Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A note on Kerry and the Report

The NY Times runs a story on an interview conducted with John Kerry. There are two notable things about it: First, he wants to tame the anti-Bush sentiment of the Demos attending the convention. He rightly prefers the convention to highlight himself and what he stands for. That is the way it should be. Everyone will be listening just for that. If he doesn’t succeed in this, the convention will not be to his advantage. Two, he thinks that the 9/11 Commission Report allows him to challenge Bush on his greatest strength, fighting terror. I, however, think the Report puts Kerry at a disadvantage for one large reason: the war on terror (or rather on Islamist terrorism and its ideology--see pp. 361-363 of the Report--as David Brooks, following the Commissions’ usage of the term, prefers to call it) is brought front and center by the Report. And that means that Bush’s greatest strength is enhanced. He is a war president, and he has to be addressed in those terms. The terms of the discussion have shifted in Bush’s favor with the publication of the Report. And it is not sufficient (although necessary) for Kerry to say that he would act quickly to carry out that Commission’s recommendations. So will Bush, details aside for now. The issue that the Report has placed in front of citizens (in case there was any doubt) is that there is a war, a long war that will be fought both here and abroad. This confirms Bush’s position and rhetoric. And this view will now certainly dominate the election, and who is most trusted to fight that war will be elected president. Furthermore, because Congress will act quickly (with Bush’s leadership), there is a good chance that by late October Bush and Kerry will be discussing details of the legislation that will be claiming to put the Report’s recommendations into practice. Advantage to the executive, the one who has been deeply involved in the war, and the legislative actions demanded by the Report and supported by public opinion. Kerry, albeit a U.S. Senator, will be in an awkward position of addressing these issues as if he were an outsider to the process (unless he wants to sit in on committee hearings instead of campaigning, which he won’t).

Kerry: "I can fight a more effective war on terror. I can make America safer. I will bring allies back to our side." If he can persuade the people of this, he has a chance of being elected; but not if all he talks about is bringing allies back to our side. There has to be more. He is more disadvantaged on this issue now than he was two weeks ago and Michael Moore, Richard Clarke, and Joseph Wilson are now cold anchors around his neck rather than the encouragers of the heated passion of the Left, which function they have been serving until now, and which have served Kerry’s interests, until now.

That Kerry has a long way to go in this matter is revealed in the following quote from the New York Times piece on the character of the upcoming Demo convention: "’You’re going to see more veterans, more patriotism, more talk about protecting our country,’ said one senior Democrat who insisted on anonymity in discussing the details of the convention. ’You’re going to think you’re looking a Republican convention.’"

AP electoral college score sheet

Ron Fournier of AP summarizes the electoral votes as they satnd according to current polls and some guesswork. The details are not especially important (we could quibble about a few) for now. It gives a quick overview of which states are likely to be the most prized and the toughest battlegrounds, e.g., Ohio, Nevada, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, New Mexico, etc. Just file it for now.

92% of Ivy League faculty money goes to Kerry

David M found out something interesting, but not surprsing, about which condidates Ivy League faculty support with money:(thanks to Andrew Sullivan): "In my queries, I found 792 donations to the 2004 campaigns of Bush and Kerry from individuals employed by Ivy League schools. An astonishing 92% of those donations were to Kerry. Dartmouth had the highest percent for Kerry (97%) and Princeton the highest for Bush (16%). Harvard had more than double the total donations of any other school, while Brown and Dartmouth had the fewest total donations." Here are the results:

Brown: Kerry 24, Bush 3 (Kerry 89%)

Columbia: Kerry 118, Bush 18 (Kerry 87%)

Cornell: Kerry 76, Bush 6 (Kerry 93%)

Dartmouth: Kerry 30, Bush 1 (Kerry 97%)

Harvard: Kerry 280, Bush 17 (Kerry 94%)

Penn: Kerry 38, Bush 2 (Kerry 95%)

Princeton: Kerry 74, Bush 14 (Kerry 84%)

Yale: Kerry 85, Bush 6 (Kerry 93%)

TOTAL: Kerry 725, Bush 67 (Kerry 92%)

APSA paper on blogs

Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell have a draft of a paper, "The Power and Politics of Blogs," to be delivered at the APSA in the Fall (a bit too "academic" for my taste, I should note, but for all I know these guys are trying to get tenure). Farrell gives summary of the paper on his blog. There are some more comments on the paper, with interesting links, at Drezner’s blog. The mass media is in decline, newspaper circulation is down, and, most important, there is less trust in the established media than ever (see the New York Times’ coverage of the Sandy Berger matter, just to cite the latest example). So it is not surprising that alternate, often literate and even thoughtful, daily commentary is becoming--has become--quite interesting (with a lot of readers) and the media elites are forced to pay attention. What really makes them angry is that bloggers are honest and they encourage conversation. They don’t hide their opinions and like defending them. There is something quite democratic (and even populist) about all this. And it is an irritant to the elites. So far so good. But here is an attack on bloggers by an establishment type at the Kennedy School (that’s Harvard). Pretty lame.

Berger theft, continued

Vodkapundit ruminates on Peter Beinart’s blow up on the Hugh Hewitt show. Beinart lost his cool when pressed on the Berger theft. Vodkapundit claims this: "The Berger thefts are a window into the un-seriousness at the core of the Democratic Party where national security is concerned. They dare not let the Great Unwashed realize that simple truth, thus the panicky volume of the spin, and the silence of the anti-Bush press."

The New York Times reports that "Officials at the National Archives were so concerned about Samuel R. Berger’s removal of classified documents last year that they imposed new security measures governing the review of sensitive material, including the installation of full-time surveillance cameras."

And then there is this from the New York Sun (read the whole for the details): "In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times — Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive today.

It really doesn’t matter now what was in the documents from the National Archives that Mr. Berger says he inadvertently misplaced. The evidence in the commission’s report yesterday is more than enough to embarrass him thoroughly.He is a hardworking, warm man with a wonderful family, but his background as a trade lawyer and his dovish, legalistic and political instincts made him, in retrospect,the tragically wrong man to be making national security decisions for America in wartime.That Senator Kerry had Mr. Berger as a campaign foreign policy adviser even before the archives scandal is enough to raise doubts about the senator’s judgment."

Martin Peretz also has a choice paragraph on the Berger matter, it begins thus: "I confess: I do not like Sandy Berger; and I have not liked him since the first time we met, long ago during the McGovern campaign, not because of his politics since I more or less shared them then, but for his hauteur. He clearly still has McGovernite politics, which means, in my mind, at least, that he believes there is no international dispute that can’t be solved by the U.S. walking away from it."

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong is set to win the Tour de France for the sixth consecutive time. Impressive.

Windshuttle and the aboriginies

Keith Windshuttle’s questioning of the Australian historical establishment is irritating a lot of the PC crowd. Windshuttle’s book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History "struck at the heart of the accepted view of Australian colonial history in the past 30 years - that the settler society had engaged in a pattern of conquest, dispossession and killing of the indigenous inhabitants. The facts, he said, did not stack up." Also see Armavirumque.

Germans and their beer

A survey indicates that 17% of Germans drink beer only to get drunk, but only 8% of Brits drink to become stupefied. I have never understood how anyone can drink enough beer to become drunk.

Missile Defense

I guess we have missile defense: "A ground-based missile interceptor was installed Thursday in Alaska’s Interior -- the first component of a national defense system designed to shoot down enemy missiles.

Crews at Fort Greely lowered the 55-foot-long, three-stage interceptor into one of six silos built behind a double perimeter fence reinforced by heavy barbed wire.

’We’re coming to the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks,’ said Maj. Gen. John Holly, who heads the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

Five additional interceptors will be installed at the 700-acre complex by the end of the year, along with another four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Ten more will be installed at Fort Greely by late 2005, launching the Bush administration’s multibillion-dollar system."

Sowell on a grand fallacy

Thomas Sowell on the Wal-Mart case and one of the "grand fallacies" of our times: "A record-breaking new class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart claims that the retail chain discriminates against women, for which, of course, vast millions of dollars are being demanded. The New York Times aptly summarized the case: ’About 65 percent of the company’s hourly-paid workers are women, but only 33 percent of its managers are.’

The grand fallacy of our times is that various groups would be equally represented in institutions and occupations if it were not for discrimination. This preconception has undermined, if not destroyed, the crucial centuries-old legal principle that the burden of proof is on the accuser."

Ohio politics

The New York Times runs a puff piece on Jerry Springer and his interest in running for governor of Ohio in 2006. Springer is a left-wing Democrat, but he is the best known Demo in the state, which proves that the Demos are at a nadir politicall. The GOP primary for governor will be much more interesting. In the meantime it looks as though Ashland’s Bill Harris (R) will become the President of the Ohio Senate in 2005. Ohio, of course, continue to be a critical state for both Bush and Kerry; each will be in the state next Saturday. Bush won Ohio by 4% in 2000, and the latest ARG poll has Kerry at 47% and Bush at 45% (Kerry having dropped two points in a month, and Bush came up two).

Philip Zelikow

Alan Wirzbicki writes a short piece for The New Republic on Philip Zelikow, who has been the 9/11 Commission’s executive director. Zelikow is moving back to the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, which had been running until he was asked to be the Commission’s staff director. He traces Zelikow’s GOP credentials and his close association with Condi Rice, and some of the politics involved in all this. Since this was written before the writer read the Commission’s report, it is excusable that he writes: "How is it, then, that Zelikow steered the Commission to a report that will be critical of the Bush administration?" No doubt more will be said about Zelikow in the future.

Arafat should resign

Well, what do you know! The New York Times is calling for Yasir Arafat to resign. First paragraph: "It’s been the misfortune of the Palestinian people to be stuck with Yasir Arafat as their founding father, a leader who has failed to make the transition from romantic revolutionary to statesman. All he seems capable of offering Palestinians now is a communal form of the martyrdom he seems to covet. Mr. Arafat should accept his limitations and retire as president of the Palestinian Authority."

Origins of viniculture

This is a book review of a book on ancient wine by a biomolecular archaeologist (never heard of such a thing!) and he claims that during the Paleolithic era people drank fermented grapes and this has to do with whether or not such grapes were domesticated and what that had anything to do with the origins of agriculture. I can tell you without reading the book that it probably had everything to do with the origins of agriculture, i.e., men first worked at those things that gave them pleasure rather than those things necessity compelled them to do. Or, at the least, necessity and pleasure grew side by side. Hobbbes to the contrary notwithstanding. Nunc vino pellite curas, says Horace.

The "Pre-emption Commission"

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial on the Report seems to me (even though I have not yet read the report) to the point. Very much worth reading. A sample: "So the doctrine of pre-emption has its uses, after all. In a world of conflicting intelligence, uncertain consequences and potential foreign opposition, it is still sometimes necessary for America to attack an adversary before it attacks us.

That, reduced to its essence, is the main conclusion of yesterday’s 567-page report from the 9/11 Commission. The September 11 attacks may have been a shock, it says, but they never should have come as a surprise. Our government--and the entire political class--knew enough to act against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but it did not because of ’failures of imagination, policy, capability, and management.’ Though the bipartisan report can’t quite bring itself to use the words, it would seem that the Bush anti-terror doctrine lives."

The 9/11 Commission Report

Here is the 9/11 Commission Report (PDF file, 585 pages) and the Executive Summary (PDF file, 31 pages).

GOP election strategy for November

Steven Den Beste has some (long) thoughts on what the Bush campaign is up to, how they seem to be holding things in reserve, and why they really will not open up on Kerry until September. He explains why Kerry is deeply vulnerable and why he cannot win (assuming a few things). Very thoughtful and agreeable. A couple of lines: "So what I conclude is that the next Bush ’masterstroke’ is going to be the November election. The Republicans and the Bush administration have been biding their time, and conserving their money. They have been carefully accumulating political ammunition and have resisted the urge to expend any of it too soon. They’ve laid the groundwork for a very effective campaign this autumn, and the Democrats are going to get routed."

"The Republicans are carefully preparing the groundwork for a full-scale assault on his greatest weaknesses. Once they open up active hostilities, it’s actually going to end up being very much like the other Bush masterstrokes, where everything changes permanently and no one can again look at the fundamental issues the same way."

My view is similar to this. The Bush campaign is not in a tentative mode, it is in strategic preparation. They are ignoring the polls and they are right to do so. Besides, a careful analysis of the polls show that the polls (even if they are in Bush’s favor) are not especially meaningful because there are too many variables. USA Today/CNN/Gallup and FOX News/Opinion Dynamics has the race running exactly even. The Los Angeles Times has Kerry up by only 2% whereas they had him up by 4% a month ago.

Only Wall Street Journal/NBC pollsays that only 41% of the voters hold favorable views of the Democratic Party (compared to 46% positive just before the 2000 Demo convention). This is not good for the Demos. Will Kerry get a 15% bumb in the polls following next week’s convention (as Gore got in 2000)? I don’t think so. In fact, I will say that he will get no more than a 7-10 point jump. The most important fact in any of the polls--in my opinion--is this: who do the voters think would do a better job on the war against terrorism? Bush consistently wins by large numbers, FOX says that 50% think Bush will do a better job on the war against terror, while only 35% think that Kerry would. Is this likely to change given the increasingly complicated and frightening news coming out of places like Iran and North Korea? Kerry has not given anyone the impression that he is willing to attack his low numbers in this regard, save to say that he would like more international cooperation. That is not an argument. Bush continues to maintain a huge lead when voters are asked who would be the stronger leader (Bush 50%, Kerry 31).

Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the best place to catch up on the latest polls (all the polls), political commentary, and all such matters, is RealClearPolitics. Starting about now, if you are a political junkie, you should visit it a couple times a day. Oh, and don’t ignore their "Commentary" section. Very good and useful stuff, clarly laid out.

Pictures from the CSH

We just posted some pictures from my visit to soldiers at the Combat Support Hospital. Included are pictures of Warrant Ofr. Leo Geibel and Sfc. Justin Cussans. I have written an article about my conversations with these amazing men, which should be posted in the near future.

Saddam’s Mass Graves

For the next two days, I will be in Hillah, to visit one of the larger mass graves in the country. All told, there are estimated to be 400,000 Iraqis and foreigners buried in mass graves, accounting for sizable portion of the 1 million Iraqis who went missing during Saddam’s regime. Do take a look at the USAID report on mass graves. Read the first hand accounts of Saddam’s purging of the Shias, and know once again that our error was not coming to Iraq sooner.

House Strips Federal Courts’ Jurisdiction

The House of Representatives has passed a measure that removes the question of gay marriage from the federal courts’ jurisdiction. If passed by the Senate, it would effectively mean that the Defense of Marriage Act would be immune from judicial review, and states would be free not to recognize or sanction any gay marriage performed in another state. Here’s the story on Fox.

The 527 heavy hitters

The Boston Phoenix runs a piece on the wealthy funders of progressive "527" groups (, Americans Coming Together, the Media Fund; there are more than 100 "527’s".). These are groups that can accept contributions of unlimited size from anybody. While George Soros (circa $12 million so far) is the most famous, the article lists 12 donors who have given more than $1 million each during the first 18 months of the election cycle. Collectively, this dozen has donated just over $50 million. Welcome to campaign finance reform.

Berger episodes as "information countermeasure"

Belmont Club gives us something very interesting to work with. I quote his "Jammers" cloumn in toto:

"It would be wrong to speculate on Sandy Berger’s ultimate motive for removing classified documents from the National Archives. Working with insufficient information is the best way to mislead one’s self. However, there might be some value to adopting a preliminary framework for understanding new information as it comes to light. The model that comes readily to mind is to regard Berger’s escapade as a kind of information countermeasure. The most common ways to conceal information are to 1) create a decoy signal; 2) generate enough noise to blot out the underlying information; and 3) to reduce the signal of the original information which you want to conceal.

Most readers are broadly familiar with the countermeasures used on military aircraft. They can release decoys, like flares or drones. They can emit signals from jamming pods to white out the enemy radar screens. They can employ a variety of measures to reduce their reflection so that they remain unseen, the so-called stealth technology. Each of these corresponds to one type of countermeasure described above. As an exercise one can hypothetically regard the Plame-Wilson affair, the Richard Clarke book and Sandy Berger’s bungled theft as representatives of these three kinds of information countermeasures. The first establishes a false "blip" -- the Bush Lied meme -- which misled intelligent bloggers like Oxblog’s Patrick Belton for weeks as he followed this phantom echo. The Richard Clarke book can be considered a noise barrager type of countermeasure. It was for the most part a big sound and light show laced with ominous drumrolls with nothing behind it. When the time came to set Clarke’s book against Condoleeza Rice’s testimony at the 9/11 hearings there was curious lack of collision, as might be expected once you got past the boundary generated by a noise jammer. Berger’s attempt to stuff codeword classified documents into his pants and socks looks like signature-reduction exercise on its face. It was an attempt to excise information; to create a stealth object which could pass through unnoticed.

The presence of countermeasures almost always indicates the presence of real information which the jamming is intended to protect. One of the reasons that coverups are so dangerous is they create the danger of "home-on-jam", where the source of jamming signal is itself targeted. The significance of catching Sandy Berger in the act of purloining classified couments is that it enables investigators to "home-on-jam", to find the beneficiary of the coverup. Where will it lead? Stay tuned. Remember that jamming needs to work just long enough for the real bandit to accomplish its mission."

Berger addition

A Missouri paper runs this on the Berger matter: Former national security adviser Sandy Berger repeatedly persuaded monitors assigned to watch him review top-secret documents to break the rules and leave him alone, sources said Wednesday.
Berger, accused of smuggling some of the secret files out of the National Archives, got the monitors out of the high-security room by telling them he had to make sensitive phone calls.

Guards were convinced to violate their own rules by stepping out of the secure room as he looked over documents and allegedly stashed some in his clothing, sources said."
It is also the case that Berger took "lots of bathroom breaks" that aroused some suspicion.

Sandy Berger, purloiner

Today’s Washington Post article on the Berger National Archive issue adds a bit to what we know. And, frankly, none of the new information is to Sandy Berger’s advantage. He kept taking things. And it’s not good enough to say that they were many drafts of the same memo. The memos are not the same if, for example, there had been some additions by anyone in the margins; then each is a unique and original document. Note this paragraph, especially: "The government source said the Archives employees were deferential toward Berger, given his prominence, but were worried when he returned to view more documents on Oct. 2. They devised a coding system and marked the documents they knew Berger was interested in canvassing, and watched him carefully. They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. At one point an Archives employee even handed Berger a coded draft and asked whether he was sure he had seen it. At the end of the day, Archives employees determined that that draft and all four or five other versions of the millennium memo had disappeared from the files, this source said." Although everyone is being pretty cautious in this matter, Andrew Sullivan is quite explicit: "This suggests that Berger was trying to purloin potentially embarrassing data on his tenure. That’s astonishing."

It also seems to me that one can’t help wondering why Berger did not tell John Kerry that he was under criminal investigation, and why former Clinton spokeman Joe Lockhart and Clinton’s counsel Bruce Lindsay got immediately involved in the matter. Watch this issue be placed out of sight for the next week or so, to be replaced by the 9/11 Commission Report and the Democratic convention. Yet, it will linger, and will reassert itself by mid-September or so. I’m guessing that there will be more embarrasing revelations, although what we already know is plenty. But take a look at this from Hugh Hewitt (who happens to be a lawyer): "But eventually the public needs to know not what was attempted to be excised from the archive--it may be too sensitive to reveal--but only if there was information unique to the draft(s) that Berger lost. If there was, Berger wasn’t being sloppy. He was being precise."

9/11 Commission

The guys at The Corner are highlighting some excerpts from the 9/11 Commission Report already. For example, Rich Lowry notes: "Pages 329-330 devastate his Saudi post-9/11 flight conspiracy-mongering. A sample: ’We found no evidence that anyone at the WH above the level of Richard Clarke participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals.’"

Surprise: Moore Doesn’t Understand the First Amendment

In the tempest in a teapot that is the Aladdin Casino President Bill Timmin’s decision to boot Linda Ronstadt after her tribute to Michael Moore, I have been waiting for someone to make an argument based on the First Amendment. Sure enough, Moore made the argument himself:

Moore wrote a letter to Timmins on Monday saying he thinks the casino president owes Ronstadt an apology.

"What country do you live in?" Moore asked. "Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called, ’The First Amendment.’...For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American."

For Mr. Moore, here is a little lesson in Con Law 101. The First Amendment states in relevant part that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . ." Through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, "Congress" is now interpreted to include state governments. So unless he is arguing that the casino is the federal or state government, Moore has shown his vast ignorance once again. And no, the ethereal spirit of the First Amendment does not really mean that private parties are forced to subsidize speech with which they do not agree (keep in mind that Ms. Ronstadt was a paid performer). Quite to the contrary, implicit in the First Amendment is the freedom of association--which includes the right (with certain limitations) to exclude those with whom you disagree. Accordingly, the Democratic National Convention does not have to feature Ann Coulter, and the Republican Convention does not have to feature a duet by Linda Ronstadt and Michael Moore. Moreover, I don’t have to invite Michael Moore to join me for a welcome back from Iraq party, and he doesn’t need to invite me to his movie’s after-party--and we can expressly not invite each other strictly because we disagree with the other’s speech. We can even kick each other out of the respective parties if we find the other’s views unacceptable. And, to the case at issue, a casino does not need to tolerate a paid performer using their stage to promote a commercial movie unrelated to her performance or political views which are unpopular to the casino’s clients. It is astounding to me how many people make the remarkably dumb argument that the First Amendment is intended to regulate private entities or persons. It is not, and if you think about it for more than a couple of seconds, that is a good thing. While there is merit in the interaction of ideas, not every stage is a street corner, and it is well within the rights of the owner to prohibit speech with which he disagrees for reasons of principle or profit.

Troop Talk

FYI, NRO ran my article in which the men of 196th Cavalry respond to Andy Rooney this morning.

The Need for American Support

I will be speaking more about my interview with British Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster in a forthcoming piece about training Iraqi security forces, but he said a few things that are worth highlighting here.

To speak with Gen. Aylwin-Foster is to know that he has enjoyed his time in Iraq. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement at all to say that this is a life changing experience,” he said. “It’s not often that you get to be around for the birth of a nation. . . . That’s something to be cherished.”

At the end of the interview, I offered him what I call the open mic (pronounced "mike")—an opportunity to cover something that perhaps I had missed in the course of the interview, or to emphasize any point that he would like to make. He used this opportunity to emphasize how critical it is that U.S. and U.K. support for the effort here in Iraq not wane. “If the American public continues to support this campaign, we will succeed. And conversely, if they don’t, we won’t.” This makes the incessant, selective, and negative drumbeat by the media--the window for the American public to Iraq--all the more disturbing.

Another Observation from My Trip to Tuz

One thing I failed to mention in my post about the trip to Tuz is that there was clearly a difference in the nature of the security on the roads. Prior to the transition, when I traveled, the majority of the security on the road would be Coalition security forces. This time, it was just the reverse, with Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard providing the bulk of the patrols on the roads. There was also a greater general "police" presence. The conventional wisdom that the U.S. failed to send enough troops is correct, but not for the reason that most people think. It is not that we needed more troops to handle the uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf. We were able to deploy sufficient forces to those regions very quickly, and we overwhelmed the insurgents in terms of numbers and firepower in those battles, so numbers were simply not an issue there. Rather, the issue in terms of troop total troop deployment was having enough soldiers to provide a police presence after the complete collapse of the Iraqi security forces. The 130,000 troops on the ground simply were not sufficient to provide a police-beat like presence for all of Iraq. While the training process is still underway and much needs to be done to assure the proficiency of the officers, the greater presence is a good sign.

The Resilience of Iraqis

This week saw yet another car (this time tanker) bombing and a mortar attack directed toward Iraqi police stations here in Baghdad. I continue to think that this strategy by the terrorists of attacking expressly Iraqi targets is a losing one. The Iraqi people are backing increasingly strong measures to root out the foreign fighters and extreme elements in their midst, and attacks like this only strengthen that impulse. Furthermore, the attacks do not seem to be having a substantial effect on recruitment in the security forces, which continues at a brisk clip. In an interview I conducted over the weekend with Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British General who is the second in command of the Multi-National Force’s efforts to train the Iraqi security forces, he noted that "[t]he Iraqi people are extraordinarily resilient and the American people should understand this. On a daily basis, there are more Iraqis dying than Coalition and they just keep going." This brought to mind a press release I received from Multi-National Forces Public Affairs, written by U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Zabaldo, which describes the courage and resilience of one particular Iraqi soldier. It is worth quoting at length:

April 9, 2003," [Iraqi Army Lt. Col. Ahmed Lutfi] Ahmed [Raheem] said. "I don’t forget this day."

"I was on my way home to Baghdad after my brigadier boss had told me the war was over and to go home," Ahmed said, describing his last moments as a major in the old Iraqi Army air defense unit he had been with for nine years. "He said it was an order," he added.

"So I walked home from our station in Al Hillah, south of Baghdad, but I didn’t change my clothes," Ahmed said, "And I came to a Marine checkpoint on a bridge in Baghdad. And I still had my uniform on and the Marine sergeant stopped me ..."

"’Where are you going?’ he asked me," Ahmed said in his accented but surprisingly good English.

"And I tell him, ’I am a major in the Iraqi Army and I was ordered to go to my house’" Ahmed said, finishing the backdrop to a life-defining moment he had not seen coming; and on what was supposed to be just a long 50-plus mile walk home to his wife and five children.

The encounter would prove to be a pivotal one for the military veteran because for the next two anxious minutes, Ahmed went through what must be emotions impossible to describe to someone who has never known he was about to die. It was more the result of the 33-year-old’s lifetime of experience with the ways of Saddam Hussein.

Ahmed, though, was actually two minutes away from a rebirth of sorts.
"He looked at me for a while and I thought he was going to kill me," Ahmed said. "But he didn’t kill me," he added. "Instead he came to the position of attention and saluted me as an officer," Ahmed said, "And said, ’Sir you can go.’"

"I took a few steps and began to cry," he said, "Because I think, ’Why do I fight these people for ten years?[’”]

"This moment changed me from the inside," Ahmed said. "What he did was kill me without pistol. He killed the old major in the Iraqi Army who fought America from 1993 to 2003.”

Ahmed was advised by a U.S. Army officer to apply at the recruiting center in Baghdad and was ushered into the army a short time later as an "officer candidate." After training, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the new army having made the cut for promotion from his former rank in the old army.

Ahmed’s story, though, doesn’t end there. The now 34-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Baghdad and career Iraqi Army officer has since endured great personal tests in his first year of service in the new Iraqi Army that have reaffirmed his commitment to serving his country. In February 2004, Ahmed, a Soldier whose face belies his real age with the tell-tale signs of a man who has lived a hard life, was at the Baghdad Recruiting Center when a blast killed more than 47 earlier in the year. The psychological toll was great, but he came back. Several weeks ago, he saw the aftermath of the latest blast at the center only minutes after the attack that left another 35 dead. The wounds were re-opened, but he came back.

And a little more than a month-and-a-half ago on May 15, he was kidnapped by members of the Shiite Muslim Cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi army on a bridge in Baghdad when a vehicle filled with five armed men forced his truck to the side of the road before forcing him into the front seat of their car for transport to a hidden safe-house. Ahmed was beaten and pistol-whipped before being knocked unconscious only to be interrogated later by the insurgent terrorists for his association with the new Iraqi Army and the Coalition. Ultimately he was told not to work with the Coalition anymore and released by the militiamen, but not before they stripped him of his uniform, weapon, cell phone and the vehicle that had been issued to him by the Coalition.

"I said, ’Sir I lost my pistol, my mobile, my uniform and my vehicle,’" Ahmed said, describing the humiliating moment he faced upon returning to the OST headquarters later that day to report the catastrophe. He had begged the militiamen to kill him thinking the loss of equipment was the end of his military career. But when the Coalition officer Ahmed worked with found out that everything he had been issued had been lost that morning, the officer’s response surprised Ahmed. "And when he saw me crying," Ahmed said, "He stood up and gave me another key to a vehicle. And gave me another pistol and another mobile phone."

"’Don’t worry, we trust you,’ he said," Ahmed said. "I really love America for this," Ahmed said. "This is what I wish I could tell every Iraqi."

Ahmed, like so many others in the Iraqi Security Forces that show up for work everyday, knows that security and protection from the individuals bent on denying Iraq its chance at freedom is paramount to his country’s future. "I want to provide security to my country," Ahmed said. "Saddam Hussein didn’t just destroy the buildings and the streets," Ahmed said. "He destroyed something inside of all Iraqis. He destroyed the truth and something inside us. "You know what Saddam Hussein did inside us from 1979 to 2003?" asks Ahmed. "He was president of Iraq for 25 years. In this period of time what did he teach Iraq? What did Saddam teach Iraq? Fight. Take your rifle. Take your pistol and fight. Fight, fight. Fight for what? Eight years with Iran - fight for nothing. And he told us to go to Kuwait and steal. And he laughed. He taught the people how to steal. He made people forget Islam and the Al Koran. "So now inside of all Iraqis it is just to ’fight,’" Ahmed said. "And now we’re fighting between us.

"I do my best, though," Ahmed said. "I do my best to protect my country and to give my country its security." And he does one more thing that doesn’t earn medals in any army on earth: he continues to show up for work. And in the face of suicide bombings, targetings, and abductions and beatings, in Iraq, this is just the typical story common to all the 230,000-plus Iraqi Army Soldiers and police service officers choosing to serve their country. It’s not a story of the courageous actions of Soldiers storming enemy machinegun positions. And there are no medals awarded for the simple act. But it’s a typical story of valor in this country. And a standard that courage never met.

Dick "Backseat" Cheney

Yesterday, a friend of mine in Cleveland asked whether I thought Dick Cheney would remain on the ticket for November. I said yes, largely because I think any distancing from Cheney looks weak-kneed. Kate O’Beirne gives us the real reasons.  

Band on the "Run"?

The WaTimes headlines with a report on possible "dry runs" being conducted by terrorists aboard U.S. flights. The incidents reported are concerning; scary even. According to the article, airport security is under constant terrorist surveillance, and planes, passengers, and crews are being tested by small bands of suspiciously behaved men. It certainly sounds like another strike is in the works.

Here’s a counter-view of the events described courtesy of NRO.

The start of the black middle class?

This review of a book on Pullman Porters by Larry Tye merits a look and indicates that the book may be worth reading. Note that the pullman cars were running by 1867, and Pullman was hiring ex-slaves only for these jobs. Much interesting stuff here, including A. Phillip Randolph, et al. A few paragraphs:

"He [the author of the book] succeeds in explaining how, in the late 19th through the early 20th century, the young African American laborer who, while working as a porter, (but also as a dining car waiter, fireman, brakeman, maid or cook) for the Pullman Rail Car Company, was the true harbinger of the Civil Rights movement and the precursor to today’s black middle class. ’Behind almost every successful African American, there is a Pullman porter,’ Tye writes."

"What drew many in at first was the idea of being a porter: "an image outlined by midnight-blue tailored jackets and crisp visored caps, filled in with tales of exotic destinations and celebrity passengers, and completed by the sound of coins jingling in the pockets of these veteran porters." But what prompted them to stay, and even to pass their jobs on to their children, was the reality of the economic advantage porters gained over any other profession available to blacks at the time. It was not only an opportunity to support themselves and their families, but it produced a peculiar set of circumstances that yielded unexpected opportunities -- which went beyond their selves, their communities and even their time." Read the whole thing, two pages.

WSJ editorial on Berger

I just got around to this WS Journal editorial on the Berger matter. Very good, very clear, very simple. If that’s the issue, if that is what explains this theft, then it is serious. Read it.

Berger’s socks

Some thoughts on the Berger issue from a few readers:

1. "I read one reliable report (can’t remember where) that said that the National Archives staff, when they first found out that Berger was pilfering called first of all--guess who--Bruce Lindsay, apparently to try to iron out the little difficulty informally. Say what? What did the Clintonista flack/lawyer have to do with it?"

2. "Aside from Clinton’s wonderfully nostalgic (imagine thickened Arkansan drawl) ’we were all laughing about it’ response, you get Lindsay . . . and then Joe Lockhart and Lanny Davis--and Sandy Berger and his lawyers, and the Kerry campaign, and Daschle and crew--hit the spin zone. America is reminded once again to pay very close lawyerly attention to each phrase being uttered by all concerned in this professional operation, so I note a few points: ’ne archive staffer told agents that Berger also placed something in his socks.’ This drew a "sharp response" from Lanny Davis (how did he get involved?):
’I suggest that person is lying. And if that person has the guts, let’s see who it is who made the comment that Sandy Berger stuffed something into his socks.’ This sharp response, I note, nowhere denies that Berger stuffed anything into his socks. Let’s start parsing again!"

3. "I have a question. Why did the Kerry camp just learn about this two days ago, when it became public? Hasn’t Berger known about it for months? Why isn’t the media pursuing that story? What does this say about Kerry?"

4. "I heard David Gergen defend Berger by saying ’this is more innocent than it looks.’ Some defense!

5. "Why is the timing of this leak an important issue? Why is it assumed to be a ’leak,’ why couldn’t it be the result of good investigative reporting? I don’t get it. I wish some more sensible people--isn’t there anyone out there not biased?--would start talking about this."

Sandy Berger and his backside

On the one hand the Sandy Berger matter seems kind of odd, if not silly. On the other hand, I assume that Berger is not a silly man. So what is going on here? How seriously should this be taken. Not very, according to Bill Clinton. The Denver Post reports that Clinton said this about the Sandy Berger matter: "We were all laughing about it on the way over here," the former president said of the investigation into Samuel "Sandy" Berger on classified terrorism documents missing from the National Archives. "People who don’t know him might find it hard to believe. But ... all of us who’ve been in his office have always found him buried beneath papers." It seems to me that this is a revealing response from Clinton. It shows what a fundamentally unserious person Clitnon is. This is a good reminder of what his presidency was, as a wit once said, "a series of sexual episodes between two Bushes."

The New York Times reports that not only did classified memos got placed in his portfolio, but "Mr. Berger also put in his jacket and pants pockets handwritten notes that he had made during his review of the documents," according to his lawyer. The Washington Post story on the matter says this (which Andrew Sullivan focuses on: "A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government’s response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified "codeword," the government’s highest level of document security." The key word in this is "all five or six drafts..." Sullivan thinks this may be typical Clinton-era advance damage (and sleazy) control.

USA Today notes (as AP did yesterday) that Berger did this on more than one occasion: "After one of his visits to the Archives last fall, one of the government officials said, Berger was alerted to the missing documents and later returned some of the materials. On subsequent visits by Berger, Archives staffers specially marked documents he reviewed to try to ensure their return. But the government official said some of those materials also went missing, prompting Archives staffers to alert federal authorities."

Byron York claims that Berger did some heavy lifting: "The documents Berger took — each copy of the millennium report is said to be in the range of 15 to 30 pages — were highly secret. They were classified at what is known as the "code word" level, which is the government’s highest tier of secrecy. Any person who is authorized to remove such documents from a special secure room is required to do so in a locked case that is handcuffed to his or her wrist." Now again there is key word here. It is the number of pages (15 to 30) that each document contained. This apparently means that he may have taken over a hundred pages, and I wonder what Berger’s "honest mistake" will prove to mean.

Vodkapundit claims more, and, once you get past the few amusing paragraphs about how he understands what it means to stuff things down your pants, you will get to his concern: Berger (ironically) was more concerned about legalities than national security back in
1996 when he recommended to Clinton that we not accept Sudan’s offer to turn over Osama bin Laden because the FBI did not have enough evidence to indict bin Laden.

The Belmont Club only has this to say about the matter: "The Berger story will make it impossible to post until a sense of its extent emerges. The story of the former National Security Adviser stuffing classified material pertaining to the 9/11 terrorist investigation into his pants and socks is like an opening scene into a larger show; the vestibule into a darkened mansion; the trailer to a movie we are half afraid and half compelled to watch."

NY Times Wary of Obama

In an editorial this morning, "Chase the Guy With the Ball," the NY Times curiously asks for someone, anyone, to run for the U.S. Senate against the Democrat’s putative rising star, Barack Obama. He was recently tapped to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. The editorial states that

it would be too bad if Mr. Obama cakewalked into Washington. Not just for Mr. Obama, who would take office with an asterisk ("*ran against incompetents"). Illinois voters deserve to see a capable opponent force him to answer tough questions and defend his positions.

Tough questions about what, exactly? Defend what positions? The Times doesn’t say. Does anyone out there know why the Times has something against Obama? The editorial also unintentionally reminds us why limiting campaign contributions actually prevents qualified candidates from running for office. Key word: "millionaire."

Delivery to the Soldiers and Iraqi Children

While I was embedded with the troops, an old friend and former Ashbrook Scholar, Julie Ponzi, sent a care package for me to Baghdad. Included with the cookies and much needed coffee was a box filled with toys that her daughter Cassandra, who must be six by now, had helped her mother send for the Iraqi children. On the day before I left Tuz, I went on a trip to visit some of the more remote Kurdish villages where Saddam had committed some of his worst atrocities, including using chemical weapons against his own people. While we were visiting one of the villages, some of the troopers handed out toys to the children. A little girl of around 4 (although it is very difficult to tell; my experience says that due to malnutrition she could have actually been 7) received a doll, and she just beamed. She ran around the village frantically with her new found prize. One of the guys I was with noted that given how poorly girls are treated in Iraq, that this small act of kindness may be something that will stand out as a high point in her life. When I then received Cassandra’s care package for the Iraqi children, it seemed obvious where it should go.

Since I arrived in Baghdad, I made a new discovery: Pizza Napoli. The Iraqi who runs the restaurant trained to cook in Sicily, and he knows how to make a pie. It is reported that this was Amb. Bremer’s favorite pizza place in town, and the owner explained to me that the CPA gave him a cell so that they could order pizzas from him. It seemed that this would be the right relief from the chow hall for the guys. And so, I ordered up a dozen pizzas, donned my bullet-proof Dominos uniform, and loaded them and the toys up for the 200 kilometer trip to Tuz yesterday--a trip through the lovely towns of Sulayman Bak and Baqubah.

I arrived at around 8:45 am, just after the action for the morning. At around 6:55 am, 1st platoon was out on patrol when an IED exploded directly beside their vehicle. Fourth platoon was assigned to the Quick Reaction Force for the day, so they responded to the scene. Thankfully, no one was injured, and despite the size of the explosion (I drove past the sizable crater), the vehicle looked relatively unscathed. As I was leaving for the day, I received news that they were able to catch the terrorist who set the bomb red-handed.

The troops seemed in fine spirits, and it was good to be able to catch up with them for the day. The drive back down to Baghdad redefined hot. My driver’s air conditioner wasn’t working, and the body armor made the outside temperature, which I would put at around 120, feel all the hotter.

When the funnies aren’t funny

Project 21, a network of conservative African-Americans, is rightly outraged by comic-strip cartoonist, Ted Rall, and his July 1st comic: "Appropriate Punishments for Deposed Bushites." Rall’s parody features Condoleezza Rice saying "I was Bush’s beard! His house nigga. His..." She is interrupted by a character wearing a shirt reading "You’re not white, stupid" who says, "Now hand over your hair straightener."

From the Project 21 press release:

"Is it OK for Ted Rall to use such vile language because he’s using it against a black conservative?" asks Project 21 member Michael King. "I’m beside myself with anger over this comic." Project 21 is asking Universal Press Syndicate, the distributor of Rall’s comics, to immediately terminate their relationship with him. Project 21 is also asking the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to make similar demands based on their past involvement in pressuring ESPN to fire radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh in 2003.

Perhaps just as disturbing as Rall’s "comedy," is the marketing caption describing the cartoonist: "Ted Rall writes for a generation unjustly maligned as a pack of lazy slackers. He voices Generation X’s frustration and resentment at the excesses of the baby boomers who’ve left a spent America in their mammoth wake. Ted’s irreverent attitude and deft use of satire combine to make his work as fun to read as it is thought-provoking. And Ted’s ability to connect with current culture gives his writing an of-the-moment perspective that is edgy and sharp."

Deft is defined differently in my dictionary.

Cuomo Mangles Lincoln on NPR

Making the rounds for his new book, Why Lincoln Matters: Now More than Ever, former NY governor Mario Cuomo was interviewed on NPR this morning.
"Lessons from Lincoln for Today’s World,"
was only a 4-minute bit, but Cuomo manages to say Lincoln broke the Constitution, would have supported Roe v. Wade, made no argument for belief in God, and would be against preemptive war.

The audio is worth listening to, if only to hear the interviewer correct Cuomo when the latter claims that despite Lincoln’s many citations of the Bible, he "doesn’t talk about God." Steve Inskeep reminds the author (of more than one book on Lincoln) of the line in the Second Inaugural, "as God gives us to see the right," and concludes that in Lincoln’s writings "there are references to God." Stung by what almost everyone knows about Lincoln, Cuomo tries to assert his authority as an experienced politician by saying, "I’m better at this than you," and asks if Lincoln might have used religion for political purposes. Cuomo answers, "All I know is, Lincon was a master politician." Amazing how Cuomo, who claims to admire Lincoln, ends up denigrating his memory.

Distorting News

Greg Pierce of The WaTimes reports: "Fox News’ use of the slogan ’Fair and Balanced’ constitutes deceptive advertising, two liberal advocacy groups said yesterday in a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission. and Common Cause assert that Fox News’ reports are ’deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint.’
Charging consumer fraud, the complaint calls for the FTC to order Fox News, consistently the highest-rated cable news network, to cease and desist from using the slogan."

A note an education

David Brooks’ brief op-ed tells a good story. It is about the value of a non-specialized education, perhaps even a liberal education. It is about the relationship between theory and practice, about big ideas and big events. Maybe it’s about the how a young person sees the old, and vica versa. It is about judgments, the word that most people in the academy want to avoid like the plague. No, it is really more about learning. Actually, it is about what it is to be a student and how it is that universities should not encourage "squirrel-like specialization." In the end, it is about what a student should be and what a teacher should be. Brooks leads me to a short thought (I know, you’re surprised).

When Freshmen enter my Understanding Politics class they always look for the wrong things. They look for the narrow and the limited. They think we are going to talk about who gets what and how, which group wants a revolution, or how a bill becomes a law, which special interest has the most influence and why. Then they note in order to understand the daily headlines, the first thing we read is Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus, and we do so not because we are interested in Persian history. Xenophon’s first paragraph goes something like this: Isn’t it interesting how many democracies have been brought down "by those who wished the governing to be done in some other way than under a democracy." And he mentions monarchies and oligarchies and tyrannies. He also notes that cattlemen and horsemen are the rulers of cattles and horses, and those animals are more willing to obey their rulers than are men. Men are hard to rule, maybe even impossible to rule: "human beings unite against none more than against those whom they perceive attempting to rule them."
And then Xenophon says that because there was Cyrus who acquired "very many people, very many cities, and very many nations, all obedient to himself" in may be possible to say that ruling human beings is not impossible, or even difficult, "if one does it with knowledge." Well, we talk about these things for a while (about four years) and we read all the others who have addresseed the issue--Aristotle, Locke, Madison and the boys, Shakespeare, Churchill, Lincoln--and then the students become citizens and are ruled and rule in turn. No squirrel-like specialization here.
This education is partly private, but mostly common because this regime is attached to freedom, and freedom is the easiest things to misunderstand; it is easy to think that freedom is doing whatever one wants, and it is easy to fall into the habit of wanting to change the democratic regime that allows freedom into something else. Freedom can be self-destructive. To encourage that understanding of freedom would be to corrupt the young. Men are no harder to rule than they are to educate.

Young on Moore

Cathy Moore of Reason, a publication which is not known for being particularly pro-Bush, examines some of Michael Moore’s public statements. She concludes that he is not merely anti-administration, but anti-American (a term that, as a libertarian, she is not prone to use lightly) as well.

More on Allawi’s reputation

Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi continues to get good press. The AP says:
"To Iraqis hurting from months of violence and chaos, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has developed the aura of a tough, perhaps brutal, leader. Surprisingly, that image has endeared him to many Iraqis, accustomed to strongman rule.

’I heard that he goes to jails to kill criminals,’ said Salma Abbas, a 50-year-old government employee. ’This is good. we want someone as strong as Saddam.’"

Linda Ronstadt booted

Linda Ronstadt called Moore a “great American patriot” and “someone who is spreading the truth.” She also encouraged the audience at the Aladdin hotel-casino to see the documentary about President Bush.

"Ronstadt’s comments drew loud boos, and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air."

“It was a very ugly scene,” Aladdin President Bill Timmins said. “She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose.” Timmins booted her out, wouldn’t even let her back into her dressing room and had her escorted off the property. Michael Moore then called Timmins (who is British) "un-American."

This story on the issue has some more detail.

Lenin’s death

Some scientists are claiming that Lenin died of syphilis.

Sandy Berger investigated

The FBI is investigating Sandy Berger (Clinton’s national security advisor, and a chief foreign policy advisor for Kerry) for removing some documents from the National Archives back in July, September, or October. The investigation began in October and was turned over to the FBI this January and became a criminal investigation. Berger was doing research in response to inquiries by the September 11 Commission. The WaPo states:

"Berger inadvertently took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall, said his attorney Lanny Breuer. The lawyer said one or more of the copies were then inadvertently discarded." The author of the documents was Richard A. Clarke.

This AP report has a nice detail not mentioned in the Washington Post story above: "Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio." Berger said: "I deeply regret the sloppiness involved."

Mozambique, doing better

Ralph Peters recently visited Molzambuque and files a very optimistic report. Informative. Here is a two month-old BBC backgrounder, and the CIA Factbook, updated in May. There will be an election next month. The incumbent, Joaquim Chissano, is stepping down voluntarily. That in itself is remarkable.

Arnold and the girlie-men

It looks like Arnold is back. He is not amused that Demos are being intransigent with his policies and the budget. So he is showing them his other side. I hope he keeps it up until the election. He may just be able to overthrow them yet. The LA Times runs this article on Arnold asking the voters to "terminate" those politicians who are too tied to special interests (i.e., Democrats): "Legislators, [writes the LA Times] he said at a rally in the food court of the Ontario Mills shopping center, are ’part of a bureaucracy that is out of shape, that is out of date, that is out of touch and that is definitely out of control in Sacramento.’

Schwarzenegger added, ’They cannot have the guts to come out there in front of you and say, "I don’t want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests: the unions, the trial lawyers’…. I call them girlie men. They should get back to the table, and they should finish the budget."’
Some people are outraged by these comments. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, said that while he wasn’t upset by the remark, his 13-year-old daughter was. She finds the term derogatory. Hugh Hewitt, bless him, has a few words to say on the subject. His opponents reaction to Arnold’s comments is, Hewitt says, "illustrative of the teeth-grinding, utterly humorless state into which the Kerry-Moore Democrats have sunk, including their west cost branch." Right. And the Governor will not apologize. Good.

Good news from Iraq

Arthur Cherenkoff (you have seen his blog) has his good news from Iraq (much undereported in the media) round-up in the WS Journal on line.
He mentions their diplomatic activity, the establishment (and training) of the new independent electoral commission, new court systems in place, first bond market has opened, their participation in the Olympics, etc.
Good and useful stuff; very elaborate. Many links.   

Unleashing chaos, Arafat and other similar issues

Are you wondering what is going on in the land that used to be ruled by Arafat? Things seem pretty chaotic, don’t they? Belmont Club moves toward clarity, and puts it all in a much broader strategic perspective. Follow the links, and kick back. Add Iran into the mix (more on that later), and you are now pondering geopolitics at the highest level. Calm your nerves, drink decaf or take a shot of brandy in the coffee.    

More on Joseph Wilson as liar

William Safire considers the fact that "Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the president’s lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth." Matthew Continetti goes into it in more detail (seven pages) but comes to the same conclusion. What else is Joe Wilson lying about? Wilson has been quiet through this brouhaha. A counterattack should be expected soon.

Responses to Andy Rooney’s questions

You might remember that a while back the banal Andy Rooney asked five questions that he would like soldiers in Iraq to answer, the first was "Do you think your country did the right thing sending you into Iraq?" Well, our indomitable reporter in Iraq Robert Alt asked all of Rooney’s questions of some soldiers and he gives back their clear (read, not Marueen Dowd-like) responses. You lose, Rooney, these guys don’t consider themselves fools or victims. Bless them all.   

A Lesson in Free Speech

Elton John whined to BBC News about "censorship" in the US, which he blames on the administration’s bullying tactics. The article states that he "likened the current ’fear factor’ to McCarthyism in the 1950s." His evidence is the different treatment received by pro- versus anti-war artists:

"On the one hand, you have someone like Toby Keith, who has come out and been very supportive of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq - which is OK because America is a democracy and Toby Keith is entitled to say what he thinks and feels.

"But, on the other hand, the Dixie Chicks got shot down in flames last year for criticising the president. They were treated like they were being un-American, when in fact they have every right to say whatever they want about him because he’s freely elected, and therefore accountable."

What Sir Elton fails to recognize is that this was not a government response, but a listener response. Bush didn’t hold protests against the Dixie Chicks, country music listeners did. Elsewhere in the article, Elton longed for the anti-war glory days of the 60s. It seems apparent what he is not looking for is free speech, it is anti-war speech. What he fails to recognize is that when Americans get together to say that they don’t like artists trashing the American President on foreign soil, that is also free speech.

Waning Days

My days grow short in Iraq, and with that I am bringing together a lot of material which I have gathered over the past 5 months. Accordingly, visit the site often, because there should be a bit more Iraq content than usual on this page over the next week or so.

More Photos

There are many new pictures in the photos from Iraq section from my embed with the medevacs. I have already filed my article on the topic, and you should be reading here some time soon.

Mexico’s Attorney General gets chipped

Mexico’s attorney general said he had had a microchip inserted under the skin of one of his arms to give him access to a new crime database and also enable him to be traced if he is ever abducted. Over 150 of his staff also got the chip. More details at

King Arthur

Arthur Chrenkoff reflects on "King Arthur" the movie and stuff related to it, you know, the Roman Empire, America, and some smaller things.

Lance Armstrong and Johann Bruyneel

Sally Jenkins writes about the student-teacher relationship of Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel, his coach. A good and not well known story: "Since then [1999], Armstrong and Bruyneel have become professionally inseparable, as Armstrong has won five consecutive Tour de France titles. Should Armstrong win a record-breaking sixth title, as he is seeking to do over the next 10 days and thousand miles through the dire ascensions and swooping descents of the Pyrenees and Alps, Armstrong will be called the greatest cyclist in history. But Armstrong would be the first to tell you cycling is a team sport, and that while he’s the one who rides the blacktop and climbs the jagged icy peaks, without Bruyneel, he might never have won a single Tour much less have a shot at a record. Though Bruyneel is unrecognized outside of his own sport, he has been to Armstrong what Phil Jackson was to Michael Jordan, an arch-strategist and a critical influence, who has taught one of the all-time greats how to get the absolute most out of himself, and without whom he might have been considerably less great."

"Bruyneel made Armstrong something he had never been, a prepared and efficient rider."

"Coach and rider found that their differences proved to be the perfect complement to each other: Bruyneel’s tactical intelligence and Armstrong’s extraordinary will; Bruyneel’s gift for preparation and Armstrong’s physical capacity to execute any plan. For all of their differences in personality, they have an effortless understanding, able to finish each other’s thoughts. ’A lot of times we think the same way, and it’s difficult to explain exactly why,’ Bruyneel says. ’We don’t have a lot of disagreements. We’re passionate about the same things, the work, and the details.’

What they share is a tireless work ethic, mutually inexhaustible ambition, and a vision: Bruyneel saw more in Lance Armstrong than Lance Armstrong saw in himself. In a way, what Bruyneel has given to Armstrong is the greatest gift, himself. Together they’ve created cycling lore."

The unnameable threat

David Warren argues something politically incorrect: "In the course of three years’ intense study of the issue, I’ve become convinced that there is -- well, this is a slight exaggeration -- no such thing as ’Al Qaeda’. It is, more precisely, only a name applied vaguely to one of several financing and logistical arms of the Wahabi branch of what could more accurately be called the ’Islamic Jihad’. Not an army, nor a disciplined network of underground cells, but an historical movement -- and thus more comparable to something like ’the Enlightenment’ in the West, than to any organized militia. Not to say the Jihad shares ideals with the Enlightenment -- far from it -- but rather, it is similar in being a vast idealistic movement, consciously advanced by men who co-operate as and where they think they can be most effective -- but taking their orders, ultimately, not from men but from ’the zeitgeist’, or ’Allah’."

The Belmont Club reflects on this more extensively, and adds to it (follow the links) by, among other things, noting the probable importance of
the chaos at Los Alamos Laboratory. Giving the war its right name, Belmont asserts, would affect both our Constitutional system and the way we wage war. Very thoughtful. Read the whole thing.  

Milkis on Byrd

Sidney M. Milkis reviews Senator Byrd’s Losing America, his diatribe against Bush’s Iraq policy and especially against Congress’ too swift enactment of the Iraqi resolution and in favor of a greater role for Congress in foreign policy. In the best light, Milkis argues, Byrd urges us to reconsider the debate between Madison and Hamilton on presidential authority. Milkis moderates Byrd’s thesis by showing that Senator Kerry agrees with Bush on the power of the presidency in the conduct of foreign policy (Kerry even agrees with Bush on the doctrine of preemption, it should be noted).