September 25, 2003

Edward Said Is Dead

Edward Said, Palestinian English professor and leftist historian at Columbia University died today of leukemia. He was 67.

If you want a well-balanced appraisal of his life and his work, this piece by Christopher Hitchens in last month's Atlantic Monthly is excellent.

If you can't say anything nice about the dead, be a human being and keep your mouth shut.

For those who need a lesson in manners and decency, this is how it's done. UPDATE: Oh, and this too.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:37 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

The UN and Avoidance Behavior

Andrew Sullivan on Wesley Clark:

Let's put the best gloss on Wesley Clark's ever-shifting position on the Iraq war and glean a coherent case within it. He would have voted for the Congressional Resolution - but only as a way to increase pressure for a diplomatic solution through the U.N. But wasn't that Tony Blair's position? Blair had all along preferred the U.N. route. He and Bush won an amazingly unanimous vote on the first resolution. He almost burst every blood vessel trying to get the Security Council to agree to the second. He wanted unanimous U.N. support precisely for the reasons Clark says he did as well - so as to avoid war.
Nice try, Andrew, but come on. Wesley Clark and Tony Blair do not share the same views on Iraq.

There is no alternate universe where George Bush or Tony Blair hoped Saddam Hussein would behave himself so he could stay in power. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his flouting of UN resolutions were part of the legalistic case for war, but had nothing to do with the real reason for war. The real reason, as almost everyone knows, was to kick-start political liberalisation in the Arab Middle East.

If Wesley Clark opposes liberation and democratic nation-building for Iraqis, he needs to be confronted about it head-on. It does no good to pretend the Americans, British, Russians, or French took any of the arguments they made at the UN seriously. Every country on the Security Council hid its true agenda behind legalistic fig leaves.

The same goes for nearly everyone who talks and writes about it. Most pundits and politicians who discuss the diplomatic scrap at the UN use the whole charade to make disingenuous arguments or as an excuse to avoid making tough decisions. Would Bush and Blair have accepted any action by Saddam short of suicide or exile as capitulation? Not likely. Would the UN fetishists actually have surrendered to a French veto? They don't say. And since the French were never given the chance to veto, the whole sideshow provides a convenient excuse for avoidance behavior.

Wesley Clark changes the subject from Iraq to the UN. He can’t get away with that. No one should encourage him by doing the same.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

September 24, 2003

The Fall of Saddam in Amman

Not all Arabs are nostalgiac for Saddam's regime. Here's a photo of a scene from a play called The Fall of Saddam in Amman, Jordan.


Via Mansour Mouasher's fantastic photo gallery of Amman.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

September 23, 2003

Saddam Gets Desperate

Here's an underreported story from the Mirror.

SADDAM Hussein has been in secret negotiations with US forces in Iraq for the past nine days, we can reveal.

The Iraqi dictator is demanding safe passage to the former Soviet republic of Belarus. In exchange, he has vowed to provide information on weapons of mass destruction and disclose bank accounts where he siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in plundered cash.

President Bush is being kept abreast of the extraordinary talks by his National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice. She is co-ordinating negotiations in Baghdad which are led by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American forces in Iraq.


He [a senior Iraqi] maintained that Saddam had decided to seek a deal "because he is desperate, trapped and finding fewer and fewer people willing to give him shelter."

He added: "He resorts to arriving with a posse of armed men, and forcing them to give him hospitality. When he leaves the frightened 'hosts' are told they'll be killed if they say a word."

The United States has vowed never to negotiate with Saddam and want to take him dead or alive, but the White House hopes the clandestine talks will allow them to pinpoint the tyrant's exact location.

If this story is true, that much ballyhooed "resistance" isn't going so well after all. And come on. No one should be surprised.

(Via Sean LaFreniere.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:31 PM | Permalink | Comments Off


Via Jeremy at the excellent new blog Who Knew? I learn that Jean-François Revel’s French best-seller L’Obsession Anti-Américaine will soon be translated in English and released in the United States. The English version will be titled, simply, Anti-Americanism.


Here are some excerpts from the Introduction, where he explains both left-wing and right-wing Anti-Americanism in Europe.

First he takes on the left.

Since the Soviet Union’s collapse—with the liberation of Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War and a polarized world—it is often said that today’s anti-Americanism stems from the fact that the United States is the “hyperpower,” a term made fashionable by Hubert Védrine, a French minister of foreign affairs. But this interpretation, which presupposes that American hegemony was previously easier to justify, first because it dominated fewer nations and second because it answered to the need to protect against Soviet imperialism, doesn’t reflect reality: anti-Americanism was almost as virulent during the period of threatening totalitarianism as it has been since the latter’s disappearance (in its Soviet version, at least).

Within some democratic countries, a subset of the population—political party members and the majority of intellectuals—were likely to adhere to Communism, or at least support similar ideas. For this crowd, anti-Americanism was rational, since America was identified with capitalism, and capitalism with evil. What was less rational was their wholesale swallowing of the most flagrant and stupid lies about American society and foreign policy, with a concomitant flight from accurate knowledge of the Communist systems.

Then he takes on the right.
The European Right’s anti-Americanism stems fundamentally from our continent’s loss during the twentieth century of its six-hundred-year-old leadership role: Europe as powerhouse of enterprise and industry, innovator in arts and sciences, maker of empires—in practical terms, the master of the planet. It was sometimes one European country, sometimes another, that took the lead in this process of globalization avant la lettre, but all more or less participated, either in concert or by turns. Today, by contrast, not only has Europe lost the ability to act alone on the global scale, but it is in some degree compelled to follow in the footsteps of the United States and to lend support. It is in France that this loss—real or imaginary—of great power status causes the most bitterness. Meanwhile, hatred for democracy and for the liberal economy that is its necessary condition is the driving force of the extreme Right’s anti-Americanism, as it is for the extreme Left’s.
What’s sad is that so many Americans take all this seriously instead of blowing it off as the bigotry that it is. Don’t assume that just because Europeans are mad at us that we’re doing something wrong.
The illogicality at base consists in reproaching the United States for some shortcoming, and then for its opposite. Here is a convincing sign that we are in the presence, not of rational analysis, but of obsession.


As an hors d’oeuvre, let me offer a particularly flagrant manifestation of this mentality, on display as I write these lines in September, 2001. Until May of 2001, and for some years now, the main grievance against the United States was formulated in terms of the hyperpower’s “unilateralism,” its arrogant assumption that it could meddle everywhere and be the “policeman of the world.” Then, over the summer of 2001, it became apparent that the administration of George W. Bush was less inclined than its predecessors to impose itself as universal lifesaver in one crisis after another—especially in the Middle East, where the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians was heating up alarmingly. From then on the reproof mutated into that of “isolationism”: a powerful country failing in its duties and, with monstrous egocentricity, looking only to its own national interests. With wonderful illogicality, the same spiteful bad temper inspired both indictments, though of course they were diametrically opposed.

Here is what this is really about, when you get down to it:
The principal function of anti-Americanism has always been, and still is, to discredit liberalism by discrediting its supreme incarnation. To travesty the United States as a repressive, unjust, racist—almost fascist—society was a way of proclaiming: look what happens when liberalism is implemented!
The good news is that this book is a best-seller in France. It won’t change the world, but it could help a little. In the meantime, our own intellectual class should take note. It is not necessary to lash ourselves with the whip just because reactionaries in Paris think we’ve been bad.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:51 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

September 21, 2003

New Tech Central Station Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: An Open Letter to the Party of Wilson and Roosevelt.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:08 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

September 19, 2003

Laugh Out Loud Post of the Day

Andrew Apostolou: Fat Bastard Captured.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

September 18, 2003

The Paradox of Terror

Three different countries were recently polled, and respondents were asked whether or not they were satisfied with their lives. The three countries were Israel, the United States, and Canada.

Now. Ask yourself which of these three countries is probably the happiest, and which is the most distraught.

I would have guessed Canadians would be happiest, followed by Americans, and then Israelis. And I would have gotten it exactly backward.

In Israel 83 percent say they are happy.

In the United States 64 percent say they are happy.

In Canada only 45 percent say they are happy.

These three polls were administered by different people using different methodologies. Yet that doesn't change the fact that on first glance it appears that terrorism indirectly makes people feel better. Perhaps that's a classic case of the cause-correlation fallacy. But maybe there's something to it.

Take a look at this article in the Toronto Star where the polls are reported.

"When I first heard it, I was amazed they [Israelis] could feel this way with everything that's been going on. But upon reflection, I believe it," said Tel Aviv University anthropologist Moshe Shokeid.

"I think the biggest reason for it is Israel's sense of communitas — that feeling that no matter what, you are never alone. We are in this together.

"North Americans had a brief taste of it during the recent blackout. On one hand, there's a disaster happening. But on the other hand, everybody is overcome with an incredible feeling of togetherness," Shokeid said.

"This is how Israelis feel. We feel it every day ... that we are acutely together in an incredibly difficult situation."

Terror leads to contentment and happiness? Perhaps that's utterly bogus. But maybe it isn't. A crisis does bring people together, and that does make people feel better. There are probably a lot more lonely and isolated people in Canada than in Israel.

If this from-the-hip analysis is correct, terrorism completely and utterly fails.

UPDATE: American Digest has an interesting story to go along with this.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:49 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Activists Against Nation-Building

Judith Weiss sent me this from the left-wing activists at

The US occupation in Iraq has left American soldiers unprepared and vulnerable, the country degenerating into chaos, and the Iraqi people embittered and hostile. Now the President is asking Congress for a staggering $87 billion blank check to fund more of the same. But until he takes strong steps to correct this failure, Congress shouldn't give him a cent.
Let me just correct that. These activists aren't trying to block Bush from getting "a cent." They are trying to block the Iraqi people from getting a cent.

And those who think Iraqis are "embittered and hostile" might want to read this (which I linked yesterday) from a liberal American judge in Iraq who strongly opposed the war before he actually went there:

WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn't sell. 90% of the damage you see on tv was caused by Iraqis, not by US. All the damage you see to schools, hospitals, power generation facilities, refineries, pipelines and water supplies, as well as shops, museums, and semi-public buildings (like hotels) was caused either by the Iraqi army in its death throes or Iraqi civilians looting and rioting.
He also goes on to say this:
By my sample, 90% are glad we came and the majority doesn't want us to leave for some time to come...Of the hundreds I talked to, the overwhelming majority thanked us for being there. Hundreds of adults and children on the roads waved and smiled as we passed by.
The activists are willing to help Iraqis on two conditions: Bush must fire Donald Rumsfeld for leading us into a (non-existent) quagmire and must surrender Iraq to the UN.

Anti-war activists, who never did show much concern for brutal oppression in Iraq, now want to hold Iraqis hostage for partisan domestic political gain. Oh how inspiring.

If only activists could be liberal and internationalist again...

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:13 AM | Permalink | Comments Off
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