Quantcast

Iraqi Exiles at the Polls

by Jeremy Brown

There was an article in today’s New York Times that gives a vivid picture of the intensity of emotion among so many of the Iraqi exiles who have been voting in this Iraqi election. It has been heartening to see that the American mainstream press, it so far appears, is going to be covering this election:

SOUTHGATE, Mich., Jan. 28 – Ali Mohammed, who spent eight years in the Abu Ghraib prison in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, called the owner of the grocery store where he is a stock clerk before sunup on Friday to say he was putting on his best suit, the charcoal pinstripe he usually saves for weddings.

Glowing like proud papas, Mr. Mohammed and his supervisor, Hussain al-Jebori, cast the first ballots of their lives and lingered at the polling place here for three hours, clapping for friends and strangers and searching for familiar names, including a former cellmate, on the daunting list of 7,700 Iraqi legislative candidates. Mr. Mohammed, 39, said he decided on Friday to start a family, “because now my children’s future is secure.”

[...]

“I wanted to keep the paper in my hand for long time,” Mr. Jebori said. “First thing I imagined how much the paper cost us as a country and a people. It cost us a million people’s deaths. Now we get the victory, just now when we elect our representatives. I want to touch the victory. I didn’t want to leave it.”

My only quibble with this and a great many of the articles on this election is the use of the term “expatriates” both in the headline and, once, in the article. Though the term in its generic sense — it refers to any person who has left his or her homeland whether willingly or not — may be technically accurate, it is too evocative of Bohemian enclaves of artists and writers in search of inspiration. There is a point beyond which I think you have to use the word ‘exile.’ Thus, those German Jews with numbers on their arms that I saw as a child in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, were exiles. The millions of people from all over the world who have emigrated to the United States because they are afforded the freedom to live where they please, are expatriates.

“They decided to vote even if they die,” Diaa al-Tamimi, 35, said of his relatives remaining in Iraq. “There’s danger. But if not to vote, they’re going to die anyway. Election, that’s the best weapon for us. Terrorists, they use car bombs. We use the election.”

[...]

“It’s not safe, but they will do it,” Mr. Aljayashi said. “We spent our life as a number on paper. Now we count as a people, a citizenship. This is worth a lot. This is worth even dying for.”

[...]

No lapel stickers declared, “I voted today.” But voters displayed ink-stained fingers as a sign of progress.

“I’m very happy to show everybody my finger now,” Mr. Jeburi, the grocery owner, said. “I wish it could stay there for years and years.”

These people have been a living embodiment of the bitter reality of exile. Let’s save the word ‘expatriate’ for a time when Iraqis, as we are seeing the start of now, have the freedom to choose.

iraqi_exile_vote.jpg

Mehsin al-Busaid, in tears, voting Friday in Southgate, Mich., in the election for 275 members of the new Iraqi national assembly. Mr. Busaid’s son was killed in the 1990-1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein. (photo by J. D. Pooley for The New York Times)

Who do they think they are?

by Mary Madigan

The trial of Mohammed Bouyeri, the alleged murderer of Theo Van Gogh, began yesterday. According to MSNBC:

  • A note impaled in van Gogh’s chest threatened prominent politicians and vowed Islamic holy war, or jihad, against nonbelievers.

    A bystander who witnessed the crime yelled at van Gogh’s killer “You can’t do that!” to which the suspect replied: “Oh, yes I can. … Now you know what’s coming for you.”

  • Bouyeri’s lawyer, Peter Plasman, said his client “wants to take responsibility for his actions” but gave no further explanation. He said Bouyeri agrees with the interpretation of Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm that van Gogh’s killing was a declaration of war.

According to the Globe and Mail, prosecuters said that Bouyeri dreamed of replacing the Dutch government with an Islamic theocracy. He wanted to be held accountable for his actions, and sees them as part of a religious war.

The Dutch media believe that Bouyeri attended the El Tawheed mosque, an institution that shared Bouyeri’s views. It is considered to be the epicenter of extremism in Amsterdam.

This mosque was previously associated with a Saudi-based charity, Al Haramain. Recently, the mosque has been criticized for selling books espousing extremist views, including female circumcision and the punishment of homosexuals by throwing them off tall buildings.

According to the IHT, “several legislators have called for the mosque to be shut down, but under the Dutch constitution it is difficult to do.”

According to the German publication, Der Spiegel, the killer’s actual target was Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant. She and other legislators were so unable to ensure their security against extremist death threats, they had to leave the Netherlands to hide in the United States.

In short, a Western nation couldn’t defend its own legislators against an occupying paramilitary group.

Fortunately, Hirsi Ali has returned. According to Spiegel’s report:

Hirsi Ali made championing the cause of Muslim women her career and eventually got elected to parliament. When the ambassador of Saudi Arabia called for her to be removed from office because of her polemics against Islam she just scored even more points with Dutch voters. In a survey of the most-popular Dutch people in 2003, she landed in second place.

The Saudi ambassador felt he had the right to call for an elected legislator to be removed from office. Who does he think he is?

Hirsi Ali’s homeland of Somalia understands something about Saudi influence. Somali journalist Bashir Goth wrote about the influence of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam in Somalia:

“Nowadays, it is sad to see… that the ideal harmony between Islam and Somali culture is swept aside by a new brand of Islam that is being pushed down the throat of our people – Wahhabism. Anywhere one looks, one finds that alien, perverted version of Islam that depends on punctilious manners more than it depends on deep-rooted faith. A strange uniformity… has crept into the social manners of our people. The unique fashion and identity of our people has changed forever. We have become a people without fashion, without culture, and without identity…

“It is a pity… to see that, at a time when Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabism, is reassessing the damage that Wahhabism and extremism had done to their country’s name and to the reputation of Islam all over the world… that Wahhabism has to find a save-haven in our country.”

… “These people love to live in the dark. They thrive on the silence of the unwilling intellectuals and the gullibility of the ignorant majority. They hide under the cloak of religion and scare people with their indiscriminate use of terms such as blasphemous, infidels, apostates, sacrilegious, atheists, westernized minds and many others. They use the available democratic atmosphere to herd us towards the abyss.

They use the available democratic atmosphere, as they do in the Netherlands, in Beslan and in the Sudan

One result of the Wahhabi influence on the Somailis from the BBC:

Militias from the Islamic courts set up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are destroying a colonial Italian cemetery.

They are digging up the graves and dumping human remains near the airport.

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan says he was horrified to see a large number of abandoned human skulls. Young boys were playing with one as a toy.

According to Sufi scholar Stephen Schwartz, grave desecration is a Wahhabi tradition:

Saudi agents uprooted graveyards in Kosovo even before the war began there in the late 1990s, and Wahhabi missionaries have sought to demolish Sufi tombs in Kurdistan. Late in 2002, the Saudi government tore down the historic Ottoman fortress of Ajyad in Mecca, causing outrage in many Muslim countries.

Jill at Legacy Matters said that the horrific grave desecration in Somalia was “beyond the Pale”:

Deep in all of us is a revulsion at certain behavior – torture, beheadings and the physical abuse of the weak and powerless, for example. Whether it’s in our DNA or our souls, revulsion, I believe, makes us more human. By turning away with a feeling of violent disgust at certain acts, we shun the perpetrators. They are not recognizably part of anything with which we can identify. They are beyond the pale, outside the bounds of acceptable and civilized behavior.

In most cultures, beheading, amputation as punishment, spreading genocidal hatred and desecrating graveyards are beyond the pale.

In Saudi Arabia these activities are an established part of their culture and their laws. World leaders know about this, but they don’t turn away from them in disgust. Instead, they encourage these Wahhabis to join our society.

Wahhabi ‘charities’ still contribute heavily to American Universities, mosques, pacifist groups and Muslim special interest groups.

So, who do these Wahhabis think they are? Apparently they think they have the right to influence and attempt to overthrow established governments around the world. And the world is not doing enough to prove them wrong.

Going to D.C.

I’m flying out to Washington D.C. for the Spirit of America / Friends of Democracy post-election event on Sunday. It will be broadcast live on C-SPAN. More details to follow after I land, get settled into the hotel, and figure out exactly what’s going on. In the meantime, enjoy the guest-blogging by Mary and Jeremy.

Friends of Democracy on C-SPAN

Friends of Democracy will broadcast a live post-election event from 2:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time this Sunday on C-SPAN. We’re holding the event in Washington DC’s National Geographic studio, so hopefully the production values will be a little higher than that of C-SPAN’s usual fare.

Jim Hake, founder and CEO of Spirit of America, describes our event this way.

This unique conference from Washington DC will provide a consolidated picture of Iraq’s elections featuring prominent Iraqis, selected guests (Cliff May from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Christopher Hitchens), live call ins from the Friends of Democracy correspondents and bloggers, photos, video and stories.

If you don’t get C-SPAN where you live, you can catch us on our live Web cast.

Thanks, Jim, for bringing me on board this great project. Thanks, also, for flying me out to Washington so I can be a part of it all.

My New Gig — Iraqi Election Coverage

By Michael J. Totten

Jim Hake from Spirit of America brought me on to edit the Friends of Democracy site during the week before and the week after the January 30 election in Iraq.

We have more than a dozen local Iraqi correspondents, at least one in each province, filing daily reports. These reports include news, interviews, quotes, photos, whatever they can get in a day. They aren’t professional journalists. They are more or less ordinary Iraqis. Some of them you already know — Omar and Mohammed from Iraq the Model, for example. Others you don’t know because they don’t speak or write in English. Their reports are translated from Arabic before they are uploaded to the reports site.

My job isn’t to edit the reports, exactly (they are published raw here), but to run a blog on the main site which summarizes, excerpts, and links to the reports from the field. I’m also going to be excerpting and linking to essays and posts in the Iraqi blogosphere and – on occasion – stories in the mainstream and Middle Eastern media. The idea is to let Iraqis themselves tell their own story of their own first free election. What I do on the site has nothing to do with me. You won’t find me bloviating there as I do here. I am invisible. My name isn’t even on it.

The site is called Friends of Democracy: Ground level election news from the people of Iraq. To the best of my knowledge there is nothing else like it anywhere out there, at least not in English. (We also have a site in Arabic here.)

If you have the time, the inclination, and your own blog, please give us a link. This isn’t about me or my ego. This is for, about, and mostly by the Iraqi people themselves.

I feel honored that Jim asked me to do this. I’ve supported Spirit of America from the beginning, donated a bit of my money, and raised thousands of dollars from readers of this site just like you. Please, give us your support one more time. This time it’s free. All we need now is a link and some readers. Thanks kindly in advance.

The Unwinnable War

by Jeremy Brown

With that immensely important election coming this Sunday in Iraq, the optimist in me is feeling a strong urge to look back toward the frankly startling success of the recent election in Afghanistan.

I’m not pretending that Afghanistan’s problems are all fixed now, nor am I expecting Iraq’s election day to be anywhere near that peaceful (though genuine peace has not been on the table in Iraq for decades and won’t ever be, unless of course the country starts down the road to democratization this Sunday).

There’s at least one way, however, in which the war in Afghanistan tells us something that very much applies to Iraq. Let me bring you back a few years to a time when a great many people — many of them very reasonable and reasonably intelligent (I was very briefly one of them way back then) — predicted that a war in Afghanistan, whether justified or not, would result in a quagmire that would rival Viet Nam or, more to the point, Russia’s Afghan war. Remember that? Here, by way of random example, is the Christian Science Monitor in October 2001:

“Afghanistan is a quagmire that is easy to enter and very hard to leave,” says Irina Zvegelskaya, an Islamic expert and vice president of the independent Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow. “If the US commits itself to changing things there, or propping up a particular government, it will be the beginning of a long, painful and very costly story – just like it was for us.”

[...]

Russian experts say that if the US is determined to engineer change in Afghanistan, it should make sure the United Nations is involved, and not commit American troops. “If the US acts unilaterally, it will look like a war on Islam, and all Afghans will unite behind the Taliban…

And that was just the well reasoned pessimism. Various fish in assorted barrels predicted far worse. Noam Chomsky, for example, would have had us believe that the U.S. was self evidently on the verge of a “silent genocide” that was going to kill several million afghan civilians.

As awful as any war inherently is, why didn’t the Afghan war of 2001 go the route of Russia’s atrocious war in that country?

I think the answer is clear: all those warnings about the impossibility of successfully invading and conquering Afghanistan presupposed an invading army attempting to defeat the will of the entire Afghan people. But the U.S. goal of toppling the Taliban regime, it should be perfectly obvious, was entirely in concert with the will of the majority of Afghans.

An important question to ask about the war in Iraq, then, is: which side, if any, is struggling to achieve an end that reflects the will of the majority of Iraqi people. Anyone who denies, however much many Iraqis may dislike being occupied by Coalition troops, that the majority of people in Iraq want democratization to succeed and the ‘insurgency’ to fail, is just not paying attention.

So it’s important to remember, in the face of the brutal bombings and kidnappings that will probably continue for some time, that the Coalition troops not only represent the superior military power in this war but more importantly, because they are advancing the interests of the Iraqi people, they are on the winning side. You are probably aware that 80 percent of the Iraqi people are planning to vote. Which side of that equation would you rather be on?

The Baathist and Islamist ‘insurgents’ know what hurts Iraqis and how, if it can be done, to spark a civil war. But the inescapable fact is that, because they are fighting against the majority of the Iraqi populace, they are struggling hopelessly on the losing side of this war.

Once Iraqis have had this first taste of their democratic future, it will be damned difficult for anyone to steal it back from them.

Though the struggle to stop the killing will continue, in other words, the ‘insurgency’ is screwed.

I can think of no better rallying cry for this Iraqi election than Zarqawi’s own words as reported just two days ago:

”We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,” the speaker said in an audiotape posted Sunday on an Islamic Web site. ”Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.”

Let me repeat that last line for emphasis:

“Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.” That’s an offer the Iraqi people cannot afford to pass up.

New Blogging Gig

I have a new full-time blogging gig for the next two weeks, and I won’t have a whole lot of time to blog on this site. So I have a couple of guest-bloggers who are going to help me out: Jeremy Brown and Mary Madigan. I will probably post here, too, but not as often as I usually do.

Since there will be three of us here, or at least two and a half (the half would be me), there will be more fresh content here than usual, not less. So don’t go anywhere.

I’ll provide more info and links about what I’m doing and where I’m going once the project gets off the ground. In the meantime, stay tuned. And welcome Mary and Jeremy.

Stay Tuned

Very suddenly I went from not having enough work on my plate to having a lot of it. Such is the life of a freelance writer. Feast, then famine, then feast. Now is a time of feasting.

It’s late Monday night and I’m going to bed. Don’t go away. Your regularly scheduled opinionated blather will recommence shortly.

In the meantime, argue amongst yourselves in the comments about love, death, war, life, god, the universe, and everything. And be nice! Don’t make me come in there with the battle axe.

Losing Their Religion…

- by Mary Madigan

Many thanks to Michael for this opportunity to guest blog (and congratulations!)

As a female blogger, I guess I should discuss subjects that are interesting from a woman’s point of view. So I’ll talk about fighting.

[Fights are interesting from a woman's point of view if you're an Irishwoman]

In his New Republic* article, “A Fighting Faith” Peter Beinart suggested that Democrats should return to old-style liberalism; the liberalism which inspired the belief, held by Democrats like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, and Eleanor Roosevelt that:

“[B]ecause the interests of the United States are the interests of free men everywhere,” America should support “democratic and freedom-loving peoples the world over.” That meant unceasing opposition to communism, an ideology “hostile to the principles of freedom and democracy on which the Republic has grown great.”

I’d always thought that the New Republic was a sort of liberal hawk voice, and I thought their readers would agree with Beinart. I was wrong.

In the letters to the editor section, TNR readers made it clear — they don’t agree with Beinart at all. They believe that:

A self-described “lower middle class rube” believes the Democrats’ enemy is Bush and big business

“Moore has been–and continues to be–a man fighting for economic justice. Fahrenheit 9/11 was sometimes puerile, but the film made convincing arguments that the 2000 election was stolen in Florida and that the Republicans’ wars are being fought primarily by those who are daunted by their economic prospects in this country. His point was not, however, that all wars are pointless, but rather that the reasons for war need to be true, not lies, and clearly in the national interest, rather than for personal gain or personal payback. Even though I may disagree with much of what Moore postulates, I admire his willingness to take on President Bush and big business.”

A history teacher says: JFK was not a good leader

“Beinart argues that the Democrats must take a strong line on terrorism, just as Democrats after 1945 did on communism. He cites John F. Kennedy, who, in 1960, ran a campaign tough on communism and, while in office, “dramatically increased military spending.” Kennedy also campaigned on the missile gap, which he used to frighten audiences…

..He increased the number of military advisers in Vietnam to 16,000, and he helped unseat Cheddi Jagan in Guyana. I am not sure that these are examples to be followed.”

A lady from Missouri believes the “morality of fighting communism in order to save the world was nonsense.”

“Beinart’s comparison of the present war on Islamic fundamentalists with the cold war doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. He claims that the postwar Democrats had to oppose communism in the Soviet Union, but he fails to mention that, when Richard Nixon went to China, the morality of fighting communism in order to save the world was revealed as just plain nonsense. We did not need to fight communism then, and we do not need to embark on a world conquest of Islamic fundamentalism now.”

Out of six published letters, only one agreed with Beinart.

“We did not need to fight communism”?? I hope these letters to the editor don’t express the opinions typical of centrist Democrats. But I wonder. After all, this is TNR, not The Nation.

*registration required for TNR

The Last Honest Progressive in America

I link to Marc Cooper’s blog a lot because I like him and I often like what he has to say. (He’s also a friend and the editor for my soon-to-be-published Libya piece in the LA Weekly.)

G.M. Roper discovered Marc’s blog via my blog and seems to have taken up residence in Cooper’s comments section. The two have become friends, and this makes me happy. Why? In part because I “introduced” them to each other, but also because G.M. is a conservative and Marc is an anti-war leftist. The blogosphere is often divisive, but it isn’t always. I wish this sort of thing happened more often, but I’m glad to see it happens sometimes.

G.M. wrote a flattering profile of Marc on his blog called The Last Honest Progressive in America. Marc isn’t really the last, but he is a progressive and he is honest. If you’re a conservative (or a centrist or a hawkish liberal or whatever else) and you’re looking for someone who thinks you’re wrong but can argue well and with integrity, bookmark him. He’s a worthwhile antidote to the echo-chamber.

Not Just For Neocons

One reason I’ve been pushed toward, but not all the way into, the right since 911 is because it sometimes seems like conservatives and Independents are the only ones I can relate to anymore. Nevermind that I don’t sign off onto all their opinions. No one agrees with me about everything, and I don’t expect anyone to. So it’s a nice treat to find Kerry-supporting Democrats like Tom Frank at The New Republic who really know where I’m coming from, not just intellectually, but on a gut level.

This band of socialists was the most effective recruiting tool for the Republican Party I’d ever encountered.

To begin with, there were the posters on the wall: MONEY FOR JOBS AND EDUCATION, NOT FOR WAR AND OCCUPATION. Let’s leave aside that the meter is somehow dissatisfying (nine syllables followed by eight–no flow at all). The main point is, if the shallowness of this statement bothers you, to what party do you look for comfort? To the Democrats, many of whom condemn building firehouses in Baghdad and closing firehouses at home? Or do you say to yourself, in that moment, “I don’t much care for Newt Gingrich–nor does anyone else–but I bet he hates that goddamn poster as much as I do”? I know where I was leaning.

Then there was the pooh-poohing of elections–any elections. Former soldier Stan Goff (supposedly of the Delta Force, Rangers, and Special Forces) spoke at length about the evils of capitalism and declared, “We ain’t never resolved nothing through an election.” This drew loud, sustained applause. Nothing to get worked up about, I thought; just a leftist speaker spouting lunacy. But today it seemed particularly bad. It wasn’t just that I was missing what might be lovely canapés (or perhaps spring rolls being brought about on trays with delectable dipping sauce); rather, it was the thought that the speaker was dismissing something that Afghanis of all ages had recently risked their lives to participate in, something Iraq’s insurgents view as so transformative that they are murdering scores of Iraqis to prevent it. No, what I needed to counter this speaker was not a Democrat like me who might argue that elections were, in fact, important. What I needed was a Republican like Arnold who would walk up to him and punch him in the face.

But the worst came with the final speaker, a woman by the name of Sherry Wolf, who is supposedly on the “editorial board of International Socialist Review.” She talked, and talked, and talked; terms like “architects of the slaughter,” “war criminal,” and “Noam Chomsky” wafted about the room; and my eyes grew so bleary that I ceased taking notes. But then she brought up the insurgents in Iraq. Sure they were bad, she admitted: “No one cheers the beheading of journalists.” But, she continued, they had a “right” to rebel against occupation. Then she read from a speech by the activist Arundhati Roy: “Of course, [the Iraqi resistance] is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery, and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.” In sum, Wolf said, the choice boiled down to supporting occupation or resistance, and we had to support resistance.

So there it was. I even forgot about the Constitution Ball for a minute. Apparently, we were to view the people who set off bombs killing over 150 peaceful Shia worshippers in Baghdad and Karbala as “resistance” fighters. And the audience seemed entirely fine with this. These weren’t harmless lefties. I didn’t want Nancy Pelosi talking sense to them; I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation.

Very good, comrade. Welcome to the non-partisan, equal-opportunity, big-tent Militant Middle.

Propaganda

Zed has links to active radical Islamist Web sites, including video and multi-media presentations, for anyone who is interested in poking around such places. He made the links inactive so he won’t get any unwanted attention from the owners of those sites. You will have to cut and paste the links into your browser if you want to follow them.

A Plea for Iraqi Unity

In the comments box for the post below this one Dougf pointed out that the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has an archive of video clips from Middle East TV. I didn’t know this until now. (Thanks, Doug.)

While watching TV in my Tripoli hotel room back in November I saw something I never would have expected to see in Libya: a touching ad pleading for Iraqi unity. It’s cheesy, but I don’t mean to complain. Iraq needs cheesiness now. (Note: This is not the same ad Doug links to in the comments. This one is better, I think.)

Here’s a link to the video. Watch it. And imagine how I felt when I saw this in Libya while I was otherwise surrounded by hysterical totalitarian propaganda. It was an amazing moment.

A Short, Sharp Shove

A great swath of the blogosphere has already linked to the shockingly unprofessional hit piece in the New York Times about the Iraqis who blog at Iraq the Model. Their brother Ali, who now blogs at Free Iraqi, has posted a classy dignified response. He is much more polite to the so-called reporter Sarah Boxer than I would have been if she had done the same thing to me.

The article was, despite Ms Boxer’s kindness, a bad piece of journalism. I had around 45 minutes long phone call with the reporter about my journey with Iraq the Model, my new site, the elections, the general situation here in Baghdad but she (or the paper) seems to have a certain agenda and managed to change the whole issue into a very silly gossip (going as far as quoting trolls!) that is way beneath any respectable paper and certainly beneath me so I won’t give it more attention but lesson learned and I won’t make the mistake of talking to anyone from the NY times again. It’s important to note though that my feelings of respect, gratitude and love for the American people have never and will never change.

UPDATE: Jeffrey at Iraqi Bloggers Central wonders what would have happened to Sarah Boxer if she were a blogger, not a reporter.

Mullah Watch

Callimachus doesn’t get enough attention. So today I’m going to give him some.

He has a thoroughly brilliant post up on his blog about Iran and nuclear weapons. I’m going to excerpt the first part because it’s fun.

Does anybody think any U.S. administration isn’t spying on Iranian nukes? Does anybody hope we’re not? And did anybody read Seymour Hersh’s recent article and say, “Gee, I had no idea the U.S. would have a contingency plan for taking out Iranian nuclear weapons. I never would have dreamed that the U.S. simply wouldn’t allow Iran to get all the radiation bombs it wants, and use them as it pleases. How awful!”

Well, if there is such a “somebody,” he probably lives in Europe.

Now go read the rest of it. Seriously. Go read it right now.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Michael J. Totten's blog