Noemie Emery reviews Steve Hayward’s The Real Jimmy Carter. The review, of course, is positive but not to Carter’s advantage. Emery relates Carter’s failed presidency, why he did more than anyone to create and empower the modern Republican party, and what havoc he brought to American purposes and policies (under both Bushes and Clinton), in his wrong-headed and hapless post-presidential career that continues to be ruthlessly self-serving. The best epitath for Carter is from Senator Moynihan: "Unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, he has adopted our enemies’ view of the world."
This Iraqi blogger wrote about the celebrations they had at the hospital upon hearing that sovereignty had been turned over. They had cake (click on the photos) and then listened to Al Jazeera while Bremer gave a short good-by speech, which he ended with a famous poem, in Arabic. Quite moving. (Thanks to Luke Florer)
Robert Alt claims that the Supreme Court’s decision permitting anyone in the custody of the United States to seek a writ of habeas corpus in a U.S. federal court could lead to a media circus in Saddam’s trial, which starts tomorrow. All this sounds too ridiculous to be true, but who knows, Robert may be right. Another movie for Michael Moore?
At NRO John Keegan runs a five-part series of excerpts from his new book The Iraq War. Together, these five pieces comprise chapter six of the book. Very much worth reading, and then go buy the book. The first selection is
John Yoo has some thoughts on Hamdi and Rasul. Read the whole thing, but this will give you an idea:
"But despite the pleas of legal and media elites, the justices did not turn the clock back to Sept. 10, 2001. While the Court has unwisely injected itself into military matters, closer examination reveals that it has affirmed the administrations fundamental legal approach to the war on terrorism, and left it with sufficient flexibility to effectively prevail in the future.
To wit, the Court agreed that the U.S. is at war against the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban militia that supports them. It agreed that Congress has authorized that war. Moreover, the justices implicitly recognized that the U.S. may use all of the tools of war to fight a new kind of enemy that has no territory, no population and no desire to spare innocent civilian life.
Taken as a whole, the Courts message is unmistakable: The days when terrorism was merely considered a law enforcement problem and our only forces were limited to the FBI, federal prosecutors and the criminal justice system will not be returning."
Let’s leave aside for a moment the antipodal politics of the French--as in opposing Afghanistan’s request to send more NATO troops to help with security during their elections--and note this graceful essay by Luc Sante on the French language. He hails from the French speaking part of Belgium, lives in the U.S., and was artfully kept in his native tongue by his mother. His reflections on the language, and especially "in the singular ability of French to generate wordplay, puns in particular" is quite good, but long.
"French-speaking children are schooled in puns from the start. Of course, this could be said of speakers of English and maybe every other language as well-that’s what riddles are for. For example, I date my true immersion in English from the moment I understood the humor of Q: When is a boy not a boy? A: When he turns into a store. But puns lie much thicker on the ground in French, in large part because the language is so much more rigorous and willfully delimited than the sprawling mass of English, an elegantly efficient two-stroke engine to the latter’s uncontainable Rube Goldberg mechanism. French does not necessarily have fewer sounds than English, but the protocols governing their order and frequency make their appearances predictable-hence the profusion of sound-alike phrases and sentences, which fueled Surrealism and ensure the ongoing appeal of Freudian and post-Freudian ideas in the French-speaking world: Les dents, la bouche. Laid dans la bouche. Les dents la bouchent. L’aidant la bouche. Etc. These phrases, which sound exactly alike, respectively mean ’the teeth, the mouth;’ ’ugly in the mouth;’ ’the teeth choke her;’ ’helping her chokes her.’ You don’t need to have been psychoanalyzed by Jacques Lacan to see from these examples how language can assist thought in swiftly tunneling from the mundane to the taboo. Children are instinctively aware of this, even and perhaps especially if they are being raised Catholic and are thus trained in the finer points of repression."
Some wires got crossed in the scheduling of the Roger Hedgecock Show yesterday--a fact of which I was painfully made aware when I called the show at 4:30 am Baghdad time this morning. I am now scheduled to be on today at at 5:30 pm PST/8:30 pm EST (and again, 4:30 am Baghdad time). Those in San Diego can listen on KOGO 600 AM, and those in the rest of the world can listen via streaming audio.
Rich Lowry considers John Kerrys ill-defined "misery index" with regard to college tuition. Kerry maintains that "George Bush is pricing thousands of young people right out of the American dream." Not so, Lowry maintains: "It is positively raining college aid, meaning students are in a tight competition with the elderly over who can be more pampered by government." And then this unpalatable truth:
"The game for universities is obvious — hike official tuition rates ever higher. Then everyone thinks students cannot afford college and plies them with more aid, which ends up lining the pockets of the schools. Its one of the great scams of our time, and Kerry has been happy to play along by hyping nominal tuition increases and promising yet more aid. He is the dream candidate of greedy college administrators.
The problem isnt that students hungry for knowledge are being frozen out from college, but the opposite. Marginal students take their generous aid and go to colleges that dont teach them. Eighty percent of universities arent selective, e.g. more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check. Only 37 percent of first-time freshmen graduate in four years, and only 60 percent graduate in six years. Universities are happy to take money from unprepared students and fail them right back out, or dumb down their standards to stay on the government-aid gravy train."
An aphrodisiac for women may be in the offing. "A drug that seems to drive female rats mad for sex may offer the first real scientific aphrodisiac for women, U.S. and Canadian researchers said on Monday." Sometimes its best just to pass information along without comment. This is one of those times.
This is Jim Dunnigan’s short note, called, "Iraq: Al Qaeda’s Graveyard." The text:
"June 29, 2004: Iraqi terrorists released a video showing them killing a captive American soldier by shooting him in the head. The terrorists have learned that the beheading routine is counterproductive and even offends many of their own supporters. The terrorists are probably also debating their suicide bombing campaign, which has killed over a hundred Iraqis in the past week. Perhaps the al Qaeda leadership is also pondering their long string of failures over the last decade or so. The fact of the matter is that al Qaeda, and their predecessor, the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, have turned Arab populations against them whenever they practiced their terror tactics "at home." Moreover, when al Qaeda was in control of the government, as they were in Afghanistan, they quickly became hated by the average Afghan. Al Qaeda was most popular in Arab countries when it was not operating in any Arab countries, but instead concentrating on attacks on Western targets. But the war on terror has forced al Qaeda back to its homelands, and concentrated them in Iraq. There, al Qaeda is becoming as hated as it already is in the West. This hatred led to the Moslem Brotherhood’s defeat, and expulsion from Egypt over a decade ago. The same thing is happening again in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Recent surveys have shown support for bin Laden and al Qaeda shrink dramatically in Saudi Arabia (from 96 percent in late 2001, to less than a quarter of that currently.) It’s easy to admire terrorists from a distance, rather more difficult when they are terrorizing you. Iraq is rapidly becoming al Qaeda’s graveyard."
Some honest talk from Hillary Clinton at a Democratic fund raiser in San Francisco. She was speaking to a couple hundred rich guys, some paying as much 10k, and said that some of Bush’s tax cuts will have to be taken away if there is a Demo president: "Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
I continue to be amazed at the simple-minded bias of the national media on Iraq. Watching TV last night was otherwordly: the Iraqis got "so-called" sovereignty a few days early because they were afraid; it was a stealthy proceeding; reporters were not informed, therefore the whole thing touches on illegitimacy; this means very little since the country is in turmoil; there were no celebrations in the street, bad sign; Bush thought he was clever passing pieces of paper back and forth and shaking hands with Blair; how could Alawi be legitimate when he was a paid informant for the CIA?; the cup is half empty, etc. But, of course, it’s not just TV that is biased.
Eric M. Johnson, a Marine Corps reservist, takes a close look at the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s reporting from Iraq and finds his integrity wanting. He makes much of especially this piece of biased reporting on the Mayor of Kut. (Thanks to Instapundit)
Foud Ajami, of Johns Hopkins, writes a lovely paean to the opportunity now handed the Iraqis. Read the whole thing, but these two paragraphs in the center, are critical: "Iraqs Shiite majority now faces a great historical test. The Shiites can make Iraq or they can break it. Their history has been a sorrowful alternation between fear and quietism, and doomed rebellions. They have now been delivered from this cycle of history: One of their own, Prime Minister Allawi--by the appearance of things a skilled political operative--is now at the commanding heights of political power. And a revered figure from their ranks, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, exercises a subtle influence over the course of the countrys political life.
This new Shiite liberty has been an American gift. The Shiites neednt be--and arent--Americas proxies in Iraq. But a measure of Americas success in Iraq--a measure of this wars vindication in the scales of history--will rest on the ability of the Shiite center to hold, and on the willingness of Shiite secularists who honor the separation of religion and politics to look across the border, to that Shiite republic in Iran, and recognize the failure of religious zeal--and of religious pretension--to create a tolerable society that works. In the preceding quarter-century, the authoritarian orders in the Arab world held up the Shiite bogeyman as a specter of the darkness that would descend on the Persian Gulf if their writ was questioned, and if the Pax Americana did not come to their rescue. In Iraq, Shiism will be given the chance at a new history."
I few weeks ago I was suckered into buying a book by Mario Cuomo called Why Lincoln Matters. I should have known better. Read about half of it by the time I realized that it wasn’t about Lincoln at all. I meant to bring it to your attention and ask you not to buy it, then serious things intervened, like watching Mario praising Michael Moore’s so-called documentary on Larry King, I got angry and forgot all about his repulsive attempt to Cuomize Lincoln, to pull Lincoln into every petty and base policy that Cuomo and liberals favor. Now
Andrew Ferguson has done us a good deed by slicing Mario’s not so crafty effort into pieces. This is not a book about Lincoln and is not worth reading, but Fergusons elegant and amusing review in The Weekly Standard is; see how Cuomo makes the great Lincoln small, see how Lincoln understood equality as equality of condition and of outcome, see how Lincoln was really in favor of higher taxes, see how Lincoln practiced the politics of inclusion and diversity, see how Lincoln...you get the point.
AP is reporting that Al-Jazeera has received a videotape claiming to show the killing of Spc. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio. In a statement accompanying the video, which shows a blindfolded man shot in the back of the head in front of a hole dug in the ground, the captors claim to be "The Sharp Sword against the Enemies of God and His Prophet." Maupin and eight fellow Americans disappeared after an ambush west of Baghdad on April 9.
The latest CBS/N.Y. Times poll shows that Bush has gained 8 points over Kerry in the last month; they are now running even. The reason offered is that people are more optimistic abaout the economy. Battleground also shows the electorate evenly divided. For a Democratic analysis go to Celinda Lake, and for the Republican go to Ed Goeas. For the latest on all the polls, always go to Real Clear Politics.
What with the Democratic Senate prospects in Illinois looking good, Time magazine writes this puff piece claiming that Democrats have reason for optimism in the Senate races in November; in fact theyre giddy with optimism. Im not persuaded, but here is the party line, in case youre interested.
John Vinocur writes in the International Herald Tribune that the European elite press and intelligentsia are pushing Bill Clinton to sound like Michael Moore on Iraq, which he refuses to do. That Clinton may have made American hyperpower "likable and seductive" to Europeans is to be noted, yet in the end the Europeans are discovering that he was just another American politicians who was willing to pursue Americas view of justice and its own interests in the world. They take it all out on Bush, but its how America sees itself and moves through the world that they dont like.
Robert Alt claims that the Supreme Court, in Rasul v. Bush has created a "bold new world." And it is a world, Alt claims, that we should not like because it "opens the federal courts to any detainee held by the United States anywhere in the world," as long as they seek habeas review. Alt: "Thus, as Scalia suggests in his able dissent, anyone held in a foreign theatre of active combat such as Iraq or Afghanistan may bring a petition against the Secretary of Defense." Read the whole thing.
I will be on the Roger Hedgecock Show this afternoon at 5:30 pm PST/8:30 pm EST (4:30 am Baghdad time!). Those in San Diego can listen on KOGO 600 AM, and those in the rest of the world can listen via streaming audio.
And finally, at noon EST/9:00 am PST, I will be on Janet Parshall’s America. The program is broadcast across the country, and for Schramm, it is available on XM radio. You can find your local affiliate here.
Migraine headaches in 100+ degree heat.
Robert Alt will appear on CNNs Daybreak program Tuesday at 5:45 am ET.
Pejman considers John Kerrys lack of support for democracy and human rights, with special focus on Cuba. Kerry prefers "stability" to democracy. Im waiting for more chicken Kiev speeches. Too bad.
The government of Iraq is wasting no time in putting Saddam on trial. Please note that there are approximately 1,500 lawyers from Arab countries (and others) who are going to work on Saddams defense. If this is not a misprint, it is beyond my comprehension.
This is the note Condi Rice passed to the President this morning at the NATO meeting, with his note on it. This is Bush/Blair’s comments on the turnover. This is the Reuters story on it. I can’t helping bringing to your attention this headline from the Washington Post on the change of regime in Iraq: "
Iraqis See Little Change in Symbolic Transfer of Power:
Continued Violence, Power and Infrastructure Problems Expected." Here is the whole
article. Isn’t that amazing? Decades of tyranny, murder, mayhem, oppression. Now a better future, one of their own doing, and--at the least--hope. Yet, this is the best the Washington Post can come up with. I guess this would have been their headline when Mussolini was overthrown: "Italians now fear trains will not run on time." Thank you WaPo, thank you. The United Nations officially welcomes Iraq "back into the family of independent and sovereign nations." If you doubt that there is hope in Iraq, look at these poll results from Iraq: massive support for the new government.
I am taping an interview for Fox News Channel 8 in Cleveland, which is supposed to be aired in their 5 pm broadcast.
FYI, for those readers in Ohio, I am doing a live interview for the Ohio News Network at 10 EST.
UPDATE: For those readers in the Seattle area, I will be on with Mike Segal on 770 KTTH at 7:35 am PST.
UPDATE II: I will be on with Al Kresta at 4 pm EST. His radio show is picked up in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pittburgh, Buffalo, and Los Angeles. Check the link for station details.
Robert Alt reflects on the early hand over of sovereignty, and claims that it was largely ceremonial, "representing a change in authority which had already substantively occurred." He concludes:
"The Iraqi leadership today inherits both great promise and a great challenge. They also inherit a people who are hungry for more. The Iraqi people have tasted democracy, and they want more. They have tasted a new, market-driven economy, and they want more. They have tasted a better life, and they want more—and they want it now. There are many pitfalls in the road ahead—terrorism being the most prominent—but today, for the first time in more than 35 years, the Iraqi people control their own future."
CNN is reporting that senior al qaeda operative Othman Al-Omari has turned himself in to Saudi authorities to take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s proffered 30-day amnesty offer for al qaeda members. While there have been varying accounts as to what the amnesty will entail, it is clear that the Saudis have agreed to spare the lives of anyone who comes forward.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Zarqawi may have been captured near Hilla. The Arab media has been running the story this morning. I just finished speaking with a Coalition spokesman. He could not confirm whether Zarqawi was in custody, but suggested that the relevant operations may have been conducted by Iraqi Security forces. (In which case, the announcement would come from the Iraqis as to his capture, not the Coalition.)
UPDATE: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt has said that the rumor is not true.
In a surprise move, Ambassador Bremer handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi people this morning. I was in the press room when it occurred, and they were informed with a phone call. Here is a short Fox News blurb. Inevitably, this was designed to short circuit any terrorist plans to disrupt the actual handover. It also steals any thunder for attacks in the next couple of days. (Remember that Zarqawi stated that the terrorist should use what he called the pretext of US occupation to justify the terror attacks, which should be increased prior to the handover.) All-in-all, a clever move by Bremer and the CPA.
The latest round of coordinated attacks appear to have revealed something new: a possible marriage of convenience between former regime elements and Abu Musab al Zarqawi. According to a senior military official with whom I spoke, the attacks tend to show the coordination and spectacular effect which are hallmarks of al Qaeda, while integrating tactics and weapons that are more characteristic of former regime elements. There are rumors that Izzat Ibrahim al Duria, Saddams trusted advisor, pledged allegiance to Zarqawi. The official with whom I spoke doubted this, but suggested that it could be that he is jumping ship from the Baathists to increase his impact.
The official also noted that the Coalition has gotten very good human intelligence leading to the series of recent strikes against Zarqawi. One source which the military official cited as "very helpful" is Umar Baziani, the Zarqawi operative and former Ansar al Islam mastermind captured earlier this month.
Baghdad has been remarkably quiet since my return. In fact, it has been far quieter than when I was here last around 7 weeks ago. Then, it was common to hear explosions, however with the exception of a distant blast last evening, it thus far has been quiet. Conventional wisdom is that this is the quiet before the storm. The Zarqawi memo intercepted earlier this year called for his fellow terrorists to use the occupation as a pretext for their violence, and to step up the attacks as the transition approaches. Given the recent round of activity in Baqubah, Mosul, and Ramadi, few doubt his candor on this point. Some have begun to talk about a possible "Baghdad Offensive"--a coordinated strike on the capital in the days leading up to the transition. My sense is that they will try something "spectacular," but that they know that even this will not work. They tried a coordinated attack two days ago, which ended with 60 of their own men dead in Baqubah, and no real military progress. For this reason, it is my sense that they will make a concerted effort to make good on the threat to assassinate Prime Minister Allawi. Given Allawi’s popularity, this would likely be the most disruptive possible attack on the transition.
But they are not unchallenged in these efforts. Zarqawi complained in the same memo that the noose was tightening, and indeed it is. It now appears that Zarqawi may have been just outside the safe house bombed yesterday. If so, then he survived, but suffered a very close call. This is the third safe house that the Coalition has bombed this week. When coordinated attacks were launched in multiple cities, they were handily put down. The terrorists are making death throes. I have little doubt that they will launch more attacks in the next week which will be carried with splashy headlines by a hyperventilating press. But their objective will not be accomplished. The transition will proceed, and their attempt to relegate Iraq to despotisms of the past will fail.
Charles Krauthammer compares Reagan with Clinton, as hedgehog and fox. "Clinton was the fox. He knew -- and accomplished -- small things. His autobiography is a perfect reflection of that -- a wild mishmash of remembrance, anecdote, appointment calendar and political payback. This themeless pudding of a million small things is just what you would expect from a president who once gave a Saturday radio address on school uniforms."
"His great failing was foreign policy. Viewing the world through the narrow legalist lens of liberal internationalism, he spent most of his presidency drafting and signing treaty after useless treaty on such things as biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. All this in a world where the biggest problem comes from terrorists and rogue states for whom treaties are meaningless."
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt just announced that the Coalition conducted another strike on a Zarqawi network safe house in southeastern Fallujah. The attack was based on multiple confirmations of Iraqi and Coalition intelligence, and was conducted with what were described as "precision weapons"--a term that the Coalition generally uses to describe laser guided bombs. This still raises questions in my mind about whether we should have abandoned the ground campaign in Fallujah. That said, I must admit that I have not heard the same sort of lamentations from the press--and particularly from the Arab press--regarding the bombing raids that I did during the ground campaign.
CNN is reporting that Hotmail will be increasing its memory for free account holders from 2 megabytes to 250 megabytes beginning in July. Why the big change? Competition. Google is preparing to launch G-Mail, a free service that will provide 1 gigabyte of free storage. Thanks to a technologically savvy friend, I am actually a beta tester of G-Mail. In addition to the added memory, it uses google search technology to allow you to search through sent and received emails.
AP is reporting that Solicitor General Ted Olson is resigning to return to private practice. The Solicitor General is the principal advocate of the United States government before the United States Supreme Court. I have a great deal of personal admiration for Mr. Olson. His wife Barbara was on the plane which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th. He actually received a call from her before the plane went down, and talked about it in an interview just days after the attack. To this day, I don’t know how he was able to keep his composure through the interview. I have also been told that he took a very personal interest in the terrorism trials, actually making appearances on behalf of the government in district court cases--something which is uncommon for the SG. I am told that he did this for two reasons: he wanted to oversee the development of the record himself so that there would not be any cheap bases for reversal, and he did so as a gesture to his late wife. Best wishes in private practice, Solicitor Olson.
A couple of years ago, I was working for the summer in DC at a major law firm when a friend I have known since first grade came to visit. He is now a young adults pastor at a large church in California, and he was in town for a conference with the senior pastor from the church. As is customary, I played DC tour guide for a bit, and took them to Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While we were making our way through the cemetery, the senior pastor mentioned that he had recently seen the movie Black Hawk Down. He was genuinely moved by the film, but there was one feature that clearly troubled him: they kept going back. Why did the soldiers keep going back for those who were already dead—risking their lives for lives already lost? I had not seen the film, and so I could offer only cursory comments. In fact, I did not see the film until I arrived in Iraq and embedded with the troops.
It was good that I did see it relatively early into my time here, because it proved to be essential viewing to understand the jokes thrown around before missions. Hardly a raid goes by when one of the soldiers does not suggest that another soldier really doesn’t need the ceramic plate in the back of his body armor, or doesn’t need night vision goggles because the mission will only take a few hours, thereby mimicking ominous lines from the film. (I cannot speak to whether those two details occurred in the real life events depicted in the film.)
Having now seen the film, and having spent weeks with soldiers in the field, I can say that the answer to the senior pastor’s question is clear: because the soldiers fight not just for their country, but for each other. Indeed, a 2003 survey of U.S. combat troops fresh from the field found as much. (In addition, “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.”) To this end, I still recall chatting with Spc. Hart from the 1st Armored Division soon after I had gotten into country. Spc. Hart was 22-years-old, and by my recollection hailed from Arkansas. He was just a few weeks from going home, or so he thought (the 1 AD’s tour got extended for 6 months in order to take care of al-Sadr’s forces in Najaf). During his year, he had received a graze wound from a ricocheting AK round and a Purple Heart. Moments after arriving in Baghdad, he had been involved in an ambush involving RPGs and small arms fire at Saddam Mosque that rattled the men so badly that the fight, now a year old, was still fresh in their eyes. And along the way, he had learned something very important, which he passed along to me with a sort of stern resolve: “You know there are guys you can trust with your life.” This was not some sort of a cliché, or a misty hypothetical, but something which had been tested in battle when, for example, Spc. Dettwiler of Hart’s unit risked his own life to pull two fellow soldiers out of an ammo truck after it had been hit by enemy RPG fire. To spend any time with the soldiers is to better understand that they trust each other with their very lives—and that they trust their fellow soldiers to bring them home if things go wrong. This is why they go back.
The Economist explains that much good work has been done in building the Iraqi banking system; there are even private banks. This is the necessary condition of, among other things, foreign investment coming in. The Washington Post reports on a poll of Iraqis, the first survey since the new Iraqi government was announced, is very good news: "73 percent of Iraqis polled approved of Allawi to lead the new government, 84 percent approved of President Ghazi Yawar and almost two-thirds backed the new Cabinet. These impressive showings indicate that the new leaders have support spanning ethnic and religious groups, U.S. officials said." Also note that this overview of the Iraqi economy from the Council on Foreign Relations shows that the economy is on the rebound. The CPA announced a few days ago that all the ministries will be in the control of Iraqis by today, although I havent seen any news reports on it yet.
The New York Times reports that elite colleges are wondering if being black is enough to satisfy affirmative action goals. In "Top Colleges Take More Blacks, But Which Ones?", one reads that Harvard and other prestige universities worry that too much of their student diversity is due to "West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples." Reparations looms large, here.
Harvard sociologist (and West Indian native) Orlando Patterson remarks: "The doors are wide open--as wide open as they ever will be--for native-born black middle-class kids to enter elite colleges." But echoing Sandra Day OConnors opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, Lani Guinier counters that "colleges and universities are defaulting on their obligation to train and educate a representative group of future leaders." Representative of what? I ask.
To avoid slipping down this rabbit hole of racial representation, take a look at Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man.
In following my own recommendation, I relate to you the most recent press release from the Coalition:
The 1st Infantry Division along with the Iraqi Security Forces have secured four key infrastructures in Baqubah, June 24. These infrastructures include: the Blue Dome, the government building, the Mufrek Traffic Circle and the Baqubah Police Station.
Any "success" the insurgents in Baqubah was short-lived indeed.
Joan Biskupic has an article about Justice Sandra Day OConnor today entitled, oddly enough, "OConnor Not Confined By Conservatism." Biskupic refers to OConnor throughout as a Conservative--acknowledging at one point that "OConnor is a conservative with an asterisk: a pragmatic jurist who, when she sees fit, will vote with the four liberal justices." This is the sort of silly categorization that leads liberals like Cass Sunstein to protest that there are no liberals on the Supreme Court--a statement that surely makes Ginsburg and Stevens feel like Rodney Dangerfield. This fits with a common trend among academics and the legal press to define judicial ideology to the right. Under this scheme, all the liberals are "moderates," the moderates are conservatives, and the conservatives are epithets. But OConnor cannot run from her voting record. She has for years been at best a moderate, and is increasingly shifting not from conservative to moderate, but rather in cases raising issues such as campaign finance law, sovereign immunity, abortion, and affirmative action, she is shifting from moderate to liberal.
Here is an thought provoking piece by Seymour Hersh which is getting some attention here in Iraq. The article is somewhat sprawling, and runs in many directions, but the brunt of the argument is that the Israelis have infiltrated the Kurds and are using them to, inter alia, spy on Iran, and that the result will be instability in the region. While it offers a number of issues to consider, much of the article is too glib, fails to address the nuances of the questions, and in the end is of questionable credibility because it offers with little question the opinions of interested observers.
The article begins by pointing out that Israel allegedly warned the US to seal off the Iranian border to prevent the influx of insurgents. Hersh suggests that the increase in violence was a direct result of the failure to heed Israel’s advice. This is partially true, but woefully incomplete. The increase in violence was also fueled by the porous Syrian border, and by elements already on the ground. If the US had chosen to lock down the Iranian border as recommended, it would have functionally closed off the Shia Arba’een religious festivals in Najaf and Karbala, which could have led to more rather than less violence. When the US finally did decide to reduce the number of border crossings to Iran, the move met with resistance from a large segment of Iraqis, who recognize that they will have to deal with Iran for years to come. And finally, shutting down a 900 mile border from foreign fighters who are known to use camels to make their way across in the middle of the night is easier said than done. But to read Hersh, you might think that this could have been accomplished as easily as turning off a spigot.
Furthermore, many of Hersh’s arguments have pretty flimsy or self-serving support. Take for instance his argument that the June 30 transition date was chosen in panic, and that the UN was brought in to share the blame. His source: an unnamed UN consultant. Well, who better to explain the back room processes at the White House. One wonders why he didnt get the real scoop by asking a well-placed Kerry campaign staffer. At other times, his observations are so banal you wonder why he includes them. Take this sentence: “The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.” Really? How shocking! In a region in which simply having an Israeli stamp on your passport is enough to get you detained as a spy, the real spies don’t carry passports or wear “Hi, I’m Mossad” name badges. This is groundbreaking reporting.
But the biggest problem is that one of his major themes appears to be flawed. He portrays the Kurds as pawns being used by the Israelis against Iran, but fails to mention the ties that Iran has substantial ties of its own with the Kurds. Indeed, as Michael Ledeen noted in a recent article on NRO:
Then there are the Kurds, most of whom are actively engaged in commerce with Iran, including arms, explosives, and alcohol. [Kurdish leader] Jalal Talabani is closely linked to the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian Intelligence Service, and reported to Tehran on U.S. activities in 1996 during the failed uprising against Saddam. His deputy reports directly to Iranian intelligence. Massoud Barzani, the other prime Kurdish leader, uses his cousin as a conduit to Iran, and the cousin is the head of Kurdish Hezbollah, an Iranian creation. Barzani meets regularly in Baghdad with the Iranians’ top man, who was a guest in Barzani’s house just two weeks ago. Barzani and Talabani both get funding from Iran.
The Kurdish role in the new Iraq is an interesting one, and it is one I will be writing more about in the coming days. But in the meantime, let me simply suggest that while it is interesting (albeit unsurprising) that Israel is taking an interest in Kurdistan, to treat the Kurds merely as pawns of the Israelis is a vast miscalculation.
Check out Byron Yorks piece on DNC chairman, Terry McCauliffes review of Fahrenheit 9/11. Turns out, Terrys in favor of the movie and finds it convincing. When asked by CNN if he thought the movie was "essentially fair and factually based," McCauliffe replied, "I do." If anyone has any reason why these two should not be joined, speak now or....
Today, I visited the currency exchange to trade for some Iraqi dinars. While you can generally use US dollars--and indeed for some goods and services such as hotel rent, that is the only currency that they will accept--many goods are priced in dinars. I had heard that the dinar had gotten stronger--that instead of trading at 1420 dinars to 1 USD, it was now something like 1350 dinars to 1 USD. When I walked into a trading office on Al-Sadoon Street, however, I found that the rate was now 1460 to 1 USD. When the man handed me my change, I noticed that he was 10,000 dinars short. Im not sure if he was trying to rip me off, or if he had trouble with the math (as I have said before, I have noticed a lot of trouble with math here--and the mistakes are not always in the stores favor), but I explained the error to him using a calculator. When he handed me the correct currency, he asked if this was good. I replied, "Zorbash," meaning very good. But "Zorbash" does not mean very good in Arabic--it means very good in Kurdish. He didnt seem to mind, but I must keep the languages straight.
While Colorados two Republican primary candidates have been described as "virtually identical" on the majority of conservative social issues, there is one issue on which they have now diverged: beer. It seems that Peter Coors would prefer 18 as the minimum drinking age. (Shocking!) His opponent, Bob Schaffer, is content with the status quo. Of course, Coors is doing his best to frame this as a states rights issue.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s oath to fight "until Islamic rule is back on earth" will fail globally, as it will fail in Iraq.
Now is the time to watch the developments in Iraq, and yet--and this shouldn’t surprise you--I implore you to pay more attention to the strategic developments rather than the tactical ones, the numbers dying from the coordinated attacks in the Sunni triangle.
The media emphasis, of course, will be on the tactical, the seventy killed and over two hundred wounded in coordinated attacks today, for example. And this will continue, as the new Iraqi leaders will be targeted. Some of these attacks, unfortunately, have been and will continue to be successful.
Yet, the transfer of authority is going to take place as planned, the nay-sayers to the contrary notwithstanding. As the Belmont Club makes perfectly clear the U.S. is in "a curious position of strength" on the strategic issues relative to the Sunnis, Shi’ites, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon. He maintains that the real front is still the South, that is, the Shi’ites and what Iran can and may do; the Sunni Triangle, despite the violence, is the secondary front. The bad guys are sending in their best teams, and they will lose them, one by one. Also note that their targets have shifted almost enirely to Iraqis. How this will work out strategically will depend on who wins the election in election in November. But do note the shift in John Kerry’s rhetoric: He is now calling on NATO forces to send troops to Iraq. While NATO troops are not a military necessity, it would have a good diplomatic effect. This Kerry shift is substantial and shows a clearer grasp of the strategic possibilities than heretofore. In other words, Kerry recognizes that--despite the grumblings on the Left and the insane accusations of Michael Moore and Albert Gore--our Iraq policy is in place and the next administration, even a Democratic one, will have to follow through--more or less--according to the designs of the Bush administration. When the bad guys realize this, they will get even more energetic. But they will fail.
A few minutes ago, I attended an impromptu press briefing held by a senior coalition official. He reported that there have been a number of coordinated attacks this morning in Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, and Baqubah. In Baqubah, the police station was briefly overrun, and CNN is reporting that similar attacks on police stations occurred in Mosul and Ramadi. The spokesman stated that he was not sure if the Anti-Iraqi Forces were still claiming control of the police station in Baqubah, but he contended that a combination of Coalition forces and Iraqi National Guard (the new name for what was formerly the ICDC) had the situation well in hand. He also stated that the Coalition had struck back with laser guided bombs against homes which had been used to launch attacks with small arms and RPGs. In characterizing the overall status, the senior spokesman noted that "the attacks have gone over their peak."
The briefing was held in the International Press Center, where it is difficult to hear because of the large fans lining cubicles. A reporter in the front row asked a question referring to the attacks as "successful." The Coalition spokesman rightly jumped all over this. He argued that anyone who is armed sufficiently could take over a police station for a limited time. "If you go in a with machine guns and RPGs to the police station at the corner of 8th and I in Washington, DC, you’re going to be able to take it over for a time." His point, of course, is that you are not going to be able to hold the position. In fact, you are probably going to die or be captured very quickly, which is just what is happening to the terrorists here. This coverage of attacks without perspective as to the results is something that has distressed for me about media coverage since I arrived in Iraq. A case in point are the incursions by al Sadr’s forces. Any time they actively engaged the Coalition either directly or by attacking targets such as police stations, they were easily dispatched with huge casualties. Yet to read the news accounts, the attacks were emphasized while the outcome was not. This plays directly into the hands of the terrorists, who I have argued on this page before are carrying out the attacks not merely to intimidate the locals, but to stir up a press which through negligent and reckless reporting creates the impression that the terrorists are achieving some kind of "success." The spokesman was correct in concluding that "[t]here is nothing that you would rather see if you were Zarqawi than the headline, ’Iraqi Transition Marred’" by violence. I offer a simple appeal to the press: if you are going to tell the story--tell the whole story. Tell the people how quickly the threat is repelled, not just that an attack happened. Tell the people how severe the losses were on the terrorists side, and take the time to explain whether the terrorists were able to achieve any lasting military objective. And while you are at it, tell the people how the average Iraqi is still seeking freedom, and not terror.
The Hill is reporting that Michael Moore may not be able to advertise "Fahrenheit 9/11" because of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s prohibition on mass communications (radio/television) which reference candidates for federal office within 30 days of a primary (or, in this case, National Convention) or 60 days of a general election. The restriction is even broader than The Hill suggests. Because the ads would undoubtedly be paid for not by an individual, but by a corporation (the big, bad meanie in campaign finance law), they would be subjected 11 CFR 114.2(b)(2)(iii), which prohibits corporations from making any of these so-dubbed "electioneering" communications to those outside a restricted class. While there is a news exemption, it has been construed by the Supreme Court to be very narrow. Indeed, when I testified before the FEC in 2002, a frequent question debated among the Commissioners was whether comedy shows which reference the news (but are not traditional news services) such as The Daily Show, Letterman, and Leno would be subject to the news exemption.
To my mind, all of this shows how absurd campaign finance law has become. I think that Michael Moore is a grandstanding buffoon, but I believe that the First Amendment protects his ability to say political things. That does not mean that I think that Moore should get a pass with the FEC. Perhaps they will choose to expand the news exception, but if they do, it will be by doing violence to their own regulations. Moore’s movie, and any advertisement for it consistent with the themes of the film, are by the terms of the statute and regulations the sort of "attacks" that Congress and the FEC dubiously sought to regulate--even if those institutions did not contemplate this precise situation. For Moore to get a pass, many other communications should also get a pass and their sponsors thereby should be allowed to enjoy their First Amendment rights. But since I don’t see that happening, the law should be enforced equally.
Last Saturday, I joined Cpt. Bumgardner, elements of fourth platoon, and some Special Forces officers on a mission assessing a number of Kurdish villages. Anyone who doubts the merits of Special Forces need only see the response of ordinary soldiers to them. There is a sort of awe and respect. To give you but a taste, one trooper I was with exclaimed that "If I am to get into a firefight in country, I hope it is today. Id like to see these guys at work."
Early in the mission, one of the SF guys called me over. He noted that he had seen me on a previous day wearing a baseball cap (Yankees, of course), civilian clothes, ceramic body armor, and a beard. He explained that this was the profile that terrorists are using for Coalition intelligence officers. As case in point, another of the guys in his truck had a beard, something which is prohibited to the rank and file soldiers. I had been told something like this once before. When I arrived at the Joint Operations Center one day, a couple of the soldiers mistook me for SF from a distance (I assure you that no one would mistake me for SF up close), because the body armor and clothes I wore were similar to what they wear. To remedy this, the SF officer recommended that I shave down to a mustache. While I appreciated his advice, I do not intend to follow it. First, in Baghdad, I generally dont wear the baseball cap outside, because it does make you stand out. Second, the beard (which is not a recent addition, but is something I have sported for more than a decade) contributes to locals having to take a second look to tell whether I am from the region (Arab or Kurdish) or foreign. I have been mistaken for an Iraqi on numerous occasions in the north and in Baghdad. I take these mistakes to be a good thing: even if it just takes the bad guys a second look to figure out that I am not local, that is a split second in my favor.
I was a bit surprised to see this USA Today editorial beat-up on Kerrys claim that the economy is not doing well. Kerry exaggeration (his "middle-class misery index") is neither good policy or good politics, says the editorial.
Do read Jonathan Adlers article at NRO on the myth of the great Cuyahoga River fire -- the one that helped make Cleveland the "mistake on the lake" for decades. Adler writes:
The image of a river ablaze seared into the nations emerging environmental consciousness. Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner probably spoke for many Americans when she said "I will never forget a photograph of flames, fire, shooting right out of the water in downtown Cleveland. It was the summer of 1969 and the Cuyahoga River was burning." . . .
Theres a problem with this story. Much of it is myth. Oil and debris on the rivers surface did burn in 1969, and federal environmental statutes were the result, but so much else of what we "know" about the 1969 fire simply is not so. It was not evidence of rapidly declining environmental quality, nor was it clear evidence of the need for federal action.
Tens of millions of practicing Catholics in America have the blessings of their bishops to make political waves. Analyzing Friday’s statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, titled "Catholics in Political Life," Catholic League President William Donohue says the bishops spoke with "convincing clarity" on the subject of politics and religion. The bishops, he says, note correctly that the separation of church and state "does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life." "Not only is the bishops’ ruling cogently written and without a single flaw," Mr. Donohue says, it "should be widely disseminated to public officials and the law schools."
"The American bishops have failed," said American Life League president Judie Brown. "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had an opportunity to provide strong leadership on the question of Catholic public figures who favor legal abortion. However, their statement misses the mark on several points. As a result, election year politics has trumped the right to life of the innocent and the protection of Christ from sacrilege. . . . Had the bishops united in their commitment to enforce Canon 915, they could have prevented Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life from being misused for political ends by being represented as nothing more that a matter of "choice" in a pluralistic society. They failed to do that."
The Congressional Black Caucus had a few choice words for Ralph Nader yesterday: "Get your ass out."
Out of curiosity, who are the likely Nader voters? Is the African-American community really drawn to Nader? And if not, is the Congressional Black Caucus really concerned that it cant deliver its voting block to Kerry? And if the Caucus can deliver the black vote, why does it care what Nader does? I suppose the CBC has simply proven itself again to care more about the Democratic Partys political power than the interests of the black community.
The opening volley in Dick Morriss barrage on the Clinton ego reads:
Bill Clinton has a unique form of ADD — he is disordered when he does not get enough attention. Like a headlight reflector on the highway, he cannot shine unless a light illuminates him. Like a solar battery, he cannot generate energy unless he basks in the outside stimulus of sunlight. And like a cold-blooded creature, he cannot internally generate body warmth, but relies upon the sun to provide it.
Ralph Nader urges Kerry to pick John Edwards to be his runningmate. Is this supposed to be helpful to Edwards? Or, for that matter, to Kerry?
I have been reviewing some recent transcripts of events which occurred before I returned to Baghdad, and I thought that this was a particularly bold statement by Iraq’s new PM:
The enemy we are fighting is very evil and death, destruction, and the killing of defenseless Iraqis are the only things it knows. The Iraqis have suffered much and for many years under the yoke of the repressive regime. This is why the Iraqi people are determined to build a democratic government that provides freedom and equality in rights for all citizens. We are ready to work and even get martyred for achieving our objectives.
A few days back, Mr. Stewart inquired in a post about my thoughts on a Thomas Sowell article which chastised Iraqi leaders who placed symbolism above substance by attempting to subject foreign contractors to Iraqi law. I have a few thoughts on the topic. First, Sowell doesn’t mention the obvious problem: among the contractors who presumably would be subject to Iraqi law are private security forces like Blackwater. These individuals provide security not just for the American CPA officials and the future diplomats, but also for Iraqi diplomats (indeed, one was killed in the service of the Minister of Health), and other contractors. While there may be some agreement to try to place them into a separate category of immunity, I have not yet seen any evidence of this. The failure to provide immunity for these individuals would probably be the most serious deficiency of the proposed policy.
With that said, it is worth talking for a moment about symbolism. Recent polls showed that a majority of Iraqis had come to view Americans as occupiers rather than liberators. This is largely a function of symbolism. For example, when I interviewed Fr. Hermiz, the Catholic priest from Baghdad, a couple of months ago, he mentioned that the presence of the Americans in Saddam’s palaces and in his government buildings created a bad impression among the Iraqi people. First, they got the impression that Americans were living it up at the expense of the Iraqi people. I explained that in reality, these buildings are used as office space. The employees—even fairly high ranking employees—live in modular housing, and even then they have roommates in the cramped tin boxes. He told me that he understood, but that didn’t change the impression that people got. Second, he suggested that occupying the house that a brutal dictator built simply was “not a good image for America.” It was therefore no real surprise that the new government has voiced concerns about the US using the palace for expanded Embassy quarters in Baghdad. This is a case where symbols are important. It would be good for America to let the Iraqi people have the palaces, and in some cases we are. For example, the Republican Palace in Adhamiya, which I visited when I embedded with elements of the 1st Armored Division about three months ago, was being prepared at that time to be handed over to the ICDC as a base of operations for that area. This was a palace that was built with Oil for Food money, and was used by Uday as a “love shack.” It will now be, for the first time, in the hands of the Iraqi people. Other palaces, such as the main palace in Baghdad, may be more difficult to vacate just as a matter of space concerns. America will be opening its largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. The current US embassy building (which I believe is still being renovated), will simply not accommodate the staff. My understanding is that the government wants to give the Green Zone back, but that there are logistical snags which may drag the process out.
Now to substance. There have been numerous questions about what the transition will really mean. In some ways, it will mean little. The primary provider of security in the region will still be the Coalition—even after June 30th. While the Coalition will be here at the invitation of the Iraqis, who could technically choose to “un-invite” them, the prospect of such a move is remarkably slim. This is because Iraqi security forces, while making progress, are far from ready to overtake the day-to-day security operations for Iraq. Will this prevent factions from saber rattling if they disagree with the US on a particular military decision? No. But it will keep the moderates in check. And indeed, virtually every Iraqi I have spoken with has recognized the need for continued US presence in the country to preserve order.
Among the political branches, however, the transition will be far more substantive. To date, 60 percent of the Iraqi government has already transitioned to sovereignty. Some ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Electricity, and the Ministry of Communication will continue to retain a small handful of Coalition consultants. These individuals will have no operational authority, but will simply provide technical assistance as requested by the respective Iraqi minister. Other Ministries, like the Ministry of Education—whose 300,000 employees make it the largest of the 26 Iraqi ministries—will have no Coalition consultants. (I’m not entirely sure that the complete absence of consultants at Education is a good thing, but time will tell.)
I have already witnessed first hand some of the growing pains of transition. At FOB Bernstein, the majority of operations conducted fall in the category of Civil Affairs to use the military term, or nation building to use the civilian term. As such, I went to numerous villages with the troopers as they assessed the locals’ needs regarding drinking water, schools, and electricity. The troopers would generally get projects such as building schools and digging wells approved from funds allocated for these purposes, and then contract with local businesses to complete the projects. Recently, however, a number of projects were put on hold, because the funds were being shifted to Iraqi control. For those who question whether Iraqis are going to be given a real chance to govern, they need look no further than the fact that the U.S. Army will now be submitting improvement project proposals to the Iraqi government for consideration. Of course, even this is potentially subject to peril and abuse. For example, municipal services under Saddam were allocated to the villages by the major cities in the area. Many of the Kurdish villages in the Tuz area were therefore under the jurisdiction of Kirkuk. But Saddam tired of Kirkuk actually providing services to the Kurds, so he changed the Kurdish villages to the jurisdiction of the more distant and more Arab city of Tikrit, thereby functionally cutting off many services. The Kurds have expressed fear that shifting the decision making back to the Iraqi government without correcting the subtle oppression inherent in the structure of governance may perpetuate old wrongs.
There is much to think about on this topic, and I will be writing more on the subject in the coming days.
Major Stan Coerr, USMCR, writes an excellent short piece on why we went into Iraq in in Revue Politique. The crux: "...When is someone going to ask the guys who were there? What about the opinions of those whose lives were on the line, massed on the Iraq-Kuwait border beginning in February of last year? I don’t know how President Bush got the country behind him, because at the time I was living in a hole in the dirt in northern Kuwait. Why have I not heard a word from anyone who actually carried a rifle or flew a plane into bad guy country last year, and who has since had to deal with the ugly aftermath of a violent liberation? What about the guys who had the most to lose...what do they think about all this? .... I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis. None of us had even heard those arguments for going to war until we returned, and we still don’t understand the confusion. To us, it was simple. The world needed to be rid of a man who committed mass murder of an entire people, and our country was the only one that could project that much power that far and with that kind of precision. We don’t make policy decisions: we carry them out. And none of us had the slightest doubt about how right and good our actions were. The war was the right thing to do then, and in hindsight it was still the right thing to do. We can’t overthrow every murderous tyrant in the world, but when we can, we should. Take it from someone who was there, and who stood to lose everything. We must, and will, stay the course. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to the world." Do read it all.
If you have ever ridden a mototcycle for more than 400 miles a day you will know how impressive (and a little crazy) this accomplishment is: An American motorcyclist made the 5,632-mile trek from the northernmost road in Alaska to the southernmost tip of Florida in 100 hours and set a transcontinental record certified by the "Iron Butt Association" of bike enthusiasts.
"I’m a little tired ... a little bit bruised," biker Gary Eagan said by phone after finishing the journey on his Ducati Multistrada.
Reuters reports. "Frances conservative government has approved a draft law against sexism and homophobia that has worried press freedom watchdogs and angered feminists, who say it puts gays rights over respect for women." And: "A feminist group called Chiennes de garde (Guard Bitches) said it would be dangerous to send a signal that it is less serious to insult a woman because of her sex than to insult people because of their sexual orientation.
Calling someone a dirty dyke or a fag would become a serious insult in legal terms while there would be no punishment for calling someone a whore or a slut, it wrote in a statement published in the daily Le Monde."
Rowan Scarborough describes how we beat al Sadrs militia. "The Germany-based [1st Armor] division defeated the militia with a mix of American firepower and money paid to informants. Officers today say Operation Iron Saber will go down in military history books as one of the most important battles in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." (via
The hunt was called off when the "panther" turned out to be a large housecat. Although, the story reports, the searchers were still unable to catch it.
Farks title for the piece is amusing: "France surrenders to large housecat."
Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is backing a federal marriage amendment to thwart the efforts of his state to impose gay marriage on the rest of the country. As the WaTimes reports, "Massachusetts has redefined marriage for the entire country," said Mr. Romney, who threw his support behind the federal marriage amendment that is set for a Senate vote in a few weeks. "I can guarantee there have already been [homosexual] people married in Massachusetts that have moved to other states."
Drudge has links to 19 articles suggesting the Clinton’s "My Life" is slow out of the gate in select markets. Many of the markets listed are in the south, but several are perceived battleground states (Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Arizona). I personally believe the book will sell very well. Clinton had a charm--a way of drawing people to him--and that will motivate a large number of people to buy the book. He also had a controversial presidency, and he will likely get a bump based on the old adage that sex sells. But I doubt that the sales will help Kerry that much. Clinton is like a flame--bright and fascinating--which would lead one to think that another candidate would need but bask in his light. But when he is in the room, he shares another feature of a flame: he devours the oxygen, leaving none for another candidate, and his light reveals the inadequacies of the replacement candidates. Next to Clinton, Gore appeared all the more rigid. (Gore would have appeared rigid anyway, but the contrast was striking.) And next to Clinton, Kerry’s lack of finesse when it comes to flip-flopping and straddling positions will become all the more apparent. Clinton could play the left against the right and make it look easy. Oddly, this will hurt Kerry, who has to date failed to show Clinton’s skill in meneuvering between positions.
ITAR-Tass reports that 92 120 wounded in a night-time attack on the Russian republic of Ingushetia earlier this week. Other reports have the number of death at 57. Ingushetia is just West of Chechnya, and north of Georgia, has a native population of about 300,000, with an equal number of Chechen refugees. This is a brief introduction to the region. This is a map of the region.
Before I arrived at FOB Bernstein, there was much more terrorists and bandit activity, necessitating more raids and activity at the base. Just before I arrived, it became quiet. This was not bad--indeed as you will see from a longish article I am about to submit about my time there, the respite gave the troops time to do important nation building work. But we nonetheless joked that as soon as I left, things would heat up again. Things actually began to heat up a couple of weeks before I left: Infrequent rocket attacks occurred, and the operations tempo for raids concomitantly increased. But to make true the prophetic joke, I am told that within minutes of my departing, the troops went on a mission where they discovered that one of the local sheikhs (or tribal leaders) had been ambushed and brutally murdered.
I have received many comments and emails of thanks from family members of troopers stationed at FOB Bernstein, and I appreciate your well wishes. For those who have been checking this web site for updates about the troops at Bernstein, I would only advise that you should not stop browsing the site just yet. I have a number of pictures, posts, and a couple of full length articles that I have not yet been able to post, so there will be additional Bernstein content added over the coming days and weeks.
Betsy Streisand writes a tender personal note on Ronald Reagan and how he was, very private now, at the park with the children.
The Belmont Club continues to reveal that he thinks and writes (O.K., Im envious). This three page essay is very much worth reading, it is titled, "The Revolution Within the Revolution," and considers the massive shift in politics (understood most broadly) that has taken place since 9/11; how the unwritten constitution, the seeming civilizational norms of the liberals have been overthrown (Leftism), how Bush has become the enemy, and the liberals the supporters of the ancien regime, and what may be consequences; certainly electing John Kerry will not restore the antebellum world. Very thoughtful. Ponder.
The long trip back to Baghdad is now complete. I left FOB Bernstein Sunday morning on a convoy to Balad Airbase (I took a few final pictures before I left that can be seen here). The troopers on the convoy with me had reason to be happy: they were heading home for two weeks of leave. Among those making the trip was Sgt. Muirin from Ohio, whose wife was expecting their third child any day. She had complications in the previous two births, so Muirin was especially pleased to be able to be at her side. Unfortunately, nurses at Akron General Medical Center have gone on strike, which means that the Muirins’ hospital is not inducing labor except in emergency situations. (This brought a round of condemnations against union practices from the troopers, which surely warmed the cockles of Professor Richard Epstein’s heart.) If Sgt. Muirin is to be home for his child’s birth, nature will have to cooperate.
The trip to Balad was made in 5-tons, which are large cargo trucks with metal benches on the vehicle’s flatbed sides. This is the same kind of vehicles that the soldiers used to get in country from Kuwait, and I can assure you that they were built for utility, not comfort. The roads are inconsistent, and the suspension on the 5-tons is such that a good bump will toss you from your metal seat before gravity returns you to it with a vengeance. The open design also assures that you experience all the heat and dust that Iraq has to offer, both of which were in surplus on this day.
We arrived at the base at 11:45 am—a scant 15 minutes before I was supposed to be meeting up with another convoy to take me to the base at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). The rendezvous point was the Mayor’s Cell—an office which, as the name implies, oversees municipal services (as well as some uniquely military functions) to a base the size of a small U.S. city. I arrived at the Mayor’s Cell a few minutes early, and the convoy I was supposed to be meeting was not there. I chatted at length with some of the guys in the office, who were National Guard members from Arizona. The base PX had just gotten hit the previous week with a missile attack, leaving 3 soldiers dead and 12 wounded. On Saturday, I had ridden through Kurdish villages with some Special Forces officers, who told me that one of the men killed while waiting in line at the PX was also Special Forces. It is tragic when any of our men die, but I have to agree with a trooper, who, upon hearing about the death, noted how unfortunate it is for someone who has spent so many years learning not just to fight but to protect himself in any situation to be killed while standing in line for pogey bait (i.e., snack food). I’ve been in that PX before, and I can tell you that nestled in the middle of one of the largest airbases in Iraq, the idea of missiles flying through the walls did not even rise to the level of a fleeting thought. But as Major Smith informed me, the base gets attacked daily. The only difference is that this time, the terrorists managed to hit an occupied area.
As we talked, Major Smith, the senior officer in the Mayor’s Cell, pulled up the National Review page and the Ashbrook page to see some of my writings. My work obviously did not offend his senses too badly, because he took the initiative to secure a flight for me when the late hour made it apparent that my convoy was not coming. The flight on the Blackhawk the next morning directly to the Green Zone saved me from arranging for and awaiting another convoy down to BIAP. (If Maj. Smith happens to read this, I am very grateful.)
When I arrived in Baghdad, the first thing I did was to stop at the PX to pick up some clothes. You see, every time I come to Baghdad, I must have some kind of luggage problem. This time, the day before my convoy departed, I was on a mission that ran a little longer than anticipated. The laundry service decided to close early that day, thereby assuring that my clothes would have to be shipped to me. And to complete the circle, much of the clothes remaining in the Green Zone PX were sized for the freakishly large or small.
Baghdad is much as I remember it, only busier. The transition and the court martial trials have clearly stepped up journalistic interest in the city. This led to some minor complications in finding accommodations. When I arrived at the Sheraton, it was booked, and the Palestine across the street was also full, however I eventually found a secure apartment building that had some space available. I then went to the Convention Center, where the pre-trial Abu Grab court martial proceedings were taking place. It was Baghdad’s version of the OJ media circus. I have never seen so many TV trucks out in front of the Convention Center—not even for the signing of the Transitional Administrative Law. They had closed off the proceeding by the time I arrived, but an Air Force Lt. Colonel I spoke with gave me some interesting impressions of the Iraqi press. The Iraqis seemed fascinated by the proceedings, because the people with the power did something wrong, and were being called to account for it. The Iraqis are used to their leadership doing bad things—in fact much worse things—so that has really not been as big of a story in Iraq as it has been in the U.S. Indeed, in northern Iraq, where I have been for the last 6 weeks or so, the general sentiment among the locals was something of a yawn. Many adopted a fatalistic view that those who were abused probably were guilty and therefore deserved it. While some Iraqis were particularly outraged by the abuse, I have not yet seen evidence here of the level of interest displayed by American media. But the idea of holding people with power accountable does seem to have struck a chord. The Iraqis want to see whether justice will actually be done. We should not disappoint them.
Christopher Hitchens has a devastating review of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on Slate. He begins with a few words of description:
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
Hitchens then offers a crushing rebuke to Moore’s (and the Left in general’s) theory that Saddam really wasn’t a problem. The paragraph where he details Iraq’s role as haven for Abu Nadel, haven for Zarqawi after 9/11, its daily violations of UN Resolutions wrought by firing into the "No Fly Zone," and Saddam’s negotiations with N. Korea to purchase a weapons systems is too long to reprint here, but is worth reading.
Hitchens concludes with what should be a knockout punch to those who support Moore’s philosophy based on what they believe is best for the collected nations:
If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD.
Do read the whole article.
A reader sent along the paragraphs below from The New York Times, June 13, 2004,
"A Cold Morning in Vermont," by John Tierney. Heres part of this remarkable story, assuming it’s true:
"IGNAT SOLZHENITSYN understands why so many
people have warm thoughts of Ronald Reagan, but one
of his earliest memories is on the frigid side.
In 1980, Ignat was an 8-year-old transplanted to
Vermont by his father, the famous chronicler of
Siberia’s gulags. As Ignat tells the story, on the morning
after the presidential election he got a taste of American
political re-education at the progressive private school
he and his brothers attended.
In response to the Reagan victory, the school’s flag was
lowered to half-staff, and the morning assembly was
devoted to what today would be called grief counseling.
The headmaster mourned "what America would
become once the dark night of fascism descended
under the B-movie actor," recalled Mr. Solzhenitsyn,
who is now the music director of the Chamber
Orchestra of Philadelphia. "At one point he interrupted
himself to inquire if anyone present did not share his
gloomy view of the Reagan victory."
The only students to raise their hands were Ignat and
his two brothers, Yermolai and Stephan. After a stony
silence, he recalled, they were sent outside, without
their coats, to meditate on the error of their ways
underneath the lowered flag. Vermont in November was
hardly Siberia, but there was frost on the ground, and
they spent an hour shivering and exercising to stay
warm. Still, Ignat said, their political exile was a relief
from sitting in the auditorium listening to the party line."
"Now therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death, and I do proclaim, ordain, and declare that I will take care that the Constitution and laws of the United States are faithfully executed for the protection of Americas unborn children...."-- Ronald Reagan, Emancipation Proclamation of Preborn Children. January 14, 1988.
"If President Bush truly wants to honor the legacy of former President Reagan ... [h]e should approve broader federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. And he should do it right now."
...a President afraid of science. Or so says John Kerry in his "his pledge to overturn the ban on federal funding of research on new stem cell lines."
Space Ship One reached outer space, and came back safe and sound. The first private spacecraft to take people into space. Well done!
The Belmont Club has a few good paragraphs on the latest enemy offensive, Irans seizure of eight British sailors. This is a broadening of the offensive, but the Iranians miscalculate, in his estimation. Tony Blair is not Jimmy Carter. Pay attention to the developments.
The Washington Post is running a series on what went wrong with the occupation in Iraq. This, the second in the series, focuses on our attempt to help rebuild Iraqi universities, and relies on a lengthy interview with John Agresto, our guy in charge. He is now quite a bit more pessimistic than whe he got there, both about the democratization of Iraq and about having a good effect on higher education. He says, "I’m a neoconservative who’s been mugged by reality." Very long, very interesting.
Something interesting has happened in Algeria: "Nabil Sahraoui, leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), was killed in a gun battle with the armed forces along with his three top aides in eastern Algeria. His death is significant because he radicalised Algerias principal Islamic rebel group by aligning it to al Qaeda, kidnapped 32 European tourists in the Sahara last year, and declared war on foreign individuals and companies in Algeria.
Analysts say in addition to Sahraoui, the head of the committee that picked GSPC commanders and the groups explosives expert were among seven militants killed on Thursday and Friday east of Algiers in an army sweep involving thousands of troops."
Iran has seized three British patrol boats, it claims, in Iranian waters. Eight British sailors have been taken into custody.
Here is the Reuters report on Clintons "Sixty Minutes" interview. Predictable stuff, it would seem. But look at this report from the U.K.s Telegraph which reports on Clintons interview with David Dimbledy of the BBC. "The former American president, famed for his amiable disposition, becomes visibly angry and rattled, particularly when Dimbleby asks him whether his publicly declared contrition over the affair is genuine.
His outrage at the line of questioning during the 50-minute interview, to be broadcast on Panorama on Tuesday night, lasts several minutes. It is the first time that the former President has been seen to lose his temper publicly over the issue of his sexual liaisons with Ms Lewinsky.
The President initially responds to Dimblebys questions by launching a general attack on media intrusion. When the broadcaster persists with the question of whether the politician was truly penitent, Clinton directs his anger towards Dimbleby."
Read the whole of it. This interview will be broadcast Tuesday in the U.K. A BBC executive said: "He is visibly angry with Dimblebys line of questioning and some of that anger gets directed at Dimbleby himself. As outbursts go, it is not just some flash that is over in an instant. It is something substantial and sustained.
It is memorable television which will give the public a different insight into the Presidents character. It will leave them wondering whether he is as contrite as he says he is about past events. Dimbleby manages to remain calm and order is eventually restored."
Ray Bradbury is not amused that Michael Moore took the title of his movie from Bardburys famous book, Fahrenheit 451. "He didnt ask my permission," Bradbury, 83, told The Associated Press on Friday. "Thats not his novel, thats not his title, so he shouldnt have done it."
Critical Mass has a note on ugly words, "not words that mean hateful things, necessarily, but words whose sheer phonetic misshapenness repels us." He cites a few: phlegm, goober, segue, problematize. It started me thinking. I guess I have some favorite ugly words: ideology, quiz, swastika, artichoke, bureaucracy, midriff, hopefully, understand. Just dont like the way they sound. If I think about it for a minute, it maybe true that there are few German words whose sound I like, but I do like the sound of all Italian words I have ever heard. I have no idea what all that means except to avoid the ugly. Come to think of it, Im not sure I like avoid either. I once asked Vicki (my wife) what Hungarian sounded like to hear ears (she doesnt speak it, but was in the midst of a group of Hungarian speakers) and she said it sounds like the barking of dogs. I didnt translate, but then asked a Hungarian (who didnt know a word of English) what English sounded like (having just heard the conversation I had with Vicki in English) and he said it sounded like the barking of dogs. I pushed it a bit, and asked what sounds they considered lovely. The Hungarians came up with words like "lehel" (to breathe) or "lelek" (soul).
In English we came up "willow", "home", and "lovely", "hush", (and a few more I cant remember). This may be worth thinking about.
Michiko Kakutani writes what I take to be the first book review of Clintons My Life for the New York Times. The review slams the book, both as a literary effort and as a work of history or biography. It is neither. These few lines will give you the idea, but read the whole review. It is both well written and short. "The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clintons presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration."
Our daughter Beckly is in South Dakota for the whole Summer (working at Custer State Park). She is enjoying all of it, but did have this one question when she saw her first Bison peering into her room the first morning she was there: "These are the ugliest beasts I have ever seen, what are they good for?" Well, maybe now we have the answer for that. Apparently
Buffalo meat is very good for you; it is lower in fat than even chicken. It is becoming very popular. I think we should only eat ugly things (especially if it’s good for you!).
The Economist (London) reflects on the already started "Clinton publicity machine." "For Washington, DC, the big question about the Clinton revival tour is how it will affect John Kerry. Will the charismatic old rogue suck away the oxygen of publicity? Or will a little of his charm rub off on the dull-as-ditchwater senator? Mr. Kerry has so far concentrated on defining himself in relation to George Bush; now he must define himself in relation to the most electable Democrat since FDR." This will not be to Kerry’s political advantage, in my opinion. More on that later but, for now, it is absolutely clear that
The Harris Poll shows Bush with a 10% lead over Kerry among likely voters. There is plenty more good news for Republicans in the poll. I havent seen it referenced on the nightly news (yet). Also note this Pew Poll showing that the support for the war in Iraq: 55% think that going to war was the right thinbg to do, and 57% think that the military effort in Iraq is going well (up from 46%).
I don’t have much to say about this latest barbarism from evil-doers. What can I say? Savages? Yes. I bet Dan Rather won’t let you see the pictures. But Drudge has photos of the beheading of Paul Johnson, American. File and show them to your friends when they turn wobbly.
And the American Enterprise Institute makes avaliable the video of some of Saddams tortures, beheading, cutting off fingers, etc. Again, not available on CBS and the others.
Trinidad - A frail 89-year-old Trinidadian man left his apartment for the first time in eight years this week after broken elevators in the government-owned building were finally replaced.
This MSNBC report picks up on another side of the stem-cell debate: cloning. Recall that the controversial stem-cells are derived from human embryos, and it is the extracting of the stem-cells that destroys the embryo. The more embryos we have, the more stem-cells, a simple math that spurrs the creation of more embryos with the desired genetic code. Enter human cloning. The MSNBC piece looks at recent state initiatives to ban the cloning process, with stem-cell research as the collateral damage. Of course, we could flip the issue and ask whether live-birth human cloning is likely to be the collateral damage of an expanded stem-cell research policy? How likely is it that well get one without the other?
Without wavering in its opposition to the U.S.-led coalition’s war in Iraq, Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin now admits that "Russia gave the Bush administration intelligence after the September 11 attacks that suggested Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was preparing attacks in the United States." (From FoxNews.)
And heres the story from CNN.
Instead of revealing how angry I am at the media for their reporting on the 9/11 Commissions so called lack of connection between al Qaeda and Iraq, Im going on a bike ride. Ill ruminate on it. But it is infuriating. For the meantime, look at these few paragraphs from Andrew Sullivan:
"The vice-presidents direct attack on the New York Times portrayal of the 9/11 Commission report was a zinger. On balance, I think Cheney is right. The links between al Qaeda and Saddam may not have amounted to a formal alliance, but they existed all right, as the Commission conceded. The NYT itself reported that The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90s, they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. But if there were repeated contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq, how can it be true that, as the headline put it, that Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie? Headlines truncate things, of course. But Cheney is dead-on in describing this headline as misleading. Heres Tom Kean, the chairman of the Commision: What we have found is, were there contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq? Yes. Some of them were shadowy - but they were there. Heres Lee Hamilton:
I must say I have trouble understanding the flack over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Husseins government. We dont disagree with that. What we have said is what the governor just said, we dont have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Husseins government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me.
The NYT had the gall to demand that Bush and Cheney apologize. In fact, its the NYT that needs to apologize."
Cant resist highlighting a second African-American economist this morning. Walter Williams takes on the "tyranical" crusade against ladies night.
The Financial Times is reporting that Iraq’s interim government "is considering imposing martial law to help stabilise the country after another two car bomb attacks on Thursday killed at least 41 Iraqis." While the article fails to say what martial law would entail in a country which already lacks many of the legal protections that we in the US considered waived by the imposition of martial law, Muwaffaq Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser was quoted as saying "It [the new law] should not have sweeping powers. It should be limited in time and space. . . . [But] the terrorists are shooting people on sight. You need to be a little bit more proactive, a little bit more robust." It is at this point that the FT writers seem to forget whether they are writing for the news page or the op-ed page: "Such laws carry uncomfortable echoes of the legal fabrications used by the former regime of Saddam Hussein and many current Arab governments to justify repressive and totalitarian rule." While it is sensible to question whether the cure of martial law is worse than the disease it seeks to remedy, this statement struck me as a bit over the top--and a bit demeaning to the Arab world. Would the authors use the same tone if London were the subject of daily terror attacks, and the government established martial law to restore order and protect its citizens? Admittedly Iraq does not have the history of respecting human rights that London does, but the authors’ open disdain seems to be a bit too dismissive of Iraq’s new government, and its interest in protecting its people.
Thomas Sowells commentary on "Symbols v. Substance" pulls on a thread that I havent seen others tugging on: the price of symbollic sovereignty in Iraq. On the issue of rebuilding Iraq, Sowell asks: "Do you have any idea of the Iraqi legal system? Are you prepared to risk your freedom, and perhaps your life, to find out?" He goes on to write:
Obviously, subjecting foreign workers and entrepreneurs to a wholly different legal system from what they are used to creates yet another obstacle to recruiting people with skills and experience urgently needed to get Iraq back on its feet as a functioning society. But the symbols of sovereignty are apparently more important than the substance of a restored economy and society, at least to some Iraqi politicians.
Special forces and counter-terrorism officials from the U.S. and 14 Asia-Pacific nations met "in Australia in an unprecedented attempt to coordinate their war against Al-Qaeda and its Southeast Asian allies."
"The three-day gathering, held behind tight security in the rural town of Bowral south of Sydney, began on Wednesday but was kept secret until just hours before Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill addressed the delegates on Thursday.
As unpalatable as it may be, we have to acknowledge that this region is a breeding ground for Islamic extremism," Hill told the meeting. He also said: "A goal of these terrorists is to erode and exhaust us.
We cannot defeat apocalyptic terrorism in any one of our countries, we must refute their extremist creed wherever it arises."
In honor of yesterdays 100th Anniversary of Bloomsday, a friend sent me this BBC report, "A Cheats Guide to Joyces Ulysses." As the article points out, "for all its renown and notoriety, it is a book that few have read and even fewer comprehend. To rectify this, BBC News Online presents an irreverent simple chapter-by-chapter guide to the key events, characters and Homeric parallels." Not sure that the piece delivers on the "Homeric parallels," but it comes complete with reader-responses like this one:
It is quite typical of the pompous boorishness of the BBC to try and denegrate an Irish masterpiece. You will never understand it and of course you will always be envious.
I just got done reading the new edition of Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power, which is an intelligent and thought-provoking book (though not always right on some important matters, in my view). Kagan ends on a pessimistic note, saying that the current tension between Europe and America over Iraq is part of a larger international "tragedy": namely, that to "address today’s global threats Americans will need the legitimacy that Europe can provide" but "may well fail to provide" because Europeans are more concerned about "an American Leviathan unbound" than about the dangers of "terrorism and weapons of mass destruction" produced by tyrants. Thus, in his view, the West will drift farther and farther apart, with potentially perilous consequences for the US and Europe (and decent people everywhere).
In that light, it is worth considering this article from The New York Times on the upcoming IAEA statement on Iran’s nuclear program. The question is whether the British, French, and Germans (who all negotiated a deal a few months ago with the Iranians that the mullahs subsequently broke) will stand firm and back a tough condemnation of and warning to Iran as the Bush administration is urging, or whether they will take the opportunity afforded by a technical mistake in a previous IAEA statement to let Iran off the hook.
As we know, Iran and North Korea are the next likely international crisis points, but since the Europeans have no real historic or strategic interests in East Asia, Iran will be the test for whether they can recognize and deal seriously with a lurking international disaster (a nuclear Iran!), or whether they will end up retreating for good from what Kagan calls the "Hobbesian jungle" outside Europe into their "post-modern paradise".
As something of a related follow-up on the stem-cell discussion spurred by the Reagans plea for Bush to flip-flop on the issue, heres an AP report on why stem-cell research is not a top priority in Alzheimer labs. A snipet:
"I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimers disease and for identifying preventive strategies," said Marilyn Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimers Association.
It has been well-documented that John Kerry has not captured the heart and soul of liberalism and its Democratic party, but he is their only mouthpiece now for defeating George Bush in November, and the Left is, er, putting its money where its mouth is. The intro to the WaPo article on Kerry’s campaign finances reads:
Since locking up the Democratic nomination on March 2, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has raised more than $100 million, or over $1 million a day -- a pace breaking all presidential campaign records, including those set by President Bush.
This Howard Fineman Newsweek article is worth reading but not, I hasten to add, because his politics is pro-Bush. It surely isn’t. On the other hand it is a valuable insight into how this campaign is going to develop, or if you prefer, how it has developed (helped along by a biased media, which Fineman implicitly admits). The election will revolve around Iraq, Bush’s decision to invade, and how the consequences of the invasion will be seen by election day. The increasingly hostile media environment against Bush will continue through election day. The media (and the Demos) are actually angry at Bush, and they are going to keep hitting, and not only on Iraq. I was watching MSNBC last night and the good economic indicators were ignored and the so-called news story immediately launched into the "middle class squeeze" (that is, Kerry’s latest take on the increasingly good eceonomic news): The price of everything is still too high, especially milk. This gets a bit embarrassing, or it should. But, that will pass and the voters are seeing and will see with perfect clarity by election day that the economy has been, and will continue to be, just fine. Therefore only Iraq is left. The issue not only will be the daily bombings and deaths, and also the transition toward a democratic and moderate regime, but--and this is the crux of the matter--whether or not Bush should have gone into Iraq in the first place. Is America safer? Was it worth the blood and money? And so on. There will be facts on the ground, and, later in the Summer and Fall (and in the debates) there will be Bush trying to make the argument that it was the right thing to do and see the consequences already revealing themselves. Will he be persuasive? I am betting that he will be. But more on that later. Fineman’s last point that Bush will turn into a Carter--that by the time of the debates citizens will have tired of Bush as they tired of Carter--and will be ready to vote for an alternative, even one that they have no enthusiasm for, is simply wrong. In short, as I have maintained for almost nine months, the election will indeed revolve around Iraq. This is the liberal media’s (and the invisible and boring John Kerry’s) hope, and it will come true, and they will regret that it will prove to be true. I’m betting on it and I will go even further--for reasons I will try to continue to explain over the next weeks and months--and assert here that this will not be a close election. Bush will win and it will not be a squeaker. Kerry cannot unleash an argument on Iraq that is persuasive, and the liberal media’s continuing attacks will not be sufficient to overthrow Bush. The media will not decide the election. The American people didn’t get off the boat yesterday (nor did I).
Clinton explains his infidelity with Monica as a "morally indefensible" sin of convenience. And adds that Hillary wasnt happy about it. Stunning.
Powerline does a nice job of taking to task the NYT and WaPo coverage of the 9/11 report, in which those publications respectively claim that one of Bush’s central justifications for the war was collaboration between AQ & Saddam. The actual report states "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." Powerline offers the following thoughts:
To say that this report adds nothing to our understanding of al Qaeda and Iraq would be an understatement. It appears to have been written before the discovery that a Lt. Col. in the Saddam Fedayeen, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, attended the key planning meeting of the Sept. 11 plotters. Beyond that, the staff either is ignorant of the many indications of connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, or simply ignores them, secure in the knowledge that the mainstream media will applaud their conclusions without questioning their reasoning.
The claim that the Bush administration alleged a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11 is, of course, false. But newspapers like the Times and the Post are caught up in the excitement of the election year; they deliberately seek to create the impression that the administration made such a claim, and that it has somehow been "refuted." Neither suggestion is true.
It is also worth reading the commission’s conclusory sentence, obviously crafted for easy news citation, carefully: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." (emphasis added). But there are many steps short of attacks, which could include financial support, turning a blind eye toward terrorists and their activities conducted in country, assisting in the production of VX gas in Sudan, etc. There is ample evidence to suggest that Iraq had a friendly relationship with terrorists, even if there is a relative paucity of evidence (outside the meeting of some key officials) to suggest that Iraq participated in 9/11 itself. Nonetheless, the fact that the former regime "cooperated" with some terrorists up to and including training hijackers at Salman Pak--even if the terrorists Saddam trained were neither AQ nor those who attacked 9/11--is enough to keep Saddam off my Ramadan card list.
On Tuesday, CNN reported on a reported on a letter allegedly sent from Zarqawi to Bin Laden which appeared on Islamic web sites. In the letter, Zarqawi complains: "The space of movement is starting to get smaller . . . . The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors’ necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening." Now the interesting part: upon review, CNN determined that this is the same communication intercepted from Zarqawi and released by the Coalition in February. For all the lamentations of Iraqi defeat coming from the West, I bet this is the first time that many of you have read this Al Qaeda operatives statement of waning hope.
I just noticed this by Milton Friedman on Ronald Reagan. Good, short, with a couple of nice graphs.
Today is the 100th Anniversary of the inscrutable Ulysses "Bloomsday," June 16, 1904. (Should probably order Guiness tonight.)
The WaPost has this report on Al Qaedas original plan to use 10 planes on September 11.
This is a very interesting report from London’s Financial Times. It elaborates on indications that al Qaeda is morphing into an organized crime network and making a lot of money from narcotics. Needless to say, this is complicated. Afghan growers, Russian crime figures, never mind places like Colombia. Also see this for how FARC recruits in Colombia. Also see this DEA testimony before a Senate committee. And this from the BBC on the connection between the Madrid bombings and narcotics
I just realized that we have a photo Robert Alt in Iraq. You will recognize him because he is the second from the right, kneeling. Hard to find? Look for the guy who doesnt look like a soldier! Its among the photos he has sent in over the time he has been there, you can view them by clicking here).
CNN reports that the U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp "to recognize the many honors that President Reagan, a man of diverse talents, accumulated throughout his life and beyond." The Postal Service allows former presidents to appear on a stamp as early as "their first birth anniversary following death." This means the stamp could appear on February 6, 2005.
Following up on the commentary and discussion on Bush’s stem-cell policy, here’s a worthwhile and relatively short piece on many of the moral and philosophical issues inherent in our stem-cell debate. From the introduction:
If we listen closely to the moral discourse arguing that embryonic stem cells should be employed in medical research, we get a glimpse into the prevailing moral culture of our time. At its heart is a utilitarian calculus, combined with an unlimited emphasis on the virtue of compassion and undergirded by a worldview of what we might call "spiritualistic naturalism."
Output "at U.S. factories, mines and utilities surged in May, posting its biggest gain in almost six years, the Federal Reserve reported on Wednesday. The Fed said industrial production rose a larger-than-expected 1.1 percent in May after a 0.8 percent gain in April. The May increase was the biggest since a 2.0 percent rise in August 1998."
And then there is this: "U.S. companies are gearing up to create jobs at rates not seen since the height of the 1990s boom, a survey released on Tuesday showed, adding to evidence that job growth will keep the U.S. economic recovery rolling."
It seems Ohio has decided that the war in Iraq is a war on crime. Ohios military servicemen and women injured or killed in the line of military duty are now eligible to receive state grant money from the Ohio Victims of Crime Fund. I am quite sympathetic to the gesture aimed at helping the families that have lost loved ones in the Iraq conflict, and I do not question the good-hearted intent. But recharacterizing the war in Iraq so that being Killed In Action now makes you a victime of crime raises some troubling issues. Its not as if the grantees were the victims of "war crimes." They were tragically KIA by enemy combatants engaged in guerilla, urban warfare, and just as the military does not honor civilian (or even police) victims and heros with Purple Hearts and Silver Stars, Im not sure I understand why the U.S. military should be awarded civilian money slated for alleviating the agony of all-too-common street crime. I could be wrong on this, but blurring the lines between civilian and military, and war and street crime doesnt strike me as helpful. Replacing "Killed In Action" with "Homicide" on the death certificate of a soldier slain in combat may actually devalue the true nature of his ultimate sacrifice.
Juan Williams op-ed in The New York Times is interesting. He claims that it is not impossible for Bush to get 20% of black support (he got 8% in 2000) because: 1) blacks have no enthusiasm for Kerry, and Kerry seems to be taking them for granted; 2) blacks as bloc voters is being questioned (for example, 34% of 18 to 25 year old blacks say they are independent, and 24% of all blacks say they are independent) and Bill Cosbys recent comments resonates with younger black voters; 3) black churches are generally supportive of Bushs faith-based initiative. Also, it is not irrelevant that there are many blacks in the highest positions in the administration. (Thanks to Ken Masugi)
Terry Eastland calls attention to "Reagans Other Legacy" -- the federal bench. He reminds us that Reagan appointed a record 382 judges to the bench, made Rehnquist our Chief Justice, appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, gave us the indominable Justice Scalia, and instituted an extensive vetting process and the now standard practice of a President personally contacting judicial nominees. Much of what we now expect from the nomination process, like "Borking," for example, can be traced in some measure to Reagans presidency.
Over the weekend, Rocketman returned, and brought with him rocket attacks on two consecutive nights. He seems to have some intelligence about the base, because his attacks have coincided with the dinner hour. Obviously his intelligence isn’t that good, or he would know that the troops fear the chow hall more than they do his rockets. He decided to mix things up this time, firing 107mm and 122mm rockets. On the second night, fourth platoon was on duty as the quick reaction force, and so I joined them when they were sent to the projected launch location moments after the rocket’s impact. (For my friend who got married on Saturday, I estimate that it was at about the time that you said “I do” that we were rolling out to search for the Rocketman.)
Iraq’s topography is not as flat as you might imagine. The trip to the suspected launch site took us across a field of wadis that challenged even the Humvees’ ordinarily robust suspension. “Hold on Dickens!” yelled driver Pv1 Harkless to gunner Spc. Dickens, as the vehicle traversed crevasses of cement-like dirt. Bouncing around in the vehicle, I realized why the Humvees have padded interior roofs. We finally came to a canyon that the vehicles could not cross. Another unit was able to find a crossing before we did, and so they continued the chase from there.
On a recon mission the next day, I was able to see the area in which one set of the rockets was fired. Without a launcher, the terrorists apparently resorted to propping the rockets up against a dirt incline and hoping, inshallah, the rockets hit anywhere near the target. I have some pictures of parts of the rockets and the launching systems found, which are posted here.
I just returned from photographing some rocket parts recovered after a recent attack on the base. On the walk back to the bunker, I realized that at a certain temperature, your eyeballs, which unless I am mistaken cannot sweat, make known to you that the external heat exceeds the human bodys recommended operating conditions. The sand, which has not seen water in some time, becomes a fine, powderey dust, and the air feels thin. Having grown up in California, I have experienced this kind of heat before--and it answered to the name Mojave. I have not seen what the temperature is here on base since Sunday, when it registered 120 degrees. The heat category yesterday was 5--whatever that means--which I am told is the highest level and therefore "bad." Take this heat, add 20+ pounds of body armor and a kevlar helmet to it, and you have another June day in Iraq.
WaPo reports that the Senate voted 65-33 in favor of appending a hate crimes bill to the Defense Authorization bill. The bill would make a federal offense crimes committed based on sexual orientation, gender, and disability. WaPo also states that the act "would eliminate a current restriction limiting federal intervention to cases where victims were engaged in federally protected activities, such as voting." Leaving aside the more general question of federalism (i.e., why is this a federal issue rather than a state police power issue?), and the question of public policy (i.e., why is a federal law needed when the typically-cited examples of recent hate crimes have resulted in vigorous prosecution by the states?), I am curious as to what authority Congress believes it has to pass this law. Once the legislaton is unmoored from federally protected activities, I presume Congress is forced to rely on the Commerce Clause for the power to enact this legislation. But the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lopez and Morrison make clear that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress power to regulate criminal activity in the absence of demonstrating that the regulated activity has--surprise--a substantial effect on interstate commerce. I presume the hate crimes rider will die in conference with the House, but if not, look for what should be a slam dunk constitutional challenge.
I originally posted this as a comment to Schramms post about the value of blogs, but I thought it was worth repeating here. The Time article’s warning about people only reading web pages which conform to their own views is just a watered down version of Cass Sunstein’s absurd arguments from his book Republic.com. Sunstein went so far as to argue that there should be government labels on web pages to warn simple-minded readers that the page is "liberal" or "conservative." (Regulations: the first refuge of the liberal.) He feared that the web would lead us away from the pre-web diversity in news opinion. But Sunstein, like Time, fails to recognize that what they cite as unbiased or mainstream news is neither unbiased nor diverse. Indeed, anyone who gets their news from the NYT and Peter Jennings has secured an ideology-affirming loop just as effective as any selective web browser. Liberals seem very concerned about the web, presumably because they maintain a position of relative dominance in the print and broadcast media (outside of say, Fox), but do not appear to have any such stranglehold on the blogosphere.
Aside from failing to take into account the fact that most readers I know scan a reasonable variety of weblogs from the left and the right, the Time/Sunstein article also fails to take into account the news aggregation function of blogs. On any given day, readers of this page will see articles from a wide variety of publications linked which they otherwise may not have seen. The articles may be from left, right, or moderate publications or writers. This news aggregator function is common to blogs, and I believe contributes to the popularity of blogs as a news medium.
While I do not get to see polls as often as most readers, I have observed that most polls have indicated something of a statistical dead heat (within the margin of error) for some time. Then out of the blue comes the LA Times poll [free registration required] showing Kerry with a 7-point lead in a head-to-head race with Bush. Anytime a poll is that far outside the mainstream of polling data, questions about methodology should be asked. In this case, Drudge, citing an article from Roll Call (which does not appear to be available to non-subscribers), reports that "Not counting independents, the Times results were calculated on a sample made up of 38 percent Democrats and 25 percent Republicans -- a huge and unheard-of margin." Given that skewed sample set, the only surprise is that Kerrys lead was only 7 points.
An interesting article from the Jerusalem Post on Israel’s interception of a major suicide attack by Hamas. These kind of successful actions - combined with the security fence, more effective targeted killings of terrorist leaders, international acceptance of Sharon’s disengagement plan, and Egyptian pressure on the Palestinian factions - continue to shift the dynamic on the ground in favor of a pullout that will leave Israel stronger and Hamas unable to claim victory.
Howard Bashman of How Appealing asks "How many Justices will need to recuse themselves from the next challenge to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to reach the U.S. Supreme Court?" In retrospect, he writes, "it was absurd for Justice Antonin Scalia to have recused himself from the Pledge of Allegiance case." His argument is worth repeating:
And what about the Chief Justice and Justices Sandra Day OConnor and Clarence Thomas? Those three members of the Court yesterday, in a case in which a majority held that jurisdiction was lacking to reach the merits of the establishment clause question, issued opinions in which they stated that they would reject an establishment clause challenge to the Pledge in its current form. Will those three Justices need to recuse from the next Pledge case to reach the Court? If not, how is their prior commitment to a result different from Justice Scalias? And wont it be easier, as a theoretical matter, for Justice Scalia to reach a result that differs from his public statement than it will be for the other three Justices to renounce their formal judicial opinions issued yesterday?
And for more on Newdow, check out The Volokh Conspiracys answer to: Why did the Court agree to hear the Pledge case,given the standing problem? Didnt they know that this was an issue?
...on stem-cells. From Inside Politics:
The White House yesterday rejected calls from Ronald Reagans family and others to relax President Bushs restrictions on stem-cell research in pursuit of cures for illnesses.
This four page post from Belmont Club (including some charts and graphs) is very much worth reading. Consider what is happening in Saudi Arabia. Are terrorists trying to overthrow the regime? Or, do they have something even more mischievious in mind; possibly wanting to disrupt the flow of oil? (I hasten to add that both can be done at once). Belmont Club shows that Asia is even more dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf than we are (see the charts). Also, and especially, note the listing of "choke points" (Bab el-Mandab, Bosporus, etc.) that are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and taking out any of them would not be good. "Except for the Russian oil pipelines and the Panama Canal, which has been excluded from this list, nearly all the oil chokepoints are in regions where groups like Al Qaeda can be expected to operate. But although the dependence on oil is global, the defense of these strategic corridors has not been internationalized."
It seems folks dont know why John Kerry wants to be President. ABC News reports that Kerry has adopted a new five word campaign slogan not unlike the one our candidates for high school student council used to use: "Im running for president because..." So far, Kerrys come up with
"Im running for president to put America back to work ... Im running for president because health care is not a benefit for the wealthy or the elected or the connected ... Im running for president because I know that we could be a hell of a lot stronger in the world if we were to secure our freedom ... Im running for president because I believe we can build an even more effective military."Sounds a lot like he wants longer study halls and more pop machines.
Time magazine runs this piece on blogs. It is, unsurprisingly, a bit snobbish, but I thought it’s worth bringing to your attention. This passes for deep thought at Time: "We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician. It will be interesting to see what role blogs play in the upcoming election. Blogs can be a great way of communicating, but they can keep people apart too. If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with."
Here is an example of a very useful blog, Chronicallybiased, out of Houston. It is "devoted to keeping an eye on the biases and errors of Houston’s only major daily newspaper.
We believe that the Houston Chronicle suffers from both partisan bias and from poor journalistic practices. We believe that news coverage is often slanted to reflect the liberal biases of editorial staff, and we believe that the editors are more concerned about promoting a political agenda than fairly covering the news important to Houstonians and Texans." Go to it!
This is an interview with Robert D. Kaplan in The Atlantic. He was embedded with the Marines in Fallujah. His insights are quite interesting, both large and small. While he thinks that giving up Fallujah was a mistake, he maintains that the real work--and war--was in the South (as I have maintained) and there we did everything we needed to do.
Although there is nothing shocking or new in this thoughtful David Brooks column, it is worth reading. He argues that there is a civil war within the educated class, between professionals and managers, members of the knowledge class vs. members of the business class. EDach has a different view of what sort of people should run the country, and which virtues are most important for a leader. Largely true, I think, but another point should be added: the manager types are, in my opinion, less interested in "running" the country (and less interested in the honor therefrom). This explains, in part, why members of the knowledge class are so arrogant, they do view members of the business class as simple minded, uncultured morons, whereas the business class doesnt think the others are inferior, just decadent. One is an intellectual judgment, the other moral.
The New York Times reveals that two journals of ex-slaves have recently been discovered. One was written by John Washington, and the other by Wallace Turnage. Both men escaped to Union lines during the war. David W. Blight, the Yale historian plans to publish both. Good story of where the mansucripts have been, and how they were discovered.
Gleaves Whitney had these reflections on what we learned last week in our remembrance of Reagan. A sample:
With the burial of Ronald Reagan last Friday, a remarkable week in our nations history drew to a close. Or did it? In looking back, have we not been inspired to go forward? In remembering Reagans life, are we not prouder Americans? Is not our vision clearer? Our step crisper?
Mongolians now need surnames, after more than 80 years without one. Why? "For more than 80 years, everyone in Mongolia was on a first-name basis. After seizing power in the early 1920s, the Mongolian Communists destroyed all family names in a campaign to eliminate the clan system, the hereditary aristocracy and the class structure." A new law in 1997 required everyone to have surnames. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Borjigin, the tribal name of Genghis Khan has become very popular. All this is a bit weird, to be sure. But also kind of amusing. Read it, from The Globe and Mail.
The EU elections indicate a real problem with this emerging (or, stillborn?) new Leviathan state: Fewer and fewer are interested and the opposition parties make huge gains. This BBC reveals the mess that the EU folks find themselves in; especially note some of the quotes from pro-EU politicians. Example: "Outgoing European Parliament President Pat Cox described the results as a ’wake-up call’ and warned European leaders that they had to demonstrate the EU’s relevance to voters." In other words the voters don’t consider it relevant, so now we have to persuade them, meaning we haven’t yet done so. Revealing. Also see this for drubbing that the German Socialists took, the biggest losers. Here is a Reuters report on the complications that Labour losses has caused for Tony Blair. Labour won only 23% of the vote, compared with 27% for the Conservatives and the Independence (anti-EU) Party got 17%.
A Somali man living in Ohio was charged with plotting with al Qaeda supporters to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio, Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Monday.
According to an indictment unsealed in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, Nuradin Abdi, 32, attended a camp in Ethiopia for military-style training in "preparation for violent jihad."
Ashcroft said after receiving his training in Africa, Abdi returned to the United States and he and others "initiated a plot" to blow up a Columbus area shopping mall.
For those interested, here are the remarks of President Bush as he hosted the unveiling of the portraits of former President William Jefferson Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House, today. Much levity filled the room as Bush regaled his audience with stories about Bill and Hillary. Representative excerpt:
"As you might know, my father and I have decided to call each other by numbers. (Laughter.) He’s 41, I’m 43. It’s a great honor to -- it’s a great pleasure to honor number 42. We’re glad you’re here, 42. (Applause.) The years have done a lot to clarify the strengths of this man. As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the President, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As chief executive, he showed a deep and far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a President. Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead -- and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer.
Here’s the Court’s ruling on the pledge of allegiance case, which reverses the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling for Newdow’s lack of standing. From the syllabus:
Because California law deprives Newdow of the right to sue as next friend, he lacks prudential standing to challenge the school district’s policy in federal court. The standing requirement derives from the constitutional and prudential limits to the powers of an unelected, unrepresentative judiciary.
Although Rehnquist, O’Connor, and Thomas agreed with Stevens’s unanimous decision that the lower court ruling be reversed, they did not agree that Newdow lacked standing. Hence, in their separate concurrences they argued that the case should have been heard on the merits and gave their respective reasons for what the Court should have held in the case. Rehnquist’s concurrence, joined by O’Connor and Thomas insofar as it argued for a decision on the case’s merits (Scalia recused himself), argued:
I do not believe that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge converts its recital into a “religious exercise” of the sort described in Lee [v. Weisman (1992), Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the court]. Instead, it is a declaration of belief in allegiance and loyalty to the United States flag and the Republic that it represents. The phrase “under God” is in no sense a prayer, nor an endorsement of any religion, but a simple recognition of the fact noted in H. R. Rep. No. 1693, at 2: “From the time of our earliest history our peoples and our institutions have reflected the traditional concept that our Nation was founded on a fundamental belief in God.” Reciting the Pledge, or listening to others recite it, is a patriotic exercise, not a religious one; participants promise fidelity to our flag and our Nation, not to any particular God, faith, or church.
O’Connor considered the pledge an instance of "ceremonial deism." Due to its history and ubiquity, the absence of worship or prayer or reference to a particular religion, and minimal religious content, it does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
Thomas argued that
as a matter of our precedent, the Pledge policy is unconstitutional. I believe, however, that Lee [v. Weisman] was wrongly decided. Lee depended on a notion of “coercion” that, as I discuss below, has no basis in law or reason. The kind of coercion implicated by the Religion Clauses is that accomplished “by force of law and threat of penalty.” 505 U.S., at 640 (Scalia, J., dissenting); see id., at 640—645. Peer pressure, unpleasant as it may be, is not coercion.
But Thomas went on to argue that rejecting the 1992 Lee precedent was not enough to decide this case, for school attendance is mandatory in California. He continued, "Because what is at issue is a state action, the question becomes whether the Pledge policy implicates a religious liberty right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment." Accepting that the Free Exercise clause applies to the states through the 14th Amendment because it "clearly protects an individual right," Thomas does not accept that the Establishment Clause applies in the same way. Its history shows that it is "a federalism provision intended to prevent Congress from interfering with state establishments," which makes incorporating the establishment clause nonsensical. "Quite simply," Thomas concluded, "the Establishment Clause is best understood as a federalism provision–-it protects state establishments from federal interference but does not protect any individual right."
So, three justices have taken the opportunity of the Court’s refusal to rule explicitly on the constitutionality of the pledge of allegiance to stake out their respective lines of reasoning for a future case involving an alleged establishment of religion. Justice Kennedy rests easy for the time being.
CNN reports that the Supreme Court ruled (8-0, Stevens argued the Court) against ruling on the pledge of allegiance case because of the on-going custody battle involving the daughter of Michael Newdow. Excerpt from the article:
"When hard questions of domestic relations are sure to affect the outcome, the prudent course is for the federal court to stay its hand rather than reach out to resolve a weighty question of federal constitutional law," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist agreed with the outcome of the case, but still wrote separately to say that the Pledge as recited by schoolchildren does not violate the Constitution. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas agreed with him.
No link yet available (a/o 11:28 am EST) to the actual ruling of the Court.
On Friday, the fourth platoon traveled to Shoraw Village to perform an initial assessment and thereby to ascertain the village’s basic needs. Shoraw is Kurdish, and contained about 150 families. We quickly learned that the village had not always been located here, but was originally located about 1 kilometer from where we stood. Shoraw moved after Saddam destroyed it, not once, but three times. After the previous two attempts to dislocate the village, the people had moved back and rebuilt, but not the third time. The older members of the village, including the former muqtar who had lost sight in one eye following a beating by Saddam’s soldiers, wanted to return their village to its prior location. We therefore traveled with them to view the old village. The land adjacent to the old village was good, expansive, and fit for farming, but there was little left of the old village itself but evidence of Saddam’s malice. The buildings, which were the mud brick homes common to this region, had clearly been bulldozed.
This was but another severe example of Saddam’s treatment of the Kurds. I have met Kurds from many villages that were displaced due to Arabization, a process in which Kurdish property was taken and given to Arabs. If the Kurds were lucky enough to keep their land, they would receive very little in the way of public services. The treatment is so obvious that you can tell whether a village is Kurdish or Arab before you meet the people: all you have to do is look at the wiring for the city. Arab villages typically have concrete and steel electrical towers running power to the homes. Kurdish villages, by contrast, will often have poor quality wires running from makeshift tree-posts. In Iraq, the municipal services for villages are provided by government offices in the large cities. Kurdish villages in this region at one time had received their services from Kirkuk, which was amenable to providing services to Kurds. Saddam remedied this by shifting the villages to the jurisdiction of his hometown of Tikrit, thereby assuring that services were functionally cut off.
Yet for all of Saddam’s ill-will, he inadvertently did much to assure the long-term success of the Kurds. Iraq operated essentially as a communist state under Saddam. Fuel, electricity, and a large portion of an average family’s food were provided by the state. Employment was contingent on party membership, and in many cases amounted to patronage dispensed by the state. The Kurds enjoyed few of these advantages and services, and therefore were forced to develop higher levels of self-sufficiency. Now that the shackles of dictatorship have been lifted and opportunity is available for those who are willing claim it, many individuals in the Arab communities appear ill-equipped to take initiative. By contrast, the Kurds, who have been forced by circumstance to be self-sufficient, are taking advantage of new found opportunities to better their lives. Thus, by favoring the Arabs, Saddam habituated character traits in the Arab community essential to those living under a tyrant—strong loyalty and weak initiative. But in the Kurdish community, his actions taught the people how to take care of themselves—a useful skill for those who seek in democratic fashion to rule rather than be ruled.
While most Americans think of oil when they think of Iraq, the average Iraqi depends on farming rather than fuel for their livelihood. Bernstein, like many bases, is surrounded by farms. On occasion, tracer rounds from the firing range, or illumination mortars will fall into the local fields causing fire damage. The military will then pay the farmers for their lost crops.
I recently went out with 4th platoon to meet with a group of farmers whose fields had burned. Negotiating with the farmers was complicated. Aside from the language barrier (which is eased although not fully eliminated by the use of interpreters), there are different units of measure: the local farmers use “donum” (I am guessing the spelling) rather than acres as units. And then there is a certain level of dishonesty/greed. For the farmers, having their fields burned by the Americans is like hitting the lottery, and so they try to stretch their damages out as far as they can. Even after the fields have been measured by the odometer in Humvees, and the burned area has been found (generously) to extend about .6 kilometers, the farmer will look you in the eye and tell you that the damaged field is 1.8 kilometers long, a number which later became 18 kilometers. After much discussion, Lt. Naum, with the assistance of Sgt. Mattocks and Spc. Barrett (both of whom have farming experience), was able to get the farmers to agree both to a price per donum, and to a number of donums destroyed. When he multiplied out the cost times unit to arrive at a total, however, the farmers balked. When asked in the alternative how much it was worth, they began an endless loop of saying how many farmers owned the field, and how poor they were. This went on for some time, with troopers asking the simple question of how much they would get if they took these crops to the market, and the farmers responding that there were six farmers who owned the land.
It is worth noting that the farmers were really entitled to very little. It appeared that most of the fields in the area had already been harvested, and so it was difficult to establish any actual damages. (Those readers who are lawyers or are in law school should recall fondly the “Stacks and Flax” cases arising from crop damage during the early days of the railroad.) Indeed, I quipped to Lt. Naum and Sfc. Hutton that under Chicago economic theory, the farmers owed the military money, because they had received a net benefit in the form of fertilizer for next year’s crops—a true enough statement that nonetheless would do little for the hearts and minds. Sfc. Hutton joked that the farmers should learn about eminent domain, in which the government seizes property and compels the party to accept bare minimum market value for the seized land. In what was the line of the day, he recognized that we wouldn’t do that, of course, because the US government only does that to its own citizens.
After lengthy negotiations, Lt. Naum said that unless they would actually name a price—something they had refused to do—in two minutes, then he was leaving. He set his stopwatch, and sure enough, the farmers finally were able to get past reiterating the number of farmers and respond with a price which was remarkably close to the offer price. The exchange reaffirmed something I had found down in Baghdad, which is that the education system in Iraq was so broken that many Iraqis have trouble with simple math. When the parties agreed to the unit cost and number of units, it should have been obvious how much the total would be, but they were clearly surprised when the magic of multiplication revealed it to them. What is true of math is also true of reading and writing. When a recent class of ICDC recruits was interviewed about their skill levels in various areas, approximately 80% attested to being illiterate.
According to an article in the web-based Iran Press Service, there are growing tensions between the ruling mullahs in Iran and Shi’ite groups in Iraq, including the Supreme Assembly for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), a formerly pro-Iranian group led by Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim and once based in Iran. In its desire to cause trouble for the US, Iran helped al-Sadr in his now failed power grab, which undoubtedly irritated other Shi’ite leaders like Al-Hakim and Sistani and threatened to harm the position of the Shi’ites as a whole with the US.
As the article makes clear, the Shi’a need the US to achieve their fundamental political goal: to ensure that the Iraqi Shi’a are never again in a powerless position to be dominated and persecuted by others. This goal explains their sometimes contradictory attitudes and actions toward the US: attacking the US "occupation" while clearly helping our forces against Al-Sadr; denouncing Coalition actions in Fallujah while panicking when the US allowed a former Saddam general (and a Sunni) to try to pacify the area; and cautiously supporting the Kurds’ desire for regional autonomy so long as it doesn’t threaten the idea of Iraq as one country governed by a democratic majority. The Shi’ites’ guiding interest makes them difficult at times and certainly not unabashedly pro-US like the Kurds, but it also gives the Coalition a real ground of negotiation and even cooperation with them in the difficult days coming with the transfer of sovereignty.
Iran Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi recently was quoted by the AP as saying "Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path." This is yet another reason for the U.S. to have a strong military presence is the Middle East. Negotiations with Iran, like our recent negotiations with Libya, will undoubtedly take a different tone with over 100,000 U.S. troops poised in the region.
I am on Wisconsin Public Radio from about 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. tonight, if you are interested. I think it is called the Ben Merens Idea Network. Its a call in after about ten minutes, 1-800-486-8655.
Beth Vaderkooi reports on her experience in going to the capitol yesterday. Another former student, Alyssa Guthrie, writes: "We got off the Metro around 3:30 and were caught up in the waves of
people headed towards Constitution Avenue. We got fairly close to the
road, but by the time the casket rolled by, the crowd was at least
twenty people deep. After the funeral procession, we got in line for
the Rotunda viewing. The heat was overwhelming. It was easily 95
degrees with 100% humidity. A steady stream of ambulances were parked
behind the crowd, and one left every 30 to 45 minutes carrying someone
who had succumbed to heat exhaustion or dehydration. Despite all of
that, the spirits of the crowd were quite high. People shared anecdotes
about Ronald Reagan and a genuine sense of community grew up among those
put together. Most of the people around us had traveled quite a
distance - the ladies in front of us had flown in from Atlanta that
morning. The closer we moved towards the Capitol, however, the more the
mood changed. The crowd became quieter and more respectful. By the
time we walked by the casket, no one was speaking. Even children and
babies quieted down. Veterans silently saluted and some people put
their hands over their hearts. What struck me most about the crowd was
the fact that the majority of them were their simply because they loved
Ronald Reagan. A few mentioned that they came because it was
"historical" or an "important event." But I think most just had a quiet
need to honor the president that they loved so much - you just dont
wait in line in scorching heat for 6 hours to be involved in a "news
event." The talk about putting Reagan on Mt. Rushmore or the $10 bill
has already started, but I really thought that the most appropriate
memorial for President Reagan was the loving throng of people who came
from all over the country to pay their respects. People who loved him,
I think, almost as much as he loved them."
The new issue of On Principle just landed on my desk (it will be mailed on Monday), but you can read it on-line now. The issue is devoted to Reagan, and includes his talk here when he opened the Center, my "Ronald Reagan, American," and most importantly, a long and wonderful piece from Steve Hayward, called "Lion at the Gate." This is the prologue (without footnotes) of Hayward’s upcoming book, The Age of Reagan: Lion at the Gate, 1980-1989. It is a must read, a wonderful piece about the Great Liberator, laying out in detail Reagan’s statesmanship (focusing on "Open this gate, tear down this wall"), with the appropriate comparisons to our other hero Churchill.
Andrew Sullivan runs a series of quotes from Liberals in the 1980s (Strobe Talbott, John Kerry, Anthony Lewis, et al) on Ronald Reagan. You would think they would be embarrased, but theyre not. I love this from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: "A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today." - Arthur "Always Wrong" Schlesinger, Washington Post, May 1, 1988.
VodkaPundit looks at the latest data from Pew on news audience attitudes. "For all intents and purposes, more than half of the populace (everybody except partisan Democrats, and even their numbers for credibility are nothing for most of the press to brag about) has written off the vast majority of the national press. And theyre doing so because they believe that the press has written them off." Here is the full Pew study, note how it is titled, "News Audiences Increasingly Politicized". The elite media lacks all authority, and they dont even know it. Perfect.
Ian Buruma attacks Bernard Lewis in the latest New Yorker. He just can’t get over the fact that such a serious scholar of Islam would become a "cheerleader" for the war in Iraq. He tries, unsuccesfully, to explain (what he calls) this chasm. Not very satisfying, yet worth a note, if for no other reason than to learn that he thinks Rashid Khalidi (who holds the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia) is somehow serious, at least in his political judgments.
Atlantic blog has a few good words to say about Reagan, and then this good paragraph from Natan Sharansky:
"In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an evil empire. Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagans "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us."
NoLeftTurns viewers who have good cable systems and satellite systems may wish to watch the post-funeral coverage on CNN/fn (CNNs financial news channel, not the regular news channel), where I will be offering guest commentary for two hours from 1 - 3 pm eastern time.
Back in April John Lewis Gaddis gave a lecture at George Washington University which is to be incorporated as a concluding chapter in the forthcoming revised edition of his classic 1982 work Strategies of Containment. To the dismay of his academic audience, his assessment of Reagans foreign policy is almost entirely favorable.
Gaddis began by noting that he ended the original edition of Strategies of Containment on a pessimistic note. Containment, he wrote at the time, "appeared to have reached a point of crisis, if not a dead end." But that was in 1981, before anyone had a clear sense of what the Reagan foreign policy would be. Over twenty years later, the author now claims that:
Ronald Reagan – not his advisers, but Reagan himself – deserves to be ranked alongside Kennan, Nitze, Eisenhower, Dulles, Rostow, Nixon and Kissinger as a serious strategist of containment. Indeed, I will go beyond that to argue that Reagan succeeded, where they all failed, to achieve a workable synthesis of symmetrical and asymmetrical containment – drawing upon the strengths of each approach while avoiding their weaknesses – and that it was that accomplishment, together with the accession to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, that brought the Cold War to an end.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
I thought Vice-President Dick Cheney’s remarks at the state funeral were first class. This is the White House (so, official, I guess) version.
The Left cannot be pleased with the overwhelming national turnout and support for the legacy and achievements of Ronald Reagan. For starters, this has interrupted the anti-Bush media campaign, and put the Kerry campaign on a week-long hiatus. But more importantly, it has shown, contrary to Danny Glovers prediction, that Reagan will not be remembered first and foremost for Iran-Contra. Of course, the fact that liberals like Daschle and Clinton long to share in the limelight and stand ready to praise our fallen hero only goes to show that something is to be gained by aligning yourself with Reagan and his greatness. The publics support has forced the Dems to praise the man they once derided. But the Left cant hide all of its disdain for Reagan, especially now that its clear how history is likely to remember him. Wes Pruden had these fine words on the Lefts "virulent venom." And then theres this report on the Lefts web-based demonization. Pity.
Amidst the flow of remembrances and recollections honoring President Reagan that continues apace, do read Cheneys eulogy to President Reagan (delivered yesterday at the state funeral in the Capitol Building). Here are a few excerpts:
He once said "Theres no question, I am an idealist," which is another way of saying, "I am an American."
And who else but Ronald Reagan could face his own decline and death with a final message of hope to his country, telling us that for America, there is always a bright dawn ahead?
Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful and a gallant man.
Finally, his words to Nancy Reagan, who must be feeling the weight of the world as she must bear her grief with us not for a few hours or a day but an entire week, were a fitting and poignant conclusion to the eulogy.
This Fox story includes a number of lines from the eulogies by Senator Ted Stevens, Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Vice President Cheney. I must say that I found Cheney’s speech quite moving. FoxNews has the video of Cheney’s eulogy in case you missed it.
I don’t have the media report to prove it, but I have it on good authority that Bill Clinton is quite unhappy with Mrs. Reagan. Turns out Clinton asked to speak at one of the ceremonies, and Mrs. Reagan refused. Again, on good report, President Reagan had asked that his funeral include only remarks by his own Vice President, and whomever turned out to be Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, and the President of the United States at the time of his death. Of course, all of these men turned out to be Republicans -- and word in Washington is that Nancy Pelosi is fuming.
As it turns out, heres what the WaTimes reported on the subject.
Steve Hayward reflects on Reagans start in California in this op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, and on the Cold War in the Claremont Review of Books. Julie Ann Ponzi writes a lovely remembrance for Ashbrook. Max Boot reflects on what Reagans political opponents thought of him while he was president (an "amiable dunce," etc.) and notes that history will have a different opinion. Arnold Schwarzennegger explains why Reagan is his hero. Newt Gingrich connects Reagan and FDR. Stephen Moore explains why Reaganomics won the day. James Taranto reflects on what makes presidents great. And Ralph Peters recollects (he joined the Army in 1976 and was in OCS training in 1980) how Reagan helped the military regain its fighting spirit.
One of the rhetorical questions Reagan asked in that debate was about Americas brief monopoly of nuclear weapons in the 1940s: “Can you honestly say that had the Soviet Union been in a comparable position with that bomb, or today’s Red Chinese, that the world would not today have been conquered with that force?”
Winston Churchill said this in 1948: “What do you suppose would be the position this afternoon had it been Communist Russia instead of free enterprise America which had created the atomic weapon? Instead of being a somber guarantee of peace it would have become an irresistible method of human enslavement.”
You will look in vain in any of the liberal biographies of Robert Kennedy for a single mention of his debate with Reagan, which even Kennedy realized he had lost to the Gipper. As he was leaving the TV studio, Bobby growled at his aide Frank Mankiewicz, "Who the f--- got me into this??"
CBS taped the show, and reportedly had to edit it down in part to downplay the rudeness and radicalism of the student audience. The only exception to this rudeness was a question from an American Rhodes scholar in the student audience--faormer basketball player and later U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.
Regular readers of this blog will note that I reported two IEDs found in Tuz in the course of two days. When the second IED was found, the base launched a mission that night to provide additional presence patrols and checkpoints in the city. I went out with a group from the 120th Infantry who were setting up a checkpoint covering a bridge in the city. The searches conducted at the checkpoint were relatively uneventful. A number of trucks came through loaded with watermelons and chickens, and a couple of vehicles came by shuttling individuals from the surrounding villages to the citys hospital. While on the checkpoint, however, we heard gun shots from across town. A Special Forces unit came across individuals who appeared to be setting an IED. When the suspects rushed to their vehicle, a firefight ensued, but the vehicle ultimately escaped. On our way back to the base later that evening, we reached a road very close to base where we were stopped by Lt. Hunt because of a possible IED further down the road. I left the 120th guys and joined up with Lt. Hunt to wait for the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team.
The possible IED was set in the center of the road. Lt. Hunt took me over toward it so that I could get a closer look and snap a few pictures. It was clear that the person who placed the object wanted it to be seen: they placed a line of rocks across the road, stood up a sandbag in the middle of the array, and propped up a piece of cardboard on top of the sandbag. After Id taken my pictures, we returned to the vehicle to wait for EOD. When EOD began their approach, Lt. Smith and I walked toward the object with the intention of going around it--at a safe distance mind you--to get to the other side where the EOD would be operating. The road was pitch black, and shortly into our walk, Lt. Smith suggested that we must be getting close to the IED by now. I depressed my shutter button to take advantage of the cameras bright "pre-flash" light, only to find that we were a few short meters from the object. We took a few steps back before moving around the object from a safer distance. The "IED" was ultimately found to be a fake--just a sandbag filled with junk. Sometimes teens play "pranks" like this--complete with wires sticking out of the would-be IEDs. But at times this kind of decoy is intended to get convoys to stop short of the "IED" in what is the kill zone of the real, hidden IEDs.
While I have not heard news of any new IEDs in the last couple of days, there is news of increased banditry in the area. For example, last night, the platoon received a late night call for a Quick Reaction Force mission to assist Coalition elements that were engaging bandits, but were recalled just as they were preparing to leave the gate because the situation was under control.
The cumulative effect of these incidents is a modest uptick in the terrorist and criminal activity in the local zone of operations--an area which has been relatively quiet for the month I have been here. This escalation is not terribly surprising. Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi expressly called for terrorists to step up violence prior to June 30th, while they could use what he called the "pretext" of American occupation to provide some justification for their actions. The region is still relatively safe, and the locals, who the troopers and I have regular contact with, are overwhelmingly pro-Coalition. However, as is the case elsewhere in Iraq, there is a small percentage of individuals in the area who will cause mayhem when and where they can.
Iraqs new prime minister "announced an agreement Monday by nine political parties to dissolve their militias, integrating some of the 100,000 fighters into the army and police and pensioning off the rest to firm up government control ahead of the transfer of sovereignty." And, a U.S. led special forces freed three Italians and a Pole held hostage in Iraq and captured some of their abductors in a bloodless rescue mission Tuesday.
This is also very good news: The U.N. Security Council "gave a resounding 15-0 endorsement Tuesday to a U.S. resolution backing the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqs new government 14 months after the fall of Saddam Hussein. President Bush predicted the measure would instill democracy and be a catalyst for change in the Middle East." As far as I can tell we, and the Iraqis, got everything we wanted in this resolution. This meditation by John Zvesper on the meeting between Bush and Chirac during the Normandy celebrations merits careful reading.
The government of Zimbabwe announced Tuesday that all farmland will be nationalized and private land ownership abolished. “There shall be no such thing as private land,” Land Reform Minister John Nkomo said. This is the MSNBC reports last sentence: "United Nations crop forecasts predict Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, will produce only half its food needs this year." Next year it will be even less.
Entitled "The Lonely Emancipator", my review of Allen C. Guelzo’s excellent book on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation just surfaced on-line at Books & Culture: A Christian Review. In it, I argue that
Guelzo renders a meticulous and altogether persuasive account of how the Emancipation Proclamation was Lincoln’s supreme act of political prudence. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is now the definitive book on the defining act of Lincoln’s presidency, what he called "the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the 19th century." We will need no other in our lifetime.
Because his book was published in 2004, it was not up for the Pulitzer this year. If it does not get it next year, along with a truckload of other awards, there is no justice in the world. At least Gettysburg College has seen fit to hire him as their Director of the Civil War Era Studies Program and Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library announced Tuesday that it had extended the end of viewing hours from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. "due to the overwhelming response." By 6 a.m. Tuesday, more than 40,000 people had gone through the library, said Duke Blackwood, the library’s executive director. Also note this note about the crowd at NRO.
The last couple of days have hovered between 108 - 115 degrees, with a wind that makes the outdoors into one big convection oven. But lest I start complaining, a crew just returned from a base about two hours south of here, where the temperature hit 130 degrees outside, and was measured to be 145 degrees inside the Humvees.
I had actually hoped that Reagan would be put on a train to Washington because then untold thousands--if not millions--would have had the opportunity to pay their respects along train tracks from California through Kansas to D.C. This photo from California of the
Last week, Echo Troop of the 196th Cavalry conducted a raid in one of the least hospitable cities in the area. To understand the raid, it is first useful to get a little bit of background on the unit’s operations since they arrived in country. Echo 196 did not come directly to FOB Bernstein, but was previously deployed at a location near the Iranian border. When things started to heat up in the south, the troops deployed at Bernstein were shifted to one of these hotspots, and Echo 196 was called in to take over Bernstein while they were gone. The impression that the troop was given by the departing battalion was that they would be taking over FOB security—a limited mission that made sense given that the array of operations run out of the FOB were calibrated for a battalion-sized unit, not a company-sized unit. Nonetheless, the rocket attacks on the FOB continued, and so “the little troop that could” was forced to take on a task previously performed by a much larger military unit—a task which included providing security for the FOB, running raids, and tracking down “Rocketman,” the source of the then frequent rocket attacks on the FOB.
During this month, the fourth platoon had a few of engagements of particular note. In one raid, Lt. Naum, Sfc. Hutton, Ssg. Gleason, Sgt. Black, Spc. Vorhies, and Pv1 Harkless entered a house, seizing a suspect, $4500 of US currency, and a computer. The detained suspect’s brother was out of the house at the time of the raid—an absence made all the more telling when three rockets “coincidentally” were fired on the FOB during the raid. The brother “turned himself in” the next day when he came to the FOB to ask about his detained relative. Since his arrest, there have been no rocket attacks on the base.
Then there was the mission at an unfriendly city in the south. The fourth platoon and Cpt. Bumgardner were providing an outer cordon for Bravo Company, while Charlie Company was running a mission just south of their location, with LT Williams’s 1st Platoon providing the outer cordon there. Lt. Naum’s Humvee, with Spc. Woehler driving, Sgt. Black gunning, Doc, and Spc. Russ took up a position by a water tower juxtaposed roughly in the middle of the two operations—a position just up the street from Lt. Williams’s Humvee. The ground appeared stable, however when Lt. Naum’s vehicle stopped, it quickly sank up to the floorboards. The water tower had a leak, and the water had collected beneath the visible surface. Their Humvee was stuck, and in a rather precarious place.
Lt. Naum, Spc. Woehler, and Spc. Russ dismounted from the vehicle to control traffic in the area. A couple of young men who were trying to get through on the road caused a minor disturbance, and after running a check on their names, the decision was made to detain them. Naum, Woehler, and Russ were standing with the detainees outside their vehicle. Then it happened. An RPG hit just short of Lt. Williams’s Humvee, with Sgt. Miller gunning, discharging some portion of its explosive force backwards on impact. The cone and tail of the RPG skipped, continuing to hurtle forward before landing five meters from Spc. Woehler, Spc. Russ, Sgt. Black and Lt. Naum. Not content to stop, the RPG spun in place, throwing up sparks like an oversized “ground flower” firework.
At nearly the same time, Staff Sergeant Pugh was walking down a pitch black street with the aid of his night visions goggles, or NODs. The one problem with NODs is that they distort depth perception—a fact that had painful consequences for Pugh, who stepped into a four-foot deep hole in the middle of the road, thereby partially tearing a ligament.
Later that same early morning, an AK-47 opened fire on the Lt. Naum’s Humvee—the bullets coming so close that Sgt. Black could hear the telltale crack above his head in the gunner’s hatch. The shots seemed to be coming from one of the rooftops. The Humvee maneuvered to engage the shooter, who quickly darted out of sight. Contrary to the uninformed nonsense frequently touted in the press—the rules of engagement prohibited the soldiers from returning fire in the absence of a clear shot. First Platoon came to the scene to search the buildings, but by then the shooter had made his way off the roof and out of the area.
This brings us to last week’s raid. Intelligence suggested that an individual at a house in the city of the previous RPG attack had a cache of rockets. It was unclear whether he was involved in the previous attack, either as the triggerman or the supplier, but given the proximity, there was that chance. And, of course, even if he had nothing to do with the previous attack, he was a threat that needed to be addressed.
The Humvees drove lights out to the city, turning on the white lights only for passing cars, which might not be able to see the military column proceeding through the darkness. When the vehicles reached the city, they went to white lights, presumably because of the anticipated increase in street traffic. I was riding in Lt. Naum’s vehicle, with Spc. Woehler driving, Sgt. Black gunning, and Spc. Russ as dismount. My instructions were to stay with Russ once we reached the house, who would take up a position on the corner of the building, following which Lt. Naum would direct me to link up with Cpt. Bumgardner to enter the building after the insertion team. We reached the house very quickly once we hit the city. The vehicle stopped, I jumped out and came around the back of the vehicle, and Lt. Naum and Spc. Russ moved quickly across the rocky field to a corner of the house. I thanked my lucky stars (or in this case, moon) for the 90+% illumination that evening, which prevented me from following in Pugh’s footsteps as I jogged across the field without the aid of NODs.
The house had a wall creating a courtyard in the front. Naum and Russ took up a position at the corner of the building, with me in tow. Elements of 2d Platoon and Cpt. Bumgardner entered the gate to the courtyard, and I followed. Someone shouted that there was movement on the roof. A quick scan revealed that the family was sleeping on the roof. They were quickly brought to the lawn so that a full search could begin. While the translator explained what was happening, Lt. Hunt and the 2d Platoon searched the inside of the house, and members of fourth platoon searched the courtyard and the fields surrounding the building. The search came up empty, with only one (permitted) AK-47 found.
All the while, the commotion of the raid aroused gawking from the rooftops of neighboring homes. The gunners used their night vision and scopes to scan the rooftops to identify potential threats, while Spc. Woehler, Spc. Russ, and Lt. Naum ran traffic control, checking vehicles traveling through the area. At the end of the evening, the Coalition had thrown a party, but Ali Baba failed to show up. Given the nature of this particular city, however, that merely postpones their meeting until a later date.
The Strategy Page has this useful paragraph on Afghanistan:
The new coalition and Afghan tactics are working against the Taliban raiding groups. Using ground and air patrols (often with UAVs), as well as an increased number of friendly villages (willing to give information) has made it more difficult for the Taliban to move around undetected. When a group of Taliban are spotted, coalition (mostly American) and Afghan troops are rushed to the area by truck and helicopter. If the Taliban know that they have been spotted and about to be attack, they will disperse and scatter as individuals or smaller groups (two or three men each). They will hide their weapons (in one of the thousands of caves found in the hills) and turn into civilians. But if the Taliban are confronted while they are still a group, they will fight. Because the Americans have airpower and smart bombs, once the Taliban are located, they are toast. A few smart bombs come down on the Taliban as the Afghan and coalition troops close in to capture the Taliban who survive the bombs. Its dangerous work, as even a wounded Taliban will often continue fighting. The Taliban are losing a dozen or more men a day (dead or captured), and it doesnt look good for the Talibans much heralded "offensive."
John Fund explains how Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope Paul II, won the Cold War. Michael Barone writes that Reagan rescued America from despair and totalitarianism. This is George F. Will’s understanding of Reagan in Newsweek. Charles Krauthammer, writing in Time, says that Reagan had a vision and the courage to endure all the doubters. And Peggy Noonan writes that
"Ronald Reagan told the truth to a world made weary by lies."
It will not surprise you that Cuba’s take on Reagan is less favorable. Radio Reloj:
``As forgetful and irresponsible as he was, he forgot to take his worst works to the grave.’’ And then this:
``He, who never should have been born, has died,’’ the radio said.
Mikhail Gorbachev can’t overcome his Marxist habits (stemming from the unterbau, no doubt) and is already revising history. But, hey, that’s OK, as long as the rest of us remember who’s on the ash heap, and who isn’t.
Bill Buckley gave this speech on Reagan in 1999. George W. Bush’s comments from this morning. Lou Cannon’s lengthy obituary in the WaPo. Steven Hayward’s fine piece (in case you missed it below). And this is George Will’s effort. And this from Mark Steyn.
And the Belmont Club offers this from Macaulay:
When the oldest cask is opened,
And the largest lamp is lit;
When the chestnuts glow in the embers,
And the kid turns on the spit;
When young and old in circle
Around the firebrands close;
When the girls are weaving baskets,
And the lads are shaping bows;
When the goodman mends his armour,
And trims his helmet’s plume;
When the goodwife’s shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom;
With weeping and with laughter
Still is the story told,
How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.
I grew up with Ronald Reagan. I walked precincts for him when he ran for governor of California in 1966, worked for his election to the presidency twice, and ended up in his administration. I liked everything about him. By the time he became president I came to love him, the way an ordinary citizen can have an honest affection for a public figure.
Ronald Reagan was the antidote to the nihilism of the Sixties. Some in the countryespecially the sophisticated intellectual elite and the mediahad not only come to doubt our policies, but had come to have profound skepticism about the things for whichI thoughtwe had always stood. The central idea of republican government was placed in question. The ground under our feet became unsteady. The Carter presidency became the political exemplification of this nihilistic onslaught against the last best hope. There was doubt and cynicism and a lot of shouting. It was asserted that the country was not only ungovernable, but that the American spirit had waned. Carter said that we had an inordinate fear of Communism, and was unable to recognize the nature of Soviet tyranny until the monster bit in Afghanistan. At one point in his presidency, Carter asked the people to think of some nice things to say about America. But his disposition revealed the hopelessness he felt and conveyed to the American people. And, even worse, Carter always implied that the people were to blame for this malaise. The people were despondent and gloomy and Carter called for seminars on the question. The ancient creedthe massive fact of the American ideaseemed to be teetering.
Ronald Reagan was the political antidote to this shrunken view of America. He reminded us that we stood for something great, that we were made of sterner stuff than the nay-sayers implied. He not only made the right arguments and proposed sound policies, but his very person, his character, was such as to make it entirely believable. This was an entirely American man. It is almost impossible to disagree with a man who is full of hope, who looks you in the eye and tells you that you are capable of both self-government and greatness, while joking and laughing all the while. The insensate Liberals mocked him for his cowboy boots and hat, for his clear and straightforward talk, for his eternal hopefulness. By doing this they revealed for the first time in American politics that they were no longer the party of the people: They had come to mistrust the ordinary and decent. Reagan could be for the people because he truly was of the people. Reagan trusted the people and their capacity for self-government. Everyone but the elites sensed this. The Liberal elites underestimated him just the way they underestimated the American people. They may have been embarrassed by his designation of the USSR as an evil empire, but every ordinary person from Ashland to Budapest to Vladivostok knew it was true. The only shocking thing about the statement was that an American president had said it, a president able to make a moral distinction. This was shocking to their nihilistic sensibilities. Yet that simple statement was the final cause of the death of Communism.
Ronald Reagan helped Americans regain their footing. He reminded his fellow citizens what we once were and what we may yet become. He knew that we needed to hear once again the language of our ancient faith, the drumbeat of the American Revolution, the nature of limited constitutional government. He reminded us what held us together, what made us citizens of the shining city on the hill. He helped us reconstruct our ancient faith on solid ground. He was utterly confident that the character of the people was yet sound, and he always appealed to the better angels of our nature. He knew that we were not made of cotton candy, and that free men should smile while they do their hard work in the world. Because of Ronald Reagan the Republican Party became the conservative party, and because of him the country itself was given a new birth of freedom that should be lasting.
The Liberals called him simple-minded. The contrary is the case. Reagan uttered deep truths, stemming from the insights of a clear mind and a stout heart, and the habits that come from prospering in a world often difficult. He did it, and he knew we could all do it. And he was right. Although his noble heart has now cracked, his name should survive the grave. And it will. Let flights of angels sing him to his rest.
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit is off for vacation, and one of the books hes bringing with him is Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures : A True Story from Hell on Earth. Written by three UN employees (two former and one current), it exposes the corruption that has suffused the organizations operations in Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia and Somalia. According to the Daily Telegraph, Kofi Annan is not amused.
This morning, a remote detonated bomb detonated in Tuz. The explosion killed one Iraqi police officer, and injured six Iraqi civilians. I have been told that three suspects have been detained.
UPDATE: The revised count is now up to two Iraqi police dead, one Iraqi civilian dead, and 8 Iraqi civilians injured.
The mail has been slow coming here at Bernstein. When I first arrived, the guys had received mail only a couple of times in about 6 weeks. Packages sent well over a month before with items such as eyeglasses were in limbo. The mail service is still slow and inconsistent--even compared to mail service to those in the field during the Gulf War, but the men are now at least getting some mail each week.
When mail does arrive, it is like Christmas. The troopers open the care packages filled with food (i.e., “pogey bait”), hometown newspapers, and pictures from home with anticipation. Then there are the letters from family, friends, and from people they don’t even know who write to wish them well. The soldiers pour over the letters, reading selections aloud, and frequently take the time to respond to those who have taken the time to write them. Of the correspondence from people who the soldiers do not know, some of the most amusing letters come from school children. For example, one student wrote to Staff Sergeant Gleason: “Thank you for defending our country. You must be exhausted.” Some of the children send drawings, like the American flags colored by a kindergarten class which line the main hallway in the barracks. While the guys appreciate care packages sent by those they do not know, a number have said that they prefer letters. For those who wish to send a letter to a member of the unit, here is their address:
Echo Troop 196th Cav.
30 HSB, 1st ID
Operation Iraqi Freedom
APO AE 09392
I use the address “any soldier,” but those interested should feel free to send a letter to a specific trooper mentioned in one of the blog posts or articles.
Today, the troops at Bernstein received their combat patch. The ceremony was timed to correspond with D-Day, and as the troops assembled, they remembered the sacrifice of the Big Red 1 which fought valiantly in WWII. On the way over to the ceremony, I received word from one of the soldiers that President Reagan had died. The news spread quickly through the ranks. Trooper after trooper walked up to me to ask if I had heard the news. The men quickly assured that the flags were at half-mast. On a day that commemorates the a great battle in WWII, the men were moved by the death of the man who won the Cold War.
Shortly after Ronald Reagan’s landslide election to the presidency in 1980, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company produced a study of the effect of the presidency on life expectancy, finding that being president shortens a person’s life expectancy nearly as much as cigarette smoking. On average, being president reduced life expectancy by 3.9 years (or 5.2 years among 20th century presidents). Reagan, Met Life projected, could expect to live another 11 years, to 1992. Typical of Reagan to become the longest-lived ex-president in American history; his entire political career consisted of transcending the expectations of the legions of people who underestimated him.
More to come. . .
Even though it is being reported that the White House will not nominate anyone to be DCI before the election for fear that it will cause a rukus in the confirmation hearings, Rudi Giulianis name is starting to make a showing. Of course the White House should nominate someone before the elections (and I believe they will, despite what is being reported from unnamned White House sources) and if it is Giuliani nothing but good would come from it, either for the CIA or for Bushs re-election. No one else would have as much moral authority, no one else would have the skills to have a great good effect on the Agency, no one else would be able to use the confirmation hearings for such good purpose. Its an opportunity that should be taken.
"As many as 10,000 third graders, twice as many as last year, are expected to be held back this year under Mayor Michael R. Bloombergs tough new promotion policy, according to citywide test results announced yesterday.
"Despite a last-minute infusion of more than $8 million to prepare students for the tests, 11,700 of the city public school systems 80,000 third graders scored in the lowest of four categories on their math or English tests, or on both, putting them below the cutoff for promotion and in danger of being held back. The proportion who scored in the lowest category was slightly lower than it was last year, but teachers and principals were given discretion then in deciding promotion and were able to consider several other factors, including class work. As a result, only 4,800 third graders were asked to repeat the grade."
U.S. employers added a larger-than-expected 248,000 jobs in May, according to a government report on Friday that confirmed a strengthening economy is likely to usher in higher interest rates. Also, unemployment rates declined in all four regions and in more than half
the states in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department
of Labor reported today. Over the year, unemployment rates declined in all
regions and in 47 states. Over the month, the national jobless rate was
essentially unchanged at 5.6 percent. Nonfarm payroll employment increased
in 45 states.
"A group of students at the University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law circulated a petition last week calling on law professor John Yoo to ’repudiate’ a 2002 memo he had written when he worked for the Bush Justice Department or ’resign’ his academic post. The memo advised that the Geneva conventions did not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Oddly, the petition writers claimed that their attempt to drive Yoo from academia did not ’constitute an attack on academic freedom.’"
Here is Yoo’s brief bio, and his homepage where you can access some of his law articles on the issue. He is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and decent guy, hence the witch-hunt. This is a piece by Yoo on why the lines between Abu Ghraib and Guantamo shouldnt be blurred.
A serious and recurrent problem in Iraq has been the scarcity of up-armored Humvees. Many units in Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 did not have the advantage of up-armored Humvees until close to the end of the year. When I embedded with 1AD in Baghdad, the Division was a few weeks from the scheduled end of their one-year rotation, and they had only recently received an incomplete compliment up-armored Humvees. Many of their vehicles were still unarmored, but had metal plates added, for example, to cover the slats in open back “cargo” model Humvees. As one of the medics explained to me (after requesting that I not use his name), the plates were really there just to give the soldiers some [false] sense of security. The plates were not sufficient to stop bullets, as the troop had learned when one of their own men accidentally shot through a plate with a round smaller than the 7.62 commonly used by anti-Coalition forces. The up-armored Humvees, by contrast, are real lifesavers. In the Adhamiyah region of Baghdad, an up-armored Humvee was hit with a 155 mm mortar round configured as an IED. The Humvee was wrecked, 7 Iraqis traveling on the street were killed by the blast, but every soldier in the Humvee walked away. Sgt. Yeb, who was in the Humvee at the time of the IED, told me that if the makers of the up-armored Humvee ever need a spokesman, he’s their man.
Yet up-armored Humvees were slow coming to the soldiers. When Echo 196 came into country, they were promised that they would not leave Kuwait until they had up-armored Humvees. Despite this promise, the company traveled all the way through Iraq in the back of unarmored 5-ton-trucks (essentially large cargo trucks with wood slats)—leaving the troops exposed to the elements and the enemy. When I met up with E 196 here at Bernstein, they finally had up-armored Humvees . . . but not enough. The scarcity meant that platoons were forced to share Humvees, which in turn meant that platoon missions had to be staggered to take into account the limited resources. It also meant that the crews did not have regular vehicles which they used on a consistent basis—a small detail except that the idiosyncrasies of a radio set or of the vehicle has a strange way of becoming important in combat situations. Humvees with mechanical problems that ordinarily would have merited taking the vehicle out of commission were used because the company simply could not afford to lose a Humvee, and when Humvees were sent for service, getting parts became a quest all its own.
A couple of weeks ago, Generals Morgan and Hickman came for a ceremony here in Tuz. They were to be transported in Humvees to the Joint Operation Center (JOC), where the ceremony was to take place. Both Humvees used by 3d platoon for the transport had scars in the bulletproof glass from, well, bullets. One of the vehicles blasted hot air on the passenger seat. The other Humvee shook violently until the vehicle reached around 35 MPH. The two rear doors would only stay closed if they were combat locked (a latch mechanism which makes the doors difficult to open from the outside), and for some reason this day the doors were not combat locked. So, the General was riding down the road in a vehicle shaking like it was about to come apart at any moment when out-of-the-blue, the rear doors flew open. And what do you know: one week later the company learned that it was getting the requisite number of new and refurbished Humvees. The shipment, which just arrived, means that every platoon has at least two Humvees with working air conditioning, and every platoon has their own up-armored Humvees—a major (or in this case General) improvement.
Note this interview on terrorism, Iraq, etc., on Polish TV with Marek Edelman, the last surviving military leader of the heroic Jewish Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.
Charles Krauthammer, using these reflections of John Keegan on how messy the ends of wars tend to be, reminds us that--despite the pessimistic tone of the elitre media--things are going rather well in Iraq. With the establishment of the new transitional government, the first critical steps have been taken. He finds it encouraging.
Iraqs Foreign Minister is in New York at the U.N. He told the Security Council that Iraq has the right to decide how long U.S.-led troops stay in the country, but sided with Washington in rejecting a departure date and a veto over their actions. Iraq has named a seven member Electoral Commission that will prepare for the elections in January. A Report by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights said the coalitions invasion of Iraq "removed a government that preyed on the Iraqi people and committed shocking, systematic and criminal violations of human rights."
Jeremy Rabkin, writing in The Australian, uses John Howards visit to the U.S. (and the two Australians held at Guantanamo) to reflect on the what the Geneva Conventions have to do with the prisoners held there. Short and clear.
Perhaps even Sen. John Kerry is beginning to sense the total lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. Kerry seemed alarmed by the complete absence of applause, or other audience interaction, he was receiving from a small crowd in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday.
Kerry was there to accept the endorsement of a national union of emergency first responders, and to hold a "conversation" with local residents about his plans for protecting the nation from bio-terror attacks.
On several occasions, Kerry paused, seemingly expecting applause for his lines. For example, at one point he said, "I will do what I think is best for the country," then waited for applause that only developed after one of his advance staffers began leading a weak round of applause.
His lukewarm reception was so bad that Kerry lost his cool, telling his audience, "I know you dont want to be here anymore."
"That line actually generated more real cheers," says a bemused Florida Democratic Party official. "If this is the kind of response our campaign is getting elsewhere, were dead. This was awful. He was awful."
The good old Church of England continues its slide toward irrelevancy with its never-ending quest to be relevant. According to a squib in todays Wall Street Journal, a new edition of the prayer book is due out in the fall. Instead of the usual version of Psalm 23 ("Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil"), the new version will read: "Even if a full-scale violent confrontation breaks out I will not be afraid, Lord."
In todays Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby points out the similarities, when it comes to foreign policy, between John Kerry and George H.W. Bush. Both, he claims, dismiss international idealism in favor of Realpolitik. He cites the words of Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers, who has contended that the presidents call for democracy in Iraq is "too heroic." Jacoby continues:
But "realism" all too often results in a callous stance unworthy of the United States. It is what kept the first President Bush from publicly protesting when Chinas Communist government massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 15 years ago this week. It is what led him to send 400,000 troops to rescue Kuwait from Saddam Hussein -- and then order those troops to sit on their hands while Saddam brutally crushed a popular uprising against his murderous regime.
All of this calls to mind one of Al Gores campaign speeches back in 1992. "If they’re such whizzes at foreign policy," he said then, "why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the rest of the world?"
Now another Republican,Anthony Zinni (retired Marine general) is being floated for Kerrys running mate. Now, I dont think much of Zinni, but the point is this is another Republican being considered/pushed, etc., by Kerry supporters. Pathetic.
Heres a piece from last weeks Salon.com (take that for what its worth) detailing the rift between former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and his successor, Tom DeLay. One is an idea-logue, the other a politico. You decide who youd prefer running the show.
Just a few minutes after I heard that Tenet will be out, I mentioned to Ben and Roger that Rudy Giuliani should replace him. I thought I had better get that on the record because someone just told me that FOX News has just brought the idea up. Good idea.
President Bushs speech at the Air Force Academy was pretty good, I thought. A sample:
"In the terrorists vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.
Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity. The vast majority of men and women in Muslim societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden. Theyre looking to the worlds free nations to support them in their struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East. We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom."
Drudge, CNN, et al, are announcing that President Bush is announcing that George Tenet is resigning for personal reasons. No details yet. This is the AP paragraph.
Here is Jane Mayer’s long article on Chalabi from the New Yorker; and the articles from yesterday’s New York Times, and today’s. Of course, there is no way for me to know whether or not Chalabi passed cryptographic evidence to the Iranians. Obviously, if he did, that is very serious. Also, if he did, one would think that his source (everyone assumes that it would have to be someone in the Defense Department, but that’s not necessarily true) has to be found and brought to justice. Will it be possible to find him? Not necessarily. The person will not have left a paper trail, I am betting. Besides, there are other possibilities here...It is true that all this gets Chalabi out of our hair (at least temporarily, while the transition is going on) in Iraq. It is useful, I am thinking, for our purposes that he has lost some credibility among the Iraqi leaders. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the now public new Iraqi leadership has been halpful to us in making this public. I once said to a fellow, an especially smart and interesting fellow, that I liked reading spy novels. He said he did not because they were always less interesting than real spy stories. I see what he means. This is complicated and intricate,
Iraqi, sorry, Byzantine.
The Kabul Golf Club is back! Clear some landmines, place some oil on the sand (so it wont blow away) and your set to go. Touching and instrcutive story: "It was like this before, when I used to come here as a kid; just desert and we used to tee off with every shot because there wasnt any grass," says Rashidzada, an Afghan now living in Dubai. "When I went to Peshawar and I saw a real course with grass, I thought they had made a mistake."
Howell Raines, the former editor of The New York Times arites a revealing article on the London Guardian. He beats up on Kerry, on Bush, on the free market system, and on America as a whole. Although it is amusing that he bashes Kerry, etc., the fact is that this guy is a real Left Winger. That he was editor of the paper of record is simply amazing.
Lt. Hunt, a Ranger here at Bernstein, told me yesterday that he has a copy of the Berg video, which he watched with one of the interpreters. He confirmed what I had previously heard: the blade was dull, and the beheading is therefore extraordinarly graphic. He claimed that it took about a minute for the masked man--who is believed to be Zarqawi--to completely sever the head, and that Berg was alive and screaming for about half of that time.
An IED exploded in the city of Tuz this morning, injuring one Iraqi bystander. There were no Coalition vehicles near the explosion, leading some to believe that the device was likely on a timer.
Regular readers of the online satire site The Onion can be forgiven for thinking that life imitated art in Kerrys campaign today. He was appearing in Florida as a part of his 10-day national security tour, and today the platform had a banner across the front of the stage reading, "Making America Stronger." On either side of the stage were vertical banners; the one on the left read: "Strength," and the one on the right read: "Security."
Gee: Do you think Kerrys campaign is worried that voters might think Kerry is soft on security issues? Now why would they have ever formed that idea in the first place?
The aforementioned stolen propane tanker trucks have been found near Laredo, Texas. No evidence yet of terrorist link.
Shmuel Bar writes "The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism" in Policy Review. Serious, but quite readable. He argues that the religious-ideological factors which are deeply embedded in Islam ("Islam is, in essence, both religion and regime.") as a cause of terrorism have to be understood--even at the risk of being branded bigoted and Islamophobic--if we are to have an effective long-range strategy against terrorism.
Here is the Presidents latest Executive Order aimed at reducing the governments hostility toward faith-based organizations providing public services in conjunction with the government and its money.
The purpose . . . will be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participa-tion of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.
To follow-up on Schramms take on the media, heres a thoughtful piece from First Things on the medias "neutral" coverage of things politic. From its opening paragraph:
While reporters usually recognize that there is some sort of problem about “values” and about “faith-based” principles, and that the Democrats and Republicans are often on opposite sides, writers and editors tend to publish news and analysis as if the situation were as follows: The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans.
I continue to be horrified by the media’s coverage (or, rather, non-coverage) of the news coming out of Iraq. It is shocking. Maybe all this can be attributed to to ignorance, rather than malice, as
John Keegan argues about the British media. Maybe. But look: There is a new Iraqi government, cleverly established by the Iraqis, and sanctioned by the UN and the US. But, let’s lead off with a car bombing, to show that everything can fall apart, and the center will not hold. Let’s ask everyone we interview whether or not the past contacts (and funding) for certain of the individuals (maybe all?) who are in the new Iraqi Cabinet by the US and the Brits will make these folks illegitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi street. Let’s have headlines like the one in the Washington Post, "Many Hurdles Ahead for U.S.," in which the writers (and this is a news story, not an op-ed) talk about the birth of the new Iraqi government and tells us that
"President Bush was almost giddily buoyant during a Rose Garden news conference about Iraq’s interim government." Amazing. And now, the story continues, we are enetering a much more complex phase on Iraq than the phase heretofore....And, by the way, the selection of this government was really "messy" the WaPo informs us. All this is quite over the top. John Leo is also not amused (and not surprised) by the liberal media.
This paragraph from yesterday by Andrew Sullivan nails it: "If someone had said in February 2003, that by June 2004, Saddam Hussein would have been removed from power and captured; that a diverse new government, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, would be installed; that elections would be scheduled for January 2005; and that the liberation of a devastated country of 25 million in which everyone owns an AK-47 had been accomplished with an army of around 140,000 with a total casualty rate (including accidents and friendly fire) of around 800; that no oil fields had been set aflame; no WMDs had been used; no mass refugee crises had emerged; and no civil war had broken out... well, I think you would come to the conclusion that the war had been an extraordinary success. And you’d be right. Yes, there are enormous challenges; and yes, so much more could have been achieved without incompetence, infighting and occasional inhumanity. But it’s worth acknowledging that, with a little perspective, our current gloom is over-blown. Stocks in Iraq have been way over-sold. I even regret some minor sells myself. Now watch the media do all it can to accentuate the negative."
Given what we learned yesterday about Mr. Padillas alleged plans to ignite hotels and apartment highrises using the natural gas lines, this story on two missing propane tanker trucks is alarming. Authorities are downplaying the terrorist possibility, but if you have other ideas on why someone would steal two tankers loaded with propane, Im listening. Recall that another tanker went missing in Colorado shortly after 9/11, and a gasoline tanker disappeared in April in Pennsauken, New Jersey. (I admit, I dont know if either truck was ever found.)
It is late here in Iraq, and while I was trying to send an email, I noted that Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a permanent injunction against the federal partial birth abortion statute. The judge does much early in the opinion to suggest that partial birth abortion, also known as intact dialation and extraction ("intact D&E") is relatively commonly used. To support that conclusion, she points to expert testimony stating that when trying to perform an ordinary D&E (wherein the woman is partially dilated, following which the doctor grasps the fetus with forceps, and disarticulates or dismembers the fetus in the course of removing it in several passes), doctors sometimes dialate the woman to the point where intact D&E can occur. To quote the order:
Several physicians report that occasionally while performing a D&E, they encounter a situation where they believe it will be possible to remove the fetus intact or largely intact. This occurs when the womans cervix is dilated to such a degree that the fetus can be extracted up to the head, in either one or two "passes" with the forceps. . . . The number of times this occurs varied by doctor, but ranged between 5% to 33% of all D&Es performed, with most doctors reporting occurrences of around 5-15% of the time.
It is at this point that Judge Hamilton drops a pregnant footnote to support this statistic in spite of seemingly contradictory evidence:
Dr. Sheehan and Dr. Creinin reported that an intact D&E occurred less than 1% of the time, but they were reporting incidents where where the entire fetus, including the head, was removed intact.
(emphasis added). Given the late term procedures at issue, I believe that what the Judge is inartfully describing is induced childbirth. Because the Judge had already stated that these doctors generally do not administer lethal chemical agents such as digoxin prior to performing the D&E procedure, this "accident" may well be live induced childbirth. This testimony sounds remarkably similar to that of Dr. Cassing Hammond, who served as an expert to the abortion doctors challenging the Ohio partial birth abortion statute in Women’s Medical Professional Corp. v. Taft. Dr. Hammond testified that he would prefer, if possible, to “remove the fetus totally intact every time and bring about its demise after it had been delivered.”
While the district courts permanent injunction is broad-- prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the statute against Planned Parenthood or essentially anyone who does business with Planned Parenthood--it obviously does not apply to state laws on the topic, particularly where, as in Ohio, the states partial birth abortion statute has been upheld by a federal court of appeals.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, (PDF file) explores the economic and social implications of the coming age wave in China: Thirty-five years ago, children in China outnumbered the elderly six to one. Thirty five years from, the ratio will be two to mone--the other way around. Add to that the problem--which even the Chinese are admitting--of so many more men than women, and you could have a real problem. A new book warns
"that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these surplus males will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young mens aggressive energies."
As this Reuters story (quite short) makes clear the UN is not exactly happy with how the new Iraqi caretaker government has shaped up. On the other hand, they cant exactly say they are unhappy, either. Kofi Annan insists--to my amusement--that the UN was not being used! Should I think myself odd that I trust the Iraqis more than I do the UN? Well find out soon enough. Brendan Miniter explains why the fact that there is no news coming out of Fallujah is good news. I am looking to CNN to report this as good news. No dice. This Washington Post story on the transition to the caretaker government has some interesting information in it. The Governing Council has now dissolved itself (another surprise!) and, according to the AP, the Coalition Authority will dissolve at the end of this month, as palnned. So, the Iraqis are one month ahead of the schedule that the media had been saying would not be able to be met.
Clever, these Iraqis, no? President Bush praises the new Iraqi cabinet. Gazi Yawer, the new president of Iraq, said his goal was to make Iraq one nation, "without murderers and criminals." He also said, according to the BBC, "he wanted a pluralistic, democratic and federal Iraq that would live in peace and co-operation with its neighbours."
BBC: "Mr Allawi for his part said that while he wanted the US occupation of Iraq to end as soon as possible, for now coalition forces would remain in place.
He expressed gratitude for what the coalition forces had done thus far in Iraq.
We will need the participation of the multinational forces to help in defeating the enemies of Iraq, he said."
U.S. manufacturing chugged to a full year of expansion in May, pushing factory hiring to its highest in 31 years, a survey released Tuesday showed.
The Justice Department has released new information on its detainment of enemy-combatant Jose Padilla. He is alleged to have targeted apartment buildings and hotels. According to Fox News:
"Padilla and the accomplice were to locate as many as three high-rise apartment buildings which had natural gas supplied to the floors," the government summary of interrogations revealed.
"They would rent two apartments in each building, seal all the openings, turn on the gas, and set timers to detonate the buildings simultaneously at a later time," the papers alleged.
This is the Memorial Day speech I gave at the Ashland Cemetery yesterday. My speech aside, it was a heart-felt and stirring event. There were about thirty World War II vets sitting in the front and these silver haired men--some wearing the uniforms of their youth--were still full of spirit as the month of May. They sat and remembered the ones who paid a soldier’s debt, and the rest of us just talked. I am deeply honored to have been invited.
The muqtar of the village of Changalawa greets Lt. Naum with a kiss at the recent "neighborhood watch" meeting. On the first day they met, Captain Bumgardner explained that Lt. Naum would help the village with important projects, like finishing their well. The muqtar responded by calling Lt. Naum "my brother," and began his tradition of greeting him with a kiss. I have been to many villages in the Sunni Triangle, and I have been on patrols of suburbs of Baghdad. This kind of exuberant response by locals happy to see American soldiers is common; the decision to cover it is not.
Yesterday morning my family and I had the honor of touring the World War II Memorial on its inaugural Memorial Day. As we expected, the site was crowded and its stone already adorned with faded pictures and old letters, wreaths, ribbons, and spangled flags in memoriam. But most importantly, and arguably the best reason my wife gave for taking our two young sons out in the dampening rain on opening weekend, the Memorial was decorated with the living remnant of that conflict, giving us the opportunity to thank those men personally. Whatever we may think of the new Memorial itself, its architecture and its locus, nothing could detract from the privilege of walking among those heroes and shaking their aged hands.
I will forever remember yesterday morning as the day I tried, as best I could, to explain the sacrifice of war to my three-year-old son. I had told him that we were going to a serious place, a sad place, and that anything less than his best behavior would come with dire consequences. Upon arrival, we met a man with "D-Day, June 6 1944 Veteran" emblazoned across his baseball cap. I thanked him for his service and he graciously bent down to talk to my son. My son shook his hand and, at my prompting, said thank you to the elderly veteran. As the man walked away, I began a surreal kind of history lesson, explaining to my boy that the old man had been very brave and that many of his friends had died. "Why did his friends die?" he asked, prompting a short lesson in war-theory that I doubted he’d ever understand. But my answer to his question was considered and distilled all the way back to our room, and when I asked him in the elevator why he had said thank you to that old grandpa, he paused only slightly before saying, "Because his friends died and made us free."
An answer I will never let him forget, and
yet another blessing from the greatest generation to my own.
Yesterday, the men of Forward Operating Base Bernstein gathered in the hot mid-day sun to honor those Americans who had fought and died in uniform. They assembled near a sign commemorating the base’s namesake, 1LT David R. Bernstein, who was killed in action on October 18, 2003 in Taza, Iraq. Words were spoken about the historical origins of Memorial Day, about soldiers in the Civil War fighting to secure the liberties guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence, and about the bravery of their grandfathers, who stormed Normandy and freed a continent. Then Lt. Col. Stevens of the 120th Infantry said a few words. His voice cracked as he remembered one of his own who had fallen—Spc. Jocelyn Carrasquillo, killed by an IED near Baghdad on March 13, 2004. There was not a day that he did not think of the soldier, and of the cowardice of the soldier’s attacker.
For these men, today was not a day for barbeques with family and friends. There was work to be done. During the day, villages were visited, and plans were made to improve roads and to provide water. At night, a raid was conducted, in an effort to apprehend a man who was believed to be a source of IEDs, like the one used to kill Spc. Carrasquillo.
Here are some pictures from the service.
Lakhdar Brahimi just announced the composition of the hydra-headed caretaker/transitional Iraqi government:
Ayad Allawi, Prime Minister Designate; Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar, President; Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari, Deputy President; and Dr. Rowsch Shaways, Deputy President.
In a pregnant postscript to this list, Brahimi noted that "Dr. Adnan Pachachi, who enjoys wide respect and support in Iraq, was offered the Presidential position with the support of Sheikh Ghazi, but declined for personal reasons."
A couple of recent articles question the conventional wisdom that Ahmad Chalabi was an Iranian spy or that he single-handedly duped the intelligence community. The first is by Christopher Hitchens, who addresses each of the recent accusations against Chalabi in turn. He does a sensible job, even if the article does indulge a bit in name dropping. The second piece is by Michael Ledeen, who spells out the entangling relationship between a number of Iraqis leaders and the Iranians. For those who wish to have a better sense of the middle-eastern chess board, it is worth reading in full.