March 2003, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
War Crimes And Misdemeanors: When the American and British governments objected vociferously to the parading of captured soldiers before TV cameras, I thought they made a serious mistake. It was a mistake, not because they were wrong, but because this emphasis on what one might call a war misdemeanor, rather than a war crime, detracted from the far more serious crimes the Iraqis have committed against our soldiers. I would call it a misdemeanor because it did not threaten the life or well being of the soldiers. (There are even advantages for us in the TV coverage. One could argue, for example, that the very best way to protect our soldiers would be to have them on TV full time.) Public attention is so fickle that we should not have wasted it on something as small as this, when there are far worse Iraqi war crimes to publicize.
It is probably true that we learned of this misdemeanor first, and other, far worse crimes, later. Even so, we should have expected worse, simply from our experience in the first Gulf War. Every single American prisoner of war in that conflict was abused in some way, including the two women. One woman says she was sexually molested; the other has never spoken publicly about what happened to her, though I am afraid we can guess. One American may still be a captive. There are persistent reports that a pilot, captured early in the war, and at first assumed to be dead, is actually still a prisoner—and still being tortured.
What do we now know about Iraqi war crimes? The picture is incomplete, but already there are enough details to show that the final version will be horrific. Jedd Babbin has been covering this as well as anyone, as you can see in his blog. As he explains in a series of posts, we now have reason to believe that American captives have been tortured, killed, and mutilated after their deaths. As with the murderers of Daniel Pearl, there is even tape of the crimes:
I have confirmed that the Al-Jazeera tape, all twelve minutes of it, is merely an excerpt of the hour-long version being shown regularly in Egypt and elsewhere. The short version shows the interrogation of some U.S. soldiers and the defamed dead bodies of others. The longer version includes all that, plus the murders and later abuse and mutilation of the bodies. Apparently, the whole thing is out there on the internet. I don't want to watch it tonight. Maybe tomorrow morning, when the mind is fresher, more able to withstand it.(I think I have mentioned before that similar murder tapes are quite popular among Islamic radicals in Europe.) And, even without the tape, we have found strong evidence of torture in a captured hospital.
As usual, however, Saddam's principal targets have been the Iraqi people. They have been shot in cold blood fleeing from cities. They have been used as shields. They have been forced to fight by threats to their families. Does the Arab world care about any of this? Not much. Do the French? They might if they were told about it.
- 8:29 PM, 31 March 2003 [link]
The Banned Hot Cross Buns Story, which I linked to here, turns out to lack something crucial, the truth. (Thanks to Iain Murray for the correction.) I can not say that it is too good to be true, since it is all too easy to find similar stories, like those in this Fox News collection.
- 7:25 PM, 31 March 2003 [link]
Frenchman Guy Milliere supports the argument that I have been making about the French press. The French are simply not seeing pro-American arguments in their press or on their television screens. (The latter is more important than in Britain; though the two countries have almost equal populations, newspaper circulation is far lower in France than in Britain.) Worst of all are three Muslim radio stations which are, according to Milliere, "dedicated to broadcasting the voice of hate and racism all day long".
There are exceptions of course. Today, I saw this interesting article from Le Figaro on Saddam's brutal secret police. Among other things, they have infiltrated exile organizations in Britain, the Kurds in northern Iraq, and influenced many journalists and politicians in the rest of the Arab world. But this article is an exception. I saw nothing today or yesterday in either Le Figaro or Le Monde on the violations of the Geneva conventions by Saddam, nothing about the execution and torture of prisoners of war, nothing about the welcome some Iraqis are giving the American and British troops.
Given all this anti-Americanism bias in their media, and the large Muslim population in France (usually given as about 10 per cent of the population), I find these poll results from Le Monde dismal, but better than I would have expected. Despite all the propaganda, a full 17 per cent support us on the war and 34 per cent feel closer to us and the British, than to Saddam. If the press there was less monolithic, and allowed our ideas to penetrate, both those numbers would be higher, I believe. When Iraq is freed and Saddam's prisoners can speak for themselves, opinion in France will begin to shift toward us, especially if we avoid silly French bashing. Let the facts on the ground make our arguments.
- 4:40 PM, 31 March 2003 [link]
The Disorganized Iraqi Military: Parts, at least, of the Iraqi military are collapsing, as you can see in this Washington Post article about the seizure of a weapons cache. Armies fighting an organized defense do not leave large supplies of weapons behind. Congratulations to the British soldiers for their alertness.
- 4:13 PM, 31 March 2003 [link]
Getting Military Terms Right: If you are a little hazy on military terms, see this article on the basic units of the army, from a division down to a squad, and this post on the correct terms for the men. (Don't call a Marine a soldier!)
Some thoughts inspired by the units article. At one time, the army also used "brigades", which are smaller than a division, but larger than regiments. Don't know if they still do. Different armies use divisions of different sizes, with those in the United States army often larger than their foreign counterparts. In World War I, American divisions were twice as large as French and British divisions. Russian divisions in World War II were considerably smaller than those of most armies. The number of divisions in World War II, compared to the present, is staggering. With a population of 132 million in 1940, less than half our present population, we managed to raise more than 100 divisions, as compared to our current 8.
- 3:20 PM, 31 March 2003 [link]
Cold Explosion: The Hubble telescope continues to provide pictures of new mysteries. Now, it has found a star that suddenly became 600,000 times brighter, and at the same time cooler. So far as I can tell, the theorists haven't a clue as to how this could happen. The pictures, which include a simple animation, are beautiful, as well as mysterious.
- 9:18 AM, 31 March 2003 [link]
More on Who Armed Iraq: In this post, I presented a table showing the largest sales of military equipment to Iraq before the first Gulf War. The Soviet Union, France, and China, which now support Iraq, were by far the largest suppliers then. As Robert Goldberg shows in this article, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians continued to supply Iraq with military equipment, including help with horrific biological and chemical weapons:
Other countries have -- through carelessness or complicity -- provided Iraq with the materials and equipment needed to build up its biological and chemical weapons program. But none have done more to rebuild Saddam's arsenal, and none have been more aggressive in helping hide the truth, than Russia.Among the worst of those other countries were France and Germany, as Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz point out in this article:
Will our troops find caches of poison gas, or even be hit by it on the battlefield? If so, German and French companies will be mainly to blame. In the 1980s, the German firm Karl Kolb and the French firm Protec combined to furnish millions of dollars worth of sensitive equipment to six separate plants for making mustard gas and nerve agents, with a capacity of hundreds of tons of nerve agent per year. These companies had to know what the specialized glass-lined vessels they peddled were to be used for. It is insufferable that, like Pontius Pilate, Germany and France now wash their hands of the whole affair, and even chastise others for cleaning up the mess their companies helped create.Countries in other nations, including the United States, also helped arm Saddam. When Baghdad is liberated, there are many executives and politicians, especially in Germany and France, who will have some explaining to do.
- 9:04 AM, 31 March 2003 [link]
Kursk and NPR: From time to time, everyone reads, or sees, or hears a news story that makes it absolutely clear to them that the journalist doing the story doesn't know what they are talking about. This morning, listening to NPR, I heard a story on the war from one John Lawrence (sp?) that falls into that category. Lawrence claimed that the Iraqis and other people were beginning to study the World War II battle of Kursk, and expected to see something similar in this war. As Lawrence explained it, the harassment of our supply lines, with the Iraqi regular army falling back and avoiding conflict, was similar to what the Soviets had done against the Germans in the battle of Kursk. In a word, no.
The battle of Kursk was fought in the summer of 1943, after the great German defeat at Stalingrad the previous fall and winter. After the defeat at Stalingrad, the Soviets has pursued the German army westward rapidly, a little too rapidly, in fact. The German general Manstein caught them extended too far and inflicted a sharp local defeat on them, retaking the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod. The line then stabilized, while both armies built up their forces. The Manstein victory left a bulge in the Soviet line around the city of Kursk, which was an obvious target for a two-pronged German attack in the summer. Too obvious, since the Soviets could see the massive German preparations and could build up their own defenses in the area. When the Germans attacked, they made initial penetrations and inflicted severe losses on the Soviets, but soon were forced by their own losses to give up the attack. The battle came, not after a long retreat, but after months of stasis. The Soviets won by anticipating the German attack, and by having more material. There are no parallels to the current campaign. So, if you happen to hear John Lawrence on NPR, remember that he doesn't know the basics of military history.
- 10:09 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
Iraqi Civilians Feed Hungry Marines: And the Marines appreciate it, as corpsman Tony Garcia says:
They gave us eggs and potatoes to feed our marines and corpsmen. I feel the local population are grateful and they want to see an end to Saddam Hussein. It was a lovely, beautiful gesture.Interestingly, this is an AFP story, that is, a story from the French news agency, Agence France Presse. If you have been reading my posts on the French coverage of the war, you will not be surprised to learn that I did not see this story in either Le Figaro or Le Monde this morning. Perhaps one of the papers will find room for it tomorrow, though I would not bet on that.
- 9:47 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
Canadian Prime Minister Chretien has puzzled me by his failure to stop his party's insults toward President Bush and the United States. Every week or so, an aide, or an MP, or even a Cabinet Minister, will come out with some nasty crack that requires an apology, however insincere. It seemed clear that Chretien was at least tolerating this behavior. What I could not understand was what Chretien expected to gain from annoying Bush and the United States. This column from Canada's National Post, explains Chretien's policy as a matter of pique and politics, the politics of Quebec, to be precise. Their explanation seems plausible to me, though I do not know enough about Canadian politics to be sure they are correct.
- 9:27 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
Veteran Journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave agrees with the conclusions that I came to in this post. As he says in this article:
Watching Arab television stations' reporting the war on Iraq is "Alice in Wonderhell".What explains this Arab, and, to a lesser extent, this European desire for lies? Ralph Peters says, for Arabs, it is a symptom of the massive Arab failure. The oil wealth, which the Arabs did not create, has disguised that failure, which you can see in his list:
There are African nations that may have even lower productivity, and there may be exceptions to the last point, but the overall pattern of failure is clear enough.
Now then, can this same sense of failure, though not so deep, and certainly less merited, explain some of the European desire for lies about the coalition's campaign? I think so.
- 8:52 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
A Glimpse of the Secret War: This Washington Post article has a fascinating description of the secret war that the Special Forces are waging against the Baathist regime:
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.And the CIA has a part in it, too:
CIA units and special operations teams are also involved in organizing tribal groups to fight the Iraqi government from the north. They are secretly hunting for weapons of mass destruction and missiles sites, and are looking to interrogate Iraqi defectors and prisoners of war.You will wonder, naturally, why this story of "secret" operations is being published. The Post says that they checked, and the government made no objection to its publication. Presumably, the government sees more gain from the psychological effects of having this story out, than losses from revealing it. (Though one would expect the Saddam regime would be aware of most of these operations, already.)
- 8:21 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
Think Some Journalists Have Been Childish in their coverage of the war? If so, you'll like today's editorial cartoon from the Telegraph. (Americans will probably share my thought that Tony Blair, rather than George Bush, should be steering since they are, apparently, in Britain.)
- 8:07 AM, 30 March 2003 [link]
Smugglers in Southern Iraq are beginning to switch sides, as you can see in this amusing story about Mustapha, who is now looking for a British flag to go with his pictures of Saddam and the Kuwaiti ruling family.
- 8:37 PM, 28 March 2003 [link]
Martin Woollacott, who wrote a disgusting piece about Israel last summer, has an insightful column about the resistance in Iraq from irregulars, and what motivates it.
- 8:29 PM, 28 March 2003 [link]
Senator Moynihan, RIP: Daniel Patrick Moynihan became a senator in 1976 by defeating Bella Abzug in the Democratic primary, and James Buckley in the general election. The two victories, neither overwhelming, show something about his place in history. Abzug was a woman of the far left; she had been a Communist in her youth, something now considered impolite to mention. James Buckley, the brother of William Buckley, was a solid conservative. Moynihan, in his career, ranged through much of the ideological space between the two. He worked for four presidents in a row, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. In all four administrations, he was, to some extent, an inside critic.
He first became famous, or more truly, infamous, at least among the politically incorrect, for drawing attention to the problems of black American families. (At that time, illegitimacy was at about 26 per cent for blacks. It is now about 69 per cent for blacks and 33 per cent for the nation as a whole.) Nearly every serious person who has looked at the evidence now agrees that he was right. Few on the left have been willing to face the problem, and for many his name is still a curse word. Welfare reform is beginning to heal some of those problems; it was enacted, as everyone knows, against the opposition of most of those who claimed to speak for the poor. Including, paradoxically, Moynihan himself, as Mickey Kaus reminds us in this appreciation. (Scroll down just a little farther and you'll see more good news on welfare reform.)
Moynihan reminds me of Edmund Burke, who also combined writing and politics. Both spent much of their political careers pursuing what we now call liberal or progressive causes. Burke is most famous for the conservative things he wrote, and the same may be true of Moynihan. Both fought against the totalitarian movements of their time, Burke the French Revolution and Moynihan the Communist Revolution. Whether the fact that both were Irish had anything to do with these similarities is something I do not know.
Many remember the man with fondness. George Will's sketch of his career gets most of the highlights, while Wlady Pleszczynski tells the wonderful story of Moynihan's brief career as UN Ambassador, where he did much good, and aggravated Henry Kissinger greatly. If you want to read the whole story of his life, Adam Clymer's obituary is a good choice.
- 8:04 AM, 28 March 2003 [link]
Attrition is the mild term used to describe the brutal wearing away of an army's men and material. It is one of the worst ways to win a war, and one of the most certain when you have a great material advantage. Suppose, and this is a worst case analysis, we did have to win the war with Iraq by attrition, by slowly destroying their equipment and reducing their army. If so—and I very much hope we do not—we are doing very well, judging by the progress in the first week.
At the beginning of the conflict, the Iraqi army had, roughly, 300,000 men. According to this Washington Post article, as of yesterday morning, we have already taken 8,900 prisoners. Many others have been killed or wounded. Many others have deserted, or simply sent been home by the allied forces. Altogether, the Iraqi army has lost perhaps 15,000 men in a week. At that rate, it will be gone completely in about 20 weeks. I repeat, that's the worst case analysis, or perhaps the worst, worst case analysis. A more realistic analysis would recognize that entire armies have almost never fought to the last man, or even until a majority of men have been put out of action. You would have to know more than I do about the Iraqi army and its morale to guess what their breaking point might be, but 20 or 25 per cent losses seems like a reasonable guess.
Brutal discipline, like that used by the Soviets at Stalingrad, can keep an army functioning somewhat longer than it would otherwise, but only somewhat. There are already reports that Iraqi officers are having to shoot men who do not want to fight, and other reports that men have shot their officers so they can escape from the war. In a long war, losses can be replaced by training recruits, but that will obviously not be possible for Iraq. There simply won't be enough time.
- 3:12 PM, 27 March 2003;
Update: The figure of 8,600 Iraqi prisoners was far too high for that early in the war, judging from later reports. I don't know why the Washington Post made the error. I don't think the error changes the basic argument above, except that time estimates might need lengthening.
- 1:23 PM, 7 April 2003 [link]
Forcing the Evidence to Fit the Theory is something American prosecutors, as well as European journalists, have done, at least in cases of false, and even absurd, charges of childhood sexual abuse. In this article, Dorothy Rabinowitz, who has bravely fought many of these charges, and helped some innocent people win their freedom, answers an interesting question: Did the prosecutors actually believe their own charges in these fantasy filled cases? Some did, some didn't. The first group may actually be worse, considering what it shows about their judgment.
Most troubling is that very few, if any, of these prosecutors have suffered from their abuse of power, and some prospered. Janet Reno, to take the most famous example, was rewarded by being named Attorney General for the United States shortly after she railroaded a clearly innocent man. In the Kelly Michaels case, mentioned by Rabinowitz, I think both prosecutors did well afterwards. (One detail shows just how crazy the case was. Michael's classroom, in which all these horrible activities were supposed to have taken place, was also used as a corridor between other rooms in the church. People walked through all the time, at unpredictable intervals.)
- 1:22 PM, 27 March 2003 [link]
Fair and Balanced? This Dana Harman piece claims that the United States is seeing a different picture of the war than the rest of the world. (For some reason, the Seattle Times, where I encountered the piece, ran it, not as an analysis or even an editorial, but as a straight front page news story.) This simplifies matters, but is not completely wrong. The United States is seeing one picture, Britain another, France still another, and so on, with each country getting its own. (I could go even farther. The picture people get in Salt Lake City is very different from the one people get in Berkeley.) Harman is not concerned with such complexities; for her, there are three main views of the war, that in the United States, that in the Muslim world, and, in between, that in Europe:
Media watchers say the European press has tended to be more balanced than the U.S. media in dealing with the war, in part because Europe is so much closer to the Muslim world.Here, Harman makes two common errors. First, if there are three views, the one in the middle is most likely to be correct. Second, the many Muslims in Europe make the European journalists better informed than their American counterparts. The second is easy to refute. In fact, the presence of large numbers of Muslims in Europe has made it more difficult for European journalists to report honestly on that group. (Americans can think of similar problems caused by political correctness here. "Sensitivity" to a group often means not telling unpleasant truths about that group, as you can see in Harman's attempt to excuse the barbaric attitudes of the Egyptians she interviews.) The first assertion, that the European press is more balanced, is a very large claim, which would take an enormous effort to assess completely. From the evidence I have seen, however, the American press is more balanced than the European, which in turn is far more balanced than the Arab press. All three, however, err in the same direction. The American press, on the whole, has put a mildly anti-American slant on the news, the European press a strongly anti-American slant, and the Arab press, an almost insanely anti-American slant. For those who want to see what the Arab press is saying, consult the invaluable MEMRI site, where you can find translations of articles from many Arab newspapers.
For the European press, let me begin with two stories which most of the European press got wrong, and most of the American press got right. When the Israeli army moved into the town of Jenin, the Palestinians charged that Israelis had massacred large numbers of civilians in the operation. For the most part, the European press relayed these charges uncritically, even though the Palestinians provided no evidence for them. The American press was more critical, rightly so, as the evidence soon showed. About 20 Palestinians died in the operation (and about the same number of Israelis), nearly all of them combatants.
My second example is equally striking. When the United States began to send Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners to Guantanamo, the European press was filled with accusations of torture and violations of the laws of war. There was no evidence for this, other than the stiff precautions taken to restrain the prisoners. (Entirely appropriate precautions, considering how dangerous some of these men are.) We now have testimony from many of the prisoners themselves, and most say that they were treated well. That a few say they were abused is not surprising; al Qaeda operatives are under orders to claim that they are being abused, if they are captured. (See this Boston Globe article for examples of both general claims of good treatment, and complaints, backed by no evidence, of abuse from an al Qaeda supporter.) The American press was far more skeptical about the claims of abuse at Guantanamo, and was much closer to the truth than its European counterparts.
What is not said by the press is often as important as what is said, and here the Kyoto agreement provides a perfect example. Experts who have studied the agreement say that it would do little to decrease the world wide production of greenhouse gases, but would severely damage the American economy. After it was negotiated, the United States Senate voted unanimously to ask President Clinton not to send it to the Senate for ratification. It was dead long before President Bush even took office. I have read many references to the Kyoto agreement in the European press, and they almost never mention those two facts. Instead, Kyoto is always cited as an example of President Bush's unreasonable unilateral ways, and his opposition to environmental goals. In some cases, I am sure that the European journalists writing these pieces know these facts, and have deliberately chosen to conceal them.
In the past week, I have begun to scan two prominent French newspapers, Le Monde on the left, and the more moderate Le Figaro. As far as I can tell from quick scans with my mediocre French, both newspapers have omitted many stories that support the American cause. I saw nothing in either newspaper about the rise in support for the war in the United States, Britain, Australia, and Denmark. Neither seems to have carried stories on the two "human shields" who changed their minds after they reached Baghdad and spoke to ordinary Iraqis. Neither has had much to say about the many Iraqis who are welcoming the American and British troops.
Why they do not carry these stories can be seen in a striking example from Norway, and in an article about European TV coverage from the International Herald Tribune (now a subsidiary of the New York Times). A Norwegian tabloid printed this picture showing Iraqis welcoming American troops on its front page. As Bjørn Stærk explains in this post, Norwegian journalists reacted with anger to the picture, some even accusing it of being a fake. They have strong theories about how the Iraqis will react to American and British troops, and they do not like being contradicted by evidence.
This conflict between the theories of the European journalists, and the facts, is found in France Germany, and Britain, as well as Norway. This Herald Tribune article describes the almost comical conflicts between the journalists on the ground in Iraq, and their bosses back in the studios. The distortion was so blatant at the BBC, that their defense correspondent, Paul Adams, angrily denounced their coverage in a memo that soon leaked to the press. (For much, much more on the BBC's bias, see Andrew Sullivan's site, or the biased BBC, or this column by Barbara Amiel on the damage the BBC has done in the Middle East. I may have a short post soon describing their errors during Khomeini's rise to power, to add to the pile.)
There is one final discouraging point to add to this indictment of the bias in the European press. So far, I have seen no evidence that these errors, and this persistent bias, has hurt any European journalist's career. The same journalists who were proved laughably wrong in Afghanistan are now, not demoted to covering small town cricket matches and fashion shows, or out of the profession entirely, but covering the war in Iraq, in exactly the same way they covered the war in Afghanistan.
- 8:27 AM, 27 March 2003 [link]
Hollywood Doesn't Even Support the Troops, as Michael Medved notes in this Wall Street Journal column. At Oscar night, Michael Moore's idiotic rant drew the most attention, but what wasn't on display there may have been even more significant. There were no flag pins, no patriotic imagery, no patriotic music, and, most of all, no thanks to the men and women fighting to protect these pampered people. There are good reasons that this year's Oscar show had the lowest TV ratings in its history.
- 7:34 PM, 26 March 2003 [link]
Denmark Now Supports the War: Here's a summary of the key findings from Dagh Nielsen's post:
A poll from Monday says that 54 percent are for the war, 39 percent against. 46 percent are for the Danish participation, 50 percent against.So, a big shift toward support for the war, very similar to the shifts in Britain, Australia and the United States during the same time period. And the gap between those who support the war and those who want Denmark to participate is similar to the gap in Canada on the same question. Denmark is contributing a submarine to the war effort, which could be helpful in keeping track of small attack or mine laying boats. (It is, I would guess, a diesel-electric submarine, much better suited to the shallow waters of the Gulf than any American submarine.)
You'll find many other interesting posts on this Danish blog, though I am not sure that married men should stare at the one just below the poll.
- 3:20 PM, 26 March 2003 [link]
That Support for Saddam, described below, is one reason why, as Gideon Rose says here, that Saddam could not be removed by the Iraqi opposition, with assistance from us. Hawks who thought so before the war were wrong. At the very best, it would have taken a years long, terribly destructive, guerrilla war to oust his regime.
- 7:56 AM, 26 March 2003 [link]
Most, But Not All, Iraqis favor the removal of Saddam, I concluded from several lines of evidence. This son of a Iraqi exile, living in Singapore, agrees, saying that 90 per cent of Iraqis want Saddam removed, even by a war. The 90 per cent he claims was the high end of my range of 50 to 90 per cent. But, and this is a crucial but, even if it is as high as 90 per cent, that would still leave 10 per cent who did not want to remove Saddam. Many Iraqis will support him for the most obvious of reasons; their prosperity, and sometimes even their lives, are tied to his staying in power. Some have committed so many crimes that they know they will not survive his downfall. So, while a majority is on our side, Iraqis are not unanimous, and we should not expect them to be. As our military success becomes clearer, we can expect that the majority will grow as opportunists join the winning side.
- 7:45 AM, 26 March 2003 [link]
Think TV Coverage of the war has been just a little excessive? Then you'll like the Ohman cartoon you can find at this site. (Go to March 23rd.)
- 7:04 AM, 26 March 2003 [link]
Who Is Choosing the Military's Muslim Chaplins? If this article is correct, Wahhabi extremists. One curious, and probably coincidental, detail. Bellingham, the headquarters for the Amana Mutual, is also where the DC snipers stayed for months before starting on their terrorist attacks. And, an oddity. Bellingham is a curious location for the Amana Mutual headquarters. Bellingham has, to the best of my knowledge, few Muslims, and is not a big financial center. It is, as you can see on a map, quite close to the Canadian border.
- 5:35 PM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Boldness, and Again Boldness, and Always Boldness! That famous quotation from Danton, a leader in the French Revolution, might be the slogan for the war plan in Iraq. (Since he was French, what he actually said was: "De l'audace, et encore l'audace, et toujours l'audace!", if you want to be picky.) In a few days, the United States has sent a mechanized force hundreds of miles into the heart of an enemy country, mostly ignoring flank protection, and relying on other forces to capture the port the force will soon need for supplies. At the same time, special forces have been operating all over a nation the size of California, and helicopter carried units have been seizing airfields without loss. For boldness, there has been nothing like it in modern war.
But is it a good plan? For now, and probably for some years, we simply don't know enough to judge, as these sensible comments by Israeli military men show. The Israelis have at least as much information as we do, and certainly more understanding of military questions than I have, yet they all admit that they do not see what the American plan is. This is, of course, a very good thing. If these men can't see the plan, then neither can the Iraqi generals. I suspect that one part of it will be an attempted encirclement of Republican Guard divisions, since this is the classic armored maneuver in open country, but beyond that obvious point, I am as mystified as the Israeli experts. I am beginning to suspect that all the talk about a slugging match in front of Baghdad may be disinformation, but what the alternative might be is not obvious. (For more, here's an article describing doubts that some American military have about the plan.)
Finally, a cautionary note. Less than two years after his famous call for boldness, Danton had been sent to the guillotine by even more radical revolutionaries.
- 5:12 PM, 25 March 2003 [link]
What Would You Call men who attack a village, drag out men, women, and children, and shoot them? Murderers, of course. What would you call them if they killed for political reasons? Terrorists, of course. For three establishment newspapers, the Times of London, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the men who murdered 24 Hindus in Kashmir are "Muslim militants". Disgraceful.
- 9:30 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Another "Human Shield" gets to Baghdad and changes his mind. As with Pastor Joseph, described here, what changed his mind was contact with an ordinary Iraqi, a taxi driver who told him:
Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio? Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam.(By way of the Instapundit.)
- 9:00 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
- 8:52 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Natural Nuclear Reactors: It has been known for decades that, hundreds of millions of years ago, there were natural nuclear reactors on the earth. A "maverick" geophysicist, J. Marvin Herndon, believes that earth still has natural nuclear reactors, not near the surface but deep inside the core. The article does not mention one significant fact about the remains of the nuclear reactors found by the French scientists in Gabon. The nuclear wastes had stayed where they were, in spite of significant water flow through the reactor areas.
- 7:34 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Canadians Are Showing More Support for President Bush's policies than you might guess. Inside this poll story is an interesting paragraph:
Although a clear majority of 60 per cent say they object to the military move by U.S. President George W. Bush, 35 per cent of Canadians back him, support that rose during the week and an indication that a significant number of voters in this country back Washington's move as well as Ottawa's decision to stay apart from it.Facts on the ground, and a greater access to ideas from the United States and Britain than in many other countries, probably explain this shift.
- 7:23 AM, 25 March 2003
Update: Another poll, done by the pollster for Prime Minister Chretien's Liberal party, also shows significant Canadian support for helping the United States, and very strong support for improving relationships between the two countries. We have friends, mostly, to our north, in spite of their sometimes silly ruling party.
- 4:31 PM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Australians Now Back the War, according to the latest poll. The opinion shift toward support of the government's policy is similar to that in Britain. Note that the poll also found increases in support for Prime Minister Howard, and losses for his main opponents in the Australian Labour Party.
- 7:07 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: This Washington Post editorial offering perspective from operation Torch in World War II, on our losses yesterday. One point worth adding. In both operations, most of the soldiers had never fought before. That they have performed so well in this one is a tribute to our training.
- 12:21 PM, 24 March 2003 [link]
Public Support for the War Continues to be strong in the United States and to grow in Britain. Two questions in the British survey show important trends. The number rating President Bush's performance on Iraq excellent or good increased 9 points to 47 per cent. And, the British public, which was split 46-46 three days earlier, on whether the British and American forces would try to minimize civilian casualties, now thinks they will do so by a margin of 68-22. This Michael Barone column explains why the polls before the war were different, why they have changed, and why they are likely to change in other countries as well.
Facts on the ground change the way people see things. People in countries with no troops in Iraq have already, as this is written, seen Iraq fighting with weapons Saddam Hussein claimed he did not have. We have already seen Iraqi soldiers surrendering and, by the time you read this, are likely to see Iraqi citizens welcoming American and British forces. They will see our soldiers providing Iraqis with food and shelter and medicine. They will see, in time, America turn over the governance of Iraq to free Iraqis.That is, if the journalists in those countries are honest enough to print or show those facts. Again this morning, I checked Le Monde and Le Figaro for reports that British and American troops were being welcomed by some Iraqis. Again I found nothing. Le Monde did give prominence to an article on Michael Moore's speech at the Oscars, in which he attacked Bush, but omitted the fact that many in that Hollywood audience booed his idiocy. (Those booing, according to this article, were the ordinary people in the balconies, not the Hollywood glitterati on the floor.) Moore's performance was bizarre, by any standard. He attacked President Bush for being a "fictitious" president and for taking us to war for "fictitious" reasons. Moore was there to receive an award for a documentary, which is, well, fictitious, as explained here and many other places. That Moore's "documentary" is fictitious has not stopped its use in German classrooms and its adoption as part of the regular curriculum in France. (For more on how different networks are covering the war, see this interesting Times of London article by William Rees-Mogg.)
- 12:07 PM, 24 March 2003
Update: Thanks to the Instapundit, I found this International Herald Tribune analysis of TV coverage, which describes the problems that the "facts on the ground" are already causing for French and German TV broadcasters.
- 1:17 PM, 24 March 2003 [link]
Stunts Like This shouldn't make me laugh, but they do. The Sun newspaper, which earlier had shown French President Chirac as a worm, and as a prostitute in the arms of Saddam, now insults the French navy with white feathers, the traditional symbol of cowardice. (If I recall my history correctly, some British women made a point of giving white feathers to young men, not in the services, during World War I.)
- 11:24 AM, 24 March 2003 [link]
Twenty-Eight Baby Girls in Suitcases: This is one of the strangest stories I have seen in years, and it sheds some light on some of the effects of the ruthless Chinese population control policies.
Child and female trafficking is a serious problem in China with cases regularly reported in Chinese newspapers. Children are sold to families who lack children or want more, while older girls or women are sold as brides to poor farmers.
- 9:44 AM, 24 March 2003 [link]
Worrisome: Al Qaeda, according to this article, was farther along in developing chemical and biological weapons than we thought. Their progress in biological weapons is especially troubling since they are such effective terrorist weapons. A country attacked may not know it until hundreds or even thousands have died, and it may never know who sponsored the attack
- 9:30 AM, 24 March 2003 [link]
Sun Getting Warmer? Does it feel a little warmer out? According to this recent study, the sun has increased output slightly since 1970, when we first were able to measure it from satellites. If this is part of a century long trend, then at least some of the global warming may be due to the sun, rather than greenhouse gases. I know of two other kinds of evidence, not mentioned in this article that make this even more plausible. Studies have shown that the sun's output has been both higher and lower in historical times than it is now. During the Middle Ages, for example, there was a "Little Ice Age" when the sun's output was lower. Second, some months ago, I saw a study claiming that the planet Mars had warmed over the last century. Let me add my usual caveat. In my opinion, there is much we do not understand about climate change.
- 9:19 AM, 24 March 2003
Update; I should have mentioned in the original post that Harvard astronomer Sallie Baliunas has been making this argument for some time, which she supports with some striking data. You can find her articles on the subject at the Tech Central Station site.
- 7:44 AM, 25 March 2003 [link]
These Canadians Need Feel No Shame: Two Canadians, Connie Woodcock and Martin Walker, have written that they are ashamed of how their government is behaving toward the United States. As an American, let me say that I think Canadians like Ms. Woodcock and Mr. Walker have no reason for shame. In fact, those two Canadians, and those who share their views, have much to be proud of, even now. They now have a foolish government; we have had Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Clinton as presidents during my lifetime. They have anti-American politicians. Well, so do we. However, I will say this: If Ms. Woodcock and Mr. Walker do not do their very best at the next election to remove the leaders now bringing shame on Canada, then they will have reason for shame. As for the Canadians who elected Chretien and company, and who still support them, well the answer to that is obvious, isn't it?
(PS to Ms. Woodcock: Go ahead and send that pin with the crossed flags.)
- 4:42 PM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Support the Troops Rally in Bellevue: Yesterday, about 4,000 people came to a three hour long support rally for the troops in Seattle's largest suburb, Bellevue. They waved signs and flags, including a few British flags, some military flags, and what I think was a Republic of Vietnam flag. (One woman with a British flag under her American flag promised to bring an Australian flag to the next rally, when I mentioned that nation.) They passed out support the troops signs from a local talk radio station, KVI, and donated buttons. Mine shows an elegant eagle's head done with stars and stripes and "I Support Our Troops" underneath. As cars drove by, most honked in support. The rally was fervent, but peaceful and orderly, with no arrests. When cars wanted to get past the demonstrators into a Safeway parking lot, one man carefully held back the crowd so that they could get through. Few of the signs were nasty; the worst was one which said that Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott had committed treason.
Since this was a rally, not a demonstration, it was even harder than usual to estimate the numbers who stood on the sidewalk, or just drove by honking in support. The radio station gave out thousands of their signs, so I think the estimate of 4,000 is plausible. John Carlson, the KVI talk show host (and former candidate for governor), said that it was the largest demonstration ever held in Bellevue. (Curiously, the local King County Journal, published just blocks from the demonstration, said that only hundreds attended.)
As a sometime social scientist, I had to make some comparisons to the crowds shown at the "peace demonstrations. The demonstrators in Bellevue were younger, on the average, though there were fewer college students. There were many young families there with kids, often in strollers, and sometimes with dogs wearing their own patriotic decorations. I saw no one who looked high. None looked especially wealthy, though that can be hard to tell in this casual dress part of the United States. Many, naturally, had relatives in the military or had served themselves. It was hard not to be touched by those who had signs with pictures of their sons, nephews, uncles, or fathers on their signs.
Yesterday, across Lake Washington in Seattle, there was also a "peace" demonstration that shut down parts of downtown Seattle and resulted in 18 arrests. There could have been many more. Seattle police are apparently under orders to be non-confrontational and to make as few arrests as possible in these demonstrations, which have the tacit and sometimes open support of most Seattle elected officials. That policy has not led the supporters to treat the police respectfully. Seattle Police Guild president Ken Saucier told KVI host John Carlson that the police have often been cursed and spat upon in these demonstrations. According to Saucier, who is African-American himself, some of his fellow African-American officers have actually been called the "N" word. Racism? An attempt to provoke the officers to violence? I don't know, but it does show something disgusting about these peace demonstrators.
(For more and some pictures, see this Seattle Times article covering both demonstrations, and these two articles from KOMO TV on the Bellevue support the troops rally, and the Seattle "peace" demonstration. I took pictures of the Bellevue rally, and may post some of them after they are developed.)
- 2:29 PM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Grumpy Peter Jennings? One of my guilty pleasures on those election nights when the Republicans win is watching Peter Jennings grump as he announces the results. (Democrats get the same guilty pleasures when they win by watching Britt Hume of Fox News, I suspect.) I have been wondering how Peter Jennings would react to the rapid progress of the war to remove Saddam, since Jennings has been a long time supporter of Arafat and other anti-American figures in the Middle East. If this New York Post editorial is correct—and I think it is—he doesn't like it one bit.
Friday night, Peter Jennings presided over an uninterrupted three hours of America-bashing, pessimism and anti-war agitation.Like the French, he must be especially irritated by the happy Iraqis shown in some of the coverage.
- 10:31 AM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Laughter and Smiles from hundreds of children greeted British troops as the crossed into Iraq, according to this article from the left wing Observer. As you can imagine, the British soldiers were startled and pleased by their reception. I checked two prestigious French newspapers this morning, Le Monde and Le Figaro, and found no reports of the welcome many Iraqis are giving their liberators. I'll be doing more checks on the French coverage this week.
- 8:05 AM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Middle East Paranoia: Inside this article summarizing the mixed Iraqi reactions to the American advance is a classic bit of Middle East paranoia from a captured Iraqi, Colonel Ghobashi. Here's what he says about Saddam:
He doesn't give us enough to eat, and he doesn't pay us. And then he starts this thing with the Americans and then tells us to defend the country against the invasion. I believe he is an American agent.That explains it! Laugh, but don't forget that this explanation, and similar ones, are common in the Middle East, not that unusual in much of Europe, and not unknown here.
- 7:48 AM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Max Boot's article explaining why those we protect often resent us. He thinks that this resentment, rather than diplomatic fumbling, is why so many of our traditional allies have tried to block the liberation of Iraq. He even gives credit to the Bush administration for trying hard to work with the United Nations, and almost succeeding in getting a second resolution. As long as we are winning, that resentment will continue, and so he concludes:
We should get used to the contempt of those we defend. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in a poem long ago, "makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep/Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap."This issue is one I plan to come back to soon. I am going to analyze, in a more formal way, some of the alternate explanations for the rising anti-Americanism in those parts of the world that we have not freed recently.
- 7:17 AM, 23 March 2003 [link]
Shocked Back to Reality: That's what happened to Kenneth Joseph, a pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East who had gone to Iraq to serve as a human shield. (The Assyrians are an ancient Christian people of Iraq.) Pastor Joseph's story is buried in the fifth paragraph of this summary of events in Jordan. Joseph changed his mind when he intervied individual Iraqis who:
. . told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head.Wonder if he will change the minds of other sincere opponents of removing Saddam?
- 9:49 AM, 22 March 2003 [link]
Iraqis Greet British With Gifts: British forces, as well as American marines are being greeted as liberators by Iraqis, like the man who offered tomatoes in return for water and told a British soldier that:
But he was very happy that he was no longer under Saddam's rule and said we should go and kill him if we had the chance. He said he was delighted to see us.Another story that may not make it into Le Monde.
- 9:40 AM, 22 March 2003 [link]
Great Battle Speech: British Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins shows that a commander can still give a great speech, as you can see from the extensive quotations in this article.
- 8:25 AM, 22 March 2003 [link]
What Took You So Long? This story from the Guardian, describing the Iraqi welcome to US marines supports the argument I made in this post. Here's what Ajami Saadoun Khlis, who lost a son and brother to Saddam said through tears:
You just arrived. You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave.Wonder if any French newspapers will carry this story?
- 8:14 AM, 22 March 2003 [link]
Uganda, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, and Haiti: What do all these countries have in common? All had their regimes changed by other nations, relatively recently, through violence or threat of violence. In 1978, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, fed up with Uganda's brutal dictator Idi Amin, invaded Uganda and drove him out of the country. In 1979, Communist Vietnam, having clashed with the Khmer Rouge running Cambodia, invaded that country and drove Pol Pot from power. (The Vietnamese may also have been motivated by a humanitarian desire to end the Khmer Rouge killing while there were still some Cambodians left.) In 1983, Reagan invaded the island of Grenada, after a coup brought an even more radical faction of Communists to power there. (After the overthrow of the government there, we learned that a Congressional staffer, who worked for one of the far left Democratic Congressmen, had literally been sleeping with the Grenada leader.) In 1989, after a headline hunting district attorney indicted Panama's Noriega for narcotics trafficking, President Bush invaded Panama, and removed him from power. In 1994, President Clinton sent a military force to Haiti to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. (It is not clear just what we or the Haitians gained by this, since Aristide was unfriendly to the United States, dictatorial, and incompetent economically.) I could easily add many other examples to this list.
In none of these cases, did the invaded country threaten the invader. All of the invasions were truly unilateral, done by a single country. Most met grudging approval at the time, but none had the advance authorization of the United Nations. Despite these well known historical facts, we see endless claims that President Bush is doing something unprecedented in Iraq, like this silly column by Michael Kinsley, or this somewhat more sober piece from Germany's Der Spiegel. Contrary to what Kinsley says, Bush did not argue that the United Nations must follow his wishes. Instead, he said that, if the United Nations wishes to be relevant, it must take its own resolutions seriously, including earlier ones like 687 that authorize our actions. Kinsley should know that many believe that the predecessor to the UN, the League of Nations, failed for just this reason. Kinsley ends with this amazing charge:
In terms of the power he now claims, without significant challenge, George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world.Though the Der Spiegel piece is less dramatic than Kinsley's column, it too is foolish. Consider this weird bit:
Even the pro-American British press has voiced its criticism of US military campaigns, based on the motto "praise God, and pass the ammunition."Many British newspapers are irredeemably hostile to the Bush and the United States, and Reuters and the BBC are in the hands of his outright enemies. If any official in the United States recycled the quotation from the Pearl Harbor attack, I missed it. There are many other mistakes in the piece, like the claim that: "Even freedom of expression is being restricted.", or the amazing: "Only a few newspapers, such as the New York Times, are publishing critical reports on plans to deploy troops in Iraq." To write something like that, the authors must be profoundly ignorant or simply indifferent to the facts of American journalism.
Most likely the errors are a consequence of the blindness that hostility often brings. For Kinsley, the hostility is directed toward Bush, since he made no objection to Clinton's many interventions. In Der Spiegel's case, the hostility is toward America. Both are so determined to attack that they ignore recent history, and distort the present. One may dislike seeing one nation change the government in another, but there is nothing unprecedented about it. (My own view is that it depends. I approved of the overthrow of Idi Amin and the Khmer Rouge, but was skeptical about all the other interventions.)
But, though I do not think either Kinsley or Der Spiegel really believes their own arguments, let us suppose they are serious and see where that takes us. If it is now wrong for President Bush and the United States, acting with allies, to remove Saddam from power in Iraq, it must also have been wrong for President Clinton to restore Aristide to power in Haiti, for President Bush to remove Noriega from power in Panama, for President Reagan to overthrow the Communist regime in Grenada, for Vietnam to remove the Khmer Rouge from power, and for Tanzania to chase Idi Amin into exile. By this logic, the previous rulers, regardless of the wishes of the people of Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Cambodia, and Uganda, should be restored to power.
This may not be easy to explain to people of those countries, so I have some suggestions as to the best people to make that argument. The subtle and humane diplomats of France can be sent to Cambodia to explain why their freedom from the Khmer Rouge was gained in the wrong way, and must be given up. The humanitarian and pacifist German diplomats can be sent to Uganda to explain that Idi Amin was removed without UN authorization and must be returned to power. Belgium, which has followed the French and German line in these matters, can send diplomats to Panama to explain why the unilateral removal of Noriega was wrong and must be corrected. As a Clinton supporter, Kinsley himself gets to go to Haiti to correct Clinton's error in forcing the return of Aristide. I am not sure who would be the best to send to Grenada. Perhaps former Reagan speechwriter Pat Buchanan. When these diplomats have achieved these goals, I will take their current arguments more seriously.
- 4:57 PM, 21 March 2003
Update: I just realized that I had not assigned any diplomats to Grenada, and so I have corrected that above. The Grenadans might be happier without these visitors, but they must be brought to understand that rules are rules, and no liberations are legitimate unless they receive advance approval from the United Nations.
- 7:35 AM, 23 March 2003 [link]
What Do Iranians Think? As even the Guardian has to admit, most people in Iraq's neighbor want Saddam removed, even though their government is, as usual, opposing the United States. It is curious that the views of those most concerned, the Iraqis, and their immediate neighbors, the Kuwaitis and the Iranians, matter so little to world opinion.
- 3:31 PM, 21 March 2003 [link]
Some Cliches Never Die: Remember those World War II movies that always had a mix of ethnic groups in every platoon, at least one Polish-American, one Italian-American, one Irish-American, and so on? Well, the tradition hasn't died, as you can tell from the twelve portraits the New York Times chose of people from the First Marine Division. (If you look quickly, you may be able to see them in one of the slide shows on the site's home page. They are in the "Face of Battle".) From their names and home towns, here are the twelve, with my guesses about their ethnic origins: Lance Corporal Karen Barilani (?), First Sergeant William Childress (English), Lance Corporal Liranda Friday (Navajo), Master Sergeant Andres Garcia (Mexican), Lance Corporal Rajai Hakki (?), Private Ashley Kaszniak (Slavic), Captain Tim Lynch (Irish or English), Sergeant Jinais Paiz (Cuban), Lance Corporal Amirh Phillip (African), Lance Corporal Jose Santos (Mexican), Private Ana Shaw (English), and Corporal Shayla Zapata (African). I am not an expert on names, so others may be able to do better, but I think you get the idea.
Since this is the New York Times, we can also expect political correctness. They show seven women and just five men, and they had the women take more martial poses. Although the infantry is entirely male, all the women are shown with their rifles in front, ready for use. Three of the men have no visible weapons; two have their rifles slung over their backs.
- 3:03 PM, 21 March 2003 [link]
John Fund has an amusing idea for punishing the French. He thinks we should steal some of their best people by giving them green cards. I like this idea. It reminds of a similar suggestion some years ago when we were quarreling with the Japanese over trade. The author, whose name I forget, suggested that we grant green cards to young, unmarried Japanese women, who were often dissatisfied with their place in Japanese society. Of course, some may think that I had other reasons for liking the idea . . . (The dissatisfaction of young Japanese women is an interesting topic in itself. They are one of the most pampered groups in the world, often living at home, and spending all their incomes on themselves, but they have few choices about how to live their lives. The "glass ceilings" much discussed here are real there, and the expectations for marriages are so stringent that many find that path unattractive, too.)
- 10:48 AM, 21 March 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: This sober editorial from the Times of London, setting out the argument for removing Saddam and giving the United States some sensible advice. As they correctly say, the delay since 1991 in meeting Iraq's ceasefire agreement is an argument for force, not against it. And they are right to remind the Bush administration that a "grotesque caricature" of the United States has spread even farther in the world, and that it is much in our interest to dispel it. President Bush, and his administration sometimes act as if our position is so obviously right that it requires little explanation for the rest of the world. With the enormous influence of anti-Americans in the world's media, we have to make an immense effort to ensure that our case is even heard by many citizens.
- 9:24 AM, 21 March 2003 [link]
The Godfather of Baghdad: According to this column, Saddam greatly admired the "Godfather" movies and identifies with Michael Corleone. Many other leaders, from Stalin on the evil side to Reagan on the good side, have taken lessons from movies. This always makes me a bit nervous, even if I approve of both the movie and the leader.
- 9:09 AM, 21 March 2003 [link]
Support for Removing Saddam continues to grow in the Australia, Britain, and the United States, the three nations that have forces in action. (The news story from Australia does not mention the point, but this shows a significant shift from earlier polls, as you can see here. Whether their omission of this essential point shows bias is a question I will leave to those more familiar with the Australia Broadcasting Company.) This shift is no surprise to those who have studied public opinion in war time. Next week, I'll have a more general post on this subject, with some discussion of the reasons for it.
Some of the details in the poll done for the Telegraph are of interest. Though most British citizens do not care much for President Bush, 31 per cent give him a "good" rating for handling the Iraqi crisis and another 7 per cent rate him "excellent". This is better than the rating they give Charles Kennedy, head of the Liberal-Democrat party, which opposed the war. And, you can see one of the strongest and best reasons for opposition to the war in the answers to two questions near the end. Eighty-five per cent want the campaign conducted to minimize civilian casualties, but only 46 per cent expect that it will be. This wish to see Iraqi civilians safe is a sentiment that I admire, though I think the best way to do that is to remove Saddam.
- 9:00 AM, 21 March 2003 [link]