Friday, September 30, 2005

Condoleezza Rice speaks at Princeton 

I have repaired to the Nassau Street Starbucks in Princeton after having seen Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak to a packed Jadwin Gymnasium audience. She delivered what had been billed as a "major policy address" in connection with the opening ceremonies of the 75th Anniversary celegration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Cameras and other recording devices were banned for security reasons, so the raw material for this post is only my feeble memory and scribbled notes. When a transcript becomes available I will revise the post to reflect it. In any case, apologies in advance for the gaps.

Secretary Rice spoke to perhaps 5,000 alumni of the Wilson School, faculty, current students who won the lottery and random guests who otherwise managed to score a ticket. Both Princeton president, Shirley Tilghman, and the dean of the Wilson School, Anne-Marie Slaughter, introduced Secretary Rice, the latter devoting considerable attention to her Rice's June speech in Cairo, which "marked a historic turn." Slaughter emphasized the two big breakthroughs in that speech: that the United States was no longer going to sacrifice democratic aspirations on the alter of stability, and our acknowledgement of our own faults.

Secretary Rice then took the podium and graciously recognized that "many renowned American statesmen have worn the orange and black" (Kennan, Dulles, Schultz, Baker and, of course, Woodrow Wilson). After that, the audience was rapt (it not taking much to earn the attention of Princetonians -- we are simple people).

It is one thing to have ideals, but forging policies from those ideals is the practice of statecraft. In ordinary times, it is the job of diplomats to preserve the institutions that promote stability. In extraordinary times -- and she named examples from history, including particularly the horrid years following the Second World War -- the mission of statecraft is to transform our institutions and our relationships with other countries of the world.

Looking, then, at the example of the tough, early years of the Cold War, we can imagine how dismal the world must have look to the strategists laying the foundation for the victory of the West in that struggle. In 1946, Germans were still starving, and the reconstruction was a mess. In 1947, Japan still lay utterly in ruins. In 1948, the Berlin crisis solidified the division of Germany. In 1949, the Communists won in China, and in 1950 a horrible, bloody war broke out in a divided Korea.

In 1989, Rice said, she had the enormous privilege of serving as the principle expert on the Soviet Union in George H.W. Bush's White House, an amazing place from which to witness the collapse of the Communist system. Within weeks, transformations that once seemed impossible suddenly looked inevitable. Yet she realized that the success of 1989 was built on the strategy developed 40 years earlier by those statesmen of the early postwar era, who "succeeded brilliantly."

We live in similarly extraordinary times. Today we are building the institutions that one day will alter the political landscape of the Middle East.

To support her argument that the years since September 11 have been remarkable, she repeatedly and eloquently hammered home the difference between the talk of the nineties and the action of this decade. For years, the entire world talked about ending the Taliban's reign in Afghanistan, but we did it and now democracy is taking root there. For years, the entire world talked about ending Syria's occupation of Lebanon, but the United States and France joined forces to see that it happened. Rice pounded through several more examples showing that "for years, the entire world talked" but now, finally, there is actual change, ending of course, with the removal of Saddam's Ba'athist tyranny in Iraq.

Rice then spoke to the particular case of Iraq, discussing in detail the offenses of the foreign jihadis and explaining -- to those for whom it is not obvious -- why we must not withdraw now. To do so would be to cede Iraq to al Qaeda, and that will destroy all that we have been fighting for. Instead, we create the space for Iraqis to build the institutions necessary to succeed without us, and give them the time that we ourselves required to build our own functioning government out of the terms of our constitution.

If I can locate a transcript later this evening, I will revise this post to add the most important direct quotations and my own analysis.

Secretary Rice also took questions from the audience, which are not likely to show up in any transcript. Of these, two stood out. The first questioner challenged her on the apparently softer line that the United States was taking toward Hamas, and wondered whether that was not inconsistent with the ideals Rice had expressed in this speech. She responded by emphasizing that the United States has been "very clear" that Hamas remains a terrorist group that must disband. However, this may be a time to give the Palestinians the "political space" to achieve that result on their own. That having been said, Hamas stands for a "one-state solution," which means that there can never be peace in the region as long as Hamas remains armed.

Another questioner asked Rice to comment on the reception that Karen Hughes had received in Saudi Arabia (my post on her "reception" in Turkey is here). Rice said quite forcefully that public diplomacy is a "conversation, not a monologue," and that she was very excited to see Saudi women, in particular, speaking out publicly about issues that concern them. This, she said, was very heartening progress notwithstanding the substance of their opinions, which Rice said were "quite diverse."

In the end, she received an extended ovation, and the chattering as the crowd exited was extremely favorable. She is a very charismatic woman, and should she choose to seek elective office she will be a force to be reckoned with.

More later.

UPDATE (8:45 pm EDT): It's now later, and the transcript of Rice's speech is up at the State Department web site. It is well-worth reading in its entirety. As promised, I have a few supplemental notes.

On the stability vs. democracy trade-off:
Some would argue that this broad approach to the problem is making the world less stable by rocking the boat and wrecking the status quo. But this presumes the existence of a stable status quo that does not threaten global security. This is not the case. A regional order that produced an ideology of hatred so savage as the one we now confront is not serving any civilized interest.

For 60 years, we often thought that we could achieve stability without liberty in the Middle East. And ultimately, we got neither. Now, we must recognize, as we do in every other region of the world, that liberty and democracy are the only guarantees of true stability and lasting security.

There are those who worry that greater freedom of choice in the Middle East will only liberate and empower extremism. In fact, the opposite is true: A political culture of transparency and openness is not one in which extremist beliefs can ultimately thrive. Extremism is most dangerous when it lurks in the dark and hides underground. When there is no political space for individuals to advance their interests and redress their grievances, then they retreat into the shadows to grow ever more radical and divorced from reality. We saw the result of that on September 11th and now we must work to advance democratic reform throughout the greater Middle East.

In this passage, Rice is responding to a growing academic assault on the Bush administration's democraticization initiative. See, for example, this very narrow-minded article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs (a fisking of which is coming soon, I might add).

On the difficulty of seeing strategic success in the early stages of a long struggle:
In 1989, I was lucky enough to be the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. It doesn't get any better than that. I was there for the liberation of Eastern Europe; the unification of Germany; and for the beginnings of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union itself. I saw things that I never thought possible. And one day, they seemed impossible; and several days later, they seemed inevitable. That is the nature of extraordinary times.

But as I look back now on those times, I realized that I was only harvesting the good decisions that had been taken in 1947, in 1948, and in 1949. And sometimes, I wonder how in the course of events, the course of the moment, people like Acheson and Truman and Marshall and Vandenberg saw a path ahead. After all, in 1946, the Germany Reconstruction was still failing and Germans were still starving. Japan lay prostrate. In 1947, there was a civil war in Greece. In 1948, Germany was permanently divided by the Berlin Crisis; Czechoslovakia was lost to a communist coup. And in 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule; and the Chinese communists won their war. In 1950, a brutal war broke on the Korean Peninsula.

So, if you think that this war looks long and tough now, consider the pressures on the generation that had just emerged from the Great Depression and World War II, only to face the rise of Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China.
These were not just tactical setbacks for the forward march of democracy. Indeed, it must have seemed quite impossible, that we would one day, stand at a juncture where Eastern Europe would be liberated, Russia would emerge, and Europe would be whole and free and at peace. If we think back on those days, we recognize that extraordinary times are turbulent and they are hard. And it is very often hard to see a clear path. But if you are -- as those great architects of the post-Cold War victory were -- if you are true to your values, if you are certain of your values, and if you act upon them with confidence and with strength, it is possible to have an outcome where democracy spreads and peace and liberty reign.


And welcome Roger L. Simon and Instapundit readers!

UPDATE (Saturday afternoon): Fausta has more here. In addition, later tonight I will publish my coverage of Lt. General David Petraeus' discussion at Princeton this afternoon, in which he reported on the preparedness of the Iraqi military and special police.

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The Big One 

The last weekend of Major League Baseball's regular season is upon us, and all eyes are on the American League East, where the New York Yankees lead the Boston Red Sox by 1 game, with three games left to play. And guess what: they play each other in Fenway starting tonight.

But it wouldn't be that way if it hadn't been for the heroics of David Ortiz, who pulled Boston's fat out of the fire last night against the Blue Jays.

The MVP contender tied the game in the eighth inning with his AL-leading 47th homer, then singled home the winning run in the ninth to give Boston a critical 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.

For the Red Sox to win the division outright, they will have to sweep the Yankees. If they win two, they will finish the season tied and force a one game play-off next Monday. And the situation becomes all the more interesting because of the AL wildcard which will also be determined, and which will be one of these two teams or the Cleveland Indians. If the Red Sox and Indians both win two of three this weekend, there will be a double playoff, with Boston traveling to New York for the AL East tiebreaker and the loser playing the Indians for the wild card.

Cleveland faces the Chicago White Sox, who almost made things more complicated then they already are watching their 16 game lead in the AL Central dwindle to 2.5. But the White Sox narrowly avoided one of the biggest collapses in baseball history by clinching the division against the Tigers last night, while the Indians fell to Tampa Bay.

Back to New York vs Boston, the pitching match-ups for the weekend look like this:

Friday: Chien-Ming Wang vs David Wells

Saturday: Randy Johnson vs Tim Wakefield

Sunday: Mike Mussina vs Curt Schilling

October baseball rules.

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The next crisis II 

A follow up to yesterday's bird flu post. The AP reports that the UN is getting very concerned.

A top U.N. public health expert warned Thursday that a new influenza pandemic could come anytime and claim millions of lives unless officials to take action now to control an epidemic in Asia.

Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization called on governments to take immediate steps to address the threat at a news conference following his appointment as the new U.N. coordinator to lead a global drive to counter a human flu pandemic.

"We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now, and it's likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia," he said.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 65 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of birds. The virus does not pass from person to person easily, but experts believe this could change if the virus mutates.

Nabarro said with the almost certainty of another influenza pandemic soon, and with experts saying there is a high likelihood of the H5N1 virus mutating, it would be "extremely wrong" to ignore the serious possibility of a global outbreak.

"The avian flu epidemic has to be controlled if we are to prevent a human influenza pandemic," Nabarro said.

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 40 million people, and there were subsequent pandemics in 1957 and 1968 which had lower death rates but caused great disruption, he said. In a new pandemic, Nabarro said, "the range of deaths could be anything between 5 and 150 million."
There was a time when the UN brought instant credibility to a story like this in my mind. Now I'm not so sure about anything. Still, something as unpredictable and potentially dangerous as bird flu seems to warrant paying attention even to what the UN has to say.

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Judith Miller gets out, but will she clear up the mystery? 

As Tom Maguire (the righty 'sphere's leading PlameGate expert) has said repeatedly (and did again yesterday), now that Judith Miller's out of the hoosegow we can at least hope for some enlightenment. Hope is all we have, though, because the one thing we do know is that Judith Miller is being so disingenuous about her reasons for going to jail that we cannot expect to learn anything useful from her. I am not suggesting, by the way, that she will perjure herself in front of the grand jury, but I am not sure that she will ever clearly explain why she went to jail.

Of course, she has repeatedly claimed that she did so to protect the identity of a confidential source. Yesterday, in fact, she said this:
"It's good to be free," Miller said in a statement last night. "I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. . . . I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter."

Unfortunately, the prosecutor and the presiding judge in this case have known for the better part of a year exactly who that source was. According to the WaPo on February 16:
According to the appellate court's opinion, [Special Counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald knows the identity of the person with whom Miller spoke and wants to question her about her contact with that "specified government official" on or about July 6, 2003.

The subpoena that Judith Miller refused to respond to, in fact, disclosed the name of the alleged confidential source, so the government already knew that Scooter was the source from Scooter, as has been confirmed for the umpteenth time today ("Joseph Tate, an attorney for Libby, said yesterday that he told Miller attorney Floyd Abrams a year ago that Libby's waiver was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify"). And while Miller's source's name has not been official released until yesterday, Sharp observers have argued for months that it must be "Scooter" Libby, as it turned out to be.

So Miller's claim above, while technically true if finely parsed (she was, perhaps, "respecting a promise" to keep a source confidential by not confirming what the entire world already knew), was extremely disingenuous. Moreover, she was not even protecting the content of the conversation that she had with Mr. Libbey, because he had already testified. Based on the facts that we know today (unless I've missed something -- I am no Tom Maguire), Miller is merely protecting her version of the content of the conversation. Why?

The other possibility, of course, is that Miller served that time in jail upholding a "principle" as penance for her reporting on WMD in Iraq in the run-up to the war, which has earned her the undying enmity of the left. In today's hostile climate, her social network must have turned a very cold shoulder when it surfaced that her source was Ahmed Chalabi, who apparently spun her like a dradle. There's nothing like jail time for the sake of "journalism" to rebuild one's street cred with the chattering classes.

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Al-Qaeda and the Emirates 

A United Arab Emirates government think-tank, the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, has issued a report warning about the risk that al Qaeda poses to the Gulf States, which have been crucial supporters of the Coalition's war in Iraq. The bad guys are "busy recruiting and sinking roots in the region," although -- amazingly, if you think about it -- al Qaeda has not yet attacked the wealthy and economically liberal Gulf States (including Bahrain and Qatar).

The UAE, Bahrain and Qatar are also vulnerable, the report says, because they are an ideal "logistical hub" for al Qaeda, with liberal banking laws and far fewer internal controls than Saudi Arabia, one of al Qaeda's principal targets. All three countries are loaded up with pink and juicy Western targets expatriots, and all three are close enough to be worried about blowback from Iraq.
The Emirates think tank said the lesson of Afghanistan must not be forgotten by anyone in the region.

"Many of those who went to fight the Soviets (in Afghanistan) had left with their countries' blessing, and that didn't prevent them from turning against their countries. Which begs the question: What will it be like for those who ... are going to Iraq without their countries' approval and are accusing their nations of cooperating with the enemy?" it said.

"The danger these individuals will pose will be bigger and more dangerous," the study warned.

Perhaps this guy (one of the aforementioned targets expatriots) will do us all a useful public service and get his hands on an English translation of the actual report so we don't have to settle for the Associated Press's version.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thought crimes and Euro-sentencing 

LGF alerts us to this story of a crime of speech and the bizarre sentence handed down by a Spanish judge.

It seems that Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, imam of a mosque in the southern Spanish resort of Fuengirola, wrote a book that instructed, inter alia, how to beat one's wife without leaving any marks ("The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body."). Apparently the Spanish have little enough regard for freedom of the press or the free exercise of religion that the mere publication of this advice led to a criminal case against Mr. Mustafa. [All those Europeans who complain about America's disregard for human rights should take a hard look at their own practice of criminalizing speech. - ed.]

Convicted for "inciting violence against women," the court sentenced him to 15 months in prison, which seems like a reasonable penalty if one accepts the extremely dubious premise that the publication of a book other than the Torah, the Christian Bible or the Holy Koran can ever incite violence. The judge, however, let Mustafa out after having served only 22 days -- approximately 5% of the original sentence -- on the condition that Mustafa undertake a "re-education course" consisting of spending "six months studying three articles of the [Spanish] constitution and the universal declaration of human rights." The constitutional provisions in question address "the dignity of a person and inviolable rights," equal protection before the law, and the Spanish ban on torture or "inhuman or degrading punishments or treatment."

Even ignoring the curious use of the word "re-education" (freighted as it is with totalitarian application especially for the purpose of extinguishing religious vitality), the judge's sentence begs more questions than it answers. How can one possibly spend six months "studying" three provisions in the Spanish constitution and the four-page Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Won't the Imam be able to get through this material during a couple of long sessions on the toilet, perhaps after his morning coffee? And even if he were assigned back-up reading -- say, one law review article per constitutional article and one manly treatise on the Universal Declaration -- couldn't even a lunk-headed imam get through it all in a week? Indeed, if the judge is serious that the imam should spend "six months" studying this small body of law, is the judge not, in fact, violating the Spanish constitution's injunction against "inhuman or degrading punishments"? Or is this sentence a mere slap on the wrist? So to speak.

It is worth taking a closer look at the speech that gave rise to this stupidity. Mr. Mustafa's book is, at one level, deeply offensive:
In his book "Women in Islam," published four years ago, Mr. Mustafa wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife.

If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, beatings could be judiciously administered.

"The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body," he wrote.

Yuck. What an idiot. But is it any more likely to "incite violence" than saying "spare the rod and spoil the child"? If the imam has these opinions, why is it either just or sensible to prosecute him for uttering them? Isn't it better to leave him free to write these things, and leave us free to ridicule him? ("Hey, imam, what wife wants to have sex with a man who would beat her?") Or is ridiculing an imam "inciting violence"?


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The next crisis? 

I don't know too much about Avian Flu, but you can't do much surfing these days without encountering plenty of commentary warning that it may be the next pandemic. Frankly, this risk seems a lot more immediate to me than climate change, and it seems to me we owe it to ourselves and to our families to understand a lot more about it, and to prepare on our own in whatever ways make sense. If Katrina tells us nothing else, it reminds us that a) in times of extreme crisis, the government probably cannot help you, and b) if you wait until the crisis to prepare, you will be too late.

A good place to start is this recent article from Foreign Affairs, which provides an update on the history of the Avian flu, but also explains why it is so dangerous, putting things into a frightening historical context.

The havoc such a disease could wreak is commonly compared to the devastation of the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people in 18 months. But avian flu is far more dangerous. It kills 100 percent of the domesticated chickens it infects, and among humans the disease is also lethal: as of May 1, about 109 people were known to have contracted it, and it killed 54 percent (although this statistic does not include any milder cases that may have gone unreported). Since it first appeared in southern China in 1997, the virus has mutated, becoming heartier and deadlier and killing a wider range of species. According to the March 2005 National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine flu report, the "current ongoing epidemic of H5N1 avian influenza in Asia is unprecedented in its scale, in its spread, and in the economic losses it has caused."

How bad was the Spanish influeza epidemic?

Nearly half of all deaths in the United States in 1918 were flu related. Some 675,000 Americans -- about 0.6 percent of the population of 105 million and the equivalent of 2 million American deaths today -- perished from the Spanish flu. The average life expectancy for Americans born in 1918 was just 37 years, down from 55 in 1917. Although doctors then lacked the technology to test people's blood for flu infections, scientists reckon that the Spanish flu had a mortality rate of just less than one percent of those who took ill in the United States. It would have been much worse had there not been milder flu epidemics in the 1850s and in 1889, caused by similar but less virulent viruses, which made most elderly Americans immune to the 1918-19 strain. The highest death tolls were among young adults, ages 20-35.

Bird flu is not yet transmitted between humans, and so outbreaks can be controlled by exterminating chickens, but influenza has a long history of mutation that leads scientists to believe it is only a matter of time before this one makes the jump. The global ramifications of the resulting pandemic are enormous and terrifying. I strongly recommend reading the entire article. And there is a lot more out there as well.

Assuming it is coming, how does one prepare for an epidemic? That is a really good question. Captain Dave suggests taking the following measures once the first outbreak occurs:

If you must go out in public, wear a surgical or N95 mask and wash your hands regularly. Decontaminate (wash with antibacterial soap) as soon as you come home. Limit your air travel as much as possible. SARS has been spread by people on airlines, and it is likely that Avian Influenza will be as well. Stay off public transportation once the illness has reached your area. Avoid crowded public spaces such as movie theaters, malls and arenas. Pull your children out of school.

Avoid hospitals and health clinics where sick people will go for diagnoses and treatment. A huge percentage of SARs patients got sick while in the hospital. If you are sick and need care, go to the hospital, but don’t do so for elective surgery. If you need prescriptions refilled, do so through the mail, or at least use the drive-in window if your pharmacy has one, rather than going and waiting in line with all the other ill people at the pharmacy counter.

Once an epidemic has reached your region of the country, practice Self-Imposed Quarantine. Instead of expecting sick or contagious to isolate themselves, take the initiative and isolate yourself. Locking your family inside the house is much safer and more foolproof than expecting someone who is contagious to know it and to willingly quarantine themselves.

Self-Imposed quarantine won't really be necessary, will it? That would require staying home from work and school, which seems terribly disruptive. I guess we can't go to the store either, which means we'd have to plan ahead and stockpile some supplies.

These sound like the rantings of a survivalist nut! After all, the government will surely vaccinate us all at the first sign of real danger.


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What can New Orleans teach us about Iraq? 

There have been some extreme voices trying to draw a connection between the problems in New Orleans and the war in Iraq (not even counting Cindy Sheehan's call for a withdrawal of troops from "occupied New Orleans"), but what is the real lesson here? Hugh Hewitt thinks it is this:

Horrific stories of murders and rapes spread like wildfire, reports of little girls with their throats slashed stunned Americans, and hysteria gripped many in the MSM. Weeks later the Los Angeles Times and others began to examine the collapse of the media's own levees that traditionally hold back rumor and urban myth.

Given this failure to capture the true story in New Orleans even with all of the combined resources of all the MSM working around the clock, why would anyone believe that American media is accurately reporting on the events in Iraq
from the Green Zone, in the course of a bloody insurgency fought in a language they don't understand? If the combined forces of old media couldn't get one accurate story out of the convention center, why for a moment believe it can get a story out of Mosul or Najaf?

I'll stick with Michael Yon, Major K, and Training for Eternity when it comes to Iraq.

I'm inclined to agree.

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"Exporting" this and that "by force" 

Karen Hughes, who in her capacity as Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy has drawn the job of international flak-magnet for the State Department, met with women's groups in Turkey yesterday. Not surprisingly, she heard the usual objections to "exporting democracy at the point of a gun":
Feray Salman, a human rights campaigner, said that while she believed in democracy, the Bush administration was trying to export it by force. "States cannot interfere through wars," she said.

It is interesting that Ms. Salman limited her condemnation of interference to states. And there was no evidence that she had any objection even to states exporting fascism "through wars," which is precisely what Syria and Iran, at least, are trying to do in Iraq.

Hughes, though, demonstated that she remains one of the most nimble spokespersons in this administration (a "best hockey player in Ecuador" standard, I admit), pointing out the moral confusion in Turkish anti-Americanism:
Turkey has charged the Bush administration with not denouncing violent acts by the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the P.K.K. Asked by one speaker why the United States refused to label the group a terrorist organization, Ms. Hughes said the administration had done just that.

"We condemn P.K.K. terrorism," she said. But then she noted what she called an irony, that the women were expecting American support for the sometimes violent Turkish crackdown on Kurdish separatists while also denouncing American battles with insurgents in Iraq.

"Sometimes you have to engage in combat in order to confront terrorism," Ms. Hughes said.


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This can't be good news 

You have to hand it to the Palestinian Arabs -- they don't ignore Western cultural traditions. They cherry-pick our greatest contributions:
The wanna-be gangsta boys arrive in baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts bearing the likeness of rapper Tupac Shakur, looking for a chance to freestyle with the night's star performers. The groupie girls in glittery tops throw their hands in the air, cheering on the breakdancers, when the hip-hop party is brought to a screeching halt:

Time for evening prayer.

Across the Gaza Strip, West Bank and even in Israel, young Arabic rappers are trying to juggle Middle East traditions with contemporary Western culture to create a political voice for their generation.

"It's the CNN of Palestine," says Tamer Nafar, a way to broadcast the news. Nafar, a skinny 26-year-old, is helping to turn Arabic hip-hop into an international phenomenon.

As a movement in its infancy, Palestinian hip-hop shares more in common with early American rap than the narcissistic, modern-day mainstream hip-hop that dominates MTV.

Just as Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Ice-T created furors with songs such as "911 Is a Joke," "F-k Tha Police" and "Cop Killer," Palestinian rappers such as Nafar take a provocative, controversial approach with songs such as "Who's a Terrorist."

"You call me the terrorist?

Who's the terrorist?

I'm the terrorist?

How am I the terrorist

When you've taken my land?!

Who's the terrorist?

You're the terrorist!

You've taken everything I own

while I'm living in my homeland."


You can get a look at some of the Palestinian Arab rap groups here. Thankfully, their posses, if they have them, are not in evidence.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pleasure Reading? 

This sounds like it might make an interesting read...if you're interested in reading geopolitical strategy and analysis, that is.

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Pictures of the counter-protests 

The counter-protestors were, at least, witty. Pictures here.

CWCID: Winds.

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Reminder on Iraq 

If you want to read an outstanding piece on the going-on in Iraq and "Arabia" generally, read Fouad Ajami's op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal [UPDATED to add a direct link]. It is brilliantly written and a very good reminder of the stakes and the complexity of the Middle East. A sample:

The drumbeats against Iraq that originate from the League of Arab States and its Egyptian apparatchiks betray the panic of an old Arab political class afraid that there is something new unfolding in Iraq -- a different understanding of political power and citizenship, a possible break with the culture of tyranny and the cult of Big Men disposing of the affairs -- and the treasure -- of nations. It is pitiable that an Egyptian political class that has abdicated its own dream of modernity and bent to the will of a pharaonic regime is obsessed with the doings in Iraq. But this is the political space left open by the master of the realm. To be sure, there is terror in the streets of Iraq; there is plenty there for the custodians of a stagnant regime in Cairo to point to as a cautionary tale of what awaits societies that break with "secure" ways. But the Egyptian autocracy knows the stakes. An Iraqi polity with a modern social contract would be a rebuke to all that Egypt stands for, a cruel reminder of the heartbreak of Egyptians in recent years. We must not fall for Cairo's claims of primacy in Arab politics; these are hollow, and Iraq will further expose the rot that has settled upon the political life of Egypt.

And another:

It was the luck of the imperial draw that the American project in Iraq came to the rescue of the Shiites -- and of the Kurds. We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world. We have overturned an edifice of material and moral power that dates back centuries. The Arabs railing against U.S. imperialism and arrogance in Iraq will never let us in on the real sources of their resentments. In the way of "modern" men and women with some familiarity with the doctrines of political correctness, they can't tell us that they are aggrieved that we have given a measure of self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf and the highlanders of Kurdistan. But that is precisely what gnaws at them.

An edifice of Arab nationalism built by strange bedfellows -- the Sunni political and bureaucratic elites, and the Christian Arab pundits who abetted them in the idle hope that they would be spared the wrath of the street and of the mob -- was overturned in Iraq. And America, at times ambivalent about its mission, brought along with its military gear a suspicion of the Shiites, a belief that the Iraqi Shiites were an extension of Iran, a community destined to build a sister-republic of the Iranian theocracy. Washington has its cadre of Arabists reared on Arab nationalist historiography. This camp had a seat at the table, but the very scale of what was at play in Iraq, and the redemptionism at the heart of George Bush's ideology, dwarfed them.

Read it all.

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The fifth anniversary of the second intifada 

The Palestinian Arabs launched their so-called "second intifada" against Israel five years ago today, on September 28, 2000, 348 days before al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington. Natan Sharansky described the political context in his book The Case for Democracy:
On September 28, 2000, a day when Israelis were celebrating the Jewish New Year, the second "intifada" began. Unlike the first intifada thirteen years before, this was no spontaneous uprising. The pretext for the violence was the visit two days earlier of then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, the holiest place for the Jewish people and the site of the world-famous Al-Aqsa Mosque. Absurdly, many people around the world called Sharon's visit a "provocation." In fact, not only was it coordinated with the appropriate Moslem religious authorities in advance, but Israeli ministers and members of the Knesset often went to the Temple Mount without incident and continue to go there today. I myself was there recently as part of my duties as minister of Jerusalem affairs.

The calculated campaign of terror was designed to gain through violence what could not be achieved through diplomacy. Prime Minister Barak had agreed to offer Arafat everything the PA leader was believed in the "West" to have wanted: a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Jerusalem, even a formula for resolving the Palestinian refugee issue. But Barak demanded one thing in return: that Arafat end the conflict, something the Palestinian dictator had no intention of doing. For six years, Arafat built a society based on fear, maintaining his repressive rule by mobilizing his peopple for war against the Jewish state. He was not about to give up the enemy that stabilized his control over the Palestinians or end the conflict that was his lifeblood.

Barak's offer temporarily wrong-footed Arafat: By refusing it, he became the obstacle to peace. To turn the diplomatic tables on Israel, Arafat waged war. That Arafat would seriously think he could force Israel, with its vastly superior army and in an ostensibly strong diplomatic position, into making concessions may seem hard to believe. But Arafat knew he had an ace up his sleeve: the lack of moral clarity in the free world, which allowed Arafat to be seen as a victim of Israel's superior military capability. Ironically, by conferring legitimacy on him, and by calling on others to do the same, Israeli governments, including those in which I served, had contributed to this lack of moral clarity.

In a world that did not recognize the moral difference between free and fear societies and in a world that expected democracies at war to act like democracies at peace, Arafat had a huge advantage. In this moral confusion, he could turn the aggressor into a victim and a state defending itself according to the highest human rights standards into an international pariah. The wall-to-wall support that Israel should have received from the democratic world in repelling the unprecedented terrorist war Arafat launched never materialized. And with moral clarity in short supply, the boundaries of legitimate criticism of the State of Israel became blurred, helping trigger a new wave of anti-Semitism the likes of which the free world had not seen for sixty years.

It will be interesting to see what the mainstream media publishes today in recognition of this anniversary. With the benefit of hindsight, will it still fault Israel, whether implicitly by dint of false moral equivalence or explicitly? If you see any examples of particularly egregious coverage of "intifada anniversary festivities," please dump the link into the comments.

UPDATE: The BBC is quite helpfully re-running its original article on Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount:
"'Provocative' mosque visit sparks riots"

Palestinians and Israeli police have clashed in the worst violence for several years at Jerusalem's holiest site, the compound around Al-Aqsa mosque.

The violence began after a highly controversial tour of the mosque compound early this morning by hardline Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Arabs in Syria pine for their hero, and call for the war against Israel to continue:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Implausible headline of the day 

'Ann Coulter Breaks Her Silence' - headline, Newsmax.com.

I was unaware that Ann had been biting her tongue.

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Ralph Peters Mocks the Anti-war Set 

Gosh I enjoyed this one.Ralph says it much better than I can. A snippet:

A popular theme last weekend was, "War, what is it good for?" Well, the answer is that war's good for plenty of things. It freed and forged our nation. War liberated millions of black Americans from bondage. War stopped Hitler, if too late for many millions of his victims (peace at any price tends to have a very high price, indeed).

And our troops liberated 50 million human beings in Afghanistan and Iraq — who are far more grateful than the protesters or our media will accept.

In this infernally troubled world, war is sometimes the only effective response to greater evils. And there is evil on this earth. It would also be easier to sympathize with the anti-war protesters if they occasionally criticized the terrorists who bomb the innocent.


Correction: I initally improperly credited this piece to George Will. My bad.

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More on Iran - India joins US at IAEA 

Roger Simon deserves credit for this find, and it is definitely worth reading. It is noteworthy that India supported the eventual US position, and Russia and China apparently abstained, but did not oppose, the US posture. Only Venezuela voted against! Hark, a new member of the Axis?

It will be interesting to see when the MSM stops caring about France and Germany and starts caring about India and China. Read the story...it's interesting. Thanks Roger.

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Michael Barone offers up "the Big Picture." The punch line? "A world spinning out of control? No, it is more like a world moving, with some backward steps, in the direction we want." Read the whole thing.

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The humiliation of al Qaeda in Iraq 

A poster depicting al-Qaida leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is seen in Baghdad, Iraq Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005. U.S. and Iraqi forces killed Abdullah Abu Azzam, top aide to the al-Qaida leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a raid in Baghdad over the weekend, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Poster reads 'God willing - this will be the end of al-Qaida in Iraq'.(AP Photo)

God willing, indeed.

As we have argued repeatedly (and will again), we do not have to pacify all of Iraq and hunt down every Ba'athist rejectionist in order to score a huge victory against al Qaeda, which has bet the cave complex on humiliating America. The persistent Sunni insurgency notwithstanding, we are embarrassing al Qaeda and -- in all likelihood -- doing serious damage to its prestige. This is exactly the wrong moment to relent.

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Al Qaeda stalks the Paris metro 

Surely this is powerful evidence that opting out of Operation Iraqi Freedom doesn't earn a free pass from the jihadis:
Terror suspects detained in France had been eyeing up the Parisian metro network, an airport and the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service as possible targets, sources close to the investigation said...

Officials said the men were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an armed Algerian group that grew out of the GIA [the Algerian Armed Islamic Group] and has links to the Al-Qaeda network.

The ringleader of the suspected terrorist wannabes had been released after a Euro-style jail sentence:
Among those being held is Safe Bourada, 35, who was released from prison in 2003 after five years for helping organise a series of bomb attacks in France in 1995 for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

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Hitchens on the pro-war movement 

To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh. And this in a week when Afghans went back to the polls, and when Iraqis were preparing to do so, under a hail of fire from those who blow up mosques and U.N. buildings, behead aid workers and journalists, proclaim fatwahs against the wrong kind of Muslim, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus.

Some of the leading figures in this "movement," such as George Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and say that they support the Baathist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way to tell what's going on is this: Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might think that such an accusation—these thugs were cloned by the American empire for God's sake—would lead to instant condemnation. But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)

Need I say it? RTWT.

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Al Qaeda # 2 Killed in Iraq 

CNN is reporting that this fellow has been captured. TH is feeling more right every day.

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The TigerHawk niece 

As previously reported:
Cute. Just sayin', is all.

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Reuters finally gets a caption right 

The Reuters caption:
Police carry Cindy Sheehan, the California woman who has used her son's death in Iraq to spur the anti-war movement, as she is arrested during a demonstration outside the White House, Monday, Sept. 26, 2005 in Washington.


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Monday, September 26, 2005

More on Iran 

Michael Ledeen stridently proclaims the absence of an effective Iran policy from the current administration and highlights Iran as our principal threat (hat tip: Powerline).

Tigerhawk and I have recently made loud noises about the centrality of Iran to resolution of our current conflict in the Middle East and the War on Terror. These conflicts are all integrally related, and any reporter who fails to appreciate this is ignorant. Thankfully, the current administration does recognize this. Ledeen's highly critical article, juxtaposed with his high degree of conservatism, thus makes for interesting reading.

I don't buy it. I agree that the US has not clearly articulated our intentions viz. Iran. But why should we? There is an increasing drumbeat that highlights Iran as a newly developing threat. But this isn't new. The new President of Iran is one of the guys who seized the US Embassy in 1979 and held our people hostage for over a year. Iran has been financing and training Hezbollah for 20 years. They have provided arms, training and sanctuary to terrorists since inception. In fact, we originally supported Saddam as a bulwark against Iran during the 1981-1988 Iran Iraq War. So this isn't new folks. This is old, and I believe we have a policy, and we are executing that policy. What we are not doing is articulating that policy.

Iran is under grave threat. Mortal threat. Since September 2001, we have encircled Iran, toppling regimes surrounding it or securing their allegiance. Iran is surrounded by enemies, who are in turn buttressed by us economically and militarily. Who are Iran's friends exactly? Hezbollah, Syria and a few Iraqi Shiites. Not exactly a power trio.

Furthermore, the Mullahs have never faced so much internal dissent as they do currently. It is reflected in the extremely retrograde results of their "elections," the stream of defectors and capital flight from the country (which Ledeen cites) and the internal purge the Mullahs have launched.

Cornered, the regime is lashing out in the form of the nuclear negotiations.

So what is the US doing? What is our policy? Well, we didn't exactly announce D- Day in advance, now did we? In fact, while we were dragged into War in 1941, we didn't actually get to the heart of Europe until 1944...only after we had first gone to North Africa and Italy. And the Brits had been at it for several years already, with the best we could do being the "Lend Lease Act." We take our time when it comes to executing a war strategy. And we should.

Sometime between now and the end of the Bush Administration, I suspect we will have a hot conflict with Iran. What I cannot tell is whether we intend to allow them to launch it, or whether we will preempt. Generally, it feels as though the Bush Administration is waiting, and here are my best reasons to wait:

1) Bring as much political finality to Iraq as possible - finalized constitution; seated, elected government.

2) Secure oil resources as broadly as possible - Saudi, Iraq, Libya, Russia

3) Ensure tacit backing from China - resolve North Korea, stabilize Japan -- remember China and Japan have enormous energy needs and aren't in the modd to be held hostage by Iran either.

4) Exhaust the Europeans into support by allowing them to be embarrassed by Iran

5) If possible, bring the Russians into line -- the least likely cooperator. If not, tough.

6) Be prepared to respond to an Iranian attack in Iraq.

The US and Britain clearly have special operators at work in Iran. A low level, low intensity war is already at hand. It is a matter of time before that war comes to he surface. What is unclear is who moves next...

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The British in Basra: Confronting Iran 

I have not written on the problems in Basra, which surfaced about a week ago when the Iraqis a couple of British agents into the klink and the Brits busted them out. As most of you know, this encounter has led to no end of bitterness in southern Iraq even though nobody had explained what the agents were doing and why they were arrested.

Today we learned that the troubles in Basra are the visible manifestation of the shadow war with Iran.
The two British special forces soldiers dramatically freed in an attack on an Iraqi police station this week were part of a team monitoring militant infiltration from Iran, the Sunday Times said.

Citing an unnamed source, the newspaper said special forces troops had been based near the southern city of Basra for weeks tracking the suppliers of armour-piercing roadside bombs believed to have come over the nearby border with Iran.

"Since the increase in attacks against UK forces two months ago, a 24-strong SAS team has been working out of Basra to provide a safety net to stop the bombers getting into the city from Iran," the source was cited as saying.

"The aim is to identify routes used by insurgents and either capture or kill them."

The two Special Air Service (SAS) troopers were operating undercover when they were approached by Iraqi police, and fired on the police before being arrested.

The press has under-covered the extent of Iranian infiltration of Iraq, but it is finally beginning to seep into the consciousness of the mainstream media. The Iranians have been supplying at least some elements of the insurgency in Iraq with advanced explosives to deploy in IEDs (do not miss Dan Darling's excellent post on that subject, linking Hezbollah and al Qaeda). We have also known for at least two years that the Iranians were much more deeply embedded with the Shiites in southern Iraq than had been previously believed. As Stratfor wrote($) in February 2004, fingering our reliance on Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, which had very close ties with Tehran, for much of the problem:
U.S. intelligence about Iraq was terrible. It was wrong about WMD; it underestimated the extent to which the Shia in the south had been organized by Iranian intelligence prior to the war; it was wrong about how the war would end -- predicting unrest, but not predicting a systematic guerrilla war. An enormous amount of this intelligence -- and certainly critical parts of it -- came to the United States by way of the INC or by channels the INC or its members were involved in cultivating. All of it was wrong.

The Iranian infiltration continues notwithstanding two years of British administration. As the Seattle Times reported last week:
While the United States battles Sunni extremists in northern Iraq, different but potentially more enduring Islamic radicals — many with close ties to Iran — have been allowed to take root in the south.

This was painfully evident this week, when the British army attacked the Iraqi police force they had trained for two years, only to find the police had handed two British soldiers over to the most hardline Shiite militia....

Agents of Iran — quite possibly the U.S. government's next adversary in the Middle East — have thoroughly infiltrated both the local security police in Basra and the elite paramilitary brigades sent in by the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, according to sources with access to U.S. intelligence. They are also heavily involved in the militias of some of the governing political parties.

What is happening in Basra, until recently little noticed in the international press, is described by one U.S. diplomat as "our dirty little secret."

One needs to be cautious about reading too much into stories such as these. Reports such as Stratfor's and the Seattle Times account quoted above always promote somebody's bureaucratic agenda -- often that of the State Department at the expense of DoD -- but it would nevertheless be foolish to think that Iran did not have significant influence among the Shia of the south. Iraq has long been Iran's greatest security threat, and the Iranians would have to have been foolish indeed not to infiltrate Iraq to the limits of its ability.

English-language Arab paper Al Sharq Al Awsat describes Iran's influence in Iraq even more starkly:
According to some documents, in addition to the statements of colonel Ismael, a leader of Al Quds Corps, who fled from Iran and Al Sharq Al Awsat has previously published an interview with him, Major Yasser, from the Guard intelligence, and a top official from the office of the Supreme Guide Khamenei, who requested anonymity, 3000-4000 men from the Guard and Al Quds Corps and the intelligence ministry have been sent to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein...

The Iranian intelligence has purchased and rented more than 5000 homes, apartments, stores, warehouses, bookstores, mosques, restaurants, gas stations, etc, in Al Basra, Al Diwaneya, Al Kufa, Al Najaf, Karbala, Al Kazimiyah and Baghdad, for residence and employment places for its intelligence elements...

Ayatollah Khamenei has appointed representatives and agents in the holy Shiite cities. They pay monthly salaries to more than 7000 students and teachers to bring them and make them utter the pledge of allegiance for Khamenei as the leader of the nation...

There is also an Iranian presence in Kurdistan through thousands of Iranian Kurds, including leaders and elements of the opposing Kurdish democratic party, the opposing Kumala Communist Party, and the Kurdish students, scholars and workers, who are residing in the Kurdish semi-state in search for security from the oppression of the regime, or education in their mother tongue, or working to support their families....

And, of course, journalist Stephen Vincent was murdered in Basra last month, shortly after he wrote about the extent to which religious extremists -- presumably with spiritual and political ties to Iran -- had come to dominate the police and other institutions in Basra. (Wretchard offers, as usual, creative thinking about the implication of all of this for the "soft" occupation of the British, the utility of which is now in serious doubt.)

So, we can now piece together a story. The Iranians are pumping arms and agents into Iraq. British intelligence in the form of these two SAS agents and undoubtedly others were tracking it, and probably obstructing it. Iran, or Iran's allies in Iraq, ordered that these agents be shut down. Rather than murder them, which might trigger a massive British response, they were arrested by the Basra police, who then failed to turn them over to the British as is required by Iraqi law. Instead, they turned the agents over to Shiite militia, who undoubtedly were in communication with Iran. The British had to spring them by force, which then gave the local agitators reason to take to the streets.

Careful readers will remember that this is not the first confrontation between the Iran and Britain, even since the beginning of the Iraq war. There is undoubtedly far more to this twilight struggle than mere readers of the wire services can divine.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

For Sopranos fans only... 

The Paulie Walnuts "soundboard." Click on the deeply offensive Paulie quotations, and your computer just spews filthy mobster-talk back atcha.

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Al Qaeda is in trouble in Iraq 

As we've been saying for days, al Qaeda in Iraq is in a lot of trouble. Now the Counterterrorism Blog weighs in with roughly the same thesis:
Only days after Al-Qaida announced the completion of its latest campaign of violence aimed at avenging alleged "massacres" of Sunni Muslims in Tel Afar by the U.S. and Iraqi government, there are growing indications that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida acolytes may be facing the most serious political and operational challenges they have encountered since they first joined the anti-coalition insurgency in mid-2003. The deadly glut of suicide bombings that began on September 8 has undoubtedly caused destruction and chaos--but militants were neither able to undermine the anti-insurgent operation in Tel Afar nor deter Iraqi government efforts to formulate a constitution... Instead, renewed apparent threats from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to massacre both Shiite and Sunni "collaborators" have been warily received by many Iraqi Sunnis, leading the respected Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars to issue a statement strongly admonishing Zarqawi...

Whether or not the government of Iraq can suppress the Ba'athist rejectionists, there is a real opportunity to humiliate al Qaeda. We must not miss that chance, which is why we should reject both demands for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq -- which would be tantamount to retreating from a battle with al Qaeda -- and proposals to adopt a "spreading ink blot" strategy -- which might broadly secure Iraq but which would prevent us from defeating al Qaeda's fighters. And, no, the fact that the interests of the United States and the government of Iraq are at least slightly diverging in this respect is not lost on me.

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The "riot factor" 

Almost exactly ten years ago, I watched one of the most successful investment bankers on Wall Street mesmerize the CEO of a company that wanted to go public. The banker looked deeply into the CEO's eyes and said that there was some chance that "the riot factor" would kick in and demand for his company's stock would far outstrip its availability. Seasoned securities lawyer that I was, I choked off a guffaw, but the CEO's eyes bulged as he imagined what "the riot factor" might be and the investment banker got the deal.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what "the riot factor" looked like yesterday in Abu Dahbi, as investors literally struggled to get an allocation of shares in the initial public offering of Dana Gas.
Pandemonium erupted in banks across the UAE yesterday as thousands of investors many of them Saudis queued up for hours in the hot sun outside banks, seeking to apply for the Dana Gas IPO....

The Saudis many with their families yesterday flooded bank branches to buy the shares.

Several banks had to close their doors to control the crowds and some banks reported scuffles as the crowds struggled to get to the counters.

At least one incident was reported in which a security guard was roughed up.

"We had to wait for hours in the hot sun, and then had the doors shut in our faces," complained a disgruntled Saudi. "This is no way to treat human beings."

And that's a topic that wealthy Saudis know something about.

CWCID: The always interesting Emirates Economist.

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The British have their own Cindy Sheehan 

A mother whose son was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra a fortnight ago broke down in tears yesterday as she publicly pleaded with Tony Blair to bring British troops home from Iraq.

Sue Smith, who had earlier delivered a private letter to 10 Downing Street, read out its emotional contents to an estimated crowd of 20,000anti-war demonstrators in Hyde Park after a protest march through central London which began in Parliament square.

Smith, from Tamworth, said she last saw her son, Peter Hewett, in a coffin in a chapel.

She offered a stark message to the Prime Minister: “You can never know how that feels, but you have the power to stop it happening again. You made the decision to go to Iraq, and you can make the decision to get our sons and daughters out of there.”

Despite the demonstration failing to meet its organisers’ expectations of around 100,000, Smith’s plea aimed to attract public attention in the same way that Cindy Sheehan’s vigil at George Bush’s ranch in Texas has sparked a US focus on the continuing coalition presence in Iraq.

Like Sheehan, Mother Smith seems to have attracted all the usual lefties:
Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop The War Coalition, who organised yesterday’s march, said: “There are tens of thousands who have marched above all to bring the troops home and end this bloody, disastrous occupation.”

In Hyde Park, Kate Hudson, chair of CND, read out a welcome message from the London mayor Ken Livingstone.

“The war and occupation have brought neither democracy nor peace to Iraq,” Livingstone claimed.

Veteran campaigner, Tony Benn, described the war as “corrupt” and “unwinnable”.

I am sorry for Sue Smith's loss. I am even more sorry for the British troops who soldier on notwithstanding her denigration of their mission.

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Bad decision 

The weather in Princeton was beautiful yesterday afternoon. So did I take advantage of it? No. I stayed home to watch Iowa suck stupendously in the Horseshoe, instead of going to Princeton stadium to watch the Tigers beat San Diego. It sounds like the most exciting home game in ages:
Jay McCareins returned his third interception of the game 99 yards to seal Princeton's 20-17 victory over San Diego Saturday.

It was the second straight victory for Princeton (2-0) over San Diego (3-1), as the Tigers snapped the Toreros' eight-game winning streak dating back to last year. Princeton won despite being outgained, 415-226.

Trailing 13-10 and taking over at their own 20 with 7:20 remaining, the Toreros moved to the Princeton 13. Quarterback Josh Johnson connected with Wes Doyle for two fourth-down conversions on the drive up to that point. On 3rd-and-8, Johnson looked to the right side for Doyle, but McCareins stepped in front of the pass at the 1-yard line and returned it down the left sideline to seal the victory with 1:14 remaining.

San Diego, I might add, beat Yale last week. So by the transitive property of college football greatness Princeton should beat Yale this year...

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The progress in North Korea 

I haven't written on the tentative new deal with North Korea, which is not by any means guaranteed to put the Norks into a tiny little lockbox. However, as John Hinderaker points out, it is progress for no other reason than the Chinese have signed it. China is the only power in a position to coerce North Korea, and no other country can coerce North Korea without China's consent. This fact alone makes it more robust than the Clinton Administration's "agreed framework," or John Kerry's "bilateral negotiations," which -- at best -- would have returned us to an agreement for which there was no chance of enforcement.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Bill Frist, insider selling, and doing the right thing 

Bill Frist's trust sold his remaining shares in HCA, Inc., the company that is the source of his extended family's wealth. The press is in a lather (the Grey Bitch bleats here), as are the lefty blogs (AMERICABlog, breathlessly and in bold: "When insiders dump $100,000,000 of stock in a short period of time there is something very suspicious happening. Frist gave the order to sell everything he owned in the middle of this sell off."). The SEC has asked Frist about the sale (which is fairly routine when there has been a sell-off in advance of poor earnings), and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has dropped a subpoena on HCA (which is not surprising, given the opportunity for political advancement). Professor Bainbridge, for my money the premier securities law blawgger, teases apart the legal issues here.

In fact, a careful examination of the timeline of the sales reveals that it is highly unlikely that Frist did anything unlawful. More importantly, the facts adduced in the press accounts suggest that Frist (or his trustee) acted morally. Frist absorbed the risk of a decline in the price of HCA stock because he delayed his sale until after the market had time to digest the size and timing of sales by HCA's management.

Let's start with a look at HCA's one-year chart:

Now let's overlay the periods of heavy insider selling (in red - sorry about the transporting shittiness of my photoediting) and the date Frist gave the direction to sell to his trustee (black "X") and the period over which his trustee actually executed the sales according to the news accounts (in green):

During the period in red, more than twenty HCA insiders sold shares after a long period of fairly limited selling by management. Why? Look at the five two year chart (same color scheme):

The management selling began in November and then intensified as HCA stock began to rise after a long drought. There is nothing surprising in this -- executives are paid in equity, so they are going to sell that equity when they think the price is relatively high. Indeed, we require corporate executives to disclose their purchases and sales of company stock precisely because we believe that information about management purchases and sales says something about the company's prospects. Some investors consider insider buying and selling to be so important that they build their entire strategy around management transactions.

Now, one might reasonably ask whether the HCA management that sold its stock in advance of the July earnings warning (note the sharp drop in early July) knew that HCA was having a weak quarter. The likely answer is that management probably suspected that the company was having a weak quarter, but did not know it. First, the company probably did not know in absolutely real time how it was doing. Realistically, they probably knew how April and May went, but were far from certain as to the results for the first half of June. Second, there were more than two weeks left in the quarter when the management stopped selling, so whatever information the management might have had as late as June 15 was probably not very useful. Since the management almost certainly did not know how the quarter was going to finish up but may have been worried about weakness, many executives took the opportunity to sell their shares and communicate their suspicion, if you will, to the market. This is entirely usual and lawful behavior, and there was nothing wrong with it unless management had a great deal more specific information about the quarter's financial results than is probably the case.

Bill Frist, if he had any information at all about HCA when he ordered his trustee to sell his shares, knew what everybody else knew: that the management was shoveling stock out the door. That fact alone would be sufficient for many investors to sell their shares, and so it should have been for Frist, who was probably trying to get rid of them anyway in advance of his presidential campaign.

Moreover, we -- and HCA investors -- should applaud Frist for having handled the transaction the way he did. It was well within his rights to sell his shares much earlier in the spring, before the extent of the selling by insiders (including his own relatives) came to light via filings at the SEC. Instead, he waited to give his instruction to his trustee until after all the management selling had been disclosed. The result was that HCA's public investors had every opportunity in the world to sell their own shares on the basis of the management selling before Bill Frist. The timing of Frist's sale benefited those HCA shareholders wise enough to act on the insider selling, insofar as they got out the door before Frist. In the absence of surprising new facts -- and I'm not sure what they would be -- Frist almost certainly followed the law and acted honorably by giving HCA's public investors the opportunity to sell first.

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Insurrection, Louisiana and Katrina relief 

Nicholas Lemann has a very useful piece in the current issue of The New Yorker discussing the refusal of Governor Blanco to agree to federal control over the National Guard and the corresponding reluctance of the Bush Administration to invoke the Insurrection Act:
The Bush Administration realized after the storm what it should have realized before it: that the state and local authorities in Louisiana were not going to be able to handle the hurricane’s aftermath effectively. Apparently, the Administration tried to persuade the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, to issue an official request that the federal government take control of the Louisiana National Guard and the New Orleans police, but she refused, out of pride or mistrust or a desire to maintain some degree of control. Then the Administration considered sending active-duty federal troops to New Orleans to do what the National Guard and the police could not—make the streets and the evacuation centers safe and decent—and decided not to. Whatever its failings before the hurricane hit, the federal government could have greatly lessened the disaster if it had acted immediately afterward as a direct enforcer of the law. People suffered and died because it did not.

All this backing and forthing about the powers of federal, state, and local governments has a long, redolent history that explains a lot not only about the aftermath of the hurricane but about the underlying conditions in New Orleans that so shocked auslander television viewers. Article I of the United States Constitution gives the federal government the power to “suppress insurrections.” This has always been a touchy subject—especially in the South, and most especially during the Reconstruction period, after the biggest insurrection in American history had been successfully suppressed. The Insurrection Act of 1807 outlines the script that the Administration evidently wanted Governor Blanco to follow: a governor asks the President to federalize local law enforcement in order to suppress an insurrection; the President issues a proclamation ordering the “insurgents to disperse”; they don’t; the cavalry rides to the rescue.


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Smelling Salts for the EU? 

The foreign ministers of France and Germany, the foreign secretary of Britain and the EU's High Representative write an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal elucidating the current frozen negotiations with Iran over their cat and mouse game with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is clear that they are laying the groundwork for referring the matter to the UN Security Council, which they admit should have happened over 2 years ago according to IAEA rules. Like that matters.

Are the Europeans, ever conciliatory and oriented towards appeasing Iran, finally losing patience? Perhaps. But they don't like being embarrassed, and they are blushing at the moment because Iran is definitely making them look ridiculous.

If I were to guess, Iran will shortly make a magnanimous gesture to lure the Europeans back to the cat and mouse game. Like do what they said they were going to do. Until the next time they break an agreement.


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Our chance to humiliate al Qaeda in Iraq 

A couple of days ago we discussed al Qaeda's failed attempt to divide the Shiites. The Shiites united stand, we said, was evidence of al Qaeda's political failure. Indeed, there was mounting evidence that even stridently anti-American Sunnis were turning on Abu al Zarqawi.

Today's news is even worse for al Qaeda in Iraq. Moqtada al Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite, is threatening to "cut Zarqawi to pieces":
Riyadh Al Nouri, spokesman for the Shiite leader Muqtada Al Sadr, described Al Zarqawi's declaration of war against the Shiaas, excluding Al Sadr's trend, as "A division of the Shiite unity and an attempt of arousing sedition within the one sect." He said to "Al Hayat", "Al Sadr trend considers Al Qaeda organization and Al Zarqawi as the bitterest enemies." "In case he fell at the hands of the Sadris, they would cut him into pieces."

The Sunni insurgents are also turning on Zarqawi:
Close sources to armed groups stated that Al Zarqawi's withdrawal was based on an extreme tension in his relations with armed organizations working in Iraq after the statement of his declaration of war against the Shiaas.

The sources confirmed that Arab and foreign fighters, who call themselves Al Muhajereen (the immigrants), have received threats for leaving Iraq or being murdered on behalf of armed organizations, which have previously coordinated with them in a number of attacks, including the Wednesday operation in Baghdad, in which more than 150 citizens, mainly Shiaas, were victimized.

Reports of Iraqi armed groups, which have announced their rejection of Al Zarqawi's call for fighting Shiaas, have confirmed the growing scale of resentment among gunmen, with regard to the method in which Al Qaeda organization leads its operations against Shiite civilians instead of the Americans, the army and the police. The reports also confirmed that the resentment has developed into direct threats to the extremist groups for leaving Sunni regions and Iraq. Clans of Baath party and combat units from the former army have joined these organizations.

Iraq is turning into a geopolitical disaster for al Qaeda, but the Western press is so wed to its story of American failure that it is not reporting the humiliation of our enemy. That is not surprising, since the anti-war Left continues to propagate the opposite story. Juan Cole, for example, just four days ago published an email he had received that claimed that the insurgency was united:
Notwithstanding Al-Hayat's claim that Zarqawi and the Sunni resistance are not together, my street listeners claim otherwise. My folks are convinced that the two groups, broadly defined, are together, "100 percent" is the claim of certainty. It is hard to get a handle on this because people in Baghdad tend to lump all resistance groups, except for Zarqawi, into one large category.

Yesterday, Cole dismissed reports of dissension within the ranks of the insurgency as not "particularly credible," in part because they are "unsourced." No less "unsourced," though, than his email from "an observer" in Iraq.

If one believes the newspapers rather than Cole's emailer (and I am honestly not sure whom to believe, notwithstanding my suspicion that Cole, like me, tends to believe sources that reinforce his predispositions), there are several things that might be said about the insurgency in Iraq.

First, it consists of at least four factions that do not much like each other: Sunni rejectionists who do not cooperate any longer with al Qaeda, but which are still fighting anything to do with the current government, other Sunni nationalists who do cooperate with al Qaeda, al Qaeda in Iraq itself, and the Shiite militia controlled by Moqtada al Sadr (this last having theoretically refrained from hostile actions since its defeat in an Najaf last year).

Second, it is valuable to the counterinsurgency, including both the government of Iraq and the United States, that these forces do not get along and may be turning on each other.

Third, our strategic enemy in this war, al Qaeda, is not coming out of this battle for Iraq smelling like a rose. Whether this is because of the wisdom of American strategy, the persistence of Iraq's leaders (including particularly Ayatollah Ali Sistani), or the stupidity of al Qaeda's leadership, it is manifestly the case that the great majority of people in Iraq (including probably the majority of the 20% of Iraqis who are Sunnis) do not see al Qaeda as "the base" of anything. On the contrary, even if one believes that Iraq has been a "distraction" for the United States (and I do not count myself among those who do), it is increasingly hard to deny that it has also been very costly for al Qaeda.

Fourth, we must not miss this opportunity to humiliate al Qaeda in Iraq. That means that we must not withdraw no matter how loud the bleatings of the anti-war movement, and it means that we must continue to exploit our huge intelligence advantage to pursue al Qaeda's leadership (see this, for example, announced just today). Our victory condition need not be complete peace in Iraq, but it must be the manifest destruction of al Qaeda's organization and its allies in that country.

Fifth, proposals to adopt "traditional counterinsurgency tactics" (the "spreading ink blot," for example), however well-intentioned, will blunt our assault on al Qaeda. Therefore, even if they were the best way to defeat the insurgency broadly defined, they would deprive us of our chance to humiliate al Qaeda and should be rejected. Our objective must be to shatter the credibility of al Qaeda in Iraq. If we achieve that, we will not have to worry that the Sunni triangle will become a base for al Qaeda even if the government in Baghdad cannot exert total control over the Sunnis who live there.

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Captain Scott Burke - JBLU 292 

Nice job, doncha think?

UPDATE from TigerHawk: Video here.

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Iran's bare-faced lie 

Iran celebrated the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war (itself a weird occasion for a celebration) today with a huge military parade. The propaganda should give us all pause:
As in previous years the highlight of the parade, which included tanks, jets and troops, were six huge trailer-mounted Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, capable of hitting Israel, U.S. bases in the Gulf and parts of southeastern Europe.

"If the Global Arrogance wants to attack Iran ... (it) will destroy their countries with these missiles," the parade announcer said.

"God is Great!" the announcer cried repeatedly as the missiles trundled past the presidential viewing platform.

Some of the missiles, which have a range of 1,250 miles, bore banners proclaiming "Israel should be wiped off the map" and "We will trample America under our feet."

Iran's president, Mamhoud Ahmadinejad, said today that Iran "[has] always said we want friendly relations with other countries." But how can he square this with "Israel should be wiped off the map" and tramping America "under our feet"? He can't, and we can't. As he was speaking his own military was showing him to be a liar.

Neither the press nor Western diplomats seem to have pointed out Mamhoud Ahmadinejad's barefaced lie. Neither the press nor the West say anything because they think of these guys as line-drawing leaders of a cartoon country, and they do not want to strengthen the American case for confronting Iran. Indeed, under current circumstances, even the United States may not want to strengthen that case for fear of boxing itself in to another showdown with no support from the Europeans. The result is that the Iranian head of state can flap his gums all day long about Iran's desire for "friendly relations" and why one of the most energy-rich countries on earth needs peaceful nuclear power and nobody even raises an eyebrow when his own military -- not some alleged student demonstrators but the Iranian army -- calls for the destruction of two countries that Iran attacked first (the United States Embassy in 1979 and Israel via Hezbollah).

It may be the case that our options for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions are very limited. We may ultimately have to fall back on a credible threat of retaliation, however questionable the utility of that deterrant may be against a country that believes in suicidal homicide as a legitimate tool of statecraft. But we should not misunderstand how hostile Iran really is and that there are great risks in relying only on deterrence.

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Recruitment in Iraq 

Yesterday I noted that there was evidence that suicide attackers in Iraq were being coerced, and what that might say about their ability to recruit new soldiers. I missed President Talabani's excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal, in which he observed that the opposite is also true:
Every terrorist attack on Iraqi forces leads to a surge in military recruitment--the opposite of the appeasers' myth that resisting terrorism causes more terrorism.

The comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam collapse when one closely examines the huge differences between those two wars. Even if, as in Vietnam, there is some infiltration of the Iraqi military and police by sympathizers of the insurgency, the population is responding aggressively to fight against it. In Iraq, the terrorists slaughter recruits on line at police stations and military bases, and they show up again the next day. Twenty percent of the population can keep the 80% down when they control the oil, and therefore the money, to gain a monopoly on the use of force. The "twenty" does not stand a chance against the "eighty" when the opposite is true.

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Afghan election blogging and counterinsurgency 

Afghan Warrior describes the weekend's elections:
Afghanistan's first parliamentary election will be remembered as one of the most important days in the history of Afghanistan. Despite threats from the enemies for the last few months, millions of Afghans rushed towards polling stations to elect their representatives for the parliament. Women equally with men cast their vote...

In my point of view most people voted for honest and educated people who were not involved in any violence against the Afghan people. I asked my friends and some other people and everyone told me that they voted for new faces, honest and educated people.

Although hundreds of polling stations were established in the cities mostly schools and mosques were used as polling stations, but in the remote areas tents served as a polling station. Voting was slow in the morning but in the afternoon the number of the voters was increased. Except a few attacks from the enemies of peace in the southern and southeastern provinces which killed a dozen people including 2 national police and one French soldier, the situation was under control. Almost 30 attack plans of enemies were detected by the Afghan National Police and National Army in different provinces which prevented the terrorists attacks during the election day. In Ghazni province a vehicle full of explosive device was arrested by national police before it detonated also in Baghlan, Kabul and a few other southern provinces the police arrested a number of foreign terrorists and Taliban attempting to attack the polling stations.

If there were, in fact, almost 30 prevented attacks on election day -- far more than the reported number of successful attacks -- then it is good news for several reasons. First, even the number of attempted attacks was trivial given that there were more than 6,000 polling stations, each one a relatively soft target. Notwithstanding the Taliban, it was safe to vote in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Second, the large proportion of thwarted attacks suggests that the counterinsurgency's intelligence is very good, and that suggests that the Taliban is not effectively coercing the general population.

Third, the holding of democratic elections may have strategic value against Islamists, who reject the very notion of popular sovereignty (people cannot usurp Allah as sovereign). Whereas elections were not strategically significant against communist insurgents during the cold war -- communism is, after all, a perverted form of popular sovereignty -- elections are an affront to Islamism. That means that successful elections are a defeat for Islamism.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ten thousand bin Ladens? 

It is virtually impossible to evaluate claims that the Iraq war has caused thousands of people to volunteer to fight for al Qaeda in excess of those we have killed or captured. It does appear, though, that whatever its lavish manpower resources, al Qaeda still finds it necessary to coerce people into blowing themselves up:
A suicidal attacker, who was arrested before detonating himself at a Shiite mosque by the end of last week, said that he was forced to execute this mission after being kidnapped, beaten and drugged at the hands of insurgents.

The American military officials said that the examinations that he had undergone showed the validity of his claims.
Last Friday, in a confession televised on Al Iraqia TV station, Mohamed Ali, who stated that he was a Saudi national and appeared to be in his twenties, said that he was kidnapped and forced to accept the execution of this mission. He added that he managed to escape after a suicidal attacker exploded himself, murdering 12 worshippers on their way out of the mosque in Tuz Khormatu town last Friday. In his televised confession, Ali said that he did not want to explode himself in the mosque and was hoping to return to his country.

Ten thousand bin Ladens, or just a few bin Ladens and countless thousands of poor, ineffective bastards? It even makes you wonder which side is fighting this war with a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted."

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Annals of naïveté 

So, I'm in the middle of Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy (I am, admittedly, the last blogger in the world to have read it) and I stumble across this passage, in which Sharansky describes an encounter with Jimmy Carter soon after Sharansky's release:
As far as peace [between Israel and the Arabs] depending on [Arab] democracy, Carter said Israel should not wait. "It's true," he said, "Assad is a dictator. But you can rely on him. He never lied to me. If you sign an agreement, he'll keep it. When I was president, I visited Syria. Our intelligence knew that Assad had violated one of his obligations on a security-related issue. When I raised the question with Assad, he emphatically denied it. Before leaving for the airport, I told people in our delegation how disappointed I was because Assad never lied to me before and now clearly he was. But on the way to the airport, Assad called to apologize. He told me he had checked the point I raised and that he had been mistaken. He promised to correct the problem."

"So you see," Carter told me, "he never lies. If he signs an agreement with Israel, he'll keep it."

"Our intelligence knew that Assad had violated one of his obligations," yet because he confessed it after having been caught we should take this as evidence that Assad does not lie and will keep his agreements? This anecdote, it seems to me, is rather precise evidence that Assad did lie and would not keep his agreements.

Assuming Sharansky's account is accurate, it reveals that Jimmy Carter was -- in that moment, at least -- either astonishingly naïve or very arrogant. He was naïve if he believed what he said about Assad, and he was arrogant if he did not believe what he said about Assad but thought that Sharansky would buy his absurd argument.

It is amazing that Jimmy Carter was ever president of the United States. It is more amazing that memories of his incompetence have dimmed to the extent that the Democrats felt comfortable trotting him out at their national convention last year.

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