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April 19, 2003

I HAVEN'T BEEN KIDNAPPED. AS YOU CAN SEE, I've basically taken the day off. I haven't even checked email. I'll probably post some stuff tomorrow, though. Happy Easter, Passover, etc.!

April 18, 2003

MEGAN MCARDLE WRITES THAT IF THE AIRLINES COLLAPSE, it's the executives' fault, not the unions'.

In an unrelated development (er, I think) she now has a cooking column.

HERE'S A CNN OBITUARY that The Smoking Gun somehow missed.

N.Z. BEAR AND JEFF JARVIS have some thoughts on Iraqi media reform that are very much worth reading.

NGOS IN AFRICA -- the latest form of colonialism? That's what Roger Bate argues.

I GOT AN EMAIL earlier from another blogger who wanted to know if I was mad for some reason. Nope -- I just missed some earlier emails in the overwhelming flood and thus didn't reply.

Sorry but I've actually been busier than usual this semester with my actual job, and email traffic, which was barely manageable in December, is now out of control. And there was a war, too. I'm sorry, but though I do the best I can my best just isn't good enough when it comes to the massive volume of mail I get.

Heck, Daniel Drezner is already complaining about the volume of email he's getting. It only gets worse, Dan.

TRAFFIC CAMERAS are a longtime InstaPundit issue, one of many eclipsed by the war in recent months. Here's a report of a suit against the District of Columbia, demanding a refund of all fines levied via traffic-cam.

HERE'S SOME PATRIOT ACT GOOD NEWS:

Washington - House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. said Thursday that he would fight any effort now to make permanent many of the expanded police powers enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of the USA Patriot Act.

"That will be done over my dead body," said Sensenbrenner in an interview.

The Menomonee Falls Republican also said it was "way premature" for Congress to consider a new package of anti-terrorism proposals being drafted by the Justice Department - a so-called "Patriot Act Two."

Before that happens, he said, the "burden of proof" is on the Justice Department to prove the merits of what he called "Patriot Act One."

It certainly is. You might want to let Sensenbrenner know that you appreciate his efforts. I do.

LOTS OF PICS OF IRANIAN BLOGGERS -- this blogger-bash thing seems to be a universal phenomenon. . . .

(Via Andrea Harris).

GOOD FOR THEM: Here are some lefties who are condemning Castro's latest repression. Alterman's on the list.

TOMMY FRANKS, SAVIOR OF WETLANDS? Yep.

"Everyone is harping about Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction," said Alwash, "but here he used water as a mass destruction weapon. He used it to destroy a culture that has lasted 5,000 years. And I'm afraid it has made me somewhat cynical that the international community stood by and did nothing while it was happening."

The marshes were an integral part of the Iraqi culture and collective psyche, said Alwash, and their loss is an emotional blow that is hard for outsiders to understand.

Ecological scientists are in general accord with Alwash that the destruction of the marshes was a catastrophe of global significance.

"By any measure, this was one of the most important wetland systems in the world," said Scott McCreary, a principal and co-founder of Concur Inc., an East Bay consulting group that specializes in developing consensus solutions to natural resource conflicts. "It was on par with other great mega-deltas such as the Yangtze and the Amazon."

Somehow, I doubt Bush will get any credit for this. (Via The Corner).

I'VE TOTALLY DROPPED THE BALL on gun-blogging over the last several months, one of several topics that have suffered because of the war. But you can see a Harvard Law School debate on the topic by going here and following the link. I haven't watched it myself, but it should be interesting.

FEDAYEEN AT YALE? Uh, not exactly.

JAMES LILEKS WRITES about Madonna, children's books, and more. But not about the war. Well, not quite. Oh, and there's something about krill, too.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT (it was posted a bit late yesterday), I've got more on the Iraq oil trust fund idea over at GlennReynolds.com.

I'm gathering reader emails, too, and I'm going to post more on it here, later.

PHIL CARTER ANSWERS SOME QUESTIONS about the war, in response to a piece (linked therein) by Fred Kaplan in Slate.

ANOTHER FASCINATING ARTICLE IN THE ARAB NEWS:

Countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia — not to speak of Japan — went ahead by leaps and bounds. These were countries that had been utterly devastated by World War II and other wars in the region.

But they rose from the ashes, and now, with the fall of a tyrant, a fresh breeze is also blowing in the Arab world. A wind of change.

The Arab world, moreover, is younger, with a population that has access to enough information to see others speeding ahead. They are not content to remain bystanders, but want to be travelers themselves on the road to progress.

They aspire to a free society, human dignity and mechanisms that shield them from the oppression and humiliations exercised by the likes of the Baath regime. They want governments that guarantee them the human rights, freedom, justice and equality that are central to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

They want a society that is tolerant and sovereign and where all views are fairly represented. They want a vehicle that will clear the decks of the medieval garbage that has resulted in regression and stagnation. . . .

We must not let future generations down by bequeathing them a legacy of a society that is divided, a national debt that will break their backs, an educational system that churns out parrots and a society that wallows in self-pity and snivels in mortification at the first sign of a problem.

I hope we'll see more of this kind of thinking.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PIECE IN THE SPECTATOR about Britain and Europe:

The question has to be asked, ‘Why does the UK have to pay the costs of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] and suffer the indignities of the CFP [Common Fisheries Policy] in order to be associated with a group of nations which are both economically unsuccessful and will take a diminishing share of its exports over the next few decades?’ It cannot be because Britain wants to participate in a common European defence and foreign policy, as the diplomatic shambles of recent weeks has discredited that option; it cannot be because Britain wants to abandon its currency and introduce the euro, as opinion polls show a decisive majority in favour of keeping the pound; and it cannot be because Britain wants to be absorbed into a European political superstate, as European federalism has been and remains unpopular at all levels.

The message has to be that — putting sentiment and treaty obligations to one side — the case for continued British membership of the EU is weaker today than it has ever been.

I wonder how many people in Britain are thinking this way now.

MORE BAD NEWS FOR CHIRAC:

DEBLIN, Poland -- Poland on Friday signed a deal to buy 48 U.S.-made F-16 jet fighters for $3.5 billion, the biggest defense contract by a former Soviet bloc country since the end of the Cold War.

The Polish government announced last December that it had chosen the U.S. government-backed offer over two rival European offers -- the Swedish-British Gripen jet and the French-made Mirage 2000.

I'm sure that Chirac's nasty cracks about New Europe weren't the only reason, but I'm also sure that they didn't help.

THE SECURITY COUNCIL IS DEMANDING U.S. ACTION. Heh.

LOOTED IRAQI ANTIQUITIES are already showing up -- in Paris. Go figure.

HERE'S A NOT-VERY-POSITIVE TAKE on U.N. involvement in Iraq.

THOMAS NEPHEW has more information on those missing tourists in Algeria: German reports say they're being held hostage in an effort to secure the freedom of convicted terrorists:

The goal is apparently to force the release of four Algerian extremists recently sentenced in Frankfurt for planning an attack on the Strassburg Christmas Market. The German foreign ministry did not want to comment. “Nothing is being ruled out” in the investigation and all leads are being persued, a spokesman said. Officially, all countries involved are still viewing kidnapping only as a possible scenario about the tourists’ whereabouts.

Interesting.

April 17, 2003

A PACK, NOT A HERD: Jonathan Rauch writes on a distributed homeland security approach that, well, seems perfect for bloggers.

CHINA'S SECRETIVENESS ABOUT SARS is hurting its credibility worldwide, according to this report:

China's restrictions on information about a highly infectious respiratory illness has undermined five years of diplomacy intended to alter its image as a prickly regional power and to improve relations with neighboring countries, Asian politicians and analysts say.

Beijing's secretiveness for much of the last several weeks about severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, contrasts sharply with the openness of its neighbors, even one-party states like Singapore. It also reflects the emphasis China puts on overall social stability above individuals' well-being, many argue.

The reaction to China's handling of SARS has been pronounced in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as in Singapore. Politicians, editorial writers and health experts have criticized the Chinese suppression of bad news, and apparent dissembling about SARS-related statistics, as a big step backward that undercuts its influence.

This sort of behavior, of course, dooms China to the status of a second-rate power, in both war and peace.

PREDICTING THE PROPAGANDA: Bitter Sanity has the next anti-U.S. meme scoped out in advance.

MARTIN DEVON writes on why Europeans, and Arabs, have trouble understanding America.

COX AND FORKUM on CNN.

CATHY SEIPP LIKES IT, but she feels a little dirty, afterward.

GET YOUR TALKING IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER ACTION FIGURE here. No, really!

(Via Pathetic Earthlings.)

HOW HARD IS IT TO CRITICIZE CASTRO and still be a member of "Team Left?" This hard.

"WE SMOKED OUT THE PRINCE:" Plaintiffs' lawyers suing Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks seem pretty happy about how things are going.

UPDATE: Matt Welch has some thoughts here. Bush's intimacy with the House of Saud is a major weakness, and the only reason that I can see for the Democrats' not exploiting it is that they've been bought off, too. By the way, from the article linked above, here's a list of lawyers retained by the Saudis:

Baker Botts, Sultan’s law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

An internal list of other law firms retained in the case, reviewed by NEWSWEEK , reads like a veritable “who’s who” of the U.S. legal community. Among those firms and their Saudi clients are: Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (Prince Mohammed al Faisal); Kellog, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans (Prince Turki al Faisal); Jones, Day (the Binladin Group); Ropes & Grey (Khaled bin Mahfouz); White & Case,(the Al-Rajhi Banking Group); King & Spalding (the Arab Bank and Youssef Nada); Akin Gump (Mohammed Hussein Al-Almoudi); and Fulbright & Jaworski (Nimir Petroleum.)

I wonder if Jones, Day carries that client on their firm resume?

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: I've got more on Iraqi reconstruction over at GlennReynolds.com -- it's mostly about the trust fund idea, which seems to have grown legs.

THE PHONY PEACE: Michael Kelly's last column is now online. Excerpt:

I spent the last days of the first Gulf War's phony peace in Baghdad, and I am spending the last days of this one's in Kuwait, soon to take part in the experiment of "embedding," as the jargon has it, some 500 journalists with the U.S. military for the duration of what is generally expected to be a short, exceedingly one-sided conflict. On the whole, I'd say, the phoniness quotient is down this time. We are spared, at least, much of the death-and-destruction-and-quagmire talk that preceded the last conflict here. The lessons of the campaign in Afghanistan, adding to the lessons of the campaigns in Kosovo and Bosnia, have sunk in. The U.S. armed forces enjoy a technological superiority like nothing the world has seen before; they are, in a real sense, not even fighting the same war as their opponents—or in the same century. No one argues much now about whether these forces are capable of crushing even very serious opposition, and almost no one argues that Iraq offers serious opposition. Rather, the argument concerns whether the employment of this almost unfathomable power will be largely for good, leading to the liberation of a tyrannized people and the spread of freedom, or largely for bad, leading to imperialism and colonialism, with a consequent corruption of America's own values and freedoms. This question is real enough and more: probably the next hundred years hinges on the answer.

Yeah. That's why I can't bring myself to go on a blog vacation, or to quit writing about the war the way James Lileks is doing, just now. I'd like to, in a way, because all of this is, well, tiring. But I think, as Kelly did, that a lot hinges on what's happening now.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus puts it better than I did:

You're completely sick of the war -- sick of watching cable, sick of reading the paper. The military campaign's basically been won. The adrenalin is leaving your body. The overwhelming urge is to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to normal life, only more so: normal life minus current events. Yet this is just the moment when it's probably most important to pay attention to what is going on in the Middle East, because these are the weeks when we will or won't make the mistakes that will cost us the benefit of all the sacrifice of life and treasure.

Yeah, what he said.

AMERICAN EMPIRE is doing Command Post -style newsblogging about SARS.

WELL, I SAID EARLIER that Bush's assault-weapon stance might prove expensive for him. It's not proof yet, but this article suggests that he's angered a core constituency.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer says I'm wrong. Hmm. So did Rand Simberg. Well, maybe I am. We'll see.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Then again, maybe I'm not:

Gun chat rooms are rocking. Folks mad as hell about the Presidents stance.

Gun owners ELECTED Bush by a thin margin, because they enthusiastically worked for him. This time, even if they do hold their nose and vote for him, they are NOT going to put up yard signs, talk him up, campaign, send money,
etc.

I think this is a real mistake by Bush.

Robert Langham
Texas State Rifle Association Highpower Rifle Team Member, National Matches, '02, 03.

But on the other hand, he's being praised by gun-control groups! Somehow, though, I don't think their members will actually vote for him, much less give money, or put up yard signs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Capt. Mike McRae emails:

I am (and have been) a loyal Bush supporter. I am a lifelong Republican, a conservative thinker, and someone who cares deeply about the 2nd amendment and the direction in which this country is heading. My home state, New Jersey, is a disaster in terms of constitutional rights and we need help from the federal government. What we don't need is the Republican President and Congress aiding the enemy.

I hate the liberals, but I hate back-stabbers more and would be a hypocrite if I still supported them anyway. .

Bush is unwise to support this continuation of the ban, because he gets so little in return. But we saw the same thing when he signed into law that miserable campaign finance legislation (right after which I stopped donating to the RNC), when he got so little in return.

I've gotten a lot of equally angry email from (formerly) committed Bush supporters. Has Karl Rove dropped the ball here? It depends on how many people like this there are, and how long they stay mad.

"WHEN BAGHDAD DANCED, FRANCE POUTED:" EuroPundits has a translation of an oped from Le Monde by Pascal Bruckner, André Glucksmann and Romain Goupil. You really should read it all. But here's an excerpt:

Friendship gave way to overt hostility, despite the diplomatic smiles and the denials which functioned as confessions: “The Americans aren’t our enemies”…By its intransigence and its promise of a veto “regardless of the circumstances,” our country divided Europe, paralyzed NATO and the UN, destroying the possibility of avoiding a military confrontation through a precise, joint ultimatum that would have forced out the Iraqi dictator. Far from avoiding a war, the “camp of peace” precipitated one by playing Asterix against Uncle Sam. . . .

In the future, we will talk about the hysteria, the collective intoxication that shook France for months on end, the anguish of the Apocalypse that seized our better halves, the almost Soviet ambiance that welded together 90% of the population in a triumph of monolithic thought, allergic to the slightest dissent. In the future, we will have to study the media’s partisan coverage of the war—with few exceptions, this coverage was more activist than objective, minimizing the horrors of the Baathist tyranny in order to better reproach the Anglo-American expedition, guilty of all crimes, all problems, all misfortunes in the region. . . .

Let’s face it: Anti-Americanism is not an accident that happened over-night or a simple reticence in response to the Bush Administration. Anti-Americanism is a political creed that unites one person to another, in spite of their differences—the Front national and the Greens, socialists and conservatives, communists and separatists…On the left as well as on the right, it is rare to find someone who did not give in to this “nationalism of imbeciles” which is unfailingly symptomatic of resentment and decline.

Read the whole thing.

THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN has decided that it owns the right to use "A.M." Puhleez.

(Via Bill Hobbs).

A PROMINENT PUTIN CRITIC has been murdered in Moscow. Some people are calling it an assassination, and blaming Putin. Are they right? I don't know, but Putin's gradual consolidation of power is looking more and more dubious.

BERNARD BAILYN WEIGHS IN ON WEBLOGS: Well, sort of.

(Via Dave Winer).

HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS ON WAR CRIMES AND HUMAN SHIELDS that you may find interesting. And here are some more.

WHAT WOULD BUGS BUNNY DO? Reader Shawn Lavasseur emails:

It's Ironic that with the early buzz about "Shock & Awe" and the MOAB bomb, that the real big military technological advancement shown in this war is not the bomb with a bigger bang, but a bomb with no bang at all, the "Concrete Bomb", a GPS guided bomb meant to smash into things, but not explode.

Or as I prefer to call it the ACME Guided Anvil.

Yes. I hope it produces the standard Warner-Brothers whistling sound as it falls.

UPDATE: Reader George Walton emails:

Reminds me of an Albert Einstein remark: He didn't know what weapons would be used to fight World War III, but he know what would be used for WW IV -- rocks.

A really smart man!

And really smart rocks.

NIGERIAN ELECTIONS ARE ON THE WAY, and things look ugly:

LAGOS (Reuters) - Threats of violence mounted in Nigeria on Thursday ahead of a weekend presidential election after opposition leaders accused the ruling party of rigging last Saturday's parliamentary polls.

The main opposition has warned of mass protests after the scale of last week's victory by President Olusegun Obasanjo's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sent tensions soaring in the world's eighth biggest oil producer.

Of course, they often do. You can read a (somewhat) more positive account here.

UPDATE: Here's another story.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON WRITES ON THE THREE WEEKS' WAR:

But the lethality of the military is not just organizational or a dividend of high-technology. Moral and group cohesion explain more still. The general critique of the 1990s was that we had raised a generation with peroxide hair and tongue rings, general illiterates who lounged at malls, occasionally muttering "like" and "you know" in Sean Penn or Valley Girl cadences. But somehow the military has married the familiarity and dynamism of crass popular culture to 19th-century notions of heroism, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and audacity.

The result is that the energy of our soldiers arises from the ranks rather than is imposed from above. What, after all, is the world to make of Marines shooting their way into Baathist houses with Ray-Bans, or shaggy special forces who look like they are strolling in Greenwich Village with M-16s, or tankers with music blaring and logos like "Bad Moon Rising?" The troops look sometimes like cynical American teenagers but they fight and die like Leathernecks on Okinawa. The Arab street may put on shows of goose-stepping suicide bombers, noisy pajama-clad killers, and shrill, masked assassins, but in real battle against gum-chewing American adolescents with sunglasses these street toughs prove to be little more than toy soldiers.

There's this, too:

It was almost as if we were trying to exorcise a demon from an innocent zombie host, and thus had to use enough shock to chase out the spirit without damaging the body. That paradox in and of itself meant that a long preliminary bombing campaign was politically impossible — especially with the world's news agencies ensconced in the Palestine Hotel paying bribe money to Baathists for the privilege of sending out slanted and censored news about collateral damage.

Read the whole thing.

REX MORGAN, MD -- weighing in on tort reform? Yep.

JOE BIDEN'S GETTING LESS-THAN-RAVE REVIEWS AT HOME over his sponsorship of the wretched Rave Act. (The story originated in the L.A. Times, but this link take it to a reprint in the Delaware News Journal.) Biden does sound rather defensive. . . .

TAEGAN GODDARD says that despite official denials, there's evidence that Gary Hart is planning to run.

UPDATE: Here's an account of a recent Hart speech.

NON-LUDDITE BIOETHICS: Yale's Interdisciplinary Bioethics Program is sponsoring a conference on transhumanism for June. What's that?

Transhumanism is a new approach to bioethics which argues that technology can be used to overcome the limitations of the human body, and that individuals should be allowed to enhance their bodies.

Leon Kass will no doubt be appalled. But, you know, people already "enhance" their bodies all the time -- just ask Virginia Postrel about her laserized eyes. Or Carmen Electra about, well, pretty much everything, I think. . . .

SHANTI MANGALA calls the "women are peaceful" argument "sexist, idiotic drivel:"

I think it is mainly a very Western point of view, or at least the view of a person who is wilfully ignoring or trying to gloss over the complexities of a woman's nature.

I read somewhere the saying, "the most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her baby". In Indian culture, women have never shied away from battle and there is absolutely no proof that they were ever more reconciliatory than their male counterparts. Rani Rudrama Devi, Jhansi Lakshmi Bai and others come to mind. Even our mythology is full of women warriors - Kali, Durga, Satyabhama. We also use the term "Mother Nature", which denotes not just the gentle, loving, calm face of nature, but also the nature that floods, blows away and destroys human life.

There is both a life-giving energy and a destructive force in a woman. I find it very simplistic for people to ignore one thing or the other to further agendas or to make points. I don't like to call myself a feminist in the "NOW" sense of the word, but the traditional sense of the war-mongering man and a softly nurturing woman is as distateful me as is the effort by people of some religions to subvert womens' freedoms by deeming too fragile to take care of themselves.

There's nothing gentle about this post, that's for sure!

UPDATE: Check out this blog, by an (almost) 26-year-old Muslim woman who's struggling with a different kind of sexism.

THE PROPOSAL TO REMOVE THE SUNSET PROVISION IN THE "PATRIOT" ACT is getting an unfriendly reception:

Fidel Castro has got to be looking on with admiration. This is his thing.

The problem with protecting freedom by curtailing freedom is that each bright idea suggests another and pretty soon there’s not a lot left to protect.

That’s why Orrin Hatch’s suggestion that the “Patriot Act” be made permanent is so appalling.

Why? What is wrong with having to review the act every few years, determine whether it is still needed and then re-enact it for a few more years?

Hatch apparently does not want those new government police powers to ever be taken away again, whether they are needed or not, and you have to wonder why.

Yes, you do have to wonder. I think that everything in the "Patriot" Act should have been sunsetted, and I certainly don't think that any sunset provisions should be removed.

Hatch should be ashamed, and so should everyone else involved in this travesty.

IT'S, ER, A BIT LATE, but Joshua Claybourn has been won over to the anti-war cause.

JOSH CHAFETZ, meanwhile, is taking moral responsibility for the war.

STEFAN SHARKANSKY observes that CNN has some standards: it'll shill for dictators, but not for the United States.

BRENDAN HAS THE PUNCHLINE. And it's a good one. Please help him find the joke.

MICKEY KAUS calls the ridiculously light sentence given Pim Fortuyn's killer "Euromoronic:"

The Dutch three-judge panel, according to the NYT, said they were "persuaded that Mr. van der Graaf was not likely to repeat his crime." But isn't the relevant question whether someone else very much like Mr. van der Graaf is now likely to repeat his crime? ... Among the lessons the twentieth century teaches us, one is surely that assassinations work -- maybe not in the long-term (centuries), but in the medium term (decades). You're not supposed to say this. It's a bit like admitting that most great popular music is made on drugs. But Oswald, Sirhan, Ray, Amir, van der Graaf -- name five other men who have done more to alter the course of history (for better or, in this case, worse) in their lifetimes. You'd think the Dutch judges would recognize this and adjust the punitive calculus accordingly. Instead, they've made an offer many ineffectual-yet-earnest activists may find hard to refuse.

The Euros seem to have trouble thinking this way in a number of departments.

April 16, 2003

MORE CRITICISM OF CNN'S SUCKING-UP to tyrants, this time from Bruce Feirstein. Excerpt:

Having said this, however, what really surprises me is that no one else in journalism has pointed out the bigger lie here:

For over fifteen years, CNN has made a point of broadcasting propaganda in return for access. But in this case, the access isn’t about bureaus, or reporters, but rather, the CNN signal itself.

Since 1987, CNN International has broadcast a weekend show called "World Report," whose introduction might as well have been written by George Orwell: The announcer boasts that the reports are "uncensored and unedited," from local television stations (read: government controlled) in nations that allow CNN to broadcast within their borders.

I used to get this program some years ago, and it was appalling. I remember a tour of the Cameroonian Minister of Communications' mansion getting 15 minutes. At the end I was convinced that he, and CNN, were both utterly corrupt. After reading this report, I'm pretty sure I was right about both. . . .

THIS IS NOT A CLINTON-BASHING POST. This one, by Moxie, on the other hand. . . .

She doesn't look like a stereotypical Clinton-basher. In fact, I think that Bill would like to be in this picture.

THIS IS NOT AN ASHCROFT-BASHING POST: Well, not really. But I've been slowly making my way through Steven Brill's new book, After, and I ran across this passage the other day, about Ashcroft's role in the drafting of the USA Patriot Act:

Beyond his predilection to want to control as much as he could, some on his own staff thought that another reason Ashcroft hadn't "scrubbed" the bill beforehand was that he didn't appreciate the significance of the prosecutor-written laundry list he was proposing. Although Ashcroft is a graduate of the highly regarded University of Chicago Law School and a former Missouri state attorney general, even some of his own deputies at Justice were surprised by how uninterested he was in the niceties of the law. One veteran staffer recalls that through six different meetings on this bill and another key legal initiative, he had never once heard Ashcroft cite a legal case and had watched him blanch when someone in the room cited a case, as if that person was discourteously speaking another language. Two senators -- one a conservative Republican, the other a moderate Democrat -- who spoke with Ashcroft at about this time were surprised at his lack of command of the basic issues. Whether it was lack of interest or lack of intellectual firepower, the Attorney General seemed not to appreciat the complexities of the constitutional issues he was dealing with.

This is damning if it's accurate. (In the "source note" for this section, Brill attributes this to the two unnamed Senators and to a "veteran Justice Department senior lawyer" who is unnamed). It's possible, of course, that -- to be as charitable as possible -- Ashcroft was having trouble focusing on legal niceties at a time when more terror attacks seemed imminent. But it's not as if Ashcroft's manner has changed with more time for reflection.

I've defended Ashcroft when I thought he was right, but I really don't think he's the right guy for the job he has. I would feel more comfortable with someone who was more of a real lawyer, and who had more respect for civil liberties. It's not Ashcroft's religiosity that bothers me, as it bothers some. It's his penchant for secrecy, and for bureaucratic power-grabbing -- and the Justice Department and FBI's not very impressive performance, and extremely limited commitment to self-policing, demonstrated both before and after 9/11.

And it doesn't comfort me that Ashcroft is getting chummy on these issues with Charles Schumer, either.

I'M NOT REALLY BACK, BUT OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM I've got a post on why the war on terror doesn't seem to be going as well domestically as it is abroad.

UPDATE: Talkleft has some comments on this post. And if you want to hear my appearance on the Bob Rivers Show earlier today, click here. For some reason I wound up talking about Syria a lot, but it went reasonably well, I think.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY HERE: I'm not on vacation like some other bloggers I know, but I'm going to enjoy the afternoon. (That's a dogwood tree in front of the Law School building over to the right).

Back later.

CLAYTON CRAMER NOTES that some members of Congress are weighing in against extending some of the Patriot Act provisions that are scheduled to sunset. He also notes, correctly, that the Bush Administration's penchant for secrecy on these kinds of things is costing it credibility:

If even the statistics are top secret, how can we, the public, tell whether these provisions are being appropriately used or not?

How, indeed? The Bush Administration has done rather well on the external front. Homeland Security, however, remains a much less impressive operation.

SALAM PAX -- REAL OR NOT? Steven Den Beste has questions, and Paul Boutin reflects that we may never have a definitive answer.

I agree with Paul that Salam's blog didn't feel like a hoax. But, of course, that can be explained by him being a really good hoax, or by my intuition being wrong, either of which is possible. There are a lot of questions that can't be answered definitively, and for those we have to either go with our gut (recognizing that we might be wrong) or just accept that they're unanswered.

I feel fairly confident that Salam's blog wasn't a government propaganda outlet for the U.S. or Iraqi governments -- or at least, that if it was one it wasn't a very good one, since it didn't really produce a lot of points for one side or another. Beyond that, who knows? Unless, of course, Salam turns up.

And even then, it'll be tricky to know if it's really him! If I were an Iraqi scam-meister, I might start claiming to be Salam. Heck, we might see several Iraqis claiming to be the real Salam. Stay tuned.

I'M ABOUT TO BE ON THE BOB RIVERS SHOW, 102.5 FM in Seattle. No audio stream, but if you're in the area you can tune in.

TIRED OF THE WAR AND WAR-BLOGGING? (Heck, I'm getting tired of it! Maybe I'll take a vacation like Andrew Sullivan, or Bill Quick. Nah, screw that. I want a vacation like Nick Denton's.)

Anyway, if you want to read about something else, Roger Simon is blogging about the humiliations and exhilirations of having his novel published.

JOSH CHAFETZ HAS AN ARTICLE ON CIVILIAN CASUALTIES and the way in which Marc Herold's bogus numbers find their way into mainstream media.

INTERESTING ARTICLE IN THE ARAB NEWS:

AT AN AIR BASE IN KUWAIT, 16 April 2003 — People are curious about being embedded in the Marines. This is my effort to set the record straight. Some readers suspect I was subjected to propaganda while living with these men and women. There was no propaganda campaign. If there had been, there would have been no embeds. Journalists wrote their own stories, and made their own interview requests and interviews. The Marines’ “PAOs” (public affairs officers) would set up the meetings, but not oversee them.

What happened to the majority of journalists living the Marine life is that we experienced it from the inside. I can honestly say that seven weeks as an embed has changed me forever. And I have often found many similarities between Marines and Arabs.

Why? Let me give you a few examples, all of which deal with generosity of spirit.

This is an interesting meme -- the Marines kicked ass because they're like Arabs! Thus, in a way, no Arab honor was lost. . . I'm okay on this, I guess. But read the whole thing, because there's more to it than that.

Then there's this article from Malaysiakini:

The fact that Syria is the next target of criticism after Iraq proves what most objective academics have said that the war in Iraq was a follow-up of Afghanistan, and in reality an ideological war against terrorism.

The fact is the war is against terrorist symphatisers - people who even harbour thoughts of condoning Sept 11, 2001. The fact is that the US has so far been only tolerant of actions in other countries and against its embassies abroad.

It’s not about oil, it’s not against Muslims. It’s about making states live up to their promise about not tolerating random violent acts no matter what their grievances are.

Stories like these are a good sign, though it's too early to tell if they reflect a trend.

AUSTIN BAY WRITES ON WHAT VICTORY IS -- AND ISN'T -- ABOUT:

We've won?

If you mean the War on Terror, the answer is, "No, not by a long shot." Victory in that dark, intricate conflict remains years away. . . .

While the operational victory is extraordinary, strategic victory in the War on Terror requires focused and sustained military, political and economic efforts.

The formula for Hell in the 21st century, the linkage of terrorists, rogue states and Weapons of Mass Destruction, still challenges civilized states. Reforming rogue states, curbing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and killing terrorists is an involved and intricate process.

It's a great victory, but there's still a lot of work to do.

BRIAN SCRIVANI thinks I'm overstating the importance of the Abu Abbas arrest (here's the post he refers to), noting that:

While this is a great find and I hope that Abbas is rightfully brought to justice, we all know that Abbas is NOT a member of Al Queda- the terrorist connection that the Bush administration was trying to make.

Actually, I think that the Bush Administration was careful to note Saddam's ties to a wide variety of terrorist groups, not simply Al Qaeda -- and, in fact, has been pretty careful not to claim a direct connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks. The claim was that Saddam was aiding and abetting a wide variety of terror groups, as a way of waging proxy war against America. That seems to be pretty well established now. And my post never suggested that Abbas was a member of Al Qaeda.

Scrivani also thinks that I'm wrong to suggest that Howell Raines lacks influence -- because Martha Burk, despite his zone-flooding support, couldn't muster a single busload of protesters - but by way of refutation he links to an article saying that the Times is making money. That seems like apples-and-oranges to me. He's right, of course, that the Times remains an important paper, which is why lots of bloggers link to it. But Raines pretty obviously wants it to be an engine for mobilizing social change. And he made the Augusta National issue a top priority, and the results were dismal. That's a different bottom line, it seems to me, and one that's not going as well for the Times.

Note: This post earlier said "Scott Wrightson thinks" at the top -- but Wunderkinder is a group blog and Wrightson, though he sent me the email about the link, isn't the author of the post in question. I didn't notice, and assumed it was him. My bad.

UPDATE: Interestingly, this story notes that at the time of the Achille Lauro hijacking, Abbas held an Iraqi diplomatic passport.

This is worth mentioning, since I got an email from one guy who said that just because we found a terrorist in Iraq doesn't prove any Iraqi connection. There was more than that, of course, and this is just the icing on the cake.

(Link via Best of the Web.) Now if it's a Syrian connection to Al Qaeda that you're looking for, well, read this story.

HERE'S A NICE PIECE ON BIG-MEDIA BLOGS AND THE WAR by Maureen Ryan in the Chicago Tribune.

One minor correction: It says I "often" get more than 200,000 hits per day. Actually, I've only gotten that much traffic a couple of times, way back at the beginning of the war (you know, like three or four weeks ago).

"PEACE" PROTESTERS hurled Molotov cocktails at the EU summit. They'd rather see their own countrymen incinerated than acquiesce in Saddam's defeat.

No comment necessary.

JOE KATZMAN:

About 19 months ago, Al-Qaeda was ramming airliners into buildings. During the war in Iraq, the best they could manage was ramming pickup trucks into battle tanks.

Discuss.

Well put. And you can see three more indications of Al Qaeda's defeat here. I just hope that Al Jazeera is covering this. . . .

MORE IRAQ NEWS:

The Marines found 123 prisoners, including five women, barely alive in an underground warren of cells and torture chambers. . . .

Severely emaciated, some had survived by eating the scabs off their sores. All the men had beards down to their waists, said onlookers.

Most looked absolutely dazed when they emerged, said Mr Sadoun Mohamed, 37, who lives in the area.

'They had not seen sunlight for a long time,' he said. 'They kept blinking and covering their faces.' He said they were taken to the Saddam Hospital for treatment.

Their names were posted on the walls of the Al-Hajabehia Mosque in west Baghdad, as were names of some 40 others known to have been executed or murdered in prison.

Hundreds of anxious locals wait for word of their family, relatives and friends, some of whom were taken away more than 10 years ago.

Yeah, but why weren't these Marines doing something important, like looking for lost antiquities?

NOT WITH A BANG, BUT WITH A WHIMPER: In my light-blogging weekend, I missed the story of how Martha Burk's Augusta National campaign fizzled, with only 40 protesters showing up despite massive support from The New York Times.

Will Burk's strategy work after a demonstration at which Burk arrived with a group of 40 protestors?

"It seems obvious to me that her credibility has been shattered," said Jim McCarthy, Augusta National's media consultant. "Her whole campaign was premised on widespread support, and she delivered an embarrassingly small number."

I don't think this does a lot for Howell Raines' credibility, either. If flood-the-zone coverage can't fill a single bus, what does this say about the Times' influence?

RUSSIAN GENERALS ARE DEEPLY UPSET by the U.S. victory in the Three Weeks War:

Like its Soviet prototype, Iraq's Army was huge but made up mainly of young, poorly trained conscripts. Its battle tactics called for broad frontal warfare, with massed armor and artillery, and a highly centralized command structure. But those forces were trounced in a few days by relatively small numbers of US and British forces, who punched holes in the Iraqi front using precision weapons and seized the country's power centers more rapidly than traditional military thinkers could have imagined. "The military paradigm has changed, and luckily we didn't have to learn that lesson firsthand," says Yevgeny Pashentsev, author of a book on Russian military reform. "The Americans have rewritten the textbook, and every country had better take note."

Yes. If the Russians want to learn more, they should read my TechCentralStation column for today, which is all about those issues.

BAD NEWS FOR CHIRAC:

PARIS, April 15 -- An American backlash against French products and businesses has started to bite, dashing hopes here that appeals in the United States to punish France economically for opposing the war in Iraq would go unheeded.

American importers of French wine are reporting sharp drops in sales in the past two months, and other French products also have been affected. The Federation of Wine Exporters has called a meeting Thursday to discuss how to respond. . . .

"It's a very, very deep reaction," said Carreras, who is French. "We would never have expected something so lasting. I think it has been accelerating even in the last four weeks."

The importers, angry and frustrated, said the government in Paris did not comprehend the effect of its war position on French businesses.

Heh.

UPDATE: MerdeinFrance notes another anti-American remark by De Villepin. Yeah, that'll help.

Daniel Drezner has more, and it's all bad news for Chirac. And Jim Treacher, who has contacts everywhere, has mysteriously obtained a transcript of the Bush-Chirac phone conversation. It's about what I expected. . . .

UPDATE: On a more serious note, this is worth reading.

April 15, 2003

JUSTIN WEITZ THINKS SANCTIONS AGAINST SYRIA ARE A BAD IDEA. I think he's probably right. The track record of sanctions is pretty unimpressive.

MAX BOOT WONDERS why the media are so glum, given that the war went so well:

I was recently interviewed by a reporter for one of the major network affiliates in New York City. All his questions were about looting, suicide bombings, civilian casualties, Arab resentment of Christian military forces, the possibility of protracted guerrilla warfare, and even the specter of "another Vietnam." That's pretty typical of the news coverage, especially among overseas news outlets, but also among many U.S. papers and TV networks.

And mainstream TV executives wonder why the Fox News Channel--which has been a notable dissenter from this gloomy orthodoxy--has suddenly become so popular!

The rest of the press should get a grip. This is the most successful U.S. military intervention since 1945. This was no half victory like Kosovo, in which U.S. forces liberated only one province, or Afghanistan, where the U.S. left warlords in control of much of the country. This was the real deal: marching to the enemy capital and imposing peace on our terms. This calls for champagne and tickertape. Instead the press, and opponents of the war, are moving the goalposts.

It's not enough to win a smashing military victory at small cost. To listen to the critics, if Iraq doesn't suddenly become as law-abiding and peaceful as Switzerland, then we haven't really won.

A little perspective is in order here. The French, after their liberation in 1944, took a cruel revenge on many of those who had collaborated with the Nazis who had occupied their country for just four years. It would be unnatural if Iraqis were not bent on revenge against those who had oppressed them for three decades. It is hard to be overly troubled by the sight of Iraqis looting the homes and offices of leading Baathists. Why shouldn't the people take back a few of the regime's ill-gotten gains? To add a touch of poetic justice, Iraqis also cleaned out the German embassy and the French cultural center in east Baghdad, well aware that Germany and France tried to block their liberation.

Historical perspective? To a lot of these guys, talk about the 2002 elections counts as "historical perspective."

SOME THOUGHTS on university culture and file-sharing.

LOOTING: I have comments on the Left's dual fantasies of U.S. impotence and U.S. omnipotence over at GlennReynolds.com -- and Jeff Jarvis has this observation:

Hey, I'm sorry that antiquities got lifted. I'm sorry Iraqi museums didn't have better locks. I'm sure Tommy Franks is sorry he didn't have an extra tank to park in front of that museum.

But let's check our priorities, people. This is a war. In a war, you're a bit busy worrying about things other than the priorities an NPR audience would set.

Read the whole thing. Er, things.

REVOKETHEOSCAR.COM is a website dedicated to getting Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine oscar, uh, revoked.

SHELLSHOCKING AND LETTERS FROM THE OLD COUNTRIE have merged to form Across the Atlantic.

There's already a heated grits vs. Marmite debate, a claim that y'all isn't part of the Queen's English, questions about Uday's penis size, and a stirring call for gender equality in vibrator usage. In other words, about what you'd expect. . . .

WILL FEMIA ASKS "Why do I blog?"

Well, I do it for the money. And the chicks!

Uh oh. . . .

YOU CAN'T NOT READ A POST ENTITLED "ATOMIC HAIRSPLITTING FOR FATBOY" -- and when you do read it, I think you'll be amused.

SOME PEOPLE ARE ALREADY SUFFERING from the war.

TIM BLAIR REPORTS on "PSYOPS mavens from the Australian SAS's elite mockery division."

They do good work.

TERRORIST ABU ABBAS HAS BEEN ARRESTED IN IRAQ:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Abu Abbas, the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea, has been arrested by U.S. personnel in Iraq.

Abbas was arrested about 50 miles west of Baghdad after being turned away from Iraq's border with Syria, a Palestinian source told CNN.

The hijacking of the ship led to the killing of disabled passenger Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew. Klinghoffer was shot in his wheelchair and thrown overboard by Abbas' men.

So -- explain to me again how the Iraq/terrorism connection was just a bit of Bush Administration PR. Go ahead. I'm waiting. . . . [crickets chirping] . . .

UPDATE: Note how the BBC plays it:

During the hijack, an elderly American passenger was killed.

No mention that he was Jewish, or in a wheelchair, or tossed overboard -- all details that would have been lovingly emphasized in the unlikely event that such an atrocity had been perpetrated by, say, a U.S. Marine.

Well, except for the Jewish part, which is only emphasized when the Beeb discusses people like Paul "Wolfivitz."

UPDATE: Well, a reader notes that the wheelchair is in the story now. Heh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Travis Smith notes:

Makes you wonder exactly why this guy was hanging out around Baghdad when he knew the US was around, and looking for his type. Maybe those borders are being watched more closely than we've been led to believe, otherwise why wouldn't this guy bolt the country? This event also highlights how good (or improved) our human intelligence in Iraq is.......you just don't think the US bumped into someone who said "Hey, I know where Abu Abbas is!" do you? Can Saddam be far behind? After all, this guy did his deed almost 20 years ago, but our intel was good enough to dig him up......assuming Saddam isn't under a building somewhere, wouldn't you think someone would give a good tip on a high profile (=high reward $) target like him sooner or later?

You would. The CNN story says he was turned back at the border after trying to enter Syria -- more evidence that the pressure on Damascus is doing some good.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Daniel Freitag emails:

You noted that the BBC was rather tepid in its online coverage of the Abu Abbas capture.

The broadcast version was even worse (last night).

The onscreen bulletin (below the broadcaster) described Abu Abbas as a Palestinian 'activist' (As if he was working to improve educational standards for migrant workers).

The BBC newsreader said that Abu Abbas masterminded the Achille Lauro hijacking...and I quote..."which led to the death of elderly American Leon Klinghoffer".

Got that? It 'led to his death' as if he couldnt take his medicine because of the inconvenience....

If you can get a transcript you ought to.

Just checked Nexis -- nothing there yet. If anybody knows where this can be found on the web, let me know.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Just looked at the BBC story again (the online one, of course, not the broadcast one) and now the wheelchair item (which was added about halfway down earlier) has now been moved up to the top of the story, just below the bolded introductory paragraph. Congratulations to the BBC for making that change. I hope that next time it will note important factors like that in the story's first iteration. But, hey -- we bloggers update our stories all the time, so I won't kick 'em for doing the same.

OKAY, ONE MORE: Just noticed via Andrew Sullivan's page that the original BBC story on this just said that Klinghoffer "died." Like the broadcast version referenced above, I guess.

Nice to see that the Beeb has been engaged in what Mickey Kaus calls the "asymptotic approach to truth" here, anyway. Maybe next time, they'll start from a bit closer. . . .

BILL HERBERT admits he was wrong.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

IS THERE A DICTATOR, ANYWHERE, WHO HASN'T SHAKEN JACQUES CHIRAC'S HAND? And recently?

THE JAMES UJAAMA PLEA BARGAIN looks like a big win for Ashcroft:

James Ujaama, 36, who was charged last August with attempting to set up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon, said as part of a plea agreement that he sought to provide "jihad fighters, currency, computers, software, computer disks and other items" to the Taliban, the Afghan rulers who sheltered al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and were crushed by U.S. forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. . . .

One of Ujaama's attorneys, Peter Offenbecher of Seattle, called the agreement "a favorable outcome for both the government and Mr. Ujaama." In addition to a recommended two-year sentence, the deal will also rescind severe restrictions on Ujaama's contact with the outside world.

"He's acknowledged his personal responsibility for the facts that are stated in the plea agreement," Offenbecher said. "He stepped up to the plate and said, 'I did these things and I regret them.' "

"I did these things, and I regret them." But only a two-year sentence? Either (1) the case was weak; or (2) he's really helped them a lot. The other possibility would be that the plea bargain was coerced, which is an issue for concern in the Lackawanna cases, but -- judging by the very light sentence -- not one here. But, you know, the Lackawanna stories have made me a bit more skeptical of plea bargains in terrorism cases in general.

UPDATE: Judging from this story, it looks like the answer is (2).

"ANTI-WAR FRONT COLLAPSES AS IRAQ GOLD RUSH BEGINS:"

BERLIN (Reuters) - They couldn't prevent the war, but that hasn't stopped the "Non-Nyet-Nein" coalition of France, Russia and Germany from staking their individual claims to a role in shaping, and profiting from, the new Iraq.

Even before the fighting stopped, the three European powers were moving to build bridges to the United States and Britain to ensure their companies get a share in rebuilding the infrastructure in Iraq.

France says it wants to be pragmatic, Germany says it is an honest broker because it has no economic interests in Iraq, and Russia says it will consider Washington's call to forgive some $8 billion in Soviet era debt.

All three have sounded conciliatory in the past week, while saying they want to see the United Nations (news - web sites) play the lead role in post-war reconstruction -- tactics widely seen as an effort to avoid being locked out of business deals by the United States.

Hey, it's not called the "Axis of Weasels" for nothing.

DAN KENNEDY PUBLISHES A LONG LETTER FROM CNN'S EASON JORDAN -- and replies.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

If a CEO of a tobacco company were making the type of statements Jordan makes in the letter on Media Log, it would come in for derision and ridicule in newsrooms (and supposed "watchdog" groups likethe Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy) across the country. Instead, there will be a willingness among all too many "cynical reporters" to not dig deep into this one. . . .

Cynicism only goes so far.

LETTER FROM GOTHAM IS NO MORE:

Diana Moon announces that due to problems at work, she must not only stop
blogging but take down her blog altogether. She will return to blogging as
soon as possible.

We'll miss her.

EXPLOITING THE WAR WOUNDED: Denis Boyles is very upset. Excerpt:

In the last week, Ali Ismail Abbas has sold perhaps more British newspapers and magazines than any other single person in Iraq, with the possible exception of Saddam Hussein. He’s been featured in virtually every newspaper in the UK, often more than once. In Europe and America, by now almost every major newsmagazine has run the pathetic photo of the boy along with his sad tale. . . .

In today’s Daily Telegraph, Ali Ismail Abbas finally hits back: "'The journalists always promise to evacuate me - why don't they do it now?' he asked, his brow furrowed with pain and glistening with sweat." Day after day, reporters and camera crews have wallowed into Ali’s view, making promises they can’t keep.

"The Mirror launched an appeal on Ali's behalf and the London Evening Standard used his face to launch their Red Cross 'victims of war' appeal," the Telegraph’s man reports. He has listened to the hacks and listened to their promises. But no more. "'You are coming to make fun of me because I have lost my arms?' he asked. 'Doctor, doctor, no more journalists please.'"

Somebody get this kid some help. And a lawyer.

UPDATE: Howard Owens has more thoughts on exploitation. Meanwhile Ali is being airlifted to Kuwait by the U.S. military.

I SUPPOSE THE FRANCE-BASHING WILL HAVE TO SETTLE DOWN SOON, but I find this account amusing:

Consul General Jean-Luc Sibiude of France recently requested a meeting with Colorado Gov. Bill Owens. Here is a portion of Owens' reply, from a letter dated April 10: "I am sorry I will be unable to meet with you during your visit to Colorado. I feel it would be inappropriate to do so at this time. I have been active for many years in the international arena ... I am also proud of my uncle who was killed in action in France on his eighteenth birthday. I give you this background as a preface to my feeling that France's actions over the past few months will have serious and long-term consequences on relations between our countries."

One hopes that the French leadership is getting the message.

APPARENTLY, CNN'S SUCK-UP TO SADDAM STARTED A LONG TIME AGO:

In each of these meetings, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan made their pitch: Saddam Hussein would have an hour's time on CNN's worldwide network; there would be no interruptions, no commercials. I was astonished. From both the tone and the content of these conversations, it seemed to me that CNN was virtually groveling for the interview.

The day after one such meeting, I was on the roof of the Ministry of Information, preparing for my first "live shot" on CNN. A producer came up and handed me a sheet of paper with handwritten notes. "Tom Johnson wants you to read this on camera," he said. I glanced at the paper. It was an item-by-item summary of points made by Information Minister Latif Jassim in an interview that morning with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan.

The list was so long that there was no time during the live shot to provide context. I read the information minister's points verbatim. Moments later, I was downstairs in the newsroom on the first floor of the Information Ministry. Mr. Johnson approached, having seen my performance on a TV monitor. "You were a bit flat there, Peter," he said. Again, I was astonished. The president of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda.

I might have been inclined to doubt a story like this a week ago. Now it seems entirely believable.

DELAWARE'S OWN BLOGOLUTION is fact-checking Joe Biden on North Korea.

ANDREW SULLIVAN'S VACATION is prompting efforts to steal market share.

ROBERT SCHWARTZ wonders if the museum-looting reports aren't missing something important:

So, lets think about this. The Museum, full of priceless antiquities, is located in a country run by a ruthless tyrant who has treated the country and its treasures as his personal playthings. It has been closed to the public for years. War has been threatened for months, and the tyrant knows that the city will be bombed, so does the museum staff. Rumors abound that the tyrant, his henchmen and their families are stashing treasure in foreign countries against the possibility of flight. When the army of liberation arrives, the Museum is empty, its displays and vaults ransacked. The staff blames an anonymous mob of civilians. . . . Motive, Means, Opportunity; isn’t that what Miss Marple would wonder about? The tyrant would certainly have them in spades.

I think he's onto something, as this report from Kanan Makiya seems to fit nicely with Schwartz's theory:

I spoke by sat-phone with friends in Baghdad. According to them, the breakdown of authority familiar to the world is getting better. Citizens groups are forming to keep order in the streets, and meeting little preliminary resistance. People want to be safe, and now that the ministries have been ransacked, it appears the worst of the looting has passed. In Basra, too, I understand these same groups are forming. One friend told me that the looting of the National Museum--something that cut deeply into me--was the work of newly deposed Baathist officials, who had been selling off our patrimony as they saw their days were numbered. As the regime fell, these (ex-)Baathists went back for one last swindle, and took with them treasures that dated back 9,000 years, to the Sumerians and the Babylonians.

(Emphasis added.) So how come the ever-so-inquisitive Big Media folks in Baghdad didn't even mention the possibility that something like this was going on in their reports? Perhaps CENTCOM should check their luggage as they leave town. . . .

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus had speculated on this on Sunday, and links to this AP story that quotes one Iraqi to the effect that it may have been an inside job. Why hasn't this gotten more attention?

PIM FORTUYN'S KILLER is getting off easy -- he'll be out of jail in 2014.

MORE UNENTHUSIASM FOR THE BBC:

Caught a bit of a BBC World roundtable talkfest this a.m. on cable. . . .

The Muslims were mad. The American was reasonable, the British presenter was just trying to keep it all on track and the Frenchman was a goddam waste of space. . . .

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Broken link (#@$! blogger) -- go here.

ATKINS DIET FANS (of whom there seem to be a lot in the Blogosphere): Talkleft has an update on Dr. Atkins' condition.

IT'S ALL ABOUT OOOIIILLL -- er, and alimony:

THE former chairman of Elf-Aquitaine, the French oil group, apologised in court yesterday for “delegating” his divorce settlement to subordinates, who gave his ex-wife almost £2 million from a company slush fund.

Loik Le Floch-Prigent is on trial in Paris, along with 36 other defendants, on corruption charges relating to his period as chairman between 1989 and 1993. He is accused of using the firm’s money to appease his wife, Fatima Belaid, as they went through a divorce in 1991. . . .

M Le Floch-Prigent has said that he asked his colleagues to handle the divorce settlement when his “passionate love affair” with Mme Belaid turned into a “nightmare”. He said that she subjected him to “psychological harassment that was incompatible with the role of company chairman”.

Hmm. Think she was threatening to spill the beans on something unless she was paid off?

And funny, isn't it, how some people were saying that the Enron scandal was proof of the bankruptcy of "American-style capitalism?" I wonder why those people aren't so eager to take lessons from this scandal regarding "European style crony capitalism?"

UPDATE: This item from The Economist is amusing:

Wim Duisenberg agreed to an indefinite extension of his tenure as president of the European Central Bank past his planned retirement in July, until a (French) successor is found. Jean-Claude Trichet, the leading candidate, is awaiting verdict in a trial relating to a 1980s financial scandal. If he is found guilty, the French have a couple of other candidates up their sleeves.

And stellar folks they are, I'm sure. (Via Corporate Lackey).

INTERESTING:

Former chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler backed US claims that Syria helped conceal Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, saying he saw evidence of this, he told ABC Radio.

The former Australian diplomat said he had seen intelligence when he headed the UN team in Iraq from 1997 until 1999 which seemed to indicate Syria had helped keep Iraq's weapons of mass destruction hidden.

"I was shown some intelligence information, from overhead imagery and so on, that the Iraqis had moved some containers of stuff across the border into Syria," Butler was quoted as saying on ABC Radio.

"We had reason to believe that those were containers of chemical weapons and perhaps some other weapons.

Hmm.

UPDATE: Then there's this:

Intelligence information indicates a top Iraqi nuclear scientist recently spent time in Syria . . . .

The scientist, Jaffar al-Jaffer, left Syria and went to another Middle Eastern country, where he turned himself over to authorities during the past few days, officials said Monday. He was being interviewed by American officials.

I wonder what he's saying?

ANDREW BOLT:

But when we say the Left got this war wrong, we must be clear that this was no innocent error of judgment. Too many wilfully let a self-indulgent loathing of capitalism, or the US or John Howard blind them to the real truths and the real evil.

NOR can we let the myth grow that the Left always knew the war would be won easily, and was worried more by the peace.

Not true. Below, I will recall just some of "peace" activists' predictions to show how they dreamed of a war in which millions died, and Iraqis greeted our soldiers not with kisses but bullets. Overseas, too, anti-war propagandists luridly dreamed of American honour drowning in Iraqi blood.

These are now many of the same people sneering that Iraq has plunged into anarchy, and will forever be a sleazy "puppet state" of the US. How lovingly they linger on news of looting.

Iraq may indeed go sour, although with effort, help and much time, it probably won't. But however Iraq turns out, we at least know it is no longer a threat. And whatever troubles it faces, they will not be greater than the horrors it has endured.

Iraq's future we cannot tell, but one thing we do know is that most of those now preaching doom were spectacularly wrong about the war itself. Why would they be so right now?

It is time we held them accountable. No more must they lightly skip from one disreputable cause to another -- preaching woe in the first Gulf War, disaster in Afghanistan, apocalypse in Iraq -- and always warning of the catastrophic consequences of resisting evil.

Read the whole thing. (Via Tim Blair).

MORE ON LOOTING:

The hysterical tone of some press reports may reflect the fact that some of the reporters who have been sitting in Baghdad for months have lost sight of the nature of the Saddam regime: They are mystified by the exhilaration felt by so many liberated Iraqis.

But the failure of so many reports to mention the fact that many of the looted stores, institutions and even hospitals were linked to the regime is more troubling. These institutions were dedicated to the exclusive use of Ba'ath Party members - the ordinary public could not make use of them - or were owned and operated by known supporters of the regime.

It's not clear if this whale of an omission reflects disingenuousness or genuine ignorance.

Probably healthy portions of both.

TURNING THE SCREW:

Arab diplomatic sources said the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq shut down the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline that extended from Kirkuk to the Syrian port city of Banyas. The Iraqi oil then continued via pipeline to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The sources said the U.S. move was meant to punish Lebanon and Syria for its open support of Iraq during the war against the coalition. Both Lebanon and Syria provided safe haven to senior members of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. They also sent volunteers and weapons to Iraq.

As I've mentioned before, crossing the United States should be expensive.

TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR CHIRAC:

"Poor Mr Chirac," said an editorial in the Le Parisien newspaper last week.

"I bet he could scarcely bring himself to watch those TV images of the victorious Americans being welcomed in Baghdad."

"The King of Peace without a crown," sneered the left-wing paper Liberation, "Chirac is now threatened with diplomatic isolation."

Reportedly, Chirac is counting on Tony Blair to help him stave off irrelevance.

UPDATE: More gloomy news for France.

April 14, 2003

MORE ON CNN'S JOURNALISTIC ENRON SCANDAL -- along with other thoughts on media coverage -- over at Winds of Change.

This column by Victor Davis Hanson is worth reading, too. Excerpt:

Personally, I was more intrigued that in passing the same reporter at last fessed up that during all of her previous gloomy reports from the Palestine Hotel of American progress, she and others had been shaken down daily for bribe money, censored, and led around as near hostages. It is impossible to calibrate how such Iraqi manipulation of American news accounts affected domestic morale, if not providing comfort for those Baathists who wished to discourage popular uprisings of long-suffering Iraqis.

There is something profoundly amoral about this. A newsman who interviewed a state killer at his convenience later revisits a now liberated city and complains of the disorder there. A journalist who paid bribe money to fascists and whose dispatches aired from Baghdad in wartime only because the Baathist party felt that they served their own terrorist purposes is disturbed about the chaos of liberation. Now is the time for CNN, NPR, and other news organizations to state publicly what their relationships were in ensuring their reporters’ presence in wartime Iraq — and to explain their policies about bribing state officials, allowing censorship of their news releases, and keeping quiet about atrocities to ensure access. . . .

So while it is censorious of politicians and soldiers, the media is completely uninterested in monitoring its own behavior. Would Mr. Rather have gone to Berlin amid the SS to interview Hitler in his bunker as the fires of Auschwitz raged? Would NPR reporters have visited Hitler’s Germany, paid bribes to Mr. Goebbels, and then broadcasted allied shortcomings at the Bulge, oblivious to the Nazi machinery of death and their own complicity in it?

If any other institution had performed as badly, the media folks would be all over it and demanding government action.

UPDATE: Read this story about Nick Kristof, too.

DONALD SENSING has been on a hot streak. Just keep scrolling.

ECONOMIST STEVEN LANDSBURG is sounding a lot like Scott Ott.

MELISSA SCHWARTZ is back and blogging.

I LOVE THIS:

Iraqi Muslims came to the aid of Baghdad's tiny Jewish community yesterday, chasing out looters trying to sack its cultural centre in the heart of the capital.

"At 3am, I saw two men, one with a beard, on the roof of the Jewish community house and I cried out to my friend, 'Hossam, bring the Kalashnikovs!'" said Hassam Kassam, 21.

Heither Hassan nor Hossam, who is the guard at the centre, was armed at the time but the threat worked in scaring off the intruders.

Often, I'm told, merely brandishing a weapon will scare off an intruder. Apparently, sometimes you don't even have to do that. . . .

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS MORE ON VIBRATORS AND DOUBLE STANDARDS -- not the sort of thing you usually expect from the Volokh Conspiracy, but done with characteristic thoroughness and elan.

AMISH TECH SUPPORT HAS MOVED. Well, there goes another neighborhood. . . .

Meanwhile, Stacy Tabb has shut down Blogatelle and moved to new digs at Tricksy.org.

UPDATE: And DefenseTech has left blogspot, too, which I think I forgot to mention earlier.

OKAY, HOW MANY OF YOU READ THIS AND IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT "I wonder if John Howard reads blogs?"

Prime Minister John Howard wants to reform the United Nations, saying the presence of France as a permanent member of the Security Council "distorts" the council.

He wants Japan, a South American country and India to be represented on the Security Council. France was there only because it was a global power at the end of World War II, he said.

Chortle.

HERE'S A NICE PIECE from the Chicago Tribune on that new paper that Matt Welch and Ken Layne are starting with some guy named Riordan.

(Via -- where else -- the L.A. Examiner).

ROLLING YOUR OWN: Here's an interesting article on a Hollywood bigshot's decision to go independent. His film was rather more expensive than my wife's documentary was (he was paying Screen Actors' Guild members, etc.), but still cheap by Hollywood standards. His conclusion: "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

In the past five years or so, the home-studio revolution has had more and more bigshot musicians doing their own recordings. I wonder if we'll start to see the same dynamic apply to the movie industry.

MICHAEL CROFT WRITES:

Why do I bother trying to write satire when it's indistinguishable from actual events? Tom Lehrer retired from performing music because "Political satire became obsolete when Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." I know how he felt.

The equivalent event in Croft's life was the -- allegedly genuine -- report that former RIAA head Hilary Rosen will be helping the new Iraqi government write its intellectual property laws.

It wasn't all about oooiiilll -- it was all about mp3s. . . . So why were Madonna, et al., opposing the war?

I'm skeptical, especially upon listening to the audio stream of the report, but you never know. After all, Kissinger did get the Nobel Peace Prize.

And so did Yasser Arafat.

TIM BLAIR WRITES:

IRAQI information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf is now universal journalistic shorthand for comical inaccuracy. Kinda funny, considering how mainstream outlets like the BBC weren't treating him like a joke when he was actually saying all the stupid things in the first place.

Yeah, go figure.

ROGER L. SIMON HAS A NEW BLOG, designed by no less a figure than Charles Johnson. It looks good.

THE FILIBUSTER WONDERS IF THE HAWKS WERE RIGHT:

(1) A high-profile Iranian conservative calls for a reexamination of Iran's relationship with Israel.
(2) North Korea may enter multilateral talks -- the kind that the Bush administration has demanded -- about its nuclear program.
(3) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has picked a reformist cabinet. (Arafat, the power-hungry jerk, has rejected it.)
(4) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, ally and champion of settlement builders, may uproot his West Bank base "faster than people think."

There are lots of links in the original.

IT'S NICE TO SEE SOMEONE RECOGNIZE THAT HE HAS A PROBLEM -- but this cure seems rather drastic:

I HAVE BEEN REMARKABLY DILIGENT in keeping up with the news from the war in Iraq--some might say a little too diligent. I was the first one on my block to track the Command Post hour by hour, and I recall with a surge of pleasure the first time I got to a juicy story before Glenn Reynolds could link to it on Instapundit. But when I realized that it had become my chief goal in life to get Andrew Sullivan to post one of my letters on his website, I began to wonder if I had not misaligned my priorities. Clearly it was time to take a break from the passionate intensity of war reportage, the struggle to sift through the vast complexities of Operation Iraqi Freedom and bring some order from the chaos of data. In short, I needed some light entertainment.

So I started reading Robert Fisk.

Ouch. I know that treating an addiction requires forceful steps, but. . . Wouldn't a coffee enema or electroshock have been drastic enough?

Oh, well. At least he's not blogging on his honeymoon.

IS PRESIDENT BUSH GOING TO ENDORSE EXTENDING THE ASSAULT WEAPON BAN? That's what this story says.

Sounds like a good way to be a one-termer, to me.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg thinks it's safe for Bush, as the extension is unlikely to pass:

So it's probably a safe position to take. He can make himself look moderate to the moderates, while still allowing the thing to die, thus pleasing his gun rights constituency.

Well, maybe. It seems a bit, well, Clintonian to me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Tabin thinks I'm wrong, too. He doesn't think this has a lot of political traction.

He may be right, of course -- but I've gotten a lot of angry email about this, copied from gun-rights lists, that suggests that the gun-activist constituency is already pretty upset about it. They also think that Bush has been all talk, no action, on the Ashcroft Second Amendment strategy (and they're clearly right about that). So if those people get mad will they stay home? Maybe. If they do will it cost Bush some states? Maybe. Can he afford to lose those states? Maybe. Is he smart to take that chance? At best, maybe. Anyway, here's what I wrote when this was first rumored, back on Sept, 8, 2001.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Mike McDaniel writes:

think that Bush and Rove have miscalculated the brittleness of their support from gun owners. Gun owners have become very watchful for the knife in the back - so much so that many regard betrayal as inevitable. Trust has to be earned, and Bush has provided little more than lip service.

The Republican Party tends to forget that every election in the last fifteen years that they fought with NRA support was a victory - and every election without NRA support was a defeat. Sooner or later, the people they keep stabbing in the back will walk out and STAY out - or the Democrats will figure out that a slightly better offer (which would not have to be much) would turn gun owners on THEIR side, smashing the Republicans' chances for decades to come.

We'll have to see. But Bush needs to take care - he is horribly vulnerable on the right. The Democrats can't do it, but a conservative Republican could easily. . .

He needs to stop pandering to his opponents and start mending some fences.

I think that there's a significant group of people who feel this way, and that McDaniel is right -- their support is brittle, and they're hypersensitive about betrayal, because they've been betrayed so many times.

THE BBC IS UNDER ATTACK AGAIN, but in a different sort of way:

The latest high court challenge to the BBC's licence fee began today with a 60 year old Oxfordshire man claiming the annual charge is a breach of his human rights.

Jean-Jacques Marmont, who was prosecuted for licence fee evasion in 1992, has launched proceedings against the BBC, representing a group of licence-fee payers.

He argues the licence fee breaches the European convention and UK Human Rights Act and amounts to harassment and an infringement on his private and family life.

But his action is just one of several legal rows the BBC is facing over the £116 fee.

His effort joins at least three other court actions, including one involving Sunday Times columnist Jonathan Miller.

All of the legal actions argue that the licence fee contravenes article 10 of the European convention on human rights.

What do you say when the BBC runs afoul of the Eurocracy? Oh, yeah: "Heh."

HERE'S A PRETTY DETAILED ACCOUNT of how Joe Biden's dumb and un-American "RAVE Act" became law -- with the assistance of some others whose names should live in infamy:

A Democrat, Senator Joe Biden (DE), (pictured left) introduced the RAVE--Reducing American's Vulnerability to Ecstasy--Act in the Senate in 2002. Biden’s RAVE Act was co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Strom Thurmond (R-NC).

Shame.

UPDATE: I didn't notice in the passage quoted above, but Thurmond should be R-SC, not NC. Saw what I expected to see, instead of what was really there, and didn't even notice the error when I pasted it in.

JEFF JARVIS WRITES: "It's bad when you can fisk a headline."

"THE MOST HATED PROFESSOR IN AMERICA" -- that's the title of this Chronicle of Higher Education interview with Columbia professor Nicholas De Genova of "million Mogadishu" fame.

Daniel Drezner has this comment:

I found the entire exchange hysterical -- it basically consists of the interviewer asking reasoned questions, De Genova popping off an irrelevant or incoherent answer, and the interviewer having to gently re-ask the question.

Irrelevant and incoherent. That's what it's all about with these guys.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh asks:

What in heaven's name do the actions of a warlord in Mogadishu have to do with decisionmaking "by the Somali people," or "human self-determination"? What did the Saddam regime have to do with "human self-determination"? The U.S. invasion at least yields some possible hope that the Iraqi people will determine for themselves who will govern them -- the Saddam regime offered no such hope.

Or does "self-determination" by "[a country's] people" somehow mean "decision by [the country's] warlord," on the theory that he somehow innately represents the people whom he is ruling by force? And this representation must obviously flow just from ethnic connection, since there's no other foundation through which he's a more suitable ruler than, say, you or I.

So does "self-determination" boil down to "One folk, one ruler, one party?" Or is De Genova just spouting a load of nonsense that boils down to "U.S. bad, anyone else good!"?

UPDATE: Here's more on De Genova from The Filibuster, which notes that De Genova appears to be accusing Eric Foner of pro-war McCarthyism.

THE MOTHER OF ALL WEBLOGGERS:

Guess who's running of one of the hottest Web logs about the war in Iraq, updated constantly with TV, radio and newspaper reports.

A policy wonk sitting in Washington? A techno-geek in a converted Silicon Alley garage?

Would you believe Michele Catalano, a Long Island mother of two?

There's a lot more about The Command Post, and other blogs.

COSMO MACERO WRITES IN THE BOSTON HERALD that CNN has handed Fox a huge leg up in the ratings wars -- and that it deserves the problems it will face as a result of its Iraq coverage:

The explosive growth in broadcast, cable and Internet news sources since the first Gulf War has proven that consumers have a refined taste for information. They recognize quality in news brands in the way they recognize quality in consumer products.

So any event that inflicts damage to the brand is bound to have a lasting impact.

This is why Jordan's admission, while commendable for its honesty, may be the start of a new credibility crisis for CNN, rather than just the end of his personal nightmare of bottled-up guilt.

``Years after consumers have forgotten the facts of the case, they may still look at your brand . . . and feel that something is distasteful there,'' wrote David D'Alessandro, John Hancock Financial Services Inc.'s chief executive, in his 2001 marketing book ``Brand Warfare.''

``It can take 100 years to build a good brand and 30 days of bad publicity to destroy it,'' he wrote.

The risk for CNN: that too many viewers, with plenty of alternatives to choose from, will make rash but understandable judgments such as: ``Those guys bury stories they don't want to tell,'' or, ``CNN stands for Careful News Network - as in, `Be careful not to anger any dictators.' ''

After all, Eason Jordan is top-tier management at CNN. His decisions can't be dismissed as the errors of one renegade staffer. They are, quite to the contrary, bedrock company policy.

The fallout is already perceptible: on the letters page of the Times; among the growing legion of media watchers on the Internet; and even, to some degree, on CNN's own telecasts.

Sounds fair to me. (The Herald is a paid link, but Macero sent me the column. Why in God's name is The Herald limiting its web content to subscribers?)

SO I'M FEELING SLIGHTLY GUILTY about not blogging much on the weekend, and getting off to a late start today, when I look over at Andrew Sullivan's site and see that he's taking "Spring Break." Enjoy it, Andrew!

LEE HARRIS WRITES:

It is one of the most difficult things for us to understand about those who are in the grips of a collective fantasy—how even the most powerful, the most irrefutable evidence will be ignored and suppressed in order to keep the fantasy intact.

And this is the greatest danger confronting the American mission to bring sanity to the Arab world—it may not want it.

This is why the next couple of days and weeks will be so critical for us and for the world.

If the collective Arab mind decides that the fall of Baghdad came about because a corrupt dictator had lost the loyalty of the people whom he had brutalized for thirty years, then sanity may begin to emerge. But if, on the other hand, this same collective mind begins to look for another consoling myth, it is sure to find one readily available. And if you doubt this, simply recall the Arab theories of 9/11.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

HMM -- first various documents start leaking out of Baghdad, implicating the Russians in violations of U.N. sanctions, and perhaps worse. Now we get this:

The anti-war coalition of France, Germany and Russia seemed to be crumbling yesterday after President Vladimir Putin put out a series of conciliatory signals to America.

Senior Russian officials told the Izvestia daily newspaper that the Kremlin has "no illusions about any long-term perspectives for the axis". One official said: "Sooner or later Iraq will fall and Russia and the United States will resume normal relations."

The source added that Russia never expected any long-term principled position from either France or Germany.

"The Axis?" What I like best about this quote is that even its members seem to think of it as the "Axis of Weasels."

UPDATE: Here's more:

A summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French and German counterparts has been dubbed a failure by some officials here, who warned the troika’s "peace camp" alliance would crumble with the end of the war in Iraq. . . .

Putin is still pushing to protect a nascent friendship with US President George W. Bush in the face of strident opposition from the Russian media and top government officials. Analysts have long argued that Putin is far keener to preserve friendly ties with the United States than with the pro-European, anti-war camps embedded in much of the Russian media and the foreign and defense ministries.

The story (from Riyadh Daily) even reports that Putin is willing to forgive some Iraqi debts in the interest of good relations with the United States. How much should we make of these stories? Beats me, but it sure doesn't sound like a united front.

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: According to this report in The Telegraph, Algerian officials say that the missing Sahara tourists have been kidnapped, and are alive. The article seems to suggest that armed Islamic radicals are behind it (no!) though it doesn't quite come right out and say that.

I think there are a lot of interesting things going on in that part of the world, that perhaps bear closer attention.

April 13, 2003

BLOGGING WILL BE LIGHT AGAIN TODAY, but there's lots of cool stuff elsewhere in the Blogosphere. Steven Den Beste has been on something of a roll of late, and The Command Post continues to bring you the latest minute-by-minute war news so that I don't have to. Oxblog and Samizdata bring a trans-Atlantic perspective (and it's later there, so they've had more time to post). And Bill Quick and Tim Blair have lots of posts, too.

UPDATE: Here's more debunking of the claim on IndyMedia that the statue-toppling was staged.

And read this Mark Steyn column where he de-spins the (revised, new) doom-spinners. Excerpt:

1) "Iraq's slide into violent anarchy" (Guardian, April 11). Say what you like about Saddam, but he ran a tight ship and you didn't have to nail down your nest of tables: since the Brits took over, Basra's property crime is heading in an alarmingly Cheltenhamesque direction. MBITRW (Meanwhile Back In The Real World): A year from now, Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs. . . .

10) America is already losing the peace. MBITRW: In a year's time, Iraq will be, at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world and, at best, pleasant, civilised and thriving. In short: not a bad three weeks' work.

Read the rest.

Oh, and read Matt Welch on the Cuban journalist show-trials -- and the deafening silence (or worse) from some quarters in response. Is there a thug anywhere that the left will criticize these days?

HERE'S AN INTERESTING REPORT:

In the densely populated northeastern slum area of Saddam City, U.S. Marines pulled back to allow local people to hunt "mujahideen" volunteer fighters holed up in the area.

"The locals said they wanted to take charge of Saddam City and we said: 'Roger that'," Lieutenant-Colonel Lew Craparotta, commander of a Marine unit that moved back from the fringes of the suburb, told Reuters.

Local leaders told U.S. officers that non-Iraqi Arab fighters were still a threat in the mainly Shi'ite district.

"It's much easier for them to identify the enemy than for us. We really can't tell who is who," Craparotta said.

The U.S. withdrawal will allow local men to carry weapons openly, set up checkpoints and cordon off areas where they suspect the Arab volunteer fighters are hiding.

Craparotta said it was not clear how many "third country nationals," as the U.S. describes them, were in Saddam City.

Iraq has said thousands of volunteers from across the Arab world came to the country to help fight the U.S.-led invasion.

Local militia and the "mujahideen" fought fiercely through Friday night until after dawn, with the sound of sustained small arms and heavy machinegun fire suggesting substantial clashes between the two groups. U.S. forces were not involved.

I almost feel sorry for the guys who set off to "defend" the Iraqis, only to find themselves first scorned, and now hunted down and killed, by the very people they thought they were protecting. Kind of a post-Vietnam irony here, isn't there? Not that I expect Robert Fisk to get it.

Sadly, the story doesn't really shed much light on the how-armed-are-Iraqis question, though it seems as if these locals are arming themselves from looted Saddamite arsenals:

Baghdad is saturated with weapons, so both the militia and the Arab volunteer fighters have easy access to large arms and ammunition caches.

But that's not the point of the story, so it's hard to be sure.

JIM BENNETT LOOKS AT THE ROOT CAUSES OF ANTI-AMERICANISM:

However, it is worth considering the possibility that the root source of anti-Americanism in the world lies in the deep-rooted anti-modern tradition of Continental Europe.

Just as the Baathist movement lately of Iraq and still in power in Syria is a localized variant of European fascism, the broader anti-Americanism currently fashionable on all continents comes ultimately from what some have called the Industrial Counter-Revolution. This is a comprehensive category for the various reactions in Europe against the program of the Industrial and Democratic Revolutions, or liberalism in the classical sense -- individualism, free markets, and technological and social progress.

Yep. They're not just exporting inferior weapons and military strategies, but bad politics, too. Bennett, however, echoes one of my longstanding worries about Europe:

In considering the Holocaust, most attention has been given to its direct victims, as is appropriate. However, we must also consider that it was a form of self-administered lobotomy for Continental European culture.

It would not be surprising if the twin anti-modernist themes of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, now rapidly coalescing into a single nasty mess visible in many of the pro-Saddam demonstrations of the past year, become once again the predominant political-cultural theme in Western Continental Europe, overwhelming the decent and positive forces there that had previously prevailed.

This is a disturbing possibility, and I don't see any easy answer for it. How do you reverse a lobotomy?

STILL MORE SUPPORT FOR THE DEN BESTE THEORY:

The french government insists that it has strictly enforced a tight embargo imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime by the United Nations in 1990. But Saddam never lost his taste for French weapons or luxury goods. And evidence found by U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq suggests that—despite U.N. sanctions—the dictator continued to receive an abundant supply of both until very recently. . . .

U.S. forces discovered 51 Roland-2 missiles, made by a partnership of French and German arms manufacturers, in two military compounds at Baghdad International Airport. One of the missiles he examined was labeled 05-11 KND 2002, which he took to mean that the missile was manufactured last year. The charred remains of a more modern Roland-3 launcher was found just down the road from the arms cache. According to a mortar specialist with the same unit, radios used by many Iraqi military trucks brandished MADE IN FRANCE labels and looked brand new. RPG night sights stamped with the number 2002 and French labels also turned up.

The French? Violating United Nations sanctions? Why it's almost as if the United Nations were merely a joke or something.

UPDATE: Here's more from The New York Times:

The data reveals that firms in Germany and France outstripped all others in selling the most important thing — specialized chemical-industry equipment that is particularly useful for producing poison gas. Without this equipment, none of the other imports would have been of much use.

And click the link on the right to see an interesting graphic about where this stuff came from. This, bear in mind, is what is publicly known. I suspect that there's a lot more that we'll find out, and that it's one of the things France and Germany were hoping to keep quiet.

UPDATE: Here's more from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Baghdad -- A Moscow-based organization was training Iraqi intelligence agents as recently as last September -- at the same time Russia was resisting the Bush administration's push for a tough stand against Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi documents discovered by The Chronicle show.

The documents found Thursday and Friday in a Baghdad office of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police, indicate that at least five agents graduated Sept. 15 from a two-week course in surveillance and eavesdropping techniques, according to certificates issued to the Iraqi agents by the "Special Training Center" in Moscow.

The Russian government, which has expressed intense disagreement with the U. S.-led war on Iraq, has repeatedly denied giving any military or security assistance to the Hussein regime. Any such aid would violate U.N. sanctions that have severely limited trade, military and other relations with Iraq since 1991.

So much for the "let sanctions work" argument, I guess. Here's more:

In late March, the Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that Russian intelligence agents were holding daily meetings with Iraqis, possibly with the intent of gaining control of the Mukhabarat archives if Saddam Hussein's regime fell.

The newspaper said the archives could be highly valuable to Russia in three major areas: in protecting Russian interests in a postwar Iraq; in determining the extent to which Hussein's regime may have financed Russian political parties and movements; and in providing Russia access to intelligence that Iraqi agents conducted in other countries.

The close relationship between the two countries is largely economic. Iraq and Russia are major trading partners, and Russia has billions of dollars tied up in deals with Iraqi businesses -- including debts Iraq has owed to the Russians since the Soviet era.

I wouldn't count on collecting, if I were the Russians. (Via The Command Post).

Perry DeHavilland, meanwhile, observes that:

What is a surprise is that Vladimir Putin has shown that not only is the Russian state still the enemy, its leaders are not nearly as smart as I had given them credit for, given they have been caught having given active support to the Ba'athists even to the extent of acting as an employment agency for assassins on their behalf.

To have squandered such a large pool of political capital and good will by continuously passing intelligence and weapons to the Iraqis right up to the start of the war is utter madness. Did the Russians think any outcome was possible in the long run other than an Allied victory over the Ba'athist regime? And surely once that fact is grasped, how could they think that news of their treachery would not eventually come to light?

What possible benefit could the Russian state gain from this move? Is this going to make honouring Russian contracts with the fallen Ba'athist regime more likely or less likely in US dominated post-war Iraq? Were they hoping Putin's good buddy Tony Blair would pressure the Americans into a softer line regarding Russian economic interests in Iraq? If so, I wonder how Blair feels about his private diplomatic conversations being relayed to the Iraqis by the Russian intelligence services.

It is a terrible thing to live in a world filled with enemies, but if Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain are the measure of our foes then at least we can comfort ourselves that we are facing opponents who are not just weak, they are self-deluded and quite frankly stupid.

For the stupidity of our enemies, we must always be grateful. I suspect, however, that Putin was being badly advised on the likely outcome of the war by these incompetent Russian generals who thought that the United States couldn't win, except perhaps by carpet-bombing. Of course, that just makes Putin foolish for listening to them, when he should have known better.

DeHavilland has more comments here. And Jeff Jarvis is unimpressed with the Germans.

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