Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Brief Hiatus

Due to work considerations, blogging will be minimal to nonexistent for the next few days. Expect regular posting to resume Saturday. Apologies to my handful of loyal readers.

A Story from Iraq

As someone who is critical of much of the media coverage of Iraq, it is only fair that I point out when they do a good job. Last Thursday, the Washington Post published a gripping, straightforward article on the experiences of a US unit in the so-called "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad. It is not a happy story, but it is well worth reading. It shows the difficult conditions our troops face, as well as their remarkable courage and dedication:

Horror glimpsed from the inside of a humvee in Iraq

Democrats of the World, Unite

One of the great figures in the victory of freedom in East-Central Europe, Vaclav Havel, sends his greetings to the supporters of democracy in Lebanon:

Dear participants,
Dear friends,

Let me convey my greetings, solidarity and support to all of you who are pursuing, by peaceful and democratic means, goals similar to the ones that we in Central Europe set ourselves more than fifteen years ago: the path of freedom and independence, complete withdrawal of the occupying troops and renewal of the democratic system. What we consider important is that all this was achieved by peaceful demonstrations; by open, quiet but firm civic resistance.

Please read the rest.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Iraq: 'The Air of Freedom'

Time again for Arthur Chrenkoff's biweekly Iraq "good news" update. Much has been made in the media of the recent upsurge in terrorist attacks in that country, and the political haggling that has delayed the creation of a new government. Yes, these are causes for concern. Iraq clearly has a long way to go. Yet as Arthur shows in ample detail, progress continues. It may not be as quick or easy as we would like, but things are moving forward. As they showed the world on January 30, most Iraqis are committed to building a better life for themselves and their children, in a decent, democratic society. The Baathists and Wahhabists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people but a return to Islamist totalitarianism, to the days of mass graves and torture chambers. That is why the terrorists, for all their ability to murder people and destroy things, have no hope of ultimately winning.

'The Air of Freedom'
(also available via Chrenkoff)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Moral Bankruptcy in Britain

I've written previously about the irrational hatred of Israel that is all too prevalent in the UK and continental Europe. In today's Observer, David Aaronovitch discusses yet another example of this phenomenon:

And then there was the decision of the Association of University Teachers council in Eastbourne to boycott two (perhaps three) Israeli universities, the futility of which I now hope to prove.

Let us first look at the stated objectives of the boycott. What does it seek to achieve? The literature of the campaign suggests that these objectives, far from being focused, are many and nebulous. They are, according to the motion's prime mover, Sue Blackwell of the English Department of Birmingham University, variously to 'add to the pressure on the country's economy and dent its international prestige'; to send a 'message of support to students and colleagues in Palestine'; and to act as 'consciousness-raising' for British academics who, through the boycott, can be brought to realise how the world really is. A sort of speculum for their hidden political organs.

Aaronovitch then asks the logical question as to why Israel is singled out for such a boycott:

No, Israel's universities are not bad and Israel's human rights record is no worse than that of many other countries. So, inevitably, the tack shifts. Israel's universities are intrinsically racist, according to Blackwell, with 'Israeli academics routinely implicated in racist discourses against Arab students and Arabs in general'.

And that's because there is something utterly unique about Israel itself, which marks it out from the merely abusive North Koreas and Irans. It has become an apartheid state, as South Africa was. And it, therefore, should be treated in the same way, with boycotts and disinvestments.

This is a genuinely, grade-A stupid argument, whether it emanates from the lips of Professor Steven Rose or the more sacred ones of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In itself, Israel is not anything like South Africa, where a majority was denied all political and civic rights on the grounds of race. What is analogous, however, is Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, which bears comparison with South Africa's occupation of Namibia or, some might say, Serbia's occupation of Kosovo.


Unless, of course, you don't believe that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state at all within any borders. And this, as it happens, seems to be the view of Sue Blackwell, who describes Israel as 'an illegitimate state'. Unlike the United Nations, she does not believe it should have been set up and she would rather it disappeared. As she pointed out in 2003 to a previous AUT council: 'From its very inception, the state of Israel has attracted international condemnation for violating the human rights of the Palestinian people and making war on its neighbours.' Or, to put it even more bluntly, everything is all the fault of the Israelis.

The problem is that many Jews understand very well that this is her view and, unfortunately, will believe that it is also the view of all her fellow campaigners. Consequently, there will now be a battle royal (of which this article is part) about the rights and wrongs of these particular tactics, and the bigger picture will inevitably be lost. Everyone will return to their trenches and take the tarpaulins off their heaviest and most inaccurate artillery.

Aaronovitch writes from a fair minded, "decent left" perspective, and he ably points out the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of this boycott. Unfortunately, in my view, he shys away from saying what has become increasingly hard to deny. The idea of Israel as 'an illegitimate state' is far more widely held in Britain, especially in British academia, than Mr. Aaronovitch can bring himself to admit.

The Principled French

Last Thursday, Reuters reported that France is opposed to having NATO play a part in ending the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region:

The United States urged NATO Thursday to respond quickly to any request for help in the Darfur conflict, but France insisted the alliance could not be the "gendarme of the world."

The French claim that Darfur should be a matter for the European Union, not NATO. The same EU that did absolutely nothing to stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Yeah, I'm sure they'll do the job this time.

However, just because the French oppose action in Darfur does not mean they are against all prospective military action:

At the outset of a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he supported Beijing's "anti-secession" law on Taiwan, and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to the Asian giant.

Raffarin also signed or finalized major business deals with Beijing valued at around $3.2 billion (2.4 billion euros).

In short, France opposes a NATO role in stopping genocide in Sudan, a country where France has substantial oil interests. Yet they support China's "anti-secession" law, regarded by many as a blank check to justify an invasion of Taiwan, and even want to sell the Chinese weapons. There's a common thread here, and it's not pretty. In the words of Instapundit:

You know, we should have just bribed Chirac et al. It's clearly the way these things are done.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Two Superb Middle East Essays

The May/June 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs arrived in my mailbox today, and it contains a pair of brilliant essays from the two foremost scholars of the Middle East.

First, Dr. Fouad Ajami offers a superb analysis of Syria's occupation of Lebanon, and the prospects of ending it:

The entrenched systems of control in the Arab world are beginning to give way. It is a terrible storm, but the perfect antidote to a foul sky. The old Arab edifice of power, it is true, has had a way of surviving many storms. It has outwitted and outlived many predictions of its imminent demise.

But suddenly it seems like the autumn of the dictators. Something different has been injected into this fight. The United States -- a great foreign power that once upheld the Arab autocrats, fearing what mass politics would bring -- now braves the storm. It has signaled its willingness to gamble on the young, the new, and the unknown. Autocracy was once deemed tolerable, but terrorists, nurtured in the shadow of such rule, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Now the Arabs, grasping for a new world, and the Americans, who have helped usher in this unprecedented moment, together ride this storm wave of freedom.

(Quote edited: duplicate text removed-DD: 4-25-05)

The Autumn of the Autocrats

The second essay is from the dean of Middle East historians, Bernard Lewis. He discusses the historical and philosophical background of governance in the Muslim Near East, and the democratic possibilities for that region:

For Muslims as for others, history is important, but they approach it with a special concern and awareness. The career of the Prophet Muhammad, the creation and expansion of the Islamic community and state, and the formulation and elaboration of the holy law of Islam are events in history, known from historical memory or record and narrated and debated by historians since early times. In the Islamic Middle East, one may still find passionate arguments, even bitter feuds, about events that occurred centuries or sometimes millennia ago -- about what happened, its significance, and its current relevance. This historical awareness has acquired new dimensions in the modern period, as Muslims -- particularly those in the Middle East -- have suffered new experiences that have transformed their vision of themselves and the world and reshaped the language in which they discuss it.

Unfortunately, the full article, "Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East", is not freely available online. However, you can read the transcript of a lecture by Dr. Lewis that contains the essay's main points.

Both pieces are thoughtful, interesting and well written. If you're interested in the current state of affairs in the Middle East, you'll want to give them a read.

The "Joys" of Being an American Soccer Fan

I try to avoid overly narcissistic posts, but I'm making an exception in order to vent. It has been a crappy night. First, I miss a 4-3 classic between DC United and New England because Fox Soccer Channel for some reason didn't come in on my digital cable. Now, it's almost 11:00 PM, and I'm still waiting for ESPN2 to finish its edge of your seat coverage of the NFL draft in order to show the LA Galaxy-CD Chivas game that started over a half-hour ago.

I know, it's a small complaint in the overall scheme of things, but it still sucks.

Friday, April 22, 2005

More on Bolton

There is a new blog that makes the case for approving John Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador:

Confirm Bolton

In a piece for National Review Online Rich Lowry ably debunks most of the charges against Mr. Bolton. See his posts on The Corner for more details.

Finally, Senator John McCain has come out strongly in support of Bolton's nomination. The following paragragh is worth quoting:

"If temper and unorthodox management style were a disqualifier for government service, I would bet a lot of people in Washington would be out of jobs. It’s worth wondering not whether he is a mild, a genteel diplomat, we know he is not. But rather whether it is a representative we need at the United Nations. We need an ambassador who truly knows the U.N. We need an ambassador who is willing to shake up an organization that requires serious reform."

If a combination of partisan Democrats and spineless Republicans succeed in derailing the Bolton nomination, it will demonstrate once and for all that petty political concerns are considered more important than meaningful reform of the cesspool known as the United Nations.

The Forgotten Victory

On June 29, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the greatest upset in World Cup history occurred. An England team considered possibly the best in the world lost 1-0 to a collection of unknown part-timers representing that vast footballing backwater, the United States of America.

News of this shocking result would stun most of the world, with the exception of the USA. Most Americans remain unaware to this day of the greatest upset ever by an American national team. Hopefully that is about to change.

A new film by the makers of Hoosiers and Rudy, The Game of Their Lives, debuts today in selected cities. The film, based on Geoffrey Douglas' book of the same name, tells the story of the 1950 USA-England game. In addition, it talks about the US players and their background growing up in places like St. Louis and Philadelphia. Contrary to what is often alleged, these were not foreign "ringers", but ordinary, hardworking men who played the game because they loved it. The most they ever got paid was $25.00 and a free turkey at Christmastime for winning the local St. Louis league.

A film telling the story of the 1950 US team is long overdue. So far, reviews are mixed. Still, if you enjoy sports movies and the film is playing near you, consider checking it out.

Lessons of the War on Terror

In today's column for National Review Online, Dr. Victor Davis Hanson analyzes the lessons of the last three and a half years:

If we look back at the war that started on September 11, there have emerged some general rules that should guide us in the next treacherous round of the struggle against Islamic fascism, the autocracies that aid and abet it, and the method of terror that characterizes it.

The following passage, in particular, is dead on:

Ever since the departure of the colonials, the United States, due to its power and principled support for democratic Israel, has served a Middle Eastern psychological need to account for its own self-created impotence and misery, a pathology abetted by our own past realpolitik and nurtured by the very autocrats that we sought to accommodate.

After all these years, do not expect praise or gratitude for billions poured into Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, or Palestine or thanks for the liberation of Kuwait, protection of Saudi Arabia in 1990, or the removal of Saddam — much less for American concern for Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia, the Sudan, or Afghanistan. Our past sins always must be magnified as much as our more recent benefactions are slighted.

In response, American policy should be predicated not on friendship or the desire for appreciation, but on what is in our national interest and what is right — whose symbiosis is possible only through the current policy of consistently promoting democracy. Constitutional government is not utopia — only the proper antidote for the sickness in the Middle East, and the one medicine that hateful jihadists, dictators, kings, terrorists, and theocrats all agree that they alike hate.

Please read it all:

Winning the War

Xuan Loc

We are rapidly approaching the 30th anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam. Many of the decisions that led America to commit over 500,000 troops to that country in pursuit of an ill-defined strategy of attrition are open to question. Regardless, the vast majority of soldiers who went to Vietnam did their duty with courage and skill, and deserve the gratitude of our nation.

One of the most popular themes among critics of the anti-communist side of the Vietnam War is that the very existence of South Vietnam was somehow illegitimate. The fact of that country's defeat is taken as prima facie evidence of its artificial, unpopular nature. This argument ignores several facts. One is that it took a conventional invasion by 17 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) divisions awash in Soviet-bloc weapons and equipment to overrun South Vietnam. By this standard, Poland in 1939 and France in 1940 were equally illegitimate entities.

Those who question South Vietnam's right to have existed also point to the fanatical determination of the NVA, and contrast this to the supposed cowardice of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). Unfortunately, this belief is a dual caricature. While the NVA was a formidable opponent, its soldiers were far from being communist supermen. A former North Vietnamese soldier named Bao Ninh has written in his memoirs that "(d)esertion was rife throughout the regiment, as though soldiers were being vomited out, emptying the insides of whole platoons." On the other hand, the ARVN certainly had its problems, yet between the years of 1965-1972 three times as many South Vietnamese soldiers died than Americans.

The best example of the ARVN's courage and willingness to fight came in April 1975 at a place called Xuan Loc, a strategically important town on the approaches to Saigon. The ARVN 18th Division, with some supporting units, was assigned to defend this vital position. Beginning on April 9, Xuan Loc was attacked by 3 NVA divisions with armor and heavy artillery support. For two whole weeks, against overwhelming odds, as their country fell apart around them, the men of the 18th stood and fought heroically, Finally, on April 22nd the 18th Division withdrew, having suffered 30% casualties while killing over 5,000 of the enemy. In the words of General Phillip B. Davidson:

In this final epic stand ARVN demonstrated for the last time that, when properly led, it had the "right stuff."

South Vietnam was not perfect. Like Poland in 1939 and South Korea in 1950, the country was far from democratic. Compared to the communist alternative, however, the Republic of Vietnam was a virtual paradise. No one took to the South China Sea in leaky rafts in order to escape the Thieu-Ky regime. After the North Vietnamese conquest, by contrast, over one million people fled the former South Vietnam by sea. In addition, it has been estimated that about 100,000 South Vietnamese were executed after the communist victory, and another 2.5 million sent to "reeducation" camps.

The heroes of Xuan Loc battled valiantly against overwhelming odds to defend their country's freedom. They deserve to be remembered with honor.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dictators in Trouble

In his latest National Review Online column, Michael Ledeen notes that popular unrest against dictatorships seems to be spreading:

It has long been assumed that a repressive regime could survive as long as it had the will to crush any opposition, and that clever tyrants could deflect hatred of their regime by conjuring up an external enemy. There is still a tendency, particularly among intellectuals, to assume that these principles apply to contemporary dictatorships like those in China, Iran, and North Korea. Yet recent events suggest that these three countries, which are united by common interests and which help one another with advanced military technology, from missiles to WMDs, are losing control despite their fierce determination to cling to power and eventually fight and win a great war against the West. All three have nearby examples of new democracies, and their peoples are asking, with increasing intensity, why they are not permitted to govern themselves.

Five hundred years ago Machiavelli insisted that tyranny is the most unstable form of government, and he warned that the most dangerous development for any tyrant was the contempt of his own people. That dramatic tipping point is now very close in China, Iran, and North Korea. All that is required to get there is a steady flow of the truth from outside their borders, guidance for those who undertake the struggle against the tyrants, and constant reminders — backed up with modest action — that we are with them.

Now, please.

Please read it all:

The Revolution Continues

Fixing the UN

Sadly, the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are playing partisan games over the nomination of John Bolton to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, using ridiculous, trumped up charges to try to derail his candidacy. In the meantime, the UN remains a festering cesspool of hypocrisy and corruption desperately in need of reform. The numerous problems besetting this organization include:

-A general record of ineffectiveness in confronting aggression and genocide. From the Balkans to Rwanda, Iraq to Darfur, the UN has proved almost completely impotent in the face of defiance by brutal dictatorships. Only when the United States has been able to act under the UN banner (Korea, First Gulf War) has the organization been effective.

-The UN Commission on Human Rights includes 6 of the world's 18 most repressive dictatorships.

-While many politicians and commentators carried on about the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal as if it was the worst event since Auschwitz, most of the same people were conspicuously silent on the vile conduct of UN peacekeepers and administrators in the African nation of Congo. Numerous local women and children were sexually abused and exploited, and one high-ranking official even ran a pedophilia ring.

-Finally, of course, there is the Oil-for-Food scandal. Corrupt UN bureaucrats and countries such as France and Russia allowed Saddam Hussein to rake in billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues while profiting themselves in the process. The UN has set up an independent inquiry into the scandal. However, two of this committee's top three investigators have just resigned over not being allowed to follow up leads.

Claudia Rossett, the journalist who has done so much to expose the Oil-for-Food scandal, aptly summarizes the situation in her April 20 column:

We have learned step by step--via details unearthed by the press, not conflict-of-interest disclosures by the U.N.-- that the secretary-general's own son, Kojo Annan, received payments during the course of the program from one of the Oil for Food contractors on the receiving end of last year's U.N. hush letters, Switzerland-based Cotecna Inspections SA. Last month the Volcker inquiry, in an interim report, said these payments routed through various conduits might have totaled more than $480,000.

We have seen signs that Saddam, via Oil for Food, corrupted officials and businessmen worldwide--though apart from legal investigations in the U.S., this aspect of the scandal in countries such as Security Council member states Russia, France and China, not to mention such crossroads of Saddam's commerce as Switzerland and Syria, has barely been scratched.

Now we have the charges by U.S. prosecutors that Koreagate's Tongsun Park shuttled millions in bribe money from Saddam Hussein to two high-ranking U.N. officials, referred to in the complaint as "U.N. Official #1" and "U.N. Official #2." Outside the U.N., the hunt is on to discover the identities of this duo.

And how is the U.N. handling the possibility that some of its high-ranking officials may be under investigation for sitting on illicit millions in secret payoffs from a former totalitarian regime under sanctions? In any private company, or any democratic government, this would fill top management not only with dismay, but with an urgent mission to ransack the place to the rafters, immediately.

John Bolton has his faults, no doubt. But he is a blunt, plain-spoken truth teller. He is exactly the kind of UN Ambassador we need in order to help salvage something from the wreckage of that organization. The United Nations is badly in need of reform. If radical change does not come soon, the UN is destined to become League of Nations 2.0.

War on Terror News Roundups

Here are several good recent news updates on Iraq and the broader War on Islamist Terror:

-On Monday, Winds of Change published their latest "Iraq Report", a nice roundup of news and information links. Today, they published their broader War on Terror report.

-On the same day, Iraq the Model provided a useful summary of news from Iraqi and other Arab sources.

-Finally, I recommend the April 20 edition of Global Jihad Monitor, the weekly update from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Please give them a look.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Blogging from the Front

An interesting article from Tuesday's Christian Science Monitor discusses one of the most unique aspects of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns: the ability of soldiers to tell their own stories directly via e-mail and blogs:

Countless soldiers - some recently returned from the war, others still there - have set up their own Web logs or "blogs" and chat rooms, communicating their day-to-day war experience, complaining about the brass (as all soldiers do), and looking for support. All of which raises a question about war in the Age of the Internet: Is all this electronic chatter good or bad for morale and discipline?

Soldiers are able to have direct and frequent e-mail exchanges with friends and families at home as well as check out websites providing a view of how things are going in Iraq that may differ from official accounts. One well-visited blog is written by a 25 year-old Iraqi woman in Baghdad reporting on civilian life.

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette, himself a military blogger, offers his own thoughts on the Monitor article, as well as links to a number of soldier blogs from Iraq.

Military blogs like Greyhawk's, and Iraqi blogs such as Iraq the Model have been an invaluable source of overlooked news and first-person perspective. For example, you'll find few better sources on events in Fallujah over the last year than The Green Side, a collection of e-mails written by a Marine officer. Blogs and circulated e-mails have allowed soldiers and others to disseminate their stories directly to the public, bypassing the filter of the elite media.

With so much of the elite media coverage of Iraq plagued by hysterical defeatism and an utter lack of perspective, the "ground truth" provided by military bloggers has helped provide a balanced view of events in that country.

Tales of Academia

Here are three stories on the foibles and follies of academia, offered for your reading pleasure:

-First, courtesy of Tim Blair, is the saga of three MIT grad students who authored a program that created seemingly professional research papers by stringing together random computer science jargon. As a joke, they submitted two such papers to an academic conference, only to have one actually accepted for presentation.

-In the Weekly Standard, Matt Labash covers Ward Churchill on tour. Churchill, the execrable pseudo-academic demagogue who called the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns" and argued that America got what it deserved that day, continues to milk every possible second out of his 15 minutes.

-Finally, at FrontPage Magazine, Jon Sanders describes what has to be the worst college course ever offered: 9/11 as told exclusively from the perspective of the anti-Semitic, conspiracy minded fever swamp. The most credible source used in the class is Fahrenheit 9/11. Yes, it is that bad.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Lebanon Blog

Monday brought word of a fascinating new blog from Lebanon, written by protesters camped out in Beirut's Martyrs' Square. This is an incredible source of news and images from the epicenter of Lebanon's pro-democracy movement, one that is well worth your time:

Pulse of Freedom '05

Michael Totten's Spirit of America blog from Beirut has more on this project. I wish them full success.

"Guilt" by Last Name

Courtesy of Free Muslims Against Terrorism, comes this disturbing article from the April 14th New York Post. It features an interview with a decent young woman living in New York City, who has done absolutely nothing wrong except for sharing the same last name as a murderer:

WAFAH Bin Ladin, who bears that terrifying last name, albeit with a different spelling, came to my home. Long hair, skinny jeans, Yankees cap, no makeup, looking like any 25-year-old New York wannabe singer making showbiz rounds. But so drained, she could barely sip her glass of water.

"It is all so tough for me . . . I just cannot be afraid anymore," said Osama bin Laden's niece, tears streaming down her beautiful face.

"I am lost. I don't fit anywhere. I am American. I want to live here. This is my home. I was born here. God blessed me with this passport of freedom.

Contrary to the rantings of Michael Moore, Wafah makes clear that the bin Laden family is anything but close:

"We are estranged from his entire family since I'm 10. I'm carrying a burden that has nothing to do with me.

"My father, Yeslam, is half brother to Osama. I never met Osama. Never even saw him. My father's father had 22 wives. I have 53 uncles and aunts, 300 cousins. It's way over 400 people. Tons I've never even met. The Bin Ladin family is a village."

Ironically, Wafah's mother is Carmen Bin Ladin, who fled Saudi Arabia with her daughter and has written a powerful memoir of life as a woman in Saudi society. Sadly, many of those whom Wafah has met don't seem to understand this:

"Even here, I am frightened. I'm victimized by association. I stay under the radar, since, because of my name, people here feel I have harmed them. But I can't keep hiding. I can't live this way. I ask nothing but to be accepted in the United States.

That is hardly too much to ask. Ms. Bin Ladin's final words deserve to be quoted in full:

"Please, please tell everyone that I love being an American."

This young woman clearly loves America and everything it stands for. Like so many others, she came here to be free. Her only "crime" is to have a terrorist fanatic as a distant relative. Ms. Bin Ladin bears absolutely no blame for Osama's atrocities, and it is absurd and immoral to act otherwise.

Remembering Oklahoma City

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the horrific bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were murdered in what was the worst terrorist attack in the US until 9/11. Unlike the September 11 atrocities, Oklahoma City was the work of Americans, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who let their own unbridled rage grow to the point where they felt justified in slaughtering their fellow citizens.

We are living in a time of intense political polarization, when rhetoric on both sides is growing dangerously unhinged. The head of one of our two major political parties has stated openly that he "hates" the opposition. Judges receive death threats for making controversial decisions. On this anniversary of the Murrah Building atrocity, all of us need to step back and remember what such rhetoric can lead to.

For more on the anniversary, visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial Web site. Please remember the victims and their families.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Soldiers' Stories

As I write, there are nearly 140,000 American men and women risking their lives in Iraq in order to defeat the jihadists and help the long-suffering Iraqi people build a better future. Here are a few of their stories:

-Defenselink, the official DOD Web site, tells how Spc. Jeremy L. Church became the first Army reservist to receive the Silver Star during the War on Terror.

-Defend America, another DOD site, provides the first-hand account of the Marines who repulsed the April 2 terrorist attack on Abu Ghraib prison.

-Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette, a soldier who was himself recently in Iraq, links to several moving posts from military bloggers on Cpl. Glenn Watkins. Cpl. Watkins volunteered to stay in Iraq for an extra year, and now tragically he won't be coming home at all.

When I read these stories, I can only marvel at the courage and dedication of our servicemen and women. I am grateful beyond words for their sacrifices, and humbly offer them my thoughts and prayers.

Supporting Democracy in Iran

As Iran's theocratic regime continues to support terrorism and develop the capability to build nuclear weapons, popular unrest against the mullahcracy continues to grow. Until now, the Bush Administration has confined itself to offering rhetorical support to the pro-democracy forces in Iran. Fortunately, this seems to be changing.

On April 11, USA Today reported some very encouraging news:

For the first time in a quarter-century of estrangement from Iran, the Bush administration is openly preparing to spend government funds in that country to promote democracy.

Congress has appropriated $3 million, and the State Department is inviting proposals from "educational institutions, humanitarian groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights," according to an announcement posted Friday on the Web site of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Although the amount is small — and Iran's government may try to bar Iranians from accepting funds — the move is a significant departure for the United States, which by policy and treaty has not publicly sought to funnel money into Iran for such a purpose in 25 years.

(link courtesy of Harry's Place)

Such pro-democracy assistance from the US played an important role in the success of Kyrgyzstan's "Tulip Revolution". As Michael Ledeen and Peter Ackerman pointed out in an April 13th piece, it will be vital in supporting the spread of democracy in the Middle East:

In Iran and Lebanon, and probably in Syria, the prerequisites for democratic revolution are in place. Opposition groups in Iran are united in their call for free elections, perhaps preceded by a national referendum that will either legitimize or reject the theocratic state. In Lebanon, 1 million people just demonstrated their support for the quick removal of the Syrian occupiers.

Now the West needs to help. The lessons learned in Georgia and Ukraine need to be passed along. Indeed, this information is so important that Western governments should provide funding so that it can be broadcast around the clock.

The activists will need to communicate with one another, and the West can provide them with suitable equipment--satellite phones, text messaging, laptops and servers--that they may not be able to get by themselves. Just as the West provided Solidarity and Soviet dissidents with fax machines during the Cold War, we should help contemporary dissidents get the best tools available.

The people using nonviolent tactics--sit-ins, blockades and strikes, along with protests--must include workers, shopkeepers, and others who, unlike students, have their livelihoods at risk. They will be reluctant to walk off their jobs unless they know their families will not starve as a result. The West should follow Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's example: In the months leading up to his seizure of power in 1979 he smuggled thousands of sacks of rice into Iran to feed his supporters.

Finally, outsiders seeking to aid democratic revolutions must remember this: Only indigenous forces can be the prime movers. There must be no replay of 1953 in Iran, when the United States and Britain stage-managed mass demonstrations against the government in order to restore the shah to his throne. We must trust the judgment of the people who are, in all cases, the foundation of lasting change.

If they want open support, they should get it. If they want it delivered discreetly, donors should respect their wishes.

Helping the pro-democracy forces succeed in Iran is not just a "feel good" exercise: it is in the vital interests of the United States. Let's hope the $3 million is merely a downpayment.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Iraq War Revisited

Typical. Just as I finish my magnum opus on the Bush Administration's case for liberating Iraq, I see this post from Instapundit. Apparently, Sylvester Brown, Jr, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist whose Thursday piece inspired my essay, has written a second column addressing his rather abysmal memory. Mr. Brown is apparently quite determined that no actual facts will get in the way of his preexisting prejudices:

The bloggers were partly correct. Bush has mentioned that a Saddam-free world and a democratic Iraq would have a ripple effect in the Middle East. But let's be honest, he mentioned those as the perks of war, not the reasons for war. And who could blame him? According to a 2003 Washington Post-ABC poll before Bush's speech, six out of 10 Americans harbored doubts about using force in Iraq. A solid 40 percent opposed any sort of invasion in the country. Bush played the "democracy" card lightly and the WMD card with a skillful hand.

As I have just finished writing about at length, the Bush Administration cited numerous reasons for going to war against Saddam. The WMD issue was cited more prominently than others. Still, all of these reasons were tied together by one essential fact: the barbarous nature of Saddam's totalitarian autocracy. It wasn't WMD in the abstract that was the threat; it was WMD in the hands of Saddam, who had used them against both the Iranians and to murder thousands of his own people, that was the issue. The same with Iraq's substantial support for terrorism, fostering of radical Sunni Islamism, exploitation of the Oil-for-Food program, defiance of numerous UN resolutions, shooting at US and allied aircraft, and horrific human rights record. All were simply manifestations of what Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya has called Saddam's "Republic of Fear". As President Bush pointed out in his October 7, 2002 speech on Iraq, it was the nature of the Iraqi Baathist regime that was the true problem.

But, hey, war over WMDs or war over democracy, let's not quibble. People hear what they want to hear. As a straight shooter, I have to confess my bias toward our government's new democracy delivery system. This is a country that 40 years ago restricted the right to vote, use public facilities or eat in restaurants to some of its citizens. It's a country with a long-standing record of supporting autocratic regimes and dictatorships and overthrowing democratically elected government officials around the world.

Ah, yes, the reactionary attitude typical of all too many post-Vietnam liberals. Since America's history is far from spotless, it must a priori be in the wrong, regardless of the actual circumstances of the case. BTW, the America of 60 years ago was even more flawed. Does Mr. Brown therefore believe that the USA was no better than the Third Reich or Imperial Japan?

When did the United States become the chief exporter of democracy to the Arab world?

This one's easy: September 12, 2001.

Sorry, bloggers. When it comes to regime change and nation-building, I can't follow the wisdom of Bush and his crew. I lean more toward the words of a real straight shooter, Mohandas Gandhi:

"The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within."

Yes, which is why all those images of horrible American GIs brutally dragging unhappy Iraqi voters to the polls on January 30th were so shocking. The Iraqis were so much happier when the word "elections" meant that they just had to check the "yes" box next to the name Saddam Hussein.

BTW, I can show you exactly what would have happened to Gandhi if he had had the pleasure of living under Saddam. Just click here.

On a serious note, Instapundit puts it better than I can:

The difference is, the United States didn't give the Iraqis the spirit of democracy. As they demonstrated on January 30, it was already there. We just cleared the way -- something that would never have happened if Brown had gotten his druthers. And it seems to me that the gravamen of Brown's point is that the United States is so morally deficient that it could hardly be credited with doing good on purpose.

I'm glad he's wrong about that, too.

What the Iraq War was About

Courtesy of Instapundit comes this link to a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by one Mr. Sylvester Brown Jr. Speaking of the Iraq war, Mr. Brown writes the following:

Sounds to me like Maher's buying into the bait-and-switch rhetoric of the Bush clan. Maybe I would, too, if they were straight shooters. But, before the Iraq invasion, the rallying cry was against an "axis of evil" and "weapons of mass destruction." I don't recall any prewar speeches about delivering democracy to the Middle East.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brown's memory, like that of so many others, has badly failed him. Please note the following quotes from Bush speeches delivered prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom:

When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes.

Remarks by the President at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy, June 1, 2002

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.


If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Remarks by the President in Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 12, 2002

America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture. America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.

Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.

Remarks by the President on Iraq, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 2002

The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.


The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.

President Discusses the Future of Iraq, Washington, DC, February 26, 2003

(emphasis added-DD)

If one closely reads these four speeches, the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam, and countless other official speeches and documents, it becomes clear that the Bush Administration cited numerous rationales for military action in Iraq. In addition to the widely-shared, bipartisan concern over Iraq's WMD programs, other reasons included Saddam's active support for terrorism, especially his regime's decade long relationship with al-Qaeda; Iraq's flouting of 17 UN resolutions in the period since 1991; Saddam's exploitation of the UN Oil-for-Food program to bring in billions of dollars in illegal revenues while ordinary Iraqis suffered; and finally, the Baathist regime's horrific record of atrocities committed against its own people. All in all, it has been estimated that the administration offered no fewer than 23 separate reasons for going to war against Saddam.

It is ironic that many of the same critics who now say the war was only about WMD previously accused the Bush Administration of offering "shifting rationales" for the decision to use force. It's true that the perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction was emphasized more than other arguments, but this was done for what has been described as "bureaucratic reasons".

Yes, the Bush Administration was wrong in believing that Saddam's Iraq possessed large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and an active nuclear program. I believed the same things, and I was wrong. However, even here it is important that certain facts are recognized.

For one thing, Iraq never fulfilled its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1441 to provide an "accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure" of its WMD programs. In the words of Dr. David Kay, who has been forthright in acknowledging the overestimation of Saddam's WMD capabilities, "Iraq was in clear and material violation of 1441. They maintained programs and activities, and they certainly had the intentions at a point to resume their program." The Duelfer Report has confirmed that "Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed." The report makes clear that the Iraqi regime was well on its way to achieving the goal of ending sanctions, thanks to its exploitation of the UN Oil-for-Food program. The budget of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission went from "$7.8 million in 1996 to $350 million in 2002 to $500 million in 2003." Contrary to what some have argued, the containment of Baathist Iraq was clearly falling apart.

While the administration was wrong about the extent of Saddam's WMD programs, the other main reasons for going to war have been validated. The Iraqi regime's exploitation of the Oil-for-Food program was if anything underestimated. In terms of human rights, mass graves containing thousands of Saddam's victims continue to be discovered. Iraqis have clearly suffered during the last two years, but most are happy to be rid of Saddam and have hope for a better future. While the extent of Iraq-al Qaeda ties remains controversial, captured Iraqi documents prove that Saddam's regime had dealings with Osama bin Laden dating back to 1992. The 9/11 Commission Report has confirmed that the Iraqis offered bin Laden safe haven in 1999, while the Duelfer Report notes that Iraqi Intelligence trained foreign fighters at its facility at Salman Pak. While an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda has not been proven, it is worth noting that an al-Qaeda detainee at Guantanamo has been accused of plotting with an Iraqi operative to attack the US embassy in Pakistan in 1998 with chemical weapons. In addition to al-Qaeda, Saddam's Iraq was a major sponsor of Palestinian terrorism against Israel, and was seeking to increase its ties to other terror groups.

As far as fostering democracy, there is no doubt that the liberation of Iraq has helped spark the nascent process of political change now underway in the Middle East. As Cliff May has noted, the fall of Saddam and Iraq's historic elections were essential in encouraging reformers in Lebanon and elsewhere. In the words of journalist Amir Taheri:

The ease with which Saddam Hussein's tyranny collapsed destroyed the myth of the Arab "zaim" (chief), thus opening the path for pluralist politics. The effects of this historic change are already felt across the Arab world, from Libya to Yemen, and passing by Tunisia and Egypt.

Lebanese intellectual Chibli Mallat made a similar point in an interview published in the March 27, 2005 New York Times:

"Saddam's survival created an atmosphere where people literally got away with murder," Mr. Mallat said. "His removal became a precondition for change in the region."

The various arguments for using force against Saddam are anything but "shifting" or disparate. All of them come back to one key factor: the barbarous, genocidal, totalitalian nature of Baathist Iraq. As President Bush put it in his October 7 2002 speech, it was Saddam's regime that was the real issue:

By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique. As a former chief weapons inspector of the U.N. has said, "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime, itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."

In the words of Taheri, "The real WMD in Iraq was the Ba'athist regimes (sic) and its machinery of oppression and war — which was found and dismantled."

Saddam Hussein was the Arab world's contribution to the horrific record of 20th century totalitarianism, its answer to Hitler and Stalin. The dangers he posed went well beyond the threat of weapons of mass destruction. His regime launched two brutal wars of aggression; used chemical weapons against its own people; committed genocide; sponsored terrorism; fostered the spread of anti-Americanism and radical Sunni Islam; defied the will of the United Nations for a dozen years; and posed a serious threat to the security of the Middle East. Baathist Iraq was at the epicenter of the forces of fanaticism and xenophobia, tyranny and terror that produced the jihadist movement and made an event like 9/11 almost inevitable. Removing Saddam's regime, and giving the Iraqi people the opportunity to build a free society, was the only long-term solution.

Liberating Iraq and helping bring pluralism and democracy to that country has proved to be neither easy nor cheap. Many have argued that it has not been worth the cost. It is important to realize, however, that inaction would have carried its own price. The containment of Saddam was collapsing. Had the War on Islamist Terror been confined to a glorified criminal manhunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, a resurgent and rearmed Baathist Iraq would have soon emerged as the leading force of anti-American Sunni radicalism. The consequences of letting this happen would have been terrible indeed.

Iraq's New President Speaks

Courtesy of Harry's Place, here is a must-read article by Iraq's new president, Jalal Talabani:

For all the talk of Iraq as a "model" for the Middle East, we know that there are unique factors at play in building our federal, multi-ethnic democracy. Indeed, we do not seek to export our political ideas or experiences, a practice that has too often led to instability in the Middle East. Rather, we ask that the uniqueness of the Iraqi experience be recognized and our newly restored sovereignty respected. We will not allow the naysayers (who predict disaster awaiting us around every corner) and their companions in despondency, the apologists for despotism, to distract us with their uninformed comment from our vision of a democratic and equitable society: The rectification of past crimes and the binding up of the many wounds inflicted upon us by the Baathist regime -- these are matters for Iraqis alone.

We seek foreign assistance to help us develop our security forces and to partner with us as we try to further sustainable economic growth in our shattered country. We hope that the United Nations will live up to its ideals. The assistance provided by the U.N. during the recent elections was invaluable and an important step toward the return of this organization to Iraq. A continued and consistent U.N. engagement, which bolsters the new Iraq, will convince Iraqis to put aside their qualms about an organization that many of them identify with the previous Baathist regime.

A greater international role is important to lift some of the burden from the shoulders of the United States. Our gratitude to the American people is immense and we should never be embarrassed to express it. Time and again the U.S. has given the world its most precious resource in the cause of freedom, the lives of its most talented and courageous young men and women.

Now, the time has come for the rest of the world to recognize that a federal, democratic Iraq that can defend itself against terrorism is a goal worthy of broad international support. The victory of the new Iraq will be the triumph of freedom over hate, of decency over intolerance. Who would not want to share in such a worthy campaign?

The world is simply a better place with this man as president of Iraq. I wish him and his people success in their difficult struggle.

Timeless Thoughts from Orwell

Inspired by this comments thread at Roger L. Simon's, I googled up a copy of George Orwell's famous 1945 essay "Notes on Nationalism". It is a fascinating read. In particular, the following two passages jumped out at me:

Within the intelligentsia, a derisive and mildly hostile attitude towards Britain is more or less compulsory, but it is an unfaked emotion in many cases. During the war it was manifested in the defeatism of the intelligentsia, which persisted long after it had become clear that the Axis powers could not win. Many people were undisguisedly pleased when Singapore fell ore when the British were driven out of Greece, and there was a remarkable unwillingness to believe in good news, e.g. el Alamein, or the number of German planes shot down in the Battle of Britain. English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated, and wanted to feel that the final victory would be due to Russia, or perhaps America, and not to Britain. In foreign politics many intellectuals follow the principle that any faction backed by Britain must be in the wrong. As a result, "enlightened" opinion is quite largely a mirror-image of Conservative policy.

Change "Britain" to "America", and replace the passages on Singapore and Greece with ones covering 9/11 and Iraq, and you have an all-too accurate description of the attitudes of many American and European leftists.

All of these facts are grossly obvious if one's emotions do not happen to be involved: but to the kind of person named in each case they are also intolerable, and so they have to be denied, and false theories constructed upon their denial. I come back to the astonishing failure of military prediction in the present war. It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

Once again, simply change a few places and dates, and you have an almost-perfect summation of the views of many liberals and leftists over the last three years. Iraq is a quagmire, the Taliban are coming back, al-Qaeda is resurgent, etc. etc. The last sentence, especially, needs no updating.

Orwell's conclusion applies to everyone across the ideological spectrum:

It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority towards the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognize that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort, and contemporary English literature, so far as it is alive at all to the major issues of our time, shows how few of us are prepared to make it.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Truly Obscene Behavior

No, I'm not referring to a "wardrobe malfunction" or bad language. Obscene is simply the best word I can think of to describe this disgusting display of moral bankruptcy. Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General turned anti-American crank, is upset about the treatment of his current client, who just happens to be one of the worst mass murderers of the late 20th century:

Saddam Hussein's human rights are being violated at "every moment" and he probably will not get a fair trial after being "demonized" by the United States, his attorney, a former US attorney general, said.

Ramsey Clark, who served as attorney general under president Lyndon Johnson in the late 1960s, defended in a television interview his decision to represent Saddam at his trial in Iraq.

His human rights are violated every moment," Clark told MSNBC's "The Abrams Report."

"He has not seen a lawyer; he has not seen his family. He's kept completely incommunicado. And it's imperative that you in a crisis like this and cases of most importance that you fight hardest for human rights," Clark said.

On the same day that Clark made his plea on behalf of poor Saddam came word that two more of the dictator's voluminous number of mass graves have been discovered. Perhaps Mr. Clark would like to inquire about the human rights of the people who ended up in those graves, or ask their families whether they think his client has been "demonized".

Yes, Saddam deserves a fair trial. This is essential to building a new democratic Iraq based on the rule of law. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Hussein has already received far more consideration than he gave to any of his hundreds of thousands of victims. For Ramsey Clark to cry about the alleged horrible injustices inflicted on his monster of a client is the very definition of obscenity.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Online Censorship in China

Like many, I believe that the efforts of China's communist regime to combine Leninist dictatorship with a globalized free market economy are doomed to failure, a desperate attempt to square the circle. The unfettered access to information and decentralized decision making required of a capitalist economy will ultimately undermine China's one-party authoritarian state, or so the theory goes. Unfortunately, it seems that the Chinese communist approach is working, at least in the short term. As the Washington Post reported on Thursday, China's attempts to censor Internet content have been so successful that they provide a possible model for other repressive regimes:

The Chinese government is succeeding in broadly censoring what its citizens can read on the Internet, surprising many experts and denting U.S. government hopes that online access would be a quick catalyst for democratic political reform.

Internet users in the world's most populous country are routinely blocked from sites featuring information on subjects such as Taiwanese independence, the Falun Gong movement, the Dalai Lama and the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, according to a study to be released today by a consortium of researchers from Harvard University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University in England.

The study, which evaluated China's Internet practices over the past year, found the government employed an aggressive array of tactics, including blocking certain keyword searches and whole Web sites, and forcing cyber-cafes to keep records of users and the Web pages they visit.

"China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world," the study said.

Researchers said they worry that China's censorship system could become a model for other countries looking to keep the lid on Internet use.

As someone who supports the idea of the Internet as a powerful tool of free expression, it is disturbing to see how easily it can be controlled by a dictatorial regime. However, that is not the most troubling part of the article:

Chinese authorities perform these tasks largely using U.S. hardware and software.

For example, Cisco Systems Inc. routers, machines that move Internet traffic around, are capable of recognizing individual portions of data, a technology that helps battle worms and viruses. That same technology can be used to distinguish certain content.

Companies such as Cisco and Google Inc. have been accused of aiding China's censorship by tailoring their products to suit the government's needs. The study did not confirm those allegations, which the companies have denied.

Lenin reportedly once predicted that capitalists would sell the rope that would be used to hang them. This seems like yet another example.

The "Wise People"

In his latest National Review Online column, Victor Davis Hanson takes on the foreign policy "experts" whose shrill criticism of the Bush Administration is matched only by their dismal record dealing with the Middle East while in office:

Brent Scowcroft predicted on the eve of the Iraqi elections that voting there would increase the risk of civil war. Indeed, he foresaw “a great potential for deepening the conflict.” He also once assured us that Iraq “could become a Vietnam in a way that the Vietnam war never did.” Did he mean perhaps worse than ten years of war and over 50,000 American dead, with the Cambodian holocaust next door?

Zbigniew Brzezinski feared that we could not do what we are in fact presently doing in Iraq: “I do not think we can stay in Iraq in the fashion we’re in now…If it cannot be changed drastically, it should be terminated.” He added ominously that it would take 500,000 troops, $500 billion, and resumption of the military draft to achieve security in Iraq. Did he mean Iraq needed more American troops than did the defense of Europe in the Cold War?

Madeleine Albright, while abroad, summed up the present American foreign policy: “It's difficult to be in France and criticize my government. But I'm doing so because Bush and the people working for him have a foreign policy that is not good for America, not good for the world.” Elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, troops out of Saudi Arabia, democratic demonstrations in Lebanon, West Bank voting, promises of change in Egypt — all that and more is “not good for the world”?

For the last year, such well-meaning former "wise people" have pretty much assured us that the Bush doctrine will not work and that the Arab world is not ready for Western-style democracy, especially when fostered through Western blood and iron.

But too often we discuss the present risky policy without thought of what preceded it or what might have substituted for it. Have we forgotten that the messy business of democracy was the successor, not the precursor, to a litany of other failed prescriptions? Or that there were never perfect solutions for a place like the Middle East — awash as it is in oil, autocracy, fundamentalism, poverty, and tribalism — only choices between awful and even more awful? Or that September 11 was not a sudden impulse on the part of Mohammed Atta, but the logical culmination of a long simmering pathology? Or that the present loudest critics had plenty of chances to leave something better than the mess that confronted the United States on September 12? Or that at a time of war, it is not very ethical to be sorta for, sorta against, kinda supportive, kinda critical of the mission — all depending on the latest sound bite from Iraq?

Please read it all:

Our Not-So-Wise Experts

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Soccer and the Mullahcracy

Speaking of Michael Ledeen, he published an interesting piece on March 30th explaining why so-called "soccer riots" that have taken place in Iran are anything but examples of hooliganism:

A couple of years ago, before I learned better, I was on a BBC radio broadcast in which they had a reporter on the scene in Tehran reporting on big riots in Tehran following a soccer game. The BBC woman in London asked me what I thought about it all, and I said it was a sign of discontent with the regime.

She commented, "But we have soccer hooligans in England, too, don't we?"

And I said, "yes, but they aren't burning effigies of Tony Blair. The Iranians are burning pictures of Khamenei and Rafsanjani."

It was a wasted effort, of course, and I have since decided to decline the BBC's various invitations to legitimize their propaganda network. So it was deja vu when I noticed that the International Herald Tribune, the sly voice of the New York Times in Paris, had refused to see what is in front of everyone's eyes, instead treating the latest anti-regime demonstrations in Iran as a sporting event. Written by their soccer maven, Rob Hughes, the article doesn't even hint at a political component to last week's street battles:


If he had been interested, Hughes could have seen pictures of Iranian security forces closing in on the "fans," both inside the stadium and out on the streets, where women — who are barred from attending athletic events in the Islamic republic — were singled out for special brutality. And if he had checked some of the Iranian blogs, he could have discovered that demonstrations were going on all over the country, not just at the Azadi ("Freedom") Stadium.


As Ledeen points out, we're not talking about some Iranian equivalent of the East End Firm or Chelsea Headhunters. Soccer has become one of the main outlets through which patriotic Iranians can celebrate their country while defying the mullahcracy. The mullahs have always been hostile to the game, which was heavily restricted during the reign of Ayatollah Khomeini. Today, soccer matches are one of the few places where men and women can openly mingle and get away with it.

The fact that soccer in Iran has become imbued with politics should hardly come as a surprise. There are numerous examples around the world of the sport serving as a vehicle for political beliefs, such as Scotland's Old Firm. This has been especially true of societies ruled by dictatorships, where sports frequently provide the only outlet for otherwise-banned expression and conduct. In Spain under the Franco dictatorship, for example, the only place where residents of Catalonia could speak their regional language or display their own flag was at an FC Barcelona match. Hopefully, Iranians will soon enjoy the opportunity to live in a free society, and soccer in their country can go back to being just a game.

Of Yellowcake and Red Herrings

On Monday came word from Roger L. Simon that yet another retired anti-Bush bureaucrat has chosen to wade into the fevered swamp of conspiracy theories:

I think we should set up a defense fund for my friend Michael Ledeen who is being accused of forging the Niger Uranium Documents by former CIA official Vincent Cannistraro. It all happened on a radio show over the weekend:

Ian Masters, host of Background Briefing, in Los Angeles, interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of Counterterrorism operations at the CIA. Cannistraro came close to naming the man who forged the Niger documents. When Masters asked, "If I said 'Michael Ledeen'?" Vincent Cannistraro replied, "You'd be very close."

Is that "close as in close" or close as in "close, but no cigar"? (Insider's note: Ledeen is a cigar maven.) I hate to rain on Mr. Cannistraro's anti-neocon parade, but I have news for him: The Niger Documents were in French and Michael doesn't speak French (well, barely, but trust me, not enough to pull off a forgery of anything remotely official). Now if the docs were in Italian...

Mr. Ledeen, who is currently a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is one of the foremost advocates of fostering democracy in the Middle East, especially in Iran. As a result, he has become one of the biggest bogeymen for purveyors of the "neocon cabal" theory. While I don't agree with all of Mr. Ledeen's views, I respect him and his long and distinguished career of public service. If Mr. Cannistraro has any evidence to back up his shameful innuendo he should produce it immediately. Otherwise, he should keep his half-baked theories to himself.


The Associated Press reported last Friday that Fidel Castro accused George W. Bush of "hypocrisy" for attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II:

Cuban President Fidel Castro criticized President Bush's attendance at Pope John Paul II's funeral Friday as "hypocrisy" because of the pontiff's opposition to the war in Iraq, and he downplayed the pope's role in toppling communism in the former Soviet bloc.

U.S. officials "went to cry in the presence of John Paul II, who was so against war, who so condemned the world order imposed by that empire (the United States), who so condemned consumerism," Castro said in his speech Thursday. "How far will hypocrisy go in this world? In my opinion it's an insult to John Paul II's memory."

Personally, I'm thinking that an aging communist despot trying to exploit the memory of a resolutely anti-communist Pope has no business lecturing anyone about "hypocrisy". Of course, the "Maximum Leader" has never let logic or morality stop him before.

Global Jihad Monitor: 4-13-05

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

Global Jihad Monitor

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"We are proud of what Americans have done for us"

The April 4th Houston Chronicle featured the powerful and moving story of seven Iraqis who had their right hands amputated under Saddam. Just over a year ago, a Houston hospital fitted the men with prosthetic hands. While their lives over the last year have contained many hardships, the men are grateful for the tremendous gift they have received. Almost as importantly, other Iraqis who have heard their story have been impressed as well:

Their story had a big impact in Iraq , said Kanan Makiya, a Brandeis University professor who runs the Iraq Memory Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving the oral history of Iraq .

"When they went back to Iraq , there was an amazement on the part of people," he said. "It created a completely different, very positive image of Americans. It was a very uplifting story that spread through word of mouth."

Makiya said Iraqis were familiar with the kind of mutilation the men had endured.

"It was done to shame people. What Saddam's regime was looking for was a ripple effect - that is why they were mutilated, not killed," Makiya said. "Healing them creates the same impact in reverse."

Healing the damage done by Saddam. We're doing a lot of that. Of course, Saddam left plenty of damage to be healed.

Obviously, the lives of these seven men are far from perfect, and the article makes it clear that they share the same concerns regarding security and utilities as do many Iraqis. Overall, however, their attitude is described as one of "cautious optimism".

Please read it all:

Healing Hands in More Ways Than One

(Republished by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies)

Fahrenheit Flop

It's hard to believe that, just a few months ago, one of the most heated political issues in this country was the controversy over Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911. I weighed in with my own views numerous times, simply search my site or browse my archives from June-September 2004 if you're interested. Suffice it to say, I found the film to be shamefully and appallingly dishonest, as I expected. If you want to know why, see this exhaustive debunking from the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Anyway, remember how Fahrenheit was supposed to swing the election and ensure Bush's defeat? Yet George W. remains in office, while Michael Moore is well on the way to becoming a footnote to history. How is this possible? The answer, as Byron York of National Review explains, is that the impact of Moore's propaganda "masterpiece" was greatly exaggerated:

To make a comparison: Which film had a better opening weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 or Barbershop 2: Back in Business? The correct answer is Barbershop. In terms of opening receipts, Mean Girls also beat Fahrenheit 9/11, as did Starsky & Hutch, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Alien vs. Predator, 50 First Dates, and several others. The year’s big hits, like Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Spiderman 2 all had openings between four and five times the size of Fahrenheit 9/11’s. In the end, Fahrenheit 9/11 had the 32nd-best opening weekend of 2004, taking in $23,920,637 in its first days.

Still, that did not answer the question of whether Fahrenheit 9/11's appeal was nationwide, as Moore had claimed. The reporters and commentators talking about the film could not have known the answer to that question at the time they were confidently asserting that the picture was indeed doing well in red states as well as blue. Sold out in Tulsa? A standing ovation in Greensboro? That sort of thing was anecdotal evidence at best. To learn how well the film really did would take weeks and would require a detailed look at its performance everywhere it played. The newspapers and magazines didn’t have time for that.

Michael Moore and the Myth of Fahrenheit 9/11

As York thoroughly demonstrates, Fahrenheit was very much a "Blue State" phenomenon. It did extremely well in large left-of-center urban areas, yet bombed in most of the country. This really shouldn't come as a surprise. The film was so tendentious and one-sided that it could only have produced the polarizing effect it did. While a few undecideds who didn't know better may have been persuaded by it, Fahrenheit was ultimately not about convincing the unconvinced. As I wrote at the time, the film was so over the top that it was little more than ideological masturbation material for Bush-haters. That is why it was so popular with many liberals and leftists in 2004, and also why the DVD version is headed for a bargain bin near you in 2005.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gossip Journalism

Writing for the April 18, 2005 issue of New York Magazine, Chris Suellentrop ably points out journalist Seymour Hersh's issues with the truth:

Since the Abu Ghraib story broke eleven months ago, The New Yorker’s national-security correspondent, Seymour Hersh, has followed it up with a series of spectacular scoops. Videotape of young boys being raped at Abu Ghraib. Evidence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may be a “composite figure” and a propaganda creation of either Iraq’s Baathist insurgency or the U.S. government. The active involvement of Karl Rove and the president in “prisoner-interrogation issues.” The mysterious disappearance of $1 billion, in cash, in Iraq. A threat by the administration to a TV network to cut off access to briefings in retaliation for asking Laura Bush “a very tough question about abortion.” The Iraqi insurgency’s access to short-range FROG missiles that “can do grievous damage to American troops.” The murder, by an American platoon, of 36 Iraqi guards.

Not one of these exclusives appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, however. Instead, Hersh delivered them in speeches on college campuses and in front of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and on public-radio shows like “Democracy Now!” In most cases, Hersh attaches a caveat—such as “I’m just talking now, I’m not writing”—before unloading one of his blockbusters, which can send bloggers and reporters scurrying for confirmation.

Every writer understands that there is a gap between the print persona and the actual self, but Hersh subscribes to a bright-line test, a wider chasm than is usually acknowledged, particularly in today’s multimedia age.

Sy Hersh Says It’s Okay to Lie (Just Not in Print)

Suellentrop draws a clear distinction between Hersh's verbal comments and his written work, giving the latter much more credibility. Unfortunately, Hersh's writings reflect the same record of outlandish inaccuracy as his spoken utterances. During the Afghanistan campaign in October 2001, Hersh published an absurdly overwrought account of a special operations raid against the Taliban that allegedly went horribly awry. In late March 2003, he wrote an article implying that US forces would be lucky to fight their way back to Kuwait, never mind taking Baghdad. In April 2004, Hersh returned to the topic of Afghanistan, stating that the "situation there is deteriorating rapidly". Hmm, not quite. While Hersh did help break the Abu Ghraib abuse story, even here much of his reporting has been less than accurate. Hersh's track record, in short, is not exactly the best.

The simple truth is that Seymour Hersh's journalism is politically motivated hackwork based in large part on anonymous "sources" passing along third-hand gossip. Many of these informants are merely cranks and malcontents who tell Hersh exactly what he wants to hear. Take for example, the Air Force officer who allegedly greeted Hersh by saying "welcome to Stalingrad" during last November's battle for Fallujah. The quote comes from this December 2004 Hersh speech that must be read to be believed. Other Hersh sources have included conspiracy peddler Karen Kwiatkowski. Hersh himself has become one of the main purveyors of the infantile "neocon cabal" thesis, and numerous other equally ridiculous and unsubtantiated notions such as those mentioned by Suellentrop.

In short, Seymour Hersh's vaunted investigative reporting is the national security version of a highly opinionated gossip column.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not Saddam's Iraq Anymore

Jim Hoagland, via the Washington Post, very thoughtfully writes Iraq's deposed dictator a letter discussing recent events. Mr. Hoagland gingerly breaks the news to Saddam Hussein that this is "no longer your Iraq":

Your claim to defend "Arabism" by persecuting the Kurds (and going to war against the Persians in Iran) was always a cover for the fact that you and your Baathist sidekicks also represent a minority in Iraq. Like the Kurds, Sunni Arabs make up about one-fifth of the population.

Here's my point: The Middle East is a giant mosaic of religious and ethnic minorities that have until now known only how to persecute or be persecuted. Frequently the claim of cultural, political and religious cohesiveness contained in pan-Arabist ideology such as yours is put forward to mask the true diversity and conflicts of the people known as Arabs.

Suppressing diversity is what you were all about. The same is true for your ideological brothers yet personal enemies, the ruling Baathists in Syria, who represent a minority Alawite sect that can rule only by force. No wonder they see themselves as imperiled by democracy arriving next door. Let's hope for once they are right.

Your neighbors tolerated or actively supported your brutality and corruption simply because you were a Sunni Arab. For them, that gave you a license to kill, rob, rape or imprison not only the Kurds (though they are Sunnis) but also the majority Shiites (though they are Arab).

Hoagland notes that the new Iraq is helping to forever change the dismal reality of Saddam's Middle East. This one is a must-read, I only hope Saddam gets to see it. If he does, I fear he'll refrain from writing Mr. Hoagland back, however:

No Longer Your Iraq