Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

May 08, 2004

STILL ON BREAK: But check out Stephen Green, Roger Simon, Donald Sensing, Belmont Club, and Jeff Jarvis, who aren't, and who have lots of important stuff. And Jan Haugland has an interesting post on Iraqis handling Iraqi problems. This Lawrence Kaplan TNR piece on Abu Ghraib and blameworthiness is worth reading, too.

And in a shocking development, Michael Moore appears to have told a lie in order to get publicity! Imagine that. Back later.

May 07, 2004

I'M GOING TO FOLLOW JAMES LILEKS' ADVICE:

Get better! Go away for a week. Blog not. You’re not a public utility! We won't call our city councilman if the tap's dry for a while.

Okay. Not for a week, maybe, but for a while. One quick report, though. Following up on my earlier post on photo printing, I ordered a huge 20x30 print of this photo via the Exposure Manager printing service and it came yesterday. It rules -- the sharpness, and shadow and highlight detail, are just terrific. I don't think a 35mm negative would do as well. And the price for printing this? $14.85 -- cheap! I think it'll be a while before I buy a fancy, expensive photo printer for home.

And there's -- surprise -- more stonewalling from the United Nations on the UNSCAM oil-for-food scandal: "The United Nations has sent a stern letter to an important witness in the Iraq oil-for-food investigation, demanding that he not cooperate with congressional probes of the scandal, The Post has learned."

So there you go. Back later.

May 06, 2004

ANDREW SULLIVAN says some nice things about my post on Iraq from last night, and asks, very kindly, "how does he do it?"

The answer, I'm afraid, is "at some cost." Presently involving my health. The cold that sidelined me a couple of weeks ago has turned into either bronchitis or "walking pneumonia," (I'm not sure which, and the doctor mentioned both) and now I'm on antibiotics and trying to rest in between grading exams. Blogging may be reduced for a while.

UPDATE: Thanks for the emails. I'm not dying or anything, though -- just feeling the same moderately-crappy way I've felt for a while, with perhaps a slight additional wooziness from the antibiotics. I'll be back.

Meanwhile, go read Jeff Jarvis on popularity and priorities, and the "lynch mob" forming for Rumsfeld.

This is a real scandal, worthy of real attention -- but it's now moved past reality to the point of being overhyped by people whose real goals have nothing to do with justice. Nothing whatsoever.

Longtime Rumsfeld critic Donald Sensing agrees:

Long-time readers of this blog know that I have no membership card of the Donald Rumsfeld fan club.

But the calls for his head are both idiotic and deceptive. . . .

Deceptive because Rummy is taking the fire, but Bush is the target. A more purely partisan, crass, politically-motivated campaign I have never seen. And yes, I include the Ken Starr investigation.

The Dems' hot rhetoric will backfire, I think. Look for Kerrey's numbers to drop.

It's my sense that they're overplaying their hand here.

THE TAXPROF BLOG notes that The Washington Post is joining those demanding the release of Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns.

FRANK J. offers a guide to cordial political discussion.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

May 6, 2004 -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan talks grandly of "transparency" in the so-called probe of the world body's festering Oil-for- Food scandal - but don't believe a word of it. For he seems to be running a coverup. . . .

The latest line from Turtle Bay is that the Oil-for-Food mess isn't really a scandal at all, just an anti-U.N. plot inspired by "right-wingers" - or, alternatively, by former Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi.

Those are shameful lies.

In fact, the Iraqi Governing Council has been probing the mess since January, when the Baghdad newspaper Al-Mada published its now-famous list of the 270 officials from 44 countries who were bribed with oil vouchers by Saddam (see above: Benon Savan).

Indeed, reports of massive corruption in the $46 billion program began years before the liberation of Iraq opened government records to inspection.

Yes. If Kofi, et al., have nothing to hide, then why are they acting so guilty?

I MENTIONED IT BEFORE, but now that it's actually out in print and available I want to praise Michael Barone's new book, Hard America, Soft America. I think he offers some really interesting insights into the strengths and weaknesses of American society, and into how we sometimes have trouble telling which is which.

MICKEY KAUS gave Bush's speech on the prisoner abuse case lukewarm reviews, but Sissy Willis reports that it seems to be playing better in the Arab world. She notes praise not only from Alhurra, which is, after all, an American-supported network, but also from the far less America-friendly Al-Arabiya. As I said before, this is a disaster, but played right, this can also be a "teachable moment."

But we have to make it so. I don't know whether Bush's apology was enough, and I certainly don't think he should do, a la Bill Clinton, do it over and over again. But -- especially as we see stories like these, suggesting that there were bigger issues left unresolved by the Administration -- it's important to stress what both of the Arab journalists quoted above said: that follow-through is what really matters here. This isn't something you get rid of with a sound bite.

An Abizaid speech -- followed up by swift, decisive, and obvious action -- would be a good idea. Or even a Rumsfeld apology speech. It's all very well to argue perspective and to note that it was, in fact, the U.S. military that moved first on this. But the world will be judging us, fairly or not, by what comes next.

MORE PRISONER ABUSE:

Further witnesses confirmed that the prison guards, disguised in so-called ski-masks would appear in groups of three or four. The attacks mostly happened at night. According to the details, the guards struck the prisoners with their fists and with nightsticks. Some of the victims suffered serious injuries and broken bones.

Of course, this is in a civilian prison in Germany. In fact, one of the undercovered angles to the Abu Ghaibr story is that many of the perpetrators seem to have been prison guards in civilian life, and I suspect -- as previous posts here on more than one occasion suggest -- far worse behavior is routinely tolerated there.

A SUCCESS FOR MULTILATERAL PROMOTION OF DEMOCRACY that deserves more attention:

Twice in six months, the United States and Russia have told corrupt, authoritarian, Soviet dinosaurs that it's their time to shuffle off into the sunset. Each time it was against Russia's better interests. Each time, the United States was firm in its commitment and made this commitment clear to Russia, the world, and Georgian leaders who insisted on holding back their people for personal gain. With the Ajaria situation, we also had a Georgian leader that took the world to task for its willingness to sell short Ajarian human rights and dignity for the sake of stability.

Say what you will about the Bush administration. Tell me it's all about oil. Tell me it's a plot to substitute fine Georgian wine with Coke. Tell me Saakashvili, a US-trained lawyer, was groomed for this role by the CIA.

I don't care.

Bottom line: half a million people are free tonight that weren't free this morning. Why? The Bush administration, the State Department in particular, did a fantastic job of sticking to its values and convincing Russia to stand by our side to bring freedom to Ajaria.

If that's unilateralism and cynical manipulation in pursuit of profits, pass it on down, I want some more.

Me too. And bravo for the State Department.

ANOTHER STORY on the Thulfiqar Army that's going after Sadr's followers. I don't know how dangerous they really are, but they're certainly a concrete demonstration of the limits to his support.

JAMES LILEKS:

The minute I heard Biden refer to Rumsfeld with the magic words - “what did he know, and when did he know it?” - I knew that the Iraqi POW story had jumped the shark. Or rather jumped a pyramid of blindfolded, homoerotic sharks. It’s not the question, it’s the words: use of the Vietnam and Watergate era terms like an incarnation that will topple the current administration. I almost expect someone to ask whether there is a cancer on the presidency, a chancre, or a weeping mole. Stop it! STOP LIVING IN THE PAST!

What really bastes my brisket (did I just write that? I need a beer.) is the constant desire to return us to the nadir of the post-war era. They want us to think: quagmire. They want us to think: Nixonian scandal. How inspirational. How Churchillian. I have nothing to offer the American people but blood, sweat and Billy Beer. . . .

That Biden would float the idea of axing Rumsfeld in the middle of this confliict over this tells you how seriously he takes the war. He knows what he says won’t bring victory next year. But it will get him on TV tonight, and perhaps in the Times tomorrow.

Read the whole thing.

May 05, 2004

THIS TV COMMERCIAL ON KERRY and the Iraq prison abuse case is pretty brutal. I don't think it's unfair, though. He may wish he'd stuck to his original, sensible statement.

I'm also amazed just how fast they can get these things out.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Brutal, yes, but as you say, not unfair.

Glenn, the Kerry people do themselves no favors by highlighting this, as Kerry's past has too much stuff in it along these lines.

Well, it's harsh. But Kerry accused his fellow soldiers of war crimes -- after he returned from Vietnam. That's a lot less courage than was displayed by the U.S. soldier who complained to his superiors about abuses at Abu Ghraib, resulting in an investigation that got his commanding general relieved in January -- months before this issue went public. Which is why Kerry's latest complaints about the Administration moving "slowly" on this are so utterly pathetic. That I had just finished praising him for his earlier, more sensible remarks just makes me feel like a sucker.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, in the cold light of morning, maybe it is a bit unfair. But -- and this is the point Kerry's campaign needs to grasp -- not at all unexpected. Call me crazy, but I don't think Vietnam is a good "brand" in a Presidential election.

THE CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST FOR CNN:

It is too kind to call CNN's decade of turning a blind eye to the brutality of Iraq under Saddam Hussein a failure because it was a conscious decision of the network's senior news executives to trade favorable coverage of Iraq for access to a "hot story". In fact, a "story" that had MADE CNN in the days when Peter Arnett was the "last man out" of Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

CNN's complicity - and the failure of the other news organizations described by Jordan (as well as The New York Times' John Burns in the book Embedded) - is coming home to roost as media outlets around the world make the claim without contradiction that there is no difference between Iraq under Saddam and Iraq under U.S. occupation. Where is the CNN file footage of interviews with Saddam's torture victims? Where are the shocking Saddam torture photos?

Despite their record of complicity in covering up years of bruatality and torture in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, CNN has lost no time in running endless reports on the Iraqi prison photos. Besides practically non-stop reports on the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse story, CNN's line up has been stocked with guests booked to discuss the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse story.

Read the whole thing. He's right -- more coverage of prisoner abuse in a week than they gave Saddam's torture and mass murder in a decade.

PROTECTING VOTERS IN AFGHANISTAN: And inspiring an interesting blog entry. Ted Rall and Micah Wright are mentioned.

ED CONE ASKS what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq:

What does it mean to stay the course? What are our goals there, now that Saddam is gone? When are we done? Haven't we made the point we wanted to make to other governments that might support terror?

I recommend his post, and we're pretty much in agreement (his question isn't rhetorical, but he's for staying and getting it right). Here are my thoughts, for what they're worth. There was an alternate plan (the "low hanging fruit" strategy focusing on Somalia, Sudan, etc.). But we went to Iraq, I think, for several reasons:

First, we needed to make the point Ed describes. It's dangerous to be on our bad side, even if you're a powerful dicatator with a large army and lots of bribed foreigners. That point has been made.

Second, we couldn't have a powerful, rich dictator with WMD programs and terrorist connections, who hated us, operating in the region without facing serious handicaps in our efforts elsewhere. That's taken care of, too.

Third, invading Iraq let us credibly extend that threat to other terror-supporting nations like Syria, Iran and, to some degree, Saudi Arabia. There's no question that they feel threatened -- in fact, it seems likely that they're sending fighters into Iraq as a way of mounting a "spoiling attack" intended to make us less likely to move against them. And we appear to be returning the favor in a lower-profile way. (And, on a more overt level, the Bush Administration is putting sanctions pressure on Syria.)

Fourth, over the longer term, we felt that a de-Saddamized Iraq provided an opportunity to produce an Arab state that would be neither a theocracy nor an autocracy, but a democratic model that would undercut Arab dictatorships (a root cause of terror, you know!) and terrorists themselves throughout the region. The dictators and terrorists certainly seem worried about that, as evidenced by their efforts -- and the efforts of their propaganda arm, Al Jazeera -- to undercut that project.

As mentioned below, there's some indication that we're succeeding in this. I'd like to see elections sooner, rather than later. The Zarqawi memo, which certainly seems to have accurately predicted the terrorists' actions, indicated that the terrorists felt that democracy and self-determination in Iraq would be devastating to their cause. And elections in Iraq so far have indicated no great support for either theocracy or a return to autocracy.

This is a process, not an event. We can turn over sovereignty June 30, and (as I hope) have elections in July, but that won't -- as I said earlier -- turn Iraq into Connecticut overnight. (Then again, maybe we should aim higher. . . ). But by the standards of the Arab world, things are already improving there -- charges of torture are actually newsworthy! -- and as I noted earlier, the U.S. strategy seems, wisely, to be to get the Iraqis involved in solving their own problems as much as possible.

I agree with Ed that we will, and should, have troops there in significant numbers for quite a while. But their role should be, more and more, as ultimate guarantors, not day-to-day police. Iraq is, by the standards of much of the world, well-off and well-educated. Its people, though still shell-shocked by a Stalinist state, have been pretty sensible -- despite early reports to the contrary, they weren't rising up in big numbers to back Sadr and the Fallujah revolt, but rather the contrary.

The goal should be a self-governing Iraq, under a legitimate government and a reasonable constitution, as soon as possible. At least, that's how it looks to me.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Jahnke emails:

One more thing needs to be added to your list of reasons for going into Iraq. That is this: The pre-war situation in and around Iraq was unstable and unsustainable. The 10-year-old sanctions and no-fly-zone regime was about worn out. The requirements for policing the no-fly zones were a destabilizing force in the region and the sanctions were blamed for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children each year. Demands to lift the sanctions were increasing (partly, as we now know, under the influence of massive bribes). Truly, the incomplete 1991 war needed to be ended. Either Saddam or the sanctions had to be taken down. In the wake of 9/11 and amidst Afganistan, we simply could not afford to give Saddam such a victory.

Good point.

MORE THOUGHTS on the United Nations and genocide.

WELL, NO SOONER DO I PRAISE KERRY, BELOW, than he shoots off his mouth and says something stupid. Or at least damaging and partisan.

Jonah Goldberg asks:

Why is he acting so surprised about these torture allegations? I mean isn't this pretty trivial compared to the stuff he said he and his colleagues did in Vietnam?

It's do as I say, not as we did, I guess. . . .

UPDATE: Michael Ubaldi emails:

Glenn, don't be surprised that Kerry makes one statement in one place and another in another. That's his thing, man.

Yeah. I like one of the Kerry versions. I just never know when he'll show up.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chuck Allen emails:

I like the bit where Kerry states "And the response of the administration, certainly the Pentagon, has been slow and inappropriate..."

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

What would would the good Senator consider to be a better "quick and appropriate response"? Summary punishment before all the facts are in? That would be a violation of the soldiers UCMJ and civil rights. But I guess it would be alright to violate their rights, just so long as we are not violating those of Saddam's former thugs.

Kerry's remarks were not Presidential. And the timing issue is absolutely right. CBS wants you to think that they broke this story, but actually they came around pretty late.

This timeline of events illustrates that the DoD was on this before the press. Here's just a bit that makes this clear:

Dec/Jan timeframe (implied various sources): A soldier, recognizing the behavior at Abu Ghraib as criminal, reports it. Army CID investigates the allegations of abuse at Al Ghraib and apparently establishes the case against most of the currently accused, including Army Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II.

Late Dec/Early Jan: The three members of the 320th MP Battalion awaiting courts martial (scheduled for late Jan) elect non-judicial punishment in lieu of court martial. They are discharged from military service, two have their ranks lowered, and all three are ordered to forfeit pay for two months. (5 - see also here)

Jan: General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq, was under way.

January. Over three months ago. Perhaps someone should tell Kerry.

MORE: Interesting coincidences.

JAMES LILEKS:

Whoa: just heard the new Kerry ad. He was born in an Army Hospital? Then he’s my choice! You know, coming from the right such an assertion – literally born into the military - would terrify some, as though the Dark Night of Fascism was truly descending.

Read the whole thing. Plus, he's got video!

And Lileks' Newhouse column is worth reading, too!

DODD HARRIS has more thoughts on the anti-Kerry veterans and the media.

A NEWLY-DISCOVERED SHERLOCK HOLMES STORY! Seems kind of familiar, though. ("That is a very loose translation, Watson!")

INTERESTING STORY ON WOMEN'S HEALTHCARE IN AFGHANISTAN, in this Dept. of Veterans' Affairs employee magazine. (It's a PDF, so scroll to page 8). My question: Why is this story buried in this relatively obscure magazine? It seems like it would be worthy of more attention. I guess it's another example of the Administration's PR program dropping the ball. Or maybe the mainstream press wasn't interested.

CATHY SEIPP WRITES that Hollywood likes some Republicans.

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH doubts that antiwar phony-soldier Micah Wright's efforts to salvage his reputation will succeed.

ON THE LARGE ANTI-SADR PROTEST IN NAJAF MENTIONED BELOW, reader Matt Edens emails:

Interesting, isn't it, that we didn't read about this in the Times until today, buried in a different story.

I don't recall seeing it on CNN, either.

They've got other stories they're pursuing now.

UPDATE: But the Associated Press considers a solitary anti-Bush protester to be news! ("Supporters greeted him with campaign signs and stickers on their lapels that said 'Viva Bush,' but outside the recreation center, a demonstrator waved a sign that read 'End the occupation.' ") (Via Spot On! Emphasis added.) It's like these guys have an agenda, or something. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on AP's priorities here.

I MEANT TO PRAISE KERRY FOR THESE REMARKS earlier, but my limited-blogging weekend meant that I forgot. But this statement was praiseworthy:

Senator John Kerry, Mr. Bush's Democratic challenger, issued a statement Friday saying: "I am disturbed and troubled by the evidence of shameful mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. We must learn the facts and take the appropriate action.

"As Americans, we must stand tall for the rule of law and freedom everywhere," Mr. Kerry added. "But we cannot let the actions of a few overshadow the tremendous good work that thousands of soldiers are doing every day in Iraq and all over the world."

Indeed. And his tone -- and substance -- were just right here.

UPDATE: David Schuler emails:

Every time I've written Kerry off as a total horse's patoot, he comes up with one of these statements. It kind of reminds me of Al Gore's concession speech.
I nearly wept. I could only think: why didn't THIS guy run for President?

Yeah, I know. I wonder if this is why Kerry moved up in the tracking polls?

AUSTIN BAY HAS SENSIBLE THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT TO DO regarding the prisoner-abuse scandal:

In the long run, the public demonstration of American justice --the arc of investigation, trial and punishment -- will provide a lesson in democracy. It goes without saying that Saddam's jailers would never confront a judge for similar outrages. The process will underscore the difference between the democratic rule of law and a dictator's rule by whim.

However, the long run isn't here, but a hundred digital photos are, on front pages and a thousand websites, color shots of detainees being hurt and humiliated, camerawork with the smarminess of pornography.

The photos are an anti-American propagandist's centerfold, and provide America-haters with a new Exhibit A to support their perpetual charges of American hypocrisy and decadence. They stir legitimate anger at a difficult time of transition in Iraq. They damage American military and political efforts.

But there is an odd silver-lining. America's open society includes its military. U.S. military actions are subject to legal review. The American public's revulsion is also a healthy indicator. Unlike Baathists who danced for Al Jazeera television after the murder and mutilation of four Americans in Fallujah, the American reaction is regret. The American message is, "We don't rejoice, we don't condone or excuse, we investigate and prosecute."

Immediate candor, supported by verifiable change in procedures and then followed by quick compensation of victims --- that should be U.S. policy for addressing the crimes at Abu Ghraib.

Candor in the digital age means more than press conferences. Candor in the digital age means press tours of Abu Ghraib. Candor entails a comparison of current conditions there with those in the October to December 2003 time frame when the mistreatment occurred. Full candor -- here's where the bitter truth begins to seed a better future -- also means a comparison of current conditions with those under Saddam's regime.

Indeed.

BRIAN MICKLETHWAIT WRITES on unearned worship.

It's funny that people who are calling for Rumsfeld's -- or Bush's -- resignation over the Iraq prisoner abuse incident still worship Kofi Annan, who turned a blind eye to genocide.

MORE BAD NEWS FOR KERRY, from the Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON -- A group of former officers who commanded John F. Kerry in Vietnam more than three decades ago declared yesterday that they oppose his candidacy for president, challenged him to release more of his military and medical records, and said Kerry should be denied the White House because of his 1971 allegations that some superiors had committed ''war crimes."

Kerry has since said his accusation about war crimes and atrocities was too harsh, but many of his former commanders contended yesterday that they believed the allegations were aimed at them.

''I do not believe John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief," said retired Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann, who helped organize the news conference and oversaw all of the swift boats in Vietnam at the time Kerry commanded one of those crafts. ''This is not a political issue; it is a matter of his judgment, truthfulness, reliability, loyalty, and trust -- all absolute tenets of command."

The story's broken out into the major media now. The Kerry campaign says that these are all Republican shills. All of them? (Mitch Berg has thoughts on this, and one of his commenters notes: "Interesting, isn't it, that the party membership of the swiftboaters is relevant, according to the left, but the activist group membership of the 9/11 families who slam Bush is completely irrelevant." It certainly gets less media attention.)

Even without this stuff, I think it was a mistake to use Vietnam as a "branding" tool for Kerry -- to young voters it seems ancient history, and to older voters it doesn't exactly have positive associations. But these attacks would be dismissed as old news if Kerry hadn't opened the door by constantly talking about Vietnam.

LT Smash observes: "Part of the blame lies with Kerry himself. Throughout the primary campaign, he repeatedly called attention to his service in Vietnam in order to differentiate himself from his opponents. He also brought along some of his fellow veterans on the campaign trail. He shouldn’t be surprised, then, that some of his former brothers-in-arms, who weren’t quite so happy about his post-war activities, have decided to speak up." Yes.

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

Iraq, May 4 — Representatives of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders met here on Tuesday and demanded that Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, withdraw militia units from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, stop turning the mosques there into weapons arsenals and return power to Iraqi police and civil defense units that operate under American control. . .

On Tuesday, the Shiite leaders, including a representative of a Shiite clerical group that has close ties to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, effectively did what the Americans have urged them to do since Mr. Sadr, a 31-year-old firebrand, began his attacks in April: they tied Iraq's future, and that of Shiites in particular, to a renunciation of violence and a return to negotiations.

But this is probably the most important bit:

Although Shiite leaders have made similar demands of Mr. Sadr before, it has never been in such strength. About 150 leaders attended the gathering, representing many of Shiism's most influential political, religious and professional groups. . . . Several Shiite leaders acknowledged that they had delayed issuing their statement until there were clear signs that public opinion among Shiites had moved strongly against Mr. Sadr. Reports in the past two weeks have spoken of a shadowy death squad calling itself the Thulfiqar Army shooting dead at least seven of Mr. Sadr's militiamen in Najaf, and several thousand people attended an anti-Sadr protest meeting outside the Imam Ali shrine in the city on Friday, according to several of the meeting's participants.

Mr. Mahdi, from the Sciri group, which is close to Ayatollah Sistani, was blunt about Mr. Sadr's decline in popularity. "He's 100 percent isolated across most of the southern provinces; he's even isolated in Najaf," he said.

This would seem to vindicate the U.S. strategy there, which many in the blogosphere have criticized as insufficiently militant. It now seems plausible that this will be settled without serious bloodshed -- and that if a violent solution is called for, it's more likely to satisfy than to inflame Iraqi public opinion. Does this suggest that the similar approach we're employing in Fallujah is also a good thing? I don't know (and some of the Shiite clerics in this story want us to be more militant there), but it certainly seems that there's a strategy here, one that stresses Iraqi self-governance as a key element. And that seems like a good thing to me.

This also suggests that those who thought Sadr represented a mass movement among Iraqis were seriously mistaken. The same is true, of course, with regard to the occupiers of Fallujah.

UPDATE: Nelson Ascher says that this development reflects favorably on Belmont Club's ongoing analyses of the situation, and offers lessons on how to read reports from a biased media.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire notes that the U.S. move to appoint a former Ba'athist in Fallujah is what brought the Shi'ites into line. Are we that smart? he asks. . . . ("All we were saying was, give peace a chance. And it looks like giving one of Saddam's henchmen a chance to deliver the peace was enough to bring these folks back to the table.") My goodness, I hope so.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, Belmont Club has more thoughts on Fallujah, and on what it calls the "more decisive battle" among administrators in the Green Zone, where he thinks they're doing a much worse job than the Marines. Excerpt:

One of the fascinating things about following events in Fallujah has been watching the USMC adapt to the circumstances as it found them, fulfilling its mission in often surprising ways. How strange that the imperative for survival should enforce a rate of evolution in military formations far faster than for diplomats frozen in their lofty towers. Clemenceau famously said that "war is too important to be left to the generals". Perhaps he should have added that occupation is too important to be left entirely to the diplomats.

Read the whole thing, which is very interesting.

MORE: Reader David Horwich emails:

The other lesson learned here is that the coalition can trust the Iraqis themselves to clean up their own messes, critical for a functioning democracy. More importantly, the Iraqis are showing some maturity in understanding that it isn't our job to put a working law and order system into place....it's theirs.

Yes.

THE PERNICIOUS RISE OF "CORE EUROPE" -- now that the EU is bigger, France and Germany are trying to maintain primacy.

HOW TO CREATE A LUNAR KLONDIKE: My TechCentralStation Column is up.

WHAT HATH GOLDBERG WROUGHT? Ed Driscoll looks at the post-Bias media.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett has more on oil-for-food stonewalling at the U.N.:

Both letters, to Saybolt and Cotecna, are signed on behalf of Mr. Sevan, each by a different member of Mr. Annan's staff. Mr. Sevan was on vacation, pending retirement, when they were drawn up. The letter to Cotecna was a pointed reminder of terms of the U.N. contracts with Cotecna, detailing that all documentation connected with Oil for Food "shall be the property of the United Nations, shall be treated as confidential and shall be delivered only to the United Nations authorized officials on completion of work under this contract."

In the letter to Saybolt, dated 12 days later, the message had become tougher and yet more detailed, telling the company that any requests for information not already public should be relayed to the U.N., including "the reason why it is being sought." The letter to Saybolt also made specific mention that if U.N. internal audit reports are asked for, "we would not agree to their release." These would be the same internal audits that the U.N. Secretariat--which administered the Oil for Food program--did not share with the Security Council and has refused to provide to Congress.

In other words, in the interval between March 19, when Mr. Annan finally conceded in the face of overwhelming evidence that the program might after all need investigating by independent experts, and April 21, when former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker was appointed to head to the investigation, Mr. Annan's office explicitly reminded these two crucial contractors, which worked for the Secretariat's Oil for Food program checking the imports and exports involved in more than $100 billion worth of Saddam's oil sales and relief imports, to keep quiet. . . .

It's that phrase, "unless otherwise authorized," that needs attention. The U.N. has the authority to open the books if its officials so choose; the main question is whether the boss wants to. A senior congressional staffer notes that "with the stroke of a pen, the U.N. can clear the companies from all confidentiality."

I can't think of any legitimate reason for this stuff to be kept confidential. In fact, I can't see any legitimate reason for the U.N. not to have an open-books policy in general, not just when there's a scandal. But I'm pretty sure they're hiding something nasty here.

UPDATE: More here:

Senior government officials, giant oil firms and even the U.N. official directly responsible for the oil-for-food program are among those who have been implicated in a giant bribery scheme by Saddam to evade international sanctions for more than six years.

"This emerging scandal is a huge black mark against the U.N.," said Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican. Mr. Shays heads a Government Reform subcommittee that is investigating the affair.

"Anything short of a prompt, thorough airing would leave the United Nations under an ominous cloud," he said.

Indeed.

UPDATE: And be sure to follow the Friends of Saddam UNScam blog for more developments.

May 04, 2004

JOHN KERRY'S VIETNAM: Thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

SILVER LININGS? Judging by this post from Iraqi blogger Omar, the prisoner abuse story is a bigger deal in America than in Iraq:

I was surprised when I saw that the reaction of Iraqis to the subject of prisoners abuse by some American soldiers was not huge as we all expected to see, even it was milder than the one in other Arab countries and especially than that in the Arab media.

I mean about a month ago, we had considerable reactions and somewhat large demonstrations in response to the killing of Hamas leader, and in the mid of maniac reactions from Arab media and people, the absence of large demonstrations and outrage on the streets of Iraq becomes really strange and give rise to questions. Why the Iraqi people are not really upset with this issue?

Is it because of the firm and rapid response from the American officials to these terrible actions?

Or is it because the Iraqi people lack compassion with the majority of these prisoners?

Could it be that the Iraqi people and as a result of decades of torture, humiliation and executions, took these crimes less seriously than the rest of the world?

Or have the majority of Iraqis finally developed some trust in the coalition authorities and in the American army, to sense that these actions must be isolated and will be punished?

I can’t say I have the full answer but I guess it’s a combination of a little bit of all the above.

I can say that at least some Iraqis seemed to have understood the situation and were satisfied with the reaction of the American officials and their promises that the offenders will be punished. . . .

Here I would like to provide a conversation I had with some friends whom I haven’t seen for a long time and met just yesterday. After a few words of greetings that friends usually exchange after not seeing each other for a long time, the conversation turned towards the current situation in Iraq, and as the prisoners abuse issue is the hottest topic nowadays, I started my attempts to discover their points of view about it. They were all upset but they showed satisfaction with the fast and firm reaction of the coalition higher officials and were also impressed by the honesty of the American soldier who reported the abuse and uncovered tha awful behavior of those criminals but at the same time they said that they’re looking forward to “see the offenders get some real punishment, not just directing few harsh words. A sentence for 3 or 4 years in prison will be convenient”. Others showed more understanding to the American law system.

It's not all good news, but this is the main point. Meanwhile, Sissy Willis, who seems to be on a roll lately, quotes Mahmood:

This is something that we Arabs never get to hear, an official apologising for a wrong done. Never! The higher up officials in their own fiefdoms are above error, almost at part with God, hence they can do no wrong. But on the other hand, they think that if they do apologise, then not only do they admit being wrong but more importantly to them, they will appear weak. And that will not do. They're still thinking that a strong sword arm is the thing that rules a people.

Seeing and hearing an apology by the highest-ranking officials of the US military is a welcome thing.

I don't know whether these reflect Iraqi or Arab opinion in general. But there's a lesson, regardless: Instead of viewing this purely as a disaster (though, of course, it's that) we should view this as a teachable moment. Everybody in the Arab world knows that their govenments engage in torture on a far greater scale, and as a matter of policy. People's careers are built on it, not destroyed by it. We should be taking advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate the difference.

Tacitus has some suggestions. Donald Sensing, meanwhile, says that all the publicity will harm the prosecution. But as Tacitus notes, there's more that can be done.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Army report. I haven't read the whole thing yet -- it's very long -- but it seems that one problem was slap-on-the-wrist treatment for earlier violations. That calls for further inquiry.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, we knew that some of the pictures were fake, but via porn-blog FleshBot we hear that "two Arab media sources used photos from hardcore porn sites to substantiate reports of alleged American wartime atrocities in Iraq." Sorry, my mind is reeling now.

MORE: Johan Norberg:

The first thing is that the pictures really prove that the US is superior to the Baathist dictatorship. In the US, a whistleblower is not shot, but welcomed as a hero. In the US, the press is free to report the facts its regime would like to conceal. In the US, soldiers are punished when they torture prisoners, instead of being punished when they don’t torture prisoners.

The second thing is that neighbouring countries that now condemn these deeds never complained about the systematic torture under Saddam’s regime, which he not merely encouraged, but also participated in personally. Let’s hope that these new reactions reveal a new sensitivity to torture in the Middle East, and not merely the traditional hostility to the US.

Let's make sure that people in the Middle East get this point. Kaus thinks that Gen. Abizaid -- who speaks Arabic -- would be the best deliverer of a public apology.

STILL MORE: This post from Zeyad is less positive. We've got our work cut out for us.

GORE TV: Daniel Drezner is soliciting programming ideas.

VIRGINIA POSTREL NOTES SOMETHING REMARKABLE:

Andrew Sullivan has a long quote from one of al Sadr supporters who reports abuse at the hands of American troops. It concludes: "They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel, and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman." Being a Muslim woman is like being tortured and humiliated all the time? And this guy thinks there's nothing wrong with that?

She's the first one I've seen remark on it, though.

UPDATE: Actually, Ann Althouse had thoughts on this yesterday, but I missed her post. And Sissy Willis has thoughts, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Lindgren emails:

This attitude about women in Iraq predates Islam. The ancient Assyrian Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon (ca. 681-668 B.C.E.) include this oath:

"If you sin against this treaty . . . may they use you like women in the sight of your enemy."

2 Ancient Near East 65, 68 (Pritchard abridged ed. 1975).

Interesting.

"GORELICK MUST GO: Now more than ever."

A LETTER FROM IRAQ at Winds of Change. Very interesting.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP, with posts from all over.

BLOGPOWER: A blogger has pointed out an error in a judicial opinion and gotten the Ninth Circuit to amend the opinion to correct the error. Interestingly, this isn't the first time that's happened.

TED RALL'S INTERNAL MONOLOGUE: Frighteningly plausible.

A READER SENDS A LINK TO NGO WATCH, a project that keeps tabs on what NGOs are up to around the world.

MORE ON TORTURE: Reader Mostafa Sabet emails:

Please, please, please don't compare us to Syria or Iran. PLEASE! Last I checked these weren't beacons of freedom. My family came from Egypt where the torture was far, far worse than anything that was committed in Iraq by our troops. My maternal grandfather and my father's uncle were both taken political prisoner and repeatedly whipped and maltreated. My father said his uncle lost all his hair and aged 10 years in the one year he was in prison.

That was a big reason my family came to this great country. What we did is not as vile as other countries and it is a testament to our great country that we are decrying and investigating these acts and that we will punish those responsible. That is what makes us great, not the fact that our torture is more mild. The internment of Japanese Americans was terrible even though we weren't as bad as the Nazis. The morality of the act is not predicated on the actions of others (that's moral relativism, something we often decry in others), but on the absolute morality.

The people in these prisons were probably terrible people, but that doesn't make this treatment less odious. Heck, even the Nazis treated our troops pretty well. When part of the goal is liberation and winning hearts and minds, it is imperative that we maintain the moral high ground. Acts like this undermine the entire campaign and are a disservice to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

That's true, and I agree with it all. There are dark moments, however, when I wonder if the world doesn't hate us because we hold the moral high ground, and if many wouldn't breathe a secret sigh of relief if we started living down to their standards.

But that makes an important point. If what we'd wanted was "stability" in Iraq, we could have had it easily by shooting a few thousand people, stringing the bodies up from lampposts, and leaving most of Saddam's secret police in business under new management. For that matter, we could "solve" the Fallujah problem with a MOAB or two.

We've chosen a different path in Iraq, and I think that was the right thing to do. Nonetheless, it's galling that this choice -- which was the hard choice, not the easy one -- is seen by so many as weakness.

UPDATE: Jeez, this guy sure misunderstands my point above. He seems to think I regret the approach we've taken, when actually I regret that people misunderstand it.

INTERESTING GRAPH of gasoline prices in constant dollars. What's really amazing is the dataset -- who keeps track of every gas purchase for 25 years? This guy!

UPDATE: A stirring defense of compulsive record-keeping:

Oh sure you['re] thinking this guy needs a life -- but Im thinking this country needs more people like this! Nerds are necessary.

Indeed.

THIS SOUNDS GOOD TO ME:

The 2003 Nobel Peace laureate, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, called on the world community to stop giving financial assistance to governments and regimes that are not democratic. Ms. Ebadi made her comments Monday in a speech at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington. . . .

Ms. Ebadi pushed for the need to promote human rights and democracy alongside economic development. Without singling out any specific countries for criticism, she made it clear that financial aid to countries she described as "undemocratic," only helps prop up repressive regimes.

"In countries that are undemocratic, where their governments are undemocratic, and where all the administrative, political and economic power of the society lies in the hands of one person or a special group or elites of a country, the granting of loans means assisting dictators and opposing people who are already oppressed," said Ms. Ebadi. "In other words, to say it more clearly, if undemocratic countries receive loans and credits, they are strengthened to become more negligent of the rights of their people."

Yes.

UPDATE: Here's a related post by Gopi Sundaram from a couple of months ago -- though it's about trade, not aid, which is taking things considerably farther.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Sissy Willis notes that the Bush Administration has something like this in mind.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Roger Simon reports that Kofi Annan is stonewalling on the oil-for-food investigation. "Maybe it's just me, but I find unbelievably contemptible the actions and pretences of a man who did little or nothing to save hundreds of thousands from genocide in Rwanda, yet fights tooth-and-nail to hide the most hideous de facto pro-fascist corruption in his own organization."

It's not just you, Roger.

UPDATE: Reader Paul Ulrich emails:

The torture stuff is bad, but here's a take on it I haven't seen anywhere: think about who suffered and in what ways, and think about the scale of their suffering, how many suffered and for how long; think too of the long-term consequences for those who suffered and those who abused them.

Now ask those same questions about the oil-for-food scandal and then compare the outrage over the two and the amount of coverage each is receiving.

Yes, though I'd favor proportionately more outrage over oil-for-food rather than less over the prisoner abuse. But -- as always -- there's a clear double standard here.

DID THEY RUN THIS TITLE BY THE LIBEL LAWYERS? Nick Denton's latest venture, a Los Angeles gossip blog called Defamer, is up. Motto: "We hope that L.A., the greatest, cruelest city in the world, is finally getting the gossip rag it deserves."

And they've got spy reports from the Friends finale!

A MILLION THANKS is an effort to send a million thank-you messages to America's military.

FRED OF THE FRAGMENTS FROM FLOYD PHOTOBLOG has set up a photo gallery on Exposure Manager. It's worth your time.

REALCLEARPOLITICS is another blog you ought to be reading regularly, if you're not.

EX-DIPLOMATS CRITICIZE BUSH: Roger Simon asks:

Never mind that this is a day late and more than a pound short -- Sharon has already lost the fight in his own Likud Party for the "unilateralist" policy about which these people are complaining... And never mind too that the plan itself did not differ wildly from the parameters already discussed and nearly accepted (supposedly) at Camp David and Taba...

But since the list of signatories to this document contains a large number, probably a majority, of ex-ambassadors, etc. to Arab states, I have only two questions: Where are these people working now and who is paying them?

Given that the author and many signatories of a similar British letter last week turned out to be on Arab payrolls, that's a very reasonable question.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

CHINESE MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS and their relevance to SARS. A troubling post.

HOTSPOT HAVEN is a pretty cool directory of wireless access points with a clickable map.

SUDAN IS PRACTICING GENOCIDE -- but it will keep its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Commission. But of course. . . .

UPDATE: Link was busted. Fixed now.

WELL, WHAT DO YOU KNOW? "Federal Deficit Likely to Narrow by $100 Billion."

UPDATE: This is interesting:

In the last two months, ``withheld receipts jumped 12.5 percent annualized,'' Wiegand said. ``The message is, there is no way that you can see withheld income taxes rising unless there's a decisive turn in labor market conditions, including payrolls, hours and compensation.''

Hmm. I'm no economic forecaster (and neither is anyone else, it seems) but none of this is good news for the Kerry Campaign. I suspect that this is why he's flip-flopped on the jobs front recently.

AMIR TAHERI:

May 4, 2004 -- WHAT to do about Iraq? I was bombarded with this question during a recent visit to the United States.

The question is based on two assumptions. First, that Iraq is about to plunge into one of the nightmare scenarios discussed by self-styled experts on TV. Second, that there is some kind of magic wand that one could wave to transform Iraq into a paradise of freedom and prosperity.

Both assumptions are false.

The nightmares are often peddled by those who had opposed the liberation because they didn't wish to see a U.S.-led coalition bring down a Third World dictator. The doomsayers' initial prediction was that, deprived of its oppressor, Iraq would plunge into civil war. That has not happened, so they now warn of chaos, and predict a nationwide insurrection against the Coalition.

But is Iraq really plunging into chaos? Anyone in contact with Iraqi realities would know that the answer is: No. . . .

What to do in Iraq? The answer is simple: Don't lose your nerve!

Yes, Iraq can become another Vietnam - not because of anything that's happening there, but because America and its allies, for reasons of domestic politics, might panic and transform victory into defeat.

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, a warning about Vietnam nostalgia on the part of some:

FOR many of us, the words "Vietnam War" evoke only a sense of loss and a painful acknowledgement that this country suffered a dreadful defeat, with tens of thousands of lives snuffed out and tens of millions of Vietnamese consigned to life under the Stalinist jackboot.

For others, however, thoughts of the Vietnam War conjure up a sense of moral triumph. They opposed the war, and their opposition was a key element in this nation's withdrawal from the battlefield over the course of the Nixon presidency. . . . Keep this fact in mind when considering the actions of CBS News and The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh.

Indeed. (If you're not the scrolling-down type -- and you should be, on this blog -- you can click here for a much longer post on this topic.)

UPDATE: Justin Katz has thoughts on Vietnam nostalgia and observes by email:

Between Fallujah, Koppel, and Abu Ghraib, last week saw a hat trick for those longing to relive Vietnam (lived, as it was the first time, from the safety of suburbs and campuses).

Indeed.

THE VALUE OF AN EXAMPLE:

North Korea, probably the world's most secretive and isolated nation, has offered an olive branch to the US by promising never to sell nuclear materials to terrorists, calling for Washington's friendship and saying it does not want to suffer the fate of Iraq.

Hmm.

UPDATE: Tim Blair: "Maybe it was those prison photographs that scared 'em."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Drum says that I have this story backward, and that if you read this quote it suggests that North Korea is making its offer in spite of the invasion of Iraq, and that the only reason Korea has pursued arms was to pose a deterrent because of the invasion of Iraq:

Mr Kim rejected the notion that North Korea would never give up nuclear weapons. He argued that Pyongyang - branded by Mr Bush as part of the "axis of evil" - was developing nuclear weapons purely to deter a US attack. "We don't want to suffer the fate of Iraq," he told Mr Harrison.

That's not the way I read it initially (and North Korea was pursuing nukes long before Saddam fell), but I think Kevin's right and I was wrong here. The lead to the story (which is what's posted above) may have shaped my perception -- though I'm certainly not the only one to read it that way. Kevin's right, of course, that you should follow the links and make up your own mind. Always! I don't promise not to make mistakes, after all, just to fix 'em when I realize it. Which is why it's also a good idea to scroll down and check for updates.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, this comment over at Tim Blair's indicates that this does represent a real change of position for the North Koreans.

May 03, 2004

A MAJOR DUMB STORY, involving gasoline prices and food, retracted.

(Via Betsy's Page, a blog that you should be reading.)

NAZIS. I HATE THOSE GUYS. And they hate Tony Woodlief. He seems unperturbed.

FUNDAGELICAL? Well, now bloggers are using the word. . . .

UPDATE: Noting a contradiction.

Really, The Guardian should hire somebody who knows something about America. The embarrassments just keep accumulating. Heck, even the BBC is trying to remedy British media ignorance.

TORTURE UPDATE: Alan K. Henderson has a useful post on what's going on in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere.

Where's the outrage?

UPDATE: There's this by the UN, too. Just, you know, noting what outrages people -- and what doesn't.

ANDREW SULLIVAN is asking for reader help on a couple of worthy projects.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PIECE from the Washington Post on how online music is making it easier to be "discovered" and become a star:

About 16 months ago, however, the Los Angeles-based talent-finder sat at home scouting the globe for groups. He typed "New Zealand indie rock bands" into his computer search engine and found Steriogram, five lads from the town of Whangarei in New Zealand. They had a song and a video posted on a Web site but no record contract.

Excited by what he heard, Berman e-mailed Steriogram frontman Brad Carter asking for more music, sparking a swift chain of events. Carter mailed a demo CD of about five songs. Berman played the songs for Dan McCarroll, senior creative director for EMI Publishing. Impressed, McCarroll played the music for a friend, who happened to be the president of Capitol Records.

Two weeks later, Steriogram had a five-album deal with Capitol, home of the Beatles and Garth Brooks. Now, the band is touring the United States and has a video on MTV.

Read the whole thing. Er, and if you're an online talent scout, be sure to visit the website for my brother's band, Copper!

A NORTHWESTERN LAW STUDENT SENDS THIS LINK and observes:

There's been a lot in the news today about incidents of anti-Muslim activity going on here in the States. Sadly, very few if any major blogs have chosen to cover it, which worries me. I am a very patriotic Muslim and to see that treatment of Muslims has gotten /worse/ since 9-11, I think, is absolutely terrifying. When Viet Dinh came to speak at the law school, he discussed the importance of trusting and then verifying. It's impossible to trust or verify if there are acts of pre-emptively stabbing an innocent woman wearing a headscarf and calling her a terrorist. This represents the absolute worst we have to offer as Americans, and we need to be aware of it. Especially with the (rightful) concern over growing anti-Semitism in the world, we risk looking like hypocrites for criticizing Europe and other parts of the world for maltreatment of Jews when we can't fully face up to the ill treatment of Muslims living right
here in America.

This is something I worried about back on 9/11. But in fact most of my fears haven't been borne out. There have been incidents (some of them fake) but there has been no major outbreak of violence. (And the report described above is from CAIR, which has proven itself unreliable even beyond the usual standards of advocacy-group problem-hyping.) Plus there's this bit:

The report cautioned that the jump partly reflected an increase in the number of regional offices opened by the Washington-based advocacy group, which allowed more cases to be documented.

This leads me to believe that the problem isn't really comparable to the revival of antisemitism in Europe, even ignoring the, um, rather different historical contexts. But I could be wrong. Anybody know more?

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

We should be concerned about anti-Islamic hate crimes. Still it is important to keep relative statistics in mind. On the FBI website anyone can download reports (pdf) of hate crimes for various years. The latest year available is 2002. The number of anti-Jewish hate crimes in US in 2002 was 1039 according to FBI statistics. The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes was 170. This can be checked out at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm. The site doesn't have information for 2003 yet.

Here's the link -- go to page 18.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Walter Wallis sounds a theme echoed by several readers:

Until CAIR forms an equivalent to the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment in WWII, I shall continue to consider American Islamic silence as approval of Islam terror. You can't draw money out of the bank until you put some in. The same goes for patriotism.

That's a bit harsh, and one shouldn't have to enlist in the Army to be make one's community safe from hate crime, but the U.S. Muslim community certainly could do more to speak out against extremism. There are some mosques that have rejected Saudi money, etc. -- but I'm not aware of many, much less conspicuous displays of community patriotism of the sort Wallis mentions. But perhaps those things aren't getting much attention. Anybody know of some?

FALLUJAH AND IRAQ: As I wrote this Friday, and as Andrew Sullivan notes today, it's very hard to tell what's going on. One school of thought is that it's a disaster, that we've chickened out, and that we're letting the enemy get away, literally, with murder. (That's Bill Quick's take, essentially). Another, typified by Belmont Club (here and here) is that the Marines are, in fact, doing pretty well in a messy situation in Fallujah without producing the wholesale massacre that is, of course, well within our power to produce at any moment. Killing lots of people is always an option, and it's one that our enemies can't take away. But that's not what we want to do. (See this email at Andrew Sullivan's for more along those lines.)

The same is true for Iraq overall. John Kerry got a lot of flak for his talk about "stability" as opposed to democracy -- and probably rightly -- but we're not going to turn Iraq into Connecticut, or even Turkey, overnight. It's going to take time, and there will be lots of ups and downs along the way. There's a tendency to get fixated on whatever's happening at the moment, like Fallujah, and stop thinking about the big picture, especially as "big picture" information is very hard to come by, and often from suspect sources.

The question is what to do. Robert Kagan -- taking essentially the Bill Quick line -- thinks that the Bush Administration is too casualty phobic (thanks, Ted!) and that its fears have led to a loss of will that is inspiring our enemies and dispiriting our friends.

Regardless of what's going on on the ground, I think that the combination of anti-war posturing by the likes of Koppel and Kennedy at home, and uncertainty from the Bush Administration, is having the effect on morale that Kagan describes. And Kagan's right here:

The truth is, if the goal is stability, that the alternatives are no easier to carry out and no less costly in money and lives than the present attempt to create some form of democracy in Iraq. The real alternative to the present course is not stability at all but to abandon Iraq to whatever horrible fate awaits it: chaos, civil war, brutal tyranny, terrorism or more likely a combination of all of these -- with all that entails for Iraqis, the Middle East and American interests.

That is what President Bush has been saying all along. But Bush himself is the great mystery in this mounting debacle. His commitment to stay the course in Iraq seems utterly genuine. Yet he continues to tolerate policymakers, military advisers and a dysfunctional policymaking apparatus that are making the achievement of his goals less and less likely.

And it's hard to fix that sort of thing in an election year. But it's very, very important that we get this right. My concern is that if we don't, we'll have a much bigger war on our hands, in which we'll be forced to adopt the approach to casualties -- our own, and others' -- that we took in World War Two. That was right then, and I suppose it could be right in some horrific future situation, but I'd far rather avoid that situation.

But it's important to remember, as I say above, that Fallujah isn't the war on terror; it's not even Iraq. Indeed, it's interesting how little we hear about the rest of Iraq, which is a pretty good indication that things are better everywhere else. There's a lot of excessive gloom -- much of it driven by people with an agenda, foreign or domestic -- out there.

As Belmont Club notes: "That these elementary and almost self-evident observations have heartened readers is testimony not so much to the optimism of the Belmont Club but to the gloom that has descended on the campaign, or at least its treatment in the media." That doesn't mean that it's not important to point out problems, but it does mean that it's important to retain perspective. This war is about American will to continue as much as it is about particular events in Iraq. It's worth remembering that, too.

UPDATE: If this report is true, it's probably a sign of too much political interference.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tacitus is sure that we've gone too soft in Fallujah, and that the result will be bad. Blackfive basically agrees, but many of his commenters don't. And Michael Totten is unabashedly confused. Meanwhile Mickey Kaus notes that quick elections seem to be working in some parts of Iraq, and suggests that we try to implement them by July everywhere: "Do you really want to try to make it to January while holding out for Baker v. Carr-level fairness? The results so far using ration cards seem to be crudely representative and legitimate (and non-fundamentalist)." Excellent point, and I'm inclined to favor the swift approach.

I still don't know what I think about Fallujah, but it's certainly the case that where the United States has gotten in trouble in my lifetime, it's usually been because we didn't push things to a military conclusion when we could have. Fred Kaplan, on the other hand, thinks that developments in Fallujah may bode well for the future, as a too-heavy-handed approach becomes more deft. Go figure. I sure hope he's right. (Betsy Newmark probably has the best advice: "These armchair generals should just cool it and wait to see how things turn out." Newzilla has a related post.)

Steven Den Beste has a much longer analysis of the overall situation, in which he says that we're being "too nice," and concludes:

More generally, when will the Bush Administration finally get around to dealing with the core problem facing us: the Saudi deal-with-the-Wahhabist-Devil and their ongoing practice of providing funding to support export of Wahhabist extremism all over the world? Before this war can end, that is one of the things which has to stop.

The biggest long term benefit from crushing the Taliban, crushing Saddam, and rewarding Qaddafi, is to establish a strong precedent for others in terms of what they can expect from us. But by letting Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia get away with murder (and in that I'm not speaking figuratively), we blow that precedent.

Instead, we establish an entirely different one: we make clear that we can be mollified by empty gestures and insincere promises. That is not the message we want to send to the governments of that region; it will ultimately cause far more damage than we would suffer even if all three of those nations were ultimately taken over by radical Islamists.

What I sincerely hope is not the case is that Bush and/or his campaign strategists have decided that we Americans can be mollified by empty gestures, insincere promises and tough talk. This war isn't even close to being over, and this is no time for Bush to start taking his foreign policy cues from Senator Kerry.

Indeed. As someone wisely told another President Bush, this is no time to go wobbly.

WINDS OF CHANGE has its regular war news roundup posted. As always, it's chock full of information that you're unlikely to find elsewhere without a lot of work.

ARMED LIBERAL reminds us of how odious Rep. Jim "MBNA" Moran is. Aside from taking dubious loans from MBNA as he voted on a bankruptcy bill it favored, Moran is best remembered for this comment: "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."

Is Moran a Democrat for the 21st Century? His Democratic primary opponent, Andy Rosenberg, doesn't think so. And Armed Liberal is encouraging you to go visit Rosenberg's site and make a donation. Sounds like a good idea to me.

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ WONDERS why so little attention has been paid to a massacre by UN employees in Kosovo:

In the days since the first reports of the crime were received, more details have emerged, which make what was already a scandal for the United Nations in Kosovo even more alarming. First and most disturbing is that the dead assailant, Ali, is being investigated for connections with Hamas, the Palestinian terror organization. Second is that the same Ali had visited the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, home of the Wahhabi Islamic sect that produced al Qaeda, only a month before he was sent to Kosovo in March.

More thorough descriptions of the incident are horrendous. The group of Americans, along with some Turkish personnel, were leaving a prison in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica when the attack began. It was their first day on the job. According to the Associated Press, they were "trapped between a locked gate and Ali's assault rifle."

The Palestinian carried an M-16, from which he apparently discharged 400 rounds, leading NATO investigators to examine whether his four colleagues in a Jordanian detachment assigned to guard the prison had helped him by feeding his weapon as he fired. All four were detained after the bloody events, but three have now been released, while one of them, whose name has not been disclosed, remains under arrest as a possible accomplice, and his immunity from prosecution has been revoked.

Bad news about the UN just somehow doesn't get reported. If an American had killed Arabs this way, we'd be hearing it.

BLACKFIVE EMAILS:

LtCol Michael Strobl, the Marine Officer that escorted Marine Chance Phelps' remains home, is scheduled to be interviewed tonight on ABC World News Tonight (May 3rd).

Read this to see why it matters.

THEY'RE NOT ANTIWAR: They're just on the other side.

Sadly, a continuing series.

EVERYBODY WAS EMAILING ME LINKS TO A TED RALL CARTOON that had them upset, but when I followed the link it didn't seem any worse than his usual stuff.

That's because MSNBC took down the original one, attacking Pat Tillman. Here it is, if you want to see what you missed.

Rall's so predictable. A troll gone to seed.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan: "Tillman was a true patriot, a quiet hero, an American to his core: of course Rall had to smear him. Tillman represents all that the far left hates about America, and fears might be true."

They fear that ordinary Americans might be their moral superiors. And, of course, that is true.

ANOTHER UPDATE: MSNBC explains why it pulled the Rall cartoon.

Meanwhile Commentary Page wonders why MSNBC carries Rall anyway.

JUSTIN KATZ has an interesting roundup on the Thulfiqar Army, which has reportedly been killing Al-Sadr's followers in Najaf.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON offers some perspective on Iraq -- but unfortunately in a pay-only WSJ column. Steven Bainbridge has excerpts and a summary.

It's also worth reading these comments by Connie du Toit:

It isn't about Iraq. It isn't about Afghanistan. And it won't be about Saudi Arabia, Syria, Indochina, North Korea, Iran, and Liberia. It's about making it unattractive to go up against the Great Satan.

So, when Ted Koppel decided to spend an episode of Nightline reading the names and showing the pictures of the soldiers who had died in Iraq, it felt wrong immediately.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Here's the full text of Hanson's piece, available at this free link.

NEAL BOORTZ:

Despite some media efforts to downplay the escape of American hostage Thomas Hamill as being "freed, released, or discovered," make no mistake, this guy made a daring escape that is the stuff of Hollywood movies. He would still be captured or dead had he not taken action. He chose not to be a victim, and wasn't going to take anything laying down.

Late Sunday morning, Hamill was sitting in the house where he was being held and he heard a military convoy go by. At that point, he made a decision: do I sit here like a sheep and wait to be executed, or do I make a break for it? He chose the latter, and pried open the doors and ran a half-mile to catch up with the convoy. After identifying himself, the convoy went back to the house where he was being held, surrounded it, and arrested two of his Islamic terrorist captors. Hamill was flown to Baghdad, where he received medical treatment. A happy ending for sure.

But there is more to this guy's story. Thomas Hamill was a dairy farmer in Macon, Mississippi, and apparently the dairy farm business wasn't working out too well. Needing to pay off some debts, he sold his cows and signed up to go to work in Iraq as a truck driver for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. It was a high-risk job, but it paid well and he needed the money for his family. He didn't sign up for government assistance, he went out and got a job. This should be an inspiration for all those loser types on welfare feeding at the government trough. Of course, liberals have already been saying that people are "forced" to go work in Iraq, because there aren't any jobs here. What a crock.

And so what did Mr. Hamill want to do after his escape? According to U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, "He has spoken to his family. He is now ready to get back to work." That's the American spirit. The rest of the world should take note.

Just another one of those "mercenaries" whose fates are of no concern to some.

OLIVER WILLIS TAKES THE BOEING: Or maybe, in this case, the Volvo. Either way, congratulations to another blogger getting a paying gig.

I still think that Oliver is made for TV, though.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PERSONAL TAKE ON MICAH WRIGHT, the "ex-Ranger" turned peace activist who turns out to have lied about his military service:

I could have told Kevin Parrot, WaPo, and Wright's publishers that I knew Wright hadn't been a Ranger during the American invasion of Panama.

Because I was dating him in Tucson, Arizona at the time.

In light of that firsthand experience, apparently, his being unmasked as a fraud came as no surprise.

MORE ON UNSCAM -- and a prediction:

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan Republican, told a House International Relations Committee hearing last week that the U.N. oil-for-food scandal reminded him of down-home political influence-buying and corruption in his Wayne County district.

"In many ways, we are seeing a political machine that is accused of doing something wrong and the tactics that the machine uses to defend itself are quite similar," he said.

"There will be confusion, distraction and an internal investigation controlled by the machine, the results of which may or may not be for public consumption. And it is all to defend the institution."

Yes, they're in full damage-control mode. And, writes Arnold Ahlert in the New York Post, they're getting help:

Why? Because the truth about France, Germany and Russia's opposition to the war in Iraq might not be helpful for Democrats in the 2004 elections. The party and their presidential candidate, who worship at the altar of "U.N. solutions" for world problems (including terror) might be forced to admit that the object of their continuing affection is a cesspool of anti-American, bribe-taking liars. Liars who are perfectly willing to stonewall any investigation - apparently with the blessings of certain Democratic committee members.

Will the press keep digging? And, given how unpopular the U.N. is with American voters, will Democrats really want to line up behind it? I'm disappointed in Tom Lantos' comments, but I can't believe that they represent a Democratic strategy rather than personal disappointment.

UPDATE: Madhu Dahiya is writing her local paper asking why it isn't covering the oil-for-food scandal. She emails:

I intend to keep e-mailing every single day until I receive a response! (Well, the ombudsperson did send me back a reply saying she/he? would forward my e-mail to the foreign affairs desk, but nothing yet!). Actually, it's kind of fun to keep e-mailing into the air this way. Kind of all zen and stuff.

Made up (not actual) examples:

1. Nice article on Friends....where's the UN oil for food article?
2. Nice article on the Bosox....where's the UN oil for food article?
3. Nice article on windsurfing.....where's the UN oil for food article?

Heh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin McCreavy emails:

Just wanted to let you know - I have emailed the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer 3 times regarding their lack of coverage of the Oil for food fiasco. I let the know that if the name Halliburton or Enron had popped up in the lists of those taking bribes then they probably would've covered it. Anyway, after the first letter, they said they were considering it for publication, but of course that never happened as far as I can tell. And since then, no response.

Inquiring minds would love to know why the silence.

Indeed. And the Halliburton/Enron point is surely true.

MORE: Josh Marshall is suspicious that Chalabi is behind this whole thing, but notes: "Let me be clear, I don't think any of this means that these allegations are not true. I figure that most of them are."

Well, I don't know if they're true -- though given how guilty Kofi Annan, et al., are acting, I, too, figure that most of them are. What's most interesting to me, though, are the flexible standards of fairness that let the most absurd Halliburton-related charges fly across the wires, while people exercise meticulous care in other circumstances. And does anyone doubt that if these documents contained accusations that Halliburton got money from Saddam, it would have gotten an entire episode of Nightline?

A WONKETTE VIDEO INTERVIEW, courtesy of the Washington Post. And she owes it all to the Rittenhouse Review!

UPDATE: Hey, she was on Reliable Sources, too, and gets a good review from Slithery D.

And who wouldn't want one of those?

BLOWBACK FOR CASTRO?

Mexico City (AP) The Mexican government, accusing Cuba of meddling in its internal affairs, gave the ambassador of the communist-run island his walking papers and said it will call its own ambassador home immediately. . . .

Derbez and Creel said three incidents led Mexico to its decision: recent remarks President Fidel Castro made regarding Mexico's recent human rights votes against Cuba; comments by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque about an ongoing political scandal in Mexico; and unauthorized activities carried out by visiting Cuban Communist Party members who failed to notify Mexican officials of their presence.

(Emphasis added.) Hmm. What could that mean? (Via Half the Sins).

THIS SEEMS LIKE BAD NEWS FOR THE KERRY CAMPAIGN:

Hundreds of former commanders and military colleagues of presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry are set to declare in a signed letter that he is "unfit to be commander-in-chief." They will do so at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Read the whole thing.

PHOTOBLOGGING: I'm impressed with the pictures that the Nikon D70 is producing, but in a way I'm more impressed with the high quality prints I'm getting from my rather-cheap Epson Stylus 900 printer, which I originally bought for its ability to print on CDs and DVDs, not its photo quality. The 8X10 prints it produces, though, are quite good.

For bigger prints, unfortunately, a fancier printer like the Canon i9900 is necessary, but it's kind of expensive. But I ordered some prints via the Exposure Manager site, and I'm really impressed. The 11x14 print of this picture, for example, made from a 3000x2000 jpeg, was outstanding -- tack-sharp, and with better highlight and shadow detail than shows on the screen, or on the 8x10 print I made at home. And it was only $3.95. That may cause me to put off printer-buying for a while.

WHAT AMERICA DOES WITH ITS HEGEMONY: Oxblog has an email report from Baghdad -- read it there, as it is not likely to make the major media.

ROBERT TAGORDA NOTES that Kerry is changing his tune on the economy.

UPDATE: Steven Bainbridge has a related post on Kerry and the business community.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up, with business- and econo-blogging from all over.

I NOW HAVE A BIG STACK OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXAMS TO GRADE. Blogging may be less frequent, and will probably be less cheerful, until that task is done.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY ROUNDUP OF GUN BIAS IN THE MEDIA is up. It's an especially good one.

THIS ARTICLE on Kerry's veep choices contains the following bizarre bit:

One Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a group supporting Kerry's candidacy recently convened a focus group in Ohio and the participants literally sat on the edge of their seats as the group ran test ads explaining the senator's background.

"Outside Iowa and New Hampshire, some people don't even know he was a veteran," the Democrat said of Kerry, a decorated combat veteran in the Vietnam War.

I realize, of course, that most people don't pay nearly as much attention to political news as bloggers do, but can there really be many people who don't know this?

NO, I DIDNT DO ANY CATBLOGGING this weekend. But if that's what you want, check out the Carnival of the Cats for all your cat-blogging needs.

May 02, 2004

ROGER SIMON has more thoughts on Kofi Annan's Meet the Press appearance today, and observes:

Meanwhile, the whole world's media, Internet and otherwise, are justifiably upset by the behavior of some US and British soldiers and (probably) their superiors in and out of intelligence. And let's hope they are all punished for what they did. But bad as it is, it is not nearly as bad as what was done in the name of the United Nations and the whole world. Billions of dollars were made keeping a homicidal maniac dictator in office who, as state policy, dropped his adversaries (or anybody he just didn't like) in paper shredders or simply shot them or pushed them off buildings, leaving behind 300,000 unmarked graves and counting. We're all concerned that one Iraqi prisoner died from interrogation. Not good at all, but let's keep it in perspective. The real crimes are on a mass level -- Iraq and Rwanda where well over a million died en toto. And we all know who looked the other way on both of them. The Secretary General of the United Nations.

Indeed. Kofi's misbehavior doesn't excuse the misbehavior of the guards. But neither does their misbehavior excuse his. More on Kofi's appearance here.

FOR SALE, REALLY CHEAP! (Background here, in case you missed it.)

THE GOOD NEWS: Kerry wasn't hurt when he fell off his bike. The bad news: this photo made the papers.

If I were running his campaign, I don't think I'd let him get into these situations. Though goofy photos are becoming something of a campaign theme, which I'm told is important. . . .

[LATER: "If I were running this campaign, I'd question the 'sunburst' color theme."]

UPDATE: On a much more substantive level, here's a lengthy interview with Kerry from the Wall St. Journal, which they're making available to nonsubscribers for free.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Filling our enemies with fear? Could be!

How come there's nothing about this on Bill Hobbs' new cycling blog?

MORE: A reader observes: "His level of physical activity seems to be a constant theme, second only to Vietnam. Until his medical records are released in their entirety I'll harbor Tsongas concerns. Next week mountain climbing, then a summer of surfing? At least he's not blaming the secret service this time around."

Hard to believe that someone would conceal a serious health problem in this context -- but then, Kerry has lied about his health before.

STILL MORE: Hobbs comments -- but not on the cycling blog.

GOOD NEWS IN THE NEW YORK TIMES: If you can find it. Hey, more people probably read the sports section than, say, the oped pages anyway. . . .

UPDATE: Or, in the Los Angeles Times, the comics section. Sheesh.

BRYAN PRESTON files a firsthand report from the White House Correspondents' Association dinner: "To see the press assembled in one place and on full display is to have peered over Han Solo's shoulder as he piloted the Millennium Falcon near the Death Star. To wander among them is to appreciate the enormity of the task we bloggers have set for ourselves."

VARIOUS BLOGGERS have noted this story about the Army recalling some loaned howitzers from ski resorts. The idea that these are needed in Iraq or Afghanistan doesn't make much sense though -- we're not calling a lot of fire missions there, and tend to rely on air power.

So where might we actually need these? Korea?

UPDATE: A knowledgeable reader emails:

The howitzers they are calling in are probably needed because of the current TOE (table of equipment) that the military was moving to. The military was looking to standardize all artillery to 155mm howitzers, phasing out the smaller 88mm and 105mm howitzers which are not produced any further for the US Army. However, in Afghanistan these caliber of guns are needed because of the mobile/moutainous nature of this war. A 155 cannot easily be transported around the mountainous terrain, while the smaller calibers can- forcing a rethink for the Army's artillery. The smaller caliber cannons had probably been donated to these resorts in the expectation the Army would never have use of them, yet, lo and behold they do now and are recalled. There actually was an excellent article in the professional magazine of artillerymen detailing this tactic shift in Afghanistan where they actually load the smaller cannons onboard helicopters so as to conceal/transport them instead of the traditional slingloading method.

We do call a lot of air- but air's reponse time is measured in minutes, while artillery's is in seconds. For this reason, and its immediate availability in all weather as well, if you can get it, Artillery is the weapon of choice.... Thanks for your time and all the hard work you do!

Interesting. And, thanks for all the hard work you do, which dwarfs mine in significance.

READER TUCKER GOODRICH notes something interesting from the transcript of Kofi Annan's oil-for-food interview on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Someone also very close to you has alleged involvement in this scandal. This is how The San Diego Union Tribune wrote about it. "What particularly troubles are revelations that several hundred individuals, political entities and companies from more than 45 countries profited from doing illicit business with Saddam, accepting his oil contracts and paying the murderous dictator secret kick-backs. That included, according to Iraqi Oil Minister records, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Benon Sevan, executive director of the oil-for-food program, who received a vouch for 11.5 million barrels of oil through the program, enough to turn a profit as much as $3.5 million."

Now, Mr. Sevan has denied that allegation.

SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: But NBC News has obtained this letter that was sent on his stationery on April 14. This is just two weeks ago. "I refer to your e-mail ... regarding a request by `a Governmental Authority' for reports ... relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme. ... While we understand Saybolt's"--that's a company--"desire to be cooperative with bodies looking into the Programme ... we would ask that Saybolt address any further requests for documentation or information concerning these matters to us ..."

So Mr. Sevan, who's being investigated, is telling a company that's also being investigated, "Don't cooperate with government authorities unless you clear it with me." Why is he still involved in the investigation?

SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Right. No, I wasn't aware of this confess for--Benon has worked with the U.N. for several decades, and I will be surprised if he's guilty of these accusations.

I wasn't aware of this confess -- er, document, either. And as Goodrich notes:

This is particularly interesting since Sevan has been on "vacation" since mid-March in Australia, and is supposed to stay on vacation until he retires. . . . Guess it's a working vacation. Poor guy, can't catch a break; or maybe he just doesn't know how to delegate.

Heh.

MARK STEYN ON TED KOPPEL:

As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, 1 million is a statistic. The fact that America's dead in Iraq are not yet statistics, that they're still small enough in number to be individual tragedies Ted can milk for his show tells you the real cost of this war. In Afghanistan, the numbers are even lower, which is why ''Nightline'' hasn't bothered pulling this stunt with America's other war. . . .

Here's where it's worth considering the cost of Ted Koppel in the broader sense. Our enemies have made a bet -- that the West in general and America in particular are soft and decadent and have no attention span; that the ''sleeping giant'' Admiral Yamamoto feared he'd wakened at Pearl Harbor can no longer be roused. . . .

It's unbecoming to a great power, and very perilous. The cost of war is the cost of losing it measured against the cost of winning it. We can reach our own conclusions about which the coalition's dead would opt for.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: ABC also seems to have double-counted.

MORE LOST CREDIBILITY FOR KOFI ANNAN -- but maybe it doesn't matter:

That is the culture of the UN: believe the best of barbarians, do nothing to provoke controversy among superiors, and let others be the butt of criticism afterwards. Even subsequent revelations about Annan's responsibility for the disasters in Rwanda and Bosnia did not affect his standing. On the contrary, he was unanimously re-elected and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. . . .

Annan had at his disposal all the instruments of power and opinion Wallenberg lacked. Yet, when thousands or hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to mortal threats he had the authority and duty to avert, alleviate, or at least announce, he failed.

Now, despite revelations about bribery in the UN's oil-for-food program for Iraq, the world is clamouring to entrust Annan with the future of more than 20 million Iraqis who survived Saddam Hussein dictatorship. That is because of who Annan is and what the UN has become: an institution in which no shortcoming, it seems, goes unrewarded.

Read the whole, damning thing.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Roger Simon notes reports that journalists were being bought off, too. Imagine.

LYING LIARS AGAINST THE WAR: That would be antiwar activist and fake military veteran Micah Wright, whom the Washington Post describes thusly:

In the Style section last summer we profiled a Los Angeles writer named Micah Ian Wright, who'd just published a shrill antiwar poster book called "You Back the Attack! We'll Bomb Who We Want!" In his book, he described himself as a veteran of combat, a former Army Ranger whose experiences during the 1989 invasion of Panama turned him into a peacenik. In interviews with The Post and other media, he played up that background.

Wright, it turns out, is a liar. He never served in the military -- and confessed that last week to his publisher, Seven Stories Press, after we insisted on evidence of his service. Pursuing a tip from real Rangers who'd never heard of Wright, we filed three Freedom of Information Act requests with separate Army commands -- and last month finally confirmed that Wright never served.

Military blogger Greyhawk has observations:

Say whatever you will about the war, war is a brutal endeavor and no one desires peace more than the soldier. Say what you will about the president, by virtue of birth in America you have the freedom of speech that so many GIs have died to give you. But don't you dare claim brotherhood with me, and don't presume to speak on my behalf, or on that of any imaginary GI you believe thinks like you do.

Michele Catalano is less gentle. And she and Greyhawk are running a contest. Also, Jim Treacher offers a lesson.

UPDATE: Interestingly, a blogger was on this story back in July.

TAXBLOGGING: TaxProf has a Kerry art-deal roundup here, and also an item on tax questions the candidates don't want you to ask.

PETRODOLLAR DIPLOMACY:

Some of the most prominent former diplomats who condemned Tony Blair's policies in the Middle East have business links with Arab governments, The Telegraph can reveal.

In a letter published last week, 52 former British diplomats condemned the invasion of Iraq and the Government's support for Israel.

The letter failed to disclose, however, that several of the key signatories, including Oliver Miles, the former British ambassador to Libya who instigated the letter, are paid by pro-Arab organisations.

Some of the others hold positions in companies seeking lucrative Middle East contracts, while others have unpaid positions with pro-Arab organisations.

The disclosure last night prompted allegations - denied by the diplomats - that they were merely promoting the interests of their clients. Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, said: "If an MP had made statements like these without declaring an interest in the subject they would have been before the standards and privileges committee we would have had their guts for garters.

"This casts a very different light on what the former diplomats have said."

(Emphasis added.) Yes, it does. And I suspect that this merely scratches the surface where former diplomats -- and, perhaps, current diplomats and journalists -- are concerned. I'm also pleased to see that the phrase "have their guts for garters" is still in general usage in Britain, something I didn't realize.

AMERICAN HOSTAGE HAMILL escapes from captors. Cool.

I'M A DAY LATE, but this May Day memorial post from Catallarchy is well worth your attention. Be sure to follow the links.

UPDATE: Jay Solo has more thoughts.

UN SLEAZEFEST DOUBLEHEADER: First this:

Kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime on contracts signed under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme were far higher than the 10 per cent rake-off previously assumed to be the norm. . . .

Joseph Christoff, a GAO official, said that the audits were shown routinely only to Benon Sevan, the UN Under Secretary General who ran the programme whose name was on a list of 270 companies and individuals who allegedly received vouchers.

Then there's this not very promising sign of the U.N.'s attitude toward housecleaning:

The United Nations has threatened to fire two officials who wrote an expose of sleaze and corruption during its peacekeeping missions of the 1990s.

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, is understood to have favoured an attempt to block publication of the memoir, Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures, a True Story from Hell on Earth, due to be published next month.

Still reeling from the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, officials in the upper echelons of the UN are alarmed by the promised revelations of wild sex parties, petty corruption, and drug use - diversions that helped the peacekeepers to cope with alternating states of terror and boredom.

This is why I find John Kerry's involve-the-United-Nations approach implausible.

UPDATE: Jan Haugland notes that Kojo Annan's company is popping up again. And reader Tucker Goodrich emails:

Kofi is self-destructing on Meet The Press... This guy's so complicit, it's unbelievable.

I missed that, but I'll look at the transcript.