March 31, 2004

In the Shadow of Noam Chomsky

Lee Harris, who I think is one of the best columnists at Tech Central Station, got some bad reviews because he doesn't trash America in his new book Civilization and Its Enemies.

Today he takes that criticism to heart and, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, makes excuses for himself.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:45 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

The Rise of the Suicide Bomber

The suicide-bombing death cult is a disease. And it’s catching.

LA PAZ, Bolivia - A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a hallway of the Bolivian congress Tuesday, killing himself and wounding two police, authorities said. State-run television said the two officers had died.

The disgruntled miner demanding early retirement benefits made his way to a first-floor section of the building, away from the congressional chambers, Police Chief Guido Arandia said.

What does a disgruntled South American miner have in common with Islamic fanatics? Nothing, really, but a powerful need for attention.

We shouldn’t be too surprised to see the Palestinian hate machine being replicated and copied. Much of the world is fixated on the Middle Eastern drama of stateless Palestinians. The Chechens are mostly ignored. The dream of an independent Kurdistan is dismissed out of hand by nearly everyone but the Kurds themselves. Few outside hippie college towns give the proverbial rat’s ass about a free Tibet. But the grievances, both real and imagined, of mass-murdering Palestinian death squads are the world’s cause du jour. It’s no wonder their tactics are spreading. The squeaky wheel gets greased.

Until the rest of the world, starting with - at the very least – the EU and the UN, finally brings itself to properly damn suicide-bombing as the wicked barbaric death cult that it is, expect the ramp-up to increase. There is going to be a lot more of it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 30, 2004

New Column

My latest Tech Central Station column is up: The Small Pleasures of Trade.

(The blogosphere's "hat tip" convention doesn't work with regular articles. But I can mention on the blog that I got this idea from Randy Paul.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

Thought for the Day

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post:

I offer my own U.N. resolution. I want the United Nations to condemn Palestinian terrorism, specifically suicide bombers and, most specifically, the use of confused and sad kids for that purpose. It's pretty simple: If you cannot condemn the murder of innocents, especially by children, then you have no business condemning anything else.
(Hat tip: Vodkapundit.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 29, 2004

Farce

The 911 Commission and the furor over Richard Clarke’s testimony gets worse every time I look at it.

Glenn Reynolds thinks Condoleeza Rice ought to testify before the commission. I agree. But he also says he hopes she says this from David Frum:

This administration came into office to discover that al Qaeda had been allowed to grow into a full-blown menace. It lost six precious weeks to the Florida recount – and then weeks after Inauguration Day to the go-slow confirmation procedures of a 50-50 Senate. As late as the summer of 2001, pitifully few of Bush’s own people had taken their jobs at State, Defense, and the NSC. Then it was hit by 9/11. And now, now the same people who allowed al Qaeda to grow up, who delayed the staffing of the administration, who did nothing when it was their turn to act, who said nothing when they could have spoken in advance of the attack – these same people accuse George Bush of doing too little? There’s a long answer to give folks like that – and also a short one. And the short one is: How dare you?
Ugh. No. Can we please not go there?

For God’s sake leave the Florida recount out of the national security debate. This is far more petty and partisan and obnoxious than anything Richard Clarke has said. I can hardly imagine anything less relevant. Imagine if he dragged the Florida recount into his testimony. The GOP would be agitating for thumb screws.

Glenn adds:

As I've said before, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones before September 11….
Yes. That’s the spirit. Really, it is.

Look.

The US government had a weak response to Al Qaeda before 911. The US government. Not Clinton. Not Bush. The entire government.

The media and the left just adore Richard Clarke because he beats up on Bush and praises Clinton. (Oh, and he grandstands about regime-change in Iraq, even though that has nothing whatever to do with pre-911 failures.) Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds is cheering David Frum and hoping Condoleeza Rice will channel him in her testimony because he’s beating up on Clinton and not Bush. And bringing Florida and Senate confirmations into it, which also have nothing whatever to do with terrorism and national security.

Is no one embarrassed by the transparent partisanship of this entire charade?

The farther we get from 911 the less people seem to care about terrorism and the more they like to use it as a stick to beat up the other guy. I can’t see how this can possibly be good for the country. The transatlantic alliance is coming apart, and so is any shred of a bipartisan alliance here at home. It has become a partisan point-scoring farce.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:58 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Frist Unfit

It looks like Bill Frist isn't the best person the Senate Republicans could have found to be their majority leader after all. He's an improvement over Trent Lott, thank heaven for that. But the best they have? The most fit for the job? No. He is not.

Frist accused Richard Clarke of committing perjury without evidence.

“Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath,” Frist said in a speech from the Senate floor, alleging that Clarke said in 2002 that the Bush administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al-Qaida before the attacks.

Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke’s two appearances.

Maybe Clarke did perjure himself. I don’t know. His testimony is classified. More important, Frist doesn’t know either. He said himself that he doesn’t know. Yet he stood there in the Senate chamber and called a man a criminal. As if it were a fact.

Josh Marshall says this will permanently change the way he sees Frist. The same goes for me.

Richard Clarke annoys me as much as he annoys his next critic. But that doesn’t mean it’s open season on him and that anything goes.

I haven’t seen the GOP attack machine in such an overdrive since the Clinton days. I’m used to seeing this kind of behavior lately from the Democrats. Now they’re both at it. In full force. At the same time.

This “national security” debate is all about the election. It has nothing to do with national security at all.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:55 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Real Terrorism in Uzbekistan

Two female suicide bombers killed at least 19 people in Uzbekistan.

Here's how Reuters reported it.

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (Reuters) - At least 19 people were killed in a series of explosions and shoot-outs in Uzbekistan in "terrorist" actions aimed at splitting the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, officials said Monday.
Muslims lash out at the world by blowing up other Muslims at random. And Reuters still can't type the word terrorist without putting the damn thing in quotation marks.

I guess we should cut them some slack when they say Jews, Americans and Iraqis are killed by "terrorists." They just don't believe terrorism is real. Still to this day.

And look at the reason why these attacks supposedly happened. To split the US-led anti-terrorist coalition. That's what the piece says.

Two paragraphs later, the same piece said this.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which aims to set up a pan-Islamic state that would include post-Soviet Central Asia, and the austere Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam are both outlawed in Uzbekistan.
Any possibility that that was the reason for the attacks? I'm just asking.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:14 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 28, 2004

Why Clarke Annoys

Mark Steyn zeroes in on exactly what it is about Richard Clarke that bugs me.

No, it's not because he's criticizing pre-911 anti-terrorism failures. That's what he's supposed to do. Obviously there's plenty of blame to go around. Neither the Bush nor the Clinton Administrations did a particularly bang-up job, although I'm willing to give both of them a pass for mistakes made before that dreadful date for the same reason I don't blame FDR or Herbert Hoover for Pearl Harbor.

It's this kind of nonsense that's makes it hard for me to take the guy seriously.

The media were very taken by this passage from his book, in which he alerts Mr Bush's incoming National Security Adviser to the terrorist threat: "As I briefed Rice on al-Qa'eda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before, so I added, 'Most people think of it as Osama bin Laden's group, but it's much more than that. It's a network of affiliated terrorist organisations with cells in over 50 countries, including the US.' "
Now, when I heard that Clarke had said that, every BS-detector in my head went off. Turns out my instincts were sound.
Mr Clarke would seem to be channelling Leslie Nielsen's deadpan doctor in Airplane!: "Stewardess, we need to get this passenger to a hospital."

"A hospital? What is it?"

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now."

As it turns out, Clarke's ability to read "facial expressions" is not as reliable as one might wish in a "counter-terrorism expert". In October the previous year, Dr Rice gave an interview to WJR Radio in Detroit in which she discoursed authoritatively on al-Qa'eda and bin Laden - and without ever having met Richard Clarke!

Clarke similarly said Bush's "facial expression" ordered him to connect Iraq with Al Qaeda even if there was no connection.

I'm sure Bush had a serious look on his face when he asked Clarke to figure out if Saddam had anything to do with 911. I suspected Saddam might have had a hand in it, and I know plenty of other people who did, too.

Looks like Saddam was out of the loop. And so what? Changing his regime wasn't an act of revenge or retaliation any more than smacking down Adolf Hitler was to punish him for Pearl Harbor.

If Clarke has something substantive to say, we ought hear him out. If he would like to propose a different anti-terror strategy, that would be great - at a separate place and time. Not at the commission that wants to know what went wrong before 911. His "facial expression" testiomony isn't going anywhere and looks a lot like baseless character assasination. (There's a lot of that going around these days on more side than one.) And using his witness chair to gripe about overthrowing Saddam all but guarantees a polarized reaction to his testimony.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:36 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 27, 2004

Frist Vs. Clarke

This Richard Clarke scandal is getting serious.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is suggesting that Clarke may have lied to Congress under oath this week. Clarke also testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees two years ago, and Frist says he told two contradictory stories. Both under oath.

If it turns out that Clarke did lie under oath, he's in some really deep shit. The media and the anti-war brigades who lionized a perjurer as a hero are going to feel pretty darned stupid. And deservedly so.

If it turns out that he didn't lie under oath, if the GOP gets the records declassified only to find there's no there there, Bill Frist just shot Republican Party credibility to hell. This would be beyond politics as usual, which is bad enough. Bogus accusations of criminal behavior are not so easily forgiven or forgotten.

(The fact that Clarke made contradictory statements while not under oath is a totally separate question.)

Here’s what I want to know. Does Frist already know what Clarke said in his previous testimony? In other words, is his accusation of criminal behavior a reasonable one? A sitting president was impeached for lying under oath. About sex. This is no idle charge Frist is making.

Or is this just a slimy speculation? If so, Frist is unfit for his job.

Think that’s an overstatement?

Here’s what Scott Spradling said to Howard Dean a few months back.

Governor Dean, you had once stated that you thought it was possible that the president of the United States had been forewarned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You later said that you didn't really know.

A statement like that, don't you see the possibility of some Democrats being nervous about statements like that leading them to the conclusion that you are not right for being the next commander in chief?

Inded. And the same principle will apply to Frist if it turns out that he’s just mouthing off.

Politics may be ethically corrupting to many, if not most, people who practice it. I can accept that. But there ought to be a higher standard for the Senate Majority Leader and the top counter-terrorism adviser. Their job is to protect my office tower from being hit with a truck bomb, not to slime their opponents for cheap political career points.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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