Saturday, June 25, 2005

Brother, can you spare a dime for a roadside bomb? 

"Who's funding the insurgents in Iraq? The list of suspects is long: ex-Baathists, foreign jihadists, and angry Sunnis, to name a few. Now add to that roster hard-core Euroleftists," writes David E. Kaplan in "US News & World Report."
Turns out that far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government. In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq), the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti. The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. "It's the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd," says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. "The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism." The groups are working on an October conference to further support "the Iraqi Resistance." A key goal is to expand backing for the insurgents from the fringe left to the broader antiwar and antiglobalization movements.
Vidino doubts the fund-raising muscle of Euro far-left, and I would tend to agree. Saddam hasn't robbed Iraq for quarter of a century for nothing; the insurgency has enough local sources of support to get it going. Then there are always the proceeds of crime. Two days ago, Donny George, director of Iraq's National Museum, made a plea to Western antiquities collectors to stop buying looted Iraqi artifacts, not only because the illicit trade is robbing Iraq of its rich cultural heritage, but also because its proceeds are funding the insurgency. Thus the neo-Baathists are selling Iraq's ancient past to help restore Iraq's more recent past. So much for the patriotic, nationalistic resistance.

But back to our Euro-fiends. So far, the active collaboration with the Iraqi "resistance" has been a domain of the political fringe. The problem, though, is not and has never been a few extremists with their ten euros contributions, but the mainstream of the European politics - left-wing but not exclusively - which has tried since the beginning to sabotage the project of the liberation of Iraq. That has proven so far to be lot more dangerous than anything that the far-left "pass the hat" could buy.


Turkish lack of delights 

In case you've missed it - and who wouldn't - the last installment of a travesty known as the "World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI)" has been slowly unfolding in Istanbul:
Making opening remarks of the culminating session, Arundhati Roy, spokesperson of the Jury of Conscience, said, "the testimonies at the previous sessions of the WTI in Brussels and New York have demonstrated that even those of us who have tried to follow the war in Iraq closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq."
One of the "Tribunal"'s "Advocates" Richard Falk says everything you really need to know about the whole exercise:
"Of course, this tribunal does not pretend to be a normal court of law with powers of enforcement. At the same time, it is acting on behalf of the peoples of the world to uphold respect for international law... This tribunal differs from a normal court of law in the following main respects: it is an organ of civil society, not of the state, and its essential purpose is to confirm the truth, not to discover it."
Enough said, except to mention that I really love how some people who were never elected to anything, and most of whom have no hope of ever being elected to anything, seem to always speak on behalf of "the people". As with their approach to legal process, they obviously do not need to "discover" if they actually speak for anyone at all, by for example putting themselves up as candidates in democratic elections; no, that "truth" has already been "confirmed" in their minds, mostly by other like-minded (or like-mindless) champions of "civil society", and by the fact that the media still pays them any attention.

The last word should go to appropriately named participant, Larry Everest, who has managed to build this towering mountain of lies: "With two wars and 13 years of criminal sanctions, the United States has been responsible for more deaths in Iraq than Saddam Hussein."

How do you top that?


A burning issue, continued 

Since my last post about the new anti-flag desecration bill, the reactions in the comments section and the blogosphere generally have been overwhelmingly against, to the extent that surprised even myself. The right side of the 'sphere is as patriotic as they come, but the commitment to the First Amendment seems to be much stronger than any discomfort or hurt at the occasional sight of the stars and stripes being immolated by mindless protesters.

Still, we in the blog echo-chamber should beware of underestimating the community support for the measure. All the Reps and Senators voting for it obviously feel there is a significant constituency out there for the constitutional amendment, obviously more so in the redder parts of the country. The constituency might not be particularly large (it's certainly far from a majority), but if I were to venture a guess, most conservative politicians would think at the moment that those on the right who oppose the bill (such as most of the blogosphere, it seems) will more readily forgive them voting for it than those on the right who support the bill will forgive them for voting against it. Call it pragmatic politics or call it opportunism, playing to the base, or at least a part of the base it's a fact of political life.

Still, while I'm not against symbolism, I'm also all for prioritizing, and as many readers suggested there are perhaps more pressing issues than flag desecration to worry about at the moment. In the aftermath of the Kelo decision, for example, I would argue that a bigger threat to the American way of life is coming right now from governments that want to take away your flagpole than from a few morons who want to burn a flag.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove drives them wild 

Karl Rove has briefly emerged from the vast underground bunker underneath Washington DC from where he controls the world's affairs to address a New York State's Conservative Party function. Among other things, Rove had this to say:
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
The Dems, predictably, didn't like it. Senator Reid called on Rove to apologize or resign, Senator Clinton found the remarks insulting, Howard Dean divisive and an example of damaging rhetoric (and he should know), Nancy Pelosi thought them a sign of desperation.

Welcome to the wonderful minefield of political rhetoric. What Rove arguably should have said was something like this:
"When most conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; too many liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments, while still others offered therapy and understanding for our attackers."
But we don't use qualifiers too often, because they're messy and they detract from the impact. We regularly sacrifice strict correctness for the sake of brevity, crispness and the force of the prose.

While guilty of making broad - and thus inaccurate - generalization, Rove is correct to point out that all too many liberals, from John Kerry down, insisted that the war on terror should not be a war but a law enforcement operation. And all too many leftists (they're not really liberals, but since the mainstream media insists on calling every socialist a liberal, you can hardly blame Rove for using the commonly accepted Beltway terminology) chose to blame America first.

Both of those propositions can be supported by an avalanche of appropriate quotes, which Rove could have easily quoted to his listeners if only he really wanted to in turn bore and disgust them (and which the GOP Chair subsequently did - hat tip: LGF).

Now, it's nice to see the Democratic Party jump on the "don't question our patriotism" bandwagon, but after a few weeks of deafening silence in response to hysterics by Charles Rangel and Dick Durbin the pitch just doesn't sound right. In fact, the very controversy over Guantanamo demonstrates the point that Rove made: for the right, Gitmo's inmates should be treated like the ununiformed enemy combatants they are (and considering how uniformed enemy combatants have been treated in past conflicts, and indeed are allowed to be treated, Guantanamo is Club Fed); for the left, they should be tried immediately in the court of law (preferably in California) and in the meantime treated with all the creature comforts of federal penitentiaries.

All that Rove could have said is that the conservatives are simply more resolute, more single-minded, and more uncompromising - and therefore more dependable - in the pursuit of the war on terror. But it arguably didn't have the same ring to it.


Gitmo versus Iraq 

Instapundit: "Interestingly, only 20% of Americans think that the Guantanamo prisoners are being treated unfairly, which is pretty astonishing given the colossal amount of uniformly negative Guantanamo-related coverage. This suggests that overplaying their hand has been as big a mistake as I thought."

As these things do, it got me thinking.

As it coincidentally happened, I've had a brief exchange recently with my good blog-buddy Bill Roggio about what some perceive to be a growing number of reasonably positive (or at least not bomb-obsessed) stories coming out in the mainstream media about Iraq. I've been monitoring the coverage pretty carefully for well over a year now, and while this is not an exact science, I haven't noticed any major spike in positive reporting lately (although the overall tenor seems to be slowly and gradually improving). There is always a flurry of more positive media surrounding events where the good news quotient is objectively so high that it's difficult to completely spin it away (for example, the democratic election, any major offensive that kills 100 insurgents, the international summit that brings the US, the EU and the UN together in the commitment to help Iraq). We are perhaps seeing such events more frequently now, which would account for the perception of improving coverage, but there has been a little flow-on effect to your everyday reporting; little effort to go out and write other good news stories aside from the obvious.

I replied to Bill that I would be surprised, anyway, if the MSM had experienced a sudden conversion on the road to Damascus (or Baghdad, as the case may be) now that the opinion polls suggest more Americans are considering the involvement in Iraq to have been a bad move. It would be tantamount to saying "Oh dear, maybe we did go in a bit too negative and now see what happened to the public opinion. Can't have the American people at the time of war losing faith in their Commander-in-Chief and the mission. We better start focusing more on the good news." I don't think so.

So the question is - why did the uniformly negative reporting about Guantanamo have so little impact on the American public, but the uniformly negative reporting about Iraq eventually did?

I can see several reasons:

1) because of 9/11, terrorism seems more relevant to the American people than Iraq; understandably there is lot more animosity against members of an organization that had demolished Twin Towers than there is to some local fascists on the distant Euphrates.

2) Iraq is costing money (a lot) and lives of American soldiers; Gitmo is merely a spare change and no one dies there - quite the opposite, the detainees only gain weight.

3) coverage of Iraq has been saturating and uniformly negative for over two year now; by comparison, coverage ofGuantanamoo has been until recently quite sporadic.

4) by focusing on the more ridiculous aspects of Guantanamo (lack of air-conditioning, fake-menstruating female interrogators, flushed Korans, Christina Aguilera music), the media ensured that the public would consider the whole thing a joke.

The moral of the story? The Administration still has a lot of political capital - and therefore latitude - as far as fighting terrorism is concerned. Anecdotally, I would venture an observation that most Americans think the war on terror is going quite well, the Bush team hasn't made too many bad moves, and if they have, these are largely forgivable in the context of the bigger picture.

You can expect the smarter Democratic strategists to start implementing the exit strategy from the Guantanamo quagmire. Unfortunately for the Administration, the Dem exit leads back to Iraq, which has now become not only the major battleground against Jihad International, but also the main battleground of the American civil war.


Torturous arguments 

The funniest thing I've read today:
Q: What is Gitmo?

A: Contrary to what some suggest, it does not stand for "Git mo' Peking chicken for Muhammad, he wants a second portion." It stands for "Guantanamo," a facility the United States built to see if the left would ever care about human rights abuses in Cuba. The experiment has apparently been successful.
(hat tip: Instapundit) .

One person who doesn't think that Lileks is funny is Greg Djereijan. Great thing about the blogosphere - two good and thoughtful writers coming to very different conclusions, both at your fingertips. Read and make up your mind.

By the way: I sometimes wonder whether all the people agitating for the Guantanamo (and other) detainees to be recognized as Prisoners of War and thus granted protection under the Geneva Convention really know what they're wishing for.

Captured Al Qaeda (or even Taliban) members clearly don't come under the definition of prisoner of war in Article 4 (you can read the Convention here, if you're really bored). But even if, for the sake of argument, they did - sure they would gain many rights they currently not enjoy (for starters, "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever" - Article 17), but you have to remember that the "Detaining Power" can keep POWs interned until the close of hostilities.

The close of hostilities, of course, is easily enough determined where the war is conducted between the sovereign states, but when are we going to have the close of hostilities against Al Qaeda? Certainly the jihadis will never capitulate, so they must be defeated, which in turn might take years, if not decades.

Is the left, then, prepared to see the Guantanamo detainees being kept in much better condition than Camp X-ray, to be sure, but pretty much in an indefinite internment? I think we know the answer to that, which is why the whole Geneva Convention question is a distraction from the main line of attack, namely that the war on terror should not actually be a war but a law enforcement operation. That only entails the deprivation of liberty if found guilty of charges - and therefore, arguably, would mean most detainees walking free, which seems to be the ultimate objective of the Gitmo haters.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Humanizing Hussein 

Our frequent correspondent Haider Ajinas writes:
Recently most of the mainstream media have been promoting a human side to Saddam. Poor old Uncle Saddam, as it were. If this goes on we will soon forget what this man has done. We must not forget the evil this man is and what he has done, lest we wish history to repeat itself.

Saddam Hussein has not a thread of humanity in him. Every act of his is cold and calculated with an end purpose in mind. That purpose being self-preservation and self-indulgence at the cost of all others and at what ever means possible. Saddam has been a thug since his teenage years. He was implicated and later convicted of attempting to assassinate Iraqi prime minister Abdel-Karim Qassem in 1958. Later he was implicated in the mysterious death of his Baathist predecessor Bakar after Baker retired. Shortly after Saddam became president in 1979, he convened a high level Baathist meeting during which he had close allies and friends escorted out of the meeting room and shot, just for being to close to him. Saddam then proceeded to rule Iraq with an Iron fist. He gassed the Kurds, bombed the Shiites, attacked the Iranians, attacked the Kuwaitis, sponsored terrorist camps, financed terrorists, (one of his personal body guards trained in Afghanistan at an Al Qaeda camp), murdered over 1 million Iraqis, maimed, tortured and raped many more for political reasons, orphaned his grandchildren. The list goes on and on.

I ask you are the above acts those of a human being?

Saddam is evil personified: a thug, a mass murderer, a rapist, a torturer. He is not a poor old man stuck in isolation, nor does he deserve any sympathy for his current condition. We must never forget what this man and others of his ilk have done to humanity, unless we wish it to happen again and again.
Hitler was an artist and a vegetarian who liked children and dogs. It didn't make him quite human either.


A burning issue 

The House on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag, a measure rejected twice by the Senate in the past decade but expected to get a closer vote this year.

By a 286-130 vote - eight more than needed - House members approved the amendment by the required two-thirds majority after a debate over whether such a ban would run afoul of the Constitution's free-speech protections...

Sixty-three senators, four short of two-thirds needed, voted for the amendment in 1995 and again in 2000. With Republicans increasing their majority in last fall's election, activists on both sides of the issue said the amendment has its pass chance ever of passing this year. But a rough count by The Associated Press shows 34 - one more than needed to defeat it - either as having voted against the amendment in the past or committed publicly to opposing it.
If the bill won't get up in the Senate this might all be a moot point, but I'm of two minds on this issue.

On one hand, I understood very well the respect and veneration that the flag deservedly enjoys as a national symbol among the majority of patriotic and fair-minded citizens. And every time I see a home-grown leftie or a resident of the Middle East burning the flag, I think to myself "What a loser."

On the other hand, tolerating losers is the price we pay for freedom of speech. Even with anti-flag desecration laws in place, people will still insist on burning flags, but in addition to revealing themselves publicly as morons, they will at the same time inevitably acquire the aura of martyrs for the freedom of speech.

An argument can be made that people burn American flags because America is great, and one of the reasons that America is great is because people can burn American flags.

Charles Johnson goes against the amendment. I'll be interested to find out how the other bloggers will break on this issue (although, as usual, any real debate will be on the right side of the blogosphere). Your thoughts?


Hell freezes over, Noel Gallagher makes sense 

In the continuing saga of Live 8, now comes Oasis' outspoken Noel Gallagher with his comment on the latest awareness-raising concert project:
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick 15 minute break at Gleneagles (in Scotland) and sees Annie Lennox singing 'Sweet Dreams' and thinks, 'F**k me, she might have a point there, you know?'

"Keane doing 'Somewhere Only We Know' and some Japanese businessman going, 'Aw, look at him... we should really f**king drop that debt, you know.'

"It's not going to happen, is it?"
Well, it's not supposed work quite like that - I think Geldof & Co want to raise the awareness of the general public, which in turn might start exerting some pressure on their elected representatives to change current policies towards Africa and the rest of the developing world. This might or might not work as well as your next awareness-raising campaign, but Gallagher nevertheless raises an interesting point (yes, the end is most definitely nigh) - in the greater scheme of things, Live 8 is looking increasingly more like an afterthought, an effect rather than a cause. You see, pretty much all the major debates about Africa have already taken place over the past few years, and more or less all the important decisions have already been made by the world leaders (some of them quite recently, and some of them probably haven't come to light yet), all with a very limited input from rock concerts.

That the new paradigm in helping the developing world is increasingly on the agenda owes to an unusual and fortuitous combination of factors and personalities: President Bush's compassionate conservatism breaking onto the international stage, successful lobbying efforts by conservative Christian leaders, Tony Blair's Christian socialist inclinations combined with a desire to secure an even firmer place in history, and not the least, some politically smart networking and lobbying by people like Geldof and Bono, who actually didn't have to in the process sing a single note for Africa's supper.

I love music, but music doesn't change the world. People do. Live 8 might only obscure the fact that some much-needed changes have already been happening for some time now and will keep on unfolding regardless of the artistic input from 50 Cents, Faith Hill and the reformed Pink Floyd.


Mississippi Sneering 

A few days ago, I wrote about Senator Byrd's recent attempts to whitewash (no pun intended) the Klan to justify his youthful involvement in that organization. As becomes of anything that touches upon "the Conscience of the Senate", the media has generally been pretty receptive and unquestioning of Byrd's version of history. For myself, I enjoyed the debate that ensued in the comments section, though was amazed at some emails I received in response, such as this one:
God Bless Robert Byrd and the KKK to which he once proudly belonged. Here is a man of dignity who wasn't afraid to embrace his white heritage. Too many Americans today act almost embarrassed to be white. You should be proud! Bring back the KKK, maybe they could help save America from the jewish [sic] domination under which we now all suffer.
I hasten to add that it wasn't from a regular reader of this blog but from somebody who followed a link to my post from AOL.

The MSM, which considers Byrd a man of dignity, but for different reasons, is far readier to give the Democrat Senator a benefit of the doubt than they are to some Southern communities, if stories like this one are anything to go by:

"The Washington Post"'s Neely Tucker has recently returned on an anthropological expedition to her home state of Mississippi to watch the conclusion of the trail of Edgar Ray Killen, the KKK scum, now found guilty of involvement in killings of three conservative civil rights activists in 1964, a shameful episode immortalised in "Mississippi Burning" (has Gene Hackman ever had a bad performance?).

On the hustings in the infamous Neshoba County, Tucker discovers that
there was a multiracial coalition that pushed for the trial, for closure, for what might be called racial reconciliation. They were truly admirable people.

But there was also a lot of apathy and surly attitudes. Whites tended to be exasperated -— almost all of them I spoke to, no matter their age, resented how they were portrayed in the national media, as if the media had somehow made them the victims in all this.
Tucker's piece being the perfect example of the sort of national media portrayal that white Neshobites are so resentful of:
They got Edgar Ray. Not the black people he so detests. Not the reporters from New York and Washington and London, whom he loves to taunt and threatens to shoot. Not the card-carrying ACLU commies.

No, it was Edgar Ray Killen's Neshoba County neighbors -— conservative white folk who vote Republican in overwhelming numbers - who dropped the hammer on him in the Philadelphia, Miss., courthouse.
Oh my God, they'’re... conservative... they'’re... white... and they... they... they vote Republican... in overwhelming numbers... And yet those weird, horrible people still managed to unanimously convict a KKK murderer. How can this be? A shock to Tucker's system.

It seems that people in the Neshoba County have moved on in the past 40 years, away from the Democratic Party which still dominated the Southern politics in the 1960s, away from the Klan which used to have many local sympathisers, away from the widespread racism and bigotry. Sadly, the mainstream media has not moved on from their favorite stereotypes of all Southerners as white rednecks ready to lynch the nearest African-American at a drop of a (white) hat.

And so, Neely Tucker is astounded that a jury of nine whites and three blacks had no problem in coming to terms with the County's dark past and convicted one of their own, their "neighbour." What did Tucker think it was - Los Angeles?

While grudgingly admitting "But guilty, they said", Tucker then bemoans the fact that "It wasn't pretty. It wasn't textbook" because the jury convicted Killen on manslaughter instead of murder, but then quotes the prosecuting attorney:
"It's not a perfect verdict, but it wasn't a perfect case, either," Mark Duncan, the local district attorney who prosecuted the case along with the state attorney general, said at a televised news conference after the verdict.

"Of the four people testifying against Mr. Killen, three of them were dead. ... I'm not going to criticize" the jury. It's a fair legal point, and also a fair cultural one. There was no physical evidence linking Killen to the crime, nor was there any testimony that he was present when the young men were killed. Most of the testimony was from Klan informants who had been paid for their court appearances by the FBI. If you're looking for reasonable doubt, that is something to hang your hat on, and not just in Mississippi.
Not wanting to harp too much on this point, but LA juries were known to acquit on evidence ten times stronger than this. Maybe it's time to cut "the conservative, churchgoing white population" some slack? Maybe it's the blue states that are increasingly at odds with the mainstream of the country?


Today's competition 

"Like Thatcher only worse - as arrogant as she was but even more selfish."
The non-arrogant and non-selfish Jacques Chirac said that about whom?

Answer here.


Thursday reading 

There simply isn't enough time in a day to visit even a fraction of all the good blogs - so, if you have something good to share with readers, don't be shy and let me know in the future.

Meanwhile, plenty of good stuff today:

Dean Esmay analyses Iraqi combat casualties.

Plenty of goodies at Winds of Change, including the latest Winds of War round-up of news you might have missed from all fronts of the war on terror.

At Right Wing News, bloggers' list of people who are screwing America: "Which Republican Senator finished inbetween Noam Chomsky & Robert Byrd? Ouch!"

In a follow-up to my post about the disgraceful behavior by the Westboro Baptist Church, Ninme (here and here) and the Stupid Shall be Punished have a report and photos from a similar recent incident.

Engage: "George Galloway has announced that his Respect party intends to target the Liverpool Riverside parliamentary constituency that is currently held by Louise Ellman, who he says is 'Israel's MP on Merseyside'."

Siberian Light is hosting the latest Carnival of the Revolutions.

Chester thinks it's time for a presidential pep talk to rally the American people.

Donald Sensing blogs about anonymous blogging.

Quillnews has a very interesting post on the recent American-Vietnamese rapprochement. But the Blue State Conservatives argues in a rush to kiss and make up we shouldn't forget about the issue of religious freedom.

Crossroads Arabia has a short Q&A with Thomas Lippman, author of "Inside the Mirage" - "currently the best book in print on Saudi Arabia."

The Durbin apology -– the video on the Political Teen. Blackfive is not impressed.

From Germany, Kosmoblog writes about the parallel universe inhabited by the European political class.

And speaking of things German, Davids Medienkritik is promoting a rally in Washington on June 27 to let Chancellor Schroeder know the feelings about anti-Americanism being fostered by the German political class.

Transatlantic Intelligencer updates on the recently released French hostage - the plot indeed thickens.

PunditGuy: "I can't help it. Nowadays, when I read press statements, or when a source (credited or not) puts news out, a little movie runs in my head about how the decision was made to release the information."

Regime Change Iran has an open letter to Western media in Iran.

And Media Slander maintains the rage on Foleygate.


Terror Australis 

This interesting piece of information doesn't seem to have been picked up by the media in Australia.

On Monday, 20 June, Channel 10 News had a story on the rapturous welcome given by the Sydney Islamic community given to Sheik Hilaly upon his return from the Middle East, where he spent the last few weeks trying to secure the release of the Australian hostage Douglas Wood.

In amongst the otherwise standard report, this:
John Hill (journalist, in voiceover): "In Baghdad, they [the Hilaly mission] were under constant threat from American troops."

Qusai Abdulaziz, Iraqi guide: "I am sure they would kill us, so I thank God I am here alive in my country."
Now, this is a pretty serious charge that at the very least deserves clarification. Did Mr Abdulaziz really seriously mean that he feared the American troops would kill him? If so, what was that fear based on? Was it just Mr Abdulaziz, or did the rest of the mission share the perception of a "constant threat" and the fear of being killed by the US troops? What does Sheik Hilaly think about all this?

In other news from the war on terror:
Counter-terrorist officers have raided at least four Melbourne homes after uncovering evidence that Islamic extremists were planning attacks on prominent city landmarks.

The raids followed a 10-month investigation during which ASIO officers and police tracked a number of known extremists as they made a series of road trips between Sydney and Melbourne.

At least one member of the group was observed taking video footage of two Melbourne train stations and the Australian Stock Exchange in Collins Street.

When questioned earlier by agents, the suspect admitted he was filming the buildings but claimed he needed the footage to help him train as a taxi driver.
Because whenever I jump into a cab, I always show the driver the picture of my destination and say: "Could you take me there?"


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Guest blogger: Oil for the People - The Iraqi People 

As the latest guest blogger on Chrenkoff, I am proud to bring you Boston-based financial writer Lenny Glynn, who has been a staff editor at "BusienssWeek", Senior Writer at "Institutional Investor" and European Bureau Chief for "Global Finance Magazine". In 1992 he served as a campaign speechwriter for then-Governor, Bill Clinton.

As efforts to build Iraq's political future, and to include the Sunni minority in the process, continue, Lenny Glenn proposes a scheme which would give every Iraqi a stake - literary - in their country's future. So let's make Iraq a war for oil - for all Iraqis.

Oil for the People - The Iraqi People

As vicious as the post-Saddam struggle for power in Iraq is, there is a powerful political weapon that no party or faction in that country has taken up - yet. Once deployed, this weapon could, at a stroke, undercut the insurgency, promise the vast majority of the Iraqi people a far richer future than any they have known and create a powerful, long-term force for democracy, national unity and economic development.

The weapon, of course, is oil. The way to deploy is to offer to share this vast wealth with the Iraqi people - directly - just as the State of Alaska shares surplus oil revenues through the Alaska Permanent Fund with its 600,000 citizens.

To that end, an Iraqi political party or leader could declare that it seeks to write into the country's constitution a provision creating a new national investment fund - call it The Iraqi People's Freedom Trust - which would be credited with a substantial share of all future Iraqi oil earnings. Initially at least, revenues directed to the Trust could be invested mainly in Iraqi government bonds, which would spur the development of the public debt market and leverage the central government's asset flow. A sizeable cash reserve could be held to cover future withdrawals by individual Iraqis.

All 25 million-plus Iraqis - men, women and children - should to eligible to claim an equal, personal investment account in the Freedom Trust. All they need do would be prove Iraqi birth and pledge allegiance to the government. Adult citizens should be free, at any time, to ask for a calculation of their account's value and withdraw up to their full balance - no questions asked. The majority of assets, those held for minors (Iraq's median age is 19) would be held in trust, bearing interest, until the owners came of age.

Such a proposal would have a powerful impact, even as just a campaign promise.

For the first time in the history of Iraq, indeed, of oil nations generally - a new set of leaders would be offering every Iraqi citizen an ownership stake in the country's vast oil wealth. Iraq's 113 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas constitute a multi-trillion dollar treasure. Yet this national patrimony, long-since nationalized - allegedly on behalf of the people - has been routinely abused and looted in the past.

The promise to create a Freedom Trust would distinguish its proponents as genuine reformers, seeking to break with the old pattern of statist, top-down control of Iraq's natural resources. As in many oil-rich nations, state ownership has formed the material base for tyranny - enabling whatever faction controls the government to do what Bertolt Brecht once joked about: effectively dismiss its own people.

Holding control over oil revenues that account for the vast majority of GDP - and for 95% of Iraq's foreign exchange earnings - has enabled the central government to dominate and manipulate civil society - doling out jobs, contracts, favors and privileges, buying weapons, building palaces - while remaining wholly beyond popular accountability. In that negative sense, as in many other oil-rich nations, Iraq's black gold has been the key object - and corrupter - of Iraqi politics throughout the Saddam era up to and including the oil-for-food program administered by the U.N.

By contrast, any system that declares a significant share of Iraq's oil revenues to be the personal property of the Iraqi people would create both a powerful material base for democracy and a strong incentive for public accountability and transparency in the production - and use - of the nation's natural wealth.

The precise institutional form that such a system might take is less important than the principle that Iraq's natural wealth should belong, by right, to its people first of all, not to whatever faction currently holds state power. As Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith of George Mason University wrote last year in supporting the handover of all of Iraq's natural resources to popular ownership: "The details, if wrong, can later be repaired. The principle, once corrupted, can never be re-instated... The principle of individual ownership (must) be primary."

The actual adoption of such a plan would have both immediate and compounding benefits. For example, it would give all Iraqi women direct, personal claims on wealth - a real first. It would also jump-start spending, investment and bottom-up economic development even in remote regions much faster than any centralized aid scheme. Poor and rural Iraqis, who have never seen a dime's worth of the wealth extorted by top-level Ba'athists, would have a strong incentive to register for accounts in the Trust and claim their fair share. Word of the first cash redemptions from the Trust would soon give all Iraqis - whatever their ethnicity, sect or tribe - a strong, equal, bankable and growing stake in the country's future stability.

We're not talking small money here. Even amid ongoing war and sabotage, Iraq today pumps over 2 million barrels of oil a day -– roughly $80 million a day or more than $28 billion worth a year at $40 a barrel. A more stable Iraq could pump 5 million barrels a day or more - nearly $45 billion a year even if prices were to fall to $25 a barrel. Even after accounting for the oil industry's costs and domestic consumption, crediting one third or more of future net revenues to a Freedom Trust would ensure every single Iraqi a growing wealth stream worth hundreds of dollars a year. That is serious money in a country whose per capita gross national product is calculated by the CIA at roughly $1500.

More importantly, the campaign to establish a Freedom Trust could redefine what's truly at stake in the country's current civil war. It would offer every Iraqi not only freedom in the abstract but an income to make concrete use of that freedom while also watching future wealth build up in trust for their children. "Insurgents" could be redefined as what they are - a congeries of factions struggling to reestablish their power to loot Iraq's wealth - perhaps the first "National Re-enslavement Front" in history. "Oil for the People" could trump the appeal of Ba'athists and jihadis alike. Certainly it is a slogan - and a policy - that anyone can understand.

Creating an "ownership society" in Iraq could not only fuel democracy in one country. It could set a worthy example for other oil-rich nations. It could help secure a lasting peace, grounded in commonsense, Rawlsian justice. Such an outcome might, in some measure, redeem the sacrifices that Iraqis, Americans and our coalition allies are now enduring.


Wednesday recommended reading 

If you haven't done so already: John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, journalists for "The Economist" and the authors of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America," argue that American conservatives should cheer up.

Their basic point that conservatives should not get obsessed or disheartened by "snapshot[s] of recent events" and should instead look at the big picture, is a valid one, and one that I've made on this blog many times before. In any endeavor there are always setbacks and problems along the way. Our increasingly faster way of life, combined with the 24 hour news cycle, only exacerbate the tendency to focus on "now". As events lose context, we lose perspective, and instead of recognizing that we are a part of the great chain of life, we're only conscious of lurching from one crisis to the next.

So, dear right, take a deep breath and relax a bit.


Sickening idiots of the day 

A radical Midwestern hate group plans to protest at the funerals of two local soldiers killed in action, claiming the slain heroes "were cast into hell to join many more dishonorable Americans."

The Westboro Baptist Church, proclaiming "thank God for IEDs" or roadside bombs, claims the 9/11 attacks and American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are God's vengeance on a nation that is tolerant of homosexuality.
The Westboro Baptist Church is hardly a stranger to controversy, most recently rejoicing that the Asian tsunami killed Scandinavian homosexual sex tourists.

All things considered, the three or however few members the "church" has probably deserve a punch on the head from American servicemen - better still gay servicemen - but our soldiers are better than that. Plus, getting exposed through your own words in the court of public opinion as a complete moron is a punishment enough.

And so the last word goes to John Maloney, the father of slain Marine Capt. John Maloney, whose funeral the Westboro nutcases chose to protest:
"He fought and died for their right to do what they do... I may not agree with what they do. This is still the United States of America, isn't it?... I'll pray for them."


Vets versus the meme 

Straight from the horse's mouth:
Browning, 56, of Paradise, Calif., and Weatherhead, 57, of Elk Grove, Calif., are grandfathers. They first flew combat missions in Vietnam, before most of the soldiers in the current Army were born. They and others their age are here with the National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, which includes some of the oldest soldiers to serve in combat for the modern U.S. Army. Few soldiers or officers in the military, other than the service's top generals, are as old.

If there are parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, these graying soldiers and the other Vietnam veterans serving here offer a unique perspective. They say they are more optimistic this time: They see a clearer mission than in Vietnam, a more supportive public back home and an Iraqi population that seems to be growing friendlier toward Americans.

"In Vietnam, I don't think the local population ever understood that we were just there to help them," says Chief Warrant Officer James Miles, 57, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who flew UH-1H Hueys in Vietnam from February 1969 to February 1970. And the Vietcong and North Vietnamese were a tougher, more tenacious enemy, he says. Instead of setting off bombs outside the base, they'd be inside.

"I knew we were going to lose Vietnam the day I walked off the plane," says Miles, who returned home this month after nearly a year in Iraq. Not this time. "There's no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do," he says.
And so "USA Today" performs a valuable public service for the USA today: "Vietnam vets in Iraq see 'entirely different war'" ? read the whole thing. It won't kill off the meme, because it's far too useful for the ideological descendants of those who turned Vietnam into "Vietnam", but it might give sensible people a pause.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Almost 25 years ago 

Zaczelo sie w Gdansku - It began in Gdansk.

This is the official slogan of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the founding of "Solidarity" - arguably, as the official poster suggests, the first domino, whose fall eventually led to democratization of Eastern and Central Europe and the end of the Soviet Union.

And, 25 years later, dominoes still keep falling. Ukraine is the most recent so far, but as the Lord Mayor of Gdansk Pawel Adamowicz reminds us (link in Polish), "There are three dots at the end of the list, because there are still countries in Europe that are awaiting freedom. The next one is line is Belarus."

The official celebrations will start on 14 August and will continue for two weeks, culminating on the 31st, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the August Accords, which officially gave birth to the first independent trade union in the communist world.

I'll be updating you on the celebrations throughout next month.


Happy drafting 

Our special correspondent Haider Ajina reports on some more good news from Iraq:
The following is a translation of a headline and article in the June 21st edition of the Iraqi Arabic newspaper "Alsabah":

Iraq's Constitution is 80% complete

The president of the Iraqi constitutional committee Mr. Humam Hamudi announced that the constitutional committee has completed 80% of the Iraqi constitution and is determined to complete its mission before August 15th. He added that the committee meets daily to take advantage of the wide Arab Sunni participation. Jawad Alamleki (a Sunni member of the committee) said that constitution will emerge with strong Iraqi personality and there are no serious disagreements in dissertation over its contents.
The last 20% will undoubtedly prove to be more difficult than the first 80%, but it's encouraging to see this - under-reported - progress. Best of luck to the drafting committee.


Happy World Refugee Day 

It was the World Refugee Day and the top UN refugees honcho had this message to the world:
Nations such as Uganda that host hundreds of thousands of refugees are a lesson to the West, where asylum policies are increasingly restrictive, the head of the U.N. refugee agency said on Monday.

Marking World Refugee Day with a first overseas trip in the role, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres was visiting camps in one of the world's remotest corners: northwest Uganda near borders with Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Uganda is not rich and Uganda has plenty of its own problems," Guterres told hundreds of Sudanese refugees from neighbouring African conflicts at Ikafe camp, after children performed traditional dances in his honour.

"But they didn't say enough is enough -- that is especially remarkable in today's world. In my part of the world we are seeing policies that are more and more restrictive when it comes to refugees," the former Portuguese prime minister said.
Kudos to Uganda - but - there is another "lesson to the West" in all this; one that sadly I wouldn't expect an U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and/or former Socialist politician to voice:

The number of refugees around the world fell in 2004 - fourth year in a row in - by 4 per cent, to a lowest figure since 1980. Since 2000, five million refugees have returned home -– including 3.5 million Afghans and another several hundred thousand Iraqis.

The lesson? Want to make inroads into reducing refugee numbers - overthrow tyrants and restore peace. So this World Refugee Day, congratulations Uganda, but also congratulations America and the Willing.

The UN writes that "The decline in the global refugee number for a fourth year in succession can largely be attributed to an almost unprecedented level of voluntary repatriation."

I prefer an almost unprecedented level of liberation and democratization.


Confirm him 

I don't know about you, but being "UNdiplomatic" is the best reason to send Ambassador Bolton to represent the United States at such an "UNderwhelming" international body.


Dean: going really hard 

Drudge reports:
In a defiant speech at a party fund-raiser in Boston, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean vowed Monday to continue his fiery critiques of the Republican Party...

Fresh editions of the BOSTON GLOBE report: "We are going to be much tougher and in-your-face with the Republicans when they say things that aren't true," [said Dean].
The Chrenkoff blog has now exclusively obtained the remainder of the "Globe" article:

Commenting on his recent attack on the Republican Party as a party of white Christians who all look the same, Rep Chuck Rangel's comparison of President Bush's foreign policy with the Holocaust, and Sen Dick Durbin's comparison of US troops to Nazi and communist mass murderers, Mr Dean told the enthusiastic party donors: "You ain't seen nothing yet. I know that it's hard to believe it, but we're only just warming up."

Giving the Massachusetts supporters a sneak preview of the rhetoric to come, Mr Dean foreshadowed a claim to be aired by Rep John Conyers Jr. at next week's continuation of make-believe impeachment hearings that President Bush has used a prototype of a Halliburton-constructed time machine to travel back to the 17th century and introduce slavery into North America.

Also on the cards, according to the DNC Chairman, is a claim by Rep Dennis Kucinich that President Bush had traveled to Cambodia in the late 1970s to actively take part in the Khmer Rouge genocide. "Dennis has a copy of a photo of Bush and Pol Pot beheading some peasants. It's been faxed to him from a copy shop in Texas," Mr Dean said, prompting audible gasps from the audience.

Confronted by questions from journalists after the event, Mr Dean refused to reveal the timing of another rumored Democrat disclosure that the American troops are not merely like Nazis, they are Nazis, having been all cloned from an SS battalion smuggled into the United States by President Bush's grandfather Prescott just after World War Two. Mr Dean had only this to say to the gathered media: "Watch the new 'Star Wars' trilogy again. George (Lucas) has been trying to slowly prepare the American people for this revelation for years now."


Monday, June 20, 2005

Take back the Memorial 

In New York this morning? Why not take part in "Take Back the Memorial" rally?
Dear Families, Friends and Supporters:

For three long years we have played by the rules as set forth by Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. It got us nowhere.

We want a proper, fitting and respectful September 11th Memorial for the 3,000 innocent souls who perished that day. Not ?a history lesson about tolerance.?

The planners of the World Trade Center Memorial have been put on notice that we are going over their heads to make our case to the American people. Please join us for a press conference to kick off our national campaign to enlist the American people in a Fight for Ground Zero. Our loved ones deserve no less.


WHEN: 12:00 Noon, Monday, June 20, 2005 (Please arrive at 11:45 am)

WHERE: Ground Zero at the Corner of Church & Liberty (rain or shine)

REMEMBRANCE: Please wear black or yellow to symbolize unity, or wear clothing that symbolizes your loved one?s affiliation and bring a picture of your lost loved one to hold over your heart.
And here are some comments from 9/11 family members.

Update: For more information see the Take Back the Memorial blog. And sign the petition.


KKK - just like the Rotary, only with burning crosses 

I was never much for reminding Senator Byrd of his KKK past (from memory, I've only mentioned the issue once on this blog, in the context of the Senator's shameful role in blocking visa liberalization for Poland) - after all, we all make mistakes, and so the questions becomes not so much who you were in the past, but whether you were able to deal with that past in a meaningful way. Many eminent conservatives and neo-conservatives have started off on the left - often as hard-core Marxists or Trotskyites - but have thoroughly repudiated their mistakes. The conservative movement accepts all sincere converts; only Pat Buchanans of this world cannot forgive and forget.

But back to Byrd:
In the early 1940s, a politically ambitious butcher from West Virginia named Bob Byrd recruited 150 of his friends and associates to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. After Byrd had collected the $10 joining fee and $3 charge for a robe and hood from every applicant, the "Grand Dragon" for the mid-Atlantic states came down to tiny Crab Orchard, W.Va., to officially organize the chapter.

As Byrd recalls now, the Klan official, Joel L. Baskin of Arlington, Va., was so impressed with the young Byrd's organizational skills that he urged him to go into politics. "The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation," Baskin said...

Despite his many achievements, however, the venerated Byrd has never been able to fully erase the stain of his association with one of the most reviled hate groups in the nation's history.

"It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one's life, career, and reputation," Byrd wrote in a new memoir -- "Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields" -- that will be published tomorrow by West Virginia University Press.
Still, some things just don't ring true. I don't know, maybe you had to be there, but Byrd's defense - I wasn't a racist, merely an opportunist - jars a bit (particularly when contrasted with some of Byrd's views from the 1940s):
Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites -- doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other "upstanding people" who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan.
You have to ask yourself then, if that was indeed the case, what was the point of at least that particular chapter of the KKK? Would you have joined Nazi Party just because people at your local branch were actually quite swell? (this is not the closest analogy, since unlike the Nazi Party, the KKK was actually quite an entrenched and familiar Southern institution - but the basic point stands). And if Byrd genuinely wanted to network, why didn't he join the Rotary, Lions, Freemasons, or any other fraternal-type organization for local professionals and businessmen, which would have come without all the racist baggage?

"My only explanation for the entire episode is that I was sorely afflicted with tunnel vision - a jejune and immature outlook - seeing only what I wanted to see because I thought the Klan could provide an outlet for my talents and ambitions," writes Byrd. It remains a sad indictment on West Virginian politics half a century ago and/or young Byrd's judgment that joining the Klan, as opposed to, say, the Democratic Party, could be considered a great springboard for a political career. One hopes those days are now long gone.

Perhaps I'm wrong on this, but I find it easier to forgive those repenting their sincere past commitment to unsavory ideas rather then their rank opportunism.


No apology required 

Prime Minister John Howard did not seek it but nevertheless appreciated the apology from Douglas Wood for his plea in captivity for Australia to pull its troops out of Iraq, Mr Howard said today...

He apologised to Prime Minister John Howard and US President George W Bush for comments he made about the two countries' occupation of Iraq, saying they were made under duress.

"I'm proof positive that the current policy of the American and the Australian government is the right one," he said.
(What Wood said on the radio is that the current policies of the American and the Australian governments to train Iraqi security forces are working, because he has been rescued by them.)

The Labor opposition's reaction? Shut up, you old fool, you're clearly imbalanced:
Labor has warned against taking the comments of an emotionally distraught man as a true reflection of events in Iraq.

"Blind Freddy can tell you that the Iraq security situation is right now in a shambles," opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said.

"I think it's important for John Howard to stop hiding behind comments by Douglas Wood, understandably emotionally driven in his case, ... to camouflage what is in reality a very difficult and precarious situation in Iraq today."
Kevin Rudd is of course too smart to entertain such unkind thoughts, and his sentiments are merely those of partisan opportunism rather than ideological viciousness, but one gets the impression that many others on the left would rather prefer Douglas Wood dead, to hang around the Prime Minister's neck, rather than alive and thus a good news for the government - not too Douglas Wood himself and family.

By the way, when asked at his first media conference upon returning to Australia what he thinks about his captors, Wood had a one-word answer:



Driving under the influence 

Manufacturing martyrs - Al Qaeda-style:
Suicide bombers aren't necessarily hell-bent to destroy themselves - at least one survived an attack that Col. Jim West said would have killed about 15 U.S. Marines and Iraqis and wounded 20 more.

It turned out that the suicide bomber in that case could have been more a homicide bomber. Although he could have pressed a button that would have set off the explosive-laden vehicle, guards discovered that the bomb could have been fired by remote control by a terrorist safely removed from the blast - and detection.

"We have found that most of the suicide car bombers are from outside of Iraq," West wrote to his family in May. Most are Palestinians, Syrians and Saudi Arabians, he said in a telephone interview with The Daily Sentinel.

"They are young, easily influenced young people. It is so sad to see these young men manipulated by the evil few that want to see this country brought to its knees," West wrote.

A "harsh example," he said was an incident a week previous, when the bomber was captured.

"He was trying to drive into a busy checkpoint and the Marine guards wounded him and disabled his car before he could reach the intersection and activate the bomb," West wrote. "When they opened the door to remove him, they found him chained to the seat with his hands taped to the steering wheel. He had an activation switch on his body that he could use but they also found a remote-control activation device under the front seat. It was hidden in the floor of the car so he probably didn't know it was there... He was going to die whether he wanted to or not."

A guard activated a radio-jamming device immediately so the bomb couldn't be detonated, West wrote.

The driver was "yelling and very agitated and had a glazed look," West said in a telephone interview. It turned out he also was heavily drugged, West said.

The driver, a Palestinian, was treated for gunshot wounds to the legs suffered when the guards fired to stop his car. West said he didn't know what happened to him afterwards.

He did, however, follow some as they recovered in the hospital from wounds suffered in battle.

"Some of them are very sullen," but one he remembered, was completely different.

"He was just so happy to be alive" while he was being treated for bullet wounds to the stomach and shoulder.

"He couldn't believe our people were doing that."
We can probably expect more drugged foreigners handcuffed to steering wheels, now that Al Zarqawi has really taken to hitting such hard military targets like pensioners queuing up at the bank for their fortnightly cheques.


Democrats' delusions of relevance 

Dana Millbank reports in "The Washington Post":
In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.

"At the next hearing," he told his colleagues, "we could use a little subpoena power." That brought the house down.
Why stop at the use of a little subpoena power in the aid of an imaginary impeachment inquiry and actually have a pretend re-run of presidential elections, so that the Democrats can become even more detached from reality?

In any case, I'm glad everyone enjoyed the joke, although Millbank doesn't say if the attendees were laughing with Conyers or at him - judging by the mixed media and Dem crowd, probably the former. If the Democrats would like to live in an alternative universe, most of the mainstream media would like to report from there, and they often do.

One could argue - although not at "The Washington Post" - that at least as far as foreign policy and national security are concerned, the Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe long time ago. Sadly for the Democratic Party, there are no electoral college votes there, or any other type of votes; the fact the Democrats discovered in 2002 and 2004, though stories like these suggest they still haven't learned anything from it.

Or perhaps have learned the wrong lessons - when the confused but, by comparison, relatively sane Kerry campaign went down in flames, for many in the Democratic Party it was an indication that far from not moving enough to the sensible and credible center, the mistake was not going far enough to the left. And so now, seemingly every day brings yet another bizarre and/or offensive outburst from Howard Dean, Charles Rangel, Dick Durbin or some other leading light of the Donkey Party.

But hysterics and play-acting in the Capitol basement are not signs of revitalization and enthusiasm; they demonstrate desperation and impotency of a party which has been consigned to opposition and which can't quite dig itself up from the hole. Politics is cyclical, and no doubt the Dems will make s comeback one day. Whether it will be in 2006, 2008 or later, remains to be seen; the timing will depend on the ability of the party leadership to square the electoral circle.

Polling after the 2004 presidential election showed that Bush's success owed much to being seen as more credible a leader in a time of crisis and more credible on issues of defense and national security. The Democrats will have to discover if it is possible to field a candidate who is seen as a safe pair of hands by the centrist electorate, but who doesn't at the same time - and because of it - make the large section of the crazy "Bush=Hitler" Dem base revolt and bolt. Bill Clinton could achieve this trick largely because he was the first post-Cold War president, the spender of the peace dividend during the "decade of nothing." Whether Hillary, or somebody else, can do it in the time of war will be a much more significant challenge.

(Another joker in the pack is the question if the American electorate will still by that stage want to think that we are still at war - the point made recently in different ways by Victor Davis Hanson and Daniel Henninger.)

Still, let us not minimize the challenge facing the Democratic Party. To find out just how bad it is on the left, you only have to read the latest column by Frank Rich, the centerpiece of which is the comparison of Bush's foreign policy with "The War of the Worlds." There you have it in the nutshell - the challenges of Islamofascism and Middle Eastern tyranny are as real to many on the left as invaders from Mars. To be fair to Rich, his argument is not quite as simplistic - though no more sincere for that:
Three years after his "War of the Worlds," the real nightmare that America feared did arrive. Yet some radio listeners at first thought that the reports from Pearl Harbor were another ruse. Welles would later recall in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that days after the Japanese attack, Franklin Roosevelt sent him a cable chiding him for having cried wolf with his faked war "news" of 1938.

Such is the overload of faked reality for Americans at this point that it will be far more difficult for the Bush administration than it was for F.D.R. to persuade the nation of an imminent threat without appearing to cry wolf.
The problem is trying to conceptualize what sort of a threat the left – which, after all, in the past appeased international communism - would ever consider imminent or significant enough to worry about, particularly during a conservative Presidency. The great divide of politics, both internationally and at home, is between those who think that America is the problem and those who think it is the solution. The problem for the Democratic Party is that a large section of its base thinks that the biggest threats facing the United States and the world are Republican administrations and global warming - a view not shared widely in the electorate.

The last word goes to Mark Steyn:
Throughout the last campaign season, senior Democrats had a standard line in their speeches, usually delivered with righteous anger, about how "nobody has a right to question my patriotism!" Given that nobody was questioning their patriotism, it seemed an odd thing to harp on about. But, aware of their touchiness on the subject, I hasten to add that in what follows I am not questioning Dick Durbin's patriotism, at least not for the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I'll begin by questioning his sanity.


Newsflash: star refuses to bash the President 

Bob Geldof in "Time" magazine:
Today I had to defend the Bush Administration in France again. They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American President for Africa. But it's empirically so.
And Drudge quotes Geldof saying this to an artist in the run up to Live 8 concerts:
"Please remember, absolutely no ranting and raving about Bush or Blair and the Iraq war, this is not why you have been invited to appear... We want to bring Mr. Bush in, not run him away."
It's encouraging to know that some sanity still prevails in the entertainment world, and that there are people like Geldof, who while clearly not of the right, are able to eschew ideological blinkers and face reality, or at least be sensible and pragmatic enough to know not to bite the hand they're trying to get to feed the poor. To his credit, Geldof's comrade in the Live8 enterprise, U2's Bono, has been similarly prepared to praise without fear or favor (and risk ire for his friendly relationship with Jesse Helms).

There is inevitable backlash, though: "Bono has been attacked by his rock peers for associating with US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair." The piece only quotes two individuals by name - the eccentric has-been Sinead O'Connor and the unrepentant socialist Billy Bragg - so if I were Bono, I wouldn't lose much sleep, except that I fear the sentiments that the right is evil, can never do anything right, and one should avoid any contact with it like a plague, are rather more widespread in the entertainment industry.

I've been critical of Geldof's initiatives in the past because even though he personally seems to have a much better grasp of issues involved, I doubt whether Live 8 will result in the international community addressing the real root causes of Africa's poverty - lack of democracy and transparency, and corruption and statist economic policies at home, and protectionism abroad. But for the first time there is hope that a coalition of pragmatic activists like Geldof and Bono and compassionate conservatives (Bush) and neocons (Wolfowitz) in positions of power might be able to break away from all the leftist baggage (dependency, neo-colonialism, core-periphery) that has made much of the aid effort over the past few decades such a costly failure.


The Willing 

In addition to the United States and the Iraqi forces, military personnel from 26 other countries are currently on the ground in Iraq, helping to bring peace and security, working on reconstruction projects, and engaging in humanitarian missions throughout the country. This is a tribute to those thousands of military men and women from around the world, some of them well-known, others less so, but all doing good work for the future of Iraq.


Albanian troops muster at the Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana before embarking for Iraq. More.

We are a supporter of U.S. efforts in the Middle East. This reflects the real transformation my country has gone through in the last few years. We went from a nation consumed by security and an economic crisis, by the collapse of state institutions, to a country that is now capable of contributing to global security and international initiatives. Albania has matured greatly. This came about with the assistance of America and several international institutions. So we take national pride in our ability to give back and foster democracy in other parts of the world. - Albania's socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano


Armenian troops parade on the way to Iraq. More.


On patrol in Baghdad. More.

Australian military forces participated with just cause, in an action properly based in international law, which resulted in the liberation of an oppressed people. - Prime Minister John Howard


Azeri and American troops are protecting the vital Haditha Dam from terrorist attacks and sabotage. More.


Bosnian troops of a unit comprising Muslims, Croats and Serbs, heading to Iraq. More.

Defense Minister Nikola Radovanovic said [Bosnia] has a moral obligation to help in Iraq after all the international assistance it received during the conflict of the 1990s in the Balkans.


Bulgarians on patrol (Imad al-Khuzaei, Reuters). More.

Czech Republic

Czech Military Police provide security for the opening ceremony of the new Police Academy in Basra. More.

I think it's not by chance that the idea of confronting evil may have found more support in [eastern European] countries that have had a recent experience with totalitarian systems compared with other European countries that haven't had the same sort of recent experience. - Former President Vaclav Havel


On patrol. More.

El Salvador

The fourth contingent from El Salvador embarks for Iraq in March 2005. More.

One of his friends was dead, 12 others lay wounded and the four soldiers still left standing were surrounded and out of ammunition. So Salvadoran Cpl. Samuel Toloza said a prayer, whipped out his knife and charged the Iraqi gunmen. In one of the only known instances of hand-to-hand combat in the Iraq conflict, Cpl. Toloza stabbed several attackers swarming around a comrade. The stunned assailants backed away momentarily, just as a relief column came to the unit's rescue.


Estonian troops patrolling Gazalia Village, a 15-kilometer section of road in the heart of Western Baghdad, known as an insurgent a hot spot. More.

Estonian Army Capt. Neeme Brus, a media relations officer with Multi-National Corps - Iraq, said Estonia knows the value of freedom and the need to fight terrorism here, before the fight ends up in their own back yard. "We have to prove that we are capable military partners for Americans and other nations in the coalition. We want to be considered as a serious nation when it comes to international security."


Company A, 13th Battalion prepares for their part of the parade to celebrate Georgian Independence Day in Baghdad. More.


An Iraqi soldier of Special Iraqi Forces flashes the 'V' sign for victory as he returns to his base in Al-Saqr Camp, south of Baghdad. (AFP/Yuri Cortez)


An Italian soldier adjusts her protective goggles before her convoy departed from their base on the outskirts of Nasiriya in this January 17 (Reuters). More.

"We are proud of you, not just because you are doing good for this country in helping it in economic and sociopolitical development, but because you are here to do something more important: to demonstrate that Italy is a nation capable of bringing the principles of rights and civilization to the world." - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Italian troops in Iraq


A young Iraqi boy waves to Japanese army soldiers as they drive past in the southern Iraqi city of Samawa, February 14, 2005 (Mohammed Ameen, Reuters). More.


Kazah soldier teaches Iraqi troops how to disarm explosives. More.


Latvians in camp. More.


Coalition officers, including a Lithuanian, dining with a local agricultural committee while discussing reconstruction projects. More.


On patrol. More.


Command hand-over in Mongolian Contingent, 25 February 2005 in Al Hilla. More.

The last time Mongolian soldiers were in Iraq was in 1258. They destroyed Baghdad then. Now, the Mongolian military has 173 soldiers of the 150th Elite Peacekeeping Battalion in Hillah, Iraq.


On patrol. More.


Inspecting local antiquities. More.


"White and red" on patrol in southern Iraq. More.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a totalitarian state. It was a country where people were murdered and tortured. So I'm looking at this through the eyes of the political prisoner in Baghdad, and from this point of view I'm very grateful to those who opened the gates of the prison and who stopped the killing and the torture... Poland is an ally of the United States of America. It was our duty to show that we are a reliable, loyal, and predictable ally. America needed our help, and we had to give it... We know what dictatorship is. And in the conflict between totalitarian regimes and democracy you must not hesitate to declare which side you are on. - Former Polish dissident and left-wing intellectual Adam Michnik.


A Romanian soldier sits atop a military armored vehicle at a police station in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya on January 17, 2005 (John Moore, Reuters). More.


Command hand over in Slovak Contingent. More.

South Korea

South Korean soldiers take part in a military ceremony in Arbil, Iraq, to the north (Safin Hamed, AFP). More.

United Kingdom

Soldier from the Queens Lancashire Regiment plays football with the local Iraqi children in the Al-Jumeat area of Basra City. More.

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack. And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty. - Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing US Congress

United States

U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Scout Platoon, Delta Company, 155th Brigade Combat Team form up along a wall as they prepare to clear a building known to house insurgents in an area of Al Iskandariyah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005.


Ukrainian troops teaching Iraqi security forces policing and crowd control. More.


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