Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hooray for Mayor Daley!

On the road still. I am in Texas with my parents and my youngest brother, who is leaving in a few days to be a missionary. I won't see him again for two years, so I am spending some time with him to say farewell. I love being home except that they only have dial-up. Stupid dial-up. How did I ever tolerate it?

Anyway, just a quick note because I could not read this without taking a minute to pass it along.


Mayor Daley scolded Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry Tuesday for making a wisecrack about the bicycle accident that scraped the face, hands and knees of President Bush.

...Daley, who ripped the skin off his kneecap during a bicycle accident a few years ago, said the joke was disrespectful. "When someone falls . . . you should not wish ill upon anyone. It's not right. . . . You just don't do that. Let's have some respect for one another."

To Daley, Kerry's remark symbolized a hate-filled brand of politics the mayor has long despised.

"The thing I worry about in politics is all of these people hating one another [saying], 'I hate Kerry', 'I hate Bush.' I wish the former presidents -- Carter and Ford and Clinton and Bush -- would all get up and tell people, 'You may support candidates, but don't hate the other candidate.'

"You see too much hate. And I'll tell you one thing -- hate will turn on people. . . . When hate gets in politics, it's a very, very dangerous aspect."


(Thanks to Just One Minute for pointing this out.)

--JOHANNES CLERK



Sunday, May 23, 2004

Second-hand news from the Sandbox

One of the women at the conference is married to a soldier ("Dave") who just returned two days ago from thirteen months in Iraq. Saturday night I spent quite a long time talking to this gentleman, and I thought it would be a good idea for me to record what he said. Of course, I cannot say that the things I have written here are correct beyond a shadow of doubt.

These are my secondhand recollections of this good man's opinions, so some error may have crept in either through either filter (him or me). All the same, I thought that there might be some among my imaginary readers who would find this information helpful in some way, and so I share.

1. We are not going to find a huge cache of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Dave was in the Iraq Survey Group, whose job it is to look for WMDs. This is also the group who dealt with the recently discovered artillery shell filled with GB (aka Sarin). The shell had been rigged as an improvised explosive device (IED) in a manner which, in Dave's opinion, meant that those who rigged it didn't know what was in the shell. This was why the agent failed to disperse properly. Combined with the age of the shell (and the agent) explains why the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) crew who were first called in to deal with the shell were not seriously harmed. Dave does not blame President Bush but thinks that he, along with every other leader and intelligence agency in the western world, was deceived by Iraqi exiles who sold us a story that we wanted to believe. This goes to show that the media are not the only folks who sometimes fail to be adequately skeptical of "facts" that we want to believe are true.

2. Soldiers are not happy that they are being asked to stay in Iraq past the dates when they were originally told they were going to be home. They are dealing with it and doing their jobs, but many of them are beginning to wonder if they are ever going home.

3. We need more Civil Affairs people (and MPs) in the military. And the military needs to leave them alone and let them do their jobs. Right now the administration wants zero casualties, and so the CA guys are hampered by excessive security details. They would be more effective if they didn't have to take Bradleys wherever they went, but a few of them would probably get killed.

4. Garner's people loved him and thought he got screwed. Bremer doesn't pay as much attention to the military, and Dave does not expect that the move to two commands in Iraq will increase the coordination.

5. Iraqis and people in the region more generally don't care that much about Abu Ghraib. To Westerners, they complain, and loudly. Among themselves, however, it is not such a big deal. They know that standard treatment for prisoners in the region is often worse than the mistreatment alleged to have occurred in Abu Ghraib.

6. Almost all Iraqis are aiding the Coalition forces, either passively or actively. If it were not so, we would be losing fifty men every day. Insurgent attacks are often thwarted thanks to timely information from friendly locals. Example 1: A boy who plays soccer with the guards to a Coalition base goes home early one afternoon, explaining to the soldiers that his mother wants him home because there is going to be an attack later that day. Example 2: A soldier riding in a humvee on a patrol hears urgent shouts in Arabic. He looks for the source of the shouting and sees people yelling at him and pointing to three insurgents who are preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at his vehicle. He quickly fires, killing one of them and injuring another. He escapes harm, as do the other soldiers in the humvee.

7. The insurgency is a few thousand guys whipped into a frenzy by a few extremist clerics. Quite a few of them are unemployed ex-Iraqi soldiers, which leads Dave to think that we should not have disbanded the Iraqi military.

8. There are thousands of civilian contractors doing soldiering stuff (if you don't count security as soldiering, the number is much lower). And they're not restrained by anything but the desire to stay employed by the Coalition. They're also not protected by the Geneva Convention. Also they get to grow beards, wear non-standard clothes and use non-standard guns, which makes regular soldiers envious.

9. Press people in Iraq think they're immune to harm because they're doing something important. It's a wonder more of them don't get their heads blown off.

There. It's a pretty random information dump, but that's everything I could remember. Hope someone finds this useful.

--DAOUD AL-RAHIMI

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Kablogh City Jail

In the immortal words of Jesse Jackson (as heard in James Brown's "Same Beat"):

"I may be in jail, but I am somebody."

Thanks, Commissar. (Click on the map and look in the lower right-hand quadrant. Yeah, that's right. The House of Payne is in effect, ya'all.)

--THE HOUSE OF PAYNE
Logrolling

Still at the conference. I wrote a lengthy post last night about America's moral obligations towards Sudan and other vacation spots. But as I was completing it, my laptop abruptly shut down for no apparent reason. Miserable piece of junk. Anyway, I'll see if I have the time to reproduce it later today, but for now there's other business.

Several other websites have added the House of Payne to their blogrolls, which has moved this blog a bit up the evolutionary ladder. I think I like the idea of being a reptile, although I worry that some day a cheerfully obnoxious Australian man with a camera crew will show up to tag me.

Anyway, they've linked me, and so I shall link them in return. It is the law, just like "ape shall not kill ape." Fortunately, they all run good blogs and so I am happy to return the favor.

First, the Wump Blog, which has recently posted a terrific essay about how "Sunni Islamic sacred texts perceive the issue of violence." Those of my imaginary readers who want to understand better what is going on in places like Fallujah should read this right away.

Second, Gilly's World. Gilly has a great post about the need for Europe to get involved in Iraq. The last couple of years have left me feeling much less interested in what Europe does, but Gilly makes a good case. Check it out.

Third, the Geek Empire, a blog have linked to before. One recent post that deserves your attention concerns the recent editorial published by Nick Berg's father, which contrasts dramatically with the one I excerpted here from Danny Pearl's father. In a related post, we find out about a gentleman who says about Nick Berg's decapitation that there is a "98% chance that this is a military-industrial complex psyop." Nice. Go read it, and be sure not to miss my very snarky remark in the comments section.

Fourth, and finally, the amazingly prolific Llama Butchers. Yip, yip, yip! Any day of the week you can stop in and find a few things that make you think and a few that make you giggle. Be sure to read the post about British soldiers living up to the example of valor set by their forefathers at Rorke's Drift. And also be sure to check out their take on what is happening in North Korea. (My friend Lyle at LDS4Bush also talks about this and notes with disappointment that Bush isn't getting any credit for this and other diplomatic successes.)

Anyway, I have to jump in the shower and go grab my continental breakfast. More posting later tonight maybe. Muchisimas gracias a todos que me han linqueado, y gracias a todos que lean este blog. Bueno, ya me voy. Chau chau.

--JUAN PENA

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Fun and games

This weekend I'm at a conference in DC, and all next week I am with my family in Houston, so posting will be sporadic. In the meantime, think about what we need to do to prepare the rising generation for the challenges that lie ahead. Is it this?

--REDBEARD
Follow me, boys

A couple of years ago my friend Marc offered me the opportunity to help him do some consulting for an African government. It turns out that Marc and I are both Eagle Scouts, and one of the things that we thought would be best for the long-term political health of this country was the expansion of the Boy Scout program, which we recognized was already a great force for good there. (In the end, the government was overthrown in a coup before we really got a chance to get started doing much of anything there, but that's another story.)

Fellow scouter Grimbeorn discusses a couple of recent writings about scouts, including the true story of the underground survival and post-liberation rebirth of the boy scouts in Iraq. This is the kind of development that is ultimately going to change the course of history over there.

A scout is:
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful,
Friendly, courteous, kind,
Obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
Brave, clean, and reverent.

We could use a few more like that in every country.

--MAJOR BLUDD
Time for moderate Muslims to speak up

A friend suggested I read this and post it on the blog. Good call, Timo. It's an open letter written by Judea Pearl, father of journalist Daniel Pearl, savagely murdered by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan for being an American and a Jew. The letter is written on the occasion of the murder of Nick Berg, and is addressed to the world's Muslims. Read:

I am not directing this letter to the followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is thought to have beheaded Nicholas Berg, or to Osama bin Laden. Rather, I am speaking to those who can win the minds of the young and faithful to the side of hope: intellectual leaders who pride themselves on peace and modernity, and clerics, imams and mullahs who have been voicing concern over the hijacking of Islam by a minority of anti-Islamic extremists. You now have the opportunity to bestow honor on your faith and pride on your children.

I beseech you to join the courageous Muslims who have denounced, in unambiguous language, not only the killing of Nicholas Berg, but the growing practice of killing innocent human beings as a means of communicating grievances, irrespective of how valid or urgent the grievance.

No civilized society can survive the intensity of modern conflicts unless such killings are repelled back to the realm of the inconceivable.

As a father of a person who experienced the horrors of captivity, I can personally feel the anguish of the parents of the Iraqi prisoners who were abused in the Abu Ghraib prison. I nevertheless appeal to you, intellectual leaders of the Muslim community, to unilaterally refrain from joining the cycle of accusation of "who treated who worse" and help transform it into a contest of pride: "whose role models are more humane."

This transformation can become a reality if condemnations of last week's horrors are not left to political leaders but become a public outcry at the grassroots level.


Pearl also makes an appeal to Islamic clerics to speak out and condemn such practices as barbaric. Some Muslims take it a step further and call for an Islamic reformation. Obviously, the former would precede the latter, but I am not hopeful that either will happen soon. Most Islamic schools teach the kind of extremism that leads to violence rather than moderation and tolerance. This is true also of most mosques, including those in the UK and the US as well as the holiest of all mosques in Mecca.

I hear the same story from Muslims from the Balkans, from Central Asia, and all over the world. Local, more tolerant, Islamic traditions are being destroyed by money from Saudi Arabia. You know, leftists get pretty worked up about rich and evil multinational corporations homogenizing other cultures into oblivion, but I haven't heard a lot of complaints about the Islamic equivalent of globalization.

But, on the bright side, there are many Iraqi bloggers who have denounced this barbarity. You know, I can't help but think that it's a good thing to have at least one Arab Muslim country where people can say what they think. Thank goodness for the free marketplace of ideas, where the truth will eventually prevail.

--YAHYA AL-RIIFI

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

This century's Lt. Kerry

Justin Katz has been doing some research on a soldier who has been handing out anti-war quotes to papers here and abroad. (Hat tip: Instapundit.) It's astounding. You have to read it to believe it. Read all the comments, too-- many of them are from fellow soldiers, and are very instructive.

--JOHANN F. WEISHAUPT
Copperhead Fedayeen

What does it mean? Who are they? Find out. Here's a hint: they want us to lose.

--REDBEARD
Voting against capitalism?

Insults Unpunished excerpts from a terrific editorial from about the recent win of Sonia Gandhi's Congress party in national elections in India.

The Indian election upset that has unseated Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have one unintended victim: John Kerry. After making the loss of American jobs from outsourcing to countries like India a key part of his presidential campaign, the Democratic challenger may no longer have an easy scapegoat to rail against. Now, his suspicion of tech-savvy Indians who are speeding up their country’s global integration will be shared by the new government in Delhi.

The world’s largest democracy has given an astonishing verdict in an election whose outcome was thought to be a foregone conclusion. The voters rejected the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance that had governed since 1998. The winner was a combination of the Congress Party led by the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, a doctrinaire Marxist bloc, and a motley group of regional outfits that have come together to assemble an alternative government.


It is easy to believe that American politicians would campaign for change by saying that tens of thousands of good jobs are going to India. It's bad economics, but it's easy to understand why a politician would say these things.

The really difficult thing to understand is why an Indian politician would campaign for change by pointing to the very same phenomenon. Wow. But that's what happened, and the really interesting thing is that the vote against the ruling BJP party (who had brought home all those high-tech jobs) was heaviest in the very regions where all those jobs were created. Big Dan Drezner points out a Salman Rushdie editorial saying this is because people with low-tech jobs have been getting poorer:

It's no accident that the ruling alliance lost heavily in Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu, precisely the states that wooed information technology giants such as Microsoft to set up shop, turning sleepy "second cities" such as Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad into new-tech boom towns. That's because while the rich got richer, the fortunes of the poor, such as the farmers of Andhra, declined year by year. The gulf between India's rich and poor has never looked wider than it does today, and the government has fallen into that chasm.


I don't know much about India, and I only know a little bit about economics. (I plead with any economists among my imaginary readers to correct me if I am speaking lies here.) But it sure seems to me that all those high-tech jobs require a lot of other medium- and low-tech jobs for their support. My guess is that the poor have not been getting poorer, but that they have not been getting rich as fast as the folks answering phones for Dell or whatever. People on the bottom don't have to get poorer for the rich-poor gap to grow. That's one of the vicious things about the gap.

(Warning: ignorance-fueled opinionating ahead.) I also think that lots of the poor folks in India just don't believe in capitalism as a vehicle upward mobility. As the WSJ says: "Traditionally, capitalism in India has lacked political advocacy." A lot of Indians just don't trust the idea of capitalism. They would prefer a useless government sinecure to a job with a multinational corporation like, say, Heinz.

Too bad for the Indians, I guess. Their unique resource endowment gives them a real advantage in global markets, and they would be fools not to exploit it.

But someone will pick up the slack, I'm sure.

--PAN YUE-HAN

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Tony Blair, Superhero

Tony Blair is a lefty, but he's not soft on terrorism. He's going to fight to the finish. Good for him. Tony Blair is my hero. He laid out the case for the war in Iraq more eloquently than anyone else, and he has defended it more forcefully than anyone else. I don't agree with all his ideas, but if he were over here, I would vote for him in a heartbeat.

Why is there no one like him here in America? He would definitely be on the other side of the aisle from George W. Bush, but I would vote for a Democrat like that. Or like Harry S. Truman, or a host of others. Senator Kerry, though, is just not a choice for anyone who is serious about the war on terror. And the entire Democratic party seems determined to alienate anyone who is serious about it, like Joe Lieberman. Too bad.

--JOHANNES CLERK
Not justified

Political Juice is bothered by a comment from President Bush about the murder of Nick Berg. The offending remark: "There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg — no justification whatsoever."

Well, of course Bush sees no justification for this. If the act -- which was claimed as an act of revenge against American treatment of Iraqi prisoners -- were to be justified somehow, that would mean admitting that American treatment of Iraqi prisoners has been atrocious. It would mean taking responsibility for those American actions and the possible consequences. And certainly we can't do that, can we?

Look. We justify revenge all the time in America. Our movies are full of revenge narratives -- protagonists who have been wronged, who seek "justice." (We call it "justice" when we agree with the revenge. Just look at the death penalty.) Our attack on Afghanistan was justified revenge, wasn't it? Heck, we even decided to extend that revenge (and its justification) to an invasion of Iraq!

Simply put, how stupid, how hypocritical, how utterly idiotic for Bush to cry out "foul" over the terrible beheading of Nick Berg. Yes, it was terrible. Yes, we should be upset, disturbed, sickened, even outraged at this graphic display of violence and cruelty. But how does Bush claim the act is "unrelated" to the prisoner scandal? How can he possibly claim there's no justification for it?


I disagree, and here’s why. First, we need to talk about what 'no justification' means, to us and to President Bush. If I ask you to justify your actions, I am really saying: "Why did you do that?" So one way to understand 'no justification' is 'no reason why.'

Is President Bush saying Nick Berg's killers acted for no reason? I don't think so, but PJ seems to. His point is that the murderers did offer a justification for their actions. Their reason for doing this was to take revenge, generally for the American occupation, and specifically for the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Since they told us how they justified the killing, it's wrong for President Bush to say there was no justification for it.

Well, if the only meaning of justification were 'motivation or reason for an action,' then I would agree with him. President Bush has said before that terrorists desire to attack the United States because they are "killers." Saying that the reason terrorists kill is that they are killers is tautological and not helpful.

But saying that an action is unjustified is not the same as saying it happened for no reason. To justify means to show that something is right or correct. When President Bush says there is "no justification" for Nick Berg's decapitation, he means: "No matter why they said they did it, it was wrong. Nothing excuses this murder."

I agree with this statement, and I think PJ probably would, too. It was wrong to saw Nick Berg's head off. The men who did it are not justified. They were not right. We do not accept their excuse for doing this.

Think about this, PJ. How would you feel if President Bush had said this:

"The decapitation of Nick Berg was justified by the continuing occupation of Iraq, as well as the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib."

Would you agree? I wouldn't. Even if I were to accept revenge as a valid motivation, I could not accept murder as a just price to exact for humiliation. If they had kidnaped Nick Berg and and made him wear panties on his head, or made him pose nude with a bunch of other men wearing dog collars, that would be closer.

But this was an execution. Yes, we have executions in America, but I think there are some pretty important differences. Let's say we are outraged by a crime. We don't just grab someone who belongs to the same group as the person we think committed the crime. We tell the police what we know about the suspect, and that's where our role ends. The police investigate and make the arrest, the district attorney prosecutes, a jury convicts, and a judge sentences. Then there are appeals, etc., which go on literally for decades. At the end of this meticulously-regulated process a person might be executed.

That's not what happened to Nick Berg. No police, no lawyers, no jury, no judge, no governor to appeal to. It was a lynching, and we don't believe those are justified, even in states where we perform executions. The death penalty is not just "revenge that we agree with," and the decapitation of Nick Berg was nothing like American justice. The two are not morally equivalent, and anyone who implies otherwise is simply being intellectually dishonest.

Yes, Nick Berg died because his killers hated the American occupation and wanted revenge. Can we understand the human impulse to seek revenge? Yes. Does that mean his murder is justified? No.

--EL DOLOR
Spirit of America update

A reminder: if you like seeing good news coming out of Iraq, send a few bucks over to Spirit of America. They generate a lot of good news by making good things happen, and they also make sure the news spreads by helping Iraqis set up media outlets of their own. This is the front line on the war to win hearts and minds in Iraq and the rest of the region.

Wish the Bush administration was doing something like this, but there's nothing more American than taking a little initiative and doing for ourselves instead of waiting for the government to do it for us. Let's help these guys fight the good fight.

PS - My previous offer still stands. Show me that you've donated thirty bucks to SoA and I'll mail you a bound volume of the classic G.I. Joe comic books from Marvel. Yo Joe!

--IT'S THE HOUSE
In Our Name

From Mohammed at Iraq the Model:

The point behind all these pictures and stories I mentioned is that the people started to speak out and express their feelings and here we’re in great need for support from the free world to back the progress. Moving back is absolutely unacceptable; we’ve put our feet on the right way and we need help from the others. Never let the bad pictures lay their heavy shadow on the good, bright ones. The negative media want our eyes to pause on the bad events to win time in this worldwide battle and to make us forget the good pictures that encourage us to keep the momentum. This includes most of the major western media.

They are ‘unconsciously’ supporting the terrorists and the totalitarian regimes in the region to stop this great progress. The media have managed to create some distrust and hate between some Iraqis and some of the coalition and the west in general. Well, not in my city, it seems to be immune to their poison.

The road is long and hard but together, we can do it.


You probably read this blog already, but if you're not, start now. And be sure to check out the links to other Iraqi bloggers on the right side of the page. If you want to know what's happening over there, cut out the middleman. Listen to what Iraqis themselves are saying. Because if you wait to hear it on the evening news, you'll never hear stories like this one:

On the road to the residents’ house we passed near the coalition base in Samawa; the striking and ugly feature of this base, like any other one is, the concrete wall that surrounds it. These walls initiate a sensation of fear in the hearts and a feeling that there’s a huge block between the people and the coalition. I understand the security necessity of these walls but they still form an unpleasant sight for everyone, except this particular one. The coalition forces here invited all the kids-and their parents-in the neighborhood for a special festival, the kids were given paints and brushes and a definite area of the wall was assigned for each kid to paint on whatever he likes and to sign his painting with his/her name. I leave it for you to imagine how this hateful wall looked like after this festival. It became a fascinating huge painting that gives a feeling of brotherhood and friendship. These paintings eliminated all the psychological walls between the folks and the coalition here.

At the end of the festival, gifts were given to each kid; toys, clothes, candies…
You can’t imagine how happy the kids were when they stood proudly pointing at their paintings; flowers, birds, hands shaking and the flags of Iraq and the coalition countries, and then pointing to their names; Zahra, Mohammed, Sajjad, Fatima… together with phrases like; yes for peace, Saddam has fallen and many others. No one can watch this without having tears filling his eyes and I feel sorry that I couldn’t take pictures for this carnival, as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the people there told me the whole story.


And this one:

The pictures I see are so many and they bring hope, I remember the last day I spent there before I returned to Baghdad, and I was watching Al-Samawa local TV (now they have their own local station) and it was broadcasting one of the sessions of the district’s council when a woman stood up wearing the traditional costume and behind her was a group of women, she started to yell in the face of the chairman of the council saying “Listen to me! You can’t ignore our voice anymore. These women elected me and put their trust in me and I demand authorities like those of men. My voice will not stay low from now on and I have to give those who elected me what they need”. I don’t think you can realize the meaning of this picture. It simply means that we have moved tens of years forward in a matter of months and we have broken the chains of a long dark past. The cry of this woman was enough to awaken me to the great progress that happened.


Whenever I read a story like this, I cannot help but think of my trip to Europe in March of 2002. I had a friend living in Brussels, and so I went over to spend spring break with him and his girlfriend. Pretty much everything in Europe is within easy driving distance, especially if (like me) you grew up in Kansas and are used to long stretches in a car. So we went up from Brussels to Amsterdam, which I had never visited before.

As we were coming out of the Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt! Van Gogh! Vermeer! Duerer!), we found ourselves in the midst of a stream of people, on their way to a protest in a nearby park. And on nearly every person there was a sticker: Not In Our Name. (Actually, a lot of the stickers said "Niet in onze naam," but you get the picture.)

This is what I think of every time I see any news at all from Iraq or Afghanistan. A roadside bomb kills an American GI-- not in your name. A hellfire missile kills four Iraqi children-- not in your name. Prisoners mistreated and humiliated in Abu Ghraib-- not in your name. You were right, bad things have happened. And not in your name.

On the other hand... An Iraqi woman stands up in a town meeting and demands rights for herself and her sisters-- not in your name. The Iraqi national soccer team winning a spot at the Olympics, motivated by love of country and love of sport, not by the threat of torture and death for them and their loved ones if they fail-- not in your name. Millions of Iraqis with cell phones and internet access, busily finding out about the world outside their villages and cities-- not in your name. Iraqis setting up their own newspapers, and television and radio stations-- not in your name. Iraqis marching in the streets, peacefully protesting against Coalition Provisional Authority policies-- not in your name. Iraqis protesting against the terrorists who attack Coalition forces-- not in your name. Shi'ite pilgrims making their way to sacred shrines, free to worship as they choose-- not in your name. Iraq's marshland ecology being restored, along with the culture of the marsh Arabs-- not in your name. Money from the sale of Iraqi oil, flowing not into the pockets of the dictator and his cronies (or crooked UN bureaucrats) but back to the Iraqi people themselves. Baathist thugs awaiting trial for their crimes-- not in your name. Local elections all over Iraq-- not in your name. Sunnis and Shi'ites, Arabs and Kurds (as well as marsh Arabs, Assyrians, Turkomens, etc.), all working together to govern their own country-- not in your name.

All this, and much more, is not in your name. I am happy with the choice I made. I take the good and the bad together, working to reduce the bad, and knowing that in the balance it is good. This was right. And every year that passes will show more and more that this was the right decision, the moral decision. And I will not be ashamed to stand and say that it happened in my name.

--ABDUL ALEM
Blogroll update

Hey, just a quick thanks to Jeff at Protein Wisdom for linking to me. Don't know what I did to deserve that, but thanks nonetheless. If any of my imaginary readers are not familiar with his work, let me just say that whether you are interested in serious news delivered with a sly smile, delightfully absurd commentary on poetry and 80s song lyrics, or incredibly hilarious pretend interviews, this is the blog you should be reading.

In other blogroll-related news, the link to marcland has been retitled to reflect the fact that marc is a freaking ninja.

--IT'S THE HOUSE OF PAYNE

Monday, May 17, 2004

No separation = no security? No kidding!

Wait. Hold on. You mean, preventing terrorists from reaching their targets prevents terrorism? Whoa... You totally just blew my mind, dude.

--YOHANNA BEN-DAVID
UN in Sudan

Doc Rampage covers the ongoing atrocities suffered by Black Africans at the hands of North African Arabs in Sudan. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

I believe in using words carefully, so that their meaning is not diluted, but it is estimated that more than two million people have been killed in the last twenty years of fighting between the Muslim-dominated north and the Animist-Christian south. And by all reports, things have begun to escalate of late. Perhaps it is time for us to start using the word genocide when we talk about Sudan.

To all those who look to the UN to deliver peace and prosperity (to countries like Iraq), I say look at Sudan. The UN is already there, and so far they are doing nothing to stop the violence. We cannot accuse them of doing nothing at all, though. Some of them seem to be taking the opportunity to line their pockets:

Aid workers from other agencies have accused the UN of inefficiency and perhaps worse.

"What is going on here is very dark," said one western aid worker at a non-UN agency.

"Money seems to have disappeared. Who knows whether it has been stolen or whether it has just disappeared in the UN machine. The inefficiency is astounding."


The UN? Stealing money from those it is supposed to be aiding? Surely not.

President Bush, please speak up and call attention to this. (If for nothing else than to call attention to the felonious character of your detractors. After all, the best defense is a good offense.)

--SOLOMON MBANASO

Saturday, May 15, 2004

We will not fail

This morning I put the new Iraqi flag up on the link bar to the left. When your mouse passes over it, you should be able to read a few words spoken by President Bush earlier this year. Here's a longer excerpt:

There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past. ...

Today in Iraq, a British-led division is securing the southern city of Basra. Poland continues to lead a multinational division in south-central Iraq. Japan and the Republic of Korea -- of South Korea have made historic commitments of troops to help bring peace to Iraq. Special forces from El Salvador, Macedonia, and other nations are helping to find and defeat Baathist and terrorist killers. Military engineers from Kazakhstan have cleared more than a half a million explosive devices from Iraq. Turkey is helping to resupply coalition forces. All of these nations, and many others, are meeting their responsibilities to the people of Iraq.

Whatever their past views, every nation now has an interest in a free, successful, stable Iraq. And the terrorists understand their own interest in the fate of that country. For them, the connection between Iraq's future and the course of the war on terror is very clear. They understand that a free Iraq will be a devastating setback to their ambitions of tyranny over the Middle East. And they have made the failure of democracy in Iraq one of their primary objectives.

By attacking coalition forces -- by targeting innocent Iraqis and foreign civilians for murder -- the terrorists are trying to weaken our will. Instead of weakness, they're finding resolve. Not long ago, we intercepted a planning document being sent to leaders of al Qaeda by one of their associates, a man named Zarqawi. Along with the usual threats, he had a complaint: "Our enemy," said Zarqawi, "is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day -- this is suffocation." Zarqawi is getting the idea. We will never turn over Iraq to terrorists who intend our own destruction. We will not fail the Iraqi people, who have placed their trust in us. Whatever it takes, we will fight and work to assure the success of freedom in Iraq.

Many coalition countries have sacrificed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the fallen soldiers and civilians are sons and daughters of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We honor their courage, we pray for the comfort of their families. We will uphold the cause they served.

The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance to the world. We have set out to encourage reform and democracy in the greater Middle East as the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment, and terror. We've set out to break the cycle of bitterness and radicalism that has brought stagnation to a vital region, and destruction to cities in America and Europe and around the world. This task is historic, and difficult; this task is necessary and worthy of our efforts.

In the 1970s, the advance of democracy in Lisbon and Madrid inspired democratic change in Latin America. In the 1980s, the example of Poland ignited a fire of freedom in all of Eastern Europe. With Afghanistan and Iraq showing the way, we are confident that freedom will lift the sights and hopes of millions in the greater Middle East.

One man who believed in our cause was a Japanese diplomat named Katsuhiko Oku. He worked for the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq. Mr. Oku was killed when his car was ambushed. In his diary he described his pride in the cause he had joined. "The free people of Iraq," he wrote, "are now making steady progress in reconstructing their country -- while also fighting against the threat of terrorism. We must join hands with the Iraqi people in their effort to prevent Iraq from falling into the hands of terrorists." This good, decent man concluded, "This is also our fight to defend freedom."

Ladies and gentlemen, this good man from Japan was right. The establishment of a free Iraq is our fight. The success of a free Afghanistan is our fight. The war on terror is our fight. All of us are called to share the blessings of liberty, and to be strong and steady in freedom's defense. It will surely be said of our times that we lived with great challenges. Let it also be said of our times that we understood our great duties, and met them in full.

May God bless our efforts.


We're not going home. Got that? We're staying, until it's done. That's what we have promised the people of Iraq, and the rest of the world. We will not abandon them. We will not leave our work unfinished. We're not going to quit!

I don't know why Paul Bremer said this: "If the provisional government asks us to leave we will leave." But WE ARE NOT GOING TO LEAVE. Not until it's done. Not until we have fulfilled our promise.

Somebody go tell the anti-Bush American media that we are not going home, and we are not going to lose. "Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out," says one of these dummies. Well, get used to it, chump. BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO WORK OUT. Got it? We're not going home until it does work out.

"The time has come for another bold statement." Darn skippy. After the Abu Ghraib prisoner mistreatment scandal and the gruesome beheading of Nick Berg, the world needs to know that we are not going home. So tell them, Mr. President. Tell them to bring it on. Whatever you got, bring it on. It doesn't matter. We're not going home until the work is done. Got it?

This is why I cannot vote for Kerry. Maybe Bush is too stubborn. But I'll take that any day over a man who can't appear to make up his mind about anything. Except that he seems pretty dead set on pulling the US out of Iraq as soon as possible. Who's going to take our place? The UN? Give me a break.

This is our fight. We have to fight it. No exit strategy. No plans for defeat and withdrawal.

And then Reagan delivered the coup de grace on the Cold War. He said, "Well, we have been discussing a lot of issues for the past few hours, and now I'd like to tell you my theory of the Cold War."

"Of course, Governor," I said.

"Well," he said, "some say that I am 'simplistic,' but I believe that many complex problems have simple answers. There's a difference between 'simplistic' and 'simple.'"

I nodded, waiting for the punch line.

"So," he said, "about the Cold War: My view is that we win and they lose. What do you think of that?"


We have to WIN. And we don't go home until we do.

--MAJOR BLUDD
The Castle

Very interesting posting by Steven Den Beste about a website set up by the EU for Europeans to register complaints about the Kafkaesque nightmare that is the ever-growing EU bureaucracy. (No word on whether there were complaints of EU citizens awaking one morning and finding themselves transformed into a giant bug.)

It's interesting to me, because I often read opinion to the effect that the EU is undemocratic, a sort of dictatorship by bureaucracy. But certainly American bureaucracy is no great shakes. Our government has constructed labyrinths of red tape, seemingly designed to baffle and intimidate ordinary people. And unquestionably, it's inefficient and wasteful. (And sometimes it looks more than a little crooked.) My own government is a bureaucratic monster, too. Is the EU that much worse?

I have a good friend, an American living in Europe, whose girlfriend is an EU bureaucrat. I'll see if I can get a comment out of one of them. Meanwhile, my imaginary readers, if any of you have experience dealing with both bureaucracies, I would appreciate your comments. I am ignorant. Educate me, please.

--JAN DEPAUW
Very interesting

A shockingly accurate psychic reading performed from nothing more than a username...

Your True Nature by llScorpiusll
Username
The quality that most appeals to you:Strength
In a survival situation, you:Outsmart your attacker
Your hidden talent is:Resourcefulness
Your gift is:Cunning
In groups, you:Don't fit in
Your best quality is:Your abundant energy
Your weakness is:Being unforgiving
Created with the ORIGINAL MemeGen!


Thanks to Sarah Marinara for the link.

--REDBEARD

Friday, May 14, 2004

The lie that tells the truth

British tabloid The Daily Mirror has recently been on the receiving end of controversy for publishing phony photos of British troops engaged in barbarous acts. The Commissar has a revealing quote from their editor:

Mr Morgan said: "There is, of course, a much bigger issue here that we make no apology for highlighting - which is that the pictures accurately illustrated the reality about the appalling conduct of some British troops."


This is why journalists (on either side of the political aisle) don't feel bad about slanting and even fudging the news on occasion. They believe that this story, even if it is false, gives a true picture of what's happening. After all, if you know that something really does happen all the time in the real world, what's wrong with making up an illustrative anecdote to show it? It's the lie that tells the truth.

Of course, not many journalists just make up the news out of whole cloth (Jayson Blair of the New York Times and Jack Kelley of USA Today are notable exceptions).

Somewhat more frequently, journalists are gulled into publishing something false which agrees with them. Skeptical of claims which they disagree with, they sometimes fail to sufficiently research 'facts' that resonate with their beliefs. A recent example of this dynamic is the publication of phony pictures of American soldiers raping an Iraqi woman (taken in fact from a pornographic movie) by my very own hometown Boston Globe.

Far more commonly, news stories are given an ideological slant through the use of illustrative anecdotes and statistics provided by political activist groups. Since most reporters are left-leaning, most of these interest groups are left-leaning, but are not identified this way. In the mainstream media, as on most university campuses, Republicans are considered at one extreme of the political spectrum, Democrats are the center, and the other extreme belongs to Communists, anarchists, and other true radicals.

Check out what Kaus writes about the influence of liberal interest groups on the news here:

Another reason I hate stories with 'real people' in them: An Editor's Note reveals the dirty little secret about where the New York Times finds those ordinary citizens sprinkled throughout public policy pieces to complain in homespun fashion about the dire effect of this budget cut or that government initiative: they are handed to the Times on a platter by (liberal) advocacy groups. Gee, no wonder they act like trained seals!


(Lots more on this from Taranto.)

Of course, the most common method for getting illustrative quotes is to call someone up and talk to them until they say what you want them to. (If this is too much work for you, you can always "Clymerize" and call up an old journalist pal of yours who not only knows what you want said but how to deliver it as a sound bite. Bonus!)

The more I learn about how journalism works, the sleazier it sounds to me. Yuck.

--ABDUL ALEM

Thursday, May 13, 2004

What makes me a geek?

The Llama Butchers have invited the whole web to declare what it is that makes us geeks. All right, sounds good. But just to be clear, let's define "geek":

What "geek" seems to mean in this context is "I am incredibly passionate about something rather trivial, and I can tell you every teeny detail about that subject, and I'm kind of embarrassed at how much I know ... and yet ... here goes..."


So here are ten things that I know too much about:

10. Obscure Swedish indie bands like the Mopeds and Komeda
9. Out-of-print roleplaying games (Marvel, Buck Rogers XXVC, Star Frontiers, etc.)
8. The War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870)
7. Colonel Qadaffi's all-female bodyguard, the Nuns of the Revolution
6. Web comics
5. Robert E. Howard's Conan stories
4. Planet of the Apes (the original five movies only, thank you)
3. The writings of James Thurber
2. US policy on Indochina during World War II
1. G.I. Joe comic boooks

Yep. I'm a geek.

PS - Thanks to the Butchers for sending links our way!

--CHISAIBU
Fedayeen connection

Another note on the indescribably horrible murder of Nick Berg. Alaa at the Mesopotamian informs us non-Iraqis that beheadings were a tool used by the Fedayeen Saddam. Is this more evidence of cooperation between Baathist psychopaths and the Al Qaeda psychopaths? If so, it comes at a time when there is increasing evidence that they cooperated before the war, too. More on this later.

--DAOUD AL-RAHIMI

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Controversial Condi

The president of Vanderbilt University plans to give Condoleeza Rice a medal to honor her for a life of "distinguished public service." This has apparently sparked a controversy among the university's anti-war crowd, since Dr. Rice has had a prominent role in the war effort. Hogwash. She's the best National Security Adviser this country has had in decades, and certainly one of the most influential women in the country. If anyone deserves a medal, she does.

It used to be fashionable on both sides of the aisle to speculate about a Bush-Rice ticket in 2004. I myself have signed a petition asking President Bush to consider her as his running mate. Obviously, they have a terrific working relationship. And I have even more respect for her after her testimony to the increasingly ridiculous 9/11 commission. She faced everything from racist condescension to slanderous accusation and handled them all with dignity and aplomb.

When Dick Cheney got the nod for VP in 2000, everyone talked about how he lent gravitas to the ticket. And he did. But for my money, nobody beats Condi for gravitas. And I think there's no argument that she would provide an electoral boost that Cheney would not. Last of all, I think many of the calls for Rumsfeld to resign are motivated only by a desire to see the administration make some kind of gesture that symbolizes a change of direction. What better way to do this than to get a new running mate? And given Cheney's well-known health problems, it certainly would be easy for him to step down and spend more time with his family.

I just don't see a downside. Draft Condi!

--JOHANNES CLERK
Dan Rather update

Blackfive and Dean are talking about the not-very-patriotic behavior of Dan Rather and CBS on Abu Ghraib, discussed here a few days ago. Kaus is also talking about this issue--specifically the decision to publish the photos of the abuse.

Journalists are political actors-- they need to understand this, and we need to understand this. American reporters who slant their stories to make American soldiers look weak and the occupation seem cruel need to know that they share in the guilt when things go badly for American soldiers and contractors in Iraq.

--SUNSHINE DAVE RAHIMI

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Iron Bloggers

It often seems to me that right- and left-leaning blogs are like two ships passing in the night. Half write about the stupid things said by George Bush, Jerry Fallwell, Linda Chavez, Rush Limbaugh, etc. The other half writes about the stupid things said by John Kerry, Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, Ted Rall, etc. It's kind of disappointing that there is so little actual clash between the two sides. And when there is, it's usually a battle of the trolls, not intelligent (and civil) debate.

Perhaps this will fill that gap:

If memory serves me right, it has long been a dream of mine to see the best of the blogosphere come together and stand tall in political combat, and now we are at the dawn of that dream becoming reality. Four Iron Bloggers have been chosen, answering the call to represent their parties and ideals against all challengers. Those with open minds have begun to step forward to offer their services as Judges of these brave combatants, and now the stage is being set.

It is time to throw open the doors to those who would aspire to best my Iron Bloggers, but their task will not be an easy one. While there may be bigger names in the blogosphere, I have searched long and hard to find the highest quality of blogging, and have selected those that truly shine as examples of what blogging can be. These Iron Bloggers will soon be known by many for what I have already seen in them - strong writing, provocative commentary and a fearless belief in their ideals.

So step forward and challenge my Iron Bloggers if you dare. Show us if you have what it takes to stand triumphant on the battlefield of thought. Who will be victorious? Who will be humbled?

Whose spleen will vent supreme?


Cool. Can't wait to see how this turns out.

(Hat tip: Rosemary, QOAE.)

--REDBEARD
Economics for Paul Krugman and other dummies

Another great reaction to a NYT columnist comes from Tim Worstall, who discusses several likely ways that we will adapt to rising oil prices. Flouting conventional wisdom, he does not predict the end of the world.

Here's a little of what he has to say:

Let's start by assuming that shortages are inevitable, that oil really will go up to, say, $ 100 a barrel and stay there. What will happen ? There will be substitution. At least three different types of it. We'll leave aside all the extra exploration that will come from such high prices, the new technologies that will be created to extract more from the same field ( you know that the majority of oil in a field is never recovered ? ) and all those sorts of things. We'll just address that concept of substitution in the manner in which an economist should. And we'll limit ourselves to transport, for as Quiggin notes, that's the one area where we don't appear to have an alternative straight out of the box.

1) We'll extract oil substitutes from other sources. From the Athabasca tar sands for example. Profitable at today's prices, at $ 100 a barrel this is a no brainer. According to the US Geological Survey there's half a millenium's worth of oil up there for the whole planet. Or ethanol, or bio diesel. No great change in society, infrastructure or technology.


So no worries. We already have lots of alternatives (some of which are totally, totally awesome), which will become more economically attractive as the price of oil goes up. Sorry, hippies-- western civilization is not going to collapse because we run out of oil. But, hey, maybe that whole "Global Warming-induced Ice Age" thing will work out for you.

(Hat tip: InDC Journal.)

--YAHYA AL-RIIFI AL-SAUDI
Time to reboot?

Captain Ed has a very thoughtful response to the most recent David Brooks editorial. (I find this particularly important because, according to the all-knowing internet, I am David Brooks.) Here's a sample:

Brooks is correct; it's time to look to new solutions, such as the G-20 plan floated earlier this year. In order to bring freedom to the world, we cannot allow ourselves to be deliberately slowed down or halted by being yoked to dictatorships through the UN. We do have to reboot. We need to clear our assumptions from the screen and take a fresh look around us and at our priorities. If we are serious about spreading freedom and democracy as a way to ensure our national security -- and I strongly believe that to be the best strategy -- then we need new partnerships and new institutions based on those ideals.

There's lots more. Read it all. (And read more about the G-20 plan here.)

--JACQUES LE PEN

Friday, May 07, 2004

The flaming tire of patriotism

In 1999, while at the National Press Club speaking about the US-led intervention in Kosovo, Dan Rather was questioned by an Arab-American journalist on his use of the word "we" when speaking of American soldiers.

Question [Sam Husseini]: Thank you. I was struck by your comments just now about when you say "we" took out the lights. ... And it troubles me when you say "we" when your talking about the U.S. government when you're, presumably, a journalist and an independent journalist.

Rather responded:

Dan Rather: Fair question. ... I understand what you're saying, and I may be wrong about this. I've asked myself any number of times. But, you know I'd like to think I didn't just tumble off the turnip truck. I've been around the world a few times. I've been in a few places. I've had to think through this business of "we." I think, if I may guess from the nature of the way you asked the question, you have a different view, and I respect it. But I'm an American reporter. Yes I'm a reporter and I want to be accurate. I want to be fair. But I'm an American. I consider the U.S. government my government. So yes I do?when U.S. pilots in U.S. aircrafts turn off the lights, for me, it's "we." And about that I have no apology. I think you and I are maybe on different sides of the street about that and it doesn't do any good for me to try and kid you. I'm an American, and I'm an American reporter. And yes, when there's combat involving Americans, you can criticize me if you must, damn me if you must, but I'm always pulling for us to win.

Figuring out the appropriate way to balance love for your country and the desire to report facts objectively must be tough; I don't envy Rather his job. But I think his answer was admirable. He loves his country. He's an American. He's a patriot. Good!

Not only do I like it because I also love America, I like this answer because I think the best way to deal with the problem of biases interfering with objectivity is to simply be explicit about your own biases and let other people judge how these biases might skew you towards the subjective.

Three years later, Rather was interviewed by the BBC and had a few different things to say about patriotism:

"It's an obscene comparison but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be neck-laced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck. It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions and to continue to bore-in on the tough questions so often. Again, I'm humbled to say I do not except myself from this criticism. "

He's right. It is an obscene comparison. But let's look carefully at the argument. If I understand him correctly, Rather is worried that reporters might refrain from saying something critical of US policy because it might reflect badly on the country. In other words, faced with a choice between being a good journalist and being a good American, Rather fears that many journalists will choose patriotism. (Rather's quote makes it sound like they would do in order to look like good Americans, to avoid being blackballed, rather than for love of country, but I think the argument works the same either way.)

Well, let's examine that proposition. It's hard to say if he's right, because he predicts media silence, which makes it difficult to point to cases where he is right. ("Did you hear what he didn't say? Did you see what they didn't write?") But we can certainly point to instances of the media saying things that made things more difficult for American efforts abroad to succeed.

A notable recent example is the American coverage of the Abu Ghraib prisoner mistreatment scandal. In particular, let's look at CBS, Dan Rather's network. As Chuck Allen points out in an email printed on Instapundit:

It was the DoD that started investigating this before anyone else knew about it. CBS didn't break this story, the DoD did, and they started conducting a proper investigation that could lead to criminal charges under the UCMJ, which is exactly what was called for.

Glenn Reynolds agrees:

CBS wants you to think that they broke this story, but actually they came around pretty late.

This is confirmed by the timeline up at the Mudville Gazette. And reading the story at the CBS website, it certainly seems to me that they want me to think that the investigation happened because of the news story, instead of the other way around.

How does this fit into Rather's flaming-tire-of-patriotism hypothesis? Well, CBS could have presented this story in two ways. Option one: Defense Department is prosecuting bad prison guards. Option two: CBS has learned of bad prison guards. The former makes America look good, the latter makes CBS look good. They chose the latter. I guess Dan Rather, even though he is " always pulling for us to win," managed to convince his colleagues to imply a falsehood that is damaging to American efforts to rebuild Iraq. Way to go, Dan.

I don't think this is exceptional, though. The more I watch the news, the less worried I am that reporters are held back by their patriotism. In fact, most reporters seem pretty eager to prove what objective guys they are by sticking it to America.

Why is this? Is it a generational thing? It makes sense that reporters whose defining moment is Watergate would strike a different balance than the old World War II correspondents did. But I can't think that's all the story. I think George W. Bush, and in particular his prosecution of the war in Iraq, has changed things. After all, the reason Dan Rather was being asked what he meant by "we" was that his questioner thought Dan was refusing to report on American war crimes committed in Kosovo.

There are people in this country who would accept American defeat as an acceptable price to see George W. Bush defeated. Are mainstream journalists among them? I sure hope not.

--ABDUL ALEM

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Amnesty immigrant-national

The Queen of All Evil has this to say about the proposed amnesty for illegal aliens:

As the daughter of legal immigrants, the kind that worked hard -- followed the rules and became citizens only recently, this proposal pissed me off when Bush first suggested it. It's a positive reinforcement of illegal behavior and it's fundamentally unfair to the immigrants that are here legally and to the ones that want to come here.

It's a thorny subject. I have friends who are illegal aliens (students who overstay visas as well as laborers from south of the border). I think they're good folks, and I would be sad to see them go. All the same, I have a big problem with rewarding disobedience to the law.

These friends, as Ted Kennedy said, "live in fear and live in danger of deportation." Why? Because they chose to break the law. When you break the law, you live in fear and danger of being caught and punished. That's good. That's why we have penalties-- to inspire fear in those who might break the law. That's one of the ways we discourage people from committing crimes.

There are obviously people who are so determined to break particular laws that the risk of incurring punishment does not deter them. Skilled and determined felons get past car locks and alarms, but we have them anyway because not everyone is a skilled and determined felon. Eliminating the punishment for any law means that more people have an incentive to break it. If we think that we have a lot of illegal immigrants now, just wait until we stop deporting them.

Clearly, we have a greater demand for immigrants right now than the current quotas supply. So let's change the laws, up the quotas, and let more in. (Of course, the incredible number of illegal immigrants also demonstrates the economic inefficiencies of minimum wage laws, but that's a subject for another post. Maybe I can talk my buddy the economist into tackling that subject.)

Our immigration system is busted and we should fix it. But let's do this by changing the law, not by forgiving those who have broken it. That's a slap in the face to all who refused to sneak in the back door.

--JUAN PENA
Redemption?

Shawshank Redemption was on again last night. As I watched the last half hour, I commented to my roommate's fiancee that the reason I like this movie is because it ends well. Everyone gets what they deserve. The bad guys get punished and the good guys end up on a beach in Mexico. But even as I said it, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't exactly true. At the end of the movie, Brooks is still dead and so is Tommy. And Andy will carry the scars of his wrongful imprisonment for the rest of his life. Real restitution is impossible for him. But at least he has the satisfaction of knowing that those who mistreated him suffered for their crimes.

That's what I hope to see come out of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. But you can sure punish the guilty. If justice is served, as the Iraqi people rightfully demand, then perhaps we can redeem ourselves of this mistake. Perhaps we can turn this disaster into an opportunity to demonstrate to the world the virtues of the (oft-maligned) American justice system.

The way I read the scriptures, the devil seeks to destroy God's plan and immiserate humanity, but God in his wisdom repeatedly turns diabolical catastrophe into a divine miracle. For instance, the devil leads Adam and Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit, and they are expelled from the Garden of Eden. But from this seeming disaster springs all of humanity, all of us. Similarly, the Old Testament shows that the royal line of Christ depends on several couplings that were adulterous (Judah and Tamar, David and Bathsheba, etc.). When something bad happens in the scriptures, it often redounds to good because God will not suffer the devil to destroy his handiwork.

Something bad has happened in Iraq, something that could destroy the good work that is going on there. We must not let it. We must turn this to the good and redeem ourselves.

We have fallen off the horse for a moment. Let's cowboy up.

--JAN DEPAUW

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Abu Ghraib

I hope the morons who did this end up going to prison for a long time. Not just because they mistreated prisoners. Not just because their disgusting actions defiled the uniforms they wore. Not just because it served as supporting evidence to all those who say, "the liberators are worse than the dictators." For all those reasons, yes. But most of all because they have made it more difficult for us to prevail and more likely that we will go home without having fixed what we broke.

Some have said (or implied) this is no worse than fraternity hazing. Although I was never involved in a fraternity, I think that anyone who takes an serious look at the list of depraved acts which the accused are alleged to have committed can conclude with me that we are not talking about mere harmless pranks. If a fraternity were to act like this, they wouldn't get a pass from the university or the law. They would get kicked off campus and the guilty parties would go to jail. (And I don't just mean them who actually did it.)

This kind of behavior is abhorrent. It is disgusting, reprehensible, and unworthy of an American soldier. That said, most of these actions could not be called torture, although there are plenty of people who have done so. Most, I said. Raping a prisoner (as one soldier is alleged to have done) we can safely call torture. But posing prisoners with dog collars for photographs is not torture. Making male prisoners wear women's underwear is not torture. It is cruel and demeaning, but it is not torture. It is mistreatment. Calling it torture dilutes the meaning of the word and belittles the suffering of those who have in truth been tortured.

By whatever name, though, it's a crime and those responsible need to be punished. Again, not just because of what they did to those prisoners, but because of what they did to America and to Iraq. More on this later.

--JAN DEPAUW
A stupid question

The blogosphere can be divided in infinite ways, but there are several identifiable and self-identifying groupings. For instance, the Catholic section is St. Blog's, the Jewish section is jBlog, and the Mormon section is the bloggernacle.

This phenomenon is not just limited to religious blog groupings. Bloggers affiliated with the US military are Milbloggers. (Actually, I don't know that this is limited to Americans, but it seems that way to me, ignoramus that I am. Maybe it's just that most bloggers period are American. Anyone who wishes to better inform me is more than welcome.) There are probably other examples that my imaginary readers can point to.

So what do I call the Middle Eastern bloggers? Is there a name? I note that Soundfury has recently started doing a roundup called the carnival of the liberated, but that name was specifically chosen for the Iraqi blogs.

Even defining the boundaries of this hypothetical blog grouping is tough. Most are Arabs, but there are also surely Persians, Kurds, Turks, etc. So the Arab Blogosphere is out. Similarly, I do not know that they are all Muslim, although I suppose that most are. So I don't want to refer to the Blog Umma and leave out Zoroastrians, Druzes, Christians, Sufists, Baha'i, etc. And then of course there is the question of including Israeli Jews in the list.

Leaving aside these problems for the moment, let us consider only the Arab Muslim blogs. What should we call them? Anyone have an idea? Has a name been chosen already?

--REDBEARD

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Strategery

Yet another reason the September 11th congressional inquiry panel is a waste of time: They're not interested in what the Bush administration has done since September 11th, 2001 to make sure it never happens again. And we should be talking about the strategy they've pursued since then, because it seems to be working:

The State Department's annual report on terrorism notes that terrorism was at a 30-year low in 2003.

Oh, and what was the second lowest year in the last three decades? 2002.


What does that tell us about the idea that attacking terrorists ends up actually creating terrorists? Well, it's wrong, for starters. It's never made a lot of sense to me. (Is Bin Laden like Ben Kenobi? "Strike me down and I shall become even more powerful than before.") Osama is a very unique guy; similarly his various lieutenants are also pretty unique. Lots of people in their neck of the woods hate America and want to hurt the Zionist Imperialist Crusaders etc. But most of these goombahs don't end up doing anything more than burning flags and chanting slogans. The guys who lead Al Qaeda can not be easily replaced. Killing them or at least keeping them off balance and on the run should help reduce the terror problem.

The same with the fight in Fallujah. Cornering a big bunch of bad guys into one town and then methodically killing them all seems to have been a good idea. The mufsidoon have been so busy getting their brains blown out by Marines that they don't have the time to make improvised explosive devices and use them against troops or regular average Iraqis. Makes sense, doesn't it? Why is this so hard for some people to grasp?

--EL DOLOR