Saturday, March 29, 2003
As we roll along, I reflect that it's already been a long war for those of us in action, a harsh life, deprived of many of the most ordinary comforts. For many, it's been at least three hours since the last taste of biscotti and cappuccino macchiato. There is little to protect us from the brutal weather or road conditions, except a well-sealed vehicle with a soft suspension and air conditioning. We have scant access to information about anything outside of our immediate area, other than twenty-four hour cable news, a satellite dish, cell phones, and the internet.
Since the war broke out, just a couple days after my interview with "Commandante Howell," I've been embedded in a front-line reportorial unit--the Chicken Little Company, of the Eeyore 5th Battalion, part of the Fourth Division, proudly named for decades the "Whining Weasels." [more]
Friday, March 28, 2003
Some 40 to 50 Nasiriya civilians who have fled the city reported that Iraqi paramilitaries are forcing citizens to volunteer their sons to fight, according to a U.S. Marine officer.
"If [citizens] didn't [comply with the militia's orders], they said they would shoot a sibling," said Marine Capt. Peter Tabash, who speaks fluent Arabic. Tabash says a civilian told him Iraqi forces shot a 9-year-old boy because his family refused to cooperate with paramilitary groups.
I think that once people realize that Saddam is going to fall, they are going to join our side in droves. What does it say when a country is invaded and the only way you get the ordinary citizens to fight for their country is to threaten to kill their children?
"Among supporters of the war in Iraq I doubt there's a single one who's 'pro-war.' No one wants war, no one likes war; but now is the time to recall that no one likes the word 'duty' very much either, or 'obligation,' or 'responsibility.'
"But I think we're here today to talk about our obligations and our duties: our duties as Americans to protect this country and support our troops; our duties as human beings, and especially as Americans, to listen when suffering people cry out; to hear them and not turn away.
"We know how easy it is to turn away. We know that when a bestial dictator systematically tortures and dismembers, and rapes women and hacks men to pieces and murders thousands on whim -- we know that most natural thing in the world is to turn away. And we know also: it's our duty not to.
"We know it's a strange, radical idea, because the world keeps telling us so. What an honor to be told by France and by Germany -- the symbolism, the historical resonance is so perfect, it's almost unbelievable -- what an honor to have France and Germany tell us: drop it, forget it, it's not your problem! Torture and mayhem and murder visited by a brutal dictator on a helpless population...it's not your affair.
"After all, these things happen. Sophisticated nations shrug it off. Where do you Americans get the arrogance to believe that no man is an island entire of itself? Who ever gave you the crazy idea that each man murdered, each man tortured, each woman raped diminishes you because you are involved in mankind? Who ever told you that crazy arrogant stuff?
"Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
-- Colin Powell, when asked by Archbishop of Canterbury if the war with Iraq was about "empire building."
Pakistan Asks for Peace Talks With India
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan on Friday urged the United States and Britain to arrange peace talks with India to resolve the intractable Kashmir dispute — the cause of two wars and perpetual tension on nuclear-armed South Asia.
"We will welcome any proposal on their part to help ensure peace in the region," Information Minister Sheikh Ahmed told The Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. "We would like to see them get involved."
Maybe the massive force arrayed next door to to get rid of a regime belligerent toward it's neighbors has caused the Pakistani government to reflect on it's own past behaviour.
More About France Is Actually Less
In regard to the March 11 Leisure & Arts column, In the Fray, by Mary Ann Caws, "There's More to France Than a Veto Threat":
There's also less; that is, less that is good, and more that isn't.
No one denies the contribution of some individual French men and women to Western Civilization, but Prof. Caws's list is noteworthy for its weaknesses rather than its strengths. Marie Curie was Polish by birth, not French, and Rousseau was Swiss and Beckett Irish. Debussy is fine but hardly in the class of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms and many others. Moliere can't be compared to Shakespeare. Not mentioned was Descartes, but rational thinking and, indeed, the Enlightenment, both things of which the French can be proud, would hardly have failed to occur had the French been absent.
She is justly prideful of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but that August 1789 document was clearly derivative of our earlier Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. It was also closely followed by the Reign of Terror, somehow not mentioned and something not seen in the Anglophone countries. The French contribution to democracy was followed almost immediately by the Directoire, Napoleon as Consul (1799-04), Napoleon as Emperor (1804-14), King Louis XVIII (1814-24), King Charles X(1823-30), King Louis-Philippe (1830-48), Louis Napoleon, President of the Second Republic (1848-52) until he declared himself Emperor Napoleon III (1852-70). This was followed by three more Republics and the Vichy regime of World War II. Perhaps there is a French taste for autocracy, Jacques Chirac being the latest in the line of De Gaulle and the Bonapartes.
The Napoleonic Code was needed because there was no tradition of common law, but it is hardly better than the systems in use in the Anglophone countries. Since the criminal system is inquisitorial rather than adversarial under the Code, the presumption of innocence is weakened. (Interestingly, it makes French prosecution of terrorists easier.)
Nowhere was mentioned the issue at hand: the political demeanor of the French from the suppression of the Huguenots (St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre where 100,000 innocent Protestants were slaughtered within a week) and the betrayal of Joan of Arc to the English, after she had served a purpose, to French colonial policies in Indo-China and Algeria, disgraceful by any conception of civilization. Perhaps they are more proud of the Dreyfus Affair.
Presumably, a distinguished professor of English, French and comparative literature, wanting to compliment the French, led with her best shot. Now that she brought the matter up, the record is less than most realize.
Stuart L. Meyer
Department of Management & Strategy
Kellogg School of Management
Smith explains that fundamental rights are understood to apply to decisions about "sexual relations in the home" and decisions about "procreation and non-procreation." Rehnquist interjects that the laws at issue have little to do with "non-procreation." Smith says these laws say "you can't have sexual activity at all" if you are gay and Scalia objects: "They just say you can't have sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex." See? No problem. Homosexuals remain perfectly at liberty to have heterosexual sex in Texas.
IS THERE anything to be learned from the appalling choices we find ourselves facing? The New York Times editorialized in January that Pyongyang’s confession had “blown apart the Bush administration’s months-long effort to portray Saddam Hussein as uniquely dangerous.” The implication was that the North Korean menace spoke against the policy of disarming Iraq by force. What it really did was the opposite. It illustrated how such threats grow ever worse if they are not dealt with resolutely. Contrary to those who airily put their trust in “containment,” it gave us a glimpse into how much more dangerous the world would be if we allowed Iraq to join North Korea in the nuclear club. Since appeasement has only emboldened the North Koreans, perhaps making an example of Saddam Hussein may take some of the wind out of their nuclear sails.
In short, our experience with North Korea confirms anew the folly of appeasement and the frailty of “parchment barriers”—not to mention the wisdom of missile defense. Above all, it points up the error of lowering our guard. Since the cold war ended, we were living in something of a fool’s paradise. All of the conflicts in which we were embroiled after the fall of Communism—Kuwait, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo—were minor in comparison to our decades-long tussle with the Soviet empire. Although the issues were real, the dangers were always contingent, and we enjoyed a wide margin for error. Accordingly, we progressively reduced the size of our military and our spending on weapons until we abandoned, first in practice and then in doctrine, the capacity to wage wars simultaneously on two fronts. The result was, and is, that our ability to confront North Korea is constrained by our mobilization around Iraq—a fact that by itself helps to explain the brazenness of the North Koreans.
The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that enforcing state and federal drug laws costs something like $40 billion a year. That figure does not include myriad other costs associated with prohibition—such as property crime, black market violence, police corruption, and deaths from overdoses and tainted drugs—that never show up in anyone's budget. Added together, they would make the tab for invading Iraqi, $75 billion so far, look modest by comparison.
With escalating budget deficits as far as the eye can see, Americans should seriously consider whether we can afford a war on drugs in addition to a war with Iraq and a war on terrorism. Given the dangers we face, it's inexcusable to blithely continue the futile crusade against politically incorrect plants, powders, and pills.
Measured by arrests (about 700,000 a year), marijuana is the main target of the war on drugs, which is why federal officials have shown no mercy toward patients who use it to relieve pain, nausea, or muscle spasms. Admitting that marijuana could be good for anything would be an embarrassing retreat from the aptly named policy of "zero tolerance."
In addition to hurting innocent people, this policy costs a lot of money, going well beyond the resources allocated to police, prosecutors, and prisons. The government estimates, for instance, that Americans spend between $50 billion and $100 billion a year on illegal drugs. Almost all of that spending is a cost of prohibition, since it represents the "risk premium" that criminals earn by supplying contraband.
A less quantifiable cost of prohibition is the erosion of civil liberties. In recent decades, the war on drugs has been the biggest factor undermining the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against "unreasonable searches and seizures." It also has threatened property rights through asset forfeiture and religious freedom through prohibition of drug rituals.
The Office of Management and Budget has suggested that the civil liberties implications of anti-terrorism measures should routinely be considered along with their dollar cost. No such caution applies to anti-drug measures, which do not even have the justification of preventing violence.
It began with "shock and awe" euphoria, the hailing of a campaign of immaculate destruction. It was going to be Kosovo II, Afghanistan with embeds, another war of nearly bloodless (for us) success.
And then on Sunday, bloody Sunday, the media discovered that war is hell and descended into a mood as dark as any of Churchill's "black dogs." But the blackness came from confusing two different phenomena: war and battle. The narrow focus of the camera sees not war but individual battles, which, broadcast live, gave the home front the immediate (vicarious) experience of the confusion and terror of combat. Among the chattering classes, a mini-panic set in.
By Monday the media were in full quagmire mode. Good grief. If there had been TV cameras not just at Normandy, but after Normandy, giving live coverage of firefights at every French village on the Allies' march to Berlin, the operation would have been judged a strategic miscalculation, if not a disaster. The fact is that after a single week we find ourselves at the gates of Baghdad, servicing the longest supply lines in American history, with combat losses astonishingly low by any standard.
Though it's impossible to know the mind of Saddam and his top officials, it is well documented that they operate in a similarly terrifying environment. Students of Middle Eastern politics point out that Arabs tend to be loyal to their "clans" and "tribes." But even this is not particularly good insurance for anyone working for Saddam. Among the thousands of Iraqis murdered by Saddam's regime, many have been those closest to him. Saddam's son Uday once shot (but did not kill) Watban, Saddam's half-brother; he succeeded in killing Ahmad, Watban's son. Uday also probably also killed Saddam Kamel and Hussein Kamel, both brothers-in-law of his. (The latter fell from favor when he encouraged Saddam to comply with U.N. resolutions so that sanctions on Iraq would be lifted. Saddam and his brutalized entourage are capable of quite literally shooting the messenger.) Qusay, Saddam's other son, has spied on Uday, and some believe that Saddam may have tried to have Uday killed. With this kind of atmosphere within his own family, it wouldn't exactly be a surprise if information didn't flow freely within Saddam's government.
Last weekend, 18 Afghans were released from detention in Cuba after 16 months of questioning in U.S. custody. They flew home and were held briefly in a Kabul jail. The Boston Globe reports that "nearly all of the former detainees enthusiastically praised the conditions at Guantanamo and expressed little bitterness about losing a year of their lives in captivity, saying they were treated better there than in three days in squalid cells in Kabul. None complained of torture during questioning or coerced confessions."
Sirajuddin, 24, a Kandahar taxi driver, said: ''The conditions were even better than our homes. We were given three meals a day -- eggs in the morning and meat twice a day; facilities to wash, and if we didn't wash, they'd wash us; and there was even entertainment with video games.''
"There is no need to lie," Sayed Abasin, 21, told the Chicago Tribune. "I'm telling you the facts. They treated us very well." His record from Cuba shows he was seen 37 times by the Gitmo medical staff, for everything from knee pain to sinusitis.
The freed detainees said they were allowed to pray five times daily, exercise, and were given books written in Pashtu. Upon their release, as parting gifts, the Afghan men received new shirts, jeans, tennis shoes and gym bags (to carry their Korans).
(2003-03-27) -- In a reprise of the role that made her a cult-film icon, Susan Sarandon will star in the upcoming production of "The Iraqi Horror Picture Show".
Mrs. Sarandon, will play the part of Janet (a heroine), whose career gets sidetracked by her bizarre attraction to a blood-thirsty egomaniac.
I must add that I have enjoyed her in the "Children of Dune" which I Tivo'd and have been watching over the last few nights. She plays a power-hungry has-been who is trying to impose her extreme political views on her son. It must be quite a stretch for her.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Surely, I asked Sharansky, you don't think Palestinian suicide bombers and the population that worships them are like the Russians, Czechs, and Poles, able and eager to free themselves with only a little help from us? Surely you see that for these Arabs, as for the Germans and Japanese, nothing less than a full-scale, long-term military occupation with a rigorous, all-embracing reeducation program has a chance? Sharansky is no pie-in-the-sky, peace-now wimp. He doesn't flinch or dodge. "Yes," he said calmly, "that's what must be done." Incredulous, I asked, "And you think the world will stand back and let Israel do that?" "No," he replied. "Of course not. Only America can do that."
I disagree. Like Sharansky, I believe in America's power to make the world a better, safer place by expanding freedom in the Middle East. I'm a strong supporter of President Bush's plan to liberate Iraq — to end the Baathist regime and set it on the road to democracy. I think Iraq is ripe for it. Europe may be blind, but most Iraqis know that Saddam Hussein and his thugs are responsible for their miseries — not America or Israel — and they are eager to be liberated. If they can work out tribal and religious differences peacefully, sharing power in a workable federation, a relatively short occupation might suffice. I think Iran — struggling hard to dethrone her tyrannical mullahs — is riper still and can succeed, with a little help from us. I think President Bush thinks so too. I think he sees Iran as the eastern end of a great new arc of freedom, stretching across the whole northern half of the region, from Iran through Turkey. I think he intends to create that new reality — a reality Middle Eastern despots in the south will have to compete with, one their subjects will know about and envy. It's a vision that is worthy of this great nation, and achievable at a cost we can afford.
But it's unrealistic, I think, to expect anything like democracy in the southern half of the Middle East any time soon — and a dangerous illusion to expect a Palestinian democracy ever. Look, first, at Egypt, the population giant of the south. Most Egyptians still see Nasser — a megalomaniacal thug, much like Saddam Hussein — as a hero. Most still blame the same scapegoats Nasser blamed for Egypt's poverty, backwardness, and oppression: America and Israel. Egypt's current dictator, Hosni Mubarak, pretends to be our ally, but his government-controlled media is still pumping out the same old lies and excuses, still demonizing us, still pretending that Egypt's half-century of stagnation is our fault, still goading his people to channel their blind rage at us and at Israel. And what is true for Egypt is true for other southern Arab states as well. (via ColdFury)
Apple doesn't use the word "quagmire" to describe the allied effort as he did on Oct. 31, 2001, during the early, shaky days of the Afghanistan campaign. (See "Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam.") But the gist of his Afghanistan piece and today's Iraq piece is the same. The United States has bitten off more than it can chew; the allied war effort is underpowered; we've underestimated the enemy—again!; air power is overrated; and guerrillas can do U.S. forces great damage as they did in Vietnam.
Apple's fear that dropping bombs on civilians wouldn't "win Afghan 'hearts and minds' " and that the country would prove ungovernable even if the United States won turned out to be unfounded. Two weeks after his comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam, the allies liberated Kabul, and 16 months later the place is at least as governable as San Francisco.
Ridiculing Apple is easy—he's a large, slow target that bleeds profusely when hit. But many others in the press are guilty of Appleism, writing whatever story is required to fit the arc of the wartime news cycle. (via Volokh)
In the months and years ahead, people may change their minds about the Iraq war. As a supporter of the war, I hope that the facts and repercussions of the conflict turn out to reinforce my beliefs. But if I turn out to be wrong, I expect that I will find the courage to admit it.
So, what it is that empowers Belgium to try American leaders in a Brussels court for alleged crimes committed in Iraq? It goes back to a 1993 law by which Belgium arrogated to itself the supposed right of "universal jurisdiction" in the case of certain crimes against humanity. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also faces trial -- after he leaves office -- under the same law. His crime was that Lebanese Christians went on a rampage against Lebanese Muslims in Lebanon while he was defense minister of Israel 20 years ago.
The thinking, if you can call it that, was that the oppressed people of the world would be offered a tribune in Belgium. Since the victims of crimes against humanity could not rely on their own courts to bring their oppressors or killers to justice, Belgium would fill the gap. That's the same Belgium, mind you, where Marc Dutroux, perhaps the world's most infamous accused pedophile-murderer, sits in jail untried seven years after his belated arrest. But never mind.
By the logic of universal jurisdiction, the downtrodden would be given their day in court, be allowed to stand up and face their oppressors and see them brought to justice.
In practice, of course, it's never worked that way. And never will. Belgium is a small country, and unless you happen to be invading France from Germany, it's easily circumvented. So the accused, unless they're unlucky enough to be passing through looking for chocolate when the charges are sprung and the police descend, are unlikely ever to see the inside of a Belgian jail cell.
I AM half Iraqi and residing in Singapore, and I would like to inform all your readers that nine in 10 Iraqis welcome the American invasion of Iraq. The 1/10 are linked to Saddam Hussein's regime.
The invasion should be seen through the eyes of the Iraqi people. Whether there is war or no war, Iraqis are dying.
Allow me to recap Saddam's murderous 24 years in power. [More] (via Instapundit)
- His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.
- I would not breed from this Officer.
- This Officer is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won't-be.
- When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.
- He has carried out each and every one of his duties to his entire satisfaction.
- He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.
- Technically sound, but socially impossible.
- This Officer reminds me very much of a gyroscope - always spinning around at a frantic pace, but not really going anywhere.
- This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
- When he joined my ship, this Officer was something of a granny; since then he has aged considerably.
- This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar.
- Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig.
- She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
- He has the wisdom of youth, and the energy of old age.
- This Officer should go far - and the sooner he starts, the better.
- In my opinion, this pilot should not be authorized to fly below 250 feet.
- This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
- The only ship I would recommend this man for is citizenship.
- Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
I know some of you won't get the joke but it was the first thing that popped in my head when I saw the picture. Hint: It's art related.
4-The United States armed Saddam. This one grew over time, but when Iraq was on it's weapons spending spree from 1972 (when its oil revenue quadrupled) to 1990, the purchases were quite public and listed over $40 billion worth of arms sales. Russia was the largest supplier, with $25 billion. The US was the smallest, with $200,000. A similar myth, that the U.S. provided Iraq with chemical and biological weapons is equally off base. Iraq requested Anthrax samples from the US government, as do nations the world over, for the purpose of developing animal and human vaccines for local versions of Anthrax. Nerve gas doesn't require technical help, it's a variant of common insecticides. European nations sold Iraq the equipment to make poison gas.
7-The U.S. created Saddam. Arab nationalism created Saddam. He neither asked, needed nor got any help from the United States as he rose to power in the Baath party. When he took over in 1979, he promptly went to war with Iran a year later. Even before that, public opinion, and public policy, regarding Saddam (the bloody minded head of the secret police) was negative. You can go read it in the contemporary papers. Despite most Americans feeling OK about Iran getting hammered by Iraq (because Iran had held our embassy staff hostage for over a year), there was no move to provide Iraq with weapons. When the Iraqis looked like they might fold, and Iran's then fearsome Islamic Jihad (against less observant Moslems, and mostly against America, the Great Satan) might spread, the U.S. provided Iraq with satellite photos of Iranian military positions. After that war ended in a draw in 1988, the U.S. believed Saddam's pronouncements that he had seen the light and would rein in his aggressive impulses. (via OTB)
If only I'd known, I got my carpal tunnel from using a mouse all day.
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld: My wife and I are happily married, but the spark seems to have gone out of our sex life. How can we spice it up? —Harry Blumenthal, Bakersfield, California
Secretary Rumsfeld: There's no great mystery here, Harry. It can't be that hard to understand. You get in there, you do your job, you develop an exit strategy, and you get the heck out of there. That's the way sex works. Why does everything have to be so difficult?
:: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 ::
Uday is still dead.
:: Saddam "No Nukes Here" Hussein 6:21 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ::
Thank Allah my computer is up and running. I just read in the online edition of USAToday that Delta Force commandos have tapped into my phone line! Good thing the Americans have a free press or I would never have found out! I shall begin using carrier pigeons to communicate with my subordinates.
I used to complain that AOL sucks, but to their credit, I still have internet access. It's slow as molasses in a January sandstorm, but at least it's working.
I'm tempted to email North Korea's Kim Jong-il for reinforcements, but he'd probably just go off into one of his nonsensical rants again. I think the Syphillis is beginning to effect his mind.
:: Saddam "No Nukes Here" Hussein 7:08 PM [+] ::
I asked Uday earlier to clean up some of the debris lying around the bunker, but has he? No! He just stays in that chair, slumped against the wall. If it weren't for the duct tape holding him upright, he'd be srawled all over the floor. Sometimes I wonder if he is truly a product of my loins, or if his mother cheated on me. I would ask her, but I can't remember which of my wives bore him.
He's always been a little lazy, but this is ridiculous. I can't help but feel he is taking unfair advantage of this whole being dead thing.
:: Saddam "No Nukes Here" Hussein 6:22 PM [+] ::
(via Country Store)
2 Ted Rall, Freedom Fighter/Cartoonist
Maybe Ted first captured your heart with his blocky cartoon scamps that appear in every lazy, predictable alt-weekly in the country. Maybe you were inspired by his impassioned and daring campaigns against such scourges as internet spam and student loans. (What’s next, Ted? Barking dogs? Rainy days?) Maybe you’ve already slept with him, since to hear him tell it, Ted’s cock is a diamond-hard, unrelenting pussy magnet. Or, quite possibly you’re one of us—those who’ve suffered through enough of Ted Rall’s comics and editorials and television and radio appearances to know that he’s just another self-righteous shitheel who coasts on self-created controversy and tells himself that any publicity is good publicity. Much like Loathsome New Yorker #3, Michael Moore, Ted Rall’s attempts at political commentary and liberal activism do more harm to the cause than any amount of conservative clampdown. For someone who describes himself as a "First Amendment purist," he sure does spend a lot of time telling other people what to say, and we’ve had enough. (via Joanne Jacobs)
Just last week I received a bundle of letters from students who have apparently been given an assignment to write to me by a teacher in an English class in Flat Rock High School in Flat Rock, Michigan. This was occasioned by a column of mine that said some things that were not politically correct.
The first of these letters was from a girl who informed me, from her vast store of teenage wisdom, of things that I knew 30 years ago, and closed by telling me that I needed to find out about poverty. Since I spent more years in poverty than she has spent in the world, this would be funny if it were not so sad.
With American students consistently scoring at or near the bottom on international tests, you would think that our schools would have better things to do than tell kids to write letters to strangers, spouting off about things they know little or nothing about.
Creating mindless followers is one of the most dangerous things that our public schools are doing. Young people who know only how to vent their emotions, and not how to weigh opposing arguments through logic and evidence, are sitting ducks for the next talented demagogue who comes along in some cult or movement, including movements like those that put the Nazis in power in Germany.
At one time, the educator's creed was: "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." Today, schools across the country are teaching students what to think -- whether about the environment, the war, social policy, or whatever.
Even if what they teach were true, that would be of little use to these young people in later life. Issues and conditions change so much over time that even the truth about today's issues becomes irrelevant when confronted with the future's new challenges.
Naïve multiculturalism assumes that a culture is simply an empirical fact, and not a set of normative rules governing the behavior of those who are part of it, so that everything that occurs within a culture or a cultural tradition is equally authentic or valid for that culture. But such an identification ends by embracing both criminal pathology and larger scale social pathologies brought about by both exogenous factors, such as famine, plague, invasion, colonization, on the one hand, as well as the rise of ideological pathologies represented by Nazism, racism, and religious fanaticism, on the other.
Culture, in short, has a point. It has a purpose. And this purpose is to hold a community together, and not to tear it apart. Hence those pathological agents that subvert and undermine a community cannot be listed among those elements of the culture, but must be understood as the enemy of the culture in question.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
France Seeks Big Role in Post-War Iraq
PARIS - Worried it could be shut out of business deals in postwar Iraq, France is drawing up plans to win French companies access to lucrative oil and reconstruction contracts, officials said Tuesday.
The government is determined that French companies will be part of rebuilding Iraq, despite President Jacques Chirac's vigorous opposition to the war, a Finance Ministry official said.
John Hawkins posts this comment he found on Democratic Underground:
HappyLibLady (1155 posts): "It was interesting to see the interviews being held with a few of the POWs captured by the Iraqis.
I noticed that the interviewers spoke in calm, comforting voices, and I saw how one of them put a gentle hand on the shoulder of the young African-American female. Her eyes seemed to express a terrible fear, and that is likely because she was trained/brainwashed by the US miltary to believe all Iraqis are blood-thirsty murderers.
I have faith that the experience of these POWs will leave them non-plussed and very confused. I expect that they will be given good treatment, decent food and clean quarters during their confinement, and that they will be released, unharmed when the time comes.
Maybe I'm just dreaming, but it is my hope that the POWs will discover that they were treated better by the Iraqis than they have ever been treated by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them on the battlefield. And, in the case of the African-American woman, she may find that people in the Middle East, unlike too many of the folks back home, do not consider her a second-class human being because of her dark brown skin!"
Moore sneered that we have a "fictitious president," alluding to the controversial 2000 election which, from Moore's view, ended unhappily. More disappointing for him was the 2002 election, which Democrats made a referendum on Bush and which he won stunningly. Moore scoffed that the war was being fought "for fictitious reasons." Never mind 17 UN resolutions ignored by Saddam Hussein, two wars against neighbors, or the murder, torture, rape and oppression endured by millions of Iraqis.
But these, of course, are facts, and Moore wouldn't let pesky things like that get in his way. Nor would the thought of dead Americans on a battlefield far from home deny this egomaniac his chance to prance and strut on the stage, spewing rantings that amount to "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (via Right Thinking)
- I started with nothing. I still have most of it.
- I finally got my head together, now my body is falling apart.
- Funny, I don't remember being absent minded.
- All reports are in. Life is now officially unfair.
- It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.
- If at first you do succeed, try not to look astonished.
- The first rule of holes: if you are in one, stop digging.
- I went to school to become a wit, only got halfway though.
- Nostalgia isn't what it use to be.
- Kids in the back seat cause accidents; accidents in the back seat cause kids.
- It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
- The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you are in the bathroom.
- If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put them on my knees.
- Lead me not into temptation (I can find the way myself).
- If you are living on the edge, make sure you are wearing your seatbelt.
- An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.
- Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
-- Nick Kristof, NY Times Mar 25, 2003
British troops say the key southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr - where UK and United States forces have been meeting Iraqi resistance - is now "safe and open".
-- BBC News, 25 March, 2003, 11:06 GMT
The first supplies of water, food and medical supplies have reached the captured southern port city of Uum Qasr.
People lined up along the streets, giving thumbs-up signs to the aid convoy as it rolled by and begging for food and cigarettes.
Auxillary ship Sir Galahad is leading the British relief effort after troops finally declared Uum Qasr secure.
-- Sky News, 12:04 UK, March 26, 2003
You wouldn't know it from reading most of the papers, but the war in Iraq is going fabulously well. After just five days the U.S. Third Infantry Division and supporting units are approaching Baghdad. The immense steel column continues to drive reinforcements across the Iraqi desert, while its leading edge rumbles through the fields, villages, and waterways of Mesopotamia. To its rear, the "sleeper cells" of Ba'athist and terrorist hitmen waiting in ambush are being eliminated one by one. Special forces have seized bridges, dams, airstrips, oil and gas fields, and weapons sites all over the country. The U.S. Air Force has devastated leadership targets, military infrastructure, and the physical symbols of the Saddam regime, across Baghdad and elsewhere. Allied troops have Basra, Nasiriyah, now Karbala, and other Iraqi cities surrounded, and are tightening each noose. Snipers in the towns are being patiently deleted. The "Scud box" of western Iraq is in allied hands, daily more secure, and allied forces are building with endless air deployments to the northern front. In all, the allies have taken only a few dozen killed, and a couple hundred lesser casualties -- many of these from small accidents within the most amazing and vast logistical exercise since our troops landed in Normandy (when we lost men at the rate of up to 500 a minute, liberating France). (via Balloon Juice)
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The documents were found on battlefields and in government offices in southern Iraq and Kuwait during the war, and are now held by the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard. Many were issued by Saddam Hussein himself, and they provide a window into his thinking that is just as relevant today as it was in 1991.
For example, an Iraqi order issued on Jan. 27, 1991, 10 days after the air war began, said that "officers will be promoted if they capture an enemy and retrieve important information." Obviously, forced interrogation of uniformed prisoners is a breach of the Geneva Conventions. Still, it's clear that career advancement trumped the international rules of combat. Capt. Richard Dale Storr, an Air Force pilot shot down and captured six days after that order was issued, said he was questioned under illegal conditions. Suffering from a broken nose, a punctured eardrum and a dislocated shoulder, he was handcuffed and forced to lie on a cement floor. When his answers were deemed unsatisfactory, he was shocked with an electric prod.
Charles de Gaulle spent the war years in London, exhorting his fellow Frenchmen to keep the flame of liberty alive, and returned to his native soil as soon as the Normandy beaches had been cleared of the corpses of the American, British and Commonwealth troops that had scaled the Atlantic Wall to free Europe. Once there he congratulated his compatriots on their courage and threw out the only real resisters who had fought the Nazis. Some were Communists, others were the British agents who had been dropped into the darkness of occupied France with Churchill’s order to “Set Europe ablaze” and had proceeded to carry out sabotage and subversion. To them de Gaulle said, “Your place is not here” and he gave them a few hours to get out of the country. His reasoning was that they had not been working for France but for a foreign power. He meant England.
She also has some trenchant remarks on the Oscar follies.
More importantly, though, Kahlo's Communism--now treated as somehow sort of quaint--led her to embrace some unforgivable political positions. In 1936, Rivera, a dedicated Trotskyite, used his clout to petition the Mexican government to give Trotsky and his wife asylum after they were forced out of Norway. Rivera and Kahlo put up the Trotskys in Kahlo's family home, where Kahlo seduced the older man. (She painted a self-portrait dedicated to him that now hangs in Washington's NMWA.)
After Trotsky was assassinated, however, Kahlo turned on her old lover with a vengeance, claiming in an interview that Trotsky was a coward and had stolen from her while he stayed in her house (which wasn't true). "He irritated me from the time that he arrived with his pretentiousness, his pedantry because he thought he was a big deal," she said.
Rarely is this unflattering detail included in the condensed Kahlo story. Nor is the fact that Kahlo turned on Trotsky because she had become a devout Stalinist. Kahlo continued to worship Stalin even after it had become common knowledge that he was responsible for the deaths of millions of people, not to mention Trotsky himself. One of Kahlo's last paintings was called "Stalin and I," and her diary is full of her adolescent scribblings ("Viva Stalin!") about Stalin and her desire to meet him. Less scandalous but worth noting is that Kahlo despised the very gringos who now champion her work, and her art reflects her obvious disdain for the United States.
As a former Soviet citizen, this really makes me sick. She is complete scum. I hope she is in hell having her unibrow plucked continuously by James Coco. Can you imagine if they made a movie about someone who idolized Hitler and the critics lauded it as a wonderfully feminist work?
Baghdad, March 25, IRNA -- The ruling Ba'ath Party of Iraq has warned its people not to evacuate the city or their houses and property or these would be confiscated by the government.
According to IRNA correspondents, the Baghdad government has announced that those who leave the city will not be allowed to return.
It further referred to the increasing number of bunkers that are being dug out all over the city including in streets, schools, governmental and non-governmental buildings and medical centers.
But the IRNA correspondents quoted a foreign reporter as saying the US-led coalition forces have set a number of days for civilians to leave Baghdad after which they will announce the city as a military region. (via Command Post)
In the wee hours of Monday morning, Iraqi fighters shot down a U.S. helicopter near Baghdad and forced 30 more to retreat. A U.S. commander called the attack “asymmetrical warfare. … You have 10 guys lying on top of a building firing [rocket-propelled grenades] and small arms.” If the U.S. were to bomb the building, the commander explained, civilians would die. So, the Iraqis blasted away, knowing that for moral reasons, the Americans couldn’t.
In what amounts to a military playbook, Al-Adel lays out lessons learned fighting Americans in Afghanistan, and claims “victory over the U.S. [in Iraq] is very possible ... easy beyond the imagination” and depends on “depleting, exhausting and terrorizing the enemy.”
He advises Iraqi Muslims to fight in small groups trained in “reconnaissance, traps and raiding operations,” and to mount rocket launchers on pickup trucks.
But he reveals that in Afghanistan, al-Qaida’s secret weapon was not the ever present pickup truck, but a Toyota Corolla — a passenger car — filled with bombs and shoulder-fired missiles.
“The enemy did not notice we were using them, and most were not directly targeted,” Al-Adel claims.
Yes, this sort of thing worked so well in Afghanistan.
Despite the steady progress of our troops, we continue to hear dire warnings about an impending bloodbath in Baghdad, once Saddam lures us into the streets of his ultimate fortress, his "Stalingrad" on the Euphrates.
Just a minute there, Herr Professor. Calm down, Dr. Think Tank. I'm just a former career soldier, so I don't understand military operations the way academics and pundits do. Explain something to me, slowly and clearly:
Why on earth would Gen. Tommy Franks do exactly what Saddam wants, and send our forces charging into the streets of Baghdad?
I simply cannot understand why anyone outside of Ba'ath Party headquarters imagines we would feel compelled to fight house-to-house in Baghdad, destroying the city, putting civilian lives at risk and throwing away our soldiers.
Certainly, we'll need to engage in some limited urban combat, for specific objectives - as the Brits are doing on the outskirts of Basra and the Marines have done in Nasiriyah. But there is no iron rule of warfare that says we have to take Baghdad block by block.
Monday, March 24, 2003
(2003-03-23) -- The Children's Television Workshop (CTW), producers of Sesame Street, announced today that the show will soon feature a muppet called Saddami. The new muppet will be used to educate children about tolerating diversity in human behavior.
In the first episode of the new season, Saddami will attack Ernie, Bert and Grover, turning them into "a pile of crumbled foam and rags". At first Big Bird will threaten to peck him to death. But the show's human cast members will persuade the residents of Sesame Street to leave Saddami alone, because "it takes all kinds of behavior to make up the circle of life, and we shouldn't punish Saddami just because his morals are different."
... If you can't delay the Great Satan's victory, you can at least taint it, by ensuring that as many as possible of your subjects die at the hands of the Brits and Yanks or reasonable facsimiles thereof. This is the man that Jacques Chirac assures us ''loves his people.''
Jacques' old buddy has now taken Iraqi military operations out of the hands of the generals and placed them under the control of four psychotic Saddamite family loyalists. They've had some terrific ideas: Close the border with Iran, so the great tide of civilian refugees will be forced to head for Kuwait and, with any luck, will get mowed down by the advancing Americans. Saddam was greatly heartened by the big round-the-world demos by the NION narcissists (Not In Our Name), and he evidently feels that if he throws enough of the Iraqi citizenry into the path of Anglo-American tanks the NIONist Entity will take to the streets of San Francisco, Glasgow and Sydney and force President Bush to give up. You can't blame him for thinking that way: As he sees it, Western wimpiness in 1991 gave him another 12 years.
Give Saddam credit. With the simple act of getting Iraqi seamstresses to run up the Royal Marine look for Baghdad's pret-a-porter spring collections, he's shown a shrewd understanding of the West's weak spot: the susceptibility of its peoples to believe the worst of their own side. We in turn should return the courtesy and see his elaborate ''plan'' for what it is: the heart of the problem.
Critics term that latter commitment to changing the political landscape of a tribal society as naive, nation-building or even colonialism. But what America seeks to avoid is to win the war and lose the peace - to lose by allowing defeated authoritarians to claim that their very survival is tantamount to victory as they unleash terrorists, car bombings, and suicide murdering.
So this new Western way of war is more than the traditional overwhelming power of our tanks and planes. It now involves at times fighting in the hit-and-run manner of our enemies, and bringing out the mother of all Western weapons - the humane offer of freedom and liberation to millions enslaved by psychopaths like Saddam Hussein.
Iraq was an enemy of our enemy—Iran—and thus, an ally. Saddam was becoming increasingly sadistic—culminating in the gassing of the Kurds—but he was our sadist. He kept Iran occupied, serving the only function we cared about. We didn't want to know about the human meat grinders and rape rooms because, frankly, we didn’t care. Despite earning his title as the Butcher of Baghdad, we “rewarded” him with chemical and biological agents. Some in the Reagan administration saw Saddam as a looming threat, but an ally he remained.
Foreign policy should not be dictated by morality, but it should not exist in a moral vacuum, either. Not because we should be the world’s morality police, but because our national security depends on the spread of the only societies that can be counted as true long-term allies: free-market democracies. Truly free people pose the greatest threat to terror, both in terms of fighting terrorists and undermining them.
Free societies are the only inherently reliable allies because they share our values—not “Western” values, but the values of free peoples. Bad things can and do happen in good countries, but in the end, the values of a free people prevail. Leaders of a free country cannot terrorize citizens or invade neighbors. Leaders of a free country cannot fund terrorists or unleash weapons of mass destruction on thousands of innocents. And citizens of free countries are far less likely to join the ranks of terrorists because they would lose the most prized of possessions: freedom.
1) BETWEEN PRESIDENT BUSH AND SADDAM HUSSEIN ... HUSSEIN IS THE BAD GUY.
2) IF YOU HAVE FAITH IN THE UNITED NATIONS TO DO THE RIGHT THING KEEP THIS IN MIND, THEY HAVE LIBYA HEADING THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND IRAQ HEADING THE GLOBAL DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE. DO YOUR OWN MATH HERE!
3) IF YOU USE GOOGLE SEARCH AND TYPE IN "FRENCH MILITARY VICTORIES", YOUR REPLY WILL BE "DID YOU MEAN FRENCH MILITARY DEFEATS?"
4) IF YOUR ONLY ANTI-WAR SLOGAN IS "NO WAR FOR OIL," SUE YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR ALLOWING YOU TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS AND ROBBING YOU OF THE EDUCATION YOU DESERVE.
5) SADDAM AND BIN LADEN WILL NOT SEEK UNITED NATIONS APPROVAL BEFORE THEY TRY TO KILL US.
6) DESPITE COMMON BELIEF, MARTIN SHEEN IS NOT THE PRESIDENT. HE JUST PLAYS ONE ON T.V.
7) EVEN IF YOU ARE ANTI-WAR, YOU ARE STILL AN "INFIDEL!" AND BIN LADEN WANTS YOU DEAD, TOO.
8) IF YOU BELIEVE IN A "VAST RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY" BUT NOT IN THE DANGER THAT HUSSEIN POSES, QUIT HANGING OUT WITH THE DELL COMPUTER DUDE!
9) WE ARE TRYING TO LIBERATE THE IRAQI PEOPLE.
10) WHETHER YOU ARE FOR MILITARY ACTION OR AGAINST IT, OUR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN OVERSEAS ARE FIGHTING FOR US TO DEFEND OUR RIGHT TO SPEAK OUT. WE ALL NEED TO SUPPORT THEM WITHOUT RESERVATION.
Tobin and I spoke the following day, after a long surgery in Henley town hall. ‘Booris,’ said Tobin, ‘we love it! Everybody loves it. But we have, uh, a few issues of political correctness that I have to go through with you.’ There followed a bizarre hour-long negotiation with New York, as I sat in the Grays Road carpark, and Tobin read out the politically correct version of my piece. I want to stress that Tobin was at all times a model of humour and cordiality.
At every stage, he seemed to imply, he was running up against the NY Times hierarchy. It wasn’t he who objected, I gathered, so much as a procession of sacerdotal figures, each in his or her glass box, each with his or her name on the masthead, sitting in judgment over correctness and style. There was nothing he would have liked more, he seemed to say, than to accede to my vulgar, unpasteurised British journalism. But the longer our conversation went on, the more I felt like that professor in the Philip Roth novel, the one who gets sacked for using the word ‘spooks’, and who was thought, mistakenly, to have been referring to blacks. (via Best of the Web)
"You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, The Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance, and Germany doesn't want to go to war."
It’s amazing how fast things change; in Afghanistan, it took three weeks before someone whispered “Quagmire” and all was forsaken; this time it took but five days before an intrepid reporter stood up at a briefing and asked the military spokesman whether the specter of Vietnam loomed again over the swaggering, clay-footed giant of American power. Right now on TV some reporter is interviewing some bulky pink ex-general about BLACK SUNDAY, noting that everything was going magnificently on Friday, and now we’re meeting - are you ready for this? - resistance. [more]
Is Iraqi resistance a surprise? No. And it isn't nearly as strong as some reporting suggests. In a nation of 22 million people, 1 to 2 million have a stake in Saddam's regime - the officers in "elite" units, corrupt Baath Party officials, secret policemen and all those who have enjoyed good careers at the expense of the other 20 million of their countrymen - who all want Saddam dead.
Some thousands of Iraqis will fight to the death. Out of 22 million.
But wasn't the war supposed to be a cakewalk? No responsible official ever said this would be a bloodless war. The pundits who suggested such nonsense never served in uniform themselves. Anyone with the least knowledge of warfare expected some measure of resistance - and friendly casualties.
Were we less humane, of course, this war would have gone even faster. We could have destroyed the Iraqi military in days, killing tens of thousands of their soldiers from the sky. Instead, we have been trying to spare lives by giving our enemies a chance to surrender. Many are doing just that - or simply deserting and going home.
But what about the Iraqis still resisting in the cities in the south, such as Um Qasr and Basra? Those are small groups of die-hard regime supporters, thugs from the security forces that answer directly to Saddam's sons. Their fates are tied to Saddam's rule. Many of the men firing at our troops from building or bunkers in the south would be killed by their fellow Iraqis if they laid down their arms.
Yesterday we were issued several shocking reminders direct from the battlefield that wars are actually fought on a plane that is excruciatingly, devastatingly personal. As a sergeant who was shot in the back in Vietnam once told me, "There was nothing in the whole world except me and that pain."
In this new era of televised warfare, the Arab satellite station Al Jazeera showed gruesome footage yesterday of several Americans who had been killed and five who were being held as prisoners of war. If you were looking for a reason not to ever make light of warfare, this would be a good one.
Oh I'm sorry, I must have been under the spell of video games because I thought that only electronic one eyed monstered floating in the air died in wars. Schmuck.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
We just sat, listening, our mouths open wide. Jake, one of the others, just kept saying, "Oh my God" as the driver described the horrors of the regime. Jake was so shocked at how naive he had been. We all were. It hadn't occurred to anyone that the Iraqis might actually be pro-war.
The driver's most emphatic statement was: "All Iraqi people want this war." He seemed convinced that civilian casualties would be small; he had such enormous faith in the American war machine to follow through on its promises. Certainly more faith than any of us had.
Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: "Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?"
It hit me on visceral and emotional levels: this was a real portrayal of Iraq life. After the first conversation, I completely rethought my view of the Iraqi situation. My understanding changed on intellectual, emotional, psychological levels. I remembered the experience of seeing Saddam's egomaniacal portraits everywhere for the past two weeks and tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who had been subjected to seeing them every day for the last 20 or so years.
Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom. (via Dean's World)
A few hours after the strike on Baghdad anti-war protesters appeared on our TV screens, fired up with their own moral virtue - the supreme illogicality of their stance emphasised by an attack on the car of Premier Bob Carr, who is opposed to the war.
Whether baby boomers trying to relive their youth, anti-capitalist extremists or well-meaning pacifists, they see the war as their finest hour. They don't want to hear Iraqi people welcome liberation. They don't want to hear Iraqi exiles here, such as Hadi Kazwini, who wrote last week in an open letter to Australian troops: "Your names will be recorded as heroes in the bright lists of history. I am proud of you, mates."
How will the hate-filled zealots of the anti-war movement who bombard me daily with violent emails react to the joy of the liberated Iraqi people? With silence, most likely, having learned nothing. (via Tim Blair)