Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Blame the Terrorists

Good editorial in the Chicago Tribune yesterday:
Over the last seven days, this furious exchange of spitballs has become the latest iteration in our national game of gotcha. The game would be more fun if our lives and future as a nation weren't unequivocally at stake.

Yes, searching for shortcomings of leadership that preceded or followed Sept. 11 is a vital and patriotic chore, if we are to lower our chance of reliving that day and worse. We as a people need to learn what, if anything, we or our leaders might have done to prevent the mass killings of so many innocents.

That said, it is foolhardy for us to obsess on pointing the blame gun if seeking those answers, and wielding them at one another as verbal cudgels, diverts us from a larger truth: At this moment, in ways and locales we do not imagine, the next bin Ladens are working to eclipse Sept. 11.

....That response [Bush's response to 9/11] includes a pledge to vanquish nations that support terrorism. Bush is employing an aggressiveness that veterans of both the Clinton and Bush administrations argued last week, probably correctly, Americans wouldn't have tolerated before Sept. 11. Yet holding Bush accountable for failing to pre-empt the attacks, while arguing that he was wrong to act pre-emptively against an Iraqi dictator who refused United Nations demands to document his weapons programs, is--in the most generous light--a gymnastic exercise in logic.
I'm willing to let bygones be bygones, when it comes to the Clinton and pre-9/11 Bush administration. We were all blinded by 9/11 and even if we were not I don't think either Clinton or Bush had the political capital to do anything about it anyway. When Clinton launched some cruise missiles into a suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan he was accused of "wagging the dog" to distract from the Lewinsky scandal. I already mentioned what difficulties Bush would have had in launching a pre-9/11 preemptive strike on the Taliban. So, now that Richard Clarke has been thoroughly discredited (over and over) lets move past this and focus on the post 9/11 response and what we will do going forward.

The Bush administration (along with some good luck to be sure) has done an admirable job post 9/11, as Vinod re-counts what has gone right since then:

Afghanistan - Free and getting better. No longer a country-sized terrorist training camp. In a neighborhood made up of such wonderful properties as W. Pakistan, Azerbaijain, Iran, & Uzbekistan, Kabul has gone from least to possibly most desirable place for a 20something person to live. The first constitutionally limited, elected body - the Loya Jirga - is on the eve of taking full power - an unbelievable rarity in the Arab world.

Iraq - Free and getting better. Plastic / Human shredding machines shut down. Summary executions over. Kurds and Marsh Arabs no longer terrorized. Economy professionally managed rather than a large kleptocracy.

Saddam - tyrant of his own little prison cell
Sons&Heirs - discovering just how warm hell can be
no more blood money flowing to Palestine.

No new spectacular attacks on US soil -- Do you remember how cautiously we approached Thanksgiving, '01; X'mas '01; New Years '02; the SuperBowl '02; hell, even the Academy Awards '02? In hindsight, it feels almost absurd to think that of the Oscars were considered a National Security Class A target for terrorists - but that's really how we were just a few short years ago. Now I'll be the first to acknowledge the flaw of using "absence of evidence as evidence of absence" - this amazing chain can be broken 2 minutes after I hit the "publish" button. But can we acknowledge that some pretty amazing progress has been made here?

Libya - compliant, open, giving us their intelligence resources; Hell Gaddafi went so far as to publicly advocate on TV that Syria, N Korea and Iran tow the US line. He told the Italian government that he saw what happened to Hussein and strove to avoid the same fate. This is a direct product of Iraqi intervention.
Saudi's -- on track to seriously reducing our dependence upon them. No more US military presence. New international oil will start flowing from Iraq. Royal family finally realizing that their faustian bargain with Al Qaeda / Wahabi's coming home to roost (Terrorist attacks are now more frequent on Saudi soil than US soil! Terrorism sucks for sure but this is an arrangement I am far more comfortable with vs. the alternative)

Pakistan - prior to 9/11 - actively supporting the Taliban, actively ignoring Al Qaeda, and actively antagonizing India. Now - flipped around & starting talks with India on *everything*. AQ Khan's proliferation ring - busted wide open; accounts are that this has been in operation since at least the tail end of the Reagan presidency. The compounded mistakes by all the folks that were in charge & let it flourish were all shameful - but we can chalk this up as a post 9/11 intelligence / military victory? Iraq gave us Libya, Libya gave us Khan. Khan is giving us Pakistan. Expect Musharraf to be rather eager to help us in the spring offensives in Afghanistan
Syria - They've cracked down on their own Baathist party and are making peace overtures towards Israel . Could you imagine human rights protestors in Damascus a few years ago? (comments from Drezner)

Palestinians - rapidly losing funding for their kleptocracy;
Iran - student protestors energized and clamoring for democracy; The govt has yielded (a tad) and is now agreeing to spot inspections by IAEA.
Arab Political Discourse - a new, unprecedented wave of political openness is wafting through Arab society. Friedman reports. Would the UNDP report on the state of the Arab world been anywhere near as frank & honest had the Bush Administration NOT shined a giant spotlight on the entire region?

And now this report from the Washington Times:
LONDON — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.

Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization's plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.

...He is reported to have said that bin Laden, who like Mohammed had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that "it would be too difficult to synchronize."
Mohammed then decided to conduct two waves of attacks, hitting the East Coast first and following up with a second series of attacks.
"Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast," he reportedly said.
But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.
"Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Mohammed is quoted as saying.

Al Qaeda's communications network was severely disrupted, he said. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they continued to use Internet chat rooms.
Is that entirely accurate? Who knows, as Mohammed has been known to mislead and outright lie to interrogators, but Al-Qaeda has clearly been markedly disrupted over the last 30 months. We are on the right track, lets not waste too much time playing the political blame game when it is quite obvious who really deserves it. The terrorists.

Friday, March 26, 2004

9/11 Inquiry

A year ago, Bush was criticized for being an overly aggressive gunslinging cowboy, now critics charge that he was not aggressive enough in fighting terrorism. So which is it? To be sure the Clinton administration is getting some heat for this too:

On three separate occasions, Clinton officials had information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts but ruled out strikes aimed at killing him, fearing the intelligence wasn't solid enough or that others also would die, the panel's investigators found.
The panel seems to place more of the blame on Bush though:

But under Bush, especially, the potential for military action seemed to get little attention until it was too late, according to a draft report Tuesday to the panel investigating the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.
Some will point out that the Clinton administration had 8 years to review the intelligence while the Bush administration only had 8 months. That's true, but it's not relevant. The "Could 9/11 have been prevented?" inquiries are nonsense. Of course it COULD have been prevented, a mushroom cloud over Afghanistan in 2000 COULD have done that. But what about the political realities of the day? The resulting criticisms stemming from this inquiry ignore those contraints and presuppose that an invasion of Afghanistan would have been politically possible.

Imagine, if in early 2001 the Bush administration announced that there was a shadowy organization, called Al-Qaeda, that lives in the caves of Afghanistan and is in the final stages of a planned assault on U.S. soil that could possibly kill 20,000-30,000 Americans. Because of this threat, Bush says we need to strike their camps and topple the Taliban regime that provides them sanctuary. Everyone would have just gone along with that and taken Bush's and Rumsfeld's word for it right? Right. It seems to me that there would be cries to respect the sovereignty of the Taliban. There would have been those asking for the smoking gun that proved attacks were imminent, because, really how could some guys living in caves, with no weapons of mass destruction be a threat to the mighty United States of America? Bush would have been called a racist, probably a crusader with an anti-Muslim agenda. There would have been charges that the Bush-Cheney oil junta was only trumping up a non-existent threat as a pre-text to invade Afghanistan and control the gateway to the regions energy riches. Even after 9/11 those accusations were made. And if the Bush administration did strike Afghanistan a few months before the attacks, they likely would have happened anyway, and Bush would have then been blamed for enraging the Arab Street, hence triggering the attacks.

Given the opposition the United States faced when it came to toppling Saddam in a post 9/11 climate, it seems almost moronic to believe that the U.N., France, Germany, et al would have gone along with an invasion of Afghanistan in a pre-9/11 world. At that time, there was hardly any real reason to think we needed to invade anywhere ever again. We were cutting our military and intelligence services, the economy was booming and it was the end of history after all. But that was before the risks were altered. We now know that the grave risks of inaction were grossly underestimated. Intelligence of course, is an inexact science. We know there are going to be mistakes and we all agree that we should minimize those mistakes, but the question is which kind of mistakes do we want? It's a trade-off, we can exercise greater skepticism and get less false positives (we conclude that there is a threat where none exists) and more false negatives (we conclude there is no threat where one does in fact exist). That's what we did in the 90's and it got us 9/11. On the other hand, we can be more aggressive when it comes to acting on intelligence and trade some of those false negatives for some false positives, as some would say we did in Iraq. The risk is that another brutal tyrant like Saddam is removed and millions of oppressed people are now free. That is a mistake that history will forgive, and is clearly preferable to the alternative. There is plenty of blame to go around for not seeing 9/11, but we were all caught off guard. That is what this inquiry should teach our leaders.

Monday, March 22, 2004

One Year Later: Iraq changes, protestors stay the same

A year later the protests are back. I still don't quite understand what they are looking for, but a return to the days of Saddam Hussein hardly inspires thoughts of peace and justice. If Saddam was still in power, the anti-war movement could go back to their insulated world where the only thing standing between Iraq and greatness is economic sanctions. Actual Iraqi's know differently, and I wish that some of those protesters would take the time to see what they think before speaking for them. So, in honor of the protests Saturday I decided to peruse some of the Iraqi blogs to see what they thought. Ays is frustrated:
It's very cozy and comfortable to drink the tea in the morning, getting out of your first-class houses, driving your fancy cars, speaking loudly against your governments, criticizing your prime ministers and presidents, saying "I want this thing", "I don't agree on this decision", "I hate Blair and Bush" .....etc.
Look you coddled pampered people.... why don't you want us to do what you're doing now ? why don't you want us to live like you ? Are you idiots? Selfish? Or what ?
You 'protestors' I'm sure you didn't use your mind when you got out of your houses... just let me tell you something: when you want to refuse something or say that's wrong, first of all you should study the whole case and discuss it thoroughly before saying it's wrong, and when you say it's wrong, GIVE A PROPOSAL to solve the case, now when you said "No war...." What is the right thing to do to get rid of Saddam and build democratic countries in the region?
Tell me....

Iraq The Model has a great couple of posts from Ali and Mohammed) that are well worth reading. Ali really gets to the crux of this issue when he asks those that protest, Where do you live?
Where do you live!? A stupid and irrelevant question? I don't think so.

Which peace are you seeking? Yours or that of the world, and which order you are trying to maintain? That of your countries or of the whole world? Do you really think that it's such a wonderful and peaceful world that no one should be allowed to mess with? But what a stupid question is that on my part!! Of course it is! I mean some of you probably hadn't heard a gun shot in months or years, and some of you live in countries that haven't fought any war in more than a century.

Your lives certainly have not been that easy for sure, but did you ever fear that your children might starve to death? Or did you live your life with the horror of a kick that break your doors open, in the middle of the night, to take you or one of your family members to the unknown? And worse than that- which seems to you not a big deal- did you have to bend your heads and fix your eyes to the ground and never raise it fearing it may meet those of a security guard and get misinterpreted as a challenge!!? Oh my God! Here I go asking stupid questions again! As of course all of this is not a big deal, because if you felt it is such a huge injustice and a humiliation to the sacred soul inside each one of God's creatures, not to mention human beings, you wouldn't wait SO patiently for the sanctions to work and for the inspectors to finish their job. Of course it's not a big deal, and you know why? Simply because it didn't happen to YOU. It happened to the others who lived so far away that it made it less real for you and you simply could throw all these behind you when you come to discuss the war, and ONLY now, you are suddenly worried about how the Americans are treating us!!? I have one thing to answer that: the Americans don't 'treat' us; they help, protect, teach, love and make friends with us. Hard to swallow for you, I know, because it makes you look so bad to yourselves, but that's not as bad as it seems since we all make mistakes and HUGE ones and it's never too late to admit that we were wrong.
Read the rest, in fact just click on Iraq the Model to the right and just keep scrolling. Mohammed has been reposting his thoughts from the days leading up to the war a year ago. He recorded them the old fashoined way, on pen and paper. Very interesting stuff. What a difference a year makes. Last year Mohammed would have faced imprisonment or torture for something as mundane as a personal diary, now he is publishing them from an internet cafe for the world to read. Start here for the diaries.

What a unique historical opportunity technology gives us. Yeah, it's anecdotal, but at least it is some effort to see what real Iraqi's want. Of course the anti-war movement never cared about the Iraqi citizen's interest anyway. They turned a blind eye to Saddam's tyrannyand wanted him left in power. The hypocrisy of the pacifists is always this. It is BECAUSE blood was spilled in the past that they have the security today to yell and scream about whatever they want. So what did they use this freedom for over the weekend? To try and deny the Iraqi's those same freedoms that they enjoy! These pacifists don't want peace, they want the White House. At whose expense does not matter.


Another Iraqi blogger looks at a year of freedom and what's ahead.

In an Op-ed piece, Paul Wolfowitz mentions Iraq The Model.

One year later poll of Iraqis here

I can't resist posting this from The Mesopotamian:


I have just listened to President Bush's speech on CNN. I just couldn't leave the keyboard without saying something. Because the warmth of the Presidents' words of friendship and commitment to our people really did make my eyes moisten. Not even the openly hostile report by the CNN reporter could spoil the feeling.

God will be on the side of good men, and it is clear for this middle-aged man who the good men are.

Hail dear El Bush. Thanks to you and all the Coalition men and women. Long may live our alliance and friendship. Victory by the Grace and Help of Allah is assured.


UPDATE: Good Lileks today:

Yes indeed. Um-hmm. Once we've wrecked the rare society that gave us the freedom to wreck it, true freedom will be ours.

These people want "freedom," but only for themselves. Freedom to preen. Freedom to flatter themselves that they are somehow committing an act of bravery by Speaking Truth to Power. But they're speaking Nonsense to Indifference. Pictures of Bush as Hitler sieg-heiling away would get them killed if this was truly the country they insist it is. Nothing will happen to them. They know it. They would be killed for doing this in Saddam's Iraq, of course; they know that too. Doesn't matter. Bush is worse than Saddam, in the macro sense. Saddam's sins are an inconvenient obstacle; hard to defend the fellow, but you have to concentrate on the real villains here, the people who truly threaten progressive transnational peace and solidarity and justice and human rights and -

What? Did we march on the first anniversary of Saddam gassing the Kurds?

I don't understand the question.

He also points to this picture taken at the San Francisco protests, one year later here's the face of the anti-war movement:

It's hard not to wish that this guy was in there that Tuesday morning.

More pictures from the San Fran rally here

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Explosion? What Explosion?

(Link via Big Wig) This is a fascinating article about Reagan and the Cold War. The story is taken from a new book, "At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War." The Soviets, especially at the end, were struggling to keep pace with American technology and innovation. In desperation, they put together a broad based spying effort aimed at stealing Western technology. It was actually quite effective.... until the United States caught on and countered of course. The counter-plan was to allow the Soviets to steal technology, and they stole it. But this technology contained a trojan horse, it was designed to fail. The strategy provided some dramatic results for the United States. Go read about it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Know Your Enemy, and Don't Forget Him:
(Why I'm voting for Bush)

It is an ironic paradox of election 2004. The more successful President Bush is with national security, the more it moves to the back of our minds and becomes relatively less of an issue. The inability for Al Qaeda to follow up 9/11, it turns out, may have helped their long-run cause. Steven Den Beste explains, as only he could, using the "half-cure" of tuberculosis treatment as an allegory to today's war on terror:
Disease treatment is not the only area where half-a-cure is worse than no cure at all. The stupidest thing any nation can do is to fight half a war, to wound an enemy but leave him standing. We made that mistake in Iraq in 1991, And that's the risk this nation faces now, against a far bigger and more serious threat.
30 months ago, our enemies launched a devastating attack against us. It was bold and creative and targeted a major security blind-spot, and the resulting damage made a major psychological impact on the people of this nation. In response we went to war.
But the cultural disease which ultimately spawned that attack grew slowly, and the process of eliminating it will also be slow. And we are at risk of deciding that we feel better and ceasing to work on it before it has actually been eliminated.
al Qaeda has been crippled and is on the run. The Taliban are living in caves. Saddam is spending a lot of quality time with American interrogators, and Qaddafi has thrown in the towel and changed sides.
But Syria is as yet largely unaffected. The Mullahs in Iran are demonstrating their ruthlessness in continuing to hold power despite widespread opposition from the people of Iran. There is a huge and largely unheralded power struggle now in Saudi Arabia between those who would like to reform and the hard core. Saudi Arabia is still the wallet of our enemies. Pakistan remains a loose cannon.
If we stop too soon, leaving enemies wounded but still alive, they will learn from the experience. They will heal, grow, and some will come to oppose us once again - but next time they'll be more difficult to fight, since they'll have had plenty of time to analyze what we did and to figure out how to reduce their vulnerability to us.
I've wondered more than a few times over the past year or so what the effect of another attack on U.S. would have. Would everyone blame Bush, or rally around him as in the aftermath of 9/11? I don't know if the terrorist leadership has a thorough understanding of American politics or the American mind. I tend to think not. But still, the Islamo-fascists must consider that another attack, before the election, has a real chance of cementing a second term for, what may be, a vulnerable George Bush. Would they risk it? I tend to think not. A successful domestic attack may hurt Bush, maybe even badly. But it just as easily could spur the country to rally around him as they did in 2001. Attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan do more political harm to the president, and all withouth the risk of causing the U.S. to rally around their leader. For now, Islamic fundamentalists will continue their bloody destabilization efforts overseas.

This is not to say that Bush would not come under great pressure if an attack were to succeed here and the rhetoric would be predictable, "Bush's policies of unilateralism only increased world wide resentment and IRE towards America!!" But, the rhetoric could go the other way just as easily. Correlation is not causation and where correlation is found, there are always at least four possible explanations. (A causes B; B causes A; C causes B and A; or randomness) Den Beste notes:
....even if there had been a continuing stream of attacks against us, rhetoric could have gone both ways anyhow. Supporters of the war could use those attacks as evidence that we have to fight back against a very real peril, while opponents of the war could argue that the continuing string of attacks represented proof that the strategy behind the prosecution of the war was a failure.
Den Beste is worried that we may be forgetting. It is a natural thing, and there are some days that even I ask myself, did 9/11 really happen? Of course I know it did, but it really is hard to remember the personal feelings. I know I cried, at least a little bit, every day for more than a month or two as I read the personal stories of those killed. I cried as I stayed up all night staring at the news, unsure of the manner, but positive that we suffer another attack. My eyes welled up as I watched the victim's relatives hoping and holding pictures of their missing loved one's even as they, quite literally, breathed in their remains. I remember all of the fear we felt when the holiday season, and New Year's Eve of 2001-02 was upon us. Everything was unsure save for the inevitability of another attack. The holidays came and went without incident here, as did the next 24 months. I remember all of it but I no longer really feel it. It's taken on that faded quality of a dream.

There is nothing necessarily wrong about that, resilience is quite human. I am proud of the way that, as a country, we have gotten over 9/11, dusted ourselves off and (mostly) continued on with life as usual. But forgetting (suppressing?) those awful feelings is quite different than forgetting the event and its implications. The latter I have not, and will not ever do. Some want to deny that we have a real enemy, deny that we are in a real war, and presume 9/11 to be nothing more than an anomaly that won't be repeated. The thought is as comforting as it is wrong. In his new book Civilization and its Enemies Lee Harris (who in the first sentence of the preface, writes "This book is about forgetfulness.") explains the nature of the conflict:
It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not. We cannot be the same after we have been defined as an enemy as we were before.
That is why those who uphold the values of the Enlightenment so often refuse to recognize that those who are trying to kill them are their enemy. They hope that by pretending that the enemy is simply misguided, or misunderstood, or politically immature, he will cease to be an enemy. This is an illusion. To see the enemy as someone who is merely an awkward negotiator or sadly lacking in savior faire and diplomatic aplomb is perverse. It shows content for the depth and sincerity of his convictions, a terrible mistake to make when you are dealing with someone who wants you dead.
We are the enemy of those who murdered us on 9/11. And if you are the enemy then you have an enemy. When you recognize it, this fact must change everything about the way you see the world.
President Bush understands this, John Kerry does not.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

New Age of Exploration?

When President Bush first mentioned going to Mars, I would be lying if I said I wasn't doing some head scratching. We got terrorists to fight damnit! I thought, "unless you're talking about moving America to Mars and leaving all the wack jobs behind to figure it out for themselves, no way!" Okay fine, Australia and Britain can come too... and France, we need someone we can all poke fun at right? But that's the only reason to talk about Mars, if it involves NASA you can bet it involves billions at seemingly little or no benefit to the common man. My initial reaction was "nice ambition, but just now the times seem a bit turbulent for expenditures and ventures of this scope." Then as I'm browsing InstaPundit, I come across a fascinating piece like this:
The president's plans include developing new spacecraft, establishing launching points outside the Earth's atmosphere, and harnessing extraterrestrial resources that will "boggle the imagination" and "test our limits to dream."

Mr. Bush's program will create a new American empire in space that will resemble the ocean-born empires of the European states in the 17th and 18th centuries. The United States will stake claim to new "open" territories, leverage their resources, and settle them on a small scale.

As in the first era of exploration, travel to new horizons will inspire some of the national virtues Mr. Bush extols: "daring, discipline, ingenuity, and unity in the pursuit of great goals." If the past is any guide, however, exploration also will bring its share of problems, even for a country as powerful as the United States.

There are three difficulties, in particular, we must prepare to confront:
Go read the rest, the author draws some parallels with 17th and 18th century Europe's exploration of the new world to forecast some of those dangers we'll have to prepare for. We should go forward with optimism though, exploration has clearly been a long-term net benefit for the world so far.

Perhaps the greatest value to space exploration is its inspiration. The thought of a never ending world out there, operating under colosally different laws of life and physics, removes Earth's limitations from our brains and opens a whole new path of dreams, inventions, advancement.... and science fiction novels. Perhaps this is what we need at this time, competition from the Soviets is what pushed us to the moon in the 60's, today there is no such force. Maybe we allowed our ambition to become a bit too muted after Cold War ended. Maybe now is the time to "test our limits to dream."

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Zarqawi Strategy

Last month the New York Times reported on a letter seized from a known Al-Qaeda safe house in Baghdad. It is charged that the letter was authored by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian the Bush administration previously named as the main link between Al-Qaeda and Hussein's Regime. (Zarqawi was also mention here by me last August.)

Among other things, the letter (full translated text here) describes the jihad as breaking under American pressure:

But America did not come to leave, and it will not leave no matter how numerous its wounds become and how much of its blood is spilled. It is looking to the near future....
Like Somalia and other attacks on Western targets throughout the 90's, terrorists believe that if enough casualties are inflicted, Americans will cut and run. That was the September 10th paradigm, they are learning different now.

"We can pack up and leave and look for another land, just like what has happened in so many lands of jihad. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!"
That's encouraging to hear. That the enemy is sufficiently concerned counts for at least as much as media reports and political posturing. Zarqawi goes on to lament the lack of mountains and forests in which to take refuge, as well as the difficulty in recruiting Iraqi civilians to start holy war in their own land. Even those that they do manage to recruit seem quite unsatisfactory, what with their aversion to death and all - in other words, they are in it for the money, not the ideology:
"Jihad here unfortunately [takes the form of] mines planted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar. The Iraqi brothers still prefer safety and returning to the arms of their wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groups have boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killed or captured. We have told them in our many sessions with them that safety and victory are incompatible...."

As the Islamo-Fascists realize that America is in this for the long haul, the letter outlines a new strategy, one that involves attacks on the new Iraqi police force and the Shia majority that was so brutally oppressed under the Sunni Hussein Regime. Attacks on police stations were the trend last month, and have been somewhat effective (in their measures of body count and fear). They are however, attacking armed men who, when it comes to returning fire, do not have to be nearly as discriminating as coalition troops. In a country looking for security, not much sympathy is garnered by killing locals trying to provide it. So the real strategy is involves the Shia:
These in our opinion are the key to change. I mean that targeting and hitting them in [their] religious, political, and military depth will provoke them to show the Sunnis their rabies...and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breast.
....The solution that we see, and God the Exalted knows better, is for us to drag the Shi'a into the battle because this is the only way to prolong the fighting between us and the infidels.
....We have said before that the Shi'a have put on the uniforms of the Iraqi army, police, and security [forces] and have raised the banner of preserving the homeland and the citizen. Under this banner, they have begun to liquidate the Sunnis under the pretext that they are saboteurs, remnants of the Ba'th, and terrorists spreading evil in the land. With strong media guidance from the Governing Council and the Americans, they have been able to come between the Sunni masses and the mujahidin. I give an example that brings the matter close to home in the area called the Sunni Triangle - if this is the right name for it. The army and police have begun to deploy in those areas and are growing stronger day by day. They have put chiefs [drawn] from among Sunni agents and the people of the land in charge. In other words, this army and police may be linked to the inhabitants of this area by kinship, blood, and honor.
....I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shi'a with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis. Someone may say that, in this matter, we are being hasty and rash and leading the [Islamic] nation into a battle for which it is not ready, [a battle] that will be revolting and in which blood will be spilled. This is exactly what we want, since right and wrong no longer have any place in our current situation....

Whether or not Zarqawi is behind the attacks, this is clearly the strategy that is being carried out, attacking the Shia with blow after blow. Tuesday saw near simultaneous explosions rip through crowded Shiite holy sites in Karbala and Baghdad killing 150 or more (estimates vary). An hour later, attackers in Pakistan lobbed grenades and sprayed a religious procession of Shiites with gunfire killing at least 40 and wounding over 100. Expect this to get bloodier in the short term, Zarqawi knows the clock is ticking.
We hope that this matter, I mean the zero hour, will [come] four months or so before the promised government is formed. As you can see, we are racing against time.

Transfer of power to the Iraqis is scheduled for July 1st, these attacks were perpetrated on March 2nd. Now is the "zero hour" and the days coming will likely see further bloodshed. Now is not the time to waver. Nation building is certainly a tenuous thing, Haiti provides only the most recent example. Determined resolve is the key component. With resolve, it can be done. A stable, free Iraq must be achieved. The biggest threat to the Islamo-fascists is not the American war machine, but American democracy. Destabilization is the why behind the attacks. The Zarqawi strategy is to attack the Shiites in hopes of fomenting a sectarian war, and rallying the Sunni Arabs to their terror cause. On Tuesday, the terrorists killed, but they aren't winning any hearts and minds. In the aftermath, Sunni religious figures immediately issued fatwa condemning "any act of violence against Iraqi state government workers, police, and soldiers."

Terror attacks are not some political statement against Western Oppression, they are not a cry for a change in U.S. foreign policy. It is the attempted imposition of 12th century theocracy through death and destruction. Bin-Laden propagandizes this as a war of Islam vs. America, but it's revealing itself as Osama and Thugs vs. Civilization. Whether it's attacks in Turkey, Riyadh, Bali or Iraq every where Al-Qaeda rears it ugliness dead Muslims are left in its wake. Which begs the question, is this really what the "Arab Street" supports? If the answer is "no" then why does the anti-war left insist upon painting the Arab world as generally supportive of such butcherly atrocities? I mean just look at the results! (Pictures here - they are very graphic, but I linked to them for a reason, go look, you'll have to scroll down.) I tend to believe that much of the anti-U.S. feeling in the Middle East results from indoctrination combined with a political culture devoid of free expression. Acts and images described above should start to trump that. If I am wrong and, somehow, images like the above spark endearment to terror oganizations from the "Arab Street" it is only reason to further marginalize them, if "they" exists at all. But right now, the terrorists are losing, and the Arab Street remains as unarousable as ever. It's hard for me to believe that, in their hearts, the citizens of the Middle East don't have a longing for freedom. Quite a bit hangs in the balance here, that is why it won't be easy. The direction that Iraq travels over the next few months will have lasting implications for the political future of the region as a whole.

Update: Some Iraqi blogger reactions, here, here, here, and here. All present unique insight and are well worth the read.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I read James Lileks' Bleat on a regular basis and I regularly find the first part of the column somewhat bland. Don't misunderstand me, I think he is a fantastic writer, he sometimes writes on topics I have no interest in - like how his dog reacts to new toys for his daughter.

Last month Lileks decided to read some old newspaper to see if they provided any insight to current events. Here's what he found in 1992:
But the editorial pages' predictions of ruin and despair failed to materialize, as they usually do. The failure to nationalize medicine did not lead to millions dead in the emergency rooms. The Mall of America had just opened, and there were weepy op-eds about the rapacious maw of American consumerism eating the planet alive. Gorbachev was warning us about something or other; Somalia had suddenly emerged as a troubled nation we must all now regard with worried furrowed brows. And in the back of the A section, day after day: Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq blocks inspectors, Iraq admits inspectors, Iraq blasts food-for-oil program, Iraq fires on US planes, Iraq protests to Security Council, Iraq, Iraq. If anyone seriously thinks Iraq never had WMD, you need to go back to 1992 and read the stories about UN press releases concerning the newly constructed "mustard gas incincerators," OKAY? There was even a story about Iraq promising to institute democratic reforms. It quoted Qusay. He was quite hopeful about giving the citizens a voice. (Of course, that voice said ARRRRGGHIIIIEEEE Turn it off I confess! ) There was a story about Kuwaiti citizens hoping Bush won, because they were, you know grateful. There were stories about Iraqgate, too. You remember that. US loan guarantees to Iraq might have been diverted to the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The Democrats wanted a Congressional investigation.

You want to know why we invaded Iraq in 2003? Go back and read the papers in 1992. And you'll find this quote:

"If they're such whizzes at foreign policy, why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the rest of the world?"

Albert. Gore. Junior.

In the same paper: "Fundamentalist rebels attacked Kabul with rockets in an assault that killed at least 100 people and wounded hundreds more. As the shelling intensified, a United Nations agency said it was removing its staff from Kabul."

Nice to know some things never change.

What did he find in 1998?
Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn't acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer," Clinton said, "but sometimes it's the only answer." "If Saddam isn't stopped now," the AP story said, quoting Clinton, "He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he'll use that arsenal." Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam's arsenal, because A) they didn't know where everything was, and B) they didn't want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan - Desert Thunder - had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.

Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton - he gave them a sweet no bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.

Anyway: it's deja vut all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41's reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.

And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.

I'm so old I actually remember when the Democrats cared about Iraq.

Me too.


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