November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day 2005

Georgia O'Keefe Red Poppy

Posted by campbell at 09:44 PM

November 10, 2004

Highland Regiments Saved

The British Ministry of Defence appears to have backed down from its plan to merge and essentially destroy some of the most famous Scottish regiments, according to The Scotsman.

Intense pressure was levelled on the MoD from politicians, petitions and even, it is rumored, the Queen herself. Coming just when the Black Watch has returned to battle in Iraq supporting and relieving US forces&emdash;and has lost 4 soldiers in a week&emdash; the "force modernization" seemed even more insensitive, clumsy and ill-timed.

The endangered regiments are the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, King's Own Scottish Borderers, Royal Highland Fusiliers, The Black Watch, The Highlanders, and The Royal Scots. The battle honors of these regiments are far too numerous to list (the Black Watch lost half its force at Fort Ticonderoga in 1758).

Appropriately enough, the Argyll and Sutherland use the motto of the Campbell's: Ne obliviscaris [Never Forget].

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July 01, 2004

Red Ensign

Thanks to Paul for reminding me that this is the flag I was born under and that my father, uncles, aunt and grandfather fought for:

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January 05, 2004

Johnny Lend-Me-Thirty and udder Nooyawkahs.

The Times today made this Runyonesque contribution to the lore of New York and the mob:

Everyone on Pleasant Avenue had a nickname that usually stuck till death. (Except for Johnny Lend-Me-Twenty, whose nickname changed over the decades with inflation. Now he's Johnny Lend-Me-Thirty.)

Some guys were named after body parts: Alfred Ears, Gary High-Eye, Vinnie and Frankie Head (no relation), Frankie Nose and Danny Legs, for example. Others were named for food: Charlie Cream Cheese, Freddy Eggs, Tommy Salami (currently a busboy at Rao's), Joe Olive and Mary Knish. Still others were named for animals: Jimmy the Cat, Vito the Bat, Johnny Fox and Gary the Lamb. Rats? They never lasted long on Pleasant Avenue.

And sometimes the nickname was all there was. An elderly guy named Waffles was taken one day to the hospital, but when his lifelong friends tried visiting, they could not find his room because none of them knew his real name. "If you didn't have a nickname, no one knew who you were," said Joseph Camerlingo, 77, a retired doorman.

Everyone knew Angelo Cheesecake, a mob soldier. He is dead now, however, and his son, Joey Cupcake, is in prison.

Kinda makes me hungry. Anyway, for those from out of town, Pleasant Avenue is a timewarp zone between 114th and 120th on the far east side of Manhattan. Rao's makes our favorite spaghetti sauce.

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December 15, 2003

Now, THAT'S Entertainment

Among the perks we get for living in New York are the headline writers of our two daily tabs: The New York Post and The Daily News. The writing may be juvenile on occasion, but you can't say they don't use their heads.

Today's best? Definitely Daily News:

A bearded bum trapped like a rat

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August 15, 2003

Boy, it's dark out here.

On-the-scene advice from Manhattan: Cell phones make lousy flashlights, the new backlit iPods are much better.

Luckily, I was in the 30 second gap between leaving the elevator in my client's building and entering the elevator in our building when everything went dark. Then it was an 11 floor climb in an unlit stairway (where I ran into the guy using the cellphone/flashlight).

Then we walked down the 11 flights and 5 miles home. Luckily, we live in a building that though high on a bluff, is still below the gravity feed level of the New York reservoir system, so we got showers. Our biggest worry: whether we could grind coffee in the morning. Our power came back on at 6 am, so we had coffee, air conditioning and TV. But no DSL circuit.

Many people had it much worse, sleeping on sidewalks, stuck 30 miles from home with no trains moving. We did our bit by taking in a friend from Westchester who was stranded at Grand Central for a few hours.

We drove down to the office in the morning (to lock the elevator which we had all, ahem, failed to think of the night before). Everything south of 42nd Street was still out. People (particularly from tourist hotels) were wandering about looking for food. One oddity was how the west side of Times Square was dark while all the lights and signs on the East Side were working.

The power didn't come on in our office neighborhood until about 9pm Friday (which is also when my home DSL Line went back up). So Monday, I'll be bringing the servers online and running disk checks. Fun.

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August 14, 2003

Hmmm

What's this big switch over here? Wonder what would happen if I pul

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July 15, 2003

Head-Cracking Good Time Had by All

One of the amusing incidents on the Tour was today's demonstration. Anti-globalization protestors lay down on the road in front of the peloton. They were followers of Jose Bove, who became a hero in some quarters for demolishing a McDonald's and destroying genetically modified crops.

According to the BBC, their tactic may backfire: "... correspondents say the Tour de France protest may lose him public support because of the cost of precious time and points to riders in France's premier sporting event."

What's the French for "Oops"? (Could it be houp-là which believe it or not is in Karl Marx's writings? And which my nominally bilingual father used to say when he flipped us up in the air as kids.)

What was interesting was to see on TV how rapidly the French paramilitary police swooped in to yank them out of the way. These guys are big, tough and serious. You sometimes see them in Paris at particularly sensitive locations. My guess is that there is some pretty serious muscle hovering around the Tour that you never get to see in the pretty pretty pictures.

Every so often when Lance is being interviewed, you can see some guys that look like the "other type of biker" (if you know what I mean) hovering very near him. They look like they would bend a bicycle around your head if necessary.

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Chaud

The CBC just breathlessly announced that Lance Armstrong had finished 23 minutes behind the winner of today's stage in the Tour. They seemed mystified that he could still be the leader after such a dismal showing. I guess tomorrow they'll wonder how the winner of the All Star Game prevailed despite getting 27 outs.

Pah, idiots.

Seems France is having a heat wave. Here's a great shot of the yellow jersey on the road to Marseille today:

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The Greatest Sports Event on the Planet™

Paul thinks I'm being particularly lazy about blogging. He's right, Laziness is Its Own Reward. That's why this is the Snoofmadrune blog.

Mostly, I have been writing an article and watching The Greatest Sports Event on the Planet™: The Tour de France. So the rest of this post will be about that.

Once upon a time, I could only read about the Tour, but a couple of years back we switched cable providers and I discovered Outdoor Life Network which broadcasts great whacking chunks of the Tour Live in the morning with endless repeats in the evening.

This coverage seems to have become very popular, given that a couple of years back there were only three ads (literally) that were repeated endlessly during the coverage. (You have never experienced Hell until you have seen the same Mercury commercial 10 times a night for 3 weeks.) Now they have lots of premium advertisers, the coverage is bigger and the whole thing seems much less low-rent than before.

Much of the quality of the show is attributable to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, two commentators who actually manage to explain everything. Let's face it, there are vast stretches of a 3 week bicycle race where nothing much is happening. These two Brits keep the interest level high throughout. Liggett is scary sometimes. Yesterday he seemed almost to predict the Beloki fall 15 seconds before it happened.

Anyway, this has been a fabulous Tour. First, it's the Centenary celebration and the crowds are immense. Also the French seem to be powering in the money with much better camerawork along the route. France is a beautiful place and they're making it look even better.

Second, it has been extremely high drama. After only a week, there's been more excitement than in an entire baseball season. Most people only hear snatches of Lance's story, but the real hero for me has been Tyler Hamilton, riding since Stage 1 with a broken collarbone and keeping on Armstrong's wheel more than when he was Lance's domestique.

Then there's Joseba Beloki. Before he fell yesterday, it looked like he was on track to really challenge for the overall win this year after being second and third way too often. We're all pretty upset that he's hurt and out.

Vive les Aussies! Bradley McGee is blogging from the Tour much more than in previous years. Worth reading, especially since he's been in yellow this year and his mate Baden Cooke is in green and trying to stay there. There are other bloggers as well on the cyclingnews.com site, but Brad's the best.

I'm going to be missing the middle part of the Tour unless they have OLN in Toronto, so I may miss the Pyrenees. Damn. It's like missing Game 7 of the World Series. This is going to be a tight year, even without Beloki.

If you don't get OLN, I recommend you listen to the live feed from their website (starting around 9am Eastern). With that and the live updates at cyclingnews.com, it's nearly as good as watching.

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June 04, 2003

Shooting the Wounded

For those among you what don't get the "dead trees" version of the New York Times, there was an editorial page ad from TomPaine.com that must certainly qualify as "Self-Foot Shooting 101".

Their message: not only must we Democrats fight against a popular President who shows aplomb at dealing with national and international crisis, we need to kill off each other first in order to do it. They even venture a gratuitous slap at front-runner Lieberman, targeting his speeches as unexciting.

DLC "New Democrats" are GOP Lite: cozy with corporate elites, comfortable with free-market fundamentalism, hostile toward unions, keener for tax cuts and defense spending than for public investment or securing the social safety net.
[...]
George Bush is beatable. Liberals and progressives gathering this week in Washington for the "Take Back America" conference know that. The question is: Will the Democratic Party favor the DLC, which has plenty of money, but is otherwise bankrupt? Or will it adopt the vision, passion and values needed to get out the vote?

George Bush may be beatable, but it looks like George Bush is the only guy who can beat him, since these Democrats remind me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the one who has his arms and legs cut off and won't quit: "Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"

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May 23, 2003

The Bard of West Virginny

The Bard of the Holler, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginny, has let loose another golden shower of Rhetoric, including this bit of verse:

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again,—
    The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
    And dies among his worshippers."

The verse is from Battle-Field by William Cullen Bryant, poet, lawyer, abolitionist, editor of the New York Post.

He seems to have written it in December, 1863. There was some general unpleasantness going on in the United States at that time, that Byrd himself later fell upon the wrong side of.

(Although I suspect Bryant may have read the poem to Byrd personally at the time.)

Ah, but context is a demanding bitch — the stanza after goes:

Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
    When they who helped thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and manly trust,
    Like those who fell in battle here.

Personally I like (from another Bryant verse):

But 'neath yon crimson tree
    Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
    Her blush of maiden shame.

For more on Bryant: http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/bryant.html

For Bryant Park: http://www.bryantpark.org

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May 22, 2003

Are We Safer? Stephen Cohen Hasn't a Clue

Well, to contradict myself, here's another passing item to comment upon. In defense, I need to quote Walt Whitman "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

In this case, The Nation made me do it. You see, I get this email letter from them every so often, and the one about Stephen Cohen's Are We Safer? mentioned how "thoughtful" people opposed the war. Katrina van den Heuvel may be many things, but thoughtful ain't one of them. "Attack dog" and "peevish" spring to mind. And the implication that "thoughtful" people couldn't support the war just rubbed me the wrong way.

Anyway, Cohen presents an eminently debunkable thesis. He recites some questions post-Iraq that he calls "measurable" criteria. Apparently Cohen has already set up an "alternate" Earth in which the Iraq war didn't take place and that we can use as a control so we can "measure" the consequences.

Would that the world worked that way. In fact, what would have happened if we had or hadn't done some course of action is more unknowable than even predictions of what "will" happen given our chosen course of action, since history eventually gives us some perspective on what "did" happen. "If I had driven to work this morning instead of taking the subway, I would have paid $20 for parking." Sure. But "... I would have met Bill Clinton and joined his staff." Possible? Yes. Likely? Not remotely.

I'm surprised that a historian doesn't grasp this fundamental reality of the world when he talks about "measurable" criteria.

Just a couple of glosses:

(3) Will the war, and the long US occupation that is likely to ensue, reduce the recruitment of young Arabs by terrorist movements or will it inspire many new recruits? The subsequent suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco suggest that the latter result will be the case.

How so? Anyone? You mean the crazies in the Arab world had all settled down to productive careers and have now dropped them to go on jihad? The problems in that part of the world seem to be fairly intractable and out of control of any world events.

(4) With or without more recruits, will the war decrease or increase the number of terrorist plots against the United States, whether at home or abroad?

Whaddaya mean "without"? I thought you just inferred that "with" was the case? I suppose that the previously "unknown" (and unknowable) number of plots against the US has now increased exponentially. Hence, x has now been raised to x^y, with y the "unknown" exponent. OK, so if x was 1, then any number of y is still 1. (Since Cohen holds out the possibility of a decrease in the number of plots, y may be negative.) Again, this is something that is far from a "measurable" outcome.

(7) Finally, considering the rampant anti-Americanism it has provoked, will the war result in more or fewer governments willing to cooperate with — individually or in multinational organizations like the United Nations — George W. Bush's stated top priority, the war against global terrorism? During the weeks since the military campaign ended, anti-American sentiments have continued to grow, from the Middle East to Western Europe, and the United Nations remains profoundly divided by the US war and its ugly aftermath in Iraq.

Anti-americanism was big before Iraq (and Bush), it will be big after Iraq (and Bush). Saying that the US has some responsibility to ignore its security needs to kowtow to world sentiment may verge on delusion. The United Nations, formed in the wake of the totalitarian ventures of the early 20th century seems singularly unadapted to dealing with the totalitarian ventures of the 21st.

You see, Steven, that's how institutions are supposed to evolve — by adapting to new situations on the ground. Maybe you spent so much time trying to shore up the old Marxists of Moscow and were so very surprised when their inflexible structure snapped and collapsed. You still haven't learned from that lesson.

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May 09, 2003

"Saddam": Media Critic

I didn't notice anyone remarking on how much of a media critique was contained in this week's message from "Saddam". Fully half the message seems to be blaming the "media" for his downfall, as if the 7th Cavalry was there just to hold the coats of Al-Jazeera, CNN and Walter Rodgers.

I addressed some messages before, many messages before. Some of them were by my voice and some were addressed to the mass media, but we know and you know very well the mass media in the whole world is controlled by the Zionists, and especially by its headquarters in the White House. Therefore we have tried hard to address our messages by many, many ways and some of them reached you people in the Iraqi governates, and some will reach them sooner.

In any case, it sounds as if we have to go back to the secret style of struggle that we began our life with. Through this secret means...

Some of these people admired the West and described it as the free world, but it is not. And genuine people would never care about the Western media, because it is controlled by Zionists. Especially the two administrations in Washington and London, which are controlled by the Zionist media.

They tell many, many lies...

So let's see if we can deconstruct this message. "Saddam" believes that there are no true national governments in the world, only fictitious entities created and controlled by the Zionist media. So the Zionists control all news flow in the world and it is the absence of countervailing news sources that led to the loss in Iraq.

"Saddam" is apparently a fan of The Matrix:

Morpheus: You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

And all those Genuine People, they can discern an alternative reality behind the lies.

What does "Saddam" prescribe to fight the Matrix — Graffiti:

The Zionists are baffled how to fight the Palestinian people and you the Iraqi people, men and women, stand together against the invasion and show your stance as much as you can by writing on walls, or making positive demonstrations or not selling them anything or buying anything from them, or by shooting them with your rifles and trying to destroy their cannons and tanks.

I would think destroying their television broadcasting equipment would be more to the point. No wonder Saddam got angry with Al-Jazeera. Apparently, they were insufficiently separate from their Zionist controllers and weren't piercing the veil of lies. This may also explain Mohammed Said Al-Sahhaf's seemingly insane announcements: He took the Red Pill.

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May 08, 2003

A Different Time

There once was a time when the Canadians had the fourth largest army in the world and were loyal allies of their southern neighbor. But recently, dumb national defence strategy and dumber international politics have reduced both to shreds.

Because of the political calculations of their civilian leaders, Canadian commanders at Central Command were frozen out of vital planning during the run-up to the Iraq war. And now there's this:

Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they don't have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawa's rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them.

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May 02, 2003

Blair: Bush "Highly Intelligent"

I'm no fan of George W. Bush on most things, although I think he did pretty well on Iraq. Apparently, so does Tony Blair, who is a fan of Bush on some things.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose closeness to U.S. President George W. Bush earned him praise from Washington and derision at home, says he thinks the American leader's lightweight image is "complete bull."
[...]
"I was about to say, 'He's not someone who will philosophize,' but actually that's not true, because he does. But 'directness' is the best way I can describe it. He has a very, very direct way of stating exactly what he feels about a situation."

Blair added about Bush, "He is highly intelligent, and it's not clotted by so many nuances that the meaning is obscured. The good thing about (Bush) is that once he does really think that an issue has to be tackled he has big reserves of courage for doing it, and he won't really be diverted."

That is sometimes known as integrity (strange in a politician).

I never understood this idée fixe that some on the left have that Bush is some kind of "moron" or "idiot". He may be a good old boy, and his impromptu articulation is weak, but "misunderestimating" him is a sure way to get 4 more years (and further "misunderestimating" then gets you Jeb for 4).

But, hey, the Democrats have a death wish. Forward into the breach.

As an added bonus, the article refers to Scottish Labour MP Tam Dalyell, Saddam-appeaser, distant relative of Harry Truman and general-purpose antiwar loony. It's good he's keeping up the antiwar side. To spare you suspense, it's the Jews' fault (surprise!).

The author then quoted Labour Member of Parliament Tam Dalyell, the longest serving member of the House of Commons, as saying he thought Blair was unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisors.
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Kristof Meets the Enemy He Wants Locked Up

I had to check the date on this New York Times column (registration required), it seemed like an April Fool's joke.

Nicholas Kristof advocating breaking down the door in the middle of the night, hauling off people and detaining them against their will?

One main obstacle has been shrieks of protest by civil libertarians, whom I'm usually sympathetic to — but not this time.

Well, okay, Nick. Take a deep breath.

Having just come back from Sars-lyvania (Toronto) myself, I agree with Kristof on the issue and the response. However, if we substitute the words "suspected of terrrorist intentions" for "suspected of having the disease" and "chemical weapon" for "smallpox" — we just fell through the looking glass.

Why is this suspension of civil liberties any more acceptable than the Ashcroft variations? I liked the "shrieks of protest" line, sounds like Charles Krauthammer.

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April 15, 2003

Stanislaw Lec

Thought for the week:

"When smashing monuments, save the pedestals — they always come in handy."
—Unkempt Thoughts

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Ancient Art

Julie at Lone Prairie is wondering about the looted and smashed archaeology museum.

It is true that, had the U.S. not taken action in Iraq, these treasures of antiquity would still be intact and safe.

But is a ancient clay vase worth more than a present-day human life? Is a map of Catal Huyuk or a Sumerian tablet the equivalent of living without oppression? What is the value of preserving the ancient while the present sinks into bloody oblivion?

Clearly, force protection is number one for the military mind. Rightly.

Second is population protection. Nobody (sane) in the world watching the last half dozen US military actions can deny that our soldiers take extraordinary care to reduce civilian and even enemy casualties.

So I guess Julie's question could be phrased another way: Which soldier do you want to die in exchange for that vase? Which child should be killed to protect that statue?

I heard some people opining today that "yes, the killing is bad, but the museum destruction broke my heart." I pointed out that this has not been the first time in history that the artwork of this region was sacked. (Vandalize comes from the Vandals, after all.) It will resurface some time, some place. Some will be destroyed utterly, some will be rebuilt. I'm still dismayed by the shelling of the Parthenon by Morosini in 1687.

That we are still so close to the jungle is all the more reason to be ready to make peace and to make war. And to know the difference.

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April 14, 2003

Saddam and the Jihadists

Ah, yes, I endlessly heard how Saddam was secular and Al-Qaeda was religious and they hated each other and they could never work together. and yadda yadda.

Whoa. Here's news, Saddam was best buddies with the jihadists, you know, like the guys that kill innocent Israelis and blew up the World Trade Center.

Another peace movement meme destroyed by truth.

PRESIDENT Saddam Hussein imported hundreds of well-trained Islamic guerrillas before the war to spearhead his fight against American and British forces, The Times has learnt.

Documents and captives seized by British troops in Basra reveal that the recruits were arriving in Baghdad from Muslim countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as little as ten days before the war began.

They came to wage jihad against the Western military, and provided some of the fiercest resistance as the coalition advanced northwards. Survivors are still mounting occasional attacks in Baghdad and other cities.

US officials are seizing on the guerrillas' presence as evidence of links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organisation - links that the Bush Administration has long cited as a justification for the war.

The foreign fighters provide a 'direct tie between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organisations', a Pentagon spokeswoman said last night.
[ ... ]
The foreign fighters were given money, and operated alongside Fedayin units rather than Baath party militias, and never the regular army. What is now apparent is that it was these foreign fighters who led the resistance inside Iraq's second city.

Weaponry found shows they were well-supplied with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns, and that the tactics they employed proved that they knew how to use such hardware to attempt to disable tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

Okay, so who trained them? Al-Qaeda, probably.

The extended battle for Basra was seized on by the antiwar side as proving how Iraqis would fight for their land. Obviously, it just shows the close ties of Islamic Fascism and Islamic Fundamentalism and their common cause.

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The Hunt for WMD

The last holding action for the much-battered antiwar forces is the whine "But they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction..."

Well, leave aside all those chem suits and atropine capsules found around Iraq, leave aside the fact that the military has been very busy pacifying the area around Baghdad for just 1 week, leave aside that there is still a war going on, let's just look at the scale of the task. Here's General Tommy Franks on the hunt as the US starts the real search for WMD.

"But you're talking about 2,000, 3,000 perhaps, places in this country where we know we're going to go and investigate each one of them. We may have ... somewhere between five and 10 and 15 site exploitations ongoing in a 24-hour period of time."

So, if they get to 10 site inspections a day (on average) it could take 7 to 10 months to visit all the already-suspected sites. If in the course of interrogation of Baathists and scientists, they uncover another 1,000 sites to visit, that's 4 more months. So 11 to 14 months just to inspect.

The UN had two, maybe three teams with much reduced leverage, zero control of the country, virtually no access to interviewing scientists and very poor operational and intelligence security than is now the case. So a rough guess is that it would have taken 5 years to even approach a fraction of the effectiveness we will now see. With the Iraqis scurrying around covering tracks, moving sites.

Looks like UN inspections had zero chance of actually working.

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April 11, 2003

To Celebrate What He Dreaded Most: Victory

An antiwar author celebrates the liberation of the Iraqis from the monster. Some on the right are pointing to his comments about secretly hoping for the worst-case, massive-US-soldier-death. And that has been a leitmotif among a certain (not inconsiderable) strata, but I would focus on his hopes, shared by those on the pro-liberation left.

It is possible that we who celebrate today will be forced to recant tomorrow. But that should not stop us. Nor should it be our concern. Those who opposed this war in part because they feared what it would do to the Iraqi people must now make every effort to protect and raise up those people. And to do that, they must pay attention to what is happening to them -- the good, the bad and the in-between. This is the most compelling reason to celebrate the end of Saddam. Call that celebration a leap of faith, if you will -- but you could also call it a binding contract, American to Iraqi, human heart to human heart. We smashed your country and we killed your people and we freed you from a monster: We are bound together now by blood. We owe each other, but we owe you more because we are stronger and because we came into your country.

The left's role, now, must be to make sure that debt is paid.

There are also some moving passages from Albert Camus on the liberation of Paris. Worth the read.

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April 10, 2003

Hicks Mix with Lethal Chicks Pix

This photo of British soldier Samantha Sheppard in Iraq has a mind-bending, gender-switching quality of a good sort. It's could almost be a Benetton ad, based on some WWII model.

Samantha, like Jessica Lynch, in almost all earlier eras would have been the girl the soldier left at home. It does an aging, feminist heart good to see this.

The headline comes from friend David Smith. It's brilliant.

For the larger image, click here.

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Schroeder Welcomes Victory

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder:

There are joyous signs that show that this could soon be the end of the war. The important thing now is to make a political profit out of a probable and welcome victory. That will only be the case if the Iraqi people can decide itself on its political and economic conditions.

And in what way does this differ from the original intention of the United States in conducting this war?

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April 09, 2003

DominiqueDe Returns

Dominique , Gallic superhero, has returned from his Chateau of Solitude to confuse everyone with his hyper-vision.

We have to maintain that the future of Iraq is going to be done because it is going to be difficult and our responsibility is to make sure things are sorted out there. We have got to look at reconstructing Iraq and it is very important that the international community has a central role.

That needs to come from the United Nations, It needs to have a central role. It is not a question of a vital role or a central role. I think we would all agree that the United Nations will play a key role.

Central! Non, Non. Not vital, not central, but key! Somebody get me a translator.

To see the whole comic book cover, just cliquez ici.

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Where's al-Sahhaf?

Iraq's irrepressible information minister didn't show up for his daily stand-up at the Palestine Hotel. Seasoned observers of Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf are wondering if the presence of the United States Marine Corps in the audience might have forced him to think up some new material.

Have you seen this man?


"We will bomb their brains out." Mohhamed Said al-Sahhaf cutting up for the international press corps in happier times.

Posted by campbell at 10:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cakewalk defined

Well, Ken Adelman sure got a lot of grief for predicting a "cakewalk".

I believe demolishing (Iraqi President Saddam) Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.

Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."

I'm not sure how much less effort it would take before we can, in future, declare a cakewalk.

Posted by campbell at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Heeeere's al-Sahhaf...

And now, live from a 3 week tour at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, the Prince of Propaganda, the Pharaoh of Denial, the Caliph of Calumny, the Buffoon of Baghdad. The one, the only, inimitable, irrepressible, Mohammed al-Sahhaf...

"They are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks."

"The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad."

"They're leeches, animals and rats. They will only leave the airport alive if they surrender."

The lies are amusing, but al-Sahhaf is a master at billingsgate.

Apparently he has quite a following in the Arab world, starved as they are for good comedy:

Al-Sahhaf has even introduced insults virtually unknown to the Arab public. His use, for example, of "uluj," an obscure and particularly insulting term for "infidel," sent viewers leafing through their dictionaries and calling TV stations for a definition.

His enemies are never just the Americans or the British. They are "outlaws," "war criminals," "fools," "stooges," an "international gang of villains."

Al-Sahhaf has singled out Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, describing him as a "crook" and "the most despicable creature."

This article, in Le Monde has more of his insults.

L'un de ses qualificatifs les plus célèbres est sans doute le terme "alouj", pluriel de "ilje", aux acceptions multiples, dont celui de "grosse ânesse" ou de "gros zèbre", ou encore —et c'est la définition la plus répandue — de "mécréant".

I sure hope he gets an extended run after this Baghdad gig runs out. I'd miss him.

Posted by campbell at 01:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Linguistic Completeness

One thing I learned on my recent trip to Montréal was that the French for "shock and awe" is

choc et stupeur.

Kind of what Chirac is feeling just about now.

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April 07, 2003

Black Watch Defeats Iraq

I just had to post this piece from the Scotsman, for obvious reasons.

The Black Watch regiment was formed by the Campbells and other loyal clans in 1725. They fought at Ticonderoga. For their ferocity in the First World War, the Germans dubbed the Highland Regiments the "Ladies from Hell".

They may not wear the kilt when they attack, but they still play the pipes ... and they still kick butt ... Cruachan!

GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN with the Black Watch in Basra

THE Iraqis were hiding in a bunker at the side of the road when the tanks first spotted them. There were four of them, waiting at a crossroads in the Al Hadi area of Basra, slotting another rocket-propelled grenade into their launcher to fire at the advancing British troops.

The request to engage came over the commanding officer?s radio. A moment?s pause, and then the reply crackled back: "You are now clear to engage the bunker with four men with HESH and co-ax."

High explosive shells and chain gun - that?s what the jargon meant, and nothing could stand in their way. Inside the bunker, the militia had only a few seconds left. The sound of a dull explosion rolled across the city. Over the radio, the Challenger crew reported the kill. "The target was engaged and the job was done."

On the other side of the bridge over the Shatt al-Basra canal, Lieutenant William Colquhoun had unpacked his bagpipes and sat on the turret of his Warrior waiting for the order to advance. As the sun attempted to poke through smoke rolling lazily across desolate marshland stretching away on either side of the bridge, wading birds were picking their way among the long grasses.

As he began to play, the sound of Scotland the Brave drifted across the bridge towards the city, competing with the clatter of rotor blades as four Cobra helicopters raced in to join the attack.

For more on the Black Watch, see the Regimental web site.

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"Moderate" Muslim Calls Saddam a Terrorist

Despite my debunking of him as an "Islamic moderate"  last week, Sheikh Tantawi won't stay down. He does seem to have seen the handwriting on the Baghdad wall, though and criticizes both Saddam and the US.

In a case of the "pot calling the kettle black" Tantawi labels Saddam a terrorist.

From the BBC: Leading cleric blames Saddam

Sheikh Tantawi said the war was not a crusade against Islam and condemned Saddam Hussein for not accepting a call from the United Arab Emirates to resign in order to prevent war.

He still likes suicide bombing as a tactic against US troops. So one step forward, one step back...

Posted by campbell at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2003

"Saddam"

Rated PG. May Contain Violence.

The movie so far—

Most of the work for this production has been carried by some fine comedic talents. Information Minister al-Sahhaf provides light comic relief with his daily briefings 'Iraqi authorities however said they had repulsed an American attack from the south, claiming: "We were able to chop off their rotten heads." ' Despite the weakness in the script and the occasional worried look as he wonders if this is the appearance when he'll get his head shot off by a US sniper, al-Sahhaf does yeoman work with his lines: admitting that the airport had been taken by US troops, he gamely describes it as "the Americans' graveyard."

The irrepressible Tariq Aziz, whose game early work in "Gulf War I" guaranteed him a major supporting role in this sequel, deals masterfully with such lines as "it's best not to fight them in the desert, but to lure them into the cities and towns and to populated areas". But we barely get to see him. I suspect he is phoning in his role from Syria.

But the marquee star has barely shown up. For being mostly about "Saddam", the lead actor in this production is offscreen for most of the action. Like Harry Lime in The Third Man, we seem to spend most of our time waiting for him to show up in the story.

And when Saddam does show up finally, the staging has been weak, weak, weak. The Iraqi propaganda machine's idea of a set: a white wall and a flag. Where's the map, the model tanks, the pointers? Come on guys, I know times are hard, but even a high school production could come up with a painting of Saladin for that set. The only prop: a single TV set showing a tank. And he sits in front of it!

Those ensemble scenes with his council of war — no tension or drama, no conflict, no clash of advisors. Everyone sits around rapt as Saddam seemingly tediously details the latest episode of Friends.

And those outdoor shots! You would think that 70 years of propaganda films would have come down to something better than that stroll-around. Leni Reifenstahl must be spinning in her grave. Where are the shots of Saddam looking through binoculars? Saddam brandishing an AK-47? Saddam firmly pounding on a tank? Saddam on the steps of a palace defying the Stealth fighters? Saddam directing sandbag fortifications?

No, he walks around aimlessly — paunchy, cockeyed grin, ill-defined hand gestures. Did he have his director banished? Shot? And could they have tried to make him look shorter and more insignificant? He looks like the big-head Goofy figure at Disneyland. Not even Mickey, endowed with that awe, majesty and suave presence: Goofy.

Look guys, if this is the best you can do to rally the people, this movie is closing faster than Madonna's Swept Away.

Thumbs down.

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April 02, 2003

Fantasy Lives at Washington Monthly

To those of them what wants to read this long piece by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Practice to Deceive
Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario—it's their plan.

To the rest: my gloss with hefty excising of blah blah blah. Not nearly as long, at least twice as entertaining, and non-fattening.

Well, it certainly was long. and dull. and ultimately pointless. Look, policy articles need to be descriptive and prescriptive.

The entire prescription this makes is:

For God's Sake, don't do anything. Let the Muslims run over the West. Give them whatever they want. Let them blow up our towers, nuke our cities. Institute Sharia in France. Whatever it takes.

Let's just lie back and hope we live until we die. Even if it's in a fireball.

The fact that many neocons were Jewish, and outraged by Moscow's increasingly visible persecution of Jews, also caused them to reject both the McGovernite and Kissingerian tendencies to ignore such abuses.

Those darn Jews. There's always in there somewhere.

Hawks like Perle and William Kristol pulled their hair out when Kissingerians like Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell left Saddam's regime in place after the first Gulf War. They watched with mounting fury as terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists claimed more and more American and Israeli lives. They considered the Oslo accords an obvious mistake (how can you negotiate with a man like Yasir Arafat?), and as the decade progressed they became increasingly convinced that there was a nexus linking burgeoning terrorism and mounting anti-Semitism with repressive but nominally "pro-American" regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
When the Oslo process crumbled and Saudi Arabian terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, the hawks felt, not without some justification, that they had seen this danger coming all along, while others had ignored it. The timing was propitious, because in September 2001 many already held jobs with a new conservative president willing to hear their pitch.

Those darn neocons. Being right and all. Shit!

The pitch was this: The Middle East today is like the Soviet Union 30 years ago. Politically warped fundamentalism is the contemporary equivalent of communism or fascism. Terrorists with potential access to weapons of mass destruction are like an arsenal pointed at the United States. The primary cause of all this danger is the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, poverty, and economic stagnation. Repressive regimes channel dissent into the mosques, where the hopeless and disenfranchised are taught a brand of Islam that combines anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, and a worship of violence that borders on nihilism. Unable to overthrow their own authoritarian rulers, the citizenry turns its fury against the foreign power that funds and supports these corrupt regimes to maintain stability and access to oil: the United States. As Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, "The great indulgence granted to the ways and phobias of Arabs has reaped a terrible harvest"--terrorism.

I like how he actually gets at the truth here, also. It's refreshing in this otherwise fanciful article.

[... Much fantasy clipped out of here ... ]

Why do we imagine that our invasion and occupation of Iraq, or whatever countries come next, will turn out any differently?

Which occupation led to September 11? He can't mean the defense of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait after the brutal invasion by Iraq of that latter country in 1991. How is that the US's fault?

The Bush administration also insists that our right to act preemptively and unilaterally, with or without the international community's formal approval, rests on the need to protect American lives. But with the exception of al Qaeda, most terrorist organizations in the world, and certainly in the Middle East, do not target Americans. Hamas certainly doesn't. Hezbollah, the most fearsome of terrorist organizations beside al Qaeda, has killed American troops in the Middle East, but not for some years, and it has never targeted American civilians on American soil. Yet like Hamas, Hezbollah has an extensive fundraising cell operation in the States (as do many terrorist organizations, including the Irish Republican Army). If we target them in the Middle East, can't we reasonably assume they will respond by activating these cells and taking the war worldwide?

This is my favorite passage: where he asks us to
1) Leave Hamas alone (after all they only kill Jews)
2) Allow Hezbollah to run terrorist cells in the US.

No question these are problem countries. Their governments buy our weapons and accept our foreign aid yet allow vicious anti-Semitism to spew from the state run airwaves and tolerate clerics who preach jihad against the West. But is it really in our interests to work for their overthrow?

In other words, why change? They are only anti-Semites. That's acceptable.

The tyrannies in these countries are home grown, and the U.S. government has supported them, rightly or wrongly, for decades, even as we've ignored (in the eyes of Arabs) the plight of the Palestinians.

Home grown tyrannies are terrific. Let them kill, maim, imprison, torture and rape.
Why? Because we've let them for years. Good thing the cops in New York didn't treat the crack house on my street the same way. After all, it was here for almost five years. That's got to be some kind of grandfather clause.

"We need to be more assertive," argues Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia."

It worked out so well so far, letting Saudi spew hate and provide support for terrorists had nothing to do with those 9/11 hijackers who grew up there.

  empire is our destiny and we might as well embrace it.

You say Unilateral Hegemon like it's a bad thing.

Such a strategy might keep the fundamentalists in power for years longer than they otherwise might have been.

Yeah. Better not encourage democracy in Iran either.

the assumption that we can turn it into a self-governing democracy--that the very presence of that example will transform politics in the Middle East. But what if we can't really create a democratic, self-governing Iraq, at least not very quickly?

God. You're right. Forget about encouraging democracy in Iraq.

And that's yet another reason why overthrowing the Middle East won't be the same as overthrowing communism. We did the latter, after all, within a tight formal alliance, NATO. Reagan's most effective military move against Moscow, for instance, placing Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, could never have happened, given widespread public protests, except that NATO itself voted to let the weapons in.

Here's where he really outdoes himself. Earlier, he told us that Communism collapsed from within, without the West's encouragement. Now it was NATO that did it.

Oh, and those wouldn't be the same Pershings that the people who are now demonstrating in Europe were so violently opposed to in the 80s. Nah. Got to be different. Those peace-loving folks would no more support the continuation of the Soviet gulag than they would argue to extend the regime of Saddam Hussein. Would they?

In the Middle East, however, we're largely alone. If things go badly, what allies we might have left are liable to say to us: You broke it, you fix it.

I see. So the French, who rely on Iraq's oil for a great part of their economy and the future growth of Europe will walk away at the end of the war. They'll be bellying up to the table demanding their cut soon enough. Already, in fact.

Franklin Roosevelt said he was trying to keep the United States out of World War II even as he--in some key ways--courted a confrontation with the Axis powers that he saw as both inevitable and necessary. History has judged him well for this.

But God forbid we should emulate him.

Far more brazenly, Lyndon Johnson's administration greatly exaggerated the Gulf of Tonkin incident to gin up support for full-throttle engagement in Vietnam. The war proved to be Johnson's undoing.

Ahh, the Great White Quagmire. Thar she blows!

When President Clinton used American troops to quell the fighting in Bosnia he said publicly that our troops would be there no longer than a year, even though it was widely under stood that they would be there far longer. But in the case of these deceptions, the public was at least told what the goals of the wars were and whom and where we would be fighting.

So some lies are OK, and some are not. Now who is showing moral cloudiness.

Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support.

Wait, wait. I thought you said the people have no concept what kind of conflict. Then you say its to depose Hussein.

I think they have pretty well signed on to this goal and will hold Bush's feet to the fire on this goal alone. I haven't seen any free passes handed out.

The author begs the question by assuming he has proved some case that we are on the road to this global US jihad. But you have to prove the case to the American people before you can claim that it is proven. Saying don't make it so. The beauty of democracy is the contention of ideas.

The problem for the antiwar fringe is not that Americans are not listening to their arguments. The problem is they've heard the antiwar argument (including all this stuff) and have rejected it.

[ ... clip much other mandated pulling in of taxes, social benefit stuff to show
how evil Bush is .... ]

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

Posted by campbell at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2003

Fact Checking the "Moderate Muslim" Meme

The meme of the moment is the Moderate Muslims who have turned on the US because of the Iraq invasion.

Here is the original source, published in the LA Times, reprinted in Australia:
"Osama must be laughing."

Fawaz Gerges points to a few representative "moderates" who have been shocked into opposition:

Maligned previously as a pro-Western reformer, despite his support for Palestinian suicide bombers, Tantawi's new stance shows the extent of the realignment.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - a mainstream Islamist organisation with membership numbers in the millions - called on his followers everywhere to join in jihad in defence of Iraq.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose organisation had been moving away from militancy in recent years...

Gerges himself was on CNN Friday morning promoting the meme.

And in today's New York Times, Nicolas Kristof picks up the meme, but coyly eliminates the credentials of the "Muslim figures", Perhaps because the readers of the Times are too squeamish to know precisely with whom they are agreeing. "Hearts and Minds."

Muslim figures who sided with the U.S. after 9/11 and denounced Osama bin Laden are now urging "jihad" against Americans.

So who are these moderates?

Tantawi:
-- issued fatwas supporting suicide bombers in Israel.
-- issued fatwas for a jihad to oppose the "judaization" of Jerusalem
-- issued a fatwa against a Cairo University professor, putting his life at risk. The professor's crime: " Hanafi expounds a secular-humanist philosophy in the vein of Nietzsche or John Stuart Mill. He explains that paradise is a state of human bliss and that God is simply a focus of positive natural energy."
-- has supported genital mutilation for women, in his own words: "Cutting a little, but not exaggerating in cutting [the genitals] is better for appearances and more pleasing to the husband." He has modified this position, but it is unclear where he stands on this issue.
-- condemned a new marriage contract that would inform brides-to-be of their rights according to Egyptian law.
-- feels the "hijab" is obligatory for Muslim women.
-- refused to issue a fatwa lifting the condemnation of Salman Rushdie.
-- calls for the closing of alcohol distilleries.

The Muslim Brotherhood:
-- 4 members assassinated Anwar Sadat, former leader of Egypt.
-- banned by the Egyptian government because they are attempting to overthrow the government to establish an Islamic state.

Hezbollah:
-- In December 2002, called for suicide bombings worldwide.
-- has conducted many suicide attacks in Israel and Lebanon.
-- is held responsible for the US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, 241 Marines died.
-- is held responsible for the bombing at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, 19 US servicemen died.
-- at least one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists is a senior Hezbollah member.

Posted by campbell at 09:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2003

The Second Front: Hollywood

Apparently, it is all about ... Oscar. The buzz coming from the Pentagon is that the real "shock and awe" will come in 2-3 days. At the outside date that puts the campaign on Oscar day.

Obviously, this date has been carefully orchestrated to "shock and awe" the antiwar forces in Hollywood. It's a twofer. The Pentagon gets to pound Iraq and simultaneously pound its enemies in the entertainment industry.

Special effects are impressive, but for real spectacle, it is hard to beat real missiles, real tanks and real men and women doing a real job. The self-puffing, script-reading troops of Tinseltown wouldn't last 30 seconds in a war zone.

PsyOps (psychological operations) is about demoralizing, dispersing and disabling your foe -- rendering them incapable of effective opposition. Look out, Oscar, GI Joe and GI Jane are coming after you.

Posted by campbell at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2003

More Math: How the French Value Peace

10,000 people marched in Paris on March 8 (International Women's Day) to protest the rapes, beatings and killings going on in the (primarily Muslim) banlieues — suburban housing estates.

Marching under the motto "Ni putes, ni soumises" (neither whores, nor submissives), the proximate cause was the murder of a teenager, but the long-term problem is the ongoing abuses inflicted on women in these near-lawless highrises.

10,000 is a great turnout. Let's see — 100,000 turned out in Paris a couple of weeks ago to support the continuation of Saddam in power. Saddam is reported to have rape camps and to have recently ordered the public beheading of women who are opposed to his regime.

So 1/10 as many people in France want to end the rape, abuse and killing in their own country as want to support the ongoing rape, abuse and killing in Iraq. Got it.

Posted by campbell at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2003

Some Basic Math

I'm having trouble figuring out the basic math of the AntiWar crowd:

There are 191 countries in the United Nations.
Of all of them, there are:
190 countries less dangerous to world order than the United States.
190 countries more committed to peace, progress and justice than the United States.
190 countries more free in speech, press, and religion than the United States.
190 countries more democratic than the United States.
190 leaders smarter, wiser and saner than President Bush.
190 leaders less bloodthirsty and violent than President Bush.

And among that 190 countries are: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Ukraine, Venezuela, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Serbia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cuba, Laos, Myanmar, Lebanon, Paraguay, Egypt, Yemen.

And those 190 leaders include: Saddam, Qaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Chavez, Mugabe, Assad, Castro, Khameini, Kuchma.

What am I missing in this calculation? Oh, right. Dunce cap for me. I forgot that there is one country even worse than the United States: Israel.

Posted by campbell at 01:50 AM | Comments (0)

The Real Difference

Colin Powell asks the key question: "Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe?" Amitai Etzioni quotes Powell speaking to a truculent group at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The United States has sent its soldiers in the thousands to fight in Europe and Asia repeatedly over the past century, and "We have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in."

Posted by campbell at 01:34 AM | Comments (0)