Friday, April 30, 2004

Ain't Gonna Happen

Some days this blog keeps me sane. I put here the words I have to swallow all day long on my job, to keep the peace.

I work in the kind of office where you can't escape anyone. There are no partitons or Dilbert-cubicles. The desks literally jam against one another and the computer monitors aren't big enough to shrink behind. So people are in your face, whether you want them there or not.

Which is why it's good that we're not a diverse crew. White, educated, middle- and upper-middle-class college graduates, secular, of more or less liberal leanings: you guessed it; it's a media newsroom.

We had a black reporter for a while. He moved on but the stories and jokes about him still abound. You would have thought true liberals wouldn't behave like that, but since I saw Condi Rice called a "monkey on a chain" on the "Guardian" Web site, I lost that delusion. One or two sincere people of faith, Catholic or Protestant, work among us. They keep their lips shut tight when religion-bashing, a popular theme, comes around again in the office conversation.

Lately I feel an identity with them. By "lately" I mean since the drive began to go to war in Iraq. I don't know the opinions of every co-worker on this issue, but there are a couple of very vocal, rabid anti-war people who won't shut up about it. They rarely take the direct approach of hectoring (I'd actually prefer that, since it invites response), but these people will do the passive-aggressive thing and find one another and yap for a long time, very loudly and publicly, execrating the stupidity and venality of enyone who could possibly support the U.S. military effort.

Or they take every encounter with a news story about Bush, or Cheney, or Rumsfeld, or Iraq (and there's one every 15 minutes), as an excuse to light up the roman candle of snide remarks and stale jokes.

The talk is peppered with meaningless references to WMD and bloodforoil, and it's as uninformed as it is opinionated, deeply sarcastic and highly illogical, all pomp and few facts. This is the way people talk who are only in the habit of talking to people who agree with them. (How sad that this is something I now associate with universities, and sure enough the most vocal anti-war baiter has a college teaching background.)

No insight, no skill, all blunt points and phony presumption. It's intellectually flabby, and a pinprick could deflate it. But I don't do it. I come to work to do a job and collect a check. I don't expect to have my thinking corrected by PC deprogrammers. I extend them the courtesy of keeping my trap shut, in hopes that someday they'll decide to do the same.

Oh, I'm not trying to hide anything. I know my lack of anti-war correctness has been noted. I've been exposed by my refusal to join in the vulturing over American dead and my failure to laugh at the lame jokes about "Georgie" or "Bushie Boy."

[Note to the Left and the Right: If you want to make hatred of one man the sole object of your politics, and defeat of any of his projects your sole policy, feel free to do so. But don't expect me to take you seriously.]

And so I sit here, hour after hour, having to smell this intellectual clogged drain. I hear things that are flat-out wrong, over and over, but out of politeness I say nothing. It's gotten to the point where I actually look forward to the days when certain people aren't on the schedule to work, and I hope that my days off never coincide with theirs.

So on Saturdays, Luke and Amy and I go downtown to do our market shopping. And there they are again, in front of the courthouse or on the town square, with signs and banners. This time they're with others, who run the diversity gamut from white upper-middle-class aging hippie to white upper-middle-class aging hippie.

I have to pass by and acknowledge them. They're looking for me. If we have other things to do and don't get to market in the hour when they're out, I'm sure to get asked about it on Monday. Like the minister who corners you in the grocery and makes sure he knows you know he knows you weren't in church on Sunday.

In fact, it all reminds me very much of the cheap proselytizing of a Bible society tract. I deeply resent the presumption that I'm too stupid to have made an intelligent decision, and I need to be guided on the paths of righteousness by these pure souls. I've educated myself on these issues for years, read everything from the Quran to Gertrude Bell to Francis Fukuyama to Abdolkarim Soroush to Victor Davis Hanson. I've sought a path through tough choices that was consistent with adult compassion and national honor and personal values, and come to certain conclusions.

But my co-workers seem to expect that, if I stare at that big "Bush Lied" sign long enough, I'll be like Scrooge on Christmas morning. I'll have an epiphany right there in front of the Cal-Mart and fall on my knees weeping and blubbering hosannahs to Tim Robbins.

Guantanamo Detainee's Complaints


Some words of wisdom from some of my favorite bloggers. First, a brief and to the point post on the ugly truth of war, courtesy of one who has been there. Lt. Smash on "Crimnes of War."

THE UGLY TRUTH of warfare is that there are no “knights in shining armor” who will always fight for Good. Evil lurks deep in the hearts of all men, and it doesn’t care what flag you wear on your sleeve. We are most vulnerable when we suffer under the burden of tremendous stress – but the ultimate responsibility to resist Evil lies with every individual.

I'm angry at the "soldiers" who did this and the "leaders" who let it happen. More Iraqi and American blood will be shed in the weeks to come, to pay the wages of the anger this arouses, than Osama could have hoped to shed himself. The warrior's code has failed in these men and women. They should be punished publicly to the full extent of the law.

And for the story that seems to never break into the news cycle:

I'd still like to see Nightline present the names of all the oil-for-food money recipients. And maybe of a few Iraqi kids who died because of the fraud's keeping them from getting medicine. And maybe an interview with Kofi Annan's son, Kojo, about his role. ...

Just in the name of balance, you know.

From Willow:

Ya know, when I lived in a foriegn country, I realized I was a guest. It wasn't my country, I gave deference to people whose country it was. Although I didn't like every thing about that country I always displayed respect for my hosts, which was pretty damned effective for keeping feelings good between us so we could discover and enjoy what we DID have in common.

And this quote:

In the housing projects near [radical French cleric Abdelkader] Bouziane's mosque, a young man with a closely cropped beard said he thought that the cleric had done nothing wrong. "If my wife cheats on me, I have the right to correct her," he said, "and not just with a slap on the bottom, but with a gunshot."

courtesy of Allahpundit, Who also has dug up this Islamists' wet-dream image:

from the sparsely-attended capitulation rally that the Iraqi kidnappers demanded as the price of sparing the lives of their Italian hostages.

Iraq by Numbers

Some good news, much troubling news in the USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll of 3,444 Iraqis.

  • In answer to the question, "How have US forces conducted themselves?" a total of 58 percent said "fairly badly" or "very badly." But the next question was, "Do you say this from personal experience, from things you’ve seen yourself or from what you’ve heard?" Only 7 percent admitted to speaking from personal experience. Some 54 percent based it on what they'd heard, not even seen.

  • Kurdish results are almost the mirror image of the rest of Iraq. The gap between Sunni and Shi'ite is closing, from what it was in the last major poll I saw. The Shi'ites are expressing more unhappiness.

  • Blair and Chirac had about the same favorable-unfavorable numbers in Iraq.

  • Almost half those surveyed said they believe "most Americans" oppose "the policies and actions taken by their government in Iraq."

The answers to this question stood out for me:

"Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US/British invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?"

Worth it 61
Not worth it 28

Worth it 74
Not worth it 17

Nobody on the Kurdish side seemed to think it wasn't worth it.

Among Sunnis, however:

Worth it 28
Not worth it 52

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Thinking allowed

The "Star of David = Swastika" flag got to be so tiresome at Palestinian demonstrations that they seem to have retired it, or maybe they lost it. (Now they just hold up their children, dolled up with fake guns and cardboard dynamite.) But I'm still getting an eye-full of it over here, from left-leaning types who seem to regard it as an inspiration of wisdom, not a notion so absurd as to be puke-making.

Or an ear-full. The other day, a co-worker insisted I listen to a Celtic-accented "folk song" called "When Oppressed Becomes Oppressor" (or something like that; that was the repeated line in the chorus) in which, yet again, a parallel was drawn between the genocide of the Jews in Europe in the 1940s and the hardships of Palestinians today.

Let's just take half a second and do some comparisons.

Bulldozers do not equal gas chambers. A concrete barrier does not equal a crematorium.

The paranoias about Jews running the world, enshrined in the forged "Protocols" does not couterbalance the very real threats of Hamas and others to drive Israel into the sea.

The false claim that Jews burned the Reichstag does not equate to the blood and bone strewn on the pavement after bombings of buses and discos in Tel Aviv.

But Jews leaving all their property behind in a desperate bid to escape the Third Reich, to any country that would take them, offers an interesting parallel to the Palestinian Authority's insistence of a "right of return," for its people to live under the yoke of the despised "Zionist entity."

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not recall Jews lined up every morning on the borders of 1939 Germany, clamoring to get in for construction jobs.

All this nonsense usually comes, of course, from people who cherish their democratic right of vocal and public dissent, who like to live in a country where you can be openly gay or atheist or flaunt your belly-button ring. Try that anywhere in the Middle East except Israel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Success Story

Wonderful story out of Iraq. Of course, the Kurds love what we're doing. That's not a surprise, and it doesn't automatically translate into success in the rest of Iraq. But at the least it's a sign that a Muslim population can blossom alongside an American military occupation. And it raises two questions:

Why do these people matter less, to the war opponents, than the poor victimized Fallujans? It used to be that the Left redeemed itself from a lot of its shrillness and ignorance by being essentially, instinctively, on the side of the oppressed, or at least the real people. When I used to identify myself with that faction of the American scene, I felt that strongly. But now the Left has no interest in Kurds, because they've succeeded in part by allying themselves with the Americans. Just as the Hmong did before them.

Why the rush to give a state to the obviously dysfunctional Palestinians? How did they get in line ahead of the Kurds? Oh, I know, the United States don't really want to encourage an independent Kurdistan because that would break up Iraq and irritate Turkey. But why is the left so fixated on giving a state to a gang of terrorist leaders who have turned the few places they did control (Gaza City, for instance) into the toilet of the Middle East? Whereas the Kurds -- under much more severe pressure from Saddam than the Israelis put on the Palestinians, and with far less EU money flowing in -- have created in the last 13 years a thriving, democratic enclave.

Advice for Marines

This story of how Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing dealt with Islamist terror in the Philippines in 1911 was posted in a discussion at The Command Post:

Pershing detailed a patrol to bring in six known terrorists who had slain women and children in a backwoods village. The terrorists were required to dig their own graves, and then were lashed to stakes to await the firing squad. Several pigs were brought before them for slaughter.

“When you are buried,” the officer of the detail told the terrorists, “we will bury the pig offal with you. You’ll never see paradise.” And no virgins, either.

One of the terrorists was allowed to “escape” to return to his fellows to tell the awful story, as Pershing knew he would. There was no more trouble in the neighborhood for years, for long after Pershing was long gone to France to command American doughboys in the Great War.

Bet it has the same effect today as it did then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

David Brooks

Has an excellent op-ed piece in the NYT, titled "Looking Through Keyholes.

(Password protected; if you need to get in, use "dougharper" and "password")

These are the crucial months in Iraq. The events in Najaf and Falluja will largely determine whether Iraq will move toward normalcy or slide into chaos. So how is Washington responding during this pivotal time? Well, for about three weeks the political class was obsessed by Richard Clarke and the hearings of the 9/11 commission, and, therefore, events that occurred between 1992 and 2001. Najaf was exploding, and Condoleezza Rice had to spend the week preparing for testimony about what may or may not have taken place during the presidential transition.

... This is crazy. This is like pausing during the second day of Gettysburg to debate the wisdom of the Missouri Compromise. We're in the midst of the pivotal battle of the Iraq war and le tout Washington decides not to let itself get distracted by the ephemera of current events.


Christopher Hitchens invites himself to join the week's fad: war supporters expressing varying degrees of remorse or redefining their expectations about Iraq.

(Notice, of course, that the anti-war voices rarely seem troubled by this need to keep feet planted on some sort of moral and intellectual terra firma from one hour to the next.)

Hitch searches his soul and finds:

The thing that I most underestimated is the thing that least undermines the case. And it's not something that I overlooked, either. But the extent of lumpen Islamization in Iraq, on both the Khomeinist and Wahhabi ends (call them Shiite and Sunni if you want a euphemism that insults the majority), was worse than I had guessed.

And this is also why I partly think that Colin Powell, as reported by Woodward, was right. He apparently asked the president if he was willing to assume, or to accept, responsibility for the Iraqi state and society. The only possible answer, morally and politically, would have been "yes." The United States had already made itself co-responsible for Iraqi life, first by imposing the sanctions, second by imposing the no-fly zones, and third by co-existing with the regime. (Three more factors, by the way, that make the Vietnam comparison utterly meaningless.) This half-slave/half-free compromise could not long have endured.

Dolls with Souls

The Japanese have another cause for pride. They've taken the old-fashioned sleaze-merchant's blow-up doll to a new height of high-tech excellence, to "serve as sex substitutes for widowers, the handicapped and other males who are able to function sexually but who, for whatever reason, lack human partners."

They've borrowed an old (and somewhat derogatory) English term for these fetching creatures; Dutch wife. The company that makes them has a Web site that is here. It's obviously creepy on one level, but there's something more complex in the whole picture.

The Japan Times article quotes the company's founder (the "father" of the "girls"):

"If a yome [bride] is no longer needed, we'll discretely take her off a customer's hands at no charge," Tsuchiya adds. "Twice a year we also arrange for a kuyo (Buddhist memorial service) for discarded dolls at the special bodhisattva for dolls at the Shimizu Kannon-do in Ueno Park." Founded in 1631, it's where the "souls" of dolls are consecrated. (Kannon is the Goddess of Mercy.)

New Iraqi Flag

It's very ... peaceful. That's the idea, I'm sure. But I also like the alternate versions designed by the Creator of Worlds himself.

No security, no democracy

A Sanford Professor, initially an opponent of the war, does the right thing when it's over and joins the effort at nation-building. He was where anyone should be who cares about the future of the world right now: in Iraq, making the most of this opportunity.

"It was mind-blowing, really. There were people who wanted to know how to make democracy work. There were so many positive signs. Civil society was very weak, as you'd expect, but it was beginning to reconstitute itself. There was a lot of energy, a lot of passion, a lot of creativity and a lot of desire to learn. I even had a good experience with some mullahs who supported us."

But with time and the rise of an insurgency, the realization sank in.

"You can't develop democracy without security. In Iraq, it's really a security nightmare that did not have to be. If you don't get that right, nothing else is possible. Everything else is connected to that."

Larry Diamond on Iraq.

Many Iraqis I read are saying much the same thing, or proving it without saying it. Ths is not an Iraqi problem: it is a human one. When the thugs run wild in your streets, you're not much concerned with their rights.

George W. Bush let us down. He let down the Iraqis, by listening to those in his administration who told him this could be done quickly, on the cheap, with a small army. They proved the point of being able to topple a potent dictator with an absurdly small force. But this is the price, and it's too high.

The answer is more troops in Iraq, not fewer; more committment, not less; more time and patience, not a quick-time "exit strategy." Which is why I don't yet see Kerry as a viable alternative.

Best War Coverage

My nomination, thus far, goes to the North County Times, a paper outside of San Diego. With a heavy military presence in their community, they've sent some first-rate photogs and reporters as embeds. Their work out of Fallujah is breathtaking -- far better than AP, Reuters, NYT, etc. All this from a paper I never heard of till now. We first started noticing their photos because the AP was picking them up and running them on the wire. They literally jump out off the screen at you, compared to the pointless AP s--t. I see they've come to the attention of Lt. Smash (hat tip) and others, too.

Check out their Web site, and especially take time to look through the photo journals on the left.

Monday, April 26, 2004

How to be biased, lesson 1

I am watching my brothers and sisters in the media slowly turn. Media bias, as Chomsky knows, is rarely a conscious effort or a grand conspiracy. More often, it is the automatic infusion of assumptions and beliefs by low-level copy editors and wire desk writers. But the result is just as nefarious as if it had been a vast conspiracy.

On Saturday, Islamist terrorists tried to blow up the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal near Basra. They launched three suicide boats toward the docks, in the type of attack that had succeeded against the U.S.S. Cole and, more recently, a French oil tanker. But this time, the U.S. Navy was on the job. The port patrol intercepted the suicide squads. Two Coast Guardsmen and five Navy sailors aboard a rigid hull inflatable were preparing to board a dhow that had approached the terminal, and the bad guys, a la Flight 93, blew themselves up when caught. A couple of brave sailors died, as did a U.S. Coast Guard member. Yet the day was saved. Damage to the oil rigs at the port was minimal. Exporting of billions of barrels of crucial oil -- crucial to the rebuilding of Iraq -- resumed within hours.

So what headline did the Associated Press (and thus dozens if not hundreds of American newspapers) put on this story? "U.S. Thwarts Major Terror Strike?" "Quick-Thinking Sailors Defeat Bombers on High Seas?"

Nope, try this:

"Two U.S. servicemembers killed when boats explode near Iraqi oil facilities"

Just another bad day in Iraq, I guess.

Oil For Blood

A wonderful tilt at my own hometown "Philadelphia Inquirer" for a total lack of coverage of the food-for oil program scandal at the U.N. Gene Roberts, I presume to assume, would be ashamed. Of course, you could make just about any major media outlet in the U.S. look foolish over this one.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

This is brilliant

I hate to do so much cherry-picking off Andrew Sullivan's site, but his readers are some of the most savvy and insightful on the Net. Here's a letter he got recently:

"In reading articles marking 10 years since the end of South Africa apartheid, I was struck by the similarities between that country’s struggle since liberation and the current struggle since the liberation of Iraq. Likewise, I was struck by the relative silence of the left on the real problems South Africa has faced in the past 10 years.

In the early 1990’s, the movement against apartheid was one of the most passionate cause of the American left. The struggle for freedom in South Africa ended on April 27th 1994 when over 90% of the people of that country went to the polls to elect the first democratic government the country had ever seen. Since that time, South Africa has been one of the most, if not the most, dangerous place to live on the planet.

In 1998 for instance, South Africa led the world with a recorded 59 murders per hundred thousand citizens (source: Interpol). By comparison, the United States had 6 per hundred thousand that year; England had 1, France 4, and Russia 21. The closest to South Africa was Colombia, with 56.

Presently, although crime seems to have abated, the country is still racked with problems. An estimated 20.1% of the population has AIDS, 50% of the population is below the poverty line, and 37% of the population is unemployed. The current life expectancy is 46.56 years.

Now, very few people on any side of the political spectrum would argue that South Africa was "better off" under apartheid. Yet, those that oppose our war in Iraq often bitterly complain that the Iraqis are not better off. Both countries, when liberated, were coming from oppressive governments with people unaccustomed to the democratic process. It has taken ten years to get South Africa to the still troubled, but gradually improving, state it is currently in. Why is so much expected of Iraq so quickly? Apparently, the left's criterion for democratic progress is a double standard."

Test of a Generation

"In Iraq our national security interests and our national values converge. Iraq is truly the test of a generation, for America and for our role in the world. Faced with similar challenges, previous generations of Americans have passed such tests with honor. It is now our turn to demonstrate that our power, ennobled by our principles, is the greatest force for good on earth today. Iraq's transformation into a secure democracy and a force for freedom in the greater Middle East is the calling of our age. We can succeed. We must succeed." -- Sen. John McCain

Pound for Pound

Oil for Food

There's a new blog covering the unfolding oil-for-food bribery scandal. Worth following! As are the different ways the story plays out in the various world media, depending on their level of comfort with it.

Letter from Fallujah

Andrew Sullivan reprints this insightful letter from a U.S. military chaplain in Fallujah:

Here's some background on Al Faluja to keep in mind.

A) Why is it in the news almost every night? Because it is one of the FEW places in all of Iraq where trouble exists. Iraq has 25 million people and is the size of California. Faluja and surrounding towns total 500,000 people. Do the math: that's not a big percentage of Iraq. How many people were murdered last night in L.A.? Did it make headline news? Why not?

B) Saddam could not and did not control Faluja. He bought off those he could, killed those he couldn't and played all leaders against one another. It was and is a 'difficult' town. Nothing new about that. What is new is that outside people have come in to stir up unrest. How many are there is classified, but let me tell you this: there are more people in the northeast Minneapolis gangs than there are causing havoc in Faluja. Surprised?

C) Then why does it get so much coverage? Because the major news outlets have camera crews permanently posted in Faluja. So, if you are from outside Iraq, and want to get air time for your cause, where would you go to terrorize, bomb, mutilate and destroy? Faluja.

D) Why does it seem to be getting worse? Two answers:

1) This country became a welfare state under Saddam. If you cared about your well-fare, you towed the line or died. The state did your thinking and your bidding. Want a job? Pledge allegiance to the Ba’ath party. Want an apartment, a car, etc? Show loyalty. Electricity, water, sewage, etc. was paid by the state. Go with the flow: life is good. Don't and you're dead. Now, what does that do to initiative? drive? industry?

So, we come along and lock up sugar daddy and give these people the toughest challenge in the world, FREEDOM. You want a job? Earn it! A house? Buy it or build it! Security? Build a police force, army and militia and give it to yourself. Risk your lives and earn freedom. The good news is that millions of Iraqis are doing just that, and some pay with their lives. But many, many are struggling with freedom (just like East Germans, Russians, Czechs, etc.) and they want a sugar daddy, the U.S.A., to do it all. We refuse. We don't want to be plantation owners. We make it clear we are here to help, not own or stay. They get mad about that, sometimes.

Nonetheless, in Faluja, the supposed hotbed of dissent in Iraq, countless Iraqis tell our psyopers they want to cooperate with us but are afraid the thugs will slit their throats or kill their kids. A bad gang can do that to a neighborhood and a town. That's what is happening here.

2) We have a battle hand-off going on here. The largest in recent American history. The Army is passing the baton to the Marines in this area. There is uncertainty among the populace and misinformation being given out by the bad guys. As a result there is insecurity and the bad guys are testing the resolve of the Marines and indirectly you, the American people. The bad guys are convinced that Americans have no stomach for a long haul effort here. They want to drive us out of here and then resurrect a dictatorship of one kind or another.

Okay, what do we do? Stay the course. The Marines will get into a battle rhythm and, along with other forces and government agencies here, they will knock out the crack houses, drive the thugs across the border and set the conditions for the Falujans to join the freedom parade or rot in their lack of initiative. Either way, the choice will be theirs. The alternative? Turn tail, pull out and leave a power vacuum that will suck in all of Iraq's neighbors and spark a civil war that could make Rwanda look like a misdemeanor.

Hey, America, don't go weak kneed on us: 585 dead American's made an investment here. That's a whole lot less than were killed on American highways last month. Their lives are honored when we stay the course and do the job we came to do; namely, set the conditions for a new government and empower these people to be the great nation they are capable of being.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Battle Lessons

America wove two tragic mistakes into its victory in the Gulf War of 1991.

The first was fighting a half-war. War is terrible; to pretend it can be anything else is naive. To leave a battlefield with the enemy half-beaten, as Colin Powell did in 1991, may seem merciful in the moment, but it costs far more lives and woe in the long run.

Hannibal, after he smashed the legions at Cannae, paused instead of pressing on to Rome and bringing the republic to its knees. One of his generals told him, "You know how to win a battle, Hannibal, but not how to use your victory." After the next war, the Romans leveled Carthage and sowed its soil with salt.

At the end of the rout in Kuwait in 1991, American and British ground units cut off the loot-laden Iraqi army, and Allied warplanes killed them by the thousands, along with their tanks, trucks and howitzers. Poor-boy soldiers, mostly conscripts, were cut to shreds in the middle of a 60-mile traffic jam on the two-lane highway back to Basra.

Seeing graphic pictures of the "Highway of Death," Powell decided to halt combat. The Iraqis had been chased out of Kuwait; a goal was met.

Which points to the second mistake of 1991: an over-emphasis on mutilateralism. U.N. resolutions had authorized only the liberation of Kuwait, not the ouster of Saddam. Arab and Muslim allies, who contributed little to the actual fighting, grew restive as a major power in their region, however despised, fell to the might of the Americans.

And so the vast army that had marched against Saddam Hussein in 1991 stopped short of victory. When the smoke cleared, his head was still on the statues around his palaces, not in a noose, where it belonged. No enemies had set foot in Baghdad. His Republican Guards still existed. Saddam interpreted this as a victory, and it's hard to argue with him.

Powell could have pressed on to total victory, aided by Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and ground down the ideology of Baathist fascism. He could have rolled over Iraq with a sufficient force to insure order and stability in the wake of conquest. That was our last best chance to do what we are struggling to do now. Instead, an estimated 30,000 Kurdish and Shiite civilians paid with their lives for Powell's moment of mercy and statesmanship.

We did not make the second mistake this time. The British, Australians, Italians, Danes and Dutch are a core of reliable allies. The rest of the current "coalition of the willing," with the exception of newly emerging Poland, are a list of names offering little real help.

But are we making the first mistake again? Start-and-stop drives against the insurgents in Fallujah and al-Sadr's brigades suggest our leaders have failed to learn the bitter lesson of '91. Our forbearance in such situations only is interpreted as weakness by the enemy.

In 1918, the German army limped home, beaten in the trenches but with its homeland unbloodied. Within months, the whisper of of a "stab in the back" had grown to a murmur, and within a generation the Great War was fought all over, with deadlier force and tens of millions of casualties. This time, when it ended, there was no doubt about defeat. And Germany has been a force for peace, unity and stability in Europe for the half century since.

War is a brutal, bloody, destructive business. People who understand that -- Sherman, Patton -- are not men you would want for your secretaries of state in peacetime. But they succeed at war. Victory first; unconditional victory. Then mercy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Worth Fighting For

Some thing are worth fighting for. The rule of law. An independent judiciary. A military that is answerable to civilian authority. Whether the fight for them is against foreign enemies or domestic corruptions, these are values we cannot surrender.

America, like all the world's established democracies, still struggles with those ideals. The ideals test us, and events test our commitment to the ideals. The most dangerous tests come from the natural human tendency to trade order for law, to prefer safety to freedom.

In three concurrent cases, the U.S. Supreme Court is examining the Bush administration's detention of some 595 enemy combatants at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay. Most are suspected al Qaeda members or Taliban fighters.

It is entirely appropriate that we argue these things before the nine justices. It proves that the shock of the worst terror attack in U.S. history, and the wars we have fought since, have not shaken our foundations. We can still passionately debate whether the constitutional right of habeas corpus extends to enemy irregulars on a distant battlefield. We have held true to our civilization.

Those things we deem worth fighting for do not exist in the minds of the people who brought on this war, on Sept. 11, 2001. They regard such concepts as weak, decadent, irreligious.

America has begun to "impose" these "Western" values in Afghanistan. It has even begun to implement them in Iraq, along with another core Western value: Tolerance -- religious, political, social.

And that is another thing worth fighting for. Among those sitting on the high court in judgement of the administration's policy is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Imagine for a moment her life, her career, in the Taliban's thugocracy or under Osama bin Laden's dream caliphate.

At the core of this just war are the lives of 3,000 of our fellow citizens, incinerated at their desks or on their way to work. They died in the spurts of their own blood with their throats slit, or chose between splattering themselves on the pavement from terrible heights or roasting to death in an inferno of airliner fuel. This was done to them because they were Americans. The immigrant maintenance workers died as surely as the Wall Street mavens, the first casualties in a war we did not start and did not seek.

The only difference between you and them was that they got on the wrong plane that morning; they worked in a different building than you do. As Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, the London-based radical Muslim cleric said in an interview published Sunday, "We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity."

It is possible to argue sincerely that Iraq was the wrong next step in this war. But it is ludicrous to deny the fact that a war exists, or what it ultimately is about. It is possible as a pacifist to say, "not in my name." Very well, then, not in your name. But in the name of the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and tolerance.

Let the bin Ladens mock the nation that puts a Jewish woman (unveiled, no less) on its highest court because of her merits, to protect the rights of his POWs. Let Sheikh Omar mock the rule of law that allows him to continue spewing hatred in the infidels' capital. "I've been arrested 16 times," he boasts. "And 16 times freed, because they have nothing against me. These are the contradictions of laws made by man."

Let them mock, because they only remind us what we're fighting for.

Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

A Townhall piece by Dennis Prager, titled "People are Good; the World Stinks" (4/20/04). He rants a lot, and comes from a Christian perspective (which I don't), but when he hits it, he hits it:

If you love goodness and hate evil, this is a tough time to stay sane.

Israel has killed Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas terror leader, and almost every nation in the world and the nations' theoretical embodiment, the United Nations, have condemned Israel for doing so.

World leaders and the world organization have said almost nothing about Communist China's ongoing destruction of one of the world's oldest civilizations, Tibet. World leaders have said almost nothing about the Arab enslavement and genocide of non-Arab blacks in Sudan. But they convene world conferences to label Israel, one of the most humane and decent democracies on earth, a pariah.

In order to retain my sanity, I ask the reader's indulgence as I use this column to express personal thoughts.

I have contempt for "the world." I cherish and admire countless individuals, but I have contempt for "the world" and "world opinion." "The world" has never cared about evils inflicted on human beings. The Communist genocides meant nothing to humanity. The Holocaust meant nothing. With almost no exception, the mass atrocities since World War II have likewise absorbed humanity less than the Olympics or the Miss World Contest.

I have contempt for the United Nations. It is one of the great obstacles to goodness and decency on this planet. Its moral record -- outside of a few specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization -- is almost entirely supportive of evil and condemnatory of good. It is dominated by the most morally backward governments in the world -- those from the Arab and Muslim worlds, the Communists during their heyday and African despots. It appointed Libya, a despotic, primitive state, to head its Human Rights Commission, whose members include China, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Neither the United States nor Israel sits on the Commission.

I regard the European Union with similar revulsion. With little opposition, Europe murdered nearly every Jewish man, woman and child in its midst, and a half-century later provides cover for those in the Middle East who seek to do to the Middle East's Jews exactly what the Nazis did to the European Jews. For the European Union to condemn Israel's killing of a Hamas leader, when Hamas's avowed aim is another Jewish genocide, is so loathsome as to board the incredible. For Germany and France (who, unlike America, have almost never shed blood for the liberty of others) to do everything they can to undermine America's attempt to liberate Iraq is similarly repugnant.

And just remember this

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Please note

The Human Rights Center in Kadhimiya, Iraq, was set up by Iraqis (not Coalition leaders). It has combed through the vast formerly secret archives left by the Baathist regime. Like their models, the German Nazis, Saddam's crew left a paper trail a mile wide, documenting in good bureaucratic form all the blood-spattering murder they committed. The HRC projected that if the invasion had not happened, Saddam would have killed 70,000 people in the past year. That's not counting the dead who would have continued under U.N. sanctions.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

New Hero for Old Europe

Fabrizio Quattrocchi, the Italian hostage executed in Iraq, tried to tear off his hood seconds before he was shot dead and shouted, "Now I'll show you how an Italian dies."

"Vi faccio vedere come muore un italiano"

You can email their embassy here at:

Here's what I sent today.


I have been reading about the last moments, in Iraq, of your brave countryman Fabrizio Quattrocchi. I wanted to send you my conolences over his death, and my appreciation for his life. I hope this attempt at translation comes near what I mean to say:

Mi dispiace molto spezialmente per la familia del bravo signore. Questo uomo fino era il meglio d'Italia, ê il meglio d'Europa.

Moltisssimo grazia tutti amici Italiani.

Viva Italia.

Douglas Harper
Lancaster, Pa.

Friday, April 16, 2004


I wanted to make a record of this, in some place where I can find it quickly, for the next time someone tells me Michael Moore is not anti-American, just anti-Bush, and that he's a good liberal on the old noble tradition of that school.

This was published on his Web site Wednesday, April 14, 2004. It's titled "Heads Up ... from Michael Moore." It's addressed to "Friends," and it's a rambling diatribe about Bush's press conference. It begins like this:

I have never seen a head so far up a Presidential ass (pardon my Falluja) than the one I saw last night at the "news conference" given by George W. Bush. He's still talking about finding "weapons of mass destruction" -- this time on Saddam's "turkey farm."

Ungrammatical in the first sentence ("so far ... than"), flat-out wrong in the second (it was Ghadhafi, not Saddam who had mustard gas hidden on a turkey farm). But what did you expect?

Well, "plenty," probably, if you're like some of the people sitting around me now. In the media office where I work, Moore is a sort of demi-god (full divinity is reserved only for Chomsky). His book is always prominently displayed on soneone's desk, and his face is always beaming as someone's screen saver. He's even been suggested to me as a "cure" for my bad thinking.

This is the part that address what Moore sees as "the Iraq sinkhole" and what he'd like to see happen there.

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?

Coincidentally, I was having this conversation last night, over beers, with a war opponent who also happens to have a son in the 4ID, just back from Iraq. If you block out about 90 percent of the view of the thing, you can actually see parallels between insurgents in Iraq -- or anywhere -- and American colonial revolutionaries. The weaker side in an uneven struggle will tend to break the rules of war. It intimidates civilians and fights with guerilla tactics. All wars, on the level of the soldiers, are grim survival struggles.

But take just one step back and the difference becomes obvious. The revolutionaries of 1776 had made a statement of what they were fighting for. It is in the Declaration of Independence, especially in Jefferson's preamble. They were fighting for Enlightenment values: freedom, liberty, opportunity.

The Islamist insurgents in Iraq know what they are fighting for, too. They, too, have declared their cause. They want to turn the clock back to the 14th century. They want to enslave and mutilate women, murder Westerners, and exterminate the Jews. They want to impose a Dark Ages fundamentalist theology on half the world and keep the other half in fear and poverty.

... There is a lot of talk amongst Bush's opponents that we should turn this war over to the United Nations. Why should the other countries of this world, countries who tried to talk us out of this folly, now have to clean up our mess? I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.

Michael Moore does not want better lives for the people of Iraq. He doesn't want international cooperation or a stronger United Nations. He does not want to bring the boys home.

He wants them to die. He wants your sons and brothers and mother ... to die. He seeks collective retribution against America. At least with bin Laden you get a certain eloquence, and sometimes some Arabic poetry, with your death sentence. With Moore, all you get are potty jokes.

Is it unreasonable to assume, given this clear statement from Moore, that he is giving money to the "Minutemen" in Iraq? Or that he is giving money to organizations that find a way to put the powder in their muskets? Is it possible for any honest American to put money in his pockets in that case?

Rush Limbaugh may be a big fat idiot (I don't pay any attention to him, so I don't know). But I think I'd rather be on the side of a big fat idiot than a murderous moron.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Iraqi frustration

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Who's to blame?

In the wake of the Sept. 11 Commission hearings, AOL has one of those pop-up polls when you sign on that says, "who was responsible for Sept. 11?" And there are pictures of people like Bush, Rice, Tenet, Clinton, Ashcroft.

It brought George Pickett to mind. After the Civil War ended, the surviving Confederate military leaders fell to playing the blame game for their defeat, especially at Gettysburg. When someone asked Pickett who he thought was the cause of the South's catastrophic loss, he replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

"Why we can't cut and run"

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

World War IV

World War IV began on Feb. 26, 1993, but almost nobody in America realized this. Islamic fundamentalists tried to topple one of the Twin Towers onto the other amid a cloud of cyanide gas. The plan failed, the details didn't emerge until much later, and at the time it seemed like another wacky day in the Big Apple, not a dress rehearsal for Hell.

We had grown up thinking in terms of World War III, with the enemy cast as a military superpower, our mirror image, armed with bristling missiles and tank brigades. It seemed impossible that we were at war with dark men who lived in caves and who flowed through our national veins and rented rooms in the dingy neighborhoods of old Northeastern cities. They didn't have aircraft carriers, they had box-cutters and credit cards.

World War IV continued with the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998. It continued on Oct. 17, 2000, with the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. But even as the enemy became more clear, even as a U.S. warship was blown nearly in half, few people in America understood this as a new war. The administration in power here at the time was not suited for this war. It had an antagonistic history with the military and the CIA when it was out of power, and a tendency to use them fecklessly when in power.

That administration in Washington left. A new one arrived. We were unlucky to get for a president a man with little world experience, who was uninterested in foreign policy; an Attorney General eager to go to war only against home-grown perverts and homos; and a cranky Secretary of Defense great at moving missles and light forces, but unwilling or uninterested in large-force actions, long-term missions, deep investments.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a great many people woke up to the fact that the United States is at war. Since then, with every day's headlines, the realization seeps in more deeply into some people, and begins to dawn in others. But a great many still do not accept this. They only see one side of the war, like people hearing only one half of a telephone conversation, sitting in the room with the caller.

The main difference among Americans today is that some of us believe the United States is at war, a dangerous war against a desperate enemy. And other people don't believe that's true at all. To the non-believers, the people who are waging war look insanely violent, paranoid, and unstable, and to the people at war those who don't believe it look like appeasers and useful idiots, if not outright traitors. It's hard to concoct a formula more certain to breed ugliness.

The people we are fighting say certain things very clearly: we are infidels who have offended their religion, they are at war with us, and they want us to die.

Osama bin Laden issued a "Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places" on Aug. 23, 1996. Again, on Feb. 23, 1998, bin Laden and others signed a fatwa declaring war on the United States. "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it ... We -- with God's help -- call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it."

Now more people are waking up to the fact of a war, but I expect the result will not be a shift toward majority unity, as in World War II. Instead, the difference between us will shift to whether World War IV existed before America invaded Iraq, or whether the globe was happy and at peace until the big oaf America kicked up this explosion of hatred. If there had been no Iraq, we'd be having the same discussion about Afghanistan, or the West Bank; certain groups insist on seeing only the United States as an agent in the world. All violence and all blame traces back to Washington, D.C.

Now we are fighting in Iraq. After the terror attacks, many people in the world told America, "don't just go out and kill terrorists; strike at the root cause of terrorism." So this is where we're trying to do that, whether we always realize it or not. This is the most daring thing America has ever attempted. We've opened a second front in the war between us and Islamofascism. Except the goal of this front is not merely to kill the enemy and sap his strength; it is to plant seeds of freedom and democracy in the dark places where his poisons grow.

Once it's begun, it has got to succeed. The U.S. is trying to do this almost alone, with a highly capable military, an astonishingly inept and high-handed presidential administration, a vituperative opposition at home, and a wobbly hand-wringing media with a recurring case of the vapors.

It's too late to bring the boys (and girls) home and pretend it never happened. Yet that is the only solution offered on the liberal radio network, for instance. Like an unwanted baby, Iraq is here, it's ours, we better adjust. What happens in Iraq now will determine the future of the world for the next century. I've always said that it will be 20 years before we can even begin to say whether toppling Saddam and trying to set up a democratic Iraq was a good idea, in world history terms.

Now we have a chance to change administrations again. It doesn't matter to me if George W. Bush stays or goes. Iraq is more important than anything on the radar screen in this election. If Bush can't do the job, and the other guy can, dump Bush. I never voted for a Bush and I hope never to do so. But Kerry has got to show me that he understands the seriousness of this situation and knows what to do about it. So far, if I try to construct a policy out of his statements, it seems to be "turn back the clock to April 2003 and do something else."

Why trade one set of bumblers for another? It only encourages the enemy. If Kerry wants to lure voters like me over to his side, he ought to start by saying, "Whether President Bush or I wins this election, America will stand by the Iraqi people as they rebuild their nation. I will do things differently, but the terrorists, the thugs and killers, the mass transit bombers, the fundamentalist fascists who haunt the Middle East, will not get their way. They will be more unhappy with me in the White House than they can ever imagine."

I doubt I'll hear that from him, however, since I hear how the Democratic "base" talks and thinks around here.

I look around at the people who see this the way I do, in my personal circles or on the Internet: I see many are like me, men between about 35 and 50 who had previously thought of themselves as liberal, in a mild way. It is natural to become more conservative as you age. Perhaps in our cases, that one stunning September day three years ago telescoped 10 years of personal evolution into an hour.

[I have no hesitation in conflating related conflicts into large wars. America was defeated in Vietnam. But that was one camapign in a war which we ultimately won. This is not political justification. Nor is it revisionism. It's merely a historical perspective. The long view of history sees related conflicts as long-term wars. The Peloponnesian War, the Hundred Year's War, had long intervals of truce and peace, but we rightly consider them single conflicts. So the U.S.-Soviet conflict of 1945-1989 will seem, a century from now, to be a single world war in which Korea, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, and Afghanistan (1980s) were campaigns or episodes.]

Thursday, April 08, 2004

New World Religion

Saturday, April 03, 2004

What's at risk

"There must be a temptation, when confronted with the Dantesque scenes from Fallujah, to surrender to something like existential despair. The mob could have cooked and eaten its victims without making things very much worse. One especially appreciated the detail of the heroes who menaced the nurses, when they came to try and remove the charred trophies."

Christopher Hitchens on Fallujah.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Left's dilemma: hatred vs. idealism

Roger L. Simon has a dead-on reaction to the "Kos" post from yesterday, which gloated over the deaths of U.S. civilians in Iraq.

But something happened in the cataclysm of 9/11, a fracture that, instead of repairing in the normal way, has just grown worse. In the intervening relatively short period, a great portion of the left has almost unthinkingly placed itself in a classical Laingian double-bind--its hatred of Bush unable to co-exist with its natural idealism. Back in the Early Paleolithic Period, when I first joined the left, it was this idealism that motivated all of us. I assume it did for Zuniga et al. But some kind of cognitive dissonance set in after those planes came crashing into the World Trade Center. They refused to accept that anything good could happen under another name (Republicanism, conservatism, Bush, etc.). Good only comes from the names they traditionally associate with it. So heinous and barbaric acts are excused by people who under other circumstance would never do that. It's depressing and it's frightening.

Polling found anti-coalition sentiment around Fallujah far higher than Iraq generally

(I posted about this poll below; 71 percent vs. 17 percent makes this a highly atypical case)

By The Associated Press

Anti-American sentiment in the region of Iraq where four U.S. civilian contractors were killed and their bodies burned and mutilated is far higher than in the country as a whole, according to a nationwide poll of Iraqis.

In the province that includes Fallujah, seven in 10, or 71 percent, said attacks on coalition forces are acceptable political action. Among all Iraqis, just 17 percent held that view, according to the poll, conducted before the attack on the contractors, by Oxford Research International for ABC News and several European networks.

More than half in the Anbar province, which is heavily populated with Sunni Arabs, said that attacks on foreigners who work with the coalition are acceptable, while 10 percent of all Iraqis felt that way.

Four of five in Anbar say the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was wrong, compared with about half that many Iraqis in general. And by a 2-1 margin, residents of Anbar were more likely than Iraqis generally to say the invasion humiliated rather than liberated Iraq.

The poll was done for ABC, the BBC, the German broadcasting network ARD and the Japanese network NHK. The survey of 2,737 Iraqis age 15 and older was conducted from Feb. 9-28 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, larger for subgroups.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Death in Fallujah

A left-wing blog that calls itself Kos says cruelly stupid things about the Americans slain and dismembered in Iraq.

I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

... Don't believe for a second this is about democratic rule. These guys were mercenary thugs working for a proto-fascist US regime.

... The "mercenaries" by and large are Americans who never made much as US soldiers ....

So who are these mercenary monsters, these "failed" soldiers?

Jerry Zovko joined the Army in 1991 at age 19. He spoke five languages fluently — English, Croatian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Tom Zovko said.

Teague, of Clarksville, Tenn., was a 12-year Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan and also served in Panama and Grenada, his wife, Rhonda, said in a prepared statement. She called her husband a ”proud father, soldier and American.“

I know guys like that. Ex-special forces types, getting ahead in construction or some other contracting work. They work for money, they go where the money's good, and they give you good effort for your dollar.

Meanwhile, something I meant to post earlier. Mario Vargas Llosa, brilliant and human, explains Madrid (in the Guardian).

What has gone right in Iraq