Date ►►► December 31, 2006
The Perils of Pakistan
Unlike the usual incisive, cutting, edgy news analysis you're used to finding on Big Lizards, this post will be much more speculative (that is, of no value whatsoever). So don't bother reading it: you'll be bored, and it will just annoy you. I'm sure it already has!
I was fretting about what will eventually happen to Pakistan, where the anti-Islamist military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf hangs by a thread. There are only three ways it can end:
- Musharraf is assassinated and his government overthrown; the radical Islamists take over and turn Pakistan into a terrorist state, just like Afghanistan under the Taliban;
- Musharraf survives until he dies a natural death... at which point, the radical Islamists take over and turn Pakistan into a terrorist state, just like Afghanistan under the Taliban;
- Musharraf is forced to cut a deal with the radical Islamists in order to survive; he and they turn Pakistan into a terrorist state, just like Afghanistan under the Taliban.
Not a happy prospect, eh? But wait, let's not be too hasty...
The reason we cannot completely crush the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is that both Pakistan and Iran serve as "safe havens" for these terrorists: they can attack us, then quickly retreat across the international borders, raise their robes, and moon the Coalition forces. As in Vietnam, our rules of engagement (ROEs) do not permit us to invade Iran now.
But Pakistan is a different matter: we cannot invade there precisely because it would put Musharraf's rule at risk. If he cannot even stop the infidel crusaders from rampaging around Pakistan, the Pakistanis would probably rise up in revolt, catapulting the radical Islamists into control of etc.
But lo -- if this had already befallen that country, and it were already a terror-supporting state through any of the scenarios above, then there would no longer be any reason for "hot pursuit" of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to stop at the border: there would be no ally to protect.
Thus, paradoxically, were Pakistan to fall, it might make it much easier for us to eradicate al-Qaeda: if they fled east, we could follow them to the gates of Kashmir, if necessary, to find and destroy them.
Admittedly, it would be a sphincter-contracting scenario to have a radical Islamist state that actually has a nuclear capability; but Pakistan's bitterest enemy is not the United States but rather India; and India is likewise nuked up and far more likely to lob a few towards Islamabad than would we.
Besides retaliation, there is also the difficulty of Pakistan landing one on Kabul... which one would hope is by now ringed with air defenses, including anti-ballistic missile systems. It's much more likely that our own nuclear retaliation would get through to Pakistan -- than that a putative Pakistan nuclear strike would hit major cities in Afghanistan.
Of course, a jihadist Pakistan might also pass the nukes off to al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group. But Pakistan would have to know that we would retaliate against both itself and Iran, were we to experience a nuclear attack... even one that seemingly came from an "unconnected" terrorist group. This is another check on their behavior: unlike Hezbollah or Hamas, Pakistan has an actual functioning government to maintain and civil society to appease.
Thus, while it would certainly be dicey, we may actually be better off if Pakistan fell to the Islamists than if it stayed in the hands of a dictatorial leader who is less than enthusiastic about pursuing al-Qaeda -- or even letting us do so.
Date ►►► December 30, 2006
Iran Disputes Call: Takes Ball, Goes Home
Now that the UN Security Council has voted weak-tea sanctions on Iran for its pell-mell sprint for nuclear weapons, Iran has reacted in the professional, adult manner we've come to expect from President Ahmadinejad and his mullah-masters: they have threatened to "accelerate the country's peaceful nuclear program [!] and revise its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on national interests":
Iran's parliament voted Wednesday to urge the government to re-examine its ties with the U.N. nuclear agency following a Security Council decision to impose sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
The move signaled that Iran was likely to reduce its cooperation with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. Iranian state radio predicted that once the bill came into effect, "the agency will become an ineffective and weak body...." [For all those who imagined that until now, the IAEA was a powerful and respected organization before which tyrants trembled in awe.]
"The bill gives a free hand to the government to decide on a range of reactions - from leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to remaining in the International Atomic Energy Agency and negotiating," [Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel] said during the debate in parliament, which was broadcast live on state radio.
Even the French were gobsmacked by this one; the sanctions were so minor, so trivial -- because of opposition by China, Russia, and France to anything stronger -- that everyone expected Iran simply to accept them and move ahead. Thus, their actual reaction, as if someone had come along and filched their favorite toy, had even la Belle France groping for words:
France criticized the move, saying it was "not what we expected from Iran." French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said the Security Council resolution requires Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA.
"We therefore renew our call for Iran to respect its commitments and obligations and cooperate actively with the IAEA," Simonneau said. [And we shall follow your future career with great interest...]
Meanwhile, we learn from the New York Times (none of you ever imagined this, I'm sure) that Iran is simultaneously seeking to expand its influence into Afghanistan. I know this is shocking, but don't turn into a mob, please!
The rise of Hezbollah, with Iran's support, has demonstrated the extent of Tehran's sway in Lebanon, and the American toppling of Saddam Hussein has allowed it to expand its influence in Iraq. Iran has been making inroads into Afghanistan, as well. During the tumultuous 1980s and '90s, Iran shipped money and arms to groups fighting first the Soviet occupation and later the Taliban government. But since the United States and its allies ousted the Taliban in 2001, Iran has taken advantage of the central government's weakness to pursue a more nuanced strategy: part reconstruction, part education and part propaganda.
Iran has distributed its largess, more than $200 million in all, mostly here in the west but also in the capital, Kabul. It has set up border posts against the heroin trade, and next year will begin work on new road and construction projects and a rail line linking the countries. In Kabul, its projects include a new medical center and a water testing laboratory....
Still, there are indications of other motives. Iranian radio stations are broadcasting anti-American propaganda into Afghanistan. Moderate Shiite leaders in Afghanistan say Tehran is funneling money to conservative Shiite religious schools and former warlords with longstanding ties to Iranian intelligence agencies.
And as the dispute over Iran's nuclear program has escalated [leading the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran on Dec. 23], Iranian intelligence activity has increased across Afghanistan, American and Afghan officials say. This has included not just surveillance and information collection but the recruitment of a network of pro-Iranian operatives who could attack American targets in Afghanistan. [On Dec. 20 in London, British officials charged the interpreter for NATO's commanding general in Afghanistan with passing secrets to Iran.]
(I only read the first page of the story; it's too long and boring for my mayfly-like attention span. But you're welcome to pore over the rest and report back if there's anything of interest on, say, page 4.)
However, as we noted earlier, much of this "largess" is dependent upon an oil industry that is beginning to crumble. Simply put, the Iranians are so obsessed with getting nukes and building ever more labyrinthian layers of welfare-statism, that they have failed to invest in oil exploration and extraction: the fact that the entire country has just a handful of gasoline refineries is the synecdoche of the problem... such a simple stupidity with such widespread consequences is hard to fathom.
They could still turn it around; but that would require reassessing their national priorities, rather than reassessing their cooperation with the IAEA. If they stay their present course, the money to buy happiness in Afghanistan will dry up, as will the friendly relations: that corner of the globe (if globes can have corners) has never been known for its gratitude.
The collapse of the Iranian oil industry is also something that is well within our power to affect: as historian Arthur Herman wrote in Commentary last month, we could and probably should strike Iran where it would hurt the most... right in their assets:
- Deploy anti-submarine, anti-suicide-boat forces throughout the Strait of Hormuz; this will prevent Iran from sinking ships in the strait (though which most of everyone's oil passes) and stopping the engine of the world;
- Followed by a "comprehensive air campaign" to destroy Iran's air defenses;
- Next, continue the attacks to Iran's nuclear facilities, including infrastructure that supports them (roads, power generators, etc.);
- Destroy Iran's gasoline refineries and reserves: they already import 40% of their gasoline, having so little refinery space themselves;
- Deploy SF to seize Iran's offshore oil wells and docks fit for off-loading gasoline from ships.
This would bottle up Iran and put them at our mercy (for a change!) -- we could cut off their gasoline supply at a moment's notice. Keep this scenario in mind, as it plays a role in all to follow.
The Iranians are also, of course, trying to "influence" Iraq -- by sending "senior military officials" into Iraq to attack Iraqi forces, American forces, and to funnel weapons to radical Shiite militias:
In its first official confirmation of last week’s raids, the military said it had confiscated maps, videos, photographs and documents in one of the raids on a site in Baghdad. The military confirmed the arrests of five Iranians, and said three of them had been released.
The Bush administration has described the two Iranians still being held Tuesday night as senior military officials. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command, said the military, in the raid, had “gathered specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel.”
Big Lizards translation: Iranians are coming across the border into Iraq and killing American soldiers. To my mind, that is casus belli... especially when coupled with the persistent successes Iran has had in the last couple of years smuggling factory-built bombs (can't really call them "I" EDs anymore, can we?) to pro-Iranian factions within Iraq:
How are these EFPs ["explosively-formed penetrator"] coming into Iraq? Again, to quote the briefer: "Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has established smuggling routes to transport men and supplies into Iraq." Who is using them to kill and wound Americans and other coalition troops? "Iran's Revolutionary Guard has a network in Iraq headed by Abu Mustapha al-Sheibani to commit violence against Coalition forces." That doesn't sound like a nation that has any interest in democracy and stability in Iraq.
Here's another long, boring article you can read about Abu Mustapha [or Mustafa] al-Sheibani, since I'm sure none of you has any cool New Year's Eve parties to attend (I know I don't!)
But again, all of these extracurricular activities depend upon Iran having a huge and reliable cash flow from the oil; were something to happen to that -- especially if that "something" is helped along by the United States -- I suspect the mullahs would abruptly pull the Persian carpet out from under al-Shebang, if that really is his name, as swiftly as they'd withdraw military support from Lebanon's Hezbollah.
So I think we have a pretty clear idea of what we need to do, and it shouldn't even be that difficult. In fact, the tensest moments will be trying to persuade Congress that we cannot win the war on jihadism without doing something about Iran... and that does not mean negotiating our surrender to them!
Date ►►► December 29, 2006
Clinton Judge Has Opportunity to Shine! - UPDATED
UPDATE: see below.
In a desperate, 11th-hour publicity stunt, Saddam's lawyers have filed for a stay of execution of his, ah, execution -- and they've filed in a United States district court:
Hussein's lawyers filed documents Friday afternoon asking for a stay of execution. The 21-page request was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
Attorneys argued that because Hussein also faces a civil lawsuit in Washington, he has rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he is executed. He has not received notice of those rights and the consequences that the lawsuit would have on his estate, his attorneys said.
"To protect those rights, defendant Saddam Hussein requests an order of this court providing a stay of his execution until further notice of this court," attorney Nicholas Gilman wrote.
Another condemned Iraqi convict, former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court Awad Hamed al-Bandar, filed a similar motion yesterday and was denied; that denial is under appeal, but it's hard to believe the D.C. Circus would rule that foreigners being tried by foreign courts for foreign crimes committed in foreign countries against foreign victims were nevertheless protected by the United States Constitution: we're not Belgium.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly was appointed to the bench by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1997... so this is her opportunity to strike a blow against the by-now universal belief that the Clinton judges are all a bunch of wild-eyed maniacs, yahoos, termagants, and misanthropes who will stoop to committing any monkeyshines that may be necessary to come to the politically correct decision. She should look (former U.S. Attorney General under LBJ and current -- or recent -- Saddam defense lawyer) Ramsey Clark in the eye, adjust her glasses, and ask, "are you out of your frigging mind?"
Then she can tell him that if he files any more frivolities, he can jolly well appear before her at six o'clock the next morning and explain why he should not be tossed in her courtroom clink for making overtly risible motions in a federal court, which simply must be valid cause for a contempt citation, if this is a sane world.
Clearly, no American civil court has jurisdiction to prevent Iraq from executing its own criminals on its own soil, for heaven's sake... whether he is or is not a defendant in a civil trial here. But if we want to make the point clear, we should hand over custody of Saddam Hussien immediately to the Iraqis... so that even if Judge Kollar-Kotelly reverts to type, we can simply shrug and say "we currently have no prisoner by that name."
Let them file for a stay with the Iraqis, if they want; they're the ones executing the bugger, not us. Or perhaps they can file with the Warty Bliggens Court of Cosmic Justice (convened in a frog-pond somewhere in Belgium, no doubt). But not here.
Come come, judge -- redeem your peer-group and tell Mr. Clark to go boil an owl. Let Saddam go to his Maker, and be done with him.
UPDATE December 29th, 2006, 7:18: Judge Kollar-Kotelly shone; she rejected the Hail Mary, if that's the appropriate phrase.
Within a matter of hours -- or minutes -- Saddam's feet will have nothing beneath them but air.
UPDATE December 29th, 2006, 7:23:
Date ►►► December 27, 2006
Careful What You Threaten; You Might Have to Deliver
Muqtada Sadr's faction in Iraq is up in arms -- not quite literally yet -- because we killed a top Sadr aide who was also an "improvised explosive device facilitator" and "implicated in a bomb attack on a police chief in October."
The Mahdi Miltia, while insisting that Saheb al-Amiri was not a member, nevertheless threatened retaliation for his death (go figure). Reuters warns the United States that we'd better watch out and, presumably, stop killing Mahdi Militia bomb-makers (yes, I confess I believe American military spokespeople in preference to Sadr's propagandists):
Najaf, home to Iraq's top Shi'ite clerics, was the site of a 2004 rebellion against U.S. forces by militias loyal to Sadr, who also has power bases in Baghdad.
Another uprising against U.S. forces by Sadr Mehdi Army militias would be a major headache for the U.S. military, which has 135,000 troops in a country gripped by Shi'ite-Sunni strife.
But is that really true? Would it really be a "headache" for us? Or would it, contrariwise, be a great gift to us -- allowing us to tear into the Mahdi Militia without having to get a permission slip from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki?
If Sadr were to order his Mighty Morphin Mahdi Militia to assail American forces, to take a third bite at the apple by investing Najaf, I think it would be a dream come true: there is no way that Maliki -- already compromised by his close connection with Sadr -- could order us to ignore the Mahdi Militia doing something as over-the-top as capturing a city and declaring themselves a power separate from the Iraqi government... certainly not when the largest Shiite political party, the SCIRI, is already scheming to oust Maliki for being too beholden to Sadr (thus to Iran).
The Sadr bloc, which comprises 30 members of parliament and six cabinet ministers, have been boycotting Maliki's government since he met President Bush last month.
The best that Maliki could do would be to stay silent, say nothing while we turned upon Sadr and his merry men and ground the militia into a shadow of itself. This would yield three great outcomes:
- It would severely damage the most violent and destructive Shiite militia in Iraq;
- It would cripple Nouri al-Maliki by hurting his patron, making it much easier to oust him (or alternatively, to induce him to switch parties from Islamic Dawa to SCIRI and repudiate Sadr);
- Finally, by knocking Sadr out of the power block, it would even more seriously cripple Iran.
Unfortunately for us, all of the players can make the same calculation; thus, it's extraordinarily unlikely that the Mahdi Militia will actually attack American forces, or Iraqi forces, or anything else that could serve as casus belli to draw the United States into a pitched battle that we couldn't possibly lose.
Now that I think about it, there are a lot more cards on the table today than there were in November. We have:
- A restive Mahdi Militia that might make a critical mistake and open themselves up to a terrible defeat;
- A fairly open attempt to remove Maliki and substitute someone from SCIRI, who will be very happy to go after Sadr hammer and nail (the attempt is not viewed happily by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but I doubt he can stop the attempt);
- Proof positive that Iran is directly killing Americans and Iraqis in Iraq --
- -- and whose economy is tanking and oil revenues running dry
- -- whose students are in open revolt and whose citizens are voting against President Ahmadinejad --
- -- and which just spat in the face of the UN Security Council so blatantly that even the French were stunned.
We already had the best starting hand (the U.S. military), and now we've picked up a lot of good cards. We should be feeling pretty good about our chances right about now.
Court to Lege: You're Derelict In Your Duty - But Who Are We to Judge?
The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has ruled that the state legislature -- which voted to recess rather than accept a petition for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage -- violated its duty by not voting on the petition, which would easily have gotten the 25% support it needed to be submitted to the people. In fact, the court "rebuked the Legislature for its 'indifference to, or defiance of, its constitutional duties.'"
But then, they went on to say they can't do anything about it:
Responding to a lawsuit spearheaded by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the state's Supreme Judicial Court said it could not force another branch of government to act after lawmakers recessed last month without deciding to put the gay marriage issue on a 2008 statewide ballot.
We agree with this decision. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere! True, this whole imbroglio began in 2003, when the court did exactly the opposite in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003)... force the legislature to act to allow same-sex marriage in the first place:
On the legal aspect, instead of creating a new fundamental right to marry, or more accurately the right to choose to marry, the court held that the State does not have a rational basis to deny same-sex couples from marriage on the ground of due process and equal protection. The court gave the legislature 180 days to change the law to rectify the situation.
But by golly, don't we all recognize that two wrongs don't make a right? (Although three rights do make a left.)
Just because the 4-3 majority in Goodridge (which supported same-sex marriage) was willing to stretch a point to order the legislature to comply with the Massachusetts constitution to create same-sex marriage, while those same four justices eagerly joined the three dissenters in saying the court didn't have the authority to order the legislature to comply with the constitution and allow the people to overturn same-sex marriage -- that's no reason to leap to the conclusion that there was anything political about the decision. Don't be such a cynic!
I admit that the distinction that allows the court to order the legislature in 2003 but prevents the court from ordering it in 2006 is too subtle for my untrained skull full of mush: the ratiocination is so deep that only a lawyer can understand it. But what do I know? I am only an egg.
From here, I suspect the spoilsport plaintiffs (including Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a presidential aspirant) will probably make a federal case out of it. We'll see whether three wrongs will finally make a right. (How many does it take, anyway?)
In the meanwhile, other states could begin using the Massachusetts technique to deal with irritating citizens who insist upon butting into the lawmaking process: the next time Ward Connerly gathers enough signatures on a petition to eliminate state-sponsored racism, the legislature should simply adjourn without looking at it. So simple!
Why didn't we think of it before?
Date ►►► December 26, 2006
The Way the Future Wasn't
Talk about "the biter bit," or perhaps people getting their "just desserts" -- Iran appears to be running out of oil, or more accurately, running out of oil revenues:
Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10 to 12 percent annually. In less than five years, exports could be halved, and they could disappear by 2015, Stern predicted. [Roger Stern is "an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University."]
The problem is that they're pouring so much of their revenue into their military, into terrorist groups like Hezbollah (and now Hamas), and into nuclear research -- that they have neglected to reinvest in oil exploration and extraction technologies.
Surprise, surprise... another socialist economy that lives in the present and ignores the future. In this case, it allows us to refine our thesis.
We've known for some time that atheism is both a symptom of, and the cause of a lack of belief in the future; when one doesn't believe in the future, one lives for today, and to hell with tomorrow. (Think of Europe, as Mark Steyn notes, where birthrates have plummeted to about half replacement-rate in countries like Spain; a society that does not envision a future does not have children, and vice versa.)
But evidently, there are also some religions that care only about amassing power today and do not think about tomorrow... those religions whose god is concerned more about obeisance to sterile, mindless rituals than about creating a just and decent life for Mankind on Earth (see the comments in Jihadis With Yarmulkes for my definition of "sterile rituals").
They may obsess about "the end times," but not about next year -- and certainly not about 2015! Ahmadinejad doubtless believes that the Twelfth Imam will have returned long before then, so the oil revenues won't matter a whit: Allah will provide for Iran from the treasures of the shattered infidels and dhimmi.
Once again, we see the intimate relationship between what Dennis Prager calls "ethical monotheism" and what we call "futurism," the belief that there is a future that will be controlled by humans for a long time; and that therefore, we had better think very carefully about how our behavior today affects our options in that anthropogenic future.
Note that neither James Watt nor Ronald Reagan ever said that it doesn't matter how many trees we cut down, because Jesus is coming back soon. That supposed quotation is in fact a fabrication of the secular Left. Neither did they believe that, because they believed -- this is integral to the faith of the vast majority of evangelicals -- that since no man knows when Jesus will return (or for Jews, when the messiah will come for the first time), we must therefore create a just and decent society today, and one that will sustain into the undetermined future.
Thus does it appear that the social belief in ethical monotheism is essential for a society to be capitalist, individualist, and to provide liberty.
This is true even if some individual agnostics or atheists are perfectly capable of supporting capitalism, individualism, or liberty themselves (though that's not the betting line): such folks are exceptional... but society needs belief to enforce due consideration of tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow: you cannot build a self-sustaining culture out of the exceptions.
Date ►►► December 25, 2006
Happy Christmas, Merry New Year!
Who could say it better than Chuck?
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, bah, humbug!
Date ►►► December 22, 2006
Ahmadinejad and the Rope: A Lad Insane
This is our last word about the Iranian elections -- but with a swing (no pun intended; and if you believe that....) Our previous two posts on the Iranian local elections and the elections for members of the "Assembly of Experts" are here:
So which do you want first -- the good news, or the better news? The good news? All right, we'll save the better for later in the post.
There was no sudden reversal at the end. In other words, the ruling mullahs (via the Council of Guardians -- wasn't Rupert Giles a member of that?) did not abruptly yank the rug out from under the "moderate conservatives" or even the "reformers" (bear in mind that those words have entirely different meanings in Iran than in any other country). Ahmadinejad's allies, his "self sacrificers," deserted him in his hour of need. This led to a very significant loss of power for his faction at the local level and denied him his anticipated power boost in the Assembly of Experts:
Moderate conservatives opposed to Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats in Friday's elections followed by reformists who were suppressed by hard-liners in 2004, according to final results announced by the Interior Ministry.
The final results also represented a partial comeback for reformists, who were crushed over the past five years by hard-liners who drove them out of the local councils, parliament and the presidency. The reformists favor closer ties with the West and further loosening of social and political restrictions under the Islamic government.
In Tehran, the capital, candidates supporting Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative, won seven of the 15 council seats. Reformists won four, while Ahmadinejad's allies won three. The last seat went to wrestling champion Ali Reza Dabir, who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is considered an independent.
Final results for the rest of the country also showed a heavy defeat for Ahmadinejad supporters, and analysts said his allies won less than 20 percent of local council seats nationwide. None of his candidates won seats on the councils in the cities of Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Sari, Zanjan, Rasht, Ilam, Sanandaj and Kerman. Many councils in other cities were divided along similar proportions as Tehran's.
His faction was likewise pretty roughed up in the election for the Assembly of Experts -- which, while less important over the long haul, is of more immediate moment:
Similar anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment was visible in the final results of a parallel election held to select members of the Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of 86 senior clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor....
[Former President Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who supports dialogue with the United States, received the most votes of any Tehran candidate to win re-election to the assembly. Also re-elected was Hasan Rowhani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator whom Ahmadinejad has repeatedly accused of making too many concessions to the Europeans.
(AP doesn't report whether Ahmadinejad's "religious guru," Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi was reelected, but we must assume he was.)
So the original prediction from the Saudi government's house newspaper, the Arab Times, turned out to be incorrect in only one detail: they failed to predict the sheer magnitude of Ahmadinejad's failure at the polls. While none of this affects the occult gnome's de facto and de jure power as President of Iran, it shows something that is far more important for long-term prospects in the war on jihadism: the "people" on whom Mahmoud Ahmadinejad relies for his power (he is a Socialst as well as a Shiite jihadi) now recoil from his belligerence, his monomania, and his utter incompetence in the nuts-and-berries aspects of the presidency:
- His challenges to America have become increasingly hysterical and insistent, and most Iranians (a very well educated group) are well aware that a war with the "Great Satan" would be catastrophic for Iran;
- I believe many Iranians must be terrified of Ahmadinejad's obsession with both the destruction of Israel and getting nuclear weapons... put the two together, and anybody with two rials of rationality to rub together must know that if Ahmadinejad manages to frighten Israel enough -- Israel will respond with its own nukes, which everybody has long known it has (I do not believe for one second that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "slip of the tongue" about nuclear weapons was any sort of mistake... it was a calculated and deliberate act, a threat that cannot be ignored);
- The Iranian economy is in a shambles, since they made the mistake of embracing the idiotic ecnomic system that has never failed to fail wherever it has been tried. Mohammed may have been a general and a prophet, but he certainly was not a market economist.
When quality of life plummets at the same time that national fear and uncertainty rises, and both are attributable to the powers that be; when expectations rise at the same time that results crash; when the middle class, on whose shoulders every country ultimately rides, begins to fear for its very existence... that is the season when revolution ripens.
And in Persia, the vanguard of revolution in all directions, since at least the early 1960s, has been the student class. Certainly, they helped overthrow Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran in 1979; students were the backbone of the Khomeinist revolution and the most ardent and fanatic proponents of Ayatollah Khomeini's Shiite Islamist revolution. The seizure of the U.S. embassy, though ultimately embraced (and taken over) by Teheran, began with students.
Of all people in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must understand that; he was one of them that day in November 1979. Thus, the new Shah Mahmoud must feel the icy finger of destiny clutching his bowels, now that violent student protests against Ahmadinejad himself have surged (this is the "better news" I warned about uppost):
The student movement, which planned the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy from the same university, Amir Kabir, is reawakening from its recent slumber and may even be spearheading a widespread resistance against Mr. Ahmadinejad. This time the catalysts were academic and personal freedom.
“It is not that simple to break up a president’s speech,” said Alireza Siassirad, a former student political organizer, explaining that an event of that magnitude takes meticulous planning. “I think what happened at Amir Kabir is a very important and a dangerous sign. Students are definitely becoming active again.”
The New York Times article by Nazila Fathi makes the same basic points that Big Lizards has made since before the elections:
The protest, punctuated by shouts of “Death to the dictator,” was the first widely publicized outcry against Mr. Ahmadinejad, one that was reflected Friday in local elections, where voters turned out in droves to vote for his opponents.
The students’ complaints largely mirrored public frustrations over the president’s crackdown on civil liberties, his blundering economic policies and his harsh oratory against the West, which they fear will isolate the country....
The students also complain about the president’s failure to deliver economic growth and jobs. At last week’s protest, which coincided with a now infamous Holocaust conference held by the Foreign Ministry, students chanted, “Forget the Holocaust — do something for us.”
The reaction of Ahmadinejad was equally enlightening: he panicked and fled. He was in such a rush that his convoy "collided several times as they tried to leave." All the while, enraged students were attacking the cars, calling him a Fascist, and trying to smash the windows.
I don't believe most people realize just how serious this combination of loss of political face and a rising anti-government student movement can be. Bear in mind, half of the population of Iran is below the age of 25. (By contrast, the median age in America is almost 37.)
I hope President Bush is paying attention: the time is riper now than ever before for us to make overtures to the "radicals" in Iran... radicals now rebelling against the peculiarly totalitarian brand of Shiite fundamentalism practiced in that country since the 1979 revolution. Were we to make common cause with the students and the populace who are bloody sick and tired of being told what to do and how to do it every second of every day, and watching their economy tank while a devastating war with America and Israel becomes every likelier, we could give not just Ahmadinejad but also the ayatollahs a lot more personally important things to concern them than mucking about in Iraq.
- We could start by openly asking the Iranian leaders -- in some forum where the people of Iran were sure to see it -- why they believe that Persians, one of the oldest and greatest cultures in the world, are too stupid to be trusted with the democracy that their next-door neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan now enjoy, and which their near neighbor Turkey has successfully exercised for decades.
- Ask why the Iranian people cannot choose to run their own lives.
- Ask why university freedoms granted under President Mohammad Khatami have been revoked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the ruling mullahs' own choice.
- And ask why the presidential election was rigged by systematically excluding all reformers from the contest. Are the ayatollahs afraid of their own people?
America should pointedly announce that we support freedom and democracy everywhere, even when the democratic vote goes against our interests -- and point to the Palestinian Authority as proof of that. Announce that our support is not only moral but also practical: we will move swiftly to recognize and economically help via trade agreements any new, more democratic government in Iran that takes the place of the undemocratic theocracy.
And say it all in Farsi and Arabic as well as English.
The ayatollahs do well to fear their own subjects: the expression "government by the consent of the governed" is not just a good idea; it's natural law. All governments rule only by the consent of the governed, because every government is vastly outnumbered: Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci's idea of "hegemony," which I define as "perceived fitness to rule," holds precisely that without such overt or covert consent (silence signifies that consent in totalitarian regimes), any government would fall.
The ruler's only inalienable right is the right to issue orders; but with every order, the order-hearer must decide anew whether to be an order-obeyer. If enough choose not to do so... well, you have Romania, Poland, and East Germany in 1989, the USSR in 1991, and of course Iran in 1979.
If indeed we decide (as I think we should) to bomb all of Iran's terrorist training camps, the factories where they make the inappropriately named "IEDs" that are now being used against us in Iraq by Shiite terrorists, and all the nuclear sites (especially Natanz, which should be bombed many times to get at the mass field of Uranium-enriching centrifuges buried deep underground) -- we should first alert the anti-government forces in Iran so they will be ready. Nothing specific, for there will be many government spies within that group. But we should at least ensure that the forces for "democracy" -- not Jeffersonian but at least Ataturkian -- will be ready to strike when the government forces are at their weakest. Especially if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has died, as he is expected to do sooner rather than later.
At that moment, we must actually aid them, rather than abandon them to defeat, as George H.W. Bush did to the Kurds and Shia when they rebelled against Saddam... and as President John F. Kennedy did to the brave freedom fighters who landed at the Bay of Pigs and tried to overthrow Stalinist dictator Fidel Castro in 1961.
We must understand that Iran is an origami tiger: we cannot make the mistake of agreeing with Ahmadinejad that Iran's rise and the West's decline is inevitable, irreversible, and ordained by Fate. They are far weaker than they let on -- and far weaker than the antique media will let us believe. These elections and student protests prove it.
Let us strike while the nail is hot, not sit around fiddling while freedom-fervor cools.
Date ►►► December 21, 2006
Jihadis With Yarmulkes
If this story is true, Israel should strip these males (they're not men) of their Jewish identity and exile them from Israel. The "law of return" does not apply to a herd of swine. Not even swine with yarmulkes:
Miriam Shear says she was traveling to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City early on November 24 when a group of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) men attacked her for refusing to move to the back of the Egged No. 2 bus....
Shear says that on the bus three weeks ago, she was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of men who demanded that she sit in the back of the bus with the other women. The bus driver, in response to a media inquiry, denied that violence was used against her, but Shear's account has been substantiated by an unrelated eyewitness on the bus who confirmed that she sustained an unprovoked "severe beating."
If, contrariwise, this didn't really happen, then it's the most despicable libel against Jews yet to bubble out the pens of the drive-by media (in this case, the vaguely left-libertarian Haaretz). But I believe that in this one special case, the elites are blameless, and the real villains are the animals who actually did beat that middle-aged woman, Miriam Shear.
I really like Ms. Shear:
Shear, a 50-year-old religious woman, says that on the morning of the 24th, a man got onto the bus and demanded her seat - even though there were a number of other seats available in the front of the bus.
"I said, I'm not moving and he said, 'I'm not asking you, I'm telling you.' Then he spat in my face and at that point, I was in high adrenaline mode and called him a son-of-a-bitch, which I am not proud of. Then I spat back. At that point, he pushed me down and people on the bus were screaming that I was crazy. Four men surrounded me and slapped my face, punched me in the chest, pulled at my clothes, beat me, kicked me. My snood [hair covering] came off. I was fighting back and kicked one of the men in his privates. I will never forget the look on his face."
Shear says that when she bent down in the aisle to retrieve her hair covering, "one of the men kicked me in the face. Thank God he missed my eye. I got up and punched him. I said, 'I want my hair covering back' but he wouldn't give it to me, so I took his black hat and threw it in the aisle."
Really, what is the difference between these particular Jews and the jihadis and radical Shia in Iraq, Iran, Saudia Arabia -- or Great Britain and France? Israelis must not allow animals like these to become the face of Judaism. These ultra-Orthodox (not all ultra-Orthodox; I refer only to those who commit unprovoked and fathomless acts of violence) are living just as much in a pre-modern world as are the Ayatollahs, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.
Worse than a crime, such reprehensible behavior is a terrible blunder. It gives jihadis leave to argue, "what is the big deal with the way we treat women? You Jews are just as bad as we!"
It's not strictly true; there is no equivalent to "honor killings" among Jews, not even among the ultra-Orthodox sects. But how long before there is? How long until the transformation of Judaism into a strange sect of Salafism is complete?
To me, these criminals have fallen out of the worship of God and into the worship of graven images: the sterile rituals they practice, devoid of the underlying humanist ethic of Judaism, so lucidly espoused by Moses Maimonides and Rabbi Gershon. In this, they are every inch as apostate as Osama bin Laden or Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
To elevate "righteousness" so far above "the right" that they truly believe God commands them to kick and punch a 50 year old woman for not groveling when they bark brings tears to the eyes of God. What next -- will some ultra-Orthodox Jew on the Egged No. 2 bus throw acid in Miriam Shear's face?
May as well go whole hog: prate on about the Twelfth Imam to their forty wives and sacrifice their middle-school daughter to Moloch for holding hands with a boy. They're on the road to Hell already, so why do things by half measures?
Israelis should rise up and take back their public places and public buses from the jihadis with yarmulkes, before there is no Israel worth defending.
Date ►►► December 20, 2006
Solvalogging: Jamil Hussein... Baghdad's Own Lieutenant Kije
So John over at Power Line sez,
I assume that Associated Press reporters don't just make stuff up, and, when in doubt, attribute it to a fictitious character named Jamil Hussein.
Bah, humbug, sez I. I think that is exactly what they have done in this case!
In a 1927 short story by Yury Tynyanov, a Russian general is reading a report to Czar Paul I; the czar mishears a word and thinks the general is talking about a "Lieutenant Kijé," who sounds like a brave and brilliant fellow. Czar Paul demands to hear more about him.
As it is death to contradict the czar, the general makes up several wonderful missions and adventures of the entirely fictitious Lieutenant Kijé. Soon other commanders join in the fun; eventually, there is an entire cottage industry of Kijé sightings, Kijé adventures, and Kijé romances. Lt. Kijé eventually gets married -- and while the czar never seems to run into the fellow himself, the soldiers sure do enjoy all the vodka the czar supplies!
The story was turned into a movie in 1934 by Aleksandr Fajntsimmer, with music by Prokofiev (the music is much more famous than either the movie or the story).
I see an exact parallel to AP. Whenever a journalist is concocting a story, especially one designed to fit snug and tight into The Story (the predetermined vision that fills the reporter even before heading out to Iraq or Afghanistan or Upper Iguana), he typically ends up with a handful of important, tendentious points he desires to make... but which no actual named source is quite willing to supply. At that point, our intrepid reporter has only three options:
- He can just shrug and let them go; but this runs afoul of the primary duty of the profession of journalism: to save the world from the likes of George W. Bush and other sordid Republicans;
- He can simply make the points himself in his own voice; but this gets him in trouble with the managing editor, unless he has a big enough name that he's been dubbed a "news rainmaker," allowed to blatantly interject his own idiot opinions into alleged news stories (e.g., Bob Woodward's "interview" of Bill Casey);
- If he's not the type only interested in reporting facts, and he's not a rainmaker, then there is but one surefire technique available to him, which is taught in the upper-division classes at J-school: he can simply invent a source and attribute those essential points of The Story to him.
But it's hard work to fabricate a source, complete with a believable name, a sufficiently impressive but safely vague enough background, and a job profile that would put him in the thick of whatever things the reporter is assigned to cover.
I'm sure at some point it has occurred to every reporter that it would be quite useful to have a small handbook of pre-fab fictional sources. That way, rather than straining to create one himself -- and perhaps coming up with "Sheikh Omar Kayyam al-Arglebargle, a Baghdad greengrocer and turbin adjuster," who travels all over the country witnessing war crimes the way Jessica Fletcher witnesses murders at every dinner party she attends -- the cub reporter can just thumb through the Handbook of Purely Believable Sources (Pure-BS) and find one to take the blame.
The Pure-BS would presumably group them by province; it wouldn't do to cite Police Captain Jamil "Kijé" Hussein in a story about American atrocities in Anbar, and have somebody else cite him the same day about Sunni crimes against humanity in Sadr City! But it probably wouldn't divide the provinces themselves up much, because that would require the reporter to actually know where he was, or to risk embarassment by having to ask his driver. Thus, the various reporters (stringers and actual AP employees) just use Jamil Hussein solely on the basis of how recently he's been cited and whether there is another fictitious source waiting his own turn.
Presumably, Reuters, CNN, and the Times each has its own handbook; we could test the theory for each media outlet by looking for those sources who get cited most often without any visible signs of existing. (Look for them not appearing on any payroll, never being seen by anybody but the reporter, or being described in the article as a six-foot tall rabbit named Mohammed al-Pooka). But perhaps they can "loan out" a particularly juicy Kijé to a rival for a fee.
Just like the "real" Lt. Kijé, now that the heat's on AP, look for Police Captain Jamil Hussein to suddenly turn up dead... murdered by a joint American/Shiite death squad who found out where he lives because Michelle Malkin and other right-wing bloggers outed him -- those dirty spoilsports!
I'm appalled by the lack of creativity and imagination in the blogosphere. Must it always be left to Big Lizards to suggest the obvious explanation for everything?
Solvalogging: Do You Feel Their Pain?
Here's something else for the drive-by media to whine about. Under rules set by the new commander of the Guantánamo Bay task force, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., guards at Gitmo will start treating terrorists detinees as if -- well, as if they were terrorist detainees:
After two years in which the military sought to manage terrorism suspects at Guantánamo with incentives for good behavior, steady improvements in their living conditions and even dialogue with prison leaders, the authorities here have clamped down decisively in recent months.
Security procedures have been tightened. Group activities have been scaled back. With the retrofitting of Camp 6 and the near-emptying of another showcase camp for compliant prisoners, military officials said about three-fourths of the detainees would eventually be held in maximum-security cells. That is a stark departure from earlier plans to hold a similar number in medium-security units.
After analyzing the previous rules and the reaction to them by jihadis -- which was, predictably enough, to conclude that America was weak and soft and that the detainees could get away with murder, perhaps literally -- the Marines figured out that the only people left in Guantánamo Bay are the "worst of the worst", except for a few "released" detainees that no country will accept. Such unlawful combatants, being feral animals, understand only one language: brute force. There are some people on whom humane treatment is not only lost, it's tantamount to surrender.
"They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants," Admiral Harris said in an interview.
He added, "I don’t think there is such a thing as a medium-security terrorist."
In 2005, the Marines had started to transition Guantánamo to a regular POW camp, where the detainees would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions, as if they were simple prisoners of war. They did not expect to do any more serious interrogations, merely hold the prisoners "for the duration," or until they determined they were no longer a threat.
But then the most hardcore jihadis abused their new privileges to convert a number of the more moderate prisoners, and the attacks on guards and suicide attempts by prisoners increased. The Pentagon eventually concluded that the two events were related: that lenient treatment led directly to more aggressive and violent behavior, towards guards, other prisoners, and even directed towards themselves:
[Adm. Harris] and [guard commander, Col. Wade F. Dennis] both asserted that Camp 4 -- where dozens of detainees rioted during an aggressive search of their quarters last May -- represented a particular danger.
Admiral Harris said detainees there had used the freedom of the camp to train one another in terrorist tactics, and in 2004 plotted unsuccessfully to seize a food truck and use it to run over guards.
“Camp 4 is an ideal planning ground for nefarious activity,” he said.
After three prisoners managed to hang themselves -- thus inspiring the rest to even more violence to avenge the "martyr's deaths" of their coreligionists -- the incoming commander decided to go the other direction... a lockdown. Gone were the privileges, even the privilege of company. Many more prisoners are now in solitary confinement; even the exercise yards are single-person.
"They have thrown away the key and forgotten him even though he is spiraling down physically and psychologically," Mr. [Saber] Lahmar’s lawyer, Stephen H. Olesky, said.
Perhaps you consider me a heartless grotesque, but I have to admit that "my give-a-damn's busted" when it comes to these unlawful enemy combatants. They weep great crocodile tears at their harsh treatment... but how many tears do they weep for their victims? Those blown to bits by these men or the cause they serve are confined even more tightly: they're in six by four foot holes in the ground... that is, if their loved ones could find all the pieces.
None of these men has ever shown the least bit of remorse; yet their attorneys want us to feel so sorry for their plight that we let them have all their privileges back -- the same privileves that they used to attempt to murder the prison guards earlier.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, and I may as well become a Democrat.
I would add only one thing: along with Paul Mirengoff (I think it was he), I believe the next order issued should be that henceforth, no guard at Guantánamo Bay shall be allowed to use kid gloves when handling Korans. Doing so sends the message that even we Americans believe we're "unclean" and unfit to touch a holy book... that we're dhimmi.
From now on, I wish we would just toss the Koran onto the cell floor. If the inmate wants to pick it up and read it, or let it lie where it is, it's all the same to us.
It's far beyond time we teach the Gitmo detainees how it feels to be the weak horse again.
Date ►►► December 19, 2006
Solvang Blogging (Solvalogging?): Brain Food
This falls into the category of drawing a mountain of conclusion from a molehole of fact: an article in the well-respected British medical journal called the British Medical Journal (as filtered through the tabloidesque This Is London) reports a finding to which they attach great significance:
- Test the IQs of a bunch of ten year olds;
- Shake well and wait 20 years;
- When they're all thirty, evaluate their diets and try to correlate them to their IQs;
- In particular, check to see how many of the little buggers became vegetarians and try to draw deep significance from the fact that the average IQ of kids who grew up to be vegetarians (as measured two decades ago) is 105, whereas the average IQ of humanity as a whole is (by definition) 100...
- Thus proving that the smart people become vegetarians, eh?
As Tom Lehrer used to sing, "it's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!"
Frequently dismissed as cranks, their fussy eating habits tend to make them unpopular with dinner party hosts and guests alike.
But now it seems they may have the last laugh, with research showing vegetarians are more intelligent than their meat-eating friends.
A study of thousands of men and women revealed that those who stick to a vegetarian diet have IQs that are around five points higher than those who regularly eat meat.
Now, I don't know about you lot, but to me, that reads exactly as if the writer is trying to conclude that vegetarianism raises intelligence. But in fact, the strongest conclusion you can draw is that having a (slightly) higher IQ may cause someone to become a vegetarian... which is hardly surprising, because most people in the West who become vegetarians do so because they have read a book about vegetarianism.
And of course, we already know there is a positive correlation between having a higher IQ and being a reader. Thus, higher IQ kids have more opportunity to run across a book or article about vegetarianism than are those who don't read... hence more of a chance that they'll decide to give it whirl.
For exactly the same reason, I would expect to find that a group of higher-IQ kids yielded more Marxists, more committed capitalists, more science-fiction fans, more Scientologists, and more bloggers (on both left and right). But the correlation between high IQ and being a science-fiction fan is more or less meaningless... you'd also expect to find more romance-novel fans, more western fans, and more technothriller fans: if you're more likely to read a book, then you're more likely to read any particular kind of book -- including a book on vegetarianism.
Curiously, one of the researchers appears to think the arrow of causality may point the other direction:
Researcher Dr Catharine Gale said there could be several explanations for the findings, including intelligent people being more likely to consider both animal welfare issues and the possible health benefits of a vegetarian diet....
Alternatively, a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains may somehow boost brain power.
Dr Gale said: 'Although our results suggest that children who are more intelligent may be more likely to become vegetarian as adolescents or young adults, it does not rule out the possibility that such a diet might have some beneficial effect on subsequent cognitive performance.
'Might the nature of the vegetarians' diet have enhanced their apparently superior brain power? Was this the mechanism that helped them achieve the disproportionate nature of degrees?'
Evidently Dr. Gale is not a vegetarian.
Say, here's a thought: might a higher IQ perhaps be the "mechanism" that leads to more college diplomas? Or is that too quotidian an explanation?
But let's not let her skate so easily: is a professor (or a medical doctor) seriously suggesting that becoming a vegetarian later in life retroactively increases your IQ back when you were ten, the only time they measured it?
But here is the Emily Litella moment:
There was no difference in IQ between strict vegetarians and those who classed themselves as veggie but still ate fish or chicken.
However, vegans - vegetarians who also avoid dairy products - scored significantly lower, averaging an IQ score of 95 at the age of 10.
Perhaps one of those fish- and cheese-eating vegetarians can explain this to me: if high intelligence leads to moderate vegetarianism, how come only the doofuses become strict vegetarians?
I confess, it's more than my little, carnivorous grey cells can handle. I think I'll stick to my explanation: wiseguys read more books; hence they run across more crackpot ideas, and they're more open to trying them; hence more of them become vegetarians -- but they're also too smart to go whole hog (sorry) about it.
And there, I think, we'll have to leave it. My pork chop is calling.
Date ►►► December 18, 2006
Ahmadinejad's Rope Pulls Taut
Those two Iranian elections we discussed in our last post on the subject (Ahmadinejad At the End of His Rope?) -- for local leaders and members of the absurdly-named Assembly of Experts -- appear so far to be going just the way that this Arab News story predicted (I found out that the site is owned and maintained by the government of Saudi Arabia, Iran's greatest rival in the area).
From our previous post:
Ahmadinejad expected his faction to win a majority of these [local offices]: he counted on a low turnout (ca. 15%), which always favors the radicals (here too!); and he thought the Self-Sacrificers would all ally together, while the anti-Khomeinists would call for boycotts... meaning the less radical voters would stay home, clearing the decks for the foam-flecked slavering jihadis to take power.
Alas for him, what happened was precisely the opposite: the conservatives have called for full participation in the elections, while many of the Self-Sacrificers are sitting it out; and it was the conservative candidates who banded together... as opposed to the radicals, who couldn't agree with each other or put personal animosity aside (perhaps because they were too caught up sacrificing each other).
Now from the Reuters story, first on the turnout numbers:
The Iranian news agency quoted officials citing turnout of around 60 percent of the 46.5 million eligible voters, higher than previous council and assembly votes. Iran's press said the turnout was a blow to Iran's "enemies".
Next, regarding the council members from Teheran, the most important of the local elections: according to Reuters, in the 2003 local elections, Ahmadinejad's allies -- called the "Self Sacrificers" -- nabbed 14 of the 15 Teheran City Council seats, while the reformers had none. But this time, the fotunes of the Self-Sacrifices have begun a decided ebb:
The Tehran City Council race was the main battleground, where Ahmadinejad's supporters competed against backers of another conservative, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf [he took the place of Ahmadinejad when Ahmadinejad jumped from the Teheran mayorality to president of Iran], and reformists seeking a political comeback.
No official results have been announced but the semi-official Mehr news agency said Qalibaf's backers would get eight Tehran City Council seats, Ahmadinejad's backers four and reformists three. Mehr did not give a source.
So Ahmadinejad's bloc dropped from 14 of 15 seats to 4 of 15 seats... that's a plunge of over 70% of the Self-Sacrificers' power. Other local elections look to be going about the same way.
Finally, there is the election in the Assembly of Experts, which can hire and fire the Supreme Boy Sprout (current occupant: Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei). Here, President Ahmadinejad and his faction expected major movement. From our earlier post:
On the Assembly of Experts front, Ahmadinejad was hoping to pull off a virtual coup d'état: he expected to see elected a number of mullahs who support Ahmadinejad's "theological guru" (yes, that's the term the article uses, funnily enough), Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. The idea would be that the Assembly would be assembled of a bunch of Yazdiites, who would then impeach and remove from office the current Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died.
Here is what the Arab News predicted (on December 9th this year):
Ahmadinejad's plan to win control of the assembly hit two big snags.
The first was the refusal of the Council of Guardians of the Constitution, a 12-mullah body that must approve all candidates, to allow many of Ahmadinejad's friends to stand for election....
All this means that the council, almost certainly acting under instructions from Khamenehi has arranged things in such a way that no substantial change in the assembly's majority is now possible. By most account only 17 new members may eventually enter the assembly, not enough to upset its pro-Khamenehi majority.
Khamenehi has even allowed Rafsanjani to stand as a candidate, thus indicating a desire to clip Ahmadinejad's wings.
That last line is really amusing, because it turns out that Rafsanjani actually got twice as many votes than did Mesbah-Yazdi. From a later story on Reuters:
In Tehran former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a staunch critic of the president who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential vote, easily topped the vote. Political analysts said it was a significant comeback for Iran's arch pragmatist powerbroker.
Firebrand cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a vocal backer of Ahmadinejad, trailed in sixth place with almost half the votes of Rafsanjani but enough to retain his assembly seat. Several other clerics allied to the president and Mesbah-Yazdi failed to win seats.
So far, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be batting zero: a loss of political power in the local arenas; the inability to get his own supporters into key positions on the Assembly of Experts; and a personal slap in the face when Rafsanjani was handily elected to the Assemly... but Mesbah-Yazdi is fighting for his political life!
Let's hope this is a trend and not just an exciting but one-time event: it would be a tremendous boon to the West generally, and to America and Israel in particular, if Ahmadinejad got his nose clipped.
Date ►►► December 17, 2006
The World Turned Rightside Up
You will all recall -- as I'm certain you've memorized every Big Lizards post by now -- and if you haven't, how do you expect to pass? -- that we earlier blogged about the stunning instance of Clinton appointee Judge James Robertson, the judge who got the Hamdan case rolling in the first place, throwing out the sequel on the grounds that, according to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the federal courts no longer had jurisdiction over enemy-combatant detainees.
In other words, doing the right thing according to the principle of judicial restraint. It was the world turned upside-down!
Well, the world has righted itself: for now, another different Clinton judge, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ("the old Fogel," we called him back in February) has used the flimsiest of excuses to find California's (and nearly every other state's) method of execution, lethal injection, "unconstitutional." Fogel held that it violated the Eighth Amendment stricture that "cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted."
We previously covered this same case in a number of posts:
- If I Should Ouch Before I Die
- Michael Morales Dead Pool
- Doctors Overturn Death Penalty
- The Old Fogel Has Gotten His Wish
The verdict was expected, natch; back in February, the judge did everything but send spam-mail to the media explaining how he was going to rule, no matter what the evidence.
If you want a detailed analysis of just what's wrong with the judge's decision, you should read Patterico; he's one of those lawyer types, and he can give you all the particulars. But I'm here to give you the view of the ordinary guy who doesn't have the right to write "Esq." after his name (except in the Dutchy of Occulisia, where I'm actually a Peer of the Realm).
So to boil down a nutshell, the judge held that lethal injection was "cruel and unusual" because of the theoretical possibility that some condemned murderer may ouch before he dies:
Today, Fogel said "anomalies in six execution logs raise substantial questions" about whether some inmates "may have been conscious when" the second or third drugs were injected.
Fogel said that "substantial questions" had been raised by the records of previous executions in the state and that the California Department of Corrections' "actions and failure to act have resulted in an undue and unnecessary risk of an 8th Amendment violation."
That is, we don't really know whether it actually happened, but it's just possible that some prisoners might have felt some pain during their executions, in the few minutes before they died.
Actually, it's even worse. The judge tried to conceal his ill-shaped and gargantuan agenda behind a veneer of reasonability by saying that the state could skate -- if they would only adhere to a few simple protocols during executions (from our previous post, The Old Fogel Has Gotten His Wish, linked above):
In the last installment, the court-appointed anesthesiologists point-blank refused to participate in the execution.
The only other option Fogel allowed was to execute Morales by an untried, unapproved overdose of barbiturates. The state planned to do just that before the execution order expired Tuesday at midnight... however, Judge Fogel (a Clinton appointee) then added a new twist: even that lethal overdose must be administered by a doctor, nurse, or medical technician, lest it cause Morales pain:Prison officials had planned to press forward with the execution Tuesday night using the second option. The judge approved that decision, but said the sedative must be administered in the execution chamber by a person who is licensed by the state to inject medications intravenously. That group would include doctors, nurses and other medical technicians.
To everyone's great and unexpected shock (including Judge Fogel, I'm sure) no such medical personnel were willing to inject the drug. This might have something to do with the fact that the AMA, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the California Medical Association, and the various professional national and state organizations of nurses and medical technicians all oppose capital punishment -- and have all declared participation by their members in executions to be "unethical," which could lead to the member being subject to disciplinary actions including the loss of his medical license.
What a beautiful Catch-22! The judge says that lethal injection is perfectly all right -- but only if a doctor or other medical professional administers it... knowing that no medical professional would dare do so for fear of having his license yanked. But hey, it's not Judge Fogel's fault; it's not like he set the rules. (Oh, wait, he did; I mean, it's not like he set the rules of the AMA).
Back to the L.A. Times article. This is an odds-on favorite for an issue-analysis Oscar in the category of "Sounds vague but is in fact meaningless":
The ruling means that it is unlikely that there will be any executions in the state in the near future. It was issued shortly after Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared a halt to executions there in the aftermath of a botched lethal injection execution this week.
The two actions represented a dramatic development in the long-running battle over capital punishment in the U.S. Just a year ago, even the most vociferous opponents of the death penalty would not have expected challenges to lethal injection procedures to have gained such gravity. But the challenges have resulted in stays of execution around the country.
We are to believe that it never occurred to "opponents of the death penalty" that filing for stays of execution around the country -- and judge-shopping for like-minded jurists -- might result in those stays being granted.
Of course, the California Supreme Court did manage to overturn all 61 executions but one during the tenure of Chief Justice Rose Bird (which tenure ended when she and two of her cronies were forcibly removed by California voters); and more recently, after the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals delayed one killer's execution so many times that the U.S. Supreme Court actually issued an injunction against any further stays.
A reasonable person might conclude that you can always find a federal judge who will weep at the sad fate of a mass murderer.
Thus, in this case, the Time's phrase "challenges... have gained such gravity" -- which evokes an image of the entire country collectively drawing breath and consulting its conscience, in light of staggering new evidence -- merely means a single, anti-capital-punishment judge in California made a stupid ruling that has to be dealt with... before the rest of us can get on with the business of ushering the lawless breed out of this world.
Shouldn't take long.
Date ►►► December 15, 2006
An Immoral Proposal
I hope by now everybody has seen this post on the Daily Kos:
Greg Sargent has a problem with Eason Jordan going to Iraq with Michelle Malkin. I think it's a splendid idea. So long as they leave the Green Zone, and without security detail that puts a single US soldier in harm's way. I mean, things are so splendid and it's just like Philly and there's all those great new schools! They'll be perfectly safe, I'm sure.
I regret that we Republicans cannot be as tolerant of diverse viewpoints and take such concern for innocent human life as does Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. As always, a class act; a true gentleman. He wears a suit.
An Immodest Proposal
Everyone discussing the status of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 95%) focuses on the possibility (not certainty!) that he may have a lengthy convalescence, during which his status could be in limbo: technically, he would still be a member and could not be replaced by Gov. Michael Rounds; but he is neither present nor voting in the Senate, reducing the Democrats to a 50-49 plurality.
Commentators consider the various responses to this:
- Republicans could demand that he be replaced, as he is not really "in" the Senate (in this scenario);
- Democrats could insist that the rules don't require a senator to be physically present or voting, and there is ample precedent for Johnson to stay on the rolls;
- Republicans could filibuster the organizing resolution, which would leave us in the queer situation that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Excalibur, 100%) is Majority Leader of the Senate... but all the committee chairmanships remain frozen as they are today, with Republicans in power.
But this chain of events presupposes one particular decision at the beginning, a decision that must ultimately be made by Sen. Johnson himself: Johnson must decide, in the event of incapacitation, whether will stay in the Senate during his incapacity.
For his personal fortunes, of course he should stay; that way, even if it takes him over a year to recover, he still has his Senate seat when he returns. But there is another viewpoint: Sen. Johnson might decide that the citizenry of South Dakota deserves to have two senators, like every other state.
He might decide that, regardless of his personal desires, it's not fair to the state he loves to leave it with only half the representation in the Senate as it deserves. He might choose, therefore, to resign -- even knowing that the governor will appoint a Republican to serve out the remaining two years of his term.
(The pressure on Mike Rounds not to appoint a fire-breathing conservative, but a moderate Republican instead, will be overwhelming: after Johnson offered such an act of self-sacrifice in favor of his state as stepping aside, were Rounds to take advantage of that by putting in someone diametrically opposed to Johnson, it would look churlish and belligerent and would surely damage Rounds' own political career.)
I think this would be the right thing to do, even were the politics reversed: if Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ, 100%) were suddenly to take ill and be unable to attend office, debate, or vote, and if his convalescence were expected to take months or even a year, then I believe it would be proper for him to resign -- even knowing that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano would appoint a Democrat to fill his term (assume for sake of discussion that Arizona has the same method of succession as South Dakota).
I understand the damage is greater in Johnson's case, because switching one seat would switch control of the Senate from Democrats to Republicans (because Vice President Dick Cheney would cast the tiebreaker on the organizational vote; even if the Democrats filibustered, that would simply leave all the same Republican chairmen in place). But the "damage" in this case is purely partisan; the damage to South Dakota of not having two senators fighting for their interests is more direct and bipartisan: it hurts every South Dakotan, not just those of one party.
If Johnson is fully recovered by 2008, he can run for election again; and he would have a very good chance of winning. But until then, if his recovery is expected to take a long time, possibly even indeterminate, then I believe he should do the manly thing and step aside.
Alas, I suspect the question of resignation is not in the card table, no matter how long it will take for Johnson to recover. We live in the age of Partei über Alles.
Date ►►► December 14, 2006
I'm going to be rebuilding Big Lizards, which I must do piecemeal for various reasons. You may have a hard time leaving comments and trackbacks... but hang on, don't shed your skin: they'll function off and on during this period, and it won't take longer than a half hour or so from now (5:00 pm PST) to finish.
Apologies, it takes longer and longer every time. Normally I try to do it really late at night; but I need the host server to do something first, and I couldn't get them to respond quickly enough the last couple of nights... so I decided to do it a little earlier. I hope everything works all right now!
That Was Thener; This Is Even Nower
This is an update to our previous post a couple of weeks ago, That Was Then, This Is Now. In that post, we linked to a Washington Post story about the Democrats rejecting the most important congressional reform of intelligence that the 9/11 Commission recommended. Oddly, however, I notice now that I forgot to quote from it! I can only plead premature senility and correct the oversight now:
It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.
Well that Democratic panel has now produced its recommendations... and sure enough, the panel's only recommendation is -- to create another panel!
If you parse through the Clintonspeak, they're not accepting the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to remove control of the funding of intelligence agencies from the Appropriations committees and give it instead to the Intelligence committees:
[Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, D-Calif. [100%], also said that one of the first tasks of the Democratic-controlled House she will lead beginning in January will be approving the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including taking steps to make intelligence decisions more transparent.
The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel proposed by Pelosi would be made up by members of the Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and would work within the Appropriations Committee.
Simply put, if the panel works "within the Appropriations committee," then it's controlled by that committee -- and that means Appropriations will still control the budget that will be "overseen" by the panel that it also controls:
[The panel] would examine, through hearings, the president's intelligence budget, prepare the classified annex to the annual defense spending bill and conduct oversight of the use of appropriated funds by intelligence agencies.
In other words, it will not itself appropriate the funds or even (it appears) recommend to the Appropriations committees how much to appropriate or how to use those appropriations. And it goes without saying (though I'm going to say it anyway) that nowhere in this statement does Pelosi or anyone else say that Appropriations will lose budgetary control over the clandestine and intelligence agencies, as the 9/11 Commission recommended, nor that the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence will gain that budgetary authority.
In fact, they don't even pledge to create a new Appropriations subcommittee devoted to intelligence... the bare minimum recommendation of the commission, which they offered if Congress couldn't bring itself to strip Appropriations of the least little bit of control.
Rather than actually accept the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission -- which are very clear (see our previous post) -- the Democrats plan only to create a PR stunt instead: a "panel" that is controlled by the Appropriations committees and will simply ensure that the administration actually uses the money as Appropriations directs.
Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Wynn Las Vegas, 100%) believe they can get away with creating a committee to study the committee, rather than actually implement the recommended change.
But you know what I think? I believe that this time, they may not get away with it: if the Washington Post, of all liberal media outlets, is already publishing a major story chastising them for blowing off the Commission (after campaigning obsessively on "fully implementing" those same recommendations)... then the incoming Democratic 110th may find it's no longer immune from harsh criticism -- in any medium.
In a magnanimous gesture sure to send Israelis to their knees in thanksgiving prayers, a three-justice panel of the Israeli Supreme Court has graciously decided to allow the Israeli Defense Force to continue suppressing terrorist attacks on Israel... subject to individual, case-by-case injunctions, of course:
The Israeli Supreme Court decided Thursday not to issue a blanket ban against the targeted killing of Palestinian militants, ruling that some of the killings were legal under international law.
The ruling gave legal legitimacy to a practice Israeli forces have routinely used against militants during the past six years of violence. The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem estimates that 339 Palestinians have been killed in the targeted operations over the past six years. Of those, 210 were the targets and the rest were bystanders. [Or, presumably, byriders in the same car as the targets.]
Thus, even taking the estimate of a "human rights organization," that means that 210 suicide bombers and suicide-bomber recruiters, trainers, and equipers -- enablers, let's call them -- are no longer with us; sadly, their practice of hiding among (relatively) innocent civilians means that 129 of the latter have also died.
Let's assume that a suicide bomber or bomber-enabler would otherwise have taken out an average of, oh, just five innocents: children in preschool, teens in a Sbarro's pizzeria, worshippers at a synogogue, Jew and Moslem, Arab and European -- that lot. That is probably a lowball guess, considering that some of the targets (such as several successive leaders of Hamas) would be responsible, all by themselves, for hundreds of murders.
Even so, that would mean that, due directly to the IDF's "targeted killing of Palestinian militants," over a thousand innocents were not splattered across the sidewalk like Jackson Pollack paintings.
A thousand innocent lives were spared; 129 somewhat innocent lives were taken (many of those non-targets killed by the Hellfire missile were nevertheless terrorists themselves traveling in the same car -- but who had not specifically been targeted; I would be surprised if even as much as 20% of the "collateral damage" comprised actual innocents). In the twisted and grotesque calculus that Islamic jihadism has forced upon the rest of the world... I'd say we got a bargain.
Yet evidently, the Israeli Supreme Court believes that it has the authority, the mandate, and the jurisdiction to decide what measures Israel may take to ensure its own existence, its own survival as a nation. Now, I realize that many "supreme" courts (including our own) like to imagine that they are the absolute final last say in all matters they choose to take up. To put it as gently and politely as I can, this is a load of oysters; oysters I said, and oysters I meant.
Suppose, for supposing's sake, that a United States Supreme Court consisting of nine Dennis Kuciniches were suddenly to rule -- never mind how unlikely this is, it's a hypothetical -- that the United States armed services did not have the authority to kill anyone, even in defense of the nation; and the Court therefore ordered the American military to stand down, disband, and destroy all their weapons of mass and individual destruction.
Would any president of the United States obey this ruling? Should he? Or should he take the Andy Jackson route and say, the Supreme Court has made its decision, now let's see them enforce it? I believe that I am in a solid majority of Americans who believe that, were the Court to descend into such utter madness, it would be the duty of the Commander in Chief to ignore their insane commands (and probably take them into protective custody to stave off a lynching).
We are not in so dire a circumstance and likely never will be; but the Israelis are. They live with exactly such an existential threat every day.
It would have been more fitting and proper for the Israeli Supreme Court to rule instead that they did not have jurisdiction to tell the elected prime minister and his cabinet how to fight a war for Israel's very existence and to stop the mass slaughter of Israeli citizens... which if allowed to continue unchecked would surely lead to mutiny, revolution, and possibly the destruction of Israel by Iran, Syria, Egypt, and even Jordan... nations who have attacked Israel before (the first by proxy) and could easily do so again, were the country to fly apart at the seams.
The arrogance of the judiciary -- we alone shall decide whether the Israeli Defense Force is allowed to defend the country! -- is absolutely breathtaking. Alas, like boiling the frog degree by degree, unnoticed and little remarked, we in the West have allowed courts to assume super powers and supernatural abilities far beyond those of mortal men; and far beyond what any rational constitutionalist would imagine be left to them.
The purpose of the courts is to resolve disputes and enforce criminal justice -- not to run the whole blooming country. They do not sit in loco parentis for the legislature and the commander in chief.
Were I the prime minister of Israel, I would announce coldly that I was glad the Israeli Supreme Court ruled as it did; but had it ruled that Israel could not target terrorists for assassination -- the only offensive tactic that has actually worked to dramatically curtail suicide bombings, even before the wall was built -- I, as chief executive and commander in chief of the IDF, would have told them to go boil an owl: that the survival of the nation would not be held hostage to a sub-panel of three wrinkley, amphibious ancients who believe it's still 1975, out of a pool of fourteen exalted creatures, each of whom believes the sun rises and sets for the sake of Warty Bliggens (each justice is his own toad, of course).
a little more
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the same
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favored
said warty bliggens
what the universe
has done to deserve me
Date ►►► December 13, 2006
How Many Times Can I Post "What Is Wrong With This Picture?"
Is there a record I can break? Does Guiness keep track?
In the AP article (carried on the New York Times) about the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fining several 527 organizations for their political activities during the 2004 presidential election, we read this:
The group listed as Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth will pay $299,500. In the 2004 campaign, the group spent $20.4 million criticizing Kerry's military record in Vietnam. Much of the group's claims about Kerry's service were never substantiated. [I'm not even going to pretend to see if anyone can guess, since it's about as subtle as an Iranian president.]
MoveOn.org Voter Fund will pay $150,000. The liberal organization challenged President Bush on various issues in the campaign. The group spent $14.6 million on television ads attacking Bush's record.
The League of Conservation Voters will pay $180,000. The group ran ads against Bush and other federal candidates, criticizing their stands on environmental issues.
A few days ago, Patterico reminded me of an old Sesame Street song:
One of these things just doesn't belong...
There is one and only one group on this list whose veracity is characterized at all... and AP simply asserts, without evidence, that the Swift-Boat Vets' charges were "never substantiated." No such claim is made about MoveOn.org or the League of Conservation Voters (which is a radical environmentalist group).
Yet in reality, the SBVT claims were far more extensively documented, substantiated, and proven -- by eyewitness testimony as well as Navy documents -- than most of the charges hurled at the Bush administration by MoveOn.org or the League. It's useless to argue that out now; start with John O'Neill's book Unfit for Command, and come back when you've read it.
Many of the charges come down to he-said, he-said: eyewitnesses on both sides directly contradicting each other. But contrast that with the virtually indisputable charges leveled against Bush by MoveOn.org:
- That "Bush lied" when he said nobody expected the levees to break during Hurricane Katrina -- because he received a briefing that warned of levees overtopping;
- That "President Bush promised that anyone at the White House involved in the leak would be fired.... That's why we're calling on him to fire Karl Rove;" in fact, Bush said he would fire anyone who committed a crime; it is MoveOn.org which is lying;
- That Bush gave a speech "implying that Iraq attacked us in 2001;" Bush gave no such speech, and this is a fabrication;
- MoveOn.org brags about heavily supporting and promoting Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, which itself is riddled with lies, fabrications, and distortions of history and of Bush policies.
The question is not whether MoveOn.org is more truthful or less truthful than the Swift-Boat Vets, but rather that AP doesn't even raise the question of veracity with either of the two Democratic groups; only anent the SBVT. This is yet another indication that within the elite, drive-by media, liberal bias is the default mode, requiring no justification.
As such, I suppose this entire post is redundant, since we already knew this. So you don't have to read it (now that you have already read to this point). I did, however, enjoy writing it... so it served some useful function!
Clinton Judge Upholds Bush Detainee Policy
In a surprise (to me, at least), President Bush's revamped Military Commissions Act -- passed by Congress and signed by the president, as Justice Kennedy virtually demanded -- has just passed its first hurdle: it was upheld in its first court hearing... by a Clinton-appointed federal district judge! Poor, old Hamdan will likely have to stay in the pokey for the duration.
In fact, Judge James Robertson was not only appointed by President Bill Clinton, not only a former civil-rights activist, he was even confirmed in 1994, while the Democrats still controlled the Senate. And Robertson was the judge who originally ruled in Hamdan's favor, and whose ruling was somewhat upheld by the Supreme Court. But today, he bowed to the obvious:
A federal judge upheld the Bush administration's new terrorism law Wednesday, agreeing that Guantanamo Bay detainees do not have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robertson is the first to address the new Military Commissions Act and is a legal victory for the Bush administration at a time when it has been fending off criticism of the law from Democrats and libertarians.
Robertson rejected a legal challenge by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden whose case prompted the Supreme Court to strike down the Bush administration's policy on detainees last year.
That was the infamous Hamdan case, where four of the nine justices of the Supreme Court -- John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter -- opined that even enemy combatants had to be granted full Geneva-Convention rights -- including the right to refuse to be interrogated.
Fortunately, the fifth justice (Anthony Kennedy) to join the decision that Hamdan's detention was not constitutional without Congressional legislation refused to sign aboard the expanded version of Geneva pushed by the Hamdan Four. He agreed only that Bush could not detain people simply on his own say-so (I disagree, but I don't own a black robe).
Justice Kennedy more or less said that if Congress passed Bush's military commissions into law, Kennedy would vote to uphold it. With that signal, Judge James Robertson upheld the current detention regime of Hamdan:
Hamdan's case was sent back before Robertson, a nominee of President Clinton who was a prominent civil rights advocate in private practice.
Though Robertson originally sided with Hamdan, he said that he no longer had jurisdiction to hear Hamdan's case because Congress clearly intended to keep such disputes out of federal courts. He said foreigners being held in overseas military prisons do not have the right to challenge their detention, a right people inside the country normally enjoy.
Actually, though, that's not true. According to the Justice Department, detainees can challenge their status before a mliitary commission; and if they don't like the decision, they get one bite at the apple to appeal to the D.C. Circus Court of Appeals... then that's it; their decision is final. This is hardly denying unlawful combatants some fundamental right to endlessly abuse the system and interfere with the president's ability to wage war:
"That is more process than the United States has ever provided to enemy combatants in our past conflicts," Blomquist said.
This won't be the last word: Hamdan will of course appeal to the D.C. circuit. But I'd sure rather my side be in the position of having to defend a win than having to appeal a loss!
And there are two other cases currently being considered by the D.C. circuit where I think we are in the position of having to appeal losses; but they were evidently decided either before the MCA passed or at least without considering it... so if this decision is a harbinger, it's a sign of good decisions to come.
Jefferson Would Be Ticked...
...And he's a bad-ass you don't want to mess with: he was 6'3" at a time when the average height of a man was closer to 5'3"; that would be rather like being 6'10" today -- and he was no wimp, either.
There is a phrase that grates on my eye every time I read it... and that seems to be quite a lot anymore.
The most recent use was by Dean Barnett, an intelligent guy, even by my exalted standards, whose blogposts on Hugh Hewitt's blog I normally read with pleasure. But in the midst of one of Dean's infamous Q&A posts, he wrote the following (the boldface and numbering are Dean's):
11) So, the big question: Can the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis live peacefully alongside each other?
It depends on how fundamentalist and radicalized each sect in Iraq is. We know each sect has its elements that are bent on violence. The question is whether these elements are fringe groups or the mainstream. If they’re fringe groups, they can be destroyed and peace could break out. If they’re the mainstream, there’s no hope.
12) So what if they’re the mainstream? Then what?
Then the country has to be broken up, with the Sunnis getting a piece and the Shiites getting a piece and the Kurds holding onto their piece.
13) That’s disappointing. It doesn’t quite match the original vision of an Islamic Jeffersonian democracy that swirled about our heads three years ago, does it?
Radical Shiites and radical Sunnis have as much interest in living in a Jeffersonian Democracy as the typical American has living under Sharia. The quicker we come to peace with that fact, the better.
The question is, can any of you figure out what particular phrase leapt out at me as something that makes me want to go to Dean's house and run my fingernails across his chalkboard, so he understands how I feel?
And guess what? I'm going to be a total jagoff -- and not tell you the answer until you click the "Slither On" button. Hah. (But please take some time first, and get your guess firmly in mind.)
I suspect all but three of our regular commenters (you know who you are!) will have correctly picked out the phrase "Jeffersonian Democracy" as the offender. It's just about the biggest straw-man argument lobbed against Bush's Iraq policy, used only by right-wingers and libertarians who want to heap scorn upon the very idea that non-Europeans could possibly have a functioning democracy... and I sincerely believe it to be racist in its very essence.
First, nobody has ever used that phrase except those who oppose the very idea of trying to plant a democracy in the Middle East; I support the policy of Iraqi democracy... but try searching on "Jeffersonian" on Big Lizards and see how many times the phrase "Jeffersonian democracy" is used: until this post, the score was 0.
Second, nobody in the Bush administration has ever said he expected to see a Jeffersonian (that is, "perfect") democracy in Iraq. All any supporter of the policy has ever said is that a democracy could be set up there -- and it's obvious from context that the example they had in mind was the democracy (and it is one) in Turkey, another Islamic country.
Turkey is not a nice place (by European standards); it's violent; there are clashes between ethnic groups that result in dead pickles. There is terrorism. There are Islamists, and in fact they won the last elections.
But it is, by Allah, a functioning, secure, and honest democracy. For eight decades, they've had civil rights; they've had real elections; and they've generally abided by the results, even when the ruling party is ousted... even in spite of at least four coups d'état: in each case, after a few years, the ruling military relinquished control to civilian authorities again (most recently following the Islamist victory in 1996).
In Turkey, the army frequently acts as a "moderator," preventing any swings too far to left or right: when they intervene, it's generally to oust an extremist government in favor of moderation. I fully expect the American-trained New Iraqi Army to serve the same function, preventing either a Muqtada Sadr or a Musab Zarqawi coming to power.
Despite such military intervention, to quote that bastion of 100% perfect -- dare I say Jeffersonian? -- information, Wikipedia:
Turkey is a democratic, secular, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the OIC, the OECD and the OSCE, a member state of the Council of Europe since 1949 and of the NATO since 1952, and is currently in accession negotiations with the European Union, being an associate member since 1964. [I excised all the footnotes: they looked silly, and I wasn't about to insert seven links into one paragraph.]
I agree that Iraq started off on the wrong foot by adopting a European-style parliamentary system, rather than becoming a constitutional republic like the United States; but with as many parties as they have (dozens), it was probably the only system that would get a majority of Iraqis to support it. Nevertheless, three elections later, it's frankly ridiculous to argue that democracy isn't "working" in Iraq.
It's violent and bloody; but so was Greece during their civil war from 1946 to 1949, during which they finally crushed the Communist insurgency. The Britannica says that more than 50,000 combatants were killed during those three years, plus many tens of thousands of non-combatants who got in the way -- and that may not even count those who died in the first phase, 1942-1944, during which the right-wing socialists (quasi-Fascists) fought the left-wing socialists (Communists) to see who would lead the resistance to Nazi occupation of Greece. (Hugh Hewitt was just talking about it on his show today, which sparked my curiosity, causing me to look it up.)
That is, more Greeks were butchered during that war than all but the most hysterical estimates of Iraqis killed since the liberation. Yet nobody today says that Greeks are incapable of governing as a democracy.
And certainly, many times more Americans died during our Civil War -- more than 800,000 -- than in Iraq; more even as a percent of our population then. Yet nobody would dare claim we were not a democracy in 1864, even in spite of the suspension of habeus corpus: for Abraham Lincoln had to stand for re-election right in the middle of the campaign... and he had to run against his former top general, George McClellan, whom he had dismissed for inaction!
Finally, the Iraqi democracy has shown a remarkable resilience: despite horrific attacks, deformations, and a campaign of mindless murder that beggars the imagination, not one single party has broken away from parliament and declared the democracy experiment dead. They're still plugging away. Even the attempt to oust Nouri al-Maliki is being conducted according to the Iraqi constitution: the SCIRI, the Kurds, the Sunni, and the seculars are trying to vote down Maliki's government with a "no confidence" referendum.
Thus, Dean Barnett's sarcasm notwithstanding, the Iraq democracy is faring far better than the pessimists (like Barnett) could have imagined. Iraq is not even in a civil war; yet Barnett has the bizarre idea that a functioning democracy somehow doesn't count if there are a lot of deaths... but only when we're talking about non-Europeans. When countries whose citizens are of European extraction experience years of violent bloodshed, we still allow them to be called democracies -- whether it's Greece, the United States, or Northern Ireland.
I suspect that Dean is not even aware of his double standard; he's a nice guy, with his head well-screwed-on anent other topics. But he just reacts viscerally (via the reptilian part of his brain) to the very idea of democracy in an Arab country.
I can't really fault Dean; my friend and worth co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver is exactly the same way: he understands and agrees that the "Realist" school of propping up a "friendly" dictator doesn't work and probably never did work well... but still he cannot wrap his brain around the idea that non-Europeans are advanced enough to create a functioning, stable democracy. (For some reason, Japanese and Koreans count as Europeans in this game.)
In Brad's case, he's more straightforward. Alas, Dean Barnett reacts by setting the bar impossible high: for God's sake, not even the United States is a "Jeffersonian democracy!"
So anyway, the next time you see that phrase... just bear in mind that it's a shibboleth of conservatives that serves no purpose but to mock the idea that Arabs can form a democracy -- and it's illogical, counter-empirical, and darned offensive.
Date ►►► December 12, 2006
Polluters and Pigouvians
Capitalist thinkers have, over the years, suggested a number of creative, mostly free-market ideas for controlling and reducing pollution -- as an alternative to the regular, top-down system of federal regulations.
(Note that I use the word "pollution" is a broad sense to include any byproduct we don't like, including noise pollution, loss of "greenspace," garish neon lights, and so forth, in addition to the normal meaning.)
In a blogpost by Harvard economist Greg Mankiw (hat tip to Daniel Weintraub's excellent Bee-blog California Insider), Mankiw discusses both a carbon tax and a carbon "cap and trade" system -- and comes down in favor of the former.
In the post, he uses the term "Pigouvian taxes," which he defines thus:
The key thing that unites us is the belief that whatever government spending is done, the tax revenue to pay for that spending should be raised in a way that does the least harm or, better yet, the most good.
By definition, these least-bad/most-good taxes create the greatest reduction of "negative externalities" -- costs of a transaction borne by people not a party to that transaction -- while causing the least amount of distortion to a free market. Such taxes are called "Pigouvian." Wikipedia succinctly explains the concept and derivation:
A Pigovian tax (also spelled Pigouvian tax) is a tax levied to correct the negative externalities of a market activity. For instance, a Pigovian tax may be levied on producers who pollute the environment to encourage them to reduce pollution, and to provide revenue which may be used to counteract the negative effects of the pollution. Certain types of Pigovian taxes are sometimes referred to as sin taxes, for example taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.
Pigovian taxes are named after economist Arthur Pigou (1877-1959) who also developed the concept of economic externalities.
The classic example of a Pigouvian tax is a tax on pollution. Pollution is a negative externality because its effects are felt by many people who are not a party to the original transaction (between factory owners, customers, workers, and such): if the factory pollutes a nearby river or lake, or the air, then that damages even those people who don't buy the product or work at the factory and have no say in its operation. (They can't really even sue, unless the pollution is so toxic and so specific that they can argue in court that it was the runoff from that particular factory that caused their medical problems... a very tough claim to prove.)
There are several ways to deal with negative externalities:
- Ignore them: this is very bad, because people are being harmed without their consent and without compensation;
- Regulate them: this is the current method used for most negative externalities in the United States: it fails for a number of reasons, primarily its vulnerability to legislative or administrative corruption (lobbying) and its ineffectiveness, but also because ideologues often impose unrealistic, unattainable standards;
- Litigate them: this would require a significant reform of the court system and could easily be manipulated by unscrupulous environmental lawyers -- of which we have far too many already;
- Trade them: this is the "cap and trade" system... government sets regulatory standards, say, a limit on the total level of pollution allowed by a factory; but then it either gives away for free or allows that factory to purchase for money "pollution credits" that allow it to exceed the regulatory standard; the benefit here is when the company must purchase such credits, for then pollution carries an actual market cost; the danger is that more often, governments give such credits away for free (or below the true cost of the pollution) to companies that heavily lobby them (see 2 above);
- Tax them: a Pigouvian tax on pollution... the more you pollute, the more you pay. This also introduces market forces into reducing pollution, but in a more direct way than buying and selling pollution credits.
Option 5 is probably the hardest for well-heeled companies to get around: a government in the business of handing out pollution credits for free or next to nothing can easily make a point of favoring certain companies over others. But if there is simply a pollution tax, such companies would have to lobby for an actual change to the tax law favoring them, which would be much more blatant.
Professor Mankiw prefers 5 to 4, though he has one caveat:
Of course, cap-and-trade systems are better than heavy-handed regulatory systems. But they are not as desirable, in my view, as Pigovian taxes coupled with reductions in other taxes. One exception: If the pollution rights are auctioned off rather than handed out, then cap-and-trade systems are almost identical to Pigovian taxes, including all the desirable efficiency properties.
There is, however, one benefit that option 4 has over option 5, in my opinion: under a cap and trade regime, a company that is really, really clean compared to its competitors could sell its unused pollution allowance to other companies. Overall pollution is still capped; there is still a financial disincentive for polluters (they have to buy extra credits); but now, there is also a financial incentive for "going green," in the form of an additional revenue stream.
Perhaps the best solution would be a combination of 4 and 5: set a pollution allowance, then tax all pollution above that level... but still allow those companies coming in below the level (set to X particles per million per unit produced per day) to sell their unused allowances to companies coming in over the level, reducing the latter's tax burden.
But whether one chooses a cap and trade system where the government offers no freebies, and polluters must buy excess allowances on the open market; or a Pigouvian pollution tax; or some combination of the two, the net effect is the same: each company has a financial incentive to invest in scrubbing and cleaning systems, as well as innovative new manufacturing techniques that don't produce as much pollution in the first place.
If the government then sets a steadily and predictably diminishing "negative externality" allowance, then the incentives for upgrading grow larger and larger, while the disincentives for using old systems also rise.
Eventually, every plant reaches a tipping point where it becomes cheaper to invest in anti-pollution technologies than to keep paying for more and more excess allowances. Total pollution drops -- but it drops because of well-understood market forces, rather than via complex, opaque, and easily manipulated regulatory schemes.
Conservatism, by its very etymology, should include conservation of natural resources. Would you rather hunt deer in a forest or a parking lot? Do you want to eat fish you caught in a river of sludge? How about water skiing on a lake that stinks? When I think of true conservationists, I envision people like Ted Nugent, not Al Gore.
But if "conservatism" still means anything at all, it must demand reduction of the size and scope of government... in other words, substituting the free market for government regulation wherever possible, even for conservation. Even many non-conservatives, such as myself, support these two aspects of the political philosophy.
Pollution (of all kinds) is always a big local issue with national implications; perhaps if conservatives spent more time offering new ways to reduce it -- in a conservative way -- and less time attacking each other for minor differences in doctrine, they would do better in elections from statehouses to Congress. At least, it would give them something else to talk about besides guns, gays, and God (though they shouldn't entirely stop talking about those, as well).
In other words, why don't we try the radical step of adopting Reaganism?
More Fine Distinctions From the Drive-By Media
Take a look at this Reuters headline and see if the same thing catches your eye as caught mine:
My first thought was, whose brilliant idea was it to allow suicide bombers to embed with American military forces? But somehow, that didn't seem to be very plausible. Scratching my brain, I read the lede graf (note the cool journalistic buzz words I incorrectly lumped together):
U.S.-led troops killed at least four people, including a teenage girl, in a raid in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday and a suicide bomber killed eight more in the south, residents, officials and coalition forces said.
And at last -- I'm kind of slow, as by now you must have observed -- I realized that what was going on here was that Reuters had casually conflated deaths from an American attack on Taliban militants with deaths caused by a suicide bomber five provinces away. (Evidently, I'm not the only one incorrectly lumping things together.)
Suppose the cops in St. Louis had shot a suspect on September 11th, 2001. I suppose Reuters would then have written, "Metro Police, hijackers kill nearly 3000."
Reading deeper, it appears that once again, we have a conflict of witnesses:
Hours before the blast [approximately 60 kilometers away and completely unrelated to the American action], U.S.-led forces killed at least four people in the southeastern province of Khost where the Taliban and their Islamic allies are highly active.
But there were conflicting accounts about who was killed in the pre-dawn raid in Dornami village.
Residents say the U.S.-led force, backed by Afghan militias, broke into a house, drawing fire from the occupants who thought they were thieves. Four people were killed and some seven wounded -- all of them civilians, they said.
The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement the raid killed five people -- four suspected terrorists and a young girl. The troops requested the surrender of those in the compound.
"The suspected terrorists refused to comply with verbal warnings and began firing," the statement said.
Once again, the claims of completely anonymous, unknown "witnesses," who could be anybody (including conspirators with the targets of the raid), are thoughtlessly placed on the same level of trust as the official statement from a known military spokesman, who is easily contacted for follow-up information or evidence. "Hey, it's he-said, she-said, folks. We can't pick a side -- we're journalists!"
This happens all the time, and it's a major reason why the American people are under the false impression that nothing good is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan: the elite media will take the word of anybody, even known prevaricators like Green Helmet Guy -- even entirely ficticious police lieutenants -- so long as said "anybody" is willing to accuse American forces of indiscriminate, reckless slaughter, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.
If Fang the Wonder Dog barked out an accusation, Reuters would run with it.
President Bush has got to become more active in countering the propaganda from the elite liberal press, something creative and unexpected -- not just having Dick Cheney pooh-pooh the story on Beat the Press:
- White House teams should fan out across the country with presentations to Kiwanis and Elks clubs, showing undeniable examples of media lies and distortions in service of the Democrats;
- Eye-grabbing, "Vent"-sized YouTube videos should be launched, a new one every week or so (hire Michelle Malkin to produce them, and the best should also run throughout the year as commercials);
- Fun, little interactive web pages should be put up under a memorable URL (like media-manipulations.gov, which is available) allowing viewers to compare reality, as told by soldiers who were there, with the AP, Reuters, and NYT/WaPo/LAT/BG biased, funhouse-mirror version.
This vicious, anti-American propaganda (during wartime!) has long since passed the phase of merely giving aid and comfort to the enemy and entered the mad realm of existential societal immolation. It's as if the media want us to lose the GWOT, so that they can be violently dismantled by the jihadis the way the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas.
It's time for all the madmen to be sent back to their cells, and the sane to recapture the free press.
Date ►►► December 11, 2006
President Bush's Way Forward
I heard a strange rumor a couple of days ago, but I couldn't find any substantiation, so I didn't blog on it. But of a sudden, it has burst forth in the form of an article on Yahoo by a couple of AP stringers, Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra. (I Googled them, but they appear to be run-of-the-mill reporters; I didn't see anything weird or suspicious about either reporter.)
It appears that there is now a serious push, backed (and possibly fomented) by the Bush Administration, to oust the incompetent Nouri al-Maliki, number-two in the (Shiite) Islamic Dawa Party, from his position as Iraqi prime minister. The ouster would be entirely legal, in the form of a vote of no confidence, which requires only a simple majority of the members of parliament.
I suspect replacing Maliki is one of the "new directions in Iraq" Bush has had in mind for some time, hence his own version of "the way forward," to counter the "diplomatic offensive" and draw-down recommended by the Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton commission).
(Captain Ed blogged about this earlier, but I didn't see his post until after I wrote this. Still, we tackle different aspects of the same story; both are worth reading!)
The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence.
The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim [of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI] , who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying above the grinding day-to-day running of the country.
A key figure in the proposed alliance, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab [of the Iraqi Islamic Party], left for Washington on Sunday for a meeting with Bush at least three weeks ahead of schedule.
For those keeping score, that's two of the top politicians in the bloc both meeting with President Bush within a week of each other: there is no question but that the Bush administration is at least closely involved with the attempt to oust Maliki.
Maliki has long been unable -- or unwilling -- to do anything to rein in the murderous Mahdi Militia; which is hardly surprising, since that militant death squad is led by Maliki's own master (and Iranian puppet), Muqtada Sadr. Sadr has almost single-handedly kept Maliki in power, having planted him on the petal throne last May. And so long as the Mahdi continues to murder Iraqis by the thousands, its rivals among the Sunni tribes (including both al-Qaeda and renegade former Baathists) and even among other Shiite groups (include the Badr Brigades, now called the Badr Organization, of SCIRI) will refuse to stand down.
Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia is believed to be responsible for the majority of the internecine butchery in Iraq; if they were to lose power, perhaps along with Maliki's Dawa Party, it would be a strong blow to Iran, Sadr's patron: while SCIRI too has some ties to Iran, they are nowhere near as deep as Dawa's... whose leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the former and equally incompetent prime minister (Maliki is merely the deputy leader, even though he is the current PM).
Both Dawa and SCIRI were based in Teheran during the Iran-Iraq war, and both received support from Iran; but SCIRI has no equivalent to the Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr... who, while not being a member of any established party, has forged a very close working relationship with Maliki, serving as Iran's conduit into the heart of the Iraqi government.
This is certainly not a done deal yet; there is a major hurdle to overcome:
The groups engaged in talks have yet to agree on a leader, said lawmaker Hameed Maalah, a senior official of al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.
One likely candidate for prime minister, however, was said to be Iraq's other vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite who was al-Hakim's choice for the prime minister's job before al-Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate and won.
Sadr, Maliki, and everyone who still profits from the chaos of Iraq will of course fight viciously to retain the status quo, especially as they are hopeful that, with the Democrats controlling Congress, America's defeat and withdrawal is just around the corner. (I don't believe it is; but what matters is what Sadr believes, not I.) Still, the bloc of Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia hoping to replace Maliki claims that it has the 138 votes out of 275 that it needs to prevail:
Al-Maliki's government, under the Iraqi constitution, could be ousted if a simple majority of parliament's 275 members opposed it in a vote of confidence. Parties in the talks expressed confidence they had enough votes.
"The question of confidence in this government must be reconsidered," Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, told legislators Sunday. "Why should we continue to support it? For its failure?"
If Maliki were to be removed in favor of a new prime minister from SCIRI, Sadr would lose a large portion of his power. If the new government moved decisively against the militias (and disbanded the Badr Organization), as is expected -- Maliki's failure to do so is the driving force behind the attempt to remove him -- it would be a stunning breakthrough in "winning the peace" in Iraq.
Bush could absolutely point to this as tremendous progress in Iraq, and the body count would plummet. If they could sustain this progress for a year or so, we could begin cautiously withdrawing American troops from that country, while still maintaining enough force to stop any attempt by Sadr (or Iran directly) to seize control again.
(Not surprisingly, James Baker's ISG did not so much as suggest "regime change" in Iraq as part of the plan to win, even perfectly legal regime change. Baker's "Realism" philosophy always prefers negotiating with the devil it knows to dealing with the unknown.)
Let's hope that they are indeed powerful enough, perhaps with Bush's help, to force a vote of no confidence in Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, causing his government to fall and a new one, based upon this bloc, to be formed. This probably represents our best chance for palpable movement towards victory in Iraq.
Date ►►► December 10, 2006
Ahmadinejad At the End of His Rope?
A fascinating article on the website of Arab News -- which I've never heard of before, but then, I'd never heard of NUMB3RS until a couple of weeks ago, so what do I know? -- dated 19, Dhul Qa'dah, 1427 (which was yesterday, as you know) claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be on the brink of a pair of rabbit punches to the gut (via Drudge).
(I should mention that the date is not certain, and could also be 18 Dhu l'Qa'dah, depending on which of 8 different Moslem calendars one uses.)
There are a couple of elections bubbling up, both to be held Friday (24 or 25, Dhu l'Qa'dah, one presumes, or the 15th of December):
- Local elections around Iran -- mayors, town councils, city aldermen, and village wiseguys;
- Elections for the Assembly of Experts, 86 sages, luminaries, soothsayers, and all-around viziers -- the guys who get to pick the Grand Poobah, or the Master Cylinder, or whatever the top man calls himself (I forget).
Ahmadinejad expected his proxies and toadies to win each of these two elections. In the first election, he wanted his band of radicals, the "Self-Sacrificers," to seize majority control of the local power centers:
At present, the various radical Khomeinist factions that supported Ahmadinejad in the last presidential election control only a third of all local government authorities. The more conservative and business-connected factions, led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, control a further 25 percent while the rest have majorities of independents and/or regional groupings that are always open to new alliances.
Ahmadinejad expected his faction to win a majority of these seats: he counted on a low turnout (ca. 15%), which always favors the radicals (here too!); and he thought the Self-Sacrificers would all ally together, while the anti-Khomeinists would call for boycotts... meaning the less radical voters would stay home, clearing the decks for the foam-flecked slavering jihadis to take power.
Alas for him, what happened was precisely the opposite: the conservatives have called for full participation in the elections, while many of the Self-Sacrificers are sitting it out; and it was the conservative candidates who banded together... as opposed to the radicals, who couldn't agree with each other or put personal animosity aside (perhaps because they were too caught up sacrificing each other):
With just days before polling, however, both of Ahmadinejad's calculations appear in doubt. The conservative and moderate groups have abandoned an earlier strategy to boycott the election and presented lists of candidates in more than half of the constituencies. The opposition groups acting outside the regime have also toned down their calls for boycott. Thus, the turnout may be higher than Ahmadinejad had hoped. A higher turnout could mean more middle class voters going to the polls to counterbalance the peasants and the urban poor who constitute the president's electoral base....
Even worse news for him is the failure of the Itharis (Self-sacrificers) group that forms the hard core of his support to form alliances with other radical Khomeinist groups and factions.
On the Assembly of Experts front, Ahmadinejad was hoping to pull off a virtual coup d'état: he expected to see elected a number of mullahs who support Ahmadinejad's "theological guru" (yes, that's the term the article uses, funnily enough), Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. The idea would be that the Assembly would be assembled of a bunch of Yazdiites, who would then impeach and remove from office the current Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died.
This would have cleared the path for Mesbah-Yazdi to be declared the new Supreme Scout. Ahmadinejad calculated that with the wind of his guru at his back and Legions of Terror at his feet to obey his every command, Ahmadinejad would wield supreme power in the universe, and would be able to name some months after himself.
But evidently, Ayatollah Khamenei got wind of this scheme and set about to ruin it. It seems that you can't be a candidate for the Assembly of Experts until you first pass muster with the Council of Guardians.
(Does anybody else have a hard time taking seriously a country that is run by an Assembly of Experts under the control of a Council of Guardians, commanded by the Supreme Guide, with the advice of Scoutmaster Allan opening the path, and the muscle of the Self-Sacrificers backing them up? Somehow, it reminds me of a bad episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)
The Council of Guardians of the Constitution, as everyone knows, comprises 12 grumpy, old men; they are under the de facto command of the Extremely Altitudinous Panjandrum, Ayatollah Khamenei. He appears, upon close examination, to have ruled out of order some of Ahmadinejad's Experts -- and all of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani's Experts (though he allowed Rafsanjani himself to run; go figure). But the net effect will be that there will be little if any change in the Assembly: meet the new Experts; same as the old Experts.
If this article is accurate, and not just the juvenile prank of some bored office girl with a vivid imagination (which is an accurate description of my first three college love affairs), then one must conclude that Khamenei has decided he doesn't really like Ahmadinejad that much anymore, and he wanted to rattle his cheese. ("The nail that stands up gets the grease," as the Finns say.)
And even if Khamenei kicks it, as some are saying may be about to happen (I'll believe it when I believe it), the current president of Iran won't have any greased pole to power, and may well end up on the losing side of a party power struggle.
Either way, you've got to admit that roasted chestnuts are looking might good around now.
Riot Boyz Clash, So No Bikini Atoll
Sadly, the much anticipated the Great Australian Bikini March (GABM) has been cancelled... or at least postponed till next month. The organizers of the event blame this largely on irresponsible, drive-by media reporting:
During the month of the campaign, most media were respectful, reported the facts, focused on the issue and agreed that publishing personal details about organizers was unnecessary.
However, during the last few days there have been an increasing smear campaign in an attempt to sensationalise or discredit us....
Apparently some in the media are intent that the GABM should not be allowed to proceed.
Some people are very powerful. It would appear that free speech in a 'tolerant' society is not tolerated. [Emphasis in original]
The level of hostility against us even included verbal abuse and threats to publish our personal details. This culminated in one media outlet doing so and placing a family at risk.
In addition, some allegedly white-supremacist group horned in on the march, which certainly did not help things; in fact, that is probably why the Australiain "elite media," even more left-leaning than ours, went to such great lengths to stop them.
Australian leftist-anarchist blogger Slack Bastard, who has been critical of the march for some time, claims to have the details:
I first became aware of "The Great Australian Bikini March" via the blog of Perth-based convicted neo-Nazi criminal Ben Weerhym, and my first blog entry on the subject is dated November 14. (Ben Weerhym’s promotion of the event had commenced on the previous day, November 13.) His blog entry on the subject, titled "Bikini Babes, No Hijabs - Saturday Dec 9, 2006," named Hawkins and Smith as the organizers, and included their mobile telephone numbers as contacts for the March.
(As usual for left-wing blogs, Slack Bastard did not bother linking to the supposed "neo-Nazi" site. So I did some digging, and here is the "neo-Nazi's" GABM promotional page. I neither confirm nor deny that he is a neo-Nazi; I have no idea; make of it what you will.)
Notwithstanding repeated denials from the GABM organizers, Christine Hawkins and Chris Gemmell-Smith, the Australian media and assorted left-wing bloggers continue to caricature the bikini march as a "white-supremacist"' event. It may be a smear campaign, but in fact, the media does have some small grounds to link the march and the Australian white-supremacist movement. To understand how, we must look back to December 2005.
When I first read about the Great Australian Bikini March, originally planned for Dec 9th, I thought this light-hearted assembly was an Aussie way of protesting the much more serious problems which many other countries face today: culture-aassault by extreme Islam. Comparatively speaking, Australia is dealing with their Moslem invasion much better than Europe; but until I read about the background of this story, I did not realize how much extremism (of both white and Arabic fringes) threatens local communities, even in Australia.
Planning the march for this time of the year (deep summer in the Southern Hemisphere) was not a coincidence: December 11th is the first-year anniversary of the infamous Cronulla riot, which began on Cronulla Beach in New South Wales, near Canberra.
A riot in Australia? I never heard about that!
Evidently, before the riots, beach-goers had been attacked and harassed for quite some time by "Middle Eastern youths" and "Arab youths" -- mostly Moslem Lebanese immigrants, or "migrants," as they're called in Australia.
According to the Wikipedia link above, a few days prior to December 11th, 2005, a couple of white Australians were assaulted by a dozen Moslem youths at Cronulla beach; one man was beaten, as was another man who tried to come to his aid; the attackers are said to have shouted "we own this country" during the assault. A few days later, three lifeguards were also assaulted and seriously injured at the same beach, also by a dozen young Moslem males (thought not necessarily the same ones):
On Sunday 4 December 2005, a group of male youths of Middle Eastern descent were playing soccer on a Cronulla beach when the North Cronulla surf lifesavers are reported to have asked them to stop, as it was disturbing other users of the beach. The response from the youths was: "Get off our beach. This is our beach. We own it."
Gerard Henderson, columnist at The Sydney Morning Herald, alleges that the surf lifesavers then provided the youths with "a degree of verbal provocation", and "reminded the south-western suburb inhabitants that they could not swim". Shortly thereafter three surf lifesavers (aged 15, 19 and 20) were confronted by initially four, and then later up to twelve individuals, and in the process were allegedly assaulted. Not all of those present were directly involved in the melee, and several of the larger group were reported to have attempted to break up the altercation.
Police later claimed that there was no apparent racial motive behind that assault. [Isn't it interesting that this is always the first thing they claim? But note that the police don't mention whether there was a religous motive behind the assault.] A teenager was later charged with assault in company occasioning actual bodily harm.
According to Wikipedia, these incidents (and likely the repeated claim that the migrants owned the country) ticked off local Aussies of "Anglo-Celtic" descent. Wikipedia goes on to say that the Australians heard "inflammatory comments" and some rhetoric that could be taken as racist by radio hosts Alan Jones and Steve Price.
The following weekend, more than 5,000 Australian activists showed up at the beach to protest against Moslem violence; but the party atmosphere soon morphed into a mob mentality, or so says Wiki. When a Middle-Eastern looking man was chased to nearby hotel, the actual riot erupted. Several Middle-Eastern looking people, without regard to their actual nationality, were attacked, their property vandalized. Even an ambulance was attacked.
That night and the following few days, "Arab youths" roamed the street, looking for "revenge" on the whites and sporadically attacking people and burning and vandalizing properties. The violence continued to December 15th.
At the tail end of a Christmas carols service at St Joseph the Worker Primary School drive-by shots were fired into cars and parents and primary school students were verbally abused by men described as Middle Eastern. Furthermore, a total of four Churches in Sydney's South-West were attacked during the evening. The Uniting Church hall in Auburn, which is next to an Islamic centre, was set ablaze about 1.30 a.m. (AEDT) on 15 December. Premier Morris Iemma stated that "it may be" linked to the ongoing riots.
Because of this incident, many anti-bikini-march people from the media and the sinister blogosphere accused this year's bikini marchers of being racially motivated, despite the fact that the organizers of GABM put up a stern warning against violence and alcohol consumption during the march.
I do not condone violence against innocent people, regardless of whether they look different or they come from another country. But this kind of response is bound to happen when the government fails to protect its citizens.
If ordinary beach-goers are constantly harassed and assaulted by "Arab youths" who loudly insist that they, not their hosts, own the country or the beach; if the majority Australians believe nothing will ever happen to the assailants; if the cops won't stop the assaults -- then it's hardly surprising that the majority population will take the law into its own hands. Vigilantism is not necessarily a bad thing, if the only alternative is survival of the loudest and most enraged. But when some fool injects racial prejudice into the mix, and innocents are abused, things get more complicated.
I believe the GABM organizers' intention was sincere. Alas that extremists on both sides hijacked the peaceful march. In the racially and religiously tense society of Australia, a peaceful, lighthearted "bikini march" would have done a world of good. And it can still be done... if the Australian peace officers can finally get serious about securing the peace.
I hope they will be able to march peacefully in January.
Date ►►► December 8, 2006
Suing the Secretary and Other In-Jokes
We've known for a long time that federal judges are prone to "grow in office;" in fact, I believe the very term itself was coined (wrongly) to describe the career of Justice David Hackett Souter... who was, as few now remember, a flaming liberal Republican, in the mold of his mentor, John H. Sununu -- former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush -- long before being nominated to the court. (In fact, I'm sure that's why Sununu and liberal Republican New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman persuaded Bush-père to nominate Souter in the first place.)
Still, it's always sad to see it happen. Especially when it's a Reagan appointee who has, like Topsy, the little girl from Uncle Tom's Cabin, "just growed." It happened with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
And now it seems we're in imminent peril of it happening again... this time with potential dhimmi of the year, Judge Thomas F. Hogan, appointed by Reagan to the D.C. Circus Court in 1982 -- and 24 years is a lang, lang time a-growin'. For if Hogan rules the way the Associated Press, at least, expects him to rule, he could single-handedly do more damage to America than another 9/11 would.
The ACLU is suing, on behalf of nine enemy combatants (now there's a shock!), former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- along with retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who resigned because he thought Abu Ghraib destroyed his career, even though he had nothing to do with it; disgraced Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, who was directly blamed for not taking control of her troops; and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, who testified against others in exchange for immunity.
But the worst part is that the suit isn't against the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the United States Army. Rather, these four defendants are being sued as individuals -- for exercising their normal official duties.
Judge Thomas "Huck" Hogan appears to be dithering, flirting with the idea of allowing any former POW, enemy combatant (lawful or unlawful), terrorist, or family of any person killed by an American soldier to personally sue the soldier, jailor, intelligence agent, commanding officer, cabinet secretary, CIA director, or president of the United States that the plaintiff deems responsible for the "victim's" inconvenience.
The ACLU -- or CAIR -- could drag not only every government official through the court system, based entirely upon the plaintiff's disagreement with administration policy, it can then extend the suit to hundreds or thousands of soldiers in the field, demanding they all be shipped back home to be witnesses and defendants in civil suits that amount to terrorism by barratry.
"Huck" Hogan himself seems to understand the dogs of judicial war he nevertheless appears poised to unleash:
Foreigners outside the United States are not normally afforded the same protections as U.S. citizens, and Hogan said he was wary about extending the Constitution across the globe.
Doing so, he said, might subject government officials to all sorts of political suits. Osama bin Laden could sue, Hogan said, claiming two American presidents threatened to have him murdered.
"How do you control that?" Hogan asked. "Where does it stop? Does it stop at the secretary of defense? Does it stop at the president? How does this work?"
Yet even so, there he stands, pointing a judicial gun at the head of American sovereignty, his finger twitching on the trigger...
Hogan questioned the scope of that immunity. He said freedom from torture is a basic right accepted by the United States and all civilized nations.
"Would you take the same policy if the argument was one of genocide?" Hogan asked. "Are you saying there could be no inquiry done?"
But of course, there has never been a shred of evidence offered that Rumsfeld even knew of the abuses (which it pleases ACLU lawyer Paul Hoffman to call "torture") at Abu Ghraib, let alone "encouraged and directed that torture," as he casually claims. So what is the point? First and most obviously, the ACLU simply hates Rumsfeld's policies so much, they seek to destroy him as a person.
But the broader political purpose of the suit is quite clear, and it's not to get abstract "justice" for the nine former prisoners: the function of the ACLU's lawsuit is to reach out and wrench American military and anti-terrorism policies more in line with those of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) -- or perhaps former (thank goodness) President Jimmy Carter (D-Venus).
The intent is to leave all officials looking nervously over their shoulders, second-guessing every action -- will the ACLU, CAIR, the ADL, and every other extremist group find it acceptable? Since the answer will inevitably be No, some radical group or other is sure to find illegalities and violations in every conceivable action, the only safe thing to do is not to act at all.
And that's precisely what the ACLU wants, a "Hippocratic world": a world where all defensive action is forbidden, and every official cares only about doing no harm -- to anyone.
Thus does the politics of personal destruction make common cause with terrorism by barratry.
And the nation stands at the brink of disaster because of the inability of a Reagan-nominated federal appellate-court judge to slap this improper lawsuit down after the first day's hearing. "Huck" cannot seem to understand that whatever is the proper remedy for some horrible, policy-driven crime against humanity (such as genocide), it cannot arise from the federal courts... because any regime that would actually undertake, say, a "Final Solution to the Moslem problem," would certainly, as its very first act, disempower or even dissolve the entire civilian judicial system -- just as the Third Reich did.
Such a horrific policy implies a complete and total subversion of American society and government, something we never saw even in the depths of the Civil War or World War II, and which not even the American Criminal Lobbyist Union has had the audacity to claim. (Plenty of Islamists have claimed it; but they also claim that Allah commands them to exterminate the Jews, and they have also propelled Hitler's Mein Kampf -- in Arabic translation -- to the top of the Middle East bestseller list; so I don't see them as particularly credible on the subject.)
Judge Hogan has not yet ruled (at the time I write this), and it's still possible he will come to his senses and realize that it's not the duty of the courts to tell the American military how to wage war -- or how to punish those who violate military law -- or even to award civil damages to people who were discommoded by American foreign and anti-terrorism policies.
If Donald Rumsfeld had punched out someone in a ballroom blitz (or if he had sexually harassed a subordinate), it would be perfectly appropriate to sue him as an individual; such actions are committed by the individual, not the office. But to be able to sue Donald Rumsfeld, or Les Aspin, or Bill Cohen, or any other government official for the official acts of his office, pursuant to the express policy of the president of the United States (often acting in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the armed forces), is a prescription for complete collapse... the "Hippocratic world" of the ACLU.
Let us hope that Judge Hogan hasn't "grown" quite that far. Yet.
Date ►►► December 7, 2006
Does Robert Kaplan Read Big Lizards?
Robert Kaplan, author of the seminal book Imperial Grunts, completely agrees with the Big Lizards take on the ISG report.
He agrees on both the good, such as the fact that many of the 79 recommendations are Bush policies that the Democrats have been fighting for years; and the bad, such as James Baker's peculiar belief that we can talk the Iranians into helping stabilize Iraq as a democracy because, after all, "the Humungus is a reasonable man."
In fact, Kaplan agrees so much about the report -- even using nearly identical phrases to describe it -- that were it not for my firm conviction that we're a flea on the hair on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea compared to someone like Robert Kaplan, I would wonder whether he had actually read our two posts!
But we are, so he didn't. Ne'ertheless, he still agrees; two thoughts with but a single mind between them, or however that expression goes. And if you don't believe me, just read the transcript of Kaplan's interview on Hugh Hewitt, whenever Duane puts it up on Hugh's transcript archive page.
That that, Hugh.
Dear Hugh: ISG Report Doesn't Claim "Right" of Return
Just a quick note responding to something Hugh Hewitt just said on his radio show, during the interview with Sen. and presidential perspirant Sam Brownback (R-KS, 100%).
(But first, a quick note to Sen. Brownback: Sam, "terrorism" is a noun, not a verb.)
Back to Hugh. Hugh Hewitt asked what Brownback thought about the ISG report -- I'm paraphrasing from memory, but this is the gist -- 'claiming a right of return' of Palestinians to Israel.
Fortunately, the ISG report says no such thing.
Here is the relevant section, the only time the term "right of return" is mentioned:
RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include....Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.
Now maybe James Baker had in mind that the Israelis should give the Palestinians that right, so that millions of Arabs calling themselves Palestinians can move "back" to the land they never lived in a day of their lives (nor their fathers or mothers either), become the majority, and vote Israel out of existence.
I don't know. But it's irrelevant, because that is not what he and the other commissioners actually wrote in the document. They say only that the putative "right of return" must be addressed. And of course it must, because it's regularly raised by Arab countries and by Palestinians who hope to win via negotiation everything they've been unable to seize by war.
But the Iraq Study Group's final report says absolutely nothing about how it must be addressed. That question is left up to Israel. And in any event, as I wrote in the Big Lizards analysis of the report:
This entire section is imminently ignorable, as the five recommendations it contains all boil down to nothing beyond "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings."
Important Readers Note
Big Lizards analyzed the entire James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group report in a pair of posts yesterday:
- Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno
- Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei
It's important that we make clear the purpose of our posts. Many people deride the report on the grounds that the ISG really want us to withdraw, but they were too craven to call for it outright... so they instead (this theory goes) recommended "withdrawal lite."
Maybe, maybe not. Big Lizards could not care less what the commission thought it was doing.
I approached this analysis entirely, ah, analytically: given the facts on the ground and in D.C., the political reality that the voters will demand that President Bush accept most (if not all) of the ISG's 79 recommendations, can he do so while still fighting for true victory in Iraq?
And the answer I came up with was: yes he can.
Mind, I consider most of the ISG's recommendations silly and unworldly. Jed Babbin, whom I mostly disagree with, hit the nail with a needle:
The ISG report has all the attributes -- and all of the failings -- of an academic study. It is both theoretically sound and thoroughly inapplicable outside the laboratories of the schools of diplomacy.
The great majority of the 79 Commandments, including the entire "diplomatic offensive," by which we're going to persuade Iran to act against its own interests and help us stabilize Iraq as a democracy, is nought but a big time waster.
But since it only wastes the time of people whose time I consider valueless -- diplomats, even good ones like John Bolton -- I brush that aside. Besides, if properly construed, even the "diplomatic offensive" could conceivably be of some use... if we send someone like Bolton, who would use it as an opportunity to issue a series of ultimata to Iran and its organ-grinder's monkey, Syria.
In fewer words, Bush can take these recommendations and run with them. Most recapitulate what he's been trying to do anyway; and with the extra "bottom," or gravitas that the ISG adds, he will better be able to counter the Democratic floccillation, as they try to pick off this or that vital national-security program.
So take the analysis for what it is: not an examination into the motives or ultimate goal of the commission members, but rather as an examination of whether there are any underwater mines in the ISG report that will blow the Iraq war -- hence the larger GWOT -- out of the water.
And the answer is no, if President Bush chooses not to let it. Everything the report proposes can be squared with winning the war and standing up a stable, functioning democracy in Iraq (which, as a irrelevant aside, is clearly what the entire operative second section of the ISG report assumes is the ultimate goal).
Bush can accept the document and make frequent reference to it, even as he takes the upcoming Pentagon assessment as his actual lodestone. He might even get a little mileage out of it, in terms of holding the Democrats' noses to the fire on some of Bush's policies.
So everyone stop kvetching and bellyaching, and let's get back to our regularly scheduled war!
Blast From the Past Repost: Remembering Pearl Harbor
Sachi wrote this piece last year on Pearl Harbor Day. Since the post is, alas, even more true today than it was 365 days ago, we decided it was worth revisiting. Once again, we're in danger of forgetting who lurks beyond the gates...
When 9/11 happened, many people compared it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 64 years ago today. We Americans of Japanese ancestry felt a little bit uncomfortable with the comparison. My father, who still lives in Japan, thought “remember Pearl Harbor” meant “never forgive the Japanese.” But I know better. "No Dad," I told him, "that’s not what it means."
The commonality between the Pearl Harbor attack and 9/11 is its unexpectedness. Both attacks happened when our (American) world was seemingly at peace. What angered us was the enemy’s cowardly and dishonorable attack, the savage disregard for innocent lives. But we were more angry with ourselves for letting our guard down. We were angry at the enemy, sad for our loss, but worse yet, humiliated.
How could mighty America, my adopted country, which has the strongest military and economy in the world and is the most moral nation on the planet, let an enemy attack on our own soil? How could we miss the signs that militant Islamists had been plotting against us for years? How could we have been so complacent?
“Never again,” Americans of 64 years ago swore, “will we allow a savage enemy to attack us on our own soil.” And yet 60 years later, we made exactly the same mistake. Why?
For exactly the same reason: because we forgot. We forgot who was out there beyond the pale. And we forgot how we felt that day December 7th, 1941.
The enemy are not the Japanese. The enemy are not the Moslems. The enemy are the faceless, cowardly savages who are always lurking in the shadows around us, looking for an opportunity to strike at our most vulnerable spot, which usually means innocent women, children, and other civilians. We must never forget that such an enemy exists.
So when we say “remember Pearl Harbor,” Dad, we're really saying "remember that, even when there are no bullets or bombs flying, we are always at war against evil. We have to become like Terminators against barbarity. To paraphrase James Cameron, we can't reason with it, we can't bargain with it, we can't feel pity or remorse or fear... and we absolutely must not stop, ever, until it is dead.”
So, let’s not forget what we felt on Dec 7th and Sept. 11th. Because the minute we forget, it will surely happen again... and another terrible disaster will be forever known only by a date.
Moderate Moslems Found!
It seems that several naughty boys at a Melbourne Islamic school got a little out of control with the Holy Bible:
The Bible desecration took place last week at a school camp held near Bacchus Marsh, about 50km west of Melbourne, attended by 33 teenage Muslim boys ranging in age from Year7 to Year 10.
A school report of the incident, obtained by The Australian, says it happened late at night and involved three students and another two watching.
"The main perpetrator (a Year 7 student) urinated on the Holy Bible, tore some pages from the Holy Book and burnt them then finally spat on the Holy Book," the report says.
The second boy, from Year 9, "tore pages from the Holy Book and burnt them", while a third student, from Year 7, "tore pages from the Holy Bible and then he rolled it up like a cigarette and pretended to smoke it".
So far, it seems like something straight out of Mark Steyn's newest book, America Alone. But here's the kicker:
Mr Doutie, whose school receives about $3.9 million in state and federal government funding each year, told The Australian yesterday that both he and the school community were appalled by the Bible desecration and that he had expelled the first two boys and suspended the third.
In a letter to all staff on Monday, Mr Doutie wrote: "The school unconditionally apologises for this horrible act as conducted by some illiterate and ignorant students while under the care of EPIC [East Preston Islamic College] teachers.
"We regard the desecration of the Bible in a very serious light and therefore we have taken serious action against the offenders.
"The Bible is an important book both for non-Muslims and Muslims and should be treated as a holy book by all religions."
In fact, Doutie went even farther than simply punishing these particular boys:
Mr Doutie said he did not believe that the boys realised the significance of their act.
But to ensure it did not happen again he had called in the assistant imam of the Newport Mosque, Oman Haouli, to tell the students that the Bible was a sacred book. "My lesson to them was to respect their neighbours and respect all religions," Mr Haouli said yesterday.
I say we give three big cheers for Moslems policing their own. Little kids will act out; they could even be doing the sorts of things they hear their friends (or parents) talking about. But one school, at least, let them and the other 648 students know that such behavior is not acceptable in a civilized society.
There are many others out there like the teachers and administrators of EPIC. Among the many possible reasons why we don't hear about them could be that our wonderfully unbiased drive-by media, which is just interested in the facts, ma'am, doesn't see how such incidents fit "the Story" that they want to tell.
The news would rather tell stories like this one, from the same article:
Many Muslims remain angry about the public humiliation suffered by their spiritual leader, the mufti Taj Din al-Hilali, after the Sheik likened female rape victims to pieces of meat who brought the attacks on themselves.
I do not believe that the elite media is trying to make Moslems look bad; rather, I think they're trying to inflame Moslem communities -- because the elites see Moslems as "the oppressed," and the West as the oppressors... and they want the ummah to rise up against Western Christian oppression for the same reason the same news editors and publisher, when they were young college men, championed the cause of the Viet Cong, the Communists in Chile, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
Always keep in mind the possibility -- when you read others say or imply that all Moslems are either radicalized or at least support those who are -- that we do not know whether, by reading newspapers and watching TV, we're really getting a representative sample set of all Moslems.
Date ►►► December 6, 2006
Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei
This is the continuation of the previous post about the Iraq Study Group's final report....
(The report itself, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, can be found here.)
Watcha gonna do about me?
Or us, actually; by "us," I mean "US," of course... what is the U.S.'s role in creating "national reconciliation" in Iraq? Here is how the commission steps into the fray:
The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is a key topic of interest in a national reconciliation dialogue. The point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose. The point is for the United States and Iraq to make clear their shared interest in the orderly departure of U.S. forces as Iraqi forces take on the security mission. A successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.
Again, not bad as a principle; implementing it won't be a piece of pudding, however, as we have to balance the effects on all the different groups in Iraq of a United States threat to leave: such a threat might be effective on moderate Sunni and Shiite groups, who understand the fragility of the newborn democracy; but Sunni terrorists and Shiite militias would both love for us to leave -- for the former, because of the chaos this would cause, allowing Iraq to become like Sudan; and for the latter, because they could embark upon a Hitlerian "final solution" to the Sunni question.
I don't agree with the second part of recommendation 35; here is the explanation that precedes it (the recommendation itself is just to implement this explanation):
Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a highlevel American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders. The United Nations can help facilitate contacts.
I believe that here, James Baker has allowed his Realist bias towards negotiation -- which always requires at least two negotiating partners -- to cloud the obvious (to me) judgment that Muqtada Sadr is no more a negotiating partner than was Yassir Arafat, or than is al-Qaeda today; the actual recommendation specifically excludes talking with al-Qaeda... I would do the same for Sadr. In addition to being a bloodthirsty butcher who has nothing constructive to add to any "national reconciliation," he is also a paid agent of Iran; in other words, he is a traitor to his country and the catspaw of Teheran.
Instead of talking to him, we should simply kill him and the entire inner cadre of the Mahdi Militia.
Killing Sadr (and his butt monkeys) would go a long way towards ending Iran's easy access to the Iraqi parliament; it would send a message to the mullahs (the only kind they understand); and once the dust settles, it would dramatically improve chances of a true national reconciliation.
After that point, it would make sense to "talk directly... to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders." To quote the thoroughly unquotable Arafat, "of course you make peace with your enemies; you can't make peace with your friends. With my friends, I make business!"
Recommendation 38 -- that we allow "neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" -- is a sin; but it's a venial one. They will of course interfere with necessary military action, but I doubt they can interfere very much.
Withdrawal from fancies of withdrawal
The most important thing in the ISG report is the thing that wasn't in the ISG report, the dog that didn't bark, as Sherlock Holmes noted: the complete lack of any demand for any significant immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Originally, a couple of months ago, the Democrats were jubilant (and many conservatives bitter and despairing) at the widely reported claim that the ISG report was going to call for a phased withdrawal of troops to begin immediately, lending an air of authority to the Democrats' campaign promise. But when we read the actual report itself, we discover that once again, the Democrats have been betrayed by their own supposed informants on the committee (mostly likely Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta). In the end, this is what the report says:
While [the national reconciliation] process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.
Most of this is straight out of the Bush administration's playbook. The ISG recommends embeds in all Iraqi Army units, all the way down to company level. How many soldiers do they envision doing this?
Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role. This increase in imbedded troops could be carried out without an aggregate increase over time in the total number of troops in Iraq by making a corresponding decrease in troops assigned to U.S. combat brigades.
The Pentagon report is likely to recommend something substantially similar, though they may also want to use U.S. troops more directly to disrupt violence in places like Anbar and Baghdad provinces... a possibilty that the ISG report itself raises, if done on a temporary basis. (Everything is "on a temporary basis;" Bush certainly doesn't contemplate leaving 150,000 troops in Iraq for the next thirty years!)
The report does, of course, recommend an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces; but that too has been our policy from the very beginning; this is nothing new. The ISG is looking at a timeframe of about a year and a half:
While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.
About the only thing the Democrats get out of this is a little bit of face saving: they can say to their constituents, "see? We did get at least some defeatism into the thing... don't hate us!"
As far as capping overall force level, Newsweek reports today that the man incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) appointed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%), wants to significantly increase the level of American troops in Iraq to squash the militias, and has explicitly allied himself with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) on this issue:
In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”
Given that Silvestre echos the views of "experts" that the Democrats themselves trotted out during the election, such as Gen. Eric Shinseki, it will be very easy for Bush to accept the recommendation of more embeds -- but to do so via an increase of the force level, rather than holding it steady, as the ISG suggested.
Even the ISG itself recognizes the possible need for a short-term "surge" of U.S. forces to stabilize Iraq:
We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.
(Pulling together the views of Rep. Silvestre, Gen. Shinseki, Gen. Pace, and the unanimous report of the Iraq Survey Group, President Bush can call the troop increase an act of "national reconciliation" for the United States!)
And what will the slow, steady reduction of forces, which has been the policy of the Bush administration from the very beginning, leave us in the region? From the ISG report:
At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue [oh, is that all?]. Intelligence and support efforts would continue [ah, there we go -- the last two components!]. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan.
By the way, for those who thought the ISG would demand we hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria, the report envisions four "missions" for the remaining U.S. forces; three are just what you would expect -- but here is number four:
Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.
Sounds good to me!
There follows a long list of recommendations for the repair and maintenance of equipment (and troops) as they return from Iraq, and for continued training of U.S. forces back home. I have no objection.
The police are there to preserve disorder!"
Much of the foregoing has been acceptable but not particularly helpful (not unhelpful either); its only utility is in the many cases of a Bush-administration policy that Congress was loathe to fund, but whose prospects will rise now that Bush can wave the ISG report in their faces and threaten to denounce them as refusing to follow it (that's a congressional disincentive).
But here's a suggestion that I think is actually innovative and a great idea: the ISG recommends that the Iraqi National Police and the Border Police shift from the Interior Ministry to Defense.
The Ministry of the Interior is riddled with corruption and Shiite sectarianism, and its has repeatedly been accused -- with a great deal of justification -- of running death squads out of police stations and filling the police ranks with boatloads of Mahdi Militia and Badr Brigades members. Contrariwise, the Defense Ministry has done a much better job with the Iraqi Army, which the police agencies would thus join as paramilitaries.
Most Sunnis trust the army far more than they trust the police; and even the Shia admit that the army has been fair, even when it fights against the militias. Removing the national cops from the dreaded Ministry of the Interior is an inspired stroke which can only have come from the mind of commissioner Ed Meese.
Left to Interior would be control of local (not national) police, prosecutions and investigations, and payroll for all the police, including those transferred to the operational control of the Ministry of Defense.
Other than this one new idea, the ISG proposes only that current Bush administration programs to train, embed with, reform, and improve the technological capabilities of the Iraqi police forces should continue, harder and faster.
The last 18 of the total 79 recommendations are technical suggestions relating to the Oil Ministry, to American intelligence collection and analysis (such as hiring more people who speak Arabic and retaining analysts who have studied the Iraq insurgency, terrorist groups, and militias), and to budgeting for the war; you're not particularly interested in any of them. (And if you really are, they start on page 83 of the document, 101 of the PDF.)
Hey, Big Lizards reads these things so you don't have to!
"And in conclusion..." whereupon thunderous applause spontaneously erupts
The most important point I want to make is the one that I suspect nobody else will make: the tone of the report. There is very little hectoring in the second section; it's all confined to the first one, which is why I opined (all right, a bit tongue in cheek) that the Assessment section was the one written by the Democrats.
In fact, throughout the operative section, the Way Forward, the ISG assumes that the purpose of the report is to suggest ways to win in Iraq... if by "win" we mean establishing a stable democracy in Iraq that has the military, police, and judicial strength to crush al-Qaeda, disband the militias, and pull together as a coherent national unit.
Even when they drift into Realist fancies and follies, such as the useless blathering on and on about "regional conferences" and "international dialogs" and "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings," it's quite clear that the ultimate purpose is not to transition Iraq to a dictatorship with "our own guy" planted on the throne, as I was afraid it might be, given James Baker's political leanings.
This ISG report will never be mistaken for something Henry Kissinger could have written.
It recommends an initial period of no reductions in force, but a shifting of priorities in the direction that the Bush administration has said all along it wants to go, but which it hasn't really done enough of yet. Even there, the report itself recognizes that there might be advantages -- political as well as military -- to a temporary bump, or "surge," of American muscle... a sentiment that is shared by powerful voices as diverse as the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the former Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Thus, the defeatist Democrats will almost certainly be stymied in their long dream of an immediate "redeployment" of U.S. troops to next-door Okinawa.
There are a few recommendations that are actually interesting, notably the notion that the Iraqi national cops be shifted from Interior to Defense and made a part of the Iraqi Army. And a lot of technical recommendations that look good, and which the Bush administration has tried to get for a long time now, but which the parsimonious (when it comes to defense and intelligence) Democrats have thwarted -- including more spending on reconstruction, on the military, and on the clandestine agencies, and an almost Rumsfeldian reorganization of the latter.
The focus on useless diplomacy will eat up a lot of the brainpower and company time of the liberals and internationalists, while the rest of the country gets on with the business of winning the war and rebuilding Iraq in a stable, functioning democracy.
All in all, if you can ignore the smarmy and offensive lecturing at the beginning -- think of it as a very extended forward; the actual meat of the document isn't bad at all. Certainly the president can easily follow all of its recommendations as part of his own adamantine intention to fight this war to victory and not bring the troops home except as victors.
...No matter what Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol, and Christopher Hitchens say.
Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno
Ah, I think I know how the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group managed to get unanimous agreement for a report that is, on the whole, nowhere near as bad or dangerous as we were led to believe. The members clearly cut a deal between themselves:
- The Democrats on the panel got to write all the nasty, Bush-bashing spin and hype of the introductory "Assessment" section of the report (and script the press conference) -- which was the role they relished and had demanded from the git go;
- The Republicans wrote the actual recommendations in section II, "the Way Forward" -- that is, the operational part of the report.
(In legal terms, the Democrats wrote the dicta, but the GOP wrote the holdings.)
Thus, the first part is full of snide and arrogant analysis of how "bleak" and "dire" the situation is, which will allow perpetually backward-looking Democrats to spend the next two years rattling on about how terrible it was to invade Iraq in the first place. But the fairly open-ended and helpful recommendations in Section II are not too onerous on their face, and many are readily adaptable to the strategy of winning in Iraq that will come from the Pentagon group headed by Gen. Peter Pace, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I leave the discussion of dicta to others (since that part really irritates me anyway); I'm more interested in what the ISG considers "the way forward," and how it can be achieved only through victory, not by the Democrats' dream of defeat, defeat, and more defeat.
A note on structure: as this post got very long (I read the entire report and discuss most of it), I'm splitting it into two posts that will be posted more or less simultaneously. This is Part Uno, as you have doubtless already gathered.
Part Zwei will follow. Again, this is unlikely to shock many of you.
"Buckle your seat belts, gentlemen; it's going to be a bumpy night!"
The "diplomatic offensive"
Let's start with recommendation 1 of the Iraq Study Group's report (actually, the first two, since the second is really part of the first), just to get a flavor of what we're dealing with and how we can work with it for victory. (Don't worry, Big Lizards is not going to plough rigidly and lugubriously through every, last one of the 79 recommendations.)
RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.
RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:
i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.
iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.
iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.
v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.
vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.
vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.
viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.
x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.
Admittedly, this is mostly nonsense on stilts; neither Iran nor Syria has any interest in any of these specific initiatives. But the ISG is correct that Iran has its own problems with disunity: the Arab, Azeri, and Kurdish populations of Iran are always in danger of trying to break away... and that, of course, is a good example of a "disincentive" we can offer Iran to get them to back off from supporting Muqtada Sadr and other Iraqi Shia: we let them know that if they continue trying to destabilize Iraq, perhaps we should begin helping Kurds and Azeri in Iran that are interested in learning more about democracy, freedom -- and independence. (You'll read about "disincentives" later in this post; just keep this one in mind.)
But of course, all depends upon who, exactly, is tasked on the American side to deal with these negotiations. As this is a special envoy, not a permanent position, it's important to remember that the appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
Thus, since one of our finest ambassadors is currently at liberty, I strongly urge that the head of the diplomatic "offensive" be Ambassador John Bolton. As we certainly also need someone with extensive military experience in the region, Bolton's chief military attaché could be Gen. John Abizaid or Gen. Casey, both of whom are near the end of their current tours, and each of whom needs a political tour in order to burnish his credentials for an eventual shot at being the next Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
With the negotiations in the hands of Bolton (or someone like him), I would not worry about this "diplomatic offensive."
"Dealing" with Iran (oh, and Syria)
We skip many recommendations, all of which center on sundry "groups" that we can set up so that Bolton (or whoever) doesn't have to shuttle between different cities to carry out these negotiations. Let's jump right to the first really controversial one: "dealing with Iran and Syria," as the report puts it.
(Dealing? As in, Monty Hall and Let's Make a Deal? I doubt that's in the cards.)
Here is the first part that you're not likely to hear from talk radio and maybe not even on some other blogs:
The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.
What is a "disincentive?" Well, the dictionary says it's "something that prevents or discourages action; a deterrent." That is, we say to Iran, "if you continue supplying men, material, munitions, and training to Iraqi Shia, we're going to do the following horrible things: A, B, C..."
(For example, do you recall that bit -- I warned you it would be on the test -- about us threatening to encourage Arab, Azeri, or Kurdish minorities within Iran to break away if the Iranians continue their assault on Iraq? That is a perfect example of the kind of "disincentives" we can use.)
I'll bet you hadn't heard that that was in the report, did you? Not if all you did was listen to talk radio and read most other blogs.
From the sentence structure, it's quite clear that the ISG expects disincentives, not incentives, to be the default mode: they caution President Bush not to use disincentives alone... hey, look, here are some incentives you can also use!
Whether or not that's what the ISG had in mind, that is what they wrote: and it's perfectly reasonable for Bush to take it that way and say, "look, here I am doing just what the commission recommended: giving a disincentivizing ultimatum to Iran and Syria."
The list of specific steps that Iran can take aren't bad:
- "Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq."
- "Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government."
- "Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation."
- "Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq."
Only the last one is problematical; and even there, the weasel-words "right circumstances" allows Bush to put that last one off until the right circumstances prevail: that is, until Iran has become a democratic state like Iraq.
F--- the Jews
Naturally, the ISG being co-charied by James Baker, due deference must be paid to Baker's "poor King Charles' head," his bête noir: Israel.
The title of this section of the post refers to Baker's infamous (alleged) comment to "a colleague" -- later identified as Jack Kemp, I believe -- during a conversation about Israel while Baker was George Herbert Walker Bush's secretary of state: "f--- the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway!" Baker denies he ever said it.
This entire section is imminently ignorable, as the five recommendations it contains all boil down to nothing beyond "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings."
Hear hear! Have some more meetings. Have as many meetings as we can stuff into a fiscal year. If the Palestinians and the Syrians remain intrasigent, refusing to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah, then Bush (and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- say, shouldn't Israel pass a law barring anyone named "Ehud" from holding public office?) can legitimately and honorably say "we followed those B-H recommendations to the letter: we unconditionally called and held several meetings, by gum.
Now can we get on with it?
The ISG says to send more troops and money, amounts unspecified. Any objections?
Iraq milestones and suchlike
Note the great specificity of the next set of recommendations for Iraq itself to achieve:
- Recommendation 19: "[T]there must be action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones.... [T]the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed."
- Recommendation 20: If Iraq "demonstrates political will" and "substantial progress" towards these unspecified milestones, we should "continue political, military, and economic support for the Iraqi government."
- Recommendation 21: If they blow us off, we should "reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government."
- Recommendation 22: Ritual formula: we should say we don't "seek" military bases in Iraq; but if they ask us to keep a presence there permanently, we should consider it, just as we would "in the case of any other government." (In other words, they have to ask; we can only nudge them, not order them.)
- Recommendation 23: "The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil."
While the ISG didn't enunciate its own set of milestones, it more or less accepts (recommendation 25) the milestones suggested by Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself. It's a laundry list, some elements of which are easily achievable ("approval of the Provincial Election Law and setting an election date"); others are ambitious but possible ("provincial elections" by June); while some are dubious, to say the least ("Iraqi control of provinces" by September). You can read them for yourself; they're on page 63 of the report (page 81 in the PDF).
The longest non-diplomatic subsection of the operative section is all about achieving "national reconciliation" in Iraq; this is divided into what the Iraqis need to do, and what we need to do. Most of the recommendations here are obvious, common-sense stuff. But here are a few that might provoke some interest...
Right off, the commission makes another bold and unexpected statement, sparking great rejoicing:
U.S. forces can help provide stability for a time to enable Iraqi leaders to negotiate political solutions, but they cannot stop the violence -- or even contain it -- if there is no underlying political agreement among Iraqis about the future of their country.
Recommendation 27 says that de-Baathification has gone far enough; with the exception of top Saddam Hussein officials, Iraq should start letting people back into low levels of government even if they were members of the Baath Party under Hussein.
I actually have no problem with this; Hussein completely controlled Iraq for 24 years, and the Baathists ran the joint for the previous 16 years before that. Thus, for forty years, the only way to get ahead in Iraq was to join the Baath Party, which was the only legal political party anyway. It's hardly surprising that scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, policemen, and military personnel became "Baathists."
To permanently and forever exclude these people from participating in the recreation of Iraq is unjust; but much more important, it's profoundly foolish ("it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder," as Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe said of the execution of the Duc d'Enghien). Heck, if we could put ex-Nazi Wernher von Braun in charge of the United States rocket and missile program, then surely the Iraqis can allow ex-Baathist scientists to work in the Ministry of Technology, or whatever they call the thing.
I'm glad the Republican Guards dispersed, and I wish we had done so in a more systematic way with the national police. But that was then, this is now: many members of the New Iraqi Army are military veterans, and many cops were cops before. Some of these people cause problems, especially in the police, which were never properly purged... but that's the price you pay for revolution, especially when externally applied.
(The ISG actually has a really interesting idea for the Iraqi national police forces; but that has its own subhead in the next post.)
The reality is that the Iraqis need certain people, even if they were Baathists in another life. An excellent step to make this process much less threatening would be to carry out the execution of Saddam Hussein as expected in January; since Hussein was the Baath Party from 1979 onward, and is thus the only embodiment of the party that most ex-Baathists can remember, Hussein's execution will make him "the death of the party."
Recommendation 28 warns against distributing oil revenues by "region," which is code for religious sect: if revenues were disbursed according to region, then the Kurds and Shia would get it all, and the Sunni -- in the middle region, which has no oil fields -- would get bubkes. That's hardly the way to bring Sunnis into the fold! Again, I think we all agree that cutting the Sunnis out of all oil revenue is a prescription for civil war.
First, on the home front: you guys aren't pulling your end. We've been doing our part, publishing good blogposts about exciting topics (Iraq, Iran, the GWOT, Mark Steyn)... but our hits are down.
The way Sitemeter works is that all visits by the same IP address within a 30-minute window are counted as a single visit: that is, if you visit once at 8:00 am and again at 8:27 am, it's not counted as two visits... just one.
But if you wait, twiddling your toes and filing your teeth, until 8:31 am, then visit -- that is counted as a second hit on the old greeter-meter.
Thus, in order to get our count up, so advertisers will rush to pay us money to keep this site flowing through the interether (whenever BlogAds regains consciousness), please to start visiting multiple times per day. You needn't stay long; for example, if you're headed from Captain's Quarters to Power Line, all you need do is first go to Big Lizards, and then continue on to Power Line. Simple as Simon!
If everybody did that, oh, four or five times a day, it wouldn't cost you much time (10 seconds per visit, maybe) -- but we'd be a powerhouse again in no time.
So let's see if we can't raise the bar up to 2,200 or 2,300 per day... and give those lefty bloggers a hiding they'll never remember!
North Korea is currently playing the roll of gangster state: they've been counterfeiting our money, extorting us by threatening to go nuclear if we don't pay them off, and now they seem to be engaged in "massive insurance fraud" (to the tune of $150 million or more).
Well, two can play at that game, Filstrup: I suggest we set the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to produce hundreds of billions of counterfeit North Korean "won" and start passing them all around Southeast Asia. Sure, some currency speculators will also take a hit -- please, God, let it be George Soros! -- but maybe we can completely collapse the DPRK's economy, make their currency worthless... and send a brutal message to the Dear Leader: don't mess with il capo di tutti capi.
I'm wending my way through Mark Steyn's America Alone. On page 78, I found a couple of thought-provoking passages. Here's the first:
Indeed, co-existence is what the Islamists are at war with -- of, if you prefer, pluralism; the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighborhood. And even those who nominally respect the idea tend, on closer examination, to mean by "pluralism" something closer to "subjugation."
This is actually an old conundrum: if a society's greatest principle is tolerance, then are they obliged to tolerate the intolerant?
- If the answer is Yes, then the society will quickly become an intolerant one, as it's taken over by those who will not tolerate the tolerant;
- If the answer is No, they will not tolerate the intolerant -- then they're not very ruddy tolerant, are they?
Then there is this one, which is somewhat meatier:
The Islamists incite jihad from American, Canadian, British, European, and Australian mosques, and they get away with it. The West's elites lapse reflexively into twittering over insufficient "respect" and entirely fictional outbreaks of "Islamophobia." The Mounties, the FBI, Scotland Yard, and others are reasonably efficient at breaking up cells and plots, but they're the symptoms, not the disease. It's the ideological pipeline that needs to be dismantled. Through their network of schools and mosques, the Saudis are attempting to make themselvs into a Muslim Vatican -- if not infallible, at any rate the most authoritative voice in the Islamic world. We might have responded to the Wahhabist challenge by distinguishing, as William Tayler did, between Sunni and Shia, Sufi and Salafi, and all the rest, and attempting to exploit the divisions. But as proper Western multiculturalists, we celebrate diversity by lumping them all together as "Islam."
So far (through page 89, at least), Steyn hasn't developed this theme; but I think it points us towards one more way we can fight the war of Jihadism vs. Americanism.
Steyn is correct that there are many radical mosques in the United States; I've heard it said (I don't know if this is true) that there are more militant mosques in America than any other Western nation. These radical mosques contain radical imams who preach violent jihad as a matter of course.
Thus, for national security reasons, we should be surveilling every last one of these militant mosques, determined by our own intelligence operations (that is, sending loyal American Moslems into the mosques to listen to the sermons). From what I understand, they hardly hide their inflammatory opinions under a burning bush: it shouldn't be hard to decide that a mosque is "radical" if the imam says the congregation should financially support Hamas and encourage their children to become mall-martyrs.
Get warrants when there's court-level evidence; but do it under the president's plenary power as Commander in Chief when the probable cause is military level but not civil-court level.
Regardless of how we justify it, let's tap their phones, bug their conference rooms, tail their employees. Let's read their mail, ghost their hard drives, and track their bank accounts.
We should have been doing this for the last five years -- and maybe we have and the New York Times just hasn't gotten that leak yet. But somehow I doubt it.
Sure, the Democrats will fly up out of their seats, full nine feet high and higher. They're rush to commit savage acts of "oversight" on those clandestine agencies that are engaged in this "domestic spying."
Heh. Excellent... we send administration representatives (like Tony Snow) out to the Sunday talk shows to say that they neither confirm nor deny that we're doing this -- wink -- but really, Mr. and Mrs. All-American, don't you think we should be? And why are the Democrats so concerned about the "right" of fire-breathing Wahhabi imams to call for assassinations and bombings in Amerca, but not so much about your rights not to be blown up at work, at the mall, and not to have your kids blown up at school, like in Beslan?
I can just see Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), sweating bullets on Anderson Cooper 360° or being grilled by Chris Matthews on Hardball, trying to explain why the Democrats don't want to know whether there are any terrorist mosques in America. Maybe the Superglue would break, and those blessed glasses would finally slip off his bulbous nose!
It can only help us to get a fight going between Bush and the congressional Democrats on just how far we should go to protect the American people. It's a heck of a lot better than drawing a line in the sand over minimum wage.
Oh, and by the way... we might just learn enough to be able to deport some of these Saudi-funded imams, or maybe stop a terrorist plot or two. That's almost as good as putting Democrats on the spot!
Date ►►► December 5, 2006
Not "Last" - Try "Next of Many"
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal leapt upon the convulsing Iraq-war dogpile with a contrarian argument: rather than discussing how best to manage a withdrawal, as the uninformed media demand, most of the uniformed military recommends sending more troops into Iraq to secure Baghdad and increase trainers and embeds in the Iraqi Army (per Captain's Quarters). From the Journal story, which is free for the moment -- get 'em while they're hot:
As demands mount to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, a growing number of senior military officials are arguing that the only way to salvage the situation is to add more U.S. forces and more U.S. money.
Outside the military, most of the debate is focused on a U.S. troop withdrawal. But inside the Pentagon, the recent dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given some new life to arguments by military officers who say the U.S. must pour more troops and money into the country to expand the Iraqi army -- the one institution in Iraq that has shown some promise -- and stabilize the capital.
We've discussed this quite a bit on Big Lizards over the last few months, most recently here:
We also noted that noted historian Victor Davis Hanson opines that we don't really need to increase the force level; all we need do, he says, is change the rules of engagement (ROEs) to allow fighting more aggressively; from the second of the two posts above:
Historian Victor Davis Hanson is thinking along the same lines. Here is how he ended a recent column on NRO:So yes, let us talk about sending more troops, or taking them out altogether, or cry about bad news coverage. But the truth is that, if they were given more tactical leeway to go on the offensive, we would already have enough soldiers in Iraq to win a victory that even a hostile media will have to acknowledge and enemies watching must respect -- but only if we persevere here at home in this latest climate of renewed hysteria.
But after thinking a second time, I believe it's better that we do send more troops. It would produce several undeniable benefits:
- It would dismay our enemies to see that the net effect of their multi-year effort to influence the American electoral process resulted, not in an "immediate withdrawal" of troops from Iraq -- but in an immediate increase instead;
- It would hearten our Iraqi allies and perhaps finally convince them that they're not about to be overwhelmed by either al-Qaeda terrorists or Iranian-backed Shiite militias; the more Iraqis shift to having hope for the future, the fewer will be willing to stake all on those 72 raisins in paradise (as their raisins d'etre)... and the more will be willing to risk dying for their new country by joining the army to fight the murderers;
- We really do need more embedded American soldiers in Iraqi military units; the Iraqi Army does not have the long, long history of honorable service to their country that we have, and they need longer supervision than a couple of years;
- We desperately need to crack down on Iran, Syria, and even Saudi Arabia, all of whom are still funneling men, munitions, and miltary intelligence across the borders... where they're used to kill Americans as well as Iraqis; if we were to shut the borders entirely except for a few checkpoints (each manned by hundreds of American and Iraqi troops), and undertake to destroy -- no questions asked -- any vehicle or group of men crossing the frontiers anywhere but at a legal checkpoint, we would significantly reduce the resupply for terrorists and militias.
As conservatives never tire of telling us, no country is truly sovereign until it can control its own borders: what is true for the United States is even more true for Iraq, surrounded as it is by deadly enemies.
On that last point, our cheeks (at both ends) should be flushed red to read this story from ABC News online, where we have seized from Iraqi Shiite militia members a batch of Iranian-made weapons and munitions -- with a manufacturer's date of this year, 2006:
U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.
This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.
Iran has been supplying both equipment and training for their puppet Muqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Militia, including:
- Advanced, armor-piercing IEDs;
- Anti-tank weapons;
- Terrorism training and support from Hezbollah in Lebanon;
- And actual Hezbollah terrorist personnel from Syria into Iraq.
(I reckon that will be a major "bargaining chip" we can use when we "talk" to Iran...)
The post linked above from Captain's Quarters, as well as earlier Big Lizards posts, have covered all the top points; but one phrase in the WSJ article really jumped out at me, because the drive-by media -- which sadly includes the news division of the Journal, thought not the editorial page -- has been using the same phrase for some time now:
Rumsfeld Exit Revives Push to Boost Troops, Money in One Last Effort to Stabilize Baghdad....
Senior military officials seeking to make one last push to stabilize Baghdad might find a receptive ear with President Bush.
And here's one we linked in the Guardian Spills the Beans post from the UK Guardian almost three weeks ago:
President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.
Note that, despite the wildly misleading quotation marks, we do not, in fact, have a direct quotation from President Bush saying "a last big push." The Guardian is in reality quoting unnamed "sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations." In fact, if Bush actually said "a last big push," I'd be so stunned, you could knock me over with a bank.
Why would he say "last?" Does the Guardian -- and now the Wall Street Journal -- expect us to believe this is some sort of diabolical bargain Bush has made with the forces of evil; that if this push doesn't work, then he'll prematurely withdraw and leave our Iraqi allies holding his sack?
Far more likely that this is just another invention of the liberal left and its natural allies in the elite media: all right, maybe Bush is in such deep denial that he thinks Iraq is still winnable... but I'm sure that after America fails one "last" time, he'll come to his senses and join the party of defeatism.
How about this reformulation: the US and its allies must make a renewed push to win the war in Iraq; and if that is only partially successful... then, b'God, we'll do it again and again and again, until we achieve victory.
Which is, of course, what every American wants. Right?
In the last two posts on Big Lizards, we discussed demography, democracy, and Americanism:
- Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians
Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.
- Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism:
Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.
All right, we know what to do and why we need to do it; but how do we do it? How can we "shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world?"
Let's start with the fundamentals. I have always thought that the best way to teach any subject, from civics to calculus, is to take a historical approach: things happen for reasons; seeing the historical progression makes it a lot easier to understand what we do and why it works (or doesn't work).
Take affirmative action. You can't understand why it's a controversy, why we're even talking about it, without knowing about Jim Crow laws; and you can't understand those without first learning about Reconstruction; and for that, you need to know about the Civil War; and understanding the Civil War requires an examination of slavery; and that takes us all the way back to the Constitutional Convention and the great compromise.
What do foreigners learn about us by this? They learn that we really take seriously the concept of all people being equal under the law; that we have struggled to lift everyone up; that sometimes we go to far trying to help the underdog and need to get back to first principles. And in subtext, it shows how freedom of speech really works, that we're free to criticize the government, and how a real dialog can develop because of this freedom.
In other words, to show the truth about America -- hence Americanism -- we must teach American history to the rest of the world... most of which is woefully ignorant of the subject. (So are most Americans; but believe me, as little as our citizens know about our own history, people in Japan and Italy -- let alone in Iraq and Yemen -- know even less.)
But how can we teach American history to people who live in foreign countries? Must we invade and conquer their school systems, assuming they even have any? Fortunately, there is an easier way...
Television has become the universal language of the world. Even villages in remote locations often have access to a television (perhaps only one in the chief's hut); and certainly most people who live in cities, even in Islamic countries, have TVs. So the idea here would be for the United States to disseminate programming that teaches American history.
Often, the real history is very much at odds with what jihadist or totalitarian governments tell their people about the "Great Satan;" so why would any of these countries allow such broadcasts? The answer is that they wouldn't... so we do it without their consent -- and if they don't like it, too damn bad. Part of fighting a war of ideas is that we cannot be fastidious about the "sovereign right" of nations to malign us and suppress the truth about America's astonishing contribution to the world.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, a reader of the Anniston Star wrote this in a letter to the editor:
The next time you feel doubts about the direction of this country, remember this:
The only two defining forces that have ever been willing to die for you are: (1) Jesus Christ and (2) the American soldier! One died for your soul and the other for your freedom -- even to read this!
I don't know if this is original with James W. Anderson from Talladega, Alabama (Vietnam 1967-68), or if he heard or read it somewhere; but I'm happy to give him credit until another claimant comes along. It's an amazing insight, no matter who originated it... and one that virtually nobody outside the United States really understands. So no pussyfooting.
There are several nuts-and-bolts considerations for this project:
- The shows themselves cannot be dry, academic productions; we can make a signal available, but we obviously cannot force people to watch it.
Now, there's no way that a documentary produced by the State Department could be anything but video death... so we need to hire real professional writers, directors, and producers instead. Better yet, a wealth of such shows has already been produced, from documentaries like the Day the Universe Changed and the Adams Chronicles to movies like Gettysburg and the Patriot. We could go a long way just broadcasting these excellent productions.
- We cannot rely on people speaking English well enough to be able to follow such movies and television series; they must be translated and dubbed.
And by translated, I mean into every language necessary to spread Americanism throughout the world, from Polish to Croatian to Arabic to Pashtun to Farsi to Nubian, and so forth. This must be treated as a major national-security program -- with money and manpower to match. I'd like to see the XVOA (eXtreme Voice of America) funded as well as NASA is ($20 billion), or at least the National Science Foundation ($5½ billion).
In addition, we need to find native speakers of each of these languages, preferably with acting experience, for dubbing. For obscure languages that are hard to find here (not that many, with the number of immigrants we have from everywhere!) we may need to find native speakers and train them to act. As with Bullwinkle and Rocky, each actor may need to play multiple voices.
And we need to pay top dollar... so that aspiring actors are attracted to this project even with the competition.
- We need to put people on the task of finding every possible way to disseminate these dubbed programs everywhere in the world.
Buying a channel (or several) on every satellite TV system is just the beginning; we also need to find a way around governments that go around smashing satellite receivers and jamming transmissions. If necessary (and I think it often is), we should take out jamming stations in enemy countries with cruise missiles. Let 'em scream... what are they going to do about it, declare war on us?
What we're talking about is not just Voice of America, but a super-sized, hyperthyroid, 24/7 American history and propaganda machine. Our biggest worry is the Democrats, who may decide this is the perfect venue to spread anti-Americanism faster than ever before; for this reason, I suggest keeping the XVOA in the hands of the Administration, which is much less likely than Congress to be overtly hostile to the country, even if a Democrat is elected.
Every aspect of American history illuminates one or more elements of Americanism, showing where we came from, what we've gone through, and who we really are. This would do far more for our image in the world (including the ummah) than sending billions to Bangladesh the next time they have a flood (that would be next rainy season) or to Thailand the next time they have a Tsunami (that would be next earthquake season): even when we do that, the local governments lie to the people and tell them all the rescue efforts and food and medical aid came from themselves, not from us.
It would do much more to spread Americanism than would tens of billions spent on foreign aid -- nearly all of which goes to dictators who, again, disburse it as if it came from their own pockets.
And it would be far more effective countering jihadism than the haphazard mix of "American" soft-core porn movies and TV jiggle shows -- from American Pie to Baywatch to Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold -- that inundate the world, showing the worst aspects of America exaggerated beyond all reason by Hollywood's addiction to sensationalism. (At least, it would show them that we have a better side.)
Visual imagery is powerful, and movies already influence people everywhere. Why shouldn't America, which invented motion pictures and is the most relentless purveyor of them, be able to use them more effectively than jihadis to "sell" our ideology?
This is just the first cut; does any of you have other ideas for spreading the ideology of individualism, freedom, and capitalism?
Date ►►► December 4, 2006
Where Have All the BlogAds Gone?
This post is mostly for the bloggers out there. Big Lizards, which has gotten new BlogAds submissions multiple times a month for the last year or so, has not gotten a new one since October 24th. In addition, BlogAds are still running that expired weeks ago. (The ads actually exist on BlogAds' server; so somebody is not removing the expired ads.)
I notice the same thing appears to be happening on other blogs, even those that are significantly bigger than BL; I've communicated with a few (they can out themselves if they like, but I won't out them) who report the same phenomenon. I e-mailed Henry Copeland some days ago, but I've received no reply.
Does anybody out there know what's going on? We're suddenly not making any revenue here at all. (The cost of maintaining this blog is trivial, as I do all the work myself, so we only need pay for the host server; but I still want my ad revenue, gosh darn it!)
If anyone has a clue what has happened to BlogAds and Mr. C., please comment here.
Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism
A commenter on our previous post, Robert Schwartz, quoted a fellow who writes at the Asia Times online under the improbable name of "Spengler" (I cannot find out his full name):
The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord's Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims.
But is this really true? We all know Moslems who do not believe in or practice jihad as the terrorists believe in it and practice it. Besides my personal acquaintances, which it may not be fair to cite (since you don't know them), there are also well known people like the fellows at Iraq the Model, as well as those not well known but whose existence everyone knows about: Moslem American soldiers, CIA officers, policemen, firemen, doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers -- who don't, as a rule, advocate or support jihad as the Taliban or the Iranian mullahs do.
So it is possible, even though jihadism is a very powerful ideology that has taken control of a large portion of the ummah. Isn't there some ideology that can infect Islam as thoroughly as has jihadism, a "counter-ideology" that is positive and life-affirming, not a death cult, and which does not require Moslems to convert to Christianity?
Yes, there is... and we all know it, even if we rarely think of it in those terms.
The most important point to bear in mind is that such questions as the actual meaning of jihad are answered by cultural, not religious force: I don't believe that the jihadis in Iraq or Gaza believe in militant jihad because they've been religously persuaded by theological argument -- but because all their neighbors believe it.
The way to change that belief is to create swaths of territory (real estate) in which the cultural belief is that jihad is an individual inner struggle against sin, rather than an external war against sinners; a struggle that each individual must freely choose, or it's meaningless; and most important, one that can have immediate material benefits to each individual person, rather than nothing but the promise of eventual "paradise" in the afterlife.
We must create a large territory within the ummah where everyone is surrounded by others who believe the same thing... thus, by the natural human desire to avoid cognitive dissonance, the psychological pressure will be towards sanity.
Ideology and counter-ideology
But how do you get those core swaths in the first place? You must beat down militant jihadism with that counter-ideology I mentioned above; and that requires a very powerful, adaptable, and cohesive counter-ideology; we must directly counter jihadism with an equally strong (or superior) ideology which does as good a job of promoting a sense of community and pulling together as jihadism does.
This is difficult to find but not impossible. In fact, we already have just such a counter-ideology:
- Individualism, as contrary as it may sound, is part of that ideology, as we've seen in our own country. By vigorously supporting the rights of the individual -- which Europe, Japan, and Canada don't support -- America has become the most cohesive and communal country in Christendom. This despite frequent denunciations of individualism by, e.g., the pope and other European religious leaders of Christianity.
- Freedom is another component of that counter-ideology; and again, we find more of that in the United States than in any other country.
- Finally, capitalism, which is the greatest engine of wealth creation ever invented, is absolutely critical... because the hope of wealth by individual effort -- capitalism -- as opposed to wealth by tribal or political affiliation (socialism), is vital in any war that hopes to defeat "holy warriors," who primarily appeal to the poor by saying, in effect, "join our tribe and we will support you."
Individualism plus freedom plus capitalism... we already have a catchy name for that ideology, which has served as a counter-ideology for 230 years against jihadism, against Communism, against Fascism and Naziism, against imperialism, and again monarchism: we call it Americanism.
Ideological synthesis: Americanism
Note that Americanism is neither religious nor secular but can exist in both kinds of subculture: evangelical Christians here still believe in Americanism, as do people like myself who are not religious at all, and in fact come from a non-Christian cultural background as well. And so do American Moslems; Americanism does not require giving up Islam in favor of Christianity (pace, Ann Coulter!)
The rest of the "West" -- Europe, Canada, Japan, and Israel -- have no unique ideology that binds them together as a people the way the combination of freedom, individual rights, and capitalism do here; the French have nothing to counter jihadism when it comes a-courtin'.
So our first great task is to convert our allies to Americanism (which will probably require a different name!); that alone would likely give them enough hope for the future that they start breeding again, which is an excellent start for our cultural defense. But it has a more immediate effect: Americanism is confident enough to believe that it can convert those who immigrate here, what we call "assimilation." But assimilation is a two-way function: American culture is Borg culture. We add bits and pieces of new cultures to American culture, and in return, we Americanize new immigrants.
What else can we say about the power of Americanism?
- America is far richer with a more robust economy than any other Western country;
- We as a culture (despite tolerating individuals who don't fit that profile) retain a vigorous warrior spirit that leads us to savagely defend what we see to be ours;
- We remain intensely curious and pursue science and techological improvement more than any other nation on the planet;
- We think of ourselves as Americans first, everything else second... even liberals who are in fact internationalists still must do ritual obeisance to calling themselves Americans ("hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue");
- We are the most religiously free country on the planet -- the First Amendment guarantees it -- as well as the most religous free country on the planet (that is, we have more churchgoers than any other country that does not compel religious observance);
- And we at least breed at the replacement level -- though not evenly: even there, it's precisely those areas that most exemplify Americanism (individualism + freedom + capitalism), the so-called "red" states and "red" communities, that breed at significantly more than replacement rate; and it's the "blue" areas that are the least Americanist and the most Europeanist that don't really hold up their end.
These are all unmistakable signs of a vibrant, confident, and growing cultural identity -- which can only be explained by the planetary success of the ideology we're calling Americanism. There is no other explanation: we have the same language as countries that are not so successful (Great Britain, Canada, Grenada); we have the same religions as other failed countries (Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandanavia); and we have a hodge-podge of many races living here, along with polyglot millions for whom English is a second language.
We have the same democratic government -- though with a uniquely American flavor, a constitutional republic as opposed to a parliamentary democracy -- as the entire rest of the West; but even there, the ideology came first and propelled our Founding Fathers to create the first democracy in an era of kings as a representative, constitutional republic. Those democracies that followed (leave England out for a moment) tended to organize themselves along the lines of the French Revolution... which has turned out to be far less successful a model than ours.
(England's Parliament goes all the way back to the nobles who wrested some control from the king in Magna Carta, the "great charter;" it is, like the American system, sui generis. However, it's still too close to the continental model and has proven less able to maintain its distinct cultural identity than Americanism. Propinquity may play a role here: we were protected from the European cultural decline by a great ocean.)
The distinctions between America and the world are nontrivial and nonrandom:
- We are the most capitalistic nation on the planet, and we're the richest;
- We are the freest country, and we're the country with the most immigration;
- We have the most religious freedom of any country, yet we have the most freely embraced religion;
- We are the most individualist country -- and the country with the greatest percent of citizens ready and willing to defend it.
That last point is not a contradiction, though most throughout the world would think so: individualism leads to a greater sense of community than does collectivism... it's not a contradiction, but it is a paradox. For example, the more individualist a community, the more charitable are the individuals in it... because they see charity as the duty of individuals, not the State.
This extends upward: even when government action is required, real Americans prefer that action be conducted at the lowest possible level of government, where we have the most control: city instead of county, county instead of state, state instead of national... and always national over international. Americanism is the ideology of self-control, self-governance, and self-sufficiency. It is ultimately empowering, while jihadism is ultimately infantalizing.
American culture as Borg culture: resistance is futile
Many anti-immigrant politicians (such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, 100%) and pseudo-politicians (like Pat Buchanan) push the false meme that Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants "don't assimilate." This is complete nonsense. There is always a loud and angry fringe element that marches in the streets waving Mexican flags... but look at the numbers: in the biggest rally against the House bill that made illegal immigration illegal (I'm being unfair here just for a giggle), they got a few hundred thousand people -- most of whom were not waving Mexican flags.
This in a county that has literally millions of Hispanics, most either directly or ancestrally from Mexico. The population of Los Angeles County is about 10 million; there are 4.65 million Hispanics and only 3 million non-Hispanic whites. So for the first rally, which the Aztlan separatists successfully portrayed as just anti-bill, not anti-American, they still only got 10% of the Hispanic population (at most) to show up and march.
Subsequent marches, after the anti-Americanism of the march leaders was made clear, drew far fewer participants, closer to 1%. And even there, we're just talking about marching; how many Hispanic separatist terrorists are there? Answer: zero.
Our immigrants assimilate, and they partially assimilate (change) the culture; that confidence in our own ideology is one of the things that makes us strong: in Osama's terms, we act like the strong horse, we have confidence that we're the strong horse, therefore we are the strong horse... even with the Democratic Party weighing us down.
There are always exceptions, and of course, some immigrants never Americanize. But unlike in Europe, even if the immigrants themselves resist -- resistance is ultimately futile, because their children belong to us. In France, the children of Algerian Moslem immigrants are much more anti-France and jihadist than their parents (it's the kids leading the French intifada, not the parents); but in America, it works just the opposite: each succeeding generation is more American and less inclined towards the "old country" than the previous.
Expand that outward: there is nothing magical about our mountains, our rivers, or our plains that is any different that the geographical features of other countries; the thing that converts Irish and Italians, Canadians and Cambodians, Nicaraguans and Nigereans is the ideology of Americanism... and the ideology can be exported.
The exception proves the pudding: Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.
The way forward
This is the way forward, to borrow a phrase that will probably permeate the Baker-Hamilton report (and already trips from the lips of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley almost every time he goes on a Sunday yak show): export the "stronger horse," Americanism, to the rest of the world -- starting with our new allies in Eastern Europe and moving to our old allies in Western Europe, thence beyond the pale to Africa, Araby, and the Orient. Americanism comes ready to adapt to any other culture, any other country: you can have a capitalist, free, and individualist Frenchism, Germanism, Britishism, and even Iraqism, if we but try.
We have right now one of the most Americanist presidents of recent years; George W. Bush isn't as good a communicator as Ronald Reagan, but he's every bit as Americanist. By contrast, BIll Clinton and George H.W. Bush, as well as Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and of course Jimmy Carter, were more Europeanist: they all looked to Europe for a lead; they truly believed international organizations (the U.N. or even NATO) were the wave of the future; and I can't imagine any of them believing that "America is the greatest nation on God's green Earth," to rip a phrase from Michael Medved.
But I'm utterly certain that both Reagan and Bush-43 believe (and believed) exactly that, deep in their souls. That, ultimately, is why I do not fear that Bush will use the ISG report as a fig leaf to cover retreat from Iraq, or even from the mission to democratize that country: for George W. Bush, renouncing that policy would be the same as renouncing his religious faith and becoming an atheist.
And that he will not do... no matter how much "pressure" the Democrats bring to bear.
Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians
The Discordians were (are?) a crazy bunch of weirdos who had some truly great ideas. Led by Malaclypse the Younger (usually Gregory Hill) and Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (typically Kerry Thornley), and later joined by science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson (usually writing as Mordecai Malignatus), they invented a whole new religion disguised as an elaborate joke disguised as a religion.
They also invented the Law of Fives, the Sacred Chao (a "chao" -- pronounced cow -- is a single unit of chaos) with its associated Hodge and Podge, and the myth of Eris and the golden apple. (Well, they didn't actually invent the last; the ancient Greeks did. But the Discordians pontificated about it a lot.)
They also invented a great game called Po that I've used endlessly to my amusement and enlightenment (and to my neighbors' annoyance and reporting to the authorities). The idea is that you take two contradictory concepts, say "fire" and "water." Then you write them in a line with the word "po" in between.
Po stands for some relationship: this begins the game, which is to find what relationship the po stands for and what is the result of the equation. In this case, we have "fire po water," and the most obvious answer is that po =
"heats," and the solution is "steam." You could say this game of po gave us the industrial age, when humans realized that by superheating water, they could produce steam that would drive steam engines.
(The Discordians would point out that po could also equal "puts out," and the result of "fire po water" would be a soggy campfire. Some solutions are more useful than others.)
Well, the past is prologue. (And what follows is epilogue, since there is no actual content to this post, at least nothing worth reading.) I have been metaphorically devouring Mark Steyn's book America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It; and I have also just read the New York Times' breathless speculation about what will be in the Baker-Hamilton report from the Iraq Study Group and how the president will respond to it.
Steyn, the demography predestinarian, believes that the plummeting birthrate of the West (minus the United States) will inevitably (or at least barring a miracle) lead to the countries of continental Europe being denuded of Europeans, who will be replaced by Moslems, bringing Europe fully into the ummah.
The Times is jazzed about its own prediction -- based upon leaks to them from "commission members" and "officials familiar with" the report (excuse our presumption in assuming that those commission members willing to leak to the New York Times are probably in Lee Hamilton's group of Democrats, rather than James Baker's cabal of "Realist" Republicans).
These leaks to the Times indicate the ISG will recommend we abandon the idea of democratizing the Middle East and withdraw to the "Realist" position (now apparently shared by some of the lads at Power Line) of sitting in our Iraq-based Fortress of Solitude, striking at al-Qaeda when they mass together, and otherwise allowing Iraq to turn into a Shiite dictatorship... but an America-friendly dictatorship (hah). I don't know that the ISG will suggest this course, but they may well.
I know this post is jumping around like a liberal ducking facts, but I'm actually going somewhere with this. Using the game of Po, the secret to my widespread failure, I get this: "Steyn po ISG." The po in this case is "eats," and the result anent Iraq is this very interesting formulation:
In the long run of the war on jihadism, planting a stable democracy in Iraq is far more important than defeating al-Qaeda.
Take a moment and think about that: it's the exact opposite of the Power Line position, which has become the mainstream position: that our only legitimate interest in Iraq is stomping al-Qaeda in Iraq; promoting stable democracy -- or even stopping the gangland war between militias and death squads -- is an irrelevant conceit that we must abandon, in our Realist way, for the good, old-fashioned, .time-honored, and extraordinarily successful tactic of allying with certain dictators against other dictators.
I think I can prove it. Suppose we succeed in destroying the organization formerly led by Musab Zarqawi and now by Hamza Muhajir, but we allow the bloody massacres to continue until the Sunni of Iraq flee into Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. This would leave nothing but Kurdistan in the north -- and in central and south Iraq, a Shia-dominated Iraqi government under the thumb of Muqtada Sadr, hence under the grandthumb of Hezbollah and the great-grandthumb of Iran. Haven't we just jumped out of the pot and into the kettle?
In the short view, if southern Iraq simply becomes part of Greater Iran, we have just helped our greatest non-Communist enemy to become vastly stronger.
But in the long view, it's even worse. If Steyn is right that Europe is committing societal suicide, and white Christian Europeans are abdicating sovereignty over the continent to the influx of Moslems... then how can we stop it? There are only two ways:
- We could possibly find some inducement for Europeans to have more babies. This is true terra incognita: the problem is not physical impotence but the loss of belief in the future, which leads (Steyn argues persuasively) to a turning inward towards the present, towards pure narcissism: live for today, and damn tomorrow!
- Alternatively, we could go the American route (which seems to be working here): rather than stop the substitution of Moslems for Christians in Europe, we could try to create a new Moslem ideology to compete with Islamism and jihad. So far as I can think, the only ideology that could prove strong enough is freedom, individualism, and true capitalism.
This way, as Moslems sweep into control in Europe, they will have effectively been Westernized: this is Islam shorn of its totalitarianism, its tribalism, and its worship of death over life.
What difference does it make to drive al-Qaeda out of Iraq if they just regenerate in Sudan, Pakistan/Kashmir, or Saudi Arabia? For that matter, so what even if we wipe al-Qaeda out of existence entirely -- if that just cleans the docks for Iranian-Hezbollah jihadis instead? As Caiaphas sings in Jesus Christ, Superstar, "we need a more permanent solution to our problem."
Al-Qaeda is a symptom; the symptom is itself dangerous and must be treated... but we'll never be safe, in the Middle East, Europe, or here in America, unless we likewise cure the disease itself. And the disease is a death-cult ideology that is sweeping the fastest-growing and most aggressive culture on the planet.
We need to introduce anti-jihadism leukocytes into Islam's circulatory system. I have actually been arguing this point since long before Big Lizards began, during a long-running discussion, "Are We There Yet?," in the Heinlein Journal in the 1990s; and I continued this discussion in the first week of this blog in my post Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?
Simply put, we need to break the link between Islam and jihad. Just as Christendom finally broke the link between Christianity, crusades, and combustion of heretics, the ummah must do the same -- or World War IV will dwarf its three predecessors, each of which has been more horrific than the last.
We would probably win; but what world would we inherit as our prize? Would enough people survive to maintain civilization? Alternatively, the Moslems could "win" -- but the cost would be even greater, as it's only the science, medicine, technology, and creativity of the Western world that keeps Islam afloat. There are 1.2 billion Moslems today; but during Islam's "Golden Age" (A.D. 700-1400 -- and yes, the irony of the dating is delicious), the entire human population of the earth never exceeded 300 million, which is about all that a pre-technological planet can sustain.
Thus, even if the jihadis succeeded in converting everyone to a Taliban-style Islam, the cost would be the destruction of 75% of all Moslems on Earth. The ummah would consist of scattered, disconnected villages dotting the otherwise unpeopled wilderness. Oh, joy.
Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.
We need to turn our attention to that war; and for that reason, Mark Steyn (whether he realizes it or not) makes a wonderful case for the expansive goal of President Bush to plant a functioning democracy in the heart of the Arab-Moslem-jihadi Middle East.
Nothing less will save our children's children's children.
Date ►►► December 1, 2006
That Was Then; This Is Now
The headline says it all: Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion.
Not that that could stop me from saying even more!
Specifically, one of the most important findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a., the 9-11 Commission), from chapter 13 of the final report, is that appropriations for the clandestine agencies -- the CIA and the "national agencies," comprising the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) -- should be separated out from the normal Defense Department appropriations and handled via a special committee, or else by the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence.
Currently, intelligence-agency appropriations are under the purview of the Defense subcommittees of the Appropriations committees. But here is the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission:
Recommendation: Finally, to combat the secrecy and complexity we have described, the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, defending the broad allocation of how these tens of billions of dollars have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work.
Earlier in the chapter, the Commission explained the problem quite clearly:
The current DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] is responsible for community performance but lacks the three authorities critical for any agency head or chief executive officer: (1) control over purse strings, (2) the ability to hire or fire senior managers, and (3) the ability to set standards for the information infrastructure and personnel. [The DCI position was terminated in April of last year in response to another recommendation of the 9-11 Commission; the head of the CIA now reverts to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who is under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence]....
When Congress passes an appropriations bill to allocate money to intelligence agencies, most of their funding is hidden in the Defense Department in order to keep intelligence spending secret. Therefore, although the House and Senate Intelligence committees are the authorizing committees for funding of the intelligence community, the final budget review is handled in the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations committees. Those committees have no subcommittees just for intelligence, and only a few members and staff review the requests.
The appropriations for the CIA and the national intelligence agencies- NSA, NGA, and NRO-are then given to the secretary of defense. The secretary transfers the CIA's money to the DCI but disburses the national agencies' money directly. Money for the FBI's national security components falls within the appropriations for Commerce, Justice, and State and goes to the attorney general.
This is absurdly cumbersome, hence dangerous to national security: in Congress, the committees that are supposed to control and provide oversight for the intelligence agencies, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, have no say over the budgets of the agencies they supposedly control.
While many recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were controversial, there is virtually no controversy among intelligence officers over this aspect: appropriations for intelligence agencies should be made by committees or subcommittees that are exclusively devoted to intelligence, not a wart on the behind of the Department of Defense. That means appropriations should either by handled by the Intelligence committees themselves (best) or at least by dedicated Intelligence subcommittees of the Appropriations committees (adequate).
There is, however, enormous controversy about this recommendation in Congress: on a nutshell, they just don't want to do it.
Robert Novak was on Hannity and Colmes yesterday, and he explained the problem succinctly:
- The Republicans never took up rearranging Congressional appropriations for the intelligence agencies, so they hardly have clean thumbs themselves;
- The Democrats campaigned on the promise -- it was one of only three they made -- to "fully implement the 9-11 Commission's recommendations." That would especially include this one, as the higgledy-piggledy nature of intelligence funding undermines the most important aspect of the GWOT;
Yet now that the Democrats will be the majority, incoming Squeaker Nancy Pelosi is completely unwilling to take any appropriations authority away from her pal and loyal ally, Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%), who is pegged to be Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee of the Appropriations committee. [Yow!]
(This is especially true after Pelosi's fiasco, trying to install the ethically challenged Mad Jack as Majority Leader, instead of Steny Hoyer -- who trounced Murtha in the caucus vote.)
So... what is the upshot of this "lame duck" period, leading up to the ascension of the Reality-Based Party to the petal-throne of Congressional control? Let's review the bidding:
- The Democrats more or less campaigned on a promise to "redeploy" American troops out of Iraq and into next-door Okinawa before June 2007; in reality, they probably cannot even get a majority of the caucus to vote for that.
- The Democrats absolutely, emphatically, almost hysterically campaigned on the promise to clean up "the Republican culture of corruption," leading to "the most ethical Congress in history;" but they have suddenly decided -- now that they will have the lion's share of power and attract the lion's share of funding from lobbyists -- that the most widely abused "legalized corruption" in Congress -- earmarks -- are just fine as they are and don't need any reform... not even the House rule enacted in the 109th Congress to open all earmarks to the light of day (a rule we predict will "softly and suddenly vanish away" when the 110th Congress convenes on January 4th, 2007).
- The Democrats made virtually a fetish of campaigning on the promise to "fully implement" the 9-11 Commission's recommendations; but as soon as they won, they decided they would follow the lead of the outgoing GOP and refuse to implement the only remaining major recommendation that related to Congress -- because Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to take away any of Jack Murtha's consolation prize. I can't say what the excuse in the Senate will be; but rest assured, there will be one.
So in the three weeks since winning the midterm election, the Democratic majority has managed to betray their voters on all three of their major platform planks. That's even better than Bill Clinton managed!
Not a bad month's work; they may as well knock off now and go on holiday for the next 34 days. Or, heck, the next two years; America won't mind.
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