Mopping up the Defeatists: Reid Stott picks apart a particularly foolish column by Mick Hume of Spiked-Online.com. Then Steven Den Beste piles on, before losing stomach. What I really appreciate (as you might guess) is the way that vivisection specialists like Den Beste identify and then dismiss all the bogus arguing tactics such anti-war columnists so frequently seem to rely upon.
11/17/2001 12:15:32 PM
Three Simple Words: ‘I Was Wrong’: The Guardian's Polly Toynbee writes one of the 13 or so columns I’m working on simultaneously (hence, my utter lack of output), this one about how people are having the damndest time admitting that they were wrong, about anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a baffling human condition, especially among those paid to do journalism. We are trained agnostics and skeptics, who must master the art of writing accurately about subjects we hadn’t even heard about four days ago. The best self-defense against making errors, is admitting going in that you might not have a clue. One of the true joys in this profession is to be proven wrong. Anyways, here’s a taste:
Everyone stands exactly where they did: not one mind has been changed. Fire still pours out of the anti-war party, despite women emerging from burkas, girls back in school, music in the streets. The anti-war demo this weekend has not been called off. The Stop the War Coalition promises the biggest demo yet: "The fall of Kabul has only exposed to ever greater scrutiny the hypocrisy, injustice and dangerous ambiguity underlying this war." Emails still flood in as furious as ever, "slavering government poodle", "naive idiot" and "murdering bitch" are only among the more printable of yesterday's batch. The anti-war left gives no inch, their world view perfectly intact, nihilism disguised as pacifism. Via Nick Denton.
It is true that Oliver Cromwell's "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you are mistaken," was not matched with any confession to ever being wrong himself. This prompts the question, does anyone ever admit to changing their mind?
11/17/2001 10:57:51 AM
Taliban Confirm Death of Atef
11/17/2001 01:41:36 AM
Ramadan Without the Taliban:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- In this devoutly Muslim nation, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began on Friday much as it had in past years, with one exception -- there were no Taliban religious police roaming the streets with steel cables, beating those who defied their many edicts. Via Dropscan.
Kamal Uddin, his head covering pulled down over his ears against the crisp early morning cold, shuffled through stacks of postcards scattered on his wooden cart.
"I would have been beaten with a cable by the vice and virtue police for this," he said holding up a postcard of dark-haired woman in the arms of a handsome man. Boldly written in English were the worlds "I love you."
"They would have beat me and put me in jail."
11/17/2001 01:21:50 AM
Desperately Seeking Blame for the Victim: Those charming kids over at Indymedia are apparently miffed by the bad press given to recently killed Bin Laden Deputy Mohammed Atef, and so are responding by re-publishing the names of everyone killed at the Pentagon. Here’s what they want to know about those massacred on Sept. 11:
Can independent reporters do some investigating on these people? For example, regarding those who worked for the US army, navy, and marines: would it be possible to get an estimate of how many people they might have killed during military operations they might have performed? How many Koreans, Vietnamese, Central Americans, or other Third World People’s have these US military personnel killed or helped other to kill?
Would it not be the job of a thoroughly objective media to investigate these questions?
And how many people have died as a result of the use of the arms systems which these weapons contractors have helped to design or build?
Could the number who have suffered death as a result of the efforts of these soldiers and arms makers be greater than or equal to six thousand?
11/17/2001 12:47:10 AM
Yogi Berra and Afghanistan: You know how when the Yankees were down two games to none against the terrific Athletics team, and Manager Joe Torre wore a cap with the immortal line by Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”? It was a powerful way of reminding his players how, despite their current dire circumstance, they could overcome what would seem to be certain defeat, by taking things one day at a time, and reaching back to that old Yankee tradition of excellence.
Anyways, that’s the exact same headline that the desperate anti-war troupe over at Alex Cock-burn’s Counterpunch.org are putting on their ridiculous cover rant by Zoltan Grossman (who, in case you were wondering, is a “doctoral candidate in geography”). Poor Zoli is apparently holding out hope that the U.S. might still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over the Taliban. Only with the help of the likes of you, bunko!
Other masochists might enjoy Journalism Professor Robert Jensen’s hilarious Counterpunch defense of his claim that patriotism is "perhaps the single most morally and intellectually bankrupt concept in human history.” Jensen, you might remember, is the same “Critical Thinking” teacher who once wrote that the “U.S. middle class, particularly the white middle class, is probably the single biggest impediment to justice the world has ever known.”
How much easier must it be to write that way! Imagine all the time I might save, if I could simply write things like, “Journalism education is perhaps the single most morally and intellectually bankrupt concept in human history,” or “Journalism professors, particularly the goofy-looking ones from Texas, are probably the single biggest impediment to education that God himself ever could have fathomed, if he actually existed.” Critical fucking thinking, this guy is teaching.
11/17/2001 12:27:35 AM
Who Said This? A News Quiz:
The postmodernist claim that the West, led by the US, has been responsible for virtually every evil in the world, at least for the past six decades, is likely to go out of fashion in the chic intellectual circles of New York and within the leftist-dominated campuses of American universities. The US now sees itself as the victim and thus will be able to mobilize a degree of moral energy behind its foreign policy that had not been seen since Franklin Roosevelt took America into World War II. An illustration of this came the other day when Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton, joined a flag-waving march by American students at Oxford University, where she is a student, in support of the US campaign in Afghanistan. A generation ago, her father, who had also been a student at Oxford, had joined a flag-burning march against the US intervention in Vietnam. Was it
A) Andrew Sullivan
B) Salman Rushdie
C) Christopher Hitchens
D) Amir Taheri of Arab News
OK, this one’s a bit telegraphed. Remarkable, nonetheless.
11/16/2001 11:37:21 PM
Pilger’s Bilge: Jeff Jarvis is taunting me to take down the latest by British Hidden Agenda-ist John Pilger. For whatever reason, I’m feeling Christian today, and would rather just thank the Pilgers of the world for unearthing whatever facts they have encountered in the process of performing ideological journalism. Otherwise, let’s just point to a few of the genre’s stereotypical rhetorical devices, as performed by Da Pilge. First up, there’s the confindently asserted lie:
Not a single terrorist implicated in the attacks on America has yet to be caught or killed. Actually, Bin Laden’s military chief and heir apparent Mohammed Atef – one of the Al Qaeda leaders who has already been indicted in the U.S. for previous acts of mass murder – was reportedly killed by U.S. bombing. Also, reports from earlier this week indicated that senior Al Qaeda/Taliban officials have been killed.
Next up, there is counter-intuitive omniscience in the face of conflicting evidence:
Osama bin Laden and his network have almost certainly slipped into the tribal areas of the North-West Frontier of Pakistan. That’s impressive insight, considering that reports on the leadership’s whereabouts have varied wildly, and that an estimated 20,000 heavily armed Taliban and Al Qaeda forces are trapped in Kunduz.
A variation on counter-intuitive omniscience is contrarian absolutism:
There was, and still is, no "war on terrorism". Hard to argue with, really, besides saying “Uh, yes there is.” Or more accurately, “There’s a war on terrorists, and it is being fought pretty well so far.”
This is followed quickly by ominous vagueness:
Instead, we have watched a variation of the great imperial game of swapping "bad" terrorists for "good" terrorists, while untold numbers of innocent people have paid with their lives. If memory serves (and I haven’t checked in a while), the largest number of civilian deaths the Taliban could concoct was 1,000. The actual number is obviously smaller, and should definitely be weighed against the number of civilian deaths caused by the Taliban during that same time, not to mention the normal rate of civilian deaths under Taliban administration. Take that final number, and then reflect that Al Qaeda has been severely crippled in its ability to conduct more promised terrorism against the United States; plus other countries have been given a strong disincentive to harbor or fund terrorists in the future, and the Taliban no longer suppresses Afghanistan. Even Pilger has noticed that the Afghan people seem to be happy about that. Every civilian death is a horror. By agreeing to wage war, you are acknowledging that you will cause that horror. That’s why most sane people don’t easily support declaring war, and do so only with a heavy heart.
That leads me to wild demonization of political opponents, in this case mixed with you haven’t seen the cruelties I’ve seen and the old arm-chair bombers yarn:
It is perfectly understandable that those in the West who supported this latest American tenor from the air, or hedged their bets, should now seek to cover the blood on their reputations with absurd claims that "bombing works". Tell that to grieving parents at fresh graves in impoverished places of whom the sofa bomb-aimers know nothing. 1) This might go down as the military campaign that killed the least number of non-combatants, measured against the tangible military success. Also, no U.S. soldier has been killed on Afghanistan soil. Bombing, in other words, works, which one can arrive at as a rational conclusion, rather than as some attempt to “cover the blood” on one’s reputation. 2) I don’t see any evidence that Pilger has been interviewing the parents at fresh graves of the innocents killed in Afghanistan, nor do I notice him interviewing the hundreds of Afghans quoted in the papers over the past few days lavishing praise and thanks on the Americans who have been bombing the Taliban. 3) There are many war correspondents, including a dozen of my friends, who have seen horror up close, and have still concluded that military action can be necessary. 4) If Pilger would like to limit all debate on U.S. policy to those who have physically been in the affected areas, he will be in for a rude shock – besides the rare internationally-inclined peacenik, there will mostly be businessmen and military personnel, who trend toward Republicanism and pro-war attitudes. Similarly, those with actual combat experience, I would wager, on balance support this war. It’s the job of commentators to make comments; the good ones (like Pilger?) usually have actually reported in several countries. 5) I think people like Pilger simply cannot process that there might be other rational, independent-minded people in the world who could possibly disagree with them. Hence, the need to invent truly contortionate and insulting theories to explain our existence.
The contortion of intellect and morality that this triumphalism requires is not a new phenomenon. Putting aside the terminally naïve, it mostly comes from those who like to play at war: who have seen nothing of bombing, as I have experienced it: cluster bombs, daisy cutters: the lot.
He goes on in a similar vein, if you’re interested in such things (which I, increasingly, am not). For another fish in a similar barrel, click here.
11/16/2001 06:35:26 PM
‘Free Speech, as a Leftist Political Ideal, is Deader Than it's Ever Been Since 1963.’: I wrote that, five months ago, and promptly forgot about it until stumbling across this column today.
11/16/2001 05:20:08 PM
Calling Your Political Opponent a ‘Mullah’: A while back I made the argument that people oughtta do a better job of watching their language, and think twice about comparing their American political opponents to, say, the Taliban. Well, the parsing boys at Spinsanity have found plenty more recent examples of precisely this kind of lazy insult. (Via hyperblogger)
11/16/2001 03:46:03 PM
Thank You’s: Virginia Postrel made me blush by pointing out that this site and Ken Layne’s are “both products of America’s greatest city,” and that similar warblogging “may somehow break the death grip of Washington and New York opinion masters. If it weren't for that hyperblogger in Knoxville, the red hot center of me-zines would be L.A.” Some of my favorite other L.A.-based warblogs & weblogs include Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs, the secretive Silverlake resident who publishes Rallying Point, his neighboring rabbit Heather Havrilesky who produces the hilarious Tiny Little Penis, the Reverend and Poet Tony Pierce, Mickey Kaus, the L.A.-media site LA Examiner, and intellectually adventurous Redskins fan Oliver Willis.
Thanks also to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Anthony Olivieri for their recent nice words. After a recent illness, Hayden’s blog is back with a vengeance, and is terrific; Olivieri had the good humor to call me a “conservative” on his interesting blog. Two Warblog readers have also started their own sites – Moira Breen, with Inappropriate Response, and Alex Del Castillo, with Fevered Rants. It would be interesting to see how many new blogs were created in the two months preceeding Sept. 11, compared to the two months since.
11/16/2001 02:09:06 PM
Dept. of Predictions: Well, I was wrong about catching OBL within 36 hours. But I think my next one will be right -- there's gonna be a bloodbath in Kunduz, especially among Osama's non-Afghan recruits. It is encircled by Northern Alliance/U.S. forces, there are a reported 20,000 Taliban troops there protecting Mullah Omar, and an estimated 2-3,000 of those are various Saudis, Pakistanis, Chechens and Chinese (!), who the Northern Alliance don't seem inclined to let survive.
11/15/2001 10:14:53 PM
More Great Lileks: This time it’s on his personal site. If you’re reading this on Nov. 17 (happy birthday, Velvet Revolution and Kate Sullivan!) then find his entry for the 16th or whatever. It’s long and good and funny.
11/15/2001 10:07:40 PM
E-mail is Down: In case any of you have sent me any e-mails since about 6:30 p.m. PDT, I haven't been able to receive them. Eudora shuts down in mid download. UPDATE -- all better. Thanks, Charlie!
11/15/2001 09:27:11 PM
‘Better That Evil Triumph, as Long as Flawed Men Don't Act’: James Lileks delivers a corker about the routed anti-war kids, their linguistics-professor friend, the dancing in Kabul, and the need to rise above history. Here’s a sample; go read the whole thing:
Women have dared to venture into public alone without fearing they'll be mashed into chum by zealous nutbrains. Music has filled the streets again. Music! Imagine living for years without hearing music; imagine the sweet flood of emotion upon hearing a song without fearing that the Anti-Melody Rapid Response Team is going to screech around the corner and shoot everyone. […] Thanks to Tim Blair – who has his own fine column today – for pointing this out.
There are lessons to be learned from history, yes, but sometimes you have to pry the bony hand of history from your neck and reshape the tale, give the future a better history to consult.
History, after all, taught us that Afghanistan swallowed empires. History warned against quagmires. Well, history has just met the Daisy Cutter, and now perhaps the citizens of Afghanistan are liberated from more than the Taliban.
Imagine what they must be thinking:
Yesterday the American planes came; today we are free of the Taliban. History be damned. Let's dance.
11/15/2001 04:38:26 PM
Von Hoffman Award Nominee: From Stephanie Salter, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 11:
To the people of Afghanistan (cc: UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, United Nations World Food Program, et al):
I'm writing to you on behalf of my fellow U.S. citizens to explain why you must be patient -- even if it means several million of you may starve to death this winter.
From what I hear about the leaflets our military dumped from planes over your land last week -- urging you to turn in terrorists in your midst -- it still might not be clear why we are doing what we are doing to you, i.e., dropping bombs and making it super hard for relief agencies to bring you food.
11/15/2001 03:30:58 PM
How Pessimists Interpret Good News: I thought for a half-second during these past five days of tremendously positive news that it might be hard for the anti-war crowd to keep frowning. So much for that. This Metafilter thread features dozens of arguments for why these victories are hollow at best (Osama has enough money to last years, maybe he didn’t even do Sept. 11, the Northern Alliance is evil, we’re just breeding more terrorists from the Middle East, etc.).
11/15/2001 02:59:54 PM
Hey Lady, Do You Read Newspapers?: The L.A. Times published the following letter today from Ann Edelman (it’s not on the website):
Hundreds of thousands of people are going to die miserably of starvation in Afghanistan unless we call an immediate halt to the bombing. […] Meanwhile, on planet earth, Tommy Franks announced that there has been 6,300 metric tons of food delivered to needy Afghans in the past three days. What makes the Von Hoffmanites so worthy of scorn is not necessarily that they made wrong predictions, and perhaps did so out of a legitimate human concern over starvation and other horror, but it's that they did so with pure crystal-ball omniscience. "Hundreds of thousands of people are going to die miserably of starvation." It's hard to talk to people who already know the future.
11/15/2001 01:01:04 PM
Quick, Someone Lend Andrew Sullivan a Hand!: I see at Network Solutions that vhawards.com is available…. We need to make a permanent list of the people who were not only flagrantly wrong about bombing Afghanistan, but who then lacked the class to admit it. Accountability, baby. To steal from Fred Pruitt, “Let loose the Blogs of War!”
11/14/2001 11:44:03 PM
Uncommon Delusions: Andrew Hofer of More Than Zero apparently made the mistake of reading through every defeatist column on CommonDreams.org today. Not surprisingly, he spent the day in a furious warblogging crouch that must have been painful for him, but is entertaining and useful for us.
11/14/2001 11:06:22 PM
What To Do When We Catch Him? That was the subject of some discussion last night at the local bar. The Angry Rock Drummer suggested that we have Osama square off on live television against a single unarmed Marine (“26 or 27 years old, so he’s old enough to be pissed off”), and get beaten to within an inch of his life. Replace the Marine with a hot-looking female soldier, even better. The Computer Linguist claimed that the Islamo-nutbag concept of paradise stipulates you go in as you last appeared on earth, so this led to a round of helpful suggestions about forcing the bastard to live until he’s 170, inflicting minor disfigurements on a near-daily basis, and perhaps sewing pig’s ears on his back. There was other talk about keeping him in a perfectly round white room – round chairs, round toothbrush, you name it - for the rest of his life, perhaps spiced up by letting the orphans of Sept. 11 celebrate their birthdays by giving the old goat a kick. My father, surprisingly, weighed in with a “let’s try him in The Hague.” “But Dad,” I said, “they don’t have the Death Penalty in The Hague.” “Well, we’ll just get someone to shoot him after the trial.” I’m against the Death Penalty, of course, and in this case there’s a great argument against using it: he wants to go to heaven as a reasonably handsome 6’4” martyr. Letting him rot, ignored and cut off, while being forced to watch MTV 24 hours a day for the next 60 years … that’s the punishment he deserves. But I sure wouldn’t mind a little televised womano-a-mano ass-whupping by one of our female soldiers.
11/14/2001 06:39:48 PM
Mea Screw-upa: Due to ignorance, sloppiness, and an inability to navigate Microsoft Excel, I invented the country of South Yemen in my WFC Saudi-bashing column, and further slandered it by stating falsely that its “freedom” ranking by Freedom House was tied for dead last with truly oppressive countries like Saudi Arabia. I thanked the alert reader who pointed this out to me in two separate e-mails, which he never returned. Instead, he wrote a letter of complaint to WorkingForChange, whose columnist stable is generally more leftist than I:
I don't know who your columnist Matt Welch is, but the fact that you seem to feature him on your website puts your organization -- from which I have received mailings in the past -- in a different and decidedly negative perspective. Welch writes with all of the perceptiveness and charm of William Safire of the New York times -- but not NEARLY as well. It’s an educational experience to be demonized as a right-winger. Can’t imagine what it’d be like if I actually voted Republican.
11/14/2001 06:04:55 PM
Aid Workers Released to American Custody: U.S. military helicopters have flown the jailed Christians to Pakistan. The same CBS News story reports that the Taliban now controls a mere 10% of Afghanistan (according to American estimates), and that the Taliban has “contacted the U.S. to ask for reduction in bombing in return for ‘discussions’ about turning over Osama bin Laden.”
11/14/2001 05:01:55 PM
So Much for Indymedia: Yesterday, some anonymous creature at Indymedia.org took a feeble slap at me, my readers and Ken Layne, labeling our comments about Noam Chomsky as “Fascism in the 21st Century.” As I mentioned to “email@example.com,”
I suppose one of the many reasons why people have such a difficult time getting through Noam Chomsky, is that there are so many cowardly morons who invoke his name while spouting nonsense. I've engaged in detailed e-mail debates with probably two-dozen Chomskyites since Sept. 11, and the two things almost all had in common were A) a completely ignorant, prejudiced view of U.S. foreign policy in Yugoslavia -- one of the few subjects of which I know quite well, and B) an unseemly sense of personal cruelty toward people they disagree with. Taking a brief look through Indymedia, I found this garbage, dated from this afternoon. It is a remarkable demonstration of the crippling effects of ideology on the weak mind:
The Northern Alliance does not eralize that they have not won, the Taliban is making a strategic retreat. Glad to hear that we are “not entirely incorrect” to “demonize the Taliban.” What was it that Mick Jagger used to sing? “I see a red door and I want it painted black”? These foolish children see a red door, and insist that it’s already been painted black, probably by evil U.S. imperialists. That the rest of us still see red is only a testimony to the victory of the Propaganda Machine.
They must have no idea what will soon happen to them.
Amongst the euphoric joy they and we have had in the so called "loss" of the Taliban, which is "fleeing" to the South, all sense of perspective seems to have been lost. The media, which is eager to show support for the "War on Terror", is hastily declaring this a victory. In fact, nothing could be more wrong.
Anyone who has read Mao's On Guerilla Warfare should be feeling pity for the Northern Alliance as it falls into a trap. The flight of the Taliban soldiers is better described as a strategic retreat. The U.S. bombing as successful in something other than killing civilians; it also forced an end to the obsolete trench warfare being waged between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. In that situation, the Taliban has fallen back on guerrilla warfare.
Although the media is quick to demonize the Taliban (and they are not entirely incorrect to do so, as they are authoritarian), the American people are given the impression that the Taliban is the evil occupying force, and the Northern Alliance is the liberator. In reality, many Afghans would rather support the Taliban they hate than the Northern Alliance. Ethnic loyalty runs high in that region of the world, and the Pashtuns would rather see the Pashtu led Taliban in power than the Northern Alliance. Many, who have expressed dislike of the Taliban, would join them if the Northern Alliance attacked. […]
The Northern Alliance is in grave danger; the "War on Terror" may soon be an absolute failure, and all that will be attained is greater death and destruction.
11/14/2001 04:17:06 PM
Eliminating the Middle Man: I could continue posting my own links to everything published today on Charles Johnson’s terrific Little Green Footballs warblog, or you can just go there yourself, and I can finish my work. Yes, let’s do that.
11/14/2001 02:49:59 PM
Mocking the Gloombirds: These two laugh-out-loud columns have already made the blogging rounds, but they deserve the widest possible circulation. First, Michael Kelly:
"Good evening, and welcome to 'All Is Lost,' the nightly public affairs program produced by National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. Tonight we discuss what has been called America's war against terror. I am your host, Perfectly Modulated Voice of Reason. Then, Christopher Hitchens:
"With me, in our Washington studio, are: Fabled Newsman Who Was There When Saigon Fell . . . Scientifically Trained Impartial Scholar . . . and Bureau Chief of Second-Rate Regional Monopoly Newspaper Who Is Desperate to Be Hired by the New York Times. From London, we are joined by our European affairs analyst, Loathes America and Prays for Its Swift Destruction.
Well, ha ha ha, and yah, boo. It was obvious from the very start that the United States had no alternative but to do what it has done. It was also obvious that defeat was impossible. The Taliban will soon be history. Al-Qaida will take longer. There will be other mutants to fight. But if, as the peaceniks like to moan, more Bin Ladens will spring up to take his place, I can offer this assurance: should that be the case, there are many many more who will also spring up to kill him all over again. And there are more of us and we are both smarter and nicer, as well as surprisingly insistent that our culture demands respect, too.
11/14/2001 02:40:38 PM
Bookmark This Sports Columnist: Do you follow sports, but wince at 95% of all sportswriting? Do you not follow sports, but enjoy an interesting story told well? Then bookmark ESPN.com’s new “Critical Matters” columnist, Eric Neel. Eric was one of the main editors of the acclaimed web magazine Sportsjones, which ESPN gobbled up earlier this year. Unlike other people who lived on Pepperwood Ave. in Long Beach, California, he actually knows how to use the English language. Today’s fine column talks about the great baseball writer Bill James, and how James fed the young brains of a generation, including a couple of green-eared high school kids back in 1983. Tomorrow's just might be about the way Emmylou Harris sang "God Bless America" at Yankee Stadium during the World Series. You'll want to read that and anything else he writes.
11/14/2001 03:32:07 AM
Where the Left Goes From Here: I don’t want to pick on Bob Scheer, because he’s been a friend, booster and sparring partner of mine for more than a decade now. But he said a few things today on KCRW’s Left, Right and Center that might begin answering the question, “Well what the hell is the Left going to complain about now?” I didn’t take notes, but basically, here is how he responded to today’s remarkable batch of good news:
On the Taliban getting routed:
We are getting into a Vietnam-style quagmire, where we partner with unsavory allies and make elaborate promises about democracy that we don’t intend to keep. I saw the exact same thing happen in Vietnam. Also, it should be pointed out, that it was the Left, not the Right, who’ve been complaining about the Taliban for years. And, it will be a travesty if Afghan women aren’t given full equal rights.
On Bush cutting the nuclear arsenal by two-thirds:
Clinton couldn’t have done that, because he was blocked by all the lunatics in the Republican party. Also, the missile defense shield (and the intense government concern over bio-terrorism) are bad ideas, because the biggest threat is a suitcase nuke smuggled across the border. I was the first journalist in Chernobyl, and I saw how bad that was.
Let it be said that warning the U.S. against looking the other way while their partners butcher people is perfectly useful, as is reminding leaders of the country’s past broken promises. But let it also be said that the anti-war crowd (of which Bob is not a member), has the adult responsibility of admitting when their predictions turned out wrong. I will do the same; in fact I’m going to look through my post-Sept. 11 writing tonight & tomorrow, and find every bungled forecast.
11/13/2001 08:10:36 PM
Check out that Drudge-UPI Story Again: The main Islamabad source is obviously a Western diplomat in the know; i.e., British or American. He or she is speaking with a supreme air of confidence. Check it out, italics mine:
"The fall of Kabul earlier Tuesday has sealed the fate of bin Laden and his protector, Mullah Omar.” […] I’m no military expert, but that sounds like there was a damned solid plan with Pashtun rebels (and Taliban turncoats) to spring the trap on bin Laden and Al Qaeda once they turned tail from Kabul to Kandahar. Note, too, that Osammy and Mullah Omar are wanted alive. As my father just said, “Those who think you can’t win a war by bombing haven’t seen our bombs.” My predictions: Osama will be captured within 36 hours, many of his deputies will be slaughtered, and the military campaign will quietly begin shifting some of its focus to the Persian Gulf. U.S. Special Forces already in Kabul and elsewhere, I hope, will keep tabs on the Northern Alliance and see about separating various Afghans from their guns, while they begin working out a diplomatic arrangement. And the food shall begin flowing. So much for that “genocide,” Noam.
"We will not be surprised if there is an uprising in Kandahar soon and people capture bin Laden and Mullah Omar and hand them over to the opposition forces."
According to that source, U.S. intelligence officials in Afghanistan are now worki They fear that angry opposition forces or others may kill them as soon as they are captured."
Hopes for a rapid collapse of the Taliban in Kandahar increased after an uprising against the militant group in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. Most Afghan experts expected the opposition forces to face some resistance in Jalalabad as it is a Pashtun city and most Taliban rulers are also Pashtuns.
"But such events show that the Taliban were not popular anywhere. People were just afraid of them. Now that the process has started, it will be difficult for the Taliban to prevent similar uprising even in Kandahar. We expect Kandahar to fall soon."
11/13/2001 05:39:10 PM
Musical Interlude: Did you know that I was in a band called The Blind Staggerers? Neither did I, until I just checked out my pal Greg’s website. Note the trademark crooked glasses (I’m not wearing them in the infamous straw-hat photo, because it’s the day after my wedding, and glasses surely weren’t going to help). Anyways, help yourself to Greg’s great new songs. Me & Os Tyler sing backups on the soon-to-be-a-hit-in-Australia “She’s a Sheila.”
11/13/2001 03:50:32 PM
Already? Drudge quotes UPI as saying bin Laden is near capture; Ha'aretz prints a Reuters story saying the Taliban may be fleeing Kandahar. Wow.
11/13/2001 02:44:02 PM
Ooooh… This is Priceless: Mitch Wagner gives Qorvis Communications and Burson Marsteller some fine slogan ideas for their pro-Saudi Arabia PR campaign:
* "We May Be A Bunch of Medieval Anti-Semitic Fuckheads, but Hey, Wasn't That `Lawrence of Arabia' a Great Movie." Via Bjørn Stærk.
* "We're Islamic Fundamentalists, but the Cuddly Kind."
* "Visit Saudi Arabia, Unless You're an Independent Woman or a Jew."
* "Making the World Safe for Monarchy."
* "If you Liked Iran Under the Ayatollah, You'll Love the New Saudi Arabia."
11/13/2001 02:32:54 PM
More Good Content on the Letters Page: Jason Ross takes a swipe at the sensitive Sauds, Jim O’Grady suggests Noam Chomsky is actually a devious government plant … and in case you missed it, post-modernist lefty Anthony Olivieri delivers a stirring argument in favor of prosecuting the war.
This letter is just to let you know that not all left-leaning people are so blinded by ideology, and self-seeking contempt. Some of us are still searching for the truth.
11/13/2001 01:16:55 PM
A Day That Should Go Down in History: President Bush just announced he will cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal by two-thirds. Unilaterally. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also drastically reduce his country’s nukes, though he didn’t specify an amount. This is fantastic news, and Dubya deserves heavy credit for it.
If I wasn’t in such a happy mood, I’d make a long, funny list of the various Chicken Little warnings that American Russophiles have used to oppose dozens of foreign policy initiatives over the years. “You can’t expand NATO, Russia will get angry, and won’t ratify any nuclear-reduction treaties!” “You can’t bomb Kosovo or Serbia, because they are Slav brothers with the Russians, and Zhirinovsky will win the next election!” And so on, stretching back at least the 12 years I’ve been paying attention. Having been wrong about almost every one of those warnings, you can expect the Russo-pessimists to focus (finally!) on Russia’s military meddling in its Near Abroad and breakaway provinces. Meanwhile, the world is an exponentially safer place.
11/13/2001 11:48:33 AM
A Quick Note on Mandela, Morality, and History: Glenn Reynolds, Virginia Postrel, Steven Den Beste and others have made note of South African hero Nelson Mandela’s morale-boosting visit with President Bush yesterday, and how his stern support for the war must confound the stop-the-bombing crowd. To that, I would like to add one other point: If Mandela was as unforgiving of U.S. foreign policy mistakes as the American Left, he would have told Bush to stick it in his ear.
Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney, George Bush senior, Donald Rumsfeld and much of the Republican establishment were bitterly opposed to applying sanctions on apartheid South Africa in the mid-1980s. Some in the Republican braintrust even viewed then-imprisoned Mandela as a dangerous commie terrorist, and showed little shame in whooping it up at the Sun City resort. Sanctions only passed because of popular revulsion over apartheid, and a landmark override of Reagan’s veto.
If Mandela was as obsessed with U.S. hypocrisy as America’s most rancid bitch, or even Bob Scheer in today’s L.A. Times (“By personalizing evil, Bush ignores the role of our allies and ourselves in making this such a dangerous world”), he would say “Who are you to accuse anyone of being a terrorist? You accused me of being a terrorist, remember? You directly supported my captors for 20 freakin’ years!”
Instead, when Mandela was finally freed and visited the U.S. for the first time, he put on a Yankee hat and told a sold-out Yankee stadium how much he loved America. When he spoke before Congress, it was broadcast on national TV, and the chamber was filled with silent reverence and awe (as it was when Vaclav Havel made his first visit). Mandela and Havel both recognized that, despite its many flaws, the U.S. stood for an important moral idea, for democratic instincts, for progress. It is not an accident that their courageous moral examples resonate so strongly in this country, among politicians and citizens of all stripes. I’ll repeat again what Havel wrote about the U.S. and moral equivalence in 1985, in an essay on the difference between Central European dissidents and Western “peace activists”:
I have no great illusions about America, about the American establishment, and about American foreign policy. Still, the degree of internal freedom and consequently of international political credibility characteristic of the two superpowers appears to me so profoundly different that to consider the current situation simply symmetrical, in the sense that both colossi are equally dangerous, appears to me a monstrous oversimplification. Both men have never flinched from criticizing U.S. policy (Havel, most forcefully, on America’s inadequate response to the breakup of Yugoslavia), but more importantly, both men have never flinched from making a firm moral stand when the chips were down, and taking decisive action to defend their idea of civilization. They are men of courage, action and thought, they are both far to the left of center by antiquated American notions of the political spectrum. And they both wholeheartedly support prosecuting this war.
11/13/2001 11:17:31 AM
Layne on a Roll: Someone give that man a job! Or at least a fat freelance assignment, so he can buy me a new K-car!
For those who cry "Cultural Imperialism," I'll have you know I'm drinking Barcelona wine tonight while smoking Turkish cigarettes, watching English news on a Japanese teevee, reading an Israeli Web site, digesting a Sicilian dinner and typing on a computer built in Taiwan. I live in a U.S. city where Spanish is the dominant language, unless you go down the street to Koreatown, or over to the Russian neighborhood on Fairfax, or to my corner liquor store run by multilingual Armenians. My neighborhood is full of Central Americans and old gay men. I vote in a Roman Catholic Church, a block away from the huge Sikh temple. I eat the world's best sushi and tacos de carnitas, my wife is half-Jewish, and I'm finishing an e-mail to my Albanian Muslim friend in Macedonia (we ran a failed business together and shared his family's house in Skopje).
Am I less American because of all this internationalism? A victim of Global Imperialism? Did Nick Cave (Australian) or Leonard Cohen (Jewish Canadian) or Muhammad Ali (black Muslim war protester from Kentucky) or Ibrahim Ferrar (black Cuban) or Serge Gainsbourg (alcoholic French pedophile Eastern European Jew) or Steve Earle (hillbilly anti-Death Penalty activist) or Salman Rushdie (Muslim Indian novelist weirdo who hangs around with Irish Jesus-Freak egomaniac Bono) or Greta Van Susteren (Scientologist AOL-Time-Warner news anchor with a Dutch name) ruin me? Did Afro-Cuban records break my Free Will? Did Bob Marley steal my white Anglo birthright, just because I listened to his lovely lilting stoner songs about African Kings? Did Joey Ramone ruin me because I wasn't a long-haired Jewish punk singer from Queens? Did Shaq make me feel short and pale and nervous? Of course not! Shaquille O'Neal is the King of Los Angeles. I just live here.
11/13/2001 10:24:10 AM
Havel: ‘If We Want to Take Pleasure in Living Dignified Lives…’: Here’s a site where you can read Vaclav Havel’s recent speeches, translated into English. Here’s what Havel said on Oct. 7, when the bombing campaign started in Afghanistan:
It is now time for me, as one of the many Heads of States throughout the world, to express my absolute support for this operation. Preparations have been underway for a long time and have been well thought out. This is not an attack on Afghanistan or on Islam, neither is it an attack on any one nation or any one religion. It is protecting the values of civilization which connect many religions, cultures and countries, just as they connect the entire world. If we want the pleasure of certain freedoms, if we want to make use of certain benefits which are offered by the age we are living in, if we want to take pleasure in living dignified lives, it is necessary that we must then be prepared to protect those values and rights - even militarily. The "pleasure in living dignified lives" … has a ring to it, no?
In my opinion, now is the time for calm perseverance, without reason for alarm. At the same time, I believe that it is necessary for all of us to know that there are moments when our freedoms will require certain sacrifices or, at least, certain limitations.
11/12/2001 09:25:39 PM
Saudi Paper Threatens U.S.: Uh, we’re shaking with fear, idiots. Here’s the incredible complaint, in a new Arab News editorial:
More than 300 Saudi students have cut short their university studies in the US because of the hate campaign there. The number may be a fraction of the 5,500 Saudi students in the US, but it is 300 too many. […] Many feel intimidated and frightened. The onus has to be on the authorities, in the US and elsewhere, to stop the poison. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. Those who have quit the US and elsewhere are not going to forget this treatment. The seeds of a wave of a future anti-American sentiment is being laid, and it could last for a generation or more. Change around a few words, and the paper is onto something. Those of us who have read the hateful, government-approved drivel coming out of the Saudi Arabian press are certainly "not going to forget this treatment.” But a “generation” is far longer than we like to dwell on things … it took less than two months to drive the Taliban out of Kabul; I doubt the House of Saud will last another two years, let alone 20.
11/12/2001 08:49:53 PM
Bond Envy: Ken Layne comes up with the best psycho-cultural explanation yet for Osama bin Laden – he’s a James Bond nut:
My theory is that bin Laden saw the Bond movies as a kid, and that his outfit has more in common with these over-the-top spy stories than any particular understanding of Islam -- remember, Osama was so unschooled in religious matters that he used to be mocked at Saudi cocktail parties. Ken knows more about Ian Fleming than most journalists, and he has had more weird dealings with shady KLA financiers than most novelists (also, I might add, he edited a publication in the ‘90s that covered the Taliban more than probably any U.S. newspaper except the New York Times). Can’t wait to read the full column.
11/12/2001 08:31:57 PM
Report: Northern Alliance Already in Kabul: It’s been an amazing four days of victory for the U.S. and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The opposition now controls half the country, instead of 10%, and according to this report I found via Charles Johnson the Taliban have already fled the capital Kabul. This is astonishing, and deserves a moment of reflection. Surely, as Steven Den Beste points out, the people (including several Pentagon reporters) who were complaining last week about a “lack of progress” now look silly. Also, to those hawks and doves who have claimed loudly that “bombing does not work,” note that the Taliban has been routed from half the country in just over a month without any serious U.S. casualties. The Taliban is basically finished in the north, which has allowed the U.N. to launch a massive aid shipment (targeted for 530 tons of food a day) from Uzbekistan. That amount will only increase once Donald Rumsfeld succeeds in pressuring the Uzbeks to reopen the Friendship Bridge across the Amu Darya river. If, as seems probable, the Taliban hunkers down in a besieged Kandahar while most of the rest of the country is administered by a U.S.-tamed Northern Alliance, that means 1) al Qaeda’s ability to carry out more murderous terrorism from Afghanistan will be crippled, 2) the medieval Taliban, who no right-thinking person can support, will have been driven from power, and 3) with resolve, a hunger crisis will have been avoided. In four days, then, many of the criticisms of this war seem to have been routed. This is a remarkable series of events.
11/12/2001 08:00:10 PM
Emmanuelle’s Tribute to Johanne Sutton: Thanks to Jim Romenesko for posting Manu’s letter:
I'm a French journalist from Los Angeles and the California correspondent for Radio France Internationale, which lost a great woman and one of its finest reporters on Sunday in Afghanistan. I would meet Johanne every year in Paris at the radio station and chat with her. She was a strong and funny woman able to lift up the mood of everybody in a room. The Radio France correspondent who was with Johanne, Veronique Rebeyrotte, told RFI Johanne was amazingly optimistic: on that very Sunday morning, the two women reporters found themselves surrounded and insulted by a hundred mujahdines who didn't like what they saw: two Western women working in a Muslim country. They managed to escape, thanks to their experience of covering conflict zones and to the help of an officer. Johanne reportedly got slightly depressed afterwards, but not for long. RFI has set up a page about Johanne that features her last reports in Afghanistan, in case you think some of your French-speaking readers might be interested. Thank you for mentioning her, she was a great, generous person. Everybody at RFI is devastated.
11/12/2001 04:53:40 PM
Denton’s Saudi Package: Nick Denton has a very useful and sober analysis/links package addressing the coming Saudi regime-change, with an emphasis on the oil angle that I have so far mostly ignored. Has anyone started SaudiWatch.com yet?
11/12/2001 01:11:57 PM
More on Johanne Sutton’s Last Moments: Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald was on the armored personnel carrier that the Taliban attacked, killing RFI’s Johanne Sutton and two other journalists. This is his account.
11/12/2001 11:57:20 AM
Here’s my L.A. Daily News Column from Sunday: More Saudi-bashing, much of it familiar to regular readers of this warblog.
11/12/2001 11:54:52 AM
‘I Disagree with you that the End of the Cold War Changed Anything Signficantly’: I get that a lot, from pessimists and other harsh critics of U.S. foreign policy. Here’s a throwaway sentence in an Economist article that suggests I’m not so crazy after all:
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 100 developing countries have ended military or one-party rule. Read that again, and again, and again. It's called "progress," and denying it is on an intellectual par with ... well, other kinds of sinister denials.
11/12/2001 11:15:14 AM
I Picked the Wrong Day to Read Noam Chomsky: Here’s what America’s most rancid bitch is telling the kids in Chennai, India:
"The five countries who support America's action are all terrorist states themselves" who want to be "masters of the universe.” […] What the fuck is it with people who waste my time telling me that only Noam dares speak “the truth”? This asshole lies every time he opens his mouth, which is why he has to fabricate such an elaborate web of triple-secret government-by-cabal, running history’s most complex Propaganda Machine….Yeah, right. If our government and propaganda were as powerful and diabolical as Noam fantasizes, he would have been locked up long ago, instead of being sent all around the world by western magazines and media foundations to peddle anti-American voodoo. Not that I’d want that – letting this fool write his bullshit pamphlets accusing the U.S. of “genocide” is truly an “ornament on democracy”; it's a living testimony to this country’s free (and even rewarded!) expression. Still, on a morning like this, reading it makes me want to puke.
"Democracy” in America since Sept. 11 actually means "private power concentration." […]
America's creed is "Nothing for anyone else," and, incidentally, "There is no truth to the story of a boom in the American economy."
11/12/2001 11:02:55 AM
RIP, Johanne Sutton: She and two other reporters covering the Northern Alliance were killed by the Taliban in an ambush yesterday. Johanne was a colleague of my 11/11/2001 03:49:27 PM
Banal Thought of the Day: Many songwriters (and their fans), are dismissive of love songs early in their creative lives. R.E.M., for example, refused to write a single love song, until "The One I Love" (hardly a shiny happy tune). Even when they start tackling the subject, songwriters usually mine the bitter side, since that's the emotion that spits out a song more easily (and is less open to accusations of being "sappy"). Anyways, as they get older, most songwriters realize that writing a happy or even neutral love song is perhaps the hardest single thing to do well. Two of my favorite records, Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks" and Nick Cave's "Boatman's Call," are both game attempts by matured rock writers to grapple with the complexities of love, after they've already earned their stripes as young men sneering and barking around the question.
My two-second thought is that political criticism is a bit similar (stay with me here). It is always easier, and funnier, and more initially liberating, to tear down, denigrate and sneer. And Lord knows, there are always enough more-than-deserving targets for evisceration. But maybe the real taboo to be broken, the real challenge to the pose, is to finally embrace some thing, or country, or political system, or set of ideas, and even defend it when it comes under attack. The challenge is, in other words, to write a good love song. The Chomskyite Left has been in D minor (at a 3/4 beat) for long enough ... how about a 4/4 G song, just for variety?
I told you this would be banal....
11/11/2001 01:15:07 PM
Straw Man of the Day: It’s “people’s historian” Howard Zinn, for his latest anti-war column! But as has been the case of late, the dismantling work comes from the estimable Steven Den Beste. Here’s just a taste:
There have been a few commentators who have tried to portray this as a just war, but that's not the rationale for fighting it, and I don't make any bones about it. My opinion is that it doesn't matter whether it’s just: it's necessary and that is sufficient even if it is unjust.
He argues that this war will proliferate terrorism. That's not by any means certain; his argument is that this war will anger many people, which is probably true. But angry people do not necessarily instantly transform into terrorists, and an international terrorist campaign such as the one launched by al Qaeda is not simply a manifestation of anger. It requires organization, training, and in particular it requires a great deal of money -- and those are things which can be eliminated. A million angry people without any of those things are much less dangerous than ten thousand who have them. If we can anger many people but eliminate their ability to organize, train and finance a campaign against us, we will reduce international terrorism.
Ultimately his argument comes down to an extended attempt to show moral equivalence between the two sides, a concept I find both intellectually repugnant and totally irrelevant. But I don't feel the need to defend that repugnance because the irrelevance is sufficient. Even if we were fighting this war for selfish partisan unjust reasons, it would still be worth fighting. I want to fight this war not to uphold some sort of shining international emblem of justice and fairness, but simply to protect my fellow citizens from being attacked again.
11/11/2001 12:43:08 PM
Notes on Ken Kesey: Ken Layne has a nice bit today on the dead novelist/icon/farmer.
I would like to see Bin Laden or the Taliban come up with a weirdo like Kesey -- a wrestler and farm boy and scholar who became a hero to the dope fiends while wearing Captain America costumes and playing American folk songs on his harmonica when asked to make an Anti-War statement. Kesey had a role in my teenage education. The progression, in its very condensed form, went something like this: When I’m 13, my Pony league baseball coach, worried about me wasting time on Stephen King, gives me “The Great Gatsby,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and “The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1982.” I don’t touch the Fitzgerald or Hemingway, but read the James dozens of times – he combined my three favorite subjects: math, baseball and writing, and was the first writer I’d read who reveled in stating the conventional wisdom, mercilessly picking it apart with innovative reason, and presenting it in a well-written, underdog, screw-the-man kinda way. Soon after, a pal who eventually joined the Navy Seals forced me to read Hunter Thompson, especially “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” I liked it, but found “Hell’s Angels” much more interesting, with its Jamesian method of reprinting straight-journalism accounts, picking them apart with innovative reason based on fearless participation, and writing it all in such exhilarating, hilarious fashion. Thompson had an intriguing passage on introducing the Hell’s Angels to some fantastical creatures called the “Merry Pranksters,” at the compound of the author I recognized from the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” movie I liked so well. So I read the Cuckoo’s Nest, followed it up with the difficult-but-indelible “Sometimes a Great Notion,” and then my mom mentioned something about how the guy who wrote “The Right Stuff” astronaut book wrote another famous one about Krazy Kesey. Reading “The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test” gave my young brain many wonderful new ideas about writing, about the context of the music I liked, and about (as it were) comportment. It also struck me as odd – hey wait a minute, some of this communal, mind-blowing free sex revolution stuff sounds a lot like the weirdest of the many Robert Heinlein sci-fi novels given to me by my brilliant CalTech/Xerox/high-tech management guru stepfather. So when the time came around to write a senior thesis in Honors English, the logical step for me was to explore how “Stranger in a Strange Land,” though written by a warhawkish libertarian pulp sci-fi novelist before the ‘60s exploded, predicted and in fact influenced the 1967 Summer of Love. Needless to say, my English teacher discouraged me at every turn (she was even harder on my friend Pat Whalen, who insisted on examining “A Clockwork Orange,” and then went on to become one of the best writers of my generation). It never struck me, at the time, to worry too much about whether James, Thompson, Kesey, Wolfe and Heinlein voted for the same politicians. It also never struck me as odd (as it has since), that it was a given that these writers would never be so much as mentioned in public high schools. By the time I finished writing “The Martian and the Hippies,” I had a pretty clear idea about what I wanted to do in life. Later, of course, I finally got around to those Fitzgerald/Hemingway boys….
11/11/2001 11:57:31 AM
Stupid Isolationist Americans, Part VII: Today’s top seven nonfiction paperback titles on the L.A. Times bestseller list:
1. Taliban, Ahmed Rashid
2. Blowback, Chalmers Johnson
3. Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber
4. Bin Laden, Yossef Bodansky
5. From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas L. Friedman
6. Black Hawk Down, Mark Bowden
7. Afghanistan in a Nutshell, Amanda Roraback
11/11/2001 11:18:39 AM
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