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March 31, 2005

Terri Passes

The news has just reported that Terri Schaivo has died. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family, and that includes her husband.

At this point I urge those of us who wanted to keep Terri alive to temper our words and actions. As I wrote a few days ago, it is important that we not disgrace ourselves by engaging in over-the-top behavior.

Let us use the coming weeks and months to examine the system that caused her death, and the attitudes, morals, and ethics that made it possible. We should try to discover where we are headed as a nation, and whether it is in the right direction.

Posted by Tom at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Another Plus for John Bolton

Another reason why John Bolton should be our new ambassador to the United Nations are the reasons given for opposing him. Yesterday fifty-eight ex-diplomats sent a letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which they urged Congress to reject his nomination. The diplomats came from both Republican and Democrat administrations, which tells us all we need to know about why we're in our current situation.

Their criticism dwelled primarily on Bolton's stand on issues as the State Department's senior arms control official. They said he had an "exceptional record'' of opposing U.S. efforts to improve national security through arms control.
I'm not sure exactly what this refers to, but I'll tell you that in my opinion pursuing arms control misses the point. The reason why there are conflicts is due to opposing ideologies and ways of thinking, which are brought to the forefront by totalitarian and dicatatorial regimes. The best way to improve national security is to spread democracy. Now, that said, certainly preventing the spread of some weapons is beneficial. But simple pursuit of arms control does not necessarily enhance our national security.

But the former diplomats also chided Bolton for his "insistence that the U.N. is valuable only when it directly serves the United States.''

That view, they said, would not help him negotiate with other diplomats at the United Nations.
Well, good. I don't want him to "negotiate", I want him to clean up the place. The old go-along-get-along-don't-ruffle-feathers attitude is what got us into this situation in the first place. Enough of the old way. We're going from Andrew Young to Jeanne Kirkpatrick here. And just as the left screamed bloody murder when Kirkpatrick went to the UN and gave them hell, they're screaming now.

Further, the problem with the UN directly serving the United States is...?

The letter tells us all we need to know about how we got to our present situation. This is the attitude that allowed so many scandals to fester unseen. This is the attitude that allowed virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism to take hold. One reason why so many hate us is because they do not respect us. We appear weak to them, and weakness breeds contempt. Children respect a teacher who is strict yet fair, while they hold one who doesn't enforce rules in contempt. They may not love us once Bolton is done with them, but by heavens they will respect us.

Tellingly, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, ambassador to the UN under Reagan, did not sign the letter (or at least I can't find that she did. However, I'm sure that if she did her name would have been mentioned in news stories. I am so far unable to find the actual letter on the Internet).

If anyone can find the actual letter please post the links in the comments section. I've searched the usual big-name blogs but can't find anything on it yet.

Posted by Tom at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Disposable When Broken?

I admit I've never immersed myself in the details of the Terri Schiavo saga. It's not that I don't think they're important, I do. My way of looking at this is to ask where we are and where we're headed.

If some bioethicists have their way, the future's not a pretty sight:

Wesley Smith: Bill, do you think Terri is a person?

Bill Allen: No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood. Even minimal awareness would support some criterion of personhood, but I don't think complete absence of awareness does.

Smith explains the implications of his question to the bioethicist:
If you want to know how it became acceptable to remove tube-supplied food and water from people with profound cognitive disabilities, this exchange brings you to the nub of the Schiavo case — the “first principle,” if you will. Bluntly stated, most bioethicists do not believe that membership in the human species accords any of us intrinsic moral worth. Rather, what matters is whether “a being” or “an organism,” or even a machine, is a “person,” a status achieved by having sufficient cognitive capacities. Those who don’t measure up are denigrated as “non-persons.”

Allen’s perspective is in fact relatively conservative within the mainstream bioethics movement. He is apparently willing to accept that “minimal awareness would support some criterion of personhood” — although he doesn’t say that awareness is determinative. Most of his colleagues are not so reticent. To them, it isn’t sentience per se that matters but rather demonstrable rationality. Thus Peter Singer of Princeton argues that unless an organism is self-aware over time, the entity in question is a non-person. The British academic John Harris, the Sir David Alliance professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester, England, has defined a person as “a creature capable of valuing its own existence.”

Today the person in a "persistent vegitative state", tomorow the patient with advanced Alzheimer's.
Wesley Smith: If Terri is not a person, should her organs be procured with consent?

Bill Allen: …Yes, I think there should be consent to harvest her organs, just as we allow people to say what they want done with their assets.

Harvest. As if we were talking about soybeans.

On Sunday Michelle Malkin wrote about how an Associated Press story compared Terri to "Kismet", a robot:

To understand the emotional reaction to the tapes of Terri Schiavo, one need only spend a few minutes with Kismet.

People who spend time with the robot at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology lab walk away feeling like they've made a new friend. Kismet is nothing but a mechanical head made out of metal and plastic, but it has been cleverly programmed by scientists to mimic human social interactions.

Sit down across from Kismet and it gives you a pleasant smile. Step too close and it jumps back with a startled expression on its face. Introduce yourself and it waits patiently for you to finish talking, then replies with a few syllables of speech that sounds like a higher-pitched version of the language spoken by the teachers in 'Charlie Brown' cartoons.

Kismet is no more conscious than a dishwasher or a microwave oven...

People in persistent vegetative states are no more aware than Kismet, but they retain a handful of primitive reflexes that are naturally misinterpreted as conscious behavior.

When robots break, we discard them. Are we now to do that with people as well?

Posted by Tom at 8:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reform at the UN - or Replacement?

The other day in the paper I saw the following story about the United Nations:

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday called for an international inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, after an initial U.N. inquiry found that the Lebanese government, intelligence and police services had bungled the criminal investigation.
There may have been a time when I would have applauded this type of action, and believed that such an inquiry might get to the bottom of the matter. After all, the Lebanese police can hardly be expected to issue any report critical of Syria, the likely perpetrator. But those days are long passed.

The scandals and problems at the UN are many, so please excuse me if I miss a few;

  • Oil-for-Food ('nuf said there)
  • Peacekeepers in Congo, Somalia, Kosovo, and elsewhere raping and otherwise sexually abusing the very people they are supposed to be protecting
  • Failure to provide relief to the victims of the recent tsunami, and then attacking the United States for forming a coalition of nations who were successful in bringing aid
  • Failure to stop what is just about genocide in Sudan
  • A Security Council that will not enforce it's own resolutions
  • A Security Council that passes an ever-increasing number of resolutions to little or no effect on the world scene
  • They put the worst human rights violators on the planet in on the UN Human Rights commission
  • Iraq under Saddam was voted chair of the UN Committee on Disarmament
  • A General Assembly that, in general, is virulently anti-Semitic and shows it in their actions and speech
  • The World Conference on Racism, held in Durban South Africa 2001, turned into an anti-Semitic and anti-American hate-fest
  • They promote fatally flawed treaties such as the Kyoto protocol on "global warming", which would have the effect of crippling the US economy
  • The promotion of the World Court, whose purpose would be to prosecute Americans and Israelis, while largely ignoring third-world kleptocrats
Only in the interests of space will I stop here.

The situation has gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan has recognized that something needs to be done. As such, he has issued a 62 page proposal for reform, the text of which can be found here.

The Grand Bargain

According to the Financial Times, (hat tip Belmont Club), what Annan has in mind is a kind of "grand bargain" (the FT article is subscription only, so I'm going on what Wretchard has on his site)

Mr. Annan's officials say the package basically proposes a bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries' security concerns. In both cases, Mr Annan says, action must be underpinned by respect for human rights.
Of course this means more money from the United States, Europe, and other developed nations. Don't count on any of them to support this.

And, as Wretchard points out, by "security", Annan means the Security Council. And forget about going around it. From the text of the UN report, Annan says "The task is not to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority, but to make it work better"

Without going into details, Annan proposes increasing the size of the Security Council by adding members from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. He offers two proposals, which vary by the number and term of the new seats, and whether they are permanent or rotating.

This is not a plan for action; it is an attempt to permanently prevent action. With so many competing interests on the Council, gridlock would be enshrined forever.

If would also, of course, have the effect of diluting American power. As it is today, the council would not vote to enforce their own resolutions regarding Iraq.

Even if we buy the notion of a "grand bargain", it is hard to see how and deal would work. Is Annan saying that the underdeveloped nations could attempt to "buy off" their votes each time an Iraq-like situation arose? Does anyone seriously expect such a deal to work?

Perhaps we should back up a moment. What is the purpose of the UN? In another post, Wretchard thinks that the UN can or should fill these rolls:

  1. To set a global agenda that brings the principal concerns of the nations to the forefront. This is the function that the General Assembly is supposed to fulfill;
  2. To keep the peace through the collective action of the Great (a function of the Security Council) and;
  3. To provide essential international services, which nation-states would not provide otherwise, through specialized technical agencies.
Well, maybe. Or, put another way, "in a perfect world, yes." A global institution should do these things. Whether the UN ever will is, at this point I think, open for debate.

Wretchard proposes a electronic "moderated forum", by which I think he means web-based discussion group. Nice idea, but no one will buy it. Honest discussion is the last thing third-world kleptocrats want.

My Analysis and Recommendations


The basic problem with the United Nations is that all nations are admitted as equals, regardless of their form of government or human rights records. Every country is simply a "member state". The UN is not immoral so much as it is amoral.

It is for this reason that it cannot agree on a simple definition of "terrorism", or for years a resolution remained on it's books equating "Zionism" with "racism". It is also why China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe can be on its Human Rights Commission, and why Saddam's Iraq could chair it's commission on disarmament.

The Security Council

We need to forget trying to change the Security Council. The entire purpose of the Security Council is to prevent action. The founders set it up with a balance of power in mind that would prevent the most powerful nations from waging war with it's approval. And given that they had just finished a world war that left 52 million dead, this was hardly an unreasonable goal.

The Cold War may have been marked by stalemate, but it was a stalemate of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have approved. I also think that it was a good thing.

The world has now moved beyond the Cold War. Instead of containment, we are now properly trying to encourage and spread freedom throughout parts of the world (Reagan's "rollback" was nothing compared to what is happening today, apologies to the Gipper).

Stalemate is no longer acceptable, if we believe that Security Council authorization is necessary in order for war to be legal and just. One of the most unfortunate consequences of the Gulf War was the notion that only the Security Council can authorize war. Since I can think of no reorganization of that body that would make it act in a more responsible manner, and since I certainly do not accept the idea that only it can authorize war, I propose that we simply ignore it.

Let the left scream. It's what they're best at, anyway.

At this point we need to stop and point out the founders of the UN, most notably FDR, can be forgiven if they foresaw none of this. As I mentioned, their objective was to prevent another world war, and in that they succeeded.

The General Assembly

In the General Assembly all nations have one vote regardless of GDP or population. Fortunately it is also powerless. Nevertheless, it can be quite troublesome, especially when it passes odious resolutions such as the infamous one which equated Zionism with racism.

We cannot do much about this body, and although it is troublesome it is also powerless. My proposal is to let it be.


As Captain Ed has noted, the UN recommendations on ending sex abuse by it's own peacekeeping troops is nothing but a whitewash. The UN "solution" is to simply transfer responsibility to the nations that provide the troops. But this would leave the foxes to guard the henhouse. The problem at the root of the sex-abuse scandal is that the governments whose armies are involved condone, tacitly or otherwise, this type of behavior. Attempts to enforce standards of behavior are not likely to succeed given the nature of these governments.

We therefore need to require that nations who wish to send peacekeeping troops meet minimum standards of democracy and human rights within their own countries. Given that
they see peacekeeping as a moneymaking enterprise (the UN pays them much more per soldier than they cost to support) they will have every incentive to reform. They will squawk loudly at first, and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but we can succeed if we do not blink.


I believe that it is impossible to seriously reform the United Nations. I would therefore withdraw as much monetary support as we legally can and then proceed to ignore it.

Our task, then, is to build an alternative institution or institutions. It or they need not even be permanent, but may be ad hoc, that is, designed to meet a present need, and then disbanded when it's goals have been met. This institution(s) would be built around several principles:

  • Membership is dependent upon having some basic form of representative government
  • Membership is dependent upon meeting basic human rights standards
  • Withdrawal from the organization is an option
  • The organization exists for a specific purpose, and once it has achieved its goal or met its objectives it must disband or reorganize
There are some examples of these types of bodies, already, and I have posted on them before. Two that look promising are:
  • The Council for a Community of Democracies - founded in 2001, " a leader in the worldwide Community of Democracies, an inclusive transnational movement fostering democracy and cooperation among the world’s democracies and assistance to aspiring democracies in their transition through a new Democracy Transition Center;"
  • The Proliferation Security Initiative - a global effort that aims to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials worldwide. Members of the PSI are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US.
It is therefore my contention that while the United Nations is incapable of real reform, we are unable to totally extradite ourselves from it. We should therefore ignore it as much as possible, and work to forming alternative organizations.

Posted by Tom at 11:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Overplaying our Hand

The situation with Terri Schaivo has reached the point where I believe that there are many on the "pro-life" side who are in serious danger of overplaying their hand. By this I mean squandering public sympathy by engaging in over-the-top behavior.

It was tricky enough when the President and Congress got involved. These situations are normally resolved by the family and the courts, and one can understand why some were uncomfortable when the case was taken to their level, however necessary it was.

But the actions of some of the protesters encamped around the hospital show have gone over-the top. From the San Francisco Chronical (hat tip Belmont Club)

For days, a life-size crucifix has been dominating the growing congregation of protesters outside the Woodside Hospice. Streaks of red paint symbolizing blood stained the points of the horizontal arms of the cross. On the top of the vertical arm, where a traditional Catholic crucifix bears the letters "I.N.R.I." -- for the Latin phrase "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" -- someone had substituted a sign that read "Terri Schiavo." ...

The protesters are comparing Michael Schiavo to Judas, who betrayed Jesus to the Romans. "Betrayed by a kiss: Jesus, Terri," read one handmade poster, apparently alluding to the fact that her husband was the first man Terri Schiavo had ever kissed. "Judas = husband," read another.

Two other posters, hanging side by side from the orange plastic mesh fence that surrounded the protester pen, likened both President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who allowed Christ to be crucified, citing their unwillingness to intervene more than they already have.
You get the point.

To be sure, most of those who want Terri to live are not like these protesters. But just as ANSWER definded the anti-war movement, these people are in danger of defining us. We must not allow that to happen.

People, we need to tone it down. If we overplay our hand this will come back to haunt us.

I'd write more but got a call and need to run into work early today.

Posted by Tom at 9:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

All But Over for Terri

For Terri Schiavo it appears to be but all over.

This should be a difficult case. If Terri had left a "living will" or something indicating her wishes, if her husband wasn't such an miserable human being, and if some on the left weren't saying such mean things, then it would be a tough one. It would be tough to see someone starve to death, alledged "persistive vegitative state" or no. It would be tough to see this happen to someone who was, by heavens, still conscious, and apparently, at least to some degree, aware of her surroundings.

But we don't know her real wishes, her husband is a miserable human, and there are so many contradictions, that I see a miscarriage of justice occuring.

If the husband was a decent upright person, and the family all agreed that the feeding tube should be removed, then we could have a debate on the issue of what to do in these cases. We could disagree but the debate would (hopefully) remain civil. More to the point, we could debate the real issues in these cases without becoming involved with personalities.

A person on death-row would be given more judicial review than Terri is receiving. Where oh where are our great civil libertarians when you really need them?

As I've said before, on the one hand I am disheartened by the multitues who seem to want to see her dead. The utter lack of compassion that some prominent Democrats showed is maddening.

On the other hand, I am heartened by the fact that so many recognize the danger of a drift towards Netherlands-style euthanasia. This case may well be the one that energizes enough people so that we examine this issue thoroughly.

The Slippery Slope

Many on the other side of this issue will dismiss this fear, but I believe it a real one. All to often in the past thirty or so years we've seen the slippery-slope effect, after having been assured by the left that no such thing will happen. A few quick examples:

Abortion - Adocates of legal abortion assured us thirty years ago that it was only for rape and incest, or for the health of the mother. Today, of course, somewhere over 90% of all abortions are because the parent(s) simply did not want a child.
Gay marriage - Twenty or thirty years ago we were told that we should "tolerate" gay people. Ok, society said. Next thing we know we're told that you're a bigot if you don't approve of gay marriage and that the Boy Scouts are one of the worst organizations on earth. And, as a recent incident at Harvard involving Jada Pinkett Smith demonstrated, if gays are allowed to marry, using the "husband" or "wife" word will become as taboo as saying "Christmas break".

Living Wills

We're told that we'd better get a "living will" so that your loved ones will know what you would want done in a similar situation. Yet as Michelle Malkin has discovered, they're not all they're cracked up to be. She links to noted scholar James Q Wilson, who last week wrote that

Some people believe that all of these issues can be resolved if everyone signs a living will that specifies what is to be done to them under various conditions. The living will is supposed to determine unambiguously when a "Do Not Resuscitate" sign should be placed on a patient's hospital chart. Terri Schiavo had not signed a living will. If she had, we would not be facing these issues.

But scholars have shown that we have greatly exaggerated the benefits of living wills. Studies by University of Michigan Professor Carl Schneider and others have shown that living wills rarely make any difference. People with them are likely to get exactly the same treatment as people without them, possibly because doctors and family members ignore the wills. And ignoring them is often the right thing to do because it is virtually impossible to write a living will that anticipates and makes decisions about all of the many, complicated, and hard to foresee illnesses you may face.

He then cites a number of examples that will cause a "living will" to be thrown out of court. A durable power of attorney is more reliable, he says, but here you're not writing out your own wishes, but trusting someone else to make good ones for you.

Judicial Tyranny

I'm just about tired of hearing that "the government shouldn't get involved. As the invaluable Tom Sowell said in a column this week; "Do they think that the judges who authorized this are not the governmen?"

And so it goes. For these people it is perfectly acceptable to have life-and-death decisions made by the courts, but heaven-forbid if representatives elected by the people get involved. Then it's denounced as "politics" and "government interference". I know, this is nothing new. The left likes rule by elites. Me, I take the William F Buckley Jr approach: I'd rather be governed by the first two-hundred people in the phone book.

The Europeans

Of course they don't get it:

The attempts by the Congress and the president to limit the damage done by a judiciary that is unresponsive, elitist, arrogant, dictatorial, self-protecting — something very much like the government of France, come to think of it — looks, to Eric Fottorino, writing in Le Monde, like proof that Bush will do anything, including rushing to the "bedside of an almost-dead person" in a "coma," to cement his relationship with the Bible-thumping, gel-haired, tele-mullahs of the right. To the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the congressional intervention was a drama of "Life, Death and Power" with a grandstanding U.S. president bestirring himself from his Crawford ranch, something the paper claims he'd never do for a crisis or a mere war. In the leftwing Independent, the slow starvation of Terri Schiavo is how the paper's correspondent describes a death with "dignity," something Americans can't get right — no doubt because of what Tony Blair described to the Daily Telegraph as the "unhealthy" American penchant for giving religion a prominent role in election campaigns. For Libération, the whole save-Schiavo spectacle was enough to merit a sneering headline on a piece or two, but nothing more.

Ok, that's it on Terri. For now.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back to the Magic Kingdom

While caught up in the tragedy of Terri Schiavo, the War on Terror, the formation of a new government in Iraq, the threat of a war with China, and about a million other news items, let's not forget the nature of the Saudi goverment, and some Britons who deserve justice.

I first wrote about this in May of 2004, and you can find a BBC timeline here, but the short version is that in 2000 Briton James Cottle and six other westerners, who were working in Saudi Arabia, were arrested on trumped-up charges. They were charged with setting off bombs in the Saudi capital as part of a bootlegger ring. After being tortured, they "confessed" on Saudi TV. Eventually they were released, and most have filed suit against Saudi Arabia for damages. The men also allege that their governments did little to help then during their captivity.

The latest in this story, sent to me by Mary Martini, ex-wife of James Cottle and his ceaseless advocate, is that British Foreign Minister Jack Straw had agreed to meet with him to discuss his case. At the last minute, however, the meeting was called off. The meeting had been scheduled for Thursday of last week. Cottle and Martini have been urging Straw to back their case.

Their case has been working it's way through the courts, for more see this October 2004 story.

The Lesson

I said it at the time I wrote first posts on this and I'll say it again: This is the fruit of our long coddling of the Saudi dictatorship. For too long we tolerated their repressive ways as long as they sold us their oil and provided military bases. We should have put them on notice some time ago that they needed to reform. After all, at this point they need us more than we need them. They cannot not sell us oil, while we do not need them for bases - anymore, at least.

To be fair, for a long time western policy makers felt they had no other choice. They remembered all too well the "Arab Oil Embargo of 1972" all too well. Determination to prevent a recurrance drove policy. And, the Saudis did, at times, provide us with valuable military bases (the 2003 invasion of Iraq would have been much harder without them).

But while we should be sympathetic to policy makers of the past, because the public would have screamed bloody murder had the oil spigot been shut off, we must call their actions short-sighted. And one terrible result of that short-sightedness was the horror of torture that James Cottle and the other unjustly accused men were put through. Neither the British nor the American government acted with the urgency and haste that they should have to get those men out of the hands of the Saudi police.

The Saudis are themselves the victims of their own repressive past, and of their own refusal to put a stop to Whahhabi radicalism. They suffered a series of terrorist attacks within their country last year that were only put down with much effort. And many of the jihadists that have come to Iraq are Saudi Arabians (not to mention the 9/11 terrorists).

President Bush has laid out a bold agenda for freedom in the Middle East. Although our efforts are concentrated on Afghanistan and Iraq, we must keep our attention on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Tom at 8:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Yemeni Journalist Freed!

I'm a bit late in posting on this but Yemeni journalist Abdul-Karim Al-Khaiwani has been freed and is at home! Congratulations to Jane Novak for her campaign to get him out of prison. (visit her blog for details if you haven't been following this case)

As she reminds us, though, the battle is far from over, as there is still no freedom of the press in Yemen, or indeed in just about any other Arab country other than Iraq (hmm, how'd that happen?)

This is just one battle in a large war, but wars are won one battle at a time. Mark one up for the good guys.

Posted by Tom at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The View from Fallujah

Sherry at Bittersweet Me has posted a letter from one of our Marines in Iraq. He is headed home, and this is his final letter. He recently spent several days in Fallujah, which was the scene of a large battle last April. The city suffered terrible damage during the battle, yet as the Marine observes,

"... for the battle damage on all sides, the city of Fallujah had more children and a more industrious citizenry than any other I encountered here in Iraq. Almost every house had been re-occupied following the invasion, gutters cleaned of garbage, white flags flying over newly patched garden walls, “Family Inside” written in large letters in both English and Arabic. Marines control access to the city; Marines mediate civic disputes; Marines provide food, water and are protecting those who are repairing city infrastructure; Marines patrol the streets, policing both the citizens of Fallujah and the Iraqi Army who sometimes abuse their authority."
Was it worth it?
As I stood dwarfed by piles of water bottles and phone cable I realized two distinctions. The first is this: as countless millions of dollars are spent, what American citizen can truly point to the cost that this war has had on his quality of living? What a magnificent nation we live in where we can wage so massive an effort without bankrupting our citizenry in the process. The second contrast is our motive: for all the insinuations of imperialism, corporate benefit and hawkish war-mongering, the most dramatic moments I witnessed here revolved around an election not an exploitation. What other nation would spend such sums to give a people so far away self-determination? I am not advocating war. Being so far from home for so long, smelling and seeing the dead and placing Marines in harm’s way are not truly enjoyable experiences. Yet I agree wholeheartedly with the much-criticized statement by General Mattis, it IS fun to wage war against a foe who seeks only his own self-gratification, who tortures, murders and abuses the weak.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

The Left Dissected

David Horowitz is one of my favorite authors. A one-time radical left-wing revolutionary, he is now a conservative. A prolific author, he not only maintains a website, FrontPage Magazine, but is the author of numerous books, including his autobiography Radical Son, Destructive Generation, The Politics of Bad Faith, and Unholy Alliance. The last of these is a must-read, as it deals with the alliance between the radical left and radical Islam.

In today's Washington Times Horowitz describes his newest project, and discusses how the mainstream media routinely refer to radical leftists as simply "liberals."

David Horowitz, a radical turned conservative author and activist, has created a Web site, DiscoverTheNetwork.org, which he describes as "a navigation tool for identifying, mapping and defining the left and its elaborate and extensive political network."

In a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home, Mr. Horowitz discussed the idea for the site:

Question: You distinguish between liberalism and "the left." Why is that distinction important?

Historically, it's very important. ... In the early '70s, Norman Podhoretz, who really qualifies as a liberal, was upset at the way his party under [1972 presidential candidate Sen. George] McGovern was opting out of the Cold War -- much as the Democratic Party today has opted out of the war for freedom in Iraq.

When Podhoretz began saying that Democrats had betrayed the tradition of John Kennedy and Harry Truman, a Marxist named Michael Harrington labeled Podhoretz and those who supported him "neoconservatives" -- that's the origin of the term. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the network news followed suit.

Soon, pro-communist leftists like Angela Davis and Tom Hayden were being referred to as "liberals" by the media, and liberals like Norman Podhoretz and Jeane Kirkpatrick were being referred to as "neoconservatives." ... So, to understand our present situation, I felt you have to try to restore accurate political labels. And that's partly what my new Web site, DiscoverTheNetwork.org, is about.

Q: You have documented the Marxist backgrounds of several leading anti-war groups and individuals. Why do you think the media have routinely ignored these connections?

A: This is the beauty of the site: On one page, you get a list of every major anti-war organization and each listing is a link to a profile of the individual group, and each group is connected to a map icon, which, if you click on it, opens up a diagram that shows all the other groups with radical agendas ... that they are connected to.

The fact that the two major peace organizations, International ANSWER and the Coalition for Peace and Justice, are headed by easily identifiable communists, was known to the mainstream media, specifically the New York Times. Because the New York Times is essentially a fellow-traveling institution of the left, it chose not to mention this fact. ...

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bad News Today

Is it just me or was the paper filled with far too much bad news today?

Terri Shaivo's Options are Running out

Her family has appealed to the Supreme Court but it's almost certain that they will refuse to hear the case. At this point it's a matter of too little, too late.

The family of Terri Schiavo appealed to the Supreme Court last night after being turned down twice yesterday by a federal appeals court, racing against the clock to save her life.

The Florida state Senate defeated a last-minute bill aimed at preventing Mrs. Schiavo's death by starvation and dehydration.
On the one hand I'm worried about the drift towards Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. On the other hand, I'm heartened that so many people recognize the danger and are doing something about it.

Bush Decries Border Project

Ok, I understand that the president cannot come out and endorse the Minuteman Project. But then I read this:

He (Bush) said he would pressure Congress to further loosen immigration law.
We're headed in the wrong direction, folks. But as Michelle Malkin says, aren't the Minutemen simply Undocumented Border Patrol Agents?

Here's how Mexico responds to the Minuteman Project:

Mexico Accused of Abusing it's Illegals

The State Department says that the Mexican government, angry that a thousand American volunteers will begin an Arizona border vigil next month, consistently violates the rights of illegal immigrants crossing its southern border into Mexico.

Many of the illegals in Mexico, who emigrate from Central and South America, complain of "double dangers" of extortion by Mexican authorities and robbery and killings by organized gangs.
Nice. The Mexican government uses our country as their "safety valve" so that they can avoid making reforms at home. They berate us for every little alleged violation of rights of the illegans who come to our country. But heaven forbid that someone attempt to enter their country. I've also read that the Mexican government is pretty tough towards people who enter their country from the south. No surprise, unfortunately.

UN Plans to Reimburse Discredited Ex-Employee

The United Nations yesterday struggled to explain why it will reimburse about $300,000 in legal fees accrued by Benon Sevan, the discredited former administrator of the U.N. oil-for-food program
Another reason why we need John Bolton at the UN.

Sorry, but all this just got me down today.

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Moonbats on Parade

You can find some of the best moonbat photos on the Internet here. (hat tip, DagneyT). Apparently the website is maintained by some guy who lives in the Berkley area and makes a habit of going to the local demonstrations to take photos. I guess if I lived there I'd entertain myself by doing the same. Whoever he is, he's done a great job. Check it out.

Posted by Tom at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

Fake Statistics

Michelle Malkin has an excellent post on "The Myth of Black Soldier's Dying Disproportionately" in Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War.

We've all heard the claim that black soldiers are frontline fodder in Iraq and are being killed disproportionately.

In fact, as this New York Times op-chart makes clear, the truth is just the opposite. White and Hispanic soliders are overrepresented among military personnel killed in Iraq, whereas African American soldiers are underrepresented. (Blacks account for 18.6 percent of military personnel in Iraq, but account for only 10.9 percent of military personnel killed.)

The same was true in World War II, the Korean War, and the 1991 Gulf War. In Vietnam, sometimes referred to as "a war fought by black men against yellow men on behalf of white men," blacks accounted for 12.5 percent of all combat deaths versus 13.1 percent of the young male adult population of fighting age.

I've heard this before, but it needs repeating every now and then. Kudo's to the New York Times for having the courage to take this issue on.

Check out the article on Vietnam stats, it's well worth reading. Among other things, you'll learn that

  • The oft-cited "statistic" that one-in-three Vietnam vets suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not even close to the truth (although PTSD is itself very much real)
  • Suicide, homelessness, and drug abuse rates for Vietnam vets are about the same as for the rest of the population.
  • The incarceration rate for Vietnam vets is lower than that for the general population.
  • Two-third of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers.
Fake Statistics II

Don't believe the crap you read in the liberal-left media about the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. The numbers they cite are mostly false. (hat tip USS Neverdock)

The Johns Hopkins study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, claimed that 100,000 civilians were killed as as result of U.S. and coalition actions in the invasion of Iraq. This is usually used in an attempt to discredit the invasion.

Slate completely debunked this study last October, and Instapundit has more last week. Both Slate and Instupundit get into details on statistical analysis that I am not qualified to comment on, but I can read plain English. And the story in Slate spells it out:

Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I'll spell it out in plain English—which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)

This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board.

Some reader comments posted on Instapundit:

Are we honestly to believe that twice as many non-combatants have died as a result of the liberation of Iraq as were American combatants in 8 years of VietNam? In a war designed and fought to minimize civilian casualties with things like GPS guided bombs?

Please, you have the power to unleash the internet on this wholesale fabrication with a call to factual arms. This fraud cannot go unchallenged or in 30 days from now, it will simply be cited as irrefutable “fact” that “George Bush killed 100,000 Iraqis.”

There's no need to debunk the 100,000 civilian casualty figure being cited so often by war opponents. In progressive circles it's an article of faith that pre-war sanctions killed 5000 Iraqis per month. Cost of the war two years later? 20,000 Iraqi civilians saved! And counting...
Surely civilians have been killed. And, as I said in my post on Discrimination in Just War Theory, we are required to try and protect the lives of civilians. But we don't have to put up with fake statistics.

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Terri Schiavo

Like some other bloggers, I've held off commenting on Terri Schaivo, partially because it's not my type of subject, partially because others have covered it better, and partially due to the constraints of time. It is a compelling story, however, and has captivated the nation for good reasons. It is a story that deserves attention, because it may portent things to come.

Wizbang sums up the Democrats attitudes nicely

Unborn Child? Kill It.

Sick Woman? Kill it.

Convicted Murder on death row? Do every thing you can do to save it!

Just to show how convoluted this has become, the Democrats are claiming "states rights" and that the federal government is overstepping it's authority as reasons why Congress should not get involved. Since when did liberals ever care about either of those?

And where, by the way, are all the disability advocates when we really need them?

As usual Tom Sowell has some penetrating observations:

The fervor of those who want to save Terri Schiavo's life is understandable and should be respected, even by those who disagree. What is harder to understand is the fervor and even venom of those liberals who have gone ballistic -- ostensibly over state's rights, over the Constitutional separation of powers, and even over the sanctity of family decisions.

Ok, enough partisanship. It's always fun to go after liberals and Democrats but I'll hold the line here.

What worries me is the direction that we're headed. We're headed down a path towards a Brave New World, and it's not clear to me that we have a road map. They've already reached the point in The Netherlands where doctors can actively kill patients that they believe are in a terminal state. Sure, there are supposed to be "safeguards", but reports that I recall are that they are routinely ignored.

So let's see where we're at. First we decided to just kill babies in the womb. At the time of Roe v Wade, we were told that abortion was necessary because of rape and incest. Turns out that most abortions today occur because a baby would be an inconvenience to the parents. Then we have the stem-cell debate. We are told not to worry, because only "unviable" stem cells will be used, and "you do want to save lives, don't you?" Well, since we kill people at the start of their lives, why not also do it at the end? Then we can just work our way towards the middle.

One reason why I think the story has generated so much attention is that the husband, Michael Schiavo, is such a disgrace, while Terri's real family, the Schindlers, is so warm and caring.

Now let's stop and I'll lay a few cards on the table. I have a living will with a "do not resusitate" clause in it. And I do not think that people who have truely experienced brain death should be kept alive by artificial means. But that's not what's happening here. Terri Schiavo is not "brain dead." She is not being "allowed to die"; she is being killed. Every member of her family except her husband want to keep her alive. Something is wrong with that.

She may or may not come back to her old self, most but not all medical opinion says no. But it just seems to me, like it does to our president, that we should err on the side of life. Is that too much to ask?


Mark Steyn nails it:

America this Holy Week is following the frenzied efforts to halt the court-enforced starvation of a brain-damaged woman for no reason other than that her continued existence is an inconvenience to her husband. In Britain, two doctors escape prosecution for aborting an otherwise healthy baby with a treatable cleft palate because the authorities are satisfied they acted "in good faith". You can read similar stories in almost any corner of the developed world, except perhaps the Netherlands, where discretionary euthanasia is so advanced it's news if the kid makes it out of the maternity ward. As the New York Times reported the other day: "Babies born into what is certain to be a brief life of grievous suffering should have their lives ended by physicians under strict guidelines, according to two doctors in the Netherlands.

"The doctors, Eduard Verhagen and Pieter J. J. Sauer of the University Medical Center in Groningen, in an essay in today's New England Journal of Medicine, said they had developed guidelines, known as the Groningen protocol."

Ah, the protocols of the elders of science. Odd the way scientists have such little regard for scientific progress. It's highly likely that many birth defects - not just the bilateral cleft lips - will be treatable and correctible in the next decade or two. But once you start weighing the relative values of individual lives, there's no end to it. Much of that derives from the way abortion has redefined life - as a "choice", an option.

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"Appointment Gratification"

Mark Steyn sums up my attitude completely regarding the appointment of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations, and Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank. Check out his column, my thoughts, and the comments of the other puppies in my latest post over at Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies.

Posted by Tom at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Progress In Iraq

If the New York Times is reporting progress in Iraq, you know things are going well (hat tip Jonah at NRO The Corner):

Nearly two years after American troops captured Baghdad, Haifa Street is like an arrow at the city's heart. A little more than two miles long, it runs south through a canyon of mostly abandoned high-rises and majestic date palms almost to the Assassin's Gate, the imperial-style arch that is the main portal to the Green Zone compound, the principal seat of American power.

In the first 18 months of the fighting, the insurgents mostly outmaneuvered the Americans along Haifa Street, showing they could carry the war to the capital's core with something approaching impunity.

But American officers say there have been signs that the tide may be shifting. On Haifa Street, at least, insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, and with less intensity; mortar attacks into the Green Zone have diminished sharply; major raids have uncovered large weapons caches; and some rebel leaders have been arrested or killed.

American military engineers, frustrated elsewhere by insurgent attacks, are moving ahead along Haifa Street with a $20 million program to improve electricity, sewer and other utilities. So far, none of the work sites have been attacked, although a local Shiite leader who vocally supported the American projects was assassinated on his doorstep in January.

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country's own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Read the whole thing.

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March 19, 2005

Petition to free al-Khaiwani

Jane Novak over at Armies of Liberation has been leading the effort to free imprisoned Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim Al Khaiwani. I'm a bit late helping her out with a post and link, but better late than never.

I'm asking all my readers to visit her site and sign the petition to free this journalist.

Jane is a professional columnist, having had her work appear in both regular newspapers and on-line publications.

She's got so many posts on this issue that I'm not going to link to any specific ones. Just visit her website and scroll down to find them.

Here's a summary of the situation:

Upon a quick trial held during judiciary leave, violating all definite legal texts, and after a rushed interrogation with Al Khawani, accused of press charges, during August 2004, a verdict was issued by the south west Sana’a primary court sentencing Abdul Kareem Al Khaiwani to one year in prison and closure of Al Shoura newspaper for six months. This verdict was issued against the law, and dishonored by the defense committee which filed an appeal immediately after the verdict in September 5th, 2004.a

In the evening of September 5th, Abdul Kareem Al Khaiwani is arrested by authorities in a humiliating and terrorizing way. Al Shoura news paper is closed and its editors were kicked out to the street in a step to access the verdict which could not be reversed till this moment.

Sana’a appeal court prolongs holding its sessions intentionally based on weak justifications aiming to keep Al Khaiwani in prison. It requests Al Khaiwani to court more than once handcuffed accompanying murderers and drug smuggling convicts.

After 5 months of intentional prolongation of procedures, the appeal court holds it first sessions in February 8th, 2005. The judge decides in a quick session without hearing to the defense discussions to suspend the case until verdict is issued in March 1st, 2005.
On that day, the judge postpones the verdict to March 22nd, 2005.

Al Khaiwani was attacked physically 5 times which risked his life and safety. The administration of central prison did not blink about it!

The Yemeni president and government ignores all demands and calls for the release of Al Khaiwani made by local, regional, and international organizations concerned with rights and freedoms.

The newspaper opened files of corruption, inheritance of power, and political reform as well as abuse of public financial resources. The charges against Al Khawani and Al Shura newspaper are “ publishing false topics and news that harm public order and infringes national unity. These topics support Al Huthi’s rebellion against governmental authorities which resulted in the incitement of tribal and sectarian discrimination as well as insulting the president publicly” according to the prosecutors. It is clear that the reason behind his arrest and imprisonment is opening the files of inheritance, abuse of financial resources of the country and political reform.

The political, legal and press media in Yemen is concerned about the severity of the verdict against al Khaiwani and the continuous closure of Al Shoura newspaper under political authoritative pressure and according to personal wishes against the publishing of facts.

In March 5th 2005, it will have been 6 months since the newspaper was first closed. Yet, the prosecutors office refuses to the request for reopening the newspaper’s office and republishing its issues.

Posted by Tom at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reform Party of Syria

It may not be widely recognized, but there are freedom movements for just about every country in the Middle East. Note that I don't call them "national liberation" movements, as that smacks of the communist revolutionary movements that moved countries from the frying pan to the fire.

One of the organizations is the Reform Party of Syria. I don't know much about them, and don't have time to do a lot of research other than a quick google search which didn't turn up much. I did find a November 2003 article about them in National Review which leads me to believe that they are genuine and not a front group with some nefarious purpose. You can check out their position papers on their website and decide for yourself, but they look like the real deal to me, by which I mean committed to bringing democracy Syria.

Here's one of their recent press releases:

The Syrian pullout from Lebanon is being portrayed in the Syrian press as a victory. Not only did the Syrian people receive the army with open arms but the media has not been less enthusiastic about the event.

Although the Syrian army has been stationed in Lebanon since 1976, most of its personnel are indeed happy to return home.

In line with such events, the Syrian government has tightened its grip unto the media by closing some of the operations of non-Syrian television stations and forbidding Lebanese newspapers to be distributed in Syria unless they walk the Syrian line.

For yet unknown reasons that is stoking the fires of the rumor mill, Baschar al-Assad has been in Aleppo for sometime. Some believe it is to lead the stifling of any Kurdish uprising and some have said that he has escaped Damascus because of an internal coup carried by Ghazi Kanaan, the minister of Interior. None of this buzz has been verified but the fact that it is taking place is weakening the regime. .

Syrians in general have grown accustomed to life under duress to such an extent that most see the Lebanese situation as stifling further of their own liberties. Their sense is that the Syrian regime will certainly tighten its controls to discourage any uprising. Dissidents feel that the Lebanese momentum is being stifled by two factors: 1) There is no interest by the international community, as of yet, to call for freedom in Syria and, 2) They are afraid if they take matters in their own hands, they will be subjected to atrocities such as the ones seen in Iraq in the early nineties.

A demonstration celebrating March 8, an infamous day in the history of Syria, was met with beatings by student Ba'athists loyal to the regime. Some of the people who demonstrated were Riad al-Turk, the most popular political figure in Syria. Yet, only 100 people showed up and quickly disbursed.

In addition to fear, Syrians are hopeful that events in Lebanon will lead to their freedom. But they are not ready yet to take matters in their own hands unless they know that the international community can and will support their uprising.

I am not scholar enough to verify any of this, but it all sounds plausible. Anyway, we must support organizations that want to bring democracy to Syria and other countries, and the Reform Party of Syria looks like one of them.

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March 18, 2005

"The Naysayers"

Once again, Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant article in the latest print edition of National Review (to view it on-line you'll need a subscription). He takes on the whiners, the complainers, the doom-and-gloom crowd, in short, those who say that the War on Terror is lost and that"it can't be done."

What I really like about Hanson is his sense of history. His perspective is not that of the past few years, but that of hundreds or thousands of years. For some, important history began and ended with the Vietnam War. This miopic view prevents one from understanding what is really going on in the world.

To those caught up in the headline of the day, it is easy to see every setback as evidence that we are going to lose and that we better pull back now. Successes seem minimal, and losses are magnified. It is the nature, and indeed the duty, of the press to tell us of what is going wrong. But by concentrating on this we lose our perspective. For if one goes back in history and looks at any war that we have fought from the Revolution on, they are far from glorious stories of victory where we all linked arms and marched off to defeat the enemy. In reality, they are stories of how we engaged in almost endless internal squabbling and bickering, and how our own military made mistake after mistake, often to the very end of the war. Somehow, however, we won.

More importantly, the naysayers of the time are usually forgotten. How many remember that Lincoln was considered certain to lose the election of 1864 due to how poorly the war was going, and only at the end staged a comeback? How many know of the terrible losses at the Chosin Reservoir? Democrats and other naysayers would do well to ponder this aspect of history.

On with Hanson. He reminds us of how the Old Left (their term) blamed the Cold War on the United States, and that their version was taken seriously at the time:

By the late 1940s things on the ground had changed somewhat, and the blame-America-first ideology adjusted accordingly. Now it was the turn of the old Left, which castigated "fascists" for ruining the hallowed American-Soviet wartime alliance by "isolating" and "surrounding" the Russians with hostile bases and allies. The same was supposedly true of Red China: We were told ad nauseam by idealists and "China hands" that Mao really wanted to cultivate American friendship but was spurned by our right-wing ideologues — as if there were nothing of the absolutism and innate thuggery in him that would soon account for 50 million or more of his own people murdered and starved.

Ditto the reactions to the animosity from such dictators as Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. The Left assured us that both were actually neo-Jeffersonians, whose olive branches were crushed by unimaginative Cold Warriors and who only then went on to plan their gulags. Few seemed to think it natural that a free and powerful America would be hated by fascists and Communists — much less that it should be praised rather than castigated for earning such hatred.

How quickly some forget. More on Hanson's Right Analysis here, in a post where he concentrates on World War II.

Not all, of course, is "ancient history":

We also forget now how the Left warned us of terrible casualties and millions of refugees before the Iraq war, and then went dormant until the insurgents emerged. Then the opposition resurfaced to assure us that Iraq was lost, only to grow quiet again after the Iraqi election and its regional aftershocks — a cycle that followed about the same 20-month timetable of military victory to voting in Afghanistan.
It reminds me of the Gulf War. Recall the predictions of "tens of thousands" of American casualties? We were told how the "hardened Iraqi army" would surely fight us tooth-and-nail over every square inch of land? Peace groups like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace solemnly assured us that we shouldn't invade because if we did surely Saddam would use his WMD against us. Even after weeks of bombing, Bob Woodward assured us that air attacks were not going as well as the Pentagon had claimed.

We saw the same thing during the 2003 invasion of Iraq: The "Battle of Baghdad" that was supposed to be Stalingrad II. We were all assured that this time there would be fierce resistance. On and on it went. But being a peace activist means never having to say you're sorry.

Finally, misguided pessimists claim that the United States is alone in the world. When George W. Bush orchestrated the fall of Saddam Hussein he was said to have alienated everyone, as if our friends in Eastern Europe, Britain, Australia, and India did not matter. Yet the same was said in 1941 when Latin America, Asia, and Africa were in thrall to the Axis. Neutrals wanted little to do with a disarmed United States that had unwisely found itself in a two-front war with the world�s most formidable military powers. Indeed, the June 1941 invasion of Russia was about as multilateral as could be, with Eastern Europeans, Spaniards, Italians, and Finns all joining the invading armies of the Third Reich.

By the 1950s we seemed to have defeated Germany and Japan only to have subsequently lost Eastern Europe, as former defeated fascists became friends once-allied neutrals and Communists turned hostile. Much of Asia and Latin America deified the mass-murdering Stalin and Mao, while deriding elected American presidents. The Richard Clarkes and Joe Wilsons of that age lectured about a paranoid Eisenhower administration, clumsy CIA work, and the general hopelessness of ever defeating global Communism, whose spores sprouted almost everywhere in the form of Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Castroism, and various "national liberation" movements.

"You made Saddam"

Then there's the "the United States created Saddam" line. I see this one with leftie bloggers all of the time. Besides overstating matters to a ridiculous degree, it is both forgetful of history and simple America-bashing. I dealt with the history of America and Saddam in an earlier post called "History Backwards" An excerpt from what I wrote:

In order to understand U.S. policy in the 1980's we need to understand what happened in the late 1970s.

I was in my early college years when the Iranian Hostage Crisis occurred, and this is when I first really started to pay attention to politics. It was not a pretty introduction.

The sense of helplessness that most Americans felt was maddening. Here we were, a superpower, and yet we were unable to get our people back. We had just been through Vietnam and Watergate, with those humiliations fresh on our minds, and now this. Worse yet, our president was telling us that we would have to get used to a lower standard of living here at home.

I remember that my father was working in Washington DC at the time, and he'd tell us stories of the protests in the city: Protests, mind you, by Iranian "students" in support of the hostage takers. The protestors were protected by the police, whose protection they needed full well. The office workers would go out during their lunch break to observe these protests. My dad would tell us of normally calm, unsuitable men who would go ballistic at what they saw.

My point is that the anger towards Iran was intense and deep. We would have supported just about anyone who was willing to oppose the Ayatollah Khomeini and his regime.

More importantly, in the late '70s and early '80s it really did seem like the Iranians would be able to export their revolution to the rest of the area. The idea of the gulf states and Saudi Arabia falling to radical Islam was frightening indeed.

Contrary to what the left would have you believe, no one was under any illusions as to who Saddam was. We knew full well that he was a thoroughly rotten dictator.

The Lesson

We were right to support Iraq when we did, just as we were right to side with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. The threat of the Iranian revolution spreading throughout the region was quite real, and the consequences of it doing so could be devastating to the region and to our economy.

The journalist Christopher Hitchens had a response to those who use the "we created Saddam" line. He said, and I go on memory because I can't find the link: "Assuming for argument's sake that you're right, and we are responsible for Saddam, then isn't it our responsibility to correct the situation and take him out?"

The response he said he gets is "can't we talk about global warming now?"

So let's call it what it is; most of those who use the "the United States created Saddam" line are only out to bash the United States. They hate this country and are engaged in anti-Americanism pure and simple. Don't put up with this line because it's a load of bunk.

The naysayers will always be with us. Some are honest, and some are not. Either way, we must not get caught up in the "headline of the day", but must keep our perspective.

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March 17, 2005


No new posts today but I do have some updates to ones I made earlier this week:

Italy Pulls Out

Yesterday I reported that Italy had announced that they would withdraw their troops from Iraq. Today Berlesconi says his remarks were "misinterpreted." I guess we'll find out over the coming months

The Looming Threat

Another blogger posted a story on China with the same title almost the same time that I did. Who says great minds don't think alike? Check out Jordan's post over at The Politicker blog "The Looming Threat".

Why I don't read the Washington Post

Hugh Hewitt reports that Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett says that the Chinese "The People's Daily" misquoted him. I'll take his word for it, and shouldn't have been so quick to believe the ChiCom version. Unfortunately for Mr. Bennett, his correction doesn't really change matters.

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March 16, 2005

Italy Pulls Out

The biggest story is that Italy has announced that they will pull their troops out of Iraq starting in September.

The war has been unpopular there for some time, and Prime Minister Berlesconi has apparently decided to bow to popular pressure.

Ok, fair enought, I suppose. And if this decision had come at a random time I'd just have the same things to say about them as I did about the Spanish; that is is a cowardly decision. They'll pay for it by having been on the wrong side of history.

But why does it have to seemingly be in response to that whacko communist journalist's lies about the United States? All this does is seeminly lend credence to her insane claim that we "targeted her for assassination"?

My heart goes out to all the Italians who must now be cringing in embarrassment at the actions of their government.

Update 3-17

So are they pulling out or not? Today's story in the Washington Times casts doubt on what was reported yesterday:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi backtracked yesterday, saying a commitment to begin withdrawing his country's 3,300 troops from Iraq by September was subject to change and could be postponed.

"It was only my hope. ... If it is not possible, it is not possible. The solution should be agreed with the allies," Mr. Berlusconi said after his remarks on Tuesday created consternation in Washington and London.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom the Italian leader had named as concurring with his decision to withdraw, insisted in London that Mr. Berlusconi's remarks had been misinterpreted.

"Neither the Italian government or ourselves have set some sort of deadline for withdrawal," Mr. Blair told Parliament.

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The Looming Threat

Several times I've said on this blog that China is a threat that is lurking in the background. The situation appears peaceful now, but appearances are deceiving. The Chinese are bound and determined to take back Taiwan, by force if necessary. Right now they are laying low, stockpiling weapons and working to lay the political groundwork. Sooner or later they will likely force the situation, and I think this will occur sometime before 2015, though not for a few years yet.

Last week China passed a law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan if the latter declares it's independence. While China has since said that the law is "misunderstood" and is a "law for peace" it seems clear that they are laying the legal groundwork for military action.

Likewise, over the past ten or fifteen years China has become much more aggressive on military acquisitions. From the break with the Soviet Union in the late 50s to the end of the Cold War, the bulk of the Chinese military was oriented towards a war with Russia. They could not afford a two-front strategy in anything but name. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it's military came apart also, freeing the Chinese to concentrate on Taiwan.

For a more complete strategic analysis see my July 2004 post "China, Taiwan, and Concepts of Sea Power"

The other day China's "Prime Minister" held a press conference in which he laid more political groundwork for action against Taiwan. The PM gave the standard Chinese line on their view of history. John Derbyshire describes what the PM said

Tensions with Japan? Must be Japan's fault: "The fundamental problem is that Japan should correctly view history. ... take history as a mirror and face forward to the future. This year marks the 60th anniversary of China's victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45). This part of history reminds us of the untold sufferings the war brought to the people in China..." Also, of course, a by-product of U.S. meddling: "The security alliance between Japan and the United States is a bilateral matter between these two countries. Yet we are concerned in China because it is related to the question of Taiwan..."

The anti-secession law? Why, the people of Taiwan want to be united with the mainland: "We have enacted this law to give expression of the will of the entire Chinese people, including the 23 million compatriots in Taiwan, their will to safeguard national unity and territorial integrity and oppose secession of Taiwan from the country." In any case, the law really has nothing to do with force or intimidation: "This law is meant to strengthen and promote cross-Straits relations."

And always, always, that self-righteous, self-pitying whine: "In the recent hundred of years, China was subjected to bullying and humiliation. Yet till now our country has never sent a single soldier abroad to occupy an inch of foreign land." (Ask a Tibetan about that.)

You would never know, unless you looked at the past 56 years of Chinese history, that the smooth-taliing Mr. Wen is front man for a gang of lawless cutthroats.

China the victim, you see, is only pursuing justice to right historical wrongs.

What exactly does China want? Derbyshire again:

What they want is regional hegemony. They want to be in East Asia — perhaps in all of Eurasia — what the U.S.A. has been in the Americas this past couple of hundred years. In their dreams, Russia will be their Canada: huge, underpopulated, cold, and not very consequential. India will be their Brazil.** Laos (say) will be their Guatemala (say). There are some holes in the analogy. The U.S.A. never had to contend with an offshore nation a tenth as populous yet ten times wealthier than itself, as China has to keep Japan in mind. Nor do the Indians look to be slipping quietly into their assigned role as providers of coffee, nuts, and salacious dances to the new superpower. Still, it is plain from their visible diplomatic strategy that the Chinese think they can pull it off
That's part of it, I'll agree. But it's not "hegemony" as a European or American would understand it. Not is is simply the pursuit of natural resources as was the Japanese goal some 80 years ago with their "Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere". It's a little of the latter, to be sure (witness the China-Philippines squabble over the possibly oil-rich Spratley Islands), but I think it's more ideology.

North Korea is the asian threat that dominates headlines, but my thoughts are that China is using them as a diversion. Tom Donnelly, writing in the Weekly Standard, seems to agree, chastising the Clinton and Bush Administrations for ignoring the problem:

In short, the United States continues to look through the wrong end of the telescope. We're thus blinded to a whole host of worrying developments that reveal China's progress as a geopolitical--and increasingly global--competitor. The Chinese "legislature" just passed an "anti-secession law" that not only "legitimizes" an attack on Taiwan but greater internal repression as well; the Beijing government sees secessionists everywhere. China is beginning to string together a necklace of client states in the oil-rich Middle East--Iran and Sudan, to name two--and even into the Americas, cozying up to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Venezuela supplies about 13 percent of daily U.S. oil imports, and just as Beijing fears the U.S. Navy's ability to sever China's connection to international energy markets, China wouldn't mind being able to return the favor with Chavez's help.
Disturbing also are trends within our own military budget. The Navy and Air Force being starved to feed the hunger in the Army and Marine Corps for ground troops. While this helps us today in the War on Terror, a lack of Aircraft Carriers could come back to haunt us in the years ahead. Money is always finite and the business of policy is to make hard choices. Let's hope and push our politicians to make ones that keep the Chinese threat in mind.

Posted by Tom at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Don't Learn

From the Washington Times

Democrats yesterday said they will halt all Senate business except essential operations and national defense if Republicans use the "nuclear option" to unclog President Bush's judicial nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the threat in a letter yesterday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has said he has the 51 votes needed for a parliamentary procedure that would force the nominees through the Senate on a simple majority vote.
In 1996 Speaker Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans tried much the same thing. Their beef was with President Clinton's proposed budget. After walking out of talks with the administration, they let all non-essential federal government services stop functioning.

The voters punished the GOP in the 1998 mid-term elections. Although they did not lose either house of congress, they did lose some seats and were severely chastised. Gingrich himself was forced to resign.

The Democrats today seem not to have learned the lesson of 1996; don't shut down the government. I don't think it's so much that voters are enamored of their services (although fear does play a factor with some groups) as it is just disgust at the bickering. Republicans had to learn the hard way in 1996, the Democrats will too unless cooler heads prevail.

Posted by Tom at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

Liberty on the March

Slowly but surely liberty is moving forward in the Middle East. Consider these recent developments;


  • Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese protested yesterday in Beruit, demanding withdrawal of Syrian forces. Estimates run as high as 800,000 to 1 million participants. This was the largest political protest that has ever occurred in the Middle East. NRO's The Corner blog has some great photographs (hat tip Little Red Blog)
  • Syrian Intelligence is pulling out of Lebanon
  • Even the UN is getting in on the act, demanding a timetable for full withdrawal
  • Although last week there was a large pro-Syrian rally, organized by the terrorist organization Hezbollah, they appear to have lost momentum. Trends favor complete Syrian withdrawal soon if the pressure is kept up.
  • All of this could conceiveably lead to the fall of the Assad regime in Damascus, although it is premature to make absolute predictions. Tyrannies are always more fragile than they appear. It's imperative that we keep the pressure on.

  • Iraqis raided the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad yesterday. The were angry that "...relatives of a Jordanian suicide bomber suspected of killing 125 people in the town of Hilla celebrated him as a martyr." Can't blame them. The Iraqi government also condemned the "espressions of joy" exibited by the family.
  • Chrenkoff has up "Good News from Iraq Part 23" Yes, Part 23. Check it out to find out how and why the MSM so often get their reporting totally wrong. You also might not have heard this elsewhere, but reconstruction is proceding despite attempts at sabatoge. You'll also find success stories of the new Iraqi army and police that you simply won't find elsewhere.
  • (Hat tip USS Neverdock for both Iraqi stories)

Posted by Tom at 3:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iraq did have WMD capability

I'd heard about this story yesterday but couldn't find the link. Thanks to LGF, I've got it now (should have checked there first).

On with the story.

The New York Times reported (or admitted?) yesterday that Iraq did in fact have the equipment to produce parts for missiles, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons when the United States invaded in April of 2003.

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.
Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons. After the invasion, occupation forces found no unconventional arms, and C.I.A. inspectors concluded that the effort had been largely abandoned after the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
The United Nations, worried that the material could be used in clandestine bomb production, has been hunting for it, largely unsuccessfully, across the Middle East. In one case, investigators searching through scrap yards in Jordan last June found specialized vats for highly corrosive chemicals that had been tagged and monitored as part of the international effort to keep watch on the Iraqi arms program. The vessels could be used for harmless industrial processes or for making chemical weapons.

There it is; Saddam may or may not have had actual weapons, but he did retain the capability to manufacture them.

The article reports that while US forces were "... aware of the importance of some of the installations, there was not enough military personnel to guard all of them during and after the invasion."

Now, I've gone over the issue of "not enough troops" before, but in case you missed it here it is again. It's easy to sit around and sway "we need (or needed) more troops!" but it's quite another to look at the situation as if you were a decision maker. Consider;

  1. The size of the US military diminished so much during the 90s that we could barely come up with the number we did without compromising security in other parts of the world. I forget the exact number (and if someone wants to correct me please do so) but we went from something like 19 army divisions in 1990 to 10 in 2000.
  2. As implied above, yes we could have come up with more troops but at the cost of compromising minimal security requirements in other parts of the world. If North Korea or someone else took advantage of the situation to attack, the same people who criticize the Bush administration for not having enough troops would turn around and criticize him for leaving other areas of the world unprotected.
  3. Logistics would have been even more strained with more troops. It's one thing to land troops somewhere, quite another to get their equipment there and keep them supplied. Unlike in the Gulf War, in 2002/3 we did not have access to either the same number of port facilities or staging areas.
  4. The more American troops in the Mideast, the more tensions are inflamed. Arabs like us to provide security, but they don't like a large American presence. More American troops simply give radicals a propaganda tool.
  5. So the decision to invade with the number of troops that we did was a calculated risk. But then so is everything else in life.

Back to WMD

The Times article does not prove that Saddam had WMD, as I've heard some conservative commentators come close to alleging. But it does help put the lie to those who claim that Saddam was in compliance with the UN and the mean 'ol US was just itching to invade to steal their oil.

But in reality, nothing in the NYT story should be new. In October of 2003 David Kay (of the Iraq Survey Group) reported to Congress that

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN. Let me just give you a few examples of these concealment efforts, some of which I will elaborate on later:

A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.

One of the problems that we faced in searching for anything in Saddam's arsenal was the shear size of their arsenal. Kay describes the scope of their arsenal, and the difficulty in finding chemical weapons, especially when they're not specifically marked as such.
In searching for retained stocks of chemical munitions, ISG has had to contend with the almost unbelievable scale of Iraq's conventional weapons armory, which dwarfs by orders of magnitude the physical size of any conceivable stock of chemical weapons.

For example, there are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed 50 square miles in size and hold an estimated 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these 130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined.

As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search effort is enormous.

While searching for retained weapons, ISG teams have developed multiple sources that indicate that Iraq explored the possibility of CW production in recent years, possibly as late as 2003.

It looks like Kay was more right than he knew.

As for the length of time it would take Iraq to resume actual production, Kay said that his sources estimated 6 months. From what we know now, it could have been considerably shorter.

To be fair, Kay did, in the end, report that his group found "no evidence" that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD immediately before the US invasion.

And who knows, it is still possible that Saddam did have at least some WMD, and that it was spirited out of the country to Syria or Iran. Had we invaded in 2002 or earlier in 2003 we might just have found it, or incepted the transfers. That we wasted so much time at the United Nations was due to then Secretary of State Powell's insistence on following legal niceties. We're paying the price for that delay today, both because it allowed Saddam to dismantle his WMD machinery, and because it allowed him to organize an insurgency in advance.


Marc, at USS Neverdock, posts on a story in the UK Telegraph "where they reported 'Saddam Hussein's regime offered a $2 million (£1.4 million) bribe to the United Nations' chief weapons inspector to doctor his reports on the search for weapons of mass destruction.'"

He asks "If, as the left claims, there were no WMDs in Iraq, why would Saddam need to bribe the United Nations' chief weapons inspector?"

Indeed, why?

Posted by Tom at 1:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Why I don't read the Washington Post

I gave up on the Washington Post in the late 80's, and started subscribing to what G Gordon Liddy describes as "Washington's premier newspaper", the Washington Times. Now I have one more reason to be glad I switched.

"The Peoples Daily" is the (or a) propaganda organ of the Communist-run Peoples Republic of China. The other day they published an interview with Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett.

Why anyone would consent to an interview with this paper is beyond me. I suppose I might do so just to be sure that they understood that some of us in the U.S. know what thugs they still are. But of course, for that very reason I am not the type who's views they'd want printed in their pages.

But the good Mr. Bennett doesn't see things this way. Far from it. Very, very, far. Following are some excerpts:

Yong Tang: The Bush administration always claims that it is spreading freedom and democracy to all over the world. But there is widespread suspicion over the motives of What the Bush administration is doing. Some experts say democracy is just a beautiful pretext for America to seek its own interests. So personally I think there is a kind of hypocrisy here.

Bennett: The Bush administration believes that there isn't a contradiction between defending its self-interest and promoting friendly and democratic regimes. Because they believe that promoting those kinds of governments would make the world more friendly to the US and therefore it is in the interest of America to do that.

But if you look at the different parts of the world, it would be very difficult for the Bush administration to argue that they do not apply same standards to different parts of the world. Clearly US is a great ally of Pakistan and Saudi Arbia, which are not democracies. US has a very complex relations with China, which is not a democracy either by American standard. The issues that were once on the top of that relationship, like human rights, were no longer on the top any more. If you still remember last time when US President talked about human rights in China as a major issue between the two countries, that has been a long time ago. So I think it is true there are different standards applied to different places. In that case You could call that hypocrisy or whatever labels you thought fit most appropriately
You can already see where this is going. Bush is a hypocrite, we support dictators, Jimmy Carter was oh such a great human rights president.

Yong Tang: Since the standard is not applied equally in the world, it is damaging Bush's effort to promote the so -called democracy, isn't it?

Bennett: It depends upon what you are trying to achieve. I guess the question I would ask is: if you look around the world in strategically important places, is the US actively engaged there promoting democracy or not? I don't think there is much evidence that promoting democracy is what the US is doing. It is what it says it is doing.

What does this guy think we've been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq? Were the elections there meaningless? All of our blood and treasure spent for nothing.? Apparently our support of Lebanese independence is meaningless, too. Voting in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain? Yawn. Egyptian President Mubarak's recent concessions? Not worth mentioning. Everyone else on the planet is talking about the wonders that are occuring before our very eyes, and he seems oblivious to it all. Does he read his own paper?

Then there's the kicker, the part of the interview that has generated so much attention; Bennett does not believe that the US should lead the world:

Yong Tang: In such sense, do you think America should be the leader of the world?

Bennett: No, I don't think US should be the leader of the world. My job is helping my readers trying to understand what is happening now. What is happening now is very difficult to understand. The world is very complex. There are various complex forces occurring in it. I don't think you can imagine a world where one country or one group of people could lead everybody else. I can't imagine that could happen. I also think it is unhealthy to have one country as the leader of the world. People in other countries don't want to be led by foreign countries. They may want to have good relations with it or they may want to share with what is good in that country.

That is also a sort of colonial question. The world has gone through colonialism and imperialism. We have seen the danger and shortcomings of those systems. If we are heading into another period of imperialism where the US thinks itself as the leader of the area and its interest should prevail over all other interests of its neighbors and others, then I think the world will be in an unhappy period.

This is the type of stuff that you have to read twice to make sure your eyes didn't deceive you. So we shoudn't be leaders of the world, eh? The UN can do it better? Or is it that whatever we need to do needs to pass a "global test"?

Then there's the oh-it's-all-so-complex line. Actually it's not so complex, Mr. Bennett; we're the good guys, and you just handed the communist totalitarians a propaganda coup. Congratulations, idiot.

He also seems to be saying that not only are we an imperial power, but we're a pretty rotten one at that, only out for our own interests. This represents the worst leftist anti-Americanism. And printed in a Chinese newspaper. How nice.

Now, dear reader, if you've got any throwing objects still within arms reach, remove them now, before going on. After reading this next part you'll surely put something through the window.

Yong Tang: So the world order should be democratic?

Bennett: Democracy means many things. How do you define democracy? As a Chinese journalist, you may have your own definition of democracy which corresponds to your history and your way of seeing the world. I may have another definition. Someone else may have their own definitions. Democracy means a lot of different things.

"...you have your own definition of democracy..." ??? Uh, you mean like single-party rule, Mr. Bennett? Is that one of the definitions that you think corresponds to Chinese history?

He goes on to explain:

Democracy in one sense means the majority decides, but it also means the rights of the minority are protected. As UK late Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, democracy is the least bad system that we have ever thught of. So democracy is never perfect. It always has problems. Our democracy here in the US has many contradictions, problems and challenges. So democracy is not a cure that could turn everything bad into good. It has its own advantages and its disadvantages.

Funny, I can't think of any disadvantages. But maybe that's just me.

Finally, an admission of sorts:

Yong Tang: Does it mean that American mainstream media no longer represent mainstream views?

Bennett: I think there will be some people on the right and conservatives who say that. In their eyes the mainstream media is too liberal while the whole country tends to be more and more conservative. Today American people are more conservative, nationalistic and religious and more closed off to foreign influence than the media. By and large, American mainstream media has been slow to appreciate how important the religion is in America. We don't cover it very deeply and extensively. So I think there are areas we are out of touch.

Thank you. Now do something about it. You accuse the Bush Administration of all talk and no action, look who's talking now.

Hang on, dear reader, one more and then I'll let you go:

Yong Tang: The Washington Post often describes China as a dictator communist regime without democracy and freedom. Why is the newspaper so fond of playing with such negative words?

Bennett: I disagree with that. First of all, Neither The Washington Post, nor the New York Times, nor any other big newspapers, refer to China today as a dictatorship regime. We don't use these words on the paper any more. Now we say China is a communist country only because it is a fact. China is ruled by the Communist party.

I give up. Reagan and Bush know the value of straight talk, even if journalists like Mr. Bennett don't.

We can mark Philip Bennett as a Useful Idiot. I'm quite sure that the editors of the People's Daily consider him one.

Update 3-17

Hugh Hewitt saw the interview but didn't trust the the Chinese translation. I should have been hesitant also, but wasn't. Hugh he contacted Mr. Bennett to get his side. Here's what happened, as posted on Hewitt's web site:

Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett gave an interview to the People's Daily recently, and took some heat in the blogosphere. I am suspicious of transcripts from state-controlled presses, and asked Mr. Bennett via e-mail if the transcript was correct. Here is his response:

"Mr. Hewitt,

You wrote to me about comments attributed to me in an interview with the People’s Daily of China. I am responding to set the record straight.

The version published in the People’s Daily includes numerous and important inaccuracies. In many places words and sentences were removed to change the meaning of what I said. In some places words or sentences were invented that I did not say. In one typical example, where I said “China is not a democracy” the People’s Daily version quoted me as saying “China is not a democracy either by American standards.” At the same time, comments critical of China were deleted.

In several key places, my words were rearranged to express a different view than I had clearly intended. This is true of the sentence that produced the headline for the article, “I don’t think US should be the leader of the world.” Below you can compare the way that sentence appeared in People’s Daily with a transcript based on the actual tape recording.

People’s Daily version:

Yong Tang: In such sense, do you think America should be the leader of the world?

Bennett: No, I don't think US should be the leader of the world. My job is
helping my readers trying to understand what is happening now. What is
happening now is very difficult to understand. The world is very complex.
There are various complex forces occurring in it. I don't think you can
imagine a world where one country or one group of people could lead
everybody else. I can't imagine that could happen. I also think it is
unhealthy to have one country as the leader of the world. People in other
countries don't want to be led by foreign countries. They may want to have
good relations with it or they may want to share with what is good in that
country. That is also a sort of colonial question. The world has gone
through colonialism and imperialism. We have seen the danger and
shortcomings of those systems. If we are heading into another period of
imperialism where the US thinks itself as the leader of the area and its
interest should prevail over all other interests of its neighbors and
others, then I think the world will be in an unhappy period.

What was really said:

Yong Tang: Another question is that since the Washington Post is mainstream media in American how does the newspaper deal with the relations between America and the rest of the world? Do you think America should be the leader of the world?

Bennett: You know I don't ask myself that question. Again that would be to express a political view, an editorial view, and I ...

Yong Tang: How about personal opinion.

Bennett:You know, I don't...

Yong Tang:First of all I think that America should be the leader.

Bennett: I don't think in those terms. And I'm not trying to dodge the
question. It's just that my job is to help people try to understand what's
happening now. And what's happening now is very hard to understand. The world is very complex, there are very complex forces occurring in it. I
don't think you can imagine a world - given where we are with technology ,
culture, with economics - I don't think you could imagine a world where one
country, where one group of people, lead everybody else. I just can't
imagine that happening. And I think it would be unhealthy if one country -
whether or not it was this country or China or France or Great Britain -
would describe itself as the leader of the world. People in other countries
do not want to be led by a foreign country. They may want to have good
relations with them and they may want to share in what's good about that
other country. But that's almost sort of a colonial question. I feel like
we've been through an era of colonialism, of imperialism, and we've seen
the dangers and the shortcomings of those systems. If we are headed into
another period of imperialism where either the United States or China, for
example, thinks of itself as the leader of its area and where it's interests should prevail over all others interests of its neighbor or others then I think we are headed for an unhappy period. So I guess that's how I would answer that question. Maybe the answer is then no I don't think the United States should be the world leader. But what I really mean to say that I don't think we are headed into a period of history where one country or one set of ideas is going to dominate all others."

Two points: First, I let my guard down and believed what I wanted to believe regarding Mr Bennett. I should have let the story go for a day or two to see what developed. Second, however, Mr Bennett's correction really doesn't change anything of substance. What he did actually say is bad enough and still reason for me not to read the Washington Post.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bolton's Principles

John Bolton, who was recently appointed by the president to be our next ambassador to the United Nations, has a firm set of ideas for dealing with that body. Bolton laid out these principles in a 1997 essay which was part of a Cato Institute publication titled "Delusions of Grandeur". In his essay, "The Creation, Fall, Rise and Fall of the United Nations", he outlines five things that we should insist on when dealing with the UN:

  1. "The new secretary-general must deliver on reform." This remains as relevant now as it was eight years ago. Mr. Bolton still believes that the key to reform lies in breaking down the United Nations' traditional fiefdoms in the development program, environment program, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and others, and treating the United Nations as a single system.
  2. The United Nations should "stick with traditional peacekeeping," which means following the old rule that permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- should not take part in peacekeeping. Moreover, "what should be relegated to history's junk pile at the first opportunity are the chimerical Clinton notions of U.N. 'peace enforcement' and 'nation-building' and 'enlargement.'
  3. "Do not reform the Security Council." Mr. Bolton wants the current permanent members to keep their veto, a power that he sees as "the greatest single protection the U.S. has at the U.N. ... The desire to remold the Security Council now to conform to theoretical models of contemporary global politics should not obscure our present ability to make the council function effectively, at least in certain circumstances."
  4. "Management and financial reform remains essential." Mr. Bolton questions the financial basis of the United Nations, under which each country pays dues that are meant to be assessed roughly in accordance with their wealth. "Eliminate assessments altogether, moving toward a U.N. system that is funded entirely by purely voluntary contributions from the member governments ... [which] would allow each government to judge for itself whether it was getting its money's worth from the U.N. and each of its component agencies."
  5. "Face reality" and accept the United Nations' limitations and the realities of national interest, and from the American point of view, remember, "The U.N. is only a tool, not a theology. It is one of several options we have and is certainly not invariably the most important one."
The only one I'd quibble with at all is number three, yet even there Bolton's warnings are well taken. On the one hand, the Security Council is a relic of the Cold War, and at best reflects a world that hasn't existed in almost a hundred years (the only reason France has a permanent seat is because everyone felt sorry for them after World War II). On the other hand, revising it may only make matters worse (and things can always get worse).

Other than that I see his appointment as nothing but positive. The UN desperately needs to be shaken up, and to be told things that it doesn't want to hear.

Best of all, Bolton has all the right enemies. The usual suspects in the Democrat Party have promised to oppose his nomination, which I take as meaning that President Bush appointed the right man.

Posted by Tom at 3:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Naive or Just Plain Stupid?

Is the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena naive or just plain stupid? Or is this just how communists think?

Giuliana Sgrena, of course, is hostage who was ransomed from her terrorist kidnappers in Iraq by her government. She writes for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto.

The more I read about this story the curiouser and curiouser it gets. Jack Kelly had some details on her thinking in his column yesterday:

Sgrena went to Iraq to report on the heroic resistance to the American imperialists. Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos rode in the airplane to Baghdad with her.

"Be careful not to get kidnapped," Doornbos warned Sgrena.

"You don't understand the situation," she responded, according to Doornbos' account in the Nederlands Dagblatt. "The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers. The enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear." Sgrena left her hotel the morning of Feb. 4th to interview refugees from Fallujah, the resistance stronghold captured by U.S. Marines in November.
So she counts herself as an enemy of America, it would seem. Nice.
The interviews didn't go well. "The refugees...would not listen to me," she said. "I had in front of me the accurate confirmation of the analysis of what the Iraqi society had become as a result of the war and they would throw their truth in my face."

Sgrena's feelings were hurt that the refugees could be so curt to: "I who had risked everything, challenging the Italian government who didn't want journalists to reach Iraq and the Americans who don't want our work to be witnessed of what really became of that country with the war and notwithstanding that which they call elections."

This sort of stuff boggles the mind. Can anyone be so naive?

Unfortunately yes. This is what the communist mindset is all about. From Lenin on down, they have believed that they have a mission to educate "the masses" about the reality of what is going on in the world. The people are fooled by the capitalists, imperialists, religious leaders, etc, into adopting a "false reality." It is the mission of the elite to educate them and lead them to a proper understanding. And, if the communists do come into power and the masses don't cooperate, just shoot them or send them to the gulag. Either will do.

But I don't have time this morning for a full exploration of this topic. A few more tidbits will have to suffice for now.

LGF has a link to a Dutch reporter, Harald Doornbos, who know Sgrenga. He backs up Kelly's description:

'Be careful not to get kidnapped,' I told the female Italian journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed for Baghdad. 'Oh no,' she said. 'That won't happen. We are siding with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.'

It doesn't sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But Sgrena's attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn't she tell me back in the plane that 'common journalists such as yourself' simply do not support the Iraqi people? 'The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind,' the three women behind me had told me, for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated the Americans as well.

(Doornbos goes on to explain how the women demeaned him for travelling as an embedded reporter with the US military, for security reasons. They didn't want to hear about any safety concerns.)

'You don't understand the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists,' they said. The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.

(Doornbos tells them they're out of their mind.)

But they knew better. When we arrived at Baghdad Airport, I was waiting for a jeep from the American army to come pick me up. I saw one of the Italian women walking around crying. An Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. They were standing outside shivering, waiting for a cab to take them to Baghdad.

You just can't make this stuff up.

LGF also reports that her story is unraveling fast.

Predicatably, the left-wingers in the US support her whacko version of events. If you can stomach it, check out this example here.. At least more respectable outlets like The Nation seem to be ignoring her.

This entire situation is at once bizarre and hohum. Bizarre because once again we are reminded of just how out-to-lunch some people on the left are. Hohum because we've seen it so many times over the past century and a half.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

A Small Beginning

DAMASCUS, Syria -- About 100 activists trying to stage a sit-in demonstration demanding greater freedoms were chased from a downtown square yesterday by hundreds of pro-government demonstrators carrying large pictures of the Syrian president, a human rights committee said.
I''m amazed that the demonstration occurred at all, no matter for how short a time.

According to the Reform Party of Syria's web site (by way of NRO The Corner):

March 10, 2005. Pro-Syrian Demonstrations Staged under Fear. The Pro-Syrian demonstrations witnessed in Lebanon and Damascus have been staged by the Ba'ath Party. They forced the people to come out in favor of Assad inside both countries by threatening the people and ordering them to show up in the streets. Messages to schools, trade and labor unions, and government offices were propagated last week that ORDERED Syrians to show-up. The same fear tactic used to oppress dissidents is also used to show support by the double thinkers of the Syrian people. The moment Syrians feel Assad and the Ba'ath Party have been abandoned by the United States, they will abandon both in droves.

This would be typical of totalitarian countries. Their ability to coerce large numbers of people into participating in demonstrations is legendary. Paul Hollander documented literally hundreds of such examples in his excellent book "Political Pilgrims". No doubt that Hezbollah, the terrorist group that organized last week's pro-Syrian demonstrations in Beruit, is a potent force with great ability to disrupt Lebanon, the Syrian regime itself may be more fragile than we realize. Let's give it a push.

Posted by Tom at 9:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trouble with Blogger

I tried to do some posts yesterday morning but started getting the dreaded "Document contains no data" message on my browser. Since I'd just set up a new network at home, I thought that the problem was with me. About drove me nuts resetting firewalls and cleaning out caches. Today I'm pretty certain the problem was on the other end. Or so I hope. Did everyone else have trouble yesterday morning?

Posted by Tom at 8:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005


There are many ways in which we're fighting the War on Terror: bombs and bullets, seizing terrorist bank accounts, sharing intelligence information within our country and with intelligence agencies abroad, propaganda, and economic aid. But who exactly will lead this effort? The United States, obviously. But contrary to what the left would have you believe, we have not, are not, and will not "go it alone." Anyone not trapped by their ideology knows that we have allies around the globe. And you'd have to be blind not to notice that by and large most of these these are English-speaking countries. Not all, but most.

James C Bennett calls this the "Anglosphere". His book, "The Anglosphere Challenge", is reviewed in the latest print edition of National Review. You can view it on-line only if you have paid subscription. I have not read the book but find the premise interesting. The reviewer, Keith Windschuttle, describes Bennett's Anglosphere:

The Anglosphere he envisages would be a "network commonwealt"� of English-speaking nations based on the existing shared values of Anglo-American cultural and political traditions. His concept offers the prospect not of radical change but of a reaffirmation of deep cultural roots. Politically, it is diametrically opposed to the two major movements that, since the demise of socialism, have absorbed the Western intellectual Left: radical multiculturalism at home and bureaucratic internationalism abroad.
Bennett has been making his case for some time, and although I've read snippets of it, this is the first full review of his ideas that I've come across.

It makes sense. Windschuttle points out that it was mainly United States and Australian naval forces that make up the bulk of the tsumani relief efforts. International organizations spent much of their time complaining that we were trying to "freeze them out" or "undermine" them.

It is not so much language as values that make up the Anglosphere, Bennett says. Windschuttle summarizes

"It is our core values and characteristics that have made us dynamic," he writes, "and it is to those values that we must return": individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom. The core of Bennett's Anglosphere comprises the countries where these values are dominant: the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, English-speaking Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean. He also includes the educated English-speaking populations of South Africa and India as important "nodes." He describes some other former colonies, including Zimbabwe and the Philippines, as outside the inner circle but still closer to the center than to the periphery.
What about Europe? I have often used the term "the West" in this blog
Bennett wants to distinguish the Anglosphere from other models of international alliance that he believes have outlived their usefulness. The principal one is the concept of "the West": the European-descended countries that constituted Western civilization. The widening gulf between continental Europe and the U.S. shows that the concept of the West is already anachronistic. It was artificially prolonged anyway, Bennett argues, by the need for an identity to tie NATO together during the Cold War. In the post-Soviet era, there is nothing to inhibit the development of a separate identity for the English-descended civilizations.
Windschuttle's not so sure, and neither am I. All of the nations in Europe are tied together by a shared heritage that flows from ancient Greece and Rome, and infused by Christianity. For all our differences, they are much closer to us than any Asian, African, or Arab/Muslim philosophy, culture, or values system. I would put them on an "outer circle" or something; still part of us, but not quite as close.

How would the Anglosphere work?

...he (bennett) argues that he is not talking about short-term national interests and conflicts: His Anglosphere would not be a traditional treaty alliance based on geopolitical strategy or the sharing of a common enemy. Instead, Bennett sees the Anglosphere as a long-term civilizational relationship, more between the citizens of its various nations than between their governments.

His "network commonwealth" would be a series of links to promote the flow of informational products, software, and people, bypassing the gatekeeper institutions of the past. The main policy mechanisms to do this are the familiar ones of security alliances and trade and immigration agreements. Bennett emphasizes, however, that the network commonwealth cannot emulate the nation-state. Indeed, it is not a state at all, though it could potentially fulfill some of the traditional economic functions of the state. It is a means of linking smaller political communities so that they can deal with common concerns and take up common opportunities.

It makes sense, although I'll have to think on it more. It does seem that the English-speaking nations have a shared set of values and ideas on how to approach the world that are somewhat different than even our Western allies. There are times when we can come together, the Cold War being the most obvious example.

Other proponents of the Anglosphere include Robert Conquest and Andrew Sullivan.

For those interested in more information, Wikopedia has a good article which includes a discussion of Bennett's critics. Those who oppose use of the term and concept of an "Anglosphere" tend to fall into maybe four categories:

  • Anti-ethnocentric critics - they see it as code for racism
  • Regionalists - they see an Anglosphere as undermining regional interests. These include "Atlanticists" who stress the importance of U.S. - European unity.
  • Realists / Realpolitic - they do not see culture as as important as traditional "power politics".
  • Autonomists - say that culture is much more complicated than just language. The emphasize the contribution of non-English speaking European cultures.
More in future on this topic. Readers, let me know your thoughts.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 9, 2005

The Week So Far

It is said that there are two types of Palestinians; those who deny that the Holocaust occurred, and those who think it was a good thing. Mahmoud Abbas (original name Abu-Mazen) is a Holocaust denyer, which I suppose puts him on the "good" side. Or least bad, take you pick. Abbas is now president of the Palestinian Authority. In 1983 he wrote a book called "The Other Side: The Secret Relations Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement", in which he asserted that "only" one million jews were killed by the Nazis. It tells us much about the state of the Palestinians that he is actually a breath of fresh air compared to the excreable Arafat.

John Bolton has been apointed Ambassador to the UN, and as it seems to have upset the liberals in congress (Republican and Democrat), which means that he will do well if confirmed. We need someone along the lines of Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who, as Reagan's ambassador to the UN, put that organization on notice that there was a new sheriff in town. We need someone who will not put up with business as usual, and if that doesn't please Biden, Chafee, Boxer, or Dodd, so be it.

The Washington Post reports today that there has been a steady drop in military enlistments by black Americans, "reflecting a lack of support among African Americans for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as an economy that is providing more enticing options at home." Does this make them less patriotic? Washington DC radio talk show host Michael Graham thinks so. I'm not so sure, although it is surely disappointing that the one group that has benefited the most from government (read "taxpayer") largess) doesn't think our current war is worth fighting. (Note: I hate "group" talk, and realize there are exceptions, but sometimes it is useful in understanding matters).

Dan Rather will make his last broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News tonight. Good riddance. He still doesn't get it though: First of all, from where I sit, I am leaving on a high note," Rather says, "and a higher note than I deserve and certainly a higher note than I ever thought possible when I walked into this job. Unbelieveable.

It's bad enough that Nicola Calipari, the Italian intelligence officer who was accidentally killed by US forces, but does the Italian government have to fuel the fires of conspiracy-mongering? The Washington Times reports today that "Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini rejected U.S. assertions that the vehicle carrying a freed hostage and two Italian secret service agents had been speeding and did not heed warnings for it to stop." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under pressure now to reduce their troop numbers in Iraq. The journalist they rescued, one Guiliani Sgrena, was apparently let go for a ransom. Sgrena, writes for an Italian anti-war communist newspaper and of course claims that the United States deliberatly targeted her for assassination. No doubt many will believe her. What it really points up if the utter incompetence of the Italian Secret Service, as Glenn Reynolds believes. And what message has Italy sent by paying a ransom? "Kidnapping pays" This puts all civilian workers in Iraq in danger. As far as I'm concerned, Italy owes the United States an apology.

The situation in Lebanon gets more complicated. Yesterday Hezbollah supporters held a huge pro-Syrian rally in Beruit. What this points to is the success Syria has had in corrupting much of that country in the thirty years they have been occupiers. The good news is that President Bush is sticking to his guns and demanding that Syria leave. He's not one to blink in the face of pressure, and we can all be thankful for that.

Posted by Tom at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging's been light

FYI, readers, blogging has been light these past few days because I've been painting several rooms in the house, and setting up a new wireless network with a new ISP. I'm about finished now so I'll be back to business shortly.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 6, 2005

What We Must Remember

One of my favorite sites is an Italian blog called "I Love America." Almost all of the posts are in Italian, so I can't read a word of it. But last November when they posted "Viva La Re-Election" along with a picture of George W Bush, the message was clear.

In a post the other day they reminded me of something that we must remember. That something is the extent of the horror that we have put an end to in Iraq.

It's called the Iraqi Truth Project, and it is dedicated to remembering the horror of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. Saddam is responsible for the deaths of at least 1.3 million people.

The Iraqi Truth Project has just released a film documenting the horrors of the Saddam regime and the failures of the United Nations. It's called "WMD: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein." Their website says that much of "the source footage in this documentary will be used as evidence of war crimes committed by Saddam's regime in the upcoming war trial of Ali Hasan al-Majid, "Chemical Ali' and in Saddam Hussein's war trials." As well it should be.

You can see the movie trailer here.

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the advisors to the makers of the film. Actually I'm not quite sure of his status, but he's listed on the website.

So please go to the Iraqi Truth Project website. Be forwarned, some of it is pretty graphic. But that's just what we need to remember.

Posted by Tom at 9:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World Council of Churches Whackyness

Israpundit has a must-read interview with Professor Charles Merkley regarding the World Council of Churches decision to divest themselves of companies that do business with Israel. The WCC consists of 347 member denominations from around the world, including such mainstream churches as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Here's how the WCC puts it in their press release:

The WCC governing body encouraged the Council's member churches "to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent" as a new way to work for peace, by looking at ways to not participate economically in illegal activities related to the Israeli occupation. In that sense, the committee affirmed "economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied," as a "means of action".

As an example, the WCC governing body mentions the "process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in the occupation" now being implemented by the Presbyterian Church (USA). "This action is commendable in both method and manner, [and] uses criteria rooted in faith."

In other words, it's the same old left-wing crap we've come to expect from them. They take the leftmost position on every issue. If you don't believe me read their press releases. I've blogged on the Presbyterians before, see here and here (I'm still officially a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) but now go to another).

Professor Merkley offers several explanation as to why the WCC took this action, but thinks this one most likely:

The most sinister explanation – and I fear the most likely – is that the WCC is now panicking in face of the real prospect of a diplomatic solution of the Israel-Palestine dispute, which could result in the Palestinian side settling with the State of Israel. The WCC leadership has been drinking disinformation for decades from the well of the Middle East Council of Churches, and is committed to Israel’s illegitimacy. In its statement of February 21, the WCC implies that the real boundaries of Israel – the boundaries that now need to be re-negotiated, are not those of 1967 but those of 1948. WCC supports the unlimited right of return of “Palestinian refuges”, fully cognizant of the fact that if any substantial part of that multi-million population is canted back inside the 1948 boundaries, then the Jewish state will not be able to contain them. It is my considered belief, reached through careful study of dozens and dozens of WCC statements on this issue, that the WCC will not let up on Israel until it is no more.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 5, 2005

Crisis in the Congo: UN Sex Abuse Charges

Fox News has been at the center of investigating the various scandals that have rocked the United Nations over the past few years. Most people by now are familiar with Oil-for-Food, the one in which during the 90's bureaucrats around the world enriched themselves at the expense of the Iraqi people. Over the past few months new scandals have emerged, ones involving massive abuse of the civilian populations by UN peacekeeping troops.

I'm not going to attempt any new reporting or analysis here, rather just want to keep the issue in the forefront for anyone not following these stories. The reason is not to "bash" the UN, as some would allege,but rather to illustrate how the institution as it now stands often does more harm than good. It is my belief that at this point, the onus is on the defenders of the UN to explain why we should continue to pay all of our dues to this outfit.

On with the latest scandal. First, a bit of background;

Five years ago, more than 10,000 peacekeepers working for the United Nations came to the Democratic Republic of Congo,to help end a six-nation war. But reports of sexual abuse of local women and girls began soon after they arrived from Morocco, South Africa, Australia, India and Europe.
Eventually, someone caught on. But the response has been too little too late
In January, the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services released a report claiming peacekeepers regularly had sex with the Congolese women and girls in exchange for food or small sums of money.

"We have had and continue to have a serious problem of sexual exploitation and abuse," William Lacy Swing, the U.N. special representative to Congo, said.

The scandal intensified after the recent discovery of hundreds of violent, pornographic photos and videotapes of children, supposedly taken by a U.N. official. The images depict naked Congolese children in positions of severe physical degradation performing sexual acts with and under the control of a man, the United Nations admits, who is one of their own.

The worst part is that this sort of abuse is nothing new

The Congo scandal is not the first time U.N. peacekeepers have come under scrutiny. Past reports of ill practices surfaced in Cambodia, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo and Somalia. Despite that history and after four years of sex abuse reports by U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo, there still is no procedure of investigation or accountability on the ground.

UN officials have of late insisted that they have a "zero tolerance" policy toward such abuses. But Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan, on the scene in the Congo, reports otherwise

When night falls in Goma, U.N. peacekeepers can still be seen leaving their base in search of sex.

Some of them duck down in the rocks with prostitutes in lava fields. Others patronize brothels located near the base. These are clear violations of the rules under "zero tolerance," which includes a strict curfew and a ban on contact between U.N. peacekeepers and local women.

There are many reasons why this is allowed to occur. First, you have troops from third world countries who are often more than organized mobs. They more resemble an eighteenth-century European army than a modern force, back in the days when looting was an accepted way of exacting retribution on an enemy and rewarding one's own troops.

The UN pays a per diem to countries who contribute troops. It is a fixed amount, $1,028 per month per soldier/peacekeeper, regardless of the country that sent him. The issue is that it costs a European or American taxpayer much more per soldier than it does a third-world taxpayer. The result is that peacekeeping is a money maker for these countries. What this means is that when there are abuses no one wants to rock the boat for fear of upsetting the gravy train.

UN bureaucrats from the third world see the UN as a gold mine, where they can live in New York or Paris and receive salaries unimaginable in their home countries. They do not want to kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

Then you have the simple fact that the UN is accountable only to itself. There is no incentive to root out and eliminate abuse.

I used to think that the UN was at least good for humanitarian missions. Then came it's abject failure to deal with the south-east Asian tsunami disaster, and the revelations of these sex abuse scandals.

I've written quite a bit about the United Nations on this blog, as regular readers know. Among my posts are these:

Worse and Worse at the UN
The Harmful UN
A Perfect Knave
Alternatives to the UN
UN Alternative Update

Sunday Update

The Washington Times has a good article this morning on UN peacekeeping operations. It's just as I suspected; some third-world countries use this as a money-making operation:

Because the United Nations pays a flat rate of $1,028 per person per month, there is a built-in disincentive for the better trained and equipped nations to contribute people.

Every American, European, Australian and Canadian peacekeeper is subsidized by their respective governments, while lesser-paid African and South Asian soldiers actually generate income for their nations.

For some of the poorer nations -- Senegal, Niger and Ghana, for example -- sending soldiers on a U.N. mission is a win-win situation, a way to keep peacetime troops combat-ready while providing hard currency.

Bangladesh, for one, nets about $150 million a year from its peacekeeping participation.

"To some, our involvement in other countries may be controversial," Bangladesh's U.N. ambassador, Iftekher Chowdhury, said recently.

To be fair, there are other objectives than money
But Dhaka long ago figured out that it's possible to do well by doing good. A sustained commitment to peacekeeping has allowed the government to forge strong ties with far more powerful nations, establish future trade relationships in Africa and leverage its international involvement into global prestige, he said.

"You know, we have never lost an election" in the United Nations, Mr. Chowdhury said, ticking off a list of U.N. bodies and subsidiaries where Bangladesh has a seat.
And the armies of some countries, such as India, have performed admirably
India takes its peacekeeping so seriously that it has created a training center for officers, and recommends that other contributing nations follow its example of keeping its peacekeepers busy with noncombat tasks, such as running clinics and digging wells for local people.

Indian troops have not been accused of wrongdoing in recent years, a fact that Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen and U.N. officials quickly volunteer.

"We are the backbone of the [upcoming] Sudan mission," Mr. Sen said.

Unfortunately, India is the exception rather than the rule. As all of this illustrates, the United Nations is a mess and needs to clean up it's act immediately. Because as things stand now, this organization does more harm than good.

Posted by Tom at 9:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 4, 2005

Go for It

Apparently some Democrats in Congress believe that this is the path that will lead them to glory

Unable to wrest answers from the White House on "Gannongate," five top Democrats say they will force a vote in Congress to spur a House investigation.

The quintet of heavyweights from the House Judiciary, Government Reform, Homeland Security, Rules, and Ways and Means committees filed a resolution of inquiry yesterday to demand that the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department surrender any documents they have concerning James Guckert's access to the White House.

Mr. Guckert, also known as "Jeff Gannon," wrote for a conservative online news operation. Democrats say the White House used him as a plant to further the administration's agenda.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, repeatedly has failed to get the White House or anyone else to turn over the goods on Mr. Guckert.

"This is a matter of national security and unethical White House media manipulation," Mrs. Slaughter insisted yesterday. "We intend to find out what the White House is hiding."
I say go for it.

While Democrats occupy themselves with this non-scandal, we'll get on with the business of running the country.

In case you're not familiar with what all this fuss if about, the left has decided that they've been handled the equivalent of a "Rathergate" level scandal. What a hoot.

If you want the full story of what this is all about read Byron York's article in National Review. A digital subscription is required to view it on line, but here are a few excerpts:

The name refers to Jeff Gannon, a previously little-known correspondent for a previously little-known conservative website called Talon News. For the last couple of years, Gannon was a fixture at White House briefings, where he often asked questions with a clear conservative slant (as opposed to questions from others with a clear liberal slant). Although the softballs Gannon lobbed to press secretary Scott McClellan irritated some members of the press corps, Gannon did not attract much attention until January 26, when President Bush surprised reporters by giving a news conference.

"Gannon" thew a softball question to the President. Other reporters were annoyed by this, and some decided to investigate. To make a long story short, from what I can understand "Gannnon's" sins were that A) he did not have a 'hard pass' to the White House press briefings, B) went by the alias "Jeff Gannon" instead of his real name, James Guckert, C) did not work for a "real" news organization, and D) was a closet homosexual who either ran or participated in gay "escort services". The latter is what really set left-wing bloggers off:
It might seem odd to some that what began as a story about one reporter's soft question turned into a hostile outing. The liberal bloggers claimed they were justified in their actions because Gannon was a hypocrite who, they charged, wrote anti-gay stories for Talon. But the best they could come up with was a 2004 story in which Gannon, playing off the oft-quoted saying that Bill Clinton was America's first black president, wrote that John Kerry "might someday be known as "the first gay president." Kerry, Gannon continued, "has enjoyed a 100 percent rating from the homosexual advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), since 1995 in recognition of his support for the pro-gay agenda."
You get the point. The left has decided that this is a huge story, and if they want to occupy themselves with over it, fine by me.

Posted by Tom at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 2, 2005

Just War Series - Discrimination

Summary and Outline

Introduction to Just War Theory

I. Recourse to War - jus ad bellum

  1. Just Cause
  2. Competent Authority
  3. Comparative Justice
  4. Right Intention
  5. Last Resort
  6. Probability of Success
  7. Proportionality

II. Conduct in War - jus in bello
  1. Discrimination
  2. Proportionality

"The principle of discrimination means that one may not licitly make attacks in which noncombatants are directly intended to be killed" (all quotes, and much material, Martino unless otherwise noted).

The words "directly" and "intended" are critical. However, before we can even discuss these concepts, we must sort out what constitutes "combatant" and "noncombatant" status. We will also cover "illegal combatant."

Combatant versus Noncombatant

It is obvious that members of the armed forces are combatants. Beyond that, however, it gets murky.

The bellicist (opposite of pacifist) position is that "they are all guilty", that is, all citizens of the nation with which we are at war are guilty of aiding the war effort and are thus subject to attack. This was, in fact, the position that we took during World War II. The allies conducted bombing attacks on Japanese and German cities without much regard as to whom we hit. We justified this by reasoning that civilians were supporting the war effort, thus they were targets. Besides, the enemy had no compunction about attacking our civilians.

Now, of course, the vast majority of Westerners have rejected this extreme view. Only a few, such as Ward Churchill, still adopt it. Paradoxically, he and others like him take the position that it is us who are "all guilty" and thus deserve to be attacked. I'll not deal with the absurdity here, as it will be evident to most readers.

A "middle" position is that workers in certain industries are legitimate targets. This position is more of a sliding scale, with some arguing that only workers who manufacture armaments are targets, while others include any industry that might aid the enemy war effort, such as power plants.

But this is still unsatisfactory. Can we not attack the factories and transportation facilities themselves without directly targeting the civilians working there? We'll get to the specifics of this later, but for now, let's clear up this issue of combatants versus noncombatants:

  1. "The issue is not that noncombatants in some mysterious way gain an immunity against attack which their fellow-citizen combatants lack, but rather that they retain the immunity against attack that is 'a feature of normal human relationships'"
  2. Also, that only those who actively take up arms against us are to be considered combatants (whether legal or illegal combatants does not matter. For a further discussion see below)

Can Civilians be Killed?

The answer is yes, but only if certain conditions are met. We will divide the problem into two parts; the number of civilians that may be killed, and the other with "what actions the attacker takes to discriminate between combatant and noncombatant." The former is part of Proportion in war, and will be considered in the next post. We'll discuss the latter here.

An attacker must not only recognize that there is a distinction between combatant and noncombatant, he must adjust his actions accordingly.

The Principle of the Double Effect

This principle is used to judge a situation in which an action intended to produce a morally right effect, also produces an effect that is immoral if directly employed. In other words, if the second effect is not directly intended, the action is moral. The immoral, or "bad" effect must not flow directly from the moral, or "good", action. Put in even more plain terms, one may take a moral action, even if there is an immoral side effect, as long as that side effect is not directly intended and one attempts to minimize it. One may not take an immoral action, even though good may come of it.

The classic example is that of the munitions factory. We are justified in bombing the factory, even though civilians may be killed in the process. We are obligated to make serious attempts to minimize those civilian casualties, however. For example, we may decide to bomb at night, when the factory is closed, or we may use precision bombs so as to avoid as much as possible damage to surrounding neighborhoods. Reasonable people can disagree as to the extent of our obligations here, but the point is that they exist and must be taken into account.

On the other hand, suppose for purposes of illustration that our enemy has hidden the factory deep underground where our bombs cannot reach it. Would we be justified in bombing the civilian workers homes? After all, this would have the good effect of ending production at the factory. The answer, of course, is no, we would not be justified in bombing their homes. The reason is that directly attacking civilians is immoral.

An attacker must genuinely not want to kill civilians. Killing civilians must be genuinely unwanted. We may permit it to occur, we may even foresee it's occurence, but that is not the same as directly attacking civilians or even carelessness. In practical terms, we may not fire missiles and drop bombs at random and use the excuse "we didn't mean to kill civilians." A conscious effort must be made.

Accepting Some Risk

Some have suggested that one measure of whether an attacker is keeping with the bounds of discrimination is if he is willing to accept some degree of risk to himself.

The key, of course, is "how much risk?" This runs the gamut from "none at all!" to "we must go out of our way to avoid excess damage and casualties."

As an example of the former, I recall during the run-up to the Gulf War, Ross Perot advocated the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq so that no American would run the risk of losing their lives. Although I cannot recall an analogous situation in the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns, I'm sure the occurred. Likewise, in Bosnia President Clinton ordered our airmen to bomb from a considerable height so as to minimize the risk to them. Although to my knowledge no Americans were killed, the result was a less-than-ideal result from the bombing campaign.

On the other hand, there are constant cries from "human rights" organizations that we are not doing enough to protect civilian lives and minimize damage. The Unites States is acused of carelessness or worse.

The reality is that our forces are usually somewhere in-between these two extremes, but from all of the information that I read we are actually closer to the latter, whereby we assume great risks to avoid unnecessary damage and casualties. I have read story after story about how our forces have been subjected to withering fire from the enemy (often inaccurate, but surely nerve-wracking), yet holding their own fire until certain of their targets.

One resolution to the query "how much risk?" is offered by Martino. When the United States goes to war with a tyrannical government, such as Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Ba'athist Iraq, or, as a theoretical, Communist Russia, the citizens of that nation are not the beneficiaries of that tyranny but rather it's victims. It is incumbent on them to oppose that tyranny to some degree. In other words, they, too, should share some of the risk. After all, our victory is their victory, whether in the heat of battle they realize it or not. By this same token, we have an obligation to try and minimize civilian casualties, since they are our natural allies.

As mentioned, the citizens of the countries with which we are at war bear some responsibility for their situation. To some degree, every people is responsible for their own government, whether it is a tyranny or a democracy, to the extent that they tolerate the actions of that government. In other words, they have some responsibility to revolt or resist against that government.

The conclusion is that we need accept no more risk than the people of our enemies government assume themselves in resisting that government. How much risk this translates into is a matter that reasonable people can debate, as long as they keep the central principle in mind.

Applied to Iraq, this would mean that our obligation to avoid civilian deaths and damage was initially proportional to the Iraqi peoples reisitance to the Saddam Hussein government, and later to the amount of cooperation that we receive from them in defeating the terrorists. Since in the former there are many, many examples of resistance, and in the latter they have become very cooperative, we are under a great obligation to discriminate when we use force.


The type of target we attack is part of discrimination. Possible targets run the range from military units and their bases, to munitions factories, and finally to civilian power plants and bridges. While no serious person would argue against attacking targets in the former two categories, the latter presents unique problems. During the Gulf War we attacked Iraqi power plants, bridges, telephone exchanges, and more. While these affected the ability of their military to carry out it's mission, they also had a negative impact on the civilian population.

During the invasion of Iraq, we abstained from attacking these civilian targets. Was it right to attack them in the former, yet not in the latter, instance?

The justification for attacking them in the Gulf War was that we could hamper the ability of the Iraqi military by destroying them. The rational for not attacking them in the invasion was that A) we could destroy the Iraqi military without destroying the civilian infrastructure (the result of technological advances on our part), and B) because our objective this time was to occupy the country, and did not want to alienate the civilian population.

Selection of Weapons

The last aspect of discrimination is sizing the bomb to the target. We must discriminate between the target and it's surroundings. We must take reasonable care to avoid unnecessary damage to civilian structures, even if they are in close proximity to the target.

With targets on land, we typically do this by examining what it would take to destroy the target, looking at surrounding civilian structures, and even taking into account the time of day when civilians are most likely to be in the area. We then look at the weapons in our arsenal that would destroy the target, and judge how much damage they might also cause to surrounding civilian structures and people. We choose the smallest weapon available that will both destroy the target and minimize damage to civilians. This might even mean firing the missile or dropping the bomb from a particular angle.

In the case of a warship at sea, this principle comes into effect, since there may well be commercial freighters, cruise liners, and other vessels in the vicinity. Modern weapons, such as the American Harpoon anti-ship missile, are "fire and forget" weapons, with a range in the tens of miles. Once launched, their radar seekers will lock onto the largest "blip," whether this is an enemy ship or innocent fishing trawler. We must therefore take care when using these weapons that there are not civilians in the vicinity.

Sizing the weapon to the target, and exercising care in using the weapon, means accepting some risk to our own forces. How much risk we need take is always debatable, but to stay in the bounds of acceptable behavior, we need to accept that we do need to accept some risk.

Illegal Combatants

I discussed the issue of illegal combatants in an earlier post, so will only summarize here. Essentially, Article 4, Section A2 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War provides that:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

My point here is simply to point out that anyone who attacks US forces or civilians are themselves subject to attack, and that discriminating between them and civilians may be quite difficult. Whether they are legal or illegal combatants does not matter in this context. The principle of discrimination only means that we must take care in pursuit of illegal combatants and exercise care in our military actions.


It is said by some that economic sanctions, by their nature, are indiscriminate. That is, they are by definition applied to the entire population, and thus hurt innocents, not just the rulers.

In the 1990's , the United States and our allies attempted to get around this by use of the "oil-for-food" program. The idea behind this was that the Iraqi people would receive the food and medical care they needed, while depriving the regime of money to buy weaponry and material for WMD production.

Oil-for-Food was a laudable idea. That it is evident now that it was rift with corruption, however, makes one pause before recommending it as a model for future sanctions programs.

Most Just War theorists that I have read tend to frown on broad-based sanctions if they hurt the general population. They tend to favor targeted sanctions, such as those that are meant to prevent acquisition of WMD. However one comes down on this issue, it is clear to me that much more hard thinking is required before an acceptable model is found.


This is obviously a complicated subject with much room for disagreement. As I have stated, in many instances reasonable people will be able to disagree and still stay "in bounds." Whatever we decide in any specific instance, policy-planners must be cognizant of the principle of discrimination and avoid decisions made in anger or haste. Certainly soldiers in the heat of battle will make mistakes, but training can reduce this. However, in the end, we should be proud that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies can ever imagine.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Book Review: In Defense of Internment

One of the most controversial books to come out in the past year was Michelle Malkin's In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror. She has, to put it mildly, raised quite a stir. All you have to do is read the reviews on Amazon.com to get a picture of how much she is hated as a result of this book. It's obvious that there was a concerted effort to post as many negative reviews as possible. Their "reviews" are often nothing short of hysterical rants.

I remember catching Michelle Malkin one night on C-SPAN, where she was giving a talk at a university, I don't recall which. She gave her remarks and took questions from the audience. All the while, in the background, you could hear this incessant chant. It turns out that there was a protest group in the hallway who was trying to drown out her speech (Malkin eventually told the C-SPAN audience as to "why you hear a chant in the background"). The campus police kept the protesters in the hallway, where they could not directly interrupt her appearance. Such are the lengths to which some will go to prevent debate on certain issues.

Such tactics are nothing new to those of us who grew up during the 80's. I recall reading at the time about how conservative speakers were regularly shouted down during their speeches on college campuses. Some kept speaking even when it was obvious that no one could hear them, others simply gave up in frustration.

And, of course, one cannot help noting, as Malkin does in her book, that many who oppose racial profiling have no problem with allowing public universities to discriminate on the basis of race in their admissions policies.

One of the problems that I had with evaluating her book is that all too often those on the other side simply denounce the decision to intern as "racist hysteria!", as if that explained everything. There is an unfortunate tendancy in this country for the left to see all history in terms of class, race, and sex (no not "gender") oppression. Further, anyone who would dare to present a contrary view must be a racist or sexist. Malkin has been put in the same category as those who deny the holocaust, has been called a 'race traitor' (Asian solidarity, you see), and all the rest of it.

Of course I'm not really surprised by this. The new McCarthyites" are all on the left, and have been for some time now. I'm so jaded by modern-day cries of "racist!" that "the boy who cried wolf" syndrome set in a long time ago.

Back to her book. Malkin's thesis is this:

The central thesis of this book is that the national security measures taken during World War II were justifiable, given what was known and not known at the time. It is unfair to judge the decision-makers of the time as though they had all the knowledge that we do today.
In other words, one can only make decisions with information that is available at the time. One cannot make a decision based on information that is not known, or is gained later.

If this sounds obvious I do apologize, but so often we hear arguments by people who seem to think the opposite. Current anti-war types speak as if we knew all along that Saddam did not have stocks of WDM, or that Bush should have "known better" and contradicted all of his advisors.

Likewise, one of the arguments against Malkin is that "Japanese served honorably in the U.S. armed forces during World War II." This may be, but it was in the future when the decision to intern was made. Further, the notion that all immigrants automatically become patriotic Americans is inaccurate.

I discussed the issue of whether a Japanese invasion of our West Coast was possible, or more precisely, whether American decision makers had cause to fear Japanese invasion or attacks, in a previous post.

So What about the Book?

I'm not going to even attempt a point-by-point summary of her book, much less try to sort out whether she is right or not. I've gone through several negative book reviews, and read her responses to them. I can't figure out who is right in each case. What I will do is offer some thoughts on her book, and encourage readers to purchase it so that they can make their own decisions.

Fear of espionage and sabotoge was one of the motivating factors that led to the decision to intern Issei and Nisei (first and second-generation Japanese-Americans). That the Japanese wanted and tried to set up an intelligence network is indisputable. That they enjoyed at least some limited success has also been proven. The question is whether policy-makers in 1941-42 had reasonable cause to believe that there was an extensive intelligence or espionage network and that it was a threat to our national security.

The MAGIC Revelations

Much of Malkin's case rests on the MAGIC intercepts. MAGIC was the operation in which we broke the Japanese diplomatic code. The existence of MAGIC was top-secret during the war, with only a few officials beyond FDR himself knowing of it's existence. Essentially, the Japanese sent messages to and from their embassies in which they discussed the creating of an intelligence network in the United States, and especially on the West Coast. They encouraged the use of Issei, Nissei, "Negroes", and other disaffected Americans. Malkin's thesis is that the MAGIC intercepts played a key role in the decision to intern the Japanese-Americans.

A Tradition of Internment

Malkin points out that internment was the norm around the world at the time, and we're talking about our allies. Canada, Australia, the British, New Zealand, almost everyone interned ethnic Japanese, Germans, and Italians (and others). As for those who say that we should make a no distinction between American citizens and aliens, she says that "...it would be idiotic, and suicidal, to presume that foreign nationals from hostile countries with which we are at war are as loyal or friendly to the United States as native-born Americans or naturalized citizens...."

Why didn't the government simply monitor the Japanese here in the U.S.?

Mere monitoring of suspected subversives seemed an inadequate response, given what was at stake and the scope of the effort that would have been required. Beat in mind that close monitoring of ethnic Japanese agents in Honolulu had done nothing to prevent the transmission of sensitive information to Tokyo.
Criminal prosecutions were not possible because most had committed no overt crime and we didn't have enough evidence of espionage (and didn't want to reveal MAGIC in open court), martial law or quasi-judicial military tribunals were of dubious constitutionality. In short, there were too many Issei and Nissei to do anything else.

Malkin also explains that the reason that Germans or Italians were not interned was because they had not developed an extensive intelligence network as had the Japanese, and because so many Germans and Italians had already intermarried with native Americans, quite unlike the Japanese.

An Intelligence Network or Not?

Much of her book is based on the belief that American policy-makers believed that the Japanese had built an extensive intelligence network. Now go back and read that again. The question is not whether such a network existed, for hindsight is always 20/20, but whether we had cause to believe it existed. Malkin says yes, her detractors say no. Detractors point to the lack of prosecutions of Japanese-American spies "so where are they?", Malkin responds by saying that A) before Pearl Harbor the DOJ deferred to the Dept of State, which wanted to resolve the crisis with Japan peacefully, B) we did not want to reveal MAGIC in open court, and C) they were simply more difficult to discover and root out.

"B" was certainly true with other U.S. intelligence operations, such as Venona. Several communist spies, notably Judith Coplon, were able to escape conviction (she had two convictions overturned) because the government did not want to give up the existence of a code-breaking operation.


No doubt that racism, as we understand it today, had something to do with the decision to intern. Malkin downplays this more than she should. At the same time, it is clear to me that to view the decision to intern solely in terms of "racist hysteria" is ludicrous. As is the case with most historical events, many factors are at work, and work together in a complicated way. It is high time that those who view our countries history as a record of racial, sex, and class oppression have their feet held to the fire. In this respect Malkin has done us a great service.

So what of It?

I'm not even going to try and sort out the claims and counterclaims. A quick Google search using the book title will provide much food for thought. To her credit, Malkin links to several of her critics on her website, see here, here, here, here, and especially here. Read the debates and come to your own conclusion.

The men who made the decision to intern were criticized not long after the war. Many went to their deathbeds saying "...you just don't understand. We feared an invasion. We were trying to protect our country."

I wonder what I would have done had I been a decision maker in January of 1942. One easy way out is to use hindsight and say that you would have boldly stood up against injustice (wave fist now). Another is to explain complicated historical events in terms of modern racial ideas, and to write off internment as "racial hysteria." Given what policy-makers knew at the time, I can't blame them for taking the decision they did. Hindsight is always 20/20. Would I have done it myself? I can't say. Was it the right thing to do? I'm not sure.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 1, 2005

Best of The Redhunter

This post provides links to what I consider to be my best articles

Israel The Strategic Offensive War on Terror China and Taiwan Politics United Nations History

The Danger Within

The 2004 Election Other Book Reviews Series: Just War Theory - Introduction

Recourse To War - jus ad bellum

Conduct In War - jus in bello
Other posts on Just War Theory:

Saudi Arabia

Posted by Tom at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who's Court?

The Supreme Court handed down a decision today that essentially said that executing people who committed their crimes while a juvenile was unconstitutional, violating the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Ok, fair enough. Maybe it's the right decision, maybe the wrong one. Reasonable people can disagree.

But then one read's the court's reasoning:

Justice Kennedy (who wrote the majority decision) relied on international law and practice to "confirm" his view that the juvenile death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. He also cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. signed only subject to the reservation of its right to impose the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.

"International law?" you've got to be kidding. But here's what he wrote:
It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime.
Un, no, it's not proper, justice. You are on the United States Supreme Court. The law that you are to base your decisions on is the Constitution.

But we have even worse from the good justice

When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the state can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the state cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.
To which Mark Levin retorts
All those gang members under the age of 18, some of the most vicious murderers known to law enforcement, will be pleased with this ruling. After they murder, they will now have time to "attain a mature understanding of (their) own humanity.
Look, as I said at the beginning, maybe the death penalty is good, maybe not. Maybe we should keep it for minors and maybe not. Reasonable people can disagree. But I will not have our Supreme Court justices making their decisions on "international law" or "world opinion." It's hard to overstate the importance of the next appointments to the bench.

And oh, I heard on the radio that beltway sniper suspect Lee Malvo's attorney was "elated" by the decision.

Posted by Tom at 4:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Era of Big Government ?

Republicans have largely given up trying to reduce the size of government. For years those of us on the right have argued that spending and taxes are too high. There is the occasional success to buoy us; the program cut, the tax reduced. But by and large spending has gone nowhere but up, and few significant programs are eliminated.

The reason for this is simple; the people want these programs. To be sure, many people will say that they want taxes and spending reduced, but when it's decision time nothing much get's done.

President Bush's latest budget calls for$ 2.34 trillion in federal spending. What's worse, his first three budgets increased spending by 8% each year, well above inflation.

If one takes a look at Federal spending since 1971, and only look at the dollars, the trend is straight upward. But if one views spending as a percentage of the economy, we're at the same 20% that we were in 1971. So some will say that the situation is not as bad as we sometimes make out. But if one takes a closer look, and sees how our spending has changed, then it is clear that the trend is disturbing.

Defense spending as a percentage of the federal budget has gone down (with only a slight uptick since 9/11), while programs like Medicare and other individual benefit programs have gone nowhere but up. The point is that the trend points to higher spending in the future, higher spending as a percentage of the budget, that is.

I read the words of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in todays Washington Times and immediately knew that he was on to something:

Many Republican governors and lawmakers in Congress " and their constituents " say they want to cut spending, but they won't sacrifice spending programs that are popular, said Mr. Huckabee, who is slated to become chairman of the National Governors Association this summer.

The propensity to support big government may be "cyclical," he told a meeting of editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

"But we're living in a time when everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die" " a time, he said, when "everyone says, "I want smaller government,'Â " but then votes the opposite way.
I remember one time reading about how this occured with our state senators in Richmond. The observer noted that the newly elected representatives talked big while on the campaign trail, but once they were elected and actually took a look at the budget, they realized that something like 50% of state spending was on education. Another 25% or so was on transportation. You can forget about trying to cut either of those. Between them and general administrative costs, there's not much left to cut.

Huckabee's solution is to make the government "leaner and more efficient." This sounds like a retreat to 1950's "me-too" Republicanism, but it's hard to argue with his premise.

As one with some small experience in and around government (father and mother involved in town politics, mom is mayor today. I've been on my homeowners board and am on a town commission) I've come to realize, too, that once these programs are in place there's just about impossible to eliminate. Further, the reality is that most people want them, despite what they may say.

Grover Norquist runs an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. Their mission statement says that they "Oppose all tax increases as a matter of principle." They invite all elected officials (and those running) to take a "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" in which they swear they will never increase taxes or reduce deductions.

All well and good. Huckabee was recently criticized by Norquist for increasing the sales tax in his state. But as Huckabee points out,

"Grover's never been in government, doesn't have to balance a state budget, never had a state constitution forcing him to deal with a balanced budget," Mr. Huckabee said at a meeting with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.

"Grover's never been in a situation where he couldn't borrow money so he didn't have to raise taxes or tell old people he's just going to take them out of the nursing home and drop them on the curb," he continued.

"If Grover wants to run for governor, there's an election next year in Arkansas. He can get his residency requirements lined up. And there are 36 other states he can run in next year," the governor offered.
It is surely distressing to hear a Republican trot out lines usually reserved for Democratic scare tactics. That he does so takes him off my list of candidates I'll consider in '08.

And it well may be that Huckabee does not have to raise taxes. I don't know, I haven't studied the situation in Arkansas, so can't say who is right. My purpose here is simply to make a few uncomfortable observations:

One, that the people of this country have come to not only accept but demand a relatively high level of government spending.
Two, that although the total amount of federal spending as a percentage of the economy has not really increased since 1971, the trend is in favor of a change to higher percentage spending.
Three, that once in place these programs are just about impossible to eliminate.
Four, that the GOP has largely given up trying to reduce the size of government.

Posted by Tom at 8:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack