France has participated in naval drills with China off the port of Qingdao, a few days before the elections in Taiwan. This was China’s biggest ever joint military exercises with a foreign power. If you are convinced that the Spanish turn toward Old Europe is done a deal, you might want to see this few paragraphs from Eurosoc. The French-German rivalry is real, and the U.S. is continuing to conduct smart diplomacy as far as I can tell. By forgiving the German slight over Iraq, we have shifted the ground under French feet, and the Germans are once again talking about the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Spain will not simply do the bidding of the French; it can’t afford to. Besides, the New European countries don’t want to be pushed around by the Old, their memories are too good. Note these two good paragraphs from Innocentsabroad:
"As a final point, a point which refutes the claims that the Americans are not particularly deft when it comes to diplomacy, especially the current administration, I would suggest that, judging by how the Bush administration handled the various European players in the build-up to Iraq and since the war, those making the decisions in the US government understand something of how Europe’s nations work. The administration touted Anglo-American commonality, befriended smaller European nations, quickly forgave grievances with the Germans and have allowed antagonisms with the French to simmer. In other words, the American administration has focused its hostility on the French as much as possible."
"I remember reading somewhere that during discussions prior to the Iraq invasion, Dominique de Villepin made the comment that the problem with the Americans is that they don’t read Machiavelli. The force of this statement was that the Americans failed to understand that much of what the French were doing was pure grandstanding in order to improve their international leverage. I think the Americans may very well have understood this. De Villepin seems to think that the core of Machiavelli is simple deception shrouded in the appearance of morality. If that’s the case, then I would suggest that the problem with the French is that they don’t read Machiavelli carefully. There is a moral message in Machiavelli, and it has to do with the morality of acquiring, something the French seem almost habitually unable to comprehend: a Machiavellian joke at France’s expense."
Did I already mention that the French are establishing closer ties with China? Yes, I guess I have. These French, they are so clever. No wonder they didn’t like Washington’s "Farewell Address" when it was delivered in 1796 wherein Washington argued against all "permanent alliances or enmities." (The French Amabassador called it "Machiavellian.") Washington understood the connection between morality and national interest, between rights, right, and consent. He understood why under this new, utterly unMachiavellian, regime he had to give up power: his great virtues gave him no special rights, and gave the country no special rights but to persuade the world of the right of self-government. The French have never understood this. You might want to study some of William B. Allen’s reflections on such matters, here, and here.
Neil MacFarquhar’s front page report on Syria in today’s New York Times is very much worth reading. Bush’s political enemies can argue all they want about whether or not we should have gone into Iraq what with no weapons of mass destruction, etc., but in the end it the worth of the great act will be determined by two things: First, the effect it will have on Iraq. Second, the effect it will have on the region as a whole. This article reveals the good that it has already done in Syria. Syria is becoming more liberal and the opponents of that Baath Regime are heartened by what’s going on in Iraq. Subtle changes are taking place in Syria, and some Syrians are testing the limits, and they are getting away with it. And they understand that the change results from our actions in Iraq. The author says that "the fall of Mr. Hussein changed something inside people." The sense of terror has evaporated, and the regime is worried. Pay attention to this, as well as what is going on in Iran, Lybia, and Saudi Arabia.
Yesterday, I attended an afternoon briefing with Ambassador Bremer, who offered his thoughts on Iraq after one year. I will give you a summary of this later, but I thought I would tell you a little about being in the press room. I was sitting next to a major reporter for major national publication. Bremer began by noting a series of positive statistics about crime, development, security, etc. He told some interesting anecdotes. I saw that my pen and Fred Barnes pens were flying furiously, but the major reporter sitting next to me had not even lifted his pen. Then, Bremer would comment on something potentially negative, like the increased threat of terrorism between now and June 30th, and suddenly the major reporter’s pen would come to life. The pattern continued throughout the press conference, with my pen jotting both good and bad, and his pen seemingly oblivious to anything but the bad. Many of the questions were pointedly negative, with one prominent reporter asking an asinine question to the effect of, can you conceive of a scenario where we get lots of casualties and the terrorists attacks increase, and the moon turns to blood, dogs and cats start living together--you know, mass hysteria--and U.S. support wanes to the point where we would cut and run? Despicable.
There are a number of things that are difficult to assess if you have not been to Baghdad. One is that it is an entirely cash culture. Even the hotels require payment in cash only--no credit cards, and no travelers checks accepted. I therefore needed to find a bank capable of handling a money transfer. Most of the banks in the area have little capacity, essentially offering exchange services. I was told by one of the smaller local banks that there was a bank on Rasheed Street which could handle a transfer. I arranged for a ride with Majdi, one of my semi-regular taxi drivers. Rasheed Street was closed off to traffic, so we had to park on a side street and walk. The street was a picture of the miracle of commerce. Carts were everywhere, loaded as heavily as possible with televisions, computers, and satellite dishes. Modern western clothing was displayed in shop windows and sold by street vendors. The street was packed with people. It looks like what one would expect in a thriving Middle-Eastern bazaar.
Majdi speaks some English--enough to be of assistance in the journey, but sufficiently little so as to make the trip interesting. When we arrived at the bank, there was a security checkpoint some distance from the entrance. We were then escorted by an Iraqi police officer into the bank. But, thanks in part to miscommunication somewhere along the line, this was not the correct bank. This was the Central Bank. The Central Bank is essentially the Federal Reserve and Mint of Iraq rolled into one. As we entered, employeees were wheeling out blocks of Iraqi Dinars that were as large as suitcases. Another reporter had told that on a trip to the Central Bank he had seen the main currency room, which held something like 7 Trillion Dinars (the Dinar currently trades at roughly 1400 Dinars to 1 US Dollar). The Central Bank referred me to another bank, which ultimately sent me to still another bank which could in fact do the transaction. While stuck in traffic, I began to hear gun shots coming from Rasheed Street. Majdi explained that "Rasheed Street is very bad. Ali baba." As we sat in traffic, there was more gunfire, and closer gunfire. Majdi just shook his head, "Ali baba." And again, the pattern of the terrorists hold true. Rasheed Street is thriving. It is filled with locals. It is therefore a target.
After several hours of trying to find a bank, we finally arrived to meet the friendliest banker I have ever met. As we walked in the door, we were offered Turkish coffee or Chai. As I prepared to leave, he expressed regret. "It is lunch time, and I have not given you anything to eat." I said that this was O.K. He said, "Alright, but next time." Yes, next time. And with that, Majdi and I were on our way.
There are many new pictures from Iraq posted here, including pictures of the aftermath of the hotel bombing, pictures of Mr. Nasims home and his family, and pictures from todays Press Briefing with Secretary Powell. Enjoy.
Robert Alt, our man in Iraq, will be on Linda Chavezs radio show at 12:15 pm eastern time today. I encourage you to listen in,
On the ride to the Green Zone yesterday, we encountered more traffic than usual. This led my cabbie to do things like drive on the sidewalk on the bridge crossing the Tigris (which led me to accidentally offer a yiddish phrase, something I have tried to avoid in Baghdad). As we got closer to the gates to the Green Zone, the source of the traffic jam became obvious. There was a small protest, which was marching through the center of the street before it finally had the sense to get out of traffic. But there was something different about this protest. The marchers were not Iraqis. They were clearly foreign, which is to say, European and American. They were hippies (large download that requires Real Player, but worth it for South Park fans). My taxi driver that day was Hasen, a driver who often picks me up from the hotel, and whose broken English strikingly resembles Peter Stormares portrayal of the Russian cosmonaut in Armageddon. As we approached the crowd, he exclaimed, "What?! They are not even Iraqi. What are they, Spanish!" It is good to see the Iraqi sense of humor shine through.
The AP has a preliminary report on the two Iraqi reporters killed in Baghdad by U.S. fire, leading to the boycott of Powell’s briefing by some members of the Iraqi press. Here is the relevant portion of that report:
A reporter for Arab satellite television station Al-Arabiya died from his wounds Friday, hours after U.S. soldiers shot him with his cameraman, who died at the scene, said Mohammed Ibrahim, the station’s editing supervisor in Baghdad.
The U.S. military said it had no information on the shootings of the journalists. But it reported the shooting death of an Iraqi at a checkpoint, and the circumstances of that death matched details reported by Al-Arabiya about the incident involving its Iraqi staffers.
Correspondent Ali al-Khatib and the slain cameraman, Ali Abdel-Aziz, were filming a nighttime rocket attack on the Burj al-Hayat hotel when the shooting took place. U.S. soldiers shot the men as they ran from the scene of an accident between a civilian car and a U.S. Army Bradley fighting vehicle, Ibrahim said. The reporters thought the car was driven by a suicide bomber, Ibrahim said.
Secretary of State Powell made a surprise appearance in Baghdad today (photos are posted here). As he entered the room, a member of the Iraqi media rose to request a moment of silence for two Iraqi reporters killed yesterday. He then denounced the killings, called for an investigation, and led a large group of the Iraqi press out of the room in protest for what he called the murder of the press by Americans.
Powell suggested that the terrorists were responsible for these and other deaths, although in Q&A he admitted that he was not familiar with all the details, and that the event was under investigation. He began with the point that the press have new freedoms, and can walk out of the room or express their protest now--things they could not have done under Saddam Hussein. His prepared comments were short, emphasizing the progress that had been made in the last year, and offering the assurance that "America will not shrink from this task."
When asked a question by the Iraqi press about American bases after the June 30th transition, Powell stated that "[a] smaller size force than is currently here will be here after July 1." He also suggested that there were currently no plans for a permanent base in Iraq.
Then there was a question from Peter Jennings. Let me begin by noting that his hair appears to be a really bad dye job in peson. He asked a meandering question about a lack of support by America’s allies. He then asked for a comment from Powell to the French foreign minister’s statement to the effect that there was no terrorism in Iraq before the war, and that "the war in Iraq has not led to a more stable world." I thought it very appropriate to hear the French line being parroted by Peter Jennings. Powell essentially responded that terror existed before we went in and it exists now. The response should have been stronger. Worldwide terrorism would undoubtedly be worse if a terrorist sympathesizer such as Saddam Hussein were still in power. The Iraq war may have focused some of the terrorist efforts, but it has the long term effect of limiting terrorist capacity.
Peter Kirsanow points out that Kerry has flip-flopped even on Cuba. He has been in favor of raising sanctions, and now he’s not. A few days ago I started reading Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy (published about a year ago). Eire is a professor of history and religious studies at Yale. He left Cuba in 1962, at age twelve, one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, exiled from country and family. He has written scholarly tomes, but this is his first book without footnotes, as he says. Why did he write it? "The most immediate trigger was the Elian Gonzales affair. It reminded me far too much of my own experience as one of 14,000 children who had come to the U.S. from Cuba alone, and whose parents were intentionally kept in Cuba by the Castro regime. The sheer hypocrisy behind Castro’s claim that every child should be with his or her parent was what angered me the most and brought up many memories. It was like a volcanic eruption. One day I started writing and I couldn’t stop. For four months I wrote every night from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00, 3:00, or 4:00 in the morning." This is a lovely book, suffused with Cuban colors and odors, and life on a razor’s edge, and redemption. He changes Saint Jerome’s prayer slightly,
Miserere mei, Domine, Cubanus sum.
Do yourself a favor, run out and buy it, wrap yourself around it, and enjoy its beauty and grace. And, oh yes, sip on a good American coffee.
If you like the Scalia opinion Lucas Morel links to, youll love this. On the Seventh Circuit, Judge Frank Easterbrook has just invented a new kind of separate opinion. Not "concurring," not "dissenting," but "dubitante." Strip the polite veneer off, and Easterbrook is slamming the Supremes, and particularly Justice OConnor, for being so unprincipled in free-speech cases that inferior federal judges have no clue what to do. The last couple of sentences are a real hoot:
Given McConnell, I cannot be confident that my
colleagues are wrong in thinking that five Justices will go
along. But I also do not understand how that position can be
reconciled with established principles of constitutional law.
(Thanks to Stuart Bucks The Buck Stops Here.)
For those interested in Justice Scalia’s explanation of why he will not recuse himself from an upcoming case involving Vice President Dick Cheney (a long-time friend with whom he traveled on a recent hunting trip), see the following 21-page memorandum. For you sporting enthusiasts, the memo includes details about the hunting trip. The Wall St. Journal posts a story on the memo
Quick excerpt from Scalias memo:
"The question, simply put, is whether someone who thought I could decide this case impartially despite my friendship with the Vice President would reasonably believe that I cannot decide it impartially because I went hunting with that friend and accepted an invitation to fly there with him on a Government plane.
If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined."
Vice-President Cheney gave a good talk yesterday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He also takes a few good swipes at Kerrys (various and varied) positions on Iraq and terror fighting.
Robert Alt has a good piece up at NRO on the latest bombing in Iraq. He tells the story of Mohannad Nasim and his family, whose home was virtually destroyed by the blast. Mr. Nasim asked Robert to visit, was hospitable under the most amazing circumstances, and they talked. The quiet resolve of Mr. Nasim is representative of the Iraqi people, but you will not hear that on Al Jazeera or CNN.
"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," so said John Kerry yesterday. I mention this not only because this might become the perfect summation of his character, both intellectual and moral, but also because it is a perfect example of the difficulty of doing politics in a Republic. It is all a bit confusing isn’t it? A person goes around saying anything and everything, no matter how contradictory, just to get himself elected (he will fail, by the way). And then we add Spain into the mix. This Washington Times editorial makes all the right points and asks all the right questions. Spain’s new Socialist prime minister-elect said that we are "aligning ourselves with Mr. Kerry" and that their allegiance will be "for peace, against war," and he asserted that "fighting terrorism with bombs...with Tomahawk missiles isn’t the way to defeat terrorism." And he says he will pull the Spanish troops out of Iraq. O.K. I begin to see the connection between Kerry and Zapatero: terrorism is a law enforcement issue, at best, and, at worst, it means we will not fight them.
Tom Friedman (not exactly a conservative) says this in his column in today’s New York Times: "The new Spanish government’s decision to respond to the attack by Al Qaeda by going ahead with plans to pull its troops from Iraq constitutes the most dangerous moment we’ve faced since 9/11. It’s what happens when the Axis of Evil intersects with the Axis of Appeasement and the Axis of Incompetence." And then he writes: "Spain is planning to do something crazy: to try to appease radical evil by pulling Spain’s troops out of Iraq — even though those troops are now supporting the first democracy-building project ever in the Arab world."
The policy of appeasement--which Europeans are now practicing--is nothing new in the world, I am sorry to say. It is a politics that is based on fear, is without principle (i.e., there is nothing worth fighting for) and has been around as long as human beings have been around; but so has the politics of freedom. The fact that it has been around for ever, of course, doesn’t make it any more palatable. Churchill famously said that "an appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last." The Spanish (and maybe John Kerry) will soon be coming to a point when they will have to choose between war and shame (again Churchill) and if they choose shame, they will still have war, but on even more difficult terms than at the present. hy is all this worth mentioning?
Because the truth is, as Victor Davis Hanson asserts, we have to admit to ourselves that we are alone. In the end, it is good and useful to have allies--especially in a cause not only just and right, but also wherein the interests are the same--but we can only count on ourselves, our own virtues, our own sense of right, and our own prudence. Our we fit for it? Churchill said that you cannot "take the lead in great causes as a half-timer." I think the Spanish and John Kerry are half-timers, and there will be others. Once again, our character will be tested, and once again, we will reveal to the world (and ourselves) that we have not sailed across oceans and conquered continents and tyrants because we are made of cotton candy. We need to remind ourselves, or allies, and our enemies, of this massive fact. We are reminded.
Echoing Robert Alt’s posts, Fred Barnes repoorts from Baghdad that much goes well in Iraq in spite of the bombings.
Why does our media not tell the truth? Do they simply hate Bush?
The LA Times reports this story out of Claremont-McKenna College. A professor of psychology gives a speech decrying racism, then allegedly returns to her car to find it vandalized, spraypainted with racist slogans. A clear example of a hate crime, right? Not so fast--police say two witnesses spotted the good professor vandalizing her own vehicle.
My favorite part, however, is this attempt by one of her colleagues to justify it:
Lee Ross, a social psychologist on the faculty at Stanford University, said that if Dunn is proven to have committed the vandalism, the professor may still have raised peoples awareness about racism. "One ironic thing is that doing this may actually have accomplished some of her goals, if her goal was to make people feel that racism was present and that there was danger of white backlash," Ross said.
Thats good. Whats important isnt whether racism actually exists, but whether "people feel that racism was present."
I received a comment from a reader of one of the earlier posts, who, after mentioning that he refuses to watch CNN and BBC because of slanted coverage, praised the posts on this page because "[w]hile you may be slanting your report, I dont get the sense that you are." It is interesting, because the response from Iraqis is largely so positive that simply reporting what they actually say may seem slanted after the heavy doses of negativity fed by the press. Yet despite the fact that I normally pitch some open ended negative questions to the interviewees just to give them an opportunity to complain about the United States, the Iraqis I have spoken with will have none of it. They are in fact very frustrated with the press that they get here, particularly Al Jazeera. When I tell them what the press is like in the United States, they simply shake their heads.
It is also interesting that the people are dying to tell you about America, the American effort in Iraq, and what it means to their lives. They will seek you out. Mr. Nasim (from the NRO article which should be up later today) hailed me into his house. Often times, the job of a reporter is simply being willing to actually listen, rather than imposing your own views upon the interviewee. I wonder how many Iraqis have told other journalists stories like those that I have been told, only to find their statements falling on deaf ears.
I went to the bomb site last night. I wrote a piece which I have submitted to NRO, so with any luck it will be up later this morning. I had heard that the crowds were restless toward the U.S. over the bombing, so before I left I put on the heavy body armor. My kevlar vest comes in two pieces. One is a heavy-duty kevlar vest, which is designed to provide protection from small rifle rounds, and virtually all handgun rounds. The second piece consists of two 8 pound ceramic Level IV plates, which are designed to stop armor piercing ammo fired out of an AK-47. This is the kind of body armor that you may have heard about on the news. It was in short supply in Iraq during the early stages of the conflict, but it has saved lives. It is a bit bulky unless you are going into an area with a particular threat, but given the circumstances, I thought that last night qualified.
When I arrived, I saw no evidence of unrest. The people seemed concerned or curious about the salvage effort, much as you would expect if such a tragedy occurred in the United States. I think this is an example of the classic disconnect between the news media and the Iraqi public. I’m sure that there were some people at the scene initially who blamed the U.S. for not providing protection. But this certainly was not the prevailing sentiment. So again, the view of what was probably a fairly small majority got treated like it was the dominant view.
CNN is reporting that a powerful explosion his the Karada district in Baghdad this evening. Because I already received an email from one friend seeking to know that I am alright, I thought I would post this to let people know that I am fine. In fact, I am not sure that I even heard this blast. There was a loud boom a few minutes before I left the convention center, but in the interior of the building, I was not sure that it wasnt just construction noise.
Perhaps the Kerry campaign should have thought twice before they arranged a conference call for none other than one-hit-wonder Howard Dean to serve as attack dog for Kerry. But alas, they didn’t think, and neither did Dean, who offered the following gem: "The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend." You can read the full article on the subject here, and read Kerry’s quick backpedal here. Kerry campaign sponsored statements such as Mr. Dean’s are no doubt responsible for making Mr. Kerry the toast of Paris.
The New York Daily Sun ran this article explaining that John Kerry is the talk of the town in Paris. Constance Borde, who heads up the France Chapter of Democrats Abroad, is quoted as gushing "He is the closest thing that you will have to a French politician . . . ." The ellipses disclose her assessment of French politicians as diplomatic and elegant, but I think the first half of the sentence really says it all.
Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader, likes food that still moves.
A former Japanese chef who used to cater to the tyrant has written a book. Note this. "He particularly enjoyed sashimi so fresh that he could start eating the fish as its mouth is still gasping and the tail is still thrashing. I sliced the fish so as not to puncture any of its vital organs, so of course it was still moving. Kim Jong Il was delighted. He would eat it with gusto." (Thanks to The Remedy)
Throughout Baghdad, there are numerous roadside stands which sell sodas (or, for those joining me from the midwest, pop), and cigarettes. As an aside, cigarette smoking is prevalent in Iraq among the locals and the soldiers. It is therefore advisable to keep a pack of cigarettes and a lighter for breaking the ice with adults, and a pack of gum for the begging children in your pockets at all times. The cigarettes sold over here are often repackaged. That is, they may say Marlboro, for instance, but if you examine the cigarettes, you will note that there is a change in the color of the paper just a little beyond the filter. The cigarettes are then filled with the cheapest floor clippings, but sold as name brand.
Back to the story, while on my way back-and-forth between the gates, I passed by one of these stands. The stand owner had cold Pepsi (Pepsi being the dominant American soda in Iraq), and I purchased one. It was in a bottle, and the stand operator wanted the bottle back for the deposit. He had a chair by the stand, and this gave us the opportunity to talk. He asked if I was Amerique, and I said, "Yes, I am American." The response was the same I have seen from so many of the locals. A broad smile, followed by his thoughts on the regime. His conversation went something like this:
America good. American people good. American mind good. The Iraqi people have much. Much wealth. We have two rivers for fish. A port. Oil. But we had bad government. We needed good government. Iraq and America need each other. Iraq has much wealth. And America mind good.
In my experience, this is a reasonable sample of Iraqi sentiment. The people’s pride is admittedly a bit deflated because of the American presence, but they generally support what it is that America has done. Those Iraqis who make the news--the terrorists--are a very small minority in Iraq, and do not share the support of the sampling of Iraqis on the street with whom I have spoken.
I am quickly discovering that there are benefits and burdens to having a credentialed press badge. The defined benefit is that you need press credentials to do on-the-scene interviews with many of the coalition units. An undefined benefit is that other reporters recognize you as a reporter, and are thus more amenable to conversation. The downside is that reporters actually have less access than an American with a passport. For example, last night, I went to the Al Rasheed to meet someone for a drink. The guards at the gate to the Rasheed explained that I could not enter without a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) escort. I stated that I had been in numerous times without an escort, with just my U.S. Passport. The guard explained that you could get in with a U.S. Passport, but that the press were not allowed. I quickly tucked my press id away, pulled out my passport, and presented myself as an American citizen. I was waived in, with the admonition that the press are not allowed. I assured the guard that I had seen no press around here.
Then this morning I had a similar experience going in the gate. I went to a gate which I know well, presented my press ID, and was informed that the press could not enter through this gate. I explained that I had entered many times on a passport, and they said that U.S. citizens could enter, but not press. I tried the same trick as the night before, but this soldier wasn’t biting. I would have to tromp down to another gate. I went to the next gate, and this time presented just my passport. They asked if I was press, and I stupidly said yes. Press aren’t allowed at this gate either, without a PAO escort. In fact, he suggested that press are not allowed in the Green Zone at all without a PAO escort! To enter without an escort, I had to go to still another gate. Well, not just another gate, the gate with the long lines. I did finally get through, and learned a valuable tip: When asked at the checkpoints, I am a professor with the Ashbrook Center, not a journalist. In reality, however, the delays were very useful. I explored a neighborhood I was not familiar with, and met some very interesting people, who you will get to meet on this page soon.
William Safire takes on the corruption at the U.N. resulting from the Iraqi oil-for-food program. "The cover-up in the office of the U.N. secretary general of a multibillion-dollar financial fraud known as the Iraqi oil-for-food program is beginning to come apart.
The scandal has been brewing for years. The first I learned of it was in a New York Times Op-Ed article last April by the journalist Claudia Rosett charging that the U.N.s secretive oversight of more than $100 billion in Iraqi oil exports and supposed humanitarian imports was "an invitation to kickbacks, political back-scratching and smuggling done under cover of relief operations." Keep reading.
Knight-Ridder claims that their own investigative report has shown that Iraqi defectors were responsible for feeding misleading information on Iraq to the press:
"Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraqs illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.
In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, were not confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.
Nevertheless, U.S. officials and others who supported a pre-emptive invasion quoted the allegations in statements and interviews without running afoul of restrictions on classified information or doubts about the defectors reliability."
And the Christian Science Monitor picks this up, with some additions: "Knight Ridders investigative report comes days after a Washington Post story gave a more positive treatment of how two, key, US Defense Department offices handled prewar intelligence.
The Post article casts doubt on assertions by Democrats that the Pentagons Office of Special Plans as well as its Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group supplied questionable information that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others used to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
This is the Dana Priest article in the WaPo that is referenced in the CS Monitor article. It is entitled, "Pentagon Shadow Loses Some Mystique: Feiths Shops Did Not Usurp Intelligence Agencies on Iraq, Hill Probers Find." Interesting stuff.
Australia will continue to support U.S. policy in Iraq. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said "it is enormously important that the international community send a strong message to al-Qaida. We will maintain our determination and our resolve to defeat terrorism, not to have our policies dictated by terrorists." He also urged Spain not to pull its troops.
I just bumped into Fred Barnes here in Baghdad at a press briefing. He is in country for about ten days, and he is working on some interesting pieces. Look for them soon in The Weekly Standard.
John Moser’s note below on bullies and self-esteem reminded me of an experience I had soon after I came to America (to Hermosa Beach, California). I was ten, spoke no English. I was given a math test to find out what grade I ought to be put in. They said the sixth; so there I sat not understanding a word that was being said by the teacher (believe it or not, one Mr. Friend). I was assigned to a boy named Jeffrey who was instructed to teach me to read. And he did, eventually. (I hasten to point out that this was before the great invention of bi-lingual ed, so it only took a few months). During recess and lunch break a fellow named Butch (I’m not kidding, that was his name) would beat me up every time he saw me (about a half dozen times a day). No one interfered. I don’t remember fighting back, but I do remember not liking it. I do remember that the girls were very nice, they would pick me up off the ground and comfort me after each defeat. Maybe that’s why I didn’t fight back. I don’t know. Near the end of the school year I decided to fight back. It was a great event. Everyone knew about it, all the students were arranged in a circle on the asphalt playground. And I whipped him. The cheers were loud and prolonged. The girls were misty-eyed and entirely smitten. I especially remember the special kindness of Violet, one of my classmates and the first black person I had ever met. I was now Achilles, but not closed to polygamy. And Butch--I almost forgot about Butch--shook my hand and congratulated me. Not only did we cease fighting one another, we became allies, looked for wimps and when we found them, we merely pushed them around, since we didn’t have to fight anyone, anymore. We had a reputation! Better that than strength, courage, or cunning.
Ive been re-reading James Burnhams classic Suicide of the West in the evenings recently (I really need to switch to P.G. Wodehouse or Evelyn Waugh in these dark times), and the following passage jumped out as being even more true and relevant today than when he wrote it 45 years ago:
"Liberals, unless they are professional politicians needing votes in the hinterland, are not subject to strong feelings of national patriotism and are likely to feel uneasy at patriotic ceremonies. These, like the organizations in whose conduct they are still manifest, are dismissed by liberals rather scornfully as flag-waving and 100 percent Americanism. When a liberal journalist uses the phrase patriotic organization, the adjective is equivalent in meaning to stupid, reactionary and rather ludicrous. The rise of liberalism to predominance in the controlling sectors of American opinion is in almost exact correlation with the decline in the ceremonial celebration of the Fourth of July, traditionally regarded as the nations major holiday. To the liberal mind, the patrioic oratory is not only banal but subversive of rational ideals; and judged by liberalisms humanitarian morality, the enthusiasm and pleasures that simple souls might have got from the fireworks could not compensate the occasional damage to the eye or finger of an unwary youngster. The purer liberals of the Norman Cousins strain, in the tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, are more likely to celebrate UN Day than the Fourth of July."
Substitute "red states" for "hinterlands," John Kerry for Norman Cousins, and you have an up-to-date description of the present moment.
This months issue of The Atlantic includes this tidbit (scroll down to the bottom of the page) about bullying. The ed-school establishments characterization of bullies as loners with low self-esteem has set my B.S. detector clanging for some time; now, it appears, it has been debunked. In a study entitled "Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak, and the Troubled", it was precisely the bullies who were identified as the "psychologically strongest," and enjoyed the highest esteem among their peers. By contrast, the victims of bullies were the ones most "socially marginalized among their classmates."
Of course, as the editors of The Atlantic point out, this should not come as news to anyone who actually remembers what junior high was like--about a half-step removed from Lord of the Flies. But its almost touching--not to say pathetic--how long the Rousseauian image of children as "noble savages" has managed to hold on.
After 3 visits to the Press Office, I finally got my credentials. Basking in this new found recognition, I am sending you this email from the high speed line at the International Press Office, and I appear to have gotten waived through at least one security check on the way in this morning. Membership has its privileges.
Spains new socialist PM, Sr. Zapatero, called Iraq a disaster, and suggested that Bush and Blair "engage in some
self criticism " (I like that, a very European way of putting things, dont you think? Thats what my father was told to do by the Stalinists when he was arrested for "rumor mongering", i.e., calling some communist a communist s.o.b.) He didnt deny it. He got three months and was told to engage in some self criticism. He didnt. And neither should Bush). ABC News has conducted a serious poll in Iraq, the first of its kind.
Note the title: "Most Iraqis Ambivalent About the War, But Not Its Results." The short of it is this critical percentage (but the rest of it is also good): 71% of Iraqis say that a year from now their lives will be much better. That optimism is meaningful. Read the whole thing; look at the charts carefully because the text is often misleading.
This is kind of fun (via Andrew Sullivan): Heres a list of political contributions from the staff of the New York Times. All the news thats fit to print, as they say.
In a recent conversation with Col. Ferrari, who does security planning for CJTF-7, I asked a rather open ended question. “What is the story that is not being told? What story should the press be getting out there?” He answered without hesitation: “The untold story is the story of the American soldier.” He then rattled off with pride how soldiers are doing things in the field that they were never trained to do, and are doing them well. They are running police academies which train the new Iraqi police force. They have acted as de-facto mayors, getting the municipal services up and running, and hearing grievances from the locals.
And they are doing it with high morale. When they came to Iraq, they saw how the infrastructure had been stripped to the bone. They have seen the progress, and are generally optimistic about the prospects for Iraq in the future. That is the untold story of Iraq, and it is one that we will be bringing you in the coming months.
CNN is reporting that Franklin County has identified a suspect in the string of Columbus sniper shootings.
If you have not done so recently, check out the Iraq photos page. I have some new pictures posted from the press conference yesterday, and the good folks at the Ashbrook Center have posted larger, better versions of the pictures already posted, which you can see if you click on the individual pictures.
The Spanish reaction and the commentary below bring to mind this simple axiom:
Those that cherish peace over freedom shall have neither.
This e-mail is from a reader:
"If I were I Spaniard, I would renounce my citizenship immediately, in
complete shame for the cowardice of my countrymen. Whatever one thought of
the original decision to go into Iraq, you cant let tyrants decide the
outcome of your elections. The new government, at the very least, should
have immediately announced the doubling of its security forces in Iraq - on
the grounds that while we dont like Bush, we wont buckle to terrorists.
The Spaniards, like many in Europe, seem to assume that if they declare
public neutrality in the conflict between civilization and barbarism, they
can escape the conflict. All the while they live comfortably under the
umbrella of American security and prosperity, and assume that if things ever
turn really nasty, the Americans will surely bail them out. Tyrants,
meanwhile, are confirmed in the view that the civilized have no backbone.
This is yet another sad indication that Europe really is a dying continent.
It wont fight because it has nothing worth fighting for."
I was intrigued by the French decision two or three weeks ago to ban head scarves in the public schools, thinking it a sign that the French were starting to worry seriously about Islamists in their midst, that perhaps, just perhaps, the French might still have some stuffing left. Alas, no. It turns out the motivation of the scarf ban is aggressive secularism (crosses and yarmulkas were banned, too), not some kind of civilizational pride.
The whole episode called back to mind Jean Raspails controversial 1973 novel, Camp of the Saints. Raspails book told the story of a huge flotilla of Hindus that sets out from India for France, and the lack of will on the part of the French to say "No" to this de facto invasion. It was a wonderful send-up of the multicultural mentality, predictably branded as a racist tract.
In a preface for a 1985 edition of the book, Raspail included the following meditation that is more timely than ever in light of the Spanish election result:
"For the West is empty, even if it has not yet become really aware of it. An extraordinarily inventive civilization, surely the only one capable of meeting the challenges of the third millennium, the West has no soul left. At every level--nations, races, cultures, as well as individuals--it is always the soul that wins decisive battles. It is only the soul that forms the weave of gold and brass from which the shields that save the strong are fashioned. I can hardly discern any soul in us. Looking, for example, at my own country, France, I often get the impression, as in a bad dream dreamt wide awake, that many Frenchmen of true lineage are no longer anything but hermet clams that live in shells abandoned by the representatives of a species, now disappeared, that was known as French and which did not forecast, through some unkown genetic mystery, the one that at centurys end has wrapped itself in this name. They are content to just endure. Mechanically, they ensure their survival from week to week, ever more feebly. Under the flag of an illusory internal solidarity and security, they are no longer in solidarity with anything, or even cognizant of anything that would constitute the essential commonalities of a people."
David Frum thinks that the terrorists have won a mighty victory in Spain. Victor Davis Hanson agrees and makes a couple of things very clear: "Let me get this straight. Two-and-a-half years after September 11, on a similar eleventh day of the month, 911 days following 9-11, and on the eve of Spanish elections, Al Qaeda or its epigones blows up 200 and wounds 1,400 Spaniards. This horrific attack follows chaotic months when Turks were similarly butchered (who opposed the Iraq War), Saudis were targeted (who opposed the Iraqi war), Moroccans were blown apart (who opposed the Iraqi war) and French periodically threatened (who opposed the Iraqi War)."
"And the response? If we were looking for Churchill to step from the rubble, we got instead Daladier. The Spanish electorate immediately and overwhelmingly connected the horror with its present conservative government’s support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. If the United States went to Afghanistan in 26 days following the murder of 3,000 of its citizens to hunt down their killers and remove the fascists who sponsored them, Spaniards took to the streets with Paz placards and about 48 hours later voted in record numbers to appease the terrorists." Hanson thinks, in the end, we are alone, we have no allies in our attempt to save civilization. Drink some very strong European coffee, and ponder.
Andrew Sullivan is equally clear-eyed:"It’s a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe’s future. A close election campaign, with Aznar’s party slightly ahead, ended with the Popular Party’s defeat and the socialist opposition winning. It might be argued that the Aznar government’s dogged refusal to admit the obvious quickly enough led people to blame it for a cover-up. But why did they seek to delay assigning the blame on al Qaeda? Because they knew that if al Qaeda were seen to be responsible, the Spanish public would blame Aznar not bin Laden! But there’s the real ironic twist: if the appeasement brigade really do believe that the war to depose Saddam is and was utterly unconnected with the war against al Qaeda, then why on earth would al Qaeda respond by targeting Spain? If the two issues are completely unrelated, why has al Qaeda made the connection? The answer is obvious: the removal of the Taliban and the Saddam dictatorship were two major blows to the cause of Islamist terror. They removed an al Qaeda client state and a potential harbor for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. So it’s vital that the Islamist mass murderers target those who backed both wars. It makes total sense. And in yesterday’s election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of. It has removed a government intent on fighting terrorism and installed another intent on appeasing it. For good measure, they murdered a couple of hundred infidels. But the truly scary thought is the signal that this will send to other European governments. Britain is obviously next. The appeasement temptation has never been greater; and it looks more likely now that Europe - as so very often in the past - will take the path of least resistance - with far greater bloodshed as a result. I’d also say that it increases the likelihood of a major bloodbath in this country before the November elections. If it worked in Spain, al Qaeda might surmise, why not try it in the U.S.?"
It strikes me that if the Spanish election really is a response to the bombings, then the Spanish may have come down with a case of the French flu. A debilitating illness, it begins by breaking down the human spine. By the end, it leaves its victims with sunken chests. But seriously, the response seems, if youll pardon me, European. With notable exceptions, Old Europe has bought into the post-modernism to such a degree that they no longer believe in themselves. They no longer believe in the capacity for truth. If standing up for principle means taking losses, then they will fold, and fold quickly. If anyone doubts that there is a real difference between Old Europe and the U.S., think what the response would have been in the U.S. if an election were held within days of September 11th, between someone who was aggressive in fighting international terror, and someone who would pull the U.S. out of the fight.
And yet [Talisker is] almost mild compared to a Laphroaig, from the Scottish island of Islay. The nose of Laphroaig has smoke and seaweed and something overpoweringly medicinal, like hospital bandages. It smells like someone being treated for burns beside a smoldering building. Next to a bog. Across from an open-air fish market. It smells like ... heaven.
I do not have any Laphroaig along for this journey, but I did bring some cask strength Glenmorangie. Cheers.
I attended my first press briefing this afternoon (pictures are posted here. The briefings are conducted by Daniel Senor on behalf of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority, or the civilian side), and General Kimmitt on behalf of CJTF-7 (Consolidated Joint Task Force 7, or the military side). The briefing began with a by the numbers look at operations, as well as something like an extended police blotter, specifying the attacks for the previous day. While far too many numbers were bandied about, a few are of interest. There are currently an average of 21 attacks against coalition forces per day; 4 attacks against Iraqi forces; and 3 attacks against Iraqi civilians. Yesterday alone there were 561 patrols conducted in Baghdad.
While there were a number of standard IED-style attacks, there were also a couple of attacks worth noting. In one, soldiers were fired upon by individuals who appeared to be wearing Iranian border guard uniforms. While CTJF-7 is investigating, they are not treating this as a special case.
Following up on my posting from yesterday about the Americans and their translator apparently killed by men carrying Iraqi police IDs, the briefing today made clear that based on the recreation, this was a "run and gun"--that is, the attackers were not at a makeshift checkpoint, but drove a car by the victims, who they shot at and ultimately ran off the road. An on the street source suggests that the Fern Holland, a 33-year-old attorney who was in country working on women’s rights, may have been driving the vehicle. While Iraq is more progressive than some middle-eastern countries, there are still many who oppose women driving, and this (although highly speculative) may have contributed to the vehicle being targetted.
There was also a stabbing in the Green Zone, which garnered a fair number of questions. A soldier was stabbed on his way back to his trailer. He sustained stab wounds to the torso, neck, and head, but lived. It was unclear whether the attacker was American or Iraqi. Of course, it says something about the general level of security that this was big news. That is, attacks within the Green Zone are relatively unheard of.
Dan Senor, who Bill Kristol speaks quite highly of, gave something of an overview of the attacks: "The attacks are much more organized. They are much more political." He summed up that they are terrorist attacks. He noted that experts are predicting an escalation in attacks as the June 30th change in control approaches, because after that date the pretext of the attacks (getting the Americans out) will have evaporated.
General Kimmitt concluded with some very sound thoughts. Following a series of questions about the balance of liberty and security, he noted the sacrifice of the soldiers: "The soldiers did not die for fortune. They did not die for oil. They did not die for land." Rather, they died to give Iraq something it has never had--a free and democratic regime. Huzzah and pass the ammo.
It looks like the Socialists have won in Spain. It seems that they got about 43% of the vote against the 37% for the Popular Party (with 80% of the votes counted). If--as news reports are saying--this is a revulsion against the anti-terror (and pro Iraq war) policies of Jose Maria Aznar, then it is a very bad sign, and not only for a change in Spains policies toward our effort in Iraq. It is a bad sign because if (and I say IF) al Qaeda is responsible for the Madrid attacks--as a payback for Spanish support of our policy in Iraq--and if the Spanish people think that that is why they were attacked just a few days before an election, and, therefore, the government changes hands to one that is less likely to maintain a vigorous anti-terrorist policy, then we may expect more of the same in other countries (and why should this exclude the U.S., after all we have an election coming up?). Que lastima!
Dan Rather (remember him?) had a conversation with Larry King a couple days ago and he noted the great difference in Iraq between then (when he would interview Saddam) and now. Here is Rather: "If you were here, I think the biggest thing you would notice is freedom. I know that will strike some people as corny or cliche but its what you feel. And its what the Iraqi people, by and large, feel. They--most Iraqis alive today have never known anything approaching freedom. And just the fact that Iraqis can speak out, that they can say what they want to say, is probably the biggest change thats happened over the last year." (Thanks to
David Broder seems genuinely enthusiastic about Rep. Barney Franks (D) deep thinking about why we are not creating more jobs. Frank says: ""The ability of the private sector in this country to create wealth is now outstripping its ability to create jobs. The normal rule of thumb by which a certain increase in the gross domestic product would produce a concomitant increase in jobs does not appear to apply." Because the economy now creates wealth but not jobs, this deep thinker recommends that we raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, and give that money to various levels of government so they may create jobs (you know, pick up garbage, fight fires, build bridges, on what Frank calls, "socially useful purposes"). In short, another New Deal job corps program. "Our problem today," Frank said, "is too little government." Im thinking that Broder may be ironic in claiming that this is deep and bold thinking. I hope he is.
This is the MEMRI translation of the al Qaeda statement claiming responsibility for the bombings in Spain. MEMRIs commentary claims that "this statement does not seem to be an authentic Al-Qaida document."
Here is Mark Steyn’s take on the medias bias and foolishness, as exemplified by the headline the Seattle paper ran that the accused Iraqi spy was related to Andrew Card. The whole thing if good, but here is a sample: "Look, these are serious times. Week after week, more details emerge of the extraordinary number of influential Westerners, from French government ministers to the head of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, who appear to have been in the pay of Saddam. That’s, among other things, what Susan Lindauer is accused of.
But we don’t have a serious press for these serious times. Boring and self-important is not the same as serious. But one reason why John Kerry calculates he can get away with damning the Bush administration as ’crooks’ and ’liars’ is because he figures he can count on the mainstream media doing what the Post-Intelligencer did -- instinctively framing every issue in anti-Bush terms, no matter how ludicrously. I suppose it’s not entirely impossible that one reason the Post-Intelligencer guys went with their spy-Bush linkage is because Lindauer has been accused of betraying her country and Al Gore accused Bush of ’betraying’ the country, too. But that’s one more reason why Bush will win in November: The media and the Democrats are sustaining each other in their delusions."
On Friday night, I arrived at around 10:45 in the evening at the checkpoint to my hotel. The checkpoint is on a busy street. You are generally greeted by Kalishnikov carrying Iraqi security workers (I believe they are private guards) who inspect your bags and pat you down. This particular evening, I was greeted a couple of meters in front of the checkpoint by a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a Kalishnikov. (For those wondering, it was a brisk but pleasant evening.) He pointed to my bag, and I walked (as he continued to point and speak presumably about the bag—without pointing the Kalishnikov, mind you) a few meters further to the checkpoint, where the regular detail was sitting, and where I hopefully could be seen by American soldiers manning a checkpoint about a block away. I then opened by bag on the concrete barrier as usual, and the man in the ski mask inspected it. Although I was not certain when he first approached me, it became apparent that he was one of the security guys, who just happened to be wearing a ski mask and carrying a Kalishnikov.
It was then that it struck me: I walk through security checkpoints all the time. Some of the inspectors have regular uniforms, and some don’t. After a while, one begins to presume that the men holding guns there are at least neutral guys. But as this story from the Washington Post makes clear, even when they are in uniform and have IDs, you cannot be sure. For those who did not click the link, a group of men with valid Iraqi police IDs created a fake checkpoint, at which they killed two Americans and their Iraqi translator about 60 miles south of Baghdad on Tuesday evening. The story sent shockwaves through the community. I met with a lawyer who handles regional democracy issues for the CPA the morning after the event occurred. In talking to him about my travels, he grew very dour. “Be very careful,:” he admonished. The killings had not yet been revealed, but all he could say was that something very bad had happened the day before to a lawyer.
This goes to the problem of putting together a police force. When the army arrived, the Iraqi military and the police force were completely disbanded. The U.S. had to rebuild from base one. In certain respects, this was good. As Col. John Ferrari informed me in an interview, the previous police force’s idea of justice was “throwing a guy off a roof.” Still, this proved an enormous job. They needed to recruit and train 75,000 police officers. And they are doing it, as quickly as practicable.
The real success in this regard is the Iraqi Civil Defense Corp (ICDC). There are currently 30,000 ICDC troops that have been trained by the U.S. They are recruited from the local towns, and therefore they know the people and the people know them. Given the close-to-home approach, it is not terribly surprising that the early results suggest that the Iraqi people trust the ICDC soldiers and get along with them. They are already being used in places ordinarily manned by U.S. troops, such as at checkpoints, which eases the load on U.S. troops and helps with the transition. They also work extensively with the military units in the outlying cities, helping to defuse potentially volatile situations, and acting as intermediaries between the locals and the army. The training of the ICDC continues, with current plans anticipating that 40,000 ICDC will be trained by the end of summer.
Paul Seaton writes an elegant defense of President Bush’s appointments of Diana Schaub and Peter Lawler to the Council on Bioethics. He claims, rightly, that these two are great appointments, that they have a deep understanding of the full range of human goods and practices, and that their thinking balances nicely with those who are only interested in the "progressive technologies" of scientific reality. Seaton, like Schaub and Lawler, understand that it is perfectly possible for the so called progressive science to turn into regressive science and that those who are students of political philosophy--as Schaub and Lawler are--have a great deal to contribute to this critical conversation.
You can see Being Human: Readings from the President’s Council on Bioethics, and get one free copy by sending an e-mail to them. Note the table of contents, everything from Homer to Willa Cather to Tolstoy. This is a very unusual government document, to say the least. This is the Introduction, "The Search for Perfection" and is followed by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, "The Birth-Mark."