Saturday, July 31, 2004

Reuters: "Iran Insists on Uranium Enrichment"

Here's some less than encouraging news on the mullahcracy's nuclear program:

Iran, intensifying a standoff over its nuclear programs, has told European officials it will not back down on its right to proceed with uranium enrichment, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

"The British and the French tell us Iran insists it will not back down on its right to proceed with enrichment," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Source: Reuters, July 30, 2004

I'm just thankful that John Kerry took the time in his acceptance speech Thursday night to explain just how he's going to deal with Iran, and how he would keep the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons. Oh, wait...

Darfur and the "International Community"

The genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan tragically continues, while the "international community" of which John Kerry is so enamored continues to look the other way. Joe Katzman at Winds of Change provides a great update and overview. Friday, the US finally managed to push a resolution through the UN Security Council, that gives the Sudanese regime 30 days to halt the depredations of government-sponsored militias in Darfur, or face some sort of sanctions. The fact that the US had to drop the word "sanctions" from the resolution in order to get it passed should tell you all you need to know about the priorities of many of the countries on the Security Council. Naturally, the radical Islamist regime in Khartoum protested this infringement on its sovereign right to massacre its own citizens in peace:

"Sudan expresses its deep sorrow that the issue of Darfur has quickly entered the Security Council and has been hijacked from its regional arena," Information Minister El-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik said in a statement.

But the violence has continued despite a cease-fire called in July and Sudanese promises of a crackdown. The three African countries on the council — Algeria, Angola and Benin — backed the U.S.-sponsored resolution.

Meanwhile, the Janjaweed militia busily commit further atrocities, including burning people alive:

MILITIAS chained civilians together and set them on fire in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 17-month conflict, according to a report published yesterday by an African Union monitoring team in the region.

The monitors are supposed to be observing a ceasefire signed in April between the government and the region’s two rebel groups. But fighting has continued in Darfur, where militias drawn mostly from nomadic Arab tribes have launched a brutal campaign to drive out black African farmers.

It is vital that the genocide in Darfur be halted by whatever means are necessary. Every day we delay, more people die. While military action should be avoided if possible, the insertion of an American-led or sponsored force to halt the genocide should not be ruled out. If we do act, it is likely that our intervention will draw far more outrage from the "international community" than the actual genocide itself. Fine, it's better to do the right thing than the popular thing.

Multilateralism in Action

Via Instapundit, here's an interesting column by Bryan Preston at Tech Central Station on how the Bush Administration is working with our allies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology:

It is playing a key role in curbing and caging North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. It played a key role in disarming Libya, discovering and rolling up the Pakistani A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network, and has become a framework for international military and police exercises organized by the United States. Its membership includes most of the world's largest economic powers, most of the world's largest military powers, and most of the most influential states on earth. The United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Netherlands, France, Australia and Germany are among its 15 member states, and it is one of the pillars of the Bush administration's strategy to both win the war on terrorism and halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As an organization set up to perform a mission that the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency have jointly failed, halting the spread of nuclear weapons, it has the potential of becoming an alternative to the UN itself in coming decades. Notably, all of its members to date are democracies.

But thanks to the media and Democrats who insist on portraying the Bush administration as "unilateral," you have probably never heard of it.

Please read the whole thing. I just hope someone lets John Kerry in on this.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Kerry Speech: Initial Reactions

I'll have more thoughts on the Democratic convention later. In the meantime, here are some initial reactions to John Kerry's acceptance speech:

"I'm John Kerry...and I'm reporting for duty."
-Jesus, I thought I was a dork. I burst out laughing at that line. How could anyone take that seriously?

-John Kerry confirmed that he will use force against our enemies, as long as the threat is "real and imminent", and we have "hard intelligence" to that effect. In other words, we'll be digging survivors out of the rubble before John Kerry would be willing to act. In the real world, there is no such thing as 100% intelligence, and no way to know whether a threat is truly imminent until it's too late. As Mort Kondracke pointed out, it was incredible how eager Kerry was to lay out all the circumstances in which he wouldn't use force. George McClellan is the historical analogy that comes to mind.

-Kerry repeated the same disgraceful canards about George Bush "misleading" us into war. Never mind that the same intelligence that convinced George W. Bush also convinced John Kerry to call for action against Saddam, including "regime change", and to vote in October 2002 to authorize the president to go to war against Saddam. As Kerry wrote in an essay appearing in the March/April 2003 issue of Foreign Policy: "I support the Bush administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a renegade and outlaw who turned his back on the tough conditions of his surrender put in place by the United Nations in 1991."

-Kerry's appeal to President Bush for a positive campaign was nothing short of nauseating in its hypocrisy.

-I admittedly have a bias, but I thought the speech was average. Kerry did arouse great enthusiasm among the delegates gathered in the Fleet Center. Then again, he could have just stood there wearing a "Bush sucks" t-shirt and received a similar response.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

More on Iran and the Candidates

Here are two articles that discuss the issue of Bush, Kerry and policy differences over Iran far more eloquently than I did in this post.

Lawrence F. Kaplan, in an article published on the New Republic Web site, discusses Kerry's plan to pursue a policy of engaging the mullahs:

At times, Kerry seems to be taking his cues from Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential run, sounding as though he's blasting his opponent from the right while he quietly offers up solutions from the left. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of Iran, where, when you strip away Kerry's hard-boiled rhetoric about preventing the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, what the candidate offers is a facsimile of the Clinton-era policy of "engagement." Likening the Islamic Republic to a much less dangerous threat from long ago, Kerry seeks to "explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam." Hence, Kerry says he "would support talking with all elements of the government," or, as his principal foreign policy adviser Rand Beers has elaborated, the United States must engage Iran's "hard-line element"--this, while the candidate tells The Washington Post he will downplay democracy promotion in the region. In fact, as part of this normalization process, Kerry has recommended hammering out a deal with Teheran a la the Clinton administration's doomed bargain with North Korea, whereby the United States would aid the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for safeguards that would presumably keep the program peaceful. To sweeten the deal, he has offered to throw in members of the People's Mujahedeen, the Iranian opposition group being held under lock and key by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Nor will you hear any of Kerry's foreign policy advisers calling for regime change in Iran, at least any time soon. Beers has long insisted on engaging the Islamic Republic, as have Kerry advisers Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright. So, too, have several big name contributors to the Kerry campaign from the Iranian-American community. Indeed, in 2002 Kerry delivered an address to an event sponsored by the controversial American Iranian Council, an organization funded by corporations seeking to do business in Iran and dedicated to promoting dialogue with the theocracy. In his eagerness to engage in this dialogue, of course, Kerry is hardly alone. The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a report calling for "systematic and pragmatic engagement" with Iran's mullahs, and the Atlantic Council is expected to release a report next month recommending the same.

Like these, Kerry's calls for a rapprochement with Teheran come at a rather inopportune moment. The very regime that Kerry demands we engage, after all, has just been certified as an Al Qaeda sanctuary--and by the very commission in which the Kerry campaign has invested so much hope. The report's finding, moreover, counts as only one of Teheran's sins. Lately its theocrats have been wreaking havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan, aiding America's foes along Iran's borders in the hopes of expanding their influence in both countries, even as they continue to fund Palestinian terror groups. Then, too, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has amassed a mountain of evidence pointing to Iranian violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty. With two nuclear power plants slated to go online in Iran, and IAEA inspectors stumbling across designs for sophisticated centrifuges, even the Europeans and the United Nations have nearly exhausted their efforts to engage the Islamic Republic.

Pejman Yousefzadeh, in a column for Tech Central Station, takes note of Kaplan's criticism's, and makes some good points of his own:

Kaplan's points are well taken. But we should also note the internal struggles in Iran that make Kerry's position not only unrealistic, but also potentially amoral -- even immoral. Iran's recent parliamentary elections were flawed and rigged to favor hardliners over reform advocates. Any semblance of adherence to democratic principles was dispensed with by the reactionary mullahs as they sought to consolidate their power, and to frustrate the aims of a reform movement that had overwhelming popular backing. Reform parliamentarians and Iranian president (and pseudo-reformer) Mohammad Khatami had their attempts to change the political system in Iran blocked by the hardline-dominated Council of Guardians and by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Religious Guide. The Islamic regime continues to engage in systematic human rights abuses, and in efforts to deny justice in the rare case when human rights abusers are put on trial.

If in the midst of these human rights travesties, a Kerry Administration decides to try once again to engage Iran, it will be giving the hardline rulers of the Islamic regime every reason to believe that the United States will do nothing to stand on the side of human rights in Iran, and on the side of a pro-democracy movement that identifies so strongly with America and the West. Meanwhile, the regime itself will be strengthened by being able to deal with the world's most powerful democratic republic, and will be able to use its newfound prestige to try to completely snuff out the pro-democracy movement. You see, the mullahs will tell the pro-democracy demonstrators, even the Americans accept our legitimacy and wish to do business with us. The international community -- led by America -- will welcome us anew and will want to deal with us as the valid rulers of Iran. Your cause is hopeless.

Additionally, there is scarce evidence that the Islamic regime is disposed to seriously bargaining with the United States. Ultimate power in Iran's government resides in the hands of Khamenei as the country's Supreme Religious Guide. As I have argued previously, various factors lead Khamenei to be a rigid hardliner in terms of his public policy stances, and Khamenei does not have the scholarly or intellectual credentials to depart from his hardline stance in a way that will not threaten his power. However, a departure from Khamenei's hardline stance is essential for negotiations between the United States and Iran to yield any serious or positive results. If John Kerry and his foreign policy team really believe that they will be able to negotiate with a country whose supreme ruler is effectively held hostage to his own reactionary stances, they are being quite naïve -- assurances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As I noted previously, Kerry's plan to engage the mullahcracy is a fool's errand that makes a mockery of his newfound hawkishness. The odds of negotiations putting a stop to Iran's nuclear program, ending its support for jihadist terror of both the Shia and Sunni varieties, and abandoning its regional ambitions, are slim indeed. Instead, engagement would have only two outcomes. One, we would settle for a flawed deal that gives the mullahs much of what they want, and that would essentially amount to appeasement. This would hand the mullahcracy a huge victory, and confirm the impression that a Kerry Administration is weak, feckless, and determined to return to pre 9/11 business as usual. The other possibility is that no deal would be reached, and we would have to confront the reality that only force can stop the mullahs from building nuclear weapons. In this situation, a Kerry Administration would be forced to act on less than 100% accurate intelligence, at great political risk, against the wishes of the Europeans, and against a regime more convinced than ever of our lack of will. Could John Kerry really bring himself to use force in any meaningful way under these circumstances? Little in his record as a politician suggests that he would.

"More McCarthy than Murrow"

Here's another piece worth reading on Michael Moore, from Scott Simon of the notorious right-wing propaganda organ NPR:

Michael Moore has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and may win an Oscar for the kind of work that got Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Jack Kelly fired.

Trying to track the unproven innuendoes and conspiracies in a Michael Moore film or book is as futile as trying to count the flatulence jokes in one by Adam Sandler. Some journalists and critics have acted as if his wrenching of facts is no more serious than a movie continuity problem, like showing a 1963 Chevy in 1956 Santa Monica.

A documentary film doesn't have to be fair and balanced, to coin a phrase. But it ought to make an attempt to be accurate. It can certainly be pointed and opinionated. But it should not knowingly misrepresent the truth. Much of Michael Moore's films and books, however entertaining to his fans and enraging to his critics, seems to regard facts as mere nuisances to the story he wants to tell.

The full article, entitled "When Punchline Trumps Honesty", is available via Opinion Journal. Go now and read it all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bush, Kerry, and Iran

One of the key issues confronting America is how to deal with the growing threat posed by the mullahcracy of Iran, and in particular its ongoing nuclear weapons program. As I have noted previously, the mullahs continue to press ahead with this program in spite of European efforts to persuade Iran to submit to full international inspections and controls. As Associated Press has reported just today:

Iran is once again building centrifuges that can be used to make nuclear weaponry, breaking the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency's seals on the equipment in a show of defiance against international efforts to monitor its program, diplomats said Tuesday.

In another previous post, I briefly described the continuing terrorist threat that the Islamist regime in Tehran poses. Since then, Time Magazine has reported that al-Qaeda members, including a number of the 9/11 hijackers, were able to travel through Iran with the direct knowledge and cooperation of the Iranian regime and intelligence services. Based on information from the 9/11 commission report, Time also states that "Iranian officials approached the al-Qaeda leadership after the bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaborative relationship in future attacks on the U.S., but the offer was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia." Newsweek has more on the Iran/al-Qaeda connection, including information that 9/11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh passed through Tehran in early 2001 with the cooperation of Iranian authorities. On Friday July 23, the Washington Times reported that "al Qaeda operatives in Iran probably had advance knowledge of recent terrorist attacks, a sign that the cooperation between Tehran and al Qaeda is continuing since September 11." An Arab newspaper based in London recently stated that nearly 400 al-Qaeda operatives are being harbored in Iran, including 18 high-ranking leaders. Dan Darling at Winds of Change has more on possible Iranian connections to 9/11 and al-Qaeda.

Regardless of who wins the election this November, formulating a strategy for dealing with the mullahcracy will be an immediate priority. As the Washington Post recently noted, the Bush Administration's policy towards Iran has been "generally been piecemeal and reactive to broader or tangential issues, rather than to Iran itself, U.S. officials say. "What we have is a summation of various pieces -- one piece on nuclear weapons, one on human rights, another on terrorism, other pieces on drugs, Iraq and Afghanistan," a senior State Department official said."

Essentially, the options boil down to two. One, negotiate with the mullahs and hope to cut a deal that halts their nuclear program and ends their support for terrorism. The second option, is to keep the pressure on and pursue a policy of regime change. Each option carries its own risks.

Citing a recent report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations, Gregory Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch makes the case for engaging the mullahs:

1) the Task Force found that "despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction, Iran is not on the verge of another revolution" (correctly, in my humble opinion);

2) from that finding flows the conclusion that engagement is likelier a better policy option than military action right now (especially given how we are not, er, particularly well positioned right now to mount a regime change operation in Iran);

3) an ambitious "grand bargain" or, even, a more modest "roadmap" style delineation of the going forward relationship is not likely to be achieved at this juncture ("A quarter-century of enmity and estrangement are not easily overcome, the issues at stake are too numerous and complex, and the domestic political contexts of both countries are too difficult to allow the current breach to be settled comprehensively overnight.")

so therefore;

4) better for Washington to propose to Teheran a "compartmentalized process of dialogue, confidence building, and incremental engagement. The U.S. should identify the discrete set of issues where critical U.S. and Iranian interests converge, and must be prepared to make progress along separate tracks, even while considerable differences remain in other areas."

Unfortunately, there are numerous problems with a strategy of engagement. Judging by their rhetoric, there is no indication that the radical Islamists who dominate the regime are interested in rapprochement with the US. Won't the mullahs simply interpret a newfound American willingness to negotiate as a vindication of their hardline policies, and as confirming American weakness? How will "incremental engagement" prevent the Iranian regime from pursuing its nuclear program, supporting Islamist terrorism, or seeking to export its theocratic vision to Iraq? Finally, why would the mullahs suddenly agree to democratic reforms as part of this process when they have spent the last several years assiduously purging their system of its more democratic components? In short, I fail to see how "incremental engagement" will solve any of these issues.

The other option is to pursue regime change in Iran. This does not mean by military means. The use of military force is neither plausible nor desirable in Iran at present, with the one exception being a "surgical strike" against Iranian nuclear facilities. In order to pursue regime change in Iran, the US will have to do three things. The first is to make it abundantly clear to the mullahcracy that it will not be allowed to produce nuclear weapons, and be prepared to use force if necessary. The second element is to stand by the Iranian people in their hour of need. We will have to aid the democratic opposition through financial, material, and rhetorical means. Finally, we need to finish the task of creating a democratic, pluralist Iraq. Such an Iraq would provide a model for the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people, as Western Europe did for Eastern Europe during the Cold War. As Reuters reported on July 1, the "rise of a secular, democratic Iraq could pose a threat to Iran's Shi'ite clerical establishment, which fears it would serve as a powerful model for moderate Iranians who seek change, clerics said." To a large extent, then, the fate of Iran will be decided in Iraq. Assuming of course, that we refrain from engaging the Mullahs and throwing them a lifeline.

That leads me to the choice we face this November. As Reuters noted on July 14:

U.S. policy toward Iran, whose nuclear policies and involvement in Iraq fly in the face of U.S. interests, could hinge on the outcome of the November presidential election.

If re-elected, President Bush is expected to pursue more aggressive support for factions that want to topple hard-line leaders in Iran while Democratic challenger John Kerry is more inclined toward engaging the Islamic republic.

"I think you would see us continue a very hard line on the nonproliferation issue and support for dissident elements inside Iran would pick up," a senior administration official said. He ruled out military action.

Added another Republican insider said, "My understanding is that this tough view is one that has been expressed by the president himself on a number of occasions lately."

Reflecting a different approach, Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers told Reuters in an interview: "Yes, we would be prepared to talk to Iran."

Link courtesy of Pejman Yousefzadeh

Sadly, it is obvious that a Kerry Administration would not confront the mullahcracy, but rather would seek to cut a deal with it. In my view, such an effort would be a fool's errand that will only give the Iranian theocracy the opportunity to bring their nuclear program to fruition. That is something we cannot allow to happen. This raises the problem of what a Kerry Administration would do then. Would John Kerry really have the courage to use force against the Iranian regime, on the basis of incomplete intelligence and over the objections of our European "allies" in whose opinion he puts so much stock? Sadly, there is nothing in his record to indicate that he is capable of making such a choice, at least not before it's too late.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Speaking of Perspective

RealClear Politics offers a lengthy interview with journalist Karl Zinsmeister, author of Dawn Over Baghdad. While I've only just started reading the book, Zinsmeister clearly reveals a side of events in Iraq that is rarely seen in the elite media.

Interview With Karl Zinsmeister - Part I

Interview With Karl Zinsmeister - Part II

Please give it a look, it's definitely worth your time.

Afghanistan: A Good News Update

Courtesy of Arthur Chrenkoff and Opinion Journal, a lengthy rundown of the good news from Afghanistan. Considering everything that country has endured for over two decades, some perspective is definitely in order.

Sports Psychology Under Saddam

Another slice of life from Saddam's Iraq that Michael Moore chose not to discuss:

Torture equipment used by Saddam Hussein's slain son, Odai, to punish underperforming Iraqi athletes was displayed Saturday at a Baghdad sports stadium in advance of the opening of the Olympics next month in Athens.

Journalists were shown medieval-style torture equipment, including an "iron maiden-like" casket with metal spikes fixed to the inside that athletes had been forced into and chain whips with steel barbs the size of tennis balls attached to the end.

"During the old regime, Odai was looking for results and he wanted winners. He didn't like second place," Talib Mutan, an Iraqi Olympics Committee official, told Associated Press Television News.

"If the athletes didn't come in first, they were punished. And he would punish the people around the athletes, their managers and coaches included," Mutan said.

Source: Associated Press

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Darfur Update

As usual, Arthur Chrenkoff provides a solid, link-filled roundup:

Since the start of the Darfur conflict (although it's pretty obscene to call something this one-sided a conflict), about 30,000 non-Muslim Sudanese are estimated to have been killed by the Arab militias; about 1 million have been displaced from their homes by the ethnic cleansers and a further 2 million people are in desperate need of food (other reports put the number killed at 50,000 and displaced at 1.2 million).

As Arthur notes, the US and our allies will undoubtedly be accused of neoconservative imperialism should we attempt to intervene and stop the genocide.

Please read it all: The shame of Darfur continues

Six in a Row!

Congratulations to Lance Armstrong for capturing an unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France.

Update: Apparently, European sophistication was on full display as some spectators made Lance Armstrong the subject of their venomous anti-Americanism. This just makes the victory that much more satisfying. (Link via Arthur Chrenkoff)

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Lehman: "We were mugged by Viacom"

As all of you no doubt know, the 9/11 commission report was released on Thursday and is freely available online at numerous locations. Personally, I recommend the GPO Access version, both because it's an official government site, and because it breaks the report down by chapter. So far, I have read only part of the report, but what I have seen so far indicates that the commission has produced a sober, useful, and extremely informative document. This is especially heartening in light of the bitterly partisan nature of many of the committee's hearings this past spring. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, the committee's "unanimous final report seems on our first reading to be better than the process that produced it."

The one factor that, more than any other, contributed to politicizing the committee's deliberations was the Richard Clarke controversy. In an interview published Thursday on National Review Online, Republican commission member John Lehman offered his thoughts on how this occurred:

I think we were mugged by Viacom," Lehman told NRO in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon. "Because they changed the release date of the book and geared up 60 Minutes to launch his book to time them with his testimony and they edited his book to take out all of the criticisms of Clinton from his [original private] testimony. Because they wanted to make it a jihad against Bush."

Lehman says that Clarke's original testimony included "a searing indictment of some Clinton officials and Clinton policies." That was the Clarke, evenhanded in his criticisms of both the Bush and Clinton administrations, who Lehman and other Republican commissioners expected to show up at the public hearings. It was a surprise "that he would come out against Bush that way." Republicans were taken aback: "It caught us flat-footed, but not the Democrats."

Clarke's performance poisoned the public hearings, leading to weeks of a partisan slugfest. Lehman says Republican commissioners felt they had to fight back, adding to the partisan atmosphere. "What triggered it was Dick Clarke," says Lehman. "We couldn't sit back and let him get away with what he wanted to get away with." He adds, "We were hijacked by a combination of Viacom and the Kerry campaign in the handling of Clarke's testimony."

Source: '“Mugged”:A 9/11 commissioner unloads on Richard Clarke and his “jihad against Bush.”,' National Review Online, July 22, 2004

Subsequent revelations, including the 9/11 commission's final report, have confirmed that Clarke sacrificed his credibility on the altar of partisanship. Unfortunately, by then the damage was done. Still, it is to the great credit of the commission members that they were able to overcome this and produce such an excellent, objective report. For that, they deserve our thanks.

"Justice" in Iran

Here's a bit of human rights related news from the "Islamic Republic" of Iran:

A Tehran court acquitted the sole defendant in the murder of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, the lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate representing the victim's mother told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Shirin Ebadi, who is the chief lawyer for the mother of slain photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, said the legal proceedings were flawed.


Kazemi, a Canadian freelance journalist of Iranian origin, died July 10, 2003, while in detention for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests against the ruling theocracy.

Iranian authorities initially said Kazemi died of a stroke but a presidential committee later found she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage.

The agent charged with murdering Kazemi, Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, pleaded innocent on July 17 and the trial was upbruptly ended the next day.

Hard-liners were angered when the defense team led by Ebadi accused prison official Mohammad Bakhshi of inflicting the fatal blow to Kazemi and the conservative judiciary of illegally detaining her.

Source: Associated Press/USA Today

So the secret police murder a journalist, and the regime barely goes through the motions of investigating the matter. To those who were in any doubt, this should make abundantly clear that the radical Islamists are firmly in control in Tehran, and that whatever trappings of democracy may have existed in the country are rapidly being discarded. This is the regime that foreign policy "realists" want to cut a deal with?

More on Joe Wilson

More interesting links on the incredibly shrinking credibility of Joseph Wilson.

On Wednesday, former ambassador Wilson published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in which he slams his critics:

For the last two weeks, I have been subjected — along with my wife, Valerie Plame — to a partisan Republican smear campaign. In right-wing blogs and on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, I've been accused of being a liar and, worse, a traitor.

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has been all over this story, and in this post he describes why he finds Wilson's defense rather less than convincing:

My goodness, he is awfully coy about his anonymous leaks to the media before he went public. Those leaks drove the public debate, and do not seem to have stood up to careful examination. Perhaps his memory betrayed him - he ought to re-read his own book, pages 330-332. Or re-read his chat with Vanity Fair. One wonders whether this is when Mr. Wilson acquired his familiarity with smear campaigns. Was he also orchestrated, or simply a one-man band?

In the New Republic, Martin Peretz lays into Wilson (and Sandy Berger):

I myself had wondered why the CIA had been so dumb--such dumbness is something to which we should have long ago become accustomed!--as to send a low-level diplomat to check on yellowcake sales from Niger to Iraq when it should have dispatched a real spook. Well, it turns out that a "real spook" had recommended him to her boss, that spook being Valerie Plame, who happens also to be Wilson's wife. He has long denied that she had anything to do with his going to Niger and that, alas, was a lie. It appears, in fact, that this is the sole reason he was sent. Still, in a lot of dining rooms where I am a guest here, there is outrage that someone in the vice president's office "outed" Ms. Plame, as though everybody in Georgetown hadn't already known she was under cover, so to speak.

Matthew Continetti, in an article for the Weekly Standard, has noted Wilson's proclivity to blame the media for the many factually challenged statements he has made to reporters over the last year:

OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS, ever since Ambassador Joseph Wilson's credibility was thrown into question by the Senate Select Committee's report on prewar Iraq intelligence, the ambassador has taken to the airwaves to defend himself. How do you respond, he's been asked, to charges that, in numerous conversations with reporters over the last year, you inflated your role in "debunking" foreign government intelligence reporting which suggested Saddam Hussein's Iraq sought uranium from Africa? And Wilson gave his answer. He blamed the reporters he had snookered only months before.

Thing is, the reporters don't seem to mind.

I can think of no better way to conclude than with liberal blogger Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler, who has ruthlessly dissected Wilson's statements in this post:

In our view, Wilson’s letters to the Committee and the Post are fake, evasive, insincere, misleading. Correctly, Getler burned Wilson’s Straw Men in his ombudsman column, and similar Straw Men littered the letter Wilson sent to the Committee itself. But here is the most amazing thing Wilson says in his “rebuttal” to the Committee. Take a seat. Strap yourselves in. Try to believe that he said it:

WILSON (letter to the Intelligence Committee): My article in the New York Times makes clear that I attributed to myself “a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs.”...I went to great lengths to point out that mine was but one of three reports on the subject. I never claimed to have “debunked” the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. I claimed only that the transaction described in the documents that turned out to be forgeries could not have occurred and did not occur.

Amazing, isn’t it? I never claimed to have “debunked” the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa! Readers, what has the last year been about if Wilson didn’t claim to debunk Bush’s claim?

Well, considering that the Butler Commission in the UK has reported that Bush's claim in the 2003 SOTU "was well-founded", and that even Wilson now admits he never "debunked" the president's comment, in my view we can safely say case closed on the "16 words".

Friday, July 23, 2004

Against All Credibility

Since coming forward earlier this year as a bitter critic of the Bush Administration's handling of the war on Islamist terrorism, former NSC counterterrorism head Richard Clarke has been adamant in insisting that Iraq and al-Qaeda had nothing to do with each other. As he told 60 Minutes in March 2004:

"And I said, 'Paul, there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!' And I turned to the deputy director of the CIA and said, 'Isn't that right?' And he said, 'Yeah, that's right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States."

Clarke went on to add, "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever."

Source: CBS News Web site

Unfortunately, for Mr. Clarke, both the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and the 9/11 Commission report show these claims to be absurd. The Senate report summarized the CIA's early 2003 assessment of Iraqi involvement in terrorism as follows (source links are PDF):

Iraq continues to be a safehaven, transit point, or operational node for groups and individuals who direct violence against the United States, Israel,and other allies. Iraq has a long history of supporting terrorism. During the last four decades, it has altered its targets to reflect changing priorities and goals. It continues to harbor and sustain a number of smaller anti-Israel terrorist groups and to actively encourage violence against Israel. Regarding the Iraq-al-Qaida relationship, reporting from sources of varying reliability points to a number of contacts, incidents of training, and discussions of Iraqi safehaven for Usama bin Ladin and his organization dating from the early 1990s.

Source: Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, p.314

The Senate intelligence report also reveals that the threat of Iraqi terrorism directed against the US was worth taking seriously:

From 1996 to 2003,the IIS focused its terrorist activities on western interests, particularly against the U.S.and Israel. The CIA summarized nearly 50 intelligence reports as examples,using language directly from the intelligence reports. Ten intelligence reports, (redacted) from multiple sources,indicated IIS "casing" operations against Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in Prague began in 1998 and continued into early 2003. The CIA assessed, based on the Prague casings and a variety of other reporting that throughout 2002, the IIS was becoming increasingly aggressive in planning attacks against U.S. interests.

Source: Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, p.316

In light of such intelligence, it is hard to believe that any responsible official could have categorically stated "[t]here is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States". In fact, the 9/11 report in particular reveals that Clarke took the possibility of Iraq-al Qaeda ties much more seriously than he claims to have in his book and TV appearances. Here are two examples:

On November 4, 1998, the U.S. Attorney ’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed its indictment of Bin Ladin, charging him with conspiracy to attack U.S. defense installations. The indictment also charged that al Qaeda had allied itself with Sudan, Iran, and Hezbollah. The original sealed indictment had added that al Qaeda had "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."109 This passage led Clarke,who for years had read intelligence reports on Iraqi-Sudanese cooperation on chemical weapons, to speculate to Berger that a large Iraqi presence at chemical facilities in Khartoum was "probably a direct result of the Iraq –Al Qida agreement." Clarke added that VX precursor traces found near al Shifa were the "exact formula used by Iraq."110

Source: The 9/11 Commission Report, p.128.

In February 1999, Allen proposed flying a U-2 mission over Afghanistan to build a baseline of intelligence outside the areas where the tribals had coverage. Clarke was nervous about such a mission because he continued to fear that Bin Ladin might leave for someplace less accessible. He wrote Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick that one reliable source reported Bin Ladin ’s having met with Iraqi officials,who "may have offered him asylum." Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged Bin Ladin to go to Iraq. If Bin Ladin actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein ’s service,and it would be "virtually impossible" to find him. Better to get Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, Clarke declared.134 Berger suggested sending one U-2 flight, but Clarke opposed even this. It would require Pakistani approval, he wrote; and "Pak[istan ’s ] intel[ligence service ] is in bed with "Bin Ladin and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign:" Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad."135 Though told also by Bruce Riedel of the NSC staff that Saddam Hussein wanted Bin Ladin in Baghdad, Berger conditionally authorized a single U-2 flight.

Source: The 9/11 Commission Report, p.134.

So the same Richard Clarke who has categorically stated that "[t]here's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever", was worried in 1999 that Osama was going to "boogie to Baghdad" and hang with Saddam. Nope, no credibility problems here.

Some sources, links, and quotes courtesy of the following: 

Stephen Hayes, "Only Connect", the Weekly Standard, August 2, 2004

Jon Henke, "9/11 Commission Report: Iraq",  QandO, July 23, 2004 

Byron York, "Boogie to Baghdad", National Review Online, July 23, 2004 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dumb Celebrity Watch

Via Roger L. Simon, comes this fascinating story of incisive political and social commentary from the world of music. Apparently, Elton John is dismayed by the lack as he sees it of quality "anti-war" songs:
"That's not happening now. As of this spring, there have been virtually no anti-war concerts - or anti-war songs that catch on, for that matter," he said.
Sir Elton's explanation for this is, you guessed it, the chill wind of McCarthyite repression:
"There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now that is deadly. Everyone is too career-conscious," he told New York magazine, Interview.

Sir Elton said performers could be "frightened by the current administration's bullying tactics".
The singer likened the current "fear factor" to McCarthyism in the 1950s.

Ah, yes. Celebrities who want to bash Bush should be free to do so, but God forbid if anyone should exercise the right to take issue with their comments or decide not to patronize their music/films as a result. Plus, the standard refrain about the "climate of fear" generated by the Bush Administration, which is usually offered just before launching into a venomous, hate-filled tirade against said administration. I just hope Elton is able to flee the country before he ends up in one of John Ashcroft's labor camps.
Michele at A Small Victory has the perfect response to this tripe, while Damien Penny has some interesting thoughts as well.

The Michael Moore of Academia

Long before anyone heard of Michael Moore, there was Noam Chomsky. A linguistics professor at MIT, Chomsky's jargon laden Anti-American polemics have cluttered bookstore shelves for several decades, and have been mandatory reading for most leftists. Fortunately, the blog Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite does a good job of debunking Chomsky, and additional help is now on the way.
A new book, The Anti-Chomsky Reader, promises to provide the resources and arguments necessary to refute the Chomskyites. Clara Magram of National Review Online offers a preview
Chomsky has become one of the all-stars of the radical Left because he embodies that distinct vitriolic passion, the paranoia of the self-hating Westerner. He reserves his criticism mainly for America and Israel. The Middle East might achieve peace, he tells us, if not for Israel's commitment to "Jewish dominance throughout the region"; he references the "genocidal texts of the Bible" as sources of this Zionist drive for imperial rule. It's not too surprising that neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers are among his supporters.

His approach to current events is rife with bias and distortion. After 9/11, for example, he asked: "Why did [the terrorists] turn against the United States? Well, that had to do with what they call the U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia.... That's the home of the holiest sites of Islam." Never mind that the Saudis welcomed U.S. aid in defending against Saddam Hussein's 1990 aggression. Chomsky also avoids mentioning the homicidal intent articulated by America's Islamist enemies. His recommendation to America for ending global terrorism: "Stop participating in it."
Since the 1960s, when he parroted Vietcong propaganda and ignored mass executions, Chomsky's star has continued to rise. Supporters of a freedom-based global order must contend with this intellectual spinmeister for hearts and minds around the globe. The Anti-Chomsky Reader performs a service to the whole world, by exposing Chomsky as one of the most damaging charlatans ever to ride the wave of campus adulation.
I fully expect to be adding this book to my collection.

Iraq: A Good News Update

Arthur Chrenkoff delivers the goods once again. As usual, it's well worth your time. Big props to Opinion Journal for making this available through their site as well.
For some great additional perspective, see RealClear Politics and this Chrenkoff follow-up post.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Civilian Casualties and the Morality of the Iraq Campaign

There are two main arguments that can be made against the American-led invasion of Iraq. One is that it was a mistake; that it was not worth the cost, counterproductive, a distraction from the struggle with al-Qaeda. I do not agree with these arguments, and I will eventually get around to explaining why, but I regard them as respectable criticisms that deserve to be taken seriously.
The other argument made against the invasion is a moral one. The idea that America invaded Iraq, killed lots of people, and blew everything up, just so we could steal all the oil and bring in Halliburton to rebuild everything. As Michael Moore chose to present it in "Fahrenheit 9/11", Iraq was a happy place where people relaxed in cafes and flew kites until the evil Americans started bombing.
As even most opponents of the Iraq campaign realize, this view of life under Saddam is ludicrous. Still, many of these same opponents refer regularly to 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the coalition intervention, and regard that as sufficient cause for condemning the invasion as immoral.
This raises two questions. First, is the commonly offered figure of 10,000 Iraqi civilian war dead credible? Second, how do the tragic humanitarian consequences of military intervention in Iraq compare to the potential human cost of the alternative, of leaving Saddam's dictatorship in power? 
The figure of 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the invasion comes from a Web site called Iraq Body Count. IBC describes itself as "a human security project to establish an independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military action by the USA and its allies in 2003." Featured prominently on the IBC home page is a counter showing "(c)civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq". Currently, the minimum figure listed is 11252, and the maximum is 13213.
So, according to IBC's database of news reports, American and coalition forces have killed between 11,000 and 13,000 Iraqi civilians between March 2003 to the present. Surely this provides substantial cause to condemn the invasion. Unfortunately, the methodology that IBC uses is rather less than honest. Here is a statement taken directly from the IBC Web site:
In the current occupation phase this database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
In other words, the death of any Iraqi in the current violence is laid by IBC at the coalition's doorstep. Even a cursory look at the IBC site reveals that any Iraqi killed by violent means, whether civilians blown up by a roadside bomb, policemen murdered by a jihadist suicide bomber, or a public figure assassinated by Baathists, is included in the IBC running total. In other words, any Iraqi death caused by the "resistance" is America's fault. David Adesnik of Oxblog recently looked at IBC's methodology in greater detail, and likewise found it wanting. His Oxblog colleague, Josh Chafetz, came to a similar conclusion in an April 2003 article for the Weekly Standard.
The problems with Iraq Body Count and its methodology go well beyond how it keeps track of casualties during the occupation. If you look just at the period of major military operations from March-May 2003, IBC claims a total of up to 7,350 civilian deaths. The leftist Project on Defense Alternatives, hardly a friend of the Pentagon, estimated in an October 2003 report that out of 11,000-15,000 Iraqi deaths in the conflict, between "3,200 and 4,300 were noncombatants -- that is: civilians who did not take up arms". In other words, an avowedly left of center think tank estimates that Iraqi civilian deaths during the defeat of Saddam's regime were about half of what IBC claims they were. 
In short, it is clear that the methodology used by Iraq Body Count is flawed at best, blatantly biased and dishonest at worst. Still, that does not change the fact that probably 4,000-5,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the invasion. Does that mean the coalition intervention was immoral?
One factor that must be noted is that American and coalition forces have done everything possible to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. Numerous journalists embedded with US forces have made this point explicitly. To quote just one example, Robert Kaplan, who was with the Marines during the April 2004 fighting in Fallujah, wrote the following:
As their own casualties mounted, the only time I saw angry or depressed Marines was when an Iraqi civilian was accidentally hit in the crossfire--usually perpetrated by the enemy. I was not surprised. I had seen Army Special Forces react similarly to civilian casualties the year before in Afghanistan. The humanity of the troops is something to behold: Contrary to the op-ed page of the New York Times (May 21), the word haji in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at least among Marines and Special Forces, is more often used as an endearment than a slur. To wit, "let's drink tea and hang out with the hajis," "haji food is so much better than what they feed us," "a haji designed real nice vests for our rifle plates," and so on. Thus, it has been so appallingly depressing to read about Abu Ghraib prison day after day, after day.   
As Kaplan points out, the enemy in Iraq has often used civilians as human shields, worn civilian dress, and used mosques, hospitals, and other protected places as military facilities. This April 2003 article from the Associated Press on the fighting in the city of Nasiriyah provides further corroboration:
"We blame Saddam for this," 25-year-old Metaq Ali said Thursday, tears streaming down her face as she recovered in a tent at a U.S. military field hospital.
Her relatives died as members of Saddam's Fedayeen militia _ dressed in civilian clothes _ moved in and around people's homes firing at American forces, she said. Her extended family tried to escape by car and a bomb tore apart their three vehicles.

Fedayeen fighters commonly set up anti-aircraft guns near homes and forced families to remain there at gunpoint, residents said. When the civilians were injured, Saddam's fighters ran away and left them bleeding.

Doctors and nurses at the 86th Combat Support Hospital at Tallil Airfield have heard the story many times since U.S. forces fought their way through fierce resistance by irregular Iraqi forces in nearby Nasiriyah.
Patients told hospital staff they were given guns that no longer worked and forced to advance toward U.S. positions as Fedayeen forces fired shots from behind them.

Even those wounded by American bullets and bombs smiled and flashed a thumbs up signal when asked about the care they were receiving.
"I don't think the Americans meant to shoot me," said Saad Abdwyasr, 32. He was caught in crossfire as he tried to carry his sick father to a local hospital in Nasiriyah.

Perhaps Michael Moore could have interviewed Ms. Ali and some of the other Nasiriyah civilians for "Fahrenheit 9/11". Sorry, I shouldn't suggest something so preposterous.
There is one additional factor that makes clear just how much restraint American forces have used in Iraq, and that is simple common sense. The US armed forces are the most powerful the world has ever seen. If we were fighting without regard for civilian casualties, it would be abundantly obvious. Quite simply, there would no longer be a Baghdad or a Fallujah. Sadly, this point seems to have escaped many.
The other question regarding the morality of the Iraq campaign involves the nature of the regime that we have overthrown.  It has become a truism for many that Saddam was just another corrupt, brutal, run of the mill dictator. This is nonsense. Saddam Hussein was a genocidal, totalitarian despot, whose crimes on a per capita scale rival those of Hitler and Stalin. In fact, Saddam took the Soviet dictator as his role model.  It is estimated that Saddam murdered at least 300,000 of his own people. When he gassed the city of Halabja in 1988, Saddam probably killed as many Iraqi civilians in one day as died during the entire period of major combat in 2003. According to Mark Bowden, in his superb article in the May 2002 Atlantic Monthly "Tales of the Tyrant", the Baathist regime is estimated to have executed 3,000 people in 1981-82 alone.  The former UN human rights representative in Iraq, Max van der Stoel, stated that the wave of atrocities under Saddam was "one of the worst since World War Two -- comparable in gravity to crimes of the Khmer Rouge (in Cambodia) or Idi Amin (in Uganda),". For more details, see the Indict or Human Rights Watch Web sites.  In short, there is good reason to believe that the humanitarian consequences of leaving Saddam and his regime undisturbed would have far exceeded the tragic civilian casualties suffered as a result of the coalition invasion.
Of course, it is easy for me to sit behind my computer and make such judgments. I will leave it to an Iraqi, Omar from the blog Iraq the Model, to have the final word on the morality and legitimacy of the American-led invasion (If you doubt that Iraq the Model is for real, please read this article from USA Today):
Because Iraqis have a lot to deal with regarding their daily life needs and the fact that we're not a major player in international politics, it becomes understandable that they pay less attention than the rest of the world to the legal complexities of the war and most of them see this war legitimate simply because it lead to their solvation and freedom.
You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should've not been done because it's illegal. This is almost an insult to Iraqis to hear someone saying that this war was illegal. It means that our suffering for decades meant nothing and that formalities and the stupid rules of the UN (that rarely function) are more important than the lives of 25 million people. 

MLS Expansion

There was some good news this past week for Major League Soccer as the league announced that it is awarding an expansion team to Salt Lake City, Utah. The team will start play next season, along with Chivas USA, who will play at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. Thus, MLS will once again have 12 teams when it begins its 10th season next year.
This can only be considered a positive development. The Utah team will be led by Dave Checketts, who formerly ran the Knicks and Rangers for Madison Square Garden Corporation. The team will play at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles stadium for 2-4 years before moving into their own stadium. The Salt Lake area has a thriving youth soccer program, and the 3rd division Utah Blitzz averaged over 4,000 fans a game last season. Salt Lake should prove to be a good addition  to the league.
The Chivas team will be owned by the popular Mexican team Chivas of Gudalajara. Considering that Chivas is estimated to be the 2nd most popular sports team in Los Angeles, the US version should have little problem drawing fans to the HDC. With the LA Galaxy already possessing a sizable fanbase, drawing over 22,000 fans per game, the league will be set for its first intra-city rivalry. It is a delightful irony, in my view, that LA will soon have two professional soccer teams and no NFL team.
This is just further evidence of MLS' slow yet steady growth. The league is averaging nearly 16,000 fans per game. Dallas will move into their own stadium next year, and Metrostars, Chicago, and maybe Colorado, will do the same in 2006. The league is likely to add another two teams in 2006, probably Seattle and Rochester. In spite of the doubters, MLS is here to stay.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Fraudenheit 9/11 Watch

I've already expressed my own view of Michael Moore's "documentary" Fahrenheit 9/11, and have no real desire to spend much more of my time dealing with his patent dishonesty. A good source if you want to keep up with the latest rebuttals of Mikey's lies is a new site called Centigrade 9/11. (Found via Moore Lies) You'll probably want to bookmark it.

Joe Wilson's Literary Flair

Matthew Continetti has the details in this week's issue of the Weekly Standard.

Academic Silliness Watch

Courtesy of Daniel Drezner, comes this ridiculous piece from a French literary scholar in the New York Times. Be sure you're sitting down as he reveals the shocking secret behind the Harry Potter books:
Harry Potter, probably unintentionally, thus appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism. Like Orwellian totalitarianism, this capitalism tries to fashion not only the real world, but also the imagination of consumer-citizens. The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson. 
Further comment on my part is unnecessary.

The "Culture War": Who Cares

Earlier this week, the ill-conceived and misguided Federal Marriage Amendment was mercifully voted down on a procedural matter by the Senate. Personally, the issue of gay marriage doesn't bother me. I have no problem with two gay adults wishing to marry. Gay marriage won't mean the end of marriage, western civilization, or the republic, and I fail to see how allowing consenting adults to live their lives as they see fit will harm anyone else. I don't believe that opposing gay marriage automatically makes one a bigot, or that a case can't be made against it, but I strongly feel that amending the Constitution over this issue is silly. Let it be decided at state level. While I support George Bush due to his vigorous prosecution of the War on Radical Islamist Terror, this is one issue where I definitely think he's wrong.
To me, the issue of gay marriage has become symptomatic of a broader problem with American politics; the desire of many on both left and right to portray differences over social and cultural issues in apocalyptic tones. If we allow gay marriage, traditional marriage will be destroyed, or the FCC fining Howard Stern for his over the top verbal crudity means the end of free expression in America.  Such statements are nonsense. Janet Jackson showing her boob on national TV does not threaten the moral fibre of the nation, any more than preventing her from doing so means we're headed for a police state.
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't debate such issues. America has always debated cultural issues, it is a normal and healthy part of our democracy. What troubles me is the notion that such debate is part of a "Culture War" that will result in the doom of America if the appropriate side does not prevail. Mercifully, the idea that such a manicheaen struggle is actually taking place has been refuted. As Jeremy Rabkin put it in a brilliant essay in the August 1999 issue of Policy Review:
The truth about America seems to be far messier than a "culture war" between "orthodox" and "progressive" forces. We are in the midst of many overlapping and cross-cutting social conflicts. Yes, there are deep divisions regarding public recognition or accommodation of religion and on sexual morals and "family values." But the same is true for attitudes about gun ownership. And also for views on multiculturalism. There are also deep divisions in attitudes about risk and security in economic affairs, about the aims of developers and the concerns of environmentalists, about animal rights and human needs, about the claims of children and the potentialities of pharmacology — and on and on and on. Quite a lot of these disputes elicit a moralistic rhetoric on one side and an answer of skeptical hooting on the other. But they don’t at all line up neatly as cultural divisions between religious conservatives and secularizing "progressives." We are a nation of Puritans and a nation of scoffers and we do quite a lot of arguing. And we have long been so. (Mark Twain’s scoffing — and his immense popularity — a century ago should remind us of both: "To be good is noble but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.") That doesn’t quite add up to a "war."
Or, as Mark Steyn once put it
The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lapdancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion;
America is a complex quilt of various values, belief systems, and lifestyles. This is one of our greatest strengths as a nation, the essence of who we are. As long as people don't violate the law or harm others, this country gives them the right to live as they want. Of course, just because you have the right to do something, doesn't mean that you should do it. In my view, personal rights bring personal responsibilities. People have to accept that actions have consequences, and that if you freely choose to do something, you are the person most directly responsible for what happens. If you decide to gorge yourself on Big Macs for months at a time, don't go looking for a lawyer when you weigh 300 pounds, look in the mirror instead. Similarly, if you go on TV or radio and spew obscenities or racial slurs, don't be surprised if you're not invited back. You're guaranteed the right to say what you want, but not the right to be paid to do so on air.
It is especially troubling when the inevitable debates over cultural values  in this country are described as a war. Such terminology only further adds to the coarsening of political discourse in this nation. I find talk of a "culture war" especially appalling because we find ourselves engaged in a real war that has claimed the lives of 3,000 American civilians and nearly 1,000 of our men and women in uniform. It is not Jerry Falwell or Howard Stern who threatens America's survival, it is Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Is it that difficult for us to get our priorities in order? Never mind the "culture war", let's worry about how to win the real war.

Iraq, the Intelligence Report, and Terrorism

The elite media wasted little time noting the conclusion reached in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that:
"The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably assessed that there were likely several instances of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda throughout the 1990s, but that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship."
Naturally, this has been trumpeted as refuting the notion of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. However, that is only true if you actually avoid reading the relevant section of the report. The leading journalist on this issue, Stephen Hayes, has read the report, and notes the following:
The text of the Senate report tells a very different story. The panel based much of its analysis on a CIA product published in January 2003 called Iraqi Support for Terrorism--the most restrained of five CIA reports on Iraq and terror. The findings will surprise Americans who have relied for their information about the Iraqi threat on the establishment news media.

"Iraq continues to be a safehaven, transit point, or operational node for groups and individuals who direct violence against the United States, Israel, and other allies. Iraq has a long history of supporting terrorism. During the last four decades, it has altered its targets to reflect changing priorities and goals. It continues to harbor and sustain a number of smaller anti-Israel terrorist groups and to actively encourage violence against Israel. Regarding the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, reporting from sources of varying credibility points to a number of contacts, incidents of training, and discussions of Iraqi safehaven for Osama bin Laden and his organization dating from the early 1990s.
His new article, "The Missing Link", is available on the Weekly Standard Web site. I strongly advise giving it a look.
Meanwhile, over at the Winds of Change blog, Dan Darling also read over the report and provides one of his usual excellent analyses. He provides a good summary of the Iraq-al Qaeda section, even filling in some of the redacted gaps:
In general, this document is a lot better than that Staff Statement No. 15 that was churned out by the 9/11 commission. One other thing to be mentioned, incidentally, is that this report specifically undercuts some of the 9/11 Commission's key findings with respect to Iraq and al-Qaeda. It cites post-1999 contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, which the 9/11 commission claims to possess no information on. Perhaps someone should hand the commission members a copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee report?

Also, this demolishes 2 of Richard Clarke's key claims with respect to Iraq: that there was no Iraqi involvement in terrorism post-1993, and that there is no evidence whatsoever of Iraqi support for al-Qaeda. Both of these claims, to put it quite simply, can now be shown to be factually untrue.
Once again, the entire piece is worth a look.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Wilson Watch

More links on Joe Wilson and the Iraq/Niger "16 words" scandal that wasn't:
Mark Steyn weighs in with his Sunday column for the Chicago Sun-Times:
Heigh-ho. It would be nice to hear his media boosters howling en masse, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" But Joe Wilson's already slipping down the old media memory hole. He served his purpose -- he damaged Bush, he tainted the liberation of Iraq -- and yes, by the time you read this the Kerry campaign may well have pulled the plug on his Web site, and Salon magazine's luxury cruise will probably have to find another headline speaker, and he won't be doing Tim Russert again any time soon. But what matters to the media and to Senator Kerry is that he helped the cause of (to quote his book title) The Politics Of Truth, and if it takes a serial liar to do that, so be it.
Christopher Hitchens lays into Wilson in his column for Slate:
Two recent reports allow us to revisit one of the great non-stories, and one of the great missed stories, of the Iraq war argument. The non-story is the alleged martyrdom of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wilson, supposed by many to have suffered cruel exposure for their commitment to the truth. The missed story is the increasing evidence that Niger, in West Africa, was indeed the locus of an illegal trade in uranium ore for rogue states including Iraq.
In the interests of equal time, former ambassador Wilson has published an open letter at attempting to rebut the statements made in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report concerning his involvement in this issue. Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has published a lengthy excerpt:
I read with great surprise and consternation the Niger portion of Sens. Roberts, Bond and Hatch's additional comments to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Assessment on Iraq. I am taking this opportunity to clarify some of the issues raised in these comments.
Maguire analyzes Wilson's defense in this post, and is rather less than impressed by it. He has covered this story better than anyone, so to read more simply go to Just One Minute and keep scrolling.
Gregory Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch also has some good analysis, so check out his site as well.
Finally, it is worth noting what the Butler Commission report, published this week in the UK, had to say on the Iraq/Niger uranium issue:
We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government ’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension,we conclude also that the statement in President Bush ’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

was well-founded.
Source: Butler Report, p. 123 (p. 137 of the PDF file). Conclusion no. 499.
As I said in my original post, someone may have lied about the Niger uranium issue, but it wasn't George Bush. 

Friday, July 16, 2004

Coming Attractions

My apologies for the lack of recent posts, as it's been a busy week. However, I'll have plenty to say this weekend. Here's a sneak preview:
-More on Joe Wilson and the Iraq/Niger story
-Thoughts on the PATRIOT Act
-Recent news articles on the state of the Iraq insurgency
-Major League Soccer Expansion: Soccer comes to Mormon country
-Bush, Kerry, and Iran
-The "Culture War": Who cares. Or, why are we wasting our time when we have a real war to fight?
-Reactions to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and to the Butler Report from the UK 
I plan on doing two major essays soon, on how Iraq fits into the War on Radical Islamist Terror, as I see it. With sufficient luck, time, and motivation, I'll have at least one done by Sunday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

America and Europe

One of the major criticisms of the Bush Administration is that it has strained relations with our European allies. In particular, the invasion of Iraq is cited as an example where the administration's "unilateral" policies have driven away friends such as France and Germany, and made America unpopular worldwide. It is true that the Bush Administration has often been clumsy in its diplomacy. As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, "I don't do diplomacy", and it often shows. I say that as someone who likes Rumsfeld and usually appreciates his candor. Should the Bush Administration win a second term, it would be well advised to occasionally tone down its rhetoric, as Eliot Cohen recommends in the July/August 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Having said that, the idea postulated by the Democrats that a Kerry/Edwards administration, by abandoning Bush's "unilateralism", will somehow allow us to "restore our alliances" and make us popular again in western Europe is a pipe dream. By implying that European anti-Americanism and criticism of America simply reflects opposition to George W. Bush, they have vastly oversimplified the issue. European anti-Americanism goes well beyond the current administration and its policies, and electing John Kerry won't change this.

Take, for example, the issue of Darfur, where literally hundreds of thousands of lives are in jeopardy from the Sudanese regime's campaign of genocide. Surely the Europeans can put aside their differences with the administration to take action? Unfortunately, no they can't. One major European nation has already expressed its opposition to imposing economic sanctions on the Sudanese dictatorship, let alone taking more forceful action. Care to guess which one?

France says it does not support US plans for international sanctions on Sudan if violence continues in Darfur.


In Darfur, it would be better to help the Sudanese get over the crisis so their country is pacified rather than sanctions which would push them back to their misdeeds of old," junior Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier told French radio.

France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, France also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

Mr Muselier also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur.

"I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said.

Source: BBC News, July 8, 2004

Please note the key sentence: "As was the case in Iraq, France also has significant oil interests in Sudan." See this USAID Web page for more information. Block 5 belongs to the French oil conglomerate Total Fina Elf, which also held substantial oil concessions in Saddam's Iraq. Blood for oil, indeed! How a Kerry Administration would persuade the French to abandon their economic interests in order to actually put a stop to genocide has yet to be explained.

Look at the issue of Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was unanimously supported by our European allies, and the stabilization part of the operation is run by NATO. Yet, when the United States asked that NATO's rapid reaction force be sent to Afghanistan to help provide security for this fall's elections, one nation vetoed the idea. Guess who?

France yesterday blocked a U.S.-backed plan to use a special NATO force to safeguard elections in Afghanistan this fall, despite a plea from Afghan leaders that the troops are badly needed.

Source: Washington Times, June 30, 2004

There is much criticism of the Bush administration for not doing more in Afghanistan. Yet, as Jackson Diehl noted in the July 5 Washington Post, the NATO contribution in Afghanistan has so far been feeble. As he mentions, the Europeans are citing Bush's "unilateralism" as a pretext for not getting further involved. Diehl points out however that:

(E)ven if the Europeans were more enthusiastic, they might have little to contribute. Germany, the largest country in the European Union, has 270,000 soldiers in its army -- yet its commanders maintain that no more than about 10,000 can be deployed at any one time. No matter the politics, the German Parliament is unlikely to authorize an increase in the current ceiling of 2,300 troops for Afghanistan. And Germany is the largest contributor to the NATO operation -- France, which has never liked the idea of NATO operations outside of Europe, has only 800 soldiers there.

The idea that the Europeans will not work with us on these issues due to Bush's unilateralism is belied by the fact that they are cooperating with us on other matters. Both the French and Germans have signed on to the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to interdict the flow of WMD materials between rogue states and terrorist networks. Most importantly, there is no evidence whatsoever that US-European cooperation against Islamist terrorists has been hurt by the dispute over Iraq. Reuel Marc Gerecht pointed this out in the April 12/19 2004 Weekly Standard:

Anybody hear about the French DST (internal security) or the DGSE (foreign intelligence) turning off a spigot of information about Islamic extremists? According to a senior French intelligence officer, the first and principal exchange point for the United States and continental European security services is Paris. Does this sound like the French elite (which really would like to see George Bush get demolished in Iraq and John Kerry elected) has a problem with intelligence cooperation? Anybody heard of any problems with the Spanish, who just got scorched, so the theory goes, because of their alliance with us in Iraq? How about the Russians, Pakistanis, Uzbeks, or Chinese?

In short, European governments are willing to work with the "unilateral" Bush Administration, provided they feel it to be in their own best interest. Therefore, it would stand to reason that when they pursue a different agenda than the US, that they are also acting in their own perceived best interests, as opposed to merely reacting to American "unilateralism". Part of the problem, as Robert Kagan noted in his famed 2002 essay "Power and Weakness", is that most western European countries lack both the will and the capacity to behave forcefully on the world stage. In addition, many European countries have growing populations of Muslim immigrants, which have proved in some cases to be a breeding ground for radical Islamists. Finally, many European governments are constrained by the anti-American attitudes of their populations. Therefore, countries such as France and Germany are content to rely on intelligence and law enforcement to try to contain the jihadist threat, while shying away from the efforts of the Bush Administration to deal forcefully with the radical Islamist terror movement, its sponsors, and the conditions that have produced it.

But what of European public opinion? Isn't it true that the Bush Administration squandered the world's sympathy with its bellicose unilateralism? Actually, no. Yes, even the French felt bad over 9/11, but they got over it rather quickly. A little over six months after the September 11 atrocities, the French made a bestseller out of Thierry Meyssan's obscene conspiracy theory that the Pentagon wasn't actually hit by an aircraft. Please note that this was before Iraq became an issue, before "freedom fries", before the New York Post referred to the "axis of weasels".

As writers such as Jean-Francois Revel and Bruce Bawer have explained, European anti-Americanism is deeply-rooted and has developed over decades. The reason why George W. Bush is hated by so many in Europe is because to them he is the embodiment of their anti-American stereotypes: The simple minded gunslinging cowboy. John Kerry might prove to be more personally popular among Europeans, but nothing he can do will change their underlying attitudes. People who say that America is hated because of our policies often fail to understand that others' perceptions of what we do are shaped by a variety of social, cultural, historical, and ideological factors. No cliches about "rebuilding alliances" or "rejoining the family of nations" will change this.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Sixteen Words, Vindicated

Last summer, a controversy arose over a single 16 word sentence from President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The controversy regarding this statement, which the CIA could not independently confirm, became a major basis for the "Bush lied!" argument used by so many on the left. At the forefront of the assault on the administration's credibility was former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. In February 2002, at the behest of the CIA, he visited the African nation of Niger in order to investigate reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from that nation. He described his trip in a July 6, 2003 opinion piece for the New York Times.

According to Wilson, the charges were baseless, and the administration must have known it. When, during the ensuing controversy, it was revealed that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, he responded with righteous indignation. Wilson insisted that his wife had nothing to do with his being asked to go to Niger, and that her identity had been maliciously leaked in order to punish him. To many liberals, Wilson became a heroic martyr, who exposed the wicked lies of the Bush Administration. He was able to parlay his new fame into a book deal. Wilson and his wife even did a photo shoot for Vanity Fair, which seemed a bit odd for someone who claimed to be so concerned about protecting his wife's anonymity. Heady times indeed for a man who actively keeps track of what he calls his "notoriety quotient".

Unfortunately for Ambassador Wilson and his adherents, the story has not ended there. In spite of the controversy here in the US, British intelligence has stood by its reporting. On June 27, the Financial Times explained why:

The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.
This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

The raw intelligence on the negotiations included indications that Libya was investing in Niger's uranium industry to prop it up at a time when demand had fallen, and that sales to Iraq were just a part of the clandestine export plan. These secret exports would allow countries with undeclared nuclear programmes to build up uranium stockpiles.

One nuclear counter-proliferation expert told the FT: "If I am going to make a bomb, I am not going to use the uranium that I have declared. I am going to use what I acquire clandestinely, if I am going to keep the programme hidden."

Courtesy of Belgravia Dispatch, which has much more.

On July 7, the FT published some additional reporting on this issue:

A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.

The inquiry by Lord Butler, which was delivered to the printers on Wednesday and is expected to be released on July 14, has examined the intelligence that underpinned the UK government's claims about the threat from Iraq. . . .

The Financial Times revealed last week that a key part of the UK's intelligence on the uranium came from a European intelligence service that undertook a three-year surveillance of an alleged clandestine uranium-smuggling operation of which Iraq was a part.

Intelligence officials have now confirmed that the results of this operation formed an important part of the conclusions of British intelligence. The same information was passed to the US but US officials did not incorporate it in their assessment.

Courtesy Instapundit.

In other words. the "sixteen words" were indeed true. Bush's statement was both accurate and appropriate. So much for "Bush lied!", and for Joe Wilson's investigative skills.

The final nail in the coffin of the Joe Wilson view of the Niger/Iraq/uranium story comes, ironically enough, from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report released on Friday, July 9. According to the committee's findings, as reported by the Washington Post, someone lied about Niger, and it wasn't the administration:

Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.

Yesterday's report said that whether Iraq sought to buy lightly enriched "yellowcake" uranium from Niger is one of the few bits of prewar intelligence that remains an open question. Much of the rest of the intelligence suggesting a buildup of weapons of mass destruction was unfounded, the report said.

But wait, there's more:

The report turns a harsh spotlight on what Wilson has said about his role in gathering prewar intelligence, most pointedly by asserting that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, recommended him.

Plame's role could be significant in an ongoing investigation into whether a crime was committed when her name and employment were disclosed to reporters last summer.

As the article notes, this is yet another blow to Wilson's credibility:

The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame "offered up" Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said.

Wilson has asserted that his wife was not involved in the decision to send him to Niger.

"Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."

The Post itself was a victim of Wilson's lack of candor:

The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."

"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.

The report is available via the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Web site. It's a PDF file of over 500 pages, so you'll need to have a broadband or DSL connection to open it. The section on Niger covers pgs. 36-80. See also the additional views of Chairman Roberts, starting on p. 441.

I eagerly await the upcoming repudiation of Joe Wilson by the Democrats and the "Bush lied!" crowd. Somehow, I know not to hold my breath while waiting.