Date ►►► February 28, 2006
How Do You Close "Intelligence Gaps?"
With more intelligence, of course.
Yesterday, a story flew furiously around the media (hat tip to Michelle Malkin) that the Coast Guard, which handles port security, at one point had serious concerns about the Dubai Ports World deal; though the Department of Homeland Security says those concerns were addressed, the clear implication of the story was that they were glossed over or ignored entirely... and liberal Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), no friend of the Bush administration, carefully poured gasoline on the fire:
The U.S. Coast Guard said questions about foreign influence, employees and operations made it impossible to assess the threat posed by a state-owned Dubai company's purchase of a firm that manages some terminal operations at six U.S. seaports.
"There are many intelligence gaps concerning the potential'' for assets owned by DP World or London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. "to support terrorist operations,'' says an undated intelligence assessment by the Coast Guard that was released [by Collins] at a hearing today of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The document wasn't given to an administration panel assessing the national security risks of the acquisition, but its concerns "were addressed and resolved,'' Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary at the Homeland Security Department, said.
Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins was skeptical. "I don't see how you were able to close those gaps so quickly,'' she told Baker and Admiral Thomas Gilmore, an assistant commandant with the Coast Guard.
Really? I can think of a way.
The most likely explanation is that these "intelligence gaps" turned out to be based upon misapprehensions or simple lack of information on the part of whatever group within the USCG had those concerns at the time. It doesn't take very long, Madam Senator, to say to someone, "what? No, we're not doing that; we're doing this, which is entirely different than what you thought," or to supply the information that someone does not yet have.
In fact, we have no idea what those "gaps" were supposed to be; so we cannot judge whether they were real problems that were resolved by making changes, misapprehensions that were resolved by correcting or augmenting the questioner's understanding, or raging paranoia that was corrected by Coast Guard superiors overruling some low-level committee. But just because we don't know doesn't mean we can assume the worst. If we were to follow that rule consistently, then we would be Democrats.
The AP article is chock-a-block with argument by raging hormones. One example:
Dubai is one of seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, where two of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came from. Bush has defended the sale, saying the UAE has been a vital ally in the war against terrorism.
Yes, two of the hijackers held UAE nationality. But then, those port terminals are currently managed by British company P&O, even though the London bombers hold UK nationality, as does failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid. And of course, Jose Padilla holds American nationality -- so don't even think of letting some American company manage cargo ops there!
I cannot possibly tell you how serious these "gaps" were or what was done to reassure the Coast Guard. Neither can Susan Collins (who knows but can't say) or, e.g., Michelle Malkin (who knows no more than I about it). But I can state with some certainty that whatever qualms the Coast Guard had were successfully addressed, and they are now on board with the Dubai deal.
And isn't the point that the "gaps" were filled more dispositive than the fact that they once existed?
Does Charles "the Sauerkraut" Krauthammer Read Big Lizards?
(Heck, we already know Ann Coulter does -- she once quoted us nearly verbatim!)
Big Lizards, February 21st, 2006; UAE and American Ports: a Modest Proposal:
Both the actual national-security risk and also the political danger come, not from the ownership of the company, but rather from the day to day management -- the actual control of operations. The emirate wants the profits that accrue from ownership; rational Americans want to see control of the port, even the cargo areas, in friendly hands, preferably American.
This suggests a workable compromise: an American company should be chartered -- American owned and American managed -- that is a wholly owned but independently operated subsidiary of Dubai Ports... call it American Port Services, Inc., or somesuch name that makes clear the nationality; and then let all the actual management of the ports be handled by the American APS, not by Dubai Ports.
Charles the Syndicated Krauthammer, Special Report With Brit Hume, February 27th, 2006:
The question is, sometimes these issues disappear into... into the process, and they get off the front pages for a while. The question is, what effect would that have?
If public opinion stays three to one against it, it'll be in the news even if you revive it in six weeks. If the vote were held today, the president would lose on a veto. The question is, could he change that in six weeks? I think it's probably yes.
And he'll do it, not by argument alone, but by inventing a sort of a cover. And the cover I think will be a U.S. company which will run it on behalf of, uh, the UAE company, so that the profits end up in the UAE, and operations end up in America... and with a committee of America's security people's oversight inside the company, et cetera, reporting to Congress. Lawyers do this kind of stuff; that's why you have lawyers: invent an intermediary. And I think it'll be done. If the president comes up with a compromise like that, I think he'll win on a veto.
So what do y'all think? Did Old Doc Krauthammer come up with this modest proposal completely independently? Or did he follow a link from Whizbang or Power Line or Captain's Quarters all the way out to the boondocks of Big Lizards, then say to himself, "well dang! that sounds like a pretty good i-dee!"
Now if we could only train them to include a link when being interviewed on the air....
CBS = Certifiably Bogus Surveys
Well, there they go again.
CBS has released yet another survey slamming the president. This one, they announced with breathless glee, found:
President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.
Indeed, the Bush administration loses across the board, on every conceivable question: approval, handling of the Iraq War, handling of terrorism, the economy, national security, and on and on. So how did they manage to get such wonderful numbers (from the Democratic perspective)?
First, we note that polling mere registered voters invariably yields a significantly more liberal result than polling likely voters; that is a given among pollsters. There really is no excuse, either, since by now everybody knows that only half of registered voters actually turn out to vote in off-year elections. What could be worse than polling them as a proxy for the voters who actually, you know, vote?
Continuing this series of unfortunate polling events, CBS managed to find a worse group to poll: they chose to poll "national adults" instead -- which gives results even more skewed to the Left. Very clever, these unbiased professionals!
Second, there is always the question of the political-party demography of the sample. Typically, we must tease out from various reported results the percent of respondents who are registered with the two major political parties (plus "Independents," which includes everybody else from Communists and Greens to La Roucheies and Libertarians).
But to my amazement, CBS's "the sky is falling on Bush's head" story actually linked to the underlying poll itself... and that pdf file listed (on the last page) the exact numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents polled.
Ready for the whopper? CBS managed to find a poll sample that, in raw format, comprised 1,018 respondents... of which 40.2% were Democrats and 26.7% Republicans, yielding an "advantage-gap" of 13.5% for the Democrats. Yow!
But not to worry; even more amazing than merely listing the total numbers of each, this time, the CBS pollsters actually weighted the sample, so as not to wildly oversample Democrats... an amazing innovation.
And they did a great job, too: the weighted sample now includes 37.4% Democrats and 28.4% Republicans. So the actual advantage-gap was only 9% for the Democrats, instead of 13%. Whew, there's a load off my mind!
So just bear that in mind when next you read a poll from CBS -- heck, from anyone -- screaming that Bush's poll numbers are plummeting, that they're at an all-time low, that his support has actually sunk below zero, and that he will soon be voted off the planet: if you conduct your survey at the Re-Defeat Bush dead-dog party, you can pretty much get the poll to jump up and spit sweet apple cider in your eye.
Date ►►► February 27, 2006
Canadian Health Care Held Hostage: Will Conservatives Free It?
Even the New York Times now agrees that Canada's much-vaunted socialist health-care system is "faltering."
Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians remain reluctant to openly propose sweeping changes even though costs for the national and provincial governments are exploding and some cancer patients are waiting months for diagnostic tests and treatment.
Not only is the system breaking down, it is beginning to be supplemented -- and eventually supplanted -- by a return to a private health-care system. This is happening in classic "boil the frog" fashion, with little steps here and there. But unlike, say, the creeping centralization in the United States, Canada is experiencing creeping privatization... a good and necessary change for our neighbor to the north.
The Times opens with a long anecdote about Canadian Dr. Brian Day, who operates a private hospital in British Columbia, in open defiance of Canadian healt-care laws. His Cambie Surgery Center charges patients money for treatment, just as an American hospital would do. However, even there, most of the hospital's income is legal; many of the public hospitals have begun referring patients to Dr. Day. However, Day plans to open other centers in other provinces... and he has already been threatened with legal action by the provincial government of Ontario:
Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.
"We've taken the position that the law is illegal," Dr. Day, 59, says. "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."
Dr. Day is not being reckless in his eagerness to go to court: the Supreme Court of Canada already ruled months ago, in a case in Quebec, that the country's ban on private medical care is unconstitutional when it interferes with the ability of patients to get treatment (though by a narrow 4-3 decision). Since the decision was based upon the Quebec Charter of Rights, not the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it does not necessarily apply to any other province; the same justices split 3-3, with one justice making no decision, whether the ban violated the Canadian as well as the Quebec Charter.
The Quebec government reacted by saying it would apply immediately for a stay of between six months and two years before the decision takes effect, given the chaos it could cause in the delivery of medical services in Quebec.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benoit Pelletier said the province would consider using the notwithstanding clause in Quebec's constitution as an alternative to abiding by the court's decision.
But it's the first crack in the northern ice. Besides trying to sidestep the Supreme Court of Canada's decision, Quebec is also trying to resolve the underlying problem -- which it recognizes at last as a problem. From the New York Times article:
In response [to the ruling], the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, proposed this month to allow private hospitals to subcontract hip, knee and cataract surgery to private clinics when patients are unable to be treated quickly enough under the public system. The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have suggested they will go much further to encourage private health services and insurance in legislation they plan to propose in the next few months.
Private doctors across the country are not waiting for changes in the law, figuring provincial governments will not try to stop them only to face more test cases in the Supreme Court.
One Vancouver-based company launched a large for-profit family medical clinic specializing in screening and preventive medicine here last November. It is planning to set up three similar clinics — in Toronto, Ottawa and London, Ontario — next summer and nine more in several other cities by the end of 2007. Private diagnostic clinics offering MRI tests are opening around the country.
In an interesting parallel with socialist arguments against school vouchers in America, socialist defenders of "free" health care in Canada warn that allowing private clinics will "drain the public system of doctors and nurses." This is tantamount to an admission that doctors, nurses, and patients are unhappy with the current system, though of course defenders of the status quo don't recognize that is what they are saying. Similarly, Americans who attack vouchers because students will flee the government schools are in fact making a wonderful argument for vouchers: they implicitly admit that when parents are allowed to "vote with their feet," they opt for capitalism over socialism.
Much of what is driving the surreptitious (or at times, openly defiant) move towards a market in health care is the utter failure of the socialist model to deliver services in a timely manner. That is, the surgeries don't run on time. Waiting periods between initial consultation and treatment can run months or even years, causing many Canadians to bolt south to American hospitals to buy privately what they cannot beg from their own government.
But such stop-gap measures will not satisfy Canadians for long, I suspect. The capitalist impulse is strong, for the simple reason that the laws of the market are not just idealistic yearnings; they are laws of economic nature that cannot be evaded. Socialism can control the price but not the cost of goods and services; and eventually, somebody has to pay the difference between the two. In Canada, as in the United States, that piper-payer is inevitably the middle-class taxpayer.
But equally inevitably, such taxpayers demand they get their money's worth. And when the government proves incapable of delivering it, even Canadians will overcome their Eurocentric revulsion of dirty capitalism and opt for what works over what is flattering to a narcissistic altruism.
Now Dr. Day says he is considering building a full-service private hospital somewhere in Canada with a private medical school attached to it.
"In a free and democratic society where you can spend money on gambling and alcohol and tobacco," Dr. Day said, "the state has no business preventing you and me from spending our own money on health care."
That sounds like an American talking. Perhaps someday, Canadians will not see that as a mortal insult.
It Ain't Even the Quarter
The following is the follow-up post to our previous Scaley Classic, this one posted on Captain's Quarters on July 5th, 2005.
A few days ago, when July was fresh and new, I argued in That Ain't the Half of It that it really doesn't matter whether Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was or was not a leader of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran, because the enormity of his undisputed post-revolutionary career as an assassin for the Revolutionary Guard -- during which he murdered hundreds of Iranian dissidents living abroad -- simply overwhelmed the question of whether he was also a student radical.
The only objection that could reasonably be raised (apart from dredging up some evidence to contradict the biography at GlobalSecurity.org) is that Ahmadinejad's homidical vocation, as horrific as it was, was not directed at us, and that we should only be concerned with attacks on America -- which moves the embassy-seizure question back to front and center.
Now I argue that if that is your standard, then again, there are far more serious attacks that Iran has committed against the United States... including the murder of 2,985 people on American soil (mostly Americans) in the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.
Wait -- hold on -- don't turn into a mob! Yes, of course I know that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, which is primarily a Sunni organization, not Shi'ite, like Iran. But I thoroughly support the judgment of the president himself when he said:
And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
Evidence has begun to emerge that the violent and secretive regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran not only applauded the 9/11 attacks, not only gave safe haven to terrorists, but actively collaborated with al-Qaeda on the attacks themselves.
Granted, none of this implicates Mr. Ahmadinejad; but his new boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is involved right up to his turbin.
Some of this evidence is detailed in the new book by Kenneth Timmerman, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown With Iran, which I have just begun reading.
Fair warning: If you are one of those -- and I know you're out there -- who reject anything written by Timmerman or any other "right wing" author, then gird yourself; I'm going to be discussing several things from this book in future posts as well. Forwarned is four-armed!
Timmerman begins the bombshells in the very first chapter, in which he discusses the testimony from an Iranian defector, Hamid Reza Zakeri, who says he gave (or tried to give) critical information to the CIA, back in July of 2001, of an impending terrorist attack on the United States in September... an attack in which Iran had been closely involved with al-Qaeda in the planning phase. Timmerman says that the CIA refused to listen and did not pass the intel up the chain.
Now of course, much of this is he-said, she-said; you are either with Timmerman, or you are with the CIA. But given the track record of the latter, as thoroughly deconstructed by the 9/11 Commission Report on the intelligence failures that led up to 9/11, I know where I'm placing my flutter.
Bear one important note in mind: this entire chapter derives from several interviews that Timmerman conducted with Zakeri. Wherever possible, when Zakeri gave specific information -- such as the descriptions of various top-secret facilities in Iran, the presence of certain personnel in Iran at specific times, and specific documents that Zakeri claimed to have smuggled out of Iran -- Timmerman tested the claims against all publicly available and classified information he was able to obtain, including with American and foreign intelligence agents, with other Iranian defectors, with document examiners, and with prosecutors in Germany who evaluated Zakeri for a terrorism case in which they called him as witness. In each case that Timmerman checked up on Zakeri's specific claims, they were borne out; not a single claim made to Timmerman by Zakeri was contradicted by any specific counter-evidence.
The central claim of this chapter is, in Timmerman's words:
The 9/11 hijackers and al-Qaeda planners had been in constant contact with senior Iranian officials and intelligence officers before September 11. It was not a casual relationship or a chance encounter here and there, but a steady stream of contacts.
These "contacts" began in January 2001, when Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Osama bin Laden's personal physician, and widely regarded as the number-two man in al-Qaeda, journeyed from Afghanistan to Iran with several other al-Qaeda capos. Zakeri's connection was that he was in charge of the security detail protecting the visitors; he picked them up at the airport and conveyed them to the meeting at a "mountain guesthouse near the town of Varamin, just sough of Tehran", which normally was used by senior officials of Iran.
According to what an Iranian official present at the meeting told his friend Zakeri, Zawahiri was in Iran to seek equipment, forged travel documents, and help in laundering money. I am presuming this meant money collected by various Islamic charities, then laundered to al-Qaeda, a practice we have established, through many successful prosecutions, was the normal way that AQ was funded.
One of Zawahiri's men present was Saif al-Adel, who had worked in the past with Lebanese-born Imad Fayez Mugniyeh. Mugniyeh was a high-ranking official with the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force, which controlled foreign terrorist operations... and a man well-known personally to Zakeri. Al-Adel and eleven other AQ members stayed on after the meeting to continue working with the Iranians.
The Iranians present were not low-level flunkies, either. The Iranian delegation to this conference included Hojjat-ol eslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, the chief inspector of the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), a clandestine intelligence organization that reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who was at the time (and still is) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Also present, Ali Akbar Parvaresh, one of the top officers in Section 43 of MOIS; Section 43 is in charge of terrorist operations outside the Middle East and also runs the Varamin safe house. Parvaresh was wanted by the Argentinian government for a bombing in 1994 that killed eighty-six people. Mugniyeh was also in attendance, which is how Zakeri found out what was discussed.
A few months later, in May 2001, another delegation arrived from al-Qaeda... this one led by none other than Osama bin Laden's eldest son, Saad. Saad bin Laden met with all of the members of the Iranian leadership, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani (head of the Expediency Council), Mohammed Yazdi (head of the Guardians Council), Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi (chief of Judiciary), and Ali Meshkini (head of the Assembly of Experts).
Zakeri believes it was at this meeting, on May 4, 2001, that Iran's leaders learned the specifics of bon Laden's plans for the September 11 attack and decided to provide operational assistance. "Everything changed after this," he told me.
Nateq-Nouri subsequently sent a memo to Mustafa Pourghanad, the director of Section 43, conveying Khamenei's orders for "joint operations" with al-Qaeda; this is one of the memos that Zakeri carried with him from Iran when he defected.
Timmerman closes the chapter with the CIA's reaction to all this information from Zakeri:
A female intelligence officer returned my call with a shaking voice. "This man is a serial fabricator," she said, more nervous than indignant. "I have to warn you off of this story."
A few hours later, I received another call, this one from a higher-ranking official. When I asked him to comment on the veracity of Zakeri's warning, he replied angrily, "We have no record that he made any such claim. And he is a fabricator of monumental proportions." But when I asked him whether Zaker was lying about meeting with U.S. officials in Baku on July 26, 2001, this senior official pointedly refused to answer.
Now of course, I can certainly understand the CIA refusing to comment upon the specifics of CIA meetings with defectors from hostile powers. But on the other hand, they repeatedly characterized Zakeri as a "fabricator," yet never once pointed Timmerman to any sources, even public sources, that would tend to discredit Zakeri. So take it for what you will.
But at the very least, the Iranian connection to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attack -- and whether the CIA dropped this particular ball in 2001 -- deserves at least as much exploration as that other well-known ball they dropped: the extent of Saddam Hussein's own interaction with al-Qaeda, which the CIA refused to admit for literally years, but which is now thoroughly documented in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the intelligence failures in Iraq, as well as by recent revelations from Jordan about another high-level Zawahiri meeting, this one in Baghdad.
That Ain't the Half of It
The following is a Scaley Classic about Iran, first posted on Captain's Quarters on July 1st, 2005. This was Dafydd's first post as a guest blogger on Captain's Quarters.
In a blogpost that the Captain slapped up a few days ago --
Oh. Wait, let me introduce myself: this is Dafydd ab Hugh, guest-blogging for Captain Ed while he recuperates from winning $2.8 million in the World Series of Poker finale, playing (as is his wont for FEC reasons) under the name Tuan Le. If someone posts here under the name "Captain Ed" (including the quotation marks) in the next few weeks, it's actually the nom de plume du jour of well-known labor leader and founder of the Socialist Party of America, Eugene Debs.
I may be the most well-known blogger in the blogosphere who doesn't actually have a blog (yet; shortly). You may remember me from my high-school filmstrip series "It's All About Adhesives."
Getting back to the point at hand, in this post, Captain Ed (the original) noted that evidence is mounting that the recently elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was in fact one of the ringleaders of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran, where embassy personnel and Marines were held captive for 444 days.
But it turns out, that's just the tip of the sandberg.
Last night (30 June 2005) on Special Report With Brit Hume, Brit's guest was Rob Sobhani, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and frequent contributor to National Review and the Wall Street Journal; Sobhani discussed several questions related to Iran, including the elfin Mr. President Ahmadinejad.
Sobhani did not personally know whether Ahmadinejad was one of the hostage takers; but he did know something about his background. After university, Ahmadinejad joined the Revolutionary Guard and was assigned to a special unit whose mission was to hunt down and assassinate Iranian dissidents and defectors. He was sent on a number of such missions.
If this has gotten any other recent airplay, I've missed it. GlobalSecurity.org has had this information up on its website for several days now:
Ahmadinejad was a senior officer in the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards, stationed at Ramazan Garrison near Kermanshah in western Iran. This was the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards’ "Extra-territorial Operations" -- mounting attacks beyond Iran’s borders. His work in the Revolutionary Guards was related to suppression of dissidents in Iran and abroad. He personally participated in covert operations around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
With the formation of the elite Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad became one of its senior commanders. He directed assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou, who was shot dead by senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards in a Vienna flat in July 1989. Ahmadinejad was a key planner of the attack. He was reported to have been involved in planning an attempt on the life of Salman Rushdie....
Ahmadinejad, an unabashed conservative, resurrected the fervor of the 1979 Islamic Revolution during the campaign by saying Iran "did not have a revolution in order to have democracy, but to have an Islamic government." Ahmadinejad had a bloody background. He was responsible for the execution of hundreds of dissidents after the war.
[Emphasis added because my jaw is dropping]
Considering the help Ahmadinejad received from the Guardians Council in this election (vote rigging, ballot stuffing, candidate intimidation, dissident assassination), one wonders whether his job is actually to order the Iranian nuclear attacks on Israel, America, Iraq, the UK, and France (well, probably not France) that the Mullahs see getting less hazy all the time in their Magic 8-Balls.
Perhaps they worried that Rafsanjani, that unreliable fellow, might balk at obliterating half the world in the name of Allah. Considering how many heads Ahmadinejad already has hanging from his belt, he likely wouldn't hesitate any longer than it takes to say "Rumplestiltskin."
Saddam's WMD - the Company Strikes Back
The information in our previous post, which came proximately from the Investor's Business Daily, appears to have begun with an article by Kenneth R. Timmerman on NewsMax last Sunday, February 19th (based upon a talk the previous day by John A. Shaw at the Intelligence Summit, a non-governmental convention).
Ordinarily, I wouldn't trust NewsMax; but I do trust Timmerman, who has done bravura work in this area and is a very reputable journalist. Timmerman is the author of several well-received books, most recently Countdown to Crisis : The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.
John A. Shaw is hardly a partisan, a radical, or a bomb-thrower:
Shaw has dealt with weapons-related issues and export controls as a U.S. government official for 30 years, and was serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security when the events he described [on February 18th, 2006] occurred [shortly after major combat operations ended in 2003].
Shaw was originally tasked with figuring out what happened to the weapons and WMD programs that Saddam undeniably had after the first Gulf War. But as he was tracking these weapons, he began to develop sources independent of the CIA- and State Department-controlled Iraqi Survey Group:
But as Shaw's office increasingly got involved in ongoing intelligence to identify Iraqi weapons programs before the war, he also got "a flow of information from British contacts on the ground at the Syrian border and from London" via non-U.S. government contacts.
"The intelligence included multiple sightings of truck convoys, convoys going north to the Syrian border and returning empty," he said. [All emphasis added, here and elsewhere.]
Shaw worked closely with Julian Walker, a former British ambassador who had decades of experience in Iraq, and an unnamed Ukranian-American who was directly plugged in to the head of Ukraine's intelligence service.
The Ukrainians were eager to provide the United States with documents from their own archives on Soviet arms transfers to Iraq and on ongoing Russian assistance to Saddam, to thank America for its help in securing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, Shaw said.
Shaw passed along what he was learning to the CIA... and according to Shaw, the CIA not only brushed off the data, they smeared everyone responsible for passing it along, including Shaw himself. In fact, the CIA dismissed it as "Israeli disinformation."
They accused Shaw of having "eaten from the DIA 'rice bowl,'" meaning Shaw had stepped into the turf of the Defense Intelligence Agency. But the sly insinuation that Israelis were behind it all makes me think that elements of the CIA have eaten from the Arabist "rice bowl": Arab spokesmen, and American and British officials in Arab countries who have "gone native," invariably attribute anything they don't want to hear to Zionist propaganda.
I find this very disturbing, as well as efforts by Bush administration officials (such as Larry DiRita, DoD spokesman) to trash Shaw and his sources, according to Shaw:
"Larry DiRita made sure that this story would never grow legs," Shaw said. "He whispered sotto voce [quietly] to journalists that there was no substance to my information and that it was the product of an unbalanced mind."
We'll discuss a possible reason for the actions of the CIA and sub-cabinet level members of the administration later. First, let's get to the meat fo what Shaw reported.
The information Shaw passed along to the CIA and the administration included the following major points:
- A Soviet general with a close working relationship with Saddam Hussein, Yevgeni Primakov, traveled to Iraq in 2002, leaving shortly after the U.S. invasion began.
Primakov orchestrated the execution of secret agreements Hussein had concluded with Russia, years earlier, to remove the Russian-supplied and otherwise obtained WMD from Iraq, along with all traces of its existence, in the event of a probable American attack. This would allow Russia to guarantee Iraq was "WMD-free," thus delaying or even stymying Operation Iraqi Freedom.
American intelligence officers knew about these agreements, which were dubbed Sarandar, or "emergency exit."
- Primakov brought out two trusted, retired Soviet-era generals -- Colonel-General Vladislav Achatov and Colonel-General Igor Maltsev -- who, as "commercial consultants," supervised GRU (the independent Main Intelligence Directorate of both the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation) and Spetsnaz (SpecOps) troops, along with other Russian military and civilian personnel. The forces operated in civilian clothing, disguised as contractors.
Maltsev and Achatov had visited Baghdad "no fewer than 20 times" since 1997, and U.S. intelligence was well aware of their connection to Hussein, the GRU, and Spetsnaz. They had all gathered earlier at a planning conference in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan; the conference was "chaired by Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu."
- Sarandar comprised truck convoys, possible Russian commercial air flights, and a pair of Russian ships, which sailed from Umm Qasr to dump "stockpiles of Iraqi WMD" into the Indian Ocean.
The purpose of Sarandar was quite explicit, according to Shaw:
The goal of the clean-up was "to erase all trace of Russian involvement" in Saddam's WMD programs, and "was a masterpiece of military camouflage and deception."
Now back to the burning question. This is explosive stuff that would, were it verified, completely vindicate President Bush's decision to invade Iraq... even for those who believed that Iraq's supposed possession of WMD was the sole legitimate reason to attack. So why would not only the CIA but even the spokesman of the Department of Defense, Larry DiRita, have gone to such pains to trash the intel, smear anyone involved, and try to fob off all the information and all the sources as Israeli stooges?
Shaw suggested that the answer of why the Bush administration had systematically "ignored Russia's involvement" in evacuating Saddam's WMD stockpiles "could be much bigger than anyone has thought," but declined to speculate what exactly was involved.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney was less reticent. He thought the reason was Iran.
"With Iran moving faster than anyone thought in its nuclear programs," he told NewsMax, "the administration needed the Russians, the Chinese and the French, and was not interested in information that would make them look bad."
McInerney agreed that there was "clear evidence" that Saddam had WMD. "Jack Shaw showed when it left Iraq, and how."
If Shaw's claims about the CIA reaction are accurate, then there is an eerie parallel to claims of CIA stifling of another urgent story that also involves Iran: the level of Iranian involvement in the 9/11 attacks themselves. Half of Big Lizards (Dafydd ab Hugh) first discussed this issue on Captain's Quarters back in July, in a post titled It Ain't Even the Quarter; this is a piece that should have been reposted here as a Scaley Classic, but evidently was not... an omission I will remedy in the next two posts, That Ain't the Half of It and It Ain't Even the Quarter.
Kenneth Timmerman, in the Iran book linked above, reports that the CIA went on a rampage of character assassination to quash the idea that there were any high-level meetings between the mullahs of Iran and senior officials of al-Qaeda, including Ayman Zawahiri and even Osama bin Laden's eldest son and heir, Saad bin Laden.
It should be clear by this point that our problem with the CIA's war against the Bush administration has drifted far beyond mere political chicanery and into an actual threat to the United States itself. It is unconscionable that CIA operatives and Bush administration officials should be engaged in actively suppressing intelligence because we're afraid of its effect upon a country that can only be viewed as an enemy of the United States -- an absurdity of bending over backward to accomodate a thuggish, boorish remnant of the Evil Empire.
It is long past time for Bush himself to take the reins, prevent any further attempts to circumscribe acceptable intelligence, and get to the bottom of this bloody affair... not only to exonerate the president's own reputation, but also to protect and secure our nation -- which George W. Bush swore an oath to do.
Date ►►► February 26, 2006
Saddam's WMD -- Moved to Syria by Russian Special Forces?
John at Power Line has an incredibly important post up linking an editorial at the Investor's Business Daily -- a very fine newspaper even for political and world events, in addition to its extensive financial listings. From the editorial:
Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Office. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.
The first 12 hours of the tapes — there are hundreds more waiting to be translated — are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.
Nobody disputes the tapes' authenticity. On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.
On the tapes, Hussein is heard being briefed by the scientists responsible for the programs... scientists that the United Nations Special Commission, UNSCOM, were unaware even existed:
Indeed, as late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program — something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD.
This is particularly troubling, since it indicates an active, ongoing attempt by Saddam to build an Iraqi nuclear bomb.
"What was most disturbing," said John Tierney, the ex- FBI agent who translated the tapes, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission (or UNSCOM, the group set up to look into Iraq's WMD programs)."
Perhaps most chillingly, the tapes record Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz talking about how easy it would be to set off a WMD in Washington. The comments come shortly after Saddam muses about using "proxies" in a terror attack.
We now believe that the WMD were moved out of Iraq and into Syria and Syria-controlled Lebanon in the months before the war by Russian special forces:
So how was Saddam able to use his "cheat and retreat" tactics without being found out? He had help, according to a former U.S. Defense Department official.
"The short answer to the question of where the WMD Saddam bought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria and Lebanon," said John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense, in comments made at an intelligence summit Feb. 17-20 in Arlington, Va.
"They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special ops) units out of uniform that were specifically sent to Iraq to move the weaponry and eradicate any evidence of its existence," he said.
This is pretty stunning news... so of course, it's going to be the lead story on all the networks and in every major American newspaper, right? I mean, surely it's more important than Bode Miller's failure to make good on his boasts at the Winter Olympics or whether Bush should have allowed A-rabs to lease cargo operations at six American ports, right?
Let's give it a couple of days and see how many members of the Antique Media pick up on the IBD editorial and start actually reporting on real-world events -- events which retain their currency, not only because claims that "Bush lied, people died" still infect the political dialog like a contagion; but also because if the claims are accurate, then Syria now has access to nuclear, chemical, and biological materials and the ongoing programs and scientists weaponizing them.
Any predictions? My own is that by early next week, Fox News Channel will have reported on this; and by next Sunday, Fox News Channel will have reported on this.
Peeling the Onion
I was cruising Patterico's Pontifications doing my usual ego-search for my own name -- which, let's face it, is pretty much all I ever do on any blogsite -- when I stumbled across a link Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Patterico had to a hilarious story from the Onion, the premier website for parody and satire. You just have to check this one out:
White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat
Aug. 2005 Briefing Warned, 'Cheney Determined To Shoot Old Man In Face'
February 20, 2006 | Issue 42•08
WASHINGTON, DC—Government documents declassified today reveal that President Bush was briefed last summer of "a substantial risk" that Vice President Dick Cheney would shoot an elderly male in the face sometime in the next several months.
Read the rest... it's priceless! (By which I mean it's free, of course; so what are you slobs waiting for, an engraved invitation? Cushlamocree!)
Date ►►► February 25, 2006
Iraqi Army Improving, Unless You Read CNN
An article Friday on CNN.com falsely implies that the general readiness of Iraqi battalions are dropping:
The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday....
The battalion, according to the Pentagon, was downgraded from "level one" to "level two" after a recent quarterly assessment of its capabilities.
CNN briefly explains what these levels mean, but they miss the main point:
"Level one" means the battalion is able to fight on its own; "level two" means it requires support from U.S. troops; and "level three" means it must fight alongside U.S. troops.
But the fact is that virtually no foreign military units in the world rise to the standard of "Level One" -- even many British units would not be called Level One. The best armies in the world mostly comprise Level Two battalions. Remember, Level One means the battalion can supply its own logistics, intel, air support, MedEvac, administration, and every other aspect of a modern army. An Iraqi Army battalion can be superb fighters, but still require a US satellite uplink to be done by Americans for targeting purposes -- and that alone would make them Level Two.
The reason that the lone Level One Iraqi unit was downgraded was mostly due to a change of command:
Though officials would not cite a specific reason for downgrading the unit, its readiness level has dropped in the wake of a new commander and numerous changes in the combat and support units, officials said.
The battalion is still deployed, and its status as an independent fighting force could be restored any day, Pentagon officials said.
So by saying "the only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded," what CNN really means is that the unit is still Level Two, but we're not sure how independent it is until the new commander has been "blooded." That's considerably different from the implication CNN clearly intends us to take away.
And wait, haven't we read this before? Yes, indeed, I blogged about it nearly half a year ago, back in Septermber 2005, in a post titled "Slowly But Surely."
In it I wrote:
[A]ccording to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the level of readiness rating keeps on changing depending on a variety of factors.For example, initial readiness standards two years ago measured numbers of Iraqi troops. Later, those standards were based on the number of trained troops. Later yet, those standards were based on troops who were trained and equipped. As the bar continued to rise, the numbers dipped a bit, giving an impression that readiness was declining, the secretary explained.
Back in September, there were only one or two Level One battalions. Considering that the bar is raised constantly, the fact that the lone Level One battalion in January was downgraded to Level Two in February is not really bad news; it just reflects the changing nature of war and standards.
The really important metric is not how many elite Level One battalions the Iraqi Army has, but the number of competent Level Two battalions. CNN mentions that as an aside, as if it's of no real importance:
According to the congressionally mandated Iraq security report released Friday, there are 53 Iraqi battalions at level two status, up from 36 in October. There are 45 battalions at level three, according to the report.
Level two battalions have increased from 36 to 53, a 47% increase! Isn't that a tremendous achievement? Wars are won by Level Two battalions; Level One is extraordinary.
There is more; according to the same article,
Overall, Pentagon officials said close to 100 Iraqi army battalions are operational, and more than 100 Iraq Security Force battalions are operational at levels two or three. The security force operations are under the direction of the Iraqi government.
The training level of the Iraqi Security Force, which is under the control of the Iraq Interior Ministry, was considerably behind the level of the Iraqi Army under the U.S. Military's control. But even the Iraqi Security Force now has over 100 battalions of Levels Two and Three. That is great news indeed, for all that CNN wants to focus on what it simplistically sees as the negative.
Here is the best news of all: not a single unit of the Iraqi Army has even been accused of participating in the spasm of violence that followed al-Qaeda's destruction of the Golden Dome mosque. Not one.
Some witnesses have claimed that Iraqi Security Force (police) have been spotted attacking Sunni mosques, but not a single unit of the highly professional, American trained, and non-partisan Iraqi Army. Rather, the army acts as a stabilizing influence on the whole country, instead of the instigator of coups or atrocities, as it was in the Baathist era.
William F. Buckley, jr., is simply wrong. He is an old man, he has not been to Iraq, and he is simply wrong. We have won, not lost; and our Iraqi Army program has been the most successful reconstruction project of all. We turned a band of thugs, torturers, and murderers into a professional and civilized military; who, in history, can say as much?
And that is the best news of all.
Dubai, Dubya, Repubya Ready to Deal
Time Magazine reports that the president, congressional Republicans, and Dubai Ports World are nearing agreement on a new deal that would likely let the old deal proceed by and large as already agreed.
Under the terms, which Time inexplicably dismisses as "face-saving," there would simply be an extended, 45-day review of the deal by CFIUS, which is the same committee that reviewed the deal the first time.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, confirmed in a phone interview early Saturday afternoon to TIME that officials were close to a deal involving the Congressional leadership, the White House and the Dubai company. The agreement would call for a 45-day “CFIUS-plus investigation,” King said, referring to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a Treasury Department-run interagency panel that probes proposed acquisitions in the U.S.
If the new review is designed to save anyone's face, it's Peter King's; he was one of the earliest -- and most vociferous -- of Republicans upset about the deal. If even he has now come around to the point where another, somewhat more detailed review will satisfy him, then Bush has probably won; and the country as well, as Big Lizards believes this deal is very good for America, taken in its totality.
Congress will likely conduct its own review; but if we assume the original CFIUS review was accurate and reasonably thorough, it's unlikely that either the longer review or a separate congressional review will turn up anything unconsidered earlier. In other words, after 45 days, the deal will simply go through.
This is what the Bush administration should have done the first time... both the CFIUS-plus review (rather than a regular review) and also more consultation with Congress. But I don't believe the failure to do so was related to "White House secrecy," as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and other Democrats accuse... but rather that it seemed so routine to the agencies involved, because they had worked so long and so well with the United Arab Emirates in the past, that it literally never occurred to anyone that there would be a problem.
I believe it was a failure of imagination, not a failure of vetting.
Tom Bevan over at RealClearPolitics Blog is making much of a new Rasmussen Poll that has the Democrats polling in a statistical dead heat with President Bush on the question of who would best protect our national security. While Tom is understandably nervous (being as addicted to polls as Mort Kondrake and Big Lizards are!) I believe this is an anomaly: the poll was taken just after the deal hit the airwaves, just at the peak of panic about "A-rabs buying our ports"... and before careful work by a number of bloggers revealed the fact behind the hype, which was never as dire as the hysterical Democrats made it sound.
Small wonder that there was a blip. Time (but probably not Time) will tell if it switches back, but I expect it will. The Democrats will not come out of this smelling like a rose; they'll come out smelling like Michael Savage; it will explode in their faces, just like their hysteria about everything from Abu Ghraib to Gitmo to torture to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program.
And the new agreement brewing between Bush and the congressional Republicans will go a long way towards reassuring people that the news was badly misreported, and there is no reason to believe the president has "lost his mind," as several Democrats suggested. Rather, it was the bipolar Democrats who flew from the extreme of fretting over terrorists' rights to the other extreme of demanding that we sever all ties with Arab countries, no matter how moderate, and no matter how much they have helped us in the war on jihadi terrorism.
Still no sign of actual civil war in Iraq; but Wretchard at the Belmont Club quotes from Zeyad at Healing Iraq (how's that for stacking links?) about some frightening mini-battles that were raging right around Zeyad's neighborhood between Sunni mosque defenders and "men in black" -- which groups might or might not include Shiite members of the Interior Ministry (cops).
Fortunately, the battles were more like skirmishes, and there were not that many confirmed fatalities or casualties. Wretchard concludes (boldface emphasis added):
Thanks to readers data is coming in, such as the update from Zeyad's site and analysis thereof. The value of collateral confirmation and building a timeline is amply demonstrated. Just a few comments:
- as per Whit, Fox is reporting a peaceful Baghdad with 10,000 Sunnis, Shi'ites marching for peace in Basra.
- it's probably good to treat Zeyad's report as a series of unconfirmed reports which are being reported verbatim.
- What can we say for sure or nearly sure?
- Mosques are a focus of fighting
- The fighting in his neighborhood has ended for now.
- The authorities are trying to keep the lid on
- Reported incident casualties are fairly low.
- What can we say as probable?
- There are small groups racing around fighting actions against each other.
- What's a maybe?
- Maybe some units of the National Guard are doing their job
- Maybe some units of the Interior Ministry are in cahoots with militias
Overall what would be reasonable to conclude? There's some unrest, but Baghdad is not burning -- yet -- and the trends while still unclear are not clearly in the direction of all-out fighting.
It sounds like it's still exciting times in Iraq... but they're not quite ready to re-enact Les Miserables yet. The fragile nationhood still holds.
Date ►►► February 24, 2006
Civil Peace In Iraq - More of the Story
With the day-and-night curfew imposed by the government, the violence has by and large ceased. In fact, Iraq has seen a tremendous outpouring of national unity -- surely the very last thing the venomous terrorists expected or wanted.
From Power Line:
Reader Haider Ajina has forwarded us his translation of a two articles and provided his own commentary on the mosque bombing that John wrote about last night. First Haider provides the translations....
"People of Samarah started local campaign to clean up ruble and start rebuilding the bombed Shrine, while other residence joined a demonstration calling for national unity. The crowd chanted 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The governor of Salahudien province announced that the province had received four billion Iraqi Dinars (2,800,000 USD) from the National Government & the Sunni Endowment party to help with rebuilding efforts. Local police reported that thousand of residences have voluntarily gathered at the damaged shrine to clean up debris since sun up. [Emphasis added]
"Local police further reported that thousands of local residences formed a demonstration, which headed to city hall. Demonstrators were chanting 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The demonstration dispersed by noon with out incidents.
Ajina goes on to say that:
This bombing in Samarah has brought more unity amongst Iraqis than any other incident since the stampede on the Kahdumiah bridge (when Felujans [mostly Sunni] donated blood for the wounded in Kahdumiah [mostly Shiite] in Baghdad). Iraqi political parties, community leaders, religious leaders, political leaders all are strongly condemning this bombing and asking for national support and help for the people of Samarah. This outpouring of compassion, support and help is what is not being reported.
I believe the terrorists took their last, desperate gamble: bombing the Golden Dome mosque was what they had dreaded doing all along, worrying that instead of fomenting uncivil war, they would bring about the very civil peace they fear. And it appears (so far at least) that the jihadis have lost that bet. After the initial spasm of hysterical violence, peace is now busting out all over Iraq.
And that is good news indeed.
Red Ken Gets a Time Out
Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone of London was suspended from his duties for four weeks by the Adjudication Panel for England today for comparing a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold, to a Nazi "concentration camp guard" and asking if the reporter was a "German war criminal"... because he worked for a newspaper, the Evening Standard, which opposes some of Livingstone's leftist policies, and whose sister paper (the Daily Mail) once endorsed a British Fascist candidate -- seventy-two years ago.
According to the BBC story, as criticism mounted about his language, Livingstone attempted to defend himself against the tide by invoking the sexual-preference card (Livingstone is straight, but he was speaking at a gay-rights event):
The Mayor of London's office defended him saying he had been harassed at a "predominantly gay event".
The gay-rights group that put on the event, OutRage!, responded with some outrage of their own:
The gay rights group Outrage has said the mayor should not "embroil lesbians and gay men in his dispute with the Evening Standard" and that it would not fear a journalist reporting on Tuesday's party.
Now, Godwin's Law notwithstanding, I don't think it's a good idea for a court to suspend an elected official from performing his duties for saying something boorish. True, the UK has a different system than we, and they do not have the full protections of, e.g., our First Amendment (though they recognize freedom of speech, mostly through the common law).
But just as an ethical issue, punishing elected officials for expressing their opinions -- however boneheaded and outrageous -- is a terrible example, particularly at a time when Europe (including the UK) are protesting against the "cartoon violence" by insisting that freedom of speech is the most important right recognized by the West.
In addition, suspending Livingstone also punishes the electorate that, however misguidedly, duly elected this fellow as mayor of London, a post he has held since 2000, when it was created as an elective office. That's also a very, very bad idea (both suspending Livingstone -- and having elected him in the first place).
That out of the way, however, let's focus for a moment on Red Ken's comments. What kind of a buffoon casually compares a reporter to Nazis just because his newspaper opposes the buffoon's policies? Worse, while Livingstone might not have known the reporter was Jewish -- Finegold? -- he surely knows now; yet he still refuses to apologize for his asinine and infantile smears.
The most interesting question to me, giving Livingstone's history of bizarre and borderline treasonous behavior over the years, is why Londoners keep reelecting the dope. The following are from Wikipedia, so their accuracy and veracity may be suspect; but I've actually heard him say things at least as egregious, so I do believe these claims:
- In July 2004, he embraced Moslem scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who once said anent suicide bombings in Israel, "for us Muslim martyrdom is not the end of things but the beginning of the most wonderful of things."
- In March 2005, he called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a "war criminal" and accused him of practicing ethnic cleansing.
- Three months later, he said in a BBC interview,
And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s ... the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan.
They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his creators.
A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy.
It should be needless to say, but probably is needful, that the last is a complete fabrication: we never "recruited" or "trained" Osama bin Laden.
During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, we sent some money and weaponry to the mujahidin fighting the Russians; but they were distributed through Pakistan, and we did not give Pakistan a list of groups we particularly liked.
One mujahidin group was Maktab al-Khadamāt (MaK), founded by Abdullah Azzam; after four years, bin Laden joined MaK and became a top deputy of Azzam. The pair had a falling out after the Soviets withdrew: Azzam wanted to establish a sharia state in Afghanistan and possibly move to "Palestine" to fight against Israel; bin Laden wanted to launch a global jihad against the West. Around this time, Azzam was assassinated; many intelligence specialists believe OBL had his mentor murdered so he could take over MaK and roll it into al-Qaeda, which was just then getting started.
But at no time did the United States directly fund bin Laden, Azzam, MaK, or al-Qaeda, or indirectly direct funds or arms specifically to them; at no time did we train or arm bin Laden; and bin Laden was never a CIA agent or stringer. In fact, there is no evidence we ever had any direct contact with bin Laden in any context. All this garbage was simply made up after 9/11 to smear Ronald Reagan, and Red Ken seized it gleefully.
Red Ken Livingstone is London's own Howard "the Mouth" Dean. At some point, I would hope that the sheer weight of stupidity emanating from the penumbra of Ken Livingstone would eventually sink down to the London voting booth, and he would be turned out to find an honest job -- if he can.
Until then, we can only sigh and invoke whatever patience we can muster.
(Interestingly, one of his pre-politics jobs was to work as a food critic for the Evening Standard... the same paper that Finegold works for now.)
Date ►►► February 23, 2006
Dubai, Dubya, and Hugh Hewitt
Hugh Hewitt raises a very important question and argument that deserves an answer. Ever obliging, here is Big Lizards' response.
Hugh opposes the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), a British company that operates cargo loading and terminal facilities in six ports in the United States, to Dubai Ports World, a company chartered out of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which does the same in many other ports around the world. He does not disparage DP World's track record at running port operations; nor does he claim that DP World would be running port security; nor does he deny that the UAE has been tremendously helpful to the United States and the Compleat Ally in the war on jihadist terrorism.
Rather, Hugh's argument is almost minimalist:
The responsible critique is that penetration of this company by Islamists intending massive casualties and damage to the U.S. on its own soil is easier [than] penetration of other foreign companies operating ports in the U.S., specifically the current British operator. [Emphasis added by Big Lizards]
That's not an arguable proposition: Arab-owned and Middle Eastern-based companies are easier to penetrate by Arab terrorists than British companies are.
This is certainly true -- though to what extent is certainly unclear, except that it's not a big difference -- and Big Lizards acknowledged this point in our very first post on the issue, UAE and American Ports: a Modest Proposal:
The UAE has been America's most reliable Arab partner in the war against Islamist jihadi terrorism. Nobody is worried that the current Emir of Dubai will suddenly link up with al-Qaeda, just as we're not worried that General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan will cut a deal with Osama bin Laden. But both countries have many Islamists and many supporters of terrorism and of al-Qaeda... and they cannot always ensure that their companies have not been infiltrated by sleeper agents. That is the danger of Dubai Ports having such access to American ports....
[Lawmakers] say a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.
(The indented quotation above is from the AP story on the sale.)
But we also noted the following:
Dubai Ports would not, in fact, run any of the security operations at any of the ports; but they would deal with cargo issues, and they would have access to plans showing the layout and configuration of the cargo areas... plans which are, however, already publicly available to every company that does business in those ports (including Saudi Arabian, Turkish, and Indonesian companies).
This is why the difference in ease of infiltration will not make much difference in port security: there are many foreign companies who regularly ship cargo into American ports or have operations running in American ports, and who therefore have access to the same information that the port operations company (whether DP World or P&O) has.
These smaller operators "fly under the radar" a lot better than would the port operator. As Col. Austin Bay told Hugh on the show today, if al-Qaeda wants to infiltrate a port to smuggle in WMD, it would be a lot safer and more effective for them to infiltrate one of these smaller companies at a smaller port with less security, rather than try to compromise DP World in the Port of Baltimore.
But Hugh is correct that it would be marginally easier for Moslem terrorists to infiltrate DP World than to infiltrate P&O. So Hugh asks, why should we accept even a minimal increase in the risk?
Hugh argues his point like a lawyer: in a vacuum. There is an old lawyer joke, perfectly applicable to an old lawyer like Hugh. The client is being sued for a hit-and-run car accident, and his lawyer argues, "first, it's mistaken identity, because my client wasn't even present at the scene of the accident; second, even if he were involved, he was just the passenger; and third, even if he were driving, it was the plaintiff who rammed him!"
The point of this joke is that each argument is completely separate from the others -- and contradictory to boot. Hugh presents only one argument... but in splendid isolation from all other facts.
We must examine all the relevant facts together; the question is not whether one aspect of the deal makes us less secure, but whether the total security situation, considering everything, is better or worse: we can accept a slight increase in the risk of infiltration if, for example, the intensified security regime DP World has agreed to undertake in other areas more than compensates for that increase.
In other words, the very minor increase in the risk of infiltration is much smaller than the decrease of risk resulting from DP World performing a greater number of more intensive cargo inspections around the world, before U.S.-bound cargo even leaves the foreign country. America's net security is better, not worse.
Everything in life is a tradeoff; the only question is whether what you're getting is better than what you give up. Not even taking into account any possible secret "side deals" with the UAE, as we suggested in this post, what we already know we're getting substantially adds to American security; we quoted from the AP story again:
To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it had negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily.
What this means has now been fleshed out: DP World operates many major ports around the world; and they will now require every shipping company operating out of those ports to open any or all of these containers to inspection by DP World, local security, and U.S. customs inspectors prior to the cargo even leaving the foreign port. This is the Holy Grail of port security: to be able to inspect all cargo before it even arrives here.
There is no guarantee DP World will inspect them all -- nor is there a guarantee that our own customs agents will do so either. But DP World says it will inspect considerably more than is inspected today.
No security regime is perfect, of course; neither is P&O perfect, for all that it is British. But the standard is not perfection, because the current situation is also imperfect: the standard is relative... taking everything as a whole, are we less secure, more secure, or just as secure with DP World running port ops than we are with P&O running port ops? I would have to answer "just as secure" at least -- and probably more secure, with the additional inspection opportunities we'll have... something P&O cannot give us, since they simply don't have the resources.
Another point is that the very fact that the current company is chartered in the UK leads to complacency on the part of security. Do we require extensive background checks on every Brit that P&O sends to Baltimore or New York City? We would likely not be so nod-and-a-wink for Arab executives coming here for DP World. Any change that heightens awareness is good; just consider which American border, Canadian or Mexican, receives more attention -- and which is virtually ignored.
So to answer Hugh Hewitt's argument directly, I believe that given the totality of the circumstances (as we know them now), American port security will probably be enhanced, not diminished, by this deal; at the very least, there are compensating factors that mean it will be at least as good. And of course, there are numerous other benefits to American security in other areas that result from the whole idea of promoting moderate Islam wherever we can... which is something the UAE has done better than probably any other country on the planet.
If American security is our concern, then the last thing in the world we need is to tell moderate Moslem countries that have bent over backwards to help us in the war on militant Islamism that we don't want their business because they're Arabs.
So Hugh, it is precisely to improve American security that we should continue with this deal... preferably with an American "buffer country" in between; but the more we hear about this deal, the clearer it is that it's even good for our security if DP World runs cargo operations themselves.
Civil War In Iraq? Not So!
I never like reporting bad news. But we must face this serious situation in Iraq. In the last 48 hours, already 130 Iraqis have been killed and numerous Sunni mosques bombed. This wave of violence was sparked by the al Qaeda bombing and destruction of the holiest Shiite shrine in Iraq. It seems that Many Shia -- though not necessarily ordinary Shia -- decided to take law in their own hands.
President Talabani condemned attacks on both sides and invited the political leaders of the Iraq factions to attend a meeting; but so far, Sunnis are boycotting:
The U.N. envoy also stepped in, asking Iraqi leaders to join him in a meeting: "I have invited political, religious and civil leaders to discuss confidence-building measures to ensure the situation remains under control," Ashraf Qazi told Reuters.
But the main Sunni political group said it had pulled out of U.S.-backed talks on forming a coalition following December's parliamentary election and leading clerics traded unusually frank sectarian criticisms that may do little to calm passions.
The iraqi government officially declared a curfew from 8pm to 6pm. Shiite leaders are calling for restraint, but to little effect. Mohammed of "Iraq the Model describes the situation in his neighborhood:
In our neighborhood the Sadr militias seized the local mosque and broadcast Shia religious mourning songs from the mosques loudspeakers. In several other cases, worshippers were turned away by "gunmen in black" who surrounded the closed mosques. Other mosques are encircled by razor-wire to stop anyone from approaching them.
So, is this a beginnig of a civi war? Is al-Qaeda's three year campaign finally going to pay off?
Not so fast, I say. To quote Dennis Prager's favorite expression, let's "think a second time." Mohammed continues:
The sense in the streets and the statements given by some Shia clerics suggest that retaliation attacks are organized and under control and are focusing on mosques frequented by Salafi and Wahabi groups and not those of ordinary Sunnis.
Looking at the geographic distribution of the attacked mosques, I found they were mostly in areas adjacent to Sadr city forming a line that extends from the New Baghdad district in the southeast to al-Hussayniya in the northeast.
The Association of Muslim Scholars is accusing the Sadrists in particular, actually it's not only the Association that accuses the Sadrists, most people here in Baghdad point out the role of Mehdi army of Sadr in carrying out most of the attacks.
The Association is trying to remind Sadr of the their times of solidarity during the battles in Najaf and Fallujah yet they are condemning his message to his followers in which he called for keeping up and escalating the "protests".
So, this is Sadr once again. The ever opportunistic Muqtada Sadr and his al Mahdi "army" are taking advantage of the situation. I always thought letting Sadr go after the Najaf offensive was a mistake; this man and his militia must be dealt with once and for all.
If Iraqi citizens are to have any trust in the new government, they must punish Shia as well as Sunni. The Iraqi government must punish Sadr and his militia. They should treat these men the same way they treat al Queda terrorists and Sunni insurgents. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that law and order applies to every Iraqi.
The encouraging thing is that Shiite leaders are condemning these acts of violence. Sadr is not getting any support from ordinary Shia. Even Sunni insurgents are not responding with violence, at least so far.
Bill Roggio of the Fourth Rail has an important set of criteria that would signal a full blown civil war in Iraq:
By all indications, the situation in Iraq is tense, and the threat of continued violence is real. The possibility of a full-scale civil war is quite real as emotions are running high over the destruction of the revered Shiite shrine and the retaliation against Sunni mosques.
But the media has not asked or answered the following question: what exactly are the leading indicators for a full blown civil war - meaning the political leadership of the main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties no longer wish cooperate, and an open and organized battle between the parties ensues?
The following list contains the main lead indicators a full scale civil War in Iraq is underway....
[Long list omitted; you really should read Roggio's post.]
Iraq has yet to encounter any of the problems stated above. [Emphasis added]
This is a terrible test for all Iraqis: if they are to survive as a democratic country, they are going to have to solve this cricis in a firm but restrained and civilized manner, just as Bush calls for in the Reuters article linked above:
"The voices of reason from all aspects of Iraqi life understand that this bombing is intended to create civil strife," Bush said as the military reported seven more U.S. soldiers had been killed in two separate attacks on Wednesday and American forces in Baghdad adopted a low profile.
Let us pray that Iraqi people will continue to respond with reason and the extraordinary patience they've shown so far.
Date ►►► February 22, 2006
Dubya and Dubai: the Rest of the Story?
An old and very unreliable friend of mine has offered a suggestion that nevertheless seems very likely to strike close to the truth, despite him being very unreliable. And old. So hat-tip to JNS.
I suspect there is a lot more to this deal with DP World than has yet come to light; and I hope the rest never will. But there is no harm in speculating, since anyone who might be interested can speculate as well as I.
We have a very close but quiet working relationship with the United Arab Emirates that dates back to the mid-1970s. Besides trade and military cooperation, they have in particular helped us in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). In fact, I probably wouldn't exaggerate to say they are our most reliable Arab allies in that struggle.
I don't believe we have any military bases in the UAE; at least, I cannot find any listed. But we have rights to use some of their military bases for non-combat ops -- in particular, for refueling purposes to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (we grew significantly closer to the UAE during the first Gulf War). And our militaries and intelligence services have been working hand in glove for a while now.
We also have a huge problem that looms over everything else in the Middle East, overshadowing the (slim) possiblity of civil war in Iraq, the election of a terrorist organization in the Palestinian Authority (to take the place of the previous terrorist organization that ran the joint for decades), and everything else we're worried about: the imminent nuclear arming of Iran. In fact, this is the most dangerous and volatile situation in the world right now, as far as the United States is concerned.
During the Iran-Iraq war, we did not exactly ally with Saddam Hussein; but we certainly interfered in that conflict somewhat on Hussein's side. There was good reason for that: Hussein was simply a Fascist thug and mass murderer, who could be relied upon to prefer his own skin intact; for that reason, he was more predictable and, to some extent, controllable.
But Iran is a different beast: there, mass homicidal mania and an even clearer connection to terrorist groups is coupled with a fanatical jihadist religion obsessed with Armageddon to the point of actual nihilism. I believe many of the top clerics in Iran would gladly pull down the columns that held up the whole world, destroying all, including themselves, if they thought it would please their bloodthirsty vision of God.
George W. Bush is not the kind of man who would "will" that problem to his successor, if he can help it. There is a faint chance we might be able to resolve the situation satisfactorally by diplomatic means; but I doubt it. More likely, we will at some point have to initiate a military attack on Iran in some fashion... and without support from our Arab allies, such an attack will be much harder, less likely to succeed, and far more spendthrift of American lives.
Take a look at this map of Iran:
Iran and surrounding countries
Look west and what do we see? Iraq, where we have tens of thousands of troops; Saudi Arabia, which will likely be no help at all; and Kuwait, where we have three military bases.
Look north, and we see Turkmenistan -- no help from President Niyazov.
To the east is Afghanistan, where we have bases and about 15,000 troops, and Pakistan, another U.S. ally in the war on Islamist jihadi terrorism -- but one who might not want to incur the wrath of its radical Moslem population.
And now we look south, to Qatar, where we have the al Udeid Air Base... and to the United Arab Emirates, which already allow us to use their military facilities to transport troops, aircraft, and supplies. In addition, the UAE controls the Strait of Hormuz, through which all Iranian oil must move to enter the world petroleum market.
We need support and bases from which to launch either an attack or a blockade, depending on how other events flow. The UAE needs the money from the deal. Can we connect some dots here?
Date ►►► February 21, 2006
The Old Fogel Has Gotten His Wish
The state of California has given up for now, admitting that under the bizarre new rules decreed by the judicial fiat of Judge Jeremy Fogel, they cannot execute Michael Morales, or indeed any other prisoner they have on death row.
We previously blogged (here, here, here, and here) on the long, strange trip of Morales "there and back again," from his cell in San Quentin right back to the same, old cell he has occupied for nearly twenty-three years, since he was convicted in April 1983 of the brutal beating, rape, and murder of high-school senior Teri Winchell. In the last installment, the court-appointed anesthesiologists point-blank refused to participate in the execution.
The only other option Fogel allowed was to execute Morales by an untried, unapproved overdose of barbiturates. The state planned to do just that before the execution order expired Tuesday at midnight... however, Judge Fogel (a Clinton appointee) then added a new twist: even that lethal overdose must be administered by a doctor, nurse, or medical technician, lest it cause Morales pain:
Prison officials had planned to press forward with the execution Tuesday night using the second option. The judge approved that decision, but said the sedative must be administered in the execution chamber by a person who is licensed by the state to inject medications intravenously. That group would include doctors, nurses and other medical technicians.
To everyone's great and unexpected shock (including Judge Fogel, I'm sure) no such medical personnel were willing to inject the drug. This might have something to do with the fact that the AMA, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the California Medical Association, and the various professional national and state organizations of nurses and medical technicians all oppose capital punishment -- and have all declared participation by their members in executions to be "unethical," which could lead to the member being subject to disciplinary actions including the loss of his medical license.
So in the end, Jodge Fogel got his way: the execution has been postponed for months, or however long he decides to take before holding hearings -- and all without him having to issue a ruling that could be appealed, and despite the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and even the U.S. Supreme Court both refused to stay the execution. Fogel has overruled them all! Executions in California will now cease until one Clinton appointee is satisfied... if he ever is.
And to hell with the voters. Isn't democracy wonderful? Sure wish we had some.
During the Olympics, Google has modied their logo to several different versions that incorporate winter-Olympics sport themes. As huge curling fans, we loved the one today:
Cute enough to curl your hair
You can see the rest of their "Google doodles" at this page. They're all pretty fun! After the sturm und drang of our last post, we thought something light would go down nicely.
UAE and American Ports: a Modest Proposal
A very curious conflict has arisen between the president and most shipping experts on one side, and virtually the entire political establishment, Republican and Democrat, on the other. A British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), which had the management of cargo and other operations (not port security) at six American ports, including New York and New Orleans, was bought by Dubai Ports World -- a company wholly owned by the government of Dubai, one of the emirates within the United Arab Emirates.
The sale - expected to be finalized in early March - would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.
Bluntly put, there are very good reasons to go ahead with this deal -- but also some very real security concerns that must be dealt with. We at Big Lizards have a modest proposal for cutting this Gordian Knot (one that is meant seriously, not as satirist Jonathon Swift meant his own Modest Proposal!)
The Two-Headed Dragon
There are two problems with this proposal, one security-related and the other political; but there are also good reasons in favor of it. Bush apparently has completely ignored the problems (this is likely an illusion), while Republicans and Democrats high in the political heirarchy seemingly do not even notice any of the arguments in favor: the deal is bitterly opposed by such stalwarts on both sides, Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, and New York Gov. George Pataki, and Democrats including Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Edward Markey, all of New York... although Republican opposition is more in the form of wanting further study, while Democrats simply want the deal killed outright.
Head #1: National Security
The security related problem is easier to deal with. Dubai Ports would not, in fact, run any of the security operations at any of the ports; but they would deal with cargo issues, and they would have access to plans showing the layout and configuration of the cargo areas... plans which are, however, already publicly available to every company that does business in those ports (including Saudi Arabian, Turkish, and Indonesian companies).
The UAE has been America's most reliable Arab partner in the war against Islamist jihadi terrorism. Nobody is worried that the current Emir of Dubai will suddenly link up with al-Qaeda, just as we're not worried that General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan will cut a deal with Osama bin Laden. But both countries have many Islamists and many supporters of terrorism and of al-Qaeda... and they cannot always ensure that their companies have not been infiltrated by sleeper agents. That is the danger of Dubai Ports having such access to American ports.
Lawmakers from both parties have noted that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base. In addition, critics contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.
[This cryptic phrase refers to A.Q. Khan, the "father" of the Pakistan nuclear program, who then sold the technology to dangerous regimes all over the world. He was subsequently fired and remains under surveillance... though his national popularity within Pakistan precludes him being imprisoned. -- the Mgt.]
[Lawmakers] say a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.
Head #2: the Political Dimension
The political problem, of course, is the appearance that the Bush administration is turning a blind eye to Arab infiltration of critical port operations. This tends to damage Bush's great political strength, his fight against terrorism.
There is another, subtler political danger: Democrats, who until now have appeared as nothing but weaklings and moral cowards on national security issues -- Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, demanding an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq springs to mind -- have the chance to get to the "right" of the president on a national-security issue, as Schumer and Clinton are doing: as hard to credit as it may be that Sen. Clinton cares a fig for national security, she can nevertheless sound tough and still oppose the president... and that is a golden opportunity in an election year, and also for her expected presidential run in 2008.
On the Plus Side
But there are political perils on the anti-deal side, too... notably that America has allowed foreign companies, including those based in countries with unfriendly populations or even enemy governments (such as Red China), to operate other American ports, just as Dubai Ports wants to do:
The White House appeared stunned by the uprising, over a transaction that they considered routine — especially since China's biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports in the United States, as do a host of other foreign companies. Mr. Bush's aides defended their decision, saying the company, Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates, would have no control over security issues....
But [the] firestorm of opposition to the deal drew a similarly intense expression of befuddlement by shipping industry and port experts.
The shipping business, they said, went global more than a decade ago and across the United States, foreign-based companies already control more than 30 percent of the port terminals.
That inventory includes APL Limited, which is controlled by the government of Singapore, and which operates terminals in Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Globally, 24 of the top 25 ship terminal operators are foreign-based, meaning most of the containers sent to the United States leave terminals around the world that are operated by foreign government or foreign-based companies.
"This kind of reaction is totally illogical," said Philip Damas, research director at Drewry Shipping Consultants of London. "The location of the headquarters of a company in the age of globalism is irrelevant."
Singapore, of course, is also a country with a large and radicalized Moslem population that is infiltrated -- inundated is the better word -- by international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and their affilliate, Jemaah Islamiah; yet no one is up in arms about APL operating American ports. What is the difference?
The danger to the shrillest voices opposing this deal (especially the Democrats) is that they never objected when other dicey foreign countries operated the ports... but when an Arab country, even a friendly one that has been a huge help to us in the war, wants to do the same thing, the Democrats become hysterical. It smacks of racism -- the idea that it doesn't matter what an Arab thinks or even how hard he has fought on our side in the war against jihadism... his ethnicity alone makes him suspect. After flinging such charges at Republicans for so many decades, Democrats are very edgy about such accusations sticking to them.
There are other, more tangible arguments in favor of the deal, mostly that the UAE has agreed to dramatically increase their already very high level of cooperation with the United States and our Western allies in the war effort. According to AP:
To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it had negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said Tuesday it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.
A senior Homeland Security official, Stewart Baker, said this was the first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a state-owned government. "In that sense this is a new layer of controls," he said. Baker added that U.S. intelligence agencies were consulted "very early on to actually look at vulnerabilities and threats...."
A senior executive from Dubai Ports World pledged the company would agree to whatever security precautions the U.S. government demanded to salvage the deal. Chief operating officer Edward "Ted" H. Bilkey promised Dubai Ports "will fully cooperate in putting into place whatever is necessary to protect the terminals...."
Bush, who has never vetoed a bill as president, said on the White House South Lawn: "This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."
A Modest Proposal
Neither side has noticed that there is a fairly obvious compromise staring us in the face, which Big Lizards believes would resolve the very real security concerns without losing the equally real security benefits from this deal.
Both the actual national-security risk and also the political danger come, not from the ownership of the company, but rather from the day to day management -- the actual control of operations. The emirate wants the profits that accrue from ownership; rational Americans want to see control of the port, even the cargo areas, in friendly hands, preferably American.
This suggests a workable compromise: an American company should be chartered -- American owned and American managed -- that is a wholly owned but independently operated subsidiary of Dubai Ports... call it American Port Services, Inc., or somesuch name that makes clear the nationality; and then let all the actual management of the ports be handled by the American APS, not by Dubai Ports.
This will add a middle corporate layer, so Dubai Ports won't make quite as much of a profit as they would running the ports directly; but on the other hand, it's still better than no profit at all. And Americans can be assured that rather than shifting from British control to UAE control, we will in fact have shifted from British to American control of port operations.
This resolves both the security and the political problems:
- Americans will be running day to day operations, quieting the very real fears of terrorist infiltration;
- Republican senators, representatives, and governors can truthfully say that they negotiated a much better deal with the president, so their protest to the initial version was successful;
- President Bush can deliver on his promise to a friend and ally in the war on jihadi terrorism, thus gaining even more cooperation from the UAE on anti-terrorist measures -- and making America more secure;
- The White House and Republicans in Congress and the state houses can again unite on matters of national security, as before;
- The only losers will be the hysterical Democrats: unlike the Republicans, who insisted only upon more "scrutiny" of the deal, Democrats have simply been howling for the whole thing to be killed... and they'll be left out in the cold by a solid, secure "new deal" that incorporates all the benefits while avoiding the dangerous pitfalls.
Once again, the Democrats have overreacted, demanding death to the deal, when in fact we can address the real and sincere threats without having to pull the beard of a long-time ally in the war effort. As Dubai Ports has already agreed to "whatever security precautions the U.S. government demanded to salvage the deal," they should be willing to sign off on being a holding company, rather than the actual operator, which will be "American Port Services," or whatever they decide to call it.
All sides will be satisfied, and we can then proceed with the deal.
One Last Chance
Let me start off right away by noting that I am not at all unbiased on the issue of partial-birth abortion. Of course, I'm biased on every issue we deal with here on Big Lizards... we're commentators, not news anchors. But I'm even more than usually biased on this one.
So I am in very high spirits that the Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider striking down the federal ban on partial-birth abortion (intact dialation and extraction), which they overturned in 2000 -- with Sandra Day O'Connor casting one of the five votes to overturn the ban. Ironically, on the very first day that her replacement, Samuel Alito, took the bench, the Court voted to hear another appeal of a different judge striking down the same law for the same reason: Gonzales v. Carhart, No. 05-380.
If everyone votes the way he did before, and if Alito votes to allow the law -- none of which is a given, of course -- then partial-birth abortion, which I consider to be infanticide, will be banned across the country. So I am keeping my fingers crossed that Alito will be more rational about this than was O'Connor.
There is not much more to say; we all know the stakes, and we all know that we won't know any more until the arguments... and we really won't know what is going to happen until the Court makes it happen, one way or the other.
So we leave it with the hopeful note that four justices, at least, believe they decided wrongly in 2000.
Doctors Overturn Death Penalty
The execution of Michael Morales was postponed late Monday night when the two anesthesiologists -- forced into the execution process by the ruling of federal Judge Jeremy Fogel -- abruptly refused to take part in the procedure, citing ethical concerns.
The doctors' withdrawal came at the end of hasty legal maneuvering in U.S. District Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. But it was the language in an opinion rendered Monday by the appellate court that had the court-ordered anesthesiologists in mutiny.
The doctors' concerns hinged on the ethics of returning an inmate to consciousness in the event of a botched lethal injection.
Doctors said the ruling raised serious questions about the possibility of having to intervene in the execution "if any evidence of either pain or a return to consciousness arose."
In a statement to the warden, the doctors said, "Any such intervention would be medically unethical. As a result, we have withdrawn from participation in this current process. ... What is being asked of us is ethically unacceptable."
At about 2:00 am Tuesday morning, Morales was returned to his cell on Death Row in the Q. As Big Lizards predicted, the execution is postponed; but prison officials still hope to carry it out before 12:01 Wednesday morning, when the execution order expires.
The death warrant for Morales expires at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. If the execution is not carried out before then, a Superior Court judge would have no more than 60 days to set another execution date.
Judge Fogel, a Clinton appointee, has left Warden Steven Ornoski few choices to carry out the execution within that time limit: now that the anesthesiologists have pulled the plug on the state-prescribed trio of drugs to kill Morales, Ornoski's only remaining option is to try to execute Morales with a lethal dose of the barbiturate sodium pentothal -- what used to be called "truth serum."
This method of execution has never been used before in the United States, and we really don't know how well it will work... and I forsee grave difficulties if the defense team runs to a new federal court and demands a stay of execution until the effects of 5 grams of sodium pentothal can be "studied."
In two previous posts, If I Should Ouch Before I Die and Michael Morales Dead Pool, we warned that this obsession with whether people being executed might "feel pain" before dying would come back to haunt us, wailing like a hanging-hair ghost in a Kabuki play.
As the anesthesiologists interpreted the ruling from the Ninth Circus, if they detected even the faintest evidence that Morales might be feeling pain, they would be legally obliged to stop the execution and try to bring him back to consciousness.
This is madness: we shouldn't be deliberately tormenting people; but on the other hand, you just have to accept the possibility that somebody might conceivably be hurt during an execution, for God's sake. No pussyfooting allowed when administering the death penalty.
It shouldnt' make that much of a difference; it will all be over soon, and the condemned will be beyond feeling any pain (at least in this world). This over-solicitousness of the brutal rapist murderer's frets and feelings is not only unjust to his victim, seventeen year old high-school senior Teri Winchell... it's unseemly for our judicial system, which is based, not on comfort and ease, but on justice.
Morales committed a particularly horrific and callous attack: he murdered Winchell, not because she did anything wrong -- not even because Morales himself had anything against her -- but because the man she was dating was, unbeknownst to her, engaged in a homosexual affair with Morales' cousin, Rick Ortega... and Ortega was jealous.
Ortega picked Winchell up in his car; Morales was hiding in the back seat. As they drove, Morales lunged up and looped a belt around Winchell's throat, trying to strangle her. But the belt broke... so Morales began repeatedly beating her in the head with a hammer he had with him.
When he had battered her into unconsciousness at least (and possibly already death), then Ortega pulled over so Morales could rape Winchell's comatose or lifeless body. Following the rape, he stabbed her over and over until there was no doubt that she was dead.
This is the man the courts are so terrified might feel pain while he's being put to death.
This circus is simply appalling. It is time to stop shifting heaven and Earth to keep this bestial man alive... fiat justicia ruat coelum. If Morales' legal team -- which tried to get his sentence reduced by filing falsified juror affidavits -- doesn't want him executed via lethal injection, let's take them at their word.
Let us set up a gallows and have done with him.
Date ►►► February 20, 2006
A Top Ten List...
...That only the White House press corps could love!
So who had the worst blunder? President James Buchanan, for failing to avert the Civil War, according to a survey of presidential historians organized by the University of Louisville's McConnell Center....
Scholars who participated said Buchanan didn't do enough to oppose efforts by Southern states to secede from the Union before the Civil War.
That might be a big harsh; many argue that the war was inevitable, part of the implicate order of the Constitution, which had to avoid dealing with the problem in order to get the New England states and the Southern states on the same document together (or even in the same room together). But I'm sure the presidential scholars know more about Buchanan and his failings than I.
Here are the blunders, in order:
- James Buchanan, for failing to prevent the Civil War;
- Andrew Johnson, for allowing Reconstruction to go the way it did;
- Lyndon Johnson, for escalating the Vietnam War;
- Woodrow Wilson, for the Treaty of Versailles;
- Richard Nixon, for Watergate;
- James Madison, for the War of 1812;
- Thomas Jefferson, for the Embargo Act of 1807;
- John Kennedy, for the Bay of Pigs;
- Ronald Reagan, for the Iran-Contra affair;
- Bill Clinton, for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Clearly, the criterion they used was that the mistake had to be egregious, and it had to have very severe negative consequences for the nation... or in the Clinton case, at least for the presidency. This is why, e.g., Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court didn't make the cut: however bad an idea it was, it didn't work, and there were no significant negative consquences either for the country or FDR.
I certainly don't agree with all of these -- in particular, the last two: Reagan's decision to sell arms, not to Ayatollah Khomeini's faction but to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's, and use the money to keep the Contras going in Nicaragua, eventually resulted in two things: the Contras survived long enough to force elections, in which the Sandinista Stalinists were ousted (they did a big land grab on the way out, further discrediting them); and Rafsanjani's group survived as a (slightly) more moderate faction after Khomeini's death.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ballot-stuffing victory over Rafsanjani dissipated any benefit from Rafsanjani surviving; but that still leaves the survival of the Contras as a palpable benefit. At worst, Reagan's decision was an attempted bank-shot that sank one ball but not the other. And if Rafsanjani had been a little stronger, he might have ended up Supreme Rule instead of Ayatollah Ali Khameni in 1989, which would have been a much better thing. Reagan took a shot, and it was partially successful.
And as far as Clinton's inclusion, I really think that's stretching it. His presidency was so inconsequential that I don't think it would have been possible for him to make the top-ten blunders list, just as he couldn't have made the top-ten brilliant decisions list. Under Clinton, we simply spent eight years hiding from the world and partying like it was 1999. He is of no account.
I can't help thinking Clinton was included only because the lefties wanted Reagan there, and Reagan was included only because the moderates were worried it would otherwise look too partisan. (Notice I didn't include a slot here for the conservatives; remember, we are talking about academe!)
I have no serious problem with the rest of the choices, which have the advantage of actually being part of history, rather than recent news events.
Europeans Fake Their Stand On Principle
Across the Moslem ummah and in many European countries, Moslems run riot over a handful of cartoons. The European newspapers that published them stand strong on the great principle of freedom of speech, insisting that people must be free to speak their minds, no matter how offensive it may be or who may be offended -- that freedom of expression is the most basic human right of all.
It rings a little hollow, now that Austria has just sentenced fake historian David Irving to three years in prison... for denying the Holocaust in two 1989 speeches.
Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust - a crime in the country where Hitler was born....
State prosecutor Michael Klackl declined to comment on the verdict. In his closing arguments, however, he criticized Irving for "putting on a show" and for not admitting that the Nazis killed Jews in an organized and systematic manner.
(Interestingly, Irving was arrested "on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews" -- under a law passed in 1992. Another interesting point to ponder about European ideas of justice.)
Let's start with the basics: Irving is not merely wrong, he is willfully lying because of his agenda; and his agenda is without question antisemitic, whether or not he himself personally dislikes Jews.
But... what should we make now of that freedom-of-speech defense by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the one that ran as an editorial along with the cartoons? Will they likewise denounce the conviction and prison sentence of David Irving as another violation of freedom of speech?
What about the literally scores of European newspapers that have reprinted the cartoons in France, Germany, and even Austria (countries that definitely do criminalize Holocause denial), each claiming it published the images to defend -- er, what was that principle again?
And why did the Italian Minister-Without-Portfolio Roberto Calderoli begin distributing t-shirts of the cartoons and even claim he was wearing one "under his suit?" Holocaust denial is prosecutable as a crime in Italy, according to Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine -- which is not skeptical at all about the Holocaust but supports the orthodox theory, as do I:
Switzerland, Belgium, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia have similar laws and statutes on the books. These laws are all ambiguous enough to allow courts to interpret various Holocaust deniers' activities as illegal.
Is Holocaust denial a crime in Denmark? I don't believe it is, but I am fascinated to find out. I put in a call to the Danish consulate, but you cannot get through directly: I left my number for them to call me back. I also sent an e-mail, but they haven't responded as yet. I will update this post when -- if -- I receive any answer. But from what I have read, Denmark, at least, is not hypocritical in this sense.
But will Jyllands-Posten denounce the sentencing of David Irving? I would like to see them do so; it would make their earlier posturing rather more believable.
Denying the Holocaust is also a crime in other European countries, including France. It is potentially a crime throughout Europe by dint of the Council of Europe's 2003 Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, whose Article 6 reads:
Article 6 – Denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity
1 Each Party shall adopt such legislative measures as may be necessary to establish the following conduct as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right:
Distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party.
Note how wide a net this article casts, which would also include the crime of "minimizing" the Rwanda massacre or trying to "justify" anything done by Augusto Pinochet while fighting Communism in Chile. However, signatories to the convention are not obliged to enforce this article. Is there a list of which countries do?
From the Wikipedia article on Holocaust denial:
At times, Holocaust deniers seek to rely on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression, when faced with criminal sanctions against their statements or publications. The European Court of Human Rights however consistently declares their complaints inadmissible. According to Article 17 of the Convention, nothing in the Convention may be construed so as to justify acts that are aimed at destroying any of the very rights and freedoms contained therein. Invoking free speech to propagate denial of crimes against humanity is, according to the Court's case-law, contrary to the spirit in which the Convention was adopted in the first place. Reliance on free speech in such cases would thus constitute an abuse of a fundamental right.
This argument strikes me (I am Jewish on my parents' side) as disingenuous to the point of offense. Free speech clearly does not cover actual incitement to riot, fraud, or some other offenses (e.g., you cannot rely on "freedom of speech" as a defense against ordering a hit on someone). But if freedom of speech means anything at all, it means the right to express political or factual opinions, no matter how offensive -- and no matter how outlandish.
That is precisely the principle that European nations rely upon defending the Danish cartoons... a principle simultaneously denied by many of the very countries repeating it. Is it any wonder that Moslem nations reject such an argument coming from mouths that, with the next breath, reject it themselves? "Do as I say, not as I do" indeed.
The greatest gift that the Jews gave to the world was a universal God Who procaimed a universal law: what was a crime for a pauper was also a crime for a prince. Kings of Israel were denounced by the prophets for failing to obey the universal laws of God (Saul, David). We claim still to believe this today; the expression "no one is above the law" has its parallels in every European language. There can be no principle that allows some expression to be criminalized but protects all other expression. Such hypocrisy has the poisoned taint of pure tribalism: my tribe can speak, but not yours.
Europe must finally decide: does it actually stand on this principle, which is a bedrock of freedom in the United States -- a country which does, in fact, extend such freedom even to odious neonazis, antisemites, and Holocaust deniers, yes even including David Irving, whose work is readily available here? Or does Europe believe that offensive speech can and should be censored to avoid upsetting listeners and readers?
And they had better decide quickly, because a "principle" that applies only when one agrees with the person invoking it has no more force than the rush of hot air from the mouths of European ministers-without-moral-portfolios.
Trackback Spam Attack
We've started getting disgusting trackback spam, so we've introduced a monitoring system: trackbacks will still be accepted, but Big Lizards will have to approve them before they're published.
Shouldn't affect anyone here... the trackback will still show up, just a few hours later.
Sorry for the inconvenience; but for some unfathomable reason, some deranged individuals seem to believe that people who read political blogs automatically pore through the trackback listings (of ancient posts), desperately hoping to find a link to a particular kind of website... that kind being (one presumes) so difficult to find otherwise.
Date ►►► February 19, 2006
In Search of a New Antisemitism
Bernard Lewis, Arabist extraordinaire and author of What Went Wrong? : The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, has authored a new article about something else that has gone wrong: the New Antisemitism [HT to SJ from PL].
William F. Buckley famously went looking for antisemitism (my preferred spelling, explanations anon) in the halls of journalism and found it. Bernard Lewis is interested in its development in the Middle East. But he isn't concerned with just garden-variety dislike of Jews; he is after bigger game, the deep "cosmic hatred" of Jews... imputing to them Satanic evil that, in the mind of the antisemite, makes every Jew a walking crime against humanity.
Interestingly, and unexpectedly (based upon modern Arab societies), this sort of cosmic antisemitism did not exist among Arabs, argues Lewis, until the late nineteenth, early twentieth century -- and even then, they got it from the West:
Prejudices existed in the Islamic world, as did occasional hostility, but not what could be called anti-Semitism, for there was no attribution of cosmic evil. And on the whole, Jews fared better under Muslim rule than Christians did. This is the reverse of what one might expect. In the canonical history, in the Qur’an and the biography of the Prophet, Jews come out badly. The Prophet had more encounters with Jews than with Christians, so we find more negative statements about Jews than about Christians. The biography of the Prophet records armed clashes with Jews, and in those encounters it was the Jews who were killed. Muslims could therefore afford a more relaxed attitude toward Jews in the ensuing generations.
This is an interesting point, and I've been thinking about it since long before reading this piece by Lewis. Throughout most of the history of Islam, Jews were more or less comic relief, like the cowboy hero's lovable but foolish and cowardly sidekick in early Western serials. In the Koran, they rejected Mohammed -- who promptly gave them what for, crushing them for their impudence.
Thus, Moslems in general and Arab Moslems in particular could feel somewhat benevolent towards the Jews: the Jews had suffered for their rejectionism and they accepted their inferior status (not as slaves or really even dhimmi but as favored non-Moslems), so the Moslems of earlier centuries could feel complacent about them. Also, they posed no threat: there was no 17th, 18th, or 19th century Jewish superpower like the Christian superpowers, threatening the Islamic world. Thus Jews were tolerated; not equal, but tolerated.
But starting in the latter half of the nineteenth century, European antisemitism shifted from the religious prejudices of previous centuries to a "scientific" Jew-hatred that was race-based. Consciously antisemitic philosophers arose, primarily in Germany but elsewhere in Europe as well; and they began to associate Jews with a vicious and "cosmic" evil that was "in the blood," and could not be eradicated by mere conversion to Christianity.
The word "anti-Semitism" was first used in 19th century Germany. Despite its scientific-sounding reference to "Semitism," a linguistic term, rather than the religious term "Jews," the word always exclusively referred to Jew hatred; it was never used to mean hatred of Arabs. In fact, the Nazis personally reassured Rashid Ali al-Gailani, the Nazi-installed leader of Iraq until 1941, that German "anti-Semitism" was directed only at Jews, not Arabs, despite the fact that they too spoke a Semitic language. This is why I spell it "antisemitism," to make clear that disassociation.
The Nazis and other European Jew haters gave the Arabs the language of cosmic antisemitism; but the events of 1948 gave them a reason to resort to it. Despite European-style antisemitic writings and speeches, throughout the early 20th century, Arabs still thought of Jews as cowards and clowns, people to mock, not destroy. But when Israel raised her flag after the British lowered theirs in 1948, and five Arab armies swept confidently in to dispose of the insolent and impudent Jewish state -- the Arabs were crushed.
This had a bitter and lasting impact on their psyche:
It was then an appalling shock when five Arab armies were defeated by half a million Jews with very limited weaponry. It remains shameful, humiliating. This was mentioned at the time and has been ever since. One writer said: “It was bad enough to be conquered and occupied by the mighty empires of the West, the British Empire, the French Empire, but to suffer this fate at the hands of a few hundred thousand Jews was intolerable.”
How could "the Catastrophe" have happened? Was not Allah on the side of the Moslems? The only explanation available was that black magic must have been behind it... and somehow, the Arabs had to find the key to turning that magic back on the infidels who had bearded them in what they saw as their own land.
In my opinion, this humiliation (followed by three others in a quarter century) completed emasculated the Arabs. Their world turned upside down. Within a single lifetime, they went from masters of their domain to vassals of the great powers of Europe to being slapped around by the nascent Jewish state. This to the Arabs was like John Wayne being whupped by Gabby Hayes... and they can never live it down.
But since they can't do anything about it -- Israel is even stronger now, relative to the Arabs, than they were in 1967 -- they can do nothing but rant and rage. The "cosmic evil" they impute to the Jews now included Satanic powers to sap mighty warriors of their strength... and they desperately needed to find that magical Djinn lamp.
I personally believe that the nuclear weapon has taken on an almost totemic status among Arabs (and Iran): they see it as the Djinn who will finally grant them their deepest wish, avenging themselves upon the Jews for the humiliations of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. Thus the obsession of so many Arab states with developing, buying, or stealing nuclear weaponry. I don't think they imagine they can dictate terms to the United States with just a few measly nukes. But they may well believe Aladdin's bombs will once and for all eradicate the constant reminder of Arab failure and helplessness: Israel.
The Arabs likely also believe that if they destroyed Israel with nuclear weapons, the West may snort and bellow, but in the end, they will do nothing. Arabs have a great deal of history backing this up; as Lewis notes, Europe, the United Nations, and even the United States have stood by and done little or nothing about the blatant and explicit antisemitic ravings of Moslems from Gamal Nassir to Hamas to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran, who (in fine "cosmic evil" tradition) rejects the reality of the Holocaust and confidently promises to "wipe Israel off the map."
At the same time, the U.N. has done this literally: Kofi Annan spoke at an "International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People" last November -- standing in front of a map of the region from which Israel had simply been erased.
I do not believe the West would stand by and do nothing while the modern world was pulled down on top of its head. I know that is Mark Steyn's defining thesis, that the West will accept death or even slavery rather than stir a finger to defend itself. But Steyn has always been a raging pessimist at heart, and I suspect this thought comes not from the cortex but from the reptillian brainstem.
Today, John Hinderaker at Power Line posted this photograph of a protest in Pakistan by Moslems, presumably against the cosmically evil cartoons:
John asks, perhaps not rhetorically,
I wonder, though, why the sign is in English. We're apparently supposed to see and understand it, but how exactly could that help the Islamists' cause?
The answer is that its purpose is not to "help the Islamists' cause," but rather to serve as a triumphal ululation on posterboard. Moslems see themselves as rising; they see this as their time come round at last. They envision nuclear and CBW-armed Moslem nations regaining the upper hand over both the dangerous "crusaders" and the despicable Jews who humiliated Islam in 1948 by stubbornly refusing to fling themselves into the sea.
Arab and Persian Moslems see themselves standing on the verge of a "cosmic" victory over the West, when in fact they dance on the precipice of the most catastrophic defeat in human history, if they really push it as far as they seem to want. I think that's why it's been so hard to peel off moderate Moslems: they have, alas, begun to see themselves as invincible, unstoppable... so why would anyone want to desert the winning side?
Godwin or no Godwin, I must say that Moslem jihadis have become like Adolf Hitler: they imagine Destiny is on their side, and they are defiant and arrogant in victory. They believe their own propaganda... and that disease nearly always predicts cultural suicide.
Michael Morales Dead Pool
Well not really; I just wanted to make people jump up and say "what the heck?"
But I am curious: gentle readers, Mr. Morales is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday the 21st, I believe, for the brutal rape and beating-to-death of Teri Winchell, who was only a high-school girl. A federal judge appears to be leaning towards issuing a stay of execution, but he hasn't finally decided yet.
What do you think the odds are that Morales will actually be executed on the 21st, as opposed to receiving a stay?
No "dead pool;" just let me know your predictions, and we'll see how it goes. My own prediction is that he will receive a stay, but it will be vacated by the circus court, and he'll be executed later in the week.
(This is a low-confidence prediction, because it all depends upon the decision of one man; my prediction that Hillary will not be the Democratic nominee is a high-confidence prediction, because I base it on the whole arc of the Democratic Party's evolution the past few years.)
Date ►►► February 18, 2006
Our stringer, Friend Lee, who is literally a rabid tennis fan (we're getting him the series of injections next week), found a real jaw-dropper on YNet News. I'll let him tell it, with some nudzhing from the Big Lizards editorial ballboys.
India has had several excellent male tennis players, but Sania Mirza is its first female tennis star. She's front page news in India; in most of the rest of the world, she's only known to tennis fans.
Mirza is Muslim; and unfortunately, the Muslims in India are pressuring her very hard on several issues, interfering with her career in some respects, and certainly interfering with her peace of mind.
But now the Muslims have pressured her not to play doubles with an Israeli girl, and Mirza has given in.
According to the article that Friend Lee links, he is, if anything, understating what has happened to Mirza:
Indian female tennis player Sania Mirza, 19, who is ranked 39th in the world, announced that she would not play with Israeli up and coming tennis star Shahar Pe’er in the doubles tournament of the Bangalore Open for fear of violent protests by India’s Islamic community.
The two friends were prevented from cooperating in last month’s Australian Open for the same reason.
Mirza initially agreed to play with Pe’er in Bangalore, but later retracted, telling Pe’er “It’s best that we don’t play together this time to prevent protests against my cooperation with an Israeli. There is no reason to arouse their ire (Muslims).”
Mirza, a sports hero in her country, was recently chastised by Muslim groups in India for wearing a sleeveless top and a mini-skirt during her matches. Local Muslim groups claimed that her attire degrades Islam, and some even threatened to kill her.
What do they expect Mizra to play tennis in... a white burqa?
Let's sit back and let this one sink in. The Moslems in India are outraged that Mirza, a Moslem, would play doubles tennis with an "Israeli." But of course, India lies nowhere near Israel; they have never had a war with Israel; they have no conflict with Israel. Even during the Cold War, when India was allied with the Soviet Union, they did not have any specific conflict with Israel... and India, of course, is not even in the Middle East: it's in Southwest Asia.
So what possible reason could Indian Moslems have to demand an Indian Moslem tennis star not play doubles with an Israeli? The only one I can think of is that to Moslems, even in India, "Israeli" is just a code word for "Jew." When they say 'how dare you play doubles with an Israeli,' they are really saying 'how dare you play doubles with a Jew.'
The conflict between Israel, the Arab states, and the Palestinian non-state can be chalked up to propinquity and an evil history. But the reaction of Indian Moslems makes it brutally clear that the real, underlying problem is that Islam includes Jew-hatred as a core value... probably because the Jews were the first organized group of "People of the Book" to reject Mohammed's claim to be a prophet: seventh-century rabbis scoffed at the idea that Mohammed could be as ignorant of the Jewish Bible as he was if God were truly speaking through him.
By the way, I think we also must alert NOW and NARAL:
Last November Mirza stirred controversy when during a New Delhi conference she spoke of the importance of safe sex; Muslim groups in New Delhi and three other cities held rallies, with protesters carrying signs reading “Mirza is detached from Islam,” claiming she is “corrupting the youth in the country, especially the girls.”
Mirza, in an attempt to ease tensions, said in response “I want to make it clear that I am opposed to pre-marital sex. It is a major sin in Islam, and I believe God would not forgive for such an act.”
Got it? Not only is safe sex right out, but if a Moslem teenager slips and has premarital sex even one time, she is condemned to Hell forever with no hope of forgiveness or redemption.
How sad that so many people would believe in a religion that is more forgiving of mass murder than it is of a single, pre-marital quickie.
All else is commentary.
FISA or Congress Should Oversee NSA Program
Really, I have no problem with what Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, just said:
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, breaking ranks with the president on domestic eavesdropping, says he wants a special court to oversee the program.
But less than a day later, a top aide to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sought to clarify his position.
Roberts told The New York Times that he is concerned that the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could not issue warrants as quickly as the monitoring program requires. But he is optimistic that the problem could be worked out.
"You don't want to have a situation where you have capability that doesn't work well with the FISA court, in terms of speed and agility and hot pursuit," Roberts said Friday.
So is Roberts being inconsistent? Incoherent? Is it flip-flopping? Not at all... this perception only exists because most people in the Antique Media talked themselves into believing that "oversight" is synonymous with "complete day-to-day control." That is, they think that any sort of court oversight must necessarily require a warrant prior to every act of surveillance by the National Security Agency.
In fact, oversight works very differently. Roberts' own committe, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has "oversight" over the CIA; but that doesn't mean that CIA officials must get committee approval before engaging in any spying. Rather, it means that the committee periodically reviews what the CIA is doing and has done; and if there is a problem, the committee can summon CIA officials to explain what happened (in secret session).
This model could work fine with the FISA court and the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program: the program would continue as before, with all decisions made by the National Security Agency, the national intelligence director, and up the chain to the president. Then periodically -- let's say every three months -- the NSA submits a quarterly review to the FISA court of what surveillance it has conducted, how it obtained those telephone numbers or e-mail accounts, whether Americans were involved, and if so, what steps the NSA took to safeguard the constitutional rights of those Americans caught up in this program.
The FISA court could review this report. Of all federal courts, the one set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is best at keeping secrets -- as the recent reference to "Sealed Case No. 02-001," decided in 2002 by the FISA Court of Review, should make clear.
Even the Supreme Court's Hamdi decision in 2004 allowed for some sort of judicial review of the executive's actions during wartime, albeit in the more normal judiciary mode of examining specific cases brought by specific defendants. But I don't know if there is precedent for (or against) a court more generally overseeing a program's constitutionality, as Roberts evidently proposes here.
It is more natural and fitting for those quarterly NSA reports to go to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- since Congress, not the courts, is charged with overseeing the executive on a regular basis. I'm less pleased at a plan that would put such oversight in the hands of the judiciary, though I'm not radically opposed to the idea.
Captain Ed makes somewhat the same point in a post of his today -- though he seems skeptical that even Congress has any role here:
Due to the current political climate and a desire to move on with the program, the White House has signalled that it will respect reasonable oversight conditions of Congress. Now, however, Congress has decided that the political cost of owning the surveillance program might be too high and has decided to punt the entire responsibility to a group of appointed secret judges instead.
After quoting from a story similar to the one I linked above, Cap continues:
I still think either approach is superfluous; the executive has always had the ability to perform warrantless searches for those who cross international borders, including luggage and persons, and that's in peacetime. Where FISA demands that the executive bow to Congress in wartime espionage, the statute is clearly not only unconstitutional but also defies 200 years of precedent in the allocation of war powers. [Emphasis added]
But this is not what Roberts suggested. What Captain Ed means is that Congress cannot remove the president's Article II power to wage war. But certainly there is nothing in the Constitution barring Congress from overseeing the executive's conduct in that war. Congress can defund the war, for example; it must consent to the president's appointment of the secretary of defense and the service secretaries, even during wartime; and clearly it can choose to impeach a president -- even right in the middle of a war (that last may be unwise, but it's not unconstitutional). Each of these duties might require Congress to investigate the executive's actions... hence the need for committee oversight.
As to the courts, Hamdi gave great latitude to the president and implicitly noted his inherent powers... though it stopped short of formally endorsing them, as John Hinderaker explains, since it found the Authorization for the Use of Military Force sufficient to justify the capture and detention of even American citizens as enemy combatants during wartime. But it also clearly established that courts could and would review individual cases.
Would we really want it otherwise? Would we really want a future President Hillary Rodham to be allowed to arrest and detain as an "enemy combatant" the future Sen. Michael Steele, her Republican opponent for re-election? The balance the Court struck in Hamdi was correct.
And a balance can be struck here which would reassure the people that the NSA program is not trampling over anybody's civil liberties, would assuage the wounded feelings of a Congress that correctly believes it has some oversight authority over the program, yet still leave the day to day operation of the program completely in the hands of the executive -- that branch best suited to instant action, precisely because it is neither democratic nor deliberative in operation. Cabinet members may advise, but they get no vote in what the president decides to do.
If that's what Roberts means by "oversight," and I think it is, then the president will have no objection to signing such a bill, and it will not in any way impair his inherent and completely constitutional authority to conduct the war as he sees fit -- subject only to post-hoc review by the relevant branch, whichever that turns out to be.
(And if he wants to make it clear, he can always include a signing statement.)
Date ►►► February 17, 2006
Iraqi Army More Cohesive Than Democratic Senators
I'll bet you thought we'd totally forgotten about this category here at Big Lizards; or else you might have fretted that there wasn't any "good news" to be found. Not so! The only reason we haven't done one of these posts in a while is that they're Sachi's province, and she's been traveling on behalf of the war effort for the past several weeks.
Well, she's still traveling; but she e-mailed a heads-up to me, and I'm writing the post that she would have written, were she here.
As most of you know, Bill Roggio returned from his own peregrinations in Iraq; he's ensconced back in his hutch at the Fourth Rail, madly blogging away. His most recent post (as I write this) is a piece of most wonderfully excellent and amazingly good news indeed... though hardly unexpected, except (of course) among the Left, who never expect (or tolerate) any good news.
The Iraqi Army has improved markedly in the past five months; and bear in mind, this is improvement over and above their stunning advances of the previous six.
The Iraqi Amy is taking over a larger portion of the battlespace, as well as conducting independent security operations. Major General Richard Lynch recently stated Iraqi Army units are involved in over 70% of the operations, and are conducting 25% of these operations independently.
For a force that didn't even exist a couple of years ago -- and whose predecessor was an overrated, thuggish tool of the King of Spades' oppression -- this is absolutely unprecedented. They're not at the level of American forces yet... but then, truth be told, neither is anyone else, not even the Brits.
Jason Vansteenwyk points to slides of the progress of Iraq Army in taking control of regions. The Increase in responsibility from September of 2005 to January of 2006 is significant. And Mr. Vansteenwyk also points out the Iraqi troops are securing the most densely populated regions of Iraq.
Roggio links to a CentCom release that details two Iraqi Army operations last week, one of which netted over a hundred terrorists captured (including 25 on the Iraqis' most-wanted list) and two terrorists killed. The new Iraqi Army is taking control of more and more territory; and as Roggio wrote (paraphrasing Vansteenwyk), they now control the most densely populated parts of the country... meaning a very large percentage of Iraqis live on land that is completely controlled by Iraqis: an Iraqi government, Iraqi police and courts, and protected by the Iraqi Army.
The United States is slowly but steadily reducing its footprint in Iraq. Even on most missions where American troops work side by side with Iraqis, the Americans are in an advisory capacity only. It's almost the mirror image of Vietnam: in that war, we began with advisors and ended up running the war; in this operation, we began by doing all the fighting and heavy lifting, but now we're mostly just advising the Iraqis... who are quite capable in nearly all cases of managing their own areas of operation.
And the Coalition can couple this huge success with:
- Our recent, highly effective efforts to persuade previously militant Sunni groups to lay down their arms and join the political process;
- The replacement of the old chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial with one who is actually moving the case along and not allowing the former dictator to engage in his usual tantrums and antics;
- The tremendous work we've done in ridding the Iraqi police of corruption, cronyism, and militant Shia;
- And the amazing success we've had completing a number of rebuilding projects
Take it all together, and we're well on our way to succeeding at the most incredible program of "nation building" anybody has ever attempted, probably greater even than what we did in Germany and Japan, considering the state of things when we started rebuilding Iraq.
And while the Iraqi Army is sticking together tighter and fighting as a unit, 41 of the 44 Democrats jumped ship yesterday and made a fool out of their conference leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace). I know which group I'd prefer to have at my back.
And that can only be Good News!
(Wow... Link City, here we come. Too bad linking oneself doesn't count in the TTLB Ecosystem!)
Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats - the Rest of the Story
Way, way back last week, I noted that, with the return of Republicans to the fold on the Patriot Act extension, the Democrats would be unable to sustain a filibuster in the Senate -- despite the fact that more than the required number of Democrats voted against cloture on December 16th. They needed 41; they got 43 two months ago.
That was then; this is now. Yesterday, the Senate took another cloture vote; and in fact, Reid's Raiders did far worse than even I predicted. In the original Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats, I wrote:
My prediction: one by one by one, Democrats will start announcing that they're going to vote for cloture; and the moment three have done so, the whole idea of a filibuster will be quietly dropped. Reid will proclaim that it would be futile, and a flood of Democrats will announce that they're against filibustering such an important bill.
But then at the actual vote, 25 Democrats will vote against cloture... including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Vista del Cowardly), after Cindy Sheehan threatens to re-enter the race she actually didn't enter the first time (and she'll once again misspell the senator's name).
So after a few minor tweaks that everyone, Democratic and Republican, agreed were largely "cosmetic," forty Democrats jumped and swam for their lives, leaving only filibuster king Russell Feingold (D-WI), 154 year old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Cuckooland)... and of course Jumpin' Jim Jeffords (I-VT), marking one of the few times a rat has been caught swimming towards a sinking ship.
Congratulations, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas), for giving us the most effective TV commercial of the upcoming campaign -- for the Republicans. That clip of Reid pumping his fist in the air, to the wild ululations of the Democratic mob, as the minority leader shrieks "we killed the Patriot Act!" will surely live on and on and on... until long after everyone has forgotten why the Patriot Act was enacted in the first place.
Not Every Clinton Judge Is an Embarassment
It's a truism that whenever some insane ruling (or likely ruling) rolls down the road, we nearly always discover that a Clinton crony sits at the heart of it.
But we would be unfair and imbalanced if we didn't point out when a Clinton judge -- confirmed while the Democrats still controlled the Senate, even -- makes a great decision. And Judge David G. Trager just got it right, very right, in a cause fraught with peril... literally, as a bad decision would have put us on a collision course with disaster in the war on jihadi terrorism.
Judge Tosses Lawsuit Alleging U.S. Deported Man to Syria for Torture
Friday, February 17, 2006
NEW YORK — A federal judge has tossed out a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who claimed U.S. counterterrorism officials deported him so he could be tortured in Syria.
Maher Arar had sued the officials in 2004 in what was believed to be the first case challenging extraordinary rendition — the policy of transferring foreign terror suspects to third countries without court approval.
Arar is not an American citizen, nor is he a U.S. resident. He carries dual Syrian-Canadian citizenship and only passed through the United States en route from Tunisia back to Montréal. While in JFK, transitioning from one plane to another, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), as it was known then, detained Arar when his name popped upon a terrorist watch list. He was taken and interrogated, then eventually deported to Syria -- where he claims he was tortured by the Syrians (who deny the allegation).
An "independent" investigator, law professor and political activist Stephen Toope, says the he believes Arar was tortured; but Toope, the president of the Trudeau Foundation, is a "human rights" activist whose specialty appears to be extreme rendition, which he vigorously opposes. So his own objectivity is certainly open to question.
Arar has become a huge cause celebre among liberals and Democrats -- on both sides of the 49th parallel, as the Arar case resulted in numerous investigations and fulminations in Canada, being seized upon as evidence of President Bush's perfidy by both the anti-American Liberal government of Paul Edgar Philippe Martin and the near-Socialist New Democratic Party under Alexa McDonough... despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that Canadian officials were involved in the detention: it was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who provided the American INS with the watch list that included Arar's name; and the Canadian Consulate admitted that they knew Arar was in custody in the United States, but did not know (they said) that he was to be deported to Jordan or Syria.
Arar's story -- invariably told from Arar's viewpoint with little or no attempt to get our side of it -- appeared in Time Canada (Google cache), Counterpunch, CBC News, the New York Times (reprint from a lefty website; you can visit the NYT and pay for the archived article, if you wish to compare them), and other favorite liberal and lefty sources.
But despite all that pressure, Judge Trager made a very sharp and (oddly) courageous ruling that since Arar was not any kind of a U.S. person, the law he was suing under did not apply to him:
U.S. District Judge David G. Trager rejected arguments that Arar was protected by the Torture Victim Prevention Act, which allows U.S. courts to assess damages for human rights abuses committed abroad.
Trager said that as a non-citizen, Arar couldn't demonstrate that he has a viable cause of action under that statute.
Citing "the national security and foreign policy considerations at stake," the judge said Arar had no grounds in a U.S. court to claim his constitutional right to due process was violated.
In other words, Judge Trager actually relied upon the law, rather than his gut feeling about what was "right" (or what some international tribunal says our law ought to be). The Torture Victim Prevention Act does not apply to foreigners living abroad; unlike Belgium, American courts do not claim to have jurisdiction over any "crime against humanity" committed by anybody, against anybody, anywhere in the world.
So he kicked it. And to hell with the liberal whiners who wanted Trager to use the claim to indict the Bush administration generally and the "rendition" policy (if it even exists) in particular... that is, to substitute the liberal foreign policy of Clinton for the conservative foreign policy of Bush at gavel-point.
To his great credit, Judge Trager refused to play that game. And I think if we're going to castigate judges who scamp the law in favor of their own preferences, we should salute those judges -- no matter who appointed them -- who do the opposite.
Date ►►► February 16, 2006
The limitation of demography is that it's almost by definition a form of static analysis: it cannot take into account significant changes that the demographics themselves may cause in demography's own predictions.
Thus, when Mark Steyn remarks that China will never be a superpower because "its population will get old before it gets rich," he is including a hidden assumption: that they will not notice what is happening and respond in any way to mitigate the danger.
What is the underlying science behind this claim, and how might a nation avoid Economic Progeria Syndrome?
Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics blog links not only to the Steyn column but also to Andy Mukherjee at Bloomberg (they seem to like Bloomberg at RCP); Mukherjee explains it all for you (longish quote, but you should read it all):
Helen Qiao, an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in Hong Kong, posed an interesting question this week: "Will China grow old before getting rich?"
Qiao's research shows that China's dependency ratio -- the number of people too young and too old to work divided by the working-age population -- will start rising at the end of this decade and approach 50 percent in 2030, from less than 40 percent at present, making China as gray as Japan was last year.
By 2050, every 10 Chinese workers in the age group of 15 to 64 will support a total of seven younger and older people -- a dependency ratio of 70 percent.
An aging society may be an inevitable part of demographic transition, though "what makes China's case unique is that the sharp rise in dependency ratio will arrive earlier in terms of per capita income level relative to other countries,'' Qiao says in her report.
In 2030, China's annual per capita income will be a little more than $11,000 measured in current prices, compared with almost $36,000 in Japan last year, according to Goldman Sachs's estimates. South Korea's dependency ratio will approach 50 percent in 2025, with its citizens earning $52,000 a year.
Does it matter if China gets old before it gets rich? It does, for a number of reasons. First, economic growth rates taper off with aging: It's difficult for a developing nation to get rich after its population has already grown old.
Of course, the increase in China's "dependency ratio" doesn't come from a bunch of extra children being born; the real increase, not only for China but for the United States, Japan, South Korea, and every other country as it develops, comes from people living longer. (Considering the alternative, we should hope this is a "ratchet" effect that will never go backwards.)
It's fairly well known that when FDR pushed Social Security through Congress in 1935, the life expectancy of a white male who lived to twenty years old (entering the workplace) was only about 66-67 years, meaning the typical person would only receive four or five years of "old-age" benefits before conveniently dying. But a twenty year old white male today can expect to live at least ten years longer -- more, much more, if we factor in likely breakthroughs in medical science and life extension.
But note the important point, what makes the dependency ratio static analysis: all such projections assume that at a certain set age, each person retires and ceases earning income, therefore becoming dependent upon a "worker" to support him.
The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem. The first step in making static analysis dynamic is to identify the hidden assumptions of stasis. The question is, if people are aging and retaining mental and physical health longer... why shouldn't they continue earning money longer?
The typical economist's answer is that if old people don't retire, there will be no jobs available for younger workers. Therefore, they conclude (with a patronizing flourish), you have simply moved the dependency from the end to the beginning of the work career.
But of course, this argument is just as static: the hidden assumption of stasis this time is that the old model of big corporations that hire X number of human robots to produce Y number of widgets will continue unto the era of our children's children's children.
In reality, we are already seeing a massive shift in the earning model, and have been for decades: more and more entrepreneurs are starting up their own businesses, then hiring some small number of people. This is not a trivial component of the economy of an advanced nation like the United States; about 75% percent of all new job growth is due to more and more small business (fewer than 500 employees) hiring more and more people. In fact, 20 million Americans work for companies that employ fewer than twenty workers each... almost half as many workers as are employed by large companies (> 500 employees), 47 million.
Small businesses are more concerned with the individual than with demographics, and they are far more likely to employ older workers. And of course, there is no age limit at all to starting your own business, as (Honorary) Col. Harland Sanders proved as long ago as 1952, when he used his Social Security check to open a restaurant called Kentucky Fried Chicken.
This, then, is the dynamic solution to the static problem of the dependency ratio: there is no economic danger in an earner "living too long" if he continues to earn money as an entrepreneur (or working for one). Note the change in nomenclature: we should call productive people earners, not "workers," because it's irrelevant how they earn money: by employment, by investment, or by royalties.
Additionally, consider that the damage wrought by too much dependency occurs when the government is forced to support older and older retirees via Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. There are far more rational policies that a country can adopt: for example, an earner's Social-Security tax can actually be privately invested on his behalf, owned and controlled by the earner (with limits), and paid out after "retirement" to supplement whatever other money he continues to earn... as opposed to the current American model, where the tax is taken by the government and spent on current budget items, leaving it up to future Congresses to find the money to pay retirees. In a privatized system, much of a senior citizen's income would simply be interest, dividends, and growth from his own investments. This, too, reduces dependency, working hand-in-glove with his own entrepreneurship.
A country can likewise mitigate the damage caused by the dependency ratio by switching entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid towards "defined contribution," where the program pays a fixed amount towards a benefit, and away from "defined benefit," where the program guarantees certain specific benefits, no matter what the cost.
The solutions to a rising dependency ratio are out there; but Mark Steyn is inadvertently right on one point: China, because of its Communist history, is very unlikely to embrace these free-market solutions to their crisis until it becomes too late. But then again, so are we... as the privatization wars of 2005 make pretty plain.
If we want to survive as a hyperpower throughout the 21st century, it's time to kick butt and take names in Congress, cramming economic salvation down the Democrats' throats whether they want it or not.
Follow-Up to Wait -- Erase, Erase, Erase...
Following up on an earlier Big Lizards post, it appears as though we were correct: a deal is in the works to abort the politically stupid fight against the NSA al-Qaeda-communications intercept program. According to CBS:
Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless telephone surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.
"We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement," Roberts said.
Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The portent is self evident, though that doesn't stop us from pointing it out anyway: the Senate is backing hurriedly away from an investigation in a strategic rearward advance. The "more briefings" is just so they don't lose their entire face.
The deal comes as the committee was set to have a meeting Thursday about whether to open an investigation into the hotly disputed program. Roberts indicated the deal may eliminate the need for such an inquiry.
Finally, in a brazen and likely desperate rewrite of history, CBS (the "fake but accurate" network) produces its own version of the political dynamic:
Democrats have been demanding an investigation but some Republicans don't want to tangle the panel in a testy election-year probe. [!]
Yeah, that's it... the Democrats were poised to destroy the Bush administration, probably forcing the president to resign; but the Republicans -- who have so much to lose in this year's election by the Democrats attacking a vital national-security program to intercept al-Qaeda communications -- are the ones who will kill the probe. Yep, the Democrats were just itching, itching to have three months of prime-time, broadcast hearings demanding to know why the administration has finally begun connecting the dots.
No matter how the Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence vote, I suspect they're all breathing a sigh of relief, much like a condemned man already strapped to the table when the phone call from the governor finally arrives.
Extra! Judge Orders US to Lose War on Terrorism
And the "free press" fails to notice or care. (Hat tip to commenter MTF.)
A Clinton-appointed judge, Henry Kennedy (Harvard Law, Washington D.C. practice and judgeship), has abruptly ordered the Department of Justice to hand over a huge bunch of critical and highly classified documents to a "civil liberties" organization, the Electronic Privacy Information Center... a group so radical, even the Electronic Frontier Foundation is leery of them.
Records sought by the group include an audit of the program, a “checklist” guide used to determine whether an individual’s phone or e-mail messages could be monitored, documents showing how information gleaned through eavesdropping had been used, and other legal opinions about the program.
In addition to these documents, the judge ordered the DoJ to give EPIC "a document index and declaration stating its justification for withholding any documents within 30 days," just in case the "privacy" group wants to rummage around to see if there are any cool docs they missed asking for the first time.
Instant Update Department: CBS disagrees with NBC about whether the judge actually ordered the documents released:
CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that while this is a victory for the plaintiffs, it is by no means a major ruling that will instantly lift the lid of secrecy from the spying program.
"The judge didn't order the feds to suddenly release all sorts of classified or secret information. All the judge did was to tell the Justice Department that it has to speed up its response to a request for information about the National Security Agency program," said Cohen. "And the information that initially will be released will be very unspecific. The big battles are yet to come over how much of this stuff eventually is made public."
However, the MSNBC article quotes Judge Kennedy:
“Given the great public and media attention that the government’s warrantless surveillance program has garnered and the recent hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the public interest is particularly well served by the timely release of the requested documents,” he said.
Let 'em duke it out.
Two other groups joined in the lawsuit, the ACLU and the National Security Archive -- which, despite its official sounding name, is actually a radical-Left private group obsessed with opposing any American foreign policy that involves confronting evil. Thus, they deeply oppose the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program and equate it with cold-war "domestic" surveillance programs that they believe are already discredited. (The ACLU's interests and motivations I think we all know about already.) However, the lead counsel in the case before Judge Kennedy is David Sobel, who is one of the founders of EPIC.
EPIC itself appears to be a radical-libertarian organization much in the mold of the EFF, but much less willing to accept that anything at all should be secret. There is a certain breed of libertarian which I run into all the time: freedom of information becomes such an overwhelming, almost religious cause, that they completely lose all perspective and (for example) demand an end to copyright, full release of all national-security documents without exception or redaction, the release of all personal and private information about government officials -- all under the mantra "information wants to be free."
Then they will turn around and demand complete protection of any and all private information of any private person, again without exception, not even for criminal suspects served with search warrants... presumably on the theory that "some information wants to be withheld." Eventually, it dawns on one that what they really are is simply anti-government: they want to pull down any and all regulation... but they haven't the slightest interest in coming up with anything to replace it. (Even Thomas Jefferson wanted some form of central organization.)
In this case, of course, EPIC, the ACLU, and the National Security Archive completely dismiss (if they've even thought about it) the possibility that details of the NSA program might be secret for good reason; and there is no indication that Judge Kennedy considered that possibility, either -- how could it possibly be vital for national security to keep secret details of all that "domestic surveillance without a warrant?"
I can understand wacky, ultra-libertarian, "information freedom" folks being willing to publish anything without regard to consequences. But a federal judge? Even a Clinton appointee? I assume this will be swiftly overturned on appeal (District of Columbia circuit), because if it isn't, the effect will be catastrophic. The courts may as well order the release of all technical information on building nuclear warheads.
What is most telling is that neither MSNBC nor the Washington Post so much as addresses the possibility that some secrets are worth keeping. MSNBC doesn't even mention it, while the Post has the following deep examination of the conflict between liberty and security:
Given the highly classified nature of the program, the Bush administration is likely to withhold all information about it.
That's it; question resolved. Neither bothers interviewing anybody at the DoJ about whether it's a good idea to publish enough information to allow al-Qaeda to completely bypass our attempts to monitor them; remember, one of the documents the groups requested (that the judge ordered released) is "a 'checklist' guide used to determine whether an individual’s phone or e-mail messages could be monitored." Clearly, if al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups know the criteria by which we decide which communications to monitor, they can tailor their communications not to trigger the monitoring... is that really a reach?
This is completely mad. The purpose of this program is to intercept communications of a terrorist organization sworn to destroy us; Surely this argument must be faced even by those who oppose the program. They should say, "no, it won't damage national security, because..." and provide some sort of reason, no matter how half-baked. To ignore it completely is mystifying and overtly suspicious.
But if one doesn't accept the idea that national security is an important consideration at all, it follows that the non-existent national-security issue can't possibly trump the Public's Right to Know™; there's no reason even to mull the question. And that, alas, is the sorry state to which the Antique Media has sunk under the weight of so much left-liberal ballast.
(On the all-important diction watch, on the WaPo story, they do manage to refer to "warrantless surveillance;" but the body of the article fails to include the word "domestic." The headline does, but that's generally written by someone other than the reporter; hence we cannot award the Post full points. The MSNBC story fails to disappoint: they refer to "President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program," and then quote Judge Kennedy calling it "warrantless surveillance," hitting both required moves for full credit.)
HillaryCare and Feeding
John Hinderaker over at -- uh... that other blog, I forget the name -- has an interesting proxy-debate between Dick Morris (the man who would bean Hillary, as excerpted by the man who would be a political live wire) and Amity Shlaes (off'n Bloomberg). The subject: how to handle a Hillary without losing fingers.
Reeeallly boiled down, like cooking caramel, Dick Morris says that Republicans should keep pointing out how angry she gets, because Hillary's response to being called angry is to get even angrier. This handcuffs her (now there's a thought!), since her only two modes of campaigning are Yawnery and Shrillery. "It is like criticizing Nixon for being too negative," says Morris; "each new negative he threw hurt him more than the adversary."
On the other hand, Shlaes prefers a more serious campaign (the outdent is Hinderaker, the indent is Shlaes):
Amity notes that even as Hillary was campaigning, the country was sinking into recession. She instinctively opposed President Bush's remedy, tax cuts. But those tax cuts did a great deal of good in New York....McMahon figures that for the six-year period of Clinton's first term New Yorkers will have kept $60 billion that they would have otherwise paid in taxes. Lots of people in New York don't get a Wall Street bonus. This tax cut was their bonus. Deprive them of it, and you limit the bonuses to Wall Street. You favor the rich in exactly the way that Clinton opposes.
Kids, kids, take a clue from Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: the key here is not to pick one approach over the other but to combine your strategies. How about this:
Date ►►► February 15, 2006
Wait -- Erase, Erase, Erase...
This story, while brand new in the press, is already ancient (dare I say antique?) in the blogosphere: evidently, the Democrats (and RINOs) have just now discovered that their whole attack on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program isn't going very well for them... and it appears they're about to drop the punitive probe without apology or even a backward glance.
Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.
The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.
(Hat tip to Captain Ed.)
There is not yet evidence from the MSM that the Democrats are ready to stop gnawing on this bone; no Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has publicly come out and said he will vote against the inquiry. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.
(Of course, we now learn from the media that, by making us wait until tomorrow, the Democrats are engaging in a cover-up -- just as the MSM decreed that making the White House press gang wait eighteen hours to find out "Dead-Eye" Dick shot a lawyer means Cheney was trying to "cover up" the accident.)
I really just wanted to highlight the "two-fer" above: both warrantless and domestic surveillance in the same sentence above -- in two successive paragraphs!
Somebody's aiming for an Olympic record.
If I Should Ouch Before I Die
According to the Sacramento Bee, a California federal judge has jumped on the bandwagon of banning lethal injection as a method of executing Michael Morales -- for the rape, brutal beating, and cold-blooded murder of seventeen year old Teri Winchell -- because lethal injection might be painful (hat tip to Bee-blogger Daniel Weintraub).
The judge, Jeremy Fogel (appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997, Harvard Law 1974, Northern California practice and judgeship), hasn't yet finally ruled on the question or issued a stay -- which, unless the Supreme Court overturns the stay, would probably delay the execution months or even years -- but he did make it clear that he is likely to do so:
California must either scrap plans to execute Michael Angelo Morales next week or change the way it will put the condemned inmate to death, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, responding to a defense challenge that the state's method of carrying out lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, gave state authorities the option of defending their current procedure in a two-day court hearing.
The judge said official state logs "in at least six of 13 executions by lethal injection" raise "at least some doubt" whether inmates were rendered unconscious before being injected with chemicals that would cause "excruciating pain."
Note, this is the very same case where Morales' defense team (including Ken Starr) previously filed fraudulent affidavits from several jurors, claiming that they had changed their minds and now wanted Morales not to be executed. When the DA's office discovered that the affidavits were forged, the defense team had to withdraw them.
The evidence that induced such "doubt" that the condemned were unconscious is that they were still breathing before they were executed. Is Judge Fogel really suggesting that unconscious people don't breathe?
Here is the procedure for lethal injection:
If he stays Morales' execution, Fogel plans to conduct a full assessment of evidence in favor of and against the process that depends on the administration of 5 grams of sodium thiopental to induce unconsciousness, followed by 50 or 100 milligrams of the paralyzing agent pancuronium bromide and, finally, a similar dosage of potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest.
It's the pancuronium bromide, the "paralyzing agent," that is supposed to stop the breathing; the sodium thiopental just induces "unconsciousness" -- and of course, unconscious people generally do, in fact, breathe (the medical term for not breathing is "respiratory arrest," not "unconsciousness"). But the entire stay of execution hinges on this point:
While "no direct evidence" showed anyone was conscious to feel pain, said Fogel, the logs noted "respirations" continuing at least until the start of the administration of pancuronium bromide in the six executions of Jaturun Siripongs, Manuel Babbitt, Darrell Keith Rich, Stephen Wayne Anderson, Stanley Tookie Williams and Clarence Ray Allen. Williams may still have been breathing when the administration of potassium chloride began.
In other words, the barbiturate that was administered beforehand, sodium thiopental, did not kill the condemned; they were still alive until they were actually executed. Therefore, concludes Judge Fogel, because they were still alive, they might have felt pain. And therefore, the execution might have been unconstitutional.
Now it's certainly possible that the judge held something different and not nearly so stupid; maybe the defense team claimed something about the respirations indicated some level of consciousness. But if so, not a single news story that I've read -- out of five -- has made any such distinction.
For example, the San Francisco Chronicle:
[Fogel] cited witness accounts, newly obtained by Morales' lawyers, that at least three executed inmates -- Stanley Tookie Williams, Darrell Rich and Stephen Anderson -- appeared to be breathing for longer than a minute after receiving a powerful sedative, the first of the three drugs. At the most recent execution, Jan. 13, Clarence Ray Allen was given a second dose of a heart-stopping chemical before he was pronounced dead.
Nor are they all copies of each other; they're not just reprints of AP. But in any event, if all of the Antique Media stories got it wrong -- we still have to work with that until somebody publishes a corrected version. Blogs are typically not primary news gatherers.
So at this point, the only evidence cited for the condemned being "conscious" is that they were "breathing," as if those two were synonyms. And feeling pain is evidently also synonymous with an unconstitutional execution, since that is the only issue that appears to have been raised.
Two previous cases came before this judge, and in both cases, he declined to delay the execution:
In his previous rulings, in the cases before the executions of Kevin Cooper and Donald Beardslee, Fogel was persuaded by a state medical expert's calculation that the sodium thiopental dose would produce unconsciousness within 60 seconds in "over 99.999999999999 percent of the population."
In other words, although the state conceded that a conscious inmate would feel "excruciating pain" from the pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, the chance of consciousness was thought to be infinitesimal.
Among the differences in Morales' case, said Fogel, was additional expert opinion as well as evidence drawn by Morales' lawyers from the state's execution logs and presented in court.
The legal theory here is that it's constitutional to kill someone only if he experiences no pain while dying. This is to say, mere pain is enough to render an execution unconstitutional.
Would that include mental pain, the knowledge that he's about to die? Even if restricted to physical pain, how do you prove that a person didn't experience physical pain if he's dead in seconds and therefore unavailable to testify?
By the way, the Chronicle raises another point that I think is the real motivation behind these appeals:
Fogel noted that no judge has heard evidence on how California has carried out lethal injections since the state switched its execution method from cyanide gas in 1996. The state made the change after another federal judge found that the San Quentin gas chamber might be subjecting inmates to a slow and painful death.
That is, lethal injection was chosen as the only approved method of execution in California (and 36 other states) precisely because it was deemed less painful. And now a judge is about to suspend even that method here -- because it might still be painful.
I'll let the victim's brother, Brian Chalk, have the last word (from the News10 story) about this argument:
"Lethal injection is the most humane way to do it," Chalk said. "99.999 percent of the people that go through this are out before the second drug enters their vein. They don't feel anything."
"They get to go to sleep in a nice controlled, safe quiet environment," Chalk said. "That's a lot more than he gave my sister."
(In the continuation below, I discuss the two "options" that Judge Fogel offered the state, if it wants to try to continue with Morales' execution. Both options involve delays of months or years, unless the Supreme Court intervenes. Click below to see what I mean....)
Now, it's not as if Judge Fogel doesn't give California any options; he offers two for the state to proceed with the execution:
It can substitute a barbiturate or combination of barbiturates for the three-drug series used in previous executions. Or, it can station an experienced anesthesiologist in the execution chamber to verify that Morales is unconscious.
All right, let's examine these two options:
- Substitute a "combination of barbiturates":
Since I'm quite sure that the state of California mandates the precise method of execution, this would require the state legislature to enact, and the governor to sign, a new law mandating a different method. This process itself would take a long time... especially since a majority of the state legislature's dominant Democratic caucus (and perhaps an outright majority of the state legislature) opposes capital punishment in all cases and by any means.
And in any event, the process could not even start until there was a lengthy period of investigation as to whether a "combination of barbiturates" would actually do the job consistently -- and "humanely." So we're clearly talking about a delay of years before any further executions could be conducted in California, with no guarantee the legislature would ever vote to change the procedure... especially since, by refusing to authorize any change, they could effectively annul capital punishment, regardless of what the citizens of the state demand.
And of course, even if they did change it, I'm sure Morales' legal defense team would simply claim the new method was also painful... and we'd start all over again.
- Stationing an anesthesiologist to "verify" that Morales is unconscious
But that option, however, leads straight back to the Supreme Court:
If they opt to designate a monitor, Fogel would rule by Thursday night whether the person is qualified. Either side could appeal by week's end and push the case to the U.S. Supreme Court over the Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Of course, the state can also simply appeal Fogel's ruling, once he makes it -- which would also lead to the Supreme Court, which so far has ducked deciding the issue (in a Missouri case).
In other words, the options to Fogel has given California are to get the entire state to come up with a different method of execution (that would be subject to exactly the same arguments from the same attorneys, probably before the same judge), or else to appeal to the Supreme Court once Fogel makes his expected ruling. Which will also take time, unless the Court acts swiftly to vacate the presumed stay of execution.
Thus, however thin you slice the baloney, this is yet another ruling by a Clinton judge to overturn the will of the people by finding some "gotcha" point to declare executions unconstitutional.
Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
It's not easy (and may be impossible) to come up with alternatives to the straightforward attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. So perhaps it's ripe to think a second time about what we need to do if we decide to "just go for it."
First, there are three flavors of attack on Iran:
- We can do a limited strike of three or four of the best-known facilities, just to try to delay Iran's program and give us more time to decide what to do.
- Or an all-out attack on all known and suspected nuclear sites, in an effort to utterly destroy Iran's entire nuclear program
- Or in the spiciest version, a full-scale ground invasion of Iran
Number three is right out, I believe; we simply don't have the resources to deal with full invasions and occupations of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan all at once. There isn't enough military left after eight years of Mr. Clinton.
Number one is the "limited strike" option. Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation suggests, if we decide to go that route, that we hit Bushehr, a two-reactor (only one is likely working) light-water nuclear power plant; the Uranium enrichment facility at Nantanz, which has both an admitted above-ground section (only admitted after Iran's enrichment program was "outed" by an anti-government group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organization, or MKO), plus and an as-yet secret and vast underground section; and the heavy-water production plant at Arak, which is also the site of a heavy water reactor being constructed.
The problem with the limited strike is that Iran is likely to respond with just as much retaliation for a limited strike as it would for a full-scale assault on its nuclear sites; I don't think anybody imagines they will "hold back" under any circumstances. And we're no more likely to get any allied backing for a limited strike than a bigger one. So in for a penny, in for a Krugerrand... there's no advantage to limiting the strike.
So scratch numbers one and three and go with door number two:
- The all-out attack on all known and suspected nuclear sites, in an effort to utterly destroy Iran's entire nuclear program
We'll stick with this one and see where it leads us. What exactly do we need to do to really pull this off?
The disadvantage to this kind of attack, as I mentioned before (in the Guillotine Gambit and in Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo), is that we really don't know exactly what Iran has. We know there are at least two dozen sites -- but Iran could have as many as seventy or eighty. Even with the best planning and flawless execution, we're not going to get them all; what remains will be a seed for resumption, if Iran decides to continue down that path.
But we could dramatically increase the number of sites we can hit if we take the obvious precaution of getting Mossad to cooperate with the Pentagon, sharing with us everything they know about nuclear facilities in Iran. Oddly, while the Israelis had very little penetration into Iraq under Saddam Hussein, they have a lot better human intelligence (humint) sources in Persia; they can help a lot by revealing probable sites to us that the CIA would never have a chance of uncovering... and Israel, once convinced that we really are going to attack, would likely decide that they'd rather we hit everything... because Israel, of course, will bear the brunt of the inevitable Iranian counterattack.
So that brings us to a better plan:
- The all-out attack on all known or suspected sites, using intelligence input and perhaps even on-the-ground laser targeting from the Israelis.
Naturally, Iran will respond to such an "outrage against Allah" by throwing everything they can lay their hands on at anybody unlucky enough to lie within reach. They don't have missiles that can reach the United States (that we know of!), but we certainly have assets they can attack right across the border with Iraq.
We also have to assume that Iran has chemical and biological weapons capability, though likely crude; and we should assume they will strike at civilian targets in preference to hardened military ones. Thus, as part of any planning for a strike, we also have to take out any retaliatory forces they have: ballistic and cruise missiles, bombers, even light aircraft and helicopters.
We should cut the roads leading from Iran into Iraq and Afghanistan; and we should also drive some of our forces into the Iran side of the border, hunting out and destroying any "safehouses" and terrorist forces we catch unprepared. My guess is that Iran expects a strike -- but they expect a limited strike, like Clinton used on Hussein: a few days of bombing that they think they can ride out. If we hit them as hard as we're envisioning here, we've got a good chance of "catching them with their pants down," as General Turgidson says in Dr. Strangelove.
But we cannot assume we're safe forever. Iran will eventually strike back, and they will shoot missiles at us, the Israelis, Iraq, Afghanistan, and possibly even at Europe, if they have intermediate-range mobile missiles that survive our assault. We need to set up theater anti-missile systems in as many sites as we can realistically do.
Further, we must assume Iran will utilize Hezbollah -- probably its first choice in terrorist organizations, since Iran created Hezbollah and still largely controls it (except for the Lebanon chapter, which is presumably controlled by Bashar Assad in Syria). Thus, it behooves us to strike Hezbollah at the same time we strike Iran.
The Israelis might want to do some bombing runs down the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, where the Syrian-controlled Lebanese Hezbollah is known to have its major strength. While Lebanon itself wouldn't cooperate with Israel in such an attack (I don't think they would), they probably wouldn't be heartbroken to see Hezbollah rolled up.
So now we have the almost-final list of targets:
- An all-out attack on all known or suspected sites, using intelligence and targeting from Israel, coupled with an attack on all retaliatory forces, including missile sites, air bases, Iranian-backed "insurgents" in Shiite Iraq and along the border, and known sites for Hezbollah, and with our own missile-defense facilities in readiness for the inevitable counter-attack.
We should precede the attack with a lot of "psy-ops" -- moving troops all around to confuse the Iranians whether we are or aren't, if we do, when and how we will. But that's a given with any attack and goes without saying (so I shouldn't even have mentioned it, I guess).
But there is one last point... one that will certainly shock Europe -- so we don't dare tell them about it beforehand, because they might very well warn the Iranians.
Iran is also known to have a very cozy relationship with al-Qaeda, which makes no bones about wanting to attack the American homeland again. If Iran is thwarted in other ways (or even if they were successful in counterattacking us), they would certainly turn to al-Qaeda with money, weaponry, intelligence, and other support services, hoping the terrorists could pull off "the big one," the mother of all terrorist attacks that would be so devastating that (the Iranians believe) America would collapse and beg for peace.
So at the same time as we attack Iran and Hezbollah... we must launch simultaneous, well-coordinated, military assaults on all Iranian embassies or diplomatic missions in the United States.
Raid them all, cart off all documents, and we will probably identify a very large percentage of the al-Qaeda sleeper agents within our country. As we know from reporters such as Kenneth Timmerman, top Iranian leaders -- including, for example Hojjat-ol eslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, the chief inspector of the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), a secret organization that reports direction to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- have in the past met directly with top al-Qaeda leaders, such as Ayman Zawahiri and even Saad bin Laden, Osama's eldest son and heir, as some guy on Captain's Quarters once revealed.
Iranians, like Iraqis, and like a great many dictators, keep careful records of their contacts; in particular, they would surely have better lists of al-Qaeda sleepers in the United States than does the FBI or the CIA. While it would cause an "international incident" for us to raid the embassies (including those at the United Nations building), it couldn't be any worse a one than the earful we'll already get for bombing Iran, would it?
So that's my final thought:
- The all-out attack on all known or suspected sites, using intelligence and targeting from Israel, coupled with an attack on all retaliatory forces, including missile sites, air bases, Iranian-backed "insurgents" in Shiite Iraq and along the border, and known sites for Hezbollah, and with our own missile-defense facilities in readiness for the inevitable counter-attack... and including simultaneous military raids on all Iranian embassies, legations, and missions in the United States (including Turtle Bay), plus all suspected Iranian intelligence sites in the U.S., to seize all records that might lead us to al-Qaeda sleeper-cells within our country.
Whew, that's quite a list! But if we're really going to go down this road, it's much better to get it right, even if it means a delay of some months, than to rush it and half-bake the clam. As Machiavelli said (or as he should have said, if he didn't get around to it), "if you strike at the king, you must slay him."
No pussyfooting: if we're going to do it, we have to do it up right!
Date ►►► February 14, 2006
Choice vs. Life
It's an interesting discussion; and although everyone is being relatively civil (so far as I've read), I doubt that any good will come of this. Not that we can't discuss abortion; that's doable. Patterico and I could have a very profitable discussion of abortion. But Patterico and his fifty closest friends create only cacophany. I counted about a dozen different positions in the first ten comments!
This is the sort of discussion that should be carried out by a couple of special masters, so to speak. The problem with a "discussion" between so many is that you're forced by sheer weight of response to cherry-pick points to respond to; and even if Patterico were consciously picking out what he considered to be the best arguments on the other side to answer, they wouldn't necessarily be what his opponents consider the best.
In a one on one debate, however, one side must answer the best arguments the other side can find, even if they seem "silly" to the first. Neither party gets to pick which arguments to answer.
In addition, the discussion as presently constructed quickly becomes exclusive to those who started early: at the moment I write this, there are 142 combined comments to the two posts -- which is such a daunting task to read that I suppose any new people will just boot the earlier discussions, post their own opinions blind, and reinvent the whale.
What would make more sense is if two people who took opposite positions on abortion -- or let's say not opposite but distinct -- were to post alternating posts on the same blog. Comments could be open for people to discuss the discussion or toss in their own 2¢ worth on the original questions; but the mainline discussion would be conducted in the blogposts.
This is similar to the format of the K-Lo run blog Opinion Duel. So far she's only done "domestic eavesdropping" and "Danish cartoons;" perhaps she could be induced to run one for abortion, then bring in a couple of people who can argue the case well... though who one would pick I couldn't say.
(Somebody should pick me; I have a perfectly consistent position that is considered pro-abortion by pro-lifers and anti-abortion by pro-choicers. That might make for an interesting "duel," though it would take several posts before my opponent got the range on just what my position reall was! Patterico already knows what my position is, so we could skip the zeroing-in phase, if it were we two.)
Patterico's symposium is definitely worth reading (I'm not so sure about the scores and scores of comments), but I'd much rather see him debate Robert Reich (or even me) one on one.
This Water Has No Edge
When Dhimmi of the Month nominee Al Gore made his scurrilous attacks on the United States, many conservative pundits (or "pundants," as the president might say) made much of the fact that "there used to be an unspoken rule that politics ended at the water's edge." A commenter to that post, MTF, suggested:
The only other possibility is that he thinks the core voters on the Dimocrat side are blindly accepting and loyal, and his supporters just won't care what he says, or whom he speaks to, just so long as he squeaks enough anti-American rhetoric into the speech to satisfy the base.
This got me thinking that there is another possible reason why none on the left seems concerned that Gore made his remarks in a foreign country: it's possible that people are actually starting to lose the distinction between America and Abroad.
We see this also in the courtroom, even the Supreme Court, where some of the justices -- notably Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter -- have begun citing foreign statutes and even foreign court decisions (!) to decide American cases. It's hardly surprising that politicians (particularly those on the Left) travel freely to other countries and there express highly political sentiments without much regard to where they are or who they're addressing... they're always addressing the "international court of world opinion" anyway.
(I suspect most members of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" are internationalists at heart, anyway.)
But I think what it really means is that people in general (not just Democrats) are starting to lose the idea that there is any difference between one location on Earth -- even here in America -- and any other.
With the advent of worldwide news, a broadcast from Karachi or Tokyo or Rwanda-Burundi looks and sounds the same as one from New York or Houston. It no longer "feels" foreign. The big distinction is between local news (about your city, your neighborhood) and "in other news," which means anywhere else; there is no longer any distinction between national and international news. A viewer sees a clip of Gore talking, and he can't tell where Gore is... so therefore, it ceases to matter.
Foreign correspondents may still live in the country of their posting; but what people see are the anchors, who typically don't travel; they converse with people in the foreign location as if they were in the same room. Even when they do go "on location" (a Hollywood term, by the way), they pop in, do the story, maybe stay overnight at the local Hilton, and then reappear back in New York the next day.
Because of the speed of modern travel and the excellence of communications, even in East African or South Asian hellholes, getting to or broadcasting from a foreign country really isn't any harder than getting to Chicago or Los Angeles... it just takes longer. And the cities even look the same, whether Buffalo or Beirut... excepting only some wartime damage (but no worse that we often see in American news about riots).
For this reason, I'm afraid the very distinction has been lost. I've noted this phenomenon before, but regarding history: because our schools do such a poor job teaching kids about the vast sweep of history, most people I talk to seem to think of all history as one undifferentiated mass called The Past, and that everything in The Past more or less happened around the same time. Thus, the Peloponnesian War, the Civil War, and Vietnam all happened roughly the same time -- in The Past -- and Thomas Jefferson routinely picked up the phone and called his friend Alexander the Great for wartime advice.
(TV shows like Xena probably contribute to this problem; even though they did it tongue in cheek, what sticks is that every historical figure was around at the same time, and what's more, they all knew each other!)
The loss of distinction between the United States and other countries is just as serious, because it entails forgetting the very concept of American exceptionalism... the idea that there is something unique and special about the United States that we should cherish. When our own Supreme Court looks, not to the Constitution of the United States, but to the caselaw of the European Union to decide American cases, we have a terrible, terrible problem.
We really are different; and among those differences are that we allow far more freedom of speech here than elsewhere. Most European countries have laws literally criminalizing "hate speech," which they define as anything at odds with established liberal EU protocols. Thus, saying "Islam as a religion is far too accepting of terrorism by its most extreme believers" would literally be illegal in quite a few EU countries, because it could be called hate speech against Moslems.
In America, we understand that a person who says such things is just expressing his own opinion. We even accept anti-American statements; we dislike them, but contrary to what Democrats say, we don't round such people up and put them in Gitmo (the Democrats seem to have confused us with their favorite European countries).
But since other countries, especially tyrannies like Saudi Arabia, do not have such freedoms, the people there tend to assume that any sentiments expressed by top politicians must be more or less official positions of the American government. I know this is true in Japan, for example, because Sachi reads a lot of Japanese bulletin boards; and that is exactly what they say: when American politicians go abroad and to make scurrilous statements, their listeners assume they're speaking for the American government.
That is why we used to hold that "politics stops at the water's edge": since you're assumed to be speaking for us all, you should restrict yourself to sentiments that we all share. But with the loss of the distinction between the United States and other countries, folks have lost their core understanding why it should matter more what someone says abroad than what he says at home... and also what the American Constitution says more than what laws in other countries say.
The two phenomena are intimately linked, both deriving from the same problem: with an increasingly worldwide society, the water no longer even has an edge. Gore merely made a "campaign stop" in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, just like he might make one in Concord, New Hampshire. He likely doesn't see the distinction, even today... or why saying something anti-American in the former should be any more or less offensive than saying the same thing in the latter.
All he knows is that the crowd loved him, they just loved him... in the Middle East.
Date ►►► February 13, 2006
While You Were Dazed and Confused...
...Staring bleary-eyed and beery-eyed at the screen this weekend in slackjawed anxiety, watching Olympic curling unfold before your very eyes, you might have missed these cutsey posts on Big Lizards:
Saturday, February 11th, 2006: I sure hope you got those dozen roses...
- A Tale of Red and Blue
Just a bit of fluff, wherein we discuss the origin of the one state, two state, red state, blue state convention, and what it portends for 2008.
Sunday, February 12th, 2006: ...'cause if not, you'll drop two Franklins for 'em tomorrow!
- And In Other News, the VP Shot a Friend of His Today
How could anyone resist reading a post with a title like this? We sneak a peek at the little oopsie that occured this weekend, in which Harry Whittington -- who for the rest of his life will be known to Vice President Cheney as "my fine, feathered friend" -- took one for the cause ("cause" he wasn't looking where he was walking!)
- Zoning Torture
All right, we'll bite (like any good snake!) -- what's wrong with outsourcing torture in the first place? Would you rather it be in the Olympics?
- And In Other News, Just One More Thing
Like Lieutenant Columbo, we couldn't resist one parting shot at the newsies who demand to know why Dick Cheney didn't call them first to report his faux pas before calling for the ambulance.
O What a Tangled Web - Update and Bump
UPDATE February 13th, 2006: Commenter sanddog reports that the defense team has just admitted that the letters are not true and has withdrawn them. But read on to see what the heck we're talking about!
This is jaw dropping: in an effort to secure commutation of the death sentence against California inmate Michael Morales, his defense team (which includes Kenneth Starr, interestingly) sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger six sworn affidavits from the jurors who decided his case (or his sentence, or both), begging the governator for clemency for Morales.
But according to prosecutors, those six affidavits were literally faked.
The jurors denied they thought Michael Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may have been fabricated, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
"We showed each person the declaration on their behalf and they all said they didn't say that," Barankin said....
On Friday, the San Joaquin District Attorney's office sent Schwarzenegger a new batch of sworn statements from five of those jurors saying they not only still supported capital punishment for Morales, but had never spoken with the defense investigator who claimed to have secured their signatures.
Kathleen Culhane, the San Francisco private investigator who Starr and Senior said had interviewed the jurors, declined to comment.
None of the five jurors involved in the legal tug-of-war, whose names were blacked out of the competing clemency documents to protect their privacy, could immediately be reached for comment.
(Evidently, one of the six jurors was unable or unwilling to file a new affidavit with the DA's office that he or she had not given the previous one; this could be as uninteresting as the juror being out of state, or as significant as the juror refusing to swear that he or she didn't previously swear. We'll see.)
It's hard to overstate the seriousness of such a charge. If this is true, and if the defense attorneys were aware when they presented them that these affidavits were fakes, then I think there's no question but that they would be swiftly disbarred; that is such an obvious consequence -- and it's so likely to be discovered, since of course the DA is going to contact the jurors, after getting blindsided like that -- that I have a very hard time believing that any of the defense team was aware of the fraud... assuming it was a fraud.
But I have an equally hard time buying the idea that five (out of six) jurors would (a) sign such affidavits for clemency, but then (b) give subsequent sworn affidavits that they had never signed the first affidavits; if they were caught, they must know they could and likely would be prosecuted for perjury or even obstruction of justice. One, maybe; but five? It strains credulity to the snapping point.
And that leaves only one explanation that I find probable. We start and end here:
Kathleen Culhane, the San Francisco private investigator who Starr and Senior said had interviewed the jurors, declined to comment.
Ms. Culhane is going to find herself on the griddle sizzling like ground chuck, confronted by five jurors who all swear they never gave her any such declarations, or indeed ever spoke to her at all. I will follow this case with rapt attention.
By the way, the Antique Media continues its anti-capital-punishment crusade by refusing to print the name of the poor 17 year old girl that Morales raped and murdered in January, 1981; her name is Terri Winchell. I believe it's important to remember the victims of the butchers on Death Row... and here is why.
Rantin' Al: First Dhimmi of the Month Nominee!
I'm sure you all guessed who the first nominee would be, and by gum, you're right: it's former Vice President Albert Arnold Gore, jr.
Yesterday, Al Gore spoke at the Jiddah Economic Forum in (oddly enough) Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. There, he said the following:
Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."
"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."
Would you buy a used chador from this man?
I hope this first nominee will make clear the high standards to which candidates must aspire: the award is for Western politicians (and perhaps celebrities, if it's a slow month) savagely and bitterly attacking the West in general, preferably America or Israel in particular -- and especially preferably while on the soil of our enemies (or at least a country whose people overwhelmingly support our enemies).
The Four Feathers award highlights those so assiduous in kowtowing to, rolling over for, and appeasing militant Islamism (or radical jihadism), that they strain their backs bending over to agree with them that the West is wicked, evil, and irredeemably corrupt.
By the way, at least some people at the conference were challenging the Saudis to some form of Western-inspired change. From the same article:
Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, made a plea at the forum for women's rights, telling Saudi leaders that the dearth of women in the work force was "undermining economic potential" of the kingdom.
Irish President Mary McAleese urged Saudi Arabia to learn from Ireland's economic transformation, which hinged on opening the country to the outside world and ushering women into the workplace.
When the British PM's wife, the aptly named Cherie Blair, is more forceful in defending liberal Western democracy than the former Democratic presidential nominee, you know something is rotten in the state of Dhimmistan!
New Feature at Big Lizards!
I have decided to inaugurate a new feature at Big Lizards: the Dhimmi of the Month award.
Each month, starting this one (even though it's half over), I'll be nominating some well-known blabbermouths as Dhimmi of the Month. Then, at the beginning of the next month -- assuming I can figure out how to do this -- I'll do a "poll" post, where you all can vote on which nominee wins the coveted "Four Feathers" trophy and plaque. (The plaque will remain metaphorical until I can find some really cheap plaque-making place to produce one.)
The plaque -- real or imaginery -- will remain at Big Lizards central; but if I ever get around actually to having one made, I'll take a picture and post it here, so you can see what it looks like. Each month, the winner's name will be "etched" onto the plaque below the other winners (by "etched," I of course mean "hand-scribbled with a paint pen").
Readers are invited to suggest nominees; you must include a link to a respected Antique Media article (not just somebody's unsourced blogpost) describing the incident for which you believe he or she deserves being immortalized. If I accept your nomination (totally up to me), I will of course hat tip all those who suggested that person.
This could be fun... I've never tried to make a poll post before! But it's just XHTML -- how hard could it be? (Uh oh, my hubris may have just angered Blogetheus, the Titan of the blogosphere!)
The next post will have our first Dhimmi of the Month nominee, the man who in fact inspired me to this reckless promise....
Universal Declaration of the Human Right to Starve
So now we can add to the list of American liberty-violations against terrorists -- a list that already includes denying POWs their right to have Ramsey Clark as their private attorney, their right to worship Allah by ordering hits on blasphemers, and the right to force Christian guards to treat the Koran like a holy relic. The new terrorist right, according to United Nations "human rights experts," is the right to starve themselves to death in protest. In fact, refusing to allow them to starve themselves to death now counts as torture:
U.N. Says Guantanamo Detainees Were Tortured
Monday, February 13, 2006
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A U.N. investigation has concluded that the United States committed acts amounting to torture at Guantanamo Bay, including force-feeding detainees and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement, according to a draft report obtained Monday.
That's the attention grabber; but the real story is that these "experts" arrived at their happy conclusion, that America is torturing detainees, by first rejecting the idea that the war against jihadi terrorism is "an armed conflict."
The draft report, which will be presented to the next session of the human rights commission, dismissed the U.S. claim that the war on terror constitutes an armed conflict. It also said that the detainees at Guantanamo had a right to challenge their detention, and that right was being violated.
But consider this: all those detainees in Guantanamo Bay were captured in either Afghanistan or Iraq... which means that the U.N. also believes that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not "armed conflicts!"
So an -- let us be neutral here -- an event that involves hundreds of tanks, warplanes, helicopters, mobile artillery, and about two hundred thousand soldiers, live fire at real enemies (killing them by the thousands), hundreds of thousands of tons of ordnance being dropped on people's heads, conquering countries, deposing terrorist governments, and enforcing (at gunpoint) a new kind of law that includes democracy and civil liberties... this sort of event doesn't count as an armed conflict, according to five U.N. human-rights experts appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission in June, 2004.
This is breathtaking.
Of course, there is a method behind the utter madness: by stubbornly refusing to call these "events" armed conflicts, the experts need not apply the rules of war to POW facilities like Camp X-Ray, and its successor, Camp Delta. Legally, they can investigate Gitmo instead as if it were a civilian prison.
And in a civilian prison containing ordinary people convicted of ordinary criminal offenses, it would certainly be a terrible violation of human rights not to allow those people to have attorneys, not to allow them trials, to simply scoop them up and plop them into la calabooza, there to be interrogated endlessly to get them to rat out their friends. And that, evidently, is just how these "experts" view the war on militant Islamist terrorism: ordinary people merely trying to exercise their freedom of religion, rounded up in indiscriminate dragnets (probably on the basis of race and faith) and being browbeaten just because they won't squeal on their equally innocent buddies.
It's quite clear these "experts" began with their conclusion, then reasoned backwards to what initial findings they needed to make about Gitmo from the git-go in order to arrive where they wanted to be.
'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
Like Shakers, most members of the U.N. nomenklatura define themselves as "pacifists;" but unlike Shakers, the U.N.'s definition of pacifism is to applaud any violence committed by a non-Westerner against the West, but to condemn in no uncertain terms any attempt by the West to defend itself. To quote David Bowie, "this ain't rock'n'roll; this is genocide!" Or in this case, democracide.
I could have titled this post "the U.N. Chooses Up Sides;" but of course they did that decades ago... probably shortly after 1948, if you know what I mean -- and I think that you do.
The noose slowly tightens... around New York Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr.?
Let's jump into the great news right away:
Federal agents have interviewed officials at several of the country's law enforcement and national security agencies in a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a New York Times article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program, according to government officials.
The investigation, which appears to cover the case from 2004, when the newspaper began reporting the story, is being closely coordinated with criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department, the officials said. People who have been interviewed and others in the government who have been briefed on the interviews said the investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.
That news alone would be great news -- that Bush is not just paying lip service to investigating who is doing all this leaking, but is vigorously pursuing the inquiry. But it has become increasingly obvious that this time, the grand jury proceedings will not be limited to the government leakers... the criminal investigation will include those who knowingly received and passed along classified information: the reporters and editors of the New York Times.
An upcoming article in Commentary magazine suggests that the newspaper may be prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act and says, "What The New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism...."
Recently, federal authorities have used espionage statutes to move beyond prosecutions of government officials who disclose classified information to indict private citizens who receive it. In the case of a former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to disclosing defense secrets, federal authorities have charged Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
The two men have been indicted on charges of turning over information obtained from Mr. Franklin to a foreign government, which has been identified as Israel, and to journalists. At Mr. Franklin's sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Va., Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court said he believed that private citizens and government employees must obey laws against illegally disseminating classified information.
"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law," Judge Ellis said. "That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."
I have believed for a long time that the real reason we have so many leaks of highly classified materials is that so many journalists are now willing, even eager, to publish it without the faintest regard for the damage it may cause to the United States -- or even worse, happy to cause such damage, if they think the Democrats might gain a political advantage from it.
The fact that the Left is usually dead wrong in its assessment how the story will play with real America is completely irrelevant: James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the authors of the original December 16th, 2005 Times article disclosing the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program (and most of the subsequent pieces), either couldn't care less about the damage they caused or else they actually desired to cause that damage. And their (always anonymous) sources certainly desired to cause that damage... an aspect that Risen and Lichtblau made it a point not to investigate too deeply: take away the instant gratification of seeing the leak in the newspapers, and you take away 90% of the joy of leaking in the first place.
I believe both reporters should go to prison for what they did... both as a just punishment for their crime, which has severely damaged American national security, and also as a deterrant to others. If the only consequence of smearing vital national-security secrets across the front page of America's premier newspaper is a Pulitzer and a lucrative book contract, what do you think the next reporter will do when he's approached by someone with equally precious intelligence information?
"Before running the story we gave long and sober consideration to the administration's contention that disclosing the program would damage the country's counterterrorism efforts," Mr. [Bill] Keller [executive editor of the Times] said. "We were not convinced then, and have not been convinced since, that our reporting compromised national security.
"What our reporting has done is set off an intense national debate about the proper balance between security and liberty — a debate that many government officials of both parties, and in all three branches of government, seem to regard as in the national interest."
(Is that the new legal standard now, by the way? That it's only a crime if the defendant himself is "convinced" that he compromised national security? Is this the "I don't believe it" defense?)
But it has since come out that the real reason the Times delayed publication was not a patriotic desire to avoid damaging national security but a contractual and commercial desire not to anticipate the publication of James Risen's book on the subject, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration (only $17.16 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25!) What the editors and writers really gave "long and sober consideration to" was probably whether the Times' own reporter might sue them if they revealed the anonymously sourced secrets he had gathered for his tendentious book.
I eagerly anticipate a grand jury proceeding with spooks, politicos, and journalists all hauled up and forced to name names -- or else be sentenced to "Miller time" until they do -- and all run by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... which the Times evidently considers yet another scandal:
The administration's chief legal defender of the program is Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who is also the senior official responsible for the leak investigation.
Yeah, funny that: the nation's chief prosecutor is actually in charge of the nation's most urgent prosecution. The Democrats have evidently forgotten that prosecuting malefactors is rightly the job of the attorney general (rather than, say, ordering inconvenient religious cults slain or sending small children off to the loving arms of Uncle Fidel); after all, for eight years, from 1993 through 2000, the biggest federal criminal cases were prosecuted by "independent counsels," because they all involved top members of the president's administration.
I can see how one might get out of the habit of thinking of the attorney general as the prosecutor, rather than a potential defendant.
Date ►►► February 12, 2006
And In Other News, Just One More Thing
There is one aspect of the story I blogged earlier, about Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shooting and slightly wounding a friend of his while Quayle hunting, that didn't occur to me until I was on the phone with Friend Lee. This part:
The accident occurred Saturday at a ranch in south Texas where the vice president and several companions were hunting quail. It was not reported publicly by the vice president's office for nearly 24 hours, and then only after it was reported locally by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on its Web site Sunday....
[Lea Anne] McBride [Cheney's spokeswoman] did not comment about why the vice president's office did not tell reporters about the accident until the next day. She referred the question to Armstrong, who could not be reached again Sunday evening.
Okay... could somebody please tell me when it became part of the duties of elected officials to instantly notify the news agencies whenever they did anything embarassing that the Antique Media could use against them, just in case the media were asleep at the switch and missed it?
I can just see the newsman's paradise: "aw, hell, I missed the bowl and piddled on my shoes again. Quick, Dave! Call CNN!"
I wonder if disgruntled reporters will swoop down upon the Armstrong Ranch, demanding that Old Man Whittington be hauled up out of his sickbed to give them an exclusive, on the spot report -- preferably with something in there about impeachment. "Hey, Anderson! See if you can get the old geezer to clutch his chest and topple backwards, so we can put it on the air as exclusive footage of the actual shooting!"
Good Lord, but the pomposity and self-absorption of the press would snag a gold medal in Torino... probably in Speed Spinning.
Apropos no stunning new information or front-page articles on the subject, I've been thinking much about the Democrats' charge that President Bush's policy of "extraordinary rendition" (ER) is really just outsourcing torture to countries that are less scrupulous about such matters.
Without passing judgment on whether the charge is accurate, let's take it as read for purposes of this debate: resolved, outsourcing torture is a legitimate and necessary practice in a civilized society.
Defining our terms
First, let's make the terms more precise:
- We're not talking about torturing ordinary criminal suspects for domestic criminal acts.
- Nor do we discuss torturing people to obtain confessions to be used against them at trial.
- We don't mean torturing people for punishment (as in Communist and Islamic countries) or abusing them for fun (as Charles Graner and his then-girlfriend Lynndie England did at Abu Ghraib).
- Finally, we do not mean torturing (or abusing) ordinary prisoners of war who have no extraordinary intelligence for us to gather.
And we're not concerned here with defining "torture" and distinguishing it from mere abuse; that's a subject for a different post.
Rather, we are discussing one thing only: torture of "high value targets" (HVTs) -- top-ranking enemies or enemies who possess extraordinary information that could prevent a serious attack on American civilians or allies -- in order to obtain that intelligence and thwart the attack.
The arguments against torture basically boil down to two, one moral (absolute right and wrong) and one affectional (how it affects us, individually and as a culture):
- Moral: It is unjust to the "victim" of the torture to inflict cruel and unusual pain, suffering, or lasting damage on a person who is already in custody.
- Affectional: It is dehumanizing to the torturer, making him (and the society that employs him) more cruel, more vicious, and more nasty and brutish (but probably no shorter).
The moral argument
The first argument is interesting but beside the point: the torture discussed here is not done as an act of justice but rather to save lives. This boils down to a variation on the question discussed in Ursula K. LeGuin's seminal short story "the Ones That Walk Away From Omelas," and Shirley Jackson's story "the Lottery": under what circumstances is it justified to torment one innocent (in the LeGuin and Jackson stories) in order to make life better for a great many other innocents?
The variation here is that the one being tormented is almost certainly not an innocent; he is far more guilty -- unless there has been a huge mistake -- than the many. And the torture is not simply to make life better for the many but to save them from death at the hands of the guilty one who is being tortured and his co-conspirators.
I won't waste much time on this one. The argument for torturing him (to gain critical intelligence) is structurally the same as the argument for killing him to protect those he would destroy: by acting so unjustly himself, has he given up any claim to rights he might once have had?
That is, do the unjust retain a legitimate demand for justice? I argue that thousands of years of Western culture answer No, they do not: it would be unjust to imprison an innocent man, but we have no qualms imprisoning a guilty man. Even those who argue against capital punishment don't claim that execution is too harsh a punishment for murder; they fall back on the second argument, saying it dehumanizes society, and to argument by fear of error: what if we accidentally execute an innocent person? (See below.)
We do not tolerate the intolerant, and we need not give moral justice to the morally unjust. Besides, what is justice? Is it really morally unjust to torture someone who is participating in a conspiracy to commit mass murder -- and may well have helped carry out such horrific crimes in the past? It's hard to say in a specific case, but in my universe, as a general rule, there are some crimes so dreadful, not even the death penalty is sufficient punishment -- though of course, we're not now talking about torture administrated as punishment.
The argument changes if the victim of the torture is in fact an innocent we have mistaken for an enemy, but only to the extent that it would if we killed him. Either way, it's not a crime then so much as a tragic blunder. So we move on to number two, that torture dehumanizes the torturer.
The affectional argument
This claim may well be true; it certainly desensitizes him to the suffering of others... if he were not insensitive, how could he do what he has to do?
(Alternatively, perhaps torture does not dehumanize; perhaps it's only that the inhuman naturally gravitate towards such careers. But if torture does not dehumanize anyway, then ER is a legitimate practice, and the resolution succeeds by default. I personally believe it does dehumanize, however.)
Social dehumanization seems to follow any official sanction of torture, just as it dehumanizes society to officially tolerate the deliberate killing of the innocent. Because of our deep-seated repugnance at the idea of deliberate torture, this same argument becomes much more intense in the latter case.
Too, because of the "emotional multiplier" of the target being a specific, named individual instead of a mass crowd -- "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic," as Stalin is reputed to have said -- most people would feel far worse hearing that one terrorist was tortured for his information than hearing that a hundred terrorists were killed by a military attack.
Thus we have the dilemma: if we desperately need intel that we strongly suspect a captive enemy has, do we torture him to get it, saving lives but "losing out souls?" Or do we keep our souls lily white, but only at the cost of thousands of other people's children, wives, husbands, and parents?
Enter extraordinary rendition
Under ER, we cut the Gordian Knot by choosing neither to torture nor to let the intelligence remain unrevealed; instead, we "outsource" the torture to some other country that doesn't scruple to carry out such activities routinely.
The moral argument in that case is unchanged: murder is murder even if you hire a hit man to do it; and by the same token, killing to defend innocent life is just as moral if the shooter is a hired bodyguard as it is if the shooter is the person whose own life is in danger: separating the action from the actor by hiring an agent can't change the morality of the action. It's either just or unjust, standing on its own, regardless of how personally involved was the ultimate decision-maker.
However, the affectional argument is very much altered: being an executioner might very well desensitize a person to human life, even if one he believes the executions are all perfectly just. But I don't see any such desensitization in merely being a member of a society that hires executioners to execute the guilty, no matter how much death-penalty opponents claim that it does. We have the death penalty and France does not, for example; yet America would never have allowed 15,000 old people to die in their homes for lack of air conditioning during a heat wave; and even if some did, we certainly would have condemned the adult children who refused to break off their August vacations to come home and bury their father's or mother's body.
This and many other examples indicates that we have at least as much regard for innocent human life as do the Europeans, despite the fact that we allow executions and they do not. Wanting to keep murderers alive is not the same sentiment as wanting to preserve the life of innocents, and neither implies the other.
So to the extent that personally engaging in torture might dehumanize someone, the farther removed it is from the actor, the less dehumanizing is the action.
This should be fairly obvious: which would callous and embitter a person more -- dropping a bomb from an airplane that he knew would probably kill some innocent children, or actually pointing his rifle at a child who is holding a live grenade and squeezing off a round? Even though morally, the latter is probably more defensible than the former -- nevertheless, I would much rather be the first guy than the second.
So let's tote up the damages:
- Morally, ER is no better or worse than carrying out such torture ourselves; it stands or falls on the morality of the action, not the specific agent.
- But in terms of the dehumanizing nature of torture, the farther removed from the United States, the less will Americans, civilian and military, be dehumanized.
- And clearly if a non-American is the actual torturer, then no American suffers the psychological consequences of that job. The closest people will merely be observers -- worse for the soul, perhaps, than not being there at all, but not as bad as the people actually conducting it.
The only thing that remains is the question of how it affects the other country involved. And there, the answer is fairly easy: in each case, we pick countries that customarily and regularly engage in such torture anyway... so any dehumanization that might occur has already happened. One more terrorist being tortured won't change the character of a country that tortures criminal suspects and prisoners of war as a matter of course.
America should outsource torture -- limited to extraordinary circumstances -- for the same reason neighborhoods "outsource" animal slaughter to slaughterhouses, factories to industrial areas (or even other countries), and the holding of prisoners to established prisons.
It's really just an example of zoning: America is not zoned for torture, so we rendite certain special captives to a country that is. We outsource polluting industries to places where the natural byproducts won't cause us as much harm -- and the same practice makes just as much sense for torture.
It may sound odd, but it's really no different than what every city council in America does every day.
And In Other News, the VP Shot a Friend of His Today
Hey, it isn't every day I can title a post like that!
It was a minor hunting accident; and interestingly, an eyewitness makes it clear it was more the fault of the shootee than the shooter:
Katharine Armstrong, the ranch's owner, said Sunday that Cheney was using a 28-guage [sic] shotgun and that Whittington was about 30 yards away when he was hit in the cheek, neck and chest....
Armstrong said she was watching from a car while [Vice President Dick] Cheney, [Harry] Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail.
Whittington shot a bird and went to retrieve it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and discovered a second covey.
Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong said.
"The vice president didn't see him," she continued. "The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."
Whittington appears to be all right; there is no indication that the shot from the small-barreled shotgun caused any serious damage:
Armstrong, owner of the Armstrong Ranch where the accident occurred, said Whittington was bleeding after he was shot and Cheney was very apologetic.
"It broke the skin," she said of the shotgun pellets. "It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that.
The VP's EMR team and ambulance treated Whittington at the scene, then took him to the hospital. Cheney visited him there and said he was "doing fine and in good spirits."
There's not much to this story; hunting is inherently a dangerous activity -- as are target shooting and hiking, the two components of hunting -- and Whittington unwittingly broke a cardinal rule not to step into the possible line of fire without alerting the shooter that you're there.
But let's see how long it takes for the Democrats to politicize it! (We should have a betting pool, except I'm too lazy to set one up.)
Date ►►► February 11, 2006
A Tale of Red and Blue
Just as a heads up, don't get too comfy talking about "red states" and "blue states;" because in 2008, you're going to have to flip your worldview.
Well... maybe! Nothing is certain.
According to Kevin Drum, a lefty blogger whose blog (Political Animal) appears on the left-leaning Washington Monthly magazine website, the Powers That Be in the realm of what color to shade the states on the big board have a system: since no party wants to be the permanent red party (for obvious reasons), each presidential election, the incumbent party is supposed to switch colors. (Red and blue are used -- with white the color of states not yet called -- because those are the national colors.)
However, the incumbency may also switch parties; that's what happened between 2000 and 2004, which left the GOP red in both elections. Here was the sequence of events: in 2000, the incumbent party was blue, and the Democrats were the incumbents (remember some guy named Clinton?); therefore, states won by the GOP were colored red on the network maps, because they were the challengers.
In 2004, the incumbent party was red; however, now the Republicans were the incumbents. So once again, the Republicans were red -- but this time because they were the incumbents, not the challengers.
You have to go back to 1996 -- ten years ago (twelve years before 2008) to find an election where the GOP was blue; that's because the Democrats were the incumbents, and the incumbents were red that year.
However, in 2008, the incumbent party will be blue again (it was red in 2004, remember?) And since the Republicans currently hold la Casablanca, that means the GOP will be blue and the Democrats will be red. Confused yet? Don't worry... you will be.
Here are all the colors that were supposed to be used, back to 1972:
|Year||Incumbent Color||Incumbent Party||GOP States||Dem States|
The problem with this formula is -- the networks themselves don't always follow it. From Wikipedia:
For example, from 1972 until at least 1992, NBC consistently showed Republican-won states in blue, and Democratic-won states in red. But other networks used other patterns. ABC, in at least two presidential elections during this time, used yellow for one major party and blue for the other. However, in 2000, for the first time ever, all the major broadcast networks and all the cable news outlets utilized the same color scheme: red for Republicans and blue for Democrats.
Looking at the chart, if NBC were following the supposed rule, then Republican states should have been shown in red in 1972 and 1988; but NBC evidently chose not to switch. (Neither did this website, though I'm not sure who created it.) And ABC's choice of yellow for one party (which one?) is just weird.
Now are you confused? I warned you!
But the pattern does appear to have been followed for the last four elections (since 1992). So if we assume that the networks actually plan to stick with it from now on, that means Republicans return to blue in 2008.
This would be pretty amusing, if it happened. How much rhetoric would abruptly become incomprehensible, as a "red state" suddenly meant Democratic, not Republican? Is somebody going to reprint all those t-shirts so that they show a vast sea of blue, with the tiny island-dots of red?
I suppose we don't have to change the purple states, except for those charts so detailed that they actually mix the proportional amount of red and blue together (they'll have to be retoned).
Or will everybody just keep saying red state for Republican and blue state for Democrat, keep the t-shirts the same, and just ignore the fact that the networks are showing the opposite colors on their electoral maps? Will some people use the old system, while the rest use the new? That's going to be confusing as heck.
Or will the creaky Antique Media just decide not to switch the colors, breaking a tradition (which itself appears to be a tradition!), just because they don't want to have to recolor all of their own graphics?
I reckon we'll just have to wait and see!
Date ►►► February 10, 2006
With Poor King Charles' Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm...
UPDATE February 11th, 2006: See below.
All right, let's see if you can solve this conundrum. What is wrong with this picture?
Bush Reveals Rationale Behind Surveillance
by Jennifer Loven
Feb 10, 2006
President Bush defended his warrantless eavesdropping program Friday, saying during what he thought were private remarks that he concluded that spying on Americans was necessary to fill a gap in the United States' security.
Seems fairly innocuous, right? That is because we have become so innured to poor King Charles' head that we don't even notice it anymore.
Let's try this again:
President Bush defended his warrantless eavesdropping program Friday, saying during what he thought were private remarks that he concluded that spying on Americans was necessary to fill a gap in the United States' security.
Here is my point: what on earth makes Ms. Loven think that the subjects of the spying are Americans?
The NSA program is intended to "to monitor the international e-mails and phone calls of people inside the United States with suspected ties to terrorists overseas," in Loven's own words. Does she really believe that all -- or even the majority -- or even a substantial fraction of al-Qaeda agents inside the United States are American citizens... or even legally permanently resident aliens?
Remember, to be a legal green-card holder, you cannot have lied about the purpose of your immigration to the United States: if you really came here to conduct terrorism, you're not legal -- just as yet undetected.
Henceforth, you should notice that virtually every story about the NSA program uses two phrases: "without a warrant" and "spying on Americans."
And you should realize that this is a complete and utter canard: the vast majority of people whose communications are intercepted are non-U.S. persons... particularly since the administrative rules for this exact NSA al-Qaeda intercept program require obtaining a warrant from the FISA court in order to eavesdrop on U.S. persons (which includes both citizens and legal green-card holders), if that person is the target of the intercept.
Perhaps we should begin demanding to know from the Antique Media where this false meme -- "spying on Americans" -- began... and whether it was spread by accident or deliberately.
UPDATE: I should have mentioned that (via John Hinderaker at Power Line) Jennifer Loven is well-known as a Democratic Party flack who has misrepresented facts about Bush on more than one previous occasion. I didn't mean to imply that she was supid; just venal. She sold her soul to the Democrats and betrayed her supposed calling -- just like so many others.
Date ►►► February 9, 2006
Paging John Kerry!
I understand that you've been blogging over at the Daily Kos as a "diarist," which, hate to say it, sounds like a medical condition. You've been around long enough to know that you shouldn't jump at the first offer you get; you're in big demand: former presidential candidate, Senate veteran, Vietnam veteran (well, you know, whatever). I think you ought to consider some other offers; the gig you have now might not be the best suited for your talents.
Come on here to Big Lizards, Jack! Can I call you Jack? Okay... Big Lizards would love to have you as a guest blogger, Mr. Kerry. None of this diarrhoea nonsense; over here, you'll be a full-fledged guest blogger... just like I was at Captain's Quarters, except I'll give you category-creation privileges, and I won't make you empty the ashtrays in the Captain's shack (that's another story for another time).
You can pick your own password. Or, if you can't make up your mind, I'll pick one for you: how does "otherhandclapping" sound?
I know I've said some harsh things about you, Mr. Kerry; but that was just business, nothing personal. I'm never personal. Say... did I ever tell you how much you remind me of that other JFK from Massachusetts?
And Mr. Kennedy, there's money in this offer, too! I have -- I'm sorry, I meant Mr. Kerry; I mix you two up all the time. It's like -- whoa -- separated at birth, or something!
JFK² -- two peas in a pot!
And Mr. Kerry, there's real money in this offer too: I've got quite a bit banging around here, and it's burning a hole in my pocket. There's a cool FOR-TEE bucks -- $40.00 -- a pair o' Jacksons -- and it's all for you, if you just reconsider your association with that other website and come on over here. And let us do an advert about it. And charge for access to the Lizard Select.
And if that's not quite enough, just hang on: I'll be running some fundraisers, and I'm sure we can raise that bonus money up by quite a margin.
Just think -- you'll have an absolutely free hand on the hottest blog in the 'sphere... and you can create categories! We get more than twice as many visitors per day as Daily Kos;I think maybe three times, almost. That Markos Whatsisname Alphabet is just a piker. I've even heard rumors they've got some sort of connection with those Swift-Boat Vets; you know what they're like.
I am absolutely serious, Mr. Kerry. Just think what you could do with that money. And you don't even have to tell your wife; it can be our little secret...!
Hope to hear from you soon, Mr. Kennedy. Whoops, there I go again -- I just can't tell you two apart!
Dafydd "Moondoggle" ab Hugh
Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats
Back on December 16th, when the Senate failed to break the filibuster on making the Patriot Act permanent, four Republicans joined with 43 Democrats in voting against cloture:
A band of Senate Republican holdouts reached agreement Thursday with the White House on minor changes in the Patriot Act, hoping to clear the way for passage of anti-terror legislation stalled in a dispute over protection of civil liberties.
Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and three other GOP lawmakers - all of whom joined with Democrats last year to block a long-term extension of the law - were to announce the accord later Thursday.
But today, the Republicans are back in the fold; the "mavericks" came to a side-deal with the White House, and they will now vote to make the Patriot Act permanent. But that still leaves 43 Democrats who voted against cloture last time, which is three more than they need to filibuster the Patriot Act.
Thus, the fate of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is entirely in the hands of Democrats: will they be wiling to filibuster one of the most popular acts of the war against jihadi terrorism, knowing this will play directly into Karl Rove's and GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman's gameplan to portray Democrats as limp-wristed on national security? It would only take three of those 43 to seize upon these minor changes -- as Sununu, Larry Craig (R-ID), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) did -- to say they're now satisfied, and therefore break the filibuster.
Bear in mind that when the cloture vote was taken on December 16th, Democrats knew that they had Republican cover for the filibuster. Will they be so willing to kill the bill if they know they'll be doing it on a strict, party-line vote?
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) is still waiting for Jimmy the Greek to give him the odds, but Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) is still champing at the bit for a filibuster:
But two other Democrats swiftly denounced it as short of what was needed.
"The few minor changes that the White House agreed to do not address the major problems with the Patriot Act that a bipartisan coalition has been trying to fix," said Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the White House of "naysaying and partisanship."
Still, Leahy's statement stopped short of having the senator join in Feingold's threat to renew a filibuster that stalled the legislation last year.
Feingold is right that the changes are pretty minor; all the White House appears to have agreed to do is "make clear that an individual receiving a National Security Letter was not required to notify the FBI if he consulted a lawyer" and "clarify that only libraries that are 'electronic service providers' could be required to provide information to government agents as part of a terrorist investigation," neither of which sounds like a deal-breaker to me.
Leahy's and Reid's equivocation is encouraging; the Patriot Act is too important to play political football with. But I particularly note that Feingold still invokes bipartisanship, despite all four Republicans now being satisfied, leaving only Democrats still complaining. Perhaps Feingold uses "bipartisan" to mean the regular Democratic Party -- and "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
(Reminds of the country club that said "oh, we don't discriminate; we're open to all religions: Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists... even Baptists!")
My prediction: one by one by one, Democrats will start announcing that they're going to vote for cloture; and the moment three have done so, the whole idea of a filibuster will be quietly dropped. Reid will proclaim that it would be futile, and a flood of Democrats will announce that they're against filibustering such an important bill.
But then at the actual vote, 25 Democrats will vote against cloture... including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Vista del Cowardly), after Cindy Sheehan threatens to re-enter the race she actually didn't enter the first time (and she'll once again misspell the senator's name).
Oh, wait, that's what happened with Alito. What the heck... it'll probably happen the same way this time. As the old expression goes, "those who cannot remember Santayana are condemned to repeat him." (Santayana, repeating himself.)
January 16th, 2006:
Feinstein: Alito filibuster unlikely
[Sen. Dianne] Feinstein, a California Democrat and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that while she considers Alito too conservative and will vote against him, his views are not so far outside the mainstream of U.S. politics to merit a filibuster.
"I don't see those kinds of egregious things emerging requiring a filibuster," Feinstein said on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday. "I might disagree with him. That doesn't mean that he doesn't have credentials to serve on the Supreme Court."
January 27th, 2006:
Sheehan to Feinstein: Filibuster Alito, Or I'll Run Against You
By Melanie Hunter
CNSNews.com Senior Editor
January 27, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has threatened to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) seat unless Feinstein filibusters Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
January 30th, 2006:
Feinstein today voted no on the cloture, the procedure to end voting on Alito's nomination, according to her spokesman Howard Gantman.
February 9th, 2006:
Sheehan Won't Run Against Feinstein After All
By Melanie Hunter
CNSNews.com Senior Editor
February 09, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of California's most popular politicians.
Well! Now we know the price of "one of California's most popular politicians."
Date ►►► February 8, 2006
Captain Ed has a truly excellent piece up right now, certainly one of the best he's written. He discusses the Coretta Scott King funeral and what Jimmy Carter and the Rev. Joseph Lowery did to it; Ed makes an excellent point about the distinction between politics and partisanship:
However, the difference is the partisanship on display, mostly by Jimmy Carter and Reverend Lowery. Politics and partisanship are two different things, although some apparently cannot divorce one from the other. It is entirely possible to have a political event and handle it on a non-partisan basis. Bush attended the funeral, as one CQ commenter stated, as the representative of the nation. That was a moment for all to come together to honor Mrs. King and her achievements, all of which are political, and by avoiding partisanship make them a gift to all Americans.
Instead, Rev. Lowery decided to make snide jokes about WMD, and Carter made barely-veiled allusions to the NSA program he opposes.
Do read the whole thing; it's quite a profitable use of your time.
I met Mrs. King briefly in 1987, when I turned out for a march against the Klan in Cumming, GA (Forsyth County)... along with 20,000 other people. If you're interested, read on.
On January 17th, two days before MLK Day that year, a small group of civil-rights marchers -- maybe a hundred? -- marched through the town; this was a town where, in 1912, all the black residents had literally been driven out, and it had remained an almost all-white county ever since.
The marchers were led by Rev. Hosea Williams, but they were unable to finish the march because they were attacked by hundreds of Klansmen and other white supremacists, who threw bricks and bottles at them, breaking up the march.
Williams immediately began to plan a "return to Forsyth" march for the next Saturday, the 24th; it was widely publicized, and my then girlfriend Sue and I decided to go. It was a bit dicey, because I was still in the Navy at the time, and we weren't supposed to be more than fifty miles from the base unless we were on leave. (I also decided to march in uniform -- which was likewise forbidden!)
I found a description of the march, from a Supreme Court case ( FORSYTH COUNTY v. NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, 505 U.S. 123 ) that grew out of the confrontation:
Petitioner Forsyth County is a primarily rural Georgia county approximately 30 miles northeast of Atlanta. It has [505 U.S. 123, 125] had a troubled racial history. In 1912, in one month, its entire African-American population, over 1,000 citizens, was driven systematically from the county in the wake of the rape and murder of a white woman and the lynching of her accused assailant. 1 Seventy-five years later, in 1987, the county population remained 99% white. 2
Spurred by this history, Hosea Williams, an Atlanta city councilman and civil rights personality, proposed a Forsyth County "March Against Fear and Intimidation" for January 17, 1987. Approximately 90 civil rights demonstrators attempted to parade in Cumming, the county seat. The marchers were met by members of the Forsyth County Defense League (an independent affiliate of respondent, The Nationalist Movement), of the Ku Klux Klan, and other Cumming residents. In all, some 400 counterdemonstrators lined the parade route, shouting racial slurs. Eventually, the counterdemonstrators, dramatically outnumbering police officers, forced the parade to a premature halt by throwing rocks and beer bottles.
Williams planned a return march the following weekend. It developed into the largest civil rights demonstration in the South since the 1960's. On January 24, approximately 20,000 marchers joined civil rights leaders, United States Senators, presidential candidates, and an Assistant United States Attorney General in a parade and rally. 3 The 1,000 counterdemonstrators on the parade route were contained [505 U.S. 123, 126] by more than 3,000 state and local police and National Guardsmen. Although there was sporadic rockthrowing and 60 counterdemonstrators were arrested, the parade was not interrupted.
Sue and I drove to Atlanta from Florida, then took a bus for two or three hours to Cumming. It didn't seem that cold, but there was still snow on the ground. We all formed up into a huge line and marched down the street for a mile or so.
We ended at the town square, where Coretta Scott King showed up, sucking all the energy away from Williams. Williams didn't seem to mind; he gave a great talk, of which I heard about every third word (the speakers were inadequate for the job)... but what I heard, I liked. Unlike the Coretta Scott King funeral -- I haven't forgotten the topic -- Williams' speech was not at all partisan: anybody who wasn't a racist could applaud it wholeheartedly.
After he talked, a line formed of people who wanted to shake his hand and say hello, and Mrs. King was right next to him. Sue and I waited through the line; when I got up there, I asked Williams what he'd said in one of the paragraphs of the speech: he was able to repeat it immediately, leading me to believe it was a speech he gave often.
Then I also shook hands with Mrs. King, after which Sue and I threw snowballs around for a while (not at Mrs. King or Rev. Williams). The dirty, white stuff on the ground held more glamor for me, a kid from Los Angeles, than for Sue, who grew up in Waukegan, IL (the most famous residents of which are Jack Benny and Ray Bradbury, with lesser light Kim Stanley Robinson, another SF writer, hailing from there as well; if Ray and Stan ever met, the resulting particle-antiparticle explosion would probably level the place).
Then we got back on the bus and returned to the car, and our eventual drive home to Pensacola.
I'd much rather have seen a gathering and memorial like that one for Mrs. King's funeral; I don't recall her being as viciously partisan as Jimmy Carter, not even while Ronald Reagan was president.
This Is a Test of the Emergency Silence System
I believe the Bush administration has set up a secret and somewhat risky test of the ability of Congress to keep a secret:
After weeks of insisting it would not reveal details of its eavesdropping without warrants, the White House reversed course Wednesday and provided a House committee with highly classified information about the operations.
The White House has been under heavy pressure from lawmakers who wanted more information about the National Security Agency's monitoring. Democrats and many Republicans rejected the administration's implicit suggestion that they could not be trusted with national security secrets.
The shift came after Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., chairwoman of a House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA, broke with the Bush administration and called for a full review of the NSA's program, along with legislative action to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
She and others also wanted the full House Intelligence Committee to be briefed on the program's operational details. Although the White House initially promised only information about the legal rationale for surveillance, administration officials broadened the scope Wednesday to include more sensitive details about how the program works.
On the one hand -- oh, no, not again -- Congress is clearly more likely to support the NSA al-Qaeda wiretapping program if they know more about it; members will then see the ludicrous misreporting that has plagued this story from its tendentious inception in the New York Times to its partisan exploitation by the Democrats:
At least one Democrat left the four-hour House session saying he had a better understanding of legal and operational aspects of the anti-terrorist surveillance program, being conducted without warrants. But he said he still had a number of questions.
"It's a different program than I was beginning to let myself believe," said Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee's oversight subcommittee.
"This may be a valuable program," Cramer said, adding that he didn't know if it was legal. "My direction of thinking was changed tremendously."
Still, Cramer said, some members remain angry and frustrated, and he didn't know why the White House waited so long to inform Congress of its actions.
Well, that's the second hand: let's see how long it takes for the operational details to leak out by way of members of Congress or their aides (obviously; who else?)
If the secrets never leak, wonderful; we've learned that Congress has come a long way since 1987, when Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT) was forced to resign from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for leaking a draft copy of the Iran-Contra investigation to the media -- just one year after he "inadvertently" revealed in a television interview highly classified information he had received just two hours earlier... ironically enough, information that the U.S. was intercepting some international telephone calls.
But if, per the norm for Congress, the top-secret operational details suddenly appear in the press -- well, then Mr. Cramer's question has been answered, hasn't it?
Assad vs. the Brothers
This could get interesting... in the sense of the old supposed Chinese curse, "may you be forced to live in interesting times."
Two old nemeses of the Assad family have joined forces to try to bring down the Assad/Baathist regime: Hafez Assad's former vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam, who turned against the son, Bashar Assad, back in December 2005; and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has bitterly fought against the Baath Party and the Assads... well, ever since the Baathist coup d'état in 1963:
Former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam and the exiled leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood agreed on Wednesday to join forces to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
A source at Khaddam's office said the former official held talks with Ali Bayanouni, head of the Sunni Islamist group, in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"There was agreement on a joint vision to save Syria from the crisis that the regime has placed it in," the source told Reuters in Beirut by telephone. "It was also agreed to contact other opposition leaders inside and outside Syria to come up with a joint plan of action."
As fragile and tenuous as Bashar Assad's grip on power now is, with Syria being strongly and credibly accused of ordering the bomb-assassination of popular former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, it's very possible this alliance will be the last push that will cause the brutal and oppressive Syrian government to collapse.
But what will come after? That's the big question.
The history of Abdel-Halim Khaddam is well known:
Khaddam was for 30 years a political ally of Assad's late father, authoritarian president Hafez al-Assad....
Khaddam, a Sunni Muslim who quit in June and has since moved to Paris, broke away from Assad in December. He said last month that Assad was facing growing pressure from economic problems at home and the international investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
But the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is controversial and confusing (while Wikipedia is a suspect source, because of its provenance, this article seems very well written and researched, even citing its sources; it misses only one big but controversial point, for which see below).
On the one hand, on paper, they renounce all violence; but in practice, on the other hand, they fought a twenty-year war against the Baathists (and later, Baath Party leader Hafez Assad) that included car bombs, terrorist assassinations, armed uprisings, seizing of cities, and so forth.
On the third hand, they were fighting against an oppressive, Stalinist regime. But on the fourth hand, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood seems to have had strong ties to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930s and 1940s -- right around the time the Syrian version was starting up. This last point is the only major element of the Muslim Brotherhood that the Wikipedia article fails to mention -- possibly because academics don't necessarily accept this yet, since much of the evidence is recent... and perhaps for political reasons, as well.
The Reuters story is incorrect and incomplete on the founding of the Syrian branch (there's a shock); it notes that:
The Brotherhood, founded in Syria in 1945, is widely seen as the most serious rival to the Baath Party which in 1980 made membership of the group punishable by death.
But Reuters fails to note that there was an earlier group, Muhammad's Youth, which was founded in Syria in the 1930s by members of the Egyptian (Cairo) branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; Muhammad's Youth later changed its name to Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Thus, the organization really does date from the time when some evidence indicates the Egyptian branch was working hand-in-glove with the Nazis:
Here's how the story began. In the 1920's there was a young Egyptian named al Bana. And al Bana formed this nationalist group called the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Bana was a devout admirer of Adolph Hitler and wrote to him frequently. So persistent was he in his admiration of the new Nazi Party that in the 1930's, al-Bana and the Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi intelligence.
The Arab Nazis had much in common with the new Nazi doctrines. They hated Jews; they hated democracy; and they hated the Western culture. It became the official policy of the Third Reich to secretly develop the Muslim Brotherhood as the fifth Parliament, an army inside Egypt.
(John Loftus, who wrote the above article, is an interesting character himself. On the fifth hand -- do I sound like John Kerry? -- he wrote a long article claiming, with some justification, that the Bush family fortune was built on laundered Nazi wealth... though (a) the Bush launderer, witting or unwitting, was Prescott Bush, not either of the presidents; (b) there is no evidence that George H.W. Bush knew anything about it; and (c) Loftus's article is weakest where he tries hard to show that Prescott Bush was no dupe but an active conspirator (it resorts an awful lot to "he must have known").
(On the sixth hand, Loftus also argues very strongly that Iraq did indeed have WMD stockpiles until just before the invasion, and that it transferred the weaponry to Syria after being warned by Russia, which brings us right back on topic. Loftus is not easy to classify politically.)
The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the few groups that I would unhesitatingly call Islamofascist -- because they, unlike Hamas or Hezbollah, really are fascists.
Or they were; that's the big question: have they really changed since they were annihilated by Hafez Assad in his 1982 aerial bombardment of Hama, which slaughtered "between 10,000 and 30,000 people," according to the Wikipedia article cited above?
Although its leadership is in exile, the Brotherhood continues to enjoy considerable sympathy among Syrians. Riyyad al-Turk, a secular opposition leader, considers it "the most credible" Syrian opposition group. The Brotherhood has continued to advocate a democratic political system; it has abandoned its calls for violent resistance and for the application of shari'a law, as well as for Sunni uprisings against Alawites. Al-Turk and others in the secular opposition are inclined to take this evolution seriously, as a sign of the Brotherhood's greater political maturity, and believe that the Brotherhood would now be willing to participate in a democratic system of government.
Well, anything's possible. Most of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria's violence was directed against Syrian security forces under Baathist control -- though some of its violent attacks were unquestionably just vicious acts of terrorism against civilians. They're very different from Hamas in that respect, as Hamas prefers targeting innocents.
And the Brotherhood is also very different from Hezbollah, which is a creation of the Iranian mullahs, controlled by them, and also by Syria in Lebanon; Hezbollah has always been a state-sponsored terrorist group, while the Brotherhood has fought against the regimes in virtually every country where it has been active: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.
But does it fight for democracy, as it claims, or for an "Islamic republic," as it insists it does not? Either way, if it pushes democracy -- even hoping to see the election go the way of the Palestinian Authority vote that elected Hamas -- I see this ganging up on Bashar Assad as a good thing: as democracy sweeps the Middle East (and it will), inevitably some countries will vote in terrorist jihadi groups like Hamas. But terrorists will discover that in a democracy, voters actually demand that the country be governed and governed well; and as terror regimes fail for want of a workable plan to govern, I believe the Arabs (and Iranians) will opt to throw out the terrorist bathwater -- but the not the infant democracy.
Groups like Hamas -- and possibly the Muslim Brotherhood -- will quickly learn that having something is not always so pleasant and easy as wanting something.
The Last Remake of Beau Prophetism
I know, I know; I'd hoped that Abbot and Costello would have killed off this thread, like they tried to do with Frankenstein. But like that venerable construction of the good doctor, Radical Prophetism yet lives!
This entry is mercifully short, however (by Big Lizards standards).
Hugh Hewitt, who still agrees with me, is currently flogging the analogy of Spain under Franco during WWII: he worries about countries like Pakistan that currently aid us in the GWOT but which might be pushed into the arms of the jihadis by these cartoons. But I have a different analogy in mind, focusing on the very beginning.
I agree that we must eventually have it out with militant Islamism over freedom of speech vs. sharia law: in a free society, obeying a religious code like sharia (or the 613 laws of Judaism) is optional; Moslems not only want to make it mandatory in their territories but in ours as well... and that is completely and utterly unacceptable and will spark a war to end all wars if they seriously try to impose it. I agree in principle with the Danish editor, Flemming Rose, whose paper, Jyllands-Posten, first published the cartoons:
When I go to a mosque, I behave by the rules that exist in that holy house. I will not stand up and make a cartoon of the holy prophet in a mosque. But I think if any religion insists that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos, then I don't think they're showing me respect. I think they're asking for my submission. This is a key issue in this debate.
But there is another point to be made, and that is that you do not fight a war on the enemy's terms... not if you want to win; you make the enemy fight it on your terms. And here is the analogy that sums up my point:
That is the problem. I want to fight the free-speech battle on the high ground of, e.g., the Mark Steyn piece that Hewitt keeps mentioning ("It's the Demography, Stupid"), which discusses the demographics of mass Moslem immigration into Europe; this is a piece that not only can be defended on free-speech grounds but is also an extraordinarily important work in itself, and could well turn the tide of the war -- if Europe were to take it seriously.
Alternatively, we could find a really, really good piece on freedom versus tyranny, then pay a bunch of newspapers in Moslem countries to run it (which is the normal practice in many places). That sort of piece will divide the jihadis from those Moslems in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and elsewhere who want to live in freedom.
But these stupid cartoons, which should still be defended as free speech (in fact, must be so defended, now that the battle is engaged on the other side), are nevertheless offensive and in bad taste... putting us once again in the box of having to defend the nearly indefensible, rather than the great. It is not the ground we would have chosen for this war; by handing such ammunition to our enemies, Jyllands-Posten and Flemming Rose gave them the gift of selecting where and when we would fight and over what provocation.
It couldn't have gone any better for the jihadists if they'd planned the whole thing from the beginning -- right down to the original publication. I'm not saying Rose is an Islamist; certainly he is not. But he is a dupe and a useful idiot... to the terrorists: he fell into their trap and dragged the rest of us along with him.
Hit Me, Natalie. Hit Me Quick.
Hit me with your big clue stick.
I was driving home today from Fry's Electronics, listening to the local country station (KZLA). Mind, this is in Southern California. Along comes Mr. D.J., and he announces they're going to do a five-song set... of the Dixie Chicks.
So I'm already gagging (sorry, "gag me with a spoon;" I forgot my Val-Speak for a moment), but the next words made me do a Danny-Thomas spit-take with a mouthful of Caffeine-free Diet Dr. Pepper:
Here's a five-song set from the Dixie Chicks... and we're dedicating this set to all of our boys fighting overseas!
Egah. Yeah, and while you're at it, why not send our boys a bunch of autographed copies of Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter?
What goes through people's minds -- besides the whistling of the wind?
Date ►►► February 7, 2006
Color Me Candid
It's a red (state) letter day when Democrats wake up to a morning cup of reality.
Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities....
Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president's approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November.
The problem is that the Democrats have always looked to Europe for a role model... so much so that they never quite grasp the dynamic of an American election.
Typically in a parliamentary system, voters do not vote for individual candidates; instead, they vote for a party. There are usually multiple parties, and parliamentary seats are often assigned on the basis of the nationwide percent of voters, or the voters in wide regions. Amorphous "feelings" that voters have about the ethics or competence of the government can quickly translate into a big gain for the opposition party, as we just saw in Canada.
But American elections are the exception: here, virtually every election comes down to a contest between two people: one a Democrat, the other a Republican. (Yes, I know there are rare occasions where a third-party candidate wins, such as Bernie Sanders or Jesse Ventura.) In the normal case, it is not enough to pull the other party down; you have to prove to the voters that you, yourself, will do a better job than your opponent.
Thus, just because President Bush's job approval numbers are down in the forties, and the generic congressional polls favor the Democrats, doesn't mean that the Democrats will pick up any seats; they have to convince voters, on a state by state, district by district, contest by contest basis, that this particular Democrat would do better than that particular Republican.
And without any sort of a positive agenda, how can they do that?
Instead, they fall afoul of the American electoral expression that you can't beat something with nothing. Bush had a lot of tough problems on his plate; he did reasonably well, but normal second-term disappointment among Republicans, coupled with the fanatical hatred of the Democrats, combined to push his approval number down. But the Democrats haven't made the sale either; all they've done is convince the American voter that they're a bunch of whiners and complainers.
And they still won't take responsibility for their own failings:
Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials.
I suppose it never occurs to Democratic leaders to stop demanding that we funnel national-security decisions through the snail-paced court system, or that maybe the American people are more concerned about their children's lives than about whether terrorists are being rendited to countries where they'll receive the harsh treatment that the Democrats won't let them receive here.
And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one [!] — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall.
Yeah, it's not their fault nobody listens to them; it just because no Democrat has any national stature -- because nobody will listen to them!
(Say... did you know that John Kerry served in Vietnam? And that Howard Dean didn't?)
There is one member of the caucus who seems to have grasped the bull by the tail and stared the facts in the face: Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL), or "Osama" Obama, as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Margaritaville) called him.
"I think that two-thirds of the American people think the country is going in the wrong direction," " said Senator Barack Obama, the first-term Illinois Democrat who is widely viewed as one of the party's promising stars. "They're not sure yet whether Democrats can move it in the right direction."
Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes."
Alas, this particular senator has a bad habit of lurching back and forth between insightful candor and outrageous partisan attacks. He has even managed to enrage John McCain (R-AZ), the man who never met a Democratic he was unwilling to pair up to tweak the Republican base. As Tom Bevan at RealClearPoliticsBlog noted, McCain recently sent a furious letter to Obama, castigating the freshman Democrat for going back on his word to McCain.
The responses of various putative Democratic "leaders" speak volumes beyond the literal words.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Failed presidential candidate John F. Kerry
"Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."
You might have an easier time getting the ear of the American people if you weren't dialing up a filibuster from Switzerland of a popular Supreme-Court nominee. (No word on whether Kerry's actual words were "je voudrais un feeleeboostaire!")
Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Wait -- which finger is that?
"We're going to keep hammering this," said Mr. Dean, the party chairman, referring to the scandals. "One thing the Republicans have taught us is that values and character matter."
Like we said, you can't beat something with nothing: even mediocre values and character beat the complete lack of either values or character.
Former Sen. Al Gore, from a Martin Luther King Day speech this year
Jolt Cola poster boy
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses....
At the same time, the Executive branch has also claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture and have plainly constituted torture in a widespread pattern that has been extensively documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.
Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated.... They violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, and our own laws against torture....
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's extravagant claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
Is comment really necessary?
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag)
The silence of the scams
(Hillary, having flashbacks to her 2000 Senate campaign, refused to answer any questions about the Democratic Party or what she believed.)
If the Democratic Party really wants to know why they have no traction at all going into the 2006 midterms, well, the mirror's right over there, friends.
Date ►►► February 6, 2006
The dreariness of the Senate hearing on the NSA al-Qaeda eavesdropping program was broken by a few moments of amusement -- or at least clarity.
First, since the story itself appears in the New York Times, the creakiest of the Antique Media (I love the phrase -- is it Hewitt's?), we can expect some whoppers in the way its presented. The Times does not disappoint.
First, the little summary on the Excite link-page entry that leads you to the NYT story makes it sound as if Democrats and Republicans are unloading both barrels on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
The attorney general's assertion that the program was legal immediately drew harsh reactions from leaders from both parties.
(You won't find this line in the story itself, and within hours, the above snippet will probably be gone from the link page.)
But in fact, there are three Republicans and four Democrats quoted in the story; of the three Republicans, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) both hotly defended the program, the president, and the attorney general. Only one Republican -- Arlen Specter (R-PA)... surprise! -- and all four Democrats (Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin) attacked the program as "illegal domestic wiretapping."
Yes, Specter is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (though why that committee should investigate an intelligence matter, when we have a separate Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I don't understand); but he is well known as a rabid critic of the administration on many issues, mostly relating to the war on terrorism, about which he appears quite skeptical. So, far from being a bipartisan lynch mob, in fact there was only a single liberal Republican who was on the Leahy-Kennedy-Schumer-Feingold side.
Second, the Times felt compelled to toss in the obligatory positive claim of illegality even while acknowledging that there is a strong argument to the contrary. They still act as if the illegality is a given:
The 1978 FISA Act, passed in response to surveillance abuses during the cold war and Vietnam eras and by the Nixon administration, requires the N.S.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain warrants from a special secret court before conducting electronic surveillance of people suspected of being terrorists or spies.
This is of course flatly tendentious: the Times assumes what they hope the Democrats will prove. But let's move on, to coin a phrase.
This is, I think, my favorite quotation:
Democrats emphasized again and again that regardless of their reservations about the administration's eavesdropping operation, they were as committed as their Republican colleagues to national security. "We all support a strong, robust and vigorous national security program," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "According to the rule of law."
...Which "rule of law" they believe forbids the exact "strong, robust, and vigorous national-security program" that the president ordered!
Other cheers and jeers....
Jeer: Sen. Feingold demanded (unsuccessfully) that General Gonzales be sworn in before testifying:
"Mr. Chairman, I just say that the reason that anyone would want him sworn has to do with the fact that certain statements were made under oath at the confirmation hearing," Mr. Feingold said. "So, it seems to me, logical that since we're going to be asking about similar things, that he should be sworn in this occasion as well."
(Unstated conclusion to the last sentence: ...so we can impeach him for perjury if what he says today differs in the slightest from what he said last time!)
Another fine, golden moment to jeer:
Mr. Feingold was clearly angry when his turn came to question Mr. Gonzales. "You wanted this committee and the American people to think that this kind of program wasn't going on," he said. "But it was." [Gee, why would the incoming attorney general not want to broadcast to the world that we were intercepting al-Qaeda communications? That's a real puzzler! -- the Mgt.]
Not so, Mr. Gonzales insisted. Last year, he said, Mr. Feingold asked him whether he thought the president could authorize eavesdropping "in violation of the law," and that the question was therefore hypothetical.
Those wacky Democrats, always asking just one question too many! There is a wonderful Abraham Lincoln story about asking the "one question too many," but the margin here is too small to contain it.
And a cheer for Sen. Cornyn:
Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said he found it odd that the United States could capture terrorists, "kill if necessary," but that according to some of the reasoning he had heard, "we can't listen to their phone calls."
What a great line; I hope Bush appropriates it for this year's elections.
And all the rest is dicta, as those egghead lawyers would say. These hearings are not going to do a darned thing to help the Democrats and Specter. The reality-based party strangely cannot feel the hand of political pragmatism tugging harder and harder on their trouser cuff.
Bam! Pow! To the Moon!
When President Bush first proposed a "return to the Moon" program at NASA, I was a bit skeptical. It's traditional for presidents to propose grandiose plans for space exploration, only to forget all about them moments later.
But today, when Bush's budget hit Congress, I was very pleasantly shocked to discover that Bush is making good on his promise: the budget realigns NASA's priorities to throw a lot of monetary and personnel resources into the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV, the Shuttle upgrade), which will be used as part of a manned return to Luna.
President Bush's budget proposal released Monday seeks to give the National Aeronautics and Space Administration $16.8 billion for fiscal year 2007, a 3 percent increase from the year before. Of that, about $5.3 billion in funding will go toward the space agency's science missions.
NASA is trying to fulfill Bush's space exploration vision to build the new Crew Exploration Vehicle that would replace the aging space shuttle fleet and enable a return to the moon by 2018. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told a news conference that the budget reflects that priority.
Naturally, this being the Antique Media, they had to toss in the obligatory quote from one of the space-sciences guys at JPL, berating NASA for wasting all that money on human exploration when we could just send a bunch more AI toasters into space and collect all the data we would ever need; Geoffrey Marcy played Grinch this time.
But I don't care. We're going back to the Moon! That's the important part. And eventually, we'll have a permanent station there, then a colony, and finally the human race can move some of its eggs, at least, out of this fragile basket we're in.
Besides, Sachi and I want to go. As the Cocoa Beach Boys might sing, "Luna City, here we come!"
Are We Really at War With All Islam?
(I will also post this piece as the first returning column of the Lizard's Tongue, which I had previously allowed to languish.)
A number of commenters here and at other blogsites, as well as some bloggers and even a few talk-show hosts, have claimed that we are "at war with Islam." Sometimes they get sneaky, claiming that all Islam is at war with the West, as if every Moslem, whatever his nationality, secretly yearned for a sharia-ridden world run by a Grand Caliph.
Besides being an obvious variation on the antisemitic canard that all American Jews have "divided loyalties," this claim is functionally equivalent to saying we're at war (or should be) with all Islam. It's a cute dodge, but it amounts to the same thing.
Hugh Hewitt makes an impassioned argument that we're not at war with all of Islam, as does the administration. Not even Ann Coulter has called for such an Armageddon against a whole religion worldwide. Big Lizards certainly agrees with the Hewitt-Bush side of this argument (that is our bias); but we do not do so thoughtlessly, rather after thinking long and hard about it.
But what exactly would it mean to be "at war with Islam" anyway? Let's really take a look.
The proponents of this position clearly mean we should be at war with Islam in the same way we were at war with Nazi Germany: that is, I have never heard anyone both call for a war against all Islam -- and then suggest that the war should be a limited war; anyone calling for the first is calling for a total war, a kulturkampf, Armageddon.
So I will assume throughout, until the end, that this is the meaning of "at war with Islam." At the end, I'll poke around a bit about the possibility of a "limited" war with all Islam. Until then, we assume we're talking about war with Islam the way we were at war with Germany in World War II.
During WWII, warfare was fought on both sides with a complete disregard for civilian deaths; we have the German attack on Guernica, but we also have the British and American attack (mostly British) on Dresden. But contemporary warfare -- post Geneva Conventions -- requires countries waging war to avoid deliberately targeting civilian populations, and I assume this would continue.
But contemporary warfare certainly sanctions the ancillary deaths of civilians in attacks clearly aimed at military and political targets. So the question arises -- what would we target?
Obviously any terrorist bases would be legitimate targets. But when fighting a nation in a total war, we're certainly not restricted to only attacking irregulars! We're allowed to attack regular army units... therefore, we would in this scenario be allowed (and encouraged) to attack any military target of any Moslem country anywhere in the world, even a military that has not previously participated in any warfare against us (just as we could attack units of the Wehrmacht that had not yet engaged in any combat).
Similarly, political and industrial targets are fair game in total war; that's pretty much part of the definition of total war. Therefore, proponents of this position claim we have the right to attack any factory, any railway or airport, any port, any highway, any dam, or indeed, any highrise office building anywhere in any majority-Moslem country, as well as every government building.
Since most Moslem countries mandate Islam as the state religion, making Islam a part of the government, that would extend to every mosque or madras anywhere in any Moslem country. This is especially true because militant Islamists very commonly use mosques as military bases: plotting attacks from mosques, retreating to mosques, and even storing munitions and WMD in mosques. Thus, no mosque can be assumed to be entirely civilian, and most proponents of the "war against all Islam" position typically make it explicit that every mosque is a possible target.
Finally, even in countries that were nominally not allied with Germany, we certainly held during WWII that we had the authority to attack German sympathizers who might be working to sabotage the friendly nations. We did this with or without the help or even acquiescence of the governments of those countries on a "military necessity" basis.
Therefore, inherent in the definition of total war, if we were "at war with Islam," we would quite literally be claiming the authority to attack any majority-Moslem nation anywhere in the world, or any Moslem population within a non-Moslem nation, including any economic, political, or Moslem-religious building, place, or entity, with or without specific provocation, and with lethal intent.
In total war, a nation uses its entire military and economic might to reduce the enemy. Thus, certainly there would be no restriction on using our most powerful munitions -- including nuclear weapons -- in this war. (As we refrained from using either poison gas or biological warfare even during WWII, I will assume those same restrictions would apply in the war against all of Islam.)
However, we certainly would be allowed to use flame throwers, tanks, bombs of any size, extensive mining of roads and areas that might be used by Moslems, defoliation, cluster bombs, airdropped Napalm and white phosphorus, the destruction of dams upstream from large population centers (such as the Aswan High and Low Dams in Egypt, which would threaten the lives of 70 million people who live within a dozen miles of one or the other), the destruction of nuclear power plants (regardless of any radioactive danger to surrounding civilian populations), and the firebombing of crops that could result in mass starvation.
Ordinarily, we would avoid attacking hospitals or Red Crescent centers, personnel, or vehicles; but Islamic jihadis have a history of using such facilities for military purposes (transporting terrorists inside a Red Crescent or even Red Cross ambulance, for example), and I doubt that a country committed to total war against all Islam could be prevented from targeting medical facilities that were suspected of also being military sites.
In total war, everything goes except that which is specifically forbidden by treaty.
Executing prisoners was not particularly uncommon during WWII, particularly during the liberation of the Nazi death camps. When passions among our soldiers ran high, they would sometimes simply machine-gun the SS death-camp guards -- or indeed any nearby German unit that was mistaken for death-camp guards. While officers would typically try to stop such massacres, the soldiers involved were not significantly punished. After all, there was a war on.
Presumably then, with this precedent, persons suspected of particularly vicious attacks who were captured in battle would be subject to mass extermination -- either legally or simply as a fact on the ground.
As "de-Nazification" followed whenever we liberated a country from the Nazis, presumably the American military would have to "de-Islamicize" all captured territories, making the religion of Islam illegal and enforcing the prohibition with punishment from imprisonment up to and including execution. We would need to be on the lookout for, e.g., ostensibly Christian or Jewish sects that were in fact covertly Islamic; the military authorities would need to maintain up-to-date lists of all acceptable religions, and they would have to have the power to question any person about his religious beliefs and arrest him if those beliefs were suspect.
As captured Germans were pressured to turn against their earlier comrades, so presumably would the advocates of the "war against Islam" proposal urge that captured Moslems be encouraged or threatened into going back into communities of secret Moslems and turning them in to American authorities to be rounded up like the rest.
"Fifth columnists" are fair game in total war; indeed, in the 1940s, we rounded up about 75 thousand Americans of Japanese descent (and 45 thousand Japanese nationals) merely on the possibility they might turn out to be fifth columnists. Therefore, we would be justified, indeed compelled, under this war-against-all-Islam doctrine to close all American mosques and round up all 3 million or so Moslems in the United States. The Constitution would be suspended in this instance (as it was in 1943 in the Supreme Court decisions in Yasui v. United States, Hirabayashi v. United States, and Korematsu v. United States).
We would need to build vast War Relocation Camps (concentration camps) to warehouse all these people. As the war could take decades, many of these people would live their entire lives in these camps, as would their children and grandchildren. They would have to be more or less permanent "Moslem zones," with people only being allowed to leave if they formally converted to some other religion -- as determined by the American government.
In 1945, Germany formally and unconditionally surrendered to the Allies (we insisted that the surrender be unconditional); later that same year, so did Imperial Japan. But those were each single political entities that could, in fact, designate persons authorized to sign such surrender documents.
Islam is a religion, not a single political entity. Moreover, unlike Catholicism, Islam does not even have one recognized caliph who could speak for all Moslems... so "Islam," as an entity, cannot surrender.
Therefore we would presumably be forced to continue fighting until all possible resistance was destroyed. That means every city leveled, every population reduced, every industrial or economic base ruined or captured, every pocket of Moslems ferreted out and either destroyed or otherwise neutralized, all resistance crushed, all mosques in the world either destroyed or at least monitored constantly, all transportation restricted, and concentration camps built to contain hundreds of millions of "enemy soldiers" pretty much from here to eternity.
We would require American hegemony over the entire world, in the manner of the Roman Empire (or perhaps the Spanish colonial period of 1500 to 1800), with constant spying on everyone to ensure no rebellion was being plotted. The military would by and large be in charge of most enforcement on the ground, as it always is in such empires, even if there is nominal civilian control of the military. The president's role as commander in chief would trump his role as chief executive officer in such a state.
Then we could declare victory.
For the hardy souls who have made it this far, it should be pretty clear that the consequences of honestly declaring war on all of Islam even in victory would be dire: America would cease to exist as we know her today; we would instead have something akin to a combination of Roman Empire and Nazi America, but with the venom against Jews replaced by venom against Moslems.
There would be so many executions, we would have to have special sites set up for round-the-clock extermination of people who refused to convert from Islam to some other religion. As none of our historic allies would likely join in such a crusade, America, in order to conquer all of Islam, would have to first conquer all the world to impose pax Americana.
Freedom of religion would be one of the first things to go, as every person in the world -- including every American -- would have to prove again and again that his religion was acceptable to the military authorities. Of course the rest of the Bill of Rights would also be gone.
The Soviet gulags would be replaced by American counterparts. Millions would be wrongly suspected of Moslem sympathies and would lose jobs, children, and perhaps even their liberty. Children would have to be raised by the government to ensure there was no backsliding on such dangerous subjects as religion and rights.
In trying to rid the world of Moslems, we would have rid ourselves of our own souls; that is the first and worst consequence of making war upon an entire religion.
Total War Lite: the Limited Version of the War on All Islam
There is a good reason that proponents of the "war against Islam" don't accept the idea of it being a limited war, and that is because limited wars typically end only two ways, especially against entire cultures: either in escalation to total war -- or in defeat.
It's hard even in theory to imagine how one could have a limited war against something as large, entrenched, and ubiquitous as a religion; it would be worse than saying we're going to fight Nazi Germany -- but only particular battalions, leaving other battalions unmolested.
And even if we began to fight it as a limited war, the natural consequence to America attacking non-terrorist Islamic countries simply because they were run by Moslems would be for other Moslems themselves to escalate attacks. Heck, they already do that to some extent even when we are clear in word and deed that we're only attacking terrorists!
So for those reasons, I believe that a "limited war against all Islam" is a non-starter and need not be extensively analyzed.
For all these reasons, I draw several conclusions:
- The consequences of attempting to eradicate not just militant or terrorist sects of Islam but Islam itself from the world would be awful and dire were we to win -- and unthinkable were we to lose.
- We have neither the might nor the means to carry such a total war on Islam to victory.
- Americans would not stand for it unless we had already suffered an attack so catastrophic that our entire national character were changed; and if we had, we would have even less might and means to carry out such a program.
- None of our allies would stand with us in such a total war on all Islam.
- Even if we somehow managed to win the war, we could not keep the peace.
- An America that would seriously contemplate such a program would be an America unrecongizable to anyone reading these words.
- Those people advocating such a proposal -- a war against all Islam, a clash of West vs. East, the final Armageddon of Christianity against Islam -- have not actually thought it through, or are incapable of understanding the consequences, or are simply bleating for effect... and in any event are fundamentally unserious people who cannot distinguish between a Moslem who believes in democracy (of which there are millions in this country alone) and a Moslem who believes in tyranny.
That is, anyone who advocates such a course, even for effect, is a mindless bigot who should be shunned by all persons actually serious about winning the real war: the war against terroristic jihadism, militant Islamism, or Islamofascism, whatever one chooses to call it... not against "all Islam."
While You Were Planted...
...Before the telly, swilling your adult beverage of choice and rooting for that team that begins with an S....
We at Big Lizards know how forgetful our readers can be; it's easy to forget trivia like war and peace, crime and punishment, feast and famine, and other works of Russian literature in the face of such a monumental event as a bunch of men suffering from gigantism chasing each other around a cow pasture in pursuit of a peculiar, little pointed object. As a public service -- I did get the L in there, didn't I? yes, of course -- Big Lizards offers this recap of the momentous posts you may have missed, you who often neglect your blogism on days that (like your favorite team) begin with an S.
Saturday, February 4th, 2006: ten days before you show your love by buying your sweatheart a pipe rack...
- Swamp Samurai
Here is one of those "humanitarian" reconstruction efforts of the Coalition of the Swilling: the Japanese are restoring the Iraqi Marsh, whence the Marsh Arabs were driven away by Saddam in one of his numerous crimes against humanity.
- Abbott and Costello Meet Radical Prophetism
The third and (God help us!) last sequel of our argument why, even though we must of course stand up against the rioting Moslems addled by the Cartoon-Mohammed Affair, it was neverthless probably not a keen idea to publish (and republish, and re-republish) the cartoons in the first place.
Sunday, February 5th, 2006: ten days before she shows her love by introducing you to your new bed in the garage
- Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo
Wherein Big Lizards offers the second in an open-ended series of possible military actions we could take to prevent the Iranian mullahs from developing nuclear intermediate-range ballistic missiles; this installment suggests an occupation of a strip of borderland within Iran on the Iraq border, which we introduced to great cheers from the readers. Oh, wait -- I think those were jeers, not cheers. Close enough for blogist work!
- More Media Hysteria? Only Time Will Tell
Time Magazine identifies yet another fundamental right that the Bush administration is violating: the right of dark-hued people never to be suspected of any crimes.
- Hugh Holds His Breath -- For Three Quarters
In which we speculate on the peculiar position that the fabled Mr. Hewitt must have found himself in during the Big Game... a position normally found only among budgerigars.
And that scant screech of five blogposts is all we managed to produce this week-end.
(A screech is the proper collective noun for blog posts, like a pride of lions, a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks, or a piteousness of doves. Other well-known collective nouns include: a pillage of Goths, a Depeche Mode of Goths, a bombast of senators, a keg of Kennedys, a garble of Bushes, a smear of Democrats, a revolt of Republicans, a loot of lobbyists, a buck of banks, a condescension of Clintons, a lout of Lotts, a misery of mullahs, and a process of Palestinians.)
Date ►►► February 5, 2006
Hugh Holds His Breath -- For Three Quarters
I was bored, so I turned on that football thingie for a few minutes. I noticed that the Steelers were ahead of the Seahawks by, what, 14 to 3?
The Steelers appeared to move the ball towards the goal; but then they threw that peculiar, little pointed object awry, and one of the Seahawk fellows intercepted it, running it back quite a ways. A moment or two later, the Seahawk team took the ball over the goal line and got a touchdown, I think it's called. So now it's 14 to 10.
And all I could picture was Hugh Hewitt, literally perched on the back of his chair, like an anxiety-ridden budgie with snow-white plumage, gnawing his talons right down to the quick. Oh, what I would give for a photo!
Sigh. I can hardly wait until the 13th, when curling finally starts at the Olympic games in Torino... now that's a real sport!
More Media Hysteria? Only Time Will Tell
The Antique Media has gotten so giddy with their own perceived power that they've now defined any police interest that does not result in a conviction for a serious crime as infringing upon people's rights... even ordinary police investigations that result in clearing a suspect. This high-hat position is staked out by Time Magazine's Melissa August:
[O]n the same evening that President Bush was lauding democracy and freedom, there was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.
For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go.
This is absolute madness. The cops see someone who resembles a person on the terrorist or assassination watch list, someone who might plan to attack the president, and they detain him briefly before releasing him... and Time's response is to assert (not even suggest) that this quick investigation "infringed upon" his "rights." (I suppose that would be the long-protected right not to resemble unsavory characters.)
Even worse, he had a security clearance! That of course makes all the difference; it's a wonder that the Capitol police didn't check for that first thing before detaining him.
Considering that the man was from India and was the guest of convicted perjurer and bribe-taker Alcee Hastings -- who happens to be black -- see if you can guess what was the immediate suggestion made by Hasting's spokesman and/or the erstwhile suspect.
Yep, that didn't take much ratiocination:
[Chief] Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long ["close to an hour"], and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.
August's piece is not labeled as opinion; it's in the Nation section, where I would expect to find news. But it reads as one long attack on the Capitol police, with the added suggestion that a police force that is probably largely black is nevertheless racist and would roust someone solely because of his skin color. So how many other guests in the House Gallery were black or brown, do you think? And how many of them were detained by the Capitol cops? Were the other two people detained that day -- Cindy Sheehan and Rep. Bill Young's wife Beverly -- also detained for "being brown in America?" Does August suggest that if police think they have spotted a suspect, and if that suspect happens to be dark-hued, that the cops should just let him move off undetained and uninvestigated?
There is a dark, sordid episode from my past which I have never before revealed so publicly. Most people don't know that I once had a run-in with law enforcement... which I can only excuse by my youth. And I hope you will forgive me for my lawless ways... and forgive me also, in Christian charity, for not having told you about it earlier. Excuse me while I wipe away these tears of shame.
About twenty-three years ago (I don't remember exactly -- probably traumatized by my guilt), when I was a student at UC Santa Cruz, I was walking home from campus when a car started pacing me. I didn't notice it at first; I was, as usual, lost in thought about some mathematical problem we had been studying that day. But I certainly noticed when the unmarked car abruptly accelerated, whipping to the right and bouncing up a driveway directly athwart me.
I stared, mystified, and two very, very large men in ill-cut, brown suits stepped out. They flashed shields and bade me stand still. They began asking questions: where had I been a half an hour ago? At Zoccoli's deli, eating a sandwich. Can anyone verify this? Well, yeah: the Zoccoli family. What was my occupation? At the moment, the Poincare-Bendixson theorem. Huh? It's my senior thesis at that big university up on the hill there.
We ping-ponged back and forth like this for some time. Every few minutes, another police car or motorcycle pulled up, and another one or two cops got out and added to the scrum around me. My bookbag was of course taken into custody, and a beefy guy asked "permission" to search it, which I gave, figuring he wouldn't be likely to pocket my functional analysis and Galois theory textbooks. They asked for my ID, which I forked over.
I asked what I was suspected of, and they told me "residential burglary; half hour ago." But they seemed a lot terser and tenser than one would suppose, even for such a heinous crime.
Finally, the fourteenth or fifteenth cop showed up. He was a sergeant driving a station wagon, and he was the tallest and meanest looking of the bunch. He strolled up, effortlessly shoved aside four cops who were obstructing his view, and glanced me up and down. "That isn't him," he rumbled, sounding like an avalanche rolling down a chimney; "the suspect didn't have a beard." (Hey, it was Santa Cruz in the 1980s, and in my defense, it wasn't a very good beard!)
The mob abruptly lost interest in me and began dispersing. The last to remain were the two detectives in the unmarked car who had originally detained me. "What was all this really about?" I asked.
"It was the mayor's wife," one explained; "she saw some bum sitting on her front lawn, smoking a joint, and she got scared." I forbore from noting the irony that the mayor of Santa Cruz was a self-proclaimed Socialist who said he didn't believe in private property. "What was the description you had?"
They shuffled their feet a bit. "Uh, what came over the radio was 'long hair with a backpack.'"
Right. Long hair with a backback. In Santa Cruz. Right below the University of California at Santa Cruz!
Since I'd missed my bus, being unaccountably detained, I asked if they'd give me a ride home, and they did. And that's it... I know I did wrong by not confessing to this shameful incident earlier. All I can say in my defense is that I'm sure I was detained for being white in America.
I mean, what else could it be?
Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo
In Big Lizards' never-ending desire to be helpful to Mr. Rumsfeld, here is the second in a series of suggestions of possible ways to neutralize Iran's capacity to develop and deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads... a crisis we all devoutly desire to prevent.
The first suggestion I made was to forget about trying to destroy the nuke sites themselves; there are too many of them, we don't know where they all are, they're widely distributed, and they're very hardened targets. It's not an easy task. Instead, in the Guillotine Gambit, I suggested striking not at the "hand" but rather the "head": a direct strike on the ruling mullahs themselves.
In this post, I suggest a less drastic option that may still have a similar effect. I call it Beachhead Bingo.
The idea, on a nutshell, is to send about 10,000 - 15,000 troops eastward from Iraq in a blitzkreig into Iran. They wouldn't go far... just taking about a 50 to 75 mile strip all along the Iran-Iraq border, but on the Iranian side. Then they dig in hard and deep and prepare to hold their ground no matter what.
We would announce that the purpose of this incursion was simply to stop the terrorists that Iran is allowing to traverse into Iraq; we say nothing about anything nuclear. And indeed, stopping those terrorist incursions would be one of the serendipitous benefits of the strategy; it would help the Iraqis set up a government free of Iranian infiltration. But the real purpose would be to bring about the collapse of the current Iranian regime.
The idea here is to set up an intolerable situation in Iran, where the mullahs -- who only rule by convincing everyone that they're invincible -- will be forced to put up or pull out: they will have to attack our dug-in positions to drive us out of their country.
If they do not, they will lose so much face from their obvious cowardice that it's hard to imagine the government not falling there and then: if a government cannot achieve even the simplest task of preventing another country from forcibly occupying a large swath of its territory, what claim to hegemony can it make?
But if they do attack, the end result will be the same. Iran will have to send its very overrated military forces (and Hezbollah, which is a great terrorist organization but definitely not up to defeating an actual modern army) up against case-hardened American Marines or Army... who, as mentioned, will be deeply dug in and nearly impossible to dislodge.
In fact, I expect the Iranians will break against our line like waves against a cliff. We're really good at this sort of thing. They will of course resort to WMDs, but we will be prepared for that, too, with those full-body protective suits. And even if they have a small nuclear warhead or two, they have to find a way to deliver it... which at the moment means by airplane, helicopter, truck, train, or goatcart... any of which we can interdict and prevent it getting close enough to threaten us.
In the end, when the Iranians reveal that they cannot even expel a few thousand Americans from their own homeland soil, they will be humiliated and completely lose face. I am hoping that their population rises up against them in revolt, seeing that they are "paper Persians," and establishes some sort of democracy like their neighbor to the west. (We might consider coordinating this with Iranian opposition leaders in advance.)
At least it's a strategy I haven't seen anyone else suggest before... either because it's brilliant and new -- or because it's old and really, really stupid!
Date ►►► February 4, 2006
Abbott and Costello Meet Radical Prophetism
Finally, amid current calls for "toleration" and "respect for belief," we need to be very clear about the distinction between religious toleration and religious freedom.
Religious toleration means not insulting somebody else's religion, and it is a good thing. But religious freedom means being free to reject somebody else's religion and even to insult it. Government should want and encourage its citizens to be tolerant of one another, but its primary responsibility is to protect its citizens' rights and freedoms. The fact that people are sometimes insulted is one cost of freedom. The Jyllands-Posten affair calls us to uphold that principle internationally as well as domestically.
This really puts it on a pistachio nutshell, and I agree completely with this. To break it down myself, herewith:
- This incident has nothing to do with the governments of any of the European countries, and they have no obligation -- indeed no right -- to "apologize" for what private newspapers chose to print; you cannot apologize for what somebody else has done, unless you control that person... and free nations do not control their presses.
- Nor does any of these governments have an obligation (or right) to force the newspapers to respect Moslem sensibilities.
- Notwithstanding the above, it was boorish, and therefore a bad thing, that the newspapers chose to print cartoons that insult Islam and offend Moslems... just as European (and American) newspapers are wrong to publish cartoons that ridicule Christianity or Judaism and offend Christians and Jews.
- One has a right to be boorish, but that does not make boorishness any less disrespectful to its target -- or degrading to the boor.
- When the victim of boorishness retaliates violently to the boor, or to third parties that have nothing to do with the churlish act, the governments and their citizens have a positive duty to defend against the attack.
Here is what has bothered me more than anything else about this whole, sordid affair: I want us to win this war against Islamist jihadism; that means we will have to win many battles.
The best way to ensure winning a battle is to be the one who picks its time and place. You want to pick a time when the enemy is not prepared and a place where he is at a discomfiting disadvantage.
But what has happened here is that the adolescent shenanigans of the newspaper staff has effectively thrown down the gauntlet, then allowed the jihadis to select the time and place of the battle. In fencing terms, the West sat back and allowed the militant Islamists to seize the right-of-way. The cartoons were published in September or October (people seem to differ)... and the agents provocateurs had more than three months to gather strength, whip the mobs into a frenzy, plan their strategy, and then to strike at a time and place of their own choosing, putting us immediately on the defensive.
Too, the insult partly undid more than eighteen months of careful, delicate, and strategic splitting of the ummah into one camp that supports freedom and democracy and another that preaches senseless violence. We have told the Moslem world that Zarqawi should be shunned because he does not distinguish between enemy soldiers and innocent civilians... and now the newspapers publish offensive cartoons that do not distinguish between jihadis and Moslems allied with the West.
Thanks, Danish MSM. Couldn't have done it without you.
We're cast willy-nilly into a defensive crouch again, right after the French riots finally subsided. Rather than advancing into enemy territory -- we're forced to defend our own. Again. ("Our" meaning the West's.)
Scott also quoted at length -- at great length -- from a press conference with Sean McCormack, spokesman for the U.S. State Department; McCormack made very clear the position of the administration (including the president) on this issue. I know you are all shocked to discover that the Antique Media misreported what McCormack said, but here it is:
Our response is to say that while we certainly don't agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views. For us, freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy and it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend and we will continue to do so. That said, there are other aspects to democracy, our democracy -- democracies around the world -- and that is to promote understanding, to promote respect for minority rights, to try to appreciate the differences that may exist among us.
We believe, for example in our country, that people from different religious backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, national backgrounds add to our strength as a country. And it is important to recognize and appreciate those differences. And it is also important to protect the rights of individuals and the media to express a point of view concerning various subjects. So while we share the offense that Muslims have taken at these images, we at the same time vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view. We may -- like I said, we may not agree with those points of view, we may condemn those points of view but we respect and emphasize the importance that those individuals have the right to express those points of view.
That's it. The European newspapers had the right to print the cartoons, but it was wrong of them to exercise that right the way they did, to belittle people based upon their religion. In exactly the same way, while the Arab and Iranian presses have the right to print antisemitic garbage, to do so is reprehensible, and it will kill their souls. Not to mention moving them yet closer to crawling on their hands and knees, looking for the head they used to wear.
It was offensive and stupid; but now that it's been done -- like when Gen. Jack D. Ripper sent the bomber wing to nuke Russia in Dr. Strangelove -- we may have no alternative but to fight the enemy -- on his terms and our soil.
Europe seems to have two responses to Islamist jihadism: they either retreat and cower in fear... or else they drop trou and moon the entire Moslem world! The two modes are equally childish; can't Europe find some adults to take charge?
When we think of Iraq, we typically think of vast deserts torn by vicious sandstorms. But actually, there used to be a huge swampy area in Iraq -- the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial salt marsh, also known as the Iraqi Marsh, or "Eden of Mesopotamia." (Some Biblical archeologists believe this was the actual historical site of Eden in the Bible; and anthropologists agree it certainly was one of the cradles of human civilization.) Around the marsh, all kinds of plants and animals used to flourish... along with an whole culture that Saddam Hussein tried to wipe out: the Marsh Arabs.
The marsh was systematicaly drained by the Baath Party starting in the 1950s, likely to supply aquaduct water to the more favored Sunni farmers (the Marsh Arabs are Shiite). But in 1991, Saddam Hussein escalated the program in retaliation for a massive Shiite uprising against his rule:
[A] more serious threat emerged in 1991, when Saddam Hussein's regime began building an extensive network of dykes and channels to take water away from the marsh area, which originally extended for almost 9,000 sq km.
Satellite images showed that by 2002, the area had shrunk to only 760 sq km; an estimated 70,000 people were forced into camps in Iran.
The displacing of the Marsh Arabs into refugee camps and the destruction of the marsh itself is one of the "crimes against humanity" with which Hussein is charged and will eventually be tried.
When the marsh was destroyed, so was the livlihood and the culture of the Marsh Arabs. However, immediately after the Coalition invasion brought down Hussein's regime, local Marsh people rushed to destroy the dykes. As soon as reconstruction started, one of the earliest goals of the Coalition was to rechannel the river water back to the Iraqi Marsh to reaquify it. The Coalition got the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) involved; and according to the UNEP, by August of 2005, 37% of water had returned to the marsh.
“The near total destruction of the Iraqi marshlands under the regime of Saddam Hussein was a major ecological and human disaster, robbing the Marsh Arabs of a centuries-old culture and way of life as well as food in the form of fish and that most crucial of natural resources, drinking water," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. “The evidence of their rapid revival is a positive signal, not only for the environment and the local communities who live there, but must be seen as a contribution to wider peace and security for the Iraqi people and the region as a whole.”
One of the forces leading this marsh revival effort is Japan. The government of Japan has already donated 2 million dollars to the project and plans to spend a total of $11 million. According to my online friend Silverlining, who participated in the recent UNEP conference held in Osaka, Japan is allocating an additional one million dollars to the project this year.
Japan's contribution is not just money. Japanese troops have been in southern Iraq since the end of 2003, many months before the UNEP got involved in July of 2004, helping the locals to restore clean water. (The Japanese troops are also helping open medical clinics in Iraq, something Americans rarely hear about: Iraq the Model's Omar once mentioned that the new clinic in Samawa was opened largely due to Japanese troops' direct efforts. Alas, it was some time ago, and we don't have the link.)
A major problem is that the Iraqi Marsh is a salt marsh with a very high sodium content, moreso now than when it was in its prime. In order to alleviate this problem, Japan employs highly technological desalinization equipment, equipment that needs constant maintenance and occasional repairs. (One of the best desalinization programs in the world is in Israel; but for reasons which should be obvious, Israelis cannot be involved with the program in Iraq.)
The good news is that there are many educated Iraqi civil engineers that the UNEP can reliably task to operate and maintain the desalinization plants. One Japanese official candidly told Silverlining that such a program could not possibly work in a place like sub-Saharan Africa, because there simply are not enough people who could keep it running.
Because of the abdication of the Antique Media from any news reporting about Operation Iraqi Freedom (other than an obsession with death counts), Americans and Europeans know virtually nothing about the numerous reconstruction (and construction) projects going on in Iraq. You would think that the American environmentalist groups would be ecstatic that we're busily restoring wetlands in Iraq; but then, as Ann Coulter says, they would have to be on the same side as the United States.
I have known a little about the marsh project due to my Japanese friends; but the details are not easy to ferret out. I am in contact with Silverlining, trying to extract more information from him, and I will keep you posted.
Date ►►► February 3, 2006
The Deeply Unbiased and Fair-Minded Antique Media
Here are a pair of paragraphs from the Reuters story on Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, declaring that the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program is "legal, necessary, reasonable and within the president's powers." (The quote is Reuters', not Roberts'.)
The administration, which refers to the eavesdropping as a limited "terrorist surveillance program," says it is justified by Bush's constitutional authority as commander in chief and by the authorization of military force that Congress granted the president after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Democrats and other critics say the NSA program could violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, as well as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to seek wiretap warrants from a secret court even during times of war.
What a difference a verb makes!
Bride of Radical Prophetism
A commenter raised a couple of good arguments against my previous post, When Radical Prophetism Eats Radical Secularism, arguments that deserve a wider response.
- If artists can caricature icons of other religions but not Islam, then that means Islam is more important than the rest.
Let's think about this one. When Andres Serrano produced the photograph Piss Christ, what was the general reaction among believing Christians and among conservatives? It wasn't that long ago, and I remember quite well: the reaction was outrage -- absolute outrage. The argument then was that the only possible reason to immerse a crucifix in urine (Serrano claimed it was his own) and take a picture of it was to blaspheme Jesus Christ and inflame and insult Christians for no valid purpose.
Nobody on the right suggested censorship, and I'm not suggesting it here. But they argued that simple decency should restrain artists from needlessly offending people just to watch them hop about.
Those objecting to Piss Christ didn't kill or attack anyone, of course, because modern-day Christianity and conservatism are civilized belief systems; but that speaks only to their reaction, not the original provocation. Such provocation is equally morally offensive whether the target is civilized or savage.
Fast forward to today. What is the argument here? That while it's wrong to childishly insult and outrage Christians and conservatives, who are civilized, it's perfectly all right to do exactly the same thing to Moslems, because they're more likely to react violently?
Anybody here see the Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety? When Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Brooks) visits the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous for the first time, one of the doctors there, Dr. Charles Montague (Harvey Korman), introduces Thorndyke to a patient who thinks he's being chased by vampires.
When the patient appears calm (and thus might provoke Thorndyke into releasing him, costing the Institute money), Montague puts fake "vampire teeth" in his mouth and growls at the patient to provoke him into hysteria.
Is that the argument we now make? That because a great many Moslems are psychotic, it's perfectly all right to play to their worst psychoses and provoke them into a frenzy of religious agony just to watch them squirm? This is like teasing the retarded kid. And to hell (of course) with any people they may kill, after we've poked them sufficiently; can't make an omlet without breaking a few heads.
This is sheer lunacy, and I mean on the European newspapers' side as much as on the Moslems' side. And it's also sheer hypocrisy, because many of the same sources egging on the newspapers today demanded that Piss Christ not be shown back in the 1980s.
- If Moslems want to live in a European democracy, they must accept the fundamental rights and liberties.
All right... so what would be the reaction here if a German newspaper -- Der Spiegel, let's say -- began running pornographic, antisemitic cartoons straight out of Der Stürmer of the Nazi days? When German Jews felt humiliated, insulted, and outraged, would we applaud Der Spiegel's "courage" for bucking the PC trend against antisemitism?
Bear in mind that I never once argued that European governments should clamp down on the newspapers and prevent them running it; I argue that the newspapers themselves should have made the decision not to publish, that there is nothing wrong with decency and discretion, and that it's as valid a principle as freedom of speech.
I am a libertarian of the Right: I believe very strongly in the civil liberty of freedom of speech. But liberty and responsibility are two sides of the same coin, something the "civil libertarians" on the Left regularly forget. The simple reality is that widespread acceptance of the former is predicated upon widespread fulfillment of the latter. Freedom is never free; it depends upon people by and large doing the right thing, without coercion, simply because it is the right thing.
The Founding Fathers had a great fear of tyranny, but they had just as great a fear of the mob: and that's the only way to view the knee-jerk reaction applauding newspapers for needlessly outraging and inciting Moslems: it's the same impluse that drives the chanting mob at a bear baiting.
It's disgusting; it's low; and it should be beneath us.
There are many areas where we need to confront Islam, most obviously the attempt of some Moslems to conquer the world and impose Sharia law on the unwilling rest of us. But this does not help that cause; if it does anything, it cripples it, because it drives moderate Moslems (yes, they exist) towards their radical brethren and away from the sanity of liberal democracy.
And the ugliest point is that I can see only one reason why people don't argue, as I do, that while newspapers have the "right" to do this, they should exercise their discretion and refrain; only one reason why folks should instead stand on a chair and egg them on: simple anti-Moslem bigotry. Actually cheerleading for anti-Mohammed cartoons is acting the part of a bigot; there is no other reason for applauding those -- while condemning Ted Rall and that disgusting cartoon of the quadruple amputee soldier and Dr. Rumsfeld classifying him as "battle hardened."
If we're going to win the war against militant Islamism, we must fight it from high ground... which includes not merely "rights" but also the responsibility to behave as adults and the duty to stand and fight only when there is a reason to stand and fight... not just anytime we feel feisty.
When Radical Prophetism Eats Radical Secularism
Did I write "eats?" My error; I must have meant "meets."
It takes a great deal of courage to tug on Superman's cape -- or the Prophet's beard. Courage, that is, if the tugger has sense and reason and actually understands what the hell he's doing -- and the likely reaction.
Suffice to say, I do not believe the European newspapers publishing the mild cartoons of Mohammed are actually courageous. I think instead that they're functionally illiterate in the language of religion: their defiance is like a drunken sixteen year old who picks a fight with Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in Goodfellas.
This whole thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth: Europeans are such radical secularists, I'm not sure they really understand that some people actually believe in religion and are willing to die -- or kill -- for it. Here is the editor in chief of a French newspaper that ran the cartoons:
The Egyptian publisher of France Soir, which printed the controversial caricatures Wednesday, fired the paper's managing editor, Jacques LeFranc, late Wednesday night, saying, "We present our regrets to the Muslim community and to all people who have been shocked or made indignant by this publication."
But the dismissed editor's boss, Faubert, wrote an unrepentant editorial in Thursday's editions: "We had no desire to add oil to the fire as some may think. A fundamental principle of democracy and secularism is being threatened."
What fundamental principle is that -- that actions have no consequences? I believe the newspapers have the right to publish the pictures; and if they were dealing with a sane religion (Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Odin worship), it might even be salutory... I'm not sure what the point would be to call all Christians "Jesus freaks," as Ted Turner did, but at least it gives Christians the opportunity to turn the other cheek.
But they're not dealing with a modern, civilized religion; there aren't many "Moslem Methodists," as I noted back in September. One needn't always rush to do whatever one has the "right" to do; a bit of circumspection is often in order. In this case, shouldn't somebody ask "is this the right time and place for a war, and is a cartoon the cause under whose banner we march?"
This is imbecilic. I would love to see Europe pick a real fight with militant Islamism... but the first rule of war is only to declare it on people you really want to fight -- not on a billion people at once, many of whom would be your allies under better circumstances. Here's another example of European tone-deafness when it comes to religion:
In another day of confrontation between the largely secular nations of Europe and Muslim countries where religion remains a strong force in daily life, Islamic activists threatened more widespread protests and boycotts of European businesses. While some European officials sought to defuse the crisis, many journalists insisted that despite Islamic outrage, religious sensibilities should not result in censorship.
"We would have done exactly the same thing if it had been a pope, rabbi or priest caricature," wrote Editor in Chief Serge Faubert in Thursday's editions of France Soir, one of the newspapers that printed the cartoons.
Yes, you slope-browed, prognathic buffoon; but Catholics, Jews, and Protestants won't strap on bombs and blow up your newspaper offices. This isn't courage, it's adolescent recklessness.
If they want to demonstrate courage and respect for freedom of speech, they can editorialize in favor of the Iraq war or put out an Arabic-language version of their newspaper in the Middle East -- one that promotes civilization, not the antisemitic, anti-American insanity European newspapers so often validate. They can have the guts to face up squarely to the fact that most people in the world believe in some form of God and religion, instead of pretending that the extreme secularism of Europe is the global norm.
Courage? How about a series of articles about the economic fecklessness of European socialism, with its twenty-eight hour workweeks, month-long vacations, and semiweekly general strikes? Or how about a call that the governments of Europe start spending at least half as big a percent of GDP on defense and their "militaries" as the United States does, rather than their typical one-tenth as much?
Those might take some courage; the fine citizens of the City of Lights might start heaving overbaked baguets through newspaper windows. But at least the battle would actually be in service to some cause other than provocation solely for sake of Europe's ego!
Newspapers in Denmark, France, the UK, and elsewhere across Europe act as if voluntarily choosing not to publish something that is needlessly and foolishly inflammatory is "censorship," as if they have never even heard the word "discretion."
There are many battles we must fight against militant Islamism; but this isn't one of them. This banal donnybrook blurs the distinction between terrorism and mere religious hysteria, which is a traditional component of even moderate Islam. It drives together the Moslem groups we have so carefully pried apart over the last year and a half. It angers those whom we had rather calm down and heartens those we should rather anger. It's blind, lame, ham-fisted, and typically obtuse, as only those who are well protected by their betters can be.
This isn't an act of courage, for God's sake; it's poking a stick into a scorpion's nest to see what comes bubbling out.
God, do I dislike Europeans.
(Hat tip Scott at Power Line, who reads this stuff so the rest of us don't have to.)
Date ►►► February 2, 2006
Julian Channels His Inner Harry...
...So what else is new?
Assuming we can believe World Net Daily -- although they're not usually a good source, in this case I do believe them, as Julian Bond has made many such statements in the past -- Bond went off on another one of his psychotic rants yesterday:
Civil rights activist and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond delivered a blistering partisan speech at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina last night, equating the Republican Party with the Nazi Party and characterizing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, as "tokens."
"The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side," he charged.
Another couple of lowlights:
He referred to former Attorney General John Ashcroft as J. Edgar Ashcroft. He compared Bush's judicial nominees to the Taliban.
And a blast from Julian Bond's past:
In July 2001, Bond said, "[Bush] has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing, and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."
The calculation is simple; repugnant to basic human decency (as repugnant as white-on-black racism), but still simple: Democrats have not won the white vote in a national election in decades. From a 2003 Jack Lessenberry article in the MetroTimes, an "alternative" newspaper in Detroit:
Here’s a safe political prediction. Even if Democrats’ wildest dreams come true, even if they win next year’s presidential election, President George W. Bush will win a solid majority of white people’s votes.
How do I know that? Because Republicans always win the white vote for president. The last time Democrats carried a majority of the white vote was in 1964, when this was a vastly different world.
Democrats have their own explanation why that is:
How did this all happen? Republicans always have been mostly the party of the "haves" as opposed to the "have-nots," at least since Abraham Lincoln was shot [by a Democrat, by the way -- the Mgt.]. But for a long time, because of Lincoln and the virulent racism of Southern Democrats, Republicans competed for what black votes there were.
That all changed for good in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson committed his party to the support of civil rights for African-Americans. Barry Goldwater, that year’s Republican presidential candidate, opposed a major civil rights bill. Immediately, blacks deserted his party forever. And the Deep South became Republican.
But this is political nonsense, and Lessenberry needs to retake his history class. In that same 1964 election, a very popular Southern governor and virulent white supremacist was also running for president: Georgia Gov. George Wallace ran strongly in the South as well as a couple of midwestern states (Wisconsin and Indiana)... in the Democratic primary. You might think that someone like Wallace's fellow Southern governor Strom Thurmond would have supported him; you would be be wrong: Thurmond chose 1964 to reject the Democratic Party and also to reject George Wallace and turn instead to the blatantly non-racist Barry Goldwater.
It's possible Lessenberry is actually aware of the terrible problem with his "racism" explanation of the split between the two parties, because he makes a feeble attempt to paint Goldwater as a racist, noting that he "opposed a major civil rights bill." What he fails to mention is that Barry Goldwater supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act all the way through the Senate debate on it... until the Democrats, in a betrayal, changed the bill to make illegal not only government racism but also private-party racism.
At that point, many supporters dropped off, including Goldwater. But surely it's possible to think of another explanation for opposing the federal government outlawing private racial discrimination other than being a racist oneself: a belief in individual liberty, for example, including the liberty to be wrong. Democrats have been hurling this smear at Goldwater for decades -- despite the fact that if you look at Goldwater's legislative history, he was always a champion of individual rights, whether the individual was white, black, Hispanic, or any other race.
And this history points the way to the real reason the parties began to split on race, as the Claremont Institute notes:
Some Republicans seem to think that the Southern white allegiance still hangs on some vague racial prejudice. This would mean that the main strength of the party — the white vote in the South — is actually a liability to Republicans.
But the South is no such liability. Studies have shown quite clearly that the region is strongly Republican because of issues like abortion, gun rights, and national defense. Racism or a desire for segregation plays no real role in the Republican advantage, in the South or elsewhere. Indeed, the chorus against Lott proves one thing: racism is simply illegitimate in America.
The fact is that starting in 1964, the Democratic Party veered hard Left -- and began to pander to special interest groups against the general interest of the majority. The particular beneficiaries of this pandering were blacks. Again, we're not talking about civil rights here; Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the same level as non-Southern Democrats. Anybody motivated by race in 1964 and 1968 moved to Wallace, not to Goldwater and Nixon, neither of whom was a racist.
(Nixon's "Southern strategy" was never to play to racism to steal the South from the Democrats but rather to play to traditional values that were being denounced by Democrats and leftists in the streets, such as patiotism, Capitalism, sexual morality, and democracy.)
And ever since Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory over Goldwater, Democrats have been unable to win national election unless they hold the Republican white vote to 55% and win the black vote by at least 90% and win the non-white Hispanic vote by at least 65%. Kerry, for example, only held the Republican white margin to 58%, not 55%; and he only got 88% of the black vote and only won the non-white Hispanic vote by 53%.
Had Kerry gotten 45%, 90%, and 65%, he would have won the election. But without a massive margin of black and Hispanic votes, he -- in fact, any Democrat -- loses, because the Democrats are so uncompetitive in the white vote.
The Hispanic vote is very much in play, and unless the Democrat is himself a Hispanic, he has to appeal to that demographic the same way he would try to appeal to whites: by identifying various issue that are important to Hispanics and taking positions that resonate with them. But there is only one way the Democrats can guarantee, year in and year out, that they get such gigantic, 90%+ majorities among blacks; and that is to appeal to the most blatant black-on-white racism possible.
Hence, what Julian Bond does is actually crucial for Democratic campaigns: the Democrats must convince black voters anew each election cycle that Republicans are all vicious Nazis, David-Duke cheerleaders, and white-hooded nightriders out to lynch blacks and reinstitute Jim Crow. If they fail to accomplish that task, if their portion of the black vote drops below a critical level, then numerous states swing from the Democrats to the Republicans... and the Democrats lose. This is true both in presidential and midterm elections.
That's why the NAACP put on an ad in 2000 accusing George W. Bush of dragging James Byrd to death behind his pickup truck. That's why the Democrats never muzzle people like Julian Bond, Harry Belafonte, Kweisi Mfume, Cynthia McKinney, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Major Owens, or Jesse Jackson, and indeed engage in the spectable every cycle of bending over and kissing race-baiter Al Sharpton's ring: the party believes that without catering to the most extreme of black opinion, from racial preferences to "reparations" for slavery, and without accusing every Republican of have a white robe under his bed, they will lose that massive majority on which they depend... and history suggests they're right.
Sadly, that means there is simply no chance that the Democratic party will change its racemongering for the forseeable future, because to do so would be political suicide. So what else is new?
From First to Last - UPDATED
UPDATE RESULTS: See below.
There's an election to be held today among the Republican caucus in the House for the majority leader position, which was reluctantly relinquished by Tom DeLay while he fights the bogus indictment of obsessed D.A. Ronnie "Javert" Earle. Denny Hastert will remain speaker of the House, but all the other posts are theoretically up for grabs (in reality, if what I think will happen happens, then only the majority leadership will change).
Majority leader is the number two of the House (no jokes, please; they're all too true to be funny). Next down is majority whip -- which is the position currently held by the frontrunner in today's election, Roy Blunt (R-MO). As Jon Henke in Q&O puts it,
The current front-runner is Rep. Roy Blunt, who claims to be confident that he has the votes to win the position – though not, apparently, confident enough to give up his role as Majority Whip. His ascension seemed almost a fait accompli until January 19th, when all three candidates participated in conference calls with bloggers. While Blunt’s opponents, [John] Shadegg [R-AZ] and [John] Boehner [R-OH], were fairly well received by the bloggers, Roy Blunt was, to put it mildly, not. After the call, a virtually unanimous right side of the blogosphere rushed to ask why Tom DeLay was being replaced by what appeared to be an exact duplicate: a status quo Beltway Republican, the “House GOP's key liaison” to the “K Street Committee”, and owner of more than a few connections to the politically radioactive Jack Abramoff.
Here's my speculation. I don't really know how the leadership races work; but assuming they're somewhat like delegates voting at a nominating convention, then even the representatives that Blunt has in his pocket have probably only committed to him for the first ballot. As I understand it, if nobody gets 50% + 1 on the first, there will be others... and pledged support can peel off and vote for whom it wants. (I think it's a secret ballot.)
Blunt has repeatedly said he has the votes to win on the first ballot, but so far nowhere near enough representatives have come forward to publicly declare their support. My prediction is that if Blunt misses out on the first ballot -- then his support will evaporate like rain in the Sahara Desert. I suspect that most of it will go, not to the forgotten man (John Boehner), but rather to the political Energizer bunny, Shadegg.
So either Blunt wins on the first ballot -- which I doubt -- or else Shadegg wins on the second or third.
The only fly in the oatmeal would the Gore Vidal scenario: if Blunt fails to win but is desperate not to have to work under a "reformer" who might fiddle with the whole K-Street setup, he might try to get his backers to go for Boehner instead, just to shut Shadegg out. I think Blunt could work under Boehner with a lot more comfort than he could under Shadegg. But I don't think he'll be able to wield that much influence with people peeling away from him like the skin from a squirted grape.
So I'm sticking with my original prediction: Shadegg in two or three.
It'll all be over in just a few hours, and I'll find out right quick how close I came. But on this one, I'm no Nathan Detroit... I'm not confident enough to put a bet on!
Kimsch in the comments has the results:
122-109 Boehner in the second vote. Shadegg got about 40 votes in the first round. He dropped out.
AP has the breakdown of the first ballot as well:
Blunt's position in leadership had made him the front-runner, but he ended seven votes short of the necessary majority on a first-round secret ballot. He had 110 votes and Boehner had 79. Shadegg received 40 and Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas, who was not an announced candidate, got two votes.
After Shadegg and Ryun dropped out, Boehner won his second-ballot victory.
My prediction failed because of something I didn't know, a factor that made the vote function differently from the model I had in mind, the nominating convention. The other commenter on this post, Slarrow, was probably correct:
I could be wrong, but if there is no clear victor on the first ballot, doesn't the second round proceed with the top two vote-getters?
So Blunt was able to get 110 votes of people who were committed (for whatever reason) to the status quo. The real battle was for second place, as only those two would be on the second ballot. It's possible that a number of Republicans were uncomfortable with Blunt, because of his K-Street and Abramoff connections... but they may have thought that Boehner had a better chance to defeat Blunt on the head to head ballot than the lesser known Shadegg.
Suppose, however, Shadegg also had remained in the race. If then, on ballot two, Blunt had again gotten 110-109, it's possible that Shadegg could have matched or exceeded Boehner's vote. At that point, they would have moved to a third ballot -- and Shadegg would have momentum.
But since Shadegg's third-place finish kept him from a rematch for second place with Boehner, that mechanism, where the last place guy works his way up to first, was prevented from functioning... and John Boehner is now the majority leader.
So it goes!
Date ►►► February 1, 2006
The Two-Edged Sword, Revisited
He notes that the Alito Rule is one of procedure, not substance, and that Republicans may be willing to match the Gainsayer Party on procedural issues... for the sake of consistency, if nothing else:
As I tried to explain in my post asserting an "Alito rule," the criteria for voting on judicial nominees has a procedural element to it, at least in the sense that it's more important to have a consistently applied rule than to have any particular rule. I think Republican politicians will grasp this. If not, for what it's worth, conservative bloggers will be there to enlighten them. [Emphasis added]
I'm a little skeptical, since to most folks, there is no difference between procedure and substance: voting to filibuster a vote on a judge is the same as voting against that judge, I suspect, in the minds of the average voter; to most folks, the distinction is lawyer-talk.
Thus, if Republican voters are angry at the Democrats for "voting against" a qualified judge, they might well be equally angry at the Republicans for doing the same thing. We skate across thin ice when we neglect the appeal of basic fairness to the American voter... it's one of our core national principles.
But at a deeper level, I'm torn: I don't know whether I hope that Paul is right, because that would help the GOP cause of getting more judicial conservatives on the courts... or hope that Paul is wrong, since I think it's just plain wrong for a minority to filibuster a majority-supported nominee, whether to the bench or a cabinet or other administrative position.
Do we hope for democracy to prevail, whatever the cost? Fiat justicia ruat coelum? Or do we hope for an undemocratic response to preserve future democracy? Paul Mirengoff has, quite deliberately, I am sure, set us a variant on the greatest dilemma in ethics: dare we tolerate the intolerant?
I don't know the answer to that question (though I do know how to integrate some transcendental functions). This is dangerous stuff.
He Said/They Said
All the news on Iraqi reconstruction is grim.
Note that I didn't say "Iraqi reconstruction was grim"... I said all the news was grim, that is, the news from the antique media....
Insurgents Thwarting Iraq Reconstruction
by Jim Krane
Feb 1, 2006
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Guerrilla attacks in Iraq have forced the cancellation of more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects, in part because American intelligence failed to predict the brutal insurgency, a U.S. government audit said.
American goals to fix Iraq's infrastructure will never be reached, mainly because insurgents have chased away contractors and forced the diversion of repair funds into security, according to an audit of the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Program released last week.
The New York Times:
Because of unforeseen security costs, haphazard planning and shifting priorities, the American-financed reconstruction program in Iraq will not complete scores of projects that were promised to help rebuild the country, a federal oversight agency reported yesterday.
As much as 60 percent of all projects aimed at improving Iraq's water supply, including work on sewer systems and drinking water supplies, will remain unfinished because more than $2.1 billion originally allocated to that purpose was shifted away, according to the report.
Projects related to drinking water that were expected to benefit about 8 million people will now benefit about 2.75 million, the report said. And only two of 10 planned sewerage projects will be completed, though they will serve an additional 4.5 million people.
More than 125 of a planned 425 electricity projects will also be left unfinished, a total that reflects a steep reduction, announced previously by U.S. officials, in the goal for increasing Iraq's generating capacity.
Wow, that must have been some humdinger of an indictment of the wretched, corrupt, feckless, and incompetent Bush administration, right? Well take a look at what the actual report from Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, actually said:
The SIGIR October 2005 Quarterly Report initially examined the “reconstruction gap”— the difference between what was originally planned for reconstruction in the various sectors and what will actually be delivered. This is not an alarm bell but merely an observation of a current reality: changing conditions in Iraq, including deteriorating security conditions and evolving political and economic priorities required IRRF [Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund] reprogramming that altered sector funding levels and projected outcomes....
These shortfalls are substantially attributable to the autumn 2004 IRRF reprogramming, which reduced the allocations to the Water sector from $4.3 billion to $2.1 billion (down 51.2%). The Electricity sector dropped from $5.560 billion to $4.309 billion (down 22.5%). Allocations to certain other sectors concomitantly increased: the Private Sector Development sector grew by 420%, and the Justice, Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Civil Society sector rose by 70%.
In other words, we had some initial plans at the time of the invasion, March 2003; those plans were solidified in November that year; but as the face of the terrorist campaign in Iraq became clearer, we corrected course, "reprogramming" plans from major projects involving the water and electricity supplies to more basic infrastructure: first and foremost, the development of a private sector in Iraq (which never existed under Saddam Hussein or the Fascist Baath Party), basic justice, and the development of an Iraqi army that -- contrary to the extraordinary claim today by Nanci Pelosi on Anderson Cooper 360 -- was not set up to brutalize the Iraqi people.
Why are these priorities more basic? Because when they are satisfied, Iraq will be able to quell the terrorism itself (as we're now starting to see, particularly in the Anbar province and in Baghdad), thus will be able to pay for its own reconstruction... but if they are not satisfied, then nothing can be done. Period.
Part of the problem with Iraqi reconstruction efforts is the endemic corruption of the Middle East:
SIGIR remains committed to intensifying U.S. efforts to promote an effective anticorruption system within the Iraqi government and commends the U.S. Mission’s efforts thus far to support anticorruption institutions in Iraq. In the October 2005 Quarterly Report, SIGIR urged the Ambassador to hold an anticorruption summit, which he did in November 2005. The summit resulted in a proposal for a joint U.S.-Iraqi Anticorruption Working Group and initial agreement on the need for more training for officials from the Board of Supreme Audit, the Commission on Public Integrity, and the Inspectors General of the Iraqi ministries. The Embassy Anticorruption Working Group previously identified several major priorities, including:• promoting market reforms and reducing subsidies
• helping to reinforce the weak law enforcement structure
• creating a public education campaign on the corruption issue
Note that two of the three anti-corruption "major priorities" are exactly what the administration shifted its own priorities to implement: market reforms (a private sector) and beefing up the Iraqi law-enforcement, which requires training not only police but army units as well.
That is to say, as the facts on the ground have changed, we've shifted our priorities to meet the new challenges. Far from being an indictment of the administration, all that this report actually does is clarify how much progress has been made and is likely to be made in the future, identify the continuing challenges, and set priorities and more refined goals for the administration to meet.
It isn't an attack at all; it's nothing more than a normal interim report.
Some of the news stories more or less acknowledge this -- buried deeper in the article, after first tainting the reader's impression with unsupported implications of corruption and incompetence:
"The United States' reconstruction efforts have shown tangible results in improving the Iraqi infrastructure," Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. wrote in the report, some of which he previewed in testimony to Congress last year but much of which was presented for the first time Thursday. "However, the significant funding change means that many of the originally planned projects will not be completed."
Projects related to drinking water that were expected to benefit about 8 million people will now benefit about 2.75 million, the report said. And only two of 10 planned sewerage projects will be completed, though they will serve an additional 4.5 million people. (Washington Post)
Only 49 of the 136 projects that were originally pledged to improve Iraq's water and sanitation will be finished, with about 300 of an initial 425 projects to provide electricity, the report says ["only!"]....
The report, by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, adds that the overall rebuilding plan was also devised without a clear understanding of the decrepit state of Iraq's infrastructure after decades of war, United Nations-imposed penalties and sheer neglect....
The biggest change in priorities in the rebuilding program came when John D. Negroponte, then the American ambassador to Iraq, shifted $3.46 billion from the reconstruction fund to support projects involving the training of Iraqi security forces, building democratic institutions and developing the private sector in fall 2004. But the report notes that month after month, new shifts took place, amounting to $2.12 billion in additional spending changes through October 2005. (New York Times)
The Times sees an inconstant administration constantly changing course; I see an administration that is flexible and can correct the course when the facts on the ground change. Which do we prefer -- rigid adherence to plans drawn up before the reconstruction had really begun? Or flexibility and the willingness to adapt to the reality that we found in Iraq?
Naturally, if the report had found instead that Bush had done the former, the same newspapers would be excoriating him for not being flexible and adaptable, just as the same Democrats who attacked Bush for his "unilateral" approach to Iraq now attack him for "outsourcing" our response to Iran by bringing in Great Britain, Germany, and France.
I believe the entire Democratic Party has only one principle in common: whatever George W. Bush does, it's wrong!
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