Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
88 Years Later
I truly never thought I would live to see a World Series Championship in Chicago and I'm not yet 30. 97 (Cubs) and 88 years (White Sox) of history are difficult things to reason with. At least they used to be.
John Kass captures the mood nicely:
HOUSTON -- Now that it's over, after the celebration scene on the grass and the champagne scene in the clubhouse, I can't stop thinking about home.
About that chip that was on our shoulders for so long, and about the camaraderie of strangers greeting each other on the streets of Chicago and in the suburbs, in elevators, at stores, waiting for the train, passing each other at a coffee shop.
Today, we know other's hearts by the color we wear. Today we wear black, for joy.
"It's already started, this cultural thing happening, strangers talking about it, sharing it," said a friend back in Chicago even before Wednesday night's game, the game that completed the Series sweep of the Houston Astros.
"People were so exhausted, waiting up for the end of Tuesday's game, and today everybody is looking at each other, nodding, not even having to say a word," she said.
It was 1917 when the Sox won their last Series. Perhaps the chip on our South Side shoulders has finally been knocked off after 88 years.
The arithmetic is easy to figure. But you can't be a fan by weighing and measuring your heart. You couldn't fully enjoy what happened if you did.
So when did Sox fans finally expose their baseball hearts without reservation to this ballclub? Was it when Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Kenny Williams decided to take a risk and hire former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen as manager? When the three of them dumped the big sticks for pitching and speed and defense?
When Joe Crede hit that home run against Cleveland in September, and broke the pressure, putting a cork in the critics who were so sure this Sox team would choke and had no chance of getting to the World Series? When Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez shut down Boston in the playoffs? When Paul Konerko pulled that grand slam in Chicago, and spread his arms, airplaning around first?
I don't know, but it was damn sure a fun season.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Several months ago, George Galloway testified before the Senate on his involvement with the UN Oil for Food scandal. It has been widely speculated that Galloway was on the receiving end of millions of barrels of oil allocations in exchange for his political support of Saddam Hussein's regime and a promise to push to lift international sanctions. Galloway has been an outspoken supporter of Saddam Hussein since at least 2000, and documents uncovered in Iraq after the invasion support the notion of Galloway’s involvement in the Oil for Food scandal. The results of the US Senate's initial investigation can be found here and it is pretty damning.
Back in May of this year, George Galloway came to the United States to testify in front of the US Senate on the matter. Predictably he used his moment in the spotlight to grandstand and confidently proclaim his innocence as well as demonstrate his intellectual superiority to the US Senate:
(NOTE: you really should watch at least a few minutes of this debate between Chris Hitchens and George Galloway to get the full sense of Galloway’s vanity and crescendoing style rhetoric.)
Sample from from the May testimony:
SEN. COLEMAN: If I can get back to Mr. Zureikat one more time. Do you recall a time when he specifically -- when you had a conversation with him about oil dealings in Iraq?
GALLOWAY: I have already answered that question. I can assure you, Mr. Zureikat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal, or from any deal. He donated money to our campaign, which we publicly brandished on all of our literature, along with the other donors to the campaign.
Galloway later boasted that he humiliated the US Senate. Wretchard, however, took a different view:
The really striking thing about the Galloway's testimony as transcribed by the Information Clearing House is how the Senators and the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow were pursuing a non-collision course. Galloway had come to score press and public relations points at which, by all accounts, he was successful at doing. But Senator Coleman and Levin seemed totally uninterested in responding to Galloway's sharp political jibes. It was almost as if the Senators were deaf to his political posturing. Instead, they focused exclusively and repeatedly on two things: Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat and Tariq Aziz. Zureikat was a board member of Galloway's Mariam foundation who is also implicated in the Oil For Food deals. Tariq Aziz was Saddam's vice president:
SEN. LEVIN: ... I wanted just to ask you about Tariq Aziz.
SEN. LEVIN: Tariq Aziz. You've indicated you, you--who you didn't talk to and who you did talk to. Did you have conversations with Tariq Aziz about the award of oil allocations? That's my question.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. I'm done. Thank you.
SEN. COLEMAN: Just one follow-up on the Tariq Aziz question. How often did you uh ... Can you describe the relation with Tariq Aziz?
SEN. COLEMAN: How often did you meet him?
GALLOWAY: Many times.
SEN. COLEMAN: Can you give an estimate of that?
GALLOWAY: No. Many times.
SEN. COLEMAN: Is it more than five?
GALLOWAY: Yes, sir.
SEN. COLEMAN: More than ten?
SEN. COLEMAN: Fifteen? Around fifteen?
GALLOWAY: Well, we're getting nearer, but I haven't counted. But many times. I'm saying to you "Many times," and I'm saying to you that I was friendly with him.
SEN. COLEMAN: And you describe him as "a very dear friend"?
GALLOWAY: I think you've quoted me as saying "a dear, dear friend." I don't often use the double adjective, but--
SEN. COLEMAN: --I was looking into your heart on that.--
GALLOWAY: --but "friend" I have no problem with. Senator, just before you go on--I do hope that you'll avail yourself of this dossier that I have produced. And I am really speaking through you to Senator Levin. This is what I have said about Saddam Hussein.
SEN. COLEMAN: Well, we'll enter that into the record without objection. I have no further questions of the witness. You're excused, Mr. Galloway.
GALLOWAY: Thank you very much.
[Wretchard:]In the exchange above it is abundantly clear that both Coleman and Levin simply wanted to enter Galloway's denial of having discussed Oil for Food business with Tariq Aziz in the record. Levin immediately ends his questioning after eliciting Galloway's "Never". Coleman is content to merely establish that Aziz and Galloway were "friends" who had met "many times" before saying "I have no further questions of the witness".
Unless the Oil for Food hearings have come to a complete dead end, Coleman and Levin's examination of Galloway aren't the pointless thrashings of Senators at a loss to respond to the devastating wit of the British MP but tantalizing clues to the direction they wish the investigations to take. The question that must have been in Galloway's mind -- and which is uppermost in mine -- is what else did the Senators know? The persons named by the Senate investigation so far -- Zhirinovsky, Pasqua and Galloway -- reads less like a list of principals than a list of fixers. The truly remarkable thing about Galloway's many meetings with Tariq Aziz was how much time the Iraqi was willing to devote to an obscure British backbencher with no official power. The unspoken question is why Saddam should take the trouble to bribe Galloway, if it were Galloway who was being bribed. The Senators were building a causal bridge to something, but to what?
Unsurprisingly Wretchard proved to be rather prescient:
GEORGE GALLOWAY faces possible criminal charges after a US Senate investigation tracked $150,000 (£85,000) in Iraqi oil money to his wife's bank account in Jordan.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will refer the Respect Party MP for possible prosecution after concluding that he gave "false and misleading" testimony at his appearance before the panel in May.
The sub-committee claimed that, through intermediaries, Mr Galloway and the Mariam Appeal were granted eight allocations of Iraqi crude oil totalling 23 million barrels from 1999 to 2003.
It will also forward the new information to British authorities, saying it raised questions about Mr Galloway’s financial disclosure and the payment of illegal kickbacks to Iraq. "We have what we would call the smoking gun," said Senator Norm Coleman, the sub-committee’s Republican chairman.
But the question "to what" still stands. It seems unlikely that the Senate would pursue George Galloway simply for perjury, but this may be the thread that leads to the unraveling of the Oil for Food Scandal. So who is next? Kofi? Jacques Chirac? Will Galloway start flipping on those higher up than him? We will see.
Wretchard of course noticed his foresight as well, and has further analysis.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Go White Sox, Fu*K Castro
Some of the most exciting baseball I have ever seen, and it's coming from a Chicago team! Two of the White Sox pitchers, Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras defected from Cuba. During the game 1 broadcast, announcer Joe Buck mentioned that Contreras' name is not allowed to be spoken in Cuba, and that a few of his relatives still in Cuba are riding on horseback out to a shack in a remote section of the island to listen to the sattelite feed of the broadcast. It made me wonder how many people unfortunate enough to be riding a horse Saturday night in Cuba turned up dead or not at all.
Here is their story, and yet another reason to cheer for the White Sox.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Mohammed shares a first hand story of one of the many victims of Saddam Hussein. It's hard to imagine what it must be like for the millions of victims to watch the trial of a man who terrorized them over 3 decades. That's because it is hard for me to imagine living under conditions where one wrong look, one wrong word, or one wrong thought would mean a long painful death sentence for me and for those that I love. It seems to have a cathartic effect though.
Of course opinions vary when ages vary as the age more or less determines how much suffering the person had to go through. Today I was talking to victims of Saddam who are friends of the family; a mother (52) and her daughter (25). The rest of their family was exterminated by Saddam; the daughter lost her grandfather, father and uncle.
Read the whole thing, and be thankful for what you have never had to experience.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Hussein on Trial
The trial of Saddam Hussein has begun, and predictably, the International Intelligentsia is wringing its collective hands. The Belmont Club rounds up some of the reactions, you should follow the link, but I'll summarize:
'Iraqis are incapable of trying one of their own, they need international lawyers, advisors, and judges to show them the way. This is the only possible way to get a 'fair' trial for Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein should not get the death penalty.'
Fair is always in the eye of the beholder of course, but I think in this case, it is safe to say that the only possible fair result is a guilty verdict. I'm sure someone will argue that Hussein walking free is 'fair', but I will leave that to George Galloway.
Essentially the international community (codeword for 'UN') is telling the Iraqis that the very system that enabled Saddam Hussein to get rich, to stay in power and commit unspeakable acts towards human beings, a system that puts Baathist thugs at the seat of its human rights commission, should now be trusted to oversee his trial. Right. I can't imagine that this notion of treating Saddam Hussein nicely - emanating from Western Elites - resonates with the average Iraqi.
The reality is that these international courts are useless. How many former Eastern European communist dictators still roam free? How long has Slobodan Milosevic been on that circus act trial for genocide now? When was the last time that these vaunted international courts convicted any tyrant? Moreso, have they ever convicted any active tyrant that wasn't long 'retired' and now a frail old man?
Is it really a surprise though that the internationalists, who did not wish to see Saddam Hussein deposed in the first place, now argue that a man who murdered millions through war and general barbarism, should not get the death penalty? It's absurd to me, but the world is upside down. I'm not a particular fan of the death penalty per se, but to categorically assert that the death penalty is always wrong is to implicitly say that we, as human beings, do not have the ability to draw distinctions between the depths of depravity of certain horrible crimes. But we do have that ability and to deny it is purely a self-congratulatory indulgence of our own perceived righteousness. Restraint does not equate to enlightenment. Rather than trying to maintain a false sense of moral superiority by opposing death for Saddam Hussein, lets instead try and appreciate the suffering of the actual victims and allow them to decide if he deserves to die for his crimes. That seems more thoughtful to me.
And while we do this, lets take time to remember Saddam Hussein's legacy of terror, and reflect on the horror that the mothers, brothers, sons, and fathers feel as they are finally able to pull their slaughtered family members from crude mass graves.
There are 70 pages of these photos.
More graphic images of Hussein's legacy here, and heartwrenching stories from survivors of mass executions here (starting on page 6 of the .pdf).
How can anyone raise principled opposition to Saddam Hussein going on trial? Leave it to the international left.
UPDATE: From Iraq the Model
While Baghdad’s streets were nearly empty, most Iraqis were glued to the TV and I bet many Arabs were as well.
Our place was full of full of friends today as we decided we would watch the trial together just like we lived what led to this day together; the first thing we noticed was that electricity was much better today and I don’t know if that was an exceptions made to allow more people to watch the awaited show but anyway we already prepared for outages and stored enough fuel for the generator.
We all sat in front of the TV; there were 8 of us hushing each other as we didn’t want to miss a single word of the conversations and we wanted to catch every small detail of the trial just like we suffered every small detail of the disasters brought upon us by the hateful tyrant.
“Does he deserve a fair trial?” this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes…he wasn’t the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.
Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it’s more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah…
“Why do we have to listen to this bull****?” said one of my friends.
“I prefer the trial goes like this:
Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?
Then take this bullet in the head.”
Everyone could find a reason to immediately execute a criminal who never let his victims say a word to defend themselves “let’s execute him and get over this” sentiments like this were said while we watched the proceedings which were rather boring and sluggish for the first half of the session.
At the beginning we were displeased by the presentation of the prosecution which was more like a piece of poetry in the wrong time and place and this is what encouraged the defense to give us a worn out speech about objectivity and how the court must not go into sideways; the thing which both the prosecution and the defense were doing.
Anyhow, the prosecutor began reading the facts and figures about what happened in Dijail. The defendants went silent but Saddam objected on some details and then prosecutor said “Do you want me to show the film where you said and did that?” Saddam stopped talking and the prosecutor asked the court to allow showing the film, we don’t know if it was played there as transmission was paused for a while.
As the prosecution went deeper into details and facts, the way we viewed the trial began to change an d those among us who were demanding a bullet in Saddam’s head now seemed pleased with the proceedings “I don’t think I want to see that bullet now, I want to see justice take place as it should be”.
We were watching an example of justice in the new Iraq, a place where no one should be denied his rights, not even Saddam.
Being an actual Iraqi and all, Mohammed's take seems much reliable to me than that of the New York Times etc.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Another Step Closer
As we like to say in the blogoshpere, democracy is a process, not an event. Saturday, Iraq took another step in that process and the insurgency another step towards defeat as civilization continues its rebirth in Mesopotamia. Strategy Page reports:
October 16, 2005: The government is getting better at running national elections under the threat of terrorist attacks. The legislative elections last January had fewer than ten million people voting, and over 40 people killed by terrorists opposed to the elections. This vote, on the new constitution, brought out over ten million (69 percent of those registered), and left fewer than ten dead. There are several reasons for this progress. First, the government is getting better. There are more police, and more of them are trained and reliable. The government has used its experience well, and the country was basically shut down for yesterday's election, making it difficult for terrorists to move around. And apparently the terrorists did not move much, and attacked even less. But another reason for that was the effort by many Sunni Arab anti-government groups to get Sunni Arabs to vote against the new constitution. If the three mainly Sunni Arab provinces could get two thirds of the voters to go against the new constitution, the constitution would have to go back for more revisions and a new vote. Many Sunni Arabs decided that they could live with the new constitution, and turned out to vote that way. As a result, it appears that the Sunni Arabs did not stop the constitution.
All of this is another major defeat for the al Qaeda and anti-government forces. These two groups have not been able to stop any elections, and their efforts are weaker with each round of voting. Al Qaeda's efforts to goad the Shia Arabs into a civil war with Sunni Arabs has not worked either, although it has caused a lot of ill-will and violence in areas where Shia and Sunni live close together.
The anti-government forces have little to sustain them. The October 15 election was just another of many major defeats. And every day, there are numerous lesser defeats. But some of the Sunni Arab terrorists will keep at it, and it will be years before this threat is completely gone from Iraq. That's been the pattern in other Arab countries over the past few decades.
Murdoc reminds us of some of the conventional wisdom over the last couple years.
Recall that it would take many months and many thousands of American lives simply to conquer Iraq.
Recall that, even if we managed to get control, the Iraqi people would never regain their sovereignty.
Recall that, even if we did give Iraq back to the Iraqis, it would simply be a puppet government that ruled.
Recall that, even if the government ever allowed elections, the Iraqi people wouldn't be interested in participating.
Recall that, even if the Iraqis did want to vote, the violence in Iraq would prevent them from doing so.
Recall that, even if elections were held, they would be so corrupt as to be worthless.
Recall that, even if a freely-elected government was formed, they would never be able to keep control.
Recall that, even if a new Iraqi government did manage to run things, they would never agree on a permanent charter.
Recall that, even a charter acceptable to all government leaders was written, the Iraqi voters would never approve it.
Recall that, even if voters did approve a new constitution, it would be without much participation of the Sunnis and would therefore be meaningless.
And surely now that the Sunnis have participated but generally voted 'no' this will be spun as a loss, a failure to win the 'hearts and minds'. But that is nonsense. Participation is what counts, there will always be a side that loses politically.
The brothers of Iraq the Model voted, and they have lots of coverage including video, just keep scrolling.
Wow, the phrases "high voter turnout in Falluja" and "The World Series is coming to Chicago" accurately portray reality. Who would have thought...... Oh and because of that World Series thing (not to mention work) things may be a bit quiet around here for the next couple of weeks.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
This is certainly good news:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi leaders reached a breakthrough deal on last minute changes in the constitution Tuesday, and at least one Sunni Arab party said it would reverse its rejection of the document and urge its supporters to approve it in next weekend's referendum.
The deal boosts the chances for a constitution that Shiite and Kurdish leaders support and the United States has been eager to see approved in Saturday's vote to avert months more of political turmoil, delaying plans to start a withdrawal of U.S. forces.
U.S. officials have pushed the three days of negotiations between Shiite and Kurdish leaders in the government and Sunni Arab officials, that concluded with marathon talks at the house of President Jalal Talabani late Tuesday.
The sides agreed to a measure stating that if the draft constitution is passed, the next parliament will be able to consider amendments to it that would then be put to a new referendum next year, Shiite and Sunni officials said.
A top Sunni negotiator, Ayad al-Samarraie of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that if the current parliament approves the measure, "we will stop the campaign rejecting the constitution and we will call on Sunni Arabs to vote yes."
It seems we've been hearing for a couple years now about that civil war that's right around the corner... er the next corner. Instead civil society is a more probable outcome. There will certainly be some political uncertainties as a new democratic Iraq emerges, but those uncertainties are precisely why the liberation was justified. Under Hussein Iraqis faced only the certainty of torture chambers and mass graves, repeated for generations unending.
Now they are free to debate all aspects of their lives. Like any other functional society Iraq is home to many competing and conflicting views, and it can be difficult to reach consensus - but that is the essence of democracy. Only in a despotic regime can complex issues be solved by the whim of a tyrant.
Austin Bay reminds us of what he wrote a few years ago, regarding the difficulties of the task at hand:
"Pity Gen. Tommy Franks or, for that matter, any American military commander tasked with overseeing a post-Saddam Baghdad. For in that amorphous, dicey phase the Pentagon calls 'war termination' ... U.S. and allied forces liberating Iraq will attempt -- more or less simultaneously -- to end combat operations, cork public passions, disarm Iraqi battalions, bury the dead, generate electricity, pump potable water, bring law out of embittering lawlessness, empty jails of political prisoners, pack jails with criminals, turn armed partisans into peaceful citizens, re-arm local cops who were once enemy infantry, shoot terrorists, thwart chiselers, carpetbaggers and black-marketeers, fix sewers, feed refugees, patch potholes and get trash trucks rolling, and accomplish all this under the lidless gaze of Peter Jennings and Al Jazeera."
He was spot on then, and it is truly remarkable that in just a few years much of the above has been accomplished and one of the worst nations in the Middle East is on its way to becoming the best. The Islamo-fascists have acknowledged that a democratic Iraq is the most grave threat to their movement, if only they could convince the American left.
In another love letter between terrorists this fear is re-confirmed. Apparently, (and contrary to what many reporters believe) the insurgency is not invincible, and apparently Zarqawi's strategy of indifferent slaughter of Muslims and beheading snuff films has had the effect of offending the sensibilities of the Arab Street. Austin Bay has the latest Zarqawi love letter thoroughly covered, go check it out.
Friday, October 07, 2005
What Would the World Look Like?
Victor Davis Hanson takes an interesting and thorough look at where we might be had we decided to not invade Iraq in 2003. The article portrays Hillary Clinton and John Kerry chiding Bush for NOT invading Iraq, which I think is accurate as both of them did vote to authorize the invasion. (Of course every Democrat that opposed the invasion of Iraq suddenly wanted to invade North Korea (WHAT ABOUT NORTH KOREA!!!) who recently btw, agreed to give up their nuclear program) It's an entertaining thought exercise and a must read. I've been contemplating myself lately what the world might look like with Saddam Hussein still in power, as it is a question that is not asked often enough, if ever.
Critics point to everything short of perfection and declare failure, but the standard is not perfection, it's the alternative. If Saddam Hussein were still in power there would be 25 million more human beings not allowed to think, act, or speak for themselves, forever beneath the threat of torture and death at the nod of a tyrant. Palestinian terror groups would still be receiving millions in support from Saddam, instead of moving towards statehood. AQ Khan the international nuclear information trafficker would still be in business. Libya would not have given up its WMD program and Saddam would still be adding to his wealth via the Oil for Food Scandal while his people starved. Syrian troops would still occupy Lebanon, not to mention the thousands of terrorists that would still be alive and hiding in holes throughout the Middle East, rather than dead and residing in holes in the desert. That's what the alternative looks like.
No war is an unmitigated success. World War I demolished Europe and paved the way for Hitler and Communist Russia. World War II defeated Hitler but enslaved Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain. Yet these are wars that are conventionally characterized as successes. Where does that leave Iraq? In pretty good shape actually. For all of Iraq's security problems things are progressing. A constitution has now been adopted by freely elected, multi-ethnic Muslim government elected in January. This constitution will be voted on by the public in another weak and the Sunnis are increasingly taking on the attitude of 'the insurgency sucks, let's try democracy.' In 2001 such a prediction about Iraq would have been laughable, that it is now treated as inadequate speaks volumes about how much progress has actually been made.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
10 Years Later
UPDATED: Pictures here
I had my 10 year high school reunion this past Saturday. It's hard to put into words how much fun it was. I truly feel I was part of a one in a million class, the friendships-short and long, the characters, the social aptitude... it was that splendid mix of intelligence, athletic ability, plain good looks ;-) and an above average amount of mischief that seemed to permeate the class of '95 that was so special.
It was great seeing you all.