Robert Kagan calls our attention to one of the sillier lines in Kerrys acceptance speech: "As president, I will bring back this nations time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation."
Americas "time-honored tradition"? Hardly. As Kagan writes, "The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it had to. It certainly did not have to go to war against Spain in 1898 (or Mexico in 1846.) It did not have to send the Marines to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua in the first three decades of the 20th century, nor fight a lengthy war against insurgents in the Philippines. The necessity of Woodrow Wilsons intervention in World War I remains a hot topic for debate among historians."
And then, of course, theres Vietnam. James Lileks finds it bizarre that the senator should say, "I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as President." After all, doesnt it suggest that the Vietnam War was fought for the defense of the United States? What must his old comrades from Vietnam Veterans Against the War think about his apparent conversion to conservative orthodoxy?
Niall Ferguson explains why Kerry is dreaming if he thinks that a European-American alliance (the way Kerry understands it) is something that is possible, or something that U.S. foreign policy can be built upon.
David Brooks is harsh on Kerry and the whole convention:
"What an incoherent disaster. When you actually read for content, you see that the speech skirts almost every tough issue and comes out on both sides of every major concern. The Iraq section is shamefully evasive. He cant even bring himself to use the word democratic or to contemplate any future for Iraq, democratic or otherwise. He cant bring himself to say whether the war was a mistake or to lay out even the most meager plan for moving forward. For every gesture in the direction of greater defense spending, there are opposing hints about reducing our commitments and bringing the troops home.
He proves in the speech that he can pronounce the word alliances, and alliances are important, but alliances for what? You cant base an entire foreign policy on process."
"Voters need more than an index of a Kerry administration retaliatory threshold to judge him as a potential Commander in Chief. Kerry should clarify how he plans to win, if not the present war, then at least a future one, if it comes according to his standard. The cast of characters, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are unlikely to change. The electorate should be granted a glimpse into his roadmap to victory and whether he believes in the concept itself as distinct from mere retaliation. Any brawler with fists can retaliate but it requires a Commanders in Chief with a strategy to lead nations to victory. Even Bill Clinton was prepared to retaliate against Osama Bin Laden for the USS Cole attack by firing hundreds of cruise missiles at his training camps. But George Bush tried to defeat him and for this stood condemned. It is this precise striving for victory, not any single act of retaliation that has made George Bush so illegitimate in the liberal mind. For liberals retaliation is soley used to ’send a message’; it always an invitation to negotiation, like the ones Johnson sent Ho Chi Minh without reply; it is never part of the solution itself. In this curious mental universe, force is immoral unless it is also pointless. John Kerry’s self-chosen identification with the Vietnam War is a strangely ambiguous image, which escapes being tragic only for so long as you allow only questions for which there can be no answers."
Christopher Hitchens is angry at what he calls Kerrys cheap shot, that the Republicans are squandering "our" money on a bunch of foreigners. Kerry, according to Hitchens, quite needlessly proposed a contradiction between "opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America."
You saw on the news last night that Kerry went to Wendys (probably his frist trip ever) to buy the Edwards their anniversary lunch. What you didnt see on the news is that when he approached four Marines to make nice, the Marines wouldnt have it. One of them, off to Iraq in a few weeks, said: "I speak for all of us. We think that we are doing the right thing in Iraq." Another: "Im 100 percent against [him]."
Horace Cooper highlights what the mainstream press ignores in the hope that we won’t remember: that John Kerry and John Edwards are leftists. Recall, the "l-word" (liberal) was all but taboo at the Democratic convention. More importantly, Cooper charts the ill-fated candidacies of other leftists, and argues that in todays political climate, true leftists don’t win at the national level. Worth quoting at length:
The National Journal rated Kerry as the most liberal senator of 2003 and his running mate John Edwards was No. 4. Keep in mind that this Senate includes arch-liberals Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.
Consider: Nearly nine in 10 people in the United States support requiring welfare recipients to work in order to maintain eligibility. Kerry has voted consistently to oppose this measure.
Three quarters of Americans say that religious organizations should be allowed to participate in taxpayer anti-poverty programs. Kerry disagrees.
Even though a staggering 85 percent of voters say that a criminal should be punished for killing both a pregnant woman and her unborn child, Kerry refuses to budge from the NARAL-Pro Choice America view. And while 91 percent of Americans see no problem with keeping the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, Kerry sides with the ACLU in opposition.
And even on seemingly well settled issues, this ticket is out of step with the political mainstream. Take capital punishment. If there is a capital punishment reform afoot in the United States it is more likely to expand its application to states like Massachusetts and New York rather than to restrict it.
After a lifetime career of opposing the death penalty, Kerry can only muster belated support for the death penalty for terrorists like Osama bin Laden.
Being saddled with this record is more than even a battle-tested war hero can overcome. With a lifetime Americans for Democratic Action rating of 92, his record is more liberal than either Mondale, Dukakis or McGovern. And while many Americans may disagree with specific Bush administration policies, the differences in many instances can be transcended. This just isn’t so with the Democrat ticket of 2004.
President Bush spoke in Springfield, MO, today. His first stop after the Demos convention. Good speech, I thought. The second half of the speech is on the post-9/11 world.
The BBC is announcing: "Nato countries have agreed to start training Iraqi security forces next month, side-stepping a dispute between France and the US.
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said a small advance team would head to Iraq as soon as possible."
Mark Rice-Oxley of the Christian Science Monitor discusses the European reaction to John Kerry. The senator, of course, has made as a centerpiece of his foreign policy his promise to enlist Americas allies in the struggle for democracy in Iraq. But in this as in so much else, he has been short on specifics. As Robert Kagan has pointed out in Of Paradise and Power, Europe and the United States have been steadily growing apart since the end of the Cold War, and Europeans today are increasingly likely to view American "hyperpower" as more dangerous than terrorism. Indeed, opinion polls show that a sizable minority think that the United States has only itself to blame for the 9/11 attacks. While Kerrys personal style is likely to win more applause from European diplomats than Bushs "lone cowboy" image, the senator has given us no clue as to how he might bridge the growing divide.
In at least one sense, Rice-Oxley suggests, a Kerry victory might be the last thing Europeans should want. As Viennas Die Presse put it, a Kerry presidency would mean that Europe could no longer "turn up its nose at the coarse Texan George Bush and duck its responsibilities in international crises." My prediction is that, whichever candidate wins in November, Europeans will keep ducking--as they did in their very own backyard, the Balkans, in the 1990s.
Listening to excerpts of Sharptons Wednesday night speech at the Democratic Convention, I was struck once again by the Democratic Partys historical amnesia. In order to explain why blacks prefer the Democratic Party 9-1, Sharpton listed all the martyrs who died to secure black voting rights, as if these martyrs died fighting Republicans.
But he ignores that the people who were denying blacks the right to vote were Democrats, who had ruled the South ever since the end of Reconstruction. It was Democrats who created the Jim Crow system that kept blacks down from the end of Reconstruction until the 1950s. The civil-rights movement was a struggle against the southern Democratic Party, not the GOP.
He also forgot to mention that on the Civil Rights Act, which paved the way for the Voting Rights Act, it was Democrat senators who held up passage of the bill until Republicans provided President Johnson with enough additional votes to overcome Democratic resistance.
In fact, as Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom note in their book "America in Black and White," a higher percentage of Republican senators supported the bill than among Democrats. 27 of 33 Republican senators voted for the bill, while just 44 of 67 Democrats supported it.
The GOP is the party of black oppression?
Kerry was nervous. He seemed hurried, this made him seem less boring. He wrongly shut down the enthusiasm of the crowd many times, indeed, almost always. When he finally found his rythm, it was too late. He might not have hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself much either. Almost every word in the speech had a deja vu quality to it (some of the words came from Bush, some from Dean, etc.) It seemed as if a committee had written the speech. Isn’t odd when others make a better case for Kerry than he can for himself? This is not a great candidate. It was not the best speech at the convention.
The Liberal (also anti-free trade) speech verged on a laundry-list mode, yet lacked specificity. The war that the Islamic terrorists are waging was just another point on the list, somewhere near global warming. The same with Iraq. He said nothing about Afghanistan (never mind Iran or North Korea). He did not tell us what he would do in Iraq (or even would have done). He said nothing about democracy abroad, no left-over-idealism of human rights. He said nothing about his career in the Senate. It is true that he intended to give the impression that he is strong and courageous and is able to replace the current commander-in-chief. Did he? Maybe.
His major point is that Bush can’t be trusted, Bush has lied. This is going the Michael Moore, Joe Wilson, et al, route. They are discredited, and the American people will not believe it. They shouldn’t. He will not get anywhere arguing that he will re-establish trust and credibility to the White House. Wrong election. The same with the emphasis on optimism and hope. Kerry missed a great opportunity in this speech: He had the chance to be clear and forthright, especially regarding Iraq and the war. He didn’t take it. He cannot become president by straddling huge issues, the same issues President Bush has full knowledge of, and some control over, the same issues that will continue to dominate the campaign.
Here are some takes on his speech: Chris Suellentrop (Slate); Jonah Goldberg (USA Today); John Podhoretz (NY Post); Lawrence F. Kaplan (TNR); William F. Buckley, Jr. (NRO); Thomas Oliphant (Boston Globe).
Lucas Morel is first out of the box on Kerry’s big speech. Very good. I have a big (and boring) meeting this morning, so it may be hours before I can get to this. I do note that Jonah Goldberg said this about the speech, "It sounds like it was written by a committee. The funny irony is that Kerry is a committee of one." Not bad. Here is the text of Kerrys speech.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is the Republican National Committee’s "Flipper" video on John Kerry’s position(s) on Iraq. I guess they are going to use it in an ad, perhaps adding more to it after tonight’s speech. I think it’s just over ten minutes. Well done. Worth seeing.
The web site for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth objects to the Kerry campaigns use of a photo of Kerry and 19 other swift boat officers in campaign advertisments. In fact, only two of the officers support Kerrys candidacy. By dragging your cursor over the picture, this page demonstrates what the picture would look like if only those who actually intend to endorse Kerry were used in the ads.
David Broder does a workmanlike recounting of the tensions within the Democratic Party between the Liberals and whats left of the Democratic Leadership Council (the moderates). While the piece is worth reading, what he hides is really more important than what he reveals: Kerry is not really a moderate and never has been; he is pretending and everyone is going along with the sham just because--they think--that is their only chance at defeating Bush. He is right to say that if Kerry wins, the rift will become clear. But it is also true that when Kerry loses the rift will also be there, and the battle for control of the party will be brutal; the Liberals hold the power.
From John McCaslins Inside the Beltway:
"It is unfortunate that you instinctively assume the investigation into the Berger matter has anything to do with Sandy Berger the Democrat. The fact is, I dont care if its Sandy Berger or Warren Burger or Veggie Burger who walked off with code word documents. Its the walking off — the consequences of it, the fact that it could happen — that concerns the committee."
— Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, responding to a letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat and the committees ranking member, who suspects that politics is behind an investigation of former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel R. Bergers apparent theft of sensitive documents from the National Archives.
OK, I admit I missed the traditional Democratic harangues against the Grand Old Party on Monday. But for the balance of the week, it appears the convention is going with an "out with the old, in with the new" approach to attracting those crucial swing voters. (Too bad so few are actually watching.) Anyway, to the topic at hand: is it just me or has the convention strategy of not directly attacking Bush backfired on them?
They have avoided doing precisely what any political party out of office should be doing: namely, explain why voters should change their rulers rather than stay the course, and this means criticize the performance of the incumbent administration (what political scientists call a "retrospective election").
In addition, and heres the kicker, instead of direct criticisms they have actually made the rhetoric of the president and the Republican Party their own. For exhibit A, see my Ashbrook Center op-ed on Barack Obama. Exhibit B, as Peter Schramm has noted in an earlier blog, was Edwardss speech last night regarding the war on terrorism: to wit, "We will destroy our enemies, Edwards says (almost quoting Bush)." Exhibit C, even Teresa Heinz-Kerry, that paragon of
opinionated independent thinking, found herself quoting a whole paragraph from Abraham Lincoln. Here is how she closed her speech:
We can and we should join together to make the most of this great gift we have been given, this gift of freedom, this gift of America. In his first inaugural, speaking to a nation on the eve of war, Abraham Lincoln said, "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
Today, the better angels of our nature are just waiting to be summoned. We only require a leader who is willing to call on them, a leader willing to draw again on the mystic chords of our national memory and remind us of all that we, as a people, everyday leaders, can do; of all that we as a nation stand for and of all the immense possibility that still lies ahead.
Of course, she went on to say that her husband is the leader who "will give us back our faith in America." Her problem, and that of the Dems (if this strategy is maintained through November), is that the more the Democrats base their appeal upon traditional Republican principles and convictions about Americas greatness, the less the American people will see a need for a change at the top.
Lucas Morel makes clear what some of us have only alluded to: Barak Obama is a serious person and his Lincolnian speech to the Democratic convention on the appeal of American exceptionalism gives Morel hope.
Gary Hart--remember him, the monkey business senator?--has a few ideas on grand strategy. "To preserve our republic, we must advance a new, alternative grand strategy that addresses this revolutionary century, one compatible with our powers and with the great principles upon which our nation was founded." He tries to explain what this might be and skirts around the truth; he is close to it but misses. The principles are not clear to him, he confuses Wilsonian utopianism and empire, and overlooks some massive geopolitical facts. (See my post below.) But no matter for now, such issues will be talked about for a good while, with more clarity than Hart does; just file it for now.
Bryan Preston explains the Proliferation Security Initiative, which, he argues has great promise strategically and which proves that Bush is no unilaterist, that other countries are willing to band together with us against terrorists and weapons proliferation.
"Called the Proliferation Security Initiative, this results-oriented alliance is now just over a year old. The work of the much maligned Under Secretary of State for Arms Proliferation and International Security John Bolton, PSI is already a great success in bringing nations that disagreed bitterly over the Iraq war together under one flag to deal with larger weapons proliferation issues, especially those relating to the Korean Peninsula.
The PSI is a bit of a strange bird, neither pure military alliance nor economic consortium nor intelligence agency, though it bears some of the features of all three. There is no guarantee among PSI members to come to the defense of any other member attacked by another party, for instance, such as exists in the NATO charter. It has no operating budget or swank headquarters building, and no jet-setting General Secretary or Supreme Commander. But most of the world’s great navies -- America’s, the UK’s, Japan’s, Australia’s, and Russia’s all play key roles. Many of the world’s best intelligence assets, from spy satellites to human intelligence sources to financial investigators, are devoted to working with the PSI at some level."
There is more, The Caspian Guard is to Iran what the PSI is to North Korea: "The Caspian Guard is ostensibly a three-way alliance between the United States, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan for the integration of several interlocking program elements, namely airspace and maritime surveillance and control systems, reaction and response forces, and border control." Take a look at some maps (there are five different ones) to see how this cage in the making works. Interesting.
I saw most of John Edward’s speech last night, fell asleep, and this morning I saw the rest of it. It was essentially his two America’s stump speech, with the hard-line addition on terror and Iraq. Maybe I’m jaded, maybe I’ve seen Edwards too often (same speech, same tone), but I find him becoming a caricature of himself. When I give a speech in which I find myself repeating passages and formulations from other speeches, becoming self-conscious about it and become kind of formulaic. The audience senses this, and it is not to the speaker’s advantage. (I don’t think I did that this morning when I spoke to a Huron County GOP; nice folks, by the way). Edwards is now such a self-conscious speaker, and it shows. He is acting and knows he is acting, and so does everyone else. He’s becoming boring; there should always be an element of suprise in a speech; he no longer surprises. He should get a new speech.
But Edwards revealed the theme that Kerry has decided on, and I expect more of this sort of rhetoric during the campaign and from Kerry tonight: Very hard line on the war on terror and Iraq. We will destroy our enemies, Edwards says (almost quoting Bush). Some are beginning to say that Kerry will try the "missile gap" approach Kennedy used against Nixon in 1960: Kennedy called Nixon soft on the Soviets. It proved not to be true, but was useful in the campaign for Kennedy. I find it difficult to believe that Kerry will be able to run to the right of Bush on the war issue (Kerrys record is to his disadvantage), as I find it hard to believe that the majority of the Liberals within the Demo party will continue to put up with it. It will sound hollow to the voters. The Bush campaign should pounce on it immediately.
Didnt get to watch Edwards last night, but heres the transcript of his speech. Sounds like hes sticking with "two Americas." Also sounds like those two Americas are divided 98-2. After promising to pay for more of your health care and child daycare, we are told: "So now you ask how are we going to pay for this? Well, heres how were going to pay for it. Let me be very clear, for 98 percent of Americans, you will keep your tax cut — thats 98 percent. But well roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending." David Frum asks "Does this speech make any sense at all? They’re going to raise taxes on almost nobody – and pay for almost everything." And check out Michael Knox Berans analysis of Edwards invocation of Disraelis "Two Nations" and why its dangerous.
I have had a busy day, so I haven’t had a chance to say anything on the speeches of Kennedy, Dean, Obama, and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry. This was just as well because I did not trust the immediate opinion I formed last night. On the one hand I thought Obama speech was quite good, was disappointed with Kennedy and Dean, and frankly embarassment when Mrs. Kerry spoke, I found myself wanting to go get a sandwich. Obama, contra Teresa, said some interesting and even rational things. He thinks we are one people, not black or white, etc., and this is a good thing. He seems to appreciate the opportunity that this country represents, and knows we have enemies, and comes down on the side of compassion for those struggling (maybe he thinks too many are struggling, but that’s OK, I can live with that disagreement). He was quite good, and it is easy to see why so many Democrats are looking at him to be a future leader inn the party. Indeed, assuming the clobbering that Kerry’s going to get, we might as well prepare ourselves for a Hillary-Obama ticket. Edwards’ career might be over after November.
I think Teresa Kerry should not have spoken. She was terrible. It’s OK for her to get the reputation that she is a woman who speaks her mind, as long as there is some mind there to speak. But, alas, there isn’t one. This is a rich, self-absorbed, European aristocrat (a "continental African" as she so unartfully put it) who values appearance over substance, who can say hyphenated-Americans in at least six languages, and willing to learn it in another six. She is self-indulgent, haughty, and obtuse. She talked about her uninteresting self, thinking that her formulations were ever-so-deep and full of pith, yet only fully understood in all their depth only by those educated in Switzerland and weaned on the habits thirty of years of unimaginable wealth and all the bad habits that that brings to mere mortals. She finally got around to mentioning her husband, yet she said nothing personal or interesting about him. Such a woman is not in the habit of talking well of her servants. She has now become a massive disadvantage to John Kerry; and this was visible to all, including the heavy-breathing liberal commentators. They were at a loss, but they knew something bad--and revealing--had happened.
This Democratic convention--indeed the whole campaign--will be talked about and studied for years. Pundits and graduate students will talk for years about how Kerry became the nominee by accident, how the only thing that kept his boring self going and in the limelight was the weird anti-Bush hatred of a goodly part of his party (which had been at first whipped up by Howard Dean, and then added to by conspiracy theorist Michael Moore), how the Democrats united for the first time ever and how they admitted that unity was based on nothing but merely trying to oust a sitting president, how they assumed that 46% of the people so hated Bush that they were willing to vote for anybody but him, how their candidate never went up in the polls and how he lost what little momentum he had at the party convention, that (see the ABC News/Washington Post poll) and how after Kerry’s defeat the Democratic Party became the personal playground of a former president’s wife and how she let a newly minted U.S. Senator from Illinois play.
A few thoughts on last nights cable-only event:
1. The Dems are or should be grateful that the networks didnt carry the convention last night. Too call it tepid would be too much compliment. Ive had warm water with more flavor.
2. Its no secret that the speeches are being toned down so as to avoid a negative, anti-Bush convention, everyone knows this. But this strategy has left a void. The crowd, energized Monday night by their beloved boy-wonder, found that same enthusiasm kicked helplessly out of reach by the speeches of Ted Kennedy, Ron Reagan, the governor of Arizona, and Theresa Heinz Kerry. The only thing to get excited about all night was the performance delivered by Barak Obama -- yes, he is a rising star. The strategists, as I understand their thinking, didnt think it wise to spend four days denouncing the president. They want their delegates to hear something positive about their own candidate, and feel good about their own party. They want the American public to hear an affirmative reason to vote Democratic. The problem, as became clear last night, is that while it is dangerous to do nothing but ridicule a sitting president, it is likely just as dangerous to expose the true values and agenda of the Democratic Party. As Dick Armey used to say, "Conservatives are afraid that if we tell people the truth, they wont understand it. Liberals are afraid they will." Thus, we never heard any positive, affirmative spin for the Democratic agenda. No mention of gay marriage, advancing "choice," raising taxes, raising tarrifs, cutting military budgets, curtailing law enforcement, affirmative action, or gun control. The closest we got to any discussion of an issue was Ron Reagan extolling the virtues of stem-cell research in a speech that was ostensibly to be "non-partisan" (though he couldnt pull that off) and delivered by a man that I wager most Americans would call a "moderate" if for no other reason than that he was a Reagan at the Democratic National Convention. Now, the next two days may prove otherwise, but I bet the Dems are smart enough to know that talking out loud about their true agenda for America wouldnt play well. So instead, we get platitudes about John Kerrys heroism in a war that liberals despise.
3. I caught Wolf Blitzers take on Ted Kennedys speech. It went something like: "Gee, that was pretty tame for ol Ted. Not much red meat there, was there? I thought he was supposed to rally the troops and fire things up. Bill Snyder, youre our chief political analyst, you listened to Senator Kennedy closely. What did you think of the speech?" Snyder: "Well, Wolf, I was really interested to see who was in the audience here. Did you see Maria Shriver? Shes here tonight. Of course, you know, shes the wife of the Republican governor of California. And shell be an honored guest at the Republican convention next month. Isnt that amazing? Maria Shrivers here." Thanks guys.
4. Theresa Heinz Kerry did nothing to help. As one FoxNews reporter said following her speech, Mrs. Heinz Kerry was the first first lady (nominee) to have a keynote slot at a national convention...and she might be the last. Another reporter called her speech "bordering on the bizarre." Watching the post-game on FoxNews, I knew the left knew they were in trouble as soon as the analyst from NPR started saying how very little turns on the performance of a first lady. No one votes or doesnt vote because of the first lady. This was really inconsequential for the campaign. The others on the show, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke, Bill Kristol and Brit Hume all thought her performance was awful. It did nothing to tell us about the candidate. It told us only about his wife -- and did nothing to make us more comfortable with her. Yet another reason not to carry this on network television.
5. Barak Obama will be a star.
6. Its true that Monday night had a different feel to it. The crowd was excited, enraptured even, by Clinton. Maybe Tuesday night was just a bad hangover; the price you pay in the morning for one too many shots of Slick. If not, if this is all they got, the Dems are in trouble.
As you know from his post below, Robert is back. He landed in Chicago last night and, following specific instructions from his chief, he went to the first watering hole and had a stiff one on me. Now go and view the manners of the town, peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings. Love your family. Be content, traveller. Welcome home Robert. Job well done.
Over at the Corner, John Derbyshire had this to say about Michael Moores appearance last night on Bill OReillys show:
Just caught the Michael Moore, Bill OReilly exchange. They were both pretty slow-footed, though Id give it to OReilly on points.
The Big Mick would not give a straight answer to Moores question: "Would you sacrifice your child for Fallujah?" All right, its a stupid question as phrased. OReilly should have said that. Then he should have said this: "If a child of mine wished to pursue a career in the U.S. military, I should be proud. If he was then sent off to fight in a hot war, in which the USA had engaged under the proper conventional and constitutional procedures of this republic -- under the command of the President, with the approval of the Congress -- I would make no attempt to stop him. If he died in combat, I should grieve as a loving parent; but I would blame nobody. And if anyone tried to make political capital out of my childs death, I would loathe that person."
The Left has never departed in any significant way from Leninist collectivism. Human beings are not autonomous spiritual beings, possessed of free will. They are mechanical units who need to be directed, governed, shoveled around like so many truckloads of concrete, socially engineered. Or they are "children," to be scolded and directed and constantly supervised.
Evelyn Waugh once interrupted someone who was telling him something about "the man in the street." Said Waugh: "There is no such thing as the man in the street. There are only men, each possessed of an immortal soul, who from time to time feel the need to use streets." I imagine that to Michael Moore, that remark is utterly incomprehensible.
Opening my email this morning, there were press releases about two bombings in Iraq which occurred this morning: a car bombing in Baqubah which killed 20 Iraqis and wounded 15 others, and a IED near the Multi-National Force (MNF) Camp north of Al Hillah, for which there were no reported MNF injuries. It was interesting to read these reports here in the States, because I visited both of these places in the last week.
UPDATE: I just received a press release updating the numbers to 45 Iraqis dead, and 98 wounded.
I arrived back in the States last night. While selected for special customs screening, it was relatively painless. After being sent to the counter between the red pillars (never a good sign), I met with a customs officer. He looked at my paperwork, and noted that my travel took me to the UK, Jordan, and Iraq. "Yeah," I replied, "and I cant figure out why I would be selected for a special customs search." The Customs Officer then offered dryly, "Its a random search." After a few questions, including the standard repitition of questions to see if I would waiver, he let me through with a short stop at the Dept. of Agriculture desk (I have visited a farming area in the last week, and therefore they had to disinfect my shoes).
By contrast, I heard a very bad story about how the soldiers were treated on return at Atlantas airport. Sgt. Mattocks from the 196th traveled back to the United States for leave in June. When he got off the airplane in Atlanta, they had a special line for the soldiers, where they made them all remove their boots, hike up their desert camouflage uniform pants to about their knees, open their belts, and stand in a line of about 300 soldiers waiting to be searched. Aside from subjecting them to even closer scrutiny than they subjected to non-U.S. citizens traveling to the states, the TSA operated this procedure in front of the foreign travelers. This sent a very bad message about how we treat our soldiers.
Johnny and I finished painting the basement last night, and allowed the TV to be turned to the convention. We listened while we painted. We finished about two hours after Clinton spoke. With the exception of Carter’s speech, they got everything they wanted from the first night: unity. Unity for what, of course, is the big question. In the end, all disagreements, from big things--the war--to small--health care--the party will for the convention (and I presume for the campaign) just shut up and vote anti-Bush. This is a heck of thing to hinge a political party on, especially during pressing times. It is too dependent on both events and Bush’s prudence. It is also an attempt to hide Kerry’s weaknesses. It won’t work, Bill Clinton’s excellent speech (never mind the demagoguery), and the focus on 9/11, notwithstanding. Now comes the real work. I wonder if viewership (not large as it was, according to Drudge) will decline to nothing by the time Kerry speaks. I’m betting it will decline, and this portends their problem in the campaign.
Jonah Goldberg in USA Today writes, in my opinion, an almost perfect column on the Democrats and the start of their convention. You must read the whole thing and when you do so, note a couple of formulations which are entirely fitting; here is one: "The point of this Potemkin unity is to seduce moderates and swing voters into believing that Kerry’s their guy." Also see this good piece on John Kerry by David Brooks, he says Kerry has unified the party "through sheer force of prolixity." Right.
Over at Division of Labour, another blog to which I occasionally contribute, economist E. Frank Stephenson looks into Bill Clintons claim last night that "Republicans favor concentrated wealth." It turns out that income inequality in the 1990s was significantly greater than in the "decade of greed" that was the 1980s. This must be an uncomfortable fact for that horny-handed son of toil, Senator John F. Kerry.
I took time out from book writing to watch Jimmy Carters dreadful speech (did he forget to take all the marbles out of his mouth?), and offer my reaction on National Review Online here.
Daniel Okrent, the public editor of The New York Times writes an article conceding the obvious.
Andrew Busch claims that the really interesting feature of the Democratic convention will be the insight it will provide into the Republican strategy for the Fall. As the Demo themes are developed during the convention, we should pay attention to how the GOP reacts to them; that will give us an insight into what they may be planning for the campaign. The two counterattacks against Kerry (that he is very Liberal, and that he is a flip-flopper) thus far have not worked well; they counteract each other. They should pick one and stick to it, he recommends branding him a Liberal. This has the advantage of both being true, and more useful politically. Yet, Busch warns,
the Republicans must begin giving a positive argument (a narrative, not a snapshot) as to why President Bush deserves another term. That should have two story lines, the economy and Iraq.
Aljazeera reports: "Organisers at the Democratic Party convention in United States have removed Aljazeeras logotype banner from its skybox without assigning reasons." They are not amused, but I am. In place of Aljazeeras logotype will be a banner reading "Strong for America." (Thanks to Instapundit)
Mark Steyn also has a few thoughts about Max Cleland, Sandy Berger, and revisionism in general. Domestic politics is in a rotten state, he argues. "A frivolous uncivil civil war is draining all the energy away from the real war. We warmongers didnt start the nitpicking, but somehow the entire landscape of U.S. politics has tilted so that a nation supposedly at war is spending most of its time looking through the rear window sniping about what was said and done in 2002, 2001, 2000, like the falling calendar leaves in a Hollywood flashback. The Democrats will always win on this playing field because, like some third-rate soap opera, their characters are not required to have any internal consistency."
Joseph Knippenberg makes a very good point in the Marietta Daily Journal (Georgia) about the dilemna and the opportunity the Demos face, and not only during the convention. The bitter partisan accusations that Bush is a liar by folks like Cleland, and the more moderated tone of the Demo platform, may allow the Kerry campaign to have it both ways; at least theyre try it, although probably less during th convention than during the campaign.
His op-ed is entitled, "Max Cleland, meet Michael Moore." He begins: "A few days ago, the Kerry campaign trotted out its national co-chair, former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, to repeat a bunch of canards regarding President George W. Bushs case for going to war with Iraq. The president, Cleland said, flat-out lied to Congress regarding Iraqs possession of weapons of mass destruction, its nuclear weapons program, its attempts to purchase yellowcake uranium in Africa and its ties to al-Qaida. Bushs real motive for going to war was that he concluded that his daddy was a failed president and one of the ways he failed was that he did not take out Saddam Hussein. So, Cleland concluded, Bush 43 had to be Mr. Macho Man.
"Unfortunately, the record painstakingly assembled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and by its British counterpart doesnt support ex-Sen. Clelands charges. The intelligence community may have overstated the evidence it had for Saddams WMD, but the Bush Administration did not misrepresent the consensus, not only of the U.S. experts but of their colleagues abroad. As Prime Minister Tony Blair said in response to the British Butler report, the issue of good faith should now be at an end." Read it all.
Yesterday, I flew out of Baghdad International Airport to Amman, Jordan--thereby leaving Iraq for the first time in five months. There are two flights per day out of Baghdad to Amman on Royal Jordanian airlines, and the security is tight. Unless you have a DOD badge, you must get dropped off at a remove parking lot, where a shuttle bus picks you up to take you a significant distance to the main terminal. I must note that the terminal itself offered a freedom that we no longer enjoy in the United States: the freedom to smoke. Indeed, not just the freedom to smoke, but the freedom to smoke cigars. So, as I sat during the long wait for my planes departure, I enjoyed a fine cigar.
Once on the tarmac, one of the baggage handlers came up to me and said "check bag" while pointing at my carry-on. This was not a negotiable point, and so I replied, "Lau, Lau," (Arabic for no, no), explained that I had my camera and computer in the bag, and that checking it was not an option. He nodded his head, and said something like "Your luggage is my luggage." That really didnt change my mind. Finally, after some back and forth, I discovered that he was not asking me to check my bag, but to show me which of the checked baggage sitting by the plane was mine, so that they could assure that all the bags belonged to passengers on the flight before loading them. (I found that I was not the only one who had this misunderstanding with the baggage handler as I watched other passengers make similar protestations while boarding after me.)
When the plane took off, it immediately banked left and went almost straight up, rising in altitude extremely abruptly. For the next 15 minutes, the plane continued in a corkscrew pattern over the airport, ascending in altitude to the ultimate cruising altitude for the flight. I have been told that the pilots do this in order to get the aircraft to an altitude beyond the reach of RPGs and missiles before they leave the more secure perimeter of the airport. After that, it was smooth sailing into Jordan, where I am spending a short time before returning to the States.
I will be writing a full article on my visit to the mass graves, but I wanted to write a post here to provide something of a preview. My trip began on Friday with a drive down to Al Hillah. I was traveling with a representative of USAID, and therefore had the benefit of an armored SUV and a security detail. The road to Hillah from Baghdad is Rte. 1, a highway which Saddam reportedly built and maintained in order to facilitate his incursion into Kuwait. The road has been closed to non-Coalition traffic, and has numerous checkpoints along the way. As we drew further south, we entered the Multi National area of operations overseen by the Polish forces, and encountered a number of the Poles.
In Hillah on Friday I met with representatives of several human rights organizations operating in the area. Muhannad Al-Dolaimy, the general prosecutor and director of the Human Rights Association, explained how Saddam’s Deputy, Taha Yasin Ramadan, paid 300 Iraqi Dinars for each Shia a local sheik would bring to be tortured and killed. Far from disavowing the actions of the sheik, Saddam appeared on television with him, and thanked him for his efforts in putting down the 1991 Shia uprising. Despite some recent claims that the number of mass graves is less than expected, the groups continue to find mass graves, and have not been able to continue the exhumation process at the previous pace due to a lack of funding.
There are seven confirmed mass grave sites in the Hillah/Babyl area, from which approximately 25,000 bodies have been discovered. On Saturday, I visited the mass grave at Mahaweel, where 3,000 bodies have been unearthed. The bodies have been exhumed, however the groups left the clothes of victims who could not be identified over their graves, so that family members could use these items to help identify some of the unknown victims. The area now is simply a field marked off with concertina wire, containing mound after mound marking graves as far as the eye can see. It is easy to forget that these mounds marked graves, until you see a sweater, or a shoe, or a belt which belonged to the deceased.
From Mahaweel, we went to the headquarters of the Association of Free Prisoners—a group devoted to finding and documenting political prisoners in Iraq who have been freed, are missing, or were killed. The headquarters is in a bad part of town, and so the security detail was edgy about the trip. Accordingly, if there was not a spot to park close to the building, we would not be stopping. Thankfully, there was a spot directly in front. Even so, they requested that we keep the visit as short as possible.
The building itself looked like something of a museum dedicated to Saddam’s victims. The walls were lined with pictures of those who were found in the mass graves, as well as articles, such as watches, combs, coins, and ID cards, that were found at the grave sites. I first met with Karama Tehsin, who held pictures of her son and husband who disappeared from the market where they worked in 1991. She did not know that they were killed until their bodies were discovered at Mahaweel last year. Saddam’s government did not want to risk another uprising, and so his agents would spread misinformation about those who were killed. Karama explained how his Saddam’s agents would tell her that her son and husband were in prison, and would come periodically to tell her that they had been transferred to another location. They would also seek money from Karama, offering to help her find exactly where her family members were—money which she paid. For the 12 years between when they were captured and when their bodies were found, she explained that every time a knock came at the door, she held out hope that it would bring good news as to the whereabouts of her loved ones. But good news did not come, and when the excavation began at Mahaweel, they were able to identify her husband and son based on their ID cards. “Thank God we were able to give them a proper burial,” she explained. When I asked who she blamed for what happened, she said “Saddam” without hesitation, and when I asked what would bring justice for her loved ones, she said, “[t]he same way he killed them, he should be killed.”
I then met with Hassan Alawa Hussein, who knows a thing or two about Mahaweel: he was there when the mass executions took place. He was abducted and first taken to a locations where he was tortured with electrical shocks to his ears, teeth, hands, fingers, and toes. He was then blindfolded and his hands were tied behind his back for a trip by truck with many other prisoners to Mahaweel. There, the prisoners were unloaded in a ditch, where the soldiers began beating them repeatedly with sticks. Then they opened fire on the prisoners. A bullet hit Hassan in the leg, and he fell into a pile with the other bodies. There he lay for three hours, pretending to be dead while the soldiers moved around in the near distance. When he could not hear the soldiers for about 15 minutes, he got up, to discover that there were two others who survived the shootings. They made their way out of the area in the time that the grave was unguarded. This time was provided at great cost: the soldiers had simply gone to refill the truck with prisoners to transport to Mahaweel. Hassan is now a volunteer at the Association of Free Prisoners, where he helps other families to locate their lost loved ones.
The USAID was ultimately very helpful in setting up the meetings and getting me to the grave site, and for this I am grateful. What is disappointing, however, is that it took multiple requests of various individuals in the Coalition Press offices in order to get connected to the people to make this happen. Quite simply, the press office over here has not taken an active enough role in making these sites available. When I talked to members of the administration here, they seemed to think that the fact that Amb. Negroponte and Amb. Bremer visited was substantial coverage. But these events were mere blips on the media radar screen. For all the coverage of Abu Ghraib—for all the details we know about those incidents—there is still much we do not know about the systematic mass executions conducted by Saddam Hussein.
David Frum thinks that the Demo convention will have a tough time stifling its rage and paranoia, even though it can count on getting favorable media coverage. The
Wall Street Journal lists the 35 accredited bloggers to the Demo
convention. First time bloggers have been accredited to a convention. (And, of course, there are 15,000 traditional journalists and reporters also accredited. This means that there are 3 reporters for every delegate?) The only one I read daily is
Oxblog, theyre moderate Demos, Lieberman supporters. Speaking of blogs, the editor of the Sioux Fall Argus Leader, a vehemently pro-Daschle organ, hates bloggers and says they are yahoos. Then, to counter bloggers he doesnt like, he has decided to set up his own blog. John Fund also has a piece on bloggers. In case you are excited about Jimmy Carters appearance at the convention (and if you dont have time to read Steve Haywards The Real Jimmy Carter), you may want to read this interview Hayward did at NRO on Carter. To the point, amusing, Steve asserts that Jimmy has Carterized the Democratic Party.
Ah, sweet irony. Theresa Heinz Kerry gives a speech to the Pennsylvania delegation about the need for greater civility in politics. In the speech, she said "We need to turn back some of the creeping, un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming into some of our politics." After the interview, Colin McNickle, the editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, asked her what she meant by un-American. On a video you can see on this page, she repeatedly states that she did not say un-American--something which she most certainly did say (which is also verified in the video). When she finds out who the reporter was, i.e., a conservative, she ran over to him and said that "You said something I didn’t say. Now shove it." What was her press flack’s response? "This was sheer frustration, aimed at a right-wing rag, that has consistently and purposely misrepresented the facts in reporting on Mrs. Kerry and her family." Aside from the ad hominem, they fail to address the fact that she lashed out at the reporter who was correct about her use of the word "un-American."
The Guardian offers a glimpse into Saddams life behind bars. During one radio interview, I was asked whether I thought Saddam might be suffering mistreatment in prison in light of the revelations from the Abu Ghraib scandal. I suggested that if having foie gras which is not up to his previous standards is torture, then he may have a claim.
Ramesh Ponnuru has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that is worth considering. He argues that--so far--Kerry’s tactical caution has paid off. He has put himself foward as a centrists, a la Bill Clinton, candidate. He has not taken on any faction within the Demo Party, and has not needed to. He can just assume that the looney and loud Left within the party will support him even if he keeps his mouth shut; a reasonable assumption. But that doesn’t mean that the Michael Moore crowd will not continue to alienate voters that Kerry needs. He is not Dean-like in his views on Iraq, and even his boring personality seems to be useful, for now. Ramesh is right in saying that there is a very large assumption here: Kerry assumes that they are starting the campaign "with the loyalty of nearly half the voters," and he thinks he can court the remainder he needs by tactical means (stay quiet on gun control, obfuscate on abortion, etc.), and "not because people were excited about a Kerry presidency." This is all sensible, even though I don’t think the assumption is true. Yet, he doesn’t have the moderate credentials that Bill Clinton so laboriously cultivated before he ran; Kerry has a long record as a Liberal, both before and during his Senate stint. That will be hard to shake off. It isn’t going to be enough to keep talking about the fact that he served in Vietnam; the massive fact of what he did after he returned will be the thing that makes him into a candidate that cannot be trusted with the well-being of the country during this war. But, above all, Kerry has not yet turned anyone who wasn’t already opposed to Bush in his direction so they may hear what he has to say. This is what his people claim he is supposed to start doing at next week’s convention, as long as they can keep the convention from turning into nothing but Bush bashing. And the biographical story will not overwhelm anyone, in the end. This guy is not from Hope. He will have to--above all else--lay out some serious ideas on the war (which includes Iraq) that are different from Bush’s. If Iraq had fallen into a civil war, enough people would have turned in his direction to listen to him articulate a different option; he would have had the chance of persuading them. But this hasn’t happened, and Kerry is now at a large disadvantage relying almost solely on the Demo votes cobbled together by Clinton, and later used by Gore. But Kerry, not being a centrist Democrat, will have to re-earn those Democratic votes. The overly ethusiastic anti-Bush Left has obscured this fact. Besides, he is not running against the governor of Texas. He is running against a fellow who has been president for almost four years, and one who continues to conduct a war, a serious war. That’s the leadership issue that Bush wins hands down in every poll. Besides, Bush is well liked as a person; not a small matter. Here is my prediction for the convention: Kerry will only be partly successful, and will not come out of the convention with a "bounce" of more than five percent. That will prove to be devastating because Bush’s authority will continue to rise through the Fall, and Kerry’s failure will be perfectly clear a week before the election.
Michael Moores movie has been shown in Poland, and the Poles--who know something about propaganda--are not amused. Reviewer Jacek Szczerba called the film a "foul pamphlet". "In criticising Moore, I have to admit that he has certain abilities - Leni Riefenstahl had them too," Mr. Szczerba said in his review. Riefenstahl was Hitlers propagandist. (Thanks to Instapundit)
On page 68 of the 9/11 Commission Report the following statement is made, and then elaborated upon: "Bin Laden also relies heavily on the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb." Qutb makes clear that there is no middle ground in the fight between Islam and unbelief so all Muslims must take up arms in this fight and any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just another nonbeliever worthy of destruction.
Qutb is a very important thinker. He is the premier Islamic radical, the one who made the hatred of the West into an ideology, and did this through his understanding of Islam, especially in his
In the Shade of the Qur’an, still the most widely read commentary on the Qur’an. Osama bin Laden is deeply influenced by Qutb, and, by the way, Qutb’s brother was bin Laden’s tutor.
Ashbrook Scholars write a Statesmanship Thesis (senior thesis, if you like) before graduating. Normally they start work on it during their Junior year, hand in the last draft a month before graduation, and also defended in public a few weeks before graduation. Each year we choose the best thesis for the Charles E. Parton Award, named after the second director of the Ashbrook Center, one who encouraged students to write a serious thesis before graduation. This year’s recipient of the Parton Award was Luke Loboda. His Statesmanship Thesis is entitled, "The Thought of Sayyid Qutb: Radical Islam’s Philosophical Foundations." Although long, it is worth reading, especially now. Enjoy it. Luke was a history and political science major, his intention is to teach in a good high school.
The NY Times runs a story on an interview conducted with John Kerry. There are two notable things about it: First, he wants to tame the anti-Bush sentiment of the Demos attending the convention. He rightly prefers the convention to highlight himself and what he stands for. That is the way it should be. Everyone will be listening just for that. If he doesn’t succeed in this, the convention will not be to his advantage. Two, he thinks that the 9/11 Commission Report allows him to challenge Bush on his greatest strength, fighting terror. I, however, think the Report puts Kerry at a disadvantage for one large reason: the war on terror (or rather on Islamist terrorism and its ideology--see pp. 361-363 of the Report--as David Brooks, following the Commissions’ usage of the term, prefers to call it) is brought front and center by the Report. And that means that Bush’s greatest strength is enhanced. He is a war president, and he has to be addressed in those terms. The terms of the discussion have shifted in Bush’s favor with the publication of the Report. And it is not sufficient (although necessary) for Kerry to say that he would act quickly to carry out that Commission’s recommendations. So will Bush, details aside for now. The issue that the Report has placed in front of citizens (in case there was any doubt) is that there is a war, a long war that will be fought both here and abroad. This confirms Bush’s position and rhetoric. And this view will now certainly dominate the election, and who is most trusted to fight that war will be elected president. Furthermore, because Congress will act quickly (with Bush’s leadership), there is a good chance that by late October Bush and Kerry will be discussing details of the legislation that will be claiming to put the Report’s recommendations into practice. Advantage to the executive, the one who has been deeply involved in the war, and the legislative actions demanded by the Report and supported by public opinion. Kerry, albeit a U.S. Senator, will be in an awkward position of addressing these issues as if he were an outsider to the process (unless he wants to sit in on committee hearings instead of campaigning, which he won’t).
Kerry: "I can fight a more effective war on terror. I can make America safer. I will bring allies back to our side." If he can persuade the people of this, he has a chance of being elected; but not if all he talks about is bringing allies back to our side. There has to be more. He is more disadvantaged on this issue now than he was two weeks ago and Michael Moore, Richard Clarke, and Joseph Wilson are now cold anchors around his neck rather than the encouragers of the heated passion of the Left, which function they have been serving until now, and which have served Kerry’s interests, until now.
That Kerry has a long way to go in this matter is revealed in the following quote from the New York Times piece on the character of the upcoming Demo convention: "Youre going to see more veterans, more patriotism, more talk about protecting our country, said one senior Democrat who insisted on anonymity in discussing the details of the convention. Youre going to think youre looking a Republican convention."
Ron Fournier of AP summarizes the electoral votes as they satnd according to current polls and some guesswork. The details are not especially important (we could quibble about a few) for now. It gives a quick overview of which states are likely to be the most prized and the toughest battlegrounds, e.g., Ohio, Nevada, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, New Mexico, etc. Just file it for now.
David M found out something interesting, but not surprsing, about which condidates Ivy League faculty support with money:(thanks to Andrew Sullivan): "In my queries, I found 792 donations to the 2004 campaigns of Bush and Kerry from individuals employed by Ivy League schools. An astonishing 92% of those donations were to Kerry. Dartmouth had the highest percent for Kerry (97%) and Princeton the highest for Bush (16%). Harvard had more than double the total donations of any other school, while Brown and Dartmouth had the fewest total donations." Here are the results:
Brown: Kerry 24, Bush 3 (Kerry 89%)
Columbia: Kerry 118, Bush 18 (Kerry 87%)
Cornell: Kerry 76, Bush 6 (Kerry 93%)
Dartmouth: Kerry 30, Bush 1 (Kerry 97%)
Harvard: Kerry 280, Bush 17 (Kerry 94%)
Penn: Kerry 38, Bush 2 (Kerry 95%)
Princeton: Kerry 74, Bush 14 (Kerry 84%)
Yale: Kerry 85, Bush 6 (Kerry 93%)
TOTAL: Kerry 725, Bush 67 (Kerry 92%)
Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell have a draft of a paper, "The Power and Politics of Blogs," to be delivered at the APSA in the Fall (a bit too "academic" for my taste, I should note, but for all I know these guys are trying to get tenure). Farrell gives summary of the paper on his blog. There are some more comments on the paper, with interesting links, at Drezners blog. The mass media is in decline, newspaper circulation is down, and, most important, there is less trust in the established media than ever (see the New York Times coverage of the Sandy Berger matter, just to cite the latest example). So it is not surprising that alternate, often literate and even thoughtful, daily commentary is becoming--has become--quite interesting (with a lot of readers) and the media elites are forced to pay attention. What really makes them angry is that bloggers are honest and they encourage conversation. They dont hide their opinions and like defending them. There is something quite democratic (and even populist) about all this. And it is an irritant to the elites. So far so good. But here is an attack on bloggers by an establishment type at the Kennedy School (thats Harvard). Pretty lame.
Vodkapundit ruminates on Peter Beinarts blow up on the Hugh Hewitt show. Beinart lost his cool when pressed on the Berger theft. Vodkapundit claims this: "The Berger thefts are a window into the un-seriousness at the core of the Democratic Party where national security is concerned. They dare not let the Great Unwashed realize that simple truth, thus the panicky volume of the spin, and the silence of the anti-Bush press."
The New York Times reports that "Officials at the National Archives were so concerned about Samuel R. Bergers removal of classified documents last year that they imposed new security measures governing the review of sensitive material, including the installation of full-time surveillance cameras."
And then there is this from the New York Sun (read the whole for the details): "In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times — Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive today.
It really doesn’t matter now what was in the documents from the National Archives that Mr. Berger says he inadvertently misplaced. The evidence in the commission’s report yesterday is more than enough to embarrass him thoroughly.He is a hardworking, warm man with a wonderful family, but his background as a trade lawyer and his dovish, legalistic and political instincts made him, in retrospect,the tragically wrong man to be making national security decisions for America in wartime.That Senator Kerry had Mr. Berger as a campaign foreign policy adviser even before the archives scandal is enough to raise doubts about the senator’s judgment."
Martin Peretz also has a choice paragraph on the Berger matter, it begins thus: "I confess: I do not like Sandy Berger; and I have not liked him since the first time we met, long ago during the McGovern campaign, not because of his politics since I more or less shared them then, but for his hauteur. He clearly still has McGovernite politics, which means, in my mind, at least, that he believes there is no international dispute that cant be solved by the U.S. walking away from it."
Lance Armstrong is set to win the Tour de France for the sixth consecutive time. Impressive.
Keith Windshuttles questioning of the Australian historical establishment is irritating a lot of the PC crowd. Windshuttles book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History "struck at the heart of the accepted view of Australian colonial history in the past 30 years - that the settler society had engaged in a pattern of conquest, dispossession and killing of the indigenous inhabitants. The facts, he said, did not stack up." Also see Armavirumque.
A survey indicates that 17% of Germans drink beer only to get drunk, but only 8% of Brits drink to become stupefied. I have never understood how anyone can drink enough beer to become drunk.
I guess we have missile defense: "A ground-based missile interceptor was installed Thursday in Alaskas Interior -- the first component of a national defense system designed to shoot down enemy missiles.
Crews at Fort Greely lowered the 55-foot-long, three-stage interceptor into one of six silos built behind a double perimeter fence reinforced by heavy barbed wire.
Were coming to the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks, said Maj. Gen. John Holly, who heads the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program for the Pentagons Missile Defense Agency.
Five additional interceptors will be installed at the 700-acre complex by the end of the year, along with another four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Ten more will be installed at Fort Greely by late 2005, launching the Bush administrations multibillion-dollar system."
Thomas Sowell on the Wal-Mart case and one of the "grand fallacies" of our times: "A record-breaking new class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart claims that the retail chain discriminates against women, for which, of course, vast millions of dollars are being demanded. The New York Times aptly summarized the case: About 65 percent of the company’s hourly-paid workers are women, but only 33 percent of its managers are.
The grand fallacy of our times is that various groups would be equally represented in institutions and occupations if it were not for discrimination. This preconception has undermined, if not destroyed, the crucial centuries-old legal principle that the burden of proof is on the accuser."
The New York Times runs a puff piece on Jerry Springer and his interest in running for governor of Ohio in 2006. Springer is a left-wing Democrat, but he is the best known Demo in the state, which proves that the Demos are at a nadir politicall. The GOP primary for governor will be much more interesting. In the meantime it looks as though Ashland’s Bill Harris (R) will become the President of the Ohio Senate in 2005. Ohio, of course, continue to be a critical state for both Bush and Kerry; each will be in the state next Saturday. Bush won Ohio by 4% in 2000, and the latest ARG poll has Kerry at 47% and Bush at 45% (Kerry having dropped two points in a month, and Bush came up two).
Alan Wirzbicki writes a short piece for The New Republic on Philip Zelikow, who has been the 9/11 Commissions executive director. Zelikow is moving back to the University of Virginias Miller Center, which had been running until he was asked to be the Commissions staff director. He traces Zelikows GOP credentials and his close association with Condi Rice, and some of the politics involved in all this. Since this was written before the writer read the Commissions report, it is excusable that he writes: "How is it, then, that Zelikow steered the Commission to a report that will be critical of the Bush administration?" No doubt more will be said about Zelikow in the future.
Well, what do you know! The New York Times is calling for Yasir Arafat to resign. First paragraph: "Its been the misfortune of the Palestinian people to be stuck with Yasir Arafat as their founding father, a leader who has failed to make the transition from romantic revolutionary to statesman. All he seems capable of offering Palestinians now is a communal form of the martyrdom he seems to covet. Mr. Arafat should accept his limitations and retire as president of the Palestinian Authority."
This is a book review of a book on ancient wine by a biomolecular archaeologist (never heard of such a thing!) and he claims that during the Paleolithic era people drank fermented grapes and this has to do with whether or not such grapes were domesticated and what that had anything to do with the origins of agriculture. I can tell you without reading the book that it probably had everything to do with the origins of agriculture, i.e., men first worked at those things that gave them pleasure rather than those things necessity compelled them to do. Or, at the least, necessity and pleasure grew side by side. Hobbbes to the contrary notwithstanding. Nunc vino pellite curas, says Horace.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial on the Report seems to me (even though I have not yet read the report) to the point. Very much worth reading. A sample: "So the doctrine of pre-emption has its uses, after all. In a world of conflicting intelligence, uncertain consequences and potential foreign opposition, it is still sometimes necessary for America to attack an adversary before it attacks us.
That, reduced to its essence, is the main conclusion of yesterday’s 567-page report from the 9/11 Commission. The September 11 attacks may have been a shock, it says, but they never should have come as a surprise. Our government--and the entire political class--knew enough to act against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but it did not because of ’failures of imagination, policy, capability, and management.’ Though the bipartisan report can’t quite bring itself to use the words, it would seem that the Bush anti-terror doctrine lives."
Steven Den Beste has some (long) thoughts on what the Bush campaign is up to, how they seem to be holding things in reserve, and why they really will not open up on Kerry until September. He explains why Kerry is deeply vulnerable and why he cannot win (assuming a few things). Very thoughtful and agreeable. A couple of lines: "So what I conclude is that the next Bush ’masterstroke’ is going to be the November election. The Republicans and the Bush administration have been biding their time, and conserving their money. They have been carefully accumulating political ammunition and have resisted the urge to expend any of it too soon. They’ve laid the groundwork for a very effective campaign this autumn, and the Democrats are going to get routed."
"The Republicans are carefully preparing the groundwork for a full-scale assault on his greatest weaknesses. Once they open up active hostilities, it’s actually going to end up being very much like the other Bush masterstrokes, where everything changes permanently and no one can again look at the fundamental issues the same way."
My view is similar to this. The Bush campaign is not in a tentative mode, it is in strategic preparation. They are ignoring the polls and they are right to do so. Besides, a careful analysis of the polls show that the polls (even if they are in Bush’s favor) are not especially meaningful because there are too many variables. USA Today/CNN/Gallup and FOX News/Opinion Dynamics has the race running exactly even. The Los Angeles Times has Kerry up by only 2% whereas they had him up by 4% a month ago.
Only Wall Street Journal/NBC pollsays that only 41% of the voters hold favorable views of the Democratic Party (compared to 46% positive just before the 2000 Demo convention). This is not good for the Demos. Will Kerry get a 15% bumb in the polls following next week’s convention (as Gore got in 2000)? I don’t think so. In fact, I will say that he will get no more than a 7-10 point jump. The most important fact in any of the polls--in my opinion--is this: who do the voters think would do a better job on the war against terrorism? Bush consistently wins by large numbers, FOX says that 50% think Bush will do a better job on the war against terror, while only 35% think that Kerry would. Is this likely to change given the increasingly complicated and frightening news coming out of places like Iran and North Korea? Kerry has not given anyone the impression that he is willing to attack his low numbers in this regard, save to say that he would like more international cooperation. That is not an argument. Bush continues to maintain a huge lead when voters are asked who would be the stronger leader (Bush 50%, Kerry 31).
Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the best place to catch up on the latest polls (all the polls), political commentary, and all such matters, is RealClearPolitics. Starting about now, if you are a political junkie, you should visit it a couple times a day. Oh, and dont ignore their "Commentary" section. Very good and useful stuff, clarly laid out.
We just posted some pictures from my visit to soldiers at the Combat Support Hospital. Included are pictures of Warrant Ofr. Leo Geibel and Sfc. Justin Cussans. I have written an article about my conversations with these amazing men, which should be posted in the near future.
For the next two days, I will be in Hillah, to visit one of the larger mass graves in the country. All told, there are estimated to be 400,000 Iraqis and foreigners buried in mass graves, accounting for sizable portion of the 1 million Iraqis who went missing during Saddams regime. Do take a look at the USAID report on mass graves. Read the first hand accounts of Saddams purging of the Shias, and know once again that our error was not coming to Iraq sooner.
The House of Representatives has passed a measure that removes the question of gay marriage from the federal courts jurisdiction. If passed by the Senate, it would effectively mean that the Defense of Marriage Act would be immune from judicial review, and states would be free not to recognize or sanction any gay marriage performed in another state. Heres the story on Fox.
The Boston Phoenix runs a piece on the wealthy funders of progressive "527" groups (MoveOn.org, Americans Coming Together, the Media Fund; there are more than 100 "527s".). These are groups that can accept contributions of unlimited size from anybody. While George Soros (circa $12 million so far) is the most famous, the article lists 12 donors who have given more than $1 million each during the first 18 months of the election cycle. Collectively, this dozen has donated just over $50 million. Welcome to campaign finance reform.
Belmont Club gives us something very interesting to work with. I quote his "Jammers" cloumn in toto:
"It would be wrong to speculate on Sandy Bergers ultimate motive for removing classified documents from the National Archives. Working with insufficient information is the best way to mislead ones self. However, there might be some value to adopting a preliminary framework for understanding new information as it comes to light. The model that comes readily to mind is to regard Bergers escapade as a kind of information countermeasure. The most common ways to conceal information are to 1) create a decoy signal; 2) generate enough noise to blot out the underlying information; and 3) to reduce the signal of the original information which you want to conceal.
Most readers are broadly familiar with the countermeasures used on military aircraft. They can release decoys, like flares or drones. They can emit signals from jamming pods to white out the enemy radar screens. They can employ a variety of measures to reduce their reflection so that they remain unseen, the so-called stealth technology. Each of these corresponds to one type of countermeasure described above. As an exercise one can hypothetically regard the Plame-Wilson affair, the Richard Clarke book and Sandy Bergers bungled theft as representatives of these three kinds of information countermeasures. The first establishes a false "blip" -- the Bush Lied meme -- which misled intelligent bloggers like Oxblogs Patrick Belton for weeks as he followed this phantom echo. The Richard Clarke book can be considered a noise barrager type of countermeasure. It was for the most part a big sound and light show laced with ominous drumrolls with nothing behind it. When the time came to set Clarkes book against Condoleeza Rices testimony at the 9/11 hearings there was curious lack of collision, as might be expected once you got past the boundary generated by a noise jammer. Bergers attempt to stuff codeword classified documents into his pants and socks looks like signature-reduction exercise on its face. It was an attempt to excise information; to create a stealth object which could pass through unnoticed.
The presence of countermeasures almost always indicates the presence of real information which the jamming is intended to protect. One of the reasons that coverups are so dangerous is they create the danger of "home-on-jam", where the source of jamming signal is itself targeted. The significance of catching Sandy Berger in the act of purloining classified couments is that it enables investigators to "home-on-jam", to find the beneficiary of the coverup. Where will it lead? Stay tuned. Remember that jamming needs to work just long enough for the real bandit to accomplish its mission."
A Missouri paper runs this on the Berger matter: Former national security adviser Sandy Berger repeatedly persuaded monitors assigned to watch him review top-secret documents to break the rules and leave him alone, sources said Wednesday.
Berger, accused of smuggling some of the secret files out of the National Archives, got the monitors out of the high-security room by telling them he had to make sensitive phone calls.
Guards were convinced to violate their own rules by stepping out of the secure room as he looked over documents and allegedly stashed some in his clothing, sources said."
It is also the case that Berger took "lots of bathroom breaks" that aroused some suspicion.
Today’s Washington Post article on the Berger National Archive issue adds a bit to what we know. And, frankly, none of the new information is to Sandy Berger’s advantage. He kept taking things. And its not good enough to say that they were many drafts of the same memo. The memos are not the same if, for example, there had been some additions by anyone in the margins; then each is a unique and original document. Note this paragraph, especially: "The government source said the Archives employees were deferential toward Berger, given his prominence, but were worried when he returned to view more documents on Oct. 2. They devised a coding system and marked the documents they knew Berger was interested in canvassing, and watched him carefully. They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. At one point an Archives employee even handed Berger a coded draft and asked whether he was sure he had seen it. At the end of the day, Archives employees determined that that draft and all four or five other versions of the millennium memo had disappeared from the files, this source said." Although everyone is being pretty cautious in this matter, Andrew Sullivan is quite explicit: "This suggests that Berger was trying to purloin potentially embarrassing data on his tenure. That’s astonishing."
It also seems to me that one can’t help wondering why Berger did not tell John Kerry that he was under criminal investigation, and why former Clinton spokeman Joe Lockhart and Clinton’s counsel Bruce Lindsay got immediately involved in the matter. Watch this issue be placed out of sight for the next week or so, to be replaced by the 9/11 Commission Report and the Democratic convention. Yet, it will linger, and will reassert itself by mid-September or so. I’m guessing that there will be more embarrasing revelations, although what we already know is plenty. But take a look at this from Hugh Hewitt (who happens to be a lawyer): "But eventually the public needs to know not what was attempted to be excised from the archive--it may be too sensitive to reveal--but only if there was information unique to the draft(s) that Berger lost. If there was, Berger wasnt being sloppy. He was being precise."
The guys at The Corner are highlighting some excerpts from the 9/11 Commission Report already. For example, Rich Lowry notes: "Pages 329-330 devastate his Saudi post-9/11 flight conspiracy-mongering. A sample: We found no evidence that anyone at the WH above the level of Richard Clarke participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals."
In the tempest in a teapot that is the Aladdin Casino President Bill Timmin’s decision to boot Linda Ronstadt after her tribute to Michael Moore, I have been waiting for someone to make an argument based on the First Amendment. Sure enough, Moore made the argument himself:
Moore wrote a letter to Timmins on Monday saying he thinks the casino president owes Ronstadt an apology.
"What country do you live in?" Moore asked. "Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called, ’The First Amendment.’...For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American."
For Mr. Moore, here is a little lesson in Con Law 101. The First Amendment states in relevant part that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . ." Through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, "Congress" is now interpreted to include state governments. So unless he is arguing that the casino is the federal or state government, Moore has shown his vast ignorance once again. And no, the ethereal spirit of the First Amendment does not really mean that private parties are forced to subsidize speech with which they do not agree (keep in mind that Ms. Ronstadt was a paid performer). Quite to the contrary, implicit in the First Amendment is the freedom of association--which includes the right (with certain limitations) to exclude those with whom you disagree. Accordingly, the Democratic National Convention does not have to feature Ann Coulter, and the Republican Convention does not have to feature a duet by Linda Ronstadt and Michael Moore. Moreover, I don’t have to invite Michael Moore to join me for a welcome back from Iraq party, and he doesn’t need to invite me to his movie’s after-party--and we can expressly not invite each other strictly because we disagree with the others speech. We can even kick each other out of the respective parties if we find the other’s views unacceptable. And, to the case at issue, a casino does not need to tolerate a paid performer using their stage to promote a commercial movie unrelated to her performance or political views which are unpopular to the casino’s clients. It is astounding to me how many people make the remarkably dumb argument that the First Amendment is intended to regulate private entities or persons. It is not, and if you think about it for more than a couple of seconds, that is a good thing. While there is merit in the interaction of ideas, not every stage is a street corner, and it is well within the rights of the owner to prohibit speech with which he disagrees for reasons of principle or profit.
I will be speaking more about my interview with British Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster in a forthcoming piece about training Iraqi security forces, but he said a few things that are worth highlighting here.
To speak with Gen. Aylwin-Foster is to know that he has enjoyed his time in Iraq. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement at all to say that this is a life changing experience,” he said. “It’s not often that you get to be around for the birth of a nation. . . . That’s something to be cherished.”
At the end of the interview, I offered him what I call the open mic (pronounced "mike")—an opportunity to cover something that perhaps I had missed in the course of the interview, or to emphasize any point that he would like to make. He used this opportunity to emphasize how critical it is that U.S. and U.K. support for the effort here in Iraq not wane. “If the American public continues to support this campaign, we will succeed. And conversely, if they don’t, we won’t.” This makes the incessant, selective, and negative drumbeat by the media--the window for the American public to Iraq--all the more disturbing.
One thing I failed to mention in my post about the trip to Tuz is that there was clearly a difference in the nature of the security on the roads. Prior to the transition, when I traveled, the majority of the security on the road would be Coalition security forces. This time, it was just the reverse, with Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard providing the bulk of the patrols on the roads. There was also a greater general "police" presence. The conventional wisdom that the U.S. failed to send enough troops is correct, but not for the reason that most people think. It is not that we needed more troops to handle the uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf. We were able to deploy sufficient forces to those regions very quickly, and we overwhelmed the insurgents in terms of numbers and firepower in those battles, so numbers were simply not an issue there. Rather, the issue in terms of troop total troop deployment was having enough soldiers to provide a police presence after the complete collapse of the Iraqi security forces. The 130,000 troops on the ground simply were not sufficient to provide a police-beat like presence for all of Iraq. While the training process is still underway and much needs to be done to assure the proficiency of the officers, the greater presence is a good sign.
This week saw yet another car (this time tanker) bombing and a mortar attack directed toward Iraqi police stations here in Baghdad. I continue to think that this strategy by the terrorists of attacking expressly Iraqi targets is a losing one. The Iraqi people are backing increasingly strong measures to root out the foreign fighters and extreme elements in their midst, and attacks like this only strengthen that impulse. Furthermore, the attacks do not seem to be having a substantial effect on recruitment in the security forces, which continues at a brisk clip. In an interview I conducted over the weekend with Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British General who is the second in command of the Multi-National Force’s efforts to train the Iraqi security forces, he noted that "[t]he Iraqi people are extraordinarily resilient and the American people should understand this. On a daily basis, there are more Iraqis dying than Coalition and they just keep going." This brought to mind a press release I received from Multi-National Forces Public Affairs, written by U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Zabaldo, which describes the courage and resilience of one particular Iraqi soldier. It is worth quoting at length:
April 9, 2003," [Iraqi Army Lt. Col. Ahmed Lutfi] Ahmed [Raheem] said. "I don’t forget this day."
"I was on my way home to Baghdad after my brigadier boss had told me the war was over and to go home," Ahmed said, describing his last moments as a major in the old Iraqi Army air defense unit he had been with for nine years. "He said it was an order," he added.
"So I walked home from our station in Al Hillah, south of Baghdad, but I didn’t change my clothes," Ahmed said, "And I came to a Marine checkpoint on a bridge in Baghdad. And I still had my uniform on and the Marine sergeant stopped me ..."
"’Where are you going?’ he asked me," Ahmed said in his accented but surprisingly good English.
"And I tell him, ’I am a major in the Iraqi Army and I was ordered to go to my house’" Ahmed said, finishing the backdrop to a life-defining moment he had not seen coming; and on what was supposed to be just a long 50-plus mile walk home to his wife and five children.
The encounter would prove to be a pivotal one for the military veteran because for the next two anxious minutes, Ahmed went through what must be emotions impossible to describe to someone who has never known he was about to die. It was more the result of the 33-year-old’s lifetime of experience with the ways of Saddam Hussein.
Ahmed, though, was actually two minutes away from a rebirth of sorts.
"He looked at me for a while and I thought he was going to kill me," Ahmed said. "But he didn’t kill me," he added. "Instead he came to the position of attention and saluted me as an officer," Ahmed said, "And said, ’Sir you can go.’"
"I took a few steps and began to cry," he said, "Because I think, ’Why do I fight these people for ten years?[’”]
"This moment changed me from the inside," Ahmed said. "What he did was kill me without pistol. He killed the old major in the Iraqi Army who fought America from 1993 to 2003.”
Ahmed was advised by a U.S. Army officer to apply at the recruiting center in Baghdad and was ushered into the army a short time later as an "officer candidate." After training, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the new army having made the cut for promotion from his former rank in the old army.
Ahmed’s story, though, doesn’t end there. The now 34-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Baghdad and career Iraqi Army officer has since endured great personal tests in his first year of service in the new Iraqi Army that have reaffirmed his commitment to serving his country. In February 2004, Ahmed, a Soldier whose face belies his real age with the tell-tale signs of a man who has lived a hard life, was at the Baghdad Recruiting Center when a blast killed more than 47 earlier in the year. The psychological toll was great, but he came back. Several weeks ago, he saw the aftermath of the latest blast at the center only minutes after the attack that left another 35 dead. The wounds were re-opened, but he came back.
And a little more than a month-and-a-half ago on May 15, he was kidnapped by members of the Shiite Muslim Cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi army on a bridge in Baghdad when a vehicle filled with five armed men forced his truck to the side of the road before forcing him into the front seat of their car for transport to a hidden safe-house. Ahmed was beaten and pistol-whipped before being knocked unconscious only to be interrogated later by the insurgent terrorists for his association with the new Iraqi Army and the Coalition. Ultimately he was told not to work with the Coalition anymore and released by the militiamen, but not before they stripped him of his uniform, weapon, cell phone and the vehicle that had been issued to him by the Coalition.
"I said, ’Sir I lost my pistol, my mobile, my uniform and my vehicle,’" Ahmed said, describing the humiliating moment he faced upon returning to the OST headquarters later that day to report the catastrophe. He had begged the militiamen to kill him thinking the loss of equipment was the end of his military career. But when the Coalition officer Ahmed worked with found out that everything he had been issued had been lost that morning, the officer’s response surprised Ahmed. "And when he saw me crying," Ahmed said, "He stood up and gave me another key to a vehicle. And gave me another pistol and another mobile phone."
"’Don’t worry, we trust you,’ he said," Ahmed said. "I really love America for this," Ahmed said. "This is what I wish I could tell every Iraqi."
Ahmed, like so many others in the Iraqi Security Forces that show up for work everyday, knows that security and protection from the individuals bent on denying Iraq its chance at freedom is paramount to his country’s future. "I want to provide security to my country," Ahmed said. "Saddam Hussein didn’t just destroy the buildings and the streets," Ahmed said. "He destroyed something inside of all Iraqis. He destroyed the truth and something inside us. "You know what Saddam Hussein did inside us from 1979 to 2003?" asks Ahmed. "He was president of Iraq for 25 years. In this period of time what did he teach Iraq? What did Saddam teach Iraq? Fight. Take your rifle. Take your pistol and fight. Fight, fight. Fight for what? Eight years with Iran - fight for nothing. And he told us to go to Kuwait and steal. And he laughed. He taught the people how to steal. He made people forget Islam and the Al Koran. "So now inside of all Iraqis it is just to ’fight,’" Ahmed said. "And now we’re fighting between us.
"I do my best, though," Ahmed said. "I do my best to protect my country and to give my country its security." And he does one more thing that doesn’t earn medals in any army on earth: he continues to show up for work. And in the face of suicide bombings, targetings, and abductions and beatings, in Iraq, this is just the typical story common to all the 230,000-plus Iraqi Army Soldiers and police service officers choosing to serve their country. It’s not a story of the courageous actions of Soldiers storming enemy machinegun positions. And there are no medals awarded for the simple act. But it’s a typical story of valor in this country. And a standard that courage never met.
Yesterday, a friend of mine in Cleveland asked whether I thought Dick Cheney would remain on the ticket for November. I said yes, largely because I think any distancing from Cheney looks weak-kneed. Kate OBeirne gives us the real reasons.
The WaTimes headlines with a report on possible "dry runs" being conducted by terrorists aboard U.S. flights. The incidents reported are concerning; scary even. According to the article, airport security is under constant terrorist surveillance, and planes, passengers, and crews are being tested by small bands of suspiciously behaved men. It certainly sounds like another strike is in the works.
Here’s a counter-view of the events described courtesy of NRO.
This review of a book on Pullman Porters by Larry Tye merits a look and indicates that the book may be worth reading. Note that the pullman cars were running by 1867, and Pullman was hiring ex-slaves only for these jobs. Much interesting stuff here, including A. Phillip Randolph, et al. A few paragraphs:
"He [the author of the book] succeeds in explaining how, in the late 19th through the early 20th century, the young African American laborer who, while working as a porter, (but also as a dining car waiter, fireman, brakeman, maid or cook) for the Pullman Rail Car Company, was the true harbinger of the Civil Rights movement and the precursor to today’s black middle class. ’Behind almost every successful African American, there is a Pullman porter,’ Tye writes."
"What drew many in at first was the idea of being a porter: "an image outlined by midnight-blue tailored jackets and crisp visored caps, filled in with tales of exotic destinations and celebrity passengers, and completed by the sound of coins jingling in the pockets of these veteran porters." But what prompted them to stay, and even to pass their jobs on to their children, was the reality of the economic advantage porters gained over any other profession available to blacks at the time. It was not only an opportunity to support themselves and their families, but it produced a peculiar set of circumstances that yielded unexpected opportunities -- which went beyond their selves, their communities and even their time." Read the whole thing, two pages.
I just got around to this WS Journal editorial on the Berger matter. Very good, very clear, very simple. If thats the issue, if that is what explains this theft, then it is serious. Read it.
Some thoughts on the Berger issue from a few readers:
1. "I read one reliable report (cant remember where) that said that the National Archives staff, when they first found out that Berger was pilfering called first of all--guess who--Bruce Lindsay, apparently to try to iron out the little difficulty informally. Say what? What did the Clintonista flack/lawyer have to do with it?"
2. "Aside from Clintons wonderfully nostalgic (imagine thickened Arkansan drawl) we were all laughing about it response, you get Lindsay . . . and then Joe Lockhart and Lanny Davis--and Sandy Berger and his lawyers, and the Kerry campaign, and Daschle and crew--hit the spin zone. America is reminded once again to pay very close lawyerly attention to each phrase being uttered by all concerned in this professional operation, so I note a few points: ne archive staffer told agents that Berger also placed something in his socks. This drew a "sharp response" from Lanny Davis (how did he get involved?):
I suggest that person is lying. And if that person has the guts, lets see who it is who made the comment that Sandy Berger stuffed something into his socks. This sharp response, I note, nowhere denies that Berger stuffed anything into his socks. Lets start parsing again!"
3. "I have a question. Why did the Kerry camp just learn about this two days ago, when it became public? Hasnt Berger known about it for months? Why isnt the media pursuing that story? What does this say about Kerry?"
4. "I heard David Gergen defend Berger by saying this is more innocent than it looks. Some defense!
5. "Why is the timing of this leak an important issue? Why is it assumed to be a leak, why couldnt it be the result of good investigative reporting? I dont get it. I wish some more sensible people--isnt there anyone out there not biased?--would start talking about this."
On the one hand the Sandy Berger matter seems kind of odd, if not silly. On the other hand, I assume that Berger is not a silly man. So what is going on here? How seriously should this be taken. Not very, according to Bill Clinton. The Denver Post reports that Clinton said this about the Sandy Berger matter: "We were all laughing about it on the way over here," the former president said of the investigation into Samuel "Sandy" Berger on classified terrorism documents missing from the National Archives. "People who don’t know him might find it hard to believe. But ... all of us who’ve been in his office have always found him buried beneath papers." It seems to me that this is a revealing response from Clinton. It shows what a fundamentally unserious person Clitnon is. This is a good reminder of what his presidency was, as a wit once said, "a series of sexual episodes between two Bushes."
The New York Times reports that not only did classified memos got placed in his portfolio, but "Mr. Berger also put in his jacket and pants pockets handwritten notes that he had made during his review of the documents," according to his lawyer. The Washington Post story on the matter says this (which Andrew Sullivan focuses on: "A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government’s response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified "codeword," the government’s highest level of document security." The key word in this is "all five or six drafts..." Sullivan thinks this may be typical Clinton-era advance damage (and sleazy) control.
USA Today notes (as AP did yesterday) that Berger did this on more than one occasion: "After one of his visits to the Archives last fall, one of the government officials said, Berger was alerted to the missing documents and later returned some of the materials. On subsequent visits by Berger, Archives staffers specially marked documents he reviewed to try to ensure their return. But the government official said some of those materials also went missing, prompting Archives staffers to alert federal authorities."
Byron York claims that Berger did some heavy lifting: "The documents Berger took — each copy of the millennium report is said to be in the range of 15 to 30 pages — were highly secret. They were classified at what is known as the "code word" level, which is the governments highest tier of secrecy. Any person who is authorized to remove such documents from a special secure room is required to do so in a locked case that is handcuffed to his or her wrist." Now again there is key word here. It is the number of pages (15 to 30) that each document contained. This apparently means that he may have taken over a hundred pages, and I wonder what Bergers "honest mistake" will prove to mean.
Vodkapundit claims more, and, once you get past the few amusing paragraphs about how he understands what it means to stuff things down your pants, you will get to his concern: Berger (ironically) was more concerned about legalities than national security back in
1996 when he recommended to Clinton that we not accept Sudans offer to turn over Osama bin Laden because the FBI did not have enough evidence to indict bin Laden.
The Belmont Club only has this to say about the matter: "The Berger story will make it impossible to post until a sense of its extent emerges. The story of the former National Security Adviser stuffing classified material pertaining to the 9/11 terrorist investigation into his pants and socks is like an opening scene into a larger show; the vestibule into a darkened mansion; the trailer to a movie we are half afraid and half compelled to watch."
In an editorial this morning, "Chase the Guy With the Ball," the NY Times curiously asks for someone, anyone, to run for the U.S. Senate against the Democrat’s putative rising star, Barack Obama. He was recently tapped to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. The editorial states that
it would be too bad if Mr. Obama cakewalked into Washington. Not just for Mr. Obama, who would take office with an asterisk ("*ran against incompetents"). Illinois voters deserve to see a capable opponent force him to answer tough questions and defend his positions.
Tough questions about what, exactly? Defend what positions? The Times doesnt say. Does anyone out there know why the Times has something against Obama? The editorial also unintentionally reminds us why limiting campaign contributions actually prevents qualified candidates from running for office. Key word: "millionaire."
While I was embedded with the troops, an old friend and former Ashbrook Scholar, Julie Ponzi, sent a care package for me to Baghdad. Included with the cookies and much needed coffee was a box filled with toys that her daughter Cassandra, who must be six by now, had helped her mother send for the Iraqi children. On the day before I left Tuz, I went on a trip to visit some of the more remote Kurdish villages where Saddam had committed some of his worst atrocities, including using chemical weapons against his own people. While we were visiting one of the villages, some of the troopers handed out toys to the children. A little girl of around 4 (although it is very difficult to tell; my experience says that due to malnutrition she could have actually been 7) received a doll, and she just beamed. She ran around the village frantically with her new found prize. One of the guys I was with noted that given how poorly girls are treated in Iraq, that this small act of kindness may be something that will stand out as a high point in her life. When I then received Cassandra’s care package for the Iraqi children, it seemed obvious where it should go.
Since I arrived in Baghdad, I made a new discovery: Pizza Napoli. The Iraqi who runs the restaurant trained to cook in Sicily, and he knows how to make a pie. It is reported that this was Amb. Bremer’s favorite pizza place in town, and the owner explained to me that the CPA gave him a cell so that they could order pizzas from him. It seemed that this would be the right relief from the chow hall for the guys. And so, I ordered up a dozen pizzas, donned my bullet-proof Dominos uniform, and loaded them and the toys up for the 200 kilometer trip to Tuz yesterday--a trip through the lovely towns of Sulayman Bak and Baqubah.
I arrived at around 8:45 am, just after the action for the morning. At around 6:55 am, 1st platoon was out on patrol when an IED exploded directly beside their vehicle. Fourth platoon was assigned to the Quick Reaction Force for the day, so they responded to the scene. Thankfully, no one was injured, and despite the size of the explosion (I drove past the sizable crater), the vehicle looked relatively unscathed. As I was leaving for the day, I received news that they were able to catch the terrorist who set the bomb red-handed.
The troops seemed in fine spirits, and it was good to be able to catch up with them for the day. The drive back down to Baghdad redefined hot. My driver’s air conditioner wasn’t working, and the body armor made the outside temperature, which I would put at around 120, feel all the hotter.
Project 21, a network of conservative African-Americans, is rightly outraged by comic-strip cartoonist, Ted Rall, and his July 1st comic: "Appropriate Punishments for Deposed Bushites." Rall’s parody features Condoleezza Rice saying "I was Bush’s beard! His house nigga. His..." She is interrupted by a character wearing a shirt reading "You’re not white, stupid" who says, "Now hand over your hair straightener."
From the Project 21 press release:
"Is it OK for Ted Rall to use such vile language because he’s using it against a black conservative?" asks Project 21 member Michael King. "I’m beside myself with anger over this comic." Project 21 is asking Universal Press Syndicate, the distributor of Rall’s comics, to immediately terminate their relationship with him. Project 21 is also asking the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to make similar demands based on their past involvement in pressuring ESPN to fire radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh in 2003.
Perhaps just as disturbing as Rall’s "comedy," is the marketing caption describing the cartoonist: "Ted Rall writes for a generation unjustly maligned as a pack of lazy slackers. He voices Generation X’s frustration and resentment at the excesses of the baby boomers who’ve left a spent America in their mammoth wake. Ted’s irreverent attitude and deft use of satire combine to make his work as fun to read as it is thought-provoking. And Ted’s ability to connect with current culture gives his writing an of-the-moment perspective that is edgy and sharp."
Deft is defined differently in my dictionary.
Making the rounds for his new book, Why Lincoln Matters: Now More than Ever, former NY governor Mario Cuomo was interviewed on NPR this morning.
"Lessons from Lincoln for Todays World," was only a 4-minute bit, but Cuomo manages to say Lincoln broke the Constitution, would have supported Roe v. Wade, made no argument for belief in God, and would be against preemptive war.
The audio is worth listening to, if only to hear the interviewer correct Cuomo when the latter claims that despite Lincolns many citations of the Bible, he "doesnt talk about God." Steve Inskeep reminds the author (of more than one book on Lincoln) of the line in the Second Inaugural, "as God gives us to see the right," and concludes that in Lincolns writings "there are references to God." Stung by what almost everyone knows about Lincoln, Cuomo tries to assert his authority as an experienced politician by saying, "Im better at this than you," and asks if Lincoln might have used religion for political purposes. Cuomo answers, "All I know is, Lincon was a master politician." Amazing how Cuomo, who claims to admire Lincoln, ends up denigrating his memory.
Greg Pierce of The WaTimes reports: "Fox News use of the slogan Fair and Balanced constitutes deceptive advertising, two liberal advocacy groups said yesterday in a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
MoveOn.org and Common Cause assert that Fox News reports are deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint.
Charging consumer fraud, the complaint calls for the FTC to order Fox News, consistently the highest-rated cable news network, to cease and desist from using the slogan."
David Brooks’ brief op-ed tells a good story. It is about the value of a non-specialized education, perhaps even a liberal education. It is about the relationship between theory and practice, about big ideas and big events. Maybe it’s about the how a young person sees the old, and vica versa. It is about judgments, the word that most people in the academy want to avoid like the plague. No, it is really more about learning. Actually, it is about what it is to be a student and how it is that universities should not encourage "squirrel-like specialization." In the end, it is about what a student should be and what a teacher should be. Brooks leads me to a short thought (I know, you’re surprised).
When Freshmen enter my Understanding Politics class they always look for the wrong things. They look for the narrow and the limited. They think we are going to talk about who gets what and how, which group wants a revolution, or how a bill becomes a law, which special interest has the most influence and why. Then they note in order to understand the daily headlines, the first thing we read is Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus, and we do so not because we are interested in Persian history. Xenophon’s first paragraph goes something like this: Isn’t it interesting how many democracies have been brought down "by those who wished the governing to be done in some other way than under a democracy." And he mentions monarchies and oligarchies and tyrannies. He also notes that cattlemen and horsemen are the rulers of cattles and horses, and those animals are more willing to obey their rulers than are men. Men are hard to rule, maybe even impossible to rule: "human beings unite against none more than against those whom they perceive attempting to rule them."
And then Xenophon says that because there was Cyrus who acquired "very many people, very many cities, and very many nations, all obedient to himself" in may be possible to say that ruling human beings is not impossible, or even difficult, "if one does it with knowledge." Well, we talk about these things for a while (about four years) and we read all the others who have addresseed the issue--Aristotle, Locke, Madison and the boys, Shakespeare, Churchill, Lincoln--and then the students become citizens and are ruled and rule in turn. No squirrel-like specialization here.
This education is partly private, but mostly common because this regime is attached to freedom, and freedom is the easiest things to misunderstand; it is easy to think that freedom is doing whatever one wants, and it is easy to fall into the habit of wanting to change the democratic regime that allows freedom into something else. Freedom can be self-destructive. To encourage that understanding of freedom would be to corrupt the young. Men are no harder to rule than they are to educate.
Cathy Moore of Reason, a publication which is not known for being particularly pro-Bush, examines some of Michael Moores public statements. She concludes that he is not merely anti-administration, but anti-American (a term that, as a libertarian, she is not prone to use lightly) as well.
Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi continues to get good press. The AP says:
"To Iraqis hurting from months of violence and chaos, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has developed the aura of a tough, perhaps brutal, leader. Surprisingly, that image has endeared him to many Iraqis, accustomed to strongman rule.
I heard that he goes to jails to kill criminals, said Salma Abbas, a 50-year-old government employee. This is good. we want someone as strong as Saddam."
Linda Ronstadt called Moore a “great American patriot” and “someone who is spreading the truth.” She also encouraged the audience at the Aladdin hotel-casino to see the documentary about President Bush.
"Ronstadt’s comments drew loud boos, and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air."
“It was a very ugly scene,” Aladdin President Bill Timmins said. “She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose.” Timmins booted her out, wouldn’t even let her back into her dressing room and had her escorted off the property. Michael Moore then called Timmins (who is British) "un-American."
This story on the issue has some more detail.
The FBI is investigating Sandy Berger (Clinton’s national security advisor, and a chief foreign policy advisor for Kerry) for removing some documents from the National Archives back in July, September, or October. The investigation began in October and was turned over to the FBI this January and became a criminal investigation. Berger was doing research in response to inquiries by the September 11 Commission. The WaPo states:
"Berger inadvertently took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall, said his attorney Lanny Breuer. The lawyer said one or more of the copies were then inadvertently discarded." The author of the documents was Richard A. Clarke.
This AP report has a nice detail not mentioned in the Washington Post story above: "Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio." Berger said: "I deeply regret the sloppiness involved."
Ralph Peters recently visited Molzambuque and files a very optimistic report. Informative. Here is a two month-old BBC backgrounder, and the CIA Factbook, updated in May. There will be an election next month. The incumbent, Joaquim Chissano, is stepping down voluntarily. That in itself is remarkable.
It looks like Arnold is back. He is not amused that Demos are being intransigent with his policies and the budget. So he is showing them his other side. I hope he keeps it up until the election. He may just be able to overthrow them yet. The LA Times runs this article on Arnold asking the voters to "terminate" those politicians who are too tied to special interests (i.e., Democrats): "Legislators, [writes the LA Times] he said at a rally in the food court of the Ontario Mills shopping center, are part of a bureaucracy that is out of shape, that is out of date, that is out of touch and that is definitely out of control in Sacramento.
Schwarzenegger added, They cannot have the guts to come out there in front of you and say, "I dont want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests: the unions, the trial lawyers…. I call them girlie men. They should get back to the table, and they should finish the budget."
Some people are outraged by these comments. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, said that while he wasnt upset by the remark, his 13-year-old daughter was. She finds the term derogatory. Hugh Hewitt, bless him, has a few words to say on the subject. His opponents reaction to Arnolds comments is, Hewitt says, "illustrative of the teeth-grinding, utterly humorless state into which the Kerry-Moore Democrats have sunk, including their west cost branch." Right. And the Governor will not apologize. Good.
Arthur Cherenkoff (you have seen his blog) has his good news from Iraq (much undereported in the media) round-up in the WS Journal on line.
He mentions their diplomatic activity, the establishment (and training) of the new independent electoral commission, new court systems in place, first bond market has opened, their participation in the Olympics, etc.
Good and useful stuff; very elaborate. Many links.
Are you wondering what is going on in the land that used to be ruled by Arafat? Things seem pretty chaotic, dont they? Belmont Club moves toward clarity, and puts it all in a much broader strategic perspective. Follow the links, and kick back. Add Iran into the mix (more on that later), and you are now pondering geopolitics at the highest level. Calm your nerves, drink decaf or take a shot of brandy in the coffee.
William Safire considers the fact that "Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the presidents lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth." Matthew Continetti goes into it in more detail (seven pages) but comes to the same conclusion. What else is Joe Wilson lying about? Wilson has been quiet through this brouhaha. A counterattack should be expected soon.
You might remember that a while back the banal Andy Rooney asked five questions that he would like soldiers in Iraq to answer, the first was "Do you think your country did the right thing sending you into Iraq?" Well, our indomitable reporter in Iraq Robert Alt asked all of Rooneys questions of some soldiers and he gives back their clear (read, not Marueen Dowd-like) responses. You lose, Rooney, these guys don’t consider themselves fools or victims. Bless them all.
Elton John whined to BBC News about "censorship" in the US, which he blames on the administrations bullying tactics. The article states that he "likened the current fear factor to McCarthyism in the 1950s." His evidence is the different treatment received by pro- versus anti-war artists:
"On the one hand, you have someone like Toby Keith, who has come out and been very supportive of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq - which is OK because America is a democracy and Toby Keith is entitled to say what he thinks and feels.
"But, on the other hand, the Dixie Chicks got shot down in flames last year for criticising the president. They were treated like they were being un-American, when in fact they have every right to say whatever they want about him because hes freely elected, and therefore accountable."
What Sir Elton fails to recognize is that this was not a government response, but a listener response. Bush didnt hold protests against the Dixie Chicks, country music listeners did. Elsewhere in the article, Elton longed for the anti-war glory days of the 60s. It seems apparent what he is not looking for is free speech, it is anti-war speech. What he fails to recognize is that when Americans get together to say that they dont like artists trashing the American President on foreign soil, that is also free speech.
My days grow short in Iraq, and with that I am bringing together a lot of material which I have gathered over the past 5 months. Accordingly, visit the site often, because there should be a bit more Iraq content than usual on this page over the next week or so.
There are many new pictures in the photos from Iraq section from my embed with the medevacs. I have already filed my article on the topic, and you should be reading here some time soon.
Arthur Chrenkoff reflects on "King Arthur" the movie and stuff related to it, you know, the Roman Empire, America, and some smaller things.
Sally Jenkins writes about the student-teacher relationship of Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel, his coach. A good and not well known story: "Since then , Armstrong and Bruyneel have become professionally inseparable, as Armstrong has won five consecutive Tour de France titles. Should Armstrong win a record-breaking sixth title, as he is seeking to do over the next 10 days and thousand miles through the dire ascensions and swooping descents of the Pyrenees and Alps, Armstrong will be called the greatest cyclist in history. But Armstrong would be the first to tell you cycling is a team sport, and that while hes the one who rides the blacktop and climbs the jagged icy peaks, without Bruyneel, he might never have won a single Tour much less have a shot at a record. Though Bruyneel is unrecognized outside of his own sport, he has been to Armstrong what Phil Jackson was to Michael Jordan, an arch-strategist and a critical influence, who has taught one of the all-time greats how to get the absolute most out of himself, and without whom he might have been considerably less great."
"Bruyneel made Armstrong something he had never been, a prepared and efficient rider."
"Coach and rider found that their differences proved to be the perfect complement to each other: Bruyneels tactical intelligence and Armstrongs extraordinary will; Bruyneels gift for preparation and Armstrongs physical capacity to execute any plan. For all of their differences in personality, they have an effortless understanding, able to finish each others thoughts. A lot of times we think the same way, and its difficult to explain exactly why, Bruyneel says. We dont have a lot of disagreements. Were passionate about the same things, the work, and the details.
What they share is a tireless work ethic, mutually inexhaustible ambition, and a vision: Bruyneel saw more in Lance Armstrong than Lance Armstrong saw in himself. In a way, what Bruyneel has given to Armstrong is the greatest gift, himself. Together theyve created cycling lore."
David Warren argues something politically incorrect: "In the course of three years intense study of the issue, Ive become convinced that there is -- well, this is a slight exaggeration -- no such thing as Al Qaeda. It is, more precisely, only a name applied vaguely to one of several financing and logistical arms of the Wahabi branch of what could more accurately be called the Islamic Jihad. Not an army, nor a disciplined network of underground cells, but an historical movement -- and thus more comparable to something like the Enlightenment in the West, than to any organized militia. Not to say the Jihad shares ideals with the Enlightenment -- far from it -- but rather, it is similar in being a vast idealistic movement, consciously advanced by men who co-operate as and where they think they can be most effective -- but taking their orders, ultimately, not from men but from the zeitgeist, or Allah."
The Belmont Club reflects on this more extensively, and adds to it (follow the links) by, among other things, noting the probable importance of
the chaos at Los Alamos Laboratory. Giving the war its right name, Belmont asserts, would affect both our Constitutional system and the way we wage war. Very thoughtful. Read the whole thing.
Sidney M. Milkis reviews Senator Byrds Losing America, his diatribe against Bushs Iraq policy and especially against Congress too swift enactment of the Iraqi resolution and in favor of a greater role for Congress in foreign policy. In the best light, Milkis argues, Byrd urges us to reconsider the debate between Madison and Hamilton on presidential authority. Milkis moderates Byrds thesis by showing that Senator Kerry agrees with Bush on the power of the presidency in the conduct of foreign policy (Kerry even agrees with Bush on the doctrine of preemption, it should be noted).
The New York Times runs this unimpressive article trying to talk about the "young right" in a post-Bill Buckley future. What is conservatism? And how is the difinition being tested, etc.? Some who call themselves conservatives are quoted, to not much effect, in my opinion. These kinds of discussions are not especially valuable; but see Ken Masugi, who is on the right track. Those who claim to be conservative want to understand and save the American revolution and the things for which it stands; and this is done not out of mere reverence for one’s own, but for the cause of truth. This universal truth, once thought to be self evident, but now at best only a proposition, is the beginning and the end of the conversation.
That’s the short of it, and on that there can be no compromise, the possibility of an intellectual civil war notwithstanding: There must be consensus on first principles. The NY Times doesn’t get to it.
I just had reason to re-read Kipling’s The Cat that Walked by Himself. Here is the start (read it aloud):
"Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved, when the Tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild--as wild as wild could be--and they walked in the Wet Wild Woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.
Of course the Man was wild too. He was dreadfully wild. He didn’t even begin to be tame till he met the Woman, and she told him that she did not like living in his wild ways. She picked out a nice dry Cave, instead of a heap of wet leaves, to lie down in; and she strewed clean sand on the floor; and she lit a nice fire of wood at the back of the Cave; and she hung a dried wild-horse skin, tail-down, across the opening of the Cave; and she said, ’Wipe you feet, dear, when you come in, and now we’ll keep house.’"
Lance Armstrong, the great fish eating up the little ones, has won the 13th stage of the Tour de France, and is poised to win the whole thing for the sixth time. The guy is dangerous, Achilles-like. "In just two stages in the Pyrenees, Armstrong has sliced Voecklers lead from more than nine minutes. Two punishing stages await in the Alps, Armstrongs playground in previous Tours, as well as the two time trials -- more than enough for him to assure his record victory." Here is the map of the race.
I take time out from my furious summer book writing regimine to crow about one of my new years eve predictions that came true this week:
"The media will float rumors about Dick Cheney’s health, mostly to cause trouble in the GOP."
Dont look back at the rest of my predictions; they were pretty bad (Dean wrapping up the nomination by March, picking Richardson for his running mate, etc.)
Eight soldiers were flying home from Iraq for two weeks of R&R, and first class passengers offered to swap seats with them. A stewardess said: "The soldiers were very, very happy, and the whole aircraft had a different feeling."
This could be a bad sign for Kerry in West Virginia: The Democrat candidate for governor, Joe Manchin, is distancing himself from Kerry, while the GOP candidate, Monty Warner, is not distancing himself from Bush. Zogby had Bush up in WVA by six points in mid-June.
I had mentioned that Gallup poll in North Caroline a couple of days ago, wherein Bush was ahead by 15 points. That did seem extraordinary. So here is another, just released by Mason-Dixon that shows Bush ahead by three points (48%-45). There was no bounce for Kerry in Edwards home state. Kerry had 45% in May, and had 45% in July. Bush went up by three points.
Robert Novak, who knows something about this, makes clear that it was Ambassador Joseph Wilson who lied, and not President Bush, according to the Senate Select Intelligence report. This massive fact leaves both Wilson and (other) Democrats silent. Christopher Hitchens also has a few words on this matter: "Two recent reports allow us to revisit one of the great non-stories, and one of the great missed stories, of the Iraq war argument. The non-story is the alleged martyrdom of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wilson, supposed by many to have suffered cruel exposure for their commitment to the truth. The missed story is the increasing evidence that Niger, in West Africa, was indeed the locus of an illegal trade in uranium ore for rogue states including Iraq." It is also true that theButler Report also
bolstered President Bushs assertion that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, casting further doubt on Wilsons honesty. You can get the whole of the Butler report by clicking
here, and here are Tony Blairs comments.
John H. McWhorter thinks that President Bush was entirely justified in not accepting the NAACPs invitation to speak at its annual convention. McWhorter asserts that the NAACP is in a mind-set that doesnt make sense today, and their anger based politics is not true or useful. He writes: "Black Americas main problem is neither overt racism nor more subtle "societal" racism. Lifting blacks up is no longer a matter of getting whites off our necks. We are faced, rather, with the mundane tasks of teaching those left behind after the civil rights victory how to succeed in a complex society — one in which there will never be a second civil rights revolution."
It is no longer the case that without the NAACP real problems having to do with race cant be addressed. Other organizations are working on "specific cures to specific ills: creating a culture of achievement among black students, addressing the AIDS crisis in black communities and fostering constructive relationships between police forces and residents of minority neighborhoods."
I especially like his concluding lines: "In fact, Bush ought not court an organization that considers him a racist, despises any race-sensitive proposal he offers and plays no serious role in addressing the problems of the community they purport to represent.
The NAACP is hardly the only political movement to have dissolved into posturing after the battles were largely won. What happens is that new leaders come along who are better suited to address the new problems.
For Bush to visit todays NAACP would be like dropping by a memorial. It would be a gesture, not an action. Black Americans deserves better."
Iraqi prime minister Allawi has been doing two important things. In his speeches and interviews he makes clear that Iraq is on a new path, shows gratitude for the liberation, and threatens those who would disrupt the movement toward a moderate and democratic Iraq. In his actions he may be even more bold, as
David Ignatius makes clear. He has been having clandestine meetings with supporters of the Iraqi resistance to offer them amnesty and the opportunity to participate in the political process. These meetings have had their effect in causing a split between the Iraqi resistance and foreign terrorists. He is also talking to countries surrounding Iraq and asking them to be more cooperative in securing Iraqs borders. This seems to be having some effect. It seems that Iraqis are supporting him in his admirable efforts to stabilize the country. At the same time he is making clear that Iraq is going terminate terrorism in Iraq, and says that he will set up a new Iraqi spy agency. As I said a few days ago, I have every reason to think that Allawi will succeed.
For those who have not visited the "Photos from Robert Alt in Iraq" section recently, there are many new pictures posted from my time up in Tuz, including a number of shots from a successful raid against a counterfeiter who was believed to be running guns to Fallujah. The pictures do not have captions yet, but I hope to get those up in the next day, as well as a blog post describing the raid.
There was a great deal of criticism for the Bush administration’s decision to make June 30th a hard deadline for transition from both sides of the aisle before the transition actually occurred. On the right, no lesser a source than William F. Buckley had suggested that perhaps June 30, 2005 would be an appropriate transition date, and on the left, the Washington Post had cited presidential candidate John Kerry as criticizing the inflexibility of June 30th. When I first came to Iraq, one of the questions I carried with me on arrival was whether the speedy transition was appropriate. I soon got my answer. I had a series of conversations with Iraqis in which it became obvious that they considered it important to transfer power as soon as possible. As I have noted before, the Iraqis were happy that Saddam was removed, and they saw the U.S. invasion as a defeat of Saddam, and not of Iraq. They therefore hungered to take control of their own government.
One of the key objections by Iraqis to the American occupation was seeing the Americans occupying Saddam’s old palaces. As the Iraqi priest I chatted with early in my visit to Iraq told me, this occupation of Saddam’s buildings gave Iraqis a very bad impression. The sooner the halls of government were occupied by Iraqis, the better. Once the promise was made to transfer governmental power, there was an additional reason to stick to the date: it was also a matter of keeping our word. When I attended the transition ceremony for the Ministry of Health—the first ministry to transition to Iraqi control—the new Iraqi Health Minister Dr. Kudair Abbas made clear his appreciation for the fact that the Americans had kept their word, and had kept it early. Any shifting of the date forward in time would have undoubtedly have been seen by Iraqis as a power grab—even if it were done for the most beneficent of reasons.
But perhaps most importantly, it was necessary to shift political control to the Iraqis in order to give them some sense of ownership of their country. While the Americans were in control, it was too easy for the Iraqis to simply blame the Americans for any grievances, and to do little to rectify those issues for themselves. Notably, while many Iraqis were upset at terrorism, in some sense the attacks were viewed as aimed at Americans, and not necessarily at fellow Iraqis (even when Iraqis died). But with Iraqis at the helm of the ship of state, there is a shift toward increasing Iraqi responsibility. PM Allawi understands this, particularly in the area of terrorism, and has made a conscious effort to make certain that his people understand that the terrorist attacks are attacks on Iraq which cannot be tolerated. From his first speech in office, he has called on his countrymen to assist him in rooting out terrorism from Iraq. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi also understands this, which is why in his memorandum to fellow Al Qaeda terrorists intercepted in February, he called on terrorists to increase their attacks prior to June 30th, while they could still use what he called the “pretext” of U.S. occupation to justify their attacks. That pretext no longer exists, and PM Allawi has used the bully pulpit of the leadership of Iraq to make clear that the attacks committed are now clearly against Iraq.
The shift in control and concomitant shift in responsibility appears to be working. Yesterday’s car bombing was one of the first major attacks since the transition in Baghdad. This appears to have been caused by a few factors. The first is better intelligence which led to a series of successful attacks on alleged Zarqawi safe houses in Fallujah. Reports issued by the Multi-National Forces stated that in at least two of the buildings, explosions continued for 20-30 minutes after the buildings were hit with precision weapons, suggesting that the buildings contained large caches of munitions. Some of this intelligence came from key captures, while other intelligence has come as a result of greater cooperation with Iraqis—cooperation that is undoubtedly aided by improved relations related to the transition. The second factor behind the recent quiet is believed to be the shift of the transition to two days earlier—a move which is believed to have frustrated plans to stage a spectacular attack to correspond with the handover of authority. But perhaps the most factor is the wedge that Allawi has been carefully driving between the terrorists and the Iraqis. Following yesterday’s attack, he again made clear that this act constituted naked aggression against the Iraqi people. The sentiment seems to be taking root, and it is very likely that by conducting attacks that specifically target Iraqis, the terrorists are driving the nails in their own coffins. Their days of open operation in Iraq are numbered. Does this mean that there will be no more terrorist attacks in Iraq? Of course not—such a suggestion is silly. But rather than openly operating, they will have to act more covertly as they do in other countries which are inhospitable to terrorism. This is a good lesson for the 9/11 Commission and for the critics of the war that do not understand the terrorism connection. When Saddam was in power, Iraq was hospitable to terrorism groups. Ansar al Islam openly operated and trained with Al Qaeda near the Iraq-Iran border. Known terrorists such as Zarqawi took refuge in Iraq after 9/11. And these groups operated openly in a country where Saddam used agents to collect information about and to micromanage the affairs of the smallest villages as far away as Kurdistan. Even leaving aside Saddam’s more direct funding links to known terrorists, by removing Saddam and by facilitating a government which is hostile to terrorists, the U.S. has given terrorists one less safe place to hide and train.
I have mentioned before the thriving trade in bootleg DVDs on the streets. Well, it was only a matter of time before Fahrenheit 9/11 made its way to Baghdad. I saw it on the street the other day and was almost tempted to buy it—for this would give me the opportunity to see the film while at the same time assuring that Mr. Moore did not receive a penny. Surely Mr. Moore couldn’t object. After all, given his worldview, how can intellectual property laws be anything more than an expression of corporate greed intended to keep the little guy down?
My apartment in Baghdad has satellite television, and so I have gotten to see a bit of Arabic television. I get the standard Arabic news channels, like Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera. I tune in on occasion to see the images, but the language barrier makes it difficult to follow the commentary. As for English speaking channels, I get BBC World, which is really quite poor. There is also an Arabic entertainment channel which features a number of American TV shows and movies run with Arabic subtitles. The channel is very popular among locals, who seem to enjoy the American programming, and undoubtedly tune in to hone their English skills. Among the American television shows featured is Oprah. In fact, the channel spent a good deal of time recently promoting Oprah’s interview with President Clinton. The channel also features Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as Friends and Frazier. The movies featured are generally recent, popular films. Interestingly, the channel does not appear to edit for language, airing profanity in films that would not be permitted in the U.S. on network television. It does on occasion run some slightly older films. For example, when Brando died, they ran the original Godfather. The movie featured last night was The Long Kiss Goodnight. I had not seen the film in some time, and I had forgotten a key premise: The “good guys” in the film learn that the CIA had some role in the first World Trade Center bombing, and that a group within the CIA is planning a major attack aimed at killing 4,000 Americans in order to justify an increase the agency’s budget. And, as they put it in the film, “of course” their plan is to frame Muslims for the attack. The movie was made long before September 11th, but I have to think that this is a really bad movie to be showing in the Muslim world, where conspiracy theories about, for instance, Zionist plots behind 9/11 are already too widely accepted.
Those who have been reading this page since late February know that my luggage has had a far more adventurous itinerary than its owner. First, my luggage enjoyed a few extra days in London on the way to Amman. Then, I checked a couple of bags when I left my hotel in Baghdad to embed with the troops, only to find them a little lighter when I returned. Among the more humorous items missing: my Valley City Ohio frog jumping t-shirt. And finally, when I left the troops a few weeks ago, fate stepped in to make sure that my laundry was not available from the cleaners in time for my departure. The guys at the base kindly mailed it to me, but because I do not have a military address here in Baghdad, they sent it to a friend at the CPA. Well, my friend’s time in Baghdad ended before my parcel arrived, and so now my laundry is presumably making its way to his home in Delaware, where I’m sure it will find the beaches refreshing after spending so much time surrounded by sand without surf.
Earlier today Nate Stewart brought to your attention the Sixth Circuit decision ACLU v. Robert Ashbrook (Robert Ashbrook, a Richland County Commissioner, was the defendant in his official capacity but is unrelated to the Ashbrook Center or to the late John Ashbrook). Another bad decision from a federal court. But do note Judge Alice Batchelder’s excellent dissent. It is longer than the opinion of the court and much more powerful (starts on page 19). Note just a few passages from Batchelder’s dissent:
The reasonable observer defined by the Supreme Court would not conclude that DeWeese’s inclusion of the Decalogue in a display that also includes the Bill of Rights, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, accolades to the jury system, the Great Seal of Ohio, and the items comprising the Freedom Shrine, constitutes the government’s endorsement of religion.
Nor do I agree with the majority’s incredible assumption that fostering debate between the philosophical positions of moral absolutism and moral relativism "crosses the line created by the Establishment Clause." A great many state educational institutions will be shocked, I suspect, to learn that fostering debate between philosophical positions is now unconstitutional in the Sixth Circuit.
As Justice Thomas has so aptly noted:
For nearly half a century, [the Supreme] Court has extended First Amendment protection to a multitude of forms of "speech," such as making false defamatory statements, filing lawsuits, dancing nude, exhibiting drive-in movies with nudity, burning flags, and wearing military uniforms . . . . [T]he Courts of Appeals have concluded that the First Amendment protects, for example, begging, shouting obscenities, erecting tables on a sidewalk, and refusing to wear a necktie.
Jonah Goldberg doesnt think were "safer" now than we were before ousting Saddam, and he thinks the President was wrong for saying we are. Of course, Goldberg adds:
First of all, since when are we supposed to be "safer" according to the timetables of the presidential-election cycle? I mean seriously, how is that supposed to work? Its dumb enough to expect a constantly churning continental economy to time its peaks and valleys to coincide with every fourth November, stretching back to 1845. Now presidents are supposed to wrap up the war on terror — or this chapter of it — like a feel-good network mini-series by election day?
In fact, who declared that 17 months after toppling one dictator in an unprecedented multi-front war on terrorism were supposed to be safer? Is that in a rulebook I dont know about?
How Appealing reports that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has become the second circuit to find that the Supreme Courts decision in Blakely v. Washington invalidates the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, making them "simply recommendations that the judge should seriously consider but may disregard when she believes that a different sentence is called for." The panel opinion can be read here.
The blog also reports: "Divided three-judge Sixth Circuit panel rules in favor of ACLU, and against ACLJ, in appeal over whether Ohio state court trial judge may display Ten Commandments poster in his courtroom." That opinion is here.
I have been working this afternoon at my local internet cafe. The new techie has recently discovered Celine Dion, and has been playing the same song continuously. The horror.
The Multi-National Forces web site has posted some pictures of the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) which detonated outside the Green Zone this morning. My one warning is that you should be prepared to wait if you click on the thumbnails, because the files appear to be quite large. Also, note the distortions in the first picture around the light poles. This distortion appears to be caused by the extreme heat--at approximately 9:30 am.
UPDATE: Lt. Naum, who is an Abrams tank commander, wrote to offer a kind correction to my post. "The heat distortion in that picture is from the exhaust of that big, beautiful monster in the background. Id recognize it anywhere, and can smell that sweet, sweet aroma right now. Mmmmmm. Tank fumes."
I have personally walked behind an Abrams tank a few times while they were running, and I can attest to the sensation of being hit by a wall of driven heat that feels like a full-body hair dryer set to singe.
A car bomb exploded near the entrance to the Green Zone at about 9:15 this morning. This gate is more than a mile from my apartment, but the blast still shook my room enough that I would have guessed the locus of the explosion to be closer. The Washington Post has a fairly detailed report, in which they claim that 10 Iraqis were killed, and another 43 were injured. When I spoke to people at the scene, I heard some reports of 9 dead, and others of 10. As I have said before, the numbers are generally unreliable in the early hours after an attack. The U.S. military cordoned off the area with Humvees and Bradley fighting vehicles, and were removing the remains of the destroyed SUV used for the boming when I arrived. This is one of the first major explosions in Baghdad in the past couple of weeks. As I have mentioned a few times, Baghdad has been much quieter on the whole since I returned a few weeks ago than it was when I arrived in March.
Also note in the WaPo article that this attack is likely to backfire by further alienating Iraqis against the foreign terrorists who are targeting Iraqis. Allawi understands this, and when he visited the site, emphasized that this was "naked aggression against the Iraqi people. We will bring them to justice." While it will be difficult to end all spectacular attacks, the deepening devide between the former regime elements loyal to Saddam and the international terrorists suggests that large scale attacks should continue their current decline.
Yup, the greatest poet of the 20th century. All the knowers agree with my opinion. Derbyshire notes that Yeats agreed with Goethe’s remark that "the poet needs all philosophy but must keep it out of his work." Here is Yeats: "Nothing in poetry that does not run in one’s head because of the sweetness of majesty of the sound. Owing to the struggle for new subject matter the younger poets today lack that sound."
A couple of days ago I noted a review of Foster’s bio of W.B. Yeats. John Derbyshire has another worthy review in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books. Read it, let it encourage you to read Yeats again. And, by the way, you should certainly subscribe to the Claremont Review of Books, it is uniformally wonderful and thoughtful and capacious and not--I repeat not--supercilious and predictable and liberal, as is its New York namesake. Put money in their poke, and read and think and revive. Go here to subscribe.
You think it horrible that lust and rage/Should dance attendance upon my old age;/They were not much a plague when I was young;/What else have I to spur me into song?
Instapundit brings our attention to the fact that al Qaeda seems to be moving out of Iraq. Even in Fallujah they are running into problems. He links to articles on the StrategyPage and the Christian Science Monitor; follow them. And a top al Qaeda suspect has surrendered to Saudi authorities, taking advantage their amnesty program. Iraq’s foreign minister is urging NATO to speed up the help it promised. The Phillippines seemed to have caved in to terrorist demands, and say that they will remove their troops from Iraq ASAP. The Belmont Club is not amused.
It looks like Bobby Jindal (he lost the race for governor of Lousiana) may be elected to the House from the 1st District.
Elizabeth Edwards seems to be a perfectly normal and reasonable woman, according the this Chicago Tribune article.
This Gallup/CNN poll of North Carolina cannot be good news for the Kerry-Edwards ticket: Bush 56, Kerry 41 (likely voters); Bush 51, Kerry 44 (registered voters). Gallup has a review of what kind of bounce candidates have gotten historically, but Realclearpolitics makes all this a bit clearer (and calls Kerry non-bounce a "dead cat" bounce) and reminds us that polls only start being meaningful after Labor Day.
Former Attorney General, Ed Meese, has these thoughts on gay marriage and the legal strategies involved. He looks at the recent Supreme Court decisions likely to impact Congress’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and seems to support a constitutional amendment (currently being debated in the Senate) to thwart "a few radical judges [who will] redefine marriage by legal fiat, according to their notions of social progress." Meese concludes that "Nothing less than the future of our society, and the course of constitutional government in the United States, are at stake."
Apparently the Left (or certain of its pieces parts) now believes that "it’s appropriate to bring faith into the public policy arena." (Where did Michael Newdow go?) Looking for an answer to the Right wing’s religious voting block, the Left has begun its own left-leaning religious movement with groups like the Center for American Progress and the Clergy Leadership Network. As one group said, the idea is to "give voice to people who are religious and spiritual and also progressive who feel their views are neglected in the public dialogue." To be sure, a number of the groups are avowedly "non-partisan" and intend "to act in the ’prophetic tradition’ to ’unite faith communities across the divide on issues of global justice that are receiving insufficient attention,’" but almost all tend to favor the Left’s policies over the Right’s. God speed.
This short and to the point article in USA Today puts the feel-good events of last week for Kerry and Edwards into a bit of perspective. A numbers of things that were said by Kerry and Edwards (or their wives) have complicated their lives and have muted the uplift they should have received from the hubub. Kerry has unreliable instincts (witness the New York celebrity concert), and his wife is realiably predictable. Andrew Sullivan (in the London Times) considers how both Cheney and Edwards represent their parties’ base, and draws a nice comparison of the two. He might be a bit kinder to Edwards than he should be (in my opinion), but this is thoughtful. This is his last paragraph:
"The same paradox may well be true about the scheduled debate between them. Edwards is perhaps the best orator from his party for many years. Expect him to raise the roof at the Democrats’ convention in Boston. Cheney is terrible on the stump. He doesn’t even like applause. At a recent speech when cheers forced him to repeat a sentence, he growled, "You guys want to hear this speech or not?" Edwards, in comparison, targets every member of the audience for charm and persuasion, just as he did so brilliantly with dozens of juries. But in the intimate context of a television debate, Cheney could do well. His low-key, authoritative daddy act will contrast dramatically with Edwards’ blow-dried bangs and populist sound-bites. Edwards’ best shot? To get a Cheney snarl that reminds voters why they distrust him. Cheney’s best shot? To have a foreign policy question where he leaves the neophyte Edwards in the dust. And just because it’s a side-show doesn’t mean it won’t be drama. Think Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader; Austin Powers versus Dr Evil; and the boyish charms of the 1990s versus the cold fear of the new millennium. It will be not so much a vote as a taking of the American temperature. And you couldn’t find two more constrasting characters to choose between."
I admit that I am more perplexed than normal as to why nothing that Kerry does or says (including the Edwards announcement) helps him in the polls. That this is a bad sign for the Demos goes almost without saying. I thought this paragraph from
Rich Lowry at NRO is thoughtful on this issue:
"According to the AP poll last week, Bush seemed to get a small bounce from the Edwards selection. Other polls show a tiny Kerry bounce, but Bush’s job approval rating still climbing. What’s happening here? The Edwards selection helped knock Iraq off the front pages, and anything that de-emphasizes Iraq helps Bush, since it has been the main thing dragging him down. This means that any big Kerry campaign events that dominate the news--no matter how well rolled out, like the Edwards announcement--work in some sense in Bush’s strategtic favor, since they serve to overshadow Iraq. Now, of course, part of what is going on here is that Iraq has simmered down a bit over the last two weeks, and there are no longer daily CPA breifings to provide the cable channels with easy video. But there is still news in Iraq. Last week, five of our guys were killed in a mortar attack and almost no one knows about it, because it ran on page A-20. The biggest threat to Bush’s presidency was that bad news out of Iraq was making people feel sour about everything. When instead of seeing bombings in Iraq, they see pictures of an all-American Edwards family posing for the cameras, they feel a little better, which marginally helps the incumbent, George Bush. At least that’s my theory...."
New York Times Magazine publishes an interview with William F. Buckley. While witty on many subjects, he has some tough remarks on Iraq and the neo-cons. In case anyone had any doubts, the interview makes it clear that 9-11 did not vanquish the old divisions between conservatives on the meaning of America and its place in the world. Short and worth reading.
Orson Scott Card explains what bulldog journalism is, how its practiced, and who (liberals, surprise) practice it. "This is bulldog journalism: Once you get hold of a story, you never loosen your grip until your victim dies--at least politically." Card explains the popularity of FOX News as well.
George F. Will has a clever question regarding Kerrys foreign policy. Assuming you want to avoid friction with Europe, would you (unlike Bush) not support Turkeys admission to the European Union? This is important because if Turkey is admitted to the EU, within ten years (because of its large population) it will have more votes in EU affairs than Germany; never mind that Europe would then border on Iraq and Syria. Maybe international harmony is not the goal of foreign policy. Kerry needs to clarify.
This front page article in Sundays N.Y. Times considers the possibility (even probability) that an internal rift has developed between the domestic and foreign insurgents in Iraq. This may be one reason why no major operations were carried out during the transition.
The cause of this rift can be disputed, but both we and Allawi had something to do with it. Certainly Allawi wants to widen the split, wants to divide Iraqs opponents
and even pull the old Baathists into the new Iraq. The whole article makes for interesting reading. Save it.
Steven M. Teles, a Democrat, thinks that Edwards should be able to help the ticket in a number of states. Im not persuaded, but this is interesting, short and to the point.
Dexter Filkins, of The New York Times, writes an update/profile on Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Although brief and opinionated it is worth a read because the essence of it seems to be true. That is, Allawi is a tough guy, with a reputation for being a cruel and efficient man, and that fact and reputation is sitting well with the Iraqis. They are, in effect, giving him full power to achieve peace and unity. Allawis main problem is the Baathist/Sunni insurgency and he has to be both soft (offering amnesty to some) and hard (threatening to kill the others). This is his attempt to divide the Sunnis. He has seemed--from the beginning of his a rule--to understand that cruelties can be badly used or well used.
The fact that he has been--at different times--both a part of the Saddam regime and a part his conquerors (the CIA, specifically) only adds to his credibility for toughness. And this is in his interest. It is possible that in order to achieve peace he will have to become more ferocious, and, it is possible that he will not mind that his reputation so suffer that he will have to be replaced, and chastized, by the future elected leader of the new Iraq. Yet, he will have fulfilled his mission to unify and pacify Iraq and his replacement will find an Iraq more easy to govern. I am betting he succeeds because he has found the solution to the problem of faction.
Powerline has some good comments about the New York Times finally correcting itself about what it (and everyone else) called the fake turkey on a platter that President Bush lifted in Iraq last Thanksgiving. The turkey was real.
This is the Wasington Post story on the interview it conducted with both Kerry and Edwards in New Mexico yesterday. And here are excerpts from the interview. I guess we are going to have an election on character and "values." The
impression one has in reading both articles is that Kerry is less interested in
distancing himself from the Michael Moore-goofy-Left-crowd than he should. Kerry claims that voters are "clamoring for restoration of credibility and trust in the White House again." Also: "The value of truth is one of the most central values in America, and this administration has violated" it, Kerry said in an interview with The Washington Post aboard the Democrats campaign plane Friday. "Their values system is distorted and not based on truth." Both pieces merit study, and should be filed for later reference.
Raymond Hernandez writes a very interesting and surprising article in The New York Times. I say surprising because I did not expect this public analysis of a question that started floating around among my friends as soon as Edwards was named Kerry’s running mate. The article makes the point that Edwards and Hillary will be on a collision course for the leadership of the Demo Party--and for the 2008 nomination--if Bush wins re-election. And because Bush is likely to win re-election this is a much more interesting question than the unlikely scenario in which Bush loses, in that case Hillary’s career would be over. So Hillary has to work hard for the Kerry ticket, all the while knowing the problem. The only addition I would make to the piece is that when Kerry-Edwards lose, Hillary should not understimate Edwards’ potential to give her a great fight for the nomination: He is just as ambitious (and perhaps as clever) as Bill Clinton was at this stage, and he is much more capable of turning into a moderate Democrat (a necessity to get elected) than will Hillary. Besides, Edwards is married to a highly ambitious woman who happens to be a very good lawyer with a real job. And, once Edwards loses, he will have a lot of time on his hands (and his own money) to start running for the nomination. Edwards will be around for a long time. Who else could oppose Hillary? Are there other up-and-coming Demo leaders out there?
The future of the Democratic Party will be at stake and the fight will be fierce and without mercy.
This is a remarkable Washington Post story--based on the Select Committees Report--claiming that Joe Wilsons assertions, "both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report." In brief:
"The panel found that Wilsons report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilsons assertions and even the governments previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bushs January 2003 State of the Union address."
"The report turns a harsh spotlight on what Wilson has said about his role in gathering prewar intelligence, most pointedly by asserting that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, recommended him.
Plames role could be significant in an ongoing investigation into whether a crime was committed when her name and employment were disclosed to reporters last summer.
Administration officials told columnist Robert D. Novak then that Wilson, a partisan critic of Bushs foreign policy, was sent to Niger at the suggestion of Plame, who worked in the nonproliferation unit at CIA. The disclosure of Plames identity, which was classified, led to an investigation into who leaked her name.
The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover CIA employee, but to call into question Wilsons bona fides as an investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. To charge anyone with a crime, prosecutors need evidence that exposure of a covert officer was intentional."
It turns out that Wilson also lied to the Washington Post, as well as what was in his own report to the CIA! Pretty messy, all this.
Saddams latest novel is being serialized in an Arabic paper in London. The manuscript was found in the Ministry of Culture after Baghdads fall, indicating that it was written while Saddam was still in power. The newspaper said it had received its copy from Saddams physician, Alla Bashir, who fled Iraq after the war and was believed to be in Qatar. "Get Out, You Damned"--its title--describes a Zionist-Christian conspiracy against Arabs and Muslims, with an Arab leading an army that invades the land of the enemy and topples one of their monumental towers, an apparent reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York by Islamic militants of Osama bin Ladens terrorist network. I havent been able to find it on Amazon yet.
Hugh Hewitt explains that because of bloggers in South Dakota, Tom Daschle will find it a lot more difficult to sell himself to the voters as a moderate. For example, the Argus Leader, a pro-Demo paper, has run nothing about Daschles hug of Michael Moore, but the bloggers are all over it. Hewitt thinks bloggers will have an impact; he links to a few.
I was at the internet cafe pulling down the full text version of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report when a loud boom shook the building. At first it appeared to have come from the direction of the Sheraton, leading me to believe that the hotel, which seems to be a missile magnet, had taken another hit. The father of one of Muhammad, one of the cafe workers, called to say that the Al Sadir Hotel had been hit. The Sadir was just around the corner--about two blocks from where I was, so I took off in that direction. When I arrived, I was informed by onlookers and by the Iraqi police that the explosion was caused by a mortar, which did not hit the hotel, but hit a nearby residence. Several residents told me that a small child was killed, and suggested that another was taken to the hospital. I did not have a translator with me, so I had difficulty getting information about the status of the parents. One thing worth highlighting is that the entire security and emergency services operation was handled by the Iraqis. When I have visited sites of previous attacks, there have generally been Coalition and Iraqi security forces working together, but today it was entirely run by the Iraqi Police. This is a good sign, suggesting that the IP is taking a greater role and more responsibility for Iraqi security.
The National Endowment for the Arts has just published a survey called "Reading at Risk" (PDF file). The New York Times report on the survey says this: "Among its findings are that fewer than half of Americans over 18 now read novels, short stories, plays or poetry; that the consumer pool for books of all kinds has diminished; and that the pace at which the nation is losing readers, especially young readers, is quickening. In addition it finds that the downward trend holds in virtually all demographic areas." The Chairman of the NEA says: "What this study does is give us accurate numbers that support our worst fears about American reading. It quantifies what people have been observing anecdotally, but the news is that it has been happening more rapidly and more pervasively than anyone thought possible. Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group," he said, calling the survey results "deeply alarming." Those of us who teach for a living will not be shocked by this study, Im sorry to say.
Victor Davis Hanson writes a terrific piece on the trivializers vs. the civilizers. "The war that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards once caricatured as a fiasco and amoral is now, for all its tragedies, emerging in some sort of historical perspective as a long-overdue liberation. At some point, one must choose: Saddam in chains or Saddam in power. And the former does not happen with rhetoric, but only through risk, occasional heartbreak, and the courage of the U.S. military. If Iyad Allawi and his brave government succeed — and they just may — the United States will have done more for world freedom and civilization than the fall of the Berlin Wall — and against far greater odds. Deanism is dead. Moorism is a fatal contagion that will ruin anyone it infects.
Kerry is only now starting to grasp that a year from now Iraq more likely will not be Vietnam, but maybe the most radical development of our time — and that all the Lefts harping is becoming more and more irrelevant. Witness his talk of security and his newfound embrace of the post-9/11 effort as a war rather than a DAs indictment. It is not a good idea to plan on winning in November by expecting us to lose now in Iraq." Read it all.
There are some very serious intensive and complete immersion foreign language programs around. I have seen some of them. At the best of them one is not allowed to use any other language (for any reason) than the one you are trying to learn. Good idea, and it works. But this particular example, it must be said, is ridiculous. A blind Quebec student, who was denied entry to English classes at a Canadian university because his guide dog responds only to French commands, will be allowed to attend class, the school said.
Yvan Tessier was initially turned away from an English immersion course at the University of New Brunswick because he would be forced to give his dog, Pavot, instructions in French. He uses seventeen commands in French.
Zogby has Kerry ahead of Bush, 48%-46, with 5% undecided. Apparently there has been no bounce since the Edwards announcement, since Zogby had Kerry leading by two points a month ago. I dont get it.
Charles Krauthammer tells us what he thinks in no uncertain terms: "Before Sept. 11, France’s Gaullist anti-Americanism as a form of ostentatious self-aggrandizement was an irritant. With a war on — three, in fact: Afghanistan, Iraq and the larger war on terrorism — France’s willful obstructionism becomes dangerous and deadly." Now things are clearer: "There is something far deeper going on here. Beyond the anti-Americanism is an attempt to court the Muslim and Arab world. For its own safety and strategic gain, France is seeking a "third way" between America and its enemies. Chirac’s ultimate vision is a France that is mediator and bridge between America and Islam. During the cold war, Charles de Gaulle invented this idea of a third force, withdrawing France from the NATO military structure and courting Moscow as a counterweight to Washington. Chirac, declaring in Istanbul that "we are not servants" of America, has transposed this Gaullist policy to the struggle with radical Islam." Read it all.
Germany announced it would create a central database on suspected radical Islamists, provoking concern ("unacceptable") from the countrys large Muslim community.
George F. Will does a nice job cutting up Thomas Franks book, Whats the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Frank, the good left-winger that he is cant understand why Americans dont vote just on the basis of economic self-interest (thats is, Democratic!), but rather on social issues such as abortion, the decline of popular culture, or the agendas of public education. Will delights in the fact that citizens are not simply homo economicus, and delights in the massive fact that people like Frank dont understand.
"The number of new people signing up for jobless benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in more than three years, a potentially encouraging sign for a labor market experiencing a bumpy recovery.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance plunged by a seasonally adjusted 39,000 to 310,000 for the week ending July 3. That marked the best showing since Oct. 8, 2000. The latest snapshot of the layoffs climate was better than economists were expecting. They were forecasting claims to decline to around 345,000."
I mentioned yesterday that I had a very interesting discussion at the internet cafe a couple of nights ago. Here is the NRO article I wrote about my discussion with a Chinese reporter, who is writing about the freedom of Iraq--freedom which he does not have in his own country.
The temp here in Baghdad was supposed to reach 118 degrees today. The Fox News studio uses an outdoor balcony for that on the scene look--and that on the scene heat. Add a couple of studio lights to the room to make sure that you are blind and a good 10 degrees hotter, and I would hazard that it was somewhere in the mid-120s during when I was on the air.
Robert Alt will appear live from Iraq on Fox News today early in the 10:00 am ET hour.
Four brothers in the same unit head out for Iraq. "The Scherzberg brothers — Jeff, 27, Brett, 23, and 21-year-old twins Matthew and Justin — will head to Iraq later this month as members of the Iowa National Guards 915th Transportation Company, based at Council Bluffs.
Their mother, Connie Scherzberg, said she was terrified when she first learned that all of her boys would be headed out together.
I called and said, "You know, this isnt what your mother wants." But then I had pride … I knew it was a wonderful thing to do and Im very proud of my children for doing this, Mrs. Scherzberg said."
The Financial Times (London) runs what seems to me to be an amazing story about the Iraqis interest in Uranium from Niger. Will this be big news?
"A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain’s spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein’s regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.
The inquiry by Lord Butler, which was delivered to the printers on Wednesday and is expected to be released on July 14, has examined the intelligence that underpinned the UK government’s claims about the threat from Iraq....
Among Lord Butler’s other areas of investigation was the issue of whether Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. People with knowledge of the report said Lord Butler has concluded that this claim was reasonable and consistent with the intelligence.
President George W. Bush referred to the Niger claim in his state of the union address last year. But officials were forced into a climbdown when it was revealed that the only primary intelligence material the US possessed were documents later shown to be forgeries.
The Bush administration has since distanced itself from all suggestions that Iraq sought to buy uranium. The UK government has remained adamant that negotiations over sales did take place and that the fake documents were not part of the intelligence material it had gathered to underpin its claim.
The Financial Times revealed last week that a key part of the UK’s intelligence on the uranium came from a European intelligence service that undertook a three-year surveillance of an alleged clandestine uranium-smuggling operation of which Iraq was a part." (Thanks to
The Boston Globe reports that the Allawi government is using emergency powers to crak down on criminals and insurgents. The Christian Science Monitor also reports in detail on the same issue. A 7 p.m. curfew in Najaf, local judges reinstating the death penalty, etc. These are some of the things the U.S. or the Coalition Authority could not do. The Iraqis seem happy with the crackdown. Combining this with the vigelantes who have announced that they will try to kill al Zarqawi, and we can start noting that the new Iraqi government, meaning the good guys, will take much harsher measures than we ever could to stabilize the country. Start noting 1) that this will be effective; 2) supported by the people; 3) our liberal media and the left Demos will surely start to hyperventilate about it. Surely, this will be called tyranny; is this what we fought for? etc.
President Bush is in North Carolina. According to this New York Times story he was asked a question about Edwards. Here is the crux of the matter: "When a questioner in Raleigh noted that Mr. Edwards had been described as charming and a nimble campaigner and asked Mr. Bush to compare the one-term senator to Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Bush snapped back: Dick Cheney can be president. Next?" (Thanks to John J. Miller at NRO)
Brian Phillips reviews R. F. Foster’s W.B. Yeats: A Life: Volume II: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939. In this essay you will learn much about Yeats’ goofy life, and his life as art, and some about his spectacular poems. Regardless of his life and flaws, you can’t patronize Yeats because in the end there are the poems, always the lovely poems. Phillips:
"There are always the poems, where the ungainly aggregations of the life are distilled into moments of airy and bluff and sweet and impossible beauty, and as long as the poems exist, the last word will be theirs. To laugh at Yeats’s life is to find oneself softly checkmated. The poems are things of such constant astonishment that they dismay description; flocks of adjectives graze on them and never see the ground. Reading the fourth section of “Vacillations” makes one understand very well how the split sense of the burial story could have come into existence, how the poet could appear simultaneously as a helpless collection of bones and a powerful guiding spirit. Its ten plain lines show how accident can be transfigured by inspiration."
My fiftieth year had come and gone,/
I sat, a solitary man,/
In a crowded London shop,/
An open book and empty cup/
On the marble table-top./
While on the shop and street I gazed/
My body of a sudden blazed;/
And twenty minutes more or less/
It seemed, so great my happiness,/
That I was blessèd and could bless./
And note these "breathtakingly lovely" lines:
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,/
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,/
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;/
How many loved your moments of glad grace,/
And loved your beauty with love false or true,/
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;/
And bending down beside the glowing bars,/
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled/
And paced upon the mountains overhead/
And hid his face amid a crown of stars.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Robert K. Fischer
Here is the FoxNews story on the latest proposal for the legalized plundering of the citizens of King County, Washington. A taste: "Known as the 65-10 Rule, it calls for landowners to set aside 65 percent of their property and keep it in its natural, vegetative state. According to the rule, nothing can be built on this land, and if a tree is cut down, for example, it must be replanted. Building anything is out of the question." As one might expect, a number of landowners are none too happy about it.
Bill Safire thinks that Kerry’s choice of Edwards was "not a pick of confidence." Kerry chose a good campaigner--this happy class warrior is also the most divisive voice in politics--but, like Bush’s choice of choice of Cheney, he should have chosen a person ready to govern. Everyone knew that Cheney would add nothing to the ticket as a campaigner, but everyone knew he would be ready to govern. Edwards has no gravitas (or experience) as Lynn Nofziger puts it. Even David Broder agrees that Kerry picked Edwards because he is a good campaigner, not because he was looking for someone who was ready to govern. Yet, he thinks it was a good selection. Andrew Sullivan thinks it is a good choice, but he focuses on Kerry’s dreadful announcement speech in Pittsburgh. He thinks that this is the first real campaign speech and it was a debacle because Kerry shows that he is going to run (with Edwards’ help) as a paleoliberal: The campaign will be about economic inequality, not the war on terror. According to Sullivan’s extensive analysis, the speech "also highlights that the Republican charge that Kerry is a big government, moralistic paleoliberal has a good deal of truth to it." It is straightforward "paleoliberal boilerplate." He thinks the speech is revealing and as vapid as anything he has ever heard. I also heard it and agree.
Christopher Hitchens writes an amusing (and historically accurate) piece on the word "F-off." Using Cheneys auggestion that Leahy try an anatomical impossibility, Hitchens points out that the use of the F-word and soccer are the British empires two great contributions to the world. Although I would dispute this (see elections in India), this is a fine piece of writing.
The Army is testing flexible solar panels that can be layered on top of a tent, or rolled up into a backpack to provide a portable power source. Tents using solar panels made from amorphous silicon thin film on plastic can provide up to 1 kilowatt of energy, which is sufficient to power fans, lights, radios or laptops. This would also make soldiers harder to find by an enemy since it would reduce the "thermal signature" that enemy sensors use to track troop locations (no diesel powered generators would be needed, for example). This requires two years of additional testing, but looks very promising. One more cool point: The Armys long-term vision is to have solar panels that can be camouflaged into tents or even uniforms. Some are working to develop nanotechnology-based solar panels that can be woven directly into fabric. The new technology replaces silicon with dye polymer plastics that transform any kind of light into electrical energy. Like I said, very cool. Pretty soon, youll be able to take your TV to the beach in order to have uninterrupted access to the liberal TV networks.
Arthur Chrenkoff has a good round-up of the good news coming out of Iraq, his first since the handover. A vigilante group (I assume) has announced that it is out to kill kill Zarqawi. And the Iraqi government has announced new national security law on Wednesday that will allow Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to exercise broad powers of martial rule to combat a persistent insurgency.
I had a very interesting discussion at an internet cafe last night, which should be up on NRO soon. When I left the cafe, it was after 11 pm and I had not eaten all day, so I wandered over to a hotel to grab a late dinner. My waiter, who in Seinfeld terms was a “low talker,” explained that he thought that I looked like I was either Iraqi or Jordanian. He was very surprised to learn that I am American. I took this as an opportunity to explain one of the unique features about America. I stated that for all I know, I could be Iraqi, or more accurately, my grandparents may have been Iraqi. You see, my father was adopted, and the records are sealed, so we do not know the nationality of his biological parents. My father and I look very much alike, and we share what appear to be Middle Eastern features, but I cannot say what country in the Middle East, if any, provides the origins for these traits. (I did not tell him that many people in the US think that I look Jewish.) But at a fundamental level, it does not matter what my grandparents nationality is. I am an American, where it does not matter if you or your ancestors were Iraqi or Jordananian or German; once you are a citizen, you are just a plain American. Not suprisingly, my waiter wanted to visit this place.
Todays high in Chicago is anticipated to be 70. In Los Angeles, it will get up to a balmy 76. And Cleveland will see 80 degrees and thunderstorms. Baghdad will see 82 degrees--for its low temperature for the day. The high: 116 degrees.
Now that it is confirmed that John Edwards is Kerry’s VP choice, it should be noted that the three reasons he was chosen were these: One, add sorely needed energy to Kerry’s campaign, which he will do, with the medias help. Two, emphasize the economy, a Democratic strategy at all times, especially banging the drums on the rich vs. poor, and Edwards’ "two Americas" theme does this well. Three, help the Demos in the South, not necessarily because Edwards will help take any southern states, but because at the least it will force the GOP to spend some more money in some southern states. But note this AP story on the economy: The GDP growth might be the highest in twenty years. "The economy appears headed for a banner year despite a springtime spike in energy prices and a recent increase in interest rates.
In fact, many analysts are forecasting that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, will grow by 4.6 percent or better this year, the fastest in two decades.
There were strong 4.5 percent growth rates in 1997 and 1999, when Bill Clinton was president and the country was in the midst of a record 10-year expansion.
But if this year’s growth ends up a bit faster than that, it will be the best since the economy roared ahead at a 7.2 percent rate in 1984, a year when another Republican president - Ronald Reagan - was running for re-election."
Iranian intelligence officers have been captured in Baghdad, according the FOX News. "American and Iraqi joint patrols, along with U.S. Special Operations teams, captured two men with explosives in Baghdad on Monday who identified themselves as Iranian intelligence officers, FOX News has confirmed.
Senior officials said it was previously believed that Iran had officers inside Iraq stirring up violence, but this is the first time that self-proclaimed Iranian intelligence agents have been captured within the country.
The Defense officials also confirmed to FOX News that in recent days there has been significant success in tracking down ’known bad guys’ based on information from local citizens. While those captured aren’t from the list of former regime members or from terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s network, they are ’active’ bombers and organizers of recent violence."
The Belmont Club posted some interesting observations this morning before this revelation (follow the links) on what the Iranians have been up to, and may still be up to, and how the Brits, the US, and the Iraqis have been responding. This is a serious game of cards, and now it would seem that some of the cards have been turned over. Stay tuned.
Back in March of 2003 I brought to your attention a piece in the New York Times on Africa’s lost tribe of Somali Bantus coming to America. It was a heartwarming story of the descendants of people kidnapped from southern Africa by slave traders two centuries ago, but its warmth was obscured by the political correctness from the Times: "The refugees tell each other, the Bantu will be considered human beings, not slaves, for the first time," said the article, but the Times wondered and emphasized how they will do in this land of prejudice and poverty, never mind language difficulties, or not knowing what a toilet was. Well, yesterday The New York Times ran another story on some Bantus who had settled in Tucson. Officials are saying that "the Bantus are making the most remarkable progress of the refugee groups" even though they came with the most disadvantages. America represents opportunity for them, and they are taking advantage of it, taking menial jobs, not complaining, paying rent, overcoming some of their bad "cultural" habits (like beating children), telling time, being punctual, noting that fireworks are meant to amuse not to strike fear, getting used to the kids being pelted with water balloons, etc. They are happy. The children are in school (and doing better than the natives, surprise!) and the 15-year-old boy wants to become a doctor. America represents opportunity, his father said, opportunity.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, an ordinary liberal in most respects, has an interesting streaming video and audio of his trip to Iran. He posed Iranians six questions about their life, their regime, and the US. In slightly surprised tones, he reports what every sensible person would already believe: that almost all Iranians believe that the tyranny of the Islamic Revolution has made life worse and that the Revolution is now "bankrupt and exhausted".
Still, he does helpfully show that the problem for the Bush administration is how to keep the mullahs from getting the bomb (which would prop up their decaying authority with sheer power) without provoking nationalist support from the previously alienated people. As a liberal, he doesnt like Bushs "Axis of Evil" language but thats because he overstates the possibility that external pressures will renew popular support for the regime. The so-called "reformers" in whom he seems to place such great hope are almost as disliked as the hardliners, and in some respects held in more contempt for their constant capitulations to the regime.
The administration needs to keep stiffening the Europeans’ spines on the nuclear issue so that it is not the US vs. Iran but Iran alienating itself from the world. And it needs to continue telling the Iranian people directly that the US supports their aspirations for freedom and a return to their rightful place in the world, but that such a return is impossible under the present mullahcracy.
Here is a reflective piece from Peggy Noonan on the November election. Her concern for Bushs re-election is that while Americans admire Bush for his guts and his gusto, the past 3 years have been all too exciting, and a vote for Kerry may be thought a vote for returning to "normalcy." Kerry is what Bush isnt -- dull, boring, unwilling to take a stand on just about anything, and Euro-friendly. She concludes, "The American people may come to feel that George W. Bush did the job history sent him to do. He handled 9/11, turned the economy around, went into Afghanistan, captured and removed Saddam Hussein. And now lets hire someone wholl just by his presence function as an emollient. A big greasy one but an emollient nonetheless."
The Tactical Language Project allows GIs to learn Arabic by playing a videogame. Quite interesting.
Kerry has picked John Edwards to be his running mate. Ironically (contra me), Kerry said that he couldnt wait to see Edwards going "toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney."
I just attended the last press conference held by Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who has been the senior military spokesman in Iraq for the last eight months, but is now taking a new post in Qatar. I always found General Kimmitt easy to work with and responsive to questions. He had an amazing ability to keep his cool even in the face of some of the most outrageous accusations that I have ever seen thrown at another human being. At the end of todays briefing, John Burns from the New York Times offered some words of thanks on behalf of the press pool to the General. It was good of John to do this. My best wishes to General Kimmitt and his family as he takes a new post.
Elliot A. Cohen has a thoughtful essay called "History and Hyperpower" in the July/Aug 2004 Foreign Affairs (only the preview is available on line). He says that the "age of American hegemony has begun." And although the U.S. is not an empire, it can learn from the life of past empires (no small task since "most people throughout history have lived under imperial rule"). It most certainly is the great power in the world; it has "overwhelming power." "No potential adversary comes close to it, and, for the moment, there is no question of a countervailing coalition to block, let alone replace, it." For the foreseeable future, only domestic politics can restrain it. "The logic of the Cold War was one of ideological struggle and bipolar contest. The logic of contemporary international politics is that of predominance and its discontents." (My emphasis)
Just because there are no rivals doesnt mean that statesmanship is not necessary; the inevitability of anti-American (as in anti-imperial) sentiment must be considered and be dealt with. He reminds us that the constant maxim of the Romans--who seemed to lack deep culture, wise statesmen and invariably successful armies, and yet kept their empire intact--according to Mostesquieu was "to divide." This may explain why we take the side of the weaker factions within the European Union. Cohen also reminds us of another the virtue of the Romans, according to Machiavelli: "One of the great prudence men use is to abstanin from menacing or injuring anyone with words." Blustering and threats are not appropriate. Roman discretion is as important to study as Roman assertion. The Romans made requests and promises and followed through on both. Cohen:
"When the simply clad Roman senator Gaius Popilius Laenas delivered Romes demand that Antiochus IV withdraw from Egypt, he did not threaten the Syrian king. Rather, he walked over to the problematic monarch and with his staff drew a circle around him in the sand, insisting on an answer to the Senate before Antiochus stepped out of it. The Selucid king turned pale and acceded, and this act of submission destroyed his reputation in his own luxurious court." It is best for the U.S. to blandly smile when exercising its power and not use boastful words, Cohen argues. There is more, and it is all thoughtful. Read it, when you can.
I received word that the guys in 4th platoon from the 196th Cavalry, with whom I was previously embedded, had a very close call. A 155mm IED blew up approximately 5 feet from a SFC Huttons Humvee. I have previously shown you how much damage a shell of that size can do. The shell only knocked out a headlight, blew some holes in SFC Huttons shirt (but luckily not his person), and scratched Spc. Vorhies cheek. Spc. James, who was driving, apparently came through unscathed. Here is to good fortune and providence.
USA Today has obtained a 1995 letter from Howard Dean to then-President Bill Clinton, urging him to intervene, unilaterally if need be, in Bosnia. "I have reluctantly concluded," he wrote then, "that the efforts of the United States and NATO in Bosnia are a complete failure ... If we ignore these behaviors ... our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened. ... We must take unilateral action."
But of course, Iraq and Saddam Hussein were completely different. Iraq, like, has sand and stuff. And Milosevic is clean-shaven, whereas Saddam has that cool beard.
Responding to Peter, below: I do think LBJ helped JFK, but I agree with most of the rest of his commentary. So, Peter, whom would you bet on? I was personally impressed by Bob Kerrey, whom I met at the U.S. Air Force Academy during a talk he gave there, but I don’t see him helping the ticket, unless a certain gravitas does the trick. (He was rather silly on the 9/11 Commission, don’t you think?) I guess he wouldn’t go back to Joe Lieberman, even based on your arguments about foreign policy. He would probably need to pick a Protestant, assuming Bush doesn’t switch nominees. (Danforth, if he does switch?) Your logic would likely exclude a woman.
Modifying your analysis, I think the election will be more about security, rather than foreign policy. Dem tickets require a southerner. And that bodes well for the dull, predictable Gephardt, despite his St. Louis roots. (Breaux-- too much corruption in Louisiana, but it’s possible. Nunn-- too conservative for the party, even one desperate for victory.)
If it’s a surprise, it will be a surprise to me, too-- e.g., Senator Bayh of Indiana, who could help in the battle for Ohio.
What I fear Bush is undergoing is a combination of Carterization and LBJization, though the Iraq policy cannot yet be dismissed as a failure. The President has not assured us that he knows what our foreign policy is about, even with sovereignty transferred to the Iraqis.
Reagan gave the country confidence that we would have a decisively different orientation, despite his lack of foreign policy experience. The vision was assuring.
As of Monday, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Time, Id bet a dollar Kerry picks Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, based on Kerrys flying to Indianapolis following his early morning rally in Pittsburgh, where it is expected he will announce his VP selection. Already designated as his running mates political director is, according to the New York Times, "Linda L. Moore, who was President Bill Clintons deputy political director and then Senator Bayhs deputy chief of staff. She was a field director at the Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s."
John Kerry tries mightily to both distinguish himself from Bush on Iraq, while seemingly agreeing with Bush’s purposes. In doing this he calls for a strategy with more "realism" as well as a "realistic path to democracy in Iraq." He wants to reconnect "our ideals with American common sense." His emphasis, as always, is on paying attention (and giving things to) our allies. This smells like helping the UN and the French--who mistrust American purposes, means, and power--tie our own hands.
The reason for bringing this to your attention is not that his views are silly or simply disagreeable--they are neither--but to note the very large problem he will have in the election. The Michael Moore/Al Gore insanity will not get him any votes. He must disown that sort of extremism, while persuading more ordinary undecided citizens that he can do better. This is becoming increasingly difficult now that sovereignty has been transferred, Saddam is on trial, and the numbers of Americans losing their lives has dropped to 49 in June (from 140 in April, and 84 in May). He must argue that he can do what Bush wants to do in the mid-East, but do it better. This means he has to question Bushs choices regarding Afghanistan and Iraq, and thereby question Bushs integrity, prudence, and character. He will have to argue that he is more trustworthy than Bush, without seeming that he is Frances candidate. That will be a hard mountain to climb.
Kerry has also announced that life starts at conception, in his humble opinion. The reason that this is shocking is that he has had a very strong pro-abortion record. Up until now, regardless of his flip-flopping on other issues, no one in his right mind would have thought he were capable os saying this: "I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." His spokeswoman said that Kerry has always thought (using a Clinton formulation) that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare," but this is the first time he discussed when life begins. It seemed to be the case that Clinton could get away with this kind of sophistry, but Kerry is not clever enough to do so. He has a 100% voting record on abortion according Naral-Pro Choice America. It’s not the GOP that paints him as a flip-flopper, he himself is his own artist. This will be used against him in the campaign, and entirely to Bush’s advantage.
There is also much hype about Kerry’s choice for vice-president. David Lambro does a pretty good job showing why none of the names mentioned will be of much help to him. The running mate will not get Kerry elected; no VP nominee ever helped a presidential nominee get elected, although some have clearly hurt (Farraro for Mondale, Miller for Goldwater, are exmaples). Think about it this way. If the major issue in the election is Iraq and the war on terror (which I believe is the case), then the VP nominee must be a serious, mature person with some foreign policy credentials. John Edwards debating Dick Cheney on foreign policy will be like a high school student debating Aristotle. The only three people I know of who could have some authority in such a debate are Sam Nunn, John Breaux, or maybe Bob Kerrey. Bob Graham is out, he is a silly person (unless Kerry wants to get someone who could help him get only one state); that is unlikely because the Demos are currently (wrongly) thinking that they can win nationally by five to ten points. His selection, which, apparently, is going to be announced Tuesday or Wednesday, therefore will be a surprise to the congnoscenti. It cannot be Edwards or Gephardt or Vilsack (you can’t have two Catholics on the ticket). It must be a serious person with foreign policy credentials. This is a war election first. Second, it’s on "values." Kerry must choose someone who is a moderate on the second, and a hard-liner on the first. It should be Breaux, Nunn, or Bob Kerrey. If Kerry can surprise us, he will have a better chance of being elected. If he can’t surprise us, he will have proven to one and all that he is dull. If he ends up choosing Edwards, he will reveal that he does not think the election will be on the war. And he will be wrong. I say he does not pick Edwards.
Charles Krauthammer writes a must-read column defending the use of the F-Word. As Francis Bacon might have said, if reading makes a full man and writing makes an exact man, so Krauthammer is an exact man. Lovely.
Thierry Chervel writes a very thoughtful four-page essay on the how the Europeans do not take advantage of the intenet ("The Europeans have invented the internet, but the Americans have come up with all business ideas for it."). Also note how Chervel ends in making a case that English will become even more irresistible through the internet: "English will once more change the European public for good. Europe will undergo a development that has already taken place in the Third World: its central debates will take place in English and new media and new networks will develop that will constitute this new public." (via Arts & Letters Daily).
It turns out that France is willing and able to defend Europe, according to French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. She said rogue states "could one day point their missiles toward France and its neighbours. We could say to those countries: ’Watch out, if you try to carry out your threats we will destroy you before you know what’s hit you.’"
"If Germany asked us for help, it is probable that European solidarity would come into play," she told a German newspaper, and added: "For us, nuclear weapons are the ultimate protection against a threat from abroad." She also said that France has a mobile, flexible and highly-motivated military and that it was the second or third best in the world. And also note that the French Foreign Minister has urged Israel to end the isolation of Arafat.
Today we as Americans celebrate our independence. Our independence is unique, for we, as a nation of ideas, can point to one seminal document for the principles that gave rise to our nation: The Declaration of Independence. And so it is fitting that today, more than 130,000 Americans stand guard in a country halfway around the world to guarantee those rights which that document proclaimed to be applicable to all men—not just to Americans. While Thomas Jefferson conceded that the ideas of the Declaration were not new but merely a recitation of the ideas found in the writings of men like Locke and Sydney, the restatement of these ideas in a document declaring these rights as a basis for the formation of a new nation was revolutionary then, and it is revolutionary now.
There are many who question the US endeavor in Iraq. Some question whether Iraqis have habituated the virtues or have the education necessary for successful self-rule. These are important questions, and ones which we will continue to consider in the coming days. But no one should doubt that the Iraqis as humans are equally entitled to the fundamental rights of life, liberty and happiness, and that their government should derive its just powers from the people. After all, we Americans proclaimed as much to them, not last year but 228 years ago.
The Forth of July in Iraq has been much like any other day. I have seen no barbeques, and (thankfully) there have been no local fireworks. Undoubtedly, the men and women serving here would rather be at home, enjoying a barbeque and a beer, and spending time with families and friends. But they are here, and they are here for an important purpose. They know why they are here, and many of them volunteered not just once to join the military, but a second time to come to Iraq. For this, we owe them a debt of gratitude. So as you sit around your barbeques today with your families celebrating our independence, take a moment to remember those soldiers throughout the world who cannot be with their families so that America can be secure, and so that a new nation may one day celebrate an independence day of its own.
David Brooks writes a short and clear piece on Bushs winning strategy in Iraq. He focuses on the "November 15 agreement" which mandated that sovereignty would be transferred to the Iraqis on June 30th, 2004. The scpetics were wrong; the U.S. had to transfer sovereignty in order to stay, end the insurgency and rebuild the country. Since then--despite the mistakes--the administration has been constant, and that has servedus and the Iraqis well. I agree that there is more reason for optimism now than at any time. Victor Davis Hansons longer piece makes a broader point about the "current mythic world" we are now living in; the most interesting point here is that the left opposes freedom and democratization, almost everything they were in favor of a generation ago. This is best exemplified by not only the behavior of the Chomskys and the Soroses. Gores "recent bouts of insanity are a metaphor for the scary era we are living in. "But who is the real new Democratic guru that best refeflects the new Know-Nhtigness?" Michael Moore, this "half-educated, vindictive buffoon." The Left in this country "has gone absolutely crazy." Note some of these images protraying Bush from the Left. And Lee Smith, at Slate, asks why the Western press is whitewashing the relationship between beheading and Islam. Why do they all say that the Quran opposes beheadings? And, last but not least (via Instapundit), Linda Seebach reflects on a new study of media bias by profs at UCLA and Cicago (the full study in PDF file). She explains their method, and what they found. "Our results show a very significant liberal bias. One of our measures found that The Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News Special Report is the most centrist." And all three papers, plus NBC and CBS, "were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives."
Charles R. Kesler writes an op-ed sized essay for the Gipper. The whole is well crafted and worth reading, but note these three paragraphs especially:
"Optimism is often distrusted by conservatives, and for good reason. Its not a virtue but a temperament, and liberal pragmatists from John Dewey to Richard Rorty for years have tried to reduce all philosophical disagreements to matters of temperament. Thats a smug way of silencing dissent and protecting the liberal establishment, of course, and Ronald Reagan would have none of it. He liked a good argument, and preferred to uphold a banner of "bold colors, not pale pastels." Whats more, theres a certain contempt hiding in the medias celebration of his optimism, as though he were a right-wing Forrest Gump, for whom life was always one big box of chocolates.
Nonetheless, Reagan was on to something. Long ago, Aristotle pointed out that cowards are pessimists, because they fear everything. A courageous man, by contrast, is confident, and confidence breeds a sanguine disposition. In other words, true optimism is the shadow of excellence, and particularly of courage. Reagan was optimistic not out of random temperament but out of confidence in his own character. He was hopeful about America because of his confidence in the American peoples character.
Reagans optimism is rarer than the counterfeit kind, based on a sham form of courage and typified by the person who believes, based on experience, that he will always win. For much of the past century, this was the liberals optimism, the false belief that history must be on their side because so far they had progressed from victory to victory. Drunks often feel a similar kind of exhilaration. The Communists, drunk on their own Marxist moonshine, elevated historical determinism into an official article of faith. But in the course of a single decade, by making them taste political, economic, and military defeat, Ronald Reagan sobered up millions of men and women who had been ideologically intoxicated."
Happy birthday to the USA! Go enjoy your freedom, family, hot dogs and fireworks this weekend, but do take a minute to reflect on the meaning and glory of this nation, the only nation in the world with the soul of church (G.K. Chesterton). To help you reflect see any one of these documents.
Here is Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, and his letter Henry Lee, as well as his letter to Roger C. Weightman. Also see Lincoln’s Fragment on the Constitution and Union, as well as Calvin Coolidge’s speech on the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The death of Marlon Brando allows Terry Teachout to write a couple of intelligent paragraphs about him. Here is one (via The Corner):
"A few film actors—Bogart, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, possibly Robert Mitchum, certainly John Wayne—have succeeded in constructing personas so magnetic as to float permanently free from their actual bodies of on-screen work. Brando wasn’t that kind of larger-than-life artist, though its conceivable that he could have been if he’d worked harder at it. Instead, like lesser mortals, he will be remembered as much for the quality of the films in which he appeared as for the quality of the performances he gave. Judged by that standard, my guess is that his memory will fade quickly, since so few of his films are worth seeing today."
The majority of Iraqis were transfixed by the sight of Saddam Hussein appearing in court yesterday. Wherever there was a television, you would see a crowd of Iraqis watching--soaking in the moment. The Deputy Foreign Minister, who I chatted with briefly, said that he feld "jubilant about Saddam facing justice." However, I witnessed another reaction in the press room as I waited to get the feed from the hearing. A journalist was complaining quite loudly about how the trial of Saddam was going to distract people from how terribly things were going in Iraq. This was all planned, you see. There were other expected things said: the administration is a bunch of extremists, jihadis, and nazis. And to think, some people think that the press in Iraq is biased.
Strom Thurmonds daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, "now wants to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization of descendants of soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War.
Evidently she is eligible: Senator Thurmond, once a fierce segregationist, was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a similar group for men. Ms. Washington-Williams, a 78-year-old retired teacher who lives in Los Angeles, also plans to apply for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Black Patriots Foundation, which honors black Revolutionary War fighters. One of her two sons will apply to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, her lawyer said."
Last night, after keeping to my custom of working late, I got up at 4:30 am to do the Roger Hedgecock Show. This ran until about 5:00 am, at which point I had trouble falling back to sleep. I watched a movie until about 5:45 am, and finally was able to doze again. Then at 7:30, there were a series of loud explosions which literally shook my room. A missile hit the Sheraton and another hit the parking lot of the Baghdad Hotel--both within a block on either side of my location. Two more missiles apparently misfired into Firdous Square (also within a block of my location) near the minibus that had been used as a makeshift launching platform. In a bit of poetic justice, it appears that a malfunction caused some of the ordnance to cook off, and to set the terrorists minibus ablaze. Unfortunately, it appears that the miscreants escaped before the bus blew up. CNN has a report about the incident here.
Christine Rosen writes a thoughtful (and long) article on plastic surgery and what it means. It is not simply an issue of vanity, but more especially "denial and envy." Worth reading the whole thing. A glance: "Cosmetic surgery thrives on our collective denial of aging and on our refusal to accept physiological limits. It feeds our envy of those who embody nature’s most powerful but fleeting charms—youth, strength, beauty, and fertility. Its supporters praise its ability to change lives and its critics denounce it as the expression of our society’s worst impulses. It is a useful fathometer for assessing the state of our democracy and a Rorschach test for people’s views about much broader social currents: the glorification of youth, the tenor of popular culture, the peculiar but strenuous American anxiety about identity. It is also a wildly successful industry—one based on ingenuity and an array of constantly evolving techniques and products, overseen by an army of trained professionals eager to protect and enhance their market prestige."
"In part, the discomfort some people have with cosmetic surgery is a discomfort about the particular form of denial it represents: a denial of bodily limits. The language of cosmetic surgery does everything to obscure this. Something “cosmetic” is not supposed to be a permanent alteration, as plastic surgery is. And humans are not “plastic,” but beings embodied in tissue, flesh, and bone that will, at a certain point, resist our efforts to remold it. But the freedom to do what we will with ourselves, which is the model for cosmetic surgery, presents a real challenge when we start thinking about permanent alterations to the human body. As a case study for how we might act in the genetic future, cosmetic surgery—which is individualistic, consumer-oriented, largely unregulated, and invokes the therapeutic language so popular today—is hardly a reassuring model."
This news report claims that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is likely to become the first western documentary [sic] to be imported to the Peoples Republic of China. Ill bet that if Saddam were still in power in Iraq, he would have permitted it as well. Not to mention the Taliban in Afghanistan.
I am scheduled to be on Fox News today at 12:40 pm EST/9:40 am PST to discuss Saddams arraignment.
I had a technical problem last night, so under the theory that the third time is a charm, I am scheduled to do the Roger Hedgecock Show this evening at 5:30 pm PST/8:30 pm EST. Again, those in San Diego can listen on KOGO 600 AM, and those in the rest of the world can listen via streaming audio.
In Mother Jones, Bradford Plumer responds to my recent article about the Supreme Court’s bad decision in Rasul, which permits any enemy combatant in the custody of the United States to seek habeas review in federal court. While apparently conceding my point that the decision will have deleterious effects to the war on terror, Mr. Plumer responds:
Nevertheless, this country has faced a number of pressing, dire challenges -- from the two World Wars to the threat of nuclear annihilation. We did not tear up the Bill of Rights then, and we should not do so now.
In this statement, Mr. Plumer shows that he is painfully ignorant of history and the law. The Supreme Court had in fact previously held that enemy combatants held on foreign soil could not seek U.S. habeas review. That case was decided in response to claims brought by WWII detainees. Oops, so much for Mr. Plumer’s knowledge of history. Second, the Rasul case dealt exclusively with interpretation of a statute, and expressly did not involve the Constitution, which means that despite Mr. Plumer’s rhetorical flourish, the Bill of Rights was not even involved. So much for his knowledge of the law.