Julie Ann Ponzi tells the story of Brian Wood, a quiet and thoughtful patriot. "When Brian was a sophomore in high school, he announced to his mother his decision to follow in the footsteps of his father, three uncles and a grandfather and join the military upon completing high school. Because of his deep interest in reading and, especially, in reading history he also maintained the goal of eventually becoming a high school history teacher. But his quiet skepticism kept him from pursuing that goal right away. You see, he was leery of enrolling in just any college program. His instincts—quite correctly—made him suspicious of most college history professors. Besides, he had another way to defend his country in mind." Read on.
The Canadian PM said some very interesting things about the UN: "With yesterdays landmark speech, Paul Martin tacitly acknowledged what Canadas foreign policy establishment has refused to accept for decades: that the United Nations is a failure, for which there is no solution.
The Prime Ministers proposed alternative is a new international body, the G-20 summit of world leaders, representative of North and South, developed and developing, rich and poor: a working group unfettered by the UNs bureaucracy and its anachronistic Security Council." How about that!
In case you’re interested in listening to Bill Bennetts new radio program, "Bill Bennetts Morning in America", there are two options. The first is XM Satellite Radio. They are on from 6:00 am to 9:00 am on channel 168.
The second is on-line. If you go to here and click on the "Listen Online" button on the top of the page, you can hear his most recent show.
If you want to hear Bennett’s very good talk at the Ashbrook Center last Friday, click here. The whole thing, including his response to questions, is about an hour long.
James Ceasar reviews Sam Huntington’s Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s Identity and thinks that Huntington’s two ways (creed and culture) are both deficient. Rich Lowry also considers Huntington, and goes a bit farther off the mark by deemphasizing "creed": "Huntington sees an America gripped in a ’crisis of national identity.’ What is that identity? It is partly based on what Huntington calls The Creed, our belief in liberty, democracy, individual rights, etc. But The Creed has a particular source: America’s Anglo-Protestant culture, which includes "the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create heaven on earth, a ’city on the hill.’"
I prefer to talk in terms of principle and not ancestry, of the electric cord and the moral sentiment, as explained by Lincoln: "We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ’We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are.
That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]" See full text of his speech
Phil Munoz has a brief take on Congressman Jim McDermotts inability to say "under God" in the pledge. (Thanks to Powerline)
Bernard Lewis, the great scholar of Islam and the Middle East, is interviewed in The Atlantic.
The UN bans the sale of WMDs to terrorists. Great move. I feel very safe now. Note that Kofi Annan has an opinion on what we are doing in Fallujah: "Violent military action by an occupying power against inhabitants of an occupied country will only make matters worse. Its definitely time, time now for those who prefer restraint and dialogue to make their voices heard." Thank you Mr. Secretary General, that is helpful; keep talking. Just maybe, Annan should consider this piece by Claudia Rosett on the Oil-for-Food program from Commentary, and then talk about that.
Tomorrow I am heading east on a six hour trek across Northern Iraq, so I will be unavailable most of the day. I have been asked to do the Lars Larson show this evening at 8:00 Eastern Time. I am going to see if I can push that a little later to allow me some sleep, but will try to do it. I will also be doing the J. D. Balart show on Liberty Broadcasting tomorrow at noon, and you should be able to listen live on the internet by going here. Finally, I will be on Ron Insanas show on Saturday from 12:05- 12:25 pm.
Pew poll shows that Bush’s approval rating rose in April. "President Bush’s approval ratings have improved over the month of April even as Americans continue to express strong concerns about Iraq and the way the president is handling that situation. The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center finds 48% approving and 43% disapproving of Bush’s overall job performance. This is slightly better than the 43% rating he received in early April, conducted in the days immediately following the murder and mutilation of American contractors in Falluja."
Alex Beam, writing in the Boston Globe, considers the historian Douglas Brinkley’s role in the Kerry-for-president machine: he thinks Brinkley is a PR flack for Kerry, and is no longer a historian.
This is a pretty clear, and short, explanation of the meaning of the proposed new Iraqi flag.
The more information we have about the corruption at the UN, the worse it all looks. This Washington Times article is worth reading. The vast majority of the United Nations oil-for-food contracts in Iraq have mysteriously vanished, crippling investigators trying to uncover fraud in the program, a government report charged yesterday. Dick Morris claims that all this explains French and Russian opposition to overthrowing Saddam. Claudia Rosett argues that some of the money got into al Qaedas hands. I will be interested in finding out the depth of the corruption; this might destroy whatever moral authority the U.N. has (very little, in my opinion) in even liberal circles.
Today I have moved to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Speicher (pronounced "spiker"), which is about 15 minutes from Tikrit. The base houses the 216 Engineers, which includes a fair number of Ohio natives (I bumped into a Medina resident in the first 5 minutes, and began swapping stories about Chippewa Lake). I will likely be here for a few days before shipping off to Tuz, a small city just to the South of Kirkuk. Also, NRO should be publishing my piece on Media Incivility and Bias in Iraq later today, so look for it there.
In preparation for my embed, I checked out of my hotel. This was a strange (although thankfully expected) experience because the hotels in Baghdad only take cash, thereby necessitating that I pay for all seven weeks in greenbacks. Then it was off to the Green Zone to catch my Blackhawk. For those of you who have never flown by Blackhawk, I highly recommend it. I had flown in one when I was embedded with the medevac unit for a day, but they fly doors closed. These fly doors open, with belt-fed 50 caliber guns on each side of the bird. For safety, the birds fly low—about 50 – 60 feet—rising in altitude only to clear the high tension power lines, and then dropping fast (thrill ride fast) as soon as they passed them. The birds tended to make banking turns when over palm groves (which are areas from which Ali Babas love to launch attacks), presumably to give the gunners a clearer look through the palms. Of course, tipping the birds also gives reporters like me, sitting as I was in an opened-door window seat, an equally fine view. When we cleared the cities and were over a salt flat where there were clearly no people, the gunners each let off some rounds to test their weapons. The shots literally out the blue were somewhat startling, and were followed by the cascade of shell casings following the slip-stream of the aircraft.
After leaving Baghdad, there was a surprising amount of green. Much of the flight was over small farms, and many of these farms had some modest amount of livestock—sheep, goats, chicken, and cows. One thing that I found surprising was that the majority of the people I saw working the fields were women—some of whom were assisted by children of varying ages. I do not know if this was an odd cross-section, or if this is common.
Upon arriving in Tikrit, we went to the largest of Saddam’s palaces. There are over 30 palaces in Tikrit alone—the biggest actually consisting of 7 connected buildings. That edifice is grand, with many chandeliers, literally tons of imported Italian marble, and walls detailed by ornate carving. (Saddam had his initials carved into the border detail of these carvings, assuring that he cannot be completely “defaced.”) In one area of the palace, Saddam placed three Shakespearean-styled balconies. The interpreter informed me that this seemingly odd choice was made because Saddam was a great fan of Shakespeare’s plays—or at least the Arabic translation of the plays.
Upon arrival, the press corp. was briefed by Major General John Batiste. The opening statement gave a general overview of security conditions in the 1st Infantry Division’s area of operations. During questions, the General asserted that the route between Baghdad and Mosul is secure. It is useful to note that secure does not mean IED-free. There are still a significant number of IEDs found on the roads, but the more organized attacks and hijacking that was a serious issue a couple of weeks ago does not appear to be an issue now.
While it does not dominate the news in the way that Fallujah does, the 1st ID conducts almost daily raids in Samarra and Balad. Of course, we are in Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, which has been relatively quiet despite the unrest in other Sunni cities. I asked the General what the secret was for Tikrit—why, when the world expects it to be a hotbed of violence, is it relatively calm for the region. While he suggested that there is the potential for things to go badly in Tikrit (presumably based on the number of Baathists and Saddam loyalists), he pointed to a number of features which have prevented this. In particular, he pointed to engagement, predictive intelligence, and working with the mayor. While he did not say this, the first of these, if not all three, had been deficient in Fallujah preceding the recent unrest. The General also pointed to those good people in Tikrit, who are tired of the insurgent attacks. If he is right, and segments of the population have been able to have a moderating effect on the extreme elements in a stronghold such as Tikrit, than there is some reason for a modicum of hope that other Sunni cities would be able to replicate this success. Fallujah may still be a problem, however, because the insurgents there are believed to include a healthy mix of foreign fighters, who are likely to be less moved by the appeal of locals for armistice.
Jeffrey Tiel has some "ethical reflections" on Fallujah. A sample: "So far American doctrine seems perfectly reasonable. Yet the American military is seemingly unwilling to exercise its power. Once the offer to extract the local population is satisfied, full military power may be used against the defenders. Why, e.g., would ground troops engage in small arms fire with the defenders on the outskirts rather than employ heavy artillery and heavy bombers on the town? A town that engages in widespread rebellion should be threatened with total destruction unless unconditional surrender is accepted. Once that demand is rejected, the town should be obliterated with the aim of entirely consuming the enemy and anyone foolish enough to remain with him. This level of destruction makes it an "ill-bargain" for other potential insurgents to consider rebellion. Notice that following World War II, one did not find German and Japanese insurgencies even though weapons and training were far more readily available. The reason for this is that the threat of complete destruction was not idle, and the people were tired of war. Current American warfighting doctrine in the name of being ethical actually motivates the people to support continued hostility."
It was bound to happen. According to the Washington Post, Ontario is going to act on a 1991 law permitting religious arbitration of private disputes and allow Muslim sharia courts to decide family matters like inheritance and divorce. There are some limitations: both parties must consent to go in front of these courts, and the courts cannot decide the rights of third parties (e.g., children), impose criminal penalties, or make any ruling contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Despite these restrictions, the Post reports that Muslim leaders in Toronto regard the new courts as a "significant step" toward replacement of Canadian civil law by sharia. This is happening partly because Canada’s official multi-culturalism allows and encourages group-identity thinking, which itself comes out of the unresolved English-French division. But the cause is deeper than that because unlike the old cultural disputes, this one is a matter of principle, not language. For some Muslims in Canada (and the West more generally), religious liberty does not mean freedom of private worship but, as one woman put it, the right of "all Muslims" to be "governed by Islamic law," whether or not it is liberal.
For now, Canada is trying to muddle through by limiting what the sharia courts can do. But soon someone will ask why sharia sanctions cannot be applied in domestic matters like adultery. Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear what Canada will decide because -- as its committment to multi-cuturalism shows -- it doesn’t really believe that politics can be based on self-evident truths that are good for all people, Muslim or not.
With that lack of conviction, who knows what is bound to happen.
Do not expect much from Robert today since he is an embed up in Tikrit. He will check in when he can.
The Village Voice sees the problem with the Kerry candidacy. It is short, so I quote it all, without the paragraphs: "With the air gushing out of John Kerry’s balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn’t have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party’s got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can’t exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air.
With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton’s triangulation gimmickry (the protractor factor), Kerry sinks day by day. The pros all know that the candidate who starts each morning by having to explain himself is a goner.
What to do? Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual—resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both.
If things proceed as they are, the dim-bulb Dem leaders are going to be very sorry they screwed Howard Dean."
The Belmont Club has a thought on last nights bombing in Fallujah: "An AC-130 struck two sites in Fallujah about 150 meters apart resulting in secondary explosions. It is possible that the USMC, after probing consecutively, has thrown the enemy a curve ball and attacked the mustering sites where the Jihadis were briefing and arming their mobile task groups for the night, the locations deduced from movement patterns gleaned from previous engagements. The other possibility is that the USMC has identified preparations for the final redoubt and struck at their magazines. The creation of a continuous enemy line would require consolidating munitions, especially explosives, into the defensive area to wire it up completely. The distance of 150 meters between attack points is consistent with a defensive area about 300 yards square. The loss of munitions is irreplaceable to the enemy and probably reduces their effectiveness as much as attrition in men.
If the Marines follow up, the enemy may be forced to continue a plan now in shambles right over a cliff. Hence, it is possible the enemy will develop a sudden appetite for a truce to gain time to rebuild their scattered positions. Alternatively the Marines themselves could ease up the tempo, handing the enemy another unexpected change of pace, to haul more civilians out of the area and snipe at the stragglers as they regroup. Either that or launch more and possibly multidirectional probes. The enemy has no good moves left, only the evil choices of continuing a mobile defense with dwindling numbers and weapons or consolidation in a bastion with much a much reduced magazine capacity. Of course, the trapped men are probably hoping for a diversionary attack from their cohorts in the rest of the Sunni triangle, but that is a forlorn expectation. Killing those four Blackwater contractors was an expensive proposition."
I am wrapping up at the internet cafe, and I just heard a large boom--not-too-close, but not-too-far away either. The kid at the desk thought it came from the direction of the Palace, but I think that is rank speculation.
I will be on the Lars Larson Show tonight at 9 PM Eastern Time/6 PM Left Coast Time (and, for those of you who did the math, 5 AM Baghdad time). His show is broadcast on Westwood One, so theres a good chance that there is a station in your area that carries his show. You can find a station here, or listen live on the internet here. Ill be broadcasting just before I head out to catch my Blackhawk to Tikrit, so do tune in.
The Belmont Club continues to have some interesting thoughts on the goings-on in Iraq. Note the comparison between Fallujah and the showdown between Blackjack Pershing and the Moros at Bud Bagsak (1913); note the use of the Philippine Scouts. Also note the Belmont Clubs second entry on the Hunter UAVs.
Jason Burke, in Foreign Policy, has a few readable and quick thoughts on the state of Al Qaeda, which he says is less an organization than an ideology. He thinks it is better to call these guys "jihadi international", as the Israeli intelligence services calls them, than Al Qaeda. He is rather pessimistic; thinks we are not winning. "Bin Ladens aim is to radicalize and mobilize. He is closer to achieving his goals than the West is to deterring him."
John Kerry is losing the support he once had with young voters, between 18-29, an IPSOS poll shows. He once had a double digit lead, now is running even with Bush in this age group. Marist poll shows Bush ahead, while Fox news poll shows them neck and neck. Rasmussen also has Bush in the lead. Tony Quinn thinks it is a mistake to think that California is pre-destined to vote for Kerry. Worth reading. Meanwhile, Jon Keller reflects on how Kerry won the primary race, and he doesnt think Kerry had much to do with: he was being led. It is clear to me that his presidential candidacy is on the verge of collapse, for what thats worth. Mickey Kaus implies that the Demos should note that they havent nominated Kerry yet. And I am not even talking about the medals/ribbons flap. Bad signs for Kerry, these.
Much has been written over at The Corner about the abortion march this past weekend. One quote is simply too good not to pass along. Kathryn Lopez reports that Rep. Maxine Waters told the crowd: “I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.” With quotes like these, I dont even need to offer a punchline.
David Brooks writes a splendid review of what he calls the best biography of Alexander Hamilton to date. In "’Alexander Hamilton’: Rich Uncle of His Country",
Brooks gives a synopsis of Hamilton’s life, interspersed with Chernow’s insights and observations. A few excerpts follow.
Brooks comparing Chernow’s bio to other noteworthy ones:
"Other writers, like Forrest McDonald, Liah Greenfeld and Karl-Friedrich Walling, have done better jobs describing Hamilton’s political philosophy, but nobody has captured Hamilton himself as fully and as beautifully as Chernow (who is perhaps best known as the author of ’Titan,’ a biography of John D. Rockefeller). Hamilton, we now see, was a dark thicket: aspiring and optimistic, but also pessimistic about human nature and often depressed. He was a modern striver, but also an archaic man with a deeply self-destructive lust for aristocratic honor. He was devoted to his heroic wife, but he was uncontrollable at times, and easily manipulated by his incomprehensibly stupid mistress, Maria Reynolds."
Chernow on Hamilton’s political economy:
"Hamilton dreamed of a vibrant economy that would allow aspiring meritocrats like himself to rise and realize their full capacities. He sought to smash the aristocratic fiefs enjoyed by Southern landowners like Jefferson and to replace them with a diversified marketplace that would be open to immigrants and the lowborn. Their vigor, he felt, would drive the nation to greatness. ’Every new scene, which is opened to the busy nature of man to rouse and exert itself, is the addition of a new energy to the general stock of effort,’ he wrote."
Chernow on Hamilton’s distinctively American mind and motivations:
"Hamilton, whose life, as Chernow notes, was ’a case study in the profitable use of time,’ absorbed Plutarch, Bacon and the Bible and emerged onto the public stage as a pamphleteer for the American Revolution. ’The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records,’ he wrote in 1775 at 20. ’They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.’"
Here is a moving piece from the Jerusalem Post (registration required) on Elias Khoury, the father of a young Arab Israeli shot by terrorists while jogging because they "thought he was a Jew." Khoury, a one-time lawyer for the Palestinian Authority, says that the PA had better stop the incitement and start acting like a responsible government (rather than a mafia clan) because they bear responsibility for the terrible conditions of the Palestinians.
WaPo reports that a full scale invasion of Fallujah was set aside in favor of a diplomatic track, which includes joint U.S.-Iraq patrols of Fallujah. Note that the military leaders are already suggesting that these joint patrols may not cut it. It is certain that the Marines will be fired upon. I understand the desire not to enrage the Arab world, and I also understand that the Coaltion took a PR beating in the last round of fighting, but I also do not believe that joint patrols are going solve the problem. What it will do is change the nature of the engagement from offensive to (at least perceptually) defensive. This may permit the Coaltion to make progress without spurring on more attacks and fighters elsewhere, but in the short term it will cost Marines their lives on the ground.
ABC News reports on the mini-controversy over whether John Kerry threw away his medals. First he said he threw them away on the 1971 television show Viewpoints, and now he says he didnt, or if he did they were someone elses. I find it most interesting if he threw out someone elses medals and then took credit for the act. It is in keeping with his character: he took credit back then for taking a popular position, but now that he is running for office and it would be unacceptable to have done so, he has reversed course.
Sorry for the quiet weekend, but I was working on articles I am trying to finish before I leave for the embed. I submitted one article to NR this morning, so it is possible you will see it soon. I also received word that the Army should be able to fly me to Tikrit on Wednesday, which saves me the trouble of trying to arrange for some sort of statistically less safe ground transport.
William Bennett will be the guest speaker at The Twentieth Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner this evening. Luckily for those who find themselves like me--an ocean away and unable to attend--the good folks at NLT will make the audio of the speech available on the web.
K-Lo over at The Corner provided a link to this July 2002 Peggy Noonan article about Pat Tillman. Noonan recounts a great line attributed to Tillman: "Len Pasquarelli of ESPN reported last May that the free-spirited but consummately disciplined starting strong safety told friends and relatives that, in Mr. Pasquarellis words, his conscience would not allow him to tackle opposition fullbacks where there is still a bigger enemy that needs to be stopped in its tracks."
And seconding John Abramsons comments about how Tillman pretty typical of the recruits coming through Ft. Hood, Noonan offers the following observation:
We are making a lot of Tillmans in America, and one wonders if this has been sufficiently noted. The other day friends, a conservative intellectual and his activist wife, sent a picture of their son Gabe, a proud and newly minted Marine. And there is Abe, son of a former high aide to Al Gore, who is a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, flying SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. A network journalist and his wife, also friends, speak with anguished pride of their son, in harms way as a full corporal in the Marines. The son of a noted historian has joined up; the son of a conservative columnist has just finished his hitch in the Marines; and the son of a bureau chief of a famous magazine was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army last month, on the day he graduated from Princeton.
This war was always a gamble, but not for the reasons many Americans think. We easily had, as proved, the military power to defeat Saddam; we embraced the idealism and humanity to eschew realpolitik and offer something different in the place of mass murder. And we are winning on all fronts at a cost that by any historical measure has confirmed both our skill and resolve.
But the lingering question — one that has never been answered — was always our attention and will. The administration assumed that in occasional times of the inevitable bad news, we were now more like the generation that endured the surprise of Okinawa and Pusan rather than Tet and Mogadishu. All were bloody fights; all were similarly controversial and unexpected; all were alike proof of the fighting excellence of the American soldiers — but not all were seen as such by Americans. The former were detours on the road to victory and eventual democracy; the latter led to self-recrimination, defeat, and chaos in our wake.
The choice between myth and reality is ours once more.
Former NFL player Pat Tillman "was killed Thursday while serving as an Army Special Forces soldier on a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have told CNN.
Tillman, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract as a safety with the Arizona Cardinals to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, was in an area where numerous U.S. troops have been killed in battles with suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
He was serving as an Army Ranger, part of the Army’s Special Forces. Tillman played for the Cardinals from 1998-2001." To say that I am sorry to hear this is a massive understatement. "It is held that valour is the chiefest virtue and most dignifies the haver." RIP
Recent polls show Toomey gaining ground on Specter. Those polls have Toomey trailing Specter by 5 points which is within the margin of error. Two weeks ago Specter lead by 15 points. Tim Carney argues that it would help Bush win Pennsylvania in November if Toomey wins the nomination. Carney says conservatives will stay home in November if Specter is on the ballot. Paul Kengor argues that the main issue separating the two is abortion.
Regarding a Democratic readers earlier comment, that he would relish running against Toomey in November, I can only say that Toomey is no more conservative than Pennsylvania’s GOP Senator Rick Santorum.
There is a controversy brewing about a Bush nominee, and this time it isnt a federal judgeship. Believe it or not, theres a storm brewing over the presidents decision to nominate historian Allen Weinstein as Archivist of the United States. A number of left-wing historians, as well as Victor Navasky of The Nation have claimed that Weinstein, author of Perjury : The Hiss-Chambers Case and co-author of The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era has refused to allow examination of his notes and source materials. Typical of the attacks on him is this article by Roger Sandilands, an author who has made a career of defending the sort of New Deal-era liberals who have been accused of spying for the Soviets.
Others, including Ronald Radosh, Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes, suggest that Weinsteins real crime in the eyes of his detractors is the fact that he revealed Alger Hiss for the traitor he really was.
I have been trying to arrange some embeds for the last few weeks, but road conditions and security issues have hampered that effort. I just received word that I will be going to Tikrit next week, following which I should be joining the 196th Cavalry in Tuz. Of course, all of this is subject to change as security and logistics dictate, but this looks promising.
The trip to the pool was delayed a bit by some late meetings. Yesterday was hot, humid, and hazy in Baghdad, and because of the haze there was not much sun to be had. The pool itself is large, with a fountain which feeds the pool, and a high diving platform. With the heat, palm trees, desert architecture, and pool, I kept fighting the feeling that I was in Las Vegas.
I met some interesting folks who are setting up the mail system in Iraq. I can’t recall if I have mentioned that there is currently no regular mail service in Baghdad. While the CPA employees and soldiers receive mail through military POs, private parties such as I must rely on commercial mail services, like Fed Ex and DHL.
Post offices in Iraq previously handled a very small amount of mail. The reason behind this limited usage is that the people did not trust the mail service, and for good reason. The postal employees would open the mail. If there was anything worth taking in there--money, etc.--they simply took it. If, however, you exercised poor judgment by saying something disparaging about the government in the mail, then someone would show up at your door to kill you. Creating a working postal system therefore requires not only the technical implementation of zip codes and sorting mechanisms, but winning the trust of the people.
Once again, it is worth realizing what dire conditions the people lived under. You could not send a relative money via the mail. You were subject to execution for private dissent. Remember this the next time some uninformed individual casts doubt on whether the Iraqis are better off now.
This has been going arond the web, and is worth passing along:
2004 Democratic National Committee Convention - Official Program
6:00pm - Opening flag burning ceremony.
6:00pm - Opening secular prayers by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton
6:30pm - Anti-war concert by Barbra Streisand.
6:55pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
7:00pm - Tribute theme to France.
7:10pm - Collect offerings for al-Zawahri defense fund.
7:25pm - Tribute theme to Germany.
7:45pm - Anti-war rally (Moderated by Michael Moore)
8:25pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
8:30pm - Terrorist appeasement workshop.
9:00pm - Gay marriage ceremony (both male and female couples)
9:30pm - * Intermission *
10:00pm - Posting the Iraqi colors by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins
10:10pm - Re-enactment of Kerry’s fake medal toss.
10:20pm - Cameo by Dean ’Yeeearrrrrrrg!’
10:30pm - Abortion demonstration by N.A.R.A.L.
10:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
10:50pm - Pledge of allegiance to the United Nations
11:00pm - Multiple gay marriage cermony (threesomes, mixed and same sex).
11:15PM - Maximizing Welfare workshop.
11:30pm - ’Free Saddam’ pep rally.
11:59PM - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
12:00pm - Nomination of democratic candidate.
A Romanian soccer team will be sent to a classical music concert if they lose a game. The owner of the team: "Attending a classical music concert is a hard task for a soccer player." Dolly Parton jokes about "wardrobe malfunctions," she said they are not planned: "But as tight as my clothes are there’s no telling what will happen. If it does happen, I’m going to wipe out the first three rows." Good night.
Dorothy Rabinowitz has a lovely essay on Kelsey Grammer, of "Frazier" fame. A sample: "For all that pomposity, which Mr. Grammer has these many years rendered with increasingly delicious nuance, there’s no missing the essential truth about Seattle’s radio psychologist--a creature devoted to the power of the mind and reason, to art and culture in a world that blares its indifference to these things.
No television show--or writers, producers or actors thereof--had ever before created a major character so purely identified with such values, or so winning in their defense. Nor does Frasier get away with this merely because the show ridicules his and Niles’s esoteric tastes, clatter about wine, and such. One way or another, the Crane brothers give as good as they get, and more.
It has always been a rule at the show, Mr. Grammer says, to play up to its audience, not down. That fact has, to say the least, done harm neither to it nor to its star." And his politics aren’t bad either.
I find this odd. It sems to be the case that Spanish secret agents will remain in Iraq even after the Spanish troops are withdrawn. This may be a good thing, but I dont see why it should be made public, especially if Spain is withdrawing its troops, in part, because of fear of terrorist reprisals, a la the Madrid bombing.
C-SPAN 2 is re-airing Professor Allan Guelzo’s Ashbrook Colloquium on his recently published book, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, on Saturday, April 24, at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern). If you haven’t seen it, you should.
Hugh Hewitt has some things to say about John Kerrys conversation with Tim Russert for The Weely Standard. I love the title: "International Man of Apology." His concluding lines: "Still, with his numbers dropping and his uncanny ability to fumble every opening hes given, Kerrys got to watch his back. He "leads" the party that invented the Torricelli Option, and folks like Daschle have to be worried about a November wipe-out. A "presumptive nominee" isnt the nominee. Who was that lady on Larry King this week?"
In an op-ed in yesterdays edition of the Washington Times Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis regrets his previous support for the Iraq War:
I for one would not have supported the war if I thought its principal justification was the liberation of the Iraqi people, which is what the White House now says was its primary mission. Our military exists to defend the nation, not be the worlds policeman. If there is a linkage, President Bush has yet to make it.
Matt Drudge is reporting that Michael Moore, well-known corporate gadfly and advocate for the horny-handed sons of toil, has outsourced the design and maintenance of his web site to--CANADIANS!
We are given the impression by the establishment liberal media that chaos reigns in Iraq and that we are doomed to fail. Everyone now is opposed to our "occupation" of the country. This isn’t a guerilla war, it is an uprising. We are shown the bombs exploding, the men, women and children being rushed to hospitals. We are meant to think that we kill more civilians than we do terrorists. The origins and purposes of our policy is questioned, and those who have opposed our policy in the first place now want us to send in more troops. And then there is the lack of U.N. involvement; the country would be pacific if the blue helmets were there rather than the Marines. It is also claimed that we never had a real international coalition, yet Katie Curic says that the coalition we never had is "disintigrating" because Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic will be taking their troops home. There is even talk of reinstituting the draft. Questions of military tactics on the ground are disputed, by those who know nothing. It is hard to get through this malaise filled prattle sometimes, is it not? By paying too much attention to the so-called news we tend to lose sight of the most important things.
We are at war. This is the same war that started one year ago. We took the country in three weeks, an amazing achievement by any standard. We also didn’t kill a lot of people, by design. Perhaps we should have hunted down the retreating and disappearing soldiers of the tyrant. But we didn’t. We are Americans, we are generous. Now some of them are back conducting the war against us that they couldn’t conduct then. Odd, but there you have it. The Saddam loyalists, the terrorists and the nihilists, are trying to kill our soldiers, as they are randomly killing their own people. What are we to think? We should remind ourselves that malaise is the disease of the will, and we are a free people who can be resolute. Resolution is what is called for. We have proven to the world that free men can be prosperous and now, once again, we have to prove that free men are not made of cotton candy. In war, resolution, as one of our giants said under even worse circumstances. We should be resolved to do all this right, with vigor or cunning, depending on the need. And we should never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. And when you begin to doubt, look away from the Katie Curics toward the nineteen year old bleeding American Marine in Injun Country--at great risk to himself and his fellows--as he takes aim at another Ali Baba, making as certain as he can that he not kill the children and the innocent. You pay attention to this American warrior and his commander-in-chief. Watch their actions, listen to their words, note their resolution. Love them for their courage, and honor their commitment to our just cause. Be resolute my fellow citizens, this world was not made to be won by those who promote murder and slavery and savagery. Have faith the right makes might.
Thanks to FARK.com, Ive been tipped off to this little beauty, a six-foot long replica of a Star Destroyer from Star Wars. Check out the photos of the interior! Now, how can I go about convincing a foundation to give me a grant so I can buy it?
Yes, I know, Im a geek. Man, I wish I hadnt given away all my action figures when I was in high school....
Happy Earth Day everyone. Its also Lenins birthday, which may not be entirely coincidental. Confirmation that the charges against Bush are bogus comes today from, who else, the National Council of Churches, which has issued an attack on Bushs changes to New Source Review. (Please at least try to stifle a yawn.) I wont bother to link to the NCC; their website requires registration, believe it or not.
Meanwhile, Kerry is going around this week giving specific body counts of people dying because of Bushs neglect of the environment, based of course on recycled junk science. Youd think Kerry would have learned his lesson about bogus body counts in that place he once fought . . . where was that again? I keep forgetting.
I will be out most of the afternoon, because I have been invited to join some folks at the pool at Saddam’s old palace. I’ll send you a report on the deposed tyrant’s pool.
According to the web-based Iran Press Service, for "the first time in more than 25 years, Iranians were able to celebrate their age-old, traditional and cherished New
Year ceremonies in almost total freedom, as the ruling clerics, most of them opposed to any pre-Islamic symbols of Iranians, had ordered the security and police forces not to prevent people commemorating No Rooz, meaning new day and starting on 20 of March, the beginning of spring time." The celebrations include such colorful festivities as Chahar Shanbeh Soori, when people make bonfires "over which they jump, saying my yellowish to you, your reddish to me, meaning throwing into the fire all the bad, sad, unhealthy things, symbolised by the yellow colour, they had faced during the year, replacing it with happiness, health and joy, of which red is a symbol." According to the Press Service, "the victory of the conservatives in the 20 February Legislative elections is certainly one of the reasons the authorities decided to be more friendly with the people, but the real motive is that they were genuinely afraid that if they continue to oppose the celebration, they might face a popular unrest." One political dissident and journalist says that the "the people, mostly the young generation, are so angry with the regime and the way the last electoral farce has been played... that a small spark could set an explosion."
Its customary in these parts to raise a toast as a hopeful day approaches, so heres to the Iranian people: May it be a new year after all.
A surprising editorial in the Washington Post crushes John Kerrys latest flip-flop, over Iraq. They compare his statements on Iraq in December to one of last week, wherein he seems to say that democracy in Iraq is optional (in other words we should cut and run while the place is still teetering). The WaPo calls Kerrys "shift on such a basic question after just a few months is troubling and mistaken."
A new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylavania voters has Bush leading Kerry, 45-39%, with 8% for Ralph Nader. Without Nader, Bush leads 46-42%. In the March poll Bush was ahead by only two points. Kerry isnt getting any traction and if I were a Demo operative I would be losing sleep, unless, of course, I was only interested in such matters because I wanted to get Hillary elected in 2008 in which case things are looking good. Note this:
"In the two-candidate race, Republicans back Bush 80 – 10 percent, as Democrats back Kerry 73 – 17 percent and independent voters go with Kerry 48 – 39 percent."
Roger Scruton, a country dweller (maybe even an English gentleman) and a hunter has some advice: "The best answer to a pest is to encourage the predator that will eat it. And the most efficient predator is man. The way to re-establish ecological balance, therefore, is to acquire the habit of eating your competitors. There was a time when the government offered a shilling for every grey squirrel pelt. Now the business of controlling the invader is left to private enterprise. The endangered red squirrel has a foul gland next to the kidney which ruins its taste. The greys, however, are sweet and succulent. You need four per person - not because they are particularly small, but because they are surpassingly delicious, redder and more gamey than rabbit, but less pungent than muntjac or hare." But he doesn’t stick only to the wild pests, for he also reflects and eats those animals already marked out for food. The pig may be the best example: It is "a species that could not exist were it not for the elaborate process of domestication that has engineered it to our uses.
The pig was created for the table. He is omnivorous, a perfect way of recycling human leftovers, and at the same time a tame and obliging member of the household. He also looks like food: a round, plump offering on sticks." I note, in passing, Churchills comment: "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal." But never mind that. Read Scrutons piece. Its a delight.
Because some readers have told me that they click on the "Robert Alt in Iraq" link on the left, and have missed articles published elsewhere or mentioned by others on the blog, I just wanted to bring to your attention that my "Like Mike" piece was published today on NRO, and my piece on The Al-Jazeera Effect was published in The Weekly Standard.
One astute reader noted the apparent paradox: the locals like us, but they are quick to think the worst. Here is my brief response, which I thought was worth reprinting:
Like most paradoxes, there is an explanation. They like us, but because of news like Al-Jazeera, they are souring. While it would have taken another article to explain why they are willing to believe the worst, I’ll try to give you something of a partial explanation. There is a very strong belief among Iraqis that an Iraqi will not commit these kinds of grave acts against other Iraqis. One Christian leader in Baghdad went so far as to say that it was contrary to the nature of an Iraqi to do so. Because of this, when something bad happens, they are very quick to believe that someone else did it. Therefore, they will quickly attach themselves to the theory that there are many, many foreign fighters here causing mayhem. And, unfortunately, they are willing to believe that the Coalition is responsible for events that are clearly caused by terrorism. Because this sentiment appears to be culturally-based, it is very hard to overcome. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, they will tend to believe the outrageous in order to avoid believing that some of their fellow countrymen are causing problems. Add outlets like Al-Jazeera to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Well, perhaps disaster overstates it, but it is at least a recipe for increasing distrust.
The Governmental Affairs Committee of the US Senates Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Managment held hearings yesterday.
The purpose of the hearing was to review the effectiveness of the federal government’s current efforts to enforce existing intellectual property rights and how current U.S. intellectual property enforcement policies relate to the loss of over two million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Note especially, the testimony of Jeffrey S. Gorman, CEO of the Gorman-Rupp Company (located in Mansfield, OH). These guys have been making pumps since 1933 (when two out of work engineers borrowed $1,500) and the company is one of the great American success stories, as far as Im concerned. Today they have $200 million in annual sales and employ about one thousand people. The point is this: Modern technology makes it especially easy for foreign companies--with the ethics of Attila the Hun--to take one of their pumps and start making counterfeits (or "knock-offs") and turn around and sell them in the U.S. Gormans testimony includes amazing pictures of some of the counterfeit products. All this puts me in a tiger-footed rage!! In this time when people are concerned about the loss of manufacturing jobs, something had better be done about this theft. Gormans recommendations on the last page seem entirely sensible (and modest).
James Lileks beats up on Kerrys view of the UN, and whether we should grovel, what the UNs response is to the killing of Rantizi, and other such matters. A good and amusing article, the short of which is: We ought to pursue our interests. And Claudia Rosett has some suggestions on how the corrupt and ineffective UN can help the Iraqi people. Her suggestions "would be the philosophical beginning of restitution for U.N. collusion with Saddam, and of genuine re-legitimization for the U.N. in Iraq." Read it.
About a month ago, Shelby Steele wrote a Wall St. Journal article, "Selma to San Francisco", that argued "same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue." The homosexual lobby sees marriage as "more a means than an end, a weapon against stigma." Andrew Sullivan took issue with Steele and penned a New Republic article, "Civil Rites" (available to subscribers only), arguing as much.
Now Steele has written a rebuttal of Andrew Sullivan’s defense of same-sex marriage in his own New Republic article, "Married With Children". This last article is a more robust and persuasive argument than Steele’s original Journal article, and so I take note of it here. Steele does not think Sullivan’s analogy to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is a fair one. More importantly, Steele makes a fundamental point about (heterosexual) marriage being primarily a "civilizing institution," and not simply or principally an institution to facilitate "romantic love and adult fulfillment." Instead, marriage exists to channel or "manage the explosive natural force of male-female sex" toward "the heavier and more selfless responsibilities surrounding procreation." In short, marriage does not exist to integrate or equalize individuals, as Sullivan presumes. For Steele, the function of marriage is "the perpetuation of the human species, the launching of family life, the nurturing and socialization of youth, and even the survival of whole peoples and nations when tyranny and cataclysm collapse all other institutions."
Steele rightly observes that "the conundrum for the gay marriage movement is that marriage has already declined from its more selfless and stable era into something very much like what gays already have," which is more self-focused than other-centered, especially when those "others" are one’s children.
What is curious about Steele’s argument is that while he recognizes the natural functions of marriage that make it indispensable to life in civil society, he still argues--along with Sullivan--that "the stigmatization of homosexuals is evil and in no way contributes to the moral health of society." Now, perhaps Steele is drawing a distinction between stigmatizing homosexuals and stigmatizing homosexuality--a secular version of hating the sin but loving the sinner. If so, this is an important enough distinction to merit a bright line between the two.
Marriage is grounded on natural distinctions between men and women that give rise to the civilizing institution, the family. The fact that nature itself, along with the dictates of reason that produced a morality long supported by both nature and religion, are rarely mentioned in this debate surely explains why civil unions for homosexual couples (as opposed to marriage) are now conceded by a majority of the population. If arguments against same-sex marriage are considered null and void by virtue of their appeal to morality, which is to say an appeal to what both natural reason and revealed truths teach about men and women in civil society, then even the arguments put forth by Steele will not avail much. His best arguments are grounded in nature, and the conclusions one can readily draw by use of one’s reason. We can only hope and pray that said appeal will regain its authority before this issue is decided for the nation by over-reaching courts.
Robert Alt, in The Weekly Standard, explains what he calls the Al Jazeera effect: "The past two weeks have witnessed an increase not only in anti-Coalition activity, but also in anti-Coalition sentiment among Iraqis. The majority of Iraqis still appear to support the Coalition, however this negative creep in public opinion has the potential to threaten that, and thereby may be far more detrimental to the long-term effort in Iraq than the recent series of failed insurgencies. While it is difficult to isolate a single cause, the shift in opinion does not appear to be motivated by either an increase in the popular mandate of Muktada al-Sadr’s cause, or by any alliance of convenience between the Sunnis and Shias. Rather, it is a backlash--a visceral negative response to the perceived wrongs committed by the Coalition. It is, in other words, the Al Jazeera effect." We must find a way to overcome this effect. read it all.
Roger L. Simon (a man who views the UN with favor) has a few words to say about what the oil-for-food corruption revelation may mean for the UN, and the press: "In this kind of situation, normally the media would be on his neck, calling for the most thorough investigation possible; but thus far, with the exception of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and a handful of others, they have been curiously silent. As a supporter of the United Nations (yes, I believe it necessary), I find this potentially immensely destructive to the organization. If the Oil-for-Food allegations are true, and it increasingly looks as if they are, without a deep and full bloodletting (probably including the resignation of Annan) the UN will never recover the confidence of the American people, nor should it. By not being on this with Watergate-style intensity, the media is aiding and abetting the downfall of the organization they wish to save."
Next Tuesday in Pennsylvania, voters in the Republican Primary will have a choice between conservative Republican Pat Toomey and liberal incumbent Arlen Specter. The Weekly Standard handicaps the race here .
Wouldnt it be nice to wake up next Wednesday morning and learn that Arlen Specter has retired.
ABC has a nice piece documenting Oil-For-Food kickbacks to UN officials. The ABC site needs to do something about the annoying ads in the middle of each page, but the content of the text is worth the annoyance.
Okay Gang, Thursday is Earth Day (and Lenins birthday, a mere coincidence I am sure), in case you havent been following John Kerrys dolorous Earth Day tour this week. Anyway, the antidote to Earth Day nonsense, and an analysis of how environmental politics is playing out at the moment (with some humorous comparisons to the nonsens ethe greenies said about Reagan) can be found in the 9th edition of my Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, which is available now here.
Robert Alt will be interviewed on the 5 p.m. news, channel 8 (FOX affiliate) in Cleveland, for those of you in Northern Ohio. I imagine it will be audio only from Baghdad.
As I have stated on this blog before, early information is often wrong. Despite multiple sources telling me that the two Iraqi journalists were shot at the gate by the Press Center last night, the shooting actually occurred miles away. There was a disturbance at the gate near the Press center, but the nature of it is hazy. The woman had passed out from shock as I saw and as I can confirm, there was a report of an IED, the gate was locked down, and there were numerous soldiers rushing out toward the gate to address the situation. While there has been violence outside this gate in the past, I for one am relieved if indeed no shots were fired there last night.
Aboriginies point a kangaroo bone at Prime Minister John Howard, thereby bringing him ill fortune, maybe even death. Almost three quarters of office workers in an impromptu man-on-the-street survey were willing to give up their passwords when offered the bribe of a chocolate bar. A soccer fan prosecuted for being drunk at a match after falling asleep during a game has won his appeal against his conviction. He had six pints of beer in five hours. The judge said, "It is the right of every Englishman at a football match to fall asleep if they want to."
Trail of pennies leads police to robbery suspect. Two nuclear subs, one Brit and one US, surfaced near North Pole to play soccer. Poll shows coservative Pat Toomey surging in the Pennsylvania primary against liberal GOP Senator Specter.
Just in case you have nothing better to do on a pretty day, Windsofchange has a nice wrap up (with mnay links) on the developments in central Asia, including the recent shootings and bombings in Uzbekistan, and a lot of stuff on the other -stans).
At today’s press conference, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor stated that "[i]f the peaceful track does not play out [in Fallujah] . . . major hostilities will resume on short notice." While he refused to answer questions at this point about the progress of the terms of the cease-fire--specifically whether individuals were turning in their illegal weapons--this statement was a none-too-veiled threat that if progress is not sufficient, the gloves will come back off.
The situation in Fallujah has been a difficult one for the military. The Marines have been aggressive, but have acted in a humanitarian fashion. They have used limited air support and limited heavy artillery in order to avoid non-combatant casualties. But those who they fought do not care about non-combatant casualties. Therefore, the insurgents took advantage of the American humanitarian impulse by making sure the battles were in the city, near where women and children might congregate. They sought to increase these innocent casualties, and then encouraged the media to ravage the Americans for being barbaric. While the purported killing of women and children in Iraq has had a profoundly negative effect Coalition sentiment among Iraqis, the Coalition has an even more perplexing problem: while the Iraqis are angry when their women and children are killed, they do not respect the military ethic which respects life. At yesterday’s press conference, it is notable that it was an Iraqi woman who questioned how it is that Fallujah could have kept the most powerful army in the world at bay. Some of this kind of sentiment is based on an overestimation of American technology. At times, Iraqis believe that we are so powerful that we should be able to kill just the bad guys and none of the good guys. But in part this is a function of having lived for years under one of the most brutal tyrants on earth. The most graphic images of death to come from the war look weak by comparison to what they saw under Saddam. Similarly, American restraint for humanitarian purposes may be mistaken by some Iraqis as American weakness.
Given this no-win situation, and the anxiety expressed by the governing council, the Coalition acceded to pursuing diplomatic channels. While they did not require the leaders to turn over all those who participated in anti-Coalition violence, they did require that all illegal weapons be turned over. It is very unlikely that this request will be met. Even if a large amount of weapons comes in--large enough to justify the continued cessation of offensive operations--there will be continued skirmishes as the second major requirement--regular patrols--are implemented. All this is to say, Fallujah will likely be a source of conflict for some time to come.
One of my relatives sent me this link. The author got tired of hearing Europeans criticize Bush by calling him a cowboy; the author strings together pictures of Bush and many famous cowboys of movie and song. Its not the profoundest thing ever to cross this site, but it does make some important points. Americans celebrate the cowboy because he symbolized virtues important to self-government. And good cowboy movies and songs can inculcate those virtues. When the viewer learns to love the cowboy, he comes to appreciate the virtues for which the cowboy stands.
Bush is increasing his lead over Kerry. This may seem surprising to our intellectual class. After all, new attacks on him continue on a daily basis, from Kerry who questions his integrity and character and thinks that W is his intellectual inferior, to the 9/11 Commission’s now clearly politicized mode of inquiry, to Woodward’s new book, etc. How is it that Bush is rising in the polls? The main reason for this is the war. People understand that he is a war president, and they are going to think about him in those terms. Despite the attacks, pople trust him. Bush has erased, by the way, the twelve point lead Kerry had on the economy. These numbers must be frustrating for Democrats because, above all, what they reveal is that Kerry is not persuading people to take him or his opinions seriously. I look for major changes in the Kerry campaign; they cannot continue to base their campaign hoping for bad news either at home or abroad.
Realclearpolitics caught John Kerry fibbing (why is this news?) yesterday on Meet the Press. And there is an exchange with Russert on something Kerry said on Meet the Press, April 18, 1971. Russert rolls the video:
MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.
Read Kerry’s response, it is half-way down.
Seth Leibsohn has a good piece on Bush’s support for Israel and what it means for the so-called peace process: He is standing up for the true peace process. Leibsohn: "Last week, standing next to Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, President Bush reminded us that he is, in fact, the most pro-Israel president in history. That is not a criticism; it is high praise, because by positioning himself that way President Bush is making himself the most pro-democracy president in history. Israel, after all, is the only democracy in the Middle East. Think about that: 21 Arab countries (the Palestinian Authority makes 22), and not one democracy. And the realpolitik thinking is that we need to be neutral with Israel, which means neutral toward democracy. That’s wrong."
John Moser compares the candidacy of Wendell Willkie in 1940 against FDR to that of John Kerry against Bush. John argues "that Kerry will have to perform a political high wire act similar to that attempted by Willkie sixty-four years ago." Needless to say, Willkie failed. He explains his point in a few readable pages. By the way, John’s latest book, Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Origin of the Culture Wars, will appear next year from New York University Press.
Two Iraqi journalists were killed at a little after 7 pm this evening exiting the Green Zone when gun men opened fire. There was also an unconfirmed report of an IED at the gate following the attack. The journalists had attended the same press briefing I attended, and apparently exited the same gate that I generally exit. I was running a few minutes late today due to a radio interview. Let’s hear it for providence. A woman who was apparently traveling with them but was not shot nonetheless lay collapsed in shock when I arrived. The gate was closed, so I returned to the building, only to find another women who knew the reporters hysterical--crying, screaming, and ultimately throwing up from the shock.
The targeting of Iraqi reporters will inevitably help the terrorist cause--in terms of making the insurgence appear larger, and inflicting more random terror--because the killing will garner a great deal of media attention here in Iraq.
Dan Senor announced that an agreement had been reached between the Coalition and leaders in Fallujah. The cease fire will continue, under the following terms:
*Will allow unfettered access to the general hospital in Fallujah;
*Will allow removal of the dead;
*Will extend the curfew to 9 pm (it is now set at 7 pm) to permit religious exercises; and
*Will allow 50 families per day to gain access to the city.
The leaders of Fallujah agree:
*To turn over illegal arms (for which they will not be prosecuted, if they turn them over voluntarily); and
*Permit regular patrols by joint Coalition and Iraqi security forces patrols.
I have said before that Iraqis subscribe to a philosophy that respects strength and not weakness. As a case in point, one Iraqi reporter asked the following question: "Fallujah resisted the most powerful army in the world for two weeks. What does this mean?" And thus you see the problem of respecting life in a region which respects power.
Claudia Rosett continues her valuable efforts at exposing corruption in the Oil-for-food program in a special Sunday article on NRO. She notes two possible links to Al Qaeda from the limited documents already available:
Both involve oil buyers picked by Saddam and approved by the U.N. One was a firm with close ties to a Liechtenstein trust that has since been designated by the U.N. itself as "belonging to or affiliated with Al Qaeda." The other was a Swiss-registered subsidiary of a Saudi oil firm that had close dealings with the Taliban during Osama bin Laden’s 1990’s heyday in Afghanistan.
Look for more information about Saddam’s terror links to come to the forefront in the coming months. I have personally been told by military sources about terrorist training camps that Saddam operated for international terrorists. In the south, he operated a school to train terrorists to take down aircraft; and in the north, he ran chemical weapons training. I hope to be able to get more details and confirmation about these sites, and to tell you about them soon.
Ryan Pisco, 19, lacked a valid drivers license. After drinking too much beer at a party, he borrowed his girlfriends car, and was killed when he drove it into a light poll at 90 miles per hour. What was his mothers response: sue Coors. You see, it is Coors fault for making beer drinking look attractive, without giving sufficient warnings. As I recall, there are warning labels on alcohol about operating motor vehicles, public service announcements about designated drivers sponsored by the alcoholic beverage industry, and frequent warnings on beer ads to "think before you drink." But Im sure that none of that was sufficient. He couldnt help himself. Clearly the beer companies forced him to drink and drive. Oh, and I almost forgot, she is also suing Ryans girlfriend and her mother, since the girlfriend had the bad judgment to loan the license-less Ryan the car. I mean no disrespect to the dead, and obviously losing a teenage child is a tragedy for a mother, but she seems to have missed at least one (maybe even two or three?) potentially culpable parties in the lawsuit.
It actually rained today in Baghdad--a rather unusual occurrence. As I walked out of my hotel, I heard a mortar fire from the tube and then hit, reportedly at a hotel near mine. Within moments, I heard the call to prayer. Yesterday, there were a series of booms at around 4:30 am, just before first prayers. I must say, this is something of a sick trend, and I hope the Coalition will use this tidbit regarding insurgent prayer-based timing to their advantage.
For those of you in the Mansfield, OH area, I will be on Rusty Cates program on WMAN-AM 1400 at 10:00 am this morning. Tune in if you can.
George Will explains this much talked aboput paragraph from Bush to Sharon: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of the final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion." Read it.
On the question of road security and supply lines this Tom Ricks article in the Washington Post three days ago is worth noting. And this on the increased sophstication of such attacks. There are great dangers here, obviously. The roads have to be secure. This is worth watching. And Niall Ferguson gives us a brief history lesson. He writes that Iraq is not Vietnam II, "its a rerun of the British experience of compromised colonization." He refers to the events of 1920, and draws three lessons: One, the current crisis is almost inevitable; two, putting the "rebellion" down requires severity; three, "only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty.." He says we have to "get real."
Camille Paglia--always interesting, often odd--reflects on both loss of words and still images in the mind and imagination of today’s student. A thoughtful piece for a lazy afternoon. A sample:
"Young people today are flooded with disconnected images but lack a sympathetic instrument to analyze them as well as a historical frame of reference in which to situate them. I am reminded of an unnerving scene in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where an astronaut, his air hose cut by the master computer gone amok, spins helplessly off into space. The new generation, raised on TV and the personal computer but deprived of a solid primary education, has become unmoored from the mother ship of culture. Technology, like Kubrick’s rogue computer, HAL, is the companionable servant turned ruthless master. The ironically self-referential or overtly politicized and jargon-ridden paradigms of higher education, far from helping the young to cope or develop, have worsened their vertigo and free fall. Today’s students require not subversion of rationalist assumptions—the childhood legacy of intellectuals born in Europe between the two World Wars—but the most basic introduction to structure and chronology. Without that, they are riding the tail of a comet in a media starscape of explosive but evanescent images."
The Moscow Times (an English language bi-weekly) runs an interesting article titled, "Russia Revising Great Game Rule Book." The point of the story is that the new game is energy. Perhaps it is right to call it the "Putin Doctrine." The new global competition (and opportunity) for Russia is in economics, especially oil production, pipelines, to supply China, Japan, and the U.S. Putin means to take advantage of the turmoil in the Middle East, and is, no doubt, looking forward to OPEC’s decline, if not demise. There is no reason to think that the Russian cannot be successful in this effort. Worth watching.
This news coming out of Jordan is a bit chilling: "Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planned a chemical attack on Jordans spy headquarters that could have killed 20,000 people, officials have said.
Earlier this week King Abdullah said a massive attack had been thwarted by a series of arrests, but named no target.
Now unnamed officials say the suspects have confessed to plotting to detonate a chemical bomb on the Amman HQ of the Intelligence Services.
The plot was reportedly hatched by al-Qaeda suspect Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi."
I just received a press release that one soldier died and two more were injured when their Abrams tank rolled over here in Baghdad. This is not a Suzuki Samarai. The Abrams is a sizeable vehicle, and I must admit that I have never heard of one rolling over.
Amidst the prevailing bad news, it is good to see signs of the good. Even near Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, there is recent evidence of the locals helping out the soldiers. In one case, a child came to soldiers near Riyadh to tell them about an IED, which the soldiers were able to locate and destory. In another case, an Iraqi citizen came forward to tell soldiers about a cache of 127 mm (think big boom) rockets, which the soldiers were then able to capture and destory.
As Brig. Gen. Kimmitt put it earlier in the week, it is fair to say that the conditions here have not been business as usual. But the conditions are not at crisis level either. While the instances above are but two examples, it is useful to remember that these kind of acts go on daily, and unfortunately do not make the news. For every insurgent, there are many more people who silently support the Coalition, and there are a fair number who, like those in the examples above, step forward to do something.
One of the major problems in recent days around Baghdad are the roads. The major artery to the west of the city has been Code Amber for about a week, as has the major artery to the south. Putting this into perspective, a clear road (Code Green) is still subject to random IED attacks. An Amber road, as I understand it, is not fully secure, and is known to have at least some roving Ali Baba. A notice was sent out this morning stating that several sections of road have been closed indefinitely for repairs and public safety reasons. The notice also says that those driving on the road may be considered anti-Coalition, and fired upon.
Given this insecure condition, a number of convoys have been targeted. I received word from a well-placed source today that there have been 82 convoys hit in Iraq in the last 10 days, leading to resignations by 200 civilian contractor drivers. An Army travels on its stomach, and the Army, the CPA, and KBR food services rely on shipments of food from Kuwait. I am told that the Green Zone may have as little as six days worth of food and water provisions left, and that five of those days are MREs. I will bring you more on this when I am able to confirm this information and get some details from the brass.
One interesting part of life in Baghdad is the mix of people you randomly meet. Last night, for example, I met a German cameraman who is here for a few days. When he gets back to Germany, he will quickly turnaround to head off to Kazakhstan, where he will spend around eight weeks working on a documentary. He told me that conditions have much improved in Kazakhstan in the last two years, and that you can walk around safely in the cities, even in the middle of the night. It is a bit of an odd place, with some living a nomadic herding life, and others living in modern comfort. There is, of course, the Russian missile base as well, which is why most readers of this page would have followed activity in the country. There are also large "spiritualist" communities there, as some religions believe that the center of the earth is in Kazakhstan. (I have bad visions of new age hippies [Yes, it is another (different) sound file for South Park fans.])
Many of the civilians you meet here are contractors. They are, in a sense, the modern adventurers and prospecters. I had dinner a couple weeks ago with a two electric contractors. They were swapping tales of far off lands--Siberia, Kosovo, etc.--where they had been responsible for getting power systems running under adverse conditions. One of the guys boasted that he had been to every continent on earth--including Antartica, by the time he was 35.
Then there are the people who work at the Coalition Press Information Center and with the Coalition directly. I have bumped into a Harvard Law grad who speaks fluent Arabic, a former Press Aid to Laura Bush, a former censor for CBS (guess they could have used her during the Superbowl), and a former State Department press officer, among others.
As I pointed out in my first piece over here on the bus driver, there are a lot of interesting people over here doing the heavy lifting to get Iraq in business again, and not all of them are government employees. While some came just for the job, many appear to have chosen this life out of a sense of adventure, and to see places that they would not otherwise see.
Conventional wisdom says that George Bush has had a terrible two weeks. The president has been taking a pounding in the mainstream media and has slid a little in some polls. But now, it turns out, John Kerry is the one who is getting worried. First was the Bush news conference, which again showed the president’s great strength: plain-spoken seriousness that Americans instinctively trust. Add to that, as Peter mentions below, the New York Times reports that the Bush campaign ads seem to have started to take a long-term toll by defining Kerry "as a waffling tax-and-spend liberal," especially among suburban voters in swing states.
And Kerry’s problem is not just about reaching swing voters: he also has some difficulties with his base. He went to Howard University, where he received "tepid applause, particularly on questions about race." Then he had a meeting with Cardinal McCarrick, who heads a Church panel deciding whether there should be penalties against Catholic politicians who support policies that are opposed to Church doctrines on matters like abortion. What will happen when he has to face the kind of media scrutiny Bush did this week?
for saying that Senator Byrd--a former KKK member who voted against the Civil Rights Act and has in recent memory used the "N" word both on the Senate floor and during a television interview--would have been a great Senator at any time in history, including during the Civil War. In an attempt to make this look different than the Senator Lott’s statement lauding Strom Thurmond, AP offers the following tripe:
During the December 2002 party, Lott specifically endorsed Thurmond’s candidacy for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform, saying that "we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years" if the country had voted for Thurmond.Nonsense. Let me repeat what happened: he said that a former Klansman and segregationist who still uses the "N" word would have made a good Senator during a war that was principally about slavery and the meaning of Natural Rights. This is at least as explicit as Lott’s statement, in which Lott likewise did not mention "votes, views, or acts." Lott could not get a pass with an apology but was forced to step down from leadership. Such a fate will inevitably not befall Dodd, but for those who are interested, here is a list of the committee leadership positions that Dodd touts on his web site:
Dodd offered only general praise of Byrd and did not specifically mention any of Byrd’s votes, views or acts.
Senator Dodd is currently a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is the senior Democrat on its Children and Families Subcommittee. He also is the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics. He serves on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and is the senior Democrat on its Securities and Investment Subcommittee. He also is the senior Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee.
Today has been another relatively quiet day in Baghdad. At least one reasonably-sized boom in the distance, but nothing else of note. Today is Friday, which, being the "Sunday" here, meant that most of the city was closed. After dealing with the administrative duties of taxes and the hospital yesterday, I settled in this afternoon to finishing an article that I have been trying to wrap up for some time on particularly notable examples of media incivility and bias. I have sent it off, so you should be seeing it soon.
Elsewhere in Iraq, there has been some activity near Samarra, where two IEDs resulted in 1 fatality and 5 injuries to soldiers in Task Force Danger. Also near Samarra, Task Force 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment discovered a truck containing 21 120mm rounds (these are biggies), 65 60mm rounds, two 40mm rounds, six RPG rockets, one sniper rifle, and one AK-47. Reports suggest that negotiations are continuing in Al Najaf and Fallujah, which have remained relatively quiet.
A lovely and true essay by Charles Krauthammer about why Iraq is not Vietnam. Read it and learn much. I like this paragraph: "Iraq is Vietnam not on the ground but in our heads. The troubles of the past few weeks were immediately interpreted as a national uprising, Iraqs Tet Offensive, and created a momentary panic. The panic overlooked two facts: First, Tet was infinitely larger and deadlier in effect and in scale. Second, Tet was a devastating military defeat for the Viet Cong. They never recovered. Unfortunately, neither did we, psychologically. Walter Cronkite, speaking for the establishment, declared the war lost. Once said to be lost, it was." Also see Mac Owens for more detail.
According to this story, Air America, Al Frankens answer to Rush Limbaugh, et al., has been pulled from the airwaves in Los Angeles and Chicago. Apparently the networks owner, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc., has been bouncing checks, and is now in the hole for roughly a million dollars.
Just keep repeating to yourself: "It is unbecoming to gloat...."
The Los Angeles Times reports that John Kerry is now attacking president Bush’s character. "After months of attacking President Bush’s policies, Sen. John F. Kerry is stepping up an assault on his rival’s character, challenging Bush’s credibility on everything from job creation to the war in Iraq.
Stopping just short of calling the president a liar, Kerry routinely accuses Bush of ’running up a truth deficit’ and compiling ’a long list of broken promises.’"
The New York Times reports: "Declaring that he is not a redistribution Democrat, Senator John Kerry told a group of wealthy and well-connected supporters on Thursday that he would soon start an aggressive campaign to define himself as a centrist, in hopes of peeling moderate Republicans from President Bush." The Washington Post reports: "Sen. John F. Kerry will begin using new images to introduce himself to voters with an intensified ad blitz in the next two weeks just as President Bush scales back his media offensive, campaign advisers said yesterday." Kerry says: "A lot of people don’t really know who I am. Their goal is to define me and make me unacceptable. . . . Our goal has to be to keep that acceptability." Thanks, John, all this is helpful. Also note Ryan Lizza’s short essay in The Atlantic on Kerry’s campaign guru, Bob Shrum. Shrum is a much overpraised Pupulist-Lefty who has his work cut out for him; he’ll retire a loser.
Enlistment in the military continue at record rates. "Despite a rising tide of combat deaths and the prospect of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come, Americans continue to volunteer for duty and are re-enlisting at record rates." And, "Even the Army National Guard, which has had 150,000 citizen soldiers mobilized for up to a year, has seen retention rates going through the roof, said Guard spokesman Maj. Robert Howell."
Alonzo Hamby will hold forth today at our last Ashbrook Colloquium for the year. He will be talking about his just published book, For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s. C-SPAN is taping it and will play it within a couple of weeks, but you can listen to it live. It starts at 3 p.m.
"The economic reports are running hot," said Cary Leahey, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities in New York. "If we continue to see growth like this, it makes it much more likely that the recent jobs data was no fluke," said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York. More here and here .
`"Manufacturers are feeling better about the economy and there are signs that we may finally get some job gains in manufacturing," said Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Inc. in New York.
President Bush met Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton of Denham Springs, La., fiteen months ago at Walter Reed, where he was recovering from a bad wound (he had been in Afghanistan). His right leg had to be removed above the knee, he lost two fingers on his right hand and he suffered shrapnel wounds in his left leg. The president and Sgt. McNaughton had talked about running, and Mr. Bush promised to run with the soldier when he was "fully recovered and able to run with his prosthetic leg." Bush kept his promise. They ran together at the White House.
No, no, I dont mean Al Gore. Tim Berners-Lee has been awarded the first Millennium Technology Prize. Berners-Lee is recognized as the creator of the World Wide Web while working for the CERN Laboratory in the early 1990s, the European center for nuclear research near Geneva, Switzerland.
The biggest story for this week is the dog that didn’t bark: Al Najaf. Just 40 days ago, the celebration of Ashura was marked by numerous explosions around the mosque in Al Najaf. Yet with all the violence leading up to Arba’een, this last weekend’s festivities went off with very little if any violence. The pilgrims are quietly making their way home, and the Coalition is making strides with Sistani to bring order back to the city without having to resort to violence. This is important, because a shootout in Najaf which did damage to the holy sites (which inevitably would be where the bad guys would be shooting from) would go along way to alienating the Shias. All told, Najaf to date appears to be benefiting from a well-orchestrated strategy by both the military and the diplomats, who appear to be applying pressure while at the same time capitalizing on the rift between Sistani and Al Sadr. While there is still the potential for things to got terribly wrong, the accomplishments to date are significant. It is the biggest story of the week that you didn’t hear.
Peters statement about the preconceived notions of the military reminded me of a conversation I had with a journalist after a press briefing a few days ago. As luck would have it, I dont know who she is, or for what organization she works. She came in late, and was wondering what the Coaltiion said about Fallujah. I told her that there was not a lot new there. Dan Senor, the Coalition spokesman, had attributed recent violence there to international terrorists, and I thought that this was interesting, because, while this explanation had been offered recently by the Iraqi National Security Advisor, I had not heard this strong a statment made by the Coalition.
She began asking me about snipers. She said that she had talked to someone who had seen women and children killed by Americans. In the course of the conversation, however, it became apparent that her witness did not see who killed these women and children, they just assumed that it was the Americans, because the Americans controlled the high ground. I asked if she meant the mosques--which, having driven past Fallujah, I can attest are the tallest buildings in Fallujah--and which for days had been used by anti-Coalition forces. For this she had no response. But what was shocking was her set of presumptions. For days, the military had made perfectly clear that it operates under a very strict set of rules of engagement. While this does not mean that no women and children die on accident, it means that they are not targeted, and in fact we put our boys in greater harm to assure that the collateral risk is as low as possible. On the other hand, she had eyewitness testimony from an observer who claims only to have seen the result, and assumed that the act was perpetrated by Americans without any evidence. It was clear from the conversation that she was prone to believe the latter, and in so doing to believe that the rules of engagement were not being enforced and that the young men were ruthlessly picking innocent kids off with sniper rifles. If she had spent any time with these young men and actually talked to them, rather than rattle accusations at them as many of the press do, then she would not be so prone to think them monsters.
These two stories here and here (from the NY Times and the WaPo) are very revealing about how our guys fight in the most difficult circumstances. One Marine commander says: "It’s their Super Bowl. Fallujah is the place to go if you want to kill Americans." The one from the Post is especially gripping, describing a Marine rescue mission to get their guys out. They were surprised, surrounded, but got our guys, and fought their way out. In another spot in Fallujah, in combat that lasted 14 hours, we killed more than one hundred insurgents on Tuesday, only two Marines were shot, their injuries not life-threatening. A Colonel says: "We don’t want to rubblize the city. That will give the enemy more places to hide." Fallujah is a wasps’ nest, they are more organized than we thought, they’re Baathists and foreign terrorists, coming at us in coordinated attacks, fifty to one hundred bad guys coming at us at a time. The Marines are ready, willing and able. They have learned a lot about urban combat and they are putting it to use. The commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment says of their rescue operation: "This is a story about heroes. It shows the tenacity of the Marines and their fierce loyalty to each other. They were absolutely unwilling to leave their brother Marines behind." These are teenagers in the cannon’s mouth. All this goes on why the politicians are talking. This bravery makes such talks possible. Do you think this is Mogadishu or Vietnam? Think again. I offer this to our boys (from
Coriolanus): "Before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears. Daeth, that dark spirit, in’s nervy arm doth lie, Which being advanced, declines; and then men die."
Those who know me will be happy to know that being 10,000 miles from home did not stop me from doing my yearly ritual of waiting until the last minute to do my taxes. I took my files and my Turbo Tax with me to Baghdad, and just finished my electronic filing. As luck would have it, because of the eight hour time difference, this may be the earliest I have filed a return in years.
I want to make two points about the events in Iraq over the last two weeks or so. The first has to do with the elite media coverage of the events. I have turned a corner on my view of the media. I have thought for decades that they are biased; knowing this is not rocket science. But I have discovered--especially watching television duirng the Easter weekend--that they are actually stupid, ignorant, and likely malicious. "This is the time that the unjust man doth thrive," as the Poet said. Vietnam, quagmire, and defeat were not only everywhere in the air, but these possibilities were revelled in by the talking heads of the establishment media. If all you knew or understood was what you heard from them, you would have gotten the impression that Iraq was dissolving into anarchy. This was not true, and even I knew it at the time. You didn’t have to know much to figure it all out. But the mnedia missed it all, in their rush to assert that the whole war was wrong, and ill conceived. This leads to my second point.
The military-political developments in Iraq over the Easter were dangerous. This al Sadr character, the radical Shiite, attempted a coup, at best, at worst he merely wanted to cause as much mischief as he could. He hooked up with verious Saddam left-overs and some foreign terrorists (financed by some Iranians) and made his move. He had no choice. It was now or never. He already knew that he had been de-authorized even by Shiites, and would have no role in the new government; as he shouldn’t, he’s a killer. He knew we would arrest or kill him. What was worth watching in all this is not only our military’s actions in Fallujah, which, by the way, as far as I can tell, was brilliantly handled. One of the great unreported stories out of Iraq is the extraordinary competence--indeed, the heretofore unexampled competence--of our military. These guys are smart, they are well trained, they are brave, they shoot straight, they are great diplomats, and they are utterly American (decent) in even the way they conduct war. They are the greatest soldiers of the world. May the god of battles continue to steel our soldiers hearts. I love these guys! The other thing to keep on eye on is the way the moderate Shiites were handling the al Sadr instigated violence: They opposed it. The way CNN was reporting things I was worried that the pilgrims (over a million) coming into the Southern holy cities would riot and even take up arms. Nothing happened. (And then, of course, CNN didnt talk about why nothing happened. As far as Im concerned this was a moral crime by the media. Their obligation is to report, and they didnt.) That nothing happened was due, in large measure, to the Grand Ayatollah Sistani. He was not going to repeat the Shiite mistakes of 1920 when they revolted agains the Brits, lost, and the country became Sunni property. Sistani wants Shiites to participate in a moderate and democratic Iraqi government, anbd they are the majority. Yes, this was a clarifying moment, but, in the end a positive development. This is not to say that there will be no more killing, no more rocket attacks, no more American lives lost. Yet, it does mean that political process is going in the right direction and President Bush is right is saying so. There will be a turnover of the government to Iraqi hands, it will be on time, and it will be successful. Will this mean that Iraq will turn into another fully democratic constitutional order overnight? Of course not. But it will mean that it will become moderate, something along the lines of Jordan. Not bad. And this will have massive consequences for the region and for our well-being. And future historians will heap praise upon this administration for its noble effort, even though CNN and the others can’t find anything good to say. But, then, as far as I’m concerned the elite media is history. Do continue to payt attention to the reports of our man Robert Alt, who has been in Iraq for over a month now, and whose insights I much value.
A good friend in the states has done everything but issue a writ of mandamus to get me to see a doctor following my prolonged bout of Saddam’s revenge. I finally went this morning, and can attest that I have lost 17 pounds to date on what I previously dubbed the "Mesopotamian diet." For my anorexic friends on the west coast, this is why it would be a bad thing to have two percent body fat.
Lucas post below on Carwardine (whose bio of Abe I have read, and its pretty good) reminded me that my edition of Charnwoods Lincoln is still available.
Im off to Kent State to listen to a talk given to the Friends of the Library of Kent State by Jeffrey Wallin. I hope the dinner will be worth the trip, knowing the speaker, I dont expect much from the talk.
139 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching a play at Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday. He died at 7:22 the following morning across the street at a boarding house owned by William and Anna Petersen. See the Abraham Lincoln Online website for historical details. In today’s Wall St. Journal, Richard Carwardine of Oxford University offers a short but fitting tribute to the savior of the American union. Entitled
"Lincoln Through British Eyes", the article is a reflection on Lincoln’s greatness by a historian who will receive the coveted Lincoln Prize tonight for his recent biography, Lincoln (Pearson-Longman 2003), which garners him $30,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ life-size bust, "Lincoln the Man."
The article closes with praise for one of Lincoln’s greatest biographers, Lord Charnwood, and a fitting summation of Lincoln’s self-understanding:
Charnwood was right: Lincoln was a genuinely great statesman, a talented politician who exceeded expectations in rising to the challenge he faced. His tenacity, patience, humanity, shrewdness in personal dealings, and unblinking focus on essentials more than offset his inefficient, unbusinesslike ways. Convinced that the Union had to be saved, and sure that slavery’s days were numbered, Lincoln seized what he judged his historic moment as the instrument of providential purpose.
I had just finished procuring some Dunhill pipe tobacco from a tobacconist (o.k., he is actually just a guy who has a table with various tobacco) in the lobby when there was a boom followed by the sound of shattering glass plunging from the sixth floor skylights to the lobby floor. As is my custom, after getting to a sheltered position, I opted to freeze momentarily, as these things often come in twos and threes. I then took the elevator to my room, wondering all the while why they chose to put glass elevators in this building. I retrieved my camera, and made my way to the staircase (for those safety Nazis reading, there is no lobby access via stairs to the sleeping floors, thus my previous use of the elevator). I ran up to the sixth floor deck, where the missile hit a couple of weeks ago, to see where this missile hit. It is from there that I took the exterior pictures of the damage to the 12th floor.
I then got back in the staircase, and began running to the 12th floor. I made it as far as the ninth floor before the smell began to get thick. I have now been close to a few explosions, and they have a unique smell-- a distinct chemical smell, mixed with smoke, mixed with what smells like burning wires or an electrical fire. The smell became too strong to continue running, so I slowed my pace to slow my breathing. When I made it to the 12th floor, the Fox news guys were there, but whoever was behind the door was not letting anyone through.
I then made my way to the internet café across the street to upload the pictures. A large armored column came by, with M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles making their way with great haste. The cold steel warmed the cockles of my heart. No sooner had I made my way to the café than the power went out, and the café closed. This message, if it makes it through, will be by means of my satellite phone.
As I began to say in my last message, it is interesting to note that the attacks occur right before the call to prayer. For example, when they hit the hotel last time, it was around 4:30 am, just before prayers. This time has proved popular recently for a series of mortar attacks on the Green Zone—enough so that I must admit that I braced myself for a boom this very morning at that time.
For those who wonder about the prudence of staying at this hotel, suffice it to say that there is a calculation to my move. The biggest factor is that while it is susceptible to missile and mortar attack, it is not easily hit with a car bomb. I have been in the building twice now when missiles hit and, through God’s mercy, walked away. It is far less likely that I would be able to say the same if I were in a hotel hit with a car packed with explosives.
The internet cafe has lost power so I must be brief. As I mentioned in my last post, a missile hit the 12th floor of the Sheraton where I stay. This is the second direct hit, and there was a third close hit earlier in the week. The reason seems fairly obvious: it is the tallest building in the city, and it has a large amount of security. Something else to consider: the recent missile and mortar attacks have all come right before prayer at the mosques. The theory is that they do this so that they can go in and be holy right after the attacks, but I think it also serves the purpose of creating a crowd to blend into. The Ashbrook folks will be posting some pictures I took soon.
Here is the Washington Post article on Bush’s press conference, with the headline: "Short on Details, Long on Resolve." This reminds me of a story:
During a recent visit to Washington, the Pope was the guest of the President and his wife for an afternoon Potomac River cruise on the presidential yacht Sequoia. They were sipping their iced teas and chatting amiably when a gust of wind blew the Pope’s zucchetto off his head and into the river. Secret Service agents immediately scrambled to launch a speed boat to retrieve it, but the Pres waved them off with, ’Hang on. I’ll handle it.’
Bush then stepped off the yacht onto the water, walked over to the Pontiff’s little hat, picked it up, walked back to the yacht, climbed back aboard, and handed it to the Pope amid stunned silence.
The headline in the Post, Times, Le Figaro, Guardian, etc. was, "Bush Can’t Swim".
I saw about forty-five minutes of the press conference and thought that he did just fine. I liked it. Straighforward, to the point, a couple of nice formulations. I’m especially glad that he gave the short talk to start with. It worked. I also watched CNN, et al, after and they just reinforced my belief that the elite media is both biased and stupid. I was only ambarassed about being an American once in my life; I watched the Ford-Carter presidential debates of 1976 (and I don’t mean only the fact that the mikes went silent for a while), I mean their inability to say anything interesting or thoughtful. I am, for the second time, embarassed to be an American each time I watch the TV news. Wanting to confirm that I was right about Bush’s performance, I asked the first guy on I ran into on the street this morning what he thought. He said this: "He did fine. I like the guy. I’m not worried. The only question that is important for the election is this: Who do you trust? I trust him." It’s a nice day, by the way, the sun is shining and it’s to be dry the next six or seven days. Here is the transcript of the press conference.
The Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad, where I am staying, was just hit by a missile or mortar attack. I am standing on the six floor deck where the last missile hit a couple weeks ago. In todays attack, one projectile hit the 12th floor. It broke substantial amounts of glass, including the skylight in the lobby. I cant confirm whether there are any injuries.
Ive spent today holed up in my hotel trying to finish a few articles that have been languishing during the recent flurry of activity. The good news is that there will be some new articles for you to read soon; the bad news is that I dont have much to blog about today. The other good news is that I am close to doing a series of embeds to provide views from outside Baghdad: 1) in the Shia city of Najaf; 2) with the 1486th south of Baghdad; and 3) with the 196th Cavalry in Tuz (which is relatively close to Tikrit, and is quite close to Kirkuk).
Fox News reports that Cynthia McKinney is running for Congress again. Here is a candidate for whom the saying "Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself" was meant. It is only a matter of time before she and her family resume their anti-semitic spelling bees.
Medienkritik has a few choice words about Gerhardt Schroeder’s decline (drop like a lead balloon is more like it) in the polls. Die Welt says: "Never before has a Chancellor fallen so far so quickly as Schroeder has since his re-election in Fall 2002." Tut mir leide, baby! Note the photograph; such a short man.
This New York Times story considers how the publication of Bill Clintons book (slated for mid-Summer) will affect the presidential race. Or, more clearly put, how much air will Clinton suck out of Kerrys room. This is an amusing thing to contemplate. It shows how needy Kerry is; he is an inferior candidate. The concern is always what is going on around him, how he is being defined by others, how there is no essence to the guy. Clinton could get away with shifting around because he was Huck Finn-like about it: he knew he was doing it, he talked about doing it, he was exuberant in doing anything he did; he amused people as young boys do. Kerry is dull and needy and ever-so-boring. No one likes him. Juxtaposed to Clinton, he is like a dead man walking. Clinton will be on every talk show, on every newscast, for at least a month after the publication of the book (and probably a month before publication as well). He will be very interesting, and if, as implied in the article, his book proves similar to his mothers in its honesty and a kind of odd generosity of spirit, it will be a great read and a huge seller. People brought Hillary book for duty, they will buy Bills for love. There will be no oxygen in the room, and for Kerry, no room left at all after his loss to Bush. He will have to retire to one of his big houses, feeeling sorry for himself and hating everybody for not having recognized his virtues (including Bill). But by then Kerrys loss wont matter because we will all be talking about the 2008 election: if you get the other Clinton into the White House, Bill will be there too, and life will be more interesting again, wont it?
This John F. Burns piece in The New York Times has some useful information on what is going on in Iraq, and this from the Washington Post adds to it. The short of it is this: Sistani’s people (led by one of his sons and the Grand Ayatollah Sayed) are talking with Sadr and the situation is being diffused. Sadr violent reach for power and authority has failed. Politics follows, even though the guns are not yet silent. "The decision of the prominent clerics to intervene was a result of days of secret contacts, and a vindication, American officials said, of months of assiduous American courtesy toward Ayatollah Sistani. The aged cleric has been an increasingly shrill champion of Shiite rights in Iraq, but at the same time a restraining influence through his emphasis on the importance of settling the country’s web of ethnic, religious and political rivalries peacefully."
Unsurprisingly, Sistani is playing his cards, and we are backing him up. Al Sadr failed because of a combination of U.S. guns and Sistani’s prudence. He doesn’t want a repeat of the Shiite uprising against the Brits; it failed and brought the Sunni’s to power. A couple of things are made clear by all this. One, the elite media hyperventilates, even seems as if they are looking foward to the place falling into chaos; and they don’t inform. They continue to lose credibility. Over time, they will be less able to affect the outcome of events (this includes even the Arab stations).
Two, our tough military reaction to al Sadr’s gambit (which continues even as they talk), proved just the right combination of force and diplomacy. Doggedness and perserverance are good things, and this administration has them. Three, watch for the political solution to move at a much more rapid clip than heretore. The turnover to Iraqi rule will not be delayed, indeed, expect even earlier elections than have been talked about. Four, the calm during the Shiite holy days is another point in Sisteni’s favor; he has shown that he can control events, and do so with finesse and moderation. The Shiites have nailed down the massive fact that everyone has wanted to avoid saying publicly: they will rule Iraq, and, still to the surprise of most, will do it relatively moderately, partly because of their disposition and party because the new constitution will demand power sharing, and partly because they will still need to be backed up by our force. Other problems will arise, of course, but I remain optimistic.
Victor Davis Hanson on "The Fruits of Appeasement" in the City Journal. As with everything he writes, its terrific. Who else can navigate between Demosthenes, Michel Foucault, and Jimmy Carter? Get a cup of Arabica, and kick back. And, Martin, its OK to disagree with some of the things I post. Im looking for insight and wit (thats why I havent called lately!), and sometimes the truth comes along.
One of al Sadrs aides was detained yesterday (and then let go after a few hours of questioning). What struck me in both the report (and some visuals of the arrest on TV) is that the guys was taken by two American soldiers while they were completely sorrounded by hundreds of people, including the guys bodyguards ("they stepped aside"). They simply allowed the soldiers to take him away. And note this interview with Wael al Rukadi, the vice-secretary general of the Council of Iraq Tribes (and a Shiite). Worth reading.
Shandi Finnessey, Miss Missouri, was crowned Miss USA last night (I missed it, but I strongly suggest you click on picture to the left). Note this: "A Republican, she told Reuters she would use her position to help explain America’s involvement in Iraq. ’What needed to be done had to be done.’"
The recent round of kidnappings reinforced my inclination to procure a firearm. They are not terribly hard to come by--after all, it seems that a healthy number of those on the streets are carrying an AK-47 or holstering a 9mm. But there is a problem: security in Baghdad makes it very difficult for a journalist to carry a weapon. Entering the Green Zone, where I am able to post these messages and attend briefings, requires me to go through no less than three pat down searches. Only those employed by the Coalition or recognized as a contractor for the Coalition are freed of this requirement. And even if I do not choose to go to the Green Zone, there are pat down searches to enter my hotel. While I appreciate the security for bombs, I am really not concerned about a fellow journalist carrying a handgun. Finally, when a journalist embeds with the troops, they are required to sign a form stating that they will abide by a rule against bringing personal weapons. While this is fine when you are actually embedded, getting to and from the embed sometimes takes you through neighborhoods where having a firearm would be adviseable. Some of the big media outlets get around this by hiring professional security details. But this option is prohibitively expensive, and more often than not makes you look important, and therefore like a nice target. The measures simply strike me once again as emblematic of the problem with gun control in general. There are ample interim steps which could be taken: requiring the press to check weapons at the convention center or with an officer prior to embedding is one option. But with the checkpoint prohibitions, we are left in a world where the bad guys all have guns, and the good guys who would seek to protect themselves are deprived of the capacity to do so.
Fox News offers a reasonably throrough report on recent events in Iraq, with a particular emphasis on Al Sadr and Al Najaf. It does quote locals for the proposition that the majority of wounded in Fallujah are women, children, and the elderly--an uncorroborated statement which I believe will be disproven.
The Financial Times is reporting that "General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, has asked the Pentagon for two additional combat brigades[.]" My sense is that asking for more troops is strategically the right move. A common complaint over here is that we should have come in with more troops from the beginning. My sense is that it is not so much that the current troop levels are insufficient to handle the recent challenges. To the contrary, they have dispatched the enemy quickly. But rather, the problem is that Iraq is a pretty big place. To have a strong military presence simply requires a lot of bodies. The number I have heard frequently tossed around is 200,000, compared to current troop levels of approximately 130,000.
Another issue which is frequently complained of is length of deployment. A year ends up being a long time. The soldiers do not get weekends off, and on many posts they do not get much sleep either. The long days and hours, combined with time away from loved ones, takes its toll. The soldiers perform admirably, but the rotation time does not appear to be optimal. I will confess that I am not aware of all the reasons for the one-year rotations, and that I am willing to concede that the obstacles to putting in a 6-month term are likely prohibitive. For example, do we have sufficient volunteer troops to handle shorter rotation terms? And strategically, I have personally witnessed that the one-year rotation permits the soldiers to develop strong ties to locals, who begin to trust and to work with the soldiers. If the bases become revolving doors, developing these important relationships would be hindered.
While requesting more troops is the right strategic move, and indeed to my mind should have been done even in the absence of the recent uptick in violence, be prepared for renewed howls of "Vietnam" and "quagmire." What is stratigically correct is not always politically popular, and increasing troop levels is a move which I believe will prove that maxim true. But those who scream about quagmire should not be allowed to hide behind the veil of "supporting the troops." Many of these individuals joined Senator Kerry in voting against the appropriation bill that provided needed body armor for soldiers--a move that earned Senator Kerry the ire of many of those risking their lives here. And in using the increase in troop numbers as a basis to attack not just the policy of engagement, but tacitly the performance of the troops here, these chicken littles can hardly be said to be providing support.
Schramm noted here that there have been no hard Iraqi casualty numbers coming out of Fallujah. It has been the general policy of the Coalition not to comment on non-Coalition casualties. This policy has not only applied to Iraqi deaths, but when a non-U.S. non-combatant is killed, for example, the Coaltion generally directs all inquiries to the relevant embassy. While this policy is understandable, it does lead to wildly discrepant figures, as we have witnessed in Fallujah. To address this, the Coalition is attempting to get the Ministry of Health (which has already transitioned to Iraqi control) to compile official numbers. My understanding is that this effort is currently underway in Fallujah.
That said, General Kimmitt did offer his first estimates. He stated that since April 1, Coalition forces have suffered approximately 70 casualties. He estimated that insurgent casualties were probably around 10 times that number. While some of the Arab press sources have received quotes from locals stating that most of the Iraqi dead are women and children, Marine sources have vehemently disputed that assertion. While I’m sure there was some collateral damage, given my knowledge of the engagement, I would be willing to bet that the Marines are correct. They are operating under very strict rules of engagement. They are not permitted to fire unless they have a clear shot, and after the unilateral cease fire, they are not permitted to fire unless fired upon. The entire women and children myth appears to have been spread by anti-Coalition press elements such as Al Jazeera, which have stated that the Coalition is collectively punishing the innocent civilians of Fallujah for the killing of the four contractors.
I will say now what the Coaltion cannot. If you want proof that this is not collective punishment, look to the fact that the city still exists. We have employed very little heavy artillery. We have used very limited airpower. If ours were a military that indulged in collective punishment, I can assure you that the death toll would not be hundreds but tens of thousands. But we do not do such things. We risk the lives of our young men in order to be precise in our attacks: that is, in an attempt to kill or detain only those who mean to do us or the Iraqis harm. We cannot avoid all civilian casualties--this would be impossible. But we keep them to a minimum, and in so doing subscribe to an ethic unknown by our attackers. This is in the best tradition of Augustine just war theory. But this places the military in something of a catch-22. The opposition knows this, and tries to exploit it. They conduct attacks on Coalition forces from mosques and schools in an attempt to create collateral damage and bad press. They do not care if Iraqis die, but they know our military, and the people in American and Europe, do care. And perhaps most difficult for us to understand is the fact that they do not respect our restraint. They respect strength, and it seems that they view limited attacks as weakness. For these barbarians, the brutish hammer that destroys the just and unjust alike is power. Our military understands that lesser powers can accomplish mass destruction--it takes genuine power to be precise.
Ronald Browsntein writes that Richard Holbrooke has the best shot to be secretary of state in a Kerry administration (with Biden and Berger following). Howard Kurtz wraps up the McCain for VP question: It’s out of the question. So why do the Kerry people keep letting this idea float out there? I don’t get it. Karl Rove says this about the McCain issue: "It’s a sign of the Kerry campaign’s tactical weakness and shortsightedness if they keep talking about McCain, because it raises expectations that they are serious about him -- and what happens when it turns out that it wasn’t serious at all?
’He (McCain) would never accept it in a million years, anyway.’"
And Kerry makes an appeal to the younger voter by (somehow) tying national service to a cut in college tuition. The Los Angeles Times considers what issues would be raised regarding her philanthropic activities if Teresa Heinz Kerry (Mrs. John Kerry) would end up as first lady. But they say nothing about the support she gives to the Tides Foundation.
Andrew Sullivan takes on the question of whether or not Iraq is another Vietnam (the answer is no) and in considering that poses an interesting question for John Kerry: What would he do if he were elected? Kerry is dodging the issue of what he would do in Iraq now, rather, he is staying in the mode of criticizing Bush for how he went in there. He recommends the following: " A neo-hawkish ouflanking of Bush is therefore a perfect electoral gambit. After all, what lies ahead in Iraq is not, in fact, a very Republican project. It’s classic nation-building - the kind of thing Clinton and Gore once favored and George W. Bush once resolutely opposed. Were Kerry to take this tack, it would, of course, be a turning point rich in irony, especially when viewed through the prism of Vietnam. Whereas Richard Nixon inherited a Democratic war, Kerry, the man who found his first fame in anti-Vietnam protests, would inherit a Republican war. Whereas Nixon was doing all he could to find a way out with honor, Kerry would be doing all he could to find a way to win for the sake of democracy. Yes, we may be seeing a strange replay of Vietnam. But in reverse. And, quite possibly, with an entirely different ending."
The London Financial Times reports: "Terrorists plotting to use chemical weapons in Europe have more advanced plans than security services previously suspected, a senior French counter-terrorism official has warned.
Small groups of chemicals experts have been detected in several European countries and have developed ways of communicating with each other that allowed them to avoid being exposed.
We have underestimated the terrorists willingness and capacity to develop chemical weapons, the French official told the Financial Times. He said a recent wave of arrests in Britain and France has revealed how far they had developed their plans." I am not sure that I am happy to note that the French have only recently discovered this, but there you have it. Also note this: "The groups appear to operate separately from other cells planning attacks using ordinary explosives. Several of them are believed to have links to Islamic militants in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. Western intelligence services allege that extremists linked to al-Qaeda have carried out experiments in chemical warfare in Chechnya." This information, to the best of my recollection, is over a year old from the U.S.s point of view. I believe that this is why the Pankasi Gorge in Georgia has been a focus of some of our efforts. In any case, there is a lot of information in this short article that is worth noting. But above all, I dont understand why it is only now that the French are talking about this. Perhaps the Madrid bombing, and the subsequent investigation surrolunding it, woke them up.
Theodore Dalrymple, writing inThe City Journal, reflects on the breakdown of Islam. He navigates wonderfully between Afghanistan and Shakespeare, between love and forced marriage, between Muslim piety and the drug trade in England. Very thoughtful and informative. It may surprise you. I give you his concluding paragraph:
"Islam in the modern world is weak and brittle, not strong: that accounts for its so frequent shrillness. The Shah will, sooner or later, triumph over the Ayatollah in Iran, because human nature decrees it, though meanwhile millions of lives will have been ruined and impoverished. The Iranian refugees who have flooded into the West are fleeing Islam, not seeking to extend its dominion, as I know from speaking to many in my city. To be sure, fundamentalist Islam will be very dangerous for some time to come, and all of us, after all, live only in the short term; but ultimately the fate of the Church of England awaits it. Its melancholy, withdrawing roar may well (unlike that of the Church of England) be not just long but bloody, but withdraw it will. The fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle."
This Washington Post story recounts how Marines in Fallujah discovered a terrorist cell, and all the materials for suicide bombings. It’s a short and interesting story, but what it reminded me of, above all else, is that we are getting no figures on how many Iraqi insurgents were killed by Marines in Fallujah. Everytime I read a story about Fallujah, there is always a Marine that says something like this: "we killed a lot of them." I have been wondering what the numbers are, I have heard different figures on TV news. This WaPo story from today says that we say 700 were killed and Iraqi doctors in Fallujah say 600 (they claim "civilians").
It would seem that the Iranians have thrown about $80 million into al Sadr’s cause in Iraq. Iran’s former president, Rafsanjani, on Friday hailed the Shi’ite Muslim militia of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as "heroic" for rising up against the U.S. occupation in Iraq. But the current president, Khatami, seems to distance himself from Sadr. Amer Taheri a few days ago discussed the disagreements within the Iranian leadership over Iraq. Ralph Peters talks about the Iranians who ambushed an American convoy between Mosul and Akre in Iraq. He also considers the general Iranian involvement in Sadrs efforts.
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was asked about reports (mentioned by Schramm here) that an Iraqi army battalion refused to fight in Fallujah. He did not provide much clarity on why that particular unit did not fight, but he did reemphasize that two ICDC battalions fought side-by-side with the Coalition in Fallujah.
As for the non-performing unit, Gen. Kimmitt emphasized that it will take time to get the army units fully prepared to fight. My Monday morning quarterbacking suggests that this problem is exacerbated because the units have the Coalition to fall back on. It is easier to to dodge the bullet if there is someone there to take it for you. This is not a statement in favor of reducing Coalition forces, but rather an observation. The Coalition is increasingly integrating Iraqi security forces into their operations, so hopefully the "no go" response of this unit will in short order prove anomalous.
Yesterday Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said "[w]e’ve noticed a trend with Al Jazeera and Al Arabia misreporting the facts on the ground." But today the words were much harsher. Mr. Senor, referring to those same networks, stated that "I wouldn’t even call it one side of the story. It is no side of the story." In case this left anything to the imagination, he offered that "several of the news agencies do not engage in truth in reporting."
But the harshest words were offered by new Iraqi National Security Advisor Dr. Mowaffak Al Rubaie, who asked "Where is the objective press?" He complained that too many of the satellite channels supported Saddam even after his removal, and have distorted the news. As an example of what he called the many lies propagated by the media, he offered a story about his decision to resign from the Iraqi Governing Council. The networks reported that his decision to resign was motivated by the recent violence. In fact, it was public knowledge that he was required to resign from the IGC in order to take his new position as National Security Advisor. "Don’t they understand Separation of Powers? . . . This is a new Iraq. This is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq."
Dr. Rubaie offered a words of caution for the networks: "I am warning these channels . . . they challenge the patience of the Iraqi people." When asked what steps would be taken, he was equally plain: "If Al Jazeera and Al Arabia continue reporting the way they are reporting--inciting violence and sectarian rifts--I have no doubt they will be closed in this country." This raised questions in the room about freedom of press. Dr. Rubaie responded that "we have drawn a very clear line. Inciting violence . . . is not allowed." He noted that CNN would not be allowed to incite violence in London, and that he would not allow networks to do likewise here.
Dr. Rubaie also sought to clarify a few issues which he believed had been distorted. He suggested that "[s]ome of the channels and the western media cannot understand what is going on in Fallujah." In particular, he stated that "[n]o one should have in their mind that this is a battle between the Coalition and the Iraqi people." Rather, he described the action as one between international terrorists and the Iraq people.
It will be interesting to see what happens with these networks. I can tell you from first hand experience that Al Jazeera at the very least has tight connections with terrorists--tight enough that they are told about terrorist attacks before they happen so that they can have cameras on the scene. The general media coverage from Fallujah has also been quite poisonous, with outlets suggesting that the attack is a general punishment of Fallujah for the killing of the contractors--which punishment is described as meted out to women and children. Of course, something more than mitigating the bad reporting is necessary. To echo Dr. Rubaie’s question in a slightly different way, where is the equivalent of Fox News Iraq?
This may be the worst news coming out of Iraq in a long time.
Thomas A. Ricks reports that "A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces.
It was the first time U.S. commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi army in major combat operations, and the battalion’s refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security forces have stopped carrying out their duties." Some argue that it was a "command failure," others that it was just plain fear. There are other possibilities, as noted.
For a more academic analysis (based on iterviews of soldiers in Iraq) of why American soldiers fight, see this paper published in 2003: "Why They Fight: Combat Motivation in the Iraq War".
"The researchers then interviewed U.S. combat troops fresh from the fields of battle to examine their views. What they found was that today’s U.S. soldiers, much like soldiers of the past, fight for each other. Unit cohesion is alive and well in today’s Army. Yet, Dr. Wong and his fellow researchers also found that soldiers cited ideological reasons such as liberation, freedom, and democracy as important factors in combat motivation. Today’s soldiers trust each other, they trust their leaders, they trust the Army, and they also understand the moral dimensions of war." (Thanks to Phil Carter.)
Tony Blair writes a very good letter to the Guardian outlining why we must continue our work in Iraq. It is excellent. Good man, that Blair. Newsweek reflects briefly on why Blair and John Kerry seem unable to schedule a meeting. It implies that it is not in Kerrys interest to do so. I rather think it is the reverse; note that a few weeks back Blair ordered that the usual Labour Party delegation will not make the trip to this years Democratic Party convention in Boston.
Here is the text of the famnous Aug 6, 2001, intelligence briefing for the President on al Qaeda. This was released on Saturday. I am struck by how banal the thing is. I do not think it is impressive in itself, and certianly doesnt have any useful information for Bushs enemies, Ben-Venistes ravings to the contrary notwithstanding. It does make clear that the CIA was not exactly useful in trying to find ouit what binLaden was up to; that is what should be the story. And yet here is the Washington Posts slant; not an editorial, but a news story. And I mean slant, start with the title: "Bush Gave No Sign of Worry In August 2001." Read the rest for yourself, and be angry. This isnt reporting. But, hey, thats OK because Richard Clarkes book is going to be made into a
movie. The terms of the deal were not released. Perfect.
Here is a story from the Mansfield News Journal about an attack on the 1486th Transportation Company of the Ohio National Guard here in Iraq. I received confirmation from the Public Affairs Office (PAO) that the unit came under fire on Thursday near Baghdad International Airport. The PAO confirmed that three soldiers were wounded, with one suffering an injury to his shoulder, another suffering an injury to his arm, and the third suffering an injury to his thumb. The PAO has stated that they will provide me with more details when they are available.
There is not a great deal new to report today. Having just attended the press briefing, I can tell you that the cease fire continues in Fallujah, with intermittent shooting by the insurgents. The Coalition continues to take positions outside the cities of Karbala and Al Najaf to permit the pilgrims to celebrate Arba’een, despite the presence of Al Sadr forces in those cities. From my own first hand accounts, I can tell you that there were a series of explosions in Baghdad this morning, but the streets appear calm now. In fact, the main street by the hotels is open today for the first time in several days, which made travel this afternoon considerably easier.
As for Schramm’s post about what’s going on in Iraq, I have a few thoughts. First, the thing that has struck me most is that the press seems completely unaware that they are being used by the insurgents. When reporters were released by the kidnappers, they expressed that they did not understand why they were released. Pleeeeease. When attack after attack is waged by insurgents even though there is no hope of military success, the press still fail to ask "why?" While the insurgents could be trying to drum up violent support among Iraqis, this does not appear to be happening to any significant degree. Rather, the attacks seem to be aimed at one group--the media--which increasingly reports without reflection.
My second point is that if you feel deprived of information in the states, you should have been in Baghdad for the past few days. Much of the action with Al Sadr and Sistani is in Al Najaf. But with the pilgrims and the potential for violence, that city is virtually untouchable right now. As for Fallujah, I have personally been trying to be embedded with the Marines there for over two weeks, and have not been able to get there because of a combination of a backlog of requests and security concerns. As one reporter who has also been delayed in his request to embed in Fallujah complained to me today, it is at times easier to get access to the insurgents than to the military. Even Baghdad has been very difficult to get around in the last few days, with numerous streets closed, and increased safety concerns in traveling during the day--let alone after dark. To add insult to injury, when the streets are closed, the businesses--including the internet cafes--close, thereby reducing the number of hours during which I can communicate. So please be patient with those of us who are trying to give you some perspective on what is going on over here.
I asked a representative at the Press Center yesterday about Easter Services here in the Green Zone. There were services, but they were in the Palace, which is generally off-limits to those who are not Coaltion employees--a category which includes reporters. I got the distinct impression that I was the first reporter to have asked this question, which demonstrated a certain cultural gap between the soldiers, who tend to be quite religious, and the reporter class, among whom religion is at best not a spoken topic. To give but one poignant example of the religious character of the troops, a few weeks ago I spoke with a brave young man who had been patrolling in the Sunni Triangle when a mortar exploded near him. He sustained a serious injury to his leg, and while I met with him the Army was preparing to move him from the Combat Support Hospital up to Germany for more treatment. As they readied him for the Medevac chopper, a nurse handed him the personal effects which were in his pockets when he arrived at the hospital. He surveyed the ziploc bag and noticed that something was missing: his Bible. You see, he normally carries it in his back pocket. He reflected that the day he was hit was the first time that he was not carrying his Bible. The sentiment struck me not as superstition, or the desire to keep something of a good luck charm on your person. Rather, the soldier’s statement spoke of his faith, and his desire to keep God’s word close to him when surrounded by those who would do him harm. This faith is repeated time and again on the battlefied, in images such as the now famous AP photo from Fallujah, showing Marines praying over their fallen comrade.
It is my opinion that this helps explain why the press has such a hard time relating to the soldiers. You see, the soldiers subscribe to a set of rules and values which make no sense to the elites. The soldiers on average believe in God. They have a strong sense of patriotism--a love of their country and what their country stands for. They believe that there are things that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. And they believe that there are things worth dying for, and worth killing for. For this, they are considered simple-minded by the far more sophisticated members of the press. Fine. They can keep their post-modern sophistication, but I prefer the simple faith and values of the soldier. May God keep them and protect them on this Easter day, and every day.
Perhaps those of us who are trying mightily to follow events in Iraq should be excused if we don’t have deep opinions on the game affot. We don’t know enough. One of the genuine problems is that the establishment media’s reporting is either non-existent, or stupidly biased (I exclude some of the print media from this, see last paragraph). On the first point: All we are told is that someone has been killed, someone taken hostage, part of a city has been retaken, or that another mortar has landed somewhere, and so on. This tells us almost nothing. There is virtually no genuine analysis based on some facts (or even probabilities). Why are we not told of the relationship or lack between Sadr and Sistani? Why do they not talk about all the Iranian inlfuence and money going to Sadr? Why doesn’t the media explain what Sadr’s relationship with some Iranian ayatollahs is? (I know not all of it favorable.) Why don’t we have an explanation of why Sistani is not (it would appear) being run by the Iranians? Why don’t we hear about the fundamental distrust between the insurgents in Fallujah and Sadr’s gang? And then we are told that there are negotiations by the Governing Council in Fallujah, and so operations have stopped. Which guys on the Governing Council have more authority, which ones have (unlawful) militias loyal to them? Not enough information, and not enough thinking.
This is made worse by the bias of the media. I am amazed by the bias. Everything happening in Iraq is either another Mogadishu or another Vietnam, and is most certainly a quagmire. The so called chaos there means that we don’t have enough troops, that we are utterly unprepared for the mischief that has arisen, that we have have two left feet as we walk. So they keep showing a few pictures (repeated over and over) of a truck being blown up, of an Iraqi holding an American pair of boots high in the air (front page of today’s New York Times), or photos of Sadr being removed from walls, etc. Big deal, this is not useful. And if this isn’t enough, the elite media is attempting to collapse the 9/11 hearings (the public part, that is) with the so called chaos in Iraq. The administration was incompetent then, and it is incompetent now; the only difference is that before 9/11 they didn’t want to fight, and now that’s all they want to do. But it is a quagmire, we are told. The administration doesn’t understand that their policy is in shambles, that Iraq is spinning out of control and the President is on vacation at the Ranch! The elite media is banging their drums, demanding to be heard, demanding that someone pay attention to them. In the meantime, the public is not being well served by this drum beat.
Things are messy in Iraq; this is true. But, frankly, it’s not as if the mess is new. This is both war and nation-building, both conducted at the same time. A ramarkable effort, when you think about it. It is also possible that the lid has been blown off, and that it can’t be put back on until the water stops boiling. But let’s think through the difference between what is going on now and what that has to do with the short-run consequences, and what might happen (and be made to happen) in the long-run. There is a difference. The al Sadr led violence may well reveal that this is his last grasp at power (we should have dealt with him months ago, by the way), that if he doesn’t succeed now he will not, ever. Sadr has always been a political outlaw; it is not in Sistani’s interest that Sadr succeed, and never has been; they have fought. Besides, note that Sistani’s paramilitary forces are not fighting (and he has a more serious organization, (technically illegal, by the way) a couple of them, than that of Sadr. That Sadr has taken refuge in Najaf--Sistani’s stronghold--is quite smart, in the short term. We will not go in there to get him; yet, he will end up in Sistani’s control. Sistani is holding the cards already, and he may have more cards to play before this is over. But that may not be entirely a bad thing. From what we know about him, he does not seem to be interested in waging a civil war, or, even a war against the Coalition. Yet, and no surprise here, he doesn’t want to seem as if he is controlled by the Americans.
By the way, in saying all this I am not suggeting that the situation cannot get worse. Of course it can. The Kurds could take up arms. Sistani can take up arms. Now that would be serious.
Here are a few articles from the press that, it seems to me, shed light on some of these matters. I include them here not because I agree with each one, but because, each in its own way is informative. The AP reports on the cease fire in Fellujah. Los Angeles Times reports on how some of the Iraqi Governing Council are disenchanted with our policy in Fellujah. Washington Post reports on our tactics in Fellujah, and also on how are military efforts are doing elsewhere around the country. An idiot in Newsweek calls this Iraqi uprising an Intifada. Reuel Marc Gerecht, in contemplating a Shiite war, has some good analysis of the current fog. And Larry Diamond argued two days ago that we should arrest al Sadr, as soon as possible. And Yitzhak Nakash argues for letting Sistani broker a cease fire. David Brooks argues against negotiations. Victor Davis Hanson reflects on this odd sort of Western cannibalism wherein we are eating one another, while forgetting that we are at war. he advises us to get a grip. Good advice.
Note this story of five days ago from the London Guardian. It outlines elections in Tar (about 15,000 population). Note that the religious parties did not do well at all in this overwhelmingly Shia area. "Seventeen towns have voted, and in almost every case secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties did better than the Islamists." (Thanks to Andrew Stuttaford at NRO.)
Two more large explosions sounded beyond the Green Zone, followed by a large plume of smoke. Because the explosions just happened, I have not been able to confirm any details as to target or casualties.
UPDATE: The two rounds hit inside the Green Zone, in the motor pool just behind the Combat Support Hospital. The explosions damaged one of the hospital’s generators. I have not been able to confirm if there are any casualties as a result of this attack.
UPDATE II: I have been informed that everyone is alright. The attack was not serious. We can all be thankful.
Reuters is reporting that fighting erupted in the Adhamiyah region of Baghdad this morning. I was embedded a couple of weeks ago with an Army unit there. The region is the last place that Saddam was seen in public prior to being found in the spider hole. For years, it has been a place where bad elements from Ramadi and Fallujah would congregate in Baghdad, so it is not terribly surprising that there would be unrest in Adhamiyah given the activity in Fallujah.
It has been relatively quiet this morning in Baghdad, other than one mortar blast somewhere near the Green Zone. General Kimmitt offered a bilateral cease fire effective at noon with the insurgents in Fallujah. As of the time of this writing, it was unclear whether they would comply with this offer.
I revisited my friendly banker this morning. He offered words of caution. "With the kidnappings, you must be careful, my friend. . . ." Recognizing me as American, he said, "You must be careful. You are my brother."
Howard Fineman writes about the Rice interview in front of the 9/11 Committee. Here is his point: "Stylistically and tactically, she was serviceable." And then: "But the larger picture she painted of herself, her president and the administration certainly wont help George W. Bushs re-election chances." Thanks Howard, thats some serious thinking.
CNN conducts a poll right after her testimony, and uses this headline: "Poll: Rice testimony yields mixed results for White House. What does the poll show? "Forty percent of the 1,000 Americans polled said that the administration, based on the information it had, could have done more to stop the terrorist attacks, compared with 54 percent in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28." And then this: "Rice won the credibility race against former counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke -- who testified that the White House had ignored warnings about Osama bin Ladens terrorist organization. Forty-three percent of the polls participants said they were more likely to believe Rice, as opposed to 36 percent naming Clarke." Good headline, dont you think?
The afternoon briefing just finished. Here is the status report from Iraq, which Im sure you will find to be very different from what you here on the news this evening. Ramadi, where 12 Marines died earlier this week, was quiet today. In fact, a local shaik came out last night and revealed the names of 11 belligerents in the city, who have subsequently been taken into custody. Al Kut, which was overrun by Sadrs militia, is expected to be under complete Coalition control by late this evening or early tomorrow morning. There have been only minor casualties to Coaltion forces inflicted by Sadrs militia, which is using what General Kimmitt described as "shoot and scoot" tactics. There is cessation of offensive operations in Fallujah, which was orchestrated at the request of the Iraqi governing council. The council has sent a delegation to bring food and medicine to the people there, and to see if progress can be made with Fallujahs leadership to prevent the need for additional Coalition action. The one sore spot remains Al Najaf. Sadrs forces are dominant in the city, but Coalition forces are well positioned outside. The strategy is to fall back in light of the 1.2 million pilgrims traveling for the Shia holiday. I would not expect this reserve to last long. These are facts confirmed by CJTF-7. And again, this represents a very different picture than the slices of violence that permeate the news.
The sun is fading, and I must make my way back to my hotel, which I understand had another close call with a mortar. Because of security measures, I doubt I will be able to post anything else until tomorrow. Until then, Good Friday.
I just thought youd like to know that Reuters reported that not only did the bad guys threaten to burn the Japanese hostages alive, but they also threatened to "feed them to the fighters" (after they burned them alive). I did not see this reported on CBS, NBC, ABC, or CNN, or anywhere else. Surprise.
Spencer Ackerman explains the relationship between Moqtada Al Sadr, the bad guy, and Ali Sistani. This brief essay is very much worth reading. As far as I can tell, Ackerman is right: Sadr is making a power play to take over the Shiites by calling for a war against the Coalition. Sistani understands this, thats why he is telling his people not to participate (and thats why this is not an upring) and will try to prevent him from doing so. Because this is Sadr’s last chance (he has tried it before), he will do everything he must; this explains the violence. Sadr and Sistani also have ideological differences, having to do with the role of Islam in politics; this is what makes Sistani a moderate. There is a reason why Sadr moved into the Imam Ali Shrine, he wants to see if he can wrest moral authority from Sistani. If he can’t do it within the next few days, during their religious holidays with perhaps as many as a million Shiite pilgrims coming into the city, then he will fail. Take a look at this long article on Grand Ayatollah Sistani from the Washington Post, in February. This is what you have to pay attention to.
Some Democrats, I am heartened to see, are bahving better than Carter. Tom Daschle: "Yesterday’s events will only serve to strengthen America’s resolve and seal America’s unity. The brave people who lost their lives did not die in vain. Americans stand together today and always to finish the work we started and bring peace and democracy to the citizens of Iraq." And Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, said that the United States must "stay the course."
"This is really as much a test of our perseverance as anything else," he said, though he cautioned that Americans must be prepared for the conflict. "It’s going to be difficult. We’re going to have too many days ahead of tragedy like yesterday, unfortunately." Good. Better than Carter, Kennedy, and former KKK member Byrd. There is hope.
The wisdom of Jimmy Carter shows up, again. The war against Iraq is unnecessary and "has turned out to be a tragedy," Carter says. There is more: "Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, also blamed what he called Bush’s pro-Israel policies for engendering animosity against America.
’The prime source of animosity towards the United States is the lack of progress in dealing with the Palestinian issue,’ Carter said, adding that past U.S. administrations since Harry Truman’s have maintained a ’balanced position’ in dealing with the rights of the Arab population within the Jewish nation." There you have it, Carter is now re-writing history. His views were already pro-Palestinian when he was president, as
Steve Hayward’s new book on Carter, The Real Jimmy Carter, makes clear, and they have remained anti-Israeli; his contacts with Palestinian terrorists continue to this day. He is still fond of Arafat. Carter is a motley fool. It’s embarrasing.
This morning, I went to the sixth floor deck of my hotel (where the missile hit a few weeks ago) to get a sense of what was happening in the city before I attempted to go out. The mosque near the hotel was broadcasting its morning prayers, but the square in front of it was empty--an odd site for Friday. The street was once again closed off, and an Army Humvee with a loudspeaker was blasting something in Arabic. I later learned from a local that they were warning people not to come out with weapons, or they will be shot. As I was standing out there, a few Iraqis came by. The first spoke little English, but we got by. He complained, "Saddam is gone, but where is the freedom?" He was soon joined by a Jabr, an out-of-work translator who was getting by doing work in the laundry room of the hotel. He was happy to see an American to talk to, and, as I have mentioned time and again on this page, began to tell me his thoughts on the United States and Iraq without my asking. He explained that America had done a great thing in removing the "large tyrant." He described the Saddam’s tyranny as "bigger than Stalin . . . bigger than the Italian Mussolini." He seemed confident that Iraq would weather the unrest of Al Sadr, who he referred to as "that gentleman," because Al Sadr does not command the support of the majority of the Iraqi people. He described Sadr’s followers bluntly as "dumb," and said that the educated people support the United States.
He explained that the first man I had spoken with did not share his views. He began translating for me, and the first man asked why it is that Americans shoot women and children. For those who wonder why it is that Sadr’s newspaper Al Hawza was silenced, this is exhibit A. I am told that the publication falsely attributed a number of killings and attacks to U.S. forces--actions meant to provoke not only outrage but violence against the Coalition. I attempted to explain that the Coalition does not target civilians, and that if soldiers do, they are prosecuted. As an example of how civilians may be accidentally killed, I explained how the Al Arabia reporters who were killed were driving behind a vehicle which attempted to hit U.S. officers by running a checkpoint. When the U.S. opened fire on the attacking car in self-defense, the bullets pierced that vehicle and also hit the Al Arabia car traveling behind it. Thus, the reporters were killed, but the killing was not intentional. Indeed, American troops go to great lengths to limit collateral damage, unlike Al Sadr, whose forces spray bullets without regard to how many of their fellow countrymen they kill.
We then got to what I think was a key complaint for the man: he explained that he thought that once Saddam was gone, he would instantly have a good life. He would have good food. He would have cheese everyday. I explained that he must give it time, but that things are improving. I pulled my cell phone out, and noted that cell phones, which were not permitted previously, are everywhere. I pointed from the deck to the sea of satellite dishes, and reminded him that no one could have one during Saddam. I recommended that he go to Rasheed Street, where commerce is thriving. Jabr, my new found translator piped in, "I know, I know." He translated my words, following which I assured the first man that if I had cheese, I would give it to him. He smiled, shook my hand, and returned to work.
The conversations were illustrative of the challenges in Iraq. False information and rumors fan the flames of anti-Coalition sentiment, and all too often the Iraqi press contributes to the problem. Yet most Iraqis still recognize that the Americans are there protecting them from dangerous elements, and therefore appreciate them. The second challenge is that despite the numerous advances in the standard of living over the past year, many Iraqis are still out of work, and the average Iraqi does not yet enjoy the comfort of, to use my interlocutors example, cheese. But with any luck, the recent hard work of the military will provide greater security for the country, which will in turn pave the way for more commerce. And yes, even for cheese.
I was able to make my way to the Green Zone to get internet access this afternoon, and can therefore offer you a few observations about today in Baghdad. The military is taking few chances, and has exercised extraorderinary control over the city. The main street which runs by the hotels us closed, and filled with armored vehicles and soldiers. (I tried to snap a few shots to show you a rare sight--Baghdad with no traffic--but for security reasons I was asked to delete them.) In my short trip to the Green Zone, there was hardly a time that U.S. soldiers were not in sight. Aong the way, I noted that they had detained a group of three men by the river. There have been very few signs of fighting in downtown, although sitting here in the Press Center, I just heard three loud booms which I would estimate went off near the edge of the Green Zone.
"Things have been busy here. You know I cant say much about it. However, I do know two things. One, POTUS has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on terrorism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of innocent folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah). There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. Im hoping they stay and fight.
This way we wont have to track them down one by one.
This battle is going to be talked about for a long time. The Marine Corps will either reaffirm its place in history as one of the greatest fighting organizations in the world or we will die trying. The Marines are fired up. Im nervous for them though because I know how much is riding on this fight (the war in Iraq, the view of the war at home, the length of the war on terror and the reputation of the Marine Corps to name a few). However, every time Ive been nervous during my career about the outcome of events when young Marines were involved they have ALWAYS exceeded my expectations. Im praying this is one of those times." A letter from a Marine, posted by Andrew Sullivan. May he prosper and live long. God bless.
Hugh Hewitt helpfully points out that Democrats and liberal pundits predicted a "quagmire" in Afghanistan in 2001 ("snows" in the mountains, said Joe Biden), and in the Iraq offensive last year. (Remember the dust storm? "Bogged down! Quagmire!!") He predicts that in the current action in Fallujah and elsewhere, the Democrats and the pundits will go 0 for 3.
Here is Condaleezza Rice’s opening remarks during her testimony this morning. Here is the Washington Post’s story on her testimony, and here is the AP story. I saw most of her testimony and I must say that she was perfectly poised and intelligent. I was especially happy to see that she went toe to toe with Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the Commission (I have no idea why he is on it, never held public office, spent his life as a legal Demo Party hack, but never mind). I noted that during the first half of his attack, his hands were shaking; he was nervous, as well he should have been since he met his match. She was not going to be bent by him.
It amazes me that the same Demos are pretending that the Clinton administration was in effect on a war footing against terror (which they were not) for eight years, and are chastizing the Bush administration during its first eight months for not being on a war footing. Yet, these same people claim that we shouldn’t be on a war footing now. They are not even sure that a war is going on. Well, all of this will come out in the wash, as they say. We’re still on the first cycle.
Robert Alt, our man in Iraq, explains why the Tet offensive in Vietnam seems to resemble the recent upturn in fighting in Iraq, and how the outcome may have to do more with the press’ reports on the fight than what actually happens on the ground; that’s what happened after Tet. And Mac Owens explains why Ted Kennedy is wrong in comparing Vietnam to Iraq. He makes crystal clear why the senior gas-bag from Massachusetts understands neither Vietnam nor Iraq. Both are excellent.
I had the privilege of attending the press conference yesterday in which the Iraqi judge who issued the arrest warrant for Muqtada Al Sadr took questions. He explained how Al Sadr ordered the murder of a rival cleric, tellings his followers to take the cleric and two other men and to kill them in your "special" way.
What was striking was the response of the Iraqi reporters. They repeatedly asked questions which began, "But he is a religious leader . . . ." Just as police training in Iraq had to emphasize that law enforcement is not above the law, the rest of Iraqi society must learn that even those of high political and relgious positions are subject to the laws.
There is much doom and gloom about what is going on in Iraq. By now I am sure that you will be shocked to learn that I think the popular wisdom is wrong, and that what we are seeing is the darkness before the dawn. To understand this, lets review recent events.
In general, despite taking on greater casualties, the Coalition has tackled pockets of resistance that really should have been addressed much sooner. The result should be greater stability, but it will come with a price. The question is whether we will be too squeamish to see it through.
Ill be a guest on David Bozes radio show on Talk 770 KTTH Seattle at 5:05 am. That would be a more reasonable time for listeners on the East Coast to tune in via the internet, but it doesnt appear that the station has a webcast.
I have received a number of questions about the news from Iraq. I begin with a word of caution. Much of what is being reported is unconfirmed. What does this mean?
First, it means that any numbers that you hear are based largely on speculation, rumor, and hearsay. To give but one example, look at what happened a few weeks ago with the car bomb at the Mt. Lebannon Hotel. At 11 pm, the ranking officer at the scene gave me a count of 16 Iraqi casualties. By mid-morning, other news services were reporting a number in the mid-twenties. By the time I filed my story at about 10 am, the count was up to something in the neighborhood of 37. And by the midafternoon, the official number was given: 7. When asked about the discrepency, General Kimmitt offered a word of wisdom which I now offer to you: early numbers are almost always wrong. Another example is Al Najaf. Reporters were wildly speculating high troop casualties. In the end, the casualty count was zero Americans and one El Salvadoran.
Second, on-the-scene reporting also gives you a narrow perspective. Anyone who has seen a local newscaster babbling at the scene of an earthquake or natural disaster knows exactly what I am talking about. The disaster report is accurate to the extent that the reporter says what he or she saw. Witness accounts are often offered without any regard for their validity, and the remainder of the time is filled with wild speculation. So it is in a war zone. As I have explained, it is difficult when you are standing amidst a barrage to make sense of it all. Were the rounds that just exploded from mortars or missiles? Where were they fired from? How did the Coalition respond? Is this part of a larger offensive by the Coalition or insurgents? What is the status of the city and the region? All of these questions are very difficult to answer on the ground. While some guesses can be made, they are often just that--guesses. While on-the-ground reporting provides intriguing color, it should not be mistaken or used as a substitute big picture reporting. Big picture questions about the status of the war and the progress in a region requires reflection and more details than are available in the heat of the moment.
Because the holiday will make for a tumultuous day, and will make it more difficult for reporters to confirm stories, I advise you to keep these warnings in mind. Particularly on the question of casualty counts, do not trust them unless they are confirmed by someone from CJTF-7.
To put minds to rest, this mornings blog was quiet because I was working on a few different articles at a location where there was no internet access. It does make me long for the simple pleasures of 24-hour broadband at home.
Tomorrow marks the Shia holiday of Arbaeen, which is the 40th day after the day marking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Forty days ago, the Shias were able to celebrate his martyrdom on the holiday of Ashura for the first time since Saddam Hussein took power. The event was tragically marked with a series of bombs which went off outside the mosque in Al Najaf. Even before the recent increase in hostilities, it was predicted that tomorrow would bring more violence, as thousands of pilgrims flood to Al Najaf from Iran and from all parts of Iraq. Now the predictions are all the more dire. The consular office has issued a travel advisory warning against all non-essential movement--an advisory which applies even within the far more secure U.S.-controlled Green Zone. Because it will be imprudent if not impossible for me to get to the Green Zone tomorrow, and because the internet cafes are closed on Fridays, I will not be able to post updates or respond to emails until Saturday. Accordingly, please do not read my silence as a bad omen.
The silence was broken last night by a series of thundering booms, most of which were far away, but at least one of which was close enough to let you know that you are still alive. My post last night had to be dictated over the phone, because the cafe closed early. As the manager at the cafe told me, something strange was going on. With the main street closed, the silence was eery. The mood was tense, and, without revealing troop levels, suffice it to say that my hotel was very well protected.
Rowan Scarborough is reporting that
"Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery Iraqi Shiite cleric who ordered his fanatical militia to attack coalition troops, is being supported by Iran and its terror surrogate Hezbollah, according to military sources with access to recent intelligence reports."
Max Boot outlines a fundamental and systemic problem that has to be considered, and seriously considered, if we are to be victorious in the long run in the war on terror. This has to do with "contested zones" and actionable intelligence.
As you know Robert is in Iraq and is hard at work. That work on the ground is varied and often difficult, as well as time consuming. Running after information, attempting to see some things first hand, conversations with officials, soldiers, even with fellow reporters, as well as Iraqis, takes time and effort. Sometimes that means sitting down and drinking tea with the locals, and sometimes that means marching along with soldiers. Of course, while he is doing these things he cannot be blogging and writing.
I know that during this remarkably active and dangerous period, we are especially interested in hearing from him. And we will. Be patient.
The situation in Iraq seems dramatic, verging on tragedy. Maybe. Yet, it is not clear that the
events of the last few days are so dramatic that they in any way foretell the heart of darkness that may come. Nothing is very clear and, let’s face it, it never has been, and probably will not be too much clearer six months from now. The easiest mode to slip into is to say that the battles of the last few days are proof that we will fail to bring to that unfortunate place something of the Americans’ more hopeful, and more comic, view of life. It is not shocking that the news reporters lean in the direction of tragedy. These are folks much prejudiced; their eyes are habituated to see what is not possible, the critical and sceptical view seems so smart and sophisticated. Statesmen act in the world, and the sceptic says, "You just watch, you will be beaten down, and your actions will go awry, and the consequences will be awful." The sceptic sees tragedy. The American statesman looks at chaos and sees that something may be done that may--given this and given that--bring some good. The greater the good at stake, the more interested he is in the act and the more reason he has to hope that much good will follow. When clear-eyed, this view is not strangely idealistic or utopian, it is essentially practical, but driven by an overwhelming sense of the possible of what human beings--yes, even Iraqis--may yet become. This American view is fundamentally comic. It is this view, in the end, that makes us go into the heart of darkness so that we may change it. It is this American disposition, this tendency toward sacrifice (and most certainly not empire, as the thoughtless Left understands it) in favor of the human condition as comic, as something with a happy and hopeful ending that Americans are willing to fight and die for. Things would be easy if they just fought for their own interest, for their own land, or for their own tribe.
Base and vicious war was made upon us, and we fight back so that it doesn’t happen again. But that’s not enough for these new men of the new world, they take the given horror, go to the cause of the anger and try to make the place that can affect its source into something approaching the comic, into something approaching the hopeful and the happy. I know that in the meantime much fighting, much diplomacy, and much shifting interests will take place and some of it, alas, will not be able to be controlled by even the wisest actors. It is possible that this fellow Sistani--a religious leader who is religiously followed by millions--may make the wrong decision and let slip the dogs of war and then tragedy will have arrived. But maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, he understands something of the politics of freedom, of duty, of hope. Just maybe he understands that life, even in Iraq, may yet be a comedy. Thus far, he has not called blood for blood; thus far, he has sat and thought and called for calm. It is possible that his sensibilities are fully human, and he may help write the future as comedy. It is easy for the reporters of human scepticism to remind those of us watching that politics is always tragic. That seems so true, and so simple. Yet, it is not always tragic. Not always.
Many of you may be wondering about the view on the ground here in Baghdad. The cafes closed early and one of the major thoroughfares was blocked off. A gentleman sitting in the cafe commented to me that "it was quiet—too quiet." Indeed, with the turmoil all round the city, including in nearby Sadr city, Baghdad has remained relatively calm. But this evening, the feeling was one of bracing for what is to come, much like those sitting in the relative quiet of the eye of a storm.
As modern American parents, we now all know that spanking is extremely inappropriate and can actually harm our children. A good friend recently shared with me a safe and effective alternative for behavior modification that she discovered purely by accident.
According to her, all you have to do is take your child for a car ride and talk it out. She says that her children usually calm down and stop misbehaving the very first time.
Click here for a photo from a recent session with her son. You may find it helpful in understanding and learning how to use this new method of enlightened parenting.
Robert Alt will be discussing the recent events in Iraq on Linda Chavez’s radio show today at 12:15 pm eastern time. If you cant find her on your radio dial, the show is also broadcast live on the internet.
In a Jerusalem Post article entitled "Which Islam is Best?", Daniel Pipes praises a recent backgrounder on political Islam by Rand researcher Cheryl Benard. Her primer on Islams various political faces in the world today,
Civic Democratic Islam (available for free as a PDF, either in summary or full version), presents useful strategies to counter the attraction and spread of radical, militant Islam. She does so by identifying certain Islamic groups as open to Western or American ideas and support, and those inimical to these, as a kind of rhetorical counterpart to the administrations war on terror.
For Americas intervention in Iraq to succeed, the recent insurgencies in Iraq first and foremost deserve to feel Americas wrath quickly and decisively. But we should not forget to wage a rhetorical on terror, a prudent adjunct to the heroic boots on the ground.
As we know from Robert Alt, the battle started by Moktada al-Sadrs forces is not inspired by a burst of new anti-American sentiment. Instead, it springs out of internal Iraqi politics: as the transfer date approaches, Moktada al-Sadr is trying to position himself as a leader within the Shiite majority.
Previously, he tried quietly to get some distance between himself and Grand Ayatollah Sistani, whom he [and his now deceased father, killed in 1999] regarded as too moderate and apolitical. But with the car-bomb assassination of Ayatollah Al-Hakim late year, one of Sistanis main rivals is gone and Sistanis influence has stayed strong. Looking around, al-Sadr has realized that he cannot gain influence by speaking or apprearing to move against Sistani. Hence, the armed uprisings now: they show Sistani that he is not afraid of him while simultaneously offering Sistani a kind of alliance. According to the New York Times, al-Sadr just released this statement: "I proclaim my solidarity with Ali Sistani, and he should know that I am his military wing in Iraq... I will put the city with the golden dish [Najaf] between Ali Sistanis hands after liberation."
The key here is what Sistani will do. So far, he has tried to walk the thin line: urging calm but saying that al-Sadrs political demands for an end to occupation are not unreasonable. Since Sistani also cannot move against al-Sadr openly, the Coalition needs to destroy al-Sadrs armed force in such a way that impresses Sistani with our resolve but does not suggest that we are coming after him and the other Shiites too. A tricky business, but one critical for the transition.
Because there has been a lot of speculation and misreporting about the fighting in Ramadi, I include the following press release issued by CJTF-7 in its entirety:
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – I Marine Expeditionary Force continued to execute Operation Vigilant Resolve yesterday throughout the Al Anbar Province and in several cities known to harbor anti-Iraqi forces.
Operations from the Syrian border to the Baghdad suburbs have resulted in the capture or death of a significant number of anti-Iraqi Forces and foreign terrorists. To the west, a combination of the ongoing efforts in the Husaybah and Al Qa’im regions are undercutting the ability of the anti-Iraqi Forces to import foreign fighters, cash and equipment. Heightened operations to the east, to include the cordon around Fallujah and combat operations in other major cities in the Al Anbar Province, are drawing out anti-Iraqi Forces.
Establishing a persistent presence in areas where U.S. forces have not consistently operated over the last 12 months has been costly. Operations as they unfolded yesterday in Ar Ramadi were shadowed by the loss of 12 Marines. Eleven Marines died while engaged with the anti-Iraqi Forces for more than seven hours; one died from wounds suffered during the firefight.
The increase in the number of attacks on Coalition Forces in the Al Anbar Province is attributable to the I Marine Expeditionary Force’s strategy to heighten their profile, operate throughout the zone and challenge anti-Iraqi Forces in place where they’ve gained influence.
The citizens of Ar Ramadi remained in their homes during the engagement. Several calls from Iraqi citizens to the Coalition tip line aided Coalition Forces in identifying, isolating and combating the terrorists. Throughout the fight, members of the Iraqi Police Service and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers secured key city government facilities and helped control traffic in and out of the city.
When the fighting subsided, Ar Ramadi remained under the supervision of the governor of the province, the chief of police and the Iraqi security forces.
As of 8 p.m. yesterday, the Iraqi Police Services and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps were providing security for the residents of Ar Ramadi. Coalition Forces are monitoring the situation and ready to provide support in the event that terrorists resume hostilities.
The names of the dead are being withheld pending next of kin notification.
In case you are wondering how the left will play out the current fighting in Iraq, see the London Guardians headline, "On the Brink of Anarchy." Here is the latest from the Washington Post. Although not much is clear about the specific actions, there are some very good lines in the article, most having to do with how we Americans fight and how the soldiers talk about what they are doing. I heard one of our generals last night saying something this: "We will wield a mace, but use a rapier." Very American. May they all act honorably and come home victorious.
I will pay attention to this all tonight and give you my reflections in the morning. I have a class tonight, will discuss what it means to be an American. Good timing.
Iraq hawk Andrew Sullivan opined yesterday that the situation in Iraq "sounds like civil war to me." His post from today reverses course, and asserts "No, this is not a quagmire. It’s the brightest opportunity for real change in the world since the end of the Cold War. We have to seize it." The latter is more accurate. What happened in Sadr City was largely a change of tactics rather than a dramatic change in the nature of the opposition. Rather than relying on guerilla warfare, they attempted direct attacks on hard targets. The result: they were handily defeated without the Coalition even resorting to the big guns. In Al Najaf, for instance, Apache and fixed wing air support were called in to stabilize the situation, but the aircraft did not need to fire a single shot. The mere presence of such firepower was enough to quell the masses. Sadr’s forces sustained heavy casualties. The Coalition also sustained casualties, but unlike during the Clinton years, the current President has expressed resolve to stay the course. This must be done. The disenchanted who make up the soft support for Sadr will quickly lose interest if they realize that "media event" attacks dont deter their markedly more powerful adversary, but instead simply invite terrible retribution on those who perpetrate the acts of terror.
Larry Obhof, a friend and former colleague of mine emailed a post by Jacob Levy of The Volokh Conspiracy about caffeine intake. The highest number I saw quoted in the post was an average of 1400 mg. per day based on the the following table which rates a brewed cup of coffee at 80 - 135 mg. caffeine. Based on this chart, the admirable coffee drinker Mr. Obhof estimates his average intake to be 2700 mg., a number which, having witnessed his caffeine intake habits first hand, is probably about right. Before coming to Baghdad, I would generally drink 12 - 16 cups of very strong coffee (therefore, I will presume 135 mg. cups) before 9:30 in the morning, and then keep either a cup of coffee or a pepsi in front of me throughout the day. So my conservative estimate puts my intake at 1900 mg before the day really gets going. My readers can now understand why the weeks with limited coffee here in Baghdad were a bad, bad thing.
I just stopped by the Combat Support Hospital, and was informed that they are facing a mass casualty situation. I have not seen any releases from the military yet specifying where the action was, but I suspect it will hit the news soon.
Michael Crowley of The New Republic questions, harshly questions, whether Kerry should be using former Senator Max Cleland. A very good read. Heres the last paragraph: "But does Cleland really send a much stronger message than Dukakis would? He brings no particular talent to Kerrys campaign. Apart from his status as a brave war veteran, he sends no positive message to the public. As a Vietnam vet who tried and failed to fend off attacks on his national security credentials, he undermines the claim that Kerrys own war record insulates him from similar attacks. What Cleland brings to Kerrys campaign is the emotional power of victimization—a throwback to the worst of old-time Democratic Party politics, to its emphasis on victimhood over ability and virtue. But whereas in the past it was specific interest groups—minorities, women, gays—who were the noble victims, today it is the Democratic Party itself. Cleland is a reminder to fellow Democrats that they have spend the past three years being persecuted and that its time to start avenging their humiliations. Thats fine as far as it goes. But eventually Kerry will have to stand for something more than Bush hatred and payback. Revenge is not a campaign platform."
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Senior Coalition officials announced that an Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shia cleric whose militia is responsible for much of Sundays violence in Iraq. The warrant is not for Sundays events, however, but is related to murder of Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, a rival Shiite cleric who was brutally stabbed and shot to death last year in front of a mosque. As of the time of this writing, al-Sadr is not in custody.
The May issue of Reason just came out. It includes a review (sorry, its only available in the paper version at this point) of Madeleine Albrights memoirs and the recent books by George Soros and Wesley Clark. The reviewer, contributing editor Matt Welch, asks an important question: Why did all three of these individuals, who supported Bill Clintons 1999 intervention in the Balkans, oppose the Iraq War? After all, he writes:
Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authority of the United Nations. Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter....
John F. Burns article in The New York Times on the uprising in Sadr City seems as good as anything I have seen thus far on the issue. Seven U.S. soldiers died in the battle with militia attached to the thirty-one year old ayatollah Moktada al-Sadr. This guy, who is suspected of other killings, should have been arrested last year. That this uprising is not good news is true enough, yet, I dont think that Burns comments in the news story, ("Together, the events in Falluja and the other cities on Sunday appeared likely to shake the American hold on Iraq more than anything since the invasion that toppled Saddam Husseins government last April 9." And later: "But on Sunday, Mr. Sadrs veiled threats to stir public disorder erupted into carefully orchestrated violence, with potentially dire implications over the long term for the Americans, and for Iraq.") are justified. That things are rough and, as has been said by all, are likely to get even more difficult before they get better, is true. But why does that led logically to such comments? It takes a certain turn of mind (i.e., one who has been opposed to the liberation of Iraq in the first place), to question the war every time a soldier is killed, or more than a half-dozen killed, or every time something doesnt go as well as it should under the best of circumstances. I regret this because such a turn of mind--over time--can have a corrosive effect on public opinion. We should stand fast. We have more friends than enemies.
The Belmontclub blog has some interesting paragraphs on both the Najaf shootout with the Spanish contingent, as well as the Fallujah atrocities and what we may be planning, and why it is not Mogadishu. (Thanks to Reductioadabsurdum). Here is a map of Fallujah that may proves useful in the coming weeks.
Lawrence Kaplan argues that while the American people have tolarated casualties in wars, their military and political leaders have not. Because the public takes its cues from above, it becomes very important for Bush, Powell, and others in the administration, to keep repeating that America will stay the course. Good article, and it will need to be re-read many times during the next few months. See also a previous note.
Michael OHanlon, of Brookings, generally approves of Rumsfelds plan to revamp how the U.S. stations its military forces overseas, but has a few modest suggestions.
Jorge Castaneda, the foreign minister of Mexico for three years, and a candidate (from the Left) for president in 2006, writes on op-ed in the Los Angeles Times reflecting on Samuel P. Huntington’s recent article in Foreign Policy on why Mexican immigration to this country is different in kind from the immigration of previous groups. Castaneda, after seemingly praising Huntington’s purposes and understanding in ever moderate tones, then says that "a new type of assimilation" (of which amnesty is a part) must be constructed in the U.S. And this has to do, in part, with how Mexicans should understand themselves. Listen to this:
"We must change our traditional attitudes toward emigration and toward Mexicans in the U.S., no longer viewing them as exiles who have given up, who have thrown in the towel. As Fox has said, we have to consider our compatriots in the U.S. as part of a Mexican nation in the cultural and ethnic sense, and continue to push for improvements in their lives."
Ken Masugi is right to say that "More clearly than ever, immigration is a foreign policy and a national security issue." John Fontes testimony before the House Immigration Subcommittee on April 1, on H.R. 3191 introduced by Congressmen Jim Ryun to establish the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance as Federal law, is also worth looking at; it is not unrelated.
Robert’s note below on O’Rourke’s piece on John Kerry in the Philippines in 1986 needs a footnote. I was also part of that delegation to monitor the elections of 1986. This was the first explicit move in Reagan’s democracy project that--because once the election was scheduled we wanted to make sure it would be honest--looked with a weary eye on a former ally. After all, even though Marcos had recently moved toward a kind of nationalism and socialism, and put his country into a tail-spin, he had been a sincere ally of the U.S. since WW II. The people, however, were being strangled. Reagan decided to act to ensure that the election--which we were pretty certain would, if fairly conducted, go against Marcos--wasn’t going to be manipulated by Marcos and his thugs.
Because I wanted to stay away from the politicos (all of whom were spending their time in Manila; more cameras there) I volunteered to go to the island of Negros (main city is Bacolod), the fourth largest island in the country made up of thousands of island. It is one of the larger islands, with a population of around three million, is just west of Cebu and South of Panay. It is the prime sugar growing area of the country. I wanted to be in an area that was more interesting and more dangerous (I was young then) than Manila. There were four of us to cover the North of the island. We had many interesting adventures, including being arrested in a Northern fishing town by the mayor, a Marcos supporter, after we discovered that he wasn’t allowing his people to vote. We were brought to his office, offered something to drink. The mayor entered, as the guards were asked to leave. He pulled out a Colt 45, cocked it, placed it gently on the table, then delivered one of the best speeches I have ever heard (or read). It was Demosthenes-like in its elegance and pith, talked about friendship among nations, our common fight against the Japanese, the love his people had for America (and especially General MacArthur), and all the good that Marcos has done for both his people and ours. He said he would not believe that the U.S. came to his country to overthrow such an ally. My colleague and I were unpersuaded and, after we were able to prove to him that we were--in effect--representing the policy of the United States by asking for free and fair elections, he saw that he had no choice. He knew the regime was finsihed. He uncocked the pistol, placed it in his holster, bowed deeply, and bid us Godspeed. We went back to the polling stations, and noticed--unlike an hour earlier--the whole town was lined up to vote, and we were cheered. Marcos lost.
I mention all this because the O’Rourke essay reminds me, and to note that I also saw at the time that a choice had to be made and almost everyone I was with (both Republicans and Democrats) made the right choice, but some politicians (like Kerry) didn’t know what to do because there was a choice, and because they couldn’t calculate the consequences to their own persons, they dithered. Yet, a decision had to be made. Not all Republicans liked the gambit either, it should be pointed out. There were a few there who were Kerry-like in their unwilligness to decide in what they called a gamble. Even after I got back, Republican sentiment was not simply on Reagan’s side in this matter. But it worked. And Kerry, and such other over calculating and wrongly ambitious low level politicos, were jerks then (as O’Rourke says) and remain jerks now.
P.J. O’Rourke relates the story of his first meeting John Kerry in this article in The Weekly Standard. Kerry, who was acting as a U.S. election observer in the Philipines, was contacted by reporters including O’Rourke to talk to, and, if possible, provide protection for a group of election tabulators who were terrified after witnessing voting "irregularities." Kerry refused to even talk to them. O’Rourke does not spare Kerry the wrath of his pen:
Now, with benefit of hindsight, I think I can tell you why Kerry didn’t [assist the election tabulators]. He was caught in Kerry-ish calculation--an ambitious young senator on his first important bipartisan delegation with its delicate mission of neutrality. Cory Aquino was very popular. But so was President Reagan. Which way to have it? Why, have it both ways! So Kerry was firmly behind Pash Commit of Flips to Dem [journalist shorthand for the oft-repeated phrase, Passionate Committment of Phillipine people to democracy], up to a point. Just as today Kerry is brave sailor/bold war protester; foe of Saddam/friend of Hans Blix; political underdog/entitled nominee; big government liberal/corporate tax-cutting conservative; rider of Harleys/marrier of Heinz; and, incidentally, still a real jerk.
O’Rourke also has a forthcoming book, which is bound to be fun given its title:
For what is now the third time, I was unable to meet with the 1486th today. I came to the Green Zone this morning to catch the shuttle to the airport, which was the designated meeting point. When I arrived at the shuttle staging area, I was told by a soldier that Rumsfeld himself had issued a directive ordering everyone under his command not to travel outside the Green Zone because of large and potentially violent demonstrations. A travel advisory issued by the U.S. Consulate stated "[w]ith the concurrence of Ambassador Bremer, travel outside the Green Zone from 0500 – 1200 hrs on Sunday 4 April 04 will be prohibited due to large demonstrations at ALL Green Zone check points." At 8:15 when I arrived, there was no sign yet of protests. I have not been able to ascertain the nature of the demonstrations, although I have heard that they have been orchestrated by Shia contingents.
Niall Fergusons view of the future of Europe is severe. The continent "is experiencing fundamental demographic and cultural changes whose long term consequences no one can forsee." The facts: population decline is as great as it was during the Blavk Death in the 14th century; the median age will be 50 by 2050, and the welfare state will need drastic reform since one in three will be 65 or older; immigration may be the answer, from Muslim lands, of course. Bleak.
Bill Kristol considers the difference between Mogadishu and Fallujah, and emphasizes the contrasts, rather than the similarities. Our retreat from Mogadishu and American passivity triggered mischief around the world; not cutting and running in Iraq will have good consequences. Christopher Hitchens elegenatly makes it all even more clear. The "Dantesque scenes" from Fallujah should not lead us into existential despair. Rather, they should remind us that we did the right thing in going into Iraq in the first place, else all of Iraq would continue to look like Fallujah; "this Heart of Darkness element is part of the case for regime change to begin with."
Well, things look brighter today in Iraq. A pizza shop just opened in the Green Zone, and after a wait of just over an hour, I had a little taste of home. Not as good as home, but a taste of home nonetheless. And then when I went into the PX, there it was: Season 2 of the Sopranos. The perfect inspiration for a long afternoon of writing.
Tomorrow I am scheduled to meet up with the 1486th unit from Ohio out at the airport. We tried to meet up there last week, but failed. This trip will keep me out of pocket most of the day, so unless I get lucky, I doubt that I will have any time to blog. Ill be on the blog again on Monday.
Now, if I would have known the connection between algebra and dating when I was single, perhaps I would have paid more attention in my math classes. This fellow has figured out what your odds of succesfully getting a date based on a phone number attained at a bar. And it can be expressed in an equation. (Thanks to John Derbyshire at The Corner).
The Georgias "House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, ensuring the question would be put before voters on the November ballot.
The 122-52 vote came after weeks of tension in the Legislature. In its first consideration of the ban, most of the Democratic-controlled House voted in favor of the measure, but it fell three votes short of the two-thirds required for passage.
On Wednesday, four Democratic members of the Legislatures Black Caucus provided the additional votes needed to pass the amendment, putting their conservative social beliefs ahead of party loyalty."
As Ken Masugi notes, it is important to note "that four black Democrats helped form the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot. This could be the first sign of a questioning of the dubious established position that gay rights is a legitimate extension of traditional civil rights."
The increase in unemployment alongside a rise in jobs is a typical anomaly of how labor statistics are generated. Basically, the labor pool (the number of people seeking work) expanded by more than the number of jobs. But the labor pool number is squishy and less meaningful than the jobs number, which is a solid number.
In past months, there have been times when the job number was flat or even falling, but unemployment went down, because the labor pool shrunk and the media would say "people are discouraged and gave up looking for work." Conversely, then, we should say today that the rise of the unemployment rate by 0.1 percent is good news, as it means people are encouraged by job growth to re-enter the labor pool. Dont hold your breath for this interpretation to be given.
One final note: in all those fancy economic models that predict the outcome of presidential elections, the unemployment rate is never a significant factor. General GDP and job growth and the decisive factors. Thats why all those models are now predicting a comfortable Bush win. But of course, those models were wrong about Gore, and have other problems besides.
Hope this helps.
First, I just ordered two copies of your book on Jimmy Carter! Ill give the second to a guy I dont like, but who claims to like Carter; itll make him angry. Congratulations!
I have a question. Explain to me how over 300,000 new jobs can be created, yet the unemployment numbers go up by one tenth of a point. Someone just asked me this in class, and I fumbled.
Okay gang: My new book, The Real Jimmy Carter, is coming out from Regnery in May, but it is already being shipped at Amazon.com for those of you who cant wait.
The subtitle gives a nice flavor for the argument: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry. Nuf said.
Sometimes, you take little things for granted, like Daylight Savings Time. It began last Sunday in Europe. It begins this Sunday in the U.S. And, per a recent order of the governing council, it begins tonight here in Iraq. Accordingly, for the next couple of days, I will be nine hours ahead of Eastern Time, instead of my normal eight.
If memory serves me right, Babylon was greatly admired for the advance that was open sewers. Millenia later, many parts of Iraq still offer this modern convenience in the streets. I say this because my taxi ride through Baghdad this morning took me through some areas of the city with reasonable accumulation of free standing sewage. Talking to soldiers, the trash and the sewage are generally two of the things which they list as things which surprised them when they arrived. That said, Baghdad has cleaned up considerably in the last year. But as with most things, the answer is more complex than simply providing services. The people need to want to use them. Thus, a big issue here was not just getting trash service, but instilling a sense of pride and responsibility among the locals, who had become accustomed to simply dumping trash wherever was convenient. The soldiers have stepped to the challenge and provided examples in this area, cleaning out spaces onced filled with garbage to make usable green space for children. So even with the sewage & trash, it is easy to complain, unless you see how far the city has come.
This morning’s March jobs report is the worst possible news for Kerry. The consensus estimate was for 123,000 jobs; the wildest optimists thought it might be as high as 200,000. But the number is (drum roll please): 308,000. (And it is possible this might be revised upward in a few weeks.) The stock market is poised for a monster upmove on the opening because of this news.
Kerry and gang can’t say this is a "jobless recovery" any more. But I’ll bet they try anyway.
Today is Friday, which is essentially the equivalent of Sunday here in Iraq. That means that the stores (including the internet cafes) do not open until late in the afternoon, and the streets are generally a little less congested. It is also the day of the manufactured protests at the mosques, where individuals are paid to participate by disgruntled fans of the former regime.
Because I could not check my email at the cafe, I made my way to the Green Zone this morning. It was a longer ride than usual, because four bridges across the Tigris were closed, and traffic did not seem to have taken a holiday. My taxi driver kept in reasonably good spirits, repeating "It is Friday. Go home and sleep" to the surrounding traffic. At one point he asked where I am from in America. I have lived enough places that this question could receive many answers, but for today, the answer was Chicago. "Oh, Chicago," he exclaimed. "Me, I am from Texas. Cowboy," he replied with a chuckle. When I finally got to the street leading to the Green Zones checkpoints, I found that it was closed. I tried to weasel my way through, but the Iraqi police would have none of it. So it was back to the hotel, to indulge the amoebas which had decided to have a bit of a party at my expense. Im sure it will be all the rage soon. Just call it the Mesopotamian diet.
Bill Buckley thinks that Clarke’s apology is, of course, silly and not warranted, yet, he sees it in a much broader political light as part of a comprehensive attack on Bush--for shortcomings in current history--a kind of attack which is rare in American politics: comprehensive and full of vitriol.
Charles Krauthammer also reflects on the apology; he calls it a pseudo-apology and a neat trick: "Indeed, one has to admire it -- the most cynical and brilliantly delivered apology in recent memory: Richard Clarke using the nationally televised Sept. 11 commission hearings to address the families of the victims. Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you.
Many were moved. I was not. For two reasons. First, the climactic confession I failed you -- the one that packed the emotional punch -- was entirely disingenuous. Clarke did the mea culpa and then spent the next 2 1/2 hours of testimony -- as he did on every talk show known to man and in the 300 pages of his book -- demonstrating how everyone else except him had failed. And they failed because the stubborn, ignorant, ideologically blinkered, poll-driven knaves and fools he had been heroically fighting against within the government would not listen to him.
Message: They failed you.
Second, by blaming the government for the deaths of their loved ones, Clarke deftly endorsed the grotesque moral inversion by which those who died on Sept. 11 are victims of . . . George Bush. This is about as morally obscene as the implication (made by, among others, the irrepressible Howard Dean) that those who died in the Madrid bombings were also victims of George Bush."
A couple of comments have been posted, and more have been emailed to me suggesting what the proper response should be to Fallujah. I did not go into detail in my article yesterday, but suggested that "[t]hose who commit violent acts must be dealt with in the most serious manner. . . . . Failing to respond to the violence therefore would invite still more violence, not less." The difficulty for most people who saw the horrific images is to fight the inclination to make Fallujah one big glass parking lot. I am convinced that a strong response should be made (and will be made), but we should limit collateral damage to the extent that we can. Note that I did not say that there should be no collateral damage--we do not live in wonderland, and even with our technology, war brings unfortunate consequences. But in what is a tribal society, there is no need to create more enemies by targeting those who are not causing the problem. Sometimes this weakens what would otherwise be a more dramatic response, but I will give you one example of why prudence is necessary here. When the missiles were fired at the Al Rasheed Hotel a few weeks ago, we did not hear an immediate missile response. You see, the United States has the technology to track where a missile has been fired from, and to launch a devestating counter strike that will often hit the launch site before the enemy missile hits its target. But in an urban setting, sending a barrage capable of clearing one square acre of space is not necessarily prudent. Indeed in this case, the terrorist had placed the truck and launcher near a hotel, undoubtedly hoping that the U.S. would respond with heavy firepower and would be blamed for killing civilians.
What is the moral of this story: Our response should be decisive and should serve as an example, but it should be calculated to do the maximum damage to those most deserving. I have every confidence that the Marines will be up to this task.
U.S. manufacturers "boosted activity for the 10th straight month in March and factory jobs growth accelerated, cementing a key pillar in the recovery, a survey showed."
I thought I would take a moment to talk about a theme in my recent articles--that theme being that the acts of terror are not representative of the general sentiment in Iraq. For those who do not know me or my work, it might be good to know up front that I am not, nor have I ever been mistaken for, Little Mary Sunshine. Caustic and ascerbic are terms that friends have used to describe my literary inclinations. And whether I live up to those descriptives, my articles are generally aimed to shedding light and casting scorn on the failings of a theory or a candidate.
Why then, you may ask, the optimistic perspective in articles covering horrific acts? The answer is that it is something which has been foisted upon me by the people here. The Iraqis literally will seek you out to tell their stories, and they tell stories of hope for the future and rejection of the tyranny of the past. The soldiers, while at times more reluctant to talk to reporters, will tell you their stories, and they tell stories which reveal character and resolve. On some of the worst days in Iraq, I have been privy to some the best of humanity.
Why then, do other reporters not say the same? Here I can only speculate, but I think there are likely many reasons. First, I am fairly sure that some simply do not want to see it. I have written about this before, so I will not belabor the point. But for others, I think they do not report the good because it is difficult. It is difficult to recognize the good when you are in an area that is not safe, or when the events of the day show you the worst that human nature has to offer. It is easier then to side with the taxi drivers who decry that "Baghdad is lost" every time there is a street closing.
So for those of you who were worrying that I have lost my cynical edge--don’t fear, it is still there. It is just that the Iraqis and the men and women in uniform will not allow me to indulge it.
Yesterdays posts evoked a fair amount of reader response. Those who know me expressed shock that I have survived. No, not survived the missiles or bullets, but survived without a steady stream of coffee until yesterday. Others expressed sympathy for all those who must have come into contact with me during the previous caffeine-deprived month. But the most common response was an admonition never to run across the street without body armor again. When I considered that one of the people who made this recommendation has the authority to issue death warrants, I felt obliged to comply.
As promised, the good folks at No Left Turns have posted my pictures from yesterdays protest. You can see them here.
Given that the casualty-aversion myth is once again front page news--the Fellujah incident reminding Dan Rather and the others that something similar happened in Mogadishu in 1993 (and Beirut earlier) and that we pulled out as a result--this long piece by
Lt. Col. Richard A. Lacquement, Jr. for the Naval War College Review is worth reading. He understands that our enemies tend to think that once we have casualties in a conflict we will turn-tail and run. He considers this historically and finds it not to be true. He also asks whether casualty sensitivity affects our national security objectives. He thinks this latter question is more difficult to answer. Our will and resolve is being tested. It is common knowledge that our enemies--bin Laden included--think that Mogadishu exemplifies our character. Lacquement argues that we have always had the stomach for such things and, I add, most certainly since 9/11. Let our enemies not understand this. Thats fine.
This web site, OpenSecrets.gov, is an interesting and convenient way to learn about campaign finance, including 527s etc.
It is also easy to find out who has given money to candidates, just type your zip code into their search engine. The site is sponsored by the The Center for Responsive Politics .
Our man in Iraq--I talked with him yesterday and he is doing fine and, like any young and adventureous American male, is enjoying the little pleasures in life, coffee from his own small coffee maker in his own room--Robert Alt has some thoughts on the Fallujah horror and how to think about it: we have to reflect on both the hope and promise of Iraq, even as we witness acts of horror. "This is the paradox of transitional Iraq: promise punctuated by peril. And this is worth remembering the next time you see a tragic picture from Iraq. Do not mistake the few people rejoicing at death and destruction for the average Iraqi, who is attempting to rebuild himself and his country for a better life."
Peggy Noonan has a few words to say about the barbarity in Fallujah yesterday: "It is hard not to hate the teenagers and young men who celebrated under the bridge where they hanged the charred bodies. They are human expressions of nihilism. They take pleasure in evil, and they were not shy to show it. They are arrogant. They think barbarity is their right.
If this time, in this incident, these young men are left unchecked, their ways and attitudes, their assumptions and method of operating will only be encouraged, and spread. So we had better check them." By the way,
The New York Times shows a large above the fold color photo of two charred bodies hanging off the bridge in Fallujah. Does anyone want to argue that the Times is not on the Left? So much for all the news thats fit to print.
Here is a review of the Al Franken "Air America" gamble from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Instapundit is following it and has some useful links, if you are interested. Its off to a rocky start, with some six stations running it. It is noted that it displaced a Korean and a Chinese station in the San Francisco area, by the way. I have not heard it, but have seen many (too many) news reports on it, and I am not impressed. As far as Im concerned, I would like it to be succesful, just to see what that may mean in substance. But I doubt that it will be. It is an artificial creation, brought on by arrogant liberal money (and mind-set). It is born from the top down, rather than from the bottom up as is the case with Rush and the other conservative shows. Rush and the others grew--and kept--their audience the hard way, by being interesting and amusing; and all the while the audience knew that it was getting something other than CBS and CNN. They were predisposed to listen and, once they did, they were hooked. The liberals--when they are able to pick up a station that runs Franken--will listen out of ideological duty, then they will be bored, then they will stop. It wont last.