March 31, 2004

In the Shadow of Noam Chomsky

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:45 PM | Comments (99)

The Rise of the Suicide Bomber

The suicide-bombing death cult is a disease. And itís catching.

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

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

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

We shouldnít be too surprised to see the Palestinian hate machine being replicated and copied. Much of the world is fixated on the Middle Eastern drama of stateless Palestinians. The Chechens are mostly ignored. The dream of an independent Kurdistan is dismissed out of hand by nearly everyone but the Kurds themselves. Few outside hippie college towns give the proverbial ratís ass about a free Tibet. But the grievances, both real and imagined, of mass-murdering Palestinian death squads are the worldís cause du jour. Itís no wonder their tactics are spreading. The squeaky wheel gets greased.

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:21 AM | Comments (219)

March 30, 2004

New Column

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:28 AM | Comments (171)

Thought for the Day

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post:

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:29 AM | Comments (117)

March 29, 2004

Farce

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

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

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

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

Glenn adds:

As I've said before, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones before September 11Ö.
Yes. Thatís the spirit. Really, it is.

Look.

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

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

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

The farther we get from 911 the less people seem to care about terrorism and the more they like to use it as a stick to beat up the other guy. I canít see how this can possibly be good for the country. The transatlantic alliance is coming apart, and so is any shred of a bipartisan alliance here at home. It has become a partisan point-scoring farce.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:58 PM | Comments (170)

Frist Unfit

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

Frist accused Richard Clarke of committing perjury without evidence.

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

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

Maybe Clarke did perjure himself. I donít know. His testimony is classified. More important, Frist doesnít know either. He said himself that he doesnít know. Yet he stood there in the Senate chamber and called a man a criminal. As if it were a fact.

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

Richard Clarke annoys me as much as he annoys his next critic. But that doesnít mean itís open season on him and that anything goes.

I havenít seen the GOP attack machine in such an overdrive since the Clinton days. Iím used to seeing this kind of behavior lately from the Democrats. Now theyíre both at it. In full force. At the same time.

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:55 PM | Comments (237)

Real Terrorism in Uzbekistan

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

Here's how Reuters reported it.

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

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

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

Two paragraphs later, the same piece said this.

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:14 AM | Comments (306)

March 28, 2004

Why Clarke Annoys

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

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

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

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

"A hospital? What is it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 04:36 PM | Comments (272)

March 27, 2004

Frist Vs. Clarke

This Richard Clarke scandal is getting serious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think thatís an overstatement?

Hereís what Scott Spradling said to Howard Dean a few months back.

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

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

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

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

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:30 AM | Comments (246)

March 26, 2004

The Clarke "Scandal"

Iím behind the curve on this one, but I suppose I should weigh in on the Richard Clarke ďscandal.Ē

Clarkeís ability to undermine his own self with his own words is astonishing.

Iím sure heís telling the truth in there somewhere. I donít know when he is and when he isnít. At this point, none of his blatantly contradictory statements are even worth quoting. This has been covered nearly to death elsewhere. Those interested in the details can follow the link.

Matthew Yglesias doesnít think Clark has a credibility problem.

The "serious allegations" would turn on Clarke's credibility if and only if administration figures would explain in a clear manner which of the allegations are not true and what is untrue about them. They have not done so.
He has a point. Administration officials do need to counter any claims by Clarke that arenít true. Maybe they have and I missed it. Honestly, I donít really know, partly because this story bores me, and partly because I have neither the time nor the energy to parse a series of ďhe saidĒ and ďshe saidĒ counter allegations by bickering politicians.

Even so, Matt is only half right. Clarke is perfectly capable of creating a credibility problem all by himself. That is independent of the fact that the Bush Administration may also have its own credibility problems.

I could be wrong, obviously, but I have feeling this guy is as ephemeral as a moth. Heíll be a footnote in two weeks and his book will be consigned to the remainder bins.

Iím sorry if this is a flip and lazy response. It is. I know it is. But the man hasnít demonstrated heís worth my time. He seems to me an arrogant self-aggrandizing phony. He isnít even up to speed enough to know that his previous statements are all over the Internet, that those who are interested can compare and contrast what heís saying now with what he has said in the past.

If youíre interested in some truly devastating criticism of pre-911 government failure, read what Bob Kerrey, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska, had to say. Heís a man worth taking seriously. If I were Bush I would be very afraid of facing an opponent like him. He is relentless, and he is right.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:23 AM | Comments (279)

March 24, 2004

Fish in a Barrel

Noam Chomsky has a blog now. And it has a comments section. Go say hi. And be nice. I don't want to send him any trolls.


UPDATE: Chomsky's comments section is a nightmarish place swarming with freaks and trolls. It's worse than I expected. A lot worse. This is not going to be a pleasant experience for him unless he shuts down the comments.

And that's too bad. My own comments section is invaluable, and I'm more careful about what I say now that I've switched to Movable Type (which has comments built in) and you all can yell at me and tell me I'm full of it.

Good feedback and debate might have made Chomsky smarter and more reasonable. But no. It will never happen. He has too many passionate enemies. He has no choice but to continue to wall himself off from reality.


UPDATE: Chomsky's comments have been disabled. That became inevitable almost instantly.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 04:37 PM | Comments (304)

Breaking the Cycle

Israelis appease terrorists every time they agree to a prisoner swap.

It goes like this.

Israel captures terrorists. Terrorists kidnap Israelis. Terrorists demand the release of their captured comrades. Israel capitulates. Terrorists declare victory and repeat as needed. And so on and so on. Forever.

Once this cycle of appeasement starts, itís a bitch to get off. Israel hasnít managed it yet. They released yet more prisoners Ė 436 of them Ė not two months ago.

But they are learning to stop a different cycle of appeasement before it becomes too much of a pattern.

In the year 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon under fire from Hezbollah, they withdrew behind the border recognized by the United Nations. There, they said. Weíve done what you wanted. Now, stop shooting at us.

But the shooting didnít stop. Hezbollah celebrated the Israeli withdrawal as a tremendous victory for itself. Look at the Jew, they said. Weak and afraid. We are winning. So Hezbollah demanded Israel retreat even farther, deeper inside Israelís own territory, so that Hezbollah can pull an old-fashioned land-grab and seize Israeli territory for itself.

Hezbollah now fires artillery not at occupation soldiers, but at civilians on the other side of the border.

Israel has learned from that mistake.

Ariel Sharon announced a withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, as expected, declared victory. What a propaganda coup, even if itís bogus. Nothing Israel does encourages more terrorist recruits than convincing the average Palestinian that terror gets results.

So Israel zeroed in on the Hamas founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and blew him to pieces in broad daylight.

Israel followed up that bold strike with an announcement. The entire Hamas leadership is now targetted for annihilation. That threat is credible and puts Hamasís claim of victory in serious doubt. It changes the entire calculus of the Israeli withdrawal. Israelis are leaving Gaza because they feel like it, not because they are weak, scared, bullied, bloodied, or losing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:00 AM | Comments (236)

March 22, 2004

Pas Comme Les Autres

I don't have time to write much tonight. But I would like to point you to a guest piece by Gabriel Gonzalez at Winds of Change.

Gabriel is a frequent contributer to my comments section, so some of you will recognize his name. He lives in Paris and has a great deal to say about what's up with French foreign policy. Those who think France is an American ally, albeit a highly critical one, might want to take a fresh look from the inside.

(P.S. If you would like to comment, please read the linked piece first.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:53 PM | Comments (169)

March 21, 2004

Before the Second Storm

That was the original title to my new Tech Central Station column: Are the Jacksonians Sated?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:05 PM | Comments (162)

Got the Bastard

Today is a great day. The founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was blown to pieces by the Israelis in an airstrike.

The objective of Hamas, explicitly spelled out in its charter, is to conquer the state of Israel and turn it into a Taliban-style police state. Only the enemies of civilization will miss him.


UPDATE: Sigh. I know. I shouldn't make a big deal out of some random anonymous twit saying something dumb somewhere on the Internet. But this response by someone named "chimpymustgo" at Democratic Underground is really something.

I am disgusted by this reaction. How many innocents were killed?

What was this person proven guilty of?

Good God, folks - what have we come to?

Hey, at least he's arguing with DU posters who are glad the bastard is toast.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:18 PM | Comments (198)

Global Protest Photo Gallery

Hey, don't blame me for lumping together the Communists, Saddamite Fascists, American flag burners, anti-Semities, and peaceniks. I know they all have different ideas. But they all marched on the same day for (supposedly) the same "cause." And Yahoo grouped them together in the same "anti-war" slideshow.

If I were against the war, I wouldn't have a damn thing to do with these people. This seems to me a lot like marching against affirmative action with the Ku Klux Klan. But hey, I could be off here.

Maybe if John Kerry wins the presidency and gets the same treatment (as I suspect he would, at least from some quarters), my less hawkish friends will finally understand where I'm coming from. That would be a refreshing change.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:42 AM | Comments (348)

March 20, 2004

Ripples of Regime-Change

A bold anti-Baathist resistance in Syria is born. Here's a picture from Syrian Kurdistan. The man in the photo looks like he was (the deceased) Papa Assad. Boy Assad is surely not very happy about this.

And hey! These Kurds know who the real bad guys are. Way to go, Kurds. You're much smarter (and braver) than most activists these days.

(Hat tip: Andrew Apostolou.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:12 PM | Comments (277)

Name-Brand Socialism

Socialism is dead.

Really.

Oh, sure, its rotting corpse hasn't fallen over yet in Cuba. °Socialismo o muerte! is still Fidel Castro's bumper sticker after all these years. It's as old as the cars in Havana. Someone should tell Fidel: Socialismo es muerte.

Spaniards just elected a socialist prime minister. Except they didn't. So sayeth Chris Suellentrop in Slate.

[I]t says something about the state of small-"s" socialismóin addition to the state of the worldóthat conservatives are attacking Zapatero for his response to terrorism, not his attitude toward capitalism.

Granted, the war in Iraq and the war against al-Qaida are the whole reason the world has been watching Spain so closely for the past week. But there's another reason for the conservative silence about Zapatero's economics: The socialist debate over what to do about capitalismóand the proletariat, and the theory of surplus value, and the ownership of the means of productionóis largely over in Europe. If the old libel against American liberals is that they're socialists, the new European libel against socialists is that they're liberalsóclassical ones. Here are some of the economic promises on which Zapatero's Socialist Workers Party campaigned: lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30 percent, cutting income taxes, and reducing the value-added tax. Oh, and they're going to balance the budget and control inflation. The man expected to be the Socialist finance minister, Miguel Sebastian, is a U.S.-educated economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He's promising to put his faith in the Invisible Hand. "There will be a strict separation between politics and business," he told the Financial Times. "We will be a market-friendly government." These are socialists?

Nope. They aren't socialists. They just kept the brand name.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:44 AM | Comments (240)

March 18, 2004

More Trouble for Spain?

Spaniards may think they won a reprieve from terrorism, but Lee Smith argues in Slate that there may be more trouble ahead.

If the Spanish electorate believed that committing 1,300 troops to Iraq had needlessly exposed it to the jihadists' ire, it ought to reconsider the 6,000 Spanish forces stationed in Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish, whose new prime minister is fond of the word "occupation," say there's nothing unusual about having so many troops in Spanish cities. But these cities are not in Spain. Already some Islamist ideologues are beginning to group Ceuta and Melilla together with Palestine and Kashmir as Muslim lands to be liberated.
Ceuta and Melilla are considered by Spain to be a part of Spain. Where they arenít is in Europe. Those cities are in Africa. They are holdovers from Spanish colonialism and are surrounded by the Mediterranean and by Morocco.

Lee Smith doesnít say which Islamist ideologues are demanding the cities back. But since Osama bin Laden has already demanded the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, which is in Europe, it would be strange indeed if Ceuta and Melilla never become targets.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:28 PM | Comments (283)

March 17, 2004

Right-Wing Bigotry Alive and Kicking

I donít want anyone telling me this isnít bigotry:

DAYTON, Tenn. ó Rhea County commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

"We need to keep them out of here," said Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion.

County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked by Fugate to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County.

This is so blantantly unconstitutional it has almost no chance of ever taking effect. Itís indicative of a certain kind of mind-set, even so.

How, exactly, do these people expect to implement this law should it ever come to pass? Would there be a central database somewhere that keeps track of all the gay names? Would property be confiscated?

What, I might ask, would conservatives think if Berkeley tried to pull a stunt like this to keep Christians out?

This is worse, actually, than mere bigotry. This is the sort of religious control freakery I expect to see in Iran.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:47 PM | Comments (226)

Condolences to Scott Elliot

Blogger Scott Elliot, aka The Blogging Caesar, has been linked on this blog and has frequently contributed to my comments section.

Both of his parents were killed in Iraq two days ago. I am so sorry.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 03:09 PM | Comments (280)

March 16, 2004

The Price of Appeasement

Lee Harris suggests a thought experiment in Tech Central Station.

Suppose that last week's attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the United States. Suppose American jets had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist's attack. Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote.

Had the Spanish people docilely obeyed such a brutal command, and voted as the United States bid them vote, the world would be left in no doubt who really ruled Spain. The election would have clearly been understood as an act of collective capitulation and an abject abandonment of all claims to national sovereignty. Henceforth Spain, with good reason, would have been looked upon as a puppet state of the USA -- in the exact same way that Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague in 1967 proved to the world who really ruled the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia.

This is imperfect, of course. Al Qaeda did not issue a demand that Spain vote a certain way. Perhaps they didn't think they needed to.
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A document published months before national elections reveals al Qaeda planned to separate Spain from its allies by carrying out terror attacks.

A December posting on an Internet message board used by al Qaeda and its sympathizers and obtained by CNN, spells out a plan to topple the pro-U.S. government.

"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it," the al Qaeda document says.

"If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed -- and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto."

That prediction came to fruition in elections Sunday, with the Socialists unseating the Popular Party three days after near-simultaneous bombings of four trains killed 200 and shocked the nation.

(I'd like to add, as a post-script, that I do not agree with the conclusions drawn in Lee Harris's article. The man is often brilliant, but he's far too gloomy for me today. I still think the excerpted paragraphs are worth thinking about, however.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:39 PM | Comments (188)

Revolution Calling

You wonít see, read, or hear much about the violence sweeping through the streets of Iran in the mainstream media, but that doesnít mean it isnít happening.

The Corner and Project: Free Iran have the latest.

From The Corner:

I am listening to KRSI (Radio Sedaye Iran) right now. There are many Iranians calling (from Tehran, and Gorgan, etc.).

All reports indicate that almost every neighborhood in Tehran is on fire. People are throwing home-made bombs, Molotov cocktails, etc. into the homes of mullahs, and burning pictures of Khamenei in complete defiance of his recent edict to mourn during the month of Muharram.

From Project: Free Iran:
The Islamic republic regime's anti-riot units and plainclothes men have opened the charge, at this time 21:35 local time, against the demonstrators in southern Tehran, Esfahan's Tchahr Bagh and the city of Mashad by using knives, clubs and chains. Unconfirmed reports are stating about the use of plastic bullets in Esfahan and the Sadeghieh square of Tehran.

Several have been badly wounded during the attacks but fierce resistance is being made by thousands of young Iranians, male and female, who are opposing the attacks by the use of all available tools and especially Molotov cocktails which were made for such eventuality.

I donít expect the Iranian regime will fall tomorrow, though for two reasons I hope that it does.

First and most obviously, the regime deserves to be violently overthrown. It has no right to exist. And the people of Iran, like all humans everywhere, have the right to live in freedom and with dignity. The Middle East, and the world as a whole, will be far better off when the religious fascists are marginalized, exiled, caged, or dead.

The second reason I hope it falls tomorrow is that it would really show up the media. Holy shit! The Iranian government was overthrown? How the heck did that happen?

The fools are asleep at the wheel. They either have no idea what is happening in the world, or they donít care. Or maybe they donít think we care.

Yet we do.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:06 PM | Comments (68)

March 15, 2004

Yes, It Was Appeasement

It looks like terrorism works, at least in Spain.

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- The leader of Spain's victorious Socialists said Monday he will withdraw his nation's support for the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, restating a campaign promise a day after his party won elections overshadowed by terrorist bombings.

The fact that the Socialist party won Spainís election isnít appeasement per se. And it certainly wasnít a vote for Al Qaeda, as some have alleged in my comments section. The Socialists are not a pro-Osama party.

Besides, the fact that a peaceful transfer of power followed an election in a country that was recently ruled by General Francoís fascists is itself a rebuke to the totalitarian ideology of the killers.

What counts as appeasement is that the new Spanish prime minister vows to retreat from Iraq just days after the worst terror attack in Spainís history. The general consensus in Spain seems to be that by joining the coalition to oust Saddam Hussein they were drawn into a fight that wasnít theirs, that they made themselves a target when they should have stayed neutral. The bombs dropped in Iraq explode in Madrid sums up the thinking rather nicely.

Some people arenít happy with the ďappeasementĒ charge. Here is Randy Paul:

it is a special type of odious arrogance that will accuse an entire nation of being cowards simply from the comfort of your keyboard in San Diego because they decide to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, the same rights that you claim that we are fighting for in Iraq.
Spaniards arenít being called ďcowardsĒ for exercising their democratic rights, Randy. No one Iím aware of has said Spain canít vote for a left-wing party or that it doesnít have the right to pull its troops out of Iraq.

The voters of Spain have every right to do both. But that doesnít change the fact that what Spain has done is appeasement.

Letís look up appeasement in the dictionary so weíre all on the same page.

ap∑pease∑ment
n. The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.
Appeasement is not the same thing as treason or surrender. An appeaser recognizes that he has an enemy, or at least a potential enemy. In this case, Spain properly recognizes Al Qaeda as the enemy. The concession granted is the troop pullout from Iraq. The voters of Spain think this will take them off Al Qaedaís enemies list and that Spain will then be at peace.

Some have called this a surrender. It is not. For Spain to actually surrender to Al Qaeda they would have to evacuate Andalucia and give it back to the House of Islam.

The problem with appeasement is that, from the point of view of the enemy, itís not good enough. Al Qaeda wonít leave Spain alone unless Spain does surrender. Throwing the enemy a bone wonít cut it. Spain might get bumped down a notch on the target priority list, but that will not solve the problem.

Winston Churchill described the futility of appeasement best.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
The implication, of course, is that the appeaser still gets eaten.

For those who think pulling out of Iraq immediatly after a huge terror attack isnít appeasement, Iíll have to ask them what they think would qualify as appeasement (as opposed to surrender). If this doesnít qualify as a textbook case, what does?


UPDATE: Let me just add that I think calling Spain a nation of cowards is obnoxious. (I do agree with Randy Paul about that.) Appeasement is a mistake, and it's a mistake motivated by fear. It's also a mistake that the US made repeatedly in the 1990s. (See Somalia.) And we weren't a nation of cowards then.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:49 PM | Comments (418)

Home Again

I just got back from spending four days in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia. It's after midnight and I'm too tired and out of the news loop to write anything. Blogging will resume shortly.

I couldn't help but notice this, however. Maybe I'm woefully behind the news curve, but are people aware that the bombings in Madrid happened 911 days after September 11?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:11 AM | Comments (62)

March 11, 2004

Al Qaeda in Spain?

From Fox:

MADRID, Spain ó Al Qaeda has reportedly claimed responsibilty for a series of bombings Thursday that left at least 190 people dead and 1,240 wounded.

According to wire reports, Al-Quds Al-Arabi ó a London-based Arabic newspaper ó reported the terrorist organization said it was behind the the 10 bombs that rocked three Madrid train stations during the height of the morning rush hour.

Maybe they didn't actually do it and want to bask in the glory. But my gut tells me they did it. The Basque ETA has never been even remotely this bloodthirsty.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:50 PM | Comments (285)

Terror in Madrid

At least 180 people were killed in Madrid by ten or more bombs in commuter train stations. The Spanish government seems certain it was the Basque ETA, not Al Qaeda.

This is huge, by far the worst terror attack in Spain ever.

A few years ago two separate bombs exploded in Madrid the day after I left the city by train to Seville. I remember airport-style security checks in the train stations, and I also remember not worrying much about it. The ETA was far more like the IRA than Al Qaeda; small occasional bombs that seemed more like attention-getting devices that weapons of mass murder.

But it looks like 9/11 raised the stakes. Perhaps Al Qaeda made the ETA feel like pikers. To get the kind of attention they wanted they had to make themselves full-bore enemies of civilization like their Middle Eastern counterparts.

Bastards. They will never get their own state this way. But I can see why they might think it would work. Europe loves the Palestinians.

I, for one, wouldn't be a bit surprised if it was Palestinians or their friends who committed this act. It is right up their alley, and Europeans better think long and hard about where they stand.


UPDATE: When I wrote "Palestinians or their friends" it was a sloppy way of saying "Middle Eastern terrorists." I posted this first thing in the morning before I was fully awake.

SECOND UPDATE: CNN reports:

Spanish interior minister says new line of Madrid blast investigation opened after police find van with detonators and Arabic-language tapes. Details soon.
Someone in my comments section accused me of being an "Internet conspiracy theorist" for thinking Middle Eastern terrorists might have killed 200 people with bombs. Might want to rethink that. I don't know who did it, but it should be clear that it could go either way at this point. The Spanish police certainly think so.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:30 AM | Comments (307)

March 10, 2004

Is Smoking Rated R?

The AP reports the lastest front in the war against smoking.

LOS ANGELES ó If Nicolas Cage lights a cigarette in a movie, Hollywood's ratings board should respond as if he used a profanity, according to authors of a new study that criticizes glamorous images of smoking in movies rated for children under 17.

Ö

"No one is saying there should never be any smoking in the movies," Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said Tuesday at a press conference at Hollywood High School. "What we're simply asking for is that smoking be treated by Hollywood as seriously as it treats offensive language."

Some people think smoking is offensive, obviously. But is it really comparable to profanity?

What would the authors of this study rather have me do? Like up a smoke on a street corner? Or say eff you in front of their kids?

Since R-rated films typically earn less money because they are not open to most teenagers, Glantz said he hoped such a policy would discourage filmmakers from depicting unnecessary smoking, such as the nicotine-addicted worm aliens in ďMen in Black.Ē
This is just bullying and control freakery, a way to impose an agenda on artists by threatening to cost them millions of dollars if they donít comply.

Why stop with smoking? If weíre going to protect The Children from seeing bad adult habits on screen, we might as well restrict the number of Twinkies, french fries, and Froot Loops an actor or actress can eat in a movie.

Hereís another AP headline for you: Obesity May Pass Smoking As Top Killer

Maybe next the MPAA will slap an R rating on a movie if an actor or actress is fat.

In the meantime, I think kicking smokers out of every bar in New York and California ought to be enough micro-management for now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:04 AM | Comments (316)

March 09, 2004

From Iraq to Haiti

Those who care about both human rights and consensus in the international community owe it to themselves to read Carroll Andrew Morse's piece in Tech Central Station: The Bias Towards Brutality and Totalitarianism.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:53 PM | Comments (4)

March 08, 2004

Hacks

This is the dumbest criticism of John Kerry I have ever read.

Deborah Orin in the New York Post:

Democratic presidential nominee-to-be John Kerry called Yasser Arafat a "statesman" and a "role model" in a 1997 book that Kerry cites as proof of his own foresight about foreign policy.
So far, so good, right? Kerry admires Arafat. Thatís bad.

Keep reading.

Kerry expressed the opposite view eight days ago, when he told Jewish leaders in New York that he shares President Bush's belief that Arafat must be isolated because he's not a "partner for peace" - much less a statesman.
Okay, so Kerry is waffling again. But, hey, at least he learned something in the meantime, perhaps. Lots of people thought olí Yasser was worth something before the second intifada, and if Kerry wised up (as I did), good for him.
"Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encouraged and emboldened by Yasser Arafat's transformation from outlaw to statesman," Kerry wrote in "The New War," now out of print.

Kerry added that terrorists "whose only object is to disrupt society require no such 'role models [as Arafat].' "

Well, look at that! Kerry didnít say the Palestinian terror-master was a statesman or a role model. He criticized other people for saying so.

Deborah Orin canít read her own sentences. And neither can her editors.

Hacks.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:14 PM | Comments (140)

Free Advice

Pejman gives some advice to the Democrats and tells them how they could win. He's right, but they wonít listen or understand.

Maybe next time.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:11 PM | Comments (33)

March 07, 2004

New Column

I have a new Tech Central Station column up: Liberalism in the Balance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:11 PM | Comments (219)

March 05, 2004

Comeback for Baby Doc?

In my last Tech Central Station column I argued that Saddam Hussein should be executed because former dictators are potentially dangerous as long as they are alive.

This is what I'm talking about.

Baby Doc Duvalier wants to go home to Haiti. Nice timing on that one.

Duvalier said he wants to help Haiti in any way he can.

''This is my country. . . . I'm ready to put myself at the disposal of the Haitian people,'' he told Gillen, who also interviewed him in December 2002.

Duvalier called the recent events ''a dark chapter in Haiti's history'' and said he felt anguish and concern for his homeland.

''I'm shocked by the situation my country is in,'' he said.

Give me an effing break.

Duvalier claims there is no legal obstacle blocking his return, a wish he has been expressing since the late 1990s.
He's living as a free man in Paris. If the French government cares about Haiti, if they care about human rights and democracy at all, they will find a way to put that man in a cage.

(Via Randy Paul.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:40 AM | Comments (483)

March 04, 2004

Tom Cole: Right-wing Punk

This election is going to suck.

Republican Congressman Tom Cole claims a vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two.
There really isnít much to say about this except that Tom Cole appears to be the right-wing equivalent of an anarchist punk. For those who canít see whatís wrong with his statement, well, there isnít anything I can say to help.

He later said his quote was mischaracterized.

Who knows? He was bound to say so whether his quote was mischaracterized or not. And since his original words arenít published online, I canít check.

But he did say this. Quote.

If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election.
Osama bin Laden is not on any ballot.

Iíd say Osama, if in fact heís still breathing, would probably prefer a John Kerry victory. After all, the Bush Administration, as Christopher Hitchens put it, ďwakes up every morning wondering how to take the war to the enemy.Ē John Kerry sees this sort of thing as "the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in modern history.Ē So, yeah, Osama bin Laden might prefer a US president who is a little lessÖenthusiastic about taking the war to the enemy.

But boy oh boy is that a different statement from what Cole said. He said, in a roundabout way, that John Kerry is Osama bin Laden. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but Cole said this in a prepared speech. It wasn't an off-the-cuff slip-up.

He turned around and said Kerry is a ďpatriotic individual.Ē Well, thatís good. At least he knows the First Rule of Holes.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Robert Matsui responds:

Congressman Cole's comments are disgraceful and must be repudiated by Republican candidates from President Bush on down the ticketÖCongressman Cole should apologize to Senator Kerry and the millions of Americans whose patriotism he has impugned.
In a country where Ann Coulter sell millions of books peddling Coleís brand of shtick, Iíd say Mr. Matsui is right on the money.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:43 PM | Comments (145)

Hitch on Gay Marriage

Dennis Prager sees the fight for gay marriage as a war of "secular extremism" against Western Civilization, and he compares those of us who support gay rights to Al Qaeda. (Thanks, Dennis. You're a pal.)

Christopher Hitchens provides some perspective.

It demonstrates the spread of conservatism, not radicalism, among gays.

...

When I become bored or irritated by the gay marriage battle--and I do, I sometimes do--I like to picture the writhing faces and hoarse yells of the mullahs and the fanatics. Godless hedonistic America, not content with allowing divorce and pornography, has taken from us our holy Taliban and our upright Saddam. It sends Jews and unveiled female soldiers to our lands, and soon unnatural brotherhood will be in the armed forces of the infidels. And now the godless have an election where all they discuss is the weddings of men to men and women to women! And then I relax, and smile, and ask my [gay] neighbors over, to repay the many drinks and kind gestures that I owe them.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:33 AM | Comments (280)

March 02, 2004

Bush Vs. Kerry

So it looks like John Kerry is it.

And therefore Iím out.

I would have voted for John Edwards had the Democratic Party chosen him as the nominee. Heck, I would have voted a straight-Democratic ticket next year if thatís how it went down. But it didnít, and so I wonít. I canít.

Until further notice, this blog officially supports George W. Bush for president in 2004.

I will not be his cheerleader. Though I will defend him from scurrilous charges, I donít like the man, and I never have. I appreciate very much what he has accomplished in the realm of foreign policy, as anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows. And there is simply no way I can vote for his opponent who has spent the past year whining about every good thing we are doing and have done in the Middle East. This is by far the most important task now and ahead of us.

I am not about to join the right-wing bandwagon. I will support a Democratic Congress as I always have.

The Christian Right can take its hysterical reactionary agenda and stuff it. They are not my comrades, and they should not come looking to me for support. They will get none.

I cannot and will not be a team player for the Republican Party. None of the partisan ďresponsibilitiesĒ apply to me because I do not accept them. When I side with the liberals I am not a ďtraitor.Ē I could be plausibly accused of heresy for siding with conservatives as a Democrat. But thatís because I actually was a Democrat. I am neither a Republican nor a conservative. I will vote a split ticket this year because the way I see it, each party gets some things right. The inverse of that statement is obvious. Each party gets some things wrong.

I hope the Democrats spend the next several years, whether in the White House or out of it, getting themselves a serious foreign policy. Right now they donít have one. Some individual Democrats are exceptionally sharp on this subject. But the party as a whole is lost. It hasnít always been this way, and there is no reason to expect it to remain this way forever. I may very well support the Democratic candidate in 2008. It depends on who they nominate, and it depends on what happens between now and then.

Itís also entirely possible that John Kerry will win in November and I will come around to his side. He may win and govern well, and if he does, I will notice. Iíll be grateful and relieved.

Until then I oppose him, and I do it without malice. I donít hate the man, and I doubt I ever will. Hatred destroys people emotionally and intellectually. The pitched level of anti-Bush hatred is shocking to me, just as the fury from the right against President Clinton was shocking. The asinine bluster from political haters is surely the dumbest commentary on any subject Iíve ever heard and read from adults. Get a life, haters. This is just politics.

I am the same person I was when I wished Al Gore were president. And if I change my mind about Bush in the meantime, or if I warm to a President Kerry, Iíll be the same person then that I am today. Some people make the funniest judgements about others because of who they support as a president. Itís not until you change your mind about a president that you come to realize how petty that is.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:25 PM | Comments (393)

March 01, 2004

Using God as a Club (Update)

Behold the Drudge headline: KERRY NOT SURE GOD ON AMERICA'S SIDE

Perhaps John Kerry thinks God is on Osama bin Ladenís side. Letís see.

Democrat frontrunner John Kerry is not sure God is on America's side in the war terrorism. Kerry made the startling comments during Sunday's Democrat presidential debate in New York City.

Elizabeth Bumiller of the NEW YORK TIMES asked Kerry:

"President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He's made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America's side.

"Is God on America's side?"

KERRY: Well, God will -- look, I think -- I believe in God, but I don't believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is -- we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.

It is a pretty weak answer. Itís also a ridiculous question.

Jerry Falwell said God punished America for abortion, feminism, lesbianism, and paganism by unleashing the September 11 attacks. I think itís safe to assume John Kerry does not share Jerry Falwellís twisted view of the universe.

Kerry mangled his words, but itís clear what he meant. Bush brings God into the Terror War too often. I think Kerry is right. This isnít a war between Christianity and Islam. Itís a war between liberal secular civilization and totalitarian religious fascism.

So letís not pretend to be ďstartled,Ē as Matt Drudge does, because Kerry wants to keep the spirit of the Crusades out of our language.


UPDATE: I'd like to add an afterthought that occurred to me from the discussion in the comments. Israel and India are fighting the same enemy for the same reason. And neither country is Christian.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan highlights a nasty screed by Dennis Prager:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war - a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

Ugh.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:37 PM | Comments (225)