May 30, 2003
Tuscan Jaunt This weekend through
This weekend through late Monday finds me on the Tuscan coast for some R&R. Needless to say, I won't be blogging from picturesque towns with names like Porto Santo Stefano. Aside from potential pass-throughs of Internet cafes during transit through Rome expect little to no blogging over the next three days. I'll be back on Tuesday, however, and taking stock of Iran, Wolfy, G-8 going-ons and so on.
Evian Watch So, how is
So, how is this G-8 summit going to go? Timothy Garton Ash sees the Evian summit occuring during a historical pivot point in U.S.-Euro relations. His two key questions, one for each party to the relationship:
"Asked to characterize Washington's current approach to Europe, a senior State Department official recently responded with one word: "disaggregation." That means favoring some countries, like Poland, and punishing others, like France. Or, as the Romans used to put it, "divide et impera," divide and rule. Today, with a single hyperpower and a larger, more complex Europe, the United States could certainly go on pursuing this classic imperial strategy. The question is, does it want to? [my emphasis, see below for some thoughts on this] Is it consonant with the values, history and habits of cooperation that Europe and America share? Is it in the United States' own long-term national interest, when the West as a whole faces such major challenges, in the Middle East and elsewhere?
Yet Europe also has to answer a hard question, and answer it frankly. Does it want to be a partner or a rival to the United States? There has always been a strong tradition in the mainstream of European integration, the Gaullist tradition, which saw a strong Europe, in close partnership with Russia, as a counterbalance to the hegemony of "les Anglo-Saxons." In the Iraq crisis, aided by a weak and confused German leadership, Jacques Chirac produced a crude, reach-me-down version of this Gaullist vision, in the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis of refusal. But there are deeper forces pushing in this direction too."
Meanwhile, the WaPo notes that Bush is issuing conciliatory statements regarding France (the French Embassy rushed to release excerpts of the statement even before the White House did), and the NYT (predictably) provides a gloomier dispatch regarding U.S.-E.U. relations.
Also, in the FT, Kemal Dervis, the former Turkish Foreign Minister, tries to walk a fine line between Europe and the U.S. offering advice on how to resucitate the transatlantic relationship in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 era.
Oh, and don't miss Dominique's post-Riyadh bombing missive to Colin Powell.
Highlights from the WaPo article:
"I'm not mad," Bush said in a French television interview yesterday. "I mean, I'm disappointed and the American people are disappointed" over France's successful efforts this spring to prevent the United Nations from authorizing the U.S. war against Iraq. Asked if he would forgive France, Bush said, "Sure."
....But Bush seemed to go out of his way yesterday to describe the dispute as over and done. "I can understand why some didn't agree with our policy in Iraq," he said, "but it's now time to move forward."
He said there are a number of ways the two countries could "work together to solve some really big problems," including assistance for Africa and the fight against HIV and AIDS. He complimented France "for joining in this fight against al Qaeda."
"The French intelligence service have been very good to work with," Bush said, "and we've shared intelligence, which has made France more secure and America more secure. And for that I'm grateful."
Given these Bush pronouncements, I think Ash's State Department source who described U.S. strategy towards Europe as one of "disaggregation" was being overly simplistic or hyperbolic. Some in conservative precincts have advocated a strategy of "cherry-picking" and the like and certainly many Rumsfeldian nationalist types probably want to punish the perfidious gang in Paris (and uber-pacifists in Germany) more severely while extending juicier carrots to varied precincts like Warsaw, Madrid and Bucharest.
But I'm getting the feeling that, while some necessary adjustments to U.S. relations with France are likely in the offing, nothing particularly draconian is in the air. The mood in Washington appears to be shifting to something along the lines of, let's put this very nasty spat behind us (though take some lessons from it going forward about the nature/extent of our alliance/friendship) and make stolid efforts to continue to cooperate in key areas like apprehension of al-Qaeda figures, AIDS, global economic policy and the like.
I believe, all told, that such magnanimity in victory is likely the best policy option at this juncture. As the unrivalled hyperpower, a little humility and forgiveness only enhances our power in the long term (and shows confidence) by quashing down some of the inevitable resentment of the hegemonic cowboys running roughshod through all the multilateral fora that has been painstakingly assembled in the post-WWII era (or so the disingenuous arguments go in Brussels Eurocrat quarters and Paris ministries).
All of this, of course, is contingent on France not really being hell-bent on folie de grandeur style resurrections of Gaullist projects. Also important, in this vein, that Euro-defense initiatives are designed to act as complements to NATO and not real rivals.
Note: Mea culpa on the last link--I, perhaps like some in Washington, was angrier at the French a month or two back than I am now. Is it just the passage of time, or does one sense a somewhat substantive rapprochement in the late spring air motivated by the confluence of mutual interests?
May 28, 2003
Maureen Won't Come Clean So
Maureen Won't Come Clean
So how does Maureen Dowd of the NYT handle the greatly misleading treatment of a Dubya quote per her May 14th column (insinuating that Dubya had declared the war on terror won)? She (two weeks later) prints the President's comments in full--without in any way acknowledging the misleading nature of her earlier treatment of the relevant quote and then (rather amazingly) further compounding her erroneous analysis of Bush's comments:
Dowd on May 28th:
"After the war, the triumphal administration bragged about its Iraqi, Taliban and Qaeda scalps, painting our enemies as being in retreat.
"Al Qaeda is on the run," the president said in Little Rock, Ark. "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely, being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore."
But Al Qaeda, it became horrifyingly clear a week later in Riyadh, was not decimated; it was sufficiently undecimated to murder 34 people, injure 200 and scare the daylights out of Americans everywhere."
Dowd on May 14th:
"Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that al-Qaida was spent. "Al-Qaida is on the run," President Bush said last week. "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated . . . They're not a problem anymore."
The crucial omission, as has been extensively commented upon in the blogosphere, is the sentence: "Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead." These are the terrorists that Dubya was stating were being "slowly but surely" decimated--not simply "decimated" as Dowd incorrectly represents in her column today.
But rather than issue a correction--Dowd attempts to sidle out of her misleading column of May 14th by now quoting the President correctly--but still suggesting that the President represented that al-Qaeda was decimated (or vanquished, licked, beaten, trounced, "on the run" etc.)--a gross misrepresentation.
Not only is she just too stubborn to admit error (especially, perhaps, during this time of troubles at the Times), but she's also seemingly arrogant enough to continue to misrepresent the President's remarks.
So let's be perfectly clear. A leading columnist in the leading newspaper in the land continues to insinuate that the President has declared victory in the war on terror--the dominant theme of his entire Presidency--when in fact he hasn't. She repeats this error twice in two weeks. Howell Raines seemingly doesn't raise a whimper--this during a period when he should be extremely diligent regarding his editorial duties given Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg. Would Abe Rosenthal have tolerated this amateurism? Will Raines be reprimanded in any significant fashion? No and no, I wager.
Note: Remember too Dowd's conclusion to her May 14th op-ed that has been talked with less frequency than her misquoting the President:
"Doing a buddy routine with Rummy on Tuesday in Washington, as the defense secretary accepted an award, Vice President Dick Cheney was as implacable as ever. "The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it," he said. So destroy it."
So destroy it? Just like that, an easy, no-brainer task--perhaps consummated in the time it takes Dowd to pen another one of her Rummy-Cheney-hand-holding-Prince-George-columns?
Rather than occasionally issue an appreciative note in her insufferably whiney columns that no attack has taken place on the American homeland in the almost two years that have passed since 9/11, Dowd glibly advises the Vice President to "destroy it." Believe me Maureen, he's doing a much better job of dismantling al-Qaeda than your buddies' political favorites at W. 43rd Street ever would.
"Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore. And we'll stay on the hunt. To make sure America is a secure country, the al Qaeda terrorists have got to understand it doesn't matter how long it's going to take, they will be brought to justice." [my emphasis]
Sure doesn't sound like Crawford triumphalism to me.
May 27, 2003
French Revisionism Watch Spinning aplenty
French Revisionism Watch
Spinning aplenty by French sources in this lengthy FT piece.
On a somewhat related note, I also had the opportunity to hear reports about the French Ambassador to the U.S. "goodwill" tour through Atlanta and Houston. In Houston, he started by stressing that France wasn't a pacifist country (Translation: France isn't Germany). He further contended that, until about mid-December, the U.S. and France were "together" on the Iraq issue.
Levitte then turned directly towards "what went wrong" re: Franco-American relations in the past months. First, the Ambassador argued, unlike the past where Saddam made "big mistakes" (Iran, Kuwait) he made "no mistakes" this go around--meaning the French Ambassador was stating that, in France's view, Saddam was in full compliance with Resolution 1441. Related to Saddam's allegedly picture-perfect compliance, Levitte talked about the lack of a "smoking gun" (was that the test for triggering 1441 or was it simply material breach?)
Second, Levitte mentioned the steady deployment of U.S. troops to upwards of 200,000 personnel, ie. Levitte was suggesting that war had become an inevitable outcome for Washington decision-makers (per the French spin in the FT piece). Note: He did concede that the troops may have helped concentrate Saddam's mind on the need to pursue serious disarmament.
All this isn't hyper-objectionable. But it gets worse. Levitte then proceeded to engage in some truly shameless revisionism regarding the diplomacy surrounding the UNSC resolution(s).
For starters, he openly states that the first resolution provided enough authority for "use of force" allowing the U.S. to go to war (now that was the French position, right?)
But it gets better. He directly states that Tony Blair's domestic pressures forced the U.S. to go for a second resolution! Put differently, Franco-American relations were going swimmingly until Tony had to spoil the fun because the hapless pol needed a second resolution to mollify his public.
Blame the Brits for the perfidious happenings in Paris--a real diplomatic tour de force by Levitte. London was forcing a French veto--and Paris wouldn't have complained a bit if the U.S. had gone to war without a second resolution. Incroyable mais vrai!
I'll have more on this when I get my hands on the transcript. At this point, however, suffice it to say that if being a good diplomat means being able to lie particularly well for your country overseas--Levitte is doing a superb job of it.
Multilateralism versus Unilateralism A false
Multilateralism versus Unilateralism
Abbas Watch Curious about new
Curious about new Palestinian PM Abbas' chances at reining in Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades? Here's a pretty judicious primer.
"How much domestic support does Abbas have for a crackdown?
It’s hard to judge. According to a recent opinion poll conducted by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, 72 percent of Palestinians believe Abbas should be given a reasonable amount of time to prove himself. At the same time, though, terror groups are estimated to have the support of roughly a third of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Experts say Abbas, who was appointed by Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat at the urging of the United States and Israel, fears concessions to Israel could provoke a backlash from Palestinians who already view him as too heavily reliant on foreign support."
Is Abbas capable of conducting a crackdown?
Does Abbas have control of the Palestinian security forces?
Officials from Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, have said that they believe Palestinian security forces could overcome militants in Gaza. But experts say that a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank could prompt a lengthy conflict. Abbas, though, is reportedly determined to appoint a West Bank security chief capable of restoring order there."
Vietnam Syndrome RIP Timarchic values
Vietnam Syndrome RIP
Timarchic values on the ascent--sweeping the land of rampant materialism and denigration of all things military!
Here's a somewhat related story.
Iran Watch New information suggesting
"Then there is the sharpened quandary over Iran, which some Bush administration analysts say is harboring cells of Al Qaeda that were involved in the Saudi bombings. American officials have said that Iran is already trying American patience by supporting militant Shiite groups in Iraq and, the officials believe, accelerating its nuclear arms programs.
The administration is to hold a high-level interagency meeting on Tuesday to decide whether to suspend diplomatic contacts with Iran or take even firmer actions, perhaps beginning to support opposition groups, to get the Tehran government to cooperate.
Some in the administration favor confronting Iran, pressing for sanctions on its nuclear program at the United Nations or becoming friendly with groups that want to overthrow the current government. Others argue that Iran should be given more time to identify Qaeda operatives and perhaps hand them over.
"They are not going to want to take a step that looks like they are catering to American pressure," said an administration official, referring to the government in Iran. "Ratcheting things down for a while might make it easier for them to cooperate."
Meanwhile, Teheran announces the apprehension of various al-Qaeda personnel.
Note: Weisman's piece continues to provide fodder for the myth that Dubya somehow declared the war on terror won:
"The bombings in Saudi Arabia this month did more than destroy parts of three foreign compounds in Riyadh. They shook American complacency that the campaign against terrorism had been won along with the war on Iraq."
I don't know about you, but I certainly wasn't feeling overly complacent that the war against terror had won with the fall of Baghdad. But perhaps simpleton Americans in the heartland did, or so the Times seems to patronizingly infer?
May 23, 2003
More Anti-American Cartoon Fun in
More Anti-American Cartoon Fun in Le Monde
Note America as rapacious serpent (grabbing Iraqi oil) and the gratuitous reference to "I Love NY." Kofi Annan says "we only made a few concessions" to which Dominique responds "that's for sure."
UPDATE: Thanks to Merde in France for this nuance:
"To our English language readers, the 'joke' of the cartoon is that Annan and Villepin are eating crow. In French, you do not eat crow, you 'swallow vipers'."
Powell in Paris Certainly no
Powell in Paris
Certainly no effusive warmth but some tepid patching up of Franco-American relations continues (stress on tepid).
"Mr. Powell began his remarks, made in the same room where the Marquis de Lafayette implored Marie Antoinette to help the revolutionary aspirations of the fledgling United States, by praising the long alliance between the two countries.
"What will never change is that there is this tie between the United States and France, a tie that has been created by shared values, created by working with each other in times of war and by being part of a great alliance," he told reporters at the French American Press Club.
In meetings last week with senior officials in Russia and Germany, two other countries that opposed the war in Iraq, Mr. Powell also made a point of noting the differences over Iraq. But his tone today seemed harder, his determination to hold the French accountable for their positions more firm. Asked if the United States intended to punish the French, Mr. Powell, who once said the French would face consequences for their opposition to the war, said no.
"But," he continued, "you take note of those who disagree with you and you try to find out why and if it is appropriate to draw some conclusions. And consequences follow those conclusions."
Of course, all this would have been much uglier if the French hadn't voted for this resolution.
Anyway, smile for the cameras guys!
UPDATE: The WaPo digs deeper and provides this interesting nugget:
"In another sign that France was trying to mend the relationship, President Jacques Chirac telephoned President Bush at the White House today, and the two discussed the agenda for the upcoming summit.
They talked about measures to improve the global economy, and the continuing threat of international terrorism, according to Chirac's spokeswoman, who described the two presidents' cooperation as "excellent."
It was Chirac's second call to Bush since the fallout over Iraq. The two will meet face to face at the G-8 meeting for the first time since the conflict."
No Brits in Baghdad The
No Brits in Baghdad
The 16th Air Assault Brigade is going home.
May 22, 2003
Wolfy Gets It Paul Wolfowitz,
Wolfy Gets It
Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, fresh from a trip to the Balkans, on some of the lessons of post-war Bosnia peacekeeping:
"The experience in Bosnia shows the danger of rushing to hold elections in postwar Iraq simply as a show of democracy taking root, he said in an interview after his return this week. The threat is that dangerously divisive leaders may be the first to take power, he said.
Mr. Wolfowitz also said that the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo underline the importance of forces "so big and strong that nobody would dare pick a fight with us."
Meanwhile, Slobo and Milan Kucan (the former Slovene leader) were sparring over at the war crimes Tribunal at the Hague.
Was Iraq Intelligence Politicized? A
Was Iraq Intelligence Politicized?
A crucial issue, while not being investigated per se, appears to be getting looked into a bit by an ombudsman at the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence as well as, tangentially, pursuant to a review George Tenet has organized to compare pre-war intelligence about Iraq with what is being uncovered (or not uncovered) post-war:
But the review comes at a time of increasing tension between the Pentagon and C.I.A. over the handling of intelligence. Intelligence officials said that several C.I.A. analysts had quietly complained that senior Defense Department officials and other Bush administration officials sought to press them to produce reports that supported the administration's positions on Iraq. In addition, several current and former C.I.A. officers who have been upset about what they believe has been the politicization of intelligence concerning Iraq were the first to disclose the existence of the new C.I.A. review.
A senior intelligence official cautioned that the review was not designed as a formal investigation or a "witch hunt," but rather as an intellectual exercise to find ways to improve the way the intelligence community works.
"This is not a report card," on Iraqi intelligence, the official said. "We really want to find ways to make the intelligence community work better."
So far, it would seem that fears that the Pentagon pressured CIA analysts to hype up intelligence reports or too energetically pursue potentially dubious information from politically movitated Iraqi exiles appear overblown:
"Despite the friction over Iraq-related intelligence, officials said Monday that a special ombudsman inside the C.I.A.'s Directorate of Intelligence had received only one complaint from a C.I.A. analyst about the way in which specific intelligence on Iraq was handled. The ombudsman determined that the analyst's complaint that the problem stemmed from the politicization of the intelligence on Iraq was unfounded.
"I really think that the press reports of friction between the C.I.A. and Pentagon are overdrawn," said one senior intelligence official. "I can tell you that Tenet and Rumsfeld have a very good relationship."
Complexities Aplenty in Kirkuk Why
Complexities Aplenty in Kirkuk
Why will the reconstruction be so tricky and often perilous?
For one thing, de-Baathification is a much more complex task than some may have surmised:
"Mijbeel Issa considered himself the go-to Arab for U.S. occupation forces in Kirkuk. A lawyers who favors wide, florid neckties and likes to be called "Dr. Mijbeel," he was a power-sheik in a suit. He had an office in city hall and a seat on the U.S.-sponsored interim governing council, and was gearing up to run for mayor this weekend.
One problem: After three weeks of sharing briefings on security, finance and reconstruction, U.S. authorities discovered Issa had been a senior Baath Party leader during the government of fallen president Saddam Hussein. So he was led out of city hall today in plastic handcuffs, headed for an interrogation room at a nearby U.S. military base."
Meanwhile, ambushes aimed at U.S. troops have taken place as recently as Sunday:
"On Sunday, 400 U.S. soldiers, accompanied by M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, swept into nearby Hawijah to search for Baathists, criminals and weapons caches. As they approached the town, they were ambushed, and U.S. military officials here described what followed as "an intense, focused, organized and sustained firefight" that lasted 45 minutes.
At least 16 of the attackers were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded, they said."
An Army Major on the ground sums up the scale of the challenges:
It was kind of ironic," said Army Maj. Robert Gowan of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, was giving a speech at city hall, complimenting residents on their cooperation and progress. "He is talking about peace, and you hear 'Bang, bang, bang!' " Gowan said. "He's talking about the electricity being on. And the lights go out."
Meanwhile, Kurdish groups are outraged by U.S. treatment of some of the "oil for food" funds.
And Jim Hoagland discusses "catastrophic success."
The Dearth of Shame Jayson
The Dearth of Shame
Jayson Blair's repulsive interview with the Observer here:
"That was my favorite," Jayson Blair said. It was the morning of Monday, May 19, and the disgraced former New York Times reporter was curled in a butterfly chair in his sparsely furnished Brooklyn apartment. He was eating a bagel and talking about one of his many fabricated stories—his March 27 account, datelined Palestine, W.Va., of Pvt. Jessica Lynch’s family’s reaction to their daughter’s liberation in Iraq.
Mr. Blair hadn’t gone to Palestine, W.Va. He’d filed from Brooklyn, N.Y. As he’d done before, he cobbled facts and details from other places and made some parts up. He wrote how Private Lynch’s father had "choked up as he stood on the porch here overlooking the tobacco fields and cattle pastures."
That was a lie. In The Times’ lengthy May 11 account of Mr. Blair’s long trail of deception, it reported that "the porch overlooks no such thing."
Mr. Blair found this funny."
The cheap solipsism and melodrama:
"He stayed with that concept. "So Jayson Blair the human being could live," he said, "Jayson Blair the journalist had to die."
The utter lack of contrition and aggressive handling of the racial issue:
"I don’t understand why I am the bumbling affirmative-action hire when Stephen Glass is this brilliant whiz kid, when from my perspective—and I know I shouldn’t be saying this—I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism," he said. "He [Glass] is so brilliant, and yet somehow I’m an affirmative-action hire. They’re all so smart, but I was sitting right under their nose fooling them."
Mr. Blair continued: "If they’re all so brilliant and I’m such an affirmative-action hire, how come they didn’t catch me?"
Are you totally grossed out yet? I wish this utter fraud wouldn't get a hefty book deal but fear, per the "moronic inferno" that is so often the American cultural mill, that he's going to get a big one.
NB: Jayson on Howell:
"Mr. Blair called characterizations of himself as a Howell Raines favorite "kind of funny." Though his status rose when Mr. Raines became executive editor in September 2001, Mr. Blair said he felt more at ease during the tenure of his predecessor, Joseph Lelyveld.
"I identify much more with the old guard than I do the new guard," he said. Still, he had empathy for his ex-boss.
"Generally, I felt like Howell did what he had to do," Mr. Blair said. "I feel bad for the situation he’s in. But I think a lot of it is by his own hand. He is a good man. He is well-intentioned.
"Maybe it’ll make him a little mature," he said. He broke out into laughter, stomping his foot on the ground. "That’s coming from me!"
And, for more on the dearth of shame, here's another angle from Eliot Spitzer.
Resolution Watch Some UNSC cohesion
Some UNSC cohesion for a change:
"In a final concession, Washington agreed to a Security Council review within 12 months to examine how the resolution has been put into effect. The French had sought to give the Council power to rescind the mandate later.
The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, appearing at a news conference with his German and Russian counterparts, Joschka Fischer and Ivan Ivanov, said last night that the latest version of the resolution put the United Nations "back in the game," adding that the United Nations special representative will now have a "tangible and independent role."
It is not clear if the Bush administration's choice for the job, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is willing to take on the job, diplomats said, but he was expected to arrive in New York soon for talks."
Andrew Sullivan has the reculer pour mieux sauter analysis.
Meanwhile, another galling NYT masthead that Dominique could have easily drafted himself.
And the Reliable Source over at the WaPo clues us in on Rummy's latest dining excursions in Washington:
"More news about the thaw in Franco-American relations: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who only a few months ago referred to the French government as "a disgrace" and "truly shameful" over some disagreements on Iraq, was spotted dining Tuesday night at Petits Plats on Connecticut Avenue NW. Rumsfeld, his wife, Joy, and an unidentified couple were seated for more than an hour at a sidewalk table. No word on what they ate, who paid, or what they tipped."
He's got the goods on Laura Bush too:
"More evidence that Franco-American relations are undergoing a spring thaw: First lady Laura Bush went shopping Friday at Georgetown's Jean Pierrecq antique shop with a Paris-based friend, Jeanne Phillips, U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We hear Bush was eyeing a tall 400-pound urn for the White House residence, and bought a smaller $40 pot fired from French Anduze clay."
I guess I can feel better about my shameless post-pub Evian-swigging now.
UPDATE: The French Ambassador to Washington is visiting Atlanta (and then on to Houston) attempting to patch up Franco-American relations in the heartland (San Francisco doesn't merit a visit--flowers and thank-you notes were deposited at the French consulate more often than angry E-mails or spilt Beaujolais, it seems).
Yale Law A report on
A report on the bombing at YLS:
"Timothy Schnabel LAW '05, who was in the lounge on the first floor, said he heard a loud sound and saw flames and dust. He said he saw a wall fall down between Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room. Portraits of presidents Gerald Ford LAW '41 and Bill Clinton LAW '73, and Guido Calabresi '53 LAW '58 hung on that wall, said Adam Haslett LAW '03.
Robert Snodgrass LAW '03 said he was walking in the hallway next to the alumni reading room on the first floor when he felt the blast.
"It was more force than any I've ever felt," Snodgrass said. "Wood flew out of the reading room and other people saw orange flame."
Nothing yet on whether this was some grotesque prank or terror related.
May 21, 2003
Powell's Status A report on
A report on the state of Powell in USA Today.
Is it just me, or is this part a bit rich (and classless)?
"Powell's predecessor, Albright, said recently it was still possible for Powell to make his mark. But he "has to go out there in the world much more and work the issues," she said."
May 18, 2003
More Troops and For Longer
More Troops and For Longer
Positive developments if we mean to seriously address attempting to create a viable Iraq polity. Looks like Dubya is turning increasingly towards advice from the State Department on events in Iraq, ie. turnover to Iraqis to occur later than expected per Foggy Bottom preferences, more boots on the ground for longer, and so on.
So I'm not as gloomy as Lawrence Kaplan about an alleged emerging policy consensus in Washington that has both State and Defense looking for a hasty exit. And, who would have thought Lawrence Kaplan would be taking jabs at Ahmed Chalabi in the pages of TNR?
Meanwhile, the hunt for WMD continues to be chronicled most effectively over at the WaPo:
"No weapons of mass destruction here, sir," Deal deadpanned to his boss at a bombed-out presidential palace annex, the day after the vacuum cleaner affair. Both men were standing with handfuls of scavenged faucets, strip lights and circuit breakers. Finding no weapons to inspect, they had turned their attention to getting repair parts for their war-damaged headquarters nearby.
The search is not over, and one major part of it -- interrogation of Iraq's senior scientists and leaders -- is concealed from view. Some of Team 3's counterparts have unearthed ingredients and gear -- including transportable biological laboratories -- that could be used to build illegal arms. Any such concealment breached Iraq's obligation, under U.N. Security Council resolutions, to disclose all "dual-use" facilities.
But no one has confirmed that Iraq actually manufactured or retained a biological or chemical weapon after the last ones accounted for by U.N. inspectors in 1998.
The experience of Allison's unit is typical of the weapons hunt as a whole. All four of the original site survey teams, including Allison's, are dedicating much of their time to "sensitive sites" that have no known connection to weapons of mass destruction. These sites are of interest to U.S. intelligence agencies for evidence of crimes against humanity or links to terrorists, among other subjects. Three of the four "mobile exploitation teams" -- another kind of search unit -- have also shed their weapons experts and moved on to other missions. Only one is still searching full time for weapons of mass destruction."
A good number of us are potentially going to have a lot of egg on our faces if more substantial caches of WMD aren't found in the coming weeks and months. Democracy-building is fine and noble--but the U.S. and U.K. marched into Baghdad and Basra because of a post-9/11 stategic paradigm shift related to denying terror regimes access to WMD. And while you could still make an argument that Iraq was in violation of Resolution 1441 per some of the "dual-use" facilities unearthed to date or small sarin gas finds and the like--we would make a much stronger case should the finds be significant in scale rather than de minimis in nature.
Go Easier on France! Says
Go Easier on France!
"Stop the heavy-handed effort to "punish" France for the shortsighted, negative attitude its leaders showed toward the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. American retaliation so broad that it hits the French military would be particularly misguided. France's generals and admirals were more than willing to participate in the Iraq campaign. They are generally friendly to America's international goals. Wounding potential and actual U.S. allies in the French military and business establishments is poor strategy."
Raines: Bloodied Crusader The FT
Raines: Bloodied Crusader
The FT on Howell and the state of W. 43rd St. post-Jayson.
May 17, 2003
Casablanca Bombings More terrorist activity
More terrorist activity on the heels of the Riyadh bombings--this time in Casablanca. Note that a Belgian target was struck (though the terrorists may have been instead planning to strike a Jewish owned restaurant nearby). Regardless, as I and many others have argued before, for al-Qaeda (or like-minded fellow travellers), the subtleties of Brussel's anti-war-in-Iraq machinations won't buy any Belgians added security from the theocratic barbarism of such terror groups.
UPDATE: Predictably, the "linkage" arguments as between the latest batch of terror incidents and Iraq is being made in the likely quarters.
May 15, 2003
French PR Offensive The French
French PR Offensive
The French are pursuing a bit of a Beltway lobbying campaign to attempt to mitigate somewhat the continuing detioration in Franco-U.S. relations:
"The French government believes it is the victim of an "organized campaign of disinformation" from within the Bush administration, designed to discredit it with allegations of complicity with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.
In a letter prepared for delivery today to administration officials and members of Congress, France details what it says are false news stories, with anonymous administration officials as sources, that appeared in the U.S. media over the past nine months."
May 14, 2003
Riyadh Attack Hopefully such warnings
Hopefully such warnings will definitively be heeded in the future. If true, a major embarassment for the government in Riyadh.
"The United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia said today that the United States sought unsuccessfully to persuade the Saudi government to tighten security around residential compounds in Riyadh before Monday night's attacks.
The ambassador, Robert W. Jordan, said the request had been prompted by intelligence reports that by late last month had indicated that militants might be in the final stages of planning a terrorist attack.
"As soon as we learned of this particular threat information, we contacted the Saudi government," Ambassador Jordan said on the CBS program "The Early Show."
"We continue to work with the Saudis on this, but they did not, as of the time of this tragic event, provide the additional security we requested."
A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Nail al-Jubeir, said he did not know of any specific request made by the United States government."
UPDATE: A source in Saudi relays: "While Amb. Jordan did indeed ask--on three occasions--for increased security, he did not ask it of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the requests were made to the Ministry of Interior. Hence, the Saudi Embassy in DC is not obfuscating. They didn't get the requests as those requests were not made through their channels."
Fair enough, though that begs the question as to why there is not better inter-ministry coordination in Riyadh.
May 13, 2003
The Gloomy View Here's a
The Gloomy View
Here's a pessimistic (from Gary Sick) take on how the U.S. is handling Iraq reconstruction so far. I will post my reaction per Sick's number headings below his note. Of course, Sick had been associated with Democrats for most of his career and is hardly a neutral source. But he knows the region well and his views are worthy of consideration--even if many of us will disagree with many of his conclusions.
"I am deeply disappointed -- no, angry -- at U.S. performance in Iraq thus far. It is absolutely self-evident that:
(1) U.S. intelligence prior to the war was deeply flawed. Most of the top WMD sites identified prior to the war have by now been inspected and found to be either empty or looted. Clearly, Saddam once had a major WMD program that made him a threat to his neighbors and, potentially to the United States; but a good part of that program, if not all of it, had in fact been destroyed in advance. That fact was reported with some authority by Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's son-in-law and probably the most important defector ever from Iraq, in August 1995 [see http://casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf ]. [ed. note: Didn't link this as link appears dead] It was further reported by former nuclear scientist Imad Khadduri in November 2002 after he had moved to Canada. The first report was concealed until February 2003, and the second was simply ignored by the United States.
Instead, we placed our faith in other Iraqi exiles and expatriates who were offering, with convincing claims of inside knowledge, specific knowledge of WMD sites in Iraq. We should have been alerted to the (un)reliability of these reports when the UNMOVIC inspectors finally got back into the country and began unannounced visits to some of these sites, only to find nothing. But UNMOVIC was despised in Washington, and we chose to believe those who told us what we wanted to hear. We began to have some official doubts when, contrary to all predictions, Saddam did not use any WMD during the brief war, even though he had absolutely nothing else left to lose. Now, the Iraqi scientists who have been taken into custody are apparently telling us the same thing -- that WMD materials were destroyed. Barton Gellman reports today[ed.note: appeared in WaPo yesterday, link below] in the Washington Post that the special unit designed to hunt down WMD in Iraq is packing up to go home, disgusted and disappointed. Stores of WMD may yet be discovered, but it is increasingly unlikely that they will be in a form or a location that would have constituted a serious threat.
(2) As a result, we almost certainly went to war for the wrong reason. Preemption makes sense when an attack is imminent; it may perhaps be justified when an attack is not imminent but may occur without warning at any time. It is not justified when it is a figment of our imagination.Today there was an article by Michael Schrage of MIT in the Washington Post ["No Weapons, No Matter. We Called Saddam's Bluff,"] [ed. note: link below] which argues that we were perfectly justified in launching the war because Saddam was behaving AS IF he had an active WMD program. Have we really come to this in justifying the invasion of another country?
(3) We failed to secure even the most critical sites as the fighting ended. Of course, the loss of historical artifacts and manuscripts in the museums and libraries of Iraq to looters was a cultural and historical disaster of major proportions. But it is even more surprising that the U.S. forces failed to secure known nuclear sites, which have been stripped of sophisticated equipment, plans, and even perhaps small quantities of radioactive materials that had remained under safeguards. In some cases, U.S. forces went to these sites, quickly surveyed the damage, and then left again. When they returned, they were surprised to discover that more looting had occurred. One of our stated objectives in going to war was to prevent Iraq's unconventional warfare capabilities from falling into the wrong hands, possibly including terrorists. We failed utterly. In the meantime, we continue to insist that the UNMOVIC inspectors, who have the best inventories of the past WMD sites, are not permitted to enter the country.
(4) First impressions count. Today, one month after the fall of Baghdad, we have not restored electricity, water, gasoline, cooking fuel, or other basic services to the country. Looting and lawlessness are still endemic. Jay Garner and many of his top people who spent months planning the post-war effort are being politely but summarily relieved and replaced by a new team in the next few weeks. If the military campaign was a well-oiled machine, the post-war reconstruction thus far has more closely resembled an episode of Keystone Kops.
(5) Decision-makers in Washington seriously toyed with the idea of enlisting the anti-Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq -- an officially recognized terrorist organization -- to go to work for us. In time, that idea was recognized as a loser, since it would tell the world in the most cynical possible terms that we were prepared to cooperate with terrorists when that served our own political purposes. The fact that we even had to debate the issue at high levels in the White House is certain to cast doubts on our seriousness of purpose in the war on terrorism.
It is no doubt true, as many people said before and during the war, that securing the peace and introducing stability and some form of democracy in Iraq was going to be much more difficult than the initial fighting. I served in the government -- military and civilian -- for many years, and I am sympathetic to the difficulty of the job. Officials are not superhuman, and even the best of intentions and plans can have unintended consequences. But the U.S. performance thus far is too deficient to be casually explained away. If we are taking on an imperial role -- by necessity or by design -- we must do better than this.
In the interest of constructive policy, here are some guidelines that might be considered:
(1) Beware of expatriates bearing information, especially when they have their own agenda. Some people now seem to be promoting a confrontation with Iran based on the analysis and reporting of the U.S. pro-monarchist Iranian exile community. Are we going to buy this pig in a poke a second time?
(2) We need to create an armed constabulary that can travel with, or just behind, combat troops. Establishing order in the chaos after a battle is critical and does not just happen by itself. Our combat troops are not trained for this, and it shows. More U.S. soldiers are now being killed while directing traffic and pulling guard duty than died in the war.
(3) We need to train an administrative corps that can move into place quickly and efficiently to restore public confidence and order. This is not easy, and, as events have shown, the considerable planning effort that preceded this war was sadly insufficient.
(4) Approach intelligence estimates with a degree of humility, and build into the system an ability to question the prevailing conventional wisdom without losing one's job. There was no shortage of skepticism about some of the official (and unofficial) intelligence estimates prior to the war, but they were smothered.
(5) In the immortal words of Talleyrand, "pas trop de zele, monsieur" (not too much zeal, sir). The certainty that you are right and everyone else is wrong is a pathological symptom. Pursued to the end, it is certain disaster."
Re: Sick's Point #1 on the WMD, as even the NYT tacitly admits in its masthead, and aside from the bio labs that are turning up, it's just too early to make definitive judgements about the scope of Iraq's WMD program as it existed from the time of Bush's Sept. 12, 2002 speech until the war began. And even per the downcast Barton Gellman WaPo piece that so many Iraq-skeptics are quoting (including Sick) there appears this key graf:
"Even the sharpest skeptics do not rule out that the hunt may eventually find evidence of banned weapons. The most significant unknown is what U.S. interrogators are learning from senior Iraqi scientists, military industrial managers and Iraqi government leaders now in custody. If the nonconventional arms exist, some of them ought to know. In public, the Bush administration has declined to discuss what the captured Iraqis are saying. In private, U.S. officials provide conflicting reports, with some hinting at important disclosures. Cambone also said U.S. forces have seized "troves of documents" and are "surveying them, triaging them" for clues."
And further, I don't know about you, but the fact that Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's son-in-law, reported with "some authority" that "a good part of that [WMD] program, if not all of it" had been destroyed is not persuasive to my ears. Critically, he wasn't necessarily privy to the entire spectrum of Iraq's WMD capability. And regardless, even a defector is not without varying motivations regarding what information he will or won't disclose.
Sick's Point 2 is a straw man. We just don't know whether Saddam had a fully active WMD program or not--so it's too early for Sick to conclude that we didn't even have grounds for a preemptive strike. On top of this, Sick trots out this article and asks:
Today there was an article by Michael Schrage of MIT in the WashingtonPost ["No Weapons, No Matter. We Called Saddam's Bluff," text in Thread 14] which argues that we were perfectly justified in launching the war because Saddam was behaving AS IF he had an active WMD program. Have we really come to this in justifying the invasion of another country?
But Mr. Schrage's piece is just that, an op-ed by an academic, and not revelatory in any fashion of the motivations behind Administration policy.
On Sick's Point 3 regarding inadequate preparation regarding preventing looting in the Baghdad museum I have already addressed that here. If insiders are planning on looting the place--how are you supposed to a) be aware of that beforehand and b) adequately prevent it? And regardless, the extent of the looting was less than generally thought given the initially hyperbolic reports.
The looting of nuclear facilities is, as Sick notes, more worrisome. And, on this issue, I've got to say that I mostly agree with what David Adesnik has got to say on the matter. Yes, in the chaos of war, with all the attendant massive troop movements and the like, securing some of these facilities might not have necessarily topped the agenda. But it should have been pretty close to the top of the list and, seemingly, for reasons not yet fully known, we didn't really have our act together on this one in a serious way.
Point 4 has to do with such dispatches from Baghdad. The bottom line on this, as observers pointed out well before, is that we would inexorably be facing a massive undertaking that would involve having a (less swaggering) MacArthur like figure backed by significant coalition forces and the development of a national Iraqi army corps post-Saddam to help enforce order, stem revanchist killings and ensure the territorial integrity of the country.
Do I think we have a bit of egg on our face because we didn't even secure the capital a month into the victory? Sure. Do we wring our hands in despair and castigate the Administration for a half-assed, amateurish job? Well, not just yet. Garner's being pulled out, and a new team headed by Jerry Bremer is on its way in. They have a mammoth task that awaits them. But let's give the Administration a couple more months to bring order to what is, after all, a large country with a particularly complex ethnic makeup, a legacy of brutish Saddamism, and myriad pressing humanitarian needs.
On Sick's Point No. 5 I haven't seen any corroboration (nor does Sick offer any) that we considered linking up with this group. So it's sheer speculation at this stage. Needless to say, as we are involved in a global war on terror, there should no longer be any "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" justifications for convenient short-term alliances with any terror groups. Such Macchiavellian machinations would fatally compromise our moral standing on the issue of terrorism and must therefore be avoided at all costs.
I won't comment on Sick's policy prescriptions at the end of his note now, except to note that I agree with him that we should also have a constabulatory force in the area. Why? Because I feel that our soldiers should be trained for war--and that protracted gendarmerie like duties sap their warrior ethos and erode their prior combat training. That said, I hope to appraise sometime in the future what impact (if any) the protracted Bosnia peacekeeping duties had on U.S. troops to flesh this contention out more in the coming days.
Note: In fairness to Sick, he does say: "I served in the government -- military and civilian -- for many years, and I am sympathetic to the difficulty of the job. Officials are not superhuman, and even the best of intentions and plans can have unintended consequences. But the U.S. performance thus far is too deficient to be casually explained away. If we are taking on an imperial role -- by necessity or by design -- we must do better than this."
My point is simply that we shouldn't be overly hasty in issuing post-mortems. Nothing that has occurred to date has fatally jeopardized the chances of ultimately suceeding in fashioning a sustainable, democratic Iraqi polity, say, two years hence.
May 11, 2003
Iraq Reconstruction Status Report A
Iraq Reconstruction Status Report
"Was the United States prepared for the problems of postwar Iraq?
Some U.S. officials have admitted that the postwar situation is more unstable than they expected. Garner told the Washington Post May 4, “We didn’t anticipate the looting to occur to the degree it did [occur]. I personally anticipated a huge number of soldiers surrendering. I was going to hire 100,000 Iraqi soldiers to reconstruct Iraq. They either died or evaporated. The operation didn’t unfold as planned. We’re making readjustments.”
Have the looting and lawlessness dissipated?
To a degree. But observers on the ground say there is not enough coalition manpower to enforce order—12,000 U.S. troops are assigned to watch over Baghdad’s 5 million residents—and a variety of local groups are rising up to fill the power vacuum. The Wall Street Journal summed up the situation on the ground in Iraq on May 3 as follows: “In the three weeks since U.S. forces seized control of Iraq’s key cities, the grass-roots power seizure has been profound. In towns and cities across this California-size country, clerics and sheiks have proclaimed themselves mayors and councilmen. Others have taken control of schools, clinics and government offices. Religious leaders have started to adjudicate disputes and sentence offenders. Some have formed armed militias.”
That's the key point. Who are the grass-roots actors seizing power? Are we aware of all the myriad factions sprouting up in areas where we don't have heavy troop concentrations?
I argued many months back that we would need some kind of benign MacArthur with lots of troops under his command to help create a viable, democratic Iraq that retained its territorial integrity. Unlike the hopes of overly optimistic Pentagon types--we were never going to just airlift Ahmed Chalabi into the Hunt Club outside of Baghdad and have legions of Iraqis bow down to him because he had an MIT degree and could hobnob about the Potomac with bonhomie and panache. Not when the very Shi'a whom Chalabi is supposed to derive support from are guys like this:
An excerpt: Mudher al-Husseini, a youthful follower of Sadr's, approached his leader and asked permission to read a new poem. Sadr agreed. The poem, written by a well-known local Shiite poet named Majid al-Auqabi, was titled, ''Let Allah Forgive the Past.''
Its rhyme is lost in translation, but not its meaning.
''Saddam forced us to eat cattle feed,'' Husseini began. ''But today is the day to shout. The dollar is seducing us, but it is better to be a martyr than to take the dollar. Coalition treads have trampled the people. We don't want a ruler from them; we want our own ruler. We don't want to be cheated again.''
"Husseini spoke loudly and emotionally; the hand with which he held the poem shook, and his other hand, wrapped in a fist, punched the warm air. An elderly man sitting next to him began to weep; so did others."
"The killings also appear to have led the Americans to abandon, for now, their attempt to play a role in Najaf; during the three days I was there, I never saw American troops patrolling the streets or even driving through them. The town appears to be a no-go area for them, just as Saddam City, now Sadr City, in Baghdad, is devoid of any significant American presence. The Americans would appear to have no idea what is happening in these places, and no control over them."
No, this is a long run effort, probably involving significant U.S. troops (and British, Polish among others) for at least two years. The post-war part was always going to be harder than the war folks.
Nation-building, even in relatively secularized post-WWII Europe, wasn't a breeze. And this certainly won't be either--if we mean to do the job right. For one, that means that we have to be in places like Najaf. Not spouting on about "democracy, whiskey and sexy" either but searching for moderate clerics who will join a federated government and lead to inhabitants of more conservative Shi'a regions believing they have real representation in Baghdad. All this is possible, mind you, but let's sober up post-victory and focus on the difficult task ahead.
The Press Grandees of the
The Press Grandees of the Left In Crisis!
Le Monde! The NYT! For the record, I agree with David Adesnik that the NYT is a national institution that we should all be grateful to have--despite its so often blatant bias that this blog often chronicles--and that it will emerge stronger from this crisis. (Blogger links are down so please scroll to David's Sunday May 11th post)
But, on to Jayson Blair, and his mammoth record of distortion, outright lies, plagiarism, fake by-lines and so on. Yes I'm saddened that his editors didn't do a better job of monitoring. And it is a no-brainer that the Times will need to further investigate "the newsroom's processes for training, assignment and accountability."
But what really infuriates me most are Blair's morally defunct actions themselves. Take this fabrication (among myriad) that the Times has, to its credit, been chronicling:
"For Families of the Dead, a Fateful Knock on the Door
MARCH 31, 2003
FACTUAL ERRORS Mr. Blair embellished certain details while incorporating notes from a co-author into the article. He wrote that Stacy L. Menusa and her 3-year-old son were "standing in the driveway of her parents' home" when two marines arrived with news of her husband's death. Ms. Menusa, in a recent interview, said that she and her son were inside the house at the time."
How dare Jayson Blair cheaply dramatize the most painful moments any family will ever face? I am repulsed by his actions and sincerely hope the NYT will never have such a charlatan on their staff again.
The View from France Cartoons
The View from France
Cartoons like this one appear routinely in what is France's equivalent of the New York Times (Le Monde). Given the routineness I haven't bothered to comment on them in the past. But this one stuck with me and, while no longer on Le Monde's site, I was able to find it elsewhere (via Merde in France). Why is this one special? Because it speaks volumes about the current worldview of French elites.
Iraq, ultimately, became a lighting rod for all the predictable resentment of the U.S. hegemon or hyperpuissance. Fine, great powers are often resented by lesser powers on the world stage. No surprise there.
But the mockery of the so called "vassals" (a word often used in French discourse over the past months to describe countries like Spain, the U.K, Italy or Poland) is encapsulated by the licking of (a grotesquely disfigured) Uncle Sam's boots in the cartoon. Such an outlook helps explain Chirac's derision and bossy treatment of the Central and Eastern European countries--along with a requisite Gallic dose of folie de grandeur.
Note too that the vassal word entered the French lexicon well before Iraq--Chirac's neo-Gaullist project has been a factor in French policymaking for a good while now.
I have not yet seen wide-scale efforts among French elites to seriously address the merits of France's position vis-a-vis Resolution 1441, a sincere reckoning with fairly positive Iraqi reaction to the unseating of Saddam, or a thorough appraisal of their own dealings with the Baathist regime. Quelle dommage!
NOTE: The caption reads: "You no longer belong to the United Nations of America." And I assume the woman clad in red is meant to symbolize, of course, France.
Sharon's Strategy Arik Sharon is,
Arik Sharon is, if anything, a controversial figure. Widely reviled by legions, a hero to others, Bush's description of him last year as a "man of peace" touched off a veritable maelstrom of commentary. Those who have met him speak of his raconteur propensities and charisma in person.
His most important "constituent", of course, is George Bush. And he's got a pretty good feel for how to keep Bush in his corner, I suspect. Basically, ever since 9/11, Bush has increasingly seen the Israeli leader as similarly confronted by analogous homeland security issues. He emotively connects with Sharon every time another suicide bomber does his or her ghastly deed.
And yet, Bush would still call for Sharon to withdraw "without delay" from the Occupied Territories during large scale Israeli incursions last year. And, in his speech at USC a couple days back, he said this: "If the Palestinian people take concrete steps to crack down on terror, continue on a path of peace, reform and democracy, they and all the world will see the flag of Palestine raised over a free and independent nation. All sides of this conflict have duties. Israel must take tangible steps now to ease the suffering of Palestinians and to show respect for their dignity. And as progress is made toward peace, Israel must stop settlement activity in the occupied territories."
Bush also understands, from conversations with Prince Abdullah or Hosni Mubarak, that large swaths of Palestinian society live under conditions that foster feelings of alienation and humiliation, which is why he often mentions restoration of Palestinian "dignity" as a policy goal.
So why rehash all this now? Well, for one, it appears that we have now entered a new stage regarding the Bush administration's approach to the Middle East peace process.
The first stage might be called the "ABC" or "Anything But Clinton" stage. No more special Middle East envoys traipsing about the region seemingly weekly. No more 18 hour peace processing marathons in places called Sheperdstown. No more dilution of the Presidential coin whereby the prestige of the office was too often used to bridge (relatively minor) gaps between the sides.
There was also a widespread feeling among the Bushies that Camp David II had artificially raised expectations throughout the Middle East without proper diplomatic backstopping. Put another way, Arafat was being asked to make concessions on Jeruslem and was getting in over his head regarding how far he could go on an issue that directly impacts over a billion Muslims the world over. Might it not have been better to coordinate with the Egyptians and Saudis on a coordinated Jerusalem posture? Once the peace talks crumbled, tragically, bloodshed was set to fill the vacuum.
Stage 2 began on 9/11. Recall that virtually the entire energies of the American foreign policy apparatus focused like a laser on, as a preliminary matter, denying al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan. Pakistan became of critical import diplomatically. A year later, with Bush's speech to the U.N. on 9/12/02, the focus turned to Iraq. Throughout this period of near constant war the peace process was, if not in deep freeze, very much on the backburner.
Now, with the defeat of Saddam's regime in Iraq, Bush's speech at USC and Powell's trip to the region Stage 3 has begun in earnest. We can trust Bush (who has personally pledged to push hard for a compromise between the parties) when he says his Administration will work hard to help bring about a negotiated settlement. Of course, no Administration since the creation of Israel in 1948 has been able to pull this off. But Bush doesn't appear at all dissuaded by this gloomy historical record.
Key to all this is the so-called Roadmap. The very outset of the Roadmap calls for the following:
"Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.
Israeli leadership issues unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush, and calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere. All official Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians."
We are all aware that the Palestinians will make the declaration above. After all, it costs them nothing to make it. But Sharon, just today in a press conference with Colin Powell, stated that the time for declarations was over. He, understandably, wants concrete steps to end terror attacks. And he is right that we need to see more stolid action by new Palestinian Authority PM Abbas, not only for its own sake, but also to show the international community that he has actual authority and is not firmly under Arafat's thumb.
But the Middle East peace process has always been a race between moderates pushing for a negotiated settlement and extremists on the ground intent on scuttling the project. There will likely never be zero attacks on Israel during this diplomatic process and to hold out for such a "quiet period" (even a relatively short one) acts only as a public advertisment regarding best timing to Hamas or Jihad Islami or PFLP or DFLP on when to attempt a bloody bus bombing to maximum effect with regard to spoiling nascent peace efforts.
Which is why this op-ed, in the WaPo, but written by Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent, worries me:
"When presented with the road map last October, Sharon appointed an interagency team headed by his chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, to draft comments aimed at "making the road map consistent with Bush's June 24 speech." The resulting document proposed more than 100 corrections, divided into 15 major groupings, to a road map that was only seven pages long. These maneuvers have created a disconnect between diplomacy and reality. On the rhetorical level, much progress has been made under Bush and Sharon. The road map goes further than Oslo in its firm commitment for Palestinian independence. But as diplomats engage in quasi-theological debates over "sequential or parallel steps" by both sides, the reality on the ground has deteriorated."
Put differently, Sharon's strategy is to remain in Bush's good graces even while likely hurting the chances that the roadmap gets off the ground. Sharon will argue that all his reservations are, at least in spirit (and perhaps in letter), in accord with Bush's June 24th speech. He will, earnestly and often quite reaonably, speak of Israel's legitimate security concerns. He will budge little on concessions pending major overhauls beyond those already taken in the Palestinian Authority's security structures.
Fair enough, perhaps. But Mr. Sharon must also keep in mind that great statesman must take risks and gambles too (like Yitzhak Rabin did thus, tragically, costing him his life).
A major regional threat to Israel has been removed. Arafat has been marginalized and replaced by a PM in Abu Mazen that can strike a deal. There is a President in the Oval Office who well understands his security concerns. But Mr. Sharon must also understand that vital American interests are at stake too. He must treat the Roadmap less as a document to parse and issue reservations about than one to adopt, soberly and with caution, but adopt it and go down it he should--unless Abu Mazen doesn't continue the process of reining in Palestinian terror groups in very serious fashion.
Bashar Assad Interview Lally Weymouth
Bashar Assad Interview
Lally Weymouth interviews the Syrian leader in the WaPo.
Q: Saddam Hussein is gone. No one seems to be sorry.
A: Nobody is sorry. It's good that he's gone . . . but [the outcome] should be better.
Q: Are you worried about U.S. military action here?
A: Powell said there are no plans for U.S. military actions against Syria.
Q: Do you believe him?
A: Yes, Powell is the rational wing [of the administration].
Q: Are you hoping to have a better relationship with the U.S.?
A: We are working for it. Cooperation in combating terrorism is evidence. We helped save the lives of Americans last year.
Q: What is your response to stories that Iraq put its weapons of mass destruction in your country during the war?
A: Why would Syria let them put these weapons in this country? There's no benefit for Syria.
Q: Syria is said to have a chemical and a biological weapons program. Is that true?
Q: If you don't, why won't you sign the chemical weapons treaty?
A: Because Israel did not sign it.
Q: Isn't it time to withdraw your troops from Lebanon and let that country become a free and sovereign state?
A: This is related to a peace treaty, to a complete [Israeli] withdrawal.
Q: The Israelis withdrew from Lebanon.
A: They didn't withdraw completely. They still occupy Shebaa Farms [a disputed area that Lebanon claims but is historically part of Syria].
Q: Many in the U.S. believe that there is a new Middle East. Saddam's gone, and the administration is trying for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Where will Syria fit in?
A: We have played a role in this region for years . . . not related just to the will of the United States.
Q: Are you going to adjust to the new situation?
A: We are going to be active.
Q: You can move with the train or stay by the road.
A: I can walk parallel to the train and sometimes come close and sometimes get into the train and sometimes leap to another car. There is not only one train.
Much that is revealing in this interview so go to the link and read the whole thing. The final answer pasted above is somewhat amusing. Weymouth is basically prodding Bashar saying: Iraq's is under effective U.S. control and the regional dynamics have changed immensely--are you gonna play ball--move along with the U.S. "train"? Assad signals by his answer that he wants to reject a singular U.S. hegemon in the region ("not only one train"). And that he will cooperate (likely mostly on terror groups, turning over Saddam regime personnel that have found their way to Syria (if any remain), and not playing its classical "spoiler" role regarding the overall peace process ("sometimes come close and sometimes get into the train") but not cooperate on other issues like WMD disarmament before Israel ("sometimes leap into another car").
Note: Weymouth asked Bashar if Syria had a chemical/bio weapons program. Predictably, he answered no. A more interesting question may have been whether Syria possesses any WMD period. I suspect Syria indeed has such a program but, like Israel's nuclear capacity, will not make it public. Thus my contention that he will not cooperate with potential U.S. demands on Syrian WMD disarmament.
Finally, this exchange is worth noting:
Q: There have been stories in the Israeli press about recent meetings between a Syrian official and an Israeli about starting up peace negotiations. Any truth to this?
A: This is the Israeli way -- to make it appear as if Syria is working in secrecy. . . . Why should we create back channels? This does not give you popular support . . . which is very important in a peace process. Neither now nor in the future will Syria engage in secret negotiations.
This would be a change from occasional below the radar peace feelers his father was willing to pursue.
Only in NY I love
Only in NY
I love these "only in NYC" type stories (this one on the decline of Chinatown gangs):
"At the same time, new blood to replenish gang ranks had become scarce. Like Italians, Jews and Irish before them, the children and grandchildren of Cantonese immigrants had set their sights beyond the street corner. "All the gangsters I used to know are stockbrokers now," said Joe G. M. Chan, a filmmaker in his early 30's who still lives in Chinatown, his native home.
Former gang members take pains to avoid the old neighborhood. "I rarely go to Chinatown these days," said Lawrence Wu, 27, a former Tung On gang member who, in a remarkable turnaround, earned his high school equivalency degree, graduated from Queens College and became editor in chief of The Columbia Law Review.
"The one thing that sticks in my head is how tiny this world felt," said Mr. Wu, who now practices corporate law at a major firm near Grand Central Terminal. "You lived in this subculture of a subculture of a subculture. The idea of going to an arcade in Midtown was a really big deal."
Mr. Wu now works at Davis Polk & Wardwell--commonly considered a top five law firm in Manhattan with a somewhat "white shoe" reputation.
May 10, 2003
UBL Dead Post-Amputation? A French
UBL Dead Post-Amputation?
A French expert thinks so. She has thoughts regarding this pic too:
Clinton Suck Up Watch Sidney
Clinton Suck Up Watch
Sidney Blumenthal (yes, that Sidney) in an excerpt from his upcoming memoirs published in the Washington Monthly:
"After the Kosovo war, other world leaders regarded Clinton with a deference that extended beyond his role as the chief of state of the number-one power. They considered him a first among equals because of who and what he was, not only because of the country he represented. They knew that he understood in depth their own countries' economics and history and politics like no other U.S. president before him. Because of their implicit trust in him, U.S. prestige reached a zenith it had not enjoyed since perhaps the presidency of John F. Kennedy, when the Western leadership had not been so close. "Because of his empathy and understanding, the world felt included and not resentful of America," a British cabinet minister told me."
It's the Damn Booze! O.K.
It's the Damn Booze!
O.K. folks, the Left is tossing about for new reasons why Dubya is allegedly in neo-imperialistic overdrive. The latest theory?
"George Bush is an alcoholic. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, according to neuroscientists. Bush's brain was changed by his substance use. And his brain did not return to its "normal" or predrinking state after he stopped drinking. Proof positive of that is that he is showing signs of a new addiction-an addiction to power."
One of the authors claims to have been a prof at Princeton. Given this, I can't say I'm surprised. The scary thing is, these types of moronic scribblings are likely read with grave visages (so as to better accompany the unearthing of such noxious "truths" about George Bush) by many thousands.
What (Exactly) Is Democratic Messianism?
What (Exactly) Is Democratic Messianism?
"In this analysis, both the grotesque public optimism of the Neo-Con rhetoric about democratisation and its exaggeration of threats to the US stem from the fact that it takes a lot to stir ordinary Americans out of their customary apathy with regard to international affairs. While it is true that an element of democratic messianism is built into what Samuel Huntington and others have called 'the American Creed', it is also the case that many Americans have a deep scepticism - healthy or chauvinist according to taste - about the ability of other countries to develop their own forms of democracy."
Dictionary.com defines "democratic" as "Pertaining to democracy, favoring democracy, or constructed upon the principle of government by the people." In turn, "democracy" is defined as "government by the people, exercised either directly or through representatives."
How about "messianism"? Three definitions: 1) "belief in a messiah", 2) "belief that a particular cause or movement is destined to triumph or save the world", and/or 3) "zealous devotion to a leader, cause or movement".
Lieven certainly doesn't mean messianism per #1. And, unless legions in Washington have developed a zealot-like devotion to neo-con high priest Paul Wolfowitz, or his ideological fellow-travellers like Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard, it appears #3 is not what Lieven means either.
He is likely suggesting that, per #2, the neo-cons (and give Lieven credit for suggesting their influence is less pervasive than Howell would have us believe) believe democracy is "destined to triumph or save the world." This is, of course, very late 80's/early 90's, fall of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama provenance kind of stuff. Fears of nuclear armageddon in India and Pakistan, the genocidal horrors of Bosnia and Rwanda, and 9/11 reminded us that history had not quite ended.
Yet Fukuyama really was arguing that the grand ideological battles of the 20th Century had been resolved, ie. that democracy-adherents had triumphed over advocates of fascism and communism. And further, Fukuyama claimed, no other grand ideological opponents to democracy were on the horizon. Put differently, Fukuyama's arguments were linked to that of philosophers like Francois Lyotard who defined the postmodern condition as an "incredulity to metanarratives." Or put yet another way: we're too damn skeptical to pitch our hopes on another grand utopian project like Communism.
But this detached, ironic postmodern condition is really only prevalent in hyper-commodified, relatively comfortable precincts of the developed West that have passed through the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and horrors of the fascist and communist projects that so bloodied the 20th Century. No "incredulity to metanarratives" gives pause to Osama bin Laden and his acolytes. Theocratic barbarians are only too eager to adopt a grand vision of a purist, Islamic caliphate from Jakarta to Sarajevo (Fukuyama might defend his thesis to say that there is nothing new about such projects). And to achieve such aims, they are manifestly willing to kill Westerners as a gambit to force the West out of key areas like the Gulf viewed, by them, as land solely to be occupied by devout Muslims.
And that's where the neo-cons come in (as the group in American foreign policy elites most intent in its desire to counter terror groups or rogue regimes in preemptive fashion, often militarily, with less of a focus on addressing so-called "root causes" like resolving outstanding regional disputes, combatting endemic poverty and the like). But regardless of their strategic posture, and contra Lieven's musings, intelligent neo-cons like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz simply don't believe, in messianic fashion, that democracy is "destined to...save the world." They might, as many political scientists would agree, believe that as democracy expands peace is more likely to prevail as democracies rarely (if ever) start wars against each other. Thus, unseating the Taliban and Saddam are steps towards providing some stability to said regions.
But, more important to Perle and Wolfowitz, I would suspect, are their security hawk and realpolitik orientations. Some of you will immediately protest that Richard Perle is no Kissingerian realpolitiker. Fair enough, he was not cheerleading detente initiatives. There is a moralistic Reaganite aspect to Perle and Wolfowitz's worldview. But this moralistic quotient in their thinking doesn't justify anything near describing these key neo-con actors as messianic figures. They mostly wanted to go into Afghanistan to deny al-Qaeda a wide geographical hamlet from which to, in virtually unfettered manner, plan terror attacks and perhaps develop WMD. Concern with Iraq stemmed from similar concerns about a regime passing WMD capability to transnational terror groups or employing said weapons against American interests himself. As I argued many months ago, it was the WMD, stupid!
But then why all this talk about bringing demoracy to Iraq? Well, I hope all readers would agree, this is a noble goal to be pursued with persistence and high seriousness. And if an Iraqi polity this is viable, territorially unified and democratic comes to pass, particularly in conjunction with stolid roadmap implementation and the Israeli-Syrian peace track improving, we might indeed begin to see the entire region move towards enhanced stability. But Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz won't suddenly rest easy and believe that the world has been "saved" because a few more countries have concluded peace treaties and become democratic. There will be other threats to global stability, doubtless. And, rather than having been captivated by the messianism Lieven supposes, neo-con policymakers (as well as talented Foggy Bottom dwellers like Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Marc Grossman and Bill Burns) will instead remain vigilant to the cruel surprises history so often delivers.
Full disclosure: I worked for Richard Perle on Balkan related matters in the mid-90s in Washington D.C. while attending law school at night at Georgetown. I have posted on Richard Perle before and never mentioned that I had worked for him unsure of blogosphere standards regarding the (non)appropriateness of provision of such information. Lately, I note that people tend to typically disclose this type of thing so will do so going forward whenever appropriate.
NYT Watch Today's NYT Iraq
Today's NYT Iraq masthead on the machinations over at Turtle Bay regarding the new draft resolution on Iraq reconstruction is a must read. If you read the piece closely, you will likely find that Howell Raines and Co. really don't find that much that is objectionable in the proposed resolution. That said, as the W. 43rd Street cabal (more pernicious than the alleged Straussian one!) appears constitutionally unable to welcome Bush administration diplomatic initiatives--the NYT's treatment of the effort is mostly trite and derisive.
There is mention of the "grudging admission" that the U.S. needs the U.N. in Iraq, of the U.S. "stubbornly" not allowing U.N. arms inspectors to be central in the effort to find more on Iraq's WMD capability, or how, since last March the Bushies have treated the U.N. with "disdain" (exactly how, we are not told). Then there are other assorted quibbles:
"Washington is eager to have the U.N. lift oil export sanctions, which have clearly outlived their original purpose. More questionably, it wants future petroleum revenues to be entrusted temporarily to a new assistance fund, which would largely be under American and British control. The U.N. would have only a limited oversight role through its representation on the new assistance fund's advisory board, on which the World Bank and International Monetary Fund would also be represented.
The U.N. is also being asked to grant American and British occupation forces legal authority to reshape Iraq's institutions. The U.N. would have only a small role. A special coordinator to be appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan would take part, along with American, British and Iraqi representatives, in rebuilding local and national governing institutions. Regrettably, the United States seems intent on starting an interim government later this month, before the likely arrival of this U.N. coordinator."
With respect to the oil, it is clear that the U.N., World Bank, and IMF will have some oversight role. Hadly the stuff of unadulterated unipolar arrogance or reckless hyperpuissance overdrive. Ditto with the U.N. special coordinator--the U.S., given the U.N. refusal to seriously address violations of Resolution 1441 last year, might have pushed for a U.N. coordinator with virtually no say in the rebuilding of Iraqi government institutions. All this to say, it's a pretty good resolution and (hold your breath) even the French look set (at least at this juncture) to sign on to it with some minor modifications.
Put simply, even Howell is forced to conclude: "...its passage would mark a welcome step back toward international cooperation on Iraq." So why don't you feel that way after reading the editorial then?
There are other interesting offerings on tap today from the Saturday Times. Francis Clines makes good (Upper West Side style) sport of Karl Rove. There is much hyperbole in the piece but one graf got me in particular:
"He amiably disclosed very little about the president's re-election strategy. Until, that is, a student asked about the war in Iraq. "First of all, it's the battle of Iraq, not the war," Mr. Rove carefully corrected. He went on to describe a far larger and longer war against terrorism that he sees clearly, perchance fortuitously, stretching well toward Election Day 2004."
"Perchance fortuitously"? Thus does the NYT strongly suggest that Bush's top political advisor feels lucky that the U.S. faces ongoing perils post 9/11 (and Afghanistan and Iraq) that might require military action and American loss of life. A bit of a canard, no?
May 09, 2003
Chomsky Debunked A cogent essay
A cogent essay taking Noam Chomsky to task in the New Criterion.
It includes an interesting aside on how Chomsky tried to compare the 9/11 attacks as smaller in scale than Clinton's misguided and amateurish attack on the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan:
"In his response to September 11, he claimed that no matter how appalling the terrorists’ actions, the United States had done worse. He supported his case with arguments and evidence just as empirically selective and morally duplicitous as those he used to defend Pol Pot. On September 12, 2001, Chomsky wrote:
"The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people."
This Sudanese incident was an American missile attack on the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, where the CIA suspected Iraqi scientists were manufacturing the nerve agent VX for use in chemical weapons contracted by the Saddam Hussein regime. The missile was fired at night so that no workers would be there and the loss of innocent life would be minimised. The factory was located in an industrial area and the only apparent casualty at the time was the caretaker.
While Chomsky drew criticism for making such an odious comparison, he was soon able to flesh out his case. He told a reporter from salon.com that, rather than an “unknown” number of deaths in Khartoum, he now had credible statistics to show there were many more Sudanese victims than those killed in New York and Washington: “That one bombing, according to estimates made by the German Embassy in Sudan and Human Rights Watch, probably led to tens of thousands of deaths.” However, this claim was quickly rendered suspect. One of his two sources, Human Rights Watch, wrote to salon.com the following week denying it had produced any such figure. Its communications director said: “In fact, Human Rights Watch has conducted no research into civilian deaths as the result of US bombing in Sudan and would not make such an assessment without a careful and thorough research mission on the ground.”
Chomsky’s second source had done no research into the matter either. He was Werner Daum, German ambassador to Sudan from 1996 to 2000 who wrote in the Harvard International Review, Summer 2001. Despite his occupation, Daum’s article was anything but diplomatic.
It was a largely anti-American tirade criticizing the United States’ international human rights record, blaming America for the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, accusing it of ignoring Iraq’s gassing of the Kurds, and holding it responsible for the purported deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children as a result of post-1991 economic sanctions. Nonetheless, his comments on the death toll from the Khartoum bombing were not as definitive as Chomsky intimated. Daum wrote:
It is difficult to assess how many people in this poor African country died as a result of the destruction of the Al-Shifa factory, but several tens of thousands seems a reasonable guess. The factory produced some of the basic medicines on the World Health Organization list, covering 20 to 60 percent of Sudan’s market and 100 percent of the market for intravenous liquids. It took more than three months for these products to be replaced with imports.
Now, it is hard to take seriously Daum’s claim that this “guess” was in any way “reasonable.” He said there was a three-month gap between the destruction of the factory and the time it took to replace its products with imports. This seems an implausibly long interval to ship pharmaceuticals but, even if true, it is fanciful to suggest that “several tens of thousands” of people would have died in such a brief period.
Had they done so, they must have succumbed to a highly visible medical crisis, a pandemic to put the SARS outbreak in the shade. Yet no one on the spot, apart from the German ambassador, seems to have heard of it.
Anyone who makes an Internet search of the reports of the Sudanese operations of the several Western aid agencies, including Oxfam, Médecins sans FrontiŹres, and Norwegian People’s Aid, who have been operating in this region for decades, will not find any evidence of an unusual increase in the death toll at the time. Instead, their major health concern, then and now, has been how the Muslim Marxist government in Khartoum was waging civil war by bombing the civilian hospitals of its Christian enemies in the south of the country.
The idea that tens of thousands of Sudanese would have died within three months from a shortage of pharmaceuticals is implausible enough in itself. That this could have happened without any of the aid organizations noticing or complaining is simply unbelievable."
"Chomsky has declared himself a libertarian and anarchist but has defended some of the most authoritarian and murderous regimes in human history. His political philosophy is purportedly based on empowering the oppressed and toiling masses but he has contempt for ordinary people who he regards as ignorant dupes of the privileged and the powerful. He has defined the responsibility of the intellectual as the pursuit of truth and the exposure of lies, but has supported the regimes he admires by suppressing the truth and perpetrating falsehoods. He has endorsed universal moral principles but has only applied them to Western liberal democracies, while continuing to rationalize the crimes of his own political favorites. He is a mandarin who denounces mandarins. When caught out making culpably irresponsible misjudgments, as he was over Cambodia and Sudan, he has never admitted he was wrong.
Today, Chomsky’s hypocrisy stands as the most revealing measure of the sorry depths to which the left-wing political activism he has done so much to propagate has now sunk."
Terror Attacks Down Robust action
Terror Attacks Down
Robust action by the Bush administration is paying dividends:
"There were 199 international terrorist attacks during 2002. That represents a significant drop from the previous year – 44% fewer attacks. In fact, it is the lowest level of terrorism in more than 30 years. The last time the annual total fell below 200 attacks was in 1969, shortly after the advent of modern terrorism. This is a remarkable achievement."
Berlin Postcard By the Spectator's
By the Spectator's foreign editor.
"You are leaving the civilised sector. These words were pinned, in German and English, to the outside of the fence which protects the American embassy in Berlin. In order to get through that fence, you would have to persuade the gallant, bone-headed men of the Bundesgrenzschutz — Germany’s frontier police, who also guard government buildings — that you are not intent on blowing up the Americans. Meanwhile you can take the chance to study the messages left by German peace protesters, of which the general drift is that George Bush is a mass murderer."
Iraq Reconstruction Efforts For once
Iraq Reconstruction Efforts
"The power is working in most of the city, though with intermittent outages, and work is under way to complete repairs to the water system. Some primary schools are holding classes, and the first paychecks for government workers are being distributed. Shops undamaged in looting are reopening, and families now walk certain streets well into the night without fear."
"A month after U.S. forces seized Baghdad, the Pentagon's occupation authority remains plagued by insufficient resources and inadequate preparations, fueling complaints from Iraqis and doubts about the Bush administration's promise to reconstruct the country swiftly and set its politics on a new, democratic course.
Military commanders, who roared into Baghdad and crushed President Saddam Hussein's government April 9, have not placed enough troops on the streets since then to tackle crime, restore a sense of public order and otherwise fill an authority vacuum that has arisen since Hussein went into hiding and his Baath Party apparatus disbanded. U.S. officers, acknowledging Iraqis' complaints about lax security, have pleaded that their troops are stretched too thin, and have announced plans to bring more personnel into Baghdad, including military police."
I hope to address this issue in more detail over the weekend.
Red Ken I traded Rudy
I traded Rudy for this guy?
The Mayor [of London] said: "I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties. He is not the legitimate president."
Mr Livingstone later added: "This really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown."
May 08, 2003
De-Baathification Watch A fascinating article
A fascinating article detailing some of the murky realities surrounding the nascent de-Baathification efforts underway in Iraq. On the one hand, U.S. officials need to keep key ministries or educational institutions on tap. On the other, Iraqis are rightly infuriated that former brutish oppressors remain in positions of authority. Read the whole thing.
Iraq's Treasures Many were rightly
Many were rightly dismayed regarding reports of the large-scale looting of Iraq's main museum. It appears that many of the precious artifacts had been stowed away for safekeeping or are otherwise being recovered.
"The investigators located the vaults in Baghdad over the last week, including five within the museum complex, and forced them open, revealing hundreds of artifacts that had apparently been stored away to protect them from being damaged in an American assault. The finds included ancient jewelry, pottery and sarcophaguses, officials said.
The discovery of so many valuable artifacts would support the view of Iraqi museum officials and American investigators who have said that while many irreplaceable antiquities were looted from the museum during the fall of Baghdad last month, the losses were less severe than thought."
Interestingly, some museum insiders themselves may have been to blame:
"American investigators have complained that their work has been hindered by a lack of cooperation from museum workers, who have so far been unable to provide a full inventory of the museum's collection, and by uncertainty over how many objects were on open display when the looting began. American officials say there is a growing suspicion that insiders within the museum's administration were to blame for much of the thefts."
May 07, 2003
Galloway Suspended Labour cracks down
Labour cracks down on George.
More on the Euro Four
More on the Euro Four
Last week I put down a few thoughts regarding the Franco-German-Belgian (wait, almost forgot Luxembourg!) initiative to provide for a Euro-military force. Harold Meyerson in today's WaPo has what might be viewed as a pro-Paris spin on the effort. A smarter piece is online at TNR.
"There are serious differences of opinion within the EU. Take Tony Blair's statement last week that Britain fully opposes any EU defense that would threaten or even duplicate NATO's capacity. Spain's foreign minister Ana Palacios has insisted that a small group of EU members had no right to call their plan "European." The Italian and Dutch foreign ministers were similarly critical. The Eastern European countries joining the EU will likely have none of it.
Which is to say, not only will Chirac and Schroeder have failed to put the fear of God in Donald Rumsfeld by unveiling their Axis of Unfeasible; if they press on with their comic-opera vision of European military grandeur, they risk gravely splitting the European project that their countries have successfully labored to build for over a half-century. Europeans have stopped killing one another in senseless wars. They have even built an admirable model of multilateral cooperation. But as yet, few are willing to die for it."
Mobile Bioweapon Labs Another possible
Mobile Bioweapon Labs
Another possible example of material breach per Resolution 1441 on the WMD front.
"The vehicles was painted in what appeared to be a military color scheme, Mr. Cambone said. He listed several characteristics that American military officials regard as suspicious: a fermenter, which could be used for growing cultures; gas cylinders to supply clean air for production, and "a system to capture and compress exhaust gases to eliminate any signature of the production."
Mr. Cambone said that some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than producing biological weapons agents, but that American and British weapons experts have concluded, based in part on information from a defector, "that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond what the defector said it was for, which was the production of biological agents."
The WaPo has a story up on it too. Walter Pincus and Michael Dobbs also discuss the billions of dollars looted by the Hussein family in their piece:
"In addition to the cash held in the Iraqi central bank, investigators believe that Hussein and his family had access to an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion in foreign bank accounts and front companies."
North Korea Watch A policy
North Korea Watch
A policy synthesis between State and Defense appears to be emerging with regard to NoKo. Per Pentagon preferences, more pressure looks set to be applied on Pyongyang by clamping down on NoKo's drug and counterfeiting trade. At the same time, State gets to pursue talks with the North Koreans. The Administration wants China, South Korea and Japan on board for the talks too and, over the past months, Pyongyang has always refused such entreaties instead holding out for direct, bilateral talks with the U.S. So why might the North Koreans agree to talks at this juncture in a multilateral framework when they didn't before?
The difference might be that the North Koreans are finally under greater pressure from some of their neighbors like China and South Korea to try to reach an accomodation with the U.S.
"Asian officials, who earlier had appeared uncomfortable with the administration's tough line on North Korea, now appear prepared to accept the idea that more pressure must be placed on Pyongyang, particularly in light of its nuclear claims and its often blatant flouting of international laws.
Two weeks ago, Australian special forces seized a North Korean freighter that allegedly delivered $50 million in heroin. The ship, registered in the North Korean port of Nampo but sailing under a flag of the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu, has been cited as evidence of the North Korean government's involvement in drug running, amphetamine production and counterfeiting.
"The international community cannot condone the illegal activity the North Korean government is engaged in," an Asian diplomat said. The North Koreans "need to understand this. Some things simply can't go on."
Perhaps needless to say, the entire North Korean issue remains highly time sensitive and of critical import:
"Adding to the sense of urgency, U.S. sources said yesterday, intelligence analysts within the past 48 hours have seen increasing signs that North Korea has begun reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods to provide plutonium for weapons. North Korea said it had begun the processing at the three-way talks in Beijing last month, but it had not been detected by U.S. intelligence until now. The spent fuel would provide North Korea with enough nuclear material to build two to three additional nuclear bombs within a few months."
Tough Talk from Condi Condoleeza
Tough Talk from Condi
Condoleeza Rice quoted in a NYT article.
"Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, accused France of trying to take NATO hostage and of threatening smaller countries that had backed the White House position on the war.
"The United States did not divide the Europeans," she said in interviews published today in the Spanish newspapers El Pais, El Mundo, ABC and La Vanguardia. "It wasn't us that threatened smaller countries with reprisals nor tried to shut up the countries of Eastern Europe."
As for attempts by France, as well as Germany, to prevent NATO from reinforcing the security of Turkey, Dr. Rice said, "Nobody should take NATO hostage."
And an interesting contrarian nugget from Donald Rumsfeld:
Still, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, during a recent visit to the Middle East, suggested that Turkey's denial of access might have actually helped the United States war effort by giving Mr. Hussein a false sense of security.
"Turkey's decision not to allow coalition forces to enter Iraq from the north was disappointing, to be sure, but that disappointment eventually was turned to our advantage," Mr. Rumsfeld told troops last month at the United States Central Command headquarters in Qatar.
The Iraqi regime may have been caught off guard, he said, as it waited for the American troops to open a northern front. "This contributed to the surprise of the Iraqi regime when the war began without those forces," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
May 06, 2003
Move (Some Of) Them East!
Move (Some Of) Them East!
U.S. forces in Europe, that is, according to Senator George Allen of Virginia (Chair of the European Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Wisely, however, he doesn't advocate any foolhardy move to pull all our GIs out of countries like Germany.
"There would be three advantages to moving US forces to such bases and facilities. First, they are closer to current military threats. Even before September 11, it was becoming clear that the newest threats to Nato countries come from the southern and eastern borders of Europe and from terrorist cells across the globe.
Second, these countries want US forces. In welcome contrast to recent sentiment in Germany and France, which for decades has refused to have US troops on its soil, countries such as Romania and Bulgaria have invited them in. Local opinion polls show that the hospitality of these governments reflects the will of their people. Third, it would be cost-effective. The newly free economies of Europe are embracing economic freedom with zeal but operations are less expensive there. A garrison near Bucharest would cost less than one near Bonn."
May 05, 2003
Inverted Totalitarianism Wondering what The
Wondering what The Nation is publishing these days? Absurd discourse on something called inverted totalitarianism, fancy language for comparing the Bush administration to Nazis.
"No doubt these remarks will be dismissed by some as alarmist, but I want to go further and name the emergent political system "inverted totalitarianism." By inverted I mean that while the current system and its operatives share with Nazism the aspiration toward unlimited power and aggressive expansionism, their methods and actions seem upside down. For example, in Weimar Germany, before the Nazis took power, the "streets" were dominated by totalitarian-oriented gangs of toughs, and whatever there was of democracy was confined to the government. In the United States, however, it is the streets where democracy is most alive--while the real danger lies with an increasingly unbridled government.
Or another example of the inversion: Under Nazi rule there was never any doubt about "big business" being subordinated to the political regime. In the United States, however, it has been apparent for decades that corporate power has become so predominant in the political establishment, particularly in the Republican Party, and so dominant in its influence over policy, as to suggest a role inversion the exact opposite of the Nazis'. At the same time, it is corporate power, as the representative of the dynamic of capitalism and of the ever-expanding power made available by the integration of science and technology with the structure of capitalism, that produces the totalizing drive that, under the Nazis, was supplied by ideological notions such as Lebensraum.
In rebuttal it will be said that there is no domestic equivalent to the Nazi regime of torture, concentration camps or other instruments of terror. But we should remember that for the most part, Nazi terror was not applied to the population generally; rather, the aim was to promote a certain type of shadowy fear--rumors of torture--that would aid in managing and manipulating the populace. Stated positively, the Nazis wanted a mobilized society eager to support endless warfare, expansion and sacrifice for the nation."
Rumors of torture are terrifying America's citizenry nightly, right?
Oh and yes, the author of this hyperbolic screed, Sheldon Wolin, is a professor emeritus at Princeton.
May 04, 2003
Ken Pollack Interview Transcript of
Ken Pollack Interview
Q: "Did Saddam Hussein actually have unconventional weapons, and is there any evidence he was developing them?"
A: "We really don't know yet. I still think it is very premature to suggest that Saddam either did or did not have the weapons. Now it's not just that the fat lady hasn't sung yet, it's that in some senses the orchestra is just starting to tune up. We are only at the very beginning of what will have to be a very extensive weapons search throughout Iraq."
Q: "Before the invasion, there was a lot of talk about Iraq possessing tons of materials for chemical weapons and biological weapons. Was that an exaggeration by the intelligence community or by the administration itself?
A: "I don't think it was an exaggeration by anyone. The tons were based on what Iraqis imported during the 1980s and in some cases the 1990s. And it was all stuff that was documented by the U.N. inspectors. So the question was, where the hell was this stuff? And I think the answer is, we still don't know."
Q: "What would you have done if you were plotting the strategy back in the fall, would you have sought a Security Council resolution?"
A: "Assuming that we were going to war in 2003, or under my longer term scenario?"
Q: "Either way."
A: "For 2003, I think Resolution 1441 was fine; I thought it was actually a very good resolution. But I would not have handled it necessarily the way that the administration did. I would have done one of two things. Either, I would have had the troops all in place and ready to go, and then when the December Iraqi [weapons] declaration came in, which was an absolute farce, I would have then used that as the casus belli to launch the war, because in fact that was the clearest instance of outright Iraqi noncompliance that we got and were ever likely to get."
Put simply, despite the comfort I derive from Iraqi material breach having occurred (thus providing a justification for the war per Resolution 1441) both with regard to the false December weapons declaration and findings of banned WMD materials in Iraq post-war (if in somewhat de minimis quantities) the bottom line is that it's simply too early to judge what the Iraqi regime may or may not have possessed at this juncture. Patience, everyone!
Chalabi Watch Chris Dickey reports
Chris Dickey reports on the Pentagon's man in Newsweek.
Straussians Populating the Beltway Former
Straussians Populating the Beltway
Former U. Chicago prof Leo Strauss' long shadow.
"In "Ravelstein," a biography of Bloom in the form of a novel published in 2000, Saul Bellow depicts the information-avid professor Abe Ravelstein fielding calls on his cellphone from former students who have made their way to high places in government. His disciples include Philip Gorman, a Wolfowitz-like official in the first Bush administration who rings up his former professor to show that he's in the loop. "Powell and Baker," Gorman confides, have advised the President to call a halt to the 1991 gulf war without a march on Baghdad: "They send out a terrific army and give a demonstration of up-to-date high-tech warfare that flesh and blood can't stand up to. But then they leave the dictatorship in place and steal away. . . ." (Not this time.)
The Bush administration is rife with Straussians. In addition to Mr. Wolfowitz, there is his associate Richard N. Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board and the managing partner in Trireme Partners, a venture-capital company heavily invested in manufacturers of technology for homeland security and defense. Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz are both disciples of the late Albert Wohlstetter, a Straussian professor of mathematics and military strategist who put forward the idea of "graduated deterrence" — limited, small-scale wars fought with "smart" precision-guided bombs."
Regular readers will know that I find that such quasi-omnipotent neo-con cabal arguments (written about with increasing frequency) overwrought. There are too many other competing factions in Washington foreign policy circles that wield significant influence. And regardless, as Dan Drezner points out, barely any of these supposed myriad Straussians are even actually serving in the government.
Classical Arms Controllers versus Counter-Proliferators
Classical Arms Controllers versus Counter-Proliferators
Bill Keller on the debate regarding how best to pursue non (or counter) proliferation efforts.
He makes the point that nuclear pre-emption did not begin with Iraq:
"The idea of nuclear pre-emption did not begin with the Iraq war. Robert Litwak, director of international studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has found five earlier instances when states seriously considered using military force to prevent the spread of unconventional weapons. President Kennedy contemplated a preemptive strike on China's nuclear facilities before its first test explosion in 1964, but decided America could cope with a nuclear China. Israel in 1981 bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, enduring much criticism but setting back Saddam's nuclear program significantly. The 1991 gulf war plan targeted Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, although it was a secondary motive for the war. President Clinton thought hard about taking out North Korea's nuclear facilities in 1994, but instead managed to negotiate his way out of what advisers feared would be a new Korean war. And U.S. cruise missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998, ostensibly linked to production of nerve gas -- a claim that has been disputed."
And a good description of the two main camps in the debate:
"Opposing the arms controllers is a new and ascendant camp, which asserts that the old constraints have broken down. Against the ineffectual diplomacy of traditional arms control, they offer a relatively coldblooded self-interest and confrontation most fulsomely demonstrated by the invasion of Iraq, although the menu of options includes surgical intervention, blockades, economic sanctions and the purely political muscle of public exposure and brutal candor.
In the nuclear world, traditionalists talk about ''nonproliferation.'' The new school prefers the more muscular term ''counterproliferation,'' which refers to a subset of activities involving the military. It should not surprise you to learn that under President Bush, the White House office responsible for these issues has renamed itself to incorporate the word ''counterproliferation.'' Iraq was the first ''counterproliferation'' war."
The article is worth reading in its entirety.
May 02, 2003
Vidal Award Nominee A formal
Vidal Award Nominee
A formal Nobel Laureate (1980) from Argentina, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, weighs in with some good old fashioned anti-american vitriol.
"Perversion has no boundaries; but you say to pray to God and you believe you are predestined for humanity. Hitler had the same thoughts when he unleashed his madness and wanted to dominate the world. The God of Life will call you on account for your own crimes. You are guilty of crimes against humanity and you will be judged for the many deaths and suffering against the people of Iraq and other peoples of the world.
The world sees with horror that you are parceling up and giving away that which not yours, that the vultures that surround you are ready to throw themselves over the carcasses and the blood of the Iraqi people, to make lucrative business with the oil. They talk of the "reconstruction of Iraq," colonized and subjected to the interests of the EE.UU. and think of the profits they will make.
You talk of God. And you detest God. You talk of freedom and you destroy freedom. You talk of democracy and dignity, and you do not hesitate in sacrificing them in the altar of the god, Molok, your god of destruction and death. You talk of human rights and you violate them systematically"
Gloomy W. 43rd Street So,
Gloomy W. 43rd Street
So, how does the main NYT story dealing with Bush's speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln announcing that the Iraq campaign is won portray the scene?
First, what is commonly described as a 3 (or 3 and a half) week war is now a six-week war simply, it appears, because of Dubya's timing in terms of this speech and lack of hasty triumphalist rhetoric before then:
"President Bush's made-for-television address tonight on the carrier Abraham Lincoln was a powerful, Reaganesque finale to a six-week war."
Then, of course, the "cold political and military realities" ominously gather:
"But beneath the golden images of a president steaming home with his troops toward the California coast lay the cold political and military realities that drove Mr. Bush's advisers to create the moment."
Then this graf:
"Even so, administration officials acknowledged that Mr. Bush's declaration of an all-but-over war carried huge risks. Not only could Iraq blow up again, they said, but major tasks were also unfinished. Weapons of mass destruction have not been found, Saddam Hussein's fate is a mystery and American troops remain under attack. Some political strategists say the Republican advantage over Democrats on national security has never been greater, and they questioned whether Mr. Bush should so quickly distance himself from his role as commander in chief."
But the NYT itself reported a while back that WMD had been found.
At least a Michael O'Hanlon quote in the piece provides better balance:
"The big event is over," Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution, said. "Why not take a victory lap, and what politico would advise against it? Bush's tone is excellent right now. He's good at the emotions of war. He doesn't appear giddy. He doesn't appear overcongratulatory. He doesn't have Rumsfeld's tendency to go around and boast and taunt his critics."
Even here, of course, the Times ensures a dig at one of Dubya's major cabinet figures.
India-Pakistan Watch Very positive news
Very positive news on this front.
Department of Poor Diplomacy Even
Department of Poor Diplomacy
Even retired French diplomats are getting into the fray in the pages of Le Monde criticizing de Villepin's Quai D'Orsay for various diplomatic missteps:
"La veille d'une intervention militaire américaine en Irak que tout le monde savait inéluctable, le déplacement précipité du ministre des affaires étrangŹres ą Luanda, Yaoundé et Conakry, toutes capitales de pays singuliŹrement respectueux des droits de l'homme, était-il indispensable?"
Translation: "Was it indispensable to precipitously send the [French] Foreign Minister to Luanda, Yaounde and Conakry, all capitals of countries singularly respectful of human rights, on the eve of an American military intervention in Iraq that the entire world knew was inevitable?"
UPDATE: More regret in French quarters.
"What is surprising is the talk on Parisian streets. Sure you still run into the odd group of men who stand around bitching about America--who make faces when they hear an American accent or who reflexively launch into the "this war was for petrol" loop. But you also hear a surprising number of people concerned that Chirac went too far.
A business dinner organized during the war by my husband's colleagues in Boulougne, St. Cloud, a banlieue chic of Paris, shed light on the new position. It's not, these people were quick to explain, that they were in favor of "Bush's war." Nor did they care much for the American president. But, just like Raffarin, who qualified his position as antiwar but pro-American, they worry that Chirac has forever marginalized the country. As one put it, "Who are our allies today? Iraq? China and Russia? China and Russia are not our natural allies, the United States is."
And these questions have clearly bubbled up to the country's political and intellectual elite. Over dinner a few nights later at a tiny restaurant in the fourth arrondissement, I couldn't help but notice that the party next to us was arguing. The issue, of course, was the war. But, contrary to what we might have expected, not simply how to be against the war. One diner was actually arguing that French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin should never have taken such an aggressive antiwar stance. Turned out the advocate of this position was chief of staff for a member of the French parliament. He was completely in favor of the American position--a rarity in Paris, especially for someone accompanied by a group of friends who are pretty adamant in their opposition to American foreign policy. But M. Chief-of-Staff was quick to say he knew other staffers who supported his position."
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
--New York Times
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Tuscan Jaunt This weekend through
Evian Watch So, how is
Maureen Won't Come Clean So
French Revisionism Watch Spinning aplenty
Multilateralism versus Unilateralism A false
Abbas Watch Curious about new
Vietnam Syndrome RIP Timarchic values
Iran Watch New information suggesting
More Anti-American Cartoon Fun in
Powell in Paris Certainly no
English Language Media
New York Times
New York Observer
The New Yorker
Real Clear Politics
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
Safire and Company
The Reliable Source
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The American Scene
Winds of Change
Roger L. Simon
B.D. In the Press
The Sunday Times(UK)"If It Makes America Look Bad It Must Be True, Musn't It?"
The Guardian "Trial and Error"
Online Journalism Review "Feeling Misquoted? Weblogs Transcripts Let the Reader Decide"
Online Journalism Review "Bloggers Rate the Most Influential Blogs" (see chart)
The Sunday Times (UK) "Rise of the Virtual Soapbox"
Middle East-Peace Process
U.S. Foreign Policy