Sunday, July 31, 2005

Images of Mars 

The European Space Agency has a rotating photograph of Mars that you can click on for close-ups. Very cool. If you like Mars. Which I do.

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Arthur Chrenkoff asks a damned good question 

Taking judicial notice of the oft-repeated but profoundly suspect claim that the London bombings are retaliation for Tony Blair's decision to support the United States in Iraq, Arthur Chrenkoff asks a question:
There are 250,000 Iraqis living in Great Britain - that's quarter of a million people, one of the biggest communities in Iraqi diaspora, and just under one sixth of the total British Muslim population of some 1.6 million.

So why, among the original 7/7 bombers, the next lot of recently captured bombers, and all the other people arrested in connection with the attacks, aren't there any British Iraqis?

If, as some suggest, the London bombings constitute defensive jihad, one might plausibly wonder who, if not Iraqis, needs defense against the Coalition's occupation of Iraq.

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The United States stands on principle and loses a base in central Asia 

The United States has a strategically significant base in Uzbekistan, which borders on Afghanistan. In May, Uzbekistan's hideous government opened fire on demonstrators and killed hundreds of innocent people, raising the ire of the civilized countries of the world. The United States, among others, threw a fit. Uzbekistan has now expelled the United States, ordering it out of the base within six months. Russia and China, neither offended by the thugs running Uzbekistan but both sorely annoyed by the U.S. presence in central Asia, are happy today.

The next time somebody tells you that the United States operates without principle, remind them that the Bush Administration walked away from an important base in central Asia because it stood up for political liberty in one of the most isolated places on the planet.

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Da C o' da NJ B's izzup 

Garden State bloggers carnival here.

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The fate of the dodo and an observation 

While I am a conservative, I am not the sort of mineral-extraction conservative that wants to strip-mine the Rockies. I am both a conservative and a conservationist. I offer that bit of background against the possibility that some of you may think I've suddently gone soft. Not true. I've always been soft.

This morning I was finishing up an abridged audio version of Bill Bryson's wonderful book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Toward the end Bryson has a short chapter devoted to man's curious relationship with the other living creatures on the planet, and the profound modernity of the idea that we should not simply exterminate them because we can. He illustrates with the story of the extinction of the dodo, which is in itself fascinating:
In the early 1680s, at just about the time that Edmond Halley and his friends Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke were settling down in a London coffeehouse and embarking on the casual wager that would result eventually in Isaac Newton's Principia, Henry Cavendish's weighing of the Earth, and many of the other inspired and commendable undertakings that have occupied us for much off the past four hundred pages, a rather less desirable milestone was being passed on the island of Mauritius, far out in the Indian Ocean some eight hundred miles off the east coast of Madagascar.

There, some forgotten sailor or sailor's pet was harrying to death the last of the dodos, the famously flightless bird whose dim but trusting nature and lack of leggy zip made it a rather irresistible target for bored young tars on shore leave. Millions of years of peaceful isolation had not prepared it for the erratic and deeply unnerving behavior of human beings.

We don't know precisely the circumstances, or even year, attending the last moments of the last dodo, so we don't know which arrived first, a world that contained a Principia or one that had no dodos, but we do know that they happened at more or less the same time. You would be hard pressed, I would submit, to find a better pairing of occurrences to illustrate the divine and felonious nature of the human being -- a species of organism that is capable of unpicking the deepest secrets of the heavens while at the same time pounding into extinction, for no purposes at all, a creature that never did any of us any harm and wasn't even remotely capable of understanding what we were doing to it as we did it. Indeed, dodos were so spectacularly short on insight, it is reported, that if you wished to find all the dodos in a vicinity you had only to catch one and set it to squawking, and all the others would waddle along to see what was up.

The indignities of the poor dodo didn't end quite there. In 1755, some seventy years after the last dodo's death, the director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford decided that the institution's stuffed dodod was becoming unpleasantly musty and ordered it tossed on a bonfire. This was a surprising decision as it was by this time the only dodo in existence, stuffed or otherwise. A passing employee, aghast, tried to rescue the bird but could save only its head and part of one limb.

As a result of this and other departures from common sense, we are not now entirely sure what a living dodo was like. We possess much less information than most people suppose -- a handful of crude descriptions by "unscientific voyagers, three or four oil paintings, and a few scattered osseous fragments," in the somewhat aggrieved words of the nineteenth century naturalist H.E. Strickland. As Strickland wistfully observed, we have more physical evidence of some ancient sea monsters and lumbering saurapods than we do of a bird that lived into modern times and required nothing of us to survive except our absence.

So what is known of the dodo is this: it lived on Mauritius, was plump but not tasty, and was the biggest-ever member of the pigeon family, though by quite what margin is unknown as its weight was never accurately recorded. Extrapolations from Strickland's "osseous fragments" and the Ashmolean's modest remains show that it was a little over two and a half feet tall and about the same distance from beak tip to backside. Being flightless, it nested on the ground, leaving its eggs and chicks tragically easy prey for pigs, dogs, and monkeys brought to the islannd by outsiders. It was probably extinct by 1683 and was most certainly gone by 1693. Beyond that we know almost nothing except of course that we will not see its like again. We know nothing of its reproductive habits and diet, where it ranged, what sounds it made in tranquility or alarm. We don't possess a single dodo egg.

From beginning to end our acquaintance with animate dodos lasted just seventy years. That is a breathtakingly scanty period -- though it must be said that by this point in our history we did have thousands of years of practice behind us in the matter of irreversible eliminations. Nobody know quite how destructive human beings are, but it is a fact that over the last fifty thousand years or so wherever we have gone animals have tended to vanish, in often astonishingly large numbers.

Bryson goes on to describe at length the zeal with which American and European naturalists and scientists exterminated species that they had discovered, and how this enthusiasm extended well into the twentieth century. Among many bits of evidence:
In 1907 when a well-known collector named Alanson Bryan realized that he had shot the last three specimens of black mamos, a species of forest bird that had only been discovered in the previous decade, he noted that the news filled him with 'joy.'

It is striking that such attitudes prevailed as recently as the generation of my great-grandparents. Today, even (or especially) devoted hunters would have a very hard time even understanding Alanson Bryan's joy.

Finally, then, Bryson leaves us with this observation:
I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job.

But here's an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It's an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

At six billion and counting and having spread to virtually every habitat on land, how could it be otherwise?

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Junk mail blogging: Nordstrom gooses its quarter 

Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) is trying to pump up its fiscal quarter, which ends July 31.

I spent a lot of money there once, and now I get pelted by mail advertising promotions and such. Digging through weeks of junk mail this morning, I opened a letter from Nordstrom informing me of the "Nordstrom Anniversary Sale" during the last two weeks of July. The letter was unusually candid in its last sentence:
Don't be fashionably late, because the sale ends Sunday, July 31 [The last day of the quarter. - ed.] Prices go up on Monday, August 1.

If you don't get to Nordstrom this weekend, your next big shot at "savings" is likely to be -- hmm, let me see -- just before Halloween.

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Agence France-Presse snarks on NASA 

If you're out and about this morning in the hunt for some Gallic snark, look no further than this Agence France-Presse article on the space shuttle program. From beginning to end, it manages to insult NASA and the American people, and blame the entire thing on the Bush family.
NASA's failure to make Discovery completely safe has given new ammunition to critics who want to ground the space shuttle program, even though the popular spacecraft remains the United States' only vehicle to space.

Translation: Any space agency with a clue could make a spacecraft "completely safe." Naturally, critics want to ground any spacecraft that isn't "completely safe," and they would succeed, too, if it weren't so damn popular with easily fooled Americans. But the real reason America continues to fly the dangerous shuttle is that it has no other option.
Dumping the space shuttle would make the United States dependent on Russia to send astronauts to the International Space Station, where Discovery is currently docked.

Translation: America is endangering its astronauts and those of its allies out of great power rivalry. Because everybody knows that Russian spacecraft are "completely safe."
But the current fleet has strong political support backed by public opinion and the cost of maintaining Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis.

Astronauts train at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where Bush was governor. The shuttle is launched at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and employs 14,000 people in a state whose governor is Bush's brother, Jeb Bush.

Translation: The space shuttle program is really all about Bush family patronage.

To this snark I must reply with just one bit of evidence:

Hey, at least our airports are "completely safe."

The prosecution rests.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

More arrests in the London bombings case 

The good guys have caught up with one suspect in Africa:
Zambian soldiers stand guard outside Lusaka's central prison where a British man sought in connection with the July 7 London bombings is being detained. British police captured two more suspected bombers who fled after a failed attack on London last week, a report said, marking a potentially crucial breakthrough in the massive investigation.(AFP/Mackson Wasamunu)
Meanwhile, the Brits call in the harsh brigade and make arrests all over London:
A Special Services officer passes through a cordon near the Peabody estate in North Kensington, west London, July 29, 2005. Arrests made after raids in west London on Friday, linked to the failed July 21 attacks on Britain's capital, are 'potentially very significant', a police source said. Television reports, citing police sources, said two of the three people arrested were suspected bombers behind the four failed attacks. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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Does he play by sense of smell? 

Brice Mellen is a whiz at video games such as "Mortal Kombat." In that regard, the 17-year-old isn't much different from so many others his age. Except for one thing: He's blind.

And as he easily dispatched foes who took him on recently at a Lincoln gaming center, the affable and smiling Mellen remained humble.

"I can't say that I'm a superpro," he said, working the controller like an extension of his body. "I can be beat." ...

Blind since birth when his optic nerve didn't connect because of Leber's disease, Mellen honed his video game skills over the years through patient and not-so-patient playing, memorizing key joystick operations and moves in certain games, asking lots of questions and paying particular attention to audio cues. He worked his way up from games such as "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid," onto the modern combat games.

"I guess I don't know how I do it, really," Mellen said, as he continued playing while facing away from the screen. "It's beyond me." ...

How Mellen became so good is a mystery to his father.

"He just sat there and he tried and tried until he got it right," Larry Mellen said. "He didn't ever complain to me or anyone about how hard it was."

Mellen hangs out any chance he gets at the DogTags Gaming Center in Lincoln, which opened last month. Every now and then someone will come in and think he can easily beat the blind kid.

That attitude doesn't faze Mellen.

"I'll challenge them, maybe. If I feel like a challenge," he said, displaying an infectious confidence. "I freak people out by playing facing backwards."

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The New York Times loses again 

Regular readers know that I love pointing out that on April 2 this year the New York Times declared that the U.S. dollar was headed down, "no matter what" owing to the Bush Administration's economic policies, and it has done very little but go up since then.

Less well-known is that the Times has also lost its shirt in the stock market. On April 16, during what proved to be an extremely ephemeral downdraft in the U.S. stock markets, the NYT ran a front page headline that blared "Stocks Plunge to Lowest Point Since Election." It was not clear at the time what the relationship was between the low level of the stock market in April and the election (since the market had bottomed some days before the election), but the Times purported to see one worthy of a front page headline.

Yesterday, the S&P and the Nasdaq hit their highest levels in the four years since the carefree days between the Clinton Administration and the onset of war on September 11. Imagine my surprise that this morning's New York Times not only does not mention this fact on the front page, but it is nowhere to be seen in all of Section A! It is almost as if the short-term performance of the financial markets has nothing to do with the Bush Administration.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

SCOTUS blogging 

At the risk of getting way in over my head, not being a lawyer, I nonetheless feel compelled to make an observation about the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court and the related references to his Catholicism. I am not Catholic either, so I'm just watching is all.

Much is being made about his Catholicism and there were Senator Durbin's remarks, or question, which purportedly wondered whether Roberts's Catholicism would "get in the way" of his judicial decisions.

Here's the inane part of this entire discussion. It's not as though Roberts is the first Catholic to be appointed to the Supreme Court. I tried to get a full historical list of SCOTUS Catholics. I couldn't find one. All I could find was that there are today 3 on the Court: Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy. I also found that William Brennan, a noted liberal judge, was recently on the SC. Finally, I found that the first Catholic justice was named in...1836!.

Listen, it's sufficiently offensive that in our supposedly tolerant country, whenever there's the possibility of a "first" - first black, first hispanic, first jew, first woman, first mormon, blah blah blah - it's written about as though a huge asteroid might be hitting the planet.

But there have been umpty ump Catholics who have operated just fine on the SCOTUS. Since 1836! We've had a Catholic president. Can we please get over ourselves? It's absurd. And I'm sorry, if anybody thinks it isn't a form of prejudice to say they mistrust someone born and yes, practicing, a particular religion, then that person is deluding themselves. What's Roberts going to say in answer to the question? It's offensive.

I have little sense as to whether this fellow will be a great SCOTUS justice or not. His credentials are as good as they get, however. He seems like a solid citizen. Ask the questions in the senate that must be asked. But leave his religion alone. It's a toxic topic to debate and antithetical to quintessentially American principles of religious tolerance.

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Brand recognition 

A masked Iraqi soldier stands at the scene of a raid reflected in his sunglasses during an operation by joint US-Iraqi forces in Baquba, 60kms northeast of Baghdad. (AFP/Liu Jin)
Meanwhile, Nike executives scramble to grab their own piece of the Iraqi army home-modified ski mask market.

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Great Carnak: Firefighters, flight attendants, chief executive officers 

What are the three "sexiest jobs"?


But wait.

News reporters ranked third, in a three-way tie with interior designers and event planners. That seems preposterous enough to invalidate the whole survey.

Neither does the article say whether the survey might have oversampled our gay community.

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Three articles to read 

In the last few days I've read three or four moderately long pieces on the war that have not (yet) received a tremendous amount of attention. Since I will be otherwise occupied most of the day Thursday, you have plenty of time to catch up.

First, read Donald Sensing's essay "Islamism's War Against the West" (pdf), the best succinct history of the rise of Binladenism (my word, not his) that I have seen. You have to read a lot of books to absorb the learning in this essay. It is 52 double-spaced pages, so print it off and read it on the train or in the Lay-Z-Boy.

Next, read this review essay from The New York Review of Books, "The Truth About Jihad." The author (Max Rodenbeck) is the Economist's Middle East correspondant, and not as reflexively hostile to American foreign policy as the NYROB's typical contributor. Rodenbeck's essay is important not because I particularly agree with his prescriptions -- I don't in the least -- but because he develops the most interesting and analytical comparison of "Binladenism" (his word) and the radical Left of old. Suffice it to say he sees many similarities.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, read Kenneth Pollack's recent testimony (pdf) in front of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations. Pollack is one of very few people writing seriously about Iraq who does not have one of the Four Big Axes to grind (hates/supports Bush, opposes/supports Israel, supports DoD/Supports State-CIA, anti-/pro-American), so you do not immediately find yourself wondering whose ox he is trying to gore. He worked on the Clinton NSC, wrote the book on the necessity of taking out Saddam, and now is a Senior Fellow at Brookings. Pollack argues forcefully that the United States needs to change its approach in Iraq dramatically by adopting tried-and-true counterinsurgency tactics. Pollack's argument is such a stark challenge to the apparent strategy of the United States that serious supporters of the war as it is currently being conducted need to address his points. Any milbloggers out there who want to give it a shot?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Improve the gene pool 

Do this.

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Heat wave!: New Jersey urged to conserve power 

Out soon-to-be acquired public utility, Newark's PSE&G, is watching the peak load this afternoon and almost begging people to turn the lights off. Weather.com reports that Princeton is 95 degrees at 4:55 pm ("feels like 103"), so you know that we're all sucking down power like there's no tomorrow:
Extreme heat and humidity pushed the demand for power in PSE&G's territory to a new high of 10,416 megawatts yesterday. The previous record was set on August 14, 2002.

The demand for electricity is extremely high today as well, as residents run their air conditioners at full blast in an effort to stay cool. While it has not yet peaked, PSE&G officials predict today's demand will be similar to yesterdays' - and might even top it.

Adequate supplies of electricity are available. PJM is taking precautionary measures to ensure the reliability of the transmission system. Customers are asked to conserve electricity, if health permits, especially between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. where it typically peaks.

Here are PSE&G's helpful suggestions, which probably make sense in the ordinary course:
-- Turn off everything you're not using; lights, TVs, computers, etc. Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.

-- Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun to keep the sun's heat out and help fans and air conditioners cool more efficiently.

-- Close doors leading to uncooled parts of your home. With central air, close off vents to unused rooms.

-- Delay heat-producing tasks such as washing and drying laundry or dishes until later in the day, and wait until load is full.

-- Refrain from using nonessential appliances. Unplug or use only when necessary an extra refrigerator in your garage.

We'll try not to use more than four computers at the same time, which is asking a lot of our family.

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If you don't like "hold music"... 

... consider yourself lucky that you don't have to listen to "hold Qur'an."
Why the hell do some companies, especially in Saudi put a recording of the recitation of the Qur'an to be played back during phone call hold periods?

"Why the hell?", indeed. Mahmood wants to know why there isn't a fatwa against this. After all, as Mahmood points out, you might be listening to the "hold Qur'an" from "a bar, the beach or the bathroom." Are the Saudi religious cops too busy busting women who drive?

And, to be clear, I would object equally to "hold Bible" or "hold Torah." Religious texts have many purposes, but alleviating boredom is not one of them.

Via Rezwan, Bangladeshi blogger extraordinaire.

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Where We Stand with Al Qaeda 

George Friedman from Stratfor ($) wrote a thoughtful bit of analysis regarding Al Qaeda's recent offensive which I would recommend reading (though it is by subscription). In summary, he argues that Al Qaeda has launched a desperate offensive comparable either to i) Germany's attack of American forces in the Ardennes Forest, known as the Battle of the Bulge, or ii) North Vietnam's attack against American and South Vietnamese forces, known as the Tet Offensive.

Friedman's point is that, in each case, the enemy understands that it is losing and cannot win. However, by launching an aggressive and high risk offensive, it hopes to alter the political calculus of the US, extend the duration of the conflict, and prepare the field for a better political settlement.

It's good and thoughtful analysis, and it may apply. But I don't buy it. Megalomaniacs like Hitler and Osama never think they're losing. Ever. They don't brook dissent and they surround themselves with sycophants (Saddam too, by the way). It's a recurring characteristic of tyrants. Those surrounding them might understand reality a little better, but they forge ahead out of fear.

Leaders of that sort take irrational risks, overreach and miscalculate, paving the way for their eventual losses. Due to their megalomania, they overestimate themselves and underestimate their enemy. Hitler invaded to the west and east inviting both Americans and Russians to Europe. So did Napoleon. Saddam invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, inviting the wrath of the US. They don't balance the prospect of a "better" political settlement. They're pushing all their chips to the middle of the table. They actually believe they can and will win. Osama did that when he attacked NY and Washington. Think about it -- 2 days before, he had finally, after years of primitive effort, secured Afghanistan with the successful assassination of Massoud -- and then he launches an attack on the US? Strategically, that's just nuts. Within weeks he's toast in Afghanistan, then he has 150,000 US troops in the middle of Arabia. And he spends the rest of his days crawling around in caves and making videotapes.

The Vietnamese situation was different and Stratfor's retrospective analysis holds more water, but it is an incomplete view. The Tet Offensive completely failed militarily. However, LBJ and his administration lost their political will after Tet. Why this happened I can only speculate. My own opinion is that the Vietnamese succeeded in dividing not the American electorate in general, but the Democratic Party (from which it has not healed and recovered), which was running the country. There continues to this day an incorrect, media driven perception that the US population didn't have the political will to fight the war. In my estimation, that is bulls--t - delusions of grandeur from the media and the far left. The truest indication of American political will was Nixon's 49 state landslide victory in 1972, having expanded the war, and McGovern's antiwar disaster-of-a-candidacy. Similarly, GWB's electoral victory despite an unmitigated media assault on his administration, its policies and the American military reflected the political will of the American electorate. Kerry at least learned that he couldn't be a McGovern antiwar candidate (that would have been Dean), so he acted a little more like a Hubert Humphrey - and lost like one.

Stratfor's analysis is always thoughtful, but lacks an emphasis on leadership and popular will on both sides. Friedman is assuming the islamists think like he does, and I think he's wrong. Al Qaeda is losing (on this we agree), but the radical islamist is not just playing for field position in a political chess match they think they've lost. They are trying to reestablish a caliphate - a notion that went out with the Dark Ages - and are playing for all the marbles. And they are inflaming not just Western sentiment (the US, UK, even the Pope at this point is annoyed), but Muslim sentiment as well. They've picked a fight with everybody that they can't win. They'll do some damage along the way, but they're clearly failing. They underestimated American will. They're not the first, nor will they be the last.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Empty Jars" 

In very possibly the best blog post you will read all summer, Michael Yon describes counterinsurgency in Iraq at a micro level. By all means read the whole thing, but consider particularly his take on the local status of foreign jihadis:
Still, of all the clawing hands weighting the legs of the new Iraq, the foreign "jihadists" get the least respect and are mostly despised. Local terrorists, even those who trade in newly-minted matyrs, seem to view jihadists as the lowest of the low-- as if the volunteers-come-hither are merely fungible foreign idiots, worth less than the wads of floppy third-world currencies crumpled in their pockets. The foreign fighters are a sort of toxic waste film drifting and floating on the surface of this civil war. Their touch is stain...

I was sitting in the TOC when intelligence arrived that a top Mosul terrorist was in a certain location nearby. It so happened that LT Orande Roy Sr, along with his Deuce Four Stryker platoon, was also nearby. Minutes later, LT Roy rolled up on a dozen Iraqi men. The soldiers began to detain and separate the men when they spied one man slowly reaching into his pocket and wrestled him down. Specialists Joseph Vanvranken and Darrell Blanchard searched him and found a hand grenade and pistol in his pocket. As these were revealed, the other Iraqis, as if on cue, started pointing to the man with the grenade and the pistol saying he was a bad guy, or perhaps the bad guy.

In the excitement, a baby boy began crying. The man holding the boy was having little success in comforting him, so another man looked concerned for the child and asked to hold him. Of all the men there, LT Roy said, the man who reached for the child seemed the calmest, safest and friendliest.

About that time, one of the younger American soldiers walked out to LT Roy holding a vest filled with explosives at arm's length--luckily, his handling of it had not detonated the device. LT Roy decided to detain everyone, and as one soldier reached for the child, the friendly man started to shudder, his calm facade faltering. Adding to the mix, the interpreter noticed that one of the men had a foreign accent. He was Libyan.

The Libyan, like so many "jihadists" who come to Iraq itching for action in the holy war, found himself treated as exspendable bomb casing. He started confessing everything. In fact, he had no sooner sat down at the table in the detention facility here on base than he had filled three pages with his detailed handwritten confessions. He had crossed the border from Syria into Iraq on foot, intent on fighting a holy war, as an infantryman engaged in direct combat with American soldiers. He did not want to be a martyr, merely a jihadist. He did not want to die in Iraq. His Iraqis "hosts" had threatened to kill him if he refused to wear and detonate the explosive vest while mingling into a crowd of Iraqi police. But the Libyan did not like that plan and now was angry at the Iraqis who were trying to force a holy jihadist to become an unwilling bomb, and he was telling everything. Another cascade.

And the calm man, who appeared so clever and confident while standing there comforting a crying infant? How the picture changed when a young American solider stepped into the frame, reached for and gently took the child. Without his prop, the actor faltered, his illusion cracked and shattered as he shuddered before the soldier. This man who cowered behind a crying child was one of the top insurgent leaders in Mosul.

Michael Yon's reporting from Iraq is some of the very best work that has ever been done on blogs.

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Earthquake blogging: Montana shakes 

A 5.6 magnitude earthquake rumbled through southwest Montana late Monday, according to the National Earthquake Information Center Web site.

The NEIC said the moderate quake struck at 10:08 p.m. (12:08 a.m. Tuesday ET) and was centered 13 miles north-northeast of Dillon, Montana, and 220 miles northeast of Boise, Idaho.

The TigerHawk sister, of course, lives in Dillon, home of the University of Montana - Western. Her house did not escape unscathed. Our Dillon correspondant finally emerged from the rubble this afternoon to file this report:
I was pretty much scared witless but as bad as it seemed, no one seems to have any serious damage around here. Californians in the area I've talked to pretty much shrugged it off OK. The worst part was probably actually the Chinese water torture of several fairly significant aftershocks all last night. The last one was around 5 am, so hopefully we're in the clear. But I didn't really sleep much.

So far our chimney is the worst we've seen - the problem was that the top was redone a few years ago (before us) and the new brick just didn't have the give of the old brick, so they didn't play nicely together.

Trying to find a mason asap 'cause we're not too happy having it sit like that for very long.

And, tragically, the blue and white lava lamp met its demise on our bedroom floor. That was kind of a pain to clean up. [One is almost forced to wonder how gooey the interior of a lava lamp is. - ed.] The other one fortunately came through OK.

And no, our insurance doesn't cover earthquakes here.

We'll have to replace that lava lamp, because one is not enough.

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U.S. casualties dip down 

Nobody in the MSM has noticed, but with five days left in July there have been fewer American casualties in Iraq this month than in any month since February 2004. One is tempted to believe that this signifies a trend, but that would be a mistake -- last February, we went 19 consecutive days without losing an American soldier, and by early April Fallujah was on fire. This may well be the lull before the storm of the September elections.

Still, fewer casualties is fewer casualties. If July finishes quietly, it will be very interesting to see whether The New York Times notices.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Jihad Jane 

Actress and activist Jane Fonda says she intends to take a cross-country bus tour to call for an end to U.S. military operations in Iraq.

"I can't go into any detail except to say that it's going to be pretty exciting," she said.

Fonda said her anti-war tour in March will use a bus that runs on "vegetable oil." She will be joined by families of Iraq war veterans and her daughter.

Apology mooted.

Notwithstanding her prep school friendship with my mother, which I would have thought would have imparted some measure of common sense, Jane Fonda still believes that it is her job to destroy the morale of American soldiers fighting an implacable enemy.

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Saving face in North Korea? 

The United States had a quiet one-on-one meeting with representatives of North Korea today, notwithstanding our longstanding unwillingness to meet in the absence of the other four powers (China, Japan, South Korea and Russia). The White House said it was "not a negotiating session," but a meet-and-greet in advance of the "six party talks" that are to start tomorrow.

It would be fascinating to know how the meeting was reported in North Korea, if it was reported at all. My guess is that this short pre-meeting meeting was a concession that we permitted the Chinese to offer to the Norks to get them back to the table. We can claim that it was no concession at all because no "negotiating" took place, and they can claim that they got their face-to-face meeting with the United States notwithstanding the resumption of six party talks.

It would all be quite hilarious if the stakes weren't so high.

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They guard the streets of heaven 

Pope Benedict XVI is on the side of the West:
Pope Benedict XVI invoked God's protection to "block the murderous hand" of terrorists, during his Sunday audience on July 24.

After leading the Angelus, in the second Sunday audience held during his vacation in the Italian Alps, the Pope remarked that "these days of serenity and repose have been disrupted by the tragic news of the execrable terrorist attacks" in England, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq. He offered his prayers and sympathies for the victims of those struck by "gestures that offend both God and man," and appealed to God to stop the terrorists. (bold emphasis added)

The United States Marines certainly believe they are doing God's work, but it is always helpful to have the Pope confirm it.

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Imperialism Has A Bad Name 

But maybe it should get some respect -- at least the British form. It is no accident that the US, Australia, India and Britain are lining up in the current war. John Howard's exceptional response recently to a silly question about islamic terrorist causation, commentary that was widely reported and blogged, was perhaps the most brilliant extemporaneous articulation of what this is all about.

In the same vein, I ran across some links thanks to our Powerline friends which I would also urge you to read (follow all the way through), regarding Winston Churchill and September 11. It's all too good to miss.

Whenever western civilization and its core modern value of individual freedom has been under seige, it seems to have been left to the remnants of the British empire to pick up arms in its defense. It is nice to see that India has matured sufficiently to have joined the Club. Especially in the war against Islamic extremism, there will be no more important friend.

Not that you'd read much about that in the NYT of course.

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The bombings in Egypt and its implications for "occupation causation" 

The righty 'sphere has been arguing for several weeks now about University of Chicago Professor Richard Pape's argument that suicide terrorism is a function of "occupation" rather than Islamic fundamentalism. For a short summary of Pape's argument, read this interview. I attacked it here (snarky) and here (seriously).

In short, Pape built a huge database of suicide attacks during the last thirty years, and basically concluded that they derived from resistance to "occupation" and were not some unique expression of Islamic jihad. While I believe that Pape's research is valuable in and of itself -- we needed that database -- the jihadis continue to disprove his basic conclusion.

It now appears, for example, that Pakistanis were responsible for the weekend's suicide attacks in Egypt. Pape's theory of "occupation causation" only survives Sharm al-Sheik if you subscribe to al Qaeda's argument that Egypt is "occupied" by an apostate government in league with the Zionist-Crusader conspiracy. This, however, is an intolerably expansive definition of "occupation" that no nation, Muslim or Western, can tolerate. Pape's conclusion, then, is either wrong (if we define "occupation" in its usual sense) or useless (if we define "occupation" to refer to any government that al Qaeda would describe as "apostate" or otherwise in league with the "Zionist-Crusader" conspiracy).

UPDATE: Egypt is now saying that no Pakistanis were involved, responding perhaps to diplomatic complaints from Pakistan. Of course, this does not bolster Pape's argument one bit, since Egypt does not "occupy" anything other than itself. One can only characterize these bombings as resistance to occupation by yielding to al Qaeda's expansionist definition, and if Pape is suggesting that he is not offering any useful guidance for the conduct of the war.

UPDATE: An astute commenter points out that I have been systematically getting Pape's first name wrong. It is Robert, not Richard. My bad.

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The Death of Innocence 

The title to the post sounds ominous, but I don't mean it to be. We may have reached another critical milestone in the current war against islamic extremism. The death this weekend of a young Brazilian in the London subway, shot 5 times in the head, seems to herald the adoption of a highly aggressive policy for dealing with suspected terrorists. While friends and family are understandably upset, the death does not appear to be creating much of a political outcry, considering Scotland Yard announced this weekend that the victim was apparently not a suicide bomber.

The famous British toughness may be returning to the surface. Take note. This will have other important policy implications.

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The ultimate in rose-colored glasses 

'Through Haitian eyes, Newark is a verdant oasis of tranquility' - headline, Newark Star-Ledger.

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For aspiring imperialists only 

Test your knowledge of the location of European countries here. Victory lap moment: I scored 44 out of 45 countries, having blown San Marino notwithstanding the small assist the game gives you for the microstates. Atlanticist triumphalism moment: How many Europeans can score 98% locating American states? Finally, I hereby challenge everybody with a bumper sticker that reads "49% of Americans agree with 99% of the rest of the world" to a geography contest, head-to-head, right now.

Via Chrenkoff.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Al Qaeda's deep philosophical roots 

This blog has long argued that our enemy in the current war – not the tactic “terror” but al Qaeda and its ideological and organizational affiliates – has, like the international Communist movement, been in gestation for several generations. Al Qaeda uses recent or symbolically powerful grievances such as the existence of Israel or the presence of “infidels” in Arabia or Mesopotamia for propagandistic purposes, but neither the organization nor its philosophy fundamentally derive from anything that the West has done in a very long time. Some of this argument is developed in this post, which most of you have already read (a summary of Michael Scott Doran’s lecture on “Al Qaeda’s grand strategy”). In that lecture, Professor Doran traced the ideological development of al Qaeda to the much earlier Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt. But even the Muslim Brotherhood had predecessors.

I have just stumbled across a passage in Andrew Wheatcroft’s excellent book Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam, which, by the way, I highly recommend. Toward the end of the book, Wheatcroft detects the seeds of the movement in the 19th century:
The Islamic thinkers of the late nineteenth century were very much aware of Western modernity in its physical and political manifestations. Some, like [Egyptian savant Mohammad Abduh], knew the European intellectual revolution from which it emerged; but their thinking developed in opposition to what they saw as the negative character of the West. This grew out of a long tradition. At Al-Azhar in Cairo, the oldest university in the world, scholars had debated the shape and structures of the faith since the late tenth century. This tradition of criticism and scholarship in Cairo outlasted its competitors in Damascus and Baghdad, and from the early nineteenth century the city became a pioneer in the printing and publication of secular, nationalist, and also religious material. In the years after World War I, as Egypt remained in thrall to Britain, much of the political debate in Cairo began to focus anew on the Holy Qur’an and the hadith for guidance. This had to be done carefully. Islam was opposed to the idea of innovation (bid’ah), which would undermine the concept of a perfect revelation of the ideal society. Change had to be presented, rhetorically, as “no change,” or better, as a reversion to an earlier and purer state of society. A new practice had to be embedded within an unchanging paradigm. Nevertheless there was a tradition of speculation, for unobtrusive reexamination and reinterpretation of questions that had been closed centuries before.

In the early history of Islam there had been a tradition of ideas passed on by pupils, each of whom listened to the words of his master, and then transmitted them to his own successors. It was a chain binding each scholar irrevocably to his predecessors and to those who in turn had learned the truth from his own lips. A similar chain of connection linked the theorists and activists of the Islamic revival, each of whom added his own contribution. An intellectual movement centered upon fighting the power of the West began with a complex figure called Jamal al-Din, often known as Al-Afghani, who taught in Egypt, was exiled to Paris, and eventually died in Constantinople in 1897. He called on Muslims to resist the West, to turn the West’s own weapons and techniques against it.

One of his most devoted supporters was Muhammad Abduh. When Al-Afghani was expelled from Egypt, Abduh followed him to Paris. There they published a short-lived journal called the Indissoluble Bond, which preached Muslim unity in the face of Western power. Abduh’s work was continued by his pupil, a Syrian called Rashid Rida. He in turn became a powerful influence on Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and on its most notable theorist, Sayyid Qutb.

Banna created a new kind of political and religious organization that began “as a youth club with its main stress on moral and social reform through communication, information and propaganda.” Banna began a tradition where Islamist politics were allied to providing assistance for the poor and dispossessed. By 1940 there were more than 500 branches in Egypt, which had risen to 5,000 by 1946….

Sayyid Qutb was both a scholar and a prolific author, who wrote his last and (arguably) his greatest work in prison in the 1960s. He became one of the leading figures of the Muslim Brotherhood. When he was hanged on the orders of the Egyptian government, he turned into a martyr in the eyes of his supporters. A younger Egyptian, Abd al-Salem Faraj, suffered the same fate as Qutb; in 1979 he had founded a group called the Society for the Holy War (Jamaat al-Jihad), usually known simply as Al-Jihad. On October 6, 1981, Al-Jihad succeeded in killing the president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, whom they had proscribed as an evil prince. As one of the assassins publicly declared, “I am [Lieutenant] Khalid Islambuli. I have killed Pharaoh and I do not fear death.” For Faraj, Islambuli, and their group, Sadat merited death. “We have to make the Rule of God’s Religion in our own country first, and to make the Word of God supreme … there is no doubt that the first battlefield for jihad is the extermination of these infidel leaders [“corrupt” Muslims like Sadat] and to replace them by a complete Islamic Order. From there we should start.” (bold emphasis added)

The political philosophy behind al Qaeda’s movement has been developing for more than a century. Indeed, to a non-expert outside observer, it looks as though al Qaeda’s articulated radicalism is the only political philosophy that seriously competes for legitimacy in much of the Muslim world. Communism – which once contended for legitimacy in many Muslim countries -- is dead, and “moderate Islam” does not seem to excite sufficient passion to motivate most Muslims to risk their lives to turn in the radicals in their midst. Western concepts of “popular sovereignty,” which are worth fighting for, are not well-known and are only being articulated at all in a few corners of the Muslim world. Indeed, most Muslim governments are based not on any defendable political philosophy, but on rank authoritarianism or the divine right of kings. In the absence of competition, a coherent and superficially spiritual political philosophy can gain a lot of traction, almost no matter how horrible its consequences. That political philosophy in turn will inspire groups that are only loosely affiliated with the founding political movement. This is why al Qaeda, which means "the base," and its affiliates have been able to sustain wars in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Balkans, Spain, England and the United States, and used many other countries (Germany and the Netherlands, for example) as staging areas. Al Qaeda will not go away if America withdraws from Iraq, and it would not go away if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories. It can, in the end, only be beaten by Muslims who are willing to take a stand and risk their lives in defense of an inspiring alternative political philosophy.

UPDATE (5:15 pm, July 25): MEMRI just put up a translation of a very relevant article by Dr. Ahmad Al-Rab'i, former Kuwaiti minister of education:
"If we were to go according to the logic of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement then we shouldn't condemn the Sharm Al-Sheikh crime, nor [should we condemn] other terrorist crimes!

"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has its own justifications for violence. In a statement by the movement, in which it 'condemned' the Sharm Al-Sheikh crime, it laid out its justification for the crime. The statement said: 'the colonialist policies that the world's strong countries pursue, as well as the aggression against the peoples – they are what engender the culture of violence.'

"The Muslim Brotherhood's problem is that it has no shame. The beginnings of all of the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology of takfir [accusing other Muslims of apostasy]. Sayyid Qutb's book Milestones was the inspiration and the guide for all of the takfir movements that came afterwards.

"The founders of the violent groups were raised on the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who worked with Bin Laden and Al-Qa'ida went out under the mantle of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"If the imperialist countries' policy is what engendered violence, as the Brotherhood's statement says, then what is keeping a few citizens in Vietnam – which American planes utterly destroyed with millions of tons of bombs – from blowing up buildings in San Francisco? What is keeping a few citizens in Japan – which America attacked with an atom bomb – from blowing up Boston?

"Also, what do foreign tourists and innocent Egyptian citizens have to do with the policies of 'the imperialist countries'? Should peaceful and defenseless citizens be killed in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Baghdad, Riyadh, and San'a in order to take revenge on imperialist countries?" (bold emphasis added)

All good questions.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Parkway blogging 

This is bad. I can actually blog while driving the Garden State Parkway.
Now, you might think that is really unsafe, and ordinarily you would be
right. But not right now. It is actually the Garden State Parking Lot this
hot July night.

Going to the Adirondacks tonight. Got a long way to go. Blogging will be,
er, light. Wish me luck.

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Hot pursuit 

Syria said on Thursday its border troops had been fired on by U.S. and Iraqi forces and accused Washington, London and Baghdad of lack of cooperation in preventing insurgents infiltrating into Iraq.

It was the first time Syria, which has a 600 km (375 mile) desert border with Iraq, had reported cases of U.S. troops firing on its forces.

Did we kill any?

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Amateur Hour 

The reported explosions aimed at the London public transport system today appear to have been the work of rank amateur terrorists. This should do little other than encourage the British intelligence service, law enforcement and local citizenry to round up the radical islamists in their midst, lock them up and toss away the keys. And while they're at it, perhaps they can share a cell with Red Ken Livingstone, the idiot mayor of London, and George Galloway, the idiot MP. Now that would be entertainment.

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China's military power and an interesting new blog 

The United States Department of Defense has released its annual study of Chinese military power(pdf). I haven't read it yet, but offer the link here to advance the cause, as usual. If I have thoughts after having read it (not likely before the weekend), I'll put them up in a new post.

The link, by the way, is via Budding Sinologist, who writes a very interesting new blog called MeiZhongTai. Here's his (or her) description:
America, China, and Taiwan related issues examined by an American masters candidate bouncing back and forth between East Asia and America's east coast. MeiZhongTai is the first character from the names of the three countries (America is MeiGuo, China is ZhongGuo, and Taiwan is Taiwan).

MeiZhongTai is on my blogroll. If you have an interest in China, be sure to check it out.

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James McGovern, D-Mass, is a disingenuous fool 

The House of Representatives passed a resolution today in the form of a rider on a State Department appropriations bill.
The measure, approved 291-137, says the United States should leave Iraq only when national security and foreign policy goals related to a free and stable Iraq have been achieved.

"Calls for an early withdrawal embolden the terrorists and undermine the morale" of U.S. and allied forces and put their security at risk, the amendment to a State Department bill reads.

The resolution does, of course, state the obvious. Since the minority Sunni insurgency cannot under any circumstances defeat the United States or even the majority Shiites and Kurds on the battlefield, it is trying to break the will of the counterinsurgency through terroristic attacks against primarily civilian targets. As a practical matter, this means dispiriting the United States sufficiently that it withdraws -- manifestly the stated goal of the insurgency -- and forcing the majority ethnic groups to grant the Sunnis political power not otherwise available to them at the ballot box. That the resolution drew 137 votes in opposition is a painful reminder that we do not call upon Congress to formulate geopolitical strategy for a reason.

Some Members, however, were not merely content to vote against the resolution, but opened their mouths and proved their stupidity beyond a shadow of a doubt. James McGovern, a Democrat from Massachussetts, actually said that "to suggest those of us who oppose this war are somehow 'emboldening terrorists' is, to say the least, grotesque."

No, it actually is true. Of course Congressmen who advocate scheduling the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq are elboldening the insurgency. How could it be otherwise? The terrorists have established American withdrawal as their victory condition. The only way they have to assess the possibility of America withdrawing is to listen to the public statements of our political leaders. If no American political leaders called for withdrawal, the insurgents would have absolutely no light at the end of their tunnel. Since at least 137 Congressman, the New York Times and any number of Washington "shadow government" types have called for withdrawal, the insurgents know that American will is weakening and they are closer to victory as they have defined it. Again, how could it be otherwise?

If James McGovern had an ounce of principle, which he obviously does not, he would acknowledge the irrefutable point that for a Congressman to demand American withdrawal might very well embolden the terrorists, but that he thinks that withdrawal is in America's best interest even at the price of handing the Iraqi insurgents their victory condition. That would be an argument worth exploring. Unfortunately, James McGovern lacked the stones to make it, even though he is at exactly zero risk of losing his 2006 election.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the matter of military recruitment 

Three weeks ago, I said I thought that the most important line in Bush's speech on Iraq was his declaration "to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces." I wrote then that I thought it was essential that our leaders get out and work to bring recruits into the military:
Whatever the reason in the particular case, in a time of war an all-volunteer military is not going to get the manpower it needs from slick advertising or recruiters who could sell ice cubes to Eskimos (although both are necessary). Our political leaders need to lead, and in this case that means they need to persuade Americans that the military is an honorable calling that performs an essential function. Politicians on both sides claim they "support the troops." Well, just about the most important thing they can do to support the troops is to recruit new ones.

President Bush needs to get out in front of this effort, and then every Congressman and Senator should follow. His speech yesterday was a great start. He now needs to repeat this effort in every stump speech he makes, at every breakfast he addresses, and at every press conference he hosts. He needs to go into high schools and meet with recruits and put them on the evening news. And he needs to demand that members of his cabinet and the Congress do as well. You either believe in the volunteer army, or you don't. You either support the troops, or you don't.

Tonight, I'm watching the C-Span tape of today's Pentagon briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In response to a question about the manpower crunch in the military and steps to be taken to alleviate it, General Pace had this to say:
I've been a recruiter for three years in Buffalo, New York. This is not about money and benefits. This is about message. If we let our young folks know how much we know how much we appreciate their service to their country -- there are thousands and thousands of men and women out there who want to serve their country. They want to know from their parents, they want to know from the media, they want to know from their government leaders that we value their service and what they are doing to provide freedom around the world. If we get that message to them, there will be plenty of folks enlisting.

I think this is right. Many, many people yearn to build a better future for America and the world. Unfortunately, at a very basic level we have failed to tell our young people why it is important that they enlist. This failing starts with President Bush, but also extends through the Congress and other influential people in our society. Universities who do not welcome military recruiters (even if they allow them on campus) and influential people who denounce recruitment as a means of frustrating a foreign policy to which they do not subscribe are also, if not especially, culpable. The time has come for our leaders -- political and otherwise -- to back up their easy claim that they "support the troops" by actually advocating that young people become soldiers.

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James Doohan has died 

James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the apocryphal command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85.

Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) at his Redmond, Washington, home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said.

The Canadian-born Doohan fought in World War II and was wounded during the D-Day invasion, according to the StarTrek.com Web site. He was enjoying a busy career as a character actor when he auditioned for a role as an engineer in a new space adventure on NBC in 1966. A master of dialects from his early years in radio, he tried seven different accents.

"The producers asked me which one I preferred," Doohan recalled 30 years later. "I believed the Scot voice was the most commanding. So I told them, 'If this character is going to be an engineer, you'd better make him a Scotsman.' "

Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott was one of the great characters of American television, and James Montgomery Doohan made him who he was. Raise a glass to both of them tonight.

UPDATE: Kevin at Wizbang! explains how the MSM, once again, blew the story.

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TigerHawk is on a jury 

(Via Blackberry)

Hard as it may be to believe, I have been empaneled. I'm not exactly sure
how I made it through voir dire, but I should note that they did not ask
"are you a moderately well-known blogger of 'Large Mammal' status in the
TTLB Ecosphere with well-documented law and order tendancies?"

While the judge told us only not to speak of the case before verdict, I'm
going to construe her instruction broadly and assume that I shouldn't
live-blog the experience. It is, however, a criminal case, and not
apparently too horrendous, so you're probably not going to miss much.

UPDATE: After an exciting afternoon of testimony we were released and I went to the office. An hour later, Jury Management called to report that the case had pled out, which is not surprising considering the baffling testimony and confused cross-examination. Dwayne Pinckney's fate is no longer in TigerHawk's hands, which is a good thing for everybody, I should think.

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Watch Derrek Lee 

In a summer of terrorist bombings, supreme court vacancies, alleged Karl Rove conspiracies, and frantic, ongoing non-news from Aruba, you might have neglected to scrutinize the sports pages with appropriate regularity. If that is the case, here's a quick mid-season baseball update for you:

After a slow start, the Yanks have gotten back in the race for the AL East and today trail Boston by 1/2 game; the Washington Nationals have owned first place in the NL East by a small margin for the last two months, but the Braves threaten to, once again, win the division; the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox have both put away their respective central divisions, and appear poised to enter October as the teams to beat; the LA Angels look tough in the AL West, but no one looks particularly good in the NL West; and Derrek Lee, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs is having the best year in baseball.

To win the coveted Triple Crown, a player must finish the season ranked first in his league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. It is a difficult feat in today's game, since the big home run hitters tend to strike out a lot and rarely threaten to win the batting title. (In recent years, Albert Pulhols of the Cardinals has been among the leaders in all three categories).

This morning, Derrek Lee leads the National League in batting by a wide margin, batting .376 with his nearest challenger at .338, home runs with 30, with Andruw Jones right behind with 29, and is tied with Carlos Lee (no relation) for the lead in RBIs with 77. With his 30th home run yesterday, Lee tied his career high, set last year.

The last baseball player to win the triple crown was Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox (.326, 44, 121) in 1967. The last National League triple crown winner was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 (.375, 31, 154).

Watch Derrek Lee.

Correction: A reader correctly points out that Lee had 31 home runs in 2003, and 32 last year (a fact easily confirmed in the very stats page I linked to above. Doh!). My bad. Fortunately the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere doesn't let such disinformation go unchallenged for long.

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Rove Rantings 

What would we do for chuckles without the moon-bat left?

Maybe this scandal is, in fact, part of a larger and even more Machiavellian strategy orchestrated by the evil genius himself, one designed to backfire on the Dems and elevate Rove to the point of bizarre saint, a patriotic hero, in a fantastical but not unthinkable effort get Rove promoted, maybe even (eventually) appointed -- brace yourself, because this could actually happen -- to the Supreme Court. Yes, it's possible.

There is no law against it. And yes, Rove is capable of just such a master plan.

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British Introspection 

Britain is confused about terrorism and multiculturism in the wake of the 7/7 bombings (which is actually progress and sets it apart from the rest of Europe). Let the analysis begin.

Mark Steyn suggests that the deconstruction of traditional British culture in favor of multiculturalism not only contributed to the British bombings, but will make eradicating terrorism that much more difficult. (hat tip: Counter Trey)

So, if Islamist extremism is the genie you're trying to put back in the bottle, it doesn't help to have smashed the bottle. As the death of the Eurofanatic Ted Heath reminds us, in modern Britain even a "conservative" prime minister thinks nothing of obliterating ancient counties and imposing on the populace fantasy jurisdictions - "Avon", "Clwyd" and (my personal favourite in its evocative neo-Stalinism) "Central Region" - and an alien regulatory regime imported from the failed polities of Europe. The 7/7 murderers are described as "Yorkshiremen", but, of course, there is no Yorkshire: Ted abolished that, too.

Sir Edward's successor, Mr Blair, said on the day of the bombing that terrorists would not be allowed to "change our country or our way of life". Of course not. That's his job - from hunting to Europeanisation. Could you reliably say what aspects of "our way of life" Britain's ruling class, whether pseudo-Labour like Mr Blair or pseudo-Conservative like Sir Ted, wish to preserve? The Notting Hill Carnival? Not enough, alas.

Meanwhile, Frida Ghitis argues that it is difficult to ask Muslim leaders to denounce suicide bombing when Western leaders are unwilling to do so.

How could a young British Muslim growing up in Leeds, England, come to believe that a suicide bombing is an appropriate way to express a grievance? Very simple. He would watch the news. He would listen to the way that British thinkers respond to bombings of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists and to how terrorist attacks in Iraq are described.

In much of Europe, suicide bombings targeting Israelis do not receive anything remotely resembling the blanket condemnation demanded of Muslims after July 7. This is not to argue that Israeli tactics must be embraced or that the objectives of Palestinians must be rejected. But if the British want to tell the world -- especially people living within their borders -- that terrorism is wrong, they have to declare without nuance and equivocation that attacks designed and executed for the deliberate purpose of murdering civilians for political goals are morally wrong and ompletely unacceptable -- always -- no matter who the victims, the perpetrators, or the political views of either side. That is plainly not what has happened until now.

The intellectual struggle over these issues is really just beginning in the UK. There are many parts of Europe, and North America too, where it has not yet even begun.

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TigerHawk is on jury duty 

(Via Blackberry)

So I'm sitting in the jury waiting room on the second floor of the Mercer
County (New Jersey) Courthouse in Trenton. There is allegedly "limited
internet access," but no signal pops up on the wireless icon, so blogging
may be, er, light. Unless I get my paws on that there internet access.

The room is comfortable, with good air conditioning and decent chairs.
There is also a television in the front of the room, and it is quite
unexpectedly tuned to "Fox and Friends," the morning show of Fox News. This
implies that the Mercer County Democrats do not exert the iron control over
their staff that one might expect. Or, perhaps, this is just part of the
considerable effort necessary to induce Mercer County suburbanites into the
heart of Trenton.

So far, I've learned that Barbara Boxer has "some concerns" about the
Roberts nomination. As Power Line predicted last night (click through the
link in the post below), she is "concerned he upheld the arrest of a child."

If that is what they're going with, a lot of Democrats are going to
embarrass themselves.

UPDATE: Got to the wire. Laurence Tribe is also bringing up the "french fries" case, in which Roberts wrote an opinion for a unanimous D.C. Circuit panel upholding the arrest of a twelve-year old girl for eating a french fry on the Washington subway. While acknowledging that "No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation," Roberts held that the court was not in a position to overturn the District's law or enforcement policy.

All of this reminds me of my own food-eating encounter on the Washington metro. It was the summer of 1985, and the salient feature of our capital city's subway in those days was that it essentially did not go anywhere that poor people lived. There was the planned green line, but it was the last line to be completed by some margin (as I recall -- bear in mind that I'm sitting in Mercer County Courthouse and can't conveniently verify my facts).

Anyway, my familiarity with subways was confined to New York, Paris and London, so I naturally assumed that eating was one of those things that you did on the train. There I was one morning in May, in my suit looking like the summer associate that I was, munching unobtrusively on my bagel. All of a sudden a very WASPy woman started yelling at me about eating in the subway. I asked her, "where are the signs that say you can't?" She hissed -- and it absolutely was a hiss -- that "they are in the stations!" with a very wild look on her face. Then she turned to a bunch of guys in suits who did not seem to give a rat's ass about my bagel, and declared loudly that "if people eat in the Metro it will end up just like New York!," as if that were the worst thing imaginable. I quietly pointed out that that was unlikely, since the Washington Metro "doesn't seem to go where poor live." That really pissed her off.

Fortunately, in 1985 the DC cops were too busy writing tickets to jay-walkers to bother with bagel-eaters on the Metro.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

SCOTUS blogging 

Apart from certain obvious statements ("Chuck Schumer is an ass", for example), I have no plans to comment on Roberts, at least until somebody says something that annoys me. Michelle Malkin, though, is live-blogging this evening's coverage, and has loads of links. Go there.

UPDATE (7 a.m. Monday): John Hinderaker considers in some detail whether there is anything in the Roberts nomination that Democrats will be able to sink their teeth in to. He concludes there isn't:
So the left has very little to work with in trying to rouse public opposition to Roberts' nomination. That leaves only one alternative: they will ask lots of questions. This theme has already emerged. They will try to force Roberts to take a loyalty oath to the liberal decisions of which contemporary Democrats are fondest. And, as Chuck Schumer said tonight, they will proceed on the assumption that "the burden is on the nominee to prove he is worthy," not on the Democrats to prove he isn't. So the Dems will try to dream up questions that Roberts can't properly answer, and documents they can request that can't be provided, relating, perhaps to Roberts' service as deputy solicitor general.

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The Free Ridership Problem 

The economic concept of free ridership is pretty simple. Without effort, or commitment, certain parties derive benefit from the substantial effort and commitment of others. It happens rather often in business, inside of companies, all over the place.

It also happens in the application of government policy, and it is happening in spades in the current war. Pacifists and journalists who whine about every facet of the exercise of American power to defend and extend freedom, derive spectacular benefit in terms of their freedom to whine, obstruct and deter that same exercise of American power. The sacrifice made by the American serviceman or woman, allows the rest of us to keep our lives relatively intact. The investment in defense spending by the American taxpayer protects the European or Canadian citizen, who spends a vanishingly small amount on defense, instead lavishing social welfare benefits on the citizenry.

It may be time to figure out how to cure some of this problem, which appears to be growing to the point of frustration. Thoughts?

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The SCOTUS nomination: One blogger's prediction 


Via AJStrata.

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Did Joseph Wilson commit a crime? 

Steve Antler offers the fascinating theory that Joseph Wilson may himself have committed a crime. Antler examines 18 U.S.C. 793(d), which provides as follows:
Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it;

Antler's theory:
Wilson went public ("communicates...to any person not entitled...") with information he legitimately gathered privately under legitimate government auspices ("lawfully having possession of"...). His aim was to weaken the administration's credibility, which had as its consequence the weakening of the United States' credibility internationally ("to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation..." Indeed, this weakened international credibility became one the center features of the Kerry campaign, which Wilson subsequently joined.) (emphasis in the original)

Is Fitzgerald investigating Wilson? I doubt it, but one can still dream.

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TigerHawk goes to the dentist 

It was very ugly.

I go to a big dental practice in Princeton, and the last couple of times they have assigned me a hygienist who uses her picks like meat tenderizers. During the "hack the gums" phase of the cleaning, my mouth looks like the outtakes from a George Romero movie. The best part, as always, is the discussion about whether I floss. This time I decided to deploy a one-two punch of sarcasm and extreme candor:

Hygienist: "So. Do you floss much?"

Me: "Does it look like I floss much?"

Hygienist: "No. Why don't you floss?"

Me: "Because I hate it."

If I'm still blogging years from now when I need the jaw reconstruction and the dentures, I'm sure you'll hear about it.

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Women drivers 

Saudi Jeans thinks women should be allowed to drive, and is hot about a statement issued by leading Saudi clerics and "morals" police opposing same.
The statement says, "[w]omen driving cars is not permissible because the ruling of 'closing doors that leads to corruption' applies to it directly." Oh my God, Not the "closing doors that leads to corruption" ruling again! They have been misusing this ruling for so long, and I can't believe how they are willing to keep on misusing it. If we were to apply this (باب سد الذرائع) ruling on everything, we will do nothing. Because everything, (repeat: everything), can leads to corruption. You can use a knife to kill somebody, or you can use it to make the best meal he ever had. This is non-sense....

If we looked back in history, we will see clearly that these guys who signed the statement are the same kind of people who opposed King Faisal 30 years ago when he decided to start girls' education in the country. They are using the same language, and the same lame excuses. What happened then? King Faisal said, "we will open the schools anyway, and if you don't want your daughters to study at our schools then don't let them." King Faisal was a wise man. He did not weaken to those people, and today, more than 55% of students in Saudi universities are females....

Why would we let these people hold our country back? Why can't the government release a ruling allowing women to drive the same way King Faisal did? I am depressed. I am really depressed.

With freedom, you have to start with the basics.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Pacifist! Volume II 

I was surprised by the vigorous response my earlier post on pacifism elicited from folks, but decided, after a few responses, to let it rest. Then I ran across this terrific piece from Max Boot in the LA Times (Hat tip: Austin Bay and Harry's Place) which observes how certain WWII era pacifists (or "young intelligentsia" as George Orwell put it) were antiwar in 1942, and played the moral equivalence routine as between Hitler and Germany, on the one hand, and Churchill and Britain, on the other.

In a funny way, it makes me feel better to know that there were people like this around then too, and it didn't get in the way of ultimate victory. It's harder to know, of course, whether this kind of lunacy contributed tragically to the death of x million more people in Europe, but then, who's counting? It is significant to realize that this pacifist philosophy lives, but does not learn from history.

Somebody commented in response to my first post that "I. Like. War." Far from it. It's hard to imagine a more frivolous comment impersonating seriousness. I have children (boys) who may someday choose to fight in one. But I believe that war is essential to defending freedom, which cannot be taken for granted. My parents came to this country to escape fascism, so I feel fortunate to be here. When people are being slaughtered in tiny corners of the world, the only country that lifts a finger to help is the US. Pacifists would be willing to live in a totalitarian state (they wouldn't fight for freedom, after all). I simply would not be willing to. I do believe that the current war this country is fighting is a just war, thrust upon it over an extended period of time, culminating with the 9/11 attacks.

So, for the pacifists among the readers, I salute your philosophy. Just identify yourselves please, so we can get serious and move on. Thanks.

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On the matter of nuking Mecca 

Suddenly, the world is full of loose talk about the casual use of nuclear weapons. Surprisingly, sometimes a little craziness can be stabilizing, insofar as it reminds fundamentally conservative governments that brinksmanship can be very dangerous. Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo's speculation that we might use nuclear weapons against Mecca if Islamists used nuclear weapons against the United States is not one of those situations. Hugh Hewitt nailed it:
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo's speculation about using nukes on Mecca following an act of nuclear terrorism in the United States is the most irresponsible statement any American official can make. It will be on al-Jazeera within the hour, and it will be used by jihadists against us. Such speculations send the message that we are at war with all of Islam. We are not. We are at war with a slice of Islam that is radical and violent. Statements like Tancredo's invite all of Islam to think they are our enemy.

Agreed. Tancredo's eruption serves no geopolitical purpose, and it should be denounced in the strongest possible terms. It was a profoundly asinine thing to say. Does Tancredo believe that the threat of retaliation against Mecca would either deter al Qaeda or coerce Arab regimes more effectively than countless other tactics? If so, he should be expelled from the House International Relations Committee, on which -- tragically -- he sits. Or was he just expressing the hope that we would retaliate by destroying the seat of one of the world's great religions?

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In re leaks 

The debate over the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity has caused a curious about-face by Washington politicians, with Democrats who have long favored a laissez-faire attitude toward leaks of classified information now decrying them, and Republicans who once wanted to criminalize every such leak suggesting that the one involving Ms. Plame wasn't so terrible.

Indeed. And heh:
Mr. Schumer, who staged three press events last week about Mr. Rove's alleged role in the leak of Ms. Plame's identity, is facing particular criticism for his stance. In an e-mail to reporters, Republican Party officials noted that in 1982 Mr. Schumer was one of 32 House members who voted against the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the law at the center of the investigation that has swept up Mr. Rove and other White House officials.

A spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Israel Klein, said the senator has been consistent. "Senator Schumer, who has been a longtime advocate for whistle-blower rights, felt that the initial law that was passed was a little bit too broad," Mr. Klein said.

Mr. Schumer also denounced the anti-leak legislation Congress passed in 2000. "We should never forget that one of the core purposes of the First Amendment was to prohibit government from suppressing embarrassing information, not criminalizing its release," the senator said. He complained that the measure "would require all current and past government officials to guess at what might be illegal, while the threat of serious jail time hangs over their heads."

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Is J.K. Rowling anti-American? 

Professor Bainbridge persuades me that she is. Like him, though, I don't care enough not to read her books.

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A New Letter from Prison in Iran 

Akbar Ganji again writes eloquently as his hunger strike weakens his body. I take his letter from the NY Sun.

Please read it. And remember the US is fighting for something other than oil in the Persian Gulf. It's much more important. While Afghanistan was a small part of it, and Iraq far larger, Iran is really the big prize.

What Ganji has opted to do (give his life) is a reflection of his considerable courage, and the equally morally corrupt Iranian regime.

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"Good news from Iraq": The digest 

Arthur Chrenkoff has posted installment 31 of his "Good News From Iraq" series. These posts are getting longer than a Tom Clancy novel, so look here for the best or most interesting of "the good news from Iraq" -- a digest of Chrenkoff's important work.

The drafting of the constitution seems to be proceeding "on track," even if it continues to suffer from ethnic politics. Sunnis are engaging more, which suggests they are hedging the risk that the Americans will withdraw and leave them at the mercy of the Shia and the Kurds.

The reading of books for pleasure and understanding is making a comeback, after 30 years of darkness.
In a narrow alley off Mutanabi Street, Baghdad's main book market, the Dar al-Bayan bookshop is full of dust and classics. Old men sip tea in the back and talk of times past, before dictatorship, when poets and intellectuals made life here bright.

On the street outside, the new Iraq presses in. Card tables covered with computer manuals, cell phone booklets and how-to guides compete for space on the sidewalk. A vast array of religious books, banned under Saddam Hussein, pack the stalls.

As Iraqis struggle to make sense of the chaos and violence that has consumed their lives over the past two years, books offer some solace.

I'm not at all sure that this is "good news." But this definitely is.

People forget that, in addition to "rebuilding" Iraq's economy and civil society from the ravages of war, the economy has to transform from massivism statism to private ownership and free internal markets. Saddam, after all, was a commie in Arab clothing. The good news is that old state industries are privatizing. One hopes that there won't be too much corruption in the handling of it. Perhaps even more importantly, Iraq has its first credit card! One is almost forced to wonder whether it is compatible with Islamic laws against usury.

Coca-Cola is returning to Iraq after 25 years! Does it get any better than that? I submit that it cannot!

Chrenkoff has a lot of links about apparent progress in the energy sector, but none address the crucial question, can the country increase production in the face of sabotage by the insurgency? And then there is the subsidiary question, can the country deploy the oil wealth it does receive without dissipating a huge percentage to corruption?

Domestic air travel is recovering. This strikes me as a very good sign, and critical for both the integration of the economy and the political society.

The Japanese are rebuilding roads. Good. Japanese engagement is good, and more is better.

Salaries for Iraqi professors are going up. Notwithstanding the brain drain and terrorism, Iraq apparently has the highest percentage of people with advanced degrees in the Middle East.

The Iraqi marshes are coming back strongly. N.B.: The removal of Saddam has made possible the reparation of one of the great environmental atrocities of the last decade of the 20th century.

Chrenkoff has lots of links to stories about the good works of Coalition soldiers. My favorite bit:
As local apricot farmer Hamid says: "I thank you for everything... My dream is to one day visit your country and repay you for all of your kindness, God willing."

Does anybody know how to buy Iraqi apricots?

And read this story about "Noah's Shoes," a project to put shoes on the feet of Iraqi children who need them.

There is growing evidence that the tide has turned in the propaganda war vs. the insurgents.

The Iraqi army has taken control of security over the "Green Zone." Chrenkoff has lots more on the training of the Iraqi military and police, including contributions from the United States Navy.

There is quiet aid from unlikely sources. The United Arab Emirates is buying 180 surplus armored personnel carriers from the Swiss, and donating them to the Iraqi army.

Chrenkoff has lots of stories about ordinary Iraqi civilians calling in tips to help the counterinsurgency or identify roadside bombs. The willingness of Iraqi civilians to cooperate reinforces the idea that this insurgency is not beloved, or even feared, by the great mass of the population.

Finally, Chrenkoff finishes with a huge pile of links to recent tactical victories, including arrests of jihadis and the discovery of weapons caches. Each link is individually interesting and points to progress, but the sheer quantity of them creates the overall impression that this war will be fought for some time. How many weapons caches are there? A lot, apparently.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Monitoring CNN: Liveblogging "Progress Report: War in Iraq" 

At 8 pm EDT tonight (the time stamp of this post), CNN will air a heavily promoted special report with the title "Progress Report: War in Iraq" (see left sidebar). Since I am at least a little concerned that CNN's perspective on the war will shape the public discussion in a direction that I will find troubling, I am going to live-blog the CNN report on this post (with the special help of TiVo, of course). Starting just after 8 p.m. EDT, I will put up a series of numbered posts with my on-the-spot analysis -- and fisking, if need be.

Any blogger who wants to join me in this exercise should send me an email at tigerhawkblog@verizon.net, and will put up the link to your live-blogging post in this post. Of course, I would very much appreciate any other help, including mere publicity (hint, hint), comments, and factual support.

All of this depends on my internet and satellite connections holding up through the thunderstorms.

Talk to you at 8.

[UPDATE: Finished the live-blogging at 9:30, somewhat behind schedule but bailed out by TiVo. I'm going to interlineate some updates with comments.]

1. Here we go.

Where do things really stand in Iraq? Who are the insurgents? "We have plenty of money and weapons and men." Can they be defeated? Is democracy taking shape? Will there be peace? Is Iraq on the right track, or sinking into a quagmire? And what do Iraqis say?

Do the reports of daily violence tell the full story? A promise to dig beneath the headlines, and begin with the battle for Iraq against the insurgency. The only safe haven is the Green Zone. But some believe that those in the Green Zone may be too insulated from the real Iraq. We asked our Senior Int'l correspondant Nick Robertson to venture out, and take a rare journey inside the insurgency.

So far, they are asking the right questions.

Nick Robertson is a Brit.

2. Robertson: "Unpredictable and deadly. Violence cuts a swathe across parts of Iraq, bloodying the US. The country is reeling under an insurgent onslaught. And the worse of these claimed by al Qaeda in Iraq and its leader..." al Zarqawi.

Robertson says that "the spectacular impact of the suicide attacks" obscures the "true nature of the insurgency, a home-grown Iraqi-based insurgency. To find out who they are, and what they want, I have come here to Baghdad to meet them."

The camera cuts to a silouette, an insurgent named "Abu Omar." According to this guy: "We represent 20% of the Iraqi resistance, but we represent fully the Iraqi will. We influence 80% of the Iraqi resistance, and we can say 'stop.' The question is, when to stop." Omar claims he is a former Iraqi general, under a false name.

TH Note: This is interesting, insofar as it supports the theory that the Sunni reactionaries are looking to negotiate.

[UPDATE: The Sunnis are, as a group, in something of a bind. On the one hand, they want the Americans to leave. On the other hand, they have to be worried that if the Shia and the Kurds are left with their backs against the wall, the gloves might come off, full-blown civil war might ensue, and the Sunnis would lose. It would have been helpful for CNN to have explored this question with Abu Omar. What would his answer have been?]

3. Cuts to video of insurgents on the streets of Baghdad. Omar introduces Abu Mohammad, also in silhouette, who speaks in broken English, and is identified as an insurgent commander, too. "We are refused American -- all American opinion. Their ideology, election, freedom. We refused anything from America."

The two met in military staff college, and are now part of a large network of nationalists, former military, tribal leaders, and other old regime hangers on. They are now reaching out to the "small band" of foreign fighters.

TH Note: CNN seems to be staking out the position that foreign fighters are a relatively small proportion of the total.

4. Robertson still reporting, cut to American Gen. "Spider" Marks: "The insurgency was not inevitable, if we had had, I think, a larger military presence, but again, that's hindsight." [TH: If he had to say "again, hindsight," what was left on the cutting room floor?]

[UPDATE: This assertion that the insurgency would not have started with a stronger military presence strikes me as speculation, and inconsistent with various of the other theories offered in the documentary. First, as is recounted below, the insurgency was planned long before the American invasion. Second, the "revenge culture" theory for the insurgency's growth would have obtained in any case. Third, if the size of the insurgency is as large as CNN suggests -- 200,000 or more -- then it surely would have existed at some level almost regardless of troop levels. The more interesting question is whether the insurgency would have thrived had we handled the demobilization of the Iraqi army differently.]

Intelligence sources say that four of Saddam's top allies met a few days after the fall of Baghdad, and decided then to activate the insurgency. Omar again: "Six months before the occupation we started training, and exercising resisting the American army in small groups."

Robertson: "Some U.S. intelligence sources say there are now as many as 200,000 insurgents. Since January 2004, 10,000 have been killed, 10,000 wounded, and 30,000 detained, yet the insurgency goes on. There are still 300-400 reported attacks per week, and that each U.S. offensive creates more recruits for the insurgents."

TH Note: That is by far the most negative assessment that I have heard. It would be interesting to know who those U.S. intelligence sources are. The report would be shocking, if true.

[UPDATE: A commenter suggests that this number derives from the number of Ba'athists before the war. Perhaps. More interestingly, though, is that CNN does not give us a sense of whose these "U.S. intelligence sources" might be. I certainly understand the need for confidentiality -- these sources undoubtedly committed a crime in leaking classified information to CNN -- but it would be nice to know the agency that developed these numbers. The bureaucratic struggles in Washington have been such that we now cannot accept "intelligence sources" willy-nilly. We need to know who is carrying whose water.]

5. Cuts to a "Sheikh Zeidan," who says "I believe that resistance is not confined to certain persons or organizations. Resistance is now the prevailing culture in Iraq." Robertson characterizes this guy as a key Sunni partner to U.S. troops "before Marines asked him to leave Iraq last year." [No explanation why he was asked to leave.]

Zeidan, who is from Ramadi, says that the U.S. failed to understand the Sunni tribes, and their culture of revenge, which is "deep-rooted in society." Everybody who loses a brother or a son to American forces" is compelled to join the insurgency. TH: That's bad news, again if true.

[UPDATE: Dymphna notes in the comments: "Well, then it would work the other way: every time the insurgents blow up other people's children, they join the Americans. Right? And so who has killed more civilians???" Agreed. CNN does not deal with Dymphna's point.]

[UPDATE: Two hours later, I'm still bothered that CNN did not explain why Marines asked Sheikh Zeidan to leave Iraq, or reveal the answer if it knew.]

6. Cuts to a public meeting of representatives from several different insurgency groups. Former government official hosts a press conference claiming that he has hosted meetings between the government and the insurgents. His credibility is doubted.

Cuts back to Abu Omar, who sends mixed signals about peace talks: "No negotiations until we kill the last American soldier. However, if they want to be serious, let it be official, and in front of all people."

Robertson: The insurgents are not a united force, and nobody speaks for them all.

Abu Omar: "I welcome al Qaeda, because they are dealing blows to the Americans. But I repeat, we are Iraqi insurgents, and they are here to give us aid and support."

[UPDATE: I'm sure al Qaeda doesn't think of it that way, though. CNN did not question Omar's assertion of primacy.]

7. Robertson: The domestic insurgents warn, however, "the time to cut a deal is now."

Back to the studio: "As we have just seen there is some promise. We've learned that some Iraqi nationalists say they are open to diplomacy, to negotiation." The foreigners have shown no sign of giving up the fight.

[UPDATE: Again, CNN avoids plumbing the crucial division between the Sunni insurgents, who are fighting to regain at least some power in post-Saddam Iraq, and al Qaeda, which is more than willing to burn down Iraq if it will humiliate the United States. If the Sunnis were to cut a deal, would al Qaeda go along? Are the Sunni in a trap of their own making?]

After the break, factoids about the economics. Daily electricity is down, and unemployment is high.

Cuts to Jamie MacIntyre, CNN's Pentagon correspondant, who looks at American strategy and its prospects for success. Cut to soldiers in the desert.

"In Iraq's vast, desolate western desert, a lone US Marine battalion patrols 40 miles of border with Syria, trying to stop foreign fighters streaming into the country. Without much help from the Iraqis, its pretty much 'mission impossible.'"

[UPDATE: CNN does not explain the relevance of Syria, other than to claim that foreign fighters are "streaming" across the border. This fact, asserted so casually by CNN, is a casus belli under any conception of international law. If the United States were to take action against Syria, it would be interesting to see whether CNN would "wonder" whether the United States had grounds to attack.

In any case, the documentary ignored the influence of foreign states on the insurgency, and the strategic significance of the fact of that influence.]

Gen. George Casey: Insurgencies average about 9 years. Only Iraqis will defeat this insurgency. "They will do it with our support, but not necessarily with out total commitment."

"Casey argues that despite the rising death toll and an insurgency that appears to be growing, Iraq is making progress every day, and will be able to defeat the insurgents after the US leaves, even though he can't say when that will be."

Casey: "I am optimistic because I see ... Iraqis wanting something better, and I see Iraqi security forces coming forward every day to join the army, to join the police, and going out and fighting for the future of Iraq."

MacIntyre: The number of those forces and their competence is the topic of some debate. Only 3,000 are fully capable of fighting without U.S. help. Cut to Rumsfeld: "They're police. They're not supposed to deploy any place!"

Whatever the number, critics argue it is not enough.

8. Cut to Col. Thomas Hammes, who says that the battalion commanders are playing "whack a mole." We know in the past that is a losing approach. Hammes argues that you have to fight insurgents the way police fight street gangs. You need to be there all the time, not merely when something happens. Cut to John McCain saying the same thing.

TH Note: I agree with this, by the way. You need a lot of people to do it, though.

MacIntyre says that "Iraqization" smacks of "Vietnamization," but Hammes defends the strategy. He contends that "Vietnamization" would have worked as well, but the American "will" broke. That is why sustaining our will is so important in this war. TH Note: That is why I'm writing this post.

[UPDATE: Even if you don't agree that Vietnamization would have led to American victory had we not withdrawn, there is a crucial difference in Iraq. There, 80% of the population hate the Sunnis, who dominate the insurgency. The Shiites and the Kurds know their enemy, and will wage a civil war to crush it if the United States withdraws. Indeed, the greatest weakness in CNN's documentary was its failure to explore the significance of ethnic divisions within Iraq to the counterinsurgency.]

9. Back to the studio, talking about life in Baghdad among the Iraqis. CNN basically says that its American reports can't walk around because it is "too dangerous," so it asked two of "our Arab producers to spend a week taking the pulse of life in Baghdad. We found that amid the chaos and the fear and the frustration, there is some hope, some guarded optimism."

Cut to the Arab producers looking in on middle class Baghdad families.

"In Baghdad, frustration is a permanent state of mind." Fuel lines last hours, and sometimes days. They interview people in cafes, people at the track. Lots of fatalistic talk, despair for the future, and so forth. Non-stop individual "man on the street" stuff. Another group is "in between pessimistic, and understanding their responsibility for building the country."

According to the CNN Arab producer, "not a single person said the situation was good, or getting better." [UPDATE: A commenter points out that this is not consistent with poll results. Perhaps CNN's producers mostly hung with dispossessed Sunnis. In CNN's defense, it did confine its work in this segment to the Baghdad area, but the polls sample more broadly. CNN should have made that point, though.] The other one said "I don't think the Iraqis want the Americans to pull out. I think they want them to be invisible. They don't feel in control of their own country."

10. It's after 9, and I'm only a little over halfway through. Thank you TiVo.

Back to the studio. Lots of Chrenkoffish good facts about the rise of a free press, and the twists and turns of Iraqi democracy.

Lots of discussion about the difficulty of establishing a democracy, and trust in a fledgling new government, "all the more so because of what Iraqis regard as an unwelcome occupation."

Leslie Gelb, who was in Iraq studying its democracy at the request of the State Department: "Creating democracy in Iraq is going to be far harder than it was for us in the United States, and it was hard for us. We forget that." Very true.

Cut to Condi: The political progress is moving forward, and there will be a new set of political circumstances when they have a permanent government.

Kenneth Pollack (who is a very smart guy, and wrote the book on regime change in Iraq): "I think it is a mistake to keep pegging our hopes to these major events. Events like the election are important psychological milestones, but they are not necessarily major factors in determining whether or not Iraqi democracy can succeed." I agree, but the psychological factors should not be underestimated. "Will," after all, will be the margin of victory in this war.

Different Iraqis talking about whether the Sunnis will come into the political process, and that has exposed the insurgency, according to one guy.

Gelb: "I think that in order to keep Iraq together, the irony is you are going to have to give virtual autonomy to each of the three major groups to run its own affairs. That way they can have confidence that they will be essentially making the laws for themselves."

Iraqi: "The only way to defeat the insurgency is to have a strong state."

Pollack: "There certainly are Islamists who would like to be voted into office, and, like Hitler, have the democracy evaporate with that one vote."

Gelb: "I think we will be able to tell when there's victory or when we're on the way to victory by one simple measure: When in the center of Iraq, people can come out on the streets and begin to lead normal lives."

11. Studio: There does appear to be an effort by the Shia majority to reach out to the Sunni minority. But the insurgency has targeted the leadership, so they do their work in seclusion.

Gelb: "American officials, Iraqi leadership, are really cordoned off from the rest of society. In effect we're blinded by the need to protect ourselves, so we don't see what's going on out there." TH Note: That is also quite obviously true of the press.

Cut to a wedding [I hate wedding "moments" in war documentaries. - ed.]. The father of the bride was a captain in the Iraqi navy. He complains a lot about how lame the Americans are. TH Note: It is not revealed whether he is Sunni or not, Ba'athist or not. He sounds like a Ba'athist loser to me. "Is it true that the great America cannot fulfill its promises?"

[UPDATE: CNN only occasionally told us whether a particularly Iraqi was a Sunni, or whether the person had had an important position in the old regime. This is part-and-parcel with its failure to tease apart the sectarian issues in the country, and their relevance, if any, to the counterinsurgency. It is not clear whether CNN omitted this data because it genuinely believes it is immaterial, or because it -- like most Western media -- is extremely uncomfortable talking about sectarian or racial rivalry, or because it wanted to obscure whether a particularly negative person was an old regime loser.]

Cut to filmmakers, who are thrilled with their new freedom of expression "since the Americans came." The artists are the most optimistic people in the documentary, by a long shot.

12. Cut to Fallujah, a "symbol for the battle for Iraq." "Once an insurgent stronghold, it was nearly destroyed by American and Iraqi forces. CNN returned to Fallujah, to see what is working and what is not"

People are rebuilding, notwithstanding the profound destruction, "each brick a sign of optimism."

So far, this is the most optimistic segment in the documentary. There is significant progress in rebuilding both the housing stock and the civil society. Residents like the Marines (apparently), but do not like the Iraqi soldiers -- "too quick to shoot."

Conclusion: "So what can we say we have learned about the war in Iraq? We can say we know the insurgency remains the number one threat to success, and that the sooner the Iraqis learn to protect their country, the sooner the American forces can go home. We can also say we know more about what it will take for Iraq to build a real democracy. Iraq remains a grueling, painful work in progress. Things could still go either way."

UPDATE: Strata-Sphere live-blogged the show as well.

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