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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I'm not so sure what impressed me initially about yesterday's quote. Anyways I remembered that Patrick West made a similar point, and a little more forcefully too:

As has been pointed out, you can describe Americans as planet-spoiling, gun-toting nutcases who are addicted to burgers and capital punishment. It's fine to write about 'Kosher Conspiracies' and Israelis being modern-day Nazis who should be shot. This is because Jews and Americans are not a threat to us.
On the other hand, some people seem terrified of pointing out some home truths about some Arab states. We mustn't upset the Muslims. They're a terribly volatile lot, you know, and if you do they'll get even angrier and start hijacking more planes. Shhh! Don't cause any trouble! Show fawning, blanket tolerance and punish anyone who threatens to rock the boat.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Via Andrew Sullivan, Virginia Postrel has this to say about Bush-hating:

When I was in New York a few weeks ago, a friend in the magazine business told me he thinks the ferocious Bush hating that he sees in New York is a way of calming the haters' fears of terrorism. It's not rational, but it's psychologically plausible--blame the cause you can control, at least indirectly through elections, rather than the threats you have no control over.

Read it in full

This is in a way one of the most important questions we are faced with these days. David Brooks makes the point that we are fighting an ideology, rather than terror:

We are facing, the report notes, a loose confederation of people who believe in a perverted stream of Islam that stretches from Ibn Taimaya to Sayyid Qutb. Terrorism is just the means they use to win converts to their cause.
It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory.
. . .
Last week, I met with a leading military officer stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose observations dovetailed remarkably with the 9/11 commissioners. He said the experience of the last few years is misleading; only 10 percent of our efforts from now on will be military. The rest will be ideological. He observed that we are in the fight against Islamic extremism now where we were in the fight against communism in 1880.
We've got a long struggle ahead, but at least we're beginning to understand it.

I was going to respond to this at length, but I noticed Michael Ledeen already has:

All of a sudden everybody's asking, "Who are we fighting anyway?" It's an interesting question, but it's not nearly as important as many of the debaters believe. The 9/11 Commission tells us we're fighting Islamists, or Islamist terrorists, and David Brooks has cooed over this, because he likes the notion that we're fighting an ideology. The White House has devoted lots of man-hours to this matter,
. . .
You see where I'm going, surely. The debate is a trap, because it diverts our attention and our energies from the main thing, which is winning the war. It's an intellectual amusement, and it gets in our way. As that great Machiavellian Vince Lombardi reminds us, winning is the only thing.
That's why the public figure who has best understood the nature of the war, and has best defined our enemy, is George W. Bush. Of all people! He had it right from the start: We have been attacked by many terrorist groups and many countries that support the terrorists. It makes no sense to distinguish between them, and so we will not. We're going after them all.
. . .
But all the terror masters are tyrants. Saddam didn't have any religious standing, nor do the Assads, but they are in the front rank of the terror masters. Ergo: Defeat the tyrants, win the war.
And then historians can study the failed ideology.

I have little to add, except caution. Unlike Ledeen I don't believe that the military defeat of terrorists and their sponsors will automatically destroy their ideology. The ideological war must be fought and won with ideological weapons. By whom, though? Not by the West, we can't do this. Muslims must do this for themselves, to find a way of reinterpreting Islam and particularly political Islam in a way that make it possible to coexistent peacefully with the West. When and how they will do this is anyone's guess, but Western meddling in the process will be counter-productive. The only thing we can do is defend ourselves against those who threaten us. To the extent that we need to wage an ideological war it is amongst ourselves, to win the hearts and minds for our battle to defend ourselves. For the West there is only a military solution to Islamofascist terror. Until the civil war within Islam comes to end we are just going to have to hold our nerves and stand firm. No alternative.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Gay marriage is an issue on which I can't make up my mind. Instinctively I'm in favour, but there's this nagging feeling that in terms of principles it may be wrong and I just haven't had the time to think it through fully. I'm concerned that saying yes will be more out of fashion than conviction, and I'm afraid I'd say no just to buck fashion rather than out of conviction. But I think my soft spot is seeing many of the gay marriages or civil unions or whatever they're called on telly and thinking they look so happy and fulfilled. Here's a piece that made a similar impression on me:
Our wedding was scheduled for a Tuesday. . . my father, my brother, one of my oldest friends, and one of our newest friends each took one of the four poles holding up the chuppah. We stood under it with both of our kids, and the rabbi explained that the canopy is our temporary home, whose walls are wobbly and need our friends and family to hold them up. I scanned the crowd of friends. At least three of them were crying.
The rabbi wrapped us in his prayer shawl and told us to close our eyes to listen to each other's breath. Pressed against my lover, thinking only of her and not of our children or the laundry or whose turn it is to get up, I felt more in love with her than ever. When I opened my eyes, I saw that now almost everyone was either crying or struggling to hold back tears.
. . .
Because we could, and also because this was the first time we made our relationship visible in such a way that other people were moved to tears. And yes, I do think that the visibility, combined with the memory of listening to my wife's breath when we were wrapped in the prayer shawl, will help hold up the walls of our home.
Am I too soft? I remember it was the same feeling that led me to endorse Gene Robinson's ascent into bishophood, despite being nervous about the damage this might to to the Church's cohesion. On the other hand good to see, that nothing bad effectively resulted from that.
All difficult, difficult, though here’s an interesting idea for compromise concerning the link between marriage and parenting.

Surprisingly funny piece by Maureen Dowd:

Last year, Ali G asked James Baker, the Bush I secretary of state, if it was wise for Iraq and Iran to have such similar names. "Isn't there a real danger," the faux rapper wondered, "that someone give a message over the radio to one of them fighter pilots, saying 'Bomb Ira-' and the geezer doesn't heard it properly" and bombs the wrong one?

"No danger," Baker replied.

Well, as it turns out, the United States did bomb the wrong Ira-.

President George W. Bush says he's now investigating Al Qaeda-Iran ties, and whether Iran helped the 9/11 hijackers.

Whoops. Right axis. Wrong evil.

You get the gist, read all of it.
And she's got a point too, even though I doubt she'd be willing to take it serious herself, namely that Iran is a problem. Won't bother posting on that at length right now, but as usual Michael
Ledeen has been sounding the alarm, Charles Krauthammer hammers his point and there's this bit of news which you can view as either chilling or promising:

Israel has completed military rehearsals for a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear power facility at Bushehr, Israeli officials told the London-based Sunday Times.
Such a strike is likely if Russia supplies Iran with fuel rods for enriching uranium. The rods, currently stored at a Russian port, are expected to be delivered late next year after a dispute over financial terms is resolved.

PS: And who says the anti-war leftoid crowd can't have sense of humour anyway? Recently Sephen Pollard linked to this amusing piece:

Large areas of the nation's capital were in ruins as violent protests continued for the third day against a bill that would revive the military draft, but only for neoconservatives.
The bill, officially called the Bellicose Resources Deployment Act but informally known as the Roast Chickenhawk Initiative, would supplement the nation's dwindling supplies of mindless belligerence by drawing on inexhaustible deposits found in seething think tanks, frothing newspaper columns, fulminating talk-radio programs, frenzied Sunday morning television and publications owned by Australians. It would then be shipped to the Middle East, where it is urgently needed.

Via Laban Tall this hilarious dissection of AL Kennedy's latest burst of hallucination. Personally I have only managed to read a single of her columns front to finish. That was the first one I ever read, shortly after I started reading the Guardian on a daily basis about two years ago. Since then I have occasionally tried to read them as a sort of test of mental toughness, but I'm simply not up to it; I never make it past the first paragraph. Her writing is filled with so much wrongness and outright nuttiness that it is quite literally painful - and to be honest I can think of better ways to get a headache.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

You'll never believe this, this has happened nowhere else:

Australia relied on "thin, ambiguous and incomplete" intelligence to go to war in Iraq, according to an inquiry.
But the independent report by Philip Flood, a diplomat and former spy master, clears Prime Minister John Howard of "politicising" intelligence.

Really? I would never have thought.
Also note how the fair and balanced BBC headlines this as "Australia's Iraq war case damned", even though the facts in the article don’t really support such a bold statement. I suppose there’s nothing like creating the "right" impression initially. Who knows, with a bit of luck the false impression will stick.

So, how does this:

20,000 posts go in defence cuts
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced large cuts in the armed forces as part of modernisation plans.

go sensibly together with this:

Blair draws up plans to send troops to Sudan
. . .
Tony Blair has asked Downing Street and Foreign Office officials to draw up plans for possible military intervention in Sudan, where more than a million refugees are at risk from famine and disease.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of intervening with all necessary measures to end the suffering. I just think it would be nice of the Government if it gave the armed forces the proper amount of resources they need to take on so many tasks.

Thank’s to Harry’s place for the link, here’s the test and here are my results:

1. John Stuart Mill (100%)
2. Kant (96%)
3. Jean-Paul Sartre (90%)
4. Prescriptivism (88%)
5. Epicureans (82%)
6. Jeremy Bentham (81%)
7. Ayn Rand (67%)
8. St. Augustine (61%)
9. Spinoza (52%)
10. Aquinas (50%)
11. Plato (48%)
12. Aristotle (45%)
13. David Hume (31%)
14. Nel Noddings (31%)
15. Thomas Hobbes (31%)
16. Nietzsche (29%)
17. Ockham (28%)
18. Stoics (24%)
19. Cynics (14%)

I’m a bit surprised at seeing Sartre so high up, and I would have suspected that Kant and Mill would be in the other’s place.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Godfrey Bloom, UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, is a member of the European Parliament's committee for women. He looks set to shake the place up a bit:

I want to deal with women's issues, because I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough.

Err. . .

This comes from Omar at Iraq the Model:

You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should’ve not been done because it’s illegal. This is almost an insult to Iraqis to hear someone saying that this war was illegal. It means that our suffering for decades meant nothing and that formalities and the stupid rules of the UN (that rarely function) are more important than the lives of 25 million people.

Update: Tim Blair obviously shares my taste.

Stephen Pollard is getting some critical comments in this post in which he endorsingly links to this highly questionable piece, by Will Cummins, in the Sunday Torygraph:

Meanwhile, among the majority of the UK population which is not Muslim, support for the odious BNP continues to grow. Thursday's programme, in disseminating its shrewd - and recent - anti-Muslim focus, will simply recruit more of us.
. . .
The Conservative Party should stop playing the Muslim Block Vote's game of divide and conquer. As the by-elections show, the party will only ever gain a small number of Muslim supporters. Breaking with the Umma would be a radical move that millions of voters would respond to. Do the Tories not sense the enormous popular groundswell against Islam?
. . .
But unlike the "Nazi-Soviet Pact" that the feminist, pro-gay Left has forged with Britain's Muslims, a Tory platform hostile to Islam would be neither incongruous nor immoral. An anti-Islam Conservative Party would destroy the BNP as quickly as Margaret Thatcher despatched the National Front in 1979 when she warned that, unless immigration was curbed, Britain would be "swamped" by "an alien culture". Infinitely more is at stake now.

Yukk. (What exactly is the "pro-gay left"?) And Pollard thinks this worth quoting and linking to? Yes, the author, a Will Cummins, probably just about treads the fine line and doesn't cross into direct bigotry, but he comes pretty damn close, and certainly close enough be shunned for his unnecessary exercise of freedom of speech. What was Stephen Pollard thinking?

Who is this Will Cummins fellow anyway? I've never heard of him before. He had a column in the Sunday Telegraph last week and the week before, which run in a similar vein. (He makes a few very spot-on comments on Rowan Williams though.)

Mind you, I suppose that's all pretty mild by the standards of Polly Toynbee's beloved Scandinavia:

Right-wing politicians want to ban Islam
. . .
It is about high time Norway and Europe make the ideology Islam and the practice of this, illegal and punishable in the same way as Nazism

Interesting and quite ambiguous comparison, no? But I digress.

The problem of Islamophobia is unavoidable when writing about such a subject in a strident and polemical nature. The descent into stereotyping and other ugliness is a logical result because the writer has to simplify, a problem I certainly have with Mark Steyn's writings too. Superficially this looks like I've just made an excuse for such bigoted journalism. I haven't. As I've said, it's unavoidable if you write polemically on the subject, so the logical consequence must be simple: don't write polemics about it.

Interestingly enough, next to Cummins' piece there is this by Jenny McCartney:

Mosley had the Jew and today Griffin has the Muslim
. . .
What is deeply disturbing is the leakage of these insidious views beyond the sealed circle of far-Right activists. Quasi-respectable thinkers are now apt to spout a garbled combination of Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilisations, carefully selected and interpreted quotations from the Koran, and assorted chunks of simplified history to "prove" that Muslims are an inherently warlike, intolerant people.
. . .
The British should indeed be alert to threats to our civilisation, so long as that civilisation remains representative of fairness and tolerance. On present evidence, the greatest threat to our civilisation - the true "enemy within" - comes, not from British Muslims, but from the far-Right and its culpable band of fellow-travellers.

Make of that juxtaposition what you will.
Whatever, Stephen Pollard is intelligent enough to know better than endorse such questionable writing.
As for the Tories, yes, they shouldn't be pandering to the "Muslim vote", just as little as they should be pandering to the "Hindu vote", the "gay vote" or the "tall people vote" or whatever. Toryism should certainly not be about any kind of identity politics.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

ABSOLUTE MUST-READ ON BUTLER-REPORT BY DAVID AARONOVITCHIn a way I think it's almost superfluous to link to Aaronovitch's pieces because he is easily one of the best commentary journalists in the Britain and if you don't read him regularly yet: why not? You have to read all of his piece in today's Observer, but I'll leave with this quote anyway and the evermore odious Douglas Hurd:
After Rwanda and Bosnia, however, there were no Huttons, no Butlers to scrutinise such massive foreign policy failures, and no one suggested that Hurd should visit the graves of those who died as a consequence of his studied inaction. Which is just as well, because there are too many of them.


Caroline Glick has a column dealing with the media aspect of Western forces battling their terrorist enemies in the Middle East. Here's the money-shotted version:
The fact that Hamas and Hizbullah cohabit a building used by media organizations and hide their operations behind journalistic cover is nothing new. It is standard fare for terrorists, both in the Palestinian population centers and in Iraq, to disguise themselves as journalists and to use journalistic cover to travel freely.
. . .
In Iraq there have been several instances of reporters arriving at the scene of terror attacks against coalition forces before the attacks take place. They have admitted that they were tipped off by the terrorists in order to enable them to take real time footage of dying Americans.
. . .
A Washington Post article about the US Army's fight against the Sadr army in southern Iraq this past spring includes a revealing line. In a fight in Najaf, US forces fought terrorists in a pitched battle that lasted six hours in order to prevent the enemy from taking hold of a burning Humvee. As one of the officers put it, "We weren't going to let them dance on it for the news. Even with all the guys they lost that day, that still would have given them a victory."
All the above vignettes point to the fact that the ability to harness the media and to control the images of the war is one of the chief components of the terrorist war doctrine. The enemy hides behind press credentials in order to gain operational cover. It stage-manages terrorist theater by giving "scoops" of attacks to fellow travelers with cameras, tape recorders and notepads. It reenacts battlefield defeats as victories before the cameras. It uses its video footage of its own atrocities to both frighten its foes and encourage its sympathizers.
. . .
From all of this it is clear that one of the greatest challenges to democracies in fighting and winning the war is finding adequate answers to the question of how to conduct an informational warfare campaign that is integrally linked to the battlefield and diplomatic aspects of the war.
. . .
To solve this problem, a policy must be adopted of never providing the terrorists with the moral high ground. On a strategic level, this requires never accepting blame for anything until all the facts have been unearthed.
. . .
On a tactical level, it means that democratic armies must integrate the informational warfare component into all their operational plans. This may involve becoming more flexible about exposing intelligence information. This may involve bringing army photographers with troops in every operation in order to take control of the visual image emanating from battle scenes.
. . .
Getting the story out is now of equal if not greater importance than defeating enemy forces in any particular engagement. Because without the story, the battlefield victory will eventually become a strategic defeat.
Glick is quite right in these respects, though I have to add that some of her recommendations in dealing with the press higher up the command chain are less convincing and would certainly be problematic in terms of liberty. Leaving that aside the whole thing stinks of course from a soldier's point of view. It no longer good enough to defeat your enemy, you also have to be a competent public relations expert. To add to this you have some of your countrymen making an extra quid or two by linking up with terrorist so they can provide live footage of you being killed and maimed. Trying to end this on a positive note, this shows how skilful Western militaries have become that the only chance our enemies have is to provide the right pictures. Not much of a consolation though.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

US energy secretary Spencer Abraham has this piece in the WaPo on how to Stop Nuclear Terror:

While the United States and Russia work to dismantle nuclear arsenals, terrorists and rogue states are seeking to obtain materials -- from former Cold War armaments and other sources -- to make nuclear weapons and "dirty bombs."
Securing this nuclear and radiological material is a top priority for the United States, Russia and many other nations. While much of it is concentrated in the former Soviet states, it is also found in other countries around the world. It constitutes a formidable threat if it falls into the wrong hands.
. . .
With all these initiatives and other efforts across the government, President Bush is pursuing the most aggressive nonproliferation effort in history. Four years ago there was no comprehensive international effort to address radiological dispersal devices. Today there is. Four years ago there was no program to place radiation detection equipment at the world's major shipping ports. Today there is. Four years ago, there was no formal agreement to return Russian-origin spent high-enriched uranium reactor fuel to Russia. Today there is. Most important: Four years ago there was no G-8 global partnership with $20 billion in commitments for nonproliferation. But today, those programs are in place.
Securing nuclear and radiological materials is one of our highest priorities and greatest responsibilities in the battle against terror. The United States will continue to intensify its efforts to keep a legacy of the Cold War from becoming a tool of the enemies of freedom.

This is all well and nice, but somehow I can't help but feel that this is all official-talk. Is really so much being done? Is it that effective? One problem Abraham makes is that he keeps talking about terror all the time, without arguing that counter-proliferation is a wider security issue. While the possibility of nuclear weapon materials falling into the hands of terrorists is a worst-case scenario we have to shield ourselves from. However the threat from ever more states -not just rogue states- must not be forgotten. The presence of such weapons would make any armed conflict far more deadly and destructive. Also it would necessitate more outside intervention in conflicts where leaving the rivals to sort things out might be the better option. In any case proliferation sucks us out into the world to deal with intractable political problems we could otherwise have avoided and that before proliferation wouldn't have mattered.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The burger bar on the ground floor of my house has a sign outside advertising something called "Lilly the Cat Cheese Burger". Notice no further punctuation. So what does this mean? Does it mean ""Lilly the Cat" Cheese Burger" or does it mean "Lilly, the Cat Cheese Burger"? If it's the latter, what is cat cheese, or is it a cat burger with cheese on it? It boggles the mind. Perhaps I should find out.

I've pointed before Europe's increasing desire to cozy up to China in regards to arms technology, all with the purpose of sticking their tongues out at America. Paris and Berlin are both now pushing to lift the arms embargo against China completely, and so steering into confrontation with the US:
The immediate dispute is over a French-German proposal, fiercely opposed by Washington, to lift the European Union ban on arms sales to China imposed after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. But the broader and equally controversial background to the Franco-German initiative is the EU's drive to forge a strategic relationship with China, independently from Europe's links to the United States.
. . .
Washington rightly argues that lifting the embargo would send the wrong political signal by endorsing Beijing's unsatisfactory human rights record, on which it has recently been backsliding. And while EU arms exporters might still not win major contracts, they could certainly provide advanced technology that would substantially increase China's firepower - much of which is aimed at Taiwan and intended to deter the United States from intervening in any conflict over the island.
Washington is understandably horrified at the thought of its forces coming under fire, or even the threat of fire, from weapons that North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies had helped to produce. New European technology transfers would also heighten the risk of arms proliferation and threaten an uncontrolled free-for-all in which Russia abandoned current restraints on its arms sales to Beijing and U.S. defense industries demanded their share of the action.
Besides the obvious problems the EU would be creating, all this would further heat up the process of proliferation in a region already on an arms buying binge. Unfortunately this is all just too typical of the EU's irresponsible behaviour in foreign policy.
Not to be forgotten will of course be the implications for our own security:
But the Atlantic alliance will once again be severely strained if an out-of-its-depth Europe kowtows to China's demands to win favor in Beijing. Legislation is already making its way through the U.S. Congress restricting transfers of U.S. military technology to European countries selling arms to China and banning Pentagon purchases from European companies that do so.
If Britain doesn't block these EU moves, we will have lost all access to US military technology and research, and in all likelihood causing a major blow to our defence industry.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Some would say you couldn't make it up:
The Commission for Racial Equality, the UK's main race watchdog, is investigating whether its recruitment and promotion policies are racist.
Oh dear.

Found via Silent Running on lgf, a site I don't wish to comment on here right now, but I think this poster makes a good point:
here's an interesting idea... If the palestinians problem is REALLY with the wall... why don't they use the explosives they quite obviously have to blow it up? I mean, acts like that have always been more effective at getting the point across than getting stopped at a checkpoint and blowing yourself, and maybe one or two border guards, up...
If the problem is with the wall, and not the innocent Israeli kids, teens, and adults, blow up the wall. . .

It took a little longer than it should for the US government to recognize the CIRA as the terrorists that they are but now they have:
The US State Department has added the Continuity IRA to its list of foreign terrorist organisations. . . . It will be illegal for anyone in the US or under US jurisdiction to provide material support
Next thing you know they'll be de-funding Noraid. But then you do start to wonder why the US is doing this. Because one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, read on:
The dissident republican groups are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and the current political process and continue to launch attacks on the security forces in Northern Ireland.
The Continuity IRA has been responsible for bomb attacks across Northern Ireland.
. . .
There are two main dissident republican factions, the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA.
"Dissidents"? You mean like Vaclav Havel, Mahatma Gandhi or that man who blocked the tanks in Tianamen Square. Of course only typical of the evil Americans and their British lapdogs to call such people terrorists. Actually, perhaps in this case that should read: the evil British and their American lapdogs.
Of course US foreign ministry's action is highly necessary, because as I've pointed out before the IRA is still a potentially real problem and is also connected with the wider global terrorism networks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Great headline, and in the Torygraph to boot. It makes the basic point that abstinence campaigns for teenagers aren't going to work for rather obvious reasons; I can only concur.

In light of this:
Fahrenheit 9/11, director Michael Moore's unflinching satire on George Bush's administration and the American right, has broken box office records in the UK.

I can't help but quote this:
What's disturbing about Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 is not their anti-American views. To be anti-American is Moore's right; and in an era of media homogenization, to expose audiences to radical opinions about the country is not such a bad thing. When James Madison was drafting the First Amendment, what he had in mind was the protection of views of those at odds with their own nation; and protection of unpopular or outrageous views, since they would be the ones most likely to trigger the censor. No one has done anything remotely like censoring Moore, whose work now appears in shopping malls, backed by big-corporate money. Madison would approve--of the exercise of freedom, at least.

What's disturbing about Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 is that both are classic propaganda. Events are shown out of order, suggesting conspiracy by confusing audiences about the sequence of events; events are shown out of context, edited to create an appearance differing from actual events; scenes of horror are intermixed with scenes of normalcy, suggesting all is horror; viewers are given no way of knowing what is fact, what is opinion, and what is made up.

By the way, did you know that James Madison once attended a secret meeting? Did you know that George W. Bush has quoted James Madison, and that the indexes of several books contain both the names Bush and Osama bin Laden, and that Saudi sources have awarded billions of dollars in contracts, and that Saudi financial dealings have been the subject of investigations, and that a subsidiary of a company a Bush family member once held stock in did business with another company that had an office in Saudi Arabia, and that George W. Bush has never denied these links between him, billions of dollars of Saudi payments, and secret meetings with James Madison? That's a sample of the kind of thinking in Fahrenheit 9/11.
I don't think I'm going to bother seeing it, I've heard all the conspiracies and all the more serious criticisms of the Bush before and I certainly don't need them when I go to the cinema. But think about what animates those who do go, knowing exactly what they'll be getting, knowing exactly that they won't be challenged the least in their world view? Something I was just musing about the other day . . .

MORE NON-REVELATIONS ON IRAQI WMDS. TODAY: ROBIN COOK CONFIRMS WMD-CASE while insisting it was illegal, immoral, unwise, blah blah blah. Well, well, the angry redheaded Robbin returns. In fact he's cooled down a little and this article of his in the Groan is an instructive read. While it is presented as another one of those pieces that claim to expose the faulty nature of the Iraqi wmd-argument, it actually does nothing of the sort, even though Cook doesn't notice so himself. There's a lot of non-sense about what a great idea the containment was and more assorted stuffings that I can't be bothered to look into. But here is Cook and the main point, i.e. the weapons for mass destruction:
My briefing took place in February at my residence at Carlton Gardens, where I was visited by John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. We spoke for almost an hour and - as always - I found him professional, dispassionate and frank in his replies. When I put to him my conclusion that Saddam had no long-range weapons of mass destruction but may have battlefield chemical weapons, he readily agreed.
When I asked him why we believed Saddam would not use these weapons against our troops on the battlefields, he surprised me by claiming that, in order to evade detection by the UN inspectors, Saddam had taken apart the shells and dispersed them -with the result that it would be difficult to deploy them under attack. Not only did Saddam have no weapons of mass destruction in the real meaning of that phrase, neither did he have usable battlefield weapons.
But what this proves, dear Robin, is the exact opposite of what you claim. Intelligence thought Saddam had weapons, but that they weren't in a condition to be put into effective battlefield use. A conclusion any reasonable oberserver, including myself (ok, perhaps I wasn't always reasonable), concluded from the Blixing around in Iraq between October 2002 and March 2003. In fact this underlines why the invasion was timed correctly. If Bush and Blair had sent our forces into an Iraqi battlefield in the certain conviction that chemical and biological weapons would be used, they should have been certified criminally insane and kicked from office for starters. The whole point was that we would remove Saddam while he only had wmd programmes and ready-to-build kits of weapons, before we had to fight him when his weaponry was ready. I'm sure an argument could be mounted against that point, though I can't see what it would be.
As for the wmds, as far as we can tell (see my postings here,here and here), John Scarlett was right. Whether the CIA was right, despite the recent heavy criticism, I can't say, as I didn't really follow the mechanics of the American end of this whole endeavour.
Whatever, toppling Saddam was just and necessary, and the finer arguments over whether Blair lied, mislead or was disinterested in the precise details of Iraqi weaponry, changes nothing. This is an entirely domestic issue about the credibility and effectiveness of Tony Blair's Government, a point on which he has already as good as lost.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

On the one hand:
Arab nations have called on the UN to take action to ensure Israel's West Bank barrier is torn down.
. . .
It said the barrier infringes the Palestinians' access to schools, hospitals and work and said Israel should pay compensation to those affected.
On the other hand:
Tel Aviv hit by rush hour blast
One person has been killed and 21 wounded - five critically - by a bomb in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
Police said the device, containing metal bolts, exploded near a bus stop.
Well, I'm sure Israel's security barrier is a nuisance for many Palestinians, but compare difficult access to schools etc. to being blown to bits by glas splinters and razor blades. Some priority the "world community" has set itself. Meryl has some details on the tranzis' concern about the mass murder of Israeli citizens.
Perhaps we could hand over global security, the war on terror and the fight against proliferation and tyranny over to the UN/ICJ/EU/etc. I'm sure the world we be a better place. Right?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Anyways the other day I had a little time on my hands so I wondered into a big bookshop in Berlin. Lacking any other serious interests I lounged over to the politics shelves. It was a scene truly worthy of a parody. Three full shelves of George Bush's not always attractive visage glancing back at me. The titles? Every conceivable variation of "Bush lies", "America is evil", "Bush is corrupt", "USA: rogue state", "George Bush eats babies", well you get my drift. I honestly started wondering, whether there really is a market for so much of this Moore-Chomskyite-stuff. I mean a handful of anti-Bush and anti-America books, I can get that, I've even read some of them, even though they haven't made much of an impression on me, have they. But such an endless avalanche of such works? It boggles the mind. There was a single pro-American book to be found, Robert Kagan's updated "Power and Weakness". You really had to be there to get the whole image and atmosphere; I just stood there suppressing a giggle. Anti-Bush/anti-Americanism today occupies a place in the German book buyers' mind that religion used to in medieval times. This is how I imagine the displays of party-line books looked in the former Communist East. Of course, don't forget, it is America under Bush and post-9/11 that is a country of "hidden censorship" in which only one opinion is permitted. Good to see that's not the case in Germany, errm, as David the Medienkritiker reminds us.

I did try to post this yesterday, but my internet connection's been gone until now, so apologies, but it's still an important point, that John Keegan raised in yesterday's Telegraph:
Why, then, does the Government contemplate - apparently so blithely - reducing yet further the number of regiments, the only really efficient instruments of power that it controls?
. . .
These are dangerous times, all the more so since the threat to national security is diffuse and inchoate. (. . .) In such circumstances, the preservation of our oldest and most reliable instruments of defence is essential. Tiny organisations such as the Royal Scots - Britain's oldest regiment, older than the Bank of England or most of our universities, only 500 strong but extraordinarily adaptable and worth whole armies of terrorists - should be recognised as national treasures. Once disbanded or even amalgamated, they cannot be recreated.
The Chancellor, arrogantly refusing to understand defence, will not be forgiven if, in the crisis that is certainly coming, his penny-pinching deprives the British of the protection of such regiments. They are the real communities - of patriotism, of commitment and of efficiency - that the Prime Minister says he so much admires.
Perhaps Mr Plastic Gangster can correct me here and there's some reason the non-expert defence observer myself doesn't know, but wouldn't it be simply wiser to maintain all regiments on a company-only level, rather than insisting on battalion-size units and then abolish or amalgamate historic regiments? I admit "A company, the Royal Scots" sounds slightly less impressive than "1st battalion, the Royal Scots", but really so much more, that the regiment itself would otherwise face the axe. I don't want to see the Army cut down any more than it is already, but I'd rather we changed the size of our historic regiments than abolish them in the futile battle against Gordon Brown's ego.
The only doubt to this policy that I have is the question, whether the ethos and the effectiveness of infantry units can be maintained if their regimental no longer is a manoeuvre unit, but instead their manoeuvre units are co-operatives of different regiments, and perhaps even different arms branches. On the other hand, if armour and mechanized infantry units permanently trained and lived together wouldn't that perhaps increase their inter-operational abilities?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Beeb reports that a fair amount of radioactive materials have been moved out or Iraq:
The US has revealed that it removed more than 1.7 metric tons of radioactive material from Iraq in a secret operation last month.
"This operation was a major achievement," said US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in a statement.
He said it would keep "potentially dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists".
Along with 1.77 tons of enriched uranium, about 1,000 "highly radioactive sources" were also removed.
The material was taken from a former nuclear research facility on 23 June, after being packaged by 20 experts from the US Energy Department's secret laboratories.
. . .
Bryan Wilkes said much of the material was "in powdered form, which is easily dispersed".
I wrote about the leakage of wmd materials out of Iraq a short while ago. I'm pleased to see that something is being done, but I can't imagine this is half as much as we really need to be doing. It remains that this is the one issue over which I could change my mind over invading Iraq: if wmd materials get out that Saddam had under locks, and those materials are then used for a terrorist attack. Note to the Coalition: more effort here, please.

Well, it's not quite another Rwanda, in the sense that they don't have any military advisors sitting amongst the genocide's plotters and executioners (coincidentally not unlike the German Kaiser's army during Ottoman Turkey's genocide against the Armenians), but this is still shameful for France:
France says it does not support US plans for international sanctions on Sudan if violence continues in Darfur.
Hang in there Mr Timmyhawk, I hear you say: Haven't you always argued against sanctions, such as Cuba or Iraq? Yes, though normally I advocated a military invasion as alternative, which was not always popular with the anti-sanctions crowd. My point of criticism against France here is that France is opposed to sanctions not because they are ineffective or counterproductive, but because the French government doesn't think there is anything to make a fuss about. Can't really help you there if you don't see it. I suppose we should just wait until Sudan's blacks have all been murdered and deported, because only then can we prove beyond doubt that the problem is serious enough to warrant and legitimate action. By then it will be too late to do anything. Clever Chirac, that way you needn't worry about such abusive regimes. I feel his deputy foreign minister is being a bit too flippant:
Mr Muselier also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur.
"I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said.
"Oh well never mind, shit happens" seems to be the message here. Thank God France is leading the EU to be a counter weight to the evil US, spreading the message of superior morals and love of peace, or whatever it is called.
Why, however, would the US be doing this? Well the BBS can help us here with its thoughtful and unpredictable analysis:
France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq, and as in Iraq the US also has significant oil interests in Sudan.
Aha! The oil grabbers caught red handed again. Thankfully France doesn't have any oil interests in Sudan, like France had no oil interests in Iraq, like those exclusive drilling rights the Brits and Yanks were being denied by Saddam for "political reasons". No, oil would never be a factor in French foreign policy.
To be clear, I'm not attacking France for pursuing her interests, not even for wrapping itself in a mantle of morality -we all do that after all-, what I'm annoyed by is that vast parts of the media, students and public opinion have been taken in by it.
At the end the question is, is anybody talking tough?
Meanwhile, African leaders have urged Khartoum to stop bombing Darfur and say their proposed 300-strong force will have a mandate to protect civilians.
God bless 'em, even if it doesn't do much good.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Thanks to Peter Briffa for the link; I would normally avoid the Mirror at all costs, but this piece that shows how we would live if we followed all the Government's living advice is a fun read. To be fair, most of the advise given is quite sensible and most of it common sense really, which makes me wonder whether we need the Government telling us, but that's another matter for a another post.

If yesterday's posting wasn't depressing enough for you, I'm carrying the theme on today. (Thanks to Mick Hartley for the links on Sudan.) In the Lebanese Daily Star there's this report:
With the Hussein plan, if it is implemented, the government of Sudan would complete its redrawing of the ethnic map of Darfur. African farmers burned out of the countryside by the army and the Janjaweed would be herded into unnatural concentrations where they would exist as a slave underclass under permanent threat of arms. Reports from inside Darfur already indicate that Arabs from Sudan and neighboring countries are being moved into areas that have been emptied of their original, African inhabitants.
In the week in which another Hussein - Saddam Hussein - was accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Hussein's plan for Darfur cannot but bring to mind elements of Saddam's Anfal campaign against Iraqi Kurds in 1987-88.
In a different place in Africa more of this goes on too:
Minority Rights Group International say they have gathered evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape.
. . .
One witness they spoke to survived the late night massacre of an entire village. He said that everyone was shot and hacked to death and the huts were burnt.
"This level of quite horrific violence which has been perpetrated against the pygmies is part, or was part, of a campaign aimed at exterminating them," he said.
He identified the rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is part of the transitional government and still controls much of the north, and their allies, as being behind much of the violence against the pygmies.
It seems unlikely that anything will really happen in either case, as Mick Hartley quotes the Wall Street Journal on Sudan:
The real problem, as everyone knows but no one will admit, is Sudan's murderous regime. But Mr. Annan and company can't abide regime change, and in any case the U.S. military is too preoccupied to make that happen.
Like so often in history the most promising action to end the crimes - a Western military intervention - will probably not happen. The best-known case of this is of course the failure by the Allies to bomb the railroads to Auschwitz. This week the most serious proposal to do so has its sixtieth anniversary:
Thanks in part to Akzin's persistence, the WRB continued to press the War Department on the bombing issue in the months to follow. But each time Pehle presented a bombing request, it was rejected on the grounds that the department had already conducted a "study" and found that it was not militarily feasible. That claim was false. No such study had been done.
. . .
This policy was in accord with the policies of president Roosevelt and his State Department, who feared that saving Jews would create pressure to bring them to the United States. One internal State Department official specifically warned against the "danger" that the Nazis "might agree to turn over to the United States and to Great Britain a large number of Jewish refugees."
Ironically, beginning in August 1944, US bombers repeatedly bombed German synthetic oil factories in the Auschwitz complex, including some that were less than five miles from the gas chambers. Dropping a few bombs on the mass-murder machinery was certainly militarily feasible, but the Roosevelt administration considered it politically undesirable.
Today such missions have become ever more militarily possible, lowering the risk to our servicemen and the likelihood of accidental civilian deaths immeasurably. They should also have become politically more possible.

Another thing that this brings up, is something that annoyed me today in class, when one of my "colleagues" argued against humanitarian interventions on the grounds that the evidence for the crimes were flimsy, referring to the Racak massacre in Kosovo, of which he says it wasn't actually a massacre. I'm not up to date on that specific case, so he may be correct, but it's irrelevant in the bigger picture. This is a point I made in one of my earliest blog postings, namely that when in doubt intervene militarily:
. . . evidence and arguments are always ambiguous. A quick glance through 20th century history shows that this was the case for example for the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and and the rampage in Rwanda. In all these cases there was evidence that proved to the outside world what was really going on, but there was also a lot of unclear and contradictory information. In historical hindsight of course we can clearly see that those who warned of grave crimes were right and those who denied or downplayed them were wrong. In Kosovo and perhaps Iraq, hindsight suggests we were wrong. To those who disagree I say, just imagine Milosevic really was about to unleash a fullly fledged genocide upon the Albanians and we just stood aside and did nothing. . . . Given the stakes though, it is clearly more prudent to intervene in such unclear cases.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I've been a little slack in reading tnr.com lately so thanks to Matt of blogrel for the link to this classic piece from the June 29th, 1921 edition of the New Republic. In it Aghavnie Yeghenian reflects on living under the shadow of genocide in a United States that seems blissfully unaware, the difficulty of dealing with normal life and comprehending the behaviour, not so much of the perpetrators, but of the passive bystanders. It is a brilliantly painful piece, even though it deals more with the author's feelings than the 1915 genocide and the events surrounding the post-WW 1 re-ordering of Europe and the greater Middle East. In it is the sorrowful feeling of abandonment, that I remember only too clearly from victims of the Bosnia war in the early 1990s:
What has happened to the people who look out at the Armenian sea of suffering? They are incomprehensibly unresponsive. They seem almost motionless. We detect, however, a slight movement. It seems to spring from an emotion like that described in a cartoon published in a well-known American magazine, showing the gaunt figure of Armenia disturbing the peace of a fat congressman, who, handkerchief to his eyes, exclaims, "Get out. You are breaking my heart." Yes, there almost seems to be a slight movement, a turning of the back to avoid a harrowing picture.
Read all of it.
I am aware that Turkey denies that all this happened, or that it was genocide, or that the numbers are accurate etc. I'll accept that viewed back from history it is an issue far less black and white than the Holocaust, but the problem with that comparison is that every single other occurrence of genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass killings is less clear than the Nazis' crimes. In fact the Holocaust has been a bit of a double-edged sword in regards to our sensitivity about such issues (I'll post on that at length and separately). I think it's sufficient to say for now that the Armenian genocide took place and that it was genocide. As for the Turkish and Turkophile claims to the contrary, they are not all as ludicrous as those of Holocaust deniers, but I'll deal with this issue in a lengthy and separate post.
What should we learn though for today? How to intervene properly against such crimes is something that has been a personal interest of mine since childhood, and John Kampfner has some stimulating thoughts on it. (Again, an issue I'll deal with in a "lengthy and separate" posting.) Now, the reason for the title of my posting becomes apparent when you look beneath the closing words of Aghavnie Yeghenian article, where there is this link:
March 2003, days before the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein, President Bush went on the radio to declare, "We have seen far too many instances in the past decade--from Bosnia to Rwanda to Kosovo--where the failure of the Security Council to act decisively has led to tragedy." But behind his statement lay a bitter irony. Because, even as the United States was resolving never again to stand by and allow genocide in Iraq, it was standing by and allowing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Over the past year, as the national security rationale for the Iraq war has deteriorated, the Bush administration has turned increasingly to moral language to justify its invasion. Which makes it all the more remarkable that it has remained so passive in the face of the greatest moral emergency on earth today.
History's cruel lesson there in its full starkness, if we want to heed it. But will we?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

A point that some commentators made about the Abu Ghraib scandal, was that it was in no way comparable to thing done by either Saddam's regime or terrorists. I find she is always good on clearing away some intellectual fog on many issues and on this topicCathy Young makes some sense:
It's entirely possible, even likely, that some in the media are exploiting the Abu Ghraib scandal to bash the Bush administration and discredit the war effort. But there are legitimate reasons for the continuing coverage as well.
First, the prison abuse scandal and the larger issue of the possible use of torture by the US military are the focus of a continuing investigation that surely merits reporting.
Second, the conduct of American troops and of the US government should be of special concern to Americans. I would even say that we have cause for some double standards: That is, we should hold ourselves and our soldiers to higher standards than the terrorists, or dictators and their henchmen. In that sense, perhaps the image of a grinning US servicewoman dragging a naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash should shock us more than an image of Saddam's thugs chopping off a man's hand-because that servicewoman represents us, and because we expect better from her. We don't expect any better from Saddam's thugs.
. . .
Let's leave aside for now the issue of whether it's morally permissible to torture a terrorist to obtain information that may save thousands of lives. Most of the maltreated prisoners, it seems clear, were either wrongly detained innocents or petty criminals with no connection to terrorism.
Yes, there is rank hypocrisy in the way this scandal is being exploited by anti-American propagandists worldwide-by Arab regimes that routinely practice torture, and by European progressives who have little to say about, for instance, Russian atrocities in Chechnya. But there is nothing wrong with the American media holding the US government and military accountable. That is one of the basic functions of the press in a democracy.
This is fine I think as far as it goes, as a moral issue, and that is what it is. The problem changes however when it shifts to the legal, and a lot of the people who are complaining so loudly about Abu Ghraib are the types who want to weigh us down with more international treaty and UN law etc. Legal norms work only because they are applicable to everyone in absolutely equal measure. At spiked David Chandler gives some examples of how, for better and for worse, politics distort the working of the ICC:
In fact, the debate over the USA's relation to the ICC has clouded the discussion over the 'justice' dispensed by the court, which was never actually designed to prosecute the service personnel of the major Western powers. As chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo says, the ICC's independence from the major Western powers is severely limited by the fact that, unlike a national prosecution service, 'we have no government, no police' (3). When the ICC is reliant on the good will and resources of Western governments, there is little possibility that it can dispense 'international justice'.. . . The investigation in the Congo has little to do with 'international justice' and more to do with face-saving on the part of the ICC. The court has managed to pressurise the Congolese government to cooperate in a limited investigation, which will essentially strengthen Kabila's hand against the former rebel forces in the preparations for next year's elections.
And ultimately that is why international law, as far as it exists is often so useless. In principle I think we need some sort of proper binding framework for these things, as Phillip Bobbitt has argued well, but there's is only any point in them if they actually work. If they don't work we're better off without them.

The news that confirms that the kidnapping of eight of our servicemen by Iran was in fact the act of piracy and effectively an act of aggressive war that some had suspected it to be, only draws more attention to the fact that a confrontation with the regime there is probably unavoidable. The debate about this centres on Iraq of course. Michael Ledeen returns to this, arguably his favourite theme, in this NRO posting:

As you see, the Iranians are frantically increasing their efforts to drive Coalition forces out of Iraq, to wreck the Iraqi economy - and especially to inflate oil prices, which the mullahs hope will bring down the Bush presidency - and to destabilize the fragile Karzai government in Afghanistan.
. . .
And, of course, there is the question of the Iranians' crash program to produce atomic bombs. It seems that no quantity of evidence, and no number of lies from Tehran, will convince France, Germany, and Great Britain to take any serious steps toward preventing this great catastrophe. Even our own leaders - by far the most aggressive in the so-called Western world - are only calling for stricter inspections and possibly a few additional sanctions, measures that would not seriously cripple the Iranian atomic project. But such proposals are indigestible to the feckless Europeans.
. . .
Western intelligence agencies are playing along. Just a year ago, our own experts along with those in Europe and Israel, were warning that Iran might conceivably produce an atomic bomb in three to four years, and possibly even less. I was warned by Iranians I respected that the ayatollahs had demanded a bomb by the end of last year, but that was clearly wrong. Now I am being told that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been promised success within a few months. Meanwhile, Western agencies have become more optimistic. They are now saying that Iran can't produce nuclear weapons until - at the worst - the end of the decade.
Well, I'm not some sort of blood-thirsty, jingoistic warmonger, but I think that the courtesy Britain has been given Iran of late is going a bit far. That they actually had the nerve to kidnap eight of our servicemen when tensions are already so high is close to unbelievable. Actually unbelievable is the lame reaction from Blair so far. Unfortunately this confirms what many a cynic has said about the PM, that he is bold and courageous and all that when he is cruisin' with the Bush, but when he's on his own he jsut a Eurowheenie like the rest of 'em. Perhaps an unfair way of portaying him, but he is providing undue amounts of ammunition.
Anyways, what Ledeen' anylsis reminds us of, is the ultimate futility of trying to stabilise Afghanistan while the mullahs do their work from Iran. As long as the external reasons for the instable situation in Afghanistan remain, there is little point in sendig more NATO-troops there. In any case, we don't have the number of forces needed for the job anyway. Just like Iraq, the necessary troop levels would be somewhere between three hundred thousand and a half million. We can't even muster enough forces for Iraq.

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