Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Freedom of Speech

There was a large demonstration in Baghdad today to protest the Coalition’s decision to close down an Iraqi newspaper based on the claim that it had been printing stories encouraging readers to commit violent acts against Coalition forces. The initial language reported from the paper as the inciteful language seemed less than fully persuasive on that count. While I am having trouble pulling up the article, the language used by the banned paper was something to the effect of "if the Coalition continues to do X, they should not be surprised if there is more violence." I am going to withhold judgment, however, because the Coalition does have an interest in preventing attacks on its members, and either the translation or cultural context of such statements may not accurately convey the urgency of the message. If, however, the statements are this bland, then it would seem a questionable call by the administration. This of course raises the question of freedom of speech and language which is meant to encourage or incite violence. While U.S. Courts have taken a fairly broad view on the issue, it is generally agreed that incitement to violence is not protected speech, particularly in times of war or insurrection.

It is nonetheless somewhat encouraging to see that the largest protest since I have been here is one aimed at protecting speech. I actually walked through the protest. There were some who appeared to be genuinely protesting; others seemed to be waiving Shia colors as much as anything; and a large number seemed to be there because it was the thing to do in Baghdad on a balmy Wednesday night. The crowd was a bit unruly, and had thrown rocks at some soldiers. About half an hour after I left the crowd, there was an explosion in the distance. It did not appear to be in the direction of the protest, but I could not tell on the ground if it was related. I have posted some photos of the demonstration here. [UPDATE: My apologies for the typos in the original post, but I was typing furiously to get this up before the cafe closed.]

Errand Day

A good bit of today I spent doing errands. I wrote and filed the story with NRO this morning, reviewed a book proposal, and got a haircut. Of course, a haircut here also involves a shave, with a straight-edge razor. I must admit that as I sat in the chair, my head leaning back, with the barber running his razor over my jugular, scenes from old gangster films involving Columbian neckties ran through my head. But the barber didn’t even nick me, which is more than I can say for many a barber visit in the States.

When I filed the story this morning, I ran across the street to the internet cafe, so I did not take the time to get into my normal "desert reporter attire" of khakis, a long sleeve shirt (hiding my bullet-proof vest), and boots. Instead, I just threw on a shirt, some shorts, and sandals, and made my way out. What struck me was that the Iraqi security guard doing the pat down still patted down my legs below the shorts. This seemed wholly unnecessary, and reaffirms my belief that these security details (and the TSA at the airport for that matter) should be replaced with leggy models.

Optimism in the land of Hamurabi

Robert Alt (who is, I am almost sorry to say, a lawyer) writes from Iraq about a meeting Paul Bremer had with about 70 Iraqi law students about the appointment of an Inspector General to root out corruption in Iraqs ministries. Alt’s meeting with the students was, he says, "surreal." It was not the sort of meeting he would have had with students in an American law school. Alt is also showing off to them by claiming some knowledge of Hamurabi’s codes; but that’s another story. A good read.   

Clarke and Iraq

This is a partial response to John’s note below on Rice’s testimony. John is right that Rice’s testimony may have been orchestrated in advance, and that she is likely to get the better end of the conversation, partly because, as George F. Will argues, Clarke has already de-authorized himself. What I think may be an even bigger set up, or orchestration, if you please, is the one that is coming from Clarke and Democrats (and so far only alluded to in his testimony) regarding Iraq: They want to push the Iraq (neocon conspiracy and all that) vs. War on Terror point to its logical conclusion. That is, Bush (pushed and shoved and persuaded by Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al) decided to go into Iraq very early and would have done it even if 9/11 had not happened. This is their gambit to nibble away at Bush’s integrity, at the trust he has established between himself and the people post 9/11. That is the orchestration that is going on, and it is not being conducted by Bush and his people, but rather his political enemies. If Bush continues to be esteemed by the American people because of his actions and words after 9/11, Kerry cannot win. The Democrats (using Clarke and others) need to break this trust, and they are going to use Iraq to do it. That’s what Clarke is really up to.

Condi’s Testimony

Perhaps I’m off-base, but isn’t it possible that the Bush administration’s hemming and hawing about whether National Security Advisor Rice would publicly testify before the 9/11 committee was orchestrated in advance? I would suggest that it was decided immediately after Clarke’s testimony that Rice would appear. By initially refusing the committee’s request, the president was able to make it clear that this was a one-time phenomenon, not a precedent-setting event--and since the committee is not compelling the National Security Advisor to testify, I question how important a precedent this could set in any case. Also, it has served to focus more attention on Rice, who is perhaps the administration’s most effective and persuasive speaker. It is almost certain that many, many more will tune in to watch her testimony than heard Clarke’s. The result is that this might well lay to rest his accusations far more effectively than if she had appeared before the committee immediately thereafter.

The Long International Nightmare is Over

Today marks my fourth week in Baghdad, and I am pleased to announce that after what had become a quest, I now have a working coffee maker. Getting to this fine day saw the destruction of one power converter, one power adapter, and one coffee maker. I celebrated this momentous occasion with six cups of coffee this morning. If that doesn’t deserve a mug, I don’t know what does. 

What students need

David Brooks reflects on college admissions. Or, more specifically, he addresses high school students who are worried about which college will take them. He has some thoughtful points about the relationship (or lack of) between good grades and being a good student. Or, even better, having the character necessary to become a good student. He also considers what a good education has to do with getting into a so-called top college (not much, most of the time, it turns out). Needless to say, these are questions close to my heart. The students I take into the Ashbrook program are not only very good students, but also--somehow--show me that they are (at least pontentially) very serious people. I don’t have a formula for this. It is based on a personal interview lasting--normally--well over one hour. I have also learned that such an interview is better when at least one of the parents is present. When I explain how different, how difficult, how important, this higher education is going to be than what they may have expected, I like to see the reactions of all the parties, not just the student alone. It turns into a much more revealing conversation both for the the student and me (and, of course, the parents). Although I can say more on this subject, let me only say for now that I try to talk about what they are going to study, how they will study, and what virtues it takes to study these important things. I focus on the difficult. Because they are used to a reverse focus (talk about how many pools we have on campus and how good the food is, etc.), they are a bit surprised by such discourse, but are (almost) universally pleased when someone--often for the first time--talks to them as if they were adults, rather than children just being told what to do, again. I explain to them that they are on the verge of real leisure (skole in Greek, hence, school), how that differs from the necessary (as in laboring in the fields else you don’t eat) and that they should take advantage of it.

As a rule, they take to it like duck to water. And they most certainly don’t have to go to Princeton to drink from the best well.

The Right College

David Brooks has a really nice piece in the New York Times today on going to the "right" university. His last several paragraphs confirm what a number of Ashbrook Scholars have told me about what they discover when they meet students from other schools at conferences or internships. It’s a fine reminder that education is a long, patient labor of love over hard questions, and it can be done by anyone, anywhere.

More on Clarke

Christopher Hitchens has some thoughts on the al Qaeda-Iraq connections and what that has to do with Dick Clarke’s work and testimony. John O’Sullivan also considers Clarke’s testimony and the larger political purposes of each side and he guesses that the voters will trust Bush.
Morton Kondracke argues that although it has to be admitted that neither Clinton nor Bush waged a war on terror pre-9/11, voters know that Bush is conducted one now.

Kerry on the Cold War

Peter Kirsanow reminds us--correctly--that John Kerry had a certain view of the Cold War, above and beyond his anti-war activity once he returned from Vietnam. This view should not be surprising from the post-1960’s Liberal crowd.

Kirsanow quoting Kerry: "During his 1971 congressional testimony about the Vietnam War, a man who would one day seek the Democratic party’s nomination in the 2004 presidential race was asked by a senator to assess the threat of Communism, not just to Indochina, but to world peace in general. The witness responded, ’I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.’" Like I say, this isn’t all that shocking, is it? After all, even Jimmy Carter held a view similar to this and, if I recall correctly, he said he changed his mind only the Soviet monster bit in Afghanistan (1979).

Rice to testify

It was just announced that Condi Rice will testify under oath in front of the 9/11 Commission. A deal has been struck, whereby (somehow) this will not set a
precedent. I actually thought that she shouldn’t testify publicly and under oath for three reasons: One, it will set a precedent for any future NSC chief to testify on policy issues, a very bad idea that may affect future conversations and advice given to a president. Two, there is a danger that this will turn into a shouting match between Rice and Clarke--he said, she said--that the Demos will try to use for ordinary partisan advantage in the campaign. While this attack on the Bush team hasn’t worked so far, it may open up other avenues of attack and she will be the one at a disadvantage. If she doesn’t say everything she knows about anything asked of her--even if the silence is due to sound reasons of national security--she will be the one who will be the accused of stonewalling or lying by the Democrats. Three, the public conversations will continue to move away from what Clinton did not do regarding terrorism, which is the intent of the Democrats. Oddly, even though they have already been successful in doing that, they still have not gained any political points. This is proof that the people overwhelmingly (still) trust Bush and his administration on the conduct of the war on terror over any Democrat, including Kerry.

Bush, back up in polls

USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that "For the first time since mid-February, Bush leads Democrat John Kerry, 51%-47%. With independent Ralph Nader in the race, Bush leads 49%-45%, and Nader receives 4%." And then: "When the poll asked who would be more trustworthy in making a decision about sending U.S. troops to war, Bush beat Kerry, 52%-41%. That’s a considerable shift from Feb. 1, when Kerry led 50%-45%." There is more. And then there is this Pew Research poll: "A week’s worth of criticism of his pre-Sept. 11 record on terrorism has had little impact on President Bush’s support among voters. He is now running even with Sen. John Kerry in a head-to-head match-up among registered voters (47% Kerry- 46% Bush) after trailing Kerry by 52%-43% in mid-March. Voter opinions have been fluid in this early stage of the presidential contest, but Bush has held his own against Kerry with regard to personal qualities, while the Massachusetts senator has lost support on key issues like health care and jobs. And on the central question of which candidate would do the best job of defending the country against future terrorist attacks, Bush continues to lead Kerry by a wide margin (53%-29%)."

The Most Conservative Press Pool Ever

The CPA uses "pool" reporters when they have limited space or wish to keep the number of press small at a particular event. In these cases, a reporter, a video crew, and a still photo crew provide the content for all outlets which wish to cover the event. Today I was the print pool reporter, and Fox News was the Video crew for an event at a local law school announcing the appointment of Inspectors General to root out corruption at the Iraqi ministries. So if you see more balanced stories on the news tonight or in the paper tomorrow, you know why.

I interviewed a number of law students after the event, and they were very enthusiastic when they learned that I had studied Hammurabi (the ancient giver of laws), and that I taught constitutional law in the United States. It may be the first time in my life that I have had groupies, surrounding me asking for my autograph, and asking numerous questions about opinion in the United States. They were very pro-American, exclaiming "we love America," and they denounced Saddam as a "monster." The funny thing is that these positions would place them out of the mainstream at most elite law schools in the United States.

New journal on technology and society

The New Atlantis is a new journal,devoted to clarifying "the nation’s moral and political understanding of all areas of technology—from stem cells to hydrogen cells to weapons of mass destruction. We hope to make sense of the larger questions surrounding technology and human nature, and the practical questions of governing and regulating science—especially where the moral stakes are high and the political divides are deep." There is an article by Diana Schaub on ageless bodies, by Paul Cantor on poetry and science, and one by Peter Lawler on happy souls. There is more, and it all looks good.

The Transition Has Begun

As promised, here is my NRO article on the transfer of the Ministry of Health from Coalition to Iraqi control.

Poll of military spouses

Tom Ricks writes a long article for the Washington Post on a recent poll conducted by the Post, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. This is the first non-governmental survey of military spouses (95% are women) conducted since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Here is the poll (PDF file). Even though long, it’s worth reading, and is far more optomistic than the title implies: Most of the spouses are coping well, and, unlike in past wars, they are not going home for the duration of their spouses’ deployments, but are staying at or near bases, and are supporting one another. Note the effect technology (e-mail, especially) has had on the separation of husbands and wives. About half say they expect their spouses to reinlist, and about a third say they will get out. If these percentages prove true, that will be good news for the army. The reinlistment of senior sergeants will be watched with special care, since they are thought to be the backbone of the military.

Kerry and his church

Time magazine has a piece on "Kerry’s faith" (he’s a Catholic). Although the article seems to indicate that the Catholic Church has problems with Kerry’s positions, it ends by, in effect, arguing that Kerry has problems with the Church’s positions. All this (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) was not an issue when Kennedy ran and won. Will Kerry be helped in those states with a large plurality of Catholic voters (for example, in some Midwestern and Southwestern swing states)? He ran strong among Catholics in the primaries. He voted with abortion rights advocates last week on the Unborn Victims of Violance Act (it passed the Senate, 61-38). I expect this to become an issue.


Mitch Potter, of The Toronto Star, writes on what Iraqis think about Saddam now. Where is he? Will he be tried? What is he saying? Rumors abound, and, as one Iraqi is reported to have said: "Saddam taught us how to feed on rumour." And the BBC claims that

after eight months on the run, the hiding place of the ousted Iraqi leader was given away by an aide known as "the fat man". The BBC says Mohammed Ibrahim Omar al-Musslit gave away the secret after being arrested and interrogated.

Europe’s nemesis

Although what Fouad Ajami argues has been said before, yet the style and grace of the piece makes it better than the norm. The title, "The Moor’s Last Laugh" (to be compared to the "last sigh" of the last Muslim king of Granada as he looked back from one of the hills at his lost dominion) is a give away. What the Moors lost in 1492, demography may be giving them back: there are 15 million Muslims in Europe and, claims Ajami, they are not assimilated. In the end, they agree with Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual godfather of radical Islamism, that "A Muslim has no nationality, except his beliefs." The faith has become portable, and the radicals find it more convenient to work out of London and Hamburg, than to press on their own rulers. Satellite TV is of great assistance in this effort. For Europe, nemesis is near.   

Which Candidate is More Like Hoover?

As this article points out, folks in Herbert Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa are uncomfortable with the Kerry campaign’s repeated efforts to tie President Bush to the disastrous administration of Herbert Hoover. They were particularly chagrined when a bus tour of 51 unemployed people--sponsored by the AFL-CIO--came to town and flocked to the Herbert Hoover Museum and Library for a photo op.

Of course, as the story mentions, there are two problems with the attempts to draw parallels between Hoover and Bush. The first is that unemployment in 1932 stood at nearly thirty percent, while today it is less than six percent. The second is that in 1932 Democrats hammered Hoover for raising taxes and jacking up tariffs--both of which Democrats support today.

Small jaws, big brains

Scientists--of a certain sort, anyway--have finally figured out why human beings have such large brains compared to other mammals: we started having smaller jaws and it is this to which we owe both our big brains and sophisticated culture. This single genetic mutation that weakened our jaw muscles happened about 2.4 million years ago, a new study suggests.

"Over the past 2.5 million years, human brains have grown enormous compared to those of other primates. Human brains are now roughly three times the size of those of chimps or gorillas.

One possible reason is that changes in the environment forced early humans to invent tools, and those with the biggest brains had greatest manual dexterity, which led to yet more sophisticated tool use. Alternatively, selection may have favoured larger brains because they permitted more complex cultures.

But why did this process occur in humans and not in other primates? According to Hansell Stedman, an expert on muscle disorders at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it was a simple mutation in a gene found in our jaw muscles." Isn’t this fun?

British poll

Iain Murray argues most Brits remain of the opinion that the war and the American alliance were and are in Britain’s interests.

"Overall, the poll shows that the Anglo-American alliance is in good shape, and broadly supportive of its geopolitical thrust over the past year. The issue is complicated by the low personal esteem in which the British hold both Tony Blair and George Bush, but when it comes to policy, the current Anglo-American direction is clearly preferred to any other."

Middle East ripples

I wonder if the changes in the Middle East have anything to do with our policy? Moammar Gadhafi’s son said Wednesday Arab countries should support President Bush’s campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East. Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said: "Instead of shouting and criticizing the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people. The Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside." He even praised Israel, where sons do not tend to take power after their father dies. He said, "Many Arab countries are now following the policy of inheriting the leadership, but there are hundreds of Libyans who are better (suited) than I."
On the other hand, Colonel Kadhafi, may have intentionally insulted Tony Blair by showing him the sole of his shoe when the latter visited Tripoli last week.

Syria is appealing to Australia to put in a good word on their behalf to the U.S. It wants to shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven. I remind you of this Neil MacFarquhar story in the
New York Times a few days back. And see below for more.

IEAE officials are back in
Iran, but it is being reported that senior Iranian officials are overseeing efforts to conceal key elements of the country’s nuclear program from international inspectors, according to Western diplomats and an intelligence report (not from the U.S.).

Things flying, fast and small

The test of an exotic type of engine called a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or

Scramjet was a success. NASA’s X-43A travelled about seven times the speed of sound, or Mach 7. Unlike a rocket, the scramjet doesn’t need to carry its own oxygen to combust the fuel they carry aboard; scramjets can scoop it out of the atmosphere. In the meantime, at a conference on low intensity conflict, Israel has unvelied a tiny drone plane, small enough to fit into a soldier’s backpack. The smallest weighs less than a can of soda.

Saturday in Baghdad

I spent some time this afternoon with a Marine from the Sunni triangle who took an AK-47 round to his side. He was very lucky--the bullet entered and exited his side without hitting any vital organs. He is 19 years old, and ready to get out there and rejoin his unit. He said that he felt bad that they were out there doing missions, while he was "just here relaxing." Those who worry about the nation’s youth should spend a little time around these soldiers. In what I’m sure has begun to sound like empty promises, you will learn more about this soldier in a forthcoming article.

After chatting with the soldier, I took advantage of the opportunity of being at the Army Hospital to have a blood test. You see, I don’t know my blood type. When I embedded with the 1AD unit the other day, blood type was one of the questions they asked. And when you consider that a reporter traveling with that unit in November lost his hand to a grenade, I suppose it is a reasonable question as well. The officer handling my paperwork looked at me as if I was crazy when I told him I didn’t know. I explained that I am a dumb civilian. Because I presume this reasonable question will be asked at later embeds, I decided to remedy my ignorance. At any rate, I should have that information by tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, I will be attending a ceremony marking the turning over of the Ministry of Health from Coalition authority to Iraqi control. This is the first ministry to revert to Iraqi control. I’ll give you an update after the event.

First do no harm, then shoot

This Los Angeles Times story on the Faolluja firefights begins what is likely to be on ongoing effort to de-authorize the use of force in Iraq. The Marines should have come in there as social workers, it would seem; but, no, "if they continue to behave like this..." I predict the establishment press will take the side of the the insurgents with more regularity, especially when one of their folks get hurt. Pay attention.

Clarke, re-evaluated?

Washington Post is starting to have second thoughts about the public testimony of Dick Clark. This piece written by Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen says this: "The commission’s determination that the two policies were roughly the same calls into question claims made by Bush officials that they were developing a superior terrorism policy. The findings also put into perspective the criticism of President Bush’s approach to terrorism by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief: For all his harsh complaints about Bush administration’s lack of urgency in regard to terrorism, he had no serious quarrel with the actual policy Bush was pursuing before the 2001 attacks.

Clarke did not respond to efforts to reach him for comment yesterday." This is in contrast to the
piece Eggen and Walter Pincus wrote on Thursday, or the Milbank piece of Thursday, where she claimed Clarke stole the show.

Let me bring to your attention Rick Lowry’s piece (again), in which he claims that Clarke has collapsed. And last, and best, is Bill Kristol’s devastating attack on Clarke (and the media), noting this exchange between Commission member Slade Gordon and Clarke:

GORTON: Now, since my yellow light is on, at this point my final question will be this: Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001, based on Delenda, based on Blue Sky, including aid to the Northern Alliance, which had been an agenda item at this point for two and a half years without any action, assuming that there had been more Predator reconnaissance missions, assuming that that had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?


Semper Fi

In the massive troop rotation which is currently occurring, a number of Marine units are coming in to relieve Army units. The following press release struck me as reflective of the gung ho Marine spirit:

Marine Expeditionary Force Marines are currently conducting offensive operations in Al Fallujah in order to foster a secure and stable environment for the people of Al Anbar. Those who seek to impede the freedom, prosperity and progress of the Al Anbar residents are being physically challenged. Among those, some have chosen to fight. Having elected their fate, they are being engaged and destroyed. Since these operations are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment at this time. Once operations have been completed, and reports have been verified, additional information will be released.

Samuel Berger on foreign policy

Samuel Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, writes a long essay for Foreign Affairs entitled "Foreign Policy for a Democratic President." That he beats up on Bush goes without saying. Example: "The administration’s high-handed style and its gratuitous unilateralism have embittered even those most likely to embrace American values and invited opposition even from those with most to gain from American successes. All around the world, fewer and fewer people accept that any connection exists between their aspirations and the principles Washington preaches.

As a result, although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach -- or a change in leadership."

Guelzo’s Emancipation Proclamation

Here is my review of Allen Guelzo’s Lincoln’s Emancipation: The End of Slavery in America just out from the Claremont Review of Books.

C-SPAN at 25

John Fund writes in praise of C-SPAN, explaining how it works, and how it came to be, and why it’s popular. He calls it the original "no-spin zone," the best sort of reality TV. Back in 1997, Harvey Mansfield wrote an appreciation of C-SPAN for The American Enterprise that we have saved on our Ashbrook site because it nails it. Mansfield argues that C-SPAN is lovable because it "allows politics to appear as it is, with all its partisan slants." "It doesn’t dismiss people’s opinions merely because they are partisan, and it doesn’t dismiss the aspiration to rise above partisanship merely because the effort often fails or is insincere." Brian Lamb and his people ask questions and then let the person answer them, and they can take as long as they want. The effect, almost always, is to educate.

Mansfield: "The ruling vice of American journalists is not that too many are Democrats but that they show such disrespect for democracy. Their error is mostly unconscious but nonetheless grave: They despise the surface of things and look too much, too quickly, for the inside story. The surface of things in democratic politics is the partisan dispute of the moment, but journalists allow themselves to get bored with that. They don’t listen partly because they have heard it before and mostly because they are convinced beforehand that it doesn’t mean anything. The only important events, they believe, are the ones that go on behind the scenes, and the only important words are those spoken in private: what we don’t see determines what we do see, and the job of the journalist is to unearth secrets, not to report what is obvious.

C-SPAN, by contrast, is not afraid of the obvious. It adopts the citizen’s point of view instead of the wise guy’s." Read the whole thing, and keep watching C-SPAN.

"Laci and Conner’s Law" Passes

From FoxNews:

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on Thursday, following House passage last month of a bill that would make it a crime to harm a fetus during a violent federal crime.

I haven’t read the law, but judging from its friends and foes it would seem this law is a sensible one.

Epitath for Clinton’s anti-terrorism policy

Charles Krauthammer makes perfectly clear that in giving the Clinton administration a pass on terrorism, Clarke proves to be a liar. And, as I have asserted, in trying to argue that Bush should be held responsible for 9/11, they are trying to shift discussion away from the fact that Clinton did not have a plan (and did very little) against al Qaeda. Because what Krauthammer says is true--and all the media glitz and Democratic hype aside--the Clarke (and Demo) pre-emptive strike against Bush’s anti-terror policies preceding 9/11 will not work.   


Just got back after spending a full day with the boys of the 2d Battalion, 3d Field Artillery Regiment in the Adhamiya region of Baghdad. These are good folks who operate in a dangerous region of the city. I will be writing a full article about my time there soon.

The GOP and the South

Gerard Alexander (of the University of Virginia) writes a terrific essay (via reviewing some books) demolishing the myth that the Republican Party assembled a national majority by winning over Southern white voters; Southern white voters are racist; therefore, the GOP is racist. He argues that this is--believed by the media and the left in academia--nonsense.    

The French

Nick Schultz uses Timmerman’s new book, The French Betrayal of America, to note various French shananigans. They may no longer be armed to the teeth (as Churchill said), but they are still pacifists to the core, and yet, practice hard-ball diplomacy.

Last quarter growth at 4.1%

The U.S. economy grew at 4.1% annual rate during the last quarter of 2003.

Military realignments

Bradley Graham writes a WaPo story on how the Pentagon is planning to withdraw as many as half of our 71,000 forces from Germany and redeploy them in Romania, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. This would be a part of a massive realignment of American military forces from large concentrations to skeletal outposts closer to potential trouble spots. Phil Carter has a few good paragraphs analyzing what it may mean and how it may work. In short, it is a function of cost, efficiency, and (not least of all) politics, and what Carter calls, creating a more "expeditionary model of basing that that supports deployments, not large forward-deployed units." A premium would be placed on deployability, since we will be fighting different kinds of wars than we would have against the Soviets.

Kerry’s Talks with the North Vietnamese

John Kerry has acknowledged meeting privately with a North Vietnamese official in Paris in 1971. However, he denies that he traveled to Paris with any intent of engaging in private negotiations with a foreign government, which of course would have been illegal.

Still want to play up that Vietnam record on the campaign trail, Senator?

Kerry notes

This L.A. Times story notes that John Kerry has much work to do before he gets Democrats to support him rather than merely being anti-Bush. This is a bad sign for Kerry--his support is neither deep nor enthusiastic within his own party--and the poor primary turnout was already an indication of this problem. The New York Post reports that there is increasing talk that former Democrat Senator Bob Kerrey (Vietnam vet, Medal of Honor winner), who has made a good showing on the 9/ll Commission, should be considered for the VP slot. There would be more excitement about Kerrey than Kerry, so it cannot happen; John wouldn’t allow it.
Walter Cronkite asks Kerry not to allow Bush to define him. Thanks Walter for revealing your keen mind on all this, that’s helpful. I am also looking forward to Kerry’s reaction to Clarke’s book, which he said he was reading.

Ashbrook on C-Span 2

The Colloquium with Allen Guelzo on his book on the Emancipation Proclamation was taped by C-Span and they are running it this weekend. Here is the C-Span 2 schedule: Saturday, 11 p.m., and Sunday, 8 p.m. (Eastern time). It was a fine event, he talks for about forty five minutes, and then conversation with the students for another forty five minutes. Worth watching. Someone tell Harry Jaffa to watch it, please.

Dick Clarke’s self-immolation

Rich Lowry is hard on Clarke. He thinks that the fellow collapsed and that no one can take him seriously. I agree. Here is the transcript of Clarke’s interview in August 2002 wherein he said the opposite of what he has been saying the last few days. Dana Milbank, writing for the Washington Post, tries to put a pro-Clarke spin on the story, just to prove (again) that the establishment press is not objective. The Post reprints the full transcript of the hearings. Note (among other things) Jamie Gorelick’s self-serving and often silly comments (she was, as I recall Reno’s deputy). This is an article wriiten by Clarke for Time in which, at the end of the piece, he asks the ever-so-deep question: "Whatever we do to the original members of al-Qaeda, a new generation of terrorists similar to them is growing. So, in addition to placing more cameras on our subway platforms, maybe we should be asking why the terrorists hate us. If we do not focus on the reasons for terrorism as well as the terrorists, the body searches we accept at airports may be only the beginning of life in the new fortress America." This is beyond silly, at this point. This is not a policy question, these guys have made clear why they had us, it is because of who we are. We stand for something they despise, and they are ready and willing to kill us because of who we are: we think freedom is good, we think self-government is good; we are not cave-dwellers. They think our purposes and our democratic means are degenerate, base, and against their sharia. But they also now know that we are willing to fight to keep our freedom, and indeed, we also have a hymn to battle, and it has something to do with making men free. The rest is a sideshow.

Syria’s Kurds

Another Neil MacFarquhar piece on Syria in the New York Times shows the effect that the freeing of Iraq next door has on their discontent. "Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syria’s 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new if temporary constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. In their wake is a toll of blackened government buildings, schools, grain silos and vehicles across a remote swath of the north." As a Kurd said, "We want democracy like the others [i.e., his brethren in Iraq]." Some twenty people have been killed in clashes between Kurds and Syrian troops, who fired on peaceful demonstrators.

Christopher Hitchens notes all this and says: "It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein’s. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position." Worth watching.

"Under God" case heard

Here is the Reuters report on the "under God" issue that the Court just heard. And here is the AP story.

Under God and the Supremes

Phillip Munoz faced the missionary atheist Michael Newdow in a debate last week. As Munoz tells it, Newdow thinks the Supreme Court will go with him (and against " under God" in the Pledge) 8-0. Munoz thinks he’s wrong. The Court is hearing the case today.

Alt and de Villepin

As you know from below, Robert Alt was a few floors removed from the rocket attack on his hotel last night. This piece, entitled, "A Safer World:
Dominique de Villepin should be sleeping in my hotel," are his reflections for the day on the issue of whether or not the world has been made safer because of our actions in Iraq. That he disagrees--despite the contiunuing attacks--with Messr. de Villepin shouldn’t surprise you.

Kerry’s numbers fall

Dick Morris contends that Kerry’s been dropping in the polls, rather than Bush rising. He thinks this is a good sign for Bush because it shows that Kerry is very vulnerable. He asserts that Kerry is not ready to run for president because he is off balance, and has always been because as a Massachussetts liberal he never had to pay attention to what really interests ordinary Americans. He thinks it is significant that the Bush pressure on Kerry’s stance on the money for the war and on the foreign leaders’ support issue is what caused Kerry to fumble and caused his numbers to drop. He thinks the Demos ought to be worried about this.

It’s not the economy

Yesterday’s Nedw York Times reports that in the so-called seventeen swing states, over 80,000 jobs have been created (whereas about 60,000 have beenb lost in non-swing states), and incomes in the swing states are growing faster in the swing states than in the others. This is just another reason why I think that--in the end--the election will not be determined by the economy, but rather on Bush’s performance against terror. That is another reason to pay attention to the Dick Clarke row, how it will be perceived, what effect it may have, and how the White House responds to it. That this attack on Bush’s leadership in the war on terror (including Iraq) is so wonderfully organized and so well crafted--it is what I have called the Democrats’ pre-emptive strike--is an indication that Kerry and the Demos understand this, despite their occasional throw-away lines on what they call a struggling economy, and the "inability" of the economy to create jobs.

Four Floors

That’s what separated me from a missile which hit my hotel at around 4 am. The missile hit the sixth floor of the Ishtar Sheraton. Luckily, that floor is a deck, so the explosion appears to have done little more than displace some concrete, break some glass, and rattle some nerves. The only injury I have seen was from an Iraqi outside the hotel who came in with a cut on his arm, likely from the shattered glass.

Needless to say, the impact was deafening, particularly coming as it did at a time when I was dead sleep. Once the disorientation of sleep leaves you (which, given the volume of the blast was a period measured in nanoseconds), the question is what to do. Part of you says to stay in your bed out of the uncertainty of whether additional missiles will follow. But my bed is about 10 feet from a large sliding glass door and balcony facing the same side that the missile hit, so this seemed a bad idea. After waiting a moment to assure that there would not be a substantial risk in leaving the room, I threw on my clothes. In the bathroom, you could smell smoke--a smell like a mechanical or electrical fire. I made my way to the lobby, in which the floor and sofas were speckled by pieces of thick glass. I then walked outside to see if the damage was visible, but was quickly cautioned to return indoors: there were snipers on the roof, and there was no need to confuse them with an extra target. The hotel manager then secured a back elevator which could be taken to the sixth floor. There you could see the point of impact. The damage, however, appeared to be minimal, because missile hit concrete. There was much broken glass, but all told we were very lucky.

This morning, the terrorists came after the civilians in my hotel in a cowardly attack. But tonight, I ride with a unit from Operation Iron Promise to go after them.

Glen Thurow review

Glen Thurow reviews Frost & Sikkenga’s History of American Political Thought in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books. The rest of the issue isn’t bad, either. Click here and scroll down. Do yourself a favor and subscribe! It is better than anything out there, including the New York Review of Books or The New York Times Book Review.

On the Road

Pardon the lack of posts this week, but I have been doing a lot of work at locations where it is not possible to post. Tomorrow is no exception. I am back out to BIAP to attempt to meet up with the 1486th, and then I am embedding in the evening with the 1st Armored Division for a patrol in Baghdad. The patrol is part of Operation Iron Promise, a special anti-terrorism task force designed to detain or eliminate terrorists and their weapons. The task force is an aggressive step against terrorism in Baghdad, and has had great success capturing both Iraqi and international terrorists with very detailed intelligence. I still owe you quite a few stories from the MEDEVAC and the hospital, which will be coming soon.

Another Great Moment from the Press Room

On Monday, one of the Iraqi reporters at the daily press briefing offered by General Kimmitt stated that he had noticed that United States soldiers randomly shoot Iraqi civilians including women and children, and asked whether this was policy. General Kimmitt patiently pointed out that the Coalition has very strict guidelines on use of force and rules of engagement, and that any deviation from this is investigated and if substantiated, prosecuted. He estimated that there had been less than 12 incidents in Iraq of violations of the use of force policy, and thought that the number may even be less.

There are two reasons why the Iraqi’s question is somewhat understandable. The first is that those who witness a shooting are often family, friends, or acquaintances, and are unlikely to say that their confidant did something wrong to provoke the response. It is far more common for an interested onlooker to suggest that someone was shot for no reason. The second is something that a strategy planner pointed out to me, and which I have now seen on numerous occasions. Iraqis as a rule are not prone to believe that an Iraqi has attacked another Iraqi. For example, they are very quick to assert that a bombing or shooting was the result of international terrorism, or the U.S., but they are unlikely to believe that even an Iraqi they would cast as an extremist is responsible, and this is constant even when substantial evidence points in that direction. The tendency rises to the level of cognitive dissonance. I have spoken with Iraqis who express their fear that a million Shia extremists are ready will at a moment’s notice die for the cause, and then moments later express that violence in Iraq is the result of international terror, because it is contrary to the nature of the Iraqi people to attack themselves. These reasons are not meant to downplay the real problem which occurs when abuse of force policy occurs, but the military does appear to take the issue very seriously, and the numbers suggest that such violations are extremely rare.

While the Iraqi journalist’s question is somewhat understandable, the following is not. A reporter for a major American network walked up to the Iraqi journalist after the briefing, and complimented him on his fine question. The network reporter knew better, or I should say, should know better. Even if you believe that there have been mistakes, or are morally outraged that there have been any collateral injuries, it takes a special kind of jaded bias to believe that "is it U.S. policy to randomly shoot women and children" is a good question.

Welcome to Summer

It was a hot day in Baghdad, so I made the mistake of checking the weather report. The coolest day this week is scheduled to be Thursday, with a breezy 89. The temperature for every other day this week begins with a 9.

The Taste of Freedom

Today took me to Baghdad International Airport, better known locally by the acronym BIAP. I was supposed to be meeting up with the 1486th Transporation Company, which includes soldiers from the Mansfield/Ashland area. There was a delay in their arrival, so I did not get to meet with them today. But I did get a little taste of home. A double Whopper with cheese, onion rings, Hershey pie and a coke. Yes, I visited the Baghdad Burger King, which I first mentioned here back in October. After having a dream last week about Chicago deep dish pizza, it was everything I hoped it would be. I’m telling you, if the Coalition wants to really excite the locals about the benefits of freedom, they will open more franchises downtown.

The Public Affairs officers at BIAP were very helpful, and seemed pleased to have someone who writes for National Review in the room. The airport itself is enormous. The Coalition is currently in the process of turning it over to the Iraqis, so that it can become a full service commercial airport once again. For example, the MEDEVAC units I rode with a few days ago had just moved from the airport to a external location.

David Brooks on the Pledge, Citizenship, and American Religion

In "One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom," David Brooks shows once again why his New York Times columns are "must-reads" for our day and age. The topic: the constitutionality of the pledge of allegiance (oral arguments will be heard tomorrow by the Supreme Court). Brook’s opinion: a certain amount of religion in public schools is a boon for America. Why? The modern civil rights movement would not have been successful without its biblical foundation. In Brooks words: "If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force."

Commenting on a recent book by David L. Chappell, entitled A Stone of Hope, Brooks concludes that the optimistic view of human nature held by northern white liberals would have been insufficient to turn the tide in favor of federal legislation that put teeth into the constitutional bite of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. What proved essential (according the Chappell’s research) was the pessimistic view of human nature held by southern black Christians. Their hope was in God, not man, to effect the change of human hearts that was necessary for the change in laws. As Martin Luther King put it, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It would not do so without the hand of Providence guiding men and women to this end.

Brooks argues:

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

He concludes: "The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.

"From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that’s the important thing. That’s not proselytizing; it’s citizenship."    

Dick Clarke, false

Rich Lowry thinks that Richard (maybe I should just start calling him Dick from now on, as his legions of friends do, especially in the establishment press) Clarke’s book is weak and unconvincing. John Podhoretz uses sarcasm to great effect to question almost everything about him and his book. And, just for the record, let it be known that (maybe) the last honorable Democrat, Joe Lieberman, says there is no truth to the accusations.

I have heard Dick Clarke’s name thrown around for a few years. He wanted to be CIA director for a while and made some moves in that direction, he was deeply interested in what he called cyberterrorism and claimed it will be the next Pearl Harbor. He was demoted by this administration. He is a friend and colleague of Kerry’s main foreign policy advisor, and so on. So what is this all about? Well, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure all this out. This is another Democratic political pre-emptive strike: Bush has been soft on terrorism because he was only focused on Iraq even before 9/11. Try to separate Iraq from the terror war as much as possible, that will leave an opening for Kerry to take a seeming hard-line view on terror, while being able to criticize the President on Iraq. This is necessary for Kerry to overcome the sense that he is a foreign policy weanie, (but he does have the support of the Spanish socialists and the French). Clarke has a long way to go before he becomes persuasive with the American people; he has to do more than persuade Ketie Curic and CNN. From what I have seen he is not impressive enough to pull it off, nor are his erstwhile colleagues. There is also nothing more fun than watching a man complain because he hasn’t been taken seriously. And now he can publicly argue that he is, and always has been, a serious person and, furthermore, y’all should have seen that earlier, you know, before even I realized how serious I was. But I am a serious person now, I am, really. And if I didn’t prove that to you in my attempt to climb the breaucratic ladders, I am trying to prove it now. I am, I really am. I think the guy is as false as water, and is a feather for each wind that blows.

Richard Clarke

David Tucker clarifies the Richard Clarke accusations against the Bush administration. Although this will not slow the media frenzy, it will add some value to the discussion. Also see Condi Rice’s interview on CNN this morning, and then this PBS interview with Richard Clarke from March, 2002, wherein his positions on some of these matters appears to differ from that of yesterday.

The spirit of Munich, blowing across Europe

Andrew Sullivan, writing for the Sunday Times of London, explains in depressing detail why the 3/11 attacks in Spain were succesful: the Spaniards (and the Europeans) are "caving in to blackmail." He argues that the situation couldn’t be worse. The Jihadists now know that "the 9/11 gambit can work in Europe." Oddly, even though it is Europe that is most at risk, it is Europe that is most set on pretending it isn’t at risk and, even worse, some in Europe are arguing that this is the fault of the U.S. Read the whole thing; very thoughtful. Will the New Europe be able to influence the Old and set things right? Christopher Caldwell is pessimistic on even that. He thinks that the ties that have developed between Spain and Poland are an ill omen.

The Assassination of Yassin

Why did Israel kill Sheikh Yassin, the founder of HAMAS? Obviously, they know this ups the stakes even more in the conflict with the most radical elements among the Palestinians.

So why? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the action follows immediately on the heels of Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to give provisional support for the phased withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in conjunction with continued building of Israel’s security barrier. This means that the plan will very likely make it through Sharon’s cabinet and become a reality.

If so, Israel knows that it must withdraw settlers on terms of strength, or its pullout will be trumpeted by its enemies as a sign of weakness, as happened with the military withdrawal from southern Lebanon. So look for even more audacious strikes in the weeks ahead against HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aksa Brigades, especially the kind of strikes that can help certain elements within the PA to take more authority once Israel has withdrawn and given up day-to-day control over Gaza and most of the West Bank.

Notwithstanding the revenge attacks to come, Israel really is changing the security equation, and it looks like the Palestinians are in trouble.

Let us praise Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair has done a very impressive thing. He

"has ordered Labour ministers and officials not to become embroiled in the US presidential race in an apparent attempt to avoid offending George W Bush.

The Prime Minister’s veto on visits to the US means that only one minister, Douglas Alexander, will attend the formal crowning of John Kerry, the Democrats’ candidate, in Boston in late July.

Tony Blair is said to back George Bush’s re-election bid
Mr Blair’s intervention, which will prevent his Labour colleagues from offering their traditional support to the Democrats, has astonished ministers who remember the close links Labour had with Bill Clinton during previous presidential campaigns."

Glucksmann on Spain’s collapse

Andre Glucksmann has no doubt that the terrorist attack in Spain worked, and manipulated the Spanish election: "Except this time the assassins can proclaim they have won. It took them three days to sway popular opinion. The Popular Party of Jose María Aznar, the expected winner, got trounced. ’Punished!’ they said. But by whom? What’s the point of political campaigns, meetings, reports, programs and debates if within a few hours, the bombing of packed train cars can reverse the result? This final landslide, which no polls had predicted, is entirely due to the Atocha station catastrophe and the terror it spread. How could the terrorists not assume that they are the decision-makers, and that terrorism is now stronger than democracy? If the Socialists brought to govern Spain keep their pledge (made before the massacre) to withdraw from Iraq, they will confirm the killers’ innermost conviction: Crime pays--and the greater the horror, the more efficiently."

A great idea

The edge of England’s Sword has a wonderful idea for either a button or a bumber sticker, could be useful for "Democrats for Bush" or Republicans in Massachusetts:

I voted for John Kerry, before I voted against him.

Kerry and the world

THis Washington Post article turns out to be quite revealing about John Kerry’s view of both the United States and the world, and why he may love, above all else, meeting with foreign elites in Davos. If it is meant to be a defense of Kerry, I don’t think it works, take this paragraph: "Kerry’s father, a longtime State Department diplomat, taught him ’the benefit of learning how to look at other countries and their problems and their hopes and challenges through their eyes, to a certain degree, at least in trying to understand them,’ Kerry said. ’We don’t always do that that well. We often tend to see other people in the context of our history, our own hopes, our own aspirations.’"

Kerry and Bush at Yale

John Tierney of the New York Times reports on Kerry and Bush at Yale (Kerry is two years older). Kerry fit right in with the "Northeastern elite," while Bush was the unpretentious Texan. No one thought then that Bush would become president, while everyone who knew Kerry (and almost everyone did) thought he would. Even then, Kerry was an impressive political leader. Bush joined an ordinary fraternity (i.e., not a blue-blood) and played intramural sports; he came to dislike Yale chaplain William Sloan Coffin, showing he had good judgment even when young.

Greetings from the MEDEVAC Unit

I spent the day with the Medical Brigade in Baghdad, and with a MEDEVAC blackhawk crew today. I have much to report, indeed too much to report given how late it is, so I leave this post here as a teaser for tomorrow.

The Clever Europeans

France has participated in naval drills with China off the port of Qingdao, a few days before the elections in Taiwan. This was China’s biggest ever joint military exercises with a foreign power. If you are convinced that the Spanish turn toward Old Europe is done a deal, you might want to see this few paragraphs from Eurosoc. The French-German rivalry is real, and the U.S. is continuing to conduct smart diplomacy as far as I can tell. By forgiving the German slight over Iraq, we have shifted the ground under French feet, and the Germans are once again talking about the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Spain will not simply do the bidding of the French; it can’t afford to. Besides, the New European countries don’t want to be pushed around by the Old, their memories are too good. Note these two good paragraphs from Innocentsabroad:

"As a final point, a point which refutes the claims that the Americans are not particularly deft when it comes to diplomacy, especially the current administration, I would suggest that, judging by how the Bush administration handled the various European players in the build-up to Iraq and since the war, those making the decisions in the US government understand something of how Europe’s nations work. The administration touted Anglo-American commonality, befriended smaller European nations, quickly forgave grievances with the Germans and have allowed antagonisms with the French to simmer. In other words, the American administration has focused its hostility on the French as much as possible."

"I remember reading somewhere that during discussions prior to the Iraq invasion, Dominique de Villepin made the comment that the problem with the Americans is that they don’t read Machiavelli. The force of this statement was that the Americans failed to understand that much of what the French were doing was pure grandstanding in order to improve their international leverage. I think the Americans may very well have understood this. De Villepin seems to think that the core of Machiavelli is simple deception shrouded in the appearance of morality. If that’s the case, then I would suggest that the problem with the French is that they don’t read Machiavelli carefully. There is a moral message in Machiavelli, and it has to do with the morality of acquiring, something the French seem almost habitually unable to comprehend: a Machiavellian joke at France’s expense."

Did I already mention that the French are establishing closer ties with China? Yes, I guess I have. These French, they are so clever. No wonder they didn’t like Washington’s "Farewell Address" when it was delivered in 1796 wherein Washington argued against all "permanent alliances or enmities." (The French Amabassador called it "Machiavellian.") Washington understood the connection between morality and national interest, between rights, right, and consent. He understood why under this new, utterly unMachiavellian, regime he had to give up power: his great virtues gave him no special rights, and gave the country no special rights but to persuade the world of the right of self-government. The French have never understood this. You might want to study some of William B. Allen’s reflections on such matters, here, and here.

Iraq’s liberation and Syria

Neil MacFarquhar’s front page report on Syria in today’s New York Times is very much worth reading. Bush’s political enemies can argue all they want about whether or not we should have gone into Iraq what with no weapons of mass destruction, etc., but in the end it the worth of the great act will be determined by two things: First, the effect it will have on Iraq. Second, the effect it will have on the region as a whole. This article reveals the good that it has already done in Syria. Syria is becoming more liberal and the opponents of that Baath Regime are heartened by what’s going on in Iraq. Subtle changes are taking place in Syria, and some Syrians are testing the limits, and they are getting away with it. And they understand that the change results from our actions in Iraq. The author says that "the fall of Mr. Hussein changed something inside people." The sense of terror has evaporated, and the regime is worried. Pay attention to this, as well as what is going on in Iran, Lybia, and Saudi Arabia.   

When the Pens Move

Yesterday, I attended an afternoon briefing with Ambassador Bremer, who offered his thoughts on Iraq after one year. I will give you a summary of this later, but I thought I would tell you a little about being in the press room. I was sitting next to a major reporter for major national publication. Bremer began by noting a series of positive statistics about crime, development, security, etc. He told some interesting anecdotes. I saw that my pen and Fred Barnes pens were flying furiously, but the major reporter sitting next to me had not even lifted his pen. Then, Bremer would comment on something potentially negative, like the increased threat of terrorism between now and June 30th, and suddenly the major reporter’s pen would come to life. The pattern continued throughout the press conference, with my pen jotting both good and bad, and his pen seemingly oblivious to anything but the bad. Many of the questions were pointedly negative, with one prominent reporter asking an asinine question to the effect of, can you conceive of a scenario where we get lots of casualties and the terrorists attacks increase, and the moon turns to blood, dogs and cats start living together--you know, mass hysteria--and U.S. support wanes to the point where we would cut and run? Despicable.

Going to the Bank

There are a number of things that are difficult to assess if you have not been to Baghdad. One is that it is an entirely cash culture. Even the hotels require payment in cash only--no credit cards, and no travelers checks accepted. I therefore needed to find a bank capable of handling a money transfer. Most of the banks in the area have little capacity, essentially offering exchange services. I was told by one of the smaller local banks that there was a bank on Rasheed Street which could handle a transfer. I arranged for a ride with Majdi, one of my semi-regular taxi drivers. Rasheed Street was closed off to traffic, so we had to park on a side street and walk. The street was a picture of the miracle of commerce. Carts were everywhere, loaded as heavily as possible with televisions, computers, and satellite dishes. Modern western clothing was displayed in shop windows and sold by street vendors. The street was packed with people. It looks like what one would expect in a thriving Middle-Eastern bazaar.

Majdi speaks some English--enough to be of assistance in the journey, but sufficiently little so as to make the trip interesting. When we arrived at the bank, there was a security checkpoint some distance from the entrance. We were then escorted by an Iraqi police officer into the bank. But, thanks in part to miscommunication somewhere along the line, this was not the correct bank. This was the Central Bank. The Central Bank is essentially the Federal Reserve and Mint of Iraq rolled into one. As we entered, employeees were wheeling out blocks of Iraqi Dinars that were as large as suitcases. Another reporter had told that on a trip to the Central Bank he had seen the main currency room, which held something like 7 Trillion Dinars (the Dinar currently trades at roughly 1400 Dinars to 1 US Dollar). The Central Bank referred me to another bank, which ultimately sent me to still another bank which could in fact do the transaction. While stuck in traffic, I began to hear gun shots coming from Rasheed Street. Majdi explained that "Rasheed Street is very bad. Ali baba." As we sat in traffic, there was more gunfire, and closer gunfire. Majdi just shook his head, "Ali baba." And again, the pattern of the terrorists hold true. Rasheed Street is thriving. It is filled with locals. It is therefore a target.

After several hours of trying to find a bank, we finally arrived to meet the friendliest banker I have ever met. As we walked in the door, we were offered Turkish coffee or Chai. As I prepared to leave, he expressed regret. "It is lunch time, and I have not given you anything to eat." I said that this was O.K. He said, "Alright, but next time." Yes, next time. And with that, Majdi and I were on our way.

Many New Pictures

There are many new pictures from Iraq posted here, including pictures of the aftermath of the hotel bombing, pictures of Mr. Nasim’s home and his family, and pictures from today’s Press Briefing with Secretary Powell. Enjoy.

Robert Alt on Linda Chavez’s Radio Show

Robert Alt, our man in Iraq, will be on Linda Chavez’s radio show at 12:15 pm eastern time today. I encourage you to listen in,

The March of the Hippies

On the ride to the Green Zone yesterday, we encountered more traffic than usual. This led my cabbie to do things like drive on the sidewalk on the bridge crossing the Tigris (which led me to accidentally offer a yiddish phrase, something I have tried to avoid in Baghdad). As we got closer to the gates to the Green Zone, the source of the traffic jam became obvious. There was a small protest, which was marching through the center of the street before it finally had the sense to get out of traffic. But there was something different about this protest. The marchers were not Iraqis. They were clearly foreign, which is to say, European and American. They were hippies (large download that requires Real Player, but worth it for South Park fans). My taxi driver that day was Hasen, a driver who often picks me up from the hotel, and whose broken English strikingly resembles Peter Stormare’s portrayal of the Russian cosmonaut in Armageddon. As we approached the crowd, he exclaimed, "What?! They are not even Iraqi. What are they, Spanish!" It is good to see the Iraqi sense of humor shine through.

Details on the Two Iraqi Reporters Killed in Baghdad

The AP has a preliminary report on the two Iraqi reporters killed in Baghdad by U.S. fire, leading to the boycott of Powell’s briefing by some members of the Iraqi press. Here is the relevant portion of that report:

A reporter for Arab satellite television station Al-Arabiya died from his wounds Friday, hours after U.S. soldiers shot him with his cameraman, who died at the scene, said Mohammed Ibrahim, the station’s editing supervisor in Baghdad.

The U.S. military said it had no information on the shootings of the journalists. But it reported the shooting death of an Iraqi at a checkpoint, and the circumstances of that death matched details reported by Al-Arabiya about the incident involving its Iraqi staffers.

Correspondent Ali al-Khatib and the slain cameraman, Ali Abdel-Aziz, were filming a nighttime rocket attack on the Burj al-Hayat hotel when the shooting took place. U.S. soldiers shot the men as they ran from the scene of an accident between a civilian car and a U.S. Army Bradley fighting vehicle, Ibrahim said. The reporters thought the car was driven by a suicide bomber, Ibrahim said.

A new birth of freedom for Iraq

We entered Iraq one year ago today. Robert Alt, from somewhere in Baghdad, sums up the good that has come to Iraq in its first year of freedom. And Secreteray of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explains why we went in.

Powell in Baghdad

Secretary of State Powell made a surprise appearance in Baghdad today (photos are posted here). As he entered the room, a member of the Iraqi media rose to request a moment of silence for two Iraqi reporters killed yesterday. He then denounced the killings, called for an investigation, and led a large group of the Iraqi press out of the room in protest for what he called the murder of the press by Americans.

Powell suggested that the terrorists were responsible for these and other deaths, although in Q&A he admitted that he was not familiar with all the details, and that the event was under investigation. He began with the point that the press have new freedoms, and can walk out of the room or express their protest now--things they could not have done under Saddam Hussein. His prepared comments were short, emphasizing the progress that had been made in the last year, and offering the assurance that "America will not shrink from this task."

When asked a question by the Iraqi press about American bases after the June 30th transition, Powell stated that "[a] smaller size force than is currently here will be here after July 1." He also suggested that there were currently no plans for a permanent base in Iraq.

Then there was a question from Peter Jennings. Let me begin by noting that his hair appears to be a really bad dye job in peson. He asked a meandering question about a lack of support by America’s allies. He then asked for a comment from Powell to the French foreign minister’s statement to the effect that there was no terrorism in Iraq before the war, and that "the war in Iraq has not led to a more stable world." I thought it very appropriate to hear the French line being parroted by Peter Jennings. Powell essentially responded that terror existed before we went in and it exists now. The response should have been stronger. Worldwide terrorism would undoubtedly be worse if a terrorist sympathesizer such as Saddam Hussein were still in power. The Iraq war may have focused some of the terrorist efforts, but it has the long term effect of limiting terrorist capacity.

Cuba, Kerry, and waiting for snow in Havana

Peter Kirsanow points out that Kerry has flip-flopped even on Cuba. He has been in favor of raising sanctions, and now he’s not. A few days ago I started reading Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy (published about a year ago). Eire is a professor of history and religious studies at Yale. He left Cuba in 1962, at age twelve, one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, exiled from country and family. He has written scholarly tomes, but this is his first book without footnotes, as he says. Why did he write it? "The most immediate trigger was the Elian Gonzales affair. It reminded me far too much of my own experience as one of 14,000 children who had come to the U.S. from Cuba alone, and whose parents were intentionally kept in Cuba by the Castro regime. The sheer hypocrisy behind Castro’s claim that every child should be with his or her parent was what angered me the most and brought up many memories. It was like a volcanic eruption. One day I started writing and I couldn’t stop. For four months I wrote every night from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00, 3:00, or 4:00 in the morning." This is a lovely book, suffused with Cuban colors and odors, and life on a razor’s edge, and redemption. He changes Saint Jerome’s prayer slightly,

Miserere mei, Domine, Cubanus sum.
Do yourself a favor, run out and buy it, wrap yourself around it, and enjoy its beauty and grace. And, oh yes, sip on a good American coffee.

More good stuff from the courts

If you like the Scalia opinion Lucas Morel links to, you’ll love this. On the Seventh Circuit, Judge Frank Easterbrook has just invented a new kind of separate opinion. Not "concurring," not "dissenting," but "dubitante." Strip the polite veneer off, and Easterbrook is slamming the Supremes, and particularly Justice O’Connor, for being so unprincipled in free-speech cases that inferior federal judges have no clue what to do. The last couple of sentences are a real hoot:

Given McConnell, I cannot be confident that my
colleagues are wrong in thinking that five Justices will go
along. But I also do not understand how that position can be
reconciled with established principles of constitutional law.

(Thanks to Stuart Buck’s The Buck Stops Here.)

Scalia Explains Recusal Refusal

For those interested in Justice Scalia’s explanation of why he will not recuse himself from an upcoming case involving Vice President Dick Cheney (a long-time friend with whom he traveled on a recent hunting trip), see the following 21-page memorandum. For you sporting enthusiasts, the memo includes details about the hunting trip. The Wall St. Journal posts a story on the memo

Quick excerpt from Scalia’s memo:

"The question, simply put, is whether someone who thought I could decide this case impartially despite my friendship with the Vice President would reasonably believe that I cannot decide it impartially because I went hunting with that friend and accepted an invitation to fly there with him on a Government plane.
If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined."

Cheney’s speech

Vice-President Cheney gave a good talk yesterday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He also takes a few good swipes at Kerry’s (various and varied) positions on Iraq and terror fighting.

The Iraqis quiet resolve

Robert Alt has a good piece up at NRO on the latest bombing in Iraq. He tells the story of Mohannad Nasim and his family, whose home was virtually destroyed by the blast. Mr. Nasim asked Robert to visit, was hospitable under the most amazing circumstances, and they talked. The quiet resolve of Mr. Nasim is representative of the Iraqi people, but you will not hear that on Al Jazeera or CNN.

Politics as crodocile feeding

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," so said John Kerry yesterday. I mention this not only because this might become the perfect summation of his character, both intellectual and moral, but also because it is a perfect example of the difficulty of doing politics in a Republic. It is all a bit confusing isn’t it? A person goes around saying anything and everything, no matter how contradictory, just to get himself elected (he will fail, by the way). And then we add Spain into the mix. This Washington Times editorial makes all the right points and asks all the right questions. Spain’s new Socialist prime minister-elect said that we are "aligning ourselves with Mr. Kerry" and that their allegiance will be "for peace, against war," and he asserted that "fighting terrorism with bombs...with Tomahawk missiles isn’t the way to defeat terrorism." And he says he will pull the Spanish troops out of Iraq. O.K. I begin to see the connection between Kerry and Zapatero: terrorism is a law enforcement issue, at best, and, at worst, it means we will not fight them.

Tom Friedman (not exactly a conservative) says this in his column in today’s New York Times: "The new Spanish government’s decision to respond to the attack by Al Qaeda by going ahead with plans to pull its troops from Iraq constitutes the most dangerous moment we’ve faced since 9/11. It’s what happens when the Axis of Evil intersects with the Axis of Appeasement and the Axis of Incompetence." And then he writes: "Spain is planning to do something crazy: to try to appease radical evil by pulling Spain’s troops out of Iraq — even though those troops are now supporting the first democracy-building project ever in the Arab world."

The policy of appeasement--which Europeans are now practicing--is nothing new in the world, I am sorry to say. It is a politics that is based on fear, is without principle (i.e., there is nothing worth fighting for) and has been around as long as human beings have been around; but so has the politics of freedom. The fact that it has been around for ever, of course, doesn’t make it any more palatable. Churchill famously said that "an appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last." The Spanish (and maybe John Kerry) will soon be coming to a point when they will have to choose between war and shame (again Churchill) and if they choose shame, they will still have war, but on even more difficult terms than at the present. hy is all this worth mentioning?

Because the truth is, as Victor Davis Hanson asserts, we have to admit to ourselves that we are alone. In the end, it is good and useful to have allies--especially in a cause not only just and right, but also wherein the interests are the same--but we can only count on ourselves, our own virtues, our own sense of right, and our own prudence. Our we fit for it? Churchill said that you cannot "take the lead in great causes as a half-timer." I think the Spanish and John Kerry are half-timers, and there will be others. Once again, our character will be tested, and once again, we will reveal to the world (and ourselves) that we have not sailed across oceans and conquered continents and tyrants because we are made of cotton candy. We need to remind ourselves, or allies, and our enemies, of this massive fact. We are reminded.

Barnes in Baghdad

Echoing Robert Alt’s posts, Fred Barnes repoorts from Baghdad that much goes well in Iraq in spite of the bombings.

Why does our media not tell the truth? Do they simply hate Bush?

The Professor Who Cried "Hate"

The LA Times reports this story out of Claremont-McKenna College. A professor of psychology gives a speech decrying racism, then allegedly returns to her car to find it vandalized, spraypainted with racist slogans. A clear example of a hate crime, right? Not so fast--police say two witnesses spotted the good professor vandalizing her own vehicle.

My favorite part, however, is this attempt by one of her colleagues to justify it:

Lee Ross, a social psychologist on the faculty at Stanford University, said that if Dunn is proven to have committed the vandalism, the professor may still have raised people’s awareness about racism. "One ironic thing is that doing this may actually have accomplished some of her goals, if her goal was to make people feel that racism was present and that there was danger of white backlash," Ross said.

That’s good. What’s important isn’t whether racism actually exists, but whether "people feel that racism was present."

Slanted Reporting

I received a comment from a reader of one of the earlier posts, who, after mentioning that he refuses to watch CNN and BBC because of slanted coverage, praised the posts on this page because "[w]hile you may be slanting your report, I dont get the sense that you are." It is interesting, because the response from Iraqis is largely so positive that simply reporting what they actually say may seem slanted after the heavy doses of negativity fed by the press. Yet despite the fact that I normally pitch some open ended negative questions to the interviewees just to give them an opportunity to complain about the United States, the Iraqis I have spoken with will have none of it. They are in fact very frustrated with the press that they get here, particularly Al Jazeera. When I tell them what the press is like in the United States, they simply shake their heads.

It is also interesting that the people are dying to tell you about America, the American effort in Iraq, and what it means to their lives. They will seek you out. Mr. Nasim (from the NRO article which should be up later today) hailed me into his house. Often times, the job of a reporter is simply being willing to actually listen, rather than imposing your own views upon the interviewee. I wonder how many Iraqis have told other journalists stories like those that I have been told, only to find their statements falling on deaf ears.

Testing the Heavy Armor

I went to the bomb site last night. I wrote a piece which I have submitted to NRO, so with any luck it will be up later this morning. I had heard that the crowds were restless toward the U.S. over the bombing, so before I left I put on the heavy body armor. My kevlar vest comes in two pieces. One is a heavy-duty kevlar vest, which is designed to provide protection from small rifle rounds, and virtually all handgun rounds. The second piece consists of two 8 pound ceramic Level IV plates, which are designed to stop armor piercing ammo fired out of an AK-47. This is the kind of body armor that you may have heard about on the news. It was in short supply in Iraq during the early stages of the conflict, but it has saved lives. It is a bit bulky unless you are going into an area with a particular threat, but given the circumstances, I thought that last night qualified.

When I arrived, I saw no evidence of unrest. The people seemed concerned or curious about the salvage effort, much as you would expect if such a tragedy occurred in the United States. I think this is an example of the classic disconnect between the news media and the Iraqi public. I’m sure that there were some people at the scene initially who blamed the U.S. for not providing protection. But this certainly was not the prevailing sentiment. So again, the view of what was probably a fairly small majority got treated like it was the dominant view.

Blast in Baghdad

CNN is reporting that a powerful explosion his the Karada district in Baghdad this evening. Because I already received an email from one friend seeking to know that I am alright, I thought I would post this to let people know that I am fine. In fact, I am not sure that I even heard this blast. There was a loud boom a few minutes before I left the convention center, but in the interior of the building, I was not sure that it wasn’t just construction noise.

Howard Dean, Foreign Policy Expert

Perhaps the Kerry campaign should have thought twice before they arranged a conference call for none other than one-hit-wonder Howard Dean to serve as attack dog for Kerry. But alas, they didn’t think, and neither did Dean, who offered the following gem: "The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend." You can read the full article on the subject here, and read Kerry’s quick backpedal here. Kerry campaign sponsored statements such as Mr. Dean’s are no doubt responsible for making Mr. Kerry the toast of Paris.

John Kerry, The French Candidate

The New York Daily Sun ran this article explaining that John Kerry is the talk of the town in Paris. Constance Borde, who heads up the France Chapter of Democrats Abroad, is quoted as gushing "He is the closest thing that you will have to a French politician . . . ." The ellipses disclose her assessment of French politicians as diplomatic and elegant, but I think the first half of the sentence really says it all.

Tyranny and food

Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader, likes food that still moves.

A former Japanese chef who used to cater to the tyrant has written a book. Note this. "He particularly enjoyed sashimi so fresh that he could start eating the fish as its mouth is still gasping and the tail is still thrashing. I sliced the fish so as not to puncture any of its vital organs, so of course it was still moving. Kim Jong Il was delighted. He would eat it with gusto." (Thanks to The Remedy)

The Roadside Stand

Throughout Baghdad, there are numerous roadside stands which sell sodas (or, for those joining me from the midwest, pop), and cigarettes. As an aside, cigarette smoking is prevalent in Iraq among the locals and the soldiers. It is therefore advisable to keep a pack of cigarettes and a lighter for breaking the ice with adults, and a pack of gum for the begging children in your pockets at all times. The cigarettes sold over here are often repackaged. That is, they may say Marlboro, for instance, but if you examine the cigarettes, you will note that there is a change in the color of the paper just a little beyond the filter. The cigarettes are then filled with the cheapest floor clippings, but sold as name brand.

Back to the story, while on my way back-and-forth between the gates, I passed by one of these stands. The stand owner had cold Pepsi (Pepsi being the dominant American soda in Iraq), and I purchased one. It was in a bottle, and the stand operator wanted the bottle back for the deposit. He had a chair by the stand, and this gave us the opportunity to talk. He asked if I was Amerique, and I said, "Yes, I am American." The response was the same I have seen from so many of the locals. A broad smile, followed by his thoughts on the regime. His conversation went something like this:

America good. American people good. American mind good. The Iraqi people have much. Much wealth. We have two rivers for fish. A port. Oil. But we had bad government. We needed good government. Iraq and America need each other. Iraq has much wealth. And America mind good.

Toward the end of the unprompted soliloquy, a machine gun burst sounded. Close. Close enough to smell the burnt powder. An American Humvee passed by a second later. It was unclear at first whether the Humvee had taken fire, or whether the Humvee had fired. The stand owner quickly suggested that the Humvee had accidentally fired, and, after surveying the situation, that seems right (and I couldn’t see anything hit). If the stand owner resented the American presence, this was the perfect opportunity to say so. But he didn’t. He dismissed the misfire, and went right back on to praising America, expressing the need for American-Iraqi cooperation, and extoling the need for a good Iraqi government.

In my experience, this is a reasonable sample of Iraqi sentiment. The people’s pride is admittedly a bit deflated because of the American presence, but they generally support what it is that America has done. Those Iraqis who make the news--the terrorists--are a very small minority in Iraq, and do not share the support of the sampling of Iraqis on the street with whom I have spoken.

Being Credentialed

I am quickly discovering that there are benefits and burdens to having a credentialed press badge. The defined benefit is that you need press credentials to do on-the-scene interviews with many of the coalition units. An undefined benefit is that other reporters recognize you as a reporter, and are thus more amenable to conversation. The downside is that reporters actually have less access than an American with a passport. For example, last night, I went to the Al Rasheed to meet someone for a drink. The guards at the gate to the Rasheed explained that I could not enter without a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) escort. I stated that I had been in numerous times without an escort, with just my U.S. Passport. The guard explained that you could get in with a U.S. Passport, but that the press were not allowed. I quickly tucked my press id away, pulled out my passport, and presented myself as an American citizen. I was waived in, with the admonition that the press are not allowed. I assured the guard that I had seen no press around here.

Then this morning I had a similar experience going in the gate. I went to a gate which I know well, presented my press ID, and was informed that the press could not enter through this gate. I explained that I had entered many times on a passport, and they said that U.S. citizens could enter, but not press. I tried the same trick as the night before, but this soldier wasn’t biting. I would have to tromp down to another gate. I went to the next gate, and this time presented just my passport. They asked if I was press, and I stupidly said yes. Press aren’t allowed at this gate either, without a PAO escort. In fact, he suggested that press are not allowed in the Green Zone at all without a PAO escort! To enter without an escort, I had to go to still another gate. Well, not just another gate, the gate with the long lines. I did finally get through, and learned a valuable tip: When asked at the checkpoints, I am a professor with the Ashbrook Center, not a journalist. In reality, however, the delays were very useful. I explored a neighborhood I was not familiar with, and met some very interesting people, who you will get to meet on this page soon.

Scandal at the U.N.

William Safire takes on the corruption at the U.N. resulting from the Iraqi oil-for-food program. "The cover-up in the office of the U.N. secretary general of a multibillion-dollar financial fraud known as the Iraqi oil-for-food program is beginning to come apart.

The scandal has been brewing for years. The first I learned of it was in a New York Times Op-Ed article last April by the journalist Claudia Rosett charging that the U.N.’s secretive oversight of more than $100 billion in Iraqi oil exports and supposed humanitarian imports was "an invitation to kickbacks, political back-scratching and smuggling done under cover of relief operations." Keep reading.

Jacoby on immigration

Tamar Jacoby reviews some books on immigration. Thoughtful.

Pre-war intelligence and the defectors

Knight-Ridder claims that their own investigative report has shown that Iraqi defectors were responsible for feeding misleading information on Iraq to the press:

"Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq’s illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.

In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, were not confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials and others who supported a pre-emptive invasion quoted the allegations in statements and interviews without running afoul of restrictions on classified information or doubts about the defectors’ reliability."

And the Christian Science Monitor picks this up, with some additions: "Knight Ridder’s investigative report comes days after a Washington Post story gave a more positive treatment of how two, key, US Defense Department offices handled prewar intelligence.

The Post article casts doubt on assertions by Democrats that the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans as well as its Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group supplied questionable information that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others used to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

This is the Dana Priest article in the WaPo that is referenced in the CS Monitor article. It is entitled, "Pentagon Shadow Loses Some Mystique: Feith’s Shops Did Not Usurp Intelligence Agencies on Iraq, Hill Probers Find." Interesting stuff.  

Australian support

Australia will continue to support U.S. policy in Iraq. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said "it is enormously important that the international community send a strong message to al-Qaida. We will maintain our determination and our resolve to defeat terrorism, not to have our policies dictated by terrorists." He also urged Spain not to pull its troops.

Fred Barnes

I just bumped into Fred Barnes here in Baghdad at a press briefing. He is in country for about ten days, and he is working on some interesting pieces. Look for them soon in The Weekly Standard.

Butch the Bully, and Peter the Brave

John Moser’s note below on bullies and self-esteem reminded me of an experience I had soon after I came to America (to Hermosa Beach, California). I was ten, spoke no English. I was given a math test to find out what grade I ought to be put in. They said the sixth; so there I sat not understanding a word that was being said by the teacher (believe it or not, one Mr. Friend). I was assigned to a boy named Jeffrey who was instructed to teach me to read. And he did, eventually. (I hasten to point out that this was before the great invention of bi-lingual ed, so it only took a few months). During recess and lunch break a fellow named Butch (I’m not kidding, that was his name) would beat me up every time he saw me (about a half dozen times a day). No one interfered. I don’t remember fighting back, but I do remember not liking it. I do remember that the girls were very nice, they would pick me up off the ground and comfort me after each defeat. Maybe that’s why I didn’t fight back. I don’t know. Near the end of the school year I decided to fight back. It was a great event. Everyone knew about it, all the students were arranged in a circle on the asphalt playground. And I whipped him. The cheers were loud and prolonged. The girls were misty-eyed and entirely smitten. I especially remember the special kindness of Violet, one of my classmates and the first black person I had ever met. I was now Achilles, but not closed to polygamy. And Butch--I almost forgot about Butch--shook my hand and congratulated me. Not only did we cease fighting one another, we became allies, looked for wimps and when we found them, we merely pushed them around, since we didn’t have to fight anyone, anymore. We had a reputation! Better that than strength, courage, or cunning.

Recalling James Burnham

I’ve been re-reading James Burnham’s classic Suicide of the West in the evenings recently (I really need to switch to P.G. Wodehouse or Evelyn Waugh in these dark times), and the following passage jumped out as being even more true and relevant today than when he wrote it 45 years ago:

"Liberals, unless they are professional politicians needing votes in the hinterland, are not subject to strong feelings of national patriotism and are likely to feel uneasy at patriotic ceremonies. These, like the organizations in whose conduct they are still manifest, are dismissed by liberals rather scornfully as ’flag-waving’ and ’100 percent Americanism.’ When a liberal journalist uses the phrase ’patriotic organization,’ the adjective is equivalent in meaning to ’stupid, reactionary and rather ludicrous.’ The rise of liberalism to predominance in the controlling sectors of American opinion is in almost exact correlation with the decline in the ceremonial celebration of the Fourth of July, traditionally regarded as the nation’s major holiday. To the liberal mind, the patrioic oratory is not only banal but subversive of rational ideals; and judged by liberalism’s humanitarian morality, the enthusiasm and pleasures that simple souls might have got from the fireworks could not compensate the occasional damage to the eye or finger of an unwary youngster. The purer liberals of the Norman Cousins strain, in the tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, are more likely to celebrate UN Day than the Fourth of July."

Substitute "red states" for "hinterlands," John Kerry for Norman Cousins, and you have an up-to-date description of the present moment.

What We Always Knew About Bullies

This month’s issue of The Atlantic includes this tidbit (scroll down to the bottom of the page) about bullying. The ed-school establishment’s characterization of bullies as loners with low self-esteem has set my B.S. detector clanging for some time; now, it appears, it has been debunked. In a study entitled "Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak, and the Troubled", it was precisely the bullies who were identified as the "psychologically strongest," and enjoyed the highest esteem among their peers. By contrast, the victims of bullies were the ones most "socially marginalized among their classmates."

Of course, as the editors of The Atlantic point out, this should not come as news to anyone who actually remembers what junior high was like--about a half-step removed from Lord of the Flies. But it’s almost touching--not to say pathetic--how long the Rousseauian image of children as "noble savages" has managed to hold on.

Finally Credentialed

After 3 visits to the Press Office, I finally got my credentials. Basking in this new found recognition, I am sending you this email from the high speed line at the International Press Office, and I appear to have gotten waived through at least one security check on the way in this morning. Membership has its privileges.

Daily Weather Report

Schramm emailed me to let me know that Ashland University is closed due to snow. I just thought I would let our Ohio readers know that the temperature is a balmy 67 degrees F here in Baghdad. I’m sure that this weather post is worth a cup to Medina’s meteorologist, Andrew Weaver. 

Iraq (and Spain)

Spain’s new socialist PM, Sr. Zapatero, called Iraq a disaster, and suggested that Bush and Blair "engage in some
self criticism
" (I like that, a very European way of putting things, don’t you think? That’s what my father was told to do by the Stalinists when he was arrested for "rumor mongering", i.e., calling some communist a communist s.o.b.) He didn’t deny it. He got three months and was told to engage in some self criticism. He didn’t. And neither should Bush). ABC News has conducted a serious poll in Iraq, the first of its kind.
Note the title: "Most Iraqis Ambivalent About the War, But Not Its Results." The short of it is this critical percentage (but the rest of it is also good): 71% of Iraqis say that a year from now their lives will be much better. That optimism is meaningful. Read the whole thing; look at the charts carefully because the text is often misleading.

New York Times’ politics, no surprises

This is kind of fun (via Andrew Sullivan): Here’s a list of political contributions from the staff of the New York Times. All the news that’s fit to print, as they say.

Meet Sgt. Smith, Mayor

In a recent conversation with Col. Ferrari, who does security planning for CJTF-7, I asked a rather open ended question. “What is the story that is not being told? What story should the press be getting out there?” He answered without hesitation: “The untold story is the story of the American soldier.” He then rattled off with pride how soldiers are doing things in the field that they were never trained to do, and are doing them well. They are running police academies which train the new Iraqi police force. They have acted as de-facto mayors, getting the municipal services up and running, and hearing grievances from the locals.

And they are doing it with high morale. When they came to Iraq, they saw how the infrastructure had been stripped to the bone. They have seen the progress, and are generally optimistic about the prospects for Iraq in the future. That is the untold story of Iraq, and it is one that we will be bringing you in the coming months.

Columbus Sniper Suspect Identified

CNN is reporting that Franklin County has identified a suspect in the string of Columbus sniper shootings.

More and Bigger Photos

If you have not done so recently, check out the Iraq photos page. I have some new pictures posted from the press conference yesterday, and the good folks at the Ashbrook Center have posted larger, better versions of the pictures already posted, which you can see if you click on the individual pictures.

More on Spain

The Spanish reaction and the commentary below bring to mind this simple axiom:

Those that cherish peace over freedom shall have neither.

Comment on Spain

This e-mail is from a reader:
"If I were I Spaniard, I would renounce my citizenship immediately, in
complete shame for the cowardice of my countrymen. Whatever one thought of
the original decision to go into Iraq, you can’t let tyrants decide the
outcome of your elections. The new government, at the very least, should
have immediately announced the doubling of its security forces in Iraq - on
the grounds that while we don’t like Bush, we won’t buckle to terrorists.
The Spaniards, like many in Europe, seem to assume that if they declare
public neutrality in the conflict between civilization and barbarism, they
can escape the conflict. All the while they live comfortably under the
umbrella of American security and prosperity, and assume that if things ever
turn really nasty, the Americans will surely bail them out. Tyrants,
meanwhile, are confirmed in the view that the civilized have no backbone.
This is yet another sad indication that Europe really is a dying continent.
It won’t fight because it has nothing worth fighting for."

More on the French Disease

I was intrigued by the French decision two or three weeks ago to ban head scarves in the public schools, thinking it a sign that the French were starting to worry seriously about Islamists in their midst, that perhaps, just perhaps, the French might still have some stuffing left. Alas, no. It turns out the motivation of the scarf ban is aggressive secularism (crosses and yarmulkas were banned, too), not some kind of civilizational pride.

The whole episode called back to mind Jean Raspails controversial 1973 novel, Camp of the Saints. Raspail’s book told the story of a huge flotilla of Hindus that sets out from India for France, and the lack of will on the part of the French to say "No" to this de facto invasion. It was a wonderful send-up of the multicultural mentality, predictably branded as a racist tract.

In a preface for a 1985 edition of the book, Raspail included the following meditation that is more timely than ever in light of the Spanish election result:

"For the West is empty, even if it has not yet become really aware of it. An extraordinarily inventive civilization, surely the only one capable of meeting the challenges of the third millennium, the West has no soul left. At every level--nations, races, cultures, as well as individuals--it is always the soul that wins decisive battles. It is only the soul that forms the weave of gold and brass from which the shields that save the strong are fashioned. I can hardly discern any soul in us. Looking, for example, at my own country, France, I often get the impression, as in a bad dream dreamt wide awake, that many Frenchmen of true lineage are no longer anything but hermet clams that live in shells abandoned by the representatives of a species, now disappeared, that was known as ’French’ and which did not forecast, through some unkown genetic mystery, the one that at century’s end has wrapped itself in this name. They are content to just endure. Mechanically, they ensure their survival from week to week, ever more feebly. Under the flag of an illusory internal solidarity and security, they are no longer in solidarity with anything, or even cognizant of anything that would constitute the essential commonalities of a people."

Spanish Appeasement, a chilling portend of Europe’s future?

David Frum thinks that the terrorists have won a mighty victory in Spain. Victor Davis Hanson agrees and makes a couple of things very clear: "Let me get this straight. Two-and-a-half years after September 11, on a similar eleventh day of the month, 911 days following 9-11, and on the eve of Spanish elections, Al Qaeda or its epigones blows up 200 and wounds 1,400 Spaniards. This horrific attack follows chaotic months when Turks were similarly butchered (who opposed the Iraq War), Saudis were targeted (who opposed the Iraqi war), Moroccans were blown apart (who opposed the Iraqi war) and French periodically threatened (who opposed the Iraqi War)."

"And the response? If we were looking for Churchill to step from the rubble, we got instead Daladier. The Spanish electorate immediately and overwhelmingly connected the horror with its present conservative government’s support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. If the United States went to Afghanistan in 26 days following the murder of 3,000 of its citizens to hunt down their killers and remove the fascists who sponsored them, Spaniards took to the streets with Paz placards and about 48 hours later voted in record numbers to appease the terrorists." Hanson thinks, in the end, we are alone, we have no allies in our attempt to save civilization. Drink some very strong European coffee, and ponder.

Andrew Sullivan is equally clear-eyed:"It’s a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe’s future. A close election campaign, with Aznar’s party slightly ahead, ended with the Popular Party’s defeat and the socialist opposition winning. It might be argued that the Aznar government’s dogged refusal to admit the obvious quickly enough led people to blame it for a cover-up. But why did they seek to delay assigning the blame on al Qaeda? Because they knew that if al Qaeda were seen to be responsible, the Spanish public would blame Aznar not bin Laden! But there’s the real ironic twist: if the appeasement brigade really do believe that the war to depose Saddam is and was utterly unconnected with the war against al Qaeda, then why on earth would al Qaeda respond by targeting Spain? If the two issues are completely unrelated, why has al Qaeda made the connection? The answer is obvious: the removal of the Taliban and the Saddam dictatorship were two major blows to the cause of Islamist terror. They removed an al Qaeda client state and a potential harbor for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. So it’s vital that the Islamist mass murderers target those who backed both wars. It makes total sense. And in yesterday’s election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of. It has removed a government intent on fighting terrorism and installed another intent on appeasing it. For good measure, they murdered a couple of hundred infidels. But the truly scary thought is the signal that this will send to other European governments. Britain is obviously next. The appeasement temptation has never been greater; and it looks more likely now that Europe - as so very often in the past - will take the path of least resistance - with far greater bloodshed as a result. I’d also say that it increases the likelihood of a major bloodbath in this country before the November elections. If it worked in Spain, al Qaeda might surmise, why not try it in the U.S.?"

Spain: The French Flu

It strikes me that if the Spanish election really is a response to the bombings, then the Spanish may have come down with a case of the French flu. A debilitating illness, it begins by breaking down the human spine. By the end, it leaves its victims with sunken chests. But seriously, the response seems, if you’ll pardon me, European. With notable exceptions, Old Europe has bought into the post-modernism to such a degree that they no longer believe in themselves. They no longer believe in the capacity for truth. If standing up for principle means taking losses, then they will fold, and fold quickly. If anyone doubts that there is a real difference between Old Europe and the U.S., think what the response would have been in the U.S. if an election were held within days of September 11th, between someone who was aggressive in fighting international terror, and someone who would pull the U.S. out of the fight.

On the lighter side

A friend sent me a link to this story about an online whiskey tasting on Slate. While the whiskey tasting has come and gone, this description of the fine scotch Laphroaig is worth sharing:

And yet [Talisker is] almost mild compared to a Laphroaig, from the Scottish island of Islay. The nose of Laphroaig has smoke and seaweed and something overpoweringly medicinal, like hospital bandages. It smells like someone being treated for burns beside a smoldering building. Next to a bog. Across from an open-air fish market. It smells like ... heaven.

I do not have any Laphroaig along for this journey, but I did bring some cask strength Glenmorangie. Cheers.

Press Briefing

I attended my first press briefing this afternoon (pictures are posted here. The briefings are conducted by Daniel Senor on behalf of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority, or the civilian side), and General Kimmitt on behalf of CJTF-7 (Consolidated Joint Task Force 7, or the military side). The briefing began with a by the numbers look at operations, as well as something like an extended police blotter, specifying the attacks for the previous day. While far too many numbers were bandied about, a few are of interest. There are currently an average of 21 attacks against coalition forces per day; 4 attacks against Iraqi forces; and 3 attacks against Iraqi civilians. Yesterday alone there were 561 patrols conducted in Baghdad.

While there were a number of standard IED-style attacks, there were also a couple of attacks worth noting. In one, soldiers were fired upon by individuals who appeared to be wearing Iranian border guard uniforms. While CTJF-7 is investigating, they are not treating this as a special case.

Following up on my posting from yesterday about the Americans and their translator apparently killed by men carrying Iraqi police IDs, the briefing today made clear that based on the recreation, this was a "run and gun"--that is, the attackers were not at a makeshift checkpoint, but drove a car by the victims, who they shot at and ultimately ran off the road. An on the street source suggests that the Fern Holland, a 33-year-old attorney who was in country working on women’s rights, may have been driving the vehicle. While Iraq is more progressive than some middle-eastern countries, there are still many who oppose women driving, and this (although highly speculative) may have contributed to the vehicle being targetted.

There was also a stabbing in the Green Zone, which garnered a fair number of questions. A soldier was stabbed on his way back to his trailer. He sustained stab wounds to the torso, neck, and head, but lived. It was unclear whether the attacker was American or Iraqi. Of course, it says something about the general level of security that this was big news. That is, attacks within the Green Zone are relatively unheard of.

Dan Senor, who Bill Kristol speaks quite highly of, gave something of an overview of the attacks: "The attacks are much more organized. They are much more political." He summed up that they are terrorist attacks. He noted that experts are predicting an escalation in attacks as the June 30th change in control approaches, because after that date the pretext of the attacks (getting the Americans out) will have evaporated.

General Kimmitt concluded with some very sound thoughts. Following a series of questions about the balance of liberty and security, he noted the sacrifice of the soldiers: "The soldiers did not die for fortune. They did not die for oil. They did not die for land." Rather, they died to give Iraq something it has never had--a free and democratic regime. Huzzah and pass the ammo.

Spain’s election

It looks like the Socialists have won in Spain. It seems that they got about 43% of the vote against the 37% for the Popular Party (with 80% of the votes counted). If--as news reports are saying--this is a revulsion against the anti-terror (and pro Iraq war) policies of Jose Maria Aznar, then it is a very bad sign, and not only for a change in Spain’s policies toward our effort in Iraq. It is a bad sign because if (and I say IF) al Qaeda is responsible for the Madrid attacks--as a payback for Spanish support of our policy in Iraq--and if the Spanish people think that that is why they were attacked just a few days before an election, and, therefore, the government changes hands to one that is less likely to maintain a vigorous anti-terrorist policy, then we may expect more of the same in other countries (and why should this exclude the U.S., after all we have an election coming up?). Que lastima!

Dan Rather notices freedom

Dan Rather (remember him?) had a conversation with Larry King a couple days ago and he noted the great difference in Iraq between then (when he would interview Saddam) and now. Here is Rather: "If you were here, I think the biggest thing you would notice is freedom. I know that will strike some people as corny or cliche but it’s what you feel. And it’s what the Iraqi people, by and large, feel. They--most Iraqis alive today have never known anything approaching freedom. And just the fact that Iraqis can speak out, that they can say what they want to say, is probably the biggest change that’s happened over the last year." (Thanks to

Bold Democratic thinking

David Broder seems genuinely enthusiastic about Rep. Barney Frank’s (D) deep thinking about why we are not creating more jobs. Frank says: ""The ability of the private sector in this country to create wealth is now outstripping its ability to create jobs. The normal rule of thumb by which a certain increase in the gross domestic product would produce a concomitant increase in jobs does not appear to apply." Because the economy now creates wealth but not jobs, this deep thinker recommends that we raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, and give that money to various levels of government so they may create jobs (you know, pick up garbage, fight fires, build bridges, on what Frank calls, "socially useful purposes"). In short, another New Deal job corps program. "Our problem today," Frank said, "is too little government." I’m thinking that Broder may be ironic in claiming that this is deep and bold thinking. I hope he is.

Al Qaeda’s statement on Madrid bombing

This is the MEMRI translation of the al Qaeda statement claiming responsibility for the bombings in Spain. MEMRI’s commentary claims that "this statement does not seem to be an authentic Al-Qa’ida document."

Truman Doctrine

Phil Carter reminds us that on March 12, 1947, Harry Truman went to Congress to ask for a lot of money to support Greece and Turkey; communism was threatening. The Truman Doctrine is, of course, relevant today. Here is Truman’s speech, as delivered. Go here for more on the Truman Doctrine.

Media bias (and idiocy)

Here is Mark Steyn’s take on the media’s bias and foolishness, as exemplified by the headline the Seattle paper ran that the accused Iraqi spy was related to Andrew Card. The whole thing if good, but here is a sample: "Look, these are serious times. Week after week, more details emerge of the extraordinary number of influential Westerners, from French government ministers to the head of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, who appear to have been in the pay of Saddam. That’s, among other things, what Susan Lindauer is accused of.

But we don’t have a serious press for these serious times. Boring and self-important is not the same as serious. But one reason why John Kerry calculates he can get away with damning the Bush administration as ’crooks’ and ’liars’ is because he figures he can count on the mainstream media doing what the Post-Intelligencer did -- instinctively framing every issue in anti-Bush terms, no matter how ludicrously. I suppose it’s not entirely impossible that one reason the Post-Intelligencer guys went with their spy-Bush linkage is because Lindauer has been accused of betraying her country and Al Gore accused Bush of ’betraying’ the country, too. But that’s one more reason why Bush will win in November: The media and the Democrats are sustaining each other in their delusions."

Building a Police Force

On Friday night, I arrived at around 10:45 in the evening at the checkpoint to my hotel. The checkpoint is on a busy street. You are generally greeted by Kalishnikov carrying Iraqi security workers (I believe they are private guards) who inspect your bags and pat you down. This particular evening, I was greeted a couple of meters in front of the checkpoint by a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a Kalishnikov. (For those wondering, it was a brisk but pleasant evening.) He pointed to my bag, and I walked (as he continued to point and speak presumably about the bag—without pointing the Kalishnikov, mind you) a few meters further to the checkpoint, where the regular detail was sitting, and where I hopefully could be seen by American soldiers manning a checkpoint about a block away. I then opened by bag on the concrete barrier as usual, and the man in the ski mask inspected it. Although I was not certain when he first approached me, it became apparent that he was one of the security guys, who just happened to be wearing a ski mask and carrying a Kalishnikov.

It was then that it struck me: I walk through security checkpoints all the time. Some of the inspectors have regular uniforms, and some don’t. After a while, one begins to presume that the men holding guns there are at least neutral guys. But as this story from the Washington Post makes clear, even when they are in uniform and have IDs, you cannot be sure. For those who did not click the link, a group of men with valid Iraqi police IDs created a fake checkpoint, at which they killed two Americans and their Iraqi translator about 60 miles south of Baghdad on Tuesday evening. The story sent shockwaves through the community. I met with a lawyer who handles regional democracy issues for the CPA the morning after the event occurred. In talking to him about my travels, he grew very dour. “Be very careful,:” he admonished. The killings had not yet been revealed, but all he could say was that something very bad had happened the day before to a lawyer.

This goes to the problem of putting together a police force. When the army arrived, the Iraqi military and the police force were completely disbanded. The U.S. had to rebuild from base one. In certain respects, this was good. As Col. John Ferrari informed me in an interview, the previous police force’s idea of justice was “throwing a guy off a roof.” Still, this proved an enormous job. They needed to recruit and train 75,000 police officers. And they are doing it, as quickly as practicable.

The real success in this regard is the Iraqi Civil Defense Corp (ICDC). There are currently 30,000 ICDC troops that have been trained by the U.S. They are recruited from the local towns, and therefore they know the people and the people know them. Given the close-to-home approach, it is not terribly surprising that the early results suggest that the Iraqi people trust the ICDC soldiers and get along with them. They are already being used in places ordinarily manned by U.S. troops, such as at checkpoints, which eases the load on U.S. troops and helps with the transition. They also work extensively with the military units in the outlying cities, helping to defuse potentially volatile situations, and acting as intermediaries between the locals and the army. The training of the ICDC continues, with current plans anticipating that 40,000 ICDC will be trained by the end of summer.

The Meaning of human

Paul Seaton writes an elegant defense of President Bush’s appointments of Diana Schaub and Peter Lawler to the Council on Bioethics. He claims, rightly, that these two are great appointments, that they have a deep understanding of the full range of human goods and practices, and that their thinking balances nicely with those who are only interested in the "progressive technologies" of scientific reality. Seaton, like Schaub and Lawler, understand that it is perfectly possible for the so called progressive science to turn into regressive science and that those who are students of political philosophy--as Schaub and Lawler are--have a great deal to contribute to this critical conversation.

You can see Being Human: Readings from the President’s Council on Bioethics, and get one free copy by sending an e-mail to them. Note the table of contents, everything from Homer to Willa Cather to Tolstoy. This is a very unusual government document, to say the least. This is the Introduction, "The Search for Perfection" and is followed by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, "The Birth-Mark."

Brown University and slavery reparations

Brown University has set up a committee to examine whether Brown should pay reparations for slavery.

Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, the President of the university, and a descendent of slaves, has directed Brown to start what its officials say is an unprecedented undertaking for a university: an exploration of reparations for slavery and specifically whether Brown should pay reparations or otherwise make amends for its past. She, of course, claims that she will not bias the work of the committee, and then she says: "If the committee comes back and says, `Oh it’s been lovely and we’ve learned a lot,’ but there’s nothing in particular that they think Brown can do or should do, I will be very disappointed."

Arrests in Spain

ABC News reports that Spain has arrested five suspects including three Moroccans possibly linked to extremist groups in the Madrid bombings that killed at least 200 people. The other two suspects had Indian passports. Also being questioned were two Spanish citizens of Indian origin.

Terror war roundup

Rumsfeld is picking up some flack for having a piece of debris from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon on his desk. His accusers say that it is no different than an FBI guy picking up some debris at Ground Zero and keeping it, etc. His opponents ought to be ambarrased by this. I hope the President has a something on his desk reminding him; vertainly John Kerry could use one. I have a piece of the Berlin Wall chipped off by a friend.

This New York Post article mentions that the attacks in Spain occured on 3/11 and 2 1/2 years after 9/ll and exactly 911 days after 9/11. It is being reported in Norway that there are al Qaeda links to the Spain attacks. Powerline has a great photo of the huge Spanish demosntrations against terrorism. I heard that about 20 percent of the population turned out. A Basque expert claims in Newsweek that the attack in Spain could not have been perpetrated by ETA. U.S. Special Forces are folling around in Algeria, according to the Boston Globe, because Algeria (especially its Southern border with Mali) happens to be a great recruiting base for terrorists. And if you are wondering where John Kerry stands on any of this, be sure to read David Brooks latest groin-kick. The first paragraph gives you a hint: "The 1990’s were a confusing decade. The certainties of the cold war were gone and new threats appeared. It fell to one man, John Kerry, the Human Nebula, to bring fog out of the darkness, opacity out of the confusion, bewilderment out of the void.

Le Monde, I guess now imitating Kerry in changing its mind, says this (via Andrew Sullivan): ""If the trail back to Al-Qaida is confirmed, Europeans should rethink the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, as did the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001. . . . Will March 11 have in Europe the same effect as September 11 in the US? After having spontaneously expressed their solidarity with the Americans, the Europeans, preoccupied with other forms of terrorism, found that the Americans had become consumed with paranoia. Contrary to the latter in 2001, Europeans today discover not only their own vulnerability, but also that they are confronted with a new phenomenon, mass terrorism. Like the Americans, they may now be forced to admit that a new form of world war has been declared, not against Islam but against totalitarian and violent fundamentalism. That the world’s democracies are confronted with the same menace and should act together, using military means and waging at the same time a war for their ideals."

Kerry’s Europe

James Lileks has an op-ed entitled, "Europeans love Kerry’s nuance." Soon into reading it, you will see that it is not a pro-Kerry article; I love this paragraph: "On another level, though, Kerry’s remark sounds pathetically naive. Why does he think the Unnamed Foreign Leaders like him best - because they have America’s best interests at heart? They want to mire the United States in the tarpit of the United Nations again, and Kerry looks like the man to wade right in.

Europe can’t fight its way out of a paper bag, because it spends half its money propping up its paper bag industry, and the other half on bureaucracies regulating the strength and thickness of paper bags. Europe can only be the equal of American power with the willing cooperation of a president who stays up late at night wondering whether chain-smoking leftists in cafes on another continent might greet his next state visit with giant mocking puppets."

New Hotel

In addition to the rally yesterday, I also changed hotels. The move was a democratic act. You see, I got together with the roaches in my old hotel room, and they, having a clear and increasing majority, voted me off the island. My new surroundings appear to be better maintained. The hotels in Baghdad are a reflection of much of the buildings and infrastructure in Iraq. Both hotels at which I have stayed are in the "red zone," the area just outside the U.S. controlled Green Zone. (To my knowledge, there are no hotels available for non-government employees in the Green Zone.) And both were reasonably grand in their time. But both show the signs of years of decay and neglect. For example, in my old hotel, there were four elevators. If you were lucky, two elevators were operating at a given time. Most of the time, only one elevator was working for a building that had something like 16 floors. However, if you were unlucky, the operating number was zero. I lived on the eleventh floor, and, joining with Churchill, I have generally adhered to the principle that the feeling of a need to exercise should be met with a proper response: lying down. I therefore was pleased to be "unlucky" only once.

Like the first drop of water after a walk across the desert . . .

Had my first cup of coffee in about two weeks today, or more accurately, a cup of Turkish coffee. I think that the cup contained the condensed grounds of all the cups of coffee that I would have had in an ordinary two week period.

Dems soft money and the 527’s

The newly created "527’s" are the Dems shadow party, according to this Business Week article. A good read that explains how the Dems are going to try to raise about $300 million from big donors like George Soros and just simply take over the media campaign from the poor Party. Here is how it starts, but read the whole thing: "In 2002, as campaign-finance reform was about to become law, a few savvy Democratic activists saw the future -- and it was potentially devastating. The problem: While the Democratic Party raised $520 million in the 2000 election cycle, nearly half of it came in big-buck "soft-money" donations that the McCain-Feingold Act would all but eliminate. In the upcoming Presidential election, the Dems would be even more badly outgunned by the GOP, which in 2000 pulled in $712 million -- but only $246 million of it in soft money. To make an end run around the new campaign law, these behind-the-scenes players rushed to set up political committees that can legally collect soft money, pay for issue ads, and encourage voter turnout."

India and Israeli ties

The India-Israeli ties seem to be getting stronger. The Times of India reports: "India is on the verge of finalising a counter-terror collaboration deal with Israel in what will mark yet another step-up in the burgeoning bilateral ties. An Israeli security team will soon visit India to train the security forces and intelligence teams for anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir. The deal will also include an agreement on intelligence sharing between the two countries."

Military’s cool gadgets

Phillip Carter, in Slate, reports on the DARPAT Tech conference meeting near Disneyland. "Here at the conference showcasing the military’s most radical new technology, you can touch microsatellites, see plans for the next generation of Navy missile, and even practice on a flight simulator designed to illustrate the challenges of hypersonic flight." There are some very cool things worth noting, including the "Phraselator" and the "Rapid Tactical Language Training System," which is "essentially a video game that allows soldiers to learn conversational Arabic in 80 hours of training."  

Spain’s reaction

James Lileks has some good thoughts on the terrorist attacks in Spain, and the Spaniards’ reaction to them. Here is the Reuters story on the millions of Spaniards taking to the streets chanting "killers." The Basque terrorist group, the ETA, claimed it wasn’t responsible for the horror. This is President Bush’s brief statement at the Spanish Embassy.

India and outsourcing

James Glassman is not amused by John Kerry’s attack on "outsourcing" (that is, hiring foreigners) jobs. He notes the economic value of trade for everyone, and also notes that India is not amused by the movement of Kerry, Hillary, et al, towards protectionism.

Accused spy

The Seattle paper has this for a headline:"Accused spy is cousin of Bush staffer", just in case you think there is no bias in the media. This (so called spy) was a staffer to Democrats, and sees herself as a peace activist, but the headline is the most important thing, isn’t it? In fact it was the distant relative, Andrew Card, who turned her in. You can find that massive fact buried in this MSNBC story about her.

More Just Asking. . .

Why is it that liberals complain that our gasoline is too cheap and that we need a 50 cent a gallon gas tax. . . but complain of "price gouging" when the market pushes the price of gas to $2??

I guess high-priced gas is no fun unless it is the government that profits from it.

Just Asking. . .

A question for liberals about outsourcing:

Why is outsourcing a bad thing . . . except when it comes to outsourcing timber industry jobs in the Pacific northwest?

We now import almost a third of the nation’s timber, because we’ve put so much American timberland off limits for logging. (Forestland in the U.S., by the way, grew by 10 million acres in the 1990s.) So, when are liberals and environmentalists going to start complaining about America’s dependence on foreign timber?

Anti-Constitution Rally

Baghdad, Iraq—This afternoon, about six hundred Iraqis gathered outside of a Baghdad
Mosque to protest the signing of the Constitution. More particularly, they
gathered outside the Mosque closest to my hotel. I first spoke to the Army regular manning the checkpoint at my hotel. He was told that the rally was against the Iraqi governing council, which the protesters believed they should have had a more direct hand in selecting. I asked whether the protest had been peaceful. He said that it had been peaceful for the most part, although when some security trucks were brought in, some members of the crowd threw rocks.

Armed with this information, I did what reporters in the region do. No, I did not go to the hotel bar. Rather, following the advice of the "opposite George" episode of Seinfeld, I did the opposite of what your
instincts say, and walked toward the rally. When I reached the edge of the
demonstration, I was greeted by reasonably heavy security, most of which was provided by the Iraqi police. After a pat down, I talked briefly to one Iraqi police officers. He spoke reasonably good English. After chatting for a moment, I thanked him for his service, and complimented his bravery. (The Iraqi police are the primary targets of terrorist attacks these days in Iraq.)

The rally continued in a reasonably orderly fashion for some time. I
recognized a taxi driver across the street, and hailed him for a ride. I chatted with him about the rally. He explained that every Friday they rally at a different Mosque. He dismissed the rally as essentially the work of supporters of Saddam. After a drive that involved a short detour on the sidewalk to get around the barrier, I arrived at the Green Zone. Just
another day in Baghdad. (More pictures appear on the Photos from Iraq page.)

Off the Wall?

Man has sex with pony, this leads two Dutch politicians to want to ban bestiality (now legal) in the Netherlands because "the animal can never consent to it." Drunken man asks eleven year old son to drive. The EPA is studying the chemicals released into the air when a bag of microwave popcorn is popped or opened. Authorities use crane to remove body of 700 lb man from apartment. The mayor of Fargo, ND, wants to promote his city as trendy vacation spot. School bus driver suspended after allowing the kids to bring an alligator into the bus.

Bush’s education policy

George Will explains that Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" education initiative has changed the terms of the debate. No wonder the Democrats are against it, we are now compelled to talk about standards and performance, rather merely how much more money to put into education to make it better (answer: it’s never enough). Will says, "It took decades to defeat liberal resistance to welfare reform. Resistance to education reform is crumbling more quickly."

Chess and war

The London Guardian runs an interesting article on the relationshiop between playing chess and making war. Researchers in Australia and Sweden are taking this quite seriously. It all sounds like fun, and some of it might be more useful than I would have thought. "One major difference between chess and war is that chess does not contain what the military terms ’information uncertainty’. Unlike a battle commander, who may have incomplete intelligence about his opponent’s level of weaponry or location of munitions depots, one chess player can always see the other’s pieces, and note their every move. So Kuylenstierna and his colleagues asked players to compete with a board each and an opaque screen between them. A game leader transferred each player’s moves to the other’s board - but not always instantaneously. For instance, one game modification resulted in a player being prevented from seeing their opponent’s latest two moves.

These games, and other variations on regular play, led the team to a clear conclusion: being stronger and having more ’battlespace information’ than your opponent are both less valuable when there is little information available overall to both sides - but the advantage of a fast pace remains. ’The value of information superiority is strongly tempered by uncertainty, whereas the value of superior tempo is much less affected,’ says Kuylenstierna.

Uncertainty is often a problem in war. So in practical terms, launching a rapid attack might provide a better chance of winning than trying to gain more information about the battlefield situation, or ensuring that you have numerical strength over your opponent."

Terrorism, global

Mac Owens, having recently returned from Israel, reflects on the lack of difference between global terrorism and terrorism against Israel. The terrorist attacks in Spain killed almost 200 people, and injured over 600. This is the worst terrorist attack ever to have taken place in Europe.

Death of marriage in Scandinavia

The majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock, and in some districts of Norway marriage itself has almost entirely dissappeared. Stanley Kurtz (in the Boston Globe) considers the decline (if not yet complete dissappearance) of marriage in Scandinavian countries. While it seems to be true that "in a place where de facto gay marriage has gained almost complete acceptance, marriage itself has almost dissappeared," it doesn’t follow that gay marriage is the cause of it. The decline of the institution of marriage is older and deeper than that and has to do in part with secularization of the society and the growth of the welfare state

The Other Shoe

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that questions have been raised about Justice Ginsburg impartiality after she spoke at a NOW Legal Defense Fund lecture series that is named after her. She then voted in favor of the position that NOWLDEF advocated in a friend of the court brief this term. I had wondered when someone would raise something like this. Ginsburg’s career before becoming a judge was that as an public interest advocate. She was counsel for the ACLU for years, and was involved in many of the most important gender discrimination cases heard by the Supreme Court. My sense is that the L.A. Times missed the real story. It’s not just that she appeared before the group, but I would find it difficult to believe that she does not attend social functions with friends who work with the ACLU and NOW--groups which file briefs before the Supreme Court every term. How is this different than Scalia going on a trip with his friend the Vice President? (Personally, I really don’t have a problem with either.) While there has been a drumbeat for Scalia’s recusal in the Vice President’s case, prepare for the deafening silence to be applied to the new found Ginsburg ethical questions.

Iraqi Taxis

A large part of my daily life involves taking taxis around Baghdad. The drivers often speak little if any English, and I speak little if any Arabic. It is therefore an interesting dance to get where I am going. For example, a common destination is the Green Zone, but I have yet to find a driver who understands the words "Green Zone." After a series of trials and errors, I have settled on the phrase: "Hotel Al Rasheed." Most of the drivers understand this, and will take me to the gate closest to the Rasheed. (Because of the difficuly in getting through security, the taxis drop you off at the gate, and do not attempt to drive through.) On a couple occasions, however, they have taken me to Rasheed Street, which is not particularly close to the gate.

The cars vary tremedously, from old 1970s Toyotas and Peugeots to large American cars, to well maintained BMWs and Mercedes Benzs. The traditional taxis are painted orange and white, but many taxis are virtually indistinguishable from any other car, making it difficult to know who to hail. If you are leaving a gate or your hotel at a reasonable hour, there are often drivers who will call out to people like me who they recognize as foreigners.

The drive itself is generally something straight out of those films they used to scare you in drivers ed. You know, "Blood on the Highway," and "Red Asphault." Driving on the wrong side of the road at full speed toward an oncoming car is not unusual. I have not seen a taxi actually hit anyone or anything yet (which I consider nothing short of a miracle), but a soldier from Ohio I chatted with last week says he has had his foot run over, and has been hit by mirrors of passing cars on numerous occasions.

Last night, the poker game at the Green Zone cafe got out late (just to show that all war zones are like M*A*S*H). I got a ride to the gate from a gentleman who took my shirt in a particulary unfortunate hand of Acey-Ducey, and sought a taxi. It took a considerable amount of time for one to pass by, and the unmarked car ultimately arrived, I was not entirely sure it was a taxi. Nonetheless, when I asked if he was a taxi and gave the name of my hotel, he responded affirmatively, and we were off. As we crossed the bridge, he asked where I was from. I said, "United States." His eyes lit up, "American!" He then said Saddam’s name with something like a spitting gesture, and "America good." Doubtful as always about the sincerity of sentiments offered so freely to strangers, I tried to ask him a question after that, but it became apparent that he did not speak much English. But when we arrived at the hotel, I asked him how much for the trip. He quickly responded. "No, no. For you. No." Funny, after that, I no longer questioned his sentiment.

Where’s the Kroger?

When you walk the streets in Baghdad, there is something noticeably missing: supermarkets. There are small convenience stores which sell sodas and water, some fruit stands, and the occasional café, but no grocery stores sufficient to meet the food requirements of the local population. The reason, as explained to me by Col. Ferrari, a security planner for the military, is that Iraqis do not pay for food. Rather, they receive an allotment of food for the month. The U.S. had considered giving the people a fixed monthly stipend for food, but opted instead to do the actual food distribution, which I believe is similar to the system utilized by the former regime.

Of course, distribution issues exist not only with electricity and food, but also with fuel. Because of the refining capacity in Iraq was not sufficient to accommodate post-war consumption, the U.S. imported large amounts of fuel. They then all but gave the fuel away (I believe that once again Iraqis are not accustomed to paying for fuel), charging something like a penny per liter for fuel. It did not take long for the Iraqis to realize, however, that they could resell the fuel at huge profits in Jordan and Kuwait, where the fuel was purchased to begin with. So the fuel was being exported as soon as it was imported.

These are just a few of the issues facing the country in reconstruction. Reminiscent of the fall of the Soviet block, the people here were and largely still are dependent on the government for the basics of life. And of course, when the people are this dependent on the government, shifts to more capitalistic and democratic systems are, while not impossible, certainly more difficult.

Gray Davis’s Iraq?

One of the major infrastructure issues that the U.S. has struggled with in rebuilding Iraq is the power supply. From my hotel, you can hear the near constant hum of large generators, which assure that I have power throughout the day and night. But when I go just down the block to the internet café, hardly a visit goes by where the power does not drop out at some point. This system of blackouts is the norm for Iraqis.

To understand why, you must first know that Iraqis do not pay for power—not under Saddam’s regime, and not now. While there was a move to shift to a pay for service, when the first collectors were killed, the idea was discarded. In a system where there is not incentive not to use, it is not surprising that while the U.S. has made huge strides in improving electricity production, Iraqis have kept pace by increasing consumption in a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. Thus, without the California option of, to quote Dennis Miller, charging “mini-bar prices” for electricity, the only option is rationing electricity, with regulated blackout periods. This is how electricity was managed under the old regime and that is how it is managed now.

However there are also unregulated blackouts. The U.S. has been installing miles of new cables to renovate the electrical system. But the bandits who roam the desert have been pulling it down for the copper. This causes random outages in power, and leads some Iraqis to the conclusion that the electrical system is performing worse now than under Saddam. Aside from generally improving crime control, there does not seem an easy solution, because it would be virtually impossible to effectively monitor the miles of cable running across the deserts. This explains why keeping the lights on is a bigger challenge than merely assuring sufficient power generation.

The Spanish Bombings

By now, I presume that you have all seen the news about the bombings on the Spanish trains. I just wanted to offer a couple observations. First, soon after the bombings, CNN World interviewed one of Spain’s foreign ministers. She read the CNN interviewer the riot act for referring to the Basques as “separatists” rather than “terrorists.” The CNN anchor protested that they did so because separating is the Basque group’s goal. Spain’s foreign minister would have none of it, and insisted that this was terrorist organization. I generally thought that it was good to see CNN taken to task for trying to be too neutral on matters in which neutrality is not required. When a militant group brutally kills average citizens riding the train to work, we don’t need to focus on their objects—they are terrorists. Or are we too uncertain to place moral disapproval on anyone?

The second observation is a personal one. I was in Spain in 2002 on the anniversary of September 11. Sitting in a cafe, the waitress walked over to me and my friends and, upon recognizing us as Americans, offered her apologies: “This is a sad day for you.” The Spanish people were very sensible about the war on terror, and were among the first to fully support the United States. The reason, which was highlighted in the papers while we were there, is the Basque threat. They have lived under the specter of terror for years, and it means that they speak sensibly—and, as CNN learned this morning, candidly--about such things.

Where are the adults?

Joseph Epstein has to be one of the great essayists still writing, and this one is proof. He writes on today’s ideal that one should seem as young as possible. He reflects on the causes, and the history, and bemoans its presence and explains what it means. "The tone of national life is lowered, made less rich," for one thing. He considers the phenomenon in journalism, television, political correctness, self-esteem, and the general coarsening of life, and so on. But more deeply felt is the greatest of sins (according to George Santayana), the strangling of human nature, leads to his last paragraph, worth quoting (but do read the whole things as you are completing whether or not 14 year olds should have the right to vote, as some have proposed in California): "This is of course what is being done in cultivating perpetual adolescence, while putting off maturity for as long as possible. Maturity provides a more articulated sense of the ebb and flow, the ups and downs, of life, a more subtly reticulated graph of human possibility. Above all, it values a clear and fit conception of reality. Maturity is ever cognizant that the clock is running, life is finite, and among the greatest mistakes is to believe otherwise. Maturity doesn’t exclude playfulness or high humor. Far from it. The mature understand that the bitterest joke of all is that the quickest way to grow old lies in the hopeless attempt to stay forever young."

In favor of a Constitutional Amendment

Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese III, writes a solid op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal on the meaning of the same-sex marriage chaos brought about by the courts. He claims legal chaos--we are in danger of redefining marriage out of existence altogether--is afoot in the land regarding this fundamental question, and that the only thing that is likely to stop it is a uniform definition of marriage, and he claims that a Constitutional Amendment is necessary. He claims that this need not necessarily mean that states would not continue to have regulatory responsibility. He concludes: "The very consideration of an amendment that focuses on marriage would be an important vehicle for a nationwide debate about the nature, purpose and legal status of the institution of marriage. States are already strengthening their laws, passing state defense of marriage acts and considering state constitutional amendments -- all of which should be encouraged. A meaningful national conversation about an amendment to defend marriage will further this process and become the centerpiece of a larger and longer-term effort to promote and strengthen marriage and the family.

The defenders of marriage did not choose this debate or force this issue on the nation. Americans are a wonderfully tolerant and very reasonable people. But the issue having been joined, and the decision having been forced, we must now act on our basic principles and deepest convictions -- to preserve constitutional government and protect marriage."

Kerry, the Europeans, and the (few) voters

Tony Blankley wonders who John Kerry was talking about when he said last weekend: "I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ’You’ve got to win this, you’ve got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that.’" The truth is that he hasn’t met with any, ewhich then makes the Kerry remark especially stupid. Does he really think that (aside possibly from the Florida donors he was talking to) this is to his advantage in the presidential contest? Does he really think that Americans will be more likely to vote for him because Chirac and Schroeder would prefer to have him in office rather than Bush? What his comment reveals is that he--just like Reagan’s opponents in the 80’s--is as embarrased by the Bush presidency and regrets that Americans are seen as Cowboys. This is the heart of the reason he is a Massachusetts liberal and will not be elected. I venture to suggest that a very large minority of Democrats cannot have enthusiasm for such a candidate, with such inclinations. This point is related to this report in the Boston Globe about how the Demos have exagerated the turnout for the primaries. "Democratic turnout in the party’s presidential primaries through Super Tuesday was generally low -- in the aggregate, the third-lowest on record," Lewis Gans said, Terry McAuliffe’s hype to the contrary notwithstanding. I’m beginning to think thagt this whole primary run, Dean’s lead, and Kerry’s underserved vistory, is nothing but a media creation. I’m betting they can’t keep it up, no matter how many mistakes the Bush campaign makes.

Buckley on The Passion

William F. Buckley takes exception to those who simply praise Gibson’sThe Passion. Although he admits it shakes and moves the viewer, he thinks it is much too bloody, and unnecessarily so.

Running to a meeting

I’ve got a meeting to which I need to run. I’ve got a lot to update you on, but it will have to wait until this evening.

The Passion in Baghdad?

I previously mentioned the booming market for bootleg DVDs in Baghdad. Because they are bootleg, I have seen many titles for sale that were in the theatre when I left the states. While walking into my hotel a couple of nights ago, I saw for the first time a copy of Mel Gibson’s Passion for sale. Now I’ve seen everything.

The View from Iraq

Here is a link to some pictures from my travels so far. I hope to be adding some more soon.

What is marriage?

Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation has a very good, and comprehensive review of the gay marriage issue. (It is in the Chicago Tribune, and registration is required.) He rightly asserts that the effects of judicial decisions is to redefine marriage: "The claim is rather simple: Homosexuals, like heterosexuals, have the right to "seek autonomy" in their private relationships, including "personal decisions relating to marriage." That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court said last year in Lawrence vs. Texas. The choice of marriage partner is a private matter, stemming from personal autonomy, and thus a civil right.

By extension, says the Massachusetts Court, the traditional definition of marriage is arbitrary and irrational. Not only does it violate the dignity and equality of all individuals, but banning persons of the same sex from marrying is discriminatory and serves only to reinforce prejudice against homosexuals." But, Spalding maintains (and I agree), "Contrary to the opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, marriage in not an ’evolving paradigm.’ Nor is it an artificial, socially constructed concept." So, what to do? He reluctantly (because he is a supporter of limited constitutionalism) endorses a Constitutional Amendment. He says that prudence dictates it because "Society has never before been confronted with such a concerted legal and political effort to forcefully redefine and undermine one of its most basic institutions." Thomas Sowell also has something to say on this matter. He claims that marriage is not, as the pro gay marriage folks would have it, a matter of an individual’s right; it is a "social contract because the issues involved go beyond the particular individuals. Unions of a man and a woman produce the future generations on whom the fate of the whole society depends. Society has something to say about that." Hence the large bodies of law established over the centuries. Fool with all that, at your peril, he argues.

Bush’s poll numbers and the liberal media

Bush’s poll numbers are down, according to this Washington Post-ABC News poll. You can look at the details yourself, but I just want to point to two things. First, such poll numbers some eight months before the election are not that important. Indeed, it is arguably the case that given the two month-plus hammering Bush has taken from the Demos, these numbers are not too bad. Also, if you are going to be down, now is a good time, not September. Two, these numbers also reflect the pounding that the administration has been taking from the press. With my trusty XM radio I get a chance to listen a lot to CNN and I can tell you that--in my humble opinion--CNN’s attacks on the President are relentless and naked. This compares favorably to the 1980’s when, in the midst of a great economic boom, Dan Rather of CBS would--every single night of the week--talk about how bad things are, etc. It was amazing, and amazingly stupid, and, in the end, the American people weren’t fooled. It is the same now. The economy is on a roll, yet not enough jobs are being created, says CNN; sure the Iraqis just signed an amazing constitution, but bombs are going off, they’re really looking for security, not freedom, says our Socratic CNN reporter; Kerry is campiagning in Texas, Bush is meeting with the president of Mexico, so, of course, CNN says that Bush is also campaigning in Texas. It goes on. I am betting that the American people are much smarter than these fools think. So don’t panic.

Why Demos lost the South

James Taranto reflects briefly on why the Democrats have lost the South. The short answer: it is the most conservative part of the country (and that has nothing to do with race). Although thoughtful, this isn’t the last statement on the issue, but it is worth a look since it will be brought up again and again.


Iraqi constitution, commentary

Here is a paragraph by paragraph commentary on the interim Iraqi Constitution by Nathan Brown of George Washington University. I have not studied it, but it looks serious enough to warrant a look.

Petraeus and the 101st Airborne in Baghdad

Here is Rick Atkinson’s third, and last, article on Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, and the move into Baghdad.

Life in the Green Zone

Having offered the story of a shuttle driver, I thought I would give you a little more information about what life is like for workers in the Green Zone. Everyone works seven days a week, and the average work day tends to run from around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning until about 7:30 in the evening, at least for most of the people with whom I have spoken. When a civilian employee first arrives, they are housed in what is affectionately called "the homeless shelter"--a room with around 200 cots. (It is also called "Jurassic Park," based on the noises that come from the dark corners of the room.) They will stay here for a number of weeks (the number seems to be getting longer), until a trailer is prepared for them. The trailers are classic college dorm living. You and your roommate (yep, roommate--doesn’t matter that you’re 50) share a small room, which itself shares a bathroom with another unit. At the entrance to this housing development is a lovely sign calling the place "River Villas."

Meals are offered at a common dining area. When you get tired of the standard rotation of food, there is the Green Zone cafe, where you speak to Achmed if you would like a warm beer. There are also two Chinese restaurants. I have eaten at one of these, and I must admit that the food was better than the Chinese food I got in Medina, Ohio! Finally, there is a sports bar in the Al Rasheed, which has a big screen for catching the games (although one of the screens invariably has soccer on), and which offers adult beverage.

Given the amount these people work it is not surprising that a worker should say to me following the Al Rasheed rocket attack of a couple of nights ago, "[A]t times you forget where you are . . . until something like this [the bombing] happens."

ACLU and another Ten Commandments issue

Powerline notes another ACLU lawsuit, this time against Duluth, MN, where a monument to the Ten Commandments stands outside city hall. Take a look and follow the two links.

Kerry and Iraq

Time explains how Kerry would undo the "mistakes" of Iraq. And then runs this interview with him on the same theme. It is right to characterize Kerry as "uncomfortable" (as Time does) with these issues. He will not be persuasive on these positions on Iraq (I emphasize the plural). He doesn’t like unfair questions. Welcome to the Major Leagues, Senator Kerry.

Iraqi interim constitution (full text)

Here is the full text of the Iraqi interim constitution signed today. I finally found it.

Alt and the driver

Robert Alt in Baghdad, reflecting on the rocket attacks on the al Rasheed Hotel and on the patriotism of his shuttle driver, Stephen C. Turner, Sr.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for February

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Shanna Flaschka

Rich Policz

Pedro Aqui

Andrew Boyle

David Hausser

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter March’s drawing.

CNN and the Constitution Iraqi Constitution Signing

To second Schramm’s point, here in Baghdad, CNN was playing a re-run of Larry King’s December interview with Martha Stewart up until the moment that the ceremony began. They did cover it live, but you would think that a little "pre-game" commentary would have been more useful/important than finding out about how Martha made prison shivs out of old doilies and toothpicks.

More on the Al Rasheed Bombing

Here is the Fox News report on the Al Rasheed bombing of last night.

Nine Days

That’s how long it has been since I’ve had a cup of coffee. Be very, very afraid.

Samir’s Concern

Samir, my driver from Amman to Baghdad, did not speak much if any English. We had originally been scheduled to depart from Amman at 2:00 am on last Wednesday morning, but were not able to leave until about 4:30 because of yet another delay in getting my luggage. I had explained to Samir’s boss, who spoke a little English, the reason for the delay. I am not sure how well his boss conveyed this information to Samir, because at every stop where he found someone who spoke English, Samir had a translator tell me that next time I make this trip(!), we should start earlier. He did not say why, and I thought that it was because of the afternoon traffic in Baghdad, which seemed to raise poor Samir’s blood pressure.

Throughout the trip, Samir would point off to a direction, sometimes making a motion like a missile, and say "Ali Baba"—which is local slang for bad guys. I have just heard that the Ali Baba are much more prominent on the roads after 2 pm. If we had left at 2 am as originally planned, then we would have been in Baghdad before the ever important 2 pm, but because we left at 4:30 am, we did not arrive until 4:00 pm. Samir was therefore justified in his concern.

On the Ground

The blog about the missile attack last evening was probably one of the first reports from the scene. I actually wrote the brief blurb and sent it via my satellite phone from the edge of the bunker. A few things struck me about reporting such things from the ground. First, you have to remember to count the missiles. It may sound silly, but most people want to know how many were fired, and in the heat of the moment, counting is not exactly what is on your mind. The second thing you realize is that if all you see and hear are explosions, it is very difficult to tell what type of munition caused the explosion. Thus, last evening, when the first explosion occurred, a number of people thought it was a car bomb. When the next missile hit, however, it was apparent from the numbers that these were mortars or missiles, and not car bombs. But how to tell the difference between mortars and missiles? I am told that some of the folks who have been here for a while can tell the difference by sound. I could not, and therefore I tried to be non-committal on the type of device.

AU Grad in Afghanistan

This is Sgt. Jim Brereton of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry,
10th Mountain Division somewhere in Afghanistan. He is a friend of mine and was a student at Ashland, and good enough for government work, as they say, but what always struck me about Jim was his character and the fact that he was a lover of his country and not only because it was his, but because it was good. This is not a man who needs to prove either his manhood or his patriotism—he has been in Injun Country before—but here he is, again, chasing down bad guys. As Lincoln said, "God bless the soldiers."

Iraqi interim constitution signed

The interim Iraqi constitution was signed this morning, without changes. This is a significant day in the history of Iraq, and, likely, the region. It was mentioned on CNN this morning and the report was the most banal and prosaic one I ever heard (even from CNN): The reporter did not see the massive fact, did not see the meaning of the event. The Iraqi people have an interim constitution! They are on their way toward establishing a government that is limited in some fundamental ways, an unheard of thing in that part of the world. In drafting and signing it, they have already come a long way toward what we loosely call democracy. I wish them well.

Atkinson on Petraeus II

Here is Rick Atkinson’s second article on Maj. Gen. David Petraeus going into Iraq last March.  

Kerry as "pandescender"

Andrew Sullivan (writing for the London Times) has some thoughts on condencending Kerry’s inclination to also pander to voters, an unusual combination. "Here’s a word that deserves to be entered into the political lexicon. The blogger Mickey Kaus coined it. It’s "pandescender." It stems from John Kerry’s remarkable political ability to both pander and condescend to voters at the same time. In a word, it’s what’s obviously wrong with the Kerry candidacy for president of the United States, and, even in the early post-primary glow of his anointing, is troubling even die-hard Democrats as they confront president Bush in the fall."

Missile Strike Aimed at Al Rasheed

Al Rasheed Hotel, Baghdad—Approximately eight mortar or rocket rounds were fired into the Green Zone moments ago. The target appeared to be the Al Rasheed Hotel. None of the rounds hit the target, however onlookers at the scene referred to this as the most intense round of attacks in recent memory.

I was standing at a shuttle stop just outside the Al Rasheed when the rounds hit. The first sounded as if it were at a reasonable distance. But the second was close enough to loosen the fillings in your teeth. The flashes from the detonations were clearly visible from my vantage point, about 100 meters from the hotel. The passengers on the shuttle quickly took refuge in the bomb shelter. A few moments later, the helicopters were in the air.

Many onlookers were surprised that we did not launch an instant rocket response. Generally, attackers cannot get off more than two rounds before we launch a response. There are two theories as to how they got off so many rounds. First, the attack may have involved multiple attackers coordinated from multiple locations. This level of coordination may be an indication of AQ’s involvement. Second, the missiles may have been launched from a highly populated area.

Atkinson on Gen. Petraeus

Rick Atkinson writes a story of the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus (a doctor, fixing him up after he was shot in the chest, said "That’s the toughest guy I ever had my hands on."), and the drive toward Baghdad. Two other articles to follow.

Teenage pregnancy down

Apparently, an "extraordinary demographic shift" is taking place: teenage pregnancy is down: "The teenage pregnancy rate in America, which rose sharply between 1986 and 1991 to huge public alarm, has fallen steadily for a decade with little fanfare, to below any level previously recorded in the United States. And though pregnancy prevention efforts have long focused almost exclusively on girls, it is boys whose behavior shows the most startling changes." Apparently, it’s not just more sex with more contraception. The change seems deeper. Worth pondering. "Nowhere are the changes more surprising than in poor minority neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx, which a decade ago were seen as centers of a national epidemic of teenage pregnancy."

Roy Moore interview

Former Alabama Judge Roy Moore is interviewed in The New York Times. Short and interesting. Note that he opposes a Constitutional Amendment on marriage.

Kerry and his flip-flops

David Brooks has some thoughts on bluebloods in Americans politics, say Bush and Kerry, with the latter taking a bigger hit. Thoughtful and amusing. How can this guy run as a friend of the lumpenproletariat? "Kerry’s second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is worth over $500 million. Between them they have a $4 million mansion in Georgetown, a $6 million townhouse on Louisburg Square in Boston, a $6 million summer home on Nantucket, a $3 million estate in Pittsburgh and a $5 million ski lodge in Idaho, which is a 15th-century English barn that was disassembled and imported to the U.S."

David M. Halbfinger writes a story for the New York Times no less on Kerry’s flip-flops. These flip-flops are real all right--Halbfinger says that this trait "seems to have been ingrained in Mr. Kerry’s personality"--and shouldn’t shock us that the GOP will hammer him with it. Frankly, it will be one of the most interesting to watch to see how Kerry deals with it during the campaign. "Throughout his campaign, Mr. Kerry has shown a knack for espousing both sides of divisive issues." There is a long list. But that doesn’t stop some of his supporters from making a virtue out of it: "Some aides and close associates say Mr. Kerry’s fluidity is the mark of an intellectual who grasps the subtleties of issues, inhabits their nuances and revels in the deliberative process. They call him a free-thinker who defies stereotypes. Others close to him say his often-public agonizing — over whether to opt out of the system of spending caps and matching money in this campaign, or whether to run against Al Gore in 2000 — can be exasperating." I liked this one best from a former aide who is maintaining that Kerry’s "complexity" as right for the times: "’Between the moral clarity, black and white, good and evil of George Bush that distorts and gets reality wrong,’ he said, ’and someone who quotes a French philosopher, André Gide, saying, `Don’t try to understand me too much,’ I’d let Americans decide which in the end is closer to what they need in a president, in a complex world where if you get it really wrong there are enormous consequences.’"

France and Germany

Colin May has some reflections on Germany and France (and, therefore, Europe). He thinks that the decline of Schroeder and the Social Democrats is imminent, and this really ends up isolating France, since Chirac needed the Germans in his anti-American gambit. The Germans are kissing up to the Americans again.

Tony Blair on terror/Iraq war

Tony Blair gave an excellent speech on the terror war and Iraq on March 5th.   

Suspicous Package

Baghdad, Iraq--I got a slow start today, in part because they found a suspicious package near the checkpoint to the hotel, and therefore locked the complex down. Eventually, the checkpoint reopened without comment or fanfare. People seemed relatively calm throughout, although the soldiers did have to heard curious children back from the scene. I never did receive confirmation as to whether it was real or a false alarm.

Interim Constitution Day?

Baghdad, Iraq—The Interim Iraqi Constitution was supposed to be signed today. But as CNN reports here, there have been delays.

The word on the ground is that the Shiites have put the brakes on the signing ceremony. A rumor I heard (and have not been able to confirm) is that Sistani, who is the cleric for the Shiites, has issued a fatwa against any Shiite who signs the document. The key issues appears to be the treatment of women, and, of perhaps greatest concern, the fact that the document states that Islam is "a" source of the law, rather than "the" source of the law. As a lawyer, I mist up over arguments which involve the meaning of the article "a." But of course, the difference is huge. If Islam is the source, then the state is essentially subject to the rule of the clerics, who would be the ultimate interpreters of the law. It is for this reason that I understand Paul Bremer to have said that he would not sign any document which made Islam the sole source of law.

The only other observation I can give you is that security was very tight in the Green Zone today. There were a considerable number of helicopters taking off and landing at any given time. Additional checkpoints were set up, and badge checks were frequent. This, of course, made it virtually impossible for me to complete my task of actually getting a badge of my own. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Demo echo chamber

First-term Rep. Rodney Alexander, D-

Louisiana may become a Republican. He thinks that Kerry is much too liberal to be the Democratic candidate. In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, and House and Senate Democrats, are excited by Kerry and are coordinating their attempt to retake the House and the Senate with the Kerry campaign. Pelosi said that they will create an "echo chamber on the issues of jobs, health care, education, the environment and national security." We hear you Nancy, and we think it is a great idea. Please coordinate to your heart’s content. I’ll bet anyone any amount that the Demos will not take back the Senate or the House. That would have been true no matter who the presidential candidate turned out to be, and that remains true with Kerry leading the ticket, as we used to say.

Russia and Saddam

Russia’s opposition to the toppling of Saddam at least in part is explained by this revelation from The New York Times: "A group of Russian engineers secretly aided Saddam Hussein’s long-range ballistic missile program, providing technical assistance for prohibited Iraqi weapons projects even in the years just before the war that ousted him from power, American government officials say." Did the Russian government know this? Of course. Gee, maybe this explains (and I bet there is even more) why these guys weren’t on our side.

Bush ads

The Bush ads are talked about everywhere. This Canadian paper’s headline, "9/11 ads have Bush in hot water," just about sums up the organized media frenzy on this for the last 24 hours. I watched TV news last night and this morning, and this was the top of the news in every broadcast. And, of course, this is silly (this is not news) and it was terrible slanted; the firefighters’ Union chief was interviewewed by everyone (but only FOX told you that the Union has been supporting Kerry since September), offended relatives of 9/11 victims, and so on. Three points on this. One, you can tell that all this is very organized. Kerry’s people (broadly understood) are prepared and well prepared and this attack mode will continue until the end. They are trying to pre-empt Bush on everything, most especially all those things that are clearly gto his advantage (e.g., 9/11, Kerry’s anti-war record, etc) and, I repeat, they are perfectly organized. Very impressive effort on their part. Second, trying to pull 9/1--and Bush’s wonderful reaction to it--out of the mix will not work. The American people understand that this is what Bush is about, and they trust him. The election has to do with war on terrorism, caused by the 9/11 attacks. And, they see through this kind of hard-edged politics as practiced by the Demos. Third, note that all this is going on without John Kerry speaking on the issue; others are speaking for him. This also will continue. The advantage (he thinks) is obvious: let his legion of supporters (including the media) run with the hard edge of the attack (this gets publicity for a few days) and then by the time he must address the issue, he can be very gentle and back off from the harshness of the others; he will then seem moderate and considerate by slightly dissasociating himself from the heated rhetoric. In the end, it will not work, or, will only have limited and temporary effect. How do I know this? I trust the sense American people more than I do the plans and schemes of media gurus and cmpaign consultants.

Guelzo on the Emancipation Proclamation

You can listen to Allen C. Guelzo’s Ashbrook Colloquium from last Friday (an hour and a half) on the Emancipation Proclamation (it was terrific, by the way!) and you can read Mac Owens’ book review from the current (paper) National Review.

It’s Not Easy Getting to Green

Baghdad, Iraq—On Thursday, I decided that I would make the journey from my hotel to the U.S. controlled Green Zone, which is just across the Tigris River. This being my first full day in Baghdad, I began by getting my bearings. I knew from the map that there was a bridge to the Northwest of my hotel, and I began making my way there on foot.

The area immediately outside the Green Zone is crowded and chaotic. Shops are squeezed together tightly, and trash and debris litter the streets. Mix in random street crime, and Baghdad outside the Green Zone is basically New York City before Giuliani.

The streets near the hotels smell of oil and diesel used to fuel generators (while it appears that electricity is constant now, these generators were presumably used in the past as backup for the hotels, and are now used to provide electricity to outdoor checkpoints). Traffic is heavy. Cars do not readily stop for pedestrians (indeed, in taxis I have had the distinct impression that the drivers accelerate in the presence of pedestrians), and there are no pedestrian crosswalks.

I was a few blocks north when I hit a checkpoint. By now, I had grown accustomed to being stopped by men with automatic weapons, so I dutifully opened my bag and submitted to a pat down. The security guard asked me for a badge. When I could not produce one, he fetched what appeared to be an American name Tom to translate. Tom explained that this was a checkpoint to the hotel, and because it had been hit recently, they were not allowing any past who was not a guest. I explained that I was simply walking toward the bridge to cross over to the Green Zone. It was clear that this was not a good idea. The area just north of the hotel was a rough neighborhood, Tom explained. Better to get a cab and enter from the south. With the assistance of one of the officers, I hailed a taxi and was off to the July 14th bridge. The cab let me out about 50 meters from the Bridge, and traveled on. When I got to the bridge, the American officers standing behind the official decoration of Baghdad—razor wire—informed me that the bridge was closed. The next closest bridge was the Jadriya Bridge, a considerable distance away. I hailed another taxi, and managed despite the language barrier to get a ride to the Green Zone.

The difference between the Green Zone and the area outside the Green Zone is striking. The Green Zone housed numerous key facilities, so the buildings actually show more evidence of U.S. bombings than the area outside the Green Zone. That said, the streets appear wider, and the traffic is almost non-existent, differences which hits you immediately after the rush on the other side of the bridge. The other thing that hits you is the response of the children. It is hard to find a soldier walking down the street who is not accompanied by an Iraqi child. The children take to the soldiers easily, and the soldiers, bristling with armaments, respond graciously. Some of the children appear just to be tagging along, while others beg for candy or gum from the soldiers, who seem happy to oblige. The children also are everywhere selling things, most prominently DVDs—many of which are recent U.S. titles which have undoubtedly been bootlegged. It is clear that the proliferation of computers with DVD players and mini-DVD players has made movie sales big business for the young entrepreneurs.

While the streets are easier to traverse, as one might expect there are not many signs, such as the one I was interested in: “CPA HQ here.” That was where I was headed, in order to register as an American in Iraq and to get a CPA ID. I knew the CPA HQ was located at the palace, but having entered at a different bridge than I had intended, that did me little good. After asking a few people, I made my way to the security checkpoint at the palace. The army officer asked for my CPA ID. I explained that I was attempting to enter the CPA HQ to get an ID. “I can’t let you by without CPA ID,” he replied. To which I asked the pregnant question: “Is there any place outside the CPA HQ where I can get an ID?” Of course, the answer was, “No.” I then offered the most ironic look a man can give someone holding an automatic weapon. Understanding the look, he offered that I could get in with the authorization of Force Protection, or with an escort who had an ID. Unfortunately, my satellite phone proved to be out of power, and it was too late in the day to make either of these options viable. The ID would have to wait until Friday.

After dinner at the famous Green Zone café, I made my way back to the bridge. When I was just a few blocks away, I heard a loud boom coming from outside the Green Zone, followed by the wail of emergency sirens. When I arrived back at my hotel, the local news reported that there had been a rocket attack on three Iraqis traveling in a passenger car. The pictures betrayed that there would be no survivors.

Cell phones and terrorists

This is a very interesting story on how we (with a number of other nations, apprently starting with the Swiss) were able to trace

cell phone calls of terrorists, leading to a disruption of three attacks, and the capure of dozens. I thought they were smarter than to buy chips with pre-paid minutes on them!

Super Tuesday and beyond

Here is Andrew Busch’s take on the Kerry victory on Super Tuesday and how the nominating system is flawed. Everything about the election is hard to predict, but it is easy to predict that Americans will be sick to death of presidential politics by November. John Podhoretz thinks that it is time for President Bush to remind people of his accomplishments and not just through television ads. He should make the case for his presidency by giving some major speeches. Michael Grunwald thinks that if you disagree with something that John Kerry has said, just wait a week and you will find that he will have changed his mind. This guy’s views just keep "evolving"! Grunwald provides a nice "guide" to this evolution in the form of a chart. Very useful. Fred Barnes thinks that Kerry’s easy victory may be a curse in disguise because he hasn’t been seriously challenged by the other candidates, nor vetted by the press. The press will now have a go at him, as will Bush.

Kerry’s Highwater Mark

Peggy Noonan,

Fred Barnes, and

Dick Morris argue that Tuesday night was the highwater mark of the Kerry campaign. Kerry has become the Democratic nominee by default, he faced no serious attacks from a remarkably weak group of opponents in the primary. Noonan admits that Kerry is not insane which is what, she suggests, he had over Howard Dean and Wes Clark. Fred Barnes argues that Kerry would have been better off if he had faced and defeated a serious challenge in the primary process and become better known to the American people.

Now the battle begins, and close scrutiny of this Senator from Massachusetts who has the most liberal voting record among all U.S. Senators, according to ’National Journal’, and the Bush campaign will help define Kerry to the American people.

It will be a close race but I think Bush will win. There will be big debates about the War on Terror, about the economy, about same sex marriage, etc. but let’s face it, the biggest problem facing most Americans today is: obesity. Sounds like a good year for incumbents to me.

As Dick Morris wrote: "THE Democratic Party slit its throat last night, abandoning 12 years of pragmatism to indulge in a nominee who’s very unlikely to win.
While John Edwards closed the gap that separated him from John Kerry, the front-loading of the nominating process proved too drastic to permit second thoughts. Once the Democratic voters had discarded Howard Dean and embraced Kerry, they did not have the dexterity to rethink Kerry in the light of the Edwards alternative.

Too bad for the Democrats: Edwards would have been a much stronger candidate in November than Kerry will be. He is not the extreme liberal that the front-runner is and has not had 20 years in the Senate to demonstrate how out of touch he is with American values and ideas."

Leon Kass Responds

Leon Kass , Chairman of the President’s Council on Bio-Ethics, responds to criticisms of recent appointments made by the President to the Council. He defends the appointments of Ashbrook friends, Diana Schaub and Peter Lawler.

Bremer and Borders

You heard it here first. Paul Bremer announced yesterday that the U.S. would be increasing security at Iraq’s borders following a string of terrorist attacks which seem to have been caused by individuals coming in from outside Iraq. Prior to his issuing that statement (or, at least, prior to my hearing the statement), I had blogged about the lackluster security at the border during my crossing.

Hot Day

It is supposed to be an unseasonably hot 95 degrees F here today in Baghdad. Boy am I glad that it is still winter.

First Shots

Sitting in the courtyard of my hotel last evening, I heard what was for me the first volley of gunfire since I arrived in Iraq. It was distant, but not too distant. It brought back warm memories of my junior high days, when I went to school a block from Compton, California during the gang wars of the 80s.

The Road to Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq—I have arrived in Baghdad, safe and sound. The journey appeared to have been delayed a day when British Airways again could not find my bags last night. Thank goodness for the Internet, on which I was able to find that the bag had arrived last night. I received the bag containing the ever vital body armor at about 3:30 a.m., and I was on the road by 4:30 a.m.

The first challenge was that my driver spoke very little English. This would be a long and quiet ride. Of course, any drive in Jordan and Iraq is interesting. The drivers have a rather nuanced understanding of lanes and passing, even if they have a less than nuanced understanding of theirs horns.. On the drive to my hotel from the airport in Amman on Sunday, for example, the taxi driver spent much of the time driving the dead center between the lanes, and would not shift over completely even if there was a car in one of those lanes, preferring instead just to lean a bit less in the lane with the car. Put this kind of driving on a long section of two lane road with hills and blind switchbacks, where cars weave between tanker trucks, and you begin to understand why some have called the Jordanian side of the road to Baghdad one of the most dangerous roads on earth—even without terrorist assistance. While there are speed limits, they are largely ignored once you get out far enough, so we spent much of the journey with the speedometer buried at its maximum of 100 miles per hour. Add to that a broken air conditioner, March temperatures that are already warm, and the added heat from several pounds of bullet-proof vest, and you have yourself a pleasant ride.

After driving for a few hours, we stopped at a roadside café. The place was relatively sparse, with plastic tablecloths and a kitchen upstairs from the eating area. But what caught my eye was the wall. Pastered over a considerable space were business cards and signs from reporters. There was the Washington Times, Fox News, NPR, CBS, Reuters, and CNN, just to name a few. While the café did not look like much, it was clear that this was a normal stop for the drivers.

For several hours, there was little to see, with barren desert reaching toward the horizon in every direction. There was a camel crossing sign, but like deer crossing signs in the U.S., the camels know better than to cross there.

We reached the border about four hours into the journey. We first needed to clear the Jordanian side. The station was like going to the District of Columbia DMV (the crown jewel of all DMVs) without understanding the language. Picture if you will the huddled massed packed into a room, the immigration officer shouting over a microphone in such a way that it was almost impossible to understand him even if he were speaking your language, and a pattern of pushing and jockeying for position which stood as a vivid reaffirmation of the non-western world’s general rejection of lines and cues.

It was only at this time that I learned, through his passport, that my driver was Iraqi. By contrast to the mobs in the Jordan offices, the entry into Iraq was quick—too quick if you ask me. The man behind the desk stamped the passports without question. While there was a cursory inspection of the vehicle on the Jordanian side, there was no inspection on the Iraq side. The lax security at the border should give pause to anyone who had concerns about the possibility of weapons—including WMDs—floating through Iraqi borders.

The drive was much the same until we reached the outskirts of Ramadi, the first major city along the route. I fnoticed a section of charred pavement. Then I saw the remnants of what once was a car, strewn about 20 feet off the opposite shoulder of the divided highway. My driver pointed to the car. “American,” he said gravely. He made a motion like someone manning a gun turret before saying “Ramadi . . . Saddam.” Enough said. A little further and we came across what appeared to be an abandoned, entrenched position, with a hole for a gunman and dirt piled up on all sides for protection.

It was when we hit Ramadi proper that we hit our first set of U.S. troops, which were present in varying degrees for the rest of the trip. When my driver saw the first Humvees, he smiled and exclaimed enthusiastically, “Americans . . . good, good.” Of course, it is difficult to know for certain whether he was saying this because he believed it, or to curry favor with his paying passenger. The language barrier prohibited me from inquiring too much further.

The next major city was Al Fallujah, and again we were greeted with a piece of charred pavement, this time accompanied by an obliterated guardrail. The driver makes the motion of a bomb going off. Given the location of the explosion, there is little no need for further explanation: this was an IED—the lingo the military uses to describe improvised explosive devices. IEDs are generally radio controlled, and are disguised in dead animals, behind rocks, or in cans in order to evade detection. They have wreaked havoc over the country, and are responsible for some of the recent, coordinated attacks thought to have been orchestrated or assisted by AQ.

It was about 4 pm when we arrived in Baghdad, which put us in what looked like rush hour traffic. The driver had no idea how to get to the entrance of the cluster of hotels which provide American security, and, upon finding them, he was especially nonplused to find that he could not drive up, but had to park some distance away. (While I did not appreciate the inconvenience, I found the nice man with the machine gun’s not letting us go further with an uninspected Suburban comforting.) Both of the hotels in this area are showing the signs of conflict: both were previously subjected to bombings. In no small part because of these attacks, guests must pass multiple checkpoints to enter the hotel, and in the final stop you are given a pat down in front of a M-1 tank, which minds the street and assures that you mind your manners.

Upon getting to my room, I collapsed. I will give you an update on the city soon.

Bill Clinton for VP?

Stephen Gillers has a modest proposal for John Kerry: make Bill Clinton your running mate. Maybe that will help Kerry get (keep?) his momentum (or mentum, which is momentum with half the enthusiasm missing") which Walter Shapiro asserts he will have a tough time doing.

Milton Friedman meets Adnan

Amman, Jordan--Today I purchased my ticket from Amman to Baghdad. The Jordanian JETT bus line previously made regular trips, however I was informed that they stopped service sometime after the war. Small private enterprise has jumped in to pick up the void, offering what the locals call GMC service--although they nearly always pronounce it GMZeee service. Essentially, it is a GMC shuttle to take you and at most a few other passengers to Baghdad.

These local drivers already understand a fair amount about capitalism. For starters, the rate that they are charging contains (although they do not say this) a risk premium--that is, they charge more because the endeavor is risky for them, both in terms of their own safety and in terms of their property.

The travel agency I went through was a small shop across from the sprawling King Abdullah Mosque. My taxi driver, Adnan, served as my interpreter for the transaction. Once I purchased the ticket, the travel agent ordered one of his assistants to fetch tea for me and the driver, as well as a small cup of extra virgin olive oil, which we were to taste on our fingers with the tea. It was at this time that I learned that the man with the GMC line was not the only one who understood a thing or two about capitalism.

Upon tasting the olive oil, Adnan explained that prior to purchasing his taxi, he used to own a restaurant. Among his specialties was a dish served with a generous amount of high quality olive oil. But then, Adnan explained, the Ministry of Price Controls issued a decree stating that you could not sell olive oil at such and such an amount for more than 200 fils (or about 28 cents in U.S. dollars). The problem was that it cost Adnan more than 200 fils to purchase the quality olive oil for the dish! Some of the other restaurants figured out a way around it: use cheaper oils, and add material to color it so that it looks like quality olive oil. There were other price controls that hit Adnan hard, including a price on lamb. He was thus faced with a choice: reduce quality to continue making some profit, or go out of business. Already tired of the long hours of managing a restaurant, Adnan headed for the door. I delivered a few words to the effect that this is but one reason that price controls don’t work. I was preaching to the choir.

There you have it. A little lesson on the problems of price controls, offered by a taxi driver over tea in Amman.

Lucas Morel
finds that while "The Passion of the Christ" could be considered an assault on the senses, "its spiritual message still comes through." He thinks it is compelling and profound, and succeeds in its attempt to get viewers "to be introspective and to seek further."   

Wet Mars

"Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that the Red Planet was once wet enough for life to exist there, but the robot has not found any direct traces of living organisms, NASA scientists announced Tuesday.
A study of a fine, layered rock by the rover detected evidence of sulfates and other minerals that form in the presence of water. The finding suggests that if there had been life present when the rocks were formed, then the living conditions could have permitted an organism to flourish. The study, however, has found no direct evidence of life."

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ashura . . .

The Shiites are celebrating Ashura, a holiday which falls on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram. Like any holiday in Iraq, it has been marked by coordinated violence. Here is a map highlighting the recent violence, courtesy of Fox News.

Marriage and diversity

Julie Ann Ponzi has a sound opinion on the homosexual marriage question. She argues that "diversity" in nature is a good thing, and that should affect how we view what marriage really is: "The coming together of man and woman in marriage is one of the most beautiful and highest achievements of human nature. In this union between a man and a woman we create something greater than the sum of its parts. A husband and wife are not just roommates. They are a microcosm of what society can be. We can learn to live with diversity. We can overcome even the most incredible differences. We can make something even more beautiful together than we can on our own or with those who are just like us. Marriage is the ultimate test laboratory for tolerance. But it is also a helluva lot of work. And maybe that’s the rub.

It is ironic, is it not, that liberals who clamor for diversity in every other aspect of human relations, now argue for homogeneity in marriage. For, ultimately, that’s what homosexual marriage is. It is a redundancy."

Spencer Warren on The Passion

I blogged yesterday (below) about an essay by Spencer Warren about the classical understanding of how to portray violence in visual art. Mel Gibson’s The Passion prompted me to remember Warren’s essay. Well, it turns out that yesterday the Claremont Institute posted this review by Spencer Warren of The Passion. The bottom line--Warren thinks highly of the movie, but also thinks Gibson overdid it with the violence.

Bush economy better than Clinton?

J. Edward Carter, chairman of something called Economists for Bush, has an interesting article comparing the first three years of the Clinton economy with the Bush economy in the same period (up to nine months before the election). Very revealing, not the sort of things you see on CNN. Nice chart.

Operation American Freedom

Amman, Jordan -- As Schramm has reported, I am currently on my way to Iraq to report on the progress of Iraqi regime change for the next few months. Before I provide an update of my trip to date, it is worth saying a few words about how this project came about, and why we are doing this.

By my recollection, the idea for this project was hatched about six months ago. Schramm decided that he should send the most horrible weapon ever devised by man to Iraq--a lawyer. I was struck at that time--and I still am today--by the disconnect between what was being reported on the news, and what people (mostly those unburdened by press credentials) returning from Iraq were saying. The former gave us only body counts, while the latter provided numerous examples of the slow success of regime change, both from the point of view of the soldiers and the Iraqis. While there is a certain bias to news coverage in favor of "bad" news, the drumbeat here was and is particularly pernicious . . . and particularly political. This skew is not particularly surprising coming from outlets such as CNN, which admitted to knowing yet failing to report about Saddam’s recent (pre-war) atrocities, lest it lose access to the country whose last confrontation with the U.S. put the network on the map.

This media disconnect is particularly disconcerting given the importance of the U.S. effort in Iraq. The effort to oust the Saddam and replace him with a democratic regime is an historic undertaking. The removal of a bloody tyrant and the attempt to bring freedom to an oppressed people is one worthy of the American people. But the task is one filled with both promise and peril. If regime change is done well, then Iraq will serve as an example in the Middle East and will likely contribute to the stability of the region. However, if regime change is done poorly, then Iraq will also serve as an example both of democracy in the Middle East and of U.S. foreign policy, and its failure would likely further destabilize the region.

Because so much is at stake, the skewed media perspective which provides the lone window into the region for most Americans is all the more dangerous. Dangerous because it misinforms Americans as to what our role is in Iraq, what kind of progress is being made, and therefore what sort of action we should take next.

This project is designed to provide some counterbalance. It will be different from the standard reporting in several ways. First, unlike the majority of publications, we will not just be reporting from within the Green Zone in Baghdad. While I certainly will spend time there, Iraq is bigger than Baghdad, and I intend to explore it. The plan therefore is to provide reports, for example, on the Shiites from Basra and on the Sunnis and Kurds from Mosul. Second, the project will include both embedded and non-embedded reporting. From my contacts with the DOD, the vast majority of reporters do one or the other. Third, it will be for a period of months, not weeks. Most embedded reporters are in country for a period of only 4-6 weeks. Fourth, the product of the reporting will be varied, including blogs with pictures, as well as standard newspaper and magazine reporting. And finally, the perspective will be different--that is, it will be written from a perspective that the regime change, if done right, is a worthy goal. This is not a cheerleading expedition, however. We will look to expose failings as well as successes. But unlike the vast majority of the media, we do not look to cheapen the sacrifice of the fallen by reporting only upon their death, while ignoring what it is that they died for.

Aristide abducted?

Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now claiming that he was taken forcibly to the Central African Republic by the U.S. from Haiti. Rep. Maxine Waters seems to agree. Aristide said that "White American, white military" had forced him to, leave. Jesse Jackson is calling for an investigation. Colin Powell is not amused at all of this.

George Soros smashed

Daniel I. Davidson smashes George Soros’ book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy" in Sunday’s WaPo. Soros may be rich and lucky (and Hungarian born), but he is an idiot. And I’m glad that even ordinary folks see it. Note these few amazing lines from the review that reveal how unlearned and silly Soros is, Davidson writes: "It is startling to read a man who considers himself something of a philosopher acknowledging that he was ’not even aware of natural rights until I started studying’ the neoconservative ’view of the world.’ He believes that ’Leo Strauss, who supposedly influenced Paul Wolfowitz and other neocons, cottoned on the first sentence of the declaration [of Independence] and derived, from the idea of self-evident truths the concept of natural rights,’ a concept that Soros believes ’plays an important role in the ideology of American supremacists.’ He thinks that natural rights are ’associated with conservative arguments and papal pronouncements’ and that it is appropriate to distinguish between his concept of the open society and natural rights.

As the Columbia Encyclopedia states, ’the classic expressions of natural rights are The English Bill of Rights (1689), the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), the First 10 Amendments of the Constitution of the United States (known as the Bill of Rights, 1791), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (1948).’ There is no opposition between the open society as expounded by Soros and the doctrine of natural rights."

As Churchill, so Bush?

Andrew Sullivan is often hard to disagree with. Here he compares Churchill the war leader and what happended to him after the war--he lost big time to Clement Atlee--with what may well happen to Bush: He could be seen to be succesful in the war, therefore his services are no longer needed by November. And, it will also be the case that because Bush (like Churchill during the war) expanded the size of government, he has little credibility when he criticizes Kerry on spending and his liberalism regarding the size of government. This would, in effect, make Bush the architect of a liberal takeover.

Boys, Choirs, and the War

Edith Foster writes a lovely mediation on the relationship between boys, choirs, and the war. Her start: "If you’re like me, your school or community choir is the only forum in which your children memorize any amount of great poetry. My experience is that the kids remember the music and the lyrics of the songs long after the rehearsals and concerts are over. It is, therefore, especially important to know what kinds of poems and songs they are learning at choir practice. To illustrate this point, allow me to briefly describe my experience with two choir concerts: last year’s spring concert, sung as the campaign in Iraq was in progress, and this year’s."  

Violence in Art and Violence in the Passion

I haven’t seen The Passion yet. My wife & I avoided the first week because we generally avoid long lines at movies. We’re still hesitating, though, because the reviews say the movie is so violent. Our doubts reminded me, however, of this excellent posting by Spencer Warren on the Claremont Institute’s website.

The short of it--really good movie directors appreciate that the way to impress a movie audience is not to show the violence on the screen, but instead to suggest it off-screen in a way that makes the audience’s imagination do more of the work. This rule of thumb stems from a classical understanding of art, and in particular a classical understanding of the objects and limitations of visual art. If Warren (and the classics) are right, The Passion may suffer on an artistic level. But we’ll have to go see the movie to judge for ourselves.

News You Can Use--Maybe. . .

Not to be missed was the Saturday New York Times business page article entitled, "Pfizer Gives Up Testing Viagra On Women." Seems the little blue pills just don’t work on the fairer sex.

The money quote, from the had of Pfizer’s "sex research team," is: "Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women. With women, things depend on a myriad of factors."

Ah, modern science discovers the obvious once again. Maybe Pfizer should sell each dose of women’s Viagra with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates.

"John Kerry’s odd come-to-Jebus moment"

In this morning’s edition of the Bleat James Lileks comments on John Kerry’s answer to the question of whether God is on our side:

“We pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.”

He juxtaposes this to one of the president’s statements:

“The liberty we prize is not American’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”

Then finally asks,

Which one best represents the face of America you’d like the President to show to the world?