Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bill Bennett at Ashbrook

William Bennett will be the guest speaker at The Twentieth Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner this evening. Luckily for those who find themselves like me--an ocean away and unable to attend--the good folks at NLT will make the audio of the speech available on the web.

Peggy Noonan on Tillman

K-Lo over at The Corner provided a link to this July 2002 Peggy Noonan article about Pat Tillman. Noonan recounts a great line attributed to Tillman: "Len Pasquarelli of ESPN reported last May that the ’free-spirited but consummately disciplined’ starting strong safety told friends and relatives that, in Mr. Pasquarelli’s words, ’his conscience would not allow him to tackle opposition fullbacks where there is still a bigger enemy that needs to be stopped in its tracks.’"

And seconding John Abramson’s comments about how Tillman pretty typical of the recruits coming through Ft. Hood, Noonan offers the following observation:

We are making a lot of Tillmans in America, and one wonders if this has been sufficiently noted. The other day friends, a conservative intellectual and his activist wife, sent a picture of their son Gabe, a proud and newly minted Marine. And there is Abe, son of a former high aide to Al Gore, who is a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, flying SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. A network journalist and his wife, also friends, speak with anguished pride of their son, in harm’s way as a full corporal in the Marines. The son of a noted historian has joined up; the son of a conservative columnist has just finished his hitch in the Marines; and the son of a bureau chief of a famous magazine was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army last month, on the day he graduated from Princeton.

The Choice Between Myth and Reality

Victor Davis Hanson writes yet another great piece in NRO today. Here is a taste:

This war was always a gamble, but not for the reasons many Americans think. We easily had, as proved, the military power to defeat Saddam; we embraced the idealism and humanity to eschew realpolitik and offer something different in the place of mass murder. And we are winning on all fronts at a cost that by any historical measure has confirmed both our skill and resolve.

But the lingering question — one that has never been answered — was always our attention and will. The administration assumed that in occasional times of the inevitable bad news, we were now more like the generation that endured the surprise of Okinawa and Pusan rather than Tet and Mogadishu. All were bloody fights; all were similarly controversial and unexpected; all were alike proof of the fighting excellence of the American soldiers — but not all were seen as such by Americans. The former were detours on the road to victory and eventual democracy; the latter led to self-recrimination, defeat, and chaos in our wake.

The choice between myth and reality is ours once more.

Pat Tillman killed

Former NFL player Pat Tillman "was killed Thursday while serving as an Army Special Forces soldier on a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have told CNN.

Tillman, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract as a safety with the Arizona Cardinals to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, was in an area where numerous U.S. troops have been killed in battles with suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

He was serving as an Army Ranger, part of the Army’s Special Forces. Tillman played for the Cardinals from 1998-2001." To say that I am sorry to hear this is a massive understatement. "It is held that valour is the chiefest virtue and most dignifies the haver." RIP

Toomey Gaining on Specter

Here are three articles from ’National Review Online’ on next Tuesday’s GOP Senate Primary in Pennsylvania by John Miller , Timothy Carney , Paul Kengor .

Recent polls show Toomey gaining ground on Specter. Those polls have Toomey trailing Specter by 5 points which is within the margin of error. Two weeks ago Specter lead by 15 points. Tim Carney argues that it would help Bush win Pennsylvania in November if Toomey wins the nomination. Carney says conservatives will stay home in November if Specter is on the ballot. Paul Kengor argues that the main issue separating the two is abortion.

Regarding a Democratic readers earlier comment, that he would relish running against Toomey in November, I can only say that Toomey is no more conservative than Pennsylvania’s GOP Senator Rick Santorum.

Another Front in the Culture War

There is a controversy brewing about a Bush nominee, and this time it isn’t a federal judgeship. Believe it or not, there’s a storm brewing over the president’s decision to nominate historian Allen Weinstein as Archivist of the United States. A number of left-wing historians, as well as Victor Navasky of The Nation have claimed that Weinstein, author of Perjury : The Hiss-Chambers Case and co-author of The Haunted Wood : Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era has refused to allow examination of his notes and source materials. Typical of the attacks on him is this article by Roger Sandilands, an author who has made a career of defending the sort of New Deal-era liberals who have been accused of spying for the Soviets.

Others, including Ronald Radosh, Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Haynes, suggest that Weinstein’s real crime in the eyes of his detractors is the fact that he revealed Alger Hiss for the traitor he really was.

Out of Baghdad

I have been trying to arrange some embeds for the last few weeks, but road conditions and security issues have hampered that effort. I just received word that I will be going to Tikrit next week, following which I should be joining the 196th Cavalry in Tuz. Of course, all of this is subject to change as security and logistics dictate, but this looks promising.

Going Postal

The trip to the pool was delayed a bit by some late meetings. Yesterday was hot, humid, and hazy in Baghdad, and because of the haze there was not much sun to be had. The pool itself is large, with a fountain which feeds the pool, and a high diving platform. With the heat, palm trees, desert architecture, and pool, I kept fighting the feeling that I was in Las Vegas.

I met some interesting folks who are setting up the mail system in Iraq. I can’t recall if I have mentioned that there is currently no regular mail service in Baghdad. While the CPA employees and soldiers receive mail through military POs, private parties such as I must rely on commercial mail services, like Fed Ex and DHL.

Post offices in Iraq previously handled a very small amount of mail. The reason behind this limited usage is that the people did not trust the mail service, and for good reason. The postal employees would open the mail. If there was anything worth taking in there--money, etc.--they simply took it. If, however, you exercised poor judgment by saying something disparaging about the government in the mail, then someone would show up at your door to kill you. Creating a working postal system therefore requires not only the technical implementation of zip codes and sorting mechanisms, but winning the trust of the people.

Once again, it is worth realizing what dire conditions the people lived under. You could not send a relative money via the mail. You were subject to execution for private dissent. Remember this the next time some uninformed individual casts doubt on whether the Iraqis are better off now.

Demo Convention Agenda

This has been going arond the web, and is worth passing along:

2004 Democratic National Committee Convention - Official Program

6:00pm - Opening flag burning ceremony.

6:00pm - Opening secular prayers by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton

6:30pm - Anti-war concert by Barbra Streisand.

6:55pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

7:00pm - Tribute theme to France.

7:10pm - Collect offerings for al-Zawahri defense fund.

7:25pm - Tribute theme to Germany.

7:45pm - Anti-war rally (Moderated by Michael Moore)

8:25pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

8:30pm - Terrorist appeasement workshop.

9:00pm - Gay marriage ceremony (both male and female couples)

9:30pm - * Intermission *

10:00pm - Posting the Iraqi colors by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins

10:10pm - Re-enactment of Kerry’s fake medal toss.

10:20pm - Cameo by Dean ’Yeeearrrrrrrg!’

10:30pm - Abortion demonstration by N.A.R.A.L.

10:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

10:50pm - Pledge of allegiance to the United Nations

11:00pm - Multiple gay marriage cermony (threesomes, mixed and same sex).

11:15PM - Maximizing Welfare workshop.

11:30pm - ’Free Saddam’ pep rally.

11:59PM - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.

12:00pm - Nomination of democratic candidate.


A Romanian soccer team will be sent to a classical music concert if they lose a game. The owner of the team: "Attending a classical music concert is a hard task for a soccer player." Dolly Parton jokes about "wardrobe malfunctions," she said they are not planned: "But as tight as my clothes are there’s no telling what will happen. If it does happen, I’m going to wipe out the first three rows." Good night.

Kelsey Grammer

Dorothy Rabinowitz has a lovely essay on Kelsey Grammer, of "Frazier" fame. A sample: "For all that pomposity, which Mr. Grammer has these many years rendered with increasingly delicious nuance, there’s no missing the essential truth about Seattle’s radio psychologist--a creature devoted to the power of the mind and reason, to art and culture in a world that blares its indifference to these things.
No television show--or writers, producers or actors thereof--had ever before created a major character so purely identified with such values, or so winning in their defense. Nor does Frasier get away with this merely because the show ridicules his and Niles’s esoteric tastes, clatter about wine, and such. One way or another, the Crane brothers give as good as they get, and more.

It has always been a rule at the show, Mr. Grammer says, to play up to its audience, not down. That fact has, to say the least, done harm neither to it nor to its star." And his politics aren’t bad either.

Spanish secret agents to stay in Iraq

I find this odd. It sems to be the case that Spanish secret agents will remain in Iraq even after the Spanish troops are withdrawn. This may be a good thing, but I don’t see why it should be made public, especially if Spain is withdrawing its troops, in part, because of fear of terrorist reprisals, a la the Madrid bombing.

Guelzo on C-SPAN 2

is re-airing Professor Allan Guelzo’s Ashbrook Colloquium on his recently published book, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, on Saturday, April 24, at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern). If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Kerry, the multilateralist

Hugh Hewitt has some things to say about John Kerry’s conversation with Tim Russert for The Weely Standard. I love the title: "International Man of Apology." His concluding lines: "Still, with his numbers dropping and his uncanny ability to fumble every opening he’s given, Kerry’s got to watch his back. He "leads" the party that invented the Torricelli Option, and folks like Daschle have to be worried about a November wipe-out. A "presumptive nominee" isn’t the nominee. Who was that lady on Larry King this week?"

UN corruption

More information (and press coverage) about the UN’s oil-for-food-program and its corruption. Go
, here, here, and here. Also note that there is a new blog site that will focus on this issue only, Friends of Saddam. (Thanks to Instapundit.)

Bruce Bartlett’s Second Thoughts on Iraq

In an op-ed in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Times Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis regrets his previous support for the Iraq War:

I for one would not have supported the war if I thought its principal justification was the liberation of the Iraqi people, which is what the White House now says was its primary mission. Our military exists to defend the nation, not be the world’s policeman. If there is a linkage, President Bush has yet to make it.

Dude, Where’s Your Website?

Matt Drudge is reporting that Michael Moore, well-known corporate gadfly and advocate for the horny-handed sons of toil, has outsourced the design and maintenance of his web site to--CANADIANS!

Resolution vs. malaise

We are given the impression by the establishment liberal media that chaos reigns in Iraq and that we are doomed to fail. Everyone now is opposed to our "occupation" of the country. This isn’t a guerilla war, it is an uprising. We are shown the bombs exploding, the men, women and children being rushed to hospitals. We are meant to think that we kill more civilians than we do terrorists. The origins and purposes of our policy is questioned, and those who have opposed our policy in the first place now want us to send in more troops. And then there is the lack of U.N. involvement; the country would be pacific if the blue helmets were there rather than the Marines. It is also claimed that we never had a real international coalition, yet Katie Curic says that the coalition we never had is "disintigrating" because Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic will be taking their troops home. There is even talk of reinstituting the draft. Questions of military tactics on the ground are disputed, by those who know nothing. It is hard to get through this malaise filled prattle sometimes, is it not? By paying too much attention to the so-called news we tend to lose sight of the most important things.

We are at war. This is the same war that started one year ago. We took the country in three weeks, an amazing achievement by any standard. We also didn’t kill a lot of people, by design. Perhaps we should have hunted down the retreating and disappearing soldiers of the tyrant. But we didn’t. We are Americans, we are generous. Now some of them are back conducting the war against us that they couldn’t conduct then. Odd, but there you have it. The Saddam loyalists, the terrorists and the nihilists, are trying to kill our soldiers, as they are randomly killing their own people. What are we to think? We should remind ourselves that malaise is the disease of the will, and we are a free people who can be resolute. Resolution is what is called for. We have proven to the world that free men can be prosperous and now, once again, we have to prove that free men are not made of cotton candy. In war, resolution, as one of our giants said under even worse circumstances. We should be resolved to do all this right, with vigor or cunning, depending on the need. And we should never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. And when you begin to doubt, look away from the Katie Curics toward the nineteen year old bleeding American Marine in Injun Country--at great risk to himself and his fellows--as he takes aim at another Ali Baba, making as certain as he can that he not kill the children and the innocent. You pay attention to this American warrior and his commander-in-chief. Watch their actions, listen to their words, note their resolution. Love them for their courage, and honor their commitment to our just cause. Be resolute my fellow citizens, this world was not made to be won by those who promote murder and slavery and savagery. Have faith the right makes might.

Now THIS is cool

Thanks to, I’ve been tipped off to this little beauty, a six-foot long replica of a Star Destroyer from Star Wars. Check out the photos of the interior! Now, how can I go about convincing a foundation to give me a grant so I can buy it?

Yes, I know, I’m a geek. Man, I wish I hadn’t given away all my action figures when I was in high school....

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone. It’s also Lenin’s birthday, which may not be entirely coincidental. Confirmation that the charges against Bush are bogus comes today from, who else, the National Council of Churches, which has issued an attack on Bush’s changes to New Source Review. (Please at least try to stifle a yawn.) I won’t bother to link to the NCC; their website requires registration, believe it or not.

Meanwhile, Kerry is going around this week giving specific body counts of people dying because of Bush’s neglect of the environment, based of course on recycled junk science. You’d think Kerry would have learned his lesson about bogus body counts in that place he once fought . . . where was that again? I keep forgetting.

Hanging at Saddam’s Place

I will be out most of the afternoon, because I have been invited to join some folks at the pool at Saddam’s old palace. I’ll send you a report on the deposed tyrant’s pool.

Iran’s New Year

According to the web-based Iran Press Service, for "the first time in more than 25 years, Iranians were able to celebrate their age-old, traditional and cherished New
Year ceremonies in almost total freedom, as the ruling clerics, most of them opposed to any pre-Islamic symbols of Iranians, had ordered the security and police forces not to prevent people commemorating No Rooz, meaning new day and starting on 20 of March, the beginning of spring time." The celebrations include such colorful festivities as Chahar Shanbeh Soori, when people make bonfires "over which they jump, saying ’my yellowish to you, your reddish to me’, meaning throwing into the fire all the bad, sad, unhealthy things, symbolised by the yellow colour, they had faced during the year, replacing it with happiness, health and joy, of which red is a symbol." According to the Press Service, "the victory of the conservatives in the 20 February Legislative elections is certainly one of the reasons the authorities decided to be more friendly with the people, but the real motive is that they were genuinely afraid that if they continue to oppose the celebration, they might face a popular unrest." One political dissident and journalist says that the "the people, mostly the young generation, are so angry with the regime and the way the last electoral farce has been played... that a small spark could set an explosion."

It’s customary in these parts to raise a toast as a hopeful day approaches, so here’s to the Iranian people: May it be a new year after all.

Shifting Kerry

A surprising editorial in the Washington Post crushes John Kerry’s latest flip-flop, over Iraq. They compare his statements on Iraq in December to one of last week, wherein he seems to say that democracy in Iraq is optional (in other words we should cut and run while the place is still teetering). The WaPo calls Kerry’s "shift on such a basic question after just a few months is troubling and mistaken."

Pennsylvania poll

A new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylavania voters has Bush leading Kerry, 45-39%, with 8% for Ralph Nader. Without Nader, Bush leads 46-42%. In the March poll Bush was ahead by only two points. Kerry isn’t getting any traction and if I were a Demo operative I would be losing sleep, unless, of course, I was only interested in such matters because I wanted to get Hillary elected in 2008 in which case things are looking good. Note this:

"In the two-candidate race, Republicans back Bush 80 – 10 percent, as Democrats back Kerry 73 – 17 percent and independent voters go with Kerry 48 – 39 percent."

Dining on what you kill

Roger Scruton, a country dweller (maybe even an English gentleman) and a hunter has some advice: "The best answer to a pest is to encourage the predator that will eat it. And the most efficient predator is man. The way to re-establish ecological balance, therefore, is to acquire the habit of eating your competitors. There was a time when the government offered a shilling for every grey squirrel pelt. Now the business of controlling the invader is left to private enterprise. The endangered red squirrel has a foul gland next to the kidney which ruins its taste. The greys, however, are sweet and succulent. You need four per person - not because they are particularly small, but because they are surpassingly delicious, redder and more gamey than rabbit, but less pungent than muntjac or hare." But he doesn’t stick only to the wild pests, for he also reflects and eats those animals already marked out for food. The pig may be the best example: It is "a species that could not exist were it not for the elaborate process of domestication that has engineered it to our uses.

The pig was created for the table. He is omnivorous, a perfect way of recycling human leftovers, and at the same time a tame and obliging member of the household. He also looks like food: a round, plump offering on sticks." I note, in passing, Churchill’s comment: "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal." But never mind that. Read Scruton’s piece. It’s a delight.

Today’s double, and the paradox

Because some readers have told me that they click on the "Robert Alt in Iraq" link on the left, and have missed articles published elsewhere or mentioned by others on the blog, I just wanted to bring to your attention that my "Like Mike" piece was published today on NRO, and my piece on The Al-Jazeera Effect was published in The Weekly Standard.

One astute reader noted the apparent paradox: the locals like us, but they are quick to think the worst. Here is my brief response, which I thought was worth reprinting:

Like most paradoxes, there is an explanation. They like us, but because of news like Al-Jazeera, they are souring. While it would have taken another article to explain why they are willing to believe the worst, I’ll try to give you something of a partial explanation. There is a very strong belief among Iraqis that an Iraqi will not commit these kinds of grave acts against other Iraqis. One Christian leader in Baghdad went so far as to say that it was contrary to the nature of an Iraqi to do so. Because of this, when something bad happens, they are very quick to believe that someone else did it. Therefore, they will quickly attach themselves to the theory that there are many, many foreign fighters here causing mayhem. And, unfortunately, they are willing to believe that the Coalition is responsible for events that are clearly caused by terrorism. Because this sentiment appears to be culturally-based, it is very hard to overcome. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, they will tend to believe the outrageous in order to avoid believing that some of their fellow countrymen are causing problems. Add outlets like Al-Jazeera to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Well, perhaps disaster overstates it, but it is at least a recipe for increasing distrust.

Pirating US manufactured products

The Governmental Affairs Committee of the US Senate’s Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Managment held hearings yesterday.
The purpose of the hearing was to review the effectiveness of the federal government’s current efforts to enforce existing intellectual property rights and how current U.S. intellectual property enforcement policies relate to the loss of over two million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Note especially, the testimony of Jeffrey S. Gorman, CEO of the Gorman-Rupp Company (located in Mansfield, OH). These guys have been making pumps since 1933 (when two out of work engineers borrowed $1,500) and the company is one of the great American success stories, as far as I’m concerned. Today they have $200 million in annual sales and employ about one thousand people. The point is this: Modern technology makes it especially easy for foreign companies--with the ethics of Attila the Hun--to take one of their pumps and start making counterfeits (or "knock-offs") and turn around and sell them in the U.S. Gorman’s testimony includes amazing pictures of some of the counterfeit products. All this puts me in a tiger-footed rage!! In this time when people are concerned about the loss of manufacturing jobs, something had better be done about this theft. Gorman’s recommendations on the last page seem entirely sensible (and modest).  

What about the UN?

James Lileks beats up on Kerry’s view of the UN, and whether we should grovel, what the UN’s response is to the killing of Rantizi, and other such matters. A good and amusing article, the short of which is: We ought to pursue our interests. And Claudia Rosett has some suggestions on how the corrupt and ineffective UN can help the Iraqi people. Her suggestions "would be the philosophical beginning of restitution for U.N. collusion with Saddam, and of genuine re-legitimization for the U.N. in Iraq." Read it.

Steele Contra Sullivan on Same-Sex Marriage

About a month ago, Shelby Steele wrote a Wall St. Journal article, "Selma to San Francisco", that argued "same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue." The homosexual lobby sees marriage as "more a means than an end, a weapon against stigma." Andrew Sullivan took issue with Steele and penned a New Republic article, "Civil Rites" (available to subscribers only), arguing as much.

Now Steele has written a rebuttal of Andrew Sullivan’s defense of same-sex marriage in his own New Republic article, "Married With Children". This last article is a more robust and persuasive argument than Steele’s original Journal article, and so I take note of it here. Steele does not think Sullivan’s analogy to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is a fair one. More importantly, Steele makes a fundamental point about (heterosexual) marriage being primarily a "civilizing institution," and not simply or principally an institution to facilitate "romantic love and adult fulfillment." Instead, marriage exists to channel or "manage the explosive natural force of male-female sex" toward "the heavier and more selfless responsibilities surrounding procreation." In short, marriage does not exist to integrate or equalize individuals, as Sullivan presumes. For Steele, the function of marriage is "the perpetuation of the human species, the launching of family life, the nurturing and socialization of youth, and even the survival of whole peoples and nations when tyranny and cataclysm collapse all other institutions."

Steele rightly observes that "the conundrum for the gay marriage movement is that marriage has already declined from its more selfless and stable era into something very much like what gays already have," which is more self-focused than other-centered, especially when those "others" are one’s children.

What is curious about Steele’s argument is that while he recognizes the natural functions of marriage that make it indispensable to life in civil society, he still argues--along with Sullivan--that "the stigmatization of homosexuals is evil and in no way contributes to the moral health of society." Now, perhaps Steele is drawing a distinction between stigmatizing homosexuals and stigmatizing homosexuality--a secular version of hating the sin but loving the sinner. If so, this is an important enough distinction to merit a bright line between the two.

Marriage is grounded on natural distinctions between men and women that give rise to the civilizing institution, the family. The fact that nature itself, along with the dictates of reason that produced a morality long supported by both nature and religion, are rarely mentioned in this debate surely explains why civil unions for homosexual couples (as opposed to marriage) are now conceded by a majority of the population. If arguments against same-sex marriage are considered null and void by virtue of their appeal to morality, which is to say an appeal to what both natural reason and revealed truths teach about men and women in civil society, then even the arguments put forth by Steele will not avail much. His best arguments are grounded in nature, and the conclusions one can readily draw by use of one’s reason. We can only hope and pray that said appeal will regain its authority before this issue is decided for the nation by over-reaching courts.

The Al Jazeera effect

Robert Alt, in The Weekly Standard, explains what he calls the Al Jazeera effect: "The past two weeks have witnessed an increase not only in anti-Coalition activity, but also in anti-Coalition sentiment among Iraqis. The majority of Iraqis still appear to support the Coalition, however this negative creep in public opinion has the potential to threaten that, and thereby may be far more detrimental to the long-term effort in Iraq than the recent series of failed insurgencies. While it is difficult to isolate a single cause, the shift in opinion does not appear to be motivated by either an increase in the popular mandate of Muktada al-Sadr’s cause, or by any alliance of convenience between the Sunnis and Shias. Rather, it is a backlash--a visceral negative response to the perceived wrongs committed by the Coalition. It is, in other words, the Al Jazeera effect." We must find a way to overcome this effect. read it all.   

Oil for food scandal at the UN

Roger L. Simon (a man who views the UN with favor) has a few words to say about what the oil-for-food corruption revelation may mean for the UN, and the press: "In this kind of situation, normally the media would be on his neck, calling for the most thorough investigation possible; but thus far, with the exception of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and a handful of others, they have been curiously silent. As a supporter of the United Nations (yes, I believe it necessary), I find this potentially immensely destructive to the organization. If the Oil-for-Food allegations are true, and it increasingly looks as if they are, without a deep and full bloodletting (probably including the resignation of Annan) the UN will never recover the confidence of the American people, nor should it. By not being on this with Watergate-style intensity, the media is aiding and abetting the downfall of the organization they wish to save."

Next Tuesday in PA

Next Tuesday in Pennsylvania, voters in the Republican Primary will have a choice between conservative Republican Pat Toomey and liberal incumbent Arlen Specter. ’The Weekly Standard’ handicaps the race here .

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up next Wednesday morning and learn that Arlen Specter has retired.

More Evidence of O-F-F kickbacks to UN

ABC has a nice piece documenting Oil-For-Food kickbacks to UN officials. The ABC site needs to do something about the annoying ads in the middle of each page, but the content of the text is worth the annoyance.   

Earth Day Antidote/Self-Promo

Okay Gang, Thursday is Earth Day (and Lenin’s birthday, a mere coincidence I am sure), in case you haven’t been following John Kerry’s dolorous Earth Day tour this week. Anyway, the antidote to Earth Day nonsense, and an analysis of how environmental politics is playing out at the moment (with some humorous comparisons to the nonsens ethe greenies said about Reagan) can be found in the 9th edition of my Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, which is available now here.

Media bias in Iraq

Robert Alt considers both media incivility and bias in the coverage of Iraq.   

Alt on channel 8, Cleveland

Robert Alt will be interviewed on the 5 p.m. news, channel 8 (FOX affiliate) in Cleveland, for those of you in Northern Ohio. I imagine it will be audio only from Baghdad.

Gate Correction

As I have stated on this blog before, early information is often wrong. Despite multiple sources telling me that the two Iraqi journalists were shot at the gate by the Press Center last night, the shooting actually occurred miles away. There was a disturbance at the gate near the Press center, but the nature of it is hazy. The woman had passed out from shock as I saw and as I can confirm, there was a report of an IED, the gate was locked down, and there were numerous soldiers rushing out toward the gate to address the situation. While there has been violence outside this gate in the past, I for one am relieved if indeed no shots were fired there last night.


Aboriginies point a kangaroo bone at Prime Minister John Howard, thereby bringing him ill fortune, maybe even death. Almost three quarters of office workers in an impromptu man-on-the-street survey were willing to give up their passwords when offered the bribe of a chocolate bar. A soccer fan prosecuted for being drunk at a match after falling asleep during a game has won his appeal against his conviction. He had six pints of beer in five hours. The judge said, "It is the right of every Englishman at a football match to fall asleep if they want to."

Trail of pennies leads police to robbery suspect. Two nuclear subs, one Brit and one US, surfaced near North Pole to play soccer. Poll shows coservative Pat Toomey surging in the Pennsylvania primary against liberal GOP Senator Specter.

Central Asia

Just in case you have nothing better to do on a pretty day, Windsofchange has a nice wrap up (with mnay links) on the developments in central Asia, including the recent shootings and bombings in Uzbekistan, and a lot of stuff on the other -stans).

Making Sense of Fallujah

At today’s press conference, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor stated that "[i]f the peaceful track does not play out [in Fallujah] . . . major hostilities will resume on short notice." While he refused to answer questions at this point about the progress of the terms of the cease-fire--specifically whether individuals were turning in their illegal weapons--this statement was a none-too-veiled threat that if progress is not sufficient, the gloves will come back off.

The situation in Fallujah has been a difficult one for the military. The Marines have been aggressive, but have acted in a humanitarian fashion. They have used limited air support and limited heavy artillery in order to avoid non-combatant casualties. But those who they fought do not care about non-combatant casualties. Therefore, the insurgents took advantage of the American humanitarian impulse by making sure the battles were in the city, near where women and children might congregate. They sought to increase these innocent casualties, and then encouraged the media to ravage the Americans for being barbaric. While the purported killing of women and children in Iraq has had a profoundly negative effect Coalition sentiment among Iraqis, the Coalition has an even more perplexing problem: while the Iraqis are angry when their women and children are killed, they do not respect the military ethic which respects life. At yesterday’s press conference, it is notable that it was an Iraqi woman who questioned how it is that Fallujah could have kept the most powerful army in the world at bay. Some of this kind of sentiment is based on an overestimation of American technology. At times, Iraqis believe that we are so powerful that we should be able to kill just the bad guys and none of the good guys. But in part this is a function of having lived for years under one of the most brutal tyrants on earth. The most graphic images of death to come from the war look weak by comparison to what they saw under Saddam. Similarly, American restraint for humanitarian purposes may be mistaken by some Iraqis as American weakness.

Given this no-win situation, and the anxiety expressed by the governing council, the Coalition acceded to pursuing diplomatic channels. While they did not require the leaders to turn over all those who participated in anti-Coalition violence, they did require that all illegal weapons be turned over. It is very unlikely that this request will be met. Even if a large amount of weapons comes in--large enough to justify the continued cessation of offensive operations--there will be continued skirmishes as the second major requirement--regular patrols--are implemented. All this is to say, Fallujah will likely be a source of conflict for some time to come.


One of my relatives sent me this link. The author got tired of hearing Europeans criticize Bush by calling him a cowboy; the author strings together pictures of Bush and many famous cowboys of movie and song. It’s not the profoundest thing ever to cross this site, but it does make some important points. Americans celebrate the cowboy because he symbolized virtues important to self-government. And good cowboy movies and songs can inculcate those virtues. When the viewer learns to love the cowboy, he comes to appreciate the virtues for which the cowboy stands.

N.Y. Times photo

Well, a little balance from The New York Times: Note the lower photo.

Bush’s poll numbers

Bush is increasing his lead over Kerry. This may seem surprising to our intellectual class. After all, new attacks on him continue on a daily basis, from Kerry who questions his integrity and character and thinks that W is his intellectual inferior, to the 9/11 Commission’s now clearly politicized mode of inquiry, to Woodward’s new book, etc. How is it that Bush is rising in the polls? The main reason for this is the war. People understand that he is a war president, and they are going to think about him in those terms. Despite the attacks, pople trust him. Bush has erased, by the way, the twelve point lead Kerry had on the economy. These numbers must be frustrating for Democrats because, above all, what they reveal is that Kerry is not persuading people to take him or his opinions seriously. I look for major changes in the Kerry campaign; they cannot continue to base their campaign hoping for bad news either at home or abroad.

Here is the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, and this is the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Kerry lying

Realclearpolitics caught John Kerry fibbing (why is this news?) yesterday on Meet the Press. And there is an exchange with Russert on something Kerry said on Meet the Press, April 18, 1971. Russert rolls the video:

MR. KERRY (Vietnam Veterans Against the War): There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

Read Kerry’s response, it is half-way down.

Bush and Israel

Seth Leibsohn has a good piece on Bush’s support for Israel and what it means for the so-called peace process: He is standing up for the true peace process. Leibsohn: "Last week, standing next to Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, President Bush reminded us that he is, in fact, the most pro-Israel president in history. That is not a criticism; it is high praise, because by positioning himself that way President Bush is making himself the most pro-democracy president in history. Israel, after all, is the only democracy in the Middle East. Think about that: 21 Arab countries (the Palestinian Authority makes 22), and not one democracy. And the realpolitik thinking is that we need to be neutral with Israel, which means neutral toward democracy. That’s wrong."

Kerry as Willkie

John Moser compares the candidacy of Wendell Willkie in 1940 against FDR to that of John Kerry against Bush. John argues "that Kerry will have to perform a political high wire act similar to that attempted by Willkie sixty-four years ago." Needless to say, Willkie failed. He explains his point in a few readable pages. By the way, John’s latest book, Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Origin of the Culture Wars, will appear next year from New York University Press.  

Two Iraqi journalists killed this evening

Two Iraqi journalists were killed at a little after 7 pm this evening exiting the Green Zone when gun men opened fire. There was also an unconfirmed report of an IED at the gate following the attack. The journalists had attended the same press briefing I attended, and apparently exited the same gate that I generally exit. I was running a few minutes late today due to a radio interview. Let’s hear it for providence. A woman who was apparently traveling with them but was not shot nonetheless lay collapsed in shock when I arrived. The gate was closed, so I returned to the building, only to find another women who knew the reporters hysterical--crying, screaming, and ultimately throwing up from the shock.

The targeting of Iraqi reporters will inevitably help the terrorist cause--in terms of making the insurgence appear larger, and inflicting more random terror--because the killing will garner a great deal of media attention here in Iraq.

Agreement in Fallujah

Dan Senor announced that an agreement had been reached between the Coalition and leaders in Fallujah. The cease fire will continue, under the following terms:

The Coalition:

*Will allow unfettered access to the general hospital in Fallujah;

*Will allow removal of the dead;

*Will extend the curfew to 9 pm (it is now set at 7 pm) to permit religious exercises; and

*Will allow 50 families per day to gain access to the city.

The leaders of Fallujah agree:

*To turn over illegal arms (for which they will not be prosecuted, if they turn them over voluntarily); and

*Permit regular patrols by joint Coalition and Iraqi security forces patrols.

I have said before that Iraqis subscribe to a philosophy that respects strength and not weakness. As a case in point, one Iraqi reporter asked the following question: "Fallujah resisted the most powerful army in the world for two weeks. What does this mean?" And thus you see the problem of respecting life in a region which respects power.

Oil for Terror

Claudia Rosett continues her valuable efforts at exposing corruption in the Oil-for-food program in a special Sunday article on NRO. She notes two possible links to Al Qaeda from the limited documents already available:

Both involve oil buyers picked by Saddam and approved by the U.N. One was a firm with close ties to a Liechtenstein trust that has since been designated by the U.N. itself as "belonging to or affiliated with Al Qaeda." The other was a Swiss-registered subsidiary of a Saudi oil firm that had close dealings with the Taliban during Osama bin Laden’s 1990’s heyday in Afghanistan.

Look for more information about Saddam’s terror links to come to the forefront in the coming months. I have personally been told by military sources about terrorist training camps that Saddam operated for international terrorists. In the south, he operated a school to train terrorists to take down aircraft; and in the north, he ran chemical weapons training. I hope to be able to get more details and confirmation about these sites, and to tell you about them soon.

Outrage of the morning

Ryan Pisco, 19, lacked a valid drivers license. After drinking too much beer at a party, he borrowed his girlfriend’s car, and was killed when he drove it into a light poll at 90 miles per hour. What was his mother’s response: sue Coors. You see, it is Coor’s fault for making beer drinking look attractive, without giving sufficient warnings. As I recall, there are warning labels on alcohol about operating motor vehicles, public service announcements about designated drivers sponsored by the alcoholic beverage industry, and frequent warnings on beer ads to "think before you drink." But I’m sure that none of that was sufficient. He couldn’t help himself. Clearly the beer companies forced him to drink and drive. Oh, and I almost forgot, she is also suing Ryan’s girlfriend and her mother, since the girlfriend had the bad judgment to loan the license-less Ryan the car. I mean no disrespect to the dead, and obviously losing a teenage child is a tragedy for a mother, but she seems to have missed at least one (maybe even two or three?) potentially culpable parties in the lawsuit.

Rain in Baghdad

It actually rained today in Baghdad--a rather unusual occurrence. As I walked out of my hotel, I heard a mortar fire from the tube and then hit, reportedly at a hotel near mine. Within moments, I heard the call to prayer. Yesterday, there were a series of booms at around 4:30 am, just before first prayers. I must say, this is something of a sick trend, and I hope the Coalition will use this tidbit regarding insurgent prayer-based timing to their advantage.

Radio program this morning

For those of you in the Mansfield, OH area, I will be on Rusty Cate’s program on WMAN-AM 1400 at 10:00 am this morning. Tune in if you can.

Why regime change in Palestine is necessary

George Will explains this much talked aboput paragraph from Bush to Sharon: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of the final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion." Read it.  

Problems in Iraq

On the question of road security and supply lines this Tom Ricks article in the Washington Post three days ago is worth noting. And this on the increased sophstication of such attacks. There are great dangers here, obviously. The roads have to be secure. This is worth watching. And Niall Ferguson gives us a brief history lesson. He writes that Iraq is not Vietnam II, "it’s a rerun of the British experience of compromised colonization." He refers to the events of 1920, and draws three lessons: One, the current crisis is almost inevitable; two, putting the "rebellion" down requires severity; three, "only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty.." He says we have to "get real."

On our reduced attention span

Camille Paglia--always interesting, often odd--reflects on both loss of words and still images in the mind and imagination of today’s student. A thoughtful piece for a lazy afternoon. A sample:

"Young people today are flooded with disconnected images but lack a sympathetic instrument to analyze them as well as a historical frame of reference in which to situate them. I am reminded of an unnerving scene in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where an astronaut, his air hose cut by the master computer gone amok, spins helplessly off into space. The new generation, raised on TV and the personal computer but deprived of a solid primary education, has become unmoored from the mother ship of culture. Technology, like Kubrick’s rogue computer, HAL, is the companionable servant turned ruthless master. The ironically self-referential or overtly politicized and jargon-ridden paradigms of higher education, far from helping the young to cope or develop, have worsened their vertigo and free fall. Today’s students require not subversion of rationalist assumptions—the childhood legacy of intellectuals born in Europe between the two World Wars—but the most basic introduction to structure and chronology. Without that, they are riding the tail of a comet in a media starscape of explosive but evanescent images."

The grand strategy of Russian oil

The Moscow Times (an English language bi-weekly) runs an interesting article titled, "Russia Revising Great Game Rule Book." The point of the story is that the new game is energy. Perhaps it is right to call it the "Putin Doctrine." The new global competition (and opportunity) for Russia is in economics, especially oil production, pipelines, to supply China, Japan, and the U.S. Putin means to take advantage of the turmoil in the Middle East, and is, no doubt, looking forward to OPEC’s decline, if not demise. There is no reason to think that the Russian cannot be successful in this effort. Worth watching.

Chemical attack thwarted in Jordan

This news coming out of Jordan is a bit chilling: "Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planned a chemical attack on Jordan’s spy headquarters that could have killed 20,000 people, officials have said.
Earlier this week King Abdullah said a massive attack had been thwarted by a series of arrests, but named no target.

Now unnamed officials say the suspects have confessed to plotting to detonate a chemical bomb on the Amman HQ of the Intelligence Services.

The plot was reportedly hatched by al-Qaeda suspect Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi."

Abrams Tank Rollover

I just received a press release that one soldier died and two more were injured when their Abrams tank rolled over here in Baghdad. This is not a Suzuki Samarai. The Abrams is a sizeable vehicle, and I must admit that I have never heard of one rolling over.

Iraqis Helping Soldiers

Amidst the prevailing bad news, it is good to see signs of the good. Even near Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, there is recent evidence of the locals helping out the soldiers. In one case, a child came to soldiers near Riyadh to tell them about an IED, which the soldiers were able to locate and destory. In another case, an Iraqi citizen came forward to tell soldiers about a cache of 127 mm (think big boom) rockets, which the soldiers were then able to capture and destory.

As Brig. Gen. Kimmitt put it earlier in the week, it is fair to say that the conditions here have not been business as usual. But the conditions are not at crisis level either. While the instances above are but two examples, it is useful to remember that these kind of acts go on daily, and unfortunately do not make the news. For every insurgent, there are many more people who silently support the Coalition, and there are a fair number who, like those in the examples above, step forward to do something.