Tacoma returns!

Tacoma the dolphin is back!

The polite way to express their scepticism about the mine-clearing skills of the dolphins is to question their reliability and cost-efficiency, but one diver spoke more plainly yesterday.

"Flipper's f----ed, mate," he said.
The handlers of the five dolphins at work in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr confirmed yesterday that one of their charges, a male named Tacoma, did disappear when put in the water to go to work.

"Two days later we found him in the same spot where we put him in the water," said Lieutenant Robert Greene, the officer in charge of the M-7 series of mine-clearing dolphins.

Tacoma was yesterday resting in his holding pool with the Navy's oldest dolphin, 33-year-old Makay.

Makay has been more diligent in Iraq, perhaps learning from a painful experience when he, too, took off from duty once in Florida.

A shark attacked him during his self-declared holiday, leaving him with scars on his back.

No word on whether Tacoma had any bad experiences during his hooky. I think he just wanted to take a swing around the neighborhood.

token resistance

Steven Den Beste offers optimistic words about the progress of the war:

We successfully moved two entire divisions and a Cav regiment plus other units within striking range of Baghdad in only a few days, and there was only token resistance.

I think this is more right than he realises - "token" implies "for the sake of appearances" - and it's now obvious in hindsight that the Iraqi strategy was not to challenge American forces as they advanced (which would have been suicidal) but to simply let them pass by. This is the very nature of antisymmetric warfare. This deliberate strategy essentially refutes SDB's observation "Clearly we're doing a lot better than they are, on an absolute basis."

Likewise, his optimistic assessment:

Our ground combat formations have hardly been damaged. They're getting resupplied now. Three American divisions are moving into the theater. The Navy and Air Force get bombs and missiles from supply ships to replace the ones they've used. Our power in the theater is rising, even as our helicopters and jets continue to degrade the combat value of the Republican Guard.
Iraq's air force has been a total no-show, and they've only fired a handful of missiles. (So far.) What we've seen, rather, amounts to little more than harassment.

Well, don't rule out the Iraqi air force yet. Ultralights are being used for reconnaisance, which is effective since they can take advantage of the heavy air traffic to sneak around undetected:

The crowd of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft flying through this airspace probably accounted for the ultralight pilots� ability to fly over such a sensitive assembly area before being detected, according to Smith. The mass of aircraft showing up on radar screens makes it difficult for soldiers watching those screens to distinguish, for instance, an Iraqi ultralight aircraft from a small U.S. Army helicopter

Ultimately, the "harassment" that we have experienced is not the real worry. Note that in Basra, the British have faced a lot more than mere harassment. Likewise with An-Nasariyah - these aren't scatterred and "misleading-vividness" reports by embeds, these are real reports from the field (if you haven't already, see agonist.org's ongoing coverage). The Washington Post, LA Times, New York Times, Army Times, BBC - all are confirming that there is *real* resistance in Basra and An-Nasariyah on a scale that suggests real organization and functioning command and control. CNN is actually reporting that the only city Coalition forces have declared secure is Umm Qasr, right on the Kuwait border.

Were this war to be fought exclusively on the sand, SDB's assessment would actually be understating our advantages. But the reality is that we are indeed in for a long urban combat scenario. We haven't been able to secure Basra or An-Nasariyah, and treading too heavily near Karbala and Najaf will inflame the Shi'a whose hearts and minds we are ostensibly fighting this war for. And then there is Baghdad.

Of course, some analysts invoke the warblogfogvergnugen, saying that Iraqi tactics are unexpected, that our tactics are shrouded in mystery, that this will all end tomorrow just like it did with the Taliban (an unschooled gang of primitive thugs whose crude method of oppression relied on hangings and clubs). Special Forces Ex Machina. But these Iraqi tactics were predicted, and ignored by military planners during wargames.

some cliches are still thought-provoking


Big Digging

The Northbound lanes of the new I-93 tunnel is open to traffic.

Only Boston residents will understand what earth-shatterring news this is.

low hanging fruit?

this war is being fought according to the neocon vision of democracy by swordpoint. An article in the LA weekly notes the deep flaws in the assumptions that this vision requires:

There�s no reason to doubt that a majority of the Iraqi people devoutly wish to be rid of Saddam � but as should be clear from the resistance that U.S. and U.K. troops are encountering, Saddam retains significant support. His is, after all, a modern totalitarian state. It requires large numbers of people to prop up the regime, and it rewards them accordingly. Many within the apparat have no reason to think they will fare well after the regime is toppled.

That apparat � the Sunni-based Ba�ath Party � has been largely an occupying power in the Shi�ite south, as it was in the Kurdish north. To the Sunni population that inhabits the center of the country, however, Saddam is, among other things, a nationalist leader. And even the most barbaric of totalitarian nationalists has its supporters, as the Russian nostalgia for Stalin (one of Saddam�s role models) attests to this day.

After one week of war, it�s clear that the Ba�ath Party machine and the security-state thugs who secure it can�t deter the U.S. and U.K. forces in the field, but they can make the capture of cities a bloody mess � as they already have in Basra. Now, the nightmare of house-to-house street fighting seems about to descend on Baghdad. And the mere existence of this grimly predictable battle will give the lie to every rosy scenario that the neocons have insisted will result from this war.

This is a serious matter. On the basis of the rosy scenario that Bush embraced, our military plans have been built. This means that the neocons' sales pitch has endangered the lives of American troops. Via Jim Henley, it is clear that Donald Rumsfeld (one of the architects of the neocon vision along with Richard Perle) has imposed limitations upon our military, to reflect his ideological neocon belief. Jim Henley makes note of how Rumsfeld passes the buck:

Q: Mr. Secretary, as you know, there has been some criticism, some by retired senior officers, some by officers on background in this building, who claim that the war plan that is in effect is flawed and our number of troops on the ground is too light, supply lines are too long and stretched too thin. Would you give us a definitive statement, if you would, to the effect that you agree that the war plan is sound and that this criticism is unfounded, or that there's some substance to it?

Rumsfeld: The war plan is Tom Franks' war plan. It was carefully prepared over many months. It was washed through the tank with the chiefs on at least four or five occasions.
It has been through the combatant commanders. It has been through the National Security Council process. General Myers and General Pace and others, including this individual, have seen it in a variety of different iterations. When asked by the president or by me, the military officers who've reviewed it have all said they thought it was an excellent plan. Indeed, adjectives that go beyond that have been used, quite complimentary.

Jim notes that here, Rumsgfeld has been careful to include everyone any everyone - from Gens. Myers and Franks, the field-level combat officers, practically invoking the entire military hierarchy. The impression is of a carefully vetted plan. But is is well-documented that Rumsfeld's input to the plan was radical and undermined the advice of all those military individuals:

By far the most dramatic and disruptive change to the battle plan, however, was Rumsfeld's decision last November to slash Central Command's request for forces. This single decision essentially cut the size of the anticipated assault force in half in the final stages of planning, and it had a ripple effect on Central Command and Army planning that continues to color operations to this day.

There's a lot more in that article, published in Government Executive Magazine. The opinion that our battle plan was driven by political ideology rather than operational need is not limited to a few dissenters - it is widespread and well-supported. Tacitus, displaying his intellectual independence and rigor, asks similar questions about the size of our deployment in Iraq, noting that the principle of mass is violated and linking to this piece in the WaPo detailing how the expectation of swift victory has directly lengthened the war:

Despite the rapid advance of Army and Marine forces across Iraq over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday.
Overhanging all developments in the war this week is the unsettling realization that thousands of Iraqis are willing to fight vigorously. During planning for the invasion, worst-case scenarios sometimes predicated stiff resistance, but "no one took that very seriously," an officer said.

"The whole linchpin of this operation was the reaction of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi ground force," said retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew, a specialist in war planning. "If they don't turn, and so far they haven't, we have a very different strategic problem facing us than when we went in."

Then there is this quote from Lt. Gen William Wallace, comander of the forces in the Persian Gulf: "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against." It's reasonable to ask, why didn't the war game scenarios predict fedayeen, guerilla insurgents, long and vulnerable supply lines? Well, actually they did, but the wargaming was biased from the start to meet expectations of the neocon vision-driven easy win!

Pentagon war games pit "Red Force" (simulating the enemy) against "Blue Force" (the United States). In this war game, as in many war games over the years, Van Riper played the Red Force commander.
For instance�and here is where he displayed prescience�Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to Red troops, thereby eluding Blue's super-sophisticated eavesdropping technology. He maneuvered Red forces constantly. At one point in the game, when Blue's fleet entered the Persian Gulf, he sank some of the ships with suicide-bombers in speed boats. (At that point, the managers stopped the game, "refloated" the Blue fleet, and resumed play.) Robert Oakley, a retired U.S. ambassador who played the Red civilian leader, told the Army Times that Van Riper was "out-thinking" Blue Force from the first day of the exercise.

Yet, Van Riper said in his e-mail, the game's managers remanded some of his moves as improper and simply blocked others from being carried out. According to the Army Times summary, "Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed [Red Force] not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units."
Finally, the paper quoted a retired Army officer who has played in several war games with Van Riper. "What he's done is, he's made himself an expert in playing Red, and he's real obnoxious about it," the officer said. "He will insist on being able to play Red as freely as possible and as imaginatively and creatively, within the bounds of the framework of the game and the technology horizons and all that, as possible. He can be a real pain in the ass, but that's good. � He's a great patriot and he's doing all those things for the right reasons."

Clearly, the Pentagon needs to encourage obnoxious Red commanders, not suppress them. Scripted war-game enemies may roll over, but, as we're seeing, real enemies sometimes think of tricky ways to fight back.

What is emerging is a clear pattern. It starts with the neocons, who articulate a vision that can charitably be called "rose-tinted" (I'll leave the uncharitable adjectives to others). Rumsfeld takes these ideas and imposes them on the Pentagon. Unsurprisingly, war games predict easy Blue wins, further validating the neocon vision. These dishonest results are then the rationale for major changes to the miliitary plans for invading Iraq. Worse, the neocons are so confident that they urge that hostilities begin even before the 4th ID can be routed away from teh Mediterranean and sent to Kuwait to provide backup - so the actual war plan is now being fought with even less military capability than even the original final-Rumsfeld version.

And American soldiers are bearing the burden.


Iraqi airforce buzzes the troops

Asymmetric warfare, anyone? From Army Times:

CENTRAL IRAQ � At least two Iraqi ultralight aircraft flew over a patch of desert Friday where thousands of U.S. soldiers and several command and control facilities are located. The appearance of enemy aircraft over U.S. positions is especially alarming because the military believes ultralight aircraft of the type spotted Friday may be used to deliver chemical or biological weapons.
There is one other alarming possibility, according to briefings given intelligence officers here: Craft like that might be used in kamikaze suicide attacks, a possibility driven home Saturday morning when an apparent suicide bomber blew up a car at a checkpoint manned by soldiers from this same outfit, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized).
The appearance of the aircraft caught the Central Command off guard. Saturday afternoon, 24 hours after the craft had flown over the U.S. position, Renuart told a press briefing that the Iraqis have �not flown an airplane, they have not had the capability to fly an airplane, they�ve not shown any inclination to fly an airplane.�
�If I had authority to shoot it myself, we would have engaged it,� he said. But [Smith] added that he understood why he was required to seek approval from a three-star headquarters before shooting at an enemy aircraft that was virtually overhead. �A lot of it has to do with cluttered skies,� Smith said. �There are a lot of friendly aircraft in these skies.�

The crowd of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft flying through this airspace probably accounted for the ultralight pilots� ability to fly over such a sensitive assembly area before being detected, according to Smith. The mass of aircraft showing up on radar screens makes it difficult for soldiers watching those screens to distinguish, for instance, an Iraqi ultralight aircraft from a small U.S. Army helicopter, he said.
Although none could be certain, officers here believe this is the first time an enemy aircraft has flown over American ground forces since the Korean War.

The Army Times piece has a LOT more information and details, and is essential reading. What bothers me the most is the jujitsu-style use of our own strengths against us. The article explicitly cites the heavy air traffic of US forces over Iraq as the main reason that the ultralight plane was able to sneak in. And because of the heavy traffic, that was also why hig-level authorization was needed to shoot it down - leading it to escape. Imagine what kind of information and inteelligence that the ultralight planes were able to collect on our troops before it vanished.

mistakes can occur

and when they do, there are two responses. Denial, or taking responsibility. It's not clear whose bomb was dropped on the Iraqi marketplace on Friday, killing a large number of civilians. Estimates range from 15 (NYT) to 50 (Yahoo) casualties.

It is reassuring that there hasn't been an outright denial by the Pentagon - a pause for an investigation suggests honesty, whereas quick PR statements reveal political motives. The Pentagon has equivocated thus far:

US Central Command had said that its aircraft fired on Iraqi rocket launchers in the area and that civilian casualties could not always be avoided. There was no categoric admission of responsibility, however, and the Pentagon claimed later that an Iraqi surface-to-air missile could have fallen back on the market.

�Coalition forces did not target a marketplace nor were any bombs or missiles dropped or fired in the district,� Major-General Stanley McChrystal said. �We don�t know for a fact whether it was US or Iraqi. We can�t make any assumption at this point. We�ll continue to look and see if we missed anything. But another explanation could be that triple-A (anti-aircraft artillery) or a surface-to-air missile that missed its target fell back into the marketplace area.�

(note that the Times Online, unlike the Pentagon, has already reached a conclusion about whose fault the marketplace bombing was, as per the title of their report. What did I say above about quick statements...). Explicit in Stanley's statement is the possibility that it was indeed a US missile and not Iraqi sabotage. This explicit acknowledgement is not even registered by those who are already primed to anticipate US-caused atrocities, they simply see a denial. But any assessment of US fault prior to the Pentagon's report is clearly an opportunitsic, political onem given that US forces have tried to avoid civilian deaths and Iraqi forces have been capitalizing on them. We are bearing the burden for our forebearance.

On the other side of the coin from the London Times and the Guardian, is the certainty that these are political bombings by Iraq on its own people. This is usually where reminders about Halabja are also trotted out. Tacitus (whom I repect greatly) points to an AP/Yahoo photo of the supposed bomb crater, arguing that a Tomohawk or JDAM wouldn't leave such a shallow hole. Agreed, but why assume this was a precision weapon strike, especially given that it landed in the wrong place? Recall that 90% of the bombs on Baghdad are precision-guided, meaning that 10% ARE NOT. In fact, I doubt that the AP photo is even of the right crater, given that the scenes of carnage have been bloody and horrific, but this is a fairly antiseptic picture of a hole in the ground, surrounded by curious well-groomed onlookers, not the crowds of grieving and bloodied victims and twisted metal that the center of the marketplace bombing would suggest.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what we think about who caused the bombing. The main point is what do the Iraqi public think? It is their opinion that is so central to our entire rationale for invading Iraq in teh first place. And there the US has to concede that - regardless of fault - this event will be seen as US fault by the grieving civilians who have lost their families. Philosophical arguments about the inevitably of collateral damage, or detailed explanations of Saddam's treachery, are absolutely irrelevant, except to armchair pundits whose only motivation is to tally events in the "our fault/their fault" columns.

We have a responsibility, to allow Iraqis to grieve, and respect the forces of emotion that we have tried to harness in this war - which are a double-edged sword indeed. I think that of all the commentary on these bombings, the only real analysis of any value has been Jeanne's:

Imagine reading a newspaper on September 12, 2001, and havng to comb through paragraph after paragraph of statements politicians made about a horrible mass murder that took place a day earlier, before finally, halfway through the story, finding out exactly what happened. The idea of structuring the story that way is obscene, as if the fact that thousands of people died were less important than what use politicians made of those deaths. Human priorities were not hard to sort out on September 12. When people die like that, the only thing to do at first is grieve. The only thing to do second is celebrate their lives. Anything else is an abomination. When a few clueless leftists spoke -- even weeks afterwards -- of understanding "root causes," they were, and deserved to be, castigated. To every thing there is a season, and the season of understanding can not follow too hard upon the season of grief.

We understood that when Americans died. We need to understand that the same thing is true when Iraqis die.

Jeanne links to the coverage by other newspapers around the world that tell the human side of teh tragedy, and I felt it was my duty to read each one. NPR had a similar piece this morning on Weekend Edition which was also poignant and grim. These are essential reading/listening for all of us, regardless of where we stand about the war.

UPDATE: serial numbers found at the site suggest it was an American HARM missile (via Tim Blair). This is *still* irrelevant (though note that if true, it means there was an Iraqi active radar sited in the marketplace. Human shields.). The main issue is, collateral damage (origin red or blue) is ultimately a defeat for our goals in Iraq. And irrelevant to the human tragedy. Whether it was iraqi targeting, iraqi radar that led an american missile in, or even an errant american "dumb" bomb - the bottom line is, that the Iraqi civilians are sufferring.

NAVY seals awol

well, actually, it's the Navy Dolphin, not the Seals (or the Sea Lions). But Takoma the dolphin has not returned to his post in 48 hours :

Takoma�s role was to sweep the way clear for the arrival of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Sir Galahad. US officials had said that dolphins, first used in Vietnam, were a far better bet than all the technology on board the flotilla of ships.

Petty Officer Whitaker had tempted fate by saying: �Why would they go missing when they have the best food and daily spruce-ups and health checks?� Two hours later Takoma had gone Awol. �Twenty-four hours is not unusual,� a nervous Petty Officer Whitaker said. �After all, he may meet some local company.�

Takoma has now been missing for 48 hours and the solitary figure of Petty Officer Whitaker could be seen yesterday patting the water, calling his name and offering his favourite fish, but there was no response.

I hope Takoma is ok - I'm firmly in the pro-use dolphins camp - the Naval Marine Mamals program is simply fascinating. There was a great program on NPR this morning with a great deal more information about the use of dolphins and sea lions by the military, and it was clear from listening to the navy officials that there is a great deal of love and respect for these animals. I've a great fascination with marine mammals myself, and I think that anyone working with them on a daily basis would never be able to exploit them or put them in harm's way.

UPDATE: of course, photoshopping them is fair game.


wisdom to disagree with

A foreign policy based on authentically conservative principles begins by accepting the fact that the world is not infinitely malleable. It recognizes that our own resources, although great, are limited. And it never loses sight of the fact that the freedom that U.S. officials are sworn to protect is our own. Defending that freedom in these difficult times demands courage and resolve. But it also demands modesty and self-restraint � qualities seldom in evidence in Washington since the end of the Cold War. Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, for this administration to begin exhibiting those virtues.

my hero, John Derbyshire, writing in National Review. I disagree with him that we need this war (on the basis of the WMD threat). But the war is on. Now I want to win, and i want us to NOT screw it up (ahem). I find Derbyshire to be a sane voice to disagree with, unlike cheerleading apologists.

The rest of his piece is likewise thoughtful and rational (and, of course, plenty to disagree with). It is a listing of ten points on the war. Here are the ten points, you'll have to actually read the piece to see what he has to say about them:

  1. Operation Iraqi Freedom (the name).

  2. Is the force big enough?

  3. The Crusader factor.

  4. Were we misled?

  5. Are we being too nice?

  6. The big mo.

  7. Baghdad.

  8. Perfidious Turkey.

  9. The "false dawn" factor.

  10. The X factor.

This is a rich vein to mine indeed, for debate and discussion.

occupation watch: sprayed fields and home demolitions

From Ha'aretz - a partial listing of some of the tactics used by the IDF against innocent civilians' livelihoods in 2002. Example:

On March 4, in the early morning hours, two crop-dusting planes flew over the Negev Hills, spraying field crops with a toxin that caused them to wither and die. Ten people, most of them children, inhaled the substance and required medical treatment.

The farmers whose crops were sprayed are Bedouin who have been living in the region for generations. They say damage was done to thousands of dunams of farmland that they have cultivated as far back as they can remember. These farmers are Israeli citizens who have been living in unrecognized villages since the establishment of the state. Israel has never come to any agreement with them regarding ownership rights and registry of the land.

heads in the sand III: denial of address

I've previously mentioned how al-Jazeera network's new english website was hacked, and how their reporters have been denied access to the NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges. Now, via the investigative powers of Slashdotters, comes suggestions that al-Jazeera's website problems stem from a higher power.

Specifically, it seems that al-Jazeera's DNS and routing have been deliberately tampered with. This is not only a denial-of-service attack by some hackers, it can only occur by design, by authorities in charge of routing data. Consider the evidence:

The primary DNS provider, Datapipe, is running, except for the single server ALJNS1HB.DATAPIPE.COM which handles al-Jazeera's DNS. This server is unreachable.

The secondary DNS provider, NavLink, is also running, but their server handling al-J's secondary DNS, ALJNS1SA.NAV-LINK.NET , is also unreachable. As Slashdot commentor Animats mentions, "NavLink has operations in Lebanon and Dubai, so it's outside of US control. But traffic to that server is apparently being blocked at switches in the US, with QWest and PBI both returning ICMP "destination unreachable" messages, but from different points. " (emphasis mine). However, the problem is not limited to the US, in a discussion on linux.debian.isp newsgroup, several techies confirmed that the website is unreachable worldwide, from Germany to Hong Kong (see thread "NON-US can anyone reach aljazeera.net?")

Note that the DoS attacks are also continuing. As netsys.com reported:

According to our sources and from our own observations, the Al Jazeera news site is still undergoing widespread denial of service attacks. Despite emergency DNS updates moving nameservers, and physical networks, the Al Jazeera dns servers are simply obliterated as soon as an update occurs.

Many experts feel it is pointless for Al Jazeera, and it's hosting providers nav-link and others to continue to try and keep this site online.

According to our contact, it has reached the point where the backbone provider has been forced to blackhole the routes to their nameservers each time the ip and network has been changed almost as quickly as they are moved..

C-Net Asia also has a report on the problem.

heads in the sand II: denial of access

First, al-Jazeera's new english website was hacked (see my earlier post)

Now, Al-Jazeera has been banned from the floor of the NYSE:

Al-Jazeera raised the ire of Americans on Sunday when it aired shaken U.S. prisoners of war and dead U.S. soldiers with gaping bullet wounds, prompting the Pentagon to issue a rare appeal to U.S. networks not to use the footage.
As the storm over the American soldier footage raged this week, the New York Stock Exchange withdrew credentials for two al-Jazeera journalists. It said it had to cut back on the number of reporters on the exchange floor.

Media pundits were stunned by the exchange's decision, saying it smacked of a dangerous opening salvo in a game of media quid pro quo which could see Western media's access cut off. Iraq last week ordered CNN journalists to leave Baghdad.

"The New York Stock Exchange has many useful functions, especially in turbulent times. Making foreign policy is not one of them," the New York Times wrote in a Wednesday editorial.

NASDAQ has joined in, too. In the comments of the first post in this series, I stated that I don't believe the Bush Administration is behind the hacker attack on the english website, but this is another matter entirely. I realise that there are many people who disagree with me about al-Jazeera's value as a media press entity. But consider, given that our ostensible purpose is to liberate Iraq, the suppression of al-Jazeera by the NYSE at the very least undermines our PR as we strive to convince Iraqis that it's about liberty, not oil. So even if one is unwilling to grant freedom of the Press (not as popular a Right as gun ownership, I realise), it must be acknowledged that tyhese actions are still harmful from a pragmatic perspective. This is something that we all need to agree on.

You can follow this story through the Google News...


new world order

Have you heard of Executive Order 13233?

On November 1, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13233, a policy enabling his administration to govern in secrecy. For good reason, this has upset many historians, journalists, and Congresspersons (both Republican and Democratic). The Order ends 27 years of Congressional and judicial efforts to make presidential papers and records publicly available. In issuing it, the president not only has pushed his lawmaking powers beyond their limits, but he may be making the same mistakes as Richard Nixon.

That reference to Nixon is a dire warning that in 2004 the voters may punish Bush for his "mystical veil of national security" which he has routinely invoked. I think that's absurdly optimistic. The beauty of an Executive Order demanding secrecy is that things get to be secret. This won't even amount to a blip on the radar of the majority of voters - completely eclipsed by much more macro-scale issues, like war, the economy, etc. But if Bush wins in 2004, the effects of 13233 will have long-term consequences.

What are those consequences? I don't know. Already there are unforseen repercussions of our Iraq campaign, with China. And new blogger John McKay has a deeply thought-provoking post about the turning points of history (emphasis mine):

I hope we all had a chance to look around last Wednesday and etch the world, as it existed then, into our collective memory. There is a very good chance that Wednesday was the last day of the world we grew up in. For the last week or so I have had a quote banging around in my head. As the British Parliment votes to go to war in 1914, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, is supposed to have commented to a friend, "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime." I know how he felt.

I usually hate that kind of hyperbole. But I think that in a historical sense, Wednesday really will go down as one of those days when the old world was so badly fractured that no amount of policy-reversal, counter-revolution, good will, healing, or forceful reaction will ever bring it back. It was possibly the August 1, 1914 or the July 14, 1789 of the twenty-first century. Wednesday was certainly more of an irreversible moment than 9/11 or the Supreme Court electing Bush, Jr. president. When Bush got to have his war on his terms, the diplomatic and international order of the last half of the twentieth century died. It is not the war itself that did the damage; it is the course by which the Busheviks brought us to the war that did the damage.

heads in the sand I: denial of service

(via Cursor) Al-Jazeera network has launched an english-version website. However, it has already been subjected to a denial-of-service attack (DoS) which has taken the website offline (this is marginally more subtle than bombing their offices). There is a direct causal relationship between this hacking and the atmosphere of stifling dissent in the name of patriotism that has been deliberately fostered by the Bush Administration.

This isn't the first time that Al-Jazeera has been forcibly silenced. The Bush Administration epecially took a heavy hand response to the station during the Afghanistan campaign:

The case of Al-Jazeera offers a telling example of American failure, say analysts. The State Department recently lodged a complaint with the government of Qatar, which hosts the news channel, urging it to tone down Al-Jazeera's allegedly biased, anti-American coverage. But the move backfired badly among Muslims who saw it as an arrogant attempt by the U.S. to muzzle the Arabs' only free press.

"Asking Al-Jazeera to rein in its coverage was incredibly harmful," says Jillian Schwedler, assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, and an expert on Jordan.

The White House has even undermined its own position by asking that American news networks censor themselves when broadcasting taped messages from al-Qaida terrorists that are originally shown on Al-Jazeera.

The Bush administration has expressed concern that the messages might contain coded messages to bin Laden's followers, but regardless of whether that fear has merit, from an Arab perspective, the move, like the formal complaint lodged against Al-Jazeera, represents another stumble, says Abdulaziz Sachedina, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia who monitors Arab media closely. "There will be a very negative reaction to it [in the Middle East] because the message does not go well with our claim of being a free press country."

The argument that Al-J was being used for coded messages was especially ludicrous. Al-Qaeda operatives have been using Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, IRC chat, faxes and cell phones, and many other innovative ways to communicate. Osama bin Laden[1] himself responded to the claim with devastating logic:

bin Laden ridiculed White House concerns that other on-camera statements he has issued since September 11 might carry hidden messages.

"They made hilarious claims. They said that Osama's messages have codes in them to the terrorists. It's as if we were living in the time of mail by carrier pigeon, when there are no phones, no travelers, no Internet, no regular mail, no express mail and no electronic mail. I mean, these are very humorous things. They discount people's intellect," bin Laden said.

Eventually AlJ's english website will be back online, and i intend to frequent it as regularly as I do Ha'aretz Daily. For some excellent background on Al-Jazeera, I highly recommend this archive of links, and this latest news page, by Cursor. Some of the best articles on Al-Jazeera are these:

Al-Jazeera Draws Flak Outside -- and Inside -- the Arab World

Al-Jazeera: Media Pariah or Pioneer?

Inside Al-Jazeera

Telling All Sides of the Story Isn't Easy for Al-Jazeera

Fouad Ajami, noted middle east analyst of the Samuel Huntington sympathizer camp, had also written a very alarmist and inflammatory piece on Al Jazeera, in the New York Times. This is the reference piece that most critics of Al-Jazeera use (hey, it's from Ajami! Arab! Expert!) in their dismissal of AlJ. However, the Ajami piece is directly referenced in many of the pieces I link to above as well as the others on the Cursor archive. Those who only read Ajami and don't bother to read the links above are guilty of the same heads-in-the-sand stifling as the hackers of the website.

UPDATE: Al-Jazeera has been banned from the floor of the NYSE. NASDAQ has joined in.

Al-Jazeera raised the ire of Americans on Sunday when it aired shaken U.S. prisoners of war and dead U.S. soldiers with gaping bullet wounds, prompting the Pentagon to issue a rare appeal to U.S. networks not to use the footage.
As the storm over the American soldier footage raged this week, the New York Stock Exchange withdrew credentials for two al-Jazeera journalists. It said it had to cut back on the number of reporters on the exchange floor.

Media pundits were stunned by the exchange's decision, saying it smacked of a dangerous opening salvo in a game of media quid pro quo which could see Western media's access cut off. Iraq last week ordered CNN journalists to leave Baghdad.

"The New York Stock Exchange has many useful functions, especially in turbulent times. Making foreign policy is not one of them," the New York Times wrote in a Wednesday editorial.

In the comments below, I stated that I don't believe the Bush Administration is behind the hacker attack on the english website, but this is another matter entirely. I realise that there are many people who disagree with me about al_jazeera's value as a media press entity. But consider, given that our ostensible purpose is to liberate Iraq, the suppression of Al-Jazeera by the NYSE at the very least undermines our PR as we strive to convince Iraqis that it's about liberty, not oil. So even if one is unwilling to grant freedom of the Press (not as popular a Right as gun ownership, I realise), it must be acknowledged that tyhese actions are still harmful from a pragmatic perspective. This is something that we all need to agree on.

You can follow this story through the magic of Google News. This series continues in part II.

[1] lanat upon him and all his ilk.

The mother of all satire

African-American Man
Gordon Jackson, Architect
"I watch Al-Jazeera on satellite but turn the sound off and listen to NPR. I have no idea what the fuck is happening."
The latest issue of The Onion is so hysterical that it's maing me cry with laughter. Some of the highlights:

US forms own UN:

"The U.N. has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to act decisively in carrying out actions the U.S. government deems necessary," U.S.U.N. Secretary General Colin Powell said. "Every time we tried to get something accomplished, it inevitably got bogged down in procedural policies, bureaucratic formalities, and Security Council votes."

"I predict the U.S.U.N. will be extremely influential in world politics in the coming decades," Powell continued. "In fact, you can count on it."
The official U.S.U.N. language is English. The official religion is Christianity.

Vital Info On Iraqi Chemical Weapons Provided By U.S. Company That Made Them

BALTIMORE�The Pentagon has obtained vital information on Iraqi chemical weapons from Alcolac International, the Baltimore-based company that sold them to the Mideast nation in the '80s. "It's terrifying what Iraq has," Pentagon spokesman James Reese said Monday. "Saddam possesses massive stockpiles of everything from ethylene to thiodiglycol, according to sales records provided by Alcolac." The Pentagon has also been collecting key intelligence on Iraqi nuclear weapons and guidance systems from Honeywell, Unisys, and other former U.S. suppliers to Iraq.

Dead Iraqi would have loved Democracy:

BAGHDAD, IRAQ�Baghdad resident Taha Sabri, killed Monday in a U.S. air strike on his city, would have loved the eventual liberation of Iraq and establishment of democracy, had he lived to see it, his grieving widow said.

"Taha was a wonderful man, a man of peace," his wife Sawssan said. "I just know he would have been happy to see free elections here in Iraq, had that satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missile not strayed off course and hit our home."

And a Point-Counterpoint that resembles my earlier post, but with more brevity:

NATHAN ECKERT: George W. Bush may think that a war against Iraq is the solution to our problems, but the reality is, it will only serve to create far more.

This war will not put an end to anti-Americanism; it will fan the flames of hatred even higher. It will not end the threat of weapons of mass destruction; it will make possible their further proliferation. And it will not lay the groundwork for the flourishing of democracy throughout the Mideast; it will harden the resolve of Arab states to drive out all Western (i.e. U.S.) influence.
BOB SHEFFER: No it won't. ... Be quiet, okay? Everything's fine. You're wrong.

And of course, an infographic about the latest US military technology, including "Hummer reconfigured for military use"


postwar screwup watch

Who does Bush pick to run central Iraq after we win the war? Barbara Bodine, who was ambassador to Yemen during 2000 (when the Cole was attacked by Al Qaeda). Via Matthew Yglesias, Sisyphus points out a little problem with this:

You may remember Barbara Bodine. She's the Ambassador to Yemen who single-handedly stopped the investigation into al Qaeda's (and bin Laden's) role in the attack on the Cole, going so far as to pull strings to have the ranking anti-terrorism expert in the region pulled out for persisting in his investigation after she told him it was undiplomatic. The Yemenis shut down their cooperation after that.

He later died in the World Trade Center.

Yes, you've got it - the Bush administration is putting the woman with arguably the highest personal responsibility for the death of 3,000 americans at the hands of terrorists of any U.S. official, through stupidity and an overpowering need to emphasize that no-one was the boss of her, in place in post-"liberation" Iraq.

Sisyphus has plenty of links to articles in the Washington Post, PBS Frontline, NavyMARS (sponsored by the DoD), ABC News, and more about Bodine's role in Yemen. Also see this post by Skimble and this post by Diane.

I had hoped that administration of Iraq would remain in military hands, Lt. General John Abizaid to be specific. Abizaid is second to Tommy Franks, is fluent in Arabic, is of Lebanese descent, and last Saturday publicly spoke of his "love for the Arab world." He is also the author of a policy paper, "Lessons for Peacekeepers." in Military Review 73:11-19 (1993) which I would love to read if only I could find it online. Abizaid is a true role-model hero and a statesman soldier. Of course Bush wouldn't pick him.

UPDATE: via Bill Hobbs, is partial transcript of Abizaid's briefing last weekend:

"I would say, as a person who has studied the Arab world and loves the Arab world, that the majority of educated Arabs that I talk to know that Saddam Hussein has been a plague on the Arab world and on his own people, and they welcome his removal," Abizaid said at a briefing at Central Command on Sunday. When asked about how the Iraqis and the Muslim world will react to televised images of American prisoners of war, Abizaid said, "I think that the people of Iraq who see those images will not be heartened, they'll not be encouraged, they'll just regard it as one more brutality inflicted on people by a regime that has inflicted countless brutalities upon their people. The same goes for the rest of the Muslim world. No one has killed more Muslims than Saddam Hussein. So, the sympathies for that regime and for this brutal dictator are not served by the humiliation of our people."

and also this piece on Abizaid in National Review Online. The best thing about him is that he will be able to articulate the US policy and rationale during postwar administration in a way that has cultural resonance with Arabs. Lecturing Arabs about the failure of their face-based culture is simply counter-productive self-righteousness, but Abizaid can make much the same point without the condescension.

enemy combatants

I sincerely hope that our POWs are treated humanely. News that Iraq plans to apply the "standards of Islam" rather than the Geneva Conventions certainly doesn't sound encouraging[1], though the treatment of the Apache pilots has been far better than that afforded to the lost mechanics - the television footage of the former had them seemingly drinking coffee and well fed, whereas the latter were bruised and scared.

Of course, the Administration is always the wrong people to make the right argument. As Tacitus points out, the US always obeys the Geneva Conventions in war, though our enemies rarely do, so it isn't exactly for our benefit. He asks the thought experiment, why bother to adhere to it then? to which I point him to this answer by Jim Henley. But while how WE treat THEM is a function of our honor and moral principle, it is sheer hypocrisy for Rumsfeld to get on Face the Nation and whine about how THEY treat US. It should have been Powell, not Rumsfeld, making that argument - because coming from Rummy it became farce.

Yes, the reason is Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld invented the term "enemy combatant" out of thin air and has used it to justify treatment of Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects, who are essentially prevented from protection by Geneva Convention standards by fiat. As Slate points out, this single-authority decision is precisely what the Geneva Convention was designed to prevent:

The Guantanamo prisoners have had their beards forcibly shaven off, a violation of their human dignity under the 1966 international covenant on civil and political rights. And, they have been photographed by the press in shackles and with hoods over their heads. Subsequently, the United States limited media access to prisoners citing the "insults and public curiosity" passage from the Geneva Conventions. But at the same time, Rumsfeld maintains the prisoners don't have any rights under the Geneva Conventions because they are "unlawful combatants."

Byers notes that the "unlawful combatants" category is one of Rumsfeld's invention and not found in any international treaty. Under Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention, military tribunals�not Donald Rumsfeld�should determine which prisoners should be prosecuted as criminal suspects and which should be accorded prisoner of war status. "The record shows that those who negotiated the convention were intent on making it impossible for the determination to be made by any single person," Byers writes.

The Slate article closes wittily with the suggestion that Iraq might adopt "enemy combatant" terminology (the Rumsfeld Doctrine?) to justify their treatment of our POWs. This has already happened.


23rd March 2003

Dr Imran Waheed
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain
Suite 298 56 Gloucester Road
London, SW7 4UB, United Kingdom
Email: press@1924.org / Phone: +44-(0)7074-192400

London, UK, March 23 � Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain believes that captured US and allied troops should be treated as �unlawful combatants� by the Iraqi army, similar to the manner in which the USA treats those who it illegally holds at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the capture of American troops the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, citing the Geneva Convention, hypocritically stated, �It�s illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners.� This seems rather ironic from an Administration that has humiliated, shackled, gagged and blindfolded some 600 prisoners at Camp Delta while they are detained without trial, charge or legal representation. Since America and Britain have unilaterally flouted international law and the UN, which Muslims have always viewed as tools of the colonialists, international law and the UN are now redundant. In seminars around the UK this weekend, thousands of Muslims have once again reiterated their whole-hearted support for the Jihad of the Iraqi army that is being waged to hold off the invaders. They have also called on the armies of the Muslim world to immediately go to the assistance of the Iraqi army and people so that the invasion can be repelled. Dr Imran Waheed, a UK based doctor and a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, said, �International law and the UN have now been discarded in the dustbin of history. The Muslim World must now resolve the issue of Palestine, Kashmir and all other foreign policy issues on a unilateral basis and not on the basis of international law.�

Note that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a extremist political group (words, not violence. Like the Weekly Standard) that wants to re-establish "The Caliphate" as a way of restoring "The Islamic way of life". It does outright reject violence as a means to achieve that end, though. I won't be inviting these guys to dinner anytime soon though.

[1] Maybe Al-Muhabajah can provide some useful commentary about what the Qur'an has to say about prisoners of war? AM, let me know in the comments if you get a chance to address this (or have already).

soul brothers

I receive a lot of complaints about my blogroll via email (and complaints about not responding to coments - calm down, Joshua, I'm getting there.) Look, If I dropped you, it's because the blogroll reflects my deliberate intention to change the blogs I read on a regular basis, to sample as much of the blogsphere (in finite amounts!) at a time. The blogroll will stay short and continue to evolve. It's for my benefit, not yours :)

I've recently added Jonathan Edelstein's The Head Heeb - his World Tour series is wonderful reading and a great distraction and context-supplier for the war on Iraq. I was reading his archives (like me, he provides links to his posts by title in the left sidebar. this is a very useful and user-friendly tactic to suck readers in :) and i came across a passage I could have written myself, in a post titled "My middle east views sumarized"

As I see it, there are two ways to be middle-of-the-road about the Middle East. One is to be both anti-Israeli and anti-Palestinian. This is the "plague on both your houses" viewpoint - the Israelis are racist colonial bastards and the Palestinians are medieval savages, and each deserves the other. A person who considers Israel a relic of the nineteenth century and Palestine a relic of the ninth is, in his own way, a moderate.

The other way - and, I think, the harder one - is to be for both sides; to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate aspirations and that both have a great deal to give to the world. It's important, especially now, to recognize that Palestine includes Mahmoud Darwish and Hanan Ashrawi as well as Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and that Israel has produced Amram Mitzna and Amos Oz as well as Michael Kleiner. It's important, also, to recognize that Israel, Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora have shown the capacity to be productive and creative, to examine themselves critically and to evolve as societies - in short, to generate hope. That's my kind of moderation. It isn't always easy, because the Israelis sometimes do act like racist colonial bastards and the Palestinians sometimes do act like medieval savages, but thus far I've kept to it.

Calling myself a militant moderate, though, is only another way of summing up a set of opinions. Those opinions, like any others, are based on fact, and are subject to change as the facts change or as I realize that my version of the facts is wrong. Of course, getting to the facts can itself be a difficult exercise on this particular subject, because history has become so politicized that it is often hard to tell fact from propaganda. (Quick, how many people were killed at Deir Yassin?) I have, over time, developed methods of judging the credibility of sources, determining which commentators are most objective and which historians most rigorous. There's always the possibility, though, that some or all of my factual assumptions might be proven wrong. If so, then the opinions based on those assumptions have to be re-evaluated. Therefore, take anything below with the appropriate amount of salt, and keep in mind that it's all subject to change without notice.

JE goes on to explain how he critically evaluates sources of info and presents his big picture understanding. Unfortunately, he only posted twice to the comment thread on this post, about the catch-22 of the two-state solution (and why I favor a binational state solution). It occurs to me suddenly that advocates of the President's/neocon vision of transforming the Middle East through a long term democratization of iraq shoudl be able to see the value in the binational idea, despite the obvious challenges it woudl face. Steven Den Beste could almost be talking about the binational idea when he writes:

After we win, and during the post-war occupation, I'm concerned about a campaign of terrorism developing (90%). There will still be zealots and extremists there; will we end up going through months or years of occasional suicide bombings all over the nation? How many of our occupation troops will be victims? If it happens too much, with rising intensity, will it start to make our troops suspicious of all Iraqis, and thus make them start to think of us as invaders instead of liberators? Could it totally sour the attempt to reestablish the rule of law and to start to improve life for everyday Iraqis? If it reaches levels approaching that of the Intifada, we're in deep trouble. It's virtually certain that there will be at least some of this; the question is whether it will end up being politically significant.

Let's also be clear - in a democracy, with checks and balances, you CANT "vote someone out of existence". If you think its possible, please demonstrate with a detailed example of how you would go abotut doing it right here in the US.


WMD watch

The military has not found any WMD yet.

The Jerusalem Post claims that a Iraqi chemical weapons factory has been seized, but the report was not corroborated by any other media outlet, and MSNBC television reported that the story was false. (UPDATE: New York Times reports the story as false.)

A MSNBC article points out that Bush's insistence on WMD as justification for the war leaves him vulnerable:

A scarcity of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq would have the potential to create both relief and concern for the administration. Though it is unmitigated good news that such weapons have not been used against U.S. troops, the absence of such weapons would raise questions about the rationale for war.

Bush, in his weekly radio address yesterday, again mentioned Iraq�s weapons of mass destruction as justification for war and listed their removal as the primary mission. �Our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein�s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people,� he said.

A senior U.S. defense official said it is vital to Bush�s political objectives to find and make a credible display of evidence of forbidden weapons programs �very, very fast.� At the same time, career disarmament specialists and outside experts said it is far too soon to expect results from such a hunt when the assault to take control of the country has just begun.

And an SF Gate article points out that Iraq hasn't even fired one scud yet, despite earlier reports:

Despite some erroneous reports on Thursday, the Iraqis have apparently not fired any of the banned Scud-B missiles, which were their most damaging weapon during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Hussein's forces have apparently fired no more than a dozen shorter-range missiles, although they were believed to have had hundreds in southern Iraq and were expected to lob many of them into allied forces in Kuwait.

As I noted earlier, I have been unconvinced from the beginning that Saddam's WMD could pose any real threat, but I did expect that he would actually have some, and have used them by now.

Which brings me back to my question posed earlier - if Saddam never had any WMD left, then what is the legal implication regarding UN Resolution 1441?


Russia: ball bearings for the axis of Evil

I've previously mentioned Russia's role in Iran's nuclear weapon program. From the WaPo now comes this report of Russia's role in supplying night-vision goggles, anti-tank missiles, and other military equipment to Iraq.

A conversation

This is an amusing thought experiment, of a conversation between a "war monger" and a "peacenik" (you may substitute other terms as you see fit - I personally prefer "neocon" and "neowilson"). I will reproduce it in full. While I don't agree with many of the assertions of PN (for example, that George Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court. I will explian why Election 2000 was a measure of the success for our representative democracy, not a failure, later), but every single one of the assertions of WM below are extremely illustrative and representative.


PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?

WarMonger: We are invading Iraq because it is in violation of security council resolution 1441. A country cannot be allowed to violate security council resolutions.

PN: But I thought many of our allies, including Israel, were in violation of more security council resolutions than Iraq.

WM: It's not just about UN resolutions. The main point is that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction, and the first sign of a smoking gun could well be a mushroom cloud over NY.

PN: Mushroom cloud? But I thought the weapons inspectors said Iraq had no nuclear weapons.

WM: Yes, but biological and chemical weapons are the issue.

PN: But I thought Iraq did not have any long range missiles for attacking us or our allies with such weapons.

WM: The risk is not Iraq directly attacking us, but rather terrorists networks that Iraq could sell the weapons to.

PN: But coundn't virtually any country sell chemical or biological materials? We sold quite a bit to Iraq in the eighties ourselves, didn't we?

WM: That's ancient history. Look, Saddam Hussein is an evil man that has an undeniable track record of repressing his own people since the early eighties. He gasses his enemies. Everyone agrees that he is a power-hungry lunatic murderer.

PN: We sold chemical and biological materials to a power-hungry lunatic murderer?

WM: The issue is not what we sold, but rather what Saddam did. He is the one that launched a pre-emptive first strike on Kuwait.

PN: A pre-emptive first strike does sound bad. But didn't our ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, know about and green-light the invasion of Kuwait?

WM: Let's deal with the present, shall we? As of today, Iraq could sell its biological and chemical weapons to Al Quaida. Osama BinLaden himself released an audio tape calling on Iraqis to suicide-attack us, proving a partnership between the two.

PN: Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't the point of invading Afghanistan to kill him?

WM: Actually, it's not 100% certain that it's really Osama Bin Laden on the tapes. But the lesson from the tape is the same: there could easily be a partnership between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein unless we act.

PN: Is this the same audio tape where Osama Bin Laden labels Saddam a secular infidel?

WM: You're missing the point by just focusing on the tape. Powell presented a strong case against Iraq.

PN: He did?

WM: Yes, he showed satellite pictures of an Al Quaeda poison factory in Iraq.

PN: But didn't that turn out to be a harmless shack in the part of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish opposition?

WM: And a British intelligence report...

PN: Didn't that turn out to be copied from an out-of-date graduate student paper?

WM: And reports of mobile weapons labs...

PN: Weren't those just artistic renderings?

WM: And reports of Iraquis scuttling and hiding evidence from inspectors...

PN: Wasn't that evidence contradicted by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix?

WM: Yes, but there is plently of other hard evidence that cannot be revealed because it would compromise our security.

PN: So there is no publicly available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

WM: The inspectors are not detectives, it's not their JOB to find evidence. You're missing the point.

PN: So what is the point?

WM: The main point is that we are invading Iraq because resolution 1441 threatened "severe consequences." If we do not act, the security council will become an irrelevant debating society.

PN: So the main point is to uphold the rulings of the security council?

WM: Absolutely. ...unless it rules against us.

PN: And what if it does rule against us?

WM: In that case, we must lead a coalition of the willing to invade Iraq.

PN: Coalition of the willing? Who's that?

WM: Britain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, and Italy, for starters.

PN: I thought Turkey refused to help us unless we gave them tens of billions of dollars.

WM: Nevertheless, they may now be willing.

PN: I thought public opinion in all those countries was against war.

WM: Current public opinion is irrelevant. The majority expresses its will by electing leaders to make decisions.

PN: So it's the decisions of leaders elected by the majority that is important?

WM: Yes.

PN: But George Bush wasn't elected by voters. He was selected by the U.S. Supreme C...-

WM: I mean, we must support the decisions of our leaders, however they were elected, because they are acting in our best interest. This is about being a patriot. That's the bottom line.

PN: So if we do not support the decisions of the president, we are not patriotic?

WM: I never said that.

PN: So what are you saying? Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: As I said, because there is a chance that they have weapons of mass destruction that threaten us and our allies.

PN: But the inspectors have not been able to find any such weapons.

WM: Iraq is obviously hiding them.

PN: You know this? How?

WM: Because we know they had the weapons ten years ago, and they are still unaccounted for.

PN: The weapons we sold them, you mean?

WM: Precisely.

PN: But I thought those biological and chemical weapons would degrade to an unusable state over ten years.

WM: But there is a chance that some have not degraded.

PN: So as long as there is even a small chance that such weapons exist, we must invade?

WM: Exactly.

PN: But North Korea actually has large amounts of usable chemical, biological, AND nuclear weapons, AND long range missiles that can reach the west coast AND it has expelled nuclear weapons inspectors, AND threatened to turn America into a sea of fire.

WM: That's a diplomatic issue.

PN: So why are we invading Iraq instead of using diplomacy?

WM: Aren't you listening? We are invading Iraq because we cannot allow the inspections to drag on indefinitely. Iraq has been delaying, deceiving, and denying for over ten years, and inspections cost us tens of millions.

PN: But I thought war would cost us tens of billions.

WM: Yes, but this is not about money. This is about security.

PN: But wouldn't a pre-emptive war against Iraq ignite radical Muslim sentiments against us, and decrease our security?

WM: Possibly, but we must not allow the terrorists to change the way we live. Once we do that, the terrorists have already won.

PN: So what is the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security, color-coded terror alerts, and the Patriot Act? Don't these change the way we live?

WM: I thought you had questions about Iraq.

PN: I do. Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: For the last time, we are invading Iraq because the world has called on Saddam Hussein to disarm, and he has failed to do so. He must now face the consequences.

PN: So, likewise, if the world called on us to do something, such as find a peaceful solution, we would have an obligation to listen?

WM: By "world", I meant the United Nations.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the United Nations?

WM: By "United Nations" I meant the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an an obligation to listen to the Security Council?

WM: I meant the majority of the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the majority of the Security Council?

WM: Well... there could be an unreasonable veto.

PN: In which case?

WM: In which case, we have an obligation to ignore the veto.

PN: And if the majority of the Security Council does not support us at all?

WM: Then we have an obligation to ignore the Security Council.

PN: That makes no sense.

WM: If you love Iraq so much, you should move there. Or maybe France, with the all the other cheese-eating surrender monkeys. It's time to boycott their wine and cheese, no doubt about that.

PN: I give up!

Another thing about this is, that it demonstrates a clear flaw in the debating technique of Socratic questioning.


my prayers are being answered

No, I'm not a ghoul. I lean more towards Tacitus' interpretation than I do of Kos' for this photo. The first thing you may notice are pillars of smoke and tongues of flame, but a careful observer will notice residential lights still on in the background, electricity still running, and building standing unscathed just meters away from the targets.

Likewise, Kos critiques the targeting of those buildings, since they are empty and abandoned and have no strategic value. But this morning on NPR, someone made a good point - this isn't Powell Doctrine anymore. The Powell Doctrine of warfare says - fight only when you need to (sounds nice) but when you do fight, use overwhelming force and win decisively (think about it). The photo above is not Powell Doctrine, violating the latter clause, not the former.

This is "effects-based" doctrine of war - which says, have clear cut end goals in mind and focus on acchieving them, not with overwhelming use of force, but creative use of force. The desired effects of this war are clear - centering on making Iraqis reject their regime, and the regime to surrender power (note that these are two separate things). The Ba'ath Party is being sent a message here - we know where your symbols are and we will erase them utterly to demonstrate our reach. The Iraqi people are being sent a message here - we will leave you in peace and we have a common enemy. The photos above are courtesy of the brilliant "embedded" journalist policy - whose images reach Iraqis and Americans alike. The world media thus becomes a psychological amplifier.

I did not and do not support this war, because I reject the rationales given by the administration (I have yet to complete my writing on this, it''s coming), and because I object to the way it was pursued. I do think that all the desired outcomes which we will see - Iraqi liberation, removal of Hussein, etc. - could have been achieved without the attempted marginalization of the UN and the suspect foreign policy fantasies of the neocons as baggage, and I do believe that the way we got here will cause problems down the line.

As Michael Tomasky writes in the American Prospect:

The day this war starts, the world enters a new era of global Darwinism in which a structure of covenants and norms�admittedly far from perfect, but at least the result of an ongoing dialogue of nations�that has developed over the last half-century will be pushed aside. It�s no contradiction at all to hope for the best for our troops but remain dead set against the rules of world order being rewritten overnight by the jungle�s biggest lion.

and as Michael Kinsley writes in Slate:

Putting all this together, Bush is asserting the right of the United States to attack any country that may be a threat to it in five years. And the right of the United States to evaluate that risk and respond in its sole discretion. And the right of the president to make that decision on behalf of the United States in his sole discretion. In short, the president can start a war against anyone at any time, and no one has the right to stop him. And presumably other nations and future presidents have that same right. All formal constraints on war-making are officially defunct.

Well, so what? Isn't this the way the world works anyway? Isn't it naive and ultimately dangerous to deny that might makes right? Actually, no. Might is important, probably most important, but there are good, practical reasons for even might and right together to defer sometimes to procedure, law, and the judgment of others. Uncertainty is one. If we knew which babies would turn out to be murderous dictators, we could smother them in their cribs. If we knew which babies would turn out to be wise and judicious leaders, we could crown them dictator. In terms of the power he now claims, without significant challenge, George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world. He claims to see the future as clearly as the past. Let's hope he's right.

This is the essence of Bush Doctrine. Which actually is Perle-Wolfowitz Doctrine, given that it dates back to just after Gulf War I and was rejected by Bush 41, waiting for a more receptive president.

Let me be clear - the reason we are waging war is Bush Doctrine, with which I disagree completely. The method which we wage war is "effects-based", with which I think is brilliant.

But Bush does deserve recognition for the waging of the war itself. He may indeed be completely removed from all decision making, perhaps playing a game of Risk at Camp David - but he is the titular commander inc hief and therefore I assign all credit for the success of the war (or failure, which is unlikely) to him. But that will have to wait until after, because after all - we aren't seeing everything on TV yet.


occupation watch: Rachel Corrie killed

It's a disturbing tale - an American human shield dies, crushed under a buldozer, while trying to stop the illegal demolition of an innocent Palestinian's home. Or is it a tale of a terrorism-apologist, rightfully stomped on as she interfered with the right of a great society to defend itself? Two perspectives on Rachel Corrie:

via LGF:
woman from Olympia, Washington got herself run over by a bulldozer in Gaza when she interfered with the demolition of a terrorist's house.
Today, I swear an oath. If this terrorist-defending swine is buried in her hometown, the next time I go there I will piss on her grave.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the bulldozer. I hope it is okay after being attacked by this berserk idiot. With God's grace, it can be hosed off quickly and put back in service to knock down more homes of terrorists.

73 Laura 3/16/2003 02:30PM PST
If people are a little unsympathetic, it's because she lost her life taking action to defend criminals (accomplices to terror). And as for how they should have acted - see #58. It was an ACCIDENT. Accidents happen in this country, as well - didn't a cop recently run over 2 women sunbathing?? Would you ever go to a construction site and stand close to a bulldozer? No, because they might not see you and you might get hurt. Visibility is poor from big machines.

Furthermore, as lefties keep intentionally ignoring, Israel is AT WAR with the Palestinians. Therefore, the rules of engagement are DIFFERENT than the rules governing police actions involving citizens of one's own country. If you interfere with military personnel doing their job, you are much much more likely to get hurt than if you interfere with the police.

#21 Brenda 3/16/2003 01:15PM PST
Does this make her an honorary martyr? Does she get 72 buffed dudes in paradise?

#88 Martha 3/16/2003 02:52PM PST
#63 Bernie-- I'd like to give a damn about a girl's life if the girl hadn't devoted her life to aligning herself with people who blow other people up in buses and in nightclubs and in grocery stores in order to make a point. In the end, she thought and then acted exactly like the murderers she chose to openly support. Living the life she foolishly chose to live, she brought unncecessary danger and risk onto herself, until finally she killed-who else?- herself. What a surprise. And only sad for her family, by the way.
via Body and Soul:
March 18, 2003
Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine

Many of you will of heard varying accounts of the death of Rachel Corrie, maybe others will have heard nothing of it. Regardless, I was 10 metres away when it happened 2 days ago, and this is the way it went down.

Rachel Corrie, 23, Killed by Israeli Bulldozer

We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when one of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition. Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in its view. The Israelis were in radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin.
They knew where she was, there is no doubt.

The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed. All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued.
They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.

I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.

The group here in Rafah has decided that we will stay here and continue to oppose human rights abuses as best we can.
Sincerely, Tom (Forwarded by John Steppling)

To be honest, I treat the actual witness account as more valid. After all, this happens every day with innocent Palestinians, the only difference here is that Corrie was an American. It's clear from the eyewitness account that she was killed deliberately, in full view. Palestinian terrorists are not alone in demonstrating a clear pattern of reckless disregard for human life (and Palestinian civilians are not alone in valuing it all the more highly for the constant threat it faces).

Jeanne D'Arc has more on this in her posts: here, and here. Also Barry of Amptoons has a long and thoughtful post on the subject as well.

But the most important thing about Rachel Corrie's presence in Gaza, is what she said herself:

I am asking people who care about me-- or just have some passing interest in me--to use my presence in occupied Palestine as a reason to actively search for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of course particularly about the role of the United States in perpetuating it. I am here because I recognize that as a citizen of the United States I have some responsibility for what is happening here. I'm also here because I need to see for myself.

UPDATE: From Electronic Intifada, comes photos before and after Corrie's death. It's clear from the photos that Corrie was highly visible, carrying a megaphone, wearing a bright red jacket. Here are more eyewitness accounts, and also this story detailing how Rachel Corrie's memorial service was interrupted by another bulldozer sent by the IDF.

and here's one more quote from Corrie, because she really deserves the last word:

I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances - which I also haven't seen before. I think the word is dignity.

Diana Moon defends Salam Pax

not only that, with wit, emotion, compassion, and steel-trap rigor of logic:

The blogosphere has been pretty hard on Arabs and I have chimed right in. One of the things that us Yank-bloggers have had the most sport with is the fact that, Arabs have an "honor-shame" culture. This is supposed to be alternately risible and terrible, especially juxtaposed with our Western, rational-fact-based-transactional-impersonal culture. I mean, they've got narghilas, we've got cruise missiles, which culture is superior?*

I think that human beings are more than the sum of their parts, and that all societies are more-or-less composed of all these qualities. In any case, I have a big honor deal going on in my own life. I experienced the 9/11 attack as (among other things), a huge diss. Our honor was impugned. We had to avenge our honor to be whole again.

So, when Salam responded to me as he did on that occasion, giving me his full name, he was saying, "Here. I extend my sympathies, on my honor, with my family name."

I don't need any more proof than that.


I used to read Diana's site, and she and I had a long email discussion almost a year ago which unfortunately led to a falling out. I suppose I was still refining my civility instincts and was too rough at the edges, unable to simply say "let's agree to disagree" (a common failing in my Internet activities). I regret that.

I haven't been back to her site in a while, apart from briefly visiting to read her critique of one post I made. But when i saw Salam Pax had linked to her defense of him, I had to visit and was quickly drawn in. Her writing is powerful, intensely personal, and strictly moralistic, which sounds like a bad thing, but in this case isn't . It's well worth reading her entire post in defense of Salam and her blog in general, I know I will make an effort to do so again.

Her point about Arabs and humans in general is one I have been making as well. Honor-shame, face, etc - all of these are just aspects of a common humanity. To throw out a stereotype like "Arabs have a face culture" is to self-filter your worldview, which will interfere with your understanding (though it certainly feels the opposite). And ultimately this means less dialouge, argument instead of debate, and retreat instead of compromise and solutions.


Separation of Church and State

PROCLAMATION BY THE Governor of the State of Texas


WHEREAS, the words of President George Washington ring true now as they did more than 200 years ago, "Almighty Father. Bless us with thy wisdom in our counsels and with success in battle, and let our victories be tempered with humanity. Endow, also, our enemies with enlightened minds, that they become sensible of their injustice, and willing to restore our liberty and peace. Thy will be done. Amen."; and

WHEREAS, as these words show, prayer has been a vital part of our shared national life since before the founding of our nation and state,
providing comfort and direction in times of crisis and conflict, and reminding us of the calm assurance that God cares for us, whatever our
ethnic, religious or political background; and

WHEREAS, the many brave and courageous men and women of the United States armed forces who have been deployed in the Middle East and around the world to keep freedom and protect liberty now find themselves in harm's way and in need of our prayers and petitions to God on behalf of their safety and wellbeing; and

WHEREAS, it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join with the soldiers in their foxholes, the pilots in their planes, and the
sailors on the seas and stand in solidarity with them through prayer for their safe return and the resumption of peace in the region and
throughout the world;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim Thursday, March 20, 2003, as a day of prayer in the state of Texas. I further urge Texans of all faiths and religions to offer prayers and petitions for peace and safety on behalf of our troops deployed in the Middle East and around the world, that they may return home safely to the care and comfort of their families and that we may return to our daily lives of peace and calm.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 19th of March, 2003.

RICK PERRY Governor of Texas

Sijood Presidential Palace, Baghdad

Salam Pax, Iraqi blogger, is still online (though once Shock and Awe starts, he may not have a telephone line to connect online anymore). He has posted a fascinating aerial photo of Baghdad with a color-coded thumbnail, which is especially interesting because it shows the Sijood Presidential Palace, one of Saddam's many such and from the looks of it, a very elegant and lovely building. If it survives the war it will be a historical site, for certain. He writes:

The feature most people would recognize when not seen from the top is the grand festival square (which is not a square at all. It is a semi-circle) it is in light blue. This is the one which has two huge intersecting swords at its entrance. The building below the semi-circle is the grand stand; this is the place that saw the big army marches last winter. The road to the right of it is called the Zaitoon (olive tree) Street, it has lots of olive trees obviously. On the green side of that street (the green area is a residential area called Harthiya) live many big wigs, don�t bother you CIA types reading the blog, they are empty now. The yellow area is the Zawra public garden, you see it here during the renovation period. They have just finished working on the garden. The brown longish thing down the left of the image is the clock tower of Baghdad, a very very hideous building and it houses the museum of Saddam�s presents (the ones he got from everybody, there was an article about a couple of months ago in the guardian I think). The blue square is a building that has been hit twice (desert storm and desert fox) after desert fox they decided to do a redesign since it was hit really bad. It is still unfinished but it does look nice. The red area is something I see with you for the first time. This is off boundaries to Iraqis, the whole area is a �presidential Palace�. The Sijood palace can be seen from the other side of the river and it is one of the most beautiful palaces, I really hope it does not get its �havoc recked�. I see it as a museum or some sort of academy in the future, I really like it.

He also mentions rumors that Saddam's brother Barzan is under house arrest in a Presidential Palace for daring to suggest that Saddam, surrender. And that Saddam's family is armed to the teeth, more out of fear from Iraqi reprisals than American ones.

no chemical warheads. But Russia and France still suck

Three missile attacks against Kuwait - poorly aimed, and none carrying chemical or biological warheads. If Iraq has WMD, why haven't they used them now, while the bulk of our troops are still concentrated? It doesn't seem likely that they actually posess any.

From Bush and Blair's speeches you'd think that all three of Iraq's duct-tape drones would have spewed smallpox all over Kuwait by now.

Excellent point however by Blair's people just now on NPR. UN Resolution 1282 in 1999 called for inspections without teeth - and was rejected by China, Russia, and France. UN Resolution 1441 called for stringer inspections backed by credible threat of force. It actually put requirements on Saddam to 1. cooperate and 2. disarm. It's obvious that Saddam has been in violation of #1. But since no WMD were ever found, and none have even been used yet, could he have ever technically met requirement 2? (I may be entirely wrong and the WMD are about to be used againt our troops. I fervently hope that there aren't any and that I am right).

Anyway the British minister was correct, use of force was contingent on Saddam's compliance, and so the critique of Russia and France against the military action is founded on teh wrong argument. Putin says the war is without any justification - thats technically untrue. The war is justified if violation of Requirement 1 is enough to trigger the military response (I don't know if that is so or not). To make their critique principled (ahem - like mine) and not blatantly self-aggrandizing, they should be talking up Requirement 2.