August 19, 2003

Target: UN

The Baathist "resistance" hit the UN headquarters in Baghdad with a truck bomb.

The top UN envoy to Iraq was killed.

These attacks are not a cry for help. They are committed by Saddam’s goons determined to kill their way back into power. Camouflage helmet, blue helmet, it doesn’t matter. If you get in their way, you’re dead.

Now that the UN has been hit, the fact-resistant might finally understand that these are the bad guys.

UPDATE: Kimmitt in the comments says I am intellectually bankrupt. That's fine, he's entitled to his opinion. But I would like to make something clear.

"The resistance" is a loaded term, and I know very well what it means to people in left-wing circles. It implies justice and right, especially when juxtaposed with "the occupation." And most in the media use this term to describe Baathist and terrorist hit squads.

It will be interesting to see if thugs who kill UN envoys will be called "the resistance" or if they will get a new name.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2003 11:08 AM

Don't hold your breath, Michael. The fact-resistant will probably claim that the Iraqi 'resistance' is only lashing out in response to unbearably provocative US/UK aggression. Watch the Guardian opinion page carefully over the next couple of days: I'd put money on it.

Posted by: Jimmy Doyle at August 19, 2003 11:26 AM

Perversely enough, this is an incredibly counter-productive action for the Iraqi opposition. Neither the US nor UN can pull out, and this will give both parties an obvious incentive to cooperate on security matters - which are among the most pressing issues of disagreement.

Keep in mind the precident set when Clinton sent in the troops following the attack on Pakistani UN peacekeeps in Somalia. On the other hand, the Serbians were hell on kidnapping and attacking peacekeepers. However, the nature of terrorism is sufficiently emotional that there is a very good chance that this could lead directly to the introduction of a large multi-national force - which would all but destroy the political base of the anti-occupation groups.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at August 19, 2003 11:40 AM

No way this takes the heat off us. Like it or not, in the minds of some people, EVERYTHING that goes wrong in the Middle East for the next 2 generations will be our fault, period. From day one, that's been one unavoidable downside to the war (which I supported, BTW). Every negative event, no matter how irrelevant, within 1000 miles of Baghdad will be shoehorned into a chain of events that started when Bush decided to go after Saddam.

Maybe I'm heading off on a tangent, but ... in a way, this idea parallels what I think might be part of the extreme hostility to the U.S. and Israel in some circles. It's not that these folks don't notice that other countries fight wars, accidentally kill civilians, hunt down terrorists, etc. It's that the U.S. and Israeli PEOPLE vote Bushes and Sharons into office, and unlike the situation in many other countries, there's no doubt that the elections are legitimate, i.e., that the guy in the White House really is the guy the electorate wanted. Therefore, the sins of the President become the sins of the people who VOTED for the President; here's a perfect opportunity to hate not only the leader, but the people as well. The same goes for Israel. For folks who already feel like permanent outsiders in their own societies (as many in the left do) the temptation to further demonize the more mainstream people they already hold in contempt is just irrisistible. In a way, our stable and legitimate political system works against us.

Posted by: Gene at August 19, 2003 11:43 AM

Jimmy - You're probably right, but it shouldn't matter. I just saw Fox News, and a person at the scene claims Iraqis are mortified. If anyone wanted to galvanize beyond question the Iraqi people's cooperation with the west, this is the way to do it. Ironic and tragic simultaneously.

Michael - Is it not premature to use the term "Baathist"? Yesterday's NYT had a headline to the effect of "Saudi Arabs are pouring across the border into Iraq."

I dount a Baathist would attack the UN. I think they're too politically savvy, too culturally educated. Only a nihilist or extremist radical would attack the UN. (My wife was a young girl living in Iraq when Saddam came to power. Her dad even spent a night in jail, on a passport misunderstanding. She and her family know full well what the Baathists are.)

I think the "flypaper theory" holds true, and more flies are buzzing in. These are most probably some of those flies. After Iraq stabilizes as a country, which will be very quickly, the flies will probably buzz back to Afghanistan.

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 19, 2003 11:51 AM

Q: How many times does a person need to use the phrase "objectively pro-Saddam" or slyly refer to it in a discussion before becoming intellectually bankrupt on an issue?

A: 2. Everybody gets a Mulligan.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 11:51 AM

Michael - re your update on the sickening misuse of the term "resistance" - Yes. Exactly right.

(Sorry to go off topic, but this Orwellian language is similar to what the AP just said this afternoon, vis-a-vis the latest child-killing in Israel, i.e., that this bombing "threatened to restart the cycle of violence." This is the dictionary definition of a double standard. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe I live in a world where an educated person could say something like that, be paid for it, and be considered a standard bearer for the news, to boot. It really disturbs me.)

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 19, 2003 01:16 PM

Speaking of fact-resistant (and intellectually bankrupt), how long before the Arab media accuses Israel/Mossad/CIA of planting the bomb to discredit the heroic Iraqi resistance?

Posted by: Oberon at August 19, 2003 01:17 PM

Establishing criterea and then using that instant criterea to affix labels without the slightest consent of the labeled is not very different from simply calling names. The veneer of logic is transparently thin to those who are not intellectually bankrupt.

Michael Totten has a wealth of ideas and a temendous capacity to analyze concepts from meaningful points of view. My Grandfather Lasswell had an unshakeable belief that there were some people who would never be truly happy until somebody gives them a punch in the nose. That belief might not be intellectually momentous, but then, that would not seem to make much difference in your case.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at August 19, 2003 01:30 PM

Right, but words should have some relation to their meanings.

There is damn near no one in the United States who is not clear on the fact that Saddam Hussein and the leadership in his Ba'ath Party are "bad guys." They ran a brutal expansionist dictatorship and killed hundreds of thousands of people while playing the US and the Soviets off one another during the Cold War.

Painting anyone who believes that US security goals were badly served by the invasion of Iraq -- or that the resources and lives spent on that invasion might have been spent better elsewhere -- as a supporter of Saddam's regime is intellectually bankrupt. It is like me saying, "Mr. Totten does not support an immediate invasion of Burma/Myanmar, and is therefore a supporter of the military regime and its atrocities." Or, "The Sudan is still fighting a hideous civil war which has killed more than a million people and presents a possible genocide; the fact that Mr. Totten is not advocating for an immediate invasion of the Sudan means that he is objecively pro-genocide."

We know that there are many bad people in the world. The question is always, "How do we deal with the state of the world, given our limited resources?"

But hey, if failing to share the President's (or a blogger's) opinion on the best security policy for the US makes me "objectively pro-Saddam" in the new Orwellian textbooks, then that's what I am. Just make sure the newspeak websites are fully updated so no one gets confused.

(And yes, dammit, the people fighting against us are a resistance to our occupying army. We are fielding an occupying army. They are resisting. The fact that they are foul and we are merely idiotic instead of actually malignant does not change the fact that the basic concepts -- we invaded and conquered the country and they are fighting to make that invasion too costly for us to sustain -- fit the nomenclature.)

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 01:45 PM

Today is a victory for Islamic Militants
First, an explosive-laden cement truck slams into the United Nations headquarters in Iraq and kills over 20 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it represents a level of complexity above the guerilla tactics of the past month. This is terrorism in its absolute definition: the deliberate attack of innocent civilians. It is a sad day in Baghdad, especially because Sergio Vierra de Mello, the top UN official in Iraq, was one of the victims.

Then, hours later, another suicide bomber blows himself up in an extra-long bus in Jeruselem. This means that Israelis worst fears are coming true: that the militant groups have spent the time for the "truce" to re-supply for a new round of attacks. Abu Mazen's government has not effectively reigned in on the terrorists. Apparently, he was negotiating a truce with another set of militants when the blast went off. But, it doesn't seem that a "truce" is effective in stopping the terrorists. He fears that a civil war would ensue if the PLO tried disarming the militants. Well, then maybe it is a civil war that is necessary to fix this broken society.

Posted by: nitin at August 19, 2003 01:46 PM

Fancy meeting you here, Kimmy. Nice to see you've been appointed the one to decide who is "intellectually bankrupt" and who isn't.

Posted by: Evil Otto at August 19, 2003 01:47 PM


I do not advocate an immediete invasion of Sudan to stop the atrocities there. But I promise you that if Bush or Blair decides to do it, I will not march in the streets to preserve the filthy regime's "sovereignty."

Not advocating an intervention is not at all the same as spending every ounce of your energy to stop one in progress.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2003 02:04 PM


Also, "resistance" may be technically accurate, but so is "terrorist." It means something that one term is chosen over the other so consistently. Some news outlets have banned the use of the word "terrorist" outright. Even worse is when genocidal Hamas terrorists are described as "activists," thus putting them in the same political category as Martin Luther King, Jr.

I see right through this crap, and I'm real sorry that you don't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2003 02:19 PM


I'm interested by your point that "resistance" is a loaded term. I honestly hadn't thought of it that way -- to me it sounds fairly neutral.

Posted by: Oberon at August 19, 2003 03:06 PM


"[P]eople fighting against us" may be "resistance" to our occupation of Iraq; "people killing UN workers and Iraqi passersby" is "resistance" to what? The state of there being not enough murder in Iraq? "People destroying oil infrastructure and water supplies" is "resistance" to what? Iraq getting back on its feet economically? The people of Baghdad having safe drinking water?

Murdering your own people, murdering noncombatant members of the international community, and destroying your country's infrastructure is terrorism. It resists nothing, it extends rather than shortens the occupation, and hurts the people of Iraq far more than anyone else. I wonder (again) when those people will stand up against it.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 19, 2003 03:40 PM

Dead right, Michael.

I'm with you on this, 100% Perhaps we can get a more useful sense of the use of the term 'resistance'? It just doesn't wash, in so many cases such as this one...........

see here

Posted by: Dan at August 19, 2003 04:38 PM


The sight of a little girl getting CPR after her bus was bombed (she probably died from her injuries), above the description of how Islamic Jihad actually claimed responsibility for the murder of children, is enough to make a hawk out of me. It's a wonder on days like this that Israel doesn't make a total war out of it.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 19, 2003 04:49 PM

War might be coming. The Israelis can only take so much. They respected the truce and even released prisoner. And still this happens. Unless the Palestinians get their act together real quick like, there is going to be something big and the Israelis are going to win. And really, at this point, can you blame them? I certainly wouldn't.

Posted by: Court at August 19, 2003 05:19 PM

Christopher - I'd bet Israel knows the only solution to the problem is a Palestinian civil war. The sword is in Mahmoud Abbas's scabbard, but it remains to be seen whether he's brave enough to wield it. Color me doubtful.

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 19, 2003 05:20 PM

I do not advocate an immediete invasion of Sudan to stop the atrocities there. But I promise you that if Bush or Blair decides to do it, I will not march in the streets to preserve the filthy regime's "sovereignty."

There's straw everywhere, but I don't think any person was hit.

My argument (and the arguments of many of my friends) against invading and occupying Iraq, at the time, was that I didn't see that it was the best use of US lives and resources to protect our national security -- and that the antidemocratic Bush administration would be so likely to manage the ensuing victory badly that what would follow would likely be little better than what preceded. (I also believed incorrectly that the invasion itself would cost more lives than it did, both US and Iraqi. I am, of course, grateful to have been wrong on that point.) In addition, I felt the nation was being lied to in the relentless drumbeat for war, and I felt that a war which was not wagable without a sustained pattern of deception was probably not a good idea. In addition, I was concerned about what the result of discarding the notion of sovereignity would be -- but as a general case, not as a specific one. I was concerned that any nation with interests counter to ours would come to the conclusion that the only way to avoid invasion and occupation would be to acquire strategic deterrents such as nuclear weapons, and I was also concerned that other nations such as India or China might follow our lead and decide to resolve their claims with military muscle. Saddam's regime's sovereignity had little appeal to me, but there seemed a definite baby being thrown out with the bathwater.

These arguments have nothing to do with supporting Saddam's regime, and I'm frankly tired of being told by people who think the world is a goddamn Risk game that I am somehow pro-slaughter for disagreeing with the current foreign policy of the United States of America.

You may think that the people who didn't care for the war are wrong. You may think they are foolish or shortsighted. Lord knows that's exactly what I think of the people for the war. But it is intellectually bankrupt to accuse folks who ask, "Is this really the best way to address this problem?" of being in favor of the problem. What's more, it is pernicious and antidemocratic.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 05:46 PM


I'm glad to see you explain where you're coming from. That way I can tell you that much of what I write on this site does not apply to you, nor do I intend it to apply to you.

We disagree about Iraq. That's fine. Lots of people disagree with me, and some of them have permanent links to their blogs on my sidebar. I don't think everyone who opposes the war is an idiot. I think a certain kind of opposition is idiotic, and that idiotarian opposition really does exist even if you aren't personally a part of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 19, 2003 06:09 PM

I hate to speak like a conservative, but I really haven't seen it (and therefore it doesn't exist ;)). I've been to the rallies and I've talked to the people. There are a few wackos everywhere, and the vast majority of the people there shook their heads and then brought up why one of the points I brought up above was the one they thought was the most important.

What's more -- and what's more important -- is that even if you think certain kinds of opposition to the war are idiotic (and make no mistake, I'm quite radicalized on this issue; I think most kinds of support for this war are idiotic), it is still intellectually bankrupt to claim that anyone was pro-Saddam, other than a few dozen crazies scattered around the country (and some folks who lent him a lot of money before '91).

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 06:52 PM

Finally, Israel has always had three paths to peace:

1) Grant the Palestinians citizenship in Israel,

2) Give most of Palestine to an independent authority, then create appropriate physical barriers to crossing over at certain areas, or

3) Follow the example of the US, Canada, and Australia and simply massacre anyone who is sitting on the land you'd like to have.

Any of these three options will lead to a lasting peace.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 07:07 PM

But it is intellectually bankrupt to accuse folks who ask, "Is this really the best way to address this problem?" of being in favor of the problem. What's more, it is pernicious and antidemocratic.

Fighting straw with straw I see. Perhaps you should answer your own question and its corollary - if not regime change by military action, then what? Can you defend your own proposals as well as you heckle those put forward by others?

BTW, appeasers and socialists without a cause are central to the problem. It is neither "pernicious" nor "antidemocratic" to point this out. Your assertion is simple minded whining.

Posted by: HA at August 19, 2003 07:58 PM

Kimmitt - Your three solutions to the middle east conflict are interesting, especially since you only list Israel’s options for peace. What steps do you think the Palestinians should take towards peace?

Since the use of the term ‘objectively pro-Saddam’ has been explained, I was wondering if you could explain your use of the term ‘resistance fighter’ to describe the group who carried out this terrorist attack and earlier acts of sabotage. Do you believe that resistance fighters prefer to destroy their own infrastructure? Do they deliberately target innocents? I only ask because the general definition of resistance fighter is different from yours.

Terrorist attacks like this require planning, training and a lot of money. A disgruntled farmer doesn’t grab a pack of Semtex off the kitchen table, drive a truck into a building, expertly targeting a UN envoy and as many innocent bystanders as possible. This attack was obviously planned and carried out by a well-organized and well-financed group, a group that received paramilitary training. It was most likely carried out by a group whose ideals and goals have nothing to do with freedom or liberation. They may not even be Iraqis. Why do you call them resistance fighters?

Some who supported the war in Afghanistan opposed the war in Iraq because they believed we should focus on Al Qaeda. Some opposed it because they claim to oppose war. It is kind of strange though, how those who claim to oppose all war consistently support these oppressor-supported, noncombatant-targeting ‘resistance fighters’.

Posted by: mary at August 19, 2003 08:03 PM

Yikes Mary, You and your laser-scalpel do impressive work. I see you have a blog. I must have a look. Michael, You don't need me to tell you how very right you are about the covert intent of those who subtly abuse language. Instead let me thank you for opening your blog to comments. You run into an interesting bunch here.

Posted by: Stephen Meyer at August 19, 2003 08:54 PM

"the people fighting against us are a resistance to our occupying army. We are fielding an occupying army. They are resisting."

Kimmitt, "resistance" implies that the Iraqi people are fighting against our occupying army. Most of the "resistance" is jihadis from elsewhere, recruited and paid by Iran, whatever Baathists are left, and various terrorist groups. The "resistance" is not the Iraqi people. It is a motley group of outsiders whose purpose is to destabilize the reconstruction, that doesn't give a shit about the needs of the Iraqi people.

When you call it a "resistance" you make it sound like some sort of heroic patriotic thing. It's not. It's international sabotage for the purpose of making Iraq into another Taliban-run Afganistan. I would have thought the UN bombing would make that clear, but apparently not to you.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 19, 2003 09:44 PM

Mary used to be a regular in the coments at No War Blog, where she would slice and dice those asshats real fine. She and I met at Roger Simon's book signing in NYC. Hi Mary! Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Yehudit at August 19, 2003 09:47 PM

Man it's good to be speaking with civil, intelligent people.

Okay, in order:

What steps do you think the Palestinians should take towards peace?

Unlike the Israelis, the Palestinians do not have a centralized state which can lay down policy and punish wrongdoers; the PA is just not physically capable. It is therefore hard to talk about what Palestinian government policy should be in the same way that we can talk about Israeli policy -- with the understanding that some sort of policy can be imposed on those who disagree with it. This, in addition to Israel's massive advantages in armament and economics, are why I tend to talk about what they can do for peace. Israel is the dominant actor in this conflict.

That said, each faction in Palestine is completely undone by the other factions. Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to destroy the Israeli state, and that's not physically possible in the short term -- and in the long term, the cost would be so enormous to the Palestinian people (even assuming that such a destruction were possible) that they would be unable to bear it. The Fatah folks want to establish an independent Palestinian state, yes, but many of them are so radicalized as to put the task of killing Israelis in front of the task of helping their people (and have rationalized this conundrum away in the obvious fashion). And the vast majority of Palestinians simply want to raise their children, run their businesses, and worship as they please. These people are the worst off of all, because with the lack of proactive nonviolent leadership, they simply have no voice. And since the Israelis genuinely do just steal Palestinian homes and livelihoods for their roads and settlements, the average Palestinian lives under an occupation which makes it impossible for him or her to pursue goals.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 19, 2003 11:50 PM

Most of the "resistance" is jihadis from elsewhere, recruited and paid by Iran, whatever Baathists are left, and various terrorist groups.

A few things:

1) Most Baathists in Iraq are Iraqis.

2) Hang on a minute. Is it your serious contention that Iran is sponsoring a terrorist guerilla uprising against the US occupying forces, and that US intelligence has confirmation of this information, but we have neither closed the border nor taken steps against the Iranian government for murdering members of our armed forces? Are you really implying that the Bush Administration is so weak and incompetent that it has not responded to acts of war from a country which actually is killing our soldiers (and which we have a few combat divisions sitting right next to), when it invaded Iraq on pretexts which can be safely described as controversial? And where are you getting access to this intelligence?

3) You say the resistance is international sabotage for the purpose of turning Iraq into a version of the Taliban-run Afghanistan. I agree with you as to their goals (hell, the mere fact that they exist contravenes entire reams of neocon ideology regarding the situation in Iraq), but I have no evidence as to their origin. These folks use RPGs, improvised explosives, and small arms which were used by the Iraqi army and which are currently unaccounted for. They hit targets deep inside Iraq and tend to fade into the population. There's a fairly simple explanation for what kinds of people these are.

4) The question comes down to, "is this a classic insurgency?" That is, are we bound on one hand by the need to destroy the fighters and organizations which seek to kill our soldiers and on the other hand not to be so brutal as to generate more fighters for the other side? So far as I can tell, the answer is yes.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 20, 2003 12:05 AM

<>Is this a classic insurgency?

I don't think so. Suicidal attacks against humanitarian UN officers do not generally occur during classic insurgencies. It looks a lot more like a classic war against humantiy and the world to me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 12:30 AM

Kimmitt I don't agree with you at all on many of your points.

The Palestinians may not have a centralised state but after the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority was empowered and funded heavily. They certainly had the means to exert a great deal of control on their population.

They instead chose violence, incitement, associating their cause with terrorism and neglecting their obligations to the peace process.

I don't believe that you can expect Israel to be mostly responsible for whether peace prevails or not. Especially since we know that they are not the ones with genocidal goals and not a single Israeli politician realistically thinks that ethnic cleansing or genocide should be employed against the Palestinians.

I have to ask you, at what point do you hold the Palestinians accountable ?

And although it is the Palestinian leadership that has been such a failure, Palestinian society itself gives tremendous support for the intifada and using terror groups. The media and education system never report on peace negotiations or Israeli gestures in a positive light at all.

Just today, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, they were handing out candy and celebrating after they heard about the bus bombing in Jerusalem.

My question Kimmitt is how much does Israel have to fulfil before all violence ends ?

The answer, at least to most Israelis who live through the terror, is undefinable.

Posted by: Jono at August 20, 2003 12:54 AM

Michael you are dead right on the perverted misuse of words by the left.

If Palestinians blow up Israelis randomly, how can that be called "resisting" the occupation ?

I'm not saying that Israel's presence in the disputed territories doesn't cause animosity.

But to argue that crimes against humanity are "resistance" is to whitewash reality.

Nobody forces them to resist through violence. They are not defending themselves when they cross into Israeli cities and blow themselves up. They are going on the offensive. And nobody forces them to direct their violence against civilians.

Posted by: Jono at August 20, 2003 01:02 AM

"Resistance" is a loaded term often used by pathetic individuals who are thoroughly steeped in "Star Wars" type romanticism, and who are unable to think beyond shallow characterisations such as "bullies" or "underdogs". Think Socialist Workers Party.

Posted by: Woozle at August 20, 2003 07:01 AM

Resistance fighters? Hardly. Try gangster-fantasists who want to run Iraq on their own terms and will use any form of violence to obtain and cling to power. What they're really 'resisting' is the confiscation of their organized crime concession -- Iraqi self-rule, sovereignty and people be damned.

Hotheads on the right and left need to stop romanticizing what Christopher Hitchens correctly described as a slum clearance project. Useless moralizing about the difficult compromises of Cold War realpolitik, or unproductive scolding about holiday-from-history negligence during the 90's -- both of which contributed to the current situation -- doesn't change the nature of the task before us.

Integrating much of Asia into the global economy during the past several decades, while disruptive, has pulled tens of millions out of stone age poverty and enriched others around the globe. It is quite likely that a similar re-wiring of the middle east will have a similar effect. So let's just get on with it.

Posted by: Cosmo at August 20, 2003 08:30 AM

Hi Yehudit – you also gave the NoWar bloggers hell. That site has gotten quiet again - every once in awhile a tumbleweed blows through. Hopefully, all of our hard work paid off :-).

Posted by: mary at August 20, 2003 08:46 AM

In his essay in Newsweek, 'Suicide Bombers can be stopped', Fareed Zakaria compares the situation in the Middle East to the situation in Turkey during the mid-90’s, when the PKK was using suicide bombing as a tactic. He says:

"Today, apart from an isolated incident here and there, suicide bombings have largely disappeared from Turkish life. Why?"

"A combination of reasons: First, the Turkish military hit the rebels hard, crushing the PKK, closing down international support for them and eventually arresting its leader. But the Army directed its fire at the rebels and not the surrounding population. In fact, the Turks worked very hard to win over the Kurds, creating stable governing structures for them, befriending them and putting forward social-welfare programs—to improve agriculture and women’s education, for example. The Turkish government made a massive investment (totaling well over $32 billion) in the Kurdish southeast."

Like the Catholics in Northern Ireland during the 70’s, and like the Kurds in Turkey, the Palestinians are an educated group of people. They say want land, but what they need is a reasonable, functioning economy.

The problem with the roadmap is that it legitimizes the Palestinian Authority, a government that steals from its people rather than providing for them, a government that very effectively murders and tortures men, women and children who are suspected of collaboration while allowing groups like Hamas to march freely through the streets in their white hoods, carrying axes. If the Palestinians do not have a “centralized state which can lay down policy and punish wrongdoers” then why are they so effective at punishing anyone who is even suspected of collaboration?

The Palestinian Authority has never demonstrated that it will be capable of improving the lives of their people. It will never be an effective government. You’re right about the need for Israeli involvement – if the lives of the Palestinians are ever going to improve, the Israelis, and the rest of the world, have to help – by following the Turkish model of closing down international support for terror, annihilating the terrorist groups, and reconnecting the Palestinian people, economically, to the rest of the world.

This is what we need to do in Iraq, too - put more effort into rebuilding and fighting the source of these very well-funded, well-trained terrorists and saboteurs (who may or may not be Iraqis). If we want to stop terrorism, we can’t allow another homicidal kleptocracy to thrive in the Middle East - there are too many of them there already.

Posted by: mary at August 20, 2003 08:56 AM


Fareed Zakaria whitewashes what the Turks did to the Kurds. Speaking Kurdish, for example, was made a treasonable act. We should not do just as they did.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 09:00 AM

Uh oh..I shouldn’t have implied that the Israelis should treat the Palestinians the way the Turks treated the Kurds (they also shouldn’t treat them the way the British treated the Irish – the British also tried to destroy the Irish language, Gaelic, and the potato famine was a fairly effective attempt at genocide).

The Turks and the Brits did many things that were wrong, but they did one thing that was right – they allowed the economy and the basic living standards of the general population to improve. This seems to have decreased public support for terrorist groups.

Directly attacking terror groups, decreasing international support for them is important, but giving people a reasonable standard of living also seems to help, at least from these examples. But you’re right - saying that we should do what the Turks did would definitely give the wrong impression…

Posted by: mary at August 20, 2003 10:37 AM



Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 11:02 AM

I have a suggestion for an alternative way for would-be suicide bombers to reach martyrdom and, at the same time, have a much more effective impact on the future of their people. Rather than covering themselves with explosives and setting off to murder little boys and girls, everyone so inclined should take the following steps:

1. Find a nice, wide street
2. Alert the media
3. Douse yourself in gasoline
4. Light a match

Not sure if this directly qualifies one for martyrdom or not (guess you'd have to ask the mullahs), but it sure would be an effective statement and, bonus, not only do you not have to murder anybody, but Israel doesn't retaliate and make life even worse for your people than it already is.

Wishful thinking, I'm sure.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 20, 2003 11:29 AM

Ah, not to worry, the PA is going to act accordingly:

Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Elias Zananiri told CNN, "After what happened last night, the rules of the game have changed." Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which claimed responsibility for the attack, "have decided to change the rules of the game," he said. "The Palestinian National Authority will act accordingly."

I wonder which rules of the game were changed? The old "don't murder innocents" rule that these groups had hitherto adhered by? Or was it the widely-adopted "don't break the cease-fire" rule?

Well, we're sure to find about, because Abbas is going to investigate!

Palestinian sources said that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas began meeting with his ministers and heads of security after the bombing and decided to break off talks with representatives of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas. "I announce my strong condemnation of this horrible act, which does not serve the interest of the Palestinian people at all," Abbas said. "I have given my instructions to the security minister to launch an investigation."

I'm sure glad, because otherwise I guess we won't really understand what happened or who was behind it--unless, I guess, somebody claims responsibility and identifies the murderer.

[Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat] cautioned the Israelis not to "shoot themselves in the foot" by suspending the peace talks and launching a military response, saying "the military solution" has not worked during the nearly three years of the intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

Right. Clearly the only thing that's been working is continuing the "process". Israel, of course, needs to stick to the "roadmap".

And if there's anybody Israel ought to be taking advice from, it's the PA.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 20, 2003 11:52 AM

Fighting straw with straw I see. Perhaps you should answer your own question and its corollary - if not regime change by military action, then what? Can you defend your own proposals as well as you heckle those put forward by others?

If there were any good options, they would have been taken at some point over the past twelve years. The sanctions and no-fly zones had protected the Kurds and kept Iraq contained (at the cost of bolstering his strength in-country and allowing thousands to die because of lack of access to dual-use technologies). Neither ending the sanctions nor invading seemed to offer a better result than what was already happening.

w/r/t Israel:
If you really think that the PA has the same level of authority over its people as the Israeli state has over its, then consider the following hypotheticals:

1) If the PA chose to declare war on Jordan due to a border incident, what would happen? And if the Israelis did?

2) If the Israelis dismantled several small settlements and forcibly returned the people living in them, what would happen? If the PA were to displace some of its people to hand territory over to the Israelis, what would happen?

3) Yasser Arafat is the head of the PA. Is he capable of travelling freely in his area to meet with and discuss issues with his constituents (not that he'd want to)? Is Prime Minister Abbas? How about Prime Minister Sharon?

4) If a major terrorist attack were to hit a PA building, would the PA have the resources to track down and bring the perpetrator to justice? Would the Israeli state?

The PA is simply not the kind of authority the Israeli state is, so it is much easier to talk about what Israeli policy is (as it might be uniformly implemented) as versus what Palestinian policy is (as the PA is not really capable of taking on Hamas and Islamic Jihad if it decided to, so there are multiple governments in the Territories).

That said, I still want to know about the Iranian terrorists operating in Iraq. Such information could significantly alter my view of how the US should handle the Iraqi situation.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 20, 2003 02:46 PM

I dearly love those who argued against the Iraq sanctions during the 90's. The whole "at the cost of bolstering [Saddam's] strength in-country and allowing thousands to die because of lack of access to dual-use technologies." schtick tickles me pink. (NB: Kimmitt, I did read the line of text following where you stated "Neither ending the sanctions ... seemed to offer a better result," so I'm not picking you out specifically for anything in this post)

Tickles me no end. Were these folk in favor of sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa? How do they like the idea of sanctions against the military government of Myanmar? How about the sanctions imposed on Rhodesia way back when? The "divest from Israel" movement? Oh, I see, sanctions are only bad if they are related to Iraq.

The other question I've been wondering about, is how it is that the west is responsible for sanctions-related deaths in Iraq. Yet, on the other hand, Castro (no nice guy himself) has been under U.S. sanctions for decades and has (somehow) managed to avoid the humanitarian catastrophe that befell Iraq after only a few years. What about the Libyan santions? How did Qadaffi manage to guide his country through sanctions so much more effectively than Iraq - even though he had no "Oil-for-Food" program?

How the bejeezus is the lack of dual-use technologies supposed to cause starvation? Things like lasers for isotope separation and particulate mills for anthrax milling aren't exactly Burpee seeds for a vegetable garden.

The folks who were busy yammering about the sanctions have exhibited some of the most sloppy and odious thinking I've seen in recent memory.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at August 20, 2003 03:27 PM

How the bejeezus is the lack of dual-use technologies supposed to cause starvation?

A lot of dual-use technology is agricultural in nature, but most of the deaths were caused by lack of access to medical care; the same tech which can be used to make pharmaceuticals and other useful items can also be used to create chemical weapons such as nerve agents.

Nice use of NB, by the way.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 20, 2003 06:42 PM


Pharmaceuticals were left to rot in Iraqi warehouses, deliberately undistributed to the hospitals. Do not blame America for the crimes of fascist dictators. We are not the bad guys.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2003 08:07 PM

I should have put money on it. Robert Gildea, a scholar at the University of Oxford, which used to be a prestigious institution, in today's Guardian:

"In the absence of state power and regular armies, such nationalist revolts are undertaken by informal groupings and irregular forces. These may be denounced as terrorists, saboteurs and bandits by the forces of occupation, but one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Were the tactics of the French resistance any different from what we now see in Iraq? Even if they did not have oil pipelines to blow up, they sought to undermine the German military machine by cutting communication cables, bringing down power lines, derailing troop trains and throwing bombs into restaurants frequented by military personnel. They are hailed as heroes."

Posted by: Jimmy Doyle at August 21, 2003 03:01 AM

Kimmit writes about Israel's possible paths to peace: "...3) Follow the example of the US, Canada, and Australia and simply massacre anyone who is sitting on the land you'd like to have."

Is there any reason he chose those 3 countries, instead of, say, Mexico or Brazil, or Russia or Japan (ever heard of the Ainu people)?, or almost any country in the world for that matter? This may seem like a minor quibble on an old, dying thread but I have a hunch that it's indicative of a large and widespread ideological conception of history.

Posted by: Tokyo Taro at August 21, 2003 07:20 AM

I used those examples because they are particularly impressive displays of conquest and because they demonstrate how a country could become a "good" member of the international system afterward.

Also, I didn't happen to think of the Ainu. My Siberian history is poor; did the Russians displace/kill the tribes which live there or simply conquer them? Finally, my understanding is that the peoples of Mexico and Brazil are to a large part genetically and culturally descended from the peoples who lived in that area in 1492; what happened there seems to be something different from what I was describing as an option, something much more like option 1.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 09:48 AM


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