April 2003, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Good Posts:  
  • "Dr. Weevil" dispatches a common argument, that since we have yet to find Saddam's arms they do not exist, with a neat analogy.
  • Iain Murray analyzes a survey and finds that the British favor a more American policy toward crime.   They don't get it because their politics are less populist than ours, less responsive to what voters want.
  • "Media Minded" quotes another blogger, adds some of his own material, and deflates still another rumor of censorship, that actor Tim Robbins had been deliberately cut off on the Today Show.  In fact, Robbins was given more time than most celebrities get, so much more that there was a commercial break in the interview.
  • Jay Manifold looks far into the future and shows that, as we spread out into space, not everyone will be able to phone home.
  • Dean Esmay describes one of the first modern genocides, the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks during World War I.  The world's indifference to the death of more than a million people was a lesson that Hitler and Stalin took to heart.  (I don't think, by the way, that this was really the first genocide in the 20th century.  In proportions killed, the German operations against tribes in German Southwest Africa qualify.  In numbers killed, Belgian King Leopold's operations in the Congo, which began in the 19th century and continued into the 20th, qualify).
  • Daniel Drezner celebrates the coming removal of American troops from Saudi Arabia, describing it as a "win-win-win situation".
- 9:44 AM, 30 April 2003   [link]

Kisses and Hugs for Terrorists:  Not literally, perhaps, but that's a good description of the attitude former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam had toward Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, a man "once labelled 'Britain's No 1 terrorist'".   This recorded phone call shows her problem:
In the call, made three days after an attempt to form an executive at Stormont had collapsed because of the deadlock over IRA decommissioning, the Northern Ireland Secretary told Mr McGuinness of her plans to become a thorn in Tony Blair's side if he sacked her, but that she was fighting "like f***" to stay.  After discussing their separate holiday plans the two said farewell in the language of old friends.  Dr Mowlam called Mr McGuinness "babe" and the Sinn Fein MP told her "God Bless".  The transcripts reveal a cosiness between Dr Mowlam and Mr McGuinness that will enrage Unionists and raise fresh questions about her judgment.
Mo Mowlam is not the first politician to get too close to terrorists, or even to work on their behalf inside the government.  Many American politicians have gotten too close to the IRA, and to other terrorist groups.  Only rarely do the voters punish them.   That's why it was so heartening to see Georgia Congresswoman McKinney and Alabama Congressman Hilliard defeated in primaries last fall, in part because of their ties to terrorist organizations.
- 8:25 AM, 30 April 2003   [link]

Baghdad Poll:  An enterprising Indian newspaper has conducted a survey of Iraqis in Baghdad and found that a majority of Iraqis in Saddam's capital favored the war of liberation.  (I would guess that support for removing Saddam would be stronger outside of Baghdad.  The city has proportionately more Sunnis than the nation as a whole, and far more government employees.  Both groups would be expected to back Saddam more than the average Iraqi.)

Don't make too much of the survey.  It did not use a probability sample, and was done under conditions that make it hard to judge its accuracy, but it is an interesting straw in the wind.  Allowing for the differences between Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, the results in the poll are surprisingly close to the estimate I made before the war, that a majority, but not an overwhelming one, would support the liberation of Iraq.
- 7:39 AM, 30 April 2003   [link]

Stephen Pollard asks, "Since when is it a sin to be the best school in town?"  The school in question, without selecting its students for academic ability, achieves what appear to be remarkable results:
Imagine a school where 98 per cent of pupils, not one of whom has been selected by academic ability, gained five or more A* to C passes at GCSE.  With the average school managing to achieve these grades with only 52 per cent of pupils, you'd think the school must be doing something right and it would be worth replicating.
Instead, the school is under attack by the British educational establishment.  Why?   Because the school is Christian.
The school with a 98 per cent pass rate is Emmanuel College in Gateshead, and the man who has given millions to it, and wants to repeat his munificence elsewhere, is Sir Peter Vardy, who is—ugh, how revolting—an evangelical Christian, as are—excuse me while I hold my nose—some of the teachers.

Because they are Christians who believe in creationism, and the literal truth of the Bible, they are, it seems, unfit to teach children, lest they infect them with their foul ideas.
Pollard rightly calls this attitude intolerant, a point missed entirely by the Guardian and Richard Dawkins, who criticizes the school for "educational debauchery".  Read the whole column.
- 7:59 AM, 29 April 2003   [link]

Voting by Mail encourages vote fraud and intimidation.   Here I find myself in rare agreement with Guardian columnist George Monbiot.  Both fraud and intimidation require that the secrecy of ballots be violated; voting by mail makes this easy.  In the past, machine politicians often would contrive some excuse to go into the polling booths with the voters.  Now, they can quite openly and legally violate the secrecy of the ballot.

Voting by mail is popular here, and from Monbiot's account, in Britain as well, so its use will continue to grow until there is a massive scandal.  In the United States, most vote fraud currently benefits the Democrats, so they have little incentive to control something that gives them a small edge.  And, for similar reasons, journalists have not been much interested in investigating this growing problem.

(Not sure quite what he means when he says that the English "invented the idea" of elections, which existed long before there was an England.)
- 7:27 AM, 29 April 2003
Update:  I corrected the text above.  Most vote fraud, in my opinion, is not done by Democratic officials, but by people who identify with that party, who usually do not have official positions.  
- 9:58 AM, 30 April 2003   [link]

Norman Mailer thinks that we went to war with Iraq to boost white male ego.   He apparently did not notice Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, or the many black, Hispanic, Native American, and women soldiers in the war.  Projection perhaps, considering that his explanation comes from a narcissist with a history of attacking his wives.  Note that Iraqis barely appear in the column, but the woman's movement is central to the argument.  More evidence, if any was needed, that a man can be a skillful writer and a great fool.

And, I must mention a foolish historical mistake in the piece.  He claims that white males were once close to 50 per cent of the population.  Actually, white males have probably never been as high as 45 per cent of the population.  At the time of the American Revolution, blacks made up about 20 per cent of our population.  I don't think they have ever been below 10 per cent of the total, and we have always had substantial populations of other minorities.
- 7:04 AM, 29 April 2003   [link]

The Last Item in this news summary from the Netherlands is the interesting one.
The Dutch foreign minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is to ask the Saudi ambassador for clarification concerning financial support to radical Muslims.
It's about time someone starts asking these questions.
- 6:24 PM, 28 April 2003   [link]

Palestinians Don't Want Peace, as you can see in this poll, which has familiar results.  For years, majorities of Palestinians have favored not just a war with Israel, but terrorist attacks on civilians.  I see no way peace can be achieved while they hold these views.
- 6:14 PM, 28 April 2003   [link]

Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 5:  This Guardian article by Heather Stewart uses some common tricks.  She claims that, as a group, African-Americans do less well than the average in the United States, which is true, but omits any international comparisons or explanations.  She cites the Economic Policy Institute, without telling the readers just how far left the Institute is.  She makes the progress of African-Americans dependent, largely, on government policies, which has not been true for decades.  All this, she thinks, adds up to a "bleak picture" and she suggests that "there is no route out of poverty for some groups", something that might surprise Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, among others.

Instead of relying on the EPI, she should have consulted more responsible research organizations like Brookings or the American Enterprise Institute.  Karl Zinsmeister of the latter organization came up with this defense of the United States after an unpleasant experience in Europe.  It has some facts that Stewart might find interesting.  For example:
We have conventionally thought of Europe as having about the same standard of living as Americans.  This is less and less true.  For the European Union as a whole, GDP per capita is presently less than two thirds of U.S. levels.  America's poorest sub-groups, like African Americans, now have higher average income levels than the typical European.
If the picture for African-Americans is bleak, what is it for Europeans?

Stewart notes that unemployment among African-Americans is now at 11 per cent.   Zinsmeister points out that:
The German labor market has become one of the most inflexible and uncompetitive in the world, which is why unemployment has been stuck at 9-10 percent for years, even amid a global economic boom.
The French have similar problems in their labor market.  Again, if the picture is "bleak" for African-Americans, what is it for Europeans?

The unemployment rates for Europe are even worse than they appear, since Americans have a much higher percentage employed:
For one thing, Americans work harder: 72 percent of the U.S. population is at work, compared to only 58 percent in the E.U.  American workers also put in more hours.
Stewart does not mention something well known to those who study race and income.   Similar kinds of families have similar kinds of incomes, regardless of race.  For example, African-American families with two parents in the home and college educations, have about the same incomes as similar white families.  The gap between the two groups is mostly caused by the very large number of African-American families headed by single mothers.

Welfare reform may be beginning to reverse that sad situation and encourage marriage again.  Welfare reform was opposed ferociously by the EPI and most others on the left, something Stewart does not mention.  Meanwhile, in Europe, the percentage of families headed by single mothers is soaring in most countries.  Given what we have learned the hard way about the bad effects of those families, I think we can say that the future of Europe looks "bleak".
- 6:01 PM, 28 April 2003   [link]

Nat Hentoff gets it right on Cuba and the Hollywood figures who support Castro.  The difference between Castro and the Mafia thugs in The Sopranos is that Castro has operated on a far larger scale.
- 7:06 AM, 28 April 2003   [link]

An American Newspaper finally digs into those files in Baghdad and finds something interesting.  The San Francisco Chronicle found a red notebook that apparently has instructions from the Iraqi secret police on hiding documents from the UN arms inspectors.  Wonder if the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any of the major networks, will ever start digging in this treasure trove?
- 6:59 AM, 28 April 2003   [link]

Supporting Terrorists:  That's what way too many Congressmen have been doing.  Nearly 150 members have given some backing to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, which opposes the current Iranian regime.  Unfortunately, the Muhahedin is also classed as a terrorist organization by the State Department and fought against us in Iraq.  Not all the enemies of our enemies are our friends.
- 6:50 PM, 28 April 2003   [link]

Reflections:  This picture has no political content, unless you want to see it as a metaphor for an argument that I often make, that appearances can be deceiving.  Just had to try out my new toy, a Nikon Coolpix 2000.  The building with the reflections is in downtown Kirkland, and is one of my favorite subjects for photography.

- 5:43 PM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Our Friends the French: The lead sentence in this article gives the essentials:
France gave Saddam Hussein's regime regular reports on its dealings with US officials, The Sunday Times reported, quoting files it had found in the wreckage of the Iraqi foreign ministry.
That's the Times of London, of course, since this is from an Australian newspaper.  The French were even briefing Saddam on private talks between President Bush and President Chirac.
- 4:10 PM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Some Newspapers Are Still in Denial: The Independent fiercely opposed the war, and is still trying to support their more and more discredited position.   Note that not one single intelligence source in the story is on record.  Not one.
- 4:01 PM, 27 April 2003   [link]

The Saddam-Bin Laden Connection:  One of the most discussed questions before the war with Saddam was whether he and Osama bin Laden had ever worked together.  Those who opposed the war tended to think it impossible that a secular dictator like Saddam would work with a Wahabbi fanatic like bin Laden.  Those who favored it were, typically, not sure, but did not rule out the connection.  Another enterprising Telegraph reporter has found documents that show a link, with Saddam working to establish cooperation with bin Laden.  
Papers found yesterday in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service, reveal that an al-Qa'eda envoy was invited clandestinely to Baghdad in March 1998.

The documents show that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia.  The meeting apparently went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad.
Here's the how the reporter, Inigo Gilmore, found the documents, and here's the Telegraph's editorial explaining how they happened to find three batches of documents with explosive contents in just a few weeks.   They say they had no help from intelligence agencies, and that their success is due to a "combination of journalistic initiative and serendipity", that is, hard work and luck.   I think there's another reason the Telegraph found these documents and, for example, the New York Times did not.  The Telegraph supported the war from the very beginning, without hesitation, and now is looking for stories that will support its position.   Newspapers with different positions will, in most cases, have reporters who are less likely to pursue these kinds of stories.
- 3:52 PM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Worth Reading:  This essay by David Aaronovitch writing in the leftwing Observer.  As Aaronovitch notes, George Galloway was once a ferocious opponent of Saddam Hussein.  Galloway switched when Saddam became an enemy of the West.  The money most likely came after the switch.  (This supports my thought, by the way, that Galloway may have taken money from the old Soviet Union, as well as from Saddam.)  For Galloway, and far too many others on the Left, "any anti-American will do".  Some on the left, like Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, hold a variant of this view, and think that any anti-American will do—if the current administration is Republican.
- 10:28 AM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Journalists Bribed Too?  Saddam Hussein has a long history of bribing reporters, as well as political figures, which is summarized in this Weekly Standard article.   For example, before the first Gulf War, he "shipped 100 new Mercedes 200 Series cars to top editors in Egypt and Jordan".   And not just Arab journalists.  A "top national security official" in the Bush administration "has intelligence implicating big-name journalists throughout the Arab world and Europe".

Politicians, too, including an American famous for repeating Saddam's propaganda and trying to block his overthrow, have taken Saddam's money.  Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, traveled to Baghdad with one of Saddam's agents, Shakir al-Khafaji, and received $5,000 from him.  I should add immediately that, like the Weekly Standard, I don't think McDermott was bribed, since he "has been saying stupid things for years with no evidence anyone has paid him to do so".  His acceptance of the money does show something about the judgment of Seattle's "Congressman for life".  It is past time for him to return Saddam's money, perhaps to a charity helping Saddam's Iraqi victims.   Though McDermott may not have been bribed, I would give very high odds that other political figures in the United States have been.
- 10:02 AM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Think the New York Times has been unduly pessimistic about the war in Iraq?  Then you'll like this parody.
- 9:27 AM, 27 April 2003   [link]

Matthew Parris of the Times of London wrote a bizarre column arguing that Britain should combine with dictators and human rights violators against the United States, though he did not put it in just those words.  I wrote this post exposing the brutal consequences of his argument, one that is shared, sadly, by many in Europe and elsewhere.  I wasn't only one who was disgusted by his argument; the Times published many letters critical of his column.  Now, in his latest column, he provides what may be an explanation for his earlier, foolish argument—sleep deprivation.  It causes, he says, "perfectly idiotic behaviour" and "misjudgments both large and small".  I can not think of better descriptive words for his original column than those.  I hope he is fully rested before he writes his next column.
- 3:17 PM, 26 April 2003   [link]

While I am Skeptical about the extreme claims on the looting of the museums, I am not skeptical about the stories revealing the many crimes of Saddam Hussein.  This Newsweek article tells the sad story of the "Abu Earless" brigade, the thousands of men who had ears amputated by Saddam for desertion.
The ear amputation campaign went on for three days, May 17-19, 1994, in every city in Iraq.   It was unknown to the outside world, as was so much that went on inside Saddam's Iraq.
Unknown to the outside world, like many other of Saddam's crimes.  We need to recruit some volunteer plastic surgeons to help these men soon.

And the brutalities went on to the very last.  Catharine Philp's boyfriend, a British journalist, was imprisoned with other Western journalists and some Iraqis.  The Western journalists were released just before the war began.  The Iraqis were killed shortly after.  Here's her story on digging up the remains of the men who had been imprisoned with her boyfriend.  I hope you will forgive me for thinking these stories more important than those relating to the Antiquities Museum.
- 2:52 PM, 26 April 2003   [link]

More Evidence for My Skepticism on Baghdad Looting:  This Times of London article says that the amount of the losses is unknown and will not be known for some time, that many objects, including one of the most important, have already been returned, and that insiders may have been the principal culprits.  Nor is it clear from the description of individual losses like, for example, the head of a Roman emperor, that irreplaceable objects were taken.  The Times, like me, also gives credence to the argument from the American troops that they were too pressed by fighting to protect the museum, describing the Iraqi claim that they could have easily protected the museum as a "conspiracy theory".
- 2:32 PM, 26 April 2003   [link]

Pakistan Bribed Galloway?  That's what this Telegraph article by a BBC investigator suggests.  He took enormous sums from the corrupt Bhutto government, but somehow escaped much criticism for it when this was revealed by the BBC.   It is amazing what Galloway has gotten away with over the years, and dismaying to see how little damage all these scandals have done him among the British left.

Have other nations bribed him?  The Palestinian Authority is an obvious candidate.   So too, are Libya and Syria, and, going back farther, the old Soviet Union and its allies.
- 2:08 PM, 26 April 2003   [link]

Special Forces played a big part in the war, but got very little coverage, naturally, since their success often depends on secrecy.  There are some hints on what they achieved in this story on the Australian SAS.  
- 7:12 AM, 25 April 2003   [link]

Improvisation is one of America's strengths.  This Los Angeles Times story tells how, in just a week, our Lima tank factory designed, built, and shipped a grill to protect the vulnerable exhaust on the M1 Abrams tank.  (The story says that the Iraqis learned about the vulnerability; I would add that they may have learned from Russian, or even French, instructors.)
- 7:07 AM, 25 April 2003   [link]

Feel a Little Warm, Gentlemen?  Here's an interesting theory on why you might.  
- 6:57 AM, 25 April 2003   [link]

Why Haven't We Found WMDs?  Well, for one thing, we have just begun to look.   We haven't even sent investigators to Iraq's most important nuclear facility, the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center.
- 6:51 AM, 25 April 2003   [link]

BBC Thinks American Networks Biased: This attack from the head of the BBC is a little much, considering the BBC's own record during the war to overthrow Saddam.  The network was attacked by the Labour government for bias, was taken off the British flagship at the request of the sailors, and devastatingly criticized by its own correspondent in a memo that leaked, naturally, to the press.   Director General Greg Dyke has, I think, a beam to remove from his own eye.
- 6:44 PM, 25 April 2003   [link]

More Evidence on Galloway: The Christian Science Monitor has found more documents with evidence that Iraq bribed Labour MP George Galloway.  They were found in a different place, one of the regime's safe houses, and by a different newspaper, which strengthens the case against Galloway.  These documents show direct payments, as well as the scheme to skim money from the oil for food program found by the Telegraph.  (By way of the Instapundit)

Almost all doubt of Galloway's guilt has been removed by the support he just received from accused pedophile (and former UN inspector) Scott Ritter.   Ritter's defense of Galloway also adds to the suspicion that Ritter himself may have switched his position after being bribed or blackmailed by the Saddam regime.  (Have to send a note to the Guardian about Ritter's pedophile arrests.  Bet they won't publish it, though.)
- 6:26 AM, 25 April 2003   [link]

In An Earlier Post, I expressed skepticism about the news stories on the looting of the Iraqi museums.  It seems more likely, for example, that American troops are telling the truth when they say they did not knowingly allow the Museum of Antiquities to be looted.   Other parts of the story, that have now become part of the conventional wisdom, also seemed dubious to me.  I thought—and still think—that to be intellectually responsible, we should reserve judgment until more facts were in.

Recent news stories support my skepticism.  For example, this Washington Post story reveals that one of the "looters" was actually trying to preserve some of the antiquities and has already returned them.  Others have also returned some of the loot, either to the museum or to their mosques.  (Though not in the Post story, earlier stories said that some imans were encouraging the return by telling wives to withold sex until their husbands returned their loot.)  As I noted in the earlier post, we could not know the magnitude of the losses until there is an inventory, which will be done by the director of the British Museum.  I also argued that many of the pieces may have been taken before the public looting, though I did not realize just how much earlier:
Some of the museum's collection was carried off in the 1990s by members of Hussein's government, according to Iraqi antiquities officials.  Archaeologists who work for the Culture Ministry said today that Baath Party officials periodically confiscated gold and other valuables from the museum, possibly to be sold on international underground markets.   The officials said they don't expect to see those valuables again.
I await with interest, but not bated breath, the protests from the anti-Bush left about that part of the looting.

Let me stress that I am not saying that I know that the looting was not a great catastrophe, or even that I know that American troops did not allow the looting.  I think both possible, though the latter quite unlikely.  No one knows, and it is intellectually irresponsible to claim otherwise.

(By way of Moira Breen, I found several other links to posts and articles you may find of interest.  Colby Cosh's thoughts are worth reading, though he does not share my skepticism about what happened.  He does, in correcting one mistake, make another.  Though, as he says, most of the antiquities were Mesopotamian, not Iraqi, some were Roman or Egyptian, and I suppose still others were Greek, since Greeks ruled Iraq for centuries.  Thomas Nephew also has a thoughtful post, though he, too, does not share my skepticism.  Cronaca notes, in this post, an important claim he found in a New York Times story.  Residents near the museum say they or their neighbors may have stolen office equipment, but not antiquities.  Archaeology Magazine has a summary of the events, with many links.  Finally, Andre Emmerich argues, in this Wall Street Journal piece, that the market, rather than a few museums, may be the best way to protect antiquities.)
- 8:23 PM, 24 April 2003   [link]

Iraqi Scientists were told to destroy bacteria, even cultures being used in civilian research.  Now why would that be?  One possibility is that the Iraqi regime was just being heavy handed, as bureaucracies often are.   Another possibility can be found in this British joke from the 1930s, when Hitler started re-arming, but was concealing much of the effort:
A German worker, who worked in a perambulator factory, was worried when his wife became pregnant because they could not afford a pram for the impending infant.  So he decided to steal the various parts of a pram from the factory, day by day, in order to assemble them in his garden shed.

When all the parts were ready; he retired to the shed, from which he did not emerge for days.  Finally, he came out, in total despair.

"I can't understand it," he said.  "Every time I put it together, it's a bloody machine gun."  (From No Laughing Matter by Lukes and Galnour)
The Iraqi scientists may have been doing low level work on weapons, but not known it, like the factory worker who did not know he was building machine guns.

The story also supports a charge made by the United States during the Blix inspections.   Saddam's regime "may have had advance knowledge of at least some of the inspectors' visits".  No wonder the inspectors didn't find much, since the Iraqis had hours to move or hide materials in advance of inspections.
- 1:39 PM, 24 April 2003   [link]

Remember the Story of the Iraqi farmer who shot down the American Apache helicopter?  Well, never mind.  Now that he can speak freely, he is telling everyone that the story was a hoax, made up by Saddam's agents.  Wonder how many newspapers will correct their stories?
- 8:12 PM, 24 April 2003   [link]

The Other Telegraph Boxes: A sharp eyed Telegraph reader noted a detail that I had missed when I first read David Blair's story of the discovery of the boxes.  The Galloway files were found in a box file labeled "Britain", but there were more boxes:
Two more box files were labelled "Britain".  Others were labelled "United States", "Security Council" and "France".  Each appeared to contain all the appropriate documents that had crossed the desk of an Iraqi foreign minister.
If the Galloway story is any indication, there will be many more interesting stories to come from those boxes.  And, it is interesting that he does not mention any boxes labeled "Russia" or "Germany".
- 8:06 PM, 24 April 2003   [link]

The Telegraph's Box of documents continues to yield new evidence against Labour MP George Galloway.   In their latest story, they describe a letter showing that Saddam's regime "sought to protect George Galloway by severing the Iraqi intelligence service's contacts with the Labour backbencher".

They have been doing some digging to check facts in Galloway's statements, too.  In this story, they quote an Anglican cleric who flatly contradicts Galloway's claim never to have knowingly met Iraqi intelligence operatives.
Canon Andrew White, the director of international ministry at Coventry Cathedral, said that, based on his own experience of dealing with Saddam Hussein's regime, it was impossible to avoid the Iraqi intelligence operatives.

"To say that he [Mr Galloway] had never met with any intelligence agents sounds like balderdash to me - we were shadowed by intelligence agents all the time."
Meanwhile, some of Galloway's allies in leftwing British newspapers continue to try to protect him.  The Mirror writes their story entirely from Galloway's point of view.  The Indpendent gives him a column to make his own defense, and adds this tear jerker by Andrew Buncombe about how "Uncle" Galloway is still loved by an Iraqi family he helped.  There are American journalists who would be just as partisan as the Mirror and the Independent, though perhaps not quite so open about it.   Nina Totenberg of NPR and Joe Conason of Salon come to mind, if you need an example or two.

(Digression:  Is the name "Buncombe" as automatically funny to British readers, as it is to Americans?  Here, of course, it is the long original for what is now more often called "bunk".  It doesn't seem like the best name for a political reporter.)

- 7:43 AM, 24 April 2003   [link]