Monday, February 28, 2005

'Delightful for Its Ordinariness'

Arthur Chrenkoff has produced another of his invaluable biweekly updates on Iraq. In the wake of events such as today's horrific terrorist attack in Hilla, it's important to realize that progress continues, especially since January's historic elections:

That so many people, and not just the Sunni sheikhs, now want the piece of the Iraqi action perhaps tells us more about the true situation and future prospects in Iraq than most current news reports. That the waiting room of the Middle Eastern maternity ward is getting increasingly crowded with paternity claimants is a good, if indirect, sign that things in Iraq may be going better than one would think based on the mainstream media coverage. Below, some good news and positive developments in Iraq that you might have missed over the past two weeks.

'Delightful for Its Ordinariness'
(also available at Chrenkoff)

Is America the Problem in Iraq?

On February 18th, the Washington Post published a fawning article by Evelyn Nieves on the plans of the "anti-war" movement to renew their efforts to force an unconditional American withdrawal from Iraq:

Peace groups have been relatively quiet in recent months, especially after President Bush's reelection. But antiwar leaders say they are on the verge of reemerging. Leaders of dozens of peace groups plan to meet in St. Louis this weekend to plot strategies for a new push against the war, from ad campaigns to long-term, grass-roots organizing. They plan to use March 19 and 20, the anniversary weekend of the war's start, as the beginning of an all-out effort to convince the public that the best course for Americans and Iraqis is for the war to end and the troops to come home.

Of course, everyone wants the war to end and our troops to come home. The question is whether unconditional withdrawal is the best course of action. To quote further from the article:

Leaders of the largest antiwar groups say that garnering massive support for the withdrawal of troops will require a massive education effort. While groups will still organize rallies marking important benchmarks, they say, the large public protests seen before the war are giving way to a more focused energy. The new strategy might be called think nationally, act locally.

"It's not enough for us to say, 'Come to us'; we have to go to the people," Bennis said. "We have to convince people that the U.S. troops are the problem, not the solution. As long as they're there, they're providing the largest direct target and the largest indirect target. But it doesn't mean that pulling out the troops is the end of our obligation. We owe a huge debt to Iraq. We owe reparations."

(emphasis added-DD)

There it is, in a nutshell. America is the problem. The same common thread found in every "anti-war" movement since Vietnam. The genocidal Baathist totalitarian party-state that murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and ran the country's economy and society into the ground is not the problem. The murderous Baathist-Wahhabist terror alliance that has killed thousands of Iraqis over the last two years and done everything possible to sabotage the country's reconstruction is not the problem. It is the Americans who overthrew that totalitarian regime and are risking their lives to fight the terrorists who are the problem.

The idea that if the US leaves Iraq the Sunni terrorist insurgency will pack up their AKs and shut down the car bomb factories is absurd. No doubt there are individual insurgents who are simply fighting because they are opposed to the American presence. The core elements of the insurgency are motivated by far broader objectives, however. The Baathists are obviously hoping that they can terrorize their way back into power. The Iraqi Islamists are fighting to make Iraq into a Taliban-style Wahhabist state, while the foreign jihadists such as Zarqawi are determined to prevent Iraq from building an "apostate" government based on the "infidel" principle of democracy.

Yet, there is more to the Sunni insurgency than mere political or ideological objectives. There is also an irrational, tribal quality that cannot be appeased or bargained with. Steven Vincent, who has traveled in post-Saddam Iraq, explains:

(T)he Sunni counter-liberation is not based in a clear-eyed assessment of needs, goals or realistic objectives: rather, driven by fear, tribalism and grandiosity, it is a plunge into the suicidal vortex of the shame-honor dynamic, increasingly fueled by religious fantasy. And while not all Sunnis are infected with this malignant narcissism, the more radical leaders are--and these men will never negotiate, never surrender and never allow their fellow Sunnis to submit to a Shia-dominated government no matter how many postponements of elections take place. For their own precious honor--and that of their families, clans and tribes--they would rather kill and be killed. If they can't run Iraq--then Iraq will cease to exist.

If America were to withdraw from Iraq in the face of terrorist violence, the insurgency would not be weakened, it would be immeasurably strengthened. Having defeated the most powerful nation in the world, the hard-core insurgent leaders would soon rule unchallenged within the Sunni community. The logical next step, as one Sunni approvingly told Iraqi blogger Zeyad, would be "fighting the Shia back into submission (as in 1991)". No one can claim ignorance of what the consequences of this would be.

How, then, does the "anti-war" movement recommend we stay engaged in Iraq? By paying "reparations". Apparently, the billions of dollars spent trying to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure that Saddam allowed to deteriorate do not count, let alone the loss of nearly 1,500 American lives. The idea implicit in paying "reparations", of course, is that America did something wrong when it liberated 25 million people from one of the most barbarous regimes of the late 20th century. Judging by recent events, there are at least 8 million Iraqis who, regardless of their feelings towards the American military presence in their country, are delighted that we rid them of Saddam.

In a February 23rd column for the International Herald Tribune, left-of-center Bush critic Roger Cohen related a recent conversation with Iraq's Minister of Human Rights:

We owe our freedom to Americans," the minister says.

"The real occupation is not theirs, but the one we suffered for 35 years by the group of thugs who brutalized my nation."

It is hard to argue with Amin. He wields the weapon of truth with directness.

At the end, Cohen is forced to conclude that:

This war was falsely portrayed, poorly planned, and hurt by hubris. But it was the right war.

After America unilaterally ended its military involvement in Southeast Asia in the early 1970's, the result was a Communist "peace" that claimed the lives of an estimated 2 million Cambodians and Vietnamese. If the "anti-war" movement gets its way again, the only peace Iraq will see is the peace of the grave. The US should withdraw our forces from Iraq, but only when a democratically elected Iraqi government capable of handling its own security affairs asks us to do so.

War is indeed terrible. The longer we stay in Iraq, the more young Americans will be killed and maimed, a prospect that should give anyone pause. It is entirely natural to want this to stop. However, as I've argued before at length, the ultimate costs of abandoning Iraq would be disastrous. It would confirm forever the notion that America is a weak, decadent society unable to take casualties. It would hand the jihadist movement a victory that would sustain it for a generation. It would destroy the all too fragile process of democratic change that has begun to emerge in the Middle East. Finally, it would condemn the Iraqi people to a return to the nightmare of totalitarianism, with horrific consequences.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Portrait of a Hero

In his February 23rd column for Knight Ridder Newspapers, Joseph L. Galloway, veteran military journalist and co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young", tells the story of a far better man than I am: Sgt. 1st Class David J. Salie. I offer this article without comment, except to ask you to read it all:

The Army said its farewell to Sgt. 1st Class David J. Salie here on Tuesday at his home post in his hometown of Columbus, Ga. It was filled with ritual and honors and the tears of friends and family.

Sgt. Salie was killed on Valentine's Day in Iraq, just four days after he led the troops of the 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2/69 Armor, 3rd Infantry Division into that country to begin a yearlong tour with his division.

A dead soldier's words on Iraq: ` The price is worth it'

Weekly Roundup

Here are several recent news items and blog posts that might be of interest:

-Arthur Chrenkoff has a terrific post on how the media are "Spinning Afghanistan" in the usual fashion.

-Chrenkoff and Tony Geraghty of National Review Online's TKS both emphasize the importance of recent remarks by Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt on the positive impact of the Iraqi elections. As they point out, Jumblatt's history of anti-Americanism makes his embrace of democratic reform especially meaningful.

-The February 19th New York Times reported that "Irish Raids Net Vast Sums That Are Tied to the I.R.A". Anything that helps usher the IRA thugs into the dustbin of history is a positive development.

-Finally, the latest weekly War on Terror update from the FDD is available:

Global Jihad Monitor: 2-24-05

Internal Stuff

First of all, please allow me to thank Steven Vincent of In The Red Zone. Not only has he included me in his blogroll, but he linked to me in this post. Also, I owe a belated thank you to Shush, Conservator, American Chartophylax, and any other blogs who have linked to me.

I started this blog for two reasons. One, as a way of rebelling against the stultifying ideological conformity of my profession, and expressing my views on the War on Terror and other issues of concern to me. Two, because I enjoy blogging. The irony of being a librarian who rarely blogs on library issues is certainly not lost on me. Actually, blogger who happens to be a librarian is probably a more accurate description. Frankly, I never expected to be read by more than a handful of people who already knew me. I am humbled and flattered to be proven wrong.

The Status of Iraqi Women

While I am optimistic over the future of Iraq in the long term, there is one trend that is a source of great concern: the status of women. As an article from the current issue of Newsweek explains, Iraqi women have been the targets of a systematic campaign of intimidation and murder at the hands of Sunni Islamist terrorists, and in some cases from Shia extremists.

Beyond the violence, there are other concerns. Foremost among them is whether or not the new Iraqi constitution will incorporate elements of Islamic Sharia law dealing with social and family issues. While I doubt that the more religious Shia parties in the transitional assembly will be able to push such provisions through, it it still a worry.

Overall, I firmly believe that the Iraqi people, including women, are much better off for having been liberated from the barbarous tyranny of Saddam. However, Steven Vincent at In the Red Zone makes a point well worth considering:

By destroying Baathist authority and letting the Shia genie out of the bottle, the U.S. has exacerbated social tendencies and conditions that impact women's lives for the worse. This is the cost--or perhaps the birth pangs--of democracy, one might say, and I believe the Iraqi people will bear them, as they have so many other disappointments, setbacks and torments. But for right-wing pundits to declare victory and ignore what this new Iraqi society means for females, seems shallow and morally questionable.

A century ago, the North abandoned the cause of black enfranchisement in the years after the Civil War and allowed apartheid to resettle in the southern United States. We have far less influence over Iraq, of course, but we must take steps to insure a similar catastrophe does not take place in that newly liberated land. If the plow of democracy only churns up the topsoil of Iraqi society, and does not dig deep into the substrata of tribalism and patriarchal domination, then our efforts in that land will be half-measures at best. We must continue, in modern form, Douglass' concept of abolitionist "agitation." Women must be free--religious and social customs be damned.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Of Libraries and Blogs

Time for one of my rare library-related posts.

Courtesy of Instapundit, comes this link to a column by incoming ALA President Michael Gorman:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

I had heard of the activities of the latter and of the absurd idea of giving them press credentials (though, since the credentials were issued for political conventions, they were just absurd icing on absurd cakes). I was not truly aware of them until shortly after I published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times ("Google and God's Mind," December 17, 2004). Then, thanks to kind friends with nothing but my welfare in mind, I rapidly learned more about the blog subcultures.

Instapundit is rather less than impressed by Gorman's argument, and especially his snidely elitist tone:

Honestly, all this does is give ammunition to the people who say that libraries and librarians are obsolete in the digital age. I've always disagreed with that position -- but if Mr. Gorman is a typical specimen I'll have to rethink my stance, given that, judging by his comments, Gorman isn't even very good at using Google.

As usual, Glenn provides links and comments from others. Conservator offers this link to Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian, who pretty much sums things up:

I can't laugh when Gorman represents librarianship, my profession, with outlandishly reactionary comments about information technology. I can only worry.

While Gorman is right to point out that not everything is available on the Web, his utterly condescending tone does nothing to further the cause of libraries or librarians. The Google deal, whatever its flaws, will help make library material more accessible to our users, and increase their awareness of what we can provide them.

As far as Gorman's contempt for blogs, this too is cause for concern. No, blog discourse isn't always the most elevated. However, blogging has become a powerful vehicle for the free expression of ideas, to the point that certain repressive regimes have imprisoned people for doing it. You would think the head of an organization supposedly devoted to intellectual freedom would respect that.

The Jihadists and their Victims

One of the more popular criticisms of the War on Islamist Terror is that it somehow amounts to a "war on Muslims". However, as a new backgrounder from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies points out, it is Muslims who suffer the most from jihadist violence:

The U.S. Department of State, in its most recent annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, reports that there were 625 fatalities worldwide as a result of terrorist attacks in 2003.

While Patterns of Global Terrorism does not report the religion of the victims, an analysis by FDD of the 2003 report reveals that Muslims are far more likely to be victims of terrorism than their share of the global population would suggest. Muslims constitute about 22% of the world population, but closer to half the victims of terrorism are Muslim.

In addition to those acts of terrorism cited in State Department reports, hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians have been targeted for death by Jihadist forces in internal conflicts, most notably in Algeria.

Muslim Victims of Terrorism

The terrorists in Iraq have killed far more Iraqis than they have American soldiers. In Algeria, the jihadists are estimated to have slaughtered more than 100,000 people, the majority of them Muslim civilians. If al-Qaeda ever succeeds in bringing its vision of a totalitarian Islamist superstate to fruition, the human toll will rival that inflicted by Hitler or Stalin. The struggle to defeat this movement is not a "war on Muslims"; if anything, it is a war in defense of Muslims.

Friday, February 25, 2005

VDH: "Merchants of Despair"

Friday means it's time for the latest column from Victor Davis Hanson:

It is wise to cite and publicize our errors — and there have been many in this war. Humility and circumspection are military assets as well. And we should not deprecate the danger of our enemies, who are cruel and ingenious. Moreover, we should never confuse the sharp dissent of the well-meaning critic with disloyalty to the cause.

But nor should we fall into pessimism, when in less than four years we have destroyed the two worst regimes in the Middle East, scattered al Qaeda, avoided another promised 9/11 at home, and sent shock waves of democracy throughout the Arab world — so far at an aggregate cost of less than what was incurred on the first day of this unprovoked war. Car bombs are bad news, but in the shadows is the real story: The terrorists are losing, and radical reform, the likes of which millions have never seen, is right on the horizon. So this American gloominess is not new. Yet, if the past is any guide, our present lack of optimism in this struggle presages its ultimate success.

A final prediction: By the end of this year, formerly critical liberal pundits, backsliding conservative columnists, once-fiery politicians, Arab "moderates," ex-statesmen and generals emeriti, smug stand-up comedians, recently strident Euros — perhaps even Hillary herself — will quietly come to a consensus that what we are witnessing from Afghanistan and the West Bank to Iraq and beyond, with its growing tremors in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, and the Gulf, is a moral awakening, a radical break with an ugly past that threatens a corrupt, entrenched, and autocratic elite and is just the sort of thing that they were sort of for, sort of all along — sort of...

Merchants of Despair

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Signs of Change in the Arab World

The Iraqi elections were one sign of hopeful change in the Middle East. Another can be found in Lebanon, where people from across the sectarian divide are joining forces to demand an end to the Syrian occupation of their homeland. The recent murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was almost certainly an attempt by Syria to forestall the growth of a unified Lebanese opposition, has instead acted as a catalyst. As David Ignatius points out in Wednesday's Washington Post, "Beirut's Berlin Wall" is starting to crumble, and the impact will be felt well beyond Lebanon:

Brave words, in a country where dissent has often meant death. "It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."Brave words, in a country where dissent has often meant death. "It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."

The unlikely leader of this movement is longtime Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt. Those who don't believe that the Iraqi elections made an impact in the Arab world should read the following:

Jumblatt dresses like an ex-hippie, in jeans and loafers, but he maintains the exquisite manners of a Lebanese aristocrat. Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

(emphasis added-DD)

In Sunday's New York Times, Tom Friedman also noted the development of this nascent Arab movement for democratic change, something that most realists only thought they would see "When Camels Fly". Sadly, he is probably correct in stating that this process will be far longer and bloodier than what occurred in Eastern Europe in 1989:

No one is more pleased than I am to see the demonstration of "people power" in Iraq, with millions of Iraqis defying the "you vote, you die" threat of the Baathists and jihadists. No one should take lightly the willingness of the opposition forces in Lebanon to stand up and point a finger at the Syrian regime and say "J'accuse!" for the murder of the opposition leader Rafik Hariri. No one should dismiss the Palestinian election, which featured a real choice of candidates, and a solid majority voting in favor of a decent, modernizing figure - Mahmoud Abbas. No one should ignore the willingness of some Egyptians to demand to run against President Hosni Mubarak when he seeks a fifth - unopposed - term. These are things you have not seen in the Arab world before. They are really, really unusual - like watching camels fly.

Something really is going on with the proverbial "Arab street." The automatic assumption that the "Arab street" will always rally to the local king or dictator - if that king or dictator just waves around some bogus threat or insult from "America," "Israel" or "the West" - is no longer valid. Yes, the Iraq invasion probably brought more anti-American terrorists to the surface. But it also certainly brought more pro-democracy advocates to the surface.

Call it the "Baghdad Spring."

But we have to be very sober about what is ahead. There will be no velvet revolutions in this part of the world. The walls of autocracy will not collapse with just one good push. As the head-chopping insurgents in Iraq, the suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia and the murderers of Mr. Hariri have all signaled: The old order in this part of the world will not go quietly into this good night. You put a flower in the barrel of their gun and they'll blow your hand and your head right off.

As Friedman notes, we are merely at the beginning of a long and painful journey. But it is a journey that must be made if we are to defeat the forces of hatred and fanaticism that produced 9/11. Only by giving the people of the Arab world the opportunity to create free societies based on hope instead of fear, will the conditions that spawned the jihadist movement be alleviated.

The Real Gold Medal Game

Today is the 25th anniversary of the game that made the Miracle on Ice complete, the USA's 4-2 victory over Finland that clinched the 1980 Ice Hockey Gold Medal for Herb Brooks' team. When people speak of the Miracle, they usually talk about the USA's stunning 4-3 victory over the Soviets. Few seem to even realize how important the Finland game was. Even the movie Miracle treated it as an afterthought. This attitude is stunning to me, for the simple reason that had the Americans lost to the Finns, they would not have won the gold. In fact, had Finland beaten the US by two or more goals, and had the Soviets and Swedes played to a tie in their game, the Americans would not have won any medal.

ESPN Classic is showing the USA-Finland game, from 8:00-10:00 PM tonight. Once again, I'll be firing up the VCR.

A Trial Worth Covering

Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor reports that some of the most vicious mass murderers of the late 20th century will soon be facing justice:

War-crimes trials for Saddam Hussein and 11 of his Baathist Party cohorts, accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations, will begin within the next two to four weeks, according to a US government official who works with the Iraqis.


The first to sit in the dock is likely to be Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," for the role he played in the chemical weapons attacks that killed as many as 100,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. Then, Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, commander of the Special Republican Guard as well as director of the Mukhabarat, the notorious intelligence service, is expected to be tried for torturing and murdering thousands of people.

In the International Herald Tribune, Roger Cohen lays out the scope of Saddam's atrocities:

One such moment comes in a midmorning conversation with Iraq's human rights minister, Bakhtiar Amin, a Kurd in whom all the injury inflicted by Saddam on the Kurdish people seems concentrated. "Iraq," he says, "is a museum of crimes."

The layout of the museum is a work in progress. Amin is assembling a data base that will list all the dictator's murders; a delegation is being sent to Bosnia and to Kosovo to learn how to organize the data. "We are working with bones, with teeth," he says. "It's hard work to identify victims."

How many are there? Amin does not know. He says his ministry was sifting through 150,000 files and 60 kilograms, or 130 pounds, of material recently delivered by the Red Cross. Perhaps half a million Kurds were killed, he suggested, and hundreds of thousands of Shiites. "For the total numbers, we need time" he says.

The trials of Saddam and his cronies will be a history-making event, a 21st Century Nuremberg tribunal. For the first time, a Middle Eastern tyrant, in fact the worst of them, will be held to account by his own people. The impact on Iraq and the broader region, coming in the wake of January's elections, will be substantial. We can only hope that the cable news outlets can tear themselves away from Michael Jackson long enough to take notice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Miracle on Ice

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice"; the US Olympic hockey team's incredible 4-3 victory over the USSR at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. While most of the media seem to be ignoring this anniversary, ESPN Classic is showing the game at 8:00 PM and 11:30 PM, EST. Considering that this is arguably the greatest moment in American sports history, I encourage every sports fan to watch.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blogging and Freedom

The great thing about blogging is that anyone can start up a site and do it. Even a long-winded geek like me. Unless, of course, you live in Iran, where you can be sent to prison if you dare to start a blog critical of the mullahcracy:

Web logs have become a popular forum for dissent. And the Iranian government has responded by arresting dozens of bloggers.

Some of those detained are reportedly being held in solitary confinement and tortured.

Source: BBC News

The Committee to Protect Bloggers has announced an international campaign on behalf of imprisoned Iranian bloggers Mojtaba Saminejad and Arash Sigarchi. I humbly offer my support, for what it's worth, to this effort.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Unsung Victories"

There is almost no one who can match Victor Davis Hanson's sense of historical perspective and ability to see the big picture. His latest column for National Review Online is no exception:

No longer should we remain in thrall to any Arab government that with its left hand rounds up over-the-top terrorists, while with its right gives others less violent a pass to unleash virulent hatred of America. The Rubicon has been crossed in Iraq, and we can no longer watch Americans die for democracy in the Sunni Triangle while giving billions to a regime that kills off consensual government in Cairo. Diplomats can work out the details without sounding either moralistic or naive, smiling and assuring the Egyptians that our friendship will be only strengthened from a new understanding, as the money dries up and we part without acrimony — even as in desperation Mubarak readjusts to his "helpful" role as a third-party interlocutor in Iraq and Palestine.

The American effort to democratize postwar Afghanistan and Iraq has placed a heavy burden on the United States to develop a coherent and consistent policy of supporting reformers throughout the Middle East. We should continue with demands for elections in a Lebanon free of a tyrannical Syria, elevate dissidents in Iran onto the world stage, pressure for change in the Gulf, and say goodbye to Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. If Western elites are really worried about the legitimacy of past elections in Iraq, let them go instead to Lebanon where they can worry first about having any at all, and then later complain about the proper degree of voter participation. The forces of history have been unleashed and we should cease apologizing for the deluge and instead steer the waves in the right direction.

Americans understandably focus on the hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet just as important are the unsung successes that received little praise, and then have a weird tendency to drift off into the collective global amnesia as if they arose from natural, not American-induced, reform.

Unsung Victories

Global Jihad Watch: 2/16/05

Click here to read the latest installment of this excellent weekly War on Terror roundup.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Change in the Middle East

In a February 14th piece for National Review Online, Michael Ledeen discusses the wave of democratic change sweeping the Middle East and the world. As he points out, it is vital that America do what we can to foster this process:

It would be an error of enormous proportions if, on the verge of a revolutionary transformation of the Middle East, we backed away from this historic mission. It would be doubly tragic if we did it because of one of two possible failures of vision: insisting on focusing on Iraq alone, and viewing military power as the prime element in our revolutionary strategy. Revolution often comes from the barrel of a gun, but not always. Having demonstrated our military might, we must now employ our political artillery against the surviving terror masters. The great political battlefield in the Middle East is, as it has been all along, Iran, the mother of modern terrorism, the creator of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and the prime mover of Hamas. When the murderous mullahs fall in Tehran, the terror network will splinter into its component parts, and the jihadist doctrine will be exposed as the embodiment of failed lies and misguided messianism.

The instrument of their destruction is democratic revolution, not war, and the first salvo in the political battle of Iran is national referendum. Let the Iranian people express their desires in the simplest way possible: "Do you want an Islamic republic?" Send Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel to supervise the vote. Let the contending parties compete openly and freely, let newspapers publish, let radios and televisions broadcast, fully supported by the free nations. If the mullahs accept this gauntlet, I have every confidence that Iran will be on the path to freedom within months. If, fearing a massive rejection from their own people, the tyrants of Tehran reject a free referendum and reassert their repression, then the free nations will know it is time to deploy the full panoply of pressure to enable the Iranians to gain their freedom.

The time is now. Faster, please.


No, the tyrants in Tehran and elsewhere are unlikely to go quietly. As shown by this week's murder of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, which was probably done with Syrian complicity, the region's dictatorships will use any means to cling to their ever-more tenuous hold on power. However, we must not let up. The sacrifices we have made in Iraq have been rewarded by the success of the recent elections in that country, and the impact these elections have had throughout the region. We must do whatever possible to ensure that this momentum continues. The Middle East's corrupt dictatorships and autocracies cannot last. If we do not seek to foster our brand of change in the Arab world, we can rest assured that bin Laden and Zarqawi will pursue their own vision for the region.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Season's Over

Today, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, making the NHL the first major North American league to lose an entire season. I am a lifelong hockey fan, born and raised in the Detroit area, who grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada. You would think I would be devastated by this news, but frankly I just don't care all that much. If anything, I am relieved to have been spared the farcical spectacle of the rump 28 game plus playoffs "season" that would have occurred had a last-minute deal been struck.

Personally, I sympathize with neither owners nor players. The people I do feel bad for are those unable to earn a living due to the lockout, such as the ushers, ticket-takers, and other team employees. I also regret that Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman will now almost certainly be denied the opportunity to end his career in a proper manner. A great player and class act, Yzerman deserves better.

I blogged at length about my problems with the current NHL last June. Essentially, the NHL I knew and grew up with is gone, having been replaced by an NBA on skates. Under Bettman's reign, the league has cut itself off from its roots, choosing to ignore its core Canadian and Northeastern US fan base, and instead become high-priced corporate entertainment. As I wrote previously, the league is the sporting equivalent of the bubble. Until that bubble bursts, and the league stops trying to pretend that it is on a par with the NBA and NFL, the NHL's financial and other woes will continue.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Debunking 9/11 Conspiracies

Popular Mechanics has just published a great article that dispenses with many of the deranged conspiracy theories about 9/11. If you've ever had to deal with any of these obscene, ridiculous notions, you'll want to bookmark this one:

9/11: Debunking The Myths

A Vital Question of the Day

Is Journey better off without Steve Perry?

Does this issue torment you while you lie awake at night? If so:

1. You are in even more desperate need of a life than I am.

2. This post at Reason's Hit and Run blog is for you.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Honoring Our Heroes

At National Review Online, Kathryn Jean Lopez reflects on a recent trip to Walter Reed Army Hospital:

Every American should have the privilege of knowing the caliber of Americans who go off to war to protect us. He's a Marine who nonchalantly gets up and walks around the table to cut his one-armed brother's steak for him. He's a Marine who with one arm closes and lifts his brother's wheelchair into a car. He's still strong — still stronger than I am, for sure — and no enemy's going to take that away from him if he has anything to say about it. He's a boy whose youth shocks you, who is minus a leg, who spent months in a coma, and who has three brothers who have signed up for the war effort in some way. He's Casey Owens, who so many of us saw salute the president on Inauguration Day, from his wheelchair, and who's probably the best spokesman for the war out there. On Saturday night, when a few Marines took the night off from Walter Reed for dinner and drinks at a happening Georgetown restaurant and bar, everyone wanted to know him — and thank him — and never forget him.

You’re the Inspiration

This country owes an emormous debt to those who risk their lives on our behalf, one we cannot possibly repay. If you have not yet donated to a military-related charity, please consider doing so.

Iraq: "The End of the Beginning"

Arthur Chrenkoff provides another great biweekly summary of the positive side of the Iraq story. Those who prefer to scoff at such a notion should reflect on the following:

Which is why many of those who for almost two years provided us with a steady diet of disaster and negativity out of Iraq were unprepared and quite clearly taken aback by the spectacle of a majority of Iraqis defying the terrorists to participate in what was by large a free and successful democratic election.

Steyn is right; the seeds of a democratic culture are harder to spot, particularly for media obsess with reporting events (explosions, gunfights) as opposed to processes (reconstruction--physical, political, spiritual--of a country and society). The verdict on Iraq remains open. Only time will tell if Saddam's former domain will become a normal and successful state, perhaps the first Middle Eastern domino to fall for democratization and reform, or whether if and religious entropy will prevail to send Iraq down a spiral of theocracy, or perhaps civil war and territorial disintegration.

Yet if Iraq does pull through, the signs of slow and gradual progress will always have been there to see. I have been chronicling them in this series for nine months now, and when majority of Iraqis defied threats and cast their ballots of Jan. 30, I was not surprised. The successful election was not a bolt out of the blue but a culmination of a year and a half of hard work by millions of Iraqis and citizens of the coalition countries. To paraphrase Churchill, the election, is not the end or even the beginning of the end, but hopefully the end of the beginning. Let us hope that the journey will continue in the right direction. In the meantime, here are some snapshots from the past two weeks along the way.

The End of the Beginning
(also available via Chrenkoff)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Bush Doctrine and its Critics

Norman Podhoretz has written yet another must-read essay for the February 2005 issue of Commentary, examining the various sources of opposition to the Bush Doctrine:

The War Against World War IV


Reflections on a trip to Barnes & Noble:

-It's an incredible relief to be able to go into the Current Affairs section and no longer be confronted with 50 books titled "I Hate George W. Bush and his Evil Chimp-Like Smirk", or some variant thereof.

-Ken Dryden's The Game is quite simply the best, most thoughtful book about hockey ever written. Originally published in 1983, the book is a snapshot of the NHL as it stood 25 years ago. Dryden was a legendary goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, playing 8 seasons between 1971-79, winning the Stanley Cup in six of them. He retired in 1979 after leading the Canadiens to their fourth straight cup.

The Game reads almost like a stream of consciousness. Dryden was not your typical "jock". He graduated from Cornell, and attended law school while playing in Montreal. Dryden writes about everything from the Canadiens and their various rivals, the nature of being a professional athlete, life in the Canadiens locker room, to the origins and nature of hockey itself. His account of a game against the Detroit Red Wings, for example, offers a fascinating glimpse into the psychology that unfolds when a great team plays a bad one. For those who only know the Red Wings based on their success of the last decade, it will no doubt come as a revelation that the team of Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios was once the team of Dennis Polonich, Nick Libbett, and Willie Huber.

The new edition has a superb afterword discussing how the NHL has changed from 1979 to the present. Anyone wishing to understand the league's current plight should read it. Overall, I highly recommend The Game.

-Finally, I also recommend The Boys of Winter, a terrific account of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" by New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey. The book is very similar in format to Geoffrey Douglas's The Game of Their Lives, which tells the story of the USA's unbelievable 1-0 victory over England at the 1950 World Cup. Like Douglas, Coffey builds his story around a minute-by-minute narrative of the game itself, in this case the historic USA-USSR medal round game in which the Americans shocked the heavily favored Soviets 4-3. Interspersed within this account are the stories of the individual players and coaches. Coffey also does a great job of giving the Soviet side of things and putting the game into the overall context of the times.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Beginning of a "Miracle"

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1980 Olympic Hockey tournament. On this date, the USA opened the competition with a 2-2 tie against Sweden, thanks to Bill Baker's dramatic last-minute equalizer. The Swedish team was ranked third in the world coming into the Olympics, so for the Americans to get a result against them was a major morale booster. The US-Sweden game, of course, was just the beginning of the Americans' incredible gold medal run that has come to be known as the "Miracle on Ice". Expect to see a lot more on this topic next week.

Positive Signals from Europe

Today's Washington Times reports that transatlantic relations finally seem to be thawing:

President Bush's re-election and the successful vote in Iraq have had a profound effect on public opinion in Europe, with expectations soaring for Mr. Bush's trip there later this month, a leading member of the European Parliament says.

Spanish center-right lawmaker Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca, a vice president of the European Parliament, said Mr. Bush's trip to Belgium, Germany and Slovakia — the first foreign trip of his second term — could mark a sharp break with recent public and elite hostility in Europe over the Iraq war and other U.S. policies.

Last Sunday, the Washington Post noted the same phenomenon:

Courtesy of the large turnout in Iraq's election a week ago, the United States and key European allies are beginning to make up after two years of bitterly strained relations over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In large part because of the images of millions of Iraqis voting in defiance of insurgents, Condoleezza Rice's debut in Europe as secretary of state is being greeted with striking warmth and a rush of expectations about the healing of transatlantic ties.

As both articles stress, there are several main factors at work. The Europeans have had to come to terms with two key events. First, there was President Bush's reelection by a solid margin, which undoubtedly came as a shock to many across the Atlantic. Then, the Iraqi elections were far more successful than most Europeans expected. In addition, the Bush Administration is doing a far better job on the diplomatic front. Condoleezza Rice is off to a terrific start as Secretary of State, while Donald Rumsfeld is wisely and mercifully focusing on military matters.

While just a beginning, the warming of Euro-American ties is already bearing fruit. NATO has agreed to expand its commitment in Afghanistan, and is expected to increase its training program in Iraq. While substantial differences in both policy and perception remain, this certainly represents a promising trend. Cooperation between America and Europe is essential if we are to defeat the common threat of jihadism.

Thank You Brad

As an American soccer fan, I was disappointed to hear earlier this week that star goalkeeper Brad Friedel is retiring from the US national team. Brad played 82 games for the USA, and will best be remembered for his magnificent performance at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. Friedel's superb play was one of the major reasons the US advanced to the quarterfinals, our best World Cup showing since the inaugural tournament in Uruguay in 1930. He was terrific against South Korea, making numerous huge saves and allowing the US to come away with a vital 1-1 draw. The highlight, however, was Friedel's brilliant performance against Mexico in the 2nd round, as the US earned a 2-0 victory over our most bitter rivals on the world's biggest stage. With the win, Brad became the first US goalkeeper to get a shutout at the World Cup since Frank Borghi's amazing game in the 1-0 victory over England in 1950.

Brad will continue his professional club career with English Premiership side Blackburn Rovers. I thank him for his contributions to the US National team, and wish him continued success.

Lewis on Iraq

The dean of Middle East historians, Bernard Lewis, has a new must-read Wall Street Journal piece on the impact of the Iraqi elections:

The cause of freedom has won a major battle, but it has not yet won the war. Democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the region faces a double threat, on the one hand from ruthless and resolute enemies, on the other from fickle and hesitant friends. We must stay with the Iraqi democrats, even if their choice of rulers is not what some of us would have preferred. It is their country, and freedom -- a free election -- means that the choice is theirs.

But our role has been, and will for a while remain, crucial. In successive phases, we enabled the peoples of Axis-ruled Europe and Asia to create or restore democracy. More recently, we helped give the peoples of the former Soviet bloc the opportunity to do the same, and some are well on the way. Now it is time for the countries of the Middle East to join the Free World, and recover their rightful place in the forefront of civilization.

Iraq at the Forefront

Global Jihad Monitor: 2/10/05

If you don't already read this invaluable weekly War on Terror update, I strongly recommend it:

Global Jihad Monitor

A Not-So Charming Story

Another glorious episode in the saga of the Iraqi "resistance":

U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, foiled an attempt by a terrorist to coerce a child into accepting a hand grenade in Ramadi today.

The soldiers, currently assigned to the 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, were conducting a patrol in the northeastern sector of the city when they observed a blue 4-door sedan with three military-aged males pull up near their position.

The driver exited the vehicle and approached a child, estimated to be 10 years old. The two exchanged words and the adult gave the child a hand grenade. The child and the adult exchanged possession of the hand grenade several times.

One of them dropped the grenade after U.S. soldiers fired a warning shot in the direction of the terrorist. The child ran away as the adult returned fire with a handgun.

Source: Defenselink

Considering these are the same people who used a teenager with Down Syndrome as a suicide bomber, I can't say I'm surprised.

Friday, February 11, 2005

VDH: The Case for Democracy

In his Friday column for National Review Online , Victor Davis Hanson explains why fostering democracy in the Muslim world is essential if we are to defeat Islamist terrorism over the long term:

Yet for all its uncertainties and dangers in the Islamic Arab world, there remain some undeniable facts about democracy across time and space that suggest with effort and sacrifice it can both work in the Middle East and will be in the long-term security interests of the United States. So why exactly should we support the daunting task of democratizing the Middle East and how is it possible?


Democracy was not our first, but rather out last choice in the Middle East. For decades we have promoted Cold War realpolitik and supported thugs whose merit was simply that they were not as bad as a murderous Saddam or Assad (true enough), while the Arab world has gone from kings and dictators to Soviet puppets, Pan-Arabists, Islamists, and theocrats. Democracy in some sense is the last chance. It alone offers constitutional guarantees of free speech, minority rights, and an independent judiciary — a framework, a system, a paradigm in which naturally savage humans, prone to all sorts of awful things, as the 20th century attests, can somehow get along. Given the savagery of the modern Middle East that would say quite a lot.

Please read it all:

Why Democracy?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Good Start

I optimistically predicted that the USA would come away from yesterday's World Cup qualifier at Trinidad & Tobago with a draw. I'm happy to have been proven wrong, as the US dominated the first 60 minutes enroute to a 2-1 victory in Port-of-Spain. It was a great performance overall, far better than I thought the team capable of under the circumstances. My thanks to coach Bruce Arena and the players for a job well done.

Yesterday's game was merely the first of 10 the US will play in this round. With the win, the Americans are tied for first in the six team qualifying group with Mexico, who earned a huge 2-1 win at Costa Rica. Guatemala and Panama played to a goalless draw in the other match. Once qualifying is completed, the top three teams will advance to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, while the 4th place finisher will go into a two game playoff with an Asian team for a chance at a World Cup berth. The next US qualifier is Sunday, March 27th at Mexico.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Road to Germany Resumes

After ending 2004 with only one defeat in 15 matches, the US Men's National Team begins the final round of World Cup qualifying today at Trinidad & Tobago. History is on the side of the US, who have only one loss in 14 meetings with the Soca Warriors, and are 6-0-2 against them in WC qualifying. Port of Spain was the site of one of the most historic moments in US soccer history, the 1989 1-0 victory that earned the US its first World Cup berth in 40 years. Paul Caligiuri scored the match winner on what has come to be known as the "shot heard 'round the world". The USA has gone to every World Cup since.

What: USA v. Trinidad & Tobago
Where: Port of Spain, Trinidad
When: Wednesday, 2:30 PM EST

Detailed Previews:

US Soccer


ESPN Soccernet

Prediction: This will be an extremely tough test, as the US team has had less time than expected to prepare due to a labor dispute. T & T are a talented side, and will enjoy the support of a raucous home crowd. If ever history is to change, this will be the day. Still, in 2004 the US showed a distinct knack for playing ugly yet still managing to pull out a result. I suspect this will happen again.

Trinidad & Tobago 1, USA 1

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Condi Speech

As much as I respect and admire Colin Powell, I think this nation can count itself fortunate indeed to have Condoleezza Rice as our Secretary of State. The brilliant address she gave today in Paris is a case in point:

These achievements have only been possible because America and Europe have stood firm in the belief that the fundamental character of regimes cannot be separated from their external behavior. Borders between countries cannot be peaceful if tyrants destroy the peace of their societies from within. States where corruption, and chaos and cruelty reign invariably pose threats to their neighbors, threats to their regions, and potential threats to the entire international community.

Our work together has only begun. In our time we have an historic opportunity to shape a global balance of power that favors freedom -- and that will therefore deepen and extend the peace. And I use the word "power" broadly, because even more important than military and indeed economic power is the power of ideas, the power of compassion, and the power of hope.

I am here in Europe so that we can talk about how America and Europe can use the power of our partnership to advance our ideals worldwide. President Bush will continue our conversation when he arrives in Europe on February 21st. He is determined to strengthen transatlantic ties. As the President said in his recent Inaugural Address: "All that we seek to achieve in the world requires that America and Europe remain close partners."

I believe that our greatest achievements are yet to come. The challenges of a post-September-11 world are no less daunting than those challenges that we faced and that our forebears faced in the Cold War. The same bold vision, moral courage and determined leadership will be required if we are again to prevail over repression and intimidation and intolerance.

Our charge is clear: We on the right side of freedom's divide have an obligation to help those unlucky enough to have been born on the wrong side of that divide.

As others far more eloquent than myself have noted, promoting the spread of democracy is not some vague moral imperative, it is a vital national interest.

More on General Mattis

In a piece for National Review Online, Mackubin Owens disproves the disgusting slur that the recent controversial comments by Marine Lt. General James Mattis somehow make him the equal of our jihadist adversaries:

But those who would use Gen. Mattis's words to defame him or — most especially — the Marine Corps owe it to themselves to examine his record as a combat leader in Afghanistan, where he served as a commander of the Naval Task Force that seized an advanced airbase at the opening of that campaign; and Iraq, where he commanded the storied 1st Marine Division during the march up to Baghdad. The fact is that Gen. Mattis is probably the finest Marine combat leader since the legendary Chesty Puller. I have never met a Marine who served with Gen. Mattis who had anything less than the highest regard for him. Anyone who has seen him knows he doesn't "look" like a Marine but he sure knows how to act like one. And acting like a Marine makes room for such principles of restraint in war as chivalry (defend the weak and the innocent) and proportionality (use only the force necessary to achieve the objective). For the most part, observers agree that the Marines of Gen. Mattis's division treated surrendering Iraqi humanely — the way they are supposed to be treated.

Distinctions of War

Let me conclude by quoting retired Army Major General Robert Scales, who was moderator of the panel where Mattis made his remarks:

My point simply is this: We must celebrate the fact that we have men like Jim Mattis willing to devote (and give) their lives when necessary to commit an act that most of those in our society would be horrified to even contemplate. If you are offended by these emotions, then seriously consider joining an Army or Marine infantry unit so that you can demonstrate how to kill an enemy in a more humane and politically correct manner.

Until such an unlikely day occurs, we must all remember that leaders like Gen. Mattis and the men he commands are the rarest commodities that a protected society like ours can produce. All they want is the opportunity to serve a country that truly appreciates the difficulty and dangers inherent in the duties they perform, duties that very few are willing even to contemplate.

(Link courtesy of the Corner)

General Mattis was perhaps guilty of poor judgment in his choice of words, but he is by all accounts a decent, honorable man who has given this country a lifetime of service. Men like him are the reason we live in freedom.

Background on Saudi Arabia

I just finished watching an excellent two hour edition of Frontline on the history of Saudi Arabia. If you're at all interested in the origins of Islamist/jihadist terrorism, I recommend giving the companion Web site a look:

House of Saud

Frontline also produced a good program in November 2001 on Saudi Arabia's export of Wahhabist extremism:

Saudi Time Bomb

Monday, February 07, 2005

Progress in Afghanistan

Arthur Chrenkoff has the latest roundup:

The Drought Breaks
(also available at Chrenkoff)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Ridiculous Pseudo-Controversy of the Week

Earlier this week, a brief kerfuffle erupted after Marine Lt. General James Mattis was quoted as saying that it was "fun" to fight and kill certain adversaries:

Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Chester, a former Marine officer who has met General Mattis, has some comments that are well worth reading. As for myself, I say simply, so freaking what? As George Orwell put it:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

We're at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere with a barbarous, fanatical enemy who worship death and revel in their own cruelty. The jihadist savages who gleefully slaughter "infidels" and "apostates" have to be eliminated, there is no other way around this. War is by nature a dirty, brutal affair, and I thank God for men like General Mattis who are both willing and able to wage it on our behalf. Ralph Peters gets to the heart of the matter:

FORTUNATELY, Lt.-Gen. Mattis has three big things going for him: The respect of those who serve; the Marine Corps, which won't abandon a valiant fighter to please self-righteous pundits whose only battle is with their waistlines; and the fact that we're at war. We need more men like Mattis, not fewer. The public needs to hear the truth about war, not just the crybaby nonsense of those who never deigned to serve our country.

In my own far humbler career, the leaders I admired were those who had the killer instinct. The soldiers knew who they were. We would have followed them anywhere. They weren't slick Pentagon staffers anxious to go to work for defense contractors. They were the men who lived and breathed the warrior's life.

Table manners don't win wars. Winning our nation's battles demands disciplined ferocity, raw physical courage — and integrity. Jim Mattis has those qualities in spades.

One can only imagine what havoc the politically correct thought police would have wrought during the Second World War. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey" was famous for the phrase "kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs". Halsey's quote was even posted on a billboard on the island of Tulagi in the South Pacific.

As outspoken as Halsey was, he was easily surpassed by General George S. Patton, Jr. As General Patton told his troops in his famous speech of June 5th, 1944:

We want to get the hell over there. We want to get over there and clear the goddamn thing up. You can't win a war lying down. The quicker we clean up this goddamn mess, the quicker we can take a jaunt against the purple pissing Japs an clean their nest out too, before the Marines get all the goddamn credit.

Sure, we all want to be home. We want this thing over with. The quickest way to get it over is to get the bastards. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin. When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a Boche will get him eventually, and the hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don't dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one. We'll win this war but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans we've got more guts than they have.

In the present struggle with radical Islamist terror, we need men such as General Mattis. It is politically correct nonsense that we need to learn to do without.

Not a Promising Development

As a huge supporter of the Bush Administration's policy of fostering democratic development in the Arab world, I have to say that I am disappointed by the following news:

Saudi Arabia is hosting a major anti-terrorism conference this weekend, and delegations from over 50 countries, including the US, are in attendance. Unfortunately, the list of attendees also includes Iran, Syria, and Sudan, all three of which are officially listed by the US government as state sponsors of terrorism. Even more absurdly, one country which was distinctly not invited was a certain Mideast country that is a regular target of terrorism. That's right, as Power Line aptly put it, there are "no Jews allowed" at this conference.

It is certainly good news that the Saudis are finally starting to come to terms with the major role that their extreme Wahhabist ideology has played in the growth of jihadist terrorism. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is a key element of that ideology. By refusing to confront the Saudi regime over its official propagation of anti-Semitism, we allow them to avoid facing the full consequences of their ideology of hatred. Our attendance also sends the implicit message that we accept the widespread Arab notion that terrorism is okay when it's directed at Israel. This is unacceptable, and makes a mockery of the Bush Doctrine. As important as it is to work with the Saudis in combating terrorism, we should have refused to attend this conference.

(Story courtesy of Power Line)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

VDH Takes on the Naysayers

Victor Davis Hanson is in rare form as he calls out those at home and abroad who have predicted doom for America's struggle against Islamist terror:

Do we even remember "all that" now? The lunacy that appeared after 9/11 that asked us to look for the "root causes" to explain why America may have "provoked" spoiled mama's boys like bin Laden and Mohammed Atta to murder Americans at work? Do we recall the successive litany of "you cannot win in Afghanistan/you cannot reconstruct such a mess/you cannot jumpstart democracy there"? And do we have memory still of "Sharon the war criminal," and "the apartheid wall," and, of course, "Jeningrad," the supposed Israeli-engineered Stalingrad — or was it really Leningrad? Or try to remember Arafat in his Ramallah bunker talking to international groupies who flew in to hear the old killer's jumbled mishmash about George Bush, the meanie who had ostracized him.

Then we were told that if we dared invade the ancient caliphate, Saddam would kill thousands and exile millions more. And when he was captured in a cesspool, the invective continued during the hard reconstruction that oil, Halliburton, the Jews, the neocons, Richard Perle, and other likely suspects had suckered us into a "quagmire" or was it now "Vietnam redux"? And recall that in response we were supposed to flee, or was it to trisect Iraq? The elections, remember, would not work — or were held too soon or too late. And give the old minotaur Senator Kennedy his due, as he lumbered out on the eve of the Iraqi voting to hector about its failure and call for withdrawal — one last hurrah that might yet rescue the cherished myth that the United States had created another Vietnam and needed his sort of deliverance.

The Global Throng

Friday, February 04, 2005

Europe and Israel

In December 2004, the polling firm YouGov conducted a survey of British popular attitudes toward various nations. A total of 23 countries were listed in the poll. An article in the January 4th Daily Telegraph summarized the results:

More surprising is how little regard Britons are found to have for Israel.


It is also the country thought least deserving of international respect. Despite being the only fully democratic state in the Middle East, it is also thought to be among the world's "least democratic countries".

Of the 12 criteria set out in YouGov's check-list, Israel comes out bottom in four cases and among the bottom five in a total of eight. Only Russia has a worse overall score.

(link courtesy of LGF)

You can see the survey results for yourself by clicking here (PDF). Particularly mind-boggling is the fact that the respondents considered Israel "less democratic" than Hosni Mubarak's corrupt dictatorship in Egypt.

This poll is emblematic of the irrational hatred of Israel that exists in Britain and throughout Europe. Criticism of Israeli policies and actions is one thing, but the attitude of many Europeans towards the Jewish state goes well beyond that warranted by any objective analysis. Robin Shepherd, in a piece in Sunday's Washington Post, noted Europe's "Unhealthy Fixation on Israel":

Go to a dinner party in Paris, London or any other European capital and watch how things develop. The topic of conversation may be Iraq, it may be George Bush, it may be Islam, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. However it starts out, you can be sure of where it will inevitably, and often irrationally, end -- with a dissection of the Middle East situation and a condemnation of Israeli actions in the occupied territories. I can't count how many times I've seen it. European sympathy for the Palestinians runs high, while hostility toward Israel is often palpable.

And the anger is reaching new -- and disturbing -- levels: A poll of 3,000 people published last month by Germany's University of Bielefeld showed more than 50 percent of respondents equating Israel's policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed specifically believed that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinian people.

Germany is not alone in these shocking sentiments. They have been expressed elsewhere, and often by prominent figures. In 2002, the Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning writer Jose Saramago declared, "What is happening in Palestine is a crime which we can put on the same plane as what happened at Auschwitz." In Israel just last month, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Irish winner of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, compared the country's suspected nuclear weapons to Auschwitz, calling them "gas chambers perfected."

Moreover, in a Eurobarometer poll by the European Union in November 2003, a majority of Europeans named Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. Overall, 59 percent of Europeans put Israel in the top spot, ahead of such countries as Iran and North Korea. In the Netherlands, that figure rose to 74 percent.

In part, these attitudes are a reflection of traditional Euro anti-Semitism, which has sadly made a resurgence in recent years. However, as Shepherd notes, the roots of anti-Israel sentiments in Europe transcend mere bigotry:

Many European intellectuals see Israel, perhaps rightly, as one of the central pillars of U.S. hegemony in the modern world. European leftists implacably opposed to America are implacably opposed to Israel as well, and for exactly the same reasons. Over dinner in Berlin not long ago, a Frenchwoman told me emphatically that Israel was "America's policeman in the Middle East." Her companion, nodding in furious agreement, insisted that the two countries are partners in a "new imperialism," leading the world inexorably into war.

In the contorted universe of the chattering classes, Israel is at once America's servant and the tail that wags the dog -- doing America's bidding while forcing it into madcap adventures such as Iraq. As Peter Preston, the former editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper, put it in an op-ed last October, bemoaning both U.S. political parties' alleged servility toward Israel: "Republican policy is an empty vessel drifting off Tel Aviv, and the Democratic alternative has just as little stored in its hold."

Europe's hatred of Israel, in other words, is intimately tied to its anti-Americanism, a sentiment that preceded the Bush 43 Administration and whose reemergence after 9/11 occurred months before Iraq became an issue. Both viewpoints are a consequence of the very different way that most Europeans see the world.

When Europeans line up to condemn Israel (and the US) while yawning at the likes of Saddam, the Iranian mullahcracy, and the Stalinist monstrosity known as North Korea, they display their utter lack of moral and intellectual seriousness. Many in Europe would much rather blame that "shitty little country" or the "cowboy" Bush for what's wrong with the world, than accept the fact that the West is at war with a fanatical totalitarian adversary that seeks our destruction.

The plurality of Spanish voters who chose the path of appeasement in March 2004 may have thought that they bought their country a respite from the jihadists. Their "reward" for Spain's decision to withdraw from Iraq, however, was to have been an onslaught of simultaneous bombings that, to quote PBS Frontline, "would have eclipsed the carnage of March 11th." For the jihadists, Europeans are every bit the infidels that Israelis and Americans are. At long last, some in Europe are finally beginning to wake up to the Islamist threat in their midst. It is high time that Europeans abandon their irrational hatred of Israel and the United States, and come to terms with who the real enemy is.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Hug

It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever seen. No words of mine can do it justice. Click here to see the image.

Weekly WOT Update

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has just released its latest weekly roundup of War on Islamist Terror news, now renamed Global Jihad Monitor:

Global Jihad Monitor: 2-2-05

More on Hostage Joe

Click here for a picture of the action figure held hostage by the terrorists in Iraq. Looking at the image, it is amazing how anyone could have believed this story. Numerous bloggers immediately pointed out the obviously fake nature of the photograph.

I do need to make one correction to my previous post. The image was taken from a jihadist Web site posting, not from a videotape. It's possible that the posting was the result of a hacking as opposed to a pathetic propaganda effort by the terrorists. Either way, it is a source of great amusement.

One can argue that laughing about hostage taking is in bad taste. While understandable, this misses the point. I realize all too well the barbarous nature and track record of our enemy. The terrorists have created a mystique, an aura of ruthless invincibility about themselves. This is apparent just from the blustering nature of their communiques. Anything that punctures this myth, that makes the jihadists objects of ridicule instead of fear, is a blow to them and their cause.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

An End to Sci-Fi Necrophilia

Today brings news that the corpse of the once-great Star Trek will finally be allowed to rest in peace:

UPN and Paramount Network Television have jointly announced that this will be the final season of STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE on UPN. The series finale will air on Friday, May 13, 2005.

As a sci-fi geek, it saddens me to see how the franchise has been totally run into the ground through overexposure. By subjecting us to the stale mediocrity of first Voyager and now Enterprise, Paramount made clear that it regarded what was once the marquis name in television science fiction as nothing but a cash cow. Even the last movie, Nemesis, while decent and entertaining, was little more than a mishmash of plot elements from previous Star Trek films. Enterprise was the last straw. While it contained some promising elements, the series quickly deteriorated into a shameless effort to milk the Star Trek name for all it was worth, while dumping on what the original series and Next Generation had built in the process.

Having killed Star Trek with their greed, I just hope Paramount refrains from subjecting the franchise to further necrophilia.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

GI Joe Held Hostage: Day One

In a desperate attempt to regain the initiative after Sunday's hugely successful elections, terrorists in Iraq released a videotape today showing an "American soldier" they claim to be holding hostage. Unfortunately for the heroic sons of jihad, close examination of the "soldier" has revealed it to be a children's action figure.

Instapundit, as usual, has a great roundup of blogger reactions. I particularly enjoyed the comments of Husayn at Democracy in Iraq:

Is there any better indicator of how pathetic, how weak, and how threatened they feel that they have to resort to this low-grade fake attempt at producing another set of pictures? Im sure many Iraqis will have a good laugh at this one when they hear about it. These same people declare war on our democracy, and now they are taking pictures of childrens toys.

Next thing you know, the bastards will threaten to behead Barbie.

The Nature of the Enemy

For those not yet convinced, the terrorists in Iraq provided yet another example of their barbarism and depravity. One of the suicide bombers sent to murder Iraqi voters on Sunday was apparently a child with Down Syndrome.

Can someone please clue Michael Moore in on the nature of his beloved "Minutemen"?

Iraq: "Happy Birthday"

Once again, Arthur Chrenkoff has produced his biweekly roundup of underreported "good news" from Iraq. I'm sure you can guess what the focus of this edition is:

Aqil Ali Faraj of Lincoln, Neb., rented a van, filled it with friends and drove 500 miles to Chicago to vote. "It's a good day--better than my birthday," he said. "I feel like I've done something for my family, my country, for the future."

Yesterday was a birthday: the day free Iraq was born. It's not the end of the struggle against the revanchists and terrorists, but it's the day when these murderers lost any pretence that they are representing Iraq or the Iraqi people. And it's a big step on the road toward becoming a normal country.

Happy Birthday
(also available via Chrenkoff)

Thoughts on Iraq's Elections

At the risk of hyperbole, Sunday's events mark a sea change in the politics of the Middle East. This was arguably the most open election ever held in the Arab world. The spectacle of Iraqis ignoring the threats of the jihadists and openly embracing democracy can't help but have an impact in the broader region. Much work remains to be done, the election was merely the beginning of a year long process that will culminate in the drafting of a constitution and the election of a permanent government. Still, it was an essential first step that bodes well for the future.

First and foremost, the success belongs to the Iraqi people, who had the courage to go out and vote in defiance of the terrorist threats. While turnout was depressed in much of the Sunni Triangle, the overall percentage of voters casting ballots was comparable to that here in the US last November. The ridiculous notion that Iraqis, or Arabs, aren't interested in democracy and freedom has been dispensed with once and for all.

Sunday was also a major victory for the Iraqi security forces. By all accounts they stood their ground and performed well, a number of them giving their lives in the process. Yes, they still have a long ways to go, but their success on Sunday will give the Iraqi army and police a huge morale boost.

Finally, this election was a tribute to our men and women in uniform, and those of our coalition allies, whose heroic, tireless efforts over the last two years made this incredible event possible. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families. The casualties we and our allies have suffered are painful indeed. However, just as 36,000 Americans gave their lives to allow the creation of a free South Korea that became a crucial ally during the Cold War, so those who have given their lives in Iraq have made possible the Arab world's first genuine democracy.

One of the main criticisms made against the Bush Administration is its supposed failure to engage in the "war of ideas" with al-Qaeda and the jihadists. Yesterday's events did far more to win the "war of ideas" than any number of speeches, broadcasts or pamphlets. Two years ago, Iraq was ruled by a genocidal, totalitarian thug who brutally oppressed his people, fostered the spread of Islamism and anti-Americanism, and threatened the security of the entire region. Now, in that very same country, the dictator sits in a prison cell, while 8 million Iraqi men and women went to exercise their right to vote. Osama bin Laden, his "emir" in Iraq al-Zarqawi, and other Islamists lined up to denounce democracy as an "infidel" institution, yet millions of Iraqis danced in the streets and proudly waved their ink-stained fingers in celebration of their freedom. In terms of the "war of ideas" with al-Qaeda, Iraq's elections were the equivalent of dropping an H-bomb.

Ali at Free Iraqi best captured the spirit of the day, sentiments that I echo heartily:

A'ash Al Iraq, A'ashat America, A'ash Al Tahaluf.
(Long live Iraq, long live America and long live the coalition)