Tuesday, June 28, 2005
"Everything we heard about operations there in the past, we'd have to say, was negative. What we saw firsthand was something different" - Sen. Nelson
Sunday, June 26, 2005
By “crapping on” I wasn’t referring to the people who are leading an imperfect war, which we are winning. Rather, I was talking about the people who seem incapable of uttering the word Iraq without also bringing up Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, or the litany of negatives directed at the Commander in Chief. You know, the ones who seem hellbent on losing Vietnam all over again – not because the want to see our soldiers suffer, but because they want to see the President fail. Troop levels and body armor are legitimate points of debate, but when Senator x harps on troop numbers and then wants to know when the troops will be coming home – or when Senator’s x, y, z use stories of prisoner abuse to say we’ve lost moral authority – their interests in winning the war become suspect to me. The main problem for these people is that they actually believe the previously linked cartoon is accurate.
Re: the Rumsfeld story. Although he miscalculated the longevity of the Baathist’s resistance, he was right about one thing: they are part of a dying cause. What would be the appropriate response from a Defense Secretary at that time? His response was the right one to make.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Speaking of which, I thought this was a nifty little cartoon.
Boy does my colon feel a lot cleaner now that I got that out of my system.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
"He said, 'I wish things were like when Ronald Reagan was still
president,"' said one of the soldiers who guarded him....
President Bush and his father, former President George H. W. Bush, are "no
good," while former President Bill Clinton was "OK," Saddam told his
Monday, June 20, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Thursday, June 16, 2005
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing
what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly
believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad
regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that
is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
I’m guessing that when the Downing Street Memo site highlights something in red, it means I’m supposed to raise an outraged eyebrow and demand answers.
In talking about the shift in the administration’s attitude during the summer of 2002 the conspiracy theorists underline a phrase they feel is damning to the president:
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam,
through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But
the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
But what does that mean, fixed? Nothing else in the memo suggests that the word “fixed” would imply changing data or creating evidence – so it is more than reasonable to assume that it simply means that they were gathering available evidence to support their position, carving raw intelligence to form an argument. This is what every good diplomat, CEO, project manager….in short, anyone trying to achieve anything, would do.
Another point in the memo that is highlighted in red and partially underlined:
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if
the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not
threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya,
North Korea or Iran.
….the case was thin. The statement means little on its own, less when taken in context. Out of context, it implies that the case was weak. After all, the intelligence we had was circumstantial (exiles telling their stories, satellite photos or very suspicious Iraqi phone conversations) or old (previous WMD that are still unaccounted for). For a leader, lack of information over a specific problem does not mean that inaction is the best course or even an option. And the evidence that did exist pointed to one responsible conclusion: that Saddam had had, probably still had and seeked more WMDs. It also showed that he had ties to terror and was a bad influence on the region. Taking Saddam out was essential in defeating Islamic terrorism. No other assessment on the president’s part would be reasonable. In context, the memo goes on:
Saddam was not threatening his neighbors
This is a misleading statement that differs from some hard facts at the time (2002). First, Saddam was funding terrorism – no doubts there. The extent of his ties can be debated, but he did support terror. Second, one reason that he was not threatening the Kurds or Kuwaitis is that we maintained a purse draining No Fly Zone over those areas, in which Iraqis exchanged fire with US forces on a pretty routine basis. It’s like we were holding the arm of a threatening man behind his back. He’s temporarily disabled but better not let him go, lest he become a threat again. Meanwhile, the containment effort was slowly eroding, thanks, in part, to French influence (and others) which pressed to lift sanctions for the better part of 12 years. To these folks, it seems that the Kurds were of no concern.
….and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.
This point undercuts the Bush-lied-about-WMDs because it assumes that Saddam had them. Otherwise, the memo wouldn’t say his WMD capability was less than the others, but would say something like, while Iraq has no WMDs….these other countries do, etc. The reason for highlighting this portion of the memo is to suggest the following: country A has less WMD than country B, C, or D. Therefore, country A is the lesser threat. Now that is not necessarily so, but let’s assume for a moment that it is. The subsequent conclusion seems to be: since countries B,C, & D are greater threats than country A, no action should be taken against country A (or action should first be taken against B,C, D before A). This argument is used again and again by anti-Bush factions. Yet, it is over simplistic and makes for poor foreign policy. First, it assumes that the only difference in each problem is in terms of the level of danger, not the nature of the danger. In reality, the aims and ambitions of Libya are different than Iran or N. Korea or Iraq. Therefore, the way that each country would use their WMD programs will vary in accordance with those aims. The simplistic argument also assumes that each problem posed by countries A – D are completely isolated from each other, which is certainly not the case. Action taken on any one of these countries will affect the other countries, since they all have some level of relations with each other. The point is, attacking the greatest threat first is not necessarily wise.
As an aside, consider this often used argument: 15 of the highjackers were Saudi, why didn’t we invade them? Well, there are several reasons (which I’ve cited before): Saudi Arabia, as bad as their government is, is solidly within the community of nations. If its UN support your after, good luck getting that resolution to topple the house of Saud. Also, and I’m not believer in the Arab street, but if you did take action against Saudi Arabia, what better way to mobilize Arabs against America than invading the country with the most sacred Muslim sites, include the very big Kabba Stone? You’d be attacking the only country that receives millions and millions of pilgrims each year. Whereas going after Saddam splits Muslims, confuses the Arab Street and keeps jihad at bay. Arabs have hated Saddam for so long that it’s hard to rise up in his defense regardless of what they think about the US. Sometimes attacking the direct root of a problem is not the best course. Surround it, isolate it – make it change. And we’ve seen the beginning of change in the Middle East. Can you imagine Saudis arguing for the women suffrage in 2001, 2002 or even 2003?
In regards to threats of Libya, Iran and N. Korea – as previously mentioned, the administration rightly recognizes that they are each different in nature, as is stated in an un-highlighted portion of the memo:
There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran.
We’ve seen progress in Libya. Iran and N. Korea are tougher nuts to crack and the Iraqi approach is necessarily adequate. These problems will be resolved in time.
Another point that is highlighted in the memo is this statement:
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base
for military action.
The scope of the Attorney-General’s assessment is narrow and focuses merely on legalities. The un-highlighted sentence that follows reveals just how legal the war was:
There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention,
or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.
Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might
of course change.
And change it did, especially in regards to the relevant UNSC resolutions. Self-defense issues are defined by our elected leaders. If Bush failed, then the people would not have reelected him. Mass graves alone back up the humanitarian justification for the war, and so does the massive Oil for Fraud scandal. Finally, 1441, however spun, justifies the war because Saddam did not comply with it and subsequently faced “serious consequences” as called for in the resolution. For Bush supporters, he achieved 3 out of 3 of the criteria for a legal war. For Bush haters, they are deceiving themselves if they don’t grant Bush 2 out 3 (in a fit of generosity, I’ll not include the self defense reason). If the criteria for a just war as set in this memo are accepted, then the memo justifies the war.
The rest of the highlighted portions deal with the difference between approaches. The US did not want to go the U.N. route. That was clear enough at the time. Bush correctly saw problems in doing so. Blair wanted diplomatic cover. Neither felt that Hussein would ever comply with the U.N. resolutions – which turned out to be a dead on prediction. One reason why Bush was already resolved towards going to war is that he knew that Saddam could and would not change his ways. That doesn’t betray a thick-skull shortcoming on the part of Bush, but does towards Saddam. Even the Brits in the memo acknowledge that Saddam wouldn’t even accept inspections unless he felt the military threat was real. In this case, it was very real. If you’re going to blame the war on bad leadership, then Saddam is your man, not Bush.
But of this difference between Blair and Bush with ultimatums and diplomacy, one thing is strikingly clear: Bush’s willingness to compromise and listen. Bush didn’t want to go the U.N. route because it would slow everything down, but he did so. And it slowed things down. In fact, Bush has a record of accommodating differing points of view: he went to congress and the UN even though he didn’t care to do either. He started the Dept. of Homeland Security amidst Dem cries that we need a new department (I still don’t like that one), he allowed for the 9/11 Commission, and so on and so forth.
But back to the memo.
One of the most interesting portions of the memo was not highlighted by the conspiracy theorists:
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if
Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could
also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
Again, its clear that the Administration did believe Saddam had WMDs. So much so that they even worried about it.
And then there’s this underlined part raising questions about the administration’s timing in the march to war:
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to
put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the
most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January,
with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
Within 30 days of US Congressional elections? Egad! An elected official factoring in elections with his policy – the outrage! It’s a vague statement, but lets apply the worst possible motive – that Bush wanted a majority in Congress for the war and his domestic agenda. Is that wrong? Woe to the democratically elected official (and all his efforts) if he doesn’t consider the politics of it all. Of course, if we lived in the theocracy that so many Bush haters think we do, he could’ve simply postponed or discarded elections and paid little heed to political implications – you know, like Saddam would do.
One would think that with the left’s recent experiences with memos that they’d be gunshy about this one. This particular memo is interesting because it shows a delicate issue debated and handled in a professional way. It also shows that while Bush is open minded to the views of Blair, he was also resolved to handle Iraq – from start to finish. But Bush opponents are so overwhelmed with the desire to see the man destroyed that they would endeavor to petition for a full investigation of the facts in and around this memo. Think of the consequences if they achieved their wildest aim – that somehow Bush was found to use false pretenses for the war. Not only would it compromise support for the Commander in Chief, it would undermine the whole War on Terror. Our military would hemorage morale and our enemies will be further emboldened to continue the war. Trying to bring Bush down, no matter how much you hate him, would hurt the U.S. (and U.S. credibility) in so many ways. This war is hard enough to fight as it is, we don’t need such a development. In reality, such an investigation would merely be a waste of tax dollars that go to create (or add to) a perception of wrongdoing where none exists.
Monday, June 13, 2005
excerpt from the article:
Asked about his change of heart on the war, Jones said he had attended two years ago the funeral of soldier, a married father of three, who was killed in Iraq. "That really has been on my mind and my heart ever since."
He added: "When I look at the number of men and women who have been killed -- it's almost 1,700 now, in addition to close to 12,000 have been severely wounded -- and I just feel that the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that's all been proven that it was never there."
Steyn also quickly points out that while Philip Bennett, the Washington Post's managing editor, says that if he were a young career seeking journalist, he'd go to China because that's where the exciting stuff is, China has the record of arresting the more journalists than any other nation. That's including NYTimes journalist, Zhao Yan, who's been held without trial since September (I don't think he qualifies as an enemy combatant). As with all Steyn columns, it is worth a read.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Austin Bay talks about the porous Syrian border and the flypaper effect of invading Iraq & how that put al Qaeda in a dire predicament
Their goal, he [Abu Ibrahim] said, is restoration of the Islamic caliphate, the
system that governed Muslims before the rise of nation states. Abu Ibrahim said
he regarded Afghanistan during the Taliban rule as one of the few true Islamic
governments since the time of Muhammad.
And there’s a few other longing references to the Ottoman Empire. You’d think that if any memories of the Ottoman rule were passed down at all there’d be absolutely no pan-Muslim traction. The pre-colonial days were just as bad, if not worse than the colonial/nation-state days. The Turks provided a leadership that epitomized decadence and incompetence in a way no elected western official could never do. Strange, since Osama uses western decadence as a rallying cry. For centuries, that Muslim empire was the sick man of Europe and provided complete ineffectual leadership for the region. Far from destroying the Ottoman Empire, the West propped it up long past its rightful collapse because they feared the vacuum such a collapse would cause. That fear is the same one that has made the west prop up the current dictatorships for so long. Bottom line: artificial stability is bad, bad all around.
Oh yeah, and the innocence destroyed at various bombed out weddings? Well, it was not so innocent:
Afterward, Abu Qaqaa was arrested by the Syrian authorities, but he was released
within hours. By 2002 the anti-American festivals were running twice weekly,
often wrapped around weddings or other social gatherings. Organizers called
themselves The Strangers of Sham, using the ancient name for the eastern
Mediterranean region known as the Levant, and began freely distributing the CDs
of the cleric's sermons.
And other destruction of innocence:
"Once the Americans bombed a bus crossing to Syria. We made a big fuss and said
it was full of merchants," Abu Ibrahim said. "But actually, they were
For once, I believe a terrorist. Both Austin’s post and the Washington Post story of Abu Ibrahim are worth reading.
Monday, June 06, 2005
- the hardware was pretty cool & I liked the evolutionary aspect connecting Episode 3 to Episode 4 – good design work in all the movies
- As with 1 & 2, the space battle scenes were too busy and it was difficult to see some stuff
- Anakin’s acting did not detract from the movie, but ironically Ewan McGregor’s performance was flat – though there’s only so much an actor can do with flat dialogue
- There was no reason to make one of the wookies Chewbacca
- I thought Obi Wan told Luke that Darth Vader hunted down and killed the Jedi, which wasn’t true for the bulk of Jedi (not according to Plan 66)
- Jedis do not respond well to treachery
- The Jedi Council is not very likeable (Palpatine had some good lines of criticism about them)
- Apparently the Dark Side gives Yoda indigestion
- The final fight scene should have been on a volcano, not a volcano planet
- I wish the Christopher Lee character played a bigger role in both movies
- Both Yoda and Samuel Jackson improved their saber fighting skills, which was not impressive in Episode II
- I guess it took 20 years to make the first Death Star and about 5 to make the second – an unnecessary shot in the end
- So C3PO and R2’s memory was erased in Episode 3, what about Darth’s? since he didn’t have any memory of either robot or didn’t sense any disturbance in the Force when he was interrogating Leia or sending out search parties on Tatooine
- Whereas Episode 4 & 5 allowed you to follow the story, Episodes 2 & 3 jumped around so much that the time perspective was awkward
- Cool to see the production lines of the proto-star destroyers because it gave some perspective to the size of the ships
- Frankenstein Darth yelling "Noooooo!" was hammy
- When the movie takes us to the pure white corridors in a CR90 Blockade Runner, it's like going back home again
Also Sunday, Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting
record), D-Del, said in Washington the United States should move toward
shutting down the military prison camp in Cuba, calling it "the greatest
propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world."
Hmm, I thought liberating Iraqis was the biggest propoganda tool for recruiting terrorist. I just don't get this urge to appease anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
From Austin Bay: Terrorist Win, 15 to 5 - When it comes to desecrating Korans, nobody beats a Muslim. They’re good at it. For anyone wanting to exonerate Newsweek's story, well don't bother because the Koran flushing turned out to be the work of a (incontinent? manipulative?) detainee. Hardly surprising since the Koran corresponds with the terrorists’ other toiletries. I’m glad to see that Austin's commenters recall when Palestinian terrorists in Bethlehem were held up in the Church of the Nativity and how they squeezed the Holy Bible like it was Charman and soiled its pages as they pooed in the pews and made a mess out the place.
Tim Blair has the best take on the matter. I'm thinking that if Louis Black was the edgy and envelop-pushing comic that he pretends to be, then the cover of Nothing Sacred would have such funny art.
Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias doesn't go for "the other side is worse" argument. I'm not sure why not. When an American guard does something bad to the Koran, the military has investigations. Indeed, the amount of incidents at GITMO reveal and incredible pattern - that of respect and deference towards the Koran. Meanwhile, in the Muslim world, there seems to be an open season on Korans, whether they are confiscated and destroyed outside Mecca's Wahabi gates, incinerated in a targeted Mosque or defiled by killing the bodies of Muslims that carried them. If Matthew refuses to see the difference, who can change his mind? It's not a situation where we are bad, but not as bad as the other side, but rather that at least we are trying to do the right thing while the other side is indiscriminately and remorselessly killing people (and Korans) Of course, I'd be out of line if I expressed outrage at a urine spritzed Koran or even a kicked one. While I don't particularly have an urge to tamper with anyone's holy book, I'm still an advocate of burying every dead terrorist with a ham hock; it's the Ethan Edwards in me.