Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Thoughts on the Iraq Transition

The big news from Iraq so far this week has been Monday's transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. This was an essential step in the strategy of Iraqification. The challenges facing the new government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi are immense, but there are reasons for optimism.

The main cause for hope is that the majority of the Iraqi people have embraced the interim government. According to a survey of Iraqi public opinion, reported in the June 25th Washington Post, 68% of Iraqis expressed support for the interim government. In addition, "73 percent of Iraqis polled approved of Allawi to lead the new government, 84 percent approved of President Ghazi Yawar and almost two-thirds backed the new Cabinet. These impressive showings indicate that the new leaders have support spanning ethnic and religious groups, U.S. officials said."

Even more encouraging, according to this poll, "(f)our out of every five Iraqis expected that the new government will "make things better" for Iraq after the handover, with 10 percent expecting the situation to remain the same and 7 percent anticipating a decline, the poll shows." Two thirds of Iraqis believe the upcoming elections scheduled for January "will be free and fair", 70% expressed confidence in the new Iraqi army, and 82% in the police.

(Link courtesy of Daniel Drezner, who provides some good analysis of his own)

The Post recently published two other articles that indicated these poll numbers might indeed be accurate. The first, on Saturday June 26, notes that the wave of terrorist atrocities that occurred in Iraq on June 24 were condemned even by some radical anti-American Shia and Sunni clerics:

Key Iraqi opponents of the U.S. occupation expressed unease Friday over the wave of insurgent attacks that killed more than 100 Iraqis a day earlier, and rejected efforts by foreign guerrillas to take the lead in the insurgency and mate it with the international jihad advocated by Osama bin Laden.

The second article, published on Sunday the 27th, describes the hard fighting faced by US troops in subduing terrorists in the city of Baqubah. In addition to the superb performance of our soldiers, the article contains this very encouraging news:

At the start of the day's fighting, Col. Dana Pittard, the brigade commander, had met with the city's police chiefs, who pleaded for heavier weapons to repel the attack.

"We're going to arm them," said Pittard, who would provide machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "They want to fight, which is something we did not see in April" when the police fled in the face of a similar uprising.

Pittard also said he received reports that Iraqi civilians, carrying AK-47s permitted under occupation regulations for protection of homes, had begun pursuing the insurgents on their own. According to one report, a group of them ran into the palm grove, a favorite insurgent staging area, amid heavy firing on the Blue Dome.

Of course, we must be careful not to make too much of these accounts. Still, the general trends are clear:

1. Iraqis seem to be mostly supportive of the new government, and are showing a greater willingness to fight on its behalf. Instead of an American occupation, Iraqis now have a sovereign government offering the hope of a better future.

2. With the "Iraqi resistance" becoming increasingly Wahhabist in character, and being absorbed into the global jihadist movement, many Iraqis heretofore sympathetic to the insurgents may start to turn against it.

Of course, there are still many security, infrastructure, and political issues to be resolved. Places like Fallujah will continue to be a problem. If the Allawi government is unable to show any discernable progress, popular opinion may turn against it. Still, the Iraqification strategy looks like it is starting to bear fruit. The trend is clear: Instead of Americans vs. the "resistance", it is becoming the Iraqi government and people vs. the jihadists. If this is the case, there is indeed hope for the new Iraq.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Taliban of the Euphrates

(Note: slightly revised and edited, 6-29-04: DD)

(Links checked and updated: 9-26-04: DD)

There is a fascinating article in the new issue of Time Magazine, on the transformation of the Sunni Insurgency in Iraq (PDF link):

Time reported last fall that the insurgency was being led by members of the former Baathist regime, who were using guerrilla tactics in an effort to drive out foreign occupiers and reclaim power. But a Time investigation of the insurgency today—based on meetings with insurgents, tribal leaders, religious clerics and U.S. intelligence officials—reveals that the militants are turning the resistance into an international jihadist movement. Foreign fighters, once estranged from homegrown guerrilla groups, are now integrated as cells or complete units with Iraqis. Many of Saddam's former secret police and Republican Guard officers, who two years ago were drinking and whoring, no longer dare even smoke cigarettes. They are fighting for Allah, they say, and true jihadis reject such earthly indulgences.

This report, which I believe to be true, raises several important questions: How can it be that the secular Baathists have come to embrace Wahhabism? By invading Iraq, haven't we simply given the jihadists a new field in which to fight us? And would it not have been better to have left Saddam's regime in place as a buffer against the Islamists?

It's true that the insurgency seems to have primarily started out as a Baathist operation. As the New York Times reported on April 29, 2004:

A Pentagon intelligence report has concluded that many bombings against Americans and their allies in Iraq, and the more sophisticated of the guerrilla attacks in Falluja, are organized and often carried out by members of Saddam Hussein's secret service, who planned for the insurgency even before the fall of Baghdad.

The report states that Iraqi officers of the "Special Operations and Antiterrorism Branch," known within Mr. Hussein's government as M-14, are responsible for planning roadway improvised explosive devices and some of the larger car bombs that have killed Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners. The attacks have sown chaos and fear across Iraq.

However, there has always been a strong Islamist element to the "resistance", especially in the Fallujah area, as the AP reported in November:

But residents of Fallujah say their fight against the Americans is motivated by something far deeper.

Those claiming to be fighting the Americans call themselves mujahedeen, or holy Muslim warriors, when signing flyers distributed in the city. Residents routinely refer to the Americans as "crusaders" or "kafara," Arabic for nonbelievers, and Friday prayer sermons are filled with fervent anti-U.S. rhetoric.

In an August 2003 analysis of the insurgency, Dr. Ahmed S. Hashim of the US Naval War College noted the following:

The insurgency in the center might be benefiting from a potential fusion between nationalist and Islamist sentiments among Sunnis, who should not be discounted given the noticeable rise of Islamist sentiments among the Sunni Arab population. There has been a steady, if not surprising, rise of political Islam among the Sunni Arabs. American policy has been so consumed with post-war, superficial understanding of the Shi‘is of Iraq that Sunni-derived political activism did not even appear on the radar screen. However, both mainstream and extremist Islamist movements may be emerging in the country.

More recently, in April 2004, Middle East scholar Fawaz Gerges cited this study of Iraqi insurgents:

In the first field study conducted in the Sunni Triangle and based on a large random sample of insurgents killed, Suleiman Jumeili, who teaches at the Center for International Relations at Baghdad University and lives in Fallujah, discovered that 80 percent of all those killed were Iraqi Islamist activists. His interviews with their friends and relatives showed that these young men were inspired by the example of "sacrifice and martyrdom" that is the hallmark of the Palestinian Hamas organization and Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

According to Mr. Jumeili, only 13 percent of the dead insurgents were motivated by nationalist sentiments and only 2 percent were die-hard Baathists; foreign Islamists represented 5 percent. Of those 8,500 insurgents imprisoned by U.S. troops, 70 percent are also indigenous Islamists. (When pressed, U.S. commanders conceded that only 150 - less than 2 percent - are foreigners.)

As noted in the May 31st New York Times, the same Sunni clerics who preached jihad under Saddam have emerged as the political and ideological focal point of the insurgency. Karl Zinsmeister, in his excellent article "The Guerilla War" from the April/May 2004 American Enterprise, also remarked on the role of Wahhabi clerics in fostering violence and anti-Americanism in Iraq.

Finally, both the Washington Post and the Washington Times have published articles describing life in Fallujah under the control of the "resistance". Both pieces make clear that the insurgents are bent on establishing a Wahhabist reign of terror in the city. To quote the Times article:

Residents of Fallujah say foreign insurgents have banned drinking and music, imposed their own courts to enforce strict Islamic law and killed more than a dozen people suspected of collaborating with U.S. forces.

A number of reports point out the vital role played by foreign jihadists in the insurgency. On June 23rd, UPI noted that "(i)ncreasing numbers of foreign Islamic fighters entering Iraq have taken almost complete control of one Iraqi city". On the same day, the Washington Times reported on the large role played by Saudi jihadists in Fallujah, and their ties to terrorists within Saudi Arabia.

Thus it is clear that Time is correct: We are not fighting a secular nationalist movement, we are at war with the Taliban of the Euphrates. The goal of the insurgency is not just to drive out the Americans and other "infidels", it is to impose a Wahhabist totalitarian regime that will serve as a base for the broader Islamist terror movement. How has this come about?

One reason is that, as noted in the Time article, the Baathist part of the insurgency has been dramatically weakened. As coaltion forces stepped up their counterinsurgency efforts, and especially with the capture of Saddam, the Baathists had been seriously damaged by February of 2004. In a sense, this opened the way for the jihadists to take over. The main factor though, as I have written about at length, is that the Baathist regime and Baath Party were far from the bastions of secularism that they are commonly portrayed as. As Dr. Hashim has written:

Saddam's regime itself began to promote the re-islamization of Iraqi society over the past ten years to buttress its legitimacy. This was symbolized by a number of religious policies undertaken with the official sanction of the regime over the course of the past four years. In 1999, the regime launched al hamla al-imaniyah or Enhancement of Islamic Faith campaign that saw the restriction of drinking and gambling establishments, the narrowing of secular practices, the promotion of religious education, and the propagation of religious programming in the media. The regime even allowed Sunni clerics to politicize their sermons -- so long as they focused their ire on the forces that kept Iraq under debilitating sanctions.

Among the Baathist leadership, the figure most prominently asssociated with this Islamization campaign was Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. As Agence France Presse reported on October 30, 2003:

Former Iraqi number two Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, accused by Washington of masterminding an unholy alliance between Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic militants, was the prime mover behind the ousted regime's adoption of Islamist rhetoric through the 1990s.

A religious conservative regularly filmed worshipping at Baghdad's main mosques during his years in power, Ibrahim oversaw the Baath party's abandonment of its secular principles in the years after the 1991 Gulf war in favour of the language of anti-US fundamentalism.

Special prayer rooms were kept for him at two of the capital's largest Sunni mosques -- the Abdel Kader Gilani and Abu Hanifa -- and Ibrahim oversaw large state subsidies for Islamic causes.

Public funds were poured into a new Saddam University for Islamic Studies, and religious schools across the Sunni belt of western and north-central Iraq.

It is that region that now lies at the centre of the deadly unrest dogging the US-led occupation which coalition commanders suspect him of orchestrating though an alliance with Islamic militants from abroad.

Today, al-Douri remains the highest-ranking Baathist fugitive, and as noted above, is believed to be very involved in the insurgency. In fact, on June 24th, Fox News reported that "al Douri — whom they describe as an avowed and "fanatic" Islamist whose two sons have sworn 'fealty' to Usama bin Laden — is in league with Zarqawi and Al Qaeda elements. Fallujah is the center of their universe, officials said."

This report is supported by an item that appeared recently on an Islamist Web site, stating that al-Douri and his sons had actually sworn allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the jihadist terror movement in Iraq.

The Baathists' cooperation with Zarqawi predates the American invasion. As ABC News reported on May 25th concering Zarqawi:

During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury.

In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.

The Saddam regime's ties to foreign Islamists go well beyond Zarqawi. As Stephen Hayes has noted in his superb book The Connection, the Baathists not only sponsored the terror group Ansar al-Islam, located in northern Iraq, they had imported over 2,000 foreign jihadists into the country by the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Thus, far from being a buffer against Islamism, Saddam's regime was a patron of it, both within Iraq and abroad. The Wahhabi virus had taken root in Iraq long before the American invasion. The Baathists not only allowed this to happen, they actively aided and promoted the process. Many of the Sunni clerics involved in the insurgency were hired by Saddam, and currently preach jihad in mosques built by the Baathist regime. For more than a decade, the regime itself employed the discourse of jihad, and even implemented elements of Islamic law. One of the Baath Party's top leaders is a "fanatical Islamist", and the regime had already established a relationship before the invasion with the terrorist who would emerge as the leader of the jihadists in Post-Saddam Iraq. While it is true that many jihadists have flocked to Iraq since the American campaign began, thousands of them were already there.

Under these circumstances, it can hardly be surprising that many of the remaining Baathists have gone the extra mile and become Wahhabists. Saddam and his sons may have lived lavish, secular lives, but their regime was an ally and incubator of radical Islamism. The insurgency that was the final gasp of their regime had a strong Islamist component from the beginning. That the Wahhabists should now be the dominant force in the effort to destroy the new Iraq is in many ways almost inevitable. The United States did not bring the Islamists to Iraq; they were already there.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Clinton and Gore on Iraq

Considering how many in the Democratic Party now insist that Saddam Hussein's WMD programs were a product of Dick Cheney's overheated imagination, or a fabricated excuse to enable Halliburton to make a 1% profit margin while being subjected to loads of negative publicity, it's helpful to look back at what the Clinton/Gore Administration said and did about Iraq. Fortunately, the Project for the New American Century has compiled a detailed overview of what Clinton and his team had to say about the threat posed by Saddam:

The Clinton Administration's Public Case Against Saddam Hussein

A summary version is available on the Weekly Standard Web site. You may have heard of the PNAC, as it is often alleged to be the nerve center of the neoconservative conspiracy for world domination. That it manages to play this role with a staff of five is remarkable. In 2000, PNAC drew up the secret neoconservative plan for world domination, which, in true conspiratorial fashion, is posted on the PNAC Web site (in PDF).

While Al Gore in particular has been denouncing the Iraq intervention in the strongest terms, Tim Perry has noted that the former Vice-President's views on this subject have been somewhat less than consistent. As recently as February 2002, Mr. Gore said that:

“Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table.” (Al Gore, Remarks To The U.S. Council On Foreign Relations, Washington, DC, February 12, 2002)

Wow, sounds like just another neocon warmonger to me.

And Now for Something Completely Trivial...

more music video blogging.

-Who is "Kick Axe"??? Please tell me this was done as a joke or as fodder for Beavis and Butthead. Please!

-If ever a Canadian badmouths the USA in your presence, do the following: Walk right up to them, look them in the eye, and say one word:


Saturday, June 26, 2004

A Tale of Two Speeches

Within the last two weeks both Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have given speeches addressing the war on terror and how the Bush Administration has handled matters. Reading each of their speeches, it's hard to believe that just four years ago these men were on the same ticket.

Joe Lieberman, in a speech on June 16th before the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, provided an excellent summary of the war on terror, and showed that he understands exactly what's at stake. Here's a key excerpt:

The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become disappointed and disengaged, because they don't appreciate and support the overriding principles that require us to take military action. The same, of course, is true for our allies in Europe, Asia and throughout the Muslim world. They need to better understand and embrace our purpose and what it means for them.

What we are fighting for in Iraq and around the world is freedom. What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated were in the last century.

What we are fighting for is an expanding worldwide community of democracies. What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate which would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation's citizens.

(Link via Instapundit)

Unfortunately, the man who was at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2000 has not displayed a similar level of understanding. Instead, in his last several speeches, most recently on June 24th, former Vice President Gore has made clear who he thinks is the real threat to America:

A little over a year ago, when we launched the war against this second country, Iraq, President Bush repeatedly gave our people the clear impression that Iraq was an ally and partner to the terrorist group that attacked us, al Qaeda, and not only provided a geographic base for them but was also close to providing them weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs. But now the extensive independent investigation by the bipartisan commission formed to study the 9/11 attacks has just reported that there was no meaningful relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda of any kind. And, of course, over the course of this past year we had previously found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So now, the President and the Vice President are arguing with this commission, and they are insisting that the commission is wrong and they are right, and that there actually was a working co-operation between Iraq and al Qaeda.

The problem for the President is that he doesn't have any credible evidence to support his claim, and yet, in spite of that, he persists in making that claim vigorously. So I would like to pause for a moment to address the curious question of why President Bush continues to make this claim that most people know is wrong. And I think it's particularly important because it is closely connected to the questions of constitutional power with which I began this speech, and will profoundly affect how that power is distributed among our three branches of government.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gore, not only is there credible evidence of a "meaningful link" between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the very next day, the New York Times itself published an article on an Iraqi document offering further evidence of such ties. In addition, as Stephen Hayes points out, the Clinton/Gore Administration itself made a case for a Saddam-al Qaeda link on several occasions.

What's disturbing about Gore's speech is not that he says the Bush Administration is wrong about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, that's what healthy democratic debate is all about. It is that Gore insists on saying that the administration can only be lying when it says that such a link exists:

President Bush made a decision to start mentioning Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the same breath in a cynical mantra designed to fuse them together as one in the public mind. He repeatedly used this device in a highly disciplined manner to create a false impression in the minds of the American people that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Usually he was pretty tricky in his exact wording. Indeed, Bush's consistent and careful artifice is itself evidence that he knew full well that he was telling an artful and important lie -- visibly circumnavigating the truth over and over again as if he had practiced how to avoid encountering the truth. But as I will document in a few moments, he and Vice President Cheney also sometimes departed from their tricky wording and resorted to statements were clearly outright falsehoods. In any case, by the time he was done, public opinion polls showed that fully 70% of the American people had gotten the message he wanted them to get, and had been convinced that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

So let me get this straight, the fact that Bush was careful in how he described the Iraq-al Qaeda connection means that he was dishonest? Being circumspect in terms of phrasing amounts to "tricky wording"? In other words, according to the former Vice President, the fact that President Bush told the truth means that he lied. In addition, Mr. Gore refers to "public opinion polls" showing that 70% of the American people believed that Saddam was involved in 9/11. He is probably referring to an August 2003 Washington Post poll that showed that 69% of Americans believed it was at least "somewhat likely" that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. However, the former Vice President leaves out one detail: When the Post conducted the exact same poll on September 13, 2001, 78% of Americans though it likely that Saddam was involved in the attacks. In October 2002, the figure was 71%, and in February 2003 72%. Thus, the belief among the majority of the American people that Saddam may have been involved in 9/11 has been consistent since the immediate aftermath of the attacks, long before Bush's "lies" and "tricky wording". Exactly who's doing the lying here?

Not content with attacking the integrity of the administration, Mr. Gore turns his sights to the president's supporters:

The Administration works closely with a network of "rapid response" digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for "undermining support for our troops." Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose the President's consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, "Let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.

"Digital Brown Shirts"? People like Paul Krugman regularly question President Bush's honesty, integrity, intelligence and patriotism. Yet when some on the right call Krugman on his numerous errors and distortions, they become "digital Brown Shirts"? Nope, no double standard here. I'm the first person to admit that the responsibility for the abysmally disrespectful tone of political discourse in this country goes both ways. However, to the best of my knowledge, this is a first. Congratulations Mr. Vice President, you are now the first major American political figure to compare his domestic political opponents to Nazis.

As someone who once respected Al Gore as a voice of reason and responsibility within the Democratic Party, it pains me to say this, but the man has simply lost it. You can say he has a right to be bitter, but Joe Lieberman has just as much right to feel that way. In their own way, Gore and Lieberman represent the two possible paths the Democratic Party could have taken after 9/11. Lieberman's path is one of principled policy disagreements with the Republicans combined with wholehearted support for the war on terror. Gore's path is one in which policy disputes become suffused with bitterness and Bush-hatred, to the point that the enemy stops being Osama bin Laden and starts being George W. Bush. Sadly, the majority of Democrats appear to agree with Gore. As James Lileks wrote this past week:

I ask my Democrat friends what they'd rather see happen: Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They're all honest: they'd rather see Bush defeated. (They're quick to insist that they'd want Kerry to get bin Laden ASAP. Although the details are sketchy.) Of course this doesn't mean they're unpatriotic, etc., obligatory disclaimers, et cetera. But let's be honest. People are coming up with websites that demonstrate ingenious technology for spraying anti-Bush slogans on the sidewalks; it would be nice if they sprayed "DEFEAT TERRORISM" or "STOP AL QAEDA" now and then. Wouldn't it?

Of course not all Democrats think that way, certainly not all of the ones I know. However, it is both sad and telling that the two Democratic candidates most supportive of the war on terror, Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt, were the two major candidates whose primary campaigns fared the worst. Even much of the party establishment has joined in the madness. This week's Washington premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" was attended by numerous Democratic politicos, many of whom fulsomely praised what they saw. DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, after viewing the film, even bought into Moore's ridiculous theory that Bush invaded Afghanistan to build a natural gas pipeline. Nevermind that the liberal American Prospect demolished this infantile nonsense two years ago.

I usually vote Republican, and I agree with Republicans on the majority of issues, though certainly not all. However, I believe strongly that we need a healthy two party system. We are locked in a global struggle with radical Islamist barbarism, a conflict that will last years if not decades. This country needs to be able to rely on a bipartisan consensus to effectively wage this struggle, as we did during the first two decades of the Cold War. Let us have policy disagreements, they are necessary in a democracy, but let there be fundamental agreement on the necessity of defeating the jihadists. This country needs the Democratic Party of FDR and Truman and John F. Kennedy, not the Democratic Party of Bush-haters and conspiracy theorists. We need the party of Joe Lieberman, not the party of Michael Moore.

Brooks on Moore

In today's New York Times, David Brooks stops and takes "a moment to study the metaphysics of Michael Moore". As Brooks points out, American liberalism has certainly come a long way:

In years past, American liberals have had to settle for intellectual and moral leadership from the likes of John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. But now, a grander beacon has appeared on the mountaintop, and from sea to shining sea, tens of thousands have joined in the adulation.

He then goes on to note that, inexplicably, Moore tends to save his most scintillating insights for overseas audiences, featuring such incisive social commentary as:

"That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich. "You can see us coming down the street. You know, `Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."

Brooks also recognizes that our Michael has not been shy about sharing his razor-sharp analyses of the situation in Iraq:

But venality doesn't come up when he writes about those who are killing Americans in Iraq: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents' or `terrorists' or `The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win." Until then, few social observers had made the connection between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Paul Revere.

As Brooks concludes, "The standards of socially acceptable liberal opinion have shifted. We're a long way from John Dewey."

My advice is to read it all.

Friday, June 25, 2004

More Reactions to Fraudenheit 9/11

Some additional reactions to Michael Moore's latest from various bloggers:

Via Andrew Sullivan, this brilliant piece by Jeff Jarvis. Jarvis is a liberal who has no plans to vote for Bush this November. However, he was at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and as a result is a firm supporter of the war on radical Islamist terror. Jarvis superbly dissects Moore's kindergarten celluloid demogogy, in a manner rivalling that of Christopher Hitchens. Here's a small sample, please read it all:

After leaving the theater and walking by the black man now shaking his head at what Moore had wrought and the people with bring-down-Bush clipboards, I made my way back to New Jersey through the PATH train at the World Trade Center where, most of you know, I was on 9/11. And now I was shaking my head. Michael Moore did not present bin Laden and the terrorists and religious fanatics (from other lands) as the enemy who did this. No, to him, our enemy is within. To him, our enemy is us. And that's worse than stupid and sad and it's most certainly not entertaining. It's disgusting.

One of the many absurd attacks made on President Bush by Moore is that after he was informed of the second tower being hit on 9/11, Bush continued to stay with a group of school children for nearly seven minutes before excusing himself. If only he had immediately raced from his chair he could have know, something. At the very least, he could have stood up and yelled: "JESUS CHRIST, WE'RE ALL GONNA F***ING DIE!!!"

Thankfully, Pejman Yousefzadeh links to a story pointing out that the principal of the school thinks Bush did exactly the right thing:

Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" criticizes President Bush for listening to Sarasota second-graders read a story for nearly seven minutes after learning the nation was under attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

But Gwendolyn Tose'-Rigell, the principal at Emma E. Booker Elementary School, says Bush handled himself properly.

"I don't think anyone could have handled it better," Tose'-Rigell told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in a story published Wednesday. "What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?"

Finally, as QandO have noted, with examples, even left of center critics who like the film are forced to admit that it isn't exactly a documentary:

From "da truth" to "an op/ed" to and "editorial cartoon" to "propaganda".

Not exactly something I'm willing to spend my hard earned money on. If I want propaganda, I can watch political ads for free. But rest assured, the left, hungering for "red meat" of any kind (I mean they have Kerry for a candidate, have a little compassion) will make Michael Moore's propaganda at least a financial success.

I can only say this again. Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't a documentary, it's celluloid masturbation material for Bush haters.

The Forgotten Award

Michael Moore is hardly shy in reminding people about the Oscar he won for his "documentary" Bowling for Columbine, nor in reminding them about the Palme D'Or he received in Cannes for Fraudenheit 9/11 (wish I could say that I made that up, but I found it via QandO). However, there's one award that Mike has received that he has been somewhat reticent to discuss:

In November 2001, Mikey was the recipient of The New Republic's much coveted "Idiocy Watch" award, for the most idiotic comment made in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities.

Mind you, Mike beat out some pretty stiff competition, from both sides of the political aisle. First rate idiotarians such as Ann Coulter and Ted Rall. How did Mike do it? By coming up with this incisive piece of wisdom:

"Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!" --Michael Moore,, September 12

Yes, why did the mean terrorists have to kill people who voted AGAINST Bush? Because if they had killed people who voted FOR Bush, well that would have been okay. Perhaps the hijackers could have gone around to the passengers on each of the planes and asked them who they voted for, before deciding whether or not to crash them? Truly this man understands the radical Islamist mindset far better than any of us. He shouldn't be making films, he should be a counterterrorism analyst. Just think how we could profit from his insights.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Iraq Thoughts

First, let me express my condolences to the family of Kim Sun-Il, the South Korean interpreter barbarously murdered by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his pack of savages.

While the elite media is awash in stories, half despairing and half gloating, on everything that is going wrong in Iraq, there is another Iraq, one where the Iraqi people are being empowered to build a better future for themselves. Once again, the indispensable Arthur Chrenkoff has put together a link-filled description of what is going well in Iraq:

The Good News from Iraq, Part 4

It's well worth a read.

In other news, Instapundit links to a great article from the Washington Times, on how the 1st Armored Division defeated the insurgency of Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. As Instapundit notes, this was the same "Shi'ite Insurgency" that the elite media trumpeted in April as the final straw, the unmitigated disaster that would see us driven from Iraq, the pathetic remnants of our forces fighting desperately to reach Kuwait like Napoleon's Grande Armee fleeing Moscow.

Daniel Drezner, who has certainly not been afraid to criticize the administration's handling of Iraq, notes two other positive developments. One involves the improved training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. As Drezner notes, Lt. General David Petraeus, who did a superb job as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, has taken over this process and has provided greater direction to the training process while expediting the flow of funds. The second development Drezner points out is the enormous potential of the Iraqi economy, as this piece from the Council on Foreign Relations lays out.

My point is not that the situation in Iraq isn't difficult, it is clearly very difficult. There are numerous problems to be overcome, and there are no overnight solutions. A recent poll of Iraqi public opinion showing widespread resentment of the American presence in their country, illustrates just how difficult is the challenge facing us. The point is that even in the face of these enormous difficulties progress is being made. If we can improve the economic and security situations, in coordination with the new Iraqi government, then popular attitudes will eventually change as well. As I've noted before, patience and perspective are what is needed, not hysterical overeactions to short-term events at the expense of the bigger picture.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Iran Update

Here's a roundup of some of the latest news and analysis of the Mullahcracy's (term coined by Roger L. Simon) quest to acquire nuclear weapons:

In last Thursday's Washington Post, Jim Hoagland noted the "Challenge from Iran":

Iran's ayatollahs have issued a stream of defiant messages stressing their determination to join "the nuclear club," no matter what price they may pay in international isolation. Their warnings push a camouflaged crisis into public view and demand a coordinated global response.

The same paper, in an editorial the next day, described the European approach of negotiating with the mullahs as one of "Failed Preemption":

This week, with the world's attention focused on the troubled situation in Iraq, the European version of preemption is yielding its own bitter -- if less bloody -- result. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have reported that Iran never honored its agreement; it has stalled and stonewalled the inspectors while continuing to work on elements of a nuclear program that could soon allow it to produce weapons. The Europeans have responded by drafting for approval by the 35-member IAEA board a stern statement demanding Iranian cooperation; Tehran has replied with threats to restart uranium enrichment and suspend negotiations with the West.

Also last Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) formally censured the Iranian regime for its pattern of deception and lack of full cooperation with IAEA inspections. As the AP described it:

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency censured Iran for past cover-ups in its nuclear program in a resolution adopted Friday, warning Tehran to be more forthcoming.

While escaping sanctions, Iran threatened that it still might retaliate by reconsidering plans to suspend its uranium enrichment.

On Monday, Iran's "Supreme Leader", Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Agence France Presse, said "that it was "essential" for the Islamic republic to master the nuclear fuel cycle, but again denied the country was seeking to develop nuclear weapons." If you believe that, I have some prime Tehran real estate I'd like to sell you.

Finally, Winds of Change links to two detailed analyses of the mullahs nuclear program. The conclusions reached by both are extremely sobering.

In other developments

On Monday, Iran sent an unmistakable warning to Great Britain not to interfere with its nuclear designs by seizing three Royal Navy patrol boats in the Shatt al Arab waterway separating Iran from Iraq.

Inside Iran, an active summer appears to be in store as many of the Iranian people prepare to make their displeasure with living under the Mullahcracy known. Unfortunately, as Nir Boms and Reza Bulorchi have written, the mullahs are determined to keep control:

As the anniversary of the anti-government uprising of July 1999 approaches, widespread arrests of students and women are taking place. Some students are nabbed from their dormitories by plainclothes Revolutionary Guard agents, while many others are served arrest warrants. The US International Bureau of Broadcasting’s Radio Farda reported on May 29 that, “the persistent summoning and detention of students all over the country has caused fear and insecurity in universities.”

Tehran's Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi has ordered a crackdown on "social corruption,” saying that, “a serious fight has started to tackle the spread of social corruption in society, especially the improper dress code.” Youth, particularly women, are the main targets of such campaigns.

These repressive actions are in line with a series of preventive measures taken by the Iranian regime to neutralize Iran’s democracy movement and to subdue an increasingly restive population.

As America attempts to prevent the mullahs from bringing their nuclear program to fruition and spreading their brand of radical Islamism, remember that the Iranian people are our best allies in this struggle. Be sure to visit Blog Iran to find out how you can help.

Moore Crushing of Dissent

Via Andrew Sullivan, I found this piece from Slate by Jack Shafer, laying out Michael Moore's undying commitment to intellectual freedom:

"Any attempts to libel me will be met by force,'" Fahrenheit 9/11 director Michael Moore told the New York Times on Sunday (June 20, 2004). "The most important thing we have is truth on our side. If they persist in telling lies, knowingly telling a lie with malice, then I'll take them to court."

The Times also reported that Moore "has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns the film or damages his reputation," and that he's established a "war room" to monitor attacks on the film. Lest anybody miss his threat, the filmmaker repeated it the same day on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, and will probably whistle the same libel tune all week long in publicity interviews for the film, which opens Friday.

Remember that ALA, in its infinite wisdom, will be showing "Fahrenheit 911" at next week's annual conference in Orlando, in order to raise funds for ALA's intellectual freedom efforts. The same film whose director is threatening libel suits against anyone who dares criticize it. Nope, no irony here.

Hitchens on Moore

Christopher Hitchens has a brilliant new column on the Slate Web site in which he artfully dissects the intellectually and morally bankrupt work of Michael Moore. I found it hard to believe that Moore could top the monument to deception and dishonesty that was "Bowling for Columbine", but with "Fahrenheit 911" he truly seems to have outdone himself. As Hitchens notes, Moore's latest is little more than a mishmash of every Bush-hater's favorite conspiracy theories. Here's a sample, please do yourself a favor and read it all:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

How truly heartening to know that the American Library Association will be showing this tripe at their annual convention next week.

The sad truth is that Moore's popularity is not in spite of his demagogy, but rather because of it. Like the Coulters and Limbaughs of the right, he has become wealthy and successful by preaching to the converted. Instead of credible political analysis, Moore provides his audience with ideological masturbation material, telling leftists and anti-American Europeans exactly what they want to hear. His success, like that of other demagogues both left and right, is a tragic reflection of our debased level of political discourse.

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Prime Example

If you want to know why I gave this blog the name I did, or thought maybe I was exaggerating, here's a prime example of the current political climate in the library profession. It also helps explain why I am no longer a member of the American Library Association. From an annoncement posted to a library listserv I subscribe to:

Dear Colleagues,

Fahrenheit 9/11 will be shown at ALA in the Auditorium at the Convention Center, Sunday night, June 27, at 10 pm.

There will be a $10 donation that will go to ALA's efforts in the areas of the First Amendment, Intellectual Freedom, and the struggle against the USA PATRIOT Act.

...ALA was able to arrange with Lions Gate (the distributor) to show the movie at ALA as a benefit.

It originally was supposed to be a benefit for the APA Salaries Initiative, but Lions Gate would not agree to that because donations to a c6 are not tax deductible.

Please redistribute and post at will.

(Edited to remove individual's names-DD)

"Fahrenheit 9/11", for those who may not have heard of it, is Michael Moore's latest leftwing cinematic atrocity against the truth. ALA in their wisdom will now be showing it at their annual convention. This is how politically neutral ALA has become. You can rest assured that they would never show this film. Looks like I'll be saving my $155.00 membership fee again this year.

More on Saudi Arabia

Here are some additional readings related to my earlier post on Saudi Arabia.

In the latest issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes about "The Saudi Trap":

This, then, is the paradox. Saudi officials claim that the militants have no support and yet constantly act as if they do. Officials cite a recent (secret) government poll that showed 49 percent support Osama bin Laden's ideas. They speak of the need to move "slowly and carefully." While still sensitive on this topic, educated Saudis will now admit that parts of their society have become dangerously extreme. At a meeting with prominent Saudi journalists and academics, most argued that several trends over the past 30 years had fueled this radicalism. During the 1950s and 1960s, other Arab governments like Egypt and Syria had expelled Islamic fundamentalists. The Saudis, as competitors to these regimes, welcomed the dissidents, who came with revolutionary ideas advocating pure Islamic states across the Middle East. The intellectuals also recalled that the revolution in Iran in 1979 rattled the royal family, who feared a rising tide of Islamism across the Middle East.

The Sunday LA Times has an article on the deals that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cut with al-Qaeda before 9/11:

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia helped set the stage for the Sept. 11 attacks by cutting deals with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden that allowed his Al Qaeda terrorist network to flourish, according to several senior members of the Sept. 11 commission and U.S. counter-terrorism officials.

The financial aid to the Taliban and other assistance by two of the most important allies of the United States in its war on terrorism date at least to 1996, and appear to have shielded them from Al Qaeda attacks within their own borders until long after the 2001 strikes, those commission members and officials said in interviews.

Finally, Wretchard at Belmont Club has a fascinating analysis of the impact of the American military response to September 11th. He argues persuasively that the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the jihadists to shift away from attacks on the United States, the "far enemy", and to focus on "apostate" regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan:

Yet from another perspective, this strategy constitutes a transformation from direct confrontation between Muslim and non-Muslim into a struggle within the fundamentalist heartland itself; it marks a tacit admission that America cannot be tipped into defeat by one or two spectacular blows. Whatever their shortcomings, the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have returned the battleground to its native soil. After all, terrorism was never going to be finally defeated in Iraq or Afghanistan for as long as its roots remained untouched in the KSA and Pakistan. It is there and Iran where the final conflict will be waged.

Read them all.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Positive News from the War on Terror

In Friday's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer notes one extremely positive development, the defeat of the Palestinian terror war against Israel. Here are some excerpts, please read it all:

For Israel, the victory is bitter. The last four years of terrorism have killed almost 1,000 Israelis and maimed thousands of others. But Israel has won strategically. The intent of the intifada was to demoralize Israel, destroy its economy, bring it to its knees and thus force it to withdraw and surrender to Palestinian demands, just as Israel withdrew in defeat from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

That did not happen. Israel's economy was certainly wounded, but it is growing again. Tourism had dwindled to almost nothing at the height of the intifada, but tourists are returning. And the Israelis were never demoralized. They kept living their lives, the young people in particular returning to cafes and discos and buses just hours after a horrific bombing. Israelis turned out to be a lot tougher and braver than the Palestinians had imagined.

The end of the intifada does not mean the end of terrorism. There was terrorism before the intifada and there will be terrorism to come. What has happened, however, is an end to systematic, regular, debilitating, unstoppable terror -- terror as a reliable weapon. At the height of the intifada, there were 9 suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the last three months, there have been none.

This is an important development for two reasons. First, it shows that a western democracy can indeed withstand and defeat a campaign of Islamist suicide terrorism. The key to Israel's victory was its willingness to persevere through adversity, and to do what was necessary to protect its people, while ignoring the hypocritical carping of the Europeans and the UN. This is a lesson that Americans need to keep in mind. Of course, Israel still has much to do. To begin with, the withdrawal from Gaza must go forward. Israel's settlements in Gaza are strategically untenable and simply not worth the cost. The defeat of the terror campaign will allow Israel to withdraw from Gaza on its own terms, and not as a result of terrorism.

The second major development is the hope that the Palestinians might finally, though no doubt slowly and haltingly, rethink the culture of death and jihad that has led them to their current predicament. The Palestinians have to choose; do they want their children to grow up to be doctors and teachers, or to be suicide terrorists? If the defeat of the 2000-04 "Intifada" makes the Palestinian people begin to ponder this question, then it offers the beginning of hope that a genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace might yet be achieved.

Link courtesy of Roger L. Simon, who made this point before Krauthammer.

USA-Grenada: The Second Leg

Grenada v. USA, World Cup Qualifying Match
When: Sunday, June 20, 4:00 PM EDT
Where: St. George's, Grenada
Television: ESPN2 & Telemundo

This is the second leg of a two game, total goals series. The winner moves on to the next round of qualifying this fall. The loser goes home. The US won the first leg 3-0 last Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. As a result, the USA enters today's game with a 3-0 lead.

While the USA is clearly the superior team, Grenada should not be discounted. They are fast, strong, and athletic. Their main forward, Jason Roberts, who plays for Wigan Athletic in the English First Division, caused some problems for the US defense last week. The most important factor is the intangible one. Today's game is the biggest sporting event in Grenada's history. The island only has a population of 89,000, and you can expect about half of them to be at the match. Combine the emotional atmosphere with a field that probably rivals a cow pasture, and there is definitely some room for the unexpected to happen.

Having said that, the odds are very much in the Americans' favor, especially coming in with a three goal lead. Another factor is the away goals rule. If the aggregate scores should be tied at the end of the second leg, the first tiebreaker is away goals. Therefore, if the US can score just one goal, Grenada would have to win this match by four goals to win the series. If Grenada should manage to win this game 3-0, the teams will play 30 minutes of overtime followed, if necessary, by penalty kicks.

The three goal deficit combined with playing at home in front of a passionate crowd will compel Grenada to be more aggressive in this match. The danger is that they will expose themselves to the US counterattack and be completely blown out. Even if they do push forward aggressively, the odds of the Spice Boyz scoring three or more goals on the USA are very slim at best. The US completely dominated the first game, outshooting Grenada by an incredible 34-6 margin. Only desperate Grenadan defending and poor American finishing kept the score from being 6 or 7-0. Since Grenada can't afford to give up any more goals, I can't see them mounting an all out attack. In fact, if the teams are somehow tied or only separated by a one goal margin late, I fully expect Grenada to pull back and try to salvage a tie or close win, even though it means giving up on advancing. Winning the series was an extremely unlikely prospect, and the Grenadans might well decide that a result against the United States is a satisfactory achievement, both for themselves and their country. Barring a collapse of epic proportions, the USA should continue on the road to Germany.

For more information, see the following match previews:


ESPN Soccernet

Soccer America

Prediction: USA 3, Grenada 1

Music Video Blogging

Just wanted to take a break from "serious" blogging to focus on something completely trivial. There's nothing quite like blogging while watching VH-1 Classic. The station shows an eclectic mix of videos from the 70's, 80's, and early 90's. Basically, the videos that used to be shown on MTV and VH-1 back when they actually showed videos, before the latter became the "boomer nostalgia" channel, and before MTV became the "destroyer of teenage brain cells" channel. Personally, I would prefer to see "MTV Classic", which would focus on the decade from New Wave to Grunge, leaving the softer stuff to VH-1 Classic. In other words, duplicate the original relationship between the two networks.

I mean right now, they're showing a Jackson 5 video! Nothing against the Jackson 5, but they're not the reason why I'm watching VH-1 Classic. Beyond some slight curiosity value in seeing Michael Jackson as a child, before he became what he is today, I'm just not interested. The main reason I do watch VH-1 Classic is nostalgia. I want to see the videos I saw when the wonder known as MTV first arrived on my television screen. Damnit, I want Flock of Seagulls, Wall of Voodoo, Prince, Tears for Fears, U2, etc. In other words, the stuff I grew up with. Hell, I even appreciate seeing stuff like Van Halen, Cindi Lauper, Huey Lewis, etc., again for nostalgia value if nothing else. While VH-1 Classic certainly shows a lot of those videos, too often they're surrounded by lame 70's music, cheesy pop, or things that I had simply never heard of, for good reason. Even when they do show bands I like, the choice of video is bizarre. For example, they show a Rainbow video for some song I've never heard of, yet they refuse to show the videos for "Stone Cold", "Power", or "Street of Dreams".

In other words, I'm tired of being forced to piggyback off of baby boomer nostalgia. Gen X'ers like myself deserve our own video music outlet, showing only the videos we grew up with. Let the boomers have VH-1 Classic, give us our own channel. You could even hire Martha Quinn and company as the VJ's, to make things complete. I want my MTV Classic!

The Struggle for Saudi Arabia

Yesterday's barbaric murder of American Paul Johnson provides a stark reminder of the struggle against radical Islamist terror and the nature of our enemy. I offer my deepest condolences to the Johnson family. Some solace can be taken from yesterday's killing of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, leader of jihadist terror operations in Saudi Arabia, along with his deputy and two other terrorists. Al-Muqrin, a jihadist since the age of 17, had in recent months become the face of radical Islamist terror on the Arabian Peninsula.

The past day's events are simply the latest developments in a year long struggle between the Saudi regime and the jihadist movement. More importantly, they are the inevitable product of the devil's bargain that the House of Saud made over 70 years ago with Wahhabism. Wahhabism is a primitive Islamic sect that developed on the Arabian Peninsula starting in the 18th century. In the early 20th century, the leaders of the Saud tribe made a deal to win the support of the Wahhabi movement. The Saudis agreed to embrace Wahhabism, and the Wahhabis agreed to join the Saudi campaign to unify the peninsula under their rule. When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in the 1930's, the Wahhabi version of Islam became the state religion, which it remains to this day.

PBS Frontline provides a good analysis of Wahhabi beliefs and their impact on Saudi Arabia. The main tenet of Wahhabism is that all non-Muslims, and non-Wahhabi Muslims, are "infidels" to be hated and despised. Wahhabism is taught in every Saudi school and preached in every mosque. Since the 1970's, the Saudis have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to spread Wahhabi doctrines throughout the Islamic world. The following two examples of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia are far more illuminating than any definition I can provide.

From an article entitled "New Violence, Old Problem; The Saudis Fight Terror, But Not Those Who Wage It", from the June 6, 2004 New York Times:

A recent fatwa posted on a popular Islamic Web site in Saudi Arabia explains when a Muslim may mutilate the corpse of an infidel.

The ruling, written by a Saudi religious sheik named Omar Abdullah Hassan al-Shehabi, decrees that the dead can be mutilated as a reciprocal act when the enemy is disfiguring Muslim corpses, or when it otherwise serves the Islamic nation. In the second category, the reasons include "to terrorize the enemy" or to gladden the heart of a Muslim warrior.

(Quote courtesy of Rantingprofs)

From "The Wahhabi Threat to Islam", published the same day in the Washington Post:

Two weeks before the Khobar rampage, a young Saudi friend forwarded me a copy of a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by Saudi Arabia's senior clerics. It was a fatwa banning the giving of flowers when visiting the sick in the hospital. "It is not the habit of Muslims to offer flowers to the sick in hospital. This is a custom imported from the land of the infidels by those whose faith is weak. Therefore it is not permitted to deal with flowers in this way, neither to sell, to buy nor to offer them as gifts," the fatwa said.

This is what Wahhabism means; fatwas on when corpses can rightfully be mutilated, or forbidding giving flowers to the sick. It is Wahhabism that has inspired Osama bin Laden to wage war against America, and that motivated the fifteen 9/11 terrorists from Saudi Arabia to murder 3,000 "infidels" while sacrificing their own lives in the process. It is the ideology that has motivated thousands of Saudis to join the jihadist movement. The massive Saudi efforts to proselytize for Wahhabism throughout the Islamic world have been one of the biggest factors in fueling the growth of radical Islamism. Finally, Wahhabism is what inspired Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin and his cohorts to engage in their recent wave of atrocities within the kingdom itself.

Beginning in May of 2003, jihadist elements in Saudi Arabia began a terrorist campaign aimed at driving all foreigners from the kingdom and ultimately overthrowing the House of Saud. That the Bin Ladenites should regard the Saudi regime, with its public executions and draconian treatment of women, as insufficiently Islamic, should tell you all you need to know about their ultimate aspirations. In case it doesn't, here is an excerpt from an account of the May 29 Khobar massacre, in which 22 people were murdered, from one of the terrorists who took part:

"The four of us entered the company together. We met the Arab clerks, and greeted them. We asked them: 'Where are the Americans?' They were all in shock, and said: 'What's going on? Who are you?' We told them, 'We are Mujahideen, and we want the Americans. We have not come to aim a weapon at the Muslims, but to purge the Arabian Peninsula, according to the will of our Prophet Muhammad, of the infidels and the polytheists who are killing our brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq. We want you to show us where they are.'

"We turned to go upstairs. The building included a number of companies, and there were a number of doors. Each time we opened a door, we found a large hall, and in it several offices and a head office with a glass window.

"We entered one of the companies' [offices], and found there an American infidel who looked like a director of one of the companies. I went into his office and called him. When he turned to me, I shot him in the head, and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa, and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We asked Allah to accept [these acts of devotion] from us, and from him. This was the South African infidel.

The terrorist goes on to describe further killing of unarmed, defenseless "infidels" with obvious pride:

"We went to one of the buildings. Brother Nimr, may Allah's mercy be upon him, shoved the door until it opened. We entered and in front of us stood many people. We asked them their religion, and for identification documents. We used this time for Da'wa [preaching Islam], and for enlightening the people about our goal. We spoke with many of them.

"At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate [of the building] so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting.

"We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them. At the same time, we heard the sound of the patrols and the gathering [of the security personnel] outside. These cowards did not dare to enter. About 45 minutes or an hour had passed since the beginning of the operation.

"We began to comb the site looking for infidels. We foundFilipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists.

Please note that these actions were absolutely NOT due to anger over the Abu Ghraib scandal, invasion of Iraq, or any other pretext. The terrorists gleefully murdered Filipinos, a Swede, and even Hindu Indians. Just being an "infidel" was reason enough for the jihadists.

After many years of living in denial and continuing to play a double game with the United States and the Wahhabists, the Saudi regime has finally been forced to confront the consequences of its own actions. In the last year, the Saudis have waged a forceful campaign against the jihadists, killing or capturing dozens. The regime has also begun an unprecedented level of cooperation with the US on counterterrorism, and has even begun to crack down on Islamic charities that raise funds for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. According to a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Saudi efforts are a major improvement, but there is still more that they need to do.

The current terrorist campaign in Saudi Arabia is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, the jihadists are not a small minority. A recent poll found that nearly half of all Saudis agree with the pronouncements of Osama bin Laden. After eight decades, it is becoming abundantly clear that Wahhabi domination of Saudi life cannot go on. In the words of one Saudi resident, quoted in the article "The Wahhabi Threat To Islam":

"I am scared," a Saudi man told me after the Khobar attacks. "There is no clear vision to where my country is heading. We want to progress, but we also want to live like the good Muslims did 1,400 years ago. We want to change, but we believe that change is the road to hell. We want the people to have a role in leading the country, but we don't want democracy. We want to have dialogue with the West, but our preachers are preaching every Friday that all westerners, or non-Muslims, go to hell."

There are signs of hope beginning to emerge. Many Saudis who bought into bin Laden's Wahhabist rhetoric are having second thoughts after the jihadists began putting that rhetoric into practice within the kingdom itself. After decades of Wahhabist indoctrination, Saudi teachers and parents are beginning to speak out against the "culture of death" taught in Saudi schools, the hatred for "infidels" that produces future jihadists. The US must suppport such efforts at reform, and push the Saudi regime to do the same. Until the House of Saud finally stands up to the Wahhabis in earnest and begins a genuine, meaningful process of reform and social modernization, Saudi Arabia will continue to produce more bin Laden's and al-Muqrin's. If the Saudis prove incapable of reform, the Wahhabis will continue to spread their ideology of death until the House of Saud is ultimately consumed by it. Confront Wahhabism or be destroyed by it, this is the choice facing Saudi Arabia.

For more background on Saudi Arabia, I recommend the following sources:

PBS Frontline: Saudi Time Bomb?

Michael Scott Doran, "The Saudi Paradox", Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Stephen Hayes Responds

Stephen Hayes, the Weekly Standard journalist who has done a terrific job of reporting the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, has a new article in which he responds to this week's 9/11 staff statement and the patently dishonest way in which it was spun by the New York Times and other elite media:

There They Go Again

In a related item, Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he warned the US on several occasions after 9/11 that Iraqi intelligence was planning terrorist attacks against American targets or interests:

Putin Says Russia Warned U.S. on Saddam (link via Watch)

I'm not completely sold on Mr. Putin's credibility, but just the fact that he would say this publicly means that his allegations have to be taken seriously.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Iraq & al-Qaeda: Part III

I've already had my say on this issue, this post is just a random collection of links and thoughts:

1. The New York Times editorial page has officially jumped the shark, as they say:

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.

The logic here, or lack thereof, is mind boggling. First, the administration has never said that Saddam was behind 9/11. Second, the ridiculous conflation of a Saddam tie to 9/11 with a Saddam link to al-Qaeda. Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11, therefore, he must not have had anything to do with al-Qaeda. Which brings me to my third point, that "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda". This statement is true, as long as you're perfectly willing to ignore the captured Iraqi documents, testimony of some al-Qaeda detainees, and other credible intelligence reporting indicating that such a link did indeed exist. To think that it's the dreaded neoconservatives who are accused of "cherry picking" intelligence.

2. On a happier note, Dan Darling at Winds of Change shares his thoughts on the 9/11 commission's staff statement that sparked the media frenzy.

3. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy weighs in with his thoughts on this issue at National Review Online.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

More on Bin Laden & Iraq

Richard Ben Veniste, 9/11 commission member and partisan Democratic lawyer, weighs in on the issue of possible Iraq-al Qaeda cooperation:

Sure there would have been contacts. The Iraqis would have wanted to know what bin Laden was up to. But I think it's quite clear that they were in opposition, that the Jihadist movement was certainly no friend of a secular movement in Iraq and I don't think we ought to spend a heck of a lot of time on it.

Link courtesy of Chrenkoff, who offers a pretty good response, IMO. There are serious arguments that can be made against the idea of bin Laden-Iraq cooperation. The idea that ideological differences made such collaboration an a priori impossibility is not one of them. For my argument as to why, see my earlier post Saddam Hussein: Secularist?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

"Non-Righteous Men": Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein

Wednesday, the 9/11 commission held the first of its final two days of hearings. The topic was al-Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. The big news from the hearings, at least according to the Washington Post and other media outlets, is that the "commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq." This conclusion is drawn from the 12 page interim staff statement (PDF) released by the commission. The statement contains one paragraph on Iraq-al-Qaeda ties, which the Post summarizes as follows:

The staff report said that bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq" while in Sudan through 1996, but that "Iraq apparently never responded" to a bin Laden request for help in 1994. The commission cited reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1996, adding, "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

Naturally, this has been taken by many as disproving the thesis that there were cooperative links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Instapundit, as usual, has a good roundup of blogger reactions. Overall, the staff statement is actually a very good summary history of al-Qaeda. A commission staff member e-mailed Instapundit with the following explanation of what the statement says about links between Iraq and al-Qaeda:

The AP and others have picked up on one sentence, which was carefully worded: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

The rest of the paragraph concisely summarizes the cases where we can identify cooperation and other connections where they exist.

The paragraph's ultimate conclusion, in my view is correct. There is simply not enough evidence to make the case that Saddam's regime was involved in 9/11 or that it conducted attacks jointly with al-Qaeda. The problem, however, is what is not addressed in the statement. There is far more to the story of Iraq-al-Qaeda ties than is acknowledged in that one paragraph.

One of my first posts was about Stephen Hayes' superb book The Connection, which details the substantial amount of evidence that Saddam and Osama did collaborate. Hayes' work can also be found in a series of articles published in the Weekly Standard. In a recent article summarizing his book, Hayes noted that bin Laden was in touch with Iraqi intelligence as early as 1992, based on hard documentary evidence:

In the spring of 1992, according to Iraqi Intelligence documents obtained by the ISG after the war, Osama bin Laden met with Iraqi Intelligence officials in Syria. A second document, this one captured by the Iraqi National Congress and authenticated by the Defense Intelligence Agency, then listed bin Laden as an Iraqi Intelligence "asset" who "is in good relationship with our section in Syria."

Additional documents have been found confirming that al Qaeda-Saddam ties continued after bin Laden left Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996. In April 2003, the Daily Telegraph found documents in Iraqi intelligence headquarters that revealed that Baghdad hosted a high level al-Qaeda envoy in March 1998:

The documents show that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia. The meeting apparently went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad.

Stephen Hayes, in the article cited above, refers to an even more intriguing document found in postwar Iraq:

A third Iraqi Intelligence document, this one an undated internal memo, discusses strategy for an upcoming meeting between Iraqi Intelligence, bin Laden, and a representative of the Taliban. On the agenda: "attacking American targets." This seems significant.

The fact that this document mentions the Taliban means that it cannot have been written any earlier than 1996.

The staff statement's conclusion that these contacts "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship" is also open to question. As CIA Director George Tenet stated in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee in October 2002:

-We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

-Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

-Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

-We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

-Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda. suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

(emphasis added-DD)

Other official government sources have also expressed a view of Iraq-al-Qaeda ties that goes beyond what is in the staff statement. For example, the US Government's indictment of Osama bin Laden, filed in November 1998, contains the following passage:

In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

(emphasis added-DD)

It seems odd that the staff statement would express doubt over whether Iraq and al-Qaeda had a "collaborative relationship", when on at least two occasions in the last six years, the US government has stated that Iraq and bin Laden did collaborate on certain matters, such as training and weapons development.

(Update: The Washington Post reports that Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney who oversaw the 1998 embassy bombings case, was asked about the indictment when he testified before the 9/11 commission on Wednesday. In response, he stated that the Iraq "reference was dropped in a superceding indictment because investigators could not confirm al Qaeda's relationship with Iraq as they had done with its ties to Iran, Sudan and Hezbollah. The original material came from an al Qaeda defector who told prosecutors that what he had heard was secondhand.")

The staff statement also mentions that "(t)wo senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq." This is undoubtedly a reference to the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The results of their interrogations were first reported by James Risen in the New York Times on June 9, 2003:

Two of the highest-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in American custody have told the C.I.A. in separate interrogations that the terrorist organization did not work jointly with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, according to several intelligence officials.

Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda planner and recruiter until his capture in March 2002, told his questioners last year that the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's government had been discussed among Qaeda leaders, but that Osama bin Laden had rejected such proposals, according to an official who has read the Central Intelligence Agency's classified report on the interrogation.

In his debriefing, Mr. Zubaydah said Mr. bin Laden had vetoed the idea because he did not want to be beholden to Mr. Hussein, the official said.

However, according to Hayes, Abu Zabaydah's comments went beyond what was reported in the Times. The infamous "Feith memo" from October 2003 summarized
Zubaydah's testimony
as follows:

During a 3 Sept 2002 interview, senior al Qaeda lieutenant Zubaida said that Bin Laden would ally al Qaeda with any entity willing to kill Americans. Zubaida explained, "my enemy's enemy is my friend." Bin Laden opposed a "formal" alliance because it may threaten al Qaeda's independence, but he saw the benefits of cooperation and viewed any entity that hated Americans and was willing to kill them as an "ally." Zubaida had suggested that the benefits of an alliance would outweigh the manageable risks to the integrity of al Qaeda. He said the potential benefits included access to WMD materials, such as weaponized chemical or biological weapons material, as well as funding and potential locations for safehaven and training.

(emphasis added-DD)

That bin Laden viewed Saddam as a de facto ally against the United States is confirmed by his own public comments. While it is true that bin Laden never, that we know of, spoke well of Saddam personally, the following passage from bin Laden's August 1996 Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places would seem to confirm the Feith version of Zubaydah's testimony.

To repel the greatest of the two dangers on the expense of the lesser one is an Islamic principle which should be observed. It was the tradition of the people of the Sunnah (Ahlul-Sunnah) to join and invade- fight- with the righteous and non righteous men. Allah may support this religion by righteous and non righteous people as told by the prophet (ALLAH'S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM). If it is not possible to fight except with the help of non righteous military personnel and commanders, then there are two possibilities: either fighting will be ignored and the others, who are the great danger to this life and religion, will take control; or to fight with the help of non righteous rulers and therefore repelling the greatest of the two dangers and implementing most, though not all, of the Islamic laws. The latter option is the right duty to be carried out in these circumstances and in many other similar situation.

(emphasis added-DD)

As Reuel Marc Gerecht noted in the January 2002 Atlantic Monthly, people "who think al Qaeda wouldn't ally with an irreligious Saddam Hussein or Iran's Shi'ite clerics should reflect" on that passage.

Furthermore, the Feith memo, as quoted by Hayes in his November 24, 2003 article "Case Closed", reveals that at least one other al-Qaeda detainee had a different story to tell regarding collaboration with Iraq:

During a custodial interview, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [a senior al Qaeda operative] said he was told by an al Qaeda associate that he was tasked to travel to Iraq (1998) to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training. After the USS Cole bombing in 2000, two al Qaeda operatives were sent to Iraq for CBW-related [Chemical and Biological Weapons] training beginning in Dec 2000. Iraqi intelligence was "encouraged" after the embassy and USS Cole bombings to provide this training.

The analysis of this report follows.

CIA maintains that Ibn al-Shaykh's timeline is consistent with other sensitive reporting indicating that bin Laden asked Iraq in 1998 for advanced weapons, including CBW and "poisons."

Finally, there is the presence in Baghdad in 2002 of jihadist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. As ABC News reported on May 25th of this year:

During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury.

In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.

It is true that it is an open question whether Zarqawi actually belongs to al-Qaeda. After all, he has his own terror network (al-Tawhid), and has reportedly never sworn bayat (allegiance) to bin Laden. However, Zarqawi has been implicated in the December 1999 millennium plot, among other attacks, and even in 2002 was a major figure in the radical Islamist terror movement. That Saddam's regime would harbor such a man in Baghdad, and supply him and his followers with weapons, is surely significant.

In light, then, of this information, all of which is part of the public record, four main questions regarding the commission's interpretation of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda come to mind?

1. Why did the staff statement not acknowledge that, in several cases, the reports of contacts have been confirmed by hard evidence in the form of captured Iraqi documents?

2. Why did the commission express doubt that these contacts led to a "collaborative relationship" betweeen Iraq and al-Qaeda, when on at least two occasions, the US government has stated, presumably based on much of the same evidence, that there was a certain degree of collaboration between the two?

3. Why is the testimony of al-Qaeda detainees such as Zubaydah and Mohammed, who say that there was no relationship with Iraq, seemingly given more credibility than the testimony of detainees like Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who say there was a relationship?

4. How do Iraq's pre-war ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi affect the commission's interpretation of the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship?

The point I am trying to make is not that Saddam was behind 9/11, or that bin Laden was following Saddam's orders. The point is that there is plenty of credible evidence in the public record to indicate that Iraq-al Qaeda ties were more extensive than yesterday's staff statement seems to imply. In particular, there is credible evidence that, contrary to the statement's wording, Saddam and al-Qaeda did indeed have a 'collaborative relationship" in certain respects, such as training in the use of WMD. It is true that the staff statement is just an interim summary document, and that the commission staff obviously had access to a great deal of classified intelligence information. It is to be hoped that the final commission report will attempt to deal with this topic at greater length. If given the opportunity, the commission might well be able to provide satisfactory answers to these questions. Still, based just on an analysis of material that is already in the public record, on the topic of ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda, the staff statement actually raises more questions than it resolves.

Double Standards in Action

Last week, Father Andrew Greeley published an op-ed piece in the Chicago Sun-Times in which he compared the Bush Administration and its policies to those of Nazi Germany:

He (Bush) is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism. They have in common a demagogic appeal to the worst side of a country's heritage in a crisis. Bush is doubtless sincere in his vision of what is best for America. So too was Hitler. The crew around the president -- Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, the ''neo-cons'' like Paul Wolfowitz -- are not as crazy perhaps as Himmler and Goering and Goebbels. Yet like them, they are practitioners of the Big Lie -- weapons of mass destruction, Iraq democracy, only a few ''bad apples.''

Hitler's war was quantitatively different from the Iraq war, but qualitatively both were foolish, self-destructive and criminally unjust. This is a time of great peril in American history because a phony patriotism and an America-worshipping religion threaten the authentic American genius of tolerance and respect for other people.

However, as RealClear Politics has noted, in early 1999, after President Clinton had launched four days of air strikes against Saddam's "mythical" WMD, Fr. Greeley had a rather different view of things:

Even such a moderate newspaper as the Irish Times uses the model of the American Goliath beating up on the Iraqi David. The United States is a bully. Iraq is a brave country resisting the American bully.

That this David is preparing not slingshots but chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons seems to escape the European intelligentsia. Their resentment of the enormous power of the United States blinds them to the danger that Saddam Hussein represents to his neighbors and to the world. The reports of the U.N. inspection team about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are airily dismissed as American propaganda.

He has stood up to the United States and that makes him a kind of folk hero to the Europeans. They can also dismiss his atrocities against his own people as American propaganda.

In fact, Saddam differs from Adolf Hitler only in the degree of his evil. If he once develops deliverable weapons of mass destruction, Tel Aviv would disappear overnight. So, too, might Kuwait, Istanbul and Tehran. Not quite the size of the Holocaust perhaps, but the same general idea: Kill Jews and anyone else that gets in your way, but especially Jews.

He wouldn't do that, the Europeans say. That's what they said about Hitler, too.

Sounds just like another member of the neoconservative cabal to me. In short, according to Fr. Greeley, American military action in Iraq was completely justified in 1998, yet "criminally unjust" in 2003. As RealClear Politics points out, the only real consistency in his position involves "the party affiliation of the person currently occupying the White House."