German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder is starting to regret the "exaggerated remarks" critical of the US.
Australian special forces found the rest of the Iraqi air force (and some other cool weapons) somewhere west of Baghdad. This story from an Australian paper explains that the Australians were the first to be in Iraq. There is some good detail of what the roughly 100 SAS were doing and how they did it; based on an interview with the Aussie defense chief.
Im playing catch-up on some important matters. This op-ed argues that civil society has existed in Iraqis past, and that its resuscitation is possible. And this New York Times article from a few days ago on retired General Jay Gardner is worth filing away, although the article doesnt make him sound all that impressive; I hope he is smarter than he is portrayed.
BBC reports that the captured former Iraqi finance minister could reveal key information about secret funds, amounting to billions of dollars, that Saddam hid. Ibrahim al-Azzawi was the eight of diamonds in the wanted deck; so much for the straight flush we were trying to pull! In the meantime, two US army sergeants have found an estimated $650 million in cash in Baghdad. This is in US dollars!
Barbara Bush visited the Ashbrook Center on April 4. Whenever a speaker visits the Center, the most important part of their visit is a private meeting with the Ashbrook Scholars. While this meeting is typically private, C-SPAN asked us if they could record Mrs. Bushs conversation with the students, and we agreed.
Mrs. Bushs conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars will appear on C-SPAN 2 tonight (Friday, April 18) at 10:40 pm ET. I encourage you to tune in.
John Moser writes that we shouldnt be surprised when todays college students take a narrowly utilitarian view of their education. Although students today are as restless as their counterparts were in the 1960s, yet there is a difference. As he explains this difference and the "radical subjectivism" of their teachers (those in the vast majority who are the products of the 60s), he paints a bleak picture of the state of the liberal arts education in todays academy. Worth a read, and could lead to a good conversation.
A company called Herobuilders.com has begun making action figures based on the war on terror. They offer Heroes, including "President G.W.," "America’s Mayor" Giuliani, and "The British Ally" Tony Blair. Also available are villains, including a talking Iraqi Dis-Information Officer, which says things like "Our initial assessment is that they will all die!" Here’s my personal favorite from the site:
J. Bottum of The Weekly Standard reports here that Tom Daschle received a letter from his diocese in Sioux Falls, South Dakota informing him that he may no longer identify himself as a Catholic, and directing him to remove any references to his Catholicism from his congressional biography and campaign material. Bottum suggests that this is part of a larger move to banish "Cuomoism" from the Catholic Church, which he defines as those Catholics who express personal opposition to abortion but who are nonetheless politically pro-abortion. Worth a read.
The London Times is reporting that American forces have been told that if they have credible information that Saddam went to Syria, they can go in and get him. Poland signed a $3.5 deal to purchase 48 U.S. made F-16 jet fighters. The losers were France and Britain. Diana West considers the most difficult question about making Iraq more democratic, the separation of church and state; so far, it doesnt look promising. The victory in the war is putting Democrats in a pickle. Senator Kerrys campaign manager says this: "Unless the Democratic nominee can make a compelling and convincing case — a case built on story and persona instead of just rhetoric — that he can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world, were looking at McGovern-like results." In the meantime, Senator Bob Graham (D) says that maybe we should go ahead and lob a few cruise missiles into Syria. Polls show that his support is about 1% among Democrats. James Schlesinger explains what the effects of the war are internationally; political shock and awe. The European Union isnt yet warming to the idea of lifting the sanctions against Iraq; more high diplomacy, pressure, and the purchasing of support, will be needed. The French are beginning to feel the American backlash against French products.
Ah, those psychologists are conducting their studies again, and those of us who like to use words like weapons are in trouble! It turns out you might do more harm to your opponent by telling him what you think of him than punching him on the chin. If this is true, here is my response to the psychologists (all from Richard III): You are a malapert, a foul defacer of Gods handiwork. You bottled spider, foul bunch-backed toad! Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes, you overwheening rags of France! There, I feel better.
Gregg Dunn’s note to an article by Bernard Lewis in The Atlantic (which I agree is worth reading) reminded me that there is also another good article in the same issue worth reading, but, alas, it is not on-line; so you’ll have to get the paper version (May 2003). It is by Robert Baer (former CIA field officer) and is called "The Fall of the House of Saud." He writes of the extraordinary power that the oil kingdom has in the international economy, how we have assumed its stability, yet the kingdom is dangerously at war with itself. We are, he says, incapable of wishing the problem away; we can’t ignore it. He goes through the history of the place, how it has declined and degenrated, how it may well be taken over by bad guys calling for a "purification," and so on. This is a great read. It is worth five bucks on the newstand, and purchasing it might be a kind act of piety since it is also probably the last issue edited under the late Michael Kelly.
Former president Bill Clinton said this the other day: "Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us. And if they dont, they can go straight to hell." And there is more: "We cant run. If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."
I found his comments to be so remarkable, if not stupid, that I put it aside--I was actually afraid to say what I really thought of it--and then saw these paragraphs from Pejman Yousefzadeh and they are worth quoting in full. The title of his note is, "It must really suck to be Bill Clinton."
"I say that because he must be in such psychic pain. Seeing his supposedly stupid successor defeat both the Taliban, and land mortal blows against al Qaeda, and overthrow Saddam Hussein--none of which Clinton dared to try--and receive the political glory that comes with such accomplishments, mut vex and embitter Clinton to no end. And it leads to an angry and self-serving denunciation of the foreign policy being pursued so successfully by Clintons successor--a denunciation that is outdated and rendered laughable by the rapidly unfolding news events that we see on television, or we read about inn newspapers, in news magazines, or on the Internet.
Yes, I imagine that it is a pretty awful thing to be Bill Clinton right about now. No one can envy an old and irrelevant political has-been who is reduced to trying to tear down the accomplishments of politicians on the other side of the aisle as a way to augment his [Clintons] own accomplishments. If this is the tactic that a former President of the United States is reduced to, then the legacy must not look very good at all."
Much more needs to be said on this topic, but Bernard Lewis, who is always worth reading, has made a start in this essay from The Atlantic.
The Washington Post reports on a Pew study that finds that "Forty-two percent of Americans still dont use the Internet and the majority of them do not believe they ever will, according to a study released yesterday." I find this hard to believe, yet it may be so.
I think we all find ourselves a little breathless after this war. I have been paying as close attention as I could manage (mostly television and the intenet) and, in trying to catch my breath, I offer a few limited observations. The war was extraordinary; intelligently planned, brilliantly executed. And, perhaps most important, it surprised everyone. It surprised our enemies, other tyrannies (including North Korea), the whole Arab world, and even our sometime allies, the French and Russians. This was a new kind of war, for a new purpose. Has the Middle East ever seen an army whose purpose was not conquest, rape and pillage? Has any region of the world? Victor Davis Hanson writes well on the anatomy of the war and includes in that good reflections on not only the lethality of the military and their high-tech capacity, but also on their group and moral cohesion. These are warriors fighting for republican ends, and that makes them not only good but very, very deadly. They are eager to fight to make men free. These are new and better soldiers, although sometimes it’s hard to tell because they are often scruffy and wear Ray-Bans and chew gum and their weapons have names like "Bad Moon Rising". But they kill pajama clad toy-soldiers with one hand while protecting their children with the other. Their lethality and the fact that they have no equal (even among our allies) brings with it enormous moral responsibility. And we are up to it. Compare that to how the Iraqi army, including the high praised Rapublican guard, just dissolved. They went home.
Of course, the victory has called forth many Arab demons. There is, as Hassan Fattah writes, both despair and defiance in the Arab world. But above all there is an opportunity for introspection and, I venture to suggest, the so called Arab street will be less inclined to be so stupidly obedient to their rulers since most of them bring corruption and slavery and lies with them. And, in the pinch, they don’t even fight for their people. How come Saddam didn’t fight? You can hear the question on every Arab street. And the stage is set for a reversal of the heretofore steadily increasing negative view of the United States in the whole region. All this doesn’t mean that simply all will be well for evermore, of course. And yet it must be admitted that the tender leaves of hope are less tender now.
Kudos to the President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dale Petroskey. Petroskey canceled a 15th annieversay celebration of the film Bull Durham because of the anti-war views of co-stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Petroskey was an assistant Press Secretary in the Reagan Adminstration
Jay Leno summed up the controversy well: "Officials at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, have canceled a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the baseball movie "Bull Durham" because Susan Sarandon has these anti-war, anti-Bush views. Even worse news for Pete Rose. Turns out he bet on Iraq.
I guess the head of the Hall of Fame is an old Reagan guy, I think he was the press secretary, and Tim Robbins sent a letter. Robbins said he "did not realize baseball was a Republican sport." Do you think baseball is a Republican or Democratic sport? It’s got lots of multi-millionaires so it could be Republican; then youve got switch hitters who grab themselves, so it could be Democratic"
Petroskey possesses at least two of the four cardinal virtues, prudence and courage.
These three articles are related, and each is worth reading. Glenn Reynolds reflects on the war by talking about how our ability to economically apply force is due to our intelligence. The Russians are worried about our ability to to do what we have done; this proves that their military is outmoded (think about how they attacked Grozny!). And this is a touching article from the Arab News by an imbedded reporter with the Marines; she explains what the Marines and Arabs have in common. Jonathan Foreman, an embedded reporter, says that the postal service has failed the front line soldiers in Iraq miserably by not delivering the US mail. It has lowered morale.
While Max Boot wonders why the media is downcast about the developments in Iraq, and keep asking questions about looting, civilian casualties, Arab resentment, etc., I wonder why this story about how the Marines freed over 100 Iraqiprisoners from an underground torture chamber doesnt get on TV news! (via Instapundit)
I am off to my Shakespeare class (I want to talk about Roman death tonight) but before I go, I pass along this bit of news: Abu Abbas has been captured in Baghdad. This, despite the fact that a few days ago he was reported to be on his way to Syria, and that Syrian authorities would not let him in. This is the PLF guy that hijacked the Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed the American in the wheelchair by rolling him off the side of the ship. I believe his name was Leon Klinghoffer. The Poet says, let the great axe fall.
The Guardian’s art critic writes about Saddam’s taste is "art", or at least the art we have discovered in his palaces.
We may not have found proof of WMD, he writes, but "we have proof of the dictator’s execrable sensibility." It is "art for the barely literate, or the barely sentient, dredged from some red-lit back alley of the brain." It is "psychotic porn," with a "shining hideousness." This isn’t deep thinking, but it is inevitably interesting. I’m sure there will be more attempts from the "arts community" to prove that Saddam was a fascist, which he was. I just wish more of them would have seen it earlier, when it counted, when the lives of real human beings were at stake, and not Saddam’s disordered soul splattered on a wall of one of his unbelievably ornate and ugly palaces. There will be many stories to tell, of Saddam and his sons, I’m sure of it.
This article talks about Stephen Cambone, the first under secretary of defense for intelligence. Never mind the The New York Times playing with the idea that this guy is Rumsfelds "favored bureaucratic commando" but look rather to the facts portrayed in the article and Cambones analysis of what this new office is up, and what good might come of it. Cambone is a good guy, and a tough guy. I hope he continues to prosper according to his merit. Note this paragraph from the article:
"Asked whether hard-liners in the Pentagon had politicized intelligence to support arguments for war with Iraq, Dr. Cambone said: Any policy maker has certain views. Policy makers are where they are and doing what they do because they have a view."
Andrew Busch writes a truly insightful article on the different ways that the Brits (in Basra) and the U.S. (in Baghdad) are handling the question of whether or not Iraqis should remain armed; the Brits are taking their guns away, and we are encouraging Iraqis to form self-defense forces to defend neighborhoods, hospitals, etc. Here is Busch:
"Almost invariably referred to by the media as ’vigilantes,’ these groups were actually often something far nobler, perhaps even the first sign of the capacity of Iraqis for self-government in the post-Saddam era. They represented a spontaneous effort to take responsibility for their own society, and to defend a civilization worth having. They also made it possible to restore order much earlier than might have been the case if U.S. military forces had to carry the entire burden. It is exactly this sort of initiative that the liberators of Iraq should welcome and encourage."
I just finished grading final exams, one of which asked what the life of George Washington teaches about American self-government. This led me to re-read a portion of Washingtons Farewell Address, which gave advice on American foreign policy that was prescient for our times. To wit,
Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
Washington looked forward to the day when the United States would be united and independent enough not to "entangle our peace and prosperity" in the machinations of foreign powers unless it was on our terms. As Washington put it, "when we may choose peace or war, as our interest guided by our justice shall Counsel."
Looks like President Bush has borrowed a few pages from our Founding Fathers playbook. Now that the Iraqi tyrant has been ousted, and attention turns to securing the freedom of American liberation, the U.N. is trying to intrude on the situation. The U.N. forfeited its credibility as a global peace-keeping entity when it refused to become the forerunner of the Coalition of the Willing. In fact, the fatal flaw of adopting a "U.N."-style approach to global peace may have been revealed by Washington when he said:
Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.
May God bless our current president and commander-in-chief as he follows in the footsteps of the man we remember and revere as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
This report on the meeting of central bankers and finance ministers in Washington from The Financial Times is good news. I hope its true.
The Iraqi Commander of the Anbar sector, which stretches to the Syrian border, has surrendered. This is a brief, and rather touching, recounting.
No, not American empire. Yet, because of Iraq, certain issues having to do "democratization" have come up, as they should, and are going to be discussed more poignantly than ever before. This article by Theodore Dalrymple in the latest issue of The City Journal might be a good place to start. He tries to show that even with the best intentions, the British in Africa had a very bad effect on the native countries and thei government. Here is just a paragraph:
"In fact, it was the imposition of the European model of the nation-state upon Africa, for which it was peculiarly unsuited, that caused so many disasters. With no loyalty to the nation, but only to the tribe or family, those who control the state can see it only as an object and instrument of exploitation. Gaining political power is the only way ambitious people see to achieving the immeasurably higher standard of living that the colonialists dangled in front of their faces for so long. Given the natural wickedness of human beings, the lengths to which they are prepared to go to achieve power—along with their followers, who expect to share in the spoils—are limitless. The winner-take-all aspect of Africa’s political life is what makes it more than usually vicious."
An English blogger, Ian Murray has a couple of thoughtful paragraphs on this issue; he disagrees with Dalrymple. He includes in the discussion thoughts from Niall Fergusons book, Empire. I recommend a look. Thoughtful.
This article outlines the demands by the Bush Adminstration that Syria turn over weapons of mass destruction, high Iraqi officials, or else. Or else, seems to mean regime change for Syria.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice seem to have embraced the energetic executive as outlined in Lockes idea of the prerogative (Chapter 14, Second Treatise of Government) and Federalist #70s idea of energy and dispatch.
As the Bard wrote in "The Tragedy of MacBeth", If it were done, when tis done, then twere well, It were done quickly.
It appears Assad will be given a choice but not much time.
Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi dissident who is sending regular reports back to The New Republic, suggests that the ones who are really guilty of the looting of priceless antiquities from the Iraqi National Museum were Baath Party members. He writes:
"One friend told me that the looting of the National Museum--something that cut deeply into me--was the work of newly deposed Baathist officials, who had been selling off our patrimony as they saw their days were numbered. As the regime fell, these (ex-)Baathists went back for one last swindle, and took with them treasures that dated back 9,000 years, to the Sumerians and the Babylonians. One final crime perpetrated by Saddams thugs."
Jacques Chirac seems to be going through some tough times. Opinion polls are no longer going his way and if WMD are found in Iraq, it will only get worse for him. Business leaders are miffed that French firms will be cut out of deals in Iraq, and the press is becoming quite critical. France is proving to be irrelevant, it might become more isolated, and his only hope (ironically) is Prime Minister Blair. Tut mir leid!
Jonathan Foreman writes a good piece explaining that the reason the media has played up the "looting" angle is either because they are ignorant or disingeneous. And Peter Collins elaborates on the Eason Jordan admission that CNN had to suppress the news from Baghdad in order to maintain access. Both are good articles and are reflecting the serious questions that are being asked (and will continue to be asked) about both media bias and media ignorance. This is another good effect of the war. Even Dick Morris is talking about a media meltdown. It is interesting that no one has asked why the former Iraqi ambassador to the UN, upon leaving his New York apartment for Syria (via France) felt the need to hug and kiss the CNNs chief UN correspondent. A bit awkward, that.
William Rees-Mogg (in the London Times) tries to show the consistency between events (like the liberation of Iraq) and the American cause as put forth in 1776. Tyrants "must mend their ways or liberty and democracy will amend them." It’s not all worked out, but a good sentiment nevertheless, based essentially on the right things.
North Korea has backed off its demand for bi-lateral talks with the U.S. Prime Minister Sharon admits that there are new opportunities for peace. A prominent Iranian is calling for closer US-Iranian ties. Australian Prime Minister John Howard wants to reform the United Nations, saying that France shouldn’t be a permanent member of the Security Council. The Foreign Minister of France tells the Foreign Minister of Syria to shut up when, in his anti-American tirade, he was about to compare the US to Nazi Germany. According to the Daily Telegraph documents have been found in Iraq detailing how Russia spied on Blair for Iraq. A London based Arab paper criticizes the Arab media for not telling the truth. Russia hints that the peace camp summit (France, Germany, Russia) was a failure. Good start.
Only Victor Davis Hanson could connect the journalistic circus that is the war coverage with the craziness that happened after the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C. (The Athenian Asembly voted to execute six of the eight generals that returned to Athens after their greatest naval victory of the war). In criticizing the medias ignorance and foolishness, he is making a huge point: "Something like that craziness often takes hold of our own elites and media in the midst of perhaps the most brilliantly executed plan in modern American military history. Rather than inquiring how an entire country was overrun in a little over three weeks at a cost of not more than a few hundred casualties, reporters instead wail at the televised scenes of a day of looting and lawlessness." Read the whole thing. He is right, and this explains why the media are listened to less and less, as time and the war go on.
I had been meaning to mention this CNN story about the Marine who briefly draped Saddams statute in an American flag before it was toppled. He is Cpl. Edward Chin of Brooklyn. His mother is an immigrant from Burma (Edward was born one one week after she got to the US). She said: "We, like our children have a good life, good schools. We want American freedom. Now Edward bring American freedom." She also said: "I [am] so, so proud, so very proud. He used to play like GI Joe as a little boy. He always dreamed he would be a Marine."
This New York Times story makes a dramatic point: CBS and ABC lost about 10% of their viewers in the first two weeks of the war; NBC recorded a slight increase due to their cable news operation; and the cable networks saw an increase of 300% in viewers. The network executives are--surprise--pretending that this is not a problem. Good for us. The next item that should be noted is how boring (and biased) CNNs war coverage has been, but thats for another blog.
Some fellows on the Internet were so amused by Iraq’s "Information" minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, they’ve decided to create a site immortalizing his curious press briefings. The site provides a directory of his creative insults and optimistic blustering, which is much funnier that any attempt at parody I’ve seen. These must be difficult times to be a humorist.
This Washington Post column analyzes the mid-East on-line media’s reactions to the war. Although there is nothing shocking in all of this it does show, once again, how dysfunctional some of mid-East societies are and how critical events (like losing wars) always force them to re-examine themselves; hence the "collapse" of Arab thought, etc. But note the different kinds of opinions manifested in the Arab world refered to in this article. This re-examination is not yet deep enough, as far as I’m concerned, and at the moment it may be based on fear and self-loathing. But I am willing to bet that a better sort of re-examination will continue with greater force once Iraq is stabilized and a new and better regime is built. The juxtaposition of something so much better to the current tyrannies will continue the soul-searching, as it should, and it will not be based entirely on fear.
And if bin Ladin and his ilk are irritated by the U.S.’s presence in Arabia, the Muslim Holy Land, the most symbolic location in the world of Islam, then they will be also irritated by our occupation of Baghdad, as Bernard Lewis says, "the seat of the caliphate for half a millenium and the scene of some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history." This irritation will lead to anger in some circles, most certainly, but it will lead to a re-examination in other circles and just may be a point of hope and progress.
It just might lead to something more productive than self-loathing in other circles. And the Arab media can ignore facts (not only our winning of the war, but in the considerate and magnanimous waging of it) for only so long; as Churchill said, you have to look at facts, because facts have a way of looking at you. You can pretend that this is a war of occupation in which we devastated the country and killed untold number of civilians, or you can start seeing the truth, that we overthrew a vile tyranny, saved the country with minimum damage to not only civilians but to the military as well, never mind saving the infrastructure. Iraq will begin to be free, and will prosper. These will be loud facts, and the facts will not allow themselves to be ignored.
Then add to this an easing of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and those Arab countries in need will be forced to consider psychotherapists who just might be able to argue that the human mind is created is free, and that people, including those that happen to be Arabs, actually have choices to make and just may decide to follow different stars. And, as Amir Taheri argues, the West has not done well in understanding the Arab worlds; let’s emphasize the diversity within the nation-states that claim to be Islamic, as well as their various interests, instead of thinking that they all think alike and talk alike and all are full participants in dysfunctional politics. I am hopeful.
Harold Bloom of Yale will give his books (and other things of value) upon his death, not to Yale but to a small Catholic college in Vermont. It is a good story, showing just how ticked off Bloom is (although no conservative, and not a Catholic) about the state of literary education in our major universities. PS--I first read this in The New York Times hard copy edition yesterday and was distraught to find that the second half of the article (should have been picked up on page 10, I think), never made it in print; some copy-editor made a huge mistake and it was never caught. This is the whole of it.
Although this is much too complicated for me to follow, it still merits a note just to show how complicated things can get so. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek has a short article in the current issue on "Parlor Maid", the code name given to this Mata Hari-like woman supposedly working for us--seducing everyone, or so it would seem--on the question of Chinese money to the Clinton (and others) campaign. And maybe she wasnt working for us. Heidegger is easier to figure out.
John Moser is right on Eason Jordan of CNNs op-ed, but there is more to it as I implied the other day. Glenn Reynolds says it most clearly: "Maybe, you know, its not worth the moral compromises involved in reporting from a dictators capital, if youre not able to tell the truth." See the whole of it here. We know that this sort of thing has happened in the past, especially with regard to reporting from the USSR, and it always amazed me that no one in the press talked about it publicly. Shame on them.