Monday, October 31, 2005


Update: National Italian American Foundation Demands "Scalito" Apology
Mon Oct 31 2005 15:56:42 ET

National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Statement:

The NIAF is distressed by the attempts of some senators and the media (CNN, CBS) to marginalize Judge Samuel Alito's outstanding record, by frequent reference to his Italian heritage and by the use of the nickname, "Scalito."

Appropriately, no one mentioned that Justice Breyer was Jewish or suggested that he was lock-step ideologically with the other Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it would have been outrageous to do so. We still do not know Justice Robert's ethnicity.

We are justly proud of Justice Alito's Italian heritage and his sterling academic and judicial records as well as his impeccable integrity. However, he should be considered as an individual. In honor of the memory of the just departed Rosa Parks the Senate champions of civil rights should insist that Judge Alito be considered only on his extraordinary merits.


A. Kenneth Ciongoli
Chairman of the National Italian American Foundation

Sheesh. "In honor of the memory of the just departed Rosa Parks"?!? What a jackass.

Everybody with two brain cells to rub together -- a category apparently excluding A. Kenneth Ciongoli -- knows that the "Scalito" nickname has nothing to do with either of Samuel Alito or Nino Scalia being Italian, and everything to do with alleged similarities in ideology. If Scalia were named "Lutz" and Alito were named "Schmidt," is there any chance they wouldn't call him "Schmutz"? This might be the single most asinine complaint from a pressure group since PETA complained about the name of the town of Fishkill, New York (which complaint, to be sure, is unlikely ever to be surpassed).

(0) Comments

A handy bit of information to have... 

'Impaling Most Common Horror Film Death'

I'm pretty sure that I knew this already, but it is useful to have it confirmed.

(0) Comments

The Swamp 

Today Peter Brookes highlights the marriage of convenience between Iran and al Qaeda. Another excellent reason for all of us to prepare intellectually for a major conflict with Iran. A sample:

So al Qaeda "refugees" from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, North Africa and Europe — including senior military commander Saif al Adel, three of Osama's sons and spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith — now operate freely from Iran.

In fact, just last week, the German monthly magazine Cicero, citing Western intelligence sources, claimed that as many as 25 al Qaeda thugs are living in Iran under the protection of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Cicero cites a "top-ranking" Western intelligence official saying, "This is not incarceration or house arrest. They [al Qaeda members] can move around as they please." The IRGC even provides logistics help and training to al Qaeda.

Some readers will undoubtedly wonder how many conflicts can we endure? I think the answer is we need to endure as many conflicts as are required to vanquish Al Qaeda, to drain the swamp. We did not start the war with these people. But we should, and will, end it.

(6) Comments

John Bolton screws up again 

Obviously, John Bolton is completely incompetent:
The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday demanding Syria's full cooperation with a U.N. investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister and warning of possible "further action" if it doesn't.

I, for one, will be interested in Sydney Blumenthal's retraction reaction.

(3) Comments

Civilian casualties and enemy propaganda 

Since every aspect of the Iraq war is apparently a political opportunity for opponents of George W. Bush, anti-Americans, and others who want to discredit our policies, it should not surprise us that estimates of civilian casualties mean so much more than, er, estimates of civilian casualties. That is why last year's "October surprise" Lancet article on civilian casualties made it through the referees at light speed, and that is why opponents of the war blame the United States for all civilian casualties.

It should not surprise us, then, that estimates of civilian casualties have become yet another weapon in the enemy's propaganda campaign. Generally, the press does not do a good job of acknowledging this point, perhaps because so many in the mainstream media are complicit. However, in this morning's report on the continuing battle along Syria's border, one tiny admission that estimates of civilian casualties might not be totally accurate did leak through the A.P.'s editorial filters:
Early Monday, U.S. jets attacked a "safe house" apparently being used by a senior al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader in Obeidi, a border town 185 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. The jets also used precision-guided munitions to attack a second house suspected of being a base for attacks against American and Iraqi forces, the U.S. command said....

Some U.S. airstrikes in the area have resulted in civilian casualties, but locals, including doctors, often appear to exaggerate death tolls under pressure from militants.

Unfortunately, the story is datelined Baghdad, so it is not clear whether the A.P. reporter, Thomas Wagner, was just parroting back the military's assertion or whether he himself believes it. I believe it, though. Given the manifest political value of high civilian casualties to Western opponents of the United States and American opponents of George W. Bush, it would be surprising if the politically sophisticated insurgency weren't pressuring people to inflate civilian casualty reports.

One might well wonder what impact this has had on Iraq Body Count's estimates, which rely on media reports.

If, by the way, you doubt that opponents of American policy in Iraq are using civilian casualties for propaganda purposes, look no further than the press coverage attending the Pentagon's own recently released estimates of civilian casualties. The Telegraph, for example, wrote this:
The United States military has for the first time admitted that it is keeping records of Iraqi deaths as it disclosed that it estimates 26,000 to have been killed or injured by insurgents since January last year....

Although the statistics are revealing, the Pentagon total was challenged yesterday by human rights groups who said they believed the official figures were on the low side.

Iraq's interior ministry has stated that 8,175 Iraqis were killed, and around 18,000 more believed injured, between August 2004 and May 2005 alone.

Iraq Body Count, an organisation that tracks civilian deaths through news reports, indicates that 26,000 to 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the war started in March 2003.

Did you notice how the last two paragraphs are consistent with the Pentagon's estimate, rather than those of "human rights groups" who "believe" that official figures are on the low side?

Iraq's interior ministry reports that 8,175 Iraqis were killed over a ten month period. For those of you still in the second grade, that's around 820 per month. The Pentagon reported 26,000 civilians killed by the insurgents alone since January 2004, or approximately 1300 per month.

Iraq Body Count, a profoundly anti-war group that is nevertheless performing an important function, reports a high estimate of 30,000 Iraqi civilian casualties over approximately thirty months, again fewer than the Pentagon estimate.

Would it have killed the Telegraph -- not exactly a lefty paper -- to point out that the other data available refutes the claims of the "human rights groups" that apparently speak only on background?

(1) Comments

TigerHawk o' Lantern 

(0) Comments

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Good news on Nork nukes: China invests its prestige 

Here's a bit of good news:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told China's President Hu Jintao he'll abide by a joint statement on ending his country's nuclear weapons program and will return to six-nation talks in Beijing next month, a Chinese official said.

Kim ``believes the joint statement is positive and said (North Korea) will honor the statement and will come back to the fifth round in Beijing as scheduled,'' Wang Jiarui, minister in charge of the International Department of China's Central Committee, told reporters at a briefing in Beijing today.

Partisan sniping notwithstanding, the Bush administration's "six-party" (i.e., not unilateral) strategy for dealing with North Korea seems to be paying off. True, the Norks have cheated and retreated before, but (I believe) that this is the first time that China has invested its prestige in North Korea's promise to get rid of its nukes. Even Kim Jong Il will be loathe to embarrass Hu Jintao, Hu whiled away three unbelievably tedious days in Pyongyang (can you imagine how painful that must have been?).

That the president of China would spend all that time with Kim Jong Il proves, unfortunately, that nuclear weapons get you some meetings with important people. But it also requires that the important people emerge with a commitment, and in the end China holds the cards. Prediction alert: When all is said and done, North Korea will disgorge its nukes, the United States will continue to shrink its presence in South Korea, and in return China will guarantee that Kim Jong Il remains in power. What does China get? A guarantee that the United States will not seek to remove Kim Jong Il, or support any other effort to unify the Korean peninsula under one government.

(0) Comments

The difference a week makes 

Atlas Shrugs compares last week in Iran with last week in Israel. The differences are staggering. Even allowing for a little of the old Zionist-Crusader conspiracy in news coverage, it does make you wonder how anybody in their right mind can even ask why we tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of the latter, and cannot permit them in the former. There are good double standards and bad double standards, and this is one of the good ones.

(0) Comments

Reporting the "Saddam-in-exile scenario": Who blocked the the last minute deal? 

Friday evening, I discussed the buried news reports that the Arab League, and not the United States, had blocked a last-minute deal March 2003 that would have sent Saddam into exile. This is big news, not small news, and the failure of the big media to pick it up beyond some small beer wire stories is extraordinary.

Part of the reason may be that the original story derives from an Arabic television documentary, but that only enhances its credibility insofar as Arab television is not known for spinning the news in the American direction. Another reason may be that the Associated Press reported the story very differently than Reuters.

The background is simple: Al-Arabiya broadcast a documentary that reported that the late president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, proposed in early 2003 that Saddam Hussein go into exile along with key members of his family and staff. Saddam allegedly accepted the deal, which presumably would have averted the war, but the Arab League shot it down. I speculated on the Arab League's reasons for rejecting the deal in my earlier post.

The interesting question, of course, is what the United States would have done, and this is where the Reuters and the Associated Press accounts diverge. According to Reuters:
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak says in the documentary that the United States had signaled its support for the proposal.

This obviously runs counter to the traditional narrative of the mainstream media, to say nothing of the anti-Bush, anti-American and anti-Israeli axis, which generally characterize the United States as hell bent on war.

The Associated Press describes this critical bit from the Al Arabiya documentary quite differently:
The documentary also included an interview from Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who said the United States was aware of the proposal.

So, which is the best translation of Mubarak's interview in the Al-Arabiya documentary: that the United States had "signaled its support," or that it "was aware" of the proposal? Since it strikes me as highly unlikely that Reuters would make up its translation that the United States "signaled its support," and since the A.P.'s characterization remains technically true even if profoundly misleading, it certainly looks as though the Associated Press shaved its interpretation of Mubarak's interview to fit the dominant anti-Bush narrative.

UPDATE: John Chilton points us to this account of a Gulf News editorial, which chides the Arab League for rejecting the "exile scenario," and demanding that it step up to avert a similar crisis over Syria.

(0) Comments

You don't see this every day 

'Israeli Leader Threatens Islamic Jihad' - headline, Associated Press.

(1) Comments

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The wider war 

Unidentified assailants attacked a group of high school girls on Saturday in Indonesia's tense province of Central Sulawesi, beheading three and seriously wounding another, police said.

The students from a private Christian high school were ambushed while walking through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota subdistrict on their way to class, police Maj. Riky Naldo said. The area is close to the provincial capital of Palu, about 1,000 miles northeast of Jakarta.

Naldo said the heads of three victims were found several miles from their bodies. Two were left near a police station and another in front of a newly built Christian church.

Any guess as to the motives? Answer here.

(0) Comments

With gruesome precision, cutting out the heart of Iraq 

Dexter Filkins reviews Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace in tomorrow's New York Times. The subtitle of the book is "Surviving under Saddam, dying in the new Iraq. It tells the story of the author's interpreter during the time he spent in in Iraq covering the war. Ahmad Shawkat was murdered in late 2003.

Shawkat is one of many in the Iraqi professional classes who have been murdered in the last 30 months, the victims of a barbarous insurgency that would rather destroy the country than live under a majority government elected by Shiites and Kurds. Filkins, who often conveys the sense that he does not believe representative government will succeed in Iraq, puts it this way:
Two and half years later, it's clear that a large percentage of Iraqis were either too traumatized or too tangled up in their traditions to grasp a democratic future. The United States has found that out the hard way.

But a great many of the country's people saw precisely the opportunity that presented itself on April 9, 2003, when the American Army chased Saddam Hussein and his confederates from their palaces on the Tigris. These Iraqis realized that they had to seize the moment, that it might not come again. And they knew, better than anyone, how difficult it would be to carry their broken and brutalized country with them. So they started newspapers, they organized political parties, they called meetings to start a national conversation. Some of them, surveying the psychological ruins that Hussein and his torturers had left behind, formed institutes to teach their countrymen to think for themselves.

And now, today, many of these Iraqis, if not most of them, are dead. They have been shot, tortured, burned, disfigured, thrown into ditches, disappeared. Thousands of them: editors, lawyers, pamphleteers, men and women. In a remarkable campaign of civic destruction, the Baathists and Islamists who make up the insurgency located the intellectual heart of the nascent Iraqi democracy and, with gruesome precision, cut it out. As much as any single factor, the death of Iraq's political class explains the difficulties of the country's rebirth. The good guys are dead.

The good guys are dead. Not all of them, but Filkins' point is well taken, even if it may yet prove to be too pessimistic.

What do we take from this? Do we leave, condemn the rest of the good guys, and damn ourselves? Or do we stay, and fight for those that remain, knowing that we cannot abandon the majority of Iraqis to such people again? Neither of these options are good, but they are not difficult to choose between.

(1) Comments

The relentless American economy 

Since we have been devoting a lot of attention of late to silliness -- the unfortuante embarassment of Harriet Miers, the indictment of Scooter Libby, the insane rantings of a Persian potentate, the corruption of the United Nations and the obvious perjury of George Galloway -- perhaps we should take a moment to honor the American economy. Notwithstanding constant, grating and tedious warnings of gloom and doom for the mainstream media, the destruction of a major American city, the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, the closing of America's second most important port, record high fuel prices, the burdens of a world war (albeit at low temperature) and the return of championship baseball to Chicago, the American economy continued its relentless growth in the third quarter. The gross domestic product of the United States grew 3.8% July through September, up from 3.3% in the second quarter.


How unbelievable? The Euro zone, which did not suffer a single destroyed city all year, expects that its GDP will grow at substantially less than half the pace America set in the third quarter. Imagine how much faster the American economy might have grown had Europe's been stronger.

The American economy is strong because it is flexible. We allow businesses to fail. If an industry looks particularly weak, we usually have the good sense to let it die so that the financial and human capital can go into another business that is more competitive. We know that this will mean unemployment and sometimes poverty, but Americans are also flexible and the smart ones move to another area where they can find a job, or they go back to school so that they can switch profesions. Capital flows efficiently -- there are investors and lenders of every shape and size for any kind of business in any industry imaginable. Uniquely in the world, in the United States there is also capital available for industries that are not imaginable.

All of this flexibility means two things. First, financial and human capital -- money and smart people -- flows in the direction of the United States because it generates higher returns here. Second, we don't weigh down our economy with nearly as much dead weight -- businesses that aren't allowed to fail and employees we aren't allowed to fire -- as the sticky economies of the European Union.

Economic flexibility is a massive advantage that very few countries in the world understand. Remember it whenever somebody proposes subsidizing a business that should die, taxing a business because corporate taxes are hidden from voters, restricting the easy termination of employees, regulating debt or equity capital, or throwing up barriers to free international trade. All of such laws and regulations are designed to confer benefits to specific individuals or businesses at the expense of the general welfare.

(1) Comments

The Grey Bitch lives up to her name yet again 

Michelle Malkin has the infuriating goods. When will this madness stop?

On Wednesday, the NYTimes published a 4,625-word opus on the "2,000 dead" milestone--a "grim mark," read the headline--on page A2. Among those profiled were Marines from the First Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr.

Cpl. Starr left a letter on his laptop to be read in the event of is death. Guess which part of this excert the Times published, and which part it chose not to publish.

"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Really, read the whole thing, link to Michelle, and shine some light on that festering sore that some people still call the paper of record.

(1) Comments

If Fox News had been broadcasting throughout history 

Unfair and unbalanced, but very amusing nonetheless.

(1) Comments

Friday, October 28, 2005

Did Saddam offer a deal? 

This explosive story raises a lot of interesting questions:
Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had secretly accepted a last-minute plan to go into exile to avert the 2003 Iraq war, but Arab leaders shot the proposal down, Al Arabiya television reported on Friday.

UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan made the proposal for Saddam to go into exile at an emergency Arab summit just weeks before the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.

But the 22-member Arab League, led by Secretary-General Amr Moussa, refused to consider the initiative.

Not only did the Arab League pass up a chance to prevent the war, but Hosni Mubarak apparently claims that the United States was receptive to the proposal.
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak says in the documentary that the United States had signaled its support for the proposal.

Suppose, for a moment, that this story is true, or substantially so. Why would the Arab League turn down an exile deal that might have averted war?

Unanswered in Reuters' account of the exile story is -- say it ain't so -- the plan for governing Iraq after the removal of its totalitarian head. Perhaps the Arab League decided that if it had to suffer an Iraq without Saddam at its head, it would prefer that the United States be there to cope with the mess. Perhaps the leaders of the Arab world judged that it was more likely that post-Saddam Iraq would implode without American intervention than as a result of it.

Or, perhaps they wanted Saddam gone even more than George W. Bush did, even if there was no possibility of admitting as much to the Arab "street."

Mubarak's testimony is also interesting for what it suggests about the United States. It is hard to imagine why Mubarak would lie about such a thing, so if the account of his interview is true it shatters at least one canard of the anti-war faction: that the Bush administration was hell bent on war, one way or the other.

This story redefines the war. It will be interesting to see whether the American press investigates it with the zeal that it covers, say, any random car bomb in Haditha.

(4) Comments

Libby indicted in a "Martha Stewart" complaint 

The first report is that Scooter Libby has been indicted for obstruction, making a false statement, and perjury only, with no indictment on any underlying offense. Given where expectations were only days ago, this is great news for the Bush administration politically, but a bad thing for the country. I'm disappointed that Patrick Fitzgerald resorted to derivative offenses when he could not prove a substantive crime.

UPDATE: Indictment here.

UPDATE (1:20 pm): Spewing in real time: I note that the stock market rally has sustained itself in the minutes following the announcement of the Libby indictment. May I suggest that this is exogenous support for my contention that the Bush administration has so far "beat expectations" on the Fitzgerald investigation. Of course, the actual political damage may unfold in the weeks and months ahead as more Americans learn who Scooter Libby is, and the run-up to the Iraq war is parsed in greater detail.

Following Tom Maguire's "better wrong than gutless" principle, I hereby make a few predictions. First, the fact that the indictment does not name any underlying offense will substantially diminish the ultimate impact on the Bush presidency. Indeed, it may even revive the idea that once again a special prosecutor has ginned up a secondary or tertiary offense in what is properly a political fight. After Walsh and Starr, will the public -- beyond the usual partisans -- much care about obstruction and perjury? I think not.

Second, the fact that there is no charge for the underlying offense guts the sanctimonious and largely untrue accusation that the Bush administration undermined national security by outing Valerie Plame. The CIA has managed to do a lot of damage in this bureaucratic fight, but people will soon be asking Cardinalpark's question: why are we not outraged that the CIA was deliberately undermining the policies of an elected president? Langley may ultimately emerge from this case much the worse for wear.

Third, the absence of an underlying offense will make it much easier for Bush to pardon Libby, perhaps even before January 19, 2009.

Fourth, liberals who thought that perjury was a trivial procedural detail in 1998 will be full of outrage today. Conservatives who then believed that perjury was right there in the 7th or 8th circle of Hell will now characterize it as "driving 56."


UPDATE: I have now read the indictment. The five counts all surround one basic theme: that Scooter told federal agents and the grand jury that he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from reporters, when in fact he had learned it from the Vice President, an officer at the CIA, and various other officials before he spoke to reporters. In particularly, Libby is alleged to have lied about his conversations with Tim Russert and Matt Cooper. Judith Miller barely surfaces, and somebody smarter than I am -- or with more time -- will have to piece together her role.

While the indictment makes Libby look like a fool, I detect no previously unexploded bombshells. I therefore stand by the political predictions offered above.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a round-up here, Glenn Reynolds rounds up links here, and Gateway Pundit crashes the left's party here.

(24) Comments

Iran's Threat is Broader than Merely Israel 

I've written previously that the Iranian threat extends beyond Israel. Today Ralph Peters shares his similar view. Embedded within the broad argument that the acquisition by Iran of nuclear weapons increases the risk of a dramatic Shiite - Sunni confrontation between historical Persia and Arabia, Peters observes that the Iranian threat may hasten peacemaking between Israel and Arab states. Maybe. Who knows. Israel and Turkey (not Arab, but a regional power) have a positive relationship; and Israel has treaties and relations with Egypt and Jordan. Does the establishment of a Democratic Iraq increase the likelihood of peace between Iraq and Israel? Well, yes. But that isn't saying much, as the odds were zero under Saddam. Still, with Iraq having a significant Kurdish community disposed toward positive Israeli relations, it is not inconceivable - especially if conflict erupts between Iran and Iraq.

It would be ironic if Iranian threats and expansionism actually helped to foster improved relations between Arab nations and Israel.

(0) Comments

In re Maureen Mahoney: Handicapping the next SCOTUS nominee 

This morning's Note serves up an extremely handy summary of Big Media's best guesses on Bush's next move:
The O'Connor seat: the short list(s):
Does the President want a huge ideological fight to rally his base or not? If you can answer that question, you can probably do some narrowing of the short lists provided below:

Washington Post: Alito, Brown, Callahan, Clement, Cornyn, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Sykes, Thompson, Williams

Associated Press: Alito, Batchelder, Cornyn, Corrigan, Luttig, Mahoney, Owen, Thompson, Wilkinson, Williams

The New York Times: Alito, Luttig, Mahoney, Owen, Sykes, Wilkinson LINK

USA Today: Alito, Brown, Corrigan, Gonzales, Jones, Luttig, McConell, Owen, Wiliams

Wall Street Journal: Alito, Brown, Cornyn, Corrigan, Luttig, Owen, Williams

Wall Street Journal editorial board: Alito, Brown, Jones, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times: Alito, Batchelder, Clement, Jones, Luttig, McConnell, Owen, Sykes, Thompson, Williams

LA Times editorial board: Maureen Mahoney

Boston Globe: Alito, Batchelder, Gonzales, Jones, Luttig, Mahoney, McConnell, Rogers Brown, Thompson, Wilkinson, Williams

Chicago Tribune: Alito, Luttig, Owen, Wilkinson, Williams

Maureen Mahoney, for those of you who don't know, is a partner in the Washington office of Latham & Watkins, the TigerHawk Mega Law Firm of choice. Her biography from the Latham web site:
JD, University of Chicago, 1978
With Honors; Order of the Coif; Member, University of Chicago Law Review

BA, Indiana University, 1974
Highest Honors; Phi Beta Kappa

Maureen Mahoney is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins, and leads the firm's appellate and constitutional practice. Ms. Mahoney originally joined the firm in 1980, but left in 1991 to accept an appointment as a United States Deputy Solicitor General. During her tenure in the Solicitor General's Office, President Bush nominated Ms. Mahoney to fill a vacancy on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, but the Senate did not act on her nomination prior to the election. Ms. Mahoney returned to the partnership of Latham & Watkins in 1993.

Ms. Mahoney has handled a broad range of constitutional and appellate litigation in the Supreme Court and other courts throughout the country, representing clients as varied as the United States House of Representatives, Union Pacific Railroad Company and the Government of Saudi Arabia. She represented the University of Michigan before the Supreme Court and won the landmark case upholding the constitutionality of admissions programs that consider race as one of many factors in order to attain the educational benefits of a diverse student body. The Legal Times reported that this ruling was a “personal win” for Ms. Mahoney and called her “a skilled appellate advocate, unruffled and poised.” The Daily Journal awarded Ms. Mahoney the “Best Oral Argument” in the individual category accolade for that Supreme Court term and went on to say that she “withstood withering questioning from Justice Antonin Scalia while stressing the points relied upon by O'Connor in her opinion for the 5-4 court.” Most recently, she successfully argued her thirteenth case in the Supreme Court on behalf of Arthur Andersen in a challenge to the firm's criminal conviction. The Legal Times described the argument in Andersen as “one of the term's best.”

Ms. Mahoney argued her first case before the Supreme Court in 1988, when the Court specially selected her to argue a case. She won the case in a 5-4 decision, and the American Lawyer reported that “her presentation was so well-schooled, poised, and disciplined that, according to one justice, the justices passed notes among themselves during the argument praising Mahoney and asking questions about her background.” In 1993, Ms. Mahoney successfully defended a highly publicized challenge to US immigration policies. The American Lawyer reported that Ms. Mahoney used “forensic magic” in the argument, and David Broder's Washington Post column called her argument “superb.” She also represented the House of Representatives in its successful Supreme Court challenge to the Commerce Department's plans for the use of sampling in the 2000 census.

Ms. Mahoney is a member of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers. She has been recognized as one of the leading appellate lawyers by the Legal Times and Chambers USA; the National Law Journal identified her as one of America's top 50 women litigators; and she received the prestigious Rex Lee Advocacy Award from the J. Rueben Clark Law Society. Ms. Mahoney was appointed by the Chief Justice to serve as the Chair of the Supreme Court Fellows Commission and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules to the United States Judicial Conference. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Historical Society, served as the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Procedures for the D.C. Circuit and served on the Board of Visitors for the University of Chicago Law School.

Prior to entering private practice, Ms. Mahoney served as a law clerk to the Honorable William H. Rehnquist (then Associate Justice) and Seventh Circuit Judge Robert Sprecher (deceased).

Although she won't remember, I actually did a small project for Maureen Mahoney as a first year associate, almost twenty years ago. Unfortunately, it did not involve knotty issues of constitutional interpretation. More unfortunately, I had to be bailed out of it by a litigation associate in Chicago who still does not let me forget my first appearance before a judge.

By all accounts (including from friends that know her), Maureen Mahoney would be an outstanding appointment, even if her record suggests uncertain reliability on issues dear to social conservatives. It is a shame that President Bush did not nominate her the first time around, because she would have been an excellent choice before the Miers debacle. I will be pleasantly surprised if he is willing to risk the wrath of social conservatives this time.

(1) Comments

Iran's "clarification" is not accepted 

Even Russia, Iran's friend and ally, has rolled over on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's campaign to destroy Israel. The Iranian diplomatic corps is trying to repair the damage, but President Ahmadinejad will have nothing of it:
On Friday the Iranian Embassy in Moscow tried to soften the impact of Ahmadinejad's comment.

"Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict," the embassy said in a statement following the international criticism.

It added that Ahmadinejad "underlined the key position of Iran, based on the necessity to hold free elections on the occupied territories."

The embassy statement came after Russia, a key Iranian ally, joined criticism of Ahmadinejad's statement and summoned the Iranian ambassador to ask for an explanation.

Ahmadinejad joined thousands of Iranians in one of several rallies in Tehran. State-run television showed Ahmadinejad surrounded by demonstrators, many holding banners with anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. "Death to Israel, death to America," read many of the placards.

Rallies also took place in other cities such as Mashad in Iran's east.

The state-organized demonstrations are part of the annual al-Quds Day — or Jerusalem Day — protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shiite Muslim clerics took power in Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have attended previous rallies.

Words have meanings, and Iran is proposing war against Israel. Coming as this does from a head of state, Israel would be entirely within its rights under law and morality to attack Iran.

For more perspective, do not miss Cox & Forkum.

(1) Comments

Plamegate indictments watch 

On the small chance that you came here before reading Instapundit or Tom Maguire, the morning's hancicapping is coming up this way:

1. The New York Times says that Scooter Libby will be indicted for obstruction only, but that Rove will not be indicted. Fitzgerald, though, will keep Rove under investigation and extend the grand jury for that purpose.

2. Tom Maguire points us to Rich Lowry's "mercifully brief" predictions over at The Corner:
A couple of thoughts: .... 2) Losing Rove would be a very big deal. If only Libby is indicted, it is still a story, it is still a loss to the administration, but it has nowhere near the disruptive effect of a Rove indictment; 3) I believe after all the build-up, an indictment of only Libby would be a big let-down for the eager Fitzmas revelers, and will probably create a mini anti-Fitzgerald backlash among them;...


3. Maguire puts it better: "Just so. After all the hype, the left is desperate for Bush's Brain; they won't be happy if all they get is Cheney's Mouth."

I do think it will be a shame -- and bad for the country -- if Fitzgerald only comes up with a "Martha Stewart" case against Scooter Libby. Interesting, a couple of unreconstructed but non-angry liberals have made the same comment to me in the last few days.

(0) Comments

Moral equivalence watch 

From mahjoob.com.

(0) Comments

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The tax revolt at Princeton University 

The oldest trees still growing on Princeton's campus are a pair of sycamores planted on order of the trustees in 1766 to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act. It may well be that these stately trees memorialize the last time that any great American university protested against taxes.

(0) Comments

Bob Woodward on Larry King Show 

Live blogging:

Interesting panel on Larry King talking about Plame Affair. You have Sen. Dodd (D) and Michael Isikoff (Newsweek?), Sen. Lindsay Graham (R), David Gergen and Bob Woodward. Paraphrasing Woodward, who stands out here as the most balanced and objective:

1) No violation of Espionage Act - no "outing of Plame"
2) No "malice" toward Plame - more like gossip
3) The "bomb" - the first mainstream journalist I've heard who explicitly points out Wilson's op-ed was bull, and the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, "which both parties signed," debunks Wilson.

Hence Woodward expresses doubt that Fitzgerald will do anything.

He says, correctly in my view, this is all about Iraq, and the fact that there is a minority who tenaciously cling to the view that it is a mistake.

Dodd is the most aggressive in attacking the War and supporting Wilson -- clearly rooting for an indictment. Isikoff wants it too. Gergen seems to want it too.

Ah, Isikoff admits: "based on what we know, there is not enough evidence for a crime." Except Fitzgerald is working this so hard, it makes Isikoff believe he has to do something "or will have some explaining to do."

Amusing moment when Dodd challenges Woodward assertion on Senate Report -- Woodward says "I have it right here in my pocket," and Dodd backs off immediately. King quips to Woodward, "you carry this stuff around?" And Woodward responds "I knew I would be challenged."

Agree or disagree -- this is a very good discussion going on. It is interesting how bitter partisans in writing control themselves when faced with intelligent, well versed opposition.

I will stop now...summary later.

(3) Comments

Blair, again, and "discussions with Washington" 

Iran seems to have steeled the backbone of the West:
Tony Blair served warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of its President’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”....

Promising discussions with Washington and other allies over how to react, Mr Blair said that he had often been urged not to take action against Iran.

But, he continued: “If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran? Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?”

The United Kingdom, together with France and Germany, has pushed hard for a "diplomatic solution" to the Iranian nuclear crisis, whatever that may mean in dealing with a murderous, racist, theocratic tyranny. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has humiliated the erstwhile great powers of Europe. There was a time when it was very dangerous for Persian potentates to do such a thing. Today, though, a sabre-rattling tin pot fascist can weather the storm of, er, protests in the world's diplomatic salons, because that is the price that he is likely to pay. Blair, alone, has the stones to risk the rage of his own party and threaten the ultimate escalation: "discussions with Washington."

One might well ask what Blair would do if there were an anti-war Democrat in the White House. George W. Bush, it seems, has his uses.

(0) Comments

Canada reacts to Iran's campaign to destroy Israel 

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew condemned the comments in a strongly worded statement.

"We are in the 21st century. Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never," the statement said.

But Oh, Canada, what are you going to do about it?

(4) Comments

Does Batman need life insurance? 

So asks the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE).

The survey asked 1,014 Americans above the age of 18 to consider five fictional characters and select the one they believe has the greatest need for life insurance.

28% chose Spiderman, an unmarried freelance photographer with an elderly aunt he supports.

18% chose Batman, a wealthy bachelor.

16% chose Fred Flintstone, a married father with a young child.

15% chose Harry Potter, a teenager and student.

11% chose Marge Simpson, a stay-at-home mom.

None of the Above/Don’t Know: 18%

The insurance industry is arguing that this indicates a profound ignorance among the public about the appropriate role of life insurance in the family financial plan. Obviously Bruce Wayne will leave plenty of money to his young ward Dick Grayson whether he has insurance or not, but Fred Flintstone is a working man with dependents.

It seems to me that the people responding were answering an entirely different question, and that the ranking reflects the perceived relative probabilities of each character's untimely demise, with Spiderman deemed to be living closest to the edge, and Marge Simpson probably living the safest life.

On that basis, it is hard to argue with the ranking. I guess one could argue that Harry Potter and Fred Flintstone should be flipped, since Harry rides brooms, and faces off against dragons and demons, and Fred just trundles off to work everyday. But then again, Fred works in a quarry riding a dinosaur, and that's gotta be dangerous work.

(5) Comments

Gag me with a spoon 

Joe Wilson:
Visiting Seattle on the eve of possible grand jury indictments against top White House advisers over the leak of his wife's identity as an undercover CIA officer, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson said it was "a sad day for our country."...

"The fact that this may become a crisis of governance should please no one," Wilson said at a private hotel reception before speaking in downtown Seattle Wednesday evening.

What a disingenuous pile of horse pucky.

(3) Comments

Oil-for-Food: Volker releases his final report 

The Volker inquiry into the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food scandal has released its final report. It is more than 600 pages in toto, but I am sure that it will be great reading for OFF afficionados. BBC coverage here. There is no indication, suggestion or hint of awareness in the BBC's account that the real scandal is not corruption or malfeasance per se, which in the case of the United Nations is hardly surprising, but subversion of the Security Council to protect a tyrant.

(0) Comments

Many birds with one stone 

Andy McCarthy, Pat Fitzgerald's good friend from back in the day, wins the award for the Bold Stroke that will bail out the Bush presidency:
But since we're talking Rovian, what say POTUS wraps up this bad boy by nominating Pat Fitzgerald for SCOTUS and calling it a week?

Since he then brings up "Law & Order" and lesbians, I trust his tongue is firmly in cheek. But as fantasies go, it's not a bad one.

(0) Comments

Miers withdraws 


My first reaction? I feel sorry for her. President Bush judged poorly in his nomination of her, but that does not make it any less painful for this woman to go down in history as a failed Supreme Court nominee.

(3) Comments

Outrage at Iran and Russian candor 

While we were sleeping, the captains of the West condemned Iran for campaigning for the destruction of Israel, and Shimon Peres demanded that Iran be expelled from the United Nations. The British called Iran's proclamation "deeply disturbing and sickening," and the French condemned the remarks "with the utmost firmness," which must have the flower and chivalry of Tehran quaking in its boots. Peres said it most clearly:
"Since the United Nations was established in 1945, there has never been a head of state that is a U.N. member state that publicly called for the elimination of another U.N. member state," Shimon Peres told Israel Radio.

The Russians, as is often the case, were the most candid:
Peres said he would discuss the Iranian threat with Russia's visiting foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday...

Lavrov on Wednesday brushed off Israel's calls for Security Council action, saying the matter is "too serious to be guided by politics."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

(2) Comments

O.J. gives Saddam some advice 

OJ: Number two: Have your lawyer move this trial to California.”

Saddam: “Ah, California. I’ve heard great things about California. Many people like me there.”

(0) Comments

Why do they think this is a victory? 

Palestinians celebrate in front of the family house of Palestinian suicide bomber Hassan Abu Zeid, 20, in the West Bank town of Qabatiah October 26, 2005. A Palestinian suicide bomber killed five people in a crowded market in an Israeli coastal city on Wednesday in the first such attack since Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip last month.

It is astonishing that Palestinian Arabs think that the suicide of one of their young men in the cause of randomly killing noncombatant Jews amounts to a victory worth celebrating.

UPDATE: Power Line deconstructs the same picture, includes coverage of the victims, and covers Iran's demand yesterday that Israel be "wiped off the map." Power Line posted a photo of Iran's president Ahmadinejad in front of a banner that advertises the web site for the "World without Zionism" conference (www.zionot.ir). Unfortunately for those of us who want to read racist trash first thing in the morning, the English-language links on the site are dead.

(0) Comments

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Don't swallow! 

So instructs the Grand Ayatollah Sistani (scroll down to "O"). There's no problem with cockfighting, though (scroll to "C").

The wisest man in Iraq answers your other questions here. I kid you not.

(2) Comments

Prosecutorial Conundrum 

A hypothesis:

1) Suppose Joseph Wilson or Valerie Plame told or confirmed to Judith Miller his wife/she was a CIA employee; and
2) Suppose Judith Miller learned from or had confirmed to her by Lewis Libby that Valerie Plame was a CIA employee.

Who leaked? Anybody? Both? The first? Neither?

It's a tough one. Once Judith Miller knows Plame's status, it is in the public domain. But if Wilson/Plame either proactively disclosed or confirmed, then he too either leaked or provided evidence that her status was not covert - he is after all her husband. She has two children. You happily disclose, it's pretty clear she's not in any danger.

It was published today that the FBI was interviewing neighbors to see if they too knew of her CIA employment. If this is true, the prosecutor is trying to establish whether she had publicized her status. And it means he's focused more on leaking than obstruction or false statements. But if Fitzgerald has, as Miller's counsel implied, made a deal with Miller not to question her about other sources besides Libby, he may have created the possibility that 1) and 2) above happened, but Miller need not admit it, and a Grand Jury wouldn't hear it.

Pretty weak.

That is a conundrum. I think. Or it's just getting late, and I am bored by the lack of scoring in the White Sox - Astros game.

(3) Comments

CBS Lets News Chief's Contract Expire 

The NYT is reporting that Andrew Heyward, the head of CBS News, will be replaced by Sean McManus, the current CBS sports head. Les Moonves, who runs CBS, apparently announced the decision today.

So Heyward, who bears leadership responsibility for Rathergate, will vanish from the scene...very discreet to simply let his deal expire...good for CBS.

(0) Comments

Why We Must Run Deficits -- Big Ones -- By Cutting Taxes 

Because it is the only way to put a halt to Congressional malfeasance. John Stossel reports briefly on something many have been blogging about for awhile. And credit Senator Tom Coburn for cojones -- big ones. He has been outing the porkery Senator by Senator, state by state. Stossel reports on some of the demagoguery in process, notably Senators Stevens and Murkowski about Alaskan bridges to uninhabited islands. Apparently Coburn proposed dropping the Alaskan Bridge in favor of paying for the New Orleans Bridge, to which Stevens essentially responded "over my dead body".

Ronald Reagan identified something nobody else had the good sense to realize before. The only way to stop this stuff and impose fiscal discipline was to pass tax cuts (which are undeniably politically popular), forcing Congress to live on less money and therefore prioritize. Tax cuts to Congress are like interest rate increases to financial institutions -- it takes the punch bowl away....eventually.

(19) Comments

What happened at the Palestine Hotel 

We know from watching repeating footage of big explosions that car bombs were detonated at the Palestine Hotel a few days back. But what really happened? The Strategy Page describes one version of events in far more detail than I have seen elsewhere.

Three car bombs were used, plus gunmen on foot. The whole thing was caught on a network of security cameras. Two car bombs were used to blast a breach in the concrete security wall, then a bomb filled cement truck was to go through the breach, detonate next to the hotel, and create sufficient havoc for over a dozen gunmen to enter and take foreign journalists hostage, and thus create a major publicity event. The attack failed. The cement truck got stuck in the rubble at the breach, and Iraqi, civilian and American security troops quickly responded to the attack. An American sniper shot the driver of the cement truck, which led to the suicide bomber detonating the explosives while the cement truck was stuck in the breach. Some twenty people were killed in the attack, mainly al Qaeda and civilians who just happened to be in the area.

The coverage I saw seemed to portray this attack as evidence that we are losing the war. At this level of detail, a different conclusion can be drawn. Powerline's "man in Baghdad," Major E, provides analysis from the ground.

Now, the terrorists can only hope that the video of a failed attack will result in a strategic victory by undermining the level of support that war-weary American people have for the democratization of Iraq. I am writing to encourage readers to take a different view.

The media sources I have seen breathlessly point out the spectacular nature of the attack and show the video clip over and over. They do not seem, however, to be pointing out that the Iraqi Police were instrumental in repelling the assault. They did receive some assistance from the US quick reaction force that arrived later, but the real story here is that the Islamic terrorists in Iraq are incapable of even seizing, let alone holding, a hotel full of journalists. Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces continue to get stronger and more capable by the day.

Someday we may wake up and hear that we have won this war. We will be the last to know.

(0) Comments


Time for a music break.

This past Monday night, I was fortunate enough to be at Madison Square Garden for a rock/blues event which I probably started dreaming about when I was 13. That's awhile ago. I have had partial fulfillment of that vision by seeing Eric Clapton several times in the interim, most recently last year. But to see the original hard rock band, I figured, was a dream that would likely go unfulfilled.

Let's start with this. It's weird to see old guys rockin'. I saw the Rolling Stones recently -- and they too are old -- but they act young in a way that defies their rather worn appearance. By contrast, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker did not act like teenagers trying to rock. They acted like supremely confident, mature jazz musicians you would see play at the Blue Note downtown. At the Garden, with 18,000 people stuffed to the ceiling, it's more than a little incongruous.

So, it adds to the incongruity of the whole thing when the music rips out of the amps and just jumps on top of you. You feel like these old men must laugh out loud when they see young bands try to imitate through youthful energy what they do though sheer musical talent. The music is overwhelmingly powerful bluesrock from another time - not available today anywhere.

For those who've seen Clapton, you'll be happy to hear that he is in perfect form, elegantly playing the music which first brought him broad acclaim and elevated him to the status of rock icon alongside Jimi Hendrix. While it is true that he was held in high esteem by Blues purists for his work with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers ("Clapton is God"), subsequent to his initiation into the business with the Yardbirds, Cream was the breakout. It is a pleasure to see him in a small band - no backup guitars or keyboards for support. Every song is merely a vehicle for his guitar playing. For the true Cream aficionado, you would be disappointed by 2 things - 1) he only played his stratocaster ("blackie") and 2) none of his solos were of equal length to some of the absurd expeditions he would go off on in his youth. They were tight, perfectly played, a joy to listen to, and too short. But if you want Clapton solos which go on longer, buy the CD's Live Cream Volume I and II, or his Hyde Park DVD (esp his I Shot the Sheriff solo, which shocks you with its emotion, and his White Room riff). They did throw in Badge, a Clapton concert staple, as the only non-Cream song (I am pretty sure).

Jack Bruce sounded like, well, himself. His voice is Cream's signature, and it was fun to hear it. It was better than you'd expect at this late date, but not as powerful as it was. What I was really impressed with was Bruce's bass playing. I doubt any bassist with whom Clapton has worked has been allowed to play at the volume and tempo with which Bruce played. It competes with Clapton's guitar. You could feel his bass in your chest and in your toenails, while Clapton's guitar was in your ears and in your face. It is a tragedy they stopped playing together in 1968. They are awesome together. Though I can imagine that there was some rivalry in their day -- "turn down yer bass ya fokker", followed by a "piss off mate" and maybe some thrown equipment -- wouldn't have shocked me.

Ginger Baker is old, really old. 67. And his body and his mind must be older. That said, his drumming was perfect - he was the structural jazzy unperpinning to the ripping sound on top. And he nailed the best solo of the night, his drum solo on Toad. Without a sweat. And it went on long. It was the conclusion to their set, and led into their Sunshine of Your Love encore.

All told, an event not to be missed if you are into this stuff and have the chance. 3 great musicians long apart reunite to play some of the music from their early adult/musicianhood. Sober. You appreciate the fact that their talent is timeless. If they decided to just put together a blues-only CD as Clapton did a few years ago and go on tour, it would be fantastic to see. Some of the old Cream songs are tired -- I would have done without I'm So Glad, Sleepytime and Pressed Rat and Warthog. But the songs every Cream fan knows -- Deserted Cities of the Heart, Tales of Brave Ulysses, Politician, White Room and Sunshine of Your Love -- stand up to time well. And some songs many don't know, that are more like blues standards -- Spoonful. Born Under a Bad Sign, NSU -- still flow naturally from the instruments and sound extraordinary.

Let's hope they do some more.

(7) Comments

One reason why Iran is not "entitled" to nukes 

There seems to be some sense in the Muslim world that the West is being "unfair" to Iran because it is pressuring it to give up development of the nuclear fuel cycle, which will enable it to develop material for weapons. If Israel and other countries in the region can have nuclear weapons, why can't Iran?

Well, one reason is that the chief executives of other countries in the region don't threaten to annihilate their neighbors.
Iran's hard-line president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The entire world knows that the only "Palestinian attacks" that might destroy the Jewish state are those conducted with banned weapons of mass destruction. So what is President Ahmadinejad proposing?

(1) Comments

The forged "yellowcake" papers trip up Joseph Wilson 

More than a year ago I wrote about the rumors that France was the source of the forged documents that seemed to show that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy "yellowcake" uranium from Niger. Yes, these were the same forged documents that Joseph Wilson lied about having relied on in the forging of his own public statements (yes, I am a punster of ill repute) about the Bush administration's use of WMD intelligence.

Well, the Italian businessman who served as an intermediary in the surfacing of those bogus papers now has now gone on the record:
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

Two fairly obvious conclusions flow from this interesting factoid. First, France under Chirac may not be an enemy, but it is surely not an ally and definitely an adversary.

Second, Joseph Wilson obviously didn't learn a lot about black operations from his wife, because he fell for France's black op like a ton of bricks, even if months after the fact. Had he gone public in February instead of July, he might have turned France's operation into a huge success. (There is insight here into the character of Joseph Wilson, who might have written his op-ed piece before March 20 if it were genuinely his intention to prevent the war. Instead, he waited until the only impact other than on American morale would be partisan.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Martino is apparently at least a little afraid of what the French might do to him for flipping, as well he should be:
Mr Martino is said by diplomats to have come forward of his own accord and contacted authorities in the Italian capital following the earlier article in the Telegraph. They said he had written a letter of resignation to the French DGSE intelligence service last week...

"After being exposed in the international press, French intelligence can hardly be amused or happy with him," one western diplomat said. "Martino may have thought the safest thing was to hand himself over to the Italians."

Smart move.

UPDATE: Joshua Micah Marshall has an interesting post (via Screwy Hoolie) that touches on this subject tangentially: what was the nature of the relationship of Italy's intelligence service with Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans, and why did the latter bypass the CIA and the State Department to meet with Iranian intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq? One possible answer (speculation alert), of course, is that the policy disagreements between the Bush administration (as reflected in the appointed civilian leadership of the DoD), on the one hand, and State and CIA on the other hand, were so acute that the former felt that it could not trust the latter. This atmosphere of distrust led the DoD to do a lot of stupid things, including relying on intelligence sources that the CIA had already concluded were unreliable.

(1) Comments

Hitchens on Galloway 

We have been eagerly anticipating Christopher Hitchens' deconstruction of Senator Coleman's report on George Galloway's corrupt dealings with Saddam Hussein.
A member of the British Parliament was in receipt of serious money originating from a homicidal dictatorship. That money was supposed to have been used to ameliorate the suffering of Iraqis living under sanctions. It was instead diverted to the purposes of enriching Saddam's toadies and of helping them propagandize in favor of the regime whose crimes and aggressions had necessitated the sanctions and created the suffering in the first place. This is something more than mere "corruption." It is the cynical theft of food and medicine from the desperate to pay for the palaces of a psychopath.

Taken together with the scandal surrounding Benon Sevan, the U.N. official responsible for "running" the program, and with the recent arrest of Ambassador Jean-Bernard Mérimée (France's former U.N. envoy) in Paris, and with other evidence about pointing to big bribes paid to French and Russian politicians like Charles Pasqua and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, what we are looking at is a well-organized Baathist attempt to buy or influence the member states of the U.N. Security Council. One wonders how high this investigation will reach and how much it will eventually explain.

The core scandal -- the purchasing of votes on the Security Council -- has been all but ignored by apologists for the United Nations, who like to think that the Oil-for-Food scandal was just one more lining of Saddam Hussein's pockets. Thanks to Senator Coleman, it will be much harder to ignore the elephant in the room.

Hitchens closes with the last obvious question:
Yet this is the man who received wall-to-wall good press for insulting the Senate subcommittee in May, and who was later the subject of a fawning puff piece in the New York Times, and who was lionized by the anti-war movement when he came on a mendacious and demagogic tour of the country last month. I wonder if any of those who furnished him a platform will now have the grace to admit that they were hosting a man who is not just a pimp for fascism but one of its prostitutes as well.

Will Democracy Now! stand by their man?

(4) Comments

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chinese oil consumption falls sharply 

China's economy, based as it is on low-cost manufacturing, seems to be substantially more vulnerable to high energy prices than our own.
Chinese fuel oil demand in 2006 may find it difficult to recover from this year's slump on the back of high global oil prices and depressed refining margins by China's tight lid on auto fuel prices, industry sources say....

The International Energy Agency forecast daily fuel oil demand to rise 2.7 percent next year to 806,000 barrels, after a 5.4 percent fall in 2005, the first drop in three years, as key consumers — industries and small refineries that process it into motor fuels — were forced to shut down or cut output.

Much as we Americans hate shipping our dollars to Saudis for oil -- OK, fine, there is no evidence that we actually hate it, or we'd stop -- the energy market is probably doing a good job of recycling China's own massive trade surplus. We ship our dollars to the Chinese in return for the inventory of thousands of Wal-Mart stores, and they ship them to the Saudis in return for oil which they burn quite wastefully making all the stuff to send to Wal-Mart.

The linked article is also interesting for the light it sheds on China's system of energy production and distribution. In particular, it describe's China's tiny, privately-owned oil refineries called "teapots":
Many of China's tiny refineries, called teapots, which source its fuel oil mainly from South Korea, Russia and Singapore, have been forced to trim operations or shut down for most of the year.

More than 100 such plants in China, each with daily capacity of between 6,000 and 60,000 barrels and mostly run by private businesses, had been battered by poor margins due to Beijing's auto fuel price caps. This was despite the 15 percent rise in retail rates of diesel and gasoline.

These plants command a niche market of 10-15 percent of China's oil sector, selling lower-priced, inferior diesel to factories or independent petrol stations with lower quality standards.

A teapot manager from eastern Shandong Province estimated that a third of the teapot plants in his province had been shut.

“Business has never been so difficult. My plant was shut two-thirds of the time this year as my customers can't afford my product,” said Liang, a manager at a teapot plant in Guangdong.

My sense is that the Chinese have never gone in for massive conglomerates in the Japanese and Korean mold. It is interesting that they have found a way to turn a capital intensive business like oil refining into a small, family business.

CWCID: Simon.

(0) Comments

Lying about Joe Wilson's lies 

For more than a year, the New York Times and the Washington Post repeated Joe Wilson's lies without the slightest question or qualification. Stephen Hayes once again has the goods. Game, set and match.

Whatever coverage there may be of Patrick Fitzgerald's looming indictments, any reporter who suggests that Joe Wilson is anything other than a partisan hack who lied to damage the Bush Administration will do a grave disservice to the truth.

CWCID: Power Line.

(0) Comments

Chapel Hill calls for immediate surrender to al Qaeda 

Another left leaning college town tries its hand at foreign policy.

CHAPEL HILL -- The Town Council passed not one but two resolutions Monday night condemning the war in Iraq and calling for its immediate end. Council members seized the opportunity to express their unanimous disapproval of the war, which they blame for depleting resources that could go to local governments.

Council member Sally Greene added, "Local government is the first line of government. If we can't take a stand like this, I don't know who is."

UPDATE (from TigerHawk): The Iraq war is "depleting resoures that could go to local governments"? This is the first I've heard that my absurdly high property taxes are going to support our troops. Candidly, it makes me feel a whole lot happier about paying them.

(4) Comments

George Galloway and the "anti-war" movement 

Power Line points us to this article in yesterday's Independent, which reports on Senator Norm Coleman's claim that he has in his possession documents which prove that lefty MP and anti-American George Galloway sought and received oil-for-food vouchers from Saddam Hussein's government:
In a report issued here, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman and his colleagues on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations claim to have evidence showing that Mr Galloway's political organisation and his wife received vouchers worth almost $600,000 (£338,000) from the then Iraqi government.

"We have what we call the smoking gun," said Mr Coleman, who will send the report to the US Department of Justice and the British authorities. The MP could face charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing a Congressional investigation. Each charge carries a possible jail term of five years and a fine of $250,000.

Galloway, of course, denies the claim now, as he has repeatedly in the past. As John Hinderaker points out, Galloway "claims to have supported the tyrant for free."

Be that as it may, Coleman's press release speaks with startling specificity. If the documents in question surface and prove to be genuine and probative, they will be damning for the groups that have hitched their sponsorship to Galloway's anti-American campaign. Will the National Council of Arab-Americans and Democracy Now! defend Galloway on the theory that he is right even if paid by Saddam to make his points, or distance themselves while tut-tutting about the need to wait "until all the evidence is in"? It will be particularly interesting to see whether they apply a different evidentiary standard to Saddam's dealing's with Galloway than to, say, the Bush administration's "lies" about WMD in Iraq.

Did I say "hitched"? We eagerly await Christopher Hitchens' next column in Slate, which we trust will cover Coleman's accusations. In the meantime, Galloway stalkers may want to read Hitchens' collection of evidence against Galloway here(pdf).

UPDATE: Sissy Willis, who has had Galloway in her crosshairs at least since his "testimony" before the United States Senate, runs a victory lap.

UPDATE: A blogger named Seixon (who I had never heard of) has vastly more here, including a link to the full report (which I had hunted for three bootless minutes earlier in the day).

(6) Comments

From Rosa Parks to Condoleezza Rice 

She wasn't the first woman in Birmingham to refuse to give up her seat to a white man, but she was the first to go to jail for it.

History works in strange ways. The cop who tossed Rosa Parks in the clink drew a straight line in history to Condoleezza Rice, born in Birmingham 96 days before Rosa Parks refused to budge.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waves to the crowd before the start of the University of Alabama and University of Tennessee game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, October 22, 2005. Does Rice want to be president? Even a young girl at a photo opportunity with Rice in her former elementary school wanted the United States' most prominent black Republican to answer the question.
The United States is still far from colorblind. But it is closer to that goal than any other country in the world.

(1) Comments

It passed 

Iraq's new constitution has been approved, according to official results from the nationwide referendum held earlier this month....

But electoral commission officials said 44% of voters in the key province of Nineveh had endorsed the constitution.

This means only two provinces voted "No" by the required margin.

Electoral commission officials told a news conference that overall, 78% of voters backed the charter and 21% opposed it in the vote on 15 October.

(0) Comments

Juan Cole "counts" civilian casualties in Iraq 

Juan Cole tossed off a rather startling paragraph in his morning round-up on Monday:
Iraq Body Count, Reuters says, estimates that 38 Iraqis die in violence every day. Over thirty-five years, that would amount to nearly 500,000 dead. In fact, it is estimated that the Baath party killed 300,000 Iraqis, so the current rate seems to be greater than the Baath rate. (The number of civilians killed by the Baath is probably in fact exaggerated. Only a few thousand bodies have been recovered from mass graves so far.)

Setting aside Cole's Kristofian quibbling over the size of Saddam's killing fields, isn't there something rather horrifying about his formulation? If the Ba'athists aren't killing those 38 Iraqis who die in violence "every day," then who is? Reuters creates the impression that the United States is responsible for more than a third of them:
A report by Iraq Body Count in July said nearly 37 percent of the Iraqi deaths it had recorded were caused by U.S.-led forces, with the rest caused by insurgents and criminal gangs.

There is a huge problem with this number, which I will get to as soon as we figure out who is killing the Iraqi civilians that the United States is not killing. Juan Cole says that it isn't Ba'athists, so it must either be Iraqis who never would have hurt a fly until the Coalition deposed Saddam, or -- say it ain't so! -- al Qaeda. C'mon Juan! If the Ba'athist rejectionists don't form the bulk of the insurgency, who does?

Now for the huge number problem. Reuters' citation of the "37 percent" number from Iraq Body Count's July report(pdf) is so misleading one can only assume that its reporter did not read Iraq Body Count's report. That report calculated that "24,865 civilians have been reported killed, almost all of them as a direct result of violence, between 20 March 2003 and 19 March 2005." Thirty percent (30%) of that number, or about 7,350, were killed during the period of "major combat operations," between March 20, 2003 and May 1, 2003. Since the Coalition was doing almost all of the shooting during that period, it is almost certainly true that virtually all the early civilian casualties derived from Coalition weapons. Since May 2003 (i.e., the end of "major combat operations" and the advent of the insurgency), approximately 23,000 Iraqi civilians have died (according to IBC's "high" estimate, subtracting the deaths before May 1, 2003), and Coalition weapons were responsible for roughly 2,000 of those deaths. That would be fewer than 10%.

So why does Cole insist that the Ba'athists aren't responsible for the current casualties when he quite plainly does not think that foreign fighters are the main culprits, and why does Reuters mislead its readers about the proportion of the casualties inflicted by Americans? Surely the casual observer -- somebody who missed out on a first rate education at a top university, for example -- would say that the people who detonate car bombs in markets or suicide belts on buses are themselves responsible for the murders they commit. Heck, such a dimwit might even think that the ununiformed insurgent is responsible for the deaths of the human shields that he uses to hide from the counterinsurgency. And if our casual observer is a real meathead, he would assume that if insurgents blow up systems for pumping water, they are the ones responsible for the dehydration and disease that follows.

Alas, that is not the moral calculus that informs Juan Cole, Reuters, or Iraq Body Count. According to the latter (and approvingly cited by the former):
This database includes up to 7,350 deaths which resulted from coalition military action during the "major-combat" phase prior to May 1st 2003. In the current occupation phase the database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.

This is important to bear in mind as you listen to the anti-war Left's arguments in favor of immediate retreat from Iraq: No matter how many innocent Iraqis the terrorists slaughter with their bombs or use as human shields, Juan Cole, Reuters, Iraq Body Count and countless others all believe that the United States is the culpable party. If al Qaeda detonated a dirty bomb in the middle of Baghdad and killed 300,000 people, it would be the fault of the United States. This is the morality of the anti-American Left.

Why, then, does it surprise us that so many on the Left believe the United States is responsible for September 11?

(7) Comments

Monday, October 24, 2005


An image taken from a security camera shows an explosion on the roundabout outside the cement wall surrounding the Palestine Hotel compound, bottom right, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 24, 2005.

How many of the international journalists who were attacked today at the Palestine Hotel believe that if the United States withdrew from Iraq it would "end the war"? Or is it that they know they will only cover the war for so long as the United States remains, thereafter allowing Americans to ignore the war?

(1) Comments

Both predictable and stupid 

However predictable, I hope that this story does not prove to be true:
As the White House and Republicans brace for possible indictments in the CIA leak probe, defenders have launched a not-so-subtle campaign against the prosecutor handling the case.

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

By all accounts published and otherwise, Patrick Fitzgerald is a very upstanding guy and quite unlike the partisan clown in Texas who has indicted Tom DeLay. Attacking Fitzgerald personally would be bad for the Republicans, bad for prospective and actual defendants, and bad for the country. Yes, the Democrats slimed Ken Starr. But that doesn't make it right to do the same to Pat Fitzgerald. And the press shouldn't play along with off-the-record smears. Precisely what public interest is served by the Daily News printing a factually empty attack on the character of Patrick Fitzgerald from a speaker who is unwilling to say such things for attribution? The Daily News' source is a moral cretin, but only one rung below the Daily News itself.

UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy agrees, and then some. (CWCID: Chris Lawrence.)

(4) Comments

The next crisis: Stratfor's two cents 

Stratfor ($) has published its take on bird flu. Key recommendation:

Calm down.

Now let us qualify that: Since December 2003, the H5N1 bird flu virus -- which has caused all the ruckus -- has been responsible for the documented infection of 121 people, 91 one of whom caught the virus in Vietnam. In all cases where information on the chain of infection has been confirmed, the virus was transmitted either by repeated close contact with fowl or via the ingestion of insufficiently cooked chicken products. In not a single case has human-to-human communicability been confirmed. So long as that remains the case, there is no bird flu threat to the human population of places such as Vietnam at large, much less the United States.

If true, we can use this to guide our own strategy towards avoiding the malady.

First, we need to continue to closely monitor the situation so if the virus mutates to a form that allows human to human transmission, we will know immediately. Their seems to be enough concern that, should evidence of such a transmission surface, we are likely to hear about it from a number of sources.

Second, as avian flu continues to spread among worldwide poultry stocks, we can reduce our risks of exposure by eating well cooked birds. (I will immediately make a dietary adjustment to eating more poultry cooked in this manner, favored by the legendary General Tso).

(0) Comments

Paul Krugman's former boss nominated to lead Fed 

George Bush will announce the nomination of Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. Bernanke is currently chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisors. He moved to the White House last spring from Princeton University, where he served as chairman of the Department of Economics and, therefore, Paul Krugman's boss. Reason enough to get away from the Princeton economics department, I should think.

Krugman, to his credit as a prognosticator, predicted this nomination back in February. Given his universally dim view of Bush's political appointees, one can only imagine how difficult it will be for him to write his next column. Will Krugman dump all over Bernanke, or will professorial comity trump his inner snark?

(0) Comments

Why columnists hate bloggers 

Res ipsa loquitur.

(1) Comments

Baghdad's Palestine Hotel attacked (again) 

Iraqi insurgents have deliberately attacked the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, home away from home for much of the foreign media assigned to Iraq.
Rockets and car bombs hit the Palestine Hotel on Monday, wounding at least five people and causing considerable damage to the building that houses many foreign journalists, Iraqi police and journalists said.

The insurgents last attacked the hotel about a year ago. The A.P. notes that the hotel has been attacked "several times" since the war began, reminding us that "[o]n April 8, 2003 — the day before Saddam Hussein's regime fell — U.S. tank fire killed two TV cameramen — a Spaniard and a Ukrainian — at the hotel."

Of course, the American tank was returning fire, so it is stretching things just a tad to characterize that first incident as an "attack."

Today's unprovoked attack produced casualties of indeterminate number and nationality. Since European judges have taken to indicting American soldiers for shooting at the Palestine Hotel in self-defense, we anxiously await news of corresponding "Mohammed Doe" indictments of the terrorists responsible for today's attempted murder.

(0) Comments

The winds of war 

This week's "winds of war" post is up at Winds of Change. It remains, for my money, the blogosphere's most comprehensive round-up of links on the broader war.

(0) Comments

The Brazilians defeat a ban on guns 

The BBC explains quite clearly, I think, why Brazilians voted overwhelming to reject a proposed ban on guns:
Sixty-four percent of those who voted rejected the proposed ban, which was backed by the government, the Catholic Church and the United Nations.

Leaving the Catholic Church out of it (and many people wouldn't), who in their right mind would vote to surrender any right on the request of their own government and the United Nations?

(2) Comments

Sunday, October 23, 2005


They probably didn't sell a lot of Guinness to fundamentalists anyway!

CWCID: Crooked Timber.

(0) Comments

Re-articulating the democratization strategy 

[Moved to the top for Sunday - scroll down for other posts]

"Democracies are peaceful countries." So said George W. Bush last week in the aftermath of a surprisingly peaceful election to ratify Iraq's new constitution. This simple idea, propounded most famously by Natan Sharansky in his influential book The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, is a cornerstone of America's strategy in its war against Islamic jihad. The President expressed it this way almost two years ago in his speech before the National Endowment for Democracy:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.

Two years later, there has been no wavering from the Bush administration's view that we will push the reform of the political systems in the Arab world even if it means instability. Condoleezza Rice said this in Cairo in June:
For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.

Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

And, finally, at Princeton on September 30:
People still differ about what the September 11th calls us to do. And in a democratic society, that debate is healthy and just and right. If you focus only on the attacks themselves and believe they were caused by 19 hijackers, supported by a network called al-Qaida, and operating from a failed state -- Afghanistan -- then our response can be limited. The course of action presumes that we are still living in an ordinary time.

But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.

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.

The Bush administration believes that democracy is important because it eliminates the circumstances under which terrorism prospers.

There are several problems with this justification for the democratization strategy.

First, whether or not established democracies extinguish terrorism by dint of their political "transparency" and accountability, the journey to democracy is the work of a generation. During that transition, jihadis, fascists, dispossessed ethnic groups and foreign meddlers may increase terrorism to increase their leverage or to strangle the young democratic state in its crib -- nothing bolsters fascism more readily than a security problem. Democracy in Iraq has not eliminated the terrorism there, and it will not any time soon. This is because as democracy advances its opponents are ever more motivated to fight to defeat it.

Second, it may be that even mature democracies are particularly susceptible to coercion by terrorism. Democracies rely on due process of law, which is often at odds with effective anti-terror tactics (a controversial point to be sure, but trust that I believe it to be true). Also, democracies are more vulnerable to the short term swings in public opinion that terrorism is designed to provoke.

Third, it may be that the greater susceptibility of democracies to terrorism means that, as a matter of demonstrable fact, terrorism is no less likely to flourish in democracies and autocracies. The Philippines, for example, is as democratic as any Arab country is likely to be in my lifetimem, yet it still suffers from Islamic terrorism. The same can be said for Indonesia.

Fourth, it may simply not be true. F. Gregory Gause III in the current issue of Foreign Affairs attacks the idea that "[a]s democracy grows in the Arab world ... the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism." It won't, he argues, because "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type." This strikes me as manifestly true.

Arguments like Cause's and Robert Pape's are persuasive that democratization of the Arab world will not, in and of itself, eliminate the conditions that inspire Islamic terrorism.

In addition, the Bush initiative to democratize the Arab world does not come without costs. As Gause points out:
[E]ven if democracy were achieved in the Middle East, what kind of governments would it produce? Would they cooperate with the United States on important policy objectives besides curbing terrorism, such as advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, maintaining security in the Persian Gulf, and ensuring steady supplies of oil? No one can predict the course a new democracy will take, but based on public opinion surveys and recent elections in the Arab world, the advent of democracy there seems likely to produce new Islamist governments that would be much less willing to cooperate with the United States than are the current authoritarian rulers.

To be sure, the Bush administration seems cognizant of this argument insofar as it tirelessly expresses a willingness to sacrifice "stability" in order to advance democracy. However, recognition that the old trade-offs no longer apply does not diminish Gause's main point, which is that the democratization strategy is not without significant risks.

So, if the democratization project holds out little demonstrable chance of shrinking the number of extremists and if it carries the great risk of propelling anti-American regimes into office, should the next administration abandon Bush's initiatives and return to a willingness to exchange support for autocracies for "stability" and pro-American governments? My answer is no.

The true benefit of democratization has very little to do with Natan Sharansky's romantic view that a genuine franchise and the civil rights necessary to sustain it will somehow destroy jihadi terrorism by removing the discontent that feeds its roots. No, the best and perhaps only argument for democratization is that it will increase the number of active enemies of the jihadis within the Muslim world, whether or not those enemies of the Islamists are themselves supporters of the United States or quite opposed to us. It will be enough for us to create more enemies of al Qaeda. We need to create more enemies of al Qaeda because we cannot beat al Qaeda on our own.

Al Qaeda, we believe, enjoys the active support of a very small proportion of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the Muslim world is so large that small proportion includes a lot of people. If only 1% of Muslims are inclined to support al Qaeda personally, that still gives them a base of more than 10,000,000 people to recruit from. If those people are disproportionately Saudis -- as they appear to be -- there are also thousands of rich people in a position to divert funds to support al Qaeda. Is there any possibility that democracy will satisfy the 1% most radical Muslims? There is none.

Al Qaeda is the product of more than 70 years of ideological development. That ideology grows in fertile soil for many reasons rooted in ancient Arab and Muslim economic and political failures. The ideology of jihadism also succeeds because it competes against, er, nothing. There is no meaningful ideology in the Arab world, which sustains its rulers in the barren soil of monarchy or rank authoritarianism, to compete with radical Islam.

Just as communism's intellectual roots stretched back decades before the establishment of the first communist state, jihadi ideology is a coherent and highly developed political philosophy with origins long ante-dating the state of Israel, Western dependance on Middle Eastern oil, the presence of American soldiers in the region, or the Taliban government of Afghanistan. As was the case with communism, it will take a long time to discredit and destroy this ideology. While widespread political reform would be a wonderful thing, it will have very little impact on al Qaeda.

How, then, do we destroy both al Qaeda and the jihadi ideology? The answer is that "we" -- meaning the West -- cannot. Just as the United States did not destroy communism, only Muslims, and particularly Arab Muslims, can destroy the jihad. They will do so only when it is worth their great personal sacrifice to ruthlessly pursue the people in their own world who promote this ideology.

As with the decades-long war on communism, the war on Islamic jihad requires a strategy that both contains the advance of the jihad as much as practical and motivates its most direct victims -- in this case Muslims -- to destroy it from within (as the Russians and the Chinese have both, in quite different fashion, destroyed communism). Containment, in this case, requires passive strategies (such as homeland security) and the active participation of the existing governments of the Islamic world. The demands of containment require us to coerce and cajole fundamentally hideous governments, including especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as other tactics, such as our flowering alliance with India and our careful diplomacy in Central Asia) have put us in a position to do that.

Unfortunately, steps we take to coerce the autocracies of the Muslim world also make us less popular among the Muslim masses. This is not different from the Cold War, in which active American efforts to contain communism -- the Cuban embargo, the military defense of South Korea and Vietnam, support for the insurgents in Angola, support for Taiwan, and support for Israel in 1967 and 1973 -- enraged the otherwise oppressed populations of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and so forth. As we learned during the Cold War, containment alone cannot dispose of an enemy founded in a well-articulated political philosophy. We therefore must combine containment of the jihadis with a long-term plan to motivate the Muslim world to discredit and destroy the jihad from within. This is the true purpose and promise of the Bush Administration's "democratization" strategy, even if Bush himself does not express it this way or even understand it in these terms.

Muslims need serious motivation to discredit and destroy the jihad because the jihadis are extremely dangerous and ruthless people. They have demonstrated their capacity for breathtaking brutality not just on September 11 and in the Sunni Triangle, but across the world over a period of at least twenty years. None of Western arm-twisting of Israel, the retreat of the United States from the region or promises of Western aid or free trade will provide that necessary serious motivation. The only way to inspire Muslims to fight the jihad is to invite them to embrace a competing ideology that can fill the empty void of their civil society and give them something in defense of which they are willing to risk war with the jihadis. Communism, and its bastard step-child Ba'athism, is entirely discredited. Moderate Islam -- the peaceful part of the "religion of peace" -- might have filled that void, but it has not thus far and shows no prospect of doing so any time soon. The idea of popular sovereignty -- the philosophy of John Locke, if you will -- is the only political philosophy available in the West that holds any promise of competing with the evil coherence of Islamic jihad. It is helpful that it is a wonderful thing to fight for.

To repeat myself to the point of tedium: We, meaning Americans and other Westerners, cannot defeat al Qaeda on our own. We need the help of the Arab and Muslim world. Without them, we will never be able to separate the enemies from the neutrals. So the question is, what will motivate Muslims to turn in the jihadis in the back of the mosque? Well, we know they won't do it out of gratitude to the United States, and they rarely will do it because a monarch or an autocrat threatens them or gives them money. The risks are simply too great. They may do it, though, if those jihadis threaten an idea that they hold dear. Moderate Islam has failed to supply that idea. Communism is dead. The only alternative is the guiding light of the Enlightenment, the idea of the social contract. However much Muslims may resent the United States, they will fight the jihad to defend that idea. That's the hypothesis, anyway.

The "democratization" of the Muslim world, therefore, is critical to the destruction of the jihadi ideology for more than one reason. Least important is the reason most often given by the Bush administration and its supporters -- that it will "drain the swamp" of Muslim rage that festers under the heel of Muslim authoritarian and monarchical regimes. As Gause and Pape and Pat Buchanan argue, democratization may not shrink the number of radicals. But if enough Muslims conclude that popular sovereignty is a more attractive ideology than radical Islam, the number of Arab and Muslim enemies of al Qaeda will increase many times. Even if young democracies in the region elect governments that are less pliable from an American perspective, they may also do a better job of fighting al Qaeda, which represents a mortal threat to democratic government.

Democracy, then, will not diminish either radicalism or anti-Americanism (or opposition to Israel) in the Arab Muslim world. But it will create many more active enemies of al Qaeda, and in this war the enemy of our enemy is definitely our friend.

[Note: Portions of this post have appeared elsewhere on TigerHawk, but never stitched together into what I hope is a coherent argument.]

(13) Comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?