Monday, May 30, 2005
Memorial Day Link Roundup
Here are some links worth checking out this Memorial Day:
Winds of Change: Memorial Day, 2005
-Some good links to blog posts and other articles.
President Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery
-The text of President Bush's remarks this morning.
The American Experience: Return With Honor
-The story of US POWs in Vietnam, from PBS.
The Soldiers' Long Goodbye
-A moving article from the Washington Times on how the size of our veteran population is beginning to decline due to aging. Particularly poignant is the article's focus on the few surviving veterans of the First World War, who have no national monument to honor their courage and sacrifice.
-Official Department of Defense site honoring all those who have given their lives for this country in the War on Terrorism.
Finally, I can think of no better way to close than with the words of Omar at Iraq the Model:
Being an I Iraqi citizen I believe I owe the men and women in the US military a lot and they deserve our utmost support and respect.
It's their bravery and sacrifices that liberated me and my country from the worst tyrant of our time and for that I'm grateful and I say THANK YOU again.
On this day of remembrance, I humbly wish to thank all those who have risked their lives in defense of our nation's freedom. It is due to their courage and sacrifices that we live in liberty. I especially wish to thank the men and women in uniform who are currently in harm's way facing the jihadist enemy, and their families. They have endured much, and their accomplishments will not go in vain.
Via LGF comes this piece by Jim Lacey for National Review Online. It is an enlightening look at the officers who lead our troops into battle:
I am reliably informed that General Myers starts each workday with a full briefing on the circumstances of every American casualty in the previous 24 hours. I can think of no more emotionally searing way to begin what are often long, arduous days. This is not something he has to do and I imagine he continues it only because it is a daily reminder that any decision he makes can have a dire consequence for the men and women who make it happen. During World War II, General George Marshall, the first chairman, did much the same thing. Every day he sent the casualty list to the White House to remind the president that real people died as a result of every order given. General Marshall continued this despite a White House request that the practice be discontinued.
This is a brief but telling glimpse at the character of a single man. The incredible thing is that this pattern reveals itself at every level of the chain of command. For generations, writers, moviemakers, and singers have made fortunes depicting cold, unfeeling officers who callously send young soldiers out to die while sitting safely in the rear. The stereotype still persists today and there is no more horrendous lie perpetrated about the people who lead our great soldiers into combat. Please note that I said “lead” and not “send.” The Americans who have entrusted their youth to these leaders deserve to know the character of the men and women in command.
On this Memorial Day holiday, please take the time to remember the heroes to whom this day is dedicated.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
More Evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda Ties
The following item was published Tuesday by Frontpage Magazine, reproduced from a European news site. If this information is accurate, it further undermines the argument that Baathist Iraq and al-Qaeda had no real relationship:
The number two of the al-Qaeda network, Ayman al-Zawahiri, visited Iraq under a false name in September 1999 to take part in the ninth Popular Islamic Congress, former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi has revealed to pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. In an interview, Allawi made public information discovered by the Iraqi secret service in the archives of the Saddam Hussein regime, which sheds light on the relationship between Saddam Hussein and the Islamic terrorist network. He also said that both al-Zawahiri and Jordanian militant al-Zarqawi probably entered Iraq in the same period.
"Al-Zawahiri was summoned by Izza Ibrahim Al-Douri - then deputy head of the council of the leadership of the revolution - to take part in the congress, along with some 150 other Islamic figures from 50 Muslim countries," Allawi said.
In Allawi's view, Saddam's government "sponsored" the birth of al-Qaeda in Iraq, coordinating with other terrorist groups, both Arab and Muslim. "The Iraqi secret services had links to these groups through a person called Faruq Hajizi, later named Iraq's ambassador to Turkey and arrested after the fall of Saddam's regime as he tried to re-enter Iraq. Iraqi secret agents helped terrorists enter the country and directed them to the Ansar al-Islam camps in the Halbija area," he said.
There have been a number of false or unsubstantiated allegations put forward regarding ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. This particular item, however, strikes me as credible. The main reason being that it conforms to much of what we do know about the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. In particular, the following details ring true:
1. Saddam Hussein did indeed host a number of "popular Islamic congresses" in Baghdad. To quote Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard:
Saddam Hussein hosted regular conferences for terrorists in Baghdad throughout the 1990s. Mark Fineman, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, reported on one such gathering in an article published January 26, 1993. "There are delegates from the most committed Islamic organizations on Earth," he wrote. "Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors), Palestinian militants, Sudanese fundamentalists, the Islamic Brotherhood and Pakistan's Party of Islam." One speaker praised "the mujahid Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers. Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state."
2. The role of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Saddam's number two man, and the highest ranking Baathist still at large, al-Douri is a committed Islamist who spearheaded the regime's Islamization campaign of the 1990s. As Newsweek reported in its February 7th, 2005 issue, al-Douri was also involved with the popular Islamic congresses:
But in the largely secular Baath Party, al-Duri stood out for his mystical religiosity. In the 1990s, when Saddam put the phrase GOD IS GREAT on the national flag and banned the drinking of alcohol, al-Duri's influence began to show. Now Islamists were welcome. In January 1993, as the official Baghdad Observer newspaper reported, al-Duri hosted a convention for "more than 1,000 religious, political and cultural dignitaries from 51 countries," urging them "to conduct holy jihad against the U.S. and its allies."
3. The involvement of bin Laden's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Stephen Hayes, in his seminal article from the November 24th, 2003 Weekly Standard entitled "Case Closed", quotes from a US intelligence report showing Zawahiri had longstanding ties to Baathist Iraq:
According to a May 2003 debriefing of a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, Iraqi intelligence established a highly secretive relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and later with al Qaeda. The first meeting in 1992 between the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and al Qaeda was brokered by al-Turabi. Former IIS deputy director Faruq Hijazi and senior al Qaeda leader [Ayman al] Zawahiri were at the meeting--the first of several between 1992 and 1995 in Sudan.
Chapter Two of the 9/11 Commission Report confirms Zawahiri's connections with Baghdad:
In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis.
4. The part about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi being in Iraq at the same time as Zawahiri is a little more problematic. A commenter at Austin Bay's site points out that it is unlikely that Zarqawi had the opportunity to travel there in 1999. However, it appears that he did go to Iraq in 2002 after the American liberation of Afghanistan. King Abdullah of Jordan has recently confirmed this, and mentioned that the Iraqi regime refused Jordanian requests for his extradition.
Further evidence of Zarqawi's presence in Iraq is provided by Great Britain's Butler Report, which quotes this March 2003 UK intelligence assessment (paragraph 483, p. 120):
Reporting since [February] suggests that senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab al Zarqawi has established sleeper cells in Baghdad,to be activated during a US occupation of the city. These cells apparently intend to attack US targets using car bombs and other weapons. (It is also possible that they have received CB materials from terrorists in the KAZ.) Al Qaida-associated terrorists continued to arrive in Baghdad in early March.
Finally, captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah has stated that Zarqawi was believed by other jihadists to have good relations with Iraqi intelligence.
5. Finally, the evidence is overwhelming that the Iraqi regime facilitated the entry of jihadists into the country. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an active state sponsor of terrorism, and this included harboring and training Islamist terrorists. According to the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 report, several hundred al-Qaeda members gained refuge with Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq after being driven from Afghanistan, while others fled to Baghdad. In the words of the report, "(i)t is inconceivable these groups were in Iraq without the knowledge and acquiescence of Saddam's regime." Abu Wael, the number three man in Ansar al-Islam, was reportedly an Iraqi intelligence operative who facilitated the travel of foreign jihadists to Iraq. The Duelfer Report confirms that Iraqi intelligence trained foreign fighters at its Salman Pak facility. Finally, the Baathist regime brought literally thousands of jihadists into the country prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
There are plenty of reasons, therefore, to regard Dr. Allawi's comments as credible. I hope that the relevant documents he cited are made available to the US for authentication and ultimately made public. Contrary to what has become conventional wisdom, Saddam Hussein's Iraq did indeed have a relationship with al-Qaeda. Determining the full extent of that relationship should be a priority.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
What was That About Theocracy?
One of the main arguments of those who believe, and in some cases actively hope, that the effort to build a pluralistic, democratic Iraq will fail is the idea that a Shia majority government will inevitably create an Iranian-style theocracy. Two recent pieces of news strongly suggest that such fears are overblown:
-Iraqi Expat reports that the new government has overturned the restrictive liquor law imposed as part of Saddam Hussein's 1990's Islamization campaign. Who would have imagined that a government led by Shia religious parties would have a more liberal policy on alcohol than the allegedly secular Baathist regime?
-Meanwhile, Jihad Watch links to a news article that states that the Shia parties "have decided not to push for a greater role for Islam in the new Iraqi constitution out of concern that the contentious issue will inflame religious sentiments and deepen sectarian tensions." Instead, the language from the Transitional Administrative Law negotiated in early 2004 that describes Islam only as a source of legislation will be retained.
There is certainly some cause for concern when you look at the conduct of some Shia parties and militias in places like Basra. However, at national level, the same parties have no choice but to compromise. Theocracy in Iraq is thus an unlikely outcome.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Biting the Hand that Feeds Them
As usual, Victor Davis Hanson's National Review Online column is a must read. Dr. Hanson justifiably points out the nauseating hypocrisy of European and Third World elites for engaging in anti-Americanism while simultaneously profiting from US capitalism:
The anti-Americanism that we frequently see and hear, then, is often a plaything of the international elite — a corporate grandee, a leisured athlete, or a refined novelist who flies in and out of the West, counts on its globalizing appendages for wealth, and then mocks those who make it all possible — but never to the point that their own actions would logically follow their rhetoric and thus cost them so dearly.
Dr. Hanson cites several examples of this phenomenon, but his dissection of Danish art house "auteur" Lars von Trier is especially brilliant:
Then there is the director of anti-American films from Denmark, Lars von Trier, who whined, “Mr. Bush is an a**hole. So much in Denmark is American. . . America fills about 60 per cent of my brain. So, in fact, I am American. But I can't go there to vote and I can't change anything, because I am from a small country. So that is why I make films about America.”
Memo to poor head-pounding Mr. von Trier: There is no compelling reason to have anything American in your country — except in the past to expel German invaders you either could not or would not keep out. Simply stop buying American. Don’t watch American movies. Admonish not us, but your own leaders to get out of NATO, pronto — the faster the better. Deny entry to all American troops — and tourists. Embrace the EU. It’s bigger and more populous than the U.S. Create an all-EU defense force. Go for it all!
Above all, be sure that your films are not marketed through any global organization that is either American-financed, directed, or substantiates a Westernized hegemony in the promulgation of intellectual property. Perhaps there are plenty of Danes who would see your films about Denmark at home — and that might cleanse your brain of what you hate, if make you a little less money.
Our Spoiled and Unhappy Global Elites
Thursday, May 26, 2005
The Problem with the Media
It comes from, I think, a huge gulf of misunderstanding, for which I lay plenty of blame on the media itself. There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it's very dangerous. That's different from the media doing it's job of challenging the exercise of power without fear or favor.
Terry Moran, ABC News, on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, May 18, 2005, courtesy of Austin Bay
Today, in the midst of a global war against the totalitarian jihadist movement that staged the bloodiest attack in history against the continental United States, the Pentagon had to hold a special news briefing to try to dispel the media feeding frenzy over whether or not a book got dropped into a toilet. That the charge is utterly unsubstantiated, and appears to be the stuff of camp legend at best, outright deceit at worst, doesn't seem to matter one bit. If the current media climate had existed during World War II, we'd all be speaking German.
How did it come to this? In part, it's a matter of guild solidarity. Ever since Newsweek had to retract their original Koran flushing story, much of the major media have been trying frantically to aid their colleagues by proving them right after all. Hence the eager seizing upon any scrap of information regarding mishandling of Korans at Guantanamo, no matter how meager.
Yet the problems with press coverage of the War on Islamist Terror go well beyond mere clannish defensiveness. Why is it that the abuses at Abu Ghraib have been made into the symbol of America's war effort, instead of 17 million Afghans and Iraqis voting in the first free election of their lives? Partly it's due to sloppy professional practices, and an emphasis on negativity and sensationalism. I cannot help but believe, however, that the attitudes described by Terry Moran play a part as well.
There is a excellent new group blog that has just started called Media Slander, dedicated to keeping track of unfair media coverage of the military. Are such concerns exaggerated? Perhaps. But then one reflects on the fact that, just in the last few months, two major figures in the journalism industry have publicly accused US troops of deliberately killing reporters in Iraq, without any evidence to back up their outrageous charges. It seems clear that much of the major media are, as Austin Bay puts it, still stuck in the "Vietnam/Watergate template" in which the US government and military are always assumed to be lying and in the wrong. Such attitudes are not symptomatic of the healthy skepticism necessary to a free press, but of a dogmatic, knee-jerk opposition that distorts the truth just as much as does uncritical slavishness.
Two Useful Roundups
Amnesty from Reason
Yesterday, Amnesty International released its annual international report on human rights. Judging by these comments, Amnesty has now officially filed for moral and intellectual bankruptcy:
"Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time," Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said as the London-based group issued a 308-page annual report that accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections.
Yes, that gulag. The barbarous system of Soviet forced labor camps that over 25 million people passed through between 1929-1953, nearly 3 million of whom never came back. One of the most evil systems of mass oppression and enslavement in all of history, eclipsed only by the Nazi extermination camps. This, in Ms. Khan's view, is a valid metaphor for the detention of a few hundred suspected terrorists at Guantanamo.
If Ms. Khan wants to know what a real gulag looks like, she need only turn her attention to North Korea, where an estimated 200,000 people are imprisoned in horrific labor camps. Of course, the inmates of North Korea's gulag, unlike the Guantanamo detainees, are not separated from their loved ones. This is because in North Korea, when you get sent to a labor camp, your whole family goes with you. Kim Jong-Il: the family friendly despot. Of course, as Arthur Chrenkoff points out, the Amnesty report spends 5 and a half pages on the horrors of Guantanamo, and only two and a half on North Korea. Good to know they have their priorities in order.
Another indicator of AI's agenda is the following sentence from their press release:
The “war on terror” appeared more effective in eroding international human rights principles than in countering international “terrorism”.
The quotation marks are from the original. Amnesty International, like so many others, has clearly made delegitimizing America's efforts to combat Islamist barbarism its top priority. In the process, they have forfeited the right to be taken seriously as an objective, credible monitor of human rights abuses.
(Credit to Watch for many of the links)
My Wish for Zarqawi
Arthur Chrenkoff notes that jihadist Web sites are soliciting prayers on behalf of wounded terrorist mass murderer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Arthur's sentiments are rather different, and he invites his readers to share their wishes regarding Zarqawi in his comments.
As for myself, let me just say that I fervently wish Zarqawi's wounds to be fatal, and his death throes prolonged and agonizing. I don't like to feel that way about anyone, but in this case I can't help but make an exception.
The Significance of South Park Conservatives
National Review Online has an interesting interview with Brian Anderson, author of the book South Park Conservatives. What is a "South Park Conservative"? Anderson explains in this passage:
As I use the term, which I didn’t coin — Andrew Sullivan was speaking of South Park Republicans at least a few years back, as was Stephen Stanton, who writes for Tech Central Station — it loosely refers to an anti-liberal or an iconoclastic right-of-center type: someone who may not be traditionally conservative when it comes to things like censorship or popular culture or even on some social issues but who wants nothing to do with the dour, PC, and elitist Left.
This anti-liberal attitude, I argue in the book, runs through a significant strain of contemporary humor, above all through the show South Park itself, which though it satirizes the Right, too, and is filled with enough profanities and outrageous scenarios to anger some social conservatives, has really gone after liberals like nothing before it in the history of popular culture. As Trey Parker, the show’s co-creator, put it: “We hate liberals more than conservatives, and we hate them.” A rude anti-liberalism characterizes the attitudinal stance of many of the college students I interviewed for the book, too.
I don’t proclaim the existence of “South Park Conservatives” to be the future of the Right but one sign of a broader delegitimation of the Left that is resulting, at least in part, from the market- and technology-driven arrival of the new media of political talk radio, cable television, and the Internet, which are allowing right-of-center arguments and ideas and even creative visions to get a hearing in the broader culture. That’s the larger theme of South Park Conservatives, which offers a kind of brief, and I hope entertaining, history of new media.
Am I a "South Park Conservative"? In some ways, yes. I'm not a huge fan of the show, and definitely thought the movie went a bit over the top. On the other hand, I appreciate the show's willingness to mock the sacred cows of the left (and the right), and eagerly await the arrival of Team America: World Police on digital pay per view. Depending on the issue, I'm much more of a libertarian than a social conservative. For example, I have no problem with gay marriage. Finally, I do have a keen appreciation for the suitably cheesier elements of popular culture, with the exception of reality television.
Many liberals seem to harbor the ridiculous stereotype that those who voted for George Bush are either benighted evangelical theocrats or mindless sheep frightened into submission by a nonexistent terrorist threat. This is nonsense. As Anderson points out, conservatives come in a variety of flavors. There are social conservatives, libertarians, country club types, limited government advocates, traditional Burkeans, and warmongering neocon deathbeasts like myself. We're not all dour theocrats. By the same token, there are plenty of liberals who are just as narrow minded and dogmatic as the most devout Christian, as reflected in the stultifying politically correct orthodoxy that permeates most college campuses. This is why the anti-PC irreverence of South Park is so popular, and why it is needed.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
9/11: The Musical Comedy?
Winds of Change Updates
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The savage murder of Robert McCartney is just the tip of the IRA's iceberg of criminality. The Associated Press explains:
The Irish Republican Army covered up a Belfast killing, is smuggling in new armaments and continues to recruit and train members how to use firearms and make bombs, an expert commission reported Tuesday.
The British and Irish governments welcomed the findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission, a four-man panel appointed three years ago to provide objective assessments on the activities of the IRA and several other illegal groups based in Northern Ireland. A Sinn Fein official said the commission was neither impartial nor credible.
Of course, considering that Sinn Fein is the IRA's political mouthpiece, I would argue that they are the ones who are "neither impartial nor credible". Anyway, the article goes on to summarize the report's main conclusions:
It found that the IRA and a half-dozen other paramilitary groups remained highly active from September 2004 to March. While the other groups have no significant political support, the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party represents most of Northern Ireland's Catholic minority, making continued IRA activity a huge political obstacle.
The commissioners, among them a former CIA deputy director, cited evidence that the IRA was smuggling in new weaponry in defiance of the 1998 accord's disarmament goals. The IRA was supposed to have scrapped all its armaments by mid-2000 but didn't start the process until late 2001 and halted it some two years later.
The report said police in September discovered 10,000 rounds of assault rifle ammunition in an IRA arms dump "of a type not previously found in Northern Ireland and manufactured since the Belfast agreement." These bullets, it said, "may have been only part of a larger consignment."
The IRA "continues to seek to maintain its medium-term effectiveness. It recruits and trains new members, including in the use of firearms and explosives. It continues to gather intelligence," the report said.
It said the IRA committed at least five shootings and six assaults since September and runs a range of criminal rackets such as smuggling fuel and cigarettes and bank robberies including the world-record theft in December of about $50 million from a Belfast bank. The IRA has denied involvement in the bank robbery.
You can read the full report for yourself on the Independent Monitoring Commission Web site (click on the "Fifth Report" link).
While the Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries are just as violent and thuggish, the IRA is unique in terms of its resources, support base, and global connections. It is one of Europe's largest criminal enterprises, and has even established links to Colombia's narcoterrorist FARC organization. The IRA, and its "loyalist" counterparts, must be disarmed if there is to be peace in Northern Ireland.
Iraq: "The Dhia Muhsin Example"
Time again for Arthur Chrenkoff's invaluable biweekly Iraq "good news" update:
You may remember Dhia Muhsin, a carpenter from the working-class Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dora, who became a celebrity of sorts back in March, when he stood up to insurgents who terrorized his area. In a firefight lasting half an hour Mushin and his nephews killed three of them and forced the rest to retreat.
Well, two months on, Muhsin is still ready to take on any intruders: "I expect them [the insurgents] to come back and I'm ready to face them," says the 33-year old who seems to have inspired his neighbors:
Al-Dora has not been violence-free since that day in March, but Mushin's example is a very important one for the Iraqi people. Insurgents and terrorists thrive on fear and passivity. They can't win when society turns against them.
This is a lesson that increasing numbers of Iraqis seem to be learning, and it is important more than ever, now that the past two weeks have passed under the shadow of a bloody suicide bombing campaign. This carnage around Iraq has dominated the media coverage, and once again it managed to overshadow most of the positive developments taking place around the country, in security and other areas of life. Below are some of these stories that you might have missed.
The Dhia Muhsin Example
(also available via Chrenkoff and Winds of Change)
Monday, May 23, 2005
"Leaving the Left"
Courtesy of Roger L. Simon, comes this fascinating essay by Keith Thompson in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Thompson forcefully explains why he is "Leaving the Left":
I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.
I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.
My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.
For my money, the most powerful and accurate part of Thompson's essay is this:
I look back on that experience as the beginning of my departure from a left already well on its way to losing its bearings. Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.
Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics.
Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the "courage" of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to "automobile statistics." The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.
All of this came back to me as I watched the left's anemic, smirking response to Iraq's election in January. Didn't many of these same people stand up in the sixties for self-rule for oppressed people and against fascism in any guise? Yes, and to their lasting credit. But many had since made clear that they had also changed their minds about the virtues of King's call for equal of opportunity.
Thompson brilliantly sums up the problem with the worldview of most leftists and even many liberals: the idea that, no matter what, America is always in the wrong. At best, the USA is considered no better than al-Qaeda or the Baathists. At worst, America is the evil aggressor and the jihadists are "freedom fighters". Regardless, the use of American power is an unalloyed evil that must be unconditionally opposed.
One need only visit any blog or Web site with an active comments section (you mean unlike this one-ed.) to see an example of this "logic" in action. Mention any of the numerous terrorist atrocities committed by radical Islamists, and immediately the cry comes back "what about Abu Ghraib?" When you point out that the abuses at Abu Ghraib, while reprehensible, pale in comparison with what happened there under Saddam, the response is "so now we're using Saddam as our benchmark?" In other words, comparative analysis should only be used when it makes America look bad, and the US is only deserving of support if its record is immaculate.
The point of such circular logic is not to achieve moral and intellectual clarity, but rather to argue that because the US fails to live up to some imaginary standard of perfection, its war effort is hence immoral and illegitimate. Pointing out that no nation in history has ever met such a criterion, and that whatever transgressions we have committed in the struggle against Islamist terrorism pale in comparison to our conduct in previous wars, let alone the behavior of our enemies, makes no difference. The idea that the world would be a far worse place if Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein wielded the kind of power George W. Bush does is one that much of the left either cannot or will not comprehend.
Speaking of Violations
Marcus at Harry's Place has a great post about the Saddam images that were published in the Sun on Friday:
Saddam Hussein reacts to his being photographed in jail by suing the Sun, the British newspaper running the pictures. He complains his privacy has been violated. Lawyers are already arguing about the strength of the case.
He's suing? Oh, please! What about those of us forced to see the pictures? I mean, I support tort reform as much as anyone. Still, if being subjected to the image of Saddam Hussein in briefs doesn't justify a class action lawsuit, I don't know what does?
Marcus, of course, makes a much more important point: that the conditions of Saddam's confinement are far different than those his prisoners experienced:
Last summer Mr Muhammad had the top joint of the second finger of his left hand smashed off with an iron bar for insulting Saddam, an offence for which five years were added to his sentence.
Large-scale executions were a regular occurrence. The first that Mr Muhammad remembered was on March 27, 1991, during the uprisings in Iraq that followed the coalition victory in Kuwait.
“There was no rioting in the prison, just a feeling of unease,” he said. “Then that day hundreds of men from a special unit arrived. They took all the prisoners from their cells and made them parade in the yard facing the walls. It was the first time I had been in daylight since my imprisonment.When we all had our backs to them, standing in the sun, they opened fire on us. Over a hundred men lay dead and dying. The rest of us were made to stand up again and they kept us paraded there until 8pm, when we were returned to our cells.”
As far as I'm concerned, these are the only images to keep in mind with regard to Saddam Hussein.
The Impact of Iraqi Pluralism
The formation of Iraq's current, democratically elected, government was anything but smooth. Ethnic and sectarian squabbling, ideological and policy differences, and plain old political ambition meant that it took three months after the historic January 30th elections for a new administration to take power. In the meantime, ordinary Iraqis became frustrated while the terrorists sought to exploit the atmosphere of uncertainty and stop additional progress by launching an onslaught of suicide car bombings.
Yet despite all the tragedies and frustrations, the new government now exists. It is led by a Shia prime minister and a Kurdish president, both firsts for an Arab country. When one gets caught up in the media's daily "police blotter" coverage of Iraq, it is easy to lose sight of just how far-reaching and historic a development this is. Credit Jim Hoagland for reminding us in Sunday's Washington Post:
After a stumbling start the government -- headed by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Jafari, a Shiite -- seems to be making headway in getting organized and gaining external acceptance.
Jordan's King Abdullah has ceased issuing blood-curdling warnings to his Sunni co-religionists about the dangers that a Shiite takeover in Iraq would pose. He welcomed Talabani in Amman recently. And two Arab leaders visiting Washington last week dropped hints that pluralism is gaining acceptance, however grudging, in some key Arab nations in the wake of regime change in Iraq.
"There is a realization that Arab nationalism should be redefined," Kuwait's foreign minister, Mohammed Sabah, told me. He pointed out that Iraq has Kurds as its president, deputy prime minister and foreign minister; Sudan is shortly to name a non-Arab vice president, and minority groups advance toward greater influence in other Arab countries.
"We should look again at the concept of the Arab League, to get away from any racist interpretation that Arab nationalism emphasized in the past," said the forward-thinking Sabah, whose country was invaded by Iraq in 1990. "The Iraqis are showing that a more multicultural approach does not divorce the country from the Arab world."
Ahmed Nazif, Egypt's coolly competent prime minister, addressed the same signs of change with characteristic pith: "The Arab League is melting at the edges. It is a time of change, in many dimensions."
The Middle East's Growing Pluralism
The political process going forward in Iraq will not be pretty. There will be much hard bargaining, and points where one or more of the parties threaten to take their ball and go home. Expect to see at least one article in the Post or New York Times declaring the process of writing Iraq's new constitution to be virtually dead. The terrorists will continue their barbarous campaign. Despite all the obstacles, however, the creation of a permanent democratic Iraqi government will occur.
However flawed they may be, and whatever mistakes they will undoubtedly make in office, don't be surprised if Ibrahim Jafari and Jalal Talabani are remembered long after the name Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is forgotten.
Revenge of the Sith
I finally saw Revenge of the Sith Sunday afternoon. I know reaction has been mixed, but I actually enjoyed it. The story flowed well, the action sequences were entertaining, and the film did a really nice job of leading into the "original" trilogy. Thankfully, the cheesy love scenes between Anakin and Padme were mercifully brief. Ian McDiarmid was excellent as Palpatine/Sidious, with the exception of the scene where he killed Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), where he was a little over the top with the evil cackling. Particularly powerful were the scenes where the Jedi were slaughtered by the same clone troopers they had led into battle. The film was not without problems. For one thing, it ran a little too long. I felt like the movie could have been about 15 minutes shorter. As with the other prequels, much of the dialogue was stilted. Finally, as far as the much ballyhooed Bush-bashing, it was pretty minimal.
Overall, I give Sith 3 of 4 stars. Not quite Lord of the Rings, but a vast improvement on the other two prequels.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
The Last Word on Galloway
...belongs to Christopher Hitchens, whose brilliant essay on Gorgeous George from the May 30th Weekly Standard is a must-read:
EVERY JOURNALIST HAS A LIST of regrets: of stories that might have been. Somewhere on my personal list is an invitation I received several years ago, from a then-Labour member of parliament named George Galloway. Would I care, he inquired, to join him on a chartered plane to Baghdad? He was hoping to call attention to the sufferings of the Iraqi people under sanctions, and had long been an admirer of my staunch and muscular prose and my commitment to universal justice (I paraphrase only slightly). Indeed, in an article in a Communist party newspaper in 2001 he referred to me as "that great British man of letters" and "the greatest polemicist of our age."
No thanks, was my reply. I had my own worries about the sanctions, but I had also already been on an officially guided visit to Saddam's Iraq and had decided that the next time I went to that terrorized slum it would be with either the Kurdish guerrillas or the U.S. Marines. (I've since fulfilled both ambitions.) Moreover, I knew a bit about Galloway. He had had to resign as the head of a charity called "War on Want," after repaying some disputed expenses for living the high life in dirt-poor countries. Indeed, he was a type well known in the Labour movement. Prolier than thou, and ostentatiously radical, but a bit too fond of the cigars and limos and always looking a bit odd in a suit that was slightly too expensive. By turns aggressive and unctuous, either at your feet or at your throat; a bit of a backslapper, nothing's too good for the working class: what the English call a "wide boy."
This was exactly his demeanor when I ran into him last Tuesday on the sidewalk of Constitution Avenue, outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where he was due to testify before the subcommittee that has been uncovering the looting of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. His short, cocky frame was enveloped in a thicket of recording equipment, and he was holding forth almost uninterrupted until I asked him about his endorsement of Saddam Hussein's payment for suicide-murderers in Israel and the occupied territories. He had evidently been admirably consistent in his attention to my humble work, because he changed tone and said that this was just what he'd expect from a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay." It takes a little more than this to wound your correspondent--I could still hold a martini without spilling it when I was "the greatest polemicist of our age" in 2001--but please note that the real thrust is contained in the word "Trotskyist." Galloway says that the worst day of his entire life was the day the Soviet Union fell. His existence since that dreadful event has involved the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland. He has recently written that, "just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq's own Great Leap Forward." I love the word "scale" in that sentence. I also admire the use of the word "plotted."
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Of Sacred Texts and Hypocrisy
Ali Al-Ahmed of the Saudi Institute points out the blatant hypocrisy behind the Saudi regime's reaction to the alleged desecration of a Koran at Guantanamo Bay:
As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities. American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately.
Soon after Newsweek published an account, later retracted, of an American soldier flushing a copy of the Quran down the toilet, the Saudi government voiced its strenuous disapproval. More specifically, the Saudi Embassy in Washington expressed "great concern" and urged the U.S. to "conduct a quick investigation."
Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Quran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. This would seem curious to most people because of the fact that to most Muslims, the Bible is a holy book. But when it comes to Saudi Arabia we are not talking about most Muslims, but a tiny minority of hard-liners who constitute the Wahhabi Sect.
The Bible in Saudi Arabia may get a person killed, arrested, or deported. In September 1993, Sadeq Mallallah, 23, was beheaded in Qateef on a charge of apostasy for owning a Bible. The State Department's annual human rights reports detail the arrest and deportation of many Christian worshipers every year. Just days before Crown Prince Abdullah met President Bush last month, two Christian gatherings were stormed in Riyadh. Bibles and crosses were confiscated, and will be incinerated. (The Saudi government does not even spare the Quran from desecration. On Oct. 14, 2004, dozens of Saudi men and women carried copies of the Quran as they protested in support of reformers in the capital, Riyadh. Although they carried the Qurans in part to protect themselves from assault by police, they were charged by hundreds of riot police, who stepped on the books with their shoes, according to one of the protesters.)
As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others' holy books and religious symbols. Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment. TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored.
Hypocrisy Most Holy
Islam is not our enemy, but we must end the patronizing double standard that condemns real or alleged intolerance in the West while ignoring far more egregious examples of bigotry and hate in parts of the Muslim world.
VDH: Pre-Modern and Postmodern
Victor Davis Hanson's latest column for National Review Online puts the recent Newsweek Koran flap in context. Dr. Hanson lays out some hard truths about both our adversaries and ourselves. First, in regard to our enemies:
Despite cheap, accessible, and easy-to-operate consumer goods imported from the Westernized world, the thinking of a bin Laden or Muslim Brotherhood still leads back to swords, horses, and jihad, not ahead to iPods and Microsoft.
They want such things to use to destroy, but not along with them the institutions like democracy and freedom that would allow such progress in their own countries — and shortly make al Qaeda and the fundamentalists not merely irrelevant, but ridiculous as well. Thus, we can understand the increasing hatred of the United States and its policy of democratic idealism abroad that threatens to put them out of business.
As we learned on September 11, they try to kill us now with our own appurtenances before they are buried themselves under modernism, liberality, and freedom. That really is what this war is about: a last-ditch effort by primordial fascists to prevent the liberalization of the Muslim world and the union of Islamic society with the protocols found in the rest of the globe and which many in the Middle East prefer if given a chance.
Only democracy and freedom, not Western money or cheap guilt, will remedy the deep sickness of radical Islam that now so tires and sickens the rest of the world that daily has to watch and endure it.
Then, he addresses our problems:
In that sense, we can be as warped as the Afghan rioter. Westerners have their own delusions. We seem to think that our neat gadgets also equate with an ability to refashion human nature or that a fascist abroad needs to know how much we care about his hurt.
There is a sort of arrogance in the liberal West — the handmaiden to our own guilt and self-loathing — that strangely believes we are both to blame for the ills abroad and alone can solve them through handing out money. Almost all of the pathetic rhetoric of al Qaeda — "colonial exploitation," "American hegemony," or "blood for oil" — was as imported from the West as were the terrorists' bombs and communications.
Some Western intellectuals, I think, need a bin Laden to illustrate and confirm their nihilistic ideas about their own postmodern society, just as he needs them to explain why his culture's failure is not its own fault. So just as al Qaeda will always find an enabling Westerner to say, "You lashed out at us in frustration for your unfair treatment," so too a guilty Westerner will always find a compliant terrorist to boast, "Yes, we kill you for your sins." America was once a country that demolished Hitler and Tojo combined in less than four years and broke the nuclear Soviet Union — and now frets and whines that a few thousand deranged fascists want an apology.
Our Two-Front Struggle
The Testimony that Deserved to be Televised
On Tuesday May 17th, at the same time that pro-Saddam demagogue George Galloway was spewing his anti-American nonsense before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, another hearing was taking place on Capitol Hill. Entitled "Defeating Terrorism with Ballots", this hearing was held before the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. The topic of the session was "the impact of current pro-democracy policies on Arab and Muslim cultures suffering what the Arab Human Development Report termed “deficits” in freedom, women’s empowerment and knowledge."
Among the distinguished witnesses who testified at this hearing were two courageous men who have made enormous sacrifices in the cause of democracy. One was Natan Sharansky, the Israeli political figure and former Soviet dissident. Sharansky spent 9 years in the prisons of the Soviet Union whose passing George Galloway has openly mourned. The second man was an Iraqi named Mithal Al-Alusi, who founded a political party called the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation (DPIN).
In an article orginally published in the May 16th New York Post, Heather Robinson describes Mr. Al-Alusi's moving and powerful story:
In the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mithal Al-Alusi moved back to Iraq from Hamburg, Germany with his two sons, Ayman, 30, and Gamal, 22. For the Al-Alusis, it was a joyous homecoming. Twenty seven years earlier, they had fled Iraq after Mithal was sentenced to death for opposing Saddam Hussein's tyranny.
Now they were returning to help shape a democratic Iraq.
After committing the unpardonable sin of visiting Israel last September, Al-Alusi was fired from his job in the interim government, and a warrant was issued for his arrest:
After 27 years in exile, Al-Alusi was not about to be intimidated. With the help of his sons, he founded the DPIN and got the party onto the ballot for the upcoming elections. Eventually, the government dropped the charges against him. Shortly before the election, his younger son, Gamal, was quoted as saying, "It is true we are in danger, but if this is the price for democracy and peace, it is a very low price."
A few days after the election, in which the DPIN garnered several thousand votes, Mithal passed on a trip to inspect the party's new offices; his sons went without him.
Terrorist insurgents ambushed the car. Ayman and Gamal Al-Alusi and their bodyguard, Hayder Hassain, died of gunshot wounds.
In the course of working to build a free Iraq, Mr. Al-Alusi has lost his only sons, murdered by the same bloodthirsty terrorists whose cause George Galloway openly espouses. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of his loss. Yet he continues his efforts undaunted.
It is the height of irony that at the same time that George Galloway was preening for the cameras, two brave men who have suffered greatly at the hands of those whom he has supported were testifying just a few hundred yards away. Unfortunately, it was the shameless demagoguery of Gorgeous George that received all the attention. To be honest, I was as guilty as anyone. It is heroes such as Natan Sharansky and Mithal Al-Alusi whose remarks should be televised, instead of the likes of Galloway.
Friday, May 20, 2005
A Really Bad Idea
As of September, access to New York Times Op-Ed content will be subscription only. To quote the official press release:
While most of the news, features and multi-media on NYTimes.com will remain free and available to users, the work of Op-Ed columnists and some of the best known voices from the news side of The Times and The International Herald Tribune (IHT) will be available only to TimesSelect subscribers beginning in September. Home-delivery subscribers will automatically receive TimesSelect as part of their benefits. TimesSelect will be priced at $49.95 for an annual subscription.
There have been rumblings for a while that the Times would adopt some kind of subscription model patterned after that of the Wall Street Journal. I do give them credit for not going that far. Still, this idea is, to quote the cliche, penny wise and pound foolish. Whatever short-term financial gains will accrue from the subscription model will be more than offset by the Times Op-Ed page's resulting loss of influence. Many bloggers and others, especially those of us on the right side of the political spectrum, who refuse to pay $49.95 will simply stop linking to and discussing Times Op-Ed pieces. Personally, while I respect the work of David Brooks, Tom Friedman, and now John Tierney, there is no way on this earth that I would pay money for the "privilege" of reading Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. Increasingly, the Times Op-Ed section will do little more than preach to the urban liberal choir.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
The Other Side of Soccer
The American media rarely mentions soccer except in relation to fan violence. Constant references to "hooligans" and "soccer riots" have led many in this country to believe that almost every match results in public disorder. This is most certainly not the case.
As the world's most popular sport, the level of emotional investment in soccer is frequently overwhelming. This has certainly produced some tragic incidents. Yet the passion surrounding the sport also allows it to be a force for positive change. Here are two examples:
-Real Madrid and Brazil striker Ronaldo recently visited the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The reigning World Cup Golden Boot winner offered encouragement to the peace process and was greeted enthusiastically by both Israelis and Palestinians.
-Michael, a soldier blogging from Iraq, has some thoughts on one way in which Americans can reach out to Iraqis:
What are the Iraqi people in general, and the Iraqi children in particular, passionate about? In a word, soccer. Actually it’s football to them, but we know it as soccer. They have more passion for the game of soccer than we ever thought of having for football or baseball. I’ve yet to meet a child, or an adult for that matter, who doesn’t have at least some interest in the game of soccer. Forget bowl season, the World Series, March Madness, and the Super Bowl, they don’t care. Their ‘Field of Dreams’ isn’t a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. Their ‘Field of Dreams’ is a soccer field in any open area of Iraq. Streets, fields, farms, the dusty ground off the side of the road, or the lush green land of a farm. On sand or on pavement, no place is safe from the stampeding feet of Iraqis chasing a soccer ball. In every mission I’ve been on, I’ve never once failed to witness a game of soccer.
On one overcast evening, before the sun had fully set, I saw a group of men divided into teams, each wearing bright pastel jerseys. These jerseys contrasted beautifully against the tall green grass and the light gray color of the cloud filled sky. There was something electric about the whole scene, reminding me of Saturday night football games on a college campus in America during the fall. I’ve seen this same scene through the thermal sights of my Bradley, each player a bright red figure, indicating the heat radiating from their body as they chase the precious ball. More often the scene is of children in rags playing on the dry hard packed dirt of a schoolyard. They’re all passionately chasing that elusive soccer ball.
If they don’t have a soccer ball they’ll use anything as a substitute. I’ve seen kids kicking around a rock with as much passion and glee than if they were playing in the World Championship. They need soccer balls, and I want to give them one. What a better way to convey the goodwill of America and American soldiers than by giving them the soccer balls that they so desperately desire. You want to continue to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, give them the tool that will enable them to do something they love. Besides guns and ammo, every humvee, tank, truck, Bradley, Stryker, and helicopter should come armed with soccer balls as well. How I would love to be standing out the top of my humvee, having the guys below feed soccer balls up to me, so I could then throw them to any children I pass. Why not airplanes too? I can picture C130's flying over cities and towns throughout Iraq, dropping soccer balls from its cargo hold with little parachutes attached to each one. It’s doable. Crazier things have happened. Or have helicopters hover over a school during recess and drop a bunch of soccer balls to the delight of the kids below. We can rain down hellfire on the heads of terrorists, turn around, and shower the good people of Iraq with peace in the form of a soccer ball. The love of sports, in this case soccer, can be an instrument of peace and a bond that is common to us all. It will transcend our cultural differences and our languages. It will also mitigate the feelings of some Iraqis that see our presence in their land as aggravating.
Link courtesy of Mudville Gazette, who has information on how to help with this effort.
The Middle East Tsunami
The new essay from Dr. Fouad Ajami is a must-read. Originally published in the May 16th Wall Street Journal, it is a good overview of the changes produced in the Middle East by the liberation of Iraq:
"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here -- the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle -- came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."
My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Henceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria -- and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection.
To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spiderhole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.
Destroying Saddam Hussein's regime has had positive effects throughout the Arab world. In addition to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, it also led to Muammar Qadhafi's surrender of Libya's WMD programs in late 2003. While there have certainly been risks and costs involved, the long-term gains resulting from Iraq's liberation will go a long way towards defeating radical Islamism.
Global Jihad Monitor: 5-18-05
The latest weekly War on Terror update from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is available. Please give it a look:
Global Jihad Monitor
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The "Koran Riots": Not so Spontaneous
Posting at the Counterterrorism Blog, Dr. Walid Phares makes the case that the violence that occurred in the wake of the since-retracted Newsweek story was anything but spontaneous:
The violent marches in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and soon to be elsewhere, were not an abrupt and sudden reaction to the weekly's sentence accusing US personnel of desecrating one copy of the Muslims holiest book. Since the fall of Tora Bora in December of 2001, al Qaida and Taliban remnants were waiting for this moment: They call it "al awda", meaning the "return." Patiently, the leaders of the Jihadists, including Thawahiri, Mullah Umar and the various Islamists of Jamiet Islami and Hizbu Tahrir, were working on mounting the major counter offensive against the new Government in Afghanistan and the US-led coalition in the area. Day after day, from Kabul to Kandahar, the Afghan society was moving away from the mental and political grip of the Taliban. Worse to the Jihadists, year after year, al Qaida leaders were eliminated and arrested, two at least over the past few weeks. Much worse, were the lethal dangers facing the Jihadi ideology: The successes of Democracy in the region. Afghani women voted by the millions, Iraq's 8.5 million voters braved Zarqawi's killers, million marchers challenged Syria's military in Beirut and just this week, Kuwaiti women forced Parliament to release their right to vote. By Jihadi standards, the war of ideas was being lost, slice after slice. They had no choice but to counter attack.
Preparing their "come back," the Salafists understood that demonstrations are their best weapons for the time. Suicide bombings and beheadings made them look very evil, even in the eyes of most Arabs and Muslims. They saw how popular expressions from Kabul to Beirut, from Tehran to Baghdad, captured the imagination of younger and younger Muslims, but also the attention of public opinion in the West. The Wahabi clerics decided to use their enemies' arms: streets demonstrations. Back in the early winter, Ayman al Thawahiri, al Qaida's number two called on his followers to "take back the country and reduce Karzai to his palace." That was the mission order: To find a way to re-conquer the street, and from there on the entire country(ies). On al ansar sites, on al Jazeera and on Hizbollah's al Manar a global propaganda campaign was on since 2002 and increasingly since the fall of Saddam In the chat rooms I visit, the talk of the day was converging on one slogan: There is a war on Islam as a whole, as a religion. The clever clerics played with the doctrinal genes of their followers. Day in, day out, from Saudi Arabia to Virginia, the indoctrination of the new recruits, and the intensification of the indoctrinated Jihadis was building for the moment of the explosion. In a sum, Newsweek's article didn't create the conditions for the "Big Bang," it triggered it. The explosion was coming but the apparent motive had to be significant. It could have been a rape, a killing, a different desecration, or another "story." Newsweek's "investigative journalists," provided the fuse.
The worst fear of Al Qaeda and the Salafists is that democracy will take hold in the Muslim Middle East. They will make every effort to prevent this from happening.
Placing Blame Where it Belongs
On Monday, Newsweek officially retracted its May 9th story claiming that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. News of the alleged desecration of the Muslim holy book sparked rioting in Afghanistan that claimed nearly 20 lives.
Newsweek has come under enormous criticism for publishing such a poorly-sourced story that led to such terrible consequences, and deservedly so. The magazine's conduct was extremely irresponsible. However, the critics are wrong when they try to blame Newsweek for the resulting violence in Afghanistan. As Andrew C. McCarthy has pointed out at National Review Online, the Koran report was not the cause of the violence, merely a pretext:
Here's an actual newsflash and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.
Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do.
The outpouring of righteous indignation against Newsweek glides past a far more important point. Yes, we're all sick of media bias. But "Newsweek lied and people died" is about as worthy a slogan as the scurrilous "Bush lied and people died" that it parrots. And when we engage in this kind of mindless demagoguery, we become just another opportunistic plaintiff no better than the people all too ready to blame the CIA because Mohammed Atta steered a hijacked civilian airliner into a big building, and to sue the Port Authority because the building had the audacity to collapse from the blow.
What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response?
Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American "war on terror" ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this?
The Smug Delusion of Base Expectations
I do think McCarthy's last comment is a bit cynical. The demonstrations in Pakistan actually turned out to be a damp squib, while the violence in Afghanistan appears to have been the work of a small minority. Overall, we have made good progress in Afghanistan, considering the circumstances. It is to be hoped that the impact of this report doesn't retard those efforts.
Still, McCarthy's essential point is right. How many times have Christian symbols been desecrated in the name of "art? Yet no one rioted. When Palestinian thugs took refuge from the Israeli army in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in April 2002, they thoroughly looted and defiled the place. Again, no violence by Christians in response.
We should do everything possible to avoid insulting Muslims and their faith. But we do them, and ourselves, no favors when we ignore or excuse behavior that can only be described as barbarous.
Fact-Checking Gorgeous George
As I noted earlier, George Galloway was in full anti-American rant mode before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations yesterday. The committee chair, Senator Norm Coleman, tried hard to remain calm in the face of Galloway's demagoguery. It seemed to me that he stayed too calm, and wound up looking a bit weak. Rarely do I have good things to say about Carl Levin, but he actually did a fine job of trying to force Gorgeous George to actually answer his questions instead of going off on another kindergarten tirade. Unfortunately, though, I fear that Galloway ended up getting exactly the platform he wanted to spew his garbage.
I've probably already devoted far too much time to this vile pro-totalitarian demagogue, but I feel that I need to offer some final comments on Galloway's statements.
-Gorgeous George made much of the allegation that 1 million Iraqis died as a result of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq between 1991-2003. This figure is a gross exaggeration at best, a lie at worst.
-However much the numbers have been inflated, the Iraqi people certainly suffered under sanctions. Galloway places the full blame for that misery on the US and UK. At no time, such as during his fawning, lickspittle appearance before Saddam in January 1994, did Gorgeous George suggest that it was a bad thing for the Iraqi dictator to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on palaces while his people suffered. In 2002, Saddam Hussein spent $16 million on health care and $350 million on his Military Industrialization Commission. Galloway's silence on Saddam Hussein's priorities speaks volumes.
-The MP from Bethnal Green and Bow referred to the democratically elected Iraqi government as a "puppet government". I can think of over 8 million Iraqis who would disagree. For Galloway, this is irrelevant. He has been outspoken in his support of the Baathist/Jihadist terror alliance that has inflicted so much devastation on the country he purports to care about. As far as Gorgeous George is concerned, the rightful ruler of Iraq is Saddam Hussein.
-Galloway claimed that the UK Charity Commission's 2003 investigation of his Mariam Appeal charity proved that "no impropriety was found". The commission released a statement yesterday that says otherwise. In fact, Galloway had the Mariam Appeal's financial records sent to Jordan, and the commission never saw them.
-Finally, Galloway's last non-answer in response to Senator Levin showed clearly that he could care less if he did get illegal Oil-for-Food funds through his friend Fawaz Zuriekat.
Language and Moral Clarity
Christopher Hitchens takes the New York Times to task for refusing to describe the terrorists in Iraq as exactly that:
I don't think the New York Times ever referred to those who devastated its hometown's downtown as "insurgents." But it does employ this title every day for the gang headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. With pedantic exactitude, and unless anyone should miss the point, this man has named his organization "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" and sought (and apparently received) Osama Bin Laden's permission for the franchise. Did al-Qaida show "interest in winning hearts and minds … in building international legitimacy … in articulating a governing program or even a unified ideology," or any of the other things plaintively mentioned as lacking by Mr. Bennet?
The answer, if we remember our ABC, is yes and no, with yes at least to the third part of the question. The Bin Ladenists did have a sort of "governing program," expressed in part by their Taliban allies and patrons. This in turn reflected a "unified ideology." It can be quite easily summarized: the return of the Ottoman Empire under a caliphate and a return to the desert religious purity of the seventh century (not quite the same things, but that's not our fault). In the meantime, anyway, war to the end against Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and Shiites. None of the "experts" quoted in the article appeared to have remembered these essentials of the al-Qaida program, but had they done so, they might not be so astounded at the promiscuous way in which the Iraqi gangsters pump out toxic anti-Semitism, slaughter Nepalese and other Asian guest-workers on video and gloat over the death of Hindus, burn out and blow up the Iraqi Christian minority, kidnap any Westerner who catches their eye, and regularly inflict massacres and bombings on Shiite mosques, funerals, and assemblies.
A letter from Zarqawi to Bin Laden more than a year ago, intercepted by Kurdish intelligence and since then well-authenticated, spoke of Shiism as a repulsive heresy and the ignition of a Sunni-Shiite civil war as the best and easiest way to thwart the Crusader-Zionist coalition. The actions since then have precisely followed the design, but the design has been forgotten by the journal of record. The Bin Laden and Zarqawi organizations, and their co-thinkers in other countries, have gone to great pains to announce, on several occasions, that they will win because they love death, while their enemies are so soft and degenerate that they prefer life. Are we supposed to think that they were just boasting when they said this? Their actions demonstrate it every day, and there are burned-out school buses and clinics and hospitals to prove it, as well as mosques (the incineration of which one might think to be a better subject for Islamic protest than a possibly desecrated Quran, in a prison where every inmate is automatically issued with one.)
History and Mystery
How many more atrocities do al-Qaeda and its Baathist allies have to carry out before the media will finally label them as what they are?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Background on Galloway
As the George Galloway show continues, William Shawcross provides some background on the MP from Bethnal Green and Bow:
Whatever the truth about his relationship to the Oil for Food programme, much more important is that Galloway was for many years the most diligent propagandist of one of the most fascistic of modern leaders.
In 1994 Mr Galloway stood before Saddam Hussein and said: "Your excellency, Mr President, I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq and continue to oppose the war by economic means, which is aimed to strangle the life out of the great people of Iraq ... I greet you too in the name of the Palestinian people ... I thought the president would appreciate to know that even today, three years after the war, I still meet families who are calling their newborn sons Saddam. Sir, I salute your courage, your strength your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem." (The Times, January 20 1994.)
In 1994, Saddam was already well known (inter alia) for having gassed the Kurds, murdered thousands of his political opponents, practised brutal ethnic cleansing on the Marsh Arabs, attempted to expunge a member of the UN and kidnapped hundreds of Kuwaiti citizens (all later found to be murdered).
Saddam killed more Muslims than any other leader alive. Yet for years Galloway lobbied for Saddam. And now he has the effrontery to pose as a defender of Muslims. That is Mr Galloway's offence and I suggest to Mr Greenslade that it is a very good reason for people to dislike and to criticise him.
(link via Chrenkoff)
To quote Harry's Place, who have been so eloquent in denouncing Galloway's demogogy:
George Galloway is a supporter of and apologist for Iraqi fascism. On that charge he has long been found guilty and much as I abhore corruption it is a crime, in my book, which pales into insignificance compared with support for fascism. As the left-wing French slogan at the last presidential elections put it: "Better a crook than a fascist".
Gorgeous George Comes to Washington
As I type, pro-Saddam British MP George Galloway is about to testify before the US Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. Last Thursday, the subcommittee released a report (PDF link) exposing Galloway's role in the UN Oil-for-Food program .
-Galloway has started his statement, and he's repeating all the usual anti-American nonsense. Rumsfeld met with Saddam, "con man" Ahmed Chalabi, "puppet government in Baghdad", Taha Yasin Ramadan is held in "Abu Ghraib", so he must have been tortured, etc. One thing that stood out is when Galloway said I opposed Saddam up until March 1990, while the US and Britain were "selling him guns and gas". Never mind that Galloway's beloved Soviet Union was Iraq's major arms supplier. Personally, I find it interesting that Galloway's criticism of Saddam stopped as soon as he came into direct opposition with the US and UK with the invasion of Kuwait. That should tell you all you need to know about Galloway's worldview.
-Here's another one: "neocon websites". Gorgeous George is using all the far left jargon: I gave my political life's blood to stop the mass killing of Iraqis". Of course, Galloway did so by supporting a genocidal mass murderer. "In everything I said about Iraq, I proved to be right", "if the world had listened to me", Halliburton, etc. Never mind that most of the case against Saddam has proved to be true.
-Gorgeous George is in rare form, practically every answer includes an accusation directed at Senator Coleman and the committee. This evidence is a lie because I say it is, etc. Now a gratuitous Israel reference.
More to come.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Winds of Change Updates
What is the Insurgents' Strategy?
In Sunday's New York Times, James Bennet explores "The Mystery of the Insurgency":
The insurgents in Iraq are showing little interest in winning hearts and minds among the majority of Iraqis, in building international legitimacy, or in articulating a governing program or even a unified ideology or cause beyond expelling the Americans. They have put forward no single charismatic leader, developed no alternative government or political wing, displayed no intention of amassing territory to govern now.
Rather than employing the classic rebel tactic of provoking the foreign forces to use clumsy and excessive force and kill civilians, they are cutting out the middleman and killing civilians indiscriminately themselves, in addition to more predictable targets like officials of the new government. Bombings have escalated in the last two weeks, and on Thursday a bomb went off in heavy traffic in Baghdad, killing 21 people.
This surge in the killing of civilians reflects how mysterious the long-term strategy remains - and how the rebels' seeming indifference to the past patterns of insurgency is not necessarily good news for anyone.
Bennet's piece is a thoughtful exploration of this question, and is worth reading. As he rightly points out, wantonly slaughtering civilians is not a strategy for winning hearts and minds. Ralph Peters, in his May 13th New York Post column, suggests that the terrorists have given up on building popular support, and are only interested in "Punishing Iraqis" for choosing the "evil principle of democracy" over the glories of jihad:
The terrorists feel betrayed.
So they kill. Poor laborers gathered to beg for part-time work. Women and children. Police recruits. Low-level officials. Students. And any passers-by who get in the way. Simple Muslims slain by "holy martyrs of Islam" in suicide vests. By the fountains of paradise, Mohammed must be weeping.
Such attacks won't win Iraqi hearts and minds. They're not intended to. Allah's self-appointed executioners are simply plunging deeper into their pagan bloodcult. This week's bombings echoed the 9/11 attack on Manhattan. The purpose was to offer human sacrifices to a vengeful, bloodthirsty god.
It's easy to be misled by the grisly headlines. Byline-hungry journalists report as if all of Iraq is getting worse. It isn't. Iraq's getting better every single day. Building the first true Arab democracy in a ravaged country isn't easy. But it's working. Inshallah.
There is plenty of evidence to support Peters' hypothesis. A number of media reports from the al-Qaim region of northwestern Iraq, site of Operation Matador, indicate how unpopular al-Qaeda is with the local population. StrategyPage, in its May 15th Iraq update, makes the point that "(t)he foreign terrorists are, to put it mildly, disliked even in this part of Iraq."
Leslie Gelb, of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently returned from Iraq and described popular atttudes towards the insurgency as follows:
One of the things that struck me [in Iraq] was that, for all the frustration and anger there is toward the United States, there is real hatred toward the terrorists and what they are doing to Iraq. And if there is a government that is reasonably democratic, that conducts open politics, that is not too corrupt--corruption is a terrible problem--the vast majority of Iraqis would prefer it to any leadership by these terrorists and insurgents.
The terrorist insurgency in Iraq has shown nothing beyond its demonstrated ability to kill people and destroy property. It doesn't even pretend to offer the Iraqi people an alternative to pluralism and democracy. That is why it will be defeated.
Newsweek, in its May 9th issue, reported that American interrogators at Gunatanamo Bay, Cuba had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet.
Islamists in Pakistan soon seized on this report to stoke anti-American sentiments. In Afghanistan, violent protests in a number of cities claimed 15 lives, while smaller incidents took place in Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Gaza Strip. Bloggers such as Roger L. Simon were virtually alone in pointing out the flimsy, anonymous sourcing behind Newsweek's article.
On Sunday, Newsweek admitted that the anonymous source it cited could not, in fact, corroborate the Koran allegation. Unfortunately, the damage is already done. 15 people are dead, and American lives have been put at risk. The US has spent three and a half years, billions of dollars, and most importantly, 141 lives building a decent, democratic Afghanistan. In its grossly irresponsible rush to publish a story that would embarrass the Bush Administration, Newsweek has jeopardised these efforts and handed our enemies a major propaganda victory. All on the basis of an anonymous source who didn't know what he was talking about. In the words of Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita:
"People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?"
Terror March Update
Sadly, Saturday's Muslims against terrorism rally was sparsely attended. Still, the very fact that it occurred at all is important. It will take time for those Muslims committed to pluralism and tolerance to overcome the near-stranglehold of the Islamists on their faith. In the meantime, we need to be patient and do what we can to help.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Jihadists in the Great White North
A May 13th article from UPI/Washington Times shows that the terrorist threat also exists north of the US border:
Two declassified reports from the Canadian intelligence service say young Islamic militants with Canadian nationality or residency have been through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan or elsewhere and constitute "a clear and present danger to Canada and its allies."
"The presence of young, committed jihadists in Canada is a matter of grave concern," states one of the reports, highlighting fears that the northern neighbor might become a staging post for terror attacks in the United States.
"They represent a clear and present danger to Canada and its allies and are a particularly valuable resource for the international Islamic terrorist community in view of their language skills and familiarity with Western culture and infrastructure," says the report, titled "Sons of the Father: The Next Generation of Islamic Extremists in Canada."
This paragraph explains why Canadian jihadists are a particular cause for concern:
As legal Canadian residents, the militants would be entitled to cross the border into the United States without a passport -- a serious vulnerability identified by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
It's important to remember that Ahmed Ressam, the would-be bomber of Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999, used Canada as a staging area for his planned operation. It was only due to some alert Border Patrol agents that Ressam was apprehended.
Yet, the jihadist threat is not just directed against America. Many Canadians seem to believe that being fashionably anti-American makes them immune to terrorism. It does not. European countries have realized all too belatedly that radical Islamism is a serious danger. Canada must avoid making the same mistake.