September 30, 2003

Rosh Hashana Faux Pas

Check out the first sentence of this piece:

A Texas high school has apologized after the school band waved a Nazi flag during a performance on Friday, the start of the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashana.
The school band did this. Not a skinhead punk, the school band.

I’m sorry if I’m being Politically Correct, but this is too much.

DURING A HALF-TIME show, a student from Paris High School went running across the field waving a Nazi flag.

At the time, the Blue Blazes band was playing the composition by Franz Joseph Haydn that eventually became known as ”Deutschland Uber Alles."

Here’s why:
Grissom said it was part of a show entitled “Visions of World War Two,” in which the flags and music were intended to represent the warring nations.
All right, fine, that’s reasonable enough. It’s not anti-Semitism, and it certainly isn’t pro-Nazism. But still. Come on. In the past two years anti-Semitic invective and violence have spiked, and so has the general public’s tolerance for it. It’s an open wound again, and the Texas school poked it. A Nazi flag on Rosh Hashana…jeez.

At a time of hypersensitivity to the tiniest little “feelings” affront, the negative reaction to something as blatant as this shouldn't be a surprise.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:04 PM

Wing Nuts

While I lob grenades at the left wing-nuts in my own party, liberal Republican Adam Sullivan does the same thing to the kooks on the right. Good stuff at his Karmic Inquisition blog. Start here and just scroll down.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:58 PM

September 29, 2003

Bosnia, the Middle East, and "Realism"

Christopher Hitchens reviews French journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy's new book Who Killed Daniel Pearl?

Lévy has some interesting things to say, not just about Daniel Pearl and Pakistan, but about the Terror War in general.

Here is Hitchens:

Bernard-Henri Lévy was a strong defender of Bosnia's right to exist, at a time when that right was being menaced directly by Serbian and Croatian fascists. It was a simplification to say that Bosnia was "Muslim," but it would also have been a simplification to say that the Bosnians were not Muslims. The best resolution of this paradox was to assert that Bosnia-Herzegovina stood for ethnic and cultural pluralism, and to say that one could defend Islam from persecution while upholding some other important values at the same time. I agree with M. Lévy that it was a disgrace at the time, and a tragedy in retrospect, that so few Western governments took this opportunity.

But now we hear, from those who were indifferent to that massacre of Muslims, or who still protest the measures that were taken to stop the massacre, that it is above all necessary for the West to be aware of Islamic susceptibilities. This plea is not made on behalf of the pluralistic citizens of Sarajevo, but in mitigation of Hamas and Hezbollah and Saddam Hussein. One of the many pleasures of Lévy's book is the care he takes to show the utter cynicism of the godfathers of all this.

Those who Lévy and Hitchens refer to are actually being consistent. They are Kissinger "realists," and they side with whoever's in power. They really don't care who it is. To them the internal charactertistic of states do not matter. Stability, even a violent and nasty one, rules. A Christian Orthodox fascist who puts Muslims to the sword is as good as a theocratic mullahcracy that throws infidels into torture chambers.

During the Cold War it was often dangerous to be on the same side as the resistance. Odds were high that the Soviet Union backed them. That's not a problem anymore. The Soviets are gone, and there is no wisdom in behaving as though it weren't so.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:55 PM

New Iraqi Urbanism

Until recently, the Baghdad skyline was dominated by Baath Party buildings and palaces. Those are now gone.

Iraq is rich in natural resources. So when the country gets a decent government, a healthy economy, and some new construction contracts, maybe the new Baghdad skyline will look something like this.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:13 PM

September 28, 2003

Atrocity Seen From Outer Space

This is what ethnic "cleansing" looks like.

Behold a satellite photo of a Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1997.

kirkuk1.jpg


Here is the same neighborhood in 1998.

kirkuk2.jpg

Saddam Hussein destroyed more than 3,000 Kurdish towns and villages in this way. Some were so thoroughly annihilated there is little evidence they ever even existed.

Thanks to Bill Herbert for the photos.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:33 PM

A Great New Blog

If you haven't already, check out one of the best new blogs around, curiously named Who Knew? The two blog writers, Jeremy and Cara, are disaffected lefties like myself.

Two recent posts of note:

The first tells how to put Glenn Reynolds at a loss for words.

And this post puts me at a loss for words.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:06 AM

September 27, 2003

The Iraqi Underground

The Baathists do love to bury things in Iraq.

TIKRIT, Iraq - U.S. troops uncovered one of their biggest weapons caches to date Saturday at a farm near Saddam Hussein's birthplace, including anti-aircraft missiles and a huge quantity of explosives used to make the homemade bombs that have killed numerous American soldiers.
I wonder what else, aside from civilians, is buried beneath that ground.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:09 PM

September 26, 2003

Totalitarianism, Liberation, and Resistance

Patrick Lasswell has some eloquent words on the nature of totalitarianism.

There is no link between totalitarian government and efficiency, security, honesty, purity, simplicity, or holiness. There is no trade; you do not get benefit in exchange for fascism, socialism, holy rule, or anarchy. What you trade your freedom for is chains and promises; only the chains ever arrive.

Many survivors complain about the lack of stability once their chains are no longer there to support them. Some slaves never let themselves be freed. They insist that the promises were better than the reality they face. They will frequently try to kill the liberators, especially if they were privileged. It is much better, some feel, to be chained to the top of a mountain than walk freely as an equal.

And there you have the so-called Iraqi "resistance."

This dovetails nicely with what Christopher Hitchens wrote in his last essay for The Nation.

I suppose I can just about bear to watch the "inspections" pantomime a second time. But what I cannot bear is the sight of French and Russian diplomats posing and smirking with Naji Sabry, Iraq's foreign minister, or with Tariq Aziz. I used to know Naji and I know that two of his brothers, Mohammed and Shukri, were imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein--in Mohammed's case, tortured to death. The son of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to twenty-two years of imprisonment last year; he has since been released and rearrested and released again, partly no doubt to show who is in charge. Another former friend of mine, Mazen Zahawi, was Saddam Hussein's interpreter until shortly after the Gulf War, when he was foully murdered and then denounced as a homosexual. I have known many regimes where stories of murder and disappearance are the common talk among the opposition; the Iraqi despotism is salient in that such horrors are also routine among its functionaries. Saddam Hussein likes to use as envoys the men he has morally destroyed; men who are sick with fear and humiliation, and whose families are hostages.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:51 PM

Middle East Activist Gallery

Reuters and AFP news services refer to Palestinian Hamas members as "activists." (See here and here.) Let's take a look at these "activists" and compare them with Israeli activists.


Palestinian Activist Photo Gallery


Israeli Activist Photo Gallery





Advice to Reuters and AFP: Knock it off.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:58 AM

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

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

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.

saddam_play.jpg

Via Mansour Mouasher's fantastic photo gallery of Amman.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:49 AM

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

Anti-Americanism

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.

antiamericanism.jpg

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

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

September 19, 2003

Laugh Out Loud Post of the Day

Andrew Apostolou: Fat Bastard Captured.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:04 PM

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

Activists Against Nation-Building

Judith Weiss sent me this from the left-wing activists at moveon.org:

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 moveon.org 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

September 17, 2003

Left-wingers Against Howard Dean

Oliver Kamm is the latest to weigh in:

Howard Dean demonstrated his unfitness to be President several months ago with his judgement on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein:

"We've gotten rid of him. I suppose that's a good thing."

But I understate. A man who so grudgingly weighs the question of Saddam's departure is devoid of imagination, public-spiritedness and internationalist principle. He is not a reliable compass for humane sentiment let alone the highest office of state. Being a leftist myself, I am painfully aware that candidates of the Left do not get elected to executive office if they're perceived as untrustworthy on issues of security: McGovern, Foot, Lafontaine, Rau and the serial election loser Shimon Peres are all testament to the rule. Never mind what else he believes: if Dean is unmoved by the ousting of a tyrant who modelled his rule on Stalin and Hitler, he is untrustworthy to exercise authority in the public interest.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:44 PM

Tectonic Shift

The world has truly turned upside down.

Thomas Friedman, liberal Democrat at the New York Times, calls France an enemy, yes an enemy of the United States.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:17 PM

Required Reading

Today's required reading. Via Andrew Apostolou, who is also required reading.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:18 AM

September 15, 2003

Ted Rall: Left-wing Terror Apologist

Ted Rall demonstrates how the far-left meets the far-right on the nasty side of the political circle.

NEW YORK--Nearly 70 percent of Americans tell Newsweek that "the United States will be bogged down in [Iraq] for years without achieving its goals." Yet 61 percent tell the same poll that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. The reason for this weird disconnect: people think that we're in Iraq to spread democracy and rebuild the Middle East. They think we're The Good Guys.
You mean, we’re the Bad Guys? I thought Saddam Hussein was the bad guy. His complaint department was a machine gun and a tree shredder.
But the longer we keep patting ourselves on the back, the more we tell ourselves that the Iraqi resistance is a bunch of evil freedom-haters, the deeper we'll sink into this quagmire.
Well, considering that the “Iraqi resistance” is made up of Baath Party remnants and foreign theocratic jihadists, I’d say they are a bunch of evil freedom haters.
It's time to get real.
How do we get real, Ted? Tell us.
In war, the side that most accurately sizes up the situation ultimately prevails. In this war in Iraq, our leaders thought the fall of Baghdad meant the end of the conflict. "Mission accomplished," as the banner behind George W. Bush read on the aircraft carrier.
So far, so good.
But Saddam understood the truth: the war began with the occupation.
Let’s just say the war continued with the occupation. Unless you think “Shock and Awe” and a ground invasion was something other than war.
Guerilla warfare offered the only way for Iraq's tiny, poorly armed military to resist the U.S. The Baath Party planned to provoke U.S. occupation forces into mistreating the population.
Actually, the Baath Party is mistreating the population, just as it has been for decades now. You know, poison gas, mass graves, rape as policy, all that.
It worked.
Oh?
Random bombings and sniper hits have made the American occupiers jittery and paranoid. They've withdrawn into fortified cantonments where they've cut off contact with civilians.
Any evidence for this? No. I didn’t think so. It’s just a baseless assertion.
Their ignorance causes them to offend Iraqi cultural and religious sensibilities.
How can we do that if we have cut off contact with civilians as you claim above?
Even better, from Saddam's perspective, U.S. troops push people around: shooting unarmed motorists, stealing their money and jewelry at roadblocks, breaking into houses in the middle of the night, manhandling wives and daughters, putting bags over men's heads and carrying them off to God knows where for who knows how long.
I can’t stick up for manhandling or stealing jewelry. But the shooting of an unarmed motorist is obviously an accident and a mistake, unlike what used to happen in that country six months ago. And carrying off Baath Party suspects in the middle of the night isn’t exactly a good thing “even better, from Saddam’s perspective,” as you claim.
"U.S. troops put their boots on the back of men's heads as they lay face down, forcing their foreheads to the ground," the Associated Press' Scheherezade Faramarzi writes about the procedure used by U.S. troops during sweeps. "There is no greater humiliation...because Islam forbids putting the forehead on the ground except in prayer." Amnesty International says the U.S. subjects Iraqi prisoners to "cruel, inhuman or degrading" conditions.

In Iraq, we are the bad guys.

Compared to whom? The Baath Party “resistance”? Because they are humiliated when we crack down on them? Seriously, Ted, boo hoo.
What about the "terrorists" who bombed the U.N. headquarters and Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, who sabotage oil and water pipelines, who use rifles and rocket-propelled grenades and remote-controlled mines to kill our soldiers?
So, terrorists who massacre UN humanitarian workers get quote marks. They are “terrorists,” not terrorists, meaning they really aren’t terrorists. They are something else.
Aren't these "killers" evil, "killing people who just want to help," as another AP writer puts it?
What, they aren’t even killers now? The people who killed Sérgio Vieira de Mello are merely “killers.”
In short: no.
No! They aren’t killers, they aren’t evil, and Sérgio Vieira de Mello wasn’t really there to help.
The ad hoc Iraqi resistance is comprised of indigenous fighters ranging from secular ex-Republican Guards to radical Islamist Shiites, as well as foreign Arab volunteers waging the same brand of come-one-come-all jihad that the mujahedeen fought against Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan.
Yes, that’s true. And this acknowledgement of reality makes me pretty concerned about what I know is coming down below…
While one can dismiss foreign jihadis as naïve adventurers, honest Americans should call native Iraqi resistance fighters by a more fitting name: Iraqi patriots.
Jumping Jeebus on a pogo stick. Theocratic fundamentalists and genocidal killers are “patriots.” No wonder Ted Rall despises patriotism here in America. He really believes patriotism is terror.
I collect propaganda posters. One of my favorites, from World War II, depicts a strapping young SS officer holding a smiling local kid in his arms. "Trust the German soldier," the caption exhorts citizens of occupied France. But when liberation came in 1945, Frenchmen who had obeyed that poster were shot as collaborators.
Yes, Ted. That’s because the Nazis were totalitarian fascists and race murderers, not because they were foreign.
The men and women who resisted--the "terrorists" who shot German soldiers, cut phone lines and bombed trains--received medals and pensions.
That’s because they fought for freedom, Ted, and against fascists.
Invaders always say that they come as liberators, but it's almost never true.
Every single poll of Iraqis thus far shows that Iraqis think we are liberators. Don’t listen to me, listen to them.
Whether you live in Paris or Baghdad or New York, you're expected to know that, and to act accordingly. "We want deeds, not words," says Abu Mohammad, a retired teacher about our inability (unwillingness?) to restore basic services to the city of Baghdad.
We are unable to restore basic services because “Iraqi patriots” keeping sabotaging the infrastructure.
Here are our deeds: Talking about democracy as we cancel elections.
Please.
Guarding the oil ministry building while museums are sacked.
The museums weren’t sacked, Ted. That’s a hoax. Come on, man.
Exporting Iraqi oil to Turkey as Iraqis suffer fuel and power shortages.
Iraqis need money. They can get some by selling their oil.
Iraq's natural resources are being raped.
How so?
Its people are being murdered.
Yes, by “Iraqi patriots.”
Yet it's the patriotic Iraqi resistance, which is trying to stop these outrages by throwing out the perpetrators of an illegal war of aggression, that the Bush Administration dares call "terrorists."
Should I even dare to continue?
On July 5 a bomb killed seven recruits for a U.S.-trained Iraqi police force in Ramadi. U.S. occupation administrator Paul Bremer deplored the murder of "innocent Iraqis." Cops who work for a foreign army of occupation are not innocent. They are collaborators. Traitors. They had it coming.
Ted Rall started out as a liberal American. But he ended as a supporter and spokesman for terror.


UPDATE: Court at Miniluv has more on this sort of thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:35 PM

The Christopher Hitchens of Britain

I am pleased to announce that this is the first web log to provide a permanent link to British journalist Johann Hari's new Web site. (The permanent link is under "Columnists" on the left. His site is not a web log.)

If you aren't already familiar with his work, go read.

He writes for London's Independent, which annoyingly charges money to read his article archive there. But you can read his stuff on his own site, and the page that archives his work against tyranny can keep you reading for half an afternoon.

Johann is my kind of lefty, the Christopher Hitchens of Britain. He says in his bio:

Since he began work as a journalist, Johann has been attacked in print by the Telegraph, the Spectator, John Pilger, Private Eye, Andrew Neil and Richard Littlejohn, so he feels he must be doing something right.
Indeed, he does nearly everything right. So bookmark him.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:16 AM

September 11, 2003

The Problem of Yasser Arafat

Israel has decided to remove Yasser Arafat.

The security Cabinet decided on Thursday to expel Yasser Arafat but put off immediate action. Individual government officials and Cabinet ministers have not yet commented.

"Recent days' events have proven again that Yasser Arafat is a complete obstacle to any process of reconciliation ... " the Cabinet's communique stated Thursday. "Israel will act to remove this obstacle in the manner, at the time, and in the ways that will be decided on separately ..."

The United States has notified Israel it is opposed to the expulsion of Yasser Arafat even though "he is part of the problem and not part of the solution" in the tense standoff with the Palestinians.

I do not think this is wise.

If Yasser Arafat is expelled from the West Bank, he will have more power and prestige than he currently has. He will have freedom of movement and he will be free from harrassment. He can give orders by telephone and rally support around the world. He will get a hero's welcome wherever he goes. He will not be made irrelevant.

Better, perhaps, to imprison him in Tel Aviv. He would have no freedom of movement and he would be unable to give orders to anybody. But someone would be kidnapped and held for ransom. And the ransom would be the release of Yasser Arafat.

No. I see only two workable solutions.

One: Keep him isolated in Ramallah and endure the status quo. For now.

Or put him on trial for Murder, Kidnapping, Torture, Terrorism, Assasination, and Crimes Against Humanity. Give him a lawyer, conduct the trial in English, and televise it. Then execute him.

He is guilty on all counts.


NOTE: I am not advocating the last position. I simply think it would be more just and more productive than exile. The status quo regarding Arafat, awful as it is, is probably better on balance. For now. Build that wall, Israel. Faster.


UPDATE: David Bernstein agrees.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:52 PM

September 10, 2003

September 11, 2003 - Why We Fight

saddam_911_propaganda.jpg Saddam-controlled media commemorates the first anniversary of September 11, 2001


man_falling.jpg


taliban_execution.jpg
Women's rights in Afghanistan


manhatten_smoke.jpg


hamas_march.jpg
Hamas "activists" in Palestine


manhatten_sunset.jpg


cambodia_bones.jpg
The handiwork of SE Asian Communists


ground_zero.jpg


halabja_1988.jpg
Saddam Hussein's victims, Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan


auschwitz_victim_photos.jpg
What anti-Semitism hath wrought


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New York City, 2001


UPDATE: Some are confused by the juxtaposition of images. What do Nazis and Communists have to do with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?

I'll let Paul Berman answer that:

[E]ach of the movements, in their lush variety, entertained a set of ideas that pointed in the same direction.

The shared ideas were these: There exists a people of good who in a just world ought to enjoy a sound and healthy society. But society's health has been undermined by a hideous infestation from within, something diabolical, which is aided by external agents from elsewhere in the world. The diabolical infestation must be rooted out. Rooting it out will require bloody internal struggles, capped by gigantic massacres. It will require an all-out war against the foreign allies of the inner infestation--an apocalyptic war, perhaps even Apocalyptic with a capital A. (The Book of the Apocalypse, as André Glucksmann has pointed out, does seem to have played a remote inspirational role in generating these twentieth-century doctrines.) But when the inner infestation has at last been rooted out and the external foe has been defeated, the people of good shall enjoy a new society purged of alien elements--a healthy society no longer subject to the vibrations of change and evolution, a society with a single, blocklike structure, solid and eternal.

Each of the twentieth-century antiliberal movements expressed this idea in its own idiosyncratic way. The people of good were described as the Aryans, the proletarians, or the people of Christ. The diabolical infestation was described as the Jews, the bourgeoisie, the kulaks, or the Masons. The bloody internal battle to root out the infestation was described as the "final solution," the "final struggle," or the "Crusade." The impending new society was sometimes pictured as a return to the ancient past and sometimes as a leap into the sci-fi future. It was the Third Reich, the New Rome, communism, the Reign of Christ the King. But the blocklike characteristics of that new society were always the same. And with those ideas firmly in place, each of the antiliberal movements marched into battle.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:36 PM

September 9, 2003

Not So Right-Wing

Oliver Kamm praises George W. Bush: President Bush, man of the Left.

He's serious.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:50 PM

September 8, 2003

A Glass Half Full

If you turn on the news or look at the headlines in the newspaper box, the post-war reconstruction of Iraq looks like a failure.

Look more carefully. The Iraqi summer of 2003 is a violent one, but something wonderful and new is being born.

Here is Iranian journalist Amir Taheri:

Iraq is the only Arab country today where all political parties, from communist to conservative, operate freely. Visitors will be impressed by the openness of the political debate there, something not found anywhere else in the Arab world. Also, for the first time, Iraq has no political prisoners.

Almost 150 newspapers and magazine are now published there, offering a diversity not found in any other Arab country. One theme of these new publications is the need for democratization in the Arab world. This may be putting the cart before the horse. What Arabs, and Muslims in general, most urgently need is basic freedom, without which democracy cannot be built.

The impact of Iraq's liberation is already felt throughout the region.

Here are some interesting quotes.
"What we need is a space of freedom in which to think and speak without fear," says a leading Syrian economist. "Bashar knows that if he does not create that space, many Syrians will immigrate to Iraq and be free under American rule."
And this, from the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson:
"I decided to leave Iran and settle in Iraq where the Americans have created a space of freedom," Hussein Khomeini says. "The coming of freedom to Iraq will transform the Muslim world."
Perhaps the best reaction, if we can trust it, comes from Libya.
In a recent television appearance, Col. Muammar Khadafy (whose one-man rule has been in place since 1969) told astonished Libyans that he now regarded democracy as "the best system for mankind" and that he would soon unveil a package of reforms. These are expected to include a new Constitution to institutionalize his rule and provide for an elected national assembly.
Free people do not fight wars against each other.

And that is why I supported the liberation of Iraq. For freedom. For democracy. For all of us.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:28 PM

Chomsky in Havana

If you think you can stomach it, here is the transcipt of an interview with Noam Chomsky by Bernie Dwyer on Radio Havana, dutifully published in Z Magazine. (Via Oliver Kamm.) Here are some excerpts.

[Bernie Dwyer] A couple of new popular books have recently been published such as Weapons of Mass Deception and Stupid White Men. Do you see them as a viable alternative to the corporate media?

[Noam Chomsky] No, they are not trying to be an alternative to the corporate media. They are just books among the many books written about the way the corporate media function and there is by now, in the United States, more than any other western country that I know, a rather significant popular movement concerned with the corporate media, which is virtually all the media within the United States, and the way they function as a kind of propaganda system.

This blog is not a part of the corporate media. NPR is not a part of the corporate media. The New York Times may be corporate, but it takes a rather different editorial line than The Wall Street Journal, also corporate. There is no propaganda "system" in this country. Or perhaps I should say there are many different propaganda systems. Quite unlike the monolithic state-run system in Cuba where Chomsky is giving this interview.
[Bernie Dwyer] The recent war on Iraq and the current US occupation was fully supported by the mainstream press in the US to the extent that the media became the political wing of the Bush administration. Isn’t that pushing the power of the press beyond all limits?

[Noam Chomsky] It’s hard to answer that. An independent press, of course, would not function in that fashion. You are quite right.

Here is Chomsky pulling his Jedi mind trick. Indeed, an independent press would not act as the political wing of the Bush adminstration. Therefore, Chomsky suggests, the American media is not independent. It is controlled by the Bush adminstration. Including NPR and the New York Times. This he says on state-controlled Cuban radio.

Of course, our media did not function in that fashion. Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh Show can be accused of functioning in that fashion up to a point, but they did so voluntarily. And the relentlessly anti-war New York Times did not operate in that way at all. But nevermind that. Chomsky has to trash the American free press on state-run media in a Communist dictatorship, and facts cannot get in his way.

Naturally, he can't give an interview without injecting his trademark:

The fact that the United States can label other countries as terrorist states itself is quite remarkable because it not a secret that the United States is incontrovertibly a terrorist state.
Anyway.
[Bernie Dwyer] You would still uphold your admiration of the Cuban system as you did before?
His admiration for the Cuban system. Savor that. And remember it.
[Noam Chomsky] As far as I am concerned, I do not pass judgement on what Cubans decide to do.
But it's okay to judge liberal democracies...
I am in favour of Cuba’s successful defiance of the United States.
Thanks for the solidarity, Noam.
I am in favour of them taking matters into their own hands.
Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship, but he doesn't mind. No, really. He doesn't.
Exactly how they carry it out… I have my own opinions. A lot of things I think are fine, a lot not, but it’s a matter for the Cubans to decide. My concern is that the hemispheric superpower not resort to violence, pressure, force, threat, and embargo in order to prevent Cubans from deciding how to determine their own fate.
Cubans are not allowed to determine their own fate, and it isn't the United States that prevents them from doing so. They live in a prison-state from which they are not allowed to leave.

I do agree with one thing Noam Chomsky said, though not what he meant. It is a matter for Cubans to decide. Too bad when he said "Cubans" he only meant Fidel Castro.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:06 AM

September 7, 2003

Not a Nice Chianti

Why is "Hitler" wine being sold in Europe? Is this supposed to be funny? Ironic? Chic? What?

Apparently, there are Mussolini and Stalin collections, too.

Imagine what Europeans would say if an American wine-maker put out a flaming-cross and hooded white-sheet collection.

I understand these are part of a "historical" series. But, still. Who would buy these? I hope I'm not being overly PC, but I would feel ashamed to have this on my table.

I'd like to know what Europeans think of this. Are they appalled? Or is this a symptom of contempt for history and memory. (Via Charles Johnson.)


UPDATE: Via Dragoon (in the comments) comes this story from Google News.

GERMANY has protested to Italy over a winery that labels its bottles with portraits of Adolf Hitler, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries recently wrote to her Italian counterpart to say the labels are "contemptible and tasteless" and asked him to see what could be done against them, spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said.

The wine is available legally in Italy, where it can also be purchased on the Internet, Ms Wirtz said. Its sale is illegal in Germany, where products bearing images or slogans from the Nazi era are outlawed.

Still, Bavaria state said it was opening an investigation to see if any of the bottles had crossed the border.

Ms Zypries, in her letter to Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, expressed hope that Italy would act as part of common European efforts to fight racism and xenophobia.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:12 AM

September 5, 2003

Generation X and the American Flag

Sean LaFreniere, real liberal and fellow GenXer, wants to take back his country and his flag from the Baby Boomers.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:20 PM

Bomb Found in Portland

Someone found a bomb on a commuter train in the Portland suburbs.

Investigators are trying to determine how a bomb with the power to kill a person was left on a MAX train in Washington County.

Police explosives experts detonated the device with no injuries Wednesday night.

It was the second bomb scare on Wednesday at the Beaverton Transit Center

...

"To set it off, you had to light the fuse," Hyde said.

Members of the Portland police bomb disposal unit ignited the device in a nearby field and found it contained explosive material.

"No one speculated on just what it may have been," Hyde said. But, "experts at the scene indicated that it easily could have caused serious injury or death to anyone nearby."

Solberg said it was not clear where on the train the rider found the bomb, and investigators were trying to determine how it got there.

"It might have fallen out of somebody's pocket or a bag," Solberg said.

It seems too amateurish to be the work of a foreign terrorist organization. Looks home-grown or freelance to me.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:57 PM

September 4, 2003

Don't Panic

Andrew Apostolou in a piece that manages to be both refreshing and sobering at the same time:

That mistakes have been made in postwar Iraq is not in doubt, but that predicted disasters have not transpired is rarely acknowledged. The Coalition, like the U.N., planned for a humanitarian catastrophe when there was none. Contrary to some pessimists, Iraq has not fallen apart. Far from destroying Iraq's territorial integrity, the Coalition has restored it, bringing the Kurdish safe haven back into Iraq. There have been remarkably few revenge killings so far, thanks to the Coalition presence, and equally little of the predicted ethnic conflict. Hundreds of thousands of ethnically cleansed Kurds have not rushed back to their homes nor have they punished their Arab oppressors. There has been little of the reverse ethnic cleansing seen in Kosovo where the Albanians often dispensed rough justice to their former Serb overlords.
He's no pollyanna, though. There are plenty of problems, even if they are smaller than those we anticipated. Read the rest, and take note of the last sentence.
[T]here is no surer path to defeat than to rush into the arms of those who wish we had never toppled Saddam in the first place.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:39 PM

Blogging At Its Finest

This smackdown of the Washington Monthly at the Daily Howler is one of the finest pieces of muckracking media criticism I've read in a while.

What's the beef? Liberal bias? Nah. Laziness and sheer contempt for the audience.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:21 PM

No to the GOP

Why I am not now, and do not plan to become, a Republican.

(Link via War Liberal.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:57 PM

Moonbat? Or Not?

Mike Silverman, a real liberal, posts two quizzes. Are You a Leftist? And Are You a Rightist?

I am thankfully neither.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:55 AM

September 3, 2003

Two Shiite Views of the "Resistance"

Here's one, as reported in Yahoo! News:

Lebanon's top Shiite Muslim cleric warned that Iraqi Shiites would join the armed resistance against U.S. and British forces if the occupation of Iraq persisted for too long.

Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said Iraqi Shiite political leaders and clerics have been united in their rejection of the occupation and in their public calls for U.S. and British forces to leave the country.

"So far, the (anti-U.S.) resistance does not have clear objectives. When we examine the message of (Iraqi) Shiite leaders and clerics, we find that there is a single voice in rejecting the occupation and in calling on the occupation to leave Iraq to the Iraqis," Fadlallah said in a live interview with the Lebanese Future television station late Tuesday.

"(Joining the resistance) is not very far if the occupation continues to afflict the Iraqis, becoming a tool to restrict the Iraqis' freedom," he said.

Fadlallah, 67, strongly opposed both the regime of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

And here's another in the Times of London (subscription required) from Iranian journalist Amir Taheri in Europe:
Despite the gloomy impression given by the Western media, it is important to recognise that not one of the five major Shia parties wants the US to leave: in fact, all agree that they need the US Armed Forces. Sciri leaders I talked to yesterday insisted that there would be no change in the strategy of co-operation with the US-led coalition.
Who to believe? The anti-American Shiite blowhard in Lebanon? Or the pro-American Shiite intellectual in Europe?

Okay, so it's a spun and loaded question. But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists and are almost always idiots, let's go with the report from the pro-American intellectual for now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:27 PM

Liberalism and Socialism

In the comments section of this post is a debate over whether or not liberals are socialists.

I'd like to leave you with the following quote from Winston Churchill which, I think, is exactly right.

Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf fixed. It is not a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. […] Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference […] Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly.
Discuss.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:46 PM

Kerry is Not Wholesome

Here is John Kerry drinking a beer.

Yay! He's human. Nice to see him with beer. I'd rather see him with a bottle than a can, but maybe I'm just a snob.

I expect to see politicians drinking milk or carrot juice or somesuch in a cynical attempt to go all Ward Cleaver on us. We don't need that.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:21 AM

Race: Human

James Lileks:

I’m lucky; I don’t know where I come from. We have some theories, but they’re just that. One side of my lineage dead-ends in an adoption; the other trails off in Europe, east of Paris. Don’t know.

Don’t. Care. I’m a mongrel. I’m a race mixer. Everyone into the blender; fine by me. What I do know is that anyone who believes as I do today would have been shoved on a train by the real goose-steppers circa 1943.

Same goes for me. Sort of.

My father's side of the family is from England. That's where my name is from. I have no idea about my mother's side. She's a mix of Euro this and Euro that. From where, I've no idea. I mean, no idea at all. East of Paris? Maybe. West of Moscow? Probably, but perhaps not. Definitely north of the Congo. That's all I know.

I could be part Jewish, part Arab, part native American Indian for all I know. And like James Lileks, I don't want to know. I don't want to know because I don't want to start caring about that sort of thing. I don't want to find out I'm a part of a victim group so I can start feeling bad about something I've never felt bad about before. I don't want to feel like I'm supposed to hold some old world grudge against other people who never did anything to me or my family. Not that I would, but I don't want anyone else thinking I should. Is part of my family Greek and formerly oppressed by the ancestors of my Turkish-American neighbors? I really don't care.

My wife's family is Scotch-Irish. So, okay, my father's ancestors oppressed hers. It's trivia. In Belfast our marriage would be impossible. That is what is great about America. We're over it. Never worried about it in the first place.

I know it's easy for me to say 'cause I'm a white guy. And I know that makes me lucky. I do. Still, there was a time when this sort of thing did matter in this country to people like me, and my marriage would have been impossible even here. That day is past. It will be past for others too. Some day.

Roger L. Simon says that day is now. Or it ought to be.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:47 AM

September 1, 2003

Oregon's Outback

When people think of my state of Oregon they think of green. And not just those who don’t live here. Most Oregonians live to the west of the Cascade mountains in the wet, lush, dripping, fogged-in valley between the snowy peaks and the sea. Everywhere you look is creaking timber tall enough to tear the bottoms out of the clouds. Wisps of fog roll off the hills like smoke down the sides of an ashtray. The grass is a vibrant psychedelic green even in Winter. Most of our towns are little more than encampments in the woods.

There is another Oregon, too. Like a crazy aunt shunted away in the attic, the Eastern Oregon desert is out of sight, out of mind, and mostly out of the way. Many Oregonians don’t even realize it’s there. They go to the mountains to ski, or maybe to go fishing. If they cross they don’t venture far. Because if you climb the spine of the Cascades and keep on driving east, you will leave the Pacific Northwest. You’ve only crossed to the center of Oregon, but you’ve entered what’s known as the West.

Yes, the West is east of Seattle and Portland. And it is desolate.

I took a friend through the empty Oregon Outback last September, and he didn’t like it so much. There’s nothing out here, he said, and he was right.

There is nothing out there. That’s what I like about it.

You don’t go to the Empty Quarter because of what’s there. You because of what isn’t.

There is no traffic, no smog, no people, no phones, no office towers, no red lights, no light pollution at night. There are no forests to block your view of the mountains, the plains, and the stars. Nor is there much of anything else.

The cold in Winter burns. The sun in the summertime punishes. The land has been split by God with a sword, and pounded for centuries with hammers.

Oregon would not be whole if it were not there.

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Photos by Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:09 PM