Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name: Bill Hobbs
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States
From a report currently at CNN.com:
Contradicting coalition reports, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri painted a different picture of the conflict Monday, saying the U.S.-led coalition is being "defeated on all fronts and [is] retreating in the face of strong strikes. If they continue to be stubborn with their aggression, we will attack them with all they have. No one will be safe except for those who surrender to us on the battlefield."
First he says we're retreating, then he says we are attacking (aggression). Which is it, Naji?
Next, Naji says the Iraqis will "attack [the allies] with all they have." With all the allies have? We have a heckuva lot, Naji, but I don't thing we're gonna let your terrorists come over and borrow some MI Abrams tanks, or A-10 Thunderbolts, or Tomahawks or "bunker busters." You're welcome to have your troops come out and try to take them from us, though.
As for your promise of safety for allied troops who surrender, well, we've seen what happens to allied soldiers who surrender to Iraqi thugs on the battlefield. They are tortutred, mutilated, executed and buried in a shallow grave. Which, come to think of it, is what some fine citizens of Baghdad may well soon do to you, Naji. And God help them to do it soon.
Naji, our troops aren't retreating, aren't defeated , and sure as shootin' ain't planning on surrendering to you and your ilk. Some are resting up, while others grind up the "feared" Republican Guard from the air before flying back to the safety of an allied base where they rest up, get a hot shower and a hot meal and prepare to do it again. Naji, you are the flack for a group of murderous thugs who deserve all the righteous fury that's about to rain down on them - and on you - if it isn't already. Bunker busters, Naji, are some of the best of Yankee ingenuity. Here's hoping you get to see one up close. As for your boss, Saddam, if he's still breathing I'm hoping God or fate intervenes and allows his death to come from a bullet fired by a Jewish soldier from New York who signed up to fight after your pals knocked down the World Trade Center. And I'm hoping, somehow, it's caught on video so we can show it on Iraqi TV. Perhaps you can hire Peter Arnett to narrate it.
NBC Fires Arnett
NBC has fired the anti-American reporter Peter Arnett after a public firestorm over anti-American comments Arnett made on Iraqi state-run TV, allowing himself once again to be used as a propaganda tool by the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. NBC deserves scorn for not firing Arnett immediately - instead, the network defended Arnett's appearance on Iraqi TV and specifically defended his statements. They fired him only after the public outcry against Arnett grew too hot to handle. As for Arnett, now that he's once again given aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States - in this case an enemy that has participated in war crimes by having its soldiers torture, mutiliate and execute captured allied troops, and by shelling civilians trying to escape Basra - I'm guessing Arnett's next career stop is al-Jazeera. He'd also be right at home "reporting" for Iraqi TV, but if he works there, he'd be a part of the regime and, therefore, a legitimate target. Unfortunately for the truth, Arnett isn't that stupid.
War Coverage: An Embedded Reporter Lashes Out
CBS news reporter John Roberts, embedded with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, used a recent report to lash out at "armchair quarterbacking" from journalists and retired generals who aren't traveling with the troops. Good for him! Howard Kurtz, media critic for the WaPo, has the details. It's worth noting that I've been critical of the embedded journalists program, not because of the work the embedded journalists are doing, but because news viewers who rely solely on those reports and the TV networks' endless parade of "expert" and "analyst" talking heads presents a very distorted and anecdotal view of the war. For those who truly want to know not only what is going on, but how it fits into the overall military and political strategy, I've suggested supplementing your teevee news with a number of warblogs, all of which are listed in my list of "vital blogs." Among the best: Instapundit, which links to everything good; Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping, Command-Post, Blogs of War, Little Green Footballs, Andrew Sullivan, and the columns of David Warren and Mark Steyn. On Friday, the WaPo published a good guide to warblogs that lists a lot more.
A Proposal Worth Considering
Nick Denton has an interesting idea: partition Iraq into three parts - northern Iraq becomes liberated Kurdistan, southern Iraq becomes liberated Shiastan and central Iraq, including Baghdad, stays in the hands of Saddam Hussein - with Kurdistan and Shiastan under the welcome protection of allied forces. Notes Denton, if Kurdistan includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk (and, I should add, Mosul), then virtually all of Iraq's oil resources will be in the hands of liberated Iraqis allied with the U.S., while Saddamistan (Denton calls it Saddistan) will have few resources with which to prop up the facist Baath Party regime.
I had a similar thought the other day: there's no need to invade Baghdad to defeat Saddam's regime in brutal, bloody block-by-block and house-to-house urban combat. Just encircle the city and isolate it. Cut all the roads into Baghdad. Impose a no-fly-zone over the city, including commercial traffic, by destroying Baghdad's airports. blockade the rivers that might provide routes of commerce into the city. Shut down the city's contact with the outside world - cut the phone and Internet lines and knock Iraqi state TV and radio off the air with Tomahawk missile strikes and electronic jamming as needed. Replace their broadcasts with coalition programming.
And - most important - cut off the flow of oil revenue to Saddam's regime - which should be easy given most of the oil fields would be in allied hands. Use the oil revenue to fund rapid reconstruction of the liberated areas.
With Baghdad cut off, use covert ops and aid to rebel factions inside the city to undermine the regime, and to pick off targets of opportunity - Republican Guard troops, fedayeen militia, Baath Party officials and Saddam Hussein regime officials - as opportunites present themselves. The real question is whether the right approach would be to squeeze the city - a real seige in which the inhabitants are cut off from food and other necessities from the outside world and the city's power and water are cut off - or whether we leave the lights of Baghdad on and the water flowing, and even air-drop food aid to the civilians. My suggestion would be the latter - let the inhabitants of Baghdad know we are on their side, and that our seige of Baghdad is merely about starving the regime, not the people.
Tennessee Lawmakers Threaten Internet
For years, Tennessee has taken pride in being proactive in wiring the state and its schools and libraries for Internet access, and millions of dollars of state funds have been expended for that purpose. Now, Tennessee lawmakers are putting much of that at risk with silly legislation that could render the Internet useless in Tennessee by outlawing "firewalls" and other software and hardware that are crucial to the operation of the 'Net. Several other states are also considering similar legislation, including South Carolina, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas - and the bills - textually similar - are apparently are intended to extend the national Digital Millennium Copyright Act, explains Edward Felten:
Here is one example of the far-reaching harmful effects of these bills. Both bills would flatly ban the possession, sale, or use of technologies that "conceal from a communication service provider ... the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." Your ISP is a communication service provider, so anything that concealed the origin or destination of any communication from your ISP would be illegal - with no exceptions. If you send or receive your email via an encrypted connection, you're in violation, because the "To" and "From" lines of the emails are concealed from your ISP by encryption. (The encryption conceals the destinations of outgoing messages, and the sources of incoming messages.)
Worse yet, Network Address Translation (NAT), a technology widely used for enterprise security, operates by translating the "from" and "to" fields of Internet packets, thereby concealing the source or destination of each packet, and hence violating these bills. Most security "firewalls" use NAT, so if you use a firewall, you're in violation. If you have a home DSL router, or if you use the "Internet Connection Sharing" feature of your favorite operating system product, you're in violation because these connection sharing technologies use NAT. Most operating system products (including every version of Windows introduced in the last five years, and virtually all versions of Linux) would also apparently be banned, because they support connection sharing via NAT. And this is just one example of the problems with these bills. Yikes.
Felten, incidentally, is not some wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. He was an expert witness in the Microsoft antitrust trial.
The legislation being pushed by Sen. Person and Rep. Briley is bad legislation pushed by politicians who don't know enough about the Internet and how it works - otherwise, they would realize that the impact of this law would be to render the Internet either illegal or inoperable in Tennessee. Go here for more information on it.
UPDATE: I found the Tennessee version of the legislation. Senate Bill 213, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Person, and House Bill 457, sponsored by Rep. Rob Briley. Both bills have been moved to their respective judiciary committees. Let's hope they die there.
Meanwhile, if you have any information on the Tennessee legislation, who is lobbying for it, and relevant campaign contribution information involving the key House and Senate sponsors, please forward it to me at bhhobbs - at - comcast.net.
Today's NYT has a good story on how Iraq must be ridded of the Baath Party and taught the ways of democracy after the war, similar to the "de-Nazification" of Germany after World War II.
Last September, a group of 32 Iraqi exiles met in Britain under the auspices of the State Department to compose a document they would title "Report on the Transition to Democracy in Iraq." The report - it is a full-size book, in a ring binder - was written in English and Arabic and submitted in December to a meeting of Iraqi exile leaders who hoped to form the new government. The exiles never did establish solid relations with the Bush administration, and their report attracted very little attention. Yet it ought to be regarded as one of the crucial documents of the present crisis. Certainly it raises one extremely important point for the future.
The report states flatly, "The practice of politics in Iraq has been dead for 35 years." There have been no political parties apart from the Arab Baath Socialist Party. There have been no organized opposition groups inside the country, no public dissenters, not even a well-known persecuted dissident. Many ordinary people have been implicated in some way with the crimes of the regime. Totalitarianism in Iraq has been, in short, of the darkest hue. Thus the report recommends that, after the fall of the Baathists, Iraq ought to undergo a process similar to the de-Nazification of Germany after World War II - a process of "de-Baathification."
De-Nazification was a vast campaign. The Allies occupied Germany in 1945 and banned the Nazi Party. They made something of an effort to restore property to people who had been pillaged by the dictatorship. Nazi Party members were brought before tribunals, which exonerated some of them, subjected others to criminal prosecutions and banned still others from future public positions.
The de-Nazification campaign imposed reforms on German education and culture. The old Nazi textbooks were withdrawn, and new ones were written. Germany's political culture was given a new shape and texture. To be sure, the success of de-Nazification depended mostly on the active enthusiasm of the Germans themselves, who turned out to be ardent in their desire for change. And the results were, all in all, splendid - even if, 58 years later, the challenges of de-Nazification have not entirely disappeared from the German landscape.
Kanan Makiya, one of the authors of that report, speaks in Nashville on April 2.
The WaPo has a good story on the war and weblogs. It mentions lots of good blogs including Nashville's own One Hand Clapping. Doesn't mention me. :-(
The list makes it clear the reporter didn't research all of the blogs he listed. One listing is for "Kanan Makiya's War Diary," which the WaPo describes as "a blog from the front lines on The New Republic web site." Makiya directs the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University, which is attempting to make available for scholarly research three million pages of official Iraqi government documents captured by the Kurds following the Gulf War in 1991. He is a leading Iraqi exile and is heavily involved in planning for post-war Iraq. He's appearing in Nashville later this week. And his column for the The New Republic's website is not a blog. But it is excellent and informed commentary, and you still ought to read it.
Peter Arnett gave an interview to Iraqi TV in which the MSNBC correspondent slammed America. This is not the first time Arnett has shown his true anti-American colors, nor is it the first time he has allowed himself to be used by the government of Saddam Hussein to spread propaganda. In 1998, Arnett produced a documentary that accused U.S. soldiers of using Sarin gas to destroy a village in Laos. It was a lie, and later proven to be a lie, and CNN retracted the story. And, 12 years ago, Baghdad Pete unfailingly reported every bit of "collateral damage" in that city just the way Saddam's government wanted him to. A military target destroyed by allied bombs was called a "Baby Milk Factory" by Iraqi officials - they even helpfully printed up a sign in English that said "Baby Milk Factory" - and Arnett dutifully reported to the world via CNN that the U.S. had blown up Baghdad's only source of baby formula. It was a lie. He probably knew it was. 12 years later, Arnett is once again collaborating with the enemy. For more on Arnett's anti-American bias, click here and scroll down to item #4.
The Iraqi government has recently kicked out many journalists it felt were biased against it. Arnett is still there - giving sympathetic interviews to Iraqi TV.
Rev. Artillery has a mention of Arnett. The comments from readers are good, too.
Legislature Handed Historic Budget Opportunity
The Knoxville News Sentinel says the Legislature is on the verge of passing a state budget that represents a "significant and potentially long-ranging recalibration of the spending patterns of state government."
"It takes this type of circumstance to do what they're doing," said Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis. "It puts members in a position of voting for this or voting to raise taxes. It's a chain, and if any link is broken, we're out of balance. Only with that pressure could they do some of these things." Kyle pointed to previous efforts during the last three difficult budget years to take state shared taxes and road money. The efforts failed, and the Legislature finally increased taxes by $933 million last summer.
"Many of the trial balloons that have popped over the last three years are going to be in there," he said. "The administration is wise to put them all in one vote. If you don't vote for this, you'd better be ready to raise taxes, and the General Assembly has promised not to increase taxes."
Rep. Randy Rinks, D-Savannah put it another way. "What other choice is there? You see another bill like that anywhere? We've been talking about this for three years. It's not like we didn't know it could mean a property tax increase. Everybody said, 'Cut the budget.' Well, this is what it looks like when you cut the budget. There's pain everywhere, but there's really not a lot of alternatives."
During last year's fight over an income tax, the House Finance Committee laboriously put together a no-new-taxes budget called DOGS, for Downsizing Ongoing Government Services. The similarities between that effort and what Bredesen is proposing have not escaped the notice of legislators. "But last year the administration fought it tooth and toenail," Rinks said. "This year they're saying it can be managed. It makes a difference."
Sounds good to me.
We're Not Seeing the Whole Picture
Imagine, if you will, watching an entire NFL football game through a tiny camera embedded in the helmet of one offensive lineman on one of the two teams. You'd see only part of each play when that team's offense is on the field. And from that ground-level, up-close look you'd be hard-pressed to see the overall play developing. And when the lineman was out for a play, or the team's defense was on the field, you'd see nothing much going on at all and might conclude, wrongly, that the game was over.
The "embedded journalists" program is kind of like that. While it is providing Americans with a view of the Iraq war that is unprecedented in the history of warfare ... the view is unfulfilling, incomplete and often misleading. Why? Thanks to the embedded journalists, we are seeing tiny slices of the war, not the whole war, as Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld so aptly put it. But why is it that way - there are, after all, more than 700 "embedded" journalists reporting live from the hundreds of military units spread across Iraq and Kuwait.
Ah, but each is reporting for a different news service - some for the networks, some for local teevee news programs, some for big newspapers like the New York Times, and some for small newspapers like the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. You'd have to watch all of the news shows - from all the networks and all the local news programs across the nation - and read all of the newspapers from across the country, just to see all of the coverage. And even then you'd be getting only unconnected slices. And you'd be getting no reports from within the Iraqi military - Saddam didn't embed reporters among the Republican Guard. There's no counterpart to NBC's David Bloom reporting live as the Fedayeen terrorists prepare car-bomb attacks, use Iraqi women and children as human shields, shell innocents trying to flee Basra, or fake surrender only to gun down allied soldiers from behind their white flags.
Our side fights honorably, and allows reporters in. The other side does neither.
More on Nashville's Communists
A Vanderbilt prof who chooses to remain nameless has sent me information about an anarchist organization that has ties to the Nashville Peace & Justice Center, a group recently outed for their connections to the Communist Party USA. The "Emma Center" describes itself as "an Integrative anarchist center for creativity, learning and community in urban Nashville," and according to its website, is named after Emma Goldman., which the site describes as "a dedicated anarchist and feminist in the first part of the 20th century." The Emma Center is "collectively constructed in her memory to carry on the tradition of collectivism, peace, community action and education." It meets at 1016 18th Ave So Nashville TN, which just happens to be the same address as the Nashville Peace and Justice Center. Emma Center is a member organization of the NPJC.
Birds of a feather...
As the Vandy prof writes, the Emma Center has "also been highly visible here at Vanderbilt, organizing and holding a "Peace Forum" just yesterday right here on campus! No doubt they'll continue to fill these spoiled rich young skulls full of mush with their collectivist, pacifist, and anarchist propaganda."
All the Crazies In One Spot!
According to the Jerusalem Post, members of Yasser Arafat's terrorist group Fatah are headed to Iraq to launch suicide-bomber attacks on allied troops. That's the bad news. But it's not totally bad news. Perhaps the allies will find a way to attract all the Islamocrazies to one place in Iraq - Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda, Hamas, Fatah, etc. - and then drop some MOAB's on them. We can dream. You can read the Jerusalem Post's story after registering for free at their website. The J-Po is a vital resource during this conflict. (Hat tip: Command Post via Instapundit.)
Here's some happy news from the Washinton Post:
U.S. covert teams have been operating in urban areas in Iraq trying to kill members of President Saddam Hussein's inner circle, including Baath Party officials and Special Republican Guard commanders, according to U.S. and other knowledgeable officials. The covert teams, from the CIA's paramilitary division and the military's special operations group, include snipers and demolition experts schooled in setting house and car bombs. They have reportedly killed more than a handful of individuals, according to one knowledgeable source. They have been in operation for at least one week.
British special forces are also inside Iraq for the same purpose.
Who Is Reporting on Our Troops?
Karl Zinsmeister, editor of The American Enterprise, is embedded with the 82nd Airborne in the combat zone. He writes that, for the most part, the journalists traveling with our troops in Iraq are disdainful of the troops and against the war.
I personally have not met a single journalist here who supports this intervention by our commander-in-chief. I know there are a few present, like Michael Kelly of The Atlantic, and some of those I've met could not be clearly categorized on the basis of gentle questioning. But the vast number of the reporters I've spoken to are openly scornful of this war's aims and purposes.
In the first days of battle, the only thing that got the sustained respect and attention of the fellow scribes I'm bumping into each day was the apparent death of four journalists on March 22. At a lower level, there was astonished pique that the writers traveling with the Marines in the initial ground offensive had not been been given an opportunity to sleep for two full days! Of course, the Marines who were doing the fighting were not sleeping either. And a lot more than four servicemen have been killed. But they're from another species.
Typical reporters know little about a fighting life. They show scant respect for the fighter's virtues. Precious few could ever be referred to as fighting men themselves. The journalists embedded among U.S. forces that I've crossed paths with are fish out of water here, and show their discomfort clearly as they hide together in the press tents, fantasizing about expensive restaurants at home and plush hotels in Kuwait City, fondling keyboards and satellite phones with pale fingers, clinging to their world of offices and tattle and chatter where they feel less ineffective, less testosterone deficient, more influential.
When the press covers the death of a journalist in the combat zone as if it is the most important part of the story, I change the channel. Journalists who die in the commbat zone are not worthy of more coverage than the soldiers who, along with prosecuting their mission, have the added responsibility of trying to keep the unarmed journalists from getting killed. I was especially pleased to see the other day a report from NBC's Chip Reid, who described how the soldiers he was traveling with had to dig a new trench to sleep in each night. It was hard work, he said, adding he and his crew also had to dig their own trench. Good for them. Nice to know they aren't be coddled out there.
Lance Armstrong, All-American
American cyclist extraordinaire Lance Armstrong, who has won France's signature bicycle race four times in a row now - something akin to a French football team winning the Super Bowl - has issued an intelligent statement regarding the Iraq war.
In my opinion it's not really the place of an athlete to take a position here. And I do think there should be a strong deliniation from sports, war, diplomacy, and politics. I am getting asked this question repeatedly over here because a) I'm an American like the President, b) I'm a Texan like the President, and c) I am a friend of the President's. The war seems to be very unpopular here (lots and lots of protests) and it's normal that the press tries to get a quote regarding this. What I will say, and have said many times, is that NOBODY wants a war. Not me. Not President Bush. Not Tony Blair. No one... but sometimes it may be unavoidable. I absolutely support the President and absolutely support our troops.
And to think he's going to win another Tour de France this coming July. The French cyclists will surrender in the mountain stages. Because, as you know, when the going gets tough, the French surrender.
(Hat tip: LGF)
A Journalist at War
Here's a first-person battlefield account from an embedded journalist who did the right thing.
Leading Iraqi Dissident to Speak at Vanderbilt
Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile and adviser for the pro-democracy Iraqi National Congress, is scheduled to speak at Vanderbilt University on April 2. Born in Baghdad, Makiya directs the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University, which is attempting to make available for scholarly research three million pages of official Iraqi government documents captured by the Kurds following the Gulf War in 1991. Makiya is the founding director of the Washington-based nonprofit organization The Iraq Foundation, an organization that promotes public activities concerning democracy in Iraq. His paper, A Model for Post-Saddam Iraq, is influencing U.S. policy regarding the rebuilding of Iraq after the current war ends.
Makiya has been writing a series of commentaries on the Iraq war for the website of The New Republic. As the bombs started falling on Baghdad, Makiya wrote that the sound of those bombs was the sound of freedom. You can find all of Makiya's essays by going to the homepage of The New Republic and looking for the "War Diary" button. His essays are routinely quoted in the blogosphere.
Some more infor about Makiya, courtesy of Vanderbilt's press release: Makiya's book Republic of Fear, written under the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil, became a bestseller after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. His book Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World, published under his own name, was awarded The Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations published in English in 1993. Makiya also has collaborated on two films for television including Saddam's Killing Fields, which first exposed the 1988 campaign of mass murder in northern Iraq known as the Anfal. That film received the Edward R. Morrow Award For Best Television Documentary on Foreign Affairs in 1992.
The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy profile of Makiya and his work as part of the Future of Iraq Project, a project of the U.S. State Department that is planning Iraq's post-war transition to democracy. Makiya guided the writing of a Democratic Principles Working Group report for the Future of Iraq project. Here's a snippet of that NYT magazine profile:
There's something in it to offend everyone. The report proposes, among other radical ideas, a representative ''transitional authority'' chosen by Iraq's opposition exiles and ready to operate inside the country as the regime crumbles; the postwar demilitarization of Iraq; the dismantling of the Baath Party along the lines of German de-Nazification; war crimes trials and a truth commission; thoroughgoing secularism; a constitution in which individual and minority-group rights would be guaranteed in advance of local and then national elections, so that democracy does not lead to tyranny of the majority; a decentralized federal government in which the regions would be drawn along geographic rather than ethnic lines; and an end to ethnic identity as a basis for the state. As long as Iraq is defined as an Arab state, other ethnic groups, like Kurds and Assyrians, will continue to be second-class citizens. In Kanan Makiya's blueprint, Iraq would officially cease to be an Arab country.
Makiya will likely be prominent in the reconstruction and political reformation of liberated Iraq. If you can't attend his appearance at Vanderbilt, at least read his War Diary essays.
Al Gore Takes A Hit
If you hire someone to teach about the First Amendment, you would hope he actually knows what he is talking about. Former veep Al Gore clearly does not. Commenting on the recent flap over Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines' comments critical of President George Bush and the Iraq war, Gore said the First Amendment and democracy have "taken a hit" because of the public's reaction to Maines' comments.
After a public outcry against Maines' comments - which she made in front of a concert crowd in Britain - some country music radio stations stopped playing Dixie Chicks songs.
The Chicks "were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said. Our democracy has taken a hit. Our best protection is free and open debate," Gore said in a college lecture at Middle Tennessee State University, where Gore is head of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.
How, exactly, did democracy take a hit? Because conservatives protested something a liberal said? That's not a threat to the democracy and the First Amendment. That's the essence of democracy and the First Amendment. There is no constitutional right to be immune to verbal criticism and economic backlash if you say something controversial.
Embedded Communists Update
National Review's Dave Shiflett is turning the national spotlight on communist connections to the anti-war protests in Nashville.
Indeed, the state's most revered and self-congratulatory peace activists have been exposed, by talk radio, as being deeply in bed with the Communist party. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The fun began when local talk-radio sensation Phil Valentine (familiar to NRO readers for leading the anti-state income-tax movement in Tennessee) decided to have a look at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center's website. The group has been sponsoring peace rallies in the area, and is also trying to send a delegation to see Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Valentine wanted to find out exactly who's who in the center's pro-peace coalition. Many of the members were hardly a surprise. What caught Valentine's eye, however, was the acronym CPUSA - the Communist party. Holy cow. What are the commies doing there? After all, about the only peace they've provided is the peace of the grave. Valentine's antennae were twitching as he went to the CPUSA's main website, scrolled down to the "contact the CPUSA" section, and found the listing for the Middle Tennessee Chapter.
"I couldn't believe it," says Valentine. "The street address for the Tennessee chapter of the CPUSA is the exact same address as the Nashville Peace and Justice Center." Sensing his readers might benefit from this information, Valentine took the story on air last Friday. Not everyone was happy he did so. "Matt Leber, the peace center's director, called in," Valentine told me. "At first he denied any affiliation with the Communist party. He said they weren't any Communists within ten miles of him. I pointed out they have the same address as his organization. There was stunned silence. Then he admitted that the CPUSA is a member organization, but said that didn't mean anything."
He says it doesn't mean anything, but the NPJC soon scrubbed its website of any mention of the local communists.
I mentioned Valentine's work exposing the communist connections of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center here on Wednesday and provided a link to the Google cache version of the organization's old website, which clearly described the Communist Party USA's Nashville chapter as a "member organization" of the NPJC. Shiflett's article includes a link to the organization's current website, from which the organization erased CPUSA from its list of member organizations. And, as it turns out, the latest version of the organization's old website has not been altered to conceal the fact that the Communist Party USA's Nashville chapter is a "member organization" of the NPJC.
Keep up the good work, Phil
The Bush administration is tightening rules governing classified government documents and giving the government more power to keep secrets that involve "vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans or protection services relating to the national security, which includes defense against transnational terrorism."
The Knoxville News Sentinel doesn't like it one bit:
The White House cited concerns about national security - intelligence methods, details of weapons of mass destruction - being compromised, but these disclosures are protected by existing exemptions. The Clinton order gave the benefit of doubt to disclosure. The Bush order will have the effect of reversing that: When in doubt, keep it secret. President Bush issued an executive order, amending a 1995 order by President Clinton that automatically declassifies most government documents after 25 years. Those documents, especially those having to do with the departments of State and Defense, are of intense interest to historians, scholars and journalists. Bush delayed that effective date until the end of 2006. That means documents from the mid-point of the Carter administration will not be available for another three years. One has to wonder: Exactly what is he trying to protect?
What is Bush trying to protect? I'm guessing he's trying to protect the American people - a possibility that apparently didn't occur to the Knoxville editorialists. And I suspect Bush, who gets national security and intelligence briefings daily, knows far more about the threats America faces than do the members of the editorial board of the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
The Fog of War Journalism
UK military chief Geoffrey Hoon is spot-on with his analysis of war journalism. Hoon, Tony Blair's defense secretary, writing in the London Times, says reports from the "embedded" journalists - including 128 Brits - provide people with vignettes of the war, but not the total picture.
One commentator on television this week said that, in Iraq, we were seeing a new kind of war. I disagree. It is less a case of seeing a new kind of war, more that we are seeing war in a new way. Startling pictures of a sort which have previously been the preserve of battlefield commanders are being beamed into our homes. Journalists can report changing situations as they happen, in real time. But the understandable thirst for "exciting" images has resulted in a series of disconnected "snapshots" of the conflict. Each, in its own way, may have been informative, but combined they have failed to give the viewer a genuine understanding of "the big picture," and sometimes they have had the opposite effect.
If the most exciting images of the day are of resistance from small elements of Saddam's brutal security forces - who fear their own liberated countrymen almost as much as they fear the coalition - that leads the news bulletins. It gives an impression that that is the mood of the country, when in fact it relates solely to the tiny area in which the reporter finds himself. It may not be the journalist's fault: it is a reporter's job simply to report what he or she finds. But without being framed in a broader understanding of strategy, instant pictures can mislead. So while viewers may be "seeing" more than ever before, they may actually be "learning" less, albeit in a more spectacular way.
Those who saw the hectic pictures of a night-time infantry assault on an Iraqi-held position during the battle for Umm Qasr a few nights ago, for instance, will not easily forget them. What they may not have understood, however, is that the picture hid a more complex story. With our air superiority, we could have blown that building and other targets to pieces, but that would have run counter to our strategy of leaving the infrastructure intact for the Iraqi people, with whom we have no argument, to use after the regime falls.
Hoon's piece cuts through the fog of war journalism, and provides the overall context for what you're seeing on the TV.
For more on war journalism, check out this at Instapundit today
Saving on Paving
Today's Tennessean reports on what cutting the Tennessee Department of
Paving Transportation's budget by 9 percent will mean. It will mean fewer orange barrels, as TDOT cancels 435 miles of road resurfacing projects. The story says TDOT tries to resurface roads every 12 years and is roughly on schedule. Two thoughts: Anyone who has ever spent much time driving in Tennessee gets the impression that TDOT resurfaces many roads far more often than every 12 years. But even if we choke back our skepticism and believe TDOT only resurfaces roads every 12 years, the delay in repaving 435 miles of roads is a rather small thing.
According to TDOT's website, Tennessee has 87,259 miles of road, of which 13, 752 miles are state-maintained highways. That is 16 percent of the total highway miles within Tennessee. Do the math: 12,752 miles of roads divided by 12 means TDOT intends to resurface approximately 1,146 miles of state highway per year. That's 1.33 percent of the total miles of state highways. The 435 miles represents less than half (38 percent) of the roads that TDOT would, on average, resurface in a single year.
And those 435 miles that won’t get repaved this year are a very small portion - just one half of one percent - of Tennessee's highway system. Chances are, drivers in Tennessee won't notice the difference if TDOT has to delay those projects a year or two.
Thanks to the abundance of competing media outlets, it seems the Iraq war is becoming a full-employment program for retired military officers. A retired U.S. Navy captain living in Knoxville has landed a gig with ABC News. A mere captain. Are we running out of retired admirals and generals?
Covering the War
National Public Radio's Daniel Schorr has some good commentary on the difficult relationship between media and military, how "embedded" journalists deal with military censorship, and why "the Iraq war and a revolution in communications technology may have opened the way to reconciliation between the American military and the American news media."
Tennessee Budget Update
Kevin Raybould has an update and brief comment on the Tennessee budget battle and, over at PolState.com Says Raybould: "By successfully painting this as a choice between roads and education, Bredesen and his allies have managed to overcome one of the first obstacles to his budget proposals." Hmmm. Where have I head that before.? Oh yeah. Here, on March 11, where I said this: By taking tax increases off the table, and then putting education on one side of the debate and all of the other state programs on the other, Bredesen has neatly framed the upcoming debate as one where if you oppose cuts to one of those other programs, you must be for cutting education. We know who will win that debate.
Instapundit has some good stuff today on how Iran's official media is covering the Iraq war, why Iraqis in the southern cities aren't yet rising up against Saddam, and more evidence of a link between Saddam' regime and the al Qaeda terrorist organization - namely, al Qaeda is helping Saddam's Fedayeen militia organize attacks on coalition forces near Basra.
Quote of the Day
The quote of the day should provide comfort to the Iraqi people who are hoping the U.S. doesn't stop short of ousting Saddam. It comes from the Bush-Blair press conference. Asked how long the war would last, President Bush said:
"However long it takes to win. However long it takes to achieve our objective. However long it takes. It's not a matter of timetable, it's a matter of victory."
Okay, so it doesn't quite rise to the forceful eloquence of something like "We will acccept nothing less than the unconditional surrender or total annihilation of Saddam Hussein, his regime and his armed forces," but it's a solid commitment to persevere until Saddam is gone and the people of Iraq are liberated.
Whose War Is It?
I was mesmerized by this Andrew Sullivan column exploring the roots of the Iraq conflict. His assessments of Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and the historical context of the Iraq war - which includes the first Gulf War, Kosovo, sanctions, Somalia and much, much more - make total sense and provide, in one essay, all the history you really need. Here's an excerpt, but you really need to read the whole thing.
Why, after sending hundreds of thousands of troops halfway around the globe, did [the first President] Bush suddenly turn modest? Because the United Nations was the rubric under which he fought the war; the terms of his enormous coalition were dictated by the U.N.; and those terms were strictly limited to the reversal of Iraq's invasion, and nothing more. In one of the loveliest paradoxes of this battle, the U.N. therefore laid the groundwork for its subsequent self-destruction twelve years later. Without the U.N.'s restrictions on American force twelve years ago, Saddam would not be around today. Any non-U.N., American-led coalition with any sense of military opportunity, would have finished off the old Stalinist more than a decade ago. 1991 was therefore, in one sense, the U.N.'s post-Cold War high-point. Too bad it guaranteed its future nadir.
So we had the sanctions regime and the inspections regime. We had abrupt clashes, long somewhat successful police work under U.N. inspections, but no real breakthrough with regard to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Worse, precisely because Saddam remained in power - thanks to the United Nations - American troops were required to stay in the region in large numbers to maintain some sort of deterrence. Where did they stay? Saudi Arabia. Who noticed this? One religious fanatic, Osama bin Laden. What was the result? The forces of Islamist fundamentalism shifted their focus from the corrupt regimes in their own region to the super-power thousands of miles away. If you want a direct, irrefutable link between Saddam and 9/11, you have to look no further than the consequences of the first Gulf War. If there had been no U.N.-mandated half-victory, Osama would never have had his direct provocation. And in one of those perfect circles of historical irony, Osama's revenge has led just as directly to Saddam's final come-uppance.
Here's a new blog you might enjoy, offering the "View from the Back Window of my Pickup Truck."
Denying France a Victory
I'm all for consumer boycotts of the products of France, a country that once was a U.S. ally but now is actively working to prevent the defeat of Saddam Hussein - although I doubt the boycotts will have much impact. But there is a way to hit France a little harder. According to today's Wall Street Journal, a California congressman is "demanding that planners [of the reconstruction of post-war Iraq] choose a wireless-phone technology developed by an American company." Rep. Darrell Issa has sent letters to the Pentagon, the U.S. Agency for International Development and fellow lawmakers urging them to support the deployment of CDMA, a wireless technology developed commercially by Qualcomm Inc., which happens to be headquarted in California.
But Issa isn't merely trying to secure pork for the home state. He's got a better motive than that:
"We have learned that planners at the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology known as GSM ('Groupe Speciale Mobile' - this standard was developed by the French) for this new Iraqi cellphone system," Mr. Issa wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"If European GSM technology is deployed in Iraq, much of the equipment used to build the cell-phone system will be manufactured in France by Alcatel, in Germany by Siemens, and elsewhere in Western and Northern Europe. Therefore, if our understanding of this situation is correct, because of ill-considered planning, the U.S. government will soon hand U.S. taxpayer dollars over to French, German, and other European cell-phone equipment companies to build the new Iraqi cell-phone system. This is not acceptable," reads the letter Issa is urging his colleagues to sign.
Given how France and Germany have actively aided Iraq's brutal dictator, Issa is right - using U.S. tax dollars to benefit France in this way is not acceptable.
Mr. Issa's characterization of GSM as a French-developed standard is not exactly accurate - GSM was developed by a consortium of European companies, most prominently Finland's Nokia Corp. and Sweden's L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co.. Still, going with GSM is more likely to benefit France. Going with CDMA benefits America.
Issa's not just writing letters - he's planning to introduce legislation to block the use of GSM. He's right to do so. The U.S. should actively cut out any French involvement with the reconstruction of Iraq, starting with canceling the lucrative contract that France's Total Fina Elf signed with the outlaw Hussein regime to develop Iraq's northern oil fields.
I'll try to keep you updated on Issa's battle, and related news. Here's a link to the WSJ story, although you can't access it without being a paid subscriber. Here's a Reuters story on it courtesy of Forbes.com. And here's one in RCR Wireless News.
A "Grouchy Old Cripple" thoroughly trashes an op-ed by Leon Fuerth. Fuerth was Al Gore's national security adviser. Reason #2,397 to thank the good Lord in heaven again that Al Gore isn't president. Read the whole thing, but caution: strong language ahead. Also, don't miss this. It's guaranteed to make you smile.
Instapundit is on a roll, with lots of good stuff on the war. Start here and then scroll up. If you think France is still a friend of the United States, he'll change your mind, with links to good stuff from StrategyPage, Nick Denton, Cinderella (no, not that one), Jacob T. Levy, Michael Ledeen, and Anatole Kaletsky writing in the London Times about the "reckoning" ahead for the diplomatic betrayal of America by our putative friends France, Turkey, Germany and Russia. Ledeen's piece is damning in its assessment of how the French not only betrayed us, but threatened Turkey into betraying us too. Glenn also references a piece linked to on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, but appears to have used the wrong URL. Here's the right one.
A poll by the Pew Research Center finds high and steady support for the war:
There are no indications that declining optimism about progress in the war is affecting overall support for military action or President Bush's handling of the conflict. Roughly seven-in-ten Americans say it was the right decision to use military force against Iraq, a figure that remained fairly stable during the polling period. And about the same number (71%) give the president positive marks for his handling of the war.
The American people may have wrongly believed - thanks to a lazy media that provided them too little information - that all of the armed thugs in Iraq would simply surrender, leaving Saddam standing naked in the center of Baghdad. After all, that's basically what happened in the first war with Iraq. But back in 1991, Saddam's soldiers and terrorists had far less to fight for. We were there merely to boot him out of Kuwait. But in this war there are a few tens of thousands of Iraqis who have no future once Saddam is gone. They will be hunted down by the people they helped him oppress. They have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans and the Brits - either way they are going to die. A few tough days of combat has enlightened the American public that this won't be easy. But, as the President and Rumsfeld and the generals are fond of saying, the end is not in doubt. Saddam's regime will be removed. Steady support for the war as shown in the Pew, Gallup and New York Times/CBS polls proves the American people are not averse to casualties as long as they believe in the policy - and believe the president fully intends to see things through.
Who are the Fedayeen Saddam?
Short answer: They are people who must be engaged on the battlefield and killed in large numbers if we are to win this war and truly liberate the Iraqi people. Here's the long answer, courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Will Saddam Use WMD?
Count on it, says national security analyst James Robbins. He makes a persuasive case.
WLAC radio talker Phil Valentine is doing yeoman's work outing the communist connections of the Nashville Peace & Justice Center, which has been sponsoring anti-war rallies in Tennessee's capital city in recent weeks. Now, the NPJC has altered its website to remove references to the Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America, and to remove evidence that the Nashville chapter of the Communist Party USA shares the same address as the NPJC.
Too bad the NPJC doesn't know about Google, and how it keeps past version of web pages in its "cache." You can see the old version of the incriminating page of the NPJC's website here. NPJC's listing in CitySearch whitewashes the organization's communist sympathies.
NPJC's address is 1016 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212. A listing of regional offices of the Communist Party USA doesn't have their address, only an email address, but the Google cached version has their address. It's 1016 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212
By the way... regular readers of this site know we keep you updated on the push for an income tax in Tennessee. NPJC is a part of that effort.
It's fine to be anti-war and pro-income tax if that's what you truly believe. But now you know that, when you protest at an NPJC event, you are helping communists.
UPDATE: The Tennessean rushed to the defense of the NPJC with a story Thursday. You'll notice the story includes comments only from NPJC director Matt Leber, who makes the dangerous charge that Valentine is trying to "instill fear and mistrust." The story says Valentine could not be reached for comment - but Valentine is on the air for several hours a day, and sends an email newsletter to more than 4,000 people every day. The Tennessean had no quotes from Valentine because it didn't want to quote him.
Too Bad We Can't Bomb Al-Jazeera
The allies bombed Iraq's state-run television network's satellite service yesterday, knocking it off the air. The enemy's state-run TV is a legitimate target in a war. Somebody hacked Al-Jazeera's English-language website yesterday, knocking it offline, at least in the U.S. Good for them. Al-Jazeera is the mouthpiece of radical Islamofacism. It is not an Arab CNN, an independent news network for the Arab world. It is, as Little Green Footballs has dubbed it, "Jihad TV."
Walid Phares. a professor of Middle East studies and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University, and author of several books on the Middle East, says this of Al-Jazeera:
The network functions essentially as a high-tech madrassa, broadcasting the ideology of jihad to millions around the world. Every development is thoroughly analyzed from a jihadist angle. One example was the Iraq campaign. Months before the U.S. engagement began, two audiotapes were aired by Al-Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to fight for Baghdad as the "second capital of Islam" - not as the center of Saddam's Baath. Al-Jazeera was to use the term repeatedly, slowly building up the illusion that such a jihad would be fought for Iraq, not for Saddam. Interviews with religious fundamentalist leaders multiplied. The pressure eventually led al-Azhar, the Vatican of Sunni Islam, to call for jihad if Baghdad were to be attacked. That call, now "news," in turn was broadcasted by Al-Jazeera.
Unfortunately, Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, which is an ally in the current war, so we can't bomb it. But if Qatar is such an ally, why do they allow Al-Jazeera to continue broadcasting?
The Houston Chronicle has posted a list of war blogs. It's a pretty good list, but incomplete - no Blogs of War, no Command Post, no Little Green Footballs, no Donald Sensing. And it includes some that seem out of place. Still, at least they tried.
More on That NYT Poll
Patrick Ruffini has some more good commentary on today's New York Times story in which the Times tried to spin poll results to deceptively show support was slipping for the war. Ruffini also notes that allied casualties have been light, not that the Times has noticed:
In light of the masochistic drumbeat now underway on West 43rd Street, is it too triumphalist to point out that things went pretty well today - in the face of the most difficult conditions the allies have faced since Wednesday? Amidst one of the worst sandstorms in memory, our troops took a key bridge crossing at Nasiriyia, captured a hornet's nest of Iraqi resistance along with 170 feyadeen Saddam, and blasted away about 200 Iraqi RG/paramilitaries in the toughest fighting of the war so far - without a single reported U.S. casualty. Our greatest loss so far has occurred among noncombat troops in a faked surrender, obviously a situation we will actively seek to avoid in the future. But besides that one incident, allied combat casualties have been surprisingly sporadic and light - with the backstory surrounding those situations usually involving hundreds of Iraqi combat losses.
Saddam, Meet Thy Doom
I think Saddam is already goo in the rubble of his bunker, but if he's still alive he's got a new threat to deal with. Heh heh heh.
More Media Criticism
Andrew Sullivan has been chronicling the pro-Saddam bias of the BBC. Today, he explains why it matters. In short, it's because Iraqis listen to the BBC, and they are being told by the BBC that the allies aren't winning.
My harping on this theme is not simply media criticism. It's war analysis. Remember one of the key elements, we're finding out, in this battle is the willingness of the Iraqi people to stand up to the Saddamite remnants. That willingness depends, in part, on their confidence that the allies are making progress. What the BBC is able to do, by broadcasting directly to these people, is to keep the Iraqi people's morale as far down as possible, thereby helping to make the war more bloody, thereby helping discredit it in retrospect. If you assume that almost all these reporters and editors are anti-war, this BBC strategy makes sense. They're a military player. And they are objectively pro-Saddam.
Sullivan is right - the Beeb's coverage has been atrociously slanted against the U.S. as even a BBC reporter in Qatar said in a leaked email Sullivan reports on here. Unfortunately, the allies can't bomb the Beeb.
Rating the Coverage
Here's a story on a poll with some not-very-surprising results: people who oppose the Iraq war tend to think coverage of the war is biased in favor of the war. That's not a shock: the media is currently filled with images of war and stories of war - images the anti-war set finds offensive. And the reportage, at least in the American media, comes from Americans who, even if they seek to report objectively, are still reporting on the actions of American troops. A bit of pro-American bias is unavoidable, I would think. It's objective to show both the successes of the American troops and the setbacks - but even video of a Americans taking fire from Iraqi guerillas, or of a wounded American soldier talking on the cellphone with his wife back home in the states, is subtly pro-American simply because that's the side of the battle the video is showing.
There are, after all, no reporters "embedded" with Iraq's Republican Guard or the Fedayeen Saddam terrorist militia. Naturally, when an embedded reporter reports on his unit's encounter with the Fedayeen near Najaf, the report tilts in favor of the Americans.
The problem with embedded reporters isn't their natural tendency to bond with, and therefore report favorably on, the units they are covering. You can hardly blame NBC's David Bloom for reporting favorably on the actions of the armored units he's traveling with - deep down Bloom knows that if the unit he is embedded with loses a battle, Bloom may well lose his life. Iraqi fighters aren't likely to know or care that Bloom is a journalist rather than a soldier. To them, he's just another target. So forgive him if he refers to the Third Infantry Division as "our column."
No, the problem with embedded reporters is they present slices of life devoid of context. And television, which obsessively follows a formula of constantly looping through the same material, fails to provide the necessary context. MSNBC, while providing some good coverage, is also an example of the report-rinse-repeat approach to war coverage, offering updates every 15 minutes. The fact is, even as fast as the U.S. military has charged across Iraq, wars do not progress in 15-minute chunks. Hours can go by with nothing new to report, but the TV maw demands fresh material, and disgorges an endless stream of repeated video, recaps and talking heads - and those talking-head expert analysts, it should be noted, have biases.
Newspapers are handicapped in the opposite way. Walking past newspaper racks Tuesday carrying the Nashville City Paper and The Tennessean, I was strike by how stale the headlines were - especially on the Tennessean, which had a bold headline stating "Several Americans die in ambushes, trickery." But that had happened the day before. It wasn't happening now. The NCP's headline, "Push toward Baghdad," at least conveyed the sense of developing story. But the copy below the headline was stale. That’s not a knock on the City Paper or the Tennessean – they’re both just working with the traditional tools of the newspaper business, covering a 24-hour-evolving story with stories printed once a day, hours before reaching readers. Your hometown paper is similarly hamstrung, though some papers are doing a better job than others using the web to provide more complete and more-regularly updated coverage. Several papers are running Jeff Jarvis’ War in Iraq news weblog on their sites, a great service to their readers.
Newspapers tell us what happened yesterday. TV can tell us what is happening now. But even in a fast war, there's not always something big and newsworthy happening right now - at least not under the teeveenews definition of "big and newsworthy," which often means "we've got video of it." The best medium for following the war in Iraq is turning out to be the Internet. By checking both news websites and war-centric weblogs, readers can access both the latest breaking news from the battlefield and a level of cogent analysis that puts the TV talking-head experts to shame. TV gives you pictures of disconnected events, then gets talking heads to comment on them. But 30-second sound bites can't fully explain the context of what you're seeing live from the battlefield. Essays like this one from Austin Bay explain the overall strategy in a way Lester Holt or Peter Jennings can't. In a mere 1,422 words, Bay provides the context for the battlefield video from the embedded reporters. Now, when David Bloom tells you of the latest exploits of the
I think this piece in Editor & Publisher today has it about right regarding TV versus web new sites (though it leaves out the importance of independent weblogs):
When an event of the magnitude of the 9/11 terror attacks or the crash of the space shuttle Columbia occurs, the initial attention will likely be on TV news - for many more years to come. The consumer instinct is to turn on the TV to find out what's going on and see the first pictures. But after those initial minutes, there's a great opportunity for online news, and we saw that with the onset of this war, says Kinsey Wilson, vice president and editor-in-chief of USAToday.com. "Viewers first turn to television in part because TV's strength is the delivery of a narrative story line. That's what people are looking for when an event like this first begins to unfold," he says.
"Eventually, though, television starts to loop back on itself and repeats the narrative over and over again. I think that's where the web gains a huge advantage. The best sites can move quickly to develop a story in multiple directions, add depth and detail, and give readers their own pathways to explore." Wilson's point is dead on. Just because TV owns the first minutes (or hours) of major breaking news doesn't mean that web news sites can't either steal back or share the attention of news consumers relatively quickly.
For more on war blogs, see Mark Glaser's column in Online Journalism review. And to fully follow the war, turn off CNN occasionally and check out the Internet. Start here, of course - but don't stay here. Over on the right, I've got a list of "Vital Blogs." For war coverage, you really ought to check out several of them, including Donald Sensing, Instapundit, Blogs of War, Little Green Footballs, Winds of Change, Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing, Outside the Beltway, Command Post and The Truth Laid Bear. Pejman Pundit is good too - Pejman provides commentary from the perspective of an Iranian American. And Andrew Sullivan is providing excellent commentary too. Follow the links to those blogs - and then follow their links to other blogs, news articles and sources you may never have seen before. If you do, I guarantee it - the next time you find yourself watching the miasma of CNNMSNBCFoxNewsABCNBCCBS you'll be wondering how so many people could spend so much time telling you so little about what is really going on.
The A-List Crazies Are Awfully Silent
The always reliably entertaining Mark Steyn assays the current state of Iraqi propaganda and concludes it indicates a lot of top Iraqi leaders are, uh, dead.
So is he dead? No, not Saddam. We'll come to him later. I'm thinking of Tariq Aziz. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister is a Christian and, even though he's a Scud-lobbing Kurd-gassing Christian, that's what passes for pluralism in the Middle East, and Baghdad is savvy enough to use him as their chief Western media spokesperson. So why isn't Tariq on CNN and the BBC right now? Why isn't he claiming that the imperialist aggressors have slaughtered thousands of innocent women and children?.
That's what he was doing on the first weekend of the last Gulf War. Everywhere you looked he was busy accusing "the imperialist American-Atlantic-Zionist alliance and its traitor followers" of carrying out "aggressive, indiscriminate and deliberate raids" on food factories, a sports stadium, a museum, a church, a textile plant, a health centre, a passenger train, a sugar factory, a baby-milk factory and a water-purification plant. Hundreds of civilians had died, he insisted. Mr. Aziz didn't expect to get anywhere with the American-Atlantic-Zionist crowd but he'd issued a stirring call to the Non-Aligned Movement to help support Iraq in its struggle to build "a new world order." Isn't this just the sort of stuff to cheer the hearts of Svend Robinson and Harold Pinter and the other Western Saddamites marching for "peace"?
But on the opening weekend of Gulf War II Tariq Aziz was silent. Even though perking up Svend and Co. is far more critical to Baghdad's strategy this time round, Iraq's Mister Available isn't returning his messages. He hasn't been seen since last Wednesday when some curiously timed rumours were floated that he'd either defected or been shot in the attempt. Saddam ordered him to go on TV and deny it. He did, and then left the studios to go to a meeting of the inner council. The meeting was broken up in the early hours of Thursday morning when the Pentagon dropped a bunker-buster on it. We don't know for sure who was inside and who got out. But an awful lot of Baghdad's A-list crazies seem to have cut back on their personal appearances since, oh, Thursday a.m.
As they say, read the whole thing.
The Sundquist Legacy
Tennessee is listed as one of 22 states "with little or no cyber-security activity" underway, despite federal mandates that states help ensure the protection of computer systems that hold confidential information about millions of people, according to a research firm that found an overwhelming majority of states have failed to require insurance companies to protect their computerized data from hacking and other attacks. The study "raises questions about how aggressively states are tackling cybersecurity overall," says today's Washington Post. Here's a link to the research firm's report.
"If, God forbid, something should happen, there's nothing in place that is strategic in nature" for coordinating a state response to a major computer virus or other cyber-attack, said Lee M. Zeichner, who heads the Falls Church research and consulting firm that did the study. Nor has there been an assessment of how vulnerable the systems in most states might be, as required by federal law, he said.
The Sundquist administration failed to complete that assessment, failed to follow the law - failed to protect you.
If you're shocked by American casualties in Iraq, you should be shocked by how few there have been, says the writer of a TechCentralStation piece today that provides a statistical look at combat casualties.
In this day, where every battle death becomes a three-minute drama looped endlessly through our TV screens, the American media seem preoccupied with how many casualties the American public can "take." But the fact is, we are seeing amazingly light casualties. The U.S. suffered 7,500 dead and thousands more wounded over less than three months in the battle to take Okinawa from the Japanese in 1945 (more than 100,000 Japanese troops were killed). The drive to retake Seoul from North Korean Communists in September 1950 cost the U.S. 6,000 casualties over 10 days following the Inchon Landing. The North and the South each lost over 11,000 killed and wounded in one day at Antietam, September 17, 1862. It remains the bloodiest single day in U.S. military history.
Consider these numbers:
- The 53,402 American battle deaths in World War I constituted 1.1 percent of the total U.S. military.
- The 291,557 battle deaths in War II were 1.8 percent.
- The 33,686 in Korea were six tenths of a percent.
- The 47,410 in Vietnam were a half of a percent of the total in the services.
- The 147 deaths in Gulf War combat were six one-thousandths of a percent of the total U.S. military.
- From the American Revolution to the Gulf War, the U.S. has had 650,954 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen killed in action, 1.5 percent of the total who have served. (These figures are extrapolated from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs historical statistics.)
There is an interesting paradox, or at least a seeming one, in the relation of war casualties to the awesome lethality of modern weapons. Casualties as a percentage of the deployed combat force on both sides in wars have been declining for the past four centuries even as the killing power of weapons has increased.
Good stuff - let's hope the gloom-and-doomers on the teevee and at the New York Times read it.
NYT Sees Gloom in Baghdad
The New York Times surveys the scene in Baghdad and finds Iraqis who are afraid now that allied troops are just 50 miles away from finishing off Saddam Hussein.
Even before the war, Iraqis had begun to borrow from an imagined future, speaking out, here and there, as though new freedoms had already arrived. After the conflict started, this continued for a few days, encouraged by the fact that Mr. Hussein had disappeared from view after the American attempt to kill him with the cruise missile attack that began the war before dawn on Thursday. But then, on Monday, he reappeared with a lengthy television speech calling for Iraqi militiamen to "cut the throats" of the Americans, and the old anxieties were back in full measure, all over town. This, amid the gloom of the sandstorm and the clouds of thick black smoke, was another reason Baghdad's spirits were at a low ebb today.
One striking aspect of the city was how little government Iraq has left, at least in terms of ministries that can deliver the services people need. Mr. Hussein's Iraq has been the nearest thing in the Middle East to a totalitarian state, controlling every aspect of its citizens' lives through a network of overlapping security agencies for which Mr. Hussein found his template in Stalin's Russia. Near the end, however, if this is indeed the end, the government seems to be disappearing, leaving citizens, at their hour of crisis, to fend for themselves.
Incredible. The NYT admits that the people of Iraq are yearning to be free of the totalitarian state, then laments that the government "seems to be disappearing" leaving Iraqis to "fend for themselves."
Memo to the NYT. We've been working hard to topple the totalitarian regime. That's what the decapitation strike was all about. Heck, that's what the war is about. The disappearing of Saddam's police state from ordinary Iraqis' lives is a good thing, not a reason for gloom.
Spinning the Polls
The New York Times is opposed to the war, and it shows in the paper's relentless stream of negative coverage. Consider today's story about its latest poll on the war. The NYT hopefully headlines the story Opinions begins to shift as public weighs war costs.
The NYT spends the entire story exploring how support for the war is lower among blacks, lower among Democrats (like that's a shock) - and particularly on the decline in the percentage of Americans who think the war will be a cakewalk. But at the very end of the story, the paper is forced to admit the central and most important fact: overall support for the war "remains high."
Support for Mr. Bush and the war remains high. By 70 percent to 24 percent, Americans believe that the United States did not make a mistake getting involved in Iraq. But there has been a measurable decline in the national confidence that was on display last week.
Well, yes. After a drumbeat of NYT and other media coverage that made it sound as if the loss of one Blackhawk helicopter and the encountering of a few dozen hard-core Saddam loyalists in Nasiriyah represented a fundamental shift in war momentum, people are realizing it won't be a cakewalk. But opinions haven't shifted. At 70 percent, support for the president and the war is unchanged from polls taken last week. And news of big victories like the firefight at Najaf, where allies lost two tanks - but no soldiers were killed - and killed at least 150 of Saddam's terrorists, will soon rebuild the foundation of confidence among the public.
Meanwhile, a Gallup poll released yesterday found support for the war at 72 percent, with Bush's approval rating at 71 percent.
Instapundit is pointing to someone else who noted the same NYT poll spin.
Fired Up About the Artillery
Donald Sensing has some good stuff today about artillery, air power and the very short future of the Republican Guard. And a comment or two about newsmedia talking heads about the headless Iraqis.
As Before, Again
Sparkey, over at Sgt. Stryker's blog, has a good commentary on the allied war strategy.
This morning, while eating breakfast, CNN's Walter Rodgers with the 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry (3/7 Cav.) was on the tube. The 3/7 Cav. has just crossed the bridges at Nasiriya and was exploiting North towards Baghdad. It was kinda eerie to watch. CNN had a camera on the back of a M3 Bradley CAV as it advanced northward, through the sandstorm. When the column passed through a small village, the Bradley traversed its turret to the right, and the image struck me. I was taken back to a very similar picture I'd seen before. I couldn't find it on the web, but it was set on a gray misty day of one of Patton's Sherman tanks advancing through a small French village, with its turret traversed right. It struck me, what I was watching on CNN was a repeat of before. The grandsons of Patton's soldiers were once again liberating an oppressed people from an evil despotic dictator.
I thank God these guys are on our side. Think about it, they're attacking through a sandstorm!
Read it all.
Perhaps They Should've Used Dixie Chicks
Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken was canceled after most of the chickens died.
The "Mad Arab" On Our Side
The first time I saw Lieutenant General John Abizaid on TV, at one of those CentCom briefings, I wondered if his last name was Arab. Turns out, it is. One of the leaders of our military is of Arab descent. National Review has the fascinating story, which speculates that Abizaid may have a key role in leading the reconstruction of post-war Iraq.
Abizaid, Gen. Tommy Franks' right-hand man, had some good things to say at a recent CentCom briefing:
"I would say, as a person who has studied the Arab world and loves the Arab world, that the majority of educated Arabs that I talk to know that Saddam Hussein has been a plague on the Arab world and on his own people, and they welcome his removal," Abizaid said at a briefing at Central Command on Sunday. When asked about how the Iraqis and the Muslim world will react to televised images of American prisoners of war, Abizaid said, "I think that the people of Iraq who see those images will not be heartened, they'll not be encouraged, they'll just regard it as one more brutality inflicted on people by a regime that has inflicted countless brutalities upon their people. The same goes for the rest of the Muslim world. No one has killed more Muslims than Saddam Hussein. So, the sympathies for that regime and for this brutal dictator are not served by the humiliation of our people."
There's also a Clint Eastwood connection.
The Half-Empty Glass
Instapundit is recalling another recent war where critics were too quick to say we were losing. It was written just before - and published just after - we routed the Taliban from Kabul.
Another Terrorist Pleads Guilty
Another Islamic terrorist from Buffalo, N.Y., with ties to al Qaeda pleads guilty. Score one for our side.
NYT Speaks Too Soon
The New York Times this morning in an editorial said the hope-for uprising against Saddam by Shia muslims in Basra wasn't happening. The Times said that the largely Shiite population in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, "is hostile to the Hussein regime and was expected to welcome the invading troops." But instead, Iraqi forces in Basra "are offering resistance." Bet they wish they'd waited a day to write that editorial. The BBC is reporting a Shia uprising against Saddam in Basra.
Yesterday, we lost a Blackhawk and the media started describing the war as if it was on the verge of being lost. Ahem. We lost one Blackhawk. We took over most of Iraq, and are within 50 miles of Baghdad.
Ah, Baghdad. The media will soon - if they aren't already - be talking about Bagdhad like its going to be Mogadishu all over again, only bigger, larger and much, much worse. Baloney, says retired military officer and novelist Ralph Peters in a wonderful column today:
Despite the steady progress of our troops, we continue to hear dire warnings about an impending bloodbath in Baghdad, once Saddam lures us into the streets of his ultimate fortress, his "Stalingrad" on the Euphrates. Just a minute there, Herr Professor. Calm down, Dr. Think Tank. I'm just a former career soldier, so I don't understand military operations the way academics and pundits do. Explain something to me, slowly and clearly: Why on earth would Gen. Tommy Franks do exactly what Saddam wants, and send our forces charging into the streets of Baghdad? We're not stupid - or Russian - for God's sake. We're not going to slug down a couple of bottles of vodka apiece and drive straight into Grozniy while Chechens pick off our tanks and troops at their leisure. We are going to make the rules in Baghdad, not Saddam. I simply cannot understand why anyone outside of Ba'ath Party headquarters imagines we would feel compelled to fight house-to-house in Baghdad, destroying the city, putting civilian lives at risk and throwing away our soldiers.
When the right opportunities present themselves, our forces will swoop in on pinpoint raids. And no, we're not talking about "Black Hawk Down II." Anyway, people tend to forget that, in Mogadishu, we actually won the tactical battle overwhelmingly - 20 dead Americans, a thousand dead Somali militiamen. At the end of that fight, we had thoroughly broken "General" Aideed's forces. Then President Bill Clinton, the most frightened man on earth, declared defeat. The U.S. Army's Rangers were ordered home in humiliation, after winning a tough but enormous victory. President Bush may have his faults, but he ain't going to cut and run on our men and women in uniform. Yeah, I'm being cocky today. Because I'm sick of being told how brilliant our enemies are and how our troops are going to get whupped up on by some Kmart Hitler. Might I pause in my literary endeavors to point out that, while our troops are approaching Baghdad, Iraq's Republican Guards are still quite a distance from Washington, D.C.?
Heh. And might I add, in Mogadishu, the Rangers had been denied armor by the Clinton administration. We'll have no such problem in Iraq.
Scenes From Baghdad
On the eve of war, and as the bombs start falling, New Yorker reporter John Lee Anderson gives you a front-row seat:
As war approached, most Iraqis I met seemed to be oddly neutral about the prospect. They were concerned about their families, but were not visibly hostile toward the West, or toward Americans. I had the impression that there was widespread, if privately held, support for regime change. I had a number of unmonitored conversations with Baghdadis, and several spoke to me with a candor that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier. One day, as I was standing near the Tigris River with an Iraqi man, he said, "If God wills, Bush will bomb Saddam into the river. But not the people. Just Saddam. And Tikrit." Tikrit is Saddam's home town, and most of his close associates are from there. "If God wills, Tikrit will be flattened," the man said. He spat, and called Tikritis "camels' offspring" and a series of other pithy epithets in Arabic.
I was invited to dinner one night at the home of a senior government official, a man I will call Firas. There were a few other guests - educated, well-to-do Iraqi men who were friends of his. I told Firas that I hoped to stay in Baghdad during the war, and he said he thought that the rumors about the Al Rashid being a target were credible. He said he assumed that his ministry would be bombed, but he didn’t say that this was a terrible thing, or that the Americans were embarking on a criminal enterprise by going to war with his government
Firas grilled Gulf shrimp on a portable charcoal grill in the kitchen, and his guests sat in the living room drinking Lebanese arrack and eating warm pistachios, cashews, and almonds. Whenever Firas joined us, he would pick up the remote control of the TV and flip channels, following the news on CNN, Iraqi state TV, and Al Jazeera. Then he got interested in "My Best Friend’s Wedding," which was playing on a satellite movie channel. He laughed delightedly at the scene where Cameron Diaz sings badly in a karaoke bar. Throughout the evening, Firas was interruptedby phone calls, including one from his boss, who wanted to talk about the eleventh-hour invitation to Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to return to Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s offer of "accelerated cooperation" on the issue of disarmament. When he got off the phone, Firas turned to me and shrugged, as if to say he knew that it was already too late to stop the war, but he had his official duties to perform. "What else can we do?" he said.
As we ate the shrimp, Firas began flipping channels again, and found another movie, "Six Days, Seven Nights," starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche as two mismatched people who crash-land on a deserted South Sea island. The movie was subtitled in Arabic, and Firas kept the sound turned down, but it was pretty easy to follow. Ford and Heche feuded and fought and then, predictably, fell in love. Firas and his Iraqi guests were transfixed. I said that it seemed a little strange to be sitting here in Baghdad watching a Hollywood film a few days before the American attack, and they nodded vigorously and laughed, then turned back to the television set.
After the "decapitation" strike against Saddam early on Thursday morning, Paul McGeough and I moved back to the Palestine for good. The lobby was swarming with secret police, journalists, and some pretty eccentric-looking human shields, including one with long dreadlocks and pierced ears who wore black Kurdish pantaloons with a saggy rear end. In a new traffic island behind the hotel, next to a big statue of Saddam, one of the Korean feminist groups had hung a banner protesting sexual abuse. The second strike came on Thursday evening, and when I looked out my window I noticed that several Iraqis were sitting on lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to a small hotel nearby, as if nothing much were happening and they were just enjoying the fresh evening air. There were three big hits quite close to us, but across the river, and we watched the fires from our balcony. We could see a few cars driving around, even over the bridges. Dogs barked, and the river looked as calm as olive oil, with just a shimmer of motion on the surface.
Blogging from Northern Iraq
Time magazine reporter Joshua Kucera is also reporitng from the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq via his blog, called The Other Side. Updates are infrequent, but always worth reading. Kucera's blog is mentioned in yesterday's Boston Globe story about journalists blogging the war. The Wall Street Journal also has a story on journalists and non-journalists blogging from Iraq, but you'll need a subscription to WSJ's website to read it. Here's a summary of it, with a link if you have a subscription. The WSJ also has a really nice story about how members of the 101st Airborne are keeping connected to their families at home via email and instant messaging:
Up to 300 soldiers have one colleague to thank for this service: Dustin Price, a 21-year-old private from northern Michigan. Since arriving here at Camp New York three weeks ago, he has spliced together nearly two miles of abandoned wires and modems left behind by a U.S. tank division. A crucial piece of the project: A hub-switching box -- hooked into a government network -- that he and his tent-mates originally brought so they could duel in computer games such as "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" and "Warcraft III." Pvt. Price has wired 11 tents, providing e-mail and limited Internet access, as well as follow-up service. He takes no fees, save for a supply of anti-inflammatory pills the medics gave him to curb swelling in his right knee. The tents he has wired are crammed with as many as two dozen soldiers, many sleeping on the floor. The tents, usually equipped with one or two laptops, host constant visitors, who call them "Internet cafes." Other tech-savvy soldiers have linked into Pvt. Price's lines, creating more connections.
Still, many tents aren't wired, and with winds blasting up to 50 miles per hour, service does go down. Camp New York also has an official e-mail tent, where soldiers can use computers, but waits there can stretch to 90 minutes. As battles loom, soldiers have less time to send messages home. But as more elements of the 101st head into Iraq, Pvt. Price has a plan to follow them with e-mail service, via satellite. He cautions that service may be limited, at least initially. "It all depends on how much CAT-5 I can get," he says, referring to the Ethernet cable he is trying to obtain from other units.
Decisive Battle Looms
From today's WaPo:
The battle now beginning between U.S. forces and the Republican Guard's Medina Division to the southwest of Baghdad promises to be a decisive engagement that signals whether the new Gulf War will be over in a week or two or drag on for a month or more. Until now, U.S. forces have fought regular Iraqi units and militias in small-unit skirmishes. Now they will face the Iraqi army's best troops for the first time, not in the wide-open desert but in the heavily populated and vegetated Euphrates Valley. Perhaps 40,000 troops and aircrews all told from both sides are poised to clash just a few miles west of the ancient city of Babylon. If Iraq chooses to use chemical weapons during this war, analysts think it will be in this battle.
"This engagement will determine if this is a long or short war," an Army officer at the Pentagon predicted.
The impending battle confronts U.S. forces with a dilemma that goes to the heart of the complex mission in which they are engaged: They can maximize the advantages of their overwhelming firepower and bomb a wily adversary hiding heavy weapons in built-up areas, which would inflict civilian casualties and set back the U.S. campaign for public opinion. Or they can try to attack precisely with low-flying helicopters and ground forces, which could mean losing more U.S. troops. If the fight against the Medina Division ends in just a day or two, or if parts of the unit even surrender without a fight, that will send a powerful signal that the climactic battle for Baghdad won't be as difficult as some have predicted, or won't occur at all. But if the 10,000-man Medina division manages to undercut U.S. momentum, and especially if it inflicts heavy casualties in the process, or if it just retreats from a battlefield strewn with dead civilians, then the tone of the war probably will change. A bitter fight that takes a week might even persuade the U.S. military to alter its strategy and dig in to wait for reinforcements from the Army's tank-heavy 4th Infantry Division - which probably would take at least two or three weeks.
Iraq's goal will be to maximize civilian deaths. I expect that means chemical weapons - and such will be met with U.S. forces finally taking the gloves off.