IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Friday, February 28, 2003 WHEN IS ANTI-ZIONISM ANTI-SEMITISM? The debate continues at Yale. - 4:57:37 PM IS THE TIDE TURNING? When the Guardian starts worrying that the U.S. and the U.K. are making headway, maybe it's happening. The most damning piece of evidence is Hans Blix's leaked report which allegedly says: "the results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far". Saddam's promise to address the al Samoud missile issue "in principle," despite the fact that there is a clear deadline for their immediate destruction tomorrow, also seems to me to be ammunition for a stronger Security Council position. There will be more surprises and Saddamite gambits ahead no doubt. But the direction seems to be clear to me. The powers urging the immediate disarmament of Saddam are slowly making progress.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "What if [Saddam] fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? ... Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal." - president Bill Clinton, 1998.
PAYBACK FOR FRANCE: As regular readers know, I've long advocated cutting France out of any post-war Iraqi settlement. No oil contracts, no peace-keepers, no influence as far as we can help it. Charles Krauthammer makes the same point today. After what the French have tried to do to destroy American diplomacy, wreck Tony Blair, and delay a war until it might actually be more dangerous for American troops, they deserve more than indifference.
IN TRANSIT: Packing, moving, flying - posting will have to take a back seat today. But a final thanks for making February the most trafficked month in the history of the site.
THE JOURNAL ON HARVARD'S PHALLUS: It's a story that won't quit.
DEAN'S DEFICIT: I'll never be able to loathe Howard Dean. For what he did in supporting civil unions in Vermont, any gay person would have to thank him for political sense and courage. But that's all the more reason for calling him on a simple, obvious and brazen fib. According to the New York Times, Dean made the following remarks to the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee:
What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq? What I want to know is why are Democratic leaders supporting tax cuts? The question is not how big the tax cut should be; the question should be, Can we afford a tax cut at all, with the largest deficit in the history of this country?
Huh? Two things. Whatever else this war is, it's not unilateral. A clear majority of European nations - eighteen at the last count - support the war. From Australia to Poland, we have dozens of allies, large and small. Britain, one of the few remaining non-American military powers, is contributing most of its armed forces. We may not have unanimous global support for an attack but to describe the coming war as "unilateral" is simply false. Ditto the hyperbole about the deficit. In non-adjusted dollar amounts, it might be near a historic peak. But that's deeply misleading. As a proportion of GDP, it's under half its peak in the Reagan-Bush years. I'm not saying it isn't a problem. I think it's a major one. But you don't help your case by absurd hyperbole. And that seems to be the main thing Howard Dean is currently contributing to the national debate.
Thursday, February 27, 2003 FINALLY: The offending ice-member. - 12:19:30 PM "NOT A DAY MORE": Thanks for your emails. You have a point. Here's one that puts an alternative interpretation on Bush's phrase in his speech last night:
I heard something very different in the not-a-day-more line. This was really directed at people outside the United States and in particular in Iraq who view our actions as some kind of colonial action to control Iraq's oil, people and whatever. Coupled with his statements about bringing freedom to Iraq, W. is saying that we want to bring self-rule and consensual gov't as soon as possible. In other words we don't intend to rule Iraq or stay there - the governance of that country will be left to its citizens not a day later than necessary.
I take the point, and actually think, on reflection it makes more sense than my original interpretation. More of your comments on the newly stocked Letters Page. - 12:08:36 PM
Wednesday, February 26, 2003 GEORGE W. BUSH, NEOCON: It took a while, but the president's transformation seems to be almost complete. From a candidate who projected a smaller defense budget than Al Gore, who pooh-poohed "nation-building," who spoke very modestly of the United States being a "humble nation," we now have a president saying the following:
We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before - in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.
I'm a little troubled by the phrase: "not a day more." It's as if the president still believes that a real commitment to Iraq and to the region as a whole will be unpopular at home. It needn't be - if the president makes Iraq a corner-stone of this country's commitment to a freer and therefore more stable world. Not quite a neocon - but well on the way.
WILL THE FRENCH VETO? No firm statement yet either way. TF1 declares that France is putting aside the idea of a veto for the moment. The Communists and Socialists urge a veto, but Chirac's party, officially repesented in the parliament by Alain Juppe, talks instead of looming "noises of mobilization." Meanwhile, we have this odd statement from the increasingly erratic Chirac, after meeting with Spanish prime minister, Aznar: "We oppose all new resolutions." Huh? I thought France was promoting a new one. Maybe Paris at this point just wants the whole issue to go away. I still don't have a clue what Chirac is up to; but I certainly think there are many subtle signs that the French don't want to veto - especially if the Russians and Chinese simply abstain. Solitary French isolation at the U.N., combined with encirclement of Anglospheric nations in the E.U. is becoming France's nightmare. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch, could it? - 11:26:28 PM A JUST WAR: The morality of ousting Saddam. My latest piece posted opposite.
GUTTING DELAY: Will Saletan does a beautiful job skewering Tom DeLay's pirouetting on the subject of the war. During the Balkan crisis, DeLay was just as out there as Howard Dean now is - maybe more so. I'm happy to say that I strongly supported president Clinton's intevention in the Balkans. My main criticism is that he waited far too long to do anything.
AFGHANISTAN HAS GONE TO HELL: You've heard all the nay-sayers. Now read a reporter. - 11:25:50 PM WHAT IT'S BEEN LIKE HERE: If you're interested, check out this photo from the Provincetown Banner of the arctic ice-floe that was once Cape Cod Bay. Much of it has now floated away but it was amazing while it lasted.
ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: After Amiri Baraka's visit, a spirited and supportive op-ed was run in the Yale Daily News. Money quote about the newspaper's opposition to an invitation to the anti-Semitic poet:
Monday's editorial, and the Yale Daily News in general, is a case in point. Obviously, it's one thing to be Jewish, and wholly another to support the Israeli occupation. That said, Jews tend to sympathize with Israel more so than non-Jews. And in my three years at the Yale Daily News, Jewish students have comprised a majority of management positions (namely, editor in chief and managing editor). This year, nearly half the editors are Jewish. Am I pointing to a secret Jewish conspiracy aimed at promoting Israel at college dailies? Of course not. But does the prevalence of Jews in American media, business and politics help explain America's steadfast support for Israel, whose 35-year occupation of Palestinian lands is an affront to human decency? Of course.
- 11:24:12 PM POSEUR ALERT I: "You may well scoff at Christian kitsch, but be on the lookout for "Hurt"; the video is loosely and beautifully made, and, by running the stark song up against set pieces and still-lifes of trinkets, it manages to make perishing kitsch stand in for end-of-life regrets. The song contains the word "focus"; it contains the word "hole." Cash has "hole" down—it's a country word, his frown hardly splits to say it—but "focus," as in, "I focus on the pain," is a conspicuous trace of the hi-fi songwriter Trent Reznor. In Cash's awkwardness with the word, he shows a hint of loathing for the song, whose theme is self-loathing. Cash plays the song on the guitar, with mounting panic from the piano. Today is his birthday." - Virginia Heffernan, Slate.
POSEUR ALERT II: Stringing Rodin up. - 11:23:31 PM BLOGGING COMES TO HARVARD: Whatever next? Ideological diversity? Perish the thought.
A WAR DIALOGUE WITH THE ACADEMY: And you thought living in Manhattan was bad enough.
SEX, NOT DEMOCRACY: Is that the real gulf between the West and the Islamic world? - 11:22:02 PM A HERO'S WELCOME: Radical poet, Amiri Baraka, visited Yale yesterday to elaborate on his view that the Israeli government was complicit in the attacks of 9/11. He was greeted with cheers and applause. - 4:39:39 PM REUTERS WATCH: "House of Commons Backs Blair on Iraq" - Associated Press. "Britain's Blair Suffers Parliament Revolt Over Iraq" - Reuters. - 3:13:11 PM
Tuesday, February 25, 2003 BUSH'S INSURANCE POLICY: Two words: Al Sharpton. And what he bodes for the Democrats. - 11:48:53 PM THE WAR AND THE CULTURE WAR: By far the most depressing aspect of the debate over war to disarm Saddam has been how it has swiftly adopted the contours of the culture war. There is a solid and passionate base among many blue-staters that opposes this war at least in part because they oppose George W. Bush. At some point in the last few months, in fact, being anti-war clearly became a defining cultural moniker for an entire sub-population. Almost the whole academic class, the media elites, the college-educated urbanites, the entertainment industry and so on are now reflexively anti-war. Worse in fact: there is very little argument or debate going on in these sub-populations, simply an assumption that war against Saddam is wrong, and that all right-thinking people agree about this. Obviously, the polls suggest that this sub-population is not a majority, but they are a powerful and increasingly angry minority. If the war hits snags, they will redouble their efforts to humiliate the president. I don't think their anger will be abated if the war goes well either. They will merely find a new reason to hate Bush. But I do think that an opportunity exists for Bush to neutralize and even co-opt some of these people by his conduct in the post-war settlement. He must commit real resources, real troops, real money to reconstructing Iraq and to building the beginnings of democracy there. No friendly new dictator; no cut-and-run; no change of the subject. He has to show the essentially progressive nature of the war against Islamist terror and its state sponsors - not just for the security of the West but for the future of the Arab world. Rescinding some future tax cuts to help pay for this may well be prudent - and even popular. Bush can't reverse the tide of hatred on the far left. But he can try and reach out to the many liberals in the center who would support a proactive foreign policy, if they believed it was about more than mere national interest. That's the real opportunity ahead: a fusion of Bush's instincts and Blair's hopes. I pray the president grasps it. - 11:22:03 PM TOTALITARIANISM AND RELIGION: There's a connection. Which is why we shouldn't be deluded into thinking that Islamism is some kind of legitimate religious faith: it's a murderous, suicidal, death-worshipping totalitarianism, built around the structure of a religion. It is our times' Nazism and Communism. Drawing on Western notions of revolutionary violence and mass murder, it has tied itself, as Francoism did, to the trappings of traditional faith. But even atheistic communism needed religious fervor to keep it afloat. A reader sends in this wonderful comment from Malcolm Muggeridge, who observed the religiosity of the Soviet murder-cult in its early days. It's from 7 June 1933:
I often used to think, when I was in Russia, that the general attitude towards the G.P.U. must be like the general attitude in the Middle Ages towards the Powers of Darkness - quite irrational; quite unrelated to knowledge or experience of its manner of working; yet somehow understandable, somehow in keeping with the facts of the case. There is, mixed up with it all, a kind of mysticism. I turned up once in a back number of "Pravda" an obituary notice of Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka and first head of the GPU, written by his successor. It described Dzerzhlnsky as a saint, an ascetic, a man who rose above petty bourgeois emotions like pity, or a respect for justice or for human life; a man of infinite industry; a rare spirit whose revolutionary passion was unearthly and uncontaminated. The very prose of the obituary notice was lyrical. It had a rhythm like a religious chant. I thought, and still think, that I had found in it the quintessence of revolution and I hated this quintessence because it is a denial of everything that has been gained in the slow, painful progress of civilisation; because it was beastly, because it idealised and spiritualised evil because it glorified destruction and destruction and, going beneath the animal, beneath hate, beneath lust, beneath every kind of appetite, founded itself on impulses which though they have in the past sometimes been organised into, abominable, underground cults, have never before held sway over a hundred and sixty million people inhabiting a sixth of the world’s surface.
We face the same threat today - except this time, on the verge of being empowered with some of the most dangerous weapons known to man. And we face the same response in the West today as well: widespread denial, cowardice, prevarication, and beneath the surface among some on the far right and left, an actual attraction to the murderousness and evil of the enemy. - 11:21:32 PM THE CASE FOR BLAIR: The Times (London), a conservative paper, nevertheless sees the wisdom of Tony Blair's foreign policy in the last year:
Consider where Britain would be today if the Prime Minister had aligned himself with France and Germany. Consider the country’s position if Mr Blair had offered Washington sympathy but witheld real support. The United States would have toppled Saddam last Autumn. The UN Security Council, on which this country has a permanent seat, would have been rendered an impotent observer, once-warm political relations between America and Europe would have been plunged even further into the deep freeze and Nato would have been reduced from a military alliance of enduring value to a Cold War relic. It is hard to envisage, as Mr Blair was wise to appreciate, how any of this would have served Britain’s interests.
Exactly. Not so much a poodle, as, well, an independent ally. - 11:21:03 PM A PRO-WAR ARGUMENT IN THE VILLAGE VOICE: No, I'm not hallucinating. But the person expressing such a view is, of course, an Iraqi exile and torture survivor. The majority of the Voice's usual contributors are quite happy to keep Saddam in power.
BBC WATCH: Here comes the BBC, explicating and amplifying the anti-American views of one Robert Mugabe, with minimal context, and a puff piece on Michael Moore, with the odd assertion that his book "was shelved by publishers in the US at first. They only changed their minds after a protest by US librarians." Huh? And, then, in a final flourish of chutzpah, the Beeb analyzes how biased to the right the American media are. All in a day's work for the far-lefties running one of the world's most influential media entity. - 11:20:36 PM THE TIMES COMES AROUND: After months and months of prevarication, the New York Times finally gets the immensely complicated idea that U.N. Resolution 1441 might actually mean what it says.
MOORE'S NEW TRIUMPH: If you want the ultimate sign of how deep asinine anti-Americanism has become abroad, you can't do much better than this.
A COP'S STORY: Watching his spouse die as a firefighter in the WTC on 9/11 changed one New York cop into a campaigner for marrriage rights. - 1:23:49 PM THE FINAL BLUFF: The Washington Post gets the real story this morning:
A senior diplomat from another council member said his government ... was told not to anguish over whether to vote for war. "You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not."
That's some brinkmanship. But I think it also happens to be true. The second U.N. resolution is irrelevant to whether a war actually takes place. It is therefore a gamble Bush cannot completely lose (whatever diplomatic and popular damage it does would be more than undone by a successful war). But it's a resolution the Security Council (and France and Germany) can easily lose. If the resolution is defeated, but war ensues, Bush will take a small hit at home, a huge hit abroad (still, how much worse could it get?) - but, precisely because of these things, an even bigger domestic gain if the war is successful. Bush will be seen as someone who did all he could to win over the U.N., but in the end, did what he believed was right. He will emerge principled and triumphant. Ditto Blair, especially if a liberated Iraq reveals untold horrors, human rights abuses and French arms contracts. Machiavelli's dictum applies powerfully now: all that matters is that Bush win the war. If he does, this conflict will be deemed to have been just and justified. That's why calling the French bluff is especially important - particularly if it isn't a bluff.
FRANCE'S PREDICAMENT: France, to my mind, has the most at stake. A failed resolution followed by war would mean the end of the United Nations as a credible world body, which, in turn, is largely the source of French global influence. The French certainly don't have any serious global military power - and even the EU is beginning to wriggle out of their grasp. If an Iraq war is successful, the orneriness of the pro-American Eastern European countries will only increase, handing more leverage to Britain, Spain and Italy in a 25-nation EU. At this point, I'd say the main real pressure - despite what seems evident on the surface - is therefore on France (and to a lesser extent, Germany). They will wield their maximum power at the next Security Council vote. But the moment the vote is over, their fate will rest entirely on how well the U.S. and U.K. armed forces do in the Iraqi desert. I'm beginning to think Saddam knows this reality as well. Perhaps he has already assumed that war is inevitable and that there's nothing he can do to stop it. That's why he's is indicating he won't give up the al Samoud missiles to help his German and French allies win in the security council. He'll need those missiles for more urgent tasks in a couple of weeks. His gambit now is therefore to do as much damage to his enemy as possible before his inevitable demise. That means diplomatic damage, by coaxing the anti-Americans, France and Germany, out of their post-cold-war closet, wrecking the U.N., and splitting NATO and the EU. And no doubt it will also mean the deployment of whatever chemical and biological weapons he may have - against allied soldiers and the "Zionist entity." If I were the French president, I would therefore use Saddam's refusal to destroy the al Samoud missile, if it occurs and isn't just another ploy, as a way to climb down. Chirac's point has been made. And then the war will happen. Whether Chirac likes it or not. - 12:52:15 AM A USE FOR DUCT TAPE: "I've discovered an immediate practical use for a small portion of my emergency supply of Duct Tape. I've placed 2 strips at the bottom of my Television screen - covering the lower 6" or so, blocking out the annoying scroll and other supposedly 'vital' information (logo, time, stock quotes, terror alert status, etc...) they cram into that portion of the screen. Being a news/political junkie, my TV is tuned to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC about 90 percent of the time, so it works out well." - more invaluable advice from readers on the Letters Page. Plus: a glowing BBC miniseries on the Rosenbergs and the pan-Pacific penis festival. No Harvard professors allowed.
THE ABYSSINIA PRECEDENT: A wonderful piece by my old editor, Bill Deedes, on how the Western powers, stymied by - yes! - France, bungled Mussolini's conquest of Abyssinia. Deedes was alive and kicking as a journalist at the time and remembers it all vividly. Money quote:
The crisis in 1935 came closest to where we are now after October 4, when Mussolini launched his attack on Abyssinia. Britain's eagerness to set in motion the machinery of the League against Italy ran into immediate difficulties with France. Pierre Laval, the French foreign minister, was unwilling to antagonise Mussolini. The sticking point was the likelihood of action by the League, involving sanctions strong enough to thwart Mussolini, precipitating war. Though never a strong believer in the principle of sanctions, Eden believed that on this occasion they would be effective. He wanted the League to apply sanctions - including oil sanctions - to bring Mussolini to the negotiating table. Without the co-operation of France, this became a farce. When I passed through the Suez Canal in 1935 en route for Abyssinia, Mussolini's ships were drawing all the oil they wanted. Financial backing for Italy, I was told, came from the Banque de France. When I came back a few months later, the same conditions prevailed.
Appeasing Mussolini and Hitler wasn't in France's long-term interests then either. Plus ca change ...
POSEUR ALERT: "Quoting passionately from the Irish Poet, W.B Yeats, President Mbeki insisted that NAM must ensure that the 'centre must hold and position itself in word and deed as the enemies of anarchy.' The President urged NAM to act to neutralise the deadly impact of the tide hungry for human blood, which seeks to celebrate a victory defined as the prevalence of an ephemereal [sic] peace whose parent is the fear of death. The usage of the word 'tide' was quite ephemeral at this Summit in the sense that, a week ago, President Mbeki had shaped his State of the Nation Address on the 14th February 2003 on the theme, the 'tide has turned.' The conscious correlation between the State of the Nation Address of President Mbeki on Valentine's Day and the concluding statement in his opening speech at NAM, calling for NAM to 'express the message of dialogue, peace and a better life for all human beings,' was indicative of consistency in both South Africa's domestic policies and its foreign policy in its quest for a better life for all human beings." - the metaphors of president Thabo Mbeki.
Monday, February 24, 2003 EMAIL OF THE DAY: "At the end of the 3rd quarter in the "Is the NYT biased bowl?", let's review some relevant stats:
Score: Sullivan, Kaus et al: 52, NYT: 3 1st downs: Sullivan, et al: 28, NYT: 1 Passing Yards: Sullivan, et al: 320, NYT: 15 Rushing Yards: Sullivan, et al: 225, NYT: -5
So yes, while it may be true that the 4th quarter belongs to you, Mr. Raines, the rest of the world has turned the game off. It's over." - 4:29:16 PM MORE SNOWY PURITANISM: Now they want to cut off a snow-woman's boobies! - 4:25:36 PM SNOW WILLIE UPDATE: Harvard's still buzzing about the snow-penis, erected and then deflated last week, with the victim-feminists in full hue and cry. My favorite you-cant'-make-this-up quote is as follows:
Women’s Studies Lecturer Diane L. Rosenfeld, who teaches Women, Violence and the Law this semester, said that the implications of the snow phallus go beyond the legitimacy of the statue’s presence. "The ice sculpture was erected in a public space, one that should be free from menacing reminders of women’s sexual vulnerability," Rosenfeld wrote in an e-mail yesterday. She said the snow penis follows a long line of public phallic symbols, including the Washington Monument and missiles.
A simple question: how do you make a missile that looks like a vagina? - 2:33:23 PM RAINES - "I'M IDEOLOGY-FREE": It's the critics of the New York Times' bias who are the enemies of good journalism, in Raines' eyes. Here's the relevant quote:
The most important development of the post-war period among journalists, American journalists, was the acceptance throughout our profession of an ethic that says we report and edit the news for our papers, but we don’t wear the political collar of our owners, or the government, or any political party. It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions. This attempt to convince the audience of the world’s most ideology free newspapers that they're being subjected to agenda driven news reflecting a liberal bias. I don't believe our viewers and readers will be in the long-run misled by those who advocate biased journalism. But perhaps those of us who work for fair-minded publications and broadcasters have been too passive in pointing out the agendas of those who want to use journalism as a political tool, while aiming an accusing finger at those who practice balanced journalism. I believe as Coach Bryant used to say, 'The fourth quarter belongs to us.'
Bottom line: he knows criticism of his ideological trashing of the New York Times' reputation for fairness has had an effect. Did the critics win the first three quarters, Howell? But rather than change, or admit his crusading left-liberalism, he wants to smear the critics. He's still part of the problem, isn't he? - 1:38:56 PM NOT JUST THE MISSILES: Saddam would be truly dumb not to destroy his al Samoud missiles. Although they're not WMDs, they are illegal under the current sanctions. And the p.r. effect of destroying them would be enormous among the gullible peace-at-any-price Europeans. But it's the WMDs - especially the unaccounted for anthrax, botulinum, and VX gas - that we need real answers about. And action. Meanwhile, good news about the prospect for democracy after liberation. Paul Wolfowitz - and not some anonymous leaker to the Washington Post - clearly stated yesterday that Iraq is "not going to be handed over to some junior Saddam Hussein. We're not interested in replacing one dictator with another dictator." That's a relief. The proof of that, of course, will be tested in the coming months and years. But I believe Wolfowitz. And trust him.
IRAQ AND IRAN: My friend, Michael Ledeen, has long argued that the theocratic mafia in Tehran is by far the gravest threat in the Middle East. He's right. No surprise that the mullahs are trying to go nuclear. And no surprise that the people they oppress see the looming liberation of Iraq as a godsend. A rare piece of good reporting from Iran in the Los Angeles Times yesterday captured the effect a successful removal of Saddam could have on its more powerful neighbor:
Some Iranians, particularly the young, say they would actually welcome a U.S. presence in Iraq because it would increase pressure on both their country's conservative Islamic regime and the fractured reformers who oppose it. The regime's efforts to portray the U.S. as the "Great Satan" have failed to sway young people, who are a clear majority of Iranians. About 70% of the country's 70 million people are younger than 30. Young people in particular associate the U.S. with the opportunities and freedoms that Iran, with its sluggish economy and stern moral code, lacks. They believe that better relations with the U.S. would revitalize Iranian life and help the country shed its pariah status.
Then my favorite quote in the story:
"Are they changing their mind?" Goli Afshar, a 23-year-old student, asked as she alternately tightened and loosened her grip on a mug at a cafe on Gandhi Street. "Can they hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?"
My feelings entirely, Goli. We've already dawdled for far too long. - 1:49:35 AM THE NEW YORK TIMES AND TERROR: The Times outdid itself yesterday, running a viciously anti-American op-ed by one Regis Debray. It contained every supercilious canard about American crudeness, religiosity, lack of sophistication that the old Marxist European left has now learned to deploy. The slurs were as sickening as they were shallow. But that's not news. What's news is that Debray was absurdly identified by the Times as "a former adviser to President Francois Mitterrand of France, editor of Cahiers de Mediologie and the author of the forthcoming 'The God That Prevailed.'". I say absurdly because Debray is far better known as an old communist, a supporter of political violence, an unabashed admirer of Fidel Castro, and a guerrilla fighter alongside Che Guevara. His hatred of the United States even led him to defend Milosevic and Serbian genocide in the late 1990s. He's a Pinter with blood on his hands. Isn't this relevant information? Did the Times know this and decide to ignore it? Or were they simply clueless and eager to run any specious anti-American doggerel they could get their hands on? UPDATE: Lileks fisks Debray!
A TRAFFIC SOLUTION: Early reports suggest that London's new approach to solving traffic jams is a huge success. The British capital recently set up monitors at all the entrance routes into central London. If you want to get into the hub at peak hours, you have to pay a fee. If you haven't paid the fee, you pay a fine. Cameras record number plates. If you live in the central district, you get 90 percent of the fees reimbursed. The result? A return in central London to the traffic levels of the 1950s. One thing you can always depend on in Britain: everyone is cheap. But what interest me more as a matter of media coverage is that all the praise for this initiative has gone (and rightly so) to Mayor "Red" Ken. But his solution is anything but red. It's pure market economics to achieve a good environmental result. It's Friedmanism for a traditionally liberal cause. - 1:48:36 AM FRANCE UNCONVINCED: That Michael Jackson has had plastic surgery. "In related news, President Chirac said the U.S. had failed to show convincing proof that Jennifer Lopez has a big ass."
BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION WATCH: A special radio World Service arts program has been exploring the question of whether American culture, in the words of one French critic, "is a non-culture, a non-civilisation, just a way of life." A radio comedy show gets its anti-French jokes edited out by BBC honchos. (Sample: "What do you call a Frenchman advancing on Baghdad? A salesman.") Meanwhile, a viewer backlash is mercifully under way. Anger at anti-U.S. spin and bias has provoked "one of the largest reactions from viewers ever recorded."
MRS MUGABE GOES SHOPPING: In Paris. Where else is the wife of an African dictator supposed to buy the essentials? With two Mercedes' full of bodyguards to help her carry the shopping bags. - 1:47:47 AM ONE GAY MARRIAGE DISSOLVED: "In Binghamton, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Andrew J. McNaught granted a divorce to Catherine Koppe from Lillian Beaumont on the ground that, since the partners were both female, the marriage was void. In March 1927, wearing a clown costume, a man's wig and a van dyke beard, Lillian ("William") Beaumont appeared with Catherine Koppe before the Rev. Francis T. Cooke, saying they had just come from a masquerade, wanted to be married. He obliged." - from Time magazine, October 24, 1932. You see? This is hardly a new demand. For other examples of same-sex marriages throughout history, check out my anthology.
CLIP-CLOP: Here I come, riding into Armageddon. For the record, if I ever ride into the apocalypse, I'd rather just prance around and have a serf banging coconut shells behind me.
FREUDIAN SLIP: "We do not yet have, or, if we do, we have not yet identified the "X" article on the real nature of the threat which became manifest on September 11 2000." - Martin Woollacott, in a piece debunking the terrorist threat in the Guardian. I know it's a truism that Europeans weren't as affected by 9/11 as Americans were - and that this gap in perception has an awful lot to do with our current gulf of understanding. But wouldn't it be nice if they could get the frigging date right? It's only a year and a half ago.
- 1:47:16 AM RAINES AWARD NOMINEE (for egregious media bias): "No, the movie is set in Texas, which in a good year all by itself carries out half the executions in America. Death Row in Texas is like the Roach Motel: Roach checks in, doesn't check out. When George W. Bush was Texas governor, he claimed to carefully consider each and every execution, although a study of his office calendar shows he budgeted 15 minutes per condemned man (we cannot guess how many of these minutes were devoted to pouring himself a cup of coffee before settling down to the job). Still, when you're killing someone every other week and there's an average of 400 more waiting their turn, you have to move right along." - Roger Ebert, ostensibly reviewing a movie but interpolating his customary anti-Bush polemic while he's about it.
OUTTA HERE: I guess I have to admit defeat and let you know I'm heading back to DC this week. I just couldn't hack the isolation at the end of the Cape in February any more. I finished the essay I was trying to write, but completely failed to get any construction work done on my little wharf apartment. Getting everything organized - contractors, permits, plans, weather - eventually got beyond me, and now there's not enough time to get all the work done before summer. So I'm out of here. I have mixed feelings. Taking time out of your usual context, forcing yourself into solitude, getting more in touch with the elements, even when they're truly bleak, as with this brutal winter, is something I'd recommend to anyone. Saturday night, I took the beagle for a post-bar stroll on the water's edge. It was an amazing vista. Somehow, vast blocks of ice had come loose from various dunes and lakes on the edge of Cape Cod bay, and suddenly a huge flotilla of floating ice crammed the harbor. It looked like the Antarctic, with boulders of white not only obscuring the dark, frigid water altogether, but dumped randomly on the beach like a crowd of rugged ice-statues. The tide was rising as we walked across the scene, but it was extremely quiet and the water completely stable - so stable that the ice-flow seemed to shrug its way silently toward the snow-covered dune grass. You just don't get to experience that kind of scene in a big city, after a Jagermeister too many. But, at the end of two months of icy solitude, I decided to take that amazing sight as a farewell message. Besides, I'd gotten a bad case of boyfriend withdrawal; and an even worse case of frozen, er, behind. I realize that for all my general misanthropy, I actually miss people. Perhaps a week back in the capital will cure me of that. - 1:45:30 AM
Saturday, February 22, 2003 THE GLAMOR OF TREACHERY: Vanity Fair's editor, Graydon Carter, has spent some time hob-nobbing with the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. And his fathomless snobbery has always led him to idolize the British upper crust. So it's no big surprise that his magazine this month should produce a puff-piece about a sympathetic new miniseries, "Cambridge Spies," about Britain's Communist double-agents from the 1930s onward. The series is produced by the BBC, naturally, and recounts the story of how Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Anthony Blunt betrayed their own country in order to support the mass murders of Joseph Stalin. Vanity Fair gives us the requisite, sepia-toned, boy-band-like group photograph. Its caption describes these supporters of totalitarianism as "glamorous turncoats." The writer of the series is unabashed in his admiration for men who knowingly betrayed secrets that led to the deaths of their fellow-countrymen and who perpetuated a system that imprisoned thousands and condemned millions to death and terror. The four traitors were "devastatingly effective double agents who knew from the start that they stood or fell together," opines writer Peter Moffatt. "Burgess is the loudest spy in the history of espionage. Philby is the most successful spy of the lot, becoming head of counter-intelligence in M.I.6. Blunt is cool, viciously funny and clever, while Maclean veers between being warm and friendly and drunk and difficult." Now imagine a series being written and produced by the BBC and puffed by Vanity Fair that featured upper-class fascists who spied for Nazi Germany. Yet there is no relevant moral difference between that and these four treacherous supporters of Stalinist horror. The double-standard remains - buttressed by far too many "see-no-evil" liberals and leftists. But the last word goes to Vanity Fair itself, editorializing with breath-taking insouciance:
"Double agents are hard to root for - but 'Cambridge Spies' makes a splendid case. 'It is controversial, portraying these guys as heroes,' says [actor Rupert] Penry-Jones. 'But to stand up for what you believe in the way they did is pretty heroic.'"
"Heroic." What does that make Solzhenitsyn or Havel? Fools? - 12:53:19 PM BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Most of us have learned to simply accept the fact that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. exists in the world, just as we've come to accept that there are terrorists among us, as well as people who scam grandmothers out of their savings." - Keith Olbermann, Salon. (Routine disclosure: I write a weekly column for News Corp.'s "Sunday Times.")
CHIRAC'S WORLD COALITION: Mugabe signs on. The anti-war crowd have another dictator ont their side. - 12:50:37 PM
Friday, February 21, 2003 QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "Playwright Harold Pinter, speaking at last weekend's rally, said 'The US is a nation out of control,' and 'unless we stop it, it will bring barbarism to the entire world.' He said America was 'a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug.' When Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. When US television broadcasts a speech with Billy Graham hosting an Excalibur replica from the Franklin Mint Collection, demanding the decapitation of Muslims, let me know. When George Bush grips the podium and beseeches American rock formations to give up the location of non-Christians so we can slit their throats, and it's carried live on national TV by presidential order, drop me a line. It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi." - James Lileks, bleating like a lion. - 2:02:07 PM THE FEMINISTS VERSUS THE PHALLUS: Yes, some feminist Harvard students destroyed the giant snow willie. Here's one of them owning up. The letter contains the classic and largely unanswerable statement: "No one should have to be subjected to an erect penis without his or her express permission or consent." In writing? Even one that's melting? And what about a flaccid one? The final money quote:
Many women and men, including myself, are the victims of sexual assault, child sexual abuse and rape. The unwanted image of an erect penis is an implied threat; it means that we, as women, must be subject to erect penises whether we like it or not. There was nothing 'challenging' or 'subversive' about the penis. The only thing it did was create an uncomfortable environment for the women of Harvard University.
Oh, please. Is the Washington Monument safe? - 1:57:43 PM REMEMBER THIS? Seems less outrageous now, doesn't it?
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE I: "There is no other government on Earth with the same publicized aspirations to tyrannical control [as the US government]. Other countries, including Korea, Iraq, Russia, and China, maintain arms to defend their shores against invaders and those who would 'dominate the weak and intimidate the world.' The two governments that do not maintain armies and weapons solely for defense are the US Government and Israel, a coalition of pure evil intent on destroying human freedom." - Ed Lewis, "Liberty For All," February 16.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE II: "'The times' require us to give up some eensy-weensy freedoms, so we can duct tape our houses and our mouths and worry about that Code Yellow which followed 8 useless months of Code Orange. Code Red is right around the corner. Be prepared to give even more away. Ronald Reagan described to us the Republican ideals of what an "Evil Empire" is. I guess the last vestages of the Old Republic has been swept away. Because we have met the Evil Empire Reagan described... and it is us." - Bob Bankard, Phillyburbs online magazine. - 1:49:18 PM THE POST-SADDAM PLANS: Democracy? Doesn't look like it. A provisional American-run government, designed to foster reconstruction, humanitarian aid and a fledgling constitution, is a perfectly understandable idea. But a long-term de facto colony is surely asking for trouble - both in terms of actual governance and in terms of American public acceptance. Of course, these plans will change under the pressure of events, but I can't be the only one concerned that democratic institutions do not seem very high on the Cheney wish-list (and it's largely Cheney's construction). The extent of de-Baathification is also critical. Krugman gleefully declares today that only "Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced." The Washington Post, with a far better track record than Krugman, reports that
Under a decision finalized last week, Iraqi government officials would be subjected to "de-Baathification," a reference to Hussein's ruling Baath Party, under a program that borrows from the "de-Nazification" program established in Germany after World War II. Criteria by which officials would be designated as too tainted to keep their jobs are still being worked on, although they would likely be based more on complicity with the human rights and weapons abuses of the Hussein government than corruption, officials said. A large number of current officials would be retained.
Which is it? We'll see. But the administration needs to be put on notice by its supporters as well as its opponents. Many of us signed onto this war not merely to protect the West from terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, but as an attempt to grasp the nettle of Arab autocracy. If we make no effort to foster democratic institutions, the rule of law and representative government in Iraq, then we will lose the peace as surely as we will have won the Iraq war. And losing that peace means losing the wider war on terror as well. - 12:15:56 AM A READER ASKS: "If Tina Brown is following Maureen Dowd, does that make her quasi-MoDo?"
POSEUR ALERT: "Like Nepalese religious shrines tendered on cow dung, the blues disc is an 'opportunity for devotion.' In the three economies in which it occurs, of the market, of society, and of the self, a disc collection such as James McKune’s or Harry Smith’s becomes a kind of counter-capital, a harvest of illth, like Dickens's dustman converting what is dispersed, discarded, ruined, and despised to what is recovered, concentrated, and renewed, rendering it at once rare and precious, scandalous and subversive. In the vertical archeology of the social body, it is an edifice of the repressed, making one’s own despised or ruined condition available for contemplation and turning it, by virtue of our irrepressible sociality, into a source of cultural power. 'Whatever we worship we make sacred.'" - an abstract of an academic paper on blues recordings. - 12:14:43 AM BEING PRO-WAR IN EUROPE: A cartoon says it best.
THE CASE FOR SURRENDER: An American Prospect piece argues that Blair should avoid war because it could lead to terrorist reprisals. Good to see simple fear and cowardice being profferred as a war strategy. - 12:14:13 AM BLAIR'S PROBLEM: "If, as is looking increasingly likely, Blair loses office over this war, it won't be because he's been martyred by a nation of spineless appeasers, or for that matter because we've seen too many cartoons showing poodles (wearing a lieutenant's pips) shovelling elephant shit (the elephant guided by a giant wearing spurs and a cowboy hat). It'll be because, for years now, he has allowed his spokespeople to tell any lies that, media-wise, seemed appropriate, while assuming that, because he always believes what he is saying at the time, the populace will believe him when he assures them he is sincere. He's a talented, likeable and quite interesting politician: and a study in what might have happened if Clinton had been granted his deepest wish, and been President during challenging times." - more insight and doggerel on the Letters Page.
THE DEMS AND GAYS: The Democratic Senators are quite happy to see a rampant homophobe become a judge, while filibustering Pickering. Check out Stephen Miller's column on the strange priorities of the Democrats:
The lesson: if you are conservative but not anti-gay, look for the Democrats to oppose you with everything they’ve got. But if you're anti-gay but not otherwise objectionable, that’s just dandy. I guess the Democrats figure no matter what they do, gay liberals will keep supporting them. And, sadly, they’re probably right.
Thursday, February 20, 2003 REMEMBERING DANNY PEARL: It was a year ago today that the Islamofascists murdered him in cold blood because he was a Jew. The Wiesenthal Center is organizing a small tribute. A better tribute is to continue the war against the forces that murdered him. And, yes, that does mean the terrorist-sponsoring mafia now ruling Iraq.
COULD THE "PEACE" DEMOS PROVOKE WAR? They might if Saddam interprets his current position as unassailable and so forces a sternly negative report from Hans Blix. This drama has had so many twists so far, we'd be foolish to rule out another one.
THE UGLY CONSERVATIVE: A worthwhile piece dissecting the extreme vulgarity and political hate-mongering spewed by right-wing radio host, Michael Savage.
ANOTHER BEEB QUOTE: This time from the BBC's World Affairs Correspondent, David Loyn: ""If America was engaged in the rest of the world rather than, frankly, wanting to bomb it and, as Yasmine says, take its resources..." No wonder the Economist this week simply categorized the BBC as an anti-war organization, motivated by simple anti-Americanism.
AFTER "WEASELS": A British tabloid goes for another Chirac analogy. - 12:10:09 AM MORE MISANDRY: It's the most rickety crutch for a female columnist with nothing to say, but that hasn't stopped both Maureen Dowd and now Tina Brown from throwing baldly sexist remarks at the Bush administration. MoDo recently went on a rant about the "locker-room" taunts and high testosterone in the White House. Brown now gives us this brilliant insight:
Is it just the residue of fashion week that makes me wish there were more, or should I say any, gay men in the Bush Administration? At The Sunday Times in the Seventies one top editor used to shake his head when the paper became too humourlessly high-testosterone and say that what it needed that week was 'more pooftah power'. In lieu of outright womanhood — except for Condoleezza Rice, who crosses the gender barriers by becoming the most zealous enabler — perhaps an injection of androgyny could be brought to bear on diplomatic relations in this moment of crisis. The Bush crowd's only management style, like that of many who subscribe to the outmoded cult of America’s Toughest Bosses, is to unzip and thwack it on the table.
Ignore the homophobic stereotypes. (Why is it "gay" to be lacking in testosterone? Or androgynous? Or soft on dictators?) Imagine if a male writer used similarly sexist language to describe, say, Tina Brown's administration at the New Yorker. Imagine sentences like this: "Wouldn't it be better if there had been more men at the New Yorker in the '90s? And I don't mean Tina's neutered gay male flunkies. Brown's flitty attention span, bouts of editorial PMS, hysterical responses to criticism and general whorishness toward publicists and celebrities made for a very menstrual management style." It would never be written. It should never be written. It's sexist, dumb and almost meaningless. But in all those respects, it's indistinguishable from Tina's latest column. - 12:08:50 AM
Wednesday, February 19, 2003 THE INSPECTIONS FARCE: More evidence that Blix is spitting against a Nor-easter. The "interviews" promised by Saddam haven't happened. Only three out of thirty have occurred and all those were Saddam-picked scientists with tape-recording of the proceedings. - 4:35:23 PM IS CHIRAC BUSH'S FAULT? Tom Friedman seems to think so. I wish I thought that the visceral hostility of Chirac and Schroder were a function of George Bush's bad diplomacy. But I fear their positions would be the same whatever president was in power, if he were trying to accomplish the magnitude of what Bush is aiming for in the war on terror. Bush's rapport with Blair, an ideological opponent, and his relationship with Putin suggests no lack of diplomatic grace in the White House. And does Friedman think Colin Powell's ceaseless efforts around the globe were window-dressing? In truth, the positions of France and Germany have as much to do with their own precarious positions within Europe as they do with the policies of the United States. For a while now, I have harped on the importance of EU politics for American foreign policy - and largely been ignored. It seemed so boring. It may seem less boring now. There is a huge struggle going on in Europe between those who want to forge an anti-American socialist super-state and those who want to unite Europe around principles of nation-states, a trans-Atlantic bond and free trade. Imagine in the current crisis if Britain's foreign policy were subservient to Brussels and you get an idea of the stakes.
EUROPE'S CHANCE: Until now, Britain has been waging a lonely and largely reactive campaign against the centralizers and dirigistes. But as the EU has enlarged since the end of the Soviet bloc, and as the central euro-area continues to be bested by the more dynamic economies on the periphery, Britain stands a chance of reshaping Europe along far more pro-American and classically liberal lines. Chirac and Schroder must now realize that this war, if successful, could bolster Blair further in Europe and isolate them for a long time within their own pet institution. Hence Chirac's loss of temper at the East Europeans. Hence Schroder's accelerating political collapse at home. Great things are afoot. This war might not only change the Middle East in ways conducive to liberal democratic institutions. It might do the same for Europe. - 1:46:38 AM NEED CHEERING UP? Read this hilarious and touching obit of famous British eccentric Lady Bindy Lambton, survivor of enormous feet, go-karting crashes and cocaine. - 1:46:00 AM BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION I: Thanks for the tidal wave of BBC snippets. I'm even more struck by the anti-anti-Saddam slant. Here's a recent one, to give you a flavor: a piece posing as journalism focussing on a handful of liberal churches in the U.S. supporting a non-violent removal of Saddam. How would such a removal be accomplished? By encouraging civil disobedience among Iraqis. Here's the piece. Try not to laugh or cry. Not a skeptical note in it. As a reader noted, the last time the West urged a similar mass protest against Saddam - with leaflet drops in March 1991 - the dictator's response was to massacre 20,000 Kurds in the North and between 30,000 and 60,000 Shi'ah in the South within a month. For balance, the outside "expert" who gives his take on the idea is a leading former member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (which, of course, doesn't want to disarm Saddam). It's a classic Beeb piece - not really news, utterly slanted, with a patina of easily-debunked objectivity.
BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION II: Check out this piece of "vox populi" boilerplate from the BBC, going around the world asking people what they think about the Iraqi situation. Barely a single voice in favor of using force to disarm or depose Saddam. No surprise there. But more objectionable are the voices of people in Iraq, presented with no context in exactly the same format as interviews in Paris and London and Washington. As if there weren't a gun pointed at the back of their head. Yesterday, Paul Krugman blamed the Fox News Network, with an audience in the hundreds of thousands, for slanting America's views in favor of war. It was the only way he could understand the difference in public opinion between the U.S. and Europe. Meanwhile, the BBC, with a quarter of a billion worldwide listeners and viewers, and a semi-monopoly of television and radio in Britain, churns out anti-American propaganda by the truckload. Hmmm. - 1:45:04 AM BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION III: Check out this BBC interview with Tony Blair on Newsnight, hosted by Jeremy Paxman. Now, Paxman is a notoriously rude and offensive interviewer in what is a ruder and more offensive political-media culture in Britain. But this grilling of Blair took things to a new level. Look at this exchange:
TONY BLAIR: Well I can assure you I've said every time I'm asked about this, the [sanctions] have contained [Saddam] up to a point and the fact is the sanctions regime was beginning to crumble, it's why ... we had a whole series of negotiations about tightening the sanctions regime but the truth is the inspectors were put out of Iraq so - JEREMY PAXMAN: They were not put out of Iraq, Prime Minister, that is just not true. The weapons inspectors left Iraq after being told by the American government that bombs will be dropped on the country. TONY BLAIR: I'm sorry, that is simply not right. What happened is that the inspectors told us that they were unable to carry out their work, they couldn't do their work because they weren't being allowed access to the sites. They detailed that in the reports to the Security Council. On that basis, we said they should come out because they couldn't do their job properly. JEREMY PAXMAN: That wasn't what you said, you said they were thrown out of Iraq - TONY BLAIR: Well they were effectively because they couldn't do the work they were supposed to do JEREMY PAXMAN: No, effectively they were not thrown out of Iraq, they withdrew. TONY BLAIR: No I'm sorry Jeremy, I'm not allowing you to get away with that, that is completely wrong. Let me just explain to you what happened. JEREMY PAXMAN: You've just said the decision was taken by the inspectors to leave the country. They were therefore not thrown out. TONY BLAIR: They were effectively thrown out for the reason that I will give you.
Note the complete contempt for Blair. Note the silly semantics treated as if it were a real point. Not the insufferable pomposity of Paxman. And the audience was drawn entirely from people opposed to the Blair policy. Not a single affirmative question or sympathetic comment was allowed. Fair and balanced. That's our Beeb.
BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION IV: Some more recent quotes from the BBC's reporters and correspondents. From Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC's Gaza correspondent, at a Hamas rally - yes, a Hamas rally - in 2001: "Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people." The BBC still won't characterize Hamas as a terrorist group. From John Simpson, World Affairs editor, the man who claimed to have liberated Kabul: George W. Bush is a "glovepuppet of his vice-president, Dick Cheney, and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld." Simpson also said of Americans he met in New York after 9/11: "Thank God I don't have to broadcast to them." There is, of course, one extraordinary exception to the BBC's slide toward leftist agitprop. And that's Alistair Cooke's Letter from America, a broadcast I grew up on and from which I learned my first lessons about America. Decades later, Cooke is still invaluable. - 1:43:58 AM
Tuesday, February 18, 2003 THE GERMANS AND SMALLPOX: Josh Marshall picks up the baton on the growing story that German officials deliberately concealed evidence of Saddam's smallpox stockpiles last summer to avoid any campaign distraction from the notion that it's the U.S. that's the main threat to world peace. Josh cites this Deutsche Welle piece with the following astonishing sentence:
In the interviews, two German government ministers let readers know that there is little danger now that American-hating terrorists could unleash the small-pox virus on the German population.
Don't worry, in other words. By appeasing these thugs, we could deflect the horror toward the Brits and Americans. I do think that's an underlying assumption on the part of Germany and France. By taking the anti-American line, they risk nothing. They know the US will deal with the threat; but by appeasing the Islamofascists, the Franco-German axis hopes to avoid any blowback. This is what they call being an ally. - 1:45:15 PM SHOW US THE PHALLUS!: In an encouraging sign of non-p.c.-ness (what a word), Harvard students busied themselves over the weekend building a large penis out of snow. It was quite a work of art, apparently, and was featured in the Crimson, under the headline, 'Winter Wonder." But now the photo is nowhere in the web and the usual suspects are "offended." A letter-writer to the Crimson wondered whether the Crimson would ever show a photo of a snowy vagina. I think this deep and troubling issue cannot be fully understood or debated until we actually have a picture online of the great white monster, don't you? C'mon, fellow Harvardians. Post it! - 12:08:37 PM THE GERMANS AND NERVE GAS: You'd think they'd be a little queasy about shipping vast quantities of sodium cyanide - a percursor of nerve gas - to the rogue state of North Korea. They have signed an agreement saying they wouldn't. But Germany is now in a position of selling the chemicals for international chemical and biological terrorism, while disavowing any military attempt to deal with the global threat these weapons pose. Is it still possible to think of Germany as an ally? Or France? - 11:56:07 AM HOW I FEEL: A Times of London writer, Stephen Pollard, lets it rip today in words that certainly echo for me:
In all my 38 years, I have never before felt such a sense of personal shock. I am shocked that so many of my friends would rather a brutal dictator remained in power — for that would be the direct consequence if their views won out — than support military action by the United States. I am ashamed that they would rather believe the words of President Saddam Hussein than those of their own Prime Minister. I am nauseated that they would rather give succour to evil than think through the implications of their gut feelings. It is a shocking experience to realise that your friends are either mindless, deluded or malevolent.
He doesn't mince words, does he? And yet he's right. He's particularly good on the self-righteousness of the masses in London on Saturday, and their facile, asinine support for "peace":
I have tried to point out that saying you are in favour of 'peace' is meaningless. Which sane person is not? The question is: peace on whose, and what, terms? If it is peace on the terms of brutal dictators, secured by allowing them to build up whatever weapons arsenals they wish, then that is not peace. It is suicide.
Read the whole thing. - 1:45:28 AM THE GROWN-UPS REGROUP: At the E.U. meeting, it seems responsibility took over from showmanship, as Chirac, of all people, became cornered in the discussion over his deeply duplicitous dealings with U.N. Resolution 1441. His response? He emitted bullying noises towards the smaller Eastern European powers that have had the temerity to side with Washington in the war on terror. It was, of course, way over the line. But his very frustration implies that among European governments, there is not now and almost surely never will be unanimity in defense of the French position on Iraq. Chirac's petty and self-interested posturing is a game, and that game will soon be over. But we shouldn't forget the vision that sustains Chirac. As a reader put it:
What we have been witnessing since the Blix-Chirac-Schroeder "let the inspections go on" joint press conference in mid-January is nothing short of an attempted "preemptive strike" on the part of our putative allies. By binding together with one another, the goal is to pull the rug out from under the Bush and Blair administrations in an effort to sow domestic dissent in the US and Britain, to stop the war, and ultimately to trigger "regime change" in both the U.S. and Britain. That, my friend, is the gambit.
A little hyperbolic perhaps but not unconvincing. Chirac and Schroder particularly want to destroy Blair. He represents an alternative vision of Europe - more decentralized, more liberal, more flexible, more Atlanticist. And they would love to wound Bush. It seems to me the U.S. policy should now be a new deadline with clear guidelines as to what constitutes Saddam's cooperation - destruction of the al Samoud missiles for a start. Then we need to focus entirely on the war itself - minimizing casualties while trying to make it as speedy as possible, above all, ensuring a democratic structure post-Saddam. Nothing else will undermine the current Franco-German position as effectively - both within Europe and with respect to the wider world. Then we have to cut France out of post-war Iraqi reconstruction. - 1:43:50 AM SAID'S SLURS: The sheer litany of personal smears in Edward Said's latest rant touches every crass populist chord. From questioning the patriotism of Ari Fleischer - "(who I believe is also an Israeli citizen)" - to the pathetic "chicken hawk" slur assigned to vice-president Cheney and others, the piece is a sign of how desperate the anti-anti-Saddam left is. Notice in particular Said's outrage at the hopes of Wolfowitz et al to bring democracy to the Arab world:
Isn't it outrageous that people of such a dubious caliber actually go on blathering about bringing democracy, modernisation, and liberalisation to the Middle East? God knows that the area needs it, as so many Arab and Muslim intellectuals and ordinary people have said over and over. But who appointed these characters as agents of progress anyway? And what entitles them to pontificate in so shameless a way when there are already so many injustices and abuses in their own country to be remedied?
Said gets it exactly wrong. What matters is not who brings democracy to the Arab world. What matters is that it might actually be on the brink of happening at all. Why, one wonders, should that be such a sad day for the left? - 1:43:03 AM FINANCING THE WAR: Is the Bush administration serious about democracy and reconstruction in a post-Saddam Iraq? If they are, they'd better get a better grip on the country's finances. So far, their war budgeting and domestic spending plans are a scandal. My latest column opposite.
THE FUTURE OF I.Q.: Fascinating new research from some Washington University researchers into the nature of general intelligence. We're beginning to be able to measure such intelligence not simply from the results of written or practical tests but from live imaging of actual brain activity. Egalitarian ideologues have long resisted the notion that there is such a thing as general intelligence and that it is at least partly hard-wired and inherited. But as science advances, and our understanding of working memory and intelligence deepens, the evidence for such intelligence could become irrefutable. Imagine at some distant date going into an exam room and getting hooked up to brain monitors. No need for grad students grading papers. No need for SAT results. Just a brain scan to check how smart you are. Fantasy now. But you can already see the implications of current research. Blank slaters, be afraid. Your time is running out. - 1:42:22 AM MORE BBC HELL: Another reader anecdote of NPR on leftist steroids:
Two Sundays ago, as my wife and I were traveling, I tuned into BBC America on my XM Satellite Radio. It was indeed a love-fest for the anti-war movement. They interviewed an Anglican Bishop who found it appropriate to single-handedly changed the tenets of just war theory without any indication that it was, in fact, a very new interpretation. For instance, the tenet of 'right authority' was changed to 'highest authority' in an effort to remove a sovereign nation as a proper decision-maker in security matters and make those decisions exclusive to the UN. He also said that the tenet of 'proportionality' prevents ANY war at all in modern warfare, because the brutality of modern warfare was so 'indiscriminate' that any use of force would automatically fail the test of proportionality. The reporter did ask, 'Well, doesn't that invalidate just war theory as a whole?' The Bishop replied, 'Not at all. It validates it.' The only just war, it now appears, is the one that is not fought. Augustine and Aquinas, I'm sure, are very upset to hear that their theory has been co-opted in such a way. The host then turned to America 'for another view' and interviewed an employee of 'The Nation,' who then decried the use of force in Iraq as imperialism, an attack for oil, etc. Yes, that's right, 'The Nation,' is now the view from America. They never introduced a single person with a differing viewpoint.
Here's yet another email from someone forced to watch the Beeb as their only source of information:
I have a suggestion that affects me personally but I'm sure applies to millions of others. Please, please, do a proper and systematic fisking of the BBC. Do the world a favor - get readers to help by sending in examples, line up influential people who support you, anything. I can't bear it any longer - I am now based in China and the BBC is somehow the only English news channel I can receive. I see now how they can manipulate British public opinion. This is hell!
Herewith an appeal to British readers, or anyone who watches the BBC closely. Please send me details of any ludicrously biased BBC report, show, program, discussion. If there's a webpage, please send me the URL. Aux armes, confreres, bloggeurs, and so on.
Monday, February 17, 2003 WHAT SCHRODER COVERED UP: Astonishing piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung today. Just before the German elections last year, German intelligence found very serious evidence of Iraq's stockpiling of smallpox bioweapons. The report came with a "high degree of confidence." The piece alleges that Schroder helped bury the report, so as not to get him off-message during his anti-American campaign. I'm afraid I can't seem to find the story in the English language edition of the FAZ. But here's the German version.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "There was, I thought, one slogan which was missing. There were quite a number which called for 'Freedom for Palestine'; I looked in vain for one which called for “Freedom for Iraq”. I did not hear all of the speeches, though I watched Jesse Jackson on television. From what I did hear, none of the speakers expressed any wish to free Iraq, let alone proposing any policy which might help to achieve that." - William Rees Mogg, the Times. - 2:59:43 PM BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION: An email from a traveling reader gives you the picture:
We headed to the Alps, me shaken by the simplicity and vacuousness of the "arguments". There, I had my first chance to truly experience the BBC - the only English-speaking channel that we got. "Shocking" is one adjective that comes to mind. I now understand your reference to "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation". Every reporter, every desk anchor, every clip - and I mean every - pleaded the case not to bring military force to enforce the resolutions against Iraq. At times, the desperation to find someone to support this position bordered on a piece from "the Onion": "we are here in Pennsylvania with Quaker school children who are against the war"... - really. Even more offensive than the position that simply defy logic is the arrogance of the reporting. I saw an open forum involving the Prime Minister and some reporter from the BBC named "Jeremy". I have never witnessed less respect for a nation's leader than that which I saw during this forum. "Jeremy's" disdain for Blair was palpable as he spit idiotic questions/statements at the Prime Minister: "we were told where the weapons were, we sent the inspectors there, and they found nothing: how do you explain that?"
Abolition of the BBC is essential to any serious political reform in Britain. - 1:45:19 PM MR ABDULLAH'S STORY: Fascinating account in the times of the story of a Qaeda operative turned informant in Germany. The twist to me was that this Jordanian originally fled his own country because he was gay. Then he was caught up in the ex-patriate fundamentalist-terrorist world, trained in Afghanistan, and deployed in Europe to manufacture false passports in order to import more terrorists into the West. So a man who left tyranny for freedom ended up attempting to import it back to the West. And now, in a weird denouement, he has become a critical element in foiling new Qaeda operations. Just like the 9/11 murderers who seemed as much drawn to the West as repelled by it, we have a psychological profile that's highly conflicted and repressed, wreaking havoc on the world. And when you think of what Islamist culture does to the healthy psychological development of men and women, its sex-phobia and misogyny, it's no surprise that we have some characters this disturbed. Another reason why we will have no real peace until the fundamental culture of the Middle Eastern Islamic world is shifted.
THE BBC'S TRIUMPH: Last Saturday's march in London was in part a triumph for the BBC. This enormously influential network - PBS on steroids - has been churning out relentless anti-war polemics for months now. They make Howell Raines seem positively objective. No doubt they had a receptive audience. But it is still quite an achievement. To give you an idea of how it's done, check out this transcript of a major television show, Panorama. Look at the content of the questions. See how the show, which is ostensibly a "debate", is in fact a kind of show trial, with the pro-war party represented by a tiny fringe, and given almost no time to make anything like a serious case. - 1:17:05 PM AFTER THE MARCHES: Several things are worth noting after the weekend's spasm of outrage and protest at the thought of deposing Saddam with American and British arms. The first is that the NATO crisis seems to have eased. The second is that France has still not ruled out supporting the use of military force although Chirac is sailing very close to the German position. The third is that editorials in the New York Times and even the Guardian/Observer have reasserted the need to keep a military option on the table. I think some reason for this new-found sobriety is based on the weekend's marches. There is little doubt that they represent something absolutely real in European public opinion: an aversion to any war for any cause except in urgent self-defense. But what, one is forced to ask, were these marches actually for? And if these people's representatives were actually in power, how safe would we be?
THE ADOLESCENT MOMENT: The British march was a negative one: against conflict. But its positive goals were and are opaque: they range from Islamism to workers revolutionary socialism to pacifism to anti-Americanism. Lesbian avengers marched next to people who would stone them to death. None of the marches addressed an answer to the problem of what to do about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the premise of the marches was that there is no problem. Saddam is evil but harmless, they seem to say (although the avoidance of any mention of Saddam, in words or pictures, was the most stunning aspect of the spectacle). Or they think that the terrifying prospect of a Blixkrieg will cow Saddam into compliance. Very few concede that "inspections" are only happening at all because Bush and Blair played the military card and meant it. And few seem to understand that the threat of military force is useless if the premise is that it will never be exercised. Their marches this weekend, by making exactly that no-war-ever argument, paradoxically undermined the likelihood of a peaceful settlement being reached. Not that they seem to care.
SAVING BLAIR: When you think about it, this is the behavior of adolescents. Leaders, in contrast, have to take responsibility. No marcher will be held accountable if Lyons or Manchester or Chicago endures a dirty bomb, procured from Saddam. No protestor will be held responsible for a nerve gas attack on the London tube. But Bush and Blair will be. And they should be. That's why, after this mother of all teenage tantrums, the grown-ups will have to reiterate the process, restart the inspections, redouble the threat, and, if necessary, launch the invasion. But this weekend changes one thing, I think. Blair may not survive politically if we go to war with no further attempt to bring the U.N. around, and the war is in any way complicated or prolonged. It makes no logical sense to go back to the U.N. But it makes a lot of political sense - if only to show the world American reluctance to go to war and to shore up an absolutely critical ally. (Imagine losing Blair to his party's left-wing wolves at a critical moment in the military campaign.) Here's one option: take Villepin's date of March 14 and make it a final deadline. Say that by that date, Saddam must provide an accounting for the anthrax, nerve gas and other missing and unaccounted for materials cited by Blix; and also by that date, Iraq must destroy all its al Samoud missiles, which are banned under existing resolutions. We need a deadline. We had one - "immediate compliance" - I know. But we lose nothing by giving the world a final one. It would put the onus back on Saddam, help Blair, show a little flexibility on the part of the U.S., maybe bring around a few more Security Council members and not lose any significant time. Again, this isn't logical from the point of view of 1441. But it is a reflection of the political pressures on a key U.S. ally. Recognizing that political pressure is not surrendering to it. But ignoring it when we can still offer an alternative would be foolish. We can afford to be a little flexible. So let's be. - 1:53:33 AM DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ I: I hope Kanan Makiya is wrong when he says that the forces in the administration least friendly to Iraqi democracy are now calling the shots on the question of a post-Saddam settlement. It seems to me that, after some kind of authoritarian-military rule to avoid chaos in the wake of victory, the U.S. really does have an obligation to find a way to bring real democratic institutions to Iraq. Yes, this is a war largely designed to protect the West and others from Saddam's menace. But no, that doesn't mean repeating the mistakes of the past in propping up failed and illegitimate Arab autocracies in the wake of victory. Makiya has a vested interest, of course. But he's right nonetheless. Liberation without democracy would render this war unjust and unAmerican.
DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ II: Here's the email from an Iraqi exile the prime minister quoted in his extraordinary speech on Saturday. Money quote:
I remember when I was around 8 I went along with my father to a demonstration against the French embassy when the French were selling Saddam weapons. I know of the numerous occasions my father and many, many others haves attended various meetings, protests and exhibitions that call for the end of Saddam's reign. I have attended the permanent rally against Saddam that has been held every Saturday in Trafalgar Square for the past 5 years. The Iraqi people have been protesting for YEARS against the war - the war that Saddam has waged against them. Where have you been? Why is it now that you deem it appropriate to voice your disillusions with America's policy in Iraq, when it is actually right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of the horrors partly described in this email?
But in some ways, the most important part of the letter is the following:
If you want to make your disillusions heard then do speak out, put pressure on Blair, Bush & Co to keep to their promises of restoring democracy to Iraq. Make sure they do put back in financial aid what they have taken over the years, and make sure that they don't betray the Iraqis again. March for democracy in Iraq. If you say that we can't trust the Americans then make sure that you are a part of ensuring they do fulfil their promises to the Iraqis.
Absolutely. We must hold insist that Bush fulfill this promise (and I think he will). There must be no attempt to placate the Arab autocracies in the region with just another pliant pro-American strongman in Baghdad. Once order is restored and enforced, we need a real attempt at some sort of democracy in Iraq. Nothing else will suffice. - 1:50:35 AM THE VATICAN AND THE THUGS: The Roman Catholic hierarchy is now in full spin behind Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. It was truly sickening to see Tariq Aziz, the instrument of one of the most murderous regimes on earth, using the shrine of St Francis for a photo-op. It's even more sickening to read the comments of Cardinal Etchegaray, informing the world that
Saddam Hussein had been relieved by Friday's report to the United Nations by the chief weapons inspectors. "He [Saddam Hussein] is doing everything to avoid war," the Cardinal told Italian television, according to French news agency AFP.
I know these aren't matters of faith and doctrine to which all Catholics are supposed to assent. But after the child-abuse scandals, we now have to deal with a Catholic hierarchy that is actively supporting genocidal dictators and their malevolent agendas. When the world needs moral clarity, the Vatican gives us the spin from Baghdad. It really is 1933 again, isn't it? - 1:48:59 AM
Sunday, February 16, 2003 THE LEFT VERSUS IRAQI DEMOCRACY: British lefty, Nick Cohen, assails the anti-war movement's collaboration with oppression and terror:
The Iraqis must now accept that they will have to fight for democracy without the support of the British Left. Disgraceful though our failure to hear them has been, I can't help thinking that they'll be better off without us.
Read the whole thing - about Harold Pinter's hypocrisy over Kurdish autonomy and democracy, of the way in which European socialists, gripped by anti-Americanism, now back a genocidal dictator against the democratic aspirations of his own people. I think yesterday's massive marches represent something deeply, deeply corrupt in the soul of the left: a form of Western self-loathing that, unless it is resisted, will lead not just to tyranny for more people in the Middle East, but for the slow erosion of Western freedom itself in the face of terror. The only response is resistance. Not from the governments in Washington and London; but from the rest of us. The lies must be challenged day by day, hour by hour. The self-hatred must be countered with calm recitation of the West's proud history; the excuses for tyranny opposed by a growing demand that the Arab world not be tool in the Western left's attempt to destroy Western freedom, but seen as a part of humanity that deserves the freedom that the rest of us enjoy. No justice. No peace. As the left used to say.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "This is a president who uses the death penalty with complete abandon and disregard for any respect for life. This is no example. So let everyone recognise what has happened here today: that Britain does not support this war for oil. The British people will not tolerate being used to prop up the most corrupt and racist American administration in over 80 years." - Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, accusing Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice of being racists. - 12:46:23 PM THANK GOD FOR BURNS: Another superb grown-up piece from John F. Burns today in the New York Times. Smart, isn't it, to interview Iraqis not in the midst of their own police state, but just over the border in Jordan, where they have some modicum of freedom. As often, it's hard to summarize Burns' peerless reporting. But if this piece doesn't remind you of Kipling, I'd be surprised. The critical thing now, to my mind, is less the diplomatic pirouettes than the execution of the coming war. The question is not whether we win, but how we win. Without jeopardizing victory, we have to be extremely careful to avoid excessive civilian casualties and to keep the battle as short as possible. I have no idea how this can be done. But I do think that the war will be politically successful if it can bring these two objectives into play. (P.S. Tom Friedman has an excellent take today as well.)
A WASTE OF SPACE: Reading Maureen Dowd's characteristically inane column today, I asked myself once again why, at this moment of gravity and importance, a major American columnist has simply nothing to say, except occasional lame pop-cultural associations and a superficial account of the views of others. I'm not the only one. Here's the Washingtonian's verdict on the Dowd decline:
Complaints about Dowd have moved beyond her flashy reporting style and water-beetle habit of skimming the surface. Her crimes against readers now fall into three main categories — formulaic nuttiness, posturing, and condescension.
Even worse, the Dowd schtick seems to me to be a bad thing for women in journalism. It implies that women op-ed writers, opinion journalists, and pundits are at their best parlaying gossip, small-talk and chit-chat. So odd that Dowd, who views herself as a feminist pioneer, unwittingly reinforces certain stereotypes. At least McGrory tells us what she thinks, rather than what she buys. - 12:29:03 PM WINSTON BLAIR: I would vote for him next time, regardless. Because of speeches as magnificent and as brave as this one:
Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.
But there are also consequences of "stop the war".
If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament, yes, there would be no war. But there would still be Saddam. Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today, 135 out of every 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five - 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.
Where 60% of the people depend on Food Aid.
Where half the population of rural areas have no safe water.
Where every year and now, as we speak, tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions in Saddam's jails and are routinely executed.
Where in the past 15 years over 150,000 Shia Moslems in Southern Iraq and Moslem Kurds in Northern Iraq have been butchered; with up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world, including 350,000 now in Britain.
This isn't a regime with Weapons of Mass Destruction that is otherwise benign. This is a regime that contravenes every single principle or value anyone of our politics believes in.
There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.
I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process.
But I ask the marchers to understand this.
I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.
But as you watch your TV pictures of the march, ponder this:
If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.
If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.
Something about Britain seems to bring my homeland the leaders they need when crisis beckons and nerves fail. Churchill - too late but just in time. Thatcher - way before her time. Blair - the Gladstone of the new century. As Glenn would say, Read The Whole Thing. - 12:57:31 AM
Saturday, February 15, 2003 CHAMBERLAIN'S HEIRS: And they probably don't even know it. - 1:52:18 PM THE TRUTH HURTS: "Nobody today, except the Iraqi ambassador, tried to claim that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations. Nobody tried to argue that 'serious consequences' means something other than military action. Nobody disputed that, just three months ago, the council's 15 members passed Resolution 1441 unanimously—not casually or unwittingly so, but after seven weeks of negotiations, in which Secretary of State Colin Powell altered the language to meet French reservations. Powell looked clearly flummoxed during his turn for comments today. One question he should have asked de Villepin: 'Why did you sign Resolution 1441 in the first place if you never had any intention of carrying out its enforcement clause?'" - Fred Kaplan, eloquently stating the obvious. And the more you think about this, the more you realize that France must have signed onto 1441 entirely duplicitously. They did so as a delaying tactic, knowing full well that they would later sabotage it. This is why the epithet "weasel" really is appropriate. France could have refused to sign 1441, after all. They could have signed a resolution that did not demand immediate and complete cooperation with the U.N. They could have signed a resolution that did not threaten "serious consequences." They didn't. Now they pretend they did. You simply cannot do business with these people.
THE TIMES FINDS A BACKBONE: I'm exhilarated by the New York Times editorial position today. It's clear. It isn't treading water. It sees through the flim-flam of the Franco-Germans. Has someone serious finally gotten a hold of that column? Have they finally made up their minds? Here's hoping.
Friday, February 14, 2003 ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Tariq Aziz, Saddam's puppet and accomplice, refused to take a question from an Israeli reporter today. Period. It was mentioned on most of the network news broadcasts tonight, in passing. But it's helpful as an insight into the anti-Semitism that pervades the Saddamite regime. It will also be helpful to see whether Saddam's two major allies in Europe, France and Germany, express any qualms about it. Today reminded me all too vividly of the 1930s - from the Pope warmly shaking the hands of an anti-Semitic dictatorial regime to the complete abdication of responsibility at the Security Council. It is a dark time; and it just got a little darker. - 7:06:04 PM IT'S OVER: We now know that, barring a miracle, there will be no second U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. We know that European public opinion has hardened against any such military action, and that large sections of world opinion regard the United States as more morally abhorrent and internationally dangerous than the genocidal murderer in Baghdad. We know in other words that we will have to wage this war with an international coalition that is not synonymous with the U.N. The U.N. route has been a failure. But it was still worth trying, even if only to give it one last chance. The U.S. and the U.K. have shown amazing patience in trying to force the U.N. to live up to its own resolutions. That very effort gives the lie to those who argue that the Anglosphere nations have no interest in mulitlateralism. But those resolutions - specifically Resolution 1441, demanding immediate Iraqi compliance with disarmament - have been revealed as meaningless, in as much as those countries that signed on to them have no intention whatsoever of enforcing them. The notion that inspections are working is simply ludicrous on its face. The fact that that position was warmly applauded at the Security Council today is a signal that it has decided to engage in unreality.
LEAVING THEM BEHIND: The lesson from this is a simple one: we have to abandon the U.N. as an instrument in world affairs. I'm not saying complete U.S. withdrawal, although I'm beginning to think that now makes a lot of sense. I mean temporary U.S. disengagement. The body is now a joke of immense proportions. If it cannot enforce a resolution it passed only a couple of months ago, it cannot enforce anything. If it cannot read the plain meaning of its own words, it is an absurdist theater piece, not a genuine international body. It isn't in danger of becoming the League of Nations. It now is the League of Nations. The difference is that this time, after 9/11, U.S. isolationism is not an option. So U.S. non-U.N. multilateralism is the only option for any future threats to world order. God knows we cannot rely on Europe to keep the peace. The Old Europeans will regret this deeply in the years to come. They have just told us in no uncertain terms to ignore them. We should. We will. And in the post-Saddam settlement, we must actively shut out the French and Germans from any slice of the economic action and tear up whatever contracts they had with Saddam. They have told us how highly they value the lives of American citizens. We can now tell them how highly we value their export markets. - 5:44:31 PM
Thursday, February 13, 2003 AN UNJUST "PEACE": I keep hearing from people who insist we should try "containment" of Iraq instead of war. They don't seem to have observed that we are where we are precisely because of twelve years of "containment". But, leaving that aside for a moment, what can containment mean now? One thing it surely does mean is maintaining sanctions. As Tony Blair just noted, "The moral choice in relation to this is a moral choice that has to weigh up the moral consequences of war. But the alternative is to carry on with a sanctions regime which, because of the way Saddam Hussein implements it, leads to thousands of people dying needlessly in Iraq every year." Exactly. How odd that those who have long accused the West of murdering thousands of Iraqi babies because of sanctions now want to continue those sanctions indefinitely. Of course, some don't. As soon as the pressure is off, they'll get back to lobbying for an end to such sanctions and liberating Saddam to even further horrors. But it seems to me that those who sincerely want to maintain the inspections farce and the sanctions tragedy need to be more honest in confronting the moral cost of this policy: not merely doing nothing credible to deter the threat to the West of weapons of mass destruction; not merely the signal to every terrorist and nuke-hungry dictator that the West is too weak to deal with them; not merely perpetuating and reinforcing one of the most hideous police states on the planet; not merely fatally undermining the credibility of the U.N.; but also maintaining the cruelty of famine for the next generation of Iraqi children. This is what the Pope apparently wants. This is what legions of allegedly Christian clerics want. No-one should treat lightly the moral responsibility of waging war. But no-one should discount the moral burden of the alternative either.
A JUST WAR: This war is a just one. We didn't start it. Saddam did - over twelve years ago. We responded at the time with a restraint and patience and deliberation that would have made Aquinas proud. After victory, we acted with a magnanimity utterly unreciprocated by the dictator we routed - even to the extent of leaving Saddam in power, even to the point of betraying in grotesque fashion the millions who dreamed of freedom - only to see slavery instead. (If only to right that horrifying wrong, we have a moral responsibility to finish the job.) We made a truce with the tyrant, with conditions that the entire world has witnessed him routinely violate. Our enemy, moreover, has no moral compunction whatsoever - he has violated every maxim of a just war imaginable. He has murdered opponents; he has gassed innocent and defenseless civilians; he preaches genocidal hatred and practises torture; he has laid waste to the environment; and made a mockery of religion. He has refused to disarm; and lies through his teeth. When fanatical murderers from that region developed a terrorist network and massacred thousands of Western civilians, we realized that Saddam's weapons couldn't be contained in his lair with any guarantee of security. So we made a belated attempt to live up to the truce of 1991, to finish the unfinished job. We could have destroyed him and his regime at any point. We didn't. We waited; we sent in inspectors; we were forced into sanctions. We went to the U.N. again to beg for help and support. The U.N. complied, provided a clear resolution, with the burden of proof finally on Saddam. Just as clearly, Saddam has violated it, and continues to violate it.
A VERY LAST RESORT: By any rational, objective standard, we have done everything we possibly can to settle this war peacefully. To say that we are in a rush to war is an obscene fabrication, a statement of wilful amnesia, a simple denial of history. To retreat now, to concede that this monster has a better case than we do in the final prosecution of this war is a travesty of any concept of just war theory. In fact, it is to engage in positive pro-active injustice. Yes, we must do all we possibly can to keep casualties in this war as low as possible. We must do more than we can imagine to help rebuild that poor country and bring hope and democracy to its terrorized and brutalized people. And those objectives are absolutely essential for the justice of this war to be maintained. But equally, we would fail in any conception of Christian duty if we failed to act after all this time, if we let evil succeed, if we lost confidence in our capacity to do what is morally right. I'm tired of our moral defensiveness in this matter. It bears saying once and many times again: those advocating war as the last resort after twelve years of broken promises, butchery, evasion and threat on the part of Saddam are morally in the right. And, however good their intentions, the thousands of protestors who will throng the streets of Western cities this weekend are the purveyors and celebrants of a rank and palpable injustice.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation large or small. We no longer live in a world where the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril." - President John F. Kennedy, Oct. 21, 1962.
APOSTASY WATCH: Two years ago, when I was still allowed to write for the New York Times, I wrote this screed against romantic love. And now? Happy Valentine's Day. I miss you.
UPDATE: Many helpful Internet users have provided input on the afore-mentioned protestor's placard. I say no more. But here's the link. - 5:24:14 PM LETTERS: "In light of the current crisis with Iraq, I thought it might be interesting to read again Frederick Forsyth's wonderful novel on the Gulf War, The Fist of God, published in 1994. Take note of this gem I discovered on page 351:
'He (Saddam Hussein) thinks the United Nations peacemongers could pull the rug. He's gambling that time is on his side, that if he can keep spinning things out the resolve of the UN will ebb away. He could be right.' 'The man doesn't make sense,' snapped Laing. 'He has the deadline. January 16, not twenty days away. He's going to be crushed.' 'Unless,' suggested Paxman, 'one of the Permanent Members of the Security Council comes up with a last-minute peace plan to put the dealine on hold.' Laing looked gloomy. 'Paris or Moscow, or both,' he predicted.
So why are we surprised now?" More insight from some of the web's smartest readers on the Letters Page.
THE TORY TEMPTATION: Tony Blair's brave stand in favor of disarming Iraq has managed to bring the Tories to almost even standing in the polls with Labour - for the first time in years. Many of those Tories don't much like Tony Blair, don't trust him, and believe he's too invested in spin. So they're tempted to march against war. They kind of like the idea of having inspectors spend months and months and months doing nothing in particular in Iraq. It's called "muddling through," an ancient English past-time. They don't want to face what seems like imminent apocalypse. They feel uncomfortable with American brashness. And the Tory leadership, such as it is, cannot resist occasional cheap shots at the government. This is why, alas, the Conservative Party, led by the truly awful Iain Duncan-Smith, whose only selling point is that he's not his chief rival, the pro-Euro, anti-American, Ken Clarke, is no longer a credible governing party in Britain.
THE GAY LEFT RESPONDS: Here's the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's defense against my recent piece in the Advocate magazine. They don't rebut the claims of my piece. They don't deny that they have a far-left agenda; they don't rebut my question as to how they can claim to be opposed to sexism while selecting women for their last seven executive director positions; they don't deny that their recent conference wasn't devoted to gay rights but to combating racism among gay people. But they do manage a few bloopers. They allege I am opposed to "abortion rights" and "civil rights." Huh? I am reluctantly in favor of legal first trimester abortions; I have written tirelessly about my support for civil rights. In the last couple of months, I have campaigned against Trent Lott and written glowingly of Bayard Rustin. My record in support of marriage rights eclipses NGLTF's. To say I oppose civil rights is simply a smear. I just don't support affirmative action, and have had libertarian qualms about employment discrimination law (although I support gay inclusion in such laws, if they exist). They also cite my "privileged economic class," as a way of saying that my views in favor of welfare reform are somehow illegitimate. I won't address the ad hominem. Meanwhile, my basic point is ignored: if a gay group wants to win maximum support for its cause, why does it seek to alienate two-thirds of the electorate on an issue utterly unrelated to gay rights?
POOR GORE: His new book on the family is now ranked 606,000 on Amazon.com. - 2:16:26 PM JITTERS: Suddenly, September 10 again. Friends calling from New York City, asking if I have a spare room. Nervous glances up at the TV screens in the gym. Greta van Susteren declaring a specific cyanide alert in New York City, where none existed. Duct tape jokes. Tanks at Heathrow. It is a war, isn't it? It reminds me that the anti-war protestors are not in fact trying to prevent a war. They cannot - because one has already broken out. They merely want to give up on one critical front. The trouble is: our enemies won't.
THE SMOKING MISSILE: The issue is not whether we have discovered an illegal piece of weaponry in Iraq. The question is whether Saddam will allow these missiles to be destroyed. Blix should demand it. Then see what the French say.
PARIS TO THE RESCUE: Could the French swing Middle Britain behind the war? Boris Johnson thinks so:
Just as everyone was laying into the Number 10 spin machine, the French did something so disgusting, so selfish, and so French, that the British media have had no choice. The press has dropped Alastair Campbell's dodgy dossier, in favour of that time-honoured staple of the British journalist - the orgy of frog-bashing. Confronted by French treachery, previously fence-sitting newspapers such as the Daily Mail have suddenly seen the merit of the war, and the downmarket tabloids have gone gallistic. You know the kind of articles: they involve references to Vichy, tanks with reverse gears, garlic-guzzling peasants, women of loose morals cosying up to the Boche, and they traditionally end with the cry: "And they eat our children's ponies!"
And just in time! - 12:01:38 AM PUTIN'S PERPLEX: My bet is that he'll back the U.S. in the end, maybe the very end. Great analysis in the New York times today:
Mr. Putin must consider the extent to which a snub of either European doves or American hawks will set back his own agenda to bind Russia more tightly to the West. On that question, there is little doubt, said Alexander G. Rahr, a longtime Russia scholar at the Körber-Foundation and German Council on Foreign Relations, who talked with Kremlin officials during Mr. Putin's Berlin stopover last weekend. "They said, `If we play the European card, we play on a very small field — in Europe,' " Mr. Rahr said. By contrast, both Russia and the United States need each other in the Far East, where the Korean nuclear crisis is heating up on Russia's border; in South Asia, where India and Pakistan flirt with war; in the Middle East, where the Americans and Russians both have important stakes; and in the Caucasus, where both are fighting terrorism. Not only has Europe no significant stakes or influence in those areas, Mr. Rahr said, but also the debate over Iraq has left in shambles Europe's own supposedly growing unity on the most basic matters of foreign policy and defense.
Exactly. We'll soon find out if President Bush's very careful cultivation of Putin has paid off.
SUGGESTED SLOGANS: A friend just got an email from some of the anti-war protestors about to descend this weekend. It's a list of suggested slogans on posters or t-shirts for the protests. Here they are:
A Village In Texas Has Lost Its Idiot All Humanity Is Downwind Beat The Bushes For Peace Bombing For Peace Is Like Fcking For Chastity Books Not Bombs Born To Kill, Born To Drill Brains Not Bombs Bush Is A Moron Don't Let Him Get His War On Bush Is A Servant Of Sauron. We Hates Him! Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld: Axis Of Weasel Draft The Bush Twins Drop Bush, Not Bombs Drop Names, Not Bombs Evolve! Work For A Non-violent Future George Bush Couldn't Run A Laundromat George Dubya: Weapon Of Mass Distraction Go Solar, Not Ballistic God Does Not Bless Only America Has Anyone Seen Our Constitution Lately? Honk Your SUV If You're A Terrorist How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Soil? How Many Lives Per Gallon? If War Is The Answer We're Asking The Wrong Question If You Are Not Outraged You Are Not Paying Attention Justice Or Just Us? Killing Innocent People Is The Problem, Not The Solution Let's Try Preemptive Peace Make Alternative Energy Not War Make Love, Not W More MPGs, Less MIAs (MPG =miles per gallon, MIA= missing in action) My President Is A Psychopath Nonviolence, Not Nonexistence Our Grief Is Not A Cry For War Peaceful Solution Not Daddy's Retribution Pretzel - It Does A Country Good Real Patriots Drive Hybrids Relax, George Rich Man's War Poor Man's Blood Save America, Spare Iraq, Make Texas Take Him Back Smart Bombs Don't Justify Dumb Leaders Sorry Dubya - Have A Pretzel Instead Stop Mad Cowboy Disease Tame The Tyrant In The Mirror, Then The One In Iraq There Is No Path To Peace - Peace IS The Path War Is A Dick Thing, Peace Is A Heart Thing War Is SO 20th century We Have Guided Missiles And Misguided Men Weapons Of Mass Destruction: Look Under The Bushes What If God Blesses Iraq? When Bush Comes To Shove Who Would Jesus Bomb? Who's The Unelected Tyrant With The Bomb?
Notice that only one addresses anything to do with the threat from Saddam. Notice also the constant harping on the tired old notion that Bush is an idiot - "Brains Not Bombs," "Bush Is a Moron," "Smart Bombs Don't Justify Dumb Leaders." Notice the personal attacks - "Draft the Bush Twins," "Sorry, Dubya, Have a Pretzel Instead." Notice the idiotic moral equivalence: "Who's The Unelected Tyrant With The Bomb?" It's hard not to feel demoralized by a culture that can throw up such things as genuine pieces of protest. It's as if an entire generation or more has forgotten what an argument is. - 12:00:48 AM
Wednesday, February 12, 2003 GOOD ONE: From Dennis MIller on Donahue: the New York Times will decide to support a war as soon as they find out Saddam has opened an all-male golfing club in Tikrit.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "The Sermon on the Mounts is the last word in Christian ethics. Everyone respects the Quakers. Still, it is not on these terms that Ministers assume their responsibilities of guiding states. Their duty is first so to deal with other nations as to avoid strife and war and to eschew aggression in all its forms, whether for nationalistic or ideological objects. But the safety of the State, the lives and freedom of their own fellow countrymen, to whom they owe their position, make it right and imperative in the last resort, or when a final and definite conviction has been reached, that the use of force should not be excluded. If the circumstances are such as to warrant it, force may be used. And if this be so, it should be used under the conditions which are most favourable. There is no merit in putting off a war for a year if, when it comes, it is a far worse war or one much harder to win. These are the tormenting dilemmas upon which mankind has throughout its history been so frequently impaled. Final judgment upon them can only be recorded by history in relation to the facts of the case as known to the parties at the time, and also as subsequently proved." - Winston Churchill, "The Gathering Storm." - 11:59:57 PM RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: More shameless anti-U.S. and anti-Blair propaganda from the BBC.
IN DEFENSE OF ORWELL: Leon Wieseltier dismembers pomo anti-Orwell critic (and former Wieseltier colleague) Louis Menand.
IN DEFENSE OF THE FRENCH: Not as bad as the Germans.
THE LEFT VERSUS TERRORISM: They're getting serious at last.
A NEW BLOG: From two feisty writers and editors, Ross Douthat and Steven Menashi. It's called "The American Scene." Welcome, guys.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: This from the Ottawa Citizen, from our old friend, Lewis Lapham, railing once again at the evils of capitalism, the imperialism of Bush, and the "gang of utopian anarchists" in the White House:
"I think the Bush administration equates the American spirit with power, not liberty," said Lewis Lapham. "And I think the U.S. is in danger of losing its spirit of liberty." "American politics, at this point in time, is trembling in the balance of losing its soul," he said. He described a country run by a "gang of utopian anarchists" whose main objective in waging war is to boost military spending, and build an empire - considered the pinnacle of Republican doctrine first outlined a decade ago. "War is the health of the state," said Mr. Lapham. The same agenda, he argued, is responsible for a steady erosion of personal freedoms, which denies the average citizen the right to dissent.
Denies the average citizen the right to dissent? Where? How? Or are these questions beneath the concern of Lapham? - 11:58:38 PM HOME NEWS: My boyfriend spent the night last night in Normal, Illinois. That's it. I've just always wanted to write that sentence.
WHY BLOGS MATTER IN THE U.S.: "I don't think it's any coincidence that blogs have been strongest in the US, where the dozy monodailies are so excruciatingly boring and where incredibly dull columnists seem able to hold down prime op-ed real estate for decade after decade. America's torpid j-school culture is killing American newspapers, both in style and content. Why, for example, does no print columnist have the curiosity to do what Charles Johnson does and make a specialty of finding out what the Muslim world is saying about the west?" - the irrepressible Mark Steyn in a great little interview.
NOT JUST CHOMSKY: The BBC is actually running some pieces that aren't saturated in anti-Americanism. Here's one. - 2:35:56 PM
Tuesday, February 11, 2003 OSAMA SPEAKS: I learn three things from the latest morsel of half-crazed religious rhetoric from Osama bin Laden. The first is that he is perfectly willing to ally himself with Saddam. The critical section is as follow:
And it doesn't harm in these conditions the interest of Muslims to agree with those of the socialists in fighting against the crusaders, even though we believe the socialists are infidels. For the socialists and the rulers have lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden. And this fighting about to take place resembles the fight with the Romans earlier and the collusion of interest doesn't harm, for the Muslims' fight against the Romans was due to the collusion of the interests with the Persians.
This isn't exactly a Hitler-Stalin pact. It's more like the German-Japan axis of the last world war. OBL is the ideological purist; but Saddam is a critical ally of the Islamofascists against the West, against any notion of Western freedom in that part of the world. More important, Iraq provides a base - and far more lethal weapons - for the continuing war. The enemy of Osama's enemy is his friend. Only experts in the Middle East could have missed that one.
OBL'S MISCALCULATION: The second thing I learn is that Osama still under-estimates American military power. He writes that America's fundamental weakness are
fear and cowardice and absence of the fighting spirit among American soldiers. Those soldiers are completely convinced about the injustice of their government and its lies, and they lack a fair cause to fight for. And they are rather fighting for the capitalist and interest hoarders, and weapons and oil merchants, including the criminal gang at the White House, which harbors crusader hatreds and personal hatreds from Bush the father.
If I were Tommy Franks, I would post that statement in every barracks I could find, alongside a picture of the World Trade Center. If that doesn't mobilize the troops, nothing will. But lastly, Osama is getting desperate. He senses, I think, a huge blow to his cause in the Middle East if Baghdad is liberated and Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are taken off the table. Hence the somewhat pathetic military tips, the pep-talk, the prayers for victory, and so on. For all these reasons, this message is a timely one for the world. Some Europeans will argue that this means we should avoid war even more carefully, ignore Saddam's arms, keep the inspection charade for a few more months, and so on. Others will recognize the voice of a lethal and determined enemy, in league with the regime they are so desperately trying to keep in power. Sooner or later, they will realize that they are at war too. And that we're risking lives to defend their freedom as well as ours'. - 11:07:10 PM ALTERMAN TO LIMBAUGH - GO DEAF: I know he's desperate to spark publicity - any publicity - for his book on why the earth is flat, I mean, why the media is hopelessly slanted to the right. But wishing Rush Limbaugh had actually gone deaf? Here's a quote from Eric Alterman in the current Esquire: "The lack of civility he [Limbaugh] demonstrates toward liberal politicians is really dangerous to our political public. I hate to say it, but I wish the guy would have gone deaf. I shouldn't say that, but on behalf of the country, it would be better without Limbaugh and his 20 million listeners." And Alterman is bashing Limbaugh for incivility? Not that I'm exactly surprised. Alterman rarely avoids an ad hominem directed at yours truly. Here's Limbaugh's take. - 11:06:38 PM PUTIN PUNTS: In France, grilled relentlessly by French television interviewers, Vladimir Putin refuses to say he'd veto a second U.N. resolution. It's "not necessary right now." The French will have taken the message. There's still a chance for a U.N.-backed war. Powell's presentation persuaded the American public, and the Europeans have noticed. It's still up for grabs.
SCHRODER BUNGLES: "Germany as the odd man out? This must be the nightmare now wafting through the chancellor's office. Can it be banished? Yes, if coldly calculated interest prevails. It whispers ever so loudly: 'Don't mess with Mr Big unless the stronger battalions are on your side.' Belgium is not enough." - Josef Joffe on why Bismarck must be spinning in his grave. - 11:05:58 PM MORE NYT INCOHERENCE: "What we have made up our minds about is unilateralism vs. multilateralism. We are fully for multilateralism." - Arthur Sulzberger Jr, February 8 2003.
"Turkey, which borders Iraq and reasonably fears Iraqi reprisals, has a legitimate need for Patriot missiles, Awacs surveillance aircraft and units specialized in combating biological and chemical attacks. NATO is capable of providing these, but so are its individual members, including the United States. Washington was wrong to strong-arm the issue to a decision in a divided NATO. The result was that France, Germany and Belgium blocked an initial American-backed proposal. They said it was premature and overly broad and would appear to commit NATO to supporting a war the Security Council had not yet approved." - the New York Times, February 11, 2003, blaming the Bush administration for excessive multilateralism. - 11:05:21 PM DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: From the Washington Post, January 22, 1991:
Despite NATO's commitment to defend Turkey, there is no consensus in the Western alliance to send forces to help Ankara if it is attacked by Iraq in retaliation for U.S.-led bombing raids launched from bases in Turkey, according to diplomats from four NATO nations. If Baghdad fires Scud missiles at Turkey, the only NATO country to share a border with Iraq, the organization "will protect Turkey," NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner has said. "Whoever attacks Turkey must realize that he will be attacking all member nations." But at least four NATO members - including Spain and Belgium - agree with the reluctance voiced today by German leaders against joining the Persian Gulf War, even if Turkey asks for help, according to diplomats from the United States, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Chancellor Helmut Kohl's spokesman, Dieter Vogel, called Woerner's comment "an interesting statement," adding only that the German government's position was not "describable." Kohl avoided the topic today, saying he would "not publicly meditate on what would" spark Germany's and NATO's obligation to defend Turkey.
Maybe it's time to ask France and Germany to leave NATO. Maybe, in reality, they already have.
MOORE WILL GET THE OSCAR: Of course he will. These people are in the movie business. They made "A Beautiful Mind" and "Good Will Hunting" the best movies of the year. You think a made-up documentary will stop them? For a little light relief, here's a short extract from a truly hilarious Michael Moore parody in London's satirical magazine, "Private Eye" (my brother sends over a copy every couple of weeks). It's Michael Moore's diary, as written by Craig Brown, Tina's spectacularly talented brother:
The tobacco companies (all run by men) have been extremely successful in convincing the firearms lobby to pacify the car manufacturers by distributing crack cocaine to 132 nuclear plants so that now up to 69 percent of women between the ages of 28 and 39 are unable to drive their kids to school without inhaling harmful emissions from the ozone layer caused by toxic fumes radiated by President Bush under direct instructions from - yes, you guessed it - the tobacco companies. So where does that leave the rest of us? Ho-hum. From where I'm standing, guys, it looks like we're drowning in deep doggy-do. And I don't know 'bout you, but deep doggy-do's not something I like to drown in - at least not when there's a Pammy Anderson movie just started on the TV!!!
Moore in reality is a little less coherent than this, but it's a pretty accurate otherwise, innit? - 11:04:32 PM HETERO-PEDO-LESBO-CHIC: This band has got it all. Paging Mary Eberstadt. Here's a chance to blame lesbians for pedophilia!
THE ANTI-WAR ASSUMPTION: At least this Guardian columnist comes out and says it: "The status quo is safe. Iraq is in a box." His solution: keep sending the inspectors around Iraq for another year. But why? If Hans Blix is enough to deter Saddam, why bother with more inspectors? Why bother with Resolution 1441? Why even bother with military preparation? Just demobilize and leave the inspectors to keep the peace. Just remember: The status quo is safe. Iraq is in a box. Just close your eyes, whistle cheerfully and wait for the nerve gas.
DARWIN DAY: A group of scientists want a national holiday in Britain to commemmorate the extraordinary achievements of Charles Darwin. I guess we won't get such an opportunity over here. But darwin surely deserves some kind of national honor in Britain. I'd add Newton and create a Science Day. - 11:03:20 PM MAIL SERVER FIXED: You can flame me now. - 4:24:19 PM ARE PEACENIKS WANKERS? Some are. These guys do have a good slogan, though: "War Is Silly. Whack your willy." Like I needed a reason? - 4:07:03 PM THE TIMES RECANTS ON LAY: Maybe he wasn't such an obvious insider-trader, after all. The evidence suggests he did all he could to keep his Enron stock, even while the company was clearly tanking. In other words, he didn't say one thing and do another. The New York Times engages in a pretty clear case of back-tracking:
That differs sharply from the story put forward early last year, after many news organizations, including The New York Times, reported that Mr. Lay had sold large numbers of shares as he urged others to buy. Many people seized on those facts as evidence of duplicity, not accounting for other possible explanations.
Good for the Times for correcting the record. I wonder if Krugman will. - 3:29:30 PM THAT FRANCO-GERMAN PLAN, IN FULL: Yep, it's on the web.
MAIL JAM: I'm sorry some of you, many of you, have been unable to email me lately. Apparently, the mail server has gotten overwhelmed. I have calls and emails in to fix it. - 3:19:20 PM HOW GAY IS OSCAR? I guess we wll know the answer to that, but this year's nominees are almost a hetero-shut-out. An unusually well-informed movie buff friend sent me the following email:
Today's Oscar nominations must set a record of sorts for gays in Hollywood. Best Picture nominee "Chicago" was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, both openly gay, while another Best Picture nominee, "The Hours," had openly-gay Scott Rudin as producer. (The Pulitzer Prize winning book on which it is based was, of course, written by openly gay Michael Cunningham.) Two of the nominees for Best Director, Rob Marshall of "Chicago" and Pedro Almodovar of "Talk To Me", are openly gay. Nicole Kidman is nominated as Best Actress for her portrayal of bisexual Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," Ed Harris is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a gay man with AIDS in the same film, while Meryl Streep is nominated for Best Supporting Actress as his lesbian best friend. Selma Hayek is up for Best Actress for her portrayal of bisexual painter Frida Kahlo in "Frida". Pedro Almodovar is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, where he is joined by openly gay Todd Haynes, who wrote and directed "Far From Heaven." Juliette Moore is nominated as Best Actress for that film, in which she plays the wife of a closeted gay man (played by Dennis Quaid, whose omission from the list of nominees will be noted as one of this year's Oscar gaffes). Another original screenplay nomination went to "Y Tu Mam Tambien," in which two young straight men end up having sex with each other. "Lilo & Stitch," whose co-director Dean DeBlois is openly gay, is up for Best Animated Feature. Kander and Ebb are up for Best Song (as is Eminem). And the Dutch film nominated for Best Foreign Film, "Zus & Zo," is a comedy about how a family deals with the news that the brother they all thought was gay decides to marry a woman. Stephen Daldry did not direct it.
Note that this is all related to people who are openly gay. The closet is crumbling - even in that most privately homophobic enclave, Hollywood. UPDATE: My friend got one detail wrong: Meryl Streep was nominated for her performance in "Adaptation," not "The Hours." But one more addition: openly gay writer, Bill Condon, for his screenplay adaptation of "Chicago." - 1:38:48 PM LERNER VERSUS ANSWER: In a sign of how extremist some of the elements behind the upcoming "anti-war" demonstrations in New York and San Francisco are, Rabbi Michael Lerner has been banned from speaking. Now Lerner is a really, really liberal Jew. He group-hugged with Hillary Clinton on the "politics of meaning." On the Arab-Israeli dispute, Lerner is a peacenik's peacenik. He's been vociferously in favor of leaving Saddam in power rather than using military force for months now. But because he publicly complained about some of the extremist elements behind the "anti-war" movement, he's been blackballed. David Corn has all the details. But one deeper reason for Lerner's banishment from "progressive" company may be that the liberal rabbi, although a hyper-dove, actually favors the existence of the state of Israel. Imagine! ANSWER, one of three groups organizing the demos, does not. As David Corn notes, the media director for ANSWER said on a January 28 radio show in New York that "I know that the ANSWER coalition would not have a pro-Israel speaker on its platform." As Corn also shows, ANSWER has given speaking slots in the past to some of the most militant anti-Semites around, including some who believe that Israel was behind 9/11. There's now a petition to support Lerner's ability to speak, signed by some of the saner lefties in then "anti-war" brigade. Worth signing. But not if it means papering over the intolerant, extremist and reactionary forces behind an unhealthy amount of the anti-war movement. Corn and other principled leftists are right to worry about this taint - on moral as well as simply tactical grounds. Here's my medium-term prediction: the Afghanistan campaign dealt a terrible blow to the American far-left and far-right. A successful Iraq war could marginalize them for decades. Here's hoping. - 12:28:14 PM
Monday, February 10, 2003 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "If Saddam bows to the UN's demands and co-operates promptly, what is the need for greater numbers of inspectors? If he maintains his refusal to cooperate, how will higher numbers help? Lethal viruses can be produced within an area the size of the average living room. In the absence of Iraqi cooperation, even a thousandfold increase in the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission's capabilities will not allow us to establish with any degree of confidence that Iraq has disarmed." - Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, yesterday. Exactly, which is why the Franco-German-Russian gambit is based on nothing but a desire to oppose the United States. - 11:15:37 PM ANTI-AMERICANISM: It's obviously a multi-faceted phenomenon, but at some level I think its roots are pretty clear. The basis of it is resentment. The U.S. is what other nations wish they could be. It has a vibrant economy, a dynamic society and irrepressible popular culture; it absorbs more immigrants than any other society; and dominates global ideas and cultural images in ways that have simply never been experienced before. When you add to this overwhelming military superiority, you can see why many people around the world chafe in envy and resentment - especially when there's no rival superpower to frighten the allies back into American arms. It's human nature. Human interaction won't prevent that. Here's an extract from the Washington Post yesterday:
The irony, says Alain Frachon, a senior editorial writer for Le Monde newspaper, is that in many ways the French and Americans have never been closer. Trade and travel between the two countries are at an all-time peak. "More Frenchmen speak English, travel to the U.S. for vacation or to do business," he says. "The practical understanding of what the United States is has never been greater."
But that is surely the point. Europeans know how American society is equalling or besting theirs' in almost every field, from technology to medicine through literature and the arts. They know that demographically, America is still booming, while they are in decline. Yes, they can reassure themselves that economic inequality is lesser in Europe, but only because the market has been restrained from rewarding talent, the same restraints that guarantee lower levels of economic growth for the Europeans. Moreover, the days when Germany or France actually mattered as great powers are long over, and the United States' intention to engage more aggressively in the world since 9/11 merely rubs this in.
AGAINST THEIR OWN INTERESTS: Perhaps we're reaching a point where, whatever the actual interests of Europeans are, they cannot psychologically acquiesce to them. From any rational point of view, the end of the Saddam regime in Baghdad cannot be a huge blow to European interests. In fact, it's pretty much a no-brainer, a necessary international police action to remove an obvious potential threat from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. Saddam is the easy case, not the hard one. So why the intensity of the opposition - even to the point of wrecking NATO and splitting Europe in two? Resentment, I posit. Resentment. And that resentment - which is not manufactured by European leaders, merely tolerated by them - is bound to have a deep effect on the future of international relations. This current crisis is just the beginning of a realignment that could be profound. The first casualty? My candidate is the European Union. Old Europe cannot live with its growing impotence. They will not rearm out of Euro-pacifism, which would be one way to express their desire to restrain the U.S. So they wil stew and stew, engaging in the kind of pure obstructionism we're seeing today. But Britain, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe may not be so resentful. American foreign policy in the next few years should be concentrating on this split, and doing what it can to deepen it. - 11:13:15 PM SHAKING SCIENTISTS: More evidence of what Vladimir Putin said was more cooperation from Saddam in the matter of disarmament:
One scientist who met with the inspectors this week was so frightened, it took an hour for him to stop shaking, according to U.N. sources. "Iraqi scientists and researchers are under a lot of pressure and influence by the Iraqi authorities," the Iraqi defector told ABCNEWS. "They were scared and threatened in different ways, including threatening to go after their families if they leave Iraq to meet with inspectors and going after their relatives if their families go with them and going after them even if they were in exile. "For these reasons, the scientist or researcher becomes scared to tell the secrets, even though he knows it's a way to lift the difficult, miserable conditions the Iraqi people are living under."
There will be no disarmament so long as the thug from Tikrit is in power in Baghdad. After twelve years, there can be zero doubt about that. - 11:10:54 PM THE TIMES SPEAKS: "We really haven't made up our minds," confesses Arthur Sulzberger Jr, about the New York Times' editorial position on a war against Iraq. Then he goes out on a limb: "What we have made up our minds about is unilateralism vs. multilateralism. We are fully for multilateralism." I assume by this, he means the implementation of U.N. resolutions. So he is for war, no? The coalition is multilateral - the U.S. and two dozen other nations, backed by an unequivocal U.N. resolution. Or does he mean universalism - the notion that military action cannot happen without unanimous world support? Who knows? My bet is that the Times will only take a position when events have made such a position unavoidable. Profiles in courage, and all that. If the president were a Democrat, however, I have few doubts they would have come to some kind of decision by now.
MORE LATER: Maybe it was the Norwalk virus. I'll spare you the details, but I should be more functional by tomorrow morning. - 11:06:59 PM THE TIMES SPEAKS: "We really haven't made up our minds," confesses Arthur Sulzberger Jr, about the New York Times' editorial position on a war against Iraq. Then he goes out on a limb: "What we have made up our minds about is unilateralism vs. multilateralism. We are fully for multilateralism." I assume by this, he means the implementation of U.N. resolutions. So he is for war, no? The coalition is multilateral - the U.S. and two dozen other nations, backed by an unequivocal U.N. resolution. Or does he mean universalism - the notion that military action cannot happen without unanimous world support? Who knows? My bet is that the Times will only take a position when events have made such a position unavoidable. Profiles in courage, and all that. If the president were a Democrat, however, I have few doubts they would have come to some kind of decision by now.
MORE LATER: Maybe it was the Norwalk virus. I'll spare you the details, but I should be more functional by tomorrow morning. - 11:04:33 PM POST-BLECH: Some kind of food poisoning struck overnight. Posting will be light today. - 2:55:34 PM THE REAL COWBOYS: "The reason Powell is now so adamantly pro-war is therefore no mystery and no surprise. He is not a former dove who has become a hawk. He is a multilateralist who is actually being consistent. His position is now what it has always been. He naively believed that the U.N. wouldn't actually pass a resolution it would subsequently revoke under pressure. And the source of his anger at Paris and Berlin is not because of natural differences, but because they are the ones now threatening a complete collapse of international collective security. They are the cowboys now." - from my latest column, posted opposite. - 12:04:39 AM
Sunday, February 09, 2003 BUSH'S ACHILLES HEEL: It's the economy, smarty-pants. No, not the growth rate which the public is smart enough is not amenable to easy manipulation. Not even the unemplyment rate, which may well recover after the war. I mean the explosive rate of current government spending and the president's utter insouciance about how to pay for it. I've been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but his latest budget removes any. He's the most fiscally profligate president since Nixon. He's worse than Reagan, since he's ratcheting up discretionary spending like Ted Kennedy and shows no signs whatever of adjusting to meet the hole he and the Republican Congress are putting in the national debt.
NO WAR BUDGET?? His budget contained the following piece of illiterate flimflam: "The budget would be in double digit deficit if had there never been a tax cut in 2001. The budget returned to deficit because of war, recession and emergencies associated with the terrorist attacks of September 11th." Up to a point. But as the tables in the budget also showed, the tax cuts have also contributed significantly to the deficit - and they've barely taken effect yet. I'm also staggered that the budget does not contain any mention of the looming war. I guess you could make a semantic point about its not being inevitable - but not even as a possible contingency? Is that how an ordinary citizen plans his own budget? Read David Broder's evisceration of Bushonomics yesterday. Or Steve Chapman's devastating recent column on the same theme. These guys are not Paul Krugman. They don't hate the president whatever he does. They're just noticing an awful legacy in the making. In the first three years of Bush's presidency, Chapman notes, non-defense discretionary government spending will have gone up an inflation-adjusted 18 percent. In Clinton's first three years, that number actually fell. Reagan reduced this type of spending by 13 percent in his first three years. Yes, a deflationary and recessionary period probably merited some spending increases. But 18 percent? If a Democrat had done that, the GOP would be all over him. And rightly so.
NO EXCUSES: But what really bugs me is that the president doesn't seem to give a damn. He could say: look, we're running deficits because I need to pay for a major war and tax cuts will help get us out of a recession. Instead, he told us last year that deficits would be temporary and this year that, er, well he didn't say anything much about them in the SOTU, did he? Or he could say: Okay, I know I've turned the spigot on for the last couple of years but I'm going to be a hard-ass from now on. But on what grounds do we believe him? Even after the last two years of budget-busting recklessness, he's still proposing spending increases far higher than the rate of inflation for the next year.
DEBT BE DAMNED: Then again, he might say: I'm deliberately creating new deficits because they're the only long-term way to keep domestic spending under control. But what this amounts to is saying I'm going to spend your hard-earned money now in order to persuade other people to stop spending your hard-earned money later. What other people? You're the government, Mr President. And your party controls all of Congress. There's no way you can pass the buck for plunging the next generation into debt through excessive spending while blaming someone else. His final option is to say: I'm a big government conservative. I want to spend gobs of money on the military and defense, cut taxes, and splurge on social discretionary spending to prove my compassionate credentials. Deficits don't matter. Debt doesn't matter. Governments - at least while I'm president - know better how to spend money than individuals do. That would be the honest message. And it might even be a winning one. So why the flim-flam? Maybe because actual fiscal conservatives like me might wail. Well, sorry to disappoint you, Mr President, but I'm going to wail anyway. - 11:06:42 PM THAT GERMAN-FRENCH PLAN: No signs yet whether they're actually serious about sending in thousands of inspectors, presumably with armed support. One attentive reader writes that the
official French radio news service, Radio France International, says that there is no German or French plan, only "elements for reflection," or "les elements de reflection." The news announcer also says that the "plan" previously revealed in Der Spiegel has dissolved in "cacophony." The piece then goes on to note the French denial that there's a plan at all. After that there's information about a German domestic legislative presentation of the plan on Thursday, and a Security Council presentation of whatever there is to present on Friday. I listened at 5:30 p.m. New York time on Sunday. Really, three-card Monte would be easier to keep track of than all this.
I doubt it's serious. The whole game now is to throw obstacles in front of the war preparation so that the window of operation - before April - is closed. France and Germany are not interested in disarming Saddam in any meaningful sense. They're interested in the pretense of disarmament so that their trade ties with Saddam can recommence, and the United States can be rebuffed. I'll believe the evidence of their commitment to Saddam's disarmament when I see it.
A PEACE SIGN?: That's how the New York Times is describing the Churchill "V for Victory" sign, as featured on a fashion week sweater. The reporter is lucky Winston is not still alive. - 11:06:04 PM CHIRAC'S MOJO: A smart, thorough and brutal profile of the chief weasel.
9/11 AND ALBRIGHT: Yes, it seems that September 11 changed everything for our former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. According to Punditwatch, she
claimed that the battle against al Qaeda and resolving the "crisis" in North Korea was more pressing than Iraq, accusing the Administration of a "unidimensional foreign policy." When host Tim Russert showed her bellicose comments she and President Clinton made against Iraq in 1998, Albright responded, "Things are different after 9-11."
For Albright, the lesson of 9/11 was that we should be less concerned now about weapons of mass destruction in the most anti-American region on earth getting into the hands of terrorists. Don't worry about Saddam. Do what we did after 1998: nothing. Look how well that turned out. - 11:04:57 PM FABULOUSLY ANTI-WAR: No, I don't mean Madonna. I mean a group called "Glamericans". These are drag queens, performance artists, and sundry others who form "a non-partisan group of funky Americans committed to non-violence and its promotion through glamorous, media-savvy, cultural events. We believe in America’s potential to be a peaceful and powerful force in the world. We believe that war is bad for our country, bad for our environment and bad for our travel plans." Dammit. Let Saddam test nerve gas on political prisoners strapped down in hospital beds. Let him gas the Kurds. Let him protect terrorist groups. The important thing is to look good in Tribeca. In some ways, I admire this stuff. It's more honest than Dave Matthews.
TAPPER ON STONE: It had to happen: a fawning, worshipping Oliver Stone documentary about Fidel Castro. Kim Jong Il was unavailable? Saddam couldn't commit?
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Just as some Arab governments fuel anti-American sentiment among people to divert them from problems at home, so a distinct minority of Western European leaders appears to engage in America-bashing to rally their people and other European elites to the call of European unity. Some European politicians speak of pressure from their "street" for peaceful solutions to international conflict and for resisting American power regardless of its purpose. But statements emanating from Europe that seem to endorse pacifism in the face of evil, and anti-Semitic recidivism in some quarters, provoke an equal and opposite reaction in America. There is an American "street," too, and it strongly supports disarming Iraq, accepts the necessity of an expansive American role in the world to ensure we never wake up to another September 11th, is perplexed that nations with whom we have long enjoyed common cause do not share our urgency and sense of threat in time of war, and that considers reflexive hostility toward Israel as the root of all problems in the Middle East as irrational as it is morally offensive." -from Senator John McCain's speech to European defense chiefs in Munich on Saturday. - 11:03:52 PM IDIOCY OF THE WEEKEND: "You don't beat terrorists by bombing them. All you do is act as a very good recruiting agent for them because more young people then turn towards the terrorists, and you alienate the complete civil population because you bomb them. Do you expect them to like us any more than they do now, which is not very much. You beat terrorists by talking to them. It's the only way you can do it." - Mo Mowlam, former Blair cabinet member, urging a seminar with Osama bin Laden in response to mass murder. - 12:10:09 PM FIFTH COLUMN WATCH: Charming item on a San Francisco lefty internet site this weekend:
Good News:CIA Officer Killed in Afghanistan Grenade Accident by :) Friday February 07, 2003 at 03:26 AM Ok, only two CIA agents dead, but its something. With so much bad news in the headlines its nice to read some good news like this every once and awhile. "WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A CIA counterterrorism officer has been killed in a grenade accident during a live fire exercise in Afghanistan as he prepared for an intelligence operation, the spy agency said on Thursday." "Boes was the second CIA fatality in Afghanistan since the United States launched a war"
Yep, this is how a few of them actually think.
FRIEDMAN ON THE NYT: Sorry, I mean the French, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between M. Chirac's position and Ms. Collins':
The French position is utterly incoherent. The inspections have not worked yet, says Mr. de Villepin, because Saddam has not fully cooperated, and, therefore, we should triple the number of inspectors. But the inspections have failed not because of a shortage of inspectors. They have failed because of a shortage of compliance on Saddam's part, as the French know. The way you get that compliance out of a thug like Saddam is not by tripling the inspectors, but by tripling the threat that if he does not comply he will be faced with a U.N.-approved war.
Tell it, Tom. Meanwhile, more common sense has slipped through Howell's editorial net:
So, however thin the evidence, experts on intelligence tend not to dismiss the possibility that as a last resort the Iraqi leader just might equip terrorists with chemical and biological weapons to be used against their common enemies: the United States, Israel and the West generally. Mr. Schweitzer said: "Saddam Hussein can offer his substances to them, and they would not hesitate to accept it, even if they intended to use it in a way the Iraqis hadn't told them to. This is the greatest danger."
Eventually, the stronger arguments will have to prevail, won't they?
SPOKE TOO SOON: Guardian readers have rallied to dismiss Colin Powell's evidence. I hope my optimism didn't provoke a counter-blast. - 11:44:53 AM
Saturday, February 08, 2003 YET MORE POETS: A reader urges us to get our Tom Lehrer song-book open again. Here's a goodie:
We are the Folk Song Army. Everyone of us cares. We all hate poverty, war, and injustice, Unlike the rest of you squares.
That just about sums it up, doesn't it?
- 2:47:02 PM LE MONDE WOBBLES: Hmmm. Are the French beginning to acknowledge reality? Today's editorial in Le Monde is called "L'Apres Guerre," and contains the following sentences:
All smiles, defense secretary Rumsfeld predicted a brief war: "Six days? Six weeks?" Let's accept that assessment. What then? What about the after-war? ... To ask these questions is not to defend the indefensible status quo, the Saddam dictatorship.
The indefensible status quo. But wasn't that exactly what the French supported only recently, covered by the fig-leaf that somehow more inspectors would make a blind bit of difference? I think Colin Powell was more effective than some gave him credit for.
THE PRICE OF SUPPORT: Bill Keller is a sensible fellow. But his piece this morning gives an insight into how otherwise sensible liberals can come to support this war: only by simultaneously deriding and condescending to the president who made it possible. Is peer pressure that great? I guess so. - 12:55:59 PM YET MORE POETS: Yep, they're organizing, as Len Garment notes in this morning's Times. The dreaded march of stanzas, caesuras and iambic pentameters has begun. If you feel like a dose of acute nausea, take a look at the website called "Poetsagainstthewar.org." It contains the usual anti-Bush hysteria. Here's a Sontag Award nominee from W.S. Merwin: "[I]f the reasons for war were many times greater than they have been said to be I would oppose any thing of the kind under such 'leadership'. To arrange a war in order to be re-elected outdoes even the means employed in the last presidential election. Mr. Bush and his plans are a greater danger to the United States than Saddam Hussein." Well at least we know where he's coming from. But my favorite is a poem from one Marilyn Hacker. It contains verses such as the following:
"('God Bless America' would be blasphemy if there were a god concerned with humanity.)"
Charming, huh? Or this:
"Jews who learned their comportment from storm-troopers act out the nightmares that woke their grandmothers; Jews sit, black-clad, claim peace: their vigil's not on the whistlestop pol's agenda.
'Our' loss is grave: American, sacralized. We are dismayed that dead Palestinians, Kashmiris, Chechens, Guatemalans, also are mourned with demands for vengeance.
'Our' loss is grave, that is, till a president in spanking-new non-combatant uniform mandates a war: then, men and women dying for oil will be needed heroes.
I'd rather live in France (or live anywhere there's literate debate in the newspapers). The English language is my mother tongue, but it travels. Asylum, exile?"
Asylum, please. - 12:38:33 PM PROFILES IN COURAGE: My old friend and colleague Mickey Kaus has been having great fun at the expense of the New York Times' desperate, and increasingly incoherent editorial shifts on Iraq. He's right to. But doesn't he also have an obligation to tell us what he actually thinks? Mickey has given almost no actual analysis of the most important question we are currently facing, despite running a 24-hour, Microsoft-funded blog. What's up with that? Mr Raines may have declining credibility on this matter, but at least he's saying something. Shouldn't Mickey refrain from criticizing others for saying nothing until he has the good graces to take a stand? And I don't mean how an Iraq war could impact welfare reform or the latest designs from Toyota.
BRENT BOZELL'S GAY PROBLEM: I'm not exactly one to come to Eric Alterman's defense, but with the figure of Brent Bozell, you really do have an example of someone who appears woefully ignorant about the political diversity among homosexuals. For Bozell, along with, I might add, left-wing ideologues like Richard Goldstein, any openly gay person is ipso facto a liberal. Bozell simply assumes in this column that Rick Berke and Frank Bruni of the New York Times are left-liberals solely because they're gay. Now Rick is a flaming liberal, as well as a master of New York Times internal politics. But Frank Bruni clearly isn't in any ideological sense. Anyone who read his last book on George Bush would have a hard time saying that Bruni is ideologically blinded to Bush's strengths (and weaknesses) as a president. But Bozell simply asserts that Bruni is a liberal because he is gay. That's dumb and demeaning. He also asserts that the only reason that the Bush administration is not avowedly homophobic is because it's intimidated by openly gay people in the media. Isn't that a bit presumptive? An alternative theory might be that Bush and Cheney know enough gay people to realize that they cannot be generalized about politically; and decent enough not to reduce someone's politics to their sexual identity. Maybe Dick Cheney has a better understanding of homosexuality than Bozell because his own daughter is gay, and he respects and loves her. For the record, I think that most of the big media are indeed pro-gay, compared to the center of gravity in the rest of the country. But that doesn't justify the out-dated generalizations and assumptions of Brent Bozell.
Friday, February 07, 2003 ROMENESKO WATCH: Gay left supporter James Romenesko runs a blog linking to liberal stories and opinion in the media. If Eric Alterman sneezes, there's an item. But if someone right-of-center has anything to say about the media, it's ignored. A good example today: Jonah Goldberg's excellent and provocative piece about media overkill on the Columbia disaster. It's a big piece in a big paper, the Wall Street Journal. Look at what else Romenesko links to today - an end to the Miami Herald spelling bee! a college meat-eating contest! - and ask yourself the reasons for the lacuna. In fact, see if you can find any stories in the past week that deviate even slightly from left-liberal politics. Romenesko has every right to run a left-liberal blog on the media, of course. But he should be candid about his biases. He's a propagandist. And a very good one. - 6:09:16 PM DID POWELL PERSUADE GUARDIAN READERS? It looks like he did. - 5:03:58 PM CAMILLE AGAINST THE WAR: Read the entire interview. She certainly cannot be dismissed as a Bush-hating anti-American. Her argument, I think, is that war could inflame the Middle East and spawn even more Islamic fundamentalist terror. I think she's wrong. My own belief is that terror relies on Western passivity, and is galvanized by Western weakness. That's what the 1990s showed. But of course, war is awful, unpredictable and deeply dangerous. Her preferred option - giving inspectors months more time in order to get a global consensus - strikes me as naive. It assumes the good will of countries like France and Russia. I don't. And it assumes that we can somehow dampen Islamist extremism by inaction or soothing words. Sorry, but the 90s proved that strategy wrong. We ducked and weaved and appeased - and the threat merely grew. A climb-down now would do more to strengthen the Islamo-fascists than any war. In fact, it would unleash a wave of terror the like of which we have not yet seen. - 2:47:58 PM AND DON'T HAVE ANY KIDS YOURSELF: I assumed most readers would have recognized some of the most famous lines of poetry written in the last fifty years in my little squib on Jacko. But in case you didn't, I should hasten to add that "Man hands on misery to man/It deepens like a coastal shelf" refer to Philip Larkin's treasure of a poem, "This Be The Verse." If you don't know his poetry, you really really should. Here's a link to his collected work. Buy it. - 2:29:09 PM RAINES WATCH: "U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years" - NYT, February 6. "Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.7% as Job Growth Surges" - NYT, February 7. D'oh! - 2:09:56 PM TILLMAN ABOUT TO BE DEPLOYED: Update on my 2002 Man of the Year. Best detail: he has declined all media interviews. - 2:00:47 PM PERSUADING THE GERMANS: "At a recent NATO meeting, France and Germany expressed reluctance to lend military support to the U.S. if it invades Iraq. What do you think? 'Has it been explained to the Germans that the Iraqis are Semites?', Paul Ryback, Delivery Driver." - from - where else? - the Onion.
BAD LINK: Sorry. Here's the right link for the pro-war Hollywood story. My bad. - 1:50:09 PM WATCHING MICHAEL JACKSON: Sorry, but I couldn't stop myself. What to say of that horrifying documentary? I feel about Jackson the same deeply conflicted feelings I have about most disturbed people. Half of me feels a terrible sympathy for him, for the brutalized childhood, the clearly arrested psychological development, his desperate loneliness and sociopathic tendencies. The other half feels nothing but horror - not just at the damage he has done to his once beautiful face and body, but to the children he surrounds himself with and to the children he has allegedly spawned. Watching his complete self-absorption while his children are clearly traumatized by crowds of fans and photographers was almost too painful to endure. I dont buy the notion that he's sexually abusing children. But abuse need not be sexual to be abuse, as Jackson's own vile father showed. Man hands on misery to man, I guess. It deepens like a coastal shelf. But there is something also compelling about a man clearly determined to defy nature itself, to alter his physical appearance as one would change clothes, to insist that age is arbitrary, to see happiness as indistinguishable from denial and escapism, to see death as a choice as well. In all these, he is perhaps just an extreme incarnation of tendencies almost endemic in our culture. Which is why we cannot keep our eyes off his rapidly crumbling face. He is the man in our mirror. - 12:25:02 AM THE LEFT ON THE NEW EUROPE: The emergence of solid support for freedom from terror and support for the United States among so many Eastern European countries has clearly rattled some elements of the European left. It has taken a while for them to come up with some way to undermine this development, to smear it, or simply sneer at it, but we now have the new line. Here it is:
After all, eastern Europe's elites had spent 40 years accommodating themselves to superior power. Neither the reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968 nor Solidarity in Poland in 1981 challenged their countries' links with Moscow. It was only when Mikhail Gorbachev told them in 1987 that they need not follow the Soviet lead that they began to break loose. It was therefore inevitable that after the USSR collapsed these countries would sense the new reality that Europe belongs to the US. The fact that ex-communist leaders such as Aleksander Kwasniewski, Gyula Horn and Ion Iliescu led the way is not a paradox so much as proof that the survival instinct usually trumps vision or principle.
This is as historically inaccurate as it is morally foul. The writer, a Guardian columnist called Jonathan Steele, seems to forget that the reason that Eastern European countries were vassals of the Soviets is because such subservience was enforced by tanks in the streets. No such tanks now exist. And maybe - just maybe - the Eastern Europeans have a better appreciation of what tyranny is and therefore a deeper loathing for Saddam than, say, columnists for the Guardian. - 12:24:23 AM DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "Just imagine if every potential cheating husband in the world had to consider facing such consequences for their actions. Do you think it might change their behavior? Do you think more husbands might forgo a few moments of pleasure for the sake of their own lives? Do you think more families might actually stay together? That's why I say: Free Clara Harris now and let her rebuild a life with her poor children – who have been victimized enough by the trauma instigated by the dead creep. Free her and let her be an example to every cheating husband and wife in America. Send a message far and wide – no cheating husband is safe from the wrath of his angry wife. And, vice versa, no cheating wife is safe from the wrath of an angry husband. There is a price to pay. Sometimes it's the ultimate price." - Joseph Farah, celebrating the murder of an adulterous husband.
NOT EVERYONE IN HOLLYWOOD IS PRO-SADDAM: Just most.
SOULLESS ROBOT BLOWFISH: Yep, that's how someone just described Bob Kuttner. And it wasn't even written by Mickey Kaus.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "A nation grieves because it is trying to put out of its mind the fact that it is about to be involved in the killing of up to 80,000 civilians in Iraq. This is an occasion that allows people to contemplate this in a displaced way." - Professor Jacqueline Rose, the Guardian. - 12:23:39 AM GAY LEFT IDIOCY WATCH: Another just mind-blowing development. Here is the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, coming out against the war against terror. Not just war against Saddam, but against the entire panoply of brutally homophobic tyrannies in the Middle East that actively support terrorism and just as actively persecute gays. Again, this is a gay group concerned with human rights. Here's part of their rationale:
Our position is guided by our sense of solidarity with and accountability to the activists we work with all over the world, and especially those in regions which are greatly impacted by US foreign policies. The US policies of military aggression have served to render those who deviate from sexual and gender norms and people living with HIV/AIDS especially vulnerable to state-sanctioned violence and discrimination.
Better, in other words, for gay people in, say, Afghanistan to be punished by being crushed under rocks than to be liberated by the evil of America. These gay activists are simply depraved.
SECULAR SADDAM VERSUS FANATICAL ISLAMISM?: One more email delineating why this alliance is not implausible:
Note also that Kaiser Wilhelm was positive that reactionary absolutist Russia could not possibly ally itself with regicide-honoring, radical post-Dreyfus France. Wrong. Note also that his Catholic Majesty of France found it easy enough to ally himself with Suleiman the Magnficent against the Catholic Habsburgs. Note also that Cardinal Richelieu found it expedient to aid Protestant Gustavus Adolphus against Catholic Ferdinand. Note also that Adolf Hitler was positive that the capitalist powers' alliance with Josef Stalin could not positively endure.
Well, it endured long enough, didn't it? And why do none of these epxerts mention the explicitly Islamist rhetoric that Saddam now constantly uses and has deployed for more than a decade? Oh, and one more word of reader wisdom:
If an accountant is sent to scrutinize the books of someone believed to be involved in fiscal highjinx, and finds $80,000 in an account that the books say has $100,000 in it, said accountant is not then asked to go find the other 20 grand. The discrepancy ITSELF is the "smoking gun". So, too, with the glaring omissions between Iraq's last document dump, and the inventory of prohibited material already in hand from past inspections.
More sharp feedback - including a complaint that I was far too nice to Mary McGrory - on the Letters Page, edited by the one and only Reihan Salam. - 12:22:57 AM
Thursday, February 06, 2003 HOWARD DEAN IS UNSERIOUS: That's TNR's view. Now they tell us? This is the guy who recently said that if Bush remained president, girls would soon be barred from going to school. - 3:41:40 PM RAINES WATCH: Is his unremitting hatred of the president now infecting the International Herald Tribune? - 1:15:22 PM SADDAM AND AL QAEDA: "You would think that the possibility of such an unholy alliance would be considered too likely to ignore. But then you hear some "genius" with a Ph.D. who is supposedly an expert saying that Saddam is a secular Arab and Al Qaeda is a fanatical religious group - how could they have any dealing with each other? Haven't they heard of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939?" - more on the Letters Page. - 11:54:09 AM THREE CHEERS FOR McGRORY: She goes where others aren't so honest to tread.
- 11:47:10 AM THE NEW YORK TIMES PUNTS: Take a hard look at their editorial this morning. It acknowledges that Colin Powell made an overwhelming case that Saddam is in material breach of Resolution 1441. But the Times then concludes:
As the crisis builds, [president Bush] should make every possible effort to let the council take the lead. The Security Council, the American people and the rest of the world have an obligation to study Mr. Powell's presentation very closely and very seriously. Because the consequences of war are so terrible, and the cost of rebuilding Iraq so great, the United States cannot afford to confront Iraq without broad international support.
Meaning what, exactly? How broad? And what, precisely does the Security Council "taking the lead" mean? Leading us where? We usually look to the editorials of major papers for answers to certain difficult questions. If you want such a synthesis - of history, argument, consistency and principle - you have to go to a serious editorial paper like the Washington Post. Methinks the Times has already decided against war (largely because Mr Bush is president), now realizes how dumb its position seems, and is slowly turning back toward something like coherence. One of the consequences of that is today's utterly empty editorial. It's a platitude in search of a principle. Let's hope Mr Raines finds one before M Chirac does. - 12:27:59 AM WHAT WOULD IT TAKE? I suppose the true hardliners on the left and right would never be persuaded by actual evidence. When you read the arguments of Joe Conason, say, you wonder what would actually convince him of the need for war. Here is a statement that beggars belief:
What was most noticeably absent from Powell's presentation, however, was any evidence that Iraq is a present threat to its neighbors or any other nation - and thus must be invaded and subdued immediately.
Unaccounted for tons of biological and chemical weapons? Rockets and unmanned airplanes to deliver them? A history of using such weapons in warfare? A record of invading other countries at will? Evidence of deliberate attempts to deceive inspectors? Clear evidence of a huge cover-up? Did Conason even listen or read Powell's address or did he simply write this response, like the French did, beforehand? He believes that the onus for discovering the weapons of mass destruction is on the U.N., not Saddam, despite the explicit wording of U.N. Resolution 1441. Actually Conason believes that 1441 is meaningless; and that its demands that Saddam actually cooperate should be ignored, while the inspectors try vainly to find mobile factories in a country the size of France. He actually writes the following sentence:
What [Powell] did prove is that inspections ought to continue and intensify - and if Iraq tries to frustrate them as the regime did in 1998, there will still be plenty of time for military action.
If Iraq continues to frustrate them? By "frustrate," I suppose Conason means actually expelling the inspectors, as in 1998. Anything else is just fine and dandy for him. Isn't this precisely Saddam's gambit? Use the U.N. inspections, which will find nothing under the current circumstances, as a cover for a continued program for WMDs. Keep the charade going indefinitely. Demoralize our troops by keeping them waiting for months on end while Swedes and Dutch scurry around deserts looking for chemical and biological facilities already well-concealed. Perfect. And if a major anthrax attack hits New York or L.A. in the next few months while inspectors continue their fruitless cat-and-mouse game with Saddam, whom do you think Conason will blame? Conason has got his bases covered. And, whatever his intentions, those bases are objectively indistinguishable from Saddam's.
EBAY FOR POWELL: More nations sign on to doing something about Saddam. What do Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have in common? They know what tyranny is like and they know who saved them from it. Doesn't this confluence of countries who actually love freedom tell you something about the real issue here? (For my own take on what Robert Scheer decried as the alliance of nations "you can buy on Ebay," check out my latest column, posted opposite.) - 12:26:22 AM NOT JUST THE SAUDIS: The Qataris are also in league with al Qaeda. In fact, a member of the Qatari royal family actually gave a 9/11 conspirator safe haven and cash. Do we have any reliable allies in that region? Nevertheless, the intelligence in this story is damning proof of a Saddam-al Qaeda link.
PROOF THAT KINSLEY IS GONE: Slate unveils a multi-part series on media bias. The first installment is the first time I've found Jack Shafer unreadable. Will Mickey please do a series skipper at the end of it all?
HARVARD'S COURSE IN CHOMSKYISM: Take a look at this course that Harvard University is offering. If this isn't indoctrination disguised as learning, what is?
Wednesday, February 05, 2003 FISK LECTURES ON JOURNALISM: At Harvard, natch. Chomsky wasn't available? - 1:36:11 PM THE ZARQAWI FACTOR: Wonder why Colin Powell went on for so long about al Qaeda-Iraq terrorist, Abu Mossab al Zarqawi? It couldn't be because he's targeting Jews in Germany, could it? You okay with that, Mr Fischer? - 1:28:43 PM P.P.S.: A couple of brief answers to my question this morning: "If Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor can get married ad infinitum, why can't gays get married even once?" Email Number One:
Some folks hold this belief much the same way others believe that while Arab peoples may establish 22 institutions of national self-determination among the family of nations, it somehow amounts to "racism" for Jews to assert even one.
Email Number 2:
Why can't gays get married just once? It's control. They won't let us marry because then they would have to see us as normal human beings. And just like many normal human beings, we'd probably get married (and divorced) more than once.
Some have wondered whether I'm positing Larry king and Elizabeth Taylor as models for gay marriages? Nope. They're the standard for straight marriages, a standard gays are described as unable to live up to. Constitutionally, marriage rights cannot be infringed in any way for prison inmates, illegal aliens, dead-beat dads, convicted wife-beaters, and serial divorcees. Heck, even paternal-killer Erik Menendez has an unalienable constitutional right to marry. The key thing to remember is that the opposition to same sex marriage is based on the notion that loving gay relationships are inferior to those engaged in by murderers, rapists, prison inmates, people convicted of child abuse, and on and on. Gay people are that low in the moral pecking order. Yet the opponents of equal marriage rights bristle when accused of prejudice. As well they might. - 1:17:35 PM BOMBS, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE: I just watched Colin Powell's address to the Security Council. More impressive than I expected, especially on the Saddam-al Qaeda linkage. How, I wonder, can anyone now doubt that Saddam is deliberately obstructing the implementation of Resolution 1441? The evidence is overwhelming. The only question now is whether the U.N. cares about its own credibility, its own authority and its own integrity. I'm no fan of the U.N. but I'm no implacable foe either. We do need an international body to reflect international consensus. That consensus must be forged by the major powers, especially the United States. So far, the process has worked. It's up to the U.N. to see if it can work in the immediate future. The main, horrifying conclusion from Powell's presentation, however, is not about the U.N. It's about the direct threat we are still under. If Saddam has what Powell outlines, then this war could be horrendous. It could lead to massive casualties among American troops and a possible attack on civilians in Europe and the U.S. That makes it more important that we get international cover and support for the terrible duty we now have. This seems to me to be particularly true because it was the international coalition that insisted in 1991 that the first Gulf War not extend to deposing Saddam. That coalition now has a moral responsibility to help the U.S. and the U.K. to finish the job. We can only pray now that France, Russia, Germany and the others take that responsibility seriously. Powell has done all that he could have done to make that choice stark and unavoidable. The rest is up to the U.N. - 12:14:27 PM
Tuesday, February 04, 2003 WHAT WE DON'T KNOW WE DON'T KNOW: I'm not sure why Jeffrey Goldberg's latest superb piece in the New Yorker hasn't made more of a splash. yes, he has some mini-scoops on Saddam's links with al Qaeda. But its real merit is in helping us understand what levels of empirical evidence are required in the matter of espionage and intelligence. Or to put it another way: the question to be asked of Saddam and al Qaeda is not do we have clear evidence of their connections; but why wouldn't they be connected? You can look at intelligence entirely inferentially, looking through the myriads of signals and signs and hints and guesses to find hard evidence of, say, a link between al Qaeda and Saddam. Or you can use your common sense, assume such a link and then go back to the intelligence data to see if such an assumption is backed up or disproven.
CONNECTING THE DOTS: This is not the same as making stuff up. It's simply recognizing the nature of the information available. Here's a sample of what you get:
In interviews with senior officials, the following picture emerged: American intelligence believes that Al Qaeda and Saddam reached a non-aggression agreement in 1993, and that the relationship deepened further in the mid-nineteen-nineties, when an Al Qaeda operative — a native-born Iraqi who goes by the name Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi—was dispatched by bin Laden to ask the Iraqis for help in poison-gas training. Al-Iraqi's mission was successful, and an unknown number of trainers from an Iraqi secret-police organization called Unit 999 were dispatched to camps in Afghanistan to instruct Al Qaeda terrorists. (Training in hijacking techniques was also provided to foreign Islamist radicals inside Iraq, according to two Iraqi defectors quoted in a report in the Times in November of 2001.) Another Al Qaeda operative, the Iraqi-born Mamdouh Salim, who goes by the name Abu Hajer al-Iraqi, also served as a liaison in the mid-nineteen-nineties to Iraqi intelligence. Salim, according to a recent book, "The Age of Sacred Terror," by the former N.S.C. officials Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, was bin Laden's chief procurer of weapons of mass destruction, and was involved in the early nineties in chemical-weapons development in Sudan. Salim was arrested in Germany in 1998 and was extradited to the United States.
This is what is called a proof of principle. It has happened; therefore it can happen. If the consequence of that is a biological or chemical attack on the West, then Western governments have a duty to act sooner rather than later. Given the new risks, containment isn't an option.
THE PROS GET IT: Goldberg also talks to Robert Gates, former CIA director:
Gates, who was C.I.A. director under George H. W. Bush, said that the evidence linking Saddam to Al Qaeda is not irrefutable, but he noted that ambiguous evidence is an occupational hazard in intelligence work. Gates suggested that the current debate over Iraq's ties to terrorism is reminiscent of a debate about the Soviet Union twenty years ago. Then, he said, "you had analysts in the C.I.A. who said, 'Absolutely not, it would be contrary to their interests to support unpredictable, uncontrollable groups.' There were other analysts who said, 'Baloney.' They had a lot of good history, and circumstantial reporting on their side, but they didn't have good evidence. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, and we got hold of the East German Stasi records, we learned, of course, that both the East Germans and the Soviets were supporting Baader-Meinhof and other terrorist groups." Gates continued, "I have always argued, in light of my fairly detailed knowledge of the shortcomings of our intelligence capabilities, that the fact that we don't have reliable human intelligence that proves something conclusively is happening is no proof at all that nothing is happening. In these situations, the evidence will almost always be ambiguous. On capabilities, it's not ambiguous. Can Saddam produce these weapons of mass destruction? Yes."
If he can produce them, our enemies will get them. And what we found out on September 11 was that if our enemies get them, they will use them. Unless we get them first. Is that really so hard to understand? - 11:04:44 PM LIZ TAYLOR ON AIDS: It's an old story, but I once had dinner with, among others, Elizabeth Taylor. The excruciating conversation eventually found its way toward AIDS. I soon found out she didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Not even the faintest. So I wasn't all that surprised by her interview with Larry King last night. Her little dog-thingy was perched between her and the suspendered reptile asking the hard questions. Here is a Hollywood classic about Herb Ritts, the photographer who recently died of AIDS:
KING: What got you into the perfume business? That was a beautiful spot, by the way. He died much too young, of AIDS. TAYLOR: Oh, God. That was so beautiful, wasn't it? KING: It was AIDS, wasn't it? I mean everyone... TAYLOR: It was pneumonia. KING: OK, pneumonia.
There you go, Liz. Raising awareness and countering stigma as always. What would we do without you?
P.S.: If Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor can get married ad infinitum, why can't gays get married even once? Answers on a postcard, please. - 11:03:50 PM THAT TONY BENN INTERVIEW: Like many former apologists for Soviet terror, the British lefty, Anthony Wedgewood Benn, has a soft spot for Saddam Hussein. His interview with the monster will surely rank high up there in the annals of moral obtuseness along with Jimmy Carter's fellatial interactions with various mass murderers. Will Benn get a Nobel next? Maybe he should just get an Oscar. How, after all, do you keep a straight face when Saddam says, "Most Iraqi officials have been in power for over 34 years and have experience of dealing with the outside world. Every fair-minded person knows that when Iraqi officials say something, they are trustworthy." And how do you have an interview with the big guy from Tikrit without mentioning the invasion of Kuwait? Still, it was good to see Saddam embrace the "peace movement," and send them his encouragement. He knows their usefulness to his barbarism. The best antidote is the following spoof in the Guardian of all places. Even they can't take this old aristocratic Stalinist seriously. Here's a taste:
TB: America goes to war where there's an oil interest, as we did in the Falklands, because the Falklands was an oil war - there's more oil around the Falklands than there is around the United Kingdom. And, of course, some companies are now bigger than nation states. Ford is bigger than South Africa. Toyota is bigger than Norway. SH: Bigger than Norway? TB: Bigger than Norway. And I do not want a world which is safe only for oil companies and motor companies, but which is dangerous for my grandchildren. SH: I too am a grandfather. I too think of my grandchildren, Raghda and Rana's fatherless children. TB: Fatherless? What happened to their fathers? SH: I shot them. But there were others I didn't personally shoot, you understand. Family gatherings in our country can sometimes become, how do you say, over-exuberant.
Irrational exuberance, Saddam-style. - 11:02:12 PM GITLIN ON VIDAL: "Vidal has a good word for anyone who likes the sound of "a final all-out war against the 'System,' or "deliberately risks-and gives-his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government." In the end, McVeigh and bin Laden are pikers. "Most of today's actual terrorists can be found within our own governments, federal, state, municipal." "Municipal" is a particularly nice touch: perhaps Vidal means police departments, though for all the care he takes he might just as well be alluding to death squads at work under cover of sanitation departments. If you wonder what might be a better society, Vidal helpfully offers up what he calls "Tim's Bill of Rights," which includes (a) no taxes, (b) metal-based currency, and (c) low legislative salaries. So much for political theory." - Todd Gitlin, decrying the Bush administration in Dissent, but also exposing the idiocy and moral callowness of some now on the left.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "I'm not sure if enough people in America have gotten wind of what's about to happen now — and, if it does happen, whether it's right or wrong. That may be the only difference. But we certainly have criminals in the White House. These are even more successful than the last time. I mean, Nixon and company were kind of petty in their ambitions. These guys are ruthless beyond belief, and boy, are they pocketing a lot of money." - Terry Gilliam, the Onion.
FISKING PELLETIERE: The New York Times sank to a new anti-war low last weekend publishing the theory of one Stephen C. Pelletiere, claiming that the gassing of Kurds in Hallabja was the work of Iran not Saddam. The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman does a splendid job dismembering it. - 11:00:58 PM THE WORLD ENDETH: I agree with most of Paul Krugman's column on space exploration today. (I admit I read it mainly to see if he could manage to blame Bush. But he didn't. What a let-down.) Money graf:
Does that mean people should never again go into space? Of course not. Technology marches on: someday we will have a cost-effective way to get people into orbit and back again. At that point it will be worth rethinking the uses of space. I'm not giving up on the dream of space colonization. But our current approach — using hugely expensive rockets to launch a handful of people into space, where they have nothing much to do — is a dead end.
Pity about that final phrase. But the rest makes sense. Charles Krauthammer is a useful book-end to Krugman. His solution: stop the risky ups and downs of the first 150 miles into space and aim much higher.
GERMANY AGAIN: The Times of London's Michael Gove worries about Germany's latest ideology - a kind of all purpose Green pacifism. Hmmm:
There has been a tendency among German elites over the past 200 years to invest the ruling ideology of the moment with the quasi-mystical quality of a political religion. Those thinkers who reacted against the French Enlightenment, such as Hegel and Herder, contributed to a romantic, anti-liberal, nationalist temper in 19th-century Germany. The Wilhelmine state which went to war in 1914 was deeply imbued with a mystical sense that its Kultur was superior to the desiccated, rationalist, mercantile outlook of the British and the Americans. The anti-liberal beliefs which bewitched Germany in the past led to war. The ideology of the ’68 generation may seem altogether more admirable, because it finds expression in opposition to conflict. But it is, at root, just as anti-liberal, and similarly baleful for Germany’s future health. The freedom which the ’68ers oppose is the economic liberalism of America, and their hostility to the US is the animating force in their opposition to action against Iraq.
I actually disagree about Hegel. He was one of the great liberals. But the fact that the Germans completely misread him only furthers Gove's point, I suppose. - 12:59:15 AM A BLOODY FEAST: "Kudos to you for not engaging in the irresponsible, almost unconscionable blather the mainstream media is producing regarding the space shuttle. Since September 11th, the flood of coverage has made journalism (especially the cable news channels) in this country into a pack of starved wolves, salivating over anything they can sensationalize. Sadly, the loss of the Columbia is the newest bloody feast." - he's particularly tough on Fox News. This and much more on the Letters Page.
WHAT'S WRONG HERE? The always readable Oxblog finds something fishy about this Washington Post piece about the marvels of Saddam's food distribution program.
THE PIANIST: Easily the best movie I've seen in a while. It follows the arc of a classic Holocaust trajectory. We know where it ends. But the details of gratuitous Nazi savagery; the incidents of human goodness that prevail even in the worst form of hell; the first-person, endless, draining survival story that leaves you hopeless yet somehow relieved; the sheer randomness of fate; and the importance of war to deter evil: this film manages to convey all of it in a metaphor of soundless music. - 12:58:29 AM COSTS AND BENEFITS OF SEX: I highly recommend Richard Posner's excellent book, "Sex and Reason," for a non-hysterical approach to the issues of safer-sex and reducing HIV transmission. The issue has been troubling me after the dumb Rolling Stone "bug-chaser" hysteria. One of the worst elements of that piece is that it sensationalized and polarized an important issue: how we manage to reduce HIV transmission in an era where an HIV diagnosis is nowhere near as scary as it used to be. The reason I admired Posner's book is that he assumed that men seeking sex are actually rational beings. They measure costs and benefits and change behavior accordingly. Hence the amazing decline in HIV transmission in the mid 1980s. Hence also the slow shift back since. Or take a less fraught analogy. Let's say that science found treatments that reduced the rate of fatality from lung cancer due to smoking by, say, 80 percent. Let's also say that these treatments became progressively easier to tolerate. What would you predict would happen? More to the point: How would you conduct a public health message that still credibly warned against the risks of smoking? That's the question we need to explore. And it's not an easy one.
STAYING AFRAID: What to do? With HIV, insisting on abstinence for life is a non-starter for the vast majority of gay teens and adults. Falsely scaring them with empirically false statements about death rates is also counter-productive - it merely undermines the credibility of the authorities. Sexual segregation between HIV-positives and HIV-negatives has some advantages in creating a firewall between the two groups, but in time, it has apparently only further decreased fear of HIV. The pozzies look great, seem in good health and no longer live in terror of getting the disease. Some degree of "HIV-envy," while not as pathological as "bug-chasing," and if only because having it means you can't be scared of getting it any more, is still a real issue. Again this problem strikes me as close to insoluble. I've been HIV-positive for ten years now, and my immune system is healthier now than when I got infected. I look better than I did when I was negative, have experienced deep spiritual and emotional growth as a result of my HIV experience, and live every day now with a vigor and gratitude I never felt before. I'm just one of thousands of productive, healthy people with HIV who are daily - albeit unconsciously - transmitting the message that an HIV diagnosis is no calamity. Having been a beneficiary of the solution to HIV, I am now unwittingly part of the problem.
THINKING POSITIVELY: Some structural changes would help, I think. Encouraging monogamous or more stable relationships through marriage rights would clearly have an effect, but probably only with time and in the next generation or two. (This is something, of course, that conservatives who say they want to reduce HIV infection admantly oppose.) Going around exposing people's private failings and trying to stigmatize people with HIV may satisfy a few puritans on the right and left but I doubt it would make much difference as a whole. It also merely encourages gay men never to talk publicly about these issues for fear of being subjected to gross violations of privacy. (Tell me about it.) And then we have the simple and unavoidable fact that we are asking people to be extremely careful in a sphere of life where fantasy and passion rule. This isn't just a gay issue. It's a human issue. We have almost universal access to contraception, for example, and still sky-high numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Sex is messy and dangerous. But it's also one the greatest and most exhilarating gifts our nature has given us - and free societies respect the freedom to explore it. Resolving that paradox is an impossibility as social policy, and always has been. But ameliorating it must be within our reach. So how? I wish I knew. Or do we have to get used to a certain level of HIV-infection the way we have become used to herpes, and every other sexual disease which has affected mankind, gay and straight, for millennia?
Monday, February 03, 2003 SHUTTLE COVERAGE: A few of you have taken me to task for not writing more about the Columbia tragedy. I was travelling that morning, alas. But more generally, I haven't written much because I have nothing worthwhile to say, except, obviously, condolences for the families involved. Saying nothing is not the same as feeling nothing. But it seems to me that events like this - disasters, earthquakes, floods, explosions - are best dealt with by simple hard news reporting, which is not what this blog is or should be about. Finding 'angles' to these events, opining prematurely, hyper-ventilating about the meaning of it all - please turn elsewhere for these. I'm with Jonah Goldberg on this, feeling that the media has gone overboard. It is an awful event, and I will pray for those grieving. But I have nothing much to add to that sincere if banal observation. - 3:28:51 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "People need to stop whining about the Columbia shuttle tragedy. These were volunteers from the highest socioeconomic strata; they knew the risks they were undertaking. We're talking about seven lives here, not the seven times seventy times seven hundred innocent lives that will be taken on our invasion of Iraq. If we're going to treat the lives of the innocent Iraqi citizens and our disproportionately lower-class U.S. soldiers so callously, then we need to call a spade a spade and forget about the Columbia astronauts the way we have already forgotten about so many others." - emailer from Bethesda, Maryland in a Washington Post online chat today with Joel Achenbach. - 3:03:40 PM SADDAM THANKS HOWELL!: This from Punditwatch, the weekly blog round-up of the Sunday talk-shows:
The only scheduled guests to maintain their Sunday spots were Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn, on Face the Nation and Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Aldouri on Fox. Frist was only asked about issues related to the Columbia tragedy and he was cautious discussing both the future of the space program and the level of investigation that the Senate might initiate.Aldouri was not the least bit conciliatory. He claimed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knew Saddam Hussein better than he did and he thanked the New York Times for defending Iraq. Brit Hume called Aldouri’s responses "word salad."
Sometimes a gaffe is just a gaffe. I wish I could find a transcript. UPDATE: James Taranto has the transcript. - 2:55:14 PM THE AXIS OF WEASEL COLLAPSES: Schroder's humiliating electoral defeat follows the European Eight op-ed diplomatic coup last week. Suddenly the French, having recently sided with the Germans unequivocally, seem to be edging back toward support of the U.N. and the U.S. If Chirac tilts back toward the London-Washington axis, Schroder's isolation will be complete. As will Germany's. The big winner? Blair. By siding with Washington, Blair has actually placed Britain in a central role in the New Europe. I can't see the downside myself. Good analysis here in the IHT.
LIND AND BUSH: Michael Lind is an old friend of mine, and friendship should always pre-empt politics. Much that Michael has written about American society - from class to race and the American South - is as provocative as it is well-researched. But his passion does tend to get in the way sometimes. Check out Gary Rosen's smart review of Lind's latest book, "Made In Texas," where Lind tries to portray the president as a crazed remnant of a racist and fundamentalist backwater. Even Bush's choise of a location for a ranch is suspicious:
In picking a retreat so close to Waco, Lind informs us, Bush chose to associate himself with a city that was once "one of the centers of lynching in the United States" and "one of the national bases of the Ku Klux Klan," a place where the Menckenesque satirist W.C. Brann was shot in the back in 1898 for ridiculing "Baptist hypocrisy," where "local ayatollahs" burned "diabolical LP’s and books" in the 1970’s, and where, in 1993,"David Koresh and his cult" suffered their "apocalyptic immolation."
Or maybe he just liked the countryside. Rosen homes in on another odd paragraph, attempting to explain the president's affinity with Israel:
Like present-day Israel, Texas before the civil-rights revolution was a Herrenvolk (master-race) democracy, combining populism within the majority ethnic nation with the state-enforced subordination of ethnic minorities. It is no coincidence that the products of two similar Herrenvolk societies, George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, appear to be most themselves when waging war on behalf of their tribes or relaxing on their ranches.
Oy. - 2:48:39 PM THE SOTU BOUNCE: Bush's ratings have now begun a "Krugman soar". Actually, they've bumped up a little since the State of the Union. But the significant jump in the numbers favoring war - even without U.N. sanction - strikes me as more than just a bounce. The French maneuvering has, I think, ticked off a lot of people. The Blix report was a huge victory for the administration; and Blair's public support has helped reassure nervous unilateralists. But I also think the debate has now been raging for months now and we're beginning to reach a consensus: reluctant engagement with an unavoidable problem. Key detail:
Taken together, nearly four in 10 respondents expected the conflict would be relatively long and relatively bloody. But even among those who most fear a high-cost war, a narrow majority - 52 percent - still favors taking military action against Iraq.
This is good news. I have a feeling the war will be much more difficult than some triumphalists are now arguing. And if our troops face chemical or biological weapons (which, of course, Saddam doesn't have) then the anti-war forces will demand withdrawal before completion. All of which makes it all the more important that Americans have a sober and adult view of the risks involved. I think they do. Which is another reason they want a risky war now rather than an even risker war later.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: "'We are happy that it broke up,' Saddam government employee Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi said. 'God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us,' he said." - Reuters, Saturday.
"The news of Roosevelt's death on 12 April 1945 had stirred a flicker of optimism in the Berlin bunker... When Frederick the Great of Prussia faced defeat by the combined armies of Russia, Austria, and France in the Seven Years War, the tsarina Elisabeth had unexpectedly died, to be succeeded by a tsar who was Frederick's admirer; the alliance then collapsed and Frederick's Prussia survived. In April 1945, on hearing the news of the President's passing, Goebbels exclaimed, 'the tsarina is dead,' and telephoned Hitler 'in an ecstasy' to 'congratulate' him. 'It is the turning point,' he said, 'it is written in the stars.'" - from John Keegan's "The Second World War."
THE ECONOMICS OF MUNCHIES: Britain's economy gets ready to deal with the economic and cultural consequences of legalized out-of-the-closet pot-smoking. Buy Doritos shares. And install dimmer switches in Starbucks.
SADDAM AND BOOZE: "A few weeks ago, on C-SPAN, I heard an Iraqi ex-pat and "Saddam expert" state that the leader of Iraq was formerly addicted to "Johnny Walker" scotch. Having been married to an honest to goodness alcoholic for 25 years, and having made a study of the subject ever since getting off that roller coaster, I found this remark revealing. At a stretch, it could explain a great deal about Saddam and his actions." - more commentary on the Letters Page.
JULIE GETS IT: "If you really think it's better for more people to die over decades under a tyrannical regime than for fewer people to die during a brief attack by an outside power, you're really weird and nationalistic and not any sort of socialist that I recognise. And that's where you link up with all those nasty rightwing columnists who are so opposed to fighting Iraq; they, too, believe that the lives of a thousand coloured chappies aren't worth the death of one British soldier." - Julie Burchill lashing into the incoherence and reactionaryism of the anti-war left. In the Guardian! The woman has guts.
THE CASE AGAINST THE SHUTTLE: A prescient and largely persuasive 1980 case against the Space Shuttle program. From the always-worth-reading Gregg Easterbrook.
THE NYT'S BEST: Just as a reminder of how good the paper can still be when it tries, here are two piece from Saturday's paper that were smart, fair, engaging and nicely written: Brent Staples' reflections on Condi Rice's issues with affirmative action; and Ed Rothstein's sharp view of Pepys as a precursor to blogging. Worth the buck alone.
BROOKS ON BLAIR: Poodle or bulldog? David Brooks cuts to the chase.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: I'm writing this in Chicago, where I'm taking some quality time with the significant other. I'm still reeling. For well over a month I've been in near-seclusion, and for four months, I've been in a very little town. Since I got here, I've been almost giddy with social glee. Look, people! Starbucks! McDonalds! Gay bars with people I don't know in them! I'm loving it - which is why the Dish is a little al dente this morning. - 12:26:37 AM
Saturday, February 01, 2003 HOME NEWS: Big month for the site: 1,262,000 separate visits; 311,000 unique visitors; 1,772,000 page views. Our previous record was the election month of November, with 1,065,000 visits. Many thanks. Stay tuned for the email newsletter for subscribers beginning soon. It's taken a while to set it up, but it'll be worth it. One other thing: you'll have noticed the Book Club in suspension. Until this war subsides again, I'm going to concentrate on the Dish. But the Book Club will return, when I get some more time and mental space. - 10:06:25 AM