Monday, January 31, 2005

Quote of the Day

The Iraq elections are Teddy Kennedy's Vietnam.

John Podhoretz, The Corner, National Review Online

"The People Have Won"

Here's a snippet of Iraqi blog reaction to Sunday's elections:

Last night I couldn't sleep well. I was so excited and I wanted to be at the voting center before it even opens its door. I was afraid that I was going to be among a minority who are going to vote, but I was still very happy for rather a different reason. It's that just as I care about the outcome of this election and that democracy would work in Iraq, I cared no less about voting on a personal level. This was my way to stand against those who humiliated me, my family and my friends. It was my way of saying," You're history and you don't scare me anymore". It was my way to scream in the face of all tyrants, not just Saddam and his Ba'athists and tell them, "I don't want to be your, or anyone's slave. You have kept me in your jail all my life but you never owned my soul". It was my way of finally facing my fears and finding my courage and my humanity again.

Ali, Free Iraqi

The turnout in Iraq was really like nothing that I had expected. I was glued in front of tv for most of the day. My mother was in tears watching the scenes from all over the country. Iraqis had voted for peace and for a better future, despite the surrounding madness. I sincerely hope this small step would be the start of much bolder ones, and that the minority which insists on enslaving the majority of Iraqis would soon realise that all that they have accomplished till now is in vain.

Zeyad, Healing Iraq

Today is the day in which the democracy and freedom born in the heart of the Middle East, in Iraq.

The enemies of freedom and democracy like Al-Jazeera (Qatari TV) concentrated today on the attacks and tried to exaggerate them. They wished for more attacks and less turn out and both have not happened.

The Iraqis showed the world a lesson how to challenge the terrorists!


How can I describe it!? Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq's freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they're not going to disappoint their country or their friends.

Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not.

Omar, Iraq the Model

I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.; I can say no more just now; I am just filled with pride and moved beyond words. People are turning up not only under the present threat to polling stations but also under future threats to themselves and their families; yet they are coming, and keep coming. Behold the Iraqi people; now you know their true metal. We shall never forget the meanness of these bas…s. After this is over there will be no let up, they must be wiped out. It is our duty and the duty of every decent human to make sure this vermin is no more and that no more innocent decent people are victimized.

My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.

Alaa, The Mesopotamiam

I can only extend my congratulations to the Iraqi people on this remarkable occasion, and wish them all the best in their quest for freedom and a better life.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Iraqi Vote: First Reactions

It will be a day forever remembered. My voting was only a simple act, I went, I identified myself, got my finger stained, filled out a ballot, and dropped it in a box. It is not a complex or grand process to the eye, but it is one that I will forever remember and will recount to my children, and their children. And God willing it will be remembered through the ages.

Husayn, Democracy in Iraq

I'm about to go to the voting center to cast my vote and I thought I should post few words to thank all my friends, the readers of this blog for their support and love for me, my brothers and all Iraqis. There was some fire exchange early this morning and American helicopters were patroling the sky above my head but now it seems quite. I turned on TV to see if there was any coverage but no Arab channel is reporting yet.


Thanks again for your care and may God bless you all and give you a hundred times what you have gave Iraq. I know it seems impossible when it comes to those who lost their beloved ones but I hope they know that theie sacrifices were not in vain and that they gave humanity the most precious thing a man has, his life.

Ali, Free Iraqi

The women took advantage of the national holiday declared for today's election to promenade through the center of this holy Shi'ite city. Shop owners lolled about on carpets by the shrine of Imam Ali, flicking worry beads, bouncing children on their knees, and gossiping with friends.

Despite the presence of thousands of special police and Iraqi National Guardsmen, Najaf had the festive air yesterday of a country in celebration

"In Najaf, Celebratory Shi'ites Envision a Future", Boston Globe, January 30, 2005

So far, the news from Iraq is incredibly encouraging. Turnout is reportedly high, and most Iraqis seem to be undeterred by the barbarous threats of the Baathist and Wahhabist terrorists. While there have been a number of suicide bombings and other attacks, there have not been the mass casualty incidents that everyone feared. God willing, that will continue to be the case.

Most of the news has been frankly inspiring. According to Sheppard Smith of Fox News, voters continue to line up by the hundreds at a west Baghdad polling place subjected to a suicide attack. Another report is that thousands are walking 13 miles from the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib to the nearest polling place to cast their ballots. Jane Arraf of CNN in Baqubah was literally drowned out by the singing of jubilant Iraqis waiting in line to vote. Finally, some polling places have reportedly started to run out of ballots, and it still isn't even noon in Iraq.

It's far too early to celebrate, and a lot can still happen. But if present trends continue, today will prove a historic and decisive day for Iraq, the Arab world, and the struggle against Islamist terror.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Voting Time

As I type, it is about 7:15 AM, Sunday, in Iraq. The polls have already opened. My thoughts and prayers are with the Iraqi people who, for the first time in their lives, will have the opportunity to vote in a free election. It is quite possible that a higher percentage of eligible voters will go to the polls in Iraq today, under threat of death, than vote in American elections. This is an incredible comment on the bravery and desire for freedom of many Iraqis, and on how many of us take our own freedom for granted.

Please spare a thought for our troops, whose incredible courage and sacrifice have made this day possible.

Iraq's Election: The Basic Facts

Here are two very useful resources from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies on Sunday's elections:

Backgrounder: The Iraqi Elections
-A basic reference guide.

Iraq's Electoral Babel; A Summary of the Largest and Most Numerous Candidate Blocs
-A quick guide to the major political parties and electoral lists competing in the elections.

The New York Times Repeats Itself

On the eve of Iraq's historic elections, what better occasion for the New York Times to trot out the "Iraq as Vietnam" analogy:

"I think one lesson is that there be a clear objective that everybody understands," Mr. Bush said in an interview with The New York Times this week, reflecting on the relevance of Vietnam today. "A free, democratic Iraq, an ally in the war on terror, with an Iraqi army, all parts of it - Iraqi forces, army, national guard, border guard, police force - able to defend itself. Secondly, that people understand the connection between that goal and our future."

But the difficulties of achieving such objectives, then and now, have led a range of military experts, historians and politicians to consider the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq to warn of potential pitfalls ahead. Nearly two years after the American invasion of Iraq, such comparisons are no longer dismissed in mainstream political discourse as facile and flawed, but are instead bubbling to the top.

"Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam", New York Times, January 30, 2005

I'm too jaded by the unrelenting defeatism of the elite media to be offended very much by it anymore. If anything, the Times's use of the Vietnam comparison is a positive omen, given their previous track record:

Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam? Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world? Premature the questions may be, three weeks after the fighting began. Unreasonable they are not, given the scars scoured into the national psyche by defeat in Southeast Asia. For all the differences between the two conflicts, and there are many, echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable. Today, for example, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed for the first time that American military forces are operating in northern Afghanistan, providing liaison to "a limited number of the various opposition elements."

"A Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam", New York Times, October 31, 2001

Within two weeks of this article's publication, Afghan and US forces had seized Kabul and routed the Taliban from most of the country. Let's hope the Times's uncanny record of prognostication continues.

Iraqi Elections on C-SPAN

A chance to watch history in the making.

On Sunday, January 30, C-SPAN will have two hours of Iraqi election coverage, from 2:00-4:00 PM, EST, courtesy of the grassroots Iraqi activists at Friends of Democracy. See the Spirit of America site for more information.

Ajami on Iraq

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal carried a superb essay by Dr. Fouad Ajami, one of the foremost scholars on the Middle East, on the impact of Sunday's Iraqi elections:

On the morning after Iraq's elections, we now know, the insurgents will still be with us. And there will remain that denial among broad segments of the Arab intellectual and political elites, their stubborn belief that these elections are but an American veneer over Iraq's mayhem. We shall not be able to convince people with no democratic experience that Iraq is on the cusp of a new history. We shall have to look past those who call up the specter of the Shiite bogeyman and dismiss these elections as the first step toward a Shia theocracy. But set this election for a National Assembly against the background of Iraq's historical torment--and against the background of an Arab world thrashing about for a new political way--and one is forgiven the sense that Jan. 30 is a signal day in Iraqi history.

I found this passage to be especially meaningful:

Leave aside American liberalism's hostility to this venture and consider the multitudes of America's critics in Arab and European intellectual circles. It is they today who propagate a view of peoples and nations fit--and unfit--for democracy. It is they who speak of Iraq's "innate" violence. For their part, the men and women in Iraq--who make their way to the ballot box, past the perpetrators of terror--will be witnesses to the appeal of liberty. In their condescension, people given to dismissing these elections say that Iraq is the wrong place for a "Jeffersonian democracy." (Forgive the emptiness of that remark, for America itself is more of a Hamiltonian creation, but that is another matter.) No Jeffersonianism is needed here. A kind of wisdom has been given ordinary Iraqis--an eagerness to be rid of the culture of statues and informers and terror. It takes no literacy in the writings of Mill and Locke to know the self-respect that comes with choosing one's rulers. Though it would not be precisely accurate to speak of the "restoration" of democracy in Iraq, older Iraqis have a memory of a more merciful history. Now Iraq has to be rehabilitated. These elections--flawed, taking place alongside a raging insurgency--are part of the rehabilitation of this deeply wounded country.

Please read it all:

A New Iraq

Two FDD Updates

Two new updates from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:

Iraqi Election Watch
-Daily updates providing a roundup of Iraqi news sources, blogs, reports from activists, and FDD analysis.

Global Jihad Watch: 1/26/05
-The last week's worth of news from the War on Islamist Terror.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Iraq and the Algerian Experience

On Monday, UPI published a brief, mostly unnoticed article, entitled "Age of Terrorism in Algeria Nearing End":

Algerian police chief Brig. Gen. Ali Tounissi said the terrorism that has plagued the North African country for more than a decade will end soon.

The government daily al-Mujahed Monday quoted Tounissi as saying 100 terrorists have surrendered in the last year and just a few remain.

Though ignored by the mainstream Western media, this is a major development. It means that Algeria's horrific decade-long civil war, which has claimed over 150,000 lives, is now finally coming to an end. It is also a substantial defeat for the global jihadist movement, as the main Algerian terrorist group, the GSPC, was one of al-Qaeda's major affiliates. Finally, as Amir Taheri pointed out in a January 15th column, the lessons learned in Algeria are of great relevance to the war in Iraq. In many ways, the parallels are uncanny:

The Algerian terrorists never came up with anything resembling a political program. They just killed people. They killed children on their way to school. They chopped the heads of Christian monks and Muslim muftis. They murdered trade unionists, political leaders, and journalists. They captured teenage girls and forced them into temporary marriages with "the holy warriors." They seized hostages, burned schools and hospitals, blew up factories and shops, and did all they could to disrupt the economy. At times they pulled off spectacular coups, for example by murdering the country's president, and its most prominent trade union leader.

As Taheri shows, the campaign of terror waged by the Algerian jihadists was a prototype for that of the Baathists and Wahhabists in Iraq. Just as in Iraq, the Algerian terrorists "pursued two objectives":

The first was to destroy the Algerian Army by killing as many recruits as they could in the hope that this would provoke masse desertions.

The second was to prevent the holding of any elections. "Democracy means the rule of the people," Antar Zu'abri, one of the most notorious of the terrorist chiefs, killed in action in the 1990s, liked to say. "Those who want the rule of the people defy the rule of God, which is Islam."

Democracy as an "infidel" institution, where have we heard those sentiments recently?

Sadly, the jihadist onslaught produced the desired effect:

Visiting Algiers in March 1994 I was struck by the mood of doom and gloom at almost every level of government. European ambassadors confided their fear that the terrorists might seize power at any time. A segment of the elite was urging negotiations with the terrorists, which meant discussing terms of surrender.

Finally, the Algerian regime adopted a desperate strategy:

They soon realized that the terrorists lacked a significant popular base. But it was also clear that a majority of Algerians had adopted a wait-and-see attitude, hating the terrorists in secret but too frightened of them to make a clear stand against them in public. The key, therefore, was to mobilize the "silent majority" to demonstrate the isolation of the terrorists.

The most effective way to do that was to hold elections. Few people are prepared to die, and even fewer are willing to kill in support of their political opinions. But almost everyone is ready to vote. The task of a civilized society is to render the expression of political opinions easy. The terrorists made it difficult because they demanded of the people to kill and died. The Algerian leaders decided to make it easy by asking the people to vote.

When the time came for the first elections to be held in 1995, the terrorists did everything they could to stop the "infidel" process:

They burned down voter registration bureaus and murdered election officers. Masked men visited people in their homes and shops to warn that going to the polls would mean death.

Yet, as Taheri notes, a surprising thing happened on election day:

(I)t quickly became clear that the terrorists, in the forlorn attempt at stopping democracy, were, as in so many other instances in history, facing certain defeat. Never in my many years of journalism had I seen such enthusiasm for an electoral exercise anywhere in the world. The "silent majority" spoke by casting ballots, not because it particularly liked any of the candidates but because it wanted to send a message to the terrorists that they had no place in Algeria.

(emphasis added-DD)

This is why Sunday's elections in Iraq are so important. The Iraqi people, just like the Algerians, have been subjected to a barbarous campaign of murder. Just as in Algeria, the terrorists are doing everything possible to deny Iraqis the opportunity to decide their own future at the ballot box. No, Algeria is far from perfect, and the parallel is not exact. The country lacks the sectarian tensions found in Iraq, for example. Still, as Taheri points out, "Algeria was the first major Arab country to be attacked by Islamist terrorists on a large scale. It is also the first to defeat them."

Iraq's elections will not be perfect, and they will not end the insurgency no matter how successful they are. However, they offer the Iraqi people the chance to deal the terrorists a decisive blow. If the Iraqis vote in sufficient numbers, their defiance of the Baathists and Wahhabists will be evident for the world to see. More Iraqis of all ethnic and sectarian groups will be emboldened to stand against the terrorists, and most Iraqis will identify much more with their government, having had a say in its creation. "The only way to defeat terrorism", Taheri emphasizes, "is by involving the mass of the people through elections." Hopefully, Sunday's elections will allow Iraq to begin this process.

Never Forget

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In an era when anti-Semitism is rampant in the Middle East and coming back into fashion among Europeans, and when America, Israel and the West again find themselves at war with a barbarous ideology of hatred and death, the horrors of the Holocaust must never be forgotten. The following resources are excellent starting points for remembering the truth:

The Holocaust History Project

The Nizkor Project

Simon Wiesenthal Multimedia Learning Center

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Iraqi Election Blogs

Here are four blogs worth monitoring for Iraqi election coverage:

Democracy in Iraq
-"A blog by an Iraqi on the future of Iraq, an Iraqi who is excited about a new democratic Iraq."

Friends of Democracy
-Collaborative blogging project featuring reports from Iraqis on the progress towards democracy in their country.

Iraq Elections Newswire
-"Up-to-the-minute news stories, opinion, and blog posts on the 2005 Iraqi elections. Coverage will continue well past Jan 2005."

Mudville Gazette
-Opinions and perspective from a soldier on the ground in Iraq. Provides a useful contrast to the unrelenting defeatism of so much of the media.

Expect to see them added to the blogroll soon, but please give them a look in the meantime.

Moral Clarity on Iraq: Two Must-Reads

In Monday's Guardian, noted left-of-center author William Shawcross lays out exactly what's at stake in Iraq:

The horrific war against the Iraqi people is being run by the same people who oppressed and tortured them for decades - Saddam's henchmen and gaolers. They are more than ably abetted by the Islamofascist jihadists led by Osama bin Laden's Heydrich in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Elections really do matter to people - especially to people who have been denied them. We saw that in 1993 when millions of Cambodians braved threats from the Khmer Rouge. We saw it in Algeria in 1995, when the government, almost overcome by years of Islamist terrorist assault, called elections and the silent majority defied the terrorists' threats and voted en masse.

We saw it much more recently in Afghanistan, where the people confounded the western critics and scoffers and, despite Taliban threats, voted overwhelmingly to put the curse of the Taliban's Islamic extremism behind them.

And we are seeing it most brutally and clearly in Iraq today, where everyone associated with the attempt to give the Iraqi people a decent future risks being murdered.

On the same day, National Review Online published a piece by Steven Vincent. With admirable clarity, Vincent makes clear that Iraq is the ultimate civil rights battle:

To many people in the West — especially the Michael Moore crowd — the Sunni Triangle gunmen are "guerrillas" engaged in a legitimate "resistance" against a neo-colonialist occupation. This might be true if Iraq were a mid-20th-century-style struggle for national liberation, à la Vietnam or Algeria. But it is not: The war in Iraq is more akin to the struggle for civil rights played out in America in the generations after the Civil War. And in this struggle, the insurgents play the identical role as the racists, bigots, and white supremacists who resorted to violence and murder rather than see their fellow Americans achieve equality.

When the paramilitary death squads ("insurgents" is too clean a word) kidnap and behead Iraqis who work for the reconstruction of their nation — is that not similar to an old-fashioned lynching? The message in both the south and the Sunni Triangle is certainly the same: If you challenge our power, this will be your fate. When gunmen stalk the Iraqi countryside, murdering civilians in the name of "defending their homeland," can we not see a modern-day Ku Klux Klan? They, too, were masked; they, too, mounted an "insurgency"; they, too, sought to reinstate a reactionary regime based on ethnic and religious supremacy. When a car bomb explodes, killing innocent Iraqis — do the victims not join hands across the years with the four teenage girls killed in the Birmingham church bombings? When Iraqi terrorists gun down election workers in the streets of Baghdad, can we not see, reprised before our eyes, the assassinations of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, in addition to Medgar Evers and others who gave their lives in the name of democracy?

There is hardly an American today who would not shout in loud protest if such racist abominations once again took place in our country. And yet, many of us watch in silence as the exact same atrocities occur in Iraq. Especially perplexing is the silence of the Left — the people who, a generation ago, stood on the forefront of the civil-rights movement. How can they tarnish their proud legacy of fighting for democracy and equality by refusing to take sides in the same struggle 10,000 miles away? Why do they persist in claiming the fight against reactionary extremists is "unjust" and "immoral?" None of these people would for a moment praise the Ku Klux Klan — why do they legitimize the so-called "insurgents"?

I can only wonder, as one soldier blogger did recently, where are the human shields now that the Iraqi people really need them?

Moral Bankruptcy Revisited

In Monday's Los Angeles Times, former Attorney General turned anti-American crank Ramsey Clark defended his decision to act as defense counsel for Saddam Hussein:

I was going to fisk the piece, but nothing I can write is suitable to the moral and intellectual vacuity Mr. Clark displays. Let me just say that if this was 1946, I have no doubt that Clark would be rushing to Nuremberg to defend the unfairly "demonized" Hermann Goering and company from the "illegal", "illegitimate", war crimes tribunal. Read it for yourself, if you dare:

Why I'm Willing to Defend Hussein

(if necessary, go to for LA Times username and password)

Monday, January 24, 2005

When Did Iraq Become a "Breeding Ground" for Terrorism?

Links and References Updated: 1-6-05 (DD)

A week ago, I wrote about an article from the January 14th Washington Post, entitled "Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground". The author of the article, Ms. Dana Priest, seized upon the release of an analytical report by the CIA's National Intelligence Council to discuss what she describes as "Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists." Her argument is as follows:

President Bush has frequently described the Iraq war as an integral part of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. But the council's report suggests the conflict has also helped terrorists by creating a haven for them in the chaos of war.

"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."


But as instability in Iraq grew after the toppling of Hussein, and resentment toward the United States intensified in the Muslim world, hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders. They found tons of unprotected weapons caches that, military officials say, they are now using against U.S. troops. Foreign terrorists are believed to make up a large portion of today's suicide bombers, and U.S. intelligence officials say these foreigners are forming tactical, ever-changing alliances with former Baathist fighters and other insurgents.

My previous post dealt with the way Ms. Priest stretched the report's conclusions to support her point. In this post, I will address her argument directly, and examine the following two questions: Has Iraq truly "replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists"? Secondly, has the Iraq campaign created a new "breeding ground" and base of operations for terrorism where none previously existed?

1. Has Iraq replaced Afghanistan as a terrorist haven?

A look at the available evidence shows that while al-Qaeda and other jihadists have established themselves in Iraq, the circumstances there are far less favorable than those they enjoyed in Afghanistan. In the latter country, al-Qaeda and affiliated groups ran a network of camps that, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, trained between 10,000-20,000 jihadists from 1996-2001. (p.67) In Iraq, by contrast, the New York Times reported on October 23, 2004 the possible existence of "a sophisticated network that has helped recruit nearly 1,000 young men from the Middle East and Europe" to wage terror there. This is a far cry from the tens of thousands who passed through the Afghan camp network.

The difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is more than just quantitative. The environment in the former country is far less hospitable to the jihadists, as Cliff May recently explained:

In Afghanistan, the Taliban government facilitated the training of terrorists. Not so in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the training was conducted openly, in large, well-supplied terrorist training camps. Not so in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the United States did not interfere in any serious way with the training of terrorists. Not so in Iraq. In Afghanistan, trained terrorists graduated and then dispersed around the world to plan acts of mass murder. In Iraq, trained terrorists fight the U.S. armed forces -- which also, one hopes, are becoming "professionalized" in 21st Century warfare.

Iraq may be, as the story says, "a haven" for terrorists, but surely it's not a safe haven, not with U.S. Special Forces and Marines on the ground.

In short, when you look at both numbers and permissiveness of environment, there is no comparison between the safe haven that the jihadists had in Afghanistan and the situation they face in Iraq.

2. When did Iraq start "breeding" terrorism?

Is the presence of foreign jihadists in Iraq a new phenomenon, a result of the US invasion? Once again, contrary to Ms.Priest, it is apparent that terrorists were in Iraq well before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 report, published on April 30, 2003, makes this abundantly clear:

Iraq was a safehaven, transit point, and operational base for groups and individuals who direct violence against the United States, Israel, and other countries…


The presence of several hundred al-Qaida operatives fighting with the small Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam in the northeastern corner of Iraqi Kurdistan—where the IIS operates—is well documented. Iraq has an agent in the most senior levels of Ansar al-Islam as well. In addition, small numbers of highly placed al-Qaida militants were present in Baghdad and areas of Iraq that Saddam controls. It is inconceivable these groups were in Iraq without the knowledge and acquiescence of Saddam’s regime. In the past year, al-Qaida operatives in northern Iraq concocted suspect chemicals under the direction of senior al-Qaida associate Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and tried to smuggle them into Russia, Western Europe, and the United States for terrorist operations.
("Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism", p.79 in print/PDF version)

(emphasis added-DD)

In an article from the March 1, 2004 Weekly Standard, titled "Saddam's Ambassador to al-Qaeda", Jonathan Schanzer interviewed an Iraqi intelligence officer held by Kurdish forces in northern Iraq:

Al-Shamari said that importing foreign fighters to train in Iraq was part of his job in the Mukhabarat. The fighters trained in Salman Pak, a facility located some 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. He said that he had personal knowledge of 500 fighters that came through Salman Pak dating back to the late 1990s; they trained in "urban combat, explosives, and car bombs."

This account is confirmed by the Duelfer Report, which stated that M14, the special operations branch of Iraqi intelligence, "trained Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Yemeni, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Sudanese operatives in counterterrorism, explosives, marksmanship, and foreign operations at its facilities at Salman Pak." Iraqi intelligence also maintained an organization called “Tiger Group”, which "was primarily comprised of suicide bombers." (V.1, Annex B)

As the possibility of war with the US loomed in 2002 and early 2003, the flow of jihadists into Iraq became a virtual flood. The son of Abdullah Azzam, who was Osama bin Laden's mentor, told Agence France Presse in August 2004 that "young Al-Qaeda members entered Iraq in large numbers" at Saddam's invitation in order to fight the expected American attack. On March 11, 2003, the AP reported that "Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in case they invade Iraq, Arab media and Iraqi dissidents said Tuesday."

There was another way in which Saddam's Iraq was a 'breeding ground" for terrorism. In the 1990's, the Baathist regime turned openly to Wahhabism as a tool for maintaining the support of Iraq's Sunni Arab population. The Associated Press noted this process and its impact in a January 5th, 2005 article:

Internationally isolated and fearful of losing power, Saddam Hussein made an astonishing move in the last years of his secular rule: He invited into Iraq clerics who preached an austere form of Islam that's prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

He also let extremely religious Iraqis join his ruling Baath Socialist Party. Saddam's bid to win over devout Muslims planted the seeds of the insurgency behind some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces today, say Saudi dissidents and U.S. officials.

At one point in the mid-1990's, Saddam even agreed to broadcast Wahhabi propaganda at the behest of Osama bin Laden. The consequences of this Wahhabization of Sunni Iraq have been eloquently noted by Tom Friedman of the New York Times:

Many Iraqi youth, unable to connect with the outside world and unable to find jobs at home, turned to religion. Saddam encouraged this with a mosque-building program. By wrapping himself in an aura of Islam, Saddam also hoped to buttress his own waning legitimacy. So Wahhabi religious influence flowed into the Sunni areas from Saudi Arabia, as Iranian religious influence flowed into Shiite regions.

You know all those masked Iraqi youth you see in the Al Jazeera videos, brandishing weapons and standing over some foreigner whose head they are about saw off? They are the product of the last decade of Saddamism and sanctions. Those youth were 10 years old when the U.N. sanctions began. They are the mushrooms that Saddam and the sanctions were growing in the dark. The Bush team had no clue they were there.

So not only did Saddam's regime train and harbor thousands of jihadists, it also laid the ideological groundwork for recruiting future terrorists as well.

Ms. Priest is correct that Islamist terrorists have migrated to Iraq in hopes of defeating the US and preventing "infidel" democracy from coming to the Arab world. The jihadists would like nothing better than to make Iraq into a safe haven such as they enjoyed in Afghanistan. For now, however, the two situations are drastically different. In Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and its affiliates operated a veritable conveyor belt, turning out tens of thousands of trained jihadists over a five year period in an extremely permissive environment. In Iraq, a few thousand Islamists are engaged in a mortal struggle with the most powerful military machine in history, and have suffered a grievous toll as a result. After all, there's no such thing as a "veteran suicide bomber". Iraq, in short, isn't even close to what Afghanistan was as a base for terrorism.

Contrary to Ms. Priest's second key point, the presence of terrorists in Iraq is nothing new. Hundreds of al-Qaeda fugitives gained safe haven with Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq, with the active cooperation of Iraqi intelligence. Hundreds of other jihadists received training at Salman Pak and other camps. There is strong reason to believe that Saddam invited thousands more terrorists into Iraq as war grew likely. Finally, the Baathist regime's increasing embrace of Wahhabism during the 1990's helped indoctrinate future Islamist fighters. Iraq was a "breeding ground" for jihadist terrorism well before the US invaded. Toppling Saddam did not make Iraq a safe haven for terror, it was a necessary step in ending Iraq's status as such a haven.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The "Neocon" Myth

Once upon a time, the term "neoconservative" was a quaint relic of Cold War intellectual history. It referred to formerly liberal and leftist thinkers such as Norman Podhoretz who had migrated rightwards and embraced anti-Communism. For Podhoretz and other "neoconservatives", American power is a force for good that should be employed when necessary in support of both American ideals and interests.

All this has changed since 9/11, and especially since the liberation of Iraq. Today, "neoconservative", or "neocon" for short, has become the ultimate political pejorative, to be used only in concert with terms such as "conspiracy", "warmongers", or "cabal". For many liberals and leftists, and for "paleoconservatives" like Pat Buchanan, "neocons" such as Paul Wolfowitz have become a bete-noire. At best, the "neoconservatives" are to blame for whatever problems have arisen in post-Saddam Iraq. At worst, they are architects of an evil imperialist conspiracy. Little-known think tanks such as the Project for the New American Century have replaced the Trilateral Commission in the minds of conspiracy theorists. For many, the term has ceased to have any concrete meaning and is simply an all-purpose ad hominem, such as the January 6th caller to C-SPAN who described Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell as being part of the "neocon cabal".

As any who read this blog regularly can attest, my views are very much in the Podhoretz/Wolfowitz mold. Yes, I am a low ranking member of the "neoconservative cabal". Seeing how the term "neoconservative" has been distorted beyond all recognition has been frustrating. Thankfully, for those whose minds haven't been completely poisoned by the hype, distortions, and infantile conspiracy theories, there are some sources where you can read about what neoconservatives actually believe:

-Just yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson, in his Friday column for National Review Online, debunked some of the myths that have been circulated regarding "neocons" and the decision to invade Iraq:

Yet note the misinformation about its meaning and usage. The five most prominent makers of American foreign policy at the moment - George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld - are (1) not Jewish, (2) hard-headed and not easily bamboozled by any supposed cabal, and (3) were mostly in the past identified with the "realist" school and especially skeptical of using the military frequently for anything resembling Clintonian peace-keeping.

So, for example, while Secretary Rumsfeld signed the now-infamous 1998 letter to President Clinton calling for the de-facto preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice did not. Yet Richard Armitage - considered a stalwart in the Colin Powell camp - was a signatory. Thus there seems no hard ideology or past litmus test to neoconservatism other than a coalescence of once-differing views after September 11.

-A year ago, Max Boot wrote a piece for the magazine Foreign Policy, entitled "Think Again: Neocons". In this article, Boot refutes the ridiculous exaggerations and conspiracy theories of both right and left:

A cabal of neoconservatives has hijacked the Bush administration's foreign policy and transformed the world's sole superpower into a unilateral monster. Say what? In truth, stories about the "neocon" ascendancy-and the group's insidious intent to wage preemptive wars across the globe-have been much exaggerated. And by telling such tall tales, critics have twisted the neocons' identities and thinking on U.S. foreign policy into an unrecognizable caricature.

-If you want to want to know what "neoconservatives" such as myself do believe, the best place to start is with this speech by Charles Krauthammer, delivered in February 2004.

Yet they are the principal proponents today of what might be called democratic globalism, a foreign policy that defines the national interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy called "the success of liberty." As President Bush put it in his speech at Whitehall last November: "The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings.'

Beyond power. Beyond interest. Beyond interest defined as power. That is the credo of democratic globalism. Which explains its political appeal: America is a nation uniquely built not on blood, race or consanguinity, but on a proposition--to which its sacred honor has been pledged for two centuries. This American exceptionalism explains why non-Americans find this foreign policy so difficult to credit; why Blair has had more difficulty garnering support for it in his country; and why Europe, in particular, finds this kind of value-driven foreign policy hopelessly and irritatingly moralistic

Krauthammer refers to his own preferred vision as "democratic realism". Intervening on behalf of democracy, in his view, "must be targeted, focused and limited. We are friends to all, but we come ashore only where it really counts. And where it counts today is that Islamic crescent stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan."

I would argue, as President Bush did so eloquently on Thursday, that the dichotomy between our ideals and our interests has all but vanished. This does not mean invading every dictatorship around the world. It does mean that America needs to persuade, pressure and cajole dictatorial regimes to begin the process of genuine democratic reform. Promoting the spread of democracy is not just some vague moral imperative, it is the only long-term strategy for defeating radical Islamism.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Weekly WOT Update

Courtesy of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:

Global Jihad Watch: 1/19/05

Spanning the Spectrum of Stupidity: Part II

My own political bias leads me to emphasize some of the more ridiculous antics of people on the left. Alas, stupidity is something that spans the political spectrum. Here is just one example.

Dr. James Dobson, head of the far right group Focus on the Family, has discovered a heretofore neglected threat to the safety of the nation. While the Bush Administration is focused on the global struggle with the radical Islamist terror movement, Dr. Dobson's chief concern is with a much more insidious threat closer to home.

Who is this deadly enemy of the Republic? One Mr. Spongebob Squarepants:

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

Nile Rodgers, the creator of the video, denies any intent to promote gay lifestyles, and the video makes no mention of sexual orientation. Still, Dr. Dobson remains unperturbed:

On Wednesday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Mr. Dobson at Focus on the Family, said the group stood by its accusation.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said. "It is a classic bait and switch."

As someone who shuns Spongebob like the plague, I find this complaint mind-boggling. Concern for family values is one thing. This kind of abject stupidity is something else altogether. Promoting tolerance? Gasp, the horror! Mind-boggling.

(link courtesy of Captain's Quarters)

Spanning the Spectrum of Stupidity: Part I

Like most normal people you probably missed it, but Thursday was "National Not One Damn Dime Day":

Since our leaders don't have the moral courage to speak out against the war in Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

Wow, show your displeasure by sitting on your ass and doing nothing. What an amazing concept. I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to stop the "immoral and illegal" war in Iraq. After all, why would a boycott in America persuade the Baathists and Jihadists to stop their campaign of terror? Oh, wait, this is about blaming America; that delightful Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is merely a heroic Third World freedom fighter. Somehow, I think the evil American retail capitalist consumer economy survived. I know I spent about $45.00 today.

(link courtesy of Tim Blair; see also Little Green Footballs)

JibJab III: Revenge of the JibJab

Via Winds of Change, California Yankee brings word of a new video from JibJab (of Bush/Kerry "This Land" fame):

Second Term

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Inaugural Address

In his inaugural address today, George W. Bush laid out the essence of what has become known as the Bush Doctrine, and took that doctrine to its logical conclusion:

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is an objective that is positively breathtaking in scope. I can only imagine the reaction of "realists" such as Brent Scowcroft. At National Review Online, Peter Robinson offered a "traditional" conservative critique:

This overturns the nation’s fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of "foreign entanglements." The second President Adams asserted that "we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force.

The problem with this argument, as I've written previously, is that "realism" simply isn't a realistic option anymore. This is not the world that George Washington and John Quincy Adams inhabited. We live in an interconnected, globalized world, one in which the monsters are willing and able to come to our shores with little warning and horrific consequences. We can no longer ignore overseas tyrannies that foster hatred and fanaticism in the comforting belief that it's none of our business. Groups like al-Qaeda will make it our business regardless of our wishes. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that 9/11 was a one-off event will not solve the problem, nor will seeking to manage or contain the threat from behind a 21st century Maginot Line. Only by breaking the cycle of tyranny in the Middle East will we defeat this danger.

The hard part will be in the application. With this speech, President Bush has set a high standard for himself and his administration. He will have to hold American friends as well as foes accountable, or be justifiably accused of hypocrisy. Pressure will have to be brought on allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to begin the process of genuine democratic reform. Obviously, this will be a generational commitment, requiring patience, persistence, and resources. It will be long and difficult, but also necessary if we are to defeat the forces of Islamist barbarism.

President Bush has offered America and the world a vision, one that stands in stark contrast to that of the jihadists. It is a vision comparable in scope and ambition to those offered by Lincoln and FDR. It is both necessary and right that we commit ourselves to fulfill it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Hersh Article

One of this week's big stories is the New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh alleging that:

The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible,” the government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me.

Some of the missions involve extraordinary coöperation. For example, the former high-level intelligence official told me that an American commando task force has been set up in South Asia and is now working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists and technicians who had dealt with Iranian counterparts. (In 2003, the I.A.E.A. disclosed that Iran had been secretly receiving nuclear technology from Pakistan for more than a decade, and had withheld that information from inspectors.) The American task force, aided by the information from Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations. The task-force members, or their locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices—known as sniffers—capable of sampling the atmosphere for radioactive emissions and other evidence of nuclear-enrichment programs.

I've read the article, but simply don't have the time to comment at length. It's hard to say how credible this particular piece is. Keep in mind that Hersh is the national security version of a gossip columnist, relying heavily on anonymous sources with an axe to grind. Hersh's track record for accuracy is rather spotty, as John J. Miller pointed out for National Review Online. Jason Van Steenwyk of Counter Column offers another example of Hersh's questionable reporting. Hersh himself has a strong anti-Bush Administration bias, and his articles since 9/11 have been full of warnings about the evil "neocon cabal". That doesn't invalidate everything he says, but strongly suggests you take his work with several spoonfuls of salt. In fact, the Pentagon has already released a statement debunking much of this latest article.

Are we running covert operations against Iran's nuclear program? I sure as hell hope so, though if we are, I don't want to be reading about it.

Filing for Moral Bankruptcy

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has steadily migrated towards the lunatic fringe over the last several decades. Now, he has officially stepped over the precipice:

One of America's most renowned human rights lawyers has astonished even close friends and supporters by taking on Saddam Hussein as a client and describing the former Iraqi dictator as "reserved, quiet, thoughtful and dignified".

While most of the world regards Saddam as a brutal dictator who gassed entire villages, launched wars that cost millions of lives and murdered thousands of political opponents, Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General, said he had been unfairly "demonised" by his captors.

(link courtesy of Little Green Footballs)

A "dignified" Saddam, unfairly "demonized". Perhaps Mr. Clark would like to visit the people of Halabja, and solicit their reactions to his comments. There is nothing else I can say in response except to post the following link, and beg you to view what this "dignified" man has wrought:

Iraq's Mass Graves

Who is the "Home Team"?

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, fresh off demagoging the election results in Ohio, decided to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by by offering the following statement:

"We call the home team the insurgents and we're the home team," Jackson said sarcastically. "Dr. King, what are we doing?"

(link courtesy of Shaking Spears)

Hmmm, the "home team". By calling the Baathist/Wahhabist terror alliance in Iraq the "home team", Reverend Jackson is according them the moral standing of a heroic underdog fighting to free their homeland from the evil American imperialists. It is possible to take such a view, if you are willing to blind yourself to the endless litany of murders, beheadings, car bombs, and numerous other atrocities committed by the terrorists. Equally important to this viewpoint is to ignore the fact that Iraqis are the primary victims of these attacks. Finally, failing to pay any attention to the "home team's" numerous denunciations of democracy as an "infidel" institution is also necessary. The "home team" are not fighting to free Iraq, they are fighting to enslave it, or in some cases to re-enslave it.

No, Reverend Jackson, the Baathist thugs and Wahhabi fanatics are not the "home team". The "home team" are Iraq's Shia, 60% of the population, who have endured decades of repression and a year and a half of terrorist atrocities, yet have courageously persevered in order to achieve their final empowerment at the ballot box. The "home team" also includes Iraq's Kurdish population, 15% of the nation, who lost over 100,000 people to Saddam's "Anfal" campaign of 1987-88, were subjected to brutal ethnic cleansing, and who suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of the Baathists and Wahhabists even before the fall of Saddam. The "home team" also features Christians, Assyrians, Turkomen, and those Arab Sunnis who believe in democracy. The "home team" in short, consists of the vast majority of the Iraqi people who want the January 30 elections to go forward, in the face of a terrorist onslaught of assassinations, car bombs, kidnapping, and murder. The terrorists are not the "home team", the Iraqi people are.

It's okay to think that being in Iraq is a bad idea. But attaching any sort of moral legitimacy to the Baathist/Wahhabist terror alliance is a repugnant display of moral bankruptcy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Iraq Election Quotes

One of the new additions to my list of links is In the Red Zone, a fascinating blog by freelance journalist Steven Vincent. Vincent has traveled extensively in post-Saddam Iraq, and has recently published a book sharing his experiences. Expect to see me link to his work on a regular basis.

Today, Vincent has a nice roundup of quotes from several of the major players in the Iraqi elections, as well as from several individuals who are less than enamored with the process. The Sistani and al-Hakim quotes in particular reinforce the point I made at length on Sunday, which is that there is little evidence that the Shia clerical establishment wishes to impose theocratic rule on the country. In fact, they have behaved with remarkable maturity and restraint.

Further evidence is provided by another newcomer to my blogroll, Iraq Election Diatribes. In this post, IED links to a December 2003 interview with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who is widely expected to become head of the Iraqi interim government after the elections. Even then, Hakim made the point that:

As regards [to] the government that we want, we don't want an Islamic government. We want a constitutional government that preserves the rights of everybody and a government that believes in the public rights; a government that works for the interest of the Iraqi people, and believes that the people are the source to derive all the important decisions that concern the future of the Iraqi people.

It is possible, of course, that Sistani, Hakim, et. al. are simply lying, and can't wait to establish a Khomeiniist theocracy. If you look at what they have actually said and done over the last two years, however, instead of merely assuming that all ayatollahs are the same, you'll see that the evidence suggests otherwise.

Idiotic Censorship Watch

The January 10, 2005 New York Daily News reports the following:

Attention, blue-state parents. Are you worried about what your children are seeing on TV? Have you caught them ogling Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity as they engage in explicit acts of love with Bush administration policies?
Now you can protect your little liberals from hard-core right-wing positions the same way you censor cable porn. For just $8.95, The FOXBlocker eliminates the risk of exposure to Fox News Channel.

Sam Kimery and Joshua Montgomery, who are marketing the device, say it employs the technology already used to filter adult content.

Watching many liberals go into spasms of apoplexy over Fox News is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, along with cheesy action movies and reruns of Cops. Most normal people, of course, already own a device for avoiding channels they don't like. It's called a remote, you might have heard of it. Still, I suppose the risk of being exposed to conservative viewpoints justifies extraordinary measures.

And every time someone orders one of the gizmos from, Fox advertisers receive E-mail telling them that another consumer has just said no to Rupert Murdoch's brand of "fair and balanced news."

"We hope that companies will see people actually paying to block channels that won't offer alternative views, and then rethink how they spend their advertising dollars," Montgomery tells Variety V Life magazine.

Ah yes, supporting "alternative views" through censorship. The logic typical of all too many on the left. Embrace diversity, or shut the hell up. Question authority, take my word for it. Of course, the notion that Fox News itself actually represents, gasp, an "alternative view" seems to have escaped Mr. Montgomery.

This is America, no one is going to go to your house and make you watch Fox News at gunpoint. If you don't like it, don't watch it. If you want news from a liberal perspective, you still have ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC. Yet one channel dares to offer news coverage from a right-of-center perspective, and many supposedly refined, sophisticated Blue Staters practically have a meltdown. As we also see in academia, for much of the left the notion of diversity simply doesn't extend to conservative viewpoints.

(Link courtesy of Tim Blair, who has some hilarious comments of his own)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Not Exactly Ladies Home Journal

Just because al-Qaeda and other jihadists want to relegate females to the status of property doesn't mean there's not a place for women in the jihad. As today's Washington Times reports, there is now a magazine designed to meet the needs of the female suicide bomber in your life:

Al Qaeda has introduced an online women's magazine with articles including dietary advice for suicide bombers and tips on how to "dominate the passions" before blowing yourself up, according to Italy's SISDE secret service.

SISDE analysts disclosed the existence of Al Khansa, the unusual monthly Internet publication for female militants that is hosted by several Islamist Web sites, in the Italian spy service's quarterly review Gnosis.

As you might suspect, this is not your typical women's magazine:

"If you want to read up on the latest model of hijab [veil] or abaija [tunic], don't let yourself be taken in by the rosy image on the front of Al Khansa," the newspaper La Stampa of Turin quoted one SISDE analyst as saying.

"Among the Web pages of this newly born female review in Arabic, you won't find the usual fashion features that fill the pages of ladies' magazines the world over, except for a section dedicated to fitness with advice on diet and training to follow so as to acquire not a catwalk waistline, but martyrdom in the holy war."

With its bizarre format including articles on "breathing gymnastics to conquer the passions," evidently essential knowledge for those tempted to have a final fling before strapping on an explosive-laden corset, Al Khansa could indicate that al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has made a strategic choice in favor of "women's emancipation through martyrdom," according to the Gnosis report.

"Women's emancipation through martyrdom". Not quite what Betty Friedan had in mind, I suspect. The article itself is well worth a look:

Women's magazine offers tips to terrorists

(Link courtesy of Jihad Watch)

Iraq: "The Case for Boredom"

Arthur Chrenkoff has produced yet another of his biweekly Iraq progress reports. As he explains:

Contrary to some critics, the intention has never been to whitewash the situation in Iraq or to downplay the negative. The violence, bloodshed, disappointments and frustrations are all there for everyone to see and read about in the "mainstream" media on a daily basis. Pointing out positive developments is not to deny the bad news, merely to provide a more complete picture. As voters faced with the defining foreign policy issue of the new millennium, we owe it to ourselves to be fully informed about the state of affairs in Iraq--and that means rebuilt hospitals as well as car bombs.

What follows is not the full picture of Iraq--merely that part of it you don't often see on the nightly news or the pages of newspapers.

The Case for Boredom
(also available via Chrenkoff)

Honoring MLK

On this official holiday, I just wanted to acknowledge the enormous achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By confronting the shameful legacy of Jim Crow, Dr. King and the civil rights movement forced America to come to terms with our abject failure to live up to our own ideals. As a result of his tragically short life, the USA is a far better place than before, though still not quite where we need to be. Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is truly one of the great pieces of American oratory. On this day when we honor Dr. King's legacy, it is well worth reading:

I Have a Dream

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Of "Breeding Grounds" and Biased Journalism

On Friday, the Washington Post carried an article breathlessly titled "Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground". Written by Dana Priest, the article asserts that:

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

Just a few years ago, we would have had to take Ms. Priest's word for it as to the contents of this document. However, thanks to that tool of information empowerment known as the World Wide Web, anyone who's interested can go to the CIA web site and read the report for themselves:

Mapping the Global Future

The section of the report that discusses Islamist terrorism most directly is titled "Pervasive Insecurity". Within this chapter, there are exactly three references to Iraq in the context of jihadism. These passages read as follows:

-This revival has been accompanied by a deepening solidarity among Muslims caught up in national or regional separatist struggles, such as Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir, Mindanao, or southern Thailand and has emerged in response to government repression, corruption, and ineffectiveness

-The al-Qa’ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq. We expect that by 2020 al-Qa’ida will have been superceded by similarly inspired but more diffuse Islamic extremist groups, all of which will oppose the spread of many aspects of globalization into traditional Islamic societies.

-Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are “professionalized” and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself.

(emphasis added-DD)

So, according to the actual report, the al-Qaeda terrorists trained in Afghanistan will be "replaced in part" by the "survivors" of the Iraq war, which, along with "other possible conflicts in the future", "could provide" opportunities for training and recruitment. Not exactly earth-shaking material. Yet Ms. Priest seized upon the release of this rather bland document to write a front-page article drawing sweeping politicized conclusions. An article that, in the words of a Power Line reader, represents a "blatant misrepresentation of the contents of the report". I have other issues with this article, and hope to deal with them in a day or two. In the meantime, if Ms. Priest wants to write opinion pieces, might I suggest she start her own blog.

Overcoming Shiaphobia

In an opinion piece for the December 17th Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius sounded the following warning about the Iraqi elections:

If you had asked an intelligence analyst two years ago to describe the worst possible political outcome following an American invasion of Iraq, he might well have answered that it would be a regime dominated by conservative Shiite Muslim clerics with links to neighboring Iran. But just such a regime now seems likely to emerge after Iraq's Jan. 30 elections.

Iran is about to hit the jackpot in Iraq, wagering the blood and treasure of the United States. Last week an alliance of Iraqi Shiite leaders announced that its list of candidates will be headed by Abdul Aziz Hakim, the clerical leader of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. This Shiite list, backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is likely to be the favorite of Iraq's 60 percent Shiite majority and win the largest share of votes next month

Mr. Ignatius is a columnist whose work I greatly respect, and his views on this issue by all accounts are widely held within the media and the foreign policy bureaucracy. With the Shia already forming a majority of the electorate, and turnout in the Sunni Arab regions expected to be depressed, the notion that the Iraqi elections will ultimately produce a Shia theocracy beholden to Tehran has fast become conventional wisdom. But what is the actual basis for this belief?

For one thing, Ignatius and others point to the existence of the electoral list backed by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani. According to the critics, the Shia will vote in lockstep for this list. However, as Amir Taheri pointed out in a December 21st column for the New York Post, the Shia "do not constitute a monolithic bloc." There are in fact several major lists led by Shia candidates, each representing diverse constituencies.

Let's assume, however, that the Shia will behave politically as a single monolithic bloc. Won't they have a substantial majority of seats in the provisional assembly, and thus be able to enforce their will on the rest of Iraq? Actually, no. Each of the Shia lists includes candidates from the Sunni, Kurdish, and other communities. Thus, to quote Taheri once again:

Treating the three main Shiite lists as one and assuming that, together, they win all the Shiite votes, the planned National Assembly of 275 seats would end up with no more than 122 Shiite members. This is because at least 30 of those likely to be elected on the Shiite lists are Arab Sunnis or Kurds. In other words, the three main Shiite lists would not have a majority without their Sunni and Kurdish members.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Shia will be able to use the newly elected assembly to impose their communal will upon the entire country. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume that they find a way. Does Shia majority rule in Iraq, with its clerical influence, foretell the coming of Islamic Republic: Part II?

Once again this is unlikely. Reuel Marc Gerecht is one of the foremost experts on Iraq's Shia. As he has written about at length, Ayatollah al-Sistani and the rest of the Shia clerical establishment oppose the creation of an Iranian-style theocracy, regarding it as a deviation from true Shia Islam. In Gerecht's opinion, Sistani is genuinely committed to democratic pluralism. Stephen Schwartz makes a similar point. "Iraqi Shias" he argues, "never accepted Khomeini's conception of clerical governance, which had no basis in Islamic doctrine, and was actually a heresy. There is no serious evidence that, if a Shia majority is brought to power in Iraq, a Khomeinist regime would be established."

Since the fall of Saddam, the Shia clerical establishment has displayed enormous moderation and responsibility in the face of the barbarous assault from the Baaathist/Wahhabist terror alliance. Erick Eckholm, writing in today's New York Times, takes note of this:

Certainly, there is already evidence of moderation and magnanimity from Shiite leaders like Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered cleric who is godfather of the frontrunning United Iraqi Alliance, and Abdulaziz al-Hakim, who is No. 1 on that slate and leads Sciri, its largest member party.

Since the Shiite Islamists returned to Iraq on the coattails of the coalition invasion, they have arguably showed great patience in the face of provocations. They endured the assassination of the revered founder of Sciri, Mr. Hakim's brother, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, in August 2003. And today, Ayatollah Sistani, Mr. Hakim and his followers are stoically holding back their armed supporters despite frequent murders of Shiite clerics. These, they assume, are the work of Sunni militants trying to foment sectarian war.

Anthony Shadid wrote a remarkable article in the December 20th Washington Post, in which he compared the atmosphere at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad to that of a Shia mosque in the same city. The contrast was startling: While the Sunni mosque was a cesspool of murderous Wahhabist fanaticism, the Shia preached the benefits of democracy:

In Um al-Qura, built by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as the Mother of All Battles Mosque, the insurgency is celebrated as an act of resistance against a faithless and deceitful American occupier. In no less strident rhetoric, at the venerated Baratha mosque, that same insurgency is condemned as wicked and senseless violence waged by loyalists of Hussein and foreigners. Elections are subjugation at the Sunni sermon, liberation at the Shiite one. And at each, the community's patience, the preachers insist, is wearing dangerously thin after yet another provocation or slight.

It is important to avoid romanticizing the Shia. They do have their extremist elements, such as the Sadr movement. Iraq's Shia are certainly not immune to the conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and other political pathologies of the Middle East, and they bear the added burden of the psychological toll taken by over two decades of totalitarian oppression. Many of the views expounded by Sistani and other clerics on issues such as womens rights are decidedly reactionary. All things considered, however, the level of restraint and political maturity displayed by the majority of Iraqi Shia has been incredible. While all too many Sunnis have responded to their community's loss of political power by fleeing into the fevered swamps of Wahhabism, most Shia have followed the guidance of Sistani and patiently sought to achieve their empowerment through the ballot box.

In light of all this, what then explains the prevalence of the view held by Ignatius. Unfortunately, much of the foreign policy establishment harbors a set of beliefs that can only be described as "Shiaphobic" in nature. Thomas Donnelly explains:

There's more than simple fear of freedom at work here. For a long time conventional wisdom about Iraq has insisted upon conflating the differences among Iraqi and Iranian Shia. This Shia-fear stems not only from the American experience of the Iranian Revolution but from many decades of propagandizing by the region's Sunni autocrats and monarchs. But a clear reading of Iraq today reveals not a lumpen Shiatariat but a pluralistic political community ranging from Abdel Aziz al-Hakim to Ahmed Chalabi. What brings them together, after generations of "estrangement" from Iraqi politics, is the chance at a decent life, a taste of liberty, and the pursuit of some happiness.

It was attitudes such as these that led the Bush 41 Administration to stand back and allow Saddam to massacre tens of thousands of Shia after the First Gulf War in 1991, all in the name of "stability". While America was giving itself a collective high-five after the success of Desert Storm, the very same people whom George H.W. Bush encouraged to rise up and overthrow Saddam were being slaughtered. And we wonder why many Iraqi Shia are suspicious of the US?

No Iraq's Shia are not Jeffersonians, but neither are they Iranian stooges bent on theocracy. The evidence is clear that most Iraqi Shia want democracy and pluralism, and are willing to work with their Kurdish and Sunni Arab neighbors in order to achieve it. Far from constituting a second Hezbollah, the Shia community provides the best hope for bringing about a pluralist, democratic Iraq. They deserve our full support in this difficult endeavor.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rebellion on Campus: The 21st Century Version

Friday's Opinion Journal has a great essay by Brian C. Anderson on the new wave of unrest beginning to emerge on our nation's campuses. Not liberal or leftist protests, but conservative students rebelling against the stultifying, politically correct, left-of-center orthodoxy that dominates most American universities:

The protests shocked the mainstream press, but to close observers of America's college scene lately they came as no surprise. For decades, conservative critics have bemoaned academe's monolithically liberal culture. Parents, critics note, spend fortunes to send their kids to top colleges, and then watch helplessly as the schools cram them with a diet of politically correct leftism often wholly opposed to mom and dad's own values.

But the left's long dominion over the university--the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed--is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn't coming from the schools' faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It's coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy's elite gatekeepers.

As Anderson notes, today's campus conservatives are hardly William F. Buckley clones. Many are fans of shows such as South Park, and have no real objection to gay marriage. As with myself, their main objection is to the ideological conformity that permeates academia and makes a mockery of intellectual freedom. Ironically, this atmosphere has increased the appeal of conservative views:

Conservative ideas take on even greater allure for students when the authorities say they're verboten. From pervasive campus political correctness--the unfree speech codes, obligatory diversity-sensitivity seminars and school-sponsored performances of "The Vagina Monologues'--to the professorate's near-uniform leftism, with faculty Democrats outnumbering Republicans by at least 7 to 1 (at Williams, it's 51 Dems to zero Republicans), everything aims to implant correct left-wing attitudes in student brains.

"There's a natural and healthy tendency among students to question the piety of their teachers," Penn history professor Alan Kors noted a few months back. "And for so long the pieties, dogmas and set of assumptions being taught on college campuses have been found on the far left." Says Daniel Flynn of the Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that trains young conservative activists: "The intention of many in academe is to evangelize left-wing ideas, but in effect what they're doing is often the opposite: piquing interest in the other side."

Overall, Anderson has written a long and fascinating essay, one that is well worth a read:

Right on Campus

A Soldier Speaks Out on the Media

Military blogger Blackfive has an essay written by Lt. Colonel Tim Ryan, a battalion commander with the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq, on media coverage of the war. While I don't agree with everything, especially the title, I definitely think Lt. Col. Ryan makes some excellent points about the contrast between the perceptions created by that coverage, versus the reality on the ground. Please give it a read:

Aiding and Abetting the Enemy

Friday, January 14, 2005

Friday Thoughts

As usual, Victor Davis Hanson's Friday column for National Review Online provides some sorely needed perspective on affairs in Iraq:

There are many constants in all this pessimistic confusion — beside the fact that we are becoming a near hysterical society. First, our miraculous efforts in toppling the Taliban and Saddam have apparently made us forget war is always a litany of mistakes. No conflict is conducted according to either antebellum planning or can proceed with the benefit of hindsight. Iraq was not Yemen or Qatar, but rather the most wicked regime in the world, in the heart of the Arab world, full of oil, terrorists, and mass graves. There were no helpful neighbors to keep a lid on their own infiltrating jihadists. Instead we had to go into the heart of the caliphate, take out a mass murderer, restore civil society after 30 years of brutality, and ward off Sunni and Baathist fomenters in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria — all the while keeping out Iranian-Shiite agents bent on stopping democracy. The wonder is not that there is violence and gloom in Iraq, but that less than two years after Saddam was removed, elections are still on track.

Second, our very success creates ever increasing expectations of perfection for a postmodern America used to instant gratification. We now look back in awe at World War II, the model of military success, in which within four years an unprepared United States won two global wars, at sea, on the ground, and in the air, in three continents against Japan, Italy, and Germany, and supplied both England and the Soviet Union. But our forefathers experienced disaster after disaster in a tale of heartbreak, almost as inglorious as the Korean mess or Vietnam tragedy. And they did things to win we perhaps claim we would now not: Shoot German prisoners in the Bulge, firebomb Axis cities, drop the bomb — almost anything to stop fascists from slaughtering even more millions of innocents.

Our armored vehicles were deathtraps and only improved days before the surrender. American torpedoes were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths and emblematic of terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over fourth months before the surrender — without any planning for Kamikazes who were shortly to kill 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general that could have ended the western war in 1944, was relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near fatal results for the drive from Normandy; mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King resisted the life-saving convoy system and unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; while Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared fleet to a storm.


And yet our greatest generation thought by and large they had done pretty well. We in contrast would have given up in despair in 1942, New York Times columnists and NPR pundits pontificating "I told you so" as if we were better off sitting out the war all along.

Do yourself a favor and read it all:

Triangulating the War

Thursday, January 13, 2005

High on More Than Life

An interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times indicates that the Iraqi insurgents are fueled by more than just fanaticism:

Although the ferocity of insurgents is generally attributed to religious fervor and a hatred of America, Marines who participated in the November assault on Fallouja say many of their foes also had something else to bolster their tenacity: drugs.

The Marines say they found numerous stockpiles of needles and drugs such as adrenaline and amphetamines while battling insurgents in the fiercest urban combat waged by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War.

In some homes used by insurgents, crack pipes were found, the Marines say.


The conduct of many of the insurgents during the fighting in Fallouja suggested that they had ingested drugs that enabled them to continue fighting even after being severely wounded, Marines and Navy medical corpsmen say.

"One guy described it as like watching the 'Night of the Living Dead,' " corpsman Peter Melady said. "People who should have been dead were still alive."

The terrorists are always taunting us about how they love death while we love life, yet they need to get themselves wired on drugs before they'll face our troops in battle.

The article provides a fascinating and chilling insight into the nature of our enemy in Iraq, and is definitely worth a look:

Fallouja Insurgents Fought Under Influence of Drugs, Marines Say

(go to if you need an LA Times username and password)

Jihad Update

The January 13 edition of Global Jihad Watch, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies weekly War on Terror news roundup, is now available. Please give it a look:

Global Jihad Watch

Is Israel to Blame for Anti-Americanism?

One of the main criticisms made of the Bush Administration's Middle East policy is its alleged neglect of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The critics, who subscribe to what Victor Davis Hanson has aptly termed the "therapeutic view" of terrorism, argue that American support for Israel is one of the main causes of Arab and Muslim anti-Americanism. If the Palestinian issue is resolved, this argument goes, such sentiments will be greatly reduced. Former CIA officer turned author/pundit Michael Scheuer is an especially enthusiastic proponent of this notion.

Are Scheuer and the other critics right? Would achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace, let alone eliminating the Jewish state, help mitigate the problems of the Arab world and make America less hated in that region? In a piece in the January/February 2005 issue of Foreign Policy, Josef Joffe examines what "A World Without Israel" would look like, and finds that almost nothing would change:

Imagine that Israel never existed. Would the economic malaise and political repression that drive angry young men to become suicide bombers vanish? Would the Palestinians have an independent state? Would the United States, freed of its burdensome ally, suddenly find itself beloved throughout the Muslim world? Wishful thinking. Far from creating tensions, Israel actually contains more antagonisms than it causes.

As Joffe correctly notes, "Israel is a pretext, not a cause, and therefore its dispatch will not heal the self-inflicted wounds of the Arab-Islamic world." He then gets to the heart of the matter:

Can anybody proclaim in good conscience that these dysfunctionalities of the Arab world would vanish along with Israel? Two U.N. “Arab Human Development Reports,” written by Arab authors, say no. The calamities are homemade. Stagnation and hopelessness have three root causes. The first is lack of freedom. The United Nations cites the persistence of absolute autocracies, bogus elections, judiciaries beholden to executives, and constraints on civil society. Freedom of expression and association are also sharply limited. The second root cause is lack of knowledge: Sixty-five million adults are illiterate, and some 10 million children have no schooling at all. As such, the Arab world is dropping ever further behind in scientific research and the development of information technology. Third, female participation in political and economic life is the lowest in the world. Economic growth will continue to lag as long as the potential of half the population remains largely untapped.

Will all of this right itself when that Judeo-Western insult to Arab pride finally vanishes? Will the millions of unemployed and bored young men, cannon fodder for the terrorists, vanish as well—along with one-party rule, corruption, and closed economies? This notion makes sense only if one cherishes single-cause explanations or, worse, harbors a particular animus against the Jewish state and its refusal to behave like Sweden. (Come to think of it, Sweden would not be Sweden either if it lived in the Hobbesian world of the Middle East.)

Finally, Joffe addresses whether the end of Israel would reduce anti-American sentiments in the Islamic world:

To begin, the notion that 5 million Jews are solely responsible for the rage of 1 billion or so Muslims cannot carry the weight assigned to it. Second, Arab-Islamic hatreds of the United States preceded the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza. Recall the loathing left behind by the U.S.-managed coup that restored the shah’s rule in Tehran in 1953, or the U.S. intervention in Lebanon in 1958. As soon as Britain and France left the Middle East, the United States became the dominant power and the No. 1 target. Another bit of suggestive evidence is that the fiercest (unofficial) anti-Americanism emanates from Washington’s self-styled allies in the Arab Middle East, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Is this situation because of Israel—or because it is so convenient for these regimes to “busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels” (as Shakespeare’s Henry IV put it) to distract their populations from their dependence on the “Great Satan”?

As Joffe sums things up, "the real source of Arab angst is the West as a palpable symbol of misery and an irresistible target of what noted Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has called 'Arab rage.'" This rage, as historian Bernard Lewis has shown, is the result of decades if not centuries of historical development. Yes, many in the Middle East hate American policies, including our support for Israel, but they do so because their view of our policies is shaped by a distinct cultural, religious, and ideological worldview in which America and the West are seen as the source of all problems. Remember, for example, that al-Qaeda had no shortage of recruits in the late 1990's, a period of relative calm between Israel and the Palestinians.

Make no mistake: a genuine, lasting peace between Israel and a democratic Palestine would be a very good thing. However, forcing Israel into an ill-advised agreement with a Palestinian state still bent on 'driving the Jews into the sea", or even abandoning Israel altogether, would gain the United States nothing. We would make few friends, and earn little except contempt for our weakness.