(Un)realistic Foreign Policy Approaches to Violence: A while back I wrote a column on the lack of foreign-policy realism among the Naderite Left, using Ralph himself as an example. This was followed by an intemperate warblog rant, which the kind, hardworking folks over at Overlawyered.com were kind enough to link to. Well, yesterday, when doing some research, I found this transcript of Nader on NPR’s Talk of the Nation in June 2000, answering a question about what he’d do in Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia. It’s a doozy, and it roughly parallels a key asinine argument favored among those who opposed the expansion of NATO:
On the Kosovo-Bosnia -- you know, this is a mess that other politicians have gotten us into. I do believe, however, that, as a world, we can't sit around and watch a half a million Rwandans slaughtered or other people in the world who are civilians and innocent bystanders slaughtered. But we don't need a U.S. force. We don't need a NATO. We need a multilateral force, and if it's in a region of a continent, with heavy input from neighboring countries. And this force should be trained before any battle, before any civil war, before any slaughter starts. It should be a standby peacekeeping force that's highly trained that can go in according to certain widely supported UN criteria. This was actually a fairly mainstream view in early-nineties Europe … until they ran out of graves to put dead Yugoslavs.
11/3/2001 10:57:28 PM
Rebutting Denton: Reader Henry Cybulski from Barcelona takes issue with Nick Denton’s argument that Middle Eastern countries should be left to their own devices (even if that means experimenting with terrible fundamentalist governments), and restates the case for intramural argument in the West:
Why would removing kleptocracies in Tunisia and other countries and replacing them with fundamentalists regimes give ordinary people some productive outlet for their energies? Sept. 11 and its aftermath showed to the world how some of those energies are directed. Perhaps as soon as tomorrow, we’ll have a special letters page here to post these and the dozens of similar e-mails I’ve been squandering these past weeks.
As for Denton favoring the idea of allowing fundamentalists to take power so that people will learn that sharia law is not the answer to all modern problems, that's like saying a person needs to experience slavery first hand before he understands it's evil.
Additionally, do I really need to point out there aren't too many independent choices available to most people living under fundamentalist regimes.
Finally, Denton claims the anti-war left is marginal enough. Well it isn't in Europe, and who's to say it will remain that way in the US. Bad ideas need to countered with good ideas wherever and whenever.
11/3/2001 09:04:28 PM
Giuliani, on Saudi Snub and Moral Relativism:
Those who practise terrorism lose any right to have their cause understood by decent people and lawful nations. On this issue, the world must draw a line. The era of moral relativism between those who practise or condone terrorism, and those nations who stand up against it, must end. Moral relativism does not have a place in this discussion and debate, because there is no moral way to sympathise with grossly immoral actions. Tragically, though, the nations of the world have yet to take a united, principled and unyielding stance against terrorists and the nations that harbour its practitioners, and this environment has allowed a fertile field in which terrorism has grown.
Prince Alwaleed needs to understand that this is a war upon all civilisations, not between civilisations. This is a conflict between humanity and mass murderers. The nations of the world need to understand with whom they are siding when they attempt to explain the unholy acts of barbarians with little regard for the lives lost, the families shattered and the communities for ever changed.
11/3/2001 06:52:46 PM
Saudi Apologists?: In times like these, you can expect anti-corporatists to question the patriotism of multi-nationals. Fair enough, though I’ve never been very interested in the exercise. But what about the loyalty of ex-government officials who traded in their positions for “private-sector” jobs lobbying with the (potential) enemy? I ran across this example just now, in a commendable Chicago Tribune story about well-connected Saudi gazillionaire Yassin Kadi, who the U.S. now accuses of financing terrorists, much to the annoyance of Kadi’s friends in the House of Saud:
Kevin Taecker, a former financial attache to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh who now consults for Saudi companies, said Kadi's inclusion on the list without a disclosure of evidence will drive Muslim entrepreneurs away from the United States. "Everybody else is suddenly afraid their names are going to pop up now," Taecker said. Yo Kev – it’s a pretty tricky time to be criticizing the civil rights implications of your country’s anti-terrorist activities while cashing in on your taxpayer-financed service in one of the world’s most repressive countries. You may be asked to choose sides soon.
11/3/2001 01:21:28 PM
Programming Update: My apologies to Netscape users for the brownout these past 24 hours. Problem solved … hopefully. Blogger seems to have a latent guinea-worm warping bits and pieces of the warblog page every few days, confounding my team of experts and delaying some long-needed design improvements (such as linking to all the great warbloggers in the nav-buddy to the left). You might notice, for instance, that links to “send e-mail” everywhere on this page don’t work. Send mail here instead, though please bear with my slow answering cycles (and sorry to those I haven’t responded to). I’m trying to finish off three columns, add a letters page, and live a decent life, so time gets squished sometimes. Thanks to Ben Sullivan, for lopping off seven weeks from the bottom of this page; thanks to all of you for reading (120,000 hits last month!), and in a jiffy here I’ll prepare a new batch of warbloggers for you.
11/3/2001 12:36:52 PM
‘Words matter as they haven't in a generation’: Nearly four weeks ago, Tim Blair wrote a fine article documenting the escalating rhetorical war between columnists in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. It’s finally online, and still worth reading. (I even make a cameo!)
11/3/2001 12:26:10 PM
Glue-Sniffing – the Gateway Drug: More weirdness from Arab News.
In addition to tobacco use, Al-Qurashi said that in Saudi society glue sniffing is one of the main entry points for youngsters into the culture of drug abuse. He has personally seen teenagers out on the streets and in recreation areas throughout the Kingdom engaged in communal glue sniffing. While it may not sound like much, inhaling the vapors from the chemicals in glue causes significant physiological damage including irreversible brain damage. He believes that parents should teach their children about the dangers of glue sniffing since their peers may promote the activity as being harmless.
11/2/2001 01:17:44 PM
Online Polls, Saudi Style: Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English language newspaper, has funny polls. Recently, they asked what the real motivation was for the U.S. going to war. Three of the four answers were:
· To gain a strategic foothold in Afghanistan. The poll question today, is “Who do you think is carrying out the Anthax attacks?”
· To show the world how powerful it is
· So that President Bush can become more popular
· A white supremist [sic] group in America. Luckily, the readers are smarter than you might think.
· Supporters of Osama bin Ladin
· Right wing Israelis
11/2/2001 01:05:24 PM
Radio Free Europe Targeted in Prague: My life-long blood-brother, the best man at my wedding, works in that building. He has two gorgeous young children, and I am now reading his remarkable second volume of short stories. Luckily, the man accused of making that threat – an Iraqi spy, say the Czechs – has been expelled from the country, and I imagine security’s pretty tight at the top of Wenceslas Square these days. Seems the Iraqis are pissed about RFE’s broadcasts to Iraq. Pretty interesting, this ongoing Czech linkage of Sept. 11 to Saddam Hussein.
11/2/2001 12:02:10 PM
Marc Cooper Takes on Peter Beinart: I’m not supposed to be interested in this anymore, but if you want a pretty good counter-argument to the New Republic Editor’s Lefty-baiting, read this column.
11/2/2001 11:07:25 AM
More Rushdie on Responsibility: Salman Rushdie and Nick Denton seem to be agreeing a lot these days. First, it was about the useful, transformative qualities of Western decadence; now the novelist follows the secret agent’s lead regarding personal responsibility in the Muslim world:
Twenty years ago, when I was writing a novel about power struggles in a fictionalized Pakistan, it was already de rigueur in the Muslim world to blame all its troubles on the West and, in particular, the United States. Then as now, some of these criticisms were well-founded; no room here to rehearse the geopolitics of the cold war and America's frequently damaging foreign policy "tilts," to use the Kissinger term, toward (or away from) this or that temporarily useful (or disapproved-of) nation-state, or America's role in the installation and deposition of sundry unsavory leaders and regimes. But I wanted then to ask a question that is no less important now: Suppose we say that the ills of our societies are not primarily America's fault, that we are to blame for our own failings? How would we understand them then? Might we not, by accepting our own responsibility for our problems, begin to learn to solve them for ourselves?
11/2/2001 10:35:40 AM
Nick Denton’s Report From Tunisia: After a mysterious three-week voyage through North Africa, Denton, the former FT correspondent and Internet CEO, breaks his radio silence with a couple of salient point. First, some reflections on Tunisia:
My conclusion: the West must withdraw support for the authoritarian regimes that govern most of the Middle East, even if that risks disorder. Not as part of an ethical foreign policy, but because it is only way that these countries will mature economically and politically. It is only by allowing the fundamentalists to take power, as they have in Iran, that people will learn that sharia law is not the answer to all modern problems. It is only by making independent choices, even bad choices, that Middle Eastern countries will shake off this debilitating post-colonial assumption that it is always someone else's fault. And it is only by the removal of the stifling kleptocracies in Tunisia and other countries that ordinary people will have some productive outlet for their energies. Great point, to which I would only add: “Why not as part of an ethical foreign policy?” and “What about the Algeria syndrome?” Next, Denton confesses fatigue of the incessant debates between pro-war and anti-war liberals:
I really can't be bothered any more to give the anti-war left a hard time. They are marginal enough. And all too often, the discussion spirals into convolutions of war liberals defending their right to lambast the pacifists who complain they are being criticized for their criticism, while the rest of the world looks on with bemusement, or just ignores the squabbling of the western intelligentsia. I am sure there is some purpose to all this discussion, but I am tired of it. Me too, strangely enough, though I am as guilty of convolutions as anyone. Welcome back, Nick!
11/2/2001 10:14:51 AM
More on Academic Postmodernism: Not to get side-tracked or anything, but this has been interesting, and I’m trying desperately to finish some other work. My dear friend and occasional collaborator Greg McIlvaine (go read his blog, order his terrific rock opera, and check out the online museum of his art), sent me an e-mail following up on the post below, through the lens of Greg's experiences at the Otis Parsons art school in L.A.
I really liked what Daniel Jacobson wrote about post modernism. It really is an ugly set of ideas. He's right that unless you've been in college in the ’90s, it would be easy to ignore it. It has no practical relationship to the real world, so why bother?
Here's my attempt to explain it:
The bottom line is that post modern philosophy is another word for deconstructionism - as in the World Trade Center was constructed in the early 70's and de-constructed in 2001. Deconstructionism is a program of turning language against itself. Semantics, or the study of this language, becomes an end in itself. Rather than talking about a real idea, say Free Speech, it just talks about the language used to talk about free speech, and says that free speech cannot exist because those are just two words, and because no one is "free" from their cultural biases. While this is true in a tiny sense, it ignores the bigger issue about free speech vs. direct censorship. Therefore it finds comfort in never taking a positive position, rather it seeks to negate everything. This is much easier than creating anything, and I think that's why it is so popular. It's cleverness fools people into thinking that it has meaning. It rejects observed reality, ignores reason as being impossible, therefore it says that one can never make judgments or decisions because one is always biased. This flies in the face of intuition and reality. Like fundamentalism, it is a system which provides all the answers: in this case that there are no answers.
That's why it's so attractive to some.
I think that Marxists have turned to post modern philosophy because it allows them to ignore the fundamental flaw of Marxism: the idea that people will be motivated by the interest of the community over their self-interest. This goes against human nature and will never happen, so in their anger the Marxists seek to tear everything down, and thus are in league with the post modernists. This desire to destroy something with no thought of what to build in it's place is what connects post-modernists with terrorists.
Post modernists, by negating everything, are unable to take sides, no matter how clear the issue is.
Hope this helps. I started writing about my horrible experience with post mods at Otis (including an African American Female critic who said she didn't even want to think about my art), but it was too long and sounded too much like me complaining.
11/1/2001 03:15:51 PM
Make a Pilgrimage to New York: So commandeth Mad Monk James Crotty, a terrific travel writer with an uncanny ability to evoke a city. This is a persuasive column.
It's like Mecca in reverse. Unlike the requisite American visit to Disneyland, a visit to ground zero dramatically acknowledges that this atrocity was not just another media event, conveniently bracketed in familiar terms by network TV, but one that touched us to the core. A visit to ground zero puts everything we are fighting for, our friends, our families, our very lives, in sharp relief. […]
This living shrine is not going to last forever. One day it will be cleaned up, and new structures will be built in its place. What will remain will be a plaque or memorial, or some multimedia show, not the real thing. A visit now gives depth to what we get from the news. The Declaration of Independence takes on a subtler hue when one clearly sees what it means to have our organizing principles manipulated and then brazenly assaulted. And the sheer immensity of the attack is not grasped until one drives out on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or rides out on the Staten Island ferry and gazes back at the savagely transfigured landscape of Lower Manhattan.
11/1/2001 12:11:05 PM
Report From Campus: In reading (and enjoying) more right-of-center commentators than usual these last seven weeks, I have found that my main point of disagreement is their seeming preoccupation with postmodernism, Marxism and whateverism on America’s college campuses. It has always sounded to my ears (which are not at all attuned to academia) that the phenomenon is exaggerated, its impact almost imagined.
Then again, many of the warblog’s readers are leftish professors who feel bewildered by the madness around them on campus. So I asked one of them, Philosophy Professor Daniel Jacobson of Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, whether rightish columnists had let their interest in rococo university Marxism degenerate into obsession. Here’s what Jacobson said:
Well, I've got to confess that it's one of my obsessions too. It's hard to dismiss the thing when you're stuck in the middle of it. That’s perfectly discouraging! Anyone else out there have campus stories?
Sullivan obviously blundered when he called the Pollit/Sontag crowd a "fifth column" -- and I told him so. He's still got a damn good batting average post-9/11. But that was hyperbole...which might have been forgivable, if it weren't for the danger of a real fifth column, one not made up of feckless professorial types but real live fascists. You were right on target with your "hyperbole during wartime is immoral" piece. Truth is, though, he's right about the "decadent enclaves" stuff -- as long as you read that as Amherst, Cambridge, Ann Arbor, etc. (some of my favorite places until the talk turns political).
F&M is a pretty conservative campus -- I've taught at Berkeley, and it's no Berkeley. But there have been some pretty ugly incidents here, all instigated by the loony left. If it were just the petition-the-Taliban silliness, I'd laugh it off. But it's much worse than that. Immediately after the attack, the campus email list was seized by this crowd, which started in on the unsolicited airing of their bogus moral equivalency claims. Is this the majority opinion? In the arts and humanities, yes; much less in the sciences.
Most people just ignore this stuff, and initially I did too, but things snowballed. First there was some irresponsible rumor mongering about attacks on foreign students -- all false, not to mention counterproductive -- and then the "CNN is falsifying footage of Palestinian celebration" hoax. That was exposed by an older member of the Government dept, who was promptly accused of silencing dissent and obscuring the "big picture" with trifling details -- like that the story was false, and that the poster had obviously made no effort whatsoever to verify it.
The nadir came when a secretary sent around one of those "please put a flag in your window" messages, kitschy to be sure but entirely harmless. She was then publicly accused of sending a threatening email. The accusation, made by the chair of the English dept, can only be described as hysterical. "Fly the flag or what?," she asked, "Have my windows broken? Be lynched? As a person of color...etc." It sickened me: these tenured, faux champions of the working class leveling absurd personal attacks against staff members for the crime of sentimental patriotism. I sent around a response that was as calm as I could manage, and made some friends and a few enemies. I'm afraid that the enemies will have a longer memory.
Send your kids to college and they'll be indoctrinated into an ideology. Of course, it won't all stick. And some of it is good old-fashioned liberal tolerance (it's OK to be gay, date rape is bad, it's valuable to study non-Western cultures). But some of it is intellectually and morally corrupt. I mean hell, I was a teen-age Maoist once, and on the whole it was good for my intellectual development. But the ideal of diversity on campus is, frankly, a joke. Diversity is a euphemism; there's little interest or
support for diversity of opinion.
I would've left academia entirely if I weren't in a "reactionary" humanities discipline, where postmodernism is more often scorned than adored. Even so, I've been one of the most conservative members of every philosophy department I've been affiliated with. Yet the irony is that just a year ago, in a fit of immature (and hasty) triumph, I threw open my door and screamed in the direction of my neighbor's house -- the guy with the "Charlton Heston is my President" bumper sticker -- when the networks projected Michigan, Pennsylvania, and yes Florida for Gore.
So there you have it: more than you wanted to hear about the ascendancy of the lunatic-fringe in academia.
I think what makes the situation so obsessively infuriating, for those of us in the middle of it, is that it poses a humiliating dilemma: either what I do just doesn't matter, or else it's *really* important that the lunatics have taken over the institution.
My considered opinion is that it's worse that NPR presents the Taliban and the Pentagon as being equally credible on the question of whether or not Afghan civilians are being intentionally targeted. (Yep, heard that one myself driving home -- almost wrecked the car.) But on bad days it feels like it's all the same big problem.
11/1/2001 10:36:03 AM
Take That, Cyn: Reid Stott (a.k.a. PhotoDude) takes down the Saudi ass-kisser Cynthia McKinney, congresswoman from Georgia, for whining in the Washington Post about being “attacked for speaking” after people rightfully criticized her for sucking up to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal after Talal pinned partial blame of the Sept. 11 massacre on the United States. An excerpt from PhotoDude’s reply:
This is the part that gets me, a nonpareil exercise in Me-ism: Update! I see that Oliver Willis has also taken a swing.
"Why such a negative reaction to my letter? I believe that when it comes to major foreign policy issues, many prefer to have black people seen and not heard." Tell that to Colin Powell. You know, the black Secretary of State, The Man in charge of "major foreign policy issues." People seem to be listening to him just fine. I certainly have been. Maybe it's because he comes across as a rational reasonable human being, who acts responsibly in his position of authority. Totally unlike you. Maybe you can chat with Condoleezza Rice about this as well.
10/31/2001 09:39:39 PM
My, Oh My: What a game.
10/31/2001 09:21:24 PM
I Love El Duque: In happier times, I’d be writing columns about my favorite pitcher, the Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez of the New York Yankees. He was probably the best pitcher ever during Castro’s amateur era, he is an amazingly elegant physical specimen (just after El Duque's boat escape from the country, a scout who worked him out called him “the best athlete I have ever seen,” or something close to that), and his performances, like tonight, are frequently high-wire acts filled with an intelligence we cannot imagine. Somewhere around here I have a copy of his real birth data; also, here’s one review of mine, and another, on books about Cuban baseball. Unsurprisingly, there are issues of politics, ideology and reason.
10/31/2001 06:33:08 PM
Good Thing I Don't Smoke Pot Anymore: My first-ranked visitor domain this week? usdoj.gov. Hey guys, um, wanna just send me a friendly e-mail from a hotmail account or something? A man with as weird a track record as mine can get nervous sometimes. ... And you treas.gov guys already lectured me about that Cuba trip, remember? Which reminds me, I should tell the story soon about how me and the future lead singer of Tsar ended up in the backyard of the Slovak presidential palace around midnight one night in the spring of '95, half-drunk with acoustic guitars and pockets-full of groschen.... You should have seen Jeff Whalen screaming at the Slovak cops for ignoring the "no-smoking" sign, while preventing us from doing likewise. Another time, maybe.
10/31/2001 04:50:36 PM
Whew! Is That All! While finishing up my research on the effects of sanctions on Iraq, I came across this whopper of a line in a May 14 Seattle Times editorial urging the U.N. to lift them. That’s “editorial,” as in, “what the editors of the paper think.” Read it slowly.
It is worth noting that when Saddam Hussein did have chemical weapons, he used them only against the Iranians and the Kurds.
10/31/2001 03:40:17 PM
New Column (of Sorts) From Me – E-mail Debate With a Chomskyite! You may remember a column I wrote last week urging optimists like me and pessimists (like them!) to switch sides for a day while thinking about the war. This drew a rebuke from a Chomsky-quoting reader, which turned into an e-mail back-and-forth that took the better part of a day. I think it’s an interesting window into the "root cause" that divides the Left -- wildly differing views on U.S. foreign policy. Check it out.
10/31/2001 02:39:23 PM
Jarvis, to Parrish: ‘Sod Off’: Jeff Jarvis takes my bait to address Geov Parrish’s contention that the amount of money donated to the families of the 5,000 massacred on Sept. 11 is “obscene.” Fumbling with the numbers (and assuming optimistic totals), he arrives at $200,000 in aid per family.
Obscene? Only to an unemployed Afghan, perhaps. That would not pay for one college education. That would not compensate for one year's income -- let alone a long career ahead -- for the young and talented victims of this mass murder. Double it or say I'm off a zero and it's $2 million; still nothing compared to a life. Parrish, whoever you are: Sod off.
10/31/2001 12:46:19 PM
A Reader From Istanbul, on Regime-Change in Saudi Arabia:
One comment I have is on those Saudis – you sound pretty eager to see the US end its support for those guys, and for legitimate reasons. The problem I see with that is *if* the royal family were tossed out, it doesn't seem too likely that a warm and fuzzy democratic regime would take its place.
One factor is that, although we Americans believe the appeal of democracy for average people should be obvious, in countries without a tradition of democracy the mainstream typically doesn't trust "themselves", or at least their neighbors. They figure the unwashed masses aren't responsible enough to be entrusted with governing themselves, and can find many examples of chaos and domestic unpleasantness in the US to support this idea. The darker side of their own domestic scene doesn't get much play in the media, so home often seems much safer than in that country full of crazy cowboys and serial killers who get to vote on how things ought to be run.
Another factor is that the fundamentalists are much better organized and supported than any other group in Saudi Arabia, certainly more than any group supporting democracy. These are the guys that bin Laden would much prefer to have in power, setting up a groovy Taliban-style regime. In fact, he'd like that outcome so much, he'd even provoke the US into a major war to increase popular animosity against the House of Saud.
I don't know what *ought* to be done, given the realities on the ground there. Certainly the royal family are bad fuckers. But only people likely to take power if they go down are worse. Taking the "lesser of two evils" is a cop-out, but I wouldn't want to pull the plug on the lesser evil until I'd gotten something better lined up to take its place.
10/31/2001 12:03:35 PM
10/31/2001 09:23:24 AM
'Yank' This, Margo: Margo Kingston of the Sydney Morning Herald was nominated earlier this month in the online category of the Walkley Awards (Australia’s Pulitzers), for this “webdiary,” in which she and her pals chatter about the headlines. Here’s a recent sample of her award-winning intellect:
As expected by everyone except the Yanks, the Afghans are too tough to avoid sending US troops in. As predicted by everyone except the Yanks, it appears, it's supposed be a LONG war, requiring PATIENCE and INTELLIGENCE. Here’s what George Bush actually said in his Sept. 20 speech (which you can even find on the Internet!): “Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with the decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat. Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.” Also, Donald Rumsfeld says the exact same thing every day of the week, and it's also online.
Margo’s buddies are equally clever. Tim Dunlop, for instance, has deduced that because Pentagon officials have hired a public relations firm
That means that the intention is purely and simply to lie. Brilliant! By that logic, every government that employs public relations firms (including those in Australia, France, Hungary … and basically every country that can afford them), does so “purely and simply to lie.” Without apparent irony, Dunlop also criticizes commentators and politicians for “making every issue as black and white as possible.”
The award-winning webdiary also reprints “The top five lies about the war, by the Anti-War Committee of Students in Solidarity at the University of Pittsburgh.” Here’s one of the “lies,” followed by the students’ clever “reality” check:
Lie 2: "America is coming together." Yes, boys and girls, the only way a country can “come together” is by full employment. Of course, the only way to guarantee “full employment” is Communism, and the only way Communism brought citizens together was by cutting off their escape routes, but never mind the details. Next, Damian Lataan sets up a classic Straw Man for attack:
Reality: Tens of thousands of people have been laid off in the airline industry alone.
It would be naive in the extreme to believe that the death of Osama bin Laden, his senior associates, fanatical followers and/or the downfall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, will put an end to the desperate acts of tragic terrorism characterised by the awesomeness of what the world witnessed on 11 September 2001. It won't. Which is fortunate, because no one serious is suggesting that military success in Afghanistan alone will put an end to terrorism, let alone "awesomeness." Malcolm Harrison then kicks in with these all-knowing nuggets:
This so-called war on terrorism is patently a fraud. and
[Osama Bin Laden] must have had a good reason to encourage this attack on his territory. And Tony O’Brien closes out the festival of reason with a triumphant use of scare-quotes and imaginative spelling:
But if we ‘civilised’ countries, full of ‘freedom-loving’ people wish to preserve our systems, particularly our time-honoured system of justice and of the principle of presumed innocence, isn't the proper course of action to attempt to capture bin Laden et al, a la Milosevitch, and hand them over to an independent tribunal such as the European court of justice? Milosevic slaughtered the peoples of Yugoslavia for a decade. For the first half of that decade, the world did just what the O’Briens of the world would have us do now – it sent in UN “peacekeepers” to deliver food, fretted a great deal, took pictures of the "tribal" carnage, and applied sanctions (oh wait, sanctions are bad, too). Anyway, Milosevic didn’t budge until he and his military were bombed, first in Bosnia, later in Kosovo and Belgrade. By then, the graves were full, the countries were ruined and the seeds for future war were planted. How many hundreds of thousands of American deaths is O’Brien willing to accept while we “attempt to capture bin Laden” without resorting to war? Thanks to Tim Blair for pointing out this flatulent little page.
10/30/2001 04:51:49 PM
New Column From Me: ‘Hyperbole in Wartime is Immoral’: Well, it was actually written 10 days ago, and published in the L.A. Daily News on Sunday (no link there yet), but hopefully the insight is timeless! Basically I’m arguing that Ari Fleischer was right (although he was absolutely the wrong person to say it) -- we do need to watch what we say, especially when comparing incomparable things. Like, say, ABC executives to the Taliban. Comes complete with references to Chomsky, Horowitz, Orwell, Havel, Huffington, etc.
10/30/2001 02:45:57 PM
Bomb Squad Just Rushed by our Apartment: Loud sirens, bomb squad cars rushing down Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz in the rain. Nothing on the local radio stations yet. For the first time since Sept. 11, last night I had a bad feeling about something happening in Los Angeles....
10/30/2001 02:23:10 PM
Shocker of the Day – ‘Amount of Money’ Donated to Surviving Families is ‘Obscene’: Geov Parrish and I work for the same publication, and presumably share the same editor. We tangled in the early days of the warblog (my archives are screwy … scroll down to “Case Studies in Modern Propaganda”), which led to an apology from me for calling him a member of the “Apologist Left,” and to him writing a very long response which he never allowed me to publish. Anyways, since then I haven’t read much of his work … until today:
Somebody's got to say it, because a lot of people are thinking it but few are willing to appear heartless or uncompassionate or crass by putting it in words. So call me cruel, but here goes: Take it away, Jason Ross, Jeff Jarvis and Amy Langfield!
The amount of money pouring in to the survivors and families of the victims of last month's World Trade Center attack is obscene. They don't need any more.
10/30/2001 02:09:03 PM
The New Internationalism and the Internet: Bjørn Stærk makes this observation:
Something has changed, fundamentally and permanently, when americans surf to a norwegian website to read Saudi editorials about a war in Afghanistan. And not only are Bjørn’s collection of Saudi editorials worth a visit, but so too are his round-ups of eroding support in the Norwegian press, and stories of ferment in Iran. It is awesome to watch this massive global crash-course, which has introduced a dynamic we just couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.
10/30/2001 01:11:13 PM
Give That Man a Vicodin! … or Don’t: The estimable Glenn Reynolds over at InstaPundit is in a pretty surly mood today, perhaps due to a vicious migraine. Makes for a good read, though, and a stern reminder that war is hell (and in this case, justified).
10/30/2001 12:21:07 PM
‘All Suicide Bombers Are Not Alike’ This Sunday New York Times piece has been recommended to me by Tom Mangan, Joel Brand, and my sexy patriotic wife, so I feel confident recommending it without actually having read the thing.
10/30/2001 12:09:13 PM
The Wretched House that Saud Built: Here’s an e-mail from a friend whose family has dealt extensively with Saudi Arabia (I’ve deleted the names of her & her relatives):
Please keep up the reporting on the evil that is Saudi Arabia and the outrageousness of our alliance with the House of Saud. My in-laws lived in Riyadh for 3 years from 1996-1999 (my father-in-law works for [an international bank]), and whenever we saw them, we were regaled with new horror stories. Besides the tapped phones, opened mail, offers to buy [my husband’s] step-mother (for less than offers to buy the dog), and the usual BS of living in a police state, they also got to experience the Saudis' charming definition of "morality." On one hand, all their wedding and most family photos had to be left behind because of the sinful images of us hussy [family] women in short-sleeved dresses and blouses showing forearms; on the other hand, Saudi men routinely travel to Persian Gulf islands to whore around and drink cocktails on the beach. My father-in-law, who travels quite a bit for work, says a typical flight from, say, Paris back to Riyadh, involves Saudis drinking, pinching stewardess' rears, and wearing western dress until about 10 minutes before landing, at which point everyone puts on the full flowing robes, pops several Altoids, and transforms themselves into "good Muslims."
As for Saudi information censorship, [my father-in-law] reports that the banned book list is a mile long, nothing written about the country is allowed IN the country (and this means no "Lawrence of Arabia" either) and there is always a very big pile of confiscated books and magazines at the airport, which, by the way, has separate entrances/exits for Saudi men, American/European men, and Pakistani, Sudanese, and other guest workers.
Jews are flat out not allowed in the Kingdom, nor is any non-Islamic
religious items (no Xmas ornaments, no Easter bunny, and absolutely no pork rinds). My in-laws are now living in Brussels, no doubt trying to avoid EU and NATO headquarters.
Even before [my husband’s] dad and step-mother moved to Saudi Arabia I was always offended that the U.S. government spent so much money defending a nation which despises us and our values, routinely beheads people (primarily guest workers who cannot afford to buy the victim's family off), and which refuses to defend itself due to sheer laziness (father-in-law also reports that the stereotype of Saudi men paying Pakistanis to do everything short of having sex with their wives is completely true). Now, after hearing first-hand accounts of life in that country, I am even more firm in my view that the Saudis should be forced to protect their oil and their hypocritical asses
10/30/2001 12:01:03 PM
Good Question: Just received a note from my triple-secret Albanian-Macedonian-Illyrian spy, who poses this dilemma:
I just listened to Ashcroft issue another warning...shiteedah...one day before Halloween...gee how do you detect a terrorist when he walks masked like Abraham Lincoln?
10/29/2001 07:46:15 PM<.html#6707028">Ask and ye shall receive. Here’s Comedy Central writer and former Tabloid correspondent Jason Ross going after John Pilger’s latest column:
Our man comes right out with it: Thanks, Jason!
The war against terrorism is a fraud. After three weeks' bombing, not a single terrorist implicated in the attacks on America has been caught or killed in Afghanistan. At least he knows how to write a lead. This one concisely relates his specious main point, as well as the untruths and moronic logic he will use to back it up throughout the essay. How can you tell the war's a fraud? Because none of the core group of bad guys has been caught or killed. Pilger's assumption, we're left to deduce, is that any honest war on Al Quaida would have publicly bagged more suspects in three weeks. This is based on what military precedent? None. Counterterrorism expertise? None that he shares. All I can think of is that Pilger is one of those conspiracy theorists for whom no task is beyond the grip of the mighty Establishment -- even one that every military planner ever asked describes as exceedingly difficult.
And, anyway, we got one.
About civilian deaths from American bombs, he says:
Unlike the relentless pictures from New York, we are seeing almost nothing of this. Tony Blair has yet to tell us what the violent death of children -- seven in one family -- has to do with Osama bin Laden. Seeing almost nothing of this? As a cable news viewer and New York Times reader, I'm seeing precious little about the campaign except civilian casualties. If the coverage isn't as exhaustive as Sept. 11, that could be because, oh... the Taliban expelled the very Western journalists who could have covered it. And to answer his question about children's deaths and their relationship to bin Laden: The deaths of Afghan children are the inevitable -- and deeply pitiable -- result of the Taliban's compact to give the war-mongering bin Laden hospitality in return for cash and soldiers. The blood is on their hands.
More of Pilger's military acumen:
And why are cluster bombs being used? The British public should know about these bombs, which the RAF also uses. They spray hundreds of bomblets that have only one purpose; to kill and maim people. Those that do not explode lie on the ground like landmines, waiting for people to step on them. ... If ever a weapon was designed specifically for acts of terrorism, this is it. Pilger's expression of shock is laughable. Imagine, a bomb designed with only one purpose in mind: to kill and maim people! (In fact, most cluster bombs are designed also to destroy armor and other equipment, but I'll concede the point.) Are cluster bombs deadly? Yes. Are they weapons of terror? Of course not. Why not? Because (except for one specialized model in the U.S. arsenal that, to my knowledge, has not been used) cluster bomb submunitions are designed to explode on impact. A small percentage don't, and those are painted bright yellow for easy identification. If the Navy wanted to terrorize children, they'd dress the things up as Barney.
Then, there's this dizzying paragraph:
The camps which the Taliban allowed bin Laden to use were emptied weeks ago. Moreover, the Taliban itself is a creation of the Americans and the British. In the 1980s, the tribal army that produced them was funded by the CIA and trained by the SAS to fight the Russians. Slow down, Tex!
Yes, the camps are empty. But do you think they'd stay empty for long if the war were suddenly halted? As for the now-tired claim that the CIA and British SAS "created" the Taliban by arming the Mujahadeen during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, such a simplistic description of a complex battle for succession exposes the real depth of Pilger's expose.
Next, Pilger reveals just how big a conspiracy nut he is, claiming that the war is really about building a pipeline through Afghanistan to tap the rich oilfields of the Caspian basin. I have no evidence to counter him (other than the still-smoking hulk of a mass grave not three miles from where I type). But it doesn't matter, since Pilger offers none of his own. I actually hope he's partly right. Afghanistan will need stability and cash when this is over. A pipeline could help supply both.
Pilger sums up thus:
It is time for the people of Britain to make their voices heard and to stop this fraudulent war -- and to demand the kind of bold, imaginative non-violent initiatives that require real political courage. These initiatives are so imaginative, Pilger can't think of any to offer.
10/29/2001 04:04:47 PM
‘The War Against Terrorism is a Fraud’ So says John Pilger, in a Daily Mirror column flecked with infuriated lies. I’m a bit busy at the moment – anyone else feeling like picking this apart? (Via Jeff Jarvis, who dismisses Pilger as a “turncoat Brit.”)
10/29/2001 11:47:35 AM
The Wussies in Washington: Terrific Mark Steyn column from yesterday questioning the backbones, perspective and preciousness of politicians who are freaking out about anthrax. (Via InstaPundit):
“The American people need to know that these terrorists are going after specific people,” said House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, seeking to reassure. “People that are symbols. Somebody in Sugar Land, Texas, shouldn't worry about anthrax.”
Got that, you losers? You're not important enough to be targeted. You're not a symbol, as Tom is, though a symbol of what he didn't say (suggestions welcome, but try not to spill confectioner's sugar on the postcard). Given that the comparative losses of the war since Sept. 11 are Nobodies: 5,000, Symbols: zip, DeLay's remark is at the very least in extraordinarily bad taste.
10/29/2001 10:04:33 AM
Straw Man Round-up: Ever-alert reader Ray Eckhart points me to this Observer column by Geoffrey Wheatcroft that rounds up a half-dozen “they had it coming” types, and whacks them about with wartime Orwell. That is how this warblog started, incidentally. Here’s how Wheatcroft – a former critic of U.S. bombing in Kosovo – concludes:
At a time like that - and this - the only honest prescription is “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”. “KBO” was Churchill's even pithier version of Gramsci's slogan: keep buggering on, recognising that it will be a long struggle, but that it has to be won.
Even if I didn't hope and believe, as I do, that the murderous madmen of 11 September would be beaten one day, I would agree with Orwell that sometimes it is no longer good enough “to be ‘advanced’ and ‘enlightened'” and sneer at patriotism, courage and decency.
Sometimes you have to fight, physically as well as morally. And “even at its stupidest”, as he said, traditional military virtue “is a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the leftwing intelligentsia”. As the Marines set off, perhaps they could have a few copies of Orwell packed in their kitbags.
10/29/2001 09:51:27 AM
Common Sense About 90% Approval Ratings and Other Polls: William Schneider, who I always find shrewd & having at least one new insight in each column, writes one today about the mood of the country. Here’s the bit that should cheer the hearts of those who fret about “Totalitarian” poll numbers, or who fear (as one person e-mailed me) that “Currently anyone that questions the GOP, foreign policy, and so on is being negative, partisan, a fanatic, or unpatriotic”:
More than 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with the way the government has been handling the anthrax situation. Just 12% express dissatisfaction. This is good common sense. A stranger asks you if you support your president while people you know are fighting to prevent another World Trade Center bombing … of course you’re going to express support. Among your friends and family, you argue about war aims, airline bailouts, Israeli policy, FBI bungling of the anthrax attacks, timetables for dumping the wretched House of Saud, etc.
The public mood is one of defiant optimism. We're not going to let the terrorists destroy our spirit. When people are polled, they usually give what they think is the "correct" answer. Right now, the "correct" answer is to be upbeat.
Thus, in the latest Newsweek poll, 71% say they are optimistic about the future of the economy. In fact, a Gallup poll couldn't even get a majority of Americans to acknowledge that the country is in a recession!
10/28/2001 03:00:43 PM
Another Earthquake; 3.7: That makes four minor temblors that have shaken this apartment in the last seven weeks, after three-plus years of feeling just one. As this map and list show, the area near the Fabulous Forum has been riddled with small earthquakes all morning.
10/28/2001 09:33:29 AM
Ignorant Americans, Part V: The following books are on the L.A. Times’ nonfiction paperback top 10 list: “Jihad vs. McWorld,” “Taliban,” “Bin Laden,” “Empire,” “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” and “Afghanistan in a Nutshell.” The top two hardcover nonfiction titles are “War in a Time of Peace,” and “Germs.”
10/28/2001 09:05:59 AM
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