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July 26, 2003

BREATHING DOWN SADDAM'S NECK: This report is encouraging, if true.

MESSY, if likely ineffectual, doings in the Phillipines. We Americans don't always realize just how unusually well-off we are to have a professional, and honorable, military. It's very much the exception, around the world.

Of course, so is having an effectual military. I think there's a connection.

TODAY IS "CUBAN LIBERATION DAY," but the "liberation," unfortunately, never actually took place.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW with Christopher Hitchens, who's just back from Iraq.

TACITUS POINTS OUT THAT scholars of Islam are facing death threats.

THIS CARTOON isn't subtle, but it's pretty much on the mark.

And speaking of cartoons, Day by Day will return on Monday.

UPDATE: A lightbulb joke I hadn't heard.

SOME (PRETTY) GOOD NEWS from Sao Tome, over at Oxblog.

A FEW DAYS AGO I noted the Berkeley study that suggests that conservatism is a sort of mental disorder. Jonah Goldberg is busily making fun of it now. Meanwhile, Prof. James Lindgren suggests that the Berkeley data are likely to be unsound.

What's most amazing to me is that the Berkeley PR office thought that trumpeting this study to the nationwide media would be a good idea, and that doing so would somehow enhance the school's reputation.

UPDATE: Brian Carnell has some interesting information on some other theorizing by one of the study authors.

CHEMIST DEREK LOWE speculates about what Philip Larkin would have been like on Ritalin.

UPDATE: Jim Henley has some thoughts. And I like his fitness-blog posts.

MORE SHENANIGANS from the Nevada Supreme Court. This seems rather unjudicious to me.

HEY, I'VE GOT AN UNSTOPPABLE POLITICAL JUGGERNAUT rolling, and I didn't even know about it until today!

I must say, I'm proud to share the ticket with Rachel Lucas. And I guess this Blogosphere political movement makes two things I have in common with Howard Dean, now. Or, come to think of it, three!

UPDATE: Heck, people have even got the cabinet mostly picked out for me.

Government-via-blogosphere? Why not? I mean, how much worse could it be? And it would figure that the whole thing was started by a self-described gay gun nut, wouldn't it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gary Leff is angling for the Secretary of Transportation slot. Hey, he'd have to be better than "Underperformin' Norman" Mineta!

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT, Howard Dean can expect a massive wave of attacks from bloggers.

Personally, I doubt it. Who would resort to lame attacks just to boost traffic?

UPDATE: ScrappleFace forces life to imitate ScrappleFace.

MORE CONCERNS ABOUT ELECTRONIC VOTING: Here's a column by Dan Gillmor on security problems with electronic voting systems. SKBubba, who knows rather a lot about computers and security, has a roundup of links including one to a study by Johns Hopkins calling the Diebold system fatally flawed.

It's easy for such critiques to shade over into paranoia -- but on the other hand, a voting system that inspires paranoia is a bad thing in itself, even if it never produces widespread fraud. But experience suggests that a system that can be hacked will be, sooner or later, when so much is at stake.

And the solution is so easy that it's criminal not to address the problem.

July 25, 2003

THIS STUFF JUST KEEPS COMING:

WASHINGTON - The congressional staff investigating the Sept. 11 attacks found information in the files of the CIA and FBI "suggesting specific sources of foreign support" for some of the 19 hijackers - information that the agencies were not pursuing, staff director Eleanor Hill said Friday.

The staff's massive report, released Thursday, reveals that even FBI Director Robert Mueller in October was unaware of cables and reports that the joint inquiry staff found in FBI files indicating that some hijackers received money from people associated with the government of Saudi Arabia. . . .

Almost all the information about a possible Saudi connection was classified at the insistence of the Bush administration and not made public.

I agree with Steven Den Beste that the Bush Administration's continuing solicitude for the Saudis is, to put it mildly, troubling. As I said back in December, I'm surprised that the Democrats haven't made more out of this.

UPDATE: Bush is getting hit from the right on this, anyway, as Rich Lowry notes:

Saddam Hussein never got it. He didn't realize that personal schmoozing in Washington and spreading lots of money around to former and soon-to-be U.S. government officials were the keys to realizing his geopolitical ambitions. He, in short, never learned the Saudi lesson.

How else to explain the differing treatments of the Iraqi and Saudi governments?

The Bush administration included a line in this year's State of the Union address about Saddam's alleged efforts to acquire uranium in Africa that was defensible, but hardly bulletproof -- prompting an (overblown) national scandal. Now the administration is withholding from a congressional report sections dealing with Saudi support and financing for terrorism -- which should prompt a (long-overdue) national scandal. . . .

The only apparent reason to keep the Saudi section under wraps is that it will embarrass Riyadh. If so, President Bush should have, at the outset, announced an important codicil to the Bush Doctrine that foreign governments have to choose between supporting us or supporting the terrorists -- unless it discomfits the Saudi royal family.

Ouch.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Owens thinks he knows why the Dems aren't making more out of this.

MORE NEWS FROM INSTAPUNDIT'S AFGHANISTAN CORRESPONDENT, Boston University Professor John Robert Kelly:

IN KABUL: FOX, BBC AND THE HUSSEIN CORPSES.

In hotels, cafes, restaurants and the necklace of NGO guest houses ringing the city there is a burgeoning battle for viewers on the satellite television system that has finally brought the outside world into Kabul. Thousands of expatriate couch commanders jockey for control of the remote; the Euros inevitably vie for the ‘unbiased’ coverage of BBC World while the majority of Americans steadfastly tune to the homespun comfort of Fox News. The good news for Rupert is that Fox is number one, or more precisely, it occupies the first channel on the dial. Fox is not in any sense international, it simply rebroadcasts the full American slate of its daily programming—from Fox and Friends to Brit, Bill, Sean, Alan and Greta. The BBC is a true world service; that is, there is not a region of the planet where the BBC is without a fierce opinion about how things are and should be. The British may have been drummed unceremoniously out of Afghanistan and the colonies in other centuries, but they are returned with a vengeance and an attitude no less condescending or patronizing.

While the morose and fretful hand-wringing of the BBC seems to add some cheer to the lives of the UN community, that news channel finds little purchase among the younger English speaking Afghans fascinated by the extraordinary soap opera quality of American culture as presented by Fox. This is hardly surprising, since their Dari parents are long addicted to the extremely stylized and dramatically overblown programming channeled in from India, even though they understand not a word of its dialogue. Escapism into the personal travails of celebrities and stars is far more engaging than watching the dry drones of global doom on the BBC—the Afghans have experienced enough of that firsthand, thank you very much. Fox offers instead an endless but intoxicating glimpse into the many mysteries of American misbehavior. Currently among the young, Kobe is number one with a bullet. One is persistently petitioned to explain the mores of American marital fidelity, the sexual privileges of the celebrated and the minutiae of our judicial system.

It’s not all questions; often the Afghans offer surprisingly astute observations and advice to the Americans on its handling of the war on terror. “The naked bodies of Uday and Qusay should never have been shown by the U.S. It gives them a bad reputation in the Islamic world,” says one as we scrutinize the mortician’s indecorously draped version of the corpses. His friends concur. Indeed, the televising of the Husseins remains is not only widely unpopular here; it’s considered a terrible tactical blunder, even among the most pro-American Afghans. These miscalculated media moments can have broad and unforeseen repercussions, exacerbating tensions in a city still reeling from a rash of recent bombing attempts credited to an increasingly impulsive Taliban and Al Qa’eda. Since the extermination of the brothers, the U.S. Embassy has placed its personnel on ‘Charlie’ alert; no travel except in armed convoys with ‘one in the chamber.’ The U.N. is in full lockdown mode; personnel are still ferried to work in chauffeured Land Cruisers, but otherwise are restricted to their villas. As far as these young Afghans in the television room are concerned, this public relations blunder could have easily been avoided. “The Americans were very foolish. They should have given the film to Al Jazeera. They would have broadcast it for certain and the Americans would have been completely without blame in the Islamic world.”

(Professor) John Robert Kelly

Interesting suggestion. I hope the appropriate parties keep it in mind. And you can read Kelly's earlier report here.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS POSTS here and here on war and reconstruction, both of which are very much worth reading.

JESSE WALKER WRITES that the BBC is "neither David nor Goliath: it's more like Methuselah with a trust fund."

IT'S THE BLOGATHON again, and again it's for a good cause.

JAMES MORROW WRITES:

But this Vietnam analogy, recently taken up by the global media after months of bleating by the anti-war, anti-Bush Left, starts to fall apart very quickly under scrutiny. The news that Saddam Hussein's two sons, the much-loathed Uday and Qusay, were killed in a firefight yesterday with US forces only further shows the bankruptcy of this already shoddy argument. Indeed, with 34 of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis dead or in US custody, the US can be said to be slowly but surely winning the mop-up phase of the war in Iraq.

Those who continue to try to play the quagmire card should look at, and recall, the facts. US involvement in Vietnam lasted a decade and cost more than 50,000 US lives. So far, it has been barely four months since US troops first crossed into Iraq, and since the end of major combat on May 2, just 33 US soldiers have been killed by the so-called "Iraqi resistance".

While every soldier's death is tragic (and it is touching to see so many on the Left suddenly concerned about the welfare of American men and women in uniform), it doesn't take a Stephen Hawking to figure out that these losses are nothing like those inflicted by the Vietcong.

Indeed.

The "Quagmire Index" seems to be rising. Er, or would that be "falling?"

THIS PIECE BY COLBY COSH on the Congressional 9/11 report is worth reading in its entirety. But here's an excerpt:

I am a bit disappointed that the report of the congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11 takes claims that the "intelligence community" was overworked and underfunded so seriously. The claims may, one supposes, be factually correct, but tell me this: can you name any bureaucracy, in any government department, in any state, on any planet, whose members do not unanimously claim to suffer from a lack of "resources"? In the case of 9/11 the claim has been made indisputable, apparently, by how badly the intelligence services fucked up. They failed--there must have been a budgetary reason.

And yet, on the other hand, there's this weird post facto expectation of outright perfection in intelligence-gathering. The lessons of Pearl Harbor about signal-to-noise ratio seem to have been poorly absorbed. And Congress appears rueful that a "wall" was built in the 1960s and 1970s between domestic policing of the American republic and the gathering of foreign intelligence, because it prevented the relevant agencies from coordinating their data and making the connections (INS-CIA-FBI-NSA) that might have saved the World Trade Center. Well, the people who built that "wall" were perfectly aware that it would have the effect of decreasing the efficiency with which the citizenry was protected. They built it because the power to protect is also the power to detect, persecute, and destroy. The wall serves to prevent a police state being created in America. That's important: not lip-service important, but future-of-the-human-species important. If getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth American lives, the continued existence of the wall unarguably is. But something there is that does not love a wall--and it's Congress, whose job description formerly included the task of checking and supervising executive power within the United States government.

Read the whole thing, as they say. I'm not buying the "overworked and overfunded" argument much, though, in light of this story about FBI translators -- after September 11 -- being told to slow down their work so as to justify higher budgets. I'd like to see Congress investigating that.

And somebody should hire him to write stuff like this for a magazine. You know, for money.

UPDATE: This post by Phil Carter is worth reading, too.

JOHN HAWKINS INTERVIEWS HUGH HEWITT: Who, unlike, say, Rush Limbaugh, seems to really understand the blogosphere, though he requires editorial correction on professional wrestling. Here's an interesting bit:

The smarter the host, the better the show, the greater the audience. Knucklehead radio is going to go away and in its place...if I were a thirty year old like you, I'd find a radio show to match with my blog because the synergy is overwhelming.

Good advice.

UPDATE: A couple of readers email that I'm unfairly smearing Limbaugh -- they say he's been citing blogs a lot lately. That's news to me, but I'm not a regular listener (as much blogging as I do, talk radio isn't much of a distraction, and I only listen to radio in the car anyway). I heard him describe what a blog was once a while back, and the description didn't give the impression that he was very familiar with them, but that's been a while.

Other readers suggest that Neal Boortz's program notes page should get a mention. Yeah -- if he just linked to all his items, he'd have a true blog.

MILITARY RECRUITING IDIOCY: Read this and be amazed.

IF THE WEAPONS HAVEN'T BEEN FOUND BY NOW, THEY WERE CLEARLY NEVER THERE -- I don't care what this report says:

AN AIRPORT used by hundreds of thousands of tourists and business travellers each year could be sitting on top of thousands of live bombs.

Papers among thousands of files captured from the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, claim tons of live Second World War munitions were buried in concrete bunkers beneath the runways of Schoenefeld airport in East Berlin. It is now the main destination for discount airlines, such as Ryanair, and numerous charter companies.

Not only did the commissars intern munitions beneath the runways, but also entire Nazi fighter planes, all fuelled and fully bombed-up, according to the Stasi.

The captured files of Interflug, the former East German government airline and the airport authority of the DDR, are now being examined to see if the Stasi claim is true. . . .

A spokesman for the airport said: "We became aware of the bunkers in 1993, four years after the fall of the [Berlin] Wall. A check was undertaken then and everything was determined to be safe."

But he conceded that he was astounded at the claims that fully-fuelled and bombed-up aircraft lie beneath the runways and said new tests about the safety of the structures will be carried out.

He added: "We had no idea that so much ordnance is supposedly under there."

Frank Henkel, the Conservative interior ministry spokesman, said: "This must be investigated thoroughly and immediately and the runways strengthened if necessary."

Berlin, with its sandy, dry soil, was perfect for the bunker-building of the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands of them were constructed during the 12-year lifespan of the Nazi government: for every one metre of building above ground in modern-day Berlin, there are three metres below ground.

Bunkers are being discovered every day and a group called Underground Berlin has turned several of them into tourist attractions.

Fascinating story, actually.

THE NEW YORK TIMES' ADDITION OF DAVID BROOKS as a columnist suggests that I was right to hope that Howell Raines' replacement with Bill Keller indicated a broader effort to restore the Times' credibility and add some balance, though some people seemed skeptical at the time. As Virginia Postrel notes: "It may be noteworthy that opinion editor Gail Collins, a Raines protege, reports not to Bill Keller but to Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The new regime may extend beyond the newsroom." That was my hope, and there's at least some evidence that it's happening.

The real test, though, will be whether the Times management will be stricter on misrepresentations and falsehoods by existing oped columnists like Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and Nick Kristof. The jury's still out on that one, but I have my hopes there, too.

JONATHAN FOREMAN WRITES that American troops aren't spoiled, trigger-happy yokels after all:

Whether the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein were self-inflicted or not, the military operation to capture them was immaculate. There were no American deaths, 10 minutes of warnings were given over loudspeakers, and it was the Iraqis who opened fire. So sensitive was the American approach, they even rang the bell of the house before entering.

The neat operation fits squarely with the tenor of the whole American campaign, contrary to the popular negative depiction of its armed forces: that they are spoilt, well-equipped, steroid-pumped, crudely patriotic yokels who are trigger-happy yet cowardly in their application of overwhelming force.

And, unlike our chaps, none of them is supposed to have the slightest clue about Northern Ireland-style "peacekeeping": never leaving their vehicles to go on foot patrols, never attempting to win hearts and minds by engaging with local communities and, of course, never removing their helmets, sunglasses and body armour to appear more human.

As a British journalist working for an American newspaper, who was embedded with American troops before, during and after the conquest of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, I know this is all way off the mark; a collection of myths coloured by prejudice, fed by Hollywood's tendentious depictions of Vietnam (fought by a very different US Army to today's) and by memories of the Second World War.

The American soldiers I met were disciplined professionals. Many of them had extensive experience of peacekeeping in Kosovo and Bosnia and had worked alongside (or even been trained by) British troops. Thoughtful, mature for their years, and astonishingly racially integrated, they bore little resemblance to the disgruntled draftees in Platoon or Apocalypse Now.

Go figure. What's sad is that this is news for most foreign readers, who are being fed a steady diet of, well, lies by a press corps that doesn't even bother trying to hide its anti-Americanism, at least until someone points it out.

I'M HOME FROM VACATION, though still recovering from the trip. I notice that my horoscope says that I should take things easy next week. Sadly, I have to finish a law review article, so that's not going to happen. I am going to try to take things easy this afternoon, though, so regular full-bore blogging won't resume for a while.

If you've sent email that didn't get a response, well, no promises. I'm going to try to work through the backlog this weekend, but . . . .

July 24, 2003

IRAQ: The only Arab nation with a free press. Here's a survey of what it's printing.

THE VOLUNTEER TAILGATE PARTY is up. Read 'em all.

RANDY BARNETT, who has been guestblogging over at GlennReynolds.com, has posted a wrapup -- and then has posted an update to the wrapup over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Read 'em both!

EUGENE VOLOKH NOTES that Leon Kass's fears about in vitro fertilization didn't exactly pan out. So why are we listening to him now on cloning?

Well, "we" aren't. But the White House, sadly, is.

FIRST THE NEW YORK TIMES, THEN THE BBC -- now Reuters looks to have been caught making things up:

This is from a story that Reuters news service ran this week with my byline:

"Jessica Lynch, the wounded Army private whose ordeal in Iraq was hyped into a media fiction of U.S. heroism, was set for an emotional homecoming on Tuesday . . . Media critics say the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality-TV drama co-produced by U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters."

Got problems with that?

I do, especially since I didn't write it.

Isn't "byline fraud" at least as bad as Jayson Blair's "dateline fraud?" But there's more Blair-like scandal:

I understand that news wire services often edit, add, remove or write new leads for stories. What amazed me was that a story could have my byline on it when I contributed only a few sentences at the end -- and in later versions I didn't contribute anything at all.

The stories contained apparently fresh material attributed to sources I did not interview.

Reuters should be ashamed. Experience suggests, however, that it won't be.

Meanwhile, is CNN repeating its Iraq dereliction with Iran? Joe Katzman thinks so. Why not? It's not like Eason Jordan got fired or anything. . . .

FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE TO THE BIGMEDIASPHERE: Steven Den Beste has an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal today.

MICHAEL POWELL IS QUOTED IN THE WASHINGTON POST on media diversity:

"Our Democracy is strong," Powell said in a prepared statement. "It would be irresponsible to ignore the diversity of viewpoints provided by cable, satellite and the Internet."

True enough, but that diversity has appeared as much in spite of the FCC as because of it. And where's Powell on diversity-enhancing low-power FM radio broadcasting, now that big broadcasters' claims of interference have been shown to be bogus?

AIRBRUSH AWARD: MerdeinFrance reports that AFP is trying to obscure some inflammatory remarks by Jacques Chirac.

DO TREASON LAWS APPLY TO BLOGGERS? Should they? And if so, how? Tom W. Bell has some observations.

ANDREW SULLIVAN has a lot of interesting news from Iraq today, much of it under-reported, or unreported, elsewhere.

Here's a link to an interesting Paul Wolfowitz transcript regarding goings-on in Iraq, too.

UPDATE: Reader Liam Colvin emails:

Listening to NPR this morning, and Carl Castle (sp?) was reading the headlines. He said that Wolfowitz was quoted as saying "we did stupid things in Iraq". Clearly, if you read the remarks in the transcript you linked to today, he does *not* say anything of the kind, at least in the context of what happened in Iraq. Again, as the Daily Howler pointed out, a case of the media going for the low hanging fruit and not getting the reality of the statement correct.

Yes, I noted the same spin on Wolfowitz's remarks in my complimentary USA Today this morning. I agree that it's rather misleading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kurt Dykstra points to this article on the Wolfowitz interview by Peter Slevin and Dana Priest in the Washington Post and comments:

My God, either these people are really stupid and cannot fathom the complexities of a "things overall progressing, but we've got some areas of concern" report or they are mischievous sons of bitches. But really, what is Wolfowitz to do? Put on the rose colored glasses and get pummeled by the major media for being a hack or give an honest assessment and get pummeled by the major media for "admitting" that "we were wrong?" Geesh, I'd like to see these clowns in the media harping about the "quagmire" occurring as we "lose the peace" because of "faulty or inadequate planning" try to organize a high school class reunion.

God knows they're thin-skinned when anyone criticizes them, though.

THE YALE LAW REPORT has done an InstaPundit profile that also mentions a lot of Yale bloggers. Some of them were new to me. The blogosphere has grown beyond any one person's ability to comprehend.

"I'M WEARING NANOPANTS AS WE SPEAK."

KATIE COURIC APPARENTLY DOESN'T WATCH NBC, as she's been recycling the exploded BBC story about the Lynch rescue being a sham, even though it was exploded, in no small part, by actual reporters at NBC.

Maybe she's just constructing a more palatable (to her) version of reality.

July 23, 2003

WERE THE HUSSEIN BROTHERS' DEATHS AN ILLEGAL ASSASSINATION? Rep. Charles Rangel suggests so, but this seems to me to be an example of (still more) hysterical overreaching by critics of the Administration, for reasons made clear in this post by Eugene Volokh.

OLIVER WILLIS IS FEATURED in a Boston Globe story on weblogs and politics.

Meanwhile, Carnival of the Vanities is up over at Da Goddess' place.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS A ROUNDUP OF IRAQ NEWS -- and it's mostly good.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Steven Den Beste has a roundup of people who have reacted unfavorably to reports of the Hussein Brothers' deaths. It's about what you'd expect, but it's worth reading anyway.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And Austin Bay writes on why Iraq isn't Vietnam. Among other things, it's far more important.

AIRBRUSH AWARD: Brian Carnell says the BBC is rewriting its own stories after the fact to avoid embarrassment. What would they say if Tony Blair revised his speeches after the fact with no explanation? Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times is recycling the discredited BBC story about PFC Lynch's rescue. That's absolutely pathetic.

And even Bill Clinton is defending Bush on the WMD front.

It's a sad world when you can trust politicians (and Bill Clinton!) more than the media. But nowadays, well. . . .

Randy Barnett examines why we're seeing so much lying.

UPDATE: The Daily Howler has more:

For reasons that are completely unclear, major parts of the Washington press corps have flipped on Bush in the past few weeks. But their dysfunctional culture lives; they continue to spin the basic facts to construct a sweet story which furthers their outlook. Their reports are full of spin and conflation. Can’t you hear what they’re saying? Hey, rubes!

Indeed.

TACITUS HAS AN EMAIL FROM A MARINE IN BAGHDAD covering the reception of the news of the Hussein Brothers' recent demise.

Meanwhile, Bigwig offers a Saddam's-eye view of events.

INSTAPUNDIT'S AFGHANISTAN CORRESPONDENT, Professor John Robert Kelly of Boston University, sends a lengthy report. Overall, the picture is better than media reports would suggest. Excerpt:

Despite dozens of missteps, made mostly with good intentions, it has been the understated but forceful American influence, not the UN and the hundreds of NGOs, that has taken the major gambles here. The Americans have displayed admirable flexibility in altering tactics and strategy when necessary and achieved this dicey, delicate transition.

But read the full report, below, for context.

Read More ?


July 22, 2003

POLITICIZED SCIENCE AT BERKELEY. This sounds like an updated version of those psychology studies from the 1920s demonstrating the intellectual and moral inferiority of despised immigrants, and it's just about as scientific. Your tax dollars at work.
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UPDATE: Here's more on this absurd study. You know, a lot of people have complained, with some basis, that the Bush Administration doesn't have enough respect for the opinions of scientists. But "studies" like this one may explain just why that is.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's another dissection of the study.

HERE'S A LIST OF BLOGS BLACKLISTED BY THE MULLARCHY IN IRAN. Miserable mullahs. The blogosphere will dance on your graves.

THIS ASSESSMENT OF WHAT'S GOING ON IN IRAQ from StrategyPage is worth reading. Excerpt:

What is really happening in Iraq? The media make it sound like another Vietnam is developing, with the Iraqi population sliding towards mass resistance as Iraqi society collapses in violent anarchy. But the reality is a lot different. Attacks on coalition troops are declining, the availability of public services is increasing and public opinion towards the coalition becomes more favorable each day. The gunmen who are attacking coalition troops are being hunted down and arrested, and huge arms caches found and destroyed. . . .

A lot of the "combat" is now taking place in the shadows. Special Forces, Delta Force and SEALs are doing what they've been doing since before the war began; sorting out the Iraqi underground. This mélange of criminals, Saddam's secret police and various Baath Party big shots (including Saddam and his sons) terrorized and plundered Iraq and are trying to get back to the good old days now that the war's over. While it was widely reported that the Baath Party stalwarts and secret police were fleeing from the south and north to Baghdad during the war, few journalists asked the question; "where are these guys doing now." Technically, the ones who were on the government payroll are now unemployed. But this is where reporting, real investigative reporting, gets tough. The Special Forces are a notoriously tight mouthed bunch. Same with Delta and the SEALs. These troops have been chasing the bad guys, but aren't talking. And for good reason, as these fellows rely on surprise and superior information to obtain a lifesaving edge in combat. They don't talk because they want to survive their next encounter with the bad guys. However, it's no secret that few of the many intelligence units were sent home. The intel troops are now working on tracking down Saddam's unemployed thugs.

Read the whole thing, which was posted yesterday, but which seems all the more newsworthy today, for obvious reasons. This piece on how to interrogate Iraqis is also a must-read:

Thousands of Baath Party members, secret policemen, and other Saddam supporters have been interrogated since the war in Iraq began. Getting some of these guys to talk has been a challenge, because many of them really believe that it's only a matter of time before they will be back in power. Several gambits have proven useful in loosening tongues. Many of these people have Iraqi blood on their hands, and they do fear retribution from the families of their victims. So much effort has gone into identifying who did what to whom when Saddam was in power. With this information in hand, the interrogator mentions that the Iraqi judicial system will soon be functioning again, and, hey, weren't you in Basra in 1993 when a lot of Shiites "disappeared." Perhaps we should take you back there and, hey, do you know what a "line up" is? That gets a lot of people to talk. Another scary gambit is mentioning a transfer to Guantanamo. The Arab media has been conjuring up all manner of fantasies about Guantanamo, and to many of the currently unindicted, being sent there is seen as tantamount to a death sentence, or worse.

Heh. Mary Robinson et al. -- Donald Rumsfeld's useful idiots. (Via ChicagoBoyz). This post from Stephen Green also offers some useful historical perspective on the end-phases of other wars, which weren't as neat as some imagine today.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Phil Carter issues a useful "don't get cocky" warning.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Ralph Peters says that the death of Uday and Qusay is more important than the fall of Baghdad.

HENRY HANKS HAS MOVED -- check out his new digs.

REASONABLE REGULATION OF GUNS: Randy Barnett has a lengthy post on this subject over at GlennReynolds.com.

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER (CONT'D): The Daily Howler says that Ralph Reed is more accurate than the mainstream media where the Niger uranium story is concerned.

I HOPE IT'S TRUE, but I'll wait for the confirmation: According to Reuters, Uday and Qusay Hussein may have been found.

Off to a session on new legislation. Have a nice day.

UPDATE: Seems to be true:

Widespread and sporadic gunfire crackled across Baghdad after dark Tuesday as word spread that Saddam's feared and hated sons might have been killed.

"It's celebration. People have heard about what happened," a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters.

The house in Mosul was burned to the ground after a loud, four-hour gunbattle between the people inside and soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.

Good news. Andrew Sullivan has more. [LATER: Sylvain Galineau is skeptical of the letter that Andrew reprints. I can't vouch for its authenticity, of course, but it's consistent with other things I've gotten. I consider it as reliable as a BBC report, anyway. . . .]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis and their fates. 34 are dead or captured. And Steven Den Beste offers some perspective:

The fact that someone was willing to finger Qusay and Uday for us is significant. It would obviously make them a prime target for an extremely slow and brutal death if the Baathists regain power. Or if there's an organized underground, they might get a brutal death anyway. So it indicates that they think the chance of that is very low, and that they're willing to take the risk.

This doesn't necessarily indicate support for our occupation, as such, but it shows an increasing belief among Iraqis that the US is completely serious and doesn't intend to give up. That, by itself, is a very good thing, because it means that they are increasingly convinced that the forces resisting us are not going to win. Irrespective of whether they believe that our occupation is good or bad, they are coming to believe that it's permanent, and that is a victory for us. It means that we're redeeming the failure of 1991, and gaining the trust of the Iraqi people. (Note that you can trust someone you hate; trust and support are not the same thing.)

And the deaths of Qusay and Uday are symbolic events which show how serious we actually are, and will show our commitment to continuing to hunt down and destroy the remnants of the Baathist power structure which went into hiding. I don't know that there's any particularly good reason to publish photographs of the corpses for the world, but I sincerely hope that pictures of them are widely distributed in Iraq itself, in order to increase the propaganda effect. (And if that happens, they'll be available to the world too. So watch for them.)

Read the whole thing.

SAUDI ARABIA AND ISLAMIC TERRORISM: The connection still isn't getting enough attention:

According to Newsweek, a congressional joint intelligence inquiry has concluded that Saudi Arabia was deeply implicated in the attacks of September 11. A close associate of the al-Qa'eda hijackers, Omar al-Bayoumi, is alleged to have been working as a Saudi agent, operating from the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.

The Bush administration has censored an entire section from the report, detailing the Saudi role in the events leading up to the attacks. These suppressed passages are said to explain how Saudi diplomats provided financial and logistical support for the terrorists. Leading American senators, such as Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, have pointed the finger at Riyadh.

What is the link between the twin towers of New York and the minarets of Mecca? The men who mounted the most devastating act of terrorism in modern times, the al-Qa'eda organisation for which they worked, and the Taliban regime that gave them sanctuary, all emerged from a single Islamic fundamentalist movement. That movement - Wahhabism - originated in Saudi Arabia.

Yep.

LOW-POWER RADIO, THE FCC, AND A CHALLENGE TO MICHAEL POWELL: My TechCentralStation column is up.

And for more on the perils of monopoly media, read this on the further unravelling of the BBC. As Howard Kurtz writes: "Make no mistake: the BBC's credibility is at stake here."

And Roger Simon looks at parallels between the BBC and the Jayson Blair scandal.

UPDATE: Here's some research on BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's blogging career, and what it reveals about his reportorial biases, such as "Gilligan's sourcing seems a little dodgy," and "Gilligan never apologises."

July 21, 2003

I'M STAYING AT A MUCH BETTER JOINT THAN LILEKS IS. And thank God for that.

The Insta-Daughter learned to swim today. By the evening she was doing laps across the pool, underwater. I imagine I'll be spending a lot of swimming-pool time for the rest of the summer.

YEAH, I KNOW I'M POSTING A LOT LESS THIS WEEK -- but at least I'm not blaming defenseless vegetables.

ONE INTERESTING SIDE EFFECT of the Jayson Blair scandal may be the raising of standards for TV journalism -- especially in terms of crediting print journalists for story ideas.

And maybe even crediting bloggers? Well, I guess I shouldn't ask for the moon.

FASHION TIPS for bloggers. . . .

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS has started a blog.

RANDY BARNETT HAS MORE ON THE RIGHT TO ARMS over at GlennReynolds.com.

JEFF JARVIS SAYS THAT the BBC scandal is looking more like the New York Times scandal all the time. Keep scrolling on his page for more.

And, not surprisingly, Andrew Sullivan is all over this story. So is Biased BBC, which notes that the BBC is now sounding rather paranoid.

I'M ONLINE DOWNLOADING SOME IMAGES FOR MY TALK (wrong laptop! d'oh!) but I got an email saying that Judge Merritt, who reported on documents connecting Saddam with Osama from Baghdad, then complained about being "gagged" by the U.S. government, will be on O'Reilly tonight.

July 20, 2003

BAD NEWS for the FBI:

The FBI blew repeated chances to uncover the 9-11 plot because it failed to aggressively investigate evidence of Al Qaeda’s presence in the United States, especially in the San Diego area, where two of the hijackers were living with one of the bureau’s own informants, according to the congressional report set for release this week.

THE LONG-DELAYED 900-page report also contains potentially explosive new evidence suggesting that Omar al-Bayoumi, a key associate of two of the hijackers, may have been a Saudi-government agent, sources tell NEWSWEEK. The report documents extensive ties between al-Bayoumi and the hijackers. But the bureau never kept tabs on al-Bayoumi—despite receiving prior information he was a secret Saudi agent, the report says. In January 2000, al-Bayoumi had a meeting at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles—and then went directly to a restaurant where he met future hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, whom he took back with him to San Diego. (Al-Bayoumi later arranged for the men to get an apartment next to his and fronted them their first two months rent.) The report is sure to reignite questions about whether some Saudi officials were secretly monitoring the hijackers—or even facilitating their conduct.

Hmm. My "advice to the Democrats" post is looking better, isn't it?

LOOTING UPDATE: The United States Senate is standing up against the theft of valuable national treasures.

SOME THINGS CHANGE. Some things don't.

TACITUS OFFERS SOME INTERESTING GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ. Read it. And chalk one up for The Small Wars Manual.

I CAN'T SAY THAT THIS SURPRISES ME:

A SOPHISTICATED internet sting has provided fresh evidence linking Abu Hamza, the British radical Islamic cleric, to terror camps, claim anti-terrorist police.

Hamza is said to have been so convinced by a British undercover investigator posing as an extremist website operator that he allegedly sent him several secret propaganda films designed to attract new recruits. The videos were used, say investigators, to convince British Muslims to undergo jihad training at camps in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Not terribly shocking, but gratifying.

TALKLEFT RESPONDS to my earlier advice-for-Democrats post with a further suggestion: let felons vote.

I have an elaboration on that: don't have so many felonies. The justification for depriving felons of civil rights, like voting or owning guns, was originally that felonies were such serious crimes that the felon's life was ordinarily forfeit anyway. But now felonies are designated very promiscuously -- downloading files from the Internet? Filling in a pothole in your driveway that turns out to be a "wetland?"

Those things shouldn't be felonies. To my mind, imposing civil rights deprivations for such minor, mala prohibita matters is a due process violation. Adopt that approach, and you don't have to worry about felons being deprived of voting rights unless they're murderers, robbers, rapists, etc. You know: real criminals.

BEING OFFLINE AND PAYING NO ATTENTION TO THE NEWS all weekend (which was wonderful), I missed the latest developments in the ongoing unravelling of the BBC. But Jeff Jarvis has been on the story and he's got a devastating link-filled post. Excerpt:

We must know from the BBC what happened. The BBC must launch a Blair-like (that is, Jayson-Blair-like) investigation of Gilligan and his reporting. The BBC's credibility demands it. The credibilty of the profession demands it.

My fellow journalists should demand it as well. Intead of standing in a press gang and asking Tony Blair about blood on his hands, those reporters should turn to their BBC colleagues and ask about the blood on their hands. A source of theirs killed himself over this story. Why?

The truth is coming out and that truth is:

The Blair government did not sex up this story.
The BBC and Andrew Gilligan are the ones who sexed up this story.

Meanwhile Tom Maguire is administering a skeptical deconstruction to a recent David Corn scandal piece.

And, in an entirely unrelated matter, Andrew Sullivan is writing about crucifixion. Having myself actually been crucified -- I was understudy for "Thief on the Left" in the Smoky Mountain Passion Play back in high school -- I can attest that it's an entirely unenjoyable experience, even without the nails, and even when it's all in, er, fun. My advice: avoid crucifixion if at all possible.

ROGER SIMON WAS BLOGGING FROM THE PLAZA last week. Now I"m blogging from a palatial tropical Ritz-Carlton. I'll be speaking on nanotechnology tomorrow. The family is along; we spent the weekend at Disney World. (The Insta-Daughter liked Thunder Mountain the best, and the Haunted Mansion second.)

Blogging will be limited this week. The hotel has high-speed Internet access (though not wireless) and I'll be busy having fun much of the time. But I will be posting daily, so do check in. Meanwhile Randy Barnett is guestblogging over at GlennReynolds.com. He's got a series on the right to bear arms underway.

Email responses will be even worse than usual -- I never really caught up from my last vacation. Sorry.