August 31, 2006

The Terrorists Of Tola-Tera-Tera-To-Totalitarians

I traditionally don't like to say George Bush sounds like a moron, because I figure the six billion other people on earth have that one covered. But I have to break with tradition for a moment and say: Jeebus Cripes, Bush sounds like a moron.

For instance, here, at 14:33. This is exactly what he said:

History shows what the outcome will be. This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists of tola-tera-tera-to-totalitarians.

Or as the song goes:

The terrorists of tola-tera-tera-to-totalitarians
The terrorists of tola-tera-tera-to-totalitarians
They sneak into my room at night
With their stala-stoli-stoli-sta-stalinism
And their fascip-fip-fip-fo-fascism
And they kill my libert-larra-la-la-liberty

Oh, you terrorists of tola-tera-tera-to-totalitarians
Stay away from me
Stay away from me

August 30, 2006

So Much The Better

In the latest interview with President Bush, we again learn he never said Saddam ordered 9/11:

BUSH: [T]he war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists.

And recently:

THE PRESIDENT: [N]obody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.

Interesting phrasing. Here's a November, 2004 Esquire article by Walter Russell Mead:

But what were the real reasons for going into Iraq? I'd asked a senior administration official...And the connection between containment and Al Qaeda? I asked. Between our Iraq policy and September 11?

The official pointed out fatwas from Osama that cited the effects of sanctions on Iraqi children and the presence of U. S. troops as a sacrilege that justified his jihad. In a real sense, September 11 was part of the cost of containing Saddam. No containment, no U. S. troops in Saudi Arabia. No U. S. troops there, then bin Laden might still be redecorating mosques and boring friends with stories of his mujahideen days in the Khyber Pass.

As it was, the administration took what looked like the path of least resistance in making its public case for the war: WMD and intelligence links with Al Qaeda. If the public read too much into those links and thought Saddam had a hand in September 11, so much the better.

July 1, 2003:

Seven in 10 people in a poll say the Bush administration implied that Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States.

August 29, 2006

Why The Continuing, Inexplicable Disagreement With My Diktats?

In response to the below post comparing statements by Madeleine Albright and Saddam Hussein, Saheli writes:

Let me risk opproprium and mockery by pointing out that those are not exactly parallel bold statements. The first is

This has been answered elsewhere, and in about 50 minutes--which we do not have right now and right here---I could walk you through it.

the second is

It is effectively impossible to answer this question because it would require *volumes* books.

I don't know how fast you read, but to me volumes of books is not remotely the same thing as "50 minutes which I don't have right now."

The first is condescending in tone, and the latter is gruesomely useless rhetoric. If she were slightly less self-important and slightly more web saavy she might have better answered, "please see www." and I daresay whitepapers of hers and her colleagues on the matter do exist. You may not agree with them, but they are probably there.

It does go to the heart of the matter though. Our foreign policy is going to suck as long as we don't take a frequent and direct interest in it. "Any form of sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" is something that's been used to on political science (!) to confuse us.

I respond:

No, no, there will be no opproprium and mockery. Just gentle disgreement, followed perhaps by SEVEN DECADES IN A REEDUCATION CAMP HIGH IN THE ROCKIES.

Whoops—sorry. I meant to just say gentle disagreement. Forget the reeducation part. (FOR NOW!!!)

Anyway, I maintain these are almost exact parallels. Here's why:

1. They're both saying "oh, sure I *could* explain it, but it's really, really complicated."

2. Where we differ is that you believe Albright (or the State Department) does in fact or would answer these questions somewhere, while Saddam never would. I maintain that the State Department has no more intention of answering the questions than Saddam did.

For instance, Albright said she would be happy to meet with the questioners for 50 minutes to discuss those issues. Did she? Of course not. That was just something for her to say to avoid answering an awkward question.

And are there State Department white papers? Sure. But there are also volumes of Saddam's speeches. The white papers answer these questions to just about the same degree as Saddam's speeches answer the question he was asked.

Generally speaking, this a trap into which nice liberals often fall. Sure, the world is complicated. But these people aren't interested in a far reaching discussion of the world in all its complexity. When they say "it's complicated" it's just because they're cornered and need to buy time before they can be helicoptered off to their mountain redoubt. When it serves their purposes the world will somehow become extremely simple. Just look at the rest of the transcript of that event—things only get complicated when U.S. foreign policy is questioned. When it comes to the need for America to bomb stuff, everything is straightforward.

SEE ALSO: This article by one of the people who asked Albright these questions.

August 27, 2006

I Could Try To Explain It, But It's Really Too Complicated For Someone Like You To Understand

From a town hall meeting with Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger and William Cohen on February 18, 1998 in Columbus, Ohio:

QUESTION: I have a question for Secretary Albright. Why bomb Iraq when other countries have committed similar violations? For example, Turkey has bombed Kurdish citizens. Saudi Arabia has tortured political and religious dissidents. Why does the U.S. apply different standards of justice to these countries? What do you have to say about dictators of countries like Indonesia, who we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering people in East Timor?


ALBRIGHT: Let me answer that. I suggest, sir, that you study carefully what American foreign policy is, what we have said exactly about the cases that you have mentioned. Every one of them has been pointed out. Every one of them we have clearly stated our policy on. And if you would like, as a former professor, I would be delighted to spend 50 minutes with you describing exactly what we are doing on those subjects.

Saddam Hussein on trial for the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds:

Yesterday in Baghdad Saddam was called to account for the crimes, but he remained defiant...

Asked to plead guilty or innocent on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, Saddam offered brazen defiance. "That would require volumes of books," he answered.

Uri & David Grossman

The Washington Post has published what Israeli author David Grossman said at his son's funeral, here.

Lawrence of Cyberia says:

[Grossman's 1987 book] The Yellow Wind is a call for Israelis to end their domination of the Palestinians, on the grounds that the occupation is neither just, nor moral, nor humane. But the book is also a warning to Israel that if it cannot end the occupation for morality's sake, then it should do so out of simple self-interest, because the occupation is going to destroy it...

The big difference between 1987 and now is that I think no-one now would look at the destructive, corrosive effects of the occupation on Israel and the entire region, and think this is a problem to be put off to a distant future...Either way, I think that the moment of truth that David Grossman described as a yellow wind is upon Israel. How sad and ironic that one of the first people swept away by it should be the son of the author who looked at the false calm of the Occupied Territories in 1987, and knew what was coming.

Danger! Danger! Memory Hole Suffers Catastrophic Failure!

Jim Hoagland at the Washington Post deserves credit for writing this column today:

Change is news, and the important news from the second trial of Saddam Hussein is this: The U.S. government is helping expose the ex-dictator's genocidal assault on Kurdish tribesmen instead of helping hide it.

Welcome the change. But do not rush past the original malfeasance: U.S. officials were directly involved two decades ago in covering up and minimizing the horrifying details that were finally spread on the legal record in a Baghdad courtroom last week. In a long history of U.S. involvement in Iraq stained by official mistakes, betrayals and misunderstandings, the initial coverup of Hussein's Anfal campaign is among its darkest moments.

I visited Baghdad in May 1987, a month after Iraqi troops began using poison gas and burning Kurdish villages in a systematic program of ethnic slaughter and cleansing. The U.S. Embassy quickly learned of the devastation through a trip to northern Iraq by an assistant military attache. But he denied to me what I had learned elsewhere: that he had reported to Washington the beginning of the operation code-named Anfal. His report was promptly stamped secret...

The Reagan-Bush administration remained silent as it helped the Iraqis fight the Iranians; Washington even made sure Iraq was invited to a prestigious international conference on chemical weapons in 1988.

The important national moral obligation to Iraqis that such American actions have created must not be shoved aside in the debates over strategy and politics that proliferate as U.S. midterm elections approach.

Worst of all, with this disastrous malfunction, Memory Hole efficiency has now fallen to 99.7%!

Google News results for "saddam kurds" in U.S. publications within past seven days: 1430

Google News results for "reagan kurds" in U.S. publications within past seven days: 4

August 26, 2006

La La La La La La La La La

Last night Christopher Hitchens told the audience on Bill Maher's show they were "frivolous." Then he gave them the finger and told them "fuck you":

HITCHENS: [Ahmadinejad] says the Messiah is about to come back. Who's looking for a war here?

MAHER: So does George Bush, by the way. [Audience applauds] That's not facetious.

HITCHENS: That's not facetious. Your audience, which will clap at apparently anything, is frivolous. [Audience groans, Hitchens gives them the finger] Fuck you, fuck you.

This prompted Instapundit to explain:

Should things go badly with the war, Maher's audience -- and, for that matter, Maher himself -- will be cited by historians as evidence of the American opposition's unseriousness.

Oh, if only it were possible for people like ourselves to be deeply, deeply serious like Christopher Hitchens and Glenn Reynolds. Sadly, that can never happen, for we are empty-headed ninnies.

la la la la la la la

August 25, 2006

The Continuing Adventures Of Saddam Hussein, Presidential Speechwriter

Back on March 8 of last year, President Bush spoke of his deep, sincere concern for the people of Lebanon, and his anger at Syria for oppressing them:

The world community...has presented the Syrian government with one of those choices -- to end its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon, or become even more isolated from the world...All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections, for those elections to be free and fair.

The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring, free of intimidation.

Today I have a message for the people of Lebanon...The American people are on your side.

In the United States, this is taken as proof that Bush really, truly cares about Lebanon and democracy in the mideast. After all, he talks about it all the time!

Well, by this standard, guess who else really, truly cares about the people of Lebanon?

What is currently taking place in Lebanon...harms this beloved Arab country, undermines its independence and dignity, and threatens its security and the lives of its sons...

The outcome of this abnormal presence completely contradicts all claims made to justify it. The continued presence of the Syrian regime's forces in Lebanon has turned into a factor dividing the country, spreading sedition among its people, and preventing them through force and terrorism from reaching reconciliation and accord...

The first urgent step is for the Arab states to assume through the Arab League the responsibility of enabling the Lebanese people to choose a new president for the republic in a free manner and away from the means of terrorism, pressure and extortion to impose a president on this country without the consent of its people and through a suspect agreement with a foreign state...

...The Lebanese Arab people hear an Arab voice confirming to them that the Arabs are not oblivious to their ordeal or careless about acts seeking to harm and humiliate them.

-- Saddam Hussein
January 9, 1989

(via BBC Worldwide Monitoring Service)

Dennis Perrin! Live! Onstage! Nude!

For anyone in the New York City area, Dennis Perrin will be appearing on Wednesday the 30th at the Tarrytown Music Hall (just north of Yonkers, easy access by MetroNorth) in a debate on the mideast. Ticket purchasing information is here.

Horror and Chaos in the Middle East: Who's to blame, and is there a remedy?

Wednesday, August 30th, 7:30 pm

A panel discussion featuring:

President of the Zionist Association of America Morton Klein and NY Daily News columnist Sidney Zion vs. Dennis Perrin and WESPAC Foundation Executive Director Nada Khader

Moderated by WABC radio host Ron Kuby at the legendary Tarrytown Music Hall (minutes away from MetroNorth)

Did the latest round of atrocities begin with the Palestinian abduction of an Israeli soldier or was it triggered by the Israeli abduction of a doctor and his brother from Gaza? Are Israel and America attempting to further destabilize the Palestinian and Lebanese territories for their own benefit or is Israel (with America's support) simply defending its people against the unprovoked attacks of its neighbors? Ultimately, what are the genuine motivations of the movers and shakers on all sides? What role does the existence of religion play in all this? Can real peace ever flourish when people primarily identify themselves with diametrically opposed faith-based belief systems? Could a tilt towards secularism in conjunction with an all-out assault on poverty yield a more hopeful future for everyone? Come join us as we address these questions and grasp for solutions.

The panel discussion will be followed by Q & A from the audience.

As you can see, there will likely be verbal fisticuffs aplenty. If you go, be sure to say hello to Dennis afterwards. Also, ask him for me why he loves Osama bin Laden so much.

RIP Science

Blogs For Bush has some very sad news for us all: science is dead.

However, Jon(athan) Swift points out there is an upside to all this:

What is especially great about Noonan's theory that science is dead is that he doesn't have to conduct any experiments or present any evidence to prove science is dead because science would actually have to be alive to do that.

August 24, 2006

We Learned Our Political Rhetoric From The Master Himself

Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero at the Pentagon yesterday:

There is a problem with foreign influences...Iran is definitely a destabilizing force in Iraq. I think it's irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these Shi'a extremist groups...[I've] seen reports of their involvement and presence there as trainers and to train these terrorists and Shi'a extremist groups...

Joe Lieberman interviewed by Glenn Beck on Tuesday:

BECK: I've been saying this before we even went into Iraq, that we're trying to change the face of the Middle East...We were trying to go and pop the head of the snake in Iran. That's what we were trying to do...

JOE LIEBERMAN: Well, you're right.

Huh. This rhetoric about the terrorist Iranian snakes sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Oh, yeah:

The plot in which the Iranian regime was used against our land, life and future was the most serious and the largest plot...They encircled it with an atmosphere charged with fears and perils...They sought to intimidate us and subjugate us to the extortion of the Tehran rulers...

Its plan...relies on terrorism.

The fine empty words spoken by the Khomeyniite snakes will not change the Iranian regime's racist, expansionist and terrorist nature.

-- Saddam Hussein
July 16, 1985

(via the BBC Worldwide Monitoring Service)

I hope all the people beating the war drums on Iran will consider getting Saddam to moonlight as a speechwriter for them. He probably has some spare time.

Six Questions For Michael Scheuer On National Security

Ken Silverstein of Harper's recent spoke to Michael Scheuer, chief of the bin Laden unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996-99. The interview took place at an International House of Pancakes:

1. We're coming up on the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Is the country safer or more vulnerable to terrorism?

On balance, more vulnerable. We're safer in terms of aircraft travel. We're safer from being attacked by some dumbhead who tries to come into the country through an official checkpoint; we've spent billions on that. But for the most part our victories have been tactical and not strategic...

In the long run, we're not safer because we're still operating on the assumption that we're hated because of our freedoms, when in fact we're hated because of our actions in the Islamic world. There's our military presence in Islamic countries, the perception that we control the Muslim world’s oil production, our support for Israel and for countries that oppress Muslims such as China, Russia, and India, and our own support for Arab tyrannies.

The rest.

This reminds me of a crazy fantasy I have. In this fantasy, a White House reporter stands up at a press conference and asks Bush the most mindbogglingly obvious question imaginable:

Mr. President, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit has referred to U.S foreign policy as bin Laden's indispensable ally. I'm sure you don't agree with this characterization, but could you explain for us your understanding of why he says that?

Of course, I know it's literally impossible for White House reporters to ask the President of the United States mindbogglingly obvious questions. It's like wanting them to travel faster than the speed of light. Still, I dream my dreamy dreams.

August 23, 2006

Why Not?

It always makes me laugh to hear politicians talk about "isolationism":

In [a] 15-minute interview, Mr. Lieberman warned against the United States becoming isolationist...

“Nobody is talking about isolationism,” Mr. Lamont said, responding in a telephone interview to Mr. Lieberman’s remarks.

I'd like to ask Lamont: why isn't anyone talking about isolationism?

Then I'd like to ask both him and Lieberman: what exactly do you mean when you use this word?

Because whatever Americans think isolationism means, they like it. It's only a dirty word among the wealthiest and best educated. So if we were living in a democracy with the whole one-person one-vote thing, you'd expect SOMEBODY would be talking about isolationism.

How do Americans identify their foreign policy philosophy? (Gallup)


One of the frustrating things about blertgs is that no matter how sparkling a post may be, it soon scrolls down into oblivion, to be forgotten by everyone except the person who wrote it. Or in my case, often including the person who wrote it.

So I'm going to put links here to a bunch of posts I feel should be saved from time's all-devouring maw. Please tell me if you think I'm missing something particularly splendid.


Women Find It Really Hot When You Hate America
Venn diagram-based comedy

Sexy Sexy Satan Sex
Another Venn diagram

The Left And Death, Sittin' In A Tree, G-E-N-O-C-I-D-E
Has The Left fallen half in love with death?

George Tenet's Resume
What it sounds like

A Short Play Starring Christopher Hitchens
Stop the taunting, and let's have a real debate!

We Were All Wrong That Charlize Theron Wanted To Bear My Children
It's terrible when we all get something wrong

I Request A Transfer To A Less Bizarre Planet
Vote Ed Pugh!

My First Acts As Pope
Pope Pope the Popey

They Only Understand Force
Who only understands force?

In My Culture, We Cut Off Books' Spines And Put Them On Spikes As A Warning To Others
An anthropological comparison of censorship


Today Is The Fourth Anniversary Of An Enormous Opportunity
September 11, 2005

There Is No Santa Claus
What progressives should understand about the mainstream media

I Demand You Say What You're Interested In
I struggle to explain my worldview

Let Me Get Incredibly Pretentious For A Second
An important, often-overlooked aspect of the internet

"Keep People In The Mood Of Suffering"
Hezbollah and the Republican Party hit on a winning strategy

Hands Off Social Security! v2.0
Q&A on Social Security

How America Works
A funeral program, explicated

Tom DeLay And His Funny, Funny Friends
"Stomping Out the Reds"

A Funny Little Story About The Media
I meet a big-time journalmalist

Come Over And Help Us!
The historical roots of the Iraq war

I Am So God Damned Honest
I defend Donald Rumsfeld for the first and hopefully last time

Thank You, Rosa Parks
When she died

Being Right Isn't As Much Fun As We Anticipated
A look back at an open letter from February, 2003

Bush And Nixon In A Photo Finish
A comparison of Bush and Nixon's approval ratings

OF COURSE Ahmadinejad Sounds Like Cindy Sheehan
And OF COURSE Bush sounds like Shirin Ebadi

What We Think About When We Think About Iraq
Why people believe crazy things

"Heart of Darkness": Prescient Masterpiece of World Literature, Or Airy-Fairy Egghead Nonsense Like All Books Everywhere?
What Joseph Conrad knew about Trent Lott

Don't Make Me Come Over There And Be Generous To You
The Iron Law of Generosity

August 22, 2006

Alert! Alert! Memory Hole Efficiency Falls To 99.86 Percent!

I have terrible news! I previously reported here and here that—as Saddam's trial for the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds begins—the Memory Hole was functioning perfectly, with no references whatsoever in the U.S. press to Reagan's efforts to cover up what was happening and give Saddam political cover.

However, I'm extremely sorry to say we have suffered a major malfunction, with Hole efficiency falling to 99.86%.

Google News results for "saddam kurds" in U.S. publications within past two days: 700

Google News results for "reagan kurds" in U.S. publications within past two days: 1

Believe me, we take this breakdown as seriously as you do, and will be working 24/7 to repair it and crush those responsible.

Americans! Save Your Freedom And Your Lives!

Sometimes I get depressed when I think about the 12 zillion crazy people there are in America today. But then I remember there have ALWAYS been 12 zillion crazy people in America.

For instance, Hamilton Fish III. Fish, who lived to be 102 (1888-1991), was a longtime congressman and frothing lunatic. Before the 1980 election, he wrote the below book, called Americans: Save Your Freedom And Your Lives! I just found it in a box of old stuff. Here's a representative sample:

"I have written this book so that the people might know the truth which has been deliberately kept from them by the Carter Administration for the past three years. The main issue is the survival of the American people and our own country...There is no substitute for the truth to enable you to act in your own defense, before you are led as sheep to the slaughter in a Soviet holocaust."


• The Soviet Defense is Thirty Times Stronger Than Ours
• Trilateralism and the Panama Canal
• What Is A Conspiracy
• An Appeal to the Blacks to Return to the Party of Abraham Lincoln

BONUS CRAZY: Note that Fish was involved in the founding of the American Legion after World War I. Who are the American Legion? Well, they're many things. From the George Seldes Reader:

In an interview in January 1923, Commander-in-Chief Alvin Owsley of the American Legion not only endorsed Mussolini and Fascism, but announced his readiness to do what the Duce did...

"If ever needed," he said, "the American Legion stands ready to protect our country's institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy...Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States."

And here's something dug up by Billmon about them in the present day.

And here's Dick Cheney last February addressing their annual conference:

I am grateful to all of you for defending our country yesterday, and for standing behind our military today.

What The Media "Cares" About

Yesterday I noted the giant Washington Post story about the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the late eighties—and the peculiar way the Post omitted any mention of the Reagan and Bush administrations' efforts to give Saddam political cover for his genocide.

But Seth Ackerman points out the Post also left out something else: its own role. This appears on page 186 of A Problem from Hell by Samantha Powers:

U.S. officials reporting on the attacks had acquired a matter-of-fact tone, describing the harsh treatment of Kurds as routine...

The U.S. media did not press the matter. The few correspondents who cared about the region had great difficulty getting inside Iraq. The Washington Post's Jonathan Randal had visited in 1985, but he could not persuade his editors that another trip would be worth the expense, the risk, and the hassle. Once, when he tried to get the Post to publish a picture of a gassed Kurd, his editor asked, "Who will care?"

I think the answer to this question is clear: the Washington Post will, when the U.S. government needs gassed Kurds for propaganda purposes.

August 21, 2006

Joe "Middle Class" Lieberman

Here's a piece of mine from about the weird delusions of some politicians that they're middle class. Among the most deluded? Joe Lieberman:

The day before the Connecticut primary, Joe Lieberman was getting down with the folks in a restaurant in Southington, a small town near Hartford. As the American Prospect reported, a longtime state employee named Paola Roy told Lieberman she felt the middle class has been forgotten by the federal government. Lieberman responded that he shared her concerns, and for good reason: “I came out of the middle class," he said, "and, being a senator, I haven’t gone much beyond the middle class.”

Being a senator, I haven't gone much beyond the middle class. Could anything better sum up the way American politicians seem to have relocated en masse to a new planet, and forgotten how things are back on Earth? In 2005, Lieberman and his wife Hadassah—a lobbyist at D.C. powerhouse Hill & Knowlton—together made $366,084. This places them securely in the top 1 percent of U.S. households. In fact, just the money they receive each year for supervising family trusts would likely put them in the middle quintile of American families. Moreover, they have financial assets —i.e., over and above their homes in Connecticut and Washington—worth somewhere between $465,000 and $1.9 million. The comparable amount for the average U.S. family is about $30,000.

The rest.

Memory Hole Still Working At 100% Efficiency

Both the Washington Post and New York Times have big stories today about the Anfal campaign against the Kurds and the beginning of Saddam Hussein's prosecution for it.

I was particularly concerned about the Post story, because it's 1,500 words long and on the front page. This meant there was a terrible danger the Post—an American paper in the capital of the United States—might accidentally include information about the U.S. government.

For instance, they could have mentioned that in 1988 the Senate passed the Prevention of Genocide Act, cutting off aid to Iraq, but the Reagan administration successfully killed it. Or that U.S. helicopters were used in the chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds. Or that in 1989, the George H.W. Bush transition team prepared a document on U.S.-Iraq policy which said:

It is up to the new Administration to decide whether to treat Iraq as distasteful dictatorship to be shunned where possible, or to recognize Iraq's present and potential power in the region and accord it relatively high priority. We strongly urge the later no way should we associate ourselves with the 60 year Kurdish rebellion in Iraq or oppose Iraq's legitimate attempts to suppress it.

Fortunately, however, the Washington Post recognized that it must never provide any information about things which happen in Washington. All traces of actual U.S. policy toward Iraq were successfully expunged, leaving only our profound yearning for Iraqi democracy.

August 20, 2006

U.S. Foreign Policy Experts Do 180; Now Believe Sky May Well Be Blue

What's going on in Iraq? Let's check in with Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack:

The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war...

Welcome to the new "new Middle East" -- a region where civil wars could follow one after another, like so many Cold War dominoes.

And unlike communism, these dominoes may actually fall.

In other news, we're just weeks away from the 4th anniversary of the publication of Pollack's book The Threatening Storm. I wonder how it's holding up? Let's read page 268:

Imagine how different the Middle East and the world would be if a new Iraqi state were stable, prosperous, and a force for progress in the region, not a source of violence and instability. Imagine if we could rebuild Iraq as a model of what a modern Arab state could be, showing the frustrated and disenfranchised of the Arab world what they should be trying to fashion. Imagine if there were a concrete symbol demonstrating that America seeks to help the Arab world rather than repress. Invading Iraq might not just be our least bad alternative, it potentially could be our best course of action.

Yes...just imagine!

By the way, this was Pollack's explanation of why Saddam was so dangerous:

[Saddam's] own determination to interpret geopolitical calculations to suit what he wants to believe anyway lead him to construct bizarre scenarios that he convinces himself are highly likely.

August 19, 2006

Never, Never Right

The 20 year-old son of Israeli writer David Grossman was killed in Lebanon just two days before the ceasefire. I'd never read his famous 1987 book The Yellow Wind about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. So I got it out of the library today. At one point Grossman writes:

I pondered then about how much one must be suspicious of people who testify about themselves morning and night that they are merciful.

Clearly he stole this from something I said 17 years later:

...when people get righteously worked up about how wonderful they are, and their enemy's lack of gratitude, you really need to keep an eye on them.

SEE ALSO: Jim Henley --

People who say their problem is that they are too nice are never, never right.

Smelly Foreign Leftists Allege United States Located In North America

Here's a AP picture that Yahoo just published of some strange, unpleasant people in a far-away land. The caption reads:

An activist reacts as she sees other colleagues as they tried to get near the U.S. embassy in Manila Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006. The leftwing demonstrators are denouncing the alleged U.S. support for Israel during the war in Lebanon. Some of the protesters were arrested later. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Now, here are some of the other murky allegations made by these jealous, carping foreign malcontents:

• There is a country called the United States
• The United States is located on a planet called Earth
• Earth orbits around something called the Sun

Are any of these allegations correct? There is evidence on both sides. Perhaps we'll never know.

August 18, 2006

Ooooooooh, I Hope Karen Hughes Gets Some Public Diplomacy Credit For This

Have you ever wondered who's the new top Marine general at U.S. Central Command? And what kind of decisions he gets to make? And why things have gone so very, very well in Iraq?

I think you'll be pleasantly horrified by the answer to all three questions, here.

• • •

And beautifully enough for lovers of human folly and hubris, he was promoted one day before this recent meeting at the Pentagon:

...the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq.

August 17, 2006

Nice Liberals: Argh

Matthew Yglesias:

So this war...all the Israelis killed...the even greater number of Arabs killed...Israel achieved, what, exactly?

Perhaps a better term than "the even greater number of Arabs killed" would be "the 7.5 times as many Arabs killed":

The conflict left about 1,200 Lebanese dead and 4,500 wounded, Lebanese Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat said yesterday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Aug. 14 that 159 Israelis were killed, and 2,015 Israelis were injured according to Israeli police.

...and that's leaving out the question of the ratio of civilians killed on each side.

...and the question of whether the entire episode should be viewed from the perspective of what "Israel achieved."

I actually don't mean to slam young Mr. Yglesias, who is generally pretty cogent and shows an admirable capacity for personal growth. Moreover, I suffer from the same Nice Liberal disease he does. But it does give you a sense of why many in the Arab world might grit their teeth at America's Nice Liberals generally. It's a real problem that this kind of thing represents almost the outer limit of our acceptable discourse.

For a fun thought experiment, imagine the reaction in the U.S. if the situation were reversed: 1,200 Israelis were dead and 159 Lebanese. And the outer limit of acceptable discourse in the Arab world were to wonder what had been achieved in return for all the Lebanese killed (and "the even greater number of Israelis").

Previous episodes in the continuing "NL:A" series can be found here, here and here.

Pledge Drives With Non-Corporeal, Metaphorical Tote Bags

If you want to feel better about our often-benighted species, go visit the impressive Jonathan Edelstein and Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. Both are offering to match donations up to a certain amount for the rebuilding of Lebanon and/or northern Israel. In addition to the matching funds, you will also receive an imaginary tote bag filled with real positive feelings about humanity.

P.S. I invite Sam Husseini to comment on the possible problematic heavily-armed-Lady-Bountiful aspects of this.

August 16, 2006

My Apologies If You're Hit By The Flecks Of Vomit

Hey, let's check in with the Washington Post op-ed page!


By Condoleezza Rice
Wednesday, August 16, 2006; Page A13

For the past month the United States has worked urgently to end the violence that Hezbollah and its sponsors have imposed on the people of Lebanon and Israel.

Wow, nice job by the minion who wrote this for Rice to sign her name to! Surely this kind of well-wrought language is what inspired the minion to become a writer in the first place!

...all righty now, let me just reach for my bucket, and—


Huh. You know, usually you feel much better after throwing up. I wonder why...wait, hold on, there's mo—


Okay. Well, I think I'm going to outsource the rest of this post to John Ralston Saul in Voltaire's Bastards:

Language—not money or force—provides legitimacy...

The wordsmiths who serve our imagination are always devoted to communication. Clarity is always their method. Universality is their aim. The wordsmiths who serve established power, on the other hand, are always devoted to obscurity. They castrate the language...The undoubted sign of a society well under control or in decline is that language has ceased to be a means of communication and has become instead a shield for those who master it.

President Disappointed Bubble In Which He Lives Not Completely Opaque

New York Times, "Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq":

President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday...

[T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.

Urm. I guess it's good that Bush is aware the Iraqi demonstration(s) happened. But I'm even more terrified than normal if he's being told there were just 10,000 people there.

New York Times:

More than 100,000 followers of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr rallied in support of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah on Friday...

Los Angeles Times:

[T]ens of thousands of Iraqis marched in the capital after Friday prayers in support of the Shiite Muslim militia in Lebanon...

Organizers said half a million people participated in the march, but American military officials, apparently eager to downplay support for Hezbollah, put the figure at 14,000. An Iraqi working for The Times estimated there were at least 100,000 demonstrators.

Associated Press:

Organizers and local police said hundreds of thousands attended the rally, but the U.S. military later estimated the crowd at 14,000. Associated Press reporters at the scene thought attendance was at least in the tens of thousands during the high point of the march.

ABC News of Australia:

While Mehdi Army officials insisted a million people had attended the demonstration, US military spokesman Major Steven Stover said images taken by drone aircraft showed only 14,000.

There was no official government estimate, but reporters at the scene said hundreds of thousands of people had taken to the streets.

Note that even the freakin' U.S. government estimated the demonstration at more than 10,000.

August 15, 2006

Congratulations To Steve Erlanger Of The New York Times For Getting That Paper Back On Track

Every now and then the New York Times will slip and publish accurate information. Thankfully, such lapses are rare. And with people like Steve Erlanger on the job, we can hope they'll eventually be eliminated completely. Here's Erlanger giving it his best shot today:

Israel respected the international border with Lebanon as verified by the United Nations, and it was Hezbollah that violated the border.

Here's the most recent United Nations report (pdf), covering the period January 21-July 18, 2006:

23. Persistent and provocative Israeli air incursions, occasionally reaching deep into Lebanese airspace and generating sonic booms over populated areas, remained a matter of serious concern. The pattern identified in my previous reports continued, whereby the aircraft would sometimes fly out to sea and enter Lebanese airspace north of the UNIFIL area of operation, thus avoiding direct observation and verification by UNIFIL. The air incursions violate Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, elevate tension and disrupt the fragile calm along the Blue Line. A reduction in the number of air incursions in April contributed to an atmosphere of relative clam along the Blue Line, but this trend was reversed in May.

24. There were no instances of Hizbollah anti-aircraft fire across the Blue Line during the reporting period.

I smell a promotion for Mr. Erlanger!

UPDATE: I should say I don't know enough about Erlanger's reporting to say whether this is a one-time mistake or part of a pattern. In any case, it's pretty egregious.

Readin' Readin' Readin'

1. Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan fired by the British Foreign Office for criticizing the country's routine torture, says this about latest terror plot:

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story...


2. Dennis Perrin takes his son to the water park:

The boy and I were diving through a chlorinated waterfall running down a faux rock face when I surfaced and saw a Nazi tattoo on a big white arm. I couldn't believe it. Open militarism is one thing, part of Americana, a disease you somewhat get used to; but an actual swastika is a deeper statement. The guy wearing it was large and muscular, looking like a bodyguard or bouncer, his head shaved, his goatee closely trimmed. The swastika was surrounded by two tiny American flags with an eagle atop. I simply froze and stared at it. The guy paid me no mind, but his wife glared back at me as she rushed their little blonde boy along to the water slides.

Check please!...

We moved through the parking lot choked with SUVs, Hummers, and pick-ups, many boasting "Support Our Troops," "These Colors Never Run" and "USA Number 1" bumperstickers. I couldn't wait to get home, lock the door, and drain a stiff drink. But my son strolled along, oblivious to the raw nationalist sentiment on all those gas-guzzling symbols of our collective arrogance and greed, and thanked me for taking him to the park, saying "This is one of the best days ever. I had a blast, Dad!"

This filled me with happiness, love, and fear. Poor kid. Look at the world that awaits him.

The rest.

3. Internet legend Dooce writes hilariously and movingly about post-partum depression, her own and others.

This Website Should Be Your First Choice For Grim Historical Irony

What explosive were the latest London bombers supposedly going to use in their scheme to blow up the planes?

In a joint memorandum to American law enforcement agencies yesterday, the Homeland Security Department and FBI said that the alleged plotters in Britain had planned to use peroxide-based explosives to bring down up to 10 aeroplanes heading towards the US....The most common peroxide explosive is triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which is made from two liquids: acetone, the primary ingredient of most nail polish removers, and hydrogen peroxide, commonly used as an antiseptic.

And who else uses TATP?

Hamas uses TATP to send suicide bombers undetected into Israel...[it's] their explosive of choice...

And what is the grim historical irony here?

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (November 27, 1874 – November 9, 1952) was a chemist, statesman, President of the World Zionist Organization, [and] first President of Israel (elected May 16, 1948, served 1949 - 1952)...

He became famous because he was the first to find out how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of the desired substances and is nowadays considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacteria Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort.

And who is going to jail for the Google searches used to confirm these half-remembered scraps of information?

I am.

August 14, 2006

I Am Allowing Someone To Not Agree With Me 100% Here, But It's Just A One Time Thing So Don't Get Any Ideas

In my effusiveness about the recent piece with Aasif Mandvi on the Daily Show, I may have overlooked a few things. After agreeing the piece was very funny, Sam Husseini points out that:

* In the set up, Stewart mentions Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, but makes no mention of the Palestinians.

* Mandvi, who is "live from Beirut," implies that people there don't know about Christmas morning -- false.

* IED -- there are none in Beirut. If you hear a bomb in Beirut, it's Israel bombing, perhaps they didn't want to highlight that. [Actually, I think they did this for the sake of the "Improvised Explosive Opportunity" joke—Jon]

* What will result -- "a parliament" -- but Lebanon has a parliament. The problem with the parliament is that the Shia are dramatically under-represented because the country hasn't had a census since the 1930s, this favors the Christians, who tend to be richer.

* Changes foisted on a region -- it's not the changes that's the problem -- as if Arabs can't deal with democracy -- the problem is the sanctions, bombing, demonization, etc.

* "redrawing boarders without regard to ethnicity or religion" -- exact opposite of what happened -- boarders were drawn to exploit ethnic and religious differences, ie, Lebanon was carved out of Syria.

* "Latest theories of your political scientists" -- not the problem -- the US is in collusion with the worst elements of the House of Saud, not a new theory -- they are not attempting to impose democracy, they are using democratic rhetoric as a pretext, just like WMDs were a pretext....

Let the critique of Sam's critique begin!

ALSO: Here's a transcript of Sam asking Michael Chertoff, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton some questions before their TV appearances last Sunday morning.

August 13, 2006

Damn You, Billmon!

For some time now Billmon has been engaged in a series of posts I call Things I Wish I'd Written. (Of course, I'm one of many in this regard.) He's now at #4529.

#4529 points out the weird, um, undertones of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed blasting the "secular transnational professional class" who supported Ned Lamont.

After all, we've heard about the secular transnational professional class before, haven't we? They're always up to no good. As Billmon says:

I think its obvious that the big problem here is all the liberal doctors.

You gotta figure there's some kind of conspiracy behind it.

Read it all.

Bad News For You And Me

I've always believed flying will remain extremely safe even as other parts of society fall apart. The people who run the world fly all the time, and they'll exert as much pressure as they possibly can to protect their own precious selves.

However, this assumption of mine may no longer be tenable if enough of them make the transition to private jets. Thus, this picture of the Berlin Tempelhof airport on the day of the World Cup final makes me nervous.

(Thanks to sk in comments for pointing this out.)

August 12, 2006

We Live In A World Of Mystery

Brian Humphreys, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2004, writes for the Washington Post:

[W]atching the latest news dispatches from Lebanon, I find myself comparing our efforts to introduce a new order in Iraq with Hezbollah's success as an effective practitioner of the art of militarized grass-roots politics. Frankly, it's not a favorable comparison -- for us...

Some may say that this is just standard insurgency-counterinsurgency doctrine. True, but one has to ask why Hezbollah has been able to pull it off in Lebanon, while young Americans continue to endure a host of nasty surprises in Iraq.

Yes...there must be SOME reason why Americans in Iraq would have a harder time with this than Lebanese in Lebanon. But I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Perhaps we'll never know.

August 11, 2006

I Think I Have A Right To Be Angry About This

I'm almost never jealous of any accomplishments in the comedy world—not because I've transcended jealousy, but because my ambitions are so peculiar no one tries to do anything exactly the way I'd want to anyway. Plus, political comedy is generally either not very informed politically or, worse, not funny.

However, I'm seriously jealous of Aasif Mandvi and anyone else involved with this segment from the Daily Show. It's one of the greatest things I've seen in years. Damn them all to hell.

August 10, 2006

While I Realize It's Extremely Boring, Let's Take A Brief Look At Reality

Apparently there's some kind of batsignal for the U.S. punditocracy that tells them all what to write each week. This week their orders are to inform us that the Democrats had better watch out for those far-left elitists like Ned Lamont, who will with their extreme anti-war positions lead them to defeat just like George McGovern did.

I don't have it in me to track down links to the 10,000 versions of this. But here's a representative sample from David Broder:

The people backing Lamont are nothing if not sincere. But their breed of Democrats -- many of them wealthy, educated, extremely liberal -- often pick candidates who are rejected by the broader public. Many of the older Lamont supporters went straight from Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s and '70s to Howard Dean in 2004. They helped Joe Duffey challenge Sen. Tom Dodd in Connecticut for the 1970 Democratic nomination on the Vietnam War issue, only to lose to Republican Lowell Weicker in November.

This might make you wonder certain things—like, was opposition to Vietnam the "wealthy, educated" position? I know it's fun to listen to stories from Uncle Dave B., and extremely boring to look at reality. But let's give reality a shot just this once. Here's a Gallup poll from January, 1971:

Wha--? This must be some crazy anomaly, right? Everybody knows the far-left, highly-educated elitists hated Vietnam, while the bedrock real Americans hung in there to the end!

Actually, no. Here's James Loewen writing in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me (from which the 1971 Gallup poll is scanned):

These results surprise even some professional social scientists, [but] [s]imilar results were registered again and again, in surveys by Harris, NORC, and others... Throughout our long involvement in Southeast Asia, on issues related to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos, the grade school-educated were always the most dovish, the college-educated the most hawkish.

Huh. That makes you wonder what equivalent polls are saying about Iraq today. Here's Gallup about six weeks ago:

Weirdly, as you see, more education doesn't necessarily push you either way on Iraq. It seems to make you more ambivalent—while those with less education are both the most dovish and the most hawkish, with little ambivalence.

We're almost done with reality here, because I realize it's irritating and makes things less fun at the cocktail party at David Brooks' house in Chevy Chase. But here's a Gallup poll from April of this year on the general foreign policy views of Americans:

Here the results are absolutely clear: internationalism is the elitist position, while people become more isolationist the less money and education they have. Shockingly enough, whenever Bush inveigles against "isolationism" he doesn't mention that.

Whew! Well, that's enough reality for today. Thank goodness our opinion leaders don't have to trouble themselves with such things, because then they might have to spend more than thirty seconds writing each column.

(I snipped some of the isolationism poll to save space. You can see the entire results here.)

Thursday's Funniest Sentence

Max Sawicky is today's winner:

As we stand down, they will stand up and fall down.

As Per Usual, My Kind Are Being Discriminated Against

I doubt anyone will even notice this bigoted aspect of the newest London bombing plot:

Officials were requiring passengers to check everything except personal items like keys, wallets, and passports, which they had to carry in plastic bags. Drinks and other liquid items were banned. Travelers were required to remove spectacles or sunglasses from their cases, and those traveling with infants were required to taste any baby milk in front of security officials.

And what about those who, like myself, have mated with women from Planet Voltran and now have young children who drink nitroglycerin? Will our needs be ignored completely?

Of course they will. Typical.

Welcome, Fellow Blarrrrrrgists

Today I've added to my ilk-roll the new-ish blurf of champion-commenter abb1, as well as those of Brendan (last name unknown), and Shaun Mullen. They're just the kind of opinionated malcontents that I appreciate, for reasons so obvious there's no reason to go into them.

August 08, 2006

Here's How Seriously I Take Democracy

If I lived in Connecticut I would certainly register as a Democrat and vote for Ned Lamont, if for no other reason than I want to be on the same side as people like this.

August 07, 2006

Nachos With Juan Cole

What kind of nachos would one eat with Juan Cole, if given the opportunity? Dennis has the answer, here.

Oh, also—besides the nachos, both Dennis and Professor Cole have some opinions about current events.

August 05, 2006

Based On My Track Record, We're Not Necessarily All Going To Die

I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected. I was in elementary school, and heard Jimmy Carter concede on the radio while my mother and I sat in the parking lot of a gigantic mall. (I've always thought that was symbolic of the years to come.) That night I couldn't sleep because I was certain Reagan was somehow going to start a nuclear war. This was when my sister and I began our hobby of drawing concentric circles on maps of Washington to find out whether we'd be killed in the initial blast or survive to die in the subsequent firestorm.

But it turned out there was no nuclear war. All Reagan did was rachet up international tension so high we merely came within minutes of nuclear war. I'm still a little mad at Stanislav Petrov for proving me wrong.

Anyway, I haven't felt the same level of gut level terror because of a politician until George W. Bush came along. Welcome back, gut level terror!

Joel C. Rosenberg, who writes Christian apocalyptic fiction, told me in an interview this week that he was invited to a White House Bible study group last year to talk about current events and biblical prophecy.

Rosenberg said that on February 10, 2005, he came to speak to a "couple dozen" White House aides in the Old Executive Office Building -- and has stayed in touch with several of them since...

Rosenberg -- like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the authors of the phenomenally popular "Left Behind" series -- writes fiction inspired by biblical prophecy about the apocalypse. The consistent theme is that certain current events presage the end times, the Rapture, and the return of Jesus Christ. Rosenberg's particular pitch to journalists is that his books come true...

Rosenberg says he got a call last year from a White House staffer. "He said 'A lot of people over here are reading your novels, and they're intrigued that these things keep on happening. . . . Your novels keep foreshadowing actual coming events. . . . And so we're curious, how are you doing it? What's the secret? Why don't you come over and walk us through the story behind these novels?' So I did."

It would almost be worth it to me for these guys to start a nuclear war if I could live long enough to see their faces afterward when Jesus doesn't show up. Whoops!

"Boy, are our faces red," I imagine them saying, "and not just because of our fatal radiation poisoning!"

August 04, 2006

I. Love. The. Internet.

Reading Political Animal, I just learned the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. has a blerrrrrrrg.

I am in love with the internet, and I don't care who knows it.

PREVIOUSLY, ON PLANET EARTH: Here's Andrei Sakharov writing in 1974:

"Far in the future, more than 50 years from now, I foresee a universal information system (UIS), which will give everyone access at any given moment to the contents of any book that has ever been published or any magazine or any fact. The UIS will have individual miniature-computer terminals, central control points for the flood of information, and communication channels incorporating thousands of artificial communications from satellites, cables, and laser lines. Even the partial realization of the UIS will profoundly affect every person, his leisure activities, and his intellectual and artistic development. Unlike television... the UIS will give each person maximum freedom of choice and will require individual activity. But the true historic role of the UIS will be to break down the barriers to the exchange of information among countries and people."

A Wee Bit Of History

In lieu of cogent thoughts on current events, here's an interesting little shard of history. My grandfather taught at the American University in Beirut in the late twenties. I recently looked through his AU directory from 1929, and came across the below page listing that year's freshmen.

As you see, one is Khadduri Ya'kub Khadduri from Basra. As it turns out, he was the uncle of Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi nuclear physicist who escaped from Iraq in the nineties and spent 2002-3 fruitlessly telling anyone who'd listen that Iraq had no nuclear program. As you might expect, he is...unhappy...about what's happened since then.

There's another interesting aspect to this, specifically regarding some of the place names. But I leave discerning that as an exercise for the reader.

August 03, 2006

Am I The Most Oppressed Person On Earth, Or Merely #2?

I'm once again being unjustly forced to do actual work. I hope someone will notify Amnesty International of this grave human rights violation.

In any case, my appearances here will be rare for a while longer. In the meantime, don't miss this resignation letter from two Jordanian women to their employer, Fox News.

August 01, 2006

Sam Husseini Alert

Sam Husseini (together with journalist Jim Lobe and others) will be on C-Span at 8:00 pm ET tonight, just moments from now. They were taped earlier today at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C. where they spoke on a panel called "Seeds of Crisis: The U.S., Israel and the Middle East." The benighted few without C-Span should be able to watch it online.