Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Jihad in Europe is Winning
Jihad in Europe is winning.
Don’t take my word for it. Read Douglas Murray’s account of a conference he recently attended in Holland, as posted at The Times Online.
If his observations don’t confirm the title of this post in your eyes, I fear the state of affairs that needs to come to pass that will convince you.
Murray provides background to the occasion of the conference, which among other objectives sought to memorialize the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, assassinated for allegedly offending Islam and his stance against Muslim immigration to Holland and Europe.
I had been invited to deliver the closing speech to the memorial conference on what would have been Pim Fortuyn’s 58th birthday. I said I would talk on the effects of Europe’s increasingly Islamicised population and advocate a tougher European counterterror strategy. There was no overriding political agenda to the occasion, simply a desire for frank discussion.
Murray explains that many of the conference participants felt compelled to participate under aliases. He also reports that the Dutch security forces responsible for protecting the conference judged the threat as just one step below “national emergency.” At the end of the conference, Murray had planned on speaking to Duth MP Geert Wilders. Wilders was unable to make a meeting due to having to follow up with his staff about over 40 recent death threats he has received.
Murray explains why the affairs of Holland should be of grave concern to western observers:
Holland — with its disproportionately high Muslim population — is the canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of liberalism — not the “liberalism” that is actually libertarianism, but the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.
Murray sees the most serious danger, not so much from violence and threats of violence, but from the cunning orchestrators of repression. These same beat the plowshares of political correctness and multiculturalism, into weapons of legal prosecution of a less free press, and diminishing free speech:
Europe is shuffling into darkness. It is proving incapable of standing up to its enemies, and in an effort to accommodate the peripheral rights of a minority is failing to protect the most basic rights of its own people.
Read the whole thing. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for providing the link, with extensive excerpts. Glenn’s take:
People talk about Eurabia, but what's really happened is that Europe has become Weimarized, with governments and institutions too morally and intellectually weak to stand up for the principles they pretend to embody. And we know what that led to last time . . . .
He’s right of course. It’s one thing to accept that Europe will rarely allow itself to act in coalition with a beleaguered US in standing up against Islamo-fascism. It is quite another state of affairs, when Europe, in impotence, succumbs altogether. For the day may yet arrive, when Europe herself is not just against war against the fascists, but on the other side.
IraqPundit is an Iraqi blogger who calls the NY Times to task for hyping the recent violence in Iraq. He posts his critique of what he describes as exaggerated reporting in The Wicked Warmongers.
IraqPundit acknowledges that “the violence in Iraq is bad enough to raise serious concerns about the possibility of an open civil war,” but contrary to the alarmist and opportunistic (any opportunity to bash Bush) Times, notes that the leaders of Iraq have agreed to work together.
How does IraqPundit assess the situation? Iraqis working together, media doing everything in their power to amplify the civil war meme:
From what I can see, Iraqis are working towards calming the tensions among a people who have been dealing with extremely difficult conditions since the U.S. invasion of three years ago. At the same time, I see a media that are determined to find a civil war in Iraq at any cost. The New York Times claims that the young clerics are having more influence these days than Sistani. But didn't the same newspaper just report that even Moktada Al Sadr is calling for calm? So where is the evidence that Moktada's influence is greater than Sistani's? Seems to me that it is quite possible that Sistani told Moktada to stop his nonsense.
IraqPundit goes on to criticize the Times reporter in a cited article for suggesting that a “spreading civil war is so detailed that it includes ethnic cleansing.” IraqPundit commends the more accurate reporting of Iraq the Model (see stories here and here), and asks, “What ever happened to checking for accuracy?” A good question, and good commentary on the very sad state of affairs at most of mainstream media, on anything to do with the situation in Iraq. As clear as this is to the American soldiers in Iraq, it is even clearer to clearheaded Iraqis:
Why do these reporters want to see a civil war so badly in Iraq? It looks to me that they hate Bush so much that they will stop at nothing to prove that he's wrong about Iraq and they are right. The reporters have sunk so low as to take this cheap angle of insisting that an all out civil war has been underway for three years. When will they wake up and realize that this is not a White House scandal. This is about Iraq and its people. Yes some people are being aggressive and I pray that the violence doesn't spread. But why do the media report exaggerated numbers of attacks and damage when it can only make a bad situation worse.
(Thanks to Mudville Gazette and Greyhawk’s many links to Iraqi bloggers such as IraqPundit and Iraq the Model.)
Saturday, February 25, 2006
A False Postulate
I am gravely disappointed in William F. Buckley. Among the most literate and well educated men in America, an archetype of American Conservatism, Buckley taught several generations of thoughtful analysts how to, well, analyze. I would never hope to achieve his stature, prominence, or achievement. Still, he disappoints.
At this most critical moment of our noble efforts in the Middle East, Buckley defiantly offers terms of surrender, and proudly denounces Bush Administration policy.
Buckley quotes a Sunni clothing merchant, and Reuel Marc Gerecht of American Enterprise Institute, and concludes, "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed." One wonders how completely Buckley might have despaired in any prior conflict, with the devasting quotes no doubt available from those who benefited under Nazi, Soviet, Japanese, North Korean, or Cuban oppression, and despised their liberators when the cure required some sacrifice.
To even humor the notion that America is responsible for any temporal (or more historical animosity between Sunni and Shia is foolish and ignorant. If we had not invaded, Shia would remain brutally oppressed under Saddam. Even Sunnis widely suffered, despite a small minority of their kinsmen might have benefited from the scraps brushed from the table of the tyrant.
The notion that Saddam was some necessary peacekeeper between Shia and Sunni is both ignorant and repugnant. It is likewise the classic excuse of the tyrant. You could as easily say that Stalin was necessary to keep all those ignorant Eastern European countries from fighting amongst themselves. Or that Hitler kept the French and the Jews from killing each other (not too effectively). I would say only Tito in Yugoslavia could plausibly justify the claim that he kept the many Baltic nationalities from civil war, which eventually occurred after his death. That Buckley grasps for this excuse for Saddam is greatly beneath his intellect, however so much he quotes some anonymous US soldier.
I can't speak for Gerecht or why he loses hope at this moment. But I do know that, based his stated reasoning, any committed terrorist, setting off one well-placed bomb, could bring any effort in Iraq to failure. No doubt, if Iraqis falter as fast and as fully as fair-weather Western supporters! All goes according to Al Qaeda plan, and even serious and well-intentioned pundits in the Western media continue to respond obediently on queue.
Buckley concludes "Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans." In individual instances, no doubt true. It were at all wise to base serious political and cultural analysis on isolated emotional flare-ups -- all carefully orchestrated by outside powers and agitators -- than perhaps Buckley properly draws his conclusion.
But is this wise? Has it ever been? How stiff and shallow our resolve! How easily subject to manipulation. Clearer-minded observers sniff the obvious odors of opportunism, even on the part of those in Iraq who would not commit the violence from either side, but cynically seek short-term advantage from the chaos. Secular Sunni and Shia groups, sensing their diminished influence with the dramatic successes of the religious parties, take this opportunity to walk away from negotiations on forming a coalition government.
That there exist "ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols," shouldn't surprise us, given the threat such monsters pose to all of the civilized world, and now Iraq, too. That average people shrink away from direct confrontation with such ilk, shouldn't surprise us either. Oddly, the occurrence of violence doesn't really speak to how effectively a society can work its civil processes. It speaks to determined and vicious terrorists.
Would Buckley write off all the other localities in which the Cartoon Intifadas rage? Clearly, these are all likewise failures in forming or maintaining civilized (democratic or other) societies. When and if the next terrorist attacks occur in Europe, or the US, and populations lash out at immigrant communities in which Radical Islam flourish, will that mean the West has failed?
Much like Israel against the Palestinians, the peace-seeking people of Iraq have born extremist, Baathist thug, and foreign terrorist violence aimed at instigating civil war with great patience and forbearance. Occasional and sporadic lapses into retaliation and vengeful violence should actually surprise us precisely because of how rarely it has occurred. That is is suddenly triggered now, based on an extreme and deliberate example of outside provocation should be cause for outrage and solidarity, not fainting hearts.
Buckley speaks of American foreign policy postulates proven wrong. That remains debatable. Yet I would argue that the postulates for Buckley's argument are more wrong, and compellingly so.
Buckley identifies a critical postulate as, "the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymakers to cope with insurgents bent on violence," and then states, "This last did not happen."
How can Buckley conclude thus? Reports from our military in the field, supported by the few independent journalists who continue to report in Iraq rather than opine, continue to describe the increasing success of Iraqi Security forces. There is growing cooperation of average citizens in turning on (and turning in) the dead-enders and foreign Jihadists. By any objective and balanced measure, both Coalition and the Iraqi forces they train and support are broadly succeeding in their objectives. Security has more and more an Iraqi face, and the tide has clearly turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Buckley uses a false dichotomy to conclude that admitting failure is the better part of valor:
It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn't work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.
Buckley is right on this last point. But he is clearly wrong on his opening premise, that the idea that Democracy can be grown and nurtured in Iraq. If you mistake the full picture and significance of events in Iraq, or fail to note the degree to which your impressions are manufactured by your enemy, you will allow Al Qaeda and the Baathist holdouts to achieve their primary aim. Unable to succeed militarily, they seek to sow discouragement and despair, and ultimately, loss of heart.
Buckley is likewise right when he says:
[President Bush] will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.
For this may indeed be a tactical setback, but hardly defeat. And surely from a more sober strategic standpoint, this is exactly one of many developments that our enemy is determined to produce, against which we must fight. With all the tools in our arsenal, those diplomatic, national building, and peacekeeping. And force of arms, when necessary.
Has Buckley not been among the more silent of the silent majority? I can't vouch for the entirety of his work for the past 3 and ½ years, but in the broad expanse of the armchair generals in foreign policy, Buckley's been on leave. Better he remain cloistered, than to add his defeatist voice to those so desperately seeking defeat in Iraq.
Acknowledge defeat? Not with victory at hand.
Tools of Diplomacy
Max Boot, writes an short but helpful prescription for what ails the Foreign Service and related denizens of the State Department, with an opinion piece in the LA Times.
Boot notes several positive developments already ongoing at the State Department, but urges more. He recommends that the US Information Agency, disastrously reassigned to State Department control during the Clinton years, be revived in an autonomous form, rechartered and refunded. He calls for more.
And so should the US Government and Military do more. Whatever ways we may have been ill-prepared for the new Post 9/11 world of non-national threats and unconventional warfare, we were even less prepared for keeping the peace, let alone Nation Building.
I greatly prefer that we respond to threats and opportunities proactively, rather than react. Those who would pay the requisite attention to the events of 9/11 (New York), 3/11 (Madrid), and 7/7 (London), know all too well the price of inaction. A committed and disciplined terrorist organization makes mockery of Nation-state foreign policies that focus on international law enforcement.
We do not understand the grave threats that form before us. We do not comprehend the cultural and political environments that foster and promote the depraved ideologies. There is a diplomatic front, the traditional province of foreign affairs, and the agencies and resources primarily responsible for these efforts are sorely lacking. But even within the military sphere, our soldiers, sailors and airmen are an increasingly critical component of US national security objectives. Our military works to preserve peace in democratic societies -- and those who yearn for democracy -- and perform a wider and wider range of peacetime contingency and unconventional operations. As never before, our armed forces perform missions that require diplomacy and the tools of public and civil affairs.
Boot reaches for the example of the British Empire, and like it or not, the skills most lacking in our military are precisely those that mature empires generated in great quantity. It was a profession, or administration, of diplomacy, of building cultural relations and interdependence of public life.
But the Empire that the Americans advance in these dangerous times is not an empire of greed, acquisition, or material exploitation, despite our accusing critics. Nor is it patronizing in the classic sense. If anything, it is an opportunity afforded to many of the worlds citizens, not previously available, and certainly not from the autocrats, kleptocrats, or dictators who would otherwise oppress them.
It is time we acknowledge that we must maintain a primary role in the preservation and extension of freedom and democracy in the world. Any other course is fire-fighting at best, and a recipe for greater catastrophes at home, when the evils of the world fester long enough and form full measure here at home.
But we need an honest and sober assessment of the tools we need. And a more aggressive promulgation of diplomatic and civil affairs skill sets, integrated with the other tools in our arsenal, represents a vital first step.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Hanson on Iraq
Victor Davis Hanson recently visited Iraq and posted his impressions in Standoff in Iraq: The IED vs. Democracy, at National Review Online. In addition to assessing US Military personnel as highly motivated and of superior ability, Hanson provides an excellent primer on Al Qaeda strategic planning. This should be required reading for the bloviators both in government, and out.
Hanson identifies three basic strategies motivating current Al Qaeda operations: use of improvised explosive devices (IED), assassinations, and suicide bombings; attack Shiites and Iraqi forces to create civil war; and to pay criminals to create murder and other mayhem and thereby delay infrastructure repairs.
According to Hanson, the use of IED are used to make Iraqi seem so unstable and violent to cause the American public to decide that Iraq isn’t worth “one more American life.” This is why the media campaign Al Qaeda wages in Western media is so valuable, as media outlets greatly prefer the bloody and violent and counts of bodies over reports of school openings.
Creating civil war and the societal upheavals that will create needs little explanation. What is important to note, however, is how crucially more important societal perceptions are to such a strategy than societal facts. Much like the polling that finds 75% of a population thinks a country is heading to disaster, but the same 75% thinks that things are going good for themselves. It’s always worse for others, because each individual’s experience is so necessarily narrow and isolated from the whole, and they get their information for others from what they hear or read in the media. This is no less true for Iraqis as for Americans. Here too, media is an important and very helpful tool for Al Qaeda’s desire to foment civil strife.
The third strategy Hanson mentions, that of Al Qaeda exploiting a criminal Iraqi underclass, Hanson describes as “one of the great lapses in world journalism.” His point is that Saddam Hussein released some 100,000 criminals (not of the political kind), and Al Qaeda and their hirelings have quite successfully portrayed “all the daily mayhem of a major city appear to be political violence.”
Hanson notes the standoff we are in at the moment: “we cannot yet stop the fear of the IED, and they cannot halt the progress of democracy.”
This is where Hanson’s upbeat impressions of both Iraqi Security forces and the American Military in Iraq bears on his assessment:
It is an odd war, because the side that I think is losing garners all the press, whether by blowing up the great golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, or blowing up an American each day. Yet we hear nothing of the other side that is ever so slowly, shrewdly undermining the enemy.
Hanson also notes a change in the argument at home, less about the mistakes that got us here, but a decision on the yes or no proposition of whether we stay and finish the job, or accept defeat and pull out now (or soon). And this argument is playing out differently than the war’s detractors might have hoped:
Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing. They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent. Insufficient body armor and unarmored humvees are yesterday’s hysteria. Our generals — Casey, Chiarelli, Dempsey — are astute and understand the fine line between using too much force and not employing enough, and that the war cannot be won by force alone. American colonels are the best this county has produced, and they are proving it in Iraq under the most trying of conditions. Iraqi soldiers are treated with respect and given as much autonomy as their training allows.
Read the whole thing.
Insta-Lanche for the MILBLOG Conference
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit links to The MILBLOG Conference, and recommends his readers to the event. (As do I, but as a participant on one of the panels, I’m not very objective. Andy of Andi’s World is the organizer, and she’s done a terrific job pulling all the pieces together.
More info will be forthcoming in the days ahead…
Political Background to Shia Sunni Violence
Robert Mayer makes some excellent observations about Shia and Sunni responses (especially political) to the mosque violence stemming from the bombing of the al-Askari shrine in Iraq. Writing at Publius Pundit, Mayer correctly observes that “the finger points directly at Zarqawi, who is using the attack as a last ditch effort to prevent the forming of a new government. He is looking to divide the country after it has come so close to being united.”
Further, Mayer observes that many forces in Iraq are taking political advantage of the violence to further their own agendas, including the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), who immediately blamed Sunnis for the attack on the shrine. Mayer explains their reason for doing so:
The attack actually provides a perfect reason to pre-empt its own degradation as the country’s main political force.
I say this not in the light that the UIA itself committed the bombing, but that many factions within it are taking advantage of it. Especially the pro-Iran Moqtada al-Sadr, but even al-Hakim of the SCIRI. The “retaliation” attacks against Sunni are not random. They are mostly organized by his Mehdi Army militia. Following in turn, Iran blames America for the attacks on the Shia shrine. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani immediately issued a fatwa following the attack and urged the Shia faithful to restrain themselves, but politically they are beginning to divide between Sistani and Sadr. It is obvious at this point that Iran and al-Sadr are politically motivated in their response to the attack.
This is precisely the state of affairs in Iraq, not that Iraq is teetering on the brink of Civil War, but that political forces within the country will exploit any means of violence, instability, sectarian or religious divide, to heighten their own influence or gain some temporary advantage. (In this, they are not so much different than their elders in oppositional democracy, the Democrats of the United States Congress.)
Are their dangers? Of course. Is the situation dire, with much potential for retreat for nation building efforts? Certainly. But we play into the hands of extremists if we allow their aims to be fulfilled based on the perception of civil strife, alone. There are still choices to be made by those who can put out the flames, or fan them. Most of those choices rest on the hands of the Shia in Iraq, according to Mayer:
For once it looks as if the Shia political leadership will have to decide if it wants a unified, cooperative, and peaceful Iraq. They will eventually have to accept that their position of power is on the wane, and how they continue to respond in the aftermath of the attack on the Golden Mosque will be an important barometer of this. The Sunnis have restrained from violence even as they are being hunted down by militias, but for how long? Iraqis, both Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, cannot afford to point fingers at each other. If they need to play the blame game, the only ones that should be blamed are the miniscule minority of Al Qaeda and radical Wahhabi fighters.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
POPULAR MECHANICS got a hold of a draft copy of the report from the “Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina,” and posted an initial response.
You may not have noticed Popular Mechanics (PM) of late, or can’t imagine why anyone would look to PM as an authoritative source for evaluating Katrina and governmental responses. But if so, I have reason for you to take note. It turns out, PM has been paying very close attention.
And what do the folks at PM conclude of the “Bipartisan Committee” report?
We've given the report an initial read and found it riddled with poor logic, internal contradictions and exaggerations.
Their strongest criticism suggests the effort itself is founded on a conceit that will make any of its conclusions worthless in an actual emergency, as it transforms 20/20 hindsight into an assumption of almost perfect clairvoyance on the part of the responders the report pillories:
While the 9/11 effort pinpointed large institutional problems and focused on solutions, this report seems designed to narrow attention onto a few individuals, ignoring larger, and frankly more important, issues—such as what role FEMA should actually take in large-scale emergencies.
For now, though, here’s a quick overview of what seems to be the report’s most troubling shortfall: consistently blaming individuals for failing to foresee circumstances that only became clear with the laser-sharp vision of hindsight.
When you get the techno-geeks this fired up, from a technical standpoint you’ve missed the mark for any kind of investigative effort, no matter how “Bipartisan.”
Given that the “bipartisans” we’re talking about are Congress-people, how about a truly “Non-Partisan” effort instead? (Please, no politicians need apply.)
Michael J. Totten, writing from Dream City, Kurdistan, describes a very impressive construction project in industrious Iraqi Kurdistan. He also includes pictures from architectural drawings and models.
Totten’s introduction to the Kurdish accomplishment:
ERBIL, IRAQ – Kurdistan is a place of the mind. It doesn’t exist on any maps unless the maps are made by the Kurds. Southern Kurdistan is known to the rest of the world as Northern Iraq. Northern Kurdistan is described as Eastern Turkey. Southwestern Kurdistan is Northeastern Syria. And Southeastern Kurdistan is Northwestern Iran.
In no country are Kurds closer to realizing their dream of freedom and independence than they are in Iraq. They are wrapping up the finishing touches on their de-facto sovereign state-within-a-state, a fact on the ground that will not easily be undone. And they’re transforming the hideously decrepit physical environment left to them by Saddam Hussein – a broken place that is terribly at odds with the Kurdistan in their hearts and in their minds – into something beautiful and inspiring, the kind of place you might like to live in someday yourself.
The heart of the new Kurdistan is soon to be known as the Dream City, a massive construction site going up on the outskirts of Erbil.
Read the whole thing.
I am very glad to see Michael on his latest beat. We're all lucky to have him wandering about. Our military men and women may be putting their lives on the line to make this possible, but he lays his life on the line, too, to keep the successes visible. Kurdistan is an
country autonomous region full of success stories.
Via Mudville Gazette.
Friday, February 10, 2006
More AP Falsehoods
Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings catches the Associated Press (AP) perpetuating a long-standing media falsehood and erstwhile Democratic talking point.
In a phony hit piece on Lewis Libby, AP Writer Toni Locy repeats the irrefutably false claim that:
Wilson's revelations cast doubt on President Bush's claim in his 2003 State of the Union address that Niger had sold uranium to Iraq to develop a nuclear weapon as one of the administration's key justifications for going to war in Iraq.
Should it really be necessary to point out to a wire service reporter that making a sidebar reference to a background fact really needs to, um, factual? And is there any way to convince the AP that, despite what in their liberal left leaning hearts want to imagine, President Bush never said what they continue to insist he said? By God, there are recordings! Transcripts! No doubt their own reporting somewhere!
As an aside, if any of those so inclined to this point of view had actually listened to the 2003 State of the Union, they might have their own recollection to keep them from repeating this falsehood. I have heard from so many of this persuasion that they can’t even stand to listen to President Bush. Which of course doesn’t affect in any way how badly they so frequently misreport what he has said or done.
Rand instructs for the factually challenged:
We've been over this many times, but apparently, it's necessary to do so again. Here are the sixteen words:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
That's it. It doesn't say that uranium was sold to Iraq, it doesn't say Niger. It says that the British government has learned about attempts to purchase uranium from Africa. Africa is a big place. Nowhere in the speech does it claim that the attempts were successful, and nowhere in the speech is Niger mentioned. The sentence, as written in the AP story, is completely false, but many persist in believing it, because apparently it confirms their prejudices. In their minds, it's "fake but accurate."
Okay, one last crank before I go. For the unwise and uninitiated. Call it unconstitutional, call it illegal, but stop calling it “wiretapping.” It may qualify as “surveillance,” but there are no wires, and they aren’t being “tapped.” Using “wiretapping” just reinforces that you know nothing about modern telecommunications technology, nor modern intelligence operations.
On second thought, those who want to, keep up the stories on wiretapping. Sounds quaint.
Links: Mudville Gazette
A Wake-up Call
Victor Davis Hanson has another must read up at National Review Online. An excerpt:
The deluded here might believe that the divide is a moral one, between a supposedly decadent secular West and a pious Middle East, rather than an existential one that is fueled by envy, jealousy, self-pity, and victimization. But to believe the cartoons represent the genuine anguish of an aggrieved puritanical society tainted by Western decadence, one would have to ignore that Turkey is the global nexus for the sex-slave market, that Afghanistan is the world's opium farm, that the Saudi Royals have redefined casino junketeering, and that the repository of Hitlerian imagery is in the West Bank and Iran.
The entire controversy over the cartoons is ludicrous, but often in history the trivial and ludicrous can wake a people up before the significant and tragic follow.
That’s exactly how this should be read. As a wake-up call, because the significant and tragic is on its way.
Bert Sacks is a fool, an apologist for a mass murdering dictator, or a miscreant of some other unknowable stripe. The Seattle Times printed a piece by Guest Columnist Bert Sacks, who draws some very startling conclusions from the data he himself presents:
On Aug. 12, 1999, UNICEF reported "that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under 5 in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998."
The report continued, "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war."
Here is the most credible children's organization in the world telling us that war and U.N./U.S. economic sanctions had contributed to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.
Now I know my fellow MILBLOGGERS, and any impartial observer without a partisan axe to grind might reasonably know the guilty party most responsible for the deaths of all these children. Not so Bert Sacks. Nope.
Of course, all those deaths are the direct result, with no important-to-note intermediary steps, of US policy towards Iraq between 1991 and the present. (Natch, Sacks adds gratuitous swipes at President Bush, and suggests our culpability the previous decade explains why we weren’t “welcomed with open arms” in liberating Iraq. For you see, we had already lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis.
I can make a first hand account of the many millions (if not billions) of dollars of grossly excessive luxury with which Saddam and his family lathered themselves during the period in question, largely with the stolen and redirected funds from Oil for Food and other programs. The Forward Operating Base (FOB) I was stationed at had no less than 26 palaces, for Saddam, his mother, his two sons, his security chief, I think he even had palaces for servants at other palaces.
And what of the role of that Oil for Food program, that we have details about, thanks to the relentless reporting of Claudia Rosett? Can’t we conclude that the personal enrichment of Saddam agents-in-all but name George Galloway, French and Russian officials, and their craven exploitation of that program, makes them complicit in the death of 500,000 Iraqi children? If not, why not? Money went to them, that was meant to feed and nourish the children for whom Sacks mourns.
I was and am no fan of economic sanctions as a means of international policy. With the possible exception of such attempts against the South African apartheid regimes, such efforts always hurt the wrong people, and brutal dictatorships are affected least of all, as they have no care for the carnage that results to those most affected. But Sacks turns a blind eye to the actual circumstances -- ground truth – that created the environment that led to the deaths he laments. That was appeasement of the worst sort during sanctions, exploited with great effectiveness by Saddam, and represents beating way beyond recognition, to an equine corpse now.
Bert Sacks is “active with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility,” the parent organization of which is notoriously inept at weighing greatly asynchronous moral culpability. This may explain his inability to form sensical moral judgments. But more, demonstrated by this column, Sacks wants to maintain the canard that if only we had ended the sanctions, and tried to “negotiate” with Saddam, we could have avoided the septic ulcer that Iraq had become. The fact is, the only guarantee that life would ever improve for Iraqis, was that ensured by the Coalition force that swept through Iraq in early 2003. That’s the only act that ended brutality that likewise killed those 500,000 children.
(Via Mudville Gazette.)
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
A Characteristic Display
ADAM NAGOURNEY and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG write of the growing unease among Democrats in Some Democrats Are Sensing Missed Opportunities, appearing in today’s NY Times.
I mention and link only to remark on the following paragraphs (undoubtedly known at the Times as the obligatory Hillary tie-in):
One of the party's most prominent members, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, has been relatively absent for much of this debate, a characteristic display of public caution that her aides say reflects her concern for keeping focused on her re-election bid. Mrs. Clinton, who has only nominal opposition, declined requests for an interview to discuss her views of the party.
I would observe that Senator Clinton’s “characteristic display of public caution” derives from her perpetual focus on her self, not specifically limited to her very near-term goal of her Senate re-election bid.
Count on Hillary, if there’s a fight that involves a large political cost with marginal gain, why she’s just a simple ex-First Lady. Oh, and junior Senator from New York. No good possibilities for triangulation here. Party doesn’t come first, or second or even a distant third in relation to one’s own ambitions.
She shares this characteristic in remarkable degree with the Governor of my own state, George Pataki. (Remarkable, that.)
And if there is one overriding characteristic in which Senator Clinton is quite unlike her husband, at least you could count on Bill to know when he needed to act in the better interests of the party (in the longer term if not always in the short).
Links: Mudville Gazette
Cartoon Intifada, continued
Glenn Reynolds neatly summarizes the Cartoon Intifada, and links to updates from Austin Bay and the folks at Powerline, and a new piece in the Wall Street Journal.
See also my earlier post.
If you aren’t familiar with how this whole cartoonish affair was orchestrated, or if you otherwise are dismayed by reactions, you should follow the links.
If you think we need to be more sensitive to a community of Islamic radicals, who are ginning up this perfect media storm, then you need to wise up. Same process, follow the links.
I repeat. Submit. Or be killed. Those are the only two options for the infidels.
Unless, of course, we take them at their word that we’re at war, and attack them where we find them.
MILBLOG Conference Pre-registration
ALERT: Pre-registration for the MILBLOG Conference, scheduled for April 22nd in Washington DC, begins this morning at 10:00 EST for milbloggers and members of the military community.
Go to Pre-registration on the VFW-sponsored MILBLOG Conference web site for details and to register!
Links: Mudville Gazette
, Citizen Smash
, Andi's World
, Some Soldier's Mom
, Euphoric Reality
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Scott Johnson, writing at Powerline
, quotes Daniel Pipes, writing about the “Cartoon Intifada,” with a piece in the New York Sun, Cartoons and Islamic imperialism
The key issue at stake in the battle over the 12 Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad is this: Will the West stand up for its customs and mores, including freedom of speech, or will Muslims impose their way of life on the West? Ultimately, there is no compromise: Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult and blaspheme, or not.
More specifically, will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy immunity from insults? Muslims routinely publish cartoons far more offensive than the Danish ones. Are they entitled to dish it out while being insulated from similar indignities?
Germany's Die Welt newspaper hinted at this issue in an editorial: "The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical. When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were quiet." Nor, by the way, have imams protested the stomping on the Christian cross embedded in the Danish flag.
The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism. The Danish editor who published the cartoons, Flemming Rose, explained that if Muslims insist "that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos ... they're asking for my submission."
Pipes concludes: "Peoples who would stay free must stand unreservedly with Denmark."
Submission is exactly what is sought. And any form of appeasement creates exactly the kinds of incentives that will only encourage more of the same. Islamic Fundamentalist forces have orchestrated this “spontaneous outrage,” complete with prestaged Danish flags and “fake but accurate” supplemental cartoons that generate greater provocation.
We are being manipulated, and those too naïve or lazy to see the forces at work play right into the hands of the master manipulators, who are creating this controversy from whole cloth. All the while, Arab world press makes an tradition of generating the most offensive caricatures of Jews, Israelis and Americans.
Stand by the Danes, indeed. Either our civilization is worth fighting this not so subtle oppression through violence and threats of violence, or it isn’t.
A true liberalism would recognize the threat posed by these mono-culturalists is infinitely greater than those countries who stand beleaguered by such barbarism, hate and intolerance.
The forces we fight clearly and without artifice adopted the very ideas, techniques, and grotesqueries as the Hitlerian archetypes they emulate. That the unsuspecting left can be so oblivious to the true nature of this threat is greatly dismaying, however predictable.
Submit. Or be killed. Those are the only two options for the infidels.
Unless, of course, we take them at their word that we’re at war, and attack them where we find them.
MILBLOG Conference April 22, 2006
Andi at Andi’s World has organized a MILBLOG Conference to be held April 22, 2006 in Washington, DC. She’s done an amazing job gathering some top flight talent already, with confirmed participants like Bill Roggio of ThreatWatch (and previously at The Fourth Rail), Austin Bay, Blackfive, Buzz Patterson, and Citizen Smash, among others.
Hosted by the VFW Webcom, Andi has setup a Blog (natch, what else) with all pertinent information. Quoting from the Purpose statement:
The 2006 Milblog Conference will take place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 22, 2006. The conference is designed to bring milbloggers together for one full day of interesting discussion on topics associated with milblogging. We will explore the history of milblogs, as well as what the future may hold for this medium which the military community is using to tell their stories.
The milblog community is diverse, and we intend to showcase the full spectrum of milblogs, including those who have blogged from theater, veteran members of the armed forces, spouses and parents.
Registration for the conference is free of charge. Due to seating limitations, there are only 300 seats available for this event. Milbloggers and/or members of the military community will be allowed to pre-register. There are 150 seats reserved for the military community.
Pre-registration will begin on February 8 and continue through midnight February 15. Any slots not filled by milbloggers will be given to the general public. Registration for the public will begin on February 16. All registrations are first-come, first-serve.
Attire is casual.
This conference is not sponsored, sanctioned, censored by, or in any way affiliated with the Department of Defense.
UPDATE: Agenda found here , confirmed Panelists found here, which includes a mystery guest in Panel #3, Blogging from Theater.
LINKS: Mudville Gazette
comes out of hibernation.
My friend John at Blogotional
has produced some valuable commentary on Idols and Idolatry. More, with an extended discussion on the challenges of fellowhip and sanctification, over at Gladmanly
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Fisk's indictment is a familiar one, at least for anyone who has attended to Arab propaganda over the years or, more recently, to the sloganeering of the anti-Israel Left. But he does not wish to be seen as just another partisan in the debate. As the ostentatious bulk of his current book attests, Fisk wants to be taken seriously, both as a journalist and as a writer with wider intellectual and historiographical ambitions. In this, he falls dismally --if predictably -- short.
First there is the problem of simple accuracy. It is difficult to turn a page of The Great War for Civilisation without encountering some basic error. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not, as Fisk has it, in Jerusalem. The Caliph Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was murdered in the year 661, not in the 8th century. Emir Abdallah became king of Transjordan in 1946, not 1921, and both he and his younger brother, King Faisal I of Iraq, hailed not from a "Gulf tribe" but rather from the Hashemites on the other side of the Arabian peninsula. The Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958, not 1962; Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed by the British authorities, not elected; Ayatollah Khomeini transferred his exile from Turkey to the holy Shiite city of Najaf not during Saddam Husseins rule but fourteen years before Saddam seized power. Security Council resolution 242 was passed in November 1967, not 1968; Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, not 1977, and was assassinated in October 1981, not 1979. Yitzhak Rabin was minister of defense, not prime minister, during the first Palestinian intifada, and al Qaeda was established not in 1998 but a decade earlier. And so on and so forth.
The deeper problem with Fisk's work is not the sort of thing that can be fixed by acquiring a better research assistant or fact-checking apparatus. Facts must be placed in their proper context, after all, and this demands a degree of good faith that Fisk utterly lacks. Indeed, so blatant and thoroughgoing are his ideological prejudices that his very name has entered the lexicon of the Internet as a synonym for systematic bias. Among the online commentators known as bloggers, the verb "to fisk" has come to mean a point-by-point rebuttal of an egregiously slanted piece of writing -- like, classically, a Fisk dispatch from the Middle East.
I am no longer surprised by the utter lack of professionalism and scholarly discipline among the fiercest defenders of a certain set of leftist beliefs. But I begin to think that a pure and undefiled ignorance lies at the heart of such as these. They really do seem to embrace the core of the new "fake but accurate" journalistic credo.
Someday perhaps a conservative psychiatrist or neuroscientist will uncover the precise mechanism that allows truth and facts to slip through the neural network untethered, leaving preconceptions and old dust-bunnies in their wake. Myself, I think every piece of intellectual flotsam that drifts by is scooped up and filtered through a "does this fit my perfect conception of the world" net, and if not, it flows out with the other trivia.
Whatever. No serious, non-partisan, non-militarized scholar of Middle Eastern history would take Fisk seriously. His portfolio is full of both propaganda and bitter enmity towards those he would damn, coupled with rationalizations and appeasement for those who he would pardon. He claims to seek impartiality, and distorts history and evidence to weight his conclusions towards preferred outcomes.
Karsh concludes his review of Fisk's fantastical Civilisation, with a pretty thorough review of the man himself:
Such is the general standard Fisk applies as an "impartial witness to history." Massacres of innocent civilians by Arab and Islamic militants throughout the world -- from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Manhattan, Bali, and Baghdad -- are for him not acts of terrorism but rather the understandable and altogether patriotic response of people brutalized by colonial occupation. The curious effect of this effort to absolve Middle Easterners of any blame or responsibility for their region's problems, or their own deeds, is to make Fisk guilty of the sin for which he endlessly berates the West; he patronizes his subjects in the worst tradition of the "white man's burden."
Though Fisk compares himself to Arab kings at the start of his book, he emerges, ultimately, much more like Lawrence of Arabia, who concluded that the Arabs were "a limited, narrow-minded people," incapable of decent behavior because their "inert intellect lay fallow in incurious resignation." As the eminent Orientalist Bernard Lewis likes to joke, possessing such fundamentally racist attitudes is what it means today to be "pro-Arab."
Sadly, all too many in the West will read Fisk's self-indulgent work of fiction and cluck to themselves, "how true, how true."
Links: Austin Bay
, Mudville Gazette
Friday, February 03, 2006
Scott Johnson, writing at Powerline, offers a brief update on A&E’s film, Flight 93:
Last night John wrote about the A&E film "Flight 93." The AP article on the film's success in attracting the largest audience A&E has ever attracted also notes that the film will repeat at noon EST on Saturday and Sunday and at 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Reader Nathan Clark alerts us to the release of a commercial film also titled "Flight 93" in April. The film's site has a preview and other information about the film.
My wife and I were deeply upset from watching the film from 10- midnight on the night we watched it. We cried, we turned away only to turn back again. We struggled with the sense that “There but by the grace of God, go we.” But we both felt we needed to watch it, and were glad we did.
I did note that the film contained fleeting images of the planes hitting the World Trade towers, and their later collapse. Which was surprising, in a way, as it brought to mind the almost universal self-imposed media blackout of 9/11 visual images. I guess seeing the footage for a few seconds in movies is the only way we’ll ever see them.
John Hinderaker wrote the previous day's piece, which included some powerful reminders
The networks have boycotted footage of the September 11 attacks, because they fear--correctly, I think--that reminders of the destruction wrought by the terrorists' attacks will engender support for the Bush administration. But the public's enthusiastic reception of Flight 93 suggests that people are ready and, perhaps, eager to know more about that fateful day.
John goes on to respond to critics who suggest he’s paranoid. I think he’s exactly right. God forbid we do anything to remind Americans that we’re at war. That might help the eeevul Bush.
Thank God for market forces. Eventually, the success of projects such as Flight 93 will no doubt cause those who want top make money to provide us more such inspirational stories from 9/11.
How about a film about Rick Rescorla?
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