Middle East Archives

March 25, 2002

Sayonara, Saddam?

Steven Den Beste makes an intriguing comparison between the culture of Imperial Japan before World War II, and Islamofascism today. In each case, we seem to be dealing with a culture incapable of handling the idea that it isn't the invincible center of the universe, a culture which needs to destroy those who pose a challenge to this worldview.

For my system to continue to exist, theirs must be changed. This is not a war of faith on my side, it's just a practical necessity. They need not give up Islam, but their fundamentalism will have to be destroyed. Islam must become tolerant, because as long as it is not we will continue to have wars with them.

Many Muslims are already tolerant. But many are not, and there is a major core of the faith of Islam which is not.

That is also what existed in Japan going into World War II, and to ultimately pacify Japan it was necessary to completely gut its culture and rebuild it according to our desires. There have been few nations as radically changed in such a short time as Japan between 1946 and 1951, when the occupation officially ended and a formal peace treaty was signed with the new government of Japan.

I fear that before this war ends we shall have to make changes as radical to the majority of Islamic nations, especially the Arab ones. I fear that, because I don't see how this war can end if we don't, unless we are defeated. We can't merely defeat them militarily; I think we have to break their spirit.

Steven's absolutely right. And although Germany's period of insanity was shorter than that of either of the other two cultures, it represents a similar case. Germany won some wars, lost some wars -- but didn't give up the idea of war until the United States smashed them completely and rebuilt their country from the ground up.

September 18, 2003

Bombing Iraq - Five Years Later

James Lileks warning us away from his "screeds" is like Playboy warning us away from its centerfolds. Come on James, I'm not reading your Bleat every day for more stories about Gnat (cute though she may be). No, I demand more screeds! More righteous anger! More red meat! More centerfolds!

In his latest Bleat, he digs through old newspaper editorials praising President Clinton's bombing of Iraq:

I've read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something I've long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they don't feel it's theirs.

If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaeda, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons' brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK's call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience - the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.

These "if such-and-such had happened" theories are impossible to prove, but this one sounds pretty plausible to me. Oh, I can hear the main objection: "But Clinton would have gone to the U.N. and gotten the support of the international community". Exactly like he didn't then. (Or exactly like he didn't when he ordered Kosovo be bombed. I heard Madeline Albright on NPR this morning admitting that, sure, the UN wasn't consulted before our Kosovo adventure, but then saying that that's OK, because at least we had NATO on our side. Apparently having 15 allies then instead of 10 allies now makes all the difference.)

Well anyway, here are two more biting excerpts from today's Bleat:

The naivety nearly makes you weep. These people didn't want Saddam's body bobbing ass-up in the Tigris. They wanted a world in which the fascist clique that ruled Iraq curtseyed and bowed in the lovely gavotte of international diplomacy.


The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one.

Then I would add "read the whole thing", but of course you've done that already. Haven't you?

Orange Power!

Astronaut Pete Conrad planted a Princeton flag on the moon when he was there back in 1969. (Don't worry, other Ivy alums, we came in peace.) Not nearly as cool, but cool nonetheless, is a soldier claiming Iraqi water towers for the University of Tennessee.

October 2, 2003

An unexpected outcome

The New York Times tells us of a new report released on Wednesday regarding America's public relations vis-a-vis the Muslim world.

The United States must drastically increase and overhaul its public relations efforts to salvage its plummeting image among Muslims and Arabs abroad, a panel chosen by the Bush administration has found.
Guess what? An advisory committee set up by the State Department recommends that... the State Department get more money. What a shocker. Has there ever been an advisory panel report -- has there ever been a government report of any sort -- that concluded that a program or agency was adequate and needed no more resources in order to do its job?

While the panel's conclusions don't actually sound that unreasonable, its methodology seems slightly less than scientifically rigorous as a manner of determining public opinion:

We contacted and were briefed by dozens of specialists and practitioners, both here and abroad in the public and private sectors, including non-governmental organizations. We traveled to Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Senegal, Morocco, the United Kingdom, and France. We used video conferencing for discussions with individuals in Pakistan and Indonesia.
Also, the report basically suggests that, regardless of the shortcomings of America's P.R. efforts, the real problem is American foreign policy. So it's not clear how much the suggestions by this panel will actually help.

Interestingly, though, the one specific program attempted by the United States, the "Shared Values" advertising campaign in which the U.S. produced advertisements showing that American society is Muslim-friendly -- does not receive criticism from the panel. (Except for its implementation: the panel found that it took the State Department three times as long to complete the project as private sector ad campaigns take.) The New York Times, as part of its Bush-administration-can-do-no-right, has derided the program for months, and trashes it again in their coverage of this story:

The panel's recommendations — including the establishment of a special White House coordinator for public relations efforts abroad — come at a time when some American officials acknowledge that programs even in the last couple of years have been confused and fitful.

The Bush administration, for example, started a program called "shared values" last year, a series of television commercials showing that Muslims in the United States lead lives of dignity and equal rights. The advertisements were suspended after several Arab countries refused to show them.

Many in the administration were privately critical of the commercials, agreeing with Arab and Muslim spokesmen who said they were irrelevant to Muslim concerns about American policies toward Iraq and Israel.

None of this has anything to do with what the panel said, however. The panel praised the campaign:
In our research, the Advisory Group became especially concerned, not so much about the content of the TV spots but about the protracted process and expense of bringing them to fruition. The process took far too long; flexibility and speed are urgent requirements in this kind of public diplomacy effort. Also, we found that, in some cases, resistance to the advertising campaign at some embassies may have contributed to the inability of the State Department to air the mini-documentaries on government television channels in key Arab countries.

We heard from several marketing experts who believed that advertising was not a good way to spread these messages. We disagree. The campaign was well -conceived and based on solid research.

The panel also found the campaign to be effective:
Indonesia was the only country where a post-campaign survey was done, and that survey produced high ratings for recognition and understanding. For example, the survey determined that 63 million Indonesians learned that “Islam is not discriminated against” and is given equal treatment with other religions in the United States.
The real problem was that the State Department, apparently out of petty bureaucratic jealousy, didn't get behind the plan, thus failing to convince several countries to let the campaign on the air. Supposed allies like Egypt and Jordan blocked the commercials -- even though Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. So yes, fine, create ad campaigns -- but stop coddling Arab dictators. That will do more for the U.S. than reorganizing and refunding bureaucracies in Washington.

October 28, 2003

Tridekalateralism, give or take a few nations.

Porphyrogenitus links to a list of countries that have troops helping us out in Iraq: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. There's Australia and Mongolia, too. Quick, someone alert Dennis "sorry unilateralism" Kucinich!


Blogger James DiBenedetto suggests that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, while acting as an apologist for Malaysian anti-semitism, has no answers of his own.

And if you've got a suggestion for combating anti-Semitism, Paul, we'd all love to hear it.
But, honestly, he's not being fair to Krugman. Krugman does have suggestions. They're just idiotic:
Why won't the administration mollify Muslims by firing Lt. Gen. William Boykin, whose anti-Islamic remarks have created vast ill will, from his counterterrorism position? Why won't it give moderate Muslims a better argument against the radicals by opposing Ariel Sharon's settlement policy, when a majority of Israelis think that some settlements should be abandoned, and even Israeli military officers have become bitterly critical of Mr. Sharon?

The answer is that in these cases politics takes priority over the war on terror.

No, Paul. The answer is that in these cases, your "solutions" have nothing to do with the problem. Islamic fanaticism isn't a result of William Boykin's comments. Islamic fanaticism long predates William Boykin's comments. In the months after 9/11, when Krugman's caricature of George Bush would have ranted and raved about our Islamic enemies, Bush went out of his way to proclaim Islam a religion of peace. He made it clear that our enemy wasn't Islam, but only Islamic extremists. (The much derided decision to include North Korea in the Axis of Evil ("What? Is Bush crazy? North Korea doesn't have ties to Iraq!") was clearly motivated by a desire to mention a non-Muslim country so the US wouldn't appear to be singling out Islamic ones.)) And yet, half of the Islamic world cheered for Osama Bin Laden, and the other half denied that he had anything to do with 9/11. Firing William Boykin would appease the New York Times, but not Islamofascists.

And settlements? The only settlements that the US could oppose to improve our standing in the Muslim world are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Nobody cares about settlements. They hate Israel. Not settlements. No amount of involvement in the "peace process" on the part of Israel, or the United States, has ever mollified Islamic fanatics.

The idea that there's some magic formula to make Islamic extremists like us is naive at best. But one suspects that Krugman doesn't really believe what he says; he's just using it as a club with which to attack his enemies. The US appeasing Islamic radicals by opposing Israeli settlements would be like the White House appeasing Paul Krugman by sending him a Christmas card. (And yes, I know that Krugman is Jewish.)

December 16, 2003

Where were you when you heard the news?

Me, I was enjoying a sunny morning of skiing with my wife. The whiteboard in a lift operators' booth read, and I quote:

NPR is reporting that So Damn Insane has been caught

Nobody on line could decide whether the scrawlings of some teenager are exactly the most trustworthy news source, so we had to hold our excitement all day. Sad, really, that we couldn't exult in the news then and there. Sadder still that I had these thoughts:

  1. Man, I'm cold
  2. I can't wait to hear people attempt to put a negative spin on this

So before even knowing a single detail other than the sentence above, the wife and I discussed what such a negative spin might sound like: (Begin weenie voice) Oh, we shouldn't sound like we're gloating. We shouldn't get cocky. We shouldn't have paraded him around after being captured. We must ensure that he receives a fair trial in The Hague. We didn't have the right to do this. The war wasn't about Saddam anyway. The war isn't over, let's bring everyone home. The war *is* over, let's bring everyone home. It wasn't worth the effort anyway. It's not fair - this makes Bush look good. Et cetera. (End weenie voice).

You know, if you want to get away from world events, a ski resort is a pretty good place to be. We didn't hear any confirmation of the news until we got in our car that afternoon and turned on the radio. It didn't take long to hear the first naysayer. Less than five minutes, actually. As one of a group of newscasters asked to give their impression of the news, NPR's Anne Garrels started, and I quote:

I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, but...

Then she proceeded to rain on everyone's parade. We just knew that *someone* was going to do it.

Now, I wasn't expecting the whole death-penalty mini-flap, but I should have, considering that I fully expected crap like this:

Human-rights groups condemned the idea of a speedy trial, saying it would take at least a year to prepare for a complicated case like Hussein's. They also challenged the legal right of the U.S. occupation to establish the tribunal and the lack of more international as well as Iraqi participation in that process.

(Complicated? Maybe for the defense.)

I head the same condemnatory sentiments from a trio of academics last night on All Things Considered. To which I say: What in the holy heck is wrong* with these people? Screw human-rights groups, screw academics, screw caring about "legitimacy" in the eyes of "the international community". If it were up to me, Saddam would languish in Guantanamo for three or four years, then he would be turned over to an Iraqi court so kangaroo-like it bounces into its mother's pouch, then he would be released to be strung up by the Iraqi people, a la Mussolini and Ceaucescu.

Then let the self-described "activists" wring their hands so hard they burst into flames.

December 17, 2003

The Coalition of the Whiny

Yep, they're wasting no time in making Saddam's capture look bad for us. Jerks.

(Hat tip to Hit & Run)

January 9, 2004

Get Ready For Routine Full-Body Cavity Searches At The Airport

In case anyone needs reminding of just how depraved the enemy is:

January 4, 2004 -- A she-bomber planned to blow up British Airways Flight 223 over Washington with plastic explosives hidden inside her body, a chilling new report says.

U.S. security services told Scotland Yard that the woman - almost certainly linked to al Qaeda - planned to hide 8 to 12 ounces of the material tucked inside her reproductive region, London's Mirror newspaper reported.

I must admit, a little part of me just went inside, drew the shades, and is now lying curled up on the floor sucking its thumb...

February 10, 2004

See No Evil

Bob Herbert asks:

Another broad issue that increasing numbers of voters are coalescing around is President Bush's credibility problems. There were no weapons of mass destruction. So why have we sacrificed the lives of more than 500 American troops and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians? What was the noble cause for which they died?

Sigh. How soon he forgets.

Because it's harder than we think?

David asks:

How come Al Qaeda never followed up on 9/11? In Iraq, or Israel, we see repeated terror attacks, just like in the movie. But in the United States in real life, we had 9/11 and then nothing. Why?

It's an unsettling question. Planting a bomb on a bus or a subway seems trivially easy. My fear is that it's only a matter of time untill it happens here.

Then again, consider where the terrorist attacks have been happening: Israel. Iraq. Indonesia. Turkey. Russia. Tunisia. Saudi Arabia. (Also consider such previously terrorism-prone places such as Spain and Northern Ireland). They've been happening there because that's where the terrorists already live. In each of those countries, they can count on the support of a not-insignificant percentage of the population. While it takes only a few people to set a bomb, one needs hundreds, if not thousands, of local supporters for an extended campaign of bombings. Israel's problem is not that they are slouches; their problem is that they live among hundreds of thousands of terrorist supporters. (If not more.)

Also consider that the number of people in on the 9/11 plot had to be kept small. The more people in the know, the more likely their chances of getting caught before pulling it off. In other words, planning to leave people behind to blow up buses and subways would risk blowing the whole plot. In any case, it is likely that Al Qaeda considered the attacks that did happen - one building hit, then another a few minutes later, then another a few more minutes later, then another that was supposed to be hit a few more minutes later - enough exclamation points already. (I know *I* wasn't thinking "is that all there is?")

I'd also optimistically consider that since 9/11 we are doing something right. As a blogger named Emily puts it:

I don't believe that not having to deal with (yet - knock on wood. HARD) suicide bombing or other terrorist "activities" on a regular basis doesn't make us weak. In fact, it makes us strong. You know why? Because life is pretty damn pleasant when you don't live with that reality, and when we were finally forced to, WE KICKED ASS. The Taliban? Gone. Al-Quaeda? On the run or hiding in caves.

Perhaps the terrorists have learned that while Americans are willing to more or less tolerate things blowing up in far-off lands, if things start blowing up again here, we're capable of kicking ass even harder.

Well, perhaps. It's a comforting hope, anyway.

February 14, 2004

Why not? Redux

Blogger Soccer Dad -- if that's his real name -- cites Charles Krauthammer in attempting to answer the question I posed about why Al Qaeda didn't follow up on 9/11. Krauthammer -- who was wondering the same thing I was -- proposes two theories to explain it:

  • Our success in weakening Al Qaeda
  • A desire to avoid anticlimax
Neither theory is particularly convincing to me, though each may have some truth to it. The first theory might explain why there have been no attacks recently, but it doesn't explain why there weren't any in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, before we had a chance to degrade their capabilities. And anticlimax? Come on. Yes, Al Qaeda likes to go for the dramatic, but a truck bombing of a major New York landmark could have been pretty darn dramatic, no?

Another theory pointed to by Soccer Dad is Lee Harris's theory that the attacks weren't truly aimed at the United States at all, but at the "Arab street." The goal was to impress them -- which was accomplished -- rather than us, so there was no need to follow up. This reminds me that I actually read an intriguing essay by Harris a year or so, entitled Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology, which fleshes this out.

Soccer Dad does remind me, though, that Richard Reid (i.e., the Shoe Bomber) attempted to blow up a plane in the months after 9/11. He was stopped, of course; we shouldn't ignore the possibility that Al Qaeda has made other follow-up attempts that have just failed for one reason or another.

Still, I think the ultimate lesson here is that we should be grateful that I'm not the one running Al Qaeda. If I were, there would have been many more attacks.


The NY Times article that David links to below has this intriguing second-to-last paragraph:

Dr. Kay, the former chief C.I.A. weapons inspector, has said that his team learned that no Special Republican Guard units had chemical or biological weapons — but that all of the officers believed that some other Special Republican Guard unit had them. He said it appeared that the Iraqi officers were the victims of a disinformation campaign by Mr. Hussein.

So even the Iraqis thought they had WMD! (Make that the Iraqis plus nearly everyone else in the world who was paying attention at the time. So why is it supposed to be somehow scandalous that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair thought so,too?)

February 23, 2004

Manufacturing contempt

I wonder what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thinks about linguistics. I only wonder because he is certainly as qualified to talk about the subject as the author of this piece was to write the op/ed in question.

The New York Times has sunk to new lows.

March 21, 2004

What took 'em so long?

Breaking news: from Gaza:

Israeli helicopters fired missiles at Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin's car as it left his house for a mosque at daybreak Monday, residents said, and mosque loudspeakers said he was killed.
Good news, if true. And it shows how humane Israel is; it could have killed this guy at any time, but waited until it could get him without killing many innocent bystanders.
In announcing Yassin's death, Hamas said, "(Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon has opened the gates of hell and nothing will stop us from cutting off his head."
For people who claim to welcome martyrdom, they sure get annoyed when people actually give them what they want.

March 22, 2004

The usual suspects

As expected, everyone on the planet, except the United States, has rushed to condemn Israel for killing terrorist leader Ahmed Yassin of Hamas.

  • [Jack Straw of the UK]: "We therefore condemn it. It's unacceptable, it's unjustified and it's very unlikely to achieve its objective," he said.
  • France has condemned the killing, also describing it as against international law.
  • [Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller]: "As you know we are against extrajudicial killings. Terror and violence and retaliation is not the way ahead," he said.
Etc., etc.

Yeah, whatever.

Of course, it's just going to increase the "cycle of violence," and similar cliches. On the other hand, not killing him hasn't solved anything, now has it? Why is everyone so sure that something which has never worked -- pretending that there's a "peace process" -- will work, while being certain that killing those opposed to the peace process will "escalate" the situation?

But that aside, the (official) European complaint is that they oppose "extrajudicial" killing. Well, assuming for the sake of argument that they're right as a matter of law, how about as a matter of practicality? How many people -- on both sides -- would have died if Israel had tried to arrest Yassin? How big a force would Israel have had to send, just to protect itself? How much of Gaza would they have had to level? How many would have defended Yassin?

Is anybody naive enough to think that Israel wouldn't have been equally -- if not more strongly -- condemned for that approach? Remember the outcry over the Jenin massacre/hoax?

March 25, 2004

War is peace

A blogger named "Adam" is annoyed at me for being pleasantly surprised by the killing of leading terrorist Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Part of Adam's problem is the phenomenon, publicized by Mickey Kaus, of iberal "cocooning" -- that is, liberal control of the media preventing liberals from being exposed to conservative ideas, and then being unable to handle them. (Adam admits that "it's been so long since [he's] heard arguments for capital punishment," as if he were discussing phrenology or Marxist economics or some other long-discarded notion.)

But the larger problem is his naivete. Although demonstrating a slight bit of skepticism, he ultimately believes what makes him feel good to believe:

ieporent is still ignoring some important details, like the fact that as recently as January Yassin had been ready "in principle" for a truce (according to this Economist article). I'm as cynical as the next American when it comes to Hamas, but given Israel's dismissal of Yassin's proposal, I'm not sure who should have been arresting whom.
He might be cynical about Hamas, but he isn't cynical enough about the media. Was Hamas ready "in principle" for a truce? What does that even mean?

I'll tell you what it means. Assuming we take Hamas at its word, it means... diddlysquat:

Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, a Hamas official has said his organization could declare a 10-year truce with Israel if Israel withdraws from territory captured since 1967.

Rantissi said on Sunday that his organization had come to the conclusion it was difficult to liberate all their land at this stage, so they accept a phased liberation.


But Rantissi was clear and added that any such new proposal would not mean that Hamas recognized Israel or spell the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Rantisi said the truce could last 10 years, though "not more than 10 years."

This is what the Economist describes as being ready for a truce "in principle." Israel would give up everything, and in exchange Hamas wouldn't even recognize Israel's existence, let alone accept it; indeed, Hamas openly admits that their attempt to wipe Israel out would have just a temporary pause. And Israel is to blame for not accepting this proposal? Israel should apologize for killing the leader of the group that proposed this?

April 5, 2004

Give An Inch...

Let's see how Spain's new policy of appeasement is working out for them:

MADRID, Spain - An Islamic group that claims responsibility for the Madrid bombings says it will turn Spain "into an inferno" unless the country halts its support for the United States and withdraws its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The threat came in a letter faxed to the Spanish daily newspaper ABC over the weekend, the paper said Monday. ABC said the letter was handwritten in Arabic and signed "Abu Dujana Al Afgani, Ansar Group, al-Qaida in Europe." [...]

The letter gave Spain until Sunday, April 4, to fulfill its demands of ending support for the United States and withdrawing troops from both countries.

"If these demands are not met, we will declare war on you and ... convert your country into an inferno and your blood will flow like rivers," the letter said.

Oh, dear. Not good. Who would have thought?

April 14, 2004

East Germany threatens to tear down the Berlin Wall

Here's one of those headlines that sound like Onion parodies: Arafat Says U.S. Backing of Sharon Could End Peace Plan. So let me get this straight: Arafat won't negotiate with Israel if he doesn't get his way? Uh, how exactly could we tell the difference? Isn't that about like Saddam Hussein threatening not to cooperate with U.N. inspectors if the U.S. doesn't leave Iraq immediately? That horse has already been stolen from the barn, killed, beaten, and then chopped up for dog food. Kinda late for Arafat to be threatening to lock the barn now.

May 6, 2004

You Know What Pictures I'm Talking About

When I first saw the pictures, I immediately thought "That's it? That's not torture. That looks like a fraternity rush!" Not that I have any great love for frats - the people who come up with hazing stunts like that are jerks at best. But judging from the press coverage, my dismissiveness is a minority opinion. Heck, judging from the press coverage, you'd think Bush and Rumsfeld were personally ordering the reactivation of the prison's paper shredders...

Oh sure, some of my co-workers agree with me, and so does Rush Limbaugh, and someone named Iowahawk wrote a pretty awesome parody of the situation, but much of the blogosphere is outraged, Rush is getting lots of crap, and nobody cares what my co-workers think.

No, most people I read in the news and hear on the radio seem to be falling all over themselves in the rush to declare more loudly than anyone else that this is the worst assault on innocents since Hiroshima. And yet... I'm strangely unmoved. Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but the intense news coverage seems to have less to do with the welfare of the prisoners than with the hope that it will bring down an administration official or two. (I mean, if we really want to talk scandal, we can talk about this country's real prison rape problem, but you know, there's no good anti-Bush angle there...)

No, not every critic is criticizing out of animus towards the president. It's just easy to think so after listening to NPR on my way to work and reading the NY Times at lunch, and then over dinner watching a certain cable network that up until recently was all too willing to hide stories of real abuse. Really, some people sound positively gleeful over how this might negatively affect the administration.

And of course, the "Arab Street" is angry. (As someone named Ace says, "What the hell doesn't make Arabs and Muslims angry?"). And I'd give a rat's patoot what they think if they would show even a tenth as much outrage over atrocities like this. Oh, I know, we're Americans, we're supposed to be better than that. And we should. But it is really too much to ask for once that they be better than that, too?

May 12, 2004

Throw me in that briar patch

Mark Kleiman wonders why "right-wing bloggers" (his term) are upset that the murder of Nicholas Berg was not shown by the American media.

What am I missing here?

* Al Qaeda thugs murder an American on camera as a publicity stunt.

* The mass media mostly refuse to give them the free publicity they want, not showing the snuff clip the terrorists released.

* Right-wing bloggers object, thinking the media ought to do what the terrorists wanted them to do.

Well, Mark doesn't quote or link to any of these "right-wing bloggers," so it's difficult to respond to his question with specifics, but perhaps what "right-wing bloggers" are upset about is the double-standard. Graphic photos of American abuses at Abu Ghraib prison are given prominent play, but Al Qaeda's terror is sanitized. It is proper to report on the prison abuse by U.S. forces, yes. It's also important to remember why U.S. forces are there in the first place.

[UPDATE: I just want to add, in case it isn't obvious, that I'm not saying that the latter justifies the former. The two are unrelated. I'm talking only about the editorial decisions by the media, not about the incidents themselves.]

And perhaps what Mark is also missing is that his premise is likely wrong; showing it would not be "what the terrorists wanted them to do." Either the video was primarily intended by the terrorists for an Arab audience or for an American one. To the extent that the video was intended for an Arab audience, the American media showing it wouldn't be relevant to Al Qaeda's wishes. To the extent that it was intended for an American audience, it would be, I think, an attempt to demoralize or intimidate us. But I don't believe that showing it to us would have that effect; I would suspect that it would have the opposite effect. While widespread violence in Iraq might convince the U.S. to pull out, targeted violence such as that will only make us more determined to stay there and eliminate those responsible.

May 17, 2004

Uh oh

I generally assume that the media is overstating the bad news about Iraq and ignoring the good news. But even if that's true, this can't be good news:

A suicide car bomb has killed at least nine people outside the main coalition headquarters in Baghdad, including the head of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, officials say.

Abdul Zahra Othman Mohammad, a Shi'ite council member also known as Izzedin Salim, had been waiting at a checkpoint to enter the sprawling "Green Zone" compound in Baghdad when the bomb went off, Deputy Foreign Minister Hamed al-Bayati told Reuters.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. is often criticized for making President Hamid Karzai the "mayor of Kabul" -- that is, creating a situation where he (and by extension, the U.S.) controls the capital city and not much beyond that.

But in Iraq, the U.S. can't even protect, or stabilize, downtown Baghdad. And if we can't do that, if we can't manage to keep the Governing Council safe, then what chance does our little Iraqi adventure have? How can we build a peaceful, democratic Iraq if terrorists can set off car bombs in the heart of the capital?

Dissension in the ranks

Of course, before the Iraq war, the Pentagon and State Department held different views about the appropriate policy. But it's a rather bad sign that even now, the two groups can't get their stories straight. Is the US going to pull troops out of Iraq after June 30th?

ecretary of State Colin L. Powell was joined by the foreign ministers of Britain, Italy and Japan on Friday in declaring that they would honor any request by Iraq's new government to withdraw foreign troops after June 30, when it is to receive limited sovereignty.
A "top aide to Mr. Powell, Marc Grossman" said the same thing when he was asked by a House committee last week.
Mr. Grossman, under secretary of state for political affairs, was then contradicted by Lt. Gen. L. Walter Sharp, director of strategic plans for the military's joint staff, who said an Iraqi pullout request would not be valid unless it were made by an elected government due to take office next year.
So which is it? Apparently everyone is banking on Iraq not making such a request, which would enable us to avoid having to make such a decision. But hoping that a problem goes away doesn't always work, unfortunately.

May 24, 2004

You say to-may-to

Bush's speech tonight, otherwise known as "How many different ways can George Bush pronounce Abu Ghraib?", was good, but probably too little, too late. Listening to the post-speech callers on CSPAN, it seems clear that even the people who watched the speech didn't listen to it; everyone's mind is already made up. Bush needed to give this speech weeks ago.

At this point, I think it's clear that words are irrelevant, and the only issue that matters is June 30. If there's a smooth, peaceful, transfer of power, and if the terrorist attacks can be kept to a minimum, then Bush wins on the Iraq issue. If it degenerates into a fight over power, or if a car bomb wipes out half the new government, Bush is in serious trouble.

June 23, 2004

Hassan Chop!

The first song in the wonderful Disney movie Aladdin begins like so:

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear
If they don't like your face
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home

But only if you saw the movie in its original theatrical run. Thanks to professional complainers, the lyrics were changed for the VHS and DVD release:

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where it's flat and immense
And the heat is intense
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home

To whom do we complain to get the lyrics changed back?

July 1, 2004

Kofi and What Army?

Kofi Annan is giving Sudan an ultimatum:

KHARTOUM, Sudan - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Sudan's government that he wants to see progress within 48 hours resolving a bitter conflict in the Darfur region, which his officials say has led to the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

And if there is no progress? He threatens to get all unilateral on their ass:

Annan has raised the possibility of sending in international troops if Sudan's government can't protect its people in the vast and desolate western region. Humanitarian workers have likened the attacks to ethnic cleansing.

Egads. Looks like we'll be in another war... in 2016.

November 10, 2004

I've got good news

I saved a lot of money on my car insurance... and Yasser Arafat is dead.

March 2, 2005

Transitive properties

Remember how opponents of the Bush administration, like the New York Times, opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom in part because of the effect it might have on Middle Eastern stability? Well, now that it has happened, the Times has no trouble spinning the positive developments of the last few weeks into "threats of instability," from Iranian nuclear power to Iraqi violence. But there's one thing the Times is certain that the administration isn't responsible for: anything good.

Administration officials say Mr. Bush's calls for democracy in the region have been secondary to the ripple effect of the elections, however imperfect, held by Palestinians and Iraqis in January, and the open, messy but still invigorating political jockeying among those peoples after the balloting.

"You can't dismiss the argument that the themes we're hearing from Washington are helping to cause changes in the Middle East," a senior State Department official said. "But you have to give the main credit to the elections in Palestinian areas and in Iraq. The Iranians, the Syrians and the Iraqis have to be reacting to the elections."

Ah, I see. So the possibility for Egyptian and Lebanese democracy has nothing to do with Bush. It's the Iraqi elections that deserve the credit. Remind me again what prompted those?

Someone reading this "News Analysis" in a vacuum would think that they just sprung up spontaneously. So you can "give the main credit" to these "elections." That's fine. That's safe. As long as you don't give it to Bush, because lord knows that all the people who work at the Times are smarter and more sophisticated than he is.

Incidentally, there elections in Iraq and Palestine may have gone smoothly, Syria may be forced to end its occupation of Lebanon, and Egypt may hold multiparty elections, but that doesn't mean that we -- assuming we work at the Times -- can't report on all the reasons the Bush administration had nothing to do with it, according to "administration officials," "a senior State Department official," "many experts," "some European diplomats," "an American official," "Arab officials," and of course "an Arab diplomat." All of whom are perfectly willing to steer plaudits away from the president... as long as they can do so anonymously.

This is journalism.

May 16, 2005


Newsweek most likely got it wrong, and people are being killed in Afghanistan. And lots of folks are angry - at Newsweek. As for me, I tend to agree with Michael Demmons that such ire is misdirected [emphasis in original]:

You really have to wonder what kind of a barbaric people would react this way to the Newsweek story. Really. Newsweek deserves to be punished. But are they really responsible for deaths here? I mean, if I insulted the schoolyard bully, and he stabbed me for it, is it my own fault? I might have instigated the aggression, but I’m not going to be held responsible for my own death - even if I knew about the bully’s dangerous temper.

Newsweek made an egregious error in reporting. Whether it was intentional or not, they are not the ones who went on a killing spree. It is a people incapable of rational thought that caused the death and destruction over there. It was animals who are so religiously fanatical that they believe it’s worth it to kill, maim, burn and pillage because of a story in a magazine.

Others echo this point. But it seems that everyone has missed another important aspect of the story [emphasis mine]:

Ahmed's comments came a day after Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, both allies of Washington, demanded an investigation and punishment for those behind the reported desecration of the Quran.

Investigation and punishment? In America, destroying a Koran, or a Bible, or an American flag is not illegal. I would hope that someone important explains - politely, diplomatically, and firmly - to Musharraf and others, that punishing someone for flushing a book, no matter how holy some may regard it, is something that is just not done here. And something even *less* likely to happen is our handing anyone over to some religious tribunal:

The [Shoura] council warned against hurting the feelings of the world’s1.5 billion Muslims and emphasized the importance of respecting the religious faiths and beliefs of other people to avoid conflicts. “Islam is a great religion with a large number of followers all over the world and is known for its long history and humane and just teachings,” the statement said. [...]

In Afghanistan, a group of clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States in three days unless it handed over military interrogators who are reported to have desecrated the Qur’an.

That's a "humane and just" group of clerics, I'm sure. You know, America is often accused of not understanding and respecting other cultures, but it's clear to me that others often fail to understand and respect us as well.

July 23, 2005

Root causes

I'm sure someone can explain how this is really George Bush's fault for invading Iraq.

Deadly explosions that rocked the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday may be linked to a series of bomb blasts last October in the Red Sea resort of Taba, Egypt's interior minister said.

"We are trying to find out who committed these crimes," Habib al-Adli told reporters while viewing the extensive damage at the Ghazala Garden Hotel in Naama Bay, a popular tourism area of the city on the Sinai Peninsula. "It is likely that they have some relationship to the Taba operation."

At least 59 people were killed and 111 wounded when at least three explosions early Saturday rocked Sharm el-Sheikh.

Right? Clearly, if Egypt hadn't joined with Tony Blair and Bush in Operation Iraqi Freedom, this would never have happened.

Or something like that.

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