Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


I don’t know what to make of the Ahmad Chalabi mess, but this story claims that there is rock solid evidence that Chalabi spied for Iran. Watch how this will be turned--immediately--into the next big anti-Bush story on Iraq. More proof that everything is falling apart...and now the media will make Chalabi into a good guy and be given plenty of air time no doubt, because he will be critical of the administration: That he has lost authority is proof that the administration’s plan for Iraq isn’t working, etc.

The media

This Opinion Dynamics/FOX News poll is worth a look (thanks to Instapundit). Note that most Americans think the media is out of step with American public opinion. Note the response to a few questions: "On the situation in Iraq today, where do you think most of the problems are being created?" In the news media 27%, In Iraq 23, In Washington, DC, or 18." Another: "Which of the following news stories upset you more?" The beheading of an American
civilian by Muslim terrorists 60%, The abuse of Iraqi prisoners
by U.S. soldiers 8%. One more: "Do you think the media spent an excessive amount of time covering either of the following news stories?" The Iraqi prisoner abuse story 34%, The beheading of American Nick Berg 9%.

Now, note what Morton Kondracke has to say on the media: "The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic.

The media - unperturbed by mistakenly likening both the Afghan war and last year’s invasion of Iraq to Vietnam - focuses overwhelmingly on the bad news coming out of Iraq. There is plenty of bad news - but there is also much good, and it is being almost completely ignored."

Pigeon suicide bombers

The BBC reports: "British spy chiefs secretly considered training pigeons to fly into enemy targets carrying explosives or biological weapons, it has been revealed.

British intelligence set up a ’pigeon committee’ at the end of World War II to ensure expertise gained in the use of the birds to carry messages was not lost." (Thanks to

Black flight from public schools

This New York Times article is very much worth reading and noting: It talks about the flight to private schools by blacks, and how it is accelerating. Also see Black Alliance for Educational Options  

Berg killers arrested

Iraqi police "have arrested four people in the killing of American Nicholas Berg and believe a nephew of Saddam Hussein was involved in Berg’s beheading, an Iraqi security official said Friday," according to ABC news.

Bush as Carter?

The latest conventional wisdom on the Presdiential election is that President Bush’s presidency is ripe for a wipe-out in November along the same lines as Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980. Inside the beltway punditry has it that John Kerry then is the new Ronald Reagan. Steve Hayward takes issue with this nonsense and demolishes the conventional wisdom.

As James Traficant used to say: ’Beam me up, Scotty.’ Was Traficant the last intelligent Democrat?

The theme of the election

The chaotic and confusing political world is filled with rancor. The Democrats combine with the Liberal media elite to question everything about President Bush, including not only his policies but his purposes as well. This man--it is argued explicitly by Democratic leaders from Jimmy Carter to Nancy Pelosi to John Kerry, is an incompetent idiot, a warmonger, a man who is responsible for the death of Americans. A recent survey of academic historians finds that eight out of ten historians rate the Bush’s presidency a failure. The attacks are relentless. The war in Iraq is an abject failure: it was started for the wrong reason, and then badly handled; nothing has gone right. The distortion and exageration is relentless; there is no let up. Malice is everywhere. We prefer bombing wedding parties to negotiating. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is morally equivalent to beheading prisoners. Bush’s cabinet (save for Colin Powell whom the Liberals can’t attack, yet) is made up of goons and idiots. Rumsfeld should go, to be followed by the tyrant Ashcroft. President Bush, according to some polls, is now losing support and the election of John Kerry is, according to Stan Greenberg, is almost a certainty.

This is not, I’m afraid, a caricature of American politics. This is what we have come to. But this is not where we are going. We are moving into a period that demands some clarity on the major issues, and on the major players. This period is called an election. It is a presidential election, the kind we have been having for over two hundred years. We Americans have experience in these matters. And, in the end, it will not be determined by Katie Curic and CNN, but by you and me, ordinary citizens who will think things through and will play their hand. We know how to play poker, we know when to hold them, and we know when we should fold; and we are far from folding. An Iraqi government will be formed, and--although not without bloodshed--Iraqis will not slip into the chasm of civil war. They will take advantage of this opportunity to act more like men, and less like slaves. Old habits have been broken and new ones are being established. The task is hard, and you have to be cruel and hard-hearted not to wish them well. The President will be talking about these matters, and his words will resonate. His opponents will wallow in their hatred, and John Kerry--who, I remind you has not even budged upword in the polls--will continue to sound as though he is running for secretary general of the U.N. rather than for president of the world’s sole superpower. And the American people will decide whether they want peace through strength or peace through talk. I know how they will decide for two reasons. One, ever since the birth of the new Democratic Party (stillborn in 1972) they did not decide in favor of soft-kneed Liberalism; when Carter became a wimp, they threw him out; Clinton got elected and re-elected because he persuaded us that he wasn’t a Liberal and, besides, the USSR was kaput and things were less perilous, so we allowed a brief sexual interlude between two Bushes (as Chris Hitchens calls the period). Two, the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001. This is the final cause of all our actions, and our actions since then only make sense in light of that. It looks as though Democrats and the elite media have forgotten this massive fact; but the American people have not. If the Democrats would assume what we assume, they could justly criticize some of Bush’s actions in their particulars; but that is not what they are doing. They have boxed themselves in, they have played their last card much too early, they have quentioned President Bush comnpetence, intelligence, and even good will, and they have wrapped it in a word, Iraq. I am not surprised by this, I have always maintained that the election would be decided on Iraq; yet, I did not imagine the ill will that has settled in. Yet, no matter how much the Katie Curics of the world want to help him, John Kerry is still a man who questioned America’s cause a generation ago by throwing away the medals as a gesture for "peace and justice" and a few months later said that he had decided to "renounce the symbols which this country gives" to its soldiers at war. And then he said they weren’t really his own medals, just the ribbons were his. And even later he said "They’re my medals, I can do goddam what I want with them." Yes you can, Senator, and we can decide that you should not be president of the empire of liberty.

No one has ever argued that republican government is easy and smooth. But we have our republican institutions, we have a couple of centuries of habits, we remember our heroes, we know what are fighting men are like, and we can--in the end--tell humbug from truth. And this even though we have faulty information, and bias in the news with people pushing facts around like your all-too-common historians at universities. But the big push is here, the cards are being played, and we are in the game. In the end--my anger at the distorters aside--I revel in the hand we have been dealt and enjoy the game because I remember what Churchill said about democracy: "At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy, is the little man walking into the booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper." It is these little men, ones who teach hope to all, and despair to none, that I trust. Malice can’t change that.

Training the ICDC

I spent Wednesday at the Joint Operations Center, or JOC in Tuz. As the name implies, the JOC is an operations center for the Iraqi Police (IP), the Iraqi Civil Defense Corp (ICDC), and the Coalition. It also serves as a training center for the ICDC, and on this day, I would be accompanying Sergeants Graham and Black in running the men through their paces.

As some will recall, when I first came to Iraq, a number of military sources pushed the idea to me that the ICDC is a success story for the Iraqi security forces. A key point was that the members of the ICDC were from the neighborhoods they would be patrolling, and therefore were trusted by the people. However, in recent days, the ICDC’s reputation has become tarnished. First, an ICDC unit refused to fight in Fallujah, prompting questions both as to their dedication and level of training. Even previous supporters like Brigadier General Kimmitt and General Sanchez admitted that the ICDC had come up short. Conventional wisdom quickly settled on the conclusion that America had tried to do too much too fast—that is, the ICDC had been rushed through insufficient training. A second major failing came here in the Tuz area of operations. The ICDC was manning a checkpoint 40 days ago when they were attacked by anti-Iraqi forces. There were about 40 ICDC at the outpost—which included a building with high ground—compared to around 15 bandits. When ICDC soldier Farhad Abdullah was hit in the chest by an RPG, the other ICDC soldiers literally ran from the location despite superior numbers and superior position. This act, combined with lax habits in the use of their firearms (e.g., poor muzzle control, walking around with clips in their AKs and the safety off, misfiring of weapons when jumping from the bed of trucks, etc.) make Army forces less than enthusiastic about conducting joint operations with the ICDC.

The training mission at the JOC is intended to turn this around—that is, to turn the ICDC into a force that will be able to stand on its own. The program has already had some successes. For example, the day that I was there, none of the ICDC were seen walking around the base with clips in their weapons, and most of the ICDC were exercising reasonable muzzle control (that is, they weren’t slinging their weapons every which way). This may sound small, but these are big steps. That said, there is still a lot of work to do. When I was touring the base, we stumbled on one of the ICDC soldiers sleeping on the job in a lookout tower. The next day, the CO found all four towers sheltering slumbering guards. The level of personal discipline among the ICDC members is grossly lacking. They straggle in late, and are quick to complain and “discuss” orders. I could not help but think that the average band camper demonstrates more discipline than the average ICDC soldier. The ICDC officers have very little control over the soldiers, because of fear of retaliation. As I mentioned in a previous post, if an officer withholds pay for a soldier’s negligence (say, for example, sleeping on the job), then he will likely be threatened with retaliation by the somnambulant soldier’s family. Sergeants Graham and Black are attempting to change this by filtering disciplinary actions through untouchables such as themselves. They pound the importance of arriving on time and prepared by demanding pushups and other PT for failures. But it is a very tough job. As Sergeant Graham put it, under Saddam, military discipline and control was achieved with a nine millimeter—the common weapon of execution. Anything else is considered weak. So the large but soft spoken Sgt. Black finds himself raising his voice to bark orders or issuing pushups more often than he would like in order to even get their attention.

On Wednesday, they were practicing checkpoint search procedures. I actually participated in the training, which I will explain in greater detail in a forthcoming article. After the training, a procession of arbaena—essentially a memorial service—was held in commemorating the 40th day after the killing of the ICDC soldier. The stage displayed a picture of Farhad Abdullah on an easel. The lawn was packed with mourners, and the service, which lasted about an hour, included many speeches (in Arabic or Kurdish—without translation), and a performance by a choir of children.


After the trip to Mansur, the guys met for their regular physical training (PT). I tried to explain that this whole “embedded reporter” thing has limits. In the end, I did join them, if only to make clear that I am comparatively old and objectively out of shape, and they are not.

Safire on Sarin

William Safire had an excellent piece in yesterdays NY Times about the media’s downplaying of the discovery of Sarin gas in Iraq. As he points out, the story was buried on p. 10 of USA Today, and I am told that at the press conference in Baghdad, not a single U.S. reporter chose to ask a question about the find. Admittedly, this was also the day that Izzadin Salim was assassinated, but after all the grousing I have heard in the press room about the lack of any WMDs, this was a discovery that certainly merited a couple of questions. Anyone who doubts this needs only to talk to a soldier. The universal response on the base was "this changes everything." Their statement was not one of justifications for the war in Iraq, but one directed at safety. If the terrorists are using WMDs in IEDs, then the level of precaution must change. Uparmored Humvees may provide adequate protection against explosives, but they are not hermetically sealed. And despite the fact that the soldiers did not intend to make a point about justification for war, and despite the fact that I have long said that the war was not exclusively about WMDs, the fact remains that with this discovery, a WMD has been found in Iraq. It is simply no longer accurate to say that there were no WMDs in Iraq.

My Brush with a Camel Spider

For those of you who have not seen a camel spider before, here is a picture sent to me by a friend at the CPA of a couple of these august arachnids (click on the picture for the full effect). There are all sorts of myths about these spiders here in Iraq (that they aggressively chase people, etc.), but I can assure you that they do exist, and that they seem to like to congregate in the outhouses at night. We have not had any as large as the ones in this picture at FOB Bernstein, but we do get some "babies" which are about the size of small tarantulas. The base is a former Iraqi air force installation, and the bunkers that quarter the troops look like pyramids with the squared off tops. Last night, I was reclining against the base of one of the bunkers grabbing a smoke with Specialist Dickens, when he exclaimed that something big just moved. I stood up, and a few inches from where I was sitting was one of these nice-sized "baby" camel spiders. Dickens quickly transformed it into a Rorschach spot on the side of the bunker. For the naturalists out there, I have also seen one scorpion at Bernstein. It was small and black, which I have been told makes it among the more dangerous varieties. I also saw a large number of bats in Baghdad, swooping in and out of the tall lights to capture insects drawn to the glow.

UPDATE: I received this picture from a friend at CPA who specifically claimed that it was not a forgery, but based upon the posts, there is reason to believe that it may have been modified. I will be a bigger man than the Boston Globe (which to my knowledge still has not apologized for running a story showing pictures held by protesters which were supposed to depict soldiers raping Iraqis, but were in reality pictures taken from porn sites) and retract any endorsement of the picture barring verification of its origins and validity. As for the content of my post, the information at the Urban Legend web site, which lists the leg span of camel spiders at approximately 5 inches, is consistent with my experience and my report above that the spiders I have personally seen are roughly the size of small tarantulas.

U.N. oil-for-food scandal

ABC News reports: "At least three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multimillion-dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime, U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABC News."

More Pictures

For those who have not seen them yet, there are now pictures up from last week’s raid—including a couple pictures taken through night vision goggles. You can see them here. NRO also posted my piece on the victims of Abu Ghraib here.


Tuesday the fourth platoon was assigned to be the Quick Reaction Force, or QRF. Essentially, this means that if any unit runs into trouble in the field, the fourth platoon would be the first to respond. But today, the platoon was all dressed up with no place to go. On days like this, the guys bide their time with the assistance of personal DVD players (our room is working through season three of the Sopranos) and video games. I personally made some progress on articles, and some progress on season three of the Sopranos.

The Village of Mansur

On Monday, we visited the village of Mansur, a Kurdish town in FOB Bernstein’s area of operations. Mansur is much like many of the villages in the area: mud huts lining streets which serve as thoroughfares for people and poultry. A murky creek runs through the village. It is redirected into channels to provide water to wash kitchen utensils and to water the herds of sheep and goats. The sewage collects in another channel which runs down the center the same streets in which the children play, before its black waters joins with the creek.

The muqtar for the village has a luxurious home by local standards, with a concrete courtyard, a small grass yard with a few trees, and a meeting room in which he has recently installed air conditioning. After we arrived, one of the villagers, Noman Najim, came to see Spc. Guyton (aka “Doc”), the medic for the platoon. Noman’s leg had been hurting, and Doc could tell at once that it was broken just above the knee. When he asked when this happened, Noman explained that he injured it in an auto accident 10 months ago! The bone was not healing properly, and would require re-breaking and possible surgery. Noman explained that he had previously gone to the hospital in Tuz, but he was told that they could not do anything for him. This is not the first time I have heard of this happening in Iraq. When I rode with the medevac unit, Spc. Patterson explained to me that the thing he found most surprising about his time in Iraq is the utter lack of medical services. For example, he had seen a girl of three sent home to die without treatment by local doctors, with burns over 65% of her body. Given the ethic and religious tensions in this region, the question regarding Noman’s failure to receive treatment is whether the hospital could not do anything because they lacked medical equipment and training, or whether they simply refused him service because he is Kurdish. After Doc had given Noman some pain killers and made a referral, he met with a few other locals, who were suffering from skin and eye conditions.

The last time we went to the village, we did not have time for a full meal. The muqtar would remedy that on this visit. He served chicken and rice, schwarma bread, green onions, tomato and cucumber salad, an eggplant and tomato dish, chicken broth soup, and chai tea. Before lunch, Lt. Naum discussed plans to refurbish the local school: replacing broken windows and doors, and fixing a leaking roof.

After lunch, we went to meet a sheikh in the village who was a Kurdish tribal leader for much of north central Iraq. The topic of conversation was land disputes—which is the issue in this region. Saddam Hussein instituted an Arabization program beginning about 30 years ago, in which he sent Arabs into this region to occupy homes and seize chattels from the local Kurds. When Saddam was removed, the Kurds came back to reclaim their lands, displacing the Arabs who had occupied the same for an average of a couple of decades. As a result, there is a tent city of Arabs displaced by Kurds just outside of Mansur—with the attendant level of distrust and animosity which you would expect. In this case, the sheikh’s concerns included not only claims against participants in the Arabization, but encroachment by other Kurdish tribes. These controversies are old, as was evidenced by the decaying map he used to plead his case—a map which dated from 1929.

Lt. Naum explained that there was now a Land Dispute office in Tuz to address these controversies, but this kind of centralized, governmental method of resolving disputes is not customary to the locals. Much of Iraq still operates fundamentally on a tribal and familial basis. A good deal of the violence is predicated on past wrongs between families and tribes which make the Hatfields and McCoys look like rookies in the grudge-match business. This tribal/familial model of conflict resolution even transcends the Iraqi military ranks. Iraqi officers are afraid to punish subordinates by, for example, taking away their pay because the subordinates will threaten them and their family with retaliation by the subordinate’s family. These disputes have been complicated by the proliferation of larger conventional weapons—which occurred when the Iraqi Army fled, leaving stockpiles of weapons to be looted by the locals prior to the arrival of Coalition forces. Inter-family and inter-tribal disputes which previously would have been resolved with pistols or rifles are now being resolved with rocket launchers and grenades. The idea of a state monopoly on the use of force is foreign, and as long as it remains foreign, it will be somewhere between difficult and impossible to create consistently safe and stable conditions. Understanding the tribal nature of conflict, the Army’s current caretaking role inevitably involves serving as a moderator between the feuding tribes. Lt. Naum therefore procured an agreement from the Kurdish muqtar that the next time he came to Mansur, they would go together to sit down with the leader of the Arab tent village to discuss their respective grievances.

After meeting with the sheikh, we went to observe how the village’s well project was proceeding. The Army has provided a grant to drill a 100 meter well to provide fresh water for the village. The project was proceeding apace, and the drilling would be finished in a few days. This is the kind of work that constitutes a good deal of the time and effort the soldiers which gets little or no attention in the state. For example, driving through Tuz on Wednesday, I saw two new parks which had been built with Army funding and assistance. The cheerfully painted walls, manicured grass, swings, and other equipment looked like a playground oasis compared to the trash strewn streets of Tuz where the children would otherwise play. I have been told that the base has provided something in the neighborhood of $8 million in the last month toward projects in and around Tuz. But this is not what makes the news in the states. Rather, in the rare moments when the soldiers at Bernstein get news updates from back home, they witness the drumbeat about soldiers killing children or torturing prisoners. It is disconcerting to these men that the lion-share of their effort goes unnoticed, while the wrongs of a few are falsely characterized as common.

As is the norm for Mansur and the nearby villages, the troopers were swarmed by children as soon as they entered the village. Walking down the street, the troopers look like pied pipers, with throngs of little people following them. One young lad of around four adopted Cpl. Clark, holding his hand and following him wherever he went throughout the village. Indeed, it is difficult to drive through the towns because the kids will run around the Humvees without due regard for their own safety. They ultimately had to have the muqtar order the children to get back just so we could actually get out of the village.

Iraq seen by a Marine

Ben Connable, with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, doesn’t see Iraq the same way as Dan Rather does.

The Haul

On Sunday, a number of troopers from fourth platoon were down at a checkpoint in the south which abuts Tauq Chay, a large reservoir. Aside from the novelty of seeing such a large body of water in the middle of an arid land, visiting the reservoir makes an interesting anthropology field trip. As Sgt. Cummins from 3d platoon noted, the fisherman cast their nets into the water the same way they did in biblical times—little has changed in 2000 years.

While the fourth platoon was there, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corp (ICDC) officers who were working the checkpoint with fourth platoon stopped a truck, which just happened to be hauling fifty-one 155 mm artillery shells. The shells were empty or damaged, and the driver of the vehicle claimed that he was taking them to sell for scrap metal. The ICDC officers informed Sgt. Gleason about the find, but they were inclined to let the man proceed with the shells because the items were inert. Of course, these kinds of shells are highly desirable to those who build IEDs—and so even if the driver really just wanted to sell them for scrap, the buyer may have other intentions. Sgt. Gleason therefore rolled into the FOB on Monday morning hauling a trailer filled with 155 mm shells. This incident shows a major problem with the ICDC: they still do not have the experience to exercise judgment, and so they tend to look to someone who can tell them what to do. I will have more on the ICDC program soon.

Attacking Bush

Nancy Pelosi gets even more extreme in her attacks on Bush: "Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he’s not a leader. He’s a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon." And: "He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops, because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1 when he ... declared that major combat is over. The shallowness that he has brought to the office has not changed since he got there."

Stan Gereenberg and James Carville revel in Bush’s bad poll numbers and claim that it is all over but the shouting. They claim the odds are now against him and "He is more likely to lose than win." Expect this full frontal assault to continue. And do not expect Bush to do nothing.

Wedding party in Iraq

Much is being made about taking out a wedding party in Western Iraq. The Belmont Club is a bit more sceptical.


Terrence Moore reflects on courage, and how to teach it.

Tough times

I have been away from the office for over a week, and am just now getting back to some of the work that I have had to leave behind. The first thing worth mentioning--aside from the war in Iraq--is that by all accounts Bush’s poll numbers are down. Even Robert Novak and Peggy Noonan are piling on, claiming that, for one reason or another, Bush’s base is faltering. Maybe it is, and if it is, it is understandable, given the Iraqi prison mess, and the continued bad news from Iraq, at least as it is protrayed by the elite media. I am not persuaded that Iraq is falling apart, although it continues to be messy and complicated. But, I never expected simplicity and clarity in matters of war. I happened to see (on C-SPAN) Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshayar Zebai, respond to questions at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. He was a very impressive and thoughtful man. It was very difficult not be hopeful about the future of Iraq while listening to him. But the seemingly chaotic nature of both the war and the relentless public criticism of both tactics and strategy of it at home--in the press and on Capitol Hill--could easily lead citizens to confuse the messy sausage making aspect of our democratic life, with mistrust and defeat. Even though we may be critical of the President on some issues (foreign and domestic), we have no reason to mistrust him. Things will become clearer soon, President Bush will begin to be mnore specific in his public conversations on Iraq, handing over sovereignty, etc.


I saw Rudy Giuliani’s spirited defense in front of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission continues not to impress me; too arbitrary, too political. I think they may have forgottenm their original purpose. I liked this comment from the Mayor: "Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us....
The blame should be put on one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones."

Are we losing in Iraq?

Mac Owens and Spencer Ackerman debate the war in Iraq: Are we losing, and is Bush the reason why? Worth a look.

Remembering Why We Fight

The Claremont Institute’s Bill Bennett hits the nail on the head with this speech, ’Remembering Why We Fight.’

Mark Helprin on the War in Iraq

In "No Way to Run a War", Mark Helprin penned a Wall St. Journal article that criticizes both the Republican Administration and the Democratic opposition for their respective approaches to dealing with the threat from Iraq. Read it and chime in.

Here’s the crux of his case, and the best graf in the essay:

In the Middle East, our original purpose, since perverted by carelessness of estimation, was self-defense. To return to it would take advantage of the facts that the countries in the area do not have to be democracies before we require of them that they refrain from attacking us; that a regime with a firm hold upon a nation has much at stake and can be coerced to eradicate the terrorist apparatus within its frontiers; and that the ideal instrument for this is a remounted and properly supported U.S. military, released from nation building and counterinsurgency, its ability to make war, when called upon, nonpareil.

Tucker on Marriage

David Tucker ponders the effects of the ruling that has allowed Massachusetts to start issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples and asks:

"Is this revolution as good as the last one that Massachusetts led? Are its principles as sound?"
Read the article and see what he concludes.  

Gays and Islamic Radicals--Natural Allies?

Instapundit links to this amusing story about what happened when a group of gay activists showed up at a rally in London to show their solidarity with the plight of Palestinians. They were immediately surrounded by Islamic fundamentalists who accused them of being agents of Sharon’s government.

Best comment on the event: "Gays opposing the war on terror is as stupid as Jews opposing the US fighting WWII."

The Left Goes ’Round the Bend

I understand that the old "Bush is Hitler" line is nothing new, but now it’s found its way to the History News Network, not from some unknown commentator, but from a Swarthmore historian.

Actually, his argument is a bit more subtle than that--Bush is more like von Papen than Hitler, having prepared the groundwork for a fascist takeover. The evidence? An increasing amount of talk of using massive force--even nuclear weapons--in the War on Terror, and efforts to minimize (if not defend) the crimes at Abu Ghraib.

Don’t get me wrong--I have no time for those who are advocating turning the Middle East to glass, or who defend what happened at Abu Ghraib. But aren’t such attitudes an understandable (though not justifiable) response to the predictions of "quagmire" we’ve been hearing? Once we’ve established that the country is heading toward imminent defeat, we then ask ourselves what we should do about it. The answer of many on the Left is that we should cut and run. Should we be surprised that there are others who are equally convinced by the "quagmire" thesis, but who think that defeat must be avoided, no matter what the cost?

Perhaps such views--the "run away" school and the "nuke ’em all" school--have become standard tropes in modern warfare. However, it particularly bothers me to hear it coming from historians, who are supposed to be characterized by their appreciation for a long-term perspective.

Morel on Brown

Lucas Morel reflects on the Brown v. Board of Education decision on its 50th anniversary. Here’s a sample:

"By officially desegregating public schools in America, a unanimous high court prompted the most productive decade of the modern civil rights movement, culminating in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, the legacy of Brown remains mixed as its praiseworthy conclusion stands at odds with its flawed reasoning."

Read the whole thing and you will get a better understanding of why so many of the Court’s decisions since Brown regarding race have been so convoluted.

Abu Ghraib and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s ’Snuff Film’

From reasononline, intelligent commentary by Charles Paul Freund and Michael Young--certainly no advocates for the Iraq war--on American reaction to Abu Ghraib and the murder of Nick Berg. Apropos of recent discussions, it shows how we can object to what some U.S. troops have done in Iraq without descending into the morass of moral equivalency.

Chip Bok Cartoon

At the risk of appearing to make light of a serious situation, I commend the following editorial cartoon from Reason.

The United States and Europe: Drifting Apart?

Robert J. Samuelson has an insightful piece about the worsening relations between the United States and Europe. He notes that Americans hardly paid attention to the fact that on May 1 10 new countries--most of them former members of the Soviet bloc--joined the European Union. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, simple demographics among them. However, for Europeans George W. Bush represents everything they dislike and distrust about America:

The truth is that Europe is too weak to lead and too proud to follow. It doesn’t want to undertake costly new commitments. It’s already got more than it can handle. In some ways, George Bush is a political godsend. His style and language offend so many Europeans—he seems simplistic, trigger-happy, uneducated—that opposition to him camouflages more basic conflicts. I’ve been repeatedly reminded here that Europe and America share too much (common cultures, political systems and economic interests) to drift apart. Maybe. But we’re still drifting.

Al Sadr’s Northern Exposure

In the wake of the increased violence in Al Najaf, Muqtada al-Sadr is said to have issued a fatwah against the Coalition. Members of Sadr’s Mehdi army were reported to have been handing out weapons here in Tuz yesterday, and the mosque in Tuz was renamed as the Sadr Mosque. While there have been a couple of recent acts attributed to local thugs (including an attack yesterday on an Iraqi Civil Defense Corp Colonel), I have not seen any links between these attacks and the Mehdi Army.

Army ready for war?

I had to re-read this front page story in the Los Angeles Times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Take a look at it. Remember that it runs on Armed Forces Day, and it is entitled, "Far From Ready for More War." The subtitle is this, "With battered gear and nerves, a third of the Army is ’unfit to fight’ but preparing to return." What is amazing is that there is nothing in the story to indicate any such thing, except that the guys have to do a lot of cleaning, and some have personal problems, and some have too much money to spend on trucks and motorcycles. This is quite remarkable. The author of the piece, and the editors who allowed it in, should be forced out of the profession. First two paragraphs: ’From their first days as ’Screaming Eagles,’ the 18,000 soldiers of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division are taught to be ready for anything. As the force’s proud creed goes: ’First in, last out.’

But at its sprawling home base — after a long year in Iraq that wreaked havoc with the blades of its helicopters, the sights of its guns and the nerves of its soldiers — the 101st is as far from ready as it has ever been."