Wednesday, March 31, 2004
A new al-Qaeda manual posted on the Internet is calling for terrorist attacks against Canadians, and specifies that businessmen, politicians, scientists, soldiers and tourists should be targeted, according to U.S. researchers.
Canada is one of six nations whose citizens are identified as "human targets" in the Arabic-language publication, which is reported to be the work of senior Egyptian al-Qaeda figure Saif al-Adel.
The manual, called The Al-Battar Military Camp, ranks Canadians as the fifth most important "Christian" terrorist targets, behind Americans, Britons, Spaniards and Australians. Italians were ranked sixth.
The Islamists are threatening France and Germany, too. Apparently participation in the liberation of Iraq doesn't really bear on whether Al-Qaeda considers you a target. Being rich, democratic, capitalistic, and generally secular seems to be enough.
Meanwhile, according to Stratfor, the Italians have meatballs:
2227 GMT - Italy intends to keep its 3,000 troops in Iraq despite political and public dissent at home, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a March 31 newspaper report. Frattini was responding to European Commission President Romano Prodi, who said he would have withdrawn troops already unless the Iraq campaign was headed by the United Nations. Prodi is the opposition candidate expected to challenge current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the 2006 election. Frattini also encouraged Europe to neglect efforts by "terrorists to divide the European Union," La Stampa reported.
See my original post on Prodi here.
In any case, the TigerHawk au pair occasionally calls our attention to news from home. Given the state of American race relations and our own struggles, this story seemed particularly blogworthy:
'Steal from Whites' - headline, news24.com, March 23, 2004.
Johannesburg - The leader of a Pretoria-based youth organisation has issued a controversial statement by telling youth to go and steal from white people in the suburbs.
Faraday Nkoane, the leader of Uhuru cultural club, told 100 youngsters who attended the Human Rights Day celebration at Lebanon township park to go and steal from the whites because "it is the right thing to do.
"Stop stealing from black people because they will deal with you in an African way. They will bewitch you and you will go crazy. The whites have stolen from us since April 6, 1652. Our ancestors' cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and others are in the hands of the whites, while we are left with nothing. Go and steal from them because it is right.
"Taking from whites is not a crime because you repossess what belongs to you. But make sure you are not caught," said Nkoane, addressing the youth, most of whom were in Rastafarian colours.
In light of the histories of South Africa and North America, I am reluctant to make any comment other than to remind my American readers that there are places in the world -- even English-speaking places -- where racial, tribal and religious conflict make ours look more frivolous than the average faculty meeting.
As careful readers know, the TigerHawk family includes two beautiful springer spaniels, Julie and Penny. So naturally this article caused me to look in the mirror to see whether I have huge floppy ears and grotesquely distended lips. Suffice it to say that I'm worried. On the bright side, I have not ever urinated submissively.
As one body lay burning on the ground, an Iraqi came and doused it with petrol, sending flames soaring. At least two bodies were tied to cars and pulled through the streets, witnesses said.
Like Mogadishu, this is not only a tragedy, it is a test. How will we react? Pray that it is with wisdom, resolve and competence.
UPDATE: If you can stand it, here's a photograph. The rest of the photos are from elsewhere in the region, and they too are worth a look -- there is something to outrage everybody here.
Urgent "alerts" have been issued by the widely respected magazine pleading with people not to use the recipe for "Icebox Rolls" on page 154 of the April issue, citing possible fire and safety hazards, including ignition of the mixture....
The error occurs in the first sentence of the recipe's instructions. The corrected version reads "pour one cup boiling water over shortening in a large bowl, stirring to melt shortening. Let stand 30 minutes or until completely cooled."
The original version has a different pouring-boiling sequence and times that can be chemically explosive.
I've always assumed that southern cooking would kill you over the long haul, but who knew that it was actually explosive?
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
But some gun-control advocates question the wisdom of teaching students about firearm safety at a time when many schools have taken a zero-tolerance approach to guns.
"It would become a bit of a challenge if you mix the two. Our view is that guns have no place on a public school campus," said Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center near Los Angeles. . . .
It really does look like the mirror image of the fight over sex education, doesn't it?
This is all very au courant for the TigerHawk family. It seems that some of the parents of seventh-graders at the Princeton Charter School are up in arms because of the short sex education program offered at the school. The school engaged an organization called HiTops to teach the class. From my point of view -- which we base, admittedly, only on the scanty information coughed up by Number One Son -- the program served its intended purpose. What would that be? To put sex education on a formal basis, taught professionally, like anything else. Better that than learning about it in the gutter, or by suffering through my lame attempts to discuss these matters with a 13 year old.
Unfortunately, not everybody is as liberal about these matters as Mr. and Mrs. TigerHawk, even in the cosmopolitan burg of Princeton, New Jersey. Also unfortunately, the HiTops web site contains all sorts of inflammatory statements such as "adolescents are sexual beings," which I take to be at least as self-evident a truth as those enumerated in the Declaration of Independance, but it is also at least as inflammatory. There also may be a procedural atrocity: at least some parents claim that they were not given the opportunity to opt their children out of the program, which opportunity is required by New Jersey law.
In any case, there is a meeting at the school tomorrow night to square all of this up, and I intend to go both for sport and to make sure that we (the parents) do not do, or cause to be done, anything really stupid.
ISLAMABAD, March 29: Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan, Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations, confirmed here on Monday that the chief of the Al Qaeda intelligence network, Abdullah, had been killed in the recent operation launched by the Pakistan army against wanted foreign militants and other terrorists in South Waziristan.
Speaking at the weekly Foreign Office news briefing, he said that Abdullah's death had been confirmed by 'independent sources' but his nationality and further personal information and particulars were not yet available.
This, Gen Shaukat said, was a significant development, besides the report regarding Tahir Yuldashev of Uzbekistan who had been seriously wounded in the operation. He was described as the number 10th in Al Qaeda hierarchy.
It is almost impossible for the average blogger to assess this sort of claim. For starters, I always wonder how much we really know about Al-Qaeda's organization. How do we know anybody is "tenth" in Al-Qaeda's hierarchy. I don't even know who's "tenth" in my own company's hierarchy. That having been said, among 166 dead, they seem to have separated the local tribesmen (93) from the foreigners (73). Seventy-three dead "foreigners" in that part of the world can't be a bad thing.
UPDATE: Maybe it ain't so: 'Pakistan says al-Qaida spy chief wasn't killed' -headline, MSNBC.
Actually, this is an article about John Kerry's shoulder surgery, and the things he won't be able to do during his recovery. Here's the best part:
No high-fiving or fist-pumping for five to six weeks. And no baby-hugging for at least eight weeks.
I can see putting little wheels on 'em, 'cause it would be neat, but where do you fit the explosives?
Monday, March 29, 2004
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said, "there are so many references to God in the daily lives of this country" that the words in the pledge have no more religious meaning than the words on the coin. Maybe so. But remember that adding "In God We Trust" was also a political sop to opponents after Lincoln rejected their proposal to insert Jesus Christ into the preamble of the Constitution.
What? As Taranto points out, "[t]hat's a pretty neat trick, seeing as how the Constitution was written in 1787 and Lincoln wasn't born until 1809."
Actually, there is something to Goodman's point, although she botches it. Read here, for example, an interesting history of the motto that more or less supports Goodman's account. The author, one Ralph Reynolds, is president of the "Rochester Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State," which means that he has an ax to grind, but the essay seems credible enough. Reynolds provides the text of a proposed amendment to the preamble of the Constitution during Lincoln's administration:
We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler among nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ourselves, our posterity, and all the people, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [Proposed additions italicized.]
However, Reynolds concedes that the proposed amendment didn't get the approval of Congress or any state -- in other words, like many Constitutional amendments, it was dead on arrival. So it seems unlikely that Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, felt it necessary to throw a "sop" to the people who wanted to amend the Constitution's preamble. How, then, did the motto end up on our coins?
Reynolds explanation happens to dovetail quite nicely with the official history of the motto on the Department of the Treasury's web site. According to the Department of the Treasury,
The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania.
According to both accounts, Secretary Chase then directed his Director of the Mint, one James Pollock, to "cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition" [of the trust of people in God].
As it turned out, however, a law of 1837 specified the "mottoes and devices" that might appear on the nation's coinage, so Chase and Pollock needed to get Congress to pass and Lincoln to sign new legislation to authorize any new motto. This they accomplished more than two years later, in a law more widely known to numismatists for authorizing changes in the composition of the small cent (from 88% copper and 12% nickel to 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc) and the striking of two-cent pieces. The Mint Director (still Pollock) was authorized to prepare designs for these coins and submit them for the approval of Secretary Chase. The small cent did not change -- it remained the "Indian head" design that had prevailed since 1860 -- but Pollock inserted the new motto "In God We Trust" on the obverse of the strange two-cent piece.
Reynolds confirms most of this, and a good deal more, but adds the claim that Pollock was a member of the National Reform Association, which was the group that had submitted the aforementioned DOA amendment to the Preamble. Reynolds is, of course, intemperate in his words, accusing Pollock of having "succeeded in his goal of subverting the Constitution." Since, according to Reynolds, the actual goal of the National Reform Association was the creation of a Christian theocracy in the United States, Pollock's actual accomplishment -- the insertion of "In God We Trust" on one of the least circulated coins in American history -- doesn't really seem like success to me, but then I'm not a church/state separation activist.
Goodman is probably not being fair to Lincoln in her characterization that the motto was a "sop" to the National Reform Association and its followers (if that is, in fact, what she means). Instead, it seems like a moderate consequence of the rising religiousity of the age, entirely appropriate on the coinage of a nation at war for its very survival. Who could be against it?
But, much as it pains me to say it, Taranto was even more unfair to Goodman than Goodman was to Lincoln.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
(2004-03-28) -- Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee John Forbes Kerry today said that Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leaders of al Qaeda, should testify before the bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 terror attacks.
Read the whole thing!
Today we have news that U.S. and Indian infantry are engaged in wargames in the jungles of northeastern India.
The exercises are part of increasingly close military ties between the United States and India which were on opposite sides during the Cold War.
Joint military exercises have expanded over the past two years with Indian troops also visiting the US for wargames in Alaska and elsewhere.
You don't hear much about this for two reasons. First, the Administration does not want to beat its own chest, because doing so would tremendously annoy Pakistan, which finally seems to be carrying our water in the war against Al-Qaeda. Second, the warming of U.S. - India relations is so inconsistent with the dominent theme pushed along by the major media -- that the Bush crowd doesn't "do" diplomacy -- that the press would rather ignore it.
In any case, I got a "wheat" cent in my change at the Princeton Starbuck's this morning. I can't remember the last time that happened, but it has probably been a year. A bit of childish delight first thing in the morning gets the day going right.
I know you're dying to know: 1956-D. Worth perhaps two cents. But an exciting payoff for somebody who has been scanning his change since he was ten years old.
UPDATE: An astute reader makes the interesting observation that older coins turn up in change when the economy is weak. The hypothesis is that when times are tougher people dig into the old jars of coins around the house and spend the money.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
CWCID: Brendan, at The Facts Machine
On a separate but Pledge-related note, my classmate Chris Eisgruber has filed an amicus brief in the case currently pending before the Supreme Court. I think he's on to a very useful solution that I hope the Court adopts:
Eisgruber and Sager, experts in religious liberty and constitutional law, believe the Constitution allows for the incorporation of religious elements in public ceremonies....
To protect the constitutionality of the phrase "under God," Eisgruber proposed creating an alternate, secular and nonsectarian alternative to the pledge which could be used by those uncomfortable with the pledge as it now stands.
"It's okay to have the words 'under God,'" Eisgruber said, so long as the government provides an officially recognized secular alternative to the religious version.
"We try to have a secular government that accommodates religious faith," he said.
Two possibilities have been suggested by Eisgruber and Sager. First, they say, the secular form of the pledge could omit the phrase "under God." Also, they believe other appropriate phrases could be substituted on an individual basis.
That is, keep the Pledge as it is, but require that there be an officially recognized alternative that omits "under God" or, if preserving the cadence is important, inserts two laudable syllables in its place (the word "equal" might do very well in that spot).
The left and the right are both trying to use the Pledge case to extract from the federal judiciary a determination that we are, as a nation, either secular or "under God." We should not let either side use the courts in this silly way. Rather, we should admit that the United States is both a secular country and under God. How could it be otherwise? The Eisgruber compromise shows us -- and the Court -- how to compromise on the Pledge while protecting any right that is worth protecting.
Prodi, in a letter published Saturday on the front-page of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, called the Iraqi occupation the continuation of an illegitimate war that is incapable of restoring peace.
In the letter, Prodi was identified as a top EU official, but his words are believed to reflect his position as a leader of the Olive Tree, a grouping of Italian political parties ranging from former Communists to centrists.
I think it is safe to assume that Al-Qaeda will put off any serious attack until the election campaign is in full-swing. After all, why mess with a strategy that works? Fortunately for both the people of Italy and the TigerHawk family, which has scheduled a wonderful Roman holiday this June, elections aren't scheduled until the spring of 2006.
'Sharon may face bribery charges' - headline, BBC.
Sharon is facing two separate corruption probes; Israeli media say state prosecutors will recommend indicting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a long-running corruption case.
There are actually two things going on here that would not happen elsewhere in the Middle East, other than (perhaps) Iraq under the CPA. Prosecutors are considering indicting a prime minister on charges of corruption, and the local media are reporting it.
I do not offer this in a fit of "Israel is just like us" boosterism. It does, however, illustrate how silly it is for opponents of Israel or its policies to cite individual Israelis, Israeli media or opposition Israeli politicians who agree with them as particularly authoritative in their criticism of Israel's policies.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Read the article. It is obviously too early to get our hopes up, but it is encouraging to see that Syria is trying to work the system to get back into the good graces of the United States. Rumors of imminent sanctions and more than 100,000 American soldiers on its eastern border can't hurt.
In much of the world, and certainly in the Middle East, it is more important to be believed than loved.
Hold your horses, loyal TigerHawk readers. I'm as pro-Second Amendment as the next guy (it goes hand-in-hand with the Fourth, if you ask me), but you have to admit that this was a choice opportunity for a one-liner.
In a ruling two judges dubbed "the road to hell," a federal appeals court opened the door for police officers in three states to search homes and buildings for evidence without a warrant.
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a Baton Rouge case that authorities don't need an arrest or search warrant to conduct a swift sweep of private property to ensure their own safety.
Any evidence discovered during that search now is admissible in court as long as the search is a "cursory inspection," and if police entered the site for a legitimate law-enforcement purpose and believed it may be dangerous.
The ruling -- which stands in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi -- replaces a standard set in 1994, when the 5th Circuit held that police can make a so-called protective sweep only if officers are there to arrest someone.
This is a very bad idea. It is hard to see what is left of the Fourth Amendment after this decision. Friendly reminder:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If this decision is allowed to stand, what, pray tell, would be the purpose of the warrant contemplated by the Constitution? To find evidence squirreled away in such a small or inaccessible place that no prosecutor could argue that a weapon might be concealed there? That seems like a trivial interest to be protected by so many specific words.
This decision is also terrible for the incentives it creates. The police now have a huge interest in somehow legitimately gaining entrance into a person's house so that they can sweep the place for evidence. The public now has a huge interest in barring the police from their homes so that a legitimate inquiry on one topic -- "perhaps you have seen a missing child" -- doesn't turn into an arrest for the marijuana plant in the corner.
Both of these interests seem inconsistent with a just society.
TigerHawk is almost 20 years out of law school, and barely remembers his Criminal Procedure class with Yale Kamisar. I know very little about the topic today, and seem to have missed similar cases decided by other circuits. Late to the party as usual, I nevertheless believe that this is a very bad rule that should be reversed by the Supreme Court.
It also seems to me that this decision is similar -- in one sense -- to the Martha Stewart prosecution. We learned in that sorry case that one should simply not speak to law enforcement officials, because the slightest panicked misstatement could send you to jail on obstruction. With this decision (and, apparently, its ancestors) we have learned that one should never invite the police into your home. Even if they are shivering in the cold during a January night in Iowa, do not invite them into your home. They can search the whole place, as long as it is "cursory." And they will be the judge of that.
Beating Taranto to the punch(line).
Dr Bischinger said: "With the finger you can get to places you just can't reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner.
"And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system.
"Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine."
While I have long agreed with George Carlin's claim that we have become obsessed with germs, that the immune system needs "practice," and that his is strong because it was "tempered in shit" (from swimming in the East River) (listen to his excellent CD, "You are all Diseased"), TigerHawk declares here and now that he will not become a booger commando in the quest for better health.
(2004-03-23) -- Questions about the reliability of U.S. intelligence services grew today as documents revealed that the FBI tracked Democrat presidential candidate John Forbes Kerry as early as 1971, but did nothing to stop him.
"This looks like another tragic intelligence failure," said an unnamed aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee. "FBI agents knew Kerry was in the country and they even attended his anti-war speeches, but apparently their reports never reached the highest levels of the agency. He was literally within our grasp and we let him slip through."
The aide blamed the failure on the Nixon administration, which he said was too distracted by the war in Vietnam to devote full attention to homeland security.
"If John Kerry is elected president of the United States," he said, "Republicans will have no one to blame but themselves."
I wish I were a tenth as funny as Scrappleface. I bow in his direction.
Now, here's the thing. If this were an after-school special in which grown-ups pressured a 16-year-old kid to do drugs or have "unprotected" sex, a lot of people in America - and certainly in Europe - would be livid. Certainly, if a bunch of men pressured some girl out of having an abortion the clever cheese-and-cracker set would be speechless with moral outrage.
Well, this is the new peer pressure in the Middle East. And, it seems to me, bullying a kid into self-vaporization and murder is worse than teasing a girl into an eating disorder. Call me crazy.
But because of the romanticization of terrorism - at least terrorism aimed at Israel - there's a widespread reluctance to see this stuff for what it is. Indeed, young Hussam is far from the first or the youngest of the kids to be "recruited" - i.e. brainwashed - into vaporizing themselves. And yet, the outrage has always been tempered by declarations about how this is what happens when Israel does X, Y or Z.
But even if you go by the weak-tea morality of modern culture - even if you firmly believe that Israel is the most fraudulent nation in the universe - there's no way you can make this kid into a "freedom fighter," and there's no way you can make into noble warriors the sick bastards who told him his highest use as a human was to be a grenade.
So why doesn't the Western intelligentsia condemn these attacks? Because it doesn't want to be seen as indirectly "supporting" Israel by dint of condemning its enemies? Or because the Western left holds Palestinian Arabs in such contempt that it simply does not require of them the same standard of morality that it would expect from any Christian or Jew? It is hard to imagine what the third explanation might be.
If you doubt me, do a thought experiment: what would be the reaction in the American and European elite media -- or on any university campus in the West -- if Israel recruited children who were barely teenagers, or not teenagers at all, to slip by unsuspecting Palestinian security and sacrifice themselves assassinating terrorists. Suppose that the Mossad had sent a 7th grader, in lieu of a Hellfire missle, to kill Yassin. Imagine the outrage that we would all not only feel, but express.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Ukrainian Defence Minister Yevhen Marchuk has said that several hundred of his country's missiles are unaccounted for.
The weapons were supposed to have been decommissioned in the years that followed the break-up of the USSR.
But it is now being claimed that there is no record of them being destroyed.
This is being blamed on accounting problems during the period of transition that followed the country's independence in 1991. (emphasis supplied)
How alarming is this? If we've learned one thing in the last year, it's that the failure of some lame government to account for the destruction of weapons (such as anthrax) is not in and of itself proof that the weapons still exist. Unfortunately, bad accounting also forces us to prove a negative -- that the weapons are not still extant. We are left to stew in our fear that they have fallen into malevolent hands, even if the more likely explanation is that they were scrapped for their precious metals.
Of course, as those of us in the American investor class have learned during the last 28 months, any "accounting problem" undermines the credibility of the entire system. If the Ukranians can't account for their big old missles, how certain can we be that they have kept track of their tiny little warheads?
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Imagine my horror, then, to learn that the Iraqi terrorists are now targeting Blaze, a truly English English Springer Spaniel:
An English springer spaniel with a talent for sniffing out guns, ammunition and explosives in Iraq has survived a suspected contract killing, a British newspaper has reported.
Blaze, who is serving with British forces in southern Iraq, escaped with cuts and bruises after the would-be killer roared up in a car, "deliberately swerved" and hit him, The Sun said, quoting military sources.
"There is no doubt that this was a deliberate assassination attempt," a senior army officer was quoted as saying. "We are convinced that there was a price on Blaze's head."
Bastards. One look at this picture (click ahead to the sixth photo in the gallery), and you will share my outrage.
Somehow, the expression "dogs of war" has not, in my mind at least, conjured up a friendly and floppy spaniel like Blaze. Until now.
As long as we're investigating everything, how about investigating why some loser no one has ever heard of is getting so much press coverage for yet another "tell-all" book attacking the Bush administration?
When an FBI agent with close, regular contact with President Clinton wrote his book, he was virtually blacklisted from the mainstream media. Upon the release of Gary Aldrich's book "Unlimited Access" in 1996, White House adviser George Stephanopoulos immediately called TV producers demanding that they give Aldrich no airtime. In terms of TV exposure, Aldrich's book might well have been titled "No Access Whatsoever."
"Larry King Live" and NBC's "Dateline" abruptly canceled their scheduled interviews with Aldrich. Aldrich was mentioned on fewer than a dozen TV shows during the entire year of his book's release -- many with headlines like this one on CNN: "Even Conservatives Back Away From Aldrich's Book." That's almost as much TV as Lewinsky mouthpiece William Ginsburg did before breakfast on an average day. (Let's take a moment here to imagine the indignity of being known as "Monica Lewinsky's mouthpiece.")
But a "tell-all" book that attacks the Bush administration gets the author interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes" (two segments), CNN's "American Morning" and ABC's "Good Morning America" -– with an "analysis" by George Stephanopoulos, no less. In the first few days of its release, Clarke's book was hyped on more than 200 TV shows.
Oh. That liberal media.
Ann also skewers Clarke's "impression" that Condaleeza Rice had never heard of Al-Qaeda before:
Sean Hannity has been playing a radio interview that Dr. Rice gave to David Newman on WJR in Detroit back in October 2000, in which she discusses al-Qaida in great detail. This was months before chair-warmer Clarke claims her "facial expression" indicated she had never heard of the terrorist organization.
But in deference to our liberal friends, let's leave aside the facts for now. A few months before Clarke was interpreting Dr. Rice's "facial expression," al-Qaida had bombed the USS Cole. Two years before that, al-Qaida bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In fact, al-Qaida or their allies had been responsible for a half dozen attacks on U.S. interests since Clinton had become president. (Paper-pusher Clarke was doing one heck of a job, wasn't he?) In the year 2000 alone, Lexis-Nexis lists 280 items mentioning al-Qaida.
By the end of 2000, anyone who read the paper had heard of al-Qaida. It is literally insane to imagine that Condoleezza Rice had not. For Pete's sake, even The New York Times knew about al-Qaida.
Rice had been a political science professor at Stanford University, a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, and a senior fellow of the Institute for International Studies. She had written three books and numerous articles on foreign policy. She worked for the first Bush administration in a variety of national security positions.
All this was while Clarke was presiding over six unanswered al-Qaida attacks on American interests and fretting about the looming Y2K emergency. But chair-warmer Clarke claims that on the basis of Rice's "facial expression" he could tell she was not familiar with the term "al-Qaida."
And one final "thought experiment":
Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy. Maybe even as dumb as Clarence Thomas! Perhaps someday liberals could map out the relative intelligence of various black government officials for us.
Did Clarke have the vaguest notion of Rice's background and education? Or did he think Dr. Rice was cleaning the Old Executive Office Building at night before the president chose her -- not him -- to be national security adviser? If a Republican ever claimed the "facial expression" on Maxine Waters -- a woman whose face is no stranger to confusion or befuddlement -- left the "impression" that she didn't understand quantum physics, he'd be in prison for committing a hate crime.
It was the second time in 10 days the Fatah Tanzim in Nablus attempted to turn children into human bombs. On March 15, Abdullah Kuran, 11, was asked to carry several bags through the roadblock and hand them to a woman waiting on the other side for NIS 5.
Were you teased when you were a teenager? Be glad you're not Palestinian:
Abdu, who lives in Nablus, told interrogators he was jeered at by his friends who made fun of him, and decided to take advantage of the offer.
"Blowing myself up is the only chance I've got to have sex with 72 virgins in the Garden of Eden," Abdu said his handlers had told him.
These people are freedom fighters? They took a teenager who was being picked on by his friends and conned him into strapping on a bomb.
It is one thing for an adult to spend his life in the cause of freedom, however murderous and misguided that cause may in fact be. But what kind of monster brainwashes a confused, lonely teenager into blowing himself into bits in his stead?
UPDATE: Mrs. TigerHawk made the point that this is akin to street gangs who intimidate middle-schoolers into become drug couriers, with consequences that are even more nasty. It is all just using children to do your dirty work because they confer an advantage in the law enforcement system.
This is going to be good. In a strange post (permalink seemingly busted) attacking both the IMF and Wall Street, Chomsky laments the "democracy deficit" in the United States:
People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.
But it's up to us whether we want to tolerate this, and if we could begin to approach the level of democracy of, say, Brazil, we could do quite a lot about IMF conditionalities. And it doesn't happen by just showing up once every four years to participate in an "election.
OK, as a Princetonian I am compelled to agree with the Noamster: that our major parties both nominated Yalies who were tapped by Skull and Bones is both eerie and repulsive. But then again, both are preferable to the only Princetonian in the race.
Today, at least, the "comments" are better than the blogger's own work. For example, from Doug:
I would like to think that there are better "democratic" examples other than that of Brazil. What about autonomous villages in Chiapas, or the assembly movement, and self managed factory occupations of Argentina?
Call me a bonehead! I consider myself reasonably well-informed, and I've completely ignored the beacon of freedom that is the "self managed factory occupations of Argentina."
The French embassy in Djibouti said on Wednesday it had received a letter threatening French interests in the tiny east African country.
Several letters have been received in recent days by French embassies in "seven or eight predominantly Muslim countries," a judicial source in Paris said on Wednesday.
The Germans can't go there, either.
German President Johannes Rau canceled a trip to Djibouti Tuesday after receiving threats that Islamic terrorists were planning to try and assassinate him, his office said.
France and Germany did not back the war in Iraq, and have been strident in their criticism of the Bush Administration, at least by the standards of diplomats. France is racist in its regard for Israel, and while the German government generally keeps quiet on that question, the German people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian Arabs. Yet they are still not safe from Islamists.
When will the European elites understand that appeasement begets more violence? What concession do they think they can make that will appease the Islamists? If you are an armed fanatic and gain a concession from a threat, or the realization of a threat as in Madrid, do you then exchange your sword for plowshares? Do you return to the boring, lame, and seemingly meaningless life that you lived before you followed Allah into jihad? No. You recruit more armed fanatics in the name of your now succeeding revolution.
Will the Chamberlains and Deladiers who control continental Europe's leading governments wake up in time?
When will they learn?
However, I do want to pass along an observation made by one of Instapundit's readers:
Anybody notice how many people are, almost simultaneously, berating George Bush for not taking out bin Laden, and berating Sharon for taking out Ahmed Yassin?
We all have noticed that. For my part, I have a hard time distinguishing between Yassin and Bin Laden, except perhaps on the basis of effectiveness.
Yassin dedicated himself to the destruction of Israel, just as Bin Laden has vowed to destroy America (and Israel, as a bonus). Israel was within its rights to kill Yassin years ago, and refrained from doing so -- presumably -- so that there would be a leadership inside Hamas with which to negotiate. The strategy of preserving the enemy leadership is quite obviously a failure for Israel.
Now the only question is whether this killing was designed to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which it surely did by eliminating the leadership of one of the PA's rivals, or whether the Israelis are bent on killing off the PA leadership as well. As much as he might deserve it, killing Arafat would look a more unlawful to the average thoughtful supporter of Israel than killing Yassin -- Israel has, after all, recognized the Palestinian Authority as a lawful entity (somebody out there correct me if I'm wrong on that), whereas Hamas is openly dedicated to the liquidation of Israel and its citizenry.
The timing, however, could have been better from America's strategic perspective. No question about that.
Monday, March 22, 2004
It isn't clear yet that the drugs actually do lead to suicide, the FDA stressed. But until that is settled, advisers to the FDA called last month for stronger warnings to doctors and parents that the antidepressants may cause agitation, anxiety and hostility in a subset of patients who may be unusually prone to rare side effects.
Of course, unmedicated depressed people are often agitated, anxious and hostile. I suppose they also commit suicide more often than people who are not depressed. What, therefore, is the value of this warning label? Should depressed, potentially suicidal people avoid the SSRIs in light of the warning? What guidance is a doctor to give?
Disclosure is not always the perfect regulatory solution, however much I wish that it were.
These Al-Qaeda big boys are crafty devils, so you have to assume that they're always going to have a tunnel.
In fairness, the longest of several tunnels leading out of the stronghold was more than a mile. It would be hard to preclude the risk of your enemy escaping from any facility with unknown tunnels radiating over that kind of distance, particularly in that terrain. That doesn't make me feel any less sorry for the Pakistani grunt who has been fighting to capture these guys for the last five days.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
I believe that 120,000 returning veterans will have a very significant impact on local media coverage all around the country, and that they will persuade a lot of voters at the margin that the Iraq war was worth the effort notwithstanding the failure to find the WMD, the continuing terrorism, and the quite mixed planning for the post-war management of the country. Here is an example from the online edition of the Vindicator, a Youngstown, Ohio newspaper. Money quote:
[Quentin] Emerich said he can't understand why the war has been such a controversial issue. He said President Bush made the right decision sending U.S. troops to remove Saddam, whom Emerich called the most dangerous man in the world.
"For anybody to think it wasn't right to go over there and get him, they're blind. He was worse than Hitler," said Emerich, relaxing in his Woodview Place home, where he lives with his father and stepmother, William and Renee Emerich.
My guess is that hundreds, if not thousands, of these stories will be running in local papers during the next two months as the troops come home. I speculate that the great majority of these stories will read a lot like this one, and that they will have the broad effect of lowering the anxiety that middle America feels about the Iraq war.
A classic statement of appeasement appeared the day after the Madrid massacre in the Guardian. It's worth revisiting because its moral vacuity and strategic stupidity sum up much that is wrong with the current defeatism sweeping Europe. Here's a sentence from the leader still ringing in my ears: "Are those who perpetrated the commuter train bombings to be hunted down and smoked out of their lairs, and if they were, are we confident that we would prevent the next attack, and the one after that?" Notice the sneering contempt with which the editorial writers at the Guardian refer to George Bush's attempt to hunt down and destroy the terrorists and their allies who have declared war on the West. But notice too the implication: that the perpetrators of these atrocities somehow should *not* be "hunted down and smoked out of their lairs." Notice the implication that any attempt to defeat terrorism merely fosters more terrorism and so ... So what exactly? What is the Guardian's solution to the thousands murdered in New York and hundreds murdered in Bali and Madrid? What is their solution exactly to the terrifying possibility that such terrorists might also be able to amplify their mass murder by deploying new technologies of destruction that would make 9/11 seem like a side-show? Here's their solution:
"The victims of the commuter train bombings in Madrid and the Spaniards who came out of the streets last night surely deserve more than party political responses. Europe too needs to mould a different response to its September 11. Spain has a history which places it at the crossroads of the European and Arab worlds. It understands both traditions. It is a country where once Jew, Muslim and Christian lived together. An international conference, to bridge the divide between Muslim and Christian communities, should be one first step. But there are many others. We need to take the fight against terror out of America's hands. We need to get beyond the them and us, the good guys and the bad guys, and seek a genuinely collective response. Europe should seize the moment that America failed to grasp."
The stunning aspect of this boilerplate is how utterly empty it is. The only constructive suggestion the Guardian proffers is an "international conference." No this is not, apparently, self-parody. While hundreds lie dead, while limbs and severed heads lie scattered across railway tracks, the most important thing is to stick on your lapel name-labels, hurry down to the nearest hotel lobby and have a seminar. In sophisticated Europe, according to the Guardian, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: if the Guardian cannot call these people "bad guys," then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies who fight back cannot qualify in this context as "good guys," then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence.
If you are troubled by Spain or enraged at the appeasement of terrorists, read the whole thing to change your mind or reinforce what you already know.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Even if Zawahri is not captured, the historical military invulnerability of tribal regions on Pakistan's Northwest frontier may have ended forever. Operation Mountain Storm's lethal marriage of mobility, persistent overhead surveillance and networked weapons means that small teams of men can operate effectively over wide areas -- essentially turning the tables on tribal fighters. Never again can terrorist chieftains like Osama Bin Laden invest large sums of money in caves and mountain fortresses on the assumption of their inviolability. The mud forts and honeycomb of caves, their ammunition magazines and hundreds of fighters -- representing an expenditure of terrorist millions -- is going up in smoke.
The real significance of ongoing operations in South Waziristan may be as a template for similar operations in the near future. The same principles used in Mountain Storm can be applied in the open spaces of the Sahara, the Syrian desert or the Zagros mountains deep in Iran. It isn't just the Al Qaeda that evolve. So do their foes.
Amen. Read the whole thing.
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath."
Yet watching the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq prompted Omar Amiralay to do just that. "It gave me the courage to do it," he said.
"When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next," he added, having just completed the film, eventually called "A Flood in Baath Country," for a European arts channel. "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed."
The winds of change, they are a blowin'.
If, however, reading the whole thing seems like a load, at least reflect on his key message:
The murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians find themselves suddenly on the front lines.
In recent years, terrorists have struck from Spain to Russia, to Israel, to East Africa, to Morocco, to the Philippines and to America. They've targeted Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen. They've attacked Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. No nation or region is exempt from the terrorist campaign of violence.
Each of these attacks on the innocent is a shock and a tragedy, and a test of our will. Each attack is designed to demoralize our people and divide us from one another.
And each attack much be answered, not only with sorrow, but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder action against the killers. It is the interest of every country and the duty of every government to fight and destroy this threat to our people.
There is a dividing line in our world, not between nations and not between religions or cultures, but a dividing line separating two visions of justice and the value of life.
On a tape claiming responsibility for the atrocities in Madrid, a man is heard to say, "We choose death while you choose life." We don't know if this is the voice of the actual killers, but we do know it expresses the creed of the enemy. It is a mindset that rejoices in suicide, incites murder and celebrates every death we mourn.
And we who stand on the other side of the line must be equally clear and certain of our convictions. We do love life, the life given to us and to all. We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life: tolerance and freedom and the right of conscience. And we know that this way of life is worth defending.
There is no neutral ground -- no neutral ground -- in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death.
The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation.
The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies, they're offended by our existence as free nations.
No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror.
There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations.
Do you agree with President Bush? All citizens need to figure out their answer, because it is the defining question of the age. It is more important to our society as a whole than "jobs," nuanced differences in health care policy, regulation of the environment at the margin, the precise tax rate imposed at any level of government, or arguments over abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, or restrictions on gun ownership. It is not that I'm not interested in all of these matters, and I'm certain that there are people for whom these questions loom very large. Indeed, I disagree with President Bush on more of those issues than I agree with him on. I am also aware that a utilitarian might plausibly argue that many more lives, statistically speaking, turn on the resolution of social problems other than terrorism.
But if you believe that Islamist fascism threatens to transform Western society in fundamental ways, and I do, these other questions dwindle into the trivial.
Bush's speech has its flaws -- I believe, for instance, that there are better defenses of the Iraq war than those that he offered. But he closed well, even if he sounded just a little like Gandalf:
It will surely be said of our times that we lived with great challenges. Let it also be said of our times that we understood our great duties and met them in full.
Friday, March 19, 2004
This diversity in housing is possible because there are no meaningful restrictions on what people may do with their own homes, except for set-backs and such. If I want to rip down my ranch and throw up a brick colonial, no covenant prevents me from doing so.
Across the road in Plainsboro (you can almost imagine what the town is like from the name), developers have been paving over cornfields for the last twenty years and throwing up vast developments of houses, some of obvious quality and others that will not last fifty years without a lot of upkeep. Unfortunately, these neighborhoods -- if they can be called neighborhoods at all -- will not change and evolve the way Princeton's have. The difference between Plainsboro today and Princeton of fifty years ago is that restrictive covenants will condemn these neighborhoods to uniformity until the end of time. How hideous.
It would be wonderful if we could blame this on bureaucrats or evil developers, but we can't. The developers build these restrictions into the deeds they sell because most Americans, apparently, actually want to live in tract houses that will look the same tomorrow as today. This is the free market at work, Gentle Reader, and it isn't pretty at all.
Why do people who buy these houses want to lock in uniformity? Even the drones who want these covenants would not dream of buying the same boring car as their neighbors, or dressing in the same clothes, just to be the same. What is it about housing that inspires this need to micromanage the choices our neighbors make when revising their homes? Why are we Americans such housing fascists?
And don't tell me it is because we are obsessed with housing values. If Americans loved variety in housing, restrictive covenants would hurt the value of houses. It is only because so many Americans want this uniformity that the covenants increase the value of the property.
To see how silly -- and stressful and horrible -- this can get, read this story.
Me, I love it when a neighbor puts on a new addition. Sure, there will be a dumpster out front for a while and the sound of a circular saw at the wrong time can be a little annoying, but my scenery changes without me having to do a damn thing. Slowly, over time, the neighborhood reflects the creativity and spirit of the people who live there, and all of that makes our house seem more like home.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Of course, chastity belts prevent cervical cancer, but that doesn't make them a good idea.
Of course, if the Koran actually promises the martyr a bowl of "white raisins" in lieu of the 72 virgins, the Martyr Gun will not become very popular even among Islamists.
The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi said on its Web site that it had received a statement from "The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (search) (Al Qaeda)" in which the group reiterated its responsibility for the March 11 attacks that killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 1,600....
The group appeared to boast it had the power to change governments.
"We change and destroy countries," the statement said. "We even influence the international economy, and this is God's blessing to us."
The statement tells American voters that Abu Hafs al-Masri supports the re-election campaign of President Bush: "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections."
The statement said Abu Hafs al-Masri needs what it called Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" because they would "wake up" the Islamic world.
Somebody has to wake up the Islamic world. To modernity.
Meanwhile, via Little Green Footballs, we hear from one of the foreign leaders that supports John Kerry, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has endorsed John Kerry. Mahathir isn't too hopeful that Kerry's election will bring about a major change of U.S. policy in Israel and Palestine, however:
"But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," he said.
Just the sort of stuff you might read in Mein Kampf.
This helpful input has apparently moved the Kerry campaign to reject endorsements by "foreign leaders" as inappropriate:
Kerry "rejects any association" with Mahathir, "an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable," said Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers in a statement.
“This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone. It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America’s presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements,” Beers said.
Apart from some good old partisan ribbing, it is silly to think that any aspect of the "foreign leaders" controversy reflects poorly on Kerry. However, it is useful to know that some of the most revolting dirtbags on the planet do not relish the prospect of George Bush's reelection. The fact that this is lost on various of the Western powers who free-ride on American initiative does not diminish the value of disappointing the Islamists and their fellow travelers.
I'm a blogger on the edge!
In any case, I probably won't have much to write about today, unless I am particularly inspired and have a bit of free time in which to dispatch the inspiration, which is unlikely. I offer only a familiar, but timeless, thought for the day (from Theodore Roosevelt):
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
If this sentiment appeals to you, you probably do not "hate" George W. Bush, even if you object most strenuously to his policies. Whatever his failings, and they are legion, he has not been a cold and timid soul who knows neither victory, nor defeat. He knows both better than most of us.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
A Senator from Massachusetts "forgets" a Saint Patrick's Day breakfast that he has moved heaven and earth to attend in the past?
Now, TigerHawk thinks that the modern trend of "gotcha" campaigning -- and even blogging -- is silly. You will see very little of that sort of thing on this blog. However, the notion that John Kerry "forgot" this event is too risible to ignore. Apart from the substantive underlying denial, this is just like Clinton's claim that he "didn't inhale": an utterly unbelievable lie to deflect a slightly embarrassing situation. Not similar, you might say? Which would be the tougher truth: admitting that you smoked pot a couple of times as a college student (even allowing for changes in mores since 1992), or telling the Boston Herald that you blew off Saint Patrick's Day during your presidential campaign to spend the weekend hanging in your wife's chalet in Sun Valley?
Actually, this is a very interesting article that describes a largely successful American attempt to undermine the Soviets with software:
Thomas Reed's At The Abyss recounts how the United States exported control software that included a Trojan Horse, and used the software to detonate the Trans-Siberian gas pipeline in 1982. The Trojan ran a test on the pipeline that doubled the usual pressure, causing the explosion. Reed was Reagan's special assistant for National Security Policy at the time; he had also served as Secretary of the Air Force from 1966 to 1977 and was a former nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California. The software subterfuge was so secret that Reed didn't know about it until he began researching the book, 20 years later.
The things we didn't know continue to astound.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
The mullahs failed to control Internet access when they had the chance, and that will be their downfall.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Hitchens points out the deeply flawed reasoning behind the claim that Spain's involvement in Iraq provoked the Islamist murders in Madrid:
Many Spaniards were among those killed recently in Morocco, where a jihadist bomb attack on an ancient Moorish synagogue took place in broad daylight. The attack was on Morocco itself, which was neutral in the recent Iraq war. It seems a bit late to demand that the Moroccan government change sides and support Saddam Hussein in that conflict, and I suspect that the Spanish Communist and socialist leadership would feel a little sheepish in making this suggestion. Nor is it obvious to me that the local Moroccan jihadists would stop bombing if this concession were made. Still, such a concession would be consistent with the above syllogism, as presumably would be a demand that Morocco cease to tempt fate by allowing synagogues on its soil in the first place.
The Turkish government, too, should be condemned for allowing its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to visit the shattered synagogue in Istanbul after the latest mass murder (thus becoming, incidentally, the first Turkish prime minister ever to do so). Erdogan is also the first prime minister ever to be elected on an Islamist ticket. Clearly, he was asking for trouble and has not yet understood al-Qaida's conditions for being allowed to lead a quiet life. Not that he hadn't tried—he prevented the U.S. Army from approaching Baghdad through what is now known as the Sunni Triangle. He just hasn't tried hard enough.
It cannot be very long now before some slaughter occurs on the streets of London or Rome or Warsaw, as punishment for British and Italian and Polish membership of the anti-Saddam coalition. But perhaps there is still time to avoid the wrath to come. If British and Italian and Polish troops make haste to leave the Iraqis to their own "devices" (of the sort that exploded outside the mosques of Karbala and Najaf last month), their civilian cousins may still hope to escape the stern disapproval of the holy warriors. Don't ask why the holy warriors blow up mosques by the way—it's none of your goddam crusader-Jew business.
The world cannot appease or deter Islamist terror. We can only interdict it. Will Europeans learn this lesson in time to save their paradise?
UPDATE: Lest there be any doubt, Little Green Footballs has catalogued celebration of the murders in Madrid throughout the Middle East, including Jordon, Qatar, Yemen, Syria, Gaza and Saudi Arabia. If you can stomach it, read the whole thing. Consider this whiff of the miasma:
From the holy mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where the sheikh asks the poignant question, “Didn’t what happened in Madrid convince you Jews and Crusaders to convert to Islam?”
Do these sound like people who can be appeased, or deterred? After Madrid, it is hard to see how we are left with options other than those proposed by Ann Coulter 912 days ago: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
OK, I probably won't believe that in the morning. But for me, Madrid refreshed my memory of September 11, and the resolve of its aftermath.
1956 GMT - Al Jazeera broadcast March 13 a videotape of a man claiming to be a leader of Arab fighters in Chechnya. The man -- identified as Abu al Waleed -- claimed responsibility for the February 2004 bombings in the Moscow subway and warned that there will be more attacks in Russia. The man also said that the extent of Chechen attacks in Russia depended on ongoing elections and that if Russia elects someone who will declare war on Chechnya, the militants in Chechnya will respond with more bombings.
The Islamists think they have found a weak spot in the democracies, and perhaps they have. While I am not without sympathy for the Chechans, it is now, after Spain, more important for the future of freedom that Russian voters defy the blackmail and elect precisely those candidates that most offend the terrorists.
Romano Prodi, the chief of the European Commission, puts it as bluntly as anyone: "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists," Prodi said. "Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago." This is classic appeasement. And it's also demonstrably untrue. Al Qaeda has been seriously weakened since 9/11, thanks almost entirely to those countries, especially the U.S., that chose to confront it. But it seems clear to me that the trend in Europe is now either appeasement of terror or active alliance with it. It is hard to view the results in Spain as anything but a choice between Bush and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda won.
One might ask Prodi what is the answer to dealing with Islamicist terrorists? If we could identify something that they wanted that was compatible with Western civilization, we then might have a path to a solution. While I am doubtful that there are such things, suppose that Allah (no, not that Allah) whispered into our ear a list of specific concessions that would satisfy these killers. Like Chamberlain at Munich, our options would at least then be clear: We could give them what they want and hope they stop killing, refuse to give them what they want and still hope they stop killing, or refuse to give them what they want and hunt them down where they live. Prodi, who purports to speak for Europe, categorically rejects the third option. I'm guessing he also rejects the second option, which leaves giving them what they want and hoping for the best. My suggestion is that he carefully articulate for the rest of us what the terrorists want, and then detail a specific plan to give it to them. We can all then decide whether it is a plan we are -- or are not -- willing to support.
Until the appeasers explain to the rest of us specifically what the terrorists will want to stop killing, how the West might give it to them, and why they will not then make further demands, the appeasers are just blowing wind.
First, Volokh makes the useful point that if terrorists can, in fact, put electoral pressure on hawkish democratic governments or even swing election results against them, our allies understandably become less dependable. This would appear to undermine the case for broad multilateral action, as opposed to the alliances of convenience favored by the Bush Administration. Here's the key passage, but read the whole thing:
Those voters' position would be understandable -- perhaps not terribly sound in the long term, but understandable: The deaths were caused by Aznar's policies, since if he had not supported the Americans (over the opposition of most Spaniards, as I understand), the bombings probably wouldn't have happened; therefore, let's punish Aznar, and send politicians a message to prevent this from happening again.
But if that's so, then doesn't it show that we can't allow our foreign policy to be vetoed by other nations? After all, if we agree that we may not do what we think is right and necessary for our national security if any one of England, France, Russia, or China says "veto," then our enemies can paralyze us simply by influencing one foreign country. The influence might be exerted by bribes, or by threat of terrorist violence. But one way or another, an enemy that couldn't break down our resolve could still stop us from doing what needs to be done by breaking down the resolve of one of the veto-owning countries. (The same applies if we just generally agree not to go ahead without the agreement of "our European allies" generally -- if the threat of terrorist retaliation cows several of those allies, that could be enough to stymie our plans.)
Second, whether Al-Qaeda or ETA is responsible for the Madrid bombings (and I'm betting with Al-Qaeda), Al-Qaeda has learned that a bloody attack on civilians on the eve of an election can change the results of that election. Since we know that Osama Bin Laden is one of the "foreign leaders" that desperately wants Bush out of office (we trust that John Kerry has not actually spoken to him), we can bet that Al-Qaeda will do its utmost to influence the American Presidential election. Indeed, can one imagine a grander feather in its cap, other than detonating a nuclear warhead in a city packed with infidels?
Suppose a Madrid scale attack on Halloween this year. How will the American electorate react? Will swing voters run from Bush on the theory that he has not done enough to secure the country against Islamist terror? Or will Americans punish Al-Qaeda for trying to influence our elections by deciding for Bush? If the first result were more likely before Madrid, is it now possible that the experience of the Spanish atrocity -- by which I mean both the bombing and the electoral consequence of the bombing -- will innoculate America against the same result in November?
I wish I knew the answers.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
The Great Escape is one of the very few classic movies admitted into TigerHawk's de minimus DVD collection. This article gives a lot of the background behind that wonderful flick.
And it seemed like an excellent opportunity for a Dick joke.
"The fathers of both teens said they were proud of their sons." Sure they are. Their boys killed ten Israelis, and wounded 18.
It is not fashionable in polite society (or at least liberal college towns) to condemn this child abuse -- and that is what it is -- as a repulsive and disgusting atrocity. I believe that the reluctance of some to condemn Palestinian child abuse stems from the most deplorable racism -- they simply hold Palestinians in such low esteem that they cannot imagine holding them to the same standards of conduct as, say, Americans, Europeans or Israelis.
UPDATE: You think 17 year-olds aren't really children? What about ten-year olds?
I had a boss once whose mother, as a teenager in the resistance against the Nazis, smuggled explosives used to disable German railroads. The difference? Her intended targets weren't civilians (or even soldiers, per se), and she never had the ambition to die for her cause.
If you accept President Bush's premise that this nation is at war with terrorism, then you have to applaud the restraint his campaign has shown so far in exploiting the attack that began that war.
Of course, the qualifier is decisive for many voters -- unfortunately, the nature of this war is such that many Americans do not believe that we are, in fact, at war with anybody. Perhaps this is due partly to the Bush Administration's own unwillingness to ask American civilians for sacrifices. Broder's parting shot makes the point quite well:
Far better than criticizing his ads, ask why Bush is not calling on comfortable Americans to make any sacrifices for the war effort and why he refuses to raise the revenues to pay for what he calls a life-and-death struggle.
To my mind, this is the best criticism of the Bush tax cuts, particularly the second wave. It is not that we did not need to reduce marginal rates -- we did. But just as Lyndon Johnson's famous ambitions for guns and butter undermined his moral authority to wage the Vietnam War, Bush's dependance on the "Easy Street" conservatives who push for tax cuts makes it possible for Democrats to argue that terrorism is no big deal compared to slow job growth.
Put differently, Bush cannot argue that we should make sacrifices for the war because his own wealthy supporters have made no such sacrifices. Well, if the war on terror isn't worth making sacrifices for, is it worth fighting at all? That's the Democrats' argument in a nutshell, and the Bush tax cuts have made it viable.
At least Kennedy didn't accuse Bush of being "out of his depth." I would have drowned in laughter.
There are signs that, in fact, casualties are going up. Some of the most recent deaths have been of soldiers who have just arrived.
The press largely ignored the considerable decline in American casualties between mid-February and mid-March. We shall see how much it focuses on the rising KIA levels this week.
UPDATE: According to Stratfor's count, nine American soldiers have died in combat since March 10. That compares to one American KIA during the twenty days between February 19 and March 9. Is this just bad luck following good luck, is it the predictable result of the troop rotation, or are the fighters once against targeting American soldiers?
Apparently Aznar's party, the Popular Front, has been very tough on the Basques, so voters might reward the Popular Front if the Madrid killings were the bitter fruit of that ancient struggle. However, most Spaniards opposed Aznar's support of the war in Iraq, so the received wisdom holds that voters will punish the Popular Front if the killers turn out to be Islamists.
All of this would trouble me more, except for my cold hope that the Popular Front wins today's election. So blame the Basques until this afternoon, and then let's get to the truth.
The truth, by the way, remains unclear this Sunday morning. As I write this, Kondracke and Barnes (yes, I'm actually watching Fox) are staking out opposite positions on the likely perpetrators of the Madrid bombings. Could they both be right?
In any case, here's the most recent A.P. roundup on the bombings and the elections. There is lots more where that came from over at Little Green Footballs.
UPDATE: It appears that the Socialists, and therefore the terrorists, have won in Spain. They both campaigned on a program to remove Spanish soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq, and they both won. Read the whole sad story at LGF, and drink in the analysis at Instapundit, which has an excellent round-up.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Friday, March 12, 2004
I have written before about the remarkable warming in ties between India and the United States during the Bush Administration. It is tough to understand why there has been so little discussion of this in the press. I am tempted to ascribe the silence of the major media to anti-Bush bias -- our much closer relationship with India certainly undermines the meme that Bush is "unilateralist."
However, I think there are two better explanations for the silence of the otherwise bleating media lambs on this subject. First, there seems to be something of a long-standing tradition of under covering India in our media. I have a friend from boarding school (yes, TigerHawk went to boarding school) who worked as the Asia correspondant for a major paper for many years. He told me a decade ago that he could always get approval to cover China, but it took him ages to for his editors to sign off on one three-week visit to India.
Second, the Bush Administration is not exactly shouting about its ties with India over the network news. Why? We need Pakistan's cooperation on several different pressing issues.
India, in fact, is reaching out to other countries with which it used to have chilly relations. One of them is Israel. The Times of India has the story.
Nothing brings people together like Islamist terrorism. While it may disrupt old relationships within the West, in the broader world, on the front lines, the free peoples of the world are joining together.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
The attack in Spain sickens me, and it enrages me. My heart goes out to the Spanish people, whose government supported the United States when we needed it last year, and whose soldiers stand by us today. We must do all we can do to help Spain in this time of pain and grief.
How can anybody even begin to suggest that the threat of terrorism is exaggerated?
The action was welcomed by patients who had been listed and a consumer advocacy group, Texas Watch, that called the five-month-old site "a mean-spirited database to deny access to medical care."
This web site, and the various political and ethical questions that it raised, is a great example of the explosive power of the Web. There is a lot of information in the world that is literally public, in the sense that it is available to anybody who asks for it. Much of it resides in American courthouses. As long as this information is difficult to find, digest, catalog and search, nobody much gives a damn. But if you go to the trouble to organize it into one web site into a form that an interested party can search through conveniently, people go wild with rage.
The opponents aren't really complaining about the existence of the web site. They are complaining about the response to the web site. In this case, some doctors may have used the web site's data to "blacklist" patients. Is this inappropriate or unethical for a doctor to do? DB's Medical Rants has some interesting thinking on the topic, here, here, and here.
Of course, a doctor needn't use the information on the web site to blacklist patients. He or she might decide to spend more time with the patient, more carefully explaining the risks entailed with the medical procedure in question, or the error rate associated with diagnosis in general. This would be a good thing for the patient and the doctor, even if it is bad news for the trial bar, which feeds off of anger more than anything else.
Then again, a doctor might use the database to lower the risk of a malpractice claim by ordering more than the usual number of laboratory tests. In this case, the use of the database burdens the patient's employer, or the government, with added expense. Is this fair for the doctor to do?
My own view is that everybody is entitled to one lawsuit. Bad things happen, and the courts exist to shift damages to the wrongdoer on those occasions when somebody has, in fact, been damaged. However, since most people go their entire lives without bringing a lawsuit, or even having a plausible cause to seek recoveries other than small claims, we should view a person's second lawsuit with great skepticism. The second lawsuit suggests a person who did not learn a damn thing from their first experience (check out your doctor, ask questions, learn what you can about the treatments you receive and the drugs you take), or worse, a person looking to recover on fraudulent, or at least unsympathetic, grounds.