Date ►►► February 28, 2007
The Birth of the Functioning Core
Commenter Ashowalt asked a great couple of questions. I started answering in the comments section... but after writing a bunch, I realized I could get a cheap blogpost out it instead. So here we go...
Thomas P.M. Barnett, in the Pentagon's New Map (and geez, shouldn't I at least get a virtual beer from him for so tirelessly flogging that fascinating book?), argues that nations within the Functioning Core simply do not go to war with each other... that all of our military engagements since the end of World War II have been either within the Non-Integrating Gap or with a Gap nation that was trying to invade the Core. Core nations are too economically intertwined for war to be a viable option.
Ashowalt challenged me: What were the "factors" that I believed made the post-World War II world significantly different than that of 1910, just before a number of civilized nations fought each other?
I responded that the most significant factor was World War II itself. I was on the right track, but I hadn't really thought it through until Ashowalt asked me to elaborate:
How does the fact that WWII has occurred increase the extent to which economic interdependence would dissuade countries from going to war with one another?
First a warning: I am not an economist; but if I had to hazard a guess, it would be not so much the war itself but the massive economic rebuilding that followed.
I have no idea what Barnett himself would say; if he talks about this in the book cited above, I haven't gotten to it yet. So if this explanation turns out to be nothing but airy-fairy spun sugar, blame me, not him. (I have some disagreements with his thesis, but none that affect this point.)
First, note that prior to the war, there was no "Functioning Core," because there was barely the first inklings of a global economy; many civilized states were still economically isolated from other countries (including the United States, for the most part). Remember that the Core comprises those countries that are integrated economically, legally, and in a "communications grid" (telephone, radio, television, satellite and cable, internet) with the "global net" -- which didn't exist in the 1930s:
- Economic integration: hurting your neighbor hurts yourself nearly as badly, since your neighbor cannot or will not buy your exports anymore; thus, there is a huge monetary incentive to work out any disagreements amicably -- by treaty or lawsuit.
- Legal integration: every country within the Core has the same basic expectations in terms of how a citizen or subject will be treated by his own and by other governments in the Core: If you visit France, you do not expect the la Sûreté Nationale to kidnap you and hold you for ransom; in Canada, you are protected against being arrested for something that was legal last week, when you did it.
- Communications integration: information flows freely, through every avenue available, within and between Core nations; thus also floweth culture (music, literature, religion), news, commentary, personal correspondence, scientific and technological discoveries, and so forth. I can pick up the phone and call friends in Germany, Mexico, or the Netherlands. I can watch cable TV from Japan. I can e-mail anywhere that allows internet access.
That last bullet item is very important: With the free flow of information, cultures bump into each other; they're forced to interact and get along non-violently. Thus, they evolve towards each other; this leads to a set of worldwide norms, taking on similar characteristics... and prohibiting "atrocities" or "crimes against humanity."
(The Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan were very secretive countries that did not allow information to pass their borders in either direction, if they could stop it.)
Cultures tend to become very similar in the Core... it's why I say that Core culture, and especially that of America (the core of the Core), is "Borg culture": We assimilate every other culture that we contact; resistance is futile.
After WWII, the United States and the victorious European powers (mostly us) spent then unimaginable sums on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and on our occupation and rebuilding of Japan.
But it wasn't just money pounded down existing rat-holes; we insisted upon major economic and political reforms, moving the European and Japanese establishments towards more openness, away from tariffs, and -- specifically and deliberately -- towards integration with other economies around the world.
The economic boom that followed was so overwhelming that none of these states has moved (voluntarily) towards isolation since. Rather, there have been repeated attempts, some successful, others not, to make Europe even more interdependent in all three spheres (economic, legal, and communications): the United States of Europe; the European Economic Community; the European Union.
(In a curious footnote to history, we offered the same aid to the Soviet Union at the same time... but we conditioned it upon Stalin accepting the same reforms. He refused -- and instead we had the Evil Empire, which was definitely a part of the Non-Integrating Gap. But imagine what a different world we would have today had he accepted the deal!)
Anyway, following both the war and the rebuilding of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the global economy was born; the "Functioning Core" could come into existence.
Desperate Dems Declare Dastardly Deal
Congressional Democrats, still struggling for attention from an increasingly bored and impatient electorate, have decided upon a new attempt to humiliate the president, undercut the troops, and perhaps finally, finally satisfy the nutroots that the elected leaders really are radicals and not just poseurs. If you can figure out what they're trying to do, my hat is off to you, because I can't make heads or teakettles out of it:
House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq while requiring President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military....
The tactic is more likely to embarrass Bush politically than force his hand on the war. He would have to sign repeated waivers for units and report to Congress those units with equipment shortfalls and other problems.
All right, show of hands... how many can honestly say they have any idea what the Democrats' plan actually entails? Isn't this AP story even more uninformative than usual? Why can't they just tell us what the Democrats plan to do?
A curious thought just occurred to me: many Democrats thought that the plan pushed by Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%) was "brilliant": to enact a binding resolution putting all sorts of restrictions on the deployment of troops, each one supposedly for the good of the troops themselves.
For example, one element of the plot guaranteed, by law, one full year of "rest" between deployments -- followed by many months of training before they could be sent back. This would have made it virtually impossible to send reinforcements or relieve forces that had been in Iraq for a long deployment. The Democrats believed that they would be able to put the Republicans between Iraq and a hard peace, forcing them either to vote with the Democrats, or to vote against "helping out" the troops.
But then Murtha went and shot his mouth off on some internet interview site; he actually let the beans out of the cat about his real purpose: to strangle the new security operation a-borning, to kill it with kindness. This confession was picked up and bruited all about the internet, then all about conservative talk-radio, and finally all around the entire communications grid... and the Democrats had to call it off.
So now, with the warning firmly in cheek that "loose lips sink ships," along comes AP -- which runs a story about a new Democratic strategy, but fails to go into any details at all about it!
Coincidence? We report, you decide.
In any event, I doubt this will succeed any better than the other schemes. Here is the rapid-reaction Republican response:
The House Democrats' plan brought a sharp response from Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"If this is the Democrats' last ditch effort to appease the ultraliberal wing of their party while appearing to support the troops at the same time, I don't think they are going to convince either one of any commitment whatsoever," Kennedy said. "This appears to be political posturing at its worst and yet another attempt to undermine the mission of our troops in harm's way. The American people are going to see right through it."
Tagged, bagged, and released back into the wild with a microburst transmitter up the drainpipe.
The Democrats (and the Bigfoot media) consistently misunderestimate the capacity of the American public to see through their little Kabuki dances. Just because Murtha didn't lurch to the mike to broadcast his too clever by half scheme this time doesn't mean that the voters will fail to see that this ruse is just the same as the earlier attempt to micromanage the war. Once bitten, twice shy.
Or to haul out another hoary quotation: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time, Mr. Bond, is enemy action."
Don't let us meet for a third time, Mr. Murtha.
Date ►►► February 27, 2007
The Chinese Interconnection
By now, everybody reading these words knows about the huge sell-off on Wall Street today (ah, the joys of e-communications!); the Dow dropped 416.02 (3.29%), S&P was down 3.47%, and NASDAQ fell 3.86%.
I'm certain that the Democrats will immediately pounce, saying "this shows the terrible economic stewardship of the Republicans, who have left America in the worst financial situation in our nation's entire history!"
But of course, the American economy is excellent. Consider this:
The decline was the Dow's worst since Sept. 17, 2001, the first trading day after the terror attacks, when the blue chips closed down 684.81, or 7.13 percent.
From that figure (that 684.81 was 7.13% of the Dow then), I deduce that just before 9/11, the Dow stood at 9,605; after today's tumble, it's 12,216. That is a rise of more than 27% over the past 5.5 years -- about 5% per year. Considering that stocks actually sagged for months after the attacks, that actually means a recovery of closer to 6.2% per year in the market.
Not bad for a "miserable failure" of a president, Mr. Gephardt, eh?
And of course, there are the millions of jobs added to the payroll since Bush was inaugurated, the huge run-up in the GDP, and so forth. (President Clinton also did quite well on the economic front: he benefitted from a GOP Congress, no attacks on the American homeland by Islamist fanatics, and that whole personal-computer/internet fad.)
But none of this is new or startling; my theory is that anyone who reads center-right blogs is more interested in the news than the average news consumer; he knows about world events before the morning newspaper or even the evening news can tell him. In fact, he probably knows about most world news before it even happens, such sagacity has he (the Lizard writes, to thunderous applause from those who have just been complimented). So what is the point of this post? Does it even have one?
Actually, yes; there is a point. Here is the lesson that I took away from today's stock action...
The drop today was caused by a number of factors; but it was actually triggered by a massive stock sell-off in China. (The reason for the Shanghai sell off was the fear that China may raise interest rates, but that's not really relevant here.) What does that tell us?
Thomas P.M. Barnett has argued for some time that China is trying desperately to enter the "Functioning Core," and has by and large succeeded. He defines the Functioning Core as those countries that have fully integrated their legal systems, their communications, and their economies into the burgeoning globalist system. Nations within the Functioning Core have not fought each other since World War II; thus Barnett argues that China is simply not a credible threat for the next "big enemy" of America.
(Note: "fully integrated" doesn't mean everybody has the same rules; our legal system is different from the Napoleonic Code of France, for example. But all modern, civilized countries have legal systems whose core elements agree: rule of law, no ex-post-facto crimes, no double-jeopardy, accused has the right to an attorney and to see and confront evidence against him, etc. So don't get excited; I'm not proposing we jettison the Constitution and join the EU.)
China's legal system has a long way to go before it's integrated with that of the civilized world. China has problems not only with regard to the rights of the accused, but also with their willingness to share information with other countries. They're not even up to the standards of France, let alone Great Britain or the United States. Similarly, China's repeated attempts to censor the internet demonstrate that they're still frightened of allowing their citizens full access to communications around the world.
But the fact that an 8.8% drop in the Shanghai Index could trigger a 3.5% - 3.9% drop in American markets, plus a significant (but somewhat smaller) plunge in European markets as well, is very solid evidence that the Chinese economy, at least, is strongly integrating into the global economy; full integration is not that far into the future, if things keep going the way they have been.
Does this mean that China is already in the Functioning Core? No, I wouldn't say so. But of the three criteria Barnett cites -- economy, communications, and legal system -- I believe that the first is the biggest stumbling block for most countries that try to move from the Non-Integrating Gap to the Functioning Core: the other two are easily within the reach of the government, which can simply lift restrictions on communications and ram legal reforms through parliament, the Supreme Council, or the Central Committee, as the case may be.
But a nation's economy depends upon many factors beyond the immediate control of the government:
- Material resources -- land, water, agriculture, mineral deposits, energy sources;
- Human capital -- birthrate, labor, education, religion, scientific advances, technological innovation;
- Military machinations -- is the country surrounded by hostile neighbors who constantly invade? Are they pawns in the larger struggles surrounding them?
- Monetary matters -- do they labor under a crushing international debt load bequeathed them by a previous government? Is their currency accepted in international markets? Will other countries extend them credit without imposing undue socialist burdens?
- Their index of leading cultural indicators (to borrow a phrase from Bill Bennett) -- does the national culture support innovation, good work habits, the honoring of contracts, rule of law, and a belief in the future?
These cats are much harder to herd than simply conforming their legal system to that of the civilized world or merely taking their grubby mits off of international communications. So the fact that China seems well on its way to fully integrating its economy into the globalization of world markets gives me great hope that fairly soon, they will go "all the way." They're already members of the World Trade Organization (since December, 2001), and they're slowly opening their markets to foreign imports.
I think on this point, Barnett has a very strong argument: China is not going to be America's next "Big One," to replace the old Soviet Union. And on a similar note, I personally believe they will not try to seize Taiwan by force; such a reckless act would squander the huge economic gains they have made since the death of Mao Zedong and bring them into direct military conflict with the greatest superpower in the world.
And they're just not willing to sacrifice la dolce vita merely for the satisfaction of conquering a "renegade province" on the Island of Formosa. And that's assuming they would even win; considering the difficulty of transporting troops and weapons of war across a hostile sea and onto a swampy land -- in the teeth of American military might -- the very idea of such a war would be daunting to the Chinese, even setting aside the complete collapse of the Chinese economy that would almost certainly follow.
(In fact, I don't even believe that China would have the eggrolls to carry out another Tiananmen Square massacre; they simply have much more to lose today than they did 18 years ago.)
So that's one upside of a worldwide stock-market correction; I'll leave it to people who actually know what they're talking about to discuss other upsides and downsides -- or even upside-down sides.
Chuck Hagel on Viet-raq... Revelation Included!
Chuck Hagel (R-For Now, 96%) hints that he may want to run with a Democrat on the Unity08 ticket (oh sure, I've heard of them!). One presumes that Hagel wants to sufficiently damage the Republican nominee -- whoever he may be -- that the Democrats win; then he can say "if only they had listened to me."
That should tell us just about everything we need to know about Chuck "Swift Surrender" Hagel:
Hagel joked during the interview about teaming up with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a moderate Republican, and also floated the possibility of joining a bipartisan unity ticket with a Democrat -- with his name first, of course.
Hagel clearly admires Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and calls him "a star," but he doubts the two could ever team up given the vast difference in their parties' principles. "I don't know if it gets to that point, but there is a shift going on out there, and there's nothing like a war that does that," Hagel said.
That was a month ago. A few days later, he made a tepid denial of the possibility in a recent "hagelographic" Newsweek profile (the February 5th issue), calling the possibility "ludicrous" (page 4) -- but not stating categorically that he would not go for it anyway if his quest for the Republican nomination appeared hopeless.
Before this climax, however, some unintended insight breaks through on pages 2-3, as the Hagel brothers (Chuck and Tom) discuss their Vietnam experiences:
Chuck and Tom were both sent to Vietnam.... It was 1968, America's bloodiest year in the war, and on the ground the brothers were hardened by a grisly conflict they tried not to think of as futile. "You see it today in Iraq," says Tom. "We go in, kill all these insurgents, lose all those people. Then we leave town and they just move back in. Same damn thing we did every day over there."
[Chuck Hagel] recalls making a vow to himself: "If America were to go to war again and I was in a position to influence things, I would do everything I could to understand the reality and not allow another Vietnam to occur."
I think we have finally found what makes Chuck Hagel tick like a time bomb about the Iraq war: He and his brother hated their time in Vietnam and came to see it as utterly futile (Tom immediately, Chuck some time later). So today, perhaps in cosmic expiation of their sins, they simply matte "Vietnam" over "Iraq" and react accordingly.
What need have they to investigate what is actually happening in Iraq? Why bother following our evolving tactics -- or how we now hold the towns and cities we take, denying the terrorists easy return? And what's the point of seeing how different Iraq is from Vietnam?
Even more basic, this simplistic identification means Hagel has neither the need nor the desire to honestly consider the argument that Vietnam was voluntary but Iraq is mandatory. He has his one-to-one mapping of Vietnam onto Iraq. And since the first was an exercise in futility, surely the second must be just the same! Thus the obsessive desire to stop the war at any cost.
I am neither psychologist nor psychiatrist... and in my inexpert and uninformed opinion, Sen. Chuck Hagel is not a rational man when it comes to the war: He suffers from the delusion that history is repeating itself exactly all over again; and like a bad Outer Limits episode, Hagel is determined to change history this time.
He is demented about the most important issue facing America today... not a good characteristic in a powerful senator. Earth to Nebraska: Do you think it might be time to start recruiting candidates for a primary fight -- even if Hagel runs for reelection to the Senate at the same time as he runs for president?
Security Operation Moves Decisively Into Sadr City
After nibbling about the edges of the Shiite stronghold of Muqtada Sadr, the Coalition and Iraqi Army have begun conducting targeted raids of not-so-safehouses in Sadr City -- named after the current Sadr's much more widely respected father and father-in-law, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr:
U.S. and Iraqi forces staged raids in Baghdad's main Shiite militant stronghold Tuesday as part of politically sensitive forays into areas loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Troops have held back on broad sweeps through the teeming Sadr City slums since a major security operation began earlier this month, targeting militant factions and sectarian death squads that have ruled Baghdad's streets.
Al-Sadr withdrew his powerful Mahdi Army militia from checkpoints and bases under intense government pressure to let the neighbor-by-neighbor security sweeps move ahead. [Sadr also withdrew himself and his top lieutenants to Iran.] But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others have opposed extensive U.S.-led patrols through Sadr City, fearing a violent backlash could derail the security effort.
The pre-dawn raids appeared to highlight a strategy of pinpoint strikes in Sadr City rather than the flood of soldiers sent into some Sunni districts.
Why is the precise tactic so important? The Shiite death squads and the Sunni terrorists are two different enemies; why shouldn't we employ different tactics in dealing with them?
Sunni citizens in Iraq are much more likely to be "rejectionists" and to refuse to cooperate with American and Iraqi Army forces during raids than are the Shia, who seem more anxious for the new democracy to succeed (because the Shia see themselves as the probable victors in future elections, while the Sunni see themselves as likely losers).
Thus, Sunnis are more prone to clam-up and protect the terrorists than are Shia... which accounts for the differing tactics used in each area.
There are many fascinating tales buried in this hodgepodge of a news story; let's try to tease a few of them out (the alternate color indicates the story line that AP could have followed, had they not been busy portraying the war as already lost):
- U.S. and Iraqi special forces busted 16 people in Sadr City in the raids; their relatives say they're innocent: Security operation moving deep into Sadr City;
- Iraqi police have arrested one suspect in the attempted killing of Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi yesterday (we covered that here): Iraqi National Police developing investigative skills;
- Struggling with the paucity of violence in the wake of the security operation, AP was only able to count 28 war-related homicides in the last 24 hours: Murder decrease continues as the crackdown proceeds.
Important point to remember... Then, 100 per day; Now, 20-30 per day.
The Democrats in Congress prefer the "then" numbers to the "now" numbers, since that helps their electoral chances in 2008; that should tell us just about everything we need to know about the Democrats.
See? If you dig deep enough (like with a bunker buster), you can always find the good news from Iraq somewhere inside the elite-media stories. Don't accuse them of failing in their duty!
Date ►►► February 26, 2007
New Democratic Faces for 2008
For a while, I expected the Democratic nominee to be John Edwards: I do not believe that even the Democrats would nominate a feckless, 2/3-term senator with a bizarre name as their standard bearer; and I have believed for a long time -- since July of 2005 -- that Hillary Clinton will never be the Democratic nominee for president, because her negatives are simply too high -- not just among voters, but especially within "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party."
Now that those two are going at each other hammer and tooth, rending the flesh from their bodies while we're still in the preseason festivities, I doubt that either will have sufficient support even to win the Iowa caucuses, let alone South Carolina.
But I hardly thought that Edwards would run such a listless, logy campaign; and I never anticipated that a man running in his second presidential campaign would make so many unforced errors. Sadly, at this juncture, I must eliminate Edwards from the A-list of likely nominees; he joins Hillary and Barack at the kiddie table.
So who's it to be then? Well, let's list the de facto qualifications:
- Experience I. The Democrats suffer a perennial "stature-gap," which started in 1968, when they became the party of dirty, smelly hippies. The stature-gap is exacerbated during a war, when national security becomes a major issue. They must make up for this by nominating someone with experience not just in Congress but as a major figure in an administration (a governor, perhaps, or some equivalent position)... somebody with gravitas, or "bottom," as the Brits say.
- Experience II. A presidential campaign is an incredibly grueling and exhausting mega-marathon that is run under a microscope, where every thoughtless utterance will be repeated and analyzed endlessly. Democrats need a nominee who has been through either a national campaign before, or at least a nationalized state campaign (one that captures the attention of the whole country, such as the 2000 Senate campaign in New York).
- A history of military involvement. Such a history can serve as a "beard" for a reckless platform of appeasement, defeat, and surrender.
- A core of acceptability to the nutroots. The nominee must convince the party deciders -- the anti-war left, Hollywood, the radical reparations, abortion, same-sex marriage, and sharia factions, and George Soros -- that, no matter what the nominee says during the campaign (even if he or she feels the need of a "Sister Souljah" moment), he or she will actually pander to the dirty, smelly hippies.
- A veneer of acceptability to the mainstream. But he or she cannot actually be a dirty, smelly hippie.
- A master of Newspeak. He or she must be a glib but facile speaker who has an answer to every problem facing America... but none of whose answers are substantive enough to offend any special-interest group. Thus, for example, it's important to be in favor of "energy independence" but not to get pinned down on drilling for oil in ANWR (which offends environmentalists because the caribou might have a warm place to graze); to support stem-cell research, but not differentiate between adult, placental, amniotic-fluid, or even non-destructive embryonic stem-cell research (all of which offend feminists because they don't require destroying an embryo).
- Fervor. The most important of all qualifications, given today's Democratic electorate, is that the nominee must be the angriest dog in the world.
A tough set of standards to meet; it's not easy finding a nominee acceptable to the entire party. But I think there is one person who could manage it...
At first I thought the Democrats would just nominate Bill Clinton again.
Heck, I was just starting to pack!
But then I realized that he fails the last qualification, being the angriest dog in the world, big time. He's too nice and easy-going; he would never survive first contact with the nutroots. (Clinton does fine with qualification 3, military experience; he can point to his stellar successes in Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo.) Finally, there's that whole stupid 22nd Amendment thingie.
Leaving former President Clinton aside, there is only one person who seems to meet all these requirements; indeed, he is the prototype of a 2008 Democratic nominee. I refer, of course, to this fellow:
Am I re-elected yet?
Yes, yes, I'm well aware that Al Gore has not said that he is running. In fact, he has said that he's not running... but not very convincingly. (Adding that he's "not ruling it out" was a dead giveaway.)
Albert Arnold Gore, jr. has a personal history that most Democrats will find compelling:
Al Gore - born to serve
Al Gore is one of only two presidential nominees who was actually born in Washington D.C.; as the other is Pat Buchanan, we can dismiss him and just call old Al the one and only.
His father was long-time senator Albert Gore, sr. Junior was educated at the ultra-elite St. Albans School, alma mater of such luminaries as Sen. Prescott Bush (the father and grandfather of presidents), John F. Kerry, Brit Hume, Strobe Talbott, Jesse Jackson jr., and Gore Vidal.
Aside from his wartime experiences (see next section), Gore has had no job in life other than being a politician -- or an ex-politician. He dropped out of divinity school to successfully run for Congress in 1976; he stayed there until he took his Senate seat in 1985; and he went directly from the Senate to the vice presidency in 1993.
Thus, Gore remains remarkably untainted by the capitalist-pig imperialists who alienate workers and export American jobs to third-world oppressed workers who aren't even paid the American minimum wage. He is Simon pure. (Not to be confused with the late Sen. Paul Simon, who was Simple-Simon pure. Sen. Simon passed away in 2003, immediately after endorsing Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination. The two facts are in no way related.)
True, since his retirement in 2001, Gore was appointed a "visiting professor," he was made vice chairman of an investment firm, "started" another investment firm that develops "responsible" (politically correct) projects, and he was nominated for this year's Nobel Prize. But these are simply sinecures; he certainly wasn't made vice chairman of Metropolitan West because of his vast experience in international finance.
His only real job since leaving the Naval Observatory (that's where the VP's mansion squats, on fowl's legs) has been "environmental activist," specializing in anthropogenic global climate change. Thus, he has no disqualifying stints in the private sector to disqualify him from the office of the presidency.
Al Gore - pacificist warrior
He was in the Vietnam war, thus he can run as a veteran. But during his stint there, he was a reporter; and his unit assigned not one but two soldiers to serve as full time "minders," keeping him away from any and all action. Therefore, Gore can honestly say he is not a baby-killer, unlike that fellow John Kerry (D-Harvard Yard, 100%) and all of his Swift-Boat veteran shipmates.
Al Gore - money machine
He is an aggressive fundraiser and is known to be particuarly popular among Buddhist monks, whose vow of poverty has empowered them to raise millions for Gore in the past.
Unlike other candidates, he would not need to start early to raise the funds for a campaign. Were Gore to declare, he would have tens of millions of dollars in hand within two months: everyone who had ever longed for a return to the Clinton years (albeit, a harder, angrier Bill Clinton), but who was nauseated by Hillary, would donate to Al Gore instead.
Archepiscopos Al - apostle to the eternally aggrieved
Gore has the mother of all political grievances: the "stolen" election of 2000. Although shortly after that dustup was settled, only about 15% - 20% of Democrats believed that "Bushco." literally stole the election (via some sort of corrupt influencing of the Supreme Court), today I would estimate that number is closer to 65%.
Not that any new evidence has come to light indicating that Gore really won Florida. In fact, all the newspaper consortia that studied the issue concluded that, except under extraordinary counting regimes never even contemplated by the aptly named SCOFLA (Supreme Court of Florida), Bush would have won had the real Supreme Court allowed the count to continue.
But during the intervening years, Democratic hatred of Republicans, and especially of George W. Bush, has grown at a feverish (and phychologically unhealthy) pace. Therefore, by the process of "retroactive backformation," many, many more Democrats have decided that the GOP is so vile and evil, they can't have legitimately won the election after all. (The rule of inference they silently invoke is well known: "It must be false because it would be dreadful were it true.")
And remember, while the Supreme Court decision to stop the revoting in Florida was an emphatic 7to 2, the second part of the ruling -- to prevent all further schemes by SCOFLA to keep recounting until, by simple ballot decomposition, Gore finally ended up ahead -- was only 5 to 4: All the conservatives were on one side (Chief Justice Rhenquist, plus Justices O'Connor, Scalia, and Thomas); all the liberals were on the other (Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter); and the perpetually perplexed Justice Anthony Kenney flipped a coin and supported the former group.
Thus, it's easy as pie to portray the "final decision" as a coup d'état by the Court "right-wingers" that anointed Bush the president, when everybody knows that Gore actually got more votes nationwide (true) and even in Florida (nobody actually "knows" any such thing; but facts are not relevant to a presidential campaign theme).
Al Gore - the St. Albans firebrand
While he was often accused of being dull to the point of soporific when he was in the Senate and when he was vice president, since losing (or "being robbed of") the presidency his third time at bat (after 1988 and 1992), he has recreated himself as a populist, pulpit-pounding preacher, in the mold -- if not the class -- of three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan.
Gore has more or less dumped his wimpy 2000 campaign theme of "the people versus the powerful" in favor of a pithier message, which appears to be some minor variation on "Republicans want to kill your kids, rape the environment, torture innocent Moslems, and enslave the American worker." He remains unsatisfied.
Any day now, I anticipate a Gore speech that ends with a fiery pledge that "You shall not crucify Personkind upon a cross of carbon!"
He even has a ready-made campaign slogan, one that will likely reverberate throughout the latter half of 2007 and all the way up to the election: Am I re-elected yet?
Why not Gore?
The only objection I can forsee is that Gore might almost be overqualified for the job of Democratic presidential nominee: He may set the standard so high that all future aspirants will look like scrofulous pederasts by comparison. Far-thinking Democrats may thus oppose him, as they already look small enough as it is without having to be compared to the larger-than-life Albert A. Gore, jr.
Certainly it is irrelevant that he is very unlikely to win, for a very obvious reason marked by the invaluable Dean "Soxblog" Barnett, over on Hugh Hewitt's blog:
If you want to know who’s going to win a presidential match-up, ask yourself one simple question: Which candidate is the greater optimist? This simple question will give you the winner going all the way back to FDR. The only arguable exception to this rule would be Richard Nixon’s first victory, and that was because of the historical anomaly that the 1968 Democratic Party had become enthralled with a bunch of filthy hippies. In literally every other match-up, the more optimistic candidate prevailed.
So how does Al Gore fare on the optimism meter? I would submit that an individual who has worked himself into a lather the last several years because he’s convinced the world is imminently coming to an end is unlikely to be the most optimistic guy in a two man race.
While this is certainly true for the general election, it has no bearing on the nominations process. If a rival to Gore's claim to the title should argue, during a debate or in a commercial, that Gore is unelectable because he's too angry, Gore's rejoinder would be instant:
Then he should lean over and spit in the man's face.
After such a response, the debate moderators would have to scrape the unfortunate rival off the stage with a spatula.
Look for Gore to wait a while. He'll wait until Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-At Large, 100%) and Sen. Barack "Abraham" Obama (D-IL, 100%) batter each other into unconsciousness, and for John Edwards to hire Keith Olberman as his campaign spokesman. Then, just as the Democrats are weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth, Al Gore will come riding in on his great white house to save the day.
The nomination will be assured before the first in the nation Iowa caucuses. And Gore, while he may rant, will make a point of not screaming.
Another Amazing Coincidence...
Far be it from me to tell anybody what to think. I can barely articulate what I think (assuming whatever it is I do can pass as "thinking").
But I can at least note a few dots that cry out to be connected:
- Muqtada Sadr flees to Iran in advance of the strategic change of course in Iraq;
- He orders the top Mahdi Militia killers to do a quick fade to Iran as well; all the capos of Mahdi are now alibied up the wazoo. (What is a wazoo anyway? A kazoo from Waziristan?)
- From a safe distance, Sadr seemingly orders the Mahdi Militia to stand down, pulling all the black-clad death squads off the streets;
- By an amazing coincidence, a series of high-profile car bombs -- and one "building bomb" aimed at assassinating the Shiite vice president of Iraq, Adel Abdul-Mahdi -- all explode in Shiite areas of Baghdad;
Sadr issues a statement crowing that the "occupiers" have been unable to stop the "Sunni" attacks on the Shia, despite the security crackdown: "Here we are, watching car bombs continue to explode to harvest thousands of innocent lives from our beloved people in the middle of a security plan controlled by an occupier."
(Of course, it's not "thousands" of lives; it's less than a hundred. And we're not "in the middle" of the new strategy; we're barely at the beginning, only 12 days in -- and only one new brigade, about 20% of the additional troops, has arrived so far. While I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, it appears as though Muqtada Sadr may have exaggerated some critical facts for rhetorical effect.)
- Finally, Sadr, Iran, and the American drive-by media all agree that this completely refutes any notion that the security operation will resolve the situation in Iraq. May as well just cut it off at the knees. Avoid the rush -- redeploy before the plan even comes fully online!
Note how subtlely AP hints at this conclusion:
The statement - read in Baghdad by an aide to al-Sadr - nearly coincided with a suicide bombing that killed at least 42 people at a mostly Shiite business college. Al-Sadr's sharply worded comments could signal serious strains ahead for the security effort.
Let's take a step back and look at the big picture. The number bandied about earlier was that Sunni and Shiite terrorists combined were killing about 100 Iraqi civilians every day; over the twelve days of crackdown, that means the baseline would have been about 1,200 horrific murders.
But there was not anything like 1,200 murders. In fact, since the beginning of the security operation, combining everything, I doubt there has been even as many as 250 killings. This means that the rate of butchery in Iraq has dropped by about 80% since the operation began... and we're still just getting started. I don't like to go out on a limb, but that does seem at least a little better than a "miserable failure," as Dick Gephardt used to say about, well, virtually everything related to George W. Bush's presidency.
But yesterday and today, a few bombs blew up in Shiite areas, just as Sadr was announcing that the Americans couldn't provide security like the Mahdi Militia did. What a fortuitous turn of events for those who want to force American troops out of Iraq!
Either Sadr's luckstone is working overtime... or else -- dare we imagine it? -- perhaps it was something other than pure random chance that caused those bombs to go off at a time and place that couldn't have been better for Sadr if he had planned it himself.
I note without necessarily drawing any conclusions that Sunnis are not the only sect who can put explosives in an automobile.
Of course, such dark imaginings are absurd. It would require Sadr and the Mahdi Militia to be willing to kill their own people, the Shia, just to further their own power and kick out the American forces. Surely they would have more patriotism towards their own countrymen than that, wouldn't they?
And would they really try to assassinate Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi? (There is also a Sunni vice president.) Abdul-Mahdi is one of them, isn't he?
Well... not exactly. According to Wikipedia, Adel Abdul Mahdi is a member of the SCIRI. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, widely rumored to be a close ally of Sadr, if not Sadr's puppet (as Sadr is Iran's puppet), is a deputy chief of the Islamic Dawa Party.
The SCIRI and Dawa are like the Crips and the Bloods: they both appeal to the same demographic (religious Shiite Iraqis), but they are the bitterest of rivals. The SCIRI is more powerful, but Dawa has the prime minister -- and Sadr controls the prime minister, as well.
Abdel-Mahdi is a leader of the powerful Shi'a party the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI. Long based in neighboring Iran, the group opposed a United States administration but holds close ties with the other U.S.-backed groups that opposed Saddam Hussein, including the Kurds and the Iraqi National Congress.
In other words, Sadr is currently working through Dawa... but the vice president who was nearly assassinated was a top official of Dawa's political competitors, the SCIRI -- coincidentally enough.
I wonder why we haven't found even a trace of these elusive "Sunni terrorists." And how could "Sunnis" maneuver car bombs and truck bombs through the narrow streets of Sadr City and other Shiite slums in Baghdad -- without being spotted by any of the Shia, who are constantly on the lookout for just such incursions?
But heavens, I wouldn't want to imply anything underhanded here; I don't intend to cast Persians at Muqtada Sadr. Perhaps I've just read too many Tom Clancy novels.
Date ►►► February 25, 2007
The Pentagon's New Map - Simplified
I just realized I can boil down much of what Thomas P.M. Barnett writes in his book the Pentagon's New Map to a single pair of sentences. This drops all the fine detail, of course; its advantage is that it makes the central point as clear as a nutshell.
Barnett divides the world into two regions: the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap. And I can define those two thus:
- The Functioning Core comprises the nations whose people say "We love life." This includes all those countries that are taking advantage of globalization to interconnect their economies, their communications, and their legal systems to the rest of the civilized world, hoping to "immanentize the eschaton" -- or at least create la dolce vita.
- The Non-Integrating Gap comprises the nations whose people say "We worship death." This includes all jihadist states, of course, but also places like Rwanda-Burundi, Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Haiti... places where life is a flickering spark, and murder is a negotiating tool or an expression of tribal triumphalism.
I use the verb "to worship" with great deliberation: it's not an abstract love of death that animates these cultures; rather, it's almost like human sacrifice -- as if they must appease a dark and terrifying Chaos Lord by feeding him blood and souls.
Although the details are important, it's also critical to understand that our Grand Strategy over the next few decades (what replaces the Cold War) is the fight between the culture that loves life and the culture that worships death. Our task is to shrink the geographic area that comprises those nations that are members of the latter... to deny our enemy territory.
Date ►►► February 24, 2007
Iraq Working Its Way Into the "Functioning Core"
I was reading Iraq the Model's discussion of the security operation (from an Iraqi -- in fact, Baghdadi -- point of view), and this particular section especially caught my eye. It's a sign that Iraq is truly becoming a nation fully integrated into what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "Functioning Core" -- nations that have integrated their economies, their communications, and their legal systems into the mainstream of the civilized world, something that never could have happened under Saddam Hussein:
In this regard it's worth mentioning that the judiciary is already trying to provide the required legal component to the operation, al-Mada reports:
The supreme judicial council assigned nine judges, nine representatives of the general prosecutor and fifteen magistrates the task of visiting designated detention facilities to interrogate suspects. The source added that the council demanded that the interior and defense ministries commit to show detainees before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest…when the magistrate orders keeping the detainee in custody no other authority has the right to release him, and when the magistrate orders releasing the detainee through paying a bail no other authority shall continue his detention, unless the detainee is wanted for other charges.
Calling for halting the operation isn't realistic and is of no good to us, I think asking for more judges and a bigger role for the judiciary in supervising the work of the military would've been a better demand; one that can really help the people.
In the end, this is exactly what Iraq needs most: an independent, functioning, and fair judicial system that the citizens of Iraq can all trust, whether they're Sunni, Shia, or Kurd; Moslem, Christian, or Jew; rich or poor, Iraqi or foreign. Without that, Iraq can never be anything but a loose confederation of tribes.
But with a modern, Western-style judicial system -- one that respects the rights of the accused, but also protects the community from predators and thugs -- Iraq can be a great nation... and a "model" of modernization and global interconnection for the rest of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.
I have always rejected the bigoted idea that Arabs are somehow incapable of embracing democracy, freedom, liberty, Capitalism, and individualism. No people on Earth should be barred from joining in the increasing globalization of economies, communications, and law... provided they're willing to accept those "rule-sets," even when they conflict with the traditional ways.
I'm very much looking forward to the day that Iraq joins the World Trade Organization, signs an extradition treaty with Western nations, joins its banking system with the Western world's, and joins NATO (if Turkey can be a member, why not Iraq?)
The first step after 9/11 was clearly for us to drive al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, which we did. But I believe that one reason President Bush decided that step 2 would be liberating Iraq is that he knew, even back in 2001 or 2002, that Iraq was sophisticated and mature enough, despite decades of Saddam (and the Baath Party before him), to serve as a template for all the other Arab countries... and even for Persia, the gateway to Southwest Asia.
Nobody with the serious intent to democratize the world could resist starting with Iraq, a country with vast oil reserves and an educated people with (by and large) a modern understanding of religion and its role in society. I can't think of any other nation that could withstand both Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads trying to foment a civil war -- yet not fall into one.
That's why it's vital that Iraq succeed as a democratic nation. That, more than anything I can think of, would cripple al-Qaeda and make them the laughingstock of the entire ummah.
Date ►►► February 23, 2007
The Desperate Perversity of al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has a new tactic: they have begun recruiting suicide bombers to "avenge" the as-yet unsubstantiated charges that Iraqi security forces are raping Sunni women.
But are the accusers themselves part of the conspiracy, or are they telling the truth about their victimization? It's awfully peculiar that in a Moslem-Arab society like Iraq -- where rapes are rarely disclosed, even when the victim is utterly blameless, for fear of being ostracized -- that Sunni women would level the charge of rape on television:
Sunni insurgent groups including al-Qaida in Iraq have called for revenge attacks after second rape allegation against the Shiite-dominated security forces.
The second rape allegation to be made in a television interview -- an unusual development in Iraq, where the crime is rarely reported or spoken of -- is putting more pressure on the Iraqi government, its army and police in their desperate fight against the country's enduring Sunni insurgency and sectarian violence.
The al-Qaida in Iraq leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, purportedly called on his followers Thursday to step up attacks on Iraqi security forces to avenge the alleged rapes in Baghdad and the northern town of Tal Afar near the Syrian border.
As usual, the elite media has seized upon the charges and shoehorned them into "the story" they've been telling since Day 0 of the invasion: That Iraq is a quagmire, that it's just like Vietnam, that we're destined to be defeated:
At least six groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq, have called for revenge.... The latest rape allegation, made by a 50-year-old woman from Tal Afar, is likely to further undermine.... Sunni Arab politicians opposed to the Shiite-led government have seized on the charges.... Harith al-Dhari, the head of the hardline Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, told Iraq's Al-Sharqiya television that he knew of hundreds of rapes...
We can state several points with certainty:
- On the one hand, with some 200,000+ members of the Iraqi Army and National Police, the odds that at least one has committed a rape at some point approach 100%. The same can be said about any American unit of similar size -- or a collection of a similar number of male teachers or bakers or rabbis;
- But on the other hand, the old feminist mantra that "women never lie about rape" is demonstrably false; women file thousands of false rape allegations every year... the Tawana Brawley case was only the most visible. Women lie about rape to avoid taking blame for an affair, for ideological reasons, during divorces and custody battles, and of course for money;
- On the third hand, if a woman really were raped by police, she would probably be reluctant to report the rape to the same police, even at a different precinct. In such a case, the unusual step of making the accusation publicly, via press conference or interview, might actually make sense as a form of self-defense;
- On the fourth hand, we know that al-Qaeda and other Sunni and Shiite combatants in Iraq are prone to make wild and false accusations in order to stir up opposition to Coalition forces and the fledgling Iraqi government. Iraq has its own version of "Pallywood," and there are plenty of Iraqi stringers who will say anything for money, for fame, or for ideological reasons. "Jamil Hussein" springs to mind (whose name, in fact, is positively not Jamil Hussein), as does Bilal Hussein (now in American custody), the photographer who took those pictures of al-Qaeda murders on Haifa Street;
- But on the fifth hand, some of the worst allegations against American soldiers appear to have some truth to them... such as the rape and murder of a teenaged girl in Haditha, for which several American soldiers have actually pled guilty and offered to testify against others. So just because a charge is extraordinary doesn't mean it's automatically false... but it does require extraordinary evidence.
All of which adds up to a great big "Maybe" about the specific rape charges in question. I have no trouble believing that some Iraqi soldiers might consider rape a privilege of conquest; but contrariwise, it certainly is convenient for al-Qaeda On the Ropes, which can use the horrific allegations to stir up more resentment and hatred against the government and recruit more fanatics to the cause.
(After all, as any Iraqi can tell you, it's a thousand times worse for a Sunni woman to be raped than for a Shiite woman to see all of her children blow up by a suicide car bomb... al-Qaeda's specialty in Iraq.)
[Ayyub Masri] also claimed in an audio tape that 300 followers have volunteered for suicide missions within hours of hearing news of the alleged rape in Baghdad, which the woman said took place in a police garrison.
Is this really true? Even if the rapes actually occurred, that doesn't mean that al-Qaeda's recruitment has really been this successful -- or that it has increased at all, for that matter. To paraphrase Charles Bronson in Breakheart Pass, if a man is a terrorist and mass murderer, he may also be a liar.
In fact, there is yet a third possibility regarding the rapes: whenever we raid an al-Qaeda not-so-safehouse, in addition to weapons, explosives, deadly chemicals, computers, and jihadist literature, we always seem to find an entire wardrobe of fake or stolen uniforms -- from the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi National Police, or our own Army or Marines. Even assuming the rapes actually occurred, do we really know the perpetrators were actually policemen? Could they not have been al-Qaeda themselves, disguised as Iraqi police?
If a Sunni terrorist is willing to murder scores of innocent people, including Sunnis, to slake the thirst of his death god, he may be even more willing to rape Sunni women for the same purpose. For that matter, members of the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Organization might also don police uniforms and go on a rape spree, just for the thrill of pure evil.
The problem is that Iraq is still a primitive country. In America today, when something terrible happens and people leap to a conclusion about who is guilty, we can usually still rely upon our deep trust in the jury system: When a popular person is convicted or an unpopular one acquitted, we very rarely see mass violence as a result.
But even now, it happens here occasionally: for example, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by the acquittal of four police officers in the Rodney King beating case, ended with 53 people killed and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from arson and looting.
In Iraq, such mini-uprisings are common. There are plenty of unemployed, young vaqueros just standing around, looking for any kind of excitement they can find (or make themselves). It seems inevitable that these accusations -- which I predict will accelerate massively over the next few weeks -- will lead to protests, riots, and mass murders.
The only thing we can do about it is to ride it out. Investigate cases, severely punish anyone found guilty, but heavily publicize any case where there is proof that a Sunni woman lied about a rape allegation (especially if we can prove she has an al-Qaeda connection)... and crush the riots as they spring up. Rioters and murderers must be prosecuted, and the defense of "rape rage" must specifically be banned. Eventually, information overload will set in, and people will simply stop reacting to such charges by going on a rampage.
President Jalal Talabani, breaking his silence on the political storm swirling around the rape allegations, has appealed for calm, saying the courts were the only place where such cases should be settled.
"Today, we need to trust one another and avoid whatever shakes that trust, stokes sensitivities or fill hearts with malice," Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, said in a statement issued by his office late Thursday.
The tactic, whether the original accusations are true or false, is another indication that our enemy is vicious, ruthless, and utterly perverse (as if we needed such). But as a country becomes civilized, interconnected with the rest of the world, and joins what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls "the Functioning Core," this is a cultural change is must eventually confront: that justice is best handled by a civil and criminal court system, not tribal warfare.
And the Heat Goes On
We noted Delaware's State Climatologist and University of Delaware Professor David R. Legates in an earlier post: The First Church of Fundamentalist Climate Change. In our last chapter, Dr. Legates had espoused climatological heresy, and the Grand Inquisitor had fingered him as a possible apostate:
Along comes Professor David R. Legates, Delaware's "state climatologist." Dr. Legates stands steadfast for free scientific inquiry... which would put him on a collision course with the doyenne of the Weather Channel, if ever they were to meet:
Enter Legates, a Ph.D. climatologist who received the title of state climatologist in 2005 from Daniel Leathers, now the head of the University of Delaware's geography department.
Legates joined a group of scientists late last year in urging the court to reject the state claims, in a brief filed by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. [Delaware had joined a suit demanding the federal government regulate carbon dioxide from cars because of "global warming."]
"It is simply impossible to conclude that the net effect of greenhouse gases endangers human health and welfare," the brief said.
Grand Inquisitor Dr. Heidi Cullen, "Climate Expert and host Of The Climate Code" on the Weather Channel, rebuked Dr. Legates' backsliding on matters of faith, good and hard:
If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the [American Meteorological Society] shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval.
The governor of Delaware, Ruth Ann Minner, who might have finished high school, has stepped swiftly forward to resolve this disagreement between the scientist and the TV weathergirl:
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has directed Delaware's state climatologist to stop using his title in public statements on climate change, citing a clash of views on global warming and confusion over the position's ties to the administration....
"Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration," Minner wrote.
"In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware," Minner wrote, "and not as state climatologist."
(Now there's leadership, by thunder! As Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-At Large, 100%) and Sen. Barack "Abraham" Obama (D-IL, 100%) rend the flesh from each the other's body, and erstwhile Sen. John Edwards slinks slowly in the west, perhaps the Democratic Party has at last found its new face for the presidential nomination in 2008. And why not President Ruth Ann Minner?)
Having taken her gardening shears and snipped off Dr. Legates' epaulets, Gov. Minner has now thoroughly refuted his objections to anthropogenic global climate change. Environmentalist groups are ecstatic, and the good doctor is presumed by all concerned to be sadder but wiser, following this chastening.
There is something deeply satisfying about the finality produced by the machinations of the scientific method.
Date ►►► February 22, 2007
Whack-a-Mole and Seal-a-Hole Redux
I already used this analogy before; but there's nothing wrong with it and no reason not to trot it out again for another spin around the park. So there.
Defeatists often portray the Iraq war as an elaborate game of Whack-a-Mole: we drive the terrorists (Sunni or Shiite) out of one spot; they pop up somewhere else. But in reality, we have been playing a different game for a long time now... and the president's new strategic change of course has just made that game a lot more likely to succeed.
I quote myself... and heavens, is there anything we of the chattering class like better?
If you see somebody playing a game where he keeps whacking plastic moles on the head with a mallet over and over again for hours, it would be easy to conclude he's playing Whack-a-Mole. In that game, the moles pop up again and again from the same holes; every time you whack one, it goes down, only to be resurrected moments later.
But when you look closer, you discovered that every time the player whacks a mole, the mallet stays stuck in the hole, permanently blocking it. The player grabs a new mallet and whacks the next one, sealing off another hole. You notice that the moles never come popping up through the sealed holes, only through the holes that are still open... and you also notice that there are a finite number of holes -- and the player is rapidly sealing them up.
This is a new game called Seal-a-Hole, and it has a very different dynamic from Whack-a-Mole: the normal game is one of futility; the game continues until the player gets tired and quits or he runs out of money. But Seal-a-Hole actually has a victory point: when all the holes are sealed, the game is over -- and the player, America, has won.
Even though Seal-a-Hole is not futile, it nevertheless requires a great deal of patience; there are many, many holes, and each hole has a mole who must be whacked. Some of the holes, such as Sadr City, are very big and will require many mallets to properly seal. But if we have the courage and fortitude of our American forebears, we will seal those holes... and we will win.
It's interesting to note that murders in Baghdad have dropped markedly, and attacks are drifting outwards, as Baghdad proper becomes a harder and harder target. StrategyPage notes that, despite all the hullaballoo about suicide car bombings, the actual murder rate in Baghdad has plummeted by more than 70% since the president's strategic change of course began. (Hat tip to the Victory Caucus):
Despite the jump in terrorist bombings in the last few days, the death toll in Baghdad, since the security operations began two weeks ago, has declined by over 70 percent.... American intelligence analysts have also used predictive software to analyze terrorist attacks and movements, and determined the best places to put the new checkpoints, and what to look for....
It will take several months before it is known who won the Battle of Baghdad. It's all a matter of crime rates. If the murder rate comes down, you've won. Actually, the murder rate has come down over the last year, but not enough to become news. Eliminating the suicide car bombings would be a real victory, as these operations are largely for the media. Militarily they mean much less than the gun battles between police and terrorist (Sunni or Shia) gangs, or the raids on terrorist safe houses. At this point, the Sunni Arabs are fighting a media war. On the ground, they have lost. But until the media confirms this, they can keep it up.
Remember -- we're only a couple of weeks into the plan, and we have only augmented our forces by a single brigade (with four more to enter March through May). Besides sending in more troops, we have:
- Changed the rules of engagement (ROEs);
- Redeployed our forces into a more aggressive posture;
- Buddied-up with both Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Police units;
- Ended "catch and release";
- And secured political backing from Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (authorization to go after Sunni and Shia with equal fervor).
We've already whacked a number of moles: we killed quite a few, captured others, and drove a lot of very big moles right out of the country (such as Muqtada Sadr, Iranian puppet, and his top lieutenants). Now we're busily sealing the holes.
Let's give the new strategy some time, for goodness' sake.
Wending our weary way through the wretched reporting in this New York Times piece -- which can't make up its mind whether to be a news article about a deadly, new tactic of the terrorists or a finger-wagging condemnation of the strategic change of course in Iraq -- we do at least learn that terrorists have started using chemical weapons in the outskirts and suburbs of Baghdad and in Anbar -- bombs with that little something special... chlorine gas:
A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas blew up in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it might represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians.
It was at least the third truck bomb in a month to employ chlorine, a greenish gas also used in World War I, which burns the skin and can be fatal after only a few concentrated breaths. The bomb killed at least two people and wounded 32 others, many of them sent to hospitals coughing and wheezing, police and medical officials said....
The bombing involving chlorine gas on Wednesday followed an explosion on Tuesday north of Baghdad of a tanker filled with chlorine that had been rigged to explode, killing nine people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children. At least one other attack with chlorine took place on Jan. 28, according to the American military’s statements. Sixteen people were killed in that attack, in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, when a dump truck with explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Ramadi.
Thus, in terms of military strategy and technology, the Iraqi terrorists have now worked themselves nearly all the way up to 1914.
But fortunately, not quite to the modern world; they haven't yet figured out that you must choose... either it's a chemical attack, or it's a big, fiery explosion; you can't have both:
The attacks seem to have been poorly executed, burning the chemical agent rather than dispersing it, but more sophisticated weapons involving chlorine could injure hundreds and cause mass panic.
The Times article is long on ominious descriptions of an elusive, "adaptive" enemy -- shooting down helicopters, using chemical weapons -- but somehow fails to note that United States forces are considerably more adaptive than Sunni terrorists or Shiite death squads.
This is similar to the phenomenon of obsessive news reports of American deaths and woundings, while the same reporters have little interest in reporting how many terrorists have died. As we noted in an earlier post, for example, the Times announced that 4,000 people were killed in Afghanistan in war-related deaths last year. What they failed to explain, however, was that "over three fourths of the 4,000 'people' killed in Afghanistan in 2006 were Taliban."
Approximately 190 of the remainder were American deaths that year. This leaves only about 760 civilian war-related deaths in Afghanistan in 2006. Shouldn't these "details" make a difference in how we interpolate the original death report?
In response to the gas attacks, we've stepped up our targeted raids; and although there is nothing in any report I've read to indicate it, I'm sure we're diligently searching through sales receipts of chlorine, fertilizer, and other caustic or explosive chemicals to catch the terrorists before they can deploy any more such weapons:
U.S. troops raided a car bomb factory west of Baghdad with five buildings full of propane tanks and ordinary chemicals the military believes were to be used in bombs, a spokesman said Thursday, a day after insurgents blew up a truck carrying chlorine gas canisters.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the chlorine attack Wednesday - the second such "dirty" chemical attack in two days - signaled a change in insurgent tactics, and the military was fighting back with targeted raids.
"What we are seeing is a change in the tactics, but their strategy has not changed. And that's to create high-profile attacks to instill fear and division amongst the Iraqi people," he told CNN. "It's a real crude attempt to raise the terror level by taking and mixing ordinary chemicals with explosive devices, trying to instill that fear within the Iraqi people."
In fact, Caldwell noted that the tactic appears to be blowing up in the terrorists' faces: intelligence tips to American and Iraqi forces have "doubled" in the past six months:
One of those tips led U.S. troops to a five separate buildings near Fallujah, where they found the munitions containing chemicals, three vehicle bombs being assembled, including a truck bomb, about 65 propane tanks and "all kinds of ordinary chemicals," Caldwell said. He added that he believed the insurgents were going to try to mix the chemicals with explosives.
We're not asking the drive-by media to stop reporting on explosions or casualties among American soldiers or Iraqi civilians. But we do demand that they balance "if it bleeds, it leads" sensationalism with a better sense of the actual progress of the war... rather than hit-pieces crafted for the purpose of trying to save the world by making the war appear hopeless. This aids the Democratic Party policy of premature withdrawal, a sort of "rhythm method" of stopping the war. (A piece at any price?)
I am convinced that this sort of flawed reporting is what has made victory smell like pungent defeat and is more responsible than any other anti-war action for damaging the war effort. The urge to save the world by stopping the war appears to coil in the heart of many, probably most reporters who have written on the subject; to give the Devil his due, the elite media has been extraordinaily successful in this "conspiracy of shared interests."
But I still believe that the real meaning of "information wants to be free" is not that "songs want to be ripped and downloaded from Napster," but rather that information cannot be suppressed forever. Mark Twain famously wrote (or else he didn't -- how do I know?) that a lie travels halfway round the world before truth laces up its boots.
But the second half of that aphorism, which Twain inexplicably left off, is this: But once Mr. Truth finishes monkeying with those boots, he overtakes Mr. Lie and stomps him flatter than a liberal's conscience.
So hurry up, Mr. Truth; we're always ready to lend you an extra hobnail boot!
Date ►►► February 21, 2007
Italy's Left Bares Its Agenda
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, having just finished nine months of gestation, has been forced to resign -- because the anti-war Communists, who were members of his coalition, refused to support the anti-terrorist mission... in Afghanistan:
Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday after nine months in office following an embarrassing loss by his center-left government in the Senate on foreign policy, including Italy's military mission in Afghanistan....
The loss, by two votes in the Senate, came on a bid by Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema to rally the often bickering partners in the coalition, which range from Christian Democrats to Communists.
He was hoping to the allies would close ranks in the vote on foreign policy, including Italy's military mission in Afghanistan, but his bid backfired.
There are several possibilities for Italy's immediate future:
- President Giorgio Napolitano (who is also a "senator for life") could ask Prodi to put a new coalition together; if it includes the Communists, they would assuredly demand Italy pull all its NATO troops out of Afghanistan as a condition to rejoin the coalition;
- But Prodi could instead try to craft a "grand coalition," joining the centrist parts of the Union, his center-left coalition, to the centrist parties in the House of Liberty (or House of Freedoms), Berlusconi's center-right coalition. Berlusconi would certainly have to be included in the government in some significant post, and the Communists and Greens would likely be excluded;
- Or if Prodi tries and fails, or if he's not even asked, then another party leader would try to form a coalition -- perhaps former President Silvio Berlusconi, head of Forza Italia, the leading party in the House of Liberty coalition.
- If none of these works out, then there could be new elections -- though that would be a drastic step, as the last election was less than a year ago.
But I'm less interested in the intricacies of Italian coalition politics than I am in the fact that the Communists broke with Prodi, not over the Iraq war, but in a dispute whether Italy should participate in the non-controversial Afghanistan war... where the defeated Taliban are trying -- without any success so far -- to stage a resurgance.
Even the French and the Canadians participate in Iraq as part of their NATO commitment to the International Security Assistance Force: 1,700 from the former and 2,500 from the latter. At the moment, there are 1,950 Italian troops in Afghanistan... but evidently, the so-called "pacifists" in Italy (perhaps taking their cue from Russian President Vladimir Putin) now almost openly side with the anti-liberal, anti-woman, anti-gay, Moslem-fundamentalist terrorists in the Taliban.
I have argued for some time (since at least 1996 in print) that the global jihadis are the natural heirs of the Communists; that when push comes to pull, totalitarians of a feather stick together. Over and over, in virtually every corner of the globe (well, you know what I mean!), Communists ally with jihadis:
- Russia, swiftly re-Communizing under Putin, and despite fighting for years against Chechen separatists, is clearly allied with Iran against the West;
- Red China is also allied with Iran against the West;
- North Korea conducted nuclear and missile trades with Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq;
- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has formed a virtual partnership with Hezbollah and Hamas;
- And the Godfather of Latin American Communist revolution, Fidel Castro, formed a deep bond with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, launching a connection between Cuba and Iran that exists to this day.
The slow drift of Communists supporting jihadis has dramatically accelerated in recent years. It appears that the party of atheist empire has more in common with the fighters for global theocracy than with any supporter of freedom and liberty.
This may well explain the mounting rejection by the Democratic Party here in America of a serious war against global jihad: it's not that the Democrats are anti-war; a major part of their leftist base has simply become pro-jihad. Recall Michael Moore referring to the Iraqi al-Qaeda terrorists as "Minutemen," and note the embrace by the Democratic Party of noted apologists for jihadist terrorism, such as CAIR, the Nation of Islam, and Sami al-Arian.
This is a very scary development, but I wonder how far it can possibly go: the mass of Democrats in the United States are certainly not supporters of jihad or jihadists. At what point will they suddenly wake up to what the party leadership is doing -- something that formerly Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 80%) realized some time ago -- and actually begin doing something about it? Either by voting against future Keith Ellisons in primary elections, or even by starting to vote Republican, as many did during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
By catering to the leftist MoveOn.org crowd, the Democratic leadership is playing, not just with fire, but with molten lava.
(In the extended entry, I demonstrate my complete inability to grasp the minutiae of Italian politics by discussing the possibilities of Silvio Berlusconi being able to form his own coalition.)
Big Lizards covered the April, 2006 election in three posts:
- Roma Rinse Repeat
- Strange Doin's In the City of Seven Hills
- The Party's Over, Start Dressing For the Next One
In that controversial and still-disputed election, the conservative House of Liberty fared reasonably well in the Senate during initial voting; they won a plurality of 49.86% to the Union's 49.18%. But after counting ballots from abroad, which overwhelmingly favored Prodi's coalition, the Union, this translated to a minority of 156 seats for the House of Liberty to 158 for the Union. Flipping any of several small parties within the Union could give the Senate to the House of Liberty.
The problem is in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, where the House of Liberty's loss to the Union coalition by a scant 49.69% to the Union's 49.80% -- 0.11% of the vote -- translated into a seat differential of 281 for the House of Liberty vs. 348 for the Union. Thus, without a new election, it would be very difficult for Berlusconi to woo enough members of the Union to his side to create a majority coalition.
He would need 35 more seats in this chamber to bring his total to 316, a scant majority of the 630 possible seats. The only party other than Olive Tree with that many seats is the Communist Refoundation Party -- and I think Berlusconi would not be interested in a coalition with them. The other Communist Party in Prodi's former coalition is the Party of Italian Communists, who have 16 seats. Then there is the Rose In the Fist, which is a mini-coalition of 18 seats comprising the Italian Democratic Socialists and the Italian Radicals; again, I doubt this is very attractive to Berlusconi... and in any event, all these Communists and Radicals and such are unstable in their loyalty -- as Prodi just learned.
And then there are the Greens, with 15 seats. Without the Olive Tree, there is no way to snag 35 more seats without stealing at least one of these ultra-leftist parties... who would probably demand an end to Italy's participation in Afghanistan as their price to ally with Berlusconi, just as they probably will with Prodi.
This leaves only other possibility for Berlusconi (a slim one, I think): If Prodi tries and fails to form a grand coalition, Berlusconi might try to form his own grand coalition, peeling away the plurality member of the Union, the Olive Tree party (220 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, but only 1 in the Senate), giving him a very strong 501-seat majority (nearly 80%). It's possible, though unlikely, that the Olive Tree party would like a coalition governed by Berlusconi -- whose Conservative government was the longest-lasting in post-WWII Italy -- than in Prodi's Union coalition; they might simply have grown to dislike or distrust Prodi.
Berlusconi would still need to peel off another seat or two in the Senate; but if the Olive Tree party flipped, I'm sure they would take several other centrist parties with them.
Still, I think the best chance for Silvio Berlusconi to return to power would be through a new election... which could go either way. Without it, I believe there is little chance that the House of Liberty will be able to form a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, hence scant chance they can form a new government.
Date ►►► February 20, 2007
D.C. Circus to Detainees: Drop Dead
Perhaps the most important ruling of the Bush era (Boumediene v. Bush) was just released today: the D.C. Circus has ruled, by a 2-1 majority, that unlawful enemy combatants detained by the military do not have the right to appeal to the civilian courts to be released:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners - a decision that will strip court access for hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending.
"The arguments are creative but not cogent. To accept them would be to defy the will of Congress," wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph in the 25-page opinion, which was joined by Judge David B. Sentelle. Both are Republican appointees to the federal bench.
Judge Arthur Raymond Randolph was appointed by the first President Bush in 1990; Judge David Sentelle was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985. The third member of the panel (who dissented with the ruling) was Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, was appointed by President Clinton in 1993.
The New York Times adds a few interesting fillips:
The court’s majority, citing Supreme Court and other precedent, held that the right of habeas corpus does not extend to foreign citizens detained outside the United States -- the prisoners covered by the new law. A lower court in December followed the same logic to the same conclusion in a related case, involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, whose earlier appeal to the Supreme Court had led to the overturning of the previous Congressional attempts to limit the prisoners’ avenues to the federal courts.
The decision today, Lakhdar Boumediene v. George W. Bush, involved a consolidation of the cases of 63 detainees, all from foreign countries, who had sought review in two separate federal district courts in Washington. One federal district judge had ruled in 2005 that she had the authority to consider the cases, while another judge ruled that he did not, and granted the administration’s motion to dismiss the cases.
In the earlier case referenced above, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Salim Hamdan petititoned for a writ of habeas corpus (seeking release) last December to D.C. District Court Judge James Robertson; but under the new Military Commission Act, he denied the petition.
Robertson, appointed by Clinton in 1994, had granted Hamdan's first habeas corpus petition in 2004. The decision was overturned by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit (which included then-Judge John Roberts) in 2005; but the Supreme Court overturned the D.C. Circuit.
Today's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush is only a way-station en route to the Supreme Court, where it will all come down to a single justice: Anthony Kennedy, who, in the Hamdan case (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S.Ct. 2749, 2006), voted with the liberal justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter to strike down the earlier version of President Bush's military commissions, overturning the Roberts (not Robertson) decision of the D.C. Circuit.
(Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from Hamdan, because he had ruled in the appellate court case before being nominated to the Court; thus, Hamdan was decided by 5-3 instead of 5-4.)
Justice Kennedy joined Justice Stevens' opinion only in part: he agreed that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction, and he agreed that the military commissions lacked constitutionality -- primarily because they were set up entirely by the executive branch of government. Kennedy left the door hanging wide for pretty much the same commissions (with some cosmetic changes) if they were enacted by Congress... which they were last October, as perhaps the last major legislation of the 109th Congress.
Thus, it's reasonable to hope that Kennedy may well uphold Boumediene, now that Congress has spoken. His main concurrance with Stevens was that, since the commissions were not formed by Congress and also differed from the military's procedure in the case of courts-martial, they were not "regularly constituted courts," as required by the Third Geneva Convention, Article 3, section (d), which prohibits --
-- the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
But even here, Kennedy dissented in part with the latter's extended exegesis on the Geneva Conventions, disagreeing with Justice Stevens whether those "indispensible" "judicial guarantees" gave a detainee the right to see all the evidence against him -- including highly classified information that would reveal intelligence methods and assets. Stevens and the other three liberal justices appear to want detainees to have all the same protections that would apply to an American gang-banger accused of carjacking or pickpocketing.
The dissent by Judge Rogers argues that the military commissions are unconstitutional because they restrict habeas corpus petitions and because they might include evidence derived from what she calls "torture." From the Times article:
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Judith W. Rogers said that the Military Commission Act had violated the constitutional provision that restricts the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. She reasoned that the suspension clause limits Congressional powers, rather than conferring a right on the accused.
“Prior to the enactment of the Military Commissions Act, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the detainees held at Guantánamo had a statutory right to habeas corpus,” Judge Rogers wrote. “The MCA purports to withdraw that right but does so in a manner that offends the constitutional constraint on suspension.”
But the constitutional clause in question, Article I section 9, obviously can only apply to persons under the jurisdiction of the Constitution. Lakhdar Boumediene is not a citizen or resident of the United States, was captured abroad, and has never been held on U.S. soil. The only nexus to America is that he is guarded by U.S. forces.
He clearly is not subject to the protections of the United States Constitution... unless Rogers would also argue that U.S. civilian courts have jurisdiction over Iraqi prisoners held by an Iraqi Army unit that happens to include a couple of embedded U.S. Marines.
"District courts are well able to adjust these proceedings in light of the government's significant interests in guarding national security," wrote Rogers, a Clinton appointee. "More significant still, continued detention may be justified by a CSRT on the basis of evidence resulting from torture."
Despite Rogers' dissent, this ruling is an excellent step towards restoring judicial sanity to the wartime powers of the president. Clearly, we have always in the past believed that enemy combatants can be detained indefinitely ("for the duration of hostilities"); there is no reason why the civilian courts, which have never been involved in such decisions, should suddenly have jurisdiction over POWs, whether lawful combatants -- enemy soldiers -- or unlawful combatants, non-military, ununiformed spies, saboteurs, and terrorists.
Let's hope that Justice Kennedy is now satisfied that the military tribunals are "regularly constituted," and we can get on with the job of fighting the war against global jihadism.
Date ►►► February 19, 2007
The Political Is Personal
A few days ago, I was personally denounced in a blogpost by a person who barely knows me, with whom I'd had no conversation in a dozen years or more, and with whom the only interaction I'd had before that was on an online bulletin board and occasional chance meetings at conventions.
We never had any vicious arguments; I know this for a fact because, by the nature of the software I was using at the time, I have a record of every message I ever posted on that BBS. I have just searched through the archives for every exchange I ever had where I even so much as mentioned that person or the person's spouse; I read every one, and nowhere was there any unpleasantness between us. The closest I came was when I said that the spouse can be very scathing online but is unfailingly kind and polite in person.
And yet I was denounced, and in the most personal, rage-filled way. The ostensible trigger was a blogpost here on Big Lizards (which of course did not mention the denouncer). But the denunciation segued pretty quickly into a very personal (and oddly misremembered) recounting of my time on that BBS, written as if the blog author were on the receiving end of some rather rough treatment from me.
The only problem is -- it never happened. He or she has confabulated the memory or confused me with somebody else.
What strikes me most about the exchange is the reversal it implies in the old feminist phrase, "the personal is political." What they meant was that your politics arises from the circumstances of your life, what a lefty would call your "class interest." Thus, they argued, a rich woman who could afford to jet up to Montreal to get an abortion for her teenaged daughter wouldn't understand why a poor, unmarried woman with a teenaged daughter would want abortion legalized across the United States.
It was always a silly argument; most of the liberal leaders who pushed abortion rights were from rich and privileged backgrounds, just as most (not all) of the Communist revolutionaries were from at least middle-class, highly educated backgrounds... striking against class-interests like a house afire.
But the reality appears to be just the reverse: the political becomes deeply personal. Among a few on the Right and nearly everyone on the Left, a sharp political disagreement with Mr. X causes them to hate and despise Mr. X, and the little dog he rode in on, too.
Bush Derangement Syndrome is a typical instance of this: nothing for which President Bush is attacked, excoriated, denounced, and hysterically feared would even raise an eyebrow if he had the same politics and party as Bill Clinton; I do not recall the Left assailing President Clinton for bombing Kosovo or invading Bosnia and Haiti (to be fair, a small number of individual pacifists did, but not the Democratic Party or the Democratic Left as a whole).
When Bush was elected in 2000, I lost three friends. Each of them put it to me bluntly: either I agreed that he "stole the election," and that Al Gore had "absolute won Florida" -- or I could never speak to them again. I had to choose the latter; what sort of friendship can flourish in the poisoned soil of extortion? But I was shocked.
(My opinion is that it's not mathematically possible to say with any degree of certainty whether Bush or Gore got the most votes in Florida; the count was simply too close. It is impossible for human beings to count objects in the millions without error. But since Bush was ahead when the Supreme Court blew the whistle, he gets to be president. Had Gore been ahead, I would have been unhappy... but I wouldn't have said it was impossible that he legitimately got more votes.)
I see much more of this sort of personalization of political difference on the Left than the Right; for every Ann Coulter, there are a good half dozen Al Frankens, Jonathan Chaits, and Keith Olbermanns. But the Right is not blameless: while it was perfectly appropriate to impeach President Clinton for various high crimes and misdemeanors, nothing justifies the sort of ludicrous conspiracy-mongering exemplified by the "Clinton Death List."
It's true that the former president knows an unusually large number of people who died violently, but there is not the slightest shred of evidence that Bill Clinton had anything to do with any of it: Vince Foster committed suicide; he was not murdered. Ron Brown died in an airplane crash; he was not assassinated, and the crash was not rigged to cover that up. James McDougal died in prison from a heart condition; at worst, he died by neglect... there is nothing whatsoever to justify the risible charge that Clinton ordered his medication be denied him.
There is some evidence (testimonial) that Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick; but until and unless such evidence is tested in court, we have no idea whether she's telling the truth, lying, or confabulating; and she has shown a marked lack of interest in bringing such a case (which is now long past the statute of limitations). Republicans are not generally the ones saying that "a woman would never lie about rape;" we're the party that remembers Tawana Brawley.
Yet the hatred by the Right of Bill Clinton was bizarre and ugly. I was an anti-Clinton activist, but I never hated the man; I thought he was a wretched president -- I still think he sold out American national security to Red China for campaign cash... but that's a political judgment. I accepted that he was a groper, and he admitted as such when he settled Paula Jones's lawsuit and more or less admitted Kathleen Willey's charges.
But apart from the unproven Broaddrick charge, Clinton is no more a proven lecher than Arnold Schwarzenegger, now governor of California... and I certainly don't hate Schwarzenegger, despite disagreeing with about 70% of his politics.
I believe that Clinton (wrongly) thinks that everything he did was good for America... or at the least, that since he, himself was good for America, therefore everything that was good for him was good for the rest of us. His venality was petty; it was not on the level of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or a Timothy McVeigh.
The hatred by the Right for Bill Clinton was aberrant; but the hatred by the Left of everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton appears to be a perpetually renewed virginity: each time they find someone new to despise, it's as though it were the first time they ever saw anyone so despicable.
[Correction note: I mixed up the Thomas nomination, putting him earlier and stating that Reagan nominated him -- hat tip to commenter Karrde; it was of course his successor, President George H.W. Bush. I should also have mentioned the nomination of Sen. John Tower of Texas to be Bush's Secretary of Defense, and the politics of personal destruction that destroyed him; but I must confess I didn't follow that nomination debacle as well as that of Clarence Thomas. What follows is the rewrite of this paragraph.]
I was too young to be politically active (or even aware) during the 60s and early 70s, so I first noticed this intense personalization of political difference during the Reagan administration, when opposition to Reagan took on an almost evangelical fervor. This accelerated during the administration of the rather innocuous George H.W. Bush -- in particular, the persecution and character assassination of Justice Clarence Thomas, when Bush-41 nominated him to the Supreme Court.
At first, the Left was content to oppose Thomas on political grounds. But when it became clear they had failed, and that even in a Democratic-controlled Senate, he was about to be confirmed, the Democrats scrambled about for a weapon. Leftist journalist Nina Totenberg recruited former Thomas employee Anita Hill to charge Thomas with... with what?
It was never exactly clear what she was charging him with; but it was pretty darned disreputable... whatever the heck it was. It wasn't sexual harassment, because she never claimed he pressured her for sex, touched her, or made her think that her career depended upon giving him sex. She and her puppetmasters tried to claim Thomas created a hostile work environment; but she never presented any other witnesses who testified that they thought so, nor did she claim to have objected to it or even refrain from participating.
It certainly wasn't discrimination, unless she meant discrimination in her favor, because he promoted her and offered to bring her along when he was promoted from the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education (DOE) to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And she certainly did not feel threatened, because she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to follow him in that move... despite being guaranteed, because she was a civil servant (and personally assured by her supervisor) that she could stay on at DOE, keeping her rank and seniority, if she preferred.
Another feminist chum, "Judge" Susan Hoerchner, testified that Hill had called her every day, upset and terrified about how Hill was being sexually harassed by her boss -- and that that boss was Clarence Thomas. But Hoerchner made a very foolish error; she said the calls had occurred while they both lived in D.C., and that when Hoerchner moved to California, they no longer telephoned each other because of the long-distance rates.
Alas for Hoerchner's testimony, Hill did not even meet Thomas until months after Hoerchner moved away; and it was more months after that before she was working for him. So whatever boss she was complaining about, it wasn't Clarence Thomas.
Yet to this day, liberals (and especially black liberals) routinely call Thomas the most vile epithets imaginable, of which the very least is "Uncle Tom." And they repeat as fact all sorts of accusations that were never even floated during the hearings (for example, that Thomas raped Hill, which Hill herself certainly never claimed).
Two Wall Street Journal writers, Jane Meyer and Jill Abramson, wrote an angry, tendentious book titled Strange Justice that interviewed a number of people who hate Thomas (but none who like, support, or defend him). The book is completely unsourced; for every absurd charge, the footnote refers only to private interviews with the person making the charge. There is no independent verification of anything; it just goes on and on, reviling the man up one side and down the other... and by the end, he's thoroughly reviled, let me tell you!
We skip twenty years; this post has gone on too long already. It's a two-decade long unbroken chain of vile personal attacks on Republicans whose only fault is to disagree with the fundamental premises of Leftism, what Thomas Sowell (another "Uncle Tom," according to black liberals) calls "the vision of the anointed." Most recently, when Charles Pickering was nominated to a federal judgeship, Democrats leveled the charge that he was a "segregationist."
In fact, there is no evidence at all that he ever advocated segregation or was a racist; even moreso, he actually fought against just such segregation and racism in Mississippi in the 1960s, testifying against the head of the Mississippi chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, an man who was running around dynamiting businesses and people he didn't like.
Pickering enjoys near unanimous support from black leaders in his home state. But none of that matters: he was being appointed to take the "slot" of a liberal judge... so anything goes. The political turf war justifies any level of invective... even smearing a good, decent, anti-segregationist, anti-racist as a vile, evil segregationist and racist.
When the ends are so cosmic, they justify any means... no matter how repugnant. You can't make an omlet without breaking a few legs.
There is a reason that former leftists or liberals who have broken ranks and joined the other side vastly outnumber those who traveled the opposite route: There are many more Whittaker Chamberses, Ronald Reagans, Robert Heinleins, Irving Kristols, David Horowitzes, and Harry Steins than there are David Brocks (and it's hard not to notice that the former are heavyweights compared to the snarky, gossipy last). The reason is that most people tend to grow up as they grow old. They lose interest in "fan feuds" (modern equivalent: blog wars) and start wondering at the provenance of what they have always believed. They start to think... and thought is the death-knell of fanaticism.
(In an interview in World Press Review, playwright Eugene Ionesco said, "a fanatic can never be convinced, but only converted.")
But there are some Lost Boys (and Girls) who never grow up, for whom the political will always be intensely personal; people who are never content disputing the reasoning of those on the other side but must instead work like the Dickens to destroy them. I mean people like Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister, for whom any political disagreement means a personal war.
The enemy cannot possibly disbelieve the Vision: If Musab Zarqawi is an "Islamofascist," then a person who opposes abortion on demand must be a "Christofascist;" he cannot possibly actually believe that a foetus is a human person! It can only be a Fascist scheme to trap women in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
I refuse to understand why I cannot like -- or at least be pleasant to -- someone I disagree with. I reject the notion that my positions are so obvious and opalescent that only an imbecile, a madman, or a thug can dispute them. And while I may well respond in kind to an unprovoked personal attack (I'm no Albert Schweitzer), I will not initiate such attacks based entirely upon political difference.
And I will thoroughly disrespect those who do. I wish I could say those for whom "the political is personal" disappoint me; but sadly, no... I have learned to expect nothing better.
Date ►►► February 18, 2007
I believe in many conspiracies: I believe that a bunch of jihadis conspired to hijack passenger jets and fly them into the World Trade Centers, for example. I also believe that Iran conspires with Muqtada Sadr to extend the former's influence into Iraq.
And I have long suspected that there is, at the least, a conspiracy of shared interests among the elite media in this country -- and many allies within the State Department, the CIA, academe, and such -- to destroy the Bush Administration and engineer the Republican loss of Congress (done) and the presidency (unlikely).
But I believe we are witnessing a rare instance of an out and out, traditional conspiracy among newspaper editors who actually made a deliberate decision to copy certain language from each other. See what strikes you about this New York Times article:
The Senate on Saturday narrowly rejected an effort to force debate on a resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq....
The 56-to-34 vote in a rare Saturday session was the second time Republicans were able to deny opponents of the troop increase a debate on a resolution challenging Mr. Bush....
But the outcome, four votes short of the 60 needed to break a procedural stalemate....
Seven Republicans split from their party and joined 48 Democrats and one Independent in calling for a debate....
“We will be relentless,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat. “There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment, all forcing this body to do what it has not done in the previous three years: debate and discuss Iraq....”
A vote to open debate would have allowed the Senate to begin considering the identical language that was approved on Friday by the House....
Without 60 votes for the procedural motion, the Senate was unable to start debate.
I have never before seen a filibuster, the "procedureal stalemate" hinted at above, described as an attempt to prevent debate; in fact, it is the cloture vote -- which failed yesterday -- that is an attempt to end debate and actually bring a measure to a vote.
It was the Democrats attempted to cut off debate and actually vote on the Senate version of the House rebuke (not refutation) of President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq, thus leaving us in the failed status quo (I'm certain that if they succeeded, the next vote would be one to withdraw the troops -- on the grounds that we hadn't changed a policy that was failing).
Certainly, no newspaper ever described the Democratic filibusters against dozens of presidential nominations to the federal bench as "cutting off debate" on those judges. Those actions were rightly described as preventing a final vote.
At the absolute most, the Republicans voted to prevent the start of final debate/voting on this particular non-binding resolution; but this is a peculiar use of the word "debate" that is part of Senate jargon. It doesn't mean "debate" in the normal, dictionary sense, as that has been going on continuously since before we invaded Iraq. There has been and continues to be ample opportunity to "debate the Iraq war" in the Senate:
- Whenever any appropriations, budget, or spending bill comes up in the Senate that in any way touches on the war, a debate on the war inevitably ensues;
- Debate over the war invariably breaks out during any other debate over a bill touching on the war, such as the bill currently before Congress to "fully implemenent" the 9/11 Commission recommendations, or the anti-terrorism bill, also currently before Congress;
- During any confirmation hearing involving any nominee even remotely associated with Iraq, the military, or an intelligence agency, another debate on the war spontenously erupts;
- During any testimony by any member of the administration -- yet another debate on the war;
- During any committee hearing or meeting on any subject whatsoever... you guessed it. Another debate.
- Finally, Majority Leader of the Senate Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) can, any time he wants, recognize members for an extended debate... on the Iraq war or any other topic he chooses.
None of these requires breaking a filibuster; the GOP can stop none of these debates from occurring... and they occur virtually every week of every month of every term, and have done so even back when the Republicans ran the joint. Rather than the symbolic debate on the war being stifled, it has virtually consumed the business of the United States Senate, to the exclusion of much real legislation (for example, consideration of the necessary spending bills for the current fiscal year, which have yet to be debated).
The Senate debates and debates and debates every aspect of the war, like a deranged, obsessed UFO nut going on about the "Greys" who have taken over Washington, Moscow, and Bermuda. But one element of the obsession is to insist that nobody is even debating the war -- the nutroots can't get a hearing! They don't get to make their points! Their freedom of speech is being denied! (Translation: the opposition wants to confuse matters by participating in the discussion, to paraphrase the late Robert Anton Wilson.)
And nearly every elite newspaper uses the same bizarre circumlocution to keep up the pretense that Republicans are denying Democrats "a debate" on the war.
The Washington Post was the most ambivalent; they alternated between calling the filibuster an attempt to prevent a vote (which is is) and an attempt to cut off debate (which it isn't):
With the 56 to 34 vote, Democrats fell shy of the 60 votes required to kick off debate on a nonbinding resolution passed by the House last week that expresses support for the troops but criticizes Bush's decision to expand combat ranks by more than 20,000 troops....
Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to allow the debate to proceed.
The Los Angeles Times also slipped a pro-forma reference to the Democratic attempt to end debate as the attempt to initiate debate:
In addition to Collins, Republicans voting to debate the measure were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John W. Warner of Virginia.
The Wall Street Journal slyly slips it in as part of a quotation from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Bedlam, 95%) -- but allows the term "debate" to stand without debate (paid subscription required):
"The United States Senate, the greatest deliberative body in the world, is probably the only place in this great land where this debate is not taking place!" said 89-year-old Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ("the Strib") took the easy way out, as usual; they reprinted the Washington Post article... but they added this bit at the top:
Sixty votes were needed to begin debate on the nonbinding measure, which would repudiate Bush's increase of troops.
In fact, of course, the Senate spent the entire day debating the non-binding resolution; Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 80%) was particularly scathing during this debate on Reid's demand that the senators all come in on Saturday and debate a futile and meaningless exercise in defeatism.
I thought at first that maybe all these papers took the phrase from the Associated Press; but I didn't recall the AP story from yesterday using it... and indeed, at least the one published yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times does not:
The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance a nonbinding measure identical to one the House passed Friday. Seven GOP senators broke ranks, compared with only two during an earlier test on the issue.
But if that is the case -- where did this amazing coincidence of terminology come from? The only other explanation that occurs to me is that editors at the other newspapers simply copied what the New York Times wrote, that the Republicans had "rejected an effort to force debate" on the Iraq war. I suspect they originally wrote their articles straight; but when they saw that artful bit of misdiction in "America's newspaper of record," the lower-tier editorial boards gushed, "What a great way to put it! Let's us do that as well."
I can't think of any other way that such a contorted and misleading phrasing, never before used, could appear on the same day in a half dozen major newspapers and probably dozens of minor ones.
Of all the major media stories I read, only the Chicago Tribune truly got it right:
In a rare Saturday session, one day after the House issued a stinging rebuke to President Bush's plan to boost the number of troops in Iraq, Senate Democrats were unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to end a Republican filibuster and pass what has become a symbol of resistance to the war....
Angry Republicans insisted that the language in question would demoralize American soldiers fighting in Iraq. And they rejected assertions that their filibuster was preventing the Senate from debating the merits of the war strategy.
"Here is the truth that the American people need to know: Republicans in the Senate have not prevented any debate over the war in Iraq," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). "We are debating the war again today. We have debated the war in the past and we will continue to debate the war in the future.
So a tip of the hat to the Trib, and a raspberry to the rest of the fourth-estate tarts. For God's sake, gentlemen -- can't you leave off the inappropriate politicking for even a moment?
Ah, but I forget: "the personal is political," as the feminists constantly insist: thus, for newspaper editors who cut their teeth on the anti-war, anti-Republican protest movement of the late sixties (post-November 1968), whose entire existence is wrought up in their leftist politics, there is no sphere that is not essentially political; when they sit down to breakfast, they ponder the of geopolitical significance of eggs sunny-side up or hard-boiled.
Date ►►► February 16, 2007
The Bigg Fizz
Once again, the Democrats tried to slap President Bush -- and got bushwhacked.
The "big news" as far as the media cares is that the House passed a meaningless resolution "refuting" Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.
(Yes, "refutes" was the word local radio station KRLA kept using; they're the station that carries Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. Although "to refute" can mean "to deny the accuracy or truth of," the more common usage is "to prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof." In either case, you cannot "refute Bush's decision to send 21,000 troops to Iraq.")
But the real news is that only 17 Republican representatives voted for it -- and 2 Democrats, Jim Marshall (D-GA, 70%) and Gene Taylor (D-MS, 60%), actually crossed party lines and voted with the Republican majority against the resolution:
Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution. Two Democrats, Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi, voted against it. Mr. Marshall is the son and grandson of Army generals and was wounded in combat in Vietnam, according to The Almanac of American Politics. Mr. Taylor has a generally conservative voting record and is “strongly pro-defense,” the almanac says. Six representatives cast no vote.
The final vote was 246 to 182; six representatives did not vote (two Democrats and four Republicans, I believe), and of course conservative Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA, 100%) passed away a few days ago. But as recently as two days ago, Democrats were predicting that from 30 to 60 (!) Republicans would defect. Most analysts said the minimum would be "dozens."
The seventeen "white-flag Republicans" are:
- Michael Castle (DE, 28%)
- Richard (Ric) Keller (FL, 96%)
- Timothy V. Johnson (IL, 52%)
- Mark Kirk (IL, 36%)
- Wayne Gilchrest (MD, 42%)
- Frederick Stephen Upton (MI, 80%)
- James Ramstad (MN, 46%)
- Howard Coble (NC, 84%)
- Walter Jones (NC, 80%)
- James T. Walsh (NY, 65%)
- Steven C. LaTourette (OH, 71%)
- Philip Sheridan English (PA, 88%)
- Robert Inglis (SC, 84%)
- John J. Duncan Jr. (TN, 92%)
- Ron Paul (TX, 76%)
- Thomas M. Davis (VA, 57%)
- Thomas Petri (WI, 72%)
What is so encouraging about this vote is that those voting in favor of a non-binding (meaningless) resolution came nowhere near the number needed to override a presidential veto, which is 290 (2/3rds of 435). Although this has no meaning in a non-binding resolution, which needs no presidential signature, it has great significance in the next round of the Democrats' assault upon America's war effort: the attempt by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 100%) to cut off funding for the troops in Iraq, which would prevent them from being reinforced or relieved by new troops, leaving them in a perilous position.
This has wide support among Democratic lawmakers; but there are not enough of them (only 233 in the House, 51 in the Senate, assuming Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, 95%, is well enough to vote) to override Bush's certain veto. But such a scheme will certainly get fewer Republican votes -- and probably fewer Democratic votes as well, considering the opposition by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%) -- than the meaningless exercise in symbolism they just passed.
That means that there is no chance at all that the Murtha scheme can ultimately succeed, which requires overriding a presidential veto... and in fact, depending on how many Democrats follow Hoyer, who opposes the Murtha scheme, even though he supported the non-binding resolution, they might not even get a simple majority to pass the Murtha scheme in the first place.
So how long will the anti-war Democrats continue along this march to futility? It would actually make much more sense, not just militarily (of course) but even politically, for the majority caucus to say something like the following: "While we have reservations about the president's current strategy, we'll support it for now and give it a chance; if it succeeds where all his other strategies have failed -- wonderful! But if it fails, then Congress will have to step in and decide whether continuing down this road is in the best security interests of the United States." (It doesn't matter whether they believe it; it's still in their best political interests to say it.)
That way, if it fails, they get credit for allowing Bush "one last-ditch effort" to salvage the war (I'm speaking from the perspective of Democrats; I actually think the war is going much better than the media pretends). But if it succeeds, which could happen -- failure is always an option, but so is victory -- then the Democrats can bask in the glory along with the GOP.
As it stands now, with their repeated and increasingly shrill attempts to sabotage the war, they will inherit some of the blame if we lose (because they "handcuffed" our troops, and so forth). But if we win, they will get no credit whatsoever... because they predicted nothing but defeat and dishonor.
The Democrats think they're in a win-win situation... but in fact, it's lose-semi-lose. Welcome to the "majority" of a closely divided Congress.
Not A-Feared We're Gonna Lose...
The more success we have in our new strategic change of course in Iraq -- the more desperate the Democrats become to stop it in its tracks. The dynamic has become as crystal: the Democrats are not afraid we'll lose... they're frantic that we might somehow win.
Their entire political strategy is based upon the assumption that Iraq in 2008 will be even more a catastrophe than today (and they have very funny ideas of how bad it is today).
Thus, I am hardly shocked that the Democrats in Congress, perhaps stunned by the speed with which President Bush's new strategy appears to be bearing fruit, have gone back on their word... and now openly threaten to cut off funding to end the war, a tactic which only a couple, three weeks ago was dismissed by both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) as Republican paranoia:
Democrats are challenging President Bush's power to wage war, contending they've found a way to block a troop increase in Iraq and prevent any pre-emptive invasion of Iran....
"This country needs a dramatic change of course in Iraq and it is the responsibility of this Congress to consummate that change," said Rep. John Murtha, who chairs the House panel that oversees military spending.
Murtha, D-Pa., is preparing legislation that would set strict conditions on combat deployments, including a year rest between combat tours; ultimately, the congressman says, his measure would make it impossible for Bush to maintain his planned deployment of a total of about 160,000 troops for months on end.
The Fox News "All-Stars" had a lively discussion of Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA, 100%) scheme on Brit Hume yesterday: The basic idea is to set up a series of "benchmarks" -- not for the Iraqis to achieve, not even for the soldiers and Marines to achieve in the field; the benchmarks are "readiness" and "rest" standards that American units must meet in order for the Commander in Chief to be allowed by Congress to send them to Iraq.
(And the scheme is probably an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.)
The standards are ludicrous. For example, units cannot be deployed to Iraq if they have been in the United States less than one year, no matter what. They cannot be deployed if they have not received some very high level of training. Troops' tours cannot be extended; stop-loss extensions are forbidden; equipment must be up to some impossible standard... and all these must be reported, certified by the president, and (presumably) agreed to by Congress before the president is allowed to deploy any troops.
To Iraq, that is; none of this nonsense on stilts would apply to units being deployed to Afghanistan.
In an interview on the website MoveCongress.org (in a passage now "sanitized" from the site), Murtha made his intentions clear -- and it's not simply to prevent the so-called "surge" in Iraq:
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has begun consideration of the president’s $93 billion supplemental appropriations request for Iraq. Action on the request will be the first opportunity for the new Congress to exercise its “power-of-the-purse” over the Iraq war.
Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president’s foreign and national security policy. Chairman Murtha discusses these steps in a videotaped conversation with former Congressman Tom Andrews (D-ME), the National Director of the Win Without War coalition, sponsor of MoveCongress.org.
In the discussion on Special Report, Hume, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, and Nina Easton (no Mara yesterday) all agreed that the actual effect of the Murtha bill, if it were passed into law, would be to prevent reinforcements from arriving to relieve the augmented troop levels that will already be in country long before that point. They also all agreed that the bill has no chance at all of actually being enacted: It will never make it through the Senate and might not even pass the House, if the Republicans were to expose and attack it for what it really is.
Nina Easton thought it was good politics for the Democrats: They appear to be "pro-troops," looking out for their welfare, when in fact their real intent is to block the strategic change of course in Iraq. But both Fred and Mort, the "Beltway Boys," thought it would in fact turn out to be terrible politics for the Democrats, and I agree:
- Even many of those who oppose the troop increase (a small but necessary part of the change of course) will balk at the idea of cutting off funding after the troops have already arrived, which is what the Murtha scheme would do;
- This feeds directly into the traditional weakness of the Democrats on national defense, that they are so allergic to war that they actually prefer us to lose rather than win;
- Even those who won't go that far might still think it feckless for Congress to try to micromanage the exact level and location of future troop deployments;
- Since the FY 2007 budget is already appropriated, funding the DoD through September, President Bush can simply move funds from other DoD projects to fund the war; the Supreme Court has already ruled that this is within the Executive's authority; thus, Congress cannot cut off funds until at least October;
- But by October, the Democrats' worst fears may be realized: it may already be obvious that the new strategy is working, and working so well that even the big-box media cannot cover it up.
Thus, it's almost a given that the Murtha scheme is doomed to fail -- which will make it all the more likely that moderate Democrats in the House will defeat it, led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%), who beat John Murtha out of that post and still bears ill will, and who has already come out against the Murtha scheme.
When the Democrats are unable to act on the supplementary budget request for the troops, they will have to scramble to accept it as is, without the Murtha scheme attached. This will humiliate and disempower Murtha within the Democratic caucus, relative to Hoyer.
What is most likely to happen then is that the frustrated Defeat Caucus in the House, having failed to enact the Murtha scheme, will push something even more radical... possibly a naked cut-off of funding to the troops in the field, essentially telling our soldiers and Marines in combat to "dry up and blow away."
By then, unless the liberal Democrats come to their senses somewhere in the middle and stop themselves, they will finally restore the natural distinction between Republicans who support victory in the war and Democrats who support only defeat, dishonor, and disaster. (The distinction had grown blurry with the small number of "white-flag Republicans" infesting the Congress.)
As always, the lizards are optimistic: I still bet on George W. Bush to keep up the good, very good fight in Iraq against both al-Qaeda and also the millenarian cult of Shiite death squads -- rather than betting on the antics of the defeatist Democrats in House and Senate. The fight is not just good for the GOP; it's vital for the future of Western civilization.
Date ►►► February 15, 2007
Iraq Security Crackdown Proceeding Faster Than Expected
According to AP, after several days sealing off the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City (a slum area in Baghdad) and searching house to house for weapons and militants, we have now also moved heavily into the Baghdad headquarters of the Sunni terrorists:
U.S. and Iraqi forces pushed deeper Thursday into Sunni militant strongholds in Baghdad - where cars rigged with explosives greeted their advance - while British-led teams in southern Iraq used shipping containers to block suspected weapon smuggling routes from Iran. Early Friday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was wounded and an aide was killed in a clash the previous day with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad.
So far, the claim that we wounded Ayyub Masri, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, and killed one of his top aides (Abdullah Majemaai) comes only from the Iraqi forces -- and they've been wrong before. But if true, this is a very nice and somewhat serendipitous benefit:
The announcement about the wounding of al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, came from Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman. He said the clash occurred near Balad, a major U.S. base about 50 miles north of the capital, and identified the dead aide as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai.
We met a number of terrorist ambushes but evidently suffered no casualties in Baghdad (deaths or woundings); however, one Marine was killed in combat in the Anbar province -- also a Sunni-terrorist hellhole.
At the same time (hat tip to Sachi, who dug up the links), Bill Roggio reports that we haven't slackened our aggression against the Mahdi Militia of Muqtada Sadr:
Coalition forces also are maintaining the pressure on Sadr, and working to dismantle the Mahdi Army from underneath him while he is in Iran. In Baghdad, two more operatives of Jaish al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army, were detained over the past 24 hours. Iraqi Special Forces captured a "weapons supplier and financier of sectarian violence conducted by rogue Jaysh Al Mahdi cells," along with "an additional person for questioning." Another Mahdi cell member who is "believed responsible for kidnapping, torture and murder of Iraqi citizens and security forces in the area" was captured by Iraqi Special Forces.
(Actually, MNF-I says "rogue" elements of JAM; but I think that is just because we're being overly cautious before connecting the dots to Muqtada Sadr -- still in hiding in Iran -- before formally fingering him sometime later.
(I think we should be more aggressive in our propaganda right now... but that's just me.)
I am actually surprised at how well the strategic change of course in Iraq is going in its early stages; I'm very, very optimistic about the effect overall as it proceeds into its larger and more thorough stages, when the rest of the 90,000 troops (21,500 Americans, the rest Iraqis) descend upon Baghdad and start truly owning the territory.
Unlike many -- Mark Steyn, James Lileks, and a number of actual heavyweights, including some generals -- I believe that success in Iraq will become so brutally clear, that even the drive-by media will be forced to admit it.
I believe also that the 2008 election will take place in a political atmosphere where Iraq will look a heck of a lot better than it looked in 2006... and that this will have a major impact on the election itself. If my prediction turns out to be true, then an awful lot of Democrats (and even a few white-flag Republicans) are going to look like hyserical poo-flinging monkeys.
(That last isn't a prediction, because it's too easy: no matter what happens, most of the Democrats and some Republicans will fit that image. It's kismet.)
Any of the Big Three candidates on the GOP side would be well positioned to take advantage of that change of atmosphere, assuming I am correct about Iraq. No Democrat will, because every last one of them shall spend this entire year campaigning on the theme that we've already been defeated, we're helpless, and we should simply run away and abase ourselves until we're forgiven by the world community.
Should be an interesting year-plus.
Here is today's lesson in political rhetoric. Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is quoted by MyWay News as making the following constitutional analysis in an interview "down the hall from the House chamber":
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq.
Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Bush consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran "and I take him at his word."
At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran."
All right... but what does "go into Iran" mean? It's certainly not a legal term, and neither is "invade," the characterization used by MyWay: We say "you're invading my space" and "the Mexican invasion" to mean actions other than a literal army invading enemy territory.
Several interesting points about Ms. Pelosi's maunderings:
- Of course President Bush -- and President Clinton, and every other president past and yet to come -- has the "authority" to order our military to "invade" another country without prior congressional approval; we know this because a great many of them have done so without being impeached or losing any court fights over it.
The speaker ought to do some reading instead. The 1973 War Powers Resolution addresses the very question she pronounces upon:
The War Powers Resolution (P.L. 93-148) was passed over the veto of President Nixon on November 7, 1973, to provide procedures for Congress and the President to participate in decisions to send U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. Section 4(a)(1) requires the President to report to Congress any introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities. When such a report is submitted, or is required to be submitted, section 5(b) requires that the use of forces must be terminated within 60 to 90 days unless Congress authorizes such use or extends the time period. Section 3 requires that the "President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing" U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities.
Thus, even if the War Powers Resolution is itself constitutional, the president can do pretty much anything he wants without congressional approval, so long as he reports to Congress within 60 days and so long as he is finished within 90 days. (It's unclear -- I doubt it has ever been tested in court, as much of the War Powers Resolution has not -- whether the president can continue for 60-90 days if Congress explicitly votes against a particular military action within that timeframe... presumably overriding the president's veto.)
And of course, if the War Powers Resolution is held by the Court to be unconstitutional, then there is no legal limitation at all on the power of the president to send troops into any hostilities he chooses.
- Speaker Pelosi is remarkably selective in her pacifist outrage.
She was first elected in 1987, so she was certainly in Congress in 1999, when Clinton sent U.S. ground troops into then Yugoslavia, right into the middle of the four-part civil war in Bosnia. Honestly, I do not recall her taking to the airwaves and newspapers to argue that he had no such authority. In fact, she supported the war, and she led the fight for it when it finally reached Congress (long after we'd already invaded).
So despite saying "any president," she clearly does not mean exactly that. But does she actually believe that only Republican presidents lack this authority? Or is her analysis specific to Bush himself?
The answer appears to be the former, because she made the same "illegal" argument against Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, when he created and sent a coalition of forces into Kuwait -- also without prior congressional approval:
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Pelosi adamantly opposed military action, lamenting that George H.W. Bush was "resorting to militarization in order to solve a conflict." The war, she said, was an "ill-conceived policy of violence;" Bush, she argued, was acting "illegally."
Thus, Ms. Pelosi begins to come into focus: she believes that Republican presidents lack authority to start wars, but Democratic presidents must act strongly in times of great danger. (Say, I used to play this game, Conjugation, in junior high: "I am steadfast, you are stubborn, he-she-it is a recalcitrant jackass.")
- Finally, I find her words to be uncharacteristically carefully parsed; she sounds almost Clintonian, in fact.
Consider what she said and did not say: She said he did not have authority to "go into Iran." But what about merely attacking Iran -- say by air and missile bombardment? Does that count?
Why didn't she simply use the more common phrase "attack Iran?" That would have made clear that she claims he has no power to initiated any hostilities at all, of any kind, without prior congressional approval.
But that would also be legal nonsense that would be tossed out of court. In fact, even the lawsuit against Clinton's Bosnian adventure filed by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA, 100%) lost in court; the courts have been remarkably (but properly) reluctant to declare any military action to be in violation of the Constitution. While I think it was foolish for President Clinton to engage us in that war, it certainly was not unconstitutional; he was the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, he has wide latitude in how he can use them.
But Pelosi made a point of restricting her pronouncement to "go[ing] into Iran," which even MyWay interpolated as "invad[ing] Iran." Surely the most obvious way to interpret that is as an actual land-invasion by our armed forces of Iran, à la what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But who in the administration is talking about that? I haven't even seen anyone go so far as to agree with me that we should implement the Herman Option... which involves only aerial attacks on Iran (no "invasion") -- plus the seizure of offshore oil facilities, many of which are arguably in international waters.
Even more puzzling: Who is Nancy Pelosi arguing with? In the only two instances in the Bush Administration's six-year history where we actually did send the Army and Marine Corps rolling into a sovereign nation -- Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 -- the Bush administration sought and received prior congressional approval. Evidently, in that respect, George Bush agrees with Nancy Pelosi (as a matter of good form, if not as a matter of law). He demonstrated that agreement in practice.
So Speaker Pelosi pointedly used a term that seemingly applied only to a situation nobody is proposing; she avoided using a more general term; she avoided claiming that Bush disagreed with her analysis. This careful parsing allows her to look really, really tough and manly, while avoiding saying anything that might lead to a debate -- which Ms. Pelosi would lose, either in court or on a congressional vote (note that "Congress" is not synonymous with "the House of Representatives").
Has this sort of tendentious and absurdly precise parsing of language become endemic within the Democratic Party since 1992? Is the ability to split hairpieces about "what the meaning of 'is' is" now formally required in order to achieve leadership position in Congress?
Date ►►► February 14, 2007
I'm about as far from being a cynic as it's possible to be and still remain on the planet (Earth to Dennis Kucinich...) I am an extreme optimist; I believe our future is always brighter than our past; I refuse ever to admit defeat, not even when confronted with a setback.
Yet I'm also realistic about human beings and what they're capable of doing, the bad along with the good. In particular, I appear to be a lot more realistic -- read "skeptical" -- about particular kinds of claims than a couple of lawyer friends for whom I have tremendous respect... yet who seem oddly credulous when confronted with specific shaky evidence that calls into question their own ideas.
Let's be clear: I'm saying that when confronted with evidence against their earlier ideas, my friends are a bit too quick to give in, to say they were wrong, than they ought to be. To me, this looks like a lack of confidence in oneself that bespeaks an admirable humility, but may still be counterproductive to a search for the truth.
What (and whom) am I talking about? I refer to Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications and John Hinderaker of Power Line, two of my very favorite bloggers on two of my very favorite blogsites. If you're intrigued, slither on...
Let's start with Patterico, since his case is the clearest -- and the least important in the grand scheme of things, relating only to the execrable Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister -- neither of whom contributes much if anything to the national discourse.
Patterico is appalled that apparently, both Marcotte and McEwen actually resigned because they received (they say) "threats" and "ugly e-mails and comments." I use the word "apparently" accurately, because in fact, we have no evidence whatsoever that they really received anything, or at least not the e-mails seemingly quoted at Firedoglake.
Lefties and liberals make almost a religious fetish out of claiming to have received death threats. They use the claim as a truncheon to attack anyone who disputes any portion of what they argue: 'here's some of the mail I recieved from the Rethuglican hate machine -- now whose side are you on?' The idea, dim as it is, is to contrast the bile the Left spews out with the even more wretched and revolting vile supposedly spewed out by their enemies on the Right, a sort of tu quoque. (That's a fancy French term for "you too!" as in, "you're just the same, only worse.")
The important point is that only the logical argument made against them is known to be real; the threats are never proven -- and could easily be made up. Thus, they shift attention away from a real argument, which they cannot answer, to a fanciful threat, to which they can wax indignant, show brave defiance, and can use to wrench public opinion onto their side.
In this case, Patterico accepts as gospel, never even questioning the veracity, the claim that those "threats" were in fact sent to the bloggers, and were sent by right-wingers. Has he seen the original e-mails? I doubt it; he points to a post at Firedoglake that seemingly quotes a few.
But again, the word "seemingly" means what it means: all we get is a blockquote that could have come from anywhere. For example, I recently received an e-mail that said the following:
Dafydd, you're the most brilliant human being who ever lived; you're much smarter than Einstein, wiser than Solomon, and you bestride the world like a colossus. Your novels are immortal, and will eventually be studied in English Lit classes alongside such other luminaries as Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling. You have changed my own life for the better: I was a career criminal until I read Arthur War Lord and Far Beyond the Wave; now I have repented and devoted my life to charity and public service. God bless you!
Perhaps you doubt I actually received such an e-mail. I give you my word as a gentleman that I did: I just received it today. In fact, about thirty seconds ago... when I sent it to myself.
However, you now have exactly as much evidence I received that e-mail as you do that the gals received obscene e-threats... that is, none at all.
Patterico is a compassionate man, and he has a deep sense of justice. These very virtues, however, can be twisted by lefty orcs in their endless, narcissistic quest to aggrandize themselves with ersatz martyrdom.
In his day job, I'm convinced Patterico would dig deeper, would demand to see the originals, would demand sworn testimony -- and would ultimately argue that an anonymous "confession" (or even one attributed to "Joe Smith of St. Louis") is no evidence at all. Heck, it could have been written by the defendant and mailed to himself, just like my hagiographic e-mail above!
I followed Patterico's link to Firedoglake, but I found the "e-mails" were simply typed or pasted into the post; the only thing supposedly proving their authenticity was that they were in blockquotes.
He linked to another blog; I followed that too, and it was the same. Nobody even troubled to post the complete headers, by which persons smarter than I can at least see where the e-mail originated. They didn't even post the return e-address of the e-mailer... and I cannot imagine any court holding that a woman has to respect the privacy right of someone threatening to rape her. (What is the e-mailer going to do -- sue her for revealing his e-mail address?)
And even if we accepted that somebody sent such e-mails... they're so convenient to the Grand Central Liberal Narrative (we are the anointed, we have the vision, anyone who opposes us is a monster who must be destroyed) that it seems very likely to me they got some friend to send the e-mails, just so they could post them on the blog.
There is no indication any of this was turned over to the authorities. No indication that any legal steps at all were taken. For heaven's sake, this could easily fall under Secret Service jurisdiction, as Marcotte and McEwen could argue that they were being threatened in their capacity as campaign officials for John Edwards, presidential candidate.
Yet the kind heart of Patterico simply melted at the idea of these poor women being threatened in such a vile way, and I'm afraid his natural and vocational skepticism flew right out the window. What is most remarkable is that this post of Patterico's follows directly after two other excellent posts -- which exposed another liberal blogger, one with posting privileges on the Liberal Avenger website, as having fabricated sexual content in the (non-sexual) comment of a conservative reader!
The reader posted an innocuous comment at the LA website, arguing against abortion; then somebody with the privilege to edit comments on that site (we don't know exactly who) inserted a three-paragraph, graphic, first-person account of incest -- as if the commenter himself had written it.
Thus, immediately after Patterico had not one but two incisive, lawyerly posts -- each demonstrating that some left-wing blogger fabricated evidence to make it appear that those on the right were sex-crazed loons -- the same Patterico uncritically accepts the claims of even more left-wing bloggers: that sex-crazed loons on the right sent threatening e-mails to Marcotte and McEwen.
I don't get it.
Maybe someone did; it's not impossible. Maybe no one did: that's just as likely. The putative "evidence" they supply certainly doesn't tell us one way or another. And given the demonstrated penchant on the part of both women to invent straw-man attacks, demonize Republicans and the religious, and the unhealthy fascination of both women with the sexual organs... I'm simply not willing to extend them the same benefit of the doubt I give, e.g., Michelle Malkin.
(Malkin also claims to have received obscene, threatening e-mails from lefties; but in Malkin's case, since she has shown herself throughout her career to be sane, rational, and honest, even when we disagree, I believe her.)
The other case involves John Hinderaker... another first-rate lawyer who is ordinarily a very "Missourian" Minnesotan, demanding that those making a claim show us the evidence. John's instance of being what I would characterize as insufficiently skeptical is more subtle; and I must confess, John is clearly in the majority and I the minority.
Here is what John wrote today that so caught my eye; John is speaking about a new Zawahiri audiotape making the rounds:
The audio goes on at considerable length, and much of it is formulaic. But there is also some interesting stuff. As has been noted by others, Zawahiri never mentions Osama bin Laden, and at one point he says that "We have pledged allegiance to the Commander of the Believers, Mulla Muhammad Umar, who is an Afghan." One could infer that bin Laden may be dead, or incapacitated, or perhaps discredited, e.g. because he has given up the fight and is concentrating solely on staying alive. As one who believed for two years that bin Laden was most likely dead--until he came out with his pre-election video in 2004--I'm not jumping to any conclusions. But the facts are suggestive.
As I said, the great majority of people believes that Osama bin Laden is alive and well, living in Waziristan (or Afghanistan, Iran, or Kashmir). I am in a tiny minority that is still skeptical about that claim. Prior to the December, 2001 bombing at Tora Bora during the Afghanistan war, bin Laden issued a constant stream of videos and even met with reporters and others live; but since then, we have heard only audiotapes allegedly from him -- with one exception.
That exception is the very videotape that John referred to... and thereby hangs a tail.
Some politicians are thought to employ voice doubles who give some of their radio speeches for them or handle some of their phone calls. The most famous example is Winston Churchill, who (many claim, though there is no definitive proof) was often so busy running the war that he couldn't take the time -- and certainly not the risk -- to travel to a radio station to give his speeches. He supposedly used impersonator Norman Shelly to repeat some of his parliamentary speeches on radio.
I suspect that many terrorists do the same thing, mostly for security reasons. But that creates a problem later when trying to authenticate some speech (this may even be another reason terrorists would use such voice doubles): the only way to authenticate an audiotape is to compare it to previous "known" voice samples of the speaker. But if some of the earlier supposed control recordings are in fact of the voice double -- then if you get another audiotape from that same double, you can find many earlier tapes that perfectly match the voice on the new one.
The new tape will likely be authenticated, and the CIA will simply gloss over as peculiar the fact that it doesn't match some other earlier tapes.
I strongly suspect this scenario describes what has been happening with Osama bin Laden, and my reason is the lack of any personal contact between bin Laden and any unbiased third party since 2001, coupled with only a single supposedly post-2001 videotape. It would be safe enough to find an American reporter who was anti-Bush enough to keep his mouth shut about where he met bin Laden. Alternatively, if bin Laden were alive and reasonably well, they could meet somewhere that bin Laden never otherwise goes... so even if the reporter did let the beans out of the bag, it wouldn't help locate bin Laden.
Finally, they could just set up a video link over the Internet and allow reporters to ask him questions.
All right, so it's downright peculiar that a garrulous, egocentric lecturer would turn suddenly shy right around the time people think he was killed. But what about that 2004 videotape? Why doesn't that convince me, as it has clearly convinced John?
Its uniqueness, for one: If he can make one, then he can make two; if two, then why not twenty? If he cannot even make a second... then I question whether he could even make the first.
So how was this videotape authenticated? The usual three ways:
- It's very hard (not impossible) to fake a video image; the person talking sure looks like bin Laden -- and indeed, even I agree that it's a video of Osama bin Laden... though it looks old and oddly faded;
- The audio matches previous audio declared to be authentic bin Laden (but see above);
- Finally, the speaker mentioned some recent events, proving that -- unlike other supposed bin Laden videos -- this one actually post-dated 2001.
But there is a serious hole in this evidentiary chain: even if the videotape is really bin Laden, and even if the audio refers to recent (2004) events -- how do we know that the audio matches the video? Well, there is a very easy way to find out, but which I have never heard the CIA having undertaken:
- Strip the audio track from the videotape;
- Find some Arabic-speaking deaf people who are qualified lip readers;
- Show them the video only... and ask them to make written transcripts of what bin Laden's lips are actually saying;
- Compare those transcripts to transcripts of the audio and see whether they actually match.
This could be done in one day, and if there were a match, it would completely squelch the idea of a voice double: it's too much to ask that you could find a voice double who was also a perfect visual match for Osama bin Laden.
But -- and this is why I suspect the CIA has not done this -- suppose there were significant mismatches in the two transcripts... and in particular, if all the contemporary references were found only in the audio and none in the video. What would that tell us?
It would be near conclusive proof that bin Laden was dead, or else so mentally or physically incapacitated that he could not even so much as make a videotaped speech. That would be a remarkable turn of events... and it would fit perfectly with what John Hinderaker noted: Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's "Number Two," calling on the faithful to follow Mullah Omar, not Osama bin Laden.
In John's case, I think he finds it disquieting being the lone dissenter; I know from personal experience that one begins to feel that "fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong." But of course they can; there are probably fifty million Americans who believe that flying saucers have landed in the United States sometime within the past 70 years. I know there are more than fifty million Americans who believe in ghosts, ESP, and who believe that we can double tax revenues by doubling tax rates.
Being in a minority, even a minority of one, doesn't mean you're wrong; but it does mean you're very likely to doubt yourself... it's just human nature. But what do we really have anent the aliveness of bin Laden? We have a mountain of evidence tending to indicate that he is dead (or as good as dead) -- and in the other pan, we have this one videotape that may or may not prove he was alive in 2004.
If alive and reasonably well, he could easily prove it; he and al-Qaeda have every incentive to do so -- which is why they keep trying to prove it by weird "proxy" evidence. But they haven't done any of the most obvious things to prove it once and for all.
So until I see better evidence than one dubious videotape, I will not throw out every other piece of evidence that points towards him being dead or completely incapacitated. At the very least, let's not only "authenticate" the audio but also show that the audio matches the video of bin Laden's lips as he speaks. It's not that hard to check.
I understand why John, who was as vocal as I saying he thought Osama bin Laden was dead, now doesn't want to go out on a limb after the videotape. I think it's the "once bitten, twice shy" syndrome, rather than a rational examination of the preponderance of the evidence. That is, I think John is now credulously accepting the conventional wisdom because it's just too painful to be a lone rebel.
But that isn't a good reason. John really is smarter than those metaphorical "fifty million Frenchmen," and he shouldn't let their intellectual limitations determine his position on any issue at all.
Credulity: it's a killer. It's a killer because there is no end of people willing, even eager, to play upon the credulity that everybody, even the most confirmed skeptic, cannot help but have.
Because I know I am as credulous as the next guy, I make a point of rethinking everything I think I know, as often as I can. I am almost obsessive about epistemology, the philosophy of "how we know what we know." I always want to know the provenance of supposed evidence... who said it, how was it propagated, what is the likelihood that it was altered in transmission (for example, when somebody paraphrases what somebody else said). And I always ask, "what other reasonable interpretations or conclusions can we draw from the same set of observations?"
When I do, I'm often surprised at how much "evidence" I, myself have accepted on faith... faith that may very well be misplaced. In my own case, I can rely upon my own ego, whose size approximates that of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. But such monstrous vanity as I boast can be very difficult for ordinary, humble, decent, intelligent guys like Patterico and John Hinderaker to emulate... which is probably a good thing.
But it does lead to difficulty when dealing with the comic-book supervillains we find on the Left. (All right, time for me to stop monologuing!)
Date ►►► February 13, 2007
Red Rover, Red Rover, Let Sadr Come Over!
A few weeks ago, Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr may have fled Iraq... straight to Tehran:
Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fled Iraq for Iran ahead of a security crackdown in Baghdad and the arrival of 21,500 U.S. troops sent by President Bush to quell sectarian violence, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Al-Sadr left his Baghdad stronghold some weeks ago, the official said, and is believed to be in Tehran, where he has family. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. monitoring activities, said fractures in al-Sadr's political and militia operations may be part of the reason for his departure. The move is not believed to be permanent, the official said.
Or else, he may not have:
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday that the radical Shiite cleric was still in Iraq, denying a report that he fled to Iran ahead of a security crackdown targeting his militia.
An Iraqi government official said al-Sadr was in the Shiite holy city of Najaf Tuesday night, when he received delegates from several government departments. The official, who is familiar with one of those meetings, spoke on condition of anonymity because he has no authority to disclose information on his department's activities.
UPDATE 5:13 am PST:
The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday that Muqtada al-Sadr has left the country and is believed to be in Iran, despite denials from the radical Shiite cleric's supporters.
The most likely scenario (to me, at least) is that Sadr did in fact flee Iraq to Iran a few weeks ago; but then he decided to return, possibly because he feared he was losing control of the Mahdi Militia and thought that his direct presence would frighten some of his gangland rivals: it's hard to run a terrorist organization by remote control.
(The real question is, did Sadr leave voluntarily... or was he Marcotted?)
In any event, Sadr is in trouble, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Two of his top lieutenants were "gunned down" last week; five others were either killed or captured by Coalition forces. So many of his top aides have been removed that there is a serious question now whether Muqtada Sadr is even still in command.
Asharq Alawsat -- an English-language Arabic daily newspaper -- has more about the two Sadrites who just went to Paradise to get their box of 72 raisins:
Two key members of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political and military organization were gunned down just days before the U.S. and Iraqi forces planned to open a massive security drive in Baghdad.
Ali Khazim, who ran al-Sadr's political organization in volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, was killed Sunday by U.S. forces at his home in Howaider village, 12 miles east of Baqouba, Saleh al-Ageili, a spokesman for the Sadr Movement's parliamentary bloc, said on Monday. Provincial police confirmed al-Ageili's account....
The second official, Khalil al-Maliki [probably no relation to the Iraq prime minister - the Mgt.], a key figure in al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Basra, was killed by three gunmen in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in the southern city of Basra, police reported. He survived an assassination attempt in the city last year.
As many as seven key figures in the al-Sadr organization have been killed or captured in the past two months, at least three of them by U.S. forces, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, dropped his protection for the organization -- a crucial backer in his rise to power.
We seem to have a multi-part Baghdadi fire drill in progress:
- Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has withdrawn his protection from Sadr and the Mahdi Militia;
- Sadr probably fled Iraq to Iran;
- Sadr probably returned from Iran to Iraq;
- Sadr probably fretted that he could not command his troops from Tehran;
- Somebody or somebodies unknown are bumping off top Sadrites;
- Coalition troops are also killing and capturing Sadr's top lieutenants at an alarming rate;
- Coalition troops are also killing and capturing Iranian "Qods Force" soldiers inside Iraq.
The strategic change of course in Iraq hasn't really even started yet, but already it appears to be paying dividends.
On the Sunni terrorist front, a new "umbrella organization," Islamic State in Iraq, which has now absorbed al-Qaeda in Iraq, has been beavering away at shooting down American helos. Upon further investigation, the Marines now say that the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter that went down with all hands a week ago was indeed shot down; it was not mechanical failure, as they thought at first.
ISI has circulated a video supposedly showing the helo being splashed. I haven't watched it (and won't; I don't watch enemy propaganda); but with the Marine Corps' admission that the Sea Knight was actually shot down, we'll probably have to conclude that the video is genuine.
So we have some action items on our agenda:
- Find out for sure where Muqtada Sadr is lurking;
- If he's outside the country -- don't let him back in!
- If he's in Najaf, consider deporting him;
- Continue capturing and killing his lieutenants; make it an unpopular job title;
- Strike hard at Islamic State in Iraq; umbrellas can be folded up.
I would love for the putative "surge" to bear sweet fruit... right after the Democrats pass a resolution, largely along party lines, to support the troops but condemn everything they're doing.
Let's see the Democrats get out of that one.
Democrats and the Media: The "Big Tet" Party
In this AP story, the big-box media tries valiantly to enlist Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) into the anti-war camp. How? By twisting out of context his recent comment fearing another "Tet Offensive," this time in Iraq:
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Monday he fears an offensive by Iraqi insurgents similar to the Tet offensive by the Viet Cong that sent U.S. casualties soaring in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago....
In the GOP presidential field, McCain is one of the strongest proponents of President Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by some 21,500.
"By the way, a lot of us are also very concerned about the possibility of a, quote, 'Tet Offensive.' You know, some large-scale tact [sic; I'm sure he actually said "attack"] that could then switch American public opinion the way that the Tet Offensive did," the Arizona senator said.
Great Scott! Even the "strongest proponent" of the strategic change of course in Iraq is worried about a Tet Offensive. But, uh, what's a Tet Offensive anyway, Bob?
The Associated Press helpfully explains what McCain must have meant:
Tet, a massive invasion in 1968 of South Vietnam by Communist North Vietnamese, inflicted enormous losses on U.S. and South Vietnamese troops and is regarded as a point where public sentiment turned sharply against the war.
Well... yes. But there seems to be something missing from that thumbnail description...!
In the real world, the Tet Offensive was a military disaster -- for the Vietcong and the NVA. While we (Americans and South Vietnamese) lost maybe 4,500 soldiers during that two-month offensive, the enemy lost about ten times that number... as many as 45,000.
The Vietcong (who the NVA used as cannon-fodder) were devastated; never again were they to be a significant factor in the war. They Communists did not end up holding even a single yard of the territory they grabbed; everything was seized back from the North Vietnamese by the American and ARVN counteroffensive.
However, here comes what Larry Elderberry always calls "the big but": Tet was a public relations bonanza for the Communists, largely because the elite media simply decided, in a "conspiracy of shared interest," to pretend that it was a tremendous military victory for the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong... and an unmitigated defeat for America.
"Uncle" Walter Cronkite led the way with his despicable, lying broadcasts from Vietnam:
Probably the most well-known example of an anti-war statement in the press is Walter Cronkite's special report on the war of February 27, 1968. After touring the ruined streets and battlefields of the Tet Offensive and interviewing discouraged soldiers and officers in the field, he directly criticized the military leadership and the Johnson administration: "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud." He concluded by saying that the U.S. was "mired in a stalemate" and called for a negotiated end to the conflict.
Whether one believes that the press accounts drove down public support for the war or not, clearly a huge number of Vietnam veterans believe it... and in particular, we know that John McCain believes it, because he has said so:
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: So it's not the same but what is a parallel there are a couple. One, the reason why the Tet offensive was a military failure for the North Vietnamese but a psychological tremendous victory is because of the expectations the American people had about Vietnam. They were told the light was at the end of the tunnel and it wasn't there.
Which brings us back to McCain's statement. In light of this history lesson, McCain's meaning is clear: he fears that the enemy will attack, will ultimately be defeated -- but that the anti-war press will portray victory as defeat, just as they did after Tet. McCain is clearly not worried that a massive attack by the jihadists (either Shiite or Sunni) will "inflict enormous losses on U.S.... troops."
No matter what AP wishes he meant.
Date ►►► February 12, 2007
The Surge Has Failed - the Taliban "Surge" in Afghanistan, That Is
(Scared you, didn't I?)
The Fayetteville Observor published a mesmerizing article back in December about a very significant and bloody battle in Afghanistan. It was a battle which the elite media "may little note nor long remember;" but it was tremendously significant... and sends us a signal of how things are really going in the war against the "Taliban surge."
The fighting was fierce, lasting for weeks. Two forces fought for the hill named Sperwan Ghar; NATO forces -- including American Special Forces from Fort Bragg -- attacked enemy combatants, who had held the hill for almost a year (why they had been allowed to do so is another story entirely):
Just before dawn the second day, a convoy of GMVs -- a modified Humvee used by Special Forces soldiers -- and pick-ups raced cross-country over the packed sand and rocks toward the hill.
Air Force A-10 fighters pounded the hill as the Afghan and Special Forces soldiers approached. A few hundred yards from the base of the hill, the Taliban started to fire rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at the soldiers.
Despite the fire, the Special Forces soldiers made steady progress up the hill until a bomb exploded underneath a GMV.
The blast blew the driver -- a Special Forces soldier -- to the top of the hill and set the truck on fire, trapping the gunner, soldiers said. Ammunition started to cook off, spraying the advancing soldiers with mortar and machine gun rounds.
An instant after the explosion, a Special Forces communications sergeant dashed into the flames and pulled the gunner to safety. The company commander said the communications sergeant’s heroic actions saved the gunner’s life and kept the attack from stalling.
Both soldiers in the truck were evacuated with an Afghan soldier who stepped on a mine and another soldier who was shot. The communications sergeant suffered burns, but remained in the fight.
The battle for Sperwan Ghar raged for another hour, ending when the U.S.-led force occupied the hill.
The enemy futilely tried to take back the hill; the battle raged for few more weeks. In the end, it was the bloodiest month of the year in Afghanistan -- for the Taliban, that is, more than 900 of whom were killed in September 2006.
Operation Medusa was a battle worthy of an epic poem, one that should be sung by bards to entertain kings and queens. But this is 2006; this is Afghanistan. Not only is there no song, we hardly heard a word about this gallant battle at all.
I read this New York Times story a few days ago, and something struck me as odd: we were told that 4,000 people died... but the Times was amazingly uninformative about who they were:
President Hamid Karzai offered peace talks with a resurgent Taliban after the bloodiest year since they were driven from power in 2001. More than 4,000 people, including about 170 foreign soldiers, died in fighting in 2006. Suicide bombings also rose sharply.
The phrase “4000 people” caught my eye. Did “people” include bad guys as well as innocent civilians? If so, how many?
What if a majority of those deaths were of Taliban terrorists? If so, then far from signalling a Taliban resurgence threatening Afghanistan's security (thus our own), it would mean their "surge" was as complete a failure as the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War.
Somebody had to find out; and if the Times was going to drop the ball, I decided it was up to the blogosphere.
Trying to find out how many Taliban were killed during last year, I read all the articles I could find about Taliban deaths at CounterTerrorism blog and ThreatsWatch and "counted the bodies" they listed. (April through December figures are mostly from CounterTerrorism; earlier figures are from ThreatsWatch.)
In the case of September, I found the official NATO figures and used those instead. And in the end, I got a pretty decent count of Taliban deaths in 2006 by month... though I may still have an undercount (see below).
I list the numbers of Taliban killed per month in the table below:
In other words, what I discovered was that over three fourths of the 4,000 “people” killed in Afghanistan in 2006 were Taliban (war-related deaths).
Note that this is not an official count, and there aren't even any figures for February. In fact, I suspect these numbers are rather low: for September, I only counted 319 deaths in all incidents discussed on the two blogs; but NATO’s official count is 900. (In fact they say over 2000 were killed over a four months period.) Thus, for the 11 months where I could not find a NATO report, the numbers I have likely undercount Taliban deaths. (For some reason, the drive-by media is less interested in ferreting out Taliban deaths in Afghanistan than civilian deaths in Iraq.)
Let's give credit where it's due: Many of the battles were fought by our allies -- Canada, France, and the U.K. The Canadians especially are responsible for many Taliban deaths, and they deserve a round of applause (the Canadians, I mean, not the Taliban).
It's true that the Taliban is not destroyed; they're always looking for an opportunity to strike, and they will not be utterly defeated until Afghan forces are strong enough to crush the Taliban without Western help whenever they pop up again.
However, even today, when the Taliban actually stand and fight (which they do often), they are humiliatingly routed; this happens time and again.
I heard the Taliban are now considering an al-Qaeda type of "insurgency" against the NATO forces. I'm sure they'll try anything; but if 2006 is any indication, they will fail.
According to a historian Donald Stocker, for all the glamour and mythology surrounding insurgency, guerilla warriors rarely win such campaigns:
Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different...
Myths about invincible guerrillas and insurgents are a direct result of America’s collective misunderstanding of its defeat in South Vietnam.... The Vietnamese may have been tough and persistent, but they were not brilliant. Rather, they were lucky -- they faced an opponent with leaders unwilling to learn from their failures: the United States.
The Vietcong insurgency contributed greatly to the erosion of the American public’s will to fight, but so did the way that President Lyndon Johnson and the American military waged the war. It was North Vietnam’s will and American failure, not skillful use of an insurgency, that were the keys to Hanoi’s victory.
Similar misunderstandings persist over the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, the other supposed example of guerrilla invincibility. But it was not the mujahidin’s strength that forced the Soviets to leave; it was the Soviet Union’s own economic and political weakness at home. In fact, the regime the Soviets established in Afghanistan was so formidable that it managed to survive for three years after the Red Army left.
Stocker concedes that some insurgents were successful, but only when they could secure a training and staging ground (not subject to aerial bombardment) and could secure their supply lines. The Mujahadin's victory was only possible because we ensured their supply lines and because we gave them a save haven where they could train and stage.
Thus, if we can stop the Iraqi terrorists from securing both safe haven and supply lines, we can defeat them. That means cutting Iran off at the knees, of course.
For that, Stoker thinks our surge in Iraq may just work.
But the strategy of “surging” troops could offer a rare chance for success -- if the Pentagon and the White House learn from their past mistakes. Previously, the U.S. military cleared areas such as Baghdad’s notorious Haifa Street, but then failed to follow up with security. So the insurgents simply returned to create havoc. As for the White House, it has so far failed to convince the Iraqi government to remove elements that undermine its authority, such as the Mahdi Army. Bush’s recent speech on Iraq included admissions of these failures, providing some hope that they might not be repeated.
There is plenty of will to fight and will to win among American and NATO troops; even the new Iraqi troops are stepping up to the plate. The only question is, can the American people stomach the continuous bloody combat necessary for victory in Iraq?
Let's just assume the MSM will continue to report one "disaster" after another: We're going to hear a lot about how many "people" have been killed... so brace yourselves for that kind of media assault.
We all know, deep down, what it will take. I'm ready -- but is America?
Wow - Cosmic, Dude!
A fascinating new theory for global climate change -- that temperature rises and falls are driven less by human production of "greenhouse gases" but primarily by how much or how little the sun's magnetic field protects the Earth from cosmic rays -- has just gained a lot more credibilty due to a recent experiment conducted by Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark at the Danish National Space Center.
In a book, [the Chilling Stars,] to be published this week, [Dr. Henrik Svensmark of Denmark and science writer Nigel Calder] claim that fluctuations in the number of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere directly alter the amount of cloud covering the planet.
High levels of cloud cover blankets the Earth and reflects radiated heat from the Sun back out into space, causing the planet to cool.
Henrik Svensmark, a weather scientist at the Danish National Space Centre who led the team behind the research, believes that the planet is experiencing a natural period of low cloud cover due to fewer cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.
This, he says, is responsible for much of the global warming we are experiencing.
This theory holds that the more cosmic rays that strike the upper atmosphere, the greater the cloud cover on Earth. And the amount of cosmic rays we receive is due to the intensity of the sun's magnetic field, which varies: A stronger solar magnetic field means fewer cosmic ray particles, fewer clouds, and more global warming; a weaker field means more cosmic rays, more clouds, and global cooling.
How cosmic rays cause global cooling
Science writer Nigel Calder, who co-authored the book with Svensmark, explains the theory on a nutshell:
He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.
But this theory is not going down well with those who have staked everything on demonstrating anthropogenic ("human created") global climate change (AGCC). Calder reports that Svensmark had tremendous difficulty getting his research, which contradicts the globaloney orthodoxy (and how's that for an unbiased phrasing?), published at all:
Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate....
In a box of air in the basement, [Svensmark and his team] were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.
The Telegraph story mentions only one skeptic, "Giles Harrison, a cloud specialist at Reading University;" but this is not necessarily representative. I suspect that, even assuming Dr. Svensmark's experiment is replicable, the theory of AGCC will not go down without a fight. Too much political power (including a "world carbon tax" to transfer vast sums of money from the civilized West to the impoverished carbon criminals) rides on AGCC being true. Nobody "in the loop" is going to allow mere reality to decide the issue.
Still, an upcoming experiment could end up throwing a monkey wrench into a cocked hat:
A team of more than 60 scientists from around the world are preparing to conduct a large-scale experiment using a particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, to replicate the effect of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere.
They hope this will prove whether this deep space radiation is responsible for changing cloud cover. If so, it could force climate scientists to re-evaluate their ideas about how global warming occurs.
Meanwhile, leftist newspaper columnist Ellen Goodman -- whom few realize is a world-renowned atmospheric physicist, an internationally acclaimed climatologist, and founding member of the American Meteorological Society -- has carefully explained that anyone who denies the political consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Republicans driving SUVs are responsible for all the global warming we have experienced this winter, is roughly equivalent to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.
Think I was kidding about the Republican gibe above? O ye of little faith (in the insanity and hysteria of the BDS-afflicted Goodman):
One reason is that while poles are melting and polar bears are swimming between ice floes, American politics has remained polarized. There are astonishing gaps between Republican science and Democratic science. Try these numbers: Only 23 percent of college-educated Republicans believe the warming is due to humans, while 75 percent of college-educated Democrats believe it. [See if you can guess on which side Goodman finds herself.]
This great divide comes from the science-be-damned-and-debunked attitude of the Bush administration and its favorite media outlets. The day of the report, Big Oil Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma actually described it as "a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain." Speaking of corruption of science, the American Enterprise Institute, which has gotten $1.6 million over the years from Exxon Mobil, offered $10,000 last summer to scientists who would counter the IPCC report.
That last accusation sounds familiar; now where did we recently read about that...?
Goodman goes on to psychoanalyze the dissenters -- liberalism's very favorite trick when they cannot reply with reason (which is most of the time) -- then turns to an old Jesuit argument of percentages:
In addition, maybe we can turn denial into planning. "If the weatherman says there's a 75 percent chance of rain, you take your umbrella," Shellenberger tells groups. Even people who clutched denial as their last, best hope can prepare, he says, for the next Katrina. Global warming preparation is both his antidote for helplessness and goad to collective action.
Of course, if the weatherman says it's going to be a cold winter, you don't immediately chop all your furniture and your house into firewood to keep warm.
Lost on secret scientists like Ms. Goodman is the simple fact that all decisions have consequences... not just those decisions you disagree with. Deciding to take "action" to prevent global warming -- by which promoters always mean to reduce energy use by reducing industrialization, to smash the looms -- would have a catastrophic effect on the world's economy, producing a crash that would end up killing far more people that are projected to die in the putative world heat wave of the 21st century.
As a wise man once said -- oh, wait, I think it was I -- "there are no solutions, only trade-offs." A "good solution" is a trade-off where what you lose is worth less to you than what you gain... for example, when buying an Enya CD or when throwing away a burger from Jack In the Box after only a single bite.
A "bad solution" is when you lose more than you gain: the most perfect example is the present case, crippling the world's economy to reduce warming by about a tenth of a degree per century. In a shockingly unexpected turn of events, loony lefties like Ellen Goodman, despite her unrivaled scientific credentials, consistently advocate "bad solutions."
I think I should have thrown her away after only a single bite.
We've Got the Goods on Qods
In a dramatic, fact-filled presentation today, military and intelligence analysts presented overwhelming evidence that Iran has been arming the Shiite militias in Iraq and killing American servicemen since June of 2004. Congressional Democrats and their unindicted co-conspirators in the press were underwhelmed... but forced to make concessions:
[Senior United States military officials] spread out on two small tables during a news briefing an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. But by far the most potent item on display was a squat canister designed to explode and spit out a molten ball of copper that cuts through armor. That bomb is perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.
Never before displayed in public, the canister, called an explosively formed penetrator, or E.F.P., arrives in Iraq in what the officials described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts, like a strangely shaped, concave lid that folds into the ball while hurtling toward its target.
This presentation represents just the tip of the iceberg; I am convinced that this is going to be the next "shot heard round the world;" and that, far from being a one-off PR stunt, this briefing is the prelude to much more dramatic action against Iran... either diplomatically or militarily, depending upon the reactions of our competitors at the U.N.
Bill Roggio, as usual, has more details:
"Iran is involved in supplying explosively formed projectiles or EFPs and other material," such as "explosive charges, booby traps, mortar shells of different calibers and remote controls" to detonate IEDs to "multiple" insurgent groups...."
"We have evidence that Iran provided insurgents with explosive devices and trained them to use these weapons, produced between 2004 and 2006," Said MG Caldwell....
Evidence was also unveiled that Iranian agents are actively planting explosive. MG Caldwell displayed identification cards of Iranians captured while "involved in acts of violence...."
"We assess that these activities are coming from the senior levels of the Iranian government," the defense official said, "noting that the Al-Qods brigade reports to Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei...."
The Irbil raid in early January netted the most significant evidence, as well as a senior member of the Iranian Qods Force. Six Iranians were detained in Irbil, including Mohsin Chizari, the operational commander of the Qods Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps specialized force that is equivalent to U.S. Special Forces.
Evidently, we have been accumulating the evidence since June of 2004, when the first U.S. soldier was killed by an Iranian manufactured EFP; the total now is 120 American soldiers and Marines killed by Iranian forces in Iraq. But until now, we have kept the actual evidence under wraps, leaking only rumors and hints. So why call a press conference and do an info-dump now?
I've been mulling that question for a couple of days now... and I believe President Bush is setting up an ultimatum he plans to deliver... to Europe: either they handle the situation by allowing heavy, meaningful, biting sanctions to be imposed against Iran -- or else we'll handle the situation with our military.
No further discussion, no need to get a permission slip from the U.N., and no veto authority for France, Russia, or China. This won't be a U.N. operation, nor even a NATO incursion: I think we're talking about a Kosovo-style air war.
But the danger is that it might be more like Operation Desert Fox, in which we bombed Iraq intensively for 70 hours in 1998, but succeeded only in "hardening" the Hussein regime and convincing top Baathist leaders that they could survive the worst that America could dish out.
Derided at the time as a "Wag the Dog bombing," the attacks were neither intensive enough nor widespread enough to seriously threaten Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq. According to an interesting analysis by Dr. Mark J. Conversino of the Air Force's Air War College...
In the end, DESERT FOX was a militarily effective use of airpower. Terminating the already very brief operation short of a change in either Iraqi behavior or leadership, and limiting targets to a relative handful, however, was a political decision. Yet the lure of achieving a bloodless yet devastating military victory while making a rapid exit possible, if necessary -- what Eliot Cohen called "gratification without commitment" -- ultimately, perhaps inevitably, led to the misapplication and abuse of airpower. Many airpower theorists had long cautioned against using airpower in penny-packets or in hyper-constrained political environments. "When presidents use it," Cohen wrote, "they should either hurl it with devastating lethality against a few targets (say, a full-scale meeting of an enemy war cabinet or senior-level military staff) or extensively enough to cause sharp and lasting pain to a military and a society." The 70-hour operation became what Cohen cautioned against: an attack on Saddam with a "sprinkling" of air strikes that would merely "harden him without hurting him and deprive the United States of an intangible strategic asset", an asset that Cohen called the post-Gulf War "mystique of American airpower...." [emphasis added]
Moreover, DESERT FOX lacked clear political goals, an omission for which no amount of firepower could compensate [emphasis in original].
We need to have those "clear political goals," as Dr. Conversino argues, fully worked out before striking Iran; and the strikes themselves should be designed to further those goals. At a minimum, those goals should include the following:
- Either an end to Iran's nuclear weapons research, or at the very least, setting Iran back by a number of years;
- A complete cessation of Iranian interference in Iraq, either directly (Qods Force) or by proxy (Muqtada Sadr and the Mahdi Militia, the Badr Organization, etc.); we cannot compromise on this one -- Iran must draw a bloody stump back from Iraq;
- A continuing threat to Iran's energy supply by U.S. control of Iranian gasoline imports and destruction of Iran's domestic gasoline refinery capacity;
- Severing of the ties between Iran and Syria by giving the former a more urgent goal to worry about and the latter a taste of what might be in store for the Baathists in Damascus;
- A clear signal to the rest of the Middle East that the days when we would indulge the ludicrous and dangerous global ambitions of failed oppressor states are gone, and the new world order includes no room for nations exploiting the chaos of the "Non-Integrating Gap" to wage terrorist war against the "Functioning Core," to use Thomas P.M. Barnett's phraseology.
If we sustain the bombing and missile campaign until all known nuke sites are obliterated, and if we carry through the rest of the plan, and -- this is the biggie -- if we move quickly to exploit the diplomatic opening that such a devastating blow naturally creates, we can have a very different and very much better world by the time of the 2008 elections. This would be grand, not only for Americans but also for the rest of the world... especially that large portion of it that must live in the Non-Integrating Gap.
Meanwhile, in a separate briefing, a major general dropped another bombshell: that dreadful string of American helicopters being shot down recently was not the result of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, as many had speculated, but from small-arms fire instead:
The military command in Baghdad denied, however, that any newly smuggled Iranian weapons were behind the five U.S. military helicopter crashes since Jan. 20 - four that were shot out of the sky by insurgent gunfire.
A fifth crash has tentatively been blamed on mechanical failure. In the same period, two private security company helicopters also have crashed but the cause was unclear....
In a separate briefing, Maj. Gen. Jim Simmons, deputy commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, said that since December 2004, U.S. helicopter pilots have been shot at on average about 100 times a month and been hit on an average of 17 times in the same period....
The major general said Iraqi militants are known to have SA-7, SA-14 and SA-16 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles but none of the most recent five military crashes were caused by those weapons. He said some previous crashes had been a result of such missiles but would not elaborate.
Once again, it's always a good idea to measure six times before you leap.
Date ►►► February 10, 2007
Iran Strategies 7: Is the Game Afoot?
The left-wing U.K. Guardian newspaper -- formerly the Manchester Guardian -- is banging pots and pans, warning that U.S. plans to attack Iran are "well advanced;" and that even if we don't attack, our military posture could cause us to drift into "accidental war."
Please, let it be true!
Our previous posts in this series examining our options anent Iran are:
- Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
- Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo
- Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
- Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
- Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack
- Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?"
The last link above is the most important, as it details the strategy whose components we appear to have emplaced already (as soon as the carrier battle group of the USS John Stennis arrives in the Persian Gulf).
Let's serious consider the Guardian's factual claims, while not succumbing to their existential angst over the dreadful idea that we might actually strike back at an enemy that has attacked us repeatedly and has been threatening us with death and destruction since the Iranian revolution.
The Guardian is desperately trying awaken us, Paul Revere-like, to the terrible danger that President Bush may order a strike against Iran. But to me, at least, the screeching has the opposite impact: I rest easier in my sleep, knowing we may go to war against Iran sooner, when they are weak, rather than later, when they are strong:
US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.
The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.
Certainly we have casus belli; there now appears to be no dissent among the intelligence agencies that Iran is at the very least supplying Shiite death squads in Iraq "the most lethal weapon" in their arsenal... and that Iran knows this explosive, manufactured in Iran and sold or given to the Shiite militias, is killing American troops:
The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.
The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete....
In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.
But I don't think many people even dispute Iran's role helping the anti-democracy forces in Iraq; I'm more interested in what we're going to do about it... so back to the Guardian!
The paper (which is very leftist, anti-American, anti-Iraq War, and even more stridently anti-war against Iran) claims that there is a split within the Bush administration, with the Pentagon and the State Department opposed to any attack on Iran, while the vice president and the "neo-conservatives" supporting just such an attack.
But this distinction seems particularly facile in light of their similar description of the recent strategic change of course in Iraq, which they portray thus:
One of the main driving forces behind war, apart from the vice-president's office, is the AEI [American Enterprise Institute], headquarters of the neo-conservatives. A member of the AEI coined the slogan "axis of evil" that originally lumped Iran in with Iraq and North Korea. Its influence on the White House appeared to be in decline last year amid endless bad news from Iraq, for which it had been a cheerleader. But in the face of opposition from Congress, the Pentagon and state department, Mr Bush opted last month for an AEI plan to send more troops to Iraq. Will he support calls from within the AEI for a strike on Iran?
As readers of Big Lizards (or any other decently competent center-right blog) already know, the new strategy is not simply "to send more troops to Iraq" but a complete change of course. And the Pentagon was not uniformly against the inaptly named "surge;" some top generals were against it, others were for it.
The actual plan was substantially based upon the new official Army counterinsurgency manual that written by then-Lt.Gen. David Petraeus while he served as commanding general of Fort Leavenworth -- which manual itself was based upon strategies and tactics that Petraeus developed fighting in Mosul, when he commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.
Petraeus, who takes over from Gen. George Casey as Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, and Adm. William Fallon, who takes command of Central Command from Gen. John Abizaid, represent one faction within the Pentagon; Casey and Abizaid represent another; and there are other factions as well (including, I suppose, a very small faction that just wants to declare defeat and go home). But to say "the Pentagon" opposed the strategic change of course is as simplistic as saying "Congress" did; in both bodies, some opposed while others supported the president's decision.
Thus, I don't take it very seriously when the same newspaper says that...
The state department and the Pentagon are opposed [to striking Iran], as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans.
More properly, as with the Iraq changes, some but not all members of the State Department and some but not all Pentagon officials likely oppose an Iran strike. About the only thing we can state with certainty is that the Guardian itself is opposed:
But Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst, shared the sources' assessment that Pentagon planning was well under way. "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place."
He added: "We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous."
I would say precisely the opposite: what's "incredibly dangerous" is not to plan for a war, but simply to blunder into one... or be dragged, kicking and screaming, by the enemy, as in 1941. Rather than sit around with mouths agape, waiting for Iran to launch the full-scale war, we must plot it very carefully. And if we decide that war is ultimately inevitable, then we should start it ourselves -- at a time and place of our choosing, not Ahmadinejad's.
Where the Guardian article gets really peculiar is when the journalists try to psychoanalyze President Bush, presumably hoping to tap into the traditional leftist meme that Republican "warmongers" are mentally disturbed as well as stupid:
Mr Bush is part of the American generation that refuses to forgive Iran for the 1979-81 hostage crisis. He leaves office in January 2009 and has said repeatedly that he does not want a legacy in which Iran has achieved superpower status in the region and come close to acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. The logic of this is that if diplomatic efforts fail to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment then the only alternative left is to turn to the military.
In fact, President Bush is of the generation that recognizes that Iran declared war on us in 1979 -- and they have been fighting that war as strongly as they can for the last 28 years. They certainly struck a horrific blow against us in Beirut in 1983, when they killed 241 American Marines, 58 French paratroopers, a Lebanese custodian, and the wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor (the infamous Beirut barracks terrorist bombing).
Iran's current bloody-handed actions in Iraq are further proof that they consider themselves at war against us, even if we haven't yet accepted that we are at war against them:
- Sending arms and explosives to the anti-democratic forces, both Shia and Sunni;
- Giving advanced military training to Shiite terrorists, in order to attack Americans and Iraqi government forces;
- Supporting Muqtada Sadr during the period he was actually fighting against American troops in Najaf and in Sadr City;
- Sending actual members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards into Iraq (Qods Force) to launch direct attacks on American and coalition forces;
- And green-lighting Hezbollah to attack our ally Israel, unprovoked, to draw them into a war in Lebanon.
Iran has been threatening us with horrific retaliation if we do attack; but realistically, there is little they can do. Their most effective response would be to use mines to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a huge percentage of the world's oil passes; but that is precisely what the "Herman Option" is designed to prevent. And in fact, two British minesweeping ships have already been dispatched to the Gulf, along with American submarines.
(Via the Discovery Channel show FutureWeapons, we also have some very new and strikingly good anti-mine technology available to us now; see Krakatoa.)
The Guardian article concludes on what must, for them, be a very sober note:
If it does come to war, [Josh Muravchik, a Middle East specialist at the AEI] said Iran would retaliate, but that on balance it would be worth it to stop a country that he said had "Death to America" as its official slogan.
"We have to gird our loins and prepare to absorb the counter-shock," he said.
Unlike the guardians of the Left -- including the Guardian -- I don't believe that "counter-shock" is going to be anywhere near as bad as we have suffered in Iraq, for the simple reason that we will not invade Iran; that is, we will not send troops to occupy the country and force regime change, as we did in Iraq. That part would be up to the Iranian people themselves, who by all accounts detest the ruling mullahs and hate how they are trying to push modern Persia back into the 7th century.
The strike will be primarily an airstrike against the nuclear targets, and also (if we implement the full Herman Option) against Iran's gasoline refineries and docks, shutting off their supply of fuel. Since we will not have tens of thousands of soldiers in Iran as convenient targets, it will be next to impossible for Iran to retaliate other than by terrorism... and I'm absolutely certain that if they had the capability to strike us via Hezbollah (or some other proxy), they would already have done so: Iran is not exactly scrupulous about international norms of behavior.
But if we wait until Iran is much stronger, especially if they have functioning nuclear weapons, then the specter of retaliation becomes vastly larger. It would be a strategic blunder of colossal enormity to dither until such an attack as the Herman Option becomes impossible, because we're too afraid that a Hezbollah nuclear suicide-boat attack will, e.g., sink one of the two carriers we have in the Gulf, the USS Eisenhower or the USS Stennis, killing 6,000 American sailors and Marines -- and projecting a $5 billion force-projection platform to the bottom of the sea.
If we are ever going to strike, the time to do so is sooner rather than later. And I hope that we strike sooner than "just before Mr Bush leaves office," as the Guardian rather snidely predicts.
Just as it would be wildly irresponsible for Bush not to do something about Iran before he leaves office, it would be cowardly, I believe, to wait until just before leaving... thus saddling Bush's successor, Democrat or Republican, with the consequences of his decision, rather than accepting them himself.
Date ►►► February 8, 2007
A Moddish Proposal...
President George W. Bush
Personal and confidential
The White House - West Wing
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington D.C. 20500
February 8th, 2007
Dear President Bush;
The next time Russia threatens to sell TOR-M1 SAM systems to Iran -- or tanks, fighter jets, attack aircraft, submarines, AK-47 rifles, nuclear technology, or caviar -- can't we please just outbid them?
I mean, we can use the missiles as targets for our frequent Patriot II and Aegis anti-missile system tests. We can fly Su-33s, SU-35s, MiG-29s, and MiG-31s at Top Gun and Red Flag, to give our pilots and flight officers practice shooting them down. And God knows, we can always use more tracked-vehicle targets for advanced infantry and Special-Forces training.
I think the $700 million would be a lot cheaper than dealing with the consequences of more surface-to-air missiles under the mullahs' thumb. Thumbs? Thumb, whatever.
I'd even be willing to kick in $100.00 to get the ball rolling, if I got to watch an Aegis test live from the deck of a U.S. Navy destroyer or frigate. Will you take a post-dated check? We get paid on Friday.
Other than that (and the whole Gratz/Grutter thing), you're doing great. Keep up the good work!
Great News for GOP: "Pandagon" Dragon Not Fired After All!
With an abrupt burst of partisan pugnaciousness, John Edwards has decided to give his stamp of approval to a pair of obscene, anti-Catholic hatemongers as his official campaign bloggers, even as he says he was "offended" by their anti-Church diatribes.
Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister both have a history of hysterical "Christofascist" bashing, generally using four-letter words and not particularly distinguishing between extremist and mainstream Christians (especially Catholics -- their joint bête noir). Yesterday, the word on the street was that Edwards was dropping them; but today, he reversed course and said they will stay:
"I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word," Edwards said.
So when Marcotte wrote this:
Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?
A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.
...It was just in a spirit of friendly joshing; she had no intention of maligning anyone's faith. Just as when she uses the term "godbag," coined by somebody named "Twisty." Marcotte lovingly quotes (but does not link) "Twisty's" derivation of this word:
A godbag, if you will permit me the impropriety of quoting from my own rather extensive body of work on the subject, is “a bag full of hate and self-loathing wearing stage makeup that makes it look like a televangelist.” The suffix “-bag” alludes, not to a douche or to a woman whose countenance does not conform to patriarchal beauty standards, but to a “sack” or other sort of carryall.
Well, we're certainly reassured that "godbag" is not derived from "douchbag," though this entire post is Marcotte's paean to the latter as a generic term for what she also calls "anti-feminists" -- which evidently means anyone, male or female, who doesn't support the entire panoply of NOW and NARAL positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, the radical gay agenda, the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, contraception, and the Republican Party.
And the following is simply meant as a friendly but tough-love encouragement to the Church to be more compassionate towards those women who want abortions, no matter how late in the pregnancy:
And, needless to say, the Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics.
And this bit here is just sober analysis of the Democrats' inability to pick up any substantial numbers of believing Christians in the 2006 election -- for which Marcotte appears grateful:
It’s tempting to believe that all the Democrats need to do is pander shamelessly about god and Jesus in order to wow over some evangelicals that currently vote Republican. I think it’s easy for us to believe this because when we look at the Shrub blather on about god and Jeebus [sic], we know he’s full of ****. Sure, he may believe he’s a Christian, but his faith is obviously shallow. But a certain segment of fundies eat it up, so it’s easy to believe that if we started pandering, they’d eat that up too. [Obscenity censored. -- the Mgt.]
But we’ve got it backwards. Bush doesn’t pander to the Bible thumpers to attract their votes so much as to give them something to reassure themselves that the issues that they’re voting on are the correct ones for Christians. He’s telling them what they want to hear, which is that they can still feel like good Christians while supporting war-mongering, poverty-punishing Republicans. There’s a subtle but crucial difference here. The thumpers already have the desire to vote based on homophobia or sexism or racism, and Bush just gives them the excuse. They don’t need god-pandering from the Democrats, because they didn’t want to vote for them anway.
(For those who don't know, "Jeebus" is the derisive, anti-Christian, nutroots term for Jesus, intending to make Jesus Christ sound like Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel from the Simpsons... which, incidentally, is pretty much how people in Pandagon's and Shakespeare's Sister's camp view anyone who believes in either Jesus or God.
But Marcotte is an honorable woman; so are they all, all honorable women. And certainly, she would never malign anyone's faith in Jeebus!
McEwen isn't quite so virulent (or amusing) as Marcotte, but she has her days; this was posted on April 2nd, 2005 -- the day Pope John Paul II died:
Today, President Bush called the Pope a “champion of human dignity,” and if you were poor, suffering under Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe, or facing the death penalty, you’d probably agree. But if you were gay, or a victim of a priest who sexually assaulted you, or a woman who wanted to be a good Catholic and leave an unhappy marriage or have a career that wasn’t interrupted repeatedly by childbirth, or a priest wrestling with celibacy, or a pregnant victim of rape or incest, you’d probably disagree, because the Pope didn’t particularly care about your dignity, your needs, or the realities of your life. The same, of course, can be said for Bush—and then some—so it’s no wonder he views the Pope that way.
Bashing the pope isn't the same as bashing the Church, but it comes uncomfortably close... particularly since, in this case, McEwen wasn't bashing John Paul for falling short of Church doctrine but instead for following Church doctrine on homosexuality, divorce, birth control, priestly celebacy, and abortion.
The only legitimate charge she levels, in the sense that a believing Catholic would mean by "legitimate," is that Pope John Paul II did not do enough about priests who had sex with parishoners: in the huge majority of cases, we mean normal, consentual gay sex with teenaged (and often adult) males, though of course there were also out-and-out child molesters among the priesthood, such as John Geoghan and the Irish priest cases: Brendan Smyth, Jim Grennan, and Sean Fortune. (However, the evidence indicates no greater percent of Catholic priests who are child molesters than one finds among Protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, or secular school teachers.)
But even here, the accusation that John Paul "didn't particularly care" about such sexual assaults as Geoghan perpetrated is rather bizarre; at worst, one could say that John Paul was insufficiently proactive in rooting out such priests. But the "dance of the molesters," shunting pedophile priests from one parish to another, was decided at a much lower level than the Holy See. Throwing this wad of offal at John Paul's head -- the very day he died -- betokens more than a casual level of Church hatred.
The bloggers, however, had inarguable refutations of any such inferences, as quoted in the Fox News piece above:
"It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way," McEwen's statement said.
Marcotte's statement said her writings on religion on her blog, Pandagon, are generally satirical criticisms of public policies and politics.
"My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics," Marcotte said. "Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact."
Well, all right then! After all, who wouldn't be satisfied by an I'm sorry if you were too stupid to understand what I was trying to say apology?
Candidate Edwards assures us (in a written statement, taking no questions, having already gone to the mattresses) that he doesn't share these sentiments:
"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen's posts personally offended me," Edwards' statement read. "It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor or anything else."
But of course, he hired them after they made those posts; and he rehired them after those posts were specifically brought to his attention. So it's safe to say, at the very least, that Edwards has no problem with those posts being part of the public face of the John Edwards presidential campaign.
The most interesting question to me is whether even now, Former Sen. John Edwards has troubled to read the entire history of posts these two have made bashing Catholics, Cristofascists, Jeebus-worshippers, godbags, douchebags, and the other endearing terms they collective have for those who believe in God. Is he clueless? Did he dismiss the allegations out of hand as "swift-boating" and not even bother perusing Pandagon or Shakespeare's Sister? Does he simply not care what godbags think or how they might vote?
Did he read this one, for example?
I suspect Pope Ratz will give into the urge eventually to come out and say there’s no limbo and unbaptized babies go straight to hell. He can’t help it; he’s just a dictator like that. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the Pope’s gotta tell women who give birth to stillborns that their babies are cast into Satan’s maw. The alternative is to let Catholic women who get abortions feel that it’ll all work out in the end, which is just not doable, due to that Jesus-like compassion the Pope is so fond of. Still, it’s going to be bad PR for the church, so you can sort of see why the Pope is dragging ass.
Or worse -- does Edwards believe that most Americans actually agree with these anti-Catholic, anti-Christian sentiments? Does Edwards think that rehiring -- or at least unfiring -- Marcotte and McEwen will gain him brownie points with the American voter? Hey, he's standing up for their constitutional right to free speech -- and their constitutional right to have that speech amplified by a Democratic presidential campaign.
For that matter, an awful lot of voters would be utterly appalled by the sheer rate of vulgarities and obscenities per minute spewed by both these bloggers -- behavior that may be common (or at least tolerated) in the blogosphere (not everywhere in the 'sphere, however), or among some subcultures in America, but which is certainly not commonplace among middle-income, white-collar Americans of all races, religions, and both genders... who make up the bulk of the American electorate.
I certainly don't know how the Edwardses speak at home, but perhaps John Edwards is blissfully unaware that most of us don't use the f-bomb as a placeholding grunt; we use "um" or "er," not m**********r.
There are times I almost begin to believe that the reality-based community is somewhat unreal in its perceptions of real America.
Hysterically Funny; Very Obscene
I really enjoyed these e-mails from "Amanda Marcotte" (should that be "Amanda Huginkiss?") to "John Edwards," courtesy -- if that's the word I want -- Iowahawk.
(For those who don't place the name, Marcotte -- one of the über-left bloggers at Pandagon -- was hired by the Edwards campaign to be one of their official bloggers... until they found out how obscene and anti-Catholic she really was. Then they fired her. Now the nutroots is going ape. Ring a bell?)
I got the link from Patterico, so blame Texas!
CAUTION: If you want to quote from any of these fakey e-mails in a comment here, please make liberal use of the asterisk (unless you really enjoy seeing your deathless prose sent straight to Coventry).
So beware: obscenities and disgusting sexual situations stopping just short of coprophilia. But very funny.
Date ►►► February 7, 2007
Putin Wants Nuclear Armed Iran; Sanity Questioned
In another bizarre and unfathomable maneuver, Soviet Communist Party Chairman Vladimir Putin -- I'm sorry, I meant Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course -- has completed the delivery to Iran of 29 advanced TOR-M1 air-defense missile systems, despite American and even U.N. protest; and now the Iranians have tested them and integrated them into their air-defense strategy:
Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have successfully test-fired a new Russian-made air defence missile system, whose delivery last month sparked bitter US criticism....
"We have successfully test-fired the new modern TOR-M1 defence system, within the framework of the Revolutionary Guards defence doctrine based on a military strategy of deterrence," Revolutionary Guards air force commander Hossein Salami was quoted as telling the ISNA news agency.
"The Iranian armed forces have added the new missile system to its defences to consolidate its defence capabilities," he said.
Why would Russia carge full-steam ahead with this very aggressive delivery, knowing that in the end, taking out Iran's nuclear weapons factories may be the sole viable alternative to nuclear mullahs? The only plausible explanation is that Russia wants to remove the capability of either Israel or the United States to extirpate Iran's budding nuclear arsenal.
Thus, President Putin wants Moslem extremist, terror-supporting Iran to go nuclear.
The odd thing is that Russia has a much more serious Islamism problem than does the West; Russia a pair of horrific, bloody wars with violent jihadists in Chechnya, with attendant violence that has dragged on now for a dozen years and resulted in likely tens of thousands of Russian deaths (including movie patrons in Moscow and shoolchildren in Beslan).
In 2000, Russia reinstalled a puppet government in Grozny; but there is no guarantee that the separatist war won't start up again -- especially if Iran begins funding that terrorist movement, as they fund Hezbollah, Hamas, and many others.
Does Russia think that by selling Iran an air-defense system, they will innoculate themselves against Iranian imperial and jihadist ambitions? If so, then Putin has utterly lost his mind.
Under President Bill Clinton, the United States actually went to war on behalf of Moslem groups against Christians -- twice, once in Bosnia and again in Kosovo. No good deed goes unpunished: Two years later, jihadists struck us on 9/11. Osama bin Laden, in a rambling, anti-American jeremiad, made no reference to our help to the Moslem separatist cause in the former Yugoslavia. (He did, however, castigate us for defending Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against the secular Saddam Hussein.)
The truly interesting question is whether Russians will actually be manning the missile batteries. The deal includes a "service contract," which presumably means spare parts and repairs; but does it also include trained Russian soldiers to operate the system?
If so, then Russia is truly aligning itself against America. But is it aligning itself with Europe? Perhaps the European Union has quietly signalled Russia that it would appreciate them continuing to upgrade Iran's air defenses, so as deliberately to make it more dangerous for the United States to attack Iranian nuclear sites -- a policy that frightens the EU, which prefers the strategy of bribing the Islamists not to attack -- a policy Europe in which Europeans have much more practice.
That would be a sad, shortsighted, and extremely foolish strategy: Not just Russia but the European continent as well has much more to fear from an ascendant, nuclear Iran than do we. (I wonder how much personal animosity between French President Jacques Chirac and President George W. Bush plays into this?)
I doubt the new air defenses will make any difference. If we decide to strike Iran, we may lose a couple more planes; but I don't believe that an extra 29 TOR-M1 batteries can slow us down, let alone stop us. (We would likely take them out with B-2 stealth bombers before even sending in the other planes.) But it does signal that Russia, at least, and probably the rest of Europe, are even less reliable than we imagined in the war on global jihadism.
I think Bush needs to relook Putin in the eyes and update his judgment.
Date ►►► February 6, 2007
Pity Poor, Bullied Iran
However, much of what they wrote in their editorial was obscure, almost as if they were writing in Hermetic code -- references to "the widow's son" and "the builder's stone," you know the drill. Here, thus, is the Times' editorial -- annotated:
Given America’s bitter experience in Iraq [liberating the country and crushing al-Qaeda in Iraq, only to be savaged by baboons in the elite media], one would think that President Bush could finally figure out that threats and brute force aren’t a substitute for a reasoned strategy [they are, however, a wonderful substitute for a reasoned editorial]. But Mr. Bush is at it again, this time trying to bully [poor] Iran into stopping its [well-meaning] meddling inside Iraq.
We have no doubt about [poor, victimized] Iran’s "malign" intent [to the Commander in Thief and other crusaders, nudge, wink], just as we have no doubt that Mr. Bush’s serial failures in Iraq [overthrowing Saddam, establishing the constitution, freely electing a government] have made it far easier for Tehran to sow chaos there and spread its influence in the wider region [much as our puppets in Congress are doing in Washington D.C. today]. But more threats and posturing are unlikely to get [poor, victimized, Socialist] Iran to back down. If Mr. Bush isn’t careful, he could end up talking himself into another disastrous war [overthrowing the mullahs, an Iranian constitution, an elected government in Teheran, an end to Hezbollah, no more Iranian-inspired attacks in Iraq, no more Muqtada Sadr, the collapse of the Baathists in Syria, and Ahmadinejad in a tiny cell, asking Ramsey Clark how much he charges for representation as good as Saddam got], and if Congress is not clear in opposing him this time, he could drag the country along [establishing an axis of -- ick -- democracy from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Bengal].
The drumbeat began during Mr. Bush’s recent speech on Iraq, when he vowed to “seek out and destroy” Iranian and Syrian networks he said were arming and training anti-American forces [rather than hold an Iraqi town-hall listening tour to feel the Iranian saboteurs' pain]. Mr. Bush also announced that he was sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf [they're too provacative; they should remain in an American naval base -- in Lake Superior]. Hours earlier, American troops raided an Iranian diplomatic office in Iraq [going so far as to search Iranian diplomatic ammo caches]. If anyone missed the point, aides let it be known that the president had authorized the military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq [without even applying to the Times for a search warrant!]
[Poor, victimized, Socialist, People's Republic of] Iran certainly is [patriotically] helping arm and train Shiite [people's] militias. But the [puny] administration is certainly exaggerating the salutary effect of any cutoff as long as these militias enjoy the protection of Iraq’s prime minister [and our closest friend], Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. If Mr. Bush is genuinely worried -- and he should be [the Conyers impeachment resolution marches forward] -- he needs to be as forceful in demanding that Mr. Maliki cut ties to these groups and clear about the consequences if he refuses [we pull out; Shiite death squads take over; Sunnis are put to the torch; Iranian-backed Shia -- like Maliki -- take over the entire country].
In what passes for grand strategy in this administration [they don't even have the Vision!], the president’s aides say he is betting that bloodying Iranian forces in Iraq [not that we admit there really are Iranian forces in Iraq; just... hypothetically], and raising the threat of a wider confrontation, will weaken Tehran’s regional standing and force its leaders to rethink their nuclear ambitions [we're sending Joe Wilson to negotiate]. Never mind that Mr. Bush’s last big idea -- that imposing democracy on Iraq would weaken [Enemy of Bushitler] Iran’s authoritarians -- has had the opposite effect [as we see by Iran's successful takeover of Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, South Dakota, and Venus, all just since 2003].
Mr. Bush seems to be grossly misreading [see? Bush can't read] [Enemy of Bushitler and Repuglicans] Iran’s domestic politics and ignoring his own recent experience [being pecked to death by congressional ducks]. In a rare moment of subtlety, the [capitalist-imperialist running-dog] Treasury Department has quietly persuaded some banks and investors to rethink their dealings with Tehran [a top-secret program we plan to blow in next Wednesday's Times]. That has made some in [Enemy of Bushitler, Repuglicans, and the vast right-wing conspiracy] Iran’s permanent religious elite [they're all right... they're not Christians] -- already worried about future oil production [we're sending the Sierra Club to negotiate] -- express doubts about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiance of the Security Council [the proper technique is not to defy but to bribe the Security Council].
As ever, the one tactic the administration is refusing to consider is diplomacy [surrender]. Mr. Bush has resisted calls to [surrender] convene a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors to discuss ways to [surrender] contain the crisis [resistance is futile]. There is no guarantee that Mr. Ahmadinejad can be persuaded that Iraq’s further implosion is not in [Anti-imperialist] Iran’s interest. But others in Tehran may have clearer heads [it's the turbans]. And any hope of driving a wedge between [Anti-Fascist] Iran and [Auntie Entity] Syria will have to start by giving Damascus hope that there is a way in from the cold [we hear Greater Palestine is pretty toasty...].
Mr. Bush’s bullying may play well to his ever shrinking [puny, kowtowing] base. But his disastrous war in Iraq has done so much damage to America’s [the Times'] credibility [if zey bomb zis place, you can call me Meyer] -- and so strained its resources -- that it no longer frightens America’s enemies [like us. Puny humans!] The only ones really frightened are Americans and America’s friends [all your base are belong to us].
This annotation has been a service of the Big Lizards Obfuscation Retraction Translator. And brought to you on behalf of the widow's son.
The Grand Petraeus Brain Trust and Marching Society
File this under "odd but true."
First, I wasn't even aware that Gen. David Petraeus has a PhD in International Relations from Princeton University. Were you? (If only he had studied harder, he might not be stuck in Iraq!)
Now he has put together a "brain trust" of colonels and other mid-level officer advisors who have doctorates from major universities, and who also have extensive combat experience in Iraq and other God-forsaken hellholes:
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including a quirky Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist who is the son of a former U.S. attorney general and a military expert on the Vietnam War sharply critical of its top commanders -- in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war.... [Whence comes this obsessive insistance that the current strategic change of course in Iraq is a "last ditch" or "eleventh hour" Hail Mary? Suppose this doesn't work as well as hoped; does anyone believe George W. Bush is just going to give up?]
Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way.
Sounds good to me; frankly, we haven't been doing as well as we ought. Of course, we haven't been losing -- but we haven't obviously been winning, either... and that's the name of this game.
From 2003 through 2005, we won a series of stunning victories, from killing Saddam Hussein's spawn of the Devil to overthrowing the tyrant to pushing the Iraqis to enact a constitution and finally elect the first freely chosen government in that land's history. Things started to fall apart in February 2006, when Musab Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, destroyed the Al-Askiri Golden-Dome Mosque in Samarra.
It wasn't all bad in 2006; in June of that year, we killed Zarqawi. But apart from a few high points, 2006 was a very bad year for Iraq and a moderately bad year for us, mostly driven by al-Qaeda's attempt -- finally successful after the destruction of the Golden-Dome Mosque -- to force the Iranian-backed Shiite militias into a "gangland war" with the Sunni terrorists. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani could no longer restrain them, and Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr grew in power and influence.
So it looks like, however good the Casey-Abizaid strategy was in 2003, 2004, and 2005, it fell apart in 2006; something new and different is needed.
Enter the Petraeus Brain Trust. The senior advisors, all colonels and light colonels (no establishment generals or politicians), are an eclectic bunch:
- Col. Michael J. Meese will be Gen. Petraeus' chief economic advisor. He is the son of Reagan's Atty.Gen. Edwin Meese; Col. Meese "will coordinate security and reconstruction efforts, trying to ensure that 'build' follows the 'clear' and 'hold' phases of action."
Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, an anthropologist, will be chief adviser on counterinsurgency ops; Kilcullen saw extensive action in Cyprus, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor, and was recently lent to the State Department as chief counterterrorism strategist. From the MSNBC piece:His 2006 essay "Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency" was read by Petraeus, who sent it rocketing around the Army via e-mail. Among Kilcullen's dictums: "Rank is nothing: talent is everything" -- a subversive thought in an organization as hierarchical as the U.S. military.
- Col. Peter R. Mansoor will be Petraeus's XO in Baghdad; Mansoor and McMaster were both part of the "secret panel" convened by Gen. Peter Pace, Commandant of the Marine Corps, in October 2006, to advise him on Iraq.
- Col. H.R. McMaster, who ran the campaign that recaptured Tal Afar from an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group, is the author of Dereliction of Duty, a study critical of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War and their foibles and failings. McMaster will be Petraeus' long-term strategic advisor. (If McMaster's name sounds familiar, he was a hero of Tom Clancy's non-fiction book Armored Cav, for his exploits as an armored cavalry (tank) regiment in the Gulf War.
One strategy Petraeus will incorporate was developed and promoted by another member of the Brain Trust, Lt.Col. Douglas A. Ollivant: eschewing the Vietnamesque "Forward Operating Bases" in favor of living and working with the Iraqi Army units that will form a large part of the counterinsurgency force... living among the Iraqi people and interacting with them on a daily basis, not as lords of the land but as fellow soldiers. The idea is to get the Iraqis really involved in the war -- which is, after all, to protect them and their government:
Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant caught Petraeus's eye last year by winning first prize in an Army "counterinsurgency writing" competition, sponsored by the general, with an essay that scorned the U.S. military's reliance in Iraq on big "forward operating bases." "Having a fortress mentality simply isolates the counterinsurgent from the fight," he wrote.
Ollivant, a veteran of battles in Najaf and Fallujah who earned a political science PhD studying Thomas Jefferson, argued that U.S. forces should instead operate from patrol bases shared with Iraqi military and police units. That is exactly what Petraeus plans to do in the coming months in Baghdad, setting up about three dozen such outposts across the city -- which isn't surprising, considering Ollivant has become a top planner for the U.S. military in Baghdad
Naturally, the jilted establishment military academics, in shock at their abandonment by the Brain Trust, are full of reasons why this attempt will fail. (How many of them have commanded troops in the field, as the Brain Trust members all have?)
"Petraeus's 'brain trust' is an impressive bunch, but I think it's too late to salvage success in Iraq," said a professor at a military war college, who said he thinks that the general will still not have sufficient troops to implement a genuine counterinsurgency strategy and that the United States really has no solution for the sectarian violence tearing apart Iraq.
"It's too late to make a difference in Iraq," agreed Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University expert on terrorism who has advised the U.S. government on the war effort....
"It wouldn't surprise me if Congress pulled the rug out or the Iraqis blocked major revisions in strategy," said Erin M. Simpson, a Harvard University counterinsurgency expert. "I think they're going to be a very frustrated group."
So the Democrats in Congress hope... because if they succeed, an awful lot of defeatists and doomsters will begin taking on a decidedly simian appearance. (The Democrats already have hands over eyes and ears; too bad they didn't complete the sequence by putting their hands over their mouths.)
I have always recoiled from the noisome slurs that Iraqis are "inherently incapable" of comprehending modernity, or that "insurgencies always win," or that Arabs can never "administer a democracy." They have always stunk like elitism verging on racism to me. The only question is whether we really want victory enough to achieve it.
The Petraeus Brain Trust is lean, hungry for victory, and jumping out of their skins for a chance to smash up the conventional unwisdom on Iraq. I think they're destined for the history books, on the same page as Gen. George Patton, who fought the unbeatable Erwin Rommel -- and beat that "magnificent son of a bitch."
But we'd better buckle our seat belts: it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Date ►►► February 5, 2007
Mahdi Mania - a "Stealth Rewrite" by the New York Times
This is a funny story that suddenly got much funnier.
I was all set to write about a New York Times story that took 27 paragraphs to tell us that 9 out of 10 Sadrites prefer the Mahdi Militia to the United States Army; the story began thus:
Naeem Al-Kaabi, Baghdad’s deputy mayor, nodded toward the gunfire outside his seventh floor office, a few hundred yards from the market where a one-ton truck bomb killed at least 130 people on Saturday and wounded hundreds more. The shots, he said, signaled another body -- another son, another daughter -- being carried from the rubble. [Note the description of Naeem Al-Kaabi as simply "Badhdad's deputy mayor."]
“The terrorists chose this spot three months ago and again yesterday so they could kill as many people as possible,” said Mr. Kaabi, a Shiite from Sadr City. “Trucks are not even allowed in the small alleys of the market. I wonder how the truck made it in.”
It was a question that traveled through much of Baghdad today, in the wake of the deadliest single bomb blast since the American invasion in 2003. Shiites in particular came prepared with an answer. They said the looming American-Iraqi security plan for Baghdad had weakened the Mahdi army, the Shiite militia loyal to the militant cleric Moktada Al-Sadr, emasculating the Shiites’ only reliable source of security.
The story meandered along these lines for quite some time. While reading it, I noticed something peculiar -- and quite humorous: every, single person quoted as lamenting the loss of the Mahdi Militia -- "the Shiites' only reliable source of security!" -- was subsequently identified as a follower of Muqtada Sadr or a longtime supporter of the Mahdi Militia itself.
That's not a tyop: the New York Times published a piece extolling the virtures of the primary source of Shiite death squads, the Mahdi Militia, and its Iranian-puppet leader, the slimy Sadr... and its sources were almost entirely Mahdi Militia supporters. This after literally months of the drive-by media whining that we weren't going after Shiite death squads and only focusing our attacks on Sunni terrorists.
Here are some more excerpts:
While the American military put out a statement saying that an Iraqi Army unit and members of an Iraqi police brigade had secured the bomb site, the area closest to the bomb crater was controlled by the Mahdi Army. About 8 to 15 men dressed in black, carrying AK-47s, waved reporters away this morning and again in the afternoon.
When two American Humvees and an Iraqi patrol passed just after 1 p.m. local time, one of the Iraqi men in black called the soldiers “apes and cowards.”
“They’re the ones who brought us the catastrophe,” one of the Iraqis said. “If they were not here, such a thing wouldn’t happen to us.”
“The Jaish al-Mehdi are like protectors, but with the announcement of the start of the security plan the Americans really chased them, so they withdrew from these places and now we don’t see them,” he said. “They don’t want to confront the Americans.”
And at last, in the final two paragraphs, the Times dropped the other Persian slipper about Deputy Mayor of Baghdad Naeem Al-Kaabi:
Mr. Kaabi , the deputy mayor and a senior Sadr official, said the American military, with the approval of the Iraqi government, has made an enemy of a group that could have been a partner. Nearly three years after bloody battles against Americans in the southern city of Najaf, the Mahdi Army no longer wanted to fight, he said. They simply wanted to defend and control their own sect’s areas.
“If the Mahdi were given the freedom to move, they could have coordinated with the Iraqi Army and the police,” Mr. Kaabi said. “They could have made it safe.”
Heh. I think it is just exactly that sort of "coordination" between the Iraqi National Police and the Mahdi Militia -- following the February, 2006, destruction by al-Qaeda of the Al-Askari "Golden Dome" Mosque in Samarra -- that most directly contributed to the huge surge of violence in Baghdad last year.
The headline of the piece was After Deadly Blast in Iraq, Shiites Assail U.S. Policy; I was set to note that the article would actually be perfectly fine if they simply changed the head to something more descriptive... such as, After Deadly Blast in Iraq, Mahdi Militia Supporters Support Mahdi Militia.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the presidential palace: when I took another look at the link... I didn't even recognize what I was reading.
This was not a brain seizure on my part: it turns out that the Times had made a small, er, "stealth correction." Well, the more accurate term would be a complete stealth rewrite... the New York Times had quite simply jacked up the URL and rolled an entirely different story underneath it.
It starts with the headline -- which has transformed into: Iraqis Fault Delayed U.S. Plan in Attack. And so you can see what I'm talking about, I'll put corresponding paragraphs (discussing similar topics, I mean) side by side in a table, starting with the two ledes:
|Original story||Stealth rewrite|
|Naeem Al-Kaabi, Baghdad’s deputy mayor, nodded toward the gunfire outside his seventh floor office, a few hundred yards from the market where a one-ton truck bomb killed at least 130 people on Saturday and wounded hundreds more. The shots, he said, signaled another body -- another son, another daughter -- being carried from the rubble.||A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that slowness in completing the vaunted new American security plan has made Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.|
Instead of making the city safer, they said, recent American efforts have opened Shiite areas to bombs that have left more than 450 dead since Jan. 16.
“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said today. “But so far there security has only deteriorated.”
In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders are either in hiding or under arrest. With no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market in central Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb.
“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said Sunday. “But so far security has only deteriorated.”
While the American military put out a statement saying that an Iraqi Army unit and members of an Iraqi police brigade had secured the bomb site, the area closest to the bomb crater was controlled by the Mahdi Army. About 8 to 15 men dressed in black, carrying AK-47s, waved reporters away this morning and again in the afternoon.
When two American Humvees and an Iraqi patrol passed just after 1 p.m. local time, one of the Iraqi men in black called the soldiers “apes and cowards.”
“They’re the ones who brought us the catastrophe,” one of the Iraqis said. “If they were not here, such a thing wouldn’t happen to us.” [This scene was pushed to the second page and has a couple of new paragraphs inserted, changing it to the new "plan delayed" focus.]
|With much of Baghdad devolving further into chaos, many Iraqis have begun to question whether the security plan has ambled along too slowly, setting up a situation in which American and Iraqi troops will be greeted with hostility rather than welcomed as protectors.|
Also, they made another change. Remember how, in the original story, Naeem Al-Kaabi -- who bemoaned the loss of the security provided by the Mahdi Militia -- was described (in the lede graf) only as Baghdad's deputy mayor? It was only in the penultimate paragraph that we found out he was also "a senior [Muatada] Sadr official."
Evidently, somebody had a come-to-Jesus meeting with the writers; in fact, this may be the explanation of what on Earth happened to the story. In the rewritten version, this is how Al-Kaabi is described in the lone paragraph that cites him:
Iraqi and American military officials said the command structure of the Iraqi side had still not been resolved, although the plan is supposed to move forward this coming week. Naeem al-Kabbi, the deputy mayor of Baghdad and a senior official loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric who leads the Mahdi Army, said he believed the plan had been delayed “because the Iraqi army is not ready.”
(His name has also changed from Kaabi to Kabbi, but that could be a typo.)
I wonder if the original story, which probably went out with the early-morning print run of the Times, was finally read by somebody who noticed that it was virtually a paean to the glorious Mahdi Militia, complaining about the fact that, as part of our security crackdown in the capital, we have driven the militia out of totalitarian control of Sadr City and other Shiite sections of Baghdad (and out of Najaf in the south, as well). Some grownup may have read the original story... and after his secretary peeled him off the ceiling with a spatula, he may have called up the writers (Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel, jr.) and asked them if they knew anything about Sadr and the Mahdi Militia other than what they have been told by their Shiite stringers.
Pirouetting on a dinar, the writers seem to have shifted the focus -- from "the criminal Bush drove the only reliable defenders of Shia out of control, so the violence is all our fault" to "the criminal Bush announced the strategic change of course nearly a month ago, but we haven't even sent all of the 21,500 troops in yet... so the violence is all our fault."
I'll bet it changed by the later edition. Perhaps somebody with access to both the actual, physical dead-tree products can check and see.
I must say, the new story is somewhat better than the old; its upshot is (if one were really to think about it) that we should accelerate the new strategy... and not undercut it by frivolous and insulting non-binding resolutions sending our troops out with a firm "you're going to lose" behind them.
And in some news, the first cloture vote on the Warner-Levin-Hagel resolution (which combined Surrender Slow with Surrender Swift to produce Surrender Synthesis) has failed miserably.
The Senate Democrats and the cringe-wing of the Republican Party needed 60 votes to progress. They got 49 -- 11 votes short. The only two Republican senators to vote for cloture were Norm Coleman (MN, 64%) and Susan Collins (ME, 32%). In a breathtaking act of political betrayal of their followers, original sponsoring GOP senators John Warner (VA, 88%) and Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%) hung their two colleagues out to dry, voting against their own sponsored resolution!
I wonder... did they call the role alphabetically? Were Coleman and Collins unaware, when they cast their votes, that the two Republican sponsors planned to yank the Persian carpet out from under their frozen feet?
Might this make the two pie-in-the-face victims a little reluctant to support any such resolutions in the future? Too bad; but as Larry Niven says, "not responsible for advice not taken."
One hopes so. Just as one hopes that the humiliation of the New York Times having to regurgitate a rewrite the runs the gamut from soup to nuts might make them somewhat reluctant to force such a quandry again... by not cheerleading for terrorists in the first place. Contrary to what seems the central core of liberalism, the enemy of my enemy (George W. Bush) is not necessarily my brother.
What did the corned beef say to the sliced tongue? "I'm on a roll!"
Here's another insane environmentalist moment, this time from my native state again -- California, the granola state: land of fruits, nuts, and flakes. Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, representing Van Nuys (that's a small city within the city of Los Angeles, in the southwest end of the San Fernando Valley), chairman of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, has introduced a bill to ban all incandescent lightbulbs by 2012.
No, it's not a rib. Sorry:
A California lawmaker wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs as part of California's groundbreaking initiatives to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act" [this part may be a rib!] would ban incandescent lightbulbs by 2012 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
"Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine said on Tuesday.
Well, yeah. That's because, to quote Mary Poppins, they're "practically perfect in every way" (except they burn out too quickly).
This stands in stark contrast to fluorescent lighting, which makes me sick. I mean that literally: they flicker at some frequency that gives me a headache and makes me feel a bit queasy. When I used to work in a office, I bought a regular lamp and put it on my desk, so its light could drown out the finicky, flickering fluorescent flapdoodle overhead.
Nowadays, I always buy the GE Reveal bulbs, which are as much like outdoor light as one can get in an inexpensive lightbulb; and I like a lot of lumens... in the living room alone, we have two 150-watt bulbs and a 100-watter. That's another reason I detest fluorescent lights: they turn everything a weird, pasty-purple-ish color that makes me feel like I'm on Mars, except without the low gravity.
This brings me to the point of this post (you knew there was going to one in here somewhere): Is there anything more typical (and telling) than a lefty who is so totalitarian, he even wants to tell you what kind of lightbulb you're allowed to use? Well, maybe the Al Gore "two-flusher." Both are indicative of the Left's hatred of human choice. When they say they're "pro-choice," they certainly don't mean you to have the choice to disobey them.
They are, as Thomas Sowell dubbed them, the "anointed;" and they are anointed because they have "the Vision"... the Vision being of a man-made utopia run by -- well, by people like them. The Vision includes a rather colossal ego that compels the anointed to declare (now I'm quoting George Bernard Shaw) that "the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature." (Antony and Cleopatra, Act II)
In the present case, Mr. Levine evidently doesn't like to read much, or to do anything else involving the eyes after sunset. Thus, he sees no moral or ethical impediment to telling everyone else to pollute his home with awful, color-changing, eye-straining fluorescent lightbulbs. The wishes of hoi polloi are of no account.
But of course, the reality is that even if this abomination passed -- it would just mean a huge black market in California incandescence: we would all order lights from the internet; and if they passed a second law prohibiting the operation of the U.S. Mail or requiring inspections to ensure that nobody is obtaining the forbidden fruit, we would find a way around that, too. Maybe some enterprising mafioso would ship lightbulbs into the Golden State hidden inside bales of medical marijuana or boxes of condoms destined for Van Nuys Middle School.
And I doubt Assemblyman Levine would even care: the important thing is to make a statement; whether the plan is actually plausible -- or even possible -- is an engineering detail. (As a minor aside, it's also evident he wrote his own hagiographic Wikipedia entry.)
Liberals... can't live with 'em; can't ditch 'em in the Mojave Desert with defective cell phones.
Date ►►► February 4, 2007
That Michigan Poll...
Real Clear Politics reports on a poll out of Michigan that shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton leading their respective party races:
There's much to chew on in this Free Press/Local 4 Michigan poll, not the least of which is that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is running well ahead of the state's favorite son, Mitt Romney:
On the Democratic side, Hillary thumps the rest of the field with the big news being that she pulls in 59% of the African-American vote versus only 23% for Barack Obama:
RCP goes on to quote the head-to-heads, which show all three major Democrats -- Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each beating all three major Republican candidates (in Michigan): Giuliani, John McCain, and John Edwards.
Now, a few of points to make:
- First, as they noted, Michigan went Democratic in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004; so it's hardly surprising that Democrats are leading Republicans there in 2007.
- Surprisingly enough, however, Hillary's lead is fairly narrow: she leads Giuliani by 4%, McCain by 3%, and Romney by 13%.
- John Edwards does the best, beating McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 11%, and Romney by a whopping 24%.
- Barack Obama beats McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 7%, and Romney by 19%.
- Giuliani does the best among Republicans; none of the three main Democrats beats him by more than single digits.
- And, as RCP excitedly tells us, if the 2004 election were rerun today, this poll predicts that instead of John Kerry winning by a scant 3% (51% to 48%), he would win in a 15-point "landslide," 53% to 38%. Note, however, that Kerry has actually picked up virtually no support; there are simply many fewer respondents saying they would vote for Bush now than the percent of voters who actually did so in 2004.
But there is something very curious about the respondents in this poll...
According to the graphic sidebars in the Detroit Free Press, 273 respondents identified themselves as Democrats -- but only 151 identified themselves as Republicans. The total polled was 675 registered voters who voted in the 2004 presidential race, so 251 must have identified themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans; we'll call them independents.
Michigan voter registration does not include party affiliation, so these figures represent how people identified themselves to the pollsters. With that in mind, the respondents broke out as follows:
|Party self-identification||Percent of respondents|
All right; many fewer Republicans than either Democrats or independents. But perhaps this just reflects how Michigan voters actually vote. Does it?
Since there is no state listing of party registrations, our best guide is probably the vote for governor in 2006, which occurred just three months ago, between the Democratic incumbent candidate, Jennifer Granholm, and the Republican challenger, Dick De Vos.
None of the various third-party candidates got a statistically significant percent of the vote; so 2006 was a pretty clean test of Democrats vs. Republicans. Dropping (for the moment) the "independent" respondents and only looking at self-proclaimed Democrats vs. Republicans, we see a huge disparity between the Democratic advantage in the poll and the Democratic advantage in the actual vote.
The next table compares votes by party in the 2006 gubernatorial election to the percent of repondents in this poll calling themselves either a Democrat or a Republican:
|Party of respondent or vote||Nov. 2006 governor's vote||Jan. 2007 poll|
Note that while Granholm had only a 14-point lead over De Vos in the November election, self-identified Democrats have a 29-point advantage over self-identified Republicans in this poll.
And one more point: since Granholm was the incumbent, which generally carries a vote advantage when the incumbent is popular (as she is), that means the vote might was probably skewed in favor of the Democrats; more Republicans voted for Granholm than Democrats voted for De Vos. Thus it's likely that a generic ballot ("would you rather see a Democrat or a Republican in the statehouse?") would have found greater support for the Republicans than De Vos got... meaning the gap between the gaps -- the extra advantage to Democrats polled by the Freep in contrast to the way they voted three months ago -- is probably even larger than it appears.
On its face, it appears that this poll wildly oversamples Democrats at the expense of Republicans. But there is one other possibility we must investigate.
Clearly, nearly all "independents" (those identifying as neither Republican nor Democrat) chose to vote either for Republican De Vos or Democrat Granholm. Could GOP-leaning independents account for the huge overbalance in the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the poll? That is, if instead of just dropping the independent respondents out of the equation, we were instead to allocate them between the parties by their responses to poll questions, would that account for the gap between the gaps?
If so, then the 37.2% of independents in the poll would have to have voted 20.5% for De Vos and 16.7% for Granholm, for a split of 55.1% Republican and 44.9% Democratic, in the November election.
But do independents really break in favor of Republicans by 10% in this poll?
Looking at the rerun of the 2004 race, we see that the independents in this poll in fact broke the opposite: 50% to 37% for Kerry. And of the nine head-to-head races in the poll, we only see independents lean GOP by 10 points in only 3 races: Giuliani vs. Clinton, McCain vs. Clinton, and McCain vs. Obama. In three races, the Democrat and the Republican are tied among independents; in one race (McCain vs. Edwards), there is a small advantage, 6%, to McCain; and in Romney vs. Edwards and Romney vs. Obama, there is a huge advantage to the Democrat among independent respondents.
I think it pretty clear that "pushing the independents" cannot account for the difference between the party identification in this poll and the actual gubernatorial vote just three months ago; independents in the poll are as likely to go for Democrats as Republicans.
Thus, I think it pretty clear that this poll did significantly oversample Democrats and "independents" and undersample Republicans... even for Michigan. Its results should be taken with a very big lump of rock salt.
Date ►►► February 2, 2007
Climate Change: the Dash for Cash
A new charge is roiling the scientific community; it was leveled today by the ultra-leftist Guardian, formerly the Manchester Guardian, out of the U.K.:
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This is, of course, yet another attempt to marginalize and silence any opposition to the First Church of Fundamentalist Climate Change: the purpose is to taint all Globaloney skeptics with the stench of corruption... they're all bought and paid for! Don't listen to them! They're just mercenaries!
"Shut up," he explained.
The Guardian never does explain the "lobby group" remark (yet another libel). A lobbyist is typically hired by a particular company to individually lobby legislators or the executive (federal or state) to procure public funding via earmarks or other special-interest tax funding.
The AEI is a non-profit public advocacy group that accepts no government money; they do not engage in "lobbying," at least by the normal dictionary-definition accepted by everybody but leftists. They are no more a "lobby group" than is the MacArthur Foundation -- and less so than the left-leaning Brookings Institution, which actually does get much of its funding from taxpayer money.
This slur against the AEI tells you everything you need to know about the globaloney mobsters.
The Guardian attack exemplifies a perennial bugaboo with the Left: they like to believe that where one gets funding absolutely determines what one says... that everyone is a scientific soldier of fortune who will do or say anything to get the cash. (I assume this belief is psychological projection on the part of leftists.) The Guardian makes the connection explicit at the end of the article in a throw-away libel they quote from some Greenpiece dolt. It serves as a synecdoche, not just of the globaloneyists, but of the Left in general:
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."
This is about as despicable a slime as one can imagine... and it's one reason why I believe the Guardian has not fully shed its old Marxian thuggishness. But let's roll up our sleeves and get our feet wet...
Before dealing with the true risibility of the Guardian's charge -- its blind spot about its own side -- let's first get the silly elements out of the way:
The long arm of ExxonMobile
The American Enterprise Institute is "an ExxonMobil-funded [lobby group] with close links to the Bush administration;" thus, one presumes, the AEI simply does the bidding of its evil, corporate, Capitalist masters, without regard to the suffering people of the world (Haliburton!)
The Guardian backs up this attack with a single pair of statistics:
The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration.
What they don't mention is that the AEI has an operating budget of more than $30 million, all of which comes from grants by private corporations, private foundations, groups, and individuals, mostly by conservative foundations (J.M Olin, JM Foundation), rich conservatives like Richard Melon Scaife, and companies like Coors (run by the right-wing Coors family), though they also get significant funding from Microsoft (run by left-liberal Bill Gates). The AEI is a free-market think tank; who do you expect funds it?
Who funds Brookings? Liberals (duh). Their major contributers are the MacArthur Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Carnegie. (Unlike the AEI, Brookings does get much of its funding from governments: Japan, the U.K., and the United States.)
That's the way think tanks work: conservative ones are funded by conservatives; liberals ones by liberals. This should not be a shock, not even to the Guardian. But their charge was more specific: they clearly want readers to believe that the AEI is a wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobile, and the AEI is simply Big Oil's puppet.
What the Guardian fails to mention is that grants from ExxonMobile account for only 5% of the AEI's annual budget. If they had mentioned that, readers would likely be scratching their heads over why this is supposed to be determinative. Besides, more than likely, ExxonMobile gives grants to the AEI because the AEI is free-market on energy issues -- not the other way around. The AEI has been around, with the same philosophy, since 1943.
ExxonMobile did not even exist until 1999, when Exxon merged with Mobile. Exxon did not exist until 1973, when it changed its name from Esso. Esso did not exist until 1941, just two years before the AEI was founded (probably not with any money from Esso); Esso was a brand name for gasoline sold by Standard Oil of New Jersey, one of the "baby Standards" created when Standard Oil was busted up by imperial decree in 1911. ExxonMobile (or even Exxon) would thus have begun funding the American Enterprise Institute long after the latter was in existence and promoting free-market economics.
The protocols of the learned elders of the Bush administration
"...more than 20 of [the AEI's] staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration."
Give us a break. The American Enterprise Institute is free-market and socially center-right. George W. Bush is free-market and socially center-right. Where do you think he'll get his consultants -- from the Sierra Club, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and George Soros?
This "point" is an absurdity. Bill Clinton, a center-left president, got most of his consultants from center-left or hard-left groups like the Economic Policy Institute, Brookings, and of course the major civil-rights and environmentalist organizations. Presidents pick advisors; the advisors don't pick -- or control -- the president.
Polluting our precious bodily fluids
The AEI is paying scientists $10,000 to write lies about global climate change.
In fact, the AEI is buying articles for publication and hiring speakers for some presentation. Does the Left really expect people -- scientists or anyone else -- to donate their services for free? (The Left doesn't!)
These are not publications in a peer-reviewed science journal; these are popularizations of decades of a scientist's research. Carl Sagan was paid very big bucks to put his scientific opinions in popular form on the TV show Cosmos, and in numerous books he wrote during his lifetime. That doesn't mean that Sagan was corrupt; it means he did not donate his talents for free.
For that matter, the MacArthur Foundation hands out $500,000 "genius grants" to about 400 deserving leftists every year. What is the difference?
The difference is that $10,000 is nowhere near enough to tempt a scientist to write something opposite to what he actually believes, based upon his own research and that of others found in peer-reviewed journals: Nobody would throw away a stellar reputation for a mere $10,000.
Those scientists contributing papers to the AEI publication or speaking at an AEI event are doing so because they sincerely believe, based upon scientific evidence, that the global climate-change hysteria is wildly overblown.
But at long last, we come to the real point... which the Guardian, like a drunk fumbling around for his own door back door, manages to miss throughout its entire article:
Who funds proponents of anthropogenic climate-change theory?
Science is expensive. Ideas cost money, and somebody has to pay for it.
The money comes in the form of grants; grants come from several sources:
- Public science foundations, such as the National Science Foundation;
- Private foundations, such as the AMA or Burroughs Wellcome;
- Private corporations, from defense contractors to technology startups to environmental law firms;
- Private individuals (philanthropists).
A typical grant for scientific research can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- often in the millions. Important scientists frequently transform into grant empire builders, piling up grant upon grant, hiring dozens or hundreds of researchers, until they come to resemble CEOs rather than working scientists. (Oft times, they are so busy administering the labyrinth of grants they control that they have no time left to do real science.)
So who is funding globaloney?
Let's start with the IPCC, the clearinghouse for anthropogenic climate-change hysteria. The IPCC is primarily funded by three sources:
- The United Nations Environment Programme -- in 1988 they named Jimmy Carter a member of the "Global 500 Roll of Honor," and in 2006 named Mikhail Gorbachev a "Champion of the Earth."
- The (United Nations) World Meteorological Organization -- this is not a scientific body; its members are countries, and it's a division of the UN.
- The IPCC Trust Fund -- according to the UNEP's website, "UNEP and WMO established the IPCC in 1988 and have created an IPCC Trust Fund where governments make contributions for carrying out climate change assessments."
All of the money for the IPCC (which employs thousands of people... including former scientists turned professional globaloney advocates) comes from taxpayers in various countries; probably most of it comes from the United States government. (Say... if a former scientist is a professional, paid advocate of anthropogenic global climate-change theory trying to get Congress to appropriate money to fight it -- and also to fund the very organization for which the former scientist advocates -- doesn't that make the former scientist a lobbyist?)
If the Guardian believes that money from the AEI, which gets 5% of its funding from ExxonMobile, automatically taints any recipient and causes him to corruptly lie to oppose globaloney... then what black magic causes massive infusions of cash for professional advocates, cash that comes from taxpayer money controlled by various countries (many of whom directly benefit from climate-change spending by the U.N.), not to offer such temptation to corruptly lie to support globaloney?
This is another leftist fantasy: that private money corrupts, but public funding sanctifies.
The IPCC is not a scientific body; it doesn't even claim to be. It doesn't do the basic science; it scavanges it from papers published in peer-reviewed journals... but it has no requirement to be an equal-opportunity scrounger: although many articles have been published in respectable, peer-reviewed journals casting doubt on many aspects of globaloney, I don't recall the IPCC ever using such "contrarian" papers as the basis for policy change.
The papers they use are published either by working scientists, or often by former scientists with emeritus positions. Those (current or former) scientists are funded, as above by grants. And those grants are invariably larger than $10,000.
Riddle me this: Suppose the World Wildlife Foundation or the Sierra Club funds a scientist (via grant) who has previously published papers supporting the anthropogenic climate-change model. Now suppose his new research causes him to change his mind, and he publishes a new paper debunking much of the IPCC vision.
How much can he expect for his next grant from that issue-advocacy organization? Try a good round figure: bubkis. The Sierra Club is not in the business of funding its ideological enemies... which descriges anyone who does not full-throatedly endorse globaloney, in all its inglory and ignobility. Doesn't this constitute a six- or seven-figure motivation to continue to champion the IPCC vision?
A hand over one eye
That is the real blind spot of the Guardian, Dr. Heidi Cullen, and other mouth-foamers on the IPCC side: they can easily behold (or even fabricate) the mote of potential corruption in the eyes of opponents of global climate hysteria... but they beholdest not the I-beam of potential corruption in their allies eyes.
Just bear that in mind the next time some liberal falls down in a seizure, screaming about the fact that anti-globaloney scientists get money. What do we imagine pro-globaloney grants are paid in... peanut brittle?
The First Church of Fundamentalist Climate Change
Just before last Christmas, Dr. Heidi Cullen, "Climate Expert and host Of The Climate Code" on the Weather Channel, threw down the gauntlet on her blog at Weather.com. She attacked "global warming contrarianism," by which she appears to mean any scientist who is skeptical of the climate-change models enunciated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)... the political scientists who brought us the Kyoto Protocol.
Dr. Cullen made it quite clear that there is to be no deviation from the law as laid down by the IPCC, and as preached through its acolytes at the American Meteorological Society:
In an interesting follow-up blog on the reason for this all too common global warming contrarianism within the broadcast meteorology community, journalist Andrew Freedman suggests local TV meteorologist may want to look to the American Meteorological Society for guidance. Freedman goes on to point out that the AMS has in fact, issued a statement on climate change that reads:"There is convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other trace constituents in the atmosphere, have become a major agent of climate change."
Well! "Convincing evidence." Who could argue with that?
Certainly not Dr. Cullen; in fact, she does not even argue for that. By her own words, she goes even farther along those lines...
I'd like to take that suggestion a step further. If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming....
If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It's not a political statement...it's just an incorrect statement.
In other words, "shut up," she explained.
It evidently matters little how well qualified a meteorologist or climatologist is, or what relevant academic position he holds, or how much original scientific research he has done, or how many papers he has published, or how many other climatologists, meteorologists, and atmospheric scientists cite those papers: If he comes to a conclusion different from that dictated by the IPCC via the AMS -- then he should be disbarred, or whatever the heck the world society of climate luminaries, sages, and soothsayers call it when they summon a climatologist into a circle to publicly rip off his epaulets.
Along comes Professor David R. Legates, Delaware's "state climatologist." Dr. Legates stands steadfast for free scientific inquiry... which would put him on a collision course with the doyenne of the Weather Channel, if ever they were to meet:
Enter Legates, a Ph.D. climatologist who received the title of state climatologist in 2005 from Daniel Leathers, now the head of the University of Delaware's geography department.
Legates joined a group of scientists late last year in urging the court to reject the state claims, in a brief filed by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. [Delaware had joined a suit demanding the federal government regulate carbon dioxide from cars because of "global warming."]
"It is simply impossible to conclude that the net effect of greenhouse gases endangers human health and welfare," the brief said.
What is instructive is how the high priests of Globaloney have chosen to "engage" Dr. Legates. Just like Dr. Cullen on her blog, rather than arguing their case for anthropogenic (human caused) global climate change... they simply attack Dr. Legates, call him names, and try to make him shut up.
Recently branded "a favorite scientist of the global warming denial machine" by one national environmental group, Legates said he was following scientific evidence in arguing the institute's position in the court case....
"I don't think the doctor [Legates] speaks for the state's position," said Philip Cherry, a DNREC administrator who recently invited Legates to address agency employees. "I think the governor speaks for the state's position."
Delaware has accepted the view human activities contribute to global warming, and changes are needed to curb risks of sea level rise and climate change. The state adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2000.
Boiled down, a state regulator says that he is uninterested in input from scientists, no matter how well regarded or credentialed (Legates was "director of the University of Delaware's Climatic Research Center"), if it contradicts what has already been concluded about this scientific question by Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner... who, after all, attended Delaware Technical and Community College. (We have no idea if she graduated.)
Well who could argue with that, either?
So far as I can tell, Minner has no scientific training whatsoever; and she has never held any job other than working in state government. Yet because she has decreed that globaloney is the Delaware state position, an eminent scientist like Dr. Legates should just maintain radio silence.
So now you know how to prove a scientific theory these days: The IPCC dictates; the state-regulatory bishops interpret; the lower churches preach; and the laity -- anyone not plugged into the enviro-political machine -- is expected simply to kneel in the nave with ears flapping, waiting for more pearls to be cast before him.
And if someone like Dr. Legates dissents from Global Warming orthodoxy, then no matter how much more qualified as a scientist he might be, if it were up to the Heidi Cullens of the world, he would have his scientist license taken away.
"Shut up!" she explained.
Hosting Matters Was Down for About Seven Hours - Updated
So in case you were wondering why you couldn't get to Big Lizards... that was why!
(You also couldn't get to Patterico's Pontifications, Captain's Trousers, or Power Line; that last is especially odd, because I was under the impression that Power Line had a dedicated server. So what's up with that?)
Anyway, we appear to be up now -- but it could be only temporary. I'll try to make some of the posts tonight that I planned for yesterday, hoping to catch up.
Please, everyone, visit here one extra time tomorrow, so we can get our average back up to what it should be!
UPDATE: It was a cut fiber-optics cable that fed into Hosting Matters; it wasn't even their equipment. Anyway, it's fixed now, so there should be no more problems.
Date ►►► February 1, 2007
Democrats, Hagel Back Down on Surrender Resolution - Slight Correction
Correction: See below.
...But you would never realize it simply from reading the New York Times.
Here is the headline; when you read this, ask yourself whether that means attacks on the president's troop reinforcement are becoming harsher and more virulent -- or damping and diminishing:
Anybody reading just the headline would reasonably conclude that the big, anti-reinforcement snowball rolling downhill is picking up more and more support with every passing day. But wait... read the lede and second paragraphs:
A revised Senate resolution criticizing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, offered by Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, drew new support today as two of the authors of a sterner resolution of disapproval said they would accept the Warner compromise.
Senators Joseph R. Biden, Democrat of Delaware, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said they would back Mr. Warner’s new wording, which among other changes removed language that Democrats saw as creating a potential loophole. [How do you get a "loophole" in a non-binding resolution?]
In other words, the "new support" for the "Senate critique of Bush's Iraq War plan" consists of the sponsors of the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution shifting their support to Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) less confrontational "Surrender Slow" resolution.
Previously more radical reinforcement opponents are now somewhat less radical; and the Times headline portrays this as another hammerblow against President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq.
Nor is this just a rhetorical exercise -- "oh yeah, I support that one too, if ours doesn't pass." Contrariwise, the Democrats at the moment appear to have abandoned the harsher "Surrender Swift" resolution:
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was the third author of that plan ["Surrender Swift"]; on Wednesday night he had agreed to support Mr. Warner, the ranking Republican on that committee.
The Democratic leadership of the Senate now intends to use Mr. Warner’s proposal, co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, as the basis for the debate that will unfold next week, though Republicans could still raise procedural obstacles. [That is, they could -- and should -- and will filibuster.]
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) is hopping mad, issuing a statement trashing "Surrender Slow" for not explicitly opposing the "escalation" (the Democrats' contrived word for the reinforcement and change in the rules of engagement, ROEs; it's a wonder they don't simply start referring to Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads as "the VC").
He also charged that it doesn't explicitly demand that the United States go to Iran, hat in hand, and beg them to take over security in Iraq... an offer I'm sure Iran would be eager to accept. Their economy isn't doing very well right now, and selling off some other country's oil would be a big shot in the arm for the mullahs and President Ahmadinejad.
Finally, the Times is already preparing us for what I think is increasingly likely: that none of these resolutions can gain the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster:
Backers of the new Warner resolution will likely need to attract at least a dozen Republicans to reach the 60-vote total required to overcome a filibuster or other procedural obstacles. Six Republicans have so far voiced their support.
Yesterday it was five Republicans, with one supporting "Surrender Swift"; then Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%) backed away from the Democrats' version and instead will support the milder version ("Surrender Slow") pushed by Sen. Warner.
Not one single Republican beyond the original list has joined this "bandwagon;" in fact, two of the GOP senators who were "flirting" with signing aboard "Surrender Slow" -- probably Sen. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%) and Sen. George Voinovich (OH, 68%), but I can't be certain -- have so far refused actually to pull the trigger.
One more point, which is either sloppy writing on the Times' part -- or else a backdoor admission of further erosion. The paragraph quoted above says that "at least a dozen" GOP votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.
But wait: There are 51 Democrats, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (R-CT, 80%) is voting against both "Surrender" resolutions. That means the Democrats start with a presumed base of 50 votes for cloture, cutting off debate and anding the filibuster. They should only need ten GOP votes to make the magic number of 60.
Correction: As Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 95%) is still hospitalized and cannot vote, the Democratic majority should need 11 Republican votes to break a filibuster, not 10. Correction made throughout.
Why does the Times say a dozen? Has one more Democratic senator come out against Warner -- possibly Dodd or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) -- on the grounds of honesty, arguing that if the Senate isn't going to cut off funding, it shouldn't even bother with non-binding monkeyshines? If so, that would make it even harder to pass anything in the poisonous congressional atmosphere that the Democrats inherited... and promptly made more noxious and noisome.
So the New York Times' headline has it exactly backwards: not only is opposition to the reinforcement and change of ROEs not growing, it's actually diminishing, from hysterical screaming down to mere grumbling. There is now less chance than before that even the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution will pass muster in the Senate; after all this wrangling and arm-twisting, the Democrats are still six votes short of cloture.
And that is very good news indeed!
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