranger students were recently caught writing “obscene graffiti” on a Ranger vehicle, RIs asked their colonel to boot the guilty from the school. The colonel passed. Could he be afraid of the students complaining again to Eaton?

Pray our future enemies will be as weak as the Iraqis. Because down the road, we might not have real Rangers to Lead the Way as they have for the past 250 years.

If this is the future of the Rangers, yes, let's pray that all of our enemies are as weak as the Iraqis. Otherwise, these pussies and their self esteem will be coming home in body bags.

UPDATE: I'm assured by a Ranger buddy that rough men do indeed stand ready and the existing Rangers won't tolerate cheap imitations.

The Accordions of War, Part VI

(Hat Tip Jeffrey Collins)

As one might expect from a military superpower, the United States hosts the most intense war games on the planet. These war games provide valuable training for the US military as well as elite allied forces. This allied participation has many benefits, including enabling closer cooperation between these allies in times of war. The best air combat war game in the world is Red Flag.

...the goal is still to provide training that is as close to combat as participants can come "without facing bullets," as one Red Flag pilot put it.

About 24 percent of all Red Flag trainees are foreign, Droz said. Exchanging "ideas about how they fly and how we fly" is one of the most important objectives of Red Flag, Droz said. ...which has been called "the crown jewel of air combat command."

Cope Thunder is a similar program, but is done on a smaller scale. Keep this in mind as you read the comments of former deputy undersecretary of defense Jed Babbin.
The French air force has traditionally been on the limited invitation lists for Red Flag and its smaller cousin, Cope Thunder (which follows Red Flag by a few months and is held in Alaska). So when Rumsfeld told the Frenchies they were disinvited to both Red Flag and Cope Thunder, their air-force guys were shocked. Being excluded from the best war games sends two unmistakable messages. First, we don't need you. Second, we don't want you. Capiche?
Earlier this week, I mentioned Condoleezza Rice's view on those who actively tried to keep Saddam in power " Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia." A small part of this new policy toward France is now evident.

For some reason, the French are very proud of their military. Rumsfield has, again, struck a major blow against Gaulic pride. Surprisingly, this has come as a shock to the French. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. I do not think that the US is going to show their displeasure with France by actively going after this small country. But the days of treated France as a respected ally are over.

Poverty Doesn't Breed Terrorism

Poverty Doesn't Create Terrorists
I have two questions: 1) How did this story get past Howell Raines; and 2) why has it taken so long to get a scientific study that proves that poverty has little to do with terrorism?

This is good news for the (classical) liberals and bad news for the Left. It's been a matter of Leftist dogma for decades that poverty leads to all sorts of evils, yet here we have a scientific study -- a regression analysis -- that holds other factors equal and finds that terrorism is positively correlated to freedom and not poverty. This lends much support to the idea that we should be working to create liberal democracies in the Middle East and should use Iraq as a jumping-off point.

For our long-term security it's essential that we create liberal democracies in the Middle East and that means the neocons were right. Doesn't it hurt?

The stereotype that terrorists are driven to extremes by economic deprivation may never have held anywhere, least of all in the Middle East. New research by Claude Berrebi, a graduate student at Princeton, has found that 13 percent of Palestinian suicide bombers are from impoverished families, while about a third of the Palestinian population is in poverty. A remarkable 57 percent of suicide bombers have some education beyond high school, compared with just 15 percent of the population of comparable age.

This evidence corroborates findings for other Middle Eastern and Latin American terrorist groups. There should be little doubt that terrorists are drawn from society's elites, not the dispossessed.

Yet some stereotypes die hard. In 1958 the political scientist Daniel Lerner argued, "The data obviate the conventional assumption that the extremists are simply the `have-nots.' "

It is still possible that well-off people in poor countries with oppressive governments are drawn to terrorism. President Bush argued something along these lines in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on the anniversary of Sept. 11. "Poverty does not transform poor people into terrorists and murderers," he acknowledged. "Yet poverty, corruption and repression are a toxic combination in many societies, leading to weak governments that are unable to enforce order or patrol their borders and are vulnerable to terrorist networks."

To investigate this possibility, I have analyzed data the State Department collects on significant international terrorist incidents. The home countries of the perpetrators of each event were identified. More terrorists do come from poor countries than rich ones, but this is because poor countries tend to lack civil liberties.

Once a country's degree of civil liberties is taken into account — measured by Freedom House, a nonprofit organization that promotes democracy, as the extent to which citizens are free to develop views, institutions and personal autonomy without interference from the state — income per capita bears no relation to involvement in terrorism. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn terrorists.

Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.

This reminds me of my Jefferson quote from the other day and its relevance now more than ever:
"I sincerely pray that all the members of the human family may, in the time prescribed by the Father of us all, find themselves securely established in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and happiness."
--Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Ellicot Thomas, et al., 1807. ME 16:290
Amen to that. Let's hope it's not too distant.

May 28, 2003
The NY Daily News Weighs In On Maureen Dowd

Wondering who saw this today in the New York Daily News:

Dowd famously dislikes President Bush. She often calls him names and says mean things about him. This time, she accused him of flimflamming the country. Two bombs had just gone off in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, presumably detonated by Al Qaeda. According to Dowd, this gave the lie to the President's assertion, delivered in a speech in Little Rock, Ark., that Al Qaeda was "spent."

Here's what she wrote:

"'Al Qaeda is on the run,' President Bush said last week. 'That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated ... they're not a problem anymore.'"

Here's what Bush actually said:

"Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore."

The words in italics were replaced in Dowd's column by three little dots. Those dots say to the reader: Trust me, I'm abbreviating here, but what I'm leaving out doesn't change the meaning.

But the dots did change the meaning. In fact, they turned it upside down.

Turning the meaning upside down? Surely not Maureen Dowd. Read the rest. Oh, and here's the Dowd piece in question.

Posted By Alan at 11:24 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
The Daily Times Of Pakistan Weighs In On How The Bush Administration Is Like Joseph Goebbels

This Kaleem Omar article in Pakistan's Daily Times leads with the headline "POETIC LICENCE: The US’s reason for invading Iraq was based on a lie." It leans heavily on the recent Seymour Hersh New Yorker article about the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, a subject of this prior TCP Op/Ed post. A highlight:

According to a Pentagon adviser who worked with Special Plans, the group was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Rumsfeld, “believed to be true — that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al-Qaeda and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological and possible even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States.”

In fact, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials knew full well that this was not true. They knew Saddam Hussein’s regime had no links to Al Qaeda, just as they knew that Iraq no longer possessed any so-called weapons of mass destruction. When reporters asked Rumsfeld about this last week, he brushed the question aside as being of no “relevance.”

But wait ... then there's this:
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s master of propaganda, said that if you tell a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it. Operating on the same principle, the Bush administration launched a propaganda blitz last autumn to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein’s regime did indeed have “links to Al Qaeda.”

The Americans are a gullible people, and the Bush administration’s propaganda campaign was so successful that a poll conducted in February this year showed that 72 per cent of Americans believed it was likely that Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in the 9/11 attacks, although no evidence whatsoever of such a connection had been presented.

Read the rest here, which you'll do, because you're all mindless, gullible simpletons ... unlike Kaleem Omar, who's obviously an investigative genius given his masterful ability to parrot another journalist's work.

Posted By Alan at 10:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
A path to Mid-East peace ... and prosperity

The power of a U.S. - Israel - democratic Muslim nations - free trade zone ... and the need for the main organization for international relations to be LIMITED to democracies.

A U.S., Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan Free Trade Zone would be to the rest of the Muslim world as Hong Kong used to be to China. That is, these new Muslim democracies would finally be prosperous and free - and strikingly so compared to the remaining Muslim dictatorships. (Such a Free Trade Zone has been proposed by the Bush Administration).

The new Muslim democracies would leave the remaining, dictatorial Muslim countries in the dust economically - like the free west left the communist east in the dust during the Cold War. And this would most assuredly put the remaining dictatorships of the Muslim world in a very bad light (hopefully prompting reform - and eventually democracy).

This kind of persuasive power should be used in all international relations. Indeed, I think the U.S. should severely cut back its role in the U.N. - and put its weight (and money) behind an international organization of democracies. Once this new international organization became THE place for international diplomacy, that would create that much more pressure for the world's dictatorships to join the democracy club.

None of this would end Mid-East terror. But truly prosperous democracies will produce far fewer suicide bombers than currently come from dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. Few people will see the benefits of being a suicide bomber when they can actually get a good job, vote for their representatives - and raise their family in peace.

Here's USA Today's story on the proposed U.S./Middle-East free trade zone.

Memorial Day Thanks

For Coral Sea, For Guadalcanal, For Pusan Perimeter and Operation Anaconda. For Omaha and Utah Beaches. For Okinawa. For every Leatherneck, Grunt or Swabbie who gave their lives. For those Bubbleheads on Eternal Patrol. For those lost while flying to Schweinfurt and Ploesti. For Khe Sanh, Iwo Jima and Belleau Wood. For those KIA in heroic battle or minor skirmish. For the victims of the Bataan Death March. For those who succumbed to wounds, disease or starvation. For those who died alongside others or alone. For those killed in minor accidents, or vanished in unreported Cold War incidents. For the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.

To the Families of the US Military whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers or mothers died for us, Our Thanks.

signed: The usual suspects

photo courtesy of the US DoD

May 27, 2003
The German People Deserve Better, Part VIII

It has been a while since I last discussed German politics. Since then, Schroeder has had a bit of good news. His party actually won a regional election. However, even that victory was tarnished for Schoeder.

That success is put down to the personal popularity of the SPD's leader in Bremen and the fear of breaking up the left-right coalition running the state, rather than anything Schroeder has done. Indeed, Social Democrats in Bremen deliberately kept the chancellor out of their campaign.

Why is Schroeder being shunned by his own party?

It might be because he has led his Social Democratic Party to its lowest ratings since it was formed; recent polls suggest the Social Democrats would only get 25% of the vote if general elections were held today. While true, this just begs the question. Why is his party in such dire condition? Is it because Schroeder and his Social Democrats played the anti-American card to get elected? After all, President Bush and his administration are still holding Schroeder responsible for his actions.

Schroeder had been pushing hard for a separate meeting with Bush but this was rejected by US Secretary of State Colin Powell whose visit to Berlin last week underlined the chilly relations.

On this issue, the US administration is united. Condoleezza Rice has been advising US officials to Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia. More specifically:
"We're now doing everything we can to improve relations to Germany at all levels," the unnamed German visitor quoted Rice as saying. "But we're going to work around the chancellor. It's better to leave him out."

And to enunciate the messages of Powell and Rice, President Bush went out of his way to spend time with a potential 2006 challenger to Schroeder.
When word got back to Berlin last Friday that George W. Bush had found about 15 minutes to personally welcome visiting Hesse Premier Roland Koch to the White House, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was reported to be livid.

So it is clear to the most obtuse follower of politics that the U.S. administration is clearly not going to give Schroeder another chance. But is this enough of a reason for 75% of the German electorate to disapprove of the Social Democrats? Based upon this article, the answer is no:
A new public opinion survey shows that Germans now overwhelmingly see France as their country's most important and reliable ally, with the United States having declined significantly in importance. The survey, prepared by the Allensbach Institute of Public Opinion Research for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, found that 49 percent of Germans said France was their country's most important partner, compared to 17 percent for the United States.

Schroeder's alienation of the United States may have reduced his popularity among the minority of Germans who strongly treasure a relationship with the States, but this would not account for his low popularity. After all, Schroeder and his party were elected on an anti-American platform. So what else explains the low popularity of the Social Democrats?

Michael Mertes, a former policy advisor to Helmut Kohl, believes Germany is less relevant in both European and world politics than it was before the Iraq war. Repairing the damage will not be easy. The Social Democrats perceived mismanagement of the Iraqi War is probably partially responsible for their current low appeal. However, this alone would not completely explain Schroeder's falling ratings.

Most of the fall can probably be explained by former President Clinton's campaign motto, It's the economy, stupid. Unemployment for the working-age population is approaching 11%, the highest since 1990.

Economic growth is well below the EU average, Berlin has given up hopes of balancing the budget by 2006 and the public deficit has earned it a reprimand from Brussels.

I expect Germany's economic woes to continue for quite some time. On top of the economic problems just discussed, the euro is also hitting record highs against the dollar. While I doubt the Bush administration would deliberately pursue a weaker dollar just to punish certain European countries, I also doubt the White House will try to prop up the dollar. A weaker dollar greatly increases the competitiveness of US exports. Since many Asian countries (including China) link their currencies to the dollar, this means European goods are becoming more expensive around the world, not just in the States.

A strong euro is not all bad, the US has enjoyed many benefits from a strong currency for years. However, it is harmful for European exports. High-tech exports from the US will become more and more price competitive and low-tech exports from Asian competition will become even more attractive. Europe, which competes in both markets, will see a noticeable decline in trade.

What does all of this mean? Schroeder will not win another election. The German people deserve better than Schroeder, and they know it. When Schroeder is no longer in power, the American people will be there extending a welcoming hand to Germany so long as another anti-American leader is not elected. The choice is up to the Germans.

War against al-Qaida won't end quickly

From Sunday's Birmingham News"

The recent al-Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco have demonstrated that the war on terror continues. They have also brought forth criticism of the administration, such as the following from Sen. (and presidential candidate) Bob Graham, D-Fla.: "We have let al-Qaida off the hook. We had them on the ropes, close to dismantlement, and then as we moved resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight a war in Iraq, we let them regenerate."

Link to the rest

May 26, 2003
Remembering, Then & Now...

(from Sharp Knife)

This Memorial Day, Americans find ourselves involved in the early stages of a global struggle against an ideology of hate, murder & repression.

Yet, we have been here before.

On a bright summer's day in 1943, Americans gathered to honor our dead, while in the midst of a world war against a similarly monstrous evil.
Simliar, yet different.

While these evil scum do control nations, such as Iran, this conflict is less about nation-states than a clique of madmen in many countries, including our own. Then; our enemies proclaimed racial purity; Now; religious purity...but the only pure thing about them is pure hatred.

President Bush correctly uses the term 'Battle of Iraq'. It's one battle in a long war. It's not over.
Which brings up the charge made by the critics; that we are waging 'Permanent War'. Indeed, it is harder to see the endgame of this conflict than it was that day in 1943, but to call the charge a 'half-truth' gives it too much credit--by half.

'Permanent War' is what has been declared against us...We are Americans; we wage Victory.

Here are some images to enjoy from that day, just six short decades ago. Yes, my young friends; I said 'short'; decades aren't what they used to be.

Then, as now, we rode upon the precipice of a cresting wave; unsure exactly where the future would lead, but sure of our purpose and duty, as Almighty G-d gave us the light to see it.

Take some time today to honor those who have given "the last full measure of devotion". Remember them. Some of us have forgotten. 'Memorial' means 'remember'.

And tell your children of those who fell along the way. It's the way that leads to freedom, the freedoms we enjoy on this sunny summer day, 60 years on.

Tell them the truth.

Tell them, after all these years, Freedom still isn't free.

Posted By at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This Memorial Day, I remeber those who fought here ...

Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

The Ranger Memorial At Pointe du HocBehind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your 'lives fought for life...and left the vivid air signed with your honor'...

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge - and pray God we have not lost it - that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

- Ronald Reagan - Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, June 6, 1984


Today is Memorial Day. We honor our war dead today for the sacrifice they made for us and for our freedoms. Today I also choose to honor Peter J. Ganci, who died in an undeclared war - a war of hatred. On September 11, 2001, Pete died making the ultimate sacrifice.

The war against the United States was engaged long before 9/11. Every act of terrorism is an act of war, so I choose to remember Pete Ganci today in the way that one remembers a war hero.

My father, quoted in the book Out of the Blue: The Story of September 11, 2001, from Jihad to Ground Zero, By Richard Bernstein and the staff of the New York Times.

"Firefighters, the good ones anyway, live to do a good job at the right places - that's all you want to do," said Angelo Catalano, a firefighter who served in the same company as Ganci when both of them were young. "And Pete hated the guys who were skaters."

"Some officers who rise in the ranks have never paid their dues," Catalano said. "You see guys running the show who really don't understand. But Pete paid his dues."

Ganci was the kind of guy that all the other guys wanted to be photographed with. His old collegues at Ladder 124, where he first made his reputation, had bragging rights because they had served with "The Chief" when he was a mere lieutenant. When Ganci went to the national fire chiefs' conclaves in other cities, he was treated like a movie star. "It was as if God himself walked in the door," Catalano said......Firemen see their ladder and engine companies and their rescue squads as their families. "You're close when you fight a fire," McCarthy said. "You'd rather see yoruself hurt than the guy next to you, honestly." And Pete, in this sense, was the perfect familly man.

Looking forward to his retirement, Ganci and [his wife] Kathleen bought a condominium in Florida and they expected to begin using it soon. Ganci planned to play a lot of golf at the nearby East Lake Woodlands Country Club. But up to September 11, Ganci, busy as always, had nevef once visited it. On [one] Sunday when he went clamming with [colleague] Dan Nickola, he was debating with himself about the future, knowing that he wanted to keep going as a firefighter a bit longer, while his family wanted him to retire. But two days later, on September 11, he was up early, as always, and off to work.

Today, weather permitting, I will attend a ceremony where the Farmingdale, Long Island Post Office will be renamed the "Peter J. Ganci, Jr., Post Office Building."

On this day, I will also remember every single soldier who died so I can live free.

md3.gifYes, most of us will have parties and barbecues today after we attend parades and ceremonies and listen to speeches. We wil bow our heads in rememberance and some of us will pray and some of us will give silent thanks.

There's nothing wrong with going home afterwards to spend the day with family and friends, having a picnic or celebrating the coming summer.

Just remember what this day is for. When you raise that first cold one to your lips, give a toast to those who this holiday is for. Remember their families, as well.

When you exercise any of your freedoms today, remember those who fought and died so you can enjoy them.

Remember every victim of terrorism against this country for they too are casualties of war.

As stated by a very compassionate person, "The best Memorial to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense is the one you must construct in your heart; the one you look at each day, however briefly, on your way around the mundane chores, the necessary work, perhaps even the heroic efforts you perform.

Dar Al Hayat Weighs In On The Arab League

The Saudi paper Dar Al Hayat today posts this article calling for modification of the Arab League. And while you may not expect it, the article appears to call for liberal democratic systems in Arab states:

This organization [the EU] also relies on executive, judicial and legislative authorities that are independent from one another, not to mention that the country members are all democratic, with liberal political systems. Thus, democracy plays a major role in the European unification, and is considered to be an indispensable condition for the organization. Looking back at the Arab experience, we find that it lacks in every factor that has made the European one a success.
But wait ... there's also this:
America will not stop before breaking down on all the "terrorist" organizations in the Arab world; in other words, it wishes to destroy all those who do not cooperate and submit. It shall force every regime to adopt cultural and communications policies that fit with American and Israeli standards. Some Arab elites perceive this American pressure as an opportunity for a quick political and cultural change that needed such a foreign influence. But the problem is that the change would be operated according to American and Israeli criteria, and hence contrary to Arab expectations. So there is a pressing need to introduce a change at two levels; one at the regional local level, and the second at the regional national one. This requires of course a regional leadership to manage the operations. And since no country in the region is able to shoulder such a responsibility, the only hope standing is for an Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi alliance to form, in order to face future dangers.
Read the rest ...

Posted By Alan at 08:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Relics of Idiotarianism

You can still find them. While looking through the "latest world news" pages of the ABC, that is, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, what should I see but the following:

Reports, Interviews & Analysis
The latest transcripts, audio and video from ABC News and Current Affairs.

Baghdad siege looming. Margot O'Neill, Lateline.

It's full of choice predictions, some quite accurate, viz.

Stalingrad, World War II - gruesome street fighting and up to one million dead.
Grozny 1999 - a savage bombardment reduced a city of 400,000 virtually to rubble.
Baghdad 2003 - precision bombing is supposed to have limited civilian casualties and the Americans have made it plain they don't want to fight for the city block by block.
Instead, they'll probably borrow from the British model at Basra.
That means, first, seal off the city while allowing for some tightly controlled exit routes for those trying to flee, then determine who are the key Baath Party loyalists defending the city and target them with lightning raids by special forces and undercover CIA operatives.
OK, so after two days of probes, the "lightning raids" went in to stay, in platoon, then company, then battalion, then brigade, then divisional, then corps force. It's called the "Rock Soup" method, and the US Army in particular have it down to a fine art, and have had since about 1944. But there are some other, less perspicacious quotes:
ALAN DUPONT, STRATEGIC & DEFENCE STUDIES CENTRE, ANU: Once they've identified these key targets, then they need to go in and get the people inside them.
That means snatch operations, quick insertions, with some force to support them, and then out again, before the defenders can react.
MARGOT O'NEILL: Snatch squads, assassination squads -- this sounds like the same irregular fighting tactics the Americans have complained are outside the Geneva Convention.

Now that's what I call Spin-n-n-n. I mean, we're talking 3000 rpm here, 25 gravities at the tips, at least 5 Goebbels or one Baghdad Bob's worth.
MARGOT O'NEILL: In the end, disease, starvation and bloody street fighting could make this siege as gruesome as many of its predecessors.
The ones she mentions before. Grozhny. Stalingrad. This isn't spinning, it's just plain wrong, as in "mistaken", and is quite excuseable. Just quite... quaint.

Possible Violations Of The Geneva Conventions

The Observer | Special reports | Red Cross denied access to PoWs
First, we should consider the source of these reported violations of the Geneva Conventions: The Observer, which is simply London's Guardian in disguise for the weekend. They are an overtly anti-American paper based on most of their editorial content and I've seen bias in their reporting as well.

However, if we are indeed mistreating the Iraqi POWs we should quit and give them immediate access to the Red Cross. The reason is because we don't want our POWs mistreated in some future conflict -- yeah, I know we're the only ones who play by the rules and the Vietnamese tortured American POWs routinely. Even so, future mistreatment of our POWs could be treated as a post-war war crime and the perpetrators could be punished. Besides, we are the United States and are supposed to be the good guys.

With the lecture now over, I'm still skeptical. Our soldiers are better trained than that and the Left, of which the Guardian is a member, has been looking for something to ping us on. We'll see.

The United States is illegally holding thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war and other captives without access to human rights officials at compounds close to Baghdad airport, The Observer has learnt.

There have also been reports of a mutiny last week by prisoners at an airport compound, in protest against conditions. The uprising was 'dealt with' by the Americans, according to a US military source.

The International Committee of the Red Cross so far has been denied access to what the organisation believes could be as many as 3,000 prisoners held in searing heat. All other requests to inspect conditions under which prisoners are being held have been met with silence or been turned down.

There is circumstantial evidence that prisoners are being gagged and hooded, in the manner of the Afghans and other captives held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - treatment in itself questionable under international law.

Unlike the Afghans in Cuba, there is no doubt about the status of these captives, whether PoWs or civilians arrested for looting or other crimes under military occupation: all have the right, under the laws of war, to be visited and documented by the International Red Cross. 'There is no argument about the situation with regard to the Iraqi armed forces and even the Fedayeen Saddam,' said the ICRC's spokeswoman in Baghdad, Nada Doumani.

'They are prisoners of war because they have been captured during a clear conflict between two states. If they served in the armed forces or in a militia with distinctive clothing which came under the chain of command of one of the warring states, they are protected under article 143 of the Geneva Convention.'

One correction: there's no question as to the status of the detainees at Gitmo. They're illegal combatants who don't wear uniforms and are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, though they are naturally entitled to humane treatment.

May 25, 2003
Memorial Day


The Ayn Rand Institute features an excellent Memorial Day editorial by Andrew Bernstein, Honoring Virtue. Excerpt: "The meaning of Memorial Day is particularly pressing today when the United States is engaged in a war against fanatics who represent the extreme of intellectual, religious and political suppression. Freedom is unknown and utterly alien in the countries that support terrorists. They feel threatened by our most cherished principles and institutions, and so they seek to destroy us. Our soldiers who fought so courageously and so effectively against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein helped to overthrow both of those brutal dictatorships while defending the lives and freedom of American civilians. ... What protects us is our moral courage and our military might."

Posted By at 11:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
May 23, 2003
Urban Warfare and the Lessons of Jenin

Azure is the journal of the Shalem Center (where Michael Oren is a senior fellow). This extensively footnoted article by Yagil Henkin is from the most recent issue. Henkin discusses lessons learned about urban warfare from the IDF operation in Jenin (while meticulously refuting the accusations of "massacre"), and gives additional examples from Chechnya, Serbia, and Somalia. If you find military strategy interesting, or if the problem of civilian casualties in war is of concern to you, this is a must read.

Posted By at 10:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Strange bedfellows

[Note: Originally posted here in my weblog.]

Somewhat lost in the din of the major local news networks' handling of the recent terror attacks in Mindanao and the on-going shelling and pursuit operations the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is conducting against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is the angle that the outlaw Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) is openly assisting the Islamic radicals.

This is not the first time that the Filipino people have heard of such a partnership between the two strange bedfellows. But I am a bit surprised that the local networks have not highlighted the alliance much further.

The Manila Times in less than a week released at least two articles detailing such an arrangement between the two insurgent groups with diametrically contrasting ideologies. The reports merely confirmed the rumored-in-the-past coalition between the communists and the Islamic extremists.

In the report entitled "NPA teaching guerilla tactics to Moro group":

The New People's Army is training Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in guerrilla warfare, a source in the movement told The Manila Times on Sunday.

The source, who is in the legal affairs department of the movement, said the training is part of an agreement reached by the NPA and the MILF five years ago.

"The training is being conducted in NPA camps in Davao and Surigao and MILF camps in Cotabato, Lanao and Maguindanao," he said.

He said an alliance between the communists and the separatists was forged sometime in 1998 to combat "the growing threat of US domination" in Mindanao.

"The Central Committee of the MILF approached the Central Command of the NPA in Mindanao for a truce to help each other fight the US influence in the area," the source said.
From the article "Elite assassins to help MILF":

FORTIFYING its tactical alliance with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the New People's Army has mobilized its hit squads in Mindanao to attack government forces pounding the separatist rebels, a source in the NPA said on Thursday.

The NPA has activated a hit squad, the National Partisan Unit, to conduct special operations and "work independently of the military cadre units of the NPA," the source said.

On Wednesday leaders of both groups said they were considering launching joint military operations against US troops involved in the Balikatan war games.

The Philippines-US exercise is scheduled this year in the Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao, site of the continuing punitive strikes by government troops against the secessionist guerrillas.
And in a related story, CPP ordered the NPA to "disrupt the R.P.-U.S. military exercises":

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines has issued a directive to its armed wing, the New People's Army, to launch tactical offensives against American and Filipino troops participating in the Balikatan exercises.

Sources from the NPA told The Manila Times that NPA field commanders have been told "to disrupt the RP-US military exercises."

"The CPP is bent on frustrating US intervention in the country. The US wants to destroy the revolutionary movement," the source said.

A portion of the war games is scheduled to be held in the Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao.
Of course, throughout human history, groups with contrasting beliefs are known to temporarily set aside their differences in order to solidify their efforts against a so-called "common" enemy. But I'm still wondering how the CPP-NPA (classified as a "terrorist organization" by Washington) and the MILF (and Abu Sayyaf?) partnership can actually work out. What is this really all about? Training? Mere demarcation of operating areas? Joint extortion activities? Share of ransom loot for kidnapping sorties?

Other than giving each other chest bumps and high-fives for the mutual satisfaction they get in destroying government infrastructures, killing innocent civilians, and murdering Filipino and American soldiers participating in R.P.-U.S. war games, I really don't see any logic in such an arrangement. In fact, methinks such a collusion merely cheapens further the "purity" of what the two insurgent groups are supposedly fighting for.

Saddam's dead baby parade

Doctors say Hussein, not UN sanctions, caused children's deaths

Throughout the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that were ended yesterday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children.

"It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. "This is a crime on Iraq."

It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information.

Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn Al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said in interviews this week that Hussein turned the children's deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies' corpses to have them publicly paraded.

The fighting words of the left, pre-dating the war, were sanctions killed all those Iraqis, not Saddam.

The U.S. starved the babies. The U.S. was killing the children and poor people of Iraq.

Under the sanctions regime, "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed," said Ibn Al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr. Hussein Shihab. "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money. But instead, he spent it on his palaces."

How is the left going to spin this? Are they going to call it a lie? Propaganda? Another conspiracy by "BushCo?"

This is what many of us have been saying all along. Saddam killed his own people. Saddam starved them, kept medicines from them. But the left laughed in our faces and scolded us for believing in filthy lies.

Turns out they aren't lies after all. And we were right.

Just as with the teary-eyed people who decried the massive looting of the Iraq museum that turned out not to be a massive looting, the left will react to this news one of two ways; they will either be disturbingly quiet or they will drum up some fantasy laden web of distorted facts and claim that this story is fake.

"Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN," said Dr. Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at the Al-Alwiya maternity hospital in Baghdad.

Doctors said they were forced to refrigerate dead babies in hospital morgues until authorities were ready to gather the little corpses for monthly parades in coffins on the roofs of taxis for the benefit of Iraqi state television and visiting journalists. The parents were ordered to wail with grief - no matter how many weeks had passed since their babies had died - and to shout to the cameras that the sanctions had killed their children, the doctors said. Afterward, the parents would be rewarded with food or money.

Read the rest, as they say. It's quite telling.

May 22, 2003
Did Atty. Gen. Janet Reno refuse to permit a plan for the capture of Bin Laden to proceed in 1998?

An open letter to Brock Meeks, correspondent on MSNBC's Homeland Security Beat re: Janet Reno's alleged refusal to permit a plan to go forward in 1998 to capture Osama Bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

This letter was emailed to Mr. Meeks earlier today.

* * *

Dear Mr. Meeks:

I heard (& saw) a story on Washington's radio station WMAL (AM 630) (on the Charlie Warren Show at about 6 p.m. last night) - and again last night on MSNBC with Keith Oberman - regarding a 1998 plan by the FBI and CIA to capture Osama Bin Laden. The story was that FBI Agent Cogen (phonetic) now indicates that the FBI/CIA had a plan in 1998 to go into Kandahar, Afghanistan, to capture Bin Laden in a safe house where he was staying. The FBI/CIA had strong intelligence that he was in this particular safe house. Agents trained outside of San Diego in preparation for the actual capture. The agents had previously obtained a criminal arrest warrant for Bin Laden in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the plan was presented to then Attorney General Janet Reno, however, she refused to permit the arrest/capture plan to go forward. (Also, both of the reports from yesterday indicated that, when contacted regarding this story, Ms. Reno refused to comment).

Despite the above coverage I heard and saw yesterday, and the important nature of this story, I have been unable to find any links to this story on the MSNBC website (or elsewhere) today. Can you direct me to a link for the Keith Oberman report on this story - or to any other link on this story?

Thank you.

* * *


See the story discussed at World Net Daily.

This War Made Possible by the Following Sponsors

My boss received an email from his good friend, who is the Executive Officer of the U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt.

I'm happy to say this will be my last installment for this deployment. We passed the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday (headed westbound), and we'll fly off our 8 jets off Theodore Roosevelt and back into Jacksonville next Wednesday. The ship will pull into Norfolk on the 29th. We've got quite a few anxious sailors ready to get home and take some well deserved time off.

It ain't over till the paperwork's done, so we're putting the finishing touches on all our end-of-deployment reports and briefs due upon our return. As you can imagine, wars can be expensive. I've attached a picture that one of our industrious computer experts put together. It's a combination of NASCAR meets Navy Air, not sure it's enough to pay the bills, but something worth considering.

[click for larger image]

The State Dept. Departs from the Constitution

From the Washington Times:

"Walk the halls of the State Department's main offices in Washington these days, and you'll encounter an abundance of political cartoons — something you could not have found even three years ago. It's not that the diplomats at Foggy Bottom have suddenly developed a sense of humor, but rather a newfound contempt for the leader of the free world. The cartoons overwhelmingly lampoon President Bush as a simpleton who doesn't understand the "complexities" of the foreign policy."

That's insubordination. Not to mention tacky. But hardly the worst of it:

"On March 31, representatives of the North Korean government told State Department officials, for the first time, that they were reprocessing plutonium, a key step in developing nuclear weapons. The Pentagon and the White House did not learn of this stunning announcement until Pyongyang told them during previously scheduled talks with North Korea in China on April 18. The State Department intentionally withheld this vital piece of information, fearing that, if the White House knew, officials there might call off the meeting."

For two and a half weeks, State felt it had the right to deny information vital to this nation's security to the Commander-in-Chief, in order to promote it's own policy preference. That's criminally seditious. And meglomaniacal. It smacks of a coup.

These are the people who let the 9-11 terrorists write their own visas in crayon.

They've had their noses planted up Arafat's posterior for years, despite his having murdered Americans...including State Dept. employees!

They're just back from a tour of Nevada's brothels.

Someone needs to tell them they do not work for themselves... they work for the President. The President of the United States...not France.

If Gen. Powell's officers had pulled a stunt like that when he was in command, their asses would still be in Leavenworth.

A damned outrage.

Posted By at 02:42 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack
May 21, 2003
U.S. to implement Saddam-like policies in Iraq

Just when I thought things were starting to go well in Iraq, I hear that Iraqis are going to be subject to dictatorial-style gun grabs by U.S. and Allied forces. The New York Times reports that Allies will begin seizing guns from Iraqis, and those that refuse to comply will risk being arrested.

"We are in the final stages of formulating a weapons policy to put rules on who can and cannot possess a weapon," Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the chief allied land commander said in an interview. "We want to get explosives and AK's out of the wrong hands."
So much for the God given right to self defense. I agree that criminals shouldn't be permitted to run around with guns, but the Allies aren't targeting the criminals. They are targeting anyone and everyone who is not a member of the police force or military. The mass of Iraqi civilians are being treated like criminals for the misdeeds of a few miscreants and looters.

The sad fact is that criminals will undoubtedly evade having their firearms confiscated, leaving the average law-abiding Iraqi at their mercy. Not too mention that any government that is set up in Iraq will have an easy time oppressing the populace, given that the U.S. has already disarmed them. As soon as our troops leave, they are a lot more likely to return to being an Islamic Fundamentalist dictatorship.

When I think back to the founding of our own nation, I don't recall reading anywhere in the history books that guns were rounded up for the safety of our fledgling government. In fact, firearms ownership was encouraged, and protected with the drafting of the Second Amendment. Where is George Mason when you need him?

A Summary Of Middle-East Editorial Opinion

The Daily Star of Lebanon has posted a summary of op-ed pieces from papers throughout the Middle-East. Written under the headline Terrorism is a ‘cancer’ spreading through Muslim world, it's a collection well worth reading. You can find it here, and here's a selection:

Arab News (Riyadh): The pro-government daily says the real victim behind the attacks in the region is Islam and the Arabs, not the Americans or other foreigners. “The biggest victim of all is Islam. The actions of the fanatics feed Islamophobia. They send the warped message that Islam is a religion drenched in blood. They must stop.

But it is not enough to say that this is the work of a minuscule minority, that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are sickened by these attacks. It is not enough to condemn. It is not even enough to hunt them down and punish them. The world has to see that the cancer threatening the Muslim world is being cut out ­ vigorously. Unless something is done, it will create a backlash of its own ­ against Muslims, against Islam.”

Al-Ahram (Cairo): Columnist Salama Ahmed Salama slams US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the government-owned daily saying that he is as “brutal” and “unfair” as Saddam Hussein for the way Arab prisoners are treated in Guantanamo Bay.

“It has become difficult to differentiate between Rumsfeld and Saddam as well as between (British Premier Tony) Blair and (former Iraqi Deputy Premier) Tareq Aziz.”

“Those who speak today of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime and the absence of justice under the Baath authority will realize that what the Bush administration is committing through Rumsfeld is not less brutal nor less unfair than what Saddam Hussein did.” American practices are “stirring up feelings of injustice and rage, which encourages hatred of the United States.”

Posted By Alan at 08:05 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
May 20, 2003
Surprising New Allies in the War on Terror: Al Qaeda's Second-String Strategists

I Think We Killed All the Smart Ones

Originally posted at Little Tiny Lies. Please be aware that the author is not suggesting that suicide bombing is funny.

In the wake of last week's suicide bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca, intelligence agencies the world over are scrambling to gather information on the new, reconstituted Al Qaeda terrorist network. Al Qaeda's security measures have made it impossible for the West to pinpoint the hiding place of mastermind Osama bin Laden, but using an electronic eavesdropping device of my own design, the Fict-U-Lizer (patent pending), I have managed to record and transcribe a recent meeting between bin Laden and two of his henchmen.

SCENE: a damp, dark cave in Afghanistan. In a corner of the room stands a hospital bed containing the crumpled, bandaged form of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. His head is in a partial cast which makes it impossible for him to speak.

ENTER Mahmoud and Naseem, two lower-level Al Qaeda operatives.

NASEEM: Is the great one awake? I am eager to tell him the wonderful news!

MAHMOUD: Silence, son of a dung beetle. We will wait until he rouses.

NASEEM: Your mother is a dung beetle.

MAHMOUD: Your father is a shabbos goy.

NASEEM: Perhaps he is your father, too. Ask your mother, the dung beetle.

MAHMOUD: I have your dung beetle right here. Lower your voice; Osama sleeps.

NASEEM: Osama will be so pleased! Knowing he inspires such devotion will help him forget he lives on diluted hummus pumped in through what once was his nose!

MAHMOUD: Naseem...

NASEEM: He will not mind the sacrifices. The eyepatch, the skin grafts, the missing buttock, the adult diapers...

MAHMOUD: Naseem!

NASEEM: The news will make him forget! Just as his head injuries made him forget how to make chraa on his own, in a proper squat-toilet instead of wherever he happens to be at the time.

MAHMOUD: Do not make me strike you.

NASEEM: [Standing by Osama's nightstand, he fingers an Arabic translation of Mein Kampf. He gives it a sudden push, sending it to the floor, where it lands with a bang.] OOPS!

OSAMA: [He wakes.] MMFF! MMFF! [Looking around wildly with his remaining eye, he uses his good arm to claw at the bed's rails. Believing the B-52's are back, he is determined to hide under the bed.]

NASEEM: Look, Mahmoud! He cannot wait to rise and fight the infidels! [He sniffs.] Say, Mahmoud, do you smell chraa?

MAHMOUD: [Draws back his hand and smacks Naseem on the back of the head.] See how you startled him?


MAHMOUD: Blessed one, we bring good news! I know you were worried when the bombers came and killed every one of your lieutenants who could read, and you were forced to promote those of us who had been recruited to dig latrines and throw ourselves on stray cluster bombs. But we have risen to the occasion! Al Qaeda is reborn! We have resumed our campaign of holy hatred! Once again, the intestines and mangled torsos of the faithful are raining down among our enemies! Our suicide bombers are back at work! Praise Allah!

OSAMA: [He is dressed in a hospital gown and adult diapers made by duct-taping together Huggies decorated with smiling ducks and bunnies.] MMF! NNNG! NNNG! [He waves his good hand back and forth in a gesture clearly meaning "no."]

NASEEM: Look, Mahmoud! He says, "No! No! No more good news! I cannot bear it!" I know, o seed of the Prophet! Your joy is so great, it cannot be contained!

OSAMA: [Flops back onto his pillow.]

MAHMOUD: Great imam, the news is even better than you think! Before, we sent our bombers to Israel and America, to kill the Jews and Christians. Now, we send them into the hearts of Islam's great cities, to slaughter those who have not helped us enough!

OSAMA: [Turns his head and stares at Mahmoud in horror.]

NASEEM: Yes, great leader! This week we bombed the treacherous Saudis and Moroccans! Wise is Allah, and terrible is his hand, Al Qaeda!

OSAMA: [Raises his hand and slaps the plaster covering his forehead.]

MAHMOUD: Yes, imam, the Saudis and Moroccans helped us, but not enough. They sent us money. They armed our men. But they lined their pockets with dollars and paid lip service to the Western pigs. We rewarded them for their treachery by blowing their body parts as high as the minarets of a mosque.

NASEEM: I guess we showed THEM, eh, imam?

MAHMOUD: We would like to bomb the appeasing, boot-licking Syrians as well, but for some reason, we are now having a cash-flow problem.

NASEEM: This morning when I opened the mail bag from our chief fundraiser in Saudi Arabia, I was surprised to find that it contained his severed head.

MAHMOUD: We suspect some sort of woodworking accident.

NASEEM: But we fixed the problem. Prince Abdullah called this morning.

MAHMOUD: I know, I know. You are afraid your unworthy servants have claimed the credit for themselves. Naseem and I would never betray you so! We would sooner be bar mitzvah'd and vacation in the Catskills!

NASEEM: We told him the bombings were the work of our great master, Osama!

MAHMOUD: And he said he wanted to come in person and give you "what you have coming."

NASEEM: Some sort of prize, we think. Perhaps a hot tub.

MAHMOUD: Or a cruise!

NASEEM: And we wanted to make sure you would get your reward.

MAHMOUD: So we told him where you were staying.

OSAMA: [Whimpering noises.]

NASEEM: Look, Mahmoud. Tears of joy.

MAHMOUD: We should really spruce up the cave for his visit. Perhaps some balloons. What do you think, Naseem?

NASEEM: Can we have ice cream?

MAHMOUD: Perhaps an ice cream cake in the shape of a Q'uran.

OSAMA: [Gestures to Mahmoud.]

MAHMOUD: What do you wish, o lion of the desert? You wish me to come to your side? [He walks to the bedside.]

OSAMA: [Yanks Mahmoud's revolver from its holster, presses it to his temple, and pulls the trigger repeatedly, only to hear a series of clicks.]

NASEEM: Look, Mahmoud! He wants to be a martyr, too!

MAHMOUD: My master, your guards made me leave my ammunition with them at the door.

NASEEM: You can't be too careful.

MAHMOUD: But be of good cheer! Soon your turn will come.

OSAMA: [Nods morosely.]

NASEEM: Do not worry, your seventy-two virgins await, and they are taking excellent care of your ears and missing buttock, which have preceded you to Paradise.

MAHMOUD: O, lucky, lucky buttock.

NASEEM: And ears.

MAHMOUD: Indeed, the ears are lucky as well.

NASEEM: And the eye.

MAHMOUD: Yes, Naseem, and the eye.

NASEEM: And the nipple which was torn off by shrapnel.

MAHMOUD: Clearly, Naseem has forgotten his pills today.

OSAMA: [Sobs quietly.]

MAHMOUD: He weeps for the fallen.

NASEEM: Perhaps he weeps for the nipple.

MAHMOUD: Truly, Naseem, the midwife should have thrown you to the jackals and kept the placenta.

At that point, the batteries for the Fict-u-lizer went dead, and I was forced to cannibalize a pair from my motorized, talking Donald Rumsfeld bobble-head. But it was too late; the meeting had ended.

This correspondent promises to stay abreast of related developments. Encouraged by Al Qaeda's clever new strategy of bombing nations whose citizens have given them financial support, State Department officials have reportedly offered Al Qaeda money to cut out the middleman and simply bomb themselves.

Reliable sources say Al Qaeda's leaders are stalling while they try to figure out the catch.

Posted By at 07:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Music From Hell Torture Suggestions

The bit about Americans using heavy metal and Barney the Dinosaur music on auto-repeat in order to break Hussein's henchmen has triggered a lot of commentary in the blogosphere.

Charles of Little Green Footballs threw out the challenge, and asked "what else should they use?" The pitiless Green Horde wasted no time in coming up with answers, proving once again that Allah's justice works in strange and mysterious ways. Command Post readers have offered their own suggestions, but there was no focused effort and so LGF's Green Horde is ahead at the moment.

For a listing of some of the top eeevil music entries so far, and an opportunity to submit your own Music from Hell, come visit Winds of Change.NET. Think of it as your personal contribution to the war effort!

May 19, 2003
Manila can't depend upon an American crutch

Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune:

MANILA - Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and George W. Bush are to meet in Washington on Monday, buoyed by the assumption that the governments of the United States and the Philippines need each other. But the mutual admiration has pitfalls.

Washington is granting the Philippines' president a rare state visit and some more material rewards for her support in the military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and for the war on terrorism. Manila can now expect a favored position for its workers and subcontractors in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The mainly Christian Philippines, which is facing its own problems with Muslim rebels, is easily lined up in actions against Islamic extremists and Arroyo's decision to back Bush has been popular in a nation where many families have relatives in America.

But the United States needs to get a better feel for the dangers of being sucked into Manila's war in Muslim Mindanao. The decision last year to send U.S. forces to the Philippines to help in the hunt for Abu Sayyaf terrorists had political benefits for both countries and brought some order to Basilan Island. But attention has now shifted back to the vastly bigger, more organized, politically entrenched problem of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the spearhead of a 30-year-old Muslim revolt.
Full story »»

Local Boy Makes Good

OpinionJournal: The Digital Warrior: A tribute to the men who make the Information Age military work.
Steven den Beste, a fellow blogger for those who aren't familiar, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding the military in the information age. I picked an excerpt at random. Go read the whole thing. It's wordy, as den Beste tends to be, but it's incredibly informative and acts as a nifty introduction to the evolution of the technology of war.

In 1991 during the air preparation, orders for air strikes had to be flown to U.S. Navy carriers on courier jets, on paper. In 2003, there was a direct communication link between guys on the ground and jets in the air, and instead of knowing their mission when they took off, jets went into the theater and were told what to strike when they reached the zone of combat. When our ground forces were moving forward, there were always air assets available above them, which they could call on as needed.

What you get on the digital battlefield is two things in particular. First, you get a much more clear idea of the state of the battle than has been possible in the last hundred years. Second, you get vastly better coordination of combined-arms combat.

The Fourth "high tech" Mechanized Infantry Division takes this to a new level, because every vehicle in the division is part of a broadband digital network. It isn't just the commanders who have that clear picture of the battlefield; everyone's got it.

In the future we'll go even further, because each individual dismounted infantryman will actually be part of such a network, literally wearing a computer system with a helmet-mounted graphics display. The basic system is currently known as Land Warrior, and it's in prototype now. There have been some training exercises using it which were judged to be successful.

May 18, 2003
That Oughta Do It -- Cruel And Unusual Punishment For Saddam Sympathizers

Psyop: The Love
I don't know if this violates the treaty making torture illegal, but it probably should. Forcing detainees to listen to Barney the purple dinosaur singing for hours on end is enough to drive anyone nuts. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes for me to crack under that pressure.

I remember reading a story a few years ago where a man, no doubt the father of a small child, beat the shit out of a Barney imitator at a Texas mall. I know how he feels and I don't even have children.

Link via Blogdex.

May 17, 2003
Korea Crisis

Foreign Policy, Victor D. Cha and David C. Kang

North Korea is not crazy, near collapse, nor about to start a war. But it is dangerous, not to mention dangerously misunderstood. Defusing the threat that North Korea poses to its neighbors and the world will require less bluster, more patience, and a willingness on the part of the United States to probe and understand the true sources of the North’s conduct.
Analysis of statements and related facts

Maggie comes in swinging

Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher broke her medical ban on public speaking with a speech at an Anglo-US free market think-tank in New York last week. Choice quote:

"There are too many people who imagine that there is something sophisticated about always believing the best of those who hate your country, and the worst of those who defend it."
She also said:
. . . she had “drunk deep from the same well of ideas” as her great ally, the former US President Ronald Reagan. Both instinctively knew what worked, she said, including low taxes, small government and enterprise. “We knew, too, what did not work, namely socialism in every shape or form. Nowadays socialism is more often dressed up as environmentalism, feminism, or international concern for human rights. All sound good in the abstract. But scratch the surface and you will as likely as not discover anti-capitalism, patronising and distorting quotas, and intrusions upon the sovereignty and democracy of nations.”
As an environmentalist feminist with a concern for human rights, I acknowledge this is true. There are people working in those areas who understand that rule of law, protection of minority rights, representative democracy, and market economies will further those goals much more effectively than vague, biased international bureaucracies, but they are too busy working inside the system to get much publicity.

UPDATE: I apologize - I forgot to include the URL!

Posted By at 02:31 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack
Al Qaeda, Already on Thin Ice, Begins to Tap-Dance

Stupidity More Shocking Than Brutality

Originally posted at Little Tiny Lies.

It appears that Al Qaeda is behind the recent bombings in Casablanca. Targets included a Jewish community center, the Belgian consulate, a Spanish social club and a hotel.

I haven't seen anyone propose a rationale for choosing these targets. I suspect that's because there isn't one.

Sure, the community center makes sense. They're Jews, or at least most of them are. Muslim terrorists attacking Jews; no explanation required. I suppose the social club could have something to do with Spain's support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

How do you explain the attack on Belgian interests? If Germany and France are Groucho and Chico, Belgium is Harpo. Belgium has been utterly useless to the coalition.

The hotel bombing is another puzzle, unless you start with the premise that the puzzle has no answer. I would imagine that Moroccan hotels are generally staffed and occupied by Muslims. That dovetails nicely with my belief that Al Qaeda now sees Muslims as expendable or even as enemies. I hope the feeling becomes mutual.

We know Al Qaeda is hostile to some Muslims. Those in the Saudi government, in particular, because they allowed American infidels to defile Arabia's sacred sand with their footprints. But even in the Arab world, there's a wide gulf between sour relations and terrorism. If bitterness always equaled terrorism, the Saudis would be bombing us themselves instead of quietly paying Al Qaeda to do it.

Operation Iraqi Freedom got support from Muslim nations, but unless I am greatly deceived, it has been lukewarm support. The Saudis wouldn't let us use their soil. The Syrians allowed Iraqis to go home and fight us. Arab news organizations routinely distorted the news in Hussein's favor. It's not like Muslims the world over were rushing to support us. But it looks like the halfhearted, two-faced "support" they gave us suffices to make them targets of Al Qaeda terrorism.

In the past, the Arabs' incentive to help us was largely commercial. They wanted to keep the oil flowing. I assume they also wanted to avoid pushing us deeper into the pro-Israel, anti-Arab camp; that's just common sense. Now Al Qaeda is killing Muslim Arab civilians unpredictably and with no clear goal. Suddenly, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab nations are saying, with sincerity, the same things they used to say merely to placate us. Terrorism has to be stopped; the perpetrators have to be punished.

I hate to say this, knowing it's exactly the kind of statement the left's tinfoil-hat brigade likes to seize on and turn into pillars of faith, but if George Bush had wanted to get the Arabs into our corner for a change, one great way to do it would have been to have the CIA arrange just the sort of attacks Al Qaeda has been pulling. Bomb a few hotels and shopping areas, blame it on Al Qaeda, and watch the fur fly. Of course, that's hard to do when the instruments of destruction are suicide bombers. It's not easy to find people who will blow themselves up for pay.

Obviously, this is Al Qaeda action. It's not a clever plot by the CIA. But if we were able to plan Al Qaeda's moves for our own benefit, we couldn't do much better than they've done on their own.

I hate to get my expectations up. Islam is a faith that owes its very existence to religious intolerance. Mohammed had a hard time getting the ball rolling until he made a rule that Muslims were only allowed to rob and pillage the villages and cities of non-Muslims, and once he put that rule in place, it became much easier to convert people. Intolerance for non-Muslims has been an important part of Islam since the very beginning, and I think little has changed. I believe that by and large, Muslims view the non-Muslim West with contempt. That's a hard obstacle to overcome.

Still, Al Qaeda is doing everything it can to help. If they keep it up, rank-and-file Muslims the world over may well decide it's easier to stomach fighting Al Qaeda than to put up with news broadcasts featuring shots of Muslim blood pooling in Middle Eastern gutters. Maybe Al Qaeda isn't Robin Hood and his band of merry men; maybe they're misguided cultists who don't care who they hurt. Maybe Arabs will come to see Al Qaeda the way we saw the Branch Davidians.

Muslim unity is not as monolithic and unassailable as people think. There are Bedouin groups who, for decades, have served in the Israeli military. If Israel can make allies of Muslims, it's not unreasonable to hope that the Arab world will abandon a dangerous, unpredictable cult that lashes out in random directions.

I hope reason triumphs over passion and bigotry just this once. If Al Qaeda manages to unite Muslims and non-Muslims even temporarily, the improvement in relations could lead to a peace that could last for decades.

Posted By at 01:17 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack
Al Qaeda Craps Where it Eats

Meanwhile, Major News Outlets Still Discussing Dung-Flinging Teenagers

Originally posted at on May 16, 2003, at Little Tiny Lies.

Dean Esmay blogged something really interesting today. Now that Al Qaeda is bombing other Muslims, Arabs have decided suicide bombing may possibly be a BAD THING. He found some Arab papers describing the bombers as criminals and expressing sincere fury over their actions.

Welcome to the party, boys.

There may be some bloodstained treasures to pick out of this hill of dung.

For one thing, it says a lot about the state of Al Qaeda. If these guys had really gotten it together, the way they claim to, they would never have done something this stupid. As Dean said to me tonight, "It smacks of desperation." And you have to wonder if it reflects the severity of the damage we've done to their leadership. When you cut a chicken's head off, it still runs, but it doesn't run anywhere important. Al Qaeda is still killing, but is it killing the people it needs to kill?

In my opinion, it's killing exactly the wrong people, if you look at it from Al Qaeda's perspective. Excuse me for being flippant about mass murder, but my summary of the Arab articles condemning the bombers was as follows: "This s--t isn't funny any more!"

Until now, there was an idiotic, unfazable current of Muslim pride that caused Muslims all over the world to back our enemies. They backed Saddam Hussein, who was the world's leading persecutor of Muslims. It didn't bother them when he gassed and machine-gunned Iraqis. Frankly, oppressive, brutal government is something Arabs expect. But look at them jump when Al Qaeda rips up innocent Saudis. Borderless terrorism that strikes Arabs in locations that can't be predicted? That's not cricket.

The terrorists aren't just Muslims. They're not just Muslim extremists. They're lunatics. Idiots. And armed idiots are bad for everyone; their destruction knows no direction, no method. In 2001, it was us. Next week, it may be a column of pilgrims walking toward Mecca, saying prayers Al Qaeda hasn't approved.

Whoever planned this thing, he is not deserving of the usual term, "mastermind." He blew up people whose relatives support terrorism. He may have blown the biscuit wheels right off his own gravy train. Though he harmed us in the short run, he may have done something we could never do on our own. He may have united Arabs and Americans in a sincere battle to slaughter his troops and jail their supporters until the average Saudi would rather donate money to the B'nai Brith than Al Qaeda.

This act reeked of stupidity. As I told Dean, the tone-deafness was "Hillaryesque."

Read the story. I think you'll agree, this tragedy may carry inside it the seeds of an alliance we could never have forged on our own.

Posted By at 01:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Salam Pax a hoax?

Ottawa Citizen, David Warren

Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenclature. He was brought up at least partly in Vienna, which is the OPEC headquarters; his father was therefore an oilman, and possibly a former head of Iraq's OPEC mission.
Full story »»

Also read this Command Post Op-Ed article

May 16, 2003
Jesse Jackson Weighs In On Race & The Marine Withdrawal

During a recent speech at Stanford University's Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Jesse Jackson commented on the withdrawal of US Marines from Iraq. This from the Stanford University's Standord Review:

Mr. Jackson spent a large portion of his speech emphasizing the existence of a racial divide in the United States. He demanded that the audience look closely at the military, which is 35% black and 15% Latino. He argued that the withdrawal from Iraq of the Marines, who have a higher white percentage, suggests racism on the part of this nation's military commanders, as the Army, which has a higher percentage of blacks than the Marines, would have remain in Iraq.
Hat tip to Krempasky.

Posted By at 04:52 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack
Is a "Big Deal" with North Korea Really Possible?

The May 13 edition of the Baltimore Sun ran a very thought provoking opinion piece by Michael O'Hanlon and Mike Mochizuki ("We need to make North Korea a big deal") in which the two scholars call on Washington and Seoul to propose a "grand bargain" with that last outpost of Stalinism otherwise known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). In contrast to the approaches so far articulated by Presidents Bush and Noh, O'Hanlon and Mochizuki advise:

Negotiate without preconditions and without excessive concern about who else participates. But negotiate from a position of strength and resolve, Reagan-style. We should offer North Korea substantial incentives, well beyond what has been provided or discussed to date, to end dangerous weapons programs and begin to reform its economy and way of governance. But we should also insist that any increase in outside aid will require compliance with a much broader set of demands than we have made so far.
In other words, Washington and Seoul should propose a "grand bargain" that the United States and its regional security partners should pursue with North Korea. Although accords could be negotiated and implemented step by step, they would be guided by a clearly articulated and broad vision. That vision should help grab the attention and focus the imagination of North Korean leaders, who would be presented with a clear alternative to their present dangerous and self-destructive path.

Such an approach, the two writers explain, would place the Bush Administration in a much better position than it is now to convince other regional powers of the need for stronger policies should such a "grand bargain" be turned down. However, O'Hanlon and Mochizuki feel that:

there is also very good reason, based on the history of negotiations with North Korea, to think an ambitious plan could succeed. North Korea has concluded even unpalatable deals in the past when it thought it was getting enough in return, and it has indicated an awareness that it must reform its economy for years even if it has failed miserably in the attempt to do so.

As far as what such a "big deal" would encompass, North Korea would be expected to fully denuclearize, and its ballistic missile program will need to be addressed. But that's not all:

... the broad plan would go much further than the nuclear question. Consistent with Mr. Bush's instincts that any deal with North Korea's current government is unappealing and unpromising, it would seek to begin to change the basic nature of that regime.

One aspect of the broader plan would emphasize human rights issues such as the return of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea decades ago and even the internal practices of the North Korean regime toward its people. And of course Washington would offer a nonaggression pledge, peace treaty and diplomatic relations as well, provided North Korea agrees to the rest of the package.

The centerpiece of O'Hanlon and Mochizuki's plan, however, is a "combination of deep conventional arms reductions on the peninsula and assistance to North Korea to help it reform its economy." China, "which has navigated the road from a communist command system to an entrepreneurial economy," would be expected to provide guidance and advice, while Japan, South Korea, China, and the United States would provide aid. The two writers explain:

Only such a policy could reduce the enormous economic burden that North Korea's oversized military places on the country. Without such weapons cuts and economic reform, North Korea will probably continue to provoke future crises in order to extort resources from the international community simply because its leaders will see no other way to stay financially afloat.

As I said earlier, O'Hanlon and Mochizuki's proposed approach does provide us with much food for thought (or at least it should). However, I find it flawed in a number of crucial areas. Firstly, despite the two analysts' observation that North Korea has shown a willingness to conclude "even unpalatable deals in the past when it thought it was getting enough in return," North Korea has also shown a distinct willingness to violate those very same deals whenever it felt doing so might prove profitable. The histories of both inter-Korean relations and US-DPRK relations are littered with the debris of agreements that the North moved to undermine before the ink on them had even dried. If there is any dount about this, remember that we are still negotiating with the North Koreans over a nuclear issue that was supposedly dealt with by three seperate agreements in 1985, 1991, and 1994.

A more fatal flaw, however, is O'Hanlon and Mochizuki's assumption that the North Korean system can somehow be "reformed." I think it can be rightly assumed that after over a decade of negative economic growth and nearly two million deaths due to starvation, the North Korean leadership knows something is amiss in the Workers' Paradise. The fact that it has not undertaken even modest economic reforms, however, reflects certain limitations in North Korea's socio-economic structure. Unlike the rural societies of China and Vietnam, two socialist nations that have successfully pursued market reforms, North Korean society is urban and industrialized. In this regard, Pyongyang's relevant precedent of reform is not China, but the Soviet Union. The North Korean leadership is well aware of this; even as inter-Korean "reconciliation" and "cooperation" accelerated following the election of Kim Dae-jung in the South, the DPRK's official media repeatedly cautioned Seoul against taking measures to "undermine the North's socialist system."

Pyongyang will rebuff any attempts to encourage meaningful economic or political reform in North Korea, because it rightly equates such reforms with the death of the regime. Likewise, massive cuts in North Korea's oversized but politically important military are unlikely; not only would they alienate Kim Jong-il from one of his most important bases of support, but they would effectively destroy one of the two ideological pillars of the North Korean regime - its destiny to unify the peninsula under the banner of the Korean Workers Party. That the KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) now makes reference to the North's "Songun" (Army-first) policy as much as it does to "Juche" should not be ignored.

With reform out of the question, the North Korean leadership has most likely decided that it is through aid, and aid alone, that the regime's survival can be ensured. With this in mind, it has provoked crisis after crisis on the Korean peninsula with the aim of extracting increasinly large amounts of aid from its wealthier neighbors. O'Hanlon and Mochizuki correctly noted this cycle of behavior. Unfortunately, North Korea's previous attempts at brinkmanship have proved all too profitable, and it's unlikely that Pyongyang can be dissuaded from continually employing such a strategy as long as the regime exists; O'Hanlon and Mochizuki's "grand bargain" would serve only to confirm to North Korea's leaders what they already know - that crime pays. Moreover, like in Orwell's 1984, the crises that the DPRK provokes may very well serve a very important domestic function: by keeping the nation on a perpetual war-footing, Pyongyang is better able to justify the material deprivations its citizens must endure in order for the regime to survive. If this is the case, it is highly unlikely that any "big deal" with the DPRK can be struck that will lead to real peace in the region.

It can be argued that it's in the interests of all concerned to pay increasing amounts of "blackmail" to North Korea in order for it to freeze (but not terminate) its nuclear program. This seems to be the postition of Seoul, and to a lesser (and dimishing) extent, Tokyo. But if we do decide to go down that road, let's not kid ourselves about what we're doing - putting on life-support a regime that lacks the means of reform, and views crisis as its very source of life.

Posted By at 12:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
May 15, 2003
Baghdad Blogger: Agent 00-Salam?

Here's my response to this controversy about Baghdad blogger "Salam Pax" being a Ba'athist agent, sparked by a David Warren column that also makes some good points about Pax's moral myopia.

I buy the family connections, the moral myopia, and the narcissist streak. I also think there's a kind of mentality at work that likes to be seen as a "bad boy" out there "on the edge," whether he is or not in real life (personal bet? Not). But an Iraqi intelligence officer? I'm not exactly naive about intelligence matters, so I understand the theoretical possibility. What I don't see here is the point of the op. A real intelligence op should try to accomplish concrete things, and Pax was too all over the map to fit that profile for any intelligence organization I can think of. He actually undermined the Iraqi story in important ways, and a trained agent wouldn't accidentally reveal the things David Warren cites re: his family connections. Cover is an agent's priority one, and Salam Pax has done a less than stellar job of that throughout.

No, my point of view corresponds to Occasional Reader's instead, not to mention Mike G's. When Saddam's agents wanted to shape opinion, they bought it.

As for the claims that Salam didn't post anything critical of Saddam et. al. before the war, I suggest doing one's research first:

  • [Dec. 25, 2002] Uday may or may not have been liked by the Tikritis, but crossing him is extremely unsafe... q.v. Lahib Nouman's story. (Hat Tip: Diana Moon)

  • [Jan. 6, 2003] Criticizing Saddam's speeches directly, in a way that mocks his hayba (aura of indomitable authority). This is very serious, the sort of thing that could definitely get one's tongue cut out.

  • [Jan. 21, 2003] Says the weapons inspection interviews are a farce. Exactly how this helps Saddam is lost on me.

  • [Feb. 21, 2003] Criticizing the human shields. Again, this helps how?

  • [March 02, 2003] Says the oil fires are a repetition of and symbolic form of national shame for Iraq's past actions. Reads like criticism of Iraq's Kuwaiti invasion to me. Wasn't that kind of taboo?Sigh. Now I'll probably hear from some loon claiming all this proves Salam Pax was a CIA agent instead....

    --- UPDATES ---

    Roger Simon and I continue the debate in his blog and comments section.

  • Kathy K. has some more worthy quotes for y'all from Salam, and links to the Jeff Jarvis preview of tomorrow's Salam Pax interview.

  • Much ado about the 'terrorist' tag

    [Note: This entry is a cross-post from my blog]

    Today's Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial ("Useless ultimatum") questions the June 1 ultimatum Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF):

    It's not only the President who seems to think that being labeled as a terrorist is the worst thing that could happen to the MILF. Everyone in the government, from the President to her Cabinet down to some local officials has been brandishing it as if it were the ultimate weapon assuring the MILF's total destruction. The problem is that such a threat has not made very many MILF members quake in their boots. On the contrary, they have been acting lately as if they themselves were in a great hurry to earn that label. Whereas before they were quick to deny any involvement in the bombings near the Davao airport and the Sasa wharf, lately they have shown no qualms about accepting responsibility for last week's raid in Siocon which left 35 people dead and the Koronadal blast that killed nine people last Saturday.
    Furthermore, the piece concluded:

    There is one sure outcome of declaring the MILF a terrorist organization: a much wider and longer conflict and possibly more terrorist attacks on civilian targets. Kabalu said such labeling would mean "the government is closing the door to the peace process and pursuing a military solution."

    That is, of course, the solution favored by many in the administration and the military as well as an increasing number of citizens, people who have grown tired and angry at the killings and depredations of the MILF. But the key question is: Will it work? Will more bloodshed move Mindanao closer to peace? Ferdinand Marcos tried it for more than a decade, and it didn't work. Other presidents have also tried it at one time or the other, and still the insurgency remained. What makes the President and the military believe that an all-out war now is the only way to peace?
    But what is happening now? What did we see in the past few years? The MILF routinely defy established ceasefires by randomly mowing down military personnel passing through rebel-controlled areas, blowing up vital government infrastructure, bombing civilian targets, and kidnapping women and children and using them as human shields against military pursuers while MILF spin doctors and their influential coddlers apply psy-war and work the media to the hilt by making it appear that everything is the fault of the Armed Forces. They have mastered the art of the blame game and table reversal.

    By not labeling the MILF as a "terrorist organization", the government keeps the door open for peace. But judging from recent developments, it is the MILF itself who doesn't want peace. Keep the talks going? Will it work? How? What makes the government believe that the Moro rebels will accept anything less than what the latter has been waging war for for decades now - that is, a separate Islamic state? We know concessions in any form will not be acceptable for the group of Hashim Salamat.

    Although it is utterly unfortunate that the civilians living in communities near where the Islamic extremists operate are the most heavily affected by military maneuvers, the government has no other recourse but to go after these perpetrators of terrorist attacks. One way or another, these murderers for their religion must be stopped and be held accountable for their criminal actions, whether the rebels get officially tagged as "terrorists" or not.

    In one of the recent television newscasts featuring candid interviews of villagers in Koronadal, one of the places recently bombed by the MILF, a reporter asked a resident what he wants done with the rebels. The man replied, "kailangang ubusin na 'yang mga rebelde na 'yan. Sobra na'ng pinsala ang dinudulot nila. Kung gusto nila, sasama na din kaming mga tao na labanan sila. Tutal, may mga baril din naman kami" ("We need to wipe them out. They're causing too much destruction. If they want, we people can join the fight against them. Anyway, we have guns ourselves.") One woman even said, "dapat sa kanila, balatan ng buhay sa pagpatay nila sa mga inosenteng mamamayan" ("They should be skinned alive for killing innocent citizens.")

    I'm not for the imposition of, nor do I condone, cruel and unusual punishment. But sometimes, you can't blame victims of terrorism for wishing the infliction of brutal retribution for those who initiate the heinous acts. As I have mentioned here in the past, terrorists should be treated like the common criminals they are and should not enjoy the romanticized label of "freedom fighters".

    Al-Qaeda's warning to Riyadh

    Japan Times Editorial

    The terrorists smell opportunity. They sense weakness in Saudi Arabia, as the government's chief protector, the U.S., harbors increasing doubts about its ally's utility at a time of tectonic shifts in Persian Gulf geopolitics. The U.S. is now weighing the price of its support for the government in Saudi Arabia. To cut its losses would be as shortsighted as the Saudi decision to keep its distance from al-Qaeda's battle with the West. It is a lesson for us all in the fight against terrorism.
    Full Op-Ed »»

    May 14, 2003
    NeoCon Quotes?

    Some interesting quotes :

    We cannot say that suicide bombings in Israel and Russia are acceptable but not in Saudi Arabia. The cult of suicide bombings has to stop. So too has the chattering, malicious, vindictive hate propaganda. It has provided a fertile ground for ignorance and hatred to grow.
    From LGF perhaps? No, guess again.
    But as the preliminary death toll from the blasts was put at 20 and the number of injured still unknown, it was business as usual for Saudis. Denial.
    We needed to hear three questions that are never asked. Like dust, they are swept under the carpet: Why are more and more Saudi young men being fed with radical ideas? Who are the people brainwashing them? How are they being radicalized?
    And so it happens that so much dust is swept underneath the carpet that it finally bursts out in full view of everybody. At last, the truth that was hidden has come out.
    Too NeoCon (read Jewish) for the mainstream media, the New York Times or Washington Post. Certainly everyone at Indymedia knows that the Riyadh bombings were the work of the CIA and Mossad. Obviously some Zionist Muslim-hating Republican Blog, right?

    Not as such.

    The Enemy Within
    Too Much Dust to go Under the Carpet

    Both Op-Ed pieces from the Arab News.

    May 13, 2003
    UN bioweapons inspector tells what he saw in Iraq

    (CC'd from my blog here.)

    This account of UN bioweapons inspector Rocco Casagrande is rather unsettling.

    The Saddam Center for Biotechnology on the campus of Baghdad University boasted a state-of-the-art facility, replete with surreptitiously imported equipment for amplifying tiny amounts of DNA and running tests with gels to determine protein sizes. "It looked like you were walking into a laboratory in one of the better-equipped U.S. institutions," remembers Rocco Casagrande, who began his trips as a United Nations inspector to various Iraqi facilities in mid-December 2002.

    The lab was ideal for performing DNA amplification using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to make countless copies of genes. Oddly, though, the only thing these expensive machines were being used for was genetic fingerprinting of goats involved in what the Iraqis said were in vitro fertilization experiments. Iraq does not suffer from problems with goat fertility. An infertile goat is eaten for dinner, not sent to an IVF clinic. Casagrande and the others took samples from the lab and combed through records on a computer hard disk, to no avail. No evidence of cloning genes for making bioweapons was found. They speculated that the facility could be used for human cloning, but in the end they never figured out its real purpose.

    So here we have a state of the art biotech facility which has a very poor cover story. The obvious guess is that it's part of a bioweapons program. If so that's remarkably disturbing. You don't need state of the art biotech facilities to make bioweapons, the standard techniques for such things involve simple incubation, preparation (e.g. drying, "weaponization"), and ongoing tests of potency (e.g. through exposure to animal test subjects). Use of state of the art biotech techniques would represent a dramatic step up from the techniques we assumed Iraq was capable of. In the best case, for us as the enemies of the Iraqi Ba'athist regime anyway, this equipment was only used as a more convenient way of verifying "batch quality". Even so, that probably means a substantial improvement in "quality" of bioweapon agents. In the worst case Iraq may have been working on transgenic organisms for use as biowarfare agents, perhaps with the aid of "freelancing" former Russian bioweapons scientists. What we know about other former Russian officials working for the Ba'athist regime seems rather less than encouraging on that point.

    You should be concerned, very, very concerned.

    Transgenic bioweapons are far more serious a threat, potentially, than even smallpox, plague, or anthrax. The potentials are almost endless and mind-boggling, and what has already been accomplished does not ease my mind. It is possible with state of the art transgenic techniques to "inject" disease causing genes into existing organisms. For example, it would be possible, theoretically, to modify a non-lethal, highly infections biological agent (such as a cold virus) to cause some sort of lethal or debilitating disease with delayed symptoms relative to the infection. This would be useful because highly promptly lethal epidemics rarely spread quickly or broadly. They tend to kill off their victims so quickly that the disease doesn't have time to infect enough other individuals from each victim to spread effectively. Or, in developed countries during modern times, they tend to be much more susceptible to effective medical treatment and quarantine. AIDS/HIV is a good example of this, with an incubation period of years it spread quickly and fairly widely through the developed world.

    Speculating wildly, an engineered disease of this sort might not be able to effectively avoid causing immediate fatalities in all cases, and could, conceivably, nevertheless have a low immediate fatality rate. SARS perhaps? Is there another foot waiting to drop for the surviving victims of that disease? Personally I highly doubt it, and I don't want to encourage anyone into needless fear. But the possibility is there, and we ought to take it seriously. Hopefully the powers that be are taking such possibilities seriously and have been working vigorously behind the scenes.

    Still, Casagrande came away with a distinct uneasiness. It seems unimaginable to him that a government so obsessed with documentation--the moving of a centrifuge from one room to another required extensive paperwork--would be unable to account for how it disposed of pathogens from its previous biowarfare program and to reveal what it did with large quantities of growth media used to culture pathogenic agents.


    Also questionable was the discovery of a possible smallpox vaccination program. "It makes you wonder why someone in Iraq thought they needed to be vaccinated against smallpox," [...]

    Makes me wonder whether I ought to get vaccinated against smallpox ASAP.

    The Iraqi Ba'athist bioweapons programs have almost certainly been shutdown by now. But at least some of the products of that program are likely to be storable and portable, and deadly dangerous. Though we have liberated the Iraqi people and destroyed the Iraqi Ba'athist regime we ought not to diminish our concern for the existence and whereabouts of any Iraqi WMDs. Continued vigilance and strong, forceful action when necessary are, I believe, warranted.

    Posted By at 08:40 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack
    Korean Games and Interesting Times

    While the media’s attention has primary been focused on Iraq, some fascinating events have been occurring in both North and South Korea. While the story just broke this week, it appears that North Korean soldiers fired Chinese-made anti-personnel lasers at US helicopter pilots. This occurred in March. The pilots were patrolling the Demilitarized Zone and were not injured.

    This increased North Korean aggression may be one of the reasons why the South Koreans are increasingly worried that the US may pull out of the DMZ, and perhaps South Korea itself. In a lesson in being careful for what you wish for, South Korean leaders seem almost panicked that the US is considering leaving the defense of South Korea in the hands of the South Koreans. It is hard to imagine that just months ago, there were South Korean protestors demanding that the US leave.

    President Bush’s war on terror is still in its early days. The days ahead will be full of surprises. But when all is said and done, I suspect the US will have a much smaller presence in South Korea, Germany, and Saudi Arabia and will establish closer ties with countries that desire our presence such as Poland and Qatar. These closer ties will include the creation or strengthening of military bases. These longer-term policies depend upon a lot and may be partially contingent upon Bush winning reelection in 2004. I suspect we will see many leaders that have opposed US interests (such as Chirac and Schroeder) come out in support of whoever wins the Democratic primary. As the Chinese curse and American blessing would have it, we do indeed live in interesting times.

    May 12, 2003
    Yawn.... North Korea Withdraws From Another Nuclear Pact

    Yahoo! News - North Korea Nullifies No-Nuke Accord
    The best thing that can be said about this is that it didn't get a lot of news coverage that I can tell. Having the DPRK drop out of a non-proliferation agreement is becoming standard. It doesn't matter anyway since they ignored them.

    Note how the U.S. has a "sinister" agenda that's undefined. We've even said we have no plans to attack them and the likelihood is near zero unless we are provoked by something big. The simple fact is that, with all the missiles the DPRK has pointed at Seoul, there's almost no chance we would attack because tens of thousands would die within hours.

    I suppose their next move will be to withdraw from the armistice that ended the Korean War. What then? I don't know. Short of some offensive move on their part probably nothing.

    Kim Jong Il is really full of himself. I'm sure President Bush will discuss the DPRK situation with the ROK's President while he's visiting the U.S., but the purpose of the trip is a thank you to South Korea for their support in dealing with Iraq.

    Have you ever noticed that Kim Jong Il's hair would make an excellent birds' nest?

    North Korea said Monday a 1992 agreement with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons was nullified, citing a "sinister" U.S. agenda.

    The accord was the last remaining legal obligation under which North Korea was banned from developing atomic arms. In January, Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a global accord to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

    "The joint (inter-Korean) agreement to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear free was nullified because of a sinister and hostile U.S. policy against North Korea," the North's official news agency KCNA said. The statement was monitored by South Korean news agency Yonhap.

    The two Koreas signed the agreement in January 1992, pledging to renounce hostilities and ban the development and deployment of nuclear weapons on the divided peninsula.

    Could Be Al Qaeda - U.S., Saudis suspect al Qaeda in Riyadh blasts - May. 12, 2003
    If this is indeed al Qaeda, it proves a number of things I've heard recently. On teevee the other day a commentator was saying that past acts by al Qaeda have taken from 18 months to several years to plan. The timing would be consistent with the 9/11 attacks. The other thing I've heard all over the place is that al Qaeda is in such disarray that they can't pull off a major attack on the scale of 9/11. These bombings, as bad as they are, would seem to support that thesis.

    However, it could merely be an opening shot. The truth is the talking heads, including myself, don't know what they are capable of. That's why we have to remain vigilant and continue to pursue al Qaeda until the last one is dead or in prison.

    We recently recovered a missing copy of the Bill of Rights that had been gone for 138 years. If we'll spend 138 years looking for a copy, not the original, of the Bill of Rights the terrorists have no chance. We'll fight 'til the last man is standing. Count on it.

    U.S. and Saudi officials said they suspected al Qaeda in a series of four explosions that rocked the Saudi capital late Monday.

    Blasts tore through at least three compounds housing Americans here, officials and witnesses said. All were the result of vehicles detonating.

    According to diplomatic sources, the housing complexes were Courdoval, Jedawal, and The Hamra.

    Dozens of people were wounded, according to reports from the scenes. No confirmed fatalities were reported. Saudi officials said the assailants shot their way into the compounds of the upscale, gated communities.

    The precise location of the fourth explosion was not known.

    The blasts occurred about 11 p.m. [4 p.m. EDT] on the eve of a planned visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the city. A diplomatic source said Powell's plans "remain in place."

    The explosions also followed recent U.S. government warnings of possible terror attacks against Americans in the kingdom. Last week, the Saudi government issued an all-points bulletin for 19 men -- 17 of whom are Saudi citizens -- on suspicion of planning attacks.

    The Song Remains the Same

    This item I drag up because I just wanted everyone to know that, for the institutional Left, it's STILL REALLY (NO, WE REALLY MEAN IT -- WE DO!) All About The Oil, Oh, and The Power, too.

    by Ross Daniels - lecturer in human rights. Queensland University of Technology
    I begin with noting two broad issues. What this invasion of Iraq is about and what is it not about? If I maintain that the arguments put forward justifying this war are non-sense, then I need to show them to be nonsense.
    Equally if the popular arguments that have been repeated ad nausea in the 24 hour seven day a week coverage are not real, then what are the real arguments, the real motivations behind this war?
    So, this is not about the liberation of Iraq. If those who have orchestrated the sting have their way then Iraq will not self-govern but it will have a puppet government working with the imprimatur of the USA and in the interests of that same country.

    The Language of War - The Greatest Sting

    link picked up from signposts. Snarky opening comments are mine.



    Posted By at 06:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
    May 11, 2003
    No Artificial Deadlines -- Objectives Instead

    Rumsfeld Warns Against Setting Deadline for Rebuilding Iraq
    Rumsfeld is right. Setting any kind of deadline for our presence in Iraq is foolishness. We'll just end up with a situation like in Afghanistan where we hurried to remove the bulk of our troops and the only part of the country under control, to this date, is Kabul.

    Our leaving Iraq should be determined by meeting some pre-established objectives such as creating a liberal democracy with the rule of law and separation of church and state. If it takes five years to do that then five years it is.

    It won't be pretty. There'll be a lot of resistance but our ultimate goal requires this kind of commitment. We should be trying to turn the Middle East into something other than an incubator for terrorism and to do that we'll need a strong program of deBa'athification in Iraq to succeed. We'll also have to have significant input into the form of government and constitution that results. To do anything less will leave Iraq as a threat that we may have to deal with again later. Better to do the job right the first time.

    Pentagon officials insisted today that the reconstruction of Iraq was going well, but they warned against setting a one-year timetable — or any other timetable — on how long American forces will have to be there.

    "Each day it gets better," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said as he discussed the status of basic needs like water, power and security in some two dozen Iraqi cities.

    "I think that the reality is that it is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression to a freer system," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "It's untidy."

    He added: "There will be fits and starts, and a couple of steps forward and a step back. There'll be bumps along the way."

    Even so, Mr. Rumsfeld said, any assertions that the United States did not plan adequately for building a new Iraq once Saddam Hussein was deposed as the Iraqi leader are off the mark.

    "And it strikes me that what it requires is for people to be realistic, to look at other countries that have made that transition and ask how was that done, how long did it take, how difficult was it, how untidy was it," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

    "This country does not have a history of representative or democratic systems," he said. "It's going to take some time and it's going to take some patience. And we accept that, and we're there to create an environment where that process can take place. And we have patience, and we accept the fact that it's untidy. And I hope that others can recognize that and accept it and put it into some historical context."

    As for the one-year timetable envisioned in a pending United Nations Security Council resolution for American and British control of Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld cautioned against over-reliance on a deadline "because anyone who thinks they know how long it's going to take is fooling themselves."

    "It's not knowable," he said.

    May 10, 2003
    The New York Times Arts Section Weighs In On "American Empire"

    From the NYT Arts section (yes ... the Arts section) comes an article titled American Empire, Not 'If' but 'What Kind':

    On one side are those who urge Washington to reject the imperial temptation. These voices can be found on both the far right and the far left. Pat Buchanan, author of "Republic or Empire?" and editor of the new American Conservative Weekly, is concerned that the "conservative movement has been hijacked and turned into a globalist, interventionist, open borders ideology," which, he says, is a far cry from the conservative movement he grew up with. Noam Chomsky, whose "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Domination" is scheduled for publication in the fall, warns that the Bush administration's "forthright declaration that it intends to rule the world by force" amounts to fanaticism.

    On the other side are the so-called neoconservatives, who say the United States has the opportunity to remake the world in its own image. The syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, for example, says American foreign policy should seek to transform the unipolar moment of the 1990's into "the unipolar era." William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, told Fox News recently: "We need to err on the side of being strong. And if people want to say we're an imperial power, fine."

    What -- no mention of the fine Op/Ed contributors and commentators who frequent this page? At the very least I thought A. E. Brain, Backsight Forethought, Don, marc, NF, and some of the rest might get a mention. Oh well ... still, read the rest ...

    May 09, 2003
    It's Worth A Shot, But Don't Hold Your Breath - Bush proposes Mideast free-trade zone - May. 9, 2003
    We tried normalizing trade relations with China in the hopes that it would lead to more political liberty and we've seen zilch so far. In theory you would think that political liberty, which the Chinese don't have, and economic liberty, which they have to some degree, would be intertwined since both depend on property rights. However, China remains a communist country politically and shows no signs of changing.

    It isn't just that the Arab world missed out on recent economic progress, as the President states in the article, it's that they missed out on The Enlightenment altogether. They are at least 250 years behind the West intellectually and what little progress they have made -- in weapons technology and the like -- they buy from other countries or is technology we conquered decades ago.

    The Arab countries should start with Adam Smith, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson if they wish to see prosperity and freedom. There's nothing in their history to support a free society and the prosperity that flows from it. If they do that they'll have peace as well.

    Will they do it? No.

    The United States will use its "influence and idealism" to "replace old hatred with new hopes" in the Middle East, establishing a free-trade zone with countries in the region within a decade and working to improve their educational and legal systems, President Bush said Friday.

    "Reformers in the Middle East are gaining influence, and the momentum of freedom is growing," Bush told graduates at the University of South Carolina in a commencement address. "We have reached a moment of tremendous promise, and the United States will seize that moment for the sake of peace."

    "The way forward to the Middle East is not a mystery. It is a matter of will and vision and action. The way forward depends on serving the interests of the living, instead of settling the accounts of the past."


    Noting that the gross domestic products of the Arab nations combined are currently smaller than that of Spain alone, Bush called for creation of a U.S.-Middle East free-trade area within a decade. Advancing economic gains would create an impetus for political reform in the region, the president said.

    "The Arab world has a great cultural tradition but is largely missing out on the economic progress of our time," Bush said.

    If corruption and "self-dealing" are replaced by free markets and fair laws, "the people of the Middle East will grow into prosperity and freedom," he said.

    The United States currently has trade agreements with two countries in the region -- Israel and Jordan -- and is pursuing another with Morocco.

    May 08, 2003
    NY Muslim clerics condemn bigoted Muslim textbooks

    After an appeal by Jewish community leaders, two New York Muslim clerics condemned bigoted content in their community's textbooks.

    The textbooks, used in Muslim parochial schools in Brooklyn and Queens, contain claims that Jews "killed their own prophets" and that they "subscribe to a belief in racial superiority." The texts also claim that many Jews and Christians "lead such decadent and immoral lives that lying, alcohol, nudity, pornography, racism, foul language, premarital sex, homosexuality and everything else are accepted in their society, churches and synagogues."
    Mayor Bloomberg also condemned the textbooks. This is also a story of successful community relations. When the textbook contents were brought to light by the NY Daily News in April, they became a hot topic in a local Jewish-Muslim dialogue group.
    The swift Muslim reaction served as evidence that maintaining healthy Jewish-Muslim relationships is valuable in situations of crisis, said group participant Robert Kaplan, a staffer at the New York Jewish Community Relations Council. "Here is an issue that created quite a stir" in the local Jewish community, Kaplan said, "and these two imams got it and decided to immediately move on it. . . . The New York dialogue group is an example of the boost in local, grassroots Jewish-Muslim cooperation during the last two years, particularly after the September 11 attacks. The rise contrasts with a chill at the national level, where the event created a gulf of suspicion and resentment between Jewish and Muslim organizations.

    Posted By at 08:37 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack
    London Mayor Rips Bush

    US Responds: Mayor Who?
    London Mayor Ken Livingstone has launched an astonishing attack on US President George W Bush, calling him "corrupt".

    The mayor said: "I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties.

    "He is not the legitimate president."

    He later added: "This really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown."

    Asked about Mr Livingstone's comments, White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, said: "First of all, I've never heard of the fellow. Second, I'm not going to dignify it with a response."

    And in a statement, officials from the US embassy in London, said:

    "Mayor Livingstone's opinions about the United States are a matter of complete indifference to the American embassy, the American government and the American people."

    the newest disease sweeping the nation

    Margaret Drabble is a writer of some renown. She has a problem and she has admitted it.

    She loathes America, and what it has done to the rest of the world.

    She joins a long list of righteous writers like Ted Rall, Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer, who have contracted a terrible, brain-shrinking disease. No, not SARS, but LARS: Loathe America Really Severely. (It was best I could come up with on short notice.)

    LARS debilitates the thinking process. These writers try to write something clever or deep or profound, but all they can come up with is a million variations of "I hate you America, you SUCK!" Take, for instance, Ms. Drabble's most recent piece:

    My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world.

    Ah yes, feeling vomit rise into your throat until it causes a burning sensation is quite fashionable these days. It sounds to me like Ms. Drabble could use an exorcist rather than an antacid, however. She has the demon soul of Maureen Down stuck in her esophagus.

    Drabble's terrible sickness has caused a bit of amnesia as well, as she has completely forgotten anything good America has done for the rest of the world. In fact, in Drabble's fevered brain, America is the enemy of all, wreaking havoc wherever it goes, leaving victims lying in its wake like a killer tornado. She makes no mention of the enemies that America is actually fighting, like al Qaeda or Saddam or terrorism in any form, instead making the United States appear to be the enemy of all who look upon it.

    There, I have said it. I have tried to control my anti-Americanism, remembering the many Americans that I know and respect, but I can't keep it down any longer. I detest Disneyfication, I detest Coca-Cola, I detest burgers, I detest sentimental and violent Hollywood movies that tell lies about history.

    I can think of worse things a country could face than Mickey Mouse, soda and Ronald McDonald. Sure, the clown guy is scary and soda might make you burp, but I have a pretty good feeling that oh, the people of Iraq for instance, might prefer a few dwarves and a Happy Meal to being tortured, beaten, stripped of any dignity you once had and left to starve to death while their leader lives in luxury. (Ok, she does have a point about the movies. I hate Pearl Harbor, too.)

    Of course, like any proud Brit, Dabble drags Shakespeare into the fray.

    Just leave Shakespeare and Shakespeare's homeland out of this squalid bit of revisionism, I thought at the time. Little did I then think that now, three years on, Shakespeare's country would have been dragged by our leader into this illegal, unjustifiable, aggressive war. We are all contaminated by it. Not in my name, I want to keep repeating, though I don't suppose anybody will listen.

    Unjustifiable. Tell that to the children who were freed from the prison. Tell that to the young girls who were raped by Uday Hussein, to the familes who lost husband, wives, sons and daughters to unjust torture and murder.

    America is holding more than 600 people in detention in Guantánamo Bay, indefinitely, and it may well hold them there for ever. Guantánamo Bay has become the Bastille of America. They call this serving the cause of democracy and freedom.

    So, America is an evil, putrid, sickness inducing country for holding suspected terrorists and enemy combatants in detention, but Iraq is ok for holding innoncent children in dank, airless prisons for not agreeing with his politics? I think the LARS has caused Drabble's loathing gene to mutate and go haywire.

    Seriously. She has all but admitted to stalking Jack Straw.

    I keep writing to Jack Straw about the so-called "illegal combatants", including minors, who are detained there without charge or trial or access to lawyers, and I shall go on writing to him and his successors until something happens. This one-way correspondence may last my lifetime.

    I think Mr. Straw better have the Anthrax and Other Deadly Powders Department check out those letters before he opens them. Even if they are sealed with a kiss, he must make sure that the lipstick stain isn't tainted with cyanide. Those stalkers can be a passive-agressive bunch.

    I hate feeling this hatred. I have to keep reminding myself that if Bush hadn't been (so narrowly) elected, we wouldn't be here, and none of this would have happened. There is another America. Long live the other America, and may this one pass away soon.

    Ah, there it is! The tell-tale parenthetical reference to the last election. We now know where Ms. Dabble contracted her LARS disease from. She must have been hanging out with Ted Rall.

    As for me, I would not want to see the America where Al Gore was president on September 11, 2001.

    I do believe there are a lot of grateful Iraqis who would not want to revise history in that manner either.

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for LARS, and it seems to be contagious. The most vulnerable people are those who use the word "selected" in place of "elected." If that is you, seek shelter immediately. Preferably in another country.

    The New York Times Weighs In On "Free Fall In Iraq"

    At least that's how their editors see it. A highlight:

    Lines at the gasoline pump in Iraq now last up to three days. Electricity, needed for water and refrigeration units, flickers on and off. Uncollected garbage rots in the hot streets. An outbreak of cholera was reported yesterday in Basra. Cases of diarrhea in young children are also increasing. Hospitals looted of drugs and diagnostic equipment limp along. Few Iraqis are feeling nostalgic for the sadistic terror of Saddam Hussein. But in the bad old days, basic services were more dependable.

    It is too soon for definitive judgments. But it is not too early to say that the first few weeks of American occupation under the leadership of Jay Garner, a retired Army lieutenant general, have left a great deal to be desired. For most Iraqis, relief over the end of more than 30 years of harsh Baathist dictatorship still seems the dominant emotion. But unless Washington's newly reinforced team, under Paul Bremer III, quickly turns things around, good will could rapidly turn sour.

    Read the rest ...

    May 07, 2003
    Lessons from Durban

    The UN World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban SA right before before the attack on the World Trade Towers, turned into a festival of Israel-bashing and outright anti-semitism of the type which many of us became better acquainted with as we learned more about the politics and news media of the Arab world, and indeed of many of the Western organizations that went on to oppose US intervention in Iraq.

    US Rep. Tom Lantos, who helped plan the conference and was part of the US delegation, believes there are lessons to be learned from the conference about fighting terrorism. He places much of the responsibility for letting the conference get off-track on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. He holds the Bush administration responsible for the previous six months of unilateralist US foreign policy that made it difficult to rally support from our allies at the conference. Most of all, he blames several of the Arab nations for deliberately hijacking the conference in the first place.

    Lantos' main thesis is that if the US wants liberal democratic societies to replace terrorist-supporting despots, we can't afford to be isolationist or unilateral in our foreign policy. If we do not stay engaged in world leadership, other nations will step into the vacuum. He describes in detail how this happened at Durban.

    Among the interesting bits of information in this essay: There were five preperatory regional conferences prior to the global one. All of them went well until the Asian conference, held in Tehran, Iran, when Israeli, Jewish, Kurdish, and Bahai groups were barred from attending. (Remember this is a UN-sponsored conference.) Robinson did not insist the conference be moved to a different host nation that would not act in such a discriminatory manner. Although at the previous three conferences she exhorted the delegates about human rights abuses in their regions, at the Tehran conference she did not criticize Arab violations of human rights. Her avoidance of confronting the Islamic states set the tone for the conference itself, where she repeatedly refused to speak out against the debasement of rhetorical language, the demonization of one country, and the elevation of a regional territorial dispute to a major theme of a conference on racism.

    Lantos also describes Jesse Jackson's unsuccessful grandstanding, Yasir Arafat's demagoguery, the parallel NGO conference infested with proto-Nazi imagery to depict Israel, and the "feverish" negotiations that went on in an effort to save the original purpose of the conference.

    Although it was quickly overshadowed by the 9-11 attacks, the Durban conference is a useful case study in how international forums can be manipulated to foment the kind of hatred and bigotry that results in terrorism.

    Posted By at 11:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
    More on "law and order" in Iraq

    David Plotz is writing a series of articles in Slate on rebuilding civil society in Iraq.

    The problem is

    not merely how to introduce "democracy" to Iraq—democracy, after all, is as easy as holding an election—but how to bring about a liberal, constitutional democracy—a popular government that also protects the rule of law and basic rights. It's a noble ambition and a preposterously difficult one: If there is anything that democracy experts agree on, it's that you can't easily manufacture the conditions for liberal democracy. No quick fix replaces the hard work of building trust in laws, establishing checks and balances, encouraging civil debate, and so on. Recent attempts to impose democracy in countries such as Cambodia, Bosnia, and Angola have failed dismally.

    Still, the experimentation in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and Africa has produced a bunch of new ideas about how to build a genuine democracy faster and smarter.

    Plotz then lists 7 ideas, including:
    Establish rule of law and an independent judiciary before elections. There's a tendency in democracy-building to mistake elections for a stable democratic government. Every state requires order first. . . . The judiciary—which guarantees that order—must precede the elected government.

    I previously linked to several articles about the necessity for rule of law in Iraq as a pre-condition for establishing trackable property rights which in turn support stable democracy and a market economy. Plotz' next article has some suggestions for establishing law and order.

    The next article has suggestions for encouraging the voluntary civil associations celebrated by de Tocqueville, which actually get most of the work done, increase citizen confidence, and act as a check on government power.

    UPDATE: The next article offers seven suggestions for moving the Iraqi economy the the direction of widespread prosperity, from microlending to oil trusts. He also mentions Hernando de Soto's idea of firmly established property rights,/a> as an essential prerequisite.

    May 06, 2003
    Lessons of History : Churchill

    In previous articles, I've pointed out the parallels between the situation with Iraq in 2003 and Germany in 1945.
    This time, I want to bring to your attention the value of reading about historical events, in accounts written by the people who lived through those times. Let us be original in our mistakes!

    The book : Winston S. Churchill's History of the Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm.

    I had written even earlier, in 1925, some thoughts and queries of a technical character which it would be wrong to omit in these days:
    May there not be methods of using explosive energy incomparably more intense than anything heretofore discovered? Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings - nay, to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke? Could not explosives even of a conventional type be guided automatically in flying machines by wireless or other rays, without a human pilot, in ceaseless procession upon a hostile city, arsenal, camp, or dockyard? As for Poison Gas and Chemical Warfare in all its forms, only the first chapter has been written of a terrible book. Certainly every one of these new avenues to destruction is being studied on both sides of the Rhine with all the science and patience of which man is capable. And why should it be supposed that these resources will be limited to Inorganic Chemistry? A study of Disease - of Pestilences methodically prepared and deliberately launched upon man and beast - is certainly being pursued in the laboratories of more than one great country. Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, Plague to poison not armies only but whole districts - such are the lines along which military science is remorselessly advancing.
    All this is nearly a quarter of a century old. Churchill wrote, just after World War II. It is now over three-quarters of a century old.

    Blair, Bush and Howard have all read this book, especially the Theme of Volume I:


    One mistake which the "Not in our name" crowd would have had us make again. An easy mistake to make - had I not read Churchill and others accounts of the 1930s, I too might have relied on the League of Nations - sorry- the UN. To those who opposed - or still oppose - the war, please go read the first of the 6 volumes of Churchill's work. The problem of a Dictator concealing armaments is not new. Last time we waited for too long, and 50 millions died in Europe as the result.

    Let us all work together to make sure that the Moral of the work is also followed:


    Churchill Homepage.

    Simply Semper Fi

    By Roger Roy, Orlando Sentinel

    For more than a month, I'd been, in military parlance, "embedded" with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, traveling and living with the Marines as they pushed north from Kuwait to Baghdad.

    It was an experience that had swung dizzily from rewarding to exasperating to frightening, and now that it was suddenly over I was still sorting through its ups and downs.

    (Hat tip to Donald Sensing)

    Posted By joy at 09:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Seymour Hersh On The Pentagon's Office Of Special Plans

    You have heard of the Pentagon Office of Special Plans, haven't you? No? Well, Seymour Hersh has, and he's written an extremely interesting article on the group in the current New Yorker, posted online here. Not only does he profile the OSP -- and their central role in advising Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Administration -- he also details their strong tie to the political philosophy of University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, whose mentorship may have had profound consequences for current US foreign policy. Highlights:

    The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Shulsky has been quietly working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades; he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Com-mittee in the early nineteen-eighties and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation. The Office of Special Plans is overseen by Under-Secretary of Defense William Luti, a retired Navy captain. Luti was an early advocate of military action against Iraq, and, as the Administration moved toward war and policymaking power shifted toward the civilians in the Pentagon, he took on increasingly important responsibilities.

    W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the D.I.A., said, “The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.” ...

    ... According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States ...

    ... The agency’s analysts, Shulsky and Schmitt argue, “were generally reluctant throughout the Cold War to believe that they could be deceived about any critical question by the Soviet Union or other Communist states. History has shown this view to have been extremely naïve.” They suggested that political philosophy, with its emphasis on the variety of regimes, could provide an “antidote” to the C.I.A.’s failings, and would help in understanding Islamic leaders, “whose intellectual world was so different from our own.”

    Strauss’s idea of hidden meaning, Shulsky and Schmitt added, “alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.”

    Read the rest; it's worth the time.

    UPDATE: In the comments reader Joe of The Short Strange Trip posted this perspective on Hersh in Slate ... also worth reading.

    Posted By Alan at 09:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
    Lessons for postwar Iraq from Peru and Russia

    The economic and legal challenges facing postwar Iraq aren't new, and there is a body of knowledge developing on how to surmount them. A Peruvian economist and a former Soviet Politburo official have some advice for the reconstruction team.

    Hernando de Soto is a Peruvian economist who makes the argument that successful market economies and liberal democracies depend on recordable and trackable property rights. Ramesh Ponnuru interviews De Soto on Who Should Own Iraq?

    De Soto estimates that people in the third world and in ex-communist countries hold more than $9 trillion in what he calls "dead capital" — property that is owned informally, but not legally, and is thus incapable of forming the basis of robust economic development. . . . "It's not clear [in most poor countries] who owns what in terms of national records. . . . in Egypt it is not clear who owns 90 percent of all assets. In Mexico, 78 percent is not clear. Having a modern market economy is not possible. . . . There's no market without property rights. Second, no credit. Third, no investment. Fourth, no rule of law, no enforcement. And there's no supplying of electricity: Who's at the end of the wire, who do you bill? If it takes too long to figure out, it's very costly.
    (It is instructive to read this together with the series of links I posted about Palestinian banker Omar Karsou, whose group "Democracy in Palestine" - composed of fellow businesspeople - is lobbying the US to depose Arafat, because they see clearly the link between peace, rule of law, and prosperity, and are refreshingly unideological where the bottom line is concerned.)

    Roger L. Simon links to an article about Aleksandr Yakovlev, who has exhaustively documented the viscious human rights abuses of the Soviet system, and has some thoughts on how to go about cleaning house.

    . . . In the case of the Soviet Union, he contends that the unwillingness to face history in its dreadful entirety has left his country as an invalid — the people still hobbled by prehensile fear, the system still paternalistic, if not exactly repressive. . . . The falsified glory of Soviet history makes heroes of the army and the intelligence services and helps them retain disproportionate influence.
    Yakovlev contrasts this situation with tribunals created under international auspices in South Africa, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and East Timor, which exorcise the totalitarian ghosts that would otherwise haunt societies trying to remake themselves. (Simon's blog has a long discussion thread on whether getting the UN involved would help or hinder this process.)

    Posted By at 02:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
    May 05, 2003
    Mazin Qumsiyeh Weighs In On Lingering Questions

    Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestinian American associate professor at Yale and co-founder of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and, poses a series of "lingering" questions in this opinion piece in the Jordan Times, posted online here at Among the questions he raises:

    Why was the airport the first important asset handed over in Baghdad with little resistance? ...

    ... Who was loaded on the cargo planes at Baghdad airport during the three days when much publicity was given to daring raids into Baghdad and attacks on journalists and conflicts on strategy? ...

    ... Why did the Iraqis leave bridges standing unscathed (a basic feature of any rational defence near rivers is blowing up the bridges)? ...

    ... The concerted attack on the offices of Abu Dhabi TV, Al Jazeera and the Palestine Hotel (killing several journalists) raises even more questions. What was that about? And why did the attack on Baghdad's electric power plant held off until just before these “operations”? ...

    And then there's this:
    As the fog of war and propaganda begin to dissipate, isn't it time for some real journalism? Or are we becoming a mirror of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, when the media acquiesced to a slowly fading democracy while the people of Germany were drawn into fascism and dictatorship (using the same language of “threats to the homeland”). And talking about that, one should look carefully at the so-called Patriot II programme?
    Read the rest ...

    The Weekly Standard On Hearts And Minds

    Every pundit on the planet is getting into the Iraq reconstruction recipe game. In this article it's several authors at the Weekly Standard tossing in their two cents. The key ingredients:

    President Bush should call on the mayors of a representative list of major cities across the United States to each adopt one Iraqi city, town, or village in order to help restore the public school systems, hospitals, and pharmacies that provide critical services to ordinary Iraqi citizens ...

    ... General Jay Garner (U.S. Army, Ret.), the interim Iraqi administrator, should ask all Iraqi citizens to return to work under a public works program designed to clean up the mess left by fleeing Baathists and U.S. smart bombs. The first objective should be the revival of all main government ministries within 30 days ...

    ... Mosques should be places of worship, not depots for weapons or sanctuaries for fanatics. In order to keep Iran's mullahs out of Iraq's mosques, the United States should immediately instate a program designed to protect the operational framework of Iraq's religious institutions.

    Read the rest ...

    Posted By Alan at 10:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
    The Ayn Rand Institute Weighs In On Iraqi Freedom

    Among The Command Post's regular readers are folks at the Ayn Rand Institute of Irvine, California. They've recently forwarded an Op-Ed by Robert W. Tracinski, a senior fellow at the Institute, titled "Iraqi Freedom" Requires Individual Rights. Here's a highlight:

    What Iraq needs is a much more radical reform: not the sharing of political power but the limiting of political power--a focus, not on the prerogatives of ethnic groups, but on the rights of the individual.

    The greatest threat to good government in Iraq is precisely that each tribal and religious faction will demand special favors, that the Shiites in the south will want a Khomeini-style theocracy, or that the Kurds will make a grab for control of the northern oil fields. This kind of political gang warfare between opposing factions is inevitable--so long as the government has the power to dispense such privileges.

    That is why it is crucial, for example, that the new Iraqi government enforce, not a balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites, but a separation of church and state. Religion must be made into a private matter, with Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and secular Iraqis left free to follow their own individual judgment in spiritual matters. In the Middle East, where religious fanaticism is far more prevalent than in the West--and in Iraq, which has a history of conflict between Sunnis and Shiites--anything less than a complete separation of church and state is an invitation to civil war.

    Just as Iraq must separate church and state, so it must also separate the state from economics. The most important step is to privatize Iraq's oil industry.

    Read the rest ....

    The French and the UN in Africa

    More on the people with whom we were engaged in delicate diplomacy for the past year, which would have found an elegant peaceful solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein, and upheld the authority of the UN, if only Bush wasn't such a warmongering cowboy who wrecked our international standing by his appalling lack of sophistication.


    Posted By at 12:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
    The Most Effective Peace Process

    Here's a summary of Saul Singer's excellent piece in the Chicago Sun Times:

    * If the shooting stopped tomorrow, we would not be back to the square one of 1993, or of 2000, but to a situation more difficult than when Oslo was signed. For the last 30 months, the Palestinians have been glorifying terrorism on an almost hourly basis. It is a measure of how deeply the ethos of "martyrdom" has penetrated that even Abbas' speech, hailed for its moderation, was permeated with it.

    * In almost the same breath as Abbas condemned terror, he praised the "courageous uprising against Israel's aggression" and claimed that Palestinians had "fought with honor." How would a Palestinian learn from this that suicide bombings or shooting children in their beds is wrong rather than heroic? If Abbas is unable to speak clearly against terrorism, it is hard to see how he can act clearly against it.

    * The Palestinians have a lot of catching up to do to reach the point where they can really accept that the Jewish people have a right to national self-determination in this land. There is not much Israel can do to hasten this process, except to block all the alternatives. At this point, until further notice, fighting terror and its sponsors is the greatest educational tool, and therefore the most effective peace process.

    Posted By at 08:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
    Deadly war souvenir

    I almost titled this post "Japanese Fisk Bombs Arab." Read on.

    Shouting Across the Pacific (another BlogSpot victim - scroll down to "Oh, they're protecting the queen.") has some background on the Japanese reporter who caused an explosion in the Amman, Jordan airport (which killed a Jordanian security guard) by taking home a cluster bomblet as a souvenir of the Iraq war.

    As Charles Oliver puts it,

    Just cause the prez ends hostilities it doesn't mean all the munitions are turned off.
    It gets better. Turns out said clueless reporter is
    pretty much the Robert Fisk of Japan. Not in a literate sense, but as a photojournalist Gomi's pictures focused on the daily suffering of the civilians, but only that which was attributable to the war. The implication was the US that was visiting unjustified hell on these poor, confused people who simply would be fine if left alone.
    Charles gives some examples of his stories. But it gets even better: "Gomi" means "trash" in Japanese. Fisking . . . . Trashing . . . . that works.

    Need I point out that this would have been a much bigger story if an American reporter had caused that guard's death?

    Posted By at 02:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
    Another take on the museum looting

    Stephen Schwartz - author of The Two Faces of Islam - has some thoughts on the Baghdad Museum looting, noting the silence at the destruction of numerous irreplaceable historical records during the Balkans wars.

    Posted By at 01:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
    May 04, 2003
    Animosity Towards The French

    In a comment to an earlier post on post-war recriminations, reader German offered the following:

    What I believe to be interesting is the huge animosity towards the French. One gets the impression as if France was the only opponent during the UNSC-drama. As far as I can remember it had been Germany that opposed Bush´s policy at first when M. Chirac was still undecisive until the Elysée-party in January. Don´t get me wrong, I observe the inhibited and hypocritical French-bashing with an amusing smile while the efforts to reconstruct German-American relations are proceeding very well. What could be the meaning of all that?
    I didn't get a chance to respond to his comment and thought it would make a decent post. Besides, I never get tired of bashing the French.

    The first thing to remember with regard to the French, and I've said this several times, is that we haven't been real allies with them for forty years. de Gaulle saw to that. He pulled France out of the military wing of NATO, the primary device for controlling the Soviets at the time, and demanded that all American soldiers leave France. Lyndon Johnson shot back by asking if he meant the dead ones too. In addition, de Gaulle is the author of French suspicion of "the Anglosphere". He claimed, correctly it seems, that England would never be a real European country because of its relationship with America.

    This last bit is interesting for a couple of reasons: it's true and why would the British want to screw up a good thing? Britain has few of the problems of old Europe: stagnant economies with wretchedly-high unemployment, low growth, heavy regulation and obscene taxes. Also, the continent has very little in terms of military capability.

    France has been punching above its weight for decades now because of an accident of history: it ended up as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Without that France would have little or no say in world affairs, which is as it should be. There's simply no justification for their influence based on any objective measure, either economic or military.

    Why is Germany being treated differently? Well, they mostly deserve to be treated differently. The Schroeder government is certainly a screwy bunch, but prior to that the U.S. has had genuinely good relationship with Germany. In the early 1980's, in an attempt to actually win the Cold War, the U.S. wanted to place intermediate-range missiles in West Germany. Against the popular will the West German government went along. That's the act of a friend and these things are not forgotten.

    France would have never gone along. Indeed, they refused flyover rights when we bombed Libya in response to a terrorist attack. These things are not forgotten either.

    The French landscape is littered with the bodies of American soldiers who gave their lives to liberate their ingrate asses and what do we get from them: nothing, if we're lucky, and active opposition otherwise.

    Germany is treated differently because they have been allies in the recent past and probably will be again in the future. They'll suffer some losses in the form of American soldiers and bases leaving their country, but that's long overdue: who are we protecting them from now that the Soviet Union is gone? I don't even favor moving the bases to Poland and would prefer that the soldiers either be sent to the Middle East or brought home. Their time in Germany is wasted due to a lack of enemies.

    In closing, there's always -- at least as long as I can remember -- been animosity in the United States towards the French because they aren't real allies and haven't been for decades. Treating Germany differently isn't hypocrisy on our part, it's just a reflection of the true nature of our relationship with each country.

    Katha Pollitt Weighs In On "Weapons Of Mass Delusion"

    Katha Pollitt of The Nation is using her latest op/ed to take the Bush administration to task for not yet finding WMD in Iraq. Oh ... and she takes the time to toss a few punches at NTY columnist Tom Friedman as well (he's a sell-out, it appears.) A taste:

    It's now sport to mock the antiwar movement for predicting that the invasion would be a catastrophe, with huge casualties on both sides, millions displaced and the Middle East in flames. Fortunately, the worst did not happen. But the antiwar movement was right about the war being unnecessary for our own security: As the twenty-six-day "cakewalk" to Baghdad demonstrated, the moth-eaten Baathist regime, with its poorly equipped soldiers and unenthusiastic citizenry, was in no shape to threaten the United States or cause world turmoil. That should be properly acknowledged, discussed and debated, not waved away, in the rush of victory, as a mere detail.

    We're not supposed to compare Iraq to Vietnam--this is not, repeat, not, your father's quagmire!--but how's this for a similarity? If Saddam's dangerousness was a pretext, a way to win popular support by spreading fear, those insistent charges of WMD possession start looking rather like the manufactured Gulf of Tonkin incident. Is it OK for the government to lie as long as things go well?

    Read the rest ...

    But does he wear his Underpants on the Outside?

    President Bush paid Australian PM a most unlikely compliment the other day. From the Sydney Morning Herald

    Crawford, Texas: Relations between Australia and the United States hit a new high today as President George W Bush said Prime Minister John Howard was a man of steel.
    I'm sure I wasn't alone in my reaction when I saw this on TV. I reckon everyone in Australia burst into gales of hysterical laughter.
    John Howard resembles nothing more than a short, slight, bestpectacled Wombat. He's tough as old boots, and as indefatigable as the late, great Iraqi Disinformation minister. But a flinty-eyed lantern-jawed musclebound Caped Crusader?

    Not As Such.

    And the Russian equivalent - Stalin - sounds no better. On the other hand, something else that President Bush said didn't suffer in the translation:

    Mr Bush also paid what could be the ultimate compliment.
    "They tell me Australia and Texas have got a lot in common. Having watched this man perform I agree," he said.
    "The biggest compliment you can pay to somebody, at least in this part of the country, is you're kinda like a Texan."
    Texas? Isn't that one of those states in the US, a bit smaller than New South Wales?
    Texas - Pop 21 Million, Area 262,000 Sq Miles.
    NSW - Pop 6 Million, Area 309,500 Sq Miles.
    Sounds a bit crowded and cramped, but OK if you're not claustrophobic. Compact. Cosy even. Nice of the bloke to say that though. Texas - small, tough, rugged - kinda like John Howard.

    Jim Hoagland Weighs In On North Korea

    Add this to the Dowd and Friedman op/eds noted below, and you have to wonder if it's Command Post day in the US east-coast papers. Here, Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post goes so far as to call North Korean behavior "blackmail," but ties the success of American diplomacy to the quality of US relations with China and S. Korea. A highlight:

    But skepticism is not a self-implementing policy. Piece by piece, a diplomatic strategy for containing North Korea's seemingly irrational and contradictory outbursts is taking shape as Washington, Beijing and Seoul start to work together rather than apart in defusing this dangerous crisis.

    The political resolve and military power the Bush administration demonstrated in Iraq now breathe new life into its diplomacy in northeast Asia, where power fosters cooperation. But Washington will also need patience and skill to find a peaceful way out of the North Korea dilemma.

    Read the rest ...

    Posted By Alan at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    Thomas Friedman Weighs In On Reconstruction

    While Maureen Dowd looks to parody for her Sunday Op/Ed, Tom Friedman looks to analysis in his. His thesis: the reconstruction of Iraq is going to be a long and expensive haul, and to the extent that liberals and conservatives in the US continue to bicker about the war, the longer that haul will be. Excerpt:

    Friends, whether you like or hate how and why we got into this war, the fact is America — you and I — has assumed responsibility for rebuilding Iraq. We are talking about one of the biggest nation-building projects the U.S. has ever undertaken, the mother of all long hauls. We now have a 51st state of 23 million people. We just adopted a baby called Baghdad — and this is no time for the parents to get a divorce. Because raising that baby, in the neighborhood it lives in, is going to be a mammoth task. If both Republicans and Democrats don't start looking clearly and honestly at what is evolving in Iraq, we're all going to be in trouble.
    Read the rest ...

    Posted By Alan at 08:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
    Maureen Dowd Weighs In On Pilot Bush

    Maureen Dowd has her latest on the NYT Op/Ed page ... this time using Top Gun to parody the President. Tile: The Iceman Cometh. A sample:

    ICEMAN: You're really a cowboy.

    MAVERICK: What's your problem?

    ICEMAN: Your ego's writing checks your body can't cash. You didn't need to take all that water survival training in the White House swimming pool. The Abraham Lincoln was practically docked, only 30 miles off shore, after 10 months at sea. They had to steer it away from land for you. If you'd waited a few hours, you could've just walked aboard. You and Rove are making a gorgeous campaign video on the Pacific to cast you as the warrior president for 2004, but back on shore, things are ugly. The California economy's bleeding, even worse than other states'. When you took office, the unemployment rate in San Jose was 1.7 percent; by February of this year, it had risen to 8.5 percent ...

    Read the rest ...

    Garry Trudeau Weighs In On Freedom Fries

    In today's Donnesbury, Garry Trudeau makes his feelings about "France-bashers" known by writing nearly all of his strip in French, and then directing readers to for a translation.

    I'll save you the trouble of hunting for the links. Here's the strip ...


    ... and here's a link to the transation. If you agree with Trudeau, you'll likely agree with his point. If you don't, rest well knowing that you're sucking up bandwidth by visiting his site.

    Israel's new ambassador to the UN

    Meet Dan Gillerman, Israel's new UN ambassador.

    Posted By at 02:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
    The Globalization of Antisemitism

    This essay contrasts the first two eras of anti-semitism (religion-based and then race-based), in which bigotry against Jews was localized, with the current era:

    Perhaps most distinctive, though, is the unmooring of antisemitism from its original sources. It is detached from Christianity, even if there are still powerful Christian sources of antisemitism. It is detached from its 19th-century European sources of nation building, reactions against modernity and pseudo-scientific notions of race and social Darwinism, even if that era's demonology is still potent in somewhat transposed form.

    Globalized antisemitism has become part of the substructure of prejudice of the world. It is free-floating, located in many countries, subcultures and nodes, available in many variations, and to anyone who dislikes international influences, globalization or the United States. It is relentlessly international in its focus on Israel at the center of the most conflict-ridden region today, and on the United States as the world's omnipresent power. It is self-reinforcing, with its fantastical constructions of Jews and Zionism — which are divorced from the fair criticisms that can be made of Israel's policies — and by being located totally outside people's countries and experience. And it is only a few clicks of a mouse away.

    Posted By at 02:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
    Our Road Map Partners

    A video encouraging Palestinians to murder Jews living in the occupied territories is being aired on official PA TV. (URL has links to view the video - see for yourself.)

    Posted By at 12:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
    An Iraqi Jew In Hollywood

    One man's recollections of a childhood in Iraq.

    Posted By at 12:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
    May 03, 2003
    You knew this would come

    I haven't seen this anywhere, but I'd be shocked if I'm the first person who's thought of the idea...


    cross-posted at Arguing with signposts...

    UPDATE: I listen to readers! A new version of this with Laura Bush instead of Kelly McGillis is up at this entry on my site.

    May 02, 2003
    Pro-Marxist Slant Pushed at ABC, Retired Correspondent Claims

    A former ABC news correspondent claims Peter Jennings repeatedly changed his reports to make them more favorable to Marxist regimes.

    Collins is speaking publicly about his years at ABC and CNN for the first time because he has walked away from the news business and no longer desires to work in the industry. . . .

    "The first obligation of a reporter and a news organization is to get the facts straight and report both sides of the story," Collins said. But he didn't see the issue as one that was charged politically. "I would not frame this whole question as just a left - right issue, but rather as a question of competence," Collins said.

    Collins believes CNN's recent admission and his own experiences in Central America are merely "scratching at the surface" of what Collins regards as a long standing failure of the media to report accurately about despotic governments, particularly left-of-center authoritarian regimes.

    Posted By at 11:47 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
    How To Get Syria Out Of The Terrorism Business

    A little something for you from the Op/Ed page at the New York Times:

    For the last eight years, I have been directly involved in United States policymaking toward Syria, as a C.I.A. analyst, on the State Department's policy planning staff and at the White House. In all that time, I have never seen officials as willing to take on the Syrian regime as they are today ...

    ... Since the 9/11 attacks, the problem of how to get states out of the terrorism business has been a defining question for American foreign policy. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we achieved this end by toppling irredeemable regimes. But can we change the behavior of a terrorism-sponsoring state like Syria without unseating its regime? Is it possible to reform Syria's posture not through force, but through diplomatic engagement?

    The answer is a qualified yes. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's visit to Damascus today has the potential to be the first stage in this experiment.

    Posted By Alan at 11:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
    Who's Fibbing?

    The WHO puts out its latest SARS numbers daily at about 3 p.m. EDT. Today's are out here.

    Worldwide there have been 417 deaths and 2643 recoveries for a death rate of 13.6% (deaths/(deaths+recoveries). Looking at the table, there are two countries that I don't believe. Communist China and the United States.

    The Commies are reporting a death rate of 11.7%, the lowest among countries with large numbers of cases. In contrast, Canada, with day old numbers has a death rate of 19.1%. It is apparent that the Communist Chinese are either lying, or fortunate to be both the source of this disease as well as the most successful treater of this disease. Yeah, right!

    The United States seems to have a problem communicating its numbers to the WHO. The current numbers are two days old. At one point in the last week they were five days old. The United States only reported recoveries in the last four days, before that they were unavailable. That was the case on the CDC page, too, so it wasn't a WHO problem.

    One MD that blogs has told me that the CDC does not update its web site as promptly as it could. Apparently they don't report to the WHO as promptly, either. Now, I'm not necessarily a fan of the WHO but it makes a nice central data collection point. So, what's the problem?

    The other issue with the United States is that there are no reported deaths. 56 cases, 24 have recovered, and no deaths. Statisticly, there should have been 3. OK, we're lucky. Three is small enough that we could vary to zero. Or, any deaths are being attributed to other causes. Heart attack, pneumonia, anything but SARS. I don't like the number ZERO when everyone else has a bigger number. It just smells a little.

    So, the Commies are lying like rugs. Add at least one zero to the right side of all their numbers. And, I have no freakin' clue what's going on with the United States' numbers. I hope just sloppy bookkeeping.

    Posted By at 04:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
    Stop the Syrian Occupation of Lebanon

    From the Jerusalem Post:

    Damascus implanted a satellite regime in Beirut which
    survives only because of the continuing presence of
    over 20,000 Syrian soldiers in Lebanon. Democratic
    civil society has survived under Syrian occupation and
    will reassert itself when the last Syrian soldier

    Posted By at 11:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
    Mid East Studies Professors Again Dramatically Wrong

    Martin Kramer is right-on again in The Expulsion That Never Was:

    Last December, over 1,000 academics signed a letter
    predicting and warning against Israel's possible
    "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians in the "fog of war"
    in Iraq. At the time I said, "anyone signing this
    letter, effectively condemning Israel in advance for
    something it has no intention of doing, is either an
    ignoramus or a propagandist." Eight of the original
    fifteen signatories are professors of Middle Eastern
    studies, and among the "additional signatories" is the
    president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association
    (MESA). These people have (once again) brought shame on
    their discipline.

    Posted By at 11:41 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Paul Greenberg has an op-ed in the Washington Times detailing many of the things war opponents said would go wrong with the war in Iraq both before and during the conflict.

    'Arabian mights' that never were

    Posted By at 07:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
    May 01, 2003
    Remind You Of Anyone?

    And the statue fell ...

    I met a traveler from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    -Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Posted By at 10:46 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack
    SARS Report 5-1-2003
    • World-wide death rate: 391/2954, 13.2%
    • Canada: 20/107, 18.7%
    • Communist China: 170/1521, 11.2% (187 new cases since yesterday)
    • Hong Kong: 162/996, 16.3% (they sent some home they shouldn't)
    • Singapore: 25/168, 14.9%
    • U.S. 54 cases, 2 new since yesterday, 0 deaths, 23 recoveries

    From WHO here

    Now, let's see what Canada says here

    As of April 30, 2003, Health Canada has received reports of 346 probable or suspect cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Canada. There have been 21 deaths in Canada. To date, transmission has been limited to specific transmission settings such as households, hospitals and specific community settings. The information contained in this update is based on the information available to Health Canada at this time.

    The details of the cases to date are as follows:

    * Ontario is reporting 143 probable and 119 suspect cases.
    * British Columbia is reporting 4 probable and 67 suspect cases.
    * New Brunswick is reporting 2 suspect cases.
    * Saskatchewan is reporting 1 suspect case.
    * Alberta is reporting 6 suspect cases.
    * Prince Edward Island is reporting 4 suspect cases.

    Total # of probables discharged or at home: 88
    Total # of suspects discharged or at home: 167

    These numbers are accurate as of 1:00 pm. Eastern Daylight Saving Time, April 30, 2003. For specific information on the provincial numbers, please contact the appropriate provincial health department.

    The only change is one less probable in Ontario. Still the highest death rate among nations with large numbers of cases. That is, if you believe the Communist Chinese. I don't.

    Posted By at 04:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
    Road Map Plans End to Palestinian Terror Within 30 Days

    From the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web:

    So the "roadmap" for Middle East peace is finally out. Does anyone else find it overly optimistic? The roadmap identifies "Phase I" as "Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions." The time frame for this phase? "Present to May 2003." You've got 30 more days, guys; good luck.

    Here's another gem from this April Fool's Document:

    At the outset of Phase I....All official Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians.

    Posted By at 03:32 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack
    Hollywood Censors Its Critics

    Proving that chill winds blow in all directions, a murdered website's dying entry is copied here to preserve the record of its censorship. As reported on Instapundit:

    MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: The Boycott Hollywood site is being shut down -- by legal muscle from Hollywood. There's a copy of the threat letter on the site....Yes, if you even criticize these guys they scream "censorship" -- but Hollywood is censoring more speech in America than John Ashcroft has.

    (emphasis added)

    Here's the text of Boycott Hollywood's post response (image of the William Morris Agency letter pending upload):

    Our own personal wind chill (Follywood)
    Well, folks - it's been a blast and it's been fun.

    Apparently, our domain registrar ( - subsidiary of have caved to the pressures of the William Morris Agency giant. On April 29, 2003, received a letter from the William Morris Agency in regards to this website. Their complaint accused us of liable and potentially other civil and criminal offenses.

    This is another fine example of how Hollywood feels that their opinion and view is the only one that matters. Average citizens are disallowed the free expression of our point of view because they don't like being challenged for their views. I stand firm on the belief that we have done nothing wrong at this website - - The celebrities have expressed their views, and we have responded in kind by expressing our views regarding the thoughts and ideas that they have, publicly, expressed. has suspended our update information at this domain and have informed us that the DNS information of this domain has been changed and the website will be down within the next 24 hours and our contract with them is now null and void. They are doing this because we did not provide accurate contact information in their public database.

    When I explained that the reason we did not provide accurate contact information is because we have received multiple death threats and I did not wish for just anyone to have my personal information - and asked them for suggestions on what to do - Dotster was unmoved. They did not give me the chance to update the information with accurate information and keep the domain. That's not an option - - they are just simply going to shut down our domain - no explanation needed.

    Further questioning of Dotster brought me a copy of the letter sent to them by the William Morris Agency and reads as follows:

    [image of letter]

    We, in fact, recieved no such email from the William Morris Agency.

    I can say only this - - the fact that we're being shut down because of the William Morris Agency tells me that we truly touched a raw nerve in someone, somewhere. At the very least, it tells me that our message was recieved by the people that it was intended for. The very fact that we cannot express our opinions regarding the views of these stars/celebs shows me, yet again, the double standard that exists in Follywood.

    Thank you all for your support at this website - it appears my hands are tied in keeping it open. Dotster will be closing down our site within the next 24-48 hours. I appreciate the hard work that Chris and Reilly have done at this site and appreciate the ongoing and intelligent, provoking discussions held here.

    Warm Regards.

    Guest Editorial: Eric Olsen on Vietnam, the Draft and American Idol

    Down to the final five contestants, Tuesday's American Idol was outstanding musically and dramatically as all five did surpassing renditions of first, '60s faves, and then guest judge Neil Sedaka's songs (they now perform two songs each) - that is all five OTHER than US Marine Joshua Gracin, who was so clearly outclassed by the other four finalists that ALL of the judges commented something to the effect that he appeared to have reached the end of the line.

    Clay, Ruben, and Kimberley were at the top of their considerable powers, and the vastly appealing Trenyce was up to the challenge again, rising to their level.

    Joshua Gracin, a good guy, military man, and good but not great singer, was very, very clearly outclassed by the others, yet when the stunning vote was announced last night, Trenyce and Ruben [!!!!!] were the bottom two, and Trenyce was shown the door.

    America (or at least those who voted) were dumb as dirt when they voted Rickey Smith off in early April, but in voting Trenyce off last night, and Ruben behind Joshua, the electorate proved themselves to be just above paramecium and just below liver flukes on the intelligence chart: so shockingly stupid that something other than talent must have been at play.

    I fear what is at play is a bias in favor of a military man in time of war, even though, through no fault of his own, Josh Grayson was singing and dancing in Hollywood while his cohorts were in harm's way in the desert halfway around the world.

    On first thought it would seem obvious that America would reflexively rally round its military in time of war, and in this war it certainly did - just ask the Dixie Chicks - but it wasn't always so: ask a Vietnam veteran. I believe the hyper-support of the military by the US public now - even adamant war protesters have made clear their support for the troops - is a psychological compensation for the decidedly mixed reaction the military received from the public during Vietnam.

    There are many differences between the Vietnam War and all subsequent US military actions including Gulf War 2, notably the character of the war itself, but it seems to me the main difference between America's relationship with its military then and now is the draft.

    Conscription implies compulsion and this compulsion bred an attitude of fear and resentment felt by many draftees and the public at large, especially those within and near the sphere of eligibility, against a military-as-enforcer. The draft (which ended in 1973) has also been used to justify America's "failure" in Vietnam - though most would argue our loss was political and not military - and this prejudice against the skills of a conscripted military is today dogma. Note the flap caused by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comments in January:

    "As an organization founded by Vietnam War veterans seeking justice and fairness for all - whether military personnel or civilians - we are outraged by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comments made at a January 7th DOD press conference when asked about the possibility of resurrecting the draft. Secretary Rumsfeld said troops from Vietnam War conscription, "added 'no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services…'"

    As Vietnam veterans who served with conscripted soldiers, we find Secretary Rumsfeld's egregious slur a grave insult to the memory, sacrifice and valor of those who lost their lives, and, further, dismissive of the hundreds and thousands of lives, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam, who were devastatingly shattered by the Vietnam War.

    We suggest that the Secretary choose his words much more carefully in the future, and be sensitive as to how they affect those who put their lives on the line for this country, whether drafted or enlisted. This is all the more critical as our country is on the eve of war with Iraq, and thousands of U.S. troops are again mobilized to potentially engage in battle."

    -- Bobby Muller, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation [see Rummy's furious backpedaling here]

    A very sensitive matter, that. The draft was meant to do two things: ensure that the military, literally, had enough bodies; and secondarily, to create a more egalitarian military by forcing the middle and upper classes to participate in a historically working class-dominated sector. Of course, exemptions to students, teachers, family men and the well-connected tended to favor those same middle and upper classes, intensifying rather than mitigating the resentment of the less-privileged.

    The grand irony here is that a professional, voluntary military, by disentangling itself from society, has in fact set itself up to be embraced by that very society. There is no longer a threat of compulsion from the military: the military is no longer in a position to DO something to us, it is now strictly in the business of doing things FOR us, and as such we feel unambiguously grateful for its awsome efficiency, skill, courage and POWER.

    THAT is why Josh Gracinn got more votes than the clearly musically superior Trenyce and Ruben from the American public this week, which bodes very well for the condition of the American psyche, but is an outrage in a singing competition.

    Eric Olsen is the founder of Blogcritics. You can find more of his writings at that site.

    Posted By at 02:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
    CNN's Compromise

    I know that revelations of CNN complicity in Saddam's propaganda are old news, but this piece by Andrea Levin is required reading for understanding that the phenomenon is pervasive and ongoing.

    That is to say, the practices employed in Baghdad characterize CNN's kowtowing to dictators elsewhere. This extends to the autocratic regimes throughout the Arab Middle East, now being serviced by a recently launched CNN Arabic language division....

    It is hardly surprising, then, that with regard to the Arab-Israeli
    conflict CNN exhibits a tendency to prefer formulations
    agreeable to Arab leaders while minimizing realities that
    might offend. Thus, on the very day Eason Jordan unburdened
    himself, CNN analyst Bill Schneider declared "...there could
    be a fresh start [in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations], but
    only if President Bush decides to push for a peace deal,
    which means pushing Israel." (Emphasis added) The notion
    that "pushing Israel" is the key reflects, of course, the Arab
    perspective, not the Israeli or American one, which sees
    reform of a corrupt and terror-promoting Palestinian Authority
    as the central task.

    Nor are such CNN observations unusual. Shortly after
    Schneider's comments, CNN anchorwoman Paula Zahn
    questioned Arab journalist Hisham Milhem about
    Arab-Israeli peace and its supposed role in placating
    anti-American sentiment in the Arab "street." Milhem
    promptly responded: "...if you're talking about people
    who need liberation, need liberation more than the Iraqis, they
    are the Palestinians, who are under tremendous occupation,
    brutal, Draconian occupation."

    Posted By at 10:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
    Dishonesty in the anti-war ranks? Surely not!

    The anti-war groups are refocusing after their stunning defeat in Iraq. Are they refocusing on, say, another war? Please! You thought that was their point? Nope.

    It's all about Bush.

    Questions about Iraq War

    This isn't an opinion... it's a bunch of questions I have:

    - What is the status of blogger Salam Pax?

    - Where is Saddam?

    - Where are the WMD's?

    - Where is Dr. Germ?

    - Why was there so little SAM activity over Baghdad?

    - What percentage of the Iraq army actually fought? RG? Fedayeen?

    - How much Iraqi armor was destroyed by air attack? How many units were destroyed by air?

    - Were there ever mobile WMD labs?

    - Why were WMD's not used against coalition?

    - There was a report that mustard gas was detected in one of the rivers. What is the final status on that?

    - Where were the SCUDs?

    - For how long was it possible for bad guys to escape into Syria?

    - What happens to the remaining "Arab fighters?" How many were there? How many were captured on the way in-country? How many were killed?

    - Did the US get enough of the intelligence files? If not, why not?

    - What happened to the reported 60km of subway tunnels under Baghdad? Have they been searched? Are Saddam and Elvis hiding down there?

    - Have the two "decapitation" bombing sites been thoroughly examined by forensics experts? If so, what did they find?

    - Were any of the inert (concrete) bombs ever used? [Update: yes - at least on a palace - per Ollie North]

    - An Apache regiment, in one attack, had 27 of 34 choppers put "unserviceable" in a single attack (they were ambushed). One was downed and the crew captured. None of the originally intended targets were engaged. All of this was from small arms fire and possibly some ZSU-23s. This was considered the only combat defeat of the war. What happened? Are Apaches just too vulnerable? Were they used improperly? How did Apaches fair in the rest of the war?

    -I was going to ask about Baghdad Bob, but he has appeared. So the only question is when he will first appear on the Jay Leno show.