If theres anyone left with any doubts about Saddam Husseins reign of terror, let him see this story from the New York Times. Its by Eason Jordan, CNNs chief news executive, and it details all the atrocities CNN knew about, but kept quiet for fear of what would happen to Iraqis who worked for the network if the news got out.
I just hope that all the stories weve already heard do not make us too jaded to appreciate what Jordan has to say. This, truly, was an evil regime.
Fred Kaplan explains what lies behind the military’s victory in Iraq. He claims three major changes have taken hold within the military since the Gulf War: "a new fighting doctrine, advanced digital technology, and a less parochial culture." The article is quite informative for the layman.
Last night Leno referred to a recent dinner speech (I paraphrase) of Barbara Bush, who said she couldnt believe that the boy she spanked was now leading us to war-- Don Rumsfeld, he clarified.
Lettermans Top Ten Things Iraqs Information Minister Has to Say About the War. Amusing.
MEMRI translates al Qaedas reaction to the fall of Baghdad. Interesting reading. And, surprise, they call for guerilla warfare.
Iraqis in Iran stormed the Iraqi embassy, tore down pictures of Saddam, but also chanted "death to America." Iran’s el supremo religious leader said that it is good that the US overthrew Saddam, but now they ought to leave Iraq. And then once again talked of the "Great Satan." This sort of stuff--I sometimes think--is beyond political analysis but maybe not beyond pschoanalysis. Which reminds me, I have been reading Bernard Lewis’ new book,The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror and it is first class. It is an extension and elaboration of his article by the same name in The New Yorker of last year (I think). It reads with great ease and is full of great information and analysis. On page 81 he notes, for example, by way of interpreting the thought of Sayyid Qutb, that what is meant by "the Great Satan" is neither an imperialist nor an exploiter, but rather a seducer, and this explains why the American way of life is a threat to Islam: "an insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men." (Qur’an CXIV, 4, 5). Very instructive.
John Keegan explains how the war looks in a post-mortem, that it was very well done, and asks how all the pundits could get it wrong. At least in some small part it is because the reporters within the Saddam tyranny couldnt tell the truth, as this CNN news executive explains. So let me get this straight, you are a newsman, but you cant tell the truth. I see. I guess you guys were doing the same sort of thing in the USSR, too.
This is a typical broad ranging and thoughtful article by George Will on Europe, the UN, and the US. Notice his emphasis on Europes demographic problems, and also this nice formulation: the UN should be invited to participate in some of the rebuilding in Iraq for the same reason that France was invited to become a parmanent member of the UN Security Council in 1945, "as psychotherapy for a crisis of self-esteem brought on by bad behavior."
I was on a panel at the Mansfield campus of Ohio State University last night that opened a two-day Forum on the war. I spoke in favor of the war, while a Christopher Phelps, a professor of history there, argued against the war. The conversation--friendly and congenial both with Phelps and the audience--went on for over two hours. There is no reason to recount it all. I had no idea of the kind of arguments Phelps would make and I’m glad I didn’t know before I agreed, or else I wouldn’t have. He used the kitchen sink approach: we are in it for the oil, Halliburton, it’s a conspiracy by neo-conservatives, we are building an American empire, we hate all other peoples, or at least have contempt for them, Arabs hate us and will now hate us more, the war is likely to increase terrorism, because Iraq will be governed by the US military no democracy will be possible, the US is the rogue state, we are culturally arrogant, everything America touches in the world turns into something bad, the money we spend on the war should be spent on social programs, etc. You get the point. Not only is this stuff boring, it is wrong. The heartbreaking thing about it is the tremendous contempt it shows for America and the American character. It is pathetic and beyond reason. The only good news is that you will find this kind of opinion mostly in the academy. Real people don’t think this way. Real people don’t hate their own country, even if they question their policies. It is sad, very sad. It is heartbreaking. I went home, had a beer and watched the news from Iraq for a couple of hours. I saw Iraqis cheer, they welcomed us, and thanked us. It felt good and my heart started to reassemble itself. And then I saw an interview with a Marine corporal; he was in Baghdad. An American boy from Modesto. You know, one of those good looking young men, bright eyed and inclined to smile. He had come all the way up to Baghdad, fighting when necessary. He was asked to characterize the best thing that had happened to him in the war. Without hesitating he said something like this: "It was nice to see the Iraqi people welcome us, they waved to us, they smiled at us, they even kissed us. It made my heart feel good. That’s why we are here." I need to spend more time with men like this, and less time with people who have Ph.D.’s. It would do my aching heart good. Here is the story on the Forum from the
I second Schramms endorsement of the Bell review of de Villepins book. The image of the Frenchman that emerges is positively Nietzschean. As Bell puts it, "he worships at the altar of two holy things: French grandeur and political power, as incarnated in historys great men." His heroes are not only Napoleon, but Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and (of course) Charles de Gaulle, the first three of whom were also among Nietzsches heroes.
Another important passage: "There are many people who believed that de Villepin had valuable points to make in warning against a rush to war. If only we could believe that his argument against the war grew out of real conviction. His books suggest that in international affairs he is really an immoralist--that he has no trouble with a powerful nation imposing its will by force, taking potentially dangerous risks, and possibly violating international law. He just prefers that the nation in question be France."
By the way, I just noticed that in the lower right-hand corner of one of the pages of the review is an advertisement for Joseph S. Nyes latest book, The Paradox of American Power: Why the Worlds Only Superpower Cant Go It Alone. Irony, anyone?
Although it is not on line (you must subscribe), allow me to bring to your attention an article in the current issue of The New Republic (April 14). It is by David A. Bell, and is entitled, "The Napoleon Complex." It is an article on France’s Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin. More specifically it is an examination of his latest book, a six-hundred-pager, on Napoleon, The Hundred Days, or the Spirit of Sacrifice. Bell makes crystal clear that de Villepin--no matter how he poses as a defender of reason, prudence, and international law--is "a man lacking firm political principles, romantically besotted with raw political power, and ready to overlook misdeeds committed in its name--but only when the power in question is French."
De Villepin says that Napoleon was nothing less than "the conjunction of a man and a nation...through his destiny, everyone can feel the breath of the exceptional, preserve hope in a better future, and maintain a part of that French dream which blends into the idea we have of ourselves." Never mind that that French superman ultimately lost, because de Villepin says that it was "a defeat which gleams with the aura of victory." Nihilism is not standing at the French door, it is in the le salle de sejour or, if you like, le sejour des dieux.
From The Scotsman, comes a fine description of the celebration in Bagdad, better than any of the television coverage I’ve seen. Some good moments, worth remembering:
Amid the euphoria that surrounded him, an elderly man in a traditional dishdasha was struggling with an unwieldy poster of Saddam. Bending down to remove a sandal from his foot, he began to pound it against the iconic Seventies-style image.... "Come see, this is freedom, this is the criminal, this is the infidel," said the man.... "This is the destiny of every traitor. He killed millions of us. Oh people, this is freedom."
"Saddam, the criminal, the murderer, the savage, wild animal is gone," shouted Fauziya Ali, 45, a delirious, shawl-clad widow.
I apologize if this is a revelation only to me. When I first saw footage of a happy Iraqi man slapping a poster of Saddam with his shoe, I thought he did so only because it was handy. When I later saw crowds in Bagdad doing it, I got curious. It turns out that showing the soles of one’s feet to another is one of the most powerful Arab insults and a sign of serious contempt.
Victor Davis Hanson says that democracies, while slow to start a war, are awesome when they fight one. While this is true, it seems to me more to the point in considering the war we are still in to argue that, as Ralph Peters does (at least in part) that the war in Iraq was a brand new way of fighting a war. He stresses the "digital" nature of it (against the old "textbook"), and so on, a 21st century war. He says it was "stunning." I agree, yet it seems to me that this view is not quite comprehensive. Charles Krauthammer comes closer. This was a war of mobility, of amazing speed in which not only did we not want to hurt the civilians or the infrastructure, but really were not even very interested in killing Iraqi soldiers. We were in touch with some of them before the war started, told them to surrender or go home and we kept that effort up after the hostilities started (apparently many did, since there seems to be so few Iraqi military casualties). When President Bush repeated over and over that we are not interested in making war on the Iraqis, he meant it. We just sped past them (not quite, but you get my point) on the way to Baghdad. In fact, as a friend argued, we even tried to do this in an urban setting by taking control of palaces, and such. It seems to have worked. This was the great tactical surprise (really a strategic surprise) that everyone was talking about, but couldn’t quite figure out what it could be before the war started. While parts of other wars have been fought like this (compare Patton’s war of maneuver in WW II), no entire war has been fought this way, as far as I know. Of course, we were able to do all this in large measure because they had no communication and command structures left, we had bombed those very precisely, and also because of what the special forces did both before and during the actual war. The political object was clear, overthrow the tyrant. This explains why people were dissapointed that there wasn’t very much shock or awe! Everyone thought that that meant a lot of noise and a lot of killing, and, and somehow, as Peter Jennings said one night, there wasn’t very much of it; so where is the shock and awe? he asked. Well, it turns out that there wasn’t supposed to be a lot of noise and a lot of killing. And, in the end that’s what made it shocking and awesome. New war, this. Very impressive, very surprising. It’s good to impress and surprise your enemies, and let many Iraqis live, to become new friends. Now, that’s a regime change.
Even though a number of bloggers have pointed this out, I cant help myself. Here is the Newsweek Conventional Wisdom column from this weeks issue(the one in which they give a thumbs up or thumbs down to a politicians remark): Thumbs down for Cheney because, he "Tells Meet the Press just before war, We will be greeted as liberators. An arrogant blunder for the ages."
An arrogant blunder for the ages, says Newsweek? Well, you at Newsweek are arrogant SOBs, and do tell us how you like your crow, fried or roasted?
The London Times runs a Percy Bysshe Shelley sonnet written almost 200 years ago, that, the Times says, "best sums up the fall of the vainglorious tyrant" Saddam.
A Canadian blogger reminds me that forty years ago yesterday (April 9th)Churchill was made an honorary citizen of the U.S. by an act of Congress.
Churchills response might be worth noting: "I have received many kindnesses from the United States of America, but the honour which you now accord me is without parallel. I accept it with deep gratitude and affection.
I am also most sensible of the warm-hearted action of the individual States who accorded me the great compliment of their own honorary citizenships as a prelude to this Act of Congress.
It is a remarkable comment on our affairs that the former Prime Minister of a great sovereign state should thus be received as an honorary citizen of another. I say "great sovereign state" with design and emphasis, for I reject the view that Britain and the Commonwealth should now be relegated to a tame and minor role in the world. Our past is the key to our future, which I firmly trust and believe will be no less fertile and glorious. Let no man underrate our energies, our potentialities and our abiding power for good.
I am, as you know, half American by blood, and the story of my association with that mighty and benevolent nation goes back nearly ninety years to the day of my Fathers marriage. In this century of storm and tragedy I contemplate with high satisfaction the constant factor of the interwoven and upward progress of our peoples. Our comradeship and our brotherhood in war were unexampled. We stood together, and because of that fact the free world now stands. Nor has our partnership any exclusive nature: the Atlantic community is a dream that can well be fulfilled to the detriment of none and to the enduring benefit and honour of the great democracies.
Mr. President, your action illuminates the theme of unity of the English-speaking peoples, to which I have devoted a large part of my life. I would ask you to accept yourself, and to convey to both Houses of Congress, and through them to the American people, my solemn and heartfelt thanks for this unique distinction, which will always be proudly remembered by my descendants."
Asserts Christopher Hitchens in an ironic piece. They didnt want a war on Iraq, and they didnt get one. They didnt want to give blood for oil, and we didnt. They wanted the war to stop, and it is stopping. They got what they wanted. Short, good.
The Daily Telegraph (London) runs this story based on a conversation with between John Keegan and Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff. Boyce explains the reasons for the operations success, and what the two main problems were. Good read.
Charles Krauthammer weighs in on trying to explain the nature of this three-or-so week war by arguing that it was a new war: It destroyed a totalitarian regime while sparing the invaded country. Remarkable, instructive, and hadnt happened before.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld spoke on what is going on in Iraq. This is a short CNN report on it, while all of it is worth a quick read, I like this sentence: "We are seeing history unfold, events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people and potentially the future of the region. Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom."
And John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, when he was asked about speculation that Syria and Iran could be America’s next targets after the war in Iraq, said:
"We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their national interest."
And here is a WaPo story on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and his "democratic vision." Because it is in the WaPo, it should be read critically; yet it is worth reading. The article appeared Monday. It might be worth reading today.
The Washington Post web site runs an interesting synopsis of Arab media reactions to events in Iraq. The Post says: "As U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, the opinion makers of the Arab world, almost unanimously opposed to war, confronted their impotence with realism and rage, denial and bitterness, occasionally, chastened hope."
And remember the Iraqi Information Minister, (until yesterday) who kept denying everything even though American troops were a block away. Or, how about these remarks of the Iraqi (former, I guess) Ambassador to the UN who was asked by a FOX reporter, "Will you surrender?" The man said, "We hope the peace will prevail," and then left the premises. This was the same man who was found dining at a posh French Restaurant on the day we moved into Iraq. Cest le vie.
A liberal faculty member (whom I have known for years) confronted me yesterday morning just before my 8 A.M. class to make the following points: She was wondering why there were no Iraqis welcoming the American troops with flowers, and was hoping that the first American soldiers Iraqis would meet would be the nice guys, the tender and loving ones, rather than, you know, the typical American hard-ass-take-no-prisoner kind of soldier most of them are. She knew the nicer ones would make a good impression on the Iraqis, and so few of them were nice. She obviously understands nothing about the American character and the things for which we stand (which is my main objection to liberals; its not policy disagreements). I became so angry that I had to leave her, went to class, and taught it as best I could. I know something about American soldiers, what they are like, what they do, and how they do it, and the gratitude that those freed by their presence feel. These warriors in Iraq are American warriors and they perfectly reflect what is best about this unique nation. And I honor them. This open letter to Americas soldiers in todays Wall Street Journal by Barbara J. Makuch is better than anything I could say on the subject. Please read it all. I also include this photograph of American soldiers taking a well deserved break from their work on behalf of freedom in a Saddam Hussein palace in Baghdad.
This is a good photo of the Iraqis, with the aid of U.S. Marines, putting a noose around the neck of a large statue of Saddam, pulling it down, and dancing on it. I heard the BBC describing the scene on the radio this morning, and it pleased me a great deal. Not surprisingly, the commentators were very cynical, saying that the statue was too strong, that the Iraqis wouldn’t be able to bring it down, and that, even if they could, it wouldn’t mean anything. The commentators were wrong on all counts.
I have been watching the liberation in Baghdad and Basra, the people pouring into the streets, throwing flowers onto American tankers, ripping up pictures of Saddam, and hauling out of government buildings the possessions that have been stolen from them for 30 years. Its just like Paris in 1944. Pity the French dont remember. Ive been impressed with Fox News for telling the truth about the "looting," namely that the target is not ones neighbor but the tyrannical hierarchy. Its completely different from the LA riots where a group of racists and thugs tore into their neighbors homes and businesses merely because they were vulnerable and Koreans. Calling both cases "looting" is a moral mistake.
If you listened to the news or watched some TV this morning you will know that the beginning of the end is here. The regime is collapsing, and we are greeted as liberators. This does not mean, of course, that all is well; that will take a while longer, but we are getting there. This Scrappleface paragraph hits the nail on the head regarding looting: "The looting in Baghdad stopped suddenly today as Iraqs largest organized crime family disappeared from the city.
Thousands of Baghdad residents entered government buildings in an attempt to retrieve some small portion of what had been stolen from them for the past 24 years." And that reminds me of a story about my father. After the communists took power in Hungary, and nationalized his little store (about a 12 x 12 room from which he sold clothing), my father was jailed and then couldnt get any kind of a reasonable job (he was not a communist). Eventually he ended up getting a job as guard in the only department story in Budapest (I hasten to add that you shouldnt have Saks Fifth Avenue in mind) This was about 1954. His job was to prevent people from stealing. He did not do his job. Furthermore, he stole himself. He was caught and taken in front of some commie bosses confronted with the evidence and then asked: Did you steal? He admitted that he did. They asked him why he would. Here is what he said: "At the rate I have been stealing, I would have to steal for the next seven hundred years to take back what you stole from me." They fired him.
This newstory (Knight-Ridder) gives some reason to think that the Iraqis have not not know from the start of the war where coalition forces were located. This explains some of their odd movements. "Its eerie. Theyre moving units around, but its almost like they are two days behind their sync," 1st Marine Expeditionary Force planner Col. Christopher Gunther said last week.
Ive got to be off to my Shakespeare class, but I cant resist this one. It is a perfectly OK story about the media coverage of the war, with an emphasis of the problems Geraldo Rivera has been having. Note the paragraph in the middle regarding the hand shaking with Geraldo by the troops, just before he was about to depart for Kuwait. Tacky, but amusing.
Even pollsters were surprised by this Field Poll (California) which found that 63% of residents in the San Francisco area support the war. As this poll in the Washington Post makes clear only 16% oppose the war. Note that in the various categories of citizens the poll is divided into, only African Americans are below a majority (49% support the war), that the war is supported even by Liberal Democrats (52%) and Democratic women (60%). I know, these are just polls, etc., and youre right. Still, you must admit, these figures are not completely without meaning; the disparity between for war and against war is too big.
This AP/MSNBC story of the American strategy re how to take Baghdad is worth reading. There is much about the war that I dont yet understand (what happened to the Iraqi army, how many Iraqi soldiers have been killed, how many went home, etc.), yet this is somewhat helpful in explaining the so-called audacity and dexterity of the campaign.
Agence France-Press reports that over 100 children, some in jail for years, were freed as the Marines rolled into Northeast Baghdad. Apparently, they were jailed because they wouldn’t join the youth branch of the Ba’ath Party. A couple of weeks ago when I went up to some peace demonstrators at Ashland University (there were twelve of them, all but one were professors) to say hello--I know them all--one of them, a professor in the school of education, said to me, "Peter, war is bad for children," and held up a sign saying the same. To which I said, "So is tyranny." Leaving the silliness of this "bad for children issue" aside for a moment, I am betting that these children are grateful for the war, and showed their gratitude to the Marines. May they live long.
President Bush has nominated Daniel Pipes to a director for the United States Institute of Peace and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is on the warpath. Thought youd like to know that Pipes is a good guy.
Terrence Moore writes a wonderfully thoughtful essay on the Marxist professor at Columbia calling for a "million Mogadishus", that is, a slaughter of Americans. Not only was Terrence a Marine officer in Mogadishu, but he was an undergraduate classmate of De Genova at The University of Chicago. This turns into a short treatise on scholarship, citizenship, and truth. Must read.
There is no other explanation for the Iraqi Information Ministers inability to see the reality of things (e.g., denying that American troops are in Baghdad while a block away we had taken a Saddam palace) than this. this. (via Pejman)
I have been spending too much time (surprise!) watching the television coverage of the war, including a half hour or so of a C-Span replaying of a BBC TV broadcast from earlier that evening. I must say that it continues to be almost wholly without value. I am very unhappy about the TV coverage for reasons I have already stated. Take a look at this WaPo newstory on a battle as an example of good reporting; it is very good, very thoughtful, and explains much. You will not get that from TV. And on the bias side of things, note that British sailors have turned off the BBC on the British flag ship, Ark Royal, and are now watching Sky News. They are angry.
Hungarian police have confiscated all copies of this poster (with a swastika, red start and EU symbol) that is meant to encourage a "No" vote at the upcoming referendum on EU membership. The poster is reproduced in the article. Worth a look. I know nothing about the group that is responsible. (via Instapundit)
John Keegan has another good piece in The Telegraph about the war, how it’s been conducted, and how the media has misunderstood it. He thinks that Iraq just collapsed.
John Zvesper, who lives on the wrong side of the pond, writes a thoughtful op-ed on what it is Europeans dont understand about America. Read it.
Whoa! This is very good. A frustrated Air Marshall Brian Burridge, the commander of the British forces in the Gulf, said this about the British media (lucid, these Brits, arent they?):
"The UK media has lost the plot. You stand for nothing, you support nothing, you criticise, you drip. Its a spectator sport to criticise anybody or anything, and what the media says fuels public expectation. That may sound harsh, but thats the way it feels from where I sit."
Here is something amusing and light hearted about some cultural differences between the Brits and us. Read the whole story (its not long), but here are a couple of paragraphs to give you the flavor of the thing:
US Corporal Mike Kennard said: "I really like how people always seem to find time to make a brew, whether it is half an hour before we take out artillery positions or half an hour after we take in incoming artillery. Everyone sits around and has a brew and it takes some of the stress away."
His boss, Captain Rick Mattoso, said: "When we called in a fire mission to blow something up, one of the guys in a Scimitar said lets sit down and have a brew in the middle of incoming artillery."
It shouldnt surprise anyone that the discussion concerning post-war Iraq (and the region), the involvement of other countries and the UN, has started hot and heavy. It also shouldnt be surprising that the same sort of arguments are being laid out by the same people and that the Solomon-like reporters are seeing dissention within the administration (Powell vs. everybody else). The pettiness aside, here are a few interesting articles on the issue. William Rees-Mogg argues that French duplicity should rule it out from any participation. Amir Taheri thinks that the greatest threat to a new Iraq is the UN, as does Stephen Schwartz. And here is a transcript of Paul Wolfowitzs intefrview on FOX on Sunday. And here is William Safires column in which he contemplates what the conversation between Blair and Bush will be at todays meeting. Pretty Good.
Justice OConnor just handed down the following ruling in Virginia v. Black:
We conclude that while a State, consistent with the First Amendment, may ban cross burning carried out with the intent to intimidate, the provision in the Virginia statute treating any cross burning as prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate renders the statute unconstitutional in its current form. (Emphasis added)
Heres the link to all five opinions:
The case affirmed, vacated, and remanded parts of the lower court decision, which led to an interesting separate dissent by Thomas and concurring dissent by Scalia (joined in part by Thomas), in addition to Stevenss concurrence and Souters concurring dissent (how do you like this phrase?).
The war news seems to be good. We are in Baghdad, and have even taken the presidential palace across the street from the hotel where the international journalists are staying (and where there is a stationary camera aimed at the palace). In the meantime, the fellow who used to be the minister of information is still saying that we are not at the airport, not in Baghdad. He is now holding his "press conference" somewhere on the street, still living in another world, a dead one. I heard a US Army major say, "well, we just ought to walk across the street and have a visit with him." The US is there to stay. So far, all this is being done very intelligently, as far as I can tell. There is, by the way, a report--being taken more seriously than previous ones--that WMD have been found near Baghdad. And another piece of good news: It has been confirmed that Chemical Ali is dead. I can’t help feeling that we are days away from the whole regime, formally, collapsing.