November 28, 2003

To Lake Atitlán

We left the colonial city of Antigua by taxi at dawn and ventured deep into the highlands for Lake Atitlán, a virtual inland sea ringed by towering cliffs and swooping volcanoes.

The gravitational pull of Guatemala City still held. Smaller tumble-down satellite towns crowded the highway and capped the surrounding hills. Construction was purely functional; square gas stations next to roadside diners with plastic tables and chairs; general stores adjacent to basic watering holes. Three of four minutes of driving time punctuated each cluster. Painted American schoolbuses wheezed up the hills and spewed tangy black fumes of diesel.

The four-lane freeway became a two-lane highway. The sky opened wide. We began crossing a plateau of rolling green hills checkered with farmland and residual patches of forest. This was not a tropical landscape. At 6,000 feet, palms and floppy banana trees are a rarity. Here was a temperate climate with suitably temperate vegetation; oaks, pines, and deciduous trees I couldn´t name. This was a Latin Ohio with volcanoes and mule carts.

Shelly and I feasted on a junk picnic of chocolate cookies from Chile, oat and honey granola bars from the States, and bottled water from France. We gladly shared our snack on the road with Hugo, our driver. We bummed him some Marlboros for letting us smoke in his car.

“Thanks so much for driving us all the way out here,” I said to him in Spanish.

“Eh, no problem,” he said. “I love driving tourists around. Last week I took two Israelis all the way to Tikal.”

Tikal! Deep in the Petén jungle thrusting north into the Yucatan, the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Central America´s Giza, are at least 14 hours away. The road is a punishing gash through the lowlands. It must have been quite a cab ride.

I told Hugo we needed a bathroom break. “In the next town up ahead there is a gas station,” he said. So we waited and passed through more farmland.

Run-down houses and shacks squatted on miniscule plots of corn. Every surface needed paint. The walls on the worst of the shacks were tin propped up with sticks. Roofs were made of scrap held down with rocks. Holes gaped in the sides.

Campesinos walked along the side of the road carrying primitive farm tools I had never seen before, presumably made obsolete by technology up north. Their faces were shrunken and cracked. They seemed to me a hundred years old. Somehow I doubt they complained much.

We reached Chimaltenango and drove through miles of highway sprawl. The city seemed to have no center but the highway and was totally unwalkable. Every building was filthy, shrunken, and slouched. Garbage was strewn everywhere. It seemed God had smote this town with a curse.

It was our bathroom break.

We stopped at a decrepit gas station and both used the men´s room. The women´s was locked and the attendent had lost the key. Half the toilet seat was missing, there was no paper, and the tap in the rust-stained sink was dry.

I stood and stretched my arms and back on the grass outside and imagined getting stranded in this place and having to walk out. I shuddered and felt very far from home. Antigua is beautiful, Guatemala City has its fancy neighborhoods and hidden charms, but Chimaltenango, at least from this road, seemed a place of absolute ruin. Maybe there was a nice downtown somewhere off to the side, but we weren´t about to stick around and find out.

Life in the countryside was hard, to be sure, but at least the campesinos had a little land, a lovely view, and a nurturing landscape. This was an evil place of vicious bars, squalid housing, feral dogs, and a shortened lifespan. For the first time the poverty in this country really got to me. I felt physically depressed and wondered what on earth I was doing in this god-forsaken place. I said so to Shelly, and she solemnly nodded without saying a word.

I have little desire to visit resort towns like Cancún, but I understand why other people do. Guatemala is beautiful, but it hurts me.

.

We left the populated region and entered a wilderness. No farms, no settlements, no houses. Only the winding road through the forest. It could have been Maine or Vermont, and as we kept climbing higher the leafy woods gave way to clusters of fat pines. These weren´t the evergreen spires I know from back home, but with a little mental adjustment I imagined myself on a weekend drive in Central Oregon above the city of Bend.

One of my simplest pleasures is backpacking and camping in the Cascade Mountains, that range of volcanic peaks dividing the West Coast of the United States from the interior mountain West. On a visit four years ago to Costa Rica I swore I would never camp in Central America. The jungle is exhilirating but frightening. Jaguars, crocodiles, bullet ants, tarantulas, bot flies, coral snakes, killer bees, malarial mosquitos, giant beetles, and Lord know what else creep and slither and crawl all over this place. I am not sleeping outside on that ground. But the highland forest of Guatemala is something else. There are some noxious fauna, I know, but it looks so peaceful and benign, unlike the manifestly hostile lands down below. Here is a place where I think I could sleep outside, under the stars next to a campfire with a cup of hard black coffee and a blanket.

We came at last to the lake. Or, I should say, the rim of the lake. The road until now had been more or less even, but now it descended down the cliff face like a waterfall. The surface of the lake rippled like the ocean from a plane. Three perfect volcanoes swooped up the other side.

The car dove downward around harrowing curves. Out the passenger side window was nothing but sky. God, I hoped Hugo´s brakes were good. In front of us was a chicken bus crammed with locals. I could see the headline now: FIFTY DEAD IN BUS PLUNGE HORROR. At least there was a guard rail.

The air became warmer and heavier as we went down. The trees grew larger and greener. The leaves were floppier, the vines twistier.

Panajachel is the lakeside town down at the bottom. Suddenly we were in a prosperous city again. The houses were bigger and dignified and freshly painted. The streets were lined with palms. All manner of tropical flowers tumbled over the garden walls. Thatch-roof restaurants followed the sand around the shore. A fleet of commercial boats plied the inland sea to roadless Indian villages and secluded Spanish towns tucked among the cliffs. International cuisine was everywhere. Japanese, Greek, Mexican, Italian, and Argentine. Shops bursted with crafts, goods, and imports.

The view from the shore is heartstopping. The majestic volcanoes are from a child´s imagination, perfect swooping cones topped with craters. This land is primordial. It really does look like the dinosaur age. I would not have been surprised to see pterodactyls circling above.

As we poked around in the shops, black mountains of cloud rolled in over the lake. Raindrops the size of my thumb splashed (yes, splashed) on the pavement. We ducked into a thatch-roofed Italian cafe on the shoreline. Thunder clapped, and sheets of rain swept the vast open water. We sipped red Chilean wine and twirled pasta on our forks. Lizard-tongues of lighting lashed the sides of the mountains. It was the perfect afternoon in the highlands.

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A word about tourism.

Some people think tourists ruin a place, distorting its character with their own. There is some truth to this. Mayan seamstresses around Lake Atitlán sell hippie clothes they wouldn´t wear if you paid them. But don´t think a place would improve if the tourists left it alone. Panajachel is prosperous by Guatemalan standards. Europeans, Asians, and people from all the Americas inject thousands of dollars into its economy every year. The standard of living is markedly higher than in the destitute towns between the lake and Antigua. Tourism breathes life and variety into Panajachel. If people stop coming, it will wither. Giving the place "back" to the locals will only hurt them.

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After statistics, there are no greater liars than maps. Look at an atlas. Central America is a coat hook for the South American continent. Guatemala is a tiny part of that hook. Lake Atitlán won´t appear on that atlas. Yet it´s enormous and overwhelming when you stand on it. You could fit a small nation inside. The maps can´t see this. The maps don´t show this.

That slender waist of green between our two vast Americas is itself another America, lush and fecund, tortured and hot, ancient and modern, European and Indian, prosperous and poor. It has a beauty that hurts, but it truly is not to be missed.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:39 PM

November 25, 2003

In Guatemala City

Guatemala City is a rough place.

The air is choked with diesel fumes. Buildings downtown are smudged with streaks of black. Narrow sidewalks are made narrower by street vendors, and on Avenida 6 pedestrian traffic spills into the streets amid old cars, brightly painted school buses, motorcycles, and carts. Horns blare for no apparent reason other than that drivers seem to like the sound. There is no concept of lanes. Still, if you need to cross the street, someone will stop and wave you across – courtesy amid chaos.

Many of the buildings downtown ought to be charming. At least a fourth date back to the 19th Century. They’re adorned with intricate scollwork, dignified columns, tall vertical windows, solid wooden medieval-looking doors opening to tiled interior courtyards. Yet these would-be lovely gems are jammed up against cartoon eyesores from the 1960s, buildings beyond parody that seem purposely designed to offend every aesthetic sensibility ever cultivated. They are the worst I’ve seen anywhere, caricaturing themselves and insulting their neighbors.

The city isn’t crumbling. It isn´t a pretty sight, but it holds together fairly well. The buildings and infrastructure are more or less intact, but the city is tired and world-weary. It lays supine in the highlands valley, beaten down by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, civil war, revolution, economic devastation, and dictatorship. The city is hungover. Its eyes squint at the sun. It groans with depression and exhaustion.

There are no skyscrapers in the center of the city. The narrow streets are miniature canyons lined with three- and four-story buildings, just tall enough to keep the sunlight out and the pedestrians claustrophobic, but not tall enough to convey that I’m in the largest city in Central America, population 3 million, about the size of Seattle.

Even the Plaza Mayor is painful. It is fronted by the National Palace, which looks nice enough up close but from a distance looms oppressive and Satanic. I swear that building has horns on top and a tail somewhere in the back. It glowers menacingly at the city and seems the perfect command center for a diabolical dictatorship, which, until only a few years ago, is exactly what it was.

Humorless palace guards point machine guns at everyone walking past. Don’t even think about cracking a smile at these characters. I tried a couple of times and they stared holes right through me, stonefaced as the Mayan frescoes at Tikal.

The economy here isn’t remotely up to Western standards, but every shop is full of modest wares, and street vendors hawk everything from knockoff goods (“Hugo Boos” t-shirts), pirated gay pornography on DVD, and allegedly brand-name perfumes in tiny bottles with hand-made labels. There are almost no beggars at all, and even less garbage and graffitti. The city is poor but the center is nearly immaculate, much cleaner than New York or Paris. Nearly everyone, even the very poor, are sharply dressed and unfailingly polite. The people here have a sullen and heavy look about them, but they carry themselves with a quiet upright dignity. They are poor, but they do the very best they can with what little they do have. Everyone here is a survivor.

Guatemala suffered a 36-year horror show that only ended, nervously, in 1996. The military lorded it over the country with a brutal reign of terror. Communist guerillas, backed by the Soviet Union, waged revolution in the countryside. The armed forces hit back with a scorched earth campaign that made no distinction between combatants and civilians, between Communists and Maya Indians. In the 1980s, thousands of Maya were ethnically cleansed from their villages and relocated to concentration camps euphemistically dubbed “model communities.” Cities and villages were terrorized by gestapo-like death squads of La Mano Blanco (the White Hand). Mass graves and bone piles are strewn across the highlands.

Everyone in Guatemala over the age of ten remembers all this. The scars of psychological trauma are etched in their faces forever. But all that is over now, and the capital city has a bit of a blank slate feel to it. The future is open and more hopeful than anyone here can remember. Guatemala is slowly, in fits, becoming a normal country with problems instead of a tragic place that explodes.

The only people who have begged me for money are the war wounded. The city isn’t full of them, but they are around. Every ten blocks or so I’ll see one on the sidewalk. They are horribly disfigured people, always men, with missing or disfigured limbs. Just in case I wanted to pretend that Guatemala’s recent history was more like tranquil Costa Rica’s, they’re a semi-regular reminder that this is not so.

I have never been to Guatemala before, but it’s obvious the economy is better now than it was. Young people here are short by American standards (I swear I’m the tallest person in Guatemala right now), but they tower over their elders. I’ve never seen such tiny people as the oldest of this country, especially the Maya. Most of the men look me in the chest, but some of the elderly Maya are only as tall as my stomach. Malnutrition was obviously widespread and severe. But teenagers today are much taller, and look as healthy and hale as those in Europe.

“The inhabitants of Guatemala appear to have little desire for public amusements seen in most cities.” So said Robert Dunlop in 1847. He could have said so last week. There are few restaurants, fewer bars and cafes. Movie theaters have been converted into clothing stores. Strolling the markets and praying in church are the high points of public entertainment, at least to my casual wandering eyes. This is not Spain, where even grandparents are out at two in the morning in the restaurants and bars. Guatemala retires at seven. I haven’t seen a single club in the capital.

.

Almost no one in Guatemala City speaks English, not even at the elegant colonial hotel where we are staying. The exception is our doorman.

“¿Habla Usted ingles?” he asked me.

“Yes, I speak English” I said, surprised to hear a local ask me this question.

“Where are you from?” he said.

“Oregon. United States.”

He beamed with delight. “I love United States,” he said. “I lived six years in Chicago. I worked at Ritz Carlton Hotel by the lake. Chicago, it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.” He put his hand on his heart. “I miss it so much.”

I didn’t want to ask him why he came back to Guatemala. I didn’t want to hear a tragic story, that he was illegal and was deported. It would have broken my heart. I wanted to give him Chicago back, but I couldn’t.

“Yes,” I said. “Chicago is beautiful. I used to live nearby and I visited on weekends. I miss it, too.” And it’s true. I do.

.

I met Joey in the hotel bar. He looks like the perfect California beach dude. Turns out he’s a ballet dancer from Toronto.

“I’ve been to a lot of cities in my life,” he said heavily. “A lot of cities. And this is by far the worst one. I walked down the street a couple of blocks and came straight back to the hotel. I’m done now. Not going out again until we get to Antigua.”

I chuckled.

“I hear you,” I said. “It’s not a pretty sight. But I like it because it’s real. Besides, this place is nowhere near the bottom. Tijuana, Mexico. That’s the worst place I’ve seen. Next to that, Guatemala City is Prague.

It takes a half-hour to get downtown from the airport in a taxi. And I didn’t see a single slum along the way. At least, not the kind I’ve seen in Mexico. There are shantytowns around, I know, but I’ve yet to run into one. Run-down neighborhoods, yes. Dickensian squalor, no. I didn’t think it possible to drive clear across this city and miss all that, but apparently you can. The outlying areas remind me more than anywhere of Los Angeles; shiny glass towers, nail salons in strip malls, palm trees in the meridians, and bougainvillea atop the garden walls.

Despite the poverty, despite its traumatic past, the city somehow manages to hold its head up. It has little to recommend it for tourists looking for entertainment and luxury, but it’s interesting (for a short while) if you can appreciate a bit of realism. It is like a resiliant survivor of a terrible accident who gets back on his feet and stares down death in the face. History weighs so much here. But if this city could speak it would say – firmly – I want to live, and godammit I will.


(We have had enough of realism and have moved on to the lovely colonial city of Antigua. It is ancient, bright, colorful, and soul-soothing. Primordial green volcanoes tower over its streets. It is, I think, the perfect Latin American city.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:26 AM

November 21, 2003

We're Off

Shelly and I are going to bum around Central America for the next two weeks, and we’re leaving tonight. We’ll spend a week in the Guatemalan highlands, and then another week on an island off the coast of Belize.

Keep checking in to the site, though. I’ll have some degree of Internet access, and I’ll send reports when I can and when I feel like it.

Enjoy the snow for me and I’ll enjoy the sun for you. And have a great Thanksgiving.

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:37 AM

November 19, 2003

Not for Sale

Nick Confessore in the Washington Monthly is making a fuss out of the fact that Tech Central Station gets money from corporate sponsors, and that TCS sometimes publishes pieces that favor the positions of those sponsors.

Since I sometimes write for Tech Central Station, let me just say a couple of things.

First of all, no one on this Earth tells me what to think or what to write. That includes Nick Shulz, the editor of Tech Central Station. It also includes Halliburton. None of Dick Cheney’s old pals call me up at home and tell me what to say about Iraq or anything else.

I write for TCS freelance. That means I pitch my own ideas to the magazine.

My pieces get edited and Nick asks me to approve the changes. I don’t always like the changes he makes, so then we discuss it. Sometimes he convinces me that it’s better this way or that, and other times I convince him that his edits weren’t for the best. It’s a give and take, a healthy editing process, and nothing with my name on it gets published without my consent.

Any suggestion, implicit or otherwise, that TCS articles are vetted by its corporate sponsors is silly. None of my articles have had anything to do with any TCS sponsors in the first place, but that’s not true of every piece published there. Daniel Drezner says one of his articles directly contradicts the agenda of a TCS sponsor.

This, I think, is Confessore’s point in a nutshell:

[I]t's only human nature to put more trust in the arguments of seemingly independent observers than those of paid agents of an interested party. And that's why a journalist willing to launder the arguments of corporations and trade groups would be so valuable. A given argument, coming from such a journalist, would have more impact than precisely the same case articulated by a corporate lobbyist.

I agree. However, TCS is pretty up front about its biases; its writers are social/economic libertarians and foreign policy hawks. Glenn Reynolds, who also writes for them, agrees (in Daniel Drezner's comments):

It's a libertarian policy webzine, so it (mostly) publishes libertarian policy stuff, with occasional pieces by conservatives and liberals.
Tech Central Station does not claim to be “fair and balanced.” They don’t promise “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Nor do I.

I think you should take TCS’s biases, sponsors, and agenda into account, and you ought do the same when listening NPR and Rush Limbaugh. But it isn’t worth making a big deal out of it unless TCS, like Fox News, decides to pretend it’s impartial.


UPDATE: Pejman has a roundup of responses from other Tech Central Station writers. None of us are particularly impressed with Mr. Confessore's piece, and everyone's experience seems to be rather like mine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:03 PM

November 18, 2003

Geek Boy is Busy

Your regularly scheduled programming has been interrupted. Mr. Totten received by mail his copy of the extended version (43 extra minutes!) of The Two Towers, the second of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Lord of the Rings is popular in his household, and he and his wife are busying themselves with Orcs, Ents, and the battle of Helm’s Deep. He is not available this evening for blogging duties. He shall return shortly.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:16 PM

New Column

Here's my newest Tech Central Station piece: Iraq is not Vietnam.


UPDATE: There's a fiesta of schoolyard taunts in the comments. If you miss the fun-filled days of highschool, this is your special day.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:06 AM

Britain: America Doesn’t Suck

Andrew Apostolou emailed me this piece from the Guardian.

A majority of Labour voters welcome President George Bush's state visit to Britain which starts today, according to November's Guardian/ICM opinion poll.

The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world.

It still amazes me that even 15 percent think we’re the new (or is it old?) evil empire. At least it isn’t the norm.

And look at this.

The ICM poll also uncovers a surge in pro-war sentiment in the past two months as suicide bombers have stepped up their attacks on western targets and troops in Iraq. Opposition to the war has slumped by 12 points since September to only 41% of all voters.
Terrorism isn’t working on the British.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:48 AM

Autumn in Portland

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Light Rail Tracks


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Old Town


Fallskyline.jpg

Downtown


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Pioneer Square in the Rain


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Driving at Night

Photos by Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:46 AM

Bloggers are People too

Sheila O'Malley reminds us of something that ought to be obvious but is still often forgotten. We are greater than the sum of our blog posts.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:41 AM

November 17, 2003

The Memo

You’ve probably already seen this report by Stephen Hayes, who obtained a leaked memo, documenting Saddam Hussein’s supposed ties to Al Qaeda.

I am not qualified to go over this stuff. I don’t know how to tell the real intelligence from the bogus. But I will say this.

The idea that Saddam Hussein would never cooperate with Al Qaeda because the Baath Party is secular and Osama bin Laden is fundamentalist is wishful thinking in the face of conflicting evidence. Saddam Hussein has publicly boasted of his financial support for Hamas, which is every bit as fundamentalist as Al Qaeda. And the Baath Party in Syria has been propping up Hezbollah, the “Party of God,” for years.

No one should be surprised if this report turns out to be true or even partly true.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:10 AM

The Latest (Updated)

23 people were killed when Al Qaeda blew up two synagogues in Istanbul.

Jews once again were murdered for being Jews. And it was worse even than that. This was an attack on the entire Turkish nation. Look at what they did.

Meanwhile, the director of Amnesty International USA says terrorism is a major human rights issue, and if the anti-war left can’t address it then they risk becoming irrelevant.


UPDATE: When I posted this, I didn't realize the interview with the Amnesty director requires either a Salon subscription or the patience to sit through an annoying ad. Sorry. Here's the money quote, from the director of Amnesty International USA:

[T]here has been a tendency for the American political left and the greater human rights community to downplay the genuine, serious threat of terrorism around the globe. Presumably the human rights community is committed to protecting Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely the guarantee of security of person -- the right to life. But there's been a failure to give the necessary attention, analysis and strategizing to the effort to counter terrorism and protect this right to security.
...

Human rights organizations are basically set up to put pressure on governments, not on more amorphous entities like terrorist groups. The traditional tools we use are generally not going to be effective with terrorists. I doubt Osama Bin Laden is going to be moved by 50,000 members of Amnesty International writing him a letter asking him to refrain from terrorist acts. In the face of a new kind of force in the world that is detrimental to human rights, the human rights community has been slow to adapt to that new reality, in both its understanding and its tactics. There's a cultural lag at work here.

It's a serious problem. It means that human rights advocates are seen solely as harping critics. We certainly need to be that; it's a very important role. But if we fail to engage with the very real, hard decisions that governments have to make about protecting the safety of their citizens, then we'll be dismissed as charlatans, or ideologues who are out of step with reality.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:09 AM

The Problem of Uzbekistan

Since 9/11, the US has been changing its attitude about third-world dictators. The “our bastards” realpolitik is slowly phasing out.

But what about Uzbekistan? The Bush Administration is rather, um, cozy with Islam Karimov’s repulsive regime.

It’s a tough question, a hard question. And Nathan Hamm, who lived and worked in Uzbekistan as a Peace Corps volunteer, has a pretty thoughtful answer.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:04 AM

November 14, 2003

Irony

Who said September 11 killed irony? Whoever it was, I agreed. And boy was I wrong.

Check it out. The Iraqi Communist Party supports the imperialist-capitalist-hegemonic war for oil. Oh, and they back Iraqi democracy, too. At least that's what they say.

Someone tell Ted Rall...

And have a great weekend.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:08 PM

November 13, 2003

Bosnia Gets An Apology

Finally:

SARAJEVO (AFP) - The president of the rump Yugoslavia, now renamed Serbia and Montenegro, apologised for the "evil" his country had caused during Bosnia's war of independence and asked for forgiveness.

"I want to use this opportunity to apologise for any evil or disaster that anyone from Serbia and Montenegro caused to anyone in Bosnia-Hercegovina," President Svetozar Marovic said.

...

"There was injustice, evil, suffering and murder. There were things ... one can't imagine people doing," Marovic said of the war.

This is a good time to thank President Clinton, too. He waited too long, but he did finally act to put a stop to it.

No thanks whatever to the UN. It refused to see, refused to act, and opposed what was finally done.

No thanks to the Republican Congress, either, especically Trent Lott, Don Nickles, and Tom DeLay. They blamed the atrocities on America, undermined the war effort, whined that we couldn’t win, and pressured Clinton to appease a fascist dictator. They should be ashamed of themselves, and they ought to apologize too. Now would be a good time since the Serbs have finally done it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:40 PM

The Ultimate Wingnut

It seems that Ted Rall has become a fascist sympathizer. He wrote this appalling column on Veterans Day.

NEW YORK--Dear Recruit:

Thank you for joining the Iraqi resistance forces. You have been issued an AK-47 rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an address where you can pick up supplies of bombs and remote-controlled mines. Please let your cell leader know if you require additional materiel for use against the Americans.

He isn’t kidding.
Our leaders include generals of President Saddam Hussein's secular government as well as fundamentalist Islamists. We are Sunni and Shia, Iraqi and foreign, Arab and Kurdish. Though we differ on what kind of future our country should have after liberation and many of us suffered under Saddam, we are fighting side by side because there is no dignity under the brutal and oppressive jackboot of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority or their Vichyite lapdogs on the Governing Council, headed by embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.
I love the use of the word “lapdogs.” He’s been keeping up on his World War II propaganda.
Now our only option is guerilla warfare: we must kill as many Americans as possible at a minimum risk to ourselves.
I don’t know what to say. This stuff just fisks itself.

Yesterday someone in the comments section said he is offended by the phrase “anti-Americanism.” He doesn’t believe the concept even exists. Let’s try not to be in too much denial here. Can any serious person say Ted Rall is pro-American? Or that he’s neutral?

Ted Rall isn’t some anarchist punk spraying digital graffiti on Indymedia. He’s a syndicated columnist.

His column is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. I can hardly believe they distribute this crap. Are they looking for an excuse to can him? Giving him enough rope to hang himself?

Ted Rall has a right to free speech. Let him write his pro-terrorist screeds on his blog. There are plenty of good writers who deserve to by syndicated. Ted Rall is not one of them.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)


UPDATE: If anyone thinks Ted Rall is just getting inside the heads of the "resistance" and doesn't mean anything special by it, here's more.

UPDATE: It does helps to remember something Ted wrote just a little while back:

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.

UPDATE: Patrick Lasswell wrote a letter to Universal Press Syndicate: Fire Ted Rall.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:22 AM

Dueling Cartoons

Tom Tomorrow is a talented cartoonist. Even when I think his work is hopelessly wrongheaded, as this cartoon making fun of warbloggers is, he can still make me laugh.

In this cartoon he goes on about “chickenhawks,” those who support the war but who aren’t in the military. In a sense he is telling people like me to shut up, which is annoying, but you can’t smash dissent (or in this case, assent) with a cartoon. He’s just making fun of us. Fine, Tom. Carry on.

He’s asking for it, even so, and this right-back-atcha cartoon by Mary at Exit Zero is priceless. (By the way, the person in the last panel is (ahem) Ted Rall.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:21 AM

November 11, 2003

The Tip of the Liberal Spear

The US and British armed forces have achieved more objectively liberal results in the past six months than anyone else I have seen in my lifetime.

Here is Tony Blair on Iraq:

The press is free; over 170 newspapers in circulation; the ban on satellite TV lifted so that Iraqis can hear America abused by Al-Jazeera and others - for having liberated them. Access to the internet is no longer forbidden. Nearly all schools and universities are open, as are hospitals and they are receiving medicine and supplies not on the basis of membership of the Ba'ath Party but on need. The canals are being cleared. The power and water supplies re-built. These supposedly evil Americans have voted $19 billion of their own money in aid: the Madrid Conference under the excellent guidance of Prime Minister Aznar has raised another $13 billion. Not a penny piece of Iraq's oil money has gone anywhere but into an account under the supervision of the IMF and UN.
Are we sure a British citizen can’t run for president here? Isn’t there a loophole somewhere?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:52 PM

Purging the Dissidents

The left-on-left cat fight won't be over any time soon.

T-bogg (a most impolite person) is still banishing moderate liberals as heretics, in this case Andrew Hagan. Today Andrew praises Hillary Clinton, but that's not good enough for T-bogg. Oh no.

He thinks if someone isn't 100 percent left-wing today then they have never been liberal. Like Stalin airbrushing Trotsky out of history, T-bogg says today’s dissident liberals were also right-wing in the past.

How's the Inquisition going, dude? Workin' for ya? Swelling the ranks of the left? Oh wait, that's not the idea...

Meanwhile, Liberal Heretic™ Sean LaFreniere says NPR and the BBC are losing their faith in liberal democracy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:51 PM

November 10, 2003

No Plan

One of the most common criticisms of the Iraq occupation is that Bush has no plan. Patrick Lasswell says that's a good thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:35 PM

Harsh Words

Iraqi blogger Alaa has some harsh words for the so-called "resistance."

We declare before the whole world, your God is not our God, your religion is not our religion. You are the enemies of God, Humanity, Sanity & Decency. You are totally obsessed, unredeemable and hopeless. We have but to follow the decree of our Great Imam Ali ( PBU ) and you will be exterminated to the last man.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:19 PM

November 9, 2003

Michael Moore's Decline

From Michael Moore’s latest screed against Americans in Germany’s Die Zeit: (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

Should such an ignorant people lead the world? How did it come to this in the first place? 82 percent of us don't even have a passport! Just a handful can speak a language other than English (and we don't even speak that very well.) ...

Ok, come on you Germans, you really know better!

Michael Moore fashions himself a defender of the common man and woman against the elites. So far, so good. But surely his snarling condescension toward “such an ignorant people” isn’t targetted at the elite.

He doesn’t understand the Internet. Articles in German magazines get translated these days, and they get linked on blogs. Consider yourself busted, Mikey, for trash-talking your people, not only your countrymen but also who is supposed to be your fan base.

He wants to know how “such an ignorant people” came to “lead the world” in the first place. Apparently he’s a part of the “ignorant” masses himself.

America leads the world because it is the only world power left standing at the end of the 20th Century. Germany (which supposedly “knows better” and is where his article is published) turned Europe into a smouldering crater. It’s hard to lead the world from beneath a pile of wreckage. Japan was a world power, too, but it went on one wicked rampage too many. Belgium and France had power, but their vicious imperialism in Asia and Africa led to a long-overdue ass-whooping. The last world power, the Soviet Union, imploded in a spasm of idiocy and evil of its own making.

America did none of that. We skipped the whole communist/fascist/imperialist thing. So here we are. The only world power, aside from Britain, that didn’t chew off its own leg.

Why do so many Americans have no passport? Because we don’t need one to travel anywhere on this continent. Mexico and Canada don’t ask for one. North America is huge and travelling farther away is expensive. Michael Moore is trash-talking the little guy (whom he supposedly champions) because the little guy doesn't make enough money to travel to Paris and Rio every year.

And what’s this about us not being able to speak English well? Puh-leeze. He’s just insulting America in Germany because it pays well. He wouldn’t bad-mouth our English in Michigan where he grew up.

Last year I discovered that my wife didn’t know who Michael Moore was. So we rented his first movie Roger and Me and we both loved it. I still like that movie, but I feel bad now that I introduced my wife to an assclown. She can consider this post a product recall.

Conservatives never liked Michael Moore, but there really was a time when he was a reasonable guy, when he had a sense of humor, when he made decent movies. Not any more.

And it isn’t just disgruntled liberals who are sick of him. The leftists at Dissent don’t have much time for him either.

Meanwhile, go read Armed Liberal's superb essay about patriotic liberalism. Michael Moore, you had better take notes.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:48 PM

Liberal Versus Liberal

Andrew Hagan has a good solution to the battle between liberal hawks and the anti-warriors over who gets to call themselves "liberal."

It's a fine solution, and I'm surprised I haven't seen this before.

Simply divide the liberals into camps. The right has already done this to itself.

There are paleoconservatives of the inflexible old-fashioned Pat Buchanan variety. And there are neoconservatives who are more moderate and who often have a left-wing pedigree. There are also just plain old conservative conservatives.

So why not carve up the left the same way? There are paleoliberals and there are neoliberals. The neolibs have already been identified; they're the moderate (and often hated) brainy folks at The New Republic. But the paleolibs are thus far unnamed and unexamined. They aren't radical leftists, but they are out of date and rather inflexible. Andrew Hagan, a moderate liberal himself, has their number.


UPDATE: Matt Welch in the comments asked a good question, and I see I forgot to include something obvious. There also are plain old liberal liberals, like Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum, who don't need a paleo or neo attached. They aren't reactionary, as the paleoliberals are, and I never get into arguments with either of them about who is a "real" liberal and who is a heretic.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:50 PM

November 8, 2003

A New Blog from Iraq

If you haven't already, check out the new blog from Iraq by Alaa called The Mesopotamian. Here's a sample of what you'll find.

You have amongst you in the US alone an estimated more that one million Iraqis, not to mention the other Iraqis elsewhere in Europe etc., These are christians, Moslems and etc. from all groups of the Iraqi population. The vast majority of these are patriotic and for a new Iraq.

But you also have the Mob, just like the dancing peasants of Fallujah, these are ignorant people who know nothing and can't see past their noses. We are disturbed by this level of ignorance which cannot distinguish friend from foe, and lumps everybody under generic classifications which bear no rhyme or logic behind them.

Please fight this ignorance, please be kind to our compatriots in your midst. Remember every body what President Bush has said : " Our greatest allies are the Iraqi people ".

Many people ask whether we have heard the President's speach. Yes we have. Immediately the Chorus of AlJazeera, Al Arabiya, etc. and amazingly, CNN, BBC etc, started their spoiling, doubt-semming, bitchy insinuations, interviewing, this character from egypt and that "analyst " from Syria etc. ( seldom an Iraqi is asked, or if they find one, a well known former close associate of the Saddam regime or someone like that ). Pretending to be objective, pretending to be "balanced", they try their best to kill the joy that the shining reassuring words bring to our frightened hearts.

Deluge the man with hits.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:59 PM

November 6, 2003

We Cannot Run Away

Democrats like to complain when people say they can’t be trusted with national security, as if it’s some "straw man" (their new favorite buzzword) spun up by Karl Rove and the White House.

It’s not what Republicans say that makes people wary. It’s what the Democrats say on their own.

Here is Peter Beinart, a Democrat I do trust, in the New Republic:

A CBS poll in late August found that 53 percent of Democrats wanted the United States to either increase troop levels in Iraq or hold them steady, versus 37 percent who wanted to decrease the number. By last week, that figure had reversed itself. In a late October Washington Post/ABC News poll, 54 percent of Democrats said the "U.S. should withdraw forces from Iraq to avoid casualties," while only 40 percent wanted to keep them there.
Thank heaven for that 40 percent. But more than half want to run away.

What a complete and utter disaster that would be. Nothing we could do, and I mean nothing, would ratchet up more terror attacks than surrendering to them. The Democrats would have blood on their hands. The Baathists and Islamists would wage a devastating civil war in Iraq. If the left doesn’t like war, they shouldn’t go and kickstart a pointless and evil one into action.

I want to trust my old party to do the right thing, to hang in there, to not give in to fear, to support a good cause and help democratize Iraq. But I can’t. Some Democrats get it. But it’s a minority faction now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:20 PM

Disgruntled Democrat Watch

Nathan Hamm is finished with the Democratic Party.

I'm sick of my former party and not going back to it until it can start advocating policies and not pandering to hysteria, conspiracy, and hate.
On a side note, he lived in an authoritarian police state (Uzbekistan) and is rightly tired of fools who claim America has turned into one.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:16 PM

A Liberal Vision

The Democratic slide into oblivion is excruciating to watch. But democracy comes with anti-toxins. Good ideas beat bad ideas over time.

Yesterday George W. Bush said this:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, he’s pitching the Kissinger doctrine over the side. “Stability,” “our bastards,” and the rest of the old right ideology is finished. We cannot and will not liberate every oppressed population at once. But we’ll do what we can when we are able.

It’s ironic that a recently isolationist Republican president has embraced this vision. It’s an old vision and its roots can be found on the left. Paul Berman articulated it best. “Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for the freedom of others.”

George W. Bush, to my enduring astonishment, agrees. It’s the only thing that makes the Democrats’ self-destruction bearable.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:15 PM

Finally

Maybe I can soon stop referring to the so-called Iraqi resistance.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Times has ordered its reporters to stop describing anti-American forces in Iraq as "resistance fighters," saying the term romanticizes them and evokes World War II-era heroism.
Other news outlets would be very smart to follow this lead.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:19 PM

The Racist Right

Haley Barbour was elected governor of Mississippi last night.

And here he is with his pals on the front page of the breathtakingly racist Council of Conservative Citizens Web site. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan a few weeks back.)

This group is the one-stop shop for the White Sheet set. You can study up on columns called “In Defense of Racism.” Or you can order a book that exposes the “truth” about Martin Luther King, Jr. If Jew-hating is your bag you can read about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and about how the Jooooos supposedly control the world’s wealth and the multinational corporations, and how they worship Lucifer.

Anyway, Haley Barbour went to one of their barbecues to help raise money. He is now the Republican governor of Mississippi.

Any Democrat, or even the Green Party candidate if there was one, would have been preferable.

If any Democratic candidate shows up at an ANSWER fundraiser and I haven’t blogged it, do let me know.


UPDATE: The CCC took their photo of Haley Barbour off their front page. It was up last night when I posted the link. The photo was replaced with another of the Confederate flag.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:48 AM

Saddam's Fan Club

Australian Labor Party barrister Jim Nolan says Tariq Ali, whose nasty screed appeared two days ago in the Guardian, is an apologist for Saddam Hussein. And he’s right. I don’t say such things lightly, and neither, presumably, do Australian leftists.

It’s amazing that the Guardian would publish such a piece by such a person. Yet they did.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:47 AM

Hitch

In the above two posts I shot fish in a barrel. Sometimes it needs to be done. If you’re in the mood now for something with a little more tension and complexity, read Christopher Hitchens: Don’t give up on the war now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:45 AM

November 5, 2003

McGovern Versus Nixon

I’ve said before that I refuse to vote for Howard Dean if he wins the Democratic primary.

I take that back. It’s unlikely, but possible, that I’ll vote for him.

First let’s get a coupla things out of the way. Howard Dean is not a left-wing extremist. He’s a centrist who opposed regime-change in Iraq. As wrongheaded as I think that stance was, it’s in the past. As for the present and the future, he’s a staunch supporter of nation-building and Iraqi reconstruction. He doesn’t pal around with the Saudis. He approved of Israel’s strike against a terrorist camp in Syria.

Wesley Clark and John Kerry are incoherent and wobbly. But at least we know where Howard Dean stands. Whatever you want to say about him, he’s not a wishy washy waffler. Nor is he a peacenik.

I’ve compared Howard Dean in my head to George McGovern in his 1972 campaign against Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War. Anti-war fervor was then at the peak of its popularity. And McGovern still lost in a landslide. That doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping to carry his torch. But there are some things, still, that bear thinking about.

Last week Hugh Hewitt wrote:

the election of 2004 is shaping up as the clearest choice since 1972.
Matt Welch responded on Hit and Run:
I asked the non-Democrat readers of my personal Web site last year who they'd vote for in the '72 election, given everything we know now. To my lasting shock, Nixon trounced McGovern, 12 to 2, in the incredibly unscientific poll.
I was two years old back in 1972. But let’s pretend I was 30. Let’s assume that I could not see the future in ’72, that I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight.

I have little doubt I would have opposed the Vietnam War. I’ve spent my entire life against it retrospectively, or uncomfortable about it at best. So I probably would have voted for George McGovern.

Now. In hindsight I know the Vietnam pullout was a disaster. We lost credibility. The Soviet Union was emboldened. The Vietcong massacres were brutal. Vietnam is still a police state today. Many in the South wish we’d stayed on to fight. This is the cause of my sometimes-extreme discomfort. Hawks who say the anti-war crowd has blood on its hands for letting the Vietcong win have a point. It was a predictable consequence of evacuation. I hate that war. There are no easy answers, and no one is innocent.

If I could go back in time knowing then what I know now, I would still pull the lever for George McGovern.

Here’s why.

First, we left Vietnam either way. A vote for Nixon wouldn’t be a vote against running away. It would be a vote for delay.

McGovern would have pulled us out sooner. Fewer Vietnamese, perhaps, would have died. Certainly fewer Americans would have died. A vote for McGovern, knowing then what I know now, would be a vote to minimize loss.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

George McGovern would have gone back in to Southeast Asia. He was one of the few American senators who clamored for regime-change in Cambodia while Pol Pot massacred millions. He was definitely not a pacifist. He learned from Vietnam one of the same lessons I learned.

Here is Samantha Power in A Problem From Hell (Page 133):

McGovern argued that the United States should take the lead politically and militarily. To him Vietnam and Cambodia had little, apart from geography, in common. In Vietnam U.S. forces had squared off against an indigenous independence movement headed by a popularly backed leader, Ho Chi Minh. In Cambodia, by contrast, Pol Pot and a “handful of fanatics” were imposing their vision on millions of Cambodians. In light of Pol Pot’s “bloodthirsty” rule, his victimized populace could not possibly support him; indeed, McGovern believed the Cambodians would welcome rescue from the “murderous, slaughtering regime.”
A popular jungle insurgency is pretty tough to crack. It’s easy, if you’re strong, to knock down a hated regime. We couldn’t defeat Ho Chi Minh in a decade. But when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978, Pol Pot’s regime was demolished in less than two weeks.

George McGovern would have done that. He would have restored US credibility. He might have saved more lives than were lost in Vietnam. He would have made the Soviets tremble. He would have put an end to Communism in one Asian state. And he would have soothed the Vietnam Syndrome.

There was no way to know it at the time, but the best treatment for McGovernism would have been George McGovern.

And maybe, for the same reason, the answer to Howard Deanism is Dean.


Postscript: I realize this doesn’t address the substance of Howard Dean’s positions. The point is that you never know how a person will change in office and in time. And if Dean makes moves in the right direction he’ll have my attention.

Post-postscript: There is another reason, of course, not to support Richard Nixon. As Hunter S. Thompson said of him after he died, “By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States…Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:09 AM

November 3, 2003

Notes on the Resistance

David Brooks writes in the New York Times about the so-called Iraqi resistance:

Um Haydar was a 25-year-old Iraqi woman whose husband displeased Saddam Hussein's government. After he fled the country in 2000, some members of the Fedayeen Saddam grabbed her from her home and brought her out on the street. There, in front of her children and mother-in-law, two men grabbed her arms while another pulled her head back and beheaded her. Baath Party officials watched the murder, put her head in a plastic bag and took away her children.

Try to put yourself in the mind of the killer, or of the guy with the plastic bag. You are part of Saddam's vast apparatus of rape squads, torture teams and mass-grave fillers. Every time you walk down the street, people tremble in fear. Everything else in society is arbitrary, but you are absolute. When you kill, your craving for power and significance is sated. You are infused with the joy of domination.

These are the people we are still fighting in Iraq.

I have a question for those who think the Iraqi “resistance” is popular. Why would we create an armed Iraqi security force of 200,000 people if they hated us? Wouldn’t that be like arming the Vietcong? Do you really think we’re that stupid?

Meanwhile, Tariq Ali swoons over the Iraqi “resistance” in the Guardian.

Even the bien pensants who opposed the war but support the occupation and denounce the resistance know that without it they would have been confronted with a triumphalist chorus from the warmongers.
Well, it's a good thing for Tariq Ali that there's terrorism in Baghdad. Otherwise, gosh, he'd be embarrassed.
Iraqis have one thing of which they can be proud and of which British and US citizens should be envious: an opposition.
Oh yeah, nice one, Tariq. Wouldn't it be just peachy if we had an "opposition" that blew up hotels, police stations, and Red Cross centers with rockets and car bombs.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:39 PM

It Will Be About 9/11

Andrew Sullivan:

This presidential election will be the first since 9/11. It will be about 9/11.
Yep.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:37 PM

A Reply to Matthew Yglesias

Matt Yglesias hopes we liberal and ex-liberal hawks don’t defect from the Democratic Party.

Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror. Take another deep breath. Look at some photos of your liberal friends and family. Ask yourself: Do you really believe that they opposed the Iraq War because they wanted Saddam Hussein to stay in power; do you really think they don't care if your hometown gets destroyed by terrorists?
I think Matt confuses our position with that of Ann Coulter. Of course I don’t think my liberal friends and family don’t care if Portland gets destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Nor do I think any liberal opposed regime-change in Iraq because they have warm feelings for Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.

That said, opponents of the war (both left-wing and right-wing) did prefer a course of action that would have left Saddam in power. They did this despite the fact that they despised his regime. They didn’t like Saddam. (The ANSWER goons are another matter.) I know that. Every reasonable person knows that.

But they still would have left him in power. There is no getting around it. Anyone who opposed his removal supported leaving him in place. It doesn’t matter why they wanted to leave him alone or whether or not they thought a perfect planet should include him. What matters in the real world is that he would still be in power if the anti-warriors had their way. The refusal of war opponents to accept responsibility for the consequences of their position is the reason we hawks keep banging on about it.

I don’t need to look at photos of my anti-war friends to know they aren’t Baath Party supporters. The trouble is they are softer on fascism than I am. That’s where we differ. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them or don't understand where they’re coming from.

Try reading some actual policy statements put out by Democratic foreign-policy hands, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and members of the Armed Services Committee. Ask yourself: Do the views expressed therein really sound like the characterizations of them you've read on NRO and the hawk blogs?
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. It depends on the policy statement and it depends on the critic. And it cuts both ways. I also read the work of the Neoconservatives. Their views are also mischaracterized by their more strident opponents.
Look again in the mirror, focusing this time on your hairline and that little space next to your eyes that gets wrinkly when you squint. There's no easy way to say this, but . . . you're getting old. I am too. It's scary, it happens to us all. Ask yourself: Has the left really changed, or am I just that cliché guy who stopped really caring about the poor as I aged?
This has nothing to do with anything. Moving along now.
Take a look at the transcript of the latest White House press conference. Find some other examples where the president had to respond on-the-fly to questions. Ask yourself: Given the perilous international situation, am I really comfortable with the fact that a total moron is president of the United States.
I wouldn’t call the man a total moron, though I once did. Sure he makes embarassing gaffes in public. I have a whole 365-day calendar full of them, with a new one for each day. Still, calling him a total moron is a mistake, if for no other reason than that some of his critics are even bigger morons. (Note: I said “some.”) Besides, what will it say about the Democrats if they can’t beat a total moron in the election next year? Don’t underestimate your opponent.
Read this post again. Consider the condescending tone, the cheap psychoanalysis, the refusal to confront your actual arguments. Ask yourself: Isn't this exactly what I've been doing all this time?
Some people think my writing is condescending, others don’t. I suppose it depends on how far apart their views are from mine. I try to reserve my harshest rhetorical broadsides for people with extreme opinions, and I try to be polite to people with more moderate views whether I agree with them or not. I don’t think that’s a terrible standard to try to follow. I don’t want to drop the H-bomb on every person who doesn’t see the world my way, but nor do I wish to become David Broder. (No offense to Mr. Broder. We are just different people.)

Anyway, Matt, you know better than to say that every liberal hawk is a condescending psychoanalyzer. You are, or were, a liberal hawk yourself.

I haven’t yet decided if I will join the defectors or not. If I do, it will only be halfway. I have already decided to vote for a Democratic Congress next year. My presidential vote is undecided. It depends on the nominee.

If the Democrats lose my vote it will because of a disagreement about principle and policy, not because I think anti-war liberals are terror-supporting boogeymen. Matt, just remember the anti-war leftists at Harvard who gave you hell for supporting regime-change in Afghanistan. Remember how they sounded to you. That’s exactly how the Democratic Party sounds to me now. I may not stand with the Democrats for the same reason you didn’t stand with the leftists. You know how it is. So don’t pretend that you don’t.


UPDATE: Armed Liberal also has a response.

UPDATE: Liberal hawk Sean LaFreniere answers Matt, too.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:05 AM

America First?

Cara Remal compares today’s anti-war leftists to yesterday’s right-wing America Firsters, among others.

She includes some fascinating Dr. Seuss cartoons from World War II. One shows a woman reading a story to her children.

And the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones…But those were foreign children and it didn’t really matter.
Keith Berry was furious.

He thinks Cara is “rubbish,” and provides this obnoxious response:

[W]ho gives a fat rat's ass if the Iraqi people are sleeping better when compared to the deaths of nearly 400 American men and women?
I can’t think of the last time I read such a counterproductive rebuttal. Who gives a fat rat’s ass about the Iraqis? Well, I do. But to Keith Berry the dead children were foreign children, so they didn’t really matter.

Nice attitude, Keith. It is oh so liberal and inspiring.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:59 AM

November 1, 2003

I am Real

Some goofball in the comments section asked:

Michael J. Totten are you for real? This blog seems like a front.
For those amused or intrigued or made suspicious by the question, my real-world friend Patrick Lasswell, who also has a blog, has kindly vouched for my corporeal existence.

(But hey! Maybe Patrick isn't real either! How do we know?)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:45 PM