Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Spirit of America

Did you donate to Spirit of America? If you did, you've probably seen this good news. If you didn't, go check them out, and maybe you can feel a little glow of satisfaction when the next update comes. If you've been watching from the sidelines, wanting to do your part, this is an excellent group. They work hard, they keep it real, and the overhead is minimal. What you give them, they put to work.

From: Dunham Maj Oliver H
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 6:12 AM
To: Jim Hake
Cc: Lutkenhouse LtCol John F; Chandler Maj Thomas E

Subject: sewing center

Dear Jim,

The local TV station we have been supporting with your donated media gear did a news spot on the new sewing center that opened in Ramadi. The station did a 14 minute segment set to music, with interviews of different people interspersed throughout the segment. The center has actually been expanded into what the Iraqis are calling a "Women's Center" (the sign reads in English below the Arabic, "The Organization of Creative Women in New Iraq"). The Iraqis will be planning use profits generated from the sewing to fund women's education (English, computer skills, etc). This is huge and is exactly the direction we are trying to drive things as it runs counter to the agenda of the extremists who are fighting to keep this part of the world mired in the dark ages. During the segment, they panned to new furniture (purchased by us), school-type desks and new computers (I believe provided by CPA), and of course, the sewing machines set up on tables, each one being its own sewing station. They are saying that 900 families will be supported by the center though I think that may be a little bit of an overstatement as locals here are sometimes apt to do.

That said, the Iraqis had a true ribbon cutting ceremony. There was a darling little girl who was holding one end of the ribbon while a man cut the ribbon. One of the Iraqis interviewed (I believe he is the director of the center) thanked the Governor for the assistance that made the center possible. Because we are approaching the transfer to sovereignty there was no Coalition involvement in the opening of the center. Thus, though the Coalition was not mentioned; we still see this as a win. Any time the interim government gets credit for something that benefits local people, it increases support for the interim government. Support for the interim government means greater stability, which is what we need to get Iraq through the transition period.

There is still a fight here, but we are making progress.

Thanks again for the help.



Someone recently dug up one of my old postings, pre-Iraq War, in which I waxed multinationalistic, criticized Bush, and praised the U.N. He asked me what had changed since then.

The short answer is, I haven't changed my position about Bush, and I still think Tony Blair says the right things, and says them far more articulately than Bush.
I've seen through the hypocrisy of the United Nations, especially the French and Germans, and I'm now more disgusted with them/it than anything that emanates from America. Even al Qaida will stand up and tell you to your face they want to see you dead. The French ruling class pretend to be on your side, when behind their backs they have their fingers crossed, hoping you'll die.

At the time I wrote, the Bush Administration (mainly Powell) apparently were trying to work within the framework of the United Nations, and its repeated resolutions on Iraq, which Saddam repeatedly tore up and laughed at. Bush et al were giving the U.N. one last chance to be effective and actually prove it meant what it said. At the time, that made us look like monkeys and gave every little candy-ass dictatorship a chance to dance on the U.S. as it tried to build consensus in the U.N.

And as for having other nations helping us, I have come to realize that, militarily, most of them just would be dead-weight. And politically, they would be weak sisters who would run at any sign of real trouble. Better to go alone with the few you can trust, who are willing to work.

Now? Looking back? I'd have gone up to the U.N. on Sept. 12, told them all to follow me down to 23rd and Chambers, shown them the red-hot pile of metal, with people crawling into it seeking anything that might still be alive, and said, "you have 30 days to tell us what you're going to do about this, before we go and do something about it on our own." Then after they didn't (of course), I'd have gone up
to 44th Street, locked the doors to the U.N. building, and handed them all their passports and a one-way ticket home.

* * *

I had thought about those older posts, and how they seem out of synch with, if not downright contradictory to, what I'm writing now. But the Internet is the antidote to "1984." You can't re-write its history, thanks to Google archives and sites like the Waybackmachine. What's been published, if it's been up for any length of time, will remain accessible, somewhere.

But mainly I decided to keep them linked from my current pages because I thought that, years from now, someone might be curious about the political evolution of one small mind, not for its own sake, but as a representative of a larger class. Historians do that all the time: how did the majority in the U.S. North, which loathed abolitionists in 1838, come to put them in power just 22 years later?

So someday historians might wonder about the diaspora of people like me, in the American political landscape. "Pro-war liberal" might be a kind classification for us, though there are a great many unkind ones. I encounter similar minds among my peers and in the sites I visit online: men and women who have traditionally identified themselves with a group of positions and attitudes generally called "liberal," but who have slowly found themselves pushed over to another alignment, ranged against people they once considered allies and beside people they once called enemies.

It began on Sept. 11, 2001. And it certainly wasn't the siren appeal of our newfound allies that drew us over. Most of us oppose them as vigorously as ever in social issues and sometimes even in War on Terror issues (Guantanamo detainments, etc.), though more quietly.

One thing I appreciate about the people on "this side" is, they know how to fight hard when the time is right to argue, and how to shut up for the sake of the greater good when that time has passed. Many "conservatives" were deeply opposed to Bill Clinton's military forays into Kosovo and Serbia, but I never saw them openly gloating over American mistakes or cheering for American deaths the way the left does today in the case of Iraq.

Yes, yes, more straw man arguments. But are they? I was told not long ago that Michael Moore, who does call for more dead American soldiers, is a fringe player, not representative of the mainstream of Democrats in America. And I allowed that to be accepted in the argument I was having. And now, lo and behold, all the top Senate Democrats have walked his red carpet to the premiere of his new movie in D.C. And the DNC has worked out a deal that will ensure more than a half-million DVD copies of the film will be distributed nationwide in October 2004, just a month before the general election.

I have no truck with Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. How am I supposed to differentiate people on the other side from their worst exemplars, if they won't separate themselves from them?

* * *

Moore joined a national conference call and webcast on Monday sponsored by MoveOn to promote the film. Moore pleaded with his fans to vote for Kerry. No surprise there, but at least he's looking over his shoulder at the election rules, because he hastily added, "I've never spoken to the man. I've never spoken to anybody in his campaign."

Which is a typical instance of Moore's definition of "the truth." Because right after that he bragged about how he's been speaking with Alexandra Kerry (she of the see-through dress), who, according to Slate, is "active in the [Kerry] campaign," and who, according to the article cited above, "does media outreach for the Kerry campaign and is considered one of her father's closest advisers." Moore also had stumped for the Wesley Clark campaign, and he and his associates keep in touch with the many former Clark staffers now working for Kerry.

So much for "I've never spoken to anybody in his campaign."

And according to a Kerry campaign source, Moore's distributors have been talking to the campaign, and Moore employees twisted arms to get Kerry to agree to a private screening of "Farenheit."

"Moore or his people have been all over us," according to a Kerry campaign staffer in Washington. "We were getting free passes to the premiere. It's obvious that when we beat the Republicans, they want to get the credit for it." Props to Kerry for dodging this stunt. At least he can do one thing right.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Pundits on both sides invoke Abraham Lincoln in the modern debate over Bush's war against Saddam, the disposition of terror suspects, and the Patriot Act.

I'm not interested here in comparing the Constitutional complications of the 1860s and those of today. The nature of the U.S. government and its powers have changed enormously since Lincoln's day -- largely as a result of the Civil War itself, and the Reconstruction amendments. Anything more than a superficial comparison only is possible amid a jungle of explanatory paragraphs swarming with footnotes.

The situations, too, are different. Lincoln faced the economic and physical disruption of the union, with a third of its population and a great deal of its revenue-generating section trying to depart. He faced the sudden emergence of a new world power on the doorstep of the remaining section, with potential powerful allies like Britain and France eager to see the fall of the United States.

After Sept. 11, Bush faced relatively fewer, more distant, and scattered enemies. But they were ideologically focused, not on escaping from the U.S., but on going right to the heart of it and unleashing fatal poison. And they are capable of a hellish destructive force never dreamed in Lincoln's day.

Many of the constitutional issues do run in parallel, however, and Lincoln's response to the crisis echoes Bush's. (Their careers have broad similarities, too: Both men had checkered pasts and won disputed elections without a majority; both were blamed for starting a war unjustly when negotiated settlement was possible and for exploiting a national crisis to advance their private agendas and attain partisan goals).

Lincoln offers a model, good or bad, for the role of a president in times when the nation sails into murky waters and faces conditions not imagined when the laws were written.

Like Bush in 2001, Lincoln in 1861 faced a legal fog in defining his enemy, and delineating his war. Even among many people in the North, the power of a state to secede from the union was held to be a legal right. The Constitution, as read by many, was seen as silent, or ambiguous, on the issue. A range of positions could be defended. Buchanan's attorney general, for instance, had investigated the laws and concluded that, while the secession was not legal, the government had no authority to stop it.

Meanwhile, the seceded states formed themselves into a new nation. Lincoln's official position was that the Confederacy did not exist and that he was suppressing an internal rebellion. Yet in practice, he treated the South as a sovereign power. He blockaded its coast. His administration acknowledged its sea-rovers as privateers and not as pirates. When rebels invaded the North and were captured at Gettysburg they were treated as POWs, not as traitors to be hanged for treason, because they were commanded by officers holding commissions from the Confederate government.

In fact, Lincoln made every attempt to have it both ways, because his powers, as president, were limited differently in each case. Whichever situation gave him what he needed, that is how he painted the war/rebellion in that case.

He did so to recruit and maintain a large standing army to fight a modern war, and in doing so he broke the Constitution he had sworn to uphold, which was structured to provide temporary, minute-man armies (in a system little changed since King Alfred's aldormen led the Anglo-Saxon fyrd to repel Viking marauders).

He did so in sweeping aside civil rights, including habeas corpus, and filling Northern jails with men never charged with any crime. He did so in full knowledge that his nation was full of dissent, and his agents couldn't, or didn't care to, distinguish honest loyal opposition from active treason.

Lincoln had at his back a Congress driven by his allies. And he managed to skillfully avoid the courts. When he couldn't avoid them, he defied them. In the Merryman case in 1861, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney denounced the notion of arbitrary military arrest and defended civil liberties, and pointed out that only Congress had the right to suspend habeas corpus. And he admitted he could do nothing to enforce his ruling in the face of a military force "too strong for me to overcome." Taney wrote as defiantly as any anti-Bush zealot today. And the cause for his wrath was more immediate and dangerous than the Patriot Act:

“I can only say that if the authority under which the constitution has confided to the judicial department and judicial officers, may thus, upon any pretext or under any circumstances, be usurped by the military power, at its discretion, the people of the United States are no longer living under a government of laws but every citizen holds life, liberty and property at the will and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may happen to be found.”

Lincoln wrote out a standing order for Taney's arrest, but it was never served. But Merryman set the tone and left it to the justices to decide whether to provoke fights, legitimate or not, that they had no power to win.

Lincoln got a break when an important case came to Justice James M. Wayne, who was perhaps the staunchest war supporter on the Court. In U.S. v. Colonel Gorman Wayne upheld Lincoln’s extra-legal (at best) recruiting drive in 1861 and its retroactive endorsement by Congress. “It is my opinion,” Wayne ruled, “that Congress has constitutional power to legalize and confirm executive acts, proclamations, and orders done for the public good, although they were not, when done, authorized by any existing laws.”

Even some who supported the Northern cause blanched at this notion, but it was in keeping with the general spirit of the administration and the pro-war press, which was to “preserve the union at all costs.”

Lincoln used his presidency to pack the Supreme Court with justices who would be more sympathetic to his purposes. Three of five justices who sustained the administration in the important Prize case of 1863 were new Lincoln appointments.

But the full question of whether the Constitution gave the president a special power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus during wartime never got to the Court. In large part that's because the administration made sure it didn't. It had a valid fear that the Court would rule against there being such a power under the Constitution, and such a ruling would undermine the war effort. On the other hand, by keeping the matter away from the Court, the administration could largely accomplish its policy.

Opposition, especially in the press, clamored for a test case to settle whether the arbitrary arrests were legal. Secretary of War Stanton thought it would be wise to do so, too, but Attorney General Bates talked him out of it. In a letter of Jan. 31, 1863, Bates wrote to Stanton that a Supreme Court decision against the habeas corpus policy “would inflict upon the Administration a serious injury,” and would do more good to the rebels “than the worst defeat our armies have yet sustained.”

Only after victory was secure, and only gradually and tentatively at first, did the Supreme Court begin to put the nation back on a Constitutional basis, which Lincoln and the Radicals in Congress had disrupted. Both Lincoln and Taney were dead by this time.

Lincoln had done what was necessary to his purpose, which he saw as saving America's future, and he let the lawmakers catch up as they would. Or he left it to the courts to undo the changes long after they ceased to be necessary. Some of them were never undone, and America after 1865 was never again ruled by the government that had been created in 1787.

History forgives him these transgressions (though they are more bitterly remembered in the South) because the war he led America into had a great (if unintended) result of freeing slaves. It gave them an imperfect freedom, to be sure. The backlash brought explosive violence into their lives. And real civil rights didn't come their way for another century.

Yet however imperfectly he did it, Lincoln defeated slavery -- an institution that had enjoyed the protection and support of the U.S. government until then. (Even so radical an anti-South man as Thad Stevens once took a case on behalf of a master reclaiming his runaway slave.) And history gives him that honor and Americans rank him among their greatest presidents.

Why Oil

Someone asks my contractor friend in Iraq, " I want to know why we haven't done more than a half-hearted try to circumvent the oil problem by developing viable alternate energy sources. I've been wondering this for years now. It is plain to see that if we did that we could cut loose our dependency on the Mideast and begin to solve a raft of problems." It's something I've wondered, too. Here's her answer:

I took a bit of extra time to think about this, and still haven't set everything straight in my head. Sometimes you can know something very clearly, but still have a hard time explaining it, you know? Still, take a look at the list below.

Ink Dishwashing liquids Paint brushes Telephones Toys Unbreakable dishes Insecticides Antiseptics Dolls Car sound insulation Fishing lures Deodorant Tires Motorcycle helmets Linoleum Sweaters Tents Refrigerator linings Paint rollers Floor wax Shoes Electrician's tape Plastic wood Model cars Glue Roller-skate wheels Trash bags Soap dishes Skis Permanent press clothes Hand lotion Clothesline Dyes Soft contact lenses Shampoo Panty hose Cameras Food preservatives Fishing rods Oil filters Combs Transparent tape Anesthetics Upholstery Dice Disposable diapers TV cabinets Cassettes Mops Sports car bodies Salad bowls House paint Purses Electric blankets Awnings Ammonia Dresses Car battery cases Safety glass Hair curlers Pajamas Synthetic rubber VCR tapes Eyeglasses Pillows Vitamin capsules Movie film Ice chests Candles Rubbing alcohol Loudspeakers Ice buckets Boats Ice cube trays Credit cards Fertilizers Crayons Insect repellent Water pipes Toilet seats Caulking Roofing shingles Fishing boots Life jackets Balloons Shower curtains Garden hose Golf balls Curtains Plywood adhesive Umbrellas Detergents Milk jugs Beach umbrellas Rubber cement Sun glasses Putty Faucet washers Cold cream Bandages Tool racks Antihistamines Hair coloring Nail polish Slacks Drinking cups Guitar strings False teeth Yarn Petroleum jelly Toothpaste Golf bags Roofing Tennis rackets Toothbrushes Perfume Luggage Wire insulation Folding doors Shoe polish Fan belts Ballpoint pens Shower doors Cortisone Carpeting Artificial turf Heart valves LP records Lipstick Artificial limbs Hearing aids Vaporizers Aspirin Shaving cream Wading pools Parachutes

If we completely eliminate the use of gasoline we'd save about 47% of our total petroleum consumption. If we completely eliminated the use of diesel fuel and fuel oil, I think we'd eliminate another 23% or so. It would just about take that to eliminate our present use of imported oil. Believe it or not, the US is still one of the largest oil producers in the world.

Unfortunately, a number of the products above are not only produced using petroleum, but are also manufactured through processes that require fuel oil. And of course this list doesn't directly name all of the urethanes, nylons, coolant mixtures and other products that are essential to the machines that produce the items on the list. Those products include things like rollers, conveyor belts, motor housings and parts, shielding, piping, etc. And of course it doesn't mention that even with those items that can be economically produced using electric energy, oil is often used to produce that electricity, both in the US and abroad.

When everything is said and done, I believe the primary problem is technology. In some cases viable alternative technology already exists. What doesn't exist is the ability to radically and immediately make the change. This is due to a number of problems, but the most significant one is the simplest-- money.

For automobiles alone, we have to consider the retooling costs for construction of these new vehicles. Then we have to consider the means by which fuels will be transported, stored, and distributed, which includes the equipment that must be built in order to make that possible. The expense isn't borne just by the auto makers, but also by shipping companies, fuel producers, trucking companies and truck manufacturers, and even gas station owners. Decades of innovations have produced products and systems that are relatively efficient and safe, but revolve around the use of petroleum. Now we're looking at newer technologies and require much the same level of refinement in order to be able to completely replace petroleum fuels. And we can't get that without incredible expenditures, all of which we (the consumer) eventually must pay.

We also don't want a situation where current investments made in good faith by Americans or others are simply legislated away. For instance, if the US government was to simply ban the use of petroleum products in all cars by the year 2010, those with investments in auto companies, shipping companies, and petroleum corporations would immediately see a significant drop in the value of their investments, primarily because at that moment, all of their present assets in machinery, employees and facilities would become liabilities, and the mission of the companies they were invested in would be, in lay terms, to spend money. It is concievable that any such legislation would cause such a rush to sell in those markets that it would collapse the markets. In such a situation, the only way to save a company such as UNOCAL, for instance, would be to place a hold on trading, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the remainder of the market wouldn't react in such a way as to lower the overall value of the total market. Either way, it's not fair to those who have invested in these companies in good faith.

The word is out. The petroleum supply is getting smaller. New technology has to be developed to replace it. But this has to occur over a broad market, including everything from cars to machinery to shipping to clothing to medical equipment. As the technology develops to make this possible, more and more of these products will begin to arrive, and the economic effect will snowball. But in order for that to occur, it has to develop slowly, so that the dollars required to make that development progress can process throughout the whole economic system. Again, not just in the US, but everywhere else.

This is something that is understood by many of the extremists in the Middle East. For them, full control of the majority of the world's oil supply means a last great stab at power. If they can grab control, they can not only enrich themselves, but they can also slow or even halt the economic progression of other countries, particularly those who do not meet their religious approval.

And you are seeing this in action, right now. This isn't a debatable thing. The attacks on Iraqi oil lines, the attacks on foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, the threats of piracy in Indonesian waters, the increased spending necessary for both countries and companies to secure their equipment and employees-- all take away needed funds for the development of new technologies. And all indicate the economic power which can be brought to bear by these people if they can take and control the world's oil reserves. The US and other nations are at the moment seeing a slowdown in economic growth, and in some cases, a decrease in growth and wealth, largely because of increases in fuel costs. And this is with Saudi production running as close to wide open as they can presently handle.

Reserves aren't production capacity. Iraq has far more in reserve, and even that it can pump, than it can physically deliver to port. The only way you can increase that volume is by constructing new pipelines, new pumping stations and new port loading facilities. Those are in the works. And if we have our hands on them, then US and foreign companies working to create new technologies have the economic stability necessary to develop them. If not, then the US has a fleet of ships, jets, tanks, APCs, etc. with no fuel to operate, and no fuel to keep the economic engine that drives the US in operation.

The change over is happening. But it's not and cannot be an overnight affair. Think of cell phones. When I was a kid they were huge. Now they're tiny. The difference is in battery cell technology. The same would hold true for electric cars. Changes in battery construction and capabilities have made it possible for electric cars to actually be a viable form of transportation. But we still have to use some type of fuel in order to initially power up those cars. If all of the US could convert to those or to hydrogen autos then we could actually run coal fired power plants in the US with scrubbers, and still have less pollution in the air than we do today. And we have more coal in the US than in any country in the world save Russia.

And if the people in the Middle East wanted to hoard their oil, continue to use petroleum technology because it was cheaper for them, more power to them. It wouldn't make any difference, because we'd be doing the same. But right now, that would put most of the rest of the world at their economic, and ultimately, military, mercy. And the extremists amongst them don't believe in that.

That's about it. I don't know what else to tell you. This is a race. And even though oil, and even money is a big issue, it's not matter of greed. It's a matter of survival. Believe it or not, we need this oil, and we need these profits, in order to actually make the change and remain stabile. And those who we are fighting know this, even if many in the US, don't.


CASABLANCA, APRIL 16, 1946 (AP) - The Allies today opened the final campaign of the war in Europe, with a vast thre-pronged invasion into the last bastion of fascism in Europe.

Some 20,000 American troops embarked from French Morocco and hit the beaches of southwestern Spain near Cadiz and Seville, blasting their way 5 miles inland by dusk, in the face of stiff resistance. Meanwhile British bombers based off Gibraltar pounded Spanish military instalations far inland.

To the north, a separate Anglo-American invasion fleet, based in Marseilles and backed by battleship firepower, landed north of Barcelona. The city was partially in flames tonight, its cathedral spires toppled. Meanwhile, paratroops dropped inland. And Basque partisans, on signal from the Allies, siezed border posts in the Pyrennes and threw open their gates to Allied convoys from southern France.

History that might have been. Jose, my online friend from Spain, has reminded me that the Allied victory over fascism was incomplete in 1945. We left one dictator -- Franco -- in power. Though not an active combatant, he was as bad as Mussolini, if not Hitler, and the notorious caudillo was allowed to linger in power as a distant friend of America till he died of old age in 1975. Spain is still recovering from his scars, and the people of Spain, I have learned from Jose, are still bitter over this. It is part of the reason, I am told, they do not trust us, or support us, in Iraq.

We should have finished the job. What third way was there between that and dealing with Franco as an unpleasant reality? Isolate him and starve him out? The experience of Iraq teaches the impossibility of doing that to a tyrant. As the ultimate power in a country, he is able to gather in the resources and stay safe amid his inner circle, while the people who would oppose him suffer the most, and soon find themselves too weakened to mount resistance. Spain likely would have been no easier than Iraq to isolate, with its long and convoluted coastline and with willing smugglers in Portugal, North Africa, and Andorra.

But would Spain have welcomed a second D-Day? Air bombing in France during the war claimed an estimated 60,000 civilian casualties. Another 20,000 French civilians died in "other military operations" ("other" than the fall of France in 1940), largely associated with the liberation of their country from the Nazis (a liberation many French did not particularly desire).

Some 11,912 tons of bombs were dropped in Normandy on D-Day alone, to try to blast German resistance on the coast and inland. The Allied bombings of railway yards alone in 1944 are said to have killed at least 3,411 civilians. The city of St. Lo was leveled by bombing to allow Patton to break out a few days after D-day, and the simultaneous Allied bombing of Caen is said to have killed 5,000 civilians in a day.

Robert Lilly, criminology professor at Northern Kentucky University, author of "The GIs' Hidden Face," estimates 3,620 rapes by U.S. soldiers in France from June 1944 to June 1945, based on military records he analyzed. Some accuse him of being an anti-American. I don't know if he is or not, but publishing this by itself does not prove it. In fact, it rather supports modern America's blundering but sincere bid to free Iraq, by pointing out that even the most lauded such efforts of history are attended by the inevitable tragedies and crimes of war.

So what do you say, Spain?

Stupid Criminal of the Day

Bloody Wal-Mart customer who bought garbage bags charged with murder

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — A man who walked into a Wal-Mart covered in blood and bought garbage bags Friday was charged with murder after authorities found a stabbed body in a trash bin.

Wal-Mart workers called deputies after a blood-soaked man walked into the store and bought some clothes, bandages and trash bags around 4 a.m. He paid with a $100 bill that also appeared to be bloodstained, they said, and drove off in a pickup.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Quote Wrap, June 26

TAPPER: Is it not also legitimate to question whether, however, you are doing the same thing you're accusing the U.S. government of doing? You fault Saddam Hussein for being a brutal dictator back in the '80s when the United States was allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, yet when it comes to the part of the movie where you discuss going to war in Iraq in 2003, that's not a part of the movie you talk about how brutal Saddam Hussein was.

MOORE: Because people like you and this network and other networks over and over and over again told us that. Look, we all get it. We all know that. I'm just trying to present another side of the story. Why don't you think that's a good idea to have a filmmaker out there presenting a point of view and a side of the story that really wasn't well represented in our mainstream media?

Michael Moore turning nasty on ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper, who asks remarkably good hardball questions. [For a TV guy, I mean.] Moore is Saddam's Leni Reifstahl, but with less filmmaking skill.


Right after 9/11, some of us thought it was impossible for leftist critics to undermine a war against fascists who were sexist, fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, ethnocentric, intolerant of diversity, mass murderers of Kurds and Arabs, and who had the blood of 3,000 Americans on their hands. We were dead wrong. In fact, they did just that. Abu Ghraib is on the front pages daily. Stories of thousands of American soldiers in combat against terrorist killers from the Hindu Kush to Fallujah do not merit the D section. Senator Kennedy's two years of insane outbursts should have earned him formal censure rather than a commemoration from the Democratic establishment.

What a litany of distractions! Words — preemption," "unilateralism," "hegemony," — whiz by and lose all meaning. Names — "Halliburton," "Chalabi," "INC" — become little more than red meat. Vocabulary is turned upside down: "Contractors," who at great risk restore power and water to the poor, are now little more than "profiteers" and "opportunists"; killers are not even "terrorists" but mere "militants." "Neo-cons" are wild-eyed extremists; "realists" are no longer cynics — inclined to let thousands die abroad unless the chaos interrupts transit of oil or food — but rather "sober" and "circumspect," and more likely Kerry supporters.

Victor Davis Hanson on "Year Three: Where do we stand in this disorienting war?"


This afternoon I logged on to the CNN website and their major headline read "92 Iraqis killed". After reading the news report, I logged on to Al-Jazerah's website and guess what their major headline was? "3 American soldiers killed". This is what they ONLY care about, to see America fail. In fact, it is not just Al Jazerah, I am beginning to believe that the majority of Arabs/Muslims feel indifferent towards Iraqi deaths as long as the US sinks deeper in their perceived "Iraq quagmire". They don't give a dead rat's ass about Iraqis being killed on a daily basis by suicide bombings and arbitrary shooting. Their passion of "Arab/Muslim brotherhood" only explodes when few Iraqi civilians are accidentally killed by US forces. I am outraged at such hypocrisy and lies.

Big Pharaoh scores again

Chomsky is Right

Many people I read and respect in the Blogosphere have an attack-dog reaction to the name "Chomsky." But people who mock and dismiss him should read him first. They may find much that will have them nodding in agreement.

Chomsky's politics are execrable, and his world-view is warped. But one aspect of his spiel is a critique of media bias. And it's worth reading.

He does actually do something for a living, beside discover how Everything is America's Fault. He's a linguist, but not a nuts-and-bolts type who studies the structures of languages and how they evolved. You can read dozens of the best books on that topic (as I have) without ever encountering his name.

Chomsky's work is in a more theoretical realm: language as something that happens inside the human brain. He develops and tests theories about how grammar happens, on the subconscious level. It's really more psychology than linguistics, I think.

His observations about human behavior are often insightful. And he has studied the media carefully. And guess what? He thinks it's badly biased. So do a lot of people who don't agree with him about almost anything else. But while his opponents tend to regard media bias as a "given," an article of faith that doesn't have to be explained, Chomsky has carefully gone about explaining how it happens.

He writes ably about how the "elite media" set the agenda for the rest. By "elite media" he means generally the same set of names the rest of us do -- The New York Times, CBS, the handful of corporations on that plane.

Now, here's the rub: to Chomsky, these media are biased because they're too conservative. OK, when you stop laughing, please note that his analysis of the system, of the method by which the slant becomes institutionalized, is politics-neutral. It can as easily explain any sort of bias -- against the war, for white people, against religion, for cheap beer. It can even be applied to Chomsky himself, who is a media phenomenon.

The idea of "manufactured consent," which Chomsky rides hard in his writing on the media, likewise does not imply an ideology. He describes it like this: "We [i.e. the media] can make it [people's right to vote] irrelevant because we can manufacture consent and make sure that their choices and attitudes will be structured in such a way that they will always do what we tell them, even if they have a formal way to participate. So we'll have a real democracy. It will work properly."

I found this in a piece by Chomsky published by Z Media Institute in June 1997.

There is another sector of the media, the elite media, sometimes called the agenda-setting media because they are the ones with the big resources, they set the framework in which everyone else operates. The New York Times and CBS, that kind of thing. Their audience is mostly privileged people. The people who read the New York Times -- people who are wealthy or part of what is sometimes called the political class -- they are actually involved in the political system in an ongoing fashion. They are basically managers of one sort or another. They can be political managers, business managers (like corporate executives or that sort of thing), doctoral managers (like university professors), or other journalists who are involved in organizing the way people think and look at things.

The elite media set a framework within which others operate. If you are watching the Associated Press, who grind out a constant flow of news, in the mid-afternoon it breaks and there is something that comes along every day that says "Notice to Editors: Tomorrow's New York Times is going to have the following stories on the front page." The point of that is, if you're an editor of a newspaper in Dayton, Ohio and you don't have the resources to figure out what the news is, or you don't want to think about it anyway, this tells you what the news is. These are the stories for the quarter page that you are going to devote to something other than local affairs or diverting your audience. These are the stories that you put there because that's what the New York Times tells us is what you're supposed to care about tomorrow.

If you are an editor in Dayton, Ohio, you would sort of have to do that, because you don't have much else in the way of resources. If you get off line, if you're producing stories that the big press doesn't like, you'll hear about it pretty soon. ... So there are a lot of ways in which power plays can drive you right back into line if you move out. If you try to break the mold, you're not going to last long. That framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures.

OK, well, that's not quite right, but it wouldn't be Chomsky if he got it quite right. The New York Times sends out a wire item every afternoon slugged "AM-PAGE1-CONSIDER-NYT." It tells what the paper's top stories will be for the next day, and it goes only to subscribers of the New York Times wire, which is a different thing than the AP wire. But the AP also sends out its page 1 recommendations every day, and, with the exception of enterprise pieces that one or the other is working on, the list is essentially the same for the AP and the NYT.

I work as a copy editor for a small-city Pennsylvania newspaper (Dayton would be a good comparison). On nights when I sit at the wire desk, I read the wires and put together my "page one recommendation" lists, and pitch those stories at our daily budget meeting. I always have done this without reference to the AP and NYT recommendations. But it doesn't matter. My boss, the editor, always checks the AP tip sheet, and also looks to see what "the boys on 42nd Street" are doing in their newspaper, and no matter what I recommend, he adjusts his story choices accordingly.

The next day, we see the WaPo, NYT, Philly Inquirer, etc. And nothing makes my boss more pleased than to see that his front page design that morning is exactly like theirs. Same stories, same pictures, same placement. That proves, to him, that he has "good news judgment." It proves he belongs in the same league as the big boys. My pitching other stories, instead of some of those on the "recommendation" list, confirms my boss in the belief that I lack good news judgment. I don't want to make this personal, but I am pretty sure it's one reason he's never left me to run the newspaper on days when he's away.

So who is this boss? If you read down the posts on this blog you'll get a beginning of a picture. He doesn't read much more than what is on the newswires, but to him, there was no sane connection between Iraq and the terror attacks of Sept. 11, and therefore the war to overthrow Saddam was illegal and unjust. To him, stories about death and chaos and American failure in occupied Iraq are "what the readers want," and any other kind of stories are irrelevant.

But of course my boss would deny that his agreement with NYT coverage was evidence of a "bias," which, after all, is a word freighted with menace and subterfuge. He would deny that it is part of a systematic inclination in the media. Chomsky anticipates this, and anticipates the response.

They say, quite correctly, "nobody ever tells me what to write. I write anything I like. All this business about pressures and constraints is nonsense because I'm never under any pressure." Which is completely true, but the point is that they wouldn't be there unless they had already demonstrated that nobody has to tell them what to write because they are going say the right thing. If they had started off at the Metro desk, or something, and had pursued the wrong kind of stories, they never would have made it to the positions where they can now say anything they like.

And that's essentially correct. And it works as well to explain a "liberal" bias as a (presumed) conservative one. Even Chomsky says this, in discussing why this whole topic is taboo in journalism schools. "Again, it is not purposeful censorship. It is just that you don't make it to those positions. That includes the left (what is called the left), as well as the right. Unless you have been adequately socialized and trained so that there are some thoughts you just don't have, because if you did have them, you wouldn't be there." [italics added]

Of course, Chomsky also goes on to say, in this article, that the agenda-setting media are controlled by corporations, and thus by a corporate structure that he compares to fascism. He goes on to say that this means the news agendas are set by wealthy, parasitic elites, to protect their interest. He talks about propaganda and world domination. He is Chomsky, after all. Along the way he makes the astonishing observation that, "The U.S. [before World War I] was a very pacifist country. It has always been."

But if you can peel away the paranoia and focus on the media critique, and the explanation of the system by which it happens, you can learn something useful from Chomsky sometimes.

Deconstructing Bushitler

Medienkritik reports on the German media's enthusiasm in drawing parallels between the American abuses at Abu Ghraib and the Nazi concentration camps. The Bush-Hitler comparison is so old it's hardly shocking anymore. But now "modern America = Nazi Germany" (so much for the paper distinction of loving Americans but hating U.S. foreign policy).

The blog cites an example from the conservative, mainstream "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," writing about "a pile of naked men that reminds us of pictures from the concentration camps."

Overlook the fact that the concentration camp photos showed piles of dead bodies. Apparently that difference doesn't register in the German media. Overlook, too, the fact that the German media had zero interest in Abu Ghraib under the previous owners. Pictures exist from that phase in the prison's history. The only reaction I have to those of them I've seen is a line from Günter Grass: "I couldn't eat enough to puke enough."

But overlook it, because I will say, in Abu Ghraib, Americans got a glimpse over the precipice that leads to a Death Camp.

I haven't read many books more cold-blooded than Christopher Browning's "Ordinary Men" (1992). He tells of a group of average German civilians who mustered into the military as Reserve Police Battalion 101, shipped off to the Eastern Front, and methodically rode from village to village across the plains of Poland, marching the Jewish men, women and children of each place out to the woods and shooting them individually to death.

This book paints the horror with an everydayness that makes it the more horrible.

On their first assignment to kill Jews, in the Polish village of Josefow, the battalion's major gave his troops the option of "excusing themselves" from the task. Of the 500 in the unit, only about a dozen did so. They were not punished. The rest slaughtered 1,500 women, children and old people. They became one of Nazi Germany's most efficient extermination units; by the time Police Battalion 101 disbanded in late 1943 "the ultimate body count was at least 83,000 Jews."

[If this sounds familiar, but you haven't read Browning, realize that his research was a key source for Daniel Goldhagen's bestseller "Hitler's Willing Executioners."]

Browning's new book, "The Origins of the Final Solution," explores how the Holocaust came to happen. It was not Hitler's plan all along; it evolved. The racial policy shifted as the military campaigns in the East rolled up huge successes. There was no direct order from the Führer to exerminate. "But local commanders, whether SS officers or administrators in occupied territory, always sensed that more extreme action on the ground would find approval above them," a reviewer of the book observes. Hitler is portrayed as a leader who "filled the air with fearsome innuendo, but left it to junior figures to put into practice what they sensed he wanted -- and what they wanted too." In the end, "[t]he Wannsee Conference of January 1942 only made the German bureaucracy complicit in what was already being done."

Among Browning's revelations in the new book, one seems to have caught the eye of British reviewers, in publications that take a dim view (at best) of the war to overthrow Saddam. "The decisive impulse (to the Final Solution) was not defeat but the euphoria of victory in Russia, in the summer of 1941," a reviewer writes. "It was the sense that they were invincible which persuaded the Nazis that the genocide of Soviet Jews, which they were already carrying out, could be extended to the Jews of every nation they controlled."

Euphoria of rapid victory ... war crimes that begin with low-level decisions, implicitly sanctioned from above ... something seen at first even by Himmler as "un-German" becoming a fact, then a policy ... the mix of semi-professional soldiers with loutish tendencies and leaders willing to turn a blind eye to brutality.

Yes, it's there. The parallel is there. If you only look at it through a drinking straw.

Now put the straw down and look at the whole scene. What came before? In Germany, whole generations of demonization of Jews -- they were vermin, disease, the focus of a century of legal restrictions and social exclusion. This was approved in the churches, in the universities, and in the political parties of all stripes.

In the U.S., we have a welcoming culture that is aware of its own mongrel, immigrant origin. Some cartoonish Arab bad guys in a few Hollywood movies hardly are the equivalent of Der Stürmer's vicious blood-libels. Imams visit the White House. Courts uphold muezzin chants. After 9-11, in town after town, neighbors protected Muslim women who were afraid to walk in the street in their distinctive garb. The list goes on.

What came after? Were the American abusers sent off to the next prison, to continue their work? Were their bosses promoted and their leaders pleased? The criminals have been sacked and await punishments. The whole system has been shaken by the revelation. Civil and military tribunals convened, the chain of command exposed and scrutinized. Even though the recently released memos show Bush rejecting any interrogation methods that don't meet Geneva standards, the outcome of all this very likely will be the defeat of his entire administration.

The German fighting force of 1940 was the finest professional army in the world. And before it was over, even the proudest outfits had been tainted by war crimes. Americans are not better than Germans. American National Guard prison units from Pennsylvania are not inherently morally superior to German police battalions from Hamburg. What is the difference? Start with transparent institutions, free inquiry, a cultural sense of right and wrong that had not gone completely mad over a demonized enemy, and, yes, a media that is willing to expose crimes.

As Medienkritik goes on to point out, the German press probably should not push this line too hard. It could lead to some embarrassing comparisons.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Anti-Totalitarian Justification

"What is international law when you have the human rights commission in Geneva headed by Libya?" is one of the pithy lines from this interview with Adam Michnik, the leading force in the Solidarity trade union movement who founded and edits Poland's largest daily newspaper.

Unlike many European liberal intellectuals, but like many Poles, Michnik was an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq. He was interviewed by by Thomas Cushman, editor of the "Journal of Human Rights" and a professor of sociology at Wellesley College (and himself a liberal supporter of the war in Iraq), in Warsaw on Jan. 15. It appears in the online version of "Dissent" magazine, under the title "Anti-totalitarianism as a Vocation."

Here are some excerpts defining and explaining the "anti-totalitarian" justification for the overthrow of Saddam. I find that, though I have no direct experience of totalitarianism (a few weeks in East Germany hardly count), this resonates with me.

Adam Michnik: I look at the war in Iraq from three points of view. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a totalitarian state. It was a country where people were murdered and tortured. So I'm looking at this through the eyes of the political prisoner in Baghdad, and from this point of view I'm very grateful to those who opened the gates of the prison and who stopped the killing and the torture. Second, Iraq was a country that supported terrorist attacks in the Middle East and all over the world. I consider that 9/11 was the day when war was started against my own work and against myself. Even though we are not sure of the links, Iraq was one of the countries that did not lower its flags in mourning on 9/11. There are those who think this war could have been avoided by democratic and peaceful means. But I think that no negotiations with Saddam Hussein made sense, just as I believe that negotiations with Hitler did not make sense. And there is a third reason. Poland is an ally of the United States of America. It was our duty to show that we are a reliable, loyal, and predictable ally. America needed our help, and we had to give it. This was not only my position. It was also the position of Havel, Konrad, and others.

TC: Yes, you specifically mention that this is a view you share with Vaclav Havel and Gyorgy Konrad.

AM: We take this position because we know what dictatorship is. And in the conflict between totalitarian regimes and democracy you must not hesitate to declare which side you are on. Even if a dictatorship is not an ideal typical one, and even if the democratic countries are ruled by people whom you do not like. I think you can be an enemy of Saddam Hussein even if Donald Rumsfield is also an enemy of Saddam Hussein.


AM: It's simply that life has taught me that if someone is being whipped and someone is whipping this person, I am always on the side of those who are being whipped. I've always criticized U.S. foreign policy for forgetting that the United States should defend those who need to be defended. I would object to U.S. policy if it supported Saddam Hussein, and I have always criticized the United States for supporting military regimes in Latin America.


AM: Well, who was worse, Ronald Reagan or Leonid Brezhnev? If I were American I would never have voted for Reagan, but as a Pole, I liked the tough position of Reagan toward Brezhnev. Perhaps Reagan did not quite understand what he was doing, and maybe Bush doesn't understand either. But the facts are that, suddenly, Libya has begun to speak a different language. Syria has begun to speak a different language. Even North Korea has started to speak a different language. This is not to say that Bush is always right. Of course not. But you must see the hierarchy of threats, of dangers. I asked my French and German friends, Are you afraid that tomorrow Bush will bomb Paris? And can you really be sure that terrorists and fundamentalists will not attack the Louvre? So which side are you on?

TC: So it's either-or ... you're either with us or against us.

AM: Unfortunately, yes


TC: Throughout your revolutionary period, when you were fighting against communism, you always took a position of nonviolence. Now, in supporting the war you are advocating violence. Can you explain this? I ask this because many people in the United States admired you for your nonviolent stance against communism. But now they say, "Michnik advocates nonviolence, but he's supporting this war." Isn't it paradoxical to advocate the promotion of human rights through violent means? I realize that this is a difficult question.

AM: No, it's a very easy one. I can't remember any text of mine where I said that one should fight Hitler without violence; I'm not an idiot. Against [Polish premier Wojciech] Jaruzelski you could fight without violence, even against Brezhnev. This is clear if you look at [Soviet dissidents] Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. But never against Saddam Hussein. In the state of Saddam, the opposition could find a place only in cemeteries.


TC: Why are Western European intellectuals deaf to this moral argument?

AM: Well, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Bernard Kuchner, and others aren't deaf. It's related to why so many Western European intellectuals did not want to hear about Stalin's crimes for so many years.

TC: They say that the intellectuals who support the war in Iraq don't understand that Saddam Hussein is not Adolf Hitler, and so on. I interviewed Jacek Kuron the other day and, as you know, he was against the war. He was critical of the idea that the fight against Saddam Hussein is the same thing as the fight against Hitler.

AM: Well, it's obvious that Saddam is not Hitler. Pol Pot was not Hitler either. My fundamental question is, What would Saddam Hussein have to do for my dear friend Jacek to agree that he's as bad as Hitler? What more would he have had to do? Invade Poland and build gas chambers in Auschwitz one more time?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

French Twilight

"Dhimmi Watch" has a powerful work of prose by Hugh Fitzgerald on the slow sinking of France and the willful blindness of the French to the trajectories of their present.

And you have friends who live in the south. And they tell you that the beurs – some call them maghrébins -- make life hell for everyone. They attack French children on the way to school. They vandalize cars. They threaten, and do more than threaten, anyone who is still foolish enough to walk out wearing a kippah or a cross. Whole areas of cities in the south, as in the north, and east, and west, have become off-limits to non-Muslims. In the schools, the teachers have lost authority. They cannot even cover the subjects of World War II, the Resistance, and the murders of the Jews as the state prescribes; they fear, with reason, the violent reaction of the Muslim students.

And as the schools become more and more dangerous for non-Muslim students and teachers, with more time and resources devoted to discipline rather than to learning, French parents and would-be parents are now silently factoring into their childbearing plans the present value of the future cost of what, they see, will now have to be added: private school tuition. And that means, of course, that those French people will plan on smaller families. And they will also be factoring in the growing cost, paid by them, those French taxpayers, for the whole expanding edifice of security, the guards in the schools, the guards at the train stations and métro stations and airports and at government buildings everywhere, the costs of keeping the gravestones from being vandalized, the costs of protecting the synagogues and the churches, the costs for all those tapped phones and agents in mosques, and subsidies to lawyers and judges to hear charges and try cases against Muslims, and the costs of monitoring da'wa in the prisons (more than 50% Muslim).

But the Muslims are indifferent to expenses incurred by the French state. France is part of the world; the world belongs to Allah, and to his Believers. That doctrine has remained immutable for 1400 years. Imam Bouziane, the one they keep trying to deport, had 16 children by two wives, all living on the French state: a representative Muslim man. Over time, the difference between average family size of Muslims and non-Muslims steadily increases. And, over time, the education system continues to disintegrate. Right now, perhaps, you cannot see it. Your children go to the best schools, followed by the best lycées. You vacation in Normandy, or Brittany, or the Ile de Ré. And you do not take the metro often enough, or walk in the right districts, or work in the right factories or offices, to understand what tens of millions of your fellow Frenchmen now have to endure. You, for the moment, are still immune, still willfully unaware. You have spent the last few decades learning about the Muslim world from Eric Rouleau, and his epigones (after they silenced Peroncel-Hugoz, the one journalist who reported the truth) in Le Monde. You are deeply-versed in the constantly reported-upon, endlessly dilated-upon, perfidy of the mighty empire of Israel. You know what we have all had dinned into us: that the Arab Muslims are reasonable people, with clearly-justified grievances, grievances so reasonable and so limited in scope, that justice demands they be satisfied. Everyone agrees on the “solution.” It is called a “two-state solution” and of course it is a “solution” for otherwise, of course, it would not have been called a “solution.”

And everything looks the way it always has looked: the linden trees, the river, the bridges, the réverbères, the étalage in the neighborhood boulangerie. Douce France, cher pays de mon enfance. At the end of the school day, chic mothers still congregate in little towns, or small cities, outside the school – this or that Ecole Jules Ferry -- waiting to pick up their children. Here come the littlest ones, from Maternelle, running up now -- just look at how small they are. And here are the CE1 group, with those huge cartables on their tiny backs. Run, run, run, to Mommy. Oop-la. And then the years of study, study, study marked by ever-larger cahiers -- "cahier" and "cartable" are the words that identify French DNA better than Piaf or gauloises, isn't that true? And now we will read the books, and study the subjects, set down so completely and precisely by the Ministry of Education. And now we are up to the final year, preparing for the Bac, with copies of blue-backed BALISES, guides to Les Châtiments and La Peau de Chagrin. And just look at the results listed in the newspaper: Claire-Alix has a mention très bien. Fantastic. Everything is fine, everything will always stay the same, whole countries cannot change. It’s not possible.

But it is changing, coming apart, quietly, slowly --let’s not look too closely, we mustn't pay too much attention -- the streets, the schools, the hospitals, the ability to speak the truth about things, about life as it is lived, la vita vissuta as they like to say in a neighboring country. Dominique de Villepin always knew there was nothing to worry about; he was born, after all, in Salé, next to Rabat, even spent a few years of his infancy there; of course he knows his Arabs, his Muslims. And surely Eric Rouleau, who for decades in Le Monde was the resident expert on the Middle East (he was so knowledgeable that he never had to so much as mention the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna), surely he knew everything, didn't he? And those French translations of Edward Said that denounced with such passion the Islamophobia, and those vicious cliches with which the blind and rotting West has always caricatured the Arab Muslim world. Oh, we have been so terrible to the Arabs, we colonialists, we French, we Westerners. And then there is the never-ending outrage of Israel, that running colonial sore. Of course, they have every right, those Muslims, to come here to France. We went to their countries once, now they come to ours. And they have every right to hate us, don’t they?

Imagine There's No America

Waning empires. Religious revivals. Incipient anarchy. A coming retreat into fortified cities. These are the Dark Age experiences that a world without a hyperpower might find itself reliving. The trouble is, of course, that this Dark Age would be an altogether more dangerous one than the one of the ninth century. For the world is roughly 25 times more populous, so that friction between the world's "tribes" is bound to be greater. Technology has transformed production; now societies depend not merely on freshwater and the harvest but also on supplies of mineral oil that are known to be finite. Technology has changed destruction, too: Now it is possible not just to sack a city, but to obliterate it.

Niall Ferguson imagines a world without American hegemony, in "The End of Power" in Monday's "Wall Street Journal." His conclusion? As if you couldn't guess from the reference to "dark ages." It's ugly.

The prospect of an apolar world should frighten us a great deal more than it frightened the heirs of Charlemagne. If the U.S. is to retreat from the role of global hegemon--its fragile self-belief dented by minor reversals--its critics must not pretend that they are ushering in a new era of multipolar harmony. The alternative to unpolarity may not be multipolarity at all. It may be a global vacuum of power. Be careful what you wish for.

Vanishing Victory

The Washington Times is the only paper I've seen so far to report on the American victory over the Mahdi's Army. When the a-Sadr forces rose up in revolt, it was a top news story in the major media in the "We're Losing" category. When the revolt was put down, only a right-wing player like the WT bothered to cover it from the point of view of a Coalition success.

When the division got word April 8 that Sheik al-Sadr's uprising meant most 1st Armored soldiers would stay and fight, rather than going home as scheduled, it touched off a series of remarkable military maneuvers.

Soldiers, tanks and helicopters at a port in Kuwait reversed course, rushing back inside Iraq to battle the Shi'ite cleric's 10,000-strong army. Within days, a four-tank squadron was rumbling toward the eastern city of Kut. And within hours of arriving, Lt. Col. Mark Calvert and his squadron had cleared the town's government buildings of the sheik's so-called Mahdi's Army.

Number One with a Bullet

You'll never guess what the buzz of the newsroom was yesterday (this was reported to me; I was mercifully off work). My fellow editors and reporters can't wait to see the new Michael Moore movie.

This is the same Michael Moore who gloats over (alleged) American defeat in Iraq and calls for the death of more American troops:

... 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.

I told my friend to beware in speaking up about Moore. Not only will you find the rest of the newsroom edging away from you with suspicious stares, you might get sued. Yes, the almighty Moore, who makes his meat off the freedom to say any stupid thing he likes, has threatened that, "Any attempts to libel me will be met by force," and so reviewers of his movie had better have deep pockets if they want to say anything bad about him.

Of course, that doesn't stop people like Hitchens from eviscerating the guy (it's a big job) and the movie he made. Among the many holes Hitch punches in the movie-clown, I especially like this one:

In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival. In the course of this exchange, he stated his view that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was, he said, the American way. The intervention in Afghanistan, he maintained, had been at least to that extent unjustified. Something—I cannot guess what, since we knew as much then as we do now—has since apparently persuaded Moore that Osama Bin Laden is as guilty as hell. Indeed, Osama is suddenly so guilty and so all-powerful that any other discussion of any other topic is a dangerous "distraction" from the fight against him. I believe that I understand the convenience of this late conversion.

Meanwhile, the distributors of Moore's latest effort shamelessly "welcome" the assistance of a Hizbullah front-group in distributing the movie in the Mideast.

The movie industry publication Screen Daily reported, "In terms of marketing the film, [distributor] Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there's anything they can do to support the film."

Well, that's enough for me. I'll just mail my $7.50 directly to Hizbullah, and skip the middle man.

Democracy and Intelligence

People who supported the war did so for a melange of reasons, differing from person to person. Neither me nor any of the supporters I know did so because we bought the administration's line entirely. At times I was dubious of what even Powell was saying, I never liked Ashcroft, and I still think Cheney inhabits some cultish parallel universe.

To us, the fact that the administration messed up its case doesn't change the verdict we reached last year. But to many war opponents, this always was and always will be a domestic issue, not a future-of-the-world/clash-of-civilizations issue. To them, the connection or non-connection between Iraq and Qaida was all that mattered, because it gives thumbs up or thumbs down to the "Bush Lied" protest banner.

To me, that's a secondary issue; sure I'll take it into the voting booth (along with whatever John Kerry has to offer to prove he'll do better, which I still can't discover). To me, as I said, the interesting parts of the preliminary report were the degree to which Qaida was courting Saddam, which validates my fear, and the administration's pre-emtive response.

This was a dilemma. Our intelligence was flawed and weak. We didn't know a whole lot, and a lot of what we thought we knew was wrong. Intelligence-gathering in a democratic society is an inexact business: Americans are learning that this year. It's like baseball hitting: you know the pitcher is going to try to throw a ball past you, but you don't know exactly how. Or maybe he's faking it and plans a pick-off move. Either way, if you guess right one third of the time, you're considered to be doing great.

So do we want to live in a country that is ruthlessly efficient in snooping? If not, then we have to take a risk sometimes, and judiciously pre-empt without 100 percent certainty. The alternative is to be both nearsighted and naive in a jungle of a world.

As Not Seen on TV

The 203rd Engineer Battalion, originally from Missouri, is helping reconstruct Iraqi schools: "As well as overseeing the contractors, the battalion's own engineers supported the effort by performing electrical, carpentry, and plumbing work," the soldiers instituted a quality control system on local contractors, resulting in great improvement in quality of work. Meanwhile, Yash Sinha, a first lieutenant in a New Jersey-based Army Reserve civil affairs unit had learned that "[t]he way to Iraqi hearts is through their sewer pipes." Says Sinha of his experiences: "The people were very friendly. They'd invite me for lunch, offer me tea. They were always courteous. They wanted to hear a lot of things that were going on in the outside world." Major Danny Hassig, of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion stationed on the Tigris River in Baghdad has been restoring "essential services such as waste management, medical services, food distribution, education and transportation systems, to the area." "Sometimes it seems like the good news just doesn't get out. There is so much good news," says Hassig.

Just a sliver of the Good news from Iraq, courtesy of Chrenkoff.

Taint by Numbers

Here's a scientific, academic study of media bias in the United States. The methodology seems sound. The conclusion is that the media is far to the left of the mainstream, so much so that Fox News comes out, not as the conservative beast that my co-workers consider it to be, but the mainstream.

From the introduction:

Few studies provide an objective measure of the slant of news, and none has provided a way to link such a measure to ideological measures of other political actors. That is, none of the existing measures can say, for example, whether the New York Times is more liberal than Tom Daschle or whether Fox News is more conservative than Bill Frist. We provide such a measure. Namely, we compute an ADA score for various news outlets, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Drudge Report, Fox News’ Special Report, and all three networks’ nightly news shows.

Our results show a very significant liberal bias. All of the news outlets except Fox News’ Special Report received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Moreover, by one of our measures all but three of these media outlets (Special Report, the Drudge Report, and ABC’s World News Tonight) were closer to the average Democrat in Congress than to the median member of the House of Representatives. One of our measures found that the Drudge Report is the most centrist of all media outlets in our sample. Our other measure found that Fox News’ Special Report is the most centrist. These findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample.

To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks. We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we can construct an ADA score for each media outlet.

As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, one liberal and one conservative. Suppose that the New York Times cited the liberal think tank twice as often as the conservative one. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign to the New York Times.

Some pacifists

"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States ...."

[George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism," May 1945]

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

How to Count

From an article in "The Australian:"

"President George W. Bush also insisted Baghdad had a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons have ever been found."

Except for that shell stuffed with the Sarin gas brew. Here Michael Moore sneers, "Oh, just one, big deal."

1. Sarin shells are like cockroaches; there's never "just one"

2. the U.N. resolutions that justified this war didn't set an upper limit on the number of banned weapons Saddam was allowed to have, so one shell puts him over the line

3. if you're a media outlet, such as "The Australian," you should know enough about words to know that any positive number -- even "one" -- is more than "zero," And therefore you can no longer say "no such weapons have ever been found" when some have, in fact, been found.

Unless, of course, you're more committed to your preferred version of reality than you are to the truth, in which case you belong in "1984," not in the newsgathering profession.

Those Pesky "Militants"

The USAToday story Insurgency boils up in Thailand reports that:

In Thailand's deep south, the population is 80% Muslim. Militants have burned dozens of secular government schools, murdered Buddhist monks and attacked police posts.

Repeat after me: "T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-T."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Missing in Iraq: Thing One

The first bar fight I ever started was in the wildly mis-named Friendly Saloon in Ardmore in 1983. Some yuppie puke buttonholed me and declared that "the media lost the Vietnam war." I was a newly minted reporter at the time. It was mostly clutch-and-grab; there wasn't much room to swing anything and the bouncers moved fast. That was back when we did this job on typewriters.

Nowadays I'd probably just let him blab. I'm too disillusioned with the media to defend it at the risk of getting tossed from a good roadhouse.

We're biased, but it's not like you think. Media bias is not plotted and rehearsed. It's a natural outgrowth of the fact that people who gravitate to a career, and who get along well enough with the other people in that profession to make a lifetime job out of it, tend to see the world in the same tones.

For instance, major media are written with an essentially secular world-view. If your neighbor wraps his car around a telephone pole and walks away unhurt, the newspaper account of it might say he was saved by his seatbelt or you might read a quote from the township police corporal saying he was damned lucky. You won't read that his mother's daily prayer for his safe return moved God, who dispatched a guardian angel to the scene a split second before impact.

That's appropriate; people go to the media for a rational explanation of the world. Yet most Americans do believe in the efficacy of prayer and the reality of the supernatural. So the media deliberately breaks step with the reader's world-view, but most readers, I think, accept it in that case.

But a bias based on political position, or contempt for authority in general, is not, I think, what serves the media well. And I think it alienates readers.

After Sept. 11, for the first time, I found myself breaking from the media herd. Some of my peers felt the attacks were something we had earned. Many thought the Afghan invasion to overthrow the Taliban was a horrible crime against humanity, and they thought (hoped) it was doomed to fail. At least three of them took time off to march in anti-war protests.

There is an essential split in America today. On the one hand are people who think that 9-11 was a new Pearl Harbor, and it ushered in World War IV. And we should behave as a nation (if not a civilization) at war for its survival. On the other hand are people who -- well, I'm not one of them so I hesitate to say what they think 9-11 was, but suffice it to say they do not think it was a call to arms for Americans.

To the people who believe we are at war, the others will look like the enemy's useful idiots at best, like traitors at worst. To the others, my side will like like bloodthirsty sadists. I can parse the difference between being "against the war" and being "for the other side" (and some people ...cough, cough, michaelmoore, cough... clearly cross the line). I accept that you can be an honest pacifist, or can be angry about 9-11 but also be angry about invading Iraq, and still be a good citizen and an honest person.

But I don't think one of those views ought to rule in the major media of a free nation, to the near exclusion of the other view.

I've seen outright editorializing in news stories, and it is vile. But what I see more often is a continuous decision to play up certain stories, and play down or ignore certain others. Over the long run, this is more damaging. It's the kind of bias that doesn't jump out at you. It oozes, and most people never notice.

Specifically, I'm missing two things in all the media coverage I see from Iraq. The absence of them -- the choice not to cover them, or report on them -- reflects a media bias, if not against the war, against the administration that runs the war. And I'm afraid this will have consequences for that administration, and, more tragically, for the American and Iraqi people.

The first missing piece of the coverage is the Coalition soldiers themselves, along with their Iraqi allies. The Ernie Pyle style was so execrated by the Vietnam era correspondents that by now they seem to have tuned out entirely the fact that there are 138,000 or so U.S. soldiers in Iraq. I actually read AP "battlefield" stories during the Shi'ite uprising in May that went on for 30 inches or more, quoted al-Sadr militia fighters, quoted Mark Kimmitt back in the Green Zone, and didn't have a single word from a U.S. soldier about the fight.

I had a brief brush, earlier today, with some folks I used to chat with in an online discussion group. It was military history-based, and the news from them was that the topic has switched to Iraq, but they're as fractious about the present as they were about the past. My ally in there has been plugging away at the modern media the way she used to shell Lincoln.

I wondered if the guys there, who are at least nominally interested in military matters and history, feel cheated that their media didn't report that, in May, east of Amara, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders mounted an old-style bayonet charge.

It was the first British bayonet charge since before the birth of most of the soldiers who did it. They routed more than 100 al-Sadr thugs from mortar positions, killed at least 20, captured nine, and suffered only three injuries, none serious. With textbook British understatement, the official spokesman merely confirmed that the Mehdi army "took a pretty heavy knocking."

Their local newspaper did a nice write-up on it here, but I only knew about it from reading milblogs. Nary an article in AP or Reuters, that I saw. My gods, if I were a military reporter, I'd bite into this with all 32 teeth. This is the gem of a story that elevates a penny-a-liner into the history books. Why didn't anyone cover it but the local media? I guess there were no American women holding leashes. Now that's news.

Another great heroism story most people missed is the Salvadoran corporal who single-handedly held off a pack of attackers with a switchblade. To its credit, the AP did cover this one. The story was written by Denis D. Gray, and take a bow to him; he's done some of the AP's best work this year. But the editors back in New York didn't play it up at all in their budget, and consequently very few stateside media ended up running it. I didn't see it anywhere in print, in fact. Here's Gray's opening:

NAJAF, Iraq – One of his friends was dead, 12 others lay wounded and the four soldiers still left standing were surrounded and out of ammunition. So Salvadoran Cpl. Samuel Toloza said a prayer, whipped out his switchblade knife and charged the Iraqi gunmen.

In one of the only known instances of hand-to-hand combat in the Iraq conflict, Toloza stabbed several attackers who were swarming around a comrade. The stunned assailants backed away momentarily, just as a relief column came to their rescue.

"We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end," said the 25-year-old Toloza, one of 380 El Salvador soldiers whose heroism is being cited just as criticism is leveled against other members of the multinational force in Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said recently the Central American unit has "gained a fantastic reputation among the coalition" and expressed hope that they will stay beyond their scheduled departure.

Phil Kosnett, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority in this holy Shiite city, says he owes his life to Salvadorans who repelled a well-executed insurgent attack on his three-car convoy in March. He's nominated six of them for the U.S. Army's Bronze Star medal.

"You hear this snotty phrase 'coalition of the billing' for some of the smaller contingents," says Kosnett, referring to the apparent eagerness of some nations to charge their Iraq operations to Washington. "The El Sals? No way. These guys are punching way above their weight. They're probably the bravest and most professional troops I've every worked with."

And so on.

And of course 90 percent of the Coalition soldiers spend 90 percent of their time not fighting. Among the other things they're doing is interacting with Iraqis, building or rebuilding. Where's all that? Can you name three U.S. military people (lower rank than general) in Iraq? If you can, they're probably the Abu Ghraib idiots. Newsworthy, of course, but was that truly the only remarkable thing done in Iraq this past year? Why did our "New York Times" and CNN and "Washington Post" make Lynndie England a household name, but never mention Marine Capt. Brian R. Chontosh?

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

Isn't he part of the story, too?

For that matter, our media constantly tell us the new Iraqi defense forces are no damned good, and showing endless reels of Iraqi thugs celebrating burning U.S. convoys. Did you read anywhere about Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps?

“I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot. Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy." Jassim's citation for bravery reads, in part:

"...[A]s the firefight ensued, under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded [U.S.] Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward into the enemy fire and came to the aid of the wounded Marine. He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine...."

Isn't that part of the story, too? Isn't that part of what you need to know to decide whether the grand, messy experiment of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is working, or not? Or whether the incumbent of the White House deserves the next four years to keep working on it?

Missing in Iraq: Thing Two

The other story I'm missing from Iraq is the reconstruction. When we invaded Iraq we said we'd do three things: overthrow Saddam, install a responsible government, and get the country back on its feet again after years of neglect.

Yet the third "leg" of that mission is utterly AWOL in the news coverage. The AP-IRAQ budget story that moves on the newswire every single day always is topped with another RPG attack on coalition forces, or another IED blast that kills another U.S. soldier. Then you get a few paragraphs on political squabbling. Those are newsworthy, yes. But I want the rest, too.

Thi is not a pleading for "good news." It can be bad -- such as the number of hours the power still isn't on in some places -- but, please, tell me about it. It's just as important as Abu Ghraib. You do read about blackouts, of course, but the articles never offer the context that tells you the power's out because some fuckwits rained mortars on the grid again. And they focus on Baghdad, not the rest of the country, where power is, I am told, much better than it ever was.

Every once in a great while you'll stumble across a statistic, buried deep in a story, about the number of schools that have been rebuilt in the past year, the number of people who have clean drinking water for the first time in their lives. It's usually just a set-up to a "but" clause lamenting the tragic problems we've caused, or how much the Iraqis hate us.

This is bias by neglect. But there's an active element in the bias, too. It gets more clear to me with each twist in the news cycle.

The media reaction to the 9-11 Commission preliminary reports last week was so over the top -- and so flat-out wrong -- that I can only think the editors wrote the headlines before they saw the facts of the story (don't laugh, I had a boss in West Chester who used to do that). Somehow the editors saw the words "no evidence that Saddam and al Qaida cooperated on attacks against the U.S.," and they read "no connection between Saddam and al Qaida."

On Thursday, the headline in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" was, Saddam, al-Qaida Not Linked. Sept. 11 Panel's Conclusion at Odds with Administration. In the "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review," the banner headline read, 9/11 Panel Debunks Saddam Link. Report: No Evidence of al-Qaida Ties. Our headline was, 9-11 panel finds no al-Qaida-Saddam tie.

I had another huge knock-down drag-out with a co-worker yesterday over that. I had to haul him back to the archives and show him the story we ran later in the week in which even the ranking Democrat on the 9-11 commission said the media was way off the mark on this supposedly complete refutation of the administration by the panel. Here's Lee Hamilton's quote:

"I must say I have trouble understanding the flack over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. We don't disagree with that. What we have said is what the governor just said, we don't have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me."

No, you probably didn't read that quote. Neither did my rival editor -- who happens to be the wire editor. He refused to believe me until I showed it to him. We buried that story on page A5, on top of the truss ads. I don't think one person in 100 who saw the banner headline on page 1 the day before read that corrective to it. And you know what the headline read, on the story that contained it? Not, "Kean, Hamilton agree with Administration on Iraq," not "9-11 panel spanks media." It read "Bush defends Iraq-al-Qaida tie."

Meanwhile, the preliminary report demolished the received wisdom from the intellectual left that Osama, as a religious purist, would never dirty his holy hands by dealing with a secular fascist like Saddam. On Thursday, where were all those Wise Men who had pooh-poohed the suggestion that Osama would deign to work with Saddam? Were they muttering mea culpas and slinking away? Did they publish articles saying, "We didn't know jack about al Qaida"? No, the brazen fools had the audacity to stand right up there at the head of the pack, shouting, "Bush was wrong about Osama!"

"Killers with Cameras"

IMAGINE if, on D-Day, the Nazis had been allowed to place camera teams on Omaha Beach — with our suffering soldiers forbidden to interfere. What if, on top of that, the Germans had invented American atrocities against French civilians — and our own officials defended their right to do so in the name of press freedom?

That's the situation with al-Jazeera in Iraq.

Staffed by embittered exiles and pan-Arabist ideologues — the last Nasserites — al-Jazeera is so consumed by hatred of America and the West that the network would rather see Iraq collapse into a bloodbath than permit the emergence of a democracy sponsored by Washington.

Despite his slaughter of a million-and-a-half Muslims in wars and campaigns of repression, al-Jazeera cheered for Saddam during Operation Iraqi Freedom, inventing Iraqi victories. Its staff reacted with horror to the fall of Baghdad — and suppressed film clips of celebrating Arabs.

Since then, al-Jazeera has glamorized Islamic terrorists (who, were they ever to come to power, would close al-Jazeera and butcher its staff) while portraying the Baathist campaign of murder and sabotage as a noble freedom struggle.

Al-Jazeera is so bigoted and morally debased that its reporters and producers delight in Coalition casualties, in dead Iraqi doctors and engineers and (above all) in dead Kurds.

Al-Jazeera not only encourages the assassination of American soldiers, but pulls out all the stops to excite anti-U.S. hatred throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

The response of our own officials in Iraq? Al-Jazeera is only exercising freedom of the press. Isn't that why we fought to bring down Saddam?

This is idiocy, a perverse political correctness based upon a rejection of common sense.

Read the whole glorious thing: Killers with Cameras, by Ralph Peters of the New York Post.

Taking Stock of Iraq

Someone sent my contractor-friend in Iraq a Washington Post article purporting to explain the situation over there. She sent it back in shreds. Here's a bit.

I found this article primarily worthwhile for what it left out. The passage below being a prime example

The CPA also lacked experienced staff. A few development specialists were recruited from the State Department and nongovernmental organizations. But most CPA hiring was done by the White House and Pentagon personnel offices, with posts going to people with connections to the Bush administration or the Republican Party. The job of reorganizing Baghdad's stock exchange, which has not reopened, was given in September to a 24-year-old who had sought a job at the White House. "It was loyalty over experience," a senior CPA official said

Well, Iraq doesn't have a stock exchange. Hasn't had one-- ever, at least in any sense that Europeans or Americans or those in the Pac Rim would recognize. You don't find much free trade in countries where all the major industries are owned and controlled by the government. The only open Iraqi "stock" market consisted of around 35K worth of funds being traded on local ventures primarily by retired Iraqis with a little money to risk and time to kill on goat ventures. It's not a case of reopening or even reconstructing it. It has never closed, and it has never amounted to anything.

For a stock market of any note to be created in Iraq, it will have to be done from scratch. And where local investment is concerned, not only will the existing major businesses need to become at least partially privatized, but they will also have to become solvent. At the moment they rely primarily on foreign credit and US dollars, making them completely unstable for investment purposes. The best recognizable investment system that could be created at the moment would have to be established on a government bond basis. But this is difficult to do while insurgency is high and employment levels are low.

Iraq is a perfect example of why supply side economics cannot maintain itself in a stabile manner if anything goes wrong. It is a nation chock full of needs, but with no money to pay for them. In theory, it is an investors paradise, with millions of workers available for low wages and the same millions presenting a very attractive market for products. But it has a very worn out infrastructure and lacks the dollars to create a new one and the security to allow it to happen even if those dollars where there. If the people themselves had money, or even major holdings, investment in new businesses would be a breeze, because the demand could be instantly realized, something you can't do under supply side without the infusion of incredible outlays of cash and long delays.

Who has actually failed? Well, all us blood suckers, thousands of contractors working with thousands of Iraqis appear to be rogues. Or at least that's the way we're all presented. The nation is full of privateers and volunteers, cowboys if you prefer, from every nation you can think of. Why are they here? Well, some are here to provide aid. Others are here to rebuild entire regions that they feel are vital to the world historically. But most are here to make money. They've come into country, accessed the situation, and have determined it to be a good place to invest time and money. And that makes sense, because ultimately this country has sufficient wealth underneath the ground to make it into the capitalist society that Saudi Arabia could be, but hasn't quite ever achieved.

Unfortunately, this fact has also been recognized by another breed. That breed sees this country as a gold mine to enrich a few, fuel a radical terrorist stream of Islamic fundamentalism, and provide a stepping stone for bringing down free, non-Islamic nations. They have no recognizable sense of morality, no concern for any lives, religions, ideals or beliefs beyond their own, and no moral restrictions to gaining what they want. Opposing them they have those who have little and basically would just prefer to be left in peace, those who share just enough of their religious background to not see them as completely evil, those who have shown their greatest backbone by producing twisted up articles such as that you have posted, and then those rest of us, civilian and military, who understand the risks and the difficulty associated with building such a place as this under such opposition as we face.

... Frankly, I would have stockpiled this country with US, European and Pac Rim stock brokers, and given every Iraqi $500 to spend. It would have turned Iraq into an economic free-for-all of epic proportions and shaken the entire Middle Eastern Islamic world to the core. Especially OPEC. But nobody in the world does that kind of thing. Not even the members of the UN.