August 31, 2005

What Happens When a City Dies?

It's hard to write a powerful personal essay about the localized apocalypse in New Orleans without having personally experienced it, but Karrie Higgins pulled it off.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 06:52 PM | Comments (35)

Unbearable Flatness

I live only an hour or so from the Pacific Ocean, but a mountain range stands between me and it. Storm surges and tsunamis aren't an issue at all. Some Oregon coastal towns are built right next to water, but many are built on top of large or small cliffs.

It's not like that at all on the Gulf Coast. Here is Marc Cooper, who was down there recently.
Just a few months ago I spent five days in Biloxi and Gulfport. As I drove the coastal highway I was jarred by the flatness of it all.

Here in Southern California the Pacific Coast Highway is almost always elevated from from the beach. Much of the coast is lined with sloping rises and even palisades that offer at least the illusion of protection.

But as I drove up and down that Mississippi strip of road the flat, gulf waters on one side of the car looked to be absolutely level with the city on the other. Only a small sliver of beach stood in between. I wondered what could keep an elevated tide from simply flooding everything and everyone in its path.

The answer, apparently, was nothing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:51 PM | Comments (15)

August 30, 2005

American Refugee

Bill (Pundit Guy) points to a blog by a woman named Laurel who started her site just two days ago. It is called, simply, Hurricane Katrina Refugee. Hopefully she can shut it down soon.

Our road trip was eerie. When we pulled away from the house, I really thought we'd be back in a couple of days. As we pulled out of our neighborhood subdivision onto the main road, there were cars backed up for over a mile waiting to get onto Interstate-10. We would have been there for over an hour. We definitely wanted to put some distance between us and the approaching storm quickly, so we took some back roads for about 8 miles and got on the interstate at the next exit.

Traffic was not to bad at first, but it slowed down to 15 mph on and off for the first 3 hours. The strangest part was seeing the "contraflow" in action. Both sides of the interstate were leading outbound. Watching cars all going the same direction on both sides of the interstate was like watching some Hollywood disaster movie, only worse, because I was in it.

That's when I really lost it. Tears started flowing silently down my face and it all became so real. This time those hyper media fanatics really meant what they said.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:56 PM | Comments (44)

Lake New Orleans

God, it just keeps getting worse. Downtown New Orleans is flooded, houses are breaking off their foundations and floating away, and some neighborhoods are completely underwater. The governor just ordered everyone - including those in the Superdome - to evacuate.




The WWL TV station is live-blogging updates as they come in. Keep checking that link because more are added every couple of minutes. Below are some of today’s highlights.
10:15 A.M. A spokeswoman describes Jefferson Parish as a "very dangerous" place. Jackie Bauer says there's gas leaks everywhere, water needs to be boiled, there's no commercial power, no pumping stations and the water's toxic.

And there's still some deep water in some neighborhoods. Bauer says there are other dangers -- snakes in the water, other vermin, loose dogs and cats everywhere. She says -- quoting now -- "We kind of have to fight for survival with them."

10:35 A.M. Governor Blanco - "Worse than our worst fears."

11:13 A.M. - Plaquemines Parish...if you are found on the street...will be arrested. Marshall law in effect.

11:35 A.M. - (AP) Downtown streets that were relatively clear in the hours after the storm were filled with 1 to 1 1/2 feet of water Tuesday morning. Water was knee-deep around the Superdome. Canal Street was literally a canal. Water lapped at the edge of the French Quarter. Clumps of red ants floated in the gasoline-fouled waters downtown.

11:43 A.M. - Councilman Byron Lee of Jefferson Parish, "This is not life as it used to be. It's like a war zone."

12:41 P.M. - Rescue efforts a priority. Clearing infrastructure to hospitals. Most streets blocked by pine trees. Slidell - A Hampton Inn on Old Spanish Trail with 20 feet. Fifteen feet of water downtown.

1:30 P.M. - --The American Red Cross says it has thousands of volunteers mobilized for the hurricane. Spokesman Bradley Hague said it's the "largest single mobilization that we've done for any single natural disaster." The organization has set up operational headquarters in Baton Rouge.

2:00 P.M. - Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi says "this is going to be the most expensive natural disaster that's hit the United States in history."

2:42 P.M. (AP) -- The question is not whether Congress will pass legislation to speed disaster relief to communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but how soon and how much. The answers: real soon and a lot.

3:12 P.M. - Senator Landrieu - Scenes are similar to what she saw after the Tsunami.

3:43 P.M. - Senator Vitter: New Orleans will "absolutely" be rebuilt.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:02 PM | Comments (49)

August 29, 2005

What Katrina Wrought

Thank God New Orleans is still standing. The city is in absolutely horrid shape, probably the worst in its history. But it’s there. I was stunned numb when I heard meteorologists say there was a chance it could be destroyed. Cities aren’t supposed to be destroyed anymore. What is this, the Middle Ages?

There is no city in America I want to visit more than I want to visit New Orleans. I’ve been talking about how I need to go there for years, but I keep putting it off for no particular reason. It never would have occurred to me that I need to see that city (or any other city) before it gets wiped off the map. That’s supposed to be the stuff of bad Hollywood movies, not the Weather Channel.

Looks like it could be quite a while before I get down there. And it looks like some people can never go home there again.







UPDATE: It ain't over yet. Lake Pontchartrain is now spilling into New Orleans through a huge breach in the levee.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:13 PM | Comments (33)

August 28, 2005

The Storm From Hell

Category Five Hurricane Katrina will most likely slam into New Orleans before I wake up Monday morning.


This three year-old article highlighted by Glenn Reynolds does not make for encouraging reading.

And there's another reason why scientists worry more about hurricanes every single year. There's always been a huge natural buffer that helps protect New Orleans from storms. There are miles of wetlands between here and the Gulf of Mexico: they slow hurricanes down as they blow in from the sea. But that buffer is disappearing. Every year, a chunk of wetlands the size of Manhattan crumbles and turns into open water.

Joe Suhayda explains, "So the hurricane can move closer to the city before it starts to decrease. So in effect, the city is moving closer to the Gulf as each year goes by."

And he says, it's partly because of those levees along the Mississippi River. When they stopped the river from flooding, they also prevented the wetlands from getting the regular doses of floodwater and mud that they need to survive. Studies show that if the wetlands keep vanishing over the next few decades, then you won't need a giant storm to devastate New Orleans — a much weaker, more common kind of hurricane could destroy the city too.
Here’s another worrisome article that is also almost three years old - therefore it is not part of any Katrina-related hype.
Why is New Orleans so vulnerable? Try these three main reasons:
  • Sandwiched between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, most of the city lies below sea level. A flood that gushes over shielding levees (earthen walls built in the late 1800s to protect against river overflow) would submerge New Orleans underwater.
  • Marshes, fresh and saltwater swamps of mud and diverse plant life, divide New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico. They once acted as barriers from storm surges--high water accompanying storms. Now marshes are quickly eroding, or wearing away. This is partly because levees block and reroute the Mississippi's periodic flooding cycles, which spread mud and sediment (rock particles) that shore up marshes. In some places, the gulf has receded 32 to 48 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) closer to New Orleans.
  • The number and intensity of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes tend to increase in cycles every few decades, experts say. "We've just entered a more active phase," says Willoughby (see "How Hurricanes Form," p. 24).
I heard broadcasters on the radio this evening say that tens of thousands could die, that New Orleans skyscrapers could topple, that much of the city could be completely destroyed and lost forever. God I hope they’re wrong.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:21 PM | Comments (19)

An American in Iraq

Kerry Dupont is travel blogging in Iraq. She has guts. Go read.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:38 AM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2005

No Mourning for Greater Israel

I briefly felt sympathy for the Israeli settlers forced to evacuate Gaza and some of the northern West Bank settlements. But it didn’t last long. They should never, ever, have moved there in the first place. Anyone with sense should have known the Palestinians who lived there already would need to be made citizens of equal standing in a new larger Israel if Israelis would not eventually withdraw from the territories acquired in the war of ’67.

The Greater Israel movement in no way excuses the Greater Palestine movement to abolish the state of Israel “from the river to the sea.” Likewise, the Greater Palestine movement can not excuse Greater Israel. I am not playing a moral equivalency game here. Far better to build a house where it does not belong than blow up a cafe or a bus. But it is not necessary for the Israeli settler movement to be as morally bad as Hamas or Islamic Jihad for the movement to still be morally bad.

In a perfect world, both “greater” movement would be defeated simultaneously. But the world is far from perfect, as it always has been, and Palestinian society is more dysfunctional and corrupt than Israeli society. So the Greater Israel movement is being defeated before the Greater Palestine movement, if only because the intifada has been largely walled off from Israel proper. (Critics of Israel’s security fence should acknowledge that it is the very thing that makes Israeli withdrawal even possible.)

Leon Weiseltier in the New Republic says those who support Israel’s right to exist and it’s right to defend itself should not shed any tears.
Even faced with the idea of Greater Palestine, it is impossible not to rejoice in the defeat of the idea of Greater Israel. It was always a foul idea, morally and strategically. It promoted the immediate ecstasy of the few above the eventual safety of the many; it introduced the toxins of messianism and mysticism into the politics of a great modern democracy; it preferred chosenness to human rights; it subordinated laws to visions, and the Jewish state to the Jewish millennium; it worshiped soil in a primitive, almost un-Jewish way. The settlers of the West Bank and Gaza are not a Jewish vanguard, they are a Jewish sect; and in their insistence that the destiny of their state and their society should be held hostage to the fulfillment of their metaphysical and historical conceptions, they have always displayed a sectarian self-love.

In the settlement of Netzarim earlier this year, the settlers published a book whose title might be translated as Super-Natural Living: Tales of Life in Gush Katif, a collection of testimonies about the idyll of Jewish existence in Gaza. It is chilling to read, because of its unreality. "The Arabs say to each other, and to their Jewish neighbors, that until the Jews arrived to settle in this region, there was almost no rain. It was impossible to grow anything in the sands. But since we returned here, the rains have started to fall, and the land generously produces its bounty. ... This is without a doubt the fulfillment of the prophecy [in Ezekiel] about the redemption of Israel: 'But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people of Israel.'" There are no mountains in Gaza, but never mind. The settlers in Gaza created a magical world for themselves, an introverted universe of endless miracles. They were indifferent to, or contemptuous of, the decidedly unmagical and unmiraculous effects of their enterprise in the bitter world beyond.

For this reason, when I behold the photographs of the settlers in Gaza uprooted by Israeli soldiers, empathy almost completely deserts me. I seem to have a heart of stone, and I am not entirely embarrassed by it. More precisely, I regard the eviction of the settlers as the appropriate reward for their own hearts of stone. For many other Jews gave their lives and their limbs so that these Jews could grow their holy tomatoes and study their holy texts in this desert. In order to satisfy their individual and collective aspirations, the Israeli civilians who lived in Gaza required the sacrifice of Israeli soldiers in Gaza. In the years of Jewish settlement in Gaza, 230 Israelis were killed there. A substantial number of them were soldiers. Why is the life of a Jew in a uniform worth less than the life of a Jew in a greenhouse? That is stone-heartedness. And yet one hears mainly about the sacrifices of the settlers. Surely the same stirring revival of Zionist agronomy could have been accomplished in the equally arid zones a few miles to the north or the east, in a place called Israel…

These settlers were not pioneers, they were pawns--the eager and fervid pawns of various Israeli governments acting on a grandiose geopolitical scheme whose futility has finally become apparent to a majority of the citizens of Israel. For a few decades the settlers seemed to be winning, and now, at least in Gaza, they have lost. That is all. It is a tragedy for their movement, but it is not a tragedy for their nation. "As Israel prepares to withdraw from Gaza," wrote a prominent rabbi in New York, "it is not only natural but also proper that we experience a keen sense of mourning over our loss." But the disengagement from Gaza is not our loss. If our interest is in the delineation of defensible borders for Israel, it is our gain. The withdrawal is an act of historical wisdom. I will not squander my powers of sorrow over these dangerous and delirious places. In the years in which 230 Israelis were killed in Gaza, moreover, 2,600 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Many of those deaths are plainly attributable to internecine Palestine violence, and more generally to the virulently rejectionist character of Palestinian nationalism; but Palestinian costs are human costs, too. Empathy is not a tribal faculty, it is a universal faculty, and such universalism is also a teaching of the Jewish tradition. The suffering in Gaza has been everywhere too great.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:16 PM | Comments (63)

August 25, 2005

Swapping Bullets for Ballots

Iraq’s draft constitution is absurdly contradictory. Just look at the following two sentences which appear right next to each other.

a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

Now, surely there are individual laws which contradict neither. But there is also no shortage of laws in the 21st century which are bound to contradict one or the other.

I suppose this sort of deadlock is a small-government libertarian’s dream scenario. And whatever the drawbacks of small-government libertarianism, it’s obviously preferable to Saddam Hussein’s full-bore totalitarianism.

In the real world, though, Iraq isn’t at all likely to become a libertarian’s paradise now or ever. Liberal secular democrats and conservative Islamists will just have to learn to accommodate each other within this legal framework if the Iraqi state is going to do anything but melt down or fly apart into pieces. Neither secularism nor Islamism at gun point are workable, acceptable, or defensible in the long run. So while most Westerners (not to mention many Iraqis) are unhappy with the Islamist line in Iraq’s constitution, it’s most likely an inevitable part of any workable package.

Anne-Marie Slaughter put it this way at TPM Café.
I never thought I would take this position, particularly given what could be at stake for the women of Iraq, but I’m going to come down on the getting it done side. Let’s just remember, the compromises that our founding fathers made to get to a constitution – mediating between slave states and free states – included one that left slavery intact and defined each slave as worth only 3/5 of a person. Fred Kaplan has pointed to the many differences between the 18th century U.S. process and the 21st century Iraqi process, but a stark similarity remains: by agreeing on a set of principles as the ground rules for a national political process you give everyone involved a stake in trying to advance their interests through that process rather than through violence or secession. That is precisely what ordinary Iraqis, of any religion or tribe, have not had. And the sudden claim of the insurgents that the "jihad of word" is akin to "jihad by sword" and thus that their supporters should vote in the October referendum means that they are beginning to recognize that there is another field to play on that they cannot afford ignore.

She’s right. Islamists do not need to be defeated utterly. They need to be brought into a democratic mainstream. They’re not our cup of tea, so to speak, and they never will be. But if they can be persuaded to swap bullets for ballots everyone wins.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 03:10 PM | Comments (41)

August 24, 2005

Why Israel Has to Leave Now or Later

Pat Robertson proves himself a foreign policy dumbass twice in one week. First he pops off about assassinating Hugo Chavez. Now he rails against Israelis for doing what must, at some point, be done.

Pat Robertson, one of the leading television evangelists in the US, has sharply criticized the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and said God will judge those who leave parts of the land of Israel.

Speaking on his daily TV show aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said "the almighty God said he was going to judge the nation which has parted from his land and that he was going to bring judgment upon that nation."

Robertson's comments on the Gaza withdrawal were quoted on the Christian Coalition of America Web site.

Robertson has been a long supporter of the settlement movement and a strong opponent of the disengagement plan. As many other evangelical leaders in the US, Robertson believes that the historic land of Israel should be under Jewish rule.
Israel has four options.

1) Rule the West Bank and Gaza forever while denying Palestinians citizenship and equal rights. Basically, this is the South African apartheid model. The fact that Israel acquired those lands in self-defense in 1967 doesn't change that.
2) Grant citizenship and equal rights to Palestinians. This would make Jews an ethnic minority in Israel only a few years from now. They'll never do it.
3) Forcibly relocate (in other words, ethnically cleanse) Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza.
4) Withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza.

A debate over when Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza is an argument worth having. Perhaps it’s best that Sharon is pulling out of Gaza now. Maybe it would be better if he waited. We won’t really know for certain until we can look back in hindsight and see what happens next.

But if “Israel should be under Jewish rule” forever, as Pat Robertson claims, that means Israel has to choose one of the first three options. None are even remotely viable. Jewish morality and experience rightly forbids options one and three. Hardly anyone on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side has any desire to see option two implemented. That leaves only option four. The West Bank and Gaza will not, cannot, remain under Jewish rule. Israelis leave now or later because they have no other choice.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:48 PM | Comments (73)

Saudi to Open for Tourism

Saudi Arabia has finally decided to let infidel tourists into the country. The Religious Policeman (a Saudi blogger living in Britain) “interviews” the tourism minister. (Hat tip: Callimachus)

RP: So anyone can fly into Riyadh or Jeddah and just pick up a visa at the airport?

M: Men can, certainly, and married couples, as long as they can prove they’re married, so they’ll need to bring a Marriage Certificate, four copies translated into Arabic and certified by a lawyer. Not a Jewish lawyer, naturally. Women, on the other hand, will need to be sponsored by someone inside Saudi Arabia.

RP: But suppose they don’t know anyone in the country?

M: Well, we can’t help them there, can we? We’re not a Dating Agency.

RP: And what about couples who aren’t married, or gay couples?

M: Well as you know, we behead homosexuals, and stone adulterous or loose women to death, so it’s probably best if we don’t let them in in the first place, otherwise there’ll be no end of paperwork.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:11 PM | Comments (6)

August 23, 2005

British Muslims Say Good Riddance to Bakri

Several hundred British Muslims tell the hatemongering cleric Omar Bakri (who recently fled accusations of treason) to stay the hell out of Britain forever.

To Omar Bakri Mohammad,

We, British Muslims, urge you not to return to the United Kingdom.

You have caused enough trouble already. Your statements, pronouncements and fatwas are neither supported nor looked kindly upon - except by the British media which seems to have a strange love-affair with you.

You have single-handedly sought to destroy good community relations and have been an obstacle to the progress of British Muslims in becoming integral citizens who live, as stated in the shariah, according to the law of this land.

Our varied vision of Islam in Britain does not include yours. We emphasise mercy, tolerance and diversity while you emphasise hate, violence, hypocrisy and separation from others. If the United Kingdom is as bad as you teach your minions, then you have no reason to live here.

You are a poor example of the Prophetic message (peace and blessings be upon him) and for that alone you should stay out of this country and our lives forever.


The Undersigned
Meanwhile, a paranoid anti-Semitic nutjob who calls Osama bin Laden a “freedom fighter” has been chosen for a Home Office task force to tackle Islamist extremism in Britain. Something tells me (see above) the Home Office can do much better than this.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:26 PM | Comments (22)

August 22, 2005

Draft of Iraq’s Constitution is Islamist (Updated)

The current draft of Iraq’s constitution doesn’t look good.

The draft also made Islam "a main source" of law in what seemed a compromise between Islamist Shi'ites and secular Kurds.

Secular Kurdish delegates had complained Khalilzad had made concessions to Shi'ite Islamists in allowing for a greater role for Islam in Iraqi law. The text said laws must not be contrary to the "fixed principles of the rules of Islam."

There is no silver lining here, no “bright side” to look on. It’s bad news, period. At least it’s a draft. Iraqis have yet to accept or reject it. (Some Sunni Arabs are also threatening a general uprising over the issue of federalism, so it doesn’t look like the draft of this constitution is going anywhere just yet.)

Here’s the thing about Islamism: to some people it looks great on paper. It’s a real bitch when it’s put into practice. Just ask the Iranians. They know from experience what it’s actually like. The problem in Iran is that Iranians learned this the hard way too late. The Guardian Council holds all the real power. Liberals and moderates are shut out completely and violently.

Iraqis very well may go down the same Islamist road. They might have to learn the hard way what most Iranians already know. What may save them is a mechanism in the Iraqi political system -- free elections outside the control of a self-appointed mullahcracy -- that allows them to throw the Islamists out in future elections.

If the current draft of the constitution passes, it won’t make later reform impossible (constitutions can be amended), but it will make later reform a heck of a lot more difficult and contentious.

U.S. diplomats foolishly conceded ground to the Islamists in order to get a constitution draft out “on time.” Now they need to engage in some damage control and make damn sure Iraqis, unlike Iranians, get a built-in escape hatch.

UPDATE: The line about Islam being “a main source for legislation” in Iraq’s constitution looks better in context than it does all by itself. Below is that context. You can read the entire text of the constitution draft at Newsday.
The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

  • a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.
  • b. No law may contradict democratic standards.
  • c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.
2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.
Taken as a whole the constitution looks pretty good. Here are some other sections that stand out.
The State guarantees:

1. Freedom of expression by all means.

2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.

Article 37

Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.


Oil and gas are the property of all the Iraqi people in regions and provinces.


This constitution guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of different ethnic groups such as Turkomen, Chaldean, Assyrians and other groups.


No less than 25 percent of Council of Deputies seats go to women.


1. Any organization that follow a racist, terrorist, extremist, sectarian-cleaning ideology or circulates or justifies such beliefs is banned, especially Saddam's Baath Party in Iraq and its symbols under any name. And this should not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq.

2. The government is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms, and works to protect Iraqi soil from being a center or passage for terrorist activities.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 PM | Comments (54)

The Bosnia of Our Time

I argue in my new Tech Central Station column that Darfur in Sudan is the Bosnia of our time. Hardly anyone wants to talk or think about this - including me, which is why I haven't said much about it until now. It's inescapable, though, so there it is.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:36 AM | Comments (66)

August 21, 2005


Callimachus comes up with a geographic political metaphor over at Donklephant.

[T]he nation as a whole has drifted right. So [the] old center-right is now more like center-center. Maybe we’re working on a continental drift metaphor here. As the country drifts right, the “anchored” left stays put, and cracks off from the center left. A gap opens and the disconnected fringe becomes an island adrift, a Madagascar, where natural traits exaggerate and exotic species evolve.
I don’t think the country has moved to the right so much as the country has moved on. The world has changed since 1968. People who haven’t changed in the meantime aren’t stranded on the left so much as they are stranded in time.

History always moves on. The country moves left at the same time it moves right. Some conservatives are breaking off from the center-right over Israel/Palestine and are lashing out as we speak.

Our Administration has jumped off the deep end and needs to be kicked out at our earliest opportunity:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that Israel will be expected to carry out further withdrawals that would ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state, Israeli sources reported. Rice said that she feels for those settlers being evacuated, but "It cannot be Gaza only."

And to think that we once thought highly of Mrs. Rice. Well, no longer...

Thank you for allowing me to leave the Republican party for good and not feel in the least bit bad about it. The only thing I DO feel bad about is the time and expense I've put into stumping for you in the past. No more. You're dead to me from now on.

I don't consort with swine.
I suppose you could say that crowd is drifting even further to the right. But I think they'd deny it, and I think they'd be right. The country has - correctly, in my opinion - quietly moved to the left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's because the intifada is no longer what it recently was. It has been beaten back, and history is moving on without some people.

UPDATE: Asher Abrams found a more apt comparison than I did, and he found it in Israel.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:32 AM | Comments (80)

August 20, 2005

Careful What You Wish For

It’s hardly worth arguing with a person who bandies about the term “chickenhawk.” I would like to know, though, how many of those people supported the invasion of Afghanistan from the sidelines. My guess is most of them did – so they’re “chickenhawks,” too. If they aren’t chickenhawks then they’re hopelessly pacifist and out of step with at least 90 percent of Americans.

Anyway, they have something in common with Cindy Sheehan’s booster club. (In large part that’s because they tend to be the same people.) Apparently it hasn’t occurred to them that the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy would produce a freakish result that’s way too right-wing for even the most hard-line American right-wingers. Hitchens explains:
What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory.

UPDATE: There's an argument in the comments about whether the "chickenhawk" brigade and their fellow travelers really want to install a veteran's foreign policy junta. Of course they do not. And that's the point. It behooves them to stop arguing as though they did.

They apparently don't see the logic. But I'll bet if right-wing warmongers said civilians ought to stay out of foreign policy arguments because they lacked courage and moral authority, the logical end-point of that position would be a little more clear.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:04 PM | Comments (145)

August 19, 2005

A Nice Story for a Change

I’ve been to the Middle East three times in the past year, if you count Arab North Africa as a cultural extention of the Middle East. (I do.) Whenever I say I’m heading out, almost everyone I know is startled at what they apparently think is my recklessness, as if the region is a seething cauldron of hatred and violence that never stops. It isn’t. It looks that way from where we sit because of the “If it bleeds, it leads” newsroom mentality. “Arab Shopkeeper was Kind to Stranger Today” is not a headline you will ever read. Of course it’s possible that I’ll be screamed at or shot at in the Middle East at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t expect it will.

I’m not at all surprised by what is described in the following article in the Chicago Sun-Times. But it is an unusual and pleasant departure from the usual roundup of explosions and bloodcurdling fanatical bombast.
Dr. Maher Deeb remembers the first time he saw Skokie native Shayna Gould: It was in his operating room 3-1/2 years ago in Israel. And Gould was dead.

A Palestinian gunman had sprayed a crowded Jerusalem bus stop with bullets, and one found its way into Gould's lung. By the time the raven-haired 19-year-old made it to Deeb's hospital, she was deemed dead on arrival, with no pulse and barely any blood circulating in her bullet-torn body.

A team made up largely of Israeli-Arab doctors and nurses raced to bring the Jewish teen back to life. They infused her with blood, while Deeb opened her chest and pumped her heart with his hands.

"The anesthesiologist said, 'Just keep working on her. She's a beautiful girl, and you're going to attend her wedding one day,' " recalled Deeb, chief of thoracic surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Deeb kept working, and Gould was able to thank him in Chicago on Thursday, when they reunited for the first time since Gould left Israel after the 2002 attack.

When Gould walked into the Chicago hotel room and flashed him a smile flanked by deep dimples, Deeb beamed like a proud father.

"Just look at her," Deeb said quietly, as the two reached out to hug…

Deeb and Gould acknowledged that while tensions can run high among Arabs and Jews in Israel, political differences are left at the door of Shaare Zedek hospital.

"In my operating room, there are just two types of people," Deeb said. "Those who save people's lives and those who need saving.

"We have Jewish doctors treating Arab patients all the time," he added. "We might have different political views, but most of us -- Jews, Arabs -- we have the same dream: a peaceful settlement."
UPDATE: Marc C adds in the comments:
There's a lot of examples of Jewish/Arab and even Jewish/Palestinian cooperation that simply never get reported. There's another hospital here called Schneider Children's Hospital that is particularly active in reaching out to Palestinians and providing treatment not available in the occupied territories. Recently, some church group came to Israel on a fact-finding mission, all set to do a hatchet job on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. After visiting Schneider's, the head of the group said: "Well, you've succeeded in thoroughly confusing us." More people should experience the same confusion.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:48 AM | Comments (26)

August 18, 2005

The Left's Terri Schiavo

My views on Cindy Sheehan are posted over at Donklephant.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:43 AM | Comments (48)

August 17, 2005

300 Bombs Explode in Bangladesh

Islamist terrorists prove once and for all that they are not primarily motivated by legitimate grievances against "Western imperialism" or any other such nonsense. It takes nothing, nothing at all, to whip these bastards into murderous rage against even their own fellow Muslims.

At least two people have been killed and 50 others injured in a series of small bomb blasts across Bangladesh.

Officials say more than 300 explosions took place simultaneously in 50 cities and towns across the country including the capital Dhaka.

An outlawed Islamic group, Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, says it carried out the attacks.

Police say that more than 50 people have been arrested in connection with the blasts.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia condemned the attacks as "cowardly".

"The attackers are enemies of the country, people, peace, humanity and democracy," she said.
I'm sorry to say I told you so, but I told you so.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:39 AM | Comments (177)

August 16, 2005

Power and the Idealists

Paul Berman’s new book Power and the Idealists will be published this Fall.

power and the idealists.jpg

I can’t vouch for this book because I haven’t read it. But I can certainly vouch for his last book Terror and Liberalism. It is by far the best I’ve read yet about the Terror War. (It was Berman, I think, who coined the phrase “Terror War,” which I have stolen from him and used myself ever since. It’s at least a minor improvement on “War Against Terrorism.”)

Here’s the description of his new book from
In January 2001, a scandal erupted when a series of photos from 1968 emerged showing German foreign minister Joschka Fischer and a group of leftist street toughs assaulting a cop. Paul Berman, one of the leading essayists and intellectual historians of the New Left, uses this event as a springboard to reflect on a crucial question for Western democracies today: was the violence-tinged radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s a force for social good or for social ill? This wide-ranging history of anti-totalitarianism explores the Left’s response to human rights abuses around the world, tracing the intellectual evolution of figures as various as Polish dissident Adam Michnik and Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) to argue that liberals willing to use power to protect human rights are the true heirs of the radical sixties, and that the Islamic totalitarian impulse he identified in the New York Times bestseller Terror and Liberalism must be opposed with vigor.
If you haven’t read Terror and Liberalism yet, read the essay by the same name he published in The American Prospect right after 9/11. If anything is required reading, this is it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:20 PM | Comments (47)

August 15, 2005

Israel Withdraws from Gaza. Gaza Withdraws from Tel Aviv

Far-right Israelis are furious, but almost everyone else in the world should be relieved that Ariel Sharon – at long last – is pulling everyone and everything out of Gaza.

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip - On the first day of Israel's Gaza pullout, soldiers handed out eviction notices to sobbing Jewish settlers and helped some pack, but troops also scuffled with protesters who barricaded their communities with burning tires and locked arms.

Army commanders took pains to avoid serious clashes and refrained from forcing their way into settlements where opposition was heavy — a display of sensitivity before unleashing the military's muscle to forcibly remove holdouts starting Wednesday.

"Your pain and your tears are an inseparable part of this country's history," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told settlers during a nationally televised address in which he called the pullout a painful but essential step for Israel's future.

He said previously it had become too hard to defend the Gaza settlements and their 8,500 residents in an overcrowded area of 1.3 million Palestinians, and the presence of so many Arabs under Israeli control was threatening the Jewish character of the state.

Sharon has repeatedly said the withdrawal is designed to allow Israel to hold on to all of Jerusalem and major parts of the West Bank — a position that raises questions about the prospects for peace since the Palestinians claim those areas for a state.

Nevertheless, Palestinians celebrated the beginning of the end for the 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip, and militant factions competed for credit for expelling the Israelis with their violent five-year uprising.

In his speech, Sharon urged Palestinian leaders to control extremists. "To an outstretched hand of peace we will respond with an olive branch, but fire will be met by fire more intense than ever," he said.
The timing is right. Terrorism against Israelis is at a low point. I don’t know about you, but I would feel safe if I traveled to Israel now. Two years ago I would not have. No one can make a plausible argument that this pullout is a surrender to terrorism. Obviously it is not. The suicide bombers were fenced off and beaten back before the pullout began.

The settlers in the West Bank and (especially) Gaza always seemed more than a little cracked to me. They make a two-state solution to the conflict far more difficult, which is part of the point of their movement. But they’re also placing themselves in clear and present mortal danger by surrounding themselves with fanatics who want them dead. They have needed an “intervention” by their Israeli friends for a very long time.

Israelis needs to be out of Gaza for their own sake, as well as for the sake of Palestinians. Yitzak Rabin summed up the reasoning very effectively when he campaigned for prime minister in 1992. He promised not only to get Israel out of Gaza but to get “Gaza out of Tel Aviv.” Hopefully it won’t take another thirteen years to get the West Bank out of Tel Aviv, too.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 06:19 PM | Comments (151)

Back Soon

I’m busy with non-blogging related activities today and will be back shortly. In the meantime, check out the world’s ugliest dog. Freaky.

UPDATE: Here's another picture of the monster.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:15 PM | Comments (28)

August 12, 2005

It's Not All About Us

My new Tech Central Station column is up:

Islamists have killed thousands of Westerners over the past couple of years -- thousands in New York City alone. But they have killed far more of their own fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and too many other places to list. The Terror War, or whatever we ought to call it, is not about us. It's a war waged by totalitarian Islamists against the rest of the world. We aren't targets because of what we do or even because of who we are. We are targets because we are not them. They hate everybody and we're part of "everybody."
Read the rest...

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:17 PM | Comments (68)

August 11, 2005

Darfur Comes to Portland

I saw these posters stapled to telephone polls in my neighborhood today.

Darfur Poster.jpg

Here is a link to the Protect Darfur Web site. It was put together by the Aegis Trust for Genocide Prevention.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:33 PM | Comments (82)

They Can Hear You Now

When I was in Beirut in April one of the leaders of the Cedar Revolution, Nabil Abou-Charaf, told me that Syrian intelligence agents used cell phones to “spy” on people.

“You mean they monitor your phone conversations,” I said.

“No," he said. "They can listen to us all the time even when we’re not using the phone.” He could tell I didn’t believe him. “We know as a fact they can do this.”

The Middle East is notoriously paranoid. When your country is infested with secret police that will happen. Nabil had good reasons himself to be paranoid. He told me he had already been arrested and beaten for standing up to the Syrian puppet regime. Just a week before I met him someone ran his car off the road and left a message on his answering machine and said that was just the beginning.

Still, I didn’t believe what he said about spies using his cell phone as a bug. If the cell phone is off or just sitting there it isn’t transmitting a signal.

Looks like I was wrong. Julian Sanchez at Hit and Run points out this chilling excerpt from a story in last week’s Guardian.

The main means of tracking terrorist suspects down has been the monitoring of mobile phone conversations. Not only can operators pinpoint users to within yards of their location by "triangulating" the signals from three base stations, but - according to a report in the Financial Times - the operators (under instructions from the authorities) can remotely install software onto a handset to activate the microphone even when the user is not making a call.
I’m sure the police love this feature. Police states apparently love it, as well.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:49 AM | Comments (44)

August 10, 2005

You're Either With Us or You're Against Us

James Wolcott is beating up on liberal hawks (he singles out Roger L. Simon in particular) for making common cause with conservatives by supporting the Terror War:

The fact is that by subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride…Do you really think that conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of government means that gay rights and abortion rights will somehow be spared?
I don’t know about Roger, but I didn’t vote for “conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional and judicial branches of government.” I voted for a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress. That’s the sort of thing liberal hawks and other centrist types do. I made “common cause” with the Religious Right, which as a social-liberal/left-libertarian isn’t much fun. At the same time I made “common cause” with Dennis Kucinich, which as a foreign policy hawk isn’t much fun.

Politics isn’t binary, James. It’s not a war between the white hats and the black hats -- or the blue hats and the red hats for that matter. Tens of millions of Americans answer with “neither” when asked if they consider themselves liberal or conservative. Some of us vote for third parties. Some of us vote for both of the two major parties at the same time. It’s about tough choices and lesser evilism. If you’re a liberal I suppose the choice is an easy one. Some of us non-liberals see nuance and shades of gray. Maybe you've heard of those things.

UPDATE: Wolcott has a one-sentence response:
I'll let Michael Totten play with his nuances.
Thanks for the dialogue, James. Always a pleasure.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:55 PM | Comments (192)

August 09, 2005

Looking Down Into the Sky

While I’m posting newsy stuff over at Instapundit I thought I’d post something else over here.

Take a look at this picture.

Looking Down Into the Sky.jpg

That blue stuff there at the top looks like sky, but it isn't. It’s water. The camera is pointed down, not up.

Crater Lake 2.jpg

This is Crater Lake in Central Oregon, where my wife I went a couple of weekends ago. I should have posted the photos then when they were fresh, but I didn’t get around to it for whatever reason.

Crater Lake 3.jpg

The rim of the lake is 9,000 feet above sea level. The surface of the water is 7,000 feet above sea level. That means those cliffs are 2,000 feet high. And the water is 2,000 feet deep. There is no inflow or outflow. All the water is rain water. And it’s the clearest water on the face of the Earth. (That powdery stuff you see near the shore is tree pollen.)

Crater Lake 1.jpg

The lake fills the volcanic crater (actually, the proper term is caldera) of what was once the enormous Mount Mazama before the mountain literally collapsed into the earth during a volcanic eruption. A new younger volcano, Wizard Island, rises above the surface.

When the U.S. government started minting new quarters, one new design for each of the 50 states, I figured the Oregon Trail would be our claim to fame. Instead they chose the scene you see here. Take a look at the spare change in your pocket (if you’re an American) and you may find it.

Underwater Cliff.jpg

The rim of the lake is so steep there is only one trail down to a tiny ledge near the surface. When you stand on that ledge and look down into the water, the sheer cliff resumes almost immediately and plunges into the depths. Looking straight down into the water from here can actually provoke a fear of heights. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where that’s possible.

Underwater Rock.jpg

The water is ice cold and mostly lifeless. Nevertheless, some people like to dive here (with a wet suit, of course) so they can look at the geology. Some like to lay on their backs underwater at night and look at the stars in absolute stillness and silence.

Sixty Feet Under.jpg

Here is the one place I found where I could actually see the bottom. Those rocks are sixty feet under the water. I assure you they are bigger than they appear.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:51 PM | Comments (42)

August 08, 2005

A Large Audience

Now that I’m posting over at Instapundit I’m slightly more worried than usual about spelling and grammar mistakes. And I’m a lot more worried than usual about coming across as a jerk. Having an audience of more than 100,000 sure does encourage good behavior.

I guess you can get used to anything, including a large audience. Otherwise I wouldn't know how the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Randy Rhodes could do what they do.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:35 PM | Comments (31)

August 07, 2005

Being Glenn Reynolds

Glenn Reynolds is on vacation this week and I’m going to be one third of Instapundit until he gets back. Megan McArdle and Ann Althouse will be the other two thirds.

The first time I helped fill in for Glenn I was absolutely terrified as I hovered the mouse pointer over the "Publish” button. I had the exhilarating power of the Instalanche at my finger tips. Hundreds of thousands of people were going to read whatever I wrote whether they clicked the link or not.

I got over it pretty quickly, though. Comments are enabled on my site and disabled on his. If I say something stupid here fewer people will see it, but more people will say something. So I don’t expect I’ll be afraid of the “Publish” button at all this time around. We’ll see.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the Instapunditry. I know I will.

Thanks, Glenn, for trusting the three of us with the keys.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:34 PM | Comments (30)

August 04, 2005

Enemies to the Right. Enemies to the Left.

Yesterday I showed how at least some Islamists are a bit on the chummy side with German neo-Nazis. That’s why I titled the post Islamofascists. A handful of commenters (two, I think) thought this was evidence that Islamists have an alliance with “the left.” Um, no. It isn’t. German neo-Nazis are anything but left. If you don’t believe me, ask them what they think of the left. Ask them to self-identify. They will probably answer your email if you ask nicely. I can’t imagine they are flooded with polite inquiries.

Conservatives who try to rewrite history and make fascists out to be left-wingers remind me of how Noam Chomsky tries to rewrite history and make Stalin out to be a right-winger. It’s comforting, I suppose, to think all the bad people are on one side of a (false) binary political divide and that all the good people are on the other. But it isn’t so. The extremists on your side - whichever side you happen to be on - often strikingly resemble the extremists on the other side. I guess that’s one reason why this argument never ends.

Anyway, connections between Islamists and neo-Nazis just remind us that there are enemies (not merely opponents) on the extreme right. And there are enemies (not merely opponents) on the extreme left, too. Check out what British MP George Galloway is saying on Middle Eastern television if you think I’m overstating things. It has been a long time since I’ve seen such a repulsive and filthy performance.

NOTE: The title of this post, if you didn't know, is an answer to the old saying "No Enemies to the Left." I don't know if anyone actually says "No Enemies to the Right," but some appear to argue from that premise.

UPDATE: The discussion in the comments below is almost exclusively about which bad guys belong on the left or the right. That's not really what I wanted to emphasize here in this post. What prompted me to write this in the first place was George Galloway's truly appalling behavior on Middle East television. Don't miss it. The first third is standard far-leftist nonsense...Bush and Blair are the real terrorists, that sort of thing. Then he brazenly and even poetically throws his support behind the jihad. It really must be seen to be believed.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:15 PM | Comments (330)


The Muslim Public Affairs Committee in Britain published an anti-Semitic screed by a retired U.S. Brigadier General that included a graphic image that was pulled directly from a German neo-Nazi Web site.

They replaced the graphic after they were busted, but I found a cached version of the page that still includes the neo-Nazi image.

I am not going to link to a neo-Nazi Web site. (I didn't link to the MPACUK site either.) If you want to see for yourself, follow the link to the cached page above, right-click the graphic image, and select "Properties." That will show you the image location and the url for the neo-Nazi Web site where the Muslim Public Affairs Committee found it.

I used to think that liberals in different countries all got along great while the right-wingers in each country hated each other. There is a certain logic to that, but it isn't quite right. Islamists (who are nothing if not illiberal), kooky American ex-military nuts, and German Fascists are hitting it off pretty well.

(Hat tip: Luke in the comments section at Harry's Place.)

UPDATE: The cached link no longer works. The image there has been replaced with the new one. But Harry's Place has a link to a screen grab if you want to take a look.

Also, a couple of people seem to be confused about the point of this post. I'm not pointing out how Islamists are being chummy with "the left." I'm pointing out how Islamists are being chummy with German neo-Nazis. Note the post's title.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:15 AM | Comments (123)

August 03, 2005

Making My Way Around the Blogosphere

First of all, I’d like to publicly thank Joe Katzman for bringing me on board over at Winds of Change. I’ve cross-posted a couple of things there already and I appreciate the chance to reach a wider audience.

Second, next week I’ll be one-third of Instapundit again. Glenn Reynolds is lighting out for parts unknown for a week. He asked me, Ann Althouse, and Megan McArdle to fill in for him again. The three of us have somewhat different reading tastes than Glenn, so next week’s Instalanches will fall on new territory.

I also have a new essay posted over at Donklephant called Leave Politics Out of It. On the surface it’s about politics and Hollywood movies (specifically War of the Worlds), but it’s really about the perils of inappropriately mixing politics with art in general.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 02:16 PM | Comments (20)

August 02, 2005

War, Struggle, or Counter-insurgency?

Yesterday I fisked Juan Cole for claiming the enemy in the Terror War (or whatever this contraption ought to be called) is “four guys in a gymn in Leeds.”

His characterization was absurd. But he isn’t the only one who absurdly characterizes what’s happening here. The Bush Administration does it, too, and has since the very beginning.

Cole links to the following article:
WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The Bush administration has begun downplaying the "war on terror" in favor of "a global struggle against violent extremism," the New York Times reports.
One thing I find supremely irritating about this whole business is that a professor who is supposedly an expert in all things Middle Eastern couldn’t hit such a wide target as the Bush Administration. I mean, come on. “A global struggle against violent extremism?” Give me a break! What the hell is the matter with the Bush Administration, anyway? They have never, ever, been able to define the enemy properly.

Bush is famously inarticulate. Someone in his administration should be able to work on that problem by speaking for him or giving him something slightly less obtuse to say. But apparently that’s asking too much.

“War against terrorism” is pathetic and always has been. It’s a cliché now to point out that terrorism is a tactic not an enemy. World War II was not a “war against U-boats” or a “war against kamikazes.” World War II was a war against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Empire of Japan.

Clearly this war is different. It’s asymmetrical. It functions like a global civil war, rather than a state-on-state fight, which is perhaps fitting in the age of globalization. But I can’t understand why so many people have such a hard time figuring out who the enemy is just because this war is different. Paul Berman figured it out easily and wrote the following in The American Prospect shortly after September 11, 2001.
Some people have emphasized that, so far as we know, not one of the national states in the Middle East or anywhere else seems to have been directly responsible for the attacks. Thus it is said that without the involvement of a national state, we cannot properly speak of something as capacious as war (as if wars can take place only between national states--when the great majority of wars in recent years have been, in fact, civil wars, meaning, conflicts in which only one side possesses a state). This is another way of making the same minimizing point: that we are not facing any kind of substantial or well-organized enemy, even if we have suffered a disastrous blow. But we are facing a substantial and well-organized enemy. Our enemy is the combat wing of radical and Islamist movements that are genuinely enormous. [Emphasis added.]
Exactly. Shouldn’t that be obvious by now? It was obvious to some people then. While the conservative administration sputtered incoherently, a liberal essayist put it right. If more of Berman’s fellow liberals were as perceptive as he is, we wouldn’t be having this argument over basics right now. We wouldn’t be arguing about the Bush Administration either because the Bush Administration would no longer exist.

We don’t like any terrorists no matter who they are or why they kill innocent people. But we are not at war with the Basque ETA or the Irish Republican Army. We’d like to see them go away and will do what we can to help Spain and Britain. But these groups are not who the Terror War is about. Not for us.

We are at war with Islamists. Why? Because they declared war on us. It isn’t any more complicated than that. It takes two to make peace. But it only takes one to declare and make war. We’re at war with these people whether we like it or not. They declared it. They did not consult us in advance. We are not allowed to unilaterally declare the end of the war just because we don’t want to fight it. That’s not how it works. They will keep fighitng and it will go on and on no matter how much we wish it weren’t so. They must also tire of fighting before peace is an option.

Cole doesn’t seem to get this. He agrees that the Bush Administration ought to backpedal on the word “war” even if he doesn’t quite agree with what the administration has decided to settle on. He says “It is not a war. It is counter-insurgency.”

No, it isn’t.

When you kill people in someone else’s country you are not an “insurgent.” Whether you are a terrorist, a guerilla, a soldier, or whatever, if you kill people in someone else’s country you are an invader. Even if your targets are exclusively government in nature (which is clearly not the case with Al Qaeda) you still don’t get to be called an “insurgent.” Toppling the Baath regime in Iraq was not an act of insurgency by the United States military. It was an invasion, and we have no right to call it anything less. Likewise, Al Qaeda has no right to call what it does an insurgency.

Thing is, Al Qaeda did not declare an “insurgency” on America. Al Qaeda declared war. What on earth is the point of downplaying and whitewashing Al Qaeda’s behavior when even Al Qaeda doesn’t agree with the downplaying and the whitewashing? I ask that question of both Professor Juan Cole and President George W. Bush.

I would have loved nothing better than to vote for a Democratic president in 2004 who was more like Paul Berman and rather unlike Juan Cole or George W. Bush. I have a pretty strong hunch that if the Democrats nominate a Bermanesque figure in 2008 that he or she will kick the snot out the Republicans. Maybe I’m just projecting. It’s certainly possible. But if we still can’t figure out who we’re supposed to be fighting in 2008 it will be – as Berman himself might put it – “our misfortune, and the world’s.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:37 PM | Comments (110)

Fisking Juan Cole: A Photo Gallery

Professor Juan Cole, President of the Middle East Studies Association, doesn’t think we are really at war.

War on Terror Over

The Bush administration is giving up the phrase "global war on terror."

I take it this is because they have finally realized that if they are fighting a war on terror, the enemy is four guys in a gymn (sic) in Leeds. It isn't going to take very long for people to realize that a) you don't actually need to pay the Pentagon $400 billion a year if that is the problem and b) whoever is in charge of such a war isn't actually doing a very good job at stopping the bombs from going off. [Emphasis added.]
I don’t know what to say. So I won’t say anything. I’ll just post some photos instead. Let’s see if they jibe with the professor’s “four guys are the enemy” theory.


September 11, 2001


September 11, 2001

Nairobi Attack.jpg

U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, after Al Qaeda attack

Wounded in Nairobi.jpg

Among the wounded in Nairobi

Taliban Execution.JPG

Taliban execution in Kabul

Taliban Execution in Herat.jpg

Taliban execution in Herat

Assasination of Election  Workers.jpg

Election workers assassinated in Baghdad


Nightclub in Bali after Al Qaeda attack


Nightclub in Bali after Al Qaeda attack

Beslan Woman.jpg

Woman mourning her murdered baby in Beslan, Russia


American Embassy in Tanzania after Al Qaeda attack

Casablanca Restaurant Destroyed.jpg

Restaurant in Casablanca, Morocco, after Al Qaeda attack

Daniel Pearl.jpg

Daniel Pearl

Gays Executed in Iran.jpg

Young gay men executed for being gay in Iran

Hamas Rally.jpg




Hezbollah 2.jpg



Train in Madrid after Al Qaeda attack


Nick Berg

Throat Slit Victim in Algeria.jpg

Algerian civilian after his throat was slit by Salafis


Village in Darfur under attack by Islamists

Cleansed Village in Darfur.jpg

Ethnically “cleansed” village in Darfur

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:31 AM | Comments (245)

August 01, 2005

With Friends Like These…

Last month I said it was time to dump “our bastard” Islam Karimov, thug-in-chief of Where-the-Hellistan (that would be Uzbekistan for those of you familiar with Central Asia) for machine-gunning dissidents. Nathan Hamm, the go-to man on all things –stan in the blogosphere, said we should wait for him to dump us.

Well, he finally dumped us. Officially.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:30 PM | Comments (2)

UN Quietly Pushed Into East River

I’m not excited about our new Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. Nor am I getting bent out of shape over his appointment. (If it were up to me Paul Berman, Peter Maass, or Samantha Power would get the job.)

You might think, though, from the hysterical reaction in certain quarters that these sidebar articles in the current issue of The Onion were real.


Posted by Michael J. Totten at 05:41 PM | Comments (36)