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Monthly Archives: June 2004

After Action Report

June 21st, 2004 - 9:05 pm

We’re exhausted — and more than a little slap-happy.

Moving the kitchen stuff from out of the dining room and back into the (not-yet-finished-but-close-enough-to-store-stuff) kitchen, Melissa reminded me that the pizza stone is under the sofa. I told her, “I bet that’s a phrase you won’t find on Google.” Then we both laughed for a couple minutes.

Yeah, we’re slap-happy, all right.

Anyway, the point of this post is: next time Google caches my site, you’ll be able to score at least one hit with “the pizza stone is under the sofa.”

That is all.

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June 21st, 2004 - 8:57 am

Crunch day — probably no time for blogging.

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Swift Justice

June 18th, 2004 - 4:06 pm


The leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, has been killed, Al Arabiya television reported Friday.

Muqrin claimed responsibility for the beheading of a U.S. engineer Friday and the killing of other Westerners in the kingdom, which has battled Osama bin Laden’s group for over a year. Arabiya gave no further details.

Hat tip: Jeff Goldstein.

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June 18th, 2004 - 12:16 pm

So it has happened:

The same fate that Nick Berg suffered in Iraq has befallen Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia.

The al-Qaida group that kidnapped Johnson posted a statement on an Islamic Web site saying it has killed him. It’s also displaying photos of what it says is his beheaded body.

Al-Arabiya satellite network first aired word that the American contractor had been killed. U.S. officials have not yet confirmed the report.

I feared as much. Other than that, I’ve run out of words.

How many more of these atrocities before they cease being tragedies, and instead become statistics? Keep an eye on the usual “anti-war” suspects for details.

UPDATE: Looking for the Paul Johnson video? You’ll find this one more informative. It shows how our enemies treat each other. Doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what they’d do to us, given the chance.

NOTE: Lockheed-Martin, Paul Johnson’s employer, also employs my bride and occassional VodkaPundit co-blogger Will Collier.

UPDATE: James Joyner has much more.

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Weekend Reading

June 18th, 2004 - 12:32 am

Landscapers, electrician, hardware to install — the works. No blogging for Steve today. So here are some links to keep you as busy as I’m going to be.

Ralph Peters says, “In this war, if you’re not winning, you’re losing.”

Moe offers perspective on yesterday’s torture video.

Joe Gandelman reminds us that life goes on, and quite nicely, too.

Vaclav Havel argues that it is “time to act” on North Korea.

Charles Krauthammer declares Intifada II is over, and that the Palestinians lost.

Andrew Sullivan might not be able to endorse Bush, but he’s endorsing Dick Cheney’s anti-NYT position.

I can’t say I (yet) endorse this argument, but it bears examination.

News flash: Mel Gibson is rich and powerful.

News flash: European diplomacy yields disappointing results.

News flash: Jeff Goldstein is still funny.

NOTE: And why didn’t I blog tonight? It was either that, or watch the new David Mamet movie. Not exactly a tough call.

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Parental Warning, Etc.

June 17th, 2004 - 1:46 pm

This is what we’re fighting.

Any questions?

(Video courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute.)

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What He Said

June 17th, 2004 - 12:59 pm

Wretchard of The Belmont Club has a pitch-perfect take on next Monday’s launch of Bert Rutan’s Spaceship One. If Rutan’s team is successful (and I will bet you good money they will be), Monday will mark the first-ever non-governmental manned space flight.

I wish I could be there to see it. I wish even more that I could go along for the ride.

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June 17th, 2004 - 9:25 am

Yeah, I thought I was going to have time to blog this morning.

Back later.

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June 16th, 2004 - 9:35 pm

Taking the night off to catch up on rest. Quiet day tomorrow, so regular blogging should resume in the morning.

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A Target-Rich Environment

June 16th, 2004 - 12:23 pm

There’s no way I can top Orrin Judd’s description of this story: “Talk about two birds with one stone!”

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Kerry-Nunn? Bush Should Be So Lucky

June 16th, 2004 - 11:05 am

According to a gossip column in the New York Post, the current frontrunner in John Kerry’s Veepstakes is former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.

Dubya should be so lucky.

Nunn might be the only potential VP mentioned thus far who’s even duller than Kerry on the stump, and while his accent definitely isn’t Boston Brahmin, he’s no less the patrician. He led the Senate fight against approving the first Gulf War, and hasn’t been a significant player in national politics since losing that vote. Nunn’s party is on its way to being shut out of power in his home state, and the last time he stood for election was nearly eight years ago.

As for those who think Nunn could help Kerry win Georgia, I have but one question: Did Lloyd Bentsen help Dukakis win Texas?

I’ve said it ‘afore, and I’ll say it again: I live in Atlanta, and Bush couldn’t lose Georgia even if he were caught in bed on live television with the proverbial dead girl or live boy, plus a shaved goat tied to the bedpost.

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June 16th, 2004 - 1:44 am

Who won the Cold War?


(Even if the author doesn’t quite agree.)

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Required Reading

June 16th, 2004 - 1:13 am

The New York Times has scored a first-ever Required Reading trifecta on today’s op-ed page. No, I’m not off my rocker. No more so than any other weeknight, that is. Don’t believe me? Here are samples to get you started.

The still-deceased Richard M. Nixon tells Bill Safire that


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Required Linking

June 16th, 2004 - 12:52 am

Did you know that the Carnival of the Vanities turned 91 today? It’s true.

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History Lesson

June 16th, 2004 - 12:41 am

Hello — what to make of this?

The Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat has reported an Iranian buildup of troops on the Iraqi border. The paper claims this is part of Iranian preparations to invade Iraq after US troops leave. The ostensible justification is to prevent a security vacuum from developing.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted “reliable Iraqi sources” as saying, “Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory”.

A few thoughts.

The Iranians are not planning to invade Iraq, not even after we leave. As demonstrated last year, we know how to go back to Iraq. But even if Ralph Nader were president, an Iranian invasion still wouldn’t make any sense.

Name the most recent, successful invasion/occupation/annexation of one nation-state (or even just part of one) by another. Need a hint? It was 1975, when North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam, giving us a single Vietnam. Not quite 30 years later, the forced marriage is showing the strain. The one before that was in 1950, when China occupied and annexed Tibet.

Adding punch to my point, South Vietnam was little more than the anti-Communist (and pro-Nothing) colonial leftovers of French rule. Tibet is a largely-inhospitable plateau with hardly any people in it. Neither nation-state was really much of a nation-state.

NOTE: You could argue that Morocco’s annexation of Artist Formerly Known as Spanish Sahara should count. I disagree. Western Sahara (as it was briefly known after Spain pulled out), was even less of an organized state than Tibet. And as any POLISARIO thug will tell you, Morocco still hasn’t completed the process of absorbing the new territory. Anyway.

You have to go back to before the First World War to find just one solid example of one nation-state successfully invading, occupying, annexing, and holding on to another.

Despite the dreams of eurocrats and UNaphiles, the global political trend is towards devolution, not consolidation. The Soviet Union becomes 15 independent republics. Eritrea secedes from Ethiopia. Czechs and Slovaks go their separate ways. British India becomes India and Pakistan, becomes India and Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entire nations in Africa effectively cease to exist outside their capital cities.

Despite the worries and protestations of the usual idiots, the age of colonial empires is dead, too. British red and French blue no longer dominate our maps of the world. The Iron Curtain was torn down. Americans, even war-happy bloggers like myself, can’t wait until this war is won and we can bring our troops home, hopefully to never leave our shores again (even if we know better).

So, why would Tehran be marshalling forces on the Iraqi border? I have a few ideas.

To stir up trouble. While Iran, if the mullahs are smart, wouldn’t want to invade Iraq, they certainly don’t want us to succeed in our nation-building efforts. Having troops nearby means having lots of guns and ammo nearby, too — which they can smuggle over to their comrades-in-terror across the border.

It looks good. It’s good domestic politics to stare down the Great Satan, and moving troops around near our troops makes the mullahs look brave and menacing. Helps keep the diehards happy.

It looks bad. To potential troublemakers, that is. Many Iranians are pretty sick of their masters, but a few unannounced troop movements reminds freedom-lovers that they’re outgunned.

Panic. In recent days, Tehran has gone public with what everybody already knew — they’re building nukes, quick as they can. With that boldness must come the fear that the US might just do something about it. Massing troops near the border helps them prepare for the worst.

Oh, who the hell knows. Dictatorships do stupid things with their armies all the time. The Minister of This and That might have told his general friend to move some troops around, to scare his mortal enemy, the Minister Against This and That. If you think democracies like ours can be schizo, do a little research on how tyrannies operate — they make Sybil look like Gary Cooper.

But enough of that — what most interested me was that the Saudis are the ones ringing the alarm bell. Officially, Riyadh didn’t approve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unofficially, we did get to use some of their airspace. Now that al Qaeda is targeting Saudi Arabia, however, the government there does seem to be more serious about fighting terror.

If they are, then scaring Americans into staying in Iraq would be a smart move for them to make. I’d explain why, but this poor excuse for an essay is already too long and too dull. Hash it out it the comments section, and I’ll add my two cents throughout the day if y’all are getting it wrong.

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Summer Games

June 16th, 2004 - 12:15 am

We’ve talked before about the upcoming Olympics, and the Greek security problem. But what about money trouble? Read:

It could take Greece over a decade to pay back a

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Yet He Couldn’t Stop Hillary

June 16th, 2004 - 12:07 am

You may disagree with Dick Morris the pollster, Dick Morris the political consultant, and Dick Morris the human being. But there’s a Dick Morris you might not know about — Dick Morris, the staunch defender of English liberty:

ON Sunday, a small group of freedom-loving Brits, the United Kingdom In dependence Party, scored amazing gains in the European Parliamentary elections, winning almost 20 percent of the vote.

The ranks of the once-tiny party were swelled by those who are getting increasingly disgusted with the anti-democratic, socialist and appeasement-oriented bureaucrats who run the European Union.

It has been my pleasure and joy to work with the UKIP during the past year, honing its message into a single word: “NO”

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It’s Not What You Think

June 16th, 2004 - 12:03 am

You’ve probably already seen the story describing the al Qaeda videotape of hostage Paul Johnson. But you might have missed this part of it:

The tape on the Web site, , showed a hooded man read a statement and holding an AK-47 rifle. As the man was reading, a subtitle on the screen identified him as al-Moqrin.http://www.hostinganime.com/sout18/

His statement was similar to a printed message on the Web site that carried the name of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. It said the group gave Saudi authorities 72 hours – by Friday – to release “mujahadeen” militants or it would kill the hostage.

Postmodern terror isn’t about taking hostages and making demands:

Remember that al Qaeda audiotape delivered to CNN, saying “No Jews in Saudi Arabia, or we start blowing up your ships”? Remember when Osama made that chilling video, saying he’d truck bomb American embassies if we didn’t pull out of the Middle East? Remember 9/11/2001, when Arab hijackers took over four American airliners, and threatened to ram them into office towers if we didn’t institute sharia here in America?

Of course you don’t. Those things never happened. Our attackers are not, by our lights, rational. They don’t kill to get what they want. They don’t kill to further their agenda. They kill for the sake of killing. They turn themselves into bombs to win Allah’s approval. They murder because they are holy and we are infidels and that’s just the way things gotta be.

I don’t buy that the Paul Johnson video is a ransom message. I have the sick feeling Mr. Johnson is already dead.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has more.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Even more from Wizbang.

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By the Numbers

June 15th, 2004 - 9:12 am

The LA Times screwed up again.

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“. . .how far down it has gone?”

June 15th, 2004 - 9:01 am

Hitch says that, regarding Abu Ghraid, the worst is yet to come:

The graphic videos and photographs that have so far been shown only to Congress are, I have been persuaded by someone who has seen them, not likely to remain secret for very long. And, if you wonder why formerly gung-ho rightist congressmen like James Inhofe (“I’m outraged more by the outrage”) have gone so quiet, it is because they have seen the stuff and you have not. There will probably be a slight difficulty about showing these scenes in prime time, but they will emerge, never fear. We may have to start using blunt words like murder and rape to describe what we see. And one linguistic reform is in any case already much overdue. The silly word “abuse” will have to be dropped.


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Melissa: Armed and Dangerous

June 15th, 2004 - 8:30 am

You wanted a picture? I got yer picture right here, buddy.

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Preventable Tragedy

June 15th, 2004 - 8:14 am

Russia’s been in a demographic crisis since the 1980s, when they became the first industrialized nation to achieve decreasing life expectancy. Now the problem is worse:

In 1999, there were only 30,000 reported AIDS cases in the country. Through May 2004, there are now over 280,000 officially reported AIDS cases but U.N. and Russian experts believe the actual number is closer to a million cases, more than in the United States, yet the U.S. has double the population and has been dealing with AIDS since the

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We Are Winning

June 15th, 2004 - 7:07 am

From a recently-intercepted letter, believed to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the micron-thin corpse of Osama bin Laden:

”The space of movement is starting to get smaller,” it said. ”The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors’ necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening.”

The statement says the militant movement in Iraq is racing against time to form battalions that can take control of the country ”four months before the formation of the promised Iraqi government, hoping to spoil their plan.” It appears to refer to the government that would take office after the elections scheduled for January 2005.

If the militants fail to take over Iraq, ”we will have to leave for another land to uphold the (Islamic) banner, or until God chooses us as martyrs,” the statement says.

The statement puts the Iraqi militants’ enemies into four categories: the Americans, the Kurds, Iraqi police and soldiers; and the Shiites. Of the Shiites, it says: ”If we succeed in dragging them into sectarian war, we could wake up the Sunnis.”

Rhetorical questions: Why isn’t this the lead story for every American network and newspaper this morning? Isn’t it just a tad more important than Bill Clinton’s book?

UPDATE: According to a detailed and persuasive review by the inestimable Lt. Smash, it’s not the top story because this letter is probably just a re-translation of the earlier al-Zaquari letter. Thanks to Smash for the correction; brickbrats to the AP for mis-identifying the “new” letter in their story.

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June 15th, 2004 - 1:47 am

What follows is an unconfirmed Drudge report (but I repeat myself). Nevertheless, it’s worth hashing out in the Drinks section. Read:

Al-Qaida May Have Delayed Attacks, Panel Finds
Tue Jun 15 2004 00:21:37 ET

The independent commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has found evidence suggesting the attacks were intended to be carried out in May or June of that year, but were postponed by al-Qaida leaders because lead hijacker Mohamed Atta was not ready, the LA TIMES is planning to report on Tuesday.


New evidence gathered by the commission, including information obtained from U.S.-held detainees, indicates that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, mastermind of the attacks, persuaded al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to postpone the attacks by several months because of the organizational problems.


If true, what does it mean? Hash it out, kids.

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Three Out of Four?

June 15th, 2004 - 1:26 am

Is there more progress in Saudi Arabia? Perhaps — but there’s less to this story than meets the eye:

Six Saudi preachers seen as influential with Islamist extremists yesterday denounced attacks on westerners as a “grave sin” under Islam.

“The bombings and killings have revolted people and hurt individuals and their property, and no one with the slightest knowledge of Islam can doubt that this is an atrocious crime and grave sin,” they said in a statement carried by Saudi media.

If you read down a little further, you’ll see that the clerics said that “those who killed non-Muslims resident among Muslims would not go to heaven.”

Let me see if I have this right.

Killing infidels who live in the Holy Land is bad. Why? Well, one explanation is the respectable and commendable Islamic rules of hospitality. Another, less charitable explanation, is that infidels are allowed into Saudi for only three reasons:

To do actual work, which Saudi men won’t do and Saudi women aren’t allowed to do.

To defend the Saudi kingdom, which Saudi men are mostly incapable of doing.

And. . . um. . . maybe to serve as fluff girls or something.

So. Killing infidels is bad manners. And could also lead to the collapse of the Saudi economy, and/or the end of the Saudi government, and/or a total lack of blow jobs for Saudi princes not currently abroad.

Any way you look at it, it must be a sin.

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New Blogs

June 15th, 2004 - 1:10 am

I’ve been meaning to send you over to MartiniPundit for weeks now. If you don’t mind making up for my mistake, why not click over twice?

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Required Reading

June 15th, 2004 - 12:54 am

John Kerry might have a bigger problem with Iraq than even George W. Bush does:

In the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has, with the help of the United Nations, identified Iraqi leadership that appears to have sufficient domestic and international legitimacy to assume sovereignty after June 30. The next phase of the transfer of power has won unanimous endorsement from the Security Council. The Group of 8 summit meeting last week, however, showed that our on-again allies were reluctant to move beyond lip service to much real aid, either in the form of troops or Iraqi debt relief.

For instance, Senator Kerry says NATO should assume a greater role in Iraq. This prospect is blocked by a stubborn president, but not the one named in Mr. Kerry’s critique. Rather it is President Jacques Chirac of France who rejects a NATO role.

Mr. Kerry also said that the allies would find it difficult to contribute without greater cover from the United Nations. We now have it. Why can’t Mr. Kerry find it in his heart to express a modicum of disappointment with, say, the Germans, who for months have vowed not to provide troops even with United Nations endorsement, even if NATO authorizes them to do so?

Kerry’s problem, explains Peter D. Feaver is that much of Kerry’s Democratic base simply isn’t interested in a solution to Iraq — unless you call pulling out and blaming Bush a solution.

Feaver points out other problems as well, which is why I suggest you read the whole thing.

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Damnit, Janet

June 15th, 2004 - 12:37 am

Is John Ashcroft a prig and a bit of a political dunce? You bet he is. Is he “the worst attorney general in history,” as Paul Krugman claims?

Oh, please.

I once joked that I would take a “Demoral-laced Norm Mineta over John Ashcroft,” and I stand by that. But does that make Ashcroft the worst AG in history?

Oh, please.

Tell Krugman he can give Ashcroft that label, just as soon as he gives an order resulting in 80 cultists getting burned alive, or takes a child away from his grandparents at riflepoint, in order to ship him back for brainwashing in a communist dictatorship.

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Worst Case Scenario

June 15th, 2004 - 12:19 am

Pro and amateur pundits have wondered in recent weeks, if crippling the Saudi economy is al Qaeda’s newest tactic. If so, it might just be working:

IF THE tens of thousands of Western expatriates who find themselves directly in Al-Qaeda’s sights decided to leave Saudi Arabia en masse in light of an upsurge in terror attacks against them, their departure would have a devastating impact on the Islamic kingdom’s key economic sectors.

That is what the militants hope to achieve as they notch up a gear in their campaign to overthrow the Al-Saud ruling family, and there are early signs that they may be on their way to achieving their goal.

Travel agencies in the Eastern Province, scene of the hostage drama in Khobar on May 29, in which 22 people were killed, say big joint ventures and multinational groups have made recent mass bookings for their American and European executives.

There are even unconfirmed reports in the government-guided Saudi media of mass resignations from the state-owned energy giant Saudi Aramco, where Americans make up the bulk of the more than 10,000 Westerners whose expertise the kingdom still largely relies on to run its most vital economic sector.

If it works? Bad news.

The good news is, Saudi Arabia is no Iraq — just like Iraq doesn’t compare to Vietnam. Should the worst come to pass, we would really have but two interests left in Saudi Arabia:

1) Protecting the oil fields.

2) Cutting off petrodollars to the terrorists.

If you accomplish the first goal, the second goal is accomplished, too. Making things easier, almost all the oil is located in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province which hugs the Persian Gulf coast. 40,000 Coalition troops would probably be more than adequate to secure the richest oil-producing areas. And when the pickings are as ripe as the Saudi oil fields, don’t doubt for one second that the French, Germans, and other recalcitrant nations wouldn’t jump on board, and fast.

The rest of the country has little beyond sand, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and a whole lot of quite poor and rather fanatical Wahhabi tribesmen. Let them have their desert and their hate and their poverty. Without the oil, they don’t have much to offer the world, other than issuing worthless fatwas and slaughtering not-quite-holy-enough pilgrims traveling to Mecca.

That’s not to say I endorse dismembering Saudi Arabia. War should always the last resort, and is almost as frequently the wrong choice. Even a successful campaign would seriously disrupt the flow of Arabian oil

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“It just didn’t fit.”

June 14th, 2004 - 2:00 pm

Fascinating NRO piece here by Herbert Meyer, who was tasked during the Reagan Administration to figure out what it would look like if the USSR was crumbling from within:

The career analysts responded by digging in their heels; by insisting that the Soviet economy was growing steadily and dismissing the alternate hypothesis as unworthy of serious attention. So I wrote a lengthy “think piece” memo that simply made the assumption that the Soviet economy was shrinking, then outlined what the downward spiral would look like. Casey made sure that just about everyone inside the CIA and elsewhere in the intelligence community read that memo

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