Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Oil-for-Food Scandal

One of the numerous issues that I wanted to write about but haven't had the time to cover is the controversy surrounding the UN Oil-for-Food program. Roger L. Simon, among others, has done some excellent blogging on this issue. Probably the best source on this topic is the incredible work of journalist Claudia Rossett. For many months, Ms. Rossett was virtually the only journalist covering this scandal. It is in substantial part due to her tireless efforts that the corruption of the UN bureaucracy responsible for administering the OIF program has been exposed. Commentator Hugh Hewitt has even proposed that Ms. Rossett be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Ms. Rossett is affiliated with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and you can access her articles on the OIF scandal through the FDD Web site. If you are interested in this issue, you'll definitely want to give them a look.

Che Chic on Screen

In a terrific piece for the Wall Street Journal, Bridget Johnson notes the disturbing new wave of hagiographical Che Guevara biopics. She also offers Hollywood her own ideas for films about communism:

Villains would include--you guessed it--Che Guevara, whose legacy includes both ordering and conducting executions and founding forced labor camps. "Guevara . . . quickly gain[ed] a reputation for ruthlessness; a child in his guerrilla unit who had stolen a little food was immediately shot without trial," writes Pascal Fontaine in "The Black Book." Guevara also wrote in his diary about executing peasant Eutimio Guerra, a suspected informant, with a single .32-caliber shot to the head. Guevara, in his will, praised the "extremely useful hatred that turns men into effective, violent, merciless, and cold killing machines." He tried to spread the havoc caused by the Cuban revolution in other countries from Africa to South America, rallying for "two, three, many Vietnams!"

Guevara oversaw executions at La Cabana prison; some of those executed were his former comrades who wouldn't relinquish their democratic beliefs. "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," he said. He didn't assuage his barbarity by being a brilliant statesman, either, helping drive the economy to ruin as head of Cuba's central bank and minister of industries. "Though claiming to despise money," writes Fontaine, "he lived in one of the rich, private areas of Havana." Guevara told a British reporter after the Cuban Missile Crisis that the nukes would have been fired if they were under Cuban control--which would have wasted all of those future American suburban revolutionary wannabes.

Red Dusk

Alas, I don't see Hollywood bringing Ms. Johnson's much more historically accurate vision of Che to the big screen anytime soon.

Oh, That Liberal Academia

A new, scholarly study of the political views of university faculty confirms that contemporary academia is dominated by the left. The results appear in the March 2005 issue of The Forum, an online peer-reviewed journal:

A randomly based national survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities finds that liberals and Democrats outnumber conservatives and Republicans by large margins, and the differences are not limited to elite universities or to the social sciences and humanities. A multivariate analysis finds that, even after taking into account the effects of professional accomplishment, along with many other individual characteristics, conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats. This suggests that complaints of ideologically-based discrimination in academic advancement deserve serious consideration and further study. The analysis finds similar effects based on gender and religiosity, i.e., women and practicing Christians teach at lower quality schools than their professional accomplishments would predict.

Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty
(free login required for non-subscribers)

Howard Kurtz, writing in Tuesday's Washington Post, summarizes the study's findings as follows:

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The survey results show that liberals predominate across the academic spectrum:

The most liberal faculties are those devoted to the humanities (81 percent) and social sciences (75 percent), according to the study. But liberals outnumbered conservatives even among engineering faculty (51 percent to 19 percent) and business faculty (49 percent to 39 percent).

As long as academia remains a de facto one-party state, it will continue to be plagued by an atmosphere of ideological conformity that makes a mockery of the idea of free inquiry. Intellectual and ideological diversity in higher education is in everyone's interests.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Potentially Big News on Saddam and al-Qaeda

Lost amid the media and blogging hysteria (on both sides) over the tragic Terri Schiavo situation is this potentially huge report from the AP:

U.S. officials say a terror suspect imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay is a former Iraqi soldier and al-Qaida member who plotted with an Iraqi intelligence agent in August 1998 to attack the American and other foreign embassies in Pakistan with chemical weapons, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.


The Iraqi, whose identity is being concealed by the Pentagon on privacy grounds, is further described as a "trusted agent" of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a member of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was arrested in Pakistan in July 2002.

(emphasis added-DD)

The actual summary of evidence document is posted online (PDF). The summary was written as part of the military tribunal process, in order to convince the court that the detainee is indeed an enemy combatant.

According to the document, dated October 25, 2004, the detainee left Iraq to join the Taliban in 1994. This seems a little odd, as the Taliban were just getting started. However, the 9/11 Commission Report has mentioned that Osama bin Laden and other jihadists did maintain camps in Afghanistan during this period (p.64), and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was intimately involved in the creation of the Taliban. Thus, it is plausible that the Taliban, or someone linked to them, was recruiting foreign fighters at that time.

AP correspondent Robert Burns notes that, according to the Navy, "the government's evidence against detainees should be presumed to be 'genuine and accurate.'". The individual in question has been in custody for over two years. So there has been plenty of time to investigate the facts of this case.

If true, the information in this document is potentially the biggest story so far of the War on Islamist Terror. It would mean that Saddam Hussein's Iraq actively worked with al-Qaeda in an attack on American interests using weapons of mass destruction. It would constitute yet further evidence that defeating Saddam was an essential part of this struggle.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Iraq: "Shopkeepers Say 'Enough'"

Arthur Chrenkoff's latest biweekly Iraq update, the 24th such report he has done, is now available:

As the old saying goes, one swallow does not make a spring, even a very angry one armed with AK-47, but the indications are that in the new, postelection environment, more ordinary Iraqis are standing up to be counted in the fight for the future of their country. There are still violence, hardship and frustration aplenty in Iraq today, but a lot of positive developments have also been taking place for quite some time now. Here's a roundup of some stories you might have missed over the past two weeks.

Shopkeepers Say 'Enough'
(Also available via Chrenkoff)

Global Jihad Monitor: 3/23/05

The latest weekly WOT update from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies includes the following:

* European audiovisual regulators agreed to oppose broadcasts that incite hate and violence, and the Netherlands announced that it would remove Hezbollah's al-Manar television from the New Skies Satellite system. This is the latest in a series of actions taken against al-Manar by governments around the world.

* Palestinian terror groups reportedly agreed to continue a lull in violence with Israel, but refused to agree to a formal ceasefire. Israel continues to insist that the Palestinian Authority disarm all terror groups in the territories.

* Coalition troops in Iraq killed 24 insurgents after the insurgents attacked a military convoy outside of Baghdad. The attack was unusual, as insurgents have seldom attacked in such large numbers.

Please read it all:

Global Jihad Monitor

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Regionals Reaction

Apologies for the lack of posts. I've been in Michigan since Friday, attending the NCAA Hockey Tournament Midwest Regional. US College Hockey Online has the results. Suffice it to say that my predictions were somewhat less than prescient. To put it less politely, they sucked.

The big disappointment for me was the failure of the Michigan Wolverines to advance out of the Midwest Regional to the "Frozen Four" (don't call it "Final Four"). After handily defeating Wisconsin 4-1 on Friday night, Michigan met Colorado College in the regional final on Saturday. The Wolverines jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the 2nd period, only to see the Tigers come back to win 4-3. With the loss, Michigan's season came to an end. Colorado College now moves on to face their archrivals Denver in one of two national semifinals on April 7 in Columbus, Ohio.

As a Michigan fan, it is sad and frustrating to see a team that was capable of winning the national title have their season come to a premature end, especially in a game that was seemingly under control. Still, I have to credit Colorado College for a great comeback, and wish them the best of luck in Columbus.

Friday, March 25, 2005

March Madness Starts Today

No, not that basketball nonsense. The NCAA Division 1 Hockey tournament gets underway this afternoon. The 16 team field is divided into 4 four-team regionals. US College Hockey Online has detailed previews and schedules. Here are my brief, semi-informed predictions:

East Regional (Worcester, MA): Boston College over Mercyhurst; Boston University over North Dakota; BC over BU

-The top seeded BC Eagles should have little trouble dispatching overmatched Mercyhurst. Playing on de facto home ice gives BU the edge against North Dakota. In the final, BC proves a little too much for their Commonwealth Ave. archrivals.

Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, MI): Colorado College over Colgate; Michigan over Wisconsin; Michigan over Colorado College;

-As a devout Michigan hockey fan, I obviously have a bias, but I feel the Wolverines are the best team in Grand Rapids despite being the number two seed behind Colorado College. Michigan is the top scoring team in the country, with eight 10-goal scorers, and three players with 20 each. The Maize and Blue are a veteran team, with 10 seniors in the lineup. If talented but erratic goalie Al Montoya is on form, the Wolverines are as good as anyone.

Northeast Regional (Amherst, MA): Denver over Bemidji State; New Hampshire over Harvard; New Hampshire over Denver;

-Denver is the top seed, and play suffocating defense, but I like second seeded New Hampshire to pull the upset in the regional final.

West Regional (Minneapolis, MN): Minnesota over Maine; Ohio State over Cornell, Minnesota over Ohio St;

-Minnesota have a couple key injuries and are struggling for form, but find a way to get it done on their home ice.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jihad in Crisis

In his latest column, Amir Taheri analyzes the quandary in which al-Qaeda and its allies find themselves:

WHERE do we go from here?

Islamist groups are posing now that question in the murky space they inhabit on the margins of reality. It is asked in radical mosques, touched upon in articles published by fellow-travelers and debated in the chat-rooms of militant Web sites.

Beyond the usual suggestions to hijack a few more jets or poison some Western city's drinking water, the movement appears to have run out of ideas. Yet it may be passing through its deepest crisis since 9/11:

Taheri's analysis is well worth reading. His conclusion is very encouraging.

While bin Laden's message of hatred and terror still resonates in sections of the Muslim communities and the remnants of the left in the West, the picture is different in the Muslim world. There, people are demonstrating for freedom — even (in Egypt a few weeks ago) for more trade with Israel.

This is a new configuration in which Islamist terrorism, although still deadly dangerous, has only a limited future.


It is important that we avoid complacency. The jihadist movement, while badly damaged, is still dangerous. Al-Qaeda will be more desperate than ever to strike a telling blow against the United States, and put themselves back in the forefront of Muslim public awareness. The overall tide, however, has turned against them. By fostering the spread of democracy in the Middle East, the Bush Administration has gained the upper hand in the "war of ideas" with the jihadists.

Abusing the Nazi Analogy

Norm Geras, in an extremely thoughtful post from Monday, asks why it is that so many who should know better always cite US actions in the War on Terror when asked for a contemporary analogy to the horrific crimes of the Nazis:

For the past two years such statements have been abundant. Eichinger could just as easily have taken his example from pre-war Iraq, which had more similarities with the Nazi regime than the US occupation has. He could, indeed, have cited Abu Ghraib in Saddam's time rather than since. But no, he found it more apt to use what on any well-balanced reckoning was the more distant rather than the closer example (I mean in scale of moral gravity).


And yet it is almost de rigeur amongst people of liberal and left outlook, today, to use as representative of what we should fear in the way of a possible return of the horrors of Nazism, not the many actual ruthless and life-devouring regimes we have known in recent decades, but... George Bush, or America, or some other Western instance or combination. Why? One answer I would give to this is that I don't know. I've been trying to understand it since September 11 2001 and on some level failing. Yes, you can say knee-jerk this, that and the other, and in its own way it is right to say so. But, more deeply, the failure involved in these de rigeur responses, the failure to give due weight and proportion to moral and political realities which matter more than just about anything else matters, is hard to comprehend.

All one can say - again - is that it's a mindset more interested in, and more agitated by, an internal difference within the democracies than in, and by, brutalities happening elsewhere in the world, and the international rules and institutions which accommodate them. Genocide in Darfur; starvation in Zimbabwe; until recently a virtual assembly line of torture and murder in Baathist Iraq (from a list that could be much and easily extended) - of course, they are all bad things. But they seem not to arouse the same passion or the same knowing collusion of the right-minded as does the endless repetition of the favoured, Bush-flavoured, examples.

The next day, Norm posted an equally thoughtful response from Eve Garrard. Both posts are well worth your time.

My own view is that there are two key phenomena at work. One is that for many on the left there is no higher priority than opposing the United States no matter what it does or what the broader circumstances are. If a particular atrocity cannot in some way be blamed on the US, such people just aren't interested. The second cause is that many on the left (and some on the right) are simply in total denial regarding the nature of the struggle against jihadist terror. Far easier to blame George Bush and the evil neocons for whatever's wrong with the world, than to face the reality of our adversary.

Both viewpoints are symptoms of what Natan Sharansky has accurately diagnosed as a disturbing lack of moral clarity that is all too pervasive in the contemporary West. No, America is far from perfect. However, the fact that so many people have trouble drawing distinctions between a democracy like the United States, no matter how flawed it might be, and murderous fanatics and despots like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is deeply troubling. I would only ask such people to imagine what the world, and their lives, would look like if men such as Osama or Saddam possessed the kind of power that America currently wields. The world would undoubtedly be a far different and unhappier place.

When Thugs Attack

While I am very much an optimist regarding the long-term future of Iraq, it would be foolish not to recognize the many dangers to democracy that exist in that country. Sadly, the threat extends well beyond the Baathist/Wahhabist terror alliance.

Last week in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, a group of thugs loyal to fanatical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sprang into action. Having been badly beaten twice last year by US and British forces, the Sadrites were looking for an opponent more worthy of their fighting abilities. They found such adversaries in a group of unarmed university students having a picnic. The students were committing the unforgivable crimes of playing music and allowing mingling between the sexes. An article from Wednesday's Times of London describes what happened next:

“They began shooting in the air and people screamed. Then, with one order, they began beating us with their sticks and rifle butts.” Two students were said to have been killed.

(link via LGF)

The local authorities disgracefully refused to intervene. Yet there is a heartening aspect to this story. The students of Basra University reacted to this act of barbarism by taking to the streets en masse to denounce the Sadrite thugs and demand that the authorities act against the perpetrators. Ali at Free Iraqi notes the importance of this action:

This is the change I was hoping to see, the change of heart s and minds against all sorts of fanaticism which without it all efforts whether by the government or America, with all the sacrifices of Iraqis and their bravery in standing against foreign terrorism, remains useless.

As Ali points out, it is the willingness of ordinary Iraqis to stand up for their hard-won and still fragile freedom that will determine the ultimate outcome in that country. It is vital that America and the West stand with them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Graveyard of Jihadism: Why Democracy in Iraq Threatens Al-Qaeda

"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it,"

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Quoted in "Zarqawi Pledges War on Iraq Elections", The Daily Telegraph, January 23, 2005.

This statement was just one of many made by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the runup to Iraq's historic elections. The terrorist leader repeatedly denounced the elections as an "infidel" institution, and threatened the mass slaughter of those who dared take part in them. The failure of Zarqawi, who was personally appointed commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq by Osama bin Laden, to make good on those threats was clearly a short-term blow to the prestige and reputation of the terror organization. But does the success of the Iraqi elections have broader implications for the struggle with al-Qaeda? Does al-Qaeda fear democracy in general, or is the sentiment voiced by Zarqawi simply reflective of his bitter opposition to the US presence in Iraq?

Richard Clarke, for one, has argued that Zarqawi's statements are not indicative of a broader al-Qaeda aversion to democracy. In a piece for the February 6th New York Times he wrote that:

Zarqawi and his followers do oppose democracy in Iraq, but they do so partly because they believe that the continuing electoral process (a constitutional referendum is planned for October of this year and a national election for December) is an American imposition. In this they are joined by the many Iraqis who simply want an occupying army to leave. In addition, Zarqawi's group seeks support from the Sunni Arab minority, which in any democratic process will lose power as compared with what it had in the decades of Baath Party rule.

Beyond Iraq, in the greater Muslim world, opposing democracy is not uppermost in the mind of Al Qaeda or the larger jihadist network.

(link courtesy of QandO)

Contrary to Mr. Clarke, however, the evidence is overwhelming that al-Qaeda does indeed fear the spread of democracy in the Muslim world, and that opposing democracy is in fact "uppermost" in their minds.

1. As evidenced by the quote at the beginning of this essay, Zarqawi rejects the very concept of democracy, regardless of how or where it comes about. For example, on January 23rd, 2005 he stated that:

Democracy is based on the principle of considering the position of the majority and adopting what is agreed upon by the majority, even if they agree upon falsehood, error, and blatant heresy… This principle is totally wrong and void because truth according to Islam is that which is in accordance with the Koran and the Sunna [i.e., the tradition of the Prophet], whether its supporters are few or many; and that which contradicts the Koran and the Sunna is false even if all the people of the world agree on it…"

2. Zarqawi's views are very much in line with those of other radical Islamists. For example:

-Zarqawi's mentor, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, has written that "[Democracy is] denying Allah the Almighty, attributing [to other deities] partnership with [Allah,] the Lord of heaven and earth, and [it] contradicts the religion of monotheism [i.e., Islam] and the religion of the prophets, for many reasons."

-In the mid 1990's, the jihadi terrorists in Algeria waged a frenzied campaign of violence aimed in part at preventing elections in that country. Journalist Amir Taheri quotes Algerian jihadist leader Antar Zu'abri as saying that "(t)hose who want the rule of the people defy the rule of God, which is Islam."

-On December 30, 2004, the Iraqi jihadist terror group Ansar al-Sunnah issued a statement saying that democracy amounts to "denying Allah the Almighty, attributing [to other deities] partnership with the Lord of heaven and earth, and [it] contradicts monotheism, the Muslims' religion."

-In the same month, the leader of the Chechen jihadists, Abu Omar al-Sayf, wrote that "it is forbidden to hold general elections to choose the general imam or [to choose] members of the Shura council even in a country ruled by the laws of Islam, because these are the methods and ways of the infidel democratic regime, and [these methods] must not be associated with Islam."

As Joseph Braude noted in his analysis of Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri's February 2005 statement, democracy has no place in the worldview of the jihadists. Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli explains why:

Islamist terrorist organizations share a profound conviction that elections are apostasy. Muslims should be governed by Islamic religious laws ( Shariah )as interpreted by the likes of bin Laden or al-Zarqawi, and not by man-made laws promulgated by elected officials. This Islamist world's view was largely defined by Sayyid Qutb in his book ' ma'alim 'ala al-tariq ' ('Signposts on the Road'), published in 1957 by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The book was predicated on a perfect dichotomy between believers and infidels, between Islamic religious laws and the laws of the infidels, between tradition and decadence and between violent change and sham legitimacy. To quote Qutb himself: "In the world there is only one party, the party of Allah; all of the others are parties of Satan and rebellion. Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of the rebellion." In short, voting in elections, or making a choice is, according to the followers of Qutb's thoughts, a defiance of Allah's ultimate jurisdiction over the conduct of human beings.

In short, al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement clearly regard democracy in all its forms as anathema to their totalitarian vision for the Islamic world.

3. In addition to opposing democracy on ideological grounds, there is clear evidence that al-Qaeda does indeed fear that the spread of democracy in the Muslim world will spell disaster for their cause. While many in the West scoffed at the Bush Doctrine, al-Qaeda's top strategic thinker, Yussef al-Ayyeri, had a far different reaction. In 2003 he wrote that:

"It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its survival, is American democracy".

As journalist Amir Taheri noted in an September 2003 essay, al-Ayyeri saw the American project of fostering democracy in the Middle East as a mortal threat to the jihadist movement. Taheri's piece remains a must-read for anyone interested in how the Iraq campaign fits into the broader war with jihadism:

The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims "reluctant to die in martyrdom" in defense of their faith.

He says that it is vital to prevent any normalization and stabilization in Iraq. Muslim militants should make sure that the United States does not succeed in holding elections in Iraq and creating a democratic government. "If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the whole of the Muslim world," Al-Ayyeri writes.

Al-Ayyeri was killed by Saudi security forces in June 2003. Had he survived, he would clearly see the events of the last two months as fulfilling his worst fears. Iraq's elections were a major success, and that country's first ever democratically elected government will probably assume power in a few days. Lebanon's Cedar Revolution has offered a powerful alternative vision to that of the jihadists. Throughout much of the Arab world, people are beginning to express their desire for democracy, and even to speak well of George W. Bush. In the words of Dr. Fawaz Gerges, "Zarqawi, bin Laden and other jihadis miscalculate monstrously if they think their anti-democratic diatribes will resonate with ordinary Muslims."

Ultimately, Al-Ayyeri believed that al-Qaeda would succeed in making Iraq the "graveyard of secular democracy", as Taheri put it. Al-Ayyeri shared the widespread belief that America would flee Iraq once it had suffered enough casualties. Thankfully, he was wrong. Al-Qaeda has failed to prevent democracy from taking root in Iraq, and has been unable to force an American withdrawal. It is democracy, not jihadism, that now appears to be the "strong horse" in the Middle East. Far from being the "graveyard of democracy", Iraq may well prove to be the graveyard of jihadism.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

How Not to Run a League

Monday's USA Today has a good article on the NHL's decade long journey into near oblivion. Over-expansion, spending more than you take in, watering down your product, and letting mediocre system-oriented teams turn the game into a colossal bore; it's all covered. If you still care, or simply want a primer in how not to run a sports league, give it a look:

Amid canceled season, NHL faces financial meltdown

Monday, March 21, 2005

Good News from the Muslim World

Arthur Chrenkoff, whose "good news" updates on Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaluable, is now doing a similar roundup for the Muslim world as a whole:

I'm having a deja-vu to the 1980s, when as a young lad stuck on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain I watched with some bemusement the safe and comfortable citizens of Western democracies rallying for "peace" and protesting aggressive American policies, while around me people were risking if not life than certainly limb and their future marching for freedom, democracy and human rights.

While throughout major cities of Western world crowds - albeit much diminished since three or two years ago - have turned up over the weekend for anti-democracy rallies to protest the second anniversary of the start of the liberation of Iraq, one region of the world remained strangely unaffected by the "anti-war" and "anti-occupation" fervor: the notorious "Arab street" has failed to join the "European street" and the "American street" in condemning yet again Chimpy Bushhitler and his imperialist policies. The only significant exception throughout the Middle East was Turkey, where rallies in three major cities could only muster several hundred people between them.

Everywhere else, the second anniversary of invasion did not incite much public excitement - possibly because the local residents were too busy rallying against terrorism and theocracy, and for freedom, democracy and human rights. Here's a round-up of the Middle Eastern action over the last few weeks, some of it very familiar, some of it you might have missed:

Good news from Islamic world, part 5: the special pro-democracy edition

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Real March Madness

Today is the day that the pairings for the NCAA Division I hockey tournament are announced (11:00 AM, ESPN2). The 16 team tournament begins on March 26 with 4 regionals, followed by the "Frozen Four" in Columbus, Ohio on April 7 and 9 (the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, restricts use of the term "Final Four" to basketball). If you're a hockey fan, especially if you're suffering from NHL withdrawal, you'll want to watch this year's edition.

I hope to share some further thoughts after the pairings are announced. In the meantime, if you want to get caught up with the world of college hockey, there is no better place than US College Hockey Online.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A New World Emerging

Saturday marks the second anniversary of the start of the liberation of Iraq. As I reflect on the last two years, I am frankly awed at the courage and dedication of our men and women in uniform, and those of our coalition allies. Thanks to their enormous efforts and painful sacrifices, one of the most barbarous regimes of the 20th century, a state sponsor of terrorism and a source of anti-American incitement and regional instability was removed. Thanks to our troops, over 8 million Iraqis had the opportunity to vote in a free election for the first time in their lives. For all its undeniable problems, no one can believe that Iraq is not better off now than it was under the monstrous despotism of Saddam Hussein.

The liberation of Iraq has accomplished more than just the demise of Baathist totalitarianism: it has acted as a catalyst for democratic change throughout the region. Removing Saddam and creating a nascent democracy in Iraq has made possible the creation of a new Middle East, one based on hope and freedom instead of terror and tyranny. Karl Zinsmeister, in a terrific essay for The American Enterprise, explains:

Those of us who spent much of 2003 and 2004 urging Americans not to give up on Iraq can attest that those two years were stained with many harsh attacks, much niggling criticism, and abundant disdain for America's aggressive efforts to reshape the dysfunctional governments of the Middle East into more humane and peaceful forms. From the very beginning, of course, the Bush administration's left-wing enemies in the U.S. and Europe were hysterically opposed to the push for Middle Eastern democracy. A significant number of right-wing pundits also proved themselves to be sunshine patriots of the worst sort--bailing out of the hard, dirty work of war and cultural transformation as soon as the predictable resistance arose.

But that's politics. In Washington, if you're looking for a brave and steadfast ally, you need to buy a dog. Fortunately our warriors battling away in Najaf and Samarra and Anbar province didn't surrender to the Beltway gloom that defeated most of our media and political elites.

Everyday Americans also proved sturdier than our chattering class. They stayed with the fight long enough for some hard facts to emerge. Now some very good news is obvious to all who have eyes: We are not facing a popular revolt in Iraq. Average Arabs are not on the side of terrorists and Islamic radicals. America's venture to defang the Middle East is neither the cynical and selfish oil grab that the lunatic Left have claimed, nor a dreamy and doomed Don Quixote crusade as some conservative grumps insisted.

Obviously, much work remains to be done, and, unfortunately, more painful sacrifices will be required. Contrary to the so-called "anti-war" movement, however, the tremendous accomplishments of our servicemen have absolutely changed the world for the better and made America safer. I am forever grateful, and my thoughts and prayers are with them.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hopeful News

Something I wasn't sure I would ever see:

An Arab Holocaust Research Center

Created by a Palestinian, no less. Considering how the Arab world has been awash in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, this is a small but hopeful first step.

Courtesy of Norm Geras.

Debunking the Bush/Hitler Meme

Victor Davis Hanson, in his Friday column for National Review Online, utterly lays waste to those who have peddled the obscene comparison of George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler:

So what gives with this crazy popular analogy — one that on a typical Internet Google search of “Bush” + “Hitler” yields about 1,350,000 matches?

One explanation is simply the ignorance of the icons of our popular culture. A Linda Ronstadt, Garrison Keillor, or Harold Pinter knows nothing much of the encompassing evil of Hitler’s regime, its execution of the mentally ill and disabled, the systematic cleansing of the non-Aryans from Europe, or mass executions and starvation of Soviet prisoners. Like Prince Harry parading around in his ridiculous Nazi costume, quarter-educated celebrities who have some talent for song or verse know only that name-dropping “Hitler” or his associates gets them some shock value that their pedestrian rants otherwise would not warrant.

Ignorance and arrogance are a lethal combination. Nowhere do we see that more clearly among writers and performers who pontificate as historians when they know nothing about history.


At some point a Gore, Byrd, or Soros has a moral responsibility not to employ Nazi analogy, if for no other reason than to prevent unleashing even greater extremism by the unhinged. No doubt Abu Ali’s lawyer one day soon will say that his disturbed client’s “musings” were no different from what he read from Knopf or in the Guardian — or that he simply fell under the influence of and thought it was his duty to remove the Bush/Nazi threat that even U.S. senators and presidential candidates had identified and warned about.

The final irony? The president who is most slandered as Hitler will probably prove to be the most zealous advocate of democratic government abroad, the staunchest friend of beleaguered Israel, and the greatest promoter of global individual freedom in our recent memory. In turn, too many of the Left who used to talk about idealism and morality have so often shown themselves mean-spirited, cynical, and without faith in the spiritual power of democracy.

What an eerie — and depressing — age we live in.

“Little Eichmanns” and “Digital Brownshirts”: Deconstructing the Hitlerian slur

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Global Jihad Monitor: 3-16-05

The latest weekly War on Terror roundup from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is now available. This week's highlights include:

-In the largest pro-democracy protest in the history of the modern Middle East, an estimated million or more supporters of Lebanese independence gathered in Beirut in response to recent pro-Syrian demonstrations organized by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

-The Islamic Commission of Spain issued a fatwa against Osama bin Laden. Quoting from Islamic texts, the fatwa said that terrorism is never justified under Islam, and that by engaging in terrorism, Osama bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda are apostates and should no longer be considered Muslims.

-The European Union parliament, in a non-binding resolution, branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization and encouraged member states to do the same. The EU has not placed Hezbollah on its list of outlawed terrorist organizations, which would obligate member state to seize its assets and take action against its members.

Please read the rest:

Global Jihad Monitor

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


On March 16, 1988, Saddam Hussein's totalitarian regime carried out the most famous of its long and horrific list of atrocities. On this day, the Baathists launched a chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja, in northeastern Iraq. Over 5,000 defenseless men, women, and children were murdered. Halabja was only one of dozens of such assaults conducted by Saddam's regime against Iraq's Kurds.

See this report from Human Right Watch for a detailed account of the Halabja massacre.

The architect of this crime, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali", currently sits in prison awaiting trial. On this 17th anniversary of the Halabja atrocity, let us remember the victims and work to ensure that al-Majid and the other perpetrators are held accountable.

Update: See also this press release from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan:

Remembering Halabja -- Seventeen Years Since the Massacre

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Why Bush is Right About Democracy

Amir Taheri, in yet another of his great essays, confronts the question that has given so many liberals and leftists pause over the last few weeks: "Was Bush Right?"

Interestingly, none of those engaged in this soul-searching appear to be quite sure as to what was it that Bush may have been right about after all?

Was Bush right in branding Saddam Hussein as a murderous despot who had jailed, oppressed, exiled or killed his people for decades? Was Bush right in saying that without the destruction of the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not be able to dream of freedom let alone start building it?

Posing these questions would help Western opinion-makers not only to understand what is going on in the Middle East but, more importantly, not to misunderstand the events.

Taheri's answer to this question is spot on, in my view:

For my part Bush was, and remains, right not in his analysis of the political undercurrents of the region but in his understanding of American national interests.

He realized that the status quo that the US had defended in the Middle East for almost 60 years, had produced a new and unusual streak of terrorism that poses the most serious threat to American national security.

Bush realized that democratic societies do not allow the formation of religious and ideological swamps in which the deadly mosquitoes of terror breed and multiply. Democracies will never mother an ideology that in turn brings forth Al-Qaeda.

As the President himself put it in his excellent March 8th address at the National Defense University:

Our strategy to keep the peace in the longer term is to help change the conditions that give rise to extremism and terror, especially in the broader Middle East. Parts of that region have been caught for generations in a cycle of tyranny and despair and radicalism. When a dictatorship controls the political life of a country, responsible opposition cannot develop, and dissent is driven underground and toward the extreme. And to draw attention away from their social and economic failures, dictators place blame on other countries and other races, and stir the hatred that leads to violence. This status quo of despotism and anger cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or bought off, because we have witnessed how the violence in that region can reach easily across borders and oceans. The entire world has an urgent interest in the progress, and hope, and freedom in the broader Middle East.

The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region. By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of a discredited past. It should be clear that free nations escape stagnation, and grow stronger with time, because they encourage the creativity and enterprise of their people. It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law. And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy -- and that demands the full participation of women. (Applause.)

The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies -- including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.

As James S. Robbins has written for National Review Online, the days of America blindly pursuing stability in the Middle East are over. For decades we sold out the peoples of that region while putting our faith in brutal dictators and corrupt autocrats. On 9/11, we paid the price. As painful as our sacrifices in Iraq have been, they pale compared to the price we would ultimately have paid for doing nothing.

Seeking Justice in Northern Ireland

According to this story in Monday's New York Times, the Middle East is not the only place where people are starting to say no to terrorists and thugs:

Taking heart from the campaign for justice for Robert McCartney, a Belfast man killed in January in a brutal bar fight with members of the Irish Republican Army, families of people killed by Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups have increasingly been defying sectarian fighters by coming forward with their stories.

The article reminds us that the vicious murder of Robert McCartney was merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the violence perpetrated by the IRA and its "loyalist" counterparts:

Families coming forward include those of Mark Robinson, a 22-year-old Catholic who was stabbed 11 times, beaten and left for dead by a known I.R.A. fighter in Derry in 2001; of Raymond McCord, a 22-year-old Protestant whose body was found in a quarry outside Belfast nearly eight years ago, after he had been abducted and beaten to death by a Protestant gang called the Ulster Volunteer Force; and of Gareth O'Connor, a 24-year-old Catholic who never came back from a drive in the I.R.A. heartland in 2003, days after the group had threatened him.

The sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland has claimed more than 200 lives in the past 10 years, according to British-Irish Rights Watch. In those cases, only 30 people have been successfully prosecuted for murder or manslaughter.

Sadly, the McCartney sisters are no closer to obtaining justice for their brother:

We haven't moved any closer; there's been no movement as yet," Paula McCartney said at her home recently, before she and other family members were to travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Bush, Mr. Kennedy and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York.

However, the example set by the sisters and their heroic struggle has begun to break the climate of fear generated by the paramilitaries:

Mark O'Connor, the father of Gareth O'Connor, said he expected more families to speak out against the paramilitary groups, even around his home in Armagh, the county south of Belfast where the I.R.A. exercises the most ruthless control. Even a few years ago, local I.R.A. rule meant that "nobody speaks out, because if they speak out, they go down a hole," he said. When he began criticizing the I.R.A. for his son's disappearance, he endured death threats, smashed windows and a burned garden at his home, he said.

He added, though, that ordinary people had started to defy the threats. "People will stand up to them now," he said. "Before, if they came to your door and said, 'We need your car at 6 o'clock,' you'd have your car running outside with the keys in it."

Even if the McCartneys have yet to obtain witness testimony or criminal convictions, they have altered the atmosphere in republican areas. Paula McCartney said she was thrilled to find her neighbors in Belfast's Short Strand area beginning to turn away from local I.R.A. fighters. "People now are actively shunning these characters," she said.

As I wrote in my first post on the McCartney murder, the IRA are now nothing more than a gigantic criminal enterprise. Their Protestant "loyalist" rivals are no better. It is time for these thugs to go.

Keeping up With Ward Churchill

Frankly I've had better things to write about than the loathsome America-hating crackpot Ward Churchill. Bloggers far more famous and eloquent than me have said what needs to be said about this thoroughly repugnant individual. The fact that someone with such a record of blatant academic fraud and an utter lack of serious academic credentials was able to gain tenure and become a department chair at a major university should tell you all you need to know about the state of contemporary academia.

My own take for what it's worth is that Churchill should not be fired for his vile comments justifying the 9/11 atrocities. However disgusting, his views are protected by academic freedom.

If you do want to keep up with the Churchill controversy, I recommend a great blog called Pirate Ballerina. As for myself, I prefer to focus on things far more worthy of attention than one shameless demagogue.

The Cedar Revolution Continues

Whatever doubts there may have been about the depth and breadth of Lebanon's democratic opposition were dispelled on Monday, when nearly one million people demonstrated in Beirut against Syrian domination of their country. The protest was the largest in Lebanon's history, with an incredible 25% of the country's population taking part. As Neil MacFarquhar pointed out in the New York Times, the demonstration represented "a broad cross section of Lebanese from all around the country", including some Shia. According to Beirut municipal officials, Monday's protest was more than twice the size of last week's pro-Syrian demonstration by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

As Dr. Walid Phares noted on Monday, momentum is with the democratic opposition, even within the Shia community. The Lebanese people have no intention of letting up in their quest for freedom. They will not settle for half measures from Syria; neither should we.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Iraq: "The Second Draft"

Today brings the latest of Arthur Chrenkoff's invaluable biweekly updates on progress in Iraq. On his blog, Arthur makes the following observation:

Is the situation in Iraq getting better? It's not really up to me to answer that question, but I can try to answer another one: is reporting from Iraq getting better? To find out, I decided to look back at the past installments of this series and do a little count. For the sake of simplicity I started with Part 6, which happened to be the first one to be also published by the "Opinion Journal". When printed out, that July 19, 2004 edition of "Good news from Iraq" is 10 and a half pages long, and contains links to 71 "good news" stories. Since then, the length of each installment has fluctuated, but the overall trend has been up. So much so that the "Good news from Iraq" you're reading now is 23 and a half pages long and contains 178 links to "good news stories."

The same trend in evident in my "Good news from Afghanistan". The first installment published by the "Opinion Journal" (and second overall in the series) of July 26, 2004, was 6 and a half pages long when printed out and contained 55 links. The latest one, number 10 of March 7, 2005, is 19 pages long and contains 124 links.

Either there is more and more good news coming out of both Iraq or Afghanistan, or the reporters are getting increasingly optimistic about the situation there, or both. Whatever's the answer, it's good news.

The Second Draft
(also available via Chrenkoff)

Arabism in Black and White

Last week, Austin Bay linked to this great column by Chibli Mallat in the March 8th issue of Lebanon's Daily Star. Looking at the changes taking place in his country and throughout much of the Middle East, Mallat contrasts what he calls the traditional "Black Arabism" of xenophobia and dictatorship with the possibility of a new "White Arabism" based on freedom and pluralism:

The Arab nationalism that has prevailed since the Nasser revolution is increasingly being dubbed "black Arabism" by those of us who do not want to abandon a yearning for closer integration between societies separated by arguably artificial colonial borders. Black Arabism, in this perception, is characteristically fascist, and is epitomized by the former Baath system in Iraq and the present one in Syria. Against it we propose "White Arabism," which harks back to such figures as Saad Zaghlul in Egypt, Kamel Chadirchi in Iraq and Kamal Jumblatt in Lebanon. At the core of the message is the need for democratic, non-violent change at the top in the Middle East, with Arabism read as a liberal call that unifies people irrespective of their religion or sect: in Egypt Copts and Muslims; in Lebanon the various communities that form the country; in Iraq Shiites, Sunnis and non-Muslim sects.

The example of Iraq, where Arabism is not capable of giving Kurds their due of equal citizenship, is particularly telling of the more advanced thought needed to accommodate all citizens - hence the surge of the concept of federalism as a further trait of White Arabism. Only federalism can allow forms of Arab identity to be preserved while Kurds are treated as equal both on the individual level and as a collective community.

A new 'White Arabism' would help generate liberal societies

Lets hope that "White Arabism" continues to spread.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

VDH Looks Back

Victor Davis Hanson is in top form with his Friday column for National Review Online. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, when seemingly every terrorist car bomb elicits shouts of "quagmire", Dr. Hanson's sense of historical perspective and ability to see the big picture are especially welcome. His latest piece is no exception:

Without much appreciation that error is the stuff of war, that by any historical benchmark the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein was nothing short of miraculous, that our ongoing assessments of success and failure changed hourly within the fluid 24-hour newscycle, or that acrimonious hindsight was often used to save face about earlier wrongheaded pronouncements, we continued to tally up the "I told you so's."

Lapses were, of course, numerous and easy to spot from our armchairs in America the morning after — laxity in securing borders and arms depots and reforming the Iraqi army, a too-prominent televised American profile from the Green Zone, tardiness in elections, too large and plodding an interim American bureaucracy, slowness in dispersing allotted aid, the April pullback from Fallujah, and so on. Add in Abu Ghraib, plus Syria's and Iran's agents and subsidies, and the reconstruction proved more difficult than the three-week victory might otherwise have presaged.

Many erstwhile supporters from the boomer generation — one that is more utopian and therapeutic than practical and tragic — simply bailed on the entire enterprise. They would not return until the successful elections on January 30 and the amazing aftershocks throughout the Middle East convinced them that their continued hypercriticism might leave them on the very wrong side of history.

Lost in all this self-examination and lamentation was any appreciation for the extraordinary things that went right — often against overwhelming odds and in the face of sharp criticism and mistrust. In the past, I have cited the ostracism of Yasser Arafat and the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia — both controversial at the time — as key events that began to change the calculus of the Middle East in our favor. But there were other developments that are likewise scarcely mentioned today that have made all the difference between sure failure and our present achievement.

A Look Back: Turning points since September 11

Friday, March 11, 2005

Defending the Cedar Revolution

The developments of the last week have made it clear that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has no intention of letting go of his stranglehold on Lebanon. Last Saturday, Assad made an ambiguous commitment to withdraw Syria's 14,000 troops from Lebanon, on an indeterminate timetable, in a speech that Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has described as "leavened with inconsistency and paranoia". On Tuesday, the pro-Syrian Shia terrorist group Hezbollah mobilized its followers for a mass demonstration in Beirut. Bolstered by this event, Lebanon's Syrian dominated parliament then spat in the face of the democratic opposition by reappointing the same prime minister who had been forced to step down a week and a half ago after a wave of popular pro-independence protests. As these events show, Assad is pursuing a strategy of going through the motions of a withdrawal, hoping to do just enough to appease the international community, while still retaining his regime's control over Lebanon. Judging by the past few days, it could be argued that this strategy is indeed working. Has the momentum in Lebanon shifted away from democracy in favor of Syria's dictatorship and its terrorist Hezbollah allies?

We should be under no illusions that democratic change in Lebanon will come quickly or easily. As Tom Friedman points out in Thursday's New York Times, the forces of dictatorship and fanaticism are far from finished:

The massive pro-Syrian demonstration that the Hezbollah militia mounted on the streets of Beirut on Tuesday underscored just how much all the old slogans and sentiments - anti-Israeli, anti-American, pro-Islamist, sectarian - can be exploited by Syria, Iran and their local proxies to still mobilize popular forces against change. It is also another reminder that the Berlin Wall is falling in the Arab world, but Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity trade movement are not on the other side, just waiting to jump into the arms of the West. It is a much more divided, complex, confused and, at times, angry group.

Consider the message that the leaders of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah were sending to President Bush through their mass rally in Beirut: "Hey, Bush, you want a piece of us? Well, come and get it. Remember what Stalin said about the pope: how many divisions does he have? When it comes to divisions on the ground, pal, we've got 'em. You don't. So nobody is going to remake Lebanon without our permission and without our interests being taken into account."

Writing on the same day in the Washington Post, Jim Hoagland also notes that the success of Lebanon's Cedar Revolution is far from guaranteed:

But the country's deep social chasms make Lebanon a weak reed for the Bush administration to lean on in pursuing its Greater Middle East ambitions. Those in search of historical analogies may eventually have to consider Europe's promising but stillborn revolutions of 1848 instead of the collapse of the Soviet empire and the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the model.

Yet despite these clear and justifiable concerns, both men remain optimistic. In Friedman's view:

The spreading virus that "things can change and I can make a difference" is the most important thing happening in the Arab world today. It is symbolized by the Egyptian opposition's motto: "Enough." And everyone is watching everyone else now - and comparing. An Egyptian businesswoman remarked to me, with a real sense of envy, how free and alive and energetic the Lebanese opposition protesters seemed, compared with those in Egypt.

The fact that Hezbollah had to resort to a mass rally, just like the Lebanese democracy movement's, is itself a victory for the democrats. Hezbollah clearly felt that it must prove it is as popular a force as the democratic opposition. But something tells me that those Hezbollah demonstrators who were waving the picture of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, were uncomfortable. And this is Hezbollah's weak spot: deep down, it and its supporters know that when they raise the pictures of Syria's president, they are raising the question of whose interests they have at heart.

Hoagland also believes that the democratic opposition can succeed in Lebanon, if the Syrian occupation can be brought to an end. Such a success would substantially reinforce the wave of change that is starting to sweep the region:

In the last century, Lebanon was an intellectual and political catalyst in the Arab world. Events have placed restoration of that role within reach -- if Syrian withdrawal and its aftermath are managed tenaciously and with vision. And that outcome would reinforce the waves of change that regime change and elections in Iraq have provoked.

In spite of recent events, there are still good reasons for believing that the Cedar Revolution can succeed. For one thing, the democratic opposition in Lebanon is a truly national movement that cuts across sectarian lines. While the two main Shia parties, Hezbollah and the smaller, more moderate Amal, are pro-Syrian, most of the major Christian, Sunni, and Druze parties have put aside their differences and are firmly in the opposition camp.

Most importantly, the opposition enjoys the strong support of the US, France the UN, and much of the international community. President Bush has made it clear that he has little tolerance for Assad's half-measures and delaying tactics, and most world leaders are in agreement. According to an article in today's Washington Post, a UN envoy will be delivering an ultimatum to the Assad regime threatening "political and economic isolation" if Syria does not quickly and completely withdraw from Lebanon.

The terms of this ultimatum are reported as follows:

First, Syria must honor the independent sovereignty of Lebanon and not undermine its spring elections for a new parliament. Roed-Larsen "will imprint on everybody that there is a united demand from the international community for free and fair elections" that will include international observers, the U.N. source said.

Second, Assad must provide a complete timeline for a full pullout of troops. The international community will accept "sequencing," or a phased withdrawal, but it must be expeditious, the source said.

Third, Damascus must provide a timeline for the pullout of 5,000 intelligence agents in Lebanon.

Finally, Roed-Larsen will discuss other requirements in Resolution 1559, including the need to disarm and dismantle foreign and domestic militias operating in Lebanon, all of which Syria supports, U.N. and U.S. officials said. But the United Nations is prepared to wait until after the election to allow a new Lebanese government to deal with the militia problem.

If the international community is willing to enforce these demands through the use of comprehensive economic sanctions, then the Assad regime has little hope of holding out. As pointed out in the Post article, Syria's weak Soviet-style economy would be devastated by a serious sanctions regimen. While it does export some oil, Assad's Syria lacks the large-scale reserves that would allow it to break down international sanctions the way Saddam Hussein did. Any kind of prolonged sanctions campaign could well lead to the fall of the Assad regime. Faced with such a prospect, the Syrian dictator will ultimately have little choice but to comply with the wishes of the world community.

Even if Syria withdraws, that still leaves the wildcard of Hezbollah. The terror group maintains a large militia, and could theoretically decide to use force against the opposition as a last-ditch measure to prevent the departure of its Syrian protectors. However, this prospect is unlikely. As Michael Young has noted, Hezbollah has only damaged its standing in Lebanon by acting as Syria's proxies. As powerful as Hezbollah is, alienating the rest of the country would be suicidal.

In spite of the past week's setbacks, the Lebanese opposition remains committed to freeing their country from Syrian domination. According to journalist Claudia Rossett, there is now graffiti in Beirut referring to the Syrian dictator as "Assaddam". Both the democratic opposition and Hezbollah are planning additional demonstrations. As one pro-opposition scholar told Rossett:

Numbers are not the issue," he said. "The issue is whether one is on the side of repression or defying repression." Hezbollah, he notes, is "armed to the teeth and supplying a repressive order." The democratic protests "are utterly spontaneous and coercion-free."

Lebanon can indeed still be truly free and democratic. As powerful as the coercive forces of Syria and Hezbollah are, they can be defeated if the international community has the will to take the necessary political and economic measures.

Global Jihad Monitor: 3-10-05

The latest edition of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' weekly War on Terror update is now available. Please give it a look:

Global Jihad Monitor

Now for Something Completely Different

Ever wonder what your favorite Web site would look like if all the text had been written by Snoop Dogg? If so, I'm really worried about you. Anyway, your prayers have now been answered:


Just type in the URL of your favorite (or not so favorite) Web site, and Gizoogle translates it from English to Snoop Doggese in a matter of moments. Here's just one example. (Warning: may offend some viewers)

See Thursday's Washington Post for more information than you will ever need to know about Gizoogle.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

End Geek Persecution

Blogger Ace of Spades reports that the Israeli Defense Forces are giving the phrase "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a whole new meaning:

The IDF (Israeli Army) routinely discriminates against recruits who admit they... play Dungeons and Dragons.

Ace links to this Israeli news article which fills in some of the details:

Ynet has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.

“They're detached from reality and suscepitble to influence,” the army says.

Ace has plenty of choice comments, as well as a link to the most disturbing video ever filmed. Read it all, but only after putting aside any beverage you might be drinking. I will merely offer my agreement with his eloquent conclusion:

When they came for the Star Trek conventioneers, I said nothing, because I never bothered to pick up even a coversational-level of Klingon.

And when they came for the model railroad enthusiasts, still I kept silent, because I just never felt like dealing with all that glue and cotton-swabs.

And when they came for the massively-multiplayer on-line role-playing gamers, I yet held my tongue, because it's difficult to remain IC ("in character") when you're dealing with horny fourteen-year-old boys who keep asking you "where the whorehouse is" and "Doth thee know of any fair maidens who wisheth to cyber?"

And then when they came for me, no one said anything, because there were no geeks, nerds, dorkwads or gaywads left to cry out.

To paraphrase a line from our of our greatest movies, "no one will ever truly be free until geek persecution ends."

Update: Ace has now posted a list of the "Top Ten Reasons the Israeli Army Discriminates Against D&D Players". Read it, but keep my beverage warning in mind.

(Blame The Corner for alerting me to this.)

Why Words Matter

Deroy Murdock, in a column for National Review Online, lays out the importance of describing things as they really are in the war against the jihadists:

While basketball players and their fans battle each other on TV, actresses suffer wardrobe malfunctions, and rap singers scream sweet nothings in our ears, it's very easy to forget that Islamic extremists plot daily to end all of that and more by killing as many of us as possible.

Language can lull Americans to sleep in this new war, or it can keep us on the offense and our enemies off balance

Terror and the English Language

(link courtesy of In the Red Zone)

We are at war with an enemy who has vowed to kill us by the millions, and aspires to create a totalitarian Islamist superstate that would seek our destruction. We must use language that recognizes this reality. Terrorists who massacre civilians and behead prisoners are not "rebels" or "militants".

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Undoing Saddam's Damage

The damage inflicted on Iraq by Saddam Hussein goes well beyond the hundreds of thousands murdered, and the countless others tortured, maimed and brutalized by his regime, as horrific as these crimes are. The psychological impact of the suffocating repression inflicted by Saddam's "Republic of Fear" has been enormous. Despite bringing in over $21 billion in illegal oil revenues, the regime allowed Iraq's physical infrastructure to deteriorate. Even the environment bears the scars of Saddam's rule. In the early 1990's, the Baathists drained Iraq's rich southern marshes, and deported their Marsh Arab inhabitants. A centuries-old way of life was destroyed.

In the two years since Iraq's liberation, an effort has begun to restore the southern marshes. Tuesday's New York Times has a terrific article on the status of this campaign:

For Iraq's Great Marshes, a Hesitant Comeback

Sadly, the marshes can never be restored to what they were. Still, the effort is an important sign that the Republic of Fear is being replaced by a Republic of Hope.

Nostalgic for Evil

Courtesy of Reason's Hit and Run blog, here's some less than encouraging news from Russia:

Although several decades younger than most of those around him, Yuri Vassilyev, 33, was happy to admit to their common cause: a fondness for Joseph Stalin, the dictator whose purges are blamed by Western historians for the deaths of up to 20million Soviet citizens.

"Look, everyone makes mistakes," Mr Vassilyev said. "Stalin wasn't a saint, but he was a great man who built up a strong state.

"After years of lies about him, the truth is coming out. We owe a lot to him. He turned the Soviet Union into a superpower that was feared and respected. A man like Stalin is what Russia needs now."

Unfortunately, this individual is not an aberration:

At least three Russian cities have announced plans to erect monuments marking his war record -- almost half a century since they were torn down in a program of de-Stalinisation initiated by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev.

A recent poll found that 50per cent of Russians consider Stalin a "wise leader", while one in four say they would vote for him if he were standing for office today.

Recently, the grandson of an officer of Stalin's dreaded NKVD secret police opened the Shield and the Sword, a KGB-themed restaurant.

Memorabilia on display includes a letter signed by Stalin, a portrait of his infamous henchman Lavrenty Beria and a bust of NKVD founder Felix Dzerzhinsky. The waitresses wear the green skirts and white blouses with shoulder epaulettes of the Soviet bureaucracy.

A "KGB-themed" restaurant? This is the equivalent of a descendant of Heinrich Himmler opening a "Gestapo Cafe". Even more disturbing is that one of the cities planning to erect a Stalin monument is Moscow.

This news is beyond disgusting, and bodes ill for the future of Russia. Josef Stalin was one of the greatest mass murderers in history. As many as 20 million people may have been killed during his reign. Imagine Germans posthumously embracing Adolf Hitler, or a future generation of Cambodians deciding to build statues of Pol Pot. Thankfully, there are those such as the Memorial organization, who are dedicated to preserving the memory of Stalin's crimes, and of his victims. I only hope that they can succeed in defeating this Russian version of Holocaust denial.

In Defense of Paul Wolfowitz

In his Tuesday New York Times column, David Brooks stands up for one of the most unjustly villified individuals in recent American history:

Let us now praise Paul Wolfowitz. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued - longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else - the supposedly utopian notion that people across the Muslim world might actually hunger for freedom.

Let us look again at the man who's been vilified by Michael Moore and the rest of the infantile left, who's been condescended to by the people who consider themselves foreign policy grown-ups, and who has become the focus of much anti-Semitism in the world today - the center of a zillion Zionist conspiracy theories, and a hundred zillion clever-Jew-behind-the-scenes calumnies.


If the trends of the last few months continue, Wolfowitz will be the subject of fascinating biographies decades from now, while many of his smuggest critics will be forgotten. Those biographies will mention not only his intellectual commitment but also his personal commitment, his years spent learning the languages of the places that concerned him, and the thousands of hours spent listening deferentially to the local heroes who led the causes he supported.

Giving Wolfowitz His Due

As Brooks points out, Paul Wolfowitz is a decent, dedicated public servant who has been a tireless advocate of fostering democracy throughout his career. With democratic change now coming to the Middle East, Wolfowitz's frequently mocked vision is looking more and more prescient. I too suspect that he will be remembered with honor long after Michael Moore and his ilk have become footnotes to history.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"The Genie is out of the Bottle"

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an excellent article in the March 14th Weekly Standard on the impact of the democratic changes under way in the Middle East, and how the Bush Administration can further support this process:

Have the Iraqi elections produced a democratic earthquake that has changed forever the fundamental political dynamics in the Muslim Middle East? Only the culturally deaf, dumb, and blind--for example, Michigan's Democratic senator Carl Levin--can't see what George W. Bush's war against Saddam Hussein has wrought. The issue is not whether the basic understanding of contemporary Muslim political legitimacy has been overturned--it has--but how forcefully the regimes in place will resist the growing Muslim democratic ethic.

And the crucial question for the United States is whether the Bush administration will realize that the most consequential regimes in place--Hosni Mubarak's in Egypt, the Saudi dynasty in Arabia, the military junta in Algeria, and the theocracy in Iran--probably won't evolve without some internal violence. The Bush administration ought to be prepared to encourage or coerce these regimes into changing sooner, not later. What the United States should fear most is not rapid change--the specter of the fallen shah of Iran will surely rise in many minds--but the agonizing, dogged resistance of dictatorship. (Would that the United States had understood in 1971, after the shah's delusional and obscenely expensive celebration of 2,500 years of Persian kingship, that Washington had an increasingly sclerotic, corrupt autocracy confronting perhaps the most intellectually dynamic and angry society in the Middle East.)

Although it is now beyond doubt that President Bush is philosophically a Reaganite--holding, that is, that the United States' self-defense is inextricably connected to the expansion and protection of democracy--many within his administration share Europe's overriding concerns about "stability" in the region. And even among Reaganites, it's not hard to find those who are profoundly anxious about Muslim fundamentalists becoming potentially powerful players if free elections were actually held in the Arab world. The Bush administration has not yet worked out a grand strategy of democratization: Clear, simple principles applied with as much consistency as practicable would be an entirely adequate approach. Events are likely to make Elliott Abrams's democracy-promotion job on the National Security Council perhaps the most critical office to President Bush. Iraq has unleashed a wave of pent-up frustration and anger against the status quo throughout the region. The clever dictators, like Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine el Abidine ben Ali, will try to preempt it by fixing multiparty elections and adopting pro-American/pro-Israeli foreign policy initiatives. The Bush administration will likely get hit from several directions at once, as the peoples of the Middle East and their rulers continue to react to what started on January 30, 2005.

Gerecht's analysis is detailed and thoughtful. Please give it a look:

What Hath Ju-Ju Wrought!

McCartney Justice Watch

On Monday, the New York Times finally published an article on the brutal murder of Belfast resident Robert McCartney by IRA thugs. While not as detailed as the Washington Post's account from last week, the Times piece gives a good overview of the backlash among the Catholic community against the IRA's brutality:

In the Catholic neighborhoods of Belfast, the Irish Republican Army has long served as judge, jury and, in some cases, executioner, meting out its own brand of vigilante justice. Catholics who defy the I.R.A.'s dictates end up with broken kneecaps. Those who betray the I.R.A. wind up dead.

But now five sisters are turning that tradition upside down, spurred by the extraordinarily brutal killing on Jan. 30 of their brother, Robert McCartney, and what is widely seen as a subsequent I.R.A. cover-up.

The wave of revulsion generated by the McCartney murder has put the IRA on the defensive. Last Thursday, Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, announced it had suspended seven members suspected of involvement in the crime. Sinn Fein head Gerry Adams has even taken the unprecedented step of giving the names of the seven to a police ombudsman.

Unfortunately, these are empty gestures. The problem is not finding out the identities of the murderers, for these are widely known in the community. The problem is getting eyewitnesses to come forward and testify against them without fear of reprisal. The only way that justice can be done is for the IRA to unconditionally disown the murderers of Robert McCartney, and guarantee that anyone who testifies against them will be safe from retaliation.

(Thanks to Brainster's Blog, for linking to my first post on this story. His site has a lot more on this issue, just keep scrolling.)

Winning Over Young Muslims

In his March 3rd column for the New York Times, Tom Friedman emphasizes the desire of many young Muslims for freedom. As he rightly points out, it is important that America stand by them:

The last couple of years have not been easy for anyone, myself included, who hoped that the Iraq war would produce a decent, democratizing outcome. And even in the wake of the remarkable Iraqi election, the toppling of the Lebanese cabinet and the reforms brewing in Egypt, it is too soon for anyone to declare victory. We're dealing with some very unstable chemicals. But what makes me more hopeful today is precisely what made me hopeful that the Iraq war might work out, and that is the number of Arab-Muslim youth I've encountered since 9/11 who have urged me to keep writing about the need for democracy and reform in their part of the world.

Of course, many Americans are surprised by this. America has treated the Arab-Muslim states for 50 years as a collection of gas stations. All we cared about was that their pumps were open and their prices low, and that they be nice to the Israelis. As long as the regimes did that, we said, they could do whatever they wanted "out back." They could treat their women however they wanted, they could write about America in their newspapers however they wanted, and they could preach intolerance of other religions all they wanted - just keep their pumps open and prices low and be nice to the Israelis. On 9/11, we got hit with everything that was going on "out back."

Since then, it's been clear to me that unless we partner with Arabs and Muslims to change their context, unless we help them create the free space for a war of ideas that will allow for a new discussion out front and out back, we're just begging for another 9/11. I always knew we had partners there, but the democratic movements that have now emerged have shown me just how many young people there want to give voice to their aspirations and achieve their full potential - something their governments and spiritual leaders have been blocking.

Please read the rest:

Brave, Young and Muslim

The goal of fostering democracy, contrary to many left wing critics, is not to "impose" our own views on the Muslim world. Rather, the idea is to empower Arabs and Muslims to make their own choices, an option that is currently unavailable to many of them. By providing them with a genuine alternative to corrupt dictatorships and Islamist fanaticism, we can give Muslims the chance to build societies based on hope instead of hate.

Just look at the images coming from Lebanon. Contrast, as Instapundit does, the happy pro-independence demonstrators with the angry thugs acting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. This is the choice young Muslims face for themselves and their societies, in its starkest terms. If you were a young person in the Arab or Muslim world, which future would you find more appealing?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Afghanistan: "Sowing the Seeds"

It's time for the latest monthly update on Afghanistan from Arthur Chrenkoff. Please give it a look:

'Thanks for Sowing the Seeds'
(also available via Chrenkoff)

"All should be freed"

Saturday's Washington Post contains a powerful op-ed by Berta Soler Fernandez, wife of imprisoned Cuban dissident Angel Moya Acosta. Ms. Fernandez writes matter-of-factly about her own and her husband's struggle for freedom:

My husband, Angel Moya Acosta, is enduring his fourth detention since 1999, when he openly declared his dissent -- a not-so-frequent attitude among black people in Cuba. Until then, he was a simple technician earning his 135 pesos ($5) a month, although I must say that after fighting for a year and a half in Angola he was less convinced of the rightness of everything the Cuban regime was doing.

Moya was jailed twice for celebrating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, once for distributing copies of the declaration itself (a declaration, incidentally, that the Cuban government has signed) and, most recently, for possessing texts about the declaration (as well as a portable radio and a battery charger).

Imprisoned for owning and distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the American Library Association, which prides itself on its devotion to defending intellectual freedom, refuses to do anything about the Castro regime's mockery of this principle.

It is the final paragraph that reveals just how courageous Ms. Fernandez and her husband are:

Recently, when these supposed liberations happened, many wives of political prisoners hoped that their husbands would be considered sick and be released. Not me. Moya told me that he does not want to be released "for health reasons" since he should not be in the prison in the first place. This may mean that Luis Angel and Lienys will not have a father for many more years to come, but I am proud of Moya's attitude.

Standing Up to a Dictator

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Stirrings of Freedom

As usual, the new column from renowned Middle East scholar Dr. Fouad Ajami is a must-read:

Today the Arab world is beset by a mighty storm. For decades, the American choice in Arab-Islamic lands was stark. The "civil society" there was truculent and malignantly anti-American, while the rulers seemed like eminently reasonable men willing to strike bargains in the shadows. It was easy to accept their authoritarianism as the cultural practice of the Arabs: This was what Bush called the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Deep down we may have suspected Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) of double-dealing and bad faith in the diplomacy he pursued in the region, in the kind of official culture his regime spread in that surly, unhappy land. We suspected he was taking our dollars while nurturing a culture of anti-Americanism and antimodernism. But we tolerated that terrible bargain. We accepted with resignation that the Islamists were a worse alternative than the military regime. Now the ground has shifted. A budding popular opposition has taken to the streets of Cairo. In one poignant word, its banners proclaim its politics, and tell us so much about that country and its modern-day pharaoh: Kifaya (enough) is the name of the movement. Egypt has wearied of its ruler, of his family, of the mediocrity of his regime. "Enough" said the crowd that wanted done with the emergency decrees, with the corruption and the plunder. The cancellation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) of a visit to Cairo to protest the arrest of a member of Parliament who dared question pharaoh's will was overdue. We owed it to these people. More important, we owed it to ourselves.


We don't know for sure if the American public shares Bush's passion for the pursuit of freedom. We know that America has paid dearly for this democratic movement, in both blood and treasure, for this democratizing push was given force by Iraq's elections. But the outlines of a new Arab world may now be dimly seen. A brilliant American officer, Lt. Col. Mark Martins, whom I met in Baghdad, allowed himself a moment of satisfaction. "Democracy is not a luxury car," he E-mailed me last week. "It is an all-terrain vehicle and good for fighting insurgency."

A Sudden, Powerful Stirring