Date ►►► March 31, 2006
Are Teenagers "Children?"
This is a very strange case; most of the time, teenagers who want to video sex scenes are boys, not girls. But three Rhode Island teenaged girls got together; one sixteen year old taped her two friends (19 and 16) having lesbian sex.
All three have been arrested... but if this news report is accurate, the girls are being charged with producing and conspiracy to produce "child pornography."
If that's the case -- that's really wrong. If the law in RI makes no distinction between teens and pre-pubescent children in pornography, then the law must be changed. If the law does make such a distinction, then damn it, the news agencies should report it more responsibly.
I am a great believer in discrimination. I love discrimination... which simply means the ability and willingness to discriminate between things that are, in fact, very different. (There is also a very bad form of discrimination, where differences are manufactured where none exist -- as with racial discrimination.) Anybody who cannot discriminate between sex with a 16 year old and sex with a 6 year old is demented.
Teenagers have raging hormones. They will have sex. Not every person, of course; but we will never be able to prevent all or even nearly all teens from having sexual feelings, sexual contact, or even sexual intercourse. It's a natural phenomenon that does not respect modern-day definitions of majority that stretch out childhood by adding a long period called "adolescence." (Earlier societies tended to consider people adults when they reached sexual maturity -- pubescence.)
It's quite reasonable to have laws against adult-teen and teen-teen sexual activity; society evolves, and we're no longer like, say, the ancient nomadic herding Jews who literally considered a 13 year old boy a "man," able to marry and make contracts and such. But for heaven's sake, just because we choose to define a 16 year old as a minor doesn't mean we have to imagine that she is actually a "child."
I know many women whose first experience was as an older teen with a slightly older teenaged boy who was legally an adult; yet they don't think of that as anything remotely like "child molestation." (True child pornography always includes some aspect of child sexual abuse; it's abuse for the production of graphic imagery.)
I can certainly see making what those girls did criminal; that's up to the community. But there must be some sense of rationality at some point: even if you think it's bad (and most would, including myself) for teenaged minors to appear in sexual explicit videos, it's not as bad as when actual, prepubescent children do the same. The law -- and our rhetoric -- must reflect that, or else we stand in danger of losing all distinctions whatsoever.
And without the ability to rationally find distinction, how can we teach moral discrimination between right and wrong to our kids?
Bill Nelson Vulnerable - But Not to Katherine Harris
A new Florida poll from Republican pollster Strategic Vision has some surpises. First, it shows that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) may actually be vulnerable in his reelection bid this year -- but definitely not to Republican candidate, current two-term Congresswoman, and former Florida Secretary of State (and Bush-2000 victory confirmer) Katherine Harris, who leads the poll among Republican likely voters for the nomination, alas.
Among all likely voters (not just Republicans), however, Harris loses to Democrat Bill Nelson in a test match by a whopping 56 to 28, with Nelson well over the magic 50% margin. Among all the other declared candidates, Nelson does much worse, though still winning; he only tops 50% when paired against Tom Rooney (53%) and Daniel Webster (50% -- must be that whole bet with the Devil thing).
However, a couple of undeclared Republican candidates do much better. If Jeb Bush were to run for that senate seat, now that he is leaving the governorship, he would be favored over Nelson by 53% to 38%... something Jeb should perhaps consider.
The most surprising finding is the strgength of another undeclared candidate -- in fact, a fellow who says he doesn't want to run: former Commander-in-Chief of United States Central Command, Afghanistan and Iraq War runner, retired Gen. Tommy Franks. (He was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Texas, but has resided in Tampa, Florida for some time.)
Right now, Franks would pull Nelson to a draw: Nelson 46%, Franks 45%.
Tom Gallagher does nearly as well, holding Nelson down to a narrow, 48-45 victory. No other Republican than those three even gets 40%.
Note that Strategic Vision is a Republican polling firm; but their figures for other national issues (Bush's job approval, for example) are right in line with other national polls: Strategic Vision finds 37% support for Bush in Florida, compared to a national RealClearPolitics average of 38.3% at the moment. So I tend to take this poll as probably pretty accurate.
Looks like the president needs to get on the horn and start twisting ears -- of both his retired general pal and his still active-duty-brother Jeb. It would sure boost the GOP's chances in November if they could actually win that Senate seat!
Sumo Criminal Tricks
Rule Number One: When burglarizing residences in Japan -- stay away from buildings inhabited by twenty or more top Sumo wrestlers.
This is the sort of advice that doesn't seem to need much explanation.
A Japanese burglar who thought he was lucky to find an unlocked door was shocked to be arrested by 20 massive sumo wrestlers who were staying at the building....
Konoshin Kawabata, 48, was rummaging inside a room in Osaka in the early hours when he was suddenly confronted by wrestler Dewanosato, who stands 180 centimeters (five-foot-10-inches) and weighs 131 kilograms (289 pounds).
"Without thinking, my body moved," Dewanosato, whose real name is Hideyuki Kawahara, told reporters. "I caught the guy and bear-hugged him."
It was a citizen's arrest, said a police spokesman.
Hearing the commotion, the other members of the Sumo "stable" popped out and surrounded Kawabata-san, more than 2.5 tons of angry, chankonabe-chomping champs. Kawabata-san might ponder the Japanese expression 人間万事塞翁が馬, "human affairs are like Saiou's horse" -- what looks like good luck might really be bad luck!
Date ►►► March 30, 2006
The Two Branches of Government
Just forget everything. Forget everything They ever taught you -- it's garbage anyway.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you learned; I learned it too. There are three branches of federal government, not two:
But those are just the branches of the temporary government, the elected/appointed wing. There is another wing of the government... the permanent government. And that comprises only two branches:
- The State branch
- The Defense branch
The permanent (or "bureaucratic") wing of government prevails from Congress to Congress and across all administrations. It never disappears; new members are simply assimilated, Borg-like, into the massmind. Old members are sloughed off like a snake shedding its skin to expose the bright, pink, new skin beneath... which in mere hours looks just like the old skin (and believe me, thisssss is sssomething I have sssssssstudied.)
In each administration, one or the other branch of the permanent government is ascendant. You can always tell which branch by which secretary is stronger -- the Secretary of Talkfare or the Secretary of Warfare:
During the Bush-43 administration, Defense is on the rise. Clearly Rumsfeld trumps Rice, just as he trumped Powell. The vice president is a former secretary of Defense, and the president defers to the generals on all war-related issues. Even State is the former National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.
You can also tell because the Central Intelligence Agency -- a creature of the State Department (see below) -- is on the warpath against the president.
During Clinton, State was on top. Does anybody even remember who Clinton's three Secretaries of Defense were? I think it was Bill Cohen and a couple of other guys. Something to do with skiing... who was that?
But everybody remembers Madeleine Albright -- "Madam" -- and Warren Christopher (often confused with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones). They ran foreign policy; they ran domestic policy; they even ran Clinton's wars.
- And George H.W. Bush was a total State Department guy, through his longtime association with the CIA and his connections with an earlier State-Department administration, the Nixon/Ford-Ford/Rockefeller administration... is it even possible to get more "State" than Nelson Rockefeller? That was such a State administration -- two diplomacy nuts as president and Hammerin' Hank Kissinger bridging between them -- as was Bush-41, that one could almost see the heavy, heavy Defense orientation of the current presidency as the Revenge of the Jilted Defense Secretaries: Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld.
- Reagan was purely a Defense-driven presidency, just as the current one. His Secretaries of State (Haig and Schultz) were strong capable men... but it was the late, great Cap Weinberger who ran policy, with the first campaign being run by Reagan's favorite advisor, William Casey.
Casey was an odd duck: he ran the CIA, so you would think he leaned towards State. But in fact, he was an old OSS man... and the OSS -- often wrongly called the CIA's predecessor -- was run by War, not by State.
In fact, the creation of the CIA via the National Security Act of 1947 was a triumph of State over War; World War II was over, and Harry Truman was president. The old OSS of "Wild Bill" Donovan had been dissolved two years earlier and played little role in the new agency; the Company was always oriented towards playing the "Great Game" during the Cold War, diplomacy under official cover. They even primarily operate out of embassies!
It's maneuver and counter-maneuver, spy vs. spy, best exemplified by the moral ambiguity and relativity of John le Carré's writings from the 1960s and 1970s (contrast them with Ian Flemming's James Bond series).
State presidents are usually caretakers, while Defense presidents are the only ones that get anything done. So it's no surprise that Clinton spent eight years diddling the interns, while Bush has spent five years overthrowing oppressive dictatorships, destroying giant, transnational terrorist groups, and bringing the country out of the recession left him by his predecessor.
- I think Roosevelt-32 was an exception to the rule: he seems to have made nearly every major decision himself, and neither his various Secretaries of State nor of War seem to have made much of an impression. Maybe one of each -- Cordell Hull (State until nearly the end) and Henry Stimson (the WWII War Secretary) -- are at least noticed and remembered; but everything from the New Deal to Yalta was run right out of the Oval Office.
During George W. Bush's Defense presidency, State's stalking horse, the CIA, has been doing everything possible to unseat him. During Clinton's State presidency, the Pentagon despised him.
So it goes.
A correct understanding of the vicissitudes of the permanent wing of the federal government explains absolutely everything that has ever puzzled you about American federal politics. If it doesn't... then you haven't understood it correctly.
Students Risk Life and Limb to Protest!
...Other people's lives and limbs, of course.
In an otherwise dreary New York Times article on the protests in France against businesses being able to fire dud employees, I stumbled across this section:
In a spectacular show of defiance today, some 2,000 students shut down rail traffic at Paris' Gare de Lyon, a key commuter hub and the departure point for high-speed TGV trains heading south. The national rail company, the S.N.C.F., was forced to suspend traffic for two hours after protestors blocked the tracks with wooden beams and other objects, the police said.
In the Mediterranean port city of Marseilles, riot police used tear gas to evacuate several hundred students from the tracks near one railway station.
Protesting students also blocked several highways across the country, causing some 215 miles of traffic jams, Reuters reported.
Traffic was brought to a standstill during the morning rush hour in and around Nantes and Rennes in the west, Lille in the north and Aix-en-Provence in the south. Students also managed to invade the Paris ring road, briefly bringing traffic on the main highway around the capital to a halt. About 50 protesters were arrested.
I wonder how many innocent people could have been injured, maimed, or even died through such shenanigans? Would the protesting students have felt any remorse?
Would they even have given a merde?
An angry protester today, presumably irked at being plucked from his perch trying to derail a high-speed passenger train, had this grievance to air:
One of them, Kark Stoeckel, the leader of France's main union of high school students, the UNL, said: "They did not need to arrest us — we were very calm. By using the police like this they are legitimizing the radicalization of the movement."
I hope the courts give you two years in prison, Kark Stoeckel. Very calmly, of course.
For a nation that constantly chides America for not being compassionate enough, the citoyens of la belle France seem to have very little regard for innocent human life... even their own parents and grandparents. When those 15,000 seniors died because the electricity failed -- all the operators were away during the national month-long holiday -- most of the revelers refused to return home even to bury their dead relatives. They assumed l'Etat (the State) would handle it... they themselves were too busy partying.
L'Etat c'est vous, mes amis. If Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Yves-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.
Two Walls That Pass In the Night
"Atrocious Analogies" is the new topic of the day, mostly sparked by Captain Ed's otherwise excellent post George Will: Ich Bin Ein Ost-Berliner? -- both the atrocious analogy he accuses George Will of making, and the atrocious analogy that Ed himself makes!
Cap'n's "analogy" has been raised by a number of people opposed to the Senate J-Com's immigration plan and supportive of a "wall" (or fence) along the American southern border to keep out illegals, and that makes it worth discussing.
Ed's post is actually good; I especially like this point, noting the need for much stronger border control:
No illegal will enter a program that costs him significant fines and back taxes when all he has to do is stay quiet and keep crossing the border in both directions as he sees fit. As for learning English, that would certainly be a novel approach; we don't even make our legal immigrants do that any more, as evidenced by ballots in a plethora of languages and government-sponsored translators at all level of public services. [Emphasis added]
As you know -- or should, if you've been reading -- I too support such a wall, and for the same reasons Ed does (and George Will does, too); so my objection to Captain Ed's analogy is not ideological. It's literary: I think the Captain Ed analogy squashes conversation nearly as badly as does Will's, and both should be tossed in the dustbin of rhetorical history.
All right, all right, I'll tell you what they are. You demanding readers take all the mystery out of blogposts!
George Will makes his conservative case for the moderate approach to immigration reform, giving enough room for hard-line enforcement while arguing for eventual absorption of the illegals already inside the US. However, he starts out with an almost unforgivable analogy that will have border-enforcement readers seeing red before they ever get to the rest of his arguments:
America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.
That is, of course, the allegedly atrocious analogy that George Will made. Actually, it's not really atrocious: it is merely unfortunate. It wrongly invokes the image of a prison-country like the Soviet Union (and its satellite, East Germany), which repugnant image blinds otherwise rational folks like Captain Ed to the point Will is really trying to make... which is simply that such brutal force is what you need to prevent a large number of people from passing a wall -- it makes no difference which direction.
I'm no great admirer of Will; I think he's the most overrated supposed "thinker" of the supposed "conservative" persuasion. And this is one reason why: he is so enamored of the sound of his own typing that he really doesn't spend much time thinking at all.
My own dam analogy is much better: building a wall to stop immigration without also building a gate through the wall for the decent, law-abiding, and hard-working is like building a dam across a river -- without building a spillway for the water.
The lake you create will rise and rise, until eventually it will overtop the dam (a word I just learned recently in the brouhaha about the New Orleans levees), causing a horrific cascade over the top that will likely cause a catastrophic breach (a word I already knew). The water must go somewhere; it won't flow back upriver.
In reality, we really are talking about what George Will suggested: machine guns, minefields, razor-wire, helicopters, a huge military force diverted to the border (the Border Patrol cannot handle it, even at ten times its present size)... and a huge number of dead children, women, and men whose only crime was -- they wanted to live in "freedom." And it won't work anyway: there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing won't knock it down.
But wait, ab Hugh (I hear you ask), you said you support the wall. What gives?
I support a wall -- but only as part of a comprehensive solution that also includes three things:
- A guest-worker program to temporarily admit those who just want to work here then migrate back across the border again;
- A clearly defined path to citizenship -- neither arbitrary, nor racially or nationality based -- for those decent, honest, hard-working immigrants who want to live the American ideal;
- Some mechanism to regularize those immigrants among the 12 million illegals who actually want to become citizens and at least register and regulate the rest, who only want to be guest workers.
(Note that I am now clearly separating 1 from 2.)
Once we have a door that the deserving can open, I have no objection to using Blackhawks and Predators on the felons still climbing through the windows.
I have an analogy for you, I hear you suggest: how about the walls separating Gaza and he West Bank from Israel? Aren't you in favor of those, too? Isn't that the real analogy?
Funny you should mention that. Here is what Captain Ed wrote:
Israel's border with the West Bank and Gaza provide a much clearer analogy. First and foremost, it's built to keep people out, not create a nation of prisoners. It also provides deterrence from illegal crossings, forcing Palestinians towards well-manned checkpoints where security reaches maximum efficiency. The idea is not to kill Palestinian crossers, but to keep them from trying to enter Israel illegally at all. And, by the way, it works; it has been the single most important tool the Israelis had in ending the intifadas. (And by the way, it's hard to argue that Israel isn't a developed nation, that the Palestinian territories aren't a Third World area, or that their border is less significant to Israel's national defense than our southern border.)
But it's easy to argue the one terrible flaw that spoils everything about this analogy: there are no hordes of decent, law-abiding, and hard-working Palestinians desperate to emmigrate to Israel. There is only one group of people trying to breach that wall: terrorists who want to butcher Jews by the thousands, if they only could, and drive them into the sea.
They let through a small number of day-workers, who must leave again at night. And that's pretty much it.
Israel protects its wall with soldiers, machine guns, and minefields... and it's perfectly proper to do so, since the only people likely to get killed are illegal combatants, terrorists, and mass murderers. There is no million people trying to knock down the Israeli "security fence;" there is a small group of a few hundred, and they're all people who deserve to die. (Yes, every human life has value; but sometimes, that "value" is a negative number.)
And that makes all the difference. A wall across our southern border may well work; I'm in favor of trying. But only under the circumstances I mentioned above. And in any event, there is no valid analogy at all with the wall that Israel built (is building), because they need only keep out bad guys -- while we need not only to do that but also to channel the hundreds of thousands of good guys. We need a dam with a spillway; Israel only needs a seawall.
There is one more atrocious analogy that I must highlight; again, it comes from Captain Ed's post -- and I really do like the post, if only the Captain (and George Will) would take better thought on their analogizing:
The rest of Will's column fares better, although I disagree with his emphasis on what will be an amnesty program in practice, if not in name.
A while back (I mean about twenty-five years ago) I read an article about "swinger" parties, which I must confess I know about only at second-hand, alas. Those are gatherings where a number of adults come to, well, copulate with each other in various permutations. The only money collected is whatever is necessary to buy the chips and soda (or whatever they drink at such places); the participants at the one in question were all middle-aged, middle-income folks who just liked sex a lot.
A politician was demanding that the city of Los Angeles ban such parties (in the city that contains Hollywood? fat chance!) And in the course of his argument to the LA City Council, he found occasion to declare that --
It's exactly like prostitution, except no money changes hands!
(I don't have the clipping in front of me, but the words are seared, seared in my brain. Along with another one that I'll reveal at the end.)
Captain, Captain... "amnesty" means a general pardon; and a "pardon" means to exempt from penalty, to let an offense pass without punishment.
It is impossible by definition for a program that fines lawbreakers to be an "amnesty" -- neither in name nor practice.
Folks can argue that the fines aren't stiff enough, or maybe that there should be prison time in some cases; but if punishment is meted out at all -- and a $2,000 fine is pretty stiff for such poor people -- then it ain't amnesty! (Even if the business pays it, then the business is being fined for the crime of hiring illegals.)
So let's either stuff the analogies back in the sack, or at least spend some time to come up with new ones that better fit the circumstances. These hoary, old cliches are bursting at the seams. Let's take the high road and win one for the Gipper, give it the old college try and put our thinking caps on. All's well that ends well!
(Oh, I almost forgot: back in 1984, I was at a conference on George Orwell at the Los Angeles World Science Fiction Convention. During the discussion of Orwell's chastisement of various leftist pamphleteers for their inelegant use of language, one anguished audience member leapt up and declared, "they're literally raping the language! They're literally raping the language!" Then he sat down again. Friend Lee and I were the only two spectators to burst out laughing.)
Democrats: Real Security Plan part Deux
We continue our thoughtful analysis, using our finely developed sense of serious, of the Democrats' trail-blazing PowerPoint show, titled Real Security... which they evidently intend to be the Contrat Avec l'America upon which they will base their entire November campaign.
The previous installation -- called Democrats: Real Security Plan I, oddly enough -- skipped the Overview and ridiculed... I should say examined the first two categories, 21st Century Military and War On Terror. This post takes a look at the last three.
Real Security: the Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World
Having swiftly solved all foreign policy problems (with the exception of Iraq; see below), the Democrats turn their rapier-like intelligence upon domestic security... which appears to include gasoline. But first, the Department of Homeland Security:
Here is where the Democrats intend to go to town, showing that the "colossal mismanagement" of the Bush administration, to quote Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Margaritaville), has actually made us less secure than before 9/11.
To Protect America from Terrorism and Natural Disasters, we will:
Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.
Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America’s nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.
I'm a bit at a loss what they mean here. One can only assume that since the president has gone "A.W.O.L.," to quote the omnipresent party Chairman Howard Dean, the lousy Republicans have let a few containers, originating in odd places around the world, float right past them without being opened and searched. Clearly, 100% success the only standard by which the GOP can be measured, which they could easily reach if they only tried. It's so simple: you just go right in there ("there" meaning "everywhere") and search them.
Unlike the lackadaisical GOP, when Democrats are in charge, they guarantee they will easily obtain permission to search all ports in enemy countries, such as Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, la belle France, Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Tibet (oh wait, Tibet doesn't have any ports; but they might have an airport), looking for cargo containers bound for the United States, so they can open them. Bold, indeed!
Prevent outsourcing of critical components of our national security infrastructure -- such as ports, airports and mass transit -- to foreign interests that put America at risk.
It's not easy to move entire ports to foreign countries, and they don't do it very often. Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see a party step up and declare that the Port of Long Beach will positively not be moved to Abu Dhabi, no matter what the Republicans think. Also, Newark and Dallas-Fort Worth airports will stay right where they are, unless the latter can be persuaded to shift to a nearby blue state.
I actually wouldn't mind if we gave Amtrak to la belle France, though.
Provide firefighters, emergency medical workers, police officers, and other workers on the front lines with the training, staffing, equipment, and cutting-edge technology they need.
This training will personally be delivered by the Democratic caucus, with individual senators and representatives signing up to teach such techniques as use of the water cannon on high-rise structure fires, disaster triage, and baton employment for fun and profit. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has already called "dibs" on teaching the "swarm" technique, which he learned pushing through the scrum of porcine congressmen who unwisely stood between Chuck Schumer and a microphone.
Protect America from biological terrorism and pandemics, including the Avian flu, by investing in the public health infrastructure and training public health workers.
It is a little known but widely recognized fact that building a Harry Reid Memorial Spa and Casino at a local hospital will prevent viruses from mutating into human-transmittable form. "We killed the Patriot Act!" to quote Sen. Reid.
This is the biggie that we've all been waiting for, of course. The Democrats having staked out the "Iraq is in a civil war!" side of the debate, we're anxious to read how they intend to put a stop to it, and to the terrorist violence, and to the "sectarian" violence that has plagued that place for decades.
To Honor the Sacrifice of Our Troops, we will:
Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.
...To "over the horizon" positions in responsible Tahiti and Belize, to quote Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).
Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency; promote regional diplomacy; and strongly encourage our allies and other nations to play a constructive role.
In an environmentally friendly effort to save paper, it appears the thrifty Democrats simply lifted this portion of their plan from the desk of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice... sort of a collegial, communitarian, "help thyself" attitude that I think we would all find refreshing on Capitol Hill. The Democrats' new slogan: "Only be sure always to call it please 'research'."
Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.
Er -- surely the Democrats couldn't possibly mean in this passage that they will hold President Bush responsible via the United States Constitution, Article II, section 4... could they?
If so, this is pretty big news, and I confidently expect a public announcement of their intentions forthwith from Honest Hank.
We already gave you a taste of this last section in our last post; surely you remember how it begins:
To Free America from Dependence on Foreign Oil, we will:
Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.
Remember, you heard it here first, and you never heard it all from those darned Republicans, who are deeply in hock not only to Halliburton, but also to KB&R and every other subsidiary of Halliburton: the Democrats' plan for independence from Middle-East oil is to eliminate reliance on oil from the Middle East.
One cannot envision a clearer statement than that.
Increase production of alternate fuels from America’s heartland including bio-fuels, geothermal, clean coal, fuel cells, solar and wind; promote hybrid and flex fuel vehicle technology and manufacturing; enhance energy efficiency and conservation incentives.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman, please dust your desk for fingerprints. The Democrats are once again saving entire forests of paper! Though they seem to have lost the Post-It note about building more nuclear power plants -- the only proven-effective, long-term method of generating power without contributing any carbon to the atmosphere.
Given their concern about global warming, I'm sure the Democrats would be wildly in favor of shifting nearly all our electricity generation to nuclear fission plants... one wouldn't imagine they would be hypocrites, would one?
The environment is very important to Democrats, even in the context of Real Security... hence the inclusion of all this energy jazz in what is supposed to be a paper on national security. "Ultimately, part of the solution for the environmental crisis may well lie in our ability to achieve a better balance between the sexes, leavening the dominant male perspective with a healthier respect for female ways of experiencing the world," to quote former Democratic presidential nominee Albert J. Gore.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean emphatically agrees: "I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church over the bike path." It's a credit to their sincerity that they should be so concerned about saving paper by lifting so many plans and concepts from the Bush administration.
The next section of the Democrats' comprehensive plan for Real Security of the United States -- oh, wait; there are no more sections.
That's all, folks. In tribute to Messrs. Gore and Dean, please turn off your computers after reading the rest of Big Lizards. We won't mind.
Date ►►► March 29, 2006
Democrats: Real Security Plan I
I have waited and waited, with breathless breath, for the Democrats finally to release their long promised "plan" for governance (would it have been too much to expect a Five Year Plan?) I know many of you have been gnawing your fingernails to the white meat, fretting over what stunning surprises they had in store.
Well, wait, fret, and gnaw no longer: Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Even though there is a lot less here than meets the eye, it still takes a bit of writing to translate the "comprehensive plan for providing the American people with real security" into a comprehensive plan for providing the American people with real security.
But I'll do what I can to explicate the grand Contrat Avec l'America that will form the centerpiece of the Democratic congressional campaign strategy in seven months. Bear with me, please; throw no pies at the messenger. Watch your hat and coat.
Real Security: the Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World
Quoted passages are of course quotations from the Democrats' Real Security plan; but I had to retype them by hand, as the text itself is not selectable. Of course, I could have just downloaded the PDF file and copied out of there, but I didn't think of that until just now, when I'd already finished. So if you find a tyop, just ignore it. You know what I mean anyway.
You're not interested. Trust me. You can read it for yourself; and if you do, you'll discover you're not interested in this section. I know what I'm talking about.
Let's jump right to the meat.
To Ensure Unparalleled Military Strength and Honor Our Troops, we will:
Rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary.
For all those who were under the silly impression that Democrats couldn't bore right down and get specific -- eat your hearts out. It's hard to envision a more complete and fully fleshed-out program than this. Stunning in its specificity, it is also incisive to the point of brutality in enumerating the huge gap between the Democratic position and "the failed policies of President Bush and the Republican-led Congress," to quote Howard Dean.
In the great Democratic traditions of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and fully in line with the strong, pro-military rhetoric of Democratic nominees Albert J. Gore and John F. Kerry, the current Democratic plan is to make "the needed investments in equipment and manpower," so that we shall finally have a "state-of-the-art military."
Who could ask for more explication than that?
No longer need we languish behind such technological marvels of military excellence as Canada, Germany, Egypt, and la belle France. At last, we shall be able to hold our heads up among the armies of the world.
Guarantee that our troops have the protective gear, equipment, and training they need and are never sent to war without accurate intelligence and a strategy for success.
No longer will our troops be sent into battle naked except for loincloths, carrying spears and slings, and having received only a scant three days' intense training on the playground monkey bars. Unlike "the same misleading rhetoric and failed leadership offered by Republicans," to quote Howard Dean, when Democrats are in charge of Congress, they will mandate that troops be given diplomatic credentials, video cameras, and spend at least a couple of days on the range practicing their non-violent negotiating skills.
Unlike the Republican leadership -- which is "dangerously incompetent," to quote Howard Dean -- the Democrats pledge never to send troops to Iraq and tell them it's Cancun; and Majority Leaders Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will personally conduct orientation talks before troops depart, explaining to them the Democratic strategy for success: step onto the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport, declare victory, and go home.
Enact a G.I. Bill of Rights for the 21st Century that guarantees our troops -- active, reserve, and retired -- our veterans, and their families receive the pay, health care, mental health services, and other benefits they have earned and deserve.
Strengthen the National Guard, in partnership with the nation's Governors, to ensure it is fully manned, equipped and available to meet missions at home and abroad.
Heh, I'll bet you didn't know that, due to the Republicans' "continued failure to take the steps necessary to protect the safety and security of our communities," to quote Howard Dean, our military haven't been paid for the last six months. The only way they have survived is by winning money from each other in poker games.
But the Democrats are going to change all that. Under the future Democratic Congress, our soldiers will finally receive the "mental health services" they so urgently need to determine why they keep voting for Republicans, such as the "miserable failure" in the White House, to quote Howard Dean. And Harry Reid.
And you probably thought the National Guard was fully manned. The more fool you. Plenty of people have finished their service in the Guard and retired, let me tell you.
But that's coming to an end as soon as the Dynamic Duo, Reid and Pelosi, are in power: starting in January, 2007, the Democratic Congress will enact legislation to make military and guard service permanent, and nobody will be allowed to retire until she is ready for Social Security. In order to ensure an adequate supply of volunteers, they will swiftly enact the proposal of the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), and reinstate the military draft.
To Defeat Terrorists and Stop the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will:
Eliminate Osama bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan, and end the threat posed by the Taliban.
Well, that takes care of that!
If you demand to know actual operational details of the Osama plan -- and isn't that just what Republicans always object to when Democrats demand to know exactly when our troops will leave Iraq and exactly where and when the next raid on Zarqawi will take place? -- the Democrats will explain and clarify: they'll "just go right in there and get him," to quote Phil Donohue.
Double the size of our special forces, increase our human intelligence capabilities, and ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure.
Now who can argue with that?
- Since the bottleneck in increasing special forces is finding the right men for the job and training them up, the wily Democrats have a plan to cut through all the red tape: they will "double the size of our special forces" by cutting the standards in half.
- They will "increase our human intelligence capabilities" by adding la Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure de la belle France to the Department of Homeland Security, and by subscribing to Le Monde.
- And they'll "ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure" by replacing the contents of questionable (pro-war) conclusions of the CIA or other agencies with "there was no terrorism in Iraq before we went there. None. There was no connection with al-Qaida. There was no connection with terrorism in Iraq itself," to quote Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).
Having taken care of the shadowy intelligence and clandestine aspects of the war, the Democrats MoveOn to the root causes of terrorism itself:
Eliminate terrorist breeding grounds by combatting the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive...
Not, you understand, by implementing democracy; that is part of the "failed policies of the past," to quote Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace). Whoops, my mistake; Minority Leader. Getting ahead of ourselves there.
Rather, the Democrats pledge to take a far more effective step; they will:
[L]ead international efforts to uphold and defend human rights; and renew longstanding alliances that have advanced our national security objectives.
Such as our alliance with la belle France.
Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorists could use to build nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.
Translation: all nuclear power plants will be shut down and their fuel transferred to international control at the Hague (piled into one big container, one presumes).
Redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.
As Democratic efforts consist of stern warnings and financial incentives, one must presume that redoubling such efforts means financial incentives will be twice as big.
Next post: we shall finish examining this "bold vision for a safer America," to quote Howard Dean, tackling the Democratic Real Security plans for Homeland Security, Iraq, and Energy Independence -- the last of which includes a brilliant plan that seems never to have occurred to the Republicans, who have instead presided over a "culture of corruption," to quote Howard Dean (and Minority Leader Reid, Minority Leader Pelosi, Sens. Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller, and approximately 40 other senators and 201 other representatives).
A quick tease of the Democrats bold, new plan for Energy Independence:
Achieve energy independence for America by 2020 by eliminating reliance on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions of the world.
Tune in later today, same Bat time, same Batblog.
Iraeli Election Dissection
With the deflation of Kadima just before the election, leaving them with barely two-thirds of the seats they expected to win, the game of Musical Parties begins in earnest... it's time to change partners!
Ehud Olmert, Kadima's chairman, gets first crack at forming a coalition; but he cannot do so entirely with leftist partners. He's going to have to team up either with right-wingers or with a politics-neutral party like the Pensioners party or one of the ultra-orthodox parties... the ones so religious that all you have to do is offer to shut down all the Tel Aviv theaters on Friday nights and they'll vote with you.
Here is the likely breakdown, according to Associated Press. There are 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset:
|Kadima (center)||29 - 32|
|Labor (center-left)||20 - 22|
|Israeli Beitenu (right)||12 - 14|
|Likud (right)||11 - 12|
|Shas (ultra-orthodox)||10 - 12|
|National Union NRP (right)||8 - 9|
|Pensioners (neutral)||6 - 8|
|Arab parties (left)||6 - 7|
|Torah Judaism (ultra-orthodox)||5 - 6|
As you see, Kadima plus Labor -- the two largest parties -- only gets the coalition to a maximum of 54 seats, possibly as few as 49, but likely around 51 - 52. Since a minimum of 61 is needed for a majority in the Knesset, this pairing would have to pick up an additional 10 seats or so... which is not easy, considering how many of the parties lean right.
In fact, if you add up all the right-wing and ultra-orthodox parties, they control between 46 and 53 seats (the ultra-orthodox typically prefer lining up with Likud, although they'll go with Labor if that's the only path to power). Contrariwise, if you add up all the leftist parties, you only get between 31 and 34 seats. Either could rule alongside the big center party, Kadima -- which was (briefly) Ariel Sharon's party until his stroke; but neither coalition could rule without Kadima.
(There is the mathematical possibility, if Olmert is unable to form a coalition, that the leftist and rightist parties could ally, leaving Kadima out in the cold. There is also the possibility that I am Marie of Romania.)
But a coalition of Kadima, Likud, and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu (literally "Israel, our home") would yield up between 52 and 58 seats, meaning they could rule if they could bring in any one of the right-wing or ultra-orthodox parties, or the Pensioners party. They have more options than trying to put together a center-left coaltion with Kadima, Labor, and Meretz (only 57 seats under the maximum projection), plus an ultra-orthodox party or the Pensioners, who just want big retirement pensions, so either side could lure them easy.
Alas, there is a lot of bad blood between Likud and Kadima: when Sharon left the Likud to form Kadima, he took about two-thirds of Likud's membership. And there is also the problem of the pullout from Gaza and the West Bank... Gaza is a done deal, and not even Likud would advocate going back in; but Likud is much more adamant against giving up "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank) than they were about the Gaza Strip, which is more Egyptian than Israeli.
In reality, Likud is very likely to collapse entirely, ceasing to exist as a political party. Right now, they have 38 seats; to drop to 12 is devastating, and many conservative Israelis don't believe the party will survive. And while I would never say never -- it's Israel, after all -- I would have to predict that Benjamin Netanyahu's career is probably kaput.
So if Likud collapses, the members are going to have to go somewhere; they don't just disappear. They may join up with the biggest right-wing party, Israel Beitenu. I don't know if there is any bad blood between them. IB is a pretty young party; maybe it hasn't been around long enough to make enemies. But it's also almost exclusively a Russian-immigrant party; they would have to change pretty drastically to accept a whole passel of Likudniks.
But if they did merge, that would give the combined party 23 to 26 seats, easily making them the opposition party.
This is going to be very interesting. I believe I heard on the Michael Medved show that it's likely that Kadima will be the weakest plurality party in Israeli history, with only 31 seats or so. (No Israeli political party has ever had an actual majority in the Knesset all by itself, as for example Labour does in the UK parliament.) I will watch the attempt to form a government with great interest.
Remember, the more parties you need to make a ruling coalition, the more likely that one or more will bolt, causing the government to collapse. Don't be surprised if there's another election in just a few months -- another chance for the center-right and right-wing parties to get their act together, accept the pullout, and do much better.
Or alternatively, if I'm totally wrong, and the pullout proves to be a disaster -- well, then it's another chance for the center-right and right-wing parties to say "I told you so" and get everyone to vote for their anti-pullout platform.
Either way, they can hardly fail to improve over this showing!
Date ►►► March 28, 2006
The French Correction
Sparked by a proposal to overturn the French law that forbids employers from firing new employees during their first two years of employment, over a million French youths decided to hold a riot in Paris. See ¡No Pasarán! for some great pictures (and hat tip to Power Line.)
The stagnant French economy has created an unemployment rate over 10 percent. Among French youths, it is an ominous 22 percent. (And among French Arab youths, it's more like a staggering 50%+ -- which may explain why the Arab-French youths started mugging the French-French youths when they rioted in the wrong neighborhoods.)
The reason is simple: since it's almost impossible to lay off workers, employers simply don't hire any. Instead, they adjust the work hours of existing employees to accomodate the uneven work load.
It's not that the French govenment has done nothing, of course:
Apparently just to show that there was no shortage of silly ideas, the government then reduced the number of hours in the French workweek. The government planners were certain this would spark hiring. It didn’t.
But even when the government accidentally stumbles onto a reasonable, commonsense idea -- something that might actually "spark hiring," like the current proposal -- unreasonable French youths throw a temper tentrum. And how do "reasonable" French adults respond? By calling a general strike, of course! From the AP article:
The nationwide strike - the first time that unions had ordered walkouts in solidarity with students spearheading the protests - slowed train, plane, subway and bus services to a fraction of their normal levels.
How can a country's economy grow when its "students" (and "workers") expect to be paid just for rioting and striking? This is the same France that allowed 15,000 of its seniors to roast to death in a mere 90 degree "heat wave," because the skeleton crews left behind during the French vacation season -- August -- could not provide enough electricity to meet the demand of air conditioners. And not one, single French official had to cut his stomach.
Yet they are so quick to criticize Americans for... well, for everything. According to a French columnist at Le Monde, Lorent Zecchini, our "failure" in Iraq is due to our failure to follow the French multi-culti "soldier's creed" of compassionate warmongering.
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
Nah. If they had... then they might have won!
Border Control, Immigration Law Reform, Assimilation
This post is brief, almost a "stub," as Wikipedia likes to call its one-paragraph discussions of larger topics. The three legs of the immigration stool are:
- Improved border control;
- Rational reform of the entire system of immigration law, from who gets in, to who can work, to who can stay.
- A much larger focus on assimilation, which must be made mandatory for permanent residency and citizenship.
Ideas include a real wall, a "virtual wall," a high-tech biometric-imprinted ID card, more Border Patrol agents.
Rational Reform of Immigration Law
A defined and well-understood path to residency and citizenship: if you do the following good things (hold a job, learn English, invest in America through buying a house, say), and if you refrain from doing the following bad things (commit a crime, go bankrupt, receive welfare, whatever), then you will receive a Green Card after the appropriate length of time; and you will eventually become a citizen.
No more guessing, hoping and praying, hiring lawyers, or pleading with congressmen; a clear, defined path that is the same for everyone.
One very big change requires a constitutional amendment: I think we should change the birthright citizenship clause so that a person is only an American by birth if he is born in the United States to a mother who is legally resident... either a Green-Card holder or at least a legally resident alien. If Mom sneaks across the border and gives birth, the child is not automatically a citizen of the United States.
One huge advantage of immigrating to America is that we do not require you to give up your ethnic or religious identity in order to become an American. Anybody here know an Italian-American? How about a Mexican-American, Japanese-American, or Arab-American? Tens of millions of each, and we as a country are richer for the wonderful cultural elements we gain from them.
But unlike the Borg, we do not require immigrants to jettison their unique backgrounds to be Americans... only those elements that are antithetical to what America stands for (anti-American elements such as sharia, reconquista, or slavery).
We require them to accept, or at least tolerate, the core beliefs of America: liberty, democracy, responsibility, duty, capitalism, and equal justice.
Immigrants used to assimilate almost universally; most still do today. They become Americans in total, and with a whole heart. But we must formally require this before we extend citizenship or even permanent residency. There are various ways to do so, too numerous to go into in this stub.
And that's it; that would solve the problem, I believe. And that is as clean as I can put it. But the stool needs all three legs, or it topples over.
The Strolling Dead
The American military is now flatly asserting that Sadr-linked Shiite leaders in Iraq moved the bodies and staged the scene to falsely accuse Americans of committing a massacre in the Mustafa "mosque." (This presumably would include gruesomely handcuffing some of the bodies post-mortem, to make it look like execution rather than combat, though the article doesn't get into that level of detail.)
U.S. commanders in Iraq on Monday accused powerful Shi'ite groups of moving the corpses of gunmen killed in battle to encourage accusations that U.S.-led troops massacred unarmed worshippers in a mosque.
"After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There's been huge misinformation," Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said.
He rejected the accusations of a massacre that prompted the Shi'ite-led government to demand U.S. forces cede control of security but declined to spell out which group he believed moved the bodies.
Well, Big Lizards has no such reticence. All one need do is look at who is screaming the loudest -- and who has the most to gain. "Cui bono?" as the Romans asked: who benefits?
Actually, while LG. Chiarelli wouldn't point a finger (likely because he knows that's beyond his pay grade), he rather roundly hinted:
Chiarelli stood by the U.S. account, disputed by Sadr aides and other Shi'ite leaders but which is broadly in line with police reports and some local witnesses who spoke of a fierce gun battle around the site....
Though he declined to be drawn on the possible involvement of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, whose political leaders have led condemnation of the raid, Chiarelli said: "I think the backlash has been caused by the folks who set the scene up."
That is, 'the folks who set the scene up are the Sadrites causing the backlash.' Another way to phrase that last sentence is, 'the Sadrites causing the backlash are the folks who set the scene up.' So I think -- like the immortal Barry Goldwater -- in Chiarelli's heart, he knows Big Lizards is right!
Nowadays, we routinely videotape most engagements (many soldiers have helmet cams), so I suspect we can easily prove our case. The only question is -- will Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari -- the "cui" who most obviously "bonos" -- allow us to?
John HInderaker was kind enough to link our last post, Ins and Outs of Immigration, in his most recent piece on Power Line (my favorite blog, not even excepting Big Lizards). In that post, John professes perplexity about the best course of action relating both to the currently resident illegal immigrants and also those trying to come here legally in the future.
Perplexity is almost the only possible response... primarily because we're talking about so many people: literally millions and millions.
The best approach is to have a lodestone, a principle to which one sticks until and unless it's proven false. Trying to put together a technocratic, patchwork "solution" is doomed to failure, because that technique only works when the technocrats actually have a handle on the situation (it works for redesigning the New Orleans levees, for example: do this and that, fix this over here, and Bob's got a good idea about overtopping problems in the future).
John brings up a very important point, one that leads directly to my own personal lodestone. He writes:
The remaining issues are not so clear, however: what do we do about the 11 million or so illegal aliens who are already here, and what impact would shutting off the flow of labor from Mexico have on our economy? President Bush's guest worker proposal is, of course, intended to address those problems. I'm not sure whether the administration's proposal is the right one, in part because I've become convinced that the flow of illegal immigrants has depressed wages for unskilled labor.
John is exactly correct about this; and that is precisely why we need to continue such immigration, albeit with more regularization, because we want the wages of unskilled labor to be depressed. We pay too much for it. We pay more than it is worth in a free market.
Note: this is not a "response" to John, because he didn't argue any particular side here; this post is a riff off of the Power Line post, the hares started in my own mind by John beating the bushes.
Analogies are often very useful to limn the larger principles behind a specific instance. In this case, the most natural analogy is to the flood of cheap Japanese cars that really began in the 1970s. Big Iron complained that such cars would "artificially" depress the value of their own cars; the "big three" (Chrysler, Ford, GM) demanded that the federal government clamp down on such imports, restricting the flow of cheap cars here in order to protect the jobs of American autoworkers, then among the highest-paid industrial workers in the world.
And the Ford and Carter administrations obliged to some extent; some barriers were erected -- and the Japanese figured out ways to sneak around them. For example, they opened up Toyota and Nissan (then sold under the name Datsun) plants in the United States, which assembled parts manufactured in Japan. This confused the legal issue of whether the cars were domestic or imported. Detroit demanded ever more draconian regulations, including a rule that would define an automobile as an "import" if it were made by a company owned by foreigners, no matter where it was made -- or who the factory employed. The United Auto Workers joined wholeheartedly in this protectionism.
But in the end, it was a King Canute situation. There was nothing we could do to completely protect the American auto industry without crippling the rest of our economy. The effect was immediate and severe: the qualtity of cars soared and consumer choice expanded. Decades of automotive monopoly -- rather, "triopoly" -- had papered over huge and growing problems of legacy pensions, overemployment, a total lack of innovation, utter complacency, and -- it was the Carter years, recall -- corporate malaise.
Cars today cost a lot more than cars did in, say, 1972, even taking inflation into account. Much of that is overregulation by federal, state, and local agencies; but the rest reflects the tremendous improvements in quality. Even so, I'm pretty sure that the number of cars per 1,000 people is higher today than in the 1970s.
The fight was between protectionism and capitalism, and it turned into a rout. What was "artificial" in the 1970s was not the impact of the Japanese cars; it was the cozy cocoon the Big Three had created for themselves.
Back to immigration. Almost certainly, any form of regularization of what are now illegal aliens will result in higher wages for industries traditionally manned by illegals, including farm labor and hotel workers: a captive workforce is willing to accept less money because they have no choice.
That means some products will cost more. Those prices are artificially depressed right now. On the other hand, other cost factors will decrease: legal immigrants making somewhat more money will be able to afford health insurance, for example, and will not utilize hospital emergency rooms as doctor's offices. They will also begin "migrating" (sorry!) to other types of jobs than picking fruit and cleaning hotels, because they will legally be allowed to do so... and this will actually lower labor costs in manufacturing (unskilled and semiskilled) and the service industries, as John suggested.
But that's good, not bad, for society. Lower wages allow companies in those industries to hire more workers at the same cost, increasing competitiveness. People who currently work at unskilled or semiskilled jobs in "protected" industries will see a real drop in their income. So it goes; that's how capitalism works. Most of them have the option to improve their skills and earn more money.
The worst thing is for the invisible hand of the free market to be tripped up by the "invisible foot" of government (Milton Friedman's term). To artificially interdict the free flow of capital, labor, and products leads to economic disaster -- as Europe has long since exemplified.
Draconian immigration laws do exactly that: they create artificial labor scarcity, raising wages beyond what the employees are really worth. Laws that criminalize employment (by criminalizing "presence") function exactly as minimum wage laws; they are anticompetitive and anti-capitalist.
I am a capitalist; not only do I "admit" it -- I revel in it. My hero is Danny DeVito's "Larry Garfield" in the wonderful movie Other People's Money, a much better role model than the absurd caricature "Gordon Gekko" in Oliver Stone's paean to socialism, Wall Street. And that is my lodestone, my Polaris, in the great immigration debate.
There are only two factors to consider: national security and capitalism. Both are equally important.
Ins and Outs of Immigration
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill out of committee, sending it to the floor. Of course, under the arcane and byzantine rules of the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has the option either to send the committee's bill to the floor -- or his own bill, which differs wildly.
I hope he will not take that option, since it would enrage not only all the Democrats but enough of the Republicans that it would likely go down in flames, making Frist a laughingstock. (I don't dislike the guy enough to do that to my party.)
Another possibility is that Frist would move neither bill, first seeking agreement among the Republican caucus to a changed version of the J-Com bill that would include some of the harsher border-protection language of Frist's. In either case, whatever bill ends up going to the floor will first be amended; and then it must be reconciled with the bill from the House of Reps... and the differences between the House and Senate on immigration are just as stark as those between Frist's bill and the committee bill.
I should reveal my biases right up front (since I'm not a member of the Antique Media and never will be): I am both pro-immigration and also pro-border control. I have written about this many times before (for example, here and here). I truly and actually believe in the American ideal; but my ideological creed must be tempered by the forge of reality: we obviously cannot simply open the borders and let a firehose of immigration spray across. I try to keep at least two of my feet on the ground.
But those who insist we can just "seal the borders" and "deport all the illegals" are making the same ethereal, other-worldly mistake. It is not physically possible to round 'em up and ship 'em out; there are twelve million illegals here right now, for heaven's sake. Any immigration reform plan must come to grips with this 800-lb gorilla.
As odd as I feel saying it, the McCain-Kennedy bill is the only one to come out of either body that tries to find a solution to that King Kong of dilemmas, what to do with the 12,000,000. I don't particularly like Sen. John McCain (R-Gadfly) and I despise Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Margaritaville). But their bill at least makes an attempt to resolve that problem.
And strangely, it's also the closest to the bill President Bush proposed. At least the J-Com bill includes a guest-worker program with a path to citizenship -- and that is another huge point in its favor, since at the moment, there is no defined path to citizenship... and that is nine-tenths of the problem: since we don't make any provision to let even the most deserving come in the front door (it's entirely random -- when it isn't being race-based), those desperate for freedom come squirming in through the window.
What do you expect? Even the most decent people will take desperate measures to feed their families and let their children grow up in freedom, not tyranny.
According to the Times, the J-Com bill includes the following provisions:
- Double the Border Patrol;
- Make deportation of illegals easier;
- Criminalize the building of tunnels across the border;
- According to AP, it would "authorize a 'virtual wall' of unmanned vehicles, cameras and sensors to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border;"
- Associated Press again: it would "shelter humanitarian organizations from prosecution if they provide non-emergency assistance to illegal residents;"
- Creates a temporary worker program, a la Bush's proposal;
- Creates a path to citizenship: after six years fairly continuous employment in the temporary worker program, the immigrant can apply for permanent residency (what used to be called a "green card"). After five years here with a green card, they could apply to become American citizens;
- Anybody currently residing here illegally could (it appears) apply to become a temporary worker, as above. He would first have to pay all back taxes, pay a civil fine for having entered illegally, pass a criminal background check, learn English, and so forth. He would not get a green card for six years, just like the temporary workers; and he would have to line up for citizenship behind those who entered here legally at the same time he snuck across the border.
Naturally, the anti-immigration crowd immediately dubbed that final provision as "amnesty." In fact, they dub anything short of lining up all the immigrants and mowing them down as "amnesty." The Times:
Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said the Judiciary panel "let the American people down by passing out a blanket amnesty bill."
This is legislative DaDa-ism. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 simply offered instant green cards to every illegal living here since 1982. That is what a "blanket amnesty bill" looks like... and it looks nothing like this one. "Wolf! Wolf!"
Of course, if the nativists would condescend to join the debate -- with some suggestion more helpful and workable than mass internments, razor wire, a minefield, machine-gun emplacements, and half the Army stationed along each border -- they might actually be able to influence the provisions of the eventual bill.
For example, the current version does not require those living here illegally to return to their countries of origin before applying to become a temporary worker; perhaps it should. It would certainly make it clear that they weren't getting any kind of "amnesty."
Also, perhaps that "virtual wall" could be a real wall stretching at least part of the way across the border. But we still need the ability to separate those whose only crime is entering illegally -- but who would enter legally if we didn't make it so nearly impossible, and who would work responsibily to support themselves and their famlilies -- from those who are criminals in every sense of the word, coming here to commit robberies and murders, smuggle drugs, or blow up buildings. There are comparatively few of the latter, but they hide among the teeming masses of the former.
With a mechanism to legally admit those who just want to come here to work, the "wall" only needs to keep out the much smaller number of actual thugs and terrorists. But if we insist upon a wall to keep everybody out, it's doomed to failure: there is no wall so strong that it can't be knocked down by the hands of a million people pushing.
If we let the otherwise honest immigrants enter through the door during business hours, they can undergo criminal background checks, be fingerprinted and biometricized, and we can keep better track of them. And when honest folks can come in through the door in daylight, then the cops have greater license to use force against anyone trying to enter by night through a window.
So I'm bucking the trend here: I think this bill is a reasonable beginning; but it needs work. It's a little too immigration-friendly, but to call it "blanket amnesty" is both ludicrous and counterproductive. Better to amend the worst parts and expand the best, and actually get something workable.
The alternative is a complete Republican collapse, which will make it more likely that the next Congress will include Majority Leader Reid and Squeaker of the House Pelosi, and Judiciary Committees chaired by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)... and just wait and see what the heck kind of a bill you get out of that lineup.
Date ►►► March 27, 2006
Who Is Policing the Police? We Are.
The New York Times published an amazingly balanced and informative article Friday on our effort to train-up the Iraqi police to the same professional standard that we've trained the Iraqi Army.
Well, "balanced" is a relative term; we are still dealing with the Antique Media, after all. The Times begins by noting the cases where things aren't going well, such as with Firas Sabri Ali, who is admittedly being detained by the Iraqi police (under the Interior Ministry) as "collateral" for his brother, the one the police really want.
"I hope they catch him, because then I'll be released," said Mr. Ali, 38, a soft-spoken man who until his arrest worked for a British security company to support his wife and three sons. "They said, 'You must wait.' I told them: 'There's no law. This is injustice.' "
But with that pro-forma shot out of the way -- I believe such anti-Iraq-democracy anecdotes are formally required by the Sacred Canons of Journalistic Bona-Fides -- the article settles down and shows that American forces actually take seriously such questions of justice and integrity:
Such is the challenge facing the American military as it tries to train the Iraqi security forces to respect the rule of law. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder....
The Americans are pushing the Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces to ask judges for arrest warrants, restrain their use of force and ensure detainees' rights.
Couple this policy with the campaign against Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia and the political pressure we're bringing to bear on the Shia-dominated Iraq government, and it is very clear that the focus of our attention has shifted from the pre-governmental phase of Iraq's development -- where foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi and home-grown insurgents setting off bombs and other terrorist attacks were the chief threat -- to the post-governmental phase, where the most urgent problem is to ensure that the government itself is sustainable as a democratic, representative, just, and inclusive institution.
Much of the problem is due to a simple shortage of judges and facilities. After decades of rule by Saddam Hussein -- and decades more by the Baath Party before that -- there are very few people with actual judicial experience who are not tainted by torture and corruption.
Camp Justice [a makeshift court and police base in northern Baghdad] was never meant to hold prisoners for more than a few weeks. Iraqi law says prisoners to be tried are to be transferred to a Justice Ministry penitentiary after interrogation. But the ministry has been unable to build enough jails to keep pace with arrests. It has 10 centers across Iraq, which hold 7,500 detainees, and an additional 7 are expected to be built, a ministry spokesman said.
So the detainee population at temporary police prisons like the one here, separate from those of the Justice Ministry, has ballooned to more than 10,000 in Baghdad alone, spread across a shadowy network of about 10 centers, an Interior Ministry official said.
But some cases, such as Ali above, are clear cases of abuse themselves.
"The tradition in this country of a law enforcement agency that had absolute power over people, we've got to break them of that," said Maj. Andrew Creel, the departing joint operations officer here. "I think it'll take years. You can't change a cultural mind-set overnight."
But we are making progress. Police recruits at the Public Order Forces acadeny now receive twenty hours of training in respecting the human rights of detainees, two and a half times what they used to get. And we have replaced a number of police and police commanders at units where we have discovered brutality or abuse of prisoners... for example, we replaced the commanders of the Second Public Order Brigade and of the notorious Third Brigade based in Salman Pak.
Col. Gordon Davis Jr., the head of Camp Justice's departing advisory team, praised the Iraqi commander here, Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, for showing a willingness to embrace human rights....
"I won't say he's gone 180, but he's realized that the best way of getting information is not to beat or abuse detainees," Colonel Davis said as he stood in the operations room, the walls plastered with maps of Baghdad.
"The current generation has been brought up with a certain code and a certain tolerance for abuse," he said in another interview. "They've got to be constantly worked on."
That, alas, is the lasting legacy of Saddam: the Shia are like adults who were abused as children; like them, they imprint the normalcy of abuse and fear -- and inflict them upon others when they have the power. It's very hard to break that cycle, but it must be done if Iraq as a democratic nation is going to endure and serve as a model for others in the Middle East to copy.
The increased attention is paying off in results. In the fall of 2005, American troops made the decision to move in and live with with the Iraqi police units, rather than living separately and simply coming by to inspect once in a while. Now the rate of abuse is much lower, and the Iraqis are more receptive to what we are teaching them about restraint, justice, and rights.
Colonel Davis says the warrant policy has had some effect. Because of it, and because the Iraqis are improving their intelligence gathering, the Public Order Forces no longer round up hundreds of people on each raid, he said. On a typical operation, he added, they may take in a dozen.
After being brought here, the detainees are fingerprinted and have their retinas scanned. A photograph is taken, partly to record their condition at the time of arrest. The Americans have asked the Iraqis to deliver a daily report accounting for all detainees held throughout the division; one recent printout listed 896.
Our strategy is two pronged: on the one hand, we train-up the Iraqi police forces just as we trained up the Iraq Army; and we are seeing the beginnings of the same improvement in professionalism.
On the other hand, we have begun a military campaign against the militias and tribal chiefs who continually try to infiltrate the police and turn them into private armies. Between the two, the Iraq experiment will likely succeed better than nearly anybody today is willing to predict.
Iraq Army, Coalition Begin Mahdi Militia Campaign
The country's Shiite political leadership on Monday angrily denounced an American-backed military raid on a Shiite compound that left at least 16 people dead, as political leaders suspended talks over the formation of a new government....
In a statement on Monday about the raid, the American command did not vary much from its original public account Sunday night. It maintained that Iraqi and American troops had raided "multiple structures" but not a mosque, as Shiite leaders have contended, and that troops received fire from "several buildings near the target area." The troops killed 16 insurgents, wounded three, detained 18 other people, discovered a weapons stockpile and released a dental technician who had been taken hostage, the statement said.
But Iraqi government officials and political leaders vociferously disputed the American command's version of events, insisting that Iraqi and American troops had raided the Mustafa mosque, in the Ur neighborhood, as worshippers gathered for evening prayer.
We have highlighted the new information since yesterday: that we and the Iraqi Army discovered a weapons "stockpile" and that we detained eighteen people from the raid. Naturally, Iraqi Shiite officials dispute our version; but they cannot even keep their own stories straight:
But even among Iraqi government and political officials, there were significant differences in their accounts of Sunday's events. Some said the death toll was higher than 20, though there appeared to be consensus that the majority of the victims were members of the Iraq Branch of the Islamic Dawa Party who were meeting at the time of the raid in a party office attached to the mosque.
Khudair al-Khuzaie, the spokesman for the Iraq Branch of the Islamic Dawa Party, said he knew of 16 victims, all of whom were killed in the party's office, which is accessible through a doorway from the mosque's courtyard. Of the victims, he said, 13 were party members and three were civilians visiting the office. None of those 16 victims were [sic] in the mosque to pray, he added. [Note that this actually verifies the U.S. version, as do the statements of residents who witnessed the firefight. -- the Mgt.]
[Haydar al-Abadi, a top advisor to Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari] said that at least 17 people died, and that there was no armed resistance to the raid. "The executions took place in cold blood," he said.
[Yet witnesses who live in that neighborhood described a furious gun battle that went on for more than an hour, and we recovered a "stockpile" of weapons. -- the Mgt.]
In the hours after the attack, an official in the office of Moktada al-Sadr, the renegade and anti-American Shiite cleric, claimed that members of his Mahdi Army were among the victims. But on Monday, another Sadr representative said no Mahdi Army fighters died in the raid....
At a funeral procession today for victims of the clash, the mood was tense and members of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, kept their weapons on prominent display.
The quote from Abadi raises an interesting point. So far, we have heard denunciations of this raid from Abadi, the "top advisor" for Ibrahim al-Jaafari; Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, hand-picked by Jaafari for the position; and Jawad al-Maliki, an "ally" of Jaafari. Jaafari was put into power partly through the support of Muqtada Sadr (which is one reason so many Sunni and Kurish Iraqis oppose his candidacy for prime minister); Sadr has also denounced the raid -- which appears to have been directed against his Mahdi Militia, who controlled that "mosque."
It's actually in dispute whether it was truly a mosque or just an unofficial gathering place for the Mahdi Militia. From Reuters:
One source of confusion over the site may be that the mosque in question, close to Sadr's Sadr City stronghold in northeast Baghdad, was not a traditional religious building but a compound of former Baath party offices converted by Sadr followers.
Do we detecta pattern here? So far, the only "officials" who have been quoted denouncing this raid as a massacre with Americans "entering the Mustafa Shiite mosque and killing worshippers" have been politicians closely connected with Muqtada Sadr -- who controlled the armed compound and whose militia was the target of the raid.
American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside.
Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight.
This battle has long been coming. The tempo of events makes very clear that there has been a long-expected shift in the Coalition and Iraqi Army strategy:
- In mid-March, we reported that "the Iraqi Army's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraq Army Division has just taken over security in Sadr City." Sadr City is Muqtada Sadr's stomping ground, named for the renegade cleric's far more respected (and respectable) father.
- On March 23rd, we posted about an incident in which U.S. forces prevented Sadr's Mahdi militamen from rescuing Shiite pilgrams who were attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists. Instead, the Iraq Army pursued the attackers:
The United States is pointedly preventing Muqtada Sadr from positioning himself as the savior of the Shia. A senior Shiite cleric, Hazem al-Aaraji, said on the Iraqiya television network that militiamen from the Mahdi Army had been dispatched to save the pilgrims, but that American forces had stopped them.
- And now, an Iraqi Special Forces unit, with American advisors, has actually raided a "prayer room" controlled by the Mahdi Militia, directly confronting Sadr and his forces for the first time in more than a year.
The conclusion is unmistakable: we have decided that the capacity of foreign Sunni terrorists under Musab Zarqawi to affect the destiny of Iraq has been more or less neutralized; they can still kill people, as they did today, but they are powerless to prevent Iraq from becoming a democratic nation.
Instead, we now conclude that the Shiite militias are the graver danger: they threaten to undermine the legitmacy of the nascent government itself, particularly because of the likely connivance of Transitional Prime Minister al-Jaafari in the increasing murders committed by the Mahdi Militia and the Badr Brigades, the other major Shiite militia.
If indeed the forces of Muqtada Sadr and Ibrahim al-Jaafari are behind much of the "sectarian" violence (which looks more and more like political violence), as most now believe, then it's hardly surprising that Sadr and various allies of Jaafari are the loudest and shrillest voices condemning this raid as a "massacre" of innocent Moslems at prayer in a "mosque"... and playing down the Iraqi Army, who actually conducted it, in favor of blaming the Americans.
We have always believed that Muqtada Sadr is more dangerous to Iraq's future than Zarqawi; Sadr must be stopped... which probably means that he must eventually be killed. He will never give up his ambition to become Caliph of Mesopotamia or his ties to Iran, and both are challenges we cannot ignore. However, Sadr is still a popular figure among poor Shia. Killing him or destroying his mitila will not be well received by many Shiite Iraqis, who see him as a crusading hero.
Usually not-so-anti-America Al-Iraqiya TV is already putting a spin on the story. Zeyad explains.
Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes.
Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."
"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.
"Oh, okay I'll film them."
Naturally, even the more moderate Shiia politicians are demanding full investigation; the raid caused a great deal of turmoil, and it must be fully explained to the Iraqi people.
President Talabani said at a news conference that Gen. George W. Casey Jr. agreed to the formation of the joint investigative committee. "I will personally supervise, and we will learn who was responsible," the president said. "Those who are behind this attack must be brought to justice and punished."
While this may sound ominous, like he had already made up his mind that the raid was unlawful, a fuller quotation from the Reuters article is more heartening:
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has been hosting the negotiations said: "We have to know the truth about what happened, and we must not be driven by rumours. This is a very dangerous incident which we must investigate."
Omar, a Sunni who blogs at Iraq The Model, wonders what the real motivation is for this investigation/inquisition:
Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 40 beheaded or strangles [Sunni] bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more...
The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.
Actually, it is already too late to pressure the Iraqi Army and the Coalition into easing attacks on the Mahdi Milita and the Badr Brigades. The strategy is set and we are implementing it with increasing operational tempo. I doubt we and the Iraq Army will quit until both paramilitary death squads are thoroughly suppressed.
Bill Roggio has a detailed account of the incident.
AP's Mainscream Media Bias
Although this AP story is ostensibly about Iraq, we didn't bother using the "Iraq Matters" category tag because -- well, because the real story here is the creative use of the media megaphone to create the news, rather than merely report it (that's so dull!)
What AP Knows That Ain't So
Let's start with the headline:
"Uh oh," thinks the reader, "did the terrorists blow up another mosque?" A quick read of the first paragraph, however, makes it clear that AP is lumping together terrorist or vigilante murders and American and Iraqi Army killing of enemy combatants:
Police found 30 more victims of the sectarian slaughter ravaging Iraq - most of them beheaded - dumped on a village road north of Baghdad on Sunday. At least 16 other Iraqis were killed in a U.S.-backed raid in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital.
The next two paragraphs subtlely use a hoary, old propaganda technique. Can you spot it?
Accounts of the raid varied. Aides to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi police both said it took place at a mosque, with police claiming 22 bystanders died and al-Sadr's aides saying 18 innocent men were killed.
The Americans said Iraqi special forces backed by U.S. troops killed 16 "insurgents" in a raid on a community meeting hall after gunmen opened fire on approaching troops.
What is wrong with this picture? Take a second look at the second paragraph:
You noticed that too, eh? The Associated Press felt no qualms about allowing various Iraqis of dubious provenance to accuse American soldiers of brutally murdering 22 bystanders and 18 innocent men (a later graf makes it clear that is what Sadr's supporters allege we did); and AP didn't put scare quotes around those two descriptors. But they felt an overpowering urge to put little, curly doubt-indicators around the American military's description of those same dead guys as "insurgents."
Finally, they say both in the headline and in the body of the story that there were "at least 69 people" slain:
A total of at least 69 people were reported killed Sunday in one of the bloodiest days in weeks. Most of the dead appeared to be victims the shadowy Sunni-Shiite score-settling that has torn at the fabric of Iraq since Feb. 22 when a Shiite shrine was blown apart in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
But when you add up the incidents described in the story, you only get 46.
They sneak in another twelve in this graphic, "11 handcuffed and shot bodies" in Baquba and a Basra teenager "killed by a bomb while walking to school."
But that still only brings the total up to 58. Who were the missing eleven corpses?
I assume there really were 69; but without knowing anything at all about them, we have no clue what to think about their deaths. Were they like the 30 people beheaded? Or were they more like the sixteen enemy combatants the Iraqi Special Forces killed in Baqouba? AP doesn't see fit to tell us.
Strike three; yer outa there!
But it's not just a few mistakes and contradictions here and there in the AP story; there is a pattern of obfuscation that is quite disturbing.
What AP Doesn't Know That It Doesn't Know
Looking at the same story over on Reuters, much that was opaque in the AP story becomes clearer.
Accounts of the raid varied. Aides to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi police both said it took place at a mosque, with police claiming 22 bystanders died and al-Sadr's aides saying 18 innocent men were killed.
They never name the mosque, nor do they discuss its affilliation. But Reuters had no trouble ferreting out this information. They also managed to find eyewitness accounts other than those of the supposed victims:
Residents in the Shaab district of northeastern Baghdad said they saw and heard heavy clashes between U.S. troops and gunmen they believed were from the Mehdi Army, close to the Sadr-linked Mustafa mosque. U.S. helicopters were overhead they said.
Police sources said they understood that U.S. troops had raided an area around the mosque and got into a gun battle with the Mehdi Army that left about 20 militiamen dead.
Sadr aides said troops killed unarmed people: "The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers," Araji said. "They tied them up and shot them."
Does it make a difference whether the Mustafa mosque was "[Muqtada] Sadr-linked?" Of course it does; Sadr's militia, al-Mahdi, stands accused not only of carrying out a wave of killings against Sunni Iraqis in Baghdad and in the South, but of acting on the orders of Iran. And Transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari himself owes his current candidacy for permanent prime minister to Muqtada Sadr as well.
This completely changes how readers will view the reported fact that Jaafari was very angry about this raid. Jaafari and the mosque are both connected to Sadr; so it's hardly surprising that Jaafari is livid.
Sadr has been fighting American forces ever since he led an uprising in Spring of 2004, timed to coincide with al-Qaeda's assault upon Coalition forces in Fallujah. Knowing all that clearly makes it more likely that the Sadrites at Mustafa mosque really did open fire... making the subsequent raid by the Iraqi Army much more understandable, and the American version of events considerably more plausible.
But AP doesn't think think you need to know that.
By the way, in case you're wondering whether any Americans were killed or wounded in the fireright -- AP either couldn't be bothered to find out or does not care to tell you. The New York Times had no difficulty reading the statement released by the Pentagon:
The release also said no American soldiers had been hurt in the raid, and one prisoner being held by the gunman had been freed.
How exactly did it all start? Could this shed some light on what actually happened? Here is AP's account of the raid:
The Americans said Iraqi special forces backed by U.S. troops killed 16 "insurgents" in a raid on a community meeting hall after gunmen opened fire on approaching troops....
[Shiite legislator and party spokesman Khudayer] Al-Khuzai claimed that after coming under attack, U.S. forces raided the party office, "tortured" the men, dragged them out and "executed" them. He said it was not clear who attacked the U.S. troops.
This account makes it sound like we just stumbled into the raid by accident, blundering about because we had no idea who had shot at us.
The Times has a different story:
On Sunday night, American and Iraqi Army forces surrounded a mosque in northeast Baghdad used by Mr. Sadr's troops as a headquarters, Iraqi officials said. Helicopters buzzed overhead as a fleet of heavily armed Humvees sealed off the exits, witnesses said, and when [Iraqi Army] soldiers tried to enter the mosque, shooting erupted, and a heavy-caliber gun battle raged for the next hour.
This version makes it tremendously less likely that we went after the wrong target... particularly when the men inside the mosque began shooting first.
In point after point, the Associated Press version is incomplete, riddled with contradictions, and aggressively anti-American (and by extension, anti-Iraq Army) when compared to either the Reuters or the New York Times version. Either this is by intent, by accident, or some mixture of the two.
Why It Matters Whether AP Knows Anything At All
When the Antique Media play games with the news for political purposes, they think they're being subtle and clever. In fact, they're being obvious and boorish, and that is actual malice. When they rush to press without bothering to discover critical pieces of information, they're dangerously incompetent; that's reckless disregard for the truth.
Virtually every problem facing America today is either caused or at least exacerbated by the madness of the mainstream media:
- Everybody knows the economy is in a shambles (despite strong GDP growth, low interest rates, strong job growth, and record home ownership) because that's what they see in the media.
- Everyone knows that the Democrats are going to sweep into control of the House and Senate because that's what the media keep saying.
- Everyone knows that Bush "lied about WMD" and "lied about Saddam being behind 9/11" because the media talking heads look straight in the camera and say so.
- And of course, everyone knows that Iraq is in a civil war, is spiraliing out of control, and is a catastrophic defeat for America because -- heck, do we ever hear anything else from the exempt media?
It's time for the American people to really come to grips with the terrible information crisis we have: our major source of understanding virtually everything is an industry that no longer cares about getting it right -- if they ever did.
Date ►►► March 26, 2006
Christian Conversion Case Dismissed - Rahman to Be Released
The death-penalty case against Abdul Rahman -- for daring to reject Islam -- has been dismissed because of "problems" in the prosecution's case. While the district attorney "investigates," Rahman is to be freed.
An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, officials said....
An official closely involved with the case told The Associated Press that it had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Rahman would be released.
We sure hope somebody has the good sense to whisk Rahman out of the country to somewhere safer... like Iraq. (And while we're on the subject, how does "a lack of evidence" cause a man to convert from Islam to Christianity? Well, let it go.)
On Friday, Big Lizards noted that what was needed here was a little Talmudic reasoning: everyone in the ummah knows that Islam is self evident, and only a madman could reject it; since it is impermissible to put a madman to death for his madness, therefore no apostate can be put to death.
That is how a Jewish Talmudic scholar would reason his way out of a policy that puts his religion at odds with the real world.
So what reasoning did the court use to dismiss the case?
"The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case," the official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter....
Abdul Wakil Omeri, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed that the case had been dismissed because of "problems with the prosecutors' evidence."
He said several family members of Rahman have testified that he has mental problems.
Heck, we just knew Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would find a way to pull a rabbi out of a hat!
Date ►►► March 25, 2006
Media's Defensive War
President Bush is finally on offense again. He has realized that not only we are at war against global terrorism, but we are also at war against the anti-war, anti-American Antique Media, which -- whether subconsciously or with deliberation -- takes the side of our enemies.
As President Bush's offensive strengthens, the media's defensive strikes become increasingly hysterical. The MSM knows that their domination of American opinion is in trouble. When Gayle Taylor complained that no major media was interested in showing the DVD full of "good news" that her Army journalist husband Kent had collected during his year in Iraq, the President of the United States openly suggested that she turn to bloggers.
Wthin 48 hours, several popular bloggers were reporting the story, including Power Line. The result: CNN's Anderson Cooper and MSNBC's Chris Matthews swiftly invited the Taylors onto their respective shows, Anderson Cooper 360 and Hardball (to see video of the latter, go here and click "Railing on Reporters" in the column headed VIDEO: LATEST FROM 'HARDBALL'). The media moguls who had ignored Kent Taylor for months, both while he was in Iraq and when he returned to the States, were finally shamed by bloggers into actually listening.
But this challenge against the monopoly news was just one incident of a series of events, for the most part sparked by a radio talkshow host Laura Ingrahm's appearance on the Today show. Tim Graham explains in his column for National Review:
NBC’s question: "Is American getting a fair picture of what’s actually happening in Iraq?" Ingraham came out of the blocks with fire, doing something no conservative does who wants to be invited on TV ever again. She went straight at her hosts:
The Today Show spends all this money to send people to the Olympics, which is great, it was great programming. All this money for "Where In The World Is Matt Lauer?" Bring The Today Show to Iraq. Bring The Today Show to Tal Afar. Do the show from the 4th ID at Camp Victory and then when you talk to those soldiers on the ground, when you go out with the Iraqi military, when you talk to the villagers, when you see the children, then I want [challenge] NBC to report on only the IEDs, only the killings, only the reprisals....
[T]he interview caused a wave of reaction. Bill O’Reilly gave Ingraham another chance to push her message. Hugh Hewitt faced off with liberal reporters on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. On NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell did a defensive story....[where] George Packer and David Gergen to state the usual cynical media response: the White House is lashing out in desperation over its awful war and its awful polls.
In addition to the Andrea Mitchell story, several more defensive stories appeared on different networks:
NBC’s Richard Engel did a story discounting the "myths and misperceptions" that he only files stories from the balcony on insurgent successes and underlining all the daily dangers to journalists in Baghdad.... Engel proclaimed, "I think the security problem is the overall story," and insisted "most Iraqis I speak to…[think] the situation on the ground is actually worse than the images we project on television."
But Engel admitted in January, 2005 that he never reported the time a U.S. soldier risked his life to defend the reporter, one of the few times Engel ventured beyond the pale:
When Richard Engel himself traveled outside Baghdad to Mosul in January of 2005, he was protected by a soldier there. At one point, shooting broke out, and he frankly admitted his reporting was incomplete when he recalled his experience: "[The soldier] actually stepped right in front of me protecting me with his body and started to return fire at the insurgents. And I just remember thinking that this is one of the small acts of heroism, I think you can say, that I so rarely get a chance to see and even less frequently report about."
TIME Magazine’s Iraqi bureau Chief Michael Ware appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and declared that they don't report good news because it's too dangerous for journalists to go out of doors.
[Ware] called the situation in Iraq, like “watching a slow trainwreck” then goes on to tell Maher how [he] is drinking now and that he’s drunk at the moment. He bashes Bush, says there is no good news coming from Iraq because in order to even go report he has to dodge getting blown up. Maher jumps in and compares the current status in Iraq to the [My] Lai Massacre in Vietnam. The [My] Lai Massacre was when [American] troops were ordered [by Lt. William Calley] to kill innocent people in a village.
Which is an odd attitude, considering how many independent journalists have done just that. (The audio is here.)
Kent Taylor said on Hardball that one of his responsibilities in Iraq was to arrange escorts for reporters. He made many such arrangements to make sure that reporters would get accurate stories. Laura Ingrahm said the same thing on her radio show, that she was free to go anywhere she requested. Escorting reporters to some parts of Iraq is sometimes dangerous; but our military is willing to accomodate, because they want us to see the good work they are doing out there.
We have seen the evidence reported by Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, Laura Ingrahm and other independent journalists.
Michael Ware bends the truth to the breaking point when he proclaims on Real Time that he doesn't report good news out of Iraq beause there is none, and that Iraq is nothing but a "prison." He was in Tal Afar (protected by the U.S. Army) both before and after the American-Iraq offensive; he has seen the transformation with his own eyes... but he prefers to believe his pals in the media that it's a disaster, a catastrophe, and will be the ruination of Bush and the reviled Republicans.
Yet the sad part is that, as it stands right now, the real winners of Bush's war are his enemies, al-Qaeda and the Axis of Evil member Iran.
The media's defensive war against Bush, Republicans, and America this week only proves that they are not on our side. They haven't been on our side since the Tet Offensive of 1968. The elite media want to see America defeated -- and Bush humbled.
Indeed, it's hard not to conclude that they think the first is a small price to pay for the second.
More DeLay DeLights
News flash: according to Bob Novak, tarred and feathered lobbyist Jack Abramoff is not only not implicating Tom DeLay (R-TX), he's actually going out of his way to let folks know that he's got nothing on the Texan:
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has advised friends that he has no derogatory information about former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and is not implicating him as part of his plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
Now, Novak could of course be wrong; he's been wrong before. Or Novak could be technically accurate, in that he could be correctly quoting Abramoff (second hand); yet Abramoff could be spoofing his friends and still be singing like a canary about all the supposed misdeeds of Tom DeLay.
But I've always been skeptical about the suggestion -- rampant in the blogosphere on both Left and Right -- that Tom DeLay was going to be brought down by some huge revelation of corruption from Jack Abramoff. From the very beginning, I have thought the "connection" was based upon nothing deeper than the gleeful belief among liberals (and the secret fear among conservatives) that DeLay was really guilty of all the stuff obsessed Inspector Javert Ronnie Earle alleged -- and therefore DeLay is a Kriminal -- and Jack Abramoff was a Kriminal -- so they must have been Kriminally Konspiring with each other... it only stands to reason!
Shame (as always) on the Left for smearing a man for no reason other than pique that he broke up their little Texas gerrymander that gave Democrats a majority of congressmen -- even though the state was overwhelmingly Republican. And shame too on the Right for being such cowards and poltroons that they rushed to join the smear campaign, hoping to be spared attacks on themselves.
Evidence may still emerge that DeLay is somehow involved with Jack Abramoff's payola machine. But we've been awful long on accusations and mighty short on evidence for months now. If truth means anything to Republicans, I think it's time to start sticking up for Tom DeLay's right to be considered innocent until proven guilty... not just in the courtroom but in our hearts as well.
Date ►►► March 24, 2006
Abdul Rahman: the Killer Cost of Conversion
The question of what the United States should do -- and even what it actually is doing, since none of us actually knows -- about the potential death sentence against Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, for the "crime" of converting to Christianity sixteen years ago, is not as easy as we might wish it were.
Let's start with a basic distinction that is typically lost, even when the president or members of his cabinet speak: we never did attempt to "nation build" in Afghanistan the way we did in Iraq. Rather, we deposed the Taliban, encouraged Hamid Karzai to run for president, and that was about it.
It was hardly a democratic election, in the sense of a campaign with strong, competitive candidates from different parties. Karzai became the Chairman of the Transitional Administration about a month after we booted out the Taliban; the Loya Jirga appointed him Interim President in June, 2002; and in the 2004 elections, Karzai crushed his 22 "opponents," winning 21 of the 34 provinces, despite worries that he had no support outside the capital, Kabul. Karzai is to Afghanistan as George Washington was to the United States of America, or as Ho Chi Minh was to Vietnam (how's that for a comparison?)
There is a reason we did not expend anywhere near the effort to "democratize" Afghanistan as we have in Iraq: Afghanistan is such a primative, tribal country that it's highly unlikely democrazy will ever be anything but a tribal electoral college. Karzai is sort of an honorary member of nearly all the tribes in Afghanistan and the only person perceived as being simultaneously a quintessential Afghan -- yet so outside the normal tribal politics that he won't throw his weight behind any one tribe over the others. He's "safe," probably the only man in Afghanistan who makes the tribal chiefs feel secure.
Afghanistan is not a democracy in the sense that Iraq is now, nor the sense of an Indonesia, a Philippines, or a Turkey. Likely it never will be... or at least not in the forseeable future. The Pashtun -- the tribe from whose ranks the Taliban mostly come -- are still the most powerful tribe in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Pashtun control many areas (the tribe, not the Taliban, which was a popular group within the tribe).
If we were to withdraw from Afghanistan, Karzai would simply turn to other countries: Russia almost certainly, but perhaps also India (as Pakistan's mortal enemy; Kabul and Islamabad don't work or play well together). That would hurt us far more than Karzai or Afghanistan... and Karzi knows it. Thus, he knows that any such threat is just hot air on our part, and he will not be impressed.
Therefore, there simply is nothing we can do to force Afghanistan not to execute Abdul Rahman... other than trying to take over the entire country and hold it -- just as the Russians tried -- or else a "rescue" (kidnapping), which would amount to the same thing in the end. We won in 2001 because we explicitly did not try to do that; instead, we concentrated on booting out the Taliban and handing the country over to Hamid Karzai. We consulted, aided, funded, and rebuilt; we kibbitzed, and out of respect and gratitude, Afghans more or less listened to us.
And it was a miraculous success: the Taliban are gone; al-Qaeda fled to Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, and other places, fragmenting and falling into backbiting and infighting; and Afghanistan has not returned to its terrorist ways... so far. But we just don't have the same hold over Afghanistan that we do over Iraq, where most folks are desperate for us to stay, if only to protect them from each other.
We cannot force them not to execute Rahman; but we can probably persuade them... provided we do so quietly, backchannel, sotto voce, and in a way that nobody loses his face. And that, I hope, is what Bush is doing right now. As the Washington Post notes, the groundwork is already being laid for a face-saving way out:
Diplomats from several countries said yesterday that Rahman, 41, now seems unlikely to be tried or executed. Prosecutors in Kabul said he might be mentally unfit to stand trial, a sign that the government may be seeking to avoid confronting its Western allies without giving ground on Islamic law, under which conversion to another religion is punishable by death.
Strident demands that Bush "confront" the Afghans, threaten them, or even send Special Ops in to extract Rahman are very counterproductive in the long run. It's a sad fact, but we may have to turn our backs on the individual (whether Christian or Moslem shouldn't make a difference) in order to maintain an al-Qaeda-free zone in Afghanistan. Just as "we go to war with the Army we have, " as Donald Rumsfeld explained, we also must pick carefully the wars we go to at all.
There is only one valid reason for the United States to go to war: to protect the security of the United States or our allies (by extension, since alliances keep us safer than isolation). Every call to military action -- and a threat is a call to action in potentia, with identical moral value -- must be judged against this standard: will such action or such a threat make us safer or less safe?
If Rahman is executed, Bush should call a press conference to report the tragedy (so it won't look like he's trying to hide anything), but then make the point that we are not trying to turn Afghanistan into a democracy the way we are in Iraq. He can express disappointment and even anger in the decision... but he should still note that, brutal as it may be, neither the Taliban nor al-Qaeda control Afghanistan anymore, and that is what we set out to do. We have not invested in democracy in Afghanistan; our national honor is not at stake here.
Iraq is another question: Bush's strategy is to plant democracy in the heart of the Middle East... not Southern Asia.
There may simply be nothing we can do -- officially. Let's leave the president to quiet, whispered conversation with Hamid Karzai and hope that "something" can be worked out. I think that is the best course for America in the long run.
Demanding Bush make public threats would be "unhelpful," both for America and even Rahman himself.
A Second Look At That "Second Look" At Same-Sex Marriage
Pew -- and everybody to the left of John McCain -- is waving the lavender shirt over the new Pew Research poll purportedly showing that opposition to "gay marriage" (they mean same-sex marriage) is crumbling. Interestingly, the real agenda was made apparent by Pew Research's director in an unguarded moment:
The public backlash over gay marriage has receded since a controversial decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 to legalize those marriages stirred strong opposition, says a poll released Wednesday.
Gay marriage remains a divisive issue, with 51 percent opposing it, the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. But almost two-thirds, 63 percent, opposed gay marriage in February 2004."Most Americans still oppose gay marriage, but the levels of opposition are down and the number of strong opponents are down," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "This has some implications for the midterm elections if this trend is maintained. There are gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states."
But what actually crumbles, the closer one looks at the survey itself, is the claim of crumbling.
First, the normal caveats:
- The poll is of adults, not even registered voters, let alone likely voters. It's almost useless for predicting the fate of "gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states," and it has no "implications for the midterm elections."
- As usual, the poll oversamples Democrats, giving them a 6-point advantage over Republicans (34 to 28). See page 29 of the PDF, which also gives the historical data on this question. You'll note that every single sample in the last year queried more Democrats than Republicans... though this month is especially bad (twice the usual gap).
Refer to a previous post that retails my analogy of the Mystery of the Misadded Restaurant Checks: when a score of polls all manage to oversample Democrats and skimp on Republicans, when compared to the turnout actually found in national elections, then mathematically, it's very, very hard to argue this is due to sheer, perverse chance.
There is some mechanism in effect here that produces sample after sample with more Democrats and fewer Republicans than there ought to be. The mechanism need not be deliberate; but the refusal to find and fix the problem -- alternatively, the refusal to weight for party affilliation -- most certainly is deliberate; it's a conscious decision to accept numbers the pollsters know are skewed to the left, rather than take steps to get accurate numbers.
What's sad is that Pew is one of the better pollsters.
But leave that aside; we'll go to politics with the polls we have, to paraphrase Secretary Rumsfeld. Here are the historical results on the "gay marriage" question:
So let's try to figure this out. Notice that from October 2003 through December 2004, public disapproval of same-sex marriage is very high, with a negative spread of about 30 points. But prior to and subsequent to this period, the gap is much lower, more along the lines of -15 points. What could have caused that abrupt jump?
(The numbers for 2001 and 1996 are too old and out of context to enter into this discussion; we would need to see poll numbers for several months around the given data, to see whether that is normal or anomalous for that year.)
Consider this: the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003) that the commonwealth was required to recognize and allow same-sex marriage, regardless of what the people wanted. This ruling was released in November, 2003; but it was one of the most widely anticipated rulings of the year in the entire country, not just Massachusetts. Certainly by October of that year, everyone was talking about the case and how it would be decided.
In other words, when people's attention focused on same-sex marriage -- due to the MA ruling, to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's pell-mell issuing of illegal marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to the subsequent electoral battles in many states to ban the practice -- public opposition to same-sex marriage skyrocketed.
When the issue faded from public view, the opposition dropped back down to the normal range.
Somehow, we have to explain this change. First, consider this reasoning from Pew, filtered through Fox News:
The number of people who say they strongly oppose gay marriage has dropped from 42 percent in early 2004 to 28 percent now. Strong opposition has dropped sharply among senior citizens and Republicans.
People are now evenly split on allowing adoptions by gay couples and six in 10 now favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
Legal challenges of laws on gay marriage could result in more court decisions that stir public opinion, but this midterm election year is starting with far less public anxiety about one of the nation's most volatile social issues.
Pew practically begs you to imagine that there was a massive sea-change in religious or moral values between July and October of 2003... and then an equally inexplicable seismic shift in people's moral attitudes, the opposite direction, between December, 2004 and July, 2005. They assume, a priori, that we all just "got used to the idea," or somesuch, as if there were no moral teachings on the subject at all. We were tabula rasa before 2003, then we reacted with shock, then we realized it was perfectly fine for men to marry men and women to marry women. It's obvious!
Occam's Razor suggests a simpler explanation. People's moral beliefs do not switch on a dime; but when confronted with a moral question they haven't thought about in more than a year, many folks reflexively answer the way they know they're "supposed to answer," in a world where tolerance is the only acceptable public moral principle. The issue hasn't been "activated" in their minds, so they just haven't thought it through recently.
It's likely that "strong opposition has dropped sharply" because same-sex marriage is not on the ballot in most states, not because people who oppose it (such as myself) have suddenly become reconciled to it. If I were asked, I would still oppose it; but many people don't think about such issues until they're confronted with the reality of them actually eventuating -- at which point, they rear up and say "No, I don't want that here!"
They may feel alone and isolated; they may not realize many others believe as they do. They may be anxious to please, especially when it makes no real difference (because there is no looming vote). But this phenomenon has been observed many times.
For example, people typically support race-based preferences ("affirmative action") in polls very significantly higher than they do when they actually have to vote -- that is, when it counts. Same with other liberal bromides, such as increasing the minimum wage, supporting policies designed to lower supposed "global warming," and offering immigrants guest-worker privileges: higher poll numbers, lower votes in actual elections.
Some issues, such as abortion, taxes, spending, corruption, and Iraq, are "activated" all the time; people generally respond in polls just the way they later vote (assuming the poll is well designed), because they're always thinking about such issues. You can't get away from thinking about abortion in this society. But other subjects fade from view, then from thought, until the next time it becomes a cause celebre. (Which could happen locally... if, e.g., the issue is on the ballot in your state or local elections.)
In fact, this precise issue, same-sex marriage, shows that pattern: anti "gay marriage" bills generally passed with much larger margins than early polling indicated they would... though the later polls nearly caught up by the time of the election, as people finally focused on the issue. ("The sight of the gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind," Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said in literary legend.) 2004 was exceptional, a "perfect storm" of activation, as event after event conspired for force people to think about same-sex marriage... and public support for it plummeted as a result.
Pew knows this; they simply don't want to admit it... because, I suspect, they still hope they can spook the herd into defeating one of these measures by making the people think there's a groundswell of public support for "gay marriage."
Here will be the proof: some states have anti-same-sex-marriage bills on the ballot this year. Come November, let's see whether any fails -- or indeed, whether they all pass by more than the 12% margin that this current Pew poll shows.
Place your bets!
Date ►►► March 23, 2006
Good News Unsuppressed
Gateway Pundit has a wonderful story about the lady who asked the president what to do with a DVD-full of footage her Army broadcast-journalist husband Kent Taylor collected in Iraq during his tour. (Hat tip to John Hinderaker at Power Line, who asks us to spread the word. So we will.)
Kent and. Gayle Taylor attended a recent townhall meeting where President Bush answered questions from ordinary citizens about Iraq and other topics. Taylor complained about the fact that none of the Antique Media was interested in showing the DVD, which included much footage of successful reconstruction in Iraq. She asked the president how she could share this information with America... and he suggested using blogs!
CNN also took note. Last night, Mrs. Taylor and her husband Kent were on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and able to share some of the DVD (Expose the Left has some of the video). Note that Cooper also had Hugh Hewitt on the show the night before last, and last night he added Michael Yon (along with a returning Hugh) to the mix. It appears that some, at least, in the MSM are starting to realize there really is another side... that it's not just sense vs. nonsense, which has been their position until now.
Kudo to Cooper for picking up the story, even though it took Mrs. Taylor's face to face appeal to the President of the United States to catch Cooper's attention!
Fool Me Once...
Two days in a row, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked police stations in Iraq. Tuesday's attack in Muqdadiyah was a partial success for the terrorists: they killed 18 Iraqi police and four innocent bystanders, while freeing 30 of their own number who were being held in that jail. But the Iraqi security force killed 10 of the terrorists.
One of Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia groups, the Mujahaddin Shura Council, took credit on their website, though there is no independent verification that it was indeed they. However, the governor of Diyala province had the police commander and other officers arrested for suspicion of complicity in the attack, which may well be accurate, considering how corrupt the police have been in the very recent past.
One of the major goals of the current training by American forces is to weed out those Iraqi cops who are either corrupt in the old-fashioned sense of taking bribes to turn their backs (or aid a jailbreak) -- or in the really old-fashioned sense of being pure tribalists, seeing their uniforms as license to attack rival tribes under color of authority.
Unlike Tuesday, however, Wednesday's attack was decidedly unsuccessful. In fact, it was a total disaster for the terrorists.
Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle.
About 60 gunmen attacked the police station in Madain, south of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, said police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi. U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire, he said.
Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit, and five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died, and among the captives was a Syrian.
This time, over 80% (50 out of 60) of the attackers were captured. Under interrogation -- perhaps none too gentle, if we let the Iraqis handle it, as we should -- any one of these fifty may reveal vital, operational intel about the cell that launched the attack and possibly others (including, perhaps, Tuesday's attack), and about Syria's involvement in smuggling jihadis into Iraq.
If the foreigner were Yemeni or Jordanian, he would almost certainly be a renegade; but Syria is the only other country in the world run by the Baath Party, it had close ties to Saddam Hussein, and it has an unavowed but obvious policy of interfering in Iraq. Every Syrian capture is a potential treasure-trove of intelligence.
The New York Times also carried this story; some of their facts differ slightly, though the thrust was the same:
Insurgents laid siege today to the headquarters of a police paramilitary unit near the capital, lobbing a volley of mortars that killed at least one senior officer and injured at least five, Interior Ministry officials said.
The police fought back, killing at least five insurgents, a commander in Baghdad said. By nightfall, the police were holding at least 76 people for questioning.
The predawn attack, on an infamous paramilitary force, unfolded as 14 mortars pummeled the former governorate center in the Sunni Arab-dominated town of Salman Pak, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.
According to Weekly Standard writer Stephen F. Hayes, Salman Pak is where one of the terrorist training camps was located during the era of Saddam Hussein. This claim is the subject of a determined, almost desperate push-back by anti-war writers, who take Saddam's word that the camp was really a counter-terrorist training camp.
They have some allies, including Seymour Hersh -- who was caught red-fingered in 2004, lying in the New Yorker about Maj. Gen. Taguba's report on the Abu Ghraib abuses -- and Scott Ritter, the disgraced former U.N. weapons inspector whose views on Iraq made an abrupt 180-degree turn in 1999, and who then received $400,000 from Hussein-connected Detroit businessman Shakir al Khafaji to produce a documentary defending the Iraqi dictator.
The Iraqi police in Salman Pak, even today, have a deserved reputation for ruthlessness and brutality -- which is both good and bad. In this case, that character may have served them well; but they bear watching. At least, they have already mastered fairly sophisticated investigative techniques; referring to the second attack, the New York Times notes:
The police initially detained 146 people, all Iraqis, and then released 70 after testing them for traces of explosives, said Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, the commander of the 7,700-strong Public Order Forces, which has four brigades operating in Baghdad and the Salman Pak area.
(This may not contradict the AP version, since not all of the 146 people attacked the station; the Times reports that the Third Public Order Brigade in Salman Pak detained only 76 people for explosives residue following the attack, which is not that different from the AP claim that "about 60 gunmen" participated and fifty were detained.)
Al-Qaeda has attacked police stations before. They suffer terrible losses whenever they find themselves up against U.S. troops; but now, at last, the Iraqi police are beginning to catch up to their Iraqi Army counterparts. The police lost one engagement, but they clearly won in the second: the net effect of the two was thirty terrorists freed from jail -- but sixty incapacitated, either by death or capture. A few more "successes" like this, and al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia may be out of business.
In a purely military strategic point of view, the Iraqi police got the upper hand in this two-day exchange. However, the "Tet-lite" propaganda value of the attacks was a big win for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda has demonstrated two things for their eager audience in the press corps:
- The Iraqi police are still distinctly weaker than the Iraqi Army -- not surprising, since "we've only just begun" to train the former.
- The attacks also showed that al-Qaeda is alive and, if not exactly well, at least functional and able to mobilize large number of personnel. We can't pull a Murtha and send our troops on a strategic rearward advance just yet.
The Times, naturally, finds great cause for optimism that the whole operation to train the Iraqi police is collapsing. Referring to the first strike, they opine:
That highly coordinated strike raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the Iraqi police forces, at a time when President Bush and American commanders are touting the growing capabilities of the police.
Others might note that in a war, battles are both lost and won: what the Times and other media should look at is the overall picture. Clearly, the terrorists are not winning, even against the police (let alone the Iraqi Army).
Although al-Qaeda overwhelmed the police station on Tuesday with 200 people, they still evidently needed inside help to pull it off. On Wednesday, without the help from inside, they were crushed. This tells us something else: when the police (with American help) manage to clean out the bad eggs and develop true esprit de corps, as the Iraqi Army has, the police will become a very effective fighting force, even under the Interior Ministry.
Some other events that the Times inadvertently reports, but to which they give insufficient attention:
- The Iraqi police have become very proactive.
This afternoon, insurgents in Baghdad attacked two busloads of Shiite pilgrims in two different parts of the city. In all, at least 2 pilgrims were killed and 46 injured. Policemen rushing to the scenes fought the insurgents, and at least two policemen were killed and four injured.
The Times does not tell us how many "insurgents" (terrorists, of course -- they attacked unarmed pilgrims, for heaven's sake) were killed or captured; that doesn't fit the story.
- The United States is pointedly preventing Muqtada Sadr from positioning himself as the savior of the Shia.
A senior Shiite cleric, Hazem al-Aaraji, said on the Iraqiya television network that militiamen from the Mahdi Army had been dispatched to save the pilgrims, but that American forces had stopped them.
- The only displacement of populations from Iraq comprise a handful of pro-Saddam Palestinians.
The border between Jordan and Iraq remained closed today, as the two governments tried to deal with scores of Palestinian refugees fleeing sectarian violence in Baghdad. The refugees had left Iraq by the busload last weekend, but were stopped by Jordanian border officials, stranding them at the frontier.
Note "scores," not thousands or even hundreds. The Times notes the Palestinians were "favored by Saddam Hussein," which must rank as one of the understatements of the year.
But each of these sidepoints in the Times article indicate not only that there is no "civil war," but also that the entire war is going our way. Donald Rumsfeld's small-footprint strategy, much disdained by the self-styled Jacksonians in the Republican Party, is actually working quite well.
Perhaps we shouldn't throw him under the bus just yet.
Date ►►► March 22, 2006
Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head
In the category of biting off more than one can chew, it appears that al-Qaeda -- specifically, Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia -- appears to want to take its fight directly to Israel by establishing terrorist cells in Gaza, the West Bank, and even Israel proper. I suspect a lot of folks, even in the Arab Middle East, are secretly saying what I will say openly: "Bring it on."
Signs are mounting that Al Qaeda terrorists are setting their sights on Israel and the Palestinian territories as their next jihad battleground.
Israel has indicted two West Bank militants for Al Qaeda membership, Egypt arrested operatives trying to cross into Israel and a Palestinian security official has acknowledged Al Qaeda is "organizing cells and gathering supporters."
Al Qaeda's inroads are still preliminary, but officials fear a doomsday scenario if it takes root.
But "doomsday" for whom? Israel has fought decades of war against Palestinian terrorists, including two "intifadas"... the second of which -- following Arafat's rejection of Ehud Barak's offer to give the Palestinians nearly everything they wanted in exchange for nothing but promises of peace -- involved scores of suicide bombers killing almost a thousand Israelis from 2000-2003... until Israel brought it to a screeching halt by initiating its current policy of building a "security fence" along the borders of Gaza and the West Bank and assassinating top Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Hezbollah, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (Fatah) leaders, planners, and bomb-makers.
There is no country on the planet more experienced in dealing with domestic jihadist terrorism than Israel. Of all countries to attack, Israel seems like the stupidest target for a man never known for blazing intelligence: Musab Zarqawi.
If Zarqawi imagines that al-Qaeda will be welcomed in the Palestinian areas, he is a fool. There are already numerous terrorist groups there (see above), and they certainly will not tolerate yet another one trying to muscle into their territory. Too, al-Qaeda brings international consequences -- that is, the United States and the United Kingdom. I suspect Mahmoud Abbas and even Hamas are frantic not to give the Americans and the Brits casus belli to move into the Palestinian territories, which they worry is just what a strong presence of al-Qaeda would do.
Oddly, al-Qaeda has never had a strong base in the Middle East; despite being founded by a Saudi and an Egyptian, it was headquartered at its founding in Afghanistan (Central Asia), then moved to Sudan (North Africa), then back in Afghanistan under the Taliban. The strongest al-Qaeda base in the Middle East is probably Egypt, likely because co-founder Ayman Zawahiri was an early leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which he merged into al-Qaeda in 1998. There is some al-Qaeda presence in Yemen, Qatar, and other ME countries; but al-Qaeda affilliated groups are much stronger in, e.g., South Asia -- the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah) and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand (Jemaah Islamiyah).
Al-Qaeda is a jihadi-come-lately, and older terrorist groups resent and fear its influence; clearly, Zarqawi -- more or less a Mafia-style mob boss with a jihadi ideology, at least for his followers' consumption -- would love to get out of Iraq, where he sees his gang being rolled up and the possibility that he, himself, will be captured or killed, and into new territory. But the Palestinian Authority is probably not his best bet: among other reasons, many Palestinians share the Jordanians' hatred of Zawahiri because of the Amman, Jordan bombing last year that killed scores of Jordanian Palestinians working at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Radisson SAS Hotel, and the Days Inn... which were all franchises owned by Jordanians.
I suspect we're about to see a demonstration of leaping from the frying pan into the fire. If al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia really makes the move, they'll find themselves under fire from Hamas (which now runs the joint), Fatah/al-Aqsa (which used to run it), Hezbollah (which hopes to run it), and dozens of other terrorist groups... and that's before the Israelis and maybe even the Coalition join the hunt.
As I said: Bring it on!
Bush Gets a Dubai Mulligan!
No, he doesn't get to replay the DP World purchase of P&O... but a new Dubai deal is in the works that would allow a different company, also owned by the government of Dubai, to acquire a different British company, the Doncasters Group.
Doncasters is an aerospace company that does extensive work on American airplanes, notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (The F-35 JSF is a joint venture between the United States and Great Britain, and it is expected eventually to replace the Harrier, the Hornet, the Fighting Falcon, and -- well heck, practically every fighter/attack plane we and the Brits have, it seems.)
Arab and US officials are growing nervous at the prospect of a second congressional uprising against the acquisition of American assets by a Middle Eastern-controlled company in the wake of the Dubai Ports World debacle.
A person familiar with the thinking of both the US and United Arab Emirates said officials were concerned that the pending investigation of Dubai International Capital’s £700m ($1.2m) purchase of Doncasters, a privately-held British aerospace manufacturer that works on sensitive US weapons programmes, including the Joint Strike Fighter, could provoke a similar backlash and further damage the relationship between the two countries.
But there is a big difference this time: now that the Bush administration is on notice that Congress tends to hit the ceiling about these sorts of things when they feel neglected and ignored, two things will surely be handled differently:
- This time, the 45-day review period will be conducted at a higher level, probably even cabinet level;
- The administration will, I predict, bring Congress in early -- Republicans and even some Democrats -- and work it all out with the liberal Congressal chairmen of the two Homeland Security committees: Pete King (R-NY) in the House and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate, the ones who led the revolt last time.
The administration can work with all the other relevant committee chairs (Armed Services, Commerce, etc.) and ranking members to craft a series of safeguards that will prevent any compromise of national security. I'm not exactly sure what Doncasters' role in the development of the JSF is, but one of their prime clients is Pratt & Whitney, who make the P&W F135 powerplant that will drive the F-35. I would guess that is where the Doncasters Group contributes. The F135 is brand new, developed from the F119-PW-100, which powers the F-22 Raptor.
In any event, this time, the Dubai connection can be dealt with efficiently, with both Congress and la Casablanca getting to toss in their two cents' worth (that probably overstates the importance of Susan Collins' opinion on fighter jets). Nobody will feel left out, so nobody will turn this into a cause celebre.
If everyone can come to a deal, great; Dubai will be very happy. But if the congressional Republicans stamp their feet like Rumplestiltskin and just refuse to consider allowing any A-rabs to invest in defense-related companies -- at least it will happen privately, before the deal becomes a huge public-relations nightmare.
There are several possible deals that can be cut here:
- Congress -- this time being consulted -- may have no problem with the deal as is.
- If Congress does have a problem, there is this consideration: during the bidding, the Pratt & Whitney powerplant was selected over the Rolls Royce F136. If worse comes to worst, they could switch, which might cut Doncasters -- and their new owners, Dubai International Capital -- out of the deal entirely (assuming they're working on the powerplants).
- Most drastically, the U.S. could do what they did in the DP World case: go ahead and let Dubai International Capital buy the Doncasters Group, but spin off the American market to any of a number of U.S. companies that work on turbojet powerplants.
None of these solutions seems drastic, so I hope they would not delay the JSF project very long. We really need a new generation of fighter/attack jets. Our mainstay, the F/A-18 Hornet, is 1970s technology, first flying in 1978.
This is what I mean by Bush getting a "Mulligan": the president gets a chance to negotiate another Dubai deal... but this time, to do it right, and right from the beginning. Let's hope he carpes the diem.
Date ►►► March 21, 2006
AP: Saddam, the Frustrated Innocent Victim
An Associated Press laugher today from Charles J. Hanley introduces a "frustrated" Saddam Hussein, appealing Iraq's innocence of WMD-related charges to his inner circle, unable to understand why the meanies at the UN and the United States won't believe that Iraq long before gave up any ambition to develop WMD.
Mr. Hanley subsequently asserts -- perhaps forgetting the bright line AP always maintains between commentary and news reporting -- that this is all true: the assertion that Iraq maintained WMD programs (if not "large stockpiles") was a dreadful mistake (or lie) all along, Hussein was innocent, and (Mr. Hanley insists) the Iraq Survey Group's final report completely vindicated Saddam Hussein:
In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
-- Wm. Shakespeare, the Tempest
The final dispatch of Charles Duelfer's ISG investigation? Good; let's take that as our "gold standard." Let us compare it to the sheer audacity of Mr. Hanley's misstatements, sly inuendo, and outright fabrications. The result may astonish anyone not familiar with AP's modus operandi.
All right, let's kick on the afterburners and get this crate airborne....
(I know some readers dislike long posts; but sometimes, especially with fiskings, you just gotta do it. Apologies in advance.)
Exasperated, besieged by global pressure, Saddam Hussein and top aides searched for ways in the 1990s to prove to the world they'd given up banned weapons.
"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show.
At another, in 1996, Saddam wondered whether U.N. inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years" in a pointless hunt for weapons of mass destruction. "When is this going to end?" he asked.
Huh... can we figure out any reason -- other than pure anti-Saddam bigorty and prejudice on the part of the international community -- why the UN would intensify inspections in 1996, despite the fact (as Mr. Hanley sees it) that Iraq was not hiding anything, because (he states) they had nothing to hide?
Perhaps we can turn to the gold standard, the final Duelfer report. This is the section discussing the infamous "chicken farm" documents... which Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel had hidden in his chicken ranch, and which he revealed when he defected.
Kamel was one of Saddam Hussein's sons in law. He defected in August 1995 along with another son in law, Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid; both began cooperating with UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Although Kamel insisted that he had ordered all the pre-Gulf War WMD destroyed, the fact that there was so much more than anyone had suspected, more than the UN had found, and tremendously more than Iraq had ever revealed, shook the confidence of the UN that they could rely in any way upon Hussein's cooperation.
(Later, both Kamel and al-Majid were lured back to Iraq, where they were both slain "resisting arrest" by the Iraq security forces.)
When Saddam discovered that Kamel and al-Majid had gone over, he panicked. The Iraqis had no idea what Kamel was telling UNSCOM, but they knew that he knew a lot. They also knew they had to get out in front of the information. Since it was compromised anyway, Saddam believed that they could quickly release the evidence themselves and make some PR gains -- all oriented towards getting the sanctions, including the inspection regime, permanently lifted.
In February 1996, the Iraqis "discovered" the chicken-farm documents and released them to UNSCOM. But Saddam's hopes were dashed that this would help the case to lift the sanctions:
Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.
Might that possibly explain why UNSCOM increased the frequency and intensity of their inspections in 1996?
Let's see what else Mr. Hanley has to say....
[Inspections] ended in 2004, when U.S. experts, after an exhaustive investigation, confirmed what the men in those meetings were saying: that Iraq had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction long ago, a finding that discredited the Bush administration's stated rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 - to locate WMD.
This is the familiar trope: that the only reason the Bush administration ever enunciated prior to the invasion was WMD... and now that we haven't found "large stockpiles" of WMD, that has "discredited" the "rationale" for the war.
But in fact, each of the following was offered before the war as casus belli:
- The WMD programs;
- To enforce UNSC resolutions, particularly 1441;
- Because of his non-compliance with his treaty obligations, primarily in refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM inspections;
- Hussein's links with terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda, whose members he gave sanctuary to after they were routed from Afghanistan; but also including Hamas and Hezbollah, and (we now discover) al-Qaeda affilliate Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines;
- Because of his staggering record of crimes against humanity;
- In order to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictator; these first six can be found, e.g., in the president's 2003 State of the Union Addressed (January 28th);
- In order to establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East to serve as a model for other Moslem countries (February 2003);
- Because Iraq had repeatedly attacked American fighter jets patrolling the no-fly zone and had tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1999 (both put forward September 2002).
Well, quite a number of enunciated reasons other than WMD, all promoted extensively and very publicly prior to the invasion, which began March 19th, 2003. Yet Mr. Hanley seems completely unaware of, even oblivious to, their existence. Either he has forgotten (most reporters have the memory of a mayfly), or else he never even noticed at the time. I wonder which he would claim?
Here he comes again:
Even as the documents make clear Saddam's regime had given up banned weapons, they also attest to its continued secretiveness: A 1997 document from Iraqi intelligence instructed agencies to keep confidential files away from U.N. teams, and to remove "any forbidden equipment."
Since it's now acknowledged the Iraqis had ended the arms programs by then, the directive may have been aimed at securing stray pieces of equipment, and preserving some secrets from Iraq's 1980s work on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Thus are great nonsense arguments promulgated. Like the King of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, we begin with the verdict -- that "Iraqis had ended the arms programs by " -- and any subsequent evidence that they had not (the warning to remove "forbidden equipment") is reinterpreted in light of the preexisting conclusion. It's magic!
What does Mr. Hanley's gold standard say about this time period?
Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.
Pretty odd behavior for a regime that had ended their arms program long before and sought only to preserve a few "secrets" from their WMD efforts a decade earlier.
Saddam's inner circle entertained notions of reviving the programs someday, the newly released documents show. "The factories will remain in our brains," one unidentified participant told Saddam at a meeting, apparently in the early 1990s.
At the same meeting, however, Saddam, who was deposed by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is now on trial for crimes against humanity, led a discussion about converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses.
When a subordinate complained that U.N. inspectors had seized equipment at the plants useful for pharmaceutical and insecticide production, Saddam jumped in, saying they had "no right" to deny the Iraqis the equipment, since "they have ascertained that we have no intention to produce in this field (chemical weapons)."
Not that Mr. Hanley would ever editorialize in the middle of a news story, but -- converting bio-chem factories "to beneficial uses"? Doesn't he actually mean converting to civilian use? How do we know the uses were "beneficial," when there is a persistent charge that what Iraq really did, following the Gulf War, was convert their WMD programs to dual-use capability, military and civilian -- and then argued that having at least a potential civilian capability meant the stockpiles could not be considered WMD.
In the end, the Iraqis persuading the CIA... which of course desperately wanted to be persuaded, since that would damage Bush. And we did find tremendous stockpiles of potential (dual-use) WMD: for example, drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" concealed in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps, where they sometimes sat within feet of empty chemical rockets and shells. Iraq, by the way, is one of the few countries that used cyclosarin as a chemical weapon (for example, during the Iran-Iraq war). Other countries used the related but far more effective (and impossible to hide as "dual-use") sarin instead of cyclosarin.
Kenneth Timmerman has documented this extensively, for example in his piece in Insight Magazine -- which alas has exceeded its expiry date and is no longer available on Insight's website. It is available on Timmerman's own site, however (though in annoyingly large type).
And in fact, Duelfer himself reported that the Iraqi chemical-weapon scientists had been retained at "civilian" pesticide production facilities, such as the Tariq Company in Fallujah. I wonder why?
So what Mr. Hanley reports, with a straight face, as "converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses," actually means, though he may be ignorant of it, converting chemical weapons factories to dual-use capability, knowing this would mean the international community (which includes the American CIA and State Department) would rush to exonerate Saddam Hussein if the dictator gave them even the smallest hook to hang their hats on. As Pat Collins, the Hip Hypnotist, proved, the easiest thing in the world is to hypnotize those who urgently want to be hypnotized.
Repeatedly in the transcripts, Saddam and his lieutenants remind each other that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, and shut down those programs and the nuclear-bomb program, which had never produced a weapon.
The image of Hussein and his top regime officials loudly and emphatically "remind[ing] each other" -- at a meeting they themselves were videotaping -- that they had destroyed all their banned WMD reminds me of the lousy science fiction writing that frequently appeared in magazines edited by Hugo Gernsback in the early 1930s...
"Golly, Will-X2283, it is amazing that today, in 2034, we can sit in comfort while traveling at more than one hundred miles of an hour in this evacuated subway tube."
"Why yes, Jon-K1119! If a traveler from one hundred years ago were to be magically whisked to this time period, he would be amazed not only at our transportation innovations but also by the fact that our underground hydroponics fields can feed four thousands in the same space that, in his day, would only feed four hundreds."
It doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Hanley that videotaped meetings at which people vigorously "remind each other" of facts they all know are probably meant for eventual public consumption... or at least later legal cover.
In any event, Charles Duelfer himself -- Mr. Hanley's gold standard -- noted that Saddam Hussein was very suspicious even of his own top people and concealed from them much of the WMD work that was ongoing. He was contradictory and contrary, often telling a person they had no WMD on one day, and a few days later telling the same person that they had superweapons that would drive the infidels and crusaders from the land.
In any event, whatever top regime officials may have "remind[ed] each other" of during those meetings, the fact remains that in the early 1990s, Saddam had every intention of maintaining and reconstituting his WMD. Duelfer reports in the section "Decline (1991-1996)":
Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.
Since the next section of the final report is titled "Recovery (1996-1998)," the alert reader can probably surmise Duelfer's conclusion.
Two quick hits show the extraordinary depth and subtlety of Mr. Hanley's reasoning:
"We played by the rules of the game," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said at a session in the mid-1990s. "In 1991, our weapons were destroyed."
Why yes... by us. Aziz is quite correct: Iraq's weapons were destroyed in 1991 -- by the Coalition forces operating under UN authority. That is, we destroyed what we found.
But did we find it all? Mr. Hanley has an answer to that, too:
Amer Mohammed Rashid, a top weapons program official, told a 1996 presidential meeting he laid out the facts to the U.N. chief inspector.
"We don't have anything to hide, so we're giving you all the details," he said he told Rolf Ekeus.
Mr. Hanley says that Rashid in fact "laid out all the facts" to Ekeus... but then he quotes Rashid saying only that he told Ekeus that he'd laid out all the facts. Evidently, Amer Mohammed Rashid's word is good enough for Mr. Hanley. After all, the mere fact that a man is a tyrant, a terrorist, and guilty of crimes against humanity is no reason to impugn his character, is it?
And at last we come full circle, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, to where we began, with Mr. Hanley's remarkable claim about the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, written by the CIA's Charles Duelfer:
In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.
So what does Charles Duelfer say for himself about the latter period leading up to the war?
Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use....
There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.
Perhaps I'm not adept at reading between the lies, but that really doesn't look much like saying the WMD programs "never resumed production." To me, it looks more like Iraq was gearing up to go back into full production the moment sanctions were lifted -- and even earlier, using dual-use technologies.
But then, it's Associated Press. Perhaps that's all I really needed to say.
Dialing For Comments
We seem to have experienced a sudden and inexplicable dropoff of comments, and we're concerned there might be something going wrong with the comments system. (The alternative is that our readers have all simultaneously become shy about revealing their opinions on matters great and small!) The strange part is that we're not seeing any correlated dropoff in readership -- just in readers who leave comments.
Everyone is encouraged to try to post a comment here, just to see if everything is still working right. If you haven't left a comment in a while, it would be helpful (in the Rumsfeldian sense) if you let us know why, and if there's some topic you wish we'd discuss that would provoke more response from you.
Al-Jaafari - Teetering On the Edge?
Earlier this month, Sachi posted Al-Jaafari Must Step Down to Unify Iraq, in which she argued that Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the major reason there has not yet been agreement on a permanent government.
Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), is the leading candidate for next Iraqi Prime Minister; but he is stirring up a hornet's nest across Iraq: the Kurds don’t like him; the Sunnis hate him; and secular Iraqis fear him. Even the top Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- a strong proponent of a unified Iraq -- is suggesting al-Jaafari step aside....
Many believe al-Jaafari is behind a series of killings targeting prominent Sunni clerics and former Baath members, under the guise of the Interior Ministry’s Security Forces, which are infested with Iranian influenced militiamen. Al-Jaafari, of the Islamic Dawa Party (within the UIA coalition), was strongly backed in the Shiite caucus by militia leader Muqtada Sadr, the anti-American militant who occupied Najaf, Sadr City, and Basra during a failed "uprising" in March of 2004, timed to coincide with a similar surge of violence in Sunni Fallujah.
In the "primary" of the UIA, al-Jaafari beat Interim Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) by a single vote; thereafter, the entire UIA insisted that al-Jaafari must be the nominee for prime minister in the permanent government. Boiled down, that is the block in forming a government in Iraq.
But there are persistent and growing indications that the UIA is splintering on this issue now. According to the website AdnKronosInternational -- whose accuracy and veracity is completely unknown -- SCIRI (Abdul-Mahdi's party within the UIA) may be about to split from Dawa (al-Jaafari's party) on the question of the prime minister nominee, joining with Kurds and Sunni to form a majority coalition that can nominate Abdul-Mahdi and elect him to the post. This would break the logjam, were it to occur, and the government could finally form. (Hat tip to Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail.)
Baghdad, 17 March (AKI) - The representatives of the Kurdish list, the Sunni Iraqi Concord Front and much of the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) have reportedly reached an accord on a new prime minister. Their agreement not to reconfirm Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister and instead nominate Abdel Mahdi, a leading SCIRI figure and currently vice president, was reported by the al-Arabiya network and confirmed by Sunni deputy, Salman Jumeiri. The nomination of a new prime minister is the main sticking point in efforts to forge a new government in Iraq after the elections in December....
The line-up of those endorsing Abdel Mahdi - who lost narrowly to Jaafari in an internal vote on a prime ministerial candidate - may well exclude MPs from the faction of radical Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr and those of the Islamic party Dawa, led by Jaafari.
Ordinarily, we would not put much faith in an unknown website's claim; but this rumor has circulated for several days now, and more people seem to be believing it. For example, Hugh Hewitt mentioned it on his radio show last week, though he gave no specifics. (Of course, Hugh might just have gotten it from the Fourth Rail, as we did!)
Logically, it makes sense: al-Jaafari is Dawa's candidate, and he polled essentially equal with Abdul-Mahdi, being pushed ever so slightly over the top by Muqtada Sadr's powerful influence. If SCIRI can do an end-run around Dawa to get their own guy in the top spot and also be hailed as the saviors of the December election, they would be stupid to turn it down.
I doubt that Dawa will try to punish SCIRI later; Dawa needs the UIA as much as SCIRI, if the Shia are to have their majority. In fact, as Dawa is generally less militant and fundamentalist than SCIRI (though the individuals involved this time reverse that tendency), many Dawa members might be secretly pleased that al-Jaafari -- and the invisible hand of Sadr -- are out of the picture.
And they do, of course, want to light the candle and get the government going; the Iraqi people are getting restless with the bickering.
So let's keep fingers crossed that this isn't just a wild rumor that spread out of control like a California wildfire.
Date ►►► March 20, 2006
Iraqi Battalion's First Independent Operation
We have talked about the readiness of the Iraqi Army for months. So it's nice to read a story like this one from the 1st Marine Regiment and the Military Transition Teams (MTTs) who train the Iraqi troops. Iraqi soldiers from the "2-2-7" recently conducted their first independent counterinsurgency operation in the Anbar district:
More than 100 soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division conducted their first independently-executed mission to disrupt insurgent operations here March 14.
The soldiers, who were accompanied by a handful of Marines, patrolled through and cleared three kilometers of village just south of the town of Haqlaniyah along the Euphrates River in western Al Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad. The Marines, outnumbered by the Iraqi soldiers 10 to one, were on hand in an advisory role only.
“It’s good for the Iraqi people not to see us out there and to see the Iraqi Army doing all the work in keeping their community safe,” said Capt. Quintin D. Jones, a Memphis, Tenn., native and member of the Military Transition Team (MTT) here. MTTs are groups of Coalition servicemembers assigned to logistically assist and guide individual Iraqi military units’ transition to independent operations.
The Iraqi-led mission was part of the latest counterinsurgency operation, dubbed “Raging Bull,” conducted by Coalition forces in western Al Anbar Province.
Despite relentless negative reporting from the MSM, I cannot help feeling optmistic about Iraq. That is because I focus on progress, not setbacks.
Of course we need to look at the serious reality of the war; but there must be balance. "Reality" in Iraq has three legs: progress, promise, and cost. But the media teeters precariously on a one-legged stool.
Remember the first Falluja offensive, where Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and fled in the face of the enemy? Today, no Iraqi soldier will show his back to the terrorist vermin infesting his country. These soldiers (we can definitely use that proud term now) are eager to prove their courage and the skills they learned from the best in the world: our own United States Marines.
And today the 1st Marines are proud to count the Iraqi Army as comrades.
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line frets that our talks with Iran about Iraq can only spell trouble:
My sense is that such talks are a bad idea. Iran is involved in Iraq because it perceives an interest in supporting our enemies there. To talk Iran into changing course, we would have to offer it an incentive larger than the one that's pushing it to cause trouble now. The only such incentive I can imagine is backing away from our efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
I can think of another. I suspect our talks are more along the lines of Marshall Matt Dillon "talking" with the latest boozed up, sadistic outlaw who thinks he and his gang of five or six dissolute drifters can take over Dodge and do bad things to Miss Kitty... and the "incentive" Bush is offering is the mullahs' continuing residence in this world, rather than the next.
Why, after five years of a president whose fault has more often been talkin' too Texan than crawling on his belly, do worried conservatives still think that any moment now, George W. Bush is going to turn into Neville Ehud Clinton?
This is a very bad habit of the Right (note that I don't mean Paul here; my focus now shifts to the hysterics in the sliver of the Antique Media that leans conservative): they spent so many years in the wilderness, they've homesteaded defeat. The spasm of Right-wing media despair that precedes every election is wearying, and it can prove a self-fulfilling prophecy if allowed to go too far.
Mark Warner Sartorial Scandal - New Evidence
Over on That Other Blog, Scott Johnson has posted on the New York Times Magazine's possible digital manipulation of former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. The charge -- and it appears well substantiated by circumstantial evidence -- is that the Times used PhotoShop to alter Warner's appearance when they put his mug on the cover of the magazine; his charcoal-grey jacket appears to have become deep maroon, while his white shirt transubstantiated into pink, making him appear rather less a serious candidate for president than he would prefer.
Why would they do this? Perhaps because the House of Pinch is worried that Warner could outflank Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) on the sane side, just as Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) has already outflanked her on the lunatic fringe. It's not particularly surprising that the New York Times might support the senator from New York over the governor from Down There.
Here is the infamous photo:
Gov. Mark Warner as he appears on the cover of the New York Times Magazine
You can see how subtle the changes are. If you didn't know that the coat and shirt were a different hue in reality, you wouldn't be able to guess just from the picture. Although the consensus of Power Line readers who have experience in printing covers for nationally syndicated news magazines was that there probably was some manipulation of the colors, there was some skepticism by a few commenters.
But recent new evidence from the edit-bay floor of the New York Times printing facility casts a new light on the controversy. Big Lizards believes that a newly recovered photo -- evidently an earlier version -- makes it somewhat clearer that the Times deliberately manipulated the Warner photo, and likely to make him look bad.
We've run the two versions atop one another for easy comparison; the differences are subtle but we think unmistakable.
There is a slight effeminacy in the photo they actually ran (caused by the color choices -- maroon and pink); this is a bit over-emphasized in the earlier version. The Times wisely chose to tone it down for the actual cover.
To continue, read on....
The version of the Warner picture actually used
on cover (top) and earlier version (bottom)
As you can see, the earlier picture (bottom) lacked some of the subtlety that made the manipulation so effective. The first version was a little more raw, and you can clearly see how it was toned down marginally for the version that actually ran (top).
The colors of the first version are too stark; they grab the eyes more than they ought (particularly around the shirt collar), and they don't blend quite as well. In spots, the colors are almost vivid. On the later version, this has been largely muted, and it's at least a little more believable.
But viewing the two side by side, it's clear that the Times was indeed playing with our perceptions of Gov. Warner... and it really appears that they were not trying to enhance his appearance so much as make him look just slightly off, as if there were something wrong about him -- though you can't quite put your finger on it.
Likewise, we do see something a little more Harvey Fierstein about the earlier picture... though again, there doesn't seem to be any one thing we can point to that conveys the impression. It's more the overall gestalt.
As propaganda, this was very well done indeed. I doubt if it could ever have been so thoroughly proven without the blogosphere -- led by Power Line, as usual. Well done, chaps! A tip of the hat, and I really mean it.
Date ►►► March 19, 2006
Anti-American Protests "Fizzle" On War Anniversary
Update: See below.
A newspaper headline from years ago is such a marvel of oxymoronia, it is perfection:
Keep that headline in mind as you read about the massive, worldwide anti-war protests.
Today, March 19th, 2006, marks the third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq. Not surprisingly, since the liberation was conducted by the United States, there were coordinated anti-war protests planned across the globe. Record high numbers of people flocked to major cities to protest against the Great Satan... well, not exactly....
In Sydney Australia, back in 2003, 250,000 protesters rallied against the war. Yesterday, a whopping 500 people showed up. Australia has 20 million people, so this is a turnout of 0.0025% of the population.
Around 500 protesters marched through central Sydney, chanting "End the war now" and "Troops out of Iraq." Many campaigners waved placards branding President Bush the "World's No. 1 Terrorist" or expressing concerns that Iran could be the next country to face invasion.
The Associated Press did not let the fizzly turnout dampen their enthusiasm:
Opposition to the war is still evident in Australia, which has some 1,300 troops in and around Iraq. Visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heckled by campaigners in Sydney this week, who said she had "blood on her hands."
(It's interesting to note that the total number of protesters in Australia was just over a third the number of troops they have in Iraq.)
Perhaps things looked better in London or Tokyo; let's take a peek:
Authorities shut down streets in the heart of London's shopping and theater district for the demonstration, which organizers had predicted would attract up to 100,000 people, but police estimated the crowd was about 15,000 people....
In Tokyo, about 2,000 people rallied in a downtown park, carrying signs saying "Stop the Occupation" as they listened to a series of anti-war speeches.
Great Britain saw a turnout of 0.02%; but Tokyo was truly galvanized, with nearly 0.0016% marching in the streets for World Peace Now!
Japan currenty deploys about 600 troops from the Self Defense Force to Iraq. Japanese polls show that a majority of Japanese still oppose the war; however, since the Iraq War and Japan's deployment began, the Japanese people have shifted very significantly in favor of changing their officially pacifist constitution to one that allows Japan to maintain a regular standing army. Largely due to the precedent set by the Self Defence Force, the Japanese now support the new constitution by nearly two to one (over 60% support).
The second-largest protest was in Turkey. Some 5,000 protesters showed up. Considering it is a Moslem country, 5,000 may seem rather small and insignificant... but still, it represents a staggering 0.007% of the Turkish population. The Turkish government had better watch out: if all these people chose to seize control to express their displeasure at a war that Turkey is not involved in, the Turks might have to mobilize one of their 200 regiments to put them down.
Not to be left out, the mighty Swedes mobilized 1,000 protesters to surround the American embassy. That's 0.01%... a small country, but a doughty batch of protesters!
In Sweden, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally in Stockholm before a march to the U.S. Embassy. Some protesters carried banners reading "No to U.S. warmongering" and "USA out of Iraq," while others held up a U.S. flag with the white stars replaced by dollar signs.
Yeah, yeah... but does anybody actually care?
The protests, which drew 500,000 people in some 160 cities across the country, were the biggest show yet of escalating anger that is testing the strength of the conservative government before elections next year.
Wow, half a million people. This was by far the biggest protest demonstration of them all, drawing 0.82% of the French population -- more than 40 times the London demonstration in terms of population -- more than 33 times the size in actual numbers.
Alas, we can't really count it -- because they're not protesting the Iraq war. Their boeuf is entirely domestic: the "conservative" government in France wants to change the law to allow employers to fire incompetent employees within first two years, which is currently illegal. (Evidently, the potential of being incompetent is a besetting fear among French youths. Possibly because they spend all their time at l'Université rioting instead of studying.)
In an apparent effort to set fire to a police van serving as a blockade, protesters instead torched the entrance of a nearby Gap store, apparently by accident, engulfing the small porch in flames.
(And before we forget... the "conservative government?" In France? Only in the sense that socialists are slightly to the right of Communists. The Communist Party is very strong in France, by the way, and the French Communist Party has 21 seats in the National Assembly. In fact, adding together the eight radical-left parties, they control 177 of the 577 seats, or 31%. Radical left candidates for president received more than 12.5 million votes in the first round, or 44%. The government of France is not "conservative" by any stretch, and Yahoo is lying again.)
Maybe the French government should expand the military to alleviate the unemployment problem. Oh, wait -- do we really want rampaging French youths to have les fusils?
Best to let sleeping chiens lie, I suppose. As Emily Litella would say....
Date ►►► March 17, 2006
Operation Swarmer: a "Pyrrhic Failure?"
The Antique Media's ability to spin a successful operation into a failure never ceases to amaze me.
In an article in today's Time Magazine, Brian Bennett and Al Jallam claim that Operation Swarmer -- the operation just undertaken by the Iraqi Army and the 101st Airborne -- "fizzled," simply because it did not live up to the exciting fantasy that Time mistakenly expected.
Evidently, Time anticipated a spectacular fireworks show that could make a four-color cover, with missiles and Willie Pete and maybe a couple of MOABs (or at least puny, little Daisy Cutters).
But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war.... In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
Time complains that planes and helicopters didn't come screaming in like a World War II strafing run. But this operation was never supposed to be an airstrike; it was an air assault, a fact that even Time itself supposedly understood. The part I clipped out above with the elipses is this parenthetical explanation:
("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.)
In other words, Time already knew that we weren't planning a huge, Clintonian barrage of missiles all over the place, blowing up wedding parties and Boy Sprout jamborees with glorious abandon. Operation Swarmers was, according to Wretchard of the Belmont Club, a cordon and search operation... which is exactly what the Iraqi Army and the Americans did. And they found a bunch of weaponry and a lot of potential insurgents, making this a very, very successful "fizzle":
Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released.
This means 31 suspects are still in custody, formerly dangerous terrorists who now are nothing more than intelligence sources for us. Plus, they made it clear that no place in Iraq can be considered "safe" for terrorists... that we and the Iraqi Army can hit anybody anywhere.
The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces, says Lt Col Skip Johnson commander of the 187 Battallion, 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne. "They have the lead," he said to reporters at the second stop of the tour....
With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.
Note that in this air assault, the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police (the "Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion") raided together, just as promised as part of the brokered deal to regain control of the police. As we reported Wednesday:
As for the Shiite militia attacking Sunni citizens, there has been an amazing new development: the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries announced yesterday that from now on, anti-terrorist raids will be conducted with the Iraqi Army and the police operating together:
So what is this nonsense about "no shots fired at all?" Is Time saying that the mission "fizzled" because we didn't get shot at and didn't have to return fire? It's a failure when the enemy is overwhelmed by our presence and flees, abandoning its weaponry, equipment, and personnel?
Perhaps "some skeptical military analysts" see Operation Swarmer as a failure, nothing more than a "photo op." But in fact, it was a perfect demonstration of how capable the Iraqi Army has become. They've demonstrated that they are capable of collecting accurate intelligence, dropping into the target area, and efficiently nabbing suspects and weaponry without taking any casualties at all. They only need help with air transportation, not having much of an Air Force yet.
A few more "pyrrhic failures" like this, and Iraq may end up a stable democracy after all!
Moussaoui Case - Shocking Allegation
In Salvaging Death From Life, we discussed the insane decision by Clinton-appointed Judge Leonie Brinkema to throw out the better half of the prosecution's case for the death penalty against Zacarias Moussaoui, on the grounds that a lawyer working for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Carla Martin, sent several FAA witnesses a transcript of the opening statements and the direct and/or cross examination of an FBI agent.
Now comes the rather shocking allegation that the entire transaction was a deliberate set-up whose purpose was to destroy the prosecutor's case.
As near as Big Lizards can figure out the agendas, here is what the AP story seems to say....
- The allegation comes from Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, lawyers for family members of victims of the 9/11 attack. The lawsuit filed by the family members claim that United Airlines and American Airlines could have prevented 9/11 by stopping the hijackers from getting on the planes with knives and boxcutters.
- The government also wants to prove that: if they can show that 9/11 could have been prevented if Moussaoui had told them about the knives and boxcutters, then Moussaoui should be put to death.
- Contrariwise, the lawyers for the airlines clearly want for their jury to believe that 9/11 could not possibly have been prevented; that it would have happened the way it did regardless of any attempt to prevent boxcutters from being carried onto the planes. That way, it wouldn't be the airlines' fault.
- And of course, Moussaoui's lawyers would also like to prove that, since then their client's lies would not have led to any deaths that wouldn't have occured otherwise. It wouldn't be Moussaoui's fault, either.
So the plaintiff's lawyers and the prosecutors both want to show that 9/11 could have been prevented; and the defense lawyers in both cases want to prove that it could not have been prevented.
According to the allegation, the airline lawyers read the prosecutor's opening statement and became very worried. If the prosecution proved its case, it would be very hard for the airlines to evade a judgment. So allegedly, the airline lawyers contacted Carla Martin of the TSA and told her to queer the case: she had to get the FAA witnesses to change their stories and say that no FAA order would have stopped any of the hijackers:
Because that government position could have "devastating" impact on the airlines' defense in the civil suit, American Airlines' lawyer forwarded the transcript to a United Airlines lawyer who forwarded it to Martin, Clifford and Joseph wrote. As proof, they cited March 7 e-mails that they provided to [U.S. District Judge Alvin] Hellerstein but which were not immediately available here. [Hellerstein is the judge hearing the civil case. -- the Mgt.]
"The TSA lawyer then forwarded the transcripts and sent multiple e-mails to government witnesses in a clear effort to shape their testimony in a manner that would be beneficial to the aviation defendants" in the civil suit, they wrote. [As we understand it, to shape the testimony to make it seem as if 9/11 could not have been prevented, which would also help Moussaoui's defense. -- the Mgt]
They then quoted a March 8 e-mail Martin sent to one of the government's Moussaoui witnesses that said:
"My friends Jeff Ellis and Chris Christenson, NY lawyers rep. UAL and AAL respectively in the 9/11 civil litigation, all of us aviation lawyers, were stunned by the opening. The opening has created a credibility gap that the defense can drive a truck through. There is no way anyone could say that the carriers could have prevented all short-bladed knives from going through. (Prosecutor) Dave (Novak) MUST elicit that from you and the airline witnesses on direct."
In other words, Martin's actions were a direct assault on the prosecution's case -- she intended to help the airlines -- hence Moussaoui -- and not the government.
Yet even so, when she was caught red-handed, Judge Brinkema's response was to finish what Carla Martin started: Brinkema's order destroys the government's case, prevents Moussaoui from receiving the death penalty, and incidentally helps the airlines defend against the lawsuit. At least, that is what the plaintiffs' attorneys claim.
Through her attorney, Martin denies the allegation; but she has not yet appeared to speak on her own behalf, nor has her attorney yet had a chance to formulate a response. The first question, of course, is whether there was any pre-existing relationship between the airlines and the TSA, or some personal or monetary arrangement between their respective attorneys, which was so deep that Martin would risk disbarment or even prison (for witness tampering), just to help the airlines out in their civil lawsuit. If such a connection emerges, then clearly, Brinkema's order should not stand.
In fact, if this is true, then there should be a mistrial: the penalty phase for Moussaoui should be moved to a different judge (preferably in a different venue) and retried... because clearly, the people of the United States were sandbagged, if this allegation is even partially accurate.
Nobody alleges that Brinkema was part of this scheme; but her obvious bias against the prosecution led her to blame the government for a set-up that seems to have been aimed squarely at destroying the prosecution's case.
If this is true, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't: if the scheme had succeeded, maybe they could have gotten the witnesses to destroy the government's case (if the witnesses were willing to commit perjury, which I doubt). But when it failed -- that, too, was used to destroy the government's case!
Again, bear in mind: these are allegations from an interested party in the case: the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the airlines. They may be wrong, and Carla Martin may have had no contact with the airline attorneys. But it's hard to believe lawyers would make false allegations (and what, fake the e-mails?), when the deception would be revealed immediately -- and would destroy their own careers, if they were found to be misleading the court (either court). Unless some major contrary evidence is produced, I'm inclined to believe this charge.
If the judge does not reverse herself, especially in light of the new allegations, then I sure hope the prosecutors appeal up the chain, all the way to the Supreme Court, if they will take it: the death penalty for Moussaoui should not be held hostage to the understandable desire of United and American not to have to pay a huge judgment to survivors of the victims of 9/11.
Date ►►► March 16, 2006
Shibboleths of Sharia
In Scott Johnson's succinct and well-argued post Relics of Barbarism, he lays out the case for the triumph of "good order" over liberty. But I think he is deeply mistaken if he fails to grasp that what separates America from the rest of the world is our belief that liberty wins over order.
There are of course exceptions; liberty is not license... in particular, not a license to hurt or even severely inconvenience or disgust others. There is no right to "do it in the road," John Lennon notwithstanding; and a verminous, unwashed, noisome bum has no right to loiter in the public library, gagging and driving out the rest of us.
But the balance must be far more towards individual liberty than Scott seems to desire. He notes with particular ire the case Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court overturned all state laws against "sodomy," however one chooses to define that. In that context, Scott argues thus:
The Court itself, however, has done much to erode the social consensus fostering laws prohibiting practices commonly recognized as inconsistent with republican government. In her Star Tribune column today, Katherine Kersten looks at the question of polygamy in the context of the debate over same-sex marriage: "Once same-sex marriage is OK, polygamy's next." [Emphasis added]
Perhaps I'm being unusually dense today, but I'm baffled how two guys having sex in the privacy of their own home is "inconsistent with republican government." I hope some conservative can explain it to me.
For more about this topic, please read on....
This paragraph is a synecdoche of the tragic flaw of contemporary conservatism: in their zeal to fight the Kulturkampf, the "culture war," against the forces of radical secularism -- who would burn the divine out of America as the Spanish Inquisition tried to burn away "sorcery" with their auto da feys -- conservatives neglect the enemy ever lurking on their right: those fanatics who would swing the pendulum the opposite direction, all the way to sharia law, whether Moslem, Christian, or Jew.
The only bulwark against both forms of extremism is the mass belief in individual liberty. There is no other army that can defend us.
If "good order" is our lodestone, what cannot a state do? Can it --
- Ban long hair;
- Ban dancing;
- Ban smoking;
- Ban drinking;
- Ban rap and hip-hop;
- Ban raggedy clothing;
- Ban boorish behavior, such as refusing to open the door for ladies and seniors;
- Ban lending money for interest;
- Ban strikes;
- Ban protests;
- Make voting mandatory;
- Make civility to citizens -- and servility to officials -- mandatory.
Any of this sound familiar to you students of history? This is precisely what state-centered governments, from brutal thugocracies like the Taliban to absolute totalitarian states like Stalinist Russia to relatively benign and peaceful tyrannies like Singapore, have done since the rocks were cooling: How dare you pass by the hat of the king without bowing? Put this apple on your son's head, and let's see you plink it off, Mr. Tell!
But let's focus like a laser beam on the interesting linkage Scott created above between Lawrence on the one hand and polygamy and same-sex marriage on the other. Can we not see a yawning conceptual gulf between what we are willing to tolerate... and what we must venerate by invoking formal government sanction? As an addendum to this post, John Hinderaker notes:
At least one case has already been filed in federal court, alleging on the basis of Lawrence that there is a constitutional right to polygamy. More are sure to come.
Of course -- because the extreme Left despises individual liberty just as much as the extreme right. Neither Scott nor John is an extremist, naturally; but both have a bit of a tin ear for detecting extremism from the right-hand side of the aisle. (So do I, but at least I work at it!)
A responsible judge would respond that Lawrence only said states couldn't ban certain types of sexual relations; it did not hold we have to formally sanction the related relationship. (You have the free-speech right to publish a manifesto; you don't have the right to read all 87 pages of it in the well of the House of Representatives.)
Some Justices on the Court may well look kindly upon that lawsuit; we have a problem with extremists of the Left infesting the court system, after eight years of Clintonian nominations and Republican belly-crawling. But the answer is not to throw out the liberty with the leftism.
A strong and mandatory commitment to individual liberty is what makes America unique. From our first Organic Law, the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
From our second, the Constitutiton of the United States:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"Oh, that only applies to Congress," is the usual rejoinder; "states should be free to regular order at the expense of unnecessary liberty."
But does anyone making that argument really believe what he says? Will any conservative stand up and say that individual states should be free to ban dissent and establish a state church? Ever since the Fourteenth Amendment, courts have asserted (rightly, in my opinion) that the "fundamental rights" protected by the U.S. Constitution extend to state laws as well as federal; the only question is what is a fundamental right and what is a "created right," such as the right to vote for president (which obviously cannot exist prior to the Constitution itself). I have never heard any conservative today argue that the state of California can authorize random search and seizure, allow tortured confessions at trial, and compel all citizens to convert to Alan-Watts-style Buddhism.
Deep down, "we the people" understand better than most politicians that the most fundamental right of all is the right to swing one's fist -- which ends where another man's nose begins. "The governed" have consented that there exists a fundamental right to be let alone, alone to live our own potty lives without having to account to government bureaucrats.
We recognize limits: you can keep guns but not explosives, because the danger of the latter is too great; you can call the governor a son of a bitch, but you can't call for his assassination. A man's home is his castle, but not when he's sexually abusing his children. But we know what the default decision should be, absent extenuating circumstances: more individual liberty.
This is why there just is no great sentiment for banning abortion, but almost overwhelming support for banning partial-birth abortion: because the American people are more nuanced than the partisans, and they recognize the difference between four cells and an actual baby. It's not "inconsistent," as some claim; it's common sense.
And we also recognize the huge difference between allowing a couple of sheepboys "get it on" in a pup tent without suffering arrest and imprisonment -- and formally declaring their relationship to be as valuable to society as marriage. And we wonder at those (like Robert Bork) so blinded by agenda that they see no distinction at all: everything bad must be banned; everything good must be mandated. And soon, as Robert Anton Wilson suggests, everything not compulsory is forbidden.
Leave us alone! I happen to want to live happily with my wife, but I couldn't care less that my next-door neighbor is a "man's man." Or that he smokes. Or that he keeps a stupid, little yappy dog -- unless the dog starts waking me up in the morning, or he blows the smoke in my face. And for society's sake, I care very much indeed if we bestow our official nihil obstat on pornographic art or same-sex marriage, on polygamy or "transgendering."
If you must have those, do them on your own steam without state support or social sanction!
The Grand Tale of Tal Afar
I am sure readers must remember this thank you letter from Tal Afar Mayor Najim Abdullah Abid al-Jibouri to the commanders and men of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who, with the 1st Brigade, 3d Division of the Iraqi Army, finally liberated Tal Afar. The letter was widely reported in blogsphere back in February.
Last Sunday,(March 12, 2006, the CBS show 60 minutes featured the current situation in Tal Afar. Much to my surprise, the report by Lara Logan was amazingly balanced.
You should be able to view the video from here (click the "60 Minutes" link in the left sidebar, then click on the link titled "Al Qaeda's Town"); but when I tried, it stopped in the middle. It's RealPlayer: "abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
The quick take: the retaking of Tal Afar is a model for how we will fight such wars in the future... and a great vindication of the vision of President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the other architects of small-footprint warfare.
Tal Afar is located at the Syrian border, in the Ninewa province (sometimes called Nineva). It had been used for years as a conduit for terrorists entering Iraq from Syria. Back in 2004, U.S. troops kicked out the terrorists; but like in Fallujah, there were not enough American toops to hold the town; and the Iraqi troops back then proved unreliable. Inevitably then, when we left Tal Afar, the terrorists came roaring back -- literally with a vengence. The town was overrun by Musab Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, who began a spree of revenge killing, torture, and brutal, thuggish rule.
Sharia law as enforced (on the citizens; the terrorists seemed to have special dispensation). And 200,000 citizens of Tal Afer were held hostage. Mayor Najim describes the situation in his letter:
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed.
Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city.
Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.
After a year of training and building up the Iraqi Army, so that we would have a force that could actually hold a city like Tal Afar (or Fallujah) after we liberate it, we decided in September, 2005, that we were ready at last to recapture the town.
Col. H.R. McMaster is commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry and Multinational Force-Northwest; he now also serves as one of the military's top advisers on fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He described to 60 minutes what the 3d Cav found when they entered Tal Afar.
Masked gunmen led by al Qaeda roamed the streets of Tal Afar at will, publicly executing and kidnapping people. Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes some of the terrorists were foreign fighters, but many were Iraqis from the area. Pictures of their attacks were circulated in videos like one in which you can hear them chanting a call to jihad.
"They had schools for snipers. They had kidnapping and murder classes that were attended by people on the best techniques," says McMaster.
The terrorists they encountered were far more sophisiticated than anyone imagined. Aside from foreign fighters, there were many former soldiers and officers from Saddam's army, men with actual combat experience and training. The enemy organized well, both for combat and extreme brutality:
The colonel says he was surprised to learn the enemy in Tal Afar was so organized. "You had this blending of former military expertise and organizational ability with, with a radical Islamic ideology, and it was fertile ground here."
On September 3, 2005, the fight began. After three days of heavy ground fighting and air strikes, the fire was ceased for two days in order to let citizens escape. But then, three more days of delay were ordered by the Iraqi goverment, allegedly because they were concerned about civilian casualties. However, the recent exposure of "several ranking Defense Ministry officials" as allied with al-Qaeda -- either for money or ideology -- certainly suggests other explanations.
Regardless, this extra respite allowed many of the terrorists to escape as well. Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time Magazine, who was embedded with the 3d Cav, explains what happened:
"The al Qaeda presence in Tal Afar was surrounded. And the attack was primed. And then it was stopped dead in its tracks. And so, as the troops I was with battled throughout the day and into the night with al Qaeda fighters so close you could throw a stone and hit them, when we woke up the next morning -- poof -- they were gone!" says Ware....
When the troops finally entered the Sarai section of Tal Afar on the ninth day of the battle, they used tanks to blast holes through buildings so the soldiers could move forward without being exposed.
But after waiting so long, Michael Ware says the momentum was gone; and — so it seemed — was the enemy.
"Where an entire al Qaeda society had existed, the troops that I was with found one body," Ware recalls.
To prove they were not defeated, al Qaeda unleashed 12 suicide bombers in a day of bloodshed in Baghdad. They publicly called it revenge for the loss of Tal Afar, where the U.S. Army calculated enemy dead at 151. Eight Iraqi soldiers and one American were also killed. But Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes that using numbers to measure victory is a mistake.
"Body counts are completely irrelevant. I mean, what is relevant is, 'Is the population secure so that political development, economic development can proceed?'" he explains.
But what happened after the battle is more important: American troops began training the local police, recruiting both Shia and Sunni, and reopened schools and markets. Their success at winning the hearts and minds of the Tal Afar citizens is obvious from the 60 Minutes segment video.
American soldiers like Capt. Jesse Sellars have taken on added responsibilities. On regular patrols through the city, he is part politician and part policeman.
These days, he walks the streets like the pied piper, with crowds of Iraqi children chanting his name. They're the same streets he fought for just a few months ago.
I was struck by the children chanting Capt. Sellars first name like a cerebrity: "Jesse! Jesse!" This raises an important question: Is it actually legal for CBS to show footage favorable to President Bush, Republicans, or the U.S. military? Isn't there something in the Constitution against it?
The segment ends on an upbeat note:
"If anybody tries to operate in Tal Afar, they're gonna be detected and …" the colonel replied.
"But is that a yes, colonel? Are they trying to come back?" Logan asked.
"Oh yes. Of course the enemy is trying to come back. In an insurgency, there’s not going to be a big decisive battle and then the white flags come out and it’s over, OK," says Col. McMaster. "But what we have here is as close to that as you really can get."
The terrorists will come again; it's the Middle East, and they always come. They will slither back into Tal Afar and Fallujah and the Anbar province.
But this time, when they come, they will face Iraqi troops defending the town, province, and country. Training-up the Iraqi Army has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of any of the Democrats -- or Republicans -- in Congress; but the actual boots on the ground, the generals, the service secretaries and Donald Rumsfeld, and of course George W. Bush himself always knew it would turn the tide in the end.
The sentiments of the citizens of Tal Afar toward the American soldiers are summed up in the Mayor's letter. Let's let Mayor Najim have the last word:
God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women.
From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget.
To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land.
Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.
Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.
Salvaging Death From Life
A day or two ago, a foolish lawyer in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Carla Martin, "coached" witnesses in the Zacarias Moussaoui case death-penalty phase. The witnesses worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and prosecutors intended to call them to testify about defensive measures they would have taken, had the FAA only known that the 9/11 attacks were imminent... which (the government argues) they would have known if Moussaoui had told the truth to federal investigators when he agreed to cooperate.
So in retaliation for the hapless TSA lawyer violating that rule, the judge first considered ruling that the government couldn't see the death penalty against Moussaoui at all (?) -- and then finally ruled that they could seek it, but they weren't allowed to use their best evidence (!)
Sympathy for the Devil
The so-called "coaching" consisted of sending the witnesses transcripts of previous testimony, which the judge -- Clinton appointee Leonie Brinkema -- had specifically enjoined the government from doing. I suppose the presumption is that the witnesses would never have thought of saying they would have banned box cutters if they knew terrorists were going to hijack planes with box cutters... which is about the most preposterous presumption I've seen in this case.
The witnesses themselves (all of them) testified that nothing in the transcripts affected how they were going to testify -- which is kind of a no brainer: if Moussaoui had said "terrorists will use box-cutters to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings," what do you think the FAA would have done?
In fact, several of the witnesses testified that they had not even read the attached transcripts. Yet they still are being banned from testifying. Can't trust those tricksie FAA folks!
I'm not a lawyer... and in this case, I think that gives me a clearer view of the absurdity of this: the death penalty is designed to protect the people of the United States, not to aid lawyers at the Transportation Security Agency. So if one of the latter screws up, why is Brinkema punishing the rest of us?
This is insane... but of course, she was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and confirmed while the Democrats still controlled the Senate. I suspect they would have confirmed a hamster, if Clinton had assured them it would be anti-death penalty and pro-abortion.
In desperation, the prosecutors are trying to undo the damage. They have filed a motion begging the judge to let them call someone else from the FAA to testify to what the other witnesses would have testified, or something else to indicate that Moussaoui's specific information about 9/11 would have resulted in some useful reaction from the FAA that would have saved at least one victim. But I suspect that Brinkema will rule against them -- presumably on the theory that the action by Carla Martin from the TSA taints all conceivable witnesses from the federal government, even if they have never even heard of her and couldn't pick her out of a lineup. Can't trust those tricksie witnesses for the prosecution!
I think Brinkema has had it in for the feds for some time. She had an earlier run-in that borders on the psycho-comical, in my opinion. From the first Fox News article:
Brinkema noted that last Thursday, Novak asked a question that she ruled out of order after the defense said the question should result in a mistrial. In that question, Novak suggested that Moussaoui might have had some responsibility to go back to the FBI, after he got a lawyer, and then confess his terrorist ties.
Great Scott! The prosecutor suggested that Moussaoui should have confessed to what he has been convicted of doing. It's an outrage. Stop the trial, set Moussaoui free! His right not to be made uncomfortable for being a terrorist who conspired to kill 3,000 Americans was brutally violated.
I don't see any of this as having any bearing on the case. All the prosecution need show is that Moussaoui's lies resulted in at least one death in the 9/11 attacks. Nothing about what was shown to the FAA witnesses alters what they were going to say -- unless you first presume they're liars who needed to know what lie to tell in order to perjure themselves. Is that Brinkema's base assumption?
She has consistently made rulings throughout this trial that make it clear she thinks of this as an ordinary criminal case -- like a carjacking or a residential burglary: she expressed enormous frustration that much of what the government knows about al-Qaeda was classified, and they refused to parade it through open court; she insisted that Moussaoui be allowed to have a conversation with Ramzi Binalshibh, without the slightest concern about what terrorist communications they might exchange. And now she deliberately cripples the prosecution's case for the death penalty simply because some jerk working at the TSA stupidly enclosed some transcripts in e-mails... as if that were a mitigating factor for Moussaoui's crime or retroactively made it less likely that his lies contributed to the deaths of at least one of the 2,967 human beings and 19 terrorists that bright fall morning.
This is utter nonsense... and a perfect illustration why we cannot try terrorists in civilian courts.
Date ►►► March 15, 2006
"One Signature Away"
In testimony before Congress today, General John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander, confirmed that the Iraqi military intelligence and intelligence agencies uncovered and thwarted a plot by al-Qaeda to infiltrate 421 terrorists into the Iraqi Army -- where they would be stationed at the gates and inside the Green Zone. Their mission would have been to launch a brutal terrorist attack to kill as many Americans and Iraqis and kidnap hundreds of hostages.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, in an interview with The Associated Press, said the 421 Al Qaeda recruits were one bureaucrat's signature away from acceptance into an Iraqi army battalion whose job is to control the gates and main squares in the Green Zone. The plot was discovered three weeks ago.
But the point is that the plot was broken by the Iraqi Army... even though members of the Ministry of Defense were implicated:
A senior Defense Ministry official said the 421 Al Qaeda fighters were actually recruited to storm the U.S. and British embassies and take hostages. Several ranking Defense Ministry officials were jailed in the plot, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
The fact that the Iraqi Army can operate for the good of Iraq and even arrest its own bosses shows that they are independent, patriotic, and -- as we've said before -- tough as nails. If anything saves Iraq not only from a "civil war" but from pure, unadulterated chaos, it will be the New Iraqi Army.
Iraq's Non-Sectarian "Sectarian" War - New Development
Yesterday Dafydd talked about the number of young military age men's bodies found in Iraq. Many of them had been toutured and killed execution style. Dafydd suggested this could be a result of vigilantism by Iraqis against the foreign terrorists and their Iraqi allies in Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaed In Mesopotamia group.
The captured Death List of Al Qaeda (hat tip to commenter Jim from California) and an announcement from Sunni Insurgents might shed some light on this issue. First, the "Death List":
Coalition forces in Iraq are believed to have captured some very sensitive al Qaeda documents. Apparently, one of these is a "Death List," giving the names of prominent Iraqis of all factions whom al Qaeda believes opposes its efforts to establish an Islamist state in the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the names on the list are of Sunni tribal and religious leaders who have been less than enthusiastic in their support for al Qaeda. Sadly, a number of those on the list have already been slain.
Probably not coincidentally, given that Iraqis are likely to know who is on al-Qaeda's "hit" parade even without having to see documents, Sunni insurgents -- Iraqis still fighting against Americans and until recently allied with Zarqawi -- announced yesterday that they killed a number of foreign terrorists in the Anbar province.
"We have killed a number of the Arabs including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Jordanians," London Daily Telegraph quoted an insurgent representative in the western province of Anbar as saying.
We have heard about the developing gulf between Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-in-Irag and Sunni Insurgents for quite some time. But what I did not know was that Sunni Insurgetns formed a special group to combat Al Qaeda.
It became an outright split when a wave of bombings killed scores of people in Anbar resulting in a spate of tit-for-tat killings.
In reaction, the Sunni tribal leaders formed their own anti-al Qaeda militia, the Anbar Revolutionaries. The group has a core membership of about 100 people, all of whom had relatives killed by al Qaeda. It is led by Ahmed Ftaikhan, a former Saddam-era military intelligence officer, the Telegraph reported.
The group claims to have killed 20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers. The United States has confirmed that six of Zarqawi's deputies were killed in the city of Ramadi in the province.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that an Anbar-based group has claimed it killed five top members of al Qaeda and associated groups in Ramadi.
The claim was posted on an Islamist Web site and attributed to the Anbar Revenge Brigade, the AP reported.
It listed the names of four suspected al Qaeda leaders. The fifth man, it said, was from Ansar al-Sunnah, a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda.
(Tip of the hat to Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail.)
So it is possible that at least some of the bodies found could be of terrorists killed by Sunnis -- either Sunni insurgents or Sunni patriots (which groups may have a large intesection). The "sectarian" war we thought we were witnessing may not be what it seems.
As for the Shiite militia attacking Sunni citizens, there has been an amazing new development: the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries announced yesterday that from now on, anti-terrorist raids will be conducted with the Iraqi Army and the police operating together:
Yesterday, the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries said they have reached an agreement requiring them to conduct all raids jointly, in a bid to stop the operations of death squads masquerading as police commandos.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who controls Iraqi police, is a Shi'ite. Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi is a Sunni Muslim.
This should prevent overly "enthusiastic" Iraqi police from abusing, kidnapping, and even killing Sunnis, as many Sunnis believe, with good reason, has been happening. They trust the Army much more that the police for several reasons:
- The Iraqi Army was directly trained by the Americans, while we are only just now starting to train the police.
- The Army is run by a Sunni Iraqi; while the police are under the Interior Ministry, which is run by Bayan Jabr of the United Iraqi Alliance, who is closely allied with the Muqtada Sadr-supported Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
- The Iraqi police have been heavily infiltated by Iranian-supported Shiite militias in some areas (notably in Basra and in the Sadr City slum section of Baghdad)... particularly by Muqtada Sadr's al-Mahdi militia; the police are also corrupt and incompetent; and many police stations are simply tribal strike forces, who actually launch attacks on other Iraqi police stations controlled by "enemy tribes."
Joint raids between police and Army would greatly reassure nervous Sunnis, many of whom were just as opposed to Saddam Hussein as were Shia and Kurds... but who have been lumped together with the Tikrit tribe as "Saddamists" by the ruling Shia and often treated as incipient terrorists solely because they are Sunnis and secular, rather than being Shia who want to follow sharia law.
And have we already forgotten that "Death List" from the beginning of this post? It's hard to dismiss the idea that the real reason Shiite "men in black" abuse the Sunnis is that so many Sunni tribal leaders are secularists who oppose "efforts to establish an Islamist state in the country" -- whether a Wahabbist state established by al-Qaeda, or an Iranian-style mullahcracy imposed by radical Shia.
Let us hope that this new policy succeeds.
SF Vet to Murtha: How can you ask us to leave?
Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham read a letter on her show that had been sent by an unretired Special-Forces soldier to Congressman Murtha, the veteran and representative who calls for the "immediate redployment" of our troops from Iraq to "over the horizon" positions -- in other words, our immediate withdrawal (which he later amended to say that we start immediately, and it will actually take six months to get out).
The letter is from retired, 60 year old Army paratrooper, Dave Rockwell. Rockwell left the Army in 1992, after 24 yeas in the Special Forces and Airborne Infantry units; but he recently reenlisted and is now deployed with the 10th Mountain Division (former Sen. Bob Dole's old outfit) fighting in Iraq. It was there that he handed the letter to Ingraham, who was doing a morale visit to Iraq at the time (where she was very well received).
The Antique Media -- which ferrets out any disgruntled serviceman who wants to complain -- somehow missed this incredible guy. Here are some excerts from his letter to Murtha; but read the whole thing... it will inspire you.
Although it is difficult to keep up with politics from over here, your comments on immediate withdrawal have been noted by all of us. I cannot tell you the overall sense of discouragement, sense of betrayal and the feeling that few appreciate our efforts your comments have created. 1BCT [1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division] has been frequently deployed in support of the War on Terrorism and we believe it is the correct fight and we believe we are winning. We have seen a significant improvement on the ground since we began combat operations in Baghdad three months ago....
I sincerely believe General Marshall as deeply as I believe your statements have undermined the morale of these young soldiers. I have watched intently as your political party has attempted to use this war for political advantage and find it to be repugnant in the extreme....
How can you ask us to leave? Must we forget all the sacrifices, the deaths, lost limbs, lost marriages and the daily struggle to win?...
Make no mistake, we are winning here. It ain't easy and it may be difficult for you to see from your elevated position. But day in and day out, 24/7 we are pushing out combat patrols, taking the initiative away from the beheaders, limiting their ability to move, resupply and detaining and killing them. We are going to win here. We are going to leave this country far better off than when we started and American is going to be more secure for it. We will make the sacrifice, will you, will America?
The "General Marshall" reference above is to a quotation about troop morale that Rockwell includes, which ends:
planning, preparation, and production, count for naught.
Take a read, Congressman Murtha -- and then shut up.
The Law of Conservation of Kvetching
I have a theory.
(Actually, I have a theory about virtually everything. Why do you think I blog, anyway?)
I have a theory about protest during wartime. See, I've been trying to understand why a war such as Iraq, for which casualties and deaths are so incredibly low, produces such a passionate geshrei that you'd think it was as bad as the Civil War or World War II.
My theory is that there is a stable human need for psychodrama. This acting out lets us blow off all the accumulated stress and tension from day to day life.
Many people emote by going to football games and acting a fool: going bare-chested in the winter and painting themselves in the team colors; jumping up and down on the seats and screaming until they lose their voices for days; crying inconsolably when their team wins but doesn't beat the point spread.
Others work it out in church: three hundred people singing gospel hymns (in four hundred distinct keys), beating themselves, and flinging reptiles about (to which I take personal exception).
But others get their minimum daily requirement of hystrionics by protesting: by chanting "hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go!" By chaining themselves to the Ladies room. By rolling on the ground and speaking in tongues (usually Maoish)... and in general, by acting like jungle chimpanzees when an alien tries to infiltrate the pack. They whine and complain, they accuse and scream, they peel bananas with their feet, they yield to the wild roller-coaster of emotional loop-de-loops that accompanies most protests and "street action."
Puppets. There's usually puppets in it somewhere.
I call this the Law of Conservation of Kvetching: it doesn't matter whether the war is big or small; those folks who depend upon "peace activism" to validate their lives and release all the inner tensions will protest at exactly the same intensity -- whether for Iraq, Vietnam, the Great War, or the War of Jenkins' Ear.
And that's why Cindy Sheehan, John Kerry, Howard Dean, and Russell Feingold metaphorically fall to the ground and foam at the mouth over even such a well-managed and inoffensive war as this... for the same reason that Paul Mirengoff invests just as much passion into cheerleading for Everton as he would for a real soccer team: it's not the war -- it's the chance to wear funny hats and motley.
Anyway, that's my theory.
Date ►►► March 14, 2006
Who Goes There?
The "Iraq is collapsing into civil war" story du jour is the discovery of somewhere north of eighty bodies in the last twenty-four hours, all killed execution style and dumped in various mass graves:
Police in the past 24 hours have found the bodies of at least 87 people killed by execution-style shootings - a gruesome wave of apparent sectarian reprisal slayings, officials said Tuesday.
The dead included at least 29 bodies stacked in a mass grave in an eastern Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad.
The bloodshed - the second wave of mass killings in Iraq since bombers destroyed an important Shiite shrine last month - followed weekend attacks in a teeming Shiite slum in which 58 people died and more than 200 were wounded.
But it's important to realize that we're talking about two entirely separate modes of killing in these first three paragraphs:
- Young, military-aged men found executed either by gunshot or by garrotte and dumped into mass graves, mostly in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad;
- The "weekend attacks" of random people of all ages slain by bomb blasts clearly set by Sunni terrorists, with or without Sadr's connivance; such bombings have been carried out by both Sunni radicals associated with Musab Zarqawi and by Shiite radicals associated with "kingmaker" Muqtada Sadr and his al-Mahdi militia.
Why does the mode of killing make a difference? Killing is killing, right?
Not so fast: it's easy to label Mode-2 killing as terrorism, because the victims comprise anyone who has the terrible luck to be near the bombsite when the device goes off. But it's not at all clear who is being killed by Mode-1 -- and it may be the case that some significant portion are actually known militants and terrorists being killed by citizen vigilante groups.
Here is a piece of information included in the Reuters story but absent from the AP story:
Sadr himself called publicly for restraint on Monday. But in Sadr City, the bodies of men labeled "traitors" were hung from telegraph poles and officials say privately that Shi'ite militia commanders are no longer all heeding clerical appeals for calm.
The standard media assumption is that these killings, even Mode-1, are examples of "sectarian violence," meaning people killed simply for being Shia or Sunni in the wrong neighborhood. But how do the newswriters know that? What evidence is there why those particular people were killed? Do they even know how many of those killed were even Iraqi, and how many were foreign Arabs or even non-Arabs?
Some points to note:
- So far, I haven't seen a single report of a mass grave containing women and children shot or strangled. Only military-aged men.
- Although Reuters mentions that some of the bodies were found "bearing signs of torture," they don't actually tell us what "torture" they mean; past misuse of the word (for example, referring to what happened to detainees at Abu Ghraib as "torture") means I cannot simply accept the Antique Media's claim without specifics: for example, does this abuse look more like punishment -- or like abuse during interrogation? Recall that in much of the world, certainly including Iraq, inflicting pain and injury in order to get information is considered normal.
- The bodies are nearly always dumped in groups, as if a batch of people had been rounded up from the same location and killed together. This could be "people worshipping at the wrong mosque," but it could also be "militants captured in a safehouse."
- There are persistent reports that the "kidnappers" are often Interior-Ministry police or "men in black." Whether honest or militant themselves, such people might have access to police files of known Sunni militants.
Each of these suggests at least the possibility that some portion of Mode-1 killings are not terrorism but rather vigilantism. Vigilante justice has a very bad reputation, some of it deserved; but even the most anti-vigilante activist has to agree that at least some of the people who have been lynched throughout history were, in fact, guilty of whatever crime was urged against them. Others were innocent... but the moment one accepts that some were guilty, the questions become more pointed: what percent were guilty? how was supposed guilt determined? and what safeguards were in place to prevent innocents being killed?
Most of those lynched are not strangers; they are known within the community -- and known to be violent, dangerous people. Often there are witnesses to the crime, but for whatever reason (standing of the accused, absence of a sitting court, insularity of a minority population, the local courts known to be corrupt or slapdash) it's not practical to try the accused in a court.
Without question, many innocent people have been murdered by vigilante justice. "Known in the community" can also include the guy who owns the land you want to steal, or the surly black ranch hand who can be blamed for "raping" the daughter who in fact had consentual sex with some lowlife white ranch hand. It's impossible to deny that such murders were (and still are) committed under color of vigilantism.
But many innocents have also been killed by constituted justice: Bruno Hauptmann, for example, executed in 1936 for the kidnapping and murder of the child of aviator Charles Lindbergh; or Caryl Chessman, executed in 1960 for being the "Red Light Bandit." For both men, there is at least a strong and very reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the crime. Similarly, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (executed 1927) may or may not have actually been guilty of the murder of Alessandro Berardelli, but their trial certainly cannot be called a model of justice. In most times and places in history, such arbitrary sentences of death are found as often in constituted justice as in vigilante justice.
In Iraq, there is not even a question: orders of magnitude more innocent people were executed legally under court sentence in the days of Saddam Hussein, even measured per month, than have been killed by vigilantism since Hussein's removal -- even if one assumes that every, last person found killed by Mode-1 was innocent, itself a dubious claim.
What we really need for understanding is for the media to begin identifying those killed by Mode-1 and determining which of them is known or strongly suspected to be a member of a terrorist organization, whether Shiite or Sunni. This cannot be determined, by the way, by asking local Shia whether some Shiite fellow tribesman is a "terrorist," because that is a question that can almost never be answered No. At least not safely.
Rather, photographs of the dead taken while they were still alive (if families can be talked into supplying them) should be gathered and mixed in with photos of others clearly not involved; then these photos should be shown in a "photo line-up" to victims and witnesses. Let them pick out anybody they recognize -- and see which such "witness identifications" match up with those who were killed and dumped into mass graves (or left in the back of a pickup truck). And then report honestly on the results.
But of course, that would involve actual journalistic work; and it's so much easier simply to label every death an "apparent sectarian reprisal slaying" and move on to the next piece of bad news. Besides -- "sectarian violence" fits the Iraq civil war story so much better than does the execution of terrorists!
A Circular Firing Squad
A few days ago, brimming with indignation about a clownish assault on the president by liberal to moderate Republicans determined to "distance" themselves from George Bush -- as if voters would admire their "courage" in speaking truth to power -- I made a gloomy prediction:
The GOP had a great chance this year. Normally, the second-term midterm election is very bad for the incumbent party... but this time, the Democrats have been unable to come together on any platform, plan, or campaign theme whatsoever. The Republicans were well poised to maintain their majorities in both the House and Senate.
Until now. It's not that Republicans will vote for Democrats; but with the Congressional GOP attacking and trying to bring down the Republican president, a huge chunk of the Republican electorate may simply decide to stay home -- "a plague on both your houses." Today, if I were betting, I would wager that the Democrats pick up at least ten seats in the House and four or five in the Senate; maybe more. And I'm no longer even sure the Republicans deserve the majority anyway. Thanks, Mr. Stupid.
Bah. I should know better than to rely upon the Democrats to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face. Whenever I stray from my normally sunny optimism and sink into pessimistic near-despair, I turn out to be wrong: optimism is not just healthier, it's actually a better model of the universe!
In fact, it took the Democrats less than a week to find a way to kneecap themselves, returning us to the electoral status-quo ante... especially given the speed with which the Bush administration strong-armed the Prime Minister of Dubai to offer the Big Lizards modest proposal of inserting an American intermediary in between the United Arab Emirates and control of terminal operations at six American ports.
With the combination of Bush's alacrity in staunching the bloodflow and the Democrats renewed determination to lose at any cost, I think we're back on track for an election of zero movement: a couple of seats here or there, going perhaps either way -- and then everything resumes its preset orbit in Congress. Here are the signs of the Derangement Party's electoral death-wish:
- Joe Biden (D-DE) dives over the Murtha cliff;
- Russell Feingold (D-WI) lunges for the censure chimera;
- John Conyers (D-MI) fires blindly for the impeachment jackpot.
First, "Slow" Joe Biden (as Hugh Hewitt calls him) has begun loudly demanding that we pull out of Iraq if we haven't won in the next six months. Heck, even the soldiers in Zogby's poll gave us a year!
Six months is, as I recall, the same timeframe that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) suggested for "redeploying" ourselves "over the horizon" from Iraq (I guess that would be to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Turkey), hoping to turn victory into Vietnamesque defeat... so Biden is not exactly being Mr. In-Between here (nor is he "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate"-ing the positive).
The U.S. should pull troops from Iraq after this summer if the political conditions in the country do not improve, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.
By "after this summer," I conclude he means September: just six months. Biden added the following, evidently blissfully unaware that the Iraqis voted in a constitution back in October:
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is aiming for the 2008 presidential race, said the Iraqis must have a constitution that unites fighting factions of the society or "it's game over."
I guess we now know what Joe doesn't know. Say, Joe, what do you know?
Feingold is a weirder case. Like most senators, he is a lawyer (Harvard Law, 1979); and even though he only practiced for three years before tumbling into his endless political career, he should certainly know better than to refer to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program as "[Bush's] unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States." CNN can only gaze in silent envy at Feingold's economy of conspiracy-mongering.
The senator attempts to conjure the image of the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr. being wiretapped by the FBI for speaking truth to -- oh, wait, I already used that one. "I can call spirits from the vasty deep!" declares Russell Feingold.
Instead, the NSA program more resembles the "Magic" program, the codeword for the decryption of the Japanese military code before we entered World War II.
Feingold was roundly dissed by the rest of the Democratic caucus, who one and all became extraordinarily absorbed with other business when Sen. Feingold tried to drum up support for "censuring" Bush. The only previous president who was ever censured was Andrew Jackson in 1834, for yanking the federal lettuce out of the Whig bank, as I understand it.
And naturally, given his "druthers," Rep. Conyers has to go Feingold "one louder": Conyers is pushing for out and out impeachment of the president, though he hasn't quite figured out the grounds yet. From the AP story:
In the House, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is pushing legislation that would call on the Republican-controlled Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeachment.
I can just hear Conyers now, gesturing at Robert Byrd's dogeared copy of the Constitution: "Help me out, guys... there's gotta be something in there about talkin' Texan being a high crime or misdemeanor!"
Oh yes, that's just what Americans want... another impeachment battle! During wartime! Even Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of the Daily Kos cringed when impeachment was raised at a recent blogger-con.
Just when you think the Democrats will finally pick up the ball and run with it, they pull off an incredible, fifty-yard reverse lateral instead. What a difference a week makes.
Date ►►► March 13, 2006
Who Wants Civil War?
Over the weekend, I was going to write about this good news from Iraq, that the Iraqi Army's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraq Army Division has just taken over security in Sadr City. But before I had a chance, I heard this bad news: multiple car bombs (accounts differ as to how many) exploded in Sadr City, killing 58 and wounding more than 200. These bombings have al-Qaeda's and Zarqawi's fingerprints all over them.
It is curious though, why al-Qaeda would choose to bomb that particular place at just such a time.
Sadr City is the stronghold of the notorious Muqtada Sadr and home-base of his militia, the Mahdi "army." In fact, Sadr City is actually (unofficially) named after Sadr's father, who is far more respected, even revered, than Sadr himself has ever been: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. The city is practically run by the militia, since the locals do not trust the Iraqi army or the police.
Saadoun al-Sahl, a furniture shop owner, said he counted on private militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to shield him from a recent surge of sectarian killing that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
“They protect us better than any security agency,” he said. “If I or anyone has a problem, we go to the Mahdi Army to solve it.”
(The similarity to how the Mafia used to "rule" Italian neighborhoods in New York and Chicago, taking the place of police, is striking.)
Right after the Februrary 22, 2006 bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque (the Golden Mosque) in Samarra, Sadr's "men in black" took up arms and launched a number of attacks on Sunni mosques -- some of which used to be Shiite mosques but were forcibly converted by Saddam Hussein. Yet, the Interior Ministry made a deal to have the Mahdi Army to secure the city:
The Shiite-led Interior Ministry, which oversees police, agreed to work with the Mahdi Army in the aftermath of the shrine bombing. Al-Sadr followers in black trousers and yellow button-down shirts manned checkpoints and searched pedestrians with metal detector wands during an unusual daytime curfew that helped curb the worst of the violence.
It is hardly coincidental that the Interior Ministry is run by interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, also the UIA candidate for permanent prime minister... and who is strongly backed by (surprise!) Muqtada Sadr.
It looks like the Mahdi Army has gained quite a bit of prestige and power, thanks to Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia. But now that the Iraqi Army is here, the Mahdi must step aside or be pushed aside. The American-trained army is tough -- unlike the Iraqi police. In fact Col. Hussain Muhsein, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the Iraqi Army, insisted there would be no deals with Mahdi Army:
“The Iraq army does not cooperate with any militias,” Muhsein said. “We follow the orders of the Ministry of Defense.”
Then the Monday bombings occurred. Perfect timing, is it not? If anyone wanted to embarrass the Iraqi Army and increase the appeal of the Mahdi militia, he could not have planned it better. In fact... it's almost as if al-Qaeda and Muqtada Sadr are in cahoots with each other. How is it that multiple car bombs could slip through the cordon of the Iraqi Army surrounding Sadr City? Could this be an inside job carried out by Shia, not Sunnis?
After all, the Mahdi militia needn't slip past anyone: they already control those streets.
Scott from Security Watchtower is asking the same questions:
This attack specifically targeted civilians at markets and is clearly intended to provoke further sectarian fighting and a Shiia response against Sunnis. My initial reaction is to question how four car bombs could've been driven into Sadr City when (1) there is security in and around the Shi'ite neighborhood, (2) there is somewhat limited road accessibility and (3) security forces would have to be in a heightened state of alert due to the sectarian fighting and realize the neighborhood was a target. Amer al-Husseini, a cleric who serves as an aide to al-Sadr, is quoted in Sunday's Independent Online saying "after Sadr City's reaction to the bombing of our holy shrine we were expecting attacks."
One of the terrorists is reportedly an African. How could such an obvious foreigner be free to drive a car filled with explosives through such a close-knit community without the Mahdi miltia noticing?
It is a given that al-Qaeda wants civil war in "the land between two rivers" (Mesopotamia, another name for Iraq). They thrive on chaos and discord. They don't even care who kills whom, so long as Iraq is thrown into turmoil; al-Qaeda can hide and bide and operate in the shadows. Plenty of time to seize control when order collapses... as they did in Sudan and during the civil war in Afghanistan.
That is why they have been trying so desperately to start a sectarian war; but no one has taken the bait. No one, that is, except Muqtada Sadr.
Civil war is also good for Sadr. He doesn't care how many Sunni die, nor even how many Shia: his aim all along has been to become the new Caliph of the Shia, if not all Iraq. Mind, Sadr has denied ordering the attacks on the Sunni mosques; he even called for calm after Monday's attacks (which especially makes sense if he were complicit in them). But such doubletalk is Sadr's stock in trade. As Charles Bronson says in Breakheart Pass, "if a man is a thief and a murderer, it follows he may be a liar as well."
What is happening in Iraq is nothing like a real civil war. There are no armies taking the field against each other. Contrast it with the American civil war, where more than three and a half million troops deployed against each other -- and over half a million soldiers died -- at a time when the American population was only 1.3 times the size of Iraq's population today.
What we see in Iraq is instead a strange and creepy dance between Zarqawi and Sadr. They both want the same thing for now: Armageddon in Iraq. But just as Sunni "insurgents" have leant a bitter lesson, Sadr will also soon discover that Zarqawi destroys everything he touches.
Brits to Reduce Its Forces in Iraq
According to a recent Zogby poll, 72% of U.S. troops believe we should withdraw from Iraq within an year. As Dafydd said, I wish they had asked the troops why.
Today, Britain announced that they are reducing the forces in Iraq by 10 percent. Why?
Because, says Defence Secretary John Reid, "This is a significant reduction which is based largely on the ability of the Iraqis themselves to participate and defend themselves against terrorism, but there is a long, long way to go."
LONDON (AP) - Britain said Monday it will cut its forces in Iraq by 10 percent - a reduction of about 800 troops - by May because Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable of handling security. Defense Secretary John Reid said Britain's commitment to the Iraqi people "remains total"....
Britain had 46,000 military personnel in Iraq during combat operations in March and April 2003. That dropped to 18,000 in May 2004, and to 8.500 at the end of 2005...
At the time of the last withdrawal of British troops in October, Reid said there were 190,000 members of Iraqi security forces trained and equipped. Now the total is 235,000, and 5,000 more joined every month, he said.
Had Zogby troubled to ask the follow-up question, our troops might have said the same thing. Ah, but that's not what they wanted to hear, was it?
Please Fence Me In
All right, I've changed my mind a bit about the "security fence" many nativ-- er, America-focused folks want to build along the 3,000-mile border with Mexico. Not that I now think it will actually solve any problems by itself; I stand by my original conclusion: there is no wall, no matter how strong, that can stand up to a million people trying to knock it over.
But I now believe that without first getting their fence, many members of Congress will not even give honest consideration to any system to divide the illegales into two groups: those honest and decent folks who are simply desperate to feed their families and give their children a better life (about 99% of illegal immigrants)... and those who cross the line for nefarious purposes: to smuggle drugs, evade prison, or worst of all, commit heinous acts of terrorism against the United States.
Solely in order to finally reduce the immigration problem down to something we can handle, I now support building the friggin' fence first. I hope the congressional gentry will feel happy enough about that achievement that they will bend their mighty brains to the more urgent problem of understanding who is really our enemy -- and who merely twists around our insane immigration laws.
I have a friend from Japan named Takao, who lived here legally for sixteen years. He had a job. He owned a condo, paid his taxes, and repeatedly tried to get a Green Card; but there is no mechanism to do so. There is no series of steps you can take that will lead to permanent residency. He even hired an American lawyer, but the lawyer just ripped him off for thousands of dollars and did nothing.
When Takao suffered a tragic loss, he couldn't work for a couple of months... and he lost his job. The INS quickly ordered him out of the country... because his work-visa was good only so long as he worked at that particular employer. No other would do!
He was crying when he left. He wanted to live here for the rest of his life. He played by the rules. And in the end, the rules screwed him. The INS couldn't care less. Takao was simply mailed back to Japan like an unordered cheese: return to sender, address unknown.
The fence, once we build it, will reveal the fallacy of imagining that a security barrier along the southern border will be as effective as the similar barriers separating the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from Israel. It will not, for the simple reason that our illegal immigrants have a completely different motivation than Arabs illegally sneaking into Israel.
In Israel, there is already a de facto segregation: Arabs who just want to live and work in Israel have already moved there, and done so long ago; in fact, a very significant proportion of the Israeli population is Arab -- mostly Moslem Arab, but some Christians and a tiny batch of Jewish Arabs.
Those left in the Palestinian Authority who cross under night's black cloak have only one purpose in mind; that very fact restricts their number. Few men (and even fewer women) truly want to be martyrs, no matter what words they mouth when words are demanded. They grumble or cheer, as the case may warrant; but only those committed to the struggle are willing to burrow like trap-door spiders beneath the wall, knowing they will strike and die.
That is the very situation I want to create in the United States. Today, millions flood across the border, desperate not to kill children in school or wives at home with their babies, but to build a world where their own babies and children can grow up without knowing starvation of body or soul, wracked by poverty and crushed by oppression. They come for the same reason my own ancestors came -- back when we welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.
Today, for reasons entirely understandable, we simply cannot take them all; we would quickly lose our country. But even so, I cannot find it in my heart to wish ill of father and mother who break the law only to give a better life to those to whom they have indeed given life. I cannot understand my countrymen who wish them to die in the desert (children too?) or who want the Army to "protect" our land from these "invaders"... with M-16 and Abrams tank.
The compromise is to let in the father, but not forever. To let him come and work (God knows we need the labor) and send the money home, then go home himself when he has provided for his family; a guest worker, just as described.
This is not "amnesty," except to those for whom words have no more meaning than the lives they would likewise misuse. In amnesty, those already here are tapped with a magic wand, given a Green Card, and told they can stay indefinitely. The distinction is between giving a man a cot in a homeless shelter -- and letting him wall off a corner and file a title deed.
But there is another, smaller group that creeps like the night on little cat feet, across the border with no thought of children they don't have or a family they long ago abandoned. These men -- and occasionally women -- think only of the harm and misery they can cause, whether for sake of ideology or monetary gain.
They are sociopaths: other humans are less than zero to them. They are the polar opposites of men working to support their loved ones. These others have no one they love, because they are incapable of love: hate long ago expelled it from their stomachs, the way a hydrophobic dog vomits water. It is this group I want to interdict, hold, and when appropriate, imprison or execute.
But we cannot find them now, for they hide among the first group. And the first group, even if they suspect, are afraid to raise voice against them... because they know if they do so, even to save another man's children, they would condemn their own to a painful, belly-bloated death by hunger -- if the rabid dogs didn't cut their tongues from their mouths before they could utter the accusation.
To stop the beasts, we must first separate them from the men.
There is only one way I can think to do this: and that is to open the door to the latter. Let them come in straight and honest, photographed, fingerprinted, with a high-tech guest-worker card linked to a database of background, current history in the United States, and biometric information to prevent identity theft. Where the door is opened wide, only the guilty try to slip through the window.
With a technologically sophisticated guest worker program, there will not be a million men trying to knock down the wall. There will only be a handful trying to burrow under it, slide around it, or glide over the top... a quiet enough number that a beefed-up Border Patrol could catch them all -- being finally able to focus their force, not spread it scattershot among foul and fair alike.
Then and never else will the security fence truly work, because it will in fact mimic the successful Israeli wall... rather than King Canute vainly ordering out the tide.
Date ►►► March 12, 2006
Dhimmi of the Month Poll: Advanced Poll 2.04, Anyone?
We're trying to figure out how to use the PHP software Advanced Poll 2.04 to create the polls for the Dhimmi of the Month feature... but we're having a hard time figuring out how to work it (actually, I am the one who is completely befuddled; Sachi the Engineer refuses to get involved in techie stuff!)
Do any of you readers have experience with this application? I think it's the same one Patrick Ruffini uses for his 1,001 weekly straw polls, but I don't want to start bugging him for help until I've exhausted every other avenue.
Any aid you can supply would be greatly appreciated!
New Experimental Look for Big Lizards
Any thoughts? Do you like it, hate it, or are you indifferent?
Did you even notice it looks different from the last time you were here? (If not, then... yeesh!)
Please leave comments: we can easily restore the old version (it takes about thirty seconds to change the stylesheet back to what it was). But if you like the new, we can leave it up.
To get a better view of the background pattern, click the permalink.
If you want to click back and forth and compare them, just click Home on the navigation bar in the logo area; that is what the blog used to look like. Click Blog to return here.
Date ►►► March 11, 2006
Wafa Wafting Into View
Sachi and I followed the Power Line link a few days ago and very much enjoyed watching MEMRI's video of Dr. Wafa Sultan -- a psychiatrist, but don't hold that against her -- rip apart some hapless Imam somewhere in debate.
It was carried on al-Jazeera, and MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) added English subtitles.
Well, "debate" is somewhat misleading. The Moslem cleric simply stood there, opening and closing his mouth like a turbaned carp, while Dr. Sultan danced up and down his spine in hobnailed pumps. (If you dislike watching online verbal dissections -- or you have a dial-up connection -- you can read a partial transcript here to whet your appetite. But the video is fuller and much funner!)
The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists.
15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people.
The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies.
This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.
Now she's hit the "big time," being profiled by a two-pager in the New York Times. And it's even a sympathetic story! I find that amazing, considering that she compared the battle between Islam and the West to "a clash between... barbarity and rationality." I would have thought the Times would do one of its patented hatchet jobs, perhaps implying she had helped George Bush drag James Byrd behind that pickup truck.
If you haven't checked these out yet, it's time.
Date ►►► March 10, 2006
It Takes a Village Meathead
Here in California, actor-director Rob Reiner has been caught red-handed diverting $23 million of taxpayer money to an ad campaign supporting universal, government-funded preschool -- at the very time that a Reiner-crafted initiative that would set up universal, government-funded preschool began gathering the signatures necessary to get on the ballot.
Actually, this has become a national story, mostly due to the efforts of blogger/broadcaster Hugh Hewitt and reporter Bill Bradley of the L.A. Weekly, a free, left-leaning newspaper that nevertheless is often more insightful, honest, and accurate than the Los Angeles Times. The Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub is also on this story... and his Bee-blog California Insider directed me to this smoking-gun memo.
Here is Weintraub:
The controversial preschool-for-all ad campaign paid for with public funds and timed to coincide with the unveiling of Rob Reiner’s universal preschool initiative had its roots in a 2002 memorandum that laid out a detailed strategy for changing the public’s mind on the issue.
The memo, which you can see in pdf form here, was prepared by GMMB, the same ad firm whose principals have close ties to Reiner and created the $23 million campaign that began airing late last year just as Reiner and his allies began to seek signatures for the initiative that will appear on the June ballot as Proposition 82.
This political ad campaign was paid for by money from the tobacco tax under the control of the Reiner-headed California Children and Families Commission; the money was supposed to be used to "fund education, health, child care and other programs to promote early childhood development for expectant parents and children up to age five." (Reiner continues to function as the CCFC's chairman, even though his term expired a long time ago; Gov. Schwarzenegger has not found occasion to name a replacement yet.)
While it may fall within the mission of of the CCFC to promote preschool, it certainly is not part of the mission -- and cannot by California law be part of the mission -- for the publicly funded CCFC to agitate for passage of an initiative. Taxpayer money cannot be used in political campaigns, not only here but probably in every state in the Union.
That campaign is now so radioactive that even Democratic politicians are calling for a full-blown investigation. Reiner abruptly took an indefinite, voluntary leave of absence from a job that he does not legally still have; and the campaign manager for Prop. 82 has just resigned, after it was disclosed he was simultaneously being paid as a consultant to the CCFC... with (surprise!) taxpayer money:
The campaign manager for Proposition 82, the universal preschool initiative on the June 6 ballot, is stepping aside from his position amid a growing controversy about tax dollars spent on ads supporting preschool.
Campaign manager Ben Austin became a source of controversy for collecting $110,000 as a consultant for First 5 California, a commission chaired by Proposition 82's leading backer, movie director Rob Reiner.
So what ties this all together? Just because a man works both for a political campaign and also for a state-funded agency doesn't necessarily mean that the latter is financing the former, does it?
Enter the memo. This is a memo written by and circulated within the advertising agency that was paid by the CCFC -- clearly spelling out that the purpose of the ad campaign is to get people to support universal preschool as envisioned in Proposition 82.
Here are some juicy tidbits. Remember, the entire campaign that arose from this 2002 memo is paid for by taxpayer dollars [underlining and bolding is their emphasis; blue highlighting is ours -- the Mgt]:
In the past, the campaign has sought to inform parents and caregivers about how and why to improve the early development of their young children. Now we will seek to persuade all adults in California that maximizing early childhood defvelopment benefits everyone, and that they should therefore support state efforts to provide universally available early learning programs....
We must create demand by creating awareness of the problems caused by insufficient attention to the early years. Currently, not enough people see the need for the state to do more, because they don't see a problem. If we offer people the solution to a problem they are not aware exists, they will reject it. We must educate people that there is a problem, thereby leading to demand for improvement....
We must continue our efforts at parental education. It is crucial that we continue to build upon the work we've already done in educating parents and caregivers about the difference they can make in the way their children develop, not just because it is important in and of itself, but also because it will also help to create more demand for improved programs from the state. The more we communicate about the relationship between the early years and future outcomes -- especially in K-12 -- the more we will create demand for a greater level of service from the state....
We must explicitly make the case that all children would benefit from a greater state role in early education -- not just lower income children....
Throughout the research process, it has been clear that the answers we got from respondents depended entirely on how the question was framed.... We must define the issues in the ways most likely to generate support for greater state involvement in early learning....
[W]e want to do everything possible to help people reach their own conclusions, rather than simply force-fed them the information. One of the options we intend to explore are ads that frame questions (e.g.: At what age should formal education begin? What outcome would you expect when one child enters kindergarten able to read, while another cannot?) and then lead people to develop the correct answers on their own.
At this point, the Democrats who control the state of California are still stalling the investigation.
Unfortunately, the audit is going to take four or five months from the time that it starts, and no one knows when it will begin. A vote to expedite the audit fell one vote short of passage in the [Audit] committee.
In addition, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, refuses either to represent the CCFC or to investigate it, citing a conflict of interest in both cases. We remember the bizarre tactics Lockyer used last year to try to prevent the redistricting proposal from ending up on the ballot; it eventually had to be forced on by the courts over Lockyer's furious objection (it lost anyway). It's difficult not to see a pattern here: attempts by the Audit Commission to stonewall an investigation into CCFC and Rob Reiner, the attorney general refusing to involve himself on any side.
Considering how much money Reiner and his Hollywood friends have spread around the California Democratic Party, it's still an open question whether Reiner's misuse of taxpayer money will ever be investigated at all... despite the clear evidence of intent found in this 2002 memo.
Addendum to "Careful": Words Apart
Newsflash! The Associated Press is biased against Bush.
I know this shocks you, since we all believe that the elite media is non-partisan, unbiased, as pure as the driven dandruff. But now that RealClearPolitics finally has the AP-Ipsos poll up that we discussed in the previous post, and I finally got a chance to look at the actual numbers; and now that AP has a more complete story out about the poll, which includes a couple of minor little facts that didn't get mentioned in the earlier story that I linked last night... well, see for yourself.
The first point to note is my usual objection to such polling: this is a poll of national adults, a respondent pool that historically leans much further to the left than "registered voters," or even better, "likely voters." When asking about political questions -- and this entire poll is political in nature -- it only makes sense to restrict poll reporting to respondents who actually participate in the political process. Otherwise, it's like asking a teetotaller to rate the taste of different beers!
Also, as usual, Ipsos polled 6% more Democrats than Republicans (35 to 29); and of course, they did not weight for party affiliation. (When Independents were pushed to declare which way they leaned, the total rose from 35-29 to 51-39; but that might actually be picking up current attitude, rather than actual party affiliation, and they are right not to weight for that disparity.)
The very first sentence of the earlier story is a blatant falsehood, according to AP-Ipsos' own polling. It claims:
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
But it fails to mention that Bush's job approval now is exactly the same as it was in October and November of last year; and in fact, it's within the margin of error of every single poll Ipsos has taken in the last six months (except for December, when it bumped up very slightly). The same is also true for the right track/wrong track numbers, for Bush's handling of the economy, of foreign policy and terrorism, and of Iraq, each of which has been more or less the same for the past six to twelve months.
Respondents' opinion of Bush's likeability, honesty, and strength actually improved over the last poll, taken in November. Their opinion of his intelligence dropped, but their opinion of whether he is "arrogant" remained unchanged.
Thus, it is impossible to honestly portray this poll as showing any sort of trend away from Bush; more than anything else, it shows that people's opinion of him has barely budged in the last six months or longer.
But there is one more point which makes very clear the biased reporting about the poll (not the poll itself, which, despite its shortcomings, seems honest). Here is the smoking gun:
In the earlier story, written by AP Political Writer Ron Fournier, this is what AP had to say about the prospects for Iraq:
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency.
But in the newer story, written by Will Lester with "contribution" by Fournier and AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson, one additional poll result is added; this result is not even mentioned in the first story by Fournier:
People are evenly divided on the prospects for a stable, democratic government in Iraq, with the number expecting a stable outcome about the same as a year ago, the poll found.
Sound a bit contradictory? All is explained by actually looking at the poll itself, which you can find here.
On the Iraq question, the sample was actually split in half: one half was asked "How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?" This sample responded as reported in the earlier story (and the current), with 77% saying "likely."
How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?
But the other half of the sample was asked a different question, one which did not suggest the negative answer:
How likely is it that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq?
What a difference the wording makes! As I've said before, the exact wording of a poll has a tremendous impact on the results you get. In fact, this result has held remarkably steady since at least April of 2004, when the numbers were 50% saying stable democracy was likely and 49% saying it was unlikely.
I believe that the new, sensationalist question was asked simply to produce a shocking response, which then became the headline of the second story. ("Somewhat likely" was one of the allowed responses, and it was lumped with "likely" for reporting. 39% said it was "very likely," 39% said it was "somewhat likely.")
The result that half the people expect a stable democracy in Iraq is snuck into the Lester story towards the very bottom, where it's unlikely to be seen by the great majority of readers.
In other words, as I noted in the previous post, this is a "media push" to try to turn people against the president, even though the underlying poll is not a push-poll. The problem isn't the poll itself; it's no more incompetent than 90% of the rest of the polling done by the Antique Media. The problem is the reporting on the poll, which is extraordinarily slanted.
But I think this might not have been such a surprise after all.
(In the extended entry below, I discuss two more demonstrably false claims in the new story, one about violence in Iraq, the other about American and British casualties.)
More bias is also evident in the second story, which repeats a pair of falsehoods to explain the president's supposed "drop" in the polls (despite the fact that he has not actually dropped).
Claim number one:
Violence in Iraq has escalated since the destruction of a 1,200-year-old shrine in Samarra in late February.
This is simply false, through and through. Violence did escalate right after the bombing; but then it subsided, and today, it's about where it was before the bombing. This sort of reporting especially leads people to imagine that Iraq is on the brink of civil war... the false idea that violence is getting worse and worse with no abatement.
Claim number two:
As the political situation in Iraq threatens to disintegrate, the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount.
There are only two possible ways to interpret this statement:
- Every month, the total number of casualties since March 2003 either goes up or stays the same; the total number of casualties never decreases.
- Every month, the number of casualties that month is higher than in most previous months.
Interpretation number one is simply ludicrous. Of course the number can only go up... unless we imagine that, as time passes, the dead rise and people get "unwounded" -- not healed but never wounded in the first place. So the only non-tautological interpretation is number two.
Which is an utter canard. The number of deaths and woundings per month is going down, not up. So either Mr. Lester is a fool, an ignoramus, or a liar; I suppose he can take his pick.
Shortly before the vote, starting in October, 2005, the number of U.S. and U.K. deaths rose sharply (as expected, with the terrorists trying to disrupt the vote). It jumped from a monthly average of 1.73 per day to 3.16 per day. Then in November, it dropped to 2.87, then to 2.19, then to 2.06 average per day. It "rose" to 2.07 in February, but that is simply an artifact of February having only 28 days: there were actually fewer deaths in February than January (58 and 64, respectively).
And this month, in ten days, there were only ten deaths -- a rate of 1.00 per day, less than half the rate of previous months. In fact, in 2005, there were a total of 874 American and British deaths in Iraq, or 2.46 per day. So far in 2006, in 69 days, there have been only 132 deaths -- for a daily rate of only 1.91. If that keeps up for the rest of the year, it will mean only 698 American and British deaths, for a drop of more than 20%.
If March is more typical than January and February -- the months immediately following the election and including the rise in violence following the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque") in Samarra, then we should see fewer than 400 deaths in Iraq in 2006... which would be less than half as many who died last year.
But wait! They said "the toll of deaths and casualties," not just deaths. Passing over the minor ignorance here -- "casualties" already includes both deaths and woundings -- maybe they're saying that the drop in deaths is more than made up for by a supposed rise in woundings.
Wrong again: woundings have also been dropping. (Note that we are now talking only about U.S. woundings; I can't find statistics about British woundings.)
In the 22 weeks from September 28th, 2005 through March 8th, 2006, there were 2,249 total woundings in action (102.2 per week). Breaking it down further, in the last 13 weeks of 2005 (through January 4th, 2006), there were 1,574 woundings, or 121.1 per week. In the first 9 weeks of 2006 (starting January 5th), there were only 675 woundings for 75.0 per week, a drop of 38% from the end of 2005 to now.
During this same 22-week period spanning the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, there were 3,753 woundings, which works out to 170.6 woundings per week -- compared to 102.2 recently. So in one year, the number of woundings dropped by more than 40%.
All right, sure -- maybe the total number of woundings is going down. But not all wounds are the same. Maybe AP means the severity of the woundings is increasing.
Nope; that too is going down. The military splits out woundings into two groups: those for which the soldier is returned to duty within 72 hours (minor wounds), and those for which he remains out of action for more than 72 hours (moderate to severe wounds). The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the 22-week period from 2004 to 2005 was 48%. The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the comparable period from 2005 to 2006 was only 39%. 61% of soldiers wounded were returned to duty within 72 hours.
None of this has been reported by the Antique Media. Instead, they continue to use phrases like "the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount." Is it any wonder that so many Americans think things are getting worse and worse, rather than better and better in Iraq?
Careful What You Wish For...
Correction: see below.
This one is a perfect example of a "media push" story -- an article designed not to inform us about the news but to drive the news. Like a push-poll, article style:
Bush's Approval Rating Hits New Low
March 10th, 2006
by Ron Fournier
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.
So nearly 80% of people think "civil war will break out in Iraq;" and not unrelated, nearly 70% think we're headed on "the wrong track." However, virtually every military expert now agrees that the danger of civil war in Iraq is almost past, and that it was never very great in the first place.
The violence was concentrated in areas where (not coincidentally) many reporters stayed; it was deliberately staged to get maximal news coverage by CNN and the nets. And we now learn that the attacks were never widespread among the people; they were restricted to extremist groups among the Sunni (al-Qaeda In Iraq) and the Shia (al Mahdi Militia), men in black on both sides committing tit-for-tat revenges against each other. It was wildly exaggerated by a news media anxious, for several reasons, to video Iraq's descent into utter chaos.
And the Antique Media managed to convince the American people that civil war was just around the corner! With such a complete catastrophe, all of our plans dashed in the flames of the horrific "civil war," it's no wonder people think Bush has failed so terribly. After all, as AP breathlessly reminds us, Iraq is "the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency."
All right, so everyone is trembling, waiting for the civil war... but civil war never comes.
Instead, the government is formed; it seems stable; and even though there is some violence -- this is the Middle East, for heaven's sake -- the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds continue to make political progress. And the Sunnis become even more aggressive about driving Zarqawi and his bloodthirsty foreign terrorists out of Iraq, as they have already begun to do (hat tip John Hinderaker at Power Line).
So how do Americans react to the unexpected good news from Iraq? My guess is that they start to realize they were duped by the Left... that is, by the news media acting in concert with the Democrats. Expecting the worst, when something actually fairly good happens, they greet it with relief and even exuberance.
It's as if, thinking you have stomach cancer, you go to the doctor in dread; but you find out that you only have acid reflux, which is somewhat serious but absolutely nothing like stomach cancer. Don't you feel a great joy and relief? "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world," and all that?
Here is what else can happen before the election, if the GOP and the president simply decide to do so:
- Bush and the Republicans can make up, now that the ports deal is resolved. They can even have a fairly calm dialog about what to do about other ports whose terminal operations are controlled by foreign-owned companies (or even companies owned by enemy foreign governments, such as the Communist China-owned COSCO, which manages terminal ops at the Port of Long Beach). Democrats will probably oppose forcing divestiture on the Chinese, arguing that Communists who attacked us in 2001, seizing an American EP-3 airplane and holding its crew hostage, are much less dangerous than our Arab allies.
Correction: as commenter Romeocat caught, the plane was an EP-3. I misremembered it as a different surveillance plane, the EC-130. Mea culpa!
- Bush and the Republicans can agree on a significant reduction in spending; the Democrats oppose it, demanding higher spending while they scream about the budget deficit.
- Bush and the Republicans in Congress can come to an agreement on building a border fence, which is very popular in the heartland, the South, and the West (not too well liked in Vermont but surprisingly popular in New Jersey). The Democrats scream that this violates the constitutional right of Latin Americans to illegally enter the United States to vote for Democrats in key contests, and they oppose it with every erg of energy they and their Mecha puppeteers have left.
All of a sudden, Bush won't be getting 74% approval from Republicans; he'll be getting 89%. Because a lot of Independents are very concerned about spending and illegal immigration (the remnant Perotistas), Bush will go from a 35% approval to a more natural 50% approval among that demographic. And his overall approval rating will therefore rise from 40% to 50%.
Maybe. Maybe not; but the point is, every one of these events lies in the hands of the president and the Republican Congress alone. Either Bush, Hastert, and Frist decide to come together... or they decide to fight a bitter battle to the end. The Democrats are of no consequence.
Because the Democrats have chosen to have no national platform whatsoever, they have likewise chosen for their fate to be in the hands of George W. Bush come November; Bush is always a strong finisher.
Yet here they are, wasting time publishing foolish polls that will only increase their indolent disconnect from the election eight months from now.
So it goes... and goes, and goes, and goes.
Date ►►► March 9, 2006
Brits Nab Terrorists in Basra
Good News Central, which collects good news from Iraq, posted this good news from Basra. (Did I forget to mention this was good news?) *
A team of Royal Air Force "Regiment gunners" from Scotland broke up a looming terrorist attack on a British base in the Basra airport. The eagle-eyed Sgt. Jonathon Tointon -- should we say "dragon-eyed," since he's Scottish? -- spotted a lone Iraqi canoeist plying the river. As the sergeant put it:
"It struck me as strange that the canoe was being paddled by only one man. Normally, Iraqi fishermen work in pairs as they have to haul in nets...."
That observation led to a stakeout. The result was busting up two terrorist not-so-safe houses, where raiders discovered over 100 pounds of explosives, three 122mm rockets and fuses, and many other pieces of evidence.
The most valuable asset of any fighting force is the ability of soldiers to spot the incongruity... an unusual event, something out of place. What is wrong with this picture?
I remember reading about warnings issued to troops on the ground, such as "watch out for trash, be careful of discarded bicycles, beware of an abandoned car," etc. But there are so many items to look out for that the warning becomes meaningless. The kind of ability Sgt. Tointon showed only comes through experience.
Read the entire account here.
* As promised in the previous post, you can learn much more war related information by reading the entire text of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
Dubai Ports Whirled
Obviously, everybody here already knows that DP World has ended the controversy -- at least as regards the UAE-owned company -- by agreeing to sell to some American company the P&O Ports subsidiary that controlled terminal ops at the American ports.
"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.
Relieved Republicans in Congress said the firm had pledged full divestiture, a decision that one senator said had been approved personally by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Democrats were left whining and complaining that they were blindsided by this and didn't yet know everything, with both Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-Hillary's Shadow) saying, in essence, yeah, well, "the devil is in the details." (I think they're really upset that their wonderful wedge issue just got snatched away.)
They're right that nobody knows yet what American company will step up to manage the terminals, since there is no American company that has any experience in running terminal operations for ports of such size; but at least it's moving more or less the direction I hoped it would from the beginning.
Of course, the easy way out would be for some American company -- Halliburton, let's say -- to take control and simply retain all the British and Amerian employees of the American subsidiary of P&O Ports, a division of Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Navigation Company, who currently run terminal ops at those same ports. Since they're already doing those jobs (and since most are American, and the non-American ones are mostly Brits), that should satisfy everyone all around. I can't imagine that a current employee of P&O would object to doing the same work, at the same location, at the same compensation, but wearing a different hat.
The most interesting questions are now:
- Who gets the contract?
- Who wins and loses for 2006 and 2008?
- What about all the other terminals operated by foreign companies, including companies owned by foreign governments -- including companies owned by foreign governments that are hostile to the United States, such as Red China -- which owns the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which operates the terminals in the Port of Long Beach, CA, in a deal approved in 1997-1998 by then co-presidents Bill and Hillary Clinton?
Let's take them in order....
The American Company
Along with many others, I would love to see this go to Halliburton... but it's not fair to shortchange other U.S. companies just to poke a finger in Chuck Schumer's eye. All right, fun -- but not fair!
An open bid should be solicited, restricted to those companies that actually have the resources to operate those terminals effectively, with an advantage to U.S. companies that already operate terminals at smaller ports (of which there actually are some, I'm given to understand).
And I think DP World or the U.S. should strongly encourage, perhaps even require, that as many of the current employees be retained there as possible... because otherwise, terminal operations will be disrupted, there will be problems; and inevitably, chaos breeds security breaches.
Winners and Whiners
A quick run-down of how this affects the political landscape. And a more run-down political landscape I don't think I've ever seen!
The Democrats are not automatic losers in this... but it's likely
They will of course claim that it was their intervention, holding President Bush's feet to the grindstone, that "forced him to call off his crazy deal to sell American ports to al-Qaeda," or however Minority Loser Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) plans to phrase it.
I think most folks realize it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who were out in front on this issue... so I doubt the Democrats can rewrite history to the extent they would like. And much depends upon point number 3 above and how the congressional Republicans proceed from here.
The congressional Republicans probably win
They no longer find themselves at war with their own party leader; they no longer run the risk of Bush defeating them -- never an eventuality to be discounted -- and they can move on to other subjects. Now they can give Bush nearly everything he wants on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program without looking like wimps, because they can say "we stood up to him on the ports issue!"
If they're smart, they'll take on point number 3 from the list above; that would give them some follow up to clearly distinguish themselves from the Democrats on the campaign issue of national security, which is of course the most important issue facing the United States today.
But the Republicans could turn this deal into a Pyrrhic victory if they decide to humiliate the president by dancing about and crowing "We killed the ports deal! We kicked the Bush's butt!" Even worse than a sore loser is a rotten winner; Americans absolutely hate that.
The president definitely wins.
First, it's an unpopular deal he no longer has to defend. I believe it was defensible, and I believe President Bush could have defended it... but he would have had to drop everything else and tour the country incessantly, doing nothing but explain why there was no threat to the United States from allowing a UAE-owned company to run the terminals at some American ports.
Now he doesn't have to do that. And like Harriet Miers, out of sight, out of mind: I doubt that many Republicans will care in November that back in February, Bush believed DP World would do a good job in port terminal operations.
Bush particularly wins if the Republican Congress decides to press its political advantage in point 3. Bush can jump out in front on that issue and force the Democrats into a defensive posture again: either Hillary Clinton repudiates her own previous policy about COSCO and the Port of Long Beach; or she admits she had no power whatsoever in the White House at that time and didn't even have an opinion on an issue she finds so momentous today; or she tries to sell America on the idea that Red China operating American terminals and the United Arab Emirates operating American terminals are totally different issues.
In fact, Bush can really come out a winner here if he devotes the next eight months to campaigning on three issues:
- Come out swinging in favor of a general revamping of terminal operations at all American ports, forcing COSCO and the Saudi and Singaporese companies to sell their American subsidiaries to an American company (possibly the same one the UAE will sell to). At the very least, this should apply to every foreign company that is owned or controlled by a foreign government... otherwise, the charge of anti-Arabic bigotry will be very tempting to make.
(What would be even more bizarre would be to become hysterical over terminal ops by a company owned by the UAE -- a strong American ally in the war on jihadi terrorism -- but to be indifferent to the same issue anent a company owned or controlled by Saudi Arabia -- a mediocre "ally" who sometimes cooperates against terrorists... but also eagerly spreads anti-American propaganda and is the home of Wahabbism. That would almost sound like anti-ally bigotry!)
- Stand up and embrace the proposal to build a "security fence" along the entire southern border with Mexico... extracting only the agreement from the nativists in Congress that once the fence was approved, they would turn to Bush's proposals to reform the entire immigration process, have some sort of guest-worker program, and modernize the whole kit and kabootle with 21st-century technology. Not an agreement to pass it... just to bring it up and give it a fair shake in Congress.
This would definitely reel in those Republicans whose biggest concern is illegal immigration. And I think it would also make plain, after it was constructed, that such barriers don't work anywhere near as well here as in Israel... because the vast bulk of illegales coming into the U.S. do so for economic reasons, which simply is not true for Palestinians crossing from Gaza or the West Bank into Israel.
When breaches are made in the fence faster than they can be repaired, Congress and the American people will understand that no wall, no matter how strong, can withstand a million people trying to knock it down. We have to find a way to separate the honest, decent immigrants from the terrorists, criminals, drug runners, and other unsavory characters who hide among them.
- Bush must embrace the movement among fiscal conservatives in Congress for a much more "austere" budget with an additional $650 billion in cuts over five years... $350 billion from Medicare and the rest from other programs, including "entitlement" programs, but not including Social Security.
Bush doesn't have to go whole hog on this; he can probably work out a compromise... perhaps even the same amount, but backload some of it, so that there is less pain up front. And he should combine this support with a push for the "modified, limited" line-item veto that would probably pass constitutional muster.
If Bush charts a more fiscally conservative course, that will reassure many Republicans and even some Democratic conservatives and raise his stock considerably within his own party. And that is where his drop in job approval comes from: the fact that only about 3/4ths of Republicans now approve of the job he's doing. If he gets GOP support up to a more respectable 90% level, his job approval will rise to nearly 50%.
All Them Thar Other Ports Operated By Ferriners
Over and over, opponents of the ports deal insisted that it wasn't just anti-Arab bigotry; they were just opposed to any company owned by a foreign government operating terminals at American ports. All right; I take them at their word... so let's go after all the other ports that have the same or similar arrangements.
I am sure that the lovely Michelle Malkin would happily support such a move. She cannot possibly be pleased that the Clintons foisted off a company owned by the government of Red China, China Ocean Shipping, as a legitimate "business interest" to control terminal operations at the Port of Long Beach, just down the coast from us here at Big Lizards. So would Scott Johnson at Power Line, who also objected to the DP World deal, and Hugh Hewitt (who didn't oppose but had doubts), and indeed, every other conservative commentator who didn't like the idea of terminal ops being run by a company owned by the UAE.
I'm equally sure that Americans have probably forgotten about COSCO... and likely never even knew (before l'affair Dubai) that Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and many other countries strongly connected with or infiltrated by terrorists ran American port terminals. But when they're reminded of or told about it, they'll be equally unhappy with that arrangement as they were with this.
So let's call the Democrats' bluff. They say they're big national-security buffs -- so shouldn't they support forcing all those companies to make similar divestiture arrangements? I suspect we'll instead hear many choruses of "that's totally different!" from the Left Bank of American politics.
And that gives Republicans the chance to get to the right of the Democrats on national security again -- and also show them up as hypocrites, especially Hillary, since (as noted above) it was she and her husband who rammed the Red China deal through... at precisely the moment that the People's Liberation Army was funneling money into Clinton campaign coffers. You remember -- the real reason he should have been impeached, which the cowardly House Republicans refused even to vote on.
Who's with me on this? If the UAE, our ally, shouldn't be allowed to control port terminal operations here, then surely the same should be true for Communist China, our enemy. Or even Saudi Arabia, whose interest in fighting terrorism seems to wax and wane with the level of direct threat to the House of Saud.
All right, those are my preliminary thoughts. For my next post, I think I'll do something short and sweet... then include the entire text of Tolstoy's War and Peace as a footnote. Sound good?
Captain Ed's Gitmo Project, Tribunal Set 28
Captain Ed has been collecting victims to review -- I'm sorry, requesting volunteers to review the unclassified case files of various detainee tribunal hearings. He wants us to determine if there is good reason in these files to still be holding these people in Guantanamo Bay, or whether it appears as though a miscarriage of military justice has occurred.
This post will be cross-posted to Captain's Quarters; abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
The first point to make -- and it's a biggie -- is that we only get to see the unclassified information. The tribunals are also given access to classified evidence from the case files. Clearly, the most damning evidence would most likely be present only in the classified evidence, as that is where all the intel from American and Coalition agents, witness identifications, and classified documentary evidence is kept.
So I cannot really answer whether any of these detainees is wrongly held; I can only give a partial answer there. I can, however, state if I think there is good reason, even in the unclassified evidence, to continue to hold that detainee.
So it's a little one-sided, but there's nothing I can do about that.
Set 28 of the tribunal hearings comprises six distinct detainee cases. Some are identified by name, but as this is irrelevant, I'll just refer to them by the order in which they appear in the pdf. Here are my quick summaries and first-impression conclusions (from the 52-page pdf):
- The first detainee admits he served with the Taliban, but he says they drafted him. Other than this allegation, I found nothing in the unclassified section that would justify continued detention.
- This detainee admits he obtained a fake Chadian passport with a false name. He is accused of consorting with known al-Qaeda agents and engaging in military operations against the United States and the Coalition. If these charges are well sourced (the evidence would be in the classified section), then certainly he should be held.
- This one was captured in Pakistan in the company of known al-Qaeda agents. He was wearing a Casio F-91W watch, which is commonly used by al-Qaeda in timing devices used for explosives. He is also accused of taking training at the al-Qaeda run Khalden Camp.
He gave evasive and contradictory answers during questioning. For example, he claims he "flew" from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, but the trip took him a week. He says he went to get medical treatment for his back; he says his back is hurt by cold weather. And he claims to have emigrated from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan because the weather in Pakistan is "warmer." There is ample reason, even in the unclassified section, to hold this detainee.
- There is nothing even alleged in the unclassified portion that would justify holding this one.
- This one stayed for months in a camp run by a known al-Qaeda front organization, but he says he didn't notice. He was IDed as an al-Qaeda agent. He gave inconsistent answers during questioning: for example, he said that while in Yemen, he decided he wanted to go to Europe as a political refugee, because of the way North Yemens treated South Yemens... so he toddled off to Pakistan. I am looking at a map of the Middle East, and by golly, Yemen to Pakistan appears to be travel in the opposite direction from Europe.
He admits he illegally entered Iran. There is plenty of reason to hold this detainee.
- The last case is a detainee accused of being a commander in Hezb-i-Islami, under the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. When the accusation was read to the detainee, he claimed that HIG was fighting on the side of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. But when I looked them up, it turns out they were actually allied with Mullah Omar and the Taliban, and they are still fighting against American soldiers today. I'm suspicious that this was an attempt at disinformation by the detainee.
He was also IDed as an al-Qaeda member; and he was so evasive during questioning that even I felt like slapping him around some. For example, he couldn't or wouldn't answer the question of whether he was in the Taliban until the fifth time he was asked. He was asked what documents he had with him, and he went into a Vinnie Barbarino routine: where? with you. in my pockets? yes, in your pockets. Where? This guy should absolutely be held; he has something he's hiding, in my opinion.
And that's it. I'm not sure how useful all this will be, but I've done my bit for "the cause." ("Cause" Captain Ed asked me to, that's what cause!)
Date ►►► March 8, 2006
Wanted: Sunni Police Recruits
Following up on our earlier post, Year of the Police , we continue our look at the American effort to shape up the militia-infested Iraqi police force. The New York Times reports that this task has turned out to be rather difficult.
But it's still good news, because whenever we recognize a problem and "focus like a laser beam," it's well on its way to being solved. "Well begun is half done," as Mary Poppins said.
During last week's sectarian skirmishes, the Iraqi Army, trained by Americans, brought order back to the streets. The army behaved in such an exemplary fashion that Iraqis were both impressed and relieved all across the nation. Not a single soldier abandoned his post and joined the mobs.
By contrast, however, many Iraqi Security Forces -- the police under the Interior Ministry -- stood by and did nothing:
After the bombing, mobs led by Shiite militiamen attacked dozens of Sunni mosques and left hundreds dead. Many police units stood aside, either out of confusion or sectarian loyalties, according to Iraqi witnesses. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, said Friday that police officers had allowed militiamen through checkpoints in eastern Baghdad, where much of the violence occurred.
We had made a conscious decision to train the army first, leaving the police for later. But "later" is now, and Americans are beginning to implement a number of changes to shape up the Security Force:
- We are implementing quotas to recruit more Sunnis into the police academies. At the moment, although Shia are only 60% of the population of Iraq, virtually the entire Security Force (99%) are Shiite. This leads to the belief among Sunni and Kurd that the Security Forces are really just the Shiite Forces, and that they will not enforce the law against the Shia -- just against everybody else.
- We are forcing the Interior Ministry to start "firing Shiite police commanders who appear to tolerate militias." This is a no-brainer; it would be like having captains in the Los Angeles Police Department who have strong ties to the Crips or Bloods. Obviously such people have to go, and they have to go immediately. And humiliatingly... they need not only to be ousted but to lose face; otherwise, they'll be back as soon as our backs are turned.
- We are forming at least 200 "training teams" of American MPs and retired civilian police. These teams will be sent to Iraqi police stations, even those in locations so remote, they think of themselves more as warlords or tribal chiefs than national police.
The American effort to balance the police forces has met with strong oposition from Shia in the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, nominated by the Islamic Dawa Party of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to be permanent prime minister. Al-Jaafari bristles at the idea that the Americans might reform the Security Forces... though he appears happy that we reformed the Iraqi Army:
There is no quick or painless fix. The efforts risk alienating Shiite politicians, who have fiercely resisted attempts to wrest away their control of the security forces. The moves may appeal, though, to recalcitrant Sunni Arabs, whom the Americans want to draw into the political process...
Officials at the most powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI, also part of the UIA], which oversees the Interior Ministry, have lashed out at the Americans, arguing that the majority Shiites had every right to control security, because Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government had used the army and the police to abduct, torture and kill Shiites.
This attitude raises the disturbing possiblity that many in the Interior Ministry see the police as their mechanism for taking revenge against Sunnis in general for decades of tyranny by the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein. Such a program of vengeance would almost certainly cause Iraq to splinter into warring factions... particularly since renegade "cleric" Muqtada Sadr is behind much of the militia infiltration -- and is also responsible for al-Jaafari being nominated as the UIA's candidate for permanent prime minister.
The police units most plagued by militas are the paramilitary forces. No coincidence, the paramilitaries are the units that Shiite politicians are especially keen on personally controlling. The paramilitaries, equivalent to the FBI combined with nationwide "SWAT" teams, operate all over Iraq; they do not have specific districts or jurisdictions.
Sunnis accuse the Interior Ministry of sponsoring secret death squads, who may not actually be police, but who have the disconcerting ability to get hold of paramilitary uniforms when necessary. These death squads -- who also often wear all black and are typically referred to as "men in black" by Sunnis -- kill Sunni clerics, seize Sunni mosques (frequently mosques that used to be Shiite until they were seized and converted by Saddam Hussein) and terrorize ordinary Iraqi citizens, both Sunni and Shia who dare to speak up against them.
In a perfect illustration of the problem, just today, a number of these "men in black" -- again this time wearing police "commando" (paramilitary) uniforms -- kidnapped as many as fifty Iraqi Sunni members of a security company that guarded many businesses in Iraq, including a major cell-phone company:
Gunmen in Interior Ministry commando uniforms stormed the offices of a private security company and kidnapped as many as 50 employees Wednesday, while U.S. and Iraqi patrols reported the discovery of 24 shot or garroted bodies in the capital....
Unidentified attackers hit the al-Rawafid Security Co. at 4:30 p.m. and forced the workers into seven vehicles, including several white SUVs, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. The victims, including bodyguards, drivers, computer technicians and other employees, did not resist because they assumed their abductors were police special forces working for the Interior Ministry, al-Mohammedawi said.
Interior Ministry Undersecretary Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Khefaji denied any involvement by his department, saying: "It is a terrorist act."
It may well be "a terrorist act;" and the kidnappers may be militia members, likely working for Sadr, and not actually police paramilitaries. But where did they get the uniforms? And without Interior Ministry support, or at least sympathy, why have such militias not been broken up?
When the new police force was formed, the Americans did not require monitoring of the police recruits' religious sect. The Shia took advantage, and the Security Force is now 99% Shia. This staggering overrepresentation of Shia is a festering problem that must be addressed:
American officers say that when they try to talk to Iraqi commanders about the religious or ethnic breakdown of the forces, the commanders tend to shy away from those conversations, as most Iraqis do, saying they prefer to think of themselves as one people rather than in terms of sect.
They may be shy of talking about it, but they are certainly not shy of acting according to their sect's interest.
For much of last year, the Second Public Order Brigade had a particularly bad reputation. It was accused by many Iraqis, especially Sunni Arabs, of detainee torture and illegal killings. Its ranks were filled with men recruited from eastern Baghdad who were loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric who had led two rebellions against the Americans.
This year, we are dramatically increasing the number of American advisors embedded in each Iraqi police batallion, both in the cities and the remote police outposts. I am hopeful that this mentoring program will work; however, the core problem is not the police -- it is the Interior Ministry itself.
The Shiite politicians in the ministry are terribly corrupt with strong ties to militias such as the Mahdi "Army" of Sadr. Until those politicians can think outside of their tribal and religious affiliations -- "as one people rather than in terms of sect" -- fixing the police alone will not solve the problem. If we and the Iraqis don't also fix the Interior Ministry itself, then as soon as the Americans leave, the police will go right back to their old ways.
We urgently need to help the Iraqis institute a culture withing the Security Forces that respects rule of law, not tribal rule. They must deploy a merit system and eschew nepotism. In the old Iraqi Army and police of the Tikriti Saddam Hussein, the ranks were filled with relatives and friends of influential politicians. This is the culture we must eradicate. There is no room in the modern world for "Hutu and Tutsi"-ism.
But in order to do that, the Interior Ministry itself must start hiring more Sunni politicians and cease being the personal fiefdom of "leaders" like al-Jaafari. That will certainly be even harder than reforming the police.
At Last - Intelligence In the Intelligence War
Frustrated by repeated leaks and contrarian policies, the Bush administration must be wondering how it can fight a two-front war: one front abroad, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere in the world, fighting against jihadis... and the other domestically, against the Central Intelligence Agency, which has consistently demonstrated its determination not only to support but to control foreign policy.
Now, the New York Times reports that more and more battlefield intelligence, even strategic intel, is going to come from Special Ops military intelligence forces -- not the compromised and untrustworthy CIA.
The new mission could become a major responsibility for the military's fast-growing Special Operations Command, which was authorized by President Bush in March 2004 to take the lead in military operations against terrorists. Its new task could give the command considerable clout in organizing the nation's overall intelligence efforts.
The Special Operations command reports to Mr. Rumsfeld, and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the newly established director of national intelligence, who oversees all the nation's intelligence agencies.
These new teams, called Military Liaison Elements, are not just tasked with gathering intel but with acting upon it:
Special Operations forces include the Army Green Berets and Rangers, the Navy Seals, the Marines and special Air Force crews that carry out the most specialized or secret military missions. Their skills range from quick strikes to long-range reconnaissance in hostile territory, military training and medical care.
Needless to say, the CIA is fuming about this. They are outraged that for no apparent reason, apart from their five-year war against President Bush, the commander in chief is cutting their turf out from under them.
"The Department of Defense is very eager to step up its involvement in counterterrorism activities, and it has set its sights on traditional C.I.A. operational responsibilities and authorities," said John O. Brennan, a 25-year C.I.A. officer who headed the National Counterterrorism Center before retiring last year. "Quite unfortunately, the C.I.A.'s important lead role in many of these areas is being steadily eroded, and the current militarization of many of the nation's intelligence functions and responsibilities will be viewed as a major mistake in the very near future."
Mr. Brennan, now president of the Analysis Corporation, an intelligence contractor in Virginia, said that if Socom operations were closely coordinated with host countries and American ambassadors, "U.S. interests could be very well served."
But, he added, "if the planned Socom presence in U.S. embassies abroad is an effort to pave the way for unilateral U.S. military operations or to enable defense elements to engage in covert action activities separate from the C.I.A., U.S. problems abroad will be certain to increase significantly."
I think this is an excellent idea. The CIA has proven itself to be not only disloyal but extraordinarily fumble-footed... missing such big stories as the 1979 Iranian revolution, the nuclear detonations by Pakistan and India, the A.Q. Khan WMD-of-the-month club... and then first assuring the president that finding "large stockpiles of WMD" in Iraq was a "slam dunk"... and then eagerly participating in covering up the massive quantities of dual-use WMD we did find, labeling it "civilian" -- when quite clearly Iraq had no conceivable peaceful purpose for, e.g., massive quantities of Cyclosarin-based pesticides stored in camouflaged ammunition bunkers, right next to chemical-ready but unloaded munitions.
And they're still at it:
The Special Operations Command has not publicly disclosed the Military Liaison Element mission, and answered questions about the effort only after it was described by officials in other parts of the government who oppose the program.
We must undertake every opportunity to shift intel responsibility from an agency that wants peace at any cost to one that is at least willing to consider that sometimes, war really is the answer.
The Stupid Party Returns
Today, several prominent GOP congressmen tried their level best to lose the 2006 election -- an election they could have won by being less... well, stupid.
Fingers in the air, quivering bunny noses sensing a change in the wind, Republican Reps. Peter King (NY), Jerry Lewis (CA), Duncan Hunter (CA), Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (IL), and newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH) have decided to attach a rider to an appropriations bill funding the troops and Hurricane Katrina victims; the rider is intended to kill the Dubai Ports deal outright, even before the extended investigation completes. No sense wasting time by waiting for actual facts!
If they manage to get it passed -- and a small minority of them can do it, if they link up with all of the Democrats -- and if another small minority in the Senate join forces with Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Harry Reid, and their pals, then they will plop a must-veto, must-sign bill on Bush's desk long before the agreed-upon review of the deal is even completed.
The president will veto it; and whether the Congress overrides the veto or not, the GOP will be shattered and crippled in the upcoming election. But that's all right... "moderate" Republican Peter King (R-Hicksville) will do well with his liberal New York constituency. Perhaps, after the Democrats take over the House, King can turn his coat and keep his chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee.
It makes no difference whether you support the Dubai Ports deal or oppose it... this is a battle that should have been worked out behind closed doors. The president has made it clear he wants the deal to go forward in some manner; but he has also signalled that he will accept reasonable compromise. The rabid Jacobites here are the greedy House Republicans, who cannot wait for the investigation, cannot accept any compromise, must be the "winners who take all." The House members are more interested in collecting Bush's scalp than actually advancing the conservative cause.
The GOP had a great chance this year. Normally, the second-term midterm election is very bad for the incumbent party... but this time, the Democrats have been unable to come together on any platform, plan, or campaign theme whatsoever. The Republicans were well poised to maintain their majorities in both the House and Senate.
Until now. It's not that Republicans will vote for Democrats; but with the Congressional GOP attacking and trying to bring down the Republican president, a huge chunk of the Republican electorate may simply decide to stay home -- "a plague on both your houses." Today, if I were betting, I would wager that the Democrats pick up at least ten seats in the House and four or five in the Senate; maybe more. And I'm no longer even sure the Republicans deserve the majority anyway. Thanks, Mr. Stupid.
As infuriating as it is to see the Squeaker of the House pile on, Boehner is even more of a disappointment. I don't think anyone expected that the first peep we would hear out of the new majority leader would be "the polls are fluttering -- throw the president under the bus!"
Voters are largely opposed to the DP World plan, and that's something Republicans are sensitive to eight months before an election that will determine whether the GOP continues to control the House and Senate.
House Republicans feared that if they did not move to block the deal now, Democrats would force their own vote that would be successful. That would only invite criticism of the GOP's national security record, which historically has been the party's strength.
"This has become a very hot political potato," House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I have seen it in my district. I have seen it every place I have been."
So, instead of backing Bush on the DP World takeover, House Republicans are largely reflecting their constituents' views and distancing themselves from a president's whose popularity has declined.
Rather than actually looking into the issue (too much work) and then standing up for what is right and rational (that would require leading), this handful has decided to find the nearest rampaging mob and dash to the front of it. The Democrats will be all too willing to oblige the Republicans' suicidal spree... and yet again, just as in decades past, the GOP (which was always more comfortable as the minority party) will snatch defeat from the dripping fangs of scary victory.
Even the Democrats are stunned that the Republicans rolled over so rapidly:
Several Republicans also said they saw little alternative but to act or face the prospect of Democrats' taking the initiative, potentially cutting into a Republican political advantage on national security issues.
Democrats said they were surprised at how quickly Republicans were moving to separate themselves from Mr. Bush.
I guess it's out of the question for GOP campaigners to point out that the Democrats are opposed to spying on al-Qaeda, opposed to the CIA interrogating terrorists, and opposed to racial profiling -- unless they're "profiling" a company owned by our greatest and most reliable Arab ally in the Global War on Jihadi Terrorism. Does any American really believe that the Democrats screaming about this deal really give a rat's patootie about national security, as opposed to simply partisan politics? Does anyone doubt that if a presiding Democratic president approved this same deal, all those loyalistas in the Democratic Party would defend it to the hilt?
The Democrats, at least, know what is meant by a "party vote."
What is so despicable about this is that a wonderful opportunity had just presented itself: a group of Republican budget hawks are just about to propose sweeping new budget cuts that would electrify the GOP voters. The president will almost certainly work with them and come up with a compromise between his own budget and the one proposed by the unnamed but allegedly influential representatives:
The legislation, part of a push by some Republicans to re-establish themselves as champions of fiscal restraint, was taking shape as President Bush struck a similar theme on Monday by asking Congress to grant him line-item veto power to eliminate federal spending that he might judge wasteful....
Senior aides say the conservatives' plan would wring about $350 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs and save $300 billion partly through a major reorganization of the Education, Commerce and Energy Departments.
But now, any progress in the direction of fiscal responsibility will be drowned out by Republican joyriders out in the streets, howling that President Bush is either an incompetent moron or a pro-terrorist traitor. That'll show those Democrats!
I am totally disgusted. No matter what the political problem, the solution is never to immolate your own president. Republicans tried that in 1974, thinking that by helping to destroy Richard Nixon (et tu, Barry?) they would dodge the axe themselves.
And in the Congressional elections two months later, the Democrats captured 49 Republican seats in the House and 4 GOP seats in the Senate. Two years after that, in the 1976 election, Jimmy Carter won a narrow victory over Republican President Gerald Ford, giving Democrats control of the House, Senate, and the White House.
The rule is simple: eating your own never works in politics. You can never win by turning against your own standard bearer like dogs tearing the wounded pack-leader to pieces. If the Flab Five had even a thimbleful of political brains, they would work with the president and come to an amicable compromise. Several people have already floated the possibility, first suggested here on Big Lizards, of an intermediary American subsidiary, independently operated, that would actually control port operations; and the White House has already subtlely signalled they might go along with this.
But that is unacceptable to the ghouls. It is not enough that they, themselves win; they must see George Bush lose. They imagine this will solidify their standing as "independent minded" Republicans; but assuredly, it will only reveal to the Republican voters that they are disloyal thugs who cannot be trusted, men with no gratitude for all that Bush has done in 2002 and 2004 to reverse their declining fortunes and hold the majority.
And we will remember who cost us the last two years and gave us President Hillary, President Howard, or President Al. We'll remember who cost us the Iraq War and brought about another terrible terrorist attack on America.
Buckle up, friends; it's going to be a bumpy ride. Now.
Date ►►► March 7, 2006
Hamas Makes Abbas Dance Naked On the Sand
In the long-running battle between the terrorist group Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, and the terrorist group Fatah, which only calls for Israel's destruction in Arabic, we all know that Hamas just gained some "hand" by winning an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. However, Fatah left a legacy in the form of a supercharged President Mahmoud Abbas.
Now, Hamas has just voted to strip Abbas of his new authority to nullify laws passed by parliament, which the outgoing party bestowed just before they outwent. This in a world where such vulnerability swiftly leads to death -- metaphorically, in most cases; literally in some.
Abbas's term of office does not expire until January, 2009 (or until he does); with the new authority, Fatah hoped to restrain Hamas and somehow claw their way back into control by, one imagines, thwarting every Hamas initiative that might succeed where Fatah failed. Thus, Fatah could prevent invidious comparisions of their own ineptitude at governing the Palestinians with Hamas's efficiency in getting Israel to wipe them all out.
But of course, Abbas's best new toy is the power to nullify any parliamentary law... including the very law that would strip him of that power!
Hamas easily passed legislation to rescind Abbas' new powers, but some experts said Abbas has the authority to cancel Monday's resolution, perpetuating the standoff.
In a statement, Fatah complained the Hamas action "undermines the basis of dialogue and partnership in any institution with Hamas." A Fatah legislator said Monday's decisions would be appealed to the Palestinian Supreme Court.
Someone should alert the Hague, Belgium, and Jimmy Carter, while the Palestinian Supreme Court still has a chance to accept amicus curiae briefs. Already, this whole kafuffle has produced the best witticism uttered by any terrorist in the past thirty-five years:
Hamas lawmaker Mushir Masri ridiculed the Fatah reaction. "It is obvious that some people until now have not understood the rules of the democratic game," he said.
Meanwhile, back at the kibbutz, Israeli security officers are developing a plan to completely cut off the Palestinian Authority from all the enabling charity supplied by Israel -- not just tax money that "belongs" to the PA (according to accords that the PA has never obeyed) but also infrastructure that is simply missing from terrorist-controlled territory:
The "unilateral action" reference came as Israeli security officials outlined plans for Israel to cut itself off further from the Gaza Strip, after the summer withdrawal of soldiers and settlers.
The officials said Israel should gradually reduce and then ban Palestinian workers from Gaza entering Israel, cut off power, fuel and water supplies and allow the Palestinians to open a seaport and airport, eliminating Gaza imports and exports through Israel.
What will Hamas control then? Some empty streets, some empty buildings, and a lot of poor, wretched, starving people cursing the Jews for not supplying them with the necessities of life -- so they can rise up and drive the hand that feeds them into the sea (apologies for any mixed metaphors).
We shall watch Hamas's future career with great interest. In the meantime, at least the Associated Press knows what the real story here is, and the top of the article gets right to the bottom of it:
Hamas headed into a full-blown confrontation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, voting to strip him of powers he was hastily awarded by his Fatah Party in the last session of the outgoing parliament.
In Gaza City, an Israeli missile strike killed two Islamic Jihad militants and three bystanders, including two young boys.
That's all right; we'll always have Paris.
Who Didn't Desert When Come To the Wall
Here's one that hasn't gotten a lot of newsplay. From USA Today, linked by Drudge:
At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
But wait -- I thought George Bush's cavalier disregard for the lives and health of the soldiers in his mad pursuit of absolute power as King George the 1th had degraded, demoralized, and destroyed our troops and their combat capability. After all, there was that Zogby Poll just a few days ago that supposedly found that 72% of the soldiers in Iraq were so sick of the terrible losses they'd suffered that they wanted to abandon everything and just leave. Or at least, that's how John Zogby and the newsies interpreted the ambiguous poll results.
Perhaps that wasn't the right explanation after all....
After all, if morale were so low, increased desertions would be inevitable. But in fact, looking at the yearly tables, we see no such pattern:
- The Army desertion rate steadily rose through the late 1990s, reaching a peak in FY 2001 (October 1st, 2000 through September 30th, 2001) with 4,597 desertions, 0.95% of the Army.
- In FY 2002, which began October 1st, 2001, just after 9/11, desertions dropped slightly, down to 4,483, for a rate of 0.926%.
- Next fiscal year, the one that included both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, running from Oct. 1st, 2002 through Sep. 30th, 2003, the desertion rate dropped substantially to 3,678, or 0.76%.
But wait, maybe it's not the actual combat the saps morale and causes more desertions; maybe it's the long slog of occupation, the endless battles with a surging insurgency, Iraqis who all hate us, and the crushing, demoralizing knowledge that we're suffering nothing but defeat after defeat with no successes whatsoever, as the Antique Media keeps telling us. Perhaps that is when the full realization of futility and defeat will set in, leading to massive desertions.
- In FY 2004 -- all of which occurred after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, entirely during the occupation -- the Army experienced 2,376 desertions for a rate of 0.491% -- more than a third down from 2003.
- I cannot find the desertion rate for FY 2005, which ended on September 30th last year; but I'm pretty sure that if it were significantly greater than FY 2004, it would have been screaming headlines in every newspaper in America and the top story on all the networks.
This isn't dispositive; shortly after 9/11, we changed how we treated desertions. We used to prosecute immediately, but now we return deserters to their units and let the CO decide what to do; some end up reassimilated. But certainly there isn't a shred of evidence that Iraq service increases desertion, despite repeated and typically unsourced claims made by lefty blogsites and the mainstream media (apologies for any redundancy).
Bear this in mind when you read the next anti-war rant or Zogby-style poll arguing that the troops are crushed and demoralized and ready to give up.
Date ►►► March 6, 2006
Don't Ask, Don't Yell
The Supreme Court today closed the door on a long-festering issue: they voted unanimously that the Solomon Amendment, which cuts off federal funding to any educational institution that bars military recuiters from its campus, is thoroughly constitutional. Or rather, they closed the legal door; there are many other doors through which the battle can continue to rage. (Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 04-1152)
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.
Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and their professors who claimed they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that the campus visits are an effective military recruiting tool.
"A military recruiter's mere presence on campus does not violate a law school's right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter's message," he wrote.
Lots of "Snoopy dances" on the Right following that one. It certainly seemed a no-brainer, since left-liberal Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens, and Souter joined with conservative Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the only opinion, and the lone "swing voter," Anthony Kennedy (Justice Samuel Alito did not vote). But in fact, it was a reversal of a wretched decision by the Third Circus Court, which evidently bought the idea that the constitutional right of "freedom of speech" included the right to force other taxpayers to subsidize your speech.
Oh, by the way: I completely support allowing gays to serve openly in military service. Unlike the argument many have against women serving in combat positions, there is not even a weak claim of physical impairment... the argument against gays is exactly analogous to the argument against President Harry S. Truman integrating the troops in 1947: nobody claims that gay soldiers can't fight; the only objection is that some straight soldiers would be uncomfortable, and that this would impact morale.
In any event, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a congressionally mandated policy, and the military has no choice: only Congress can change it. So it was always absurd to punish the military by barring recruiters.
The New York Times makes clear why the Third ruled one way and the Supreme Court overturned them:
The plaintiffs had persuaded the federal appeals court, in Philadelphia, that the Solomon Amendment imposed an "unconstitutional condition" on the universities' receipt of federal money by requiring them to surrender their First Amendment rights and become involuntary carriers of the government's message against gay men and lesbians in the military.
But Chief Justice Roberts said today that the plaintiffs' theory of the case, as well as the opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was based on a fundamental misperception about what it was that the Solomon Amendment was imposing.
"As a general matter, the Solomon Amendment regulates conduct, not speech," the chief justice said. "It affects what law schools must do — afford equal access to military recruiters — not what they may or may not say."
Noting that the law schools remained free to disavow the military's policy, to denounce it or even to help students organize protests, Chief Justice Roberts said that "the Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything."
I never understood the Third's decision. Obviously, if the law requires a school to host military recruiters, that means that the presence of those recruiters says absolutely nothing about the school's position on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I appreciate the fact that Chief Justice Roberts made exactly the same point today:
Citing a 1990 Supreme Court decision that upheld an equal-access requirement for student religious clubs in high schools, the chief justice continued, "We have held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so." He added, "Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."
One other interesting point from our new chief justice: the actual finding in this case was merely that a law passed by Congress was constitutional. The Court did not decide that military recruiters belong on campus; Congress made that decision.
But this Court also unanimously held that Congress could, if it wished, simply pass a law requiring schools to allow military recruiters on campus even if the school didn't accept federal money.
The constitutional power of Congress to "raise and support armies" was another significant thread in the opinion. Chief Justice Roberts said that in exercising that power, Congress could have directly required universities to admit military recruiters, instead of taking the more indirect approach of making access a condition of federal funding. "It is clear that a funding condition cannot be unconstitutional if it could be constitutionally imposed directly," he said.
I would like to see such a law enacted. As it stands now, many of the elite, Ivy League universities have endowments so large that they could forgo all federal money in order to maintain the ban against military recruiters. In fact, I expect many of them, including Harvard, Yale, and MIT, will do just that.
The trustees of these universities may object. They might even use the loss of revenue as an excuse to oust the university administration... but I wouldn't hold my breath awaiting such firmness. The best we can hope for is that some conservatives will use the withdrawal of federal funds to run for the board of trustees.
But if we really want these schools to allow the military a fair shot at recruiting students, Congress will have to take it completely out of their hands by nakedly forcing them to admit the recruiters. I don't have high hopes for this approach either; but at least all it takes is a single vote, unlike sitting around and waiting to see whether universities care more about federal dollars or gay activists.
By the way, does the Solomon Amendment apply to public secondary schools as well? If so, I am really eager to see high schools across the country forced to restore ROTC programs on campus!
Casus Belli Against Iran!
Via Scott Johnson at Power Line (hat tip to Big Lizards commenter MTF), ABC World News Tonight is reporting that American troops have intercepted heavy-duty bombs being smuggled into Iraq... directly from known a bombmaking factory in Iran.
If true, then as John Hinderaker notes, this is clearly an act of war by Iran against the United States.
And, the lizards respond, the perfect casus belli whenever we choose to launch a military assault on that awful country.
Al-Jaafari Must Step Down to Unify Iraq
Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), is the leading candidate for next Iraqi Prime Minister; but he is stirring up a hornet's nest across Iraq: the Kurds don’t like him; the Sunnis hate him; and secular Iraqis fear him. Even the top Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- a strong proponent of a unified Iraq -- is suggesting al-Jaafari step aside.
Now that Iraq transitional President Jalal Talabani has decided to call the newly elected permanent parliament into session, starting the countdown for forming the government, the UIA has only a short period of time to decide whether to fight to install al-Jaafari over the objections of everyone else or compromise with al-Jaafari's rival, current Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who is widely acceptable among the various sects in Iraq.
Iraq's president said Monday he would convene the new parliament for the first time next week, beginning a 60-day countdown for lawmakers to elect a new head of state and sign off on a prime minister and Cabinet.
After nightfall, nine key Shiite parliamentarians rushed to an emergency meeting at President Jalal Talabani's Baghdad home to try to change his mind about forcing a showdown in the deepening political crisis and further inflaming sectarian tensions.
Talabani openly opposes al-Jaafari's nomination and is likely forcing the Shia's hand, hoping they will blink.
Talabani, a Kurd, said al-Jaafari was too divisive a figure.
"We want a prime minister who can gather all the political blocs around him, so that the government would be one of national unity," he told a news briefing in Baghdad.
Many believe al-Jaafari is behind a series of killings targeting prominent Sunni clerics and former Baath members, under the guise of the Interior Ministry’s Security Forces, which are infested with Iranian influenced militiamen. Al-Jaafari, of the Islamic Dawa Party (within the UIA coalition), was strongly backed in the Shiite caucus by militia leader Muqtada Sadr, the anti-American militant who occupied Najaf, Sadr City, and Basra during a failed "uprising" in March of 2004, timed to coincide with a similar surge of violence in Sunni Fallujah.
Sadr opposed the Iraqi constitution, supports a "sharia" state, and has consistently been connected with Iran -- and just as persistently, his spokesmen have denied it. However, less than a month ago, Sadr threatened another uprising if the U.S. were to attack Iran:
"If America attacks Iran, there will be a reaction in Iraq, and also if America stays in Iraq, there will be another uprising," he warned.
This does not prove that al-Jaafari follows Iran's lead, of course. And as Omar of Iraq the Model notes, even the main rival Shiite party within the UIA, the SCIRI, has a strong Iranian connection:
I'm not sure if you're familiar with this but did you know the internal charter of the SCIRI states that the party reports to the Murshid, who currently is Khamena'i?
"Khamena'i" refers to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. This isn't exactly surprising, as the SCIRI was formed in 1982 under exile in Iran, where the Iranians recognized it as the "legitimate" rulers of Iraq during the war with Iran. For more than twenty years, the SCIRI was based in Teheran.
Yet despite that, secular Shiia prefer the SCIRI candidate, Abdul-Mahdi; he is equally strong within the Shiite caucus as al-Jaafari but not connected to the notorious Muqtada Sadr.
Abdul-Mahdi lost in the Shiite caucus by one vote to al-Jaafari, who won with the support of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Abdul-Mahdi is backed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a powerful Shiite leader who is frequently at odds politically with al-Sadr. Both have strong militias behind them.
Underlining the divisions within the Alliance, some Shiite leaders are troubled by al-Jaafari's ties to the radical and openly anti-American al-Sadr.
And the most influential Shia in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has indicated (through an anonymous spokesman, to distance the cleric from the political nature of the announcement) that he would prefer it if al-Jaafari voluntarily withdraw his candidacy:
Two lawmakers from al-Jaafari's Dawa Party hinted Saturday that they got an endorsement for their leader during a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.
But a senior al-Sistani aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the dispute, said Sunday that the spiritual leader indirectly suggested al-Jaafari step aside.
Abdul-Mahdi may well be a better man to be prime minsiter than al-Jaafari, despite belonging to the SCIRI: although he was exiled from Baathist Iraq, it was in 1969, thirteen years before the SCIRI was formed; and he spent his exile in France, not revolutionary Iran. France is not exactly friendly to American interests; in fact, Ayatollah Khomeini himself was exiled in France before the 1979 Iranian revolution brought him back to rule his home country. But Socialist France is certainly less radical than the Iranian mullahcracy.
The SCIRI is controlled by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; and the entire al-Hakim family hates Muqtada Sadr (and his followers, including al-Jaafari). Because of the pre-existing rivalry, some of them hold Sadr responsible, or at least complicit, in the 2003 assassination of al-Hakim's brother, the revered Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, who ran the SCIRI until his death.
(The U.S., on the other hand, believes the massive car-bomb was actually planted by Musab Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda In Iraq; the Iraqis claim that Zarqawi's bombmaker -- Abu Omar al-Kurdi -- has confessed to the bombing while in U.S. custody since January 2005.)
Regardless, Adel Abdul-Mahdi opposes Sadr, supports a unified Iraq and the Iraqi constitution, and is more friendly to America than Ibrahim al-Jaafari. I believe many Iraqi politicians are members of political factions based more upon tribal connections than actual ideological agreement; Abdul-Mahdi is probably closer in philosophy to al-Dawa, and al-Jaafari would probably feel more at home in the SCIRI -- sort of like Zell Miller vs. Lincoln Chafee.
Of course, the UIA does not have the two thirds majority in the incoming Iraqi parliament required to push their candidate through; they would need votes from Kurds, Sunnis, and secular Shia (who themselves would likely prefer Achmed Chalabi -- who has also been connected with Sadr, and who also denies it). Even so, the UIA so far seems quite determined to try, and that frets many people, including Omar:
What really worries me here is that the UIA knows this mechanism which is stated in the constitution yet they refuse to change their mind which makes one suspect they have no intention to compromise and they want to do some arm-twisting telling the others to 'either accept Jafari or face the danger of halting the entire political process'. [Emphasis added]
They're playing a very dangerous game that only those who don't care for the unity of the country would dare play.
If the UIA withdraws al-Jaafari and substitutes Abdul-Mahdi, he would likely sail through with little opposition. This would unify Iraq behind the nascent government, surely the best response to the bombing of the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra -- likely engineered by Zarqawi in order to shove Iraq into civil war. Zarqawi has already failed in the civil war plan: if the bombing of the Golden Mosque didn't do it, then neither will anything else that Zarqawi can do. But still, it would be a wonderful blow to the Iraq-War doubters were the Shia to put together a respected and widely accepted government that unified the country and was even pro-America.
Contrariwise, a candidate like al-Jaafari, who divides Iraq into nearly hysterical opposing camps, is very, very bad not only for Iraq but for America's plan to democratize the Middle East.
The UIA is quite open about preferring Sharia to secular law, though they also insist they do not want Iraq to be controlled by Iran. But do they support a unified Iraq? Omar worries that they may be planning for a country divided along sectarian grounds:
The UIA have made it clear that what they want is to either rule the whole country in the way like or rule part of Iraq in the way they like; more precisely in the way their religious references in Najaf and Tehran.
Omar is concerned that the UIA would be perfectly willing to break Iraq into a Shiite sector, a Kurdish sector, and then a weak and economically crippled "Saddamist" sector in the middle -- Omar notes that the UIA uses "Saddamists" the same way they use "Shia," implying that all Sunnis are Baathists.
Now that the power of foreign terrorists is waning in Iraq, Iraninan influenced domestic militias are becoming a more serious problem for Iraq and America. Just as there are Baathist Sunni "bitter enders," who really do want Saddam back, there are also Iraqi Shia who want to see a Teheran-style regime enforcing Shiite sharia on everyone... and they may be willing to settle for a piece of Iraq under sharia rather than the whole under a secular government.
We are going to have to clean up the Interior Ministry and their Security Forces very soon now; we need a "come to Jesus" meeting with the Shia in Iraq. And of course, we must get rid of the vile Muqtada Sadr by any means necessary.
Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
This is actually the fourth entry in the Big Lizards strategic series, Iran Strategies. The first three (in order of posting) were:
- Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
- Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
- Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
(Yes, I know it's confusing that 1 and 2 come before 0; deal with it!)
As you might guess from the title, this strategic suggestion focuses on Iran's economy. I think of it as sort of "super economic sanctions." Like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and most other oil-producing Middle-Eastern states, Iran's primary economy is oil export. As the CIA's World Factbook notes,
Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President KHATAMI has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $40 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.
This suggests a soft spot that we should be able to hit with our eyes closed: Iran runs on oil exports; oil exports need a port out of which to ex-; and ports are big, fragile, easily disrupted things. IS3 would function best when combined with IS0, the default strike on the WMD sites: we remove their nuclear development centers and also deny them the resources to reconstitute them anytime soon.
There is no need to hit the oil wells themselves -- which is good, as that could create an ecological catastrophe not only for Iran but for every state in the region. It is enough, I suspect, to lob a few cruise missiles into the port facilities on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The object here is not to wipe them out; if there is a revolution that ousts the mullahs, the young people of Iran will need those to recover and fuel (literally) a nascent democracy. Rather, the idea is to render them inoperable for the moment -- and then keep hitting the ports whenever Iran comes close to reopening them.
But that is not enough; we also need to take care of that large "$40 billion in foreign exchange reserves" which Iran could use to purchase necessary food, reconstruction services, and other infrastructure repair and improvements... to "tide them over" until they can restore oil export operations. And that means a "blockade" at both ends.
We can use the Navy to blockade their Persian Gulf ports; but we have no forces on the Caspian, obviously, since it is landlocked. Alas, we need to more or less close Iran's northern shore; it doesn't need to be 100% sealed, just enough to prevent Russia from transshipping materials via the Caspian Sea.
This would be the hardest "backdoor" to close, mostly because of the geopolitical consequences. Fortunately, there is currently no operational pipeline between Iran and Russia; we don't need to create the world's largest oil spill (again!) Any major shipment into Iran must come by cargo vessel (which needs a port) or by rail.
There are two major Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea: Neka (Nekka) and Bandar Anzali. We would likely have already targeted Neka as part of IS0, since it is a suspected nuclear weapons research facility. But the major Iranian port on the Caspian Sea is Bandar Anzali, off in the northwestern corner of Iran, hard up against Azerbaijan. Anzali would have to be on the target list.
This is not a "blockade," of course, but an attack. However, if our strikes were surgical, we could prevent port ops that might include oil export without hurting the fishing industry there... thus (one hopes) not enraging the citizens of Iran any more than would result from any attack at all.
I don't think we need to worry too much about the roads and rail that cross Iran's borders. Iran is surrounded by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan -- and of course Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which last three would be right out, of course. Iran has reasonably good relations with its northwestern neighbors, but none except Turkey has the industrial capacity to supply Iran with what it needs to sustain a technological society... and we have been courting Turkey assiduously, via Condoleezza Rice and several other officials, to get them to go along with air strikes on Iran (and Syria) -- or at least sit still for them.
Clearly, Turkey is looking more towards the West than Iran:
In the event that talks fail, Turkey is the only country in Iran's vicinity on which the US has prepositioned tactical nuclear weapons (an estimated 90) that it could deploy against Iranian facilities.
The veritable who's who of US and Israeli officials who processed through Turkey in recent weeks for consultations may be a reflection of this.
First came US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, followed by Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller. Porter Goss, the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, also visited, just days before the arrival of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary general, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.
Finally, Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz held discussions with the head of the Turkish military, General Hilmi Ozkok, and Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer. The leading left-nationalist daily, the Cumhuriyet, reported that talks centered on how to deal with Iran.
I doubt that Iran can count on any aid or help from Turkey, in defiance of an American blockade and attack.
The most serious potential consequences are (a) Russia's reaction, and (b) the world oil market reaction. If the Saudis and other Arabian OPEC countries decide to side with their Persian Islamic "brothers" in Iran and embargo oil to the U.S., that could be very hard. We have reconstituted our strategic petroleum reserves, thanks to George W. Bush (President Clinton had substantially depleted them artificially holding down the price of crude); but that would only last us two to three years. I doubt an embargo could last that long -- but it would cause widespread economic instability and dislocation within the U.S.
But if OPEC remains with us, they could pump and export enough extra oil to make up for Iran. The price need not even rise, as there is excess capacity, or "slack," in the world oil market (OPEC artificially limits oil production to maintain high prices).
The reaction of Russia is definitely dicier. Iran and Russia have been cooperating on a number of projects lately, and the ex-Soviets have shown themselves, when push comes to kick, to be closer to Iran than the United States. Still, I'm not sure what they could do to us. They've got problems of their own in Chechnya and Ukraine; they have a lot of economic deals with the West; and they're still in dire need of industrial modernization. I cannot imagine they want to stick their noses into a shootin' war with the United States -- especially not on behalf of a bunch of Moslem extremists!
As I said, I think IS3 should be undertaken along with the strike on the nuke sites, IS0; under those circumstances, Russia would probably scream and yell in the Security Council... but they really have no power actually to do anything, and they know that.
Clearly, IS3 would be an escalation even over IS0; but it would sure hamper Iran's ability to rebuild its nuclear program following American air and missile strikes. For this reason, it should at least be considered as a "value add-on." It's worth discussing, if anyone here wants to discuss it.
Date ►►► March 5, 2006
Should Justice Ever Be Invisible?
Associated Press (that exemplar of unbiased reportage) has an interesting article, carried by Fox News, raising (and utterly failing to analyze) an intriguing issue: under what circumstances should court proceedings be secret? For how long? How does one balance the defendant's rights to privacy, his Sixth Amendment right to a "speedy and public trial," and the First Amendment right of news agencies to investigate plea bargains?
First, let's set the stage:
Despite the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of public trials, nearly all records are being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants [out of 254,000: 1.97% -- the Mgt.] who completed their journey through the federal courts over the last three years. Instances of such secrecy more than doubled from 2003 to 2005.
An Associated Press investigation found, and court observers agree, that most of these defendants are cooperating government witnesses, but the secrecy surrounding their records prevents the public from knowing details of their plea bargains with the government.
Most of these defendants are involved in drug gangs, though lately a very small number come from terrorism cases. Some of these cooperating witnesses are among the most unsavory characters in America's courts — multiple murderers and drug dealers — but the public cannot learn whether their testimony against confederates won them drastically reduced prison sentences or even freedom.
We're not talking here about cases where national-security dictates that certain testimony remain secret (though surely some such cases are caught up in AP's statistical dragnet). Rather, we're talking about cases where a defendant cops a plea and testifies against his co-defendants... but then he wants all the details of the bargain and his testimony to remain secret, either because he is afraid of retaliation or because he was granted immunity, and he wants to live among the honest population without his neighbors knowing what crimes he confessed committing.
We can break this down further. Clearly, there are cases where secrecy is perfectly acceptable for some period of time. Even AP admits that much:
The court office also found a sharp increase in defendants whose case records were partly sealed for a limited time. Among newly charged defendants, the numbers in this category grew from 9,999 or 10.9 percent of all defendants charged in 2003 to 11,508 or 12.6 percent of those charged in 2005.
But the AP investigation found, and court observers agree, that the overwhelming number of these cases sealed for a limited time involve a use of secrecy that draws no criticism: the sealing of an indictment only until the defendant is arrested.
However, the thrust of AP's article is that secrecy is being abused by the notoriously secretive Bush administration, though they never venture a reason why -- beyond the cackling-evil caricature that infuses so much of the Left's "critique" of George Bush and Republicans.
"This follows the pattern of this administration," said John Wesley Hall, an Arkansas defense attorney and second vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "I am astonished and shocked that this many criminal proceedings in federal court escape public scrutiny or become buried."
This part of the AP analysis is almost infantile. What "pattern" are they talking about? They want to keep classfied NSA intercepts secret! They want to keep secret CIA terrorist detention centers secret! They want to keep highly confidential private advice they get from their own lawyers secret! It's a secretive administration!
But divorcing the philosophical question from the raging paranoia and Bush Derangement Syndrome of many liberals, there is still a dilemma here: if there are cases where federal DAs request cases be sealed simply because the public would be absolutely outraged if they discovered how much the DA promised and how little cooperation he got, then that certainly is a serious problem that has to be fixed.
For example, to use the example AP cites -- an example that must be considered hypothetical, since the "facts" all come from the defense attorney of a defendant acquitted despite testimony by a cooperating witness -- consider a case where a person confesses to committing "seven murders" and then testifies against defendants who are charged with committing fewer.
That bargain itself could be defensible: for example, when Mafia underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano was given immunity for the nineteen murders he admitted committing in exchange for his testimony against Gambino family boss John Gotti -- being tried for a single murder, that of his former boss, Paul Castellano. Regardless of the total number of killings, Gotti was far more dangerous a man than Gravano, who was a jumped up local capo, a glorified button-man for Gotti.
But if the details are covered by a shroud of official secrecy (as they were not in the Gravano/Gotti case), "we the people" have no way to judge whether the DA is doing his job; or whether, through laziness or actual complicity, he is letting the central figures off and dropping the hammer on the subordinates instead.
However, AP suggests no rule to follow, no method to determine when secrecy is reasonable. They content themselves with citing statistics that are supposed to be frightening -- "5,000 defendants," "secrecy more than doubled from 2003 to 2005" -- but which are actually less frightening when they get around to presenting the actual numbers:
Of nearly 85,000 defendants whose cases were closed in 2003, the records of 952 or 1.1 percent remain mostly sealed. Of more than 82,000 defendants with cases closed in 2004, records for 1,774 or 2.2 percent remain mostly secret. And of more than 87,000 defendants closed out in 2005, court records for 2,390 or 2.7 percent remain mostly closed to the public.
Nor does AP tell us how long they will remain sealed. Is there a time limit, or will they remain sealed in perpetuity?
Admittedly, it's tough to find out why secret cases are secret -- because it's a secret! But AP makes no attempt even to find a law enforcement expert to talk about the reasons for secrecy; literally every single person they quote is opposed to secrecy, using terms like "astonished and shocked," "a con on the community," "a really, really ugly system," "horrifying," "violates the defendants' rights not to mention the public's right to know." If we knew all the reasons why a court might seal a case, it might be clear that some of them would be perfectly acceptable, yet still require cases to remain sealed even after the sentencing. Without this basic information, we have no way even to imagine.
AP briefly discusses only one reason: fear of retaliation. Then they quote a defense attorney expressing bafflement that secrecy would continue after convictions:
Prosecutors argue that plea agreements must be sealed to protect witnesses and their families from violent retaliation. But [defense lawyer Lexi] Christ said that makes no sense after the trial when the defendants know who testified.
Yet I can think of another just off the top of my head: perhaps the "squealer" gave grand-jury evidence not only against these particular defendants but also against many other people not yet indicted, and maybe some of that played a role in the trial, or could have been deduced from some of the trial testimony. A smart reporter looking at the transcript might write a story that made it clear that six other people were likely secretly indicted and about to be arrested -- which might lead to those people fleeing the country and sending hitmen to kill the "cooperating witness" who was to testify against them at their trials, as well as the trial just concluded.
Such a scenario would significantly increase the risk to the witness and to the DA's upcoming case if the previous case were unsealed before the next round of trials. But there are also bad reasons for secrecy: suppose some DA gave Gotti immunity to testify against Gravano, for example; or suppose a serial child molesting priest like former Father John J. Geoghan were given immunity in exchange for testimony against Cardinal Law, for the lesser crime of covering up Geoghan's sexual assaults. We would rightly be outraged, and that DA should have to defend his bizarre decision.
So there is a real need for some sort of review by somebody beyond the level of the DA (who may want to cover up a dreadful error in judgment about offering immunity), the defense attorney (for whom a plea bargain may be the best deal for his client, even if it includes perpetual secrecy), and the judge (who may care only about removing some of the cases from his overfilled calendar and may approve a plea that is not in the best interests of the community). There should be some review of such cases by somebody not directly involved in the deal and the decision to keep it secret.
What I don't know, not being a lawyer, is in what branch this reviewer should work: executive or judiciary. Should it be the attorney general or an appellate court? Or both?
And isn't there such a procedure now? Is there a body that can lift such secrecy? I would think there is: the circuit court for that district, or a judge adjudicating a Freedom of Information Act request about the case. Alas, AP did not tell us whether there is some reason these normal modes of review don't work in such cases. Maybe documents related to sealed cases are specifically exempted from the FOIA; but does that mean no judge can release them, or just that they can remain secret if the government can show a compelling reason why? At this point, even after reading the article, I have far more questions than answers.
I'd love if some attorney who is actually familiar with the law regarding sealed cases were to opine on the subject. But AP really earns its moniker "lamestream media" this time, since they make no attempt to interview anyone who can shed light on any of these unknowns.
Date ►►► March 3, 2006
AP Doubles Down on Katrina Falsehood
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage....
Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility — and Bush was worried too.
Of course, the videos and transcripts showed no such thing: they showed Max Mayfield warning of the danger that the levees could be "topped"... not of the levees breaching. It's the difference between overfilling your bathtub and smashing a huge hole in the side.
Some suggest that perhaps it was just an "honest mistake." But consider: the writers of that story, Margaret Ebrahim and John Solomon, had hours of video and hundreds of pages of documents before them; they had literally months to do the story (that "confidential video footage" was in fact in the possession of all of the networks and had been for months, according to media critic Howard Kurtz -- who doesn't think much of the story). "Topped" and "breached are obviously two different words. Either they knew they were not synonyms (in which case they flatly lied), or else they acted in reckless disregard for the truth... which is as bad as lying, or perhaps worse for a journalist.
But with today's story, I think we can eliminate the second possibility. There has been enough reaction by now, including Fox News Channel coverage all day yesterday that pointed out the difference, as well as blogosphere reaction, that AP can no longer take refuge in supposed ignorance... particularly since the new story is also written by Margaret Ebrahim, this time ganging up with Lara Jakes Jordan. Towards the end of a story about Louisiana Gov. Kathleen "Blankout" Blanco, they tuck in this repetition:
The new video [of Blanco] came to light a day after the AP obtained footage of an Aug. 28 briefing - the day before Katrina hit - that showed officials warning the storm might breach levees, put lives at risk in the Superdome and overwhelm rescuers.
Nuff said? No? Well, perhaps this will turn a couple of heads: Margaret Ebrahim is (or was) a producer on CBS 60 Minutes II (scroll to the bottom)... the same show that aired the "fake but accurate" hit piece on Bush's Air National Guard service, though that was produced by Mary Mapes, not Margaret Ebrahim.
I think I detect a continuing pattern of low regard for the truth, when it gets in the way of a juicy story.
Lessons Learned In the Propaganda War
After last December's flap over the Coalition paying Iraqi newspapers to plant "propaganda" -- which is what the New York Times labeled truthful, pro-democracy stories -- even an optimist could be excused for thinking we would, quite naturally, abandon this necessary tactic, due to the drubbing the administration took at the hands of the Antique Media.
(You should remember; this was the biggest scandal of the century, until the NSA al-Qaeda intercepts became the biggest scandal of the century, which was right before the renewal of the Patriot Act became the BSotC, followed quickly by the Dubai Ports deal and the "new" videotape of Bush not being warned that the New Orleans levees would breach.)
The press howled in idealistic outrage, perhaps fretting that we were violating the Iraqis' sacred First Amendment rights; and I, along with most, sighed and assumed that, just like data mining (à la Able Danger), here was one more tool from our toolbox that we would throw into the dustbin of history.
Well, not so! The U.S. military, under Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, actually investigated what we were and were not doing. This is a radical step that the media could not steel themselves to take, preferring to base their stories on rumor and inuendo; they printed many irresponsible and counter-factural howlers, which Big Lizards, among others, documented, here and here).
Lo and behold, after reveiwing RADM Van Buskirk and his report, Army Gen. George Casey, commander of all forces in the region, has decided to continue the practice (and he probably told Buskirk to shine his shoes):
The U.S. military will continue to pay Iraqi media to publish reports favorable to American forces following an investigation into the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said on Friday....
Casey said he had not issued an order to halt the payments.
"And, right now, based on the results of the investigation, I do not intend to in the near term," he said.
At a time when everyone agrees al-Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq are winning the propaganda war (that we keep declining to fight), it was literally deranged for the American news media to demand that we stop the only small bit that we were doing, paying for some good and truthful press. Evidently, the Los Angeles Times (which broke the story) and the New York Times (which wrote up a wider examination of it) thought that, if only we would stop planting stories, that would make the Iraqi press more "free"... beause then, only the anti-democratic terrorists would be paying for stories. (The New York Times will want to charge you $3.95 to read the old article... but you can read the Big Lizards discussion of it for free!)
I don't quite follow the logic of that, but I'm sure there must be some.
In any event, we will continue paying for publication, a standard practice in the Moslem world, for the forseeable future; and perhaps at last we're getting off the mark -- winning victories for the vaunted "hearts and minds" as well as on the battlefield.
That Doggone Zog Blog Hog Slogs Along
In the last soggy chapter of the Zogby poll of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, we speculated on what the actual questions were that spawned those awfully peculiar answers. Today, we have a treat: John Zogby was Hugh's phone-interview guest (until the Zog zig-zagged away, hanging up on Hugh); but before departing, the Zogster e-mailed the questions and responses to the show. Radioblogger -- a.k.a., Hugh Hewitt's producer "Generalissimo" -- has posted them on his site, and the world can now see the meagre steak lurking beneath the very loud and insistent sizzle.
Note, this will be a long post, because I will pepper these questions with commentary, backtalk, and sassy opinion. So we're going to spoiler-up here, diving into the undisclosed location beyond the Slither....
From here on, all of the questions and extras from Zogby will be encased in blue italics. This doesn't mean I won't use normal italics myself in some of my jottings... but you'll be able the tell the difference, I guarantee. Unless you're brown-blue colorblind.
I have no idea how this will come across on RSS.
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this survey. Please circle the response that corresponds to the correct answer or is closest to how you feel. Please note: All responses will be kept anonymous and confidential.
1. Which of the following best describes your service?
1. Regular Army 2. Marines 3. National Guard 4. Reserve 5. Other/not military
2. What is your age?
3. Which of the following best represents your race or ethnic group?
1. White, non-Hispanic
3. African American
5. Pacific Islander
6. Middle Eastern
4. Is this your first, second, or third tour of Iraq ?
1. First 2. Second 3. Third or more 0. Refuse
5. How many months have you served in Iraq?
1. Less than 6 2. 6-12 3. More than one year 0. Refuse
6. Gender (Observe. Do not ask.)
1. Male 2. Female
Please proceed to page 2 of the questionnaire.
No comment necessary. This is just demographic information that tells us little. Now we get to the meat.
7. Which one of the following best describes your understanding of the U.S. mission in Iraq?
1. Very clear
2. Somewhat clear
3. Somewhat unclear
4. Very unclear
5. No understanding
6. Not sure
This is an odd question to begin with, in my opinion. The adjective "clear" is so unclear (subjective) that it probably means something different to each respondent. 57% thought it was clear or somewhat clear, 19% found it somewhat unclear, and only 23% were befuddled. By an interesting synchronicity, 25.8% were on their first tour in Iraq... I'm sure there's no connection.
Please rate the statements in questions 8 through 14 as reasons for the Iraq invasion, using the following scale:
1 - Not a reason
2 - Minor reason
3 - Major reason
4 - Main reason
5 - Not sure
8. To remove weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from Iraq
92.3% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."
9. To remove Saddam Hussein from power
68.4% "Main reason" or "Major reason."
10. To establish a democracy that can be a model for the Arab world
73.8% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Isn't this more a goal of the civilian reconstruction authority, rather than the military mission?
11. To stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq
76.3% "Main reason" or "Major reason." Again, this is clumsy phrasing. The word they should have used was "harboring," not "protecting." Even so, it's clear the troops got it.
12. To retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks
85.5% "Main reason" or "Major reason." I don't think I mentioned this in the previous post, but another critical factor to examine in a poll's questions is the order they're presented: the order of the questions is the second most determinative factor behind the questions themselves.
In Zogby's incredulous commentary, this response was interpreted in a way designed to make the soldiers seem like ignoramuses:
The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”
By first discussing the troops having "no understanding" of the mission, then immediately sequeing into the mission being mainly "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” Zogby makes it sound like the soldiers are so benighted, they actually think the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Iraq.
But in reality, look at the actual order the questions were asked: first the soldiers are asked about Saddam Hussein "protecting al Qaeda in Iraq" -- and then immediately, they're asked the amazingly ambiguous question about "Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." The soldiers were thus primed to think of "Saddam's role" being his harboring of al-Qaeda -- and being an accessory after the fact by giving al-Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan sanctuary in Iraq.
The pollster made it even more explicit in an article published in Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's newspaper. About that finding, Zogby said:
“We were surprised by that, especially the 85 percent [figure],” Zogby said. “Clearly that is much higher than the consensus among the American public, and the public’s perception [on that topic] is much higher than the actual reality of the situation.”
The "actual reality?" Of what? There is no question that Zogby is trying to push the idea that the troops think Saddam Hussein, not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, pulled off 9/11; that is what he wants us to believe. But his question didn't ask that, did it? It spoke only about Hussein's "role" in 9/11, without specifying what that role might have been: accessory before or after the fact.
There is no reason at all to conclude the soldiers thought Saddam ordered 9/11; all they have to think is that Saddam was in cahoots with al-Qaeda before or even after 9/11, and they would answer this question as they did.
Zogby has been around a long time. He knows all about question order. It's hard to imagine that he and his pollsters were unaware of this confusion. Which means it might be... oh, let's not go there.
13. To secure Iraqi oil supplies
79.2% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason."
14. To provide a long-term base for U.S. troops in the Middle East
88.1% "Not a reason" or "Minor reason." Blah, blah, blah.
15. How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?
1. They should withdraw immediately
2. They should withdraw within the next six months
3. They should withdraw within six to twelve months
4. They should stay as long as they are needed
5. Not sure
51.4% say "immediately" or "next six months;" 72% say within "twelve months.'
This question was the lede in Zogby analysis -- U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006 -- and in some of the stories about the poll. The implication is obvious: morale is low! the soldiers want to go home! they don't believe in the mission! they think we're losing, losing, losing!
But as I noted last time, the real question here is never answered: why do the troops think we should withdraw in twelve months, six months, or immediately? It is because they think we've already lost -- or because they believe we've won, and they take the president at his word that "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down?" By "withdrawal," do they mean everyone out, or do they mean drawing down the force level?
The Stars and Stripes article linked above raised this same point:
But Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, said troops who say the U.S. should withdraw could be concerned for their own safety, or they could be optimistic about progress so far, or they could simply be opposed to the idea of operations in Iraq.
“You have to pick apart each servicemember’s thought process to understand what that means,” he said. “I think this is about personal circumstances, and not proof there is a higher rate of troops who desire departure.”
What Zogby really needed to ask is whether the troops think the mission has been successful or not, and (as Hugh Hewitt suggested) how high their morale is; that would have told us the why. As it is, we can only infer the why by looking at the next question:
16. According to recent polls, about half of Americans favor a rapid withdrawal and half favor an open-ended occupation of Iraq. Which do you believe best describes the motives of those favoring rapid withdrawal?
1. They are unpatriotic
2. They are not aware of the need for U.S. troops
3. They believe that continued occupation will not work
4. They are against use of the military in preemptive war and "nation building"
6. Not sure
51.6% say because "they are unpatriotic" or because "they are not aware of the need for U.S. troops."
Well! Either 22% or more of our troops think that they, themselves, are unpatriotic or unaware -- or else when they answered question 15, they meant we should start withdrawing because we've won... and therefore, it's not a "rapid withdrawal." (The only other possibility is that they believe that a withdrawal within six months is not "rapid," which seems unlikely, given that soldiers know how long it takes to put a force in or withdraw it... even John Murtha said it would take six months!)
I think what is really happening here is that a lot of our soldiers believe that we're going to be able to start drawing down the force -- not rapidly, not precipitously, but according to plan -- over the next six or twelve months. And frankly, I believe that timeline is precisely what the Bush administration is planning. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle-Boat Cruise tonight: our soldiers have the same understanding on the ground that the Pentagon planners have back in Arlington, VA.
Could that be because the senior officers consult the grunts and actually take their opinions seriously?
The insurgency has at least tripled the number of attacks on US troops over the past two years., but despite this there have been political and economic advances. Based on your experiences in Iraq, please rate statements 17 through 24 using the following scale:
1 - Definitely false
2 - Mostly false
3 - Partly true, partly false
4 - Mostly true
5 - Definitely true
17. Ongoing attacks on our troops have made me negative about the Iraqi people.
80.3% say "definitely false" or "mostly false."
18. The insurgency consists mostly of discontented Sunnis with relatively few (no more than 5%) non-Iraqi helpers.
75.9% say "definitely true," "mostly true," or "partly true, partly false." As we mentioned before, many troops are aware that "insurgent" doesn't include terrorist; thus, many of the respondents are thinking of Sadr and his Mighty al-Mahdi militia. But even if they are not, I think most folks understand that foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi may call the shots, but most of the low-level terrorist flunkies are disaffected Iraqis.
But I note that Zogby accounts for "non-Iraqi helpers" and for "discontented Sunnis"... what about Iraqi Shia? Is he even aware that most of the Iraqi militants are Shiite, not Sunni... particularly those Iranian-supported Sadrites infiltrating the southern police departments and the Interior Department? I guess not!
19. If non-Iraqi terrorists could be prevented from crossing the border into Iraq the insurgency would end.
65.9% of the troops say "definitely false" or "mostly false" -- I reckon the soldiers know what Zogby doesn't.
20. To control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions.
52.9% say "definitely true" or "mostly true." This is the only point where I disagree; but again, the question is so clumsily framed that we don't know whether they're saying we should double our presence -- or just that if we wanted to "control the insurgency," that's what we would have to do... so therefore, it's better to leave it to the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Security Force (police).
Can't tell; the obvious follow-up question would have been, "do you believe we should double our forces in Iraq now?" Given the response to question 15 about "withdrawal," I think it highly unlikely a majority would say yes to this.
Rules and Measures
These are mostly just no-brainers:
21. Infrastructure in Iraq (roads, water, electricity, health care) improved greatly over the past year.
Mixed: 34.9% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 31% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."
22. The Department of Defense has provided adequate troop protection (body armor; Humvee plating, munitions)
Leaning towards true: 29.6% say "definitely false" or "mostly false;" 43.6% say "definitely true" or "mostly true."
23. It is legitimate to use white phosophorus or napalm-like inflamants against insurgents?
70.2% say "definitely false," "mostly false," or "partly true, partly false."
24. It is standard and appropriate military conduct to use harsh and threatening interrogation methods on possible insurgent prisoners if they could have information of military value?
65.2% say "definitely false" or "mostly false." Which is correct. For them. CIA interrogators may follow different rules.
Thank you for taking time to complete the survey.
Taken all in all, the only allegedly shocking results -- the withdrawal question and the reasons-for-the-invasion question -- turn out, upon inspection, to be soap bubbles: all surface with no weight. This is why I predicted last time that "I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct"... given that the respondent answers the question he is asked, not the question he should have been asked.
I close with my conclusion from last post, because it turns out my instincts were correct: this is a "valueless poll."
It is valueless because, without knowing the exact questions, the order in which they were asked, the demography of the respondents, the time period during which the poll was conducted, and what background information they gave or asked commanders to give, we have no context by which to understand what the responding military personnel meant by their responses.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Zogbytown."
[Note, I made a correction on the prevous Zogby-poll post to note that Zogby's brother, James Zogby, is an Arabist, not an Islamist.]
More On That Fox News Poll
This joint is turning into Poll Central!
I need to say another word about that Fox News poll I blogged about yesterday; and the next post is a really big one, examining the bizarre Zogby poll in detail, question by question....
Sachi pointed this out to me: if you go to RealClearPolitics poll coverage and click on the Fox News Poll up top (or just click on the link in this sentence), you'll get the complete writeup of the poll.
Scroll to the last page of the pdf, where some of the demography is listed. Bottom section. What do we see?
For the poll before the current one, taken February 7-8, party affiliation of respondents:
Democrats: 40% (advantage +4 to the Democrats)
to state: 24%
Presidential job approval: 44% approve, 47% disapprove
For the current poll, taken February 28 through March 1st, party affiliation of respondents:
Democrats: 43% (advantage +10 to the Democrats
to state: 24%
Presidential job approval: 39% approve, 54% disapprove
Again! They did it again -- the Fox News pool of respondents went from a gap of four percent favoring the Democrats to a gap of ten percent favoring the democrats; is it really any wonder that the gap in the president's job approval also shot up?
Some, of course, must be attributable to an actual drop in the president's approval rating (mostly among Republicans). But mathematically, the lion's share of the change simply reflects the bad luck of the draw in respondents, since this poll does not weight for party affiliation. My quick-and-dirty guess is that Bush's rating has actually dropped 2-3 points -- but the rest is simply an artifact of the pool of respondents.
This reminds me of the Mystery of the Misadded Restaurant Checks. For three years, I carefully added up all my restaurant checks (this was before everything was computerized). Whenever there was a misaddition, I noted it down; in three years, I had about twenty-five or thirty checks that were misadded.
Only one out of the twenty-five was misadded in my favor.
Now, as a math guy, I know that according to the laws of probability, if these were purely random errors, they should be as likely to go in my favor as the restraurant's; it's like flipping a coin twenty-five times and getting tails only once... that is, about 1 out of 1.3 million.
I concluded that the misadding of restaurant checks was not a random function. By the same reasoning, it seems that virtually every poll taken lately overrepresents Democrats... which tells me that the selection of respondents in political polling is likewise not a random function. There is a reason why so many more Democrats show up in these polls than Republicans.
That reason needn't be deliberate fraud; it could be a factor that nobody has considered. Maybe Democrats are more willing to sit still for the interview, I can't say. But it is a point to consider.
Date ►►► March 2, 2006
Did Someone Call Me Schnorrer?
Everybody's bagging on Justice Ginsburg for this incident, captured live through the magic of sketching:
Justice Never Sleeps
But actually, I think this is terribly unfair. We don't know for sure that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sleeping like a baby, catching forty winks, out like a light, dead to the world, sawing wood, visiting the Sandman, in the arms of Morpheus, far beyond the wave, touring Slumberland with Little Nemo, sacked out, crashed out, checked out, out of it, floating, doing a Rip Van Winkle, or gone.
There are other explanations, you know. For just one example, maybe she was praying....
I Love This Fox News Polling Question!
Fox News has a poll up that more or less matches everybody else's on presidential job approval, generic congressional poll, and so forth. But the Fox News poll (conducted by Opinion Dynamics) goes on to ask one more question that I've never seen anybody else ask:
Finally, in addition to asking Americans to rate the president’s job performance, the poll asked what kind of job they would be doing if they were in Bush’s shoes. Overall, 37 percent say they think they would be doing a better job than President Bush is doing, 43 percent say worse and 10 percent say the same.
Over half of Democrats (54 percent) think they would be doing a better job than Bush, while only 14 percent of Republicans feel that way. More than two-thirds of Republicans (68 percent) think they would be doing a worse job than their party’s leader.
Golly, but I love this question! It's easy enough to sit around and grouse about what a rotten job so-and-so is doing in the extraordinary circumstances he finds himself. It's another thing entirely when you ask someone to actually come up with a better program than the one he's whining about.
I especially enjoy the colossal but oh, so casual arrogance of the majority of Democrats who think they could do a better job as president... the vast bulk of whom have probably never run anything in their lives.
I'm guessing these are the ones who actually who believe "Bush is a moron" or "Bush is Hitler." I'm quietly amused at the image of some Hollywood celebrity confidently smirking, "yeah, I kin do a better job than that jerk... I'd fire the military, blow up all the bombs, and just par-TAY like it's still 1999!"
An interesting contrast is found in the most recent Battleground Poll (per RealClearPolitics blog), which was conducted just before the ports deal broke.
The poll found Bush's pre-Dubai Ports approval at 46% and the generic congressional number at Democrats 46%, Republicans 41%, for a Dem advantage of just 5%; presumably Bush's numbers would have been lower if they'd taken the poll a week later.
This is probably the real baseline of Bush's and Republicans' support:
- It was conducted among likely voters, not just registered voters (or in CBS's case, "adults").
- It is a much more carefully conducted and analyzed poll than any media poll, whether Zogby, Fox News, CBS, Gallup, Rasmussen, or anyone else.
- It was conducted before the distorting element of the ports deal.
The Battleground Poll is a good snapshot of where the president and the congressional vote stood before the deal; thus it will be a good marker of the duration of discomfort about that deal: when (or if) support returns to about the level of the BG Poll, we can conclude that people have calmed down about the ports deal -- as John Hinderaker at Power Line reports already seems to be happening, at least according to Donald Lambro, whom John links.
As more information creeps out about the deal, I expect more and more people to pull off credible Emily Litella impersonations, and the polls will shift back towards the baseline. I think this will happen fairly rapidly, too, probably even before the 45-day review is complete... assuming some gigantic shocker doesn't come out of that review.
Note that people will still tell pollsters they're against the deal: it's hard to back down completely, and most won't. What will happen is that it will cease negatively affecting Bush and the Republicans; that will be the sign.
Date ►►► March 1, 2006
Into the Breach, Dear Friends!
UPDATE: Patterico offers a pair of corrections appended below.
So, like, the newest buzz about the Big Blow is this story, screaming across AP like a Stuka divebombing a dayschool:
Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned
President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.
(Hat tip John at Power Line.)
In the first place, let's call a shovel a shovel: if the video footage offered by AP in support of this accusation is the best AP has... then I have to flatly state that writers Margaret Ebrahim and John Solomon are liars. Because in fact, the video footage shows no such warning, either inside or outside the meeting, that Katrina might "breach levees."
The video shows one person -- Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center, speaking via video link [this is a correction; see below] -- warning that people could be in danger if the levees were "overtopped." Overtopping is not breaching, as common sense and English as our primary language should tell us. I echo John Hinderaker's call for AP to release any documents they have that show Bush being warned that there was a serious chance the levees could actually breach, which means to split apart, causing a much worse flood than mere overtopping (obviously).
But I have an even more basic question that John didn't ask (he was probably still in a high dudgeon about Ebrahim and Solomon lying in their teeth). Suppose, just suppose for sake of this discussion, that Bush actually were warned. Suppose Brownie said to him, "Mr. P., the Louisiana State Homeland Security Department called me up today and told me that there's a 50-50 chance that them thar levees might actually bust wide open, like the last time I went all-in on a gutshot straight draw."
What the heck was Bush supposed to do about it? Pray for the hurricane to hit Texas, instead?
- He has no authority to order an evacuation of New Orleans; only Mayor Ray "the Grand Nagus" Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux "Blankout" Blanco have that power.
- He has no authority to order the National Guard into Louisiana until Gov. Blanco requests them.
- Under Posse Comitatus, he cannot order the Army in to engage in civil law enforcement.
- He cannot force the state to accept any help at all from FEMA; he can only have them in readiness for the moment the state formally requests help.
- The president cannot order the governor or the mayor to do anything, actually; under federalism, the power of the national government during disasters is strictly limited.
It seems the same people who turn into hysterical toddlers at the thought that Bush might have slightly overstepped his authority in recording calls and e-mails sent between al-Qaeda enclaves abroad and their sleeper agents inside the country are now becoming apoplectic because Bush didn't gallup far beyond his authority, sending federal troops into Louisiana to evacuate New Orleans at riflepoint, in flagrant violation of the authority of a minority mayor and a female governor. Quelle horror!
What on earth was Bush supposed to do with the information, which he would almost certainly have gotten from the state... warn the state that just told him the levees might break that the levees might break?
This is a hit piece in search of a body. First, they lie and falsely claim that a video shows Bush being warned in an emergency meeting that the levees might break -- when all the video really shows is the National Hurricane Center warning that water might flow over the top of the levees [corrected sentence; see below]. And second, they have no clue themselves what Bush might have done if someone had told him there was a chance they might break... run over to New Orleans and stick his finger in the nearest dike?
Oh, I miss the good old days, when a scandal had to involve something, you know, scandalous. The only scandals here are that (a) the Associated Press would hire illiterates to write copy, and (b) that TV networks would imagine that Americans not only can't read, they can't listen, either.
UPDATE March 2nd, 2006: A couple of corrections, which I have inserted into the text above, both relating to the weatherman. He is not a "TV weatherman," as I originally described him. He is Max Mayfield, the head of the National Hurricane Center; and he wasn't simply broadcasting on TV... he was part of the conference, participating by video link.
However, the meat is still correct: he warned of the danger of overtopping, not a levee breach; and it is still the case that there was nothing Bush could have done about the potential of a breach -- or overtopping, for that matter -- a day or two before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. So there still is no point to AP's attack anyway; it is a deliberate lie, that he was warned about a breach, and a second, subtextual lie -- that he could have averted the disaster if he had only tried, the lazy bum!
On That Doggone ZogOn Poll
Correction: see below.
U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006!! [Silly exclamation points added, of course, but are in keeping with the Zogby writeup. -- the Mgt]
Hugh seems to support the idea that this poll was deliberately skewed -- well, certainly Zogby's writeup was! -- and might even have been invented out of whole cloth. But we don't need to go anywhere near that far; and indeed, Occam's Razor warns us not to overreach for an explanation.
It does bring to mind an aphorism, however, aimed directly at liberals who plan on using this "data" in their crusade for immediate withdrawal: when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
I am quite certain that Zogby's strengthened all the "anti-war" findings and downplayed those that might be considered "pro-war," took great liberties in interpretation, and heavily weighted the sample to pre-select for specific results; such slovenly polling has been Zogby's stock in trade ever since the Bush administration began... and it shows in his poor prognostication: Hugh points us to an article on Cybercast News Service (which leans right) shortly after the 2004 election that highlighted Zogby's ludicrous "prediction" that Kerry would win 311 electoral votes, possibly including Virginia, thus winning the election in a landslide.
But in fact, in this case, I absolutely believe his poll results might be exactly correct... with one caveat, below. Here are the major results that Zogby announces:
- Only 20% of the troops want to "heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'
- 42% say the U.S. mission is unclear, "hazy"
- A plurality believes most of the "insurgents" are native Iraqis, but they don't blame ordinary Iraqis for the violence
- 90% think a major purpose of the war is retaliation for "Saddam's role in 9/11"
- Most troops oppose using "harsh prisoner interrogation"
- A plurality are satisfied with their weapons and armor
Stunned? Think the lizard is shedding his scales? What we all have to understand is that you can get any poll result you want -- provided you ask the right questions. The exact wording of the question matters; changing the wording even slightly can flip the results.
For example, consider the difference between asking, "do you believe the president has the right, all on his own, to spy on American citizens without a warrant?" -- versus asking, "do you believe the administration has the authority to intercept phone calls and e-mails from suspected al-Qaeda agents to targets in the United States?"
I put it to you that the first question would receive an overwhelming No response, while the second would receive an equally resounding Yes... yet the first can be spun into, "Americans strongly oppose the NSA intercept program," while the second would yield, "Americans strongly support the NSA intercept program."
That is why it is so critical that we learn the exact questions asked. I will now play a little game... I will construct a series of questions that are reasonable, seem to fit the context of the responses -- yet which could easily yield the exact result spread that Zogby reported, even among our military in Iraq. Ready?
- Should American forces remain at the current levels indefinitely, or should we begin drawing down our troops as the Iraqi Army grows more effective? If the latter, when do you expect we should start drawing down our forces? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
- Do you, personally, plan to stay "as long as it takes," even if that means years? Or do you hope to rotate out sooner than that? When do you hope to return home? (Immediately/Six months/One year/Longer)
- Has the long-term military strategy been explained to you, or are you only really familiar with your area of operation?
- Do foreign fighters constitute a majority of insurgents, or are the insurgents mostly Iraqis?
- Which of these are the major reasons for our military presence in Iraq? You may check as many as you wish: (To prevent Saddam Hussein from helping terrorists/To secure and remove any WMD/Because Iraq was in violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War/Because Iraq was firing upon our airplanes/Because Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolutions/Because Iraq played a role with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks/To stabilize the Middle East/To establish a democracy after the occupation)
- Do you believe we should interrogate insurgents using techniques banned by the Geneva Convention?
- Do you believe your weapons and armor are adequate to your mission, or would you prefer heavier weapons and thicker armor?
The first question would be interpreted by some soldiers as what they think we ought to do, come what may; by others as what ought to happen, assuming things continue on the path they're going now; and by other others as what they expect to happen.
Some will interpret "drawing down our troops" as a gradual reduction: "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Others will think it means yank everyone out precipitously.
Or alternatively, Zogby's analysis -- "Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay 'as long as they are needed'” -- could refer entirely to question 2, whether the individual soldier personally wants to stay that long, or whether he hopes to rotate home sooner than that.
Until and unless we see the exact wording, we have no way even to guess what individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines thought they were answering when they picked a timeframe.
As far as being hazy about the overall strategy... well, perhaps this comes as a shock to Mr. Zogby, but the military rarely briefs the grunts about overall strategy of each phase of a military operation.
They're briefed on their own piece of the pattern, probably more thoroughly today than at any time in our history. But I doubt the guys in the South are given a full briefing on the Anbar campaign, and those guys don't get a high-level lecture on exactly what we're doing in the Kurdish north. Since most members of the military are enlisted or junior officers, not flag-rank officers, most won't have been told by the military what the overall strategy is.
That means their only method of finding out is the same way we do: by reading or watching the MSM, by listening to talk radio, and by reading blogs. But our boys and girls over there are probably somewhat busy... and I'll bet they don't have a lot of time to do any of those. So it's actually amazing to me that as many as 58% think they have a pretty good handle on our strategy. I'm sure that number would have been less than half that during World War II!
And of course most of the "insurgents" are Iraqis... because the Secretary of Defense has carefully drawn a distinction between native insurgents, like the Sadrites, and foreign terrorists, like Musab Zarqawi. This is a no-brainer: the troops just answered the way they had been taught (and I'll bet Zogby used the word "insurgents," too -- since that is the word he used in his writeup).
Some of our troops probably believe that Saddam Hussein was specifically complicit in 9/11; others (including myself, though I'm not a "troop") believe Iraq was in bed with al-Qaeda in many ways and may even have known about the 9/11 attack in advance, and are therefore accessories. Some might read "9/11" and mentally translate that to "terrorist attack;" since Iraq has, indeed, attacked us using terrorism. Or it's possible that the Zogby question didn't even specify the 9/11 attack, but just referred to al-Qaeda or terrorist attacks. We don't know, because John Zogby won't tell us.
All of the above is why I consider this poll worthless: not because it was paid for and undertaken on behalf of the Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies; not because Zogby is a notorious liberal and Bush-basher; not because his brother James Zogby is an even more notorious Arabist; and not because Zogby might have just made the whole thing up (I think that is extraordinarily unlikely). [This paragraph contains a correction; James Zogby is an Arabist, not an Islamist; he is a Maronite Christian... but he is the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute.]
It is valueless because, without knowing the exact questions, the order in which they were asked, the demography of the respondents, the time period during which the poll was conducted, and what background information they gave or asked commanders to give, we have no context by which to understand what the responding military personnel meant by their responses.
Until Zogby is more transparent and forthcoming, there is no point in dwelling on this silly poll... though I agree with Hugh that it will be the lead story for at least a week in the Antique Media. When it comes up in conversation, all you need do is fix the liberal who cited it with a steely gaze and ask, "what were the exact questions they asked, please?"
When he admits he has no idea, you say, "then just like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you can't possibly know what the answer '42' means, can you?"
Help Send This Kid to BlogAds Camp!
Henry Copeland runs BlogAds, which compiles "adstrips" like those things you see off to the right of this page. Not the Google ads, which are run by Google, oddly enough, but the ads at the top of our right-column sidebar.
He'd like to know who the heck you are. If you haven't already filled this out somewhere else, please take a minute and do it now... it's free! (And of course, blogs aren't free, and BlogAds help defray the costs.)
On Question 23 -- "Referring blog" -- be sure to enter Big Lizards. Like, tuh. You'll get a little commercial at the end, but it won't kill you. And if you're a retailer, you should lizard-leap to advertise your products through BlogAds, and you should specially select Big Lizards as one of the carriers! You can get there directly by clicking on Feed the Greed of the Lizard.
In fact, even if you've already filled it out on Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin or somewhere else, just fill it out again using the names of relatives and fake people. I don't know if Hammerin' Hank counts responses, but if he does, we don't want him to think that Big Lizards is a cesspool of indolence and penury, do we?
Henry says that you can see the results of previous surveys here (2004) and here (2005). But why would you? Who cares about the past? The past may be prologue, but we're at least into Act II by now. But if you're interested, go ahead and click... I won't tell.
Thanks! Buy war bonds! Don't bother seeing Brokeback Mountain!
Bride of Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats: the Final Cut
Away back earlier, on February 9th, we posted Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats, in which we discussed the final vote on cloture for the renewal of the Patriot Act. Recall that the first time, four Republican senators -- Larry Craig (ID), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Chuck Hagel (NE), and the ringleader, John Sununu (NH) -- joined with 43 of the 45 Democrats (counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords, I-VT) to vote against cloture, resulting in a filibuster that prevented a vote for renewal.
Surely we all recall Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace) pumping his fist in the air and squealing "we killed the Patriot Act!" as all but a couple of his colleagues jumped up and down in excitement.
But soon, the concerns of the four renegade Republicans were addressed, and they agreed to allow the bill to go to a vote. Even though there were still enough Democrats to stop it, if they were brave enough to do so, Big Lizards predicted that they would turn tail... being unwilling to kill the popular anti-terrorism bill without the cover of a fistful of Republicans to share the blame. Here is what we 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).
Oh, wait, that's what happened with Alito. What the heck... it'll probably happen the same way this time.
So that was the prediction: that first there would be a veritable flood of Democrats insisting that they would no longer filibuster the Act; but then, when the final cloture vote came, most would sneak back and -- you're way ahead of me -- vote for the filibuster anyway.
This way, during the primaries, they can point to their final vote for a filibuster (red meat for the slavering MoveOn hordes)... and then, when the general election rolls around this November, they can point to their refusal to filibuster earlier (so as not to anger real Americans). This is sort of a John Kerryesque two-step: "we actually voted against the filibuster before we voted for it!"
But, we predicted, the Democrats would not have the forty-one votes necessary to prevent cloture.
Part one occurred on February 17th; from Ball Is In Your Court, Democrats - the Rest of the Story:
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.
Part two fell out yesterday, when the Senate held the final cloture vote on the amended act... and aside from the snarky dig at Sen. Feinstein, our prediction came true almost exactly. After only three Democrats (rather, two Democrats and a Democrat wannabe) supported the filibuster on the 17th, by yesterday afternoon, that number swelled to thirty Democrats:
The Senate voted 69-30 Tuesday -- 60 votes were needed -- to limit debate and bring the legislation to a final vote. The Senate is expected to pass the measure as early as Wednesday, barring Democratic procedural maneuvers. The House then is expected to approve it and send the bill to Bush's desk next week.
We were pretty much on the nose... except we underestimated how many Democrats would rush to support the act right after the Republicans returned to the fold (we didn't think it would be all but three!) -- and we likewise underestimated how many would then try to "eat their cake and have it too" by going ahead and defiantly voting for the filibuster when it really counted: we expected twenty-five; it was actually thirty.
Those are close enough to Big Lizards' prediction, however, that we'll go ahead and claim the Political Magic 8-Ball Award anyway!
(As to the joke about Feinstein, if you want to count that as a prediction, it did not eventuate: according to the roll call, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voted for cloture -- as did Joe Biden (D-DE), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the Nelson tribe (NE and FL), and nine other Democrats. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) failed to vote; so it goes.)
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