Goes to... Clare Short, former UK politico.
United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.
The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.
But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.
“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.
“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.
“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”
The "moral authority"!? Tell that to 800,000 dead Rwandans (among so many other Srebrenicans, Sudanese, etc.), Claire. What's funny is that she really believes that this consortium of unelected despots from Belarus to Zimbabwe which makes up the UN has either morals or authority.
Besides, if it's the best system we've got then why does it need "building up"? Meanwhile Japan and US lead the world in total dollar foreign aid - throw in India and Australia, liberal democracies all, and that's good company. But not for Claire Short, the eternal apologist of the UN.
Poor Tony Blaire had to work with this jerk? No wonder she got pushed out.
At first I thought that mainstream media outlets and foreign officials citing figures of American aid using only government funding, not private, was intentional. But after reading and watching news for the past few days I've reconsidered and come to find that it's not so much intention as it is just who they are - that is, for lack of a better word, socialist.
That's not just GregNews rhetoric - using their own example you will see how their words equate to a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism and why the US is the greatest economic power on the planet, and the greatest charitable power on the planet. Maybe today's liberals don't meet the classic definition of socialists, which are those who advocate a system in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state - because after all, they want you to be taxed, not them - but their paradigm is clearly not one which embraces the power of capitalism and individualism.
Many liberals really do think that government is the solution to everything, especially humanitarian concerns. They think that government and only government can best deliver aid, food, water, medicine, etc. Contributions from citizens, private charities and corporations - which dwarf government aid figures annually, and which are part of our capitalist character and nature going back to our founding fathers - simply never enter into the liberal equation. To them, this money just doesn't exist, unless it's a George Soros 527 pumping out John Kerry political ads.
Take this ridiculous assertion from the NY Times:
We beg to differ. [The UN's] Mr. Egeland was right on target [calling Americans "stingy"]. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.
The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid.
First, I'm a Republican, yet I haven't spend a single cent for Bush's inaugural festivities in either election victory, but I have and do give money to charity form time to time.
The fact that the Times would think of "Republican" only in terms of government just underscores their wacked out way of thinking. It's just their nature. It's who they are, although misguided fools they be.
Likewise, the reason the American government spends "only" $35 million in tsunami aid is because it and we embrace an economic system in which low tax burdens enable everyday Americans to enrich the lives of both themselves and others. In the case of charity it means our national economic system frees up billions of dollars - about $34 billion annually (a conservative figure) - which Americans send annually to victims of worldwide disaster and a variety of other causes.
Maybe the NY Times can't understand or recognize the $34 billion annual charitable contribution of privatized America, but I guarantee you that thanks to the donations of American citizens, both rich and poor alike, that kid who can finally fly a kite in Afghanistan or the South Asian tsunami victims do and will.
[Washingon Post] At Amazon.com alone, more than 53,000 people had donated more than $3 million by yesterday evening after the company made an urgent appeal on its home page. Catholic Relief Services was so overwhelmed with Web traffic that its site crashed. Online donations to the Red Cross outstripped traditional phone banks by more than 2 to 1.
... As of Tuesday, for example, 25,000 people had visited RedCross.org to pledge money to aid the tsunami victims. During the same period, about 9,000 people called the donor line, officials said.
Donations after Sunday's calamity in South Asia are already outpacing those after other disasters. From Aug. 13 to 23, the Red Cross estimated that it received $19 million in pledges for victims of Hurricane Charley. As of noon yesterday, the Red Cross had received $18 million for tsunami victims.
That's just a couple of charities, folks. Egeland will eat his words, and the NY Times will choke on theirs.
Ignignokt: We smoke as we shoot the bird at the NY Times (and especially at Claire Short).
The other night at dinner a friend wondered aloud if this almost-world-wide tragedy would have an impact on peace. Would it remind us of all we have in common, and how precious life is? This reminded me of something Ronald Reagan used to say of all the conflicts in the world. He'd say that if the world were attacked by Martians tomorrow, we'd all come together, and it's too bad we couldn't manage to cut to the chase. This used to be taken as an example of his idiocy, but of course it's true. We would all drop our local and ancestral hatreds to fight shoulder to shoulder against the common foe. Years later, in true Reaganesque style, Hollywood produced the blockbuster "Independence Day," in which extraterrestrials attacked the earth and the world united in resistance.
That's an interesting and true point by Peggy Noonan. Timely too. Just before I read her commentary I read that the militant Tamil Tigers, fighting for the past 20 years against the Sri Lankan government, have offered a truce. The Hindu-faithed Tigers and Buddhist-faithed Sri Lankan Sinhalese still refuse to cooperate in the recovery, mind you, but it took a Tsunami for the Tigers to stop being terrorists for a short while.
The international media is not up in arms about the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gough or the video execution of democratic activists in the streets of Baghdad — at least not as they once had been over the televised shooting of a Vietcong captain by South Vietnamese general Nguyen Ngoc Loan. Of course, the democracy activists in Iraq were working only for freedom, not, like Loan, for socialist tyranny. The only political consistency for the media's reaction or lack thereof seems to be the particular affinity of the shooters and victims for the United States: Pulitzer Prizes when a Communist is shot by an American surrogate; snores when the murdered Iraqi idealists shared an American vision of elections.
-- Victor Davis Hanson. Read the rest.
[Boston Globe Ed.] Iraq's ambassador to Syria told The Times of London last week in Damascus that his government has evidence of Syrian complicity with Iraqi Ba'athist operations inside Iraq. The ambassador said that last month when US Marines captured Moayed Ahmed Yasseen, leader of one of the armed groups in Fallujah, they found photos of Syrian officials, including one of Yasseen posing alongside a senior Syrian official. Yasseen's group, known as Jaish Muhammad, is composed of former Ba'athist intelligence officers in Saddam's regime.
The Iraqi ambassador told The Times: "Prime Minister Iyad Allawi wrote a letter to the Syrians saying he had the pictures but was not going to release them despite being under pressure from the Americans to do so." The Marines also captured a hand-held global positioning device with "waypoints originating in western Syria and the names of four Syrians," according to The Times.
Allawi is wise to seek an understanding with Syria instead of encouraging the Bush administration to make Syrian collaboration with Iraqi Ba'athists a point of conflict. It would be better for all concerned if Bashar heeds Baghdad's plea to cease colluding with Iraqi Ba'athists in Syria who are using enormous sums of money stolen from Iraqis to fund a guerrilla war aimed at restoring Ba'athist rule in Iraq.
It is a bad sign that Syria's information minister responded to Iraqi complaints with the disingenuous explanation that "Syria has always been open to all Arabs . . . but we cannot read their minds about what they are doing to do once they are here." Bashar's Ba'athist order is as much a police state as his father's was, and Syrian security services would hardly overlook the activities of rich Iraqi Ba'athists living in luxury in the poshest neighborhoods of Damascus.
The Boston Globe reaches the wrong prescription for the correct diagnosis - Syria is indeed a problem, and apparently much more so than previously thought, but after almost two years of war why would anyone, including Globe editors, think that Syria is going to cease this cold war against Iraq and the US (let's call this what it is). Eventually, one must rationally conclude that Syria is not going to cease their aiding and abetting the Baathist sect of the insurgency without ramping up a more aggressive stance.
BAGHDAD, Dec. 29 -- Insurgents lured police to a house in western Baghdad and then set off a powerful explosion that killed at least 28 people late Tuesday night, including three families whose homes were completely flattened in the blast, officials said Wednesday.
The debris was still smoldering as dawn broke, showing the intensity of the damage, which the U.S. military estimated came from 1,700 to 1,800 pounds of explosives.
The attack was unusual for a capital city accustomed to roadside bombs, suicide car bombs, tractor bombs, donkey bombs and cart bombs. This appeared to be a house bomb -- the first of its kind -- and the enormous amount of explosives used in the attack pointed to a sophisticated plot. U.S. and Iraqi security forces said an investigation was underway.
There's that favorite media word again... What's so damn sophisticated about detonating a bomb as people enter it? Sophisticated it is not, but what it is, is strikingly similar to the tactics used by Islamic Palestinian extremists against Israelis. Take, for example, this descriptive account of a Jenin battle in 2002. Now, of course, this necessarily doesn't mean that there's a direct relationship, but battle tactics are learned - moreover, they're taught.
Where Islamic Palestinian groups live Syrian and Iranian influance (and cash) are not far behind. That's why it is so very important that the Bush administration and Iraqi government take a much more harsh stance against Iranian and Syrian capitulation with the insurgency (especially considering other reports of Syrian and Iranian involvement). As long as we do not it sends the message that we are too weak to stand up to them, and both countries will become more bold.
After all, the terrorist tactics of Jenin existed before the war ever began. If this is coincedence that they occur in Iraq, why now? Why not 2 years ago? The insurgency, and its backers hiding in foreign lands, are becoming more bold. Eventually they may get to the point where they no matter care if they get caught - should that occur it could be a sign that we're in serious trouble.
The foreign insurgency in Iraq, born in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Palestine and the Baaka Valley, has spread their tactics used against Russian and Israeli forces to Iraq. I don't think these things occur in a vaccum. Terrorists teach other terrorists tactics, and the above tactic smacks of that employed by Palestinian terrorists and their state sponsors.
[Al Jazeera] Former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark is to join Saddam Hussein's defence team, a spokesman for the ousted Iraqi president's lawyers says. Ziad Khasawna said on Wednesday that Clark, who held the office of attorney-general under US president Lyndon Johnson, had "honoured and inspired" the legal team by agreeing to help defend Saddam.
Clark formerly defended Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian war criminals, and even Rwandan war criminals. But what do you expect from the stereotypical socialist liberal activist? Naturally, he also opposed removing Saddam Hussein from power - as is often said, they're not really "antiwar" so much as they're just for the other side.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lost to President Bush in Ohio by almost 119,000 votes, but the Democrats still spent $1.5 million in taxpayer money to "let every vote count," reducing Bush's lead by 300 votes from 118,775 votes to 118,457 votes.
In the race for Washington State governor, and in a statistical dead heat of a 129 vote difference, Democrats want nothing to do with "let every vote count," at least not now that they finally - after three recounts - got ahead. Schoo! We're ahead. Stop counting.
BELLEVUE - The night before Washington's secretary of state was scheduled to certify Democrat Christine Gregoire as the governor-elect, her Republican rival Dino Rossi called for a complete re-do of the longest, closest governor's race in state history.
...Gregoire, the three-term state attorney general who fought America's tobacco industry, Internet porn and schoolyard bullying, won a hand recount by a scant 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast.
Gregoire's spokesman Morton Brilliant said she would not be joining Rossi's call. "This ain't golf," he said. "No mulligans allowed here, folks. It's irresponsible to spend $4 million in taxpayer money on a new election just because you don't like losing this one."
On Thursday, more than eight weeks after Election Day, Secretary of State Sam Reed planned to certify the results of the hand recount - an unprecedented third vote tally. That final statewide recount put Gregoire ahead for the first time, by just a tiny fraction of 1 percent.
Rossi, the former state Senate budget committee chairman, won the regular tally last month by 261 votes, triggering an automatic machine recount. He won that count, too, by 42 votes.
Democrats, aided by presidential candidates John Kerry and Howard Dean, rounded up $1 million in donations, mostly online, to order the hand recount.
So, basically, Democrats successfully employed the failed tactics of 2000 - use sympathetic civil servant senior citizens and wheelbarrows of liberal activist money to prognosticate enough votes out of thin air, via interpreting "voter intent" and so on, to push their candidate to the top.
At the same time Democrats fought their best to exclude Washington State military absentee ballots, which statistacally give the GOP the edge.
But, hey, just because they get Jesse Jackson and Howard Dean to scurry about and demand "every vote count" it doesn't actually mean they believe it, right?
Ralph Peter's take on Osama's latest rant - in which he with no authority bestowed the title of "Emir" to another powerless thug, Abu Zarqawi - was different than that of the hand-wringing punditry in the media: the Jihadists are desperate to prevent elections in Iraq because they know long-term it spells their demise.
Anyone who dismisses the importance of the upcoming Iraqi elections need only listen to Monsieur bin Laden's urgent plea for a boycott. Osama praised the atrocities of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a hands-on executioner, and welcomed his collaboration in efforts to block the balloting.
Islamic terrorists distrust the common people. They dread the strength of those who might think for themselves. Convinced that men and women must be governed fiercely from above, the terrorists are the gory religious incarnation of thousands of years of tyranny. Their god is a savage dictator in the clouds.
Osama and Zarqawi share an understanding of their weakness. Given a choice, few men and women prefer to be oppressed. Elections are the best weapon humanity has developed against the age-old hierarchies that concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few, letting grim old men exterminate simple joys.
The Islamic-extremist vision of a world governed by the harshest interpretation of their faith could not survive where people pick their own leaders. The terrorists know it. And they fear it. Like other self-appointed elites, they pretend to speak for the average man while despising him as unworthy of having a voice in his own affairs. (A reality-TV show about Islamic terrorism might be called "Intellectuals Gone Wild.")
Osama possesses no religious authority to condemn Iraqis for voting. Pretending to revere Islamic tradition, he and his fellow terrorists make up the rules as they go. The slaughter of the innocents, videotaped executions, kidnappings and the assassinations of political candidates have no basis in the Koran. Terrorist Islam is a primitive blood-cult.
That cult could not survive in a Middle East where elections became the norm.
And, yes, I'm going to beat this dead horse all week long, because as I explained a few posts down, the "stingy" lie kills Americans and harms our image.
The United States supplies more than one-fifth of the United Nations' total budget (and 57 percent, 33 percent and 27 percent of the budgets for the World Food Program, the Refugee Agency, and Department of Peacekeeping Operations, respectively). We've been the United Nations' biggest donor every year since 1945. Taxpayers reluctantly agree to such largess because we're told of the good works the United Nations does. And yet, whenever there's a catastrophe, Uncle Sam is asked to dig deep into his pocket for more money.
...Nobody objects when the United Nations helps victims of natural disasters, so U.N. defenders always use disaster relief and peacekeeping as their chief tool for fundraising. The problem is that the United Nations is not an impartial philanthropic organization. It is a political institution where a broad coalition of nations hope to curtail the power and influence of the United States. France uses the organization to leverage its relatively meager power by rallying African and Arab nations against us. Kofi Annan uses his megaphone to decry the moral and legal legitimacy of American foreign policy. Its Human Rights Committee is festooned with torture states, but it seems capable of issuing only condemnations inconvenient to the United States. And we foot the bill.
This is the Catch-22 of the United Nations. Politically, it's often reprehensible and inimical to American interests. But we're never asked to pay for that stuff. This comes out of the general budget. It's only when human beings are suffering in vast numbers that we're shamed for being "stingy" - because the United Nations understands how to exploit America's decency. If only we could be shaken down for more money to pay the light bill in the General Assembly when they play whack-a-mole with the United States.
The larger picture Mr. Egeland fails to appreciate is that America's wealth and prosperity - partly sustained by low taxes - is a greater bulwark against human suffering than the United Nations ever has been or likely will be. America guarantees global stability by keeping the sea lanes open, by preventing North Korea from invading South Korea and China from seizing Taiwan. We did it by preventing Saddam from keeping Kuwait. We ignored the United Nations and intervened to stop genocide in Yugoslavia, and we have 150,000 troops in Iraq working to create a democracy - while the United Nations is still too scared of terrorists, and too anti-American, to help.
Meanwhile, American citizens, partly thanks to those stingy low taxes, send some $34 billion in private aid around the world every year. That's 10 times the United Nations total budget. America's Christian ministries, private foundations and agencies all do far more in direct charity and aid than the United Nations. But bureaucrats - some who've grown fat on oil-for-food money - measure stinginess in terms of support to the bureaucracy, not to the constituency the bureaucracy was intended to help.
-- Jonah Goldberg
Here's a comment from President Bush's Q&A with reporters today:
Q Mr. President, were you offended by the suggestion that rich nations have been stingy in the aid over the tsunami? And is this a sign of another rift with the U.N.?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed. The -- take, for example, in the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. That's $2.4 billion. That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year, was provided by the United States government. No, we're a very generous, kindhearted nation.
...Plus, the American people will be very generous, themselves. I mean, the $2.4 billion was public money -- of course, provided by the taxpayers. But there's also a lot of individual giving in America.
Yes, there sure is. Thanks to President Bush for pointing out what the Washington Post, NY Times, Associated Press and other mainstream media outlets have failed to - the American citizen, NGO and corporation privately contributes more charitable money than any government on planet Earth.
That a UN undersecretary, Jan Egeland, reversed his labeling of the United States as "stingy" in the South Asian tsunami aftermath has not stopped the liberal mainstream media and usual chorus of administration critics from picking up on this petty and untrue line of attack.
Once again, the elite Left turns tragedy into an opportunity to promote an anti-Bush agenda. Congratulations to the Washington Post, which this morning stooped to a low worthy of the festering bacteria that now sits in stagnant Asian waters.
The Bush administration more than doubled its financial commitment yesterday to provide relief to nations suffering from the Indian Ocean tsunami, amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.
...Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums -- as well as Bush's decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy -- showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
...Bush's deepened public involvement puts him more in line with other world figures. In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cut short his vacation and returned to work in Berlin because of the Indian Ocean crisis, which began with a gigantic underwater earthquake.
Four out of four "skeptics" agree - Bush is insensitive! Now, who are these skeptics? The Post has about three quotes from a former Clinton ambassador, former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, and the president of the left-leaning Council of Foreign Relations. Same old, right? All we need now is for the Post to publish a George Soros op-ed critical of Bush's humanitarian effort and it'll pretty much sum up the last four years.
I question their intentions. At very least the "skeptics" are happy to politicize the issue to score some partisan points.
Comparing Bush's reaction to those of European leaders is worthless too, because of the vast numbers of Europeans vacationing in that region when the tsunami hit - just two German travel agencies alone had 6,000 Germans in the region at the time of the quake; Sweden is missing 2,000 of its citizens. So naturally, they've got more to worry about as their citizens are there in large numbers.
But no matter what Bush does he'll be criticized. Case in point - people complain about increasing the monetary aide!
U.S. officials denied that the overnight aid increase [from $15 to $35 million] was a response to the U.N. complaint Monday that some countries were "stingy" with aid. Usually only about 10 percent of the final aid tally is given in the initial response to a natural disaster, with the bulk of aid provided after an assessment of long-term needs, according to the State Department.
...[Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations] Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.
Amazing. The State Dept. systematically authorizes $15 million and people complain. Bush authorizes another $20 million and... people complain. Give us a number, Leslie! Let us know how much money our government must give for people to stop bitching and we'll gladly cut you a check.
Read between the lines of Gelb's logic: because "large numbers of people in many nations" opposed the invasion of Iraq we're "stingy." That's really all this is about. Had Bush been named "Clinton" the money would have never been questioned. They naturally would have pressed for more, and the US naturally would have complied, but there never would have been accusations of White House insensitivity. It's an opportunity for "skeptics" to attack US foreign policy vis-à-vis Iraq.
The icing on the cake of this pathetic article is its closing - the Post cherry picks statistics to solidify its case that the US doesn't give enough:
Still, the United Nations' Egeland complained on Monday that each of the richest nations gives less than 1 percent of its gross national product for foreign assistance, and many give 0.1 percent. "It is beyond me why we are so stingy, really," he told reporters.
Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.
The Post skews facts with the same left-leaning logic that Egeland used - their numbers do not take into account the amount of money American citizens pour into private charity. Americans give far more to private charity than the U.S. Official Development Assistance could ever give. According to the Hudson Institute, "Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas -- more than three times U.S. official foreign aid of $10 billion," and "International giving by U.S. foundations totals $1.5 billion per year." In addition, "charitable giving by U.S. businesses now comes to at least $2.8 billion annually."
I'd like to see Jan Egeland's Norway match that...
One of the reasons that Americans have the best economy on the planet is because since our nation's inception we have learned that private institutions are by and large far more efficient than government. Adam Smith will kick Karl Marx's butt every day of the week. Making an argument that fails to even note private charitable contributions just affirms that, like the UN, these Post writers and editors believe that only government is capable of delivering charity. It's misguided and partisan groupthink at its worst.
Given all this, thus, it really burns me when I hear repeated, without though to the validity of the argument or the consequences of this untrue argument propagated to hostile global citizens, that the US is a "stingy" country. These kind of falsehoods end up on the next Osama tape, which he then uses to incite the hatred and killing of more Americans.
[UPDATE: Egeland has reportedly backed down from his previous hasty statements, saying, "I've been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that I believed that rich countries in general can be more generous. It has nothing to do with any particular country or the response to this emergency. We are in early days and the response has so far been overwhelmingly positive. The international assistance that has come and been pledged from the United States, from Europe and from countries in the region has also been very generous."
Well, good for him. But one must wonder how much damage has already been done. It seems, to me, representative of a culture within the UN and much of the world to use every issue, every disaster, every war zone, every problem - both real and imaginary - as just another opportunity to bash the US.]
A few more retorts to UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's suggestion that the US was "stingy" with it's international aide.
Twenty-five percent of the entire UN operating annual budget comes from the taxpayers of one nation - the US. Maybe we should just cut that funding altogether and send it to East Asia.
Meanwhile, the UN has a long running list of humanitarian failures from Haiti to Sudan to Rwanda to East Timor to Srebrenica. The same guys who can't run an oil-for-food operation without illegally skimming it for billions of dollars, or run a peace keeping operation in the Congo without turning into a child-sex ring, now have the audacity to lecture Americans about charity and giving and morals? Please!
Finally, Osama’s communiqué showed his usual hostility towards democracy. The Iraqi election is about three weeks away and the terrorists are eager to derail it. Anti-democratic rhetoric is a staple of al Qaeda and the Islamist movement generally. Democracy is viewed as a system in which men make law, unlike Shariah, in which man follows the dictates of God. Political theory tells us that such notions of objective political-legal systems are impossible in practice. They invariably develop into a form of theocratic oligarchy in which a small ruling clique interprets and enforces the law as they see it — so rather than the man-made law of the masses, people live under the man-made law of the influential few, or sometimes of the imam-cum-dictator. But in addition to repeating the standard analysis of the faults of democracy from his perspective, bin Laden declared (by his own authority apparently) that those who participated in the elections were to be considered unbelievers. This is critical because it means that anyone, especially Muslims, who engage in democratic political activity are legitimate targets. Zarqawi had been criticized by some in Iraq (including other insurgents) for attacking civilians and killing other Muslims. Bin Laden has now handed Zarqawi a free pass for undertaking whatever attacks he wants against Muslims practicing Western-style politics because by his decree they are no longer Muslims. That is an amazing logical stretch, but I surmise Osama believes the Koran is a living document.
-- James Robbins commenting on Osama bin Laden's latest rant denouncing elections and endorsing Abu Zarqawi.
In an interview with the Independent newspaper in Britain, Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree." Speaking to the same newspaper, Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper pressed the argument home: "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions." It is perhaps appropriate that the strongest, recent refutation to such feverish assertions may be found in Michael Crichton's new thriller -- also about environmental extremists, a tsunami and the myths of global warming.
People prone to hysteria often become further unhinged in the face of a great disaster, and that may explain these remarkable comments on the tsunami disaster. Still, these comments by the movement's leadership may serve as a case study of how such imaginings work their way into public discussion of the environment. That is all the more reason to come to grips with the real causes of calamities such as this.
Geologists say that groups of giant earthquakes hit Sumatra every 230 years or so. The last quakes there were in 1797 and 1833 -- and surely not even Greenpeace would blame those on greenhouse gases -- and so Sunday's latest quake was more or less on schedule.
It is preposterous to blame the inexorable forces of nature on the development of industry and infrastructures of modern society. The more sensible response to natural disasters is to improve forecasting, put in place efficient communications and evacuation procedures and, should the worst arrive, conduct relief efforts and rebuild what nature has destroyed. Those cautionary measures, as is now clear, cost money. The national income necessary to afford them is made possible only by economic growth of the sort too many of environmentalists retard with their policy extremism.
Rich countries suffer fewer fatalities from natural disasters because their prosperity has allowed them to create better protective measures. Consider the 41,000 death toll in last December's earthquake in Iran compared with the 63 who died when a slightly stronger earthquake hit San Francisco in 1989.
-- Wall Street Journal.
The UN appointed investigator, former American Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, is reportedly concentrating more on smuggling rather than systemic corruption of the Oil-for-Food program itself. This, I suppose, was to be expected. But in the most fundamental way it is an insignificant victory for the UN.
In the interview set for broadcast Tuesday with Alhurra, the U.S. government-backed television station tailored for Arab audiences, Volcker questioned the reliability of reports that Saddam diverted amounts ranging from $1.7 billion to $21 billion from the $60 billion oil-for-food program.
“The big figures that you see in the press, which are sometimes labeled oil-for-food — the big figures are smuggling, which took place before the oil-for-food program started and it continued while the oil-for-food program was in place,” he said, according to a transcript obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
In a report in October, top U.S. weapons investigator Charles Duelfer said Saddam was able to “subvert” the oil-for-food program to generate an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue outside U.N. control from 1997-2003. In addition, Iraq brought in over $8 billion in illicit oil deals with Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt through smuggling or illegal pumping from 1991-2003 when sanctions were in place, he said.
U.S. congressional investigators reported in November that Saddam made more than $21.3 billion in illegal revenue — over $13 billion from smuggling and about $7 billion by subverting the oil-for-food program.
“Without question, (there were) problems in the oil-for-food area,” Volcker said. “But when you look at those $10 billion figures, or $20 billion figures, most of those numbers are so-called smuggling, much of which was known and taken note of by the Security Council, but not stopped.”
Volcker refused to speculate on why the council didn’t stop the smuggling, but indicated the issue would likely be addressed in his reports. An initial report is expected in January and a final report in the summer, he said.
The investigation isn’t just focusing on whether U.N. officials may be guilty of corruption, he said, but on other issues: Did U.N. officials follow proper procedures? Was there “bad administration rather than corrupt administration?” What were the directions from the Security Council, and what was its responsibility?
But Volcker said the investigation can’t avoid the question of smuggling, including the responsibility of the five permanent veto-wielding members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and why the Security Council didn’t take action to stop smuggling.
Well, haven't those questions just been answered? It's hard for two permanent Security Council members (the US and UK) to stop smuggling when the other three - among a slew of others - are blatantly profiting from it. Volcker's report will be the official UN report, but it won't be the only one. Volcker, by his bureaucratic nature, may have decided that for the betterment of the future he will downplay internal UN corruption. But no matter what he does it won't cover up previous investigations or incriminating evidence - such as those originally exposed - harmful to the UN body.
To me, then, it is insignificant whether the UN failed because its officials took part in the corruption, or simply turned the other way - because in either case the institution is proven to be an ineffective, unreliable and useless mechanism to counter any future state who wishes to use oil to grease official palms in order to pursue a dangerous agenda.
Right now, in the midst of all this UN corruption and systemic inefficiency, Iran is trying to pursue nuclear weapons, and passing lucrative oil deals to Russia and China (both permanent veto-holding Security Council nations), while the UN twiddles its thumbs.
Here's an interesting and previously unreported take, by the father of a Marine captain interviewed by a columnist of the Tennessean, on armored Humvees in Iraq and on the blatant attempt by the mainstream media to acquire the head of Def. Sec. Donald Rumsfeld.
When it comes to context, for instance, on the question of armor for Humvees, Morel said some members of his son’s unit told him they didn’t want their vehicles armored up the sides.
"They didn’t want the armor except on the bottom, " he said. " It would have been like working in an oven. And it would have limited their range to fire. Brent even took the doors off his Humvee because they limited him getting out of the vehicle quickly. "
"On a good road, they drove 10 miles an hour and on bad, five miles an hour. They were trying to attract attention. "
Complaints about military equipment including armor are not new to war. That was a point made to me at a West Nashville Exchange Club meeting by 85-year-old World War II veteran Henry Hopton.
"When we met Rommel for the first time, our tanks couldn’t stand up to him, " Hopton told me concerning complaints about the adequacy of armor on U.S. tanks back then.
But there’s a difference now, he said. The American public is divided on the Iraq war, and Hopton feels the media have chosen sides.
"They want to find something wrong and the least thing that goes wrong, they want to publish, " Hopton said.
Interesting about the armor, no? Indeed, this is the first time I've ever seen it suggested that our troops don't want armor on the Humvees except for plating the bottom.
Just you wait - later this year when the vast majority of Humvees are armored (Oh, excuse me, they already were when the reports became popular) the media will change tactics and report that the Humvees are so armored that our boys are cooking alive inside.
Never underestimate the ability of a United Nations representative to turn a natural disaster into an opportunity to promote socialist economics.
But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.
"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."
"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."
In response to Mr. Egeland's comments, Mr. Duffy pointed out that the United States is "the largest contributor to international relief and aid efforts, not only through the government, but through charitable organizations. The American people are very giving."
Leave it a European socialist to think that charity can ONLY come through government. And how are Europeans so giving when their governments must force them to give through higher taxes, as Egeland suggests? It doesn't. The truth is Egeland is slandering Westerners, Europeans included. He's using this tragedy as a vehicle to promote socialism.
And not once does Egeland stop to consider that if people want to give more then there are about 100 different nongovernmental ways to do so, and which in doing so, will be more effective and timely than anything which lethargic bureaucracy undertakes. Give a dollar to the government and one to the Red Cross and see which one arrives faster at the intended recipient.
Oh, and one more thing - American capitalist privitized charity will outgive European socialist public charity every day of the week.
Because they're lied to about us...
[MEMRI] In the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, an article from Brussels written by Fakhriya Ahmad charges that, based on alleged secret European military reports, the U.S. military in Iraq is harvesting and selling human organs. The following day, the story was also published in the Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Islami,  as well as the Syrian daily Teshreen.  The following are excerpts from the article: 
"Secret European military intelligence reports indicate the transformation of the American humanitarian mission in Iraq into a profitable trade in the American markets through the practice of American physicians extracting human organs from the dead and wounded, before they are put to death, for sale to medical centers in America. A secret team of American physicians follow the troops during their attacks on Iraqi armed men to ensure quick [medical] operations for extracting some organs and transferring them to private operations rooms before they are transferred to America for sale.
"The reports confirm the finding of tens of mutilated cadavers or cadavers missing parts. Some were found without a head. The American military command could not offer reasons to explain the bewilderment about the missing parts, suggesting that this may have been caused by the penetration of bullets to the [missing] parts. But these excuses cannot be medically accepted. The reports also confirmed that the burning of bodies was deliberate in order to conceal the crime of organ extraction. [The reports] further indicate that American medical teams have [made] active and suspicious moves in Iraq to recruit some Iraqis to guide them to dead and critically injured individuals to engage in the extraction of organs. These teams offer $40 for every usable kidney and $25 for an eye. The reports confirm the finding of mutilated bodies in Fallujah. The reports indicate that the cadavers are immunized inside special cars to prevent the spread of the plague until the bodies are buried by their relatives.
"The reports have indicated that a number of those killed in 'Abu Ghraib' and other prisons were subjected to operations for extracting their organs. Following their mutilations, the bodies were discarded far from the prisons to conceal the facts. The reports revealed that that the American forces restricted the media by force to prevent them from getting near the scenes and recording the events. But the relatives of the Iraqis are aware of these facts. The reports have [also] indicated that the military forces of the European allies have noticed the absence of organs from the cadavers that were dealt with by the Americans and have reported to their high command, which instructed them to maintain silence and to avoid the discussion of the subject due to its gravity, while the military and intelligence high command have written secret reports about was observed by their forces and sent them to the European ministries of defense for their information."
 Jomhouri-ye Islami (Iran), December 19, 2004. http://www.jomhourieslami.com/1383/13830929/index.html. The article in Jomhouri-ye Islami also included pictures of Iraqis whose organs had allegedly been taken, including a picture of Abu Ghraib.
 Teshreen (Syria), December 19, 2004.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia) December 18, 2004.
Hardly surprising... This is the same kind of blood libel they spread about Jews making pastries out of Arab children, etc.
These are state-controlled papers, meaning that the editors are appointed by the government and must adhere to strict constraints. It is no surprise, too, that the papers spreading this are located in Saudia Arabia, Syria and Iran, as all three have the most to lose should a liberally constitutional democracy arise in Iraq.
HAMPTON - A parent of a Hampton Academy Junior High School student says the principal of the school told his son to leave the school’s holiday dance on Friday night because the boy was dressed in a Santa Claus costume, which was politically incorrect.
Principal Fred Muscara said he told the boy he couldn’t get into the dance because he was wearing the costume.
"It was a holiday party," said Muscara. "It was not a Christmas party. There is a separation of church and state. We have a lot of students that go to Hampton Academy Junior High that have different religions. We have to be sensitive to that."
ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHH!!!! What's worse, that the principle thinks Santa Claus has something to do with the birth of Christ, or that he thinks there's something called a "separation of church and state"? Where is this separation of church and state? Find me a founding document that mentions it. Or has a child wearing a Santa suit to a party somehow become synonymous with Congress passing legislation to establish religion? Let's see. He's a child, not Congress. He's going to a dance, not passing a law. And he's wearing a Santa suit, not establishing religion. How in all that is holy does Principle Massengill get from here to there?
See related post below.
The following is what the Arab leaders say when they're away from Western microphones. In this case the Palestinian official was on Iranian television.
[World Tribune] The new leader of the ruling Fatah movement said the Palestinians want to replace Israel with a state of their own.
Fatah chief Farouk Khaddoumi said the Palestinian strategy toward Israel was two-fold. In the first stage, he said, the Palestinians would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In the second stage, the Palestinians would seek to eliminate the Jewish state.
In November, Khaddoumi replaced the late Yasser Arafat as leader of Fatah, Middle East Newsline reported. "At this stage there will be two states," Khaddoumi told Iran's Al Aram television. "Many years from now, there will be only one."
Khaddoumi, who regards himself as Palestinian foreign minister, said he was confident that Israel would be eliminated. He said he always opposed Israel's existence and cited the Arab numerical superiority over the Jewish state.
"[There are] 300 million Arabs, while Israel has only the sea behind it," Khaddoumi said.
Khaddoumi said his platform was endorsed by the PLO in 1974. He said the strategy called for a phased plan that would establish authority over any territory obtained from Israel, concluding with an Arab war to destroy the Jewish state.
Third, the demand for Rumsfeld's scalp is also predicated on supposedly too few troops in the theater. But here too the picture is far more complicated. Vietnam was no more secure with 530,000 American soldiers in 1968 than it was with 24,000 in 1972. How troops are used, rather than their sheer numbers, is the key to the proper force deployment — explaining why Alexander the Great could take a Persian empire of 2 million square miles with an army less than 50,000, while earlier Xerxes with 500,000 on land and sea could not subdue tiny Greece, one-fortieth of Persia's size.
-- Victor Davis Hanson
Read the whole thing.
Last year alone, nine major drug companies donated $2.135 billion worth of products and services to combat HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other tropical ailments. This sum, Adelman and Norris write, "remains a conservative figure since it does not include cause-related marketing or philanthropic contributions by overseas affiliates."
Abbott, Becton-Dickinson, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Wyeth donated $1.4 billion in drugs and medical devices; $210 million in in-country logistics, storage, administration, and time volunteered by medical professionals; $210 million in taxes, tariffs, and customs duties; $175 million in additional projects outside an industry consortium called the Partnership for Quality Medicines Donations (PQMD); and $140 million for transportation, insurance, and handling.
Despite the alleged avarice of the "mean, nasty" drug companies, this $2.135 billion in medical charity far outpaced the financial commitment of "caring, loving" government agencies that reputedly "put people, before profits." Compare Big Pharma's foreign aid with that of public-sector donors in 2003:
The U.S. Agency for International Development's Global Health Budget stood at $1.374 billion.
The World Health Organization's budget was $1.37 billion.
European Commission spending on HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria totaled $451 million.
-- Deroy Murdock.
While you're at it, check out Bob Goldberg's column on what would happen should we start importing drugs from Canada. The Department of Health and Human Services Importation Task Force latest report found that “importation could result in between four to eighteen fewer new drugs being introduced per decade.” As my doctor brother likes to say, sure we'd have cheaper prescription drugs with imports, but your doctors would eventually prescribe aspirin for everything because there’d be no new drugs to market.
Joint Chief Chairman Richard Myers officially confirmed that the attack at Marez which killed 22 people was a suicide bomber, not a mortar or rocket as the "sophisticated" media first reported.
The preliminary finding by military and FBI investigators reinforced a claim posted on a Web site by a radical Iraqi group, Ansar al-Sunna, that one of its members had carried out a suicide attack. The group's statement, which appeared hours after the attack, boasted of a strike on "a restaurant for the blaspheming occupation forces."
The attack represented a startling breach of security at a U.S. base. "Force protection," the military phrase for keeping troops safe, has been an overarching priority for the military since devastating truck bomb attacks killed scores of Marines and soldiers massed in high-rise apartment buildings in Lebanon in 1983 and Saudi Arabia in 1996.
...witnesses said chairs and tables in the hall contained the small, round holes left by ball bearings. Such material is recommended for bomb components in instructions for assembling suicide vests on Internet exchanges. ABC News reported that investigators recovered part of the bomber's torso and portions of a suicide vest.
"Evidence found at the site includes components normally associated with improvised explosive devices," the military said in a statement released after midnight in Baghdad. "There was no physical evidence of a rocket, mortar or other type of indirect fire weapon."
Tight security is routine at the dozens of U.S. bases in Iraq, with heavy berms or high walls surrounding regularly patrolled perimeters. U.S. firms contracted to feed the troops routinely employ citizens from third countries, such as the Philippines, but Iraqis come on base each day to fill temporary jobs and or do construction work, such as building the concrete and steel mess hall at Marez.
In another posting on the Internet, Ansar al-Sunna said the suicide bomber was a Mosul man who had worked at the base for four months and provided intelligence to the group. The group said the man detonated plastic explosives hidden under his clothes, according to the posting, which was also quoted by ABC.
Ansar al-Sunna, a successor to the radical Ansar al-Islam militia that battled U.S. and Kurdish troops in the north at the beginning of the war, is reportedly based in Mosul. Dominated by Kurds, the group asserted responsibility for two attacks in February in the northern city of Irbil. Those attacks killed more than 100 people when attackers detonated suicide belts at crowded receptions hosted by Kurdish political parties.
The media is going to love this, of course - You see! The military can't even protect our troops during lunch! All is lost! We may as well just give Iraq to the terrorists, which George Bush made!
The sad reality is that it's not difficult to make a suicide vest - just ask the Israelis.
Having said that, it would be worth while to track the explosives down to find out if the vest originated in Syria, Iran or from the masters of suicide vests - the Palestinians. Forensic science is pretty amazing, and lets not forget that we've previously successfully tracked explosives from Pan Am 103 to Libya and the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing to the Baaka Valley in Lebanon (Hezbollah).
Thanks to the always boastful terrorists for letting us know that their martyr was working for US forces for "four months" - it will make it easier to track down who it was, and perhaps tighten security. The military should also focus on the private security firms screening procedures, and likely whoever is in charge of bringing in Iraqi manual laborers.
This was a sucker punch, likely the result of someone missing something, or just security that had grown lax. But then again, maybe behind the bombing was something more nefarious - but why do I get the feeling that we won't bother looking into that, perhaps because we may be scared of what we find? The media's job would be in part to bring up this topic because only that will put the spotlight on investigators and determine if they're sniffing up that tree. But they won't, because the media wouldn't want this to be traced back to another state or organization, for it would undercut their silly historical revision that Iraq was all fine and dandy and a wonderful place to live until Bush's mean neo-conservatives got a hold of it.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Worried about recent artillery attacks on American mess halls in Iraq, the U.S. military was just days away from completing a reinforced dining area at the camp where a rocket attack killed more than 20 people in a tent the bunker was meant to replace.
Iraqi insurgents have attacked several U.S. military dining hall tents with mortars or rockets over the past few months.
On Tuesday, before the hardened dining hall at Forward Operating Base Marez could be completed, a 122mm rocket slammed into a tent where hundreds of troops were sitting down to lunch.
That's irony, but it's insignificant because we now know that it was a suicide bomber, not a rocket, that killed 22 people in Marez. But apparently the AP doesn't follow current events.
One of my frequent criticism of the anti-Rumsfeld cabel is that they often take opinion or theory that runs contrary to current Pentagon strategy and assert it as fact - such as, because we're still fighting after invading with 150,000 troops it must automatically mean that we should have used more troops; or because we didn't find any stockpiles of WMD it must automatically mean that those stockpiles never existed, as opposed to transferred or better hidden.
Tom Donnelly takes on the proponents who now use hindsight to blame Paul Bremer and the Bush administration for disbanding the old Iraqi army. The critics point out that "The trouble we're experiencing building new and effective Iraqi forces is taken as obvious proof of this truth," writes Donnelly.
But the very difficulty of the job [constructing a new Iraqi security force] is, if nothing else, a measure of how broken Saddam's army itself was... If Saddam's army proved a paper tiger against the U.S. military, it was moderately more capable in its ability to massacre Iraqi civilians. With its Sunni-dominated officer corps, the old security forces were a symbol of the violence that Saddam's minority rule visited upon the Kurds and Shia. Not surprisingly, then, the old army's command structure was picked much more for its Baath party membership and personal loyalty to Saddam than its discipline or competence. It's not just that we would have had to replace a lot of rotten generals after the invasion, it is that the entire structure was rotten to the core.
OUR TROUBLES in building competent military and paramilitary forces ought more properly to remind us how truly revolutionary our purpose in Iraq and in the region really are. In fact, there were no legitimate state institutions in Iraq--civil or military. There was no significant body of "technocrats" who, with proper guidance, could accelerate the business of state-building. And embracing the Saddam's army would have sent an unmistakable message to the Iraqi people that the United States was either unwilling or unable to wrest control of the instruments of state power from the Baathists.
Would such a gradual conversion process have been possible with the old Iraqi army--a Sunni militia, writ large? Perhaps, but unlikely. Certainly a more orderly demobilization, in which Sunni officers might have been quietly bought off, could have taken some of the bite out of the insurgency. But one way or another, the old Iraqi army had to go--and with it, the old regime.
Ultimately, it is putting the cart before the horse to believe that there can ever be fully legitimate and effective national military forces prior to the birth of a legitimate national government. Our greatest postwar military mistake in Iraq was thus not that we disbanded the old Iraqi army too quickly but that we moved to create a new Iraqi state too slowly.
Reminder: Bill Clinton and the Democratic Senate made regime change in Iraq official US policy in the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act. Apparently, however, only Bush let the world know that we mean to enforce the laws we write.
Columnist George Will gives a favorable review to Michael Crichton's new book, State of Fear, and more importantly to his message:
"State of Fear," with a first printing of 1.5 million copies, resembles Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" -- about 6 million copies sold since 1957 -- as a political broadside woven into an entertaining story. But whereas Rand had only an idea -- a good one (capitalism is splendid), but only one -- Crichton has information. "State of Fear" is the world's first page turner that people will want to read in one gulp (a long gulp: 600 pages, counting appendices) even though it has lots of real scientific graphs, and footnotes citing journals such as Progress in Physical Geography and Transactions -- American Geophysical Union.
Crichton's subject is today's fear that global warming will cause catastrophic climate change, a belief now so conventional that it seems to require no supporting data. Crichton's subject is also how conventional wisdom is manufactured in a credulous and media-drenched society.
Various factions have interests -- monetary, political, even emotional -- in cultivating fears. The fears invariably seem to require more government subservience to environmentalists and more government supervision of our lives.
Crichton's villains are environmental hysterics who are innocent of information but overflowing with certitudes and moral vanity. His heroes resemble Navy SEALs tenured at MIT, foiling the villains with guns and graphs.
The villains are frustrated because the data do not prove that global warming is causing rising sea levels and other catastrophes. So they concoct high-tech schemes to manufacture catastrophes they can ascribe to global warming -- flash floods in the American West, the calving of an Antarctic iceberg 100 miles across, and a tsunami that would roar at 500 mph across the Pacific and smash California's coast on the last day of a Los Angeles conference on abrupt climate change.
The theory of global warming -- Crichton says warming has amounted to just half a degree Celsius in 100 years -- is that "greenhouse gases," particularly carbon dioxide, trap heat on Earth, causing . . . well, no one knows what, or when. Crichton's heroic skeptics delight in noting such things as the decline of global temperatures from 1940 to 1970. And that since 1970, glaciers in Iceland have been advancing. And that Antarctica is getting colder and its ice is getting thicker.
Last week Fiona Harvey, the Financial Times' environmental correspondent, fresh from yet another international confabulation on climate change, wrote that while Earth's cloud cover "is thought" to have increased recently, no one knows whether this is good or bad. Is the heat-trapping by the clouds' water vapor greater or less than the sun's heat reflected back off the clouds into space?
Climate-change forecasts, Harvey writes, are like financial forecasts but involve a vastly more complex array of variables. The climate forecasts, based on computer models analyzing the past, tell us that we do not know how much warming is occurring, whether it is a transitory episode or how much warming is dangerous -- or perhaps beneficial.
One of the good guys in "State of Fear" cites Montaigne's axiom: "Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known." Which is why 30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling. The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) reported "many signs" that "Earth may be heading for another ice age." Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned about "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." "Continued rapid cooling of the Earth" (Global Ecology, 1971) could herald "a full-blown 10,000-year ice age" (Science, March 1, 1975). The Christian Science Monitor reported (Aug. 27, 1974) that Nebraska's armadillos were retreating south from the cooling.
Last week The Post reported that global warming has caused a decline in Alaska's porcupine caribou herd and has lured the golden orange prothonotary warbler back from southern wintering grounds to Richmond a day earlier for nearly two decades. Or since global cooling stopped. Maybe.
Gregg Easterbrook, an acerbic student of eco-pessimism, offers a "Law of Doomsaying": Predict catastrophe no later than 10 years hence but no sooner than five years away -- soon enough to terrify, but far enough off that people will forget if you are wrong. Because Crichton remembers yesterday's discarded certitudes, millions of his readers will be wholesomely skeptical of today's.
A little hokey, yes, but certainly no more than creating an amusement park of dinosaurs. I read that Crichton series too, and as with most of his work it's not so much the story but that the story delivers complex information in laymen's terms. I don't read a lot of fiction anymore (I just finished Nelson DeMille's Night Fall, and while DeMille is always a funny writer the ending was quite predictable) but will have to put State of Fear on my list.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
That's the only time the US Constitution makes mention of the word religion. Note what is never mentioned in the Constitution, no matter how often Liberals quote the phrase - Separation of Church and State. It's not in the Constitution, which is to say, legally it should be insignificant. I cringe every time I hear the phrase, because it's 10 pounds of manure in a 5-pound bag.
Yet from that very literal amendment wording - Congress shall make no law - we have panicked school boards, city councils and county courts across the country (that is, entities that are NOT Congress) divorcing themselves from even the slightest hint of religion just to avoid the argument. It's ridiculous, and many of the members of these boards are willing partners to it, but in most cases they're just taking the path of least resistance rather than waging expensive lawsuit defenses and PR campaigns.
Case in point comes from Los Angeles, where because the county seal contains two small crosses county supervisors are having to replace every official seal in every official building because back in May the ACLU threatened to sue them.
Again, it is a mysterious alchemy that transforms "Congress" making laws to "establish religion" into a pair of crosses on a county seal, which has nothing to do with Congress, laws, or establishing religion.
The cost for all this? $700,000 - courtesy of the taxpayer.
"The original plan was just to cover up the seals," said John Musella, spokesman for Supervisor Don Knabe. "Now, they will have to pay to physically remove the old seals and put up brand new ones, which will escalate the costs greatly beyond the $700,000 estimate the Chief Administrative Office gave the board."
On Monday, county officials discovered that the tiny Christian cross on the two original seals in the Board of Supervisors' hearing room could be clearly seen through the new $1,800 seals glued on to cover up the cross. In fact, the cross is now directly over the rendering of the San Gabriel Mission, which is pictured on the new seal without a cross.
Earlier this year, county workers installed the two 6-foot-diameter seals costing $3,800 on the wall behind the supervisors' chairs at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California threatened to sue unless the cross was removed. In June, the supervisors took the first of several 3-2 votes to replace the seal with a cross-less version. On the new seal, the Pomona goddess of fruits is replaced by an American Indian woman and the cross above the Hollywood Bowl is erased. The bowl is moved up a position, and the San Gabriel Mission now rests in its former spot.
..."It's taken a real toll on taxpayers, especially at a time when resources are precious, just to appease the ACLU," [Spokesman Tony] Bell said. "The old seal never had its day in court. It's just a shame."
They didn't even bother to fight it, which is naturally what the ACLU wants - Americans so cowered before a threat of lawsuits that they refuse to defend themselves over things most people would find as an affront to common sense.
PARIS, France (AP) -- In Woody Allen's America, Bordeaux or Burgundy wine and other things French are always in vogue. But he admits his European sensibility makes his films less popular back home.
Even with trans-Atlantic ties at a low ebb, the French are still looked up to as standard-bearers of class, elegance and, well, romance among Americans, he said -- and the U.S. filmgoing public knows it.
That's funny, because when I think of France I think of people who don't bathe often enough and women who don't shave their armpits...
If a tribe of Aqualishes wants to boil rhino horns in frog saliva on the National Mall to honor their deity, we'd have a commemorative postage stamp ready by next December. But let a Christian mention the baby Jesus to a kindergarten class and the ACLU wants an exorcism.
-- Kathleen Parker
Read the whole thing.
The truth trickles out. "It now appears that the premise of the question that caused an uproar around Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was, so to speak, off base," FNC's Brit Hume noted Tuesday night in reminding viewers how two weeks ago National Guardsman "Thomas Wilson said to Rumsfeld, quote, 'our vehicles are not armored, we do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north,' into Iraq." But, Hume relayed, "according to senior Army officers, about 800 of the 830 vehicles in Wilson's Army regiment, the 278th Calvary, had already been up-armored" at the time of his widely publicized question. Some Hearst newspapers reported that fact last week and since then it has trickled up the media stream into NewsMax, the Washington Times and FNC, but not the other networks or major newspapers.
-- Media Research Center
This is a great op-ed. Read it all.
If Mr. Rumsfeld has made a single large mistake as Defense Secretary, it has been underestimating the resilience of this enemy. To be fair, this is a familiar mistake in U.S. history, the tendency to declare victory too soon and let the enemy regroup and fight on. Meade let Lee escape at Gettysburg, while overconfident generals missed the Nazi potential to counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. In the first Gulf War, Norman Schwarzkopf let Saddam keep the helicopters that allowed him to crush the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings and survive for another decade.
Also to be fair, mistakes are inevitable in war and Mr. Rumsfeld has been far from alone. The CIA seems to have completely missed that Saddam's strategy from the beginning was to disperse his allies and conduct a decentralized insurgency. And we don't recall John McCain predicting today's events. The first person we saw who noted this likelihood was retired Marine colonel Gary Anderson, in an April 2, 2003, op-ed in the Washington Post. His warnings were dismissed at the time, especially by the CIA, which still believed that Iraq could be pacified with a "decapitation" strategy eliminating Saddam and his top aides.
But the more we learn about the insurgency, the more Mr. Anderson's analysis has proven true. The latest evidence comes from a batch of intelligence documents reported in last week's U.S. News & World Report. Reporter Edward Pound cites U.S. documents saying "former regime elements" are behind most of today's terror attacks in Iraq. He quotes one document as noting that Saddam and his allies "appear to have planned for an insurgency before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom." Months before the Coalition invasion, members of Saddam's intelligence service and Fedayeen were planning how to build roadside bombs and to target convoys and such soft targets as water plants and oil pipelines.
All of this has strategic and political consequences. One is that the troubles in Iraq aren't a matter of starry-eyed nation-building gone awry, as some conservative second-guessers now suggest. Most Iraqis really do want to build a free country. But they are opposed by an entrenched, ruthless Baathist network that is akin to the Mafia. These elements can't be bargained with, or lured into elections. They have to be killed. Imagine if the Nazi SS still had sanctuaries in Germany in 1947; no one would be thinking it had to be given a place in a future Adenauer government.
This also suggests that the number of U.S. troops on the ground matters much less than the intelligence our forces can get from Iraqis. We could have half a million troops there and they wouldn't do much good if they didn't know where to find the "former regime elements." The Pentagon strategy of training Iraqis to fight with us is exactly correct, even if the effort began much later than it should have.
The largest lesson concerns the will of the U.S. political class to prevail. Especially now that the U.S. election is over, it'd be nice to think that we could forge a consensus directed at victory, rather than at domestic score-settling. Everyone claims to like that Saddam was deposed, but it becomes clearer every day that his forces aren't yet beaten. Along with the imported terrorists, those forces are trying to make Iraq their Stalingrad, where they can outlast America. If they succeed, it won't matter a whit that John McCain lacked "confidence" in Donald Rumsfeld.
The take-away is that there are two ways to understand war once you're in it. You either fight it unapologetically or you apologize for it and get killed. I don't mean to belittle the attack in Iraq this week with my own story of petty yuletide violence, but when the enemy takes out 22 people — including 19 Americans — during a lunch hour in Mosul, one of the last things anyone should lose sleep over are the anxieties of the ACLU [detainee abuses]...
-- Denis Boyles
"We have few choices: We can maintain the status quo while trying to build an Iraqi government that will survive, we can get the hell out now and leave them to kill themselves, or we can adopt a more brutal and repressive stance."
-- retired Marine Lt. Col. Jay Stout
Maybe it's a mix of the first and third option:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) U.S. troops backed by armored vehicles swept through virtually empty streets of Mosul amid an undeclared curfew in Iraq's third largest city Wednesday, a day after an insurgent strike on a nearby base killed 22 people and wounded 72 in one of the deadliest attacks on American troops since the war began.
[UPDATE: Okay, ABC News is reporting that investigators are beginning to conclude that it was a suicide attack, not a rocket or mortar attack. That makes sense to me. As I wrote below it just didn't figure that after trying 30 times unsuccessfully they'd get off such a good blow unless by sheer luck, not sophistication. In the end, however, there's no sense in arguing semantics. They got a good lick in yesterday, and our military now must apply lessons and get better at screening the Iraqis, and scrutinizing the heck out of any Iraqi wearing a backpack. An Iraqi trying to get into a military base should at least have as difficult a time as I have getting on an airplane. But as the Israelis have learned, there's nothing sophisticated about detonating yourself in a crowd of people. It's brutal and effective. But don't confuse a tactic that's difficult to defend with sophistication. I'm not downplaying the enemy's cunning or abilities, but the media uses the word to imply that our military has neither and that the war is a lost cause.]
The media is focusing on yesterday's attack of a mess hall in Marez with vigor, and there are definitely some angles that need to be covered. But, as usual, you can find behind the facade of objective reporting marks of repugnant sensationalism and excitement. Excitement, because as with any time the Iraqi insurgents get in a good lick our media sees it as another Tet 1968, and for the media, boy, were those the glory days.
First, it's being now reported in the Associated Press that the insurgents hit the main mess hall of the camp with a 122mm rocket. But, is that confirmed? Was it a rocket, mortar, or suicide bomber? It may turn out to be a rocket by the time you read this, but right now I don't think the military knows for sure.
The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack, called the act a "martyrdom operation." But for something to be a martyrdom operation doesn't there have to be a martyr? In other words, the group that is claiming responsibility is acting like this was a suicide bomber, although I suppose there could have been an informant inside the mess tent working for them and that's who they consider to be their martyr.
Well, we'll find out soon enough if it was a rocket or suicide bomber.
The post covers both possibilities in separate articles:
But in an online assertion of responsibility for the attack, a radical Muslim group described "a suicide operation." Military officials said the cause of the blast was under investigation, and some security experts said the extent of injuries indicated that it was possible a bomb had been planted inside the hall.
...Security at all U.S. bases is ordinarily extremely tight, and any penetration by a suicide bomber would be a startling breach. Local Iraqi workers typically are searched before entering and monitored while on base. Iraqi soldiers are the only local nationals usually seen in mess halls.
A question: which form of attack is better news for the US military? Although the article above concludes that an infiltration would be the more horrific possibility I would wager it preferable to have been a suicide bomber, because it means that we have more control through internal screening of bomb-laden infiltrators than we do stopping every rocket attack on a base.
But even if it was a rocket or mortar round there are still a lot of unknowns, particularly concerning strategy, which is why I'm bothered when the media propagates shaky conclusions as definite.
For example, the media is again promoting the attack as a signal that the insurgency has grown more sophisticated. That term - sophistication - by the way is a cliché for the media. Just Google the words "Iraq" "insurgency" and "sophisticated" to see what I mean. After about every attack the media labels the insurgency as more "sophisticated." It old, clichéd, sometimes accurate but sometimes not, and pathetically used by the media as part of an agenda to paint the enemy as a better fighting force than our military. I mean, what the hell is so "sophisticated" about wiring together a bomb, hiding it on the side of the road and detonating it when a long convoy of American trucks drives by it? That's about as sophisticated as a drive-by shooting.
Yet, here's a Post "news analysis" pushing that line:
The major difference between the latest attack and the earlier incidents is that it was an attack on a U.S. base, rather than on troops in transit in vulnerable aircraft. That difference appears to reflect both the persistence of the insurgency and its growing sophistication, as experts noted that it seemed to be based on precise intelligence. Most disturbingly, some officers who have served in Iraq worried that the Mosul attack could mark the beginning of a period of even more intense violence preceding the Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30.
...Several experts noted that insurgents appear to have acted on accurate intelligence. Kalev Sepp, a former Special Forces counterinsurgency expert who recently returned from Iraq, noted that the attack "was carried out in daylight against the largest facility on the base, at exactly the time when the largest number of soldiers would be present."
"This combination of evidence indicates a good probability that the attack was well-planned and professionally executed," Sepp said.
First, the Post is right to note that an attack on a US base is more disconcerting than one on a convoy. But who out there following events in Iraq hasn't predicted that insurgents would escalate violence to unprecedented levels to try and halt the elections? That's desperation on the insurgency's part. They're going to pull all the stops out to try and stop elections, but no matter what they do, no matter how violent they get, the only thing that can prevent the elections are hand-wringing allied politicians.
The question remains: Was this a precise attack planned to the minute detail and sophisticated? Maybe, but I don't think so. It has been reported that the Marez camp sustains at least a half dozen attacks from rocket or mortar every day, and that "the explosions are shrugged off by soldiers as little more than a nuisance" because they never come close to hitting anything. In fact according to one report, "Insurgents have fired mortars at the chow hall more than 30 times this year."
If so, why wasn't the mess hall successfully targeted before yesterday? If the insurgency is really growing more sophisticated why haven't we experienced a half dozen devastating attacks on mess halls daily and on a number of bases?
Rather, might it be possible that this was a lucky shot after 30 tries on the hall? They're throwing rockets or mortars at Marez six times a day and they finally got lucky with a big hit. Isn't that a possible scenario?
It's possible, as reported yesterday, that some insurgents drove up, pulled out a mortar or rocket launcher, fired off a lucky shot and then drove away.
If so, then Marez is their Hail Mary play - They've lobbed 30 bombs and yesterday they finally hit the end zone.
But it won't stop elections, and won't stop a sensible person from advocating postponing them. Only people like Kofi Annan, who have never been for regime change, who have long advocated coddling Saddam Hussein, who have feared the possibility of success in Iraq as a long-term vindication of Bush's preemptive war strategy, are calling for a postponement of elections.
This is what I mean when I write that the media is shameful in how it covers insurgent attacks in Iraq:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq - It was a brilliant, sunny day with blue skies and warmer than usual weather in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers had just sat down for lunch in their giant chow hall tent. It was about noon Tuesday when insurgents hit their tent with a suspected rocket attack. The force of the explosions knocked soldiers off their feet and out of their seats. A fireball enveloped the top of the tent, and shrapnel sprayed into the men. Amid the screaming and thick smoke that followed, quick-thinking soldiers turned their lunch tables upside down, placed the wounded on them and gently carried them into the parking lot.
...The explosions blew out a huge hole in the roof of the tent. Puddles of bright red blood, lunch trays and overturned tables and chairs covered the floor. Grim-faced soldiers growled angrily about the attack as they stomped away. "Mother (expletive)!" one mumbled.
..."We almost made it. We almost made it to the end without getting somebody killed," Otto said glumly.
...With heads hung low, the soldiers trudged outside. They had work to do.
Am I over-reacting? Or do the readers also find this reporting disgusting? This embed writes like he's just been given an 11th grade creative writing assignment. Every pool of blood bright. Every soldier is a pessimist, grim, and sad. Defeatists all. Woe is us, let's pack up and go home. I'm not saying I don't doubt the soldiers were sad or angry, but the style of writing implies their morale is shot - or am I reaching, you tell me? But, hey, it was a brilliant, sunny day with blue skies and warmer than usual weather, so I guess that's something worth reporting. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked... What crap. All that's missing is a melodramatic ending to the article. He should have just cut and pasted the ending to Shane - "Shane! Shane! Come back! 'Bye, Shane."
The Washington Post again rehashes yesterday's news regarding newly released documents detailing alleged incidents of detainee abuse and sticks it on page one to keep it in the headlines. I'm not going to cover it much today because it would just be repeating everything I wrote yesterday. But for the second straight day the media makes mention in its list of abuses something curious:
The documents disclosed by a coalition of groups that had sued the government to obtain them make it clear that both regular and Special Forces soldiers took part in the abuse, and that the misconduct included shocking detainees with electric guns, shackling them without food and water, and wrapping a detainee in an Israeli flag.
Wrapping a detainee in an Israeli flag is torture or abuse comparable to shocking someone with electricity? Why, did the flag hurt? This is retarded. Have we become so hyper-sensitive in fighting war that we're going to reinforce Arab bigotry towards Jews and Israel by punishing soldiers who
President Bush is quite correct when he states that the terrorists hate Americans for who we are, not for what we do. The Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, who encourage al-Qaida and other terrorists, including Zarqawi in Iraq, repudiate the very concept of voting, parliamentarism, and democracy. Shias do not reject these principles. A prosperous Shia-led electoral regime in Iraq, on its long northern border, could be the ultimate nightmare for the Saudi hardliners, particularly since the oil industry in the kingdom is centered in the Saudi Eastern Province, which has a Shia majority -- and Shias have suffered a near-genocidal discrimination at Wahhabi hands. Saudi Arabia has always dealt with Shia dissidence by labeling it as a product of Iran. But if Shia dissidents in the Saudi kingdom are inspired by Iraq they will gain immense credibility.
-- Stephen Schwartz
This wasn't solely a war against Saddam Hussein - it was a long-term strategy to defeat Saudi Arabian, Iranian, and Syrian extremism, the big three of the terror world.
[Wa. Post] At least 22 people were killed and more than 60 wounded at a U.S. military base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today when the installation came under attack by suspected insurgents. Initial reports indicated that a dining hall at the installation, called Camp Marez, was hit by a rocket and mortar attack.
A radical Iraqi Muslim group, the Army of Ansar al-Sunna, claimed responsibility for the attack, news agencies reported. The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had targeted a canteen used by the U.S. military at the base, which is located 240 miles north of Baghdad.
...The base, which contains an airfield in the southwestern part of Mosul, is used by both U.S. and Iraqi forces. Mortar rounds fall frequently on the post -- sometimes a half-dozen a day -- but are usually shrugged off by soldiers as little more than a nuisance. The mortars usually are fired quickly and at random by insurgents, who leap from cars in the city's busy streets to do so.
...When mortars do strike buildings at Camp Marez, the information is usually kept secret so as not to tip off attackers about the accuracy of their strikes. U.S. officers worry, however, that insurgent informants on the post may be passing targeting data to attackers on the outside to help them refine their fire.
This isn't a Red Cross building or hotel, it's a military camp, which means you'd think it would be guarded as such. A camp isn't a convoy - a camp should be a fortress. How the hell did anyone get close enough to shell it? Is the camp located too close to the city limits? It takes time to stop a car, pull out a rocket launcher, fire off a shot and drive away - Why aren't snipers posted in locations where attackers have stopped to previously launch attacks? Who's vetting the Iraqis to ensure that they're loyal (because it sounds like this was an inside job)?
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