Sunday, April 03, 2005

By taking a stand on behalf of the transcendent, John Paul II was offering a standing rebuke to the most evil idea of the 20th century - the idea that it is acceptable to enslave or dispose of human beings in mass numbers in order to achieve radical political aims.

A year after his elevation, he made his world-historical journey back home to Poland. He did not confront the Communist regime. He conducted Mass. He ministered to his suffering countrymen.

But by showing his fellow Poles that there was a force equal to, even superior to, the totalitarian government oppressing them, he gave them new hope. In a matter of months, shipyard workers began a strike in the city of Gdansk - a strike that began the effort at peaceful revolution called Solidarity.

We now know that Communism began to unravel when Solidarity rose.

Thus did this anti-political figure make his invaluable contribution to the most hopeful, most thrilling and humane political event of the 20th century. When, over the course of the third millennium, historians seek to take the full measure of the 20th century, they will linger happily over the transcendent role of Pope John Paul II.

-- John Podhoretz



According to the Washington Post the independent commission created to investigate intelligence failures in Iraq found that the Bush administration and American intelligence community "routinely dismissed" findings of the United Nations weapons inspectors.

The third and fourth paragraphs of this story are almost comical historical revisions:

[Paragraph 3] The work of the inspectors -- who had extraordinary access during their three months in Iraq between November 2002 and March 2003 -- was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and the intelligence community in the run-up to the war, according to the commission led by former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) and retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman.

Let's be frank to start, shall we: the UN weapons inspectors offered no relevant or conclusive findings before the war, only after it (akin to that office coworker who fills out their perfect bracket after the Final Four). What's the next question to be asked, then? After 11 years of Saddam Hussein obstructing and obfuscating all efforts to fully comply with Gulf War resolutions how was it that for three months he gave UN inspectors access? Might it have been the 180,000 American, British, Italian, etc. troops were lined up on Saddam Hussein's southern border. And in time, as international will gave out, and the cost of that force increased, and the likelihood of war decreased, and we began siphoning troops back home, would not have Saddam slowly withdrawn his cooperation? So please don't bother selling that mantra that UN inspectors were suddenly successful because of some unparalleled diplomatic coup. Saddam saw no light in cooperation. What he saw were divisions of Western armor heading for Baghdad.

The historical revision runs rampant these days. The same liberal think tanks which declared in 2002 that UN sanctions hurt the Iraqi people changed their tune a year after the war to declare sanctions as successful and thus Bush a buffoon for overriding them with military might. And the UN itself is the most guilty party - Hans Blix these days says 'of course we all knew Saddam had no WMD,' while before the war warned that Saddam might be successfully hiding WMD. Said Blix in February 2003, weeks before the war began, "Another matter - and one of great significance - is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were "unaccounted for". One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded." That hardly sounds like a guy assured that Iraq was weapons free. And this was just one point of contention. To that date anytime an American official quoted the number of suspected hidden WMD they quoted numbers compiled by the UN from 1991 to 1998, when UN inspections came to a halt in Iraq. For the next four years we had no information. And the only reason we had sudden access for three months in late 2002 to early 2003 was because of American force projection.

Therefore it's not just academic dishonesty to paint a picture that the UN had all the facts before the war and it was a trigger-happy Bush administration who ruined the chance of peaceful disarmament verification. It's also important because of how we deal with similar situations in the future.

And thus the relevance of paragraph four from the same article discussing this committee's findings:

But the commission's findings, including a key judgment that U.S. intelligence knows "disturbingly little" about nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, are leading to calls for greater reliance on U.N. inspectors to test intelligence where the United States has little or no access.
Greater UN reliance? Well, apparently only if we also line up 180,000 troops on the Iranian and North Korean border, eh? Otherwise one can expect them to act in the same manner that Iraq acted from 1991 to 2002. And that's the point.

Anyway, here's the bottom line (and I'm running out of cliches): If Bush and American intelligence dismissed UN weapons inspectors they did so because they don't trust the UN weapons inspectors to perform their duties apolitically. They expect the UN administrators to say anything so long as it keeps American - as opposed to North Korea or Iranian - power and intentions in check.

(Since then, complicating our distrust of UN motive was the fiasco surrounding the Oil-for-Food program. The UN, of course, cannot run a simple peacekeeping mission in the smallest of trouble spots without turning it into some child sex ring, so it was expected when Charles Duelfer, himself a former UN inspector, formally reported that Saddam Hussein used secret oil vouchers to bribe influential figures from Paris to Moscow to Indonesia.)



Speaking of the independent commission reviewing faulty intelligence on Iraq, Rich Lowry comments that the report isn't just devastating for our intelligence capabilities but for the critics who argued that Bush drove the bad intelligence. Page 50 of the report: "The Commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs." Sorry, libs. Then again, a good liberal never lets facts or evidence get in the way of pure Bush bashing.

Here's Lowry's conclusion:

If there was a fundamental problem in how policymakers and intelligence officials interacted, it was that policymakers, again and again, were not made aware of the thinness and questionable reliability of much of the information about Iraq. In other words, intelligence agencies poorly served Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the hawks, not the other way around.

On the one hand, it is understandable that the intel was so fouled up. We assumed that Saddam had the worst intentions. If he wasn't cooperating with the United Nations, he must have been developing something nasty. The report, over and over, says that these assumptions - crucial to all the analysis - had "a powerful air of common sense" and were "not unreasonable." On the other hand, there were so many frank factual errors and sloppy practices in all this that former CIA head George Tenet should have his recently awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom revoked.

In its recommendations, the WMD commission makes some nods toward decentralization. This after Congress rushed to "reform" intelligence last year by centralizing it. If we undo that reform and pass another, will intelligence be doubly effective because it will have been "reformed" twice? Bureaucratic shuffling is beside the point. What is most important - and the WMD report usefully emphasizes this - is that we get more agents on the ground and that the people running U.S. intelligence be more imaginative and risk-taking.

That's not easy. Would that the problem really were just getting Dick Cheney to butt out.



The latest report, published this week, examined in great detail the personal behavior of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and Kojo Annan, his son. Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna Inspection SA, a company with legal and financial problems that nevertheless won a contract to inspect goods coming into Iraq under the oil-for-food programme. The investigators found that Kojo Annan misled his father about the length of his employment - indeed, Kojo told Kofi of Cotecna's UN interests only after they were revealed by a Sunday Telegraph article. From the documents assembled in the report, it is also pretty clear that Kojo, who had a habit of pitching up and hanging around at big UN conferences, intended to profit from his father's position. But the probe did not find any evidence that Cotecna won its UN contract thanks to Kofi Annan's intervention.

Nevertheless, the report does not, as Annan Senior claimed this week, amount to an "exoneration". Despite the fact that it did not find the Secretary General personally guilty of corruption, the portrait of his office that emerges from the report is not exactly savoury. When they began their work, the investigators discovered that Mr Annan's former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, had just destroyed three years' worth of documents - a procedure that began, perhaps not coincidentally, right after the investigation was launched. They also discovered that the head of the United Nations' office of internal oversight, Dileep Nair, had paid the salary of a staff member using money that had been designated for the administration of the oil-for-food programme - which was particularly disturbing, given that Nair was the person responsible for monitoring UN bureaucrats, and that the staff member was employed to design an anti-corruption programme. These new revelations, when added to the dodgy procurement practices and corruption outlined in the previous oil-for-food investigation report - as well as recent revelations of misconduct by UN peacekeepers and sexual harassment scandals among UN bureaucrats - don't exactly make the United Nations look like a model of corporate probity, let alone an organisation that is capable of bringing peace to various war-torn bits of the world.

-- Anne Applebaum



For all the hatred of Israel, millions in the Middle East are beginning to see that Arafat was more a kleptocrat than a leader, and that Israel, not Syria, got out of Lebanon.

In Iraq, we do not see mass rallies castigating Americans for the presence of oil tankers in the Gulf or protests daily damning the Jews. Iraqi democrats control their own oil and have enough problems with car bombs and Islamists without wasting time blaming them on Israel.

...Finally, the United States must somehow forge a policy of consistency. True, a Gen. Musharraf is a neutral of sorts, and on occasion a convenient ally in hunting down terrorists. But for all his charm and the need to work with Pakistan, he is still a dictator, and a bullet away from a nuclear theocracy. Selling him high-priced F-16s is perhaps good policy in the short-term, but inconsistent with spending American blood and treasure for elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. It ultimately will send a terrible message to both Pakistani democratic reformers and to the world's largest democracy in India, which not long ago itself was on the verge of war on its border.

Sooner rather than later, Americans must also face the embarrassing fact that giving billions to the Egyptian dictator Mubarak, providing good-behavior money to the king of Jordan, and now giving jets to a Pakistani autocrat are all in the long-term as damaging to the United States' efforts to reform the Middle East as they are in the present smoothing the ruffled feathers of hurt strongmen.

The next problem we face is not that we have pushed democracy too abruptly in once-hostile lands, but that we have not pushed it enough into so-called friendly territory. It is, of course, dangerous to promote democracy in the Middle East, but more dangerous still to pause in our efforts, and, finally, most dangerous of all to quit before seeing this bold gambit through to its logical end — an end that alone will end the pathologies that led to September 11.

-- Victor Davis Hanson


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