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April 30, 2003


Saturday Night Live could not do a better parody of the United Nations than the one they pulled off themselves today, electing Cuba to the U.N. Human Rights Commission just days after Castro completed a crackdown resulting in the arrests of some 80 independent journalists and assorted dissidents. The U.S. walked out of the meeting in protest of the move, and later walked out again when the Cuban representative got up to speak.

Cuba now joins their fellow watchdogs of human rights abuse, the thugs... I mean, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Libya, the commission chair. Doubtless they are "concerned" about U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, U.S. occupation in Iraq, and of course, all manner of issues regarding Israel. At least they don't have to be concerned with pesky matters like elections back home, so they can concentrate fully on documenting the rights abuses of certain other countries.

The Weekly Standard this week provides a little "timeline", contrasting the events of certain dates with the goings on at the Geneva meetings of the U.N.H.R.C. Consider April 9th:

Crowds of Iraqis celebrate and pull down a statue of Saddam as Baghdad falls. Western newspapers publish reports from inside the infamous "White Lion" prison in the southern city of Basra, where for decades victims of the toppled regime were hung from ceiling hooks and tortured with hot irons, cigarettes, boiling water, pliers, and baths of acid.

meanwhile in Geneva...

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, announces himself "deeply disturbed" over civilian deaths and injuries resulting from the U.S.-led coalition war of liberation.

So, acid baths, pliers, and meathooks notwithstanding, Kofi Annan continues to regret the coalition's "decision to go to war without specific authorization by the Security Council". Such "authorization" as we now know would have been forthcoming shortly after hell froze over, given France's promise to veto a resolution "no matter what" it said. Another excerpt:

In the future, Annan concludes, wars like this one should be avoided; the world will be "safer" in a system "governed by the international rule of law and principles set out in the United Nations Charter." The Commission officially declares itself in agreement with Annan, approving a resolution identifying "peace" as a fundamental precondition for human rights and calling upon member states to renounce the use of force against other member states "irrespective of their political, economic, or social systems."

Let me get this right then. No matter how badly a regime violates the human rights of their people, all nations must renounce the use of force against them. And, for now at least, the dictators of Libya, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, among others, will be deciding for the world what constitutes a human rights abuse.

Now, are we absolutely sure that's not Eddie Murphy doin' his best Kofi?

As for combatting terrorism, Anne Bayefsky, a board member of U.N. Watch, says in a WSJ op-ed that the Commission cannot even define terrorism, much less confront it. Could they be preoccupied? What have they been up to?:

More than a quarter of the commission's resolutions condemning a state's human rights violations passed over the last 30 years have been directed at Israel. There has never been a single resolution on China, Syria or Saudi Arabia. The current session ended by defeating a resolution to criticize anything about the situation in Zimbabwe, and by eliminating the 10-year-old position of rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. This was despite a report of the U.N. rapporteur on torture informing commission members of the Sudanese practice of "cross-amputation"--amputation of right hand and left foot for armed robbery, and various cases of women being stoned to death for alleged adultery.

Commission meetings themselves are a platform for incitement to hate and violence. At this year's session, the Iranian deputy foreign minister threatened what he called a "vicious circle" of violence and future "extremism" resulting from the Iraq war. The Cuban representative demanded action against "the most critical case of . . . massive and flagrant violations of human rights [and] of the systemic institutionalization of racism--that of the United States." The Algerian delegate said: "The Israeli war machine has been trying for five decades to arrive at a final solution." The Palestinian representative called for the "elimination" of "Zionist Nazism."

Bayefsky ends by pointing out that the U.N. has seemingly abandoned the principles of universal human rights that were a foundation of its creation, and which at the time were consistent with the principles of the United States. It has demonstrably failed to protect human rights, and its credibilty is crippled by its systemic anti-Semitism, and overriding antipathy toward things American, save our role as host and principal cash cow.

Even when we succeed in our U.N. diplomacy, as with Resolution 1441, we shouldn't kid ourselves as to how we made that happen. Despite the organization's lofty goals, member nations act and vote in their own self-interests. Back in November, when we were basking in the 15-0 vote on 1441, Jonah Goldberg reminded us that it wasn't "because the glorious spirit of human cooperation and global harmony filled the air". We knew how it worked. We twisted arms, made promises, and bought votes. Goldberg continues:

Whether these countries think we're right about toppling or containing Saddam is something of a mystery; what we do know is that they don't think our case is compelling enough to trump their own narrow self-interests. If it were, we wouldn't have had to spend the last couple of months haggling over what happens to Iraq's debt to Russia or France's oil contracts. Right? I mean, if the U.N. were half the thing it ought to be, our U.N. partners would have dropped those concerns the way Cincinnatus laid down his plow. And if the United States is as wrong and selfish as the anti-war crowd says, then the rest of the Security Council are just a bunch of whores willing to do the wrong thing if we pay them enough.

As the Iraqi archives come into the public domain, the posturing of Russia, France and Germany will become all the more transparent for what it is, and their moral preening at the U.N. will prove all the more cynical and hypocritical. There was no shortage of pundits who were ready to write the obituary for the U.N. two months ago, and Kofi has been scrambling ever since to look "relevant". I'd settle for a little less self-parody.

April 29, 2003

The Bigger Victory

Just got done reading a long, but compelling and heartfelt post by Bill Whittle, a blogger who until today was unknown to me, but with whom I already feel a certain kinship, having slugged my way through his essay entitled, "Victory". I just wanted to share it, (and tip my hat to LGF for the link). I'm not even going to "excerpt" it, because you really do have to read it all.

April 28, 2003

Quotes of the Week

"Iraq needs only four people to achieve post-Saddam success. Unfortunately they are George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Marshall" - George Will, (at Townhall)

"Civilization's artifacts belong not to the real estate on which they were found but to the civilization they underpin. One day Iraq will be part of that civilized world: It will have not only a museum worthy of its past, but a present reality worthy of it, too. The desecration of Mesopotamia's legacy took place not in the last 10 days but in the last four decades. Baghdad's citizens merely helped themselves to the few things that were left, whether office furniture or potsherds. What's important about a nation's past is not what it keeps walled up in the museum but what it keeps outside, living and breathing as every citizen's inheritance." - Mark Steyn, (in National Post)

Brian Anderson, Cleveland Indians pitcher, after he and teammate Carl Sadler chased down and apprehended a purse-snatcher they observed while dining in an Oakland restaurant..... "The cops said 99 out of 100 times, if people see that a purse is being stolen, they just let it go, but this kid picked the wrong restaurant, where there happened to be a couple of athletes on a losing streak waiting for somebody to take it out on.''

"If this narrow victory escapes critical analysis, we will have wasted the unusual combination of prudence and daring in this nation, which thinks best when it thinks as it was born, a David to Goliaths. Every war that we cannot avoid we should fight as if our survival depends on it, for eventually it will, and never should we be confident that we will prevail, or someday we will not." - Mark Helprin (in National Review)

"I read today that Al Gore wanted to go visit the troops in Baghdad, but he cancelled when he saw what they do to statues over there." - Jay Leno

The Sunday Telegraph discovered documents in the trashed offices of the Iraqi intelligence service that showed a clear link between Saddam and al Qaeda. The story so disturbed the BBC World Service that they dispatched the grotesque Judy Swallow, their very best anti-American sneer merchant, to suggest to her listeners that just maybe the Telegraph was making all this stuff up. But Swallow's guest, one of the BBC's peculiar "analysts", refused to go that far. (As practitioners of unbiased journalism, all of the World Service's presenters suck, but none so much as Swallow). - Denis Boyles, European journalist (at NRO)

April 26, 2003

Say It Ain't So

LeBron James, Akron's SuperKid, surprised absolutely nobody today, when he announced that he's going to go professional, and declared for the NBA Draft. ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reports on the world's worst-kept secret:

....there was James saying, "I'm foregoing college" and you just stopped listening here. Are you kidding me?.....

.....So, what else is happening today? Robert Downey Jr. calling a 4 p.m. news conference to say he's had a history of drug problems? Michael Jackson grabbing the 5 p.m. slot to confess to plastic surgery? Baghdad Bob getting the 6 o'clock hour to come clean that Republic Guard is struggling to hold onto Iraq's capital? Yes, there was LeBron James saying with a straight face, "I'm forgoing college and entering the NBA Draft in June," and you're just thinking to yourself: I'll never get these five minutes of my life back.

April 23, 2003


An amateur astronomer in the San Francisco area has turned over to NASA officials a digital camera photograph he took as the Columbia space shuttle passed over California, that appears to show a "purplish electrical bolt" striking the craft. Ken Layne has the details, along with links to news accounts from the San Francisco Chronicle, and other commentary. The actual photo has not yet been made public.

April 22, 2003

Losing Their Marbles

Seems the British have lost the World Marbles Championships to Germany for the second year in a row. A spokeswoman for the Championship cited excessive alcohol consumption and not enough practice as reasons for the British defeat. I suppose the Germans didn't drink? The "money" quote:

"If you put a lot of men in a pub environment and there is beer or marbles, what are they going to choose? They are going to choose the beer."

("hat tip" to The American Scene)

It Could Be Worse

Frustrated and impatient Ohio sports fans should take solace in the fact that it could be worse. They could be in Michigan.

First, the hated Buckeyes win the National Championship, the Red Wings get swept in the first round,.....then baseball season starts, and they have the Tigers. My personal feelings about this state of affairs brings to mind Dennis Hopper's sarcastic lament in Waterworld.... "a single tear rolls down my cheek".

"Common Sense" For Today

Last night, acting on a tip from an old friend of mine, I was reading a short story by Jack London on one of those Online Books sites. It was there that I stumbled on Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and I got hooked into reading it, having been utterly chilled by London's To Build a Fire. I have read a little bit about Thomas Paine within the last year, although if I had ever read Common Sense before it was in high school which, for the record, was a while ago.

Before my Common Sense refresher session, a little bio info. A native of Thetford, England, the son of a Quaker shoemaker, Paine lived simply, even meagerly in England. He tried his hand at a variety of occupations including English teacher, Methodist preacher, tax collector, and tobacconist, none with any real longevity or success. His first wife died in childbirth, and his second marriage ended after three years, owing in part to his bankruptcy.

He was in his mid-thirties when he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin in London, and it was Franklin who apparently convinced him to go to Philadelphia, where he landed a job in a bookstore and began editing and writing. The pamphlet Common Sense was published a mere 14 months after Paine arrived in the American colonies.

It sure didn't take him long to get a feel for what this America thing was all about. Common Sense is at once an eloquent call for America's independence, a diatribe against monarchical rule, a set of ideas for the organization of a "start-up" government, and another diatribe against Quaker pacifism and self-righteousness.

But Paine seems to be at his best on the idea of America as a force against tyranny and injustice, and I was struck by the number of times that I was able to relate his words to today's America, to the events of the past couple of years, and to the events of 9/11 and those in Iraq in particular. Consider his vision of America's mission, his advice on setting up a new government, the primacy of the rule of law, the dangers of rule by hereditary succession.....but I'm ahead of myself.

Do these words, written in 1775, not also reflect something of America today?

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested.

We fight neither for revenge nor conquest; neither from pride nor passion; we are not insulting the world with our fleets and armies, nor ravaging the globe for plunder. Beneath the shade of our own vines are we attacked; in our own houses, and on our own lands, is the violence committed against us.

Substitute "dictators" for Paine's "kings" and you have a justification for the fact and the means of Iraq's liberation...

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her--Europe regards her like a stranger...... O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

Kings are not taken away by miracles, neither are changes in governments brought about by any other means than such as are common and human; and such as we are now using.

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.

Paine observed that as men conducted business, and looked after their own financial well-being, they cared less about freedom, and the struggle and sacrifice that preserving it necessitates. I've always felt that fear played a part in opposition to war, but pure selfishness does too.

Commerce diminishes the spirit, both of patriotism and military defence. With the increase of commerce, England hath lost its spirit. The city of London, notwithstanding its numbers, submits to continued insults with the patience of a coward. The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a Spaniel.

An early American conservative to be sure, Paine had seen government corruption in practice, but wrote of the necessity of government as a check on human nature:

Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness...

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries By A Government, which we might expect in a country Without Government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security.

Hey, someone who understands that the job of government begins and ends with preserving freedom and providing security for the people. What, no Midnight Basketball?

As we set about to assist Iraq in forming a government "from scratch", Paine's words from a similar project in 1775 seem apt:

The present time, likewise, is that peculiar time, which never happens to a nation but once, viz. the time of forming itself into a government. Most nations have let slip the opportunity, and by that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws for themselves. First, they had a king, and then a form of government; whereas, the articles or charter of government, should be formed first, and men delegated to execute them afterward but from the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom, and lay hold of the present opportunity --to begin government at the right end.

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months

And having begun government at "the right end", who should be king?

let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony, be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

And who knew Thomas Paine had originated the K.I.S.S. principle?

I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered; and the easier repaired when disordered.

Paine saves some of his best vitriol for "Kings", and the immorality of hereditary succession, referring to George III as "The Royal Brute of Britain", and coming out of the gate with this slam:

One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.

Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honours than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honours could have no power to give away the right of posterity. And though they might say, "We chooses you for our head," they could not, without manifest injustice to their children, say, "that your children and your children's children shall reign over ours for ever." Because such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool.

Ring any bells, Uday? Bashar?

Better yet, this suggestion that the king/tyrant may have simply been the "principal ruffian" in the first place, surely evokes Saddam:

This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have had an honourable origin; whereas it is more than probable, that could we take off the dark covering of antiquities, and trace them to their first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners or preeminence in subtlety obtained the title of chief among plunderers; and who by increasing in power, and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety by frequent contributions.

When such leaders surround themselves with "Yes men"?.....

Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.

When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember, that virtue is not hereditary.

And finally, the following quote, written by Paine as an argument in favor of taking positive action (for independence from England) in the face of doubt and opposition and fear by many others, reminds me that history will sort out who was right.

a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

April 21, 2003


With the war all but over, and the Iraqi regime's "minders" no longer looking over the shoulders of Baghdad-based journalists, we are starting to get some excellent reporting on the last days of Saddam and the boys. One journalist who refused to be intimidated all along, and who has produced some riveting commentary on the war, is the NYT's John Burns. In his latest article (link requires registration) he recounts how he was personally targeted and "shaken down" because of critical articles he had produced before the war began, and discloses the blatant solicitation by regime officials of bribes from journalists. Just hours before the Marines arrived in Baghdad, one Information Ministry official apparently needed some "traveling money":

Mr. Ta'ee, in the hours before midnight, toured the rooftop positions of Western television networks, demanding immediate cash payment, in dollars, of the exorbitant fees imposed by the ministry on all Western journalists. Offering no receipts, he gathered a hefty sum — estimated by some of the networks to be in excess of $200,000 — then disappeared.

Andrew Sullivan is lobbying today for a Pulitzer for Burns. Okay by me.

The Times Online has a detailed report on Uday's diaries that reveal what a sick puppy this guy is (was?).

Newsweek's piece, The Saddam Files, describes how the dictator utilized the medical training of his country's surgeons:

Anwar Abdul Razak, remembers when a surgeon kissed him on each cheek, said he was sorry and cut his ears off. Razak, then 21 years old, had been swept up during one of Saddam Hussein’s periodic crackdowns on deserters from the Army. Razak says he was innocently on leave at the time, but no matter; he had been seized by some Baath Party members who earned bounties for catching Army deserters. At Basra Hospital, Razak’s ears were sliced off without painkillers. He said he was thrown into jail with 750 men, all with bloody stumps where their ears had been.

One Iraqi scientist associated with Saddam's WMD programs, has told the U.S. military that the regime destroyed many such weapons just days before the war began, according to this report in the NYT. (again, link requires registration) An excerpt:

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.

I'm surprised that this report isn't getting more attention than it is, given the vacuum of evidence of WMD so far. My sense is that the U.S. military is playing its cards very close to the vest as regards WMD evidence in the last couple of weeks, after having had some embarrassing episodes early in the war in which we didn't have what we thought we had.

April 18, 2003

Quotes of the Week

I've been saving up some quotes that I find humorous, apropos, or otherwise notable, that are culled from articles or other sources that aren't necessarily "link-worthy" in total. I hope to make QOTW a regular feature of the blog. Note that these quotes were not necessarily uttered this past week, just noticed by me this past week:

"The Fog of Peace comes next; we will hear many stories of Setbacks and Troubling Developments and Roadblocks to Peace and the rest of the vocabulary the media deploys when a brutalized nation is freed from jail and does not immediately assume the characteristics of a Nebraska small-town school board." James Lileks

"And now the really difficult part: We have to rebuild Iraq into a strong and independent nation that will one day hate the United States." David Letterman

Adam Sandler, about why he wanted to work with three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson in Anger Management : "I said to myself, 'This poor fellow needs a gig.' "

"A year and a half ago, monsters murdered 3,000 Americans. America's response, thus far: to liberate 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq from two of the most hideous tyrannies on earth. Instead of revenge, beneficence. What a truly wonderful country we live in." Brink Lindsey

And in the Dept. of Hypocrisy category:

"It is inappropriate for the administration to trump up a case in which we are ballyhooed into war" (Actor) Mike Farrell on the Iraq war.......

"I think it's appropriate for the international community in situations like this to intervene. I am in favor of an intervention" (Actor) Mike Farrell in 1998 on the non-U.N.-sanctioned intervention in Kosovo. (Hat tip to Cornell Review)

"So, to my friends in the anti-war movement: you were right. None of what has transpired so far has done so in your name, and none of what transpires in Iraq in the future will do so in your name. Not in your name. In mine." Josh Chafetz

Kelly's Last Column

Michael Kelly asks, What Now?, in the last column he wrote before his tragic death in Iraq on April 3, 2003.

In My Name

Oxblog has become one of my regular blogstops of late, and Josh Chafetz is one of the reasons why. This blog is written by three "twenty-somethings" who are in grad school at Oxford. It is consistently interesting and well-written, and I just can't help feeling hopeful about the future when I realize that there are smart, thoughtful young people out there doing good work like this, for example.

Chafetz has been published in The Weekly Standard and The New Republic among others, and he has an excellent piece up at Tech Central Station that is one of those "wish I'd said that" statements. Please read "In My Name"

April 16, 2003

Compensate for Civilian Deaths

It has occurred to me in recent days that the U.S. should make compensation payments of some sort to the families and/or survivors of civilian dead in the war in Iraq. The numbers themselves attest to the unprecedented attention paid by coalition troops to minimizing civilian deaths, but those thousand or so innocent people are still just as dead.

In fact, the numbers (variously estimated to be between 1000 and 1500) make it realistic and economically quite manageable to make significant payments for each civilian death. Gregg Easterbrook of TNR makes the case in his latest Best Laid Plans column, and compares the cost to that of our bombs. An excerpt:

Considering the cost-no-object ordnance showered on Iraq, it would be an outrage if we didn't pay at least a relatively small amount for those wrongly killed. If 1,300 is the number, the United States could even pay $100,000 per death for a total expense of less than one night's bombing during the campaign. In addition to being the right thing to do, think of the effect such payments might have on Arab public opinion--communicating that we really do care about typical Iraqis, and that, unlike Arab governments, which kill without compunction, we really do grieve over our errors.

Easterbrook is consistently good, so read it all. And while I'm at it, it seems to me The New Republic has been a consistent, principled, and rational voice for American liberalism during this war. I would like to think that they better represent the views of mainstream Democrats in the U.S. than do the more "visible" Hollywood types. Based on GWB's most recent approval rating of 73%, I suspect they do.

April 13, 2003


OK, I admit to a recent spate of Left-bashing. It's not really fair. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. There I go again. Besides, it's not just leftists that have been spectacularly wrong in their predictions about war, the Arab "street", and the rest. I don't want to get into the media coverage of the war in great detail, but it seems to me that it has "overdone" most everything, especially in seeing trends and drawing conclusions using too little data, assessed over too little time. I suppose that's predictable given the public's attention span and the need to fill 24 hours a day with cable TV content of some (any?) kind. Mark Steyn talked in his 4/11 column about "Media Time", defined mostly by those who oppose Bush's policies no matter what they are, and how they twist themselves into logical knots as a result:

Because he doesn't operate on Media Time, whereby 14 months is a precipitous "rush to war" but a 14-day war is a Vietnam-style quagmire, Bush doesn't get thrown off-course. He is a personally modest man with no particular desire to be on television all day long, which is why he's happy to let Tony Blair take as much of the limelight as he wants.

Incidentally, outside of a brief statement about how he was "heartened" by the liberation of Baghdad, how much have we seen George Bush in the media eye in recent days? (They've seen more of him on TV in Iraq than in the U.S.) Not only is he a modest man as Steyn says, but he is politically smart enough not to appear "triumphalist". And he knows it's not about him.

Steyn notes today how the media has moved on to whole new "quagmires" since the fall of Baghdad. Now that the war is won, surely we'll "lose the peace". Steyn offers up his "at-a-glance guide to what the experts who got everything wrong last week will be getting wrong next week". Upon stating each predicted diasater, he provides his MBITRW (Meanwhile Back in the Real World) commentary. Consider Item #4:

4) "If Saddam is not found dead, or caught alive, it will be the worst of all possible closures for the war against Iraq. Bin Laden himself continues to elude capture" (Roland Flamini, UPI) MBITRW: Obviously, it would be preferable if the late Saddam's future media appearances were confined to guest-hosting Good Morning, Hell! with Osama. But if he's reduced to bin Laden's current schedule - mailing in bi-monthly audio cassettes of Islamist boilerplate - what's the difference? Even if he'd escaped to Syria, he'd be spending the rest of his days as a Bedouin goat-herd. Right now, Boy Assad is doing his best not to attract Rummy's attention.

Steyn is the best Canadian export since Labatt, always worth reading, (and not meaning to slight David Frum).

April 11, 2003

Go Ahead Now, Say It

Being on the Left means never having to say "I was wrong". A few web sites made the initial efforts on Thursday to begin to hold various leftists accountable for some of the hysterical, uninformed, pessimistic, or just downright stupid things they have said about the war in the last few weeks or months. NRO took a crack at it, for example, but Andrew Sullivan had what I considered to be the best such listing so far, (scroll down till you see both sets of Von Hoffman Awards). But it's still so early to be giving out "best of" awards. These quagmire quotes should be surfacing without letup for the next few weeks.

UPDATE: See, that didn't take long. NRO's Rich Lowry, in his syndicated column, has another nice summary of statements that the originators will probably not own up to.

UPDATE II: Now Michelle Malkin and Mona Charen weigh in, and Jonah naturally wants to get his two cents in.

Doubleday Spinning in His Grave

This can't be how it was supposed to be. Why do they even schedule baseball games north of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of California before the middle of April? I've been to two Indians games now in the last three days, and the sum of the temperatures for the two games, (while it almost equals Josh Bard's batting average) is still looking up at 75.

It sure seems like the only people more displeased with the conditions than the fans are the players. I'm sure they don't like wearing those stupid looking pullover neck-face-head-warmers. How cool is that? A friend of mine from our ticket group steadfastly refuses to attend any game before June 1, because he insists that his beer must get warmer when he lets it sit for 10 minutes, or it's too cold for baseball. While not a big beer drinker, as of tonight I'm starting to see the good sense in this stance. It doesn't help when the good guys lose, and lose.

As soon as I thaw out, I'm sure I'll feel better about the whole thing. Oh, the team? The starting pitching has a chance to be pretty good, and I still think these young guys will hit. The bullpen scares me, but this team is going to be fun to watch. Besides, it's still April. What Tribe fan gets discouraged in April? I'm hoping to do some more detailed triblogging soon.

April 10, 2003

That Pink Thing

James Lileks' Bleat is priceless today. It has its serious moments, but my favorite passage isn't one of them.....

Today at the Pentagon press briefing, a reporter asked about Humanitarian Crisis, and Rumsfeld described at great length the humanitarian crisis that existed before the Allies got there, and how things were actually improving. It was classic Rummy; he not only refused to accept the premise of the question, he refuted it like a blacksmith working out marital frustrations on a red-hot horseshoe. You can just imagine what some of the reporters say to one another as they leave the briefing:

I say, what’s that in your hands, there? That pink thing?

Oh, this? It’s my ass. Rumsfeld handed it to me. And I see you have a nice clock there - brand new?

No, it’s quite old, but Rumsfeld cleaned it. Free of charge.

Read it all. This guy can write.

Scandal in the Blogosphere

There's a lot of online discussion in recent days over the disclosure that Sean-Paul Kelley, creator of the popular warblog The Agonist had plagiarized information from a subscription service, and reposted it on his site. The whole topic of journalistic ethics and accountability within the blogosphere has been bandied about in the days since. Technews.com's Filter column has good summaries of the original scandal, and of the ethics debate in the aftermath.

I had referenced The Agonist myself in an earlier post about warblogging, because I found it to be a timely, and relatively apolitical summary of ongoing events in the war. I had read Kelley's mea culpas in recent days but was unsure what the fuss was all about at first. Blogging ethics thus dictate that I give a "hat tip" to Instapundit for the link to the TechNews articles.

April 9, 2003

The Protesters Were Right

Christopher Hitchens notes all the things that the anti-war crowd was right about in his latest Slate article.

It's possible that their attendance figures for the 4/12 peace extravaganza will be down a bit, what with the fall of Baghdad and all. But Hitch plans to be there:

We should celebrate our common ground as well as the gorgeous mosaic of our diversity. The next mass mobilization called by International ANSWER and the stop-the-war coalition is only a few days away. I already have my calendar ringed for the date. This time, I am really going to be there. It is not a time to keep silent. Let our voices be heard. All of this has been done in my name, and I feel like bearing witness.

April 7, 2003

Will The Left Wake Up?

A new book by liberal intellectual Paul Berman makes the case that radical Islamist totalitarianism has its roots in Western traditions, not anything in Arab culture. Andrew Sullivan expresses hope in his latest Sunday Times piece that others on the left will "move away from their reactionary anti-Americanism toward the true liberal faith" and confront this new brand of fascism. An excerpt:

This fusion of totalitarian politics and the methods of terror were imports from the West, Berman shows, from the nihilists of the late nineteenth century, and the fascists and Stalinists of the twentieth. Who is Saddam, after all, but another Mussolini or Hitler, reborn in Islamic guise? Look at the personality cult, the secret police, the mass murders, the purges, the vast and inhuman wars, the scapegoating of the Jews, the vicious genocide against the Kurds (whose only crime was not to be Arabs). This kind of regime was invented not in Mesopotamia but in Europe. Likewise, the roots of Islamism - in the early years of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood - are also directly linked to the fascist movements in twentieth century Europe. A man like bin Laden is a classic Western figure, educated in the West, with a vast fortune built on Western oil trade, and methods that have far more to do with Stalin than with Islamic tradition.

What Berman is essentially arguing is that the notion that Arab or Muslim societies and cultures are somehow indigenously incapable of liberal democracy, that they should be consigned indefinitely to rule by fascist tyrants is a form of racist condescension that has no place in civilized discourse, let alone on the left.

Read it all.

April 6, 2003

Powell Interview

The State Dept. posts on its website an interview with Secretary Colin Powell by a rather combative German TV reporter, in which Powell discusses our role in a post-Saddam Iraq, and our postwar track record in dealing with other countries in which we have recently projected our military power. (hat tip to LGF)

France and Germany seem to be prodding Kofi Annan to insist on a central U.N. role in the administration of postwar Iraq. It's fairly obvious that this is the only way that they have a chance for much in the way of business contracts in Iraq. Once the archives are opened up, and the shit starts to hit the fan, I suspect that the people of Iraq won't be looking too favorably on the countries that did everything they could to insure Saddam's survival, and hence, the continued subjugation of the Iraqi citizenry.

April 4, 2003

Moore is Less

I have been planning a post on the various distortions, exaggerations, and outright lies in Michael Moore's "documentary", Bowling For Columbine. This was based on several articles I had read critiquing the film as much more of a political polemic than a documentary. I am happy to report that as of today, I don't have to assemble all those links and examples from all over the web, because Dave Kopel of NRO has produced the definitive work on the topic for all of us. It's long, but since they're showing this movie in schools as a statement of fact, if not history, for heaven's sake, please get the word out that it's a pile of crap!

My own feeling is that Moore is rather Al Frankenesque in his need to piggyback on the fame of another person to "create" some celebrity for himself. Franken had his Rush, Moore has his Bush. I am breathless with anticipation of what has been reported is Moore's next "project". A documentary (naturally), exploring the insidious connnections between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. If anyone can get to the bottom of that one, I'm sure Moore is the guy, tough, muckraking journalist that he is.

UPDATE: From the I-couldn't-have-said-it-better-myself file, this quote from the refreshing Dennis Miller on Leno's show the other day, regarding Michael Moore:

He's going to wake up every day for the rest of his life, and he's going to tell us how he hates everything about this country except his right to hate it. And then we say that we love it and he's going to tell us what naive sheep we are and that he's the true patriot because he hates it and he sees all the problems in it. Yeah, right, Mike. You know something, if my yawn got any bigger they'd have to assign it a hurricane name, okay? Michael Moore simultaneously represents everything I detest in a human being and everything I feel obligated to defend in an American. Quite simply, it is that stupid moron's right to be that utterly, completely wrong.

Don't sugarcoat it, Dennis.

Michael Kelly R.I.P.

With very few exceptions, every Wednesday for the past five years has meant an opportunity to devour the latest Michael Kelly column, which I have done with great relish. So I was stunned and saddened to hear today that he was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq yesterday, along with two U.S. soldiers. From all accounts, he died doing what he loved; that is, reporting. An accomplished editor and author, he could have opted for safer duty, but he wanted to be in Iraq.

Since I didn't know him, save through his column, my sadness has a selfish feel. I won't be able to read him anymore. His death is no more or less tragic, of course, than those of the two as yet unnamed American boys that died with him, or any of the other combat deaths on both sides of this war. The "loss" I feel is a sense of the loss of his gifts of candor, courage, wit and independence to the world of American journalism, and of the clarity that he brought to readers on a wide variety of subjects through his prose.

Several of his colleagues have already offered up eulogies of sorts, as in the "mini-tributes" penned today by several NRO staffers found here, and here, and here.

In a longer piece on Opinionjournal.com, Peggy Noonan has posted her thoughts on Kelly's passing, and Jonah Goldberg remarks that:

if he wasn't the journalist I admired most in Washington, he had to be close. Virtually, overnight he made The Atlantic and The New Republic amazing, must-read magazines. In college, I read his war reportage from the first Gulf War religiously.

Howard Kurtz' obit says Kelly was a conservative and I suppose that's right. But I never really saw him as one. Rather, I always perceived him as an old style blue collar Democrat whose B.S. detector pushed him to the right on specific issues. Whatever, his columns were tough as nails, but he always explained where he was coming from.......But Kelly was also an intellectually gifted man with a profound sense of decency, or at least that's the impression I always got from his work.... He was one of the really good guys, he believed in the rightness of what America is doing and in the goodness of America in general and he wasn't afraid to say so. His passing is a terrible, terrible loss.

Howard Kurtz writes the obit for the Washington Post, and Andrew Sullivan talks about his friend from days at TNR.

Michael Kelly first came to my attention in 1998 when he became conspicuous as one of few established Democrat journalists with a willingness to recognize, and to chronicle for America what was becoming obvious to most Americans at the time, while still being denied or ignored by the media and the other liberal "faithful". That is, that Bill Clinton was a serial liar, an abuser of power, and presided over an administration that was utterly corrupt, and corrupting of others.

Kelly's willingness to say so, with no holds barred and with consistent eloquence, made him a hero to conservatives like me who were appalled at the Clintons' mendacity and gall, but were roundly accused of "partisanship" at best, or of being "Clinton-Haters", at worst.

I have archived favorite Kelly columns for all of those five years, and it is from that library, and also from the WaPo and JWR web archives that I assembled the small selection of Kelly's work which follows.

Kelly's classic piece, "I Believe" demonstrated the logical contortions one had to manage in order to believe the Clintons' White House line during the second term. Its worth reading in its entirety.

In his Washington Post column of 9/16/98, Kelly makes the case for impeachment:

On Sept. 11, as he awaited the release of a report that would, quite credibly, accuse him of perjury, abuse of office and obstructing justice, President Clinton, under cover of an apology, served notice that he was instructing his lawyers to "mount a vigorous defense, using all available appropriate arguments."

It is now clear what the president considers "appropriate": more lying. The euphemism is that the president's lawyers are engaging in "hairsplitting." No, they are engaging in lying, in perpetuating and elaborating Clinton's past lies, the lies he insists he regrets. In its depravity, in its cynicism, in its sneering disdain for the law and for truth, it is an astonishing thing to witness.
That Clinton, through his mouthpieces, continues to lie proves, finally, that he must be impeached. He must be impeached not merely because he is a pig and a cad and a selfish brute. He must be impeached not merely because he sexually exploited and then discarded an employee under his supervision, nor because he used government resources and personnel to facilitate and cover up his sorry little affair. He must be impeached not merely because he abused the office entrusted to him by the people.

He must be impeached because he shows an utter and absolute contempt for the truth and for the law he has twice sworn to uphold. He must be impeached because, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly lied under oath with intent to deceive, because he was given a chance to correct that lie in a second judicial proceeding and he lied again, because he persists in lying even still. He must be impeached because, in his pathology, he does great and heartless violence to other people and to the nation, and because he has made it clear that he is perfectly prepared to do more violence. He must be impeached because to not impeach him is to declare that this is what we accept in a president. He must be impeached because we are a nation of laws, not liars.

After Clinton's televised "admission" of the Lewinsky affair, Kelly couldn't quite find an "apology":(8/19/98 Washington Post)

Bill Clinton went on television Monday night and admitted that he had "misled people," and had given "a false impression" in his seven months of public denial of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Because, you see, he did, actually, "have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate." And, actually, this was not a good thing to have done: "In fact, it was wrong." And Clinton was "solely and completely responsible" for it.

Certainly true. You see, the president really sort of did give a false impression when, on Jan. 26, he wagged a scolding finger and said: "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." He really kind of did mislead people when he lied under oath, lied on camera, lied in private, lied in public, lied to the nation, lied to his wife, lied to his friends, lied to his Cabinet, lied to his staff, lied to his party, lied to the world, and sent out his staff and surrogates to lie on his lying behalf.

And, now that he mentions it, I guess our Bill really did do something a little bit wrong in exploiting a silly and star-struck young female employee as a sexual service station. And he maybe shouldn't have encouraged his girlfriend to join him in perjury. And he maybe also shouldn't have obliged Vernon Jordan and Bill Richardson and Betty Currie and Bruce Lindsey and the rest of the gang to help him hide his bit of Oval Office fun.

And it probably wasn't the perfectly moral thing, knowing that he was lying through his teeth, for the president to countenance a long and vicious campaign by his henchmen to savage those who were telling the truth. And it wasn't 100 percent appropriate to force all those innocent people to suffer through grand jury inquisition, and to trash the presidency, and to make fools out of Al Gore and Madeleine Albright and Paul Begala and James Carville and Mike McCurry and Ann Lewis and everyone else who insisted for seven months that the perjurer-in-chief was telling the truth. And, oh yes, groping Kathleen Willey when she came to the Oval Office to ask for a job was probably not a good thing to do. Maybe it wasn't right to lie about that also, and to sic the smear team on Kathy. Ditto Paula, ditto Gennifer. Sorry about all that.

No, not really. Our Bill has never really apologized for anything in his life, and he didn't now. He never used the words "I'm sorry," and he acknowledged "regret" only glancingly and euphemistically. Indeed, as he made quite clear, he wasn't sorry, except, as all adolescents are, for getting caught. His passing imitation of an apology lasted for all of one sentence. By contrast, he devoted nearly nine full paragraphs to offering excuses for his actions, to once again attacking Ken Starr and to urging that the mess he had created be put aside -- without, of course, any punishment for himself. The poor boy, he let us know, has suffered enough. This speech wasn't a mea culpa. It was an everybody-else culpa. It was an insult. It was pathetic....And it was a lie. Even in confessing his lying, Clinton lied.... This man will never stop lying. To borrow a hyperbolic description of another of the century's historic prevaricators, every word he utters is a lie, including "and" and "the." He will lie till the last dog dies.

When the Dems trotted out their lame Lewinsky-as-stalker "alternative scenario", Kelly's sarcasm and wit was in full flower:

The poor man. The poor victim. My God, how he must have suffered. Stalked through the halls of his own home, and nowhere to turn for protection. Nothing standing between him and a 21-year-old stalker armed with -- well never mind what she was armed with. Nothing except for his wife, his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff, his secretary, his personal assistant, his special assistants, his National Security Council, his Marine guard, three dozen or so Secret Service agents and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What's a president to do with a stalker but give her gifts, find her a lawyer and advance her career?

As to the Clinton legacy, Kelly does cite some of the positive achievements of the administration, but then wonders..

But do these accomplishments match in size the immense negative accomplishment of Clinton and his years, the destruction wrought by his terrible greed? In Clinton's nearly pathologically self-adoring view, the only stain on his record was that occasioned by the Lewinsky scandal, and that was really the fault of his enemies: He was a great president who made one little private mistake, was wrongly persecuted and impeached, but persevered -- making him not a disgrace but a hero, a savior of the Constitution.

But first, this is not what happened. What happened is that the president of the United States abused his office, abused the trust of the people, abused a young and vulnerable female employee, was threatened with exposure of this through the court-ordered questions routine in any sexual harassment case -- questions allowable under a law that the president himself had supported and that was enforced by his government. He then used his powers to orchestrate a campaign of perjury and obstruction of justice to hide his guilt. In other words, the president purposely subverted the law he was sworn to uphold and the law that, under his rule, governs the rest of us. To get away with this, he and his minions waged a war that damaged many lives and that profoundly corrupted the Democratic Party and liberalism in general. To preserve in power a man obviously guilty of illegal acts, Democrats and liberals supported the abuse of power, the abuse of women, the abuse of the law, the abuse of the truth, the abuse of the public trust.

And second, impeachment was not, to put it mildly, the only stain. A far greater and more consequential corruption was occasioned by the remarkable depths to which Clinton sank in his money-grubbing. Clinton was our first really openly rentable president, heading what the former Justice Department chief investigator Charles La Bella termed a "loose enterprise" conspiracy that blatantly sold access to the president and to high policy-making officials, with the clear chance to influence U.S. policy.

On the pardons, Kelly thinks Bill outdid even himself:

To the end, Clinton and his wife displayed a breathtaking contempt for the ethics of power. They abused authority and privilege in ways grand and petty, and simply did not care what anyone thought about it. In his last hours, Clinton committed what may have been his worst abuse ever, which is saying something. This, of course, was his conscious subversion of the presidential pardon system to hand out executive clemencies to Democratic donors and Democratic allies, fellow Whitewater stonewallers, even to his brother.

For me, Kelly also brought some insight into the roots and reasons for the pacifist impulse in two articles, "Pacifist Claptrap", and "Phony Pacifists", which were published shortly after 9/11, but as he says in the first piece, the movement, and its appeal "is worth taking seriously, and in advance of need". More:

It is worth it, first of all, because the idea of peace is inherently attractive; and the more war there is, the more attractive the idea becomes. Second, it is worth it because the reactionary left-liberal crowd in America and in Europe has already staked out its ground here: What happened to America is America's fault, the fruits of foolish arrogance and greedy imperialism, racism, colonialism, etc., etc. From this rises an argument that the resulting war is also an exercise in arrogance and imperialism, etc., and not deserving of support. This argument will be made with greater fearlessness as the first memories of the 7,000 murdered recede. Third, it is worth it because the American foreign policy establishment has all the heart for war of a titmouse, and not one of your braver titmice. The first faint, let-us-be-reasonable bleats can even now be heard: Yes, we must do something, but is an escalation of aggression really the right thing? Mightn't it just make matters ever so much worse?

Pacifists see themselves as obviously on the side of a higher morality, and there is a surface appeal to this notion, even for those who dismiss pacifism as hopelessly naive. The pacifists' argument is rooted entirely in this appeal: Two wrongs don't make a right; violence only begets more violence.

There can be truth in the pacifists' claim to the moral high ground, notably in the case of a war that is waged for manifestly evil purposes. So, for instance, a German citizen who declined to fight for the Nazi cause could be seen (although not likely by his family and friends) as occupying the moral position. But in the situation where one's nation has been attacked -- a situation such as we are now in -- pacifism is, inescapably and profoundly, immoral. Indeed, in the case of this specific situation, pacifism is on the side of the murderers, and it is on the side of letting them murder again.

In the second piece, Kelly sets about to rattle the cage of any pacifist who missed the first column:

Let me see if I may cause further upset. Two propositions: The first is that much of what is passing for pacifism in this instance is not pacifism at all but only the latest tedious manifestation of a well-known pre-existing condition: the largely reactionary, largely incoherent, largely silly muddle of anti-American, anti-corporatist, anti-globalist sentiments that passes for the politics of the left these days. The second is that, again in this instance, the antiwar sentiment (to employ a term that encompasses both genuine pacifism and an opposition to war rooted in America-hatred) is intellectually dishonest, elitist and hypocritical.

He then challenges the pacifists to answer tough questions about the world, the way they say they want it to be. That is, a world in which the U.S. doesn't defend itself:

Do the pacifists wish to live in a United States that has been defeated by Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? Do they wish to live in a United States that has been defeated by any foreign force? Do they wish to live under an occupying power? Do they wish to live under, say, the laws of the Taliban or the Ba'ath Party of Iraq?

These questions, you may say, rest on an absurd premise: Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein cannot ever hope to defeat and occupy the United States. Yes, but that is true only because the United States maintains and employs an armed force sufficient to defeat those who would defeat it. If the United States did as the pacifists wish -- if it eschewed war even when attacked -- it would, at some point, be conquered by a foreign regime. What stops this from happening is that the government and generally the people of the United States do not heed the wishes of the pacifists.

The anti-warriors must know that their position is a luxury made affordable only by the sure bet that no one in authority will ever accede to their position. The marchers and shouters and flag-burners in Washington pretended to the argument that war should not be waged. What they really mean is that war should not be waged by them. It should be waged by other mothers' sons and daughters.

How many pacifists would be willing to accept the logical outcome of their creed of nonviolence even in face of attack -- life as a conquered people? Not many, I would think. How many want the (mostly lower-class) men and women of the United States armed forces to continue to fight so that they may enjoy the luxury of preaching against fighting? Nearly all, I would think.

Liars. Frauds. Hypocrites. Strong letters, no doubt, to follow.

Another Kelly classic, and one that tells us something about the private man.

Michael Kelly was 46. He leaves a wife, Madelyn, and two sons, Tom and Jack, six and three respectively. His last column from Iraq, published yesterday, can be found here.

What a talent, what a loss. As Michael Ledeen said earlier today of his passing,


UPDATE: The tributes and remembrances keep rolling in. This one in the Washington Post by Ken Ringle is especially good.

UPDATE: Two more good Kelly tributes are now available. One from Maureen Dowd, and another by David Brooks of the Weekly Standard

April 1, 2003

About the Blogger

Wizblog is written by Dan Wismar, a Cleveland, Ohio guy.

(The header quote is Orwell...from an essay I resolve to re-read regularly.)

I live in an old farmhouse on a couple of acres about an hour outside of Cleveland, with Cindy, my wonderful wife, and our Old English Sheepdog. The two kids are grown and gone, but they continue to make us proud every day in lots of ways. The last name accounts for the name of the blog, as well as the nickname "Wiz", with which all members of the family have been tagged at one time or another.

My working career for the past 25 years has been in professional recruiting, staffing, and employment consulting, in roles as recruiter, manager and owner. I love the problem-solving challenges and the stream of new, interesting people I am privileged to meet every day.

My passions are politics and sports, not necessarily in that order. The fact that I am a very patient man is attributable to having been a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan. 'Nuff said? I'm also a Browns ticket holder, although I still consider the college level the purest form of sport, and have bled OSU "Scarlet and Gray" as long as I can remember.

I'm an avid golfer, but I can count the times I've broken 80 on one hand. I still play racquetball because unlike golf, I've found that if you stay in one place, the ball will eventually come back to you.

This blog is long on thoughts and articles by other people that I enjoy reading, and would like to recommend to readers, and short on original thought by me. I makes no apologies or denials about its conservative bias. I welcome commenters, dissenters, and dialogue of any sort.

I have been truly blessed. I thank God, my parents, and my wonderful extended family for that. Life is good. Thanks for stopping and taking a look.